Free «Social and Economic Impact of Bolshevism» Essay
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Bolshevism arose in 1903 with the split of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) into the radical (the Bolsheviks) and moderate (Mensheviks) fractions. Lenin became the leader of the Bolsheviks. The reason for the selection of fractions was a controversy between Lenin and Martov on the second paragraph of the statute in its II RSDLP Congress in London (1903). Lenin insisted on a more cohesive, centralized organization and the ongoing participation of members of the party in one of the organizations (instead of promoting RSDLP, directed by one of the organizations, as proposed by Martov). The Congress supported Martov's formulation, but the election of the Central Committee was won by supporters of Lenin and Plekhanov, so starting from the II Congress supporters of Lenin were called Bolsheviks, those of Martov – Mensheviks. The intransigence of the Bolsheviks to freedom of discussion, adopted among the Social Democrats, has made them the most united faction, but relatively small – in the RSDLP they were in the minority.
The Bolshevik activities between the two revolutions
By 1912 the Bolsheviks stood out in a separate party Congress (B). It was different from other social-democratic organizations with strict discipline, subordination of party members and party leadership, as well as desire for an early achievement of socialism and communism. The Bolsheviks were set uncompromisingly against autocracy, advocating the defeat of their government in the First World War and, in the words of Lenin, stood for the transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war. For support of this position the deputies of Bolshevik Duma IV were sent to prison.
In conditions caused by the war and the October Revolution of 1917 the social crisis was growing the marginalization of the population, with people losing their previous social niche, mass despair, and unrealistic expectations, and as a result – the desire for quick and decisive action, through which in one qualitative leap it could be possible to change society. All this led to social radicalism, which was resolutely implement by the Bolsheviks, who took the lead in the fight against radical soldiers and the working masses.
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After returning from an exile to Russia in April 1917, Lenin, who was absent in Russia for more than a decade and almost did not know their real situation, despite the resistance of the more moderate leaders of Bolshevism (Kamenev, Stalin), insisted on the new course for the socialist revolution and the transfer of power to the Soviets – the newly established bodies of workers', soldiers' and peasants' government. The strategy outlined by Lenin in several speeches and in the “April Theses” looked extremely radical, since it expected elimination of the very foundations of the existing society in the near future. Despite the persistence of a significant effect of the moderate wing of the Bolshevik Party (Kamenev, Zinoviev, and Rykov, etc.), who were focused on the transformation of the party to the left-wing opposition in a democratic republic, in the VII Conference of the Bolsheviks the line of Lenin won. This determined the union and subsequent merger with a group of Bolshevik Social-Democrats, whose leader, Leon Trotsky, held the same position as Lenin with the concept of escalation a “bourgeois” revolution into a “socialist” one. Under socialism, the Bolsheviks realized society without private property and market; not divided into classes, and ran from a single center, which was developed according to a single plan. Despite the fact that, following Marx, Bolsheviks formally advocated a death state in the future and the desire to create a society managed from a single point, in fact, it led to the strengthening of state institutions until the formation of a totalitarian regime. In this case, the Bolsheviks adopted radical slogans, which enjoyed popular support, even if they disagreed with the strategic plans of Bolshevism, such as “Factory for workers”, and “Land for peasants!”. The Bolsheviks also advocated the abolition of the death penalty and respect for civil liberties. However, after they came to power it became clear that they were defending freedom for themselves and their policies had nothing to do with democracy.
In response to the deepening economic and social crisis, political instability and social influence of the Bolsheviks grew. Strengthening of councils, which were dominated by moderate socialists, led to the fact that Lenin put forward the slogan “All Power to the Soviets!” which was supported not only by the Bolsheviks but also by anarchists, a part of the Mensheviks. However, during the July crisis the Bolsheviks and other supporters of the transfer of power to the Soviets were defeated.
After the events of July, Lenin refused peaceful transmission of power to the Soviets, and urged his supporters to the armed uprising of the Bolsheviks aimed at coming to power and organizations control. The Soviet government was acceptable to the Bolsheviks only to the extent to which the Council was monitored by the party.
Policy of the Bolsheviks after the seizure of power
In autumn 1917 a further deterioration of the economic situation, as well as the government's failure to conduct any reforms to the Constituent Assembly, the effectiveness of Bolshevik propaganda (as opposed to propaganda of their opponents) have led to a significant increase in the influence of the Bolsheviks in the major industrial centers, Bolshevisation of councils, transfer of army units and navy concentrated in and around the capital under the control of the Bolshevik. During the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks seized power (with minimal casualties), and power was transferred to supported by the Congress of Soviets of Workers and Soldiers Deputies’ government – the Council of People’s Commissars (CPC) led by Lenin. On the ground, the main authorities were presented by a party organization of the Bolsheviks and their allies (especially the Left SRs), as well as emergency authorities (Military Revolutionary Committees, etc.). Initially, the new Soviet system was to be temporary (until the Constituent Assembly), and after the Constituent Assembly it was dispersed by the Bolsheviks and became constant.
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Bolsheviks proclaimed the transfer of the landlords' land to peasants, which helped to enlist their support for a while. However, after the introduction of food dictatorship in 1918 (one of the major domestic measures of war communism), the Bolsheviks almost completely seized land from farmers, which caused numerous protests among the peasantry. Having announced their withdrawal from the war, the Bolsheviks were able to achieve “peace without annexations and indemnities: for which they were when they came to power. Despite the fact that, while in opposition, the Bolsheviks criticized slightest violation of democratic norms, when they came to power in November 1917, the Bolsheviks shut down opposition newspapers without any hesitation; in January 1918 they restored the death penalty, and in September 1918 after the assassination attempt on Lenin they proclaimed the Red Terror.
“Radical” solution of the labor question to the state quickly turned against the interests of the workers. Immediately after the coup, the workers began to seize factories in their own hands. Still, if before October in this case they tried to organize production and self-management on their own, now teams were subjected to the representatives of the Party and Soviet authorities. Due to the fact that such representatives usually dealt with the production of even smaller ordinary workers, the production fell apart. A city had nothing to give a village. There was a famine in large cities.
Socio-economic nature of Bolshevism
Sources which became available in the late 20th century practically excluded the version of “working” nature of Bolshevism. Social character of Bolshevism was debatable. It could be estimated as a synthesis of radical intellectuals and technocratic underclass layers, seeking to restore and improve their social position. New officials and activists of the “party of power” came from all walks of old Russia, but especially from the poorest urban and cultural layers. A part of the working class, also subjected to marginalization, was involved in radical social movements of the masses, led by the Bolshevik elite. However, this did not stop Bolshevism suppressing of the working class, once the proletariat refused to obey “their” dictatorship. Contradictory actions of Bolsheviks led to disengagement of the workers, peasants and intellectuals on the support of the Bolsheviks.
The dispersal of the Constituent Assembly and the signing of the Brest peace sharply opposed the Bolsheviks to the majority of population. A coalition of the Bolsheviks and Left SRs which existed in December 1917 - March 1918 split. Forcing the creation of the state of “socialism” (a displacement of commodity-money relations, government redistribution), low competence management in increasing the role of the state, ignorance towards the interests of the peasantry and the intelligentsia – all this led to the collapse of industrial production, paralysis of supply, escalation of the economic crisis into a catastrophe and in May 1918 – a large-scale civil war which only exacerbated these problems. In an effort to solve their most drastic means, the Bolsheviks created a system of oligarchic rule of the military-bureaucratic state and non-market allocation – an early, unstable version of totalitarianism, known as “War Communism”.
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The Russian Revolution and the Civil War were considered by the Bolsheviks as a part of the world revolution, a victory which would solve the problems associated with low culture of the population and the Bolshevik elite, lack of solutions for creative tasks of socialist construction. Whenever possible, the Bolsheviks tried to provide military support to centers of socialist speeches in Europe and nationalist anti-imperialist speeches in Asia. In March 1919, this process led to the founding of the Communist International (ComIntern). All parties of the ComIntern were considered as a part of the Bolshevik Party. In 1918, Congress (B) started to be called the Russian Communist Party (the Bolsheviks). In 1919, the party adopted a program in which the creation of subsistence of a communist society in the foreseeable future was planned. A large role in the program lied on the development of workers’ democracy. However, an attempt to put this question in practice in the debate on trade unions in 1920-1921 was not supported by Lenin and the majority of party members.
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The system of “war communism” could be mobilized to support the revolutionary elite, and partly its membership as the most active part of the revolution radicalized masses and direct their energies at the service of the dictatorship and the crackdown of its policy on the part of other social strata in order to win the Civil War. However, this system could only exist in a permanent confrontation. After the defeat of the White movement resistance to Bolshevism by the workers and peasants was growing. The introduction of the NEP by the Tenth Congress of the RCP (b) led to a failure (at least temporarily) from the totalitarian methods of rule in favor of authoritarian, anti-market policy retreat from public distribution. At the same time, the Bolsheviks abolished legally existing opposition parties and set one-party presence for many decades.
In the area of social and economic policy, the new regime first efforts were focused on the implementation of the slogan “expropriation of expropriators” which Lenin expressed in accessible language to a mass appeal: “Rob the robbers!”. Confiscation of property, imposition of large monetary penalties, “sealing of flats” (the poor were placed to the flats of the “bourgeois”) – these were just some of the measures to achieve “equality” and “justice” after the October revolution. The most difficult task was to manage the economy in industry. Bolsheviks firstly tried to act by “workers' control”. However, their utopian hopes for self-workers were revealed soon enough, and the Bolsheviks began to establish state controls industry. In December 1917, they established the High Court – Supreme Economic Council (SEC). In the first months after the October revolution, most companies formally belonged to the former owners; their nationalization (transfer of ownership to the state) was practiced, mainly as a means of punishment for failure to cooperate with the new government. Mass nationalization under the slogan “Red Guard attack on capital” began in the summer of 1918. It was even more difficult to develop an effective policy on agriculture. Since peasants did not want to sell bread at depreciated prices, the city was hungry and the Bolsheviks came to “food dictatorship”. What were the results of the Bolsheviks? Firstly, this was disappointment of their former allies, especially the peasantry. Secondly, the policy was to consolidate their opponents that had so little resistance during the October revolution. Enmity, and hatred of various groups of Russian society was increasingly acute, the country faced a large-scale civil war.
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