Marxism In The Ussr Essay, Research Paper
In 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels boldly declared in The Communist Manifesto: A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of Communism. Indeed, the stirrings of Communism were witnessed that year in the revolutions that occurred in countries from France to Germany. However, Marx s visions of a communist revolution would not be carried out until nearly seventy years later with the Russian Revolution of 1917. Yet, Marx s predictions of a stable economic system were soon crushed, as despotism and greed- staples of the overbearing capitalist system, soon reigned in Russia. Despite the Soviet s attempts to instate Marx s theories, they found that many of his theories were either too vague, or simply inapplicable in society. Thus, as seen in the case of the USSR, Marx s economic theories are not applicable on a grand scale.
In the USSR, various aspects of Marx s economic plan were implemented. While at first the major Russian industries were nationalized and private trade was prohibited, this radical economic change led to economic chaos. Thus, Vladimir Lenin, the first ruler of Communist Russia, implemented a slow process of socialization called the New Economic Policy. Under the New Economic Policy (NEP), the government controlled the large industries, yet it turned the smaller industries over to private owners. The purpose of the NEP was to facilitate a smooth transition to a Marxist system that would not be overly rash. Under Stalin, however, a different economic philosophy dominated, for he believed that the state should dictate and hasten the collectivization of agriculture, and the industrialization and socialization of the economy in Russia. Thus, Stalin implemented a series of Five-Year Plans, all of which led to the greatest industrial growth ever witnessed in the history of the world. The Five-Year plans regulated industrialization, and determined what resources were needed for production, all for the purpose of increasing the wealth and self-sufficiency of the USSR, so that it would not have to rely on the aid of Western, capitalist nations. Indeed, Stalin s plans were successful in industrializing the nation, yet overshadowing their benefits was the cruelty with which they were carried out. The first Five-Year Plan, implemented in 1928, went along with the Marxist doctrine that agriculture and industry be combined. The state set up both collective and state-owned farms, which the Russian farmers were forced to join. Naturally, this action was met with resistance from the more successful farmers, the Kulaks, who were unwilling to relinquish their property to the state. The government responded to this opposition by seizing food to feed the cities, thereby forcibly starving millions of peasants.
Finally, by the 1980 s, the Russian economy began to slow down, and fall behind the Western nations in both agricultural and industrial productivity. Recognizing the shortcomings of the Marxist system, Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the USSR at that time, introduced the concepts of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness), which allowed the Russian people to admit the failure of their economic system, and which allowed the economy to transition from Marxist to capitalist. Gorbachev promoted the destruction of the Communist economy by allowing long-term leasing of farm-land and private ownership of cooperatives, thereby opening the market to private interests. This introduction of capitalism helped to precipitate the USSR s demise in 1991.
One factor that hindered the success of Marxism in Russia was its condition before the revolution. Marx stated in his works, that a necessary precondition of communism is capitalism, for capitalism is needed to industrialize a nation, and to build up its producing capability. However, at the time of the revolution, Russia was lagging behind in industrialization, and was mainly an agrarian society. Indeed, the Russians had hoped to avoid the suffering of the working-classes that occurred under capitalization and industrialization in the US and Western Europe, yet they failed to realize that Marxism cannot be carried out unless a nation first undergoes capitalism.
Another reason why Marxism failed in the USSR, and cannot easily be applied in today s society, is that Marx left no concrete plan on how to carry out his programs. In The Communist Manifesto, Marx outlines what the philosophy and tenets of a Marxist society should be, yet he never once indicates how a government should implement or carry out these measures. Thus, without a plan, the USSR reverted to dictatorship and elitism that was reminiscent of the despotism of the Czars.
While Marxism is not necessarily applicable on a large scale, certain aspects of Marx s economic plan have been successfully implemented in our society. In the United States, the government has instated the graduated income tax, welfare programs, and free public schooling, and has also abolished child labor- actions that Marx proposed in The Communist Manifesto. These additions have arguably saved capitalism in the US from falling to revolution, for they have placated the working-classes and discouraged social unrest, proving that certain aspects of Marxism can be used as a complement to capitalism.