Communism Essay Research Paper Unless we accept

Communism Essay, Research Paper

Unless we accept the claim that Lenin’s coup that gave

birth to an entirely new state, and indeed to a new era in the

history of mankind, we must recognize in today’s Soviet Union

the old empire of the Russians — the only empire that survived

into the mid 1980s (Luttwak, 1).

In their Communist Manifesto of 1848, Karl Marx and

Friedrich Engels applied the term communism to a final stage of

socialism in which all class differences would disappear and

humankind would live in harmony. Marx and Engels claimed to have

discovered a scientific approach to socialism based on the laws

of history. They declared that the course of history was

determined by the clash of opposing forces rooted in the economic

system and the ownership of property. Just as the feudal system

had given way to capitalism, so in time capitalism would give way

to socialism. The class struggle of the future would be between

the bourgeoisie, who were the capitalist employers, and the

proletariat, who were the workers. The struggle would end,

according to Marx, in the socialist revolution and the

attainment of full communism (Groilers Encyclopedia).

Socialism, of which Marxism-Leninism is a takeoff,

originated in the West. Designed in France and Germany, it was

brought into Russia in the middle of the nineteenth century and

promptly attracted support among the country’s educated, public-

minded elite, who at that time were called intelligentsia (Pipes,

21). After Revolution broke out over Europe in 1848 the modern

working class appeared on the scene as a major historical force.

However, Russia remained out of the changes that Europe was

experiencing. As a socialist movement and inclination, the

Russian Social-Democratic Party continued the traditions of all

the Russian Revolutions of the past, with the goal of conquering

political freedom (Daniels 7).

As early as 1894, when he was twenty-four, Lenin had

become a revolutionary agitator and a convinced Marxist. He

exhibited his new faith and his polemical talents in a diatribe

of that year against the peasant-oriented socialism of the

Populists led by N.K. Mikhiaiovsky (Wren, 3).

While Marxism had been winning adherents among the

Russian revolutionary intelligentsia for more than a decade

previously, a claimed Marxist party was bit organized until

1898. In that year a congress of nine men met at Minsk to

proclaim the establishment of the Russian Social Democratic

Workers Party. The Manifesto issued in the name of the congress

after the police broke it up was drawn up by the economist Peter

Struve, a member of the moderate Legal Marxist group who soon

afterward left the Marxist movement altogether. The manifesto is

indicative of the way Marxism was applied to Russian conditions,

and of the special role for the proletariat (Pipes, 11).

The first true congress of the Russian Social Democratic

workers Party was the Second. It convened in Brussels in the

summer of 1903, but was forced by the interference of the

Belgian authorities to move to London, where the proceedings were

concluded. The Second Congress was the occasion for bitter

wrangling among the representatives of various Russian Marxist

Factions, and ended in a deep split that was mainly caused by

Lenin — his personality, his drive for power in the movement,

and his hard philosophy of the disciplined party organization.

At the close of the congress Lenin commanded a temporary

majority for his faction and seized upon the label 0Bolshevik

(Russian for Majority), while his opponents who inclined to the

soft or more democratic position became known as the Mensheviks

or minority (Daniels, 19).

Though born only in 1879, Trotsky had gained a leading

place among the Russian Social-Democrats by the time of the

Second party Congress in 1903. He represented ultra-radical

sentiment that could not reconcile itself to Lenin’s stress on

the party organization. Trotsky stayed with the Menshevik

faction until he joined Lenin in 1917. From that point on, he

accommodated himself in large measure to Lenin’s philosophy of

party dictatorship, but his reservations came to the surface

again in the years after his fall from power (Stoessinger, 13).

In the months after the Second Congress of the Social

Democratic Party Lenin lost his majority and began organizing a

rebellious group of Bolsheviks. This was to be in opposition of

the new majority of the congress, the Menshiviks, led by

Trotsky. Twenty-two Bolsheviks, including Lenin, met in Geneva

in August of 1904 to promote the idea of the highly disciplined

party and to urge the reorganization of the whole Social-

Democratic movement on Leninist lines (Stoessinger, 33).

The differences between Lenin and the Bogdanov group of

revolutionary romantics came to its peak in 1909. Lenin

denounced the otzovists, also known as the recallists, who

wanted to recall the Bolshevik deputies in the Duma, and the

ultimatists who demanded that the deputies take a more radical

stand — both for their philosophical vagaries which he rejected

as idealism, and for the utopian purism of their refusal to take

tactical advantage of the Duma. The real issue was Lenin’s

control of the faction and the enforcement of his brand of

Marxist orthodoxy. Lenin demonstrated his grip of the Bolshevik

faction at a meeting in Paris of the editors of the Bolsheviks

factional paper, which had become the headquarters of the

faction. Bogdanov and his followers were expelled from the

Bolshevik faction, though they remained within the Social-

Democratic fold (Wren, 95).

On March 8 of 1917 a severe food shortage cause riots in

Petrograd. The crowds demanded food and the step down of Tsar.

When the troops were called in to disperse the crowds, they

refused to fire their weapons and joined in the rioting. The

army generals reported that it would be pointless to send in any

more troops, because they would only join in with the other

rioters. The frustrated tsar responded by stepping down from

power, ending the 300-year-old Romanov dynasty (Farah, 580).

With the tsar out of power, a new provisional government

took over made up of middle-class Duma representatives. Also

rising to power was a rival government called the Petrograd

Soviet of workers and Soldiers Deputies consisting of workers

and peasants of socialist and revolutionary groups. Other

soviets formed in towns and villages all across the country.

All of the soviets worked to push a three-point program which

called for an immediate peas, the transfer of land to peasants,

and control of factories to workers. But the provisional

government stood in conflict with the other smaller governments

and the hardships of war hit the country. The provisional

government was so busy fighting the war that they neglected the

social problems it faced, losing much needed support (Farah,


The Bolsheviks in Russia were confused and divided about

how to regard the Provisional Government, but most of them,

including Stalin, were inclined to accept it for the time being

on condition that it work for an end to the war. When Lenin

reached Russia in April after his famous sealed car trip across

Germany, he quickly denounced his Bolshevik colleagues for

failing to take a sufficiently revolutionary stand (Daniels,


In August of 1917, while Lenin was in hiding and the

party had been basically outlawed by the Provisional Government,

the Bolsheviks managed to hold their first party congress since

1907 regardless. The most significant part of the debate turned

on the possibility for immediate revolutionary action in Russia

and the relation of this to the international upheaval. The

separation between the utopian internationalists and the more

practical Russia-oriented people was already apparent (Pipes,


The Bolsheviks hope of seizing power was hardly secret.

Bold refusal of the provisional Government was one of their

major ideals. Three weeks before the revolt they decided to

stage a demonstrative walkout from the advisory assembly. When

the walkout was staged, Trotsky denounced the Provisional

Government for its alleged counterrevolutionary objectives and

called on the people of Russia to support the Bolsheviks

(Daniels, 110).

On October 10 of 1917, Lenin made the decision to take

power. He came secretly to Petrograd to try and disperse any

hesitancies the Bolshevik leadership had over his demand for

armed revolt. Against the opposition of two of Lenin’s long-

time lieutenants, Zinovieiv and Kamenev, the Central Committee

accepted Lenin’s resolution which formally instructed the party

organizations to prepare for the seizure of power.

Finally, of October 25 the Bolshevik revolution took

place to overthrow the provisional government. They did so

through the agency of the Military-Revolutionary Committee of

the Petrograd Soviet. They forcibly overthrew the provisional

government by taking over all of the government buildings, such

as the post office, and big corporations, such as the power

companies, the shipyard, the telephone company. The endorsement

of the coup was secured from the Second All-Russian Congress of

Soviets, which was concurrently in session. This was known as

the October revolution (Luttwak, 74) Through this, control of

Russia was shifted to Lenin and the Bolsheviks.

IN a quick series of decrees, the new soviet government

instituted a number of sweeping reforms, some long overdue and

some quite revolutionary. They ranged from democratic reforms,

such as the disestablishment of the church and equality for the

national minorities, to the recognition of the peasants land

seizures and to openly socialist steps such as the

nationalization of banks. The Provisional Governments

commitment to the war effort was denounced. Four decrees were

put into action. The first four from the Bolshevik Revolutionary

Legislation were a decree on peace, a decree on land, a decree on

the suppression of hostile newspapers, and a declaration of the

rights of the peoples of Russia (Stossenger, 130).

By early 1918 the Bolshevik critics individually made

their peace with Lenin, and were accepted back into the party and

governmental leadership. At the same time, the Left and Soviet

administration thus acquired the exclusively Communist character

which it has had ever since. The Left SR’s like the right SR’s

and the Mensheviks, continued to function in the soviets as a

more or less legal opposition until the outbreak of large-scale

civil war in the middle of 1918. At that point the opposition

parties took positions which were either equally vocal or openly

anti-Bolshevik, and one after another, they were suppressed.

The Eastern Front had been relatively quiet during 1917,

and shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution a temporary armistice

was agreed upon. Peace negotiations were then begun at the

Polish town of Brest-Litovsk, behind the German lines. In

agreement with their earlier anti-imperialist line, the Bolshevik

negotiators, headed by Trotsky, used the talks as a discussion

for revolutionary propaganda, while most of the party expected

the eventual return of war in the name of revolution. Lenin

startled his followers in January of 1918 by explicitly

demanding that the Soviet republic meet the German conditions

and conclude a formal peace in order to win what he regarded as

an indispensable breathing spell, instead of shallowly risking

the future of the revolution (Daniels, 135).

Trotsky resigned as Foreign Commissar during the Brest-

Litovsk crisis, but he was immediately appointed Commissar of

Military Affairs and entrusted with the creation of a new Red

Army to replace the old Russian army which had dissolved during

the revolution. Many Communists wanted to new military force to

be built up on strictly revolutionary principles, with guerrilla

tactics, the election of officers, and the abolition of

traditional discipline. Trotsky set himself emphatically against

this attitude and demanded an army organized in the conventional

way and employing military specialists — experienced officers

from the old army.

Hostilities between the Communists and the Whites, who

were the groups opposed to the Bolsheviks, reached a decisive

climax in 1919. Intervention by the allied powers on the side

of the Whites almost brought them victory. Facing the most

serious White threat led by General Denikin in Southern Russia,

Lenin appealed to his followers for a supreme effort, and

threatened ruthless repression of any opposition behind the

lines. By early 1920 the principal White forces were defeated

(Wren, 151). For three years the rivalry went on with the

Whites capturing areas and killing anyone suspected of Communist

practices. Even though the Whites had more soldiers in their

army, they were not nearly as organized nor as efficient as the

Reds, and therefore were unable to rise up (Farah, 582).

Police action by the Bolsheviks to combat political

opposition commenced with the creation of the Cheka. Under the

direction of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the Cheka became the prototype

of totalitarian secret police systems, enjoying at critical

times the right the right of unlimited arrest and summary

execution of suspects and hostages. The principle of such

police surveillance over the political leanings of the Soviet

population has remained in effect ever since, despite the varying

intensity of repression and the organizational changes of the

police — from Cheka to GPU (The State Political Administration)

to NKVD (people’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs) to MVD

(Ministry of Internal Affairs) to the now well-known KGB

(Committee for State Security) (Pipes, 140).

Lenin used his secret police in his plans to use terror

to achieve his goals and as a political weapon against his

enemies. Anyone opposed to the communist state was arrested.

Many socialists who had backed Lenin’s revolution at first now

had second thoughts. To escape punishment, they fled. By 1921

Lenin had strengthened his control and the White armies and

their allies had been defeated (Farah, 582).

Communism had now been established and Russia had become

a socialist country. Russia was also given a new name: The Union

of Soviet Socialist Republics. This in theory meant that the

means of production was in the hands of the state. The state,

in turn, would build the future, classless society. But still,

the power was in the hands of the party (Farah, 583). The next

decade was ruled by a collective dictatorship of the top party

leaders. At the top level individuals still spoke for

themselves, and considerable freedom for factional controversy

remained despite the principles of unity laid down in 1921.

Works Cited

Daniels, Robert V., A Documentary History of Communism. New York:

Random House Publishing, 1960.

Farah, Mounir, The Human Experience. Columbus: Bell & Howess Co.,


Luttwak, Edward N., The Grand Strategy of the Soviet Union. New

York: St. Martins Press, 1983.

Pipes, Richard, Survival is Not Enough. New York: S&S Publishing,


Stoessinger, John G., Nations in Darkness. Boston: Howard Books,


Wren, Christopher S., The End of the Line. San Francisco:

Blackhawk Publishing, 1988.


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