Russian Revolution Essay, Research Paper
Examine the degree in which there was a period of economic, social and political consolidation following the critical revolutionary period.
During the period of 1921-1928 in Russia, following the critical revolutionary period, there was a large degree of economic, social and political consolidation. There were new policies drawn up, changes in ideologies. These all led to things such as the NEP, the famine, War Communism, Anti-religious views, growth of urbanised areas, education, the use of the secret police and power-playing.
This examination would start us at a certain occurrence known to all as the Kronstadt Rebellion. The reason for this rebellion was because of the policies of War Communism. These policies stated that basically:-
h The state took over all production plants, for example factories, mines and workshops.
h The state set up food commissariat. This was a group of people who gathered food from towns and rationed in evenly throughout all the villages. This made private trading illegal.
h The state made work compulsory.
h State took over banks, tried to abolish money by using goods and services system of payment.
All the Russian people did not accept these policies to start with, but none were brave enough to complain, as the secret police (the Cheka) were out looking for such people who complained. These sailors at this naval base Kronstadt had had enough and demanded changes or they would retaliate against the state. These demands were:-
h Fair elections immediately
h Freedom of speech and press
h Liberation of all political prisoners
h Food commissariat to be removed
These conditions were bad enough as these rebels were known to be true loyal supports of Lenin, which made Lenin see that if his most loyal are turning against him now, then the others won t be far away. After putting this rebellion down, killing all involved, Lenin saw that the economic problems that he faced during 1920-21 as a result of the civil war and War Communism was no production was being produced anymore as the Russian people were being starved to death. Famine, cold weather and disease killed 7 million Russians. The added problems of cut-offs from where the sources of production were and the loss of valuable land to Germany during World War I was adding up. This made Lenin see that he needed a new Policy scheme. This came from the NEP (New Economic Policy).
The NEP, introduced by Lenin in 1921, March, had some new reforms. These new policies were:-
h Confiscation of farm produce ceased, instead grain tax imposed.
h Small factories and shops operated under private ownership. Trade Unions were free of government control and strikes were permitted.
h Foreign companies were encouraged to trade and invest in Russia.
These new reforms settled the public opinion down and took pressure off the Bolshevik party for now. The NEP was quite successful though. From the major slump in 1921, Coal rose from 6.9 million tons to 27.6 million tons by 1926. Steel rose from 0.2 million tons to 3.1 million tons. Pig iron rose from 0.1 million tons to 2.4 million tons. Electricity rose from 520 million kWh to 3508 million kWh. The Industry was back to its full strength. Transport rose. Rail freight rose from 39.4 million tons to 83.4 million tons. In agriculture, the sown area grew from 77.7 million hectares to 104.3 million hectares and the grain harvest rose from 50.3 million tons to 72.5 million tons. These statistics clearly show the boom that occurred during the NEP introduction. Russia was on its way back to becoming a World Power once again, but the main thing being at the time, getting out of the major slump it was currently in. Although Industry and Agriculture boomed, there came to be known the Scissors Crisis. This was because although food prices remained low, manufactured goods rose due to scarcity. The peasants could not afford to purchase necessary tools, as industrial goods were expensive. Russia also had a problem with its currency. The funding of agriculture had placed a great strain on Russian financial resources and had led to the printing of the rouble notes, which resulted in the devaluation of the paper currency. This is seen by the fact that one gold rouble was approximately 21 paper roubles in January 1918, whereas in July 1921, the price of one gold rouble rose to 80 700 paper roubles. A new currency and the NEP helped to stabilise this crisis though.
In 1921, there was a party purge, ridding the party of those who were critical of the central leadership and those of low morale stature. The Cheka were sent to deal with this problem (renamed the GPU in February 1922). Thus by the end of that year, around one-quarter of the membership had been expelled. Lenin had certain views upon the Educational, Social and Cultural topics. From 1921 to the end of the NEP in 1927, it was a period marked with tolerance, diversity and innovation. Russian theatre, film and writing flourished under Lunacharsky, head of the Commissariat of Enlightenment (Ministry of Education and Arts). Traditional and Communist artists and writers were supported. Theatres were subsidised and enjoyed a reasonable degree of autonomy (for example a choice of productions). Education was diverse and used modern approaches. Individuality and creativity were encouraged by a broad curriculum. To 1928, the educational, social and cultural changes reflected Lenin s idea of a cultural revolution. He believed that there should be a gradual and non-militant raising of cultural standards, achieved in a non-confrontational way, involving the expansion of mass education and an increase in literacy.
Lenin s death on January 21, 1924, caused a confusion as their beloved leader who had seen the Russians through these recent and many harsh times, the one who led the revolution had finally gone. There was only one thing to do at that time to order the confusion, and that was to elect the new leader of the communist Bolsheviks. This began known as the Power Struggle between Trotsky and Stalin, the main contenders for the leadership role. Now both these men had different backgrounds, views, ideologies and plans for the future of Russia. Trotsky came about with his slogan of permanent revolution meant that his policies were to encourage outside nations to start revolutions towards Communism, such as Russia did. He say that Russia had little chance of surviving under Communist rule considering the might of the Western powers which surrounded them, which all did not like Communism one bit and Trotsky also saw that force was necessary to carry out policies, abroad or at home. Stalin s slogan was known as Socialism in One Country. His policies were to keep Communism to Russia for now, as Russia needed to build up their own economy once again before worrying about other nations and the main aim to build up Industry in Russia. This was basically how Stalin took control of the position of leader of Russia. Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky were on the right side of the party and Trotsky, Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev were on the left. In 1924, Stalin, Zinoviev and Kanenev formed a TRIUMVIRATE to block Trotsky. Trotsky was criticised for not attending Lenin s funeral, criticising Stalin and attacking the cult of Leninism. Stalin reminded party members that Trotsky had only been a Bolshevik for 7 years (since mid 1917), as he was a Menshevik to start with. In 1925, Zinoviev and Kamenev sided with Trotsky regarding the NEP. Stalin moved to support the right side of the party and at the 1925 Party Congress all left-wing motions were defeated. Kamenev, Zinoviev and Trotsky were denounced as traitors and expelled from the party by 1927. Then, Stalin and Bukhavin controlled the Politbureau after the disgrace of Zinoviev and Kamenev. In 1927, Stalin abandoned Bukhavin s economic policies. Stalin was able to denounce Bukhavin as a traitor after declaring war on internal enemies. Finally, by the end of 1928, a purge of the Moscow branch of the Party had expelled Bukhavin and Rykov. Tomsky was expelled from the Politbureau in 1929. This finally gave Stalin complete control of Russia.
From here, Stalin made plans, which are well known as the Five Year Plans. These plans were to boost Russian Industry to an extreme point. But before these plan came into action, a sudden occurrence happened, grain shortages. In 1926 and 1927, Russia was agin experiencing grain shortages. These were caused by the kulaks (rich peasants) holding back their stocks in the hope of getting higher prices. Stalin was furious at this attitude, accusing them of holding the nation to ransom from their own selfish ends. He was determined to smash the kulaks as a group, and collectivisation of agriculture was the way to go about this. Collectivisation involved peasants merging their small plots into large farms, which could then be run more efficiently by using machinery. Farm yields would increase, and workers who were replaced by machines could find jobs in industry in towns. Few farmers shared Stalin s views, and by 1928 only 3% of the area under crop was collectivised. Bukhavin, Minister for Agriculture, recommended that the government pay more for wheat, thus tempting the kulaks to sell their stocks and end the food crisis. Stalin would not hear of this, and ordered the stocks taken by force. This seizure of stocks in 1928 had only short-term benefits. It had the effect of weakening confidence in the new government, bringing back memories of war communism. It also led to fewer crops being planted in 1929. The Secret police (GPU) was used on numerous occasions to deal with the kulaks problem, as it was vital to use such measures to keep the governing party in power. This can be seen in the statistics of 200,000 people were killed in the first year of the secret polices introduction, whereas the Czar s Okhrana killed only 14 000 people in their last 50 years!! The means of terror tactics was a very clear and effective way of ridding opposition or threats to the Communist government.
Overall, the degree in which there was a period of economic, social and political consolidation following the critical revolutionary period was large. The different policies such as the necessary change from War Communism to NEP, the power-struggle, food shortages, and the main task of keeping the support of people on this ruling government. The obvious use of the Secret police was an essential part of keeping this government in power, especially in its early years of power. Some could say, Stalin, the worst out of the Communist rulers (if not of our entire history) regarding to brutality, that he did these brutal acts with no care because of his true birthplace, Georgia. Why would such a monster care for the Russian people s deaths when he was not even one of them?