Sunday, 15 August 2010

The USSR, part 1

I am fed up with people bashing communists because of Stalin. So last century, get over it. No one is going to impose a red terror in Britain, none of us are arguing for British gulags.

So, to shut the morons up, I'm going to write a very brief summary of what I've learnt about the USSR and the Russian Communists. Here goes:


A lot has been written about the Russian revolution. So much so that it is very easy to get lost and bogged down in detail. The following brief articles will attempt to shed some light on broad themes and events – it is neither an academic study nor a definitive timeline.

The October Revolution

A revolution cannot happen without a revolutionary situation.

In the years before the 1917 revolutions, Russian society was already speculating about a new era of socialism when the Tsar and his system would be swept away. Russia didn’t experience the Renaissance, the Reformation or the Enlightenment with the rest of Europe. The agrarian, largely peasant society, had not undergone an industrial revolution. All of these things happened at once in the first decades of the twentieth century.

It is often said that the October Revolution could not have happened without the February Revolution, and that the February Revolution could not have happened without the First World War.

In February 1917, Russian society was close to breaking point. Years of war, and a poor harvest in 1916 ruined the peasant population. In 1916 four fifths of machine construction was assigned to the Imperial war forces. Inflation was rising sharply as the government printed large quantities of paper money after raising emergency loans from the Allies.

In Petrograd women textile workers went out on strike on the 25th of February. They were joined by men from nearby armament works and the strike soon escalated into a general strike. The metropolitan garrison, ordered to suppress the disturbances, mutinied. As the demonstrations spread Nicholas II consented to abdicate on the 2nd of March.

With the Tsar gone, Russia was left with two political institutions. As well as the provisional government, thousands of local soviets (councils), factory committees, village assemblies, trade unions, women’s and youth organisations and economic cooperatives came into being. The task facing the provisional government was to work with and have authority over these groups.

This was the situation in October that Lenin and the Bolsheviks were able to exploit. They stormed the Winter Palace on October 25th, threw out the provisional government, and set up the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets. The Mensheviks left the Congress allowing the Bolsheviks and left-wing Social Revolutionaries to declare, “All power has passed to the Soviets”. It was from this point that the Bolsheviks were able to take power.

No comments: