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The Russian Revolution, Part II

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The Russian
Revolution, Part II
Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924)
Russian Communists
пЃ® Program of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers Party
 Russian capitalism is underdeveloped – but it is already
bankrupt, unviable
пЃ® The Russian state is unreformable
пЃ® The only solution to the Russian crisis is to move directly to
socialism, bypassing the capitalist phase
пЃ® Overthrow of the old ruling classes
пЃ® Establish a new state run by workers and peasants
But Russia is backward: how can it go socialist when Europe
is still capitalist?
The Bolsheviks were convinced that the disaster of the First
World War was bound to produce socialist revolutions in
major European countries – in Germany, above all
Faith in the inevitability of “world revolution” was a crucial
element of their thinking
Success of the Russian revolution depended on the spread of
revolution beyond Russia
1917: the October
Lenin’s plan:
пЃµ Advance the most radical demands to gain popular
-a democratic peace
-radical land reform
-worker control of factories
-self-determination of non-Russian nationalities of the
пЃµ Push the Soviets to take power
пЃµ Overthrow the Provisional Government by force, if
November 7 (October 25), 1917: Bolsheviks and their
allies stage an armed coup, overthrow the Provisional
Government, and organize a Soviet Government, led by
Lenin and confirmed by the All-Russian Congress of
Soviets’ Deputies, which proceeds to implement the radical
The Decree on Peace:
Russia exits the war, offers immediate peace talks to all
warring parties to conclude a democratic peace
The Decree on Land:
Distribution of all farmland to peasants on the basis of
equality (the same amount of land per capita)
The arrest of the Provisional Government, Nov.7, 1917
The Council
of People’s
– the first
October 1917
In October, 1917, the Bolshevik Party had 0.3 mln.
members in a country of 140 mln. people with a collapsed
Bolshevik chances of establishing a new state seemed
The essence of their strategy was to recognize and accept
the new reality in the country as irreversible:
Russia has lost the war, and its army has dissolved
Peasants have taken over farmland and divided it
Workers have taken over factories
Soviets have been set up throughout the country without the
Non-Russian provinces of Russia were organizing
themselves as new independent states
The new “Soviet Republic” was to organize this new order
and make it stay
The Internationale, international
socialist anthem:
The first Soviet government is a revolutionary dictatorship
пЃ® A civil war is inevitable:
пЃµ Old ruling classes fight back
пЃµ Political opponents of dictatorship (including many
leftists) resist the coup
пЃµ Popular opposition
пЃµ Foreign powers intervene
The Civil War, 1918-22
The main question of the Civil War:
Will the Bolshevik dictatorship (“the Reds”) be overthrown?
The anti-Bolsheviks (“The Whites”) represented a wide
spectrum of political forces, with a range of motives for
The Whites
The Right: forces trying to restore autocracy and empire
The Center (liberals): oppose the dictatorship, argue for a
democratic, constitutional republic
The Left: oppose the Bolshevik dictatorship, committed to
socialism to be achieved by democratic means
Foreign interventions in the Russian Civil War
пЃ® Germany
пЃ® Britain (incl. the Lockhart Conspiracy)
пЃ® France
пЃ® Japan
пЃ® Poland
пЃ® Czech military units
The Russian Civil War, 1918-1920
The Red Star first appeared on the helmets of the Red Army
Stars on the epaulettes of the Russian Imperial Army
Order of Red Banner – the first Soviet war medal
General Anton
Denikin, first
commander of
the White
armed forces
Lev Trotsky, the Commissar of War
Red Army volunteers, 1918
Red Army personnel, Civil War
A Red Army political rally, 1919
Artillery unit of the Red Eagles Regiment, Yekaterinburg, 1919
The Anchugov family, Red Army volunteers, Ural region, 1919
Women sewing uniforms for the Red Army
A Red Army propaganda train, 1919
White army
Baron Petr
Denikin as
commander of
White armed
Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, White “Supreme Ruler of Russia”, 1918
Mikhail Frunze, Red commander who defeated Kolchak and Vrangel
Semyon Budenny, Commander of the First Cavalry Army
Ukrainian Anarchists (The Greens): Nestor Makhno with his staff
War Communism
Economic policy
пЃ® Abolition of private ownership and market economy
пЃ® The state organizes direct exchange of goods between the
city and the countryside
пЃ® Full nationalization of industries
 Requisition of “surplus” foodstuffs from the peasantry
пЃ® Goods and services are distributed by the state
пЃ® Equalization and naturalization of wages
пЃ® Forced collectivization
пЃ® Forced labour
пЃ® Militarization of industrial work
пЃ® One-party dictatorship
пЃ® The Soviets are purged of any opposition and fully
subjected to Party control
пЃ® Fusion of the Party and the state
 “Exploiting classes” are expropriated, denied basic rights,
and forced to do manual labour
пЃ® Repression of opposition and dissidents
пЃ® Party takeover of mass media
пЃ® Militarization of state and society (a new battle order)
пЃ® Creation of a new military (the Red Army) and a new
agency for political repression – the Cheka (All-Russian
Emergency Commission for Struggle Against
Counterrevolution and Sabotage)
 “Revolutionary legality” – state terror instead of rule of law
Red and White Terror
Lenin, in October 1917, about the decision of Congress of
Soviets to ban death penalty: “Nonsense! How can one
carry out a revolution without executions?”
K. Danishevsky, Chairman of the Supreme Revolutionary
Military Tribunal, 1918:
“Military tribunals are not and must not be guided by any
judicial norms. They are punitive organs created in the
course of intense revolutionary struggle, which formulate
their sentences, guided by revolutionary necessity and by
the legal consciousness of the Communists.”
Admiral Kolchak:
“I forbid the arrests of workers. They must be shot or
“Don’t look for evidence in a case that the defendant
rebelled against Soviet power with weapons or words. The
first thing you must ask him is which class he belongs to,
what his education is, and what profession he is in. These
are the questions which will decide the defendant’s fate.
This is the essence of Red Terror.”
 “The VCheka is not an investigative or judiciary body – it is
a combat unit of the party of the future – the communist
party. It destroys without trial or isolates from society by
incarcerating in a concentration camp. Its word is law. Its
work must spread to all spheres of public life where
counterrevolution is rooted: the army, food supply, public
education, all economic organizations, health system, fire
brigades, communications, etc. etc.” –
In the Arkhangelsk region, 38,000 people were arrested by
White authorities (10% of the population). Of them,
8,000 were executed and 1,000 died of beatings or
“A year ago, the population saw us as those who freed
them from the heavy Commissar yoke. Today, it hates
us as much as the Comissars, if not more – and what is
worse than hatred, it no longer trusts us, expecting from
us only the worst.” – A. Budberg, War Minister in the
Kolchak Administration, August 1919
Red Terror
White Terror
Ideology and ethics
пЃ® The cult of Revolution
 World Revolution is the path to humanity’s liberation and
progress; Russia’s key role in it
пЃ® The Revolution justifies any means of achieving its goals
 Class hatred of “exploiters”, class war against them
пЃ® Civil war is inevitable and necessary
 Need for self-sacrifice and heroism – among the
Communists as well as the masses
пЃ® Collectivism vs. individualism
пЃ® Atheism vs. religion
 Need to replace existing culture with a new “proletarian” one
Lenin: “The good of the revolution, the good of the working
class – this is the supreme law”.
Trotsky: “Do the consequences of the revolution justify its
victims? The question is of a theological kind, and therefore
fruitless. One would be equally justified to ask, confronted
with the hardships and woes of one’s personal existence:
was it worth to be born at all?”
Red poster:
“Have you
for the Red
White poster:
“Onward, for
a united,
and powerful
Red poster:
wants to
“shoot 1 out
of every 10
on the Don
the Church”
Red poster:
“Mount a
horse, worker
and peasant!
Red cavalry is
key to
White poster: “What Bolshevism is bringing to the people”
Whites and their supporters fleeing abroad after defeat in the Civil War
Why the Reds won
пЃµ They came to power in a situation of failed state and
societal breakdown
пЃµ Their original program was crafted to reflect
fundamental popular demands – peace, land, equality,
people’s power, dissolution of the Empire
пЃµ Their dictatorship could be rationalized as the only
practical way of establishing and defending a new
order based on those demands – in the face of
determined resistance
пЃµ The Whites were seen as trying to restore the old order
пЃµ Foreign interventions in support of the Whites allowed
the Reds to appeal to patriotism
The nationality issue
пЃ® Ethnic Russians accounted for only half of the population of
the Russian Empire; over 100 other nationalities lived within
its 1913 borders
пЃ® Nationalism, struggle for national independence or
autonomy, was one of the forces of the revolution
пЃ® When the Empire collapsed, nationalists in many of its nonRussian provinces proclaimed independence: Finland,
Poland, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Central
Asian Emirates
The Reds didn’t challenge that independence until the last
phase of the Civil War – while the Whites sought to restore
the Russian Empire
Non-Russian nationalism helped the Reds defeat the
Later, nationalist regimes were overthrown by local
communists with the help of the Red Army in all new states,
except Finland and Poland, and the short-lived independent
states were merged with Russia in the Soviet Union
The costs of the Civil War, 1918-1922:
 Population losses – 13-16 mln. people (about 10% of the
пЃµ 2 mln. were killed in battles
пЃµ At least 1.3 mln. fell victims of Red and White Terror
пЃµ 2 mln. emigrated
пЃ® Industrial output fell by 7-fold compared with 1913
пЃ® Agricultural output fell by 40%
пЃ® National income fell by almost 3-fold
The Russian Revolution started in 1905 in response to
the murder of 200 people by Tsarist troops…
It ended 17 years later at the cost of over 13 million
The Russian Empire was replaced by the Soviet
of the
The first state emblem of Soviet Russia: “Workers of all lands, unite!”
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