In March 1917 Russia becomes a republic with no legal government and two rivals. The revolution has begun, but did the revolution happen under communist principles?
It was the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries against each other. Lenin represented the Bolsheviks. Lenin was in power, but the Mensheviks and the Revolutionaries thought that Lenin could not hold on to power. He had to think of a way to have the people behind him. He came up with his slogan: Peace! Land! Bread! Also he handed over the land that was belonging to the church and the nobles to the peasants. Although he did not like the idea of people owning their own land he did that because he wanted to have the peasants behind him. The next thing he allowed new elections to the new Constituent Assembly to go ahead because he did not dare them. The Bolsheviks only gained a quarter of the total numbers; the rest was gained by the Social revolutionaries. In January 1918, when the assembly met, Lenin ordered the Red Guards to close it down after one day. Lenin renamed his party the Communist Party. Lenin used the CHEKA, a political police force, against his most dangerous opponents who were crushed by the use of mass executions and torture. Some Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks were willing to remain part of the soviets and let people hear their oppositions to the Bolsheviks. Others went to the west or east and plotted rebellion. Trotsky began to make a huge Red Army out of the Red Guards and prepare for civil war.
The Civil War
The Red Army had to fight against the White Army. The White Army was helped by foreign soldiers from: Britain, France, The USA and Japan. Finland and Poland took was trying to take advantage of the weakness of Russia by choosing this time to invade the country. The Red Army fought from the middle of the country and the White Army tried to fight its way inside. On July 1918, the Bolsheviks murdered the Tsar and his family. The Whites began to take important cities by October 1919. They were thrown back by Trotsky. Trotsky was now Commissar for War after the treaty of Brest-Litovsk Then the White armies were destroyed one by one. Only one White army resisted by March 1920, in the Crimea. But in November they were forced to admit defeat. But the Bolsheviks were not finally in control of the country until they defeated the Georgian Army in the Caucasus region in February 1921, and signed an armistice with the Poles in the following September.
Because of the policy: War Communism the communists had a direct control of all trade and industry. He introduced this policy because he had to win the Civil War. He had a huge army of 3 million men, but these men had to be fed too. Russia was suffering from the war. Because of inflation money became almost worthless. In factories little was made and that became very expensive. The people got hungry. The communists sent out requisition squads of soldiers led by CHEKA men to take all ‘surplus’ food from the peasants without paying. The peasants got angry and only made as much food as they needed so that there would be no ‘surplus’ food for the communists to take. In the cities the workers had to work even longer hours. With the death penalty for striking. They had almost no rations or no rations at all. Some peasants tried to sell their food on the black market but it was too high for the workers. The workers went to the countryside, hoping to find food. Many workers who stayed in the cities moved to the extreme left of the party. They showed their feelings by joining a number of illegal strikes in February 1921. In 1921 in the countryside were numbers of rebellions of peasants opposing War Communism. Lenin and Trotsky saw that War Communism was going down. They tried to have it changed, but were defeated by other communist leaders that believed that War Communism was necessary. They knew that they needed a new policy when the Kronstadt sailors were against War Communism. Now they knew that Trotsky and Lenin were right. A new policy was introduced: New Economic Policy.
Lenin wanted the peasants to grow more food and end the rebellions. He decided to put an end to the requisition squads. The government put a small tax on the food the peasants produced. The peasants began to grow more food, so that they could sell the food that they had left from feeding themselves and paying the tax. Lenin allowed small-scale, private business to be set up outside government control to get industry and trade moving again. Because of this new policy the value of the money began to stabilize again. There was more food. The peasants lost interest in rebellion and there were fewer strikes in the cities.
When Lenin died in 1924, there were several rivals who wanted to seize power. One of them was: Josef Stalin. He became more and more powerful and as he did he killed his enemies or sent them to Siberia. No one dared to criticize or disobey him. The people had fewer rights and freedom than they had under the Tsar.
The five year plan
Stalin wanted to make the Soviet Union one of the greatest industrial powers in the world. But that is not easy, because in the 1920’s Russia was still a farming country and did not have as many factories as the United States or other Western Countries had. Stalin believed this could be done in 5 years and in 1928 the government announced the five-year plan. All privately owned factories were to be taken over by the government. New factories and electric-power plants were to be built. Farms were to be joined to form large collective farms controlled by the government. The peasants did not want this and in protest killed their animals and destroyed crops. Stalin sent millions of these peasant families to prison camps in Siberia.
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