4. Communism



hi welcome back one of the big effects of World War one is the rise of modern communism well revolutionary socialism wasn't a new idea so just think for a moment as we do all through this course to keep asking those why questions why was the first world war so important to the rise of communism well in a way you can kind of summarize it pretty simply point one war all liberal institutions hadn't prevented that horror so if you were against the war appalled by the war that seems to be a devastating indictment of the status quo revolutionary socialism certainly not the status quo the other thing in its favor chaos however we've talked about all those shattered empires what takes their place the one thing the revolutionaries often had were disciplined cells of organized people ready to act that gave them an advantage in a period of chaos right let's take a hard look now at the particular case of the Russian Revolution just a brief recap on Russian politics in the generation prior to the revolution this was a very polarized politics remember the ruling elite is part of what I've called a national tradition political movement the language of the Russian Court through most of the 1800s had been French towards the end of the 1800s though the Russian nobility the aristocracy are all about Russification anti-semitism cultivating themselves as the embodiment of the nation so you have this national tradition party really the supreme world example of a ruling national tradition party in the Tsar and the Russian aristocracy you have the Russian people but one of the striking things about the polarized Russian politics is what we referred to remember in those lectures about the Democratic revolutions we kept talking about sort of the in immediate assemblies institutions in the 1700s in France the nobility were in the intermediate institutions what's happened now is that Russia has very weak intermediate institutions almost non-existent the nobility has aligned itself with the Tsar by and large and as part of the ruling national elite yes after the 1905 revolution Tsar's created a parliament it's a relatively weak Parliament so as a result these institutions are unusually weak lacking a real outlet intermediary outlet even a lot of the Democratic socialists in Russia had given up on peaceful change and were devoted to terrorism and violence as the only way of overthrowing the Tsar that's a little bit of the background you have when you get into the situation the Empire faced as it begins to enter almost a third year of war early 1917 you have this empire that because it has such a weak intermediate institutions also has a relatively weak state apparatus it has a decent apparatus for repression but just for sheer administrative management not great so remember we kept talking about how the first world war for states to be more and more like total States the Russian Empire just doesn't have the same kind of apparatus to control all the resources of the country as efficiently as some of the other countries can and as the war keeps going on the strain of managing all that begins to break down and a lot of just basic services break down support for the widows of War veterans problems in getting food supply to the armies and also keeping other people fed yes the Russian Empire had tried to make some superficial changes so st. Petersburg the name of the capital sounded to German so during the war they changed the name to Petrograd by the way then after the war changed the Leningrad but today expect to the historic name st. Petersburg again the bottom line that was by early 1917 the strain was becoming too much I quoted you that passage in land's downs memo in the British cabinet in 1916 where was apparent even to outside observers that the Russian Empire was under extremely difficult strain and might not be able to survive a continuation of the war it begins to break down it begins to break down first with a revolution in early 1917 that if anything is more about making the government more responsive and more effective in a way it's a patriotic revolution at first the revolutionaries are really ambivalent about whether Russia should leave the war some of them are arguing that Russia needs to have a revolution to be more effective in winning the war take for example this man Alexander Kerensky karinski was a Democratic Socialist he'd been right on the cusp of that socialists who had gone out into violent opposition to the regime or whether to participate in parliamentary action in early 1917 he's seen as a somewhat more centrist of a year and he becomes the principled leader of the coalition of groups that take charge after that Tsar abdicates in early 1917 and Russia creates a provisional Republic the Russian Republic actually organized elections is one of its first priorities these elections were held in late 1917 not everybody voted of course but a substantial number of people voted and the results are interesting if you take a look at these results what you see is the dominant role you can see it in the top of the chart up here or here these are basically democratic socialist parties now some of the members of these parties had gone into violent opposition against the Tsar even supporters of terrorism but that's because they believed there were really no peaceful outlets it's not useful necessarily to think of these people all as Orthodox Marxists a lot of the socialist revolutionaries were about Landreth now the land reformers didn't want to take the land away from the rich nobles and give it to the state they wanted to take land away from the rich nobles and give it to poor peasants in other words they didn't want to eliminate private property they wanted to redistribute private property now that made them revolutionary in Russia but that's a very different agenda from the agenda of the Bolsheviks over here whom you see have substantial support and depending on how you count them and their allies think of them as however no more than about 25 to 30 percent of the people voting in Russia in 1917 the weight mainly held by people who wanted radical change but were interested in preserving capitalism basic institutions of private property and some sort of apparatus of democratic rule which they thought Russia needed so here's the scene in the fall of 1917 there's a provisional government it's just held elections we've just talked about the result they're still in the war against the Germans though the war is not going well and is increasingly unpopular they are supporters of land reform but haven't really started redistributing the land yet and there are a lot of confused arguments and divisions inside the provisional government even though the elections have been held the new National Assembly hasn't yet taken office that's the environment in which the Bolsheviks launched the decisive coup in which they overthrow the provisional government that's the coup that occurs in November 1917 you'll sometimes see this referred to as the October Revolution that's because Russia was still on a different calendar the Gregorian calendar and and by the Russian calendar it was in October but by the calendar the rest of the world was using it was in November 1917 now I keep talking about the Bolsheviks but who are the Bolsheviks their leader is this man Vladimir Ilich Lenin Lenin is kind of an adopted name the family name was a yawn off Lenin and his family had a long history of revolutionary act of against the Tsar he'd been in prison he left prison he'd been in exile when World War one began in Switzerland in 1917 the Germans conducted what we would now call in intelligence circles a covert action the covert action of German intelligence was to put Lenin in Switzerland into a railway car a sealed railway car as if he was a form of bacteria and essentially send him into Russia and such inject him into the Russian body politic in the hope that he would make a lot of mischief and take Russia out of the war Lenin had been receiving some subsidies from the German government and Lenin proceeded to do exactly what the Germans wanted him to do this was not because Lenin was not a patriot horse Lenin's patriotism went beyond any one country he was an internationalist he was a true internationalist revolutionary in his orientation he wanted to overthrow the German government too when he got to it his point was that look if for the moment the Germans were his instrument for accomplishing the revolution he would use the Germans just as they were using him so in 1917 Lenin arrives in Petrograd he begins organizing other X Isles who are returning along with revolutionaries in country one of his key right-hand men will be this man Leon Trotsky a skillful organizer Jewish deeply committed to the revolutionary cause one of the things that distinguishes Bolshevism and Lenin personally is that Bolshevism is not about being a mass movement in this era Bolshevism basically says the masses need to be led by a revolutionary Vanguard that Vanguard needs to be the absolute elite of the movement totally submitting to party discipline organizing on military lines into revolutionary cells because only with the strongest party discipline can they possibly succeed and Lenin himself in his tactical single-mindedness helps to lead the party to a successful overthrow of the center of power in st. Petersburg in the fall of 1917 they tried before they tried in July 1917 and almost been broken by it and indeed a lot of Lenin's comrades did not think the time for revolution was right this was a very close run thing but Lenin pulled it off here's a wonderful contemporary portrait by the Russian painter Yvan Vladimir off of the Red Guards storming the Winter Palace which is where the provisional government had set up as its headquarters in November 1917 the pogrom of the Winter Palace he called this painting which the Red Guards are poking their bayonets into the portraits of the ruling aristocracy incidentally remembering back to those images of the French Revolution you'll remember when we talked about the Democratic revolutions we talked about how this became a revolution against the exclusive control of government by a hereditary aristocracy those issues were still very much alive and well in Russia in 1917 and 1918 so the Bolsheviks take over at the end of 1917 the Constituent Assembly that had just been elected in the 1917 elections they gather at the beginning of 1918 the Bolsheviks kind of listened to them for a few minutes and then essentially send them all home some of the socialist revolutionaries angry and frustrated at the Bolshevik seizure of power actually themselves begin launching revolutionary activity there are a couple of attempts to kill Lenin himself one of which came very close to killing him but the bottom line is that in early 1918 and for some time there is no quick counter to the Bolshevik seizure of power there is no obvious organized counter movement that instantly springs up to fight them eventually there will be many many sources of opposition to the Bolsheviks but the key point about the ensuing Russian civil war is they never have a single agenda they never have a unitary command they never act in a cool ordinated way a civil war did begin by late 1918 scattered parts of Russia and the Russian elites deeply loyal to the former Tsar to the nobility to the old Russian traditions in a way of life others including socialist revolutionaries who are appalled by the Bolshevik methods by their seizure of private property all rally against them here's a map that gives you a sense of the ensuing civil war you can also see what a close call this was but a key point is that from the very beginning of the Civil War the Bolsheviks control heartland that looks something like this Moscow st. Petersburg then called Petrograd and they're never really broken out of that control of the power centers foreign governments obviously took an interest in what was happening in Russia the Bolsheviks were gonna take Russia out of the war taking Russia out of the war means that the Allies are more likely to lose the war so they care about this the Allies then take sides with the whites who were pledged to try to get Russia back in the war I think about it on the Bolshevik side ending the war was a key element of their political appeal we will stop the war but man the Germans made them I pay a high price to stop the war a very beneficial treaty for the Germans and their allies therefore from the white perspective they say the Reds have sold out the motherland to the Germans so the whites are enveloping themselves in the patriotic appeal the Reds are saying we have to do this so the revolution can survive and indeed will eventually spread the revolution to all these new bourgeois states Poland and even Germany and beyond the foreign powers land troops to try to help some of the white forces the British for example land some troops here the French land some troops here the Japanese and the Americans in the Soviet Far East in Siberia the Americans fairly quickly get tired of this find it pointless and withdraw the British and French also become disillusioned with their efforts but actually the it's a very close call for the Soviet regime the Allies do not intervene in full strength and indeed some of their soldiers who themselves identify with the working class have doubts about what they're doing there and the Soviet government survives very narrowly the uncoordinated attacks of their white enemies probably the most dangerous point was in late 1919 white forces led by men named you ditch are pushing them hard right up here marching almost taking Petrograd around that time forces out of the Far East led by a man named Admiral Kolchak were marching from here it was these pressures that actually caused the Soviets to make things even more polarized by killing the Tsar and all his family and making it clear that there was no bridge going back to the Romanov dynasty the Soviets however were able to beat them back individually they went here they went over here there's another significant threat from the South led by a man named Denikin they beat that back they then launched their own offensive to try to destroy the new government to Poland and Bolshevism there's a climactic battle right outside of Warsaw in which the Polish government fights sports that the new Polish nation fights for its survival and wins and the treaty settles the border at least for a while between the new state of Poland and the new Soviet state bottom line is the Soviet government survives it's a close call as I say especially in 1919 maybe into early 1920 but they survive after they survived there is even a revolution against the new Soviet government from revolutionaries who resented the dictatorship being imposed by the Bolsheviks led by sailors in Kronstadt it's ruthlessly put down by the Red Army thousands of people are killed and finally things begin to stabilize after enormous loss of life and destruction of property through the length and breadth of the Russian Empire it settles begins to settle down by about 1921 into 1922 but it's not settling down everywhere else in Europe because the Bolshevik example is contagious their revolutions in Hungary Germany unrest in Poland which I've just described the revolution even again in the Soviet Union in Kronstadt in the Bavarian portion of Germany centred in Munich the Communists seized power they declare a short-lived Bavarian Socialist Republic before it is put down in Hungary the entire state is taken over by communist government which rules for a short period of time until that communist government is also destroyed by a fierce anti-communist reaction at that point let's just close for the moment by the beginning of the 1920s communism had established itself as a powerful transnational mobilizing force of revolutionary ideology that had seized control of one of the largest countries on earth and it was commanding the loyalty of adherence on every inhabited continent that's the situation by 1919 and 1920 but what I'll come to next time is the power of the reaction that communism engendered the force of anti-communism see you then

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *