Communism in russia

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Communist Revolution

Karl Marx

  • Bourgeoisie V Proletariat

  • ‘Communist Manifesto’ with Engels

  • ‘the Proletariat have nothing to lose but their chains’

  • ‘Workers of the world, unite!’

  • ‘Das Kapital’

  • Removal of profit

  • Factors of production in state hands.

  • Worldwide revolution in industrialised countries.

Lenin (early years)

  • Alexander executed affected Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov.

  • Became a lawyer but exiled to Siberia for political activities.

  • Moved to Switzerland and became editor of ‘Iskra’

  • Engineered split between Bolsheviks (elitist) and Mensheviks (populist).

  • Good speaker.

Lenin’s Russia

  • 1917 led the October Revolution and became ruler of Soviet Russia

  • 1917 Brest-Litovsk lost 1/3 of land and ½ of industry

  • 1918 shot. Never fully recovered.

  • 1918-21 led the Reds against the Whites in the Civil War.

  • 1921 dropped War Communism in favour of the New Economic Policy.

  • This meant:

    • Stopped taking all food from peasants. Took 10% and allowed them to sell the rest.

    • Small factories returned to their owners.

    • The NEP improved things but food was still scarce and expensive.

    • Many regarded as a betrayal of communist ideals.


  • Millions died in war and starvation.

  • Landlords gone

  • Less exploitation by industrialists.

  • Realistic in transitional approach.

  • Showed the effectiveness of terror against opponents.

  • Creation of elite made it possible for Stalin to come to power.

  • In his ‘Political Will’ he warned of the danger of giving Stalin power.

Stalin Seizes Power

  • Stalin, Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev in a power struggle.

  • Other 3 turned against Trotsky who still favoured world revolution.

  • Stalin proposed ‘Socialism in one country’

  • 1927 Trotsky expelled from the Party, later banished from USSR and assassinated in 1940.

  • 1927 Stalin turned on the other two, claiming they were too liberal and they were expelled from the Party and executed in the 1936 purge.

  • Stalin was now addressed as ‘Vozhd’ (leader)

Stalin’s Economic Policies

  • Stalin’s main aim was to turn USSR into an industrial and military power quickly.

  • The state planning body, Gosplan, came up with 5 year plans.

  • In order for these to succeed, rural workers had to be moved to the cities.

First 5 Year Plan 1928-32

  • State took control of all aspects of the economy.

  • It was a law setting targets rather than a plan.

  • 250% increase in industrial production. 150% in agriculture.

  • Infrastructure (power stations, mines, railways, canals and roads), industrial and agricultural machinery were given priority.

Second Plan 1933-38

  • Focus on heavy industry and agricultural equipment continued.

  • Stakhanov (15 times his quota) became a national hero

  • Extra pay, holidays and prizes for great workers.

  • Huge hours, accidents common, dreadful conditions. Unemployment not tolerated.

  • Scale of projects (Magnitogorsk) was enormous


  • Great success economically.

  • Human cost huge.

  • Full employment did mean a better standard of living.

  • Figures were often exaggerated.

  • Quality of goods often poor.

  • Big emphasis on education.


  • Stalin believed peasants were hoarding grain and reducing production to push prices up.

  • He also wanted 25 million workers for industry

  • Collective farms (kolkhoz)

  • Kulaks preferred to destroy their farms than give them up.

  • Over 5 million were executed or deported.

  • Agricultural production dropped as farmers did little on the collectives.

  • 1932-33 about 10 million died of famine as a result of this and bad harvests.

  • Eventually things improved but never reached targets

THE RED TERROR 1928-40: Repression Under Stalin

Stalin’s Paranoia

  • ‘Class Enemies’ or ‘wreckers’. Engineers and industrial planners suffered.

  • Stalin called for the ‘liquidation of the Kulaks as a class’. 1 million killed or deported.

  • Half of the 35,000 officer class executed of jailed.

  • Informers everywhere

The Gulag

  • This was a prison system that was really a slave labour camp.

  • Millions died

  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s ‘Gulag Archipelago’

The Moscow Show Trials: Case Study

The Ryutin Platform

  • Many were against forced collectivisation.

  • Martemyan Ryutin was the most vocal.

  • Stalin wanted him killed but it was 1932 and he was outvoted (1932).

  • Sergei Kirov did most to save Ryutin (got 10 years and died in jail).

The ‘Kirov Flood’

  • Kirov was very popular in the Party was murdered, probably on Stalin’s orders.

  • Stalin used the murder as an excuse for the secret police (NKVD) to arrest all possible opponents, their families and friends.

  • This included Kamenev and Zinoviev.

  • A massive ‘cult of the leader’ propaganda campaign was in progress with an emphasis on the ‘enemies of the people’.

  • Thousands were sentenced to death.

1936 The First Show Trial

  • These trials were big media events in front of carefully chosen audience and foreign correspondents.

  • Kamenev, Zinoviev and 14 others accused of killing Kirov, of plotting to kill Stalin’ of being wreckers and of being Trotskyites.

  • All pleaded guilty and all executed within 24 hours.

  • Their families and friends ‘disappeared’.

The 1937 Show Trial

  • 17 pro Trotsky supporters ‘admitted’ that Trotsky had organised wrecking.

  • 2 were spared because they implicated Bukharin, Rykov and Kretinsky who had been members of Lenin’s Politburo. They died in jail anyway.

The 1938 Show Trial

  • Bukharin had wanted to continue with the NEP.

  • Torture, interrogation and finally threatening his family forced him and the others to confess to sabotage and spying. They also implicated others.

  • They were executed.

The Final Figures

  • At least 7 million executed or died in the Gulag.

  • 10 million from famine.

  • Between 19 and 22 million in all excluding war victims.

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