Russia did not exist as a nation just seven years ago; it was formed from the ruins of a greater nation. Russia’s current troubles are based on problems it found, or created, during the years it operated under socialism. This theory, which proposes equality and the means of achieving it, has been scorned by the Western world. One must wonder why such a grand conception has failed.
Karl Marx and the Communist Manifesto
By far, the most important document in the development of socialism was The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and Frederik Engels in 1848. (Berki) This document was published as a reply to politicians who would accuse their opponents of being Communist for the sake of scaring the public. (Marx)
Marx’s Manifesto was the driving force behind socialism and Communism in Russia. In it, he described the fall of capitalism at the hands of the working classes. (Berki) The following paragraphs are excerpts from that work.
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-masters and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended either in a revolutionary reconstruction of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes. (Marx)
“Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly faces each other – bourgeoisie and proletariat…. The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley ties that bound man to his ‘natural superiors’, and has left no other bond between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment’. (Marx)
“Wage labor rests exclusively on competition between the laborers. The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of their laborers, due to competition, by their revolutionary combination, due to association, The development of modern industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore, produces above all are its own gave-diggers. It’s full and the victory of the proletariat is equally inevitable. (Marx)
“In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things. In all these movements they bring to the front as the leading question in each case the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time. Finally, they labor everywhere for the union and agreement of the democratic parties of all countries. The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their aims can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries, unite!” (Marx)
The Theory of Socialism
Socialism is a set of beliefs about the most desirable possible government. Socialists claim that their doctrines are superior because they would create total equality. A perfectly socialist state would incorporate cooperation, progress, and individual freedom as well. In a socialist state, all free enterprise would be abolished, and in its place would be a system of “public ownership”. The state would control production and distribution. (Berki)
The basic principles of socialism developed from the writings of Plato and parts of the Old Testament. However, modern socialism is considered by most scholars to be a product of the French Revolution of 1789 and the second Industrial Revolution in England. These two events created a democratically governed region with vast potential for economic growth. In this environment, the beginnings of a conflict between the property owners, known as the bourgeoisie, and the working classes, called the proletariat, developed. (Berki) fl £ Socialists propose a solution for this conflict. (Berki) All means of production and distribution are controlled by a central organization, likely a branch of the government. These people instruct all those within the state as to how their capital should be managed. In exchange, all wealth within the state are distributed equally. The government also controls prices, ensuring that all people have the same amount of wealth. This eliminated both the rich and poor from society.
As one might expect from such a system, the people with the most to gain – those under the poverty line – were the staunchest supporters of socialism. The wealthy that would lose much of their money in a socialist society, were strongly opposed to the theory. This division of support created a poor image for socialists, as the lower classes were the primary adherents to the socialist theory. Socialism has a number of benefits, especially in that it would truly create greater equality. However, there are fatal flaws in this theory. The black market is one major flaw. Citizens may be able to purchase goods at lower prices from non-governmental dealers. Also, because of the immense amount of power which the government has, socialism is a system extremely susceptible to corruption. (Fry)
The Dual Revolution in Russia
In March of 1917, the 300-year-old Romanov dynasty was overthrown. (Lih) Massive discontent with the czarist state, an ongoing revolutionary movement, and the onset of World War I all contributed to the outbreak of fighting in Russia. Since peasants were freed from servitude in 1861, poverty was widespread in the nation, and inadequate resources pried apart the classes. (Rosenberg)
Early in the twentieth century, Russians divided into unofficial political organizations. The Marxist Social Democratic Labor party was organized in 1898. Populists, which had previously existed in the rural areas, and socialists combined to form the Socialist Revolutionary Party by 1901. In 1903, the Marxist party split in two: the Mensheviks, who favored mass rule; and the Bolsheviks (below), led by Vladimir I. Lenin, who wanted more organization, (n 1905, middle-class liberals formed the Constitutional Labor Party. (Rosenberg)
World War I forced reforms to be suspended and tight political restrictions to be imposed. Russian efforts were failing, costing morale. A provisional government was set up on 15 March 1917 when Czar Nicholas tried to give his post as emperor to his brother Michael, who refused the crown. Although welcomed at first, a division arose quickly in the ranks of the new government. Again, the well-to-do and general populous had different interests, and different factions within the legislature. (Rosenberg)
Aware of the crises within the government, Lenin quickly mobilized the Bolsheviks. He began using propaganda against both major factions within the government. The Bolsheviks grew in number quickly, using slogans such as “peace, land, and bread” to attract members. They worked their way up in the system, winning many local elections and leading many committees in corporations. As Bolsheviks won a majority in Petrograd and Moscow legislatures, Lenin prepared an armed uprising. (Rosenberg)
On 6 November, the Bolsheviks seized control of Petrograd with little opposition. They declared a Soviet government led by Lenin with Leon Trotsky in charge of foreign affairs. Pew believed this government would last, however, as it inherited the problems which plagued the previous administrations. Lenin was determined, and quickly began to shape his nation. I le seized control of much land, requisitioned grain from the countryside, and nationalized most industry. Private trade was forbidden as the Communist state was established. (Rosenberg) Many people were unhappy with Lenin’s changes, and civil war broke out in 1918. One “All-Russian” faction was suppressed by a “White” dictatorship proposed by Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak. A “Volunteer Army” was organized in the south, and was a “Green” party led by anarchists. Guerrilla-style warfare erupted between each of these armies and the “Red” Bolsheviks. The Red Army had crushed all resistance by 1920. (Rosenberg)