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Russian and East European Politics: 

Russian and East European Politics 4. The establishment of communism in Russia Dr Jacqueline Hayden jahayden@tcd.ie

Where did Russia’s communism come from?: 

Where did Russia’s communism come from? Communism not a home grown Russian philosophy Adoption of communism in Russia the culmination of over a century of radical thought and action Radical movement – response to backwardness Russia compared itself to European progressiveness

Russia and Europe: 

Russia and Europe Russia ‘cut off’ from intellectual trends in Europe after the Middle Ages Repeated attempts to catch up Ivan the Terrible-3rd quarter of 16th C Crushed power of ‘boyars’ - nobility Peter the Great - 1st quarter of 18th C Attempts to Europeanize Russia Catherine the Great – last third of 18th C developments in culture and sciece By beginning of 19th Russian literary and cultural flowering Social and political life completely unaffected by cultural change

19th Century Russian social and political life : 

19th Century Russian social and political life Serfdom, Poverty, State service, gap between Nobility and the rest Life characterized by brutality Russia compared with rest of the world New Constitution in the North America French Revolution of 1789 – NATION In Russia the monarch ruled as an autocrat peasant uprisings put down mercilessly

Alexander Radishchev Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow (1790): 

Alexander Radishchev Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow (1790) Radishchev exiled to Siberia for exposing the harshness of everyday life in Russia Example of harsh treatment of a dissident long before communist government Start of radical thought and movement – culminated in Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 As Western Europe was gradually moving in the direction of more representative, democratic, parliamentary government Russia remained autocratic Continuity between harsh methods of Tsars and communist leaders

Two conceptions of Russia: 

Two conceptions of Russia ‘Slavophiles’ Distinct identity spans Europe and Asia ‘Westernisers’ compared the condition of Russia with Europe unfavourably Way forward was to adopt European ways 1840’s – Russian intellectual exiles embrace Socialist idea Communist Manifesto published in 1848 An analysis of capitalism and industrial society Marxism not applicable to Russia as mainly rurual Russia had a prototype institution for rural socialism: the peasant commune – the obshchina or mir Idea of socialism was seen to be relevant to Russian conditions long before the communists came to power

Reforms follow Crimean War : 

Reforms follow Crimean War Emancipation of Serfs – 1861 Beginnings of industrialization Idea of rural socialism dominates radical thought – gave way to: Populism – two strands Education Terrorism 1881 – Tsar assassinated – regime clamps down and Populist movement squashed Industrialization and urbanization proceed

Dilemma for Russian Marxists: 

Dilemma for Russian Marxists Marx writing about advanced capitalism – revolution expected in developed capitalist societies – England or Germany not a peasant society like Russia Russia would either wait a long time for socialism or the Marxists would have to encourage capitalism in order to speed up the revolution Unless Russia could miss a stage of Marxist plan

Marx’s response to Russian problem: 

Marx’s response to Russian problem Marx suggested that Russia might possibly avoid capitalism if a revolution in Russia were complemented by revolution in the West Marx did not envisage avoiding industrialisation

Georgi Plekhanov – ‘Father of Russian Marxism’: 

Georgi Plekhanov – ‘Father of Russian Marxism’ Russia suffered from too much capitalism Russia suffered from too little capitalism Russian Marxists must actively promote capitalism Lenin takes up argument: Capitalism was now inevitable in Russia Had already gained a strong footing thanks to migrant workers Had attracted capital from the West Now part of the world imperialist system Capitalism in its highest phase

Lenin’s logic: 

Lenin’s logic Russia was both an imperialist power and a colony of West European capitalism Represented capitalism’s weakest link Capitalism might conceivably be smashed in its weakest link Russia could lead the world socialist revolution

Building Marxism: 

Building Marxism First Russian Marxist Party (RSDWP) founded in Minsk - 1898 Lenin captures control According to Lenin a revolutionary party could act in the name of the proletariat seize power and start to reorganise society along socialist lines Lenin drawing on terrorist element in Russian radical tradition

What is to be done? 1902: 

What is to be done? 1902 Russian Marxists had two options: Encourage capitalism and spread Marxism or Stay secret and maintain strict discipline Lenin chose SECRECY Both responses rational given the autocratic nature of society Party SPLIT in 1903 Bolsheviks (led by Lenin) Mensheviks (led by Julius Martov and Fyodor Dan) Lenin goes into exile 1905 Revolution – concessions follow – Duma created

World War 1: 

World War 1 Bolshevik opportunity Military incompetence of the tsar and his government plain By 1916 shortages of bread led to riots in the capital Workers organised strike committees Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies Duma appointed a Provisional Committee Tsar abdicated Tsar’s brother refused the crown, and power passed to a Provisional Government


1917 Lenin arrives back from exile – Finland Station Urges Bolsheviks to make socialist revolution Military Revolutionary Committee –chaired by Leon Trotsky set up to arrange takeover Bolsheviks seize key points in Petrograd Prime Minister Kerensky flees Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets Lenin ‘placed the state power in the hands of the Soviets’ Council of People’s Commissars Lenin – Chair or Prime Minister

1917 – an unorthodox Marxist revolution?: 

1917 – an unorthodox Marxist revolution? Was 1917 a revolution in the Marxist sense? What of the relative roles of masses and individuals? Could it have happened without Lenin?

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