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Russia in the 1910s


Communists in 1920
Communists in 1920

In this same period the Communists carried out a shift in economic policy that was to cause lasting problems. Threats of economic sabotage by capitalist factory owners who were hostile to the regime led the government to take over more and more of the economy—much more rapidly than originally intended. Ordinary workers were put in charge of factories, and their inexperience as managers resulted in economic difficulties. The government’s expansion into the economy also generated the growth of bureaucracy. A bureaucracy involves a hierarchy of administrators, managers, clerks, and others who are supposed to coordinate and control complex political, social, or economic activities. Often, a bureaucracy becomes an extremely impersonal and relatively inefficient structure, notorious for its arbitrary power and unnecessarily complicated procedures. Some historians believe that as the Soviet bureaucracy grew larger and more cumbersome, what was left of political democracy and economic efficiency degenerated. This bureaucratic degeneration added to the severe strains of the civil war and the foreign economic blockade. These added strains, in turn, resulted in a devastating breakdown of much of Russia’s industry.

The once vibrant working-class movement that had spearheaded the revolution evaporated. Many experienced activists went into the new Soviet government or into the Red Army, and many others perished through war and disease. In the disintegrating economy, many workers left the factories and even the cities. This reduction in the numbers of workers, together with government efforts to maintain order, resulted in the decline of the factory committees and a substantial loss of independence on the part of the trade unions. With the evaporation of multiparty politics, the soviets became a reflection and finally a rubber stamp of the only political grouping that was allowed to function, the Communists. While claiming to defend the interests of the workers and peasants, the new government increasingly found itself quelling peasant rebellions and workers’ strikes, many of which were instigated by Mensheviks and SRs.

Especially dramatic was the violent repression in 1921 of an uprising by sailors calling for the restoration of soviet democracy at the Kronshtadt naval base (previously a Bolshevik stronghold) outside of Petrograd.

Most Communists maintained a high degree of idealism. Many had hopes of a return to soviet democracy that would be facilitated by the spread of socialist revolutions to other countries. (The newly formed Communist International, established in 1919, was designed to help coordinate efforts for such revolutions.) But a sizable layer of Communist Party members was growing used to a Communist monopoly of power and to authoritarian methods. There were an increasing number of careerists, caring little for the ideals of socialism and the principles of working-class democracy, who joined the new Communist regime because it represented an avenue for personal advancement. Even among those motivated by higher ideals, there was a fear that if the Communists relaxed their grip on political power, the forces of counterrevolution would seek to drown Soviet Russia in blood. "Russia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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