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Friday, January 21, 2011

Essay on Lenin

Essay on Lenin

The period from 1922 through to 1928 in Soviet Russia was a period of great change. This change can be seen predominantly in the social, economic and foreign policies of the period. This period of relative stability and great change is highlighted and directed by two major events. The first being the untimely death of the father of modern communism and incomparable leader of Soviet Russia: Lenin. The second is the resulting struggle for power between the two leading Bolsheviks Trotsky and Stalin. This struggle which eventuated in the success of Stalin in 1929 holds much importance. This is because it to created changes in the social, economic and foreign policy of this period. This change can be accredited to Stalin's increasing power and influence on the running of the country.

In 1922 after the Civil War had been won by the Communist Red Army, the Russian population and in particular the peasants and the workers were becoming increasingly unhappy with the War Communism policy, which had allowed the Soviets to keep power but had spelt disaster for industry, the economy and agriculture. This unhappiness finally came to a peak when thousands of workers and peasants started to strike in late 1921. Lenin knew that something drastic was needed, so in 1922 he introduced the New Economic Policy or the NEP. The NEP was completely different to any other policy the Communists (as they were no known) had introduced. It was amazingly capitalistic in nature and went against all that Lenin and his followers had been preaching since the early 1900's. The NEP basically consisted of five main points.

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The first was the ceasing of the requisition of grain from the peasants. The Cheka was now no longer able to take the surplus grain away from the peasants by force. However the peasants were expected to give a set amount of grain to the Government each year as a tax, but any surplus from this they were able to sell on an open market. The second aspect of the NEP was that traders were now able to buy and sell goods. (This had been illegal under the policy of War Communism) It created a new bourgeoisie class known as the Nepmen who bought goods at a low price and sold them to the public at an inflated price. The third aspect of the NEP was the electrification of Soviet Russia. Lenin saw the electrification of Russia as an important step towards Russia becoming a technological giant. He even said "Soviet power plus electrification equals Communism". It was Lenin–Ęs aim to have a working light globe in every Russian house.

The fourth aspect of the NEP was to encourage foreign trade with Soviet Russia. The final aspect of the NEP was privatisation of smaller factories, especially those producing consumer goods such as shoes and clothes. These factories were now allowed to sell their goods to the public in order to make a profit. It should be noted that larger industries were kept under the control of the Government. The NEP was very unpopular with certain members of the Communist party. They believed that it was too much like a return to the capitalist-state in which the Tsar had ruled over. The main reasons for this ill feeling were the emergence of the Nepmen (traders) and Kulaks (rich peasants) who the other communists bitterly disliked because they represented a new type of bourgeoisie. However much like the War Communism policy Lenin did see the NEP as a necessity, something to please the masses and give the Communists "Breathing Space". A quote from Lenin best describes his feelings of the NEP: "The NEP was one step backward for two steps forwards".

The other major economic policy that was introduced in the period of 1922 through to 1928 was the first of the Five-Year Plans. The first Five-Year plan ran from1928 until 1933 and it marked the end of the NEP and many believe Lenin's influence over Economic Policy. Stalin Five-Year Plan unlike Lenin's NEP, believed that the way to develop industry was through state planning. So in the first Five-Year Plan the State would determine not only what was to be produced, but also when and how it was to be produced. The state would also determine prices and wages. What State Planning meant was that Stalin would set production targets, which industries had to reach. These targets were unbelievably high and unrealistic but results were achieved.

From the period of 1922 through to 1928 there was a considerable change in Soviet Foreign Policy. When the Bolsheviks first came to power in 1917 many of their primary leaders, such as Lenin and Trotsky had spent as much time out of Russia, as in it. Thus their knowledge of major international communist leaders was vast. So in order to follow Marxist theories early foreign policy centred upon extending Communism to other countries. This theory was best represented by the creation of the Comintern in 1919. The Comintern, which literally translates to Communist International, was set up by Lenin in 1919 with the aim to organise revolutions through communist parties in every country. However in 1922 Lenin adopted a more realistic approach and changed Soviet Russia's stance. Lenin realised that due to failed communist revolutions in Germany and Hungary and foreign intervention in the Civil War Soviet Russia would not try to attempt the impossible. Lenin knew that the Western capitalist countries were simply to strong and would pose the biggest threat to a communist Russia if they were to ally against the Communists. So Lenin created the train of thought that Soviet Russia would protect herself by playing on the differences that divided the capitalist nations. This was accompanied with the policy that Soviet Russia would greatly soften its attitudes towards other countries. In particular this meant that Soviet Russia would not try to spread Communism so rapidly because they knew the Western countries feared this. Also trade barriers would be lifted in order to gain some trade off these countries. It should be noted that the only exception to this was the continuation of the Comintern that still worked for a world communist revolution although in these years it was slightly underground.

The first major policy that was implemented in the period of 1922 through to 1928 was the Treaty of Rapallo, which occurred in 1922. The Treaty of Rapallo consisted of a treaty between the democratic Germany and Soviet Russia. This treaty had both economic and military concerns. For the economy, the Treaty of Rapallo guaranteed Russian technical advice from the Germans in order to revitalise industry after the Civil War. In return the Germans received raw materials from the Russians. The military component was also significant as the Russians received German military advisers to build up the dwindling Russian officer corps. In return the Germans received the right to train their own army and airforce on Russian soil. This was significant as it avoided the Treaty of Versailles limitations of the German army not to exceed one hundred thousand men. The Treaty of Rapallo was created because of two factors. Firstly, both Germany and Soviet Russia had been excluded in peace talks and felt a Treaty between them was the only way to protect themselves from the domination of countries such as Britain and France. Secondly this Treaty was evidence of Soviet Russia playing on the differences of Western Countries. The communist believed that because the Western capitalist countries had excluded Germany, a Treaty with Soviet Russia (whom these countries such as France and Britain had yet to even recognise) would thus cause a rift between Germany and these Western capitalist countries. Thus protecting Soviet Russia from an Alliance between the powerhouse nations such as Germany, France and Britain because at this stage France and Britain was firmly against Soviet Russia so the Treaty of Rapallo would slightly cause a rift between Germany and France and Britain.

Another important treaty during the period of 1922 through to 1928 was the Treaty of Locarno. This was incredibly significant to the Communists however they had little to do with the actual signing. The Treaty of Locarno was signed on the 16th of October 1925 by the countries France, Germany, Belgium, Britain and Italy. Russia's border countries, Poland and Czechoslovakia also attended the Locarno Treaty. The Locarno Treaty was basically set up by German Chancellor Gustav Stresemann in order to gain a better relationship with Germany's old enemy France. The Treaty guaranteed that France Germany and Belgium would renounce the use of war in the future and probably more importantly the Treaty guaranteed the German-Belgian border and the French-German border. The Soviets had up till now worked on a theory of playing on the differences between the Western powers. However the Treaty of Locarno sounded a very big warning to Soviet Russia, as it seemed like the Western capitalist powers were allying themselves with each other. Thus spelling danger for Soviet Russia as an alliance between the capitalist nations Germany, France and Britain could result in Soviet Russia being destroyed. Of particular interest to Soviet Russia was the fact that their Western neighbours Poland and Czechoslovakia attended this Locarno conference. This was significant because it represented the fact that Russia's neighbouring countries were also enemies. This created even more unrest to the leaders. So looking to gain support Russia then signed the "Friendship Treaty" with their neighbour in the east, China. However this ended in 1927

There was only one major Foreign Policy that occurred within the reign of Stalin. This was the Kellog-Briand Pact that occurred in late 1928 and lasted until 1929. The Kellog-Briand Pact was simply a treaty that was signed by 65 nations and was set up by the United States Secretary of States - Frank Kellog and the French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand. The parties of the Treaty had agreed renounce war as an instrument of foreign policy. However much like the League of Nations this treaty had no means of enforcement. Thus the Kellog-Briand Pact turned out to be an "unenforceable declaration of intent". This is significant to Soviet Russia because they were one of the 65 nations that signed the Treaty. It seemed as if Stalin (who by 1928 basically held power over Soviet Russia) was continuing along the lines of Lenin's theories upon foreign policy. However there is a subtle difference between foreign policy under Lenin and foreign policy under Stalin. Lenin's idea of foreign policy was to play on the differences between the Western powers. Stalin's theory went one step further in that he had aligned Soviet Russia with the Western power nations. This brought about a complete end to the alienation that Soviet Russia had endured since it took power in 1917. This Treaty was the first step in Stalin's Foreign Policy, which at later dates saw him align Soviet Russia with Germany and then France and Britain.

Soviet Russia's social policies also underwent changes in the period of 1922 through to 1928. One of the first actions the Bolsheviks undertook once they had gained power in 1917 was to eradicate all ranks and titles and declare equality for women. For example campaigns were set up to "free" women from the drudgery of family life by setting up creche's and kindergartens. Also marriage and divorce became much easier to gain and abortion was widely accepted. Despite this the idea of the family was hard to change especially with the workers and peasants. Women did however gain much more freedom in this time period.

The education system in Russia also underwent much change in the period of 1922 through until 1928. Soviet Russia launched a campaign to eradicate illiteracy that had run rampant across peasants and workers. This was accompanied with the introduction of a policy that made all education free. However as Chernyshevky stated "culture and education had a didactic mission: they were to educate people in the right way of thinking." This meant that communist ideology was evident within all teachings. A social policy was even produced that abolished all textbooks and examinations. While this was partly due to the new educational theory it also stemmed from a lack of appropriate communist textbooks.

The arts also changed rapidly during the period of 1922 through to 1928. This time was known as a golden one in the history of Soviet Russian. Arts such as literature, literary criticism, art and theatre all flourished, however it was in the category of film that gained the most recognition in this period. Art and culture did not have complete freedom because measures were taken to keep them to be pro-communist. For example there was censorship of all printed matter and writers were organised into a "Proletarian Cultural and Educational Organisation." Thus the state was able to keep a closer reign upon what was being produced. Although these social policies seem rather harsh there was much more experimentation and freedom within the time of Lenin than that of Stalin in which all culture and art had to conform to his ideology. The church also came under attack during the period of 1922 through to 1928. However this cannot be a surprise on account of Marx's views on the church, in which he labelled it "the opium of the people". A social policy was actually introduced in order to rid Soviet Russia of religion. The Orthodox Church especially came under attack, as it had been an avid supporter of the Tsarist regime and the White Army.

The period of 1922 through to 1928 was a significant time in history for Soviet Russia. It was where the communists consolidated their power by creating much change in the social, economic and foreign policies of that time. Specifically the NEP and the changes in foreign policy were seen as ground breaking. However conversely a great change can be seen in the latter of these six years where Stalin's power and influence starts to rise.

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