Socialism is all about fairness. It’s looking to end the unfairness of the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer. It wants to make sure that the way we produce, distribute, and trade goods is taken care of by either workers or the community as a whole. It also wants to ensure everyone is equal and has equal rights and opportunities.
In this blog post, we’ll look at how Russia became a socialist society in the twentieth century. We’ll dive into the history behind the Russian Revolution, what role the Bolsheviks and Leninism played in it, how Russia was changed to be a socialist state, how the Bolsheviks gained control, the introduction of the Soviet state, the effects of socialism in Russia, and how it all turned out.
Tsar Nicholas II oversaw an authoritarian monarchy in Russia before the revolution. Peasants made up the majority of the population; they were poor and laboured on vast estates owned by rich landlords. Industrial workers living in urban areas faced difficult working conditions, poor pay, and frequent strikes. In addition to the lack of democracy and civil rights for the populace, the governmental system was oppressive and corrupt.
When protests and rallies broke out in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg), the Russian capital, in February 1917, the masses were unhappy and despairing. Better living conditions, political changes, and an end to the monarchy were among the demonstrators’ demands. Many troops in the Tsar’s army joined the revolutionaries when they were told not to fire on the masses. A combination of liberals and socialists created a transitional administration when the Tsar forcefully resigned.
However, the temporary administration fell short of people’s expectations. It continued to take part in World War I, which was costly and unpopular for Russia. Additionally, a crucial land issue for peasants was not addressed.
Moreover, it faced opposition from a radical socialist faction called the Bolsheviks, who advocated for more radical and immediate change.
Vladimir Lenin was the Bolshevik leader. He returned to Russia in April 1917, with Germany’s assistance (German plan was to knock off the eastern enemy internally and focus on the western front). Lenin said that Russia was ready for a socialist revolution and the Bolsheviks should take power from the provisional government by creating councils (called soviets) out of workers, peasants, and soldiers. He also created a political theory called Leninism, based on Marxism, but tailored to suit the Russian situation.
Leninism argued that a socialist revolution could be achieved if a group of professional revolutionaries acted on behalf of the working class. This was to overthrow the capitalist class. It also suggested that the working class would have to take control of the government, stamping out any opposition from capitalists and their supporters. Leninism also pushed for solidarity among oppressed people and a voice for global revolution.
In October 1917, the Bolsheviks revolted against the Petrograd provisional government, following Lenin’s “All power to the Soviets!” slogan. They stormed the Winter Palace, the government seat, and apprehended the majority of ministers. After that, they declared themselves the newly formed Russian government and said they desired a socialist society.
Steps Taken to Make Russia a Socialist Society
The Bolsheviks took five major steps to make Russia a socialist society:
1) They withdrew from World War I by signing a peace treaty with Germany in March 1918. This freed Russia from war and allowed them to focus on domestic issues.
2) They redistributed land among the peasants by decreeing that all land belonged to the state. Peasants could inherit any land they wanted from their former landlords. This satisfied one of the main demands of the peasants and gained their support for the Bolsheviks.
3) They granted self-determination to various nationalities within Russia by allowing them to form their own republics or regions within a federal system. This aimed to address Russia’s diversity and complexity and prevent ethnic conflicts.
4) They established workers’ control over industry by giving workers’ committees the power to manage factories and enterprises. This aimed to empower workers and increase productivity.
5) They created their own political system based on communism by abolishing all other forms of representation and authority. The Soviets were elected by direct universal suffrage
and were supposed to represent all segments of society: workers, peasants, soldiers, sailors, etc. The highest Soviet was called the Congress of Soviets, which elected an executive body called the Council of People’s Commissars (or Sovnarkom).
Consolidation of power
After the October Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks faced many challenges and opposition to their rule. They had to deal with ongoing World War I, the civil war with anti-Bolshevik forces, the economic crisis, social unrest, and foreign intervention. To consolidate their power and authority, the Bolsheviks took several measures, such as:
- Created a one-party dictatorship under Vladimir Lenin and the Communist Party. They banned other political parties, suppressed dissent, and controlled the media and education.
- Establishing a secret police force called the Cheka to eliminate enemies and enforce loyalty. They used terror, arrests, executions, and concentration camps to crush resistance or opposition.
- Signing the Brest-Litovsk Treaty with Germany in 1918 to end Russia’s involvement in World War I. They gave up large territories and resources to Germany in exchange for peace.
- Moving the capital from Petrograd to Moscow in 1918 to avoid German invasion and centralize power.
- Introducing the policy of War Communism from 1918 to 1921 to mobilize the economy for war. They requisitioned food and goods from peasants and workers, rationed supplies, nationalized industries, and abolished private trade.
- Winning the civil war against the White Army (the anti-Bolshevik forces) in 1921 with the help of the Red Army (the Bolshevik military force) and the support of workers and peasants.