In the previous post I mentioned that, Lenin in his attempt “to construct the socialist order” collided with Marx’s vision from day one. Lenin’s speech to the congress of soviets was concurrent with military operations of the Bolsheviks to take control of vital nerve centers of the state.
Lenin’s party, the Bolsheviks, was organized on a military model with a central command. It was composed of tightly knit, like minded individuals who complied with the directives of the central command. There were periods of limited discussions airing out the disputes within the central command. Lenin had coined this as “democratic centralism”. Lenin had trouble convincing his own central command about his strategy for seizure of power and he had to use the militancy prevalent in the rank and file of the Russian military units, tired of the war, to achieve his goal. From a tactical political perspective Lenin’s seizure of power was no different than the actions of many other military men in history such as Napoleon, Ata Turk and Reza Shah. They used the discontent among the masses with the tottering and bickering politicians to take power and implement certain social reforms popular among the masses and create social stability. Lenin had a much far reaching goal of fundamentally transforming the economic order; along the line of what he perceived was Marx’s scientific socialism. His far reaching goal only pushed the tired masses into an expensive experiment with the “scientific socialism”. Even immediate social reforms took a back seat at the service of this ideology and they could not show their effectiveness.
During Lenin’s speech, in October 1917, the Social Revolutionary and Menshevik delegates to the Congress of the Soviets walked out in protest to the unilateral course that the Bolsheviks had adopted. Instead of a stronger unity among the Socialists, the Bolsheviks action created animosity among the Russian socialists. Bolsheviks were far away from attracting some sections of the bourgeoisie, as Marx had foreseen, they had already alienated a big chunk of the Russian socialists.
Bolsheviks seizure of power in Petrograd was relatively simple and bloodless but in Moscow it was bloody and took several days and as their attempts extended into the rest of the Russia and its territories it proved much harder and it provoked a bloody civil war where the Bolshevik government and its policies of confiscations went headlong in confrontation with the big segments of the peasantry. The civil war was bloody and more destructive than the Russian participation in the First World War. The call to vacate the WWI theatre was the prevailing outcry that helped the Bolsheviks ascendency but their unilateral action mired them into a new and more isolating war.
In the large cities, right after the October insurrection, the influence of the Social Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks in the factories and working districts grew. Demanding better wages they led many strikes in the factories. Bolsheviks feeling the threat of losing power resorted to suppression of these strikes through hidden trials and summary execution of the worker leaders. Instead of putting the last few pales of dirt over the supposedly dug up graves of the bourgeoisie, they were busy digging fresh graves for the workers. The most famous of these uprisings against the Bolsheviks was the Kronstadt rebellion. It is not outrageous to conclude that probably Marx was turning in his grave. But the Bolsheviks excused all of these measures in the name of their high aspirations and it became a tradition in the communist leaning left – define a high aspiration and beat your ideological opponents. This was extended into what later became the nationalist movements in the undeveloped world.Throughout the almost four years of civil war the Bolsheviks could not move the industry and the economy forward. And they had an excuse that they are busy with the civil war. A war that in reality was instigated by their unilateral policies and in their words was “imposed” on them. After the end of the civil war they had no more excuses, but the industry and the economy kept declining.
The only thing that reversed the trend was the “New Economic Policy” (NEP). Under the NEP put forward and promoted by Lenin, they created incentives for the deposed capitalists and their managers. These privileges were for them to return to the enterprises and run them. Lenin had to go through a very twisted logic in his writings to explain the situation that the Bolsheviks had found themselves. While Lenin’s policy was a practical remedy to the Bolsheviks predicament, it could not explain the ideological underpinning that had created this predicament. If the capitalists and their managers are useless blood suckers why did the Bolsheviks need them under any circumstances? Lenin’s basic explanation was that NEP is temporary and the Bolsheviks needed the capitalists only temporarily. But the question was, were the capitalists and their managers a necessary part of the production? Were they adding value in the process of production? How temporary is temporary? Did the Bolshevik experiment put into question the Marxists thesis that the capitalists and their agents are mere leeches that the first order of the “dictatorship of proletariat” is to do away with them? If the capitalists and their agents were digging their own graves why did the Bolsheviks had to bring them out of their graves and restore their status, even at a lower level?NEP was effective and restored certain level of confidence, created new economic vitality and renewed urban life but at the same it was breaking up the Bolsheviks ideological hegemony. The more pragmatic ones, among the Bolsheviks found their interest in the state bureaucracy. The idealists began stretching the Marxism. But the prevailing method of implementation was, to win over the central committee of the Bolshevik party and unilaterally move against the opposition by force – the method of October insurrection. This insurrection has been called second “Revolution” or the first “Coup”, terms used depending on the prevailing ideological leanings of the time.
More on the next post …