Russia would not have existed by 1920 were it not for Vladimir IlichLenin, the only man capable of saving the failing nation. Russia in 1910 was a very backwards country. Peasants who livedin absolute poverty made up the vast majority of Russia’s population(Haney 19). Russia’s version of the feudal system had ended a mere 49years earlier, but in effect it meant that peasants now owned themeager parcels of land upon which their survival rested. Their ruler,Czar Nicholas II, ruled aloof of his disorganized nation.
Hisgovernment of appointed officials and men in inherited positions didnot represent the people (The Tyranny of Stupidity 120). Even thoughall of Europe had experienced the Industrial Revolution, Russia hadprecious little machinery. To obtain more advanced machines, thegovernment traded grain to other countries in exchange for machinery,even though it meant that more people would starve (Haney 17). Compound this with the devastation and desperation brought on shortlythereafter by the First World War, and there was no confidence left inthe government.
Different political factions formed, and none gotalong (U. S. S. R.
63). Liberal constitutionalists wanted to remove theczar and form a republic; social revolutionists tried to promote apeasant revolution; Marxists promoted a revolution among theproletariat, or urban working class. The people were fed up withRussia’s state of affairs and ready for change. Change was presented in the form of Vladimir Lenin, a committed,persuasive visionary with a grand plan. Lenin became hardened in hisquest at an early age when his older brother Aleksandr, arevolutionary, was executed in 1887 for plotting to kill then-CzarAlexander III. “I’ll make them pay for this!” he said, “I swear it!”(Haney 28) By 1888, at the age of 18, he had read Das Kapital by KarlMarx, a book about socialism and the evils of capitalism.
A superbspeaker, he could hold audiences at rapt attention with his powerfulspeeches (New Generation). People became convinced of his socialistviews. He formed his own political party, the Bolsheviks, a split offof the earlier Marxists. Unlike other parties of his time, Leninlimited membership to a small number of full-time revolutionaries(Haney 41). This dedication and tight organization later proved bothuseful and effective.
From 1897 to 1917, he traveled all over Europewriting propaganda, organizing strikes, and encouraging revolutionamong the working class, especially in Russia (Lenin, V. I. 191). Leninknew what he wanted, knew how to get it, and was willing to wait. During World War I, the time was right and Lenin was the man.
Czar Nicholas II remained totally focused on winning the war, and didnot hesitate before committing more men and supplies to the war effort(Haney 65). But for an already starving country, every train thatbrought supplies to the front could not also be bringing food topeasants. With public sentiment and even the Czar’s own army againsthim, Nicholas abdicated the throne in March of 1917 (69). A governmentby soviets (councils) was instated, but did not last long. After that,Alexander Kerensky seized power. In November, Lenin and hisBolsheviks, with help from armed citizens, stopped the revolving door.
They took over St. Petersburg (then Petrograd) and later capturedMoscow, meeting little resistance along the way (Jantzen 613). Lenintook over the government and signed a treaty with Germany to takeRussia out of the war. Immediately thereafter, civil war broke outbetween the Communists, called Reds, and the anti-Communists, calledWhites, who had help from Western nations (Johnson 43).
This help fromoutside Russia actually helped Lenin, as it drove public sentimentagainst the Whites. Russian troops, scattered and dispirited, hadjust been through World War I. Somehow, though, Lenin and his goodfriend Leon Trotsky organized these troops into the Red Army and wonthe war (Liversidge 59). It was now Lenin’s country.
Once he was fully in power, Lenin set up a true Communistgovernment. Russia became sixteen republics subdivided all the wayfrom districts down to soviets (committees) representing the workers,soldiers, and peasants in that area. The country would be ruled fromthe bottom up rather than the traditional top down (Johnson 30). Leninwanted a society where the working class was the ruling class; asociety where there is one social class, everyone has the same rights,and, eventually, there is no private property. For a short time,peasants were allowed to simply seize their former landlords’ land andworkers to control factories (U.
S. S. R. 54). Later, however, allindustry was nationalized. To jump-start the economy, Lenin institutedhis New Economic Policy, which began to rejuvenate the economy bypermitting small industries to operate under their own control andletting farmers keep or sell more of their products while thegovernment retained control of heavy industries such as metal working(55).
Lenin had earlier gained support with the simple promise “Bread,peace, land,” (Lenin, V. I. 194) and he had begun to make good. Lenin’sgoals were becoming reality. Tragically, Lenin died in 1924, rendering him unable to seethrough any of his plans.
He had suffered his first stroke in 1922,and it was that year that a young Bolshevik named Josef Stalin — aman whom Lenin had warned his associates about as being dangerous(Johnson 97) — began making his grab at power. Unfortunately forRussians, Stalin beat Trotsky and became Secretary of the CommunistParty upon Lenin’s death, a position which was as good as dictator(100). Stalin, who was probably mentally unstable (96) , trashed theideals of Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky in his own thirst for power. Marxhad held the view that “The key to Communism is education,” (NewGeneration) and the working class must be a learned people. Asdictator, Stalin resorted to censorship of all media to consolidatehis power (Johnson 114). Had Lenin lived longer, he could have seenCommunism through to its ideal state.
Nevertheless, even under Stalin,Lenin was virtually deified for having saved the nation. Were Lenin alive today, he could stand up and truthfully say,“Without me, a nation would not exist. ” He singularly shaped thecourse of history. Russia was floundering, and Lenin was the totallycommitted visionary that it took to bring it back from the brink.
Helaid the foundation for what eventually became a world superpower, andhad he lived longer, Russia could have been even stronger. It is nowonder Lenin became a Russian national hero. —Bibliography:Haney, John. Lenin. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.
Johnson, Gerald W. Communism: An American’s View. New York: Williamand Morrow, 1964. “Lenin, Vladimir Ilich. ” Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia, 1996 ed. “Lenin, V.
I. ” The World Book Encyclopedia, 1989 ed. Liversidge, Douglas. Lenin: Genius of Revolution.
New York: FranklinWatts, 1969. “The New Generation Political View. ”http://home. everyday. no/dvc01020/PoliticalView.
htm“The Tyranny of Stupidity. ” Skow, John. Time Magazine. April 21,1997. 120. “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
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