On the occasion of the 151st Birth Anniversary of Lenin:

II: Lenin and the Struggle to Construct Socialism

This is the Second in a series of essays being published by the Communist Ghadar Party of India on the occasion of the 151st birth anniversary of Comrade Lenin. The first in this series was published on 3rd May, 2021.

On 7th November, 1917 (25th October in the then Russian calendar), workers, soldiers and sailors of Russia stormed the Winter Palace. They arrested the representatives of the Provisional Government. They occupied the Ministries, the State Bank as well as the railway stations, post and telegraph offices. Led by the Bolshevik Party, the working class captured political power in Russia.

Within the first six months of taking charge, the Soviet Government carried out the nationalisation of the biggest capitalist enterprises, both Russian and foreign owned. All privately owned banks were nationalised in December 1917, leading to the subsequent creation of a single state bank for the whole country. By February 1918, railways, foreign trade, merchant shipping, mines and large-scale factories had all been converted into the property of the whole people.

The victory of the proletarian revolution in Russia threw the international bourgeoisie into panic. The leading imperialist powers collaborated in all-sided attempts to topple the new Soviet state. These attempts took various forms, including armed intervention, ideological subversion and cultivation of their agents within the Soviet Communist Party. The US, Britain and other imperialist states encouraged all possible attacks on the leadership of Party. They supported every deviation in order to sabotage the project of constructing socialism.

The construction of socialism therefore involved a consistent all-sided struggle against imperialism and its agents, waged by the Soviet workers and peasants, led by the Bolshevik Party. It involved a stern and uncompromising struggle against anti-Marxist trends and factions within the Party, a struggle which Lenin led until his untimely demise in January 1924.

Peace, Land and Bread

Between February 1917, when the Czar had been overthrown, and the end of October, the Bolshevik Party had succeeded in rallying the majority of workers, peasants and soldiers around the immediate demand for peace, land and bread. People had been convinced by the development of events that the Provisional Government formed by bourgeois and petty-bourgeois parties was incapable of fulfilling these demands. Hence they rallied around the Bolshevik slogan “All Power to the Soviets!”

The fulfillment of the demand for peace, land and bread was the immediate task facing the new Soviet state.

On the day after the storming of the Winter Palace, the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies adopted a Decree on Peace and a Decree on Land. It set up the first Soviet Government headed by Comrade Lenin, who was elected as Chairman of the Council of Peoples’ Commissars.

The Decree on Peace proposed to all the nations and peoples engaged in the First World War to immediately begin negotiations towards a just and democratic peace, without annexations. The Soviet Government initiated such negotiations and signed a peace treaty with Germany and her allies on 3rd March, 1918. That brought to an end Russia’s participation in the First World War. (See Box 1 on Russia’s Withdrawal from the First World War)

Box 1: Russia’s Withdrawal from the First World War

The new Soviet Government called upon “all the belligerent peoples and their governments to start immediate negotiations for a just, democratic peace.” As Britain and France refused to accept this proposal the Soviet Government decided to start negotiations with Germany and Austria. The negotiations began on 3rd December, 1917, in Brest-Litovsk. On 5th December an armistice was signed.

The negotiations took place at a time when the country was in a state of economic disruption and Russian soldiers had become tired of the war. Many of them were abandoning the war front. It became clear in the course of the negotiations that the German imperialists were out to seize huge portions of the territory of the former Czarist empire. To continue the war under such conditions would have meant risking the very existence of the new-born Soviet Republic.

The working class and peasantry were confronted with the necessity of accepting onerous terms of peace, in order to secure a respite. A respite was needed, so as to strengthen the Soviet power. It was needed in order to create a new regular army, the Red Army, which would be able to defend the country from enemy attack.

Trotsky, Bukharin and a group of “Left Communists” began a fierce struggle within the Party against Lenin, demanding the continuation of the war. They were playing into the hands of the German imperialists. They were exposing the young Soviet Republic, which did not yet have a regular army, to the blows of German imperialism.

On 10th February, 1918, the peace negotiations in Brest-Litovsk were broken off. Trotsky, who was chairman of the Soviet delegation at Brest-Litovsk, violated the direct instructions of the Bolshevik Party. He announced that the Soviet Republic refused to conclude peace on the terms proposed by Germany. At the same time he informed the Germans that Soviet Russia would not fight and would continue to demobilize the army.

The German government broke the armistice and assumed the offensive. The German troops advanced swiftly and seized enormous amount of territory and threatened Petrograd. The Party and the Soviet Government issued the call—”The Socialist fatherland is in danger!” In response, the working class energetically began to form regiments of the Red Army.

On 23rd February, the Central Committee decided to accept the terms of the German Command and to sign the peace treaty. The treachery of Trotsky and Bukharin cost the Soviet Republic dearly. Latvia and Estonia passed into German hands. Ukraine was severed from the Soviet Republic and converted into a vassal of the German state. However, the hard won peace gave the Party a respite, to consolidate the Soviet power, reorganise the economy and build a powerful Red Army.

The Decree on Land converted all agricultural land from being a commodity into public property of the whole people, to be possessed and used by those who cultivate it. Landed estates which were so far the private property of big landlords and the Church were confiscated without compensation. The implementation of these measures eliminated the last vestiges of feudal oppression of the peasants. These changes in land ownership and use were reflected in the first Constitution of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, which was adopted by the Fifth Congress of Soviets held in July 1918.

During the period 1918 to 1920, ensuring food supply to the urban workers and soldiers of the Red Army was a major challenge facing the Soviet state. The First World War had resulted in acute shortages. After Russia withdrew from the war, the Anglo-French imperialists and their allies had begun to instigate reactionary forces within the country to topple the new Soviet power. They supplied them with money and arms. (See Box 2 on Struggle against Foreign Military Intervention) The new workers’ and peasants’ state was faced with a prolonged civil war with external imperialist support.

Box 2: Struggle against Foreign Military Intervention

The conclusion of peace between Russia and Germany, and the consolidation of the Soviet power, at a time when the inter-imperialist war was still in full swing, created profound alarm among the British and French imperialists and their allies, the Japanese and American imperialists. They decided to intervene in Russia by armed force with the object of overthrowing the Soviet state and establishing a bourgeois state. They calculated that with the support of the overthrown exploiting classes within the former Czarist empire, they can easily topple the Soviet regime, which did not yet have a regular army to defend itself.

The British, French and American imperialists landed their troops in northern Russia, in an operation called the Archangel campaign. They occupied territories where, in collaboration with the internal enemies of the revolution, they dispersed the Soviets and set up a “Government of Northern Russia”.

The Japanese landed their troops in Vladivostok in the east end of Russia, where they too dispersed the Soviets and restored the rule of the old exploiters.

The imperialists incited revolts of gangs of exploiters in the North Caucasus, middle Volga region and Siberia. Such revolts were led by former generals of the Czarist army, with money and arms supplied by the British-led imperialist alliance. Meanwhile, Germany had taken control of Ukraine and Transcaucasia. The combined result was that Soviet Russia was deprived of her principal sources of food, raw materials and fuel.

The Party proclaimed the country an armed camp and placed its economic, cultural and political life on a war footing. Hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants volunteered for service in the Red Army and left for the front. About half the members of the Party and of the Young Communist League went to the civil war front.

The Council of Workers’ and Peasants’ Defence directed the work of supplying the front with reinforcements, food, clothing and arms. The substitution of compulsory military service for the volunteer system brought hundreds of thousands of new recruits into the Red Army and very shortly raised its strength to over a million soldiers.

In spite of the extremely difficult and unfavourable conditions it faced, the Red Army succeeded in defeating the forces of imperialism and reaction. The most decisive factor in this victory was the fact that the Soviet soldiers were fighting in defence of a Government which is acting in the best interests of the vast majority of people. In contrast, the armies of the exploiters were fighting for a cause which did not have support or sympathy of the people.

The Red Army was victorious because it understood the justness of the cause for which it was fighting. It fought with unshakeable loyalty and death defying courage.

In order to ensure food supply to the urban workers and soldiers fighting to defend the new order from the imperialist instigated rebellions, the Soviet state had to gain control over the procurement and distribution of food grains. The extraordinary measures adopted to deal with the situation are referred to as “War Communism”. The entire surplus product of agriculture, over and above the consumption needs of the peasants, had to be procured by the state at a fixed price. The majority of peasants accepted this policy. A minority of prosperous farmers, known as kulaks, wanted to exploit the shortages to reap big profits. They hid their produce from the state so as to sell at exorbitant rates.

The Soviet Government carried out a concerted campaign against the hoarders and profiteers. It mobilised and sent contingents of workers from the cities to the villages to assist the poor peasants in their struggle against the kulaks.

On the occasion of the second anniversary of the October Revolution, in November 1919, Lenin wrote:

“Peasant farming continues to be petty commodity production. Here we have an extremely broad and very sound, deep-rooted basis for capitalism, a basis on which capitalism persists or arises anew in a bitter struggle against communism. The forms of this struggle are private speculation and profiteering versus state procurement of grain (and other products) and state distribution of products in general.”

{Economics and Politics in the Era of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, 7 Nov, 1919}

The Worker-Peasant Alliance

The worker-peasant alliance was the backbone of the Soviet state and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

During the period 1905 to February 1917, the main aim of the revolutionary movement in Russia was to end the Czarist monarchy and the feudal oppression of peasants by aristocratic landlords. The Bolshevik Party’s strategy in that period was to forge an alliance of the proletariat with the entire peasantry against the landlords and the Czarist state, while isolating the bourgeoisie.

Following the overthrow of the Czarist monarchy, the main aim of the class struggle during the period February to October 1917 was to end the imperialist domination of Russia and withdraw from the First World War. The Party’s strategy was to ally with the poor peasants against the bourgeoisie, while isolating the petty bourgeois parties which were striving to mobilise peasants to accept a compromise with imperialism.

During the period of imperialist armed intervention following the victory of the October Revolution, the worker-peasant alliance was based on a definite understanding. The peasants received land from the Soviet Government as well as protection against the landlords and kulaks. The workers received from the peasantry foodstuffs under the surplus-appropriation system.

As long as the civil war was on, the poor and middle peasants accepted the policy of state appropriation of their entire surplus product. Once peace was restored, discontent began to appear among them. With the civil war having ended by the end of 1920, and there being no longer any danger of the landlords returning, many peasants began to express dissatisfaction with having to surrender all of their surplus produce.

The Bolshevik Party realized that the time had come to replace the surplus-appropriation system, the regime of “War Communism”, by a tax in kind. With the state appropriating only a part of the surplus, the peasants will be able to use a large part of their surpluses at their own discretion. This would strengthen their incentive to enhance productivity. It would make it possible to revive agriculture, extend the cultivation of grain and industrial crops required for the development of industry, revive the circulation of commodities, and improve supplies to the towns. This was the major feature of the New Economic Policy (NEP) that was approved by the Tenth Party Congress held in March 1921.

The Bolshevik Party recognised and openly admitted that the NEP would lead to the growth of private enterprise in trade between town and countryside, and to that extent it was a retreat of the proletarian struggle against capitalism. Lenin explained that it was necessary for the proletarian vanguard to organise an orderly retreat so as to not to run the risk of losing support among the middle peasants. (See Box 3 on Winning Over the Middle Peasants)

Box 3: Winning Over the Middle Peasants

Guided by the science of Marxism, the Bolshevik Party distinguished between different strata of the peasantry, based on their place in the relations of production. In particular, it distinguished between the majority of toiling peasants and the minority of rich peasants who rely on hired workers to cultivate large tracts of land.

Within the toiling majority of peasants, there were middle peasants and poor peasants. Poor peasants were those who had to supplement their meagre agricultural incomes with wage income earned by some family member. The middle peasant was one who lived by his own family labour.

During the initial phase of socialist construction, the Bolshevik Party paid particular attention to the task of winning over the middle peasants. In a speech delivered in March 1919, Lenin said the following about the middle peasant:

“Under capitalism there were fewer peasants of this type than there are now, because the majority of the peasants were in the ranks of the impoverished, and only an insignificant minority, then, as now, were in the ranks of the kulaks, the exploiters, the rich peasants.

“The middle peasants have been increasing in number since the private ownership of land was abolished, and the Soviet government has firmly resolved at all costs to establish relations of complete peace and harmony with them. It goes without saying that the middle peasant cannot immediately accept socialism, because he clings firmly to what he is accustomed to, he is cautious about all innovations, subjects what he is offered to a factual, practical test and does not decide to change his way of life until he is convinced that the change is necessary.

“It is precisely for this reason that we must know, remember and put into practice the rule that when Communist workers go into rural districts they must try to establish comradely relations with the middle peasants, it is their duty to establish these comradely relations with them; they must remember that working peasants who do not exploit the labour of others are the comrades of the urban workers and that we can and must establish with them a voluntary alliance inspired by sincerity and confidence. Every measure proposed by the communist government must be regarded merely as advice, as a suggestion to the middle peasants, as an invitation to them to accept the new order.

“Only by co-operation in the work of testing these measures in practice, finding out in what way they are mistaken, eliminating possible errors and achieving agreement with the middle peasant – only by such co-operation can the alliance between the workers and the peasants be ensured. This alliance is the main strength and the bulwark of Soviet power; this alliance is a pledge that socialist transformation will be successful, victory over capital will be achieved and exploitation in all its forms will be abolished.”

The adoption of the New Economic Policy was achieved only after a protracted struggle within the Party, against factions led by opportunists who opposed the line of building a reliable long-term alliance between the proletariat and the toiling majority of peasants. A most dangerous trend of such opposition was led by Leon Trotsky, who the Anglo-American imperialists cultivated as one of their most trusted agents.

Trotsky promoted the idea that the peasantry, as a whole, was a reactionary stratum of the population, with whom no reliable alliance can be built. He also considered the struggle of oppressed nations against imperialism to be bourgeois movements which the proletariat must not support. Based on this erroneous assessment, he concluded that the Russian proletariat cannot hold on to political power unless proletarian revolution wins victory in one or more advanced capitalist countries of Europe. Lenin led the struggle to expose and defeat this line, a struggle which was crowned with victory at the Tenth Party Congress in 1921.

The correctness of the New Economic Policy was proved in its very first year. Its adoption served greatly to strengthen the alliance of workers and peasants on a new basis. The dictatorship of the proletariat gained in might and strength. The middle peasants helped the Soviet Government to fight the kulak bands. Agriculture soon began to forge ahead. Industry and the railways could record their first successes. An economic revival began. Workers and peasants felt and perceived that the Party was on the right track.

Accounting, Trade Unions and Socialist Emulation

Nationalisation of the means of large-scale production and exchange created the possibility for the Soviet state to reorient industrial production and enhance it towards fulfilling the people’s needs. To turn this possibility into reality, it was necessary for the state to have an accurate picture of the quantity of all essential commodities produced and consumed by the population. It was also necessary to have an accurate account of the quantity and quality of human labour expended in each sphere of production.

Lenin wrote, soon after the victory of the October Revolution, “Accounting and control, if carried on by the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies as the supreme state power, or on the instructions, on the authority, of this power — widespread, general, universal accounting and control, the accounting and control of the amount of labour performed and of the distribution of products—is the essence of socialist transformation, once the political rule of the proletariat has been established and secured.” {“How to Organise Competition?” – 24-27 December, 1917}

Only on the basis of centralised accounting is it possible to develop an overall plan for balanced development of the economy and achieve maximum possible fulfillment of the material and cultural needs of the people. Only then is it possible to realise the socialist principle: from each according to ability and to each according to work done.

Lenin led the struggle waged by the Party against all forms of resistance and opposition to honest accounting and reporting to the state. Such resistance among hoarders and profiteers, among small-scale producers and traders, was supported by the agents of imperialism within the Party, including the factions led by Trotsky and Bukharin. They criticised Lenin’s proposals to professionalise the management of industry as being a return to capitalist methods. Their arguments were defeated at the Tenth Congress of the Party in March 1921.

What Lenin had written in December 1917 on how to organise competition became the guideline for the policy of developing socialist emulation. The elimination of capitalist exploitation created the opportunity for drawing the majority of working people into a field of labour in which they can display their abilities, develop their capacities, and reveal those talents which were crushed and suppressed in the capitalist system. Every worker, every working team and every enterprise was inspired to strive and achieve the highest standards, by emulating the best performers.

One of the controversies which broke out at the Tenth Party Congress was on the question of the role of Trade Unions and their relation to the Communist Party. Trotsky and his followers advocated a militarist line, that the Party must command and the trade unions must obey. Bukharin and his followers advocated the idea that the trade unions must run the economy, without the Party playing any role in it. Lenin argued at the Congress that the Party must use persuasion and not military command in relation to the workers’ unions. He emphasized the critical role which the vanguard party must play in developing workers’ unions as schools of management and schools of communism.

Realizing how extremely dangerous the existence of factional groups was to the Party and the dictatorship of the proletariat, the Tenth Congress paid special attention to Party unity. It ordered the immediate dissolution of all factional groups and instructed all Party organizations to keep a strict watch to prevent any outbreaks of factionalism, Non-observance of the congress decision was to be followed by unconditional and immediate expulsion from the Party. These decisions were embodied in a special resolution on “Party Unity,” moved by Lenin and adopted by the congress.

Base of World Revolution

Lenin and the Bolshevik Party always considered the victory of the proletarian revolution in Russia to be the stepping stone to the advance and ultimate victory of socialism and communism on the world scale.

The uneven development of the various capitalist countries under conditions of imperialism, the intensification of all the major contradictions and growth of revolutionary movements in all countries make it possible for the victory of the proletariat in individual countries. The proletariat of the victorious country can and must consolidate its power and build socialism, in alliance with the toiling majority of people. At the same time, the complete and final victory of socialism, guaranteeing against the restoration of capitalism, requires the victory of proletarian revolution in at least several countries. Based on these theoretical conclusions, Lenin expressed the task of the victorious revolution in the following words:

“To do the utmost possible in one country for the development, support and awakening of the revolution in all countries”.

{“The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky”, October-November 1918}

The Soviet Union emerged as the liberated base area of the international proletariat in its struggle against the bourgeoisie. It emerged as the most reliable support for all the oppressed nations and peoples in their struggle against imperialism.

One of the most important forms in which the socialist Soviet Union assisted the advance of the world revolution was the formation of the Third Communist International, also known as the Comintern, in March 1919. That was a time when the victory of the Russian revolution had inspired the proletariat of other European countries, especially those which lost out in the First World War. The revolutionary movement was advancing in Germany, Austria and Hungary. New communist parties were emerging in various countries. In the face of the counter-revolutionary offensive of imperialism, consultation and coordinated action by the proletariat of all countries was an urgent necessity.

The First Congress of the Comintern was attended by delegations from 19 different countries. Lenin reported on the subject of bourgeois democracy and the Soviet system. The Congress adopted a manifesto to the proletariat of all countries, calling upon them to wage a determined struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat and for the triumph of Soviets all over the world. The Second Congress of the Comintern, convened in 1920, was attended by delegates from 37 countries.

The Comintern played an indispensable role in developing the ideo-political unity of the communist parties of numerous countries, around one General Line of March, guided by the science of Marxism-Leninism. Summing up the development of the international struggle of the proletariat for socialism, Lenin wrote in April 1919:

“The First International laid the foundation of the proletarian, international struggle for socialism.

“The Second International marked a period in which the soil was prepared for the broad, mass spread of the movement in a number of countries.

“The Third International has gathered the fruits of the work of the Second International, discarded its opportunist, social-chauvinist, bourgeois and petty-bourgeois dross, and has begun to implement the dictatorship of the proletariat.

“The international alliance of the parties which are leading the most revolutionary movement in the world, the movement of the proletariat for the overthrow of the yoke of capital, now rests on an unprecedentedly firm base”

{Lenin, “The Third International and its Place in History”, 15 April, 1919}

Lenin’s Last Years

In November 1922, Lenin made a speech at a plenary meeting of the Moscow Soviet in which he reviewed the five years of Soviet rule. He expressed the firm conviction that “NEP Russia will become Socialist Russia”. This was his last speech to the country, before he fell seriously ill.

Even in illness, Lenin wrote a number of highly important articles, in which he outlined a plan for the building of socialism in the country by enlisting the peasantry in that cause, through the path of building cooperatives. Lenin pointed out that the line to be followed in the development of agriculture was to gradually introduce the collective principle in agriculture, first in the selling, and then in the growing of farm produce.

In December 1922, the first All-Union Congress of Soviets was held. On the proposal of Lenin and Stalin, a voluntary state union of the Soviet nations was formed, called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.).

Originally, the Soviet Union consisted of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and three other republics, the Trancaucasian, Ukrainian and Byelorussian. Somewhat later, three independent Union Soviet Republics—the Uzbek, Turkmen and Tadjik—were formed in Central Asia. All these republics united, in 1922, to form a single union of Soviet states—the U.S.S.R.—on a voluntary and equal basis, each of them being reserved the right of freely seceding from the Soviet Union. This marked the consolidation of the Soviet power. It was a great victory for the principled policy of the Bolshevik Party on the national question.

By the end of 1923, economic progress was to be observed in all fields. The crop area had increased considerably since 1921, and peasant farming was steadily improving. Socialist industry was growing and expanding. The working class had greatly increased in numbers. Wages had risen. Life had become easier and better for the workers and peasants as compared with 1920 and 1921. However, industry was still to fully recover to its pre-war level, and there were a million unemployed persons.

Exploiting the fact that Lenin was seriously ill, the imperialists activated their agents to escalate their offensive against the line of the Party. Trotsky joined hands with other opportunist elements in the Party to publish a platform called the “Declaration of 46 Oppositionists”, which predicted a grave economic crisis and imminent fall of the Soviet state. It called for freedom of factions within the Party, as being allegedly the only way to save the situation. This was followed by the publication of a letter by Trotsky in which he claimed that the “old” Bolshevik leaders had degenerated and tried to incite young comrades against the leadership.

In January 1924, the Soviet Party held its Thirteenth Conference. The conference condemned the Trotskyite opposition, declaring that it was a petty-bourgeois deviation from Marxism. However, the successes of the Party’s policy were clouded by a calamity on 21st January that year. Lenin passed away in the village of Gorki, near Moscow.

Over the following days, the Central Committee received thousands upon thousands of applications from workers for admission to the Party. They were people prepared to give their lives for the cause of the Party, the cause of Lenin. In a brief space of time, over 2,40,000 workers joined the ranks of the Bolshevik Party. This was called the Lenin Enrolment.

In May 1924, the Party held its Thirteenth Congress. The congress unanimously condemned the platform of the Trotskyite opposition, defining it as a petty-bourgeois deviation from Marxism, as a revision of Leninism.

With the purpose of strengthening the bond between town and country, the Thirteenth Congress gave instructions for a further expansion of industry, primarily of the light industries, while placing particular stress on the necessity for a rapid development of the iron and steel industry. It set the trading bodies the task of gaining control of the market and completely ousting private capital from the sphere of trade. It gave instructions for the increase of cheap state credit to the peasantry so as to oust the money-lenders from the countryside. It called for the maximum development of the co-operative movement among the peasantry as the paramount task in the countryside.

Lastly, the 13th Congress stressed the profound importance of the Lenin Enrolment and drew the Party’s attention to the necessity of devoting greater efforts to educating the young Party members—and above all the recruits of the Lenin Enrolment—in the principles of Leninism. Nine lectures delivered by Stalin at the Sverdlov University in 1924 were compiled and published as a book titled “The Foundations of Leninism”, which has served to educate the communists of all countries over the past 97 years.

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