Communism/ Russian Revolution term paper 13368

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Eventually, empires and nations all collapse. The end can be

brought about by many causes. Whether through becoming too large for

their own good, being ruled by a series of out of touch men, falling

behind technologically, having too many enemies, succumbing to civil

war, or a combination: no country is safe. The Russia of 1910 was in a

tremendously horrible situation. She had all of these problems.

Russia would not have existed by 1920 were it not for Vladimir Ilich

Lenin, the only man capable of saving the failing nation.

Russia in 1910 was a very backwards country. Peasants who lived

in absolute poverty made up the vast majority of Russia s population

(Haney 19). Russia s version of the feudal system had ended a mere 49

years earlier, but in effect it meant that peasants now owned the

meager parcels of land upon which their survival rested. Their ruler,

Czar Nicholas II, ruled aloof of his disorganized nation. His

government of appointed officials and men in inherited positions did

not represent the people (The Tyranny of Stupidity 120). Even though

all of Europe had experienced the Industrial Revolution, Russia had

precious little machinery. To obtain more advanced machines, the

government 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 shortly

thereafter by the First World War, and there was no confidence left in

the government. Different political factions formed, and none got

along (U.S.S.R. 63). Liberal constitutionalists wanted to remove the

czar and form a republic; social revolutionists tried to promote a

peasant revolution; Marxists promoted a revolution among the

proletariat, or urban working class. The people were fed up with

Russia 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 his

quest at an early age when his older brother Aleksandr, a

revolutionary, was executed in 1887 for plotting to kill then-Czar

Alexander 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 Karl

Marx, a book about socialism and the evils of capitalism. A superb

speaker, he could hold audiences at rapt attention with his powerful

speeches (New Generation). People became convinced of his socialist

views. He formed his own political party, the Bolsheviks, a split off

of the earlier Marxists. Unlike other parties of his time, Lenin

limited membership to a small number of full-time revolutionaries

(Haney 41). This dedication and tight organization later proved both

useful and effective. From 1897 to 1917, he traveled all over Europe

writing propaganda, organizing strikes, and encouraging revolution

among the working class, especially in Russia (Lenin, V.I. 191). Lenin

knew 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 did

not hesitate before committing more men and supplies to the war effort

(Haney 65). But for an already starving country, every train that

brought supplies to the front could not also be bringing food to

peasants. With public sentiment and even the Czar s own army against

him, Nicholas abdicated the throne in March of 1917 (69). A government

by soviets (councils) was instated, but did not last long. After that,

Alexander Kerensky seized power. In November, Lenin and his

Bolsheviks, with help from armed citizens, stopped the revolving door.

They took over St. Petersburg (then Petrograd) and later captured

Moscow, meeting little resistance along the way (Jantzen 613). Lenin

took over the government and signed a treaty with Germany to take

Russia out of the war. Immediately thereafter, civil war broke out

between the Communists, called Reds, and the anti-Communists, called

Whites, who had help from Western nations (Johnson 43). This help from

outside Russia actually helped Lenin, as it drove public sentiment

against the Whites. Russian troops, scattered and dispirited, had

just been through World War I. Somehow, though, Lenin and his good

friend Leon Trotsky organized these troops into the Red Army and won

the war (Liversidge 59). It was now Lenin s country.

Once he was fully in power, Lenin set up a true Communist

government. Russia became sixteen republics subdivided all the way

from districts down to soviets (committees) representing the workers,

soldiers, and peasants in that area. The country would be ruled from

the bottom up rather than the traditional top down (Johnson 30). Lenin

wanted a society where the working class was the ruling class; a

society 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 and

workers to control factories (U.S.S.R. 54). Later, however, all

industry was nationalized. To jump-start the economy, Lenin instituted

his New Economic Policy, which began to rejuvenate the economy by

permitting small industries to operate under their own control and

letting farmers keep or sell more of their products while the

government 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 s

goals were becoming reality.

Tragically, Lenin died in 1924, rendering him unable to see

through any of his plans. He had suffered his first stroke in 1922,

and it was that year that a young Bolshevik named Josef Stalin -- a

man whom Lenin had warned his associates about as being dangerous

(Johnson 97) -- began making his grab at power. Unfortunately for

Russians, Stalin beat Trotsky and became Secretary of the Communist

Party upon Lenin s death, a position which was as good as dictator

(100). Stalin, who was probably mentally unstable (96) , trashed the

ideals of Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky in his own thirst for power. Marx

had held the view that The key to Communism is education, (New

Generation) and the working class must be a learned people. As

dictator, Stalin resorted to censorship of all media to consolidate

his power (Johnson 114). Had Lenin lived longer, he could have seen

Communism 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 the

course of history. Russia was floundering, and Lenin was the totally

committed visionary that it took to bring it back from the brink. He

laid the foundation for what eventually became a world superpower, and

had he lived longer, Russia could have been even stronger. It is no

wonder Lenin became a Russian national hero.

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