Essay, Research Paper
Lenin and Problems After the October Revolution
What were the problems facing Lenin after the October Revolution and how
successfully did he deal with them?
The initial difficulties faced by the new Soviet Union were so severe
that its survival seemed almost miraculous? . The remains of the czarist regime
left Lenin to face a country wrought with war, devastated economically.
Russia’s involvement in World War I, followed by its Civil War, wide spread
famine and a change in political and social ideology were the problems
confronting Lenin after the October Revolution. Lenin did succeed in ending
both the war with Germany and the Civil War for Russia. Yet, the economic and
social aspects of the revolution can be more critically assessed.
Lenin knew the importance of ending Russian involvement in World War I.
On March 3, 1918 Russia lost 1/3 of its fertile farm lands, 1/3 of its
population, 2/3 of its coal mines and oil fields and 1/2 of its heavy industry
to German peace terms. Though the treaty of Brest-Litovsk was harsh, the terms
were annulled once the Allied powers defeated Germany. Lenin managed to end the
war that had for so long depressed Russia’s resources and morale. He succeeded
in focusing on the severe internal problems of the new government, and in ?
saving the socialist republic? . One of the largest problems that Russia faced
prior to the October Revolution was finally ended, though its effects were still
to be felt.
Almost immediately afterwards, in 1918, Civil War begins. The battling
White Army divided amongst different leaders and interests left the Red Army,
led by Trotsky victorious. Lenin does succeed in eliminating opposition to the
Soviet Union in November of 1920. As in the case of the World War, a simple end
to the fighting did not signify an end to the devastation that had been left as
The economic and social problems that arose from the end of the czarist
regime were dealt with by Lenin initially unsuccessfully. War communism, a
forced socialized economic policy began with the confiscation of surplus grain.
It then extended to all other products. Abusive detachments fought peasant
resistance with the terror of the Red Army, and in 1919 when they gained
control, with the Extraordinary Commission (Cheka). What Lenin had thought would
bring the triumph of communism rendered only misery and disorder. The Kronstadt
Revolt in February, 1921 is an example of the indignation felt by those that saw
the Bolshevik’s policies as too oppressive. Finally, Lenin sees that a
transition period is necessary, and denounces war communism for its impractical
severity. Up until this point the disastrous economic and social problems of
the nation were not dealt with successfully.
Both World War I and the Civil War left rampant destruction in Russia’s
agricultural production. Drought as well as the failure of war communism led to
wide spread famine. At this point Lenin introduced gradual economic measures
that began as agricultural policies. According to British historian E.H. Carr,
Lenin’s New Economic Policy increased from food production to trade, to the most
?profound evil?: industrial policy. He states that the essential nature of the
NEP was the negation and reversal of war communism policy.
Lenin described the NEP as a retreat in order to attack again. After
seven years the NEP succeeded in returning agriculture and industrial production
to 1913 levels. Yet in his book From Lenin to Stalin (1930s), Victor Serge a
former communist criticizes the NEP. He points out that the NEP merely restored
the appearance of prosperity to Russia. This prosperity was for many ?
distasteful and often disquieting?. It meant a reversal to capitalist
corruption, confusing those that had learned to accept the harsh terms implied
by revolution. Yet, I cannot agree completely with Serge. Lenin knew how
essential a transitional period was for a Russia in ruin. The NEP, though not
entirely successful in solving all the problems that came after the October
Revolution, did manage to bring a better standard of living for many, as is
affirmed by historians Strayer and Gatzke.
Lenin faced complex problems after the initial triumph of the October
Revolution subsided. He was left with a foreign war to end, and a domestic one
to quell. Both terminated victoriously only on an ideological level. The
massive devastation that the new government confronted was aggravated by harsh
war communism policy. With the gradual increase of Lenin’s New Economic Policy
came controversy and some emergency relief. Ultimately at the time of Lenin’s
death the Soviet Union was still plagued, though perhaps not as severely, by
economic and social distress.