To what extent did Lenin establish Communism in Russia from 1920-1924? From an early age, Lenin opposed the Romanov autocratic regime, even more so following the execution of his brother for the assassination of Tsar Alexander III. Lenin was an avid follower of the writings of Karl Marx and believed communism was the way forward. He believed that everything should be owned by the government and then distributed evenly amongst the people. During the February 1917 revolution in Russia, Lenin was in exile. He knew his right-hand man Trotsky would tell him when the time was right to come back to Russia.
The end of the February Revolution led to the end of the Romanov dynasty and to the Provisional Government under Lvov and Kerensky. It also meant the return of Lenin. By October 1917, he felt the time was right for a Bolshevik revolution. It was relatively bloodless and Lenin assumed the responsibility of governing Russia. Between 1920 and 1924, Lenin and the Bolsheviks attempted to shape the destiny of Russia and establish communism. He said, ‘’History will never forgive us if we do not assume power now’’.
Having taking over Russia, Lenin now had the challenge of holding on to power. The first thing he did was put a decree on land. This meant that peasants were allowed take over private land. Therefore, landlords weren’t very happy about this. He also abolished the Assembly. Lenin believed in a one party dictatorship and this step was necessary for it to happen. It was at this time that the Bolsheviks became known as Communists. In an attempt to make all people equal, everyone was to be addressed at ‘’Comrade’’. Lenin’s next step now was to make peace.
The slogan of the Communists was ‘’Peace, bread, land’’. From fighting in World War I, Russia was on the verge of bankruptcy. Lenin knew something had to be done. The Russians were losing battle after battle and the country couldn’t take any more of it. Also, the army was in disarray. Soldiers were losing heart and most of them were killed. Lenin realised this had to be stopped. He was pragmatic and knew the country couldn’t take it much longer. Therefore, Lenin signed a peace agreement with Germany. This was known as the Brest-Litovsk Treaty or The Shameful Treaty.
Although it obtained peace in Russia, it involved in the country losing a quarter of its land and population, eighty per cent of its coal mines and thirty three per cent of it farming land and manufacturing industry. Lenin insisted the survival of the communist regime depended on it! Lenin however was faced with opposition, collectively known as the ‘’Whites’’. These included a disarray of groups such as social revolutionaries, supporters of the Provisional Government, landlords, tsarist supporters and many more. This gave rise to a civil war in Russia. The war was the ‘’Reds’’ vs. he ‘’Whites’’. The Reds had many more advantages than the Whites. The Red Army were under Trotsky, a very skilled military tactician. The Reds were being attacked from every direction by the Whites with the help of the Allied Powers. However, the Reds greatest threat was Pilsudski and his Polish army. This was the only battle were Lenin had peace negotiations and were he lost some of Russian territory. As time passed, Allied support lessened. This was a big disadvantage for the Whites. The Reds had another advantage over the Whites, they were more united.
The Whites had many different groups who wanted and fought for different things so it didn’t work in their favour. One further advantage for the Reds was that they were located in central Russia, which was capable of being defended. This ended in victory for the Reds. During the civil war, Lenin took control of economic and political problems. He followed a policy of War Communism. This policy saw Lenin ensure that all industry and agriculture within the Communist –controlled territory was geared solely towards the war effort.
All of the surplus crops that were grown by the farmers were requisitioned by the government and distributed between the workers and soldiers. Food detachments were sent to the countryside to get the food. This was very unpopular with the farmers. They began to cut back in grain production so eventually, Russia experienced a famine. An estimation of between five and seven million people died due to hunger. The Red Terror was set up by the Cheka. The Cheka were a secret police force set up to arrest and execute people who they believed opposed Lenin and the Communists.
Any opposition to Lenin was dealt with legalised acts of brutality. It was a systematic terror designed to ensure the continuation of Communist rule. The Kronstadt Rising gave the Cheka a great opportunity to put down the revolt. The naval soldiers that were involved were brutally treated and were easily defeated. Following the end of the Civil War, Lenin knew that change needed to be made. He ended War Communism and brought in the New Economic Policy. There was serious discontent which undermined support for Communism.
The NEP ended the requisition of food from the peasants, peasants were now allowed to sell their surplus for profit and private enterprise was allowed in small factories. Although many of these terms were contrary to Communist beliefs, Lenin said that ‘’we must take a step backwards in order to go two steps forward at a later date’’. Although Lenin did not live to see the full effects of the New Economic Policy, he had a great effect on the Russians and established the first ever Communist state. Lenin took many steps in order for Russia to become a Communist state.