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Jared Moreno

24 November 2009

Bill Jones

World History

World War I bloodied the fields of Europe between the years of 1914-1918. The war in Europe

was not radical difference in bloodshed compared to the harsh oppression in the European colonies. As

Lenin says, “the present war is a continuation of the policy of conquest, of the shooting down of whole

nationalities, of unbelievable atrocities committed by the Germans and the British in Africa, and by the

British and the Russians in Persia – which of them committed most it is difficult to say.”1 The

difference between the murders in the colonies and those in Europe was that it happened in Europe. Out

of all those countries in the war, Russia suffered the most and had the greatest death toll and economic

damage. The war left Russia in ruins. That is why, midway through the war, Russia was in mass

revolution, twice. The needless destruction of World War I gave the catalyst needed for the people of

Russia to rise up and take control away from the Tzar, thus ending a three century dynasty. Another

revolution followed with the Bolsheviks taking control. This is when the Soviet Union was formed, the

first communist revolution which left its mark on the world. The Russian Revolution was a harsh and

complicated situation starting with its industrialization.

Before the Russian Revolution, the nation was rising as an industrial power. Their power was

not at the level of Europe because of its late entry in the industrial revolution, but they were quickly

growing. The middle class was on the rise with the wealth and power. In comparison to Europe, Russia

did not implement free markets for their industrialization. Instead, Russia implemented a

“transformation from above” The Tzar had control of industry and investment. Even the freeing of the

serfs in 1861 was a measure that the state enacted. Industry was bursting rapidly with the creation of
1 V. L. Lenin “War and Revolution” in Worlds of History A Comparative Reader, 3rd Ed., Kevin Reilly (Bedford/St.
Martin's, 2007) 375.
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railroads and production of steal, coal, oil and textile. Russia was on the move as an industrial power.

This industrialization help the middle class grow, but not all was well for them. Business owners grew

from investment. Lot of the investment came from outside the nation. The business owners wealth

surpassed that of the workers and peasants, but the business owners were deeply dependent on state.

The state had control of the contracts. The state also suppressed the growing radicalism of the workers

which helped the business owners. Yet, the middle class was not without their grievances of the

situation. The state oppressed them as well. They did not have a free hand at directing the market,

political life, or obtaining wealth. They too wanted to take on a greater role the direction of Russia.

The capitalist middle class were not the only ones with problems with the government before

the war. The rural peasants faced many problems before the revolution. Life as peasant was one of

poverty. Pressures of the war aggravated the peasantry among the different forces. Peasants were freed

from serfdom on 1861, around a generation before World War I. They had their rebellion during the

Russian Revolution of 1905. In 1897, the workers were only five percent of the population and the

peasants greatly outnumbered them. This difference in class size did not change much leading up to the

the Russian Revolution. Once the revolution occurred, they unleashed their force on the large landlords

and the landlords' estates. When they rebelled, they burned down the manors of the landlords and

redistributed land amongst themselves. This anger was expressed with the catalyst of the war.

Not only was World War I devastating to the peasants but to the soldiers as well. The soldiers of

Russia were the worst off out of all the nations. More than any other country, Russia had the most

casualties of war. The bloodshed from the needless war spawned unrest among the soldiers. Wealth and

privileges of the high-ranking officers energized that unrest. Despair and resentment turned the soldiers

into participating in acts of mutiny. They rebelled against their oppressors, the officers and the

government that had sent them to death. When the workers and the peasants rebelled against the

government, the military did not defend the Tzar. Instead, they laid down their arms and joined the
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revolution. This was not the first time the military of Russia participated in acts of mutiny. Following

the defeat of Russia in the naval war with Japan, the army and navy rebelled with the revolution of

1905. This revolution was heavily suppressed and unsuccessful.

Along with the soldiers and peasants, the workers were growing in radicalism that led to

revolution. The workers where packed in some of the largest factories in Europe. Such concentration of

workers gave them more opportunity to organize larger numbers of workers at a time. Oppressive

conditions also contributed to their willingness to struggle against their rulers and the prosperous

business class. Around 1897, thirteen hour work days were common. Radicalism among the workers

quickly spread into large-scale strikes in 1905. The workers turned ruthless oppression into powerful

takeovers of factories. Soviets were formed from the large-scale strikes. The workers, peasants, and

soldiers all contributed to the revolution in 1905. Intellectuals representing the workers came out in

political parties. Even students got into the uprising. In the end, the revolution was heavily suppressed,

but not without some victories. To prevent further uprisings, a new constitution was created. This

constitution legalized trade unions and political parties. A national assembly was also formed called the

Duma. Capitalism and industrialization was once again on the rise in Russia, but the roots for

revolution was already seeded. Many of the conditions that the soldiers, peasants, workers, and

capitalists faced did not change greatly with the new constitution. They were all waiting for the final

catalyst for the 1917 revolution.

Despite the new constitution, on 1914, two-fifths of the workers were on strike. Following this

strike, the Tzar dissolved the Duma. Elsewhere, the Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated.

Following these events, World War I breaks out in Europe with Russia and Germany on opposite sides.

Once the war started, the workers gained a sense of nationalism and ended their strikes. Worker

radicalism slew down. This peace from the workers did not last for very long. Conditions in Russia

worsened which once again gave the workers a platform to radicalize. Uprisings from all classes took
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place. It was an action that involved peasants, soldiers, and workers alike. Even the middle-class took

action in the revolution. Rosa Luxemburg described this time period as “gone is the euphoria. Gone the

patriotic noise in the streets, . . . whole city neighborhoods transformed into mobs ready to denounce,

mistreat women, to shout hurrah and to induce delirium to themselves by mean of wild rumors.”2 The

disconnect from nationalism turned the people back to the revolutionary state they were before the war

but with a greater catalyst and anger. The workers, soldiers, and peasants organized, protested and

created demonstrations that pressured the government to the point that Tzar Nicholas II advocated the

throne on February 1917.

The causes of the war was enough to upset people towards revolution. They felt that it was the

rich capitalists that launched the mindless destruction and bloodshed for economic gain. Lenin says,

What we have at present is primarily two leagues, . . . all the world's greatest capitalist

powers . . . who for decades have doggedly pursued a policy of incessant economic rivalry

aimed at achieving world supremacy, subjugating the small nations, and making threefold and

tenfold profits on banking capital . . . they were bound to clash, because a redivision of this

supremacy, from the point of view of capitalism, had become inevitable.3

All the capitalist governments unleashed its fury on each other after decades of colonial rivalries for the

pure role of deciding how to carve the world for economical gains. Europe turned into a place to

butcher millions. The people felt that the rulers had unleashed this butchery on the people without any

reasons that the people could no longer connect to. This was the reason for the February revolution.

The newly established Provisional Government did not quell the civil unrest that was taking

place during the war. The middle-class accounted for most of the Provisional Government with a few

socialist leaders. The government did not want to pull away from World War I. Rosa Luxemburg stated
2 Rosa Luxemburg “The Junius Pamphlet” in Worlds of History A Comparative Reader, 3rd Ed., Kevin Reilly (Bedford/St.
Martin's, 2007) 370-371.
3 V. L. Lenin “War and Revolution” in Worlds of History A Comparative Reader, 3rd Ed., Kevin Reilly (Bedford/St.
Martin's, 2007) 374-375.
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that

the cannon fodder loaded onto trains in August and September is moldering in the killing fields

of belguim, the Vosges, and Masurian Lakes where the profits are spring up like weeds. It's a

question of getting the harvest into the barn quickly. Across the ocean stretch thousands of

greedy hands to snatch it up. Business thrives in the ruins.4

The business, capitalist class benefited greatly from the war. Once they took control of the country,

they did not plan to end the war despite the fact that that war was the catalyst for the revolution in the

first place. Lenin writes during this time period, “in the two months following the revolution the

industrialist have robbed the whole of Russia. Capitalist have made staggering profits; every financial

report tells you that”5 as a reason for another revolution. This address in May continues with this

prediction, “we have all over Russia a network of Soviets of Workers', Soldiers', and Peasants'

Deputies. Here is a revolution which has not said its last word.”6 Once again, soldiers, peasants, and

workers rebelled. The social upheaval quickly demonstrated the problems of the new Provisional

Government. A second revolution followed on October of 1917 because the Provisional Government

could not meet the demands of the people. The Bolsheviks were the ones who led this revolution with

Lenin at the front.

After the second revolution, the Bolsheviks had to defend the revolution. This defense has many

players placing bets and putting people to play for their favor. Among those players were invaders from

Japan, United States, France, and England. They were all in fear of the first successful socialist

revolution. These invasions were something Lenin had predicated when he said, “when power passes to

the Soviets the capitalist will come out against us. Japan, France, Britian – the governments of all

4 Rosa Luxemburg “The Junius Pamphlet” in Worlds of History A Comparative Reader, 3rd Ed., Kevin Reilly (Bedford/St.
Martin's, 2007) 371.
5 V. L. Lenin “War and Revolution” in Worlds of History A Comparative Reader, 3rd Ed., Kevin Reilly (Bedford/St.
Martin's, 2007) 375.
6 ibid
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countries will be against us. The capitalist will be against, but the workers will be for us.”7 As well,

many groups rose up to try to take control away from the Bolsheviks. The capitalists who did not want

to leave power to the workers gathered their army and rebelled. Various tzarist officials, nationalist and

leftist also fought against the new government. This rebellion broke into civil war that lasted for three

years in Russia. Surprisingly, the Bolsheviks were able to keep control of Russia despite the opposition.

One possible reason for their success was that the opposition were small, uncoordinated groups instead

of a single massive rebellion. Another reason was that the Bolsheviks established a new government

that gave many people of the lowest class positions with mobility and influence. Lastly, the Bolsheviks

signed a peace treaty with Germany essentially taking them out of World War I. None of the other

previous governments were willing take this step. The Bolsheviks did this treaty but at the expense of

large territory.

The Bolsheviks were able to defend the revolution, but at a great cost to their ideals. One thing

they were forced to establish was the “dictatorship of the proletariat.”8 This ideal of dictatorship of the

proletariat demonstrates the push towards an authoritarian regime of the Bolsheviks instead of a

democratic revolution that Marx had in mind. Lenin argued that the conditions in Russia did not leave

the possibility for a democratic transition. The invasions from foreign nations and the rebellion during

the civil war had forced the Bolsheviks to push a stronger force with a more concentrated power. Lenin

established these ideas during the revolutions and were exaggerated during the civil war. Even greater

perversions of these ideas were pushed forward in the days to follow.

Despite the changes in Marx's ideas of revolution, the great perversions later seen of Stalin were

not yet passed. To jump start the industrialization, the Soviet Union tried to extract large quantities of

grain from the peasants. Stalin ran this policy which left millions of peasants to starve and was largely

a failure. Large amounts of food was needed for a population to transfer from the countryside, to the
7 Ibid, 376
8 Kevin Reilly Worlds of History A Comparative Reader, 3rd Ed., (Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007) 373.
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cities to become workers. Starvation, invasion, and civil war left millions of workers dead which

greatly reduced the workers population. With a disgrunted nation and policies, Stalin, which had

control of Secretary of State, established a bureaucratic system with himself as the head following the

death of Lenin. This system allowed a push for an authoritarian regime. He was able to perverse

Lenin's ideals in his favor and take a strong control of the nation, with the backing of many forces

previously opposed to the Bolsheviks' control including the old middle-class.

There were over three Russian revolutions within two decades. Two of the revolutions happened

within the same year; they were both successful. The revolutions had many groups involved that

changed its outcomes. The peasants, soldiers, business owners, tzar and tzarist, various nations, and the

workers all played a role in the revolutions. It was the leaders of the worker councils that took control

of the nation creating the first socialist/communist nation in the world. Communism has become a

major player in international politics of the 20th century. They had a lasting affects that is still being

argued today.
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Work Cited

1. Lenin, V. L. “War and Revolution” in Worlds of History A Comparative Reader, 3rd Ed.,

Kevin Reilly 375. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007.

2. Luxemburg, Rosa “The Junius Pamphlet” in Worlds of History A Comparative Reader, 3rd

Ed., Kevin Reilly 370-371. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007.

3. Lenin, 374-375

4. Luxemburg, 371

5. Lenin, 375

6. ibid

7. Ibid, 376

8. Kevin Reilly Worlds of History A Comparative Reader, 3rd Ed., 373. Bedford/St. Martin's,

2007.