The first appearance of communism in Russia did not match the Marxist formula for social change, as Marx believed that only in societies that had fully industrialized under capitalism would a communist revolution take place. At the outbreak of WW1 Russia was under industrialized, and mostly rural. Nevertheless, Russian society under Tsarist rule was vulnerable to revolution.

What factories that did resemble full industrialized were heavily concentrated in a few cities, and its workers, recently rural peasants, were not yet normalized to the conditions of factory work. Elites in Russia where dissatisfied with the effeteness of the Tsar’s regime, wishing for reforms that would lead to a constitutional monarchy such as in Great Britain. WW1 exacerbated tensions in Russia society to a point were revolution would be both spontaneous and unavoidable.[1]

Karl Marx

Russia underwent two revolutions within a year, the February Revolution which install a provisional bourgeois government of the Duma, and the October Revolution in which a Communist state was born. The Duma represented the wealthy elite and the middle-class and throughout its short reign it competed with the soviets, a Russian word for ‘counsel’ or ‘committee.’[2]

The Soviets with their sympathies for socialism stood to gain more popular support as Russia’s population was 80 percent peasant.[3] The provisional government did have the support of western allies because of its liberal policies, and commitment to the war effort, however, it would be from the persistence in war that the liberal government of the Duma failed.

Since the beginning of the Great War, the most burden fell upon Russia’s peasants who were under equipped and lacked training. Weaponless recruits were told to find guns and supplies off the bodies of their fallen comrades and “By the spring of 1917, up to 1,850,000 of them had been killed and far more wounded or captured. The rest became radically disaffected.”[4]

After the February Revolution, the Provisional government had not the authority of the resources to effectively continue the war, and thus the persistence of war triggered the final dissolution of the army.[5] When Linen’s government took control in the October Revolution with its promises of “Land, Food, and Bread” it had majority support from the people, even though under Lenin’s rule Russia experienced both civil war and famine.

Vladimir Linen

The rise of a communist state in Russia is largely due to the effective regime building of Vladimir Linen, who insisted on a displayed party control, without division and with authority coming from the top. This contrasted the democratic structure of the provisional government, fractured as it was between liberal elites and representatives of the soviets, and of reformist Marxists, who believed that socialist goals could be achieved through democratic means.[6]

Because of war time necessity, the provincial government had begun to control certain aspects of the Russian economy, Lenin complete this process, believing that a socialist economy required centralized control. [7] The authoritarian structure of Lenin’s government became more familiar with perceptions about communism than Marxist theories. The Soviet Union would share similarities in totalitarian rule with Fascist Regimes of Italy and Nazi Germany, despite ideological opposites.

Sources Cited

[1] Paxton, Robert O. (2011). Europe in the 20th Century (5th ed). Boston, MA: Cengage, 107-108

[2] (Paxton 109)

[3] Ibid.

[4] (Paxton 108)

[5] (Paxton 112)

[6] (Paxton 116)

[7] (Paxton 117)