The famous Russian Revolution began with the February Revolution of March 1917. (The reason that it’s called the February Revolution, but occurred in March, is that the West had at the time a different calendar than Russia—the West was one month “ahead.”) The February revolution began with several demonstrations about grievances the people had, and ended with the mutiny of the Petrograd Garrison. The result was forty casualties. The Czar, Nicholas II, was urged to abdicate the throne at this time, which he did.
The Provisional government was then instituted. It constituted of several different parties: classical liberal, communist, socialist, etc….
Vladimir I. Lenin, the person everybody associates with the Russian Revolution, now came into the picture. He had been expelled from college, and subsequently had spent four years reading works on radical thought. He had therefore acquainted himself with, and embraced, Marxism and communism.
In 1902 he wrote What is to be done?. In it he discussed how communism would come about. According to Karl Marx communism would inevitably come about through a proletarian (working class) revolution. However, Lenin contradicted Marx and said that the working class was not smart enough to revolt and professional revolutionaries were needed.
In 1917, Lenin wrote the April Theses. This work was looked upon as crazy, and even his fellow Bolsheviks didn’t support it. Among its contents were,
- The Russians must withdraw from WWI
- Russians must denounce the Provisional government
- Must let go of the army, instead have a “people’s militia”
- Nationalize all land – basically confiscate it
- Nationalize all financial institutions into one national bank under soviet control
- Have the soviets control all means of production
The October Revolution (November 7th, 1917 – calendar difference) was the basically bloodless Bolshevik takeover of the government. “All power to the Soviets,” now became the most popular phrase in the government.
Following this, Lenin established a government called the Council of People’s Commissars.
Russia now became screwed up in every sense. Marxism-Leninism theories were failing and on top of it the Bolsheviks were poor economists. The factories were hopelessly managed, the underground economy boomed, hyperinflation (up to 100 million times) occurred so that the communist could get rid of money!, large-scale production collapsed. Even a communist remarked that it was the worst disaster ever.
The Bolsheviks resorted to terror–the Red Terror. In 1918 the royal family, Nicholas II and his family, was killed by a firing squad.
However, the economic situation got so bad that even Lenin was forced to take action. In 1921 he announced the New Economic Policy (NEP). It allowed minimal free enterprise and exchange, after paying certain taxes. He said it was, “Two steps forward and one step backwards.” The NEP was too late, though, to prevent the famine that struck and killed 5.2 million people.
In 1923 Lenin died. There was no provision for his replacement. However, Joseph Stalin would eventually succeed him.
The Russian Revolution was over, but the rise of the Communists had just begun.