The Communist Regime in Russia!

The Bolsheviks seized power on 7 November 1917. The Congress of the Soviets declared itself to be the repository of all power and established a government called Council of People’s Commissars, composed solely of Bolsheviks, headed by Lenin.

It’s most important members were Rykov, Trotsky, Stalin and Lunacharsky. Immediately on coming to power, they renamed themselves Communists. They also shifted the seat of Government from Petrograd to Moscow.

The Congress of the Soviets adopted the Decrees on Peace and Land. The Decree of Land envisaged the immediate, abolition of landed estates, including crown, monastery and church lands, without any compensation and their transfer to the Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies. Private ownership of land was abolished. Land and its material wealth were proclaimed the property of the whole people.


Another step of great importance was the publication of the Declaration of the Rights of the people of Russia. Those rights included the right to national self-determination and an eight-hour working day and insurance against unemployment and sickness benefits.

A strict censorship was imposed on the press. Only the Bolshevik papers were allowed to appear. Public meetings were prohibited and only the Bolsheviks were allowed to spread their doctrine. Lenin tried to control elections to the Constituent Assembly which was to meet in January 1918.

When he found that the Constituent Assembly was controlled by the Socialist Revolutionaries, he sent a contingent of sailors to disperse it by armed forces and he was successful in doing so.

After the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, Lenin and Trotsky organised a reign of terror with the help of the Cheka which was the secret police. Its powers were unlimited. A large number of aristocrats, members of the middle classes and peasants were killed and among them were the Czar and the members of his family.


Hundreds of thousands of Russians, whether they were reactionaries, liberals, or moderate socialists sought shelter in exile. It is rightly said that the year 1918 was one of carnage and general misery.

There was so much of food shortage that the Government had to resort to a system of strict rationing. The people were divided into categories for rationing purposes. “While the manual workers were able to get a skinny lion’s share, the hated middle class were lucky indeed if they got some crumbs. But the terror prevented even the desperate from rising in their own defence.”

With the help of Trotsky, Lenin was able to raise a large army known as Red Army which fought successfully the civil war in Russia, enforced the reign of terror and helped the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.


  1. Constitution of 1918
  2. Constitution of 1924
  3. War Communism (1918-21)
  4. Lenin’s New Economic Policy (NEP), 1921-1925
  5. Estimate of Lenin (1870-1924)
  6. Joseph Stalin (1879-1953)
  7. The Stalin Constitution (1936)
  8. Purges of 1935-38
  9. First Five Year Plan (1928-32)
  10. Second Five Year Plan (1933-1938)
  11. Third Five Year Plan
  12. Estimate

1. Constitution of 1918:

The people of Russia were given a new Constitution in 1918. The declared object of the new Constitution was to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat and uproot the exploiters. The capitalists, clergymen, members of the imperial dynasty. Kulaks, persons living on unearned incomes and certain categories of officials of the old Czarist regime were not given the right of vote.


The church was separated from the state and no religious instruction was to be allowed in schools. A provision was made for an all-Russian Congress of Soviets. Representatives to this body were to come both from the urban and rural areas but more representation was given to urban areas as the Communists had greater hold over the cities than on the countryside.

2. Constitution of 1924:

In 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) came into being. In July 1923 the Central Executive Committee drafted the new Constitution for the USSR which came into force m January 1924. Provision was made for an all-Union Congress of Soviets in which once again weight age was given to the people living in the urban areas and the capitalists, clergymen, criminals and certain categories of officials of the Czarist regime were not given the right to vote.

The Central Executive Committee was to have two Houses, viz., Union of Soviets and Soviet of Nationalities Provision was also made for the Presidium consisting of 27 members. The Central Executive Committee was also to appoint the Council of People’s Commissars whose members were to be the heads of the various departments of the Federal Government Lenin was the first Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars. This Constitution lasted up to 1936.’

3. War Communism (1918-21):

The period from the middle of 1918 until the spring of 1921 is described in the Soviet history as the period of War Communism. This was done to meet the challenge of imperialist intervention and the civil war in Russia. To concentrate all industrial production in the hands of the State, the Government nationalised not only large-scale industries but also middle-sized and relatively small enterprises also.

On 20 November 1920, a decree was issued by which all enterprises employing more than 10 workers as well as all shops with a mechanical engine and five or more workers were nationalised This action of the Government certainly weakened the hands of the counter-revolutionaries in Russia and placed enough of material resources in the hands of the Government to fight against the counter-revolutionaries.

The food policy of the Government provided for the requisitioning of food The Government took no foodstuffs from the poor peasants. The middle peasants were required to give a moderate part of their surpluses. The rich peasants were required to surrender the greater part of their surplus stock. The Government curtailed the market activities. The workers were paid in kind.

They were supplied with necessaries of life and also free services like public utilities, transport facilities, education medical treatment, etc. The Communist Government introduced universal labour conscription. He who did not work was not to eat. A system of barter of goods like grain, floor salt sugar, cloth, etc., was introduced. Banks and credit institutions were temporarily closed.

Under the policy of War Communism, the State acquired full control of foreign trade heavy industries, banking corporations, railways, forests and rivers.

In 1921 Lenin wrote thus:

“The peculiarity of War Communism consisted in the fact that we really took from the peasants all their surpluses, and sometimes even what was not surplus but part of what was necessary to feed the peasants. We took it to cover the costs of the army and to maintain workers”.

Again, “It was the war and the ruin that forced us into War Communism. It was not and could not be a policy that corresponded to the economic tasks of the proletariat. It was a make-shift. Though this policy involved a retreat to capitalism but it was necessary as the Soviet Government wanted to grasp the forces and then resume the offensive.”

It IS contended that the immediate effect of the strategy of War Communism was disastrous to Russian economy. In some provinces, the confiscation of grain drove the peasants into rebellion. They hid their own com and their cattle. Crops were not sown and the livestock was killed and eaten. With workers starving, factories ceased to produce and by 1920, famine stalked the land.

In March 1921 Lenin admitted that “tens and hundreds of thousands of disbanded soldiers- were turning to banditry and there were violent peasant risings.

4. Lenin‘s New Economic Policy (NEP), 1921-1925:

Lenin was a realist and he abandoned the policy of War Communism in 1921 and started a new economic policy which practically amounted to the abandonment of the programme of pure communism and adoption of a new economic policy which combined state socialism, state capitalism and private enterprise.

The principal purpose of NEP was to consolidate the economic and political alliance between the working class and the peasants, to rehabilitate the ruined economy of Russia by the efforts of the labouring classes and build a socialist economy. The farmers were given freedom to use their economic resources. The system of requisitioning surplus was substituted by a tax in kind.

The Government gave up its monopoly in grain and introduced free trade in all agricultural products. The Government helped private capital to speed up the rehabilitation of industry. Private capital was allowed to operate in the sphere of trade under certain restrictions. Efforts were also made to revive and improve the system of money circulation. Incentive of private profit was provided to boost production.

However, private capital was not allowed to enter large-scale industry, transport, foreign trade and the banking system. Experts were imported for responsible positions. Foreign capital was welcomed to increase production.

It is rightly pointed out that the New Economic Policy was a compromise with capitalism.It is true that the adoption of the New Economic Policy implied the admission of capitalist elements into the socialist economy and could be regarded as a retreat, but it is pointed out that this retreat was planned, orderly and short-lived.

The revolutionary policy of collectivization was temporarily halted but it was “a setback in order to move two steps forward later.” The Government kept a watch over the socialist and capitalist elements, ensuring the growth of the former and restricting and ultimately liquidating the latter.

The State General Planning Commission was set up in February 1921 and the work of planning, control and management was placed in its hands. During the rehabilitation period, there was a substantial and rapid development of the Soviet economy A great effort was made to supply agriculture with farm machines and implements. Through the Central Agricultural Bank, credit was given to the peasants.

It is pointed out that during 1923-25, the total sum of loans granted to the peasants by the Central Agricultural Bank increased 81 times over from 8.1 million to 657.6 million roubles. Both agricultural production and productivity of labour in agriculture increased.

The Government put great emphasis on the development of industries. Key industries and big enterprises were rehabilitated. Small and medium-sized enterprises were either temporarily closed or leased. The leases and concessions given to foreign capital paved the way for state capitalism. There was an unprecedented growth of production. It is estimated that the average annual increase in industrial output during the period 1921-25 was about 41 per cent.

Much of the rise in production could be attributed to the enthusiasm of the working people who felt that they were working for themselves and their socialist state. There was not only rise in production but also in wages. It is estimated that in 1925-26, wages were 34 per cent above those in 1913. The workers also gained on account of Government expenditure on social and agricultural requirements, medical services, annual paid holidays, etc. There was a rise in the level of material and agricultural advancement of the people.

The work of economic rehabilitation is said to have been completed towards the end of 1925. In spite of that, the Soviet Union had a backward economy. There was the necessity of following a policy of wholesale industrialisation. The Soviet Union had to equip its army with guns, tanks, planes and other modem weapons. Without a stable industrial base, the development of transport, light and food industries and even agriculture was not possible. In order to achieve a high degree of industrialisation, the Government was forced to concentrate on building heavy industries and deliberately restricting the production of many essential consumers’ goods.

The Soviet Union took full advantage of industrialisation under conditions of public ownership of means of production. Hundreds of new enterprises were built. Many old enterprises were reconstructed. Many new coal mines were opened. It is estimated that in 1926, the gross output of heavy industry increased by 43.2% as compared with the previous year. In 1927 it increased by 14%.

In 1928, it increased by about 25%. In 1928, industry accounted for 45.2% of country’s gross output as against 42.1% in 1913. There was a rise in labour productivity in industry by 10% on an average and a drop in production costs on an average of 6%. The rise in production helped the Government to improve the living standards of the people. Wages were increased and unemployment was reduced.

There was a crisis in the procurement of grain. All surplus grain was in the hands of Kulaks. During 1927-28, they refused to sell grain to the state. The result was that in December 1927 the Communist Party decided to follow the policy of collectivization of agriculture. Small individual peasant farms were turned into large-scale collective farms.

5. Estimate of Lenin (1870-1924):

Lenin ruled Russia for about 6 years and died on 21 January, 1924. He virtually transformed the life and institutions of the people of Russia. He had a genius for organisation. He believed in his own capacity to win and not to be defeated. To quote Gorky, “Lenin speaks with an iron tongue, with the logic of an axe.

His speech is a hammer which smashes relentlessly all obstacles.” Lenin believed in the ultimate triumph of his cause although he knew that the vested interests would not surrender without a major fight. He was confident that the change could not be brought about by constitutional methods and there was bound to be confrontation.

Lenin was selfless. He had an abnormally powerful and unquestioned belief in himself and his destiny. He was certain of his rightness in every controversy. He believed that he was the best and virtually the only true master and exponent of Marxism. To quote him, “Out of every hundred Bolsheviks, seventy are fools, twenty-nine rogues and only one a real socialist.” He wrote for his own eyes, “After a half century not a single Marxist has understood Marx.”

It is estimated that he was probably the most influential man in history from the time of Julius Caesar. He was the hammerer of world revolution. His embalmed body was placed in a mausoleum outside the Kremlin. “Devout pilgrims to Moscow even today defile in an unending cortege before the embalmed corpse of the great revolutionary figure, once so violent and rugged, who lies there in the peace of death, while his will and mind continue to fashion the ideals of the Russian state.”

6. Joseph Stalin (1879-1953):

After the death of Lenin in January 1924, there was a struggle for power. Among those who aspired to succeed Lenin was Trotsky (1877-1940). Trotsky was a brilliant Jew. He had participated in the revolution of 1905 and was exiled for a long period.

He joined Lenin in 1917. He was a gifted orator and a powerful writer who with “the flame of fire” aroused the people to revolutionary fervour. He was a fine organiser. He was the organiser of the Red Army and was rightly called the Russian Carnot.

Joseph Stalin was the son of a cobbler. He was a Bolshevik since 1903. He fought the Czarist tyranny and was exiled to Siberia. He became a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party. In 1919, he became the General Secretary of the Central Party Committee. The main difference between Stalin and Trotsky was that while Stalin stood for “socialism in a single country”, Trotsky stood for a “permanent” world revolution.

In the historic contest, Stalin was successful and Trotsky was expelled from the Communist Party in 1927 and exiled. On 20 August 1940, Trotsky was murdered in Mexico. Stalin ruled the Soviet Union with an iron hand up to 1953. He led the Soviet forces to victory in the Second World War. Until 1942, Stalin did not hold any office in the Government. He was merely the Secretary General of the Communist Party and a dominant member of the Politbureau.

7. The Stalin Constitution (1936):

In 1936, Stalin gave to the people of the Soviet Union a new Constitution known as the Stalin Constitution. In that Constitution, the principle of democratic centralism was the guiding principle of the state and party organisation.

The largest measure of democratic freedom was given to the people. Provision was made for universal adult franchise and secret voting. Every citizen of the USSR who had reached the age of 23 was eligible for election to the Supreme Soviet of USSR.

Every citizen was given one vote and all citizens participated in the elections on an equal footing. Women were given the right to elect and be elected on equal terms with men. In spite of this democracy, there was central control by the Communist Party.

Nothing could be done against the views of the Communist Party and the Central Government which was controlled by the members of the Communist Party. The Communist Party controlled the affairs of both the Central Government and the Union Republics.

The USSR was described as a socialist state of workers and peasants. The political foundation of the USSR was the Soviets of Working People’s Deputies. All power in the USSR belonged to the working people of the towns and countryside. The economic foundation of the USSR was the socialist system of economy and the socialist ownership of instruments and means of production. Work in the USSR was a duty and a matter of honour.

The Constitution of 1936 provided for fundamental rights and duties of citizens. The citizens were given the right to work, that is, the right to guaranteed employment and payment for their work in accordance with its quality and quantity. The citizens were given the right to rest and leisure. They had the right to maintenance in old age and also in case of sickness or disability.

The right to education was ensured by universal compulsory elementary education, by a system of state stipends for students of higher educational establishments who excelled in their studies. Women were given equal rights with men irrespective of their nationality or race, in all spheres of economic, government, cultural and other public activity. Freedom of religious worship and freedom of anti-religious propaganda was recognised for all citizens.

They were guaranteed freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly and freedom of street processions and demonstrations. They were given the right to unite in public organisations. They were also required to perform certain duties. It was the duty of every citizen to abide by the Constitution, to observe the laws, to maintain labour discipline, honestly to perform public duties and respect the rules of socialist intercourse.

It was the duty of every citizen to safeguard and fortify public, socialist property as the source of wealth and might of the country and the prosperity and culture of all working people. Persons committing offences against public or socialist property were the enemies of the people.

Universal military service was law. Military service in the armed forces of the USSR was an honourable duty of the citizens of the USSR. To defend the country was a sacred duty of every citizen. Treason to the Motherland was punishable with all its severity of the law as the most heinous of crimes.

The Constitution set up a cabinet form of Government and the Council of Ministers was made responsible and accountable to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. It also provided for the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.

The Constitution described the Communist Party of the Soviet Union as “the vanguard of the working people in their straggle to strengthen and develop the socialist system.” The Communist Party was “the leading core of all organisations of the working people, both public and state.” The courts in the Soviet Union were made the organs of the Soviet Socialist State of Workers and Peasants and their duty was “to fight the enemies of the Soviet Government and secondly to fight for the consolidation of the new Soviet system to firmly anchor the new socialist discipline among the working people.” The Stalin Constitution remained in force for 41 years and was replaced by the Brezhnev Constitution of 1977.

8. Purges of 1935-38:

During the years 1935-38, there were a series of sensational trials in Russia. Most of the old guard of the Bolshevik Party and some Generals of the Red Army were accused of high treason, tried and disposed of. In January 1935, Zinoviev, the organiser and head of the Third International and Kamenev, Vice-President of the Union Council of People’s Commissars, were arrested and charged with the offence of conspiring to murder Stalin with the help of the German secret police. Zinoviev was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment and Kamenev to five years’ imprisonment.

In August 1936, they were re-tried before the Supreme Military Tribunal and sentenced to be shot. In January 1937, charges of conspiracy to assist foreign aggressors in an attack on the Soviet Union were brought against Radek, a former leader of the Third International, Sokolnikov, former Soviet Ambassador in London and Piatakov. In June 1937, Marshal Tukhachevsky and seven Red Army Generals were convicted and sentenced to death.

In the same year, thousands of persons in all walks of life were arrested and punished. Many famous Bolsheviks, who were the heroes of the Revolution like Borodin and Bela Kun, were imprisoned or deported or deposed.

Even the military judges themselves were eventually liquidated. Six out of the eight military judges who tried the Red Army Generals in 1937 were degraded by the end of 1938. In March 1938, the remaining “old Bolsheviks” were tried and purged. Rykov, Bukharin, Rakovsky and Yagoda were among them Trotsky who was in exile in Mexico, was murdered in August 1940.

It is contended that the above-mentioned purges were the outcome of the determination of Stalin and his close associates to concentrate all power in their own hands at all costs. “If this is true, the purges take their place in the physiological history of single party totalitarian dictatorship as further evidence that the nemesis of monolithic parties is self-destruction and the price of absolute power is absolute corruption. Only when the entire old guard had been destroyed would Stalin feel secure.”

Isaac Deutscher, the biographer of Stalin, writes that the chief motive of Stalin was “to destroy the men who represented the potentiality of alternative Government, perhaps not of one but of several alternative Governments. With the long story of Trotskite opposition in mind, Stalin took no chances. His enemies had to die as traitors not martyrs; hence the grossly exaggerated charges and the insatiable thirst for confession.”

10. First Five Year Plan (1928-32):

Planned economic development of the Soviet Union was considered essential for the growth of the country. The development of all branches of the economy had to be coordinated. With the aid of the economic data available at that time, the first Five Year Plan was prepared. It was an extensive programme for the socialist reconstruction of the national economy.

The Plan conformed to the general policy of industrialising the country, reconstructing the countryside on socialist lines, overcoming the capitalist forces and strengthening the socialist elements in the economy of the country and boosting the defence capacity of the country.

The targets of the Plan were to build a modem highly developed heavy industry and make it possible to begin the reconstruction of the entire national economy, to lay the foundations for the economic independence of the country and to strengthen its defence capacity.

The Plan was intended to reorganise the small individual peasant economy into a large-scale collective economy capable of supplying the country with the necessary food and industry with agricultural raw materials.

Another object of the Plan was to oust capitalist elements from all branches of the economy and abolish the exploiter class. To fulfill these tasks, the Government planned to invest 64,600 million roubles in five years.

The bulk of the investments were channelised into industries producing the means of production. It was planned to increase the gross industrial output by 180% and production of the means of production by 230%. The value of agricultural production was to increase from 16,600 million roubles to 25,800 million roubles.

It is worthy of notice that the people of the Soviet Union launched a mass movement for the fulfillment and over-fulfillment of the Plan under the slogan of “The Five Year Plan in four years”. There was a lot of enthusiasm in the country and an important part was played by the young Communist League.

The result was that the target of the Five Year Plan was fulfilled in four years and three months. By the close of 1932, all the key target figures of the plan were reached and even surpassed. More than 1500 large industrial enterprises were built. In 1932, the volume of heavy industrial output was more than twice as high as in 1928. Each year the output of the industries producing the means of production increased by more than 28%. The output of consumers’ goods industries increased every year by 11.7%.

The Plan had provided for the investments of 18,800 million roubles in industry but actually 23,300 million roubles were invested. The share of industry in the gross output increased from 48% in 1927-28 to 70% in 1932.

Priority was given to the development of key industries such as engineering, power and iron and steel. The light and food industries did not expand as quickly as the heavy industries. On account of the shortage of raw materials, the textile industry was not able to reach the target. However, the food industry surpassed the plan target.

During the Plan period, the middle peasants began to join the collective farms in large numbers. Collectivisation became a mass movement. Complete collectivisation made it possible to liquidate the Kulaks.

Collective farms were supplied with trained personnel, farm machinery, credits, etc. Twenty-five thousand members of the Communist Party and foremost workers were sent to help the implementation of the Party’s programme of collectivisation of farms. Many mistakes were committed and Kulaks tried to take advantage of them.

The result was that on 1 February 1930, the laws sanctioning the lease of land and employment of hired labour by private households in areas of total collectivisation were repealed. The Kulaks were turned out by the peasants themselves.

It is pointed out that the success of the collective farms was a revolutionary change in agriculture which uprooted capitalism on the countryside. Private ownership of means of production was supplanted by socialist property.

In 1932, private trade was abolished. The State built thousands of shops, warehouses and commercial bases and trained a large number of trade workers. On account of the shortage of consumer’s goods rationing was introduced in that area. The Soviet Union exported grain, butter, oil products, ore, timber, etc., and imported machines, plants and industrial raw materials. Capital goods formed 93% of the total imports.

It was during the first Five Year Plan that illiteracy was completely wiped out from the country. A system of universal primary education was introduced. A large number of technical schools and institutions of higher learning were set up. The circulation of newspapers and magazines increased tremendously. Radio stations, cinemas, reading rooms, theatres, etc., were constructed in various parts of the country.

As regards the achievements of the first Five Year Plan, industrial production went up by 70% of that in 1928. The number of workers was doubled. Seven-hour day was enforced in the country. Real wages went up by 50%. Unemployment disappeared.

11. Second Five Year Plan (1933-1938):

The main objective of the Second Five Year Plan was to remove the remaining capitalist elements and make the socialist mode of production the only mode of production in the country. The entire economy was to be re-equipped and built on a new technical basis resting on the heavy industry. The collective farms were to be further consolidated. The defence capacity of the country was also to be increased.

The Second Five Year Plan allocated 1, 33,400 million roubles for capital construction. Industrial output was to increase by over 100%. Attention was focussed on machine building electrical engineering, metallurgy and other branches of heavy industry. Chemical industry was also to be developed. New techniques and new industries were expected to increase the productivity of labour by 63%. All transport facilities, particularly the railways, were to be radically improved.

As in the case of the First Five Year Plan, the targets of the Second Five Year Plan were fulfilled by 1 April, 1937, that is, in four years and three months only. The fixed production assets of the engineering and metal working industries were increased by 200%.

Gross output in these industries rose to 283%. The output of steel surpassed that of pig iron. The power industry expanded rapidly. Railway transport was improved immensely. The light and food industries made good progress.

The rates of agricultural development were lower than those in industry. Collectivisation of farms was completed. Once a land of small individual peasants, the Soviet Union became a country of world’s biggest collective agriculture. The ranks of the working class intelligentsia were increased by six million.

Unemployment was wiped out. Wages of factory and office workers were doubled. The income of workers on collective farms rose by 170%. The output of sugar rose by 100%. All commerce and trade came in the hands of the state and co-operatives. Rationing was abolished in 1935.

12. Third Five Year Plan:

The Third Five Year Plan was started in 1938. It was under way when the Soviet Union was attacked by Germany on 22 June 1941. When the War started, the Plan was converted into a war munition plan to meet the enemy.

13. Estimate:

It cannot be denied that the Soviet Union made a lot of progress under the Communists. Production was enormously increased in every field. From a backward economy, the Soviet Union came to have a forward-looking economy. As a result of industrialisation and development of heavy industries, the country came to have its own base for further development. By 1941, she had become so strong that she was able to withstand the onslaughts of the German hordes. Illiteracy was practically wiped out.

The Russians got security of their jobs. The State looked after them in many ways. They had nothing to fear from old age, sickness or unemployment. The administration of justice, excepting the political offences, was made humane. Much was done to improve the health of the people.

A lot of progress was made in the field of sanitation and the death rate was lowered. Equality was attained for men and women in all spheres. The lot of the ordinary people improved. They found more interest in their lives. The Communist leaders were always, anxious to improve the lot of the common people. The communist regime gave the people of Russia a new outlook. They could look to the future with confidence. The Communists made Russia a great Power.

For achieving all this, the people of Russia had to pay a price. They had to do what their leaders said. Any disagreement was to be seriously dealt with. There was always the possibility of losing one’s life. There was more of equality but less of liberty. The people of Russia sacrificed their liberty to make their country strong and great.