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(1918 - 1920)


The conclusion of the Peace of Brest-Litovsk and the consolidation of the Soviet power, as a result of a series of revolutionary economic measures adopted by it, at a time when the war in the West was still in full swing, created profound alarm among the Western imperialists, especially those of the Entente countries.

The Entente imperialists feared that the conclusion of peace between Germany and Russia might improve Germany's position in the war and correspondingly worsen the position of their own armies. They feared, moreover, that peace between Russia and Germany might stimulate the craving for peace in all countries and on all fronts, and thus interfere with the prosecution of the war and damage the cause of the imperialists. Lastly, they feared that the existence of a Soviet government on the territory of a vast country, and the success it had achieved at home after the overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie, might serve as an infectious example for the workers and soldiers of the West. Profoundly discontented with the protracted war, the workers and soldiers might follow in the footsteps of the Russians and turn their bayonets against their masters and oppressors. Consequently, the Entente governments decided to intervene in Russia by armed force with the object of overthrowing the Soviet Government and establishing a bourgeois government, which would restore the bourgeois system in the country, annul the peace treaty with the Germans and re-establish the military front against Germany and Austria.

The Entente imperialists launched upon this sinister enterprise all the more readily because they were convinced that the Soviet Government was unstable; they had no doubt that with some effort on the part of its enemies its early fall would be inevitable.

The achievements of the Soviet Government and its consolidation created even greater alarm among the deposed classes the landlords and capitalists; in the ranks of the vanquished parties—the Constitutional-Democrats, Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries, Anarchists and the bourgeois nationalists of all hues; and among the Whiteguard generals, Cossack officers, etc.

From the very first days of the victorious October Revolution, all these hostile elements began to shout from the housetops that there was no ground in Russia for a Soviet power, that it was doomed, that it was bound to fall within a week or two, or a month, or two or three months at most. But as the Soviet Government, despite the imprecations of its enemies, continued to exist and gain strength, its foes within Russia were forced to admit that it was much stronger than they had imagined, and that its overthrow would require great efforts and a fierce struggle on the part of all the forces of counter-revolution. They therefore decided to embark upon counter-revolutionary insurrectionary activities on a broad scale: to mobilize the forces of counter-revolution, to assemble military cadres and to organize revolts, especially in the Cossack and kulak districts.

Thus, already in the first half of 1918, two definite forces took shape that were prepared to embark upon the overthrow of the Soviet power, namely, the foreign imperialists of the Entente and the counterrevolutionaries at home.

Neither of these forces possessed all the requisites needed to undertake the overthrow of the Soviet Government singly. The counter-revolutionaries in Russia had certain military cadres and man-power, drawn principally from the upper classes of the Cossacks and from the kulaks, enough to start a rebellion against the Soviet Government. But they possessed neither money nor arms. The foreign imperialists, on the other hand, had the money and the arms, but could not "release" a sufficient number of troops for purposes of intervention; they could not do so, not only because these troops were required for the war with Germany and Austria, but because they might not prove altogether reliable in a war against the Soviet power.

The conditions of the struggle against the Soviet power dictated a union of the two anti-Soviet forces, foreign and domestic. And this union was effected in the first half of 1918.

This was how the foreign military intervention against the Soviet power supported by counter-revolutionary revolts of its foes at home originated.

This was the end of the respite in Russia and the beginning of the Civil War, which was a war of the workers and peasants of the nations of Russia against the foreign and domestic enemies of the Soviet power.

The imperialists of Great Britain, France, Japan and America started their military intervention without any declaration of war, although the intervention was a war, a war against Russia, and the worst kind of war at that. These "civilized" marauders secretly and stealthily made their way to Russian shores and landed their troops on Russia's territory.

The British and French landed troops in the north, occupied Archangel and Murmansk, supported a local Whiteguard revolt, overthrew the Soviets and set up a White "Government of North Russia."

The Japanese landed troops in Vladivostok, seized the Maritime Province, dispersed the Soviets and supported the Whiteguard rebels, who subsequently restored the bourgeois system.

In the North Caucasus, Generals Kornilov, Alexeyev and Denikin, with the support of the British and French, formed a Whiteguard "Volunteer Army," raised a revolt of the upper classes of the Cossacks and started hostilities against the Soviets.

On the Don, Generals Krasnov and Mamontov, with the secret support of the German imperialists (the Germans hesitated to support them openly owing to the peace treaty between Germany and Russia), raised a revolt of Don Cossacks, occupied the Don region and started hostilities against the Soviets.

In the Middle Volga region and in Siberia, the British and French instigated a revolt of the Czechoslovak Corps. This corps, which consisted of prisoners of war, had received permission from the Soviet Government to return home through Siberia and the Far East. But on the way it was used by the Socialist-Revolutionaries and by the British and French for a revolt against the Soviet Government. The revolt of the corps served as a signal for a revolt of the kulaks in the Volga region and in Siberia, and of the workers of the Votkinsk and Izhevsk Works, who were under the influence of the Socialist-Revolutionaries. A White-guard-Socialist-Revolutionary government was set up in the Volga region, in Samara, and a Whiteguard government of Siberia, in Omsk.

Germany took no part in the intervention of this British-French-Japanese-American bloc; nor could she do so, since she was at war with this bloc if for no other reason. But in spite of this, and notwithstanding the existence of a peace treaty between Russia and Germany, no Bolshevik doubted that Kaiser Wilhelm's government was just as rabid an enemy of Soviet Russia as the British-French-Japanese-American invaders. And, indeed, the German imperialists did their utmost to isolate, weaken and destroy Soviet Russia. They snatched from it the Ukraine—true, it was in accordance with a "treaty" with the Whiteguard Ukrainian Rada (Council)—brought in their troops at the request of the Rada and began mercilessly to rob and oppress the Ukrainian people, forbidding them to maintain any connections whatever with Soviet Russia. They severed Transcaucasia from Soviet Russia, sent German and Turkish troops there at the request of the Georgian and Azerbaidjan nationalists and began to play the masters in Tiflis and in Baku. They supplied, not openly, it is true, abundant arms and provisions to General Krasnov, who had raised a revolt against the Soviet Government on the Don.

Soviet Russia was thus cut off from her principal sources of food, raw material and fuel.

Conditions were hard in Soviet Russia at that period. There was a shortage of bread and meat. The workers were starving. In Moscow and Petrograd a bread ration of one-eighth of a pound was issued to them every other day, and there were times when no bread was issued at all. The factories were at a standstill, or almost at a standstill, owing to a lack of raw materials and fuel. But the working class did not lose heart. Nor did the Bolshevik Party. The desperate struggle waged to overcome the incredible difficulties of that period showed how inexhaustible is the energy latent in the working class and how immense the prestige of the Bolshevik Party.

The Party proclaimed the country an armed camp and placed its economic, cultural and political life on a war footing. The Soviet Government announced that "the Socialist fatherland is in danger," and called upon the people to rise in its defence. Lenin issued the slogan, "All for the front!"—and hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants volunteered for service in the Red Army and left for the front. About half the membership of the Party and of the Young Communist League went to the front. The Party roused the people for a war for the fatherland, a war against the foreign invaders and against the revolts of the exploiting classes whom the revolution had overthrown. The Council of Workers' and Peasants' Defence, organized by Lenin, directed the work of supplying the front with reinforcements, food, clothing and arms. The substitution of compulsory military service for the volunteer system brought hundreds of thousands of new recruits into the Red Army and very shortly raised its strength to over a million men.

Although the country was in a difficult position, and the young Red Army was not yet consolidated, the measures of defence adopted soon yielded their first fruits. General Krasnov was forced back from Tsaritsyn, whose capture he had regarded as certain, and driven beyond the River Don. General Denikin's operations were localized within a small area in the North Caucasus, while General Kornilov was killed in action against the Red Army. The Czechoslovaks and the White-guard-Socialist-Revolutionary bands were ousted from Kazan, Simbirsk and Samara and driven to the Urals. A revolt in Yaroslavl headed by the Whiteguard Savinkov and organized by Lockhart, chief of the British Mission in Moscow, was suppressed, and Lockhart himself arrested. The Socialist-Revolutionaries, who had assassinated Comrades Uritsky and Volodarsky and had made a villainous attempt on the life of Lenin, were subjected to a Red terror in retaliation for their White terror against the Bolsheviks, and were completely routed in every important city in Central Russia.

The young Red Army matured and hardened in battle.

The work of the Communist Commissars was of decisive importance in the consolidation and political education of the Red Army and in raising its discipline and fighting efficiency.

But the Bolshevik Party knew that these were only the first, not the decisive successes of the Red Army. It was aware that new and far more serious battles were still to come, and that the country could recover the lost food, raw material and fuel regions only by a prolonged and stubborn struggle with the enemy. The Bolsheviks therefore undertook intense preparations for a protracted war and decided to place the whole country at the service of the front. The Soviet Government introduced War Communism. It took under its control the middle-sized and small industries, in addition to large-scale industry, so as to accumulate goods for the supply of the army and the agricultural population. It introduced a state monopoly of the grain trade, prohibited private trading in grain and established the surplus-appropriation system, under which all surplus produce in the hands of the peasants was to be registered and acquired by the state at fixed prices, so as to accumulate stores of grain for the provisioning of the army and the workers. Lastly, it introduced universal labour service for all classes. By making physical labour compulsory for the bourgeoisie and thus releasing workers for other duties of greater importance to the front, the Party was giving practical effect to the principle: "He who does not work, neither shall he eat."

All these measures, which were necessitated by the exceptionally difficult conditions of national defence, and bore a temporary character, were in their entirety known as War Communism.

The country prepared itself for a long and exacting civil war, for a war against the foreign and internal enemies of the Soviet power. By the end of 1918 it had to increase the strength of the army threefold, and to accumulate supplies for this army.

Lenin said at that time:

"We had decided to have an army of one million men by the spring; now we need an army of three million. We can get it. And we will get it."
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