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(1921 - 1925)


Having ended the war, the Soviet Republic turned to the work of peaceful economic development. The wounds of war had to be healed. The shattered economic life of the country had to be rebuilt, its industry, railways and agriculture restored.

But the work of peaceful development had to be undertaken in extremely difficult circumstances. The victory in the Civil War had not been an easy one. The country had been reduced to a state of ruin by four years of imperialist war and three years of war against the intervention.

The gross output of agriculture in 1920 was only about one-half of the pre-war output—that of the poverty-stricken Russian countryside of tsarist days. To make matters worse, in 1920 there was a harvest failure in many of the provinces. Agriculture was in sore straits.

Even worse was the plight of industry, which was in a state of complete dislocation. The output of large-scale industry in 1920 was a little over one-seventh of pre-war. Most of the mills and factories were at a standstill; mines and collieries were wrecked and flooded. Gravest of all was the condition of the iron and steel industry. The total output of pig-iron in 1921 was only 116,300 tons, or about 3 per cent of the pre-war output. There was a shortage of fuel. Transport was disrupted. Stocks of metal and textiles in the country were nearly exhausted. There was an acute shortage of such prime necessities as bread, fats, meat, footwear, clothing, matches, salt, kerosene, and soap.

While the war was on, people put up with the shortage and scarcity, and were sometimes even oblivious to it. But now that the war was over, they suddenly felt that this shortage and scarcity were intolerable and began to demand that they be immediately remedied.

Discontent appeared among the peasants. The fire of the Civil War had welded and steeled a military and political alliance of the working class and the peasantry. This alliance rested on a definite basis: the peasants received from the Soviet Government land and protection against the landlords and kulaks; the workers received from the peasantry foodstuffs under the surplus-appropriation system. Now this basis was no longer adequate.

The Soviet state had been compelled to appropriate all surplus produce from the peasants for the needs of national defence. Victory in the Civil War would have been impossible without the surplus-appropriation system, without the policy of War Communism. This policy was necessitated by the war and intervention. As long as the war was on, the peasantry had acquiesced in the surplus-appropriation system and had paid no heed to the shortage of commodities; but when the war ended and there was no longer any danger of the landlords returning, the peasants began to express dissatisfaction with having to surrender all their surpluses, with the surplus-appropriation system, and to demand a sufficient supply of commodities.

As Lenin pointed out, the whole system of War Communism had come into collision with the interests of the peasantry.

The spirit of discontent affected the working class as well. The proletariat had borne the brunt of the Civil War, had heroically and self-sacrificingly fought the Whiteguard and foreign hordes, and the ravages of economic disruption and famine. The best, the most class-conscious, self-sacrificing and disciplined workers were inspired by Socialist enthusiasm. But the utter economic disruption had its influence on the working class, too. The few factories and plants still in operation were working spasmodically. The workers were reduced to doing odd jobs for a living, making cigarette lighters and engaging in petty bartering for food in the villages ("bag-trading"). The class basis of the dictatorship of the proletariat was being weakened; the workers were scattering, decamping for the villages, ceasing to be workers and becoming declassed. Some of the workers were beginning to show signs of discontent owing to hunger and weariness.

The Party was confronted with the necessity of working out a new line of policy on all questions affecting the economic life of the country, a line that would meet the new situation.

And the Party proceeded to work out such a line of policy on questions of economic development.

But the class enemy was not dozing. He tried to exploit the distressing economic situation and the discontent of the peasants for his own purposes. Kulak revolts, engineered by Whiteguards and Socialist-Revolutionaries, broke out in Siberia, the Ukraine and the Tambov province (Antonov's rebellion). All kinds of counter-revolutionary elements — Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries, Anarchists, Whiteguards, bourgeois nationalists—became active again. The enemy adopted new tactics of struggle against the Soviet power. He began to borrow a Soviet garb, and his slogan was no longer the old bankrupt "Down with the Soviets!" but a new slogan: "For the Soviets, but without Communists!"

A glaring instance of the new tactics of the class enemy was the counter-revolutionary mutiny in Kronstadt. It began in March 1921, a week before the Tenth Party Congress. Whiteguards, in complicity with Socialist-Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and representatives of foreign states, assumed the lead of the mutiny. The mutineers at first used a "Soviet" signboard to camouflage their purpose of restoring the power and property of the capitalists and landlords. They raised the cry: "Soviets without Communists!" The counter-revolutionaries tried to exploit the discontent of the petty bourgeois masses in order to overthrow the power of the Soviets under a pseudo-Soviet slogan.

Two circumstances facilitated the outbreak of the Kronstadt mutiny: the deterioration in the composition of the ships' crews, and the weakness of the Bolshevik organization in Kronstadt. Nearly all the old sailors who had taken part in the October Revolution were at the front, heroically fighting in the ranks of the Red Army. The naval replenishments consisted of new men, who had not been schooled in the revolution. These were a perfectly raw peasant mass who gave expression to the peasantry's discontent with the surplus-appropriation system. As for the Bolshevik organization in Kronstadt, it had been greatly weakened by a series of mobilizations for the front. This enabled the Socialist-Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and Whiteguards to worm their way into Kron-stadt and to seize control of it.

The mutineers gained possession of a first-class fortress, the fleet, and a vast quantity of arms and ammunition. The international counterrevolutionaries were triumphant. But their jubilation was premature. The mutiny was quickly put down by Soviet troops. Against the Kron-stadt mutineers the Party sent its finest sons—delegates to the Tenth Congress, headed by Comrade Voroshilov. The Red Army men advanced on Kronstadt across a thin sheet of ice; it broke in places and many were drowned. The almost impregnable forts of Kronstadt had to be taken by storm; but loyalty to the revolution, bravery and readiness to die for the Soviets won the day. The fortress of Kronstadt fell before the onslaught of the Red troops. The Kronstadt mutiny was suppressed.
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