Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century and After

By R. J. Crampton | Go to book overview
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Communist strategy, 1918-28

In 1919 the left-wing socialists of eastern Europe believed that the bolsheviks had provided an infallible guide to the art and practice of revolution in an underdeveloped society. Their faith was absolute and simple: ‘They need only chant the magic incantation “All power to the Soviets”, and the walls of the capitalist Jericho would fall down.’ 1 The walls did not come tumbling down. Eastern Europe in 1919 was not analogous to Russia in 1917. Generally speaking there was peace, there were few communal tenures, and the large estates were in most places earmarked for redistribution to the peasants; there was in eastern Europe, outside the minority of the extreme left, a sense of revolution achieved rather than revolution pending. Furthermore, in eastern Europe the agrarians were better organised and more effective than the Russian social revolutionaries; the association of the extreme left with Russia was frequently a hindrance; and amongst the two peoples who showed considerable goodwill to the Russians, the Czechs and the Bulgarians, agrarianism was particularly well developed.

The failure immediately to bring about a soviet-style revolution did not mean the end of the association of the extreme left with the bolsheviks. Indeed, failure in the early years forced the left into greater reliance on the Russians for moral, physical, and financial support. But that support commanded a price. Moscow insisted upon obedience to a centrally-determined policy. And association with the bolsheviks meant also that the communist parties of eastern Europe were deeply affected by the twists and turns of Soviet policy and by the personal rivalries which accompanied or underlay them.

From the very beginning Lenin had insisted that the failure of the Second International had proved that any successor organisation must consist only of true revolutionaries who would submit to central discipline. Such an organisation appeared with the Third International, or Comintern (Communist International), established in Moscow in 1919. Leninist notions, concerning the need both for central control and for cooperation with the peasants, were seen in the twenty-


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