Reckonings and Adjustments: Domestic Problems (1921-1928)
THE END OF the long Civil War brought the task of adjustment to the new social order. Economic restoration of the devastated land proved far more difficult than the attainment of military victory. There was indescribable human suffering and material destruction everywhere. The ferocity with which the various forces contended for political control had left a trail of desolation that is difficult to describe. The Civil War and the blockade of Russia by the foreign powers had resulted in a total collapse of the nation's economy. Not only was industry paralyzed, droping to some 13 per cent of the prewar level, but agriculture--the very backbone of the country's economy--was ruined. The peasants' deep hatred of government collectivism led to a decline in food production that threatened the cities with starvation. Transportation was at a virtual standstill, and all that seemed to hold society together was its common misery. The real issue at the end of 1921, when Russia began to take stock after seven years of war and revolution, was how to survive the trials of peace.
In the center of all difficulties stood the ancient problem--the peasant. Although gaining control over the land that formerly belonged to the gentry or to the state, the peasantry, with its petit bourgeois psychology, came at once into grave conflict with the government over economic policy. Pressed by war conditions and motivated by party ideals, the government began to apply what came to be known as War Communism. The village communities were in control of the land, but the state made an effort to control the produce of the land. The government allowed a small amount of produce to the tillers for their subsistence, while the rest was to be surrendered to the state. To this the peasant's answer was a refusal to till the land for a state which paid him in worthless paper currency or in promises of a socialist kingdom of heaven in some distant future. The great issues of the Revolution were beyond his grasp; there was little or nothing that the city could offer him in return for his produce, so he produced a bare minimum to keep himself and his family alive and cared little about the fate of the city dweller.