A Documentary History of Communism

By Robert V. Daniels | Go to book overview

Chapter Two: The Bolshevik Revolution,
1917-1921

The Russian Revolution was not a simple matter of the conspiratorial seizure of power, but one of the most complex events in all history. As in the other great revolutions, in England and France, the unexpected collapse of the monarchy's authority initiated a sequence of political convulsions, as power passed through a succession of leading groups, with growing extremism and violence. Stable rule by the Communists (as the Bolsheviks renamed themselves in 1918) was not consolidated until 1921, by which time they had lost much of their revolutionary utopianism.

During the years of the revolution the Communist Party was by no means a single-minded force, though Lenin always exerted commanding influence. At every stage in the revolution deviant groups arose among the Communists to object to Lenin's course of action--some who found it too rash, others who protested its expedient compromises. The revolutionary period reveals the wide range of political and social alternatives which the general standpoint of radical Russian Marxism afforded.

The years 1917-1921, during which the Communists seized power, endured factional controversy, and fought their way to victory in a bitter civil war, were the critical, formative period of the Soviet regime and of the Communist movement as a whole. Communism is specifically the child of the Russian Revolution, and its basic character--the exclusive dictatorship of a bureaucratic party in a bureaucratic state--stems directly from the way in which the conditions of that era selected among the political alternatives offered by the revolutionary movement.

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