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War communism or military communism (Russian: Военный коммунизм, 1918 - 1921) was the economic and political system that existed in the Soviet Russia during the Russian Civil War, from 1918 to 1921. According to Soviet historiography, this policy was adopted by the Bolsheviks with the aim of keeping towns and the Red Army supplied with weapons and food, in conditions in which all normal economic mechanisms and relations were being destroyed by the war. "War communism", which began in June 1918, was enforced by the Supreme Economic Council, known as the Vesenkha. It ended on March 21, 1921 with the beginning of the NEP (New Economic Policy), which lasted until 1928.

War communism included the following policies:

  1. All industry was nationalized and strict centralized management was introduced.
  2. State monopoly on foreign trade was introduced.
  3. Discipline for workers was strict, and strikers could be shot.
  4. Obligatory labour duty was imposed onto "non-working classes".
  5. Prodrazvyorstka – requisition of agricultural surpluses from peasants in excess of absolute minimum for centralized distribution among the remaining population.
  6. Food and most commodities were rationed and distributed in a centralized way.
  7. Private enterprise became illegal.
  8. Military-like control of railroads was introduced.

Because all of these measures were implemented in a time of civil war, they were far less coherent and coordinated in practice than they might appear on paper. Large areas of Russia were outside the Bolsheviks' control, and poor communications meant that even those regions loyal to the Bolshevik government often had to act on their own, lacking any orders or central coordination from Moscow. It has long been debated whether "war communism" represented an actual economic policy in the proper sense of the word or merely a set of desperate measures intended to win the civil war at any cost. [1]

The goals of the Bolsheviks in implementing war communism are a matter of controversy. Some commentators, including a number of Bolsheviks, have argued that its sole purpose was to win the war. Lenin, for instance, said that "the confiscation of surpluses from the peasants was a measure with which we were saddled by the imperative conditions of war-time." [2] Other commentators, such as the historian Richard Pipes, have argued that War communism was actually an attempt to immediately implement communist economics and that the Bolshevik leaders expected an immediate and large scale increase in economic output. This view was also held by Nikolai Bukharin, who said that "We conceived War Communism as the universal, so to say 'normal' form of the economic policy of the victorious proletariat and not as being related to the war, that is, conforming to a definite state of the civil war" [3].

War communism aggravated many hardships experienced by the population as a result of the war. Peasants refused to co-operate in producing food, as the government took away far too much of it. Workers began migrating from the cities to the countryside, where the chances to feed oneself were higher, thus further decreasing the possibility of the fair trade of industrial goods for food and worsening the plight of the remaining urban population. Between 1918 and 1920, Petrograd lost 75% of its population, whilst Moscow lost 50%. A black market emerged in Russia, despite the threat of the martial law against profiteering. The ruble collapsed and was replaced by a system of bartering and, by 1921, heavy industry had fallen to output levels of 20% of those in 1913. 90% of all wages were "paid with goods" (payment in form of goods, rather than money). 70% of locomotives were in need of repair and the food requisitioning, combined with the effects of 7 years of war and a severe drought, contributed to a famine that caused between 3 and 10 million deaths.[1]

As a result, a series of workers' strikes and peasants' rebellions, such as the Tambov rebellion rolled over the country. The turning point was the Kronstadt rebellion at the naval base in early March, 1921. The rebellion had a startling effect on Lenin, because the Kronstadt sailors had been among the strongest supporters of the Bolsheviks. After the end of the civil war the policy of War Communism was replaced with the New Economic Policy.

See also

References

  1. ^ See Nicolas Werth, Histoire de l'Union Soviétique de Lénine à Staline, 1995 (French)
  2. ^ Lenin, V.I., Collected Works, volume 32, 1965. Moscow: Progress Publishers. pp. 187
  3. ^ Nikolai Bukharin, The path to socialism in Russia, 1967. New York: Omicron Books, pp. 178
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Simple English

War communism is the name for the economic policies that Vladimir Lenin introduced in Russia. Lenin was the leader of the Bolshevik political party. It was introduced in 1918, and he got rid of it in 1921 because it was not successful. He introduced New Economic Policies in 1921 instead.

War Communism was introduced for many reasons. However, the most important ones were that:

  • It helped the Bolsheviks win the Civil War
  • It was a big step towards complete communism.

It was bad for the Russian economy. This is because they took away extra grain produced by the workers. This was known as grain requisitioning. Workers were not allowed to sell their extra food. So workers did not produce much food any more, because there was no point because no food could be given out any more because no extra was produced, Russia ended up with lots of people who did not have any food.


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