MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE | History of CP Bolshevik

H I S T O R Y O F  T H E C O M M U N I S T   P A R T Y

O F  T H E

S O V I E T  U N I O N

(B O L S H E V I K S)


C H A P T E R  E I G H T
THE BOLSHEVIK PARTY IN THE PERIOD OF FOREIGN MILITARY INTERVENTION AND CIVIL WAR (1918-1920)
1. BEGINNING OF FOREIGN MILITARY INTERVENTION. FIRST PERIOD OF THE CIVIL WAR
2. DEFEAT OF GERMANY IN THE WAR. REVOLUTION IN GERMANY. FOUNDING OF THE THIRD INTERNATIONAL. EIGHTH PARTY CONGRESS
3. EXTENSION OF INTERVENTION. BLOCKADE OF THE SOVIET COUNTRY. KOLCHAK'S CAMPAIGN AND DEFEAT. DENIKIN'S CAMPAIGN AND DEFEAT. A THREE-MONTHS' RESPITE. NINTH PARTY CONGRESS
4. POLISH GENTRY ATTACK SOVIET RUSSIA. GENERAL WRANGEL'S CAMPAIGN. FAILURE OF THE POLISH PLAN. ROUT OF WRANGEL. END OF THE INTERVENTION
5. HOW AND WHY THE SOVIET REPUBLIC DEFEATED THE COMBINED FORCES OF BRITISH-FRENCH-JAPANESE-POLISH INTERVENTION AND OF THE BOURGEOIS-LANDLORD-WHITEGUARD COUNTER-REVOLUTION IN RUSSIA
 

2. DEFEAT OF GERMANY IN THE WAR. REVOLUTION IN GER-
MANY. FOUNDING OF THE THIRD INTERNATIONAL. EIGHTH
PARTY CONGRESS

    While the Soviet country was preparing for new battles against the forces of foreign intervention, in the West decisive events were taking place in the belligerent countries, both on the war fronts and in their interior. Germany and Austria were suffocating in the grip of war and a food crisis. Whereas Great Britain, France and the United States were continually drawing upon new resources, Germany and Austria were consuming their last meagre stocks. The situation was such that Germany and Austria, having reached the stage of extreme exhaustion, were on the brink of defeat.

    At the same time, the peoples of Germany and Austria were seething with indignation against the disastrous and interminable war, and against their imperialist governments who had reduced them to a state of exhaustion and starvation. The revolutionary influence of the October Revolution also had a tremendous effect, as did the fraternization of the Soviet soldiers with the Austrian and German soldiers at the front even before the Peace of Brest-Litovsk, the actual termination of the war with Soviet Russia and the conclusion of peace with her. The people of Russia had brought about the end of the detested war by over throwing their imperialist government, and this could not but serve as an object lesson to the Austrian and German workers. And the German soldiers who had been stationed on the Eastern front and who after the Peace of Brest-Litovsk were transferred to the Western front could not but undermine the morale of the German army on that front by their accounts of the fraternization with the Soviet soldiers and of the way the Soviet soldiers had got rid of the war. The disintegration of the Austrian army from the same causes had begun even earlier.

    All this served to accentuate the craving for peace among the German soldiers; they lost their former fighting efficiency and began to retreat in face of the onslaught of the Entente armies. In November 1918 a revolution broke out in Germany, and Wilhelm and his government were overthrown.

 

    Germany was obliged to acknowledge defeat and to sue for peace.

    Thus at one stroke Germany was reduced from a first-rate power to a second-rate power.

    As far as the position of the Soviet Government was concerned, this circumstance had certain disadvantages, inasmuch as it made the Entente countries, which had started armed intervention against the Soviet power, the dominant force in Europe and Asia, and enabled them to intervene more actively in the Soviet country and to blockade her, to draw the noose more tightly around the Soviet power. And this was what actually happened, as we shall see later. On the other hand, it had its advantages, which outweighed the disadvantages and fundamentally improved the position of Soviet Russia. In the first place, the Soviet Government was now able to annul the predatory Peace of Brest-Litovsk, to stop paying the indemnities, and to start an open struggle, military and political, for the liberation of Esthonia, Latvia, Byelorussia, Lithuania, the Ukraine and Transcaucasia from the yoke of German imperialism. Secondly, and chiefly, the existence in the centre of Europe, in Germany, of a republican regime and of Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies was bound to revolutionize, and actually did revolutionize, the countries of Europe, and this could not but strengthen the position of the Soviet power in Russia. True, the revolution in Germany was not a Socialist but a bourgeois revolution, and the Soviets were an obedient tool of the bourgeois parliament, for they were dominated by the Social-Democrats, who were compromisers of the type of the Russian Mensheviks. This in fact explains the weakness of the German revolution. How weak it really was is shown, for example, by the fact that it allowed the German Whiteguards to assassinate such prominent revolutionaries as Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht with impunity. Nevertheless, it was a revolution: Wilhelm had been overthrown, and the workers had cast off their chains; and this in itself was bound to unloose the revolution in the West, was bound to call forth a rise in the revolution in the European countries.

    The tide of revolution in Europe began to mount. A revolutionary movement started in Austria, and a Soviet Republic arose in Hungary. With the rising tide of the revolution Communist parties came to the surface.

    A real basis now existed for a union of the Communist parties, for the formation of the Third, Communist International.

    In March 1919, on the initiative of the Bolsheviks, headed by Lenin, the First Congress of the Communist Parties of various countries, held in Moscow, founded the Communist International. Although many of the delegates were prevented by the blockade and imperialist persecution from arriving in Moscow, the most important countries of Europe and America were represented at this First Congress. The work of the congress was guided by Lenin.

    Lenin reported on the subject of bourgeois democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat. He brought out the importance of the Soviet system, showing that it meant genuine democracy for the working people. The congress adopted a manifesto to the proletariat of all countries calling upon them to wage a determined struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat and for the triumph of Soviets all over the world.

    The congress set up an Executive Committee of the Third, Communist International (E.C.C.I.).

    Thus was founded an international revolutionary proletarian organization of a new type -- the Communist International -- the Marxist-Leninist International.

    The Eighth Congress of our Party met in March 1919. It assembled in the midst of a conflict of contradictory factors -- on the one hand, the reactionary bloc of the Entente countries against the Soviet Government had grown stronger, and, on the other, the rising tide of revolution in Europe, especially in the defeated countries, had considerably improved the position of the Soviet country.

    The congress was attended by 301 delegates with vote, representing 313,766 members of the Party, and 102 delegates with voice but no vote.

    In his inaugural speech, Lenin paid homage to the memory of Y. M. Sverdlov, one of the finest organizing talents in the Bolshevik Party, who had died on the eve of the congress.

    The congress adopted a new Party Program. This program gives a description of capitalism and of its highest phase -- imperialism. It compares two systems of state -- the bourgeois-democratic system and the Soviet system. It details the specific tasks of the Party in the struggle for Socialism: completion of the expropriation of the bourgeoisie; administration of the economic life of the country in accordance with a single Socialist plan; participation of the trade unions in the organization of the national economy; Socialist labour discipline; utilization of bourgeois experts in the economic field under the control of Soviet bodies; gradual and systematic enlistment of the middle peasantry in the work of Socialist construction.

    The congress adopted Lenin's proposal to include in the program in addition to a definition of imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism, the description of industrial capitalism and simple commodity production contained in the old program adopted at the Second Party Congress. Lenin considered it essential that the program should take account of the complexity of our economic system and note the existence of diverse economic formations in the country, including small commodity production, as represented by the middle peasants. Therefore, during the debate on the program, Lenin vigorously condemned the anti-Bolshevik views of Bukharin, who proposed that the clauses dealing with capitalism, small commodity production, the economy of the middle peasant, be left out of the program. Bukharin's views represented a Menshevik-Trotskyite denial of the role played by the middle peasant in the development of the Soviet state. Furthermore, Bukharin glossed over the fact that the small commodity production of the peasants bred and nourished kulak elements.

    Lenin further refuted the anti-Bolshevik views of Bukharin and Pyatakov on the national question. They spoke against the inclusion in the program of a clause on the right of nations to self-determination; they were against the equality of nations, claiming that it was a slogan that would hinder the, victory of the proletarian revolution and the union of the proletarians of different nationalities. Lenin overthrew these utterly pernicious, imperialist, chauvinist views of Bukharin and Pyatakov.

    An important place in the deliberations of the Eighth Congress was devoted to policy towards the middle peasants. The Decree on the Land had resulted in a steady growth in the number of middle peasants, who now comprised the majority of the peasant population. The attitude and conduct of the middle peasantry, which vacillated between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, was of momentous importance for the fate of the Civil War and Socialist construction. The outcome of the Civil War largely depended on which way the middle peasant would swing, which class would win his allegiance -- the proletariat or the bourgeoisie. The Czechoslovaks, the Whiteguards, the kulaks, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks were able to overthrow the Soviet power in the Volga region in the summer of 1918 because they were supported by a large section of the middle peasantry. The same was true during the revolts raised by the kulaks in Central Russia. But in the autumn of 1918 the mass of the middle peasants began to swing over to the Soviet power. The peasants saw that victories of the Whites were followed by the restoration of the power of the landlords, the seizure of peasants' land, and the robbery, flogging and torture of peasants. The activities of the Committees of the Poor Peasants, which crushed the kulaks, also contributed to the change in the attitude of the peasantry. Accordingly, in November 1918, Lenin issued the slogan:

    "Learn to come to an agreement with the middle peasant, while not for a moment renouncing the struggle against the kulak and at the same time firmly relying solely on the poor peasant." (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. VIII, p. 150.)

    Of course, the middle peasants did not cease to vacillate entirely, but they drew closer to the Soviet Government and began to support it more solidly. This to a large extent was facilitated by the policy towards the middle peasants laid down by the Eighth Party Congress.

    The Eighth Congress marked a turning point in the policy of the Party towards the middle peasants. Lenin's report and the decisions of the congress laid down a new line of the Party on this question. The congress demanded that the Party organizations and all Communists should draw a strict distinction and division between the middle peasant and the kulak, and should strive to win the former over to the side of the working class by paying close attention to his needs. The backwardness of the middle peasants had to be overcome by persuasion and not by compulsion and coercion. The congress therefore gave instructions that no compulsion be used in the carrying out of Socialist measures in the countryside (formation of communes and agricultural artels). In all cases affecting the vital interests of the middle peasant, a practical agreement should be reached with him and concessions made with regard to the methods of realizing Socialist changes. The congress laid down the policy of a stable alliance with the middle peasant, the leading role in this alliance to be maintained by the proletariat.

    The new policy towards the middle peasant proclaimed by Lenin at the Eighth Congress required that the proletariat should rely on the poor peasant, maintain a stable alliance with the middle peasant and fight the kulak. The policy of the Party before the Eighth Congress was in general one of neutralizing the middle peasant. This meant that the Party strove to prevent the middle peasant from siding with the kulak and with the bourgeoisie in general. But now this was not enough. The Eighth Congress passed from a policy of neutralization of the middle peasant to a policy of stable alliance with him for the purpose of the struggle against the Whiteguards and foreign intervention and for the successful building of Socialism.

    The policy adopted by the congress towards the middle peasants, who formed the bulk of the peasantry, played a decisive part in ensuring success in the Civil War against foreign intervention and its Whiteguard henchmen. In the autumn of 1919, when the peasants had to choose between the Soviet power and Denikin, they supported the Soviets, and the proletarian dictatorship was able to vanquish its most dangerous enemy.

    The problems connected with the building up of the Red Army held a special place in the deliberations of the congress, where the so-called "Military Opposition" appeared in the field. This "Military Opposition" comprised quite a number of former members of the now shattered group of "Left Communists"; but it also included some Party workers who had never participated in any opposition, but were dissatisfied with the way Trotsky was conducting the affairs of the army. The majority of the delegates from the army were distinctly hostile to Trotsky; they resented his veneration for the military experts of the old tsarist army, some of whom were betraying us outright in the Civil War, and his arrogant and hostile attitude towards the old Bolshevik cadres in the army. Instances of Trotsky's "practices" were cited at the congress. For example, he had attempted to shoot a number of prominent army Communists serving at the front, just because they had incurred his displeasure. This was directly playing into the hands of the enemy. It was only the intervention of the Central Committee and the protests of military men that saved the lives of these comrades.

    But while fighting Trotsky's distortions of the military policy of the Party, the "Military Opposition" held incorrect views on a number of points concerning the building up of the army. Lenin and Stalin vigorously came out against the "Military Opposition," because the latter defended the survivals of the guerrilla spirit and resisted the creation of a regular Red Army, the utilization of the military experts of the old army and the establishment of that iron discipline without which no army can be a real army. Comrade Stalin rebutted the "Military Opposition" and demanded the creation of a regular army inspired with the spirit of strictest discipline.

    He said:

    "Either we create a real worker and peasant -- primarily a peasant -- army, strictly disciplined army, and defend the Republic, or we perish."

    While rejecting a number of proposals made by the "Military Opposition," the congress dealt a blow at Trotsky by demanding an improvement in the work of the central military institutions and the enhancement of the role of the Communists in the army.

    A Military Commission was set up at the congress; thanks to its efforts the decision on the military question was adopted by the congress unanimously.

    The effect of this decision was to strengthen the Red Army and to bring it still closer to the Party.

    The congress further discussed Party and Soviet affairs and the guiding role of the Party in the Soviets. During the debate on the latter question the congress repudiated the view of the opportunist Sapronov-Ossinsky group which held that the Party should not guide the work of the Soviets.

    Lastly, in view of the huge influx of new members into the Party, the congress outlined measures to improve the social composition of the Party and decided to conduct a re-registration of its members.

    This initiated the first purge of the Party ranks.