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The development of the Soviet economy
The economy of Russia during the imperialist war (1914 - March 1917)State socio-economic publishing house Moscow 1940
The Bolsheviks foresaw the inevitability of war long before it broke out. Lenin pointed out that wars are an inevitable companion of capitalism. They became especially inevitable from the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century when capitalism passed into the stage of imperialism. Finance capital inevitably strives to seize new colonies, sources of raw materials, markets, places for the export of capital. Meanwhile, the entire territory of the globe by the end of the XIX century was divided among the capitalist states. The development of capitalism in the epoch of imperialism is marked by extreme unevenness and spasmodicity. The balance of forces of the imperialist states is changing, and in the absence of "free" colonies not yet occupied by the capitalist countries, this causes a striving for a new redivision of the world. The imperialist war was a war for the redivision of the world.
The war of 1914 was the first imperialist world war. It affected the interests of all imperialist countries. Its immediate cause was the major contradictions between the two groups of imperialist states: Germany and Austria, on the one hand, and the Entente countries—Britain, France, and Russia, dependent on them, on the other. Russian tsarism entered the imperialist war not only as a vassal of Anglo-French capital, but also as a representative of the interests of domestic capital, pursuing its own imperialist goals, striving "...with the help of England and France, to defeat Germany in Europe in order to rob Austria (take away Galicia ) and Turkey (take away Armenia and especially Constantinople)” [Lenin, Soch., vol. XIX, p. 281.].
The Russian bourgeoisie also hoped to use the military situation to suppress the revolutionary movement.
Russia started the war unprepared.
On the eve of the war, Russia compensated for the lack of domestic production of heavy industry products with imports from abroad. For example, about 474 million poods of coal were imported in 1913, with a domestic production of 2,214 million poods (within the old borders). Import, thus, amounted to 21.5% of its own coal production. The war made it extremely difficult to import goods. As a result, in 1915 only 40 million poods of coal were imported, or 8.5% compared with 1913, and in 1916 - 61 million poods, or 13% of the 1913 import.
In all the most important branches of industry during the war years, not only was there no rise in production, but there was even a certain decline in it. Thus, for example, the smelting of iron in 1916 was 10% less than in 1913, the production of iron and steel was 17% less. The extraction of coal and oil also decreased. The reduction in coal production was due to the falling away of the Dombrovsky coal basin, while in the Urals, in the Donetsk and Moscow region coal mining increased slightly. The decline in the production of iron and steel was also partly a consequence of the falling away of the Polish region. But be that as it may, during the war the country began to receive less coal, iron, and oil from domestic production than before the war. Meanwhile, the need for fuel and metal has increased enormously. In 1916, military needs alone required 177.5 million. pounds of metal, i.e., about three-quarters of the total production of ferrous metal this year. A certain increase in the import of iron and steel could only to a very small extent alleviate the metal hunger in the country, since the absolute amount of imports was very insignificant (in 1916 - 16 million poods, or about 6% of domestic production). And this hunger was felt more and more acutely even by enterprises directly working for defense. In August 1916, 15.5 million poods of iron and steel were received for defense needs, while the need was 18.5 million poods; in November, 16-16.5 million poods were received, while the demand was 21.5 million poods. By the end of 1916, the factories were producing only half of the metal needed by defense industry. Metal began to be distributed by cards. It's quite understandable that under such conditions the need for metal of enterprises and sectors of the economy that did not work directly for defense remained completely unsatisfied.
The total annual shortage of coal already in the first years of the war was 530-580 million poods. By the end of 1915, the coal crisis was felt very acutely. A special meeting on defense on December 19, 1915, noted that in Petrograd all the factories were interrupted in regard to coal from day to day and that even a slight delay in the current delivery would upset 60% of the factory enterprises, including such large factories as Westinghouse, Putilovsky , Nevsky Shipbuilding, "Phoenix", "Volcano", etc., and up to 20 thousand machine tools and 85 thousand workers will be doomed to inactivity. Moscow in September-October 1915 received only one third of the coal it needed, which was primarily sent to defense enterprises. As a result, other enterprises and even hospitals were completely without fuel. But the fuel crisis reached its peak towards the end of 1916 and the beginning of 1917. On February 1, 1917, the Special Conference on Defense was forced to state that the situation in supplying factories with fuel was critical and that it was necessary to reckon with the upcoming reduction in activities or even with the temporary closure of some service factory defense. The authorized representative of the Special Conference on Defense in the Yekaterinoslav region reported on the complete paralysis of the metallurgical industry of the region, caused by a lack of raw materials, food, and fuel. If, due to lack of fuel, capital factories that worked for defense stopped, if it was impossible to provide fuel for the metallurgical industry of the Yekaterinoslav region located near the Donbass, then one can imagine what the situation was with fuel in other sectors of the economy and in those more distant from the center of coal mining areas.
In 1915 - 1916. intensive construction of new machine-building plants was launched, as well as the transformation and expansion of old ones. But with each year of the war, the production of defense items at machine-building plants occupied more and more space, decisively crowding out the production of "peaceful construction items": in 1913, defense items accounted for 26.3% of the total output of the Russian machine-building industry, in 1914 - already 37, 8%, in 1915 this percentage immediately increased to 69, and in 1916 it reached 78.3 ["Bulletin of Statistics", Vol. XIV, p. 127.].
The capitalists willingly switched to the production of war materials, not out of patriotic motives, of course, but in pursuit of state subsidies and huge profits.
Despite the very large growth of the specifically military industry (in 1915 and early 1916, the Main Artillery Directorate alone built 11 new state-owned factories) and the switching of most other enterprises to the production of military materials, the industry of Russia was far from fully satisfying the growing per year for military purposes.
With each year of the war, the relative share of imports from abroad in the supply of the Russian army with machine guns increased more and more, amounting already in 1916 to over 46%, and in 1917 to 74%. In the supply of artillery pieces, the share of imports from abroad accounted for in 1915-1917. about 24%, and in the supply of heavy and siege artillery guns - 81%. Rifle and machine-gun cartridges from August 1914 to January 1, 1917, received 2845 million from Russian factories, and 983 million from the Allies and America, that is, about 26% of the total.
As regards the very placement of foreign orders, the tsarist government was not free from foreign tutelage, which, however, is quite understandable, given that these orders were covered mainly by external loans. England assumed the role of "guardian" in placing Russian orders abroad. In order to somehow establish its own production of shells, Russia had to invite a group of artillerymen, engineers, technicians, and chemists from France.
But even the "help" of the allies and huge orders abroad, with the weakness of their own industry, could not adequately meet the army's needs for ammunition. So, in May 1916, with a need for 2150 thousand 3-inch shrapnel, the army received only 1030 thousand, that is, less than half; instead of 2150 thousand grenades - only 960 thousand, i.e. 45%; instead of 250 million 3-line rifle cartridges - only 110 million, or 44%, etc.
The economic backwardness of tsarist Russia, the underdevelopment of its industry, and its economic dependence on foreign capital found their vivid expression during the war years in the fact that Russia was unable to produce all the weapons it needed in the quantity required by the conditions of the world imperialist war.
The war led to a significant drop in productivity in the most important industries. Before the war, the monthly coal production per worker in the Donbass was 12.2 tons, and in the winter of 1916 - 9.26 tons. The fall in labor productivity was explained by a number of reasons, but above all by the replacement of skilled labor by unskilled labor.
In the coal industry, for example, in October 1916, for 253,000 workers, there were 55,000 prisoners of war, about 13,000 women, 18,000 adolescents and minors, and over 2 1/2 thousand refugees [Industry and Trade, No. 14 - 15 for 1917, p. 280.].
The hopes of the retrograde Octobrists that the agriculture of Russia, precisely because of its backwardness, would turn out to be completely resistant to the blows of the war, did not come true. In fact, the productive forces in agriculture were steadily declining during the war years. First of all, the number of labor force in the countryside was extremely reduced.
In total, about 16 million people were drafted into the army in the country, which accounted for 47% of the total number of adult men.
In the provinces located close to the theater of operations, in addition to those directly drafted into the army, many workers (as well as means of production) were diverted to serve the needs of the front, in particular, to perform horse-drawn duty for the transportation of military goods, to repair old and build new roads, to digging trenches, etc. Along with men, women were also involved in these works.
The situation with agricultural machines and implements was also bad. According to the Council of Congresses of Agricultural Machine Manufacturers, the production of agricultural machines and tools in 1915 fell to 50%, and in 1916 to 20% of the usual pre-war output. Simultaneously, the import of agricultural machinery, which in 1913 amounted to 6,990,000 poods, fell in 1915 to 208,000 poods and in 1916 to 876,000 poods. The number of machines used in agriculture, insufficient even before the war, in the third year of the war reached negligible proportions. The amount of fertilizers also decreased to the same extent. Mineral fertilizers were imported mainly from abroad, but during the war their import almost ceased. In 1913, 26,711 thousand poods of fertilizers were imported, and in 1915 a total of 202,000 poods. In 1916, the import of fertilizers increased slightly, but amounted to only 1714.6 thousand pounds, being, thus, more than 15 times less than the pre-war one ["National economy in 1916", no. VII, pp. 224-225].
With each year of the war, agriculture, in addition, lost a significant part of the means of production due to the requisition of horses, cattle, and harness. In total, over 2 million horses were taken into the army, moreover, the most efficient ones. Even more cattle were requisitioned, which had a particularly hard effect on the agriculture of the southern and western provinces. In the provinces located near the theater of operations, the number of requisitioned cattle reached 40-50%. Requisitions of working cattle were also often made at the hottest time for field work. Requisitions hit the middle peasants and the poor peasants with particular severity.
If we add to everything that has been said above, the lack of seeds and their high cost, which was already quite strongly felt already in 1916, it becomes clear that agriculture was inevitably going to fall into a severe decline.
In 1916, the area under grain crops in 49 provinces of European Russia was only 94.5% compared to 1909-1913, and the area under wheat - only 85.1%. In absolute numbers, the area under crops of the most important grains in 48 provinces of European Russia amounted to 66.9 million acres in 1916 against 71.1 million acres on average for 1909-1913. In addition to the reduction in sown areas, the yield also decreased significantly. The gross grain harvest in European Russia (excluding the Kuban region and Transcaucasia) in 1916 amounted to 88.7% compared to 1909-1913. (3142846 thousand poods against 3541526 thousand poods), and the gross harvest of wheat - only 73.2% (683243 thousand poods against 993146 thousand poods). The crops in the landlords' farms have been reduced most of all. In total, in Russia, the sown area in landlord farms already in 1915 was reduced to 50, 3% compared with the average for 1909-1913, and in 1916 it fell to 26.9%. It is clear that under such conditions the marketable output of grain decreased even more than its gross harvest, and this was of decisive importance for supplying the army and the urban population.
Among the peasant farms, it was the poorest peasantry who suffered the most, which was reflected in the growth in the number of farms without crops. Thus, in the Tula province, the number of unsowed people increased from 4.2% in 1910-1912 to 4.2%. to 6.5% in 1917, in the Zhizdrinsky district of the Kaluga province - from 6.5% to 14.6%, etc. The number of farms without livestock also increased significantly (in the Penza province - from 31.6% in 1910 - 1912 to 36.1% in 1917, in the Zhizdrinsky district of the Kaluga province, respectively, from 14.3% to 21%).
It is also very indicative that in the Kherson province, for example, in 1916 the sowings in peasant farms, sowing up to 5 acres, decreased, while in larger farms they increased. In the Poltava province in 1916, the crops of poor peasant farms decreased by an average of 9.3% compared to 1910, while the crops of kulak farms increased by 16.6%. In the same 1916, the small peasant farms leased 40,000 acres of allotment land to the large peasants and, in addition, leased 630,000 acres less than before the war landlord lands, which also passed into the hands of the kulak farms. The war thus led to a further intensification of the class stratification of the countryside.
One of the weakest links in the Russian national economy was rail transport. Meanwhile, the war posed huge new tasks for the railway transport and demanded from it the strongest tension. In the first weeks of the war, the railways completely stopped accepting private freight. Then, from the end of August, it was resumed, but for commercial transportation and the delivery of food to the cities, there was half as much rolling stock as before the war. The situation worsened even more due to the lack of any kind of regularity in military transportation. To this was added a huge evacuation movement of refugees in July-September 1915.
During the first 7 months of 1916, transportation of food cargoes for the population was carried out by only 48.1%, and in some months they fell significantly below this average level ["National economy in 1916", no. IV, p. 16.].
By the beginning of 1917, rail transport was in a state of severe crisis.
The disruption of transport led to the disintegration of the country into a number of more or less isolated regions. “This destroyed the successes of the social division of labor achieved by capitalist development, and threw tsarist Russia back many decades” [History of the Civil War in the USSR, vol. I, p. 26.].
The rupture of economic ties led to the fact that there was often a shortage even in those goods that were enough in the country, but which could not be delivered from the place of production to the place of consumption. This gap further increased the need for goods. Thus, for example, as a result of the poor performance of transport, the lack of food began to be felt already at a time when the country still had significant stocks of grain from the harvests of past years.
Just as badly prepared for an imperialist war were Russia's finances. In the article "Free cash" [Lenin, Soch., vol. XVI, pp. 347-348]. He showed how unfounded the faith of the Black Hundred landlords and Octobrist merchants in Russia's financial readiness for war. The war fully confirmed the correctness of Lenin's analysis.
According to the official report of the Ministry of Finance of September 13, 1917 "On the state of the state treasury", by January 1, 1917, 27,187 million rubles were spent on military needs.
From what sources did these colossal funds come from?
From the very beginning of the war, a number of new taxes were introduced and old ones increased. At the same time, in accordance with the general tax policy of the tsarist government, the emphasis was placed mainly on indirect taxes.
When the tsarist government tried to introduce a "temporary tax on the increase in profits of commercial and industrial enterprises," it ran into resolute opposition from the capitalists. It was not until 6 April 1916 that the Income Tax Act was passed. This law, however, came into effect only on January 1, 1917. Finally, by the law of May 13, 1916, a temporary tax on profits was also introduced.
In general, however, the tsarist government did not disturb the capitalists until its very end, but only increased the taxes that were levied on the working people. In none of the capitalist countries did the direct taxation of capital play such a modest role in the budget as in Russia.
As a result of all tax measures, the total tax revenue in 1915 exceeded the revenue in 1913 by only 77.5 million rubles, and in 1916 by 615.3 million rubles. This was a drop in the ocean in relation to the expenses that had increased so much in connection with the war. But even such a meager increase in tax revenues could not be used for the needs of the war, because it had to cover the deficit in the state budget resulting from the prohibition of the sale of vodka (and the treasury's income from the sale of vodka in 1913 amounted to about 900 million rubles.) . Therefore, it can be considered that from tax revenues, and indeed from ordinary income, the tsarist government could not draw anything to cover extraordinary military expenses.
Essentially, the only source for covering military spending was government loans and the issuance of paper money. In 1914, income from credit operations accounted for only 35%, in 1915 they already amounted to over 52%, and in 1916 - 75% of the total state revenues ["National economy in 1916", no. VII, pp. 165 - 166.].
From the beginning of the war to the February Revolution, 6 loans totaling 8 billion rubles were placed on the domestic market. (nominally). Further, on the private money market until January 1, 1917, more than 3 billion rubles were placed (partly by force). short-term obligations of the state treasury. As of January 1, 1914, there were "credit notes" in circulation for 1664.7 million rubles, and for January 1, 1917 - for 9103.4 million rubles. [Ibid., p. 173.].
Thus, with the help of issuing paper money, the tsarist government received about 7.5 billion rubles for the needs of the war until January 1, 1917.
But the tsarist government could not confine itself only to increased issuance of paper money and internal loans, since, as we saw above, it was forced to order a significant part of military equipment, as well as equipment for industry and transport, from abroad. Therefore, during the war, Russia's debt to foreign capitalists increased enormously. The sum of military external debts of tsarist Russia amounted to 7.68 billion rubles, of which 5.37 billion fell to the share of England, 1.5 billion to the share of France. The tsarist government received loans on extremely difficult, onerous conditions. The "allies", especially England, which during the war was the main creditor of Russia, did not hesitate to take its gold reserves into their hands. In 1916 things went so far that England began to demand double security for Russian loans.
Minister of Finance Bark in May 1916 was forced to admit that “the especially unfavorable terms of credit now offered by England indicate that with the further development of military events, credit to Russia from the Allied Powers alone becomes more and more difficult and our complete financial dependence on allies is extremely difficult” [“History of the Civil War in the USSR”, vol. I, p. 28.].
The colossal sums siphoned off by foreign finance capital from Russia in the form of interest on loans more than doubled during the war years. Thus, if already before the war Russian capitalism and tsarism were semi-colonially dependent on foreign capital, during the years of the war this dependence increased significantly.
The flooding of the market with paper money, together with a decrease in production, a breakdown in transport, a disruption in the normal circulation of goods, and frenzied speculation, caused a huge rise in prices. The average prices for all goods grew during the war years in the following way (if we take the prices of 1913 as 100): 1915 - 149, 1916 - 228. During the war years, speculation permeated the entire economic system of tsarist Russia from top to bottom. Particularly strong was the speculative hype associated with the production and supply of military equipment. As a result, prices for items of military equipment at private factories were 50-75-100% higher than at state-owned ones, and the total amount of overpayments to private factories during the war years exceeded 1 billion rubles. This is how the Russian bourgeoisie demonstrated its "patriotism" during the war.
Speculation and rising prices ensured huge profits for banks, industrial capitalists, and merchants.
According to undoubtedly underestimated data, the average gross profit of industrial enterprises, if the data of 1913 is taken as 100, was 188 in 1915, and 297 in 1916.
The profit of 142 largest textile enterprises increased from 63 million rubles. in 1913 to 174 million rubles. in 1915, the Kolomna Machine-Building Plant for a fixed capital of 15 million rubles. received in 1916 about 7.5 million rubles. arrived. Insurance company "Volga" with a fixed capital of 1 million rubles. received in 1916 about 1.7 million rubles. arrived. The same huge profits were received by the capitalists in other branches of industry and the entire national economy.
The war led to an extraordinary intensification of the exploitation of the working class.
The law of March 9, 1915 abolished the prohibition of night and underground work for women and children in the coal industry, and by law of October 19, 1915, the Minister of Trade and Industry was granted the right to allow derogations from the requirements of the law on the work of minors, adolescents and women in all enterprises working for the needs of the war. Under the same law, the Minister of Trade and Industry was given the right to sanction deviations from the rules on the duration and distribution of working hours. Needless to say, the capitalists made wide use of these laws, which abolished even those small legislative restrictions on the exploitation of women and children and the arbitrary lengthening of the working day, which the working class had achieved through many years of stubborn and hard struggle.
The labor of men was more and more replaced by that of women and children. Thus, the percentage of minors and adolescents employed in the factory industry increased from 10.7 on January 1, 1914, to 12.6 on January 1, 1916, the percentage of women increased accordingly from 30.5 to 36.3.
In the coal mines of the Donets Basin, where on January 1, 1914, women accounted for 1.4% of all workers, on January 1, 1916, they accounted for 4.8% of all workers.
As early as 2-3 months after the start of the war, they began to apply on a large scale the lengthening of the working day by introducing overtime and night work. The intensity of labor in the factory industry has increased tremendously.
The real wages of workers fell sharply. In the ten provinces of the Moscow Region, the average real wages of workers in the second half of 1915 amounted to only 84.3% of the average wages in the first half of 1914.
The decrease in agricultural output, the disruption of transport, the disruption of money circulation, the rise in prices and rampant speculation led to the fact that already in the autumn of 1915 a food crisis was clearly indicated. By this time, the cities were already sitting on starvation rations, even the army received only half of the food ration it needed.
The measures taken by the tsarist government to improve the food business often led to its even worse deterioration. First of all, the government was forced to take care of ensuring the food supply of the army. To this end, by a decree of February 17, 1915, the commanders of the military districts were given the right to impose a ban on the export of food products from producing regions, to approve mandatory prices for these products and to make requisitions in case of refusal to hand them over at the established price for the army. This decree was widely used by local authorities (in the person of governors), who hastened to ban the export of food products from their provinces, and in many cases to establish local fixed taxes. As a result of these measures, the delivery of food products from the producing to the consuming regions was further reduced, speculation intensified and prices rose. No one considered "fixed" prices, even those authorized to purchase bread for the army. On May 19, 1915, the Main Food Committee was established (under the chairmanship of the Minister of Trade), which was entrusted with the accounting of stocks, the procurement of food for the population, the establishment of a plan for the transport of food cargo, the determination of supply standards, marginal prices, etc. I did not have time, however , this committee to expand its work, as it was supposed, according to the law of August 17, 1915, to give way to a Special Conference for discussing and uniting measures on the food business. Law of 27 November 1915 the chairman of the Special Conference on Food was granted the right "to establish, within the Empire or its individual regions, marginal prices for the sale of food products and fodder, mandatory for all ..." ["Collection of laws and orders for 1915", No. 35, Art. 2689]. But until the autumn of 1916, the marginal prices, established by a centralized procedure, applied only to purchases for the needs of the army, made by local representatives of the chairman of the Special Conference. Only on September 9, 1916, an order was issued to establish fixed prices for the main grain products for all transactions without exception. In contrast to the marginal prices in force in the winter of 1915/16, which were often higher than the free market prices, the fixed prices established in the autumn of 1916 were lower than the market ones. Finally, in the same autumn, the government represented by the new Minister of Agriculture (who is also the chairman of the Special Conference on Food) Rittich, was forced to take one more measure - to introduce a mandatory supply of grain to the treasury at a fixed price, according to the apportionment.
Despite all these measures, the food crisis not only did not weaken, but became more and more intensified. The measures taken by the city authorities, cooperatives and the Union of Cities did not help much either, since private trade was not eliminated, but only somewhat limited. On the other hand, the restrictions placed on private capital in the area of trade in foodstuffs contributed to an even greater intensification of speculation.
In the middle of 1916, the government was forced to introduce a rationing system for the distribution of sugar, and a little later to raise the question of extending it also to flour and meat. Without waiting for government decisions, one province after another proceeded to the distribution of food products on cards. However, the regular supply of food products to the population according to established norms presupposed their correct intake. Meanwhile, the introduction of forced delivery led to the fact that the landowners, kulaks, and speculators hid their food reserves even deeper, and the disorder of transport, which increased from month to month, made it impossible to deliver the harvested grain to industrial centers. Therefore, the introduction of the rationing system could not resolve the food crisis.
The tsarist government did not even think about fighting speculators. All its regulatory measures in the field of prices were severely applied to the working peasants. All kinds of concessions were made to the landowners and kulaks, their interests were not violated.
It goes without saying that only the working people were suffering from the food crisis.
The capitalists did not experience any hardships, luxurious at the expense of speculative profits even more than before the war.
“The reactionary-bureaucratic solution of the task set for the peoples by the war,” wrote Lenin, “limits itself to the bread card, the distribution of equally absolutely necessary for the nutrition of the “people’s” products, not deviating one iota from bureaucracy and reactionaryism, precisely from the goal: the self-activity of the poor, the proletariat , the masses of the people (“demos”) should not be raised, control on their part over the rich should not be allowed, loopholes for the rich to reward themselves with luxury items, leave more. And in all countries ... - there is nothing to say about Russia - a lot of loopholes have been left, the “common people” are starving, and the rich go to resorts, replenish the meager state norm with all sorts of “additions” from outside and do not allow themselves to be controlled” [Lenin, Works of 1917, vol. II, Partizdat, 1937, p. 497.].
Already in 1915, on the basis of the high cost and lack of food in different cities of Russia, there were protests by workers and the poorest sections of the population. In 1916, especially in its second half, these performances took on a mass and widespread character.
Having entered the war economically backward, by the beginning of 1917, after 30 months of military tension, Russia was experiencing the deepest economic devastation: the collapse of industry, the decline of agriculture, the fuel and transport crisis, and famine.
The imperialist war caused economic ruin not only in Russia, but also in other countries participating in the war. However, nowhere was this devastation as deep as in tsarist Russia. According to bourgeois economic literature, by the end of the war, Russia lost 60% of the national wealth of 1913, while the losses of England amounted to 15%, France - 31%, Germany - 33%, Austria-Hungary - 41%. During the first three years of the war, Russia spent 167% of the total income of 1913, while France spent 105%, England - 130%. In addition to the general economic and political conditions, the greater depth of economic ruin in Russia compared to other countries participating in the war was also due to the huge length of the front of hostilities, which was several times greater than the front lines of other powers. Multimillion-strong Russian and Austro-German armies marched several times across the vast territory of the eastern theater of operations. Evacuations covered more than 500 thousand km2 with a population of 25 million people.
The tsarist government tried to fight against ruin by bureaucratic regulation of the economic life of the country. To this end, in August 1915, a number of Special Conferences were created (on defense, on fuel, on food, on transportation), equipped with very broad powers.
However, in the process of exercising their rights, the Special Conferences and other bodies of reactionary-bureaucratic regulation ran into resistance from the bourgeoisie. The latter, in the conditions of a frenzied speculative fever that ensured fabulous profits, was in no way inclined to put up with any far-reaching state interference in its economic affairs, with the restriction of “private initiative” and “enterprise”.
One of the brightest manifestations of the negative attitude of Russian capitalists towards state interference in their activities and the struggle against such interference can be the struggle of entrepreneurs against attempts by state regulation of the coal market.
By the summer of 1916, it became clear that the measures previously taken by the Special Conference on Fuel (Osotop) and reduced mainly to regulating the export of coal using the so-called permissive transportation system, were completely insufficient due to the extremely aggravated coal hunger. Then a project arose to create a Central Committee for the trade in solid mineral fuels of the Donetsk basin (“Centrougol”) with the right to “... monopoly trade in solid mineral fuels of the Donetsk basin under government control” [Tsyperovich, Syndicates and trusts in pre-revolutionary Russia and the USSR, 1927, 301.]. This project, however, met with a resolute rebuff from the coal producers. The meeting of coal producers on October 31, 1916, unanimously recognized the project "... in its entirety as unacceptable and its implementation unnecessary and even dangerous for the development of the Donetsk coal industry ..." [Ibid., p. 303.].
Such resistance to the introduction of state control was offered by capitalists in other branches of industry as well. The tsarist government could not overcome this resistance of the bourgeoisie, especially since it was forced to introduce representatives of the bourgeoisie into the state bodies themselves, which were called upon to regulate and control various branches of the national economy. In some of these bodies, for example, in the Special Conference on Defence, representatives of the bourgeoisie occupied very strong positions. Therefore, although in Russia, as in other capitalist countries participating in the war, tendencies towards state capitalism undoubtedly took place, state capitalism by no means reached such a development in it as, for example, in England and even more so in Germany.
The war brought to light the internal contradictions of Russian imperialism with exceptional force, convincing even the reactionary Russian bourgeoisie that "it cannot go on like this." The bourgeoisie tried to find a way out of the contradictions by strengthening capitalism, by restricting the autocratic-bureaucratic tsarist regime. During the war, she achieved great influence on state affairs through the military-industrial committees and the all-Russian organization she created - the Union of Zemstvos and Cities ("Zemgor"). These organizations tried to take over the regulation of production, transport, supply of the army and the population.
To what, however, the activity of these bodies of capitalist “amateur activity” actually came down, shows the review of Zemgor's Izvestia about the military-industrial committees. This review directly stated that the military-industrial committees did very little for the defense of the state, but delivered very large profits to their members.
The bourgeoisie also tried to use the military-industrial committees to bring the workers under its influence and leadership. To this end, it decided to create "working groups" of workers' representatives under the military-industrial committees, which would agitate among the workers for raising labor productivity in defense enterprises. The Mensheviks supported this idea of the bourgeoisie and agitated among the workers for participation in the elections of "working groups". The Bolsheviks exposed to the workers the pseudo-patriotic nature of this undertaking. They urged the workers to boycott the war-industrial committees and carried out this boycott successfully.
The imperialist war extremely aggravated all the contradictions of Russian capitalism and sharpened the class struggle. The war, which had brought enormous, unheard-of profits to the bourgeoisie, fell with all its weight on the shoulders of the workers and peasants.
The landowners and the imperialist bourgeoisie fully and unconditionally supported the policy of war pursued by the tsarist government.
The petty-bourgeois parties of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, masquerading as the flag of socialism, embellished the nature and aims of the war in every possible way. They called on the workers and peasants to defend the bourgeois "fatherland", to put an end to the class struggle, to "civil peace".
The so-called centrists — Trotsky, Martov and others — were also engaged in deceiving the people. They justified and defended open social-chauvinists, hiding behind "left" phrases. "The centrist Trotsky stood against Lenin, against the Bolshevik Party on all the most important questions of the war and socialism" ["History of the CPSU (b)". Short course, p. 159.].
Lenin repeatedly pointed out that centrism is most dangerous for the working-class movement, that it is more terrible and harmful than open opportunism.
The workers did not allow themselves to be deceived by either open or covert social-chauvinists. The working class supported the Bolshevik Party, which alone remained true to revolutionary internationalism.
The Bolsheviks pointed out that the war was started not to defend the fatherland, but to seize foreign lands, to rob foreign peoples in the interests of the landowners and capitalists. They pointed out that the workers must fight resolutely against this war.
“The Bolsheviks were not against any war. They were only against an aggressive, imperialist war. The Bolsheviks believed that war can be of two kinds:
a) a just, non-conquest, liberation war, aimed at either protecting the people from external attack and attempts to enslave them, or liberating the people from the slavery of capitalism, or, finally, liberating the colonies and dependent countries from the oppression of the imperialists, and
b) an unjust, predatory war aimed at capturing and enslaving foreign countries, foreign peoples” [Ibid., p. 161.].
The Bolsheviks supported a just war. They considered it necessary to wage the most resolute struggle against an unjust war, seeking the overthrow of their imperialist government, linking the cause of peace with the struggle for the victory of the proletarian revolution. The Bolsheviks opposed the Menshevik-Socialist-Revolutionary preaching of "civil peace" with the slogan of turning the imperialist war into a civil war. The Bolsheviks countered the Menshevik-Socialist-Revolutionary policy of defending the bourgeois fatherland with the policy of defeating their government in the imperialist war, believing that such a policy should be pursued by the revolutionary parties of the working class of all belligerent countries. The Bolsheviks pointed out, in particular, that a military defeat of the tsarist government would facilitate the victory of the people over tsarism and the struggle of the working class for liberation from capitalist slavery and imperialist wars.
During the war, Lenin wrote a number of theoretical works that were of great importance for the world proletariat. In these works, Lenin brilliantly revealed the essence of imperialism and raised the question of the proletarian revolution and the victory of socialism in a new way.
In his famous work Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, written in the spring of 1916, Lenin showed that imperialism, being the highest stage of capitalism, is at the same time its last stage, that imperialism is decaying, dying capitalism.
It does not follow from this that capitalism will wither away on its own, without a proletarian revolution. This means that imperialism leads directly to the proletarian revolution, that it is the eve of the socialist revolution. Lenin showed that in the epoch of imperialism the material prerequisites for a socialist revolution finally mature, elements of a revolutionary explosion grow inside the capitalist countries, and the revolutionary crisis in the colonial and dependent countries becomes more acute. Lenin showed that under the conditions of imperialism, the uneven development and contradictions of capitalism become especially aggravated. The uneven development of capitalism makes imperialist wars inevitable and, by weakening the forces of imperialism, makes it possible for the proletariat to break through the imperialist front where this front is weakest. Back in August 1915 in the article “On the Slogan of the United States of Europe”, Lenin wrote that due to the uneven economic and political development of capitalism, “... the victory of socialism is possible initially in a few or even in one, taken separately, capitalist country” [Lenin, Soch., vol. XVIII , p. 232.]. In the article "The Military Program of the Proletarian Revolution", written in the autumn of 1916, Lenin again emphatically emphasized that, due to the uneven development of capitalism, "...socialism cannot win simultaneously in all countries. He will win initially in one or several countries, while the rest will remain bourgeois or pre-bourgeois for some time” [Ibid., vol. XIX, p. 325.]
“It was a new, complete theory of the socialist revolution, a theory about the possibility of the victory of socialism in individual countries, about the conditions for its victory, about the prospects for its victory, a theory whose foundations were outlined by Lenin as early as 1905 in the pamphlet Two Tactics of Social Democracy in a Democratic revolution" ["History of the CPSU (b)". Short course, p. 163.].
During the period of pre-imperialist capitalism, Marxists considered the victory of socialism in one country impossible, believing that socialism would triumph simultaneously in all civilized countries. “Lenin, on the basis of the data on imperialist capitalism set forth in his remarkable book Imperialism, as the Highest Stage of Capitalism, turned this attitude upside down as outdated and gave a new theoretical attitude, by virtue of which the simultaneous victory of socialism in all countries is considered impossible, and the victory of socialism in one single capitalist country is recognized as possible” [Ibid.]. Lenin's theory of the socialist revolution enriched Marxism and moved it forward. It gave the proletarians of individual countries a revolutionary perspective, unleashed their initiative and strengthened their faith in the victory of the proletarian revolution.
The war temporarily interrupted the war that began in 1910-1912. the rise of the revolutionary labor movement. But the horrors of the war, the incredible intensification of exploitation, the rise in high prices and the fall in real wages, the ever-increasing intensification of the food crisis, etc., hastened the process of revolutionizing the workers.
Already in 1915 there were 928 strikes, in which 539,528 workers took part; Of this number, 202 strikes were purely political in nature, and over 150,000 workers took part in them. In 1916 the strike wave rose even higher. A total of 1,284 strikes took place this year, with a total of 951,695 participants; out of 1284 political strikes, there were 242, more than 310 thousand people took part in them ["Statistical collection for 1913 - 1917", CSB, 1921, pp. 158, 164.]. The strike movement, which took on an increasingly pronounced political character, intensified especially in the autumn of 1916, in connection with the aggravation of the food crisis.
The revolutionary actions of the workers were led by the Bolshevik Party, which, in spite of all the persecution and innumerable arrests, carried on a tremendous amount of work among the working masses.
The revolutionary movement also embraced the soldiers. Poorly armed, led by incompetent generals and robbed by quartermasters, the Russian army, despite the heroism and courage of its soldiers, suffered major defeats, which increasingly embittered the mass of soldiers. The difficult situation of the soldiers was aggravated by the tyranny of the officers, who took out the anger on the soldiers for their mistakes. Under the influence of Bolshevik agitation, defeatist moods intensified among the masses, discontent matured, gradually turning into active actions, which at first were unorganized. Desertion assumed the widest proportions. In 1916, there were already more than one and a half million deserters. Cases of reprisals against cruel commanders by soldiers became more frequent.
The Bolshevik Party launched a great deal of work in the army, especially in the armies of the Northern Front. The Bolsheviks created cells at the front and in the rear.
By its tireless work, the Bolshevik Party brought ever greater organization into the spontaneous movement of the soldier masses. Solitary actions of individual soldiers, which usually ended tragically, were replaced by organized collective actions of the soldier masses. One of the forms of such collective action was a kind of "strike", when the soldiers refused to go on the attack until their demands were met. Later, the fraternization of soldiers with soldiers of the enemy army began to acquire more and more significant proportions. The Bolsheviks persistently, patiently, and stubbornly explained to the soldiers the true meaning of the war, opened their eyes to the real culprits of their suffering, directed their indignation against the government and the bourgeoisie, called for the transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war. And the selfless work of the Bolsheviks was not slow to yield results. The movement of soldiers under the leadership of the Bolsheviks began to merge with the revolutionary movement of the proletariat.
The growing unrest in the village also affected the mood of the soldiers. Continuous mobilizations and requisitions completely ruined the economy of a significant part of the working peasants. The collapse of industry and transport deprived the countryside of the most essential commodities—matches, kerosene, salt, and so on. Bread was scarcely enough until the middle of winter. In turn, the wounded soldiers returning to the countryside exerted a tremendous revolutionary influence on the mood of the working peasantry. The hatred for the landlords and kulaks grew stronger and stronger. The peasants seized the landlords' lands, burned the landlords' bread and estates, and sacked the kulak farms.
One of the landlords of the Tambov province, in a letter to the director of the police department dated October 10, 1916, reported: “Last year, all my bread in stacks was burned and a huge barnyard was looted. This year, once set on fire and, finally, on October 4 at night, a wooden two-story barn with all inventory was burned. Men and women not only do not come to work with me, but when workers from neighboring villages come, they meet them with stakes and stones and do not allow them to work. Peasant horses are constantly grazing in my orchards. The forest is stolen directly by wagons. I often receive anonymous letters threatening me with death if I visit the estate” [Shestakov, Essays on agriculture and the peasant movement during the war years and before October 1917, 1927, p. 106.].
Similar messages came from all over Russia. In some places, the peasants took away church lands from the clergy. Great activity in the speeches of the peasant poor was shown by soldiers - the wives of those drafted into the army. The Tambov gendarmes reported: “Soldier women also pay taxes, whose plight is getting worse and worse. On the basis of the inventory of samovars and other junk in payment of arrears, discontent grows and clashes with the rural authorities occur. The lower ranks living in the villages intercede for the soldiers. Here are their statements: “What taxes are there for you! She has a husband in the war, and small children at home. What kind of money are you asking here? We serve and do not have to pay you. If I come home after the war and find out that the headman has collected arrears from my wife, then I will exhaust all the guts out of him ”[Ibid., pp. 107-108.].
To characterize the struggle of the peasant poor against the kulaks, it is interesting, for example, the report of the head of the Saratov gendarme department to the director of the police department:
"Near the Berezovka, Atkarsky district, there was a small bank estate of 42 cuts, which were dismantled by the wealthier, who had the opportunity to deposit deposit amounts in the bank. The poor protested because the land was also necessary for them. Arguments began, threats ended in arson at the rich of rigs, hay, straw, bread ”[Ibid., p. 112.].
The actions of the peasants against the landlords and kulaks increasingly led to clashes with the police and local authorities; the peasant movement acquired an ever broader scope and revolutionary character.
The war claimed millions of human lives, destroyed the national economy of Russia, doomed the workers and peasants to terrible need and deprivation. The tsarist army suffered one defeat after another. This was explained not only by poor weapons, but also by the direct betrayal of the Minister of War Sukhomlinov, as well as a number of other tsarist ministers and generals, who, together with the queen, who was associated with the Germans, gave out military secrets to the latter, disrupted the supply of ammunition to the army, etc.
The imperialist war was a powerful catalyst for the revolution. The workers, peasants, soldiers, and intelligentsia became more and more hated for the tsarist government. The revolutionary movement of the masses became more and more aggravated, coming to the conclusion that the only way out of the unbearable situation that had arisen was the overthrow of the tsarist autocracy.
The Russian bourgeoisie, having become convinced of the inability of the tsarist government to ensure the successful conduct of the war, also began to show discontent.
In addition, the bourgeoisie, not without reason, feared that tsarism, in order to save its position, might agree to a separate peace with the Germans. Therefore, she decided to carry out a palace coup: to remove Nicholas II and install Mikhail Romanov, who was connected with the bourgeoisie, as tsar. “By this, she wanted to kill two birds with one stone: firstly, to get into power and ensure the further conduct of the imperialist war, and secondly, to prevent the onset of a big people’s revolution, the waves of which were growing, by a small palace coup” [“History of the CPSU (b)”. Short course, p. 167.]. These plans of the Russian bourgeoisie enjoyed the full support of the British and French governments.
The bourgeoisie wanted to resolve the crisis of tsarism with a palace coup. However, the people resolved this crisis in their own way.
The beginning of 1917 was marked by a strike on January 9, accompanied by demonstrations in Petrograd, Moscow, Baku, and Nizhny Novgorod. About one-third of all workers were on strike in Moscow. On February 18, the Putilov workers went on strike, and on February 22, the workers of most of the largest enterprises in Petrograd. On February 23 (March 8) (International Day of the Worker), at the call of the Petrograd Committee of the Bolsheviks, a demonstration of workers against hunger, war, and tsarism took place, supported by a general strike action by Petrograd workers. “The political strike began to develop into a general political demonstration against the tsarist system” [Ibid., p. 168.]. On February 25, the movement engulfed the entire working class of Petrograd, resulting in a general political strike under the slogans: "Down with the tsar!", "Down with the war!", "Bread!"
On the morning of February 26 (March 11), the political strike and demonstration began to develop into an uprising. A stubborn and persistent struggle unfolded for the army, for its transition to the side of the revolutionary people. The Bureau of the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks, led by Comrade Molotov, issued a manifesto on February 26 calling for the continuation of the revolutionary struggle and the creation of a Provisional Revolutionary Government. On February 27 (March 12), the troops in Petrograd began to go over to the side of the insurgent people. By the evening of February 27, the number of rebel soldiers had already exceeded 60,000. By this rapid defection of troops to the side of the workers, the fate of the tsarist autocracy was sealed.
“The February bourgeois-democratic revolution has won.
The revolution won because the working class was the instigator of the revolution and led the movement of millions of peasants dressed in soldier's greatcoats "for peace, for bread, for freedom." The hegemony of the proletariat determined the success of the revolution” [Ibid., pp. 169-170.].
From the very first days of the revolution, Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies were created. While the Bolsheviks led the direct struggle of the masses, the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries captured most of the deputy seats in the soviets. In particular, they ended up at the head of the Petrograd Soviet and its Executive Committee. This was facilitated by the fact that most of the Bolshevik leaders were at that time in prisons and exile (Lenin was in exile, Stalin and Sverdlov were in Siberian exile), while the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries were at large.
On February 27, the liberal deputies of the State Duma, by a behind-the-scenes agreement with the leaders of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, formed the Provisional Committee of the State Duma, which a few days later formed the bourgeois Provisional Government headed by Prince Lvov. Thus, the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries who headed the Soviet surrendered power to the bourgeoisie.
But side by side with the bourgeois government stood the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, an organ of the alliance of workers and peasants against tsarist power, and at the same time an organ of their power, an organ of the dictatorship of the working class and peasantry. A dual power was created, an interweaving of two powers, two dictatorships. But such a situation could not last long, of course, because there can be only one power in the state.
The Provisional Government headed by Prince Lvov and then the Socialist-Revolutionary Kerensky, being the government of the imperialist bourgeoisie (in alliance with the bourgeois landlords), could not and did not want to satisfy even those urgent demands of the masses, which did not at all go beyond the framework of bourgeois-democratic transformations (the agrarian question , national, etc.). In its first address to the people (March 17, 1917), it did not say a word either about peace, or about the 8-hour working day, or about land for the peasants.
“To give the people peace, bread and complete freedom,” Lenin wrote in his “Draft of Theses on March 17, 1917,” “only a workers’ government is able to rely, firstly, on the vast majority of the peasant population, on rural workers and the poorest peasants; secondly, to an alliance with the revolutionary workers of all the belligerent countries.
The revolutionary proletariat, therefore, cannot regard the revolutions of March 1 (14) as anything other than its first, far from complete, victory on its great path, cannot but set itself the task of continuing the struggle to win a democratic republic and socialism” [Lenin, Soch., vol. XX, p. 11.].
The dual power represented a transitional moment in the development of the revolution. The emergence of dual power, the essentially voluntary cession of power to the representatives of the bourgeoisie by the victorious workers and peasants, was explained, as Lenin showed, firstly, by the fact that the revolution aroused and drew into the movement millions and tens of millions of petty bourgeois. “A gigantic petty-bourgeois wave,” wrote Lenin, “swept everything, crushed the class-conscious proletariat not only in numbers, but also ideologically, that is, infected, captured very wide circles of workers with petty-bourgeois views on politics” [Ibid., p. 115.] .
The transfer of power by the workers and peasants to the bourgeoisie was explained, secondly, by the change in the composition of the proletariat during the war and its insufficient level of consciousness and organization at the beginning of the revolution. The petty-bourgeois strata of workers were the breeding ground for the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, brought to the surface by a wave of petty-bourgeois elements.
In order to move the revolution forward, it was necessary to free the broad masses of the people from the ideological influence of the compromising parties. It was necessary to expose to them the imperialist character of the Provisional Government, the treacherous policy of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, to show that only the replacement of the Provisional Government by the government of the Soviets would ensure peace, bread, and freedom for the people.
From the very first days of the revolution, the Bolshevik Party undertook with all its energy the fulfillment of this task. Under the leadership of Lenin and Stalin, she completed this task.
The war, which demanded the strongest tension of the entire national economy and led to its deepest ruin, claimed an enormous number of human lives, caused a further deterioration in the situation of the workers and all working people, caused an extraordinary growth of the revolutionary spirit of the working class and peasantry, led to a revolution. At the same time, the war contributed to the further development of monopoly capitalism in Russia with a tendency to grow into state-monopoly capitalism and thereby contributed to the further development of the material prerequisites necessary for the socialist revolution and the building of socialism.
"Being a reflection of the general crisis of capitalism, the war exacerbated this crisis and weakened world capitalism" ["History of the CPSU (b)". Short course, p. 173.]. In the world imperialist chain, Russia was the weaker link, and the war caused greater destruction in her than in other countries participating in the war.
On the other hand, only in Russia did a force exist that could resolve the contradictions of imperialism in a revolutionary way. This force was the most revolutionary proletariat in the world of Russia, which had the revolutionary peasantry as an ally and was led by the only Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Stalin, consistent to the end and unfailingly faithful to the teachings of Marx and Engels, a party of a new type, free from opportunist elements and capable of leading the proletariat to struggle for power.