GCSE History-->

Formation of the USSR and Communism

§1 What is communism?

Communism is a political ideology which attempts to remove the distinct gap between the upper and working classes. The basic principle is that workers share goods, income and wealth equally without any private ownership. In theory, this would eliminate economic inequality and poverty which sprouts from capitalism. The communist belief is that profit generated by workers which is taken by business owners should be abolished. This sounds fantastic in theory however communism has been shown to be flawed in practice. For example, there is no incentive to work harder as people aren’t rewarded for performing better than others with the same job. This leads to many people not working hard at all which has a negative impact on society and the economy.

§2 Who invented the idea of communism and why?

Karl Marx is widely regarded as “the father of communism” after he proposed the idea of communism in his communist manifesto which he wrote with Friedrich Engels in 1848. Marx was a German philosopher and economist. The reason that he wrote this manifesto was because he was shocked about the class struggle (the working class). He emphasized this in his manifesto. The manifesto was primarily analytical of historical events that led to it being created and its goals which it attempts to achieve (equality throughout the country, no class barrier etc..). However, Marx did not set out clear guide lines as to how a communist government should be set up. This is potentially one of the reasons for communism’s ultimate failure.

§3 How was communism introduced in the USSR?

Communism was introduced in the USSR after the Russian revolution, which was multiple revolutions throughout 1917. Before the revolution, Russia was ruled by an absolute monarchy (ruled by the czar). As a result, the lower classes suffered from extreme poverty and poor living conditions. The revolutions started after there was a nationwide famine and high loss of lives during and after World War 1. Factory workers who had recently lost their jobs began to protest and the Russian army was sent in. Many of the soldiers in fact defected and protested in solidarity to the unfortunate workers. This led to complete chaos, and as a result, the military lost control of the situation and the Czar was compelled to abdicate. A provisional government was set up by the imperial parliament in 1917, and in October of the same year it was overthrown by Lenin’s party. The Bolshevik leaders (Lenin’s party) implemented communist practiced based on Marx’s manifesto (1848). This was the start of communism in the USSR.

§4 Who were the leading people in communist USSR? And how did they gain power?

The leading people in the communist push in the USSR were Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky. Both of them returned to Russia to seize the opportunity of leading the country after the Czar was overthrown. They were both previously exiled for anti-Czar plotting. They established the Bolshevik party. Since the Bolshevik’s ideology was very anti-war based, they were extremely popular in the country as the war had destroyed Russia. Lenin used the havoc caused by the war to his advantage as he promised food and peace “bread, land, and peace”. Unfortunately for Lenin however, the Bolshevik’s only gained 25% in the 1917 elections and as a result, Lenin had to use military force to overturn the elections and ultimately gain power.

§5 Which policies did these men introduce to try to change the nation?

Lenin had a project called the GOLERO plan which he went through with to reform the economy. This specific project brought electricity to the whole of Russia. Lenin hoped that this would stimulate the economy. Lenin also introduced a national healthcare system and schooling system which were free for all. He hoped that this would be fairer on the poor and fulfil his underlying goal of equality. He also introduced something called the Cheka. This was a secret police force which was made to defend the success of the revolution (in favour of the Bolshevik party) by censoring newspapers and activists. Due to two failed assassination attempts on Lenin, a military leader called Joseph Stalin advised Lenin to start the Red Terror which was a kill (execution) order of all former government officials loyal to the former Czar. He introduced this (as he was almost assassinated twice) because he thought that the people supporting the Czar were planning to overthrow the Bolshevik party.

§6 How did Joseph Stalin rise to power, and what were his methods to stay in power?

Joseph Stalin was a key military leader and advisor to Lenin during the Red Terror and the civil war as it was him who proposed the Red Terror. Over the next few years, Stalin employed a similar tactic. He isolated his major contenders to power and threw them out brutally and eventually became the unrivalled leader of the communist party. Stalin replaced Lenin’s policy and implemented a centralized economy which was fully controlled by the state. This was an attempt to highly industrialise the country. However, the disruption and the sudden change from agriculture to industry caused a nation-wide famine which lasted for a year (1932-1933). Stalin also began to imprison people deemed to be enemies of the state in concentration camps (or deported to remote regions e.g. Siberia). Stalin started the “Great Purge” and murdered over 1 million people who were “enemies of the state” in order to stay in power. He instilled fear in the hearts of the people so that they wouldn’t even attempt to overthrow him. This proved rather successful for 29 years (1924-1953), but Stalin is widely seen as a cold-hearted, brutal murderer.

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written by Paul Apostolides