(CIVIL WAR, LENIN and RISE of STALIN – continued)

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Instability and Lenin's New Economic Policy

Membership in the Soviet Union's Communist Party reached 730,000 in 1921, tripling since 1919 while there was still famine. The Soviet Union's population dropped another 3.8 million in 1921. And the population declined another 1.9 million in early 1922. Lenin and the Bolsheviks allowed Herbert Hoover's American Relief Association to distribute food in Russia, which would save millions of lives.

Lenin saw the relief as necessary but suspected that the relief agency had counter-revolutionary intensions. And one Bolshevik, Josef Stalin, tried to levy transport charges against the relief effort. When the Americans started to return home, Stalin had some of those Russians who had been working with the Americans – former Mensheviks – arrested. Herbert Hoover was indignant, and he intervened and managed to save them from execution.

It was during the hard year of 1921 that sailors at the Kronstadt naval base rebelled. These were original supporters of the Bolshevik coup, described as the revolution's "pride and joy."  They were annoyed with the Bolsheviks and the suffering. The sailors called for "real Soviet power." They were hopelessly outnumbered, and after several days of fighting and spilling of a lot of blood the Red Army, led by a former tsarist general and Trotsky, crushed the rebellion and chased the surviving rebels across the border into Finland.

The Kronstadt rebellion moved Lenin to abandon the rigorous economic policies of War Communism. Russia's economy under Tsar Nicholas II had benefited from an abundance of foreign investment, but since then Russia had been suffering from capital outflow. Lenin was eager to advance the nation economically, and he allowed some free markets to reappear. This became known as the New Economic Policy (NEP). State-owned industry remained, but some private commerce and small-scale industries were allowed. And peasants were allowed to continue owning land. The Soviet government abolished the forcible confiscation of grain. It taxed the peasants but allowed them to sell their surplus grain on the new, opened market.

Lenin was not abandoning his commitment to socialism or communism. He spoke of his New Economic Policy as a breathing space. Lenin wanted to expand the socialist sector of the economy gradually in competition with economy's private sector.

Allowing a return of free enterprise brought relief to the country and an upward swing in economic activity. In Moscow new restaurants appeared, and on the streets of Moscow shiny cabs were beginning to appear, and private cars appeared carrying the bourgeoisie and beautiful women in mink coats to places that common people could not afford. The gaiety, spending and displays of wealth were reminiscent of that of the middle and upper classes in Paris just after revolution died there late in the eighteenth century. And some rank and file Bolsheviks disapproved.


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