Socialist dreams: to the 19th century AD

The words Communism and Socialism are from the start often interchangeable and they still remain easily confused in modern use. The earliest recorded use of 'socialist' makes the point. An author writing in the Co-operative Magazine in 1827 states that 'the chief question between the modern Political Economists and the Communionists or Socialists is whether it is more beneficial that capital should be individual or in common'.

The holding of possessions in common has been a characteristic of utopian communities in many periods of history. Indeed ever since the First monks, the rejection of personal property has been an ideal in many religions.

In 17th-century England the new politics of the Commonwealth encourage dreamers such as Gerrard Winstanley and his sect of Diggers to insist that the land belongs to the people (though when they begin digging up sections of it for their own use, in 1649-50, they receive short shrift from other interested parties). In the French Revolution the extreme radicals, such as Babeuf, envisage the end of private ownership.

But it is in the early 19th century that socialism begins to find practical forms - most notably in the achievement of Robert Owen at New Lanark.

Instead the exercise of dictatorship, pioneered enthusiastically by Lenin and carried to far more extreme lengths by Stalin, has come to seem almost the point of the exercise. The Russian people are better educated than in former days, within the doctrinaire mindset of the Communist party, and years of mass misery have made possible an Industrial miracle. But drab and terrified conformity has been, as yet, the most evident result of the great experiment.

The challenge of World War II unites Russia in a way that Communism has failed to. It also leaves the nation much better placed than previously to foster world revolution. Or to achieve Russian dominance? The distinction will become increasingly blurred.

New Lanark and elsewhere: AD 1800-1847

In 1800 Robert Owen takes charge of a cotton mill at New Lanark on the Clyde. It has been previously owned by his father-in-law, who established it in 1785 in partnership with Arkwright. It is therefore a thoroughly modern enterprise, well run by the standards of the time. But the idealistic young Owen is distressed by the conditions in which the employees and their families (some 2000 people in all) live and work.

Seeing ignorance, crime and drunkenness in the community, he blames it not on the workers but on their environment. And he considers the environment at New Lanark, or in any other factory, to be the direct result of the mill owners' overriding concern to make money.

For the first time, in this perception, the ideals of socialism are directly opposed to the tenets of Capitalism. The two great rivals of 20th-century politics discover each other.

Owen's reforms make New Lanark an essential port of call for anyone interested in social reform. Visitors admire the high standards in housing and the conditions in the factory. They note that goods are sold in the village shop at almost cost price. They see the care shown for the health of the families and the education of their children (Britain's first primary school is opened here in 1812). New Lanark becomes, and is recognized to be, a model industrial community.

Yet New Lanark is also a conventional business, making a good profit for its owners. Owen begins to dream of more utopian ways of solving society's ills. He promotes the idea of self-contained communities of agricultural workers and craftsmen, owning everything in common including their land. With no capitalist owner to cream off the profit, he imagines such communities being so successful that they soon become the standard form of human society.

He proves less effective as utopian theorist than as benevolent mill owner. Four Owenite communities are founded between 1825 and 1839 (the best known is at New Harmony in Indiana). Squabbles and bankruptcy finish off every one of them within a very few years.

Robert Owen severs his connection with New Lanark in 1829, the very year in which the trials at Rainhill introduce the railway era. The replacement of canals by railways for the transport of freight greatly speeds up the process of the Industrial Revolution, and makes possible the growth of the great manufacturing cities of the 19th century.

New Lanark, an elegant and isolated experiment in the countryside, is not a viable model in these circumstances. More effective in the long run, as a way of restraining the tendency of employers to exploit workers, is the painstaking process of welfare legislation.

Owen's community at New Harmony lasts just two years, from 1825 to 1827, but it is followed in the 1840s by many other similar experiments in north America. They are based posthumously on the ideas of the French social theorist, Charles Fourier, who has proposed an ideal community which he calls a 'phalanx'. Each phalanx is to include a balanced mix of workers, combining all the necessary skills. A community of 1620 people is suggested as the ideal size.

As many as twenty-eight Fourier phalanxes are founded in the USA. Most of them soon collapse. The one which makes the movement famous, Brook Farm near Boston, lasts from 1841 to 1847. But in this same decade two young men in Paris are evolving a more ruthless concept of socialism.

Marx and Engels

Marx Engels and historical materialism: AD 1844-1848

Durig the 1840s Germany is the cradle of many radical groups, though the repressive political conditions mean that the activists tend to live elsewhere - in Brussels, Paris or London.

By far the most influential in the long run are two young men who become friends in Paris in 1844. Karl Marx is twenty-six at the time, Friedrich Engels two years younger. Their friendship is to be life-long, with the impoverished Marx frequently saved from near starvation by the generosity of Engels. They are also ideally suited as fellow warriors in the class struggle which they consider to be the central theme of politics and history.

Marx is the theorist, who has come to his political views through philosophy. As a student in Berlin he has been influenced by the dialectic of Hegel (the presiding genius of the Berlin philosophy school and only recently dead, in 1831). Hegel's theory is that progress is made towards the truth, in any context, through a process of struggle; a thesis is opposed by an antithesis, and out of the clash comes a new development, the synthesis.

For Marx this chimes well with his view of politics as class warfare. From the struggle between the bourgeoisie (the existing thesis) and the oppressed working class (the antithesis) will come a new political order (the synthesis, in the form of the triumphant working class).

But Marx knows virtually nothing of the industrial working class except what he reads. Engels, by contrast, shares an interest in Hegel but also knows factory life in all its contemporary horror. He comes from a rich German textile family. In 1842 he is sent to manage the Engels and Ermen cotton-spinning factory in Manchester. The result, after two years of acute observation and detailed research, is a highly influential sociological survey, The Condition of the Working Class in England, published in Leipzig in 1845.

So Engels can add flesh to the bones of historical materialism (also known as economic determinism) which becomes the all-embracing Marxist theory of economics, politics and history.

Marx and Engels argue that development in human society is driven not by people's will or by any cultural, legal or political achievement, but by a single economic factor - the inexorable advance in the technology of production.

In the Marxist theory of history, changes in methods of production lie behind mankind's progression through certain predictable stages. In the recent past there has been feudalism, which has now given way to the 19th-century triumph of the bourgeoisie. In the future there is the imminent Dictatorship of the Proletariat, after which an interim period of Socialism will give way to the final achievement of Communism.

This progression is not, as liberals would wish, a gradual evolution. It is a series of violent upheavals in the struggle between the classes. One such occasion has been seen in France, where the bourgeoisie has overthrown the remains of feudalism in the Revolution of 1789.

Once the new production methods of the Industrial revolution have reached a critical point, crowding together a sufficient number of exploited workers in slum conditions in the cities, the stage will be set for the next revolution. The proletariat (a word used by Marx for the industrial working class) will smash the bourgeoisie and will appropriate their accumulated wealth for the common cause.

In the subsequent Dictatorship of the Proletariat all other considerations will be subordinated to safeguarding the revolution. This stage ends once everybody is a member of the proletariat. With only one class left, the class war is over. The next and penultimate stage is Socialism.

In the classless society of Socialism it is anticipated that mankind will live in harmony (class exploitation being the root of all evil). Now it will be possible for the apparatus of state gradually to wither away. The final Marxist paradise of Communism will operate on a simple and just distribution of work and wealth - in Marx's words, 'from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs'.

The Communist Manifesto: AD 1848

The basic tenets of Marxism, formulated by Marx and Engels from 1844, are presented to the world in 1848 in what is probably the most stark and powerfully written political pamphlet in history - the Communist Manifesto.

In June 1847, at a congress in London convened by a German radical group calling themselves the League of the Just, Engels persuades the delegates that they need a new name and new statutes. The chosen name is the Communist League, and the new statutes turn out to be much more uncompromising than anything heard from utopian communists such as Owen or Fourier.

In their opening statement the statutes of the Communist League boldly declare: 'The aim of the League is the downfall of the bourgeoisie and the ascendancy of the proletariat, the abolition of the old society based on class conflicts and the foundation of a new society without classes and without private property.' Soon a pamphlet is on sale in Drury Lane, aimed at German workers in London and headed with a new slogan: 'Workers of the world, unite!'

The League decides that a full manifesto of its aims is needed. The task is entrusted to Marx and Engels. They work on the document in December and January and it is printed in Paris in February 1848.

The timing could not be more fortuitous. Europe's most active year of revolutions is just beginning. The ruling classes everywhere are profoundly alarmed by the sudden and violent turn of events. Any among them who happen to read the Communist Manifesto can only have their worst fears confirmed by what is undoubtedly, from their point of view, a terrifying document. It is also one which is written with extraordinary brilliance and verve.

The manifesto begins with a now famous sentence: 'A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of communism.' There follows a clear account of historical materialism and of the class struggle, ending with a concise conclusion which must leap off the page for any bourgeois reader.

'The theory of the communists may be summed up in the single phrase: abolition of private property.' This stark statement is followed by two pages analysing the various objections made to such a programme. They all derive, the authors argue, not from any concept of justice but from self-interest. Again, there is a blunt summing up. 'You reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend.'

The document is uncompromisingly bleak when it describes the proposed future. All wealth and control will be in the hands of the state, with power to direct everyone's labour through the 'establishment of industrial armies' for all kinds of work including agriculture.

There follows a review of other socialist movements, all of which are dismissed as unscientific for going against the tide of historical materialism. The followers of Owen and Fourier in particular are dismissed as reactionaries, attempting to create 'social utopias ... duodecimo editions of the New Jerusalem'.

The authors rise to a superb clarion call at the end, with a deliberate echo of Fourier: 'Let the ruling classes tremble at a communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of the world, unite!'

A large proportion of Marxist theory is already present in this brief and easily comprehensible document. It provides, as its authors intend, a practical blueprint for revolution - but also, in its endorsement of rigorous state control, an easy justification for totalitarianism.

Marx joins with gusto in the revolutionary ferment of 1848, returning to Germany to edit a radical newspaper. But when the tide of reaction turns, in 1849, he is expelled. He settles now in tolerant London, where he spends the rest of his life researching and writing. His only subsequent involvement in practical politics is his role in the International from 1864.

Das Kapital and the International: AD 1864-1872

Marx's reputation as the leading theorist of communism continues to grow during his years in London, as he develops and expands on the ideas already sketched in the the Communist Manifesto.

Zur Kritik des politischen Ökonomie (Critique of Political Economy, 1859), a short work dealing with goods and money, is a first instalment of the material ready to be sent to Hamburg for publication in 1867 as Das Kapital ('Capital'). (This, in turn, is announced merely as volume 1 of a larger work; volumes 2 and 3 of Das Kapital are edited by Engels from Marx's notes, after his death, for publication in 1885 and 1894.)

In 1864 a gathering of workers' organizations assembles in London. Though he has nothing to do with planning the event, Marx is naturally invited to attend. The meeting resolves to establish an International Workingmen's Association. Marx is one of fifty-five people elected to form a general council, and he rapidly emerges as the association's leader.

The First International, as it later becomes known, is the first centralized body attempting to guide and control the struggle to emancipate the working class. It aquires an increasing number of branches in the industrial cities of Europe, and busies itself with co-ordinating the political activities of its members.

Strikes are its main weapon. Advice and organisational assistance is sent to strikers; successful measures are taken to prevent employers bringing in strike-breakers from other countries; sometimes the mere news that the International is taking an active interest in a particular strike can influence an employer to come to an agreement with his workers.

The affairs of the International are conducted through weekly meetings of the general council in London, but the supreme body is a congress held annually in one of the few European cities where free speech prevails.

The first congresses are held in Geneva (1866), Lausanne (1867), Brussels (1868) and Basel (1869). There is then a gap, caused by the Franco-prussian war of 1870-1.

The sequel to this war, the Paris commune, causes difficulties for the International. It is clearly an example of communism in action, yet it is also an isolated event which fulfils none of Marx's necessary conditions for a successul proletarian revolution. The International sends an address to the Paris workers, drafted by Marx, urging them not to undertake revolutionary action.

In the event some members of the Paris section of the International serve in the commune as individuals. But even without this link, Europe's rulers are bound to associate this extremist left-wing event with the most famous of left-wing organizations.

In 1871 Bismarck attempts to persuade all the European powers to follow the example of Germany, where mere membership of the International is high treason. The scheme founders when the British government refuses to ban the weekly meetings of its general council or to expel the foreign members, including Marx, who are living in London.

But the International by now has its own internal problems, in the proliferation of mutually hostile sects - a development which often cripples radical organizations. The most bitter split is between Marx himself and Mikhail Bakunin, a Russian revolutionary whose aim is to achieve world-wide anarchy. Bakunin (who with some prescience argues that Marxism will lead to 'official democracy and red bureaucracy') attempts to take over the International by forming a secret anarchist cell within it.

At the congress in the Hague in 1872 the International splits into two camps, the followers of Marx and of Bakunin. Both halves continue independently for some years. But this first agency of international socialism has now lost its authority.

National parties and Second International: AD 1875-1889

In the years following the split of the First International, socialists everywhere in Europe concentrate their energies on national political parties. The first initiatives come from the most radical nationality, the Germans. A Social Democratic Party is founded in Germany in 1875, though its activities are severely curtailed by an Anti-Socialist Law introduced by Bismarck in 1878. German immigrants to the United States are the driving force of the Socialist Labor Party established there in 1877.

By 1880 there are political parties in the Netherlands, Denmark, France and Spain all of which have the words 'social' or 'labour' in their titles.

By 1889 these parties have been joined by others in Britain, Belgium, Norway, Switzerland, Austria and Sweden. In that year the national parties convene a congress in Paris, where they resolve to establish a Second International. Unlike the first, it claims no direct authority over its members. However its deliberations, in congresses held every three or four years, are accepted as the highest public forum of the socialist movement.

The majority of the national parties at this stage are broadly Marxist in their approach, though frequent splinter groups elect to go their own way.

In the long term the most significant difference of opinion in the socialist movement, in the years around the turn of the century, is between those who believe that socialism can be achieved in a gradual evolutionary process and, in opposition to them, the strict followers of Marx who insist that the prize must be won in a sudden and violent act of revolution.

From this split comes the eventual division of the socialist movement into two incompatible 20th-century branches: the social democrats who become a major force in western democracies; and the Communists, for more than half a century the only political party in the eastern bloc. The paths diverge first in Britain and in Russia.

The emergence of British socialism: AD 1881-1905

Britain acquires its own proto-Marxist party in 1881, when Henry Hyndman forms a Democratic Federation in London. In 1884 the group adopts a fully Marxist programme and changes its name to the Social Democratic Federation.

In that year, a significant one for British socialism, the new Federation suffers its first split when Engels encourages William Morris and others to break away and form an independent Socialist League. But far more important in the long run is a quite separate event of 1884. A group of intellectuals forms the Fabian Society, with the express purpose of working towards a democratic socialist state.

The Fabian Society's name indicates how far its intentions divert from Marx's policy of sudden revolution. It commemorates Fabius cunctator, the Roman general who weakened Hannibal by a campaign of slow attrition. This approach is described in 1884 in one of the society's first pamphlets, entitled simply Manifesto and written by George Bernard Shaw. Other influential figures are the tireless left-wing couple Beatrice and Sidney Webb.

In 1889 the society publishes Fabian Essays in Socialism, edited by Shaw. Fabian policies by now influence many in left-wing British politics, including a trades union activist, James Keir Hardie, who has recently founded Britain's first labour party.

Hardie, who has gone down the mines in Lanarkshire at the age of ten, travels round Scotland from 1878 trying to organize a miners' union. In 1888 he founds the Scottish Labour Party. He has no electoral success in Scotland, but in 1892 he wins a seat in London as an independent Labour candidate.

In 1893 an Independent Labour Party is formed with Hardie as chairman. In 1900, at a congress of trades unions, this is expanded into a Labour Representation Committee. And in 1905, in preparation for a general Election in 1906, the name is changed to the Labour Party. The party's candidates win twenty-nine seats. Labour is for the first time a democratic power to be reckoned with.

The electoral success in 1906 of the British Labour party is a significant step in the 20th-century split between Socialism (in the western sense) and Communism. Once it is evident that political progress can be made by these means, the socialist parties of the west commit themselves to parliamentary democracy and to a modified version of Marxist economics. They aim to nationalize the 'commanding heights' of the economy, but not to abolish private property in its entirety.

The fully Marxist programme achieves its first success in Russia, where in this same period of 1905-6 there is a dramatic outburst of revolutionary activity. But the roots of radical Russian politics go back much further.

Radical Russia

Radicals in and out of Russia: AD 1835-1902

The careers of Russian revolutionaries, under close observation by the tsar's secret police, follow a predictable pattern. In early life there are spells of enforced exile in central Asia or Siberia. Later, prudence suggests the need for voluntary exile abroad. In some foreign land, more liberal in its laws, the influential rebel writes inflammatory material to be smuggled back into Russia.

An early example is Alexander Herzen. Arrested soon after leaving Moscow university, he is exiled in 1835 to the Urals.

From 1847 Herzen lives abroad, in Paris until the collapse of the Second french republic in 1852, then in London and from 1868 in Geneva. For eight years, from 1857, he writes and prints a newspaper (Kolokol, The Bell) which is widely but secretly read in radical circles in Russia.

Geneva is also the base for a group of Russian exiles who in 1883 establish Liberation of Labour, a movement with principles more specifically Marxist than Herzen's. Their aim is to educate Russian revolutionaries in the principles of Marxism. In 1895 they are visited in Geneva by a young enthusiast, Vladmir Ilyich Ulyanov - known to history as Lenin.

Lenin has a family link with revolution. Eight years earlier his brother Alexander, while still a student, was involved in a narodnaya volya plot to assassinate Alexander III and was executed. Now Lenin, more practical a politician than his brother, returns from Geneva to become one of the founders in St Petersburg of the Union for the Struggle of the Liberation of the Working Class.

He is soon arrested, imprisoned for a little more than a year, and then exiled to Siberia from 1897 to 1900. Trotsky, Lenin's junior by nine years, is also separately in exile in Siberia from 1898 to 1900.

Both Lenin and Trotsky are absent, therefore, when radical groups from several cities gather in Minsk in 1898 to form the Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party. This is later seen as the founding event of the Russian Communist party, but it has little immediate effect. All its leading members are soon tracked down by the police and arrested.

In July 1900 Lenin leaves Russia with the intention of publishing a newspaper abroad for circulation in Russian cities. Under the title Iskra (The Spark), it becomes the organ through which Lenin makes himself the centre of an influential party. Trotsky joins him on the staff of Iskra in 1902.

Bolsheviks and Mensheviks: AD 1903

In 1903 the Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party assembles at a congress in Brussels, and then moves under police pressure to London. Lenin and Trotsky are both present. It is evident that their journalism has borne fruit - nearly all the delegates declare themselves in agreement with the policies of Iskra.

Nevertheless one significant split emerges, on the issue of membership of the party. Lenin and the majority want it limited to activists. A minority, which at this stage includes Trotsky, would prefer to involve a broader range of supporters. The issue, with its implications of purity versus compromise, grows subsequently into a significant split.

The two groups within the party derive their names from this London disagreement. Those who agree with Lenin and the majority become known as the Bolsheviks (from bolshoi, meaning 'large'); the minority are correspondingly the Mensheviks (menshe, smaller).

By 1917 the disagreement between the two factions reaches the level of armed warfare, but even as early as 1905 they are so estranged that they hold their congress in separate places - the Bolsheviks in London and the Mensheviks in Geneva. In that year revolution suddenly erupts in Russia, but not as a result of Bolshevik or Menshevik prompting. It is more a spontaneous series of events, aggravated by Russia's disastrous showing in her far-eastern War against japan.

The revolution of 1905

The political situation steadily deteriorates in Russia during 1905. The year has begun with one of the most shattering days in Russian history, the day known ever afterwards simply as Bloody Sunday.

A priest, Father Gapon, has been organizing a great demonstration for Sunday, January 9 (Ns/new style Jan. 22), in St Petersburg. The intention is to converge on the Winter Palace to present a petition to the tsar (who in fact is away for the weekend in his country retreat of Tsarskoe Selo), begging him to redress the sufferings of his people. The tone of the petition is desperate but respectful, assuming - as most in the crowd no doubt still believe - that the tsar is a benevolent ruler let down by his brutal minions.

The occasion has an essentially religious flavour. The demonstrators gather in churches round the city, soon after dawn, to pray for a peaceful day. Then about 150,000 set off in columns, many bearing icons, to converge on the palace. But the prayers for peace are unlikely to be answered. Father Gapon has been ordered, two days previously, to call off the demonstration. 120,000 troops have been moved into the city overnight.

During Sunday morning the troops disperse many of the individual columns of marchers, with violence and many casualties. Even so, a crowd of some 60,000 manages to assemble on the open space in front of the Winter Palace.

The demonstration ends in blood and chaos when troops open fire to disperse this crowd. The number of deaths is probably about 200, with another 800 wounded. The event is sufficiently shocking to become seared in the Russian consciousness, transforming for many a sense of patient suffering into one of burning anger. But it also sets off a wave of rebellion throughout the Russian empire.

In the following weeks hundreds of thousands of workers go on strike. Peasants riot and burn their lords' manors (troops are used to put down peasant uprisings nearly 3000 times during 1905). Nationalist minorities join in the unrest. Russian troops kill seventy demonstrators in Latvia, and ninety-three in the streets of Warsaw.

Discontent spreads to the troops themselves (aggravated by the shaming news of Mukden and Ns/new style in the war against Japan). In the early summer there are several minor mutinies, followed in June by the most damaging incident of the year since Bloody Sunday. It happens in the Black Sea.

On June 14 (Ns/new style June 27) the crew of the battleship Potemkin complain to the captain about maggots in their meat. His response is to have their spokesman, Vakulenchuk, shot on deck. The crew riot, murder seven officers, raise the red flag and sail the ship overnight to Odessa where the workers have been on strike for two weeks. They place Vakulenchuk's body with a guard of honour at the foot of the marble steps leading from the harbour up into the city.

On the next day thousands gather to place wreaths at this impromptu shrine. Troops, ordered to clear the crowd, fire indiscriminately from the steps into the packed space below. The scale of the disaster dwarfs even Bloody Sunday. The deaths number about 2000, the wounded 3000.

The situation by now looks so promising that the revolutionary exiles begin to slip back into Russia in disguise. Trotsky is the first. Pretending to be a patient in an eye hospital, he writes a stream of revolutionary tracts from his bed. But by October he is taking an active part in the first of Russia's soviets.

The soviets of 1905

The word soviet is Russian for 'council'. Its significance in 20th-century Russian history begins in October 1905 in St Petersburg, where striking metalworkers organize a Soviet of Workers' Deputies. It is an executive committee consisting of fifty elected members, including a quota of seven each for the Bolsheviks and the mensheviks.

This spontaneous action by the workers is closer to the Menshevik philosophy (the Bolsheviks being suspicious of anything not organized by themselves), and Trotsky is involved from the start as a Menshevik member. When the first chairman of the soviet is arrested in November, Trotsky is elected in his place.

The Petersburg Soviet takes over many of the functions of government on behalf of the workers. It organizes the strikes, controls a workers' militia, oversees the distribution of food, and disseminates information and policy through its own newspaper, Izvestiya, in which the editorials are mainly by Trotsky.

The pioneering example of St Petersburg inspires the establishment of soviets in some fifty other Russian cities during the autumn of 1905. By the end of the year, when the tsarist government has re-established control, the soviets are suppressed and their leaders arrested. But they have provided a vivid model which proves easy to revive In 1917.


The Bolsheviks: March-July 1917

When the Russian imperial regime is suddenly toppled, in March 1917, none of Russia's leading Marxists are in the country - and all are taken completely by surprise by this turn of events. Lenin and his entourage are in Zurich, Trotsky is in New York.

Both realize that this is the moment to hurry home. Trotsky crosses the Atlantic to London, where he is briefly detained by the authorities before continuing his journey. Lenin faces an apparently greater problem. The German and Austrian empires, at war with his country, lie between him and Russia. But this proves to be a help rather than a hindrance. The German authorities, well aware of the damage that Lenin's presence will do to the Russian war effort, are keen to facilitate his journey.

A German engine, pulling a single carriage, is made available to him at the Swiss border. He and his colleagues travel via Frankfurt and Berlin to the Baltic coast (all customs formalities are waived). From the coast they cross to Stockholm and then on to Petrograd. When Lenin arrives at the capital city's Finland Station on 3 April 1917 (NS Apr. 16), it is the first time he has set foot in his native country since 1906.

He thus knows nothing from personal experience of conditions in Russia, where the recent uprising has confounded the Marxist theory that a bourgeois revolution must precede the inevitable next stage of proletarian rule. But on the train Lenin has been busily revising theory, writing his so-called April Theses.

Lenin receives a hero's welcome at the Finland Station. He immediately sets about trying to convince his colleagues of his new programme. In accordance with Marxist theory, the leaders of the Petrograd Soviet have been prepared to cooperate with the Provisional Government precisely because they see February 1917 as the bourgeois revolution which must succeed before they can have their turn.

Lenin, expounding his April Theses to stunned and at first hostile audiences, argues that the chance now exists for the proletariat and peasantry to seize power directly. He advocates three main policies. The first two are precisely what the people in Russia most want to hear - an immediate end to the war and redistribution of land to the peasants. Any party advocating these policies will win support.

Lenin's third main point is a practical one. The party should strengthen the soviets throughout the country, building an organization of soldiers, workers and peasants which will be ready to challenge the Provisional Government and seize power when the moment comes.

In the eyes of many enthusiasts the moment seems to come, almost accidentally, before the summer is out. The events of July 1917 bring so many armed rebels on to the streets of Petrograd that it would be easy to overwhelm the Provisional Government. But Lenin and Trotsky, taken again by surprise, make the snap decision that the moment is not yet. Victory in Petrograd would not be followed by similar success elsewhere. Like Marx in 1871, they find themselves in the surprising position of discouraging a revolution.

Kerensky: July-October 1917

After the narrowly averted Crisis of july 4 (Ns/new style July 17), the government's first reaction is to arrest the Bolshevik leaders and charge them with high treason. Trotsky and others are imprisoned in the Peter and Paul fortress. Lenin flees in disguise to Finland.

With this done, the gentle and ineffectual Prince Lvov steps down, with some relief, as head of the Provisional Government. He nominates Alexander Kerensky as prime minister in his place. It is a popular choice. Kerensky, serving as minister of war, has been the only politician in the government with a foot in both camps. He is an elected member of the Duma but serves also on the committee of the Petrograd Soviet.

An excellent orator, and an assiduous promoter of the cult of his own personality, Kerensky seems the man to hold together the two extremes of Russian politics. But he contrives to enrage both factions.

To persuade the right-wing party, the Kadets, to enter his new coalition, he limits the influence of the Petrograd Soviet in the Provisional Government - and thus alienates his socialist colleagues. But he then causes outrage in right-wing circles by dismissing the commander-in-chief of the army, Lavr Georgyevich Kornilov, whom he suspects of planning a coup d'état against the Provisional Government. Kornilov's response is to send troops to Petrograd with the stated intention of curtailing the power of the Soviet.

But the troops have no desire to fight their countrymen. Reaching the suburbs of the capital at the end of August, they are met by Soviet leaders urging them to lay down their arms. They do so without a shot being fired.

This damp squib of a confrontation benefits neither of the main contenders. The right wing loses (Kornilov is arrested and imprisoned) but so does Kerenksy's bloc of moderate Socialists, whose Provisional Government is clearly not in effective control. The winners are the outsiders, the Petrograd Soviet and more particularly the Bolsheviks - the only group which can rally the brute force to back up the people's demands. The Bolsheviks have lost popularity since the disappointment of July 4. With the Kornilov revolt their fortunes take an upward turn.

The polarization of Russian politics in these months is reflected in elections to the Duma. In June the Bolsheviks polled just 11% of the votes in Moscow; in September the figure rises to a majority of the votes cast, with 51% of the poll. Simultaneously the vote for the right-wing Kadets almost doubles, from 17% to 31%. The previous majority vote, for the moderate socialist parties, crumbles from 68% to 18%.

Meanwhile, as Kerensky indulges his folie de grandeur (he moves into the imperial suite in the Winter Palace, sleeps in the tsar's vast bed, has the red flag run up and down as he comes and goes, and is even fond of assuming Napoleonic poses), the situation in the country has been going from bad to worse.

In August the Germans have taken Riga, the capital of Latvia on the Baltic coast, from which it seems a distinct possibility that they will be able to strike at Petrograd itself. In the capital the Soviet, far from being diminished, is becoming more confident and aggressive.

Until now the Petrograd Soviet has been controlled by moderate socialists, including the Mensheviks - the party of which Trotsky was a member until persuaded by Lenin's April Theses to throw in his hand with the Bolsheviks. Now, released from prison in September, Trotsky stages a coup in the Soviet which results in a Bolshevik majority on the executive with himself as chairman. In the preceding weeks the Soviets in many Russian cities, including Moscow, have similarly fallen into Bolshevik hands.

The Bolsheviks have made little secret of their plans for seizing power, but Kerensky - with sublime but misplaced confidence - considers that any attempt is likely to be as feeble as the failed uprising of July. He even claims to look forward to such an event, as giving him a chance to crush the Bolsheviks once and for all. Indeed he appears deliberately to provoke this outcome when, in October, he announces plans to transfer the Petrograd garrison to the front - to forestall the danger of a German advance along the coast to Petrograd.

A similar order provoked the July uprising. It now, once again, has the same result.

The October Revolution: AD 1917

The Bolshevik leader most wanted by the police has been Lenin. He has escaped arrest in July by fleeing to Finland. But with the upturn of the fortunes of the Bolsheviks he decides that he must return to Petrograd. In early October he slips into the city, wearing a wig to cover his distinctive bald pate. He hides in the flat of a party worker, Margarita Fofanova.

On October 10 (Ns/new style October 23) he presides over a secret meeting of the central committee of the Bolshevik party. Here a fateful decision is taken. Lenin persuades a majority of those comrades who are present to vote for his own policy. They decide in favour of an armed insurrection - though without specifying as yet any intended date.

Lenin has a personal reason for urgency. The second All-Russian Soviet Congress is due to meet in Petrograd on October 20 (Ns/new style Nov. 2). If the uprising takes place after that date, with the backing of the Congress, any future government will have to include all the Socialist parties. But if the Bolsheviks can achieve it in advance of the Congress, on their own, Lenin may have a chance of achieving the one-party government necessary for his revolution.

Trotsky, as chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, contrives to set up a Military Revolutionary Committee (MRC). Ostensibly representing the entire Soviet, and supposedly a defensive organization against both the Germans and the counter-revolution, it is packed with Bolshevik members. It now prepares actively for the uprising.

The Soviet leaders, well aware of the Bolsheviks' barely kept secret, postpone the Congress by five days to give themselves time to rally their opposing forces. But the delay also gives the Bolsheviks valuable extra time to prepare their coup.

The Bolsheviks win the race by a matter of hours, greatly helped by Kerensky's decision to send the Petrograd garrison to the front. This order provokes a mutiny. The soldiers transfer their allegiance to the Ns/new style, which by October 21 (Ns/new style Nov. 3) has control of the garrison. Two days later the Peter and Paul fortress, with its ramparts and cannon overlooking the Winter Palace, is in Ns/new style hands.

Petrograd is now under the military control of the Bolsheviks, but Lenin (still in hiding) is in a minority in arguing for immediate action. Meanwhile, as in early July, the streets are filling with angry soldiers and workers. Desperate not to miss the opportunity, at 10 pm on October 24 (Ns/new style Nov. 6), Lenin hurries through the streets, in disguise, to party headquarters. Here he persuades the central committee to order an immediate insurrection.

Thanks to Soviet propaganda, and Eisenstein's film Ten Days That Shook the World), the events of the next 24 hours have become enshrined in popular myth as a glamorous popular uprising. In fact the storming of the Winter Palace is a chaotically executed coup against a regime with no strength to resist.

The cannon in the Peter and Paul fortress turn out to be rusty museum pieces, incapable of firing. When replacements are found, their shells are of the wrong size. In the event the most impressive explosion is the blast from a blank shell fired from the cruiser Aurora on the Neva river.

Nevertheless during October 25 (Ns/new style Nov.7) there is a large build-up of Bolshevik soldiers and sailors on the square in front of the Winter Palace, inside which the ministers of the Provisional Government are trapped. Spraying the building with machine gun and rifle bullets, the Bolsheviks greatly outnumber the small detachment within. At about 2 am in the morning of October 26 they are able to rush into the building unopposed.

The rebels are furious to discover that Kerensky has made his escape (he lives abroad until his death in 1970), but the rest of the ministers are bundled off to the Peter and Paul fortress.

While these events are taking place, the delegates to the Soviet Congress are assembling to begin their first session at 10 pm. Although this is four hours before the Winter Palace falls, the Bolsheviks successfully contrive to present the uprising as a fait accompli. Lenin's first purpose has been achieved. His next and more difficult task is to outmanoeuvre his Socialist colleagues in seizing the power which has this night been forcibly relinquished by the Provisional Government.

Bolshevik political strategy: AD 1917

In the Soviet Congress which assembles during the night of October 25 (NS Nov. 7) the Bolsheviks have the largest number of delegates (300 out of 670) but they are not a majority. They will find it hard to overturn the first resolution of the assembly, passed unanimously, which proposes a united democratic government including all the Socialist parties. But in this crucial meeting, shaping the future of Russia, they are helped by a short-sighted act of petulance by two of their rival parties.

A large number of Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary delegates storm out of the hall, protesting that they will have nothing to do with the day's criminal acts of violence which, they rightly argue, are well calculated to provoke a Civil war.

With the opposition thus diminished, and with a golden chance to smear the two rival parties as counter-revolutionary, Lenin and Trotsky are able to achieve their purpose of forming a revolutionary government which purports to represent the Soviet but has only Bolshevik members. It is to be called the Soviet of People's Commissars.

The new government wastes no time. On October 26 (Ns/new style Nov. 8) Lenin presents to the Congress two bills fulfilling the main planks of the Bolshevik platform. The first, his Decree of Peace, invites Russia's enemies to enter into immediate peace negotiations (thus beginning a process in which the weakness of Russia's position leads to the humiliating treaty of Brest-litovsk in March 1918).

Many in Russia have longed for peace at almost any price but Lenin's second bill, his Decree on Land, is even more what the vast majority of the nation have been waiting to hear. All the vast estates of the imperial family, the church, the monasteries and the large landowners are to be expropriated without compensation, and the land is to be distributed to the peasants.

The Bolsheviks encourage village communes all over the nation to get on with this enticing programme, thus unleashing an ongoing revolution which it will be their political task to control. And they do the same in other contexts, giving local power to factory workers and soldiers' committees. The resulting chaos can be expected to hamper any coherent reistance by landowners, capitalists or generals.

The seizing of secure political power at the centre is certain to be a hard task (the rival socialist parties assume it to be impossible, confidently expecting the imminent collapse of the Bolshevik regime) and it is made more difficult by the non-cooperation of the civil service. The Russian state bank, for example, refuses to provide cash for what it considers an illegal regime - a situation only resolved when the Bolsheviks raid the bank like armed robbers, using guns to force the employees to unlock the vaults. Five million roubles are carted off to Lenin's office.

The political infighting to secure the Bolshevik position is carried out with equal ruthlessness. It is a process for which Lenin has an exceptional talent.

The Constituent Assembly: AD 1917-1918

The main political threat to the Bolsheviks lies in the proposed Constituent Assembly, seen by all the moderate socialists as Russia's democratic baptism. The Bolsheviks have criticized the Provisional government for not delivering this first freely elected assembly. Much as Lenin would now like to suppress the proposal for an assembly, it is impolitic to do so.

In the run up to polling, due to begin on 12 November 1917 (NS Nov. 25), outrage is caused when the opposition press is banned, editors are arrested and printing machinery is smashed by Bolshevik gangs. Even so the Socialist Revolutionary party win 419 seats to only 168 for the Bolsheviks (with a mere 18 seats for the Mensheviks).

Lenin has the gall to declare that the results are invalid on two counts - because he finds evidence of electoral malpractice in certain rural areas, and because the election has been held before the peasantry has had time to realize the significance of the October revolution. But in practical terms the immediate task is to deny any power to the forthcoming assembly.

Lenin's first step, on November 20 (Ns/new style Dec.3), is to postpone indefinitely the first meeting of the elected delegates, which had been due in eight days' time. The resulting march of protest is followed by the arrest of many of the leaders of the other three main parties, and the banning of the only non-socialist party, the Kadets.

By the end of December criminals are being released from prison to make way for the increasing number of political detainees. And a sinister new body has been formed to deal with such matters. Known at this time as the Cheka (its full title is translated as the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Struggle against Counter-Revolution and Sabotage), it later acquires a more familiar name as the KGB. A tsarist police state is being very rapidly transformed into a communist one.

By now Lenin is arguing, in a new set of Theses, that any 'bourgeois-democratic' assembly has become irrelevant, because power has passed to the Soviets, the representatives of the people. Yet the assembly now has a date for its first sitting - 5 January 1918 (NS Jan. 18).

To coincide with this important event a demonstration is organized by the Union for the Defence of the Constituent Assembly. About 30,000 people march peacefully towards the assembly building, the Tauride Palace. Unlike earlier gatherings of this kind in St Petersburg, they do not find themselves confronted by ranks of troops. Instead they are suddenly fired upon by hidden Bolshevik machine-gunners, concealed among the rooftops. At least ten people are killed.

The assembly opens at 4 pm, with delegates angry and distressed at the day's events. Bolshevik soldiers are in the hall, drinking vodka, yelling abuse, drowning out the words of opposition speakers.

A Bolshevik speaker puts before the assembly a Declaration of Rights of the Working People. When a majority of the deputies reject the document, the Bolshevik contingent marches out of the hall. Lenin then declares that the assembly will be dismissed because it has fallen into the hands of counter-revolutionaries. The debate is allowed to continue until 4.40 am the next morning, when the troops guarding the building bring it to a close on the grounds that they are tired. Deputies returning the next day are refused admission. They are given the text of a decree declaring the assembly dissolved.

Russia's first brief experience of democracy has come to an abrupt end. But Lenin's revolution still has plenty of trouble on its hands outside the hothouse of Petrograd.

A Bolshevik speaker puts before the assembly a Declaration of Rights of the Working People. When a majority of the deputies reject the document, the Bolshevik contingent marches out of the hall. Lenin then declares that the assembly will be dismissed because it has fallen into the hands of counter-revolutionaries. The debate is allowed to continue until 4.40 am the next morning, when the troops guarding the building bring it to a close on the grounds that they are tired. Deputies returning the next day are refused admission. They are given the text of a decree declaring the assembly dissolved.

Russia's first brief experience of democracy has come to an abrupt end.


Securing power: AD 1918-1921

Lenin is swift in the steps taken to establish the Bolshevik party as the unmistakable (and soon to be unremovable) government of Russia.

In a definitive break with the recent past he moves the seat of government, on 10 March 1918, from Petrograd to Moscow. The centre of power is now back in the historic heart of the country, once again associated with the forbidding walls of the Kremlin. In the same month the Bolsheviks adopt a more national profile, changing their name to the Russian Communist Party. And as a gesture of modernity these days and months are now the same as those used by the rest of the world. From midnight on 31 January 1918 Lenin converts Russia to the Gregorian calendar. The next day is declared to be February 14.

These are symbolic changes. The practical imposition of Communist power throughout Russia is a harder task, but Lenin seems to relish the prospect of using the techniques of a police state to impose control through terror. He believes passionately in the need for the Dictatorship of the proletariat (albeit only as a stage in the progress towards a Communist utopia in which there is no need for government), and he is in no way averse to all the techniques of repression and cruelty invariably associated with dictatorship.

One might expect the imposition of the Communist dictatorship to be delayed or modified by the urgent need to fight a civil war. But if anything the war helps Lenin's cause

Trotsky, a man with a genius for organization, is put in charge of building up the Red Army. He does this with great efficiency. The more intelligent peasants, conscripted from the villages, become a valuable source of political activists. Educated by the army, they find in party membership their escape from the bleak life of rural poverty.

Meanwhile the demands of the civil war give the party an excuse to impose centralized control in what becomes known as War Communism. Food is forcibly collected for government distribution in the battle for grain waged against reluctant peasants by thuggish Food Brigades. Market trading of any kind is suppressed. And the management of factories is placed under Communist control.

This campaign, the world's first imposition of the managed economy which subsequently characterizes all Communist states, provokes profound opposition among peasants and workers alike. From the summer of 1918 there is increasing unrest, both in farms and factories. But it is not until after 1920, when the Whites have been defeated in the civil war, that the full extent of popular unrest is evident. There is widespread demand for the revival of the local Soviets, the form of grassroots democracy which was the common cause of the majority in 1917.

The spring of 1921 confronts Lenin with his gravest crisis, as furious peasants and workers resort to violence.

All over the country Communist officials and soldiers are attacked in rural areas, often with incredible savagery, as peasant armies carry out ruthless guerrilla warfare (reprisals are no less brutal). A rash of strikes sweeps through the cities, beginning in Moscow in February 1921. At the end of the same month there is a mutiny by the sailors in the Kronstadt naval base near Petrograd. Their demands include free elections.

With every likelihood of the mutiny spreading to other garrisons, Lenin takes decisive action. On March 16 a massive attack is launched on the naval base, with artillery fire, aerial bombing and an assault across the ice by 50,000 Red Army troops. By the following day 10,000 Red Army troops are dead, but the mutiny is over (some 2500 rebels are subsequently shot without trial).

At this defining moment of Communist ruthlessness, the Tenth Party Congress is taking place in Moscow. Lenin uses the crisis of the mutiny to press home his advantage.

A pressure group within the party, calling itself the Workers' Opposition, is arguing for trades union rights. Lenin moves a motion condemning them and receives a massive majority. He then goes further. He succeeds in passing a resolution which bans the formation of factions within the party. Henceforth decisions of the Central Committee may be criticized, but only by individuals. So, from March 1921, the control of the Central Committee over the Communist party is as secure as the control of the Communist party over the nation.

New Economic Policy: AD 1921

Though inflexible on any topic affecting the power of the Communist party, Lenin is prepared to yield on other issues. Acknowledging that the attempt to requisition the peasants' entire harvest has been a disaster (corn is successfully hidden, fewer fields are planted, resentment is extreme), he persuades the Tenth Party Congress to vote for a U-turn. In what becomes known as the New Economic Policy (NEP), peasants are to be allowed to keep the surplus of their product after a tax in kind has been paid to the state. At the same time the ban on markets is lifted.

A vigorous rural trade revives at astonishing speed (though it also brings with it a rash of profiteers, much resented as Nepmen - from the initials of the New Economic Policy).

While this measure goes a long way towards appeasing the rural districts, those peasants actively involved in revolts are suppressed without mercy by the Red Army during the summer of 1921. Artillery, armoured cars, bombers and even poison gas are used in the campaign. Many of the captured are shot. Others (about 50,000) are herded into the first specially constructed concentration camps of the Soviet Union.

Lenin takes this opportunity to remove any further threat from the rival socialist parties, the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, many of whom have supported the peasants. Some 500 Mensheviks are arrested during 1921. In show trials in the following year all members of the SR party are branded 'enemies of the people'.

While this measure goes a long way towards appeasing the rural districts, those peasants actively involved in revolts are suppressed without mercy by the Red Army during the summer of 1921. Artillery, armoured cars, bombers and even poison gas are used in the campaign. Many of the captured are shot. Others (about 50,000) are herded into the first specially constructed concentration camps of the Soviet Union.

Lenin takes this opportunity to remove any further threat from the rival socialist parties, the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, many of whom have supported the peasants. Some 500 Mensheviks are arrested during 1921. In show trials in the following year all members of the SR party are branded 'enemies of the people'.

The union of republics: AD 1923

Immediately after the October revolution the heart of the Russian empire (from Petrograd and Moscow through Siberia to the Pacific coast) is given a new name - the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. The hint of federalism is a way of accomodating the nationalist aspirations of the many minorities in this vast swathe of land. It does not imply any intention of relaxing control from the centre, which by 1921 is absolute.

During the course of the civil war various regions outside this central bloc (Ukraine, Belorussia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan) fall under the control of Communist governments, secured by the local power of the Red Army.

It is a natural next step to bring these regions into a closer relationship with Moscow. Early in 1922 Joseph Stalin, the general secretary of the Communist party, is given the task of drawing up a plan of federation. He brings together the first Congress of Soviets in Moscow in December of the same year. On December 30 the soviet republics of Russia, Belarus, the Ukraine and the Transcaucasian Federation agree to form a closer union. The following summer a constitution is established for a new state, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The USSR officially comes into being on 6 July 1923.

The constitution gives each republic the right to secede, but this is somewhat notional since each is governed by the same Communist party with its headquarters in Moscow. The political monolith which remains intact for nearly seventy years is now in place.

But at the same time the new state, born of violent revolution, begins to achieve international acceptance. A turning point is a Russian famine in the summer of 1921, the result of crop failure aggravated by Communist policies. Some 20 million people are threatened with starvation, prompting a massive international aid effort spearheaded by the USA.

With this first international contact, a pariah state starts to edge back into the fold. There are the beginnings of foreign trade. In 1922 Germany re-establishes full diplomatic relations and by the end of 1924 most other European countries have recognized the USSR. But by this time the Russian leadership has had to cope with a new crisis.

But at the same time the new state, born of violent revolution, begins to achieve international acceptance. A turning point is a Russian famine in the summer of 1921, the result of crop failure aggravated by Communist policies. Some 20 million people are threatened with starvation, prompting a massive international aid effort spearheaded by the USA.

With this first international contact, a pariah state starts to edge back into the fold. There are the beginnings of foreign trade. In 1922 Germany re-establishes full diplomatic relations and by the end of 1924 most other European countries have recognized the USSR. But by this time the Russian leadership has had to cope with a new crisis.

The rise of Stalin: AD1921-1924

Since the October revolution in 1917 the leadership of the Communist party, and thus of the nation, has been unmistakably in the hands of one man. While Trotsky has been an extremely able assistant, the ruthless securing of the revolution has been Lenin's achievement. But the unremitting work load takes its toll. In May 1922 he has a stroke. Not till October does he get back into his office. Just two months later a second stroke paralyzes his right side. He survives, an incapacitated invalid, for another year, dying in January 1924.

Trotsky has long been his obvious successor. But in April 1922, just a month before his first stroke, Lenin introduces a dark horse to the race.

Joseph Stalin, a committed Bolshevik from his early twenties and a passionate supporter of Lenin, has been in the inner circle of the party since the revolution. But the real growth of his power begins in April 1922 when Lenin creates a new post for him - General Secretary of the Communist Party.

In this position Stalin has direct control over party appointments. It gives him the perfect chance to prepare for the coming struggle after Lenin falls ill in May. During the remainder of 1922 Stalin appoints some 10,000 of his own supporters as provincial officials. When Lenin gets back to work in September, he finds that Russia is effectively ruled by a triumvirate of Stalin, Lev Kamenev and Grigorii Zinoviev.

The three are united in their hatred of Trotsky, widely seen as a detached and arrogant intellectual. Both Kamenev and Zinoviev, considering themselves candidates to succeed Lenin, believe that they are using Stalin as a pawn in their personal strategy. But the reverse proves to be the case, as Stalin steadily strengthens his own faction.

Lenin, taking up the reins again, becomes for the first time aware of Stalin's character and ambition. As a result he is busy trying to reinforce Trotsky's position, as a counterweight to Stalin, when he has his second stroke, in December 1922. Stalin moves quickly. He takes charge of Lenin's doctors and persuades the central committee that the leader should be kept, for his own sake, in isolation. Lenin becomes, in effect, Stalin's prisoner.

In secret Lenin dictates a series of brief notes, intended for a forthcoming Party Congress, in which he condemns Stalin's behaviour and recommends his removal from the post of party secretary. He orders these notes (subsequently known as Lenin's Testament) to be sealed and kept for the moment in strict secrecy.

They are destined to remain secret for many years (until 1956), because in March 1923 Lenin suffers a third devasting stroke which robs him of the power of communication. He can only watch helplessly from the sidelines as Stalin continues to strengthen his position. In October Trotsky is censured for factionalism by a massive majority at a plenary session of the Politburo, the Communist executive committee. He narrowly escapes being expelled from the party.

Stalin, instinctively cautious, argues against Trotsky's expulsion. And he moves only slowly against Kamenev and Zinoviev, his partners in the Triumvirate. But by 1926, with these two and Trotsky now allied in opposition to him, Stalin is strong enough to remove them from the Politburo. He expels them from the party in the following year. In 1928 he exiles Trotsky to remote Kazakhstan and in 1929 expels him from the USSR.

Kamenev and Zinoviev are shot in 1936, prominent victims of the Show trials through which Stalin finally secures his personal reign of terror. Trotsky dies in a suburb of Mexico City in 1940, victim of an assassin sent to his home by his old adversary. Meanwhile Stalin, using methods as ruthless as his treatment of political rivals, has totally transformed the world's first Communist nation.

Stalin, instinctively cautious, argues against Trotsky's expulsion. And he moves only slowly against Kamenev and Zinoviev, his partners in the Triumvirate. But by 1926, with these two and Trotsky now allied in opposition to him, Stalin is strong enough to remove them from the Politburo. He expels them from the party in the following year and forces Trotsky out of the country in 1928.

Kamenev and Zinoviev are shot in 1936, after being vilified in the Show trials through which Stalin finally secures his personal reign of terror. Trotsky dies in a suburb of Mexico City in 1940, victim of an assassin sent to his home by his old adversary. Meanwhile Stalin, using methods as ruthless as his treatment of political rivals, has totally transformed the world's first Communist nation.

Industrialization collectivization: AD 1929-1939

There is much debate among the leadership of the Soviet Union during the 1920s as to whether the Nep, enabling the economy at least to tick over in a traditional way, should be replaced by a strong centralized drive to improve Russia's industrial and agricultural output. While he is unsure of his own power, Stalin trims on the issue - supporting the views of those who are most useful to him. But by 1929 he feels strong enough to force through a drastic plan of reform.

The first Five Year Plan, adopted by the party in 1929, predicts an increase during the period of 200% in industrial output and of 50% in agricultural produce. Such ambitions depend inevitably on harsh coercion of the work force.

The Five Year Plan is in a sense a return to the War communism of the civil war years, and once again the supposedly rich peasants, the Kulaks, bear the brunt of the policy. Not only is their land seized by the state to form collective farms, but they and their families are transported to Siberia and put to work in agricultural labour camps.

It is calculated that one in five of them, mainly the women and children, die on the journey - in the cattle trucks or on forced marches. When they arrive and are put to work, the barbarous conditions soon account for more. Six million of these uprooted peasants are believed to have died, in a tragedy barely perceived outside Russia until years later.

By 1935, two years after the end of the first Five Year Plan, more than 90% of Russia's agricultural land is farmed collectively. But the result is a massive drop in production rather than the predicted increase. When forced to merge their own smallholdings in a collective farm, the peasants tend to slaughter their animals thus reducing the common stock. And no amount of coercion is sufficient to make them plough and sow for the future with anything like their previous commitment.

During the early 1930s there are renewed famines and millions of deaths. But this time, unlike in 1921, there is no foreign aid to lessen the suffering - largely because Stalin does his best to suppress news of the disaster.

While collectivization is a failure, it turns out to be more feasible to impose industrialization. Determined to give Russia her own heavy industry, Stalin diverts production away from consumer goods - a change requiring the public to accept unprecedented scarcities.

He secures efficiency in his new factories by incentive schemes for managers and skilled workers (conveniently disregarding Communist notions of equality), while using what is in effect slave labour to keep down the state's bill for wages. Some 25 million peasants are moved from the land to the factories, where they are forced to work at subsistence levels under harsh industrial discipline. But the policy succeeds. By the end of the second Five Year Plan, in 1937, rural Russia has become a major industrial nation.

Both the method and the cost of these achievements can be seen in a prestige project dear to Stalin's heart - the construction of a canal to link the Baltic and the White Sea. The fulfilment of this difficult task, in the near-Arctic north, is entrusted to the political police (at this stage the OGPU, later to be known as the KGB). They are to provide the workers from the prisons and camps under their control. Of the 300,000 transported north to dig and labour, 200,000 die before the canal opens in 1933.

The human cost of industrialization and the evident failures of collectivization provoke pockets of dissent even within the tightly controlled Communist party. But by the mid-1930s Stalin feels strong enough to settle once and for all his political scores.

Both the method and the cost of these achievements can be seen in a prestige project dear to Stalin's heart - the construction of a canal to link the Baltic and the White Sea. The fulfilment of this difficult task, in the near-Arctic north, is entrusted to the political police (at this stage the OGPU, later to be known as the KGB). They are to provide the workers from the prisons and camps under their control. Of the 300,000 transported north to dig and labour, 200,000 die before the canal opens in 1933.

The human cost of industrialization and the evident failures of collectivization provoke pockets of dissent even within the tightly controlled Communist party. But by the mid-1930s Stalin feels strong enough to settle once and for all his political scores.

Purge and Terror: AD 1934-1938

The period subsequently known as the Great Terror lasts in Russia from 1936 to 1938, but there is a turning point in this direction in 1934. Stalin has not until now used assassination of his comrades as a political weapon. But there is evidence (admittedly inconclusive) to suggest that his hand is behind the death in this year of his one-time protégé, Sergei Kirov.

In 1926 Stalin appointed Kirov, in place of Zinoviev, as head of the party in Leningrad (the new name given to Petrograd after Lenin's death in 1924). But now, in the early 1930s, Kirov is showing marked signs of independence, even perhaps to the point of seeming a potential rival to Stalin. In 1934 Kirov is assassinated in his office by a young party member.

Stalin acts swiftly, ordering the immediate death of the assassin and thirteen supposed accomplices. He follows this with the execution of hundreds of Leningrad comrades and the deportation of thousands of others for supposed involvement in the plot.

This is the first of Stalin's major purges, which become known to the world primarily through three great show trials held in Moscow in successive years from 1936. The first relates again to the Leningrad assassination. Stalin's one-time close colleagues and subsequent opponents, Zinoviev and Kamenev, are now charged with conspiring to kill not only Kirov but the entire Communist leadership.

They and their co-defendants are described by the prosecutor, Andrei Vyshinsky, as 'Mad Fascist police dogs! Despicable rotten dregs of humanity! Scum of the underworld!'. They confess to the trumped up charges and are shot.

The next show trial, in 1937, charges the accused more specifically with being terrorists in league with Trotsky (now living in exile and doing his best to publicize the truth about Stalin). Again all are convicted and nearly all are shot. The third, in 1938, brings together a more motley selection of victims - including some notable opponents of Stalin from the right-wing of the party and even the police chief who had prepared one of the earlier trials.

These high-level victims are what the world sees of Stalin's purges, but they are the tip of an iceberg. During the same period the party hierarchy is purged of almost everyone who had a part in achieving the revolution. The non-Russian Soviet republics suffer particularly severely. In some regions almost no-one above the age of 35 remains in place in the civil service, army or police. Trotskyite sympathies and bourgeois nationalism are the main charges against these 'enemies of the people'.

The figures are unknown, but it is probable that millions of officials and their families are variously executed, imprisoned or exiled. This scale of terror makes Hitler's slightly earlier Night of the long knives seem almost a parochial event.

By the end of 1938 the purges are complete. Stalin for the first time has total personal power. And his nation is one to be reckoned with, in terms of its industrial and military muscle.

But in the twenty years of its existence the first Communist state has provided a bleak image of Communism. Marx and Lenin predicted that dictatorship would be needed to secure the rule of the proletariat, and that for at least a generation little progress would be possible (while the majority of adults were still formed by pre-revolutionary society). But the ideal has always been that thereafter, with class warfare a thing of the past, the straitjacket of strict government can be abandoned in a society of peaceful equality.

In the years before World War I Mussolini is an active revolutionary socialist, becoming in 1912 the editor of Avanti, the official publication of the Italian Socialist party. But in October 1914 he is expelled from the party when he abandons the policy of neutrality and advocates joining the war on the side of France and Britain.

Within weeks he is publishing a new belligerent paper, Il Popolo d'Italia, around which he attempts to gather the few socialist members of the people of Italy who share his views. Six months later the Italian government adopts his policy, declaring War on austria-hungary in May 1915. Mussolini is called up and serves as a private in the infantry until he is wounded in 1917.

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