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War Communism

Explains the what, why, effects and move to NEP
by

Trevor Rowe

on 2 December 2013

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Transcript of War Communism

War Communism
War Communism
War Communism was the name given to the economic system that existed in Russia from 1918 to 1921. War Communism was introduced by Lenin to combat the economic problems brought on by the civil war in Russia. It was a combination of emergency measures and socialist dogma.
War Communism
nationalisation of land
nationalisation of banks and shipping
foreign trade was declared a state monopoly
Some Bolsheviks wanted factory managers removed and the workers to take over the factories for themselves but on behalf of the people
On June 28th, 1918, a decree was passed that ended all forms of private capitalism.
Many large factories were taken over by the state and on November 29th, 1920, any factory/industry that employed over 10 workers was nationalised.
War Communism had 6 principles
1) Production should be run by the state. Private ownership should be kept to the minimum. Private houses were to be confiscated by the state.

2) State control was to be granted over the labour of every citizen. Once a military army had served its purpose, it would become a labour army.

3) The state should produce everything in its own undertakings. The state tried to control the activities of millions of peasants.

4) Extreme centralisation was introduced. The economic life of the area controlled by the Bolsheviks was put into the hands of just a few organisations. The most important one was the Supreme Economic Council.

5) The state attempted to become the soul distributor as well as the sole producer.

6) War Communism attempted to abolish money as a means of exchange. The Bolsheviks wanted to go over to a system of a natural economy in which all transactions were carried out in kind. Effectively, bartering would be introduced. By 1921, the value of the rouble had dropped massively and inflation had markedly increased. The government’s revenue raising ability was chronically poor, as it had abolished most taxes. The only tax allowed was the ‘Extraordinary Revolutionary Tax’, which was targeted at the rich and not the workers.
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desperate poverty even led to cannabalism
War Communism was a disaster
In all areas, the economic strength of Russia fell below the 1914 level.
Peasant farmers only grew for themselves, as they knew that any extra would be taken by the state
Under War Communism, the number of those working in the factories and mines dropped by 50%.
Small factories were in 1920 producing just 43% of their 1913 total. Large factories were producing 18% of their 1913 figure.
Coal production was at 27% of its 1913 figure in 1920.
With little food to nourish them, it could not be expected that the workers could work effectively.
By 1920, the average worker had a productivity rate that was 44% less than the 1913 figure.
In the countryside, most land was used for the growth of food. Crops such as flax and cotton simply were not grown
How did the people react to War Communism?
Within the cities, they were convinced that their leaders were right and the failings were the fault of the Whites and international capitalists
There were few strikes during War Communism – though Lenin was quick to have anyone arrested who was a potential cause of trouble.
No foreign country was prepared to trade with the Russia controlled by the Bolsheviks, so foreign trade ceased to exist. Between 1918 and November 1920, the Allies formally blockaded Russia.
Those in Bolshevik held territory were also keen to see a Bolshevik victory in the civil war, so they were prepared to do what was necessary. The alternate – a White victory – was unthinkable.
The harshness of War Communism could be justified whilst the civil war was going on. When it had finished, there could be no such justification.
War Communism to NEP
There were violent rebellions in Tambov and in Siberia.
The sailors in Kronstadt mutinied.
Lenin faced the very real risk of an uprising of workers and peasants and he needed to show the type of approach to the problem that the tsarist regime was incapable of doing.
In February 1921, Lenin had decided to do away with War Communism and replace it with a completely different system – the New Economic Policy.
This was put to the 10th Party Conference in March and accepted. War Communism was swept away.
During War Communism, the people had no incentive to produce as money had been abolished.
They did what needed to be done because of the civil war, but once this had ended Lenin could not use it as an excuse any longer.
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