Lenin and The Bomb – A Continuing debate (Part II: Ryan Ward)

Dear Readers:

My trilogy last week about the Putin-Lenin gaffe stirred up quite a debate. Again I remind you to peruse Part I, Part II, and Part III of my trilogy.  And also to review my post from yesterday, in which I gave you a pro-Lenin point of view, penned by blogger and history student Lyttenburgh.

Today I have for you a different point of view, penned by Ryan Ward, also a blogger, and also a history student.

Ryan Ward

Ryan studies Russian and Asian history.

Ryan is currently working as a teacher (English language for adults) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  He is also a part-time Vietnamese language student and is in the process of applying for grad school in the International Affairs program.  When it comes to history, Ryan’s biggest interests are Russian history, East Asian history (particularly the history of Korea and Vietnam) and Orthodox Church history.  Ryan also blogs on current affairs at this link.  Although he says he has not been blogging as much recently, as he is busy working on Grad school applications and writing a monograph on the origins of the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War.
So. here, without further ado, is Ryan’s approach to this issue, and to this controversy.

 

This is Ryan speaking now:

The question before us is how Lenin should be seen from a nationalistic/patriotic point of view. Did Lenin place a “time bomb” under the Russian state, as Putin recently claimed, or did he “save” the Russian state? Or is the truth somewhere in the middle? Before starting in on this question, it’s important first of all to note how far it is from Lenin’s own concerns. Were Lenin to be resurrected and told that his main achievement had been to preserve the Russian state, he would be profoundly disappointed. All forms of nationalism were profoundly alien to Lenin’s thought. Although, in his writings on imperialism, Lenin seemed to make some room for a sort of nationalism, by speaking of national “self-determination”, this was intended solely in a negative sense. The point was not that “self-determination” was really good in itself, but that its contrary in the context of imperialism (the domination of some nations by others), was a something that communists should resist. Lenin’s goal was not the consolidation of the Russian nation, but the gradual marginalization of the concept of nationhood (a bourgeois concept) as such, as stated in his work The Right of Nations to Self-Determination, “The bourgeoisie always places its national demands in the forefront, and does so in a categorical fashion. With the proletariat, however, these demands are subordinated to the interests of the class struggle. (The Communist Party) values above all and places foremost the alliance of the proletarians of all nations.” Lenin’s goal was not to save or consolidate the Russian state, but rather to use Russia as a springboard for worldwide revolution.

Lenin was inspired by the internationalism of Marx and Engels.

Indeed, not only did Lenin not aim to preserve a Russian state, he aimed to do away with states entirely. In Leninist thought, states always represent the power of one group (the rulers) over another (the ruled). This theme is most fully developed in Lenin’s work The State and Revolution, where Lenin writes (of the state of developed communism), “People will gradually become accustomed to observe the elementary rules of social life…without force, without compulsion, without subordination, without the special apparatus for compulsion which is called the state.” Again, it must be noted that Russia, as a nation-state (and certainly as a multinational empire) held no interest or significance for Lenin. The importance of Russia was purely instrumental.

It’s critical to keep this in mind when evaluating Lenin’s activities in the First World War. Lenin’s activity in this war was characterized by a complete lack of concern for the interests of the Russian state. In The Tasks of the Revolutionary Social Democrats in the European War, Lenin wrote, “From the point of view of the working class and the toiling masses of all the peoples of Russia, the lesser evil would be the defeat of the tsarist monarchy and its troops, which are oppressing Poland, the Ukraine and many other peoples of Russia.” Lenin’s (and the Bolsheviks’) stance was not merely an even-handed promotion of peace on all sides, but rather an explicit policy of working for the defeat of Russia. This is reflected in Bolshevik agitation, which from the very beginning of the war focused on demoralizing Russian soldiers and convincing them not to fight.

In Russo-Japan war of 1905, Lenin called for the defeat of Russia.

Furthermore, the Bolsheviks engaged in this agitation with the cooperation and financial assistance of the German government. German connivance in the transportation of Lenin back to Russia after the February revolution is well-known. However, what is less well-known is that this was hardly the beginning of the cooperation between the German government and the Bolsheviks. Indeed, as early as May 1915, Lenin met with Alexander Lazarevich Helphand, a wealthy businessman of socialist views [yalensis:  Helphand is better known under his alias Parvus] who had ties to the German government. In addition to Helphand’s testimony, this meeting has been confirmed by numerous other sources. Following on this meeting, Helphand worked together with Lenin’s agent, Yakov Stanislavovich Fuerstenberg (aka Ganetsky), to set up an export firm in Scandinavia. The German government provided goods for export to Russia, which were then routed through the Helphand-Ganetsky firm for sale in Russia. As the Austro-Hungarian diplomat Grebing commented, “None of the money realized from the sale of these goods in Russia was, however, paid to the Germans, but was used to finance Lenin’s propaganda from the first day of the revolution.” In addition to Grebing’s testimony, the existence and activities of the Helphand-Ganetsky firm were also documented by French counter-intelligence. This was only one of the ways that the Bolsheviks were financed by the Germans. Speaking of this assistance in general, the German minister of foreign affairs wrote, “It was not until the Bolsheviks had received from us a steady flow of funds through various channels and under varying labels that they were in a position to be able to build up their main organ Pravda, to conduct energetic propaganda and appreciably to extend the originally narrow base of their party.” By any traditional patriotic standards, Lenin and the Bolsheviks were foreign agents, guilty of outright treason.

Granted, it is true that, in the period of the Provisional Government, the Mensheviks and SR’s also contributed to the disintegration of the Russian front line, especially through the promulgation of Order #1 by the Petrograd Soviet. However, it’s hardly accurate to suggest that this means that the Mensheviks and SR’s, rather than the Bolsheviks, undermined the military effort. In this period, the Bolsheviks were continuing and accelerating their defeatist propaganda. Additionally, although they were not a majority in the Petrograd Soviet, the Bolsheviks were present there, and therefore share the responsibility for its actions. At the same time, and whatever his private reservations about the Soviet, Lenin continued to use the slogan, “All power to the soviets,” reinforcing the authority of the very body that was undermining morale at the front. The role of the Petrograd Soviet in undermining morale at the front in no way limits the responsibility of Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Rather, it is another instance of this responsibility.

Nor is it accurate, despite all the damage done by the Bolsheviks and others, to suggest that the Russian line collapsed before the October Revolution. Although Kerensky’s summer offensive failed badly, and led to the loss of Galicia, the line stabilized at the Galician border. The Austro-Hungarian army was in even worse disarray than was the Russian army, and the Germans could not afford to commit the troops to push the counter-offensive further. In the North, the Germans took Riga, which was a significant victory, but the Russian 12th army had vacated the city before the German attack, which meant that there remained an intact Russian formation between the Germans and Petrograd, which was still 300 miles away, hardly a negligible distance in the conditions of the First World War. It is also inaccurate to suggest that the line finally did stabilize when the Bolsheviks opened negotiation with the Germans. Although the Bolsheviks made the incredibly naïve claim that the negotiations would result in a peace “without annexations or indemnities,” the Germans were, for obvious reasons, not interested in any such peace. The “stabilization” of the line was a temporary respite, after which the Germans advanced completely unopposed. The Bolshevik peace talks resulted in nothing except Russia’s surrender.

A German soldier in World War I.

Finally moving on to the question of “anarchy”, this can be resolved with one simple question. Did the formation of organized militant groups (as opposed to scattered and disorganized peasant bands) precede or follow the October revolution? The situation in which Russia was divided by a myriad of different armed groups was not a situation that the Bolsheviks inherited, but one that they themselves created by setting the precedent that political decisions would be made by armed force. This was hardly a surprise. In opposing the October revolution, Plekhanov, Zasulich and Deich wrote, in the “Open Letter to the Petrograd Workers,” “The revolution is the greatest historical disaster, it will provoke a civil war which in the end will force it to retreat far from the conquests of February 1917.” This is indeed precisely what happened. Nor was it a surprise to Lenin himself. Rather, it was his explicit goal. As early as 1914, Lenin wrote in a letter to Shlyapnikov, “…the least evil now and at once would be the defeat of tsarism in the war. For tsarism is a hundred times worse than kaiserism…(Our focus should be on) turning the national war into a civil war.” By launching a coup, with no democratic legitimacy, the Bolsheviks fatally undermined the principles of political legitimacy, opening the door to anarchy and civil war. As the SR leader Boris Savinkov noted, “The Russian people do not want Lenin, Trotsky and Dzerzhinsky, not merely because the Bolsheviks mobilize them, shoot them, take their grain, and are ruining Russia. The Russian people do not want them for the simple reason that…nobody elected them.” By their complete contempt for democracy, the Bolsheviks left no way to resolve political conflict except civil war. This was not an accident, but rather Lenin’s long-standing plan.

Felix Dzerzhinsky and Josef Stalin examples of Bolshevik internationalism

Lenin was a complete failure according to his own criteria. No state of affairs remotely like the one described in The State and Revolution ever came to pass in the Soviet Union or anywhere else. Nor did any “world revolution” ever take place. In his longer-term predictions, Lenin was wrong on every count. 100 years after his revolution, no one talks anymore about “proletarian internationalism” or the withering away of the state. Rather than ushering in a new historical epoch, Lenin’s revolution merely introduced a new, and unusually bloody, regime in the former lands of the Russian empire. A century later, that regime has vanished without a trace, and Russia is led by a man who takes his inspiration from the Whites rather than the Reds. In the face of this failure, it is perhaps natural to try to salvage Lenin’s reputation as a great state-builder in the Imperial Russian tradition. However, this recasting simply does not fit the facts of Lenin’s life. Rather than building the Russian state and “saving” it from threats, Lenin himself and his Bolshevik followers were the single greatest threat to the health of the state. From the beginning of the war, they set out with the explicit aim of ensuring that Russia would lose. To this end, they engaged in German-funded propaganda activities that thoroughly demoralized both the soldiers and the civilians on the home front. After the February Revolution, the Bolsheviks supported the Petrograd Soviet, which was making it impossible for the Provisional Government to govern the country or conduct the war effort effectively. Finally, by launching a coup in complete disregard of democratic legitimacy, the Bolsheviks plunged Russia into civil war, famine, and economic weakness that would take decades to repair. Lenin was undoubtedly a “great man” in the sense that, by virtue of his talent, strength of will and personal charisma, he had an impact on history matched by few other figures of the twentieth century. However, an “impact” can be positive or negative. From the perspective of the Russian state, Lenin was an unmitigated disaster.

Donetsk “colorados” defend Lenin statue.

 

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85 Responses to Lenin and The Bomb – A Continuing debate (Part II: Ryan Ward)

  1. Ryan Ward says:

    It might be poor form to be the first to respond to my own post 😉 but I’ll risk it anyway. I was thinking of ending my post with what I think is positive in Lenin’s legacy, but since this is a little more personal in terms of the point of view, and certainly is not written from a nationalistic perspective, I didn’t think it fit in well with the main post.
    I think there are two main elements in Lenin’s legacy that are positive. The first is the powerful impetus he gave to the movement for colonial liberation. In his work on colonial questions, Lenin especially emphasized the importance of unity in the struggle against exploitation. This had two main applications. Firstly, it gave a coherent perspective and program to the anti-colonial movements. They weren’t just struggling for the right to be exploited by people who looked like them and spoke their language, but against exploitation as such. This also led to communist parties sometimes being at the forefront of struggles for racial justice, for example in South Africa and Israel. Secondly, it connected the struggle in individual colonies to other colonies and to a world movement. It might be ironic to say it, but it’s hard to imagine the Non-Aligned Movement appearing in the form it did without Lenin. In general, Lenin’s treatment of colonial issues made communism an invaluable resource to exploited people around the world. Ho Chi Minh’s statement about Lenin’s “Thesis on the National and Colonial Questions” is famous, “What emotion, enthusiasm, clear-sightedness and confidence it instilled in me!…I shouted out loud as if addressing large crowds, “Dear martyrs, compatriots! This is what we need, this is the path to our liberation!”
    The second positive element is Lenin’s somewhat belated adoption of a measure of pragmatism in introducing the NEP. In following that route, Lenin set a precedent of pragmatic “seeking truth from facts” (to use Deng Xiaoping’s phrase) that contrasted favourably with Stalin’s later dogmatic theoretical approach. Literally every time the Stalinist approach has been followed, the result has been famine (Soviet Union, China, Albania, Ethiopia, Cambodia). But, where communists have been more influenced by the practical spirit of the later Lenin, they’ve often effectively carried out the modernization and development of their societies (Yugoslavia, Cuba, the countries of former Indochina), often at a lower human cost than seen in capitalist or dogmatic communist models.

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    • yalensis says:

      Dear Ryan:

      Congratulations on a very well written post. I am appreciative that you provided me with content for my blog, and please know that you always have a “home” here if you want to write other posts. Not that I have a big audience — this is definitely a niche market. But still good readers, I think, with an intellectual bent.

      I do appreciate your comment on Lenin’s positive contributions to the anti-colonial movement. When you ended your post with “From the perspective of the Russian state, Lenin was an unmitigated disaster,” I was tempted to respond with a sarcastic, “No mitigations whatsoever? Really?” Indeed, I often shock people by arguing that the world would be a much worse place today without the classical Socialist and Communist movements. Trade unions, the 8-hour day, the dignity of the working man, anti-colonial movements, equality between men and women, civil rights movement for racial equality and integration in the U.S. – all of these were driven or at least influenced in some fashion by socialists/communists.

      Not to mention that the USSR pursued an overall positive foreign policy, in my view, helped development in the Third World, with material aid and investments. Buildings dams, schools, hospitals, that sort of thing. Without capitalistic profit motive!
      A lot of this humanistic activity was influenced by Lenin’s intellectual legacy, by his materialistic and practical attitude towards the problems that humans face. Lenin definitely was not a sentimental guy, he was tough, and he could be cruel at times, but I think at his core, he had a good heart. He believed that there is no god, this world and its atoms and molecules is all we have, so it is necessary to build a government that benefits the masses of humanity. And, based on Marxist postulates, he believed that everything depended on the proletariat coming to power. Otherwise, it just wouldn’t work out in the end.

      I realize that you don’t buy into any of that, but anyhow, thanks again for your contribution, and I hope this stimulates some good discussion!

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  2. PaulR says:

    Ryan, for grad school, do consider our Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, at the University of Ottawa: http://socialsciences.uottawa.ca/public-international-affairs/?evt_id=174researchresearch

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  3. Lyttenburgh says:

    I’ve read Ryan’s article. Several times, in fact. Well… its much shorter than my overly verbose prose :). This alone, I think, makes it valuable by itself.

    Naturally I have a lot to say and to disagree with. I’m will address particular points in my separate comments. As for now, some overall notes.

    Mr. Ward begins his article with this:

    “The question before us is how Lenin should be seen from a nationalistic/patriotic point of view. Did Lenin place a “time bomb” under the Russian state, as Putin recently claimed, or did he “save” the Russian state?”

    I guess the question is rather oddly-worded here. What has “nationalistic/patriotic POV” hasto do with analyzing Putin’s words that “Lenin placed an atomic bomb below the foundation of Russia” (c)? But here I have more questions to Vladimir Vladimirovich than to Ryan.

    The answer to this silly question is rather simple. Lenin could not be accused of destroying Russian state in its form of “Russian Empire”, because it’s been done before him by the Provisional Government, which even proclaimed Russia a republic in September of 1917 (I already describe what they’ve done to finish off their own country before that). Lenin, OTOH, have established a new form of Russian State known as the “USSR” – constructed from (nearly complete set of) the fragments of destroyed Russian Empire. And that said country was later destroyed by different people – including Yeltsin – who have nothing to brag about 25 after the fact, leads to such “gaffes”. Its all too easy to blame Lenin – he’s not going to argue back, did he? Better yet – lets demonize him, lest the peons will have some strange new ideas about demanding back all the property, looted and plundered by oligarchs (some – still free and in sound health) right after Russia’s “liberation”.

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  4. Lyttenburgh says:

    Point 1 – Bolsheviks and WWI

    “This is reflected in Bolshevik agitation, which from the very beginning of the war focused on demoralizing Russian soldiers and convincing them not to fight.”

    Tell me, Mr. Ward, how was this agitation “focused on demoralizing Russian soldiers and convincing them not to fight” was even conducted, if by the February Revolution nearly all members of Bolshevik party were either

    a) In prisons
    b) In emigration

    Was it bloody Bolsheviks who caused the disastrous defeat at Mazurian lakes in 1914? Was it them, who caused the “ammo famine” of 1915, which resulted in massive retreat of Russian armies across the whole front and either death or capture for 4 millions of Russian soldiers? Or maybe it was them, who prevented during the Mitavan operation 82 battalions of Russian army to break through the German lines, held by only 19 battalions? It was right before the February Revolution – which demoralized and “injected” Russian Army with an acute sense of “pacifism” this early.

    Who needed Bolsheviks, if “patriots” themselves were doing everything in their power to screw over Russian Army? Not only through gross incompetence – but because of the greed. Russian empire as any imperialistic state of that time had private ammunition factories. Having them was seen as a nice thing, because they sold their production to the government slightly cheaper. But then came the Great War and the almighty Invisible Hand of the Market ™ decided to intervene. Prices for ammo increased twofold. This is not some Bolshevik propaganda – all this is mentioned in the report of general Manikovskiy, the head of the Chief Artillery Directorate of Russian Imperial Army. According to him, said Russian (as in – ethnic Russian, Orthodox Christian) capitalists demanded 2 times for all basic types of shells, ammo and shrapnel than before the war. And if not paid in full according to their new prices – they shamelessly sabotaged the deliveries. Capitalism!

    What have the Czarist government did with that? In 1916 they “requisitioned” (read – nationalized for all intends and purposes) these factories. Suddenly, Brusilov’s offensive became possible after that! But not for long – because right after the victory of the February bourgeois capitalists and factory owners got their control back. ‘cause private property and free enterprises trump any patriotic/nationalist issue.

    Next we have this gem of logical equilibristic:

    “Granted, it is true that, in the period of the Provisional Government, the Mensheviks and SR’s also contributed to the disintegration of the Russian front line, especially through the promulgation of Order #1 by the Petrograd Soviet. However, it’s hardly accurate to suggest that this means that the Mensheviks and SR’s, rather than the Bolsheviks, undermined the military effort. In this period, the Bolsheviks were continuing and accelerating their defeatist propaganda. Additionally, although they were not a majority in the Petrograd Soviet, the Bolsheviks were present there, and therefore share the responsibility for its actions.”

    Mr. Ward – don’t you see for yourself your own faulty logic here and just simple distortion of facts? Bolsheviks could not be accused of passing the Order №1 – in the very first days after the Revolution. You said it for yourself – they were not represented in the Soviets at the time.

    What you describe as “defeatist propaganda” actually echoed the desire of the vast majority of both the soldiers and civilians after 3 years of war. Lenin and his Bolsheviks were always against this Imperialist and Unjust War. They didn’t use some “zombie-rays” to turn good, battle-ready soldiers into a bunch of rabble and deserters – the War, defeats, idiotic commanders and Order №1 did it for them.

    Which begs a question, Mr. Ward – what’s your attitude to the First World War? I guess, by answering it you will save both of us a lot of time and effort.

    Oh, and about taking of Riga, as you put it here:

    “…the Germans took Riga, which was a significant victory, but the Russian 12th army had vacated the city before the German attack, which meant that there remained an intact Russian formation between the Germans and Petrograd, which was still 300 miles away…”

    I don’t know where did you get that information. Because, actually, there was a huge battle, a defeat of Russian army, which lost 25 000 soldiers KIA or captured, 270 pieces of artillery and significant amount of vital supplies – all accomplished by a German force 3 times smaller than the defendant Russian one. Hardly a “Move along, nothing to see here!” situation. And you know who surrendered the city? Why, the general Kornilov, of course – a new darling of the Provisional Government!

    I hope you remember, Mr. Ward, that on 3-4rd July the Provisional government basically liquidated the “two-powers hold” of the Soviets, by shooting up and dispersing 100 000 anti-war rally in Petrograd. Bolsheviks were accused of treason, of being German agents (all evidence as it turned out was fabricated) and declared criminals – on 6 July. And here – boom! – the news of the complete collapse of the summer offensive, which resulted in the disastrous defeat of Russian army hit the capital. So, I ask you – much good did the “sole rule” of Kerensky’s “coalition government” accomplished in the end? Remember, who (and how) suppressed Kornilov’s uprising?

    Also – I will discuss it elsewhere, but as a footnote here – Provisional Government’s official investigation of Bolsheviks party found out by September 1917, that, no – they were not German spies. And the “Sissen package” proved to be a fake way back in 1956. And Ganetsky was an ordinary smuggler, whom actually, set up a shot to smuggle (consumer and luxury – like female stockings and condoms) goods from Germany to Russia. And all those money earned via that traded ended up in German pockets – not in Lenin’s

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    • yalensis says:

      Dear Lyttenburgh:

      These are all good points. I think you hit the nail on the head when you ask Ryan directly what is his attitude towards WWI? I will ask Ryan too:
      Ryan, do you see WWI as a JUST war, and do you see the Allies (England, France) as the good guys, who must be supported no matter what? So, Lenin and Trotsky should have “rallied around the flag” and start singing “God save the Tsar” just because the nation in which they held citizenship decided to go to war? Well, that wasn’t going to happen, because the Bolsheviks simply did not accept the concept of “My country right or wrong”.

      Or maybe the war wasn’t such a good idea, but Russians should still sfiffen their upper lips and just soldier through without complaint. And when Kerensky came to power, the Bolsheviks should have said, “We must drop our own program and do everything in our power to help make Kerensky a success story.”

      Also, a minor point, but just because somebody predicts a disaster, does not mean that he himself CAUSED the disaster. Lenin did not cause the collapse of the Russian front in WWI. He maybe predicted it, and he maybe wanted it, and he definitely took advantage of it, but he did not CAUSE it.

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  5. Ryan Ward says:

    Just so you don’t think I’m ignoring the comments, I thought I’d mention that I’ve just gone on vacation for a few days, so I won’t be checking the Internet again until I get back to Vietnam. A response is coming, just a little slowly 😉

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    • yalensis says:

      That’s okay, Ryan, enjoy your vacation!

      When you get back, though, I also wanted to ask you the same question I ask all “pro-Whites”: If you could go back in a time machine and somehow cause your side to win the Civil War, then what do you think would be the result after you defeated the Reds? In terms of borders, type of government, foreign policy, etc.

      I realize this is an unfair “what-if” question, which I normally frown upon.
      But in the case of the “Whites”, I think it is fair, because they (I am thinking of people like Solzhenitsyn and Girkin) are constantly bemoaning their own loss, while also besmirching the victors, and implying that they would have done a better job had they won.

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  6. Lyttenburgh says:

    Point 2 – “Lenin was a German Spy”

    Simply put – no, he wasn’t.

    More exhaustive answer – the ever-perpetuating Anti-soviet myth about Bolsheviks working for the Germany belongs to the same pile pseudo-historical and conspiratorial heap of hogwash as the “Ancient Astronauts” theory.

    During Perestroyka the Soviet Union was awash with “truthers” and dissidents who were doing everything in their power (sometimes – even for free) to prove the “criminal foundation of the bloody regime” ™. One of such “liberal” truthers was a prominent Leningrad’s professor Startsev. Suddenly, his lifelong dream came true – he got a grant to go studying abroad – to the blessed Valinor of the USA! Here, he was given access to the Congressional library – a rare event for that time. It was here when he discovered to his eternal horror an unspeakable and unutterable tome of forbidden knowledge – a slim book by none other than one of the architects of the Cold War George Kennan himself, who in 1956 dissected and then provided a conclusive material and factological proof that no – Bloody Bolshies were not paid agents of Kaiser and traitors.

    Professor Startsev was head and shoulders above our modern liberasts and Russophobic Anti-Sovietists – blame the upbringing and education that he get in “This Country” if you like 😉 Instead of hush-husing the whole affair he translated and then published this book by Kennan – and then researched the subject himself, dragging into light more and more evidences that all accusations about Lenin and Bolsheviks were false.

    What is the basis for these accusations anyway? Before embarking upon any historical research its absolutely important to analyze and critique the sources available for that. One such “source” are the so-called “Sisson papers”. Their creation had very interesting history. People most alarmed by the growing power of the Bolsheviks and their anti-war rhetoric proved to be the French. Russian empire owed to French private banks alone 8 bln. rubles. Besides, the Provisional Government ever-so-faithful to its allies have increased the amount of Russian troops sent to the Western front (which the French spent like water in full out frontal assaults). First one to call the Bolsheviks “German spies” was French minister of munitions Albert Thomas, and further propagated this idea was by the captain of French intelligence service Pier Lorand who was working in Russia. Here he turned this claim into a full-blown black PR campaign with the help of the Provisional government’s chief of counter-intel Boris Nikitin. But, as I said earlier, even their own, “pocket” justice could not prove that the Bolsheviks were German agents. For a time being the matter was put to rest.

    Act 2 of this dramedy happened in 1918. Here enters a new character – George Hill, British intelligence operative and rabid anti-communist, who spent 1917-19 in Russia. The following episode was described in his autobiographic books. He wrote, that during 1918 in Petrograd one of his agents bought for 15 000 pounds (150 000 imperial rubles) a package of documents which prove without doubt that Lenin and Trotsky are German spies. Moreover, this fine man had more of such documents which he was ready to produce – for a price. But when G.A. Hill decided to take a closer look at that papers it turned out that they were fakes printed on the same typewriter. When asked directly about papers’ origins this fine young man confessed that yeah, they are indeed fakes. This fine man was none other than (mostly Polish) Ferdinand Ossendovski – a figure of Ostap Bender proportions. Before the Revolution he earned his living by one tried and tested trick – he came to one or another bank with a vanilla enveloped and claimed that here he has enough evidence that, should it be published, this fine establishment would go belly’s up. After which he demanded some outrageous sum of money – 10-15 000 rubles was a good start – in exchange of an envelope full of worthless pieces of newspaper. Sometimes banks paid him. Sometimes they got him beaten. Sometimes they jailed him. But, hey – that was a living!

    But the fact that they are dealing with a crook, liar and a fraud didn’t discouraged the British – they sold the whole package to the Americans (but for 25 000 pounds!). And they eat this pile of nonsense wholesale. Some “bright” and “highly opinionated” people claim that in democratic countries there is no such thing as propaganda – only evil illiberal regimes do this. Nevertheless, in the real world so-called “liberal democracies” engage in propaganda just like anyone else – a lot. In October 1918 Americans published their “The German-Bolshevik Conspiracy” – a hodge-podge of wild claims and accusations, which included their newest buy – the already mentioned Sisson papers. The quality of this Frankensteinian monster was sub-par. For instance, this booklet claimed that Bolsheviks were “handled” by the head of German Military Intelligence Walter Nikolai. Such claim proved that American propagandists didn’t know the structure of German intelligence services – at all. “Political” actions were handled not by Military Intel, but by special directorates within the Foreign Ministry and the HQ. In his memoirs Nikolai wrote that he didn’t know a thing about Bolsheviks, and that Lenin for him was “a political émigré – Ulyanov”. His “war-chest” was very tight – only 450 000 Reich marks, from which he had to allocate funds for intelligence work in all Entente countries – and since 1917 in the USA as well.

    The Germans were pissed off by these fakes. Yes, defeated in the WWI Germans were pissed off and not too shy to voice their anger at that. 2 April 1919 “Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung” published a strongly worded article, penned by both former and acting member of the German HQ, Foreign Ministry and the State Bank, that these booklet is nothing more than “clumsy and dishonest fake”. First head of the Weimar Republic Philipp Scheidemann was furios to see his name and „signature“ below a number of documents in this „collection“ – and said everything what he thinks about the authors of this brochure.

    Now, about the most “damning evidence”- Lenin’s ride in the “sealed train-car”. First of all – Lenin and other Bolsheviks travelled in 2 such train-cars, not one. Second – this was hardly anything out of the ordinary. The whole idea behind the “sealed train-car” is for the people from one neutral country (in this case – Switzerland) to safely reach another neutral country (in this case – Sweden) while travelling thought countries, currently engaged in war. Entente countries from the very beginning stated that they won’t allow a bunch of a well known anti-war activists to travel through their territory (the creation of the III International really butt-hurt them). And Germans decided to let them through. That was the only assistance they’ve provided because it cost them no money at all.

    And now about Parvus. This was indeed a legendary personality – someone made from the same material as “the ace of Spies” Reily or already mentioned here Ferdinand Ossendovski. He milked Kaiser Willie for 3 billions Reichs marks (in gold!) for financing “revolutions” in Entente countries. His tactic was brilliant. He contacted any group of well know political emigrants or just a well know oppositionists. Parvus was not picky – he went everywhere. Next, he began “trolling” people – claiming that this and this group of “revolutionaries” receives money from him, and you guys will also get some gesheft from me if you will do as I say! But, as they say in Odessa, the whole “tzimmes” of his trick was in the fact, that Parvus paid to no one. He simply pocketed money. And because the Germans lacked their own Alexey Navalniy and George Alburov, they were kept in dark about an epic-level “Rospil” of the budget funds.

    Lenin indeed met Parvus. He didn’t like the fellow. In fact, he called him a “procuress of the imperialism” and told to GTFO.

    Before his travel back to Russia, Lenin indeed gather all available funds. He even wrote about it, and anyone willing to check out can see it for themselves in his “Full Assembly of Works” – see, bloody communists didn’t suppress this knowledge. Their total funds amounted for just several dozen thousands of rubles – enough to transport less than 50 Bolsheviks to Russia, but not enough to make the revolution. Lenin meticulously wrote down who paid and what amount. In fact, 5 years later he had to repay the money given to him in 1917 by a Swiss social-democrat, who just received a huge inheritance. Other funds came from party dues, income from “Iskra” newspaper and a few other social-democrats who had a job. No proverbial “German gelt”, Mr. Ward.

    In fact, if you look back to history, you will notice that no one was financing the Revolutions. If something needs financing (like Maidan) then it’s not a Revolution, but pigs squabble at the trough. The moment Bolsheviks got the majority in the Soviets across the country they got everything they need for a successful revolution – resources, funds, local power and the military. And Bolsheviks didn’t need to “buy” them – they consequently for many years supported 2 main demands that found the most appeal to the people of Russia – Peace and Land. What is more important – that’s exactly what they provided after their victory.

    But if you need to look for people, whose livelihood depended on foreign money – they were a-plenty in the opposite camp. Famous eSeR party member Breshko-Breshkovskaya (“Granny of Russian Revolution”) said openly in December 1917 that the USA provided $2 mlns for eSeRs (which happened, I must note, even before the elections into Constitutional Assembly). Gerogian Mensheviks first received their funding from the Germans (1917-18), and then from the British (1919-21). Entente openly bankrolled the Whites during the Civil War. And much help these foreign money did to them in the end?

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    • Moscow Exile says:

      Small point: that picture above of “German soldiers in WWI” is of German soldiers in WWII — on their victory parade along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées if I am not mistaken.

      On the right-breast of their tunics they are wearing an emblem of a German eagle clutching a swastika and their “coal scuttle” helmets are of a WWII pattern.

      Compare the above photograph of German soldiers with this picture:

      The WWI German soldiers pictured above are wearing the new model metal helmet designed for trench warfare. The Model 1916 helmet was developed in 1915, an initial issue of helmets having been made by January 1916. Unlike the Allied helmets, the German helmet used a very high quality chromium-nickel steel that afforded superb protection to the neck and ears. There are two ventilation lugs on either side of the temple area.

      Like

      • yalensis says:

        Oops, sorry everyone! That was my mistake, not Ryan’s, as I scavenged around for some images to illustrate his text.
        I’ll fix that once I find a better picture….

        Like

        • yalensis says:

          Okay, fixed it. I like the new pic better anyhow, it just shows a single German soldier looking very forlorn. I hope he is truly from the right era this time.

          Like

    • Moscow Exile says:

      This accusation that Lenin was a German agent reminds me of something I read about Felix Dzerzhinsky long ago, but for the life of me I cannot remember exactly where and when. (It might have been in “Russia Revolution” by Richard Pipes, a fellow countryman of Dzerzhinsky.)

      Apparently, Derzhinsky was fond of saying to Old Bolsheviks whom he was interrogating: “Subjectively you are a good Bolshevik, but objectively you are a traitor!” — and then he had them shot.

      It was pointed out that Dzerzhinsky could have said the same to Lenin — if one was a supporter of the ancien régime, of course.

      Yes, I am pretty sure Pipes wrote that!

      Figures.

      Like

    • yalensis says:

      Dear Lyttenburgh:

      Yeah, that “Lenin was a German spy” thing is an old chestnut that never seems to die.
      And, like you say, people seem to be naive if they think false and misleading propaganda had not been invented yet and was never used in those days — except by the Bolsheviks!

      In fact, the German spy propaganda meme, along with dark suspicions about the ethnic composition of the socialist parties (hint: a lot of them were JOOOOOOZ), was used quite effectively by the Provisional Government, especially during the July, 1917 pogroms against the Bolsheviks. According to Tony Cliff, a noted Trotskyite historian of those events:

      If the proletariat was not sure and steadfast, the troops were even less so. On 5 July, when the government slandered Lenin, accusing him of being a German spy, the troops in Petrograd kept their distance from the Bolsheviks. The situation was even worse in the active army where the ‘Bolshevism’ of many soldiers was spontaneous – agreeing with the Bolshevik slogan of ‘Land, Peace and Bread’, but in no way identifying themselves with the party.

      By far the greatest paradox of the July Days lay in the contradictory consciousness of the masses supporting the Bolsheviks in Petrograd itself: calling for Soviet power and nursing illusions that the Social Revolutionary and Menshevik leaders might take this, which was precisely what they refused to do. This paradox was expressed in the cry of a fist- shaking worker to Chernov, the Social Revolutionary minister of agriculture: ‘Take power, you son-of-a-bitch, when it is given to you.’ [3]

      Bottom line: the masses liked the Bolshevik political program, but were suspicious of the Bolsheviks themselves. Because they were spies and Jews, etc. But when the Mensheviks and SR’s refused to take power, and only the Bolsheviks stepped up to the plate, then a Bolshevik victory was pretty much assured. Like Woody Allen once said, “90% of life is just showing up.”

      Like

      • yalensis says:

        More on the German spy meme as an effective propaganda tool against the Bolshies:

        According to Trotsky himself Miliukov had his own “stop-fake” apparatus in place, in which he “proved” that Bolsheviks received instructions from German general staff:

        Miliukov, in the tribune of the Pre-parliament, demonstrated by means of a meticulous syntactical analysis of its text, the obvious “German origin” of the document. The style of the instructions, as indeed of all the compromisist literature, was as a fact bad. The belated democracy, without ideas, without will, glancing round affrightedly on all sides, piled up qualification after qualification in its writings, until they sounded like a bad translation from a foreign language – just as the democracy itself was, indeed, the shadow of a foreign past. Ludendorff, however, is not in the least to blame for that.

        In all of these accusations against the Bolsheviks and other socialist parties of that era (O how different the times were from today!), the only one that is mostly true, is that yes, the Bolsheviks and indeed the socialists in general, had a lot of Jewish members. That is a true statement.
        But people say that like it’s a bad thing.

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        • Lyttenburgh says:

          Ooooh, Milyukov! I think this legendary figure is unjustly forgetten now.

          “Father of Modern Russian Liberastlism” after all. Hated bydlo with passion which our modern so-called “Russian Liberals” can only envy. Was a faithful son of Entente and Allied Duty. In 1918 he ended up in German occupied Kiev with its Skoropadskiy regime. Here, Milyukov tried to motivate the German army to march forward and take Moscow and Petrograd. A True PatriotЪ! And definitely not a national traitor like all those Bolsheviks.

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  7. Alexey says:

    To Lyttenburgh

    About Mikyukov’s ancestors dying at Kulikovo field… At some point around XVI century strange thing happened to Russian nobility. All of them started to have ancestor who died at Kulikovo field. What a coincidence!

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  8. ucgsblog says:

    Yalensis, here’s my response, you can use it as Part III/VI if you’re up for it, I’d encourage that!

    https://ucgsblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/09/my-thoughts-on-putins-comment/

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      Thanks for the link, ucgsblog!
      Very interesting and well thought out piece.

      Like

    • yalensis says:

      But again… A couple of points I have to make:
      And then comes the question of ethno-autonomy, Soviet style. Why was Crimea transferred to Ukrainian SSR?

      Several different reasons. Like everything else, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” I like to give Khruchshev the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was driven by practical reasons, not ethnic pride. Namely, the waterways, the gas pipelines, the electrical pylons, etc. All of this infrastructure tended to go over-land. Geography remains geography: Crimea is separated from Mother Russia by a giant canal, and this can be a giant inconvenience. We learned recently that Ukrainian mainland is able to blackout all of Crimea just by knocking down 5 pylons. I also like to compare Khrushchev’s decision with, say, a CEO deciding to consolidate one branch of his company and change its regional reporting structure, due to economic and efficiency reasons. Yes, I can’t believe that I am defending Khrushchev, but there you have it.

      How did Ossetia end up in two different SSRs?
      Ooooo oooooh – that’s an easy one! This little thing called the Caucasus Mountain Range!
      .

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      • ucgsblog says:

        Yalensis! Thank you for the warm welcome and the comments 😀

        Now to respond: I’ve seen a documentary made by United Russia claim that it was because Khrushchev needed to secure the deputies from Ukrainian SSR and they wanted a prime tourist resort as payment, hence Crimea. Interestingly enough, he never transferred Sevastopol to the Ukrainian SSR, and the city was usually de facto controlled by the Red/Russian Navy. How does one miss a city? 😛

        Anyways, my point was that it was a nonsensical thing to do, because most of the Crimeans are Russians. So if we’re going with ethno-SSRs, why force Russians to become a minority? That’s my issue with ethno-SSRs in general. Regarding Ossetia, I think that Stalin was just expanding his native Georgia. If Nakhichkevan can stay with Azerbaijan, why can’t South Ossetia stay with North Ossetia, if it’s just geographic barriers we’re talking about?

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        • yalensis says:

          Dear ucgsblog,
          These are all good points. Khrushchev may have factored in some political wheelings and dealings, much like some American politicians engage in “re-distributing” voting districts. It is also possible there were some ethnic factors, maybe a little slap in the face to Great Russians.
          However, Khrushchev was not an absolute dictator, and he would have had to get buy-in from the majority of the Central Committee. Thus, on balance, I still tend to give him the benefit of the doubt, that the transfer was more of a business decision. For example, if you had local party officials who were responsible for waters/dams, then it may have just made more sense for them to report to a mainland-Ukrainian water guy. Since the rivers flowed down from Ukraine, etc. Some of these factors (water, electricity) came into high relief recently, when the Ukrainians started blockading Crimea. It became more obvious what the infrastructure connections are, and look how Russia has had to scramble to supply water and electricity to the peninsula.
          As for Sebastopol — that was NEVER in the cards. Sebastopol is a Russian city, the jewel of the Black Sea fleet and even Khrushchev knew better than to tamper with that!

          Like

          • yalensis says:

            P.S. – re. Ossetia – people do suspect some psychological factors with Stalin, like his dislike of Ossetians, his preference for Gruzians. Stalin’s dad was Ossetian, his mom Gruzian; and biographers say that Stalin loved his mom but didn’t care much for his dad.
            So maybe there was something Freudian going on there, when he put Ossetia in the Gruzian reporting structure. And unlike Khrushchev, after he had eliminated his political rivals, Stalin COULD pretty much do whatever he liked. I suppose he could have decreed that all Ossetians have to wear their underpants on their heads.

            On the other hand, WITHIN Ossetia, the division into North and South made sense. At least, until the Roki Tunnel was built.
            Actually, it would make sense today for the 2 Ossetias to reunite as a Russian autononomous republic. But the ruling structures in South Ossetia would have to be thrown some kind of bone and given new jobs. Plus, the Russian government can’t undertake this project right now, because “NATO will never accept this” — ha ha!

            Like

            • ucgsblog says:

              Stalin loved the Georgians, but I doubt that he hated the Ossetians. I know that he deported the Chechens in part because they burned his home town of Gori. The name is quite ironic, since in Russian Gori could translate to “is meant to be burned”. I read on a forum somewhere, (so I’m not sure about the veracity of it,) that during the Ossetian War, the two Chechen Companies involved symbolically set fire to an abandoned administration building in Gori, so that’s very much alive.

              I doubt that you’ll have any issues with North and South Ossetia reuniting, because the extreme majority of trade of South Ossetia is with North Ossetia. The South Ossetians constantly propose a Union with Russia, and the Kremlin has to cool them off about the idea from time to time, although after the Crimean Annexation, that might be tougher to do.

              BTW, would you be interested in getting together on Skype or something like that once every two weeks and doing a talk show?

              Like

          • ucgsblog says:

            Undoubtedly. I’m sure that he had the support of the Central Committee when he made the transfer, it’s just that I think they took political points and family vacations into account a lot more than local damns and infrastructure. But you’re right in the sense that he wasn’t a dictator. Nor did he ever seek to be a dictator. He was terrified of the power that Stalin wielded, and never wanted that much power for himself. He’s also famed for the Khrushevkas. Each Soviet leader had his good and bad sides, because of the giant role that they played in History, each side is amplified, and finding a balanced solution seems tough. Hence my welcoming of the debate 😛

            Like

  9. davidt says:

    Apparently there are “bombs” everywhere, even if Putin has been too polite to mention them publicly. On the other hand others have, for two prominent Russian lawmakers wrote to the Kremlin demanding the abrogation of the Treaty of Moscow, signed between Bolshevik Russia and the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in 1921. As scholars here are most likely aware, this treaty, together with the Treaty of Kars, defines Turkey’s borders with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The implied problem for Turkey is that Armenia and Georgia never recognized this “forced” transfer of territories belonging to them to Turkey by the Bolsheviks. So much for “the end of history”. My sole authority for this is Ambassador Bhadrakumar:
    http://blogs.rediff.com/mkbhadrakumar/

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      “The Bolsheviks, struggling desperately to survive the foreign invasion, made territorial concessions to Turkey. The Treaty of Moscow (like the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Weimar Germany) marked Russia’s exit from World War I. But, curiously, neither the Bolsheviks nor Ataturk at that time represented their states – USSR or the Turkish Republic – which were formed subsequently.

      After World War II, Soviet Union demanded the return of the territories [formerly belonging to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Gruzia], ceded to Turkey. But Winston Churchill intervened to take Turkey under the Anglo-American wings and Joseph Stalin avoided a confrontation.”

      And then Yeltsin came along and “lost” all of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Gruzia.
      Not just some chunks, but the whole enchilada!

      Like

  10. Ryan Ward says:

    In an attempt to catch up with the fairly substantial volume of comments, I’ll respond very briefly to most of them, then I’ll write a separate and longer post on the topics of historical alternatives and German funding. I’ll do this in a point/counterpoint format.

    1) The wording of the question is bizarre, and it’s obvious that Lenin did not cause the destruction of the Russian state.

    I referred to a nationalistic/patriotic framework, to avoid responses that change the terms of the debate. Since we’re talking about Putin’s comments, the question is whether Lenin “placed a time bomb under the Russian state.” It would be irrelevant to this particular discussion to say, for example, “Maybe Lenin did place a time bomb under the Russian state, but who cares?” What I was pointing out was that the discussion is about whether Lenin’s actions were good for the Russian state or not, not about whether the Russian state was something worth preserving or promoting.
    To claim that the Russian state had already disappeared with the February revolution is sleight of hand. It’s to confuse a specific regime with the state as such. The republic under the Provisional Government, while it was a state with severe internal issues, was still a functioning state, in the same borders as the old Russian empire, and in legal and diplomatic continuity with it. There was no collapse of the state in February. It was only following the October Revolution that this occurred.

    2) There were lots of other causes that demoralized the soldiers and weakened the war effort. The Bolsheviks had no great effect on the course of events before the February Revolution.

    I don’t deny any of this. My point in mentioning that the Bolsheviks worked to demoralize and undermine the army from the beginning of the war was that this was the Bolsheviks’ goal and the main thrust of their efforts, not that they did a particularly effective job of it. When we’re talking about the Bolsheviks as an effective force (as opposed to talking about their intentions), I agree that the story starts in February 1917.
    Also, it’s no part of my claim that the Bolsheviks were the ONLY cause of the collapse of the army and state, in 1917 or at any other time. Obviously, the Bolsheviks were limited by their circumstances, and they needed the right circumstances to achieve their goals. My point was that, when the opportunity presented itself, it was the Bolsheviks who made the decisive move to destroy the Russian state. It’s not either/or; it’s both/and.

    3) The Bolsheviks weren’t on the Petrograd Soviet when Order #1 was promulgated.

    I actually didn’t agree with this claim in my post, and I don’t think it’s true. As far as I’m aware, Shlyapikov was on the executive committee from the very beginning. In any case, there are two further important points about Order #1. Firstly, its importance shouldn’t be exaggerated. The order explicitly stated that it was only intended to apply to off-duty situations. Point 6 states, “In formation and on duty, soldiers shall strictly adhere to military discipline.” It was only in the general context of demoralization and relentless Bolshevik agitation that it played a role in the weakening of the front. Finally, after the order was promulgated, the Bolsheviks fully supported it, as they (at least publicly) fully supported the Petrograd Soviet in general. Therefore, they shared the responsibility for it, and helped to increase its influence.

    4) The Battle of Jugla (Riga) was not a minor event.

    I didn’t say that the battle was a minor event. I said that the 12th army didn’t collapse, which is true. Although the army lost the battle and took moderate (in the context of WW1, not heavy) casualties, it still withdrew in good order to defensive positions behind Riga. The Battle was certainly a defeat, but it was not a decisive defeat or the end of the 12th army as a fighting formation. My point was simply that the Russian army didn’t lose the war on the battlefield, which is clearly true. The Germans didn’t march into Petrograd, and the Russian army didn’t disintegrate under German attack (although, of course, it was gravely weakened). It disintegrated in response to the October revolution.

    5) Lenin didn’t cause the collapse of the Russian army.

    With this one, I have to directly disagree. As Trotsky noted, no Lenin=no October revolution. The idea of the coup wasn’t really popular even within the Bolshevik party itself. It was only the force of Lenin’s personality that pushed it through. As far as the army is concerned, the chronology (as I’ve pointed out) shows that it was the October Revolution that caused the collapse of the army, not defeat on the battlefield, and not general demoralization. These certainly helped to set the scene, but the revolution was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      Hey, Ryan,
      Welcome back! I hoped you enjoyed your vacation.
      Now back into the fray.
      If you want to do a formal post, just email me.

      Like

      • Ryan Ward says:

        Thanks! I had a pretty good time.
        As far as a post goes, I’m not sure if I’m saying anything really new now, so I think it’s fine just posting in the comments 🙂
        By the way, you’ll see a comment in the moderation box from “ryanwardsite”, which is from me. I accidentally changed my name due to a general ineptitude with WordPress, or maybe just the Internet in general 😉

        Like

  11. Ryan Ward says:

    On the topic of WW1, I think the characterization of it as an “imperialistic war” is fair. I agree with the Canadian politician Henri Bourassa’s statement that there was no point fighting for “any spoliating empire, whether it be the spoliators of Belgium, Alsace, or Poland, or those of Ireland or the Transvaal, of Greece or the Balkans.” That said, I think the same is true of every Russian war going back to the 18th century, with the exception of the war against Napoleon. I find it more than a little odd that a lot of supporters of the nationalism/communism mixture that was originally promoted in the Stalin era treat different wars, all equally imperialistic, so differently. If anything, WW1 was, at least initially, less imperialistic than some of Russia’s earlier wars, since (at the beginning, at least) Russia wasn’t out to annex land (although of course that changed once the Turks got in, and Russia started aiming to annex the Dardanelles).
    Getting back to WW1, I do, however, think that the war was worth fighting in late 1917. When the Octobrists were marginalized in the Provisional Government, Russia abandoned its aggressive war aims. Also, Germany by this time had largely been taken over by the proto-fascist Ludendorff faction, and thus had come to represent more of a threat to the core legitimate interests of Russia than the Germany of 1914 had. Fighting in 1917 really was fighting for Russia, not for an empire and certainly not for Kerensky. The Mensheviks had no particular loyalty to Kerensky, but they still supported the defensive war. This was not an abandonment of the Menshevik political program, just a determination to pursue it by legitimate means, and not by starting a civil war. The same path was open to the Bolsheviks. They just didn’t follow it because they actively hoped for civil war.
    In terms of counter-factuals, I’d rather think of what might have happened if there had been no October revolution at all, rather than if the Whites had won the war. That’s because I don’t like most of the Whites much better than I like the Reds. So, my answer to what would have happened if the Whites had won is, “probably nothing good.” However, it’s a different matter if there had been no October Revolution. In that case, I think Russia would have come out of the war as a rather bloodied and unheroic victor. I think that, without the second wind they got from victory in the East, German forces would have crumbled in the West much sooner, leaving the Russians among the winners by default (much like Italy). In the settlement following the war, I think Russia would have lost Poland and maybe the Baltic states, but nothing else. However, in the short time it had, the Provisional Government moved in the direction of granting autonomy to Belarus and Ukraine (both of which got autonomous governments in the Provisional Government period). I think this would have naturally progressed over time in the direction of full independence, at least for Ukraine. Within Russia proper, I think there would have been small-scale disorder and unrest for a few years, and the final decision on land reform would not have satisfied the peasants fully. However, I think the state would have muddled through, and eventually returned to the rapid economic growth of the late tsarist period. By the 1930’s, Russia would have been a little smaller than the historical Soviet Union, but also wealthier, more secure, and much, much less oppressive. The result wouldn’t have been particularly dramatic or inspiring, but it would have caused much less human suffering than did the civil war, repeated famines, economic destruction and totalitarianism of the Soviet Unions historical journey through the 1920s and 1930s.

    Like

  12. Lyttenburgh says:

    Point 3 – Answering questions past and current.

    And now some answers back to Mr. Ward.

    0) Mr. Ward, I honestly can’t remember anyone setting up the terms of the debate. At all. Neither me or yalensis have eve set any 100% rigid (and equally “True”) conditions that could be interpreted as such. I also can’t remember Vladimir Vladimirovich taking some time off from his busy schedule to dispatch a single missive towards us to regulate any, as you put it, “terms of debate”.

    So, I guess, its safe to assume now, that you, Mr. Ward, imagined something which is not true as being, well, an objective reality. Well, you were wrong, Mr. Ward. I think you should revaluate your points given this new information

    1) and 5)

    “To claim that the Russian state had already disappeared with the February revolution is sleight of hand.”

    Good thing that I never claimed that ;). What I actually said (re-read my comment, Mr. Ward – I can’t edit it anyway) was that Russian State in its form as Russian Empire ceased to exist after the February Revolution. What came next could only loosely be called as “another iteration of Russian state in the form of…”, because something rabidly disintegrating is kinda an antithesis to what a proper state should be.

    Provisional government’s claims to be a legitimate government, its claims to be a “continuation” from the Monarchical Russian (now gone) were threadbare. One of Nicholas II acts in his capacity as Czar of All Russia had been the dissolution of the State Duma. Nevertheless, these guys officially deprived from any power and legitimacy in a span of less than a day would form the “Interim Committee of the State Duma” – a precursor of the Interim/Provisional government. So, they can’t claim continuation – at least legitimate. They were recognized as a viable option only due to 2 major factors:

    A) From the very beginning, people (mis)placed their trust into them hoping for them, un-elected “ministers capitalists” to somehow unfuck already crappy situation.
    B) These fine chaps once again recognized Russia’s duty to its allies – and Russia’s sovereign debt. How you can’t recognize such schmucks?

    You are absolutely right – the very same day the February Revolution happened Russia (in its then iteration) didn’t collapse. It collapsed gradually, piece by piece, despite all efforts of the Provisional government and its foreign backers. But Russia didn’t collapse either right after the October Revolution either. No, Mr. Ward. Try to listen to me here instead of denying thing ideologically inappropriate to you (do they have McDonalds and Coca Cola in Vietnam? I don’t know – and don’t care, since I live perfectly well without buying their products here in Russia).

    Let’s talk about Soviets, shall we?

    Soviets (or “Councils” if you prefer) were recreated since the early days of the February revolution. Why I say “recreated”? Because they first appeared during the Moscow’s rebellion during the revolution of 1905-07. Soviets, simply put, were organs of the local self-rule. Some typical Soviet in one of Petrograd’s districts would take upon itself the appointment (and firing…) of local bureaucrats, collection of money for providing communal services, providing of the communal services (like water, heating, electricity, etc.), maintenance of buildings, new police (militsiya) and many other day to day issues.

    For all intends and purposes Soviets WERE the power on the ground. You can’t deny it. You have to deal with them – and that’s what the Provisional Government had to do. Soviets were part’n’parcel of the legal (as it went) legitimate landscape in Russia in 1917. They, by the virtue of being local, represented people better than the un-elected Provisional government of warmongers. And by late October 1917 most of the Soviets throughout Russia had Bolshevik majority.

    So, after the October Revolution the haphazard Republican Russia had been replaced by… Soviet Russia! And don’t tell me it wasn’t – you Westerners spent so much propaganda effort on it – you even coined the term “Soviet Russia” as a catch-all term for the USSR from 1917 till 1991.

    The fact is – nothing collapsed, as in “sank rapidly into the Oblivion” following the October revolution. The instruments for the local rule were already in place – the Soviets! And, no, Mr. Ward. Russia didn’t not take an enormous, unbelievable plunge to the worse coupled with the deteriorating disintegrating process following the Great October Socialistic Revolution of 1917. Neither did Russia “collapsed” after the seaman Zheleznyakov informed the Constitutional Asswmbly deputies that “the guard is tired now” (c) – people were rather ambivalent about them, Uchredilovka’s deputies from the very beginning. Russia did not collapsed into a ring of constantly shrinking frontlines following Kornilov’s last hurrah – he caught a cannon shell and it all collapsed immediately. Neither did Russia was on annihilated after the signing of the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty. No. The real opposition to the Bolsheviks, the forefront of the Civil War raised its head only in May 1918 – with the Czechoslovakian legion’s revolt.

    October1917. May 1918. More than half-a-year. A helluva of time if you ask me!

    2)

    Okay, Mr. Ward. Go ahead and provide a real proof that Bolsheviks come 1917 contributed most to the annihilation of the Russian army as a fighting force via insidious propaganda. And that said efforts were crucial in rendering Russian army virtually useless by late 1917. Go ahead! Prove it!

    3)

    But lets make your task more interesting, shall we, Mr. Ward? Lenin came back with his scrotum-crushing “April Theses” in (wait for it…) late April of 1917. He raised all sort of heck in his own party, which grew rather complacent with the situation. Also, by early 1917 Bolshevik party numbered some 23 000 (I’m really generous here) members.

    Now, Mr. Ward, can you prove without any doubt, utilizing not your hypothesis and the stuff you just imagined – i.e. using only hard data – that Bolsheviks SOMEHOW managed to FUBAR entire Russian army in the span on 2 months all by themselves via their insidious jewish commie tricks? Why 2 months? Because in June 18 then minister of War Kerenskiy began his clusterfuck of an offensive.

    I will go fry some sunflower seeds (aka semki) for that event.

    4)

    Mister Ward, are you taking a special effort to appear more ignorant than you are? I mean – are you bullshitting me here? Do you insist on me providing you with day to day litany of defeats and withdrawals suffered by Russian Army since the collapse of the Provisional Government’s offensive? You need statistics on desertion? What do you need to drive home into your head one simple point – that by late October 1917 Russia was in no shape absolutely to fight in this stupid, murderous and criminal war, that some Westerners still like to jerk off?

    I get it – you are not a military man. You are not Russian either .So you don’t fucking care about Russian soldiers in any given time period – I get it! Just don’t appear too smug and sure of yourself when doing that.

    Russian Army was done by late 1917. Thinking that wars are won only on the battlefield is a worst kind of armchair generalship. Pathetic even. Not taking into your own (already ideologically narrow) view such factors like attrition, re-supply capacity, general moral, the “rear” etc, is a sheer folly and not an example of any serious analysis.

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      So, after the October Revolution the haphazard Republican Russia had been replaced by… Soviet Russia! And don’t tell me it wasn’t – you Westerners spent so much propaganda effort on it – you even coined the term “Soviet Russia” as a catch-all term for the USSR from 1917 till 1991.

      Ha ha! But when Westies coined the term “Soviet Russia”, they didn’t actually know what a “soviet” meant! Or that Bolsheviks at the time were sort of in the position of, “My people are revolting, I must rush to lead them.”

      In alternate universe, a sell-out version of Lenin stood up on that train caboose and announced, “We must do everything in our power to support Kerensky and this just war. Hey, things are finally starting to turn our way. Over the top, let’s give jerry a taste of our steel, and marchons to the Hindenburg Line!”

      After which, he was lynched by the soldiers soviets.

      Like

  13. Lyttenburgh says:

    Point 4 – On the First World War.

    Mr. Ward, you write:

    “…I think the characterization of it as an “imperialistic war” is fair… That said, I think the same is true of every Russian war going back to the 18th century, with the exception of the war against Napoleon. I find it more than a little odd that a lot of supporters of the nationalism/communism mixture that was originally promoted in the Stalin era treat different wars, all equally imperialistic, so differently.”

    I was astonished (and a little bit saddened) when I read this. Really? You live and study in Vietnam, Mr. Ward and you don’t know the definition of not only the “imperialistic war” but, apparently of what is the “imperialism”. There are encyclopedias a-plenty that can correct this flaw in your education. Or just google it.

    Simply put, the “imperialistic war” is a war in which participate several countries with capitalistic socio-economic formation. The main objective of this war – gaining control of territories and resources for their extensive economic exploitation by the capitalist class of the victorious country.

    When Peter I retook or conquered parts of Baltic coast from Sweden he didn’t wage an “imperialistic war”. Catherine II likewise didn’t wage an imperialistic war against the Ottoman Empire, when she managed to conquer the Wild plains and Crimea. Why? Because neither Russian Empire, nor Sweden nor, especially, Turkey were capitalist countries at the moment. And imperialism (coupled with the extensive colonialism) being a final stage of the capitalist development, this makes wars waged by (or) between the imperialist states – Imperialistic wars.

    Traditionally, historiography names as first Imperialistic wars so-called Opium Wars of the British Empire against China. Others that followed (Mexican-American, Austro-Prussian, Franco-Prussian, Russo-Japanese, Anglo-Boer and many, many others) exemplified this concept even more… brightly.

    And the First World War was the most Imperialistic of them all. A logical conclusion of both the internal process within Great Powers (all of them imperialistic) and the convoluted mess of the international relations of that era. I didn’t matter that cousins Nikki, Willie and Georg were such fine chaps and hearty fellows.

    It all ultimately didn’t matter, because the real power behind their thrones actually wanted the war to make themselves rich. There is some difference, I think, between, say, conquering a swath of land and finally gaining your country an access to the sea, which helps tremendously in its modernization which affects all of the people – and prevents other countries from conquering your backward self. And it’s a different matter when your government, say invades a territory of another country in the name of improving the lot of poor, poor war profiteers and large capital. In the first example you, as a soldier, can understand what’s in it for you. In the second example you are a cannon-fodder meant not to understand or think, but to be spent on a matter that is completely alien for you and larger part of the population.

    The claim that for Russia early First World War was “less imperialistic” than other wars is simply ridiculous. Russia under the chest-pumping rhetoric of “protecting our fellow Slavs!” aimed to wrestle the control and influence on the Balkans from the Austro-Hungary. Western Ukrainian territories (like, you know, Lemberg/Lwow) were also considered a worthy (and “rightful”) future additions to Russian territory. On Irrusianality Professor Robinson made several posts commemorating 100th anniversary of Przemsyl’s and Galicia’s capture by Russian army. Czar Nicholas II visited Lvov and expressed exactly this view.

    So, yes, Mr. Ward – for Russia the Great War was equally imperialistic, as, say Russo-Japanese. And when the Turks entered the fray Russian Empire desired more than just ephemeral “control over Bosphorus” – Kars would also be added into a heap of future trophies.

    Trying to portray Ludendorff as a “proto-Fascist” is nothing but a propaganda trick appealing to people’s emotions rather than to facts. And, no, after the departure of the so-called liberals from the Provisional government it didn’t became a hippy commune seeking only “defensive” aims. In 1917 Russian army continued advancing against the Turks – so much for being “non-aggressive”. Provisional government increased manifold sending Russian troops to the Western front. These soldiers were spent like water. Ever heard about the Nivelle offensive, Mr. Ward? Out of 20 000 soldiers of the Russian expeditionary force we lost 5183 KIA. This offensive, as often such things went in the Great War, was disastrous. French soldiers began openly revolting .When Russian expeditionary force followed the suit it had been suppressed – brutally.

    And, once again – no, no, and million times more NO – Russian Army wasn’t in any shape not only to fight, but even to sit tight and rot away in the trenches for much more by October 1917. All countries have spent their pre-war supplies of shells and ammo by early 1915. But while other countries managed to more or less solve this problem by 1915-16 Russian Army didn’t accomplish it. Never. Like at all. And without artillery support any offensive turned into a bloodbath. By October 1917 about 4 980 000 soldiers went through military hospitals… due to illness alone. By 1 October there remained reservists for only 6-9 months, after which Russian Army would have to conscript elderly, teenagers, wounded and just plainly sick people.

    And Russian soldiers didn’t see this war as a “Patriotic” one – no matter what amount of propaganda Kerensky and his commissars heaped upon their ears. They either refused to fight and instead were fraternizing with Germans (and Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Poles…) who were equally sick and tired of that pointless war. Or they took their fate into their hand and deserted – en mass. And they were doing this with little to no prompting from the Evul Bolsheviks.

    I consider the First World War an abominable, murderous, senseless but – above all – criminal and unjust War that can’t be possibly defended by anyone. Tell me, Mr. Ward, do you also consider the Vietnam War waged by the American imperialism to be also defensible and “patriotic”? Do you (Canadian) consider those who were protesting against it or avoiding a draft to be “traitors”?

    And lastly. If we go with this absolutely unrealistic scenario of yours when all Bolsheviks just go “poof!” and the Great October Revolution didn’t happen – I still don’t believe that Kerensky’s government stood a chance. Because he and his ministers were not a viable alternative. And if you dismiss from the equation Bolsheviks this leaves us with Kornilovshina 2.0. Even Russian liberals (a lot of uber democratic Kadets, no less!) were longing for a “strong arm” and dictatorship. Probably, Russia could be saddled with this or that form of military junta – not democratic republic. There were examples a-plenty from the inter-war Europe, with Mannerheim and Pilsudski being the most close ones.

    Even if the impossible would have happened and Russian army, somehow, won’t collapse completely by 1918, there won’t be much in the lieu of trophies for us. No “straits control” for sure – Britain and France just wouldn’t allow that. They would, OTOH, support nationalism in Russian “Directory ”(or whatever it would have been called) and (as a bare minimum) an independent Poland with considerable territory as a buffer state against both Russia and Germany. Whatever territorial gains made in Galicia or Caucasus would be negated by demands of creating independent national governments in this areas.

    And lets not forget about astronomical sovereign debt of Russian Empire and the Provisional government. Being good capitalists France and Britain would demand its repayment (especially because of their own debt owed to the USA). Everything would do – gold, monopolies, pounds of flesh.

    So, in the end, by 1930 such Russia without Bolsheviks would be a new “sick man of Europe”, which would invite a new imperialistic free-for-all level of plundering and imperialism which China suffered at that time period. Nothing akin to a picture straight out of My Little Pony land with “wealthier, more secure, and much, much less oppressive” Russia, that you have fantasized, Mr. Ward. But, who knows – maybe you are actually okay with Russia being annihilated.

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      Russian cavalry would have looked like this:

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        Ponyis propaganda! Wake up people! Don’t you know?! They are all just a bunch of little gopniks trying to lull us into complacency and then usurp the control over humans from our current overlords – cats.

        I mean – look at them!

        “Hey, you! Whatcha you doin’ on our stompin’ ground? Got an apple? And What if we find one?”

        Like

  14. ryanwardsite says:

    Come on, let’s be serious now. I never suggested the cavalry would look like that. Those horses don’t even have riders. This is more like what I had in mind

    Like

  15. Ryan Ward says:

    During Perestroyka the Soviet Union was awash with “truthers” and dissidents who were doing everything in their power (sometimes – even for free) to prove the “criminal foundation of the bloody regime” ™. One of such “liberal” truthers was a prominent Leningrad’s professor Startsev. Suddenly, his lifelong dream came true – he got a grant to go studying abroad – to the blessed Valinor of the USA! Here, he was given access to the Congressional library – a rare event for that time. It was here when he discovered to his eternal horror an unspeakable and unutterable tome of forbidden knowledge – a slim book by none other than one of the architects of the Cold War George Kennan himself, who in 1956 dissected and then provided a conclusive material and factological proof that no – Bloody Bolshies were not paid agents of Kaiser and traitors.

    That’s a misrepresentation of Kennan’s work. Kennan’s work was specifically a treatment of the Sisson papers. He showed that,almost all the papers were definite forgeries, and the few that were left were doubtful. However, his work has no relevance to other sources.

    What is the basis for these accusations anyway? Before embarking upon any historical research its absolutely important to analyze and critique the sources available for that. One such “source” are the so-called “Sisson papers”.

    The key word in that is ONE such source. I agree that the Sisson papers shouldn’t be used as historical evidence, but I didn’t use them in my post. My quote from Kuehlmann came from the German foreign ministry archives, and the quote from the Austro-Hungarian diplomat from the Austrian archives.

    Now, about the most “damning evidence”- Lenin’s ride in the “sealed train-car”. First of all – Lenin and other Bolsheviks travelled in 2 such train-cars, not one. Second – this was hardly anything out of the ordinary. The whole idea behind the “sealed train-car” is for the people from one neutral country (in this case – Switzerland) to safely reach another neutral country (in this case – Sweden) while travelling thought countries, currently engaged in war. Entente countries from the very beginning stated that they won’t allow a bunch of a well known anti-war activists to travel through their territory (the creation of the III International really butt-hurt them). And Germans decided to let them through. That was the only assistance they’ve provided because it cost them no money at all.

    No, that particular bit of assistance didn’t cost money, but that doesn’t mean it was inconsequential. There’s actually a fair bit of discussion of the decision in the German foreign ministry archives, for example telegram #46, “Since it is in our interests that the influence of the radical wing of the Russian revolutionaries should prevail, it would seem to me advisable to allow transit to the revolutionaries there.”
    After Lenin arrived, telegram #551 stated, “Lenin’s entry into Russia successful. He is working exactly as we would wish.”

    And now about Parvus. This was indeed a legendary personality – someone made from the same material as “the ace of Spies” Reily or already mentioned here Ferdinand Ossendovski. He milked Kaiser Willie for 3 billions Reichs marks (in gold!) for financing “revolutions” in Entente countries. His tactic was brilliant. He contacted any group of well know political emigrants or just a well know oppositionists. Parvus was not picky – he went everywhere. Next, he began “trolling” people – claiming that this and this group of “revolutionaries” receives money from him, and you guys will also get some gesheft from me if you will do as I say! But, as they say in Odessa, the whole “tzimmes” of his trick was in the fact, that Parvus paid to no one. He simply pocketed money. And because the Germans lacked their own Alexey Navalniy and George Alburov, they were kept in dark about an epic-level “Rospil” of the budget funds.

    Lenin indeed met Parvus. He didn’t like the fellow. In fact, he called him a “procuress of the imperialism” and told to GTFO.This is just parroting Lenin’s own claims, which are most unlikely to the true if we analyze the actual evidence. Lenin said bad things about Parvus in public, which means nothing whatsoever. What would you expect him to do, say, “That known German agent Parvus is a great friend and supporter of mine!”? We can’t just take Lenin’s public statements and assume that they’re true. Actually, we know for a fact that Lenin lied about his connection with Ganetsky. In “Where is the Regime and Where is the Counter-Revolution?” Lenin claimed that a) Ganetsky was not a member of the Russian Bolsheviks and b) he had had no financial dealings with Ganetsky. These are both demonstrable lies. According to the record of Ganetsky’s NKVD investigation when he was purged under Stalin, he had been a member of the Russian Social Democratic Party long before WW1 began, and had sided with the Bolshevik faction. Furthermore, he attended 3 congresses of the the Russian SD’s. So it was a simple, unquestionable lie that Ganetsky was not a member of the Bolsheviks. The second claim was that Lenin had had no financial dealings with Ganetsky. This is demonstrably false, from Lenin’s own correspondence. In Lenin’s collected correspondence, Ganetsky is the second-most common recipient of messages, next to Inessa Armand. Furthermore, some messages explicitly refer to money. For example, in a June 1918 letter to Adolf Ioffe, Lenin wrote, “Krasin and Ganetsky, being businesslike people, will help you and everything will be all right.” More directly, it’s directly discussed in messages between Lenin and Ganetsky that Ganetsky would send money to help Lenin with the train trip from Switzerland to Sweden. That’s not really significant in itself, since it was a small amount, but it shows that Lenin saw Ganetsky as a source of funds, and it shows again that Lenin was simply lying in his public self-defense. Now, how this connects back to Parvus is in the discussion of the Parvus-Ganetsky import/export firm. If Parvus were running that firm by himself, it might be possible, or even plausible, that he was just pocketing all the money. However, he was running it with Ganetsky, who was a reliable and trustworthy Bolshevik. Thanks to Grebing, we know that the firm existed, and that Grebing at least was under the impression that it was being used to fund the Bolsheviks. Thanks to the German foreign ministry archives, we know that Parvus was receiving large amounts of German cash. Thanks to the fact that Ganetsky was involved, we know that it would have been extremely difficult for Parvus to misdirect ALL the funds into his own pockets. It’s clear that what the company was was an effective money-laundering operation. It allowed the Bolsheviks to avoid any direct connection with the Germans, while receiving the proceeds from a business that was operated with German funds. Also, although we don’t know the details, the Parvus-Ganetsky firm was not the only channel for German funding to the Bolsheviks. As Kuehlmann’s note clearly states (and again, to belabour the point a little, Kuehlmann’s note doesn’t come from any questionable source like the Sisson papers, but rather directly from the archives), the Germans funded the Bolsheviks “through various channels and under varying labels”, not only through the mediation of Parvus. This doesn’t mean that the Bolsheviks were following German orders or working for the Germans. It just means that the Germans recognized common interests, as they did in the case of the rail car, and followed up that realization with money.

    Before his travel back to Russia, Lenin indeed gather all available funds. He even wrote about it, and anyone willing to check out can see it for themselves in his “Full Assembly of Works” – see, bloody communists didn’t suppress this knowledge. Their total funds amounted for just several dozen thousands of rubles – enough to transport less than 50 Bolsheviks to Russia, but not enough to make the revolution. Lenin meticulously wrote down who paid and what amount. In fact, 5 years later he had to repay the money given to him in 1917 by a Swiss social-democrat, who just received a huge inheritance. Other funds came from party dues, income from “Iskra” newspaper and a few other social-democrats who had a job. No proverbial “German gelt”, Mr. Ward.
    Actually, the Bolsheviks did suppress the knowledge of Lenin’s activities during WW1. The documents were kept in party archives, but only very gradually published. The first editions of Lenin’s collected works are much smaller than the later additions. Furthermore, the Bolsheviks directly scrubbed material from the state archives. We know this because the record of it happening is in the party archives. Presumably they never expected those archives to be public, so they didn’t worry about it. However, now that they are public, we can see a report from 16 Nov 1917 from F. Zalkind and E. Polivanov, stating, “In the Ministry of Justice archives…we have removed German Imperial Bank Order #7, 433 dated 2 March 1917 authorizing payment of money…for peace propaganda in Russia.” I don’t think any further comment is necessary.

    In fact, if you look back to history, you will notice that no one was financing the Revolutions. If something needs financing (like Maidan) then it’s not a Revolution, but pigs squabble at the trough. The moment Bolsheviks got the majority in the Soviets across the country they got everything they need for a successful revolution – resources, funds, local power and the military. And Bolsheviks didn’t need to “buy” them – they consequently for many years supported 2 main demands that found the most appeal to the people of Russia – Peace and Land. What is more important – that’s exactly what they provided after their victory.

    Firstly, it’s a little misleading to say “the moment Bolsheviks got the majority in the Soviets across the country” without mentioning that they got that majority because the Mensheviks and most of the SRs walked out in protest against the November coup. But talking about Bolshevik money, the Bolsheviks needed lots of it. In the months from February to November 1917, they were running a massive propaganda campaign. By July, Bolshevik newspaper circulation (not only of Pravda, but of other newspapers as well), was 320 000, published in a variety of different languages. That’s a massively expensive venture.

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      Dear Ryan:
      I edited your comment to fix the HTML tags, where you intended boldface.
      Just for future reference, when you insert HTML tags into your comment, you should use the triangular brackets (the “greater than” and “less than” symbols on the keyboad) instead of square brackets.

      Like

    • yalensis says:

      P.S. – I’ll mostly leave this part of the debate to you professional historians, but I just had to comment on one thing:
      telegram #551 stated, “Lenin’s entry into Russia successful. He is working exactly as we would wish.”

      I can imagine some German spook twirling his moustache and pronouncing those words (in thick German accent): “All is proceeding according to ze plan…”

      But seriously… Doesn’t this just prove that the Germans were good predictors of human behavior? You take a Lenin and release it into the wild, and what is it going to do? Make revolution. Because that’s what Lenins do.

      If Lenin had truly been a German agent, then he would have just stuck with overthrowing the Russian government, and abstained from fomenting revolution in Germany. But he didn’t. He kept on trying. In fact, the Bolsheviks were convinced that they had to pull off proletarian revolution in Germany as well, or they were doomed. Until Stalin and “Socialism in One Country”. But that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.

      Like

      • Ryan Ward says:

        I actually agree with that. I think, in addition to the point you made, if Lenin were actually taking instructions from the Germans, there would be some record of it in the German archives, but there isn’t. What I think happened instead is that both sides tried to use each other for their own ends. When I called Lenin a “German agent”, I didn’t mean that he was a loyal employee of Germany, Inc. More of a freelancer 😉

        Like

        • yalensis says:

          Okay, Ryan, now we’re edging a bit closer!

          And I think it’s important to keep these distinctions in mind, because there is a lot of fuzzy logic out there, especially on the Intertubes.
          I can’t even count how many “debates” I have had with people out there (especially on “Russophile sites”) who make the syllogism “Navalny=Lenin”. These are usually people who are fervent supporters of Putin. They see how Navalny & other variegated types take American money and seek to overthrow Putin (like, at the Bolotnaya, the “White Ribbon Revolution” and all that other stuff.)

          Then these people draw mathematical equations Putin=Tsar, Navalny=Lenin, with Lenin taking German money to overthrow the beloved Tsar, just as Navalny takes American money to overthrow Putin.

          One difference seems pretty obvious: Navalny and his ilk support American foreign policy and government down to every dotted “i” and crossed “t”. If they were to seize the government in Russia, their first initiative would NOT be to then foment revolution in America as well..(Because they wish America also to become a wonderful kreakl paradise.)
          Instead, this new hypothetical Navalny-Kasparov government would become a loyal American ally, just like the current Ukrainian government. They would be hosting American bases, helping to train ISIS soldiers, and basically just doing whatever the Americans asked them to do.

          The difference with Lenin is quite obvious. I am counting on you and other professional historians, whatever your ideological leanings, to at least try to keep some of the people out there as honest as you can. By sticking to the facts and not allowing false syllogisms.

          Hence, instead of calling Lenin a “German agent”, could you in the interests of basic fairness, at least find some other term for him. Well, what he called himself was a “Professional Revolutionary”.

          Like

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      “The key word in that is ONE such source. I agree that the Sisson papers shouldn’t be used as historical evidence, but I didn’t use them in my post. My quote from Kuehlmann came from the German foreign ministry archives, and the quote from the Austro-Hungarian diplomat from the Austrian archives.”

      Excellent! Now we’ve established that you base your all accusation on another group of documents. Fortunately, in late 1950s they were translated in Russian and published. Which included, of course, the ought quoted by certain category of people TG which you also provided here. Only more often than not its mistranslated. Deliberately. By now this fakey translation is known more widely than the original.

      You claim:

      “Lenin’s entry into Russia successful. He is working exactly as we would wish.”

      Here is the original:

      «Lenin Eintritt in Russland geglückt. Er arbeitet völlig nach Wunsch».

      Which translates (believe me… or the net-translators… or don’t) as: “ Lenin’s entry into Russia successful. He acts as he wants” .

      And that was the main body of the documents that you’ve used to “prove” that Lenin was a German agent, Mr. Ward? I’m not impressed. This collection of documents proves (at max) that the German government hoped for Russia to exit the War due to actions of various left-wingers (not only Bolsheviks). Among those documents we won’t find any evidence that the Germans paid to Lenin and his party. None. Whatsoever.

      “This is just parroting Lenin’s own claims, which are most unlikely to the true if we analyze the actual evidence. Lenin said bad things about Parvus in public, which means nothing whatsoever.”

      What about the “presumption of (historical) innocence”, Mr. Ward? Or you have no mercy for your own “enemies of the people”? 😉

      “Lenin claimed that a) Ganetsky was not a member of the Russian Bolsheviks and b) he had had no financial dealings with Ganetsky.”

      and

      “More directly, it’s directly discussed in messages between Lenin and Ganetsky that Ganetsky would send money to help Lenin with the train trip from Switzerland to Sweden.”

      Only Ganetsky managed to get the sum… only in 1920. The small amount of money that he managed to scrounge in 1917 was not enough for staging a revolution – let alone to transport Lenin and others.

      “Thanks to Grebing, we know that the firm existed, and that Grebing at least was under the impression that it was being used to fund the Bolsheviks.”

      So… you have no concrete proof? Only “the impression”?

      “Thanks to the fact that Ganetsky was involved, we know that it would have been extremely difficult for Parvus to misdirect ALL the funds into his own pockets.”

      You would be AMAZED at what people can do sometimes if they want to embezzle money.

      This idea about Ganetsky using his firm to funnel money into Bolsheviks’ party chests had been already used by the Provisional Government and its counter-intel officer B.V. Nikitin. According to them, Bolsheviks used this incredibly weird scheme, when Parvus sent money to Ganetsky, Ganetsky sent money to his cousin, who’d cash in the checks a give the cash to Kozlovsky.

      And you know that, Mr. Ward, only thanks to the “deep and thoughtful” analysis of TGs sent between Lenin, Zinovyev, Kozlovsky, Kollontai, Ganetsky and his cousin Sumenson. Said TGs had been dragged into the light of Truth and… couldn’t prove anything. Even the Provisional Government couldn’t do that. Further the idea that said TG could be used as a sources indicating that any money were funneled this way into party of Bolsheviks were further disproved by S. Lyandres in his major work “The Bolsheviks’ «German Gold» Revisited. An Inquiry into 1917 Accusations” ( Pittsburgh. 1995).

      Once again, Mr. Ward – conspiracy theories, no concrete proof.

      “However, now that they are public, we can see a report from 16 Nov 1917 from F. Zalkind and E. Polivanov, stating, “In the Ministry of Justice archives…we have removed German Imperial Bank Order #7, 433 dated 2 March 1917 authorizing payment of money…for peace propaganda in Russia.” I don’t think any further comment is necessary.”

      You are absolutely right. This phrase only proves, uhm, what exactly? That Right after the victory of February revolution Germany decided to pay money for peace propaganda in Russia. Quelle surprise! . And not a word about “bloody Bolsheviks”. Who were rather underrepresented in Russia at that moment. Indeed, why you decided that his sentence out of context might prove something?

      “Firstly, it’s a little misleading to say “the moment Bolsheviks got the majority in the Soviets across the country” without mentioning that they got that majority because the Mensheviks and most of the SRs walked out in protest against the November coup.”

      You are rather dishonest here, Mr. Ward. Have you ever heard about such term as “Bolshevization of the Soviets”? By October 1917 there were 1429 Soviets across the country. Right before the Revolution Bolsheviks got 90% of members in Petrograd Soviets and 60% in Moscow and majority in 80 local Soviets in all big industrial cities across Russia. Bolsheviks in September 1917 won 11 out of 17 rayon Dumas’ elections.

      All before the Great October Revolution, Mr. Ward.

      “But talking about Bolshevik money, the Bolsheviks needed lots of it. In the months from February to November 1917, they were running a massive propaganda campaign. By July, Bolshevik newspaper circulation (not only of Pravda, but of other newspapers as well), was 320 000, published in a variety of different languages. That’s a massively expensive venture.”

      Care to provide us with believable, truthful and reliable proof of the supposed sources of funding for that, Mr. Ward? Something above the level of conspiracy theories, this time please.

      P.S.

      As a Westerner, Mr. Ward, you’ve probably heard about a movement for civil rights and against the War in Vietnam in the USA in 1950-70s. FBI and Hoover honestly considered them to be “commie agents”, because (obviously!), who else would win from the “destruction of our traditional values” and “backing down from Nam”? That’s why MLK phones were tapped. All in the name of the Freedoom, ‘Mockracy and Murikan Way.

      Only these people were not “Kremlin Stooges”. They had legit concerns and grievances to their government.

      Mr. Ward, I think you are willfully committing the same mistake as Hoover here.

      Like

      • yalensis says:

        Oooooh, this is good stuff, Lyt! That German quote:
        «Lenin Eintritt in Russland geglückt. Er arbeitet völlig nach Wunsch».

        My German is not the greatest in the world, I think we need to call on a native German speaker who understands the subtleties. My impression is that it can be translated either as “Lenin succeeded in entering Russia. He is operating just as one could wish.”
        or: “Lenin succeeded in entering Russia. He is operating as he pleases.”
        Either way, it just means the Germans were keeping an eye on him and playing their own long game. Like I said before, if Lenin were actually a German agent of influence, then he would have promoted German interests, and not tried to overthrow the existing German government.
        By the way, Lyt, have you read Konstantin Fedin’s Города и годы? It’s one of my favorite novels from that era, and it goes heavily into the German angle, with German revolutionaries and POW’s fighting in the Russian Civil War. The main female character is a German Communist.

        Like

        • Lyttenburgh says:

          No, I didn’t. Actually – thanks for mentioning it. The only one perspective “from the other side” were Jaroslav Hasek’s (Good Soldier Sweik’s creator and epic-level troll) diaries.

          Like

          • yalensis says:

            It’s a great read. A longish, epic-type book, with a lot of action. I just noticed, in the Russian wiki, that they cite the opinion of Dmitry Bykov:
            По оценке Дмитрия Быкова, «Города и годы» писались как демонстрационный образчик серапионовской прозы и вобрали в себя разнонаправленные влияния того времени: «тут и философская проза Лунца, и издевательский говорок Зощенко, и пряная провинциальная экзотика Вс. Иванова, и даже готика совсем молодого Каверина; тут вам и революционный эпос, и роман с тайной, и философические диспуты, и ужасная страсть, и предательство, и несколько истерический стиль авторских отступлений»[1].

            Of course, Bykov calling Fedin “hysterical” is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.
            But anyhow, it goes without saying that my two favorite characters in the novel are the Germans, Marie Urbach and Kurt Wahn. Compared to them, the Russian characters are wish-washy. Kurt starts off badly, he is a bourgeois artist and idealist, a German kreakl, the moment the clock strikes on WWI, he turns into a rabid German nationalist and kicks Andrei (his best friend, who is Russian) out of his house, because now they are “enemies”.
            Bad beginning.
            But it gets better: Kurt fights in WWI, is captured by the Russians, later joins a “POW soviet” and turns all Bolshie. Before you know it, he is a Commissar, and by the end of the book, he is practically running the Cheka single-handedly. Good stuff!

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  16. spartacus says:

    Well, I must say that I am thoroughly enjoying this debate. The discussion touches so many interesting points, so I’m thinking of saving it in .pdf form for future reference. Thank you Ryan and Lyttenburgh for doing this and thank you Yalensis for hosting it.

    PS: using my admittedly rusty German language skills, I think the translation is “He acts (works) completely as desired”. Oh look, Google Translate agrees with me. Now, if Lenin was under orders from ze Germans, I think the wording would have been something like “he acts as instructed”. The “he acts as desired” sentence, for me at least, implies something like “Oh my god it worked! We released the Lenin into the wild and he immediately started making a revolution!”.

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    • yalensis says:

      Ha ha! Thanks, Spartacus, I am enjoying the debate too.

      Like

    • Ryan Ward says:

      Thanks for the comment Spartacus. I assumed no one would be reading anymore 😉

      In regard to the diplomatic cable, I read it the same way you do. “Nach Wunsch” literally means “according to desire”, without specifying whose desire is in question. Given the context, I think it’s artificial and unnatural to divide Lenin’s “desire” from the Germans’ in this sentence. In the larger conversation, this message follows a lot of chatter about how Lenin’s short-term goals and the short-term goals of the German government are the same. The point is clearly that the operation has been successful for BOTH parties, Lenin and the Germans. However, this doesn’t mean that Lenin was taking orders from the Germans, just that their interests coincided for a while. In a later context in 1918, Lenin commented on another occasion when Bolshevik and German interests coincided. He clarifies that the situation was not pre-planned, but when it became clear that the interests coincided, “We would have been idiots not to take advantage of it.”
      In general, my point in pressing this line of argument is not to say that Lenin had any particular love for the Germans. My point is rather that Lenin didn’t really care much about any particular country, his own included. Lenin’s internationalism and fanatical devotion to “the revolution” in the abstract, combined with his willingness to throw anything or anyone under the bus who he thought would get in its way, meant that he had no real loyalty, not only to the government, but even to the people, of Russia. That’s part of the reason why I think he’s such an incredibly bad “hero figure” for Russian nationalists, not to mention his habits of referring to Russians in general as “idiots” and his insinuation that if any Russian isn’t an “idiot”, it must be because he’s partly Jewish. (Lenin’s words, not mine 😉 )

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      • spartacus says:

        “… not to mention his habits of referring to Russians in general as “idiots” and his insinuation that if any Russian isn’t an “idiot”, it must be because he’s partly Jewish.”

        Hmm, I must say this is the first time I’ve heard about this. Can you please provide a source and some context? I would be interested to learn more about it.
        From what I know, Lenin, whatever his flaws may be, did not had a demeaning attitude towards Russians and, according to this article, he considered himself a Russian who loves both his country and its language.

        From the link mentioned above:

        “Is a sense of national pride alien to us, Great-Russian class-conscious proletarians? Certainly not! We love our language and our country, and we are doing our very utmost to raise her toiling masses (i.e., nine-tenths of her population) to the level of a democratic and socialist consciousness. To us it is most painful to see and feel the outrages, the oppression and the humiliation our fair country suffers at the hands of the tsar’s butchers, the nobles and the capitalists. We take pride in the resistance to these outrages put up from our midst, from the Great Russians; in that midst having produced Radishchev,[3] the Decembrists[4] and the revolutionary commoners of the seventies[5]; in the Great-Russian working class having created, in 1905, a mighty revolutionary party of the masses; and in the Great-Russian peasantry having begun to turn towards democracy and set about overthrowing the clergy and the landed proprietors.”

        As is the case with every Marxist, for Lenin class is more important than ethnicity.

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        • Ryan Ward says:

          I don’t mean that Lenin had some theoretical anti-Russian view, just that he was given to some of the same prejudices that Westernized intellectuals of the time tended to hold (and that the Westernized intellectuals of our time continue to hold, for that matter). The “idiots” quote is from a 1920 letter to Jan Berzin about some printing work. After saying to invite some Swiss workers to do the skilled work and pay them well, Lenin continues, “Hand out the work to Russian idiots. Send the cuttings here, but not occasional issues (as these idiots have been doing until now).” The quote about intelligent Russians being partly Jewish comes from a conversation with Gorky reported in Issue #1 (1924) of Russkii Sovremennik, “The clever Russian is almost always a Jew or has Jewish blood in him.”
          Again, I’m not saying that Lenin had some kind of explicit worked-out theory of Russian inferiority, just that he could occasionally be given to the “sophisticated” Westernized intellectual’s contempt for ordinary Russian people.

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          • spartacus says:

            I wish I had access to original documents. Without proper context, tone of the conversation (humorous, angry, etc.) I find it really hard to judge a man’s character after one sentence. Volkogonov’s word on this matter is simply not enough.

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          • yalensis says:

            Dear Ryan:
            No, no, I can’t let you get away with this! Your original comment was gratuitously mean-spirited and quite unfair. And then, as you tend to do, you waffled and backed off somewhat in response to Spartacus, while still being unfair and throwing out pot-shots.
            As the piece cited by Spartacus indicates, not to mention the entire body of Lenin’s writings (which encompass many volumes, and I have to ask you, have you actually read any of Lenin’s actual words, other than quotes taken out of context by his enemies?), Lenin placed a lot of weight on the rights and feelings of nationalities, including Great Russians. Lenin opposed Great Russians (his own ethnos) when he felt that they were oppressing other peoples; but this didn’t mean that he hated Russia or Russians. It IS true that his values and mind-set were primarily European. As were/are those of the majority of the Russian intelligentsia, and always have been Lenin traced his intellectual heritage from two main sources: (a) the European Enlightenment; and (b) Russian Jacobonism.

            Like Spartacus said, Lenin put class above ethnicity, he did not have any racialist views whatsoever, about Russians, Jews, or anybody else. Which isn’t to say that he didn’t find plenty of idiots in very ethnicity. One of Lenin’s character flaws, which I personally don’t approve of, was a tendency to just curse people out and call them names, when he got angry. So, he would call people “idiots”, “renegades”, whatever, when he was angry with them.

            (1) Be that as it may, one thing I cannot let you get away with is your statement that Lenin “had no real loyalty, not only to the government, but even to the people, of Russia.” This coming from you, you are supposed to be an “impartial” historian, yet you have declared your ideological allegiance to that something-10% of the Romanov Tsarist court, bureaucracy, and camarilla of that time. Lenin clearly stated and clearly felt, that he was working to liberate the other 90% of Russians from the yoke of those dreadful people.

            (2) Also, if you had read any of Lenin’s works, you would know that he was deeply keyed into Russian culture, literature, and history. He placed himself in a political and literary tradition that went back to the Decembrists, to Griboedov, to Belinsky, Chernyshevsky. This is a side of Russia that you are probably not familiar with, because these people are not taught in Western institutions. Western institutions have their own version of who are the “cool people” in Russian history and literature. In the end, it is a matter of taste, but you have no right to say that Lenin was anti-Russian just because he claimed a heritage that is different from the branch which YOU approve of.

            (3) That’s part of the reason why I think he’s such an incredibly bad “hero figure” for Russian nationalists… You’re right about that, Lenin may have had some affection for his native land, but he was very far from being a Russian nationalist. If you knew Russia a bit better than you do, you would know that “Russian nationalist” today, as well as back then, is virtually a synonym for “Russian fascist”. Russian “nationalists”, just like “Ukrainian nationalists” are the people who hate Jews and the dark-skinned ones, and who sorta like Hitler. Maybe you meant to say “patriot” instead of “nationalist”. Either way, Lenin wasn’t exactly that either; but he certainly didn’t hate Russia. He only hated the Russian bourgeoisie. Oh, and also idiots.

            Like

  17. Ryan Ward says:

    October 1917. May 1918. More than half-a-year. A helluva of time if you ask me!
    The length of time isn’t the key factor. The key factor is the causal chain. The simple fact is that, under the Provisional Government, there was no organized armed resistance to the government. The problem was local disorder. All the armed factions that played a role in the Civil War arose as a result of the Bolshevik coup, or (as in the case of the Czech Legion) in response to the Bolsheviks’ later actions. Such armed resistance appeared immediately following the November coup (with Kerensky’s attempt to retake Petrograd). What took time was just the process of the resistance building itself up and organizing itself. It didn’t appear out of nowhere 6 or 7 months after the coup. This part of the discussion really shouldn’t be controversial. The Bolsheviks caused the Civil War.

    Okay, Mr. Ward. Go ahead and provide a real proof that Bolsheviks come 1917 contributed most to the annihilation of the Russian army as a fighting force via insidious propaganda. And that said efforts were crucial in rendering Russian army virtually useless by late 1917. Go ahead! Prove it!
    There’s no need for me to prove that, because I never made any such claim. What I said is that the Bolshevik agitation in the February-November period was part of the problem that was hindering the Russian war effort. In this period, it’s impossible to disentangle the different factors that were creating disorder in the rear and weakness on the front. The question of which of the key factors were more important than others is unanswerable. The important point is that Bolshevik agitation was one of the key factors making the situation worse. However, after the Bolsheviks took power, it is clear that their own actions turned a gradual decline into a collapse. Many historians have noticed the crucial role played by land seizures in prompting desertion from the army. Once it was clear that land was being seized, peasant soldiers on the front didn’t want to be left out of the reallocation, so they deserted to go home and take their piece. Of course, this was a major problem already under the Provisional Government, but at least the government then was trying to keep a lid on the problem. After the Bolsheviks took over, it because a free-for-all, with predictable results on both law and order and military effectiveness. (As an aside, I’m not saying that there shouldn’t have been extensive land reform. However, such reform should have been carried out in an orderly way, probably during peacetime). However, even then, the Russian army did not collapse completely. What caused the complete and final collapse was the announcement by Trotsky on January 28, 1918 that Russia considered the war over, and the announcement on January 29, 1918 that the army was officially demobilized. Of course, the nascent Red Army was not yet in any condition to replace the national army, and in any case was dedicated to the developing civil war more than to protecting the frontiers. So, if we want to talk about the final collapse of the Russian army, of course it was the fault of the Bolsheviks (and, by this point, the Bolsheviks alone), since it wasn’t really a collapse at all, but an intentional dissolution.

    But lets make your task more interesting, shall we, Mr. Ward? Lenin came back with his scrotum-crushing “April Theses” in (wait for it…) late April of 1917. He raised all sort of heck in his own party, which grew rather complacent with the situation. Also, by early 1917 Bolshevik party numbered some 23 000 (I’m really generous here) members.
    Again, no proof required, because I never claimed that. What I said was that the Bolsheviks were part of the problem in this period.

    Really? You live and study in Vietnam, Mr. Ward and you don’t know the definition of not only the “imperialistic war” but, apparently of what is the “imperialism”. There are encyclopedias a-plenty that can correct this flaw in your education. Or just google it.

    Simply put, the “imperialistic war” is a war in which participate several countries with capitalistic socio-economic formation. The main objective of this war – gaining control of territories and resources for their extensive economic exploitation by the capitalist class of the victorious country.
    OK, let’s Google it. What I see first is Merriam-Webster’s definition, “a policy or practice by which a country increases its power by gaining control over other areas of the world.” Nothing about “capitalistic socio-economic formation”, nothing about “economic exploitation by the capitalist class”, no mentions whatsoever of capitalism. What you’ve given is the specific (and very idiosyncratic) way the word “imperialism” is used in Leninist theory. It’s not the definition of the word, and it’s not the way I was using it. Actually, mentioning Google, you could have easily found this out for yourself by Googling the word “imperialism” combined with various pre-capitalist states (for a start, try Roman imperialism, Assyrian imperialism or Mongol imperialism). The way most people (as opposed to Leninists) use the word imperialism is to express in a broad way the imposition of control by force or pressure, whatever the nature of the regime applying the pressure.

    It all ultimately didn’t matter, because the real power behind their thrones actually wanted the war to make themselves rich.
    That’s a gross over-simplification of the politics leading up to the war. Actually, there were wide swathes of the moneyed classes that were not at all pleased with the war, since they were dependent on international trade. The “capitalists” were by no means uniform in their support for the war. There were also differences in different countries. For example, comparing Germany and England, Germany, having a more protectionist commercial policy and weaker access to world markets, had more to offer to its capitalist class from war than did England, which was less protectionist, and, in any case, already had all the business opportunities for its capitalists they could ever want. In America, on the other hand, the capitalist interests in favour of war were primarily the munitions industry (for obvious reasons) and the banks (because they were worried that, if German won the war, they would never get their loans back from France and Britain). The rest of the business community had no interest in the war, and was pretty uniformly isolationist. To talk about the war as “capitalist” also obscures the major (perhaps primary) role of the middle classes, especially in Germany, France and England, in pushing for the war. Most of these middle classes had relatively limited access to any actual fruits of empire, but were the strongest supporters of war because of a desire for “national glory”, “honour”, etc. etc. The narrowly class-based analysis of world politics obscures all the complicating factors that make international politics so unpredictable (until, of course, something happens, and suddenly everyone always knew it).
    That’s There is some difference, I think, between, say, conquering a swath of land and finally gaining your country an access to the sea, which helps tremendously in its modernization which affects all of the people – and prevents other countries from conquering your backward self. And it’s a different matter when your government, say invades a territory of another country in the name of improving the lot of poor, poor war profiteers and large capital. In the first example you, as a soldier, can understand what’s in it for you. In the second example you are a cannon-fodder meant not to understand or think, but to be spent on a matter that is completely alien for you and larger part of the population.
    This comparison is too simple on both sides, especially for Russia, which wasn’t nearly so fully “capitalist” in the WW1 period as were, for example, France and England (even Germany, not so much economically, but socially, was still a very mixed regime as well). State service and land-holding were still at least as solid a way to wealth and status as were the new commercial ventures. Nor is it particularly clear how much Russia’s capitalist classes really had to gain from annexing Galicia, for example. On the other hand, the Russian state would have had clear strategic benefits from establishing influence in Southeastern Europe and humbling Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Germany. It’s far easier to prevent foreign countries from conquering “your backward self” when your borders are surrounded by small client-states, rather than by large and potentially hostile empires. Of course, there’s the well-known “paradox of security”, when attempts to increase your security arouse the hostility of others, leading to decreased security, but the strategic goals themselves are clear. Actually, whatever the nature of the regime, as soon as Russia was powerful enough to pursue such a policy, its policy in Eastern Europe was impressively consistent. In Catherine the Great’s time, it was the plan to build a friendly Greek empire on the Bosphorus (New Byzantium) that would fatally weaken the Ottoman empire and push what was left of it away from Russia’s borders. In the late 19th century leading to World War 1, it was Russia’s attempts to weaken the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, and to establish friendly Slavic states in the Balkans. In the Soviet era, it was the creation and maintenance (sometimes by force) of communist regimes in Eastern Europe, politically dependent on the Soviet Union and locked in to the Warsaw pact. In each case, there’s a similar strategic interest, leading to similar policies, which are far better explained in terms of international relations theory (and particularly the “realist” school of IR theory) than by economic analysis (Among many problems, an economic analysis fails to explain why Russia’s policies and goals remained so similar in such different eras). There were zones where the competition between different countries was primarily economic and driven by capitalist interests (eg. Africa and Asia). Eastern Europe wasn’t one of them.
    On the other side of the comparison, Russia’s attainment of a seacoast in Peter the Great’s time wasn’t some even-handed benefit to the entire Russian population. It’s not particularly clear what a serf soldier had to gain, for example. Certainly, having access to the sea is a benefit for the country as a whole, in that it helps with international contacts (helping the spread of knowledge) and with economic modernization. But a serf never would have seen any of these fancy new goods coming into the ports, or had a chance to learn any of the new knowledge. Nor is it particularly clear that a serf would suffer much from having his country conquered. Is it really so obvious that Swedish or German overlords would treat the serfs any worse than their Russian owners did? Not to me, at any rate. So what are we left with. Serf soldiers fought for Russia’s modernization because 200 years later the benefits of that modernization would just barely start to trickle down to their remote descendants? Do we really think that’s why they fought? Of course not. They fought out of loyalty to the Tsar and because it was what was expected of them, and always had been.

    The claim that for Russia early First World War was “less imperialistic” than other wars is simply ridiculous. Russia under the chest-pumping rhetoric of “protecting our fellow Slavs!” aimed to wrestle the control and influence on the Balkans from the Austro-Hungary. Western Ukrainian territories (like, you know, Lemberg/Lwow) were also considered a worthy (and “rightful”) future additions to Russian territory. On Irrusianality Professor Robinson made several posts commemorating 100th anniversary of Przemsyl’s and Galicia’s capture by Russian army. Czar Nicholas II visited Lvov and expressed exactly this view.
    I said, “if anything”, WW1 was less imperialistic than earlier wars. The intent wasn’t to draw a strong contrast. The point as simply that the initial causus belli was to preserve the independence of Serbia, rather than being a naked land grab right from the beginning, as earlier wars tended to be. In any case, I agree that there’s not a huge difference between them either way.

    So, yes, Mr. Ward – for Russia the Great War was equally imperialistic, as, say Russo-Japanese. And when the Turks entered the fray Russian Empire desired more than just ephemeral “control over Bosphorus” – Kars would also be added into a heap of future trophies.
    Kars, you mean the city Russia had already controlled since 1878, that Kars?

    Trying to portray Ludendorff as a “proto-Fascist” is nothing but a propaganda trick appealing to people’s emotions rather than to facts.
    By “proto-Fascist”, I meant that Germany’s foreign policy and war aims under Ludendorff’s influence became increasingly aggressive with an increasing admixture of racism. This is shown in the “Kultur” policy which aimed to Germanize the Baltics, and in the plans to conduct mass deportations in parts of the East, replacing the population with German settlers. The early seeds of “Lebensraum” aren’t particularly difficult to see here.
    And, no, after the departure of the so-called liberals from the Provisional government it didn’t became a hippy commune seeking only “defensive” aims. In 1917 Russian army continued advancing against the Turks – so much for being “non-aggressive”. Provisional government increased manifold sending Russian troops to the Western front. These soldiers were spent like water. Ever heard about the Nivelle offensive, Mr. Ward? Out of 20 000 soldiers of the Russian expeditionary force we lost 5183 KIA. This offensive, as often such things went in the Great War, was disastrous. French soldiers began openly revolting .When Russian expeditionary force followed the suit it had been suppressed – brutally.
    Again, what I meant was that, after the eclipse of the Octobrists, the Provisional Government disavowed aggressive war aims. This doesn’t preclude aggressive action at the tactical level, much less supporting allies who were fighting to expel the Germans from their own territory. Of course, it’s open to argue that the Provisional Government wasn’t sincere in disavowing aggressive war aims, but none of their actual actions actually support such suspicions.

    And, once again – no, no, and million times more NO – Russian Army wasn’t in any shape not only to fight, but even to sit tight and rot away in the trenches for much more by October 1917. All countries have spent their pre-war supplies of shells and ammo by early 1915. But while other countries managed to more or less solve this problem by 1915-16 Russian Army didn’t accomplish it. Never. Like at all. And without artillery support any offensive turned into a bloodbath. By October 1917 about 4 980 000 soldiers went through military hospitals… due to illness alone. By 1 October there remained reservists for only 6-9 months, after which Russian Army would have to conscript elderly, teenagers, wounded and just plainly sick people. Let me tell you about a country in early 1917….
    In early 1917, this country had lost almost 3% of its total population in the war (as against about 1% in Russia’s case). The food situation was so desperate that even the best-fed section of the population, the army, was showing statistically significant rates of severe malnourishment. Civilian deaths were 33% higher than normal. Although it was illegal, sand and sawdust were being baked into bread to make up for a lack of basic ingredients. Dozens of food riots were occurring in the major cities. Meanwhile, social order was starting to break down. Criminal convictions of young people were double what they had been at the beginning of the war. A newspaper in the capital spoke of great resentment “directed against the government, against the estate owners who hoard food and don’t give it out, against the war, against the entire regime.” Hundreds of thousands of people went on strike that year. The government’s monthly reports spoke of food riots and demands for “peace at any price.” Meanwhile, on the front, the army was constantly stretched thin by having to fill in for their incompetent and crumbling allies, and was severely outnumbered on every front. Furthermore, this country now a new enemy, with greater manpower reserves and economic resources than any of the countries involved in the war up to that point.

    Now, another country in 1917. This country shared most, but not quite all, of the same disadvantages and struggles just mentioned. A major socialist leader declared that there wouldn’t be “another winter” in the trenches. Desertions were rampant, and peasants were actively aiding and protecting the deserters. Finally, the ball dropped, and everything fell to pieces. The enemies broke through the lines, and more than a quarter of the entire army (not the local army on the spot, but the entire army of the whole country) surrendered. The enemy advanced unopposed until they had to stop to shore up their overextended supply lines.

    Of course, as you might have guessed, the first country I’m describing is Germany, and the second is Italy. The point is that both countries had problems that were actually more severe than Russia’s in certain respects. Germany was in a worse situation than Russia when it came to both food supply and the overall balance of forces, and Italy, unlike Russia, had an army that had been decisively beaten. The Russian army never experienced a defeat on the massive scale of Caporetto. Yet, despite all this, Italy never left the war, and Germany only crumbled at the very end, in the face of overwhelming numerical force and a series of decisive defeats (most notably in the so-called “Hundred Days”) on the Western front.

    The reason why I’m bringing all that up is to point out that the Russian position, when compared to others, wasn’t as bad as it can seem in isolation. In any case, if we stick to the facts, the basic fact remains that the army never suffered a decisive, comprehensive defeat under the Provisional Government, nor did it crumble, nor did it run out of supplies. It was a standing army with poor morale, limited supplies and almost no offensive ability, but it remained a standing army. From the physical point of view, it was capable of sustaining defensive operations for months if not years. The simple fact is that the Germans couldn’t march unopposed across Russia in September 1917. In 1918, they could.

    In the face of that fact, any attempt to say “Yes, but” amounts to a counterfactual. The Russian army didn’t collapse, but it would have collapsed if the Germans had put together one more “big push”. As is always the case with counterfactuals, it can’t be completely proven one way or the other. However, there’s no particular reason to think that the Russians couldn’t have held out. They still had numerous advantages, including strategic depth (nowhere had the lines even reached any areas where there were significant numbers of ethnic Russians, much less taking out the heart of the country), much stronger allies than the enemies they faced, and, most important of all, the factor of time. By the fall of 1917, it should have been obvious to everyone that Germany was on an almost inexorable path to defeat. Even if the Russian army did temporarily collapse, there would not necessarily be anything preventing an “Italian resolution”, where a much weakened force is able to regroup in the rear and hold off its badly overextended opponents. Nor was the suffering of the war worse than in other wars where Russia was eventually successful. So there definitely is another side to the question, “What would have happened if the Russians had kept fighting?” But again, the key point is that this question is a hypothetical. As a matter of real history, it was the Bolsheviks rather than the Provisional Government that lost the war.

    And Russian soldiers didn’t see this war as a “Patriotic” one – no matter what amount of propaganda Kerensky and his commissars heaped upon their ears. They either refused to fight and instead were fraternizing with Germans (and Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Poles…) who were equally sick and tired of that pointless war. Or they took their fate into their hand and deserted – en mass. And they were doing this with little to no prompting from the Evil Bolsheviks.
    Firstly, the last sentence is simply false. Bolshevik propaganda activities were widespread in 1917. On top of that, German psy ops was directly borrowing from Bolshevik materials for their own frontline propaganda. As I said earlier, you can’t draw this picture of a hermetically sealed Russia where the Bolsheviks had no significant influence on anything, which was followed suddenly by the Bolsheviks (who apparently had almost no influence whatsoever) suddenly and inexplicably taking over. The Bolsheviks gradually built their influence from February 1917 on, and are fully implicated in the problems of the time. As to the earlier part, it’s an over-simplification. Russia had forces taken from the borderlands that were very dedicated to defending their homes (for example, the Armenians, or the Latvian Rifles, at least until the loss of Riga, which mostly took the heart out of Latvian resistance). Also, ethnic Russians were a mixed bag. Many of them fought with little conviction, then deserted when they could. But others didn’t. For example, some of the Russian soldiers sent to France insisted on continuing the fight even after Russia surrendered. You simply can’t generalize about what “Russian soldiers” thought.

    I consider the First World War an abominable, murderous, senseless but – above all – criminal and unjust War that can’t be possibly defended by anyone. Tell me, Mr. Ward, do you also consider the Vietnam War waged by the American imperialism to be also defensible and “patriotic”? Do you (Canadian) consider those who were protesting against it or avoiding a draft to be “traitors”?
    No, I most certainly don’t have any sympathy for the Vietnam War, nor any objection to the people who opposed it (as should be somewhat obvious from the fact that I’ve already expressed approval for anti-colonial movements in general, including communist ones, and approvingly quoted Ho Chi Minh). I’m not sure what me being Canadian has to do with it though, since Canada didn’t fight in the Vietnam War 😉
    But, to get back to the main point, the two cases aren’t remotely similar. Vietnam was a faraway country that few Americans knew anything about before the war, and that certainly had not engaged in any form of aggression against America. Nor did the Vietnamese have massive armies in Canada or Mexico that had pushed into the American borderlands. Nor were the Vietnamese openly planning to ethnically cleanse by deportation parts of the American borderlands and replace the population with Vietnamese settlers. Nor were the Vietnamese aiding and abetting traitors seeking to overthrow the American government. The two cases are completely different.

    And lastly. If we go with this absolutely unrealistic scenario of yours when all Bolsheviks just go “poof!” and the Great October Revolution didn’t happen – I still don’t believe that Kerensky’s government stood a chance. Because he and his ministers were not a viable alternative. And if you dismiss from the equation Bolsheviks this leaves us with Kornilovshina 2.0. Even Russian liberals (a lot of uber democratic Kadets, no less!) were longing for a “strong arm” and dictatorship. Probably, Russia could be saddled with this or that form of military junta – not democratic republic. There were examples a-plenty from the inter-war Europe, with Mannerheim and Pilsudski being the most close ones.
    Firstly, it’s a little strange to criticize my scenario for being unrealistic. That’s the whole point. It was a counterfactual. There’s no question that the Bolsheviks were the strongest force in Russia. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have won. The question is what effect they had, and imagining what things could have been like without them is one way of thinking about that. As another side-note, Mannerheim is a strange example, since he set up a republican constitution, ran for President, lost to Stahlberg, then accepted the result. Hardly an example of a military strongman setting up a military junta or dictatorship.
    But getting back to the main issue, I agree that it’s possible (although by no means certain), that Russia would have come under the control of a strongman for some time. In my view, that would still be better than what actually happened.

    Even if the impossible would have happened and Russian army, somehow, won’t collapse completely by 1918, there won’t be much in the lieu of trophies for us. No “straits control” for sure – Britain and France just wouldn’t allow that. They would, OTOH, support nationalism in Russian “Directory ”(or whatever it would have been called) and (as a bare minimum) an independent Poland with considerable territory as a buffer state against both Russia and Germany. Whatever territorial gains made in Galicia or Caucasus would be negated by demands of creating independent national governments in this areas.

    And lets not forget about astronomical sovereign debt of Russian Empire and the Provisional government. Being good capitalists France and Britain would demand its repayment (especially because of their own debt owed to the USA). Everything would do – gold, monopolies, pounds of flesh.

    So, in the end, by 1930 such Russia without Bolsheviks would be a new “sick man of Europe”, which would invite a new imperialistic free-for-all level of plundering and imperialism which China suffered at that time period. Nothing akin to a picture straight out of My Little Pony land with “wealthier, more secure, and much, much less oppressive” Russia, that you have fantasized, Mr. Ward. But, who knows – maybe you are actually okay with Russia being annihilated.
    Let me start at the end here. There’s no way that Russia would have become a “sick man of Europe” in any case. The time of strong European empires was over by the end of WW1. Although France and Britain actually picked up new colonial territories, they too were fatally weakened. It’s not really accurate to portray China as being divvied up by European imperialists in the interwar period. That’s a more accurate depiction of China in the 19th century. By the interwar period, European influence in China was quite limited, and China was more a victim of its own internal divisions and one very strong neighbour (Japan). The European powers were no longer in any position to go off on imperial adventures in the Russian interior, and they also lacked the confidence to do it even if they had the ability. European imperialism didn’t make one step forward after WW1, except of course in the marginal case of Italy in Africa. Whatever the scenario, Russia didn’t need to worry about the European powers in the interwar period.
    Now, let’s go back to the beginning. It’s certainly true that Russia wouldn’t have made territorial gains, but the Provisional Government never made much indication of seeking such gains in the first place. Rather, they had already agreed to eventual Polish independence, and extensive autonomy for Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltics. Given the 20th century trajectory of increasing nationalism, this was probably Russia’s last best chance to retreat gracefully from its European empire, while maintaining influence in those regions. As it is, Russia lost all those territories anyway, only about 70 years later (not really that long in the grand scheme of things). Now, instead of facing a former empire that gradually gained its independence under friendly and agreed terms, Russia faces an Eastern Europe rife with Russophobia which goes back to the negative experiences of these people under 20th century communist domination.
    In terms of the economy, I think it’s fair to take its pre-WW1 trajectory as a rough indication of what would have happened under either a democratic government or strongman rule (since neither case would probably have led to fundamental economic reform or revolution, the deeper structures of Russia’s capitalist economy would likely have driven events). In such a scenario, Russia could have dealt with its foreign debts. They were large, but not unmanageable over the long term. In any case, there was a general debt forgiveness among the capitalist powers in 1931. Again, the result wouldn’t have been any kind of miracle, and probably would have meant some hard times for Russia. But there was no threat of Russia being overrun by foreign imperialistic influences, and (before the Bolshevik coup), there was no sign that Russia was headed for full civil war. The civil war that actually did happen, though, devastated the country much more than any debt crisis ever could have. The economy was so badly damaged that it didn’t recover to its 1913 level until 1928. 6 million people starved to death, while millions more were killed in the fighting. The population of Russia’s northern towns declined by 24%. In the course of the war, hatreds were sown between Russia and its neighbours that haven’t healed until the present day. And all this to create an economic system that never fulfilled its promises of either equality or prosperity, but rather led eventually to the “leaden years” of Brezhnev, when a parasitic bureaucratic elite took the best of everything while the economy stagnated for decades, and finally to an ignominious and humiliating collapse under Gorbachev. Pretty much anything would have been better than such a result.

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    • yalensis says:

      Dear Ryan:
      You have provided a lot of good debating points here, and once again I must leave the bulk of this to the professional historians.
      However, I just have to comment on the overall approach of “Western” historians who study Russia. And I want to express some resentment here, which I hope you will not feel is directed against you personally. But this is my seething resentment against Western historians in general:
      They all seem to approach this study from a blazing-hot ideological angle that is no less narrow and fanatical than that of the “Communists” whom they criticize. Reading Western historians, I always get the impression that they are corralling facts to fit their ideological point of view. Not necessarily inventing facts. But just cherry-picking them, and not seeing the other side of the story. And I cannot think of even one Western historian (American, Canadian, or other) who writes about the Bolsheviks sympathetically. Possible exception of Stephen Cohen, and I think he just slipped through the cracks and managed to get tenure before the “powers that be” were onto the fact that he was a Bukharinite.

      Your comment pretty much states your ideological predispositions flat out and with no prevarication, which is a good thing, I suppose, in a way, because then everyone knows where you stand. If you get accepted into graduate school, they (the powers that be) will probably expect you to write your thesis in this vein, i.e., paeans to the Romanov dynasty and Kerensky, along with blistering attacks against the Bolsheviks. Since they are still fighting the Cold War in Academia.

      You assert:
      -That Lenin was a traitor (because the Romanov dynasty was the same as Russia as a whole?) – to which I can only protest that I don’t think you get to make that call. Polls show that almost half of all current Russians regard Lenin as a hero, not as a traitor. Besides, a “traitor” is relative to any context, and also depends on which side won. Was Jefferson Davis a traitor to the United States of America? Yes, because he lost the war.
      Was King Lous XVI a traitor to France? Robespierre said he was, and chopped off his head. Then Robespierre was a traitor, and HIS head was chopped off. Later, Napoleon was a traitor…. (and on and on)

      -That the Bolsheviks were entirely responsible for the Russian Civil War
      Like, they provoked it, so it was all their fault. If they had refrained from taking over the government, then the White armies and Czechs and so on, would have remained dormant.
      I think there is something to be said for the argument, “Think about the ramifications before you undertake something.” But this is true both in wartime and in everyday life. Should people never undertake anything risky, because there could possibly be a backlash? Have you personally, Ryan, ever refrained from doing something that you thought was right, just because you calculated there might be some blowback?

      -That Russia should have stayed in WWI and should have fought to victorious conclusion on the side of the Allies (England and France) – No! why should Russia help those vultures?

      -That the resulting Communism was an unmitigated disaster, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever – that’s ludicrous, we already went over this, and even you admitted that the Commies were good for some anti-colonial moxy. If I had more time I could list out a myriad of benefits that the Commies brought to the world.

      Speaking of which, you are wrong when you say the Vietnamese were completely divorced from influencing American policy. It’s true that they didn’t try to overthrow the American government – such an attempt would have been ludicrous — but they did influence anti-war leaders. To this day, elderly conservative Americans are bitter about, say, Jane Fonda, and her trips to Vietnam. You should read up on the American anti-war movement: Among the American protesters of the time, in addition to the “Give peace a chance” hippies, there was a militant wing who marched and chanted: “Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, NLF is gonna win!” Technically, these people were traitors. Would you call them traitors or heroes? Personally, I think they were heroes. But that’s because I don’t think American foreign policy has done anything that isn’t base and evil since WWII.

      -The reason everybody hates Russia today is because of the Communists, and that could have been avoided if they had never happened. Oi yoi yoi….. If these people only hated Commies, then why do they hate Putin? Who happens to be the anti-communist who STARTED this whole debate.

      In summary, Ryan, your debating positions are highly ideological. So are mine, but I am not a historican, so that is my excuse!
      I know the old stereotypes about Soviet historians writing about, say, ancient Sumeria and looking for the “class” angle, and how the class struggle led eventually to the feudal order.
      I wonder sometimes if Western historians would write about other times and other cultures and pen critiques of say Babylonian foreign policy: “They shouldn’t have gone to war against [whomever], or the peasants should have stayed loyal to [whomever].” Do you see where I am going with this? Why all the bitterness against Russia? Are Westies still smarting over the fact that Lenin pulled the rug out from under their nasty war?

      And the other emotion that comes into me, unbidden, is a feeling of resentment that Westies believe that THEY get to define who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, when it comes to Russian history. This emotion is unworthy of me, but it is there.

      A quote from Shakespeare comes unbidden to my lips:
      “Who is Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba?”

      Or, as Tony Soprano might phrase it, “What’s it TO ya!”

      Like

    • spartacus says:

      My two cents on a couple of points…

      “For example, comparing Germany and England, Germany, having a more protectionist commercial policy and weaker access to world markets, had more to offer to its capitalist class from war than did England, which was less protectionist, and, in any case, already had all the business opportunities for its capitalists they could ever want.”

      Exactly. In the beginnig of the 20th century, the capitalist economies of Britain and France were stagnating, losing market share to the new rising ones, like US, Germany and Japan. The discrepancy between the industrial power of the contending leading imperialist countries and the actual division of the global market in spheres of influence, colonies and semi-colonies was growing and, at some point, needed to be adjusted. As soon as the right context presented itself, the economic war turned into a full-blown military war. The sad part is that this ajustment needed not one, but two bloody global wars.

      “To talk about the war as “capitalist” also obscures the major (perhaps primary) role of the middle classes, especially in Germany, France and England, in pushing for the war. Most of these middle classes had relatively limited access to any actual fruits of empire, but were the strongest supporters of war because of a desire for “national glory”, “honour”, etc. etc.”

      Well, I don’t think it does. The middle class aka the petty bourgeoisie, a social group whose members are, simultaneously, exploited workers and supervisors of exploitation, is very much a part of a society that rests upon the capitalist mode of production. The majority of the bourgeoisie values upward social mobility and is, as such, more likely to follow the lead of the capitalist oligarchy. Nationalist propaganda is a tool that the rich upper stratum uses in order to brush over the antagonistic relations between capitalist and workers under the capitalist mode of production. The members of the bourgeoisie are more susceptible to it because they have more chances, as opposed to the simple workers, to move up the social ladder and become full capitalists themselves.

      “The time of strong European empires was over by the end of WW1. Although France and Britain…”

      Yes, you are right, but the mighty US empire would have been born sooner. The ample financial capital at the disposal of the American capitalists would have been able to circulate freely within Europe, invading markets and grabbing resources and industries. An economically weak and underdeveloped Russia would have been an easy pray for the American enterprises. Kind of like what the US tried to do in the Yeltsin years, right after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

      “Now, instead of facing a former empire that gradually gained its independence under friendly and agreed terms, Russia faces an Eastern Europe rife with Russophobia which goes back to the negative experiences of these people under 20th century communist domination.”

      Well, that is not entirely true. In my country’s case, namely Romania, the russophobic attitude precedes the “communist domination”, dating back to the 19th century, when the Russian Empire annexed Bessarabia in 1812, after the Peace of Bucharest. There are plenty of people in Romania who don’t have a problem with communism as such, but with the perceived policy of “Russian expansion”.

      “And all this to create an economic system that never fulfilled its promises of either equality or prosperity…”

      Well, I think the supporters of communism living in the territory of the former USSR would disagree with you on that. Although the huge process of social transformation that took place after the Bolsheviks came to power had its share of blunders and mistakes, the average guy living under the new system would have better access to things like healthcare, education and social security. These things matter and when speaking with people who lived under both systems it’s not unusual to encounter feelings of nostalgia. In my country’s case, what I can say is that life in the Socialist Republic of Romania was pretty good until the 1980’s, when the austerity policies that Ceausescu imposed in order to pay the external debt, ruined everything.

      Speaking of inequality, have you seen the latest Oxfam report presented at Davos? Creating a world in which just 62 people own as much wealth as half of the whole human population of planet Earth, I would say that capitalism did a mighty fine job…

      https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2016-01-18/62-people-own-same-half-world-reveals-oxfam-davos-report

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    • spartacus says:

      “For example, some of the Russian soldiers sent to France insisted on continuing the fight even after Russia surrendered. You simply can’t generalize about what “Russian soldiers” thought.”

      Now, that’s not entirely true, is it? Some of the Russian soldiers fighting in France did mutiny and their rebellion had to be violently suppressed.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Expeditionary_Force_in_France

      “The European powers were no longer in any position to go off on imperial adventures in the Russian interior, and they also lacked the confidence to do it even if they had the ability.”

      Oh, but I think they were and they did. The Allies, together with Japan, sent tens of thousands of troops to help the Whites in the Russian Civil War, contributing to the prolonging of the conflict and creating further loss of life and property. The Japanese were the last ones to be evicted by the Red Army in 1922 from the Far East and in 1925 from Northern Sakhalin. Brief summary here:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied_intervention_in_the_Russian_Civil_War

      “…when a parasitic bureaucratic elite took the best of everything while the economy stagnated for decades…”

      Yes, the parasitic bureaucratic elite was indeed a problem and Lenin did try to prevent this by using inner-party democracy and a system of collective leadership, systems that were sabotaged and eventually destroyed by Stalin and his group. That is why I agree with Trotsky that the USSR gradually became a “degenerated workers state”.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degenerated_workers%27_state

      Even so, the Soviet economy didn’t stagnate for decades, as you state, the stagnation period, characterized by a low growth (around 1%), started in 1974 and ended in 1985 with the disastrous Perestroika reforms implemented by Gorbachev. So it’s more like a decade, not decades. Kind of like what we see today in the capitalist world after the 2008 economic crisis. A decent summary of the performance of the Soviet economy can be found in the paper below, which also deals with the reasons behind some of the problems experienced by it.

      http://www.centrosraffa.org/public/bb6ba675-6bef-4182-bb89-339ae1f7e792.pdf

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      • yalensis says:

        Footnote to Spartacus comment:

        Trotsky laid out his theory of what the Soviet Union had become, in his major work Revolution Betrayed.
        This work included Trotsky’s theory about the “parasitical bureaucratic caste” which had sprung up in the “workers state”, and the strivings of that bureaucracy to become a full-fledged capitalist economic class, with property and succession rights.

        To which strivings this caste eventually succeeded, under Gorby’s “perestroika”. That was when the Party and Komsomol elite/Nomenklatura got all the juicy pieces of the Soviet economy.
        Comrade Khodorkovsky got all the gas and oil, Others got other juicy bits in the ensuing free for all.

        And this, I will concede, is one of the major weaknesses of socialist theory:
        That nobody seems to have developed a good governance mechanism to prevent bureaucratic castes who are merely “custodians” of collective property, from actually taking it and making it theirs by law. Or, as the ancient Romans used to say;
        “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”

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  18. Ryan Ward says:

    Among those documents we won’t find any evidence that the Germans paid to Lenin and his party. None. Whatsoever.

    “It was not until the Bolsheviks had received from us a steady flow of funds through various channels and under varying labels that they were in a position to be able to build up their main organ Pravda, to conduct energetic propaganda and appreciably to extend the originally narrow base of their party.”

    Not going to continue this part of the discussion until you deal with the evidence I’ve already posted multiple times. Maybe you have a good explanation for why this doesn’t mean what you think it means, but if so, you need to provide it. Just continually repeating “No evidence, no evidence!” when evidence has already been provided is very poor form 😉

    Like

  19. Ryan Ward says:

    I won’t respond to everything from this comment, especially since not all of it was directly about me, but I thought it would be good to make just a couple clarifications/restatements.

    You assert:
    -That Lenin was a traitor (because the Romanov dynasty was the same as Russia as a whole?) –

    I didn’t call Lenin a traitor for opposing the Romanovs specifically. I used the word because it seems to me that he acted with indifference toward the welfare of both the Russian state itself and of the people who inhabited it. As I mentioned before, it seems to me that the Russian state and people were just means to an end for Lenin, and that’s why I called him a traitor, not just because he opposed the Romanovs. The SRs and Mensheviks opposed the Romanovs too, but I don’t call them traitors, because I think that they were genuinely trying to do what they thought was best for Russia, whereas I don’t think the same can be said for Lenin.
    to which I can only protest that I don’t think you get to make that call. Polls show that almost half of all current Russians regard Lenin as a hero, not as a traitor. Besides, a “traitor” is relative to any context, and also depends on which side won. Was Jefferson Davis a traitor to the United States of America? Yes, because he lost the war.
    Was King Lous XVI a traitor to France? Robespierre said he was, and chopped off his head. Then Robespierre was a traitor, and HIS head was chopped off. Later, Napoleon was a traitor…. (and on and on)

    I don’t really disagree with this. I would agree that, if anyone got to authoritatively “make that call”, it wouldn’t be me. But what I would say in general is that there’s no call to be made. No one’s ever going to sit down and write the eternal authoritative judgment on Lenin, but people will express different opinions on the issue. I think an opinion’s an opinion, whoever it comes from. It’s only as good (or bad) as the reasons given in its defense.

    But this is true both in wartime and in everyday life. Should people never undertake anything risky, because there could possibly be a backlash? Have you personally, Ryan, ever refrained from doing something that you thought was right, just because you calculated there might be some blowback?

    I think this is soft-pedaling the severity of the issue a fair bit. When I do something in my personal life, the consequences are maybe that it causes a fight, or inconveniences someone, or costs someone some money. When Lenin made his decision, the consequence was that 10 million people died, and millions more had their lives ruined. My biggest question about Lenin is, who gave him the authority to make that decision? Certainly no one asked those ten million people whether they were willing to die so that Lenin could have his shot at redesigning the country according to his personal ideology. So where did Lenin get the authority to be in charge of the life and death of so many people?

    -That the resulting Communism was an unmitigated disaster, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever – that’s ludicrous, we already went over this, and even you admitted that the Commies were good for some anti-colonial moxy. If I had more time I could list out a myriad of benefits that the Commies brought to the world.
    I’ll have to make a little bit of a mea culpa on that one. It wasn’t really my intention to suggest that Soviet communism had literally no redeeming features (it would be pretty hard to run a country for 70 years and not get anything right 😉 ) but reading my comment again, I see how I gave that impression. I’m aware that the Soviets built a very good education system and a fairly good system of social welfare, that, even though party privileges made somewhat of a mockery of Soviet claims to egalitarianism, the non-hereditary nature of privilege and status in the Soviet Union at least preserved a high degree of social mobility, and that the Soviet Union made some major contributions to world art, science and literature (Soviet film being my personal favourite in the sphere of cultural contributions). My point was just that, all things considered, it’s highly debatable whether, in 1970 for example, the Soviet Union was any more just than the capitalist countries of Europe, and it was certainly much less prosperous. At the same time, promises of worker control had been completely forgotten, replaced by stifling bureaucracy. When you compare this to the promises the Bolsheviks made (for example, in The State and Revolution), and that people actually believed and made such huge sacrifices for (especially in the Stalinist period), it’s hard to avoid a sense of severe disappointment when you see how few of those promises were ever fulfilled.

    Speaking of which, you are wrong when you say the Vietnamese were completely divorced from influencing American policy. It’s true that they didn’t try to overthrow the American government – such an attempt would have been ludicrous — but they did influence anti-war leaders.

    I didn’t claim that the Vietnamese didn’t influence American politics at all (and, as an aside, when you study the history from the Vietnamese side a little more, it’s interesting to learn that they knew what they were doing far more than they’re often given credit for). I just said that they weren’t trying to start (or facilitate) revolutions in America. As you note, it would be ridiculous for them to try that, which only underlines how little threat Vietnam posed to America, and therefore how unjust it was for America to cross the Pacific to fight them.

    -The reason everybody hates Russia today is because of the Communists, and that could have been avoided if they had never happened. Oi yoi yoi….. If these people only hated Commies, then why do they hate Putin? Who happens to be the anti-communist who STARTED this whole debate.
    It’s not that Eastern Europeans necessarily consciously think, “I don’t like communism. Communism comes from Russia. Therefore, I don’t like Russia.” Instead, what I mean is that the habit of Russophobia originated from certain historical experiences that occurred during the Soviet era. For example, in the 19th century, the Czechs had nothing against Russia or the Russians. Of course, the Czech Legion fought together with the Russians against the Austrians. But now, Russophobia is rampant in the Czech Republic (I’m speaking from personal experience here). Of course, what happened in the meantime was 1968. Similar stories can be told for the other countries of Eastern Europe. For example, why is Romania so enthusiastic about joining “the West”? First and foremost, to exorcise the ghost of Ceausescu, who, of course, was put in power by the Soviet Union (not directly, but as a result of the transfer of power in the communist system that the Soviet Union forced on Romania). Of course, none of these hatreds are rational or fair. Russia is not the Soviet Union, and the contemporary people of Russia are not to blame for what happened 50 or 60 years ago. But that doesn’t change the fact that these resentments have a history, and that the situation where Russia is fairly thoroughly disliked in almost every country of Eastern Europe was not inevitable.

    In summary, Ryan, your debating positions are highly ideological. So are mine, but I am not a historian, so that is my excuse!
    I think that’s natural to the medium we’re using. If I were writing an academic paper, I would certainly avoid some of the more biting language I’ve used here (I also would never write an academic paper on such a vague topic as whether Lenin was good for Russia 😉 ) But I think it’s interesting to have a chance to think about these topics in a somewhat more free-wheeling way than academic conventions allow 🙂
    Why all the bitterness against Russia? Are Westies still smarting over the fact that Lenin pulled the rug out from under their nasty war?

    And the other emotion that comes into me, unbidden, is a feeling of resentment that Westies believe that THEY get to define who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, when it comes to Russian history. This emotion is unworthy of me, but it is there.

    A quote from Shakespeare comes unbidden to my lips:
    “Who is Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba?”

    Or, as Tony Soprano might phrase it, “What’s it TO ya!”

    This complaint is a little ironic for a Canadian to read, just because our complaint is usually the exact opposite. I imagine that a lot of Canadians, if they saw highly critical discussion of, say, John A. MacDonald, going on in foreign countries, would be happy at least that people in foreign countries are paying attention at all (I guess that’s the disadvantage of coming from a small country with a relatively uneventful history 😉 )

    On a more serious note, I guess the answer to “What’s it to ya?” depends on who in specific is being asked. In my case, I do have to admit a certain amount of personal bias deriving from religion. It’s hard to forget that, in simple numerical terms, the Bolsheviks were the worst persecutors of Christians (and Orthodox Christians in particular) in the 2000 years of Christian history. I can sort of sympathize with the way that Putin seemed not only shocked, but a little dumbfounded, at the thought that the Bolsheviks killed not only the Romanovs, but their servants. I have a similar reaction when I read that the Bolsheviks executed thousands, not just of priests and bishops, but of nuns. In the early Bolshevik era, there were actually death squads of Bolshevik executioners wandering around massacring nuns. Who does that? Facts like that make it very hard to take a step back and say, “Well, at least they built a pretty good education system.”

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    • spartacus says:

      Since I’ve allready wrote a couple of things, I might as well continue:

      “So where did Lenin get the authority to be in charge of the life and death of so many people?”

      From the same place every revolutionary leader gets it. The number of his followers, their strength and their degree of their dedication to the cause.

      “For example, why is Romania so enthusiastic about joining “the West”? First and foremost, to exorcise the ghost of Ceausescu, who, of course, was put in power by the Soviet Union (not directly, but as a result of the transfer of power in the communist system that the Soviet Union forced on Romania).”

      Ceausescu had a somewhat chilly relationship with the Soviet Union, especially after he was the only one in the whole Communist Bloc to speak against and condemn the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. Unlike other members of the Warsaw Pact, Romania wasn’t part of the invasion force and this shows that Causescu was not a Soviet puppet and that he was following his own increasingly nationalistic line. The majority of Romanians support EU membership because they are convinced that the West will secure our economic well-being and will defend us against “Russian expansion”. This prejudice, this irrational fear, call it what you like, is deeply ingrained in the collective mind of my countrymen and, as I said before, pre-dates the arrival of communism. No sacrifice is to great to get away from the big bad Russian menace. Last month, at a people’s rally, someone from the crowd accused President Iohannis of being a servant of the Americans (ro: sluga americanilor). His answer? Better the Americans, than the Russians. Go figure

      “Facts like that make it very hard to take a step back and say, “Well, at least they built a pretty good education system.””

      I’m sorry to brake this to you, but the expansion of the capitalist mode of production did not occur peacefully. From the start, the greed of the first corporations like the Dutch East India Company, caused whole indigenous populations to be displaced, taken into slavery or killed and their land and resources stolen in the name of the holy profit and that was just the beginning. They may have killed less sky-pilots than the Soviets, but I’m willing to bet that, overall, capitalist greed and the relentless quest for profits was a far greater killer. And still is.

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    • yalensis says:

      “Where did Lenin get the authority” to become the political leader of Russia?

      Well, obviously from a very different place than Tsar Nikolai got his authority. The Tsar got his authority by the right of biological succession
      Lenin got his by building a political party that, ultimately was able to form a viable government.
      And then to win a civil war and to repulse foreign invaders.
      Similar to how Ho Chi Minh derived his authority to be the leader of Vietnam.

      And here I cannot resist linking my original piece which started this whole discussion.
      Recall the poem that set Vladimir Putin off on his rant against Lenin. Pasternak’s words, about this very issue, of where Lenin’s authority derived from:

      Тогда его увидев въяве,
      Я думал, думал без конца
      Об авторстве его и праве
      Дерзать от первого лица.
      Из ряда многих поколений
      Выходит кто-нибудь вперед.
      Предвестьем льгот приходит гений
      И гнетом мстит за свой уход.

      (….)
      Он управлял теченьем мыслей
      И только потому страной.

      Like

      • yalensis says:

        And furthermore, Dear Ryan:

        “When Lenin made his decision, the consequence was that 10 million people died, and millions more had their lives ruined. “

        Okay, for starters I don’t know if that 10-million figure is B.S. or not. But I could equally throw out something like: “And then the Tsar decided to go to war, and X million people died and Y number of lives destroyed, etc.” It is also curious that you keep scolding Lenin for undertaking something risky; and yet you absolve the Mensheviks and SR’s of all blame. Why? Because they were “responsible” and deferred to Kerensky? And why should Kerensky be absolved of anything? He took a big risk too, probably without thinking of all the ramifications. Maybe he should have just stayed in his little hole too.

        Okay, but I think in the end we are getting somewhere, when you disclose that you are a religious person (a Christian, I presume), and this seems to be one of the beefs you have against the Bolsheviks, that they were atheists and (allegedly) went around whacking priests and nuns.

        Well, for starters, I don’t know if they really did that. If they did, I don’t condone it, but I am innately skeptical of such atrocity claims. Oh, I’m sure some shit happened in the heat of events, but let’s face it, the Whites committed atrocities too. I suppose we could go on some binge of comparing atrocity stories that we read about in the literature.

        But bottom line: I am glad that you disclosed that you have these personal, religious beliefs. That does make your ideological tilt more understandable. And it is also good for YOU to know thyself, and know that you have these beliefs, and that they might cloud your judgement when you are doing real reserach for academic publications. Which is why, I think, you should be doubly-sure to question your own perceptions as you write and research; and also be sure to get everything you write be peer-reviewed by a second person, hopefully one with a different slant.

        Like

  20. Ryan Ward says:

    I’m sorry to brake this to you, but the expansion of the capitalist mode of production did not occur peacefully. From the start, the greed of the first corporations like the Dutch East India Company, caused whole indigenous populations to be displaced, taken into slavery or killed and their land and resources stolen in the name of the holy profit and that was just the beginning. They may have killed less sky-pilots than the Soviets, but I’m willing to bet that, overall, capitalist greed and the relentless quest for profits was a far greater killer. And still is.

    Speaking of inequality, have you seen the latest Oxfam report presented at Davos? Creating a world in which just 62 people own as much wealth as half of the whole human population of planet Earth, I would say that capitalism did a mighty fine job…

    but let’s face it, the Whites committed atrocities too

    I’m going to respond to some of the specific points, but first I’d like to register a small complaint. To borrow a term from Prof. Robinson, there’s been a lot of “whataboutism” in the last few comments. “Whataboutism” can have its uses in pointing out hypocrisy, but overall it’s a pretty weak defense. If someone is complaining about their cancer, I’m not going to respond, “Well, it’s not as bad as the bubonic plague!” This is especially the case when I’m the only one on the other side of the argument, and I’ve never expressed any sympathy whatsoever for colonialism, modern finance capitalism or the Whites. To put my cards on the table, my own sympathies are with the “Old Left”, and the kinds of people I respect are people like FDR, George Orwell, Tommy Douglas, Leon Blum, Tony Judt, etc. So, if you want to ask “What about…?” it would be best to ask it about the kinds of people I actually have an interest in defending 😉

    Like

    • spartacus says:

      Well, I don’t think it’s “whataboutism”. I was simply trying to point out that the capitalist system that you and Prof. Robinson support is way more criminal than the socialist alternative. The problem with implementing socialism lies with the fact that it can never be done peacefully because the capitalists are never going to turn the means of production, the very instruments needed to reproduce the materialistic base of social life, over to the workers. Every attempt to reform the capitalist system works as long as there is strong economic growth (the boom phase of the capitalist production cycle) and the profitability allows the capitalist to spare a few crumbs for the workers, as it was the case in the years after WWII. Once the profitability starts to decline, growth slows down and the struggle for market share increases, the capitalist immediately return to their old ways with the support of the capitalist state. Workers movements are broken, wages and pensions are slashed, safety net are dismantled and so on.

      As for your “diseased” example, it’s more like if you have to choose between cancer and bubonic plague, what would you choose?

      “it would be best to ask it about the kinds of people I actually have an interest in defending”

      No, it won’t. I hope this does not offend you, it is far from my intention, but I’m not interested in your person at all. I just look at the points you are trying to make. The names you mention, with the exception of George Orwell for whom I have great respect, mean very little to me and I would barely put them on the left of the political spectrum. Personally, I view social-democrats as traitors vis-a-vis the interests of the working class and as hangers-on of the capitalist system.

      Like

    • yalensis says:

      Dear Ryan,
      Okay, I know it probably feels like people are ganging up on you, and I am sorry for that. Maybe in theory I should be a “neutral” moderator, but I’m not.
      Anyhow, unlike Spartacus I AM actually sort of interested in your person, but only to the extent that I am always curious why people who are not Russians want to study Russian language or history. To put it crudely, I want to gauge if they are friend or foe.
      Also, I am very interested and curious about ideologies, why people have certain belief systems, etc.
      In an earlier comment you joked about wishing more foreigners (non-Canadians) would study Canadian history. In other word, why should Russians worry about non-Russians studying them – nay, they should welcome it!
      Well, actually, it’s not the same thing at all. Canadian history is actually very fascinating; if I were a historian I would definitely want to study it more. But I don’t think I would do that with an approach of “getting to know Canada” in order all the better to destroy it. Which, sadly, is the motive of many (most?) Western scholars who study Russia. Again, Stephen Cohen is an exception, and I would say that Prof. Robinson is also an exception, in that he is not a Russophobe per se. He likes Russia, but only his idealized version of Russia, which is White Russia!

      Actually, it’s not even the Russophobes who are the problem, it’s the academics who attempt to impose their own version of Russian history; the ones who think they get to decide who are the heroes and who are the villains. Not just in politics, but also in literature and culture. For them, say, Akhmatova is good, but Mayakovsky is bad. And this is how they teach it in their literature classes.

      In conclusion: From what I have seen of Western “Russian Studies” departments in academia, they are all highly driven by ideology. They teach a teleological version of Russian history that is virtually a mirror image of Soviet academic departments in the soft sciences. They are dependent on government grants and must produce content to suit the political and historical narrative of their governments. That’s really the problem, in a nutshell.

      I mean seriously, perform a thought experiment here: Can you even imagine anybody in any of these Western institutions receiving grant money or winning a prize for writing a book that was sympathetic to the Bolshevik side in the Civil War?
      Can you imagine yourself, an evil twin version of Ryan (say, a pro-Bolshevik Ryan)applying to graduate school with a proposal to write a favorable biography of Lenin? You would never be accepted. You would have to put on a false face and fudge your application to get in; and once you got in, you would have to hide your real views, and your thesis would undergo a million revisions before it was found “acceptable” to the powers that be.

      Like

  21. Ryan Ward says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to reply to every point that’s been made, but I’d like to address a few of them…
    You’re right about that, Lenin may have had some affection for his native land, but he was very far from being a Russian nationalist. If you knew Russia a bit better than you do, you would know that “Russian nationalist” today, as well as back then, is virtually a synonym for “Russian fascist”. Russian “nationalists”, just like “Ukrainian nationalists” are the people who hate Jews and the dark-skinned ones, and who sorta like Hitler. Maybe you meant to say “patriot” instead of “nationalist”.
    I chose the word “nationalist” rather than “patriot” just because “patriot” is so vague that it can mean almost anything. In using the word “nationalist”, I was trying to bind together three strands of Russian public opinion, the “ethnic nationalist” (read quasi/semi-fascist), the “gosudarstvennik” and the communist/nationalist strand that began in the Stalin era. Of course, the first two groups generally tend to have a low opinion of Lenin already, but the third, of course, has to include him in a narrative that also approves of the aggressive and unjust wars of earlier times, and can tend to veer into a chauvinism that, while not quite as unabashed as that of the “ethnic nationalists”, tends to show itself in an attitude of sneering contempt toward members of nationalities that have shown particular resistance to communism, perhaps most of all the Poles. You’ve mentioned Cohen as a historian who is more sympathetic to pro-Soviet views than most, but even he speaks of Stalinist nationalism as “not merely a Thermidorean revival of nationalist tradition, but an almost fascist-like chauvinism.” This ugly mixture of Russian chauvinism and communism is hardly a mere historical relic. It’s been quite in evidence since Maidan. It’s by all means true (in my view) that it was Ukrainian, not Russian, chauvinism that started the crisis, but a lot of the response from the Russian side has paid the Ukrainians back in precisely their own coin. I’m not saying that this is true of all communists or all people who have sympathies for the communist era of Russia’s history, but this strand has certainly been there. So, my point in talking about Lenin in relation is two-fold. On the one side, I’m trying to point out that what I would call the “good side” of Lenin’s internationalism (the opposition to “Great Russian Chauvinism”), is something that the Russian communist movement and its supporters have by no means always lived up to. On the other hand, I still think that Lenin’s own internationalism has its own pronounced ugly side. Despite Lenin’s rhetoric about the 90%, he doesn’t seem to have had much respect for the actual views of those people. He was going to help the 90% his way, whether they wanted it or not. It should be remembered that the majority of victims of the Red Terror weren’t nobles or royals, but members of the 90% Lenin was supposedly supporting. When the peasants, in complete desperation, formed “Green Armies” opposed to both the Reds and the Whites, the Bolsheviks dealt just as brutally with them as they did with anyone else.

    Well, that is not entirely true. In my country’s case, namely Romania, the russophobic attitude precedes the “communist domination”, dating back to the 19th century, when the Russian Empire annexed Bessarabia in 1812, after the Peace of Bucharest. There are plenty of people in Romania who don’t have a problem with communism as such, but with the perceived policy of “Russian expansion”.
    Of course the history of each country in Eastern Europe is different, and some of them have tensions with Russia that go back further than the Communist era. Some countries (like Ukraine and the lands that are now the Czech Republic and Slovakia) had almost no tradition of anti-Russian feeling, whereas others (like Romania and Hungary) had long-standing problems with Russia, that were reflected in popular anti-Russian feeling. But the experience of Russian/communist domination created Russophobia where there had been essentially none before, and where it already existed, certainly didn’t help matters, but rather locked in and reinforced the antagonisms of earlier eras.

    Even so, the Soviet economy didn’t stagnate for decades, as you state, the stagnation period, characterized by a low growth (around 1%), started in 1974 and ended in 1985 with the disastrous Perestroika reforms implemented by Gorbachev. So it’s more like a decade, not decades. Kind of like what we see today in the capitalist world after the 2008 economic crisis. A decent summary of the performance of the Soviet economy can be found in the paper below, which also deals with the reasons behind some of the problems experienced by it.Just a couple points to make here. Firstly, it’s a little misleading to pretend that Soviet stagnation in the 1970’s is comparable to the problems in the Western world since 2008. Even though growth rates have been low for the last 8 years, they’ve been significantly higher in most Western countries than what the Soviet Union saw in the 1970’s, not to mention that any “stagnation” there might be is “stagnation” at a much higher economic level. Growth is important, but so is absolute GDP. A second point, even in the “high-growth” phase of the Soviet economy, growth rates were significantly lower than in the development “success stories” of the 20th century (eg. the Asian “tiger economies”, or post-War Western Europe). Finally, the point I was making was comparing the promises of the early Communists to the results. Lenin and Stalin didn’t motivate Red Armies and Stakhanovite workers by promising reasonably healthy growth rates and marginally lower inequality than in the capitalist world. They did it by promising a completely new world. Those promises were most certainly not kept.

    I liked the “Bolsheviks started the civil war” line. Or maybe the Whites did, by resisting after it became clear that the Bolsheviks had the upper hand…
    You can’t really compare the side that initiates the use of force, and the side that resists force with force. The Bolsheviks didn’t just “risk” a civil war, they actively started one. Before the Bolshevik coup, all sides were working under the agreement that they would defer to the wishes of the electorate expressed in the Constituent Assembly. For example, the Mensheviks and SRs, by pushing leftward, risked a “Bonapartist” reaction, but they didn’t use violence or attack the legitimacy of the coming Constituent Assembly. The Bolsheviks instead resorted to force, and drew the first blood. To fail to note the critical distinction is to compare apples and oranges.

    Well, for starters, I don’t know if they really did that. If they did, I don’t condone it, but I am innately skeptical of such atrocity claims. Oh, I’m sure some shit happened in the heat of events, but let’s face it, the Whites committed atrocities too. I suppose we could go on some binge of comparing atrocity stories that we read about in the literature.
    The massacres of clergy (including nuns) isn’t some doubtful and wild-eyed atrocity story. It’s a standard and widely-accepted aspect of the historical narrative. This was confirmed by a Russian presidential commission led by Alexander Yakovlev in the 1990’s, and has been studied intensively by, among others, Dmitri Pospielovski (who I had the privilege of knowing personally). It’s discussed with references in the Wikipedia article on the Red Terror here
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Terror
    It’s also easily verifiable with the Russian Orthodox Church records. Of course, as with all such things, there’s doubt around the edges, about which specific stories might be exaggerated or confused. But I’ve never seen any historian express serious doubt about the phenomenon as a whole. And there’s no way to exonerate Lenin personally from the responsibility for these events. His statement, “The more members of the reactionary clergy we shoot the better,” is infamous, but hardly the only time Lenin actively incited these kinds of actions. He also never once intervened to stop the atrocities once it was clear that they were happening.

    Again, Stephen Cohen is an exception, and I would say that Prof. Robinson is also an exception, in that he is not a Russophobe per se. He likes Russia, but only his idealized version of Russia, which is White Russia!
    I don’t agree with identifying “Russia” so closely with a particular regime (the Soviet regime). People have all different reasons for the way they feel about a country, and politics is only one of them. Why should it be that someone who appreciates Russia’s culture, art, people, etc. but who just finds that their political views are not compatible with the Soviet approach to government should be under any suspicion of “Russophobia”? You mentioned the slightly less than half of the population of Russia that holds positive views of Lenin. What about the slightly more than half that doesn’t? Are they all “self-hating Russians”? And given that the Romanov regime and the Communist regime are both now relics of the past, why is sympathy for one any more “idealized” than sympathy for the other?

    Like

    • spartacus says:

      “Of course the history of each country in Eastern Europe is different, and some of them have tensions with Russia that go back further than the Communist era.”

      That’s not what you said the first time. Initially you asserted that “Russia faces an Eastern Europe rife with Russophobia which goes back to the negative experiences of these people under 20th century communist domination.” So I merely wanted to point out that some of that Rusophobia was allready there. Now you say that only some of that Russophobia is a consequence of the foreign policies of the USSR. Why didn’t say so in the first place? Furthermore, I would argue that part of this Russophobia is not related with the actual actions of Russia, but with a huge PR campaign undertaken by the US-aligned mass-media, that constantly bombards the population with anti-Russian propaganda. For example here, in Romania, every, and I really mean every, media outlet is constantly bashing Russia. Even if anti-Russian sentiment was low or non-existent such a campaign would not remain without consequence.

      “Firstly, it’s a little misleading to pretend that Soviet stagnation in the 1970’s is comparable to the problems in the Western world since 2008.”

      It may be for the fact that I am not a native English speaker and my wording was clumsy, but you missed my point. The mere fact that the Soviet economy exhibited a decade of stagnation, again, stagnation as in low growth of about 1%, does not mean that the economy was collapsing. For example, in the last decade, France’s economy never achieved a GDP growth rate higher than 1%. Does that mean that France’s economy is collapsing?

      http://www.tradingeconomics.com/france/gdp-growth

      Furthermore, the socialist economy is use-value oriented economy, that means that its focus is on meeting the material needs of the people living in that economic space. It does not need constant growth. On the other hand, an economy that rests on the capitalist mode of production needs constant growth because capitalism requires expanded reproduction.

      https://critiqueofcrisistheory.wordpress.com/responses-to-readers-austrian-economics-versus-marxism/why-capitalism-requires-expanded-reproduction/

      “A second point, even in the “high-growth” phase of the Soviet economy, growth rates were significantly lower than in the development “success stories” of the 20th century (eg. the Asian “tiger economies”, or post-War Western Europe).”

      Well, on this point you are wrong. If you take a look at the graph I mentioned above and set the time scale to maximum, you will notice that, from 1950 up until today, France’s medium GDP growth is somewhere between 2 – 4% which is comparable with that experienced by the USSR between 1950 – 1974 (about 3.6%). Same story with Italy.

      http://www.tradingeconomics.com/italy/gdp-growth

      “Finally, the point I was making was comparing the promises of the early Communists to the results. Lenin and Stalin didn’t motivate Red Armies and Stakhanovite workers by promising reasonably healthy growth rates and marginally lower inequality than in the capitalist world. They did it by promising a completely new world. Those promises were most certainly not kept.”

      Well, that “marginally lower inequality” wasn’t so marginal and you probably know it. The USSR never had a income gap the size of the one in the US or other capitalist countries. The Soviet Union did improve the living conditions of its citizens and represented a new world for a lot of them. The “prison house of nations” that was the Russian Empire gave way to a federation of autonomous republics that provided equal opportunities for its people, irrespective of ethnicity. This legacy carries on today in the Russian Federation, where the Tatar Nabiulina is Governor of the National Bank, the Chechen Surkov gives advice to President Putin and the Tuvan Shoigu is the Defence minister. The US, for example, has yet to provide a similar example of equal opportunity. Additionally, what people tend to forget is that putting socialism into practice is a very difficult task with many unknown variables. For example, in the late 70’s, the growing complexity of the Soviet economy made planning increasingly difficult and the rigid Soviet leadership did not recognize the need to change planning methods by using, for example, computer modelling of economic processes. The technology was allready there:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Cybersyn

      You can’t blame Lenin for the incompetence of those who came to power after he died.

      “The Bolsheviks didn’t just “risk” a civil war, they actively started one. / The Bolsheviks instead resorted to force, and drew the first blood. To fail to note the critical distinction is to compare apples and oranges.”

      The point I was trying to make with that paragraph was that, in my view, nobody starts civil wars. Usually, a civil war is a result of escalating hostilities between the contenting parties, each one trying to get the upper hand over the others. It was clear that the system put in place after the February Revolution, namely the sharing of power between the Petrograd Soviet and the Provisional Government, was unstable and that, eventually, the parties involved would have to solve their differences in one way or the other. Confrontation was inevitable. The Bolsheviks just decided to take the first step, taking advantage of the situation, before the other factions could consolidate their positions.

      Like

    • yalensis says:

      Dear Ryan:

      Okay, right off the bat with that “Green Army” thing, and supposedly Lenin was so brutal to the Russian peasantry. I refer you again to Lyttenburgh’s previous post on the kulak issue, in case you didn’t get a chance to read it. I think Lyt deals quite adequately with the class war in the Russian countryside. Yes, dear Ryan, it was a class war, the peasants were not a monolithic class, and the Bolsheviks took the side of certain peasants against others. As did the Whites. You really don’t seem to “get” the whole concept of class war.

      Next: To return to the discussion of “nationalism”. You are throwing out so many things here and there, and not defining your terms at all. As Lermontov might say: Смешались в кучу кони, люди… (“All mixed in a heap: People, horses…”) And not just people and horses, but also apples and oranges!

      Please define “the communist/nationalist strand that began in the Stalin era” – who and what exactly are you talking about? Are you talking about Uncle Joseph Djugashvili? Are you talking about the people from every Soviet republic who fought in the Great Patriotic War against Nazi aggression and genocide? Are these the people you are calling “Russian nationalists”? In reality, the actual “Russian nationalists” were on the other side of the trenches – the Vlasovites and White Guard remnants who collaborated with the Nazis. Once again, your words don’t make any sense unless you define who and what you are talking about.

      an attitude of sneering contempt toward members of nationalities that have shown particular resistance to communism, perhaps most of all the Poles… Okay, here is where you are showing your true colors, Ryan. You believe that “Russians” have sneering contempt for “Poles”, and that this has something to do with (a) communism, and/or (b) Russian nationalism. I don’t suppose you think it is possible that the Poles are also “nationalistic”? Or do they get a pass on their traditional Russophobia, which is partly based on religious differences, i.e., Catholic vs. Orthodox?

      When you praise Poles and Czechs, and condemn Russians, you are just taking sides here. Like Pushkin says, Домашний, старый спор – “ancient quarrels”. Quarrels which Lenin tried to put an end to, specifically by NOT being a Great Russian chauvinist and by NOT supporting a state religion. If you want to take sides, fine; Then write your thesis on how great the Poles are, and how they resisted “Russian-Soviet-Russian aggression” throughout their history. But don’t pretend to be writing objectively about Russian history.

      This ugly mixture of Russian chauvinism and communism is hardly a mere historical relic. It’s been quite in evidence since Maidan. It’s by all means true (in my view) that it was Ukrainian, not Russian, chauvinism that started the crisis, but a lot of the response from the Russian side has paid the Ukrainians back in precisely their own coin.

      If I am understanding you correctly (which is hard to do, because you rant and just throw things out without definitions or citations), then you do believe that the Ukrainians started the Maidan crisis, but that Russians responded badly, once again with their patented “nationalism” and “chauvinism”. Exactly whom are you referring to here? To the residents of Donbass who resisted Ukrainianization and neo-nazi militias? Are you referring to Strelkov? If the latter, then I might have a tiny grain of agreement with you. Strelkov is indeed a Russian nationalist, a White Guardist and Tsarist. But wait! I thought those were the people you liked!

      And again, your rantings are just pure emotion and not befitting an academic historian: You just throw everything into the pot: Communism, Russian chauvinism, Stalin, Lenin, fascism. Everything is Russia’s fault, no matter what the ideology. And on the other end of the scale: Poor Poles, Poor Czechs, so abused.

      This really makes me skeptical of your whole anti-Lenin shtick. Because originally you said you disliked Lenin (among many other reasons), because he HATED HIS OWN PEOPLE. And you then shed crocodile tears over the poor Russian people who were hated so much by Lenin and his gang.

      But then you turn around and say that Russians deserve to be hated, because they always abuse other people.
      Do you see the logical contradiction here?

      Like

  22. Ryan Ward says:

    Just one thing I want to address here…
    You believe that “Russians” have sneering contempt for “Poles”, and that this has something to do with (a) communism, and/or (b) Russian nationalism. I don’t suppose you think it is possible that the Poles are also “nationalistic”?

    But then you turn around and say that Russians deserve to be hated, because they always abuse other people.

    That wasn’t what I said, nor is it what I think. In that section of my comment, I was talking about Bolsheviks/communists specifically, and not even all of them.

    I’m not saying that this is true of all communists or all people who have sympathies for the communist era of Russia’s history, but this strand has certainly been there.

    It also wasn’t my intention to “take sides” between Russia and any other people. Because this is a discussion about Lenin, and by extension about the Russian Bolsheviks, I’m focusing on that side of the equation. If the topic of discussion was Poland, for example, I would focus on the other side, and I wouldn’t make any excuses for Polish (or Ukrainian, or Czech, etc. etc.) hatred or bigotry. Like I said before, even when there is a historical explanation for the hatred,

    Of course, none of these hatreds are rational or fair. Russia is not the Soviet Union, and the contemporary people of Russia are not to blame for what happened 50 or 60 years ago.

    So it definitely wasn’t my intention to say that Russians in general are now or were in the past all racist, chauvinistic, etc. Nor was it my intent to suggest that, in disputes or resentments in Eastern Europe, the Russians are always in the wrong and other Eastern Europeans in the right. But obviously I can see that I gave that impression and I’m sorry about that.

    I think the next time I leave a comment, I’ll choose an animal story to comment on. I should be able to stay out of trouble that way 😉

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      I’ll see if I can find a good animal story in the near future.
      Can’t do Amur/Timur any more – they are SO over each other.
      Besides, even animal stories are filled with landmines. As Zagoretsky once said:


      Нет-с, книги книгам рознь. А если б, между нами,
      Был ценсором назначен я,
      На басни бы налёг; ох! басни — смерть моя!
      Насмешки вечные над львами! над орлами!
      Кто что ни говори:
      Хотя животные, а всё-таки цари.

      “If I were to be appointed Censor, I would ban fables.
      Ah! Fables are dangerous!
      They seem to be always mocking lions and eagles.
      But no matter how you cut it,
      They are not really about animals, but about kings.”

      Like

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