Bolsheviks In 1920


There were several major sources that created discord between the Bolsheviks and
western states in Europe from 1917 to 1921. Conflicting ideologies that each
attacked the very fabric of the other's respective society led to the notion
that capitalism and communism could not coexist. The attempts of both actors to
hold control of their own political system and to expand their political ideas
internationally led to major conflicts between them. Also, the lack of respect
for the upstart Bolshevik government by the west led to misperceptions
concerning the actions of the Soviets. Russia's unsatisfactory involvement in

World War I and their abrupt departure from the war which affected the western

Allies war effort created much disenchantment between the two sides. The
imperial and expansionist nature of both groups of actors led to conflict as the
creation of both communist and non-communist blocs began with the independence
of Poland as a free state in 1919. By using the Communist party as a vehicle to
inject Communism into societies abroad, the Bolsheviks began to make free
countries take notice of the threat that the "worker's party"
presented and began to act in strong opposition of Communism. The actions of
both sides began a race for an expansion of two different ideologies which
created conflict so strong that in due time another World War seemed inevitable.

The "Cold War" had begun. The fundamental difference between Russia
and Europe was extremely contrasting views in ideology. The modernization of
politics in the late 1800's and early 1900's had created similar political
movements in both Europe and Russia meant to increase the authority of the
masses over their own government. These movements replaced authoritarian regimes
with political systems that were created to better the lives of the common
people (Harris). Leading states of Europe such as France and Britain began to
take the path of "social democracy" in which the working class would
be given a voice through parliamentary elections (Harris). Also by organizing
the proletariat through trade unions, social democracy allowed for collective
bargaining to lead to improvements in working conditions, pay, benefits, and
other factors that helped to limit the exploitation of lower class labor
(Harris). On the other hand, the Bolshevik model for serving in the best
interests of the common people was not to raise the level of the proletariat by
giving them more rights and a stronger political voice, but to bring down the
upper class that was exploiting them by destroying the caste system altogether.

The goal of Bolshevism was to use a governing body to place the masses into one
equal social class where everybody would work equally for the advancement of
society as a whole (Harris). Communism under the direction of Lenin called for
the abolishment of private property and the nationalization of all means of
production thereby putting the state in control of all economics, politics, and
social concerns (Harris). With the direction of the Bolshevik party, the Soviets
were beginning to form a cohesive political machine that was to shape a new
communist Russia, and eventually, a new communist world. An intrinsic trait of

Communist ideology was the opposition of the imperialist and capitalist ways of
the west (Harris). The Bolsheviks contended that capitalism itself was one of
the human race's major evils and should be eliminated. Marxism states that
inequality and lower class exploitation creates inter-class struggle which he
felt was a major downfall of society (Harris). Fueled by materialistic greed,
members of a capitalist society found themselves constantly trying to better
themselves at the expense of others around them. The lower class of society such
as the peasants and workers were being exploited by the upper bourgeois in the
way that they were paid and how they were treated. The Bolsheviks felt that the
ultimate example of capitalistic evil was the Western imperialists who contended
with one another for the accumulation of lands that they had no right to control
(Harris). States such as Britain, Germany, France, and Austria-Hungary were
proponents for the imperialist way which Lenin felt would lead to an inevitable

World War between the imperialist states (Ulam, p. 79). Lenin's idea was that
the competition for lands and resources as well as the expansion of various
political ideologies would lead to an inter-imperialist conflict as had happened
in prior history (Harris). The outbreak of World War I in 1914 brought the idea
of an inter-imperialist war to fruition. Tsar Nicholas II led Russia into W.W.I.
in 1914 with the prospects of defending itself from the expansionist Triple

Alliance consisting of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy (Harris). Russia
entered the war on the side of France and Britain in what became a very costly
and unpopular World War. However, after the Bolshevik takeover of Russian
government in 1917, Lenin's main focus was to increase the stability of the new

Bolshevik regime and raise the credibility of the new government in the eyes of
the Russian people. In the years between 1914 and 1917, Lenin would try to find
a way to stabilize the Soviet Union by getting out of World War I (Harris).

Lenin contended that the Soviet Union would rather not participate in the war,
but would rather "gain strength and maintain the oasis of Soviet power in
the middle of the raging imperialist sea" (p. 79). He felt that fighting
alongside imperialist countries such as Britain and France in an imperialist war
was not something that was in the best interests of Communist ideology (Harris).

In the early stages of Communist power, European states such as France and

Britain would not even recognize the Bolshevik regime as a legitimate governing
force (Harris). Many of these countries denounced the new Bolshevik government
since the new regime forcefully uprooted the democratic provisional government
that took over power after the revolution of February 1917 (Harris). Such an
abrupt and rather uncouth upheaval gained little respect in the international
political community and weakened the credibility of the new government (Harris).

Western anti-ideological sentiment towards Russia would not come until after the
conclusion of W.W.I. but the rigid west set the stage for future dealings with

Russia. The lack of Russian effort in World War I created much strife between

Russia and the Britain/France coalition (Ulam, p. 90). Russia entered World War

I in 1914 with the objective of protecting her own lands as well as the lands of

Serbia, and stressed that acquiring land was not an integral part of Russia's
military agenda (Harris). However, the Triple Alliance was taking Europe piece
by piece; fighting a two front war between the Allies of the west, and Entente
forces from Russia and the east (p. 90). By focusing on attacking the Germans
from both the east and western fronts, the Allies could cause the Germans to
spread their forces thin and consequently take Europe back (Harris). Much to the
dismay of France and Britain, Russia was not as strong an ally as they would
have hoped. The Soviet Union spent a good deal of its resources to reinforce the

British and the French against their enemies, yet well organized and efficient
offensive attacks from the east was something the Russians could not execute (Ulam
p. 89). Russia could not give the Allies much support since the war had taken a
huge toll on Russia economically and the upheaval that occurred on the home
front left much of Russia's resources to be put to use domestically. The Allies
became frustrated at the Soviets for not giving them the effort that they needed
to defeat the Alliance (Ulam, p. 88). Russia's rather ineffective involvement in
the war came in 1918 when Lenin signed the Treaty of Brest Litovsk. The treaty
that allowed Russia to achieve peace with Germany by giving concessions of land
and heavy economic resources to the Germans. To the Allies, it appeared that the

Russo-German peace agreement simply saved Russia at their expense. Now the

Allies were incapable of fighting the Germans as effectively as they could if

Russia was involved in the war. It appeared that Russia had turned its back on

France and Britain by saving itself. The Allies also began to explore the
possibility that Russia had secretly aligned with Germany because the massive
concessions given basically made Russia an economic slave to Germany (Ulam, p.

91). With Russia bowing out of the war, the Allies were on their own and they
became more cautious in their future dealings with the Russian state. The events
of W.W.I also brought major sources of discord between Germany and Russia.

Throughout the war, Russia chose to take more offensive positions against

Austria-Hungary than towards the Germans (Ulam, p. 80). They tried to fight the

Triple alliance, yet at the same time not acting in a way to infuriate Germany
and cause a massive German assault on Russia (p. 89). Due to Lenin's assumption
that Russia would not be able to survive an all out German attack, he signed the
rather costly Treaty of Brest Litovsk and thereby gave major concessions to the

Germans in exchange for their neutrality (Ulam, p. 89). The
"harshness" (p. 89) of the treaty that was dealt by the Germans
created much disenchantment between the two sides (p. 89). The reparations
called for the Germans to be paid 6 Billion German marks in gold and goods that
would have inevitably made Russia an "economic satellite" of Germany
(p. 89) After the treaty was signed, Germany created tension by not adhering to
the treaty as they had agreed (p. 80). The Germans pushed the Bolsheviks out of

Ukraine and Finland and in many instances failed to withdraw troops from the
front lines (p. 80). Ironically, only an Allied victory of World War I saved

Russia from Germany's grasp. The Allies won the war in the end without the help
of Russia and the fall of Germany allowed the reparations to be paid in Brest

Litovsk to be null and void (Harris). However, the damage had been done. The

Germans had little sympathy for a torn Russian state and exploited Russia for
all that it could. After the conclusion of World War I in March of 1918, the
concern of a democratically driven counter-revolution became imminent. Lenin
knew that division between the new Bolshevik regime and supporters of the
provisional government known as "Kadets" drew a line through Russian
society. The Russian people were becoming disillusioned with the new Bolshevik
regime and a civil war between the "Whites" (socially democratic
driven "Kadets") and the "Reds" (Bolsheviks) consequently
erupted in 1918 (Harris). Lenin felt control of Russia slipping away and knew
that the focus of his regime had to be in the domestic rather than international
arena (Ulam, p. 84). The Allies attitude towards Russia had changed as a result
of World War I (Ulam, p. 84). By signing the peace treaty, for the first time
the Bolshevik regime was seen as being the official government of Russia by most
of the world, and free states of the west began to take notice of the
ideological differences between themselves and the Russians (p. 80). In 1918,
near the end of World War I, forces from the United States, France, and Britain
gathered in Russia to "expand the eastern front" against the Germans
(p. 84). The purpose of these interventions at first was to use Russian soil to
win World War I, not to support either side of an ideological civil war that had
just begun and was occurring simultaneously (p. 84). Before Russia made several
questionable decisions in World War I, the ideology behind the Bolshevik regime
was not challenged heavily by the west (Harris). Ulam states, "Until

November 1918, the Allied intervention in Russia had nothing ideological about
it. It was designed simply to give the Western Powers' armies in France, which
at the beginning of the German offensive in March 1918, were struggling
desperately..." (p. 92). However, since the Allies already had troops in

Russia already to fight the Germans, it became convenient to offer aid to the

White armies (p. 84). After the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1918,

Britain and France made several attempts to advance the positions of the White
counter-revolutionaries in the civil war by giving aid in the form of troops,
supplies, and arms (p. 91). The Allies felt they could also encourage White
forces by having "a token troop presence that would stir up the
"healthy elements" in Russia into vigorous anti-Bolshevik
activity" (p. 91). However, the aid that the White armies received proved
to be offset by the lack of discipline, political focus, and capable
decision-making that inevitably doomed the White cause (p. 92). The western
state's interventions were also not of dynamic proportions. There were several
instances throughout the civil war when the western powers felt the Whites were
going to win convincingly (p. 92). The pro-White European states also were
limited in the amount of aid they could give considering the monumental
casualties that World War I had created, and getting heavily involved in another
country's own civil war would not be popular in their respective homelands (p.

86). The Allies also felt that as the Civil War went on "the mass of the
population was turning against the Bolsheviks" (p. 92) , and the Kadet
movement would at some time regain political power (p. 92). These
miscalculations of the Allies helped contribute to the Bolsheviks winning the

Civil War in 1921, but the intervention of the allies on Russian soil widened
the gap between the west and Russia. With the failure of the West to intervene
and successfully defeat the Bolshevik government, Lenin felt the democratic
countries would "compose their differences and attack [The Soviet

Union]" (Ulam, p. 78). As a result, Lenin attempted to thwart further
intervention by retracting his comment that communists could not coexist with
capitalists (Harris). He also agreed to allow the French to take positions as
they pleased and enacted plans for trading between Russia and Britain that would
allow "people in the business community to have a stake in Russia free of

Communists" (Ulam, p. 99). Lenin's rather suave actions may have saved the

Bolshevik regime by giving the Soviets time to establish themselves free of
potent intervention by the West. From 1917 to 1920, as Russia found itself torn
between entrenching a new government, dealing with negative sentiments from

Europe, fighting a massive world war, and suppressing counter-revolutionary
movements, Lenin knew that the opportunity to expand communism into Europe did
not exist at the time (Harris). However, as the Bolsheviks gained more stability
in Russia in the early 1920's, Lenin chose to push for the expansion of the

Communist ideology on a nationwide scale (Harris). He knew that Bolshevism was
fast becoming a political force in the international arena. Communists were
gathering support around the world in all countries through the sympathetic ear
of the proletariat, and the ideological curiosity of the intellectual. The
success of the Bolshevik uprising and 1917 set an example to Communists
everywhere that they could also create their own Communist state through a well
organized revolutionary movement. Communism was injecting a fresh, utopian
ideology into what was becoming a democratically driven world. They were fast
becoming an enemy of social democratic states, and a threat to their way of
life. In his plan for worldwide communism, Lenin concluded that Germany (the
country that he referred to as "the giant") was the key to creating a

Communist Europe (Harris). He felt that if Germany (which was a heavily
industrialized state with a strong economy and a well educated population) would
become communist, it would open the door for the communism to expand throughout

Europe (Harris). After the conclusion of W.W.I the German regime was dissolved,
and the Bolsheviks began to "woo the German socialists" (Ulam, p. 94)
into creating a Communist revolution in Germany. The Bolsheviks tried to obtain
more influence in German society by giving gifts and using the Comintern's
influence to create grass roots levels of revolution. However, when their labors
did not yield a new Communist regime, democratic nations of the world took
notice of the Bolshevik's revolutionary tactics (Ulam, p. 94). By trying to use

Germany as the spark to create a worldwide revolution the Soviets had failed,
and in the process they created even more strife with the west. Lenin further
pushed for Communist expansion in the 1920's by calling for a plan to expand

Communism into imperial colonies using a model of "two stage
revolution" (Harris). Lenin felt that imperial powers that controlled
colonies were susceptible to creating grassroots communist movements because
these states did not focus on educating their colonists and instilling them with
a strong political ideology (Harris). Also, these colonies were mostly poor
colonies that were made up mainly of poor, lower class peasants who could be
sympathetic to the communist cause (Harris). Lenin's two step plan called for
colonies to free themselves of imperial control and establish their own
governments (Harris). After their independence was established, Communist Party
influence in these states would lead to organization of peasants and workers who
would take over the state waving the Communist flag (Harris). In 1919, Lenin had
established an organization of worldwide communists known as the Comintern whose
goal was to increase the influence of the Communist Party in nations around the
world (Harris). The Comintern was created to allocate the resources and provide
the organization required to create radical socialist revolutions on an
international scale (Harris). Lenin began to use the Comintern vigorously in the

1920's in an effort to increase the party's influence in Europe. Lenin's main
goal was to create a total communist world and the fall of Europe from the hands
of democracy was the key to achieving his goal. By making his motives clear on
the expansion of Bolshevism, Lenin caused much strife between Russia and the
west by encouraging the growth of the Communist movement on the soil of
democratic European states (Harris). In many of these countries, the Communist
party was soon banned and its members were arrested to curb any threat that the
party held (Harris). In 1920 it was well noted by the western democracies that
"two stage revolution" was a real threat when Communist Party
involvement was exposed in Turkey. Revolutionary leader Kemal Ataturk fought
against imperialist control with the help of Russia. He used the Communist Party
to build support for his movement, then later purged many of the members in
order to gain more influence and sever his ties with the Communist Party
(Harris). Even though communism did not reign in Turkey, it made the world
realize the evident threat of communism developing on a grass roots level in
their own country. Along with the threat of the expansion of Bolshevism in the

1920's, the imperialistic actions of Russia became the principle source of
tension between Europe and the Soviet Union. A territorial concern that created
much strife was over the Slavic area that lie between Russia and Germany. After

World War I, Poland was created as an independent state out of the three empires
that had once occupied it : Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary (Ulam, p. 107).

Poland had also created its own democratic government with the support of the

League of Nations (Harris). With Poland becoming its own free state, a buffer
zone was created between the Soviet/German border that would make it difficult
for the Bolsheviks to gain access to Germany and lead a Communist revolution
(Harris). The Treaty of Versailles had also created the countries of

Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Yugoslavia and made careful arrangements to set up
these counties as a bloc of democratic governments to curb Russian imperialism
(Harris). Lenin's plans for the expansion of Bolshevism into Germany became
complicated by the new Polish state (Harris). They no longer had direct access
to the German border. Russia also felt that Poland contained lands that were
rightfully part of Russia. As a result, the Soviets invaded Poland in 1920 in an
effort to reacquire lands that they had lost as a result of the Treaty of

Versailles as well as regain access to Germany by taking further territory all
the way to the German border (Harris). Upon their planned occupation of Poland,
the Soviets intended to gather the support of the workers and lead a Communist
revolution in Poland thereby destroying the Pole's newly established
non-Communist regime (Harris). Poland eventually defeated the Russians with the
help of French troops in 1921, and the upstart attempt to create Communist
revolution in the remains of a war tattered Europe failed (Harris). In 1921,

Poland mounted its own offensive that pushed Russian troops all the way east to
the city of Kiev. The expansionist actions of the Soviet Union undermined the
peace negotiations that ended W.W.I. and caused much anti-Communist sentiment
among the nations of free Europe (Harris). With the Russian Bolsheviks coming to
power in October of 1917, the spread of communism on a worldwide scale began.

The idea of the expansion of Marxist thought became a source of tension that
pitted Russia and its experimental communist society against states of democracy
and capitalism in Europe. The strife that developed between Russia and Europe
was the result of expansionist movements by the Communist Party either directly
or by encouraging grass roots communist growth within (Harris). Also, the
questionable actions of both the Bolsheviks and the western Europe during World

War I as well as the Russian Civil War created much hostility between the new

Russian state and the establish states of the west. The actions taken by the

Western states to hold back Bolshevik expansion clashed with the Communist's
revolutionary aspirations and dreams of global dominance. The struggle between
two entities: one of rebellion and growth, and the other of maintaining social
order and suppression become prevalent, and subsequently the "Cold

War" had begun.