History of Bolsheviks in Russia sample essay
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903. The Bolsheviks were the majority faction in a crucial vote, hence their name. They ultimately became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks came to power in Russia during the October Revolution phase of the Russian Revolution of 1917, and founded the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic which would later in 1922 become the chief constituent of the Soviet Union.
The Bolsheviks, founded by Vladimir IllyichLenin, were by 1905 a mass organization consisting primarily of workers under a democratic internal hierarchy governed by the principle of democratic centralism, who considered themselves the leaders of the revolutionary working class of Russia. Their beliefs and practices were often referred to as Bolshevism.
Bolshevik revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky commonly used the terms “Bolshevism” and “Bolshevist” after his exile from the Soviet Union to differentiate between what he saw as true Leninism and the regime within the state and the party which arose under Josef Stalin but as we will get to know there are similar traits to the Bolsheviks regime and that of Stalins. The Bolsheviks were journalists long before they were state leaders, and they never forgot the impact of a well-aimed message and the role of media.
Newspapers were the life-line of the underground party. Formative ideological and political debates were conducted in them; reporters and deliverers evolved into party cadres; and readers became rank-and-file supporters. At times, newspapers smuggled from abroad kept the Party alive; and Lenin’s editorials often forestalled factional division. Revolutionary struggle taught Bolsheviks the value of mass media, and confirmed their belief that culture is inherently partisan. In times of political turmoil, they exploited it skillfully.
Illegal front-line newspapers helped turn soldiers against the Great War; effective propaganda helped win the Civil War. Yet the revolutionaries knew that the same weapons could be used against them. When they took power, they protected themselves by denying the opposition access to public opinion; printing presses, theaters, movie houses were all eventually confiscated and placed under state monopoly. The Bolsheviks considered these measures necessary and just to maintain power and control as the ruling and dominant political party.
Soviet authorities were never ashamed of their monopoly on different aspects of culture. Culture was a weapon of class struggle as identified by similar events in the Chinese Revolution as the media and its variety of channels would amplify the rate and effieciancy of propaganda. Allowing the enemy access to mass media would have seemed criminally stupid. To debate the ethics of censorship was a waste of time; the Bolsheviks’ concern was how to mold popular values, how to reach the masses, reflect the wishes of the state and censure alien ideals.
This essay will look at the reason why the Bolsheviks were convinced that a stringent control over the media through a monopolistic system was necessary for holding unto political power but would eventually lead to press freedom for the masses due to a systematic process of internally socializing the Soviet Union with a strong appeal to the working class which would help solidify the Bolsheviks political power in the long term.
With a strong thought that they overly represented the working class, the control over the media represented one of the strongest tools to control and effectively influence the social working class in the Soviet Union. 1 Bolsheviks and the Media The early twentieth-century media suited Bolshevik purposes. Under Bolshevik sponsorship, they spoke with one powerful voice, unweakened by dissent or excessive subtlety, unencumbered by complexity. Red propaganda depicted a world of stark contrasts: Bolsheviks were valorous and self-sacrificing; the Whites were cruel and debauched.
It was no time for half-tones or self-conscious irony. Bolshevik propaganda might seem heavy-handed, yet judging by its success, much of the public did not resent the overbearing tone. Opponents on both the left and right were no match for the Bolshevik blitz, and some, like the Whites, were particularly ineffective in shaping public opinion. Discussions of Soviet mass culture have usually dwelt on its administration and rhetoric more than content and reception. This is unfortunate, because mass culture was a rare example of equilateral negotiation in Soviet society.
The culture gap could not be forced as it stood as an obstacle to the unity of the nation behind one unilateral political party. The economy could be socialized; industry could be whipped into higher production; and citizens could be made, at tremendous cost, to behave as they should. But socialist society demanded not that people just say the necessary things, but also think them in private. Socialism had to be internalized. Many Bolsheviks saw the mass media as the path from ideology to internal thought. It converted abstract phrases into concrete images.
Propaganda demanded the cooperation of three groups: the Party and state, which provided the content; the skills of writers and artists, who made ideas into image; and the audience, which received and digested the images. Leaders, artists, and citizens all acknowledged the wishes of the other. The audience craved interesting material; the state needed its values represented by symbols; artists desired an arena for their creative energies (and a respectable living). One side-the audience-stayed mute about its thoughts, yet even at the height of tyranny, no mass audience could be forced to watch a movie or read a book.
After claiming to represent the working class and finally taken power in Russia, the Bolsheviks saw themselves as the rightful representation of the working class. Though the Bolsheviks felt they were right in claiming to represent working class within their many promises and strong influence, they were not justified in making this claim in the end. The party felt it had won the right to represent the proletarians by promising freedom and self-government, but after demonstrations such as the Kronstadt Rebellion and the formation of the Cheka, it became apparent that the Bolsheviks had betrayed the working class.
Firstly, the Bolsheviks felt that they were a clear representation of the working class. One of the main reasons for this assumption was Lenin’s irresistible promises to the working class. In Lenin’s work “Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited Peoples” he outlines the rights and privileges promised by the Bolshevik party if they should come into power. One of the first rights he outlines is “The sovereignty of the people; i. e. , the concentration of the supreme power of the state in a unicameral legislative assembly composed of representatives of the people. Lenin sets out to demonstrate how the Bolshevik party stands for people’s representation in government, to further show the proletarians that the Bolshevik party is a “people’s party”. Lenin then goes on to point out that workers should be given the right to “Unrestricted freedom of conscience, speech, press and assembly; the right to strike and to form trade unions. ” Because these new rights and freedoms were never available to the proletarians under the Tsarist regime, the promises made by the Bolsheviks were too good to pass up.
In addition, the strength of the influence of the Bolsheviks’ served to gain support of the working class to the extent that other parties could not reach. Alex Shotman demonstrates how he and many others like him were influenced more by Lenin, leader of the Bolsheviks , than any other party leader. The result of this debate and many others like it demonstrate how Bolshevik influence dominated in comparison to that of any other party. Because of the many promises and strong influence of the Bolshevik party, its members felt that they were justified in representing the working class.
The validity of this idea, however, proved to be questionable after the Bolsheviks came into power. 2. Monopoly and the Media The Bolsheviks established a state monopoly of the media that absorbed literature, art, and science into a stylized and ritualistic public culture–a form of political performance that became its own reality and excluded other forms of public reflection. Although Lenin had control he wasn’t completely supported by the people of Russia. To gain support Lenin made a secret police force, which was in charge of erasing any opposition to the party.
The Bolsheviks were also renamed the Communists. Freedom of press was cancelled, unless you supported the Communist cause. The government took control of all ways of life. Lenin also made peace with the germans as he knew if war continued, the revolution wouldn’t fully work. Although some were angery with the losses Russia had in the treaty, the Bolsheviks were in control, though it was not a steady form of control. There was still widespread opposition and soon a civil war broke out. he socialist ideologyon the freedom of press viewed it from two categories. Firstly the Leninism-marxism was completely against the idea of freedom of press as either absolute or abstract. The argument embodying this was that in a capitalist society the notion of freedom of press applied only to the Bourgeoisie and therefore the right to freedom of press applied to only a small percentage of the population. The first action to implement restrictions on the freedom of speech was the introduction of the Decree of the Press authored by Lenin himself.
The Decree and form of press which advocated for opposition and insubordination to the ruling communist party. An excerpt from the Decree below details the the thought of Lenin on how the monopolising the press would later benefit the masses and the working class: “For the bourgeoisie, freedom of the press meant freedom for the rich to publish and for the capitalists to control the newspapers, a practice which in all countries, including even the freest, produced a corrupt press.
For the workers’ and peasants’ government, freedom of the press means liberation of the press from capitalist oppression, and public ownership of paper mills and printing presses; equal right for public groups of a certain size (say, numbering 10,000) to a fair share of newsprint stocks and a corresponding quantity of printers’ labour. ” He recognised both the revolutionary potential of the workers’ press, see for example a number of his early articles such as Where to Begin and What is to be Done, and the reactionary role of the bosses’ papers (as did Marx later in his life).
However, the class nature of society had actually corrupted the press, according to this resolution. Against the bosses’ newspapers, the revolutionary government set up a commission to examine the links between the capitalist press, shareholders and who owns, funds and organises the bosses’ newspapers. However, at this stage of the revolution the bosses’ press had not been suppressed, that came soon after with the invasion of Soviet Russia by 19 different armies and attempts to undermine the revolution.
Sadly, these measures of suppression in part laid the basis for the later dictatorship of Stalin and the snuffing out of freedoms alone with wholesale state terror and murder of millions. In one way the suppression of the press proved Marx’s original point about human freedom but in a far more terrible way. 3. Aftermath of Monopolising Freedom of the press in the Soviet Union The Bolshevik leadership took it for granted that the revolutionary changes that they would carry out in the area of property relations, that is economic reforms, would result in equal revolutionary changes in culture.
Thus in the first decade of their rule, the Bolsheviks would allow a degree of tolerance for independent creativity as well as developing government policies to mould the thoughts and behaviour of its citizens. The Bolsheviks were prepared to use propaganda on a scale never before used by any government to create a people attuned to the ideological dictates of their rulers. To this end, Lenin created a series of institutions to manage every aspect of public activity. The Supreme Council of the National Economy was formed to direct and coordinate all aspects of the communist economy.
All matters dealing with the security of the State were entrusted to the Cheka and the Revolutionary Military Council handled every aspect of the Civil War. To manage the social revolution, Lenin consolidated all cultural organisations into a single large bureaucratised institution called the Commissariat of Enlightenment (=Narkompros) under the leadership of Anatolii Lunacharskii until (1929). Lunarcharskii was the Cultural Commissar and his all “counterrevolutionary newspapers were closed. a State monopoly over newspaper advertising was created.
Lenin hoped to restrict the publication of anti-government newspapers by denying them advertising revenue. However, despite this, some 3,000 anti-Bolshevik newspapers continued to be published between November 1917 and June 1918. July-September – all independent newspapers were closed down by the Bolsheviks. On 27 May 1919 a state monopoly on paper was created. The state could now control the publication of all books. 6 June 1922 saw the censorship of all publications and pictorial matter was placed under the control of Narkompros. Publications of he Communist Party and its affiliates the Communist International and the Academy of Sciences were exempt. Due to these rules of censorship any semblance of independent thought disappeared from public life in Russian. From 1918 onwards, authors and painters learned to practice the art of self-censorship because they knew that the government censor would be keeping a strict vigilance on the work. Despite this however, Stalin was to introduce even more severe censorship laws after 1928 to further ensure that the government controlled the mind and the social development of the ‘communist citizen’.
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