The Russian revolution of 1917 was a defining event of the twentieth century, and its achievements and failures remain controversial in the twenty-first. This book focuses on the retreat from the revolution’s aims in 1920–24, after the civil war and at the start of the New Economic Policy – and specifically, on the turbulent relationship between the working class and the Communist Party in those years. It is based on extensive original research of the actions and reactions of the party leadership and ranks, of dissidents and members of other parties, and of trade union activists and ordinary factory workers. It discusses working-class collective action before, during and after the crisis of 1921, when the Bolsheviks were confronted by the revolt at the Kronshtadt naval base and other protest movements.
This book argues that the working class was politically expropriated by the Bolshevik party, as democratic bodies such as soviets and factory committees were deprived of decision-making power; it examines how the new Soviet ruling class began to take shape. It shows how some worker activists concluded that the principles of 1917 had been betrayed, while others accepted a social contract, under which workers were assured of improvements in living standards in exchange for increased labour discipline and productivity, and a surrender of political power to the party.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Workers and the Soviet State 1. Struggling to Survive: Workers in July-December 1920 2. Sweet Visions and Bitter Clashes: The Party in July-December 1920 3. The Revolution that wasn’t: Workers and the Party in January-March 1921 4. The NEP and Non-Partyism: Workers in 1921 5. Renegades, Oppositionists, Suicides and Administrators: The Party in 1921 6. Mass Mobilization versus Mass Participation: Workers in 1922 7. The Party Élite, the Industrial Managers and the Cells: The Party in 1922 8. The Social Contract in Practice: Workers in 1923 9. The Élite takes Charge: The Party in 1923-24. Conclusions: The Impact on Socialism. Appendix 1. Biographical Notes. Appendix 2. Districts and Workplaces. Appendix 3. Wages and Currency Rates. Appendix 4. Party Membership. Appendix 5. Party Members’ Occupations
Simon Pirani studied Russian at the University of London and wrote a doctoral dissertation at the University of Essex. He writes about the economy and politics of the former Soviet Union as a journalist. He is currently a senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, and is working on book projects on the post-Soviet period.