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Labor and the Russian Revolution

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Russian labor force between 1900 and 1917.
  3. The Bund.
  4. The February Revolution.
  5. The October Revolution.
  6. The Russian Civil War.
  7. Conclusion.

The February and October Revolutions of 1917 were based, in large part, on Marxist visions of class struggle and working class power. Despite not being an industrial power, the Russian working class was significant. Benjamin Nathans sums up the social circumstances of Russia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. A unique set of circumstanced led to a very weak ruling class, a powerful and radical working class (albeit a tiny one), and a significant number of intellectuals: A handful of cities became modern metropolises even as they retained many features of preindustrial life. And an embryonic civil society, whose most characteristic element was not a bourgeois middle class but a remarkably diverse intelligentsia, created the framework for new kinds of contacts across lines of nationality and religion.

[...] Smolensk's Jewish socialist leaders found themselves marginalized by their own rhetoric of class struggle." Again, while Hickey is describing a local phenomenon, this move to the left was a general tendency across both Jewish and non-Jewish radical labor organizations. The Bolsheviks, a highly disciplined group that practiced "democratic centralism" (i.e., internal dissent over policy or tactics was never expressed outside of the party) was the furthest to the left, though even that faction was also being pushed even further to the left by the activity of the workers in cities such as Petrograd and Moscow. [...]


[...] Indeed, Jews who joined the Bolshevik party after the Revolution and toward the beginning of 1918 had to join this Jewish section, though its provisional nature was publicly known and widely understood. These Jews in the party were turned against Judaism, and helped weaken the Bund significantly: Beginning in June 1919, the Jewish sections fought Zionism by prohibiting all activities of Zionist organizations. The Jewish sections had a stranglehold on communal organizations in the Jewish community. Religion, their main target, was under constant attack. [...]


[...] These shifts toward the Bolshevik party of course did not end the struggle for full control of the Russian Empire anti-Bolshevik forces, such as the Mensheviks (formerly of the same party as the Bolsheviks) and other nations still did not recognize the Soviet Union as a nation until 1921. A bloody war amongst brothers was the way the Russian Government determined whether the Soviet Union was to remain in power in the brutal following years. The Russian Civil War The Russian Civil War started as soon as the October revolution took place as the Socialist still remained dominate in the nation but were still weak in the industrial cities such as Petrograd. [...]

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