The New Economic Policy (or NEP) was introduced in the Tenth Party Congress, held in 1921 . By this time, Lenin had realised that socialism in Russia was unlikely to succeed unless there was an international socialist revolution (which, in the short term, did not look very likely) or they came "to an agreement with the peasants". The NEP was the latter.

In 1921, having effectively won the Civil War, the incredibly unpopular requisitions of all 'surplus' grain from peasants involved in War Communism became less necessary. Peasant revolts occurred throughout Russia, as, with the demobilization of the Red Army, they began to take back their grain. This meant that the workers could not get their bread and so the strikes, which had been so effective against the Tsar were resumed against the Bolsheviks. Production fell to 13% of pre-war levels. This, for a government that claimed to represent the proletariat, was not a good thing.

These revolts included the Kronstadt uprising. The Kronstadt sailors had been particularly vocal supporters and participants of the revolution and so their declaration of a desire for "Soviets without Communists", was difficult to dismiss as tsarist. The revolt began on the 7th of March. The congress began on the 8th.

The NEP worked roughly as follows: grain would no longer be requisitioned, it would be taxed at a certain percentage. The peasants could do what they wanted with the remainder. It initially varied depending on the region but it was fixed at 10% in 1922. They could lease labour if they wanted to.

More astute readers will note that this appears to be a retreat back to capitalism. It was, but was only intended to be temporary, in the same way as the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was. Many Bolsheviks unsurprisingly reacted badly to its introduction. However, to avoid such confrontations during the congress, Lenin delayed the introduction of the resolution until the 15th of March, the penultimate day of the congress and by this point many delegates had left to aid the suppression of the Kronstadt sailors.

As Bukharin told the Comintern the following July, they were making "economic concessions in order to avoid political ones". Lenin, however, did not see it as being quite so temporary as many in the party probably imagined. In May of 1921, he told the party that it had to be adopted "seriously and for a long time". This dedication to the NEP stemmed from Lenin's belief that, as he told the 1921 congress, only "countries of developed capitalism" could make an "immediate transition to socialism". In Russia, as a result of the revolution, the "'bourgeois revolution" had not been completed and so different tactics needed to be used to institute a socialist state.

The Bolsheviks were opposed to private trade, so arguments against the NEP arrived quite quickly. Would the hungry be able to afford the newly traded goods? If money made a comeback, wouldn't rich people return too? These questions seemed to be vindicated by a rise in unemployment in the first two years of the NEP. Opponents of the NEP dubbed it the "New Exploitation of the Proletariat"

This anger was focused on "Nepmen", who were responsible for most of the trade that resulted from the NEP. Whilst peasants could sell their grain back to the state if they wished, they could make a bigger profit with less difficulty by selling it to these entrepreneurial fellows. They spent their new-found wealth in a similar manner to how most people would spend it if they got it these days. They drove imported cars, bought their wives diamonds and fur coats and lost what remained at casinos. However, as a result the post-revolution mood that hung over most Russians, they were not treated with great reverence. They found it difficult to get credit, their rent was higher and so were the tuition fees for their children.

This was largely where the return to capitalism ended. The government kept control of, railways, banks and the major industries. Only factories employing less than twenty people were denationalized.

Initially, the NEP did not do very well, as rural prices dropped and urban prices increased. In 1923, the government took action to lower food prices. Nationalized trusts were pressured, and credit rationing and price regulation were introduced. By 1924, the economy was improving, paving the way for Stalin to abolish it.

The peasantry probably did not expect this, thinking, in their naive, ignorant way, the NEP would be permanent. But that's another story.

Orlando Figes, A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924 ISBN: 071267327X - I got most of my quotes from this.
This is my first node. Please be nice. :)

The fight for supremacy in the Communist Party was based not upon popular support or hereditary claims for power, but rather a war of ideologies. While all members of the Politburo were, to differing extents, Marxists, the breadth of Marxist theory meant that there were a number of differing interpretations of his work. However, it is important to remember that Marxism is first and foremost an economic theory, and so the future of the USSR would be determined on just what kind of Marxist the new leader of the nation would be.

It must be noted that when we look at the beginnings of the new socialist state, the actual economic model followed was not Marxism, but a strange hybrid known as Marxist-Leninism. While Marx has the comfort of speculation, V.I. Lenin (leader of the Communist party, 1917-24, although his multiple strokes in 1922 seriously reduced his capacity as leader) became swiftly aware that the utopia he and his comrades dreamed of was simply not an immediate possibility. So, Marxist Leninism really is an umbrella term for Lenin’s desperate search for a workable Russian economy. During his time as the Soviet leader, Lenin initiates three distinct economic policies. The first of these was State Capitalism, a system which was replaced by War Communism with the onset of the civil war. This was a system under which nationalization, state intervention and grain requisition were prevalent, as Lenin saw this necessary to keep the revolution alive in Russia. However, by the end of the war, the economy was even worse than before, and in 1921 Lenin attempted to stimulate it with the NEP (New Economic Policy). Its main tenants were the abolition of grain requisition, the removal of trade bans and the capacity for small scale private enterprise. While Lenin instituted the NEP grudgingly, it did indeed begin to revitalize the Russian economy. Clearly, however, it was not Marxism, and so Lenin stated that it would be only a “limited and temporary concession to capitalism”. In order to quell the party infighting that this caused, Lenin instituted the “Ban On Factions”, a piece of legislation that removes dissident and minority groups from the party.

Upon his death, the struggle for power has already begun. Due to his incapacity during the last two years of his leadership, many in the Politburo already had their campaigns well under way before Lenin’s premature demise. In one now infamous incident, Stalin misinformed his main rival, Trotsky, of the date of Lenin’s funeral, meanwhile acquiring a front row seat for himself, which of course shamed Trotsky and showed himself in a very positive light. Such political manipulation would serve Stalin very well later on, as we will see. However, despite this trickery, there were two main issues that would determine the next Chairman. Firstly, their stance on foreign policy, in which they were divided into “internationalists” (probably those truest to Marxism, “workers of the world unite!”), and believers of “socialism in one country”. However, the most crucial factor was that of, unsurprisingly, economics. Lenin’s premature death meant that there was no consensus in the Communist Party as to what the official party line on the economy should be. There was those on the left of the party who has always opposed the NEP, seeing it as a direct contradiction of socialism. On the other hand, while they may not have agreed with it in full, there were those in the party who saw the NEP as Lenin’s political legacy to the party, and so it should be followed through. It was this issue that Stalin used in order rise to power.

Stalin’s first and probably primary opponent was Leon Trotsky. Trotsky was, theoretically, the ideal man to lead the USSR. He had led the Red Army to victory in the civil war, been a brilliant theorist and orator, and had most likely been the second most powerful man in Russia, second to Lenin. However, Stalin was also aware of his flaws. He was deeply ideological, and utterly committed to socialism (a fundamentalist Marxist, if you will), and as such was absolutely unswayable in his beliefs. So, to a canny politician such as Stalin, he was easy prey. Instead of taking on Trotsky head to head, he instead challenged him on the issue of the NEP. When Trotsky, precisely has Stalin has predicted, displayed his defiance of what he saw as “capitalist corruption”, Stalin used his great political powers in the Politburo (over the years, he had achieved positions of authority in almost every element of Soviet bureaucracy) to ensure that the NEP had majority support. He also formed a triumvirate with two other leading left-wingers, Zinoviev and Kamonev. Then, he could simply invoke Lenin’s Ban On Factions, and have Trotsky ejected from the party. Then, when he no longer needed their support, Stalin began promoting his policy of “Socialism in One Country”. When Zinoviev and Kamonev opposed this, and formed the “United Opposition” with Trotsky, they two were open to accusations of factionalism, and in 1927 were expelled from the party.

With the party’s left-wing figure head gone, Stalin could then switch his attention to those in the right wing. Ironically, he used largely similar methods to depose of the his Pro-NEP adversaries, although clearly this time his approach was entirely reversed. He now manipulated the left wing into turning against right-wing leaders such as Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky. Stalin now advocated rapid industrialization and state control, and so used his majority to remove those three from the party.

By this point, Josef Stalin had removed any real opposition from the Politburo, and he was ready to ascend to the role of Chairman. However, the truth was soon to become apparent that Stalin really considered the NEP an irrelevance. While he used the economic vagaries that Lenin left in his wake to facilitate his political manoeuvring, it was swiftly discarded once he gained the power he thirsted for.

Nep (?), n. [Abbrev. fr. Nepeta.] Bot.



© Webster 1913.

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