Russia’s economy saw many changes between the years 1855 to 1964, which had varying effects on society as a whole. At the beginning of this time period Russia was being ruled by the Romanov dynasty and by the end of this time period Nikita Khrushchev was the leader. In these one hundred and nine years Russia had seen many policies that had positive impacts on economy; however there had also been many failures which led to severe poverty and discontent. Under Tsarist rule the Russian economy was heavily reliant on agricultural production to maintain a stable economy rather than industrial output which in turn made the economy weak, as several poor bad harvests like the ones suffered in 1900 and 1902 caused mass starvation and the decrease in the quality of life of many people, which aided the spread of fatal diseases.
The discontent that had developed did later lead to the Bolshevik take over known as The October Revolution of 1917, which gave Lenin the opportunity to transform Russia.During Lenin’s time as head of the Soviet government from 1917 to 1924 his policies had a range of outcomes, although the view that he had the greatest impact on economy and society can be debated as not all of his outcomes may have been positive however they did have a large effect on the stability and growth of the Russian economy, which agrees with the statement above that Lenin did have the greatest impact.
Lenin managed to implement policies like War Communism with the aim of industrialising Russia, so that it could compete with the rapidly developing western world but with a socialist ideology with the overall idea being that if everyone in Russia worked together for the good of the country then Russia could be more successful than the capitalist powerhouses of the west. Lenin’s economic aims were similar if not the same as all previous other rulers including the Tsars, who wanted to modernise Russia, so that it could become a global super power like the USA was developing into.
Two historians who have contrasting views on what caused the Russian economy to develop the way it did and Lenin’s affects on Russian economy and society are, Sheila Fitzpatrick and Alec Nove. Sheila Fitzpatrick argues that the policy of War Communism was developed to respond to the economic catastrophe caused by the Civil War – ‘To cope with a desperate situation, they Bolsheviks turned to more radical policies and tried to extend the sphere of centralized government control much further and faster than they had originally intended.’ On the other hand Alec Nove, an historian specialising in economic history, concluded that War Communism was only in part to do with the Civil War however it also represented: ‘stages towards socialism or even the gateway to full Communism.’
Throughout this time period Russia’s overall economic strength maintained at a steady rate. However, the industrial economy fluctuated due to the individual policies of the given rulers. After the Civil war the Russian economy was exhausted and very weak, Lenin’s policy to change this was the introduction of ‘state capitalism’. State capitalism had the aim to improve economic strength and act as a transitional phase before enough money was available to convert the country from its capitalist direction towards socialist reforms. It can be argued that the implementation of state capitalism did not have a large affect on society as a whole as this policy wasn’t really new and did not immediately change anything as it retained many elements of capitalism like privately owned small businesses, markets and money. Lenin received great criticism from his own Bolshevik supporters as they wanted more radical socialist reforms, which would in their eyes have a greater positive impact on the economy and society as a whole. Lenin viewed state capitalism as a necessary step in the process of achieving communism as “State capitalism would be a step forward as compared with the present state of affairs in our Soviet Republic.”
Find Source that disagrees with Lenin- state capitalism was not short term and failed
– Emma Goldman in an article from 1935 titled “There Is No Communism in Russia” – “Such a condition of affairs may be called state capitalism, but it would be fantastic to consider it in any sense Communistic…Soviet Russia, it must now be obvious, is an absolute despotism politically and the crassest form of state capitalism economically”.
However, Lenin did not agree. Alec Nove shares a similar view to Lenin and in contrast to Lenin’s opposition like Obolensky and Bukharin he believes that “If state capitalism were established this would represent an advance on the existing situation.”