Monthly Archives: October 2013

Cominternminated

for_meh_desktop

 

Communism was believed to be a worldwide revolution of the proletariat. This was something that was feared by capitalist countries and embraced by socialists. Lenin called for the workers of the world to unite, and expected capitalism in Europe to fall soon after the rise of the Bolsheviks. With this belief the new Soviet Union formed the Communist International, the Comintern, in 1919 which would organize communist revolutions around the globe. The Comintern made rules for communism that international communist parties would have to follow and set the communist platform.

The rise of fascism in the twenties and thirties garnered the attention of the Soviets and the Comintern rescinded it’s old decree that communists could not work with Social-Democrats and asked them to participate in any way necessary to defeat the fascists. Then Stalin signed the Non-Aggression Pact with Hitler and the Comintern was forced to change policy(Seventeen Moments). Upon the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941, the Comintern went back to supporting the Allied war effort, but Britain and the U.S. were still wary of the Soviets.

In 1943 the Comintern was dissolved. It had lost popularity with its flip-flopping. And Stalin needed to gain the trust of Roosevelt and Churchill, which was impossible with a part of his government organizing a worldwide communist revolution (Freeze). In the official Comintern dissolution order, Communist Parties worldwide are asked to put all their attention into fighting the “Hitlerites” and frees them from the constraints of Comintern membership citing the different environments in each country that made it complicated to organize revolution from Moscow.

The implications of the dissolution of the Comintern are bigger than the dissolution itself. Stalin had preached communism in one country but the Soviets still ran the Comintern, showing their goal of worldwide communism. It led communist movements that would rise up from the workers in each country. Dissolving it implied that domestic communist revolutions were no longer a priority and set the stage for Soviet imperialism. After the war, Stalin formed the Communist Information Bureau, the Cominform, an organization of communist states. Designed to organize communist government’s policy against the West, it was dissolved after Stalin’s death (Seventeen Moments). Unlike the Comintern, it served as the basis for Kremlin control of puppet communist states.

 

Seventeen Moments: End of the Comintern.http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1943comintern&Year=1943&navi=byYear

Seventeen Moments: Presidium of the Executive Committee of the Communist International. http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1943comend1&SubjectID=1943comintern&Year=1943

Seventeen Moments: Seventh Congress of the Communist International. http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1943popfront1&SubjectID=1943comintern&Year=1943

Seventeen Moments: Cominform and the Soviet Bloc. http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1947cominform&Year=1947

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.

The Beginning of the Soviet Sporting Power

Soviet athletes march in May Day Parade
                               Soviet athletes march in May Day Parade

 

The Soviet Union was known for many things, one of which was elite athletics. While the Cold War raged, the Soviets and Americans did actual battle in the world of sports, mainly the Olympic Games where defeating capitalists in was a show of communist power and success. State sponsored athletic training in communist states was intense and created some of the world’s greatest athletes.  And this push for athletic excellence started with Stalin’s Russia in the 1930s.

In the 1920s-30s the Soviet Union insisted that its citizens be in great physical shape which would “increase labour productivity, prepare workers for defence, and inculcate habits of collectivism, good hygiene and discipline”(Keys). At first only non-competitive exercises, such calisthenics, were allowed because competition, and therefore competitive sports, were capitalist (Seventeen Moments).

But eventually the idea of competitive sports got a hold of Soviet leadership: “We compete everywhere possible. Why not compete in sport?” said Stalin (Keys). The communist order embraced competitive team sports as a way to show how collective groups working together could be successful. Sports clubs trained elite athletes and state sponsored spectator sports became popular. Soccer “commanded the throbbing hearts of mostly male fans” who rooted for teams affiliated with state entities, such as the Dynamo who were sponsored by the state police, then the NKVD and later the KGB(Seventeen Moments). FC Dynamo Moscow is still a popular Russian soccer team and the rivals of The Spartak Club, formerly sponsored by the meat packing industry. The rivalry is so heated that  in 1942 the NKVD chief sent the Spartaks three best players to a labor camp(Seventeen Moments).

The athletic achievements of Soviet citizens was extremely important to leadership and lauded in Pravda. As part of May Day athletes were celebrated as they marched through Red Square(Seventeen Moments). By 1934, the government had decreed that Soviet sport must defeat all Western bourgeois sport and the Soviets should hold all sports records. The state trained coaches, and brought in foreign experts, in order to be able to prepare their athletes. Soviet athletes competed against the best foreign athletes although they were not invited to the Nazi Olympics of 1936. And by 1937 the workers sports leagues had been superseded by the all important internationally competitive state athletics. The increased focus on athletics in the 1930s set the base for the “sports-race” of the Cold War and sports importance as a premier setting for Soviet patriotism(Keys).

 

 

Seventeen Moments http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1934fizkultura&Year=1934

Barbara Key. “Soviet Sport and Transnational Mass Culture in the 1930s”. http://history.unimelb.edu.au/assets/pdf/keys/keys-sovietsport.pdf

The Tightfisted

kulaks-away

 

Josef Stalin had a plan to end the New Economic Policy or the NEP. The NEP was not the socialism the October Revolution had promised. It was the safe bet in a time of transition and war, but it was based on capitalistic policies in industry and agriculture. Once Stalin took power, he vowed to change the direction of the communist state now a decade into its existence. This was known as The Great Turn and it was highlighted by Stalin’s pride and joy–The Five-Year Plan.

The Five-Year Plan ended the market practices of Russian industry that had continued under the NEP by centralizing distribution of goods to factories and controlling prices. Russian peasant agriculture was more difficult.  Since being freed from serfdom, land peasants had gone through some changes. Communal farming communities popped up but were followed by classification of peasants from the poor to the wealthy. The wealthiest of these, the kulaks, had their own land outside of the commune and hired others to work it. The wealth of these kulaks was not looked at too favorably by many–something Stalin would use to his advantage. But by the time of the implementation of The Five-Year Plan in 1929 the communal villages had mostly been dissolved and peasants owned their own land. Russia had trouble producing enough food however, because these small individual farms had limited access to technology. So Stalin collectivized the farms: taking all livestock, land, and machinery from the individual peasants and making them the collective farms property. Moscow would then introduce the new farms to more advanced farming technology in order to increase production.

This measure was good for the poor peasants, but the kulaks would have to give up all their wealth. They were already seen by the communists as class-enemies who saw themselves as higher than the rest of the peasants and workers and who were “exploiting” the rest of the peasants (Stalin). Stalin in his address to Marxist students said his goal was “eliminating the kulaks as a class”(Stalin). They had three choices: they could be moved to a house as part of their village’s collective farm, they could be moved to another collective  farm, or they could be put in a work camp(Freeze). The kulaks were resistant to the collectivization efforts but Stalin was determined to “break their resistance”(Stalin). The threat of being sent to work camps proved effective as did the executions of some kulaks that seemed a larger threat to the state. Because kulaks were so universally hated, Communist leaders labeled any resistant peasants as kulaks, thereby reclassifying them and turning the bulk of the country against those peasants while also threatening them with the work camps to force them to fall in line. Being labeled a kulak was such a terrible thing that Stalin’s war against individual farm owners was successful in the eyes of Communist leaders in Moscow although it wreaked havoc on those who were immediately impacted by it

 

 

http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1929collectivization&Year=1929

Stalin address to Marxist students http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1929agrarian1&SubjectID=1929collectivization&Year=1929

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.