History of the Soviet Union

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Communism’s Traumatic Transition: foreshadow of the Soviet Union?

The predictions of both Marx and Lenin of a violent and oppressive transitional period that a society must endure while changing from an imperial capitalist society towards a fully-realized communist society seem to be an appropriate prediction¬†for what the Soviet Union would become during the 20th Century. Just as the two most famous socialists predicted, the proletariat revolution would eventually turn into a dictatorship of the proletariat to oppress the wealthy minority of capitalists. Unfortunately, the Soviet Union’s scope of oppression was dramatically widened to include more than just the owners of the means of production.

As seen in his work, the transition from Capitalism to Communism, Lenin knew there would be some violence and oppression if the proletariat’s rise did occur. Much like his predecessor Karl Marx, Lenin saw this unpleasant stage through a very Machiavellian type perspective; it was nothing more than an¬†unfortunate but necessary means to the desirable end of a fully-realized communist society. The transition was also prescribed to be a temporary period during which the true democracy of the proletariat would be achieved. While Lenin probably didn’t imagine anything nearly as deadly and oppressive as the Soviet Union, he knew there would be some inevitable turbulence along the proletariat’s rise to power.

Thanks to the tyrannical nature of Joseph Stalin’s reign, what was supposed to be a mere transitional period of state oppression became the status-quo for a ¬†consistent oppression of personal liberties for over half a century by the Soviet Union. Unlike the originally imagined transitional period of Lenin and Marx, the Soviet Union oppressed anybody thought to be the slightest enemy to the communist party, not just the wealthy elites.

Instead of strengthening the proletariat against the oppression of the state, the proletariat suffered the restrictions of state-sponsored purges from paranoid leaders fixated on rooting out any opposition. What was supposed to be a means to an end became an end in itself as the proletariat surrendered their own rights by allowing the rights of the wealthy minority to be sacrificed. Once state sponsored oppression was allowed against the former wealthy elites, it was continually expanded to include nearly any type of dissent until nobody was free from the potential incarceration by the state.

 

2 Responses to Communism’s Traumatic Transition: foreshadow of the Soviet Union?

  1. A. Nelson says:

    It is tempting to see Stalinism as the inevitable working out of the tendencies you describe here. But look back at State and Revolution and think about the context in which Lenin wrote it (we haven’t quite gotten there in the course yet). The image of the “torture shirt” is arresting (no pun in intended). What is the source?

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