Lenin and the Siberian Peasant Insurrections

  • N. G. O. Pereira

Abstract

The purpose of this chapter is to explore aspects of V. I. Lenin’s views of the peasantry; how they translated into the social and agrarian policies of the new Soviet government (Sovnarkom) during the first period of Soviet rule; and, most important, the nature of their relationship to the peasant revolts in Western Siberia during 1920 and 1921. While all the peasants of Russia presented the Bolsheviks with formidable challenges on both theoretical and practical grounds, the Siberians were particularly hard to classify and to bring into line.

Keywords

Mold Expense Resis Defend Harness 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    See L. M. Goriushkin, “Ob izuchenii istorii krest’ ianstva Sibiri v period oktiabr’skoi revoliutsii i grazhdanskoi voiny,” in Problemy istorii sovetskogo obshchestva Sibiri (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1970), p. 102.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Soviet scholarship generally divides the Russian peasantry into 65 percent poor, 20 percent middle, and 15 percent kulak, with Siberia having proportionally more kulaks, perhaps as much as 25 percent. See N. Ia. Gushchin and V. A. Il’inykh, Klassovaia bor’ba v sibirskoi derevne 1920-e—seredina 1930-kh gg. (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1987), p. 32. ButGoogle Scholar
  3. V. I. Shishkin, “Sibirskaia derevnia nakanune i v period Oktiabria; diskussionnye problemy,” Izvestiia otdeleniia Akademii nauk SSSR (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1987), vyp. 3, pp. 10–11, argues that the Siberian proportions were quite similar to the rest of the country. Nevertheless, the common perception has been of a richer Siberian peasantry.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    V. P. Danilov, Rural Russia Under the New Regime (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988), p. 88: “The October Revolution in the countryside did not stop at the liquidation of gentry and large-scale capitalist land tenure. The egalitarian distribution of land encompassed not only the former gentry estates, but also, to varying degrees, peasant land itself.”Google Scholar
  5. S. P. Trapeznikov, Leninism and the Agrarian and Peasant Question, 2 vols. (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1981), vol. 1, p. 343, notes that after the abolition of the nobles’ estates, more than two-thirds of the large kulak farms, amounting to 50 million desiatins (about 55 million hectares) of land, were also expropriated—in large part reversing the Stolypin reforms.Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    According to N. Harding, Lenin’s Political Thought, 2 vols. (London, 1981), vol. 1, pp. 253–254, Lenin’s analysis rested on the understanding that some 10.5 million peasant households, comprising approximately 50 million poor peasants, held in total 75 million desiatins of land, while the thirty thousand largest landlords owned only slightly less: 70 million desiatins. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 5.
    J. C. Scott, The Moral Economy of the Peasant (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976), p. 2: “The fear of food shortages has, in most precapitalist societies, given rise to what might appropriately be termed a ‘subsistence ethic.’” AlsoGoogle Scholar
  8. R. C. Cobb, The Police and the People: French Popular Protest Movements 1789–1820 (London: Oxford University Press, 1970), p. xviii: “Attitudes to dearth conditioned popular attitudes to everything else: government, the countryside, life and death, inequality, deprivation, morality, pride, humiliation, self-esteem. It is the central theme in all forms of popular expression. Nor were the common people living in a world of myth and panic fear: for dearth and famine were in fact the biggest single threat to their existence.”Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    T. Shanin, Russia as a “Developing Society,” 2 vols. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), vol. 1, p. 158, argues that the truth may have been otherwise: the kulaks “cannot be equated with capitalist entrepreneurship. Arguably, the opposite holds true, that is, the ‘kulaks’ hampered rather than advanced the development of capitalist farming.”Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    Ibid., vol. 8, pp. 234–35. Also E.M. Shchagin, “Nekotorye voprosy istorii krest’ ianstva Sibiri v pervye gody sovetskoi vlasti,” in Problemy istorii sovetskogo obshchestva Sibiri (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1970), p. 108: “the problem was that the middle peasant… was not interested in the levelling redistribution….”Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    Lenin, CW, vol. 9, pp. 124–25. “In the mass, the peasantry is helpless,” wrote Trotsky. “It staggers from side to side and fails to find a clear programme for itself.” L. D. Trotsky, How the Revolution Armed, 3 vols. (London: New Park Publications, 1979), vol. 2, p. 456.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Lenin’s debt to the Left SRs has been noted in I. N. Steinberg, In the Workshop of the Revolution (New York: Rinehart, 1953), pp. 154–155.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    See O. H. Radkey, The Sickle Under the Hammer: The Russian Socialist Revolutionaries in the Early Months of Soviet Rule (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963).Google Scholar
  14. 17.
    Danilov, Rural Russia, p. 84. Iu. A. Poliakov, Sovetskaia strana posle okonchaniia grazhdanskoi voiny (Moscow: Nauka, 1986), p. 220, concludes that thanks to Soviet policy, there was “a dramatic decline by 1920 in the number of landless households.”Google Scholar
  15. M. Frenkin, Tragediia krest’ ianskikh vosstanii v Rossii 1918–1921 gg. (Jerusalem: Leksikon, 1987), p. 21, concedes that the peasants of European Russia got significant amounts of additional land for their use: Average holdings for the bedniak went from 1.87 desiatins in 1917 to 2.26 in 1920.Google Scholar
  16. 18.
    See V. M. Andreev, “Prodrazverstka i krest’ianstvo,” Istoricheskie zapiski 97 (1976): 43.Google Scholar
  17. 19.
    L. T. Lih, “Bolshevik Razverstka and War Communism,” Slavic Review 45, no. 4 (1986): 676.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 20.
    See R. Pipes, The Russian Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), pp. 671–713. A rather different perspective may be seen inGoogle Scholar
  19. J. Channon, “The Bolsheviks and the Peasantry: The Land Question During the First Eight Months of Soviet Rule,” Slavonic and East European Review 66, no. 4 (1988): 623, where it is argued that “coercion only gradually came to the fore as other non-coercive means proved unsatisfactory.” Channon finds evidence, in particular, for this initially conciliatory policy in the Shlikhter expedition in February 1918 which was supposed to exchange manufactured goods for Siberian grain. But because of local resistance, less than 10 percent of the available supplies actually reached the Central Industrial region.Google Scholar
  20. 21.
    Lenin, CW, vol. 32, p. 176. Also E. Kingston-Mann, Lenin and the Problem of Marxist Peasant Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), p. 27.Google Scholar
  21. 23.
    Quoted in V. I. Shishkin, Sotsialisticheskoe stroitel’stvo v sibirskoi derevne (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1985), p. 215. The VTsIK and Sovnarkom decrees of 13 and 27 May 1918 and the latter’s decree of 11 January 1919 introduced the chief elements of the government’s agrarian program. SeeGoogle Scholar
  22. E. G. Gimpel’son, “Voennyi kommunizm”: politika, praktika, ideologiia (Moscow: Mysl’, 1973), p. 37.Google Scholar
  23. 24.
    The Kombedy were described as “congresses of village loafers.” Quoted in Frenkin, Tragediia, p. 51. They were so unpopular that Lenin disbanded them in December 1918. See M. Liebman, Leninism Under Lenin (London: Jonathan Cape, 1975), p. 257. But the policy of coercion was not abandoned.Google Scholar
  24. V. I. Shishkin, “Prodovol’ stvennaia armila v Sibiri (1920-nachalo 1921 g.),” in Problemy istorii sovetskoi sibirskoi derevni (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1977), p. 33, notes that local Communists working in the food campaign (prodrabotniki) continued to call for the use of force because “without the assistance of military measures it will be impossible to accomplish the task.”Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Frenkin, Tragediia, p. 46, notes that on 9 May 1918, by the decree of Sovnarkom entitled “On the Mobilization of the Workers for the War against Hunger,” a labor army under the direction of the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture [Narkomprod] was set up to requisition the “surplus bread.” T. Shanin, The Awkward Class: Political Sociology of Peasantry in a Developing Society Russia 1910–1925 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), p. 148, puts the number of men involved at close to 70,000. In addition, nearly 50,000 Red Army soldiers were deployed during 1919–20 for the same purpose. In its crude way, razverstka worked. According to Soviet statistics, grain supplies increased from year to year. In 1917–18, the Soviet state received about 1.18 million tons; in 1918–19, almost 1.73 million tons; in 1919–20, 3.4 million tons. See The Soviet Peasantry, p. 61.Google Scholar
  26. 30.
    V. V. Kabanov, Krest’ ianskoe khoziaistvo v usloviiakh ‘Voennogo Kommunizma’ (Moscow: Nauka, 1988), pp. 180–181.Google Scholar
  27. 31.
    According to E. M. Khenkin, “K voprosu o krizise krest’ ianskogo khoziaistva Sibiri v 1920–1922 godakh,” in Problemy istorii sovetskogo obshchestva Sibiri (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1970), pp. 143–146, the amount of land cultivated declined between 1917 and 1922 by about 50 percent, and the level of productivity by an even greater proportion.Google Scholar
  28. 33.
    M. N. Pokrovskii, Kontrrevoliutsiia za 4 goda (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo, 1922), p. 4: During the winter of 1918–19, “the center of the RSFSR was seized by an almost complete circle of peasant uprisings.”Google Scholar
  29. 37.
    See M. Bogdanov, Razgrom zapadnosibirskogo kulatsko-eserovskogo miatezha 1921 g. (Tiumen’: Tiumenskoe knizhnoe izdatelstvo, 1961);Google Scholar
  30. I. P. Donkov, Antonovshchina: zamysly i deistvitel’ nost’ (Moscow: Politizdat, 1977);Google Scholar
  31. A. F. Kanisheva, “Kulatskii banditizm v Nizhnem Povolozh’e i bor’ba s nim (1921–1922 gg.),” in Iz istorii sotsial’ no-ekonomicheskogo razvitiia i klassovoi bor’ by v Nizhnem Povolozh’e (Volgograd: Volgogradskii pedagogicheskii institut, 1972);Google Scholar
  32. V. K. Katin, “Bor’ ba Kommunisticheskoi partii za krest’ianskie massy protiv eserovskoi kontrrevoliutsii v 1920–1921 gg. (Po materialam Tsentral’ no-Chernozemnogo raiona),” Kand. diss., Moscow, 1969;Google Scholar
  33. I. E. Molokov, Razgrom Bakicha (Omsk: Omskoe knizhnoe izdatel’stvo, 1979);Google Scholar
  34. Iu. A. Shchetinov, Sorvannyi zagovor (Moscow: Politizdat, 1978); andGoogle Scholar
  35. B. I. Stepanenko, “Bor’ba s vooruzhennoi kontrrevoliutsiei na Donu i Kubani i ee razgrom (mart 1920–1922 gg.)” Kand. diss., Rostov-na- Donu, 1972.Google Scholar
  36. 38.
    See M. Bassin, “A Russian Mississippi?: A Political-Geographical Inquiry into the Vision of Russia on the Pacific 1840–1865,” Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1983, p. 82.Google Scholar
  37. 39.
    See M. S. Alferov, Krest’ianstvo Sibiri v 1917 godu (Novosibirsk: Novosibirskoe knizhnoe izdatel’stvo, 1958), p. 3.Google Scholar
  38. 42.
    See G. F. Kennan, The Decision to Intervene (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1958).Google Scholar
  39. 43.
    Of critical importance in this regard was Trotsky’s decision to increase radically the numbers of reliable party cadres. Within the 5th Army alone (which faced Kolchak’s forces in Siberia) in August 1919 there were 10,000 Communists; a year later, they were twice as many. See V. T. Shukletsov, Sibiriaki v bor’be za vlast’ sovetov (Novosibirsk: Zapadno-Sibirskoe knizh. izdat., 1981), p. 224. Also Trotsky, How the Revolution Armed, vol. 1, p. 254.Google Scholar
  40. 44.
    See P. Kenez, Civil War in South Russia, 1918 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971).Google Scholar
  41. 45.
    See N.G.O. Pereira, “The Partisan Movement in Western Siberia, 1918–1920,” Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 38, no. 1 (1990): 87–97.Google Scholar
  42. 46.
    This is generally conceded in the Soviet literature. See M. G. Levin and L. P. Potapov, The Peoples of Siberia (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), p. 135.Google Scholar
  43. 47.
    A. I. Gertsen, Sobranie sochinenii, 30 vols. (Moscow: Izd. AN SSSR, 1954–65), vol. 8, p. 256.Google Scholar
  44. 49.
    E. M. Zhukov, et al., eds., Sovetskaia istoricheskaia entsiklopediia, 16 vols. (Moscow: Sovetskaia entsiklopediia, 1961–76), vol. 1, pp. 635–637; vol. 9, pp. 199–201.Google Scholar
  45. 50.
    See B. E. El’tsin, “Piatala Armila i sibirskie partizany,” in Bor’ba za Ural i Sibir’ (Moscow-Leningrad: Gosizdat., 1926), p. 268;Google Scholar
  46. C. F. Smith, “Atamanshchina in the Russian Far East,” Russian History 6, no. 1 (1979): 57–67; andCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. C. A. Manning, The Siberian Fiasco (New York: Library Publishers, 1952), p. 137.Google Scholar
  48. 51.
    L. Trotsky, Ecrits Militaires (Paris: n.p., 1967), vol. 1. p. 69.Google Scholar
  49. 52.
    M.I. Stishov, Bol’ shevistskoe podpol’ e i partizanskoe dvizhenie v Sibiri v gody grazhdanskoi voiny (1918–1920 gg.) (Moscow: Izd. moskov. univ., 1962), pp. 198–199. Until November 1919 Mamontov’s partisans acted independently of the Red Army. SeeGoogle Scholar
  50. V. G. Mirzoev, Partizanskoe dvizhenie v Zapadnoi Sibiri (1918–1919 gg.) (Kemerovo: Kemerovskoe kn. izd., 1957), pp. 122–124.Google Scholar
  51. 53.
    V. I. Shishkin, “Bol’sheviki i partizanskoe dvizhenie v Sibiri v osveshchenii sovetskoi literatury 20-nachala 30-kh gg.,” Bol’sheviki Sibiri v bor’be za pobedu Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi Sotsialisticheskoirevoliutsii (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1987), pp. 73–74.Google Scholar
  52. 54.
    Quoted in V. I. Shishkin, “Iz istorii bor’ by kommunisticheskoi partii i sovetskoi vlasti protiv anarkhizma v zapadnoi Sibiri v 1919–1920 gg.,” Klassovaia bor’ba v sibirskoi derevne v period postroeniia sotsializma (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1978), p. 22.Google Scholar
  53. 60.
    See V. I. Shishkin, “Prodovol’ stvennaia kampaniia 1920–21 goda v Sibiri,” in Problemy istorii sovetskogo obshchestva Sibiri (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1970), p. 136.Google Scholar
  54. 61.
    The words are those of the eyewitness P. Pomerantsev, as quoted in V. I. Shishkin, “Sovetskaia istoriografiia 20-kh—nachala 30-kh godov o bor’ be protiv vooruzhennoi kontrrevoliutsii v Sibiri posle razgroma Kolchaka,” in Voprosy istoriografii sotsialisticheskogo i kommunisticheskogo stroitel’ stva v Sibiri (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1976), p. 50.Google Scholar
  55. 62.
    By conservative count there were no fewer than 70,000 participants. See Iu. A. Shchetinov, Krushenie melkoburzhuaznoi kontrrevoliutsii v Sovetskoi Rossii (konets 1920–1921 g.) (Moscow: Izdatel’stvo MGU, 1984), p. 87; and Frenkin, Tragediia, p. 124.Google Scholar
  56. 64.
    According to ibid., p. 15, it was common for peasants to say: “We are Bolsheviks, but not Communists. We are for the Bolsheviks because they chased away the landlords, but we are not for the Communists because they are against individual farming.” So far as I can determine, in Siberia this slogan was first used by the partisan leader M. V. Kozyr’, and that was before Kronstadt. See Iu. V. Mukhachev, Ideino-politicheskoe bankrotstvo planov burzhuaznoi restavratsii v SSSR (Moscow: Mysl’, 1982), p. 176.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Galya Diment and Yuri Slezkine 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. G. O. Pereira

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations