Lenin and the New Economic Policy
The New Economic Policy operated in Soviet Russia from 1921 to 1928. Amongst historians it is variously interpreted: either as a bold new approach, reflecting a new realism and a new ideological flexibility to the task of building socialism by incorporating the market and a degree of private enterprise or as a major ideological retreat driven by circumstances, with the objective of regrouping the communist party’s forces before launching a new offensive aimed at eradicating all remnants of capitalism from the economy. These polarised positions reflect different ideological standpoints and different assessments of Leninism. This paper examines Lenin’s own pronouncements on NEP, and the factors which shaped the Communist Party’s decision to abandon it. It argues that Lenin regarded NEP as above all a temporary, expedient policy. Stalin’s moves to end NEP drew on a deep visceral hostility towards capitalism within the party which allowed him easily to outmanoeuvre the supporters of NEP.