From Socialist Theory to Communist Realpolitik

  • Walter A. Kemp


The events of 1917 caused Lenin, Stalin and the Bolsheviks to move from the realm of theory to the very real daily concerns of fighting the civil war and governing the country. Peace, the agrarian revolution and freedom for the nationalities had rallied peoples of diverse economic and ethnic backgrounds behind the Bolshevik cause. In particular, the October Revolution proved that advocating self-determination was an effective way of combining national discontent with social discontent. As E. H. Carr remarks in The Bolshevik Revolution,

unqualified recognition of the right of secession not only enabled the Soviet regime - as nothing else could have done - to ride the torrent of a disruptive nationalism, but raised its prestige high above the ‘white’ generals [and, one could add, the Provisional government] who, bred in the pan-Russian tradition of the Tsars, refused any concession to the subject nationalities; in the borderlands where other than Russian, or other than Great Russian, elements predominated, and where the decisive campaigns of the civil war were fought, this factor told heavily in favour of the Soviet cause.1

Having overthrown the old order, however, the Bolsheviks faced a daunting task - living up to the expectations that they had created.


Communist Party National Culture Soviet Republic Nationality Policy Union Republic 
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© Walter A. Kemp 1999

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  • Walter A. Kemp

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