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The strategic retreat of NEP (New Economic Policy), Lenin said, was forced on the Bolsheviks by desperate economic circumstances, and by the need to consolidate the victories that the revolution had already won.

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The strategic retreat of NEP (New Economic Policy), Lenin said, was forced on the Bolsheviks by desperate economic circumstances, and by the need to consolidate the victories that the revolution had already won. Its purpose was to restore the shattered economy and to calm the fears of the non-proletarian population. NEP meant concessions to the peasantry, the intelligentsia, and the urban petty-bourgeoisie; relaxation of controls over economic, social, and cultural life; the substitution of conciliation for coercion in the Communists' dealings with society as a whole. But Lenin made it very clear that the relaxation should not extend into the political sphere. Within the Communist Party, 'the slightest violation of discipline must be punished severely, sternly, ruthlessly': When an army is in retreat, a hundred times more discipline is required than when the army is advancing, because during an advance everybody presses forward. If everybody started rushing back now, it would spell immediate and inevitable disaster . . . When a real army is in retreat, machine-guns are kept ready, and when an orderly retreat degenerates into a disorderly one, the command to fire is given, and quite rightly, too. - As for other political parties, their freedom to express their views publicly should be even more strictly curtailed than during the Civil War, particularly if they tried to claim the Bolsheviks' new moderate positions as their own. ...read more.


In 1920, when the Second Comintern Congress discussed the prerequisites for admission to the Comintern, the Bolshevik leaders insisted on imposing conditions that were clearly based on the model of the pre-1917 Bolshevik Party in Russia, even though this meant excluding the large and popular Italian Socialist Party (which wanted to join the Comintern without first purging itself of its right wing and centrist groups) and weakening the Comintern as a competitor with the revived Socialist International in Europe. The '21 Conditions' for admission adopted by the Comintern required, in effect, that the member parties should be nunorities of the far left, recruiting only highly committed revolutionaries, and preferably formed by a split (comparable with the split between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks in 1903) in which the party left had demonstratively separated itself from the 'reformist' centre and right wing. Unity, discipline, intransigence, and revolutionary professionalism were the essential qualities of any Communist party operating in a hostile environment. Of course, the same rules did not necessarily apply to the Bolsheviks themselves, since they had already taken power. It could be argued that a ruling party in a one-party state must, in the first place, become a mass party, and, in the second place, accommodate and even institutionalize diversity of opinion. ...read more.


Nevertheless, Lenin emphasized that 'all members of the Russian Communist Party who are in the slightest degree suspicious or unreliable . . . should be got rid of' (that is, expelled from the party); and, as T. H. Rigby comments, it is difficult to believe that no Oppositionists were among the almost 25 per cent of party members judged unworthy.9 While no prominent Oppositionists were expelled from the party in the purge, members of the opposition factions of 1920-21 did not all escape without punishment. The Central Committee's Secretariat, now headed by one of Lenin's men, had charge of appointments and distribution of party personnel; and it proceeded to send a number of prominent Workers' Oppositionists on assignments that kept them far from Moscow and thus effectively excluded them from active participation in leadership politics. The practice of using such 'administrative methods' to reinforce unity in the leadership was later greatly developed by Stalin, after he became General Secretary of the party (that is, head of the Central Committee's Secretariat) in 1922; and scholars have often regarded it as the real death-knell of internal democracy within the Soviet Communist Party. But it was a practice that originated with Lenin and arose out of the conflicts at the Tenth Party Congress, when Lenin was still the master strategist and Stalin and Molotov were his faithful henchmen. ...read more.

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