The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 9th August 2019
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
THERE CAN be little doubt that the social, technical and economic transformation that occurred in the Soviet Union, particularly during the period of Joseph Stalin’s leadership, was one of the most significant achievements of the 20th century. Millions of workers and peasants had their lives transformed from the back-breaking toil and oppression of near feudalism to becoming true masters of their own destiny as they carried forwards the historic cause of building socialism.
Soviet power had been proclaimed by the Congress of Soviets on 25th October 1917. The old state machine was abolished and elected Soviets established in the villages, factories and military units. Free education was introduced in all native languages and the people started to build a new socialist society. The peaceful progress of the young republic was cut short, however, by counter-revolutionary forces consisting of former military personnel, kulaks (wealthy peasants with land and animals), and sections of the privileged intelligentsia.
The struggle to build Socialism was going to be a hard, demanding sacrifice made more difficult by foreign intervention. The problems faced can be illustrated by an examination of events in the Ukraine, which to avoid becoming vassals of the Polish Princes or the Ottoman Empire had been part of Russia since 1654. Following the Russian Revolution and the Kiev Bolshevik Uprising it became part of the new Soviet state. The population comprised Slavs of the eastern group and Tatars of Turkish origin, in addition to Polish and German descendants and other minority groups.
The Ukraine language is similar to Russian and for many years was considered to be a Russian dialect. The Tatars have their own language and live mainly in the Crimea; a region associated with the suicidal Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854 during the war for control of the Middle East. Although the main religion is Russian Orthodox, former Polish influence has left a strong Catholic church. At the time of the Russian revolution Ukraine’s social strata comprised 80 per cent toiling peasantry, five per cent workers, and a small but growing class of capitalists who owned over 90 per cent of the wealth and land.
By 1918 Ukrainian reactionaries had set up four separate capitalist statelets, which all fought each other as well as the Soviet government that was using armed detachments of workers to oppose attacks by the White Guard alliance. The White Guards consisted of Nationalist armies and Cossack chieftains.
Following the end of the first World War the Soviet state, including the area of Ukraine, was subject to brazen naked foreign aggression. Attacks and occupations were carried out. Britain occupied Odessa, and Germany occupied a large part of western and central Ukraine. The onslaught against the Soviet state itself was carried out by British, French, German, American, Hungarian/Austrian and Japanese forces. A civil war with a war of intervention was taking place as the workers state opposed reactionary forces and the full fury of Imperialist aggression.
Unlike the imperialist backed forces of counter-revolution who all wanted dominance and personal gain, the Soviets were united for the common good, with military units formed of working peasants who took up arms to join the ranks of the Red army. The Soviets were supported by a war economy, unlike the largely mercenary White Guards who relied on foreign sponsorship. The well-to-do sided with the old regime but increasingly others found Soviet rule to their liking, including women who now enjoyed a new found status of equality with men.
In the spring of 1920 the Poles, encouraged by Western powers, attacked and captured Kiev. The White Guards advanced from their stronghold in the Crimea to capture areas of southern Ukraine. The Red Army counter-attacked and regained some territory. Overall the Soviet Union lost other areas in the Baltic and Byelorussia. Reactionary regimes were installed to form a cordon sanitaire designed to isolate the Soviet Union and provide a base from which to carry out sabotage and provocations.
During the 1920s and ‘30s the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic became an industrially developed region, with coal from the Donbas supporting iron and steel production for machine building. Many attempts were made to wreck the factories but they were defended gallantly by the workers. The collectivisation of agricultural also took place during this period. For centuries the land, owned by the rulers, had been tilled by peasants on small plots using wooden ploughs with horses. Collectivisation enabled farms to be modernised and by the late 1930s the area had become the bread basket of the Soviet Union. Heavy industry in the region was referred to as the Soviet Ruhr.
The process of collectivisation, however, was not an easy one and coincided with one of the worst known drought periods of 1932—1934. Hitler and later the CIA alleged that the famine had been created deliberately by Stalin and vastly over-estimated casualties. Over one million people died at this time in addition to a vastly greater number who had earlier perished when invading armies killed, raped, slaughtered the farm stock, and burned the crops. There were four chief causes for the suffering:
At 0400hrs on 22nd June 1941 Hitler attacked the Soviet Union in a war that led to the death of 27 million Soviets, destruction of over 90 per cent of its industry and widespread devastation. Over eight million people lost their lives in Ukraine, including over one million Jews murdered by the SS.
Nationalists from the former ruling class in Western Ukraine enthusiastically supported Hitler and the Nazis. Hitler did not trust them, they had betrayed their own people and no doubt would betray him if given half a chance, so they were not given front-line roles but put in charge of the death camps where they undertook with great enthusiasm the massacre of Jews, Communists, Socialists, trade unionists, disabled people and those mentally ill. Stepan Bandera, a leading fascist, active during this period, is today regarded as a national hero by some leading Ukrainian politicians.he BBC does not disclose their associations, nor does it mention that interviewee Alan Johnson is employed by the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) lobby group.