New Economic Policy

Russian inflation stamps

War Communism, 1917-1921

The Bolzhevik government in November 1917 faced two tasks : (1) to transfer a capitalist economy into a socialist economy and (b) to supply the Russian population, which has suffered lack of food as well as consumer goods since the begin of World War I in August 1914, with the basics to assure their survival. Immediately when the Bolzhebiks took power, BANKS, RAILROADS, SHIPPING, LAND (larger estates) and FOREIGN TRADE were nationalized (Nov. 1917). In summer 1918 FACTORIES, too, were nationalized. In 1920 rules were established according to which enterprises with more than 5 resp. 10 employees were nationalized. As almost everyone was a state employee, he was paid in a combination of money and kind (for instance housing). Money seemingly lost in significance; in 1920 banks disappeared from Soviet reality. Most goods of daily consumption were strictly rationed - Russia had gone through World War I and now was in the middle of a CIVIL WAR. The government forced the peasants to hand in any grain surplus. Food was distributed free of charge to ration card holders. The problem was that peasants (who still owned their family farms) were given no incentive to produce any surplus; the production fell, and there was not enough grain/bread to feed Russia's population. 1920/21 was a year of FAMINE. Russia experienced a HYPERINFLATION. War Communism had failed; in 1921 it was replaced by Lenin's NEW ECONOMIC POLICY.

Lenin and the First Communist Revolutions : "War Communism", the Red Terror, and Lenin's Famine, from Museum of Communism
War Communism, by G. Rempel
The Russian Revolution and Civil War, telegram style notes
DOCUMENTS Russian banknotes 1917-1923, from S. Sekine's Collection
Lenin : Decree on Grain Procurement, posted by J.V. O'Brien, CUNY
Images from Chronik 2000 Bilddatenbank : Soviet Poster, 1921, featuring the famine
REFERENCE The Revolution defends itself, in : Melvin C. Wren, The Courxe of Russian History pp.396-398

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 8th 2004

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