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Chapter 21 - Revolution, Socialism, and Global Conflict

Global Communism

  • The political and intellectual origins of modern communism may be traced back to nineteenth-century European socialism, which was influenced by Karl Marx's ideas. Despite the fact that most European socialists came to think that they could achieve their aims peacefully and democratically, those who identified as communists in the twentieth century despised reformism and favored uncompromising policies.

  • By the 1970s, over a third of the world's population was living in communist-run nations. The Soviet Union, the world's largest country in terms of area, and China, the world's most populous country, were by far the most significant.

  • Apart from the nations where communist governments had power, communist movements sprang out in a variety of different areas, exerting varying degrees of influence. In the years following WWII, communist parties in Greece, France, and Italy played significant political roles.

  • These diverse communist expressions were related to one another in a variety of ways. They had a common philosophy based on European Marxism, albeit it had been significantly altered in many areas.

  • During the Cold War, the Warsaw Pact brought together the Soviet Union and Eastern European communist governments in a military alliance to counter the danger posed by NATO's Western capitalist countries. The Council on Mutual Economic Assistance, a parallel institution, linked Eastern European countries to the Soviet Union's economy.

Russia: Revolution in a Single Year

  • In Russia, communists rose to power following a revolutionary upheaval that occurred in just one year, 1917. As the accumulated tensions of Russian society erupted, the tremendous strains of World War I, which was going extremely badly for the Russians, served as the trigger for that revolution. Many people are exploited, and there are wartime shortages.

  • That momentous occasion ushered in a period of enormous societal change. Ordinary troops, despising their upper-class leaders and wanting an end to a horrible war, deserted in large numbers. New trade unions emerged in key industrial cities such as St. Petersburg and Moscow to protect workers' interests, and some employees took control of their firms.

  • His party's program — an end to the war, land for the peasants, workers' management of enterprises, self-determination for non-Russian nations — resonated with an increasingly rebellious public attitude, particularly in the big cities, amid the terrible conditions of 1917.

  • Local communist parties, on the other hand, had some internal support as a result of their resistance to the Nazis and their land reform plans.

Building Socialism

  • Once in power, communist parties all over the world went about building a socialist society. This huge endeavor took place in the Soviet Union throughout the 1920s and 1930s, under the leadership of Joseph Stalin.

Political Areas

  • Building socialism means, for communist governments, first and foremost, modernizing and industrializing their backward nations. However, they aspired to socialist modernity.

  • The Soviet Union and China came at these challenges from different places, most notably their international standing. Russian Bolsheviks confronted a hostile capitalist world on their own in 1917, but Chinese communists had the Soviet Union as a friendly northern neighbor and ally when they came to power almost thirty years later.

  • Far if these analogies benefitted China in its attempts to "construct socialism," China faced even more dismal economic prospects than the Soviet Union. It had a far larger population, a much smaller industrial base, and considerably less additional agricultural land available than the Soviet Union.

Communist Feminism

  • Efforts to liberate and mobilize women were among the earliest and most revolutionary activities of these nascent communist regimes. Communist nations were the forerunners of women's liberation movements that were only subsequently adopted in the West. Unlike in the West, communist feminism was mainly state-directed, with the initiative coming from the top rather than grassroots movements.

  • In 1919, the party established Zhenotdel (Women's Department), a separate organization whose radical leaders, all of whom were women, advocated a strongly feminist agenda during the 1920s. They hosted a number of women's conferences, educated women to operate daycare facilities and medical clinics, produced women's newspapers and journals, and offered literacy and pregnancy training.

  • China's communist government enacted similar policies. The 1950 Marriage Law was a direct challenge to patriarchal and Confucian values. It established free will in marriage, relatively simple divorce, the prohibition of concubinage and child marriage, widows' remarriage, and equal property rights for women.

  • Women's freedom under the communist style, however, had its limits. Stalin proclaimed the "woman question" "settled" in 1930, fearing that it would detract from his concentration on industrial production.

Communism and Industrial Development

  • Both the Soviet Union and China made industrialization a priority for their governments. That process was required to put an end to humiliating backwardness and poverty, to establish an economic foundation for socialism, and to build the military might that would allow their revolutions to endure in a hostile world.

  • Both countries had significant, if not extraordinary, economic development. In the 1930s, the Soviet Union laid the groundwork for an industrial civilization that would go on to defeat Nazi Germany in World War II and produce much higher living standards by the 1960s and 1970s. China's output grew rapidly as well.

  • The leadership's response to these social repercussions may be the most significant distinction between the Soviet Union and China's industrial history. They were widely accepted in the Soviet Union under Stalin and his successors. Industrialization was focused in major metropolitan centers, which attracted the most ambitious and skilled individuals from the countryside.

  • Nonetheless, in the mid-1960s, Mao began a new campaign, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, to battle capitalist tendencies that he felt had infiltrated even the Communist Party's top echelons.

Global Communism

  • The political and intellectual origins of modern communism may be traced back to nineteenth-century European socialism, which was influenced by Karl Marx's ideas. Despite the fact that most European socialists came to think that they could achieve their aims peacefully and democratically, those who identified as communists in the twentieth century despised reformism and favored uncompromising policies.

  • By the 1970s, over a third of the world's population was living in communist-run nations. The Soviet Union, the world's largest country in terms of area, and China, the world's most populous country, were by far the most significant.

  • Apart from the nations where communist governments had power, communist movements sprang out in a variety of different areas, exerting varying degrees of influence. In the years following WWII, communist parties in Greece, France, and Italy played significant political roles.

  • These diverse communist expressions were related to one another in a variety of ways. They had a common philosophy based on European Marxism, albeit it had been significantly altered in many areas.

  • During the Cold War, the Warsaw Pact brought together the Soviet Union and Eastern European communist governments in a military alliance to counter the danger posed by NATO's Western capitalist countries. The Council on Mutual Economic Assistance, a parallel institution, linked Eastern European countries to the Soviet Union's economy.

Russia: Revolution in a Single Year

  • In Russia, communists rose to power following a revolutionary upheaval that occurred in just one year, 1917. As the accumulated tensions of Russian society erupted, the tremendous strains of World War I, which was going extremely badly for the Russians, served as the trigger for that revolution. Many people are exploited, and there are wartime shortages.

  • That momentous occasion ushered in a period of enormous societal change. Ordinary troops, despising their upper-class leaders and wanting an end to a horrible war, deserted in large numbers. New trade unions emerged in key industrial cities such as St. Petersburg and Moscow to protect workers' interests, and some employees took control of their firms.

  • His party's program — an end to the war, land for the peasants, workers' management of enterprises, self-determination for non-Russian nations — resonated with an increasingly rebellious public attitude, particularly in the big cities, amid the terrible conditions of 1917.

  • Local communist parties, on the other hand, had some internal support as a result of their resistance to the Nazis and their land reform plans.

Building Socialism

  • Once in power, communist parties all over the world went about building a socialist society. This huge endeavor took place in the Soviet Union throughout the 1920s and 1930s, under the leadership of Joseph Stalin.

Political Areas

  • Building socialism means, for communist governments, first and foremost, modernizing and industrializing their backward nations. However, they aspired to socialist modernity.

  • The Soviet Union and China came at these challenges from different places, most notably their international standing. Russian Bolsheviks confronted a hostile capitalist world on their own in 1917, but Chinese communists had the Soviet Union as a friendly northern neighbor and ally when they came to power almost thirty years later.

  • Far if these analogies benefitted China in its attempts to "construct socialism," China faced even more dismal economic prospects than the Soviet Union. It had a far larger population, a much smaller industrial base, and considerably less additional agricultural land available than the Soviet Union.

Communist Feminism

  • Efforts to liberate and mobilize women were among the earliest and most revolutionary activities of these nascent communist regimes. Communist nations were the forerunners of women's liberation movements that were only subsequently adopted in the West. Unlike in the West, communist feminism was mainly state-directed, with the initiative coming from the top rather than grassroots movements.

  • In 1919, the party established Zhenotdel (Women's Department), a separate organization whose radical leaders, all of whom were women, advocated a strongly feminist agenda during the 1920s. They hosted a number of women's conferences, educated women to operate daycare facilities and medical clinics, produced women's newspapers and journals, and offered literacy and pregnancy training.

  • China's communist government enacted similar policies. The 1950 Marriage Law was a direct challenge to patriarchal and Confucian values. It established free will in marriage, relatively simple divorce, the prohibition of concubinage and child marriage, widows' remarriage, and equal property rights for women.

  • Women's freedom under the communist style, however, had its limits. Stalin proclaimed the "woman question" "settled" in 1930, fearing that it would detract from his concentration on industrial production.

Communism and Industrial Development

  • Both the Soviet Union and China made industrialization a priority for their governments. That process was required to put an end to humiliating backwardness and poverty, to establish an economic foundation for socialism, and to build the military might that would allow their revolutions to endure in a hostile world.

  • Both countries had significant, if not extraordinary, economic development. In the 1930s, the Soviet Union laid the groundwork for an industrial civilization that would go on to defeat Nazi Germany in World War II and produce much higher living standards by the 1960s and 1970s. China's output grew rapidly as well.

  • The leadership's response to these social repercussions may be the most significant distinction between the Soviet Union and China's industrial history. They were widely accepted in the Soviet Union under Stalin and his successors. Industrialization was focused in major metropolitan centers, which attracted the most ambitious and skilled individuals from the countryside.

  • Nonetheless, in the mid-1960s, Mao began a new campaign, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, to battle capitalist tendencies that he felt had infiltrated even the Communist Party's top echelons.