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Tragedy of Bukharin Paperback – 2 Feb 1994
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Despite its eventual failure, the Bolshevik experiment remains the sole example of revolutionary socialist rule. From 1917, the Bolsheviks confronted the fundamental questions of our time: how can a real alternative to capitalism be achieved? Can mass democracy triumph over bureaucracy? Nikolai Bukharin took a leading role in grappling with such problems. Sometimes brilliantly successful, at times mis-guided, Bukharin's career never failed to illuminate these issues. After Lenin's death, Bukharin was - with Trotsky and Stalin - one of the three key figures in the struggle for power and ideas in Russia. He was assassinated in 1928. This book challenges recent interpretations of Bukharin's legacy and brings to life a relatively neglected period of Russian history that began with the optimism of 1917 and ended with Stalin's final destruction of the revolution in 1929.
About the Author
Donny Gluckstein is a lecturer in history at Stevenson College, Edinburgh. He is the author of several books on Marxist history.
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He examines both the strengths and the weaknesses of Bukharin's politics from a revolutionary socialist perspective.
In particular this books offers an excellent introduction to the economic debates in the Soviet union of the 1920s. These are presented in a particularly clear manner that will help anyone starting to investigate this sometimes complex area.
Bukharin was part of the right opposition in the USSR. He opposed the programmes of industrialisation and collectivisation that the country needed.
In May 1927 the British government raided 49 Moorgate, the headquarters of the Soviet trade delegation. Terrorists attacked communists in Leningrad and Smolensk, and kulaks `openly toasted the forthcoming liquidation of all communists'.
These were all threats to the independence and sovereignty of the Soviet Union. If it was to stay independent it needed to have an advanced industry as a basis for defence. As Stalin warned in 1931, "we are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or they crush us."
The Bolshevik party opposed Bukharin's line that the Soviet Union should put agriculture first to pay for imports of industrial equipment. This was an openly pro-kulak policy.
Instead the Soviet Union put industry first. It needed new industries to produce lorries, tractors, aircraft and capital equipment, especially machine tools. In 1924 Russia had only 2,560 tractors; by 1929, it had 34,943. (Monks joined kulaks in damning tractors as `the work of anti-Christ'.) Agricultural cooperatives helped to mechanise farming, using first tractor columns then tractor stations.
Industrial production rose by 55% between 1925-6 and 1928-9. 80% of this rise was due to increased capital investment (up 40%). Stalin wrote, "to slow down the rate of development of industry means to weaken the working class."
The Supreme Council of the National Economy was the economy's leading body. Its eight industry-based directorates dealt directly with the growing number of factories. Its planning body strengthened the government's efforts to get more resources into industry.
Through central planning, the country built up its industry and became self-sufficient, independent of the capitalist world. Its industrialisation was based where possible on imports of the most advanced new technology.
The Soviet Union's collectivised farming and industrialisation enabled it to defeat the largest invasion in history, Hitler's unprovoked attack of 1941.