How Successful Was the New Economic Policy

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The New Economic Policy (NEP) was a measure implemented in order to counter the arguably disastrous effects War Communism. The New Economic is controversial. Some historians argue it allowed the Soviet economy to solidify and begin to recover, and also allowed the Bolsheviks to retain control over Russia. Others, like Orlando Figes, state it was ultimately a failure, arguing that under the NEP the peasants grew away from the Bolshevik regime, inviting a future, and brutal, reassertion of central control.s This essay will discuss the effectiveness of the NEP economically and politically as well as outlining War Communism and why it failed Michael Lynch argues that ‘By 1921, the grim economic situation had undermined the original justification for war communism. During its operation, industrial and agricultural production had fallen alarmingly.’ War Communism was first introduced as an extreme economic measure in order to deal with problems created during the Civil War as well as enabling the Army to be fed. However in accordance with Lynch, the policy did not improve Russia’s productivity or indeed the Bolshevik popularity. The existence of the Cheka and the Red Army enabled Lenin to embark on the policy of centralisation. This resulted in a considerable increase in Bolshevik influence in the factories via the infiltration of the Workers’ committees by political commissars. This development helped prepare the way for issuing the Decree of Nationalisation in June 1918 and within two years it brought practically all major industrial enterprises in Russia under central government control. Yet nationalism did nothing to increase production due to being imposed at the time of severe industrial disruption caused initially by the strains of World War One but which worsened during the Civil War. Furthermore the military needs were given priority thus denying resources to those industries not considered essential. The situation was made more serious by factories being deprived of man power as a result of conscription into the Red army and flight from urban areas of large numbers of inhabitants who left in search of food or by means of escape from the Civil War. This led to the population of Petrograd and Moscow to drop by half between 1918 and 1921 causing a dramatic decrease in Russia’s productivity. Problems were deepened further by hyper-inflation. The scarcity of goods and the government’s policy of continuing to print currency notes effectively destroyed the value of money and by the end of 1920 the rouble had fallen to 1% of its worth in 1917. Ultimately War Communism tightened the Bolshevik’s grip on industry but did not lead to economic growth. Agriculture was also largely affected by War Communism. A major purpose of War Communism was to force the peasants to provide more food. However peasants were resistant to the government’s demands and this was largely blamed on the Kulaks who the Bolsheviks claimed were hoarding the grain. As a result the government become infuriated by the peasant’s refusal to conform and condemned them as counter-revolutionaries and restored to coercion. Cheka requisition units were sent into the countryside to take the grain by force. In 1920 the order was given to hang one hundred kulaks publically in order to terrify the population however this seemed to have the reverse effect of the one intended. With the knowledge that any surplus would be confiscated, peasants produced the bare minimum to feed themselves and their family. By 1921 a combination of requisitioning, draught and general disruption of war resulted in national famine with grain harvests in 1920 and 1921 being less than half that gathered in 1913. The matters became so desperate that the Bolsheviks admitted famine and accepted foreign assistance however foreign help was too late to prevent mass starvation. Of the 10 million of the Civil War period over half starved to death. Although War Communism proved catastrophic in terms of...
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