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From Revolution to Modernising Counter-Revolution in Russia, 1917–28

In: Historical Materialism
Author:
David Camfield Labour Studies Program & Sociology Department, Faculty of Arts, University of Manitoba Winnipeg Canada

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Abstract

This article presents a historical-materialist approach to key issues of revolution and counter-revolution and uses it to analyse what happened in Russia between 1917 and the late 1920s. What took place in 1917 was indeed a socialist revolution. However, by the end of 1918 working-class rule had been replaced with the rule of a working-class leadership layer that was improvising a fragile surplus-extracting state of proletarian origin. The eventual transformation of that layer into a new ruling class represented the triumph of a modernising counter-revolution. The decisive determinants of these developments were material pressures acting, first, on a working class plunged into catastrophic social crisis and war and then, after the Civil War, on the party-state leadership layer that sought to maintain its state against both European capitalist societies and the classes from which it had to extract surpluses. However, aspects of Bolshevik ideology also played a role.

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