THE RISE OF SOCIALISM
By January Mbifile (0756527718)
The key to understanding socialism begins with understanding the concept of capitalism. Capitalism is an economic and political system in which individuals own economic resources and major means of production. By the mid-18th century, Britain experienced unforgotten event which came to be known in the world history as industrial revolution. The revolution then spread to continental Europe a century later. Undoubtedly, it was one of the most far-reaching historical phenomena man has encountered. Capitalists’ intent is always to maximize capital through exploiting proletariats. Work hours were often long and wages were poor. Unemployment was common, particularly during times of low demand for industrial goods. Thus, industrial capitalism was negatively perceived by the class of commoners. The workers who made the majority of European population were outraged by everything the industrial revolution had brought in Europe. Thus capitalism was seen as unfair system. It was around these circumstances that socialist ideology emerged as an opposition to capitalism. The great scholars were sympathetic to the terrible conditions of the working class, thus proposed that conditions for workers could be improved only if the control of production were moved from capitalists to the workers. As a political ideology, socialism arose largely in response to the economic and social consequences of the Industrial Revolution.
|What is socialism?
There is no one consensus definition for the word socialism. Different scholars have in different views endeavoured to define the term.
H. D. Dickinson defined Socialism an economic organisation of society in which the material means of production are owned by the whole community and operated by organs representative of and responsible to the community according to a general economic plan, all members of the community being entitled to benefit from the results of such socialized planned production on the basis of equal rights.
In the words of Loucks: Socialism refers to that movement which aims to vest in society as a whole, rather than in individuals, the ownership and management of all nature-made and man-made producers goods used in large-scale production, to the end that an increased national income may be more equally distributed without materially destroying the individual’s economic motivation or his freedom of occupation.
However, they do nearly meet in the same concept, that socialism is a political and economic ideology that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole. Thus the central to the meaning of socialism is common ownership.
The key features of socialism
Collective ownership of resources. under socialism, . It eliminates private property in land and other means of production like lands, mines, mills, factories, the entire system of finance and trade are collectively owned for the benefit of all and not the property of private individuals as the case in capitalism.
Central planning of economy. Economic decisions regarding the allocation of resources to various ends, the goods to be produced and the methods of production are taken by a central authority and not left to the individuals as in the capitalist economies. In the absence of planning a socialist economy cannot function. Even the pricing process does not operate freely under the influence of market forces, but works under the control of the central planning authority.
Non-existence of classes. Industrial capitalism divided population into two antagonistic classes; capitalists and workers. Here one class exploits the other. Socialism aims at establishing a classless society. As all the means of production are owned by the state, the capitalist class simply does not exist.
RUSSIAN SOCIALIST REVOLUTION -1917
The Russian Revolution was a political revolution that overthrew the monarchy of Tsar Nicholas II and made the construction of the new governmental system. The revolution took place in two phases; the February Revolution which marked the end of centuries of despotic tsarist regime and its replacement by the provisional government, and the October Revolution, in which the Bolshevik party, led by Vladimir Lenin, seized power and set a communist government. Before revolution Russia was one of the largest empires under tsarist dynasty. Size did not automatically signify the wealth however; Russia was by the time still underdeveloped country with less industrialization. Surprising by 20th century Russia was still under autocratic system of government. With Tsarist regime, a government in the sense of group of people organized into a unified body of policy makers and executors did not exist. Tsar Nicholas II despotically ruled without Parliament and was the only to provide coherence and overall directions. Secondly, Russia was primarily agricultural, poor and underdeveloped, with the majority impoverished peasants who were obligated by law to till the land for their noble masters. The majorities were living in very difficult condition, and the government did nothing to improve their conditions.
Historical background of the Revolution
The historical background of the revolutionary movements can be traced back in 1905 when serious social and political unrest swept the Russian Empire. The group of angry workers in St Petersburg, led by father Gapon, drafted a petition demanding improved conditions and some political reforms. Undoubtedly, the main factor triggering the 1905 revolts was the Russia-Japan war over Manchuria in 1904, in which the Russian troops were humiliatingly defeated. This increased the hardship of living as the costs of the war were laid on the shoulders of workers and peasants; food became scarce and the workers’ condition was much more intensified.
Thus, in the morning of Sunday January 22, angered by poor working conditions, an economic slump and the ongoing war with Japan, thousands of workers carried a petition to the Tsar’s palace asking for better conditions. No doubt that the workers’ intention in the 1905 movements was not to overthrow the Tsar’s government, rather, to express their discontentment and demanding some changes in their living conditions. However the autocratic tsarist regime bitterly responded, as the workers approached the Tsar’s palace, soldiers opened fire on the crowd leaving the hundreds killed and wounded. This event came to be known in the Russian history as the ‘blood Sunday’. The movement forced government to make some concessions. As the way to calm the situation, the State Parliament (DUMA) was established in 1906. The established DUMA had however still no power over Tsar and he several times ordered the dissolution. Peasants and the working men began to raise their head again. Most Russians had lost faith in the leadership ability of the tsarist regime. Government corruption was rampant, the Russian economy remained backward, and Nicholas repeatedly dissolved the Duma, the Russian parliament established after the Revolution of 1905, when it opposed his will. Further strikes occurred in both rural and urban areas asking for further changes and improvements of their lives. In the course of these protests since the 1905 unrests, two revolutions took place in 1917, first in February and the other one in October.
The February revolution.
After months of strikes and unrests, the autocratic Tsarist regime was eventually revolutionized in March 1917(Russia was still using the Julian calendar at the time, so period references show February). Annoyed by the acute shortage of food, and very severe living condition as a result of the First World War, the working men in Russia organized the movement to abdicate Tsar from the government. The political parties led by Kerensky, George Lvov and Paul Milyukoff had joined together to overthrow the Tsar. Although the troops were ordered to crush the rioters, they instead put down their arms and joining the rioters.On March 15, 1917 the monarchy that had ruled for over three hundred years came to an end, and the provisional government was then established.
The provisional government was a temporary government of the Russian Republic established immediately following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II after February revolution. Led first by Georgy Lvov and then by Alexander Kerensky, the government had to govern for a temporary period, while organising elections to the Russian Constituent Assembly and its convention.The provisional government lasted approximately eight months, and was itself revolutionized by the Bolsheviks in October. Undoubtedly it proved failure in the following;
- The first problem facing the provisional government was land question. Because it was temporary government, it did not do any reforms. When the peasants attempted killing the landlords, and taking land the government sent troops to take back the land, something which made the peasants very angry.
- The second problem facing the provisional government was shortage of food. The Provisional Government failed to end the food shortages and inflation. As the country had by the concentrated in war majority were still suffering from hunger.
- The main problem of the Provisional Government was that it tried to continue the war. It attacked Austria in June 1917, but after initial successes, the German moved in and the Russian were defeated. People were tired with the war.
Because of the mentioned above grievances people began to turn against the government. Instead, they started to follow Lenin whose welcome message was: ‘Peace, bread, land’. The other revolution therefore took place in November
The October revolution
In November 1917 (October according to Julian calendar) Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin led his leftist revolutionaries in a revolt against the ineffective Provisional Government The October revolution ended the phase of the revolution instigated in February, replacing Russia’s short-lived provisional parliamentary government with government by soviets, local councils elected by bodies of workers and peasants. Liberal and monarchist forces, loosely organized into the White Army, immediately went to war against the Bolsheviks’ Red Army, in a series of battles that would become known as the Russian Civil War.
Factors of Russian Revolution
A wide range of opposition groups had been campaigning for the end of Tsarist regime since at-least 1870’s.These movements became very popular during the reigning of Nicholas II. The first and foremost obvious reason for this was Tsar’s incompetence and inability to compromise. Whenever the people demanded their rights Tsar Nicholas’ first attempt was to open fire to them. Following factors are accountable for Russian revolution;
- Autocratic rule of Tsar Nicholas II.The first and obvious reason for the outbreak of the movement was autocracy, a form of government in which one person has absolute power.The tsarist government was a centralized, autocratic government. All political power was in the hands of the tsar and his closest-appointed advisers. Furthermore, the Tsarist government was ruthless, absolute and repressive. In 1905 forexample, a peaceful demonstration led by Father Gapon at St. Petersburg, demanding the improvements of their lives was fired upon by the Tsarist troops.Nicholas wanted an autocratic rule in which he alone made all the laws and determined all foreign policy. His word was itself law. Although the parliament (DUMA) was established after the 1905’s revolts, it remained toothless and Nicholas remained the overall director. He several times dissolved the DUMA once it was against his willing.
- Effects of the World War One. Russia was among the nations actively participated in the world war one. The war went badly with many Russian casualties. Russia’s participation in the war was self-contradictory both in motives and in aims. That bloody struggle was waged essentially for world domination. In this sense it was beyond Russia’s scope. However,Russian troops were not as strong as the Western European industrial nations of Germany and Austria, thus experienced defeats in the frontlines, causing the deaths of thousands of Russians. At home, citizens were becoming more and more upset and angry over the deaths of their sons and fathers. Secondly, the millions of Russian men were drafted into the Russian army from farms and factories. Thus, food and other supplies were in desperate need for the people. Citizens were tired of the war, they marched through the streets of St. Petersburg, shouting ‘End the war’ and ‘Down with the Tsar’Soon, riots broke out and rebellion quickly spread across the country. Finally, even the soldiers refused to obey government orders to put down the revolt. The revolution therefore took place.
- The miserable conditions faced workers and peasants.The economic and social conditions of the great majority Russians were without doubt one of the great factors provoked the revolution. The workers and peasants were victims of severe exploitations and oppressions from the class of haves. The workers for example had to endure miserable working conditions, while receiving extremely low wages and worked for 12 to 14 hours a day. Furthermore they had to go without any medical relief in case of an accident while on duty, and it was considered a crime to form a trade unions.The government however did not attempt to improve these conditions, and whenever stroke to demand improvements, the Tsar’s government opened fire against them. All of these created revolutionary ideas.
- The role of Karl Marx and Frederick Angel.Karl Marx could be considered the intellectual and philosophical leader of the Russian Revolution. Although he had died long before the revolution it was his ideasthat sparked the political movements to overthrow the capitalist and autocratic regimes. His ‘Communist Manifesto’ published in 1848 was among the most influential writings in history of development of socialism. Marx emphasized that the real changes in society are determined by a class struggle between the ruling class and the working class. He further argued that the working class would eventually overthrow the ruling class and establish a society in which all property was owned by society as a whole. The Russian Revolution was built upon the ideas Marx laid out in the Marx’s books, and Lenin himself was a Marx’s follower who believed that with Marx’s doctrines, he could change the Russian state.
- The role of V.I. Lenin.Vladimir IlyichUlyanovLenin was the architect and leader of the Russian October Revolution. With very good slogans ‘Peace, Land, and Bread’ he could organize and lead the workers of the Russian Empire to make the most profound revolution in history in October 1917. He was the leader of the Russian Bolshevik Party, without which the workers would have certainly been defeated.
Weakness of the Dumma (Russian parliament)
The weakness of the Dumma (Russian parliament) left the Russians with no option other than the dual revolutions of 1917.The Dumma had limited powers and became a rubber stamp of Tsar Nicholas II and his cabinet. The Dumma was over influenced by the Tsarist government and could not pass any law without government’s approval. It was also denied powers to approve and vet ministers. Above all, the Tsar had powers to dissolve the Dumma any time at his will. Tsar Nicholas II and his Prime Minister P.A Stolypin used this power to disband the second Dumma that was dominated by opposition MPs in 1907.
Thereafter, they manipulated the election of Tsarist diehard supporters (sycophants) who dominated the third Dumma. From then onwards, the parliament became an institution to promote the dictatorial, oppressive and corrupt regime of Tsar Nicholas II prompting the Russians to revolt in 1917.
Effects of industrial revolution
By 1917, industrialization had created socio-economic discontents that climaxed into the revolutions. It rendered many people jobless and caused rural-urban migration. This led to urban congestion, mobs and mob justice that made the situation in Russia to be very revolutionary. For the few who were employed, the working conditions were extremely bad. Their payments were very low yet the average working hour per day was between 10-14. The huge factories of St. Petersburg were poorly lit, poorly ventilated, had fast moving machines yet there were no protective guards for workers. The government provided no practical solution to this situation. These grievances were expressed through strikes, demonstrations and protests on several occasions. However, this forced the unemployed citizens and workers to stage a revolution as the last resort in addressing their problems.
The Russo-Japanese war (1904 -1905)
Russian’s advancement in Asia made her to clash with Japan in the famous Russo-Japanese war. In the war, Japan thoroughly defeated Russia leaving her with 90,000 casualties and taking about 40,000 soldiers as prisoners of war. This was crowned up by the humiliating Parthsmouth treaty through which Russia surrendered Korea, Munchuria, Port Arthur and the surrounding Peninsula to Japan. The humiliation of Russia in the war was a disaster not only to the Russian forces but also to the government of Tsar Nicholas II. It provoked disorder from all comers of Russia. It led to the assassination of a number of nobles, clergy and government officials. For example, Plehve the Minister of interior was murdered in 1904 and his uncle in 1906. These became a preamble for the outbreak of the Bolshevik revolutions of 1917
REASONS FOR THE SUCCESS OF THE REVOLUTION
- It was a mass movement that was supported by a great majority of the Russians. The revolution was spearheaded by intellectuals and supported by peasants and workers. The peasants and workers greatly participated in strikes and demonstrations that climaxed into the revolution making its success a reality.
- The high level of unity amongst the Russian revolutionaries also accounts for their success. They were united under the Bolsheviks party with a firm belief in the establishment of a socialist government. The confidence which they had in socialism made them determined to sacrifice their lives and property to uproot the Tsarist government and establish a socialist government.
- The anti-revolutionaries’ attempt to suppress the revolution using foreign troops favoured the success of the revolution. The Bolsheviks condemned it as a move by the opponents of the revolution to impose foreign rule on the Russians. This made even those who had been reluctant to join the revolution hence contributing to its success.
- Paradoxically, the revolutionaries were supported by foreign powers like Finland, Sweden and
Switzerland. The revolutionary leaders like Stalin, Trotsky and Kerensky mobilized funds, manpower and arms through such friendly countries. In some instances, foreign power gave direct assistance to the revolution. For example, Germany supported the revolution to cause chaos in Russia so that she (Russia) withdraws from participating in the war against her. This is why Germany smuggled Lenin into Russia in a disguised train. Germany wanted Lenin to over throw the provisional government and end the war which he did in November 1917, hence the success of the revolution.
- The personal weaknesses of Tsar Nicholas II greatly contributed to the success of the revolution. By 1917, Nicholas was too unpopular amongst the peasants, workers and his ministers. Even his own soldiers never rescued him since they were fed up with war. When the revolution began, he was too confused that he abdicated the throne in favour of his brother Duke Michael oh 15th March 1917. The Duke refused his will and the revolutionaries; established a provisional Republican government.
- The sufferings and destructions caused by World War I also accounts for the success of the revolution.
By 1917, everybody especially soldiers wanted unconditional end of the war yet the provisional government was determined to continue with the war. This earned Lenin-who promised to end the war massive support in the November revolution. The war also preoccupied European powers like France and Britain, who never wanted the communist revolution to succeed and made it impossible for them to intervene in the early stages of the revolution. Their intervention through the Russian civil war from 1919 was too late to overthrow the communist revolutionary government because it had already been consolidated.
- The success of the revolution was also due to genuine grievances. By 1917, Russia was infested with all sorts of problems. There was inflation; unemployment, nepotism, famine, natural calamities and soldiers had lost the battle against Germany. The inability of the provisional government to address these problems made the Russians to give overwhelming support to the revolution and that’s why it attracted massive support from the Russians.
- The unpopular war policy of the Provisional government greatly contributed to the success of the Bolshevik revolution of November 1917. The Provisional government that was established after the first revolution in March continued with the Tsarist policy of fighting Germany and her allies in World War I.
The Russians had suffered a lot due to the war and expected the Provisional government to withdraw Russia from the war. They were surprised to learn that Milyakov (minister of foreign affairs) had sent a letter to the allied powers that reaffirmed Russia’s commitment to fight Germany and her allies. This made the Bolsheviks whose top agenda was to withdraw Russia’s participation in the war to be very popular. It’s this situation that was used by the Bolsheviks to mobilize a mass demonstration that forced Milyakov, Kerensky and Prince Lvov to resign, hence the success of the revolution.
- The timing of the revolution was strategic and this made it to succeed. The revolution was staged in 1917 at a time when the First World War had worsened the problems of inflation, unemployment, poverty, famine, starvation, anarchy and lawlessness. Besides, the army and royal troops were too demoralized by heavy military losses that they were also in a revolutionary mood. Trotsky, Lenin and Stalin noted this popular discontent and decided to mobilize for a revolution in 1917 before the war could end. One should note that if they had mobilized for a revolution before 1914 they could not have received a mass support since Tsardom was still popular to the majority of the Russians.
- Besides, the influence of the communists over the army after the 1st Menshevik revolution in March greatly contributed to the success of the Bolshevik revolution in November. The communists dominated the leadership of the Petrograd Soviets who had control over the army and security in the city. This explains why they easily influenced the army commander Kornilov to stage a coup in October that forced the provisional government to release political prisoners and communist leaders such as Stalin. Although the coup was eventually suppressed, they nevertheless re-organized and used the army in a well coordinated revolutionary movement that succeeded in Nov.1917.
- The release of political prisoners and the return of exiled communist leaders, i.e. Lenin and Stalin made the success of the November revolution inevitable. The Kornilov coup of October 1917 forced the provisional government to release imprisoned political leaders and allow Lenin and Stalin to return from exile. It strengthened the Bolsheviks party and reactivated opposition against the provisional government.
Lenin, Stalin and released political prisoners greatly participated in the revolutionary committee that mobilized the Russians for the success of the revolution of November 1917.
- The inability of the Provisional government to control freedom of association, speech and press made the success of the revolution inevitable. The socialists used such freedom to mobilize workers through strikes and demonstrations against the Tsarist and later Provisional government for their failure to address the side effects of industrial revolutions e.g. unemployment, poor working condition and exploitation by capitalists. Russian journalists, intellectuals and revolutionary leaders like Lenin and Stalin also utilized such freedom to popularize the Bolsheviks manifesto that emphasized land redistribution, provision of bread (food) and peace. All these destroyed the support of the Tsarist regime and later the Provisional government and accounted for the success of the Bolsheviks revolutions of 1917.
- The role of revolutionary leaders like Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and Kerensky were very influential in the success of the revolution. They were men filled with revolutionary zeal who mobilized the workers, peasants and soldiers through their moving speeches. For instance, Lenin’s promise of peace, bread and Land was a solution to the immediate problems the Russians were facing. This gained him mass support and made the revolution a success.
- Lastly, the revolution succeeded because it was supported by the army. The only survival instrument for the unpopular Tsar Nicholas was the army, which unfortunately had suffered a lot from the First World War. This made them to mutiny and fraternize with the revolutionaries leaving Tsar Nicholas II defenseless. The army also maintained law and order, arrested, imprisoned and murdered the collaborators of the old regime. The Cheka (secret police) under the leadership of Felix Dzerzhinsky was established to terrorize and eliminate those who were opposed to the revolution. These measures left the revolution intact hence its success.
The aftermath of the Russian Revolution
- Withdrawal from the First World War.The world war was a disaster for Russia; it caused inflation, plunged the country into a food shortage, and ultimately cost the lives of big number of Russian soldiers and civilians. The new government under Lenin wanted to concentrate on domestic issues, particularly workers’ rights, and the country’s economic situation, thus could see no point in continuing on the war. Immediately after their accession to power in Russia, the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, had approached the Central Powers to arrange an armistice and withdraw from a war and bring the promised peace. With some conditions, Russians agreed and on 15 December 1917, an armistice was declared between the armies of the central powers and Russia, and fighting between the two was temporarily ceased. This was followed by the formal peace negotiation in the city of Breast-Litovsk, which ended with the signing of what came to be known as Breast-Litovsk Peace treaty on 3 March 1918 between the new Bolshevik government of Soviet Russia and the Central powers (Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, and Ottoman empire), that completely ended Russia’s participation in world war one.
- Occurrence of civil wars. Post-revolution Russia was dominated with the civil wars between the Bolsheviks (Reds) and the anti-Bolsheviks (Whites). Although Lenin negotiated peace with Germany and ended to Russia’s role in World War I, He could not, however, avoid a civil war in Russia since not all the people supported his government. This raged from 1918 until 1921. During this time, the Bolsheviks faced massive opposition from the White Armies, led by former officers of the Tsarist state, and other anti-communist groups.
- Nationalization of the key economic sectors. Transfer of land and factories from the private ownership to the government ownership is always the concern of a communist government. On coming into power, Lenin with his Bolshevik government issued a series of revolutionary decrees that ratified workers’ seizures of land and industries. On June 28th, 1918, the general nationalization decree was passed that ended all forms of private capitalism. Many large factories were taken over by the state and on November 29th, 1920, any factory/industry that employed over 10 workers was nationalised. Land was given to the people to use, rather than to own. Forexample, it is estimated that by 1918 the government took more than 540000 acres from feudal lords, private owners and the church.
- Total abolition of feudalism. Though serfdom was abolished in Russia in 1860’s, until the revolutions of 1917, the Russian Empire continued to exhibit the characteristics of a feudal society. The state was ruled by an aristocracy, and much of land was individually owned by minority. Majority were landless and obliged to till land from the landlords. This system came to an end with Russian revolution.
- Birth of the U.S.S.R.In post-revolutionary Russia, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was established, as a confederation of 15 socialist republics; Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belorussia, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirgizia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. During the period of its existence, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was by area the world’s largest country. Until its dissolution in 1990’s, it remained the major rival of USA in the period after the Second World War.
- Industrial development and the general economic growth. The post-revolution Russia was coloured with economic devastations. The economy was devastated by firstly the first world war secondly the 1918-1920’s civil war which left the factories, machines and bridges destroyed. Lenin’s government came up with a number of policies to foster the economy of the country. The NEP (New Economic Policy) was introduced in 1921, in which the complete nationalization of industry was partially revoked and a system of mixed economy was introduced, which allowed private individuals to own small enterprises, while the state continued to control banks, foreign trade, and large industries. Again, the Five Years Development Plans were repeatedly introduced. The first one was introduced between 1928-1932 under Joseph Stalin, designed to advance industrialization and build the USSR into a world power. The plan pursued the policy of “collectivization” in agriculture to facilitate the process of rapid industrialization; this involved the creation of collective farms in which peasants worked cooperatively on the same land with the same equipment.
Global impacts of the revolution
- Division of the world. Russian revolution split the world into two diametrically opposed power blocs; one being the communist bloc led by the soviet union and the other being anti-communist bloc under the leadership of the U.S
- The revolution accelerated struggles for independence in many places. Russia after the revolution was the first country to openly support the cause of independence of all nations from foreign rule. The Russian Revolution hastened the end of imperialism.
- The revolution spread socialist ideology. Soon after the revolution Communist International abbreviated as Comintern was formed for promoting revolutions on an international scale. The Revolution led to the formation of communist parties in many countries often with the support of the Comintern.
CHINESE COMMUNIST REVOLUTION-1949
On October 1, 1949, the People’s Republic of China was formally established, with its national capital at Beijing. This was the outcome of the communists’ revolution preceded by a series of war between the communists under Mao Zedong versus ruling government under Chiang Kai-shek.
China was for long time a unified state under several imperial dynasties. The last dynasty, the Qing, was founded by the Manchus in 1644, after their conquest of China. It ruled for almost three hundred years, until it finally collapsed in 1912. Thus the historical background of Chinese revolution can be traced back in 1910’s, when the revolution had taken place, ending the autocratic monarchof the powerful and influential family, Qing dynasty. Before revolution, China was a feudal state, featured with economic exploitation and political oppression and the Chinese peasants lived like slaves, in poverty and suffering. The extreme poverty and backwardness of the peasants resulting from ruthless landlord exploitation and oppression angered people and set in motion all the grounds for the other revolution to take place. Furthermore, in the nineteenth Century, the Qing Empire faced a number of challenges to its rule, including a number of foreign incursions into Chinese territory. The failure of the Qing Dynasty to protect China from foreign aggression and to carry out extensive economic and political reforms, had convinced a large number of intellectuals and members of the upper classes that the Chinese people must get rid of the Manchus if they wanted to create a new, strong, modern China. This led to the development of the People’s Nationalist Party, led by Sun Yat-sen. Thus in October of 1911, a group of revolutionaries in southern China led a successful revolt against the Qing Dynasty, establishing in its place the Republic of China in January 1912, and ending the long ruled imperial system.
The road towards 1949 communist Revolution
Perhaps, the 1911 revolution was only the first steps in a process that would require the 1949 revolution to complete. The ideological emancipation brought by the 1911 Revolution provided the environment and conditions for various political and social theories. Seeking an alternative path for China’s political development, the Chinese turned to the writings of Karl Marx and the lessons from 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was established in Shanghai in june 1921, to challenge the existing government.
Among many other earliest members like Zhou Enlai, Zhu De and Lin Biao, Mao Zedong became the most important member of the CCP. With his communist supporters, Mao had been fighting against what he claimed was a corrupt and decadent Kuomintang (Nationalist) government under Sun Yat-sen and then Chiang Kai-Shek. Certainly Mao became the strongest opponent of the time. Surprisingly in 1937, when the Japanese Army invaded China, in an effort to beat the Japanese, the political opponents, nationalists government and Mao Zedongwith his communist army temporarily united to fight the Japanese. After WW II ended with the defeat of Japan in 1945, a civil war continued between the Nationalists and the Communists over the right to lead China’s political and economic development and to reestablish China’s position in the world.
Despite massive U.S. support for the Nationalist regime, Mao’s forces were victorious in 1949 and drove the Nationalist government onto the island of Formosa (now Taiwan) and established the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949.
What caused the 1949 Chinese revolution?
v Foreign imperialism. China was a vast nation with abundant raw materials something which attracted frequent invasion from many bigger nations. In the course of the 19th century, foreign powers had firmly established their separate enclaves in the major coastal cities. China’s major imperial enemy was Japan. In the 1929 Great Economic Depression which started in the United States negatively affected many nations in the world. Like the western powers, Japanese military government tried to use imperialistic ambitions to solve the problems in the country. Japan targeted China since it was area rich in resources of metals such as coal and iron. In 1931, Japan invaded China by cruel violence and occupied the rich province of Manchuria and turned it into a nominally independent state and the Chinese Emperor who ruled was a puppet of the Japanese. In the 1930’s the Chinese suffered continued territorial encroachment from the Japanese, using their Manchurian base. The whole north of the country was gradually taken over. This was because the government under Chiang put more considerations on its internal enemies (the communists) rather than the external aggressions. Although the communists had collaborated the Kuomintang and succeeded to defeat Japanese in 1945, many Chinese had lost confidence over Chiang’s government on its capability against foreign aggression. Foreign imperialism in China was a critical cause of revolutionary sentiment.
v Peasant’s exploitations and oppressions. The Chinese revolution is also known as the peasant revolution, for without the support and assistance of the peasants Mao’s communist forces would have been unable to defeat the Kuomintang armies. As already said above, China was a feudal state, featured with economic exploitation and political oppression and the Chinese peasants lived like slaves, in poverty and suffering. Recognizing this, Mao based the revolution around the peasantry. Unfair treatment of peasants was a chief cause of the revolution.
v The corrupt and autocratic government of Chiang Kai-shek. Chianggovernment was labeled as corrupt, autocratic government with a brutal secret police. The majority peasants were infuriated by the rampant corruption of the Chiang regime. His government therefore, faced discontent among the rural poor who formed the bulwark of Mao’s forces. Socialist party proclaimed it would bring not only an end to the suffering of the people but a new democratic future based on the construction of socialism.
v The role of Mao Zedong. Mao Zedong (also Mao Tse-tung) is undisputedly the preeminent figure in modern Chinese history who led the Communist revolution of 1949 ending China’s century of humiliation, oppressions and foreign imperialism. Mao began reading and follower of Marxist literatures when he was working as librarian in Beijing. In 1921, he became a founder member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), after which he made speeches after speeches to make the party popular. Chairman Mao was the charismatic and brutal leader of Communist China, his role cannot be underestimated in history of Chinese communis.
v Geographically china had been facing frequent droughts and floods. Huge parts of China have been affected by firstly floods, then some of the worst drought conditions in decades. Both of these issues can be regarded as vital factors in the revolution as the harsh conditions created by the floods and drought caused economic hardship and therefore provoked disturbances. The majority were suffering from the shortage of food, this raised grievances against the government.
CHINA UNDER MAO ZEDONG
On October 1, 1949 Mao declared the founding of the People’s Republic of China based on mainland china. As he believed that socialism would eventually triumph over all other ideologies, steps were immediately taken to transform China into a new communist government.
- Distribution of land to majority peasants.Before revolution China was a feudal state, thus landlords had complete ownership of farmland. This system of landlord ownership clashed with communist beliefs, thusMao began various campaigns to suppress former landlords. In 1950 the Agrarian Reform Law was passed. This was one of the communist republic’s first major policies. Its overall aim was a more equitable distribution of land, an outcome achieved by seizing land from affluent landlords and redistributing it to landless peasants.
- Collective farms were established.In the Chinese countryside, farmland was owned and managed by the collective farms set up in 1950s. These collectives had been merged to form communes during the Great Leap Forward. Mao’s goals were to establish a free supply system that everyone would have enough to eat in both town and country, and to free China from its economic dependence. Small scale and large scale collective farms were established in 1950s. Lifestyle on the communes was strictly controlled. Peasants worked the land together. They ate in communal dining rooms, slept in communal dormitories, and raised their children in communal nurseries. In 1958, Mao launched a new economic policy: the “Great Leap Forward”. This meant the reorganization of state and collective farms into huge communes.
- Heavy industry, banks and larger commercial enterprises were nationalized. The new People’s republic of China government confiscated all the enterprises operated under private ownership and turned them state-owned enterprises. The state came into possession of the key economic sectors like banks, and big industries.
Sino-American relations refer to international relations between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China. For more than twenty years (1949-1970s), the United States tried to disrupt, destabilize, and weaken China’s communist government. However, the relationship had not always been hostile between USA and china. The United States government recognized the Republic of China (ROC) government as the legitimate government of China since its formation in 1911. These relations turned negative after the communist revolution of 1949. USA’s belief that China was an aggressive expansionist power that threatened the security of its non-communist neighbors, made her start a campaign to limit it. She constructed an off-shore line of military alliances along China’s borders. These included the U.S. alliances with Japan, South Korea, and the Nationalist government on Taiwan.. The United States maintained military bases and in some cases stationed significant numbers of troops in many of these countries, especially Japan and South Korea. Shortly, the US-China relationship was hostile.
Arusha declaration is a document written by Julius K. Nyerere,who served as the first president of Tanzania, outlining the Tanzania’s commitment to the socialism as the new path in country’s struggles for development.Since independence in1961, Tanzania like other African states has been preoccupied with different challenges act as setbacks in national struggles for development. Ignorance, poverty and diseases were according to Mwalimu Nyerere the major enemies. Earliest efforts to tackle these problems by the post-independence governments yielded no much fruits though littly increased access to education, health, water and other essential services.Like other African statement, Mwalimu intended to create an egalitarian society focusing on equality, poverty alleviationand ignorance reduction. To achieve this, Arusha declaration was issued and passed by TANU (major political party) on 29 January, and officially started operation on 5th February 1967. To Nyerere, the declaration was nothing more than a statement or a pronouncement about the goal towards which the government of TANU was leading the people of Tanzania. It was way of dealing with practical problems which arose after independence, poverty, ignorance and disease in particular. In order to build the intended society, the government under the umbrella of Arusha Declaration embarked on the implementation of the following programs;
- The nationalisation of the major means of production.Private property is considered the chief enemy of socialism, the root of exploitation of man by man. The government sought to bring the key economic sectors in the country under state control. Smith Mackenzie and Co. Ltd, Baumann and Co. (Tanganyika) Ltd, International Trading and Credit Company of Tanganyika, Twentsche Overseas Trading Company Ltd and Wigglesworth and Company (Africa) Ltd were completely taken over by the government.
- The creation of Ujamaa villages.Nyerere’s socialism vision based on the establishment of self-help communities in which people could practice communal life. Mwalimu argued that in the pre-colonial societies, traditional African family lived according to the basic principles of Ujamaa.By living and working together, traditional societies were able to overcome the challenges of their time shortage of food and diseases. There was the need for a return to the pattern of settlement which prevailed in African traditional societies. Initially resettlement were voluntarily implemented. This approach, however, did not lead to the creation of many Ujamaa villages, something which made the government apply force.
- Self-reliance policy. Mwalimu intended buildingsuch a society which will be self-reliant, that the poor have to depend on themselves and their own resources to bring about their own development, rather than borrowing monies from the developed. The main objective of this policy was to enable Tanzanians to develop without losing their independence and sovereignty. Depending on external assistance is according to Mwalimu losing country’s freedom. In a speech at an OAU meeting in Lagos, Nyerere paraphrases this principle when he writes: ‘It is we, the people of Africa, who experience, in our lives, the meaning of poverty. It is we, therefore, who can be expected to fight that poverty. Certainly, no one else will do it if we do not.’Here Mwalimu meant therefore, that the first requirement for development was not reliance on richer nations and their resources but dependence on the local resources and manpower. This is the self-reliant economy.
What did Nyerere’s Arusha Declaration intend?
- To create classless society.The very first objective of the declaration was transforming Tanzania from a class society to a classless one. The most dangerous class in society is the class between haves and havenots. No doubt that Africans were during colonialism in the lower class, not only because they were black but also because they owned none of the major means of production. They survived by providing cheap labour to the owners of the means of production. To create such a society where no one will be superior over the other, government implemented nationalisation of the key means of production and the creation of Ujamaa villages.
- To eliminate all elements of exploitation. Capitalist oriented society exists on the chains of exploitation of one by the other. A truly socialist state is one in which all people are workers and in which neither capitalism nor feudalism exists. The declaration intended to liberate the oppressed, the exploited, the disregarded, and the humiliated, and give them a new life of freedom, equality and respect, make them enjoy the fruits of their labour.In order to prevent exploitation Mwalimu argued it is necessary for everybody to work and live on his own labour. In the expected future state no person exploits another, everybody is a worker.Nobody should be loitering in towns or villages without doing work.
- Eradication of the basic enemies of development; poverty, ignorance and diseases. The war against poverty, ignorance and disease was embodied in the Vision of Arusha declaration, since the struggles for development cannot achieve if substantial numbers of people are ignorant, or die of different diseases. Nyerere argued that the elimination of poverty, ignorance, and disease would enable people to gain the true freedom of full self-realisation. The period after Arusha Declaration witnessed massive campaigns to educate people on these three enemies.
- To promote rural development.Arusha declaration also targeted to shift development efforts towards rural areas.Agriculture is in Tanzania the backbone of national economy, employing more than 80 percent who are rural dwellers. Agriculture was at independence underdeveloped and that rural dwellers were among the most poor. In 1967, the Arusha Declaration, Nyerere’s economic blueprint for Tanzania, adapted socialism as a policy framework for addressing rural development.
DID ARUSHA DECLARATION SUCCEED?
Nyerere’s aim in Arusha declaration was to enable Tanzanians to be free not only from foreign domination but also from poverty, ignorance, diseases and all social problems hinder development. The three ‘enemies’ that Tanzania had declared war against since independence – poverty , disease and ignorance- are still rampant. Shortly, it is obvious that Ujamaa had failed to lift Tanzania out of its poor economic state. By the mid-1980s Tanzania realized that her development policies and strategies had proved a failure as Tanzania was neither socialist nor self-reliant. Mwalimu resigned his position as president, and Arusha declaration was abandoned. However, little achievements cannot be forgotten.
- It increased literacy rate. The policies of Ujamaa enabled Tanzania to enjoy one of the highest literacy rates in Africa. For example, the adult literacy rate rose from 17% in 1960 to 63% by 1975 and continued to rise. The primary school enrolment was also raised
- It succeeded to destroy tribalism which affected the rest of Africa.It promoted sense of unity and nationhood. It de-tribalised Tanzanians to a very large degree, and left Tanzania untouched by the tribal tensions
- Nationalisation of key economic sectors.Actions began within twenty-four hours of its publication. On 6thFebruary, 1967, private commercial banks, industries, companies and services were nationalized.
- It also achieved in health sector. Reduction of mortality rates.Tanzania under Nyerere made great strides in vital areas of social development. Infant mortality was reduced to a convincing extent, life expectancy and birth rose from time to time.
- Little progress was also in industrialization.The government under Nyerere succeeded to start a number of small and cottage industries, either in urbanindustrial estates or villages. For example in 1967 hardly any of our cotton was made into cloth in Tanzania, by 1975 we had 8 textile mills, capable of producing over 84 million square metres of cloth.
- Ujamaa succeeded in giving Tanzania equality, dignity and self-respect, which is different from the degradation it suffered during decades of colonial rule. Human equality and dignity is fundamental to socialism.
The last nail to the declaration was the IMF and World Bank policies of Structural Adjustment Program (SAP). African countries were forced to adopt such policies which would take them back into economic integration with west. The content of the package included policies that were at loggerheads with the key components of the policy of Socialism and Self Reliance as outlined in the 1967 Arusha Declaration. And since Arusha declaration was abandoned, nothing put in its place as an officially alternative vision for Tanzania.
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