War communism or military communism was the economic and political system that existed in Soviet Russia during the Russian Civil War from 1918 to 1921.High ranking Bolshevik Nikolai Bukharin, said that “We conceived War Communism as the universal, so to say ‘normal’ form of the economic policy of the victorious proletariat and not as being related to the war, that is, conforming to a definite state of the civil war”.
In the cities and surrounding countryside, the population experienced hardships as a result of the war. Peasants because of the extreme scarcity were beginning to refuse to co-operate in giving food for the war effort.Workers began migrating from the cities to the countryside, where the chances to feed themselves were higher, thus further decreasing the possibility of barter of industrial goods for food and worsening the plight of the remaining urban population, economy and industrial production. Between 1918 and 1920, Petrograd lost 70% of its population, while Moscow lost over 50%.
A series of workers’ strikes and peasants’ rebellions broke out all over the country, A turning point came with the Kronstadt rebellion at the Kronstadt naval base in early March 1921. The rebellion startled Lenin because Bolsheviks considered Kronstadt sailors the “reddest of the reds”. The nature of these uprisings and their leadership were also of significant concern because they were generally left-wing uprisings led by oppositionist leftists, thus creating competition with the Bolsheviks.
According to David Christian, the Cheka, the state Communist Party secret police, reported 118 peasant uprisings in February 1921.A black market emerged in Russia, despite the threat of martial law against profiteering. The rouble collapsed and barter increasingly replaced money as a medium of exchangeand, by 1921, heavy industry output had fallen to 20% of 1913 levels.
90% of wages were paid with goods rather than money. 70% of locomotives were in need of repair, and food requisitioning, combined with the effects of seven years of war and a severe drought, contributed to a famine that caused between 3 and 10 million deaths.
Sources 1. Bukharin, Nikolai (1967). The path to socialism in Russia. New York: Omicron Books.
2.Richard Pipes (2011). Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime.
3.Christian, David (1997). Imperial and Soviet Russia. London: Macmillan Press