|Russia||Russian Revolution||Soviet Union 1920-45|
Nikolay Bukharin was born in Moscow on 27th September 1888. His parents were primary school teachers and they helped him get a good education.
Bukharin became involved in politics during the 1905 Revolution and the following year joined the Bolsheviks. By 1908 he was a member of the Moscow Party Committee. The following year he was arrested while at a committee meeting. He was released but re-arrested several times and in 1910 decided to go into exile.
He lived in Austria, Switzerland, Sweden and the USA. He met all the leading revolutionaries in exile including Vladimir Lenin, Lev Kamenev, Gregory Zinoviev, and Leon Trotsky. He also wrote for Pravda, Die Neue Zeit and Novy Mir.
During the February Revolution Bukharin returned to Russia where he joined the Moscow Soviet and began editing the Bolshevik journal, Spartak. After the fall of the Provisional Government Bukharin worked closely with Mikhail Frunze to gain control of Moscow.
After the October Revolution Bukharin was seen as the leader of the Left Communists. This resulted in him disagreeing with Vladimir Lenin over both internal economic and external revolutionary radicalism. He gradually moderated his views and in 1924 was made a member of the Politburo.
When Vladimir Lenin died in 1924 Joseph Stalin, Lev Kamenev and Gregory Zinoviev became the dominant figures in the Soviet government. Bukharin was now seen as the leader of the right-wing of the party. He now rejected the idea of world revolution and argued that the party's main priority should be to defend the communist system that had been developed in the Soviet Union.
Bukharin's economic policies also became more conservative and he began advocating a policy of gradualism. He argued that socialism in the Soviet Union could evolve only over a long period of gestation. His agricultural policies were also controversial. Bukharin's theory was that the small farmers only produced enough food to feed themselves. The large farmers, on the other hand, were able to provide a surplus that could be used to feed the factory workers in the towns. To motivate the kulaks to do this, they had to be given incentives, or what Bukharin called, "the ability to enrich" themselves.
When Lev Kamenev and Gregory Zinoviev eventually began attacking his policies, Joseph Stalin argued they were creating disunity in the party and managed to have them expelled from the Central Committee. The belief that the party would split into two opposing factions was a strong fear amongst active communists in the Soviet Union. They were convinced that if this happened, western countries would take advantage of the situation and invade the Soviet Union.
Under pressure from the Central Committee, Lev Kamenev and Gregory Zinoviev agreed to sign statements promising not to create conflict in the movement by making speeches attacking official policies. Leon Trotsky refused to sign and was banished to the remote area of Kazhakstan.
In the spring of 1928, Joseph Stalin began dismissing local officials who were known to supporters of Bukharin. At the same time, Stalin made speeches attacking the kulaks for not supplying enough food for the industrial workers. Bukharin defending the kulaks in private but refrained from making speeches or writing articles on this subject in fear of being accused of dividing the party.
In July, 1928, Bukharin went to see Lev Kamenev. He told him that he now realized that Joseph Stalin had played one group off against the other to gain complete power for himself: "He is an unprincipled intriguer who subordinates everything to his appetite for power. At any given moment he will change his theories in order to get rid of someone," Bukharin told Kamenev. He went on to claim that Stalin would eventually destroy the communist revolution. "Our disagreements with Stalin are far, far, more serious than those we have with you," he argued and suggested that they should join forces to end Stalin's dictatorship of the party.
By this time Joseph Stalin had placed his supporters in most of the important political positions in the country. Even the combined forces of all the senior Bolsheviks left alive since the Russian Revolution were not enough to pose a serious threat to Stalin.
In 1929 Bukharin was deprived of the chairmanship of the Comintern and expelled from the Politburo. He now began work as editor of Izvestia. He now loyally supported the policies of Joseph Stalin. However, this did not stop him being arrested and charged with treason. Found guilty Nikolai Bukharin was executed on 15th March, 1938.
(1) In 1924 Nikolai Bukharin wrote an autobiography for The Granat Encyclopaedia of the Russian Revolution.
Emigration marked a new phase in my life, from which I benefited in three ways. Firstly, I lived with workers' families and spent whole days in libraries. If I had acquired my general knowledge and a quite detailed understanding of the agrarian question in Russia, it was undoubtedly the Western libraries that provided me with essential intellectual capital. Secondly, I met Lenin, who of course had an enormous influence on me. Thirdly, I learnt languages and gained practical experience of the labour movement.
(2) Nikita Khrushchev, autobiography published in 1971.
I saw Bukharin speak in 1919 when I was serving in the Red Army. Everyone was very pleased with him, and I was absolutely spellbound. He had an appealing personality and a strong democratic spirit. Bukharin was also the editor of Pravda. He was the Party's chief theoretician. Lenin always spoke affectionately of him as "Our Bukharchik". On Lenin's instructions he wrote The ABC of Communism, and everyone who joined the Party learned Marxist-Lenist science by studying Bukharin's work.
(3) Vladimir Lenin, testament dictated on 25th December, 1922.
Of the younger members of the Central Committee, I want to say a few words about Piatakov and Bukharin. They are, in my opinion, the most able forces (among the youngest). In regard to them it is necessary to bear in mind the following: Bukharin is not only the most valuable theoretician of the Party, as he is the biggest, but he also may be considered the favourite of the whole Party. But his theoretical views can with only the greatest reservations be regarded as fully Marxist, for there is something scholastic in him.
(4) In his book Stalin, Isaac Deutscher described the way Joseph Stalin switched his support to Nikolai Bukharin.
Tactical reasons compelled him to join hands with the spokesmen of the right, on whose vote in the Politburo he was dependent. He also felt a closer affinity with the men of the new right than with his former partners. Bukharin, Rykov, and Tomsky accepted his socialism in one country, while Zinoviev and Kamenev denounced it. Bukharin may justly be regarded as the co-author of the doctrine. He supplied the theoretical arguments for it and he gave it that scholarly polish which it lacked in Stalin's more or less crude version.
(5) Freda Kirchwey, The Nation (March, 1938)
The trial of Bukharin and his fellow oppositionists has broken about the ears of the world like the detonation of a bomb. One can hear the cracking of liberal hopes; of the dream of anti-fascist unity; of a whole system of revolutionary philosophy wherever democracy is threatened, the significance of the trial will be anxiously weighed.
In spite of the trials, I believe Russia is dependable; that it wants peace, and will join in any joint effort to check Hitler and Mussolini, and will also fight if necessary. Russia is still the strongest reason for hope.