The Red Army’s Help to the Working Class

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With the Bolsheviks coming to power in 1917, there was no guarantee that they would be able to keep and hold power. World War I was still on going and, possibly even more importantly, there was still significant opposition to the Bolsheviks within Russia itself. The Bolsheviks needed to find a way to show the Russian people that they were the political party best suited to lead and rebuild the nation after the disaster of World War I and help bring Russia into the modern era. One way the Bolsheviks went about doing this was through their use of the Red Army, the military force for the Bolsheviks. Two orders in particular, “Order to the Third Red Army-First Labor Army” from January 1919 and “Establishment of the First Labour Army” from January 1920, show the Bolsheviks attempting to move from a revolutionary movement to an actual government by trying to appeal to the people.

The “Order to the Third Red Army-First Labor Army” from January 15, 1919 was an important step in the movement from revolutionaries to actual government. In the order, Leon Trotsky was ordering the Third Red Army would become a new sort of army group called the First Labor Army. Their mission would be to help support workers in areas facing great difficulty. They would do this by bringing food, building barracks for workers to live in, and other activities to help support workers around Russia. According to Trotsky, the First Labor Army served an important propaganda tool as well. In attempt to inform the Russian people of the Bolsheviks’ plans, the army was supposed to handout, “Hundreds of thousands of printed appeals and speeches must be distributed to make clear to the most backward of the Red Army soldiers and all the surrounding workers and peasants, the idea of the great work which the Third Army is entering upon” (Trotsky). Another order almost a year to the day further outlined the work of this group.

In “Establishment of the First Labor Army” from January 15, 1920 was a more explicit in lining out the responsibilities of the First Labor Army. In the order, Lenin expanded who the army was supposed to help, what their mission was, and went into great detail about who was supposed to be in charge of the army. The army was to ensure that labor was conducted and people were in the place where the need was greatest.

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Reading these sources, one has to wonder how the militarization of the labor force was an important step in transitioning the Bolsheviks from a revolutionary group to a legitimate government. The use of the military as a tool to organize the working class was a great idea to give a more public and equitable disposition to the army. Previously, the army had been part of the government that had oppressed the common Russian population. With these reforms, the military was now working to both help build the working class and Russia as a whole. Instead of being a tool of oppression, it was now a tool to building Russia into a modern, more equitable nation. Additionally, the militarization of the working class in this manner gave them (or at least the perception of) greater power. No longer was the military a separate entity. Now it was an organization to work for the working class. All of this goes to the Bolsheviks attempting to further cement themselves as the future government of Russia. The working class in Russia at the time had many different political groups fighting for their support. These orders were an important step for the Bolsheviks in their attempts to gain their support.

This post earned a Red Star award from the editorial team

Sources

Establishment of the First Labor Army

Order to the Third Red Army-First Labor Army

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8 thoughts on “The Red Army’s Help to the Working Class

  1. Great job this week! Your post does an excellent job of emphasizing the instability of Bolshevik rule immediately after the revolution. You hone in on an important development that allowed the Bolsheviks to secure their political power during the Civil War as well as cemented their role as rulers for the future. Well done! Could you tell me more about the graphic you included?

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  2. Interesting post. I liked that you discussed the labor army. Trotsky was criticized heavily for the use of this labor army because it resembled slavery and forced labor. Trotsky countered critics by saying workers were working for their own good, and that it was the duty and responsibility for men to help out in order to benefit the state and security. My post touched on some of the increased labor expectations; the “nepreryvnaia nedelia” work schedule that consisted of four days of work followed by one day off. This was an effort to pull people away from their religious practices and holidays, and also to increase production in factories and businesses.

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  3. You tackle the how and why very well in your post. As Courtney said, this is a pivotal development that would inch the Bolsheviks closer to power. As the state would institutionalize more and more facets of the nation, socialism chiefly that of the Bolshevik disposition would gain credence. I found a couple good sites that talk a little bit more about Trotsky and the militarization of the labor force.

    http://sfr-21.org/trotsky.html
    https://www.marxists.org/archive/bryant/works/1923-mom/trotsky.htm

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  4. I really liked how this showed the development of the Bolsheviks and the thought process that helped make them a more stable and permanent government. Minus the genocide, do you think this can relate to Hitler’s army in how he utilized them to ensure concentration camp prisoners were working? I know it may be a stretch but I’m curious to if they can relate at all or if Hitler based any of his tactics off the Bolsheviks.

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  5. Awesome post this week with great insight into the ways and reasons the Bolsheviks went about seizing power. I think you did a great job in outlining the two main points where the Bolsheviks were able to cement their authority within the region. Without a lot of background information on the instance, I found your blog very interesting to read and can now recognize the importance of the Red Army’s help in restoring the working class, and also in building a new Russian society where the army is no longer a means of oppression.

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  6. I really loved your blog post. The Bolshevik’s had a tough time transitioning into power, and their creation of military force is a progressive way to have society’s approval. I didn’t know much about the labor army and liked that you went into more detail about it because of the connotation it brings with it. Great job!

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