The occasion was momentous for several reasons. First, Russia was the last stronghold of monarchy in a major world power. While monarchies still existed, and still do today, elsewhere, all major powers were now headed by liberal democracies. This included England, which still retained its monarchy but only as a figurehead: Russia, with a centuries long tradition of despotic and autocratic government, now seemed to be following the western democratic traditions. Not content with these gains, it decided to press even further.

Second, the Russian Revolution displayed the first cracks in the worldwide imperial system. Now Russia, one of the imperial powers, had fallen. And she had fallen primarily due to the war and its effects on her. It is fair to say that without the war which led to social dislocation, army discontent, a breakdown of the governing structure, and a total collapse of the economic structure, the Tsarist government could have staved off its collapse as it had repeatedly shown itself capable of doing.

Russia has had a long history of peasant uprisings and rebellions ranging from the Bolotnikov, Razin, and Pugachev rebellions to the Khmelnitsky uprising and the Time of Troubles and ending with the unsuccessful 1905 rebellion. It had managed to suppress them all. Now, as a direct result of an imperialist war, it had fallen. Russia was the weak sister of the imperial network. Her capitalist development was fairly undeveloped at this time. Nevertheless, the war had widened the fault lines of the capitalist system and toppled the structure.

Since Russia was the least developed of the capitalist nations, certain strains of thought was that she would be the first to fall but the other capitalist nations would soon follow. The catalyst of the Great War would fundamentally change society. This was the belief of the newly-developed strain of social thought called socialism; largely influenced by the theories of Karl Marx and others like him. It seemed that a new social structure for society was on the horizon.

Of course, we know now that this never came to be. The conflicts of World War One turned out to be mere growing pains in the development of imperialism. The hoped-for worldwide proletarian revolution failed to come about as the capitalist system proved much more flexible to the strains put upon it than anyone realised. At the time, though, imperialism was still at a very primitive stage of its development, being primarily characterised by the colonial system. It had reached nowhere near the level of sophistication that it has now achieved through its network of financial, military, and social levers (such as food aid, military aid, control of resources, and foreign debt instruments) of the worlds' economic, social, and political structure.1 Thus, it seemed to many at the time that the system could not withstand the strains applied by a World War and that it would be replaced by a new social system.

Previous Page Next Page Page 2 of 33