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In the countryside, however, the peasantry—some 120 million souls—had carried out their own revolution, deposing the gentry and establishing de facto peasant land ownership.With the devastated country on the verge of famine, Lenin forced reluctant party cadres to accept the separate peasant revolution for the time being.Again and again, the effort to eliminate markets and private property has brought about the deaths of an astounding number of people.Since 1917—in the Soviet Union, China, Mongolia, Eastern Europe, Indochina, Africa, Afghanistan and parts of Latin America—communism has claimed at least 65 million lives, according to the painstaking research of demographers.Communists saw the slaughter of World War I as a direct result of the rapacious competition among the great powers for overseas markets.
“What socialism will be like when it reaches its completed form we do not know, we cannot say.” But one thing was clear to them: Socialism could not resemble capitalism.
In the countryside, over the objections of communist purists, a quasi-market economy was allowed to operate.
With Lenin’s death in 1924, this concession became Stalin’s problem.
The declared goals of the revolution of 1917 were abundance and social justice, but the commitment to destroy capitalism gave rise to structures that made it impossible to attain those goals.
In urban areas, the Soviet regime was able to draw upon armed factory workers, eager recruits to the party and secret police, and on young people impatient to build a new world.