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The Mensheviks and NEP Society in Russia

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Contemporary scholarship on the development of the Soviet political system in the 1920s has largely bypassed the history of the Menshevik opposition. Those historians who regard NEP as a mere transition to Stalinism have dismissed the Menshevik experience as irrelevant,1 and those who see a democratic potential in the NEP system have focused on the free debates in the Communist party (CP), the free peasantry, the market economy, and the free arts.2 This article aims to revise some aspects of both interpretations. The story of the Mensheviks was not over by 1921. On the contrary, NEP opened a new period in the struggles over independent trade unions and elections to the Soviets; over the plight of workers and the whims of the Red Directors; over the Cheka terror and the Menshevik strategies of coping with Bolshevism. The Menshevik experience sheds new light on the transformation of the political process and the institutional changes in the Soviet regime in the course of NEP. In considering the major facets of the Menshevik opposition under NEP, I shall focus on the election campaign to the Soviets during the transition to NEP, subsequent Bolshevik-Menshevik relations, and the writings in the Menshevik underground samizdat press.

Affiliations: 1: (Princeton, N.J., U.S.A.


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