Reflections on World History

Home » Uncategorized » Ch. 21: Revolution, Socialism, Global Conflict, 1917-present

Ch. 21: Revolution, Socialism, Global Conflict, 1917-present

These documents underline an essential fact about revolutions: they don’t just happen by themselves. Making a revolution “successful” required, it seems, forcing social and economic change along with the political changes that the revolutions helped bring about. And such changes led to resentment among the populace, particularly among those who felt that the changes would make their lives worse. I am left thinking about hard it is to make real change stick. A kind of institutional and human inertia always provides a counter force to revolutionary ideas about creating a new and better world. These revolutionary governments used propaganda, violence, and even Terror to try to force change from above, and yet even with all that power, it was difficult to fight against that inertia.



  1. Anna B says:

    In Document 21.1 Joseph Stalin reviews the outcome of the first five-year plan. Throughout this excerpt it is very apparent that Stalin had one thing in mind while implementing this plan, power. Stalin came to power and implemented change at a very rapid rate for the people of the USSR. He successfully, and rapidly, created a surging industrial society in order to catch up to the western nations of the world. Stalin focuses on highlighting the success of industrialization, with steel, automobiles, machinery, etc. When he states that they were told “it would have been far better…to produce more cotton fabrics, shoes, clothing and other goods for mass consumption..” (pg. 1070) he almost shames this idea saying that if this had been true then the USSR would not have been able to have the goods of steel, automobiles, machinery, etc. Whether mass consumption meant among the Russian people or world wide, this was not a goal Stalin had in mind. As an absolute ruler, Stalin planned on enacting change whether the people of the USSR liked it or not. Implementing change in this way is what cause uprisings of the people. One set of people mentioned here that Stalin made the enemy were the kulaks. This was because the kulaks were likely to resist the policies Stalin wanted to be put in place. Stalin saw his option of making his vision come true as eliminating those who disagreed instead of trying to do things the people would agree with. Those who did not agree with Stalin would now definitely be unsure about standing up to his policies after the way he treated the kulaks. Throughout Stalin’s time in power his main focuses were on implementing his policies, creating a strong military, and bringing the USSR up to the level of a world power.

  2. Jessica says:

    Visual Source 21.1 Smashing the Old Society

    By first glance, I knew right away that this picture was representing a Red Guard. You can tell he is one because on his left upper arm, there is a red piece of cloth wrapped around, which signifies who he is. In the bold, red, Chinese heading, it says “Destroy the Old World; Establish the New World.” At the bottom of the picture, the Red Guard is stepping on some goods that include a Buddha doll, a crucifix, and some Chinese books and is also in the midst of destroying them with his sledge hammer that he has gripped tightly above his head. I believe the Red Guard’s weapon of choice was carefully picked out by the artist. The hammer is a symbol of power and strength, which was needed for what the Cultural Revolution planned to do. It could have also represented the working class because that is a tool a lot of workers used. There is a noticeable contrast of the black and red. To me, these colors symbolized a sense of power, rage, and an-unstoppable force. The man’s expression contains a feeling of anger, yet determined to reach a certain goal.

    Jessica H.

  3. RJ Hunter says:

    In visual source 21.4, the admiration for Mao was evident. The 1968 poster from Beijing displays Mao being worshiped by a young audience. Mao is elevated higher than anyone else in the picture. As he stands in his green military suit, children are reaching with all of their might to just touch any part of Mao. These young people would travel to Beijing just to rally for their leader. I believe this is so important because every revolution has started with an inspiring leader, especially amongst the youth. As they wave their booklets filled with Mao’s ideas, he sits their as their “savior”. When he tips his hat to his audience as a show of appreciation and humbleness and it is evident that this is truly a piece of propaganda.

  4. Sidney Nelson says:

    In Visual Source 21.3, the girl who is working seems somewhat happy. She appears to have a small grin on her face. This makes it seem like she is enjoying what she is doing. She does not look bothered or irritated at all. I think this shows how the workers are taught and brainwashed to love what they do, and to always have a peasant attitude. Also, I noticed that her forearms look rather big and muscular for a young woman. She does not seem to have much feminine characteristics at all. Her chest in her buttoned down shirt looks flat, making her look more like guy. This shows what is expected of girls in the Chinese culture, and how they are viewed. I am assuming that in their culture, they treat young girls the same as they treat the boys. They receive the same exact treatment and they have the same expectations. Girls are probably not encouraged to act as themselves or dress how they prefer. They are instead most likely expected to appear strong and tough, like how boys naturally are. I think boys are favored in the Chinese society. In my perspectives class we learned how in China, parents are allowed to have only one kid, except for a few exceptions. One of these exceptions are if the parents have daughter. Then they are able to have another kid, in hopes of having a boy next time.

  5. Garrett Mitchell says:

    Document 21.4 gives the accounts of three different women who experienced and lived through the “Great Purge” of Stalinist Russia. The purge is a particularly interesting subject as it tends to be swept under the rug when compared to the holocaust of Nazi Germany. I’m not saying the holocaust wasn’t a significant historical atrocity, but the conditions described in this document are equally as horrible as those described in the Holocaust. Even more interesting is the fact that Stalin’s Great Purge actually killed more people than the Nazi Genocide, yet it’s the holocaust that tends to get more historical attention in classrooms.

  6. Daisha B. says:

    In document 21.3 it shows a woman doing what would be at that time specifically man’s work. She is chiseling at a stone and their are women in the background. I’m sure that a lot of women had to start doing man’s work at this time due to all of the war.
    The quote given in the book about this picture says that “Women Can Hold Up Half the Sky; surely the Face of Nature Can Be Transformed.” I think this is the time that people really started to see the strength of women.
    I think it is kind of sad that it takes men having no other option to start to realize that women are strong and can do just as good if not better than man.

  7. Arian Amiri says:

    Visual Source 21.1 is a poster dated back to 1967 titled “Smashing the Old Society”. The Chinese words at the top translate to “Destroy Old World; Establish the New World”. You can tell that Cultural Revolution was involuntary at the time. A young revolutionary, is holding a large hammer smashing things like a record, doll, books, religious relics etc. with intentions of what the caption reads, Destroying the Old World and Establishing the New World. After doing some research on the red armband which has a strong focus in this image, it is apparent that he is a Red Guard with the intentions of carrying on the revolution. This image clearly demonstrates his job to demolish old society and values. A large sledge hammer is used to carry on the smashing of the objects rather than a gun or anything else because it shows his power and how it takes man power rather than the power of a gun or sword. Red clearly defines the presence of communism. The Red star on top of the the building with a red flag waving is a clear detail of communism.

  8. JoslynP says:

    In Document 21.3, people from different backgrounds share their views on the Stalinist industrialization. After reading from each view point, you can argue that the Soviet industrialization was only beneficial to those of higher posts. The electrician and engineer shared how they were about to acquire new education and gain a job where they happily work. These views oppose the ideas of socialism and are far different from those of factory workers and students. The factory workers share that they can barely afford to eat and the success of the Soviet power isn’t at all what it seems to be. They explain that basically a new social class had been created and the working class continued to slave at the body, barely making a living. The student even stated that only the rich could earn an education. I find the last view from a communist quite interesting. He states that the achievements of the Soviet power gave much credit to Stalin and his name was praised more than ever; so much that one could actually begin to hate it. It seems as if the scheme behind the plan was for Stalin’s personal power and gain.

  9. gjones22 says:

    The picture depicts a man who seems To be of the working class stepping on and hammering out the past dynasty that had reign the country country and the people in the background appear to support the movement that is occurring. I found interesting the crucifix amongst the things being smashed out, therefore ridding their country of the western religion brought into their country. Also the young revolutionist appear to be a red guard and proud to mashing out the old society with the hopes of a new one.

  10. Rashundra Martin says:

    During the 20th century, China as well as many other communist countries used propaganda. The uses of propaganda posters were on the rise, using them as a source to influence the masses. The artists who made these posters were influenced strictly by the communist party officials in order to portray exactly what the party wanted to show. In Visual source 21.1, the picture illustrates the type of society that the communist leader wanted to create during the reign of Mao Zedong. The poster highlighted the Cultural Revolution. On the upper left hand corner of the picture it reads “destroy the old world; establish the new world.” The picture represents a member of the Red Guard. In the poster, he is has a piece of red cloth which is wrapped around his arm to signify that he is in fact a member of the Red guard. He is holding a sledge hammer and seems to planning on destroying the items that he is standing over. I believe the artist picked the hammer as the weapon because it symbolizes a sense of strength and power in each swing of the hammer because it is a heavy tool. A Christ crucifix, Buddha, music records, and dice are a few of the items that appear under the man. He is stepping on the items which seems to me that he has no respect for the values and beliefs that these items hold. The expression on the man’s face seems to be anger and rage. It seems like he as well as the rest of the Red Guard would be unstoppable. In the background of the poster it seems to be civilians supporting what this member of the Red Guard is doing to these items. They are holding up signs and seem to be cheering him on as he proceeds to demolish the items that are beneath him.

  11. mina-s says:

    Russia (/Soviet Union) used Terror to force change. An example of this can be seen in Document 21.4. The state was busy looking for ” enemies” when much more of that effort could have been spent revitalising the economy. This Document used has three excerpts by three different women. The first excerpt is by one who has spent seventeen years in either prison or a labor camp. Human rights or ethics is not in the minds of anyone running these torture places. There were countless interrogation sessions and the prisoners were left in the full effects of exhaustion. The prisoners could be bribed into signing papers, just to have some sleep. Reading such entries are depressing, but it’s really sad to know that while this Terror has happened in the 1930s, it still happens today, such as in military prisons and North Korea.

  12. Shamira says:

    In visual source 21.1, we have a propaganda photograph, of a man destroying what is called the “old world”. These propaganda photographs were commissioned by the communist government in order to reshape the Chinese population’s perception of their government and what it was to live in a communist country. By destroying the “old world”, which consisted of depictions of the Buddha, Jesus on the cross, dice, records, and other various items, the Chinese communist government are ridding the country of any pollution that would skew the people’s focus off of what was truly important which was being proper citizens of China who put the good of the country above their own trivial wants and needs. By bombarding the people’s consciousness with these images day in and day out, it was easy for the Chinese communist government to control the masses and keep the majority of them from revolting while this revolution was taking place.

  13. Ruby says:

    Liberation of women was a core value of Maoist communism. Visual Source 21.3 illustrates this with a poster depicting the strength of woman by showing women can work as men do, and produce the same, if not better, results. The purpose of this primary source was to represent woman equal to men. This image is of a woman working with her hands using a mallet and large nail which appears to be what men would have been doing during that time period. The artist’s purpose for creating this images was to portray women equal to men by painting this woman with broad shoulders, dressed in what appears to look a lot like male clothing, and gave her asexual facial features, making it difficult to distinguish her sexuality. She also looks to be enjoying what she’s doing, making even more evident the artists feelings towards liberation of woman. The artist felt women could do the same work as men, just as well, and enjoy it. In the background behind this young woman is a lot of flashing lights in a dark sky. I believe the artist wanted to depict the woman working in dangerous environment and show this did not affect her work capabilities.

  14. Carina C says:

    Visual source 21.4 leaves a different impression of Mao ZeDong than the view of him today. In the picture, it is clear that he is adored by the citizens and he is of high status and power. The expressions on the people’ faces suggest that they are happy he is their leader and the start of a new government for the people. The title is “The Cult of Mao” and the word cult gives an impression that the people are manipulated by this “loved” leader and they are confused by a facade of greatness when really Mao just wants China to become communist.

  15. Jamison H says:

    In Visual Source 21.1 we can see the new communist China crushing all of the ways and values of the old China. Under communist rule Chinese artist were forced to use their talents to depict the new government in ways that would make them more popular in the eyes of it’s citizens. I found this image to be interesting because instead of portraying the government in way that would make the population see them as good and helping reform their country but rather it is sort of a threatening image of the old government squashing and anyone who is trying to stand in their way. It makes me wonder if this was a government approved image or if this artist suffered the same fate as the many figures and people that were crushed for speaking out against communism.

  16. Matthew C. says:

    Visual Source 21.3, it shows a young women working on a piece of concrete, rock, or medal. From this picture, I can see a little how China’s communism works at its core. They focus mostly working hard for the emperor and most of them probably would die for the emperor also. In addition, the women in this picture seems close to a man and her expression yells out, “I can do anything any man can do!” Interestingly, the women is not drawn in a seductively body but in a body where she could be respected. From this observation, I can concur that China was a male-dominant world where men make the decisions. Lastly, the lights in the picture notify the time in which they work, night time. Unfortunately, this meant that everyone worked extensively long hours to accomplish something that the emperor probably ordered.

  17. denny says:

    In document 21.3 talks about people’s view of Stalinist industrialization. of course, not all of them agree or have the same perspective of this industrialization since some of them were not seeing the benefits of it. the first letter in a newspaper of a Tatar electrician that express his happiness and satisfaction of being able to have the same rights as any other citizen and how much he was proud of the new achievements of his country. on the other hand, the 2 comments from factory workers found in soviet archives 1930s they complain how the media and newspaper hides the reality about the success of the soviet union and how people of high rank in society have the most benefits and privilege out of this soviet power. I believe that this economic and political changes bring with them good and bad consequences and most of the time lower class people seems to be the most affected by it.

  18. Kameron H says:

    Document 21.2 offers a duscussion betwen peasents in the kolhoz or collective farm. The document opens up with a letter from one named Nadya who was sent to assist in collectivization. Nadya ‘s tone in the letter is very confident. He mentions the “aire here is afire with a new spirit and a new energy.” This quote establishes a positive voice for collectivization. The peasents speaking open up with a flash back of better timess “when we were just neighbors.” This is to draw a contrast to later in the discussion when the peasents says “nowadays” they fight, and quarrel. The peasnts view this collectivist nature as serfdom stating that even though they are “dark minded beasts” they enjoy being independent. The communist speaker belittles the peasents as “wretched people” and then criticizes the original way they live. The Communist speaker appears to make it seem like collectivism is a better way of life for the muhziks. They insist on destroying kulkak class so they will no longer profit “from the weakness of the bedinak.”

  19. Levon Austin says:

    Document 21.4 is full of strong imagery of the gruesome experiences prisoners in the camps of the Gulag.Irina Kakhovskaya is the author of this document. She made known the resentment shown towards her people and how they were forced into feeling less than human. Irina was giving a message to those about her struggles and since it was a part of her memoirs, she cited the information to also honor the loved ones during that time that she lost and endured with. The second part of document 21.4 was by Eugenia Ginsberg sharing her accounts of what she experienced in the worst of the gulag camps. Her reason for her elaborating may have been to get everyone to realize Nikolay Yezhov, the communist official at that time, was as evil as can be and deserves no type of respect or honor for his ways.

  20. Jonathan McKenley says:

    In Document 21.1 I found it very interesting Stalin’s goals and expectations. It seemed like Stalin wanted the U.S.S.R to not only be better than Western civilizations in industrialization but to also be the most powerful country in the world. He really wanted to keep capitalism outside the borders of the Soviet Union. He believed that capitalism only caused unemployment and that in order for his country to be at the forefront he must do away with individual peasant farming to large collective systematic farming, and mass modern machinery. His ideologies caused him to rapidly rise to position of supreme leader of the communist party between 1928-1932.

  21. ajones188 says:

    Mao and his followers could only be assumed as a positive one. Judging from the context and background information, the people of China were unhealthily obsessed with Mao and his views. Being attracted to views that in theory provide for the good of the many is understandable, but to the point in which one has replaced their ways of worship with one person is more than necessary.

    -Anastasia Jones

  22. Krys M. says:

    Image 21.3 “strikes” me as a huge show of feminism. This image is a 1975 poster in Communist China and shows how the people of China were working together towards ideal communism, where everyone shared the work and the profits or lack thereof. People would even attempt to produce steel and iron in their own backyards to increase the industrialization process. The forefront of the image shows a woman striking a chisel into some sort of rock like substance with a big hammer. Her arms are quite large for a woman of this time which suggests she had been working for a while to be able to develop that kind of muscle tone. Though the work being done seems impoverishing, this woman has a content and even happy expression on her face showing she was not being forced to work and that in fact she was proud and happy to be helping her community/country. Considering that in other cultures women were previously thought to be the bearer and carer of children and the household, this image is refreshing. There is another woman hard at work as well and a bridge appearing to be in progress in the background of the visual which also shows that there was a difference being made and not just futile busy work. The image and the work being done are depicted during the night time which suggests that there was not much time for rest in Communist China. Everyone including women were at work 24 hours a day in hopes of improving their country. But even with the flaws of communism could this image show an already futuristic governmental mentality? In my opinion, I would say it does just that.

  23. Samuel says:

    Reading and analyzing this week’s chapter is interesting because communist countries painted such a pretty picture. Then again one must remember a picture is just that a pretty picture. Communism’s interworking’s and how its system negatively affected the social environment in both the USSR and China become obvious through this week’s documents and visuals. I find Stalin’s report on his communist system’s implementation misleading. For example, in Stalin’s First Five Years the reader is left thinking that the communist system has been a success. However, several other documents dispute Stalin’s claims, alerting the public to very low wages, and horrid working conditions. One factory worker claims to work in rags for attire, long grueling hours, while barely making enough rubles to feed his family. The communist system under Stalin in its latter stages contradicts itself by favoring a high class of citizens unbeknownst to average ruskie. In actuality the citizens of the USSR were not equal in compensation, or livelihood with those the ruling party favored, which in my opinion leads to its collapse.

  24. Simbuilder5 says:

    Mustafa Ataturk makes the statement in “A Secular State for an Islamic Society” that in order for Turkey to modernize, Islam needs to be significant only in the personal realm. One of his reasons for wanting to abolish the caliphate is because as an Islamic leader, the caliphate would not be recognized by other countries and would not adequately represent “the various races existing on the earth.” Mustafa also makes his case for switching from the fez to the hat. Turkey itself made an amazing transformation. The book keeps stating that they came up from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire and it is amazing the way they internally modernized. Even though the Ottoman Empire did lose a lot of land, Turkey as a nation made what it could of what it had. I personally agree with Mustafa. As a country of different believers, the government should not only be set up for Muslims.

    Winston S.

  25. ShanakayW says:

    Ch. 21 Visual source21.4 is a poster created by the Zhejiang people, in 1968. The poster portrays a group of young people surrounding Mao, chanting filled with joy, holding onto him, and basically praising him. The poster reads “The reddest, reddest, red sun in our heart, chairmen Mao, and us together,” depicting that the relationship that they share with their leader is sacred. Their enthusiasm shows that Mao is like a God like figure to them. The way the young people are carrying on shows that he’s more to them than just a leader.
    – ShanakayW

  26. DHarris says:

    In Document 21.1 I found it very interesting Stalin’s goals and expectations. Stalin wanted the U.S.S.R to not only be better than Western civilizations in industrialization but he also wanted to be the most powerful country in the world. He wanted to keep capitalism outside the borders of the Soviet Union. He believed that capitalism only caused unemployment and that in order for his country to be supreme he must get rid of individual peasant farming and change to large collective systematic farming, and mass modern machinery. His ideologies caused him to rapidly rise to position of the supreme leader of the communist party for ten years.

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