Wow. I read (well, skimmed!
) the Wikipedia article on Bogdanov
, which I have put in as a link so y'all can skip the disambiguation page (there are of course lots of famous Bogdanovs!) It's nice that this guy is the ancestor of Kim Stanley Robinson's Arkady Bogdanov, my favorite character from Red Mars
. I was vaguely familiar with the cast of radical intellectual futurist Bolsheviks famous in the 1920s and it is rather exciting to think of the Bolshevik Party largely beholden to their wing of the movement. People like Bogdanov were able to make quite a mark on Soviet culture during the '20s despite the fact that many of them, like Bogdanov OTL, were estranged from the ruling circles of the Party.
I for one do not find it too strange that, in power in place of Lenin, he would, despite the allegedly all-important ideological "deviations" Lenin castigated him for, do essentially the same things for the same reasons as Lenin did. That he'd write pamphlets with exactly the same titles at the same time is a bit more of a stretch, but these were very pragmatic pamphlets Lenin issued OTL; in the same situation it's not unreasonable that Bogdanov would address the same subjects at the same time, and they'd be very rationalistically focused on the same issues thus getting the same utilitarian titles.
Clearly, even if a case can be made OTL that Bogdanov evolved into some sort of non-Marxist (I don't know if anyone would go that far!) and certainly was no Leninist, as Lenin defined it anyway, ITTL being inducted into the central circles of party power and facing the same pragmatic challenges, he remains a solid Marxist. (From what little I know, he always was that, by a reasonable if not Bolshevik Party definition--here, he gets to define the Bolshevik Party!)
In the same objective situation as the Bolsheviks were in OTL, I fear there are ugly, tough times ahead for this visionary. I will be watching with interest how the Party conducts the Civil War and deals with the mess that made--hopefully that mess can be mitigated a bit. We already see clear signs Bogdanov is committed to a moral high road--if he can stick to it without failing completely that should yield some dividends.
Still, after the Civil War, the NEP period, though it brought with it much needed and solid recovery, also laid the groundwork for a crisis no Leninist could see an easy way out of--"The Scissors," they called it--basically, with the peasantry enjoying most of the de facto prerogatives of land ownership and producing for a cash market, their main incentive to deliver adequate food to the cities (the city or rural industrial (eg mines for instance) proletariat being the core of Party strength) was getting trade goods--a mix of consumer goods and farm machinery. They didn't care who made this stuff, but if the Party wanted grain and other foodstuffs they'd better be prepared to pay, either in money that could buy the goods the peasants wanted or in the goods themselves, of satisfactory quality and quantity.
The trouble was that the industrial sector was badly decimated by many factors--by Great War disruption, by physical damage to plant during the Civil War, by loss of skilled management and workers--much of the management having decamped as refugees, much of the reliable pre-Revolutionary Bolshevik workers having died in the Civil War. The Party program was to build up the industries, but for that they needed the produce of the land now; unfortunately for them the peasantry would not take promissory notes of a glowing future where there would be plenty for all by and by.
The only solution under the rules of NEP was to sell the peasants what they wanted, if it meant having to purchase the goods abroad by selling some of their produce overseas, so be it, and if that meant the core Bolshevik program of accelerating the industrial sector had to slow down and even stagnate, too bad. This is the position I believe Bukharin was taking OTL in the late 1920s, as the crisis worsened.
The alternative that appeared to many Bolshevik leaders was to somehow coerce the peasants to deliver anyway, and force them to wait for future compensation in the form of general development. Stalin's ultimate program had quite a lot in common, in general effect anyway, with Trotsky's proposal to foment "revolution from below," to agitate among the poorest peasants (the peasant communes having been polarized in the quasi-market conditions of NEP between a successful minority, who acquired effective title to the best land and hired workers to assist them making a quite good living (and to be sure, producing quite a lot of the crop) versus their opposites, who lost access to adequate land and being forced to the margins, often became the hired hands, or worse. Trotsky's program was to capitalize on the resentment of this large class to reorganize the countryside on more socialist lines, and they being dependent on the Soviet state and the Bolshevik Party to prevail, would enforce the extraction of surplus to the state.
The chief difference between this scheme and what Stalin actually did is that Stalin's version, which took some years to evolve into that ultimate form, was much more clearly top-down, a matter of the Party against the countryside as a whole, with recruitment of actual supporters among the peasantry a matter of them taking or leaving the Party's offered incentives, which were at that stage largely ideological and, insofar as they were material, negative--one became a loyal and suitably enthusiastic champion of collectivization to avoid being labeled a "kulak" and counter-revolutionary enemy of the people. If one still cherished some hope this would pay off someday in a better life--well, hope was cheap coin to offer, and it certainly was better than living in the same conditions with no hope. Another aspect of the OTL Stalinist program was of course the massive development of infrastructural and industrial projects, which demanded labor--some of these projects were the destinations of a huge migration of people from the land into the factories and cities, which helped clear the way for a more industrialized approach to agriculture in the countryside. (Other projects, like the canal to the White Sea and many others, were not attractive to anyone and were manned by forced labor, largely the former "kulaks" at this stage, and countered the inherent inefficiency of slave labor with brutality and the economics of minimal support leading to high death rates.)
It is entirely unclear whether Trotsky, given a free hand, could possibly have achieved essentially the same results by mobilizing revolution from below. It seems even less likely he could have achieved the same positive accomplishments in terms of expanding Soviet production with less terror and disruption than Stalin employed, though the massive inefficiency of the Stalinist period certainly leaves some margin for such a suggestion. If the Bolsheviks had been satisfied with somewhat more modest goals they possibly could have mitigated the terror quite a bit, I daresay by just about any yardstick it would have been more "cost-effective" to go a bit slower. But they were quite worried about the danger that the capitalist powers would continue to scheme to roll them back, and that what legitimacy they did have in Russia depended entirely on their being able to start delivering the socialist future, visibly and soon.
Having indicated I am well aware of the very terrible negatives of the Soviet system of OTL I think there is not much understanding or appreciation of its positives. Despite the raw, blatant injustices and evident corruptions, I do think quite a few peasants, and more former peasants who uprooted themselves and moved to the factories and cities, did believe progress was happening, and could point to concrete examples in their own lives, and had solid and more or less justified expectations things would continue to get better for them.
So in this ATL, it will probably be ASB to avoid a rather terrible and tragic time, but there is I think some margin for things to be better. Sadly, the people of this timeline, if things do go better, will not know for certain how much worse they could have been as in OTL, and severe grievances leading to actual rebellion and tempting the regime to as OTL project motives of active, malicious counterrevolutionary mindsets on every setback, will still be present unless we go ASB to the point of Red Santa Claus. People can be perverse, it could be that being somewhat objectively better off than OTL might lead to the collapse of a regime that can't be better still, whereas OTL Stalin did manage to beat opposition right into the ground.
But I hope we can show that on the whole, a better objective situation leads to better outcomes.
Can Bogdanov mitigate the damage of the Civil War, resulting in a sooner end to the bloodshed and a smaller body count among the loyal and industrially skilled and intelligent Old Bolsheviks? If he can, would their somewhat greater numbers not only mitigate or perhaps even ease past the Scissors crisis, and would their reputable political legacy serve as a chorus of serious critical review of the highest party policy? Can power, even on a technocratic basis, begin visibly filtering downward through the Party ranks to the citizenry in general? Can the soviets (the actual councils I mean here) be somewhat more democratic bodies than they were permitted to be OTL, without threatening the immediate overthrow of the Bolsheviks? Will the notion of worker participation in plant decisionmaking be more than an empty Party formula for their acquiescence in top-down Plan decisions--can they indeed participate, and improve the process, and by buying in check the massive "on the left" black marketeering that OTL was the bane of the Soviet economy from Stalin's rise right to its ultimate collapse? Can the workers of the countryside deliver the full agricultural potential of the land and get a fair share of the nation's product? Can the system operate without the massive application of terror so typical of OTL?
Supposing Bogdanov gets results of the Civil War no better, or only marginally so, than OTL, can the Scissors Crisis still be managed more adroitly? How little cutback in the industrial plans can buy how much reduction in terror and devastation--how much can a nominal relaxation of goals yield results actually superior to OTL in outcome, due to less waste and more voluntary worker committment?
I don't think the Bolsheviks of OTL were wrong in thinking time was short and they had a lot of ground to cover before a steel and lead deluge would be unleashed upon them. If Hitler is somehow also butterflied away ITTL (could easily happen a variety of ways, some of them involving Adolf Hitler actually living longer than he did OTL and perhaps more happily) I still fear Germany might go down essentially the same trajectory, perhaps in a gratifyingly less rabid fashion but still suffering the same essential pathology. If not Germany--perhaps the liberal West would never really invade Soviet Russia (again
, that is!
that Russia had visible military strength and social cohesion at least comparable to OTL. If it was a much weaker, less apparently stable and less well armed Soviet Union (or whatever exact name it gets OTL, the name could easily be butterflied at least a bit, though the words "Soviet" and "Union" seem almost certain to be in there somewhere!) then a bit of filibustering here, a bit of aiding disgruntled actual counterrevolutionaries and dissident national groups there and yonder, could easily escalate into another major intervention and, if the regime could not put these kinds of challenges down handily, the disintegration of the whole system.
So I think the Bolsheviks should and must stick to their guns somehow; industrialization must be a priority; sacrifices will have to happen.
I look forward to seeing how Bogdanov might perhaps do it better, or anyway no worse, than OTL.
And the fact that I think it is realistic that up to this point he's done very much as Lenin did (until we get to the matter of not already unleashing full-on Chekist terror, which arguably might already be a bit ASB but we can hope might not be) should establish that on the whole, I don't think Lenin himself did so badly OTL. It's a tough hand they are dealt.
I am glad Stalin is out of the picture already. I just hope other names less despised and feared in OTL don't wind up doing pretty much the same things Stalin did OTL in his place.