The conditions for the development of the workers’ movement in Russia in

1920, when the civil war had ended but New Economic Policy (NEP) had

not yet begun, were uniquely difficult. The main White armies were defeated

in October-November 1919, and after that the Bolsheviks’ hold on the most

important areas of Russia was relatively secure. But for another 15 months,

until March 1921, they pressed ahead with economic policies developed

during the civil war and based on state regulation and compulsion, which

later became known as ‘war communism’. The fighting was not all over, of course, and the ‘breathing space’ in the spring of 1920 lasted only until the

Polish invasion of Ukraine in May. The Red army launched a counter-

offensive, which came to a disastrous halt just outside Warsaw in mid August.

Peace talks with Poland began in that month, and resulted in an armistice

being signed in October. The only significant White Russian army still

operating by this time, that of Vrangel’ in southern Russia, was in con-

tinuous retreat from September 1920 until its final defeat in mid November.

In the autumn, peasant revolts erupted in central Russia and Siberia; these increased the Bolsheviks’ sense of isolation. Nevertheless, discussions on

industrial recovery and peacetime construction were underway. Most

Bolshevik party leaders, and members, assumed that in peacetime the

existing economic policies – state direction of production and distribution, a

degree of labour compulsion, food requisitioning, the minimization of trade

and experimentation with non-monetary forms of exchange – would continue,

albeit with modifications. Some Bolsheviks, although not all, made super-

optimistic assumptions about a possible forced march to ‘socialism’, whatever that meant in this context, by building on civil-war methods.