The revolution in Russia has not brought an end to the country’s problems. The cities are now facing severe shortages of food, which have led to prices spiralling out of reach of ordinary people in the cities. With wages failing to keep pace, many are reduced to selling their possessions to raise money. Ever increasing numbers of women are finding themselves obliged to take up prostitution.
The food crisis has a number of causes. The Russian railways are in a state of collapse, while many trains arrive in the cities empty, their cargoes of grain pilfered en route. The peasants meanwhile are reluctant to sell food at the fixed prices being offered by the Bolsheviks, which have been rendered derisory by inflation.
An effect of the crisis is that Russia’s cities are emptying out as people head to the countryside to be closer to food sources. This exodus appears to affect all classes of society, particularly the labouring poor who have only arrived in the cities relatively recently and have closer links to the land. Meanwhile those who continue to live in the cities are nevertheless spending increasing amounts of time in the countryside, seeking to trade goods for food with farmers (a phenomenon seen also in Germany and Austria-Hungary).
The response of the Bolsheviks to this crisis is to institute a state grain monopoly. Armed cadres are being sent to the countryside to seize the peasants’ surplus in order to feed the cities. Today Trotsky addresses a Soviet assembly, defending the grain seizures as a necessary civil war. “Civil war has to be waged for grain […] Yes, long live civil war! […] Civil war in the name of direct and ruthless struggle against counter-revolution!”