The New Economic Policy represented the abandonment (temporarily) of the ‘revolutionary’ strategy of War Communism in favour of a ‘reformist’ approach, but this reformism was of a distinctive and highly ambivalent sort. It was a tactical rather than a strategic retreat. As Lenin put it, NEP ‘would last a long time but not forever’. How long ‘long’ would be was not defined, and in 1928–9 the regime once again went on the offensive. Communism in Russia remained a type of crusade, with a two-fold project designed to transform its own society and the individuals who composed it, while at the same time calling for revolutionary change in the world at large. The tension between involution, the adaptation of a transformative agenda into the inward-looking maintenance of an existing order, and revolution was to remain until the end. When this tension disappeared and world revolution was abandoned, in both rhetoric and practice, the domestic order also dissolved.
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