Account For The Success Of The Bolsheviks

In Gaining Power In Russia By 1922 Essay, Research Paper

??????????? In February

1917, the Bolshevik party was small and irrelevant.? The leadership was abroad and there was little consistency of

purpose among the party in Russia.?

However, by the summer of 1922, the Bolsheviks had become the dominant

force, and a new communist state had emerged from their success.? The purpose of this essay is to explain this

transformation.? The abdication of Tsar Nicholas

II and the collapse of the Romanov dynasty threw Russia into a state of

turmoil. The elites had withdrawn their support for the Tsar after a series of

disastrous defeats in the war and continued social and economic problems. In

the wake of the Tsarist collapse, a power vacuum was left behind.? The Provisional Government, a government

that was fundamentally unstable and unsure how to govern, temporarily filled

this space. ??????????? The

Provisional Government opened the door for a seizure of power. It lacked

legitimate power to justify its actions. There was no tradition of Russia being

ruled by a government such as this, indeed, many people were opposed to it. It

was self-appointed and therefore many people questioned its authority.? The lack of an able and charismatic leader

simply compounded the problem. This was their chance to seize charismatic

legitimacy and gain the support of the people. When Kerensky took over the

leadership, the changes his charisma brought were marked, but even he lacked

the ability to repair the situation.? The Provisional Government

decided to continue the war.? This

decision was to become more important with the benefit of hindsight than it

appeared at the time. The decision was made with some justification, Russia was

virtually bankrupt and continuation with the war provided much needed western

financial assistance. Despite the financial considerations, the Provisional

Government felt obliged to continue the war out of a sense of loyalty to

Britain and France. In addition, they were reluctant to leave the war without

salvaging some prestige and pride from the current situation. They were still

hopeful of an allied victory.? However,

the decision to continue with the war was to prove extremely unfortunate. It

was unpopular, as there appeared to be few aims to the continued fighting. The

government quickly lost the support of a large proportion of the troops. These

disillusioned peasants in uniform provided excellent targets for Bolshevik

propaganda.? What is more, the Russian

situation in the war worsened and humiliating defeat began to loom large on the

horizon. Russia was a poverty stricken,

backward power in 1917. It also had a majority peasant population. The

continuation of the war meant that the key issues of ?peace, bread and land?

that Lenin so aptly highlighted could not be addressed. Reforms and visible

improvement in the peasant way of life were vital if the government wished to

gain their support and maintain its power. ?

However, revolutionary forces, suppressed under Tsarist Russia came to

the surface under the new, weaker and less repressive Provisional Government to

create a body known as the Soviet.? This

body created a duality of power. Whilst, in principle, the Provisional

Government ran the country, they were only in command whilst the Soviets

allowed them to be so. (Soviet Order Number One stated that the people were to

obey orders given by the Provisional Government provided they did not

contradict orders given by the Soviets.)?

The Petrograd Soviet consisted of a multitude of different socialist

revolutionary parties, such as the Social Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and

Bolsheviks. These parties were united in their ambition of turning Russia into

an independent socialist state although they had very different ideas of how

this should be accomplished. The Bolsheviks manipulated this body once they

achieved a majority on 31st of August 1917, when the first Bolshevik

resolution was passed.? ??????????? In the

interim between the collapse of the Tsarist Regime and the election of the

Constituent Assembly, the Provisional government gave the revolutionary parties

an unmistakeable opportunity.? On German

authority and in a German train, Lenin returned to Russia with many other

revolutionary leaders in order to stir up revolution, invoke civil war, and end

the war with Germany. He became the charismatic leader the party needed, and

set about gaining support for his ideas and far reaching ambitions. In his

April Thesis, Lenin spelt out the future of the party.? He insisted that the February revolution had

been a government coup and advocated a second revolution in which the Soviet

would seize power. ?

Lenin was a ruthless leader. He brought a new direction to the party and

non-cooperation with other parties. He ensured that his party was not

influenced by the policies of the Soviet, whilst advocating a Bolshevik control

of the same body. (?All Power to the Soviet? was a slogan from the April

Thesis.) Lenin?s return resulted in a key alteration in the Bolshevik party as

a whole. The party changed from a small party in cooperation with others to a

well-organised disciplined party capable of seizing power and gaining support

within a few months. Lenin?s Bolsheviks became committed to carrying out a

revolution on behalf of the workers, and Lenin set about ensuring the party was

strongly associated with them. Through propaganda he attracted his power base,

the workers, to support Bolshevik policy.?

The Bolshevik party, slowly and surely became the peoples party. By advocating a revolution of

behalf of the workers, Lenin proved himself to be flexible. He took the part of

the peasants over the issue of land, emphasised this point and furthered his

support.? Lenin?s willingness to adapt

Marxist ideology to the Russian situation was vital. The catch phrase ?Peace,

Bread, Land? formed part of the April Thesis and became extremely popular

with the peasantry.? Using a stolen

policy, Lenin was able to appeal to the peasants promising land reform, an end

to the war and an improvement in Russia?s food supply.? It was flexibility that enabled Lenin to

appeal to a wide cross section of Russian society.? However, Lenin was fortunate that

non- Bolshevik elements of the Soviet were not committed to the organisation.

This left the Bolsheviks in control. ?All Power to the Soviet? was a

dangerous policy to pursue. Lenin risked gaining support for a Soviet that was

not Bolshevik controlled. However, the element of daring within Lenin?s

policies played an essential part in their success. Yet Lenin should not receive too

much credit for the Bolshevik seizure of power.? Lenin played an unusual role in the revolution, during the months

between February and October, Lenin spent a considerable amount of time abroad

and whilst in Russia he spent much of his time in hiding.? Despite being an influential and charismatic

leader, he was not the driving force behind the day to day running of the

party. ??????????? Perhaps one

of Lenin?s most influential actions in the seizure of power was recruiting

Trotsky.? Trotsky, originally a

Menshevik was a vital Bolshevik acquisition.?

He brought a disciplinarian approach, whilst remaining an inspirational

character.? Whilst Lenin masterminded

much of Bolshevik policy, the organisation of action was largely due to

Trotsky.? Despite Lenin giving the

order, the storming of the Winter Palace and the relatively bloodless takeover

was organised and supervised by Trotsky. The success of the October coup can be

attributed to his organisation and supervision. His position as Chairman of the

Soviet was also of vital importance as he managed to gain the support of the

MRC (Military Revolutionary Council) for his actions during the October

coup.? This meant that the actions of 25th

October 1917 were carried out on behalf of the Soviet and not the Bolsheviks.

Furthermore, his Red Guards, an extremely well trained private army loyal to

the Bolshevik revolutionary cause, disciplined and inspired by his charisma,

played a vital part in the seizure and maintenance of power.? ??????????? The

manipulation of events and the ability to deal with setbacks owed much to the

vision of Lenin and Trotsky.? The ?July

Days? as they have come to be known were the result of the Bolshevik ?workers

party? being carried along by the workers. The workers rose of their own accord

and did not heed the advice of the Bolshevik leadership. The Bolsheviks,

anxious to maintain solidarity with the workers, supported the revolt. The

Provisional Government, at this stage had enough loyal regiments to put down a

relatively minor revolution and the success of their swift action gave the

Provisional Government and Kerensky new confidence and gained them

support.? It was a set back for the

Bolsheviks who were nearly destroyed by this sequence of events.? Lenin was forced to flee to Finland and

Trotsky and Bukharin were imprisoned.?

It also illustrated that the Bolsheviks were still an insignificant

force and were certainly not capable of mustering enough support to seize

power.? Nevertheless, the Bolsheviks

manipulated these events in their favour as they became associated with the

workers. The workers realised that the Bolsheviks were willing to join a

revolution with them and this resulted in the workers looking towards the

Bolshevik leadership for guidance. It was a setback the Bolsheviks used to

their advantage. ??????????? As with many successful revolutions, the end result

was partially due to extremely good fortune.?

In August 1917, Kerensky, who was still Prime Minister of the

Provisional Government, invited General Kornilov to bring an army to help him

maintain order in Petrograd.? Kornilov

proceeded to march on Petrograd.?

Kerensky realised that Kornilov?s army was intent upon an armed coup and

panicked. The Provisional Government lacked sufficient military support to

defend the city.? Kerensky appealed to

the citizens of Petrograd to protect the city against the advancing forces and

offered weapons to all who were willing to fight.? The Bolsheviks realised the opportunity that the Provisional

Government had given them, and used it to great effect in order to improve the

party?s position and recover from previous failures. The leadership were

released from prison or came out of hiding to receive the weapons that were

given to them by the Provisional Government. The attack never took place,

railway workers under Bolshevik influence refused to operate Kornilov?s train

bringing his army to Petrograd and faced with a people?s militia, his support

dwindled and he allowed himself to be arrested. ??????????? The real significance of these events was

twofold.? Firstly, the Provisional

Government looked impotent in the face of a military threat. A Russian army

turning against the Provisional Government which in turn could only raise a

people?s militia to defend itself resulted in a huge loss of confidence and

support for a self ?appointed organisation, a loss that the Government could not

afford.? These two factors combined

practically negated any increase in confidence achieved during the ?July

Days?.? Secondly, it strengthened the

Bolsheviks by presenting them as the defenders of Petrograd and consequently,

increasing their support in the city.?

Large amounts of munitions were given to the Red Army that they kept and

used in the October coup and the civil war. These events were fortunate, but

they were used to maximum affect by the leadership. These events pushed the

party into a position from which they could seize power. After

the Bolsheviks seized power in the October Revolution in Petrograd and Moscow,

the question was how to secure and increase their gains.? The Bolsheviks went on to control the whole

of Russia.? This was achieved to a great

extent, by Trotsky?s organisation of the Red Army.? The eventual victory over the ?Whites? was due partially to

Trotsky?s ability as a general and leader and partially to the disorganisation

among the ?Whites? forces.? The term

?Whites? tends to give the impression of unity, organisation and common

purpose.? This was not the case.? The ?Whites? were, by definition, any party

that was opposed to the ?Reds? i.e. the Bolsheviks.? They included forces of the allied powers, Britain, France and

the USA. They were not a united force and attacks on the Red Army defending the

main cities were sporadic and normally carried out by a single group.? There was never an attack by the ?Whites? as

a whole. In

contrast, although the Red Army was not yet the mighty force it was to become

in the years that followed, the sporadic, individual attacks enabled Trotsky to

move his troops quickly, by train, to the area under threat. The transport, and

in particular, the railways were essential to the Bolshevik success.? They controlled the trains that ran between

Moscow and Petrograd, which were also some of the best and most efficient in

the country. The movement of troops was therefore fast and efficient under

Trotsky?s organisation. The contrast between the brilliant organisation and

discipline of the Bolsheviks, and the weakness and disorganisation of the

?Whites? as a whole, was the main reason for the Red Army?s civil war victory

in 1920. ?In addition, the Bolsheviks were able to

supply their forces efficiently from their city strongholds.? Moscow and Petrograd both contained the vast

majority of Russian industries, and this allowed the Bolsheviks to keep the Red

Army well supplied with what was needed for them to operate efficiently.? The ?Whites? had no such industrial base

from which to operate. However, these ?fortunate? blessings were also due to

careful planning on the part of the leadership. By taking both cities, they had

effectively cut the main supply lines for the ?Whites? and kept hold of an

excellent transport system.? Furthermore,

many Russian people associated the ?Whites? with the old regimes, the

autocratic, antiquated Tsarist system and the repression of the landowning

nobility. The new communist regime promised much and acted quickly to bring

about change.? They ended the war,

despite the harsh terms of the Brest-Litovsk treaty and in doing so they

stopped the drain on Russian resources.?

They took the land from the landowners, bringing it instead under state

control, they brought factories under workers control, and they modernised the

calendar. The Bolsheviks seemed to be bringing about a new utopian society with

a brighter future and rapidly gained support. The

maintenance of power was made possible by the tactics employed by the

Bolsheviks once power had been seized.?

Lenin realised that power once seized, must be secured.? He astutely closed down the Constituent

Assembly once he realised that the Bolsheviks did not have a majority.? Once again he manipulated Marxism to suit

his purposes claiming that the Assembly belonged to a bourgeois phase of

history with had now been superseded. The Bolshevik party had sufficient power

in Petrograd to overthrow the new elected parliament without too much complaint

from the people. The

transition between revolutionary party and government bureaucracy did not prove

easy for the Bolsheviks.? The difference

between theory and practice quickly became apparent to those with no experience

in running a country, the initial policy of ?War Communism?, which was

introduced in 1919, was extremely unpopular and ineffective. The peasants began

to revolt, the towns began to depopulate and production of most goods including

food fell, the final straw was the revolt of the Kronstadt sailors who had been

the most loyal of Bolshevik supporters.?

Lenin realised that the policy was unsuccessful and that Russia was not

yet ready to become a fully communist state.?

The result was the New Economic Policy (NEP).? This returned Russia to and essentially capitalist system whereby

the government took a tax in kind from small businesses, and the individual was

allowed to sell any surplus. This was primarily aimed at allowing farmers and

small businesses to make a profit and provide an incentive for them to continue

to work.? However, the state did not

entirely return to capitalist ways, 84% of workers, all large scale industry

and banking remained under government control. Lenin also introduced a new

currency to replace the devalued rouble. The result of this plan was a

widespread temporary recovery within Russia. However,

despite his attempts to improve the standards of living in Russia under the

NEP, he was intent upon maintenance of power at all costs. He introduced a

repressive secret police force known as the CHEKA; they were responsible for removing

any revolutionary threats after the victories of the Red Guards.? This body was extremely effective in its

repression of the ?Whites? and through the use of coercion the ?Whites? were

pacified.? This repression is often

referred to as the ?Terror?, which commenced in September 1918 and resulted in

the deaths of about fifty thousand people.?

However, the ?Terror? achieved its objective in securing power for the

Bolsheviks, and repressing the revolutionary forces within Russia that sought

to overthrow them. Lenin?s

multiple strokes during 1922 and his eventual death in 1924 brought an end to

his plans for Russia, the result is that we will never know what his long term

plans were. Lenin?s primary objective at this stage was to retain power, and he

was willing to go against his own ideologies and beliefs in the short term, in

order to achieve his future ambitions.?

This shows that, perhaps had Lenin lived, Stalin?s tyranny and

repression would never have come into being, resulting in a less repressive more

Marxist communist state. In

conclusion, the Bolsheviks successful seizure of power in 1922 was due to

several reoccurring factors.? Lenin?s

genius combined with Trotsky?s organisation and discipline allowed the party to

seize power.? Without these two, the

Bolsheviks would have remained a revolutionary party. The fortunate Kornilov

affair was an unexpected bonus for the Bolsheviks who exploited it to full

effect. The gain of weapons and support was vital to the eventual Bolshevik

success.? The capture of the main

industrial centres and the transport between them (Moscow and Petrograd) gave

the Bolsheviks excellent transportation and supplies, vital to their victory in

the civil war.? The disorganisation and

lack of cooperation between the ?Whites? as a whole made the ?Reds? victory in

the civil war much easier than it could have been.? The CHEKA and the ?Terror? repressed after Red Army victories had

been obtained removing revolutionary elements of society that could have risen

up once more.? Finally, the ability of

the Bolsheviks and Lenin is particular to adapt to situations.? Lenin was determined to secure power at all

costs, for example, when he realised the theory of war communism was not

working in practise, he introduced the NEP which satisfied the people and got

Russia back on its feet.? These factors

all contributed to the success of the Bolsheviks in attaining what they set out

to achieve.? However, the deciding factor

in the success of failure of the revolution was the leadership of the Bolsheviks.? Without Lenin and Trotsky, the revolution

would have never occurred, nor would power have been secured, the combination

of these two inspirational leaders was vital to the outcome of the seizure of

power and civil war.? They can be held

accountable for the Bolsheviks gaining power in 1922.? ???


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