Factors Enabling Lenin and Bolsheviks

Seizure of power appeared more prominently due to the nature of 1917, in which the April Theses was published, the July Days occurred and the Kornilov Affair, which emphasised the weaknesses of the Provisional Government. However, it is how the Bolsheviks enabled their power through 1917: through their powerful, hard hitting propaganda or through the Provisional Government’s failures. Interpretations [A] and [B] focus more on Lenin’s domineering nature, and how he exudes control in order to enable power, whilst [C] and [D] clearly display Lenin and the Bolsheviks as beneficiaries of the Provisional Government’s failures.

Though it can be seen that Lenin’s determination clearly allowed for support to grow for the Bolsheviks, it does appear that the conditions of chaos in 1917 emphasised the Provisional Government’s weaknesses, and ultimately the Kornilov Affair was the most important factor in enabling Lenin and the Bolsheviks to seize power and interpretation [C] is the most reliable in assessing this view, as it depicts the effects of the Kornilov Affair and specifically how it benefitted Lenin and the Bolsheviks.

Conditions in 1917 were a trigger for growth in support for the Bolshevik party, as the poor conditions and diminishing hope led to periods of misery and discontent within the Russian population. No running water, overcrowded cities, strenuous working hours (at least ten hours a day, six days per week), wages were low and inadequate (made worse by World War One) were only some of the dehumanizing conditions in which the Russian people lived in.

This is supportive of [A], which clearly exemplifies the problems, depicting the main issues as ‘anxiety, hunger, exploitation’, referring to the increasing prices and taxes whilst wages seemed to stay constant. However, [A] simply refers to these issues, stating how the Bolsheviks would have to face ‘political enemies… incredible disorganization, hunger, cold, exhaustion’ and other issues in order to please the Russian people, even though they were a ‘small minority’ and the interpretation questions as to how this minority were to ‘make itself a master of Russia’ in such poor socio-economic conditions.

[B] looks particularly at the growing numbers of people supporting Bolsheviks rather than the Provisional Government and comments on the determination of Lenin, commenting on the ‘crisp, clear and hard-hitting propaganda’, which spread the ideas of Bolshevism, and led to ‘growing numbers of workers, soldiers and peasants’ supporting the party and their ideas. [B] also refers to the on-going ‘struggle… for raw food and materials’, which portrays the dismal living conditions of the Russians.

These conditions make us aware of the misery people were facing, leading to why the Bolsheviks’ promises were so appealing to the masses. Also, the discontent of the army, workers and peasantry led to further gains in support during 1917. The Bolsheviks did not gain the support of the majority by October 1917, however, these three groups made the mass of the population, and with many of them feeling discontent with the current government, the promises of the Bolsheviks would mean greater support for the Bolshevik party.

The slogans of the Bolshevik party, such as ‘Peace, Bread and Land’, were effective due to their simplistic nature, meaning that the message appealed to all classes, plus they assessed the needs of the peasantry who were their main supporters. However, the timing of the slogan ‘Peace, Bread and Land’ came shortly after the April Theses, which highlighted the failures of the Provisional Government, who could not supply peace, bread or land to the peasantry or the masses.

There is overwhelming evidence that the Bolsheviks’ strengths only played a fundamental role once the Kornilov affair took place. The Kornilov affair was a result of the catalyst of chaotic conditions and mistakes of the Provisional Government; however, it was this event that may have enabled Lenin and Bolsheviks to take power in October 1917. The event led to many leading Bolsheviks who were imprisoned during the July Days to be freed, and also the possession of ammunition from Kerensky.

Alexander Kerensky, unsure of his power, looked to the Petrograd Soviet in order to control Lavr Kornilov and his army, and prevent them from entering the Petrograd. The emphasis on the Provisional Government’s weaknesses were evident here, as they were unsure as to whether or not they could handle the situation alone, and also were already unpopular across the masses due to land reformations and the results of World War One. [C] focusses on the weakening of the Provisional Government, and how ‘the Bolsheviks were the principal beneficiaries’ in their downfall.

This particular report suggests that the Bolsheviks’ success rose on the failures of the Provisional Government, and this is reinforced with the phrase, ‘they might never have come to power at all’, suggesting that without the Kornilov Affair, the Bolsheviks may never have gained power. [C] also presents how Kerensky’s victory was ‘his own political defeat’, eventually leading to a loss of ‘all real authority’. This idea suggests how the need for Kerensky to find help, led to a downfall in support, as the people wanted a party and a leader who could manage on their own.

[D] highlights the failures of Kerensky due to the Kornilov affair, as ‘the leaders… were freed’ due to ‘the treachery of Kornilov’. Overall, the Kornilov affair highlighted the realisation of Kerensky’s mistakes, and how the use of the Bolshevik party backfired. The choices that Kerensky made led to a decrease in support, and therefore the people chose to support the Bolsheviks, which enabled power quickly and effectively. The Bolsheviks’ peaceful nature was evident during the Kornilov affair, as the handling of the event shows no need of death and in fact, only the persuasion of propagandists and troops of the Red Army.

This peaceful nature was evident throughout 1917, as the Bolsheviks participated in a non-violent approach, which can lead to dominance and support from people who were disinterested of a violent solution to every problem the country faced, meaning that the Bolshevik’s non-violent approach appealed to the masses, suggesting that the gain in power may be due to Lenin’s leadership qualities and ideals. However, they were armed by the Provisional Government, leading us to question whether or not the Bolsheviks planned to lead Russia in a violent manner after gaining power.

The Provisional Government failed for many reasons, which eventually led to the enabling of power for the Bolsheviks. Perhaps most importantly, they refused to end the country’s involvement in World War One. Due to the government’s preoccupation with winning that War, many economic and social problems were overlooked or ignored. This is particularly evident through the failure to enact land reforms which were demanded by the peasantry, who accounted for over eighty percent of the population. However, these issues were not created by the Provisional Government, and they were evident

throughout the tsarist regime. The period of Tsarism led to the establishment of problems such as rising prices and lowering wages and periods of famine. [D] does appear to highlight the unsuccessful nature of the Provisional Government, commenting how they ‘could not get to grips with the military, social and economic problems it faced’, suggesting that the Provisional Government were failing under the pressures that were left behind from the tsarist regime. These failures led to the April Theses, issued by Lenin.

The April Theses portrayed the future Bolshevik policy, and the aims may have startled some Bolshevik members, as one of statements was to abandon all co-operation with other parties, and then the statement to overthrow the Provisional Government. This thesis was Lenin’s way of establishing his power and depicting how the Bolsheviks would assume power. By overthrowing the Provisional Government, the Bolsheviks would remain as the only notable force within Russia, who as a communist party, planned to rule Russia by creating a haven for its population by solving the problems left behind by the tsarist regime.

The Provisional Government were eventually overthrown, leaving Kerensky losing ‘all real authority’ and leading to ‘his own political defeat’, mentioned in [C]. The failures of the Provisional Government evidently led to the opportunity for Bolshevism to rise and enable power, as their ‘crisp, clear and hard-hitting propaganda’ in [B] and in [A], mentioning how ‘the communists were pioneers’, it was obvious that the Bolsheviks would seize power through the Provisional Government’s failures.

Not only was the Provisional Government failing, but the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries were also losing support as the Bolsheviks became even more successful and popular. Previously to 1917, the Mensheviks were not as radical as the Bolsheviks, and supported the idea of a socialist party that was open to all who wished to join and that would be ruled and organized in a democratic manner. However, it was their influence within the army and the navy which declined, as ‘influence declined in both the army and navy’, stated by [B] leading to a widening opening in which the Bolsheviks could gain support.

This particular group of civilians were noticed by the Bolsheviks, as they ‘developed a whole network of Military Organizations’ according to [B]. The military was aided by the Bolsheviks, particularly with the Red Army and also the Kronstadt rebellion. The sailors at the Kronstadt naval base had long been a source of radical dissent. Mutinies had taken place during the 1905 Revolution and played an important role in persuading Nicholas II to issue his October Manifesto. The Kronstadt sailors were also active in the overthrow of Nicholas II in the February Revolution.

A large number of the sailors were Bolsheviks and during the October Revolution they took control of the cruiser, Aurora, and sailed it up the River Neva and opened fire on the Winter Palace. By 1921 the Kronstadt sailors had become disillusioned with the Bolshevik government. They were angry about the lack of democracy and the policy of War Communism. On 28th February, 1921, the crew of the battleship, Petropavlovsk, passed a resolution calling for a return of full political freedoms. Lenin denounced the Kronstadt Uprising as a plot instigated by the White Army and their European supporters.

On 6th March, Leon Trotsky announced that he was going to order the Red Army to attack the Kronstadt sailors. However, it was not until the 17th March that government forces were able to take control of Kronstadt. The Red Army was Lenin’s military support, which he used effectively in order to diminish the White Army’s power and influence. Whilst the White Army had men and more advanced technology, the Red Army was far more organized through the leadership of Lenin, leading to an enablement of power through Lenin’s decisive nature and leadership qualities.

Whilst Lenin did possess the qualities of a strong leader, it is evident that the Bolsheviks could not assume power as the Provisional Government had done. Even with the propaganda and speeches, it is significant that Lenin did lean on the weaknesses of others in order to portray Bolshevism in a more positive light and gain support from the Russian civilians. The Kornilov Affair was the most evident event in which the failures of the Provisional Government led to the enablement of power for the Bolsheviks and their eventual takeover of Russia.