The February and October revolutions

  • William Chamberlain describes the Feb. revolution as “the most leaderless, spontaneous, anonymous revolutions of all time”. That is true because there were no dominating figures such as Lenin present at the revolution.
  • Others such as David Longley says that people “simply rose to the occasion”
  • On Feb. 23 a demonstration took place in Petrograd to celebrate International Women day. Inspired by textile women workers demanding food. Some 100 000 came out to strike.
  • Over the next two days, the demons. Escalated in to a general strike demanding food, end to war and overthrow of monarchy.
  • On Feb. 26 the Tsar prorogued the Duma and troops killed 50 demonstrators trying to restore order.
  • Following morning troops of the Petrograd garrison mutinied and the strikes became a revolution.
  • On March 2, the provisional Gov’t (PG) was formed headed by Prince Lvov. It decided on a republic of Russia.

The Provisional Government

  • The crown had been the authority which held together the state, the removal of it created a power vacuum which the PG struggled to fill.
  • The state was dismantled by the people and the police was arrested, prisoners were liberated and the garrison behind the front dismissed their officials.
  • The power lied with the PG composed of leading members of Liberal parties and one democratic socialist Alexander Kerensky, and the Petrograd Soviet which saw itself as the guarantee that the PG didn’t betray the revolution.
  • Order No. 1 on March 1 gave the Petrograd Soviet the command of the army. It set up soldier’s committees in the army w/ instruction to obey the PG as along as it did not contradict with the Soviet.
  • The 1st contradiction came in April when the foreign minister Miliukov still supported the war aims of the past regime. The soviet demanded immediate revision of his policy and demonstration broke out in Petrograd. Miliukov and Guchkov (mint. Of war) were forced to resign.
  • The Soviet didn’t fight for power with PG because they feared a right wing backlash if they did. But, throughout the summer of 1917, the economic, military and social situation deteriorated.
  • The PG decided to launch an offensive against Galicia in June which failed disastrously and resulted in the collapse of the Russian front, mutiny and mass desertion.

The Kornilov Coup

  • By July 1917, growing power vacuum in Russia. It had now been filtered down to the peasantry and the factory soviets and they were intent on keeping it.
  • On July 7 Prince L resigned and handed power over to Kerensky – was a brilliant orator, caught the mood of the crowd – model for Hitler in the future.
  • Dressed in military uniform once he became the minister of war and stet a precedent of Stalin’s clothing choice when he came in to power.
  • Formed what he called the “gov’t of salvation of the revolution” but he had little maneuvering area. “if I move to the left I have an army without a general staff and if I move to the right, I have a general staff without an army”
  • The right wing Kadets – businessmen and officer corps resented the growing power of the soviets thus called for a more authoritarian gov’t that could restore order even if it meant civil war.
  • Que in General Kornilov. He demanded the imposition of marital law in R, banning of strikes and workers’ meetings, and compulsory output of quotas.
  • Kornilov was aiming to save the PG by pressurizing Kerensky into creating a dictatorship in which he would serve.
  • Kerensky initially negotiated with Kornilov but he had no intention of power sharing. SO he sacked Korn. From position of com. In chief of army. In retaliation on Aug. 27, Kornilov ordered his troops to occupy Petrograd.
  • The PG was saved thanks to the Bolsheviks who mobilized workers to defend the government. Thus the coup collapsed.
  • The failure of the coup left Kerensky in a situation where both left and right viewed him as a traitor.
    • Kornilov and 30 other officers were imprisoned in the Bykhov monastery where they drew up the plans for the white army and the civil war.

Lenin and the Bolsheviks

  • Bothe Mensh. And SR had compromise them by joining the PG coalition. This provided an increasingly viable opportunity for the Bolsheviks to seize power.
  • Lenin arrived in Petrograd on April 3rd. On 7th he announced his April thesis:
  • The transfer of all power to the Soviets.
  • Nationalization of land and banks
  • Abolition of the police force, the army and beurocracy
  • Immediate end to war.
  • Three weeks later all Russian convention embraced these ideals even though they rejected them at first. This “reflected rank and file radicalism as much as Lenin’s own authority”.
  • Bolshevik won the majority of the Petrograd Soviet on Sept 9 and in Moscow Sept. 15. Because the Bolsheviks were seen as the only effective defenders of workers and the peasantry.

October Revolution

  • Lenin called of an immediate Bolshevik revolution but was beat down by his party members. His strategy was too radical and was changed by Trotsky and the Military Revolutionary Committee (MRC), which had been set up by the Petrograd Soviet in the middle of Oct. to plan defense of the capital against Germans and a PG coup.
  • On Oct 21-22, MRC won the loyalty of the Petrograd garrison which overlooked the winter Palace, the seat of PG.
  • In protest against the coup, SR and Mensheviks walked out, paving a way toward a Bolshevik dictatorship. Coalition talks were done but the Bolsheviks did not want to meet the impossibly right wing demands made by them. The failure for more broad based talking marked “the beginning of Civil war) – Orlando Figes. As it led to increased polarization between Bolsheviks and moderate Socialists.
  • Power was transferred to Sovnarkom – the council of people’s Commissars.

After the Revolution

  • When the Constituent Assembly was made in January and met on Jan 5 1918, marital law was declared and they defeated the Declaration of rights bill (rights for the working people) by 237 votes to 146. Then Lenin ordered the Red Guard to close down the Assembly.
  • How did he do it when the Bolsheviks had only 24% of representation in the assembly? Because his regime was supported by a great mass of people. Proclamations of instant peace, bread, eight hour work day and nationalization of industry and land reform were primarily propaganda designed to excite and inspire the masses.
  • A powerful weapon of Bolsheviks was the exploitation of class war and the potent cry for the annihilation of wealth and privilege.

Treaty of Brest-Listovsks

  • Germans demanded annexation of Baltic States, Russian Poland and Eastern Galicia. They also occupied Ukraine.
  • The new Soviet Republic lost 34% of its population, 32 % its agricultural output and 54% of its industries.
  • The treaty enables Bolsheviks to consolidate their regime but isolated Russia from the West and idea of international revolution much more unlikely. “Socialism in one country”.

The Civil War

  • Civil war by eliminating class enemy, paved the way for the social revolution. It was an integral part of the Bolshevik program.
  • The Red Army was led by Trotsky as the commissar of War and was crucial for the Bolshevik triumph. It was made up of peasants and workers and the Red Guard. Also strengthened by conscription of former Tsarist officers who were blackmailed in to entering the army by Trotsky.
  • Numbered up to 5 million men by 1920. Because white forces were better trained, Trotsky sought the superiority in numbers.
  • It became a model for the Soviet G system, as well as shaping the attitudes of those who served it.
  • Civil War was fought in two front’s civilian a military. Operations against civilians: arrests and executions by Cheka and forced requisitioning of food from peasantry.

    • 1st campaign in the winter of 1917-1918 eliminated the initial centres of anti-Bolshevik resistance in the south Urals and the Caucasus. By 1918, the Ukrainian gov’t Rada was defeated.
    • Advance of G forces in spring 1918 in to Estonia, Latvia Belorussia Ukraine led to overthrow of Bolshevik forces in that areas.
    • Most decisive stage on March to Nov 1919. Collapse of G army eased the pressure on Bol. In west. White coup on Omsk made Admiral Kolchak dictator and in the south Gen. Denikin built up armed forces of southern Russia (AFSR) in north gen. Yudenich built up small force.

  • The Red army was able to defeat them separately.  Kolchak was thrown back to the Volga in May 1919. By Nov Denikin was 250 miles away from Moscow but retreated because of big red army. In Oct Yudenich made dash fro Petrograd but Trotsky mobilized the working class and brought up reinforcements by rail from Moscow and whites were pushed towards Estonia.

Creation of a one-party dictatorship

  • The triple threat of whites, SR and foreign intervention helped shape the Bolshevik dictatorship. With the expulsion of the SR from the Soviet in July 1918, Russia became a single party state.
  • The crucial decisions were no longer taken by the Sovnarkom but by the Politburo where Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Kamenev and Cretins were members. A secretarial organiz. Bureau was formed with the task of organizing the party throughout the BOlsh. Controlled areas of the country.
  • A system of “Democratic centralism” was created where the chain of command went down from the top to the bottom.
  • Between 1917-1920 1.4 million people entered the party mainly peasants.

War Communism

  • Six points defining War Comm. On pg 55.  It was introduced for both practical and ideological reasons. Bol. Were determined to control the market.
  • On 19 Jan 1918 compulsory consumers’ communes were set up, banking was nationalized very quickly. Most large scale factories were nationalized on 28 June 1918. And in Nov 1912 small scale factories were also nationalized.
  • The Bolsheviks waged war against the wealthier peasants “Kulaks” Quotas were set centrally rather than locally, which demanded way more that peasantry’s production.

The Cultural Civil War

  • The independent press was liquidated by summer of 1918 and libraries were purged of “Bourgeois” literature and a party monopoly on publishing was effectively secured by state paper monopoly.
  • In March 1919 textbook called ABC of Communism was published in an attempt to popularize Bolshevism – its massage was that Comm. Would create a utopia on earth.
  • All citizens over 16 were given automatic right to enter any institution of higher learning. Young people betweenf 14-28 were recruited into the Komosol to fight alongside the Red Army. @ the end of war, this developed into the Party Youth Movement –model of Nazi fascist regimes.

The New Economic Plan (NEP)

  • As a result of peasant revolts in summer of 1920 on the continuous demand for food deliveries when harvest was poor and hostility to Lenin’s collectivizing of agriculture. By 1920, 16 000 collectivized state farms had been set up controlling a million acres of land.
  • Also faced opposition from ind. Workers who resented militarization of factories and Trotsky’ attempt to destroy the unions. Made even worse by 1/3 cut of bread ration and closure of large factories in Jan 1921 because of fuel shortages.
  • At the beginning of March, sailors at the Kronstadt naval base mutinied and elected a new soviet.
  • The extent of the concessions on the NEP was very radical.

The Creation of the USSR

  • The Soviet victory in the Civil War enabled the Bolsheviks to reassert Russian control over Ukraine, European Russia, Belarus, central Asia and Siberia.
  • The regime was tolerant of minorities and their languages and worked through local Bolsheviks rather than imposing alien beurocracy on them.

The 1924 Constitution

  • It possessed a bicameral chamber, the All Union Congress of Soviets in which individual Soviet states were represented. The Central Committee represented the Congress when it was not sitting. In reality real power set with the party and its key executive body, the Politburo.

Lenin’s death and the battle for the Succession 1922-8

  • As chairman of Sovnarkom and Politburo, he controlled both party and the government.
  • In 1922 Stalin had become the man who ensured the policies of the Politburo and the party was carried out.
  • He was the commissar of nationalities thus liaised with local Bolshevik parties in the non-Russian areas of the USSR, was effectively responsible for reuniting Russia.
  • He was Commissar of Rubkrin the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspectorate ensuring that the policies of the party were being carried out. And in March 1922 Lenin agreed to make him the general secretary of the party because he seemed to be the only person coordinating rather than enforcing party policy throughout the USSA.
  • These three posts allowed Stalin to create a formidable power base – his office had personal details of all party members, he was able to recommend candidates who were loyal to him for key appointments all over the USSR.
  • He was also the senior Bolshevik official with whom local party could identify as he was not an intellectual like Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev.
  • Lenin got worried as he was getting increasing number of strokes, on Stalin’s growing power and persuaded Trotsky to become deputy chairman of the Svanarkom.
  • In the last year of Lenin’s life, the party was run by Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev. Lenin wrote his final massage to the party congress which became known as his “testament”. Where he was deeply concerned about the rivalry growing between Trotsky and Stalin and hoped that it could be contained by expanding the number of representatives on the Central Committee. He proposed to remove Stalin from the position of general secretary.
  • Lenin died on Jan 21 1924 and in order to isolate Trotsky. He cooperated with Zinoviev and Kamenev. Trotsky made mistake of underestimating Stalin. Stalin invented the label “Trotskyism” which branded Trotsky as a permanent rebel, whose very idea of hostile to the Soviet Union. He also said Trotsky’s beliefs showed a lack of confidence in the USSR’s ability to develop “socialism in one country”
  • In Jan 1925 Trotsky was forced to resign his post as Commander of war but remained a member of the Politburo.
  • Next, with Trotsky weakened, Stalin moved against Zinoviev and Kamenev and he succeeded.
  • In spring 1926 Kamenev, Zinoviev and Trotsky began to regroup to form in July the United Opposition. Trotsky argues Stalin was destroying the revolution because his beurocracy was stifling party democracy, but the NEP was favouring the Kulaks, and abroad he was failing to spread Communism.
  • Stalin turned the tables by stating that the United Opposition was creating party disunity and he was bale to have Trotsky and Zinoviev as well as 1, 500 members expelled from the party because they were being dissidents. Stalin was so successful because he was popular (socialism in one country, opposition to was able to pack the party Congress with his loyal supporters and his policies factionalism and collectivization).

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