An evaluation of the reasons for thesuccessof the October Revolution 1917
Background :Tsar forced to abdicate in Feb 1917.Provisional (Temporary) Government set up to run the country until elections could be held.Petrograd Soviet (Workers councils) also run parts of the countryOct 1917 – Bolsheviks successfully overthrow Provisional Government.
Inherent weakness of PG: Lacking legitimacy &Dual Control system– Outline what it is (PG and Soviets)(KU) and how it impactsPG’srule (A)Mistakes of Provisional Government– Describe mistakes (KU) and explain how they lead to decline in support for PG/rise in support of Bolsheviks (A)Appeal of the Bolsheviks:April Theses, Propaganda, Leadership of LeninPolitical Problems- July Days andKornilovRevolt
Line of argument
You need to decide this – which factor was the most important in the success of the October1917 revolution?
Inherent weakness of the PG
PG led by Prince Lvov. Consisted of other nobles and aristocrats. (KU)Key aim was to set up democratic elections, however until such time they would lead the country and had to rely on the good will of the people to accept them as the ruling authority. (KU)They lackedlegitimacy-ie. many people did not accept the PG as the ruling body of Russia - which meant they lacked authority and real power (A) –When the names of the people in the new government were being read out someone shouted ‘Who appointed you!?’ which illustrates many peoples’ feelings.
Inherent weakness of the PG
OrlandoFigesargues that the PG should have called elections earlier than they did. By not doing so, they allowed the Bolsheviks to convince people that they were never going to hold elections and would keep themselves as the people in charge. (A+)
Weakness of PG - Dual Control System
Petrograd Soviet (Workers Councils) set itself up after the Tsar was overthrown. (KU)Made up of workers, soldiers and sailors (KU)Because these people viewed the Soviet as being the real authority in Russia, the Soviets had control over the military and industry (A)Soviet Order No 1 – Military would only obey orders of Government if Soviet approved them. (KU)Thisunderminedthe power of the Government – some would argue the Soviets had the real power. (A)Michael Lynch– ‘any government thatcannotcontrol the army cannot wield real power’ (A+ -Histriography)
PG and Soviet worked well together at first. As time went on, the PG became more right wing and the Soviets became more left wing especially after the Bolsheviks gained more influence in them. This made it extremely difficult for the PG to effectively ruleRussia and helped make the Bolsheviks successful in Oct 1917.
Mistakes/Decision of PG
The PG made several decisions during their time in power. Some of these were popular but they did not do enough to get the people of Russia on their side.Staying in WW1– PG knew that by pulling out of the war they would have to pay back all foreign loans and would not get anymore in the future. Their economy would collapse. However, the war was hugely unpopular in Russia and made a lot of people turn against PG (A)Bolsheviks also gained support through propaganda and exploited this – promisedpeace, bread and land. (A+ - Linking factors)
Mistakes/Decision of PG
Failure to solve economic problems– Inflation, lack of wages, high taxes and power cuts caused misery for many Russians. Lack of help from PG turned many towards the Bolsheviks. (A)The land issue– Peasants also became angry with PG as they wanted to be given the land they lived and worked on. PG argued this was a huge administrative task and should be dealt with by an elected Government. This angered peasants and many turned to the Bolsheviks who supported them. A)
PG did introduce some positive policies – civil rights, shorter working day, end of censorship.These were well received but were not the real fundamental issues Russians wanted solved.The failure of the PG to deal with the real issues in Russia, across all classes, turned a vast number of the population against them which made the Bolsheviks gain more success.
Appeal of the Bolsheviks
Lenin was the leader of the Bolsheviks.He was a committed revolutionary from a young age after his brother was executed by the Tsarist state.During the Feb revolution, he had been in exile.Once the PG was set up, the German Government aided Lenin by smuggling him back into Russia in an armoured train – they hoped he would cause trouble in Russia, further destabilizing the country and making them easier to defeat.
April Theses (Bolshevik Policies)
Lenin published April Theses when he returned to Russia. This outlined the Bolshevik policies and plainly told people what they stood for. (KU)‘Peace, Bread and Land’ and ‘All power to the Soviets’ (KU)Through this, it was clear that Lenin had identified the main things Russians wanted when the PG had not which gained them support. (A+ - Linking factors)Lenin’s Communist ideas also brought the peasants into the fold which also gained them a great deal of support as peasants made up huge part of population (A)April Theses hit the credibility of the PG hard and turned many in favour of Bolsheviks
Leadership of Lenin
Lenin was a skilled politician and leader and it can be argued that his decision making is a huge factor in the success of the revolution.Even though he was in exile for years, he returned to Russia and was able to convince many Bolsheviks to accept him as leader and accept the April Theses as the main party policy (KU)He also insisted that Bolshevik members attended Soviet meetings. (KU)This allowed the Bolsheviks to gain more influence in the Soviets which was crucial to their success in Oct 1917 (A)He also convinced the party that the time was right for an armed uprising in October even though many were sceptical (KU)Figes– ‘Without his decisive personal influence , it is hard to imagine the Bolshevik seizure of power’ (A+ - Historiography)
Bolsheviks used pamphlets, leaflets and newspapers to spread their ideas. (KU)This demonised the PG as being an unelected government ruled by landowners. (A)It undermined their policies and made the Bolsheviks more appealing to many. (A)
The PG faced several political problems and attempts to overthrow them which weakened theirposition
July 1917 – Bolsheviks attempt to seize power in Petrograd by force.Major misjudgement by Lenin – only small numbers of sailors and soldiers actively support Bolsheviks and uprising is easily suppressed by troops loyal to the PG.Lenin flees to Finland and Bolshevik leaders arrested.Bolshevik’s and Lenin’s reputation are hit by this and they lose support – could have been disastrous for the party.
In August 1917, a Russian General,LavrKornilov, made an attempt to seize power for himself.His army advanced on Petrograd, with the Provisional Government under the leadership of Alexander Kerensky, seemingly powerless to stop him – They turn to Bolsheviks for help.The Red Guards, under Trotsky's direction, organised the defence of the city. Bolshevik agents infiltratedKornilov'stroops and encouraged them to desert. The Bolsheviks also organised strikes by railway workers which caused chaos toKornilov'ssupplies and communications. Within a few days,Kornilov'sattempt at seizing power was over.
KornilovRevolt redeems Bolshevik reputation and at the same time weakens PG reputation.Their popularity increased as a direct result of their actions in defeatingKornilovand saving Petrograd from his troops.PG now seen to be weak and unable to defend against any armed revolution.