The Russian Revolution October 1917 HEN12037414
The aim of this essay is to point out how the Bolsheviks under the leadership of Lenin took power not only due to the failure of the Provisional Government but, also due to the strong support obtained by the Bolsheviks under Lenin?s leadership.
The events that occurred during the reign of Tsar Nicholas II as Emperor of Russia would change the future of Russia, the people and their long running monarchy. Under his ruling there would be a series of unplanned and horrific events that would leave millions dead, living in poverty, with disease and starvation plaguing the people of Russia. The Russian Empire was crumbling, the people would turn against their leader, yet the Tsarist Government refused to change their approach, which would result in Tsar Nicholas II being forced to give up the throne.
After the war with Japan and the economic drop, Russia was in crisis, although the people were not heavy drinkers Nicholas decided to ban alcohol, most of which consisted of vodka. The drink brought in around one-third of the country?s revenue and could have massively benefited the economy through having the means to to transport food and produce weapons for the front line to aide the soldiers. This decision was one that would last over a decade affecting not only the Tsarist Government but the Bolshevik party (this party will be discussed more throughout this paper), who kept the ban up after the revolution in October 1917. No matter how badly this impacted the economy, it was a tactical one made by Tsar Nicholas II to benefit the troops of the forthcoming war (World War One).
During the war, with millions dead, injured or captured, Tsar Nicholas II was losing not only soldiers but political and public following, and the people were calling for the abdication of the tsar.
On March 8th 1917 between 20,000 and 30,000 workers were locked out of several factories throughout the Petrograd, after demanding wage increases yet they were not paid leaving them unable to provide for nor feed their families. Due to the final insult the workers were no longer willing to tolerate living under such poverty stricken conditions, leading them to encourage more workers to join them for a protest.
With ever growing numbers joining, the demonstration soon turned to riots, in which the police were unable to control after opening fire under the instruction of the tsar to end it, unfortunately also resulting in over 1200 deaths and members of political parties joining the riots. The tsar then banned the Russian Government from meeting, taking personal control over all matters.
Although no revolution was actually planned, the impotency to run his country Nicholas II had shown, The Duma (the Russian Government), who had one key member was Alexander Kerensky, met anyway deciding they wanted a revolution and to take control of Russia, therefore with the support of around 25,000 people they formed, ‘The Provisional Government?, a group created to temporarily replace the tsar until a ‘Constituent Assembly? (permanent government) was formed.
The Provisional Government was made up of leader Kerensky, other political members, and Prince Georg Lvov was appointed Prime minister, their role to temporarily rule Russia, and the ‘Petrograd Soviet of Workers and Soldiers Duties? too, who were there to keep an eye on matters, along with approving or disapproving the laws and legislations brought by the Provisional Government. Finally, on March 15th 1917, Tsar Nicholas II gave up the throne, becoming the last Russian Emperor, ending the 300-year old Romanov Dynasty.
With the Provisional Government now set to rule Russia they devised a plan, along with the Petrograd Soviet, known as ‘The Eight Point Programme?, which promised, freedom of views and opinions on religion and politics, full amnesty for political prisoners, voting and equality rights, and a public election for the Constituent Assembly.
The people of Russia welcomed the government and the promises of positive change they offered, a brief period of calm settled the people. Although they did not exactly see eye to eye, the Provisional Government and Petrograd Soviet mutually tolerated one another. Poland?s independence also came into affect on the 30th of the same month.
‘At a stroke, Russia became in Lenin?s words, “the freest of the belligerent countries.”? (Culpin and Henig, pg. 187).
On March 14th 1917, the Soviet introduced Order No.1, an order that was created to protect the soldiers and only answering to them, and the Provisional Government only under the agreement of the Soviet.
The provisional Government despite their promises of fixing the economy however, put the military their main focus in the hope to obtain more land. Those most affected by the war were the the military, majority being made up of peasants and workers. They were tired of the conditions they were forced to endure, for example, they had no protective clothing, were without food, and without arms meaning soldiers were forced to share weapons and even limit their daily ammunition usage, putting them at higher risk. The Soviet, made up of workers, and who were there to represent the poor and other working class people, provide food and stability, agreed with the people in their longing for peace.
However, the Provisional Government refused to agree to peace with Germany and this became extremely unpopular with the people and the soldiers, with two million returning home from the war. In the view of Phillip, “This decision to continue the war with Germany was severely weakened at the capacity of the Provisional Government to consolidate its position and deal with the other problems it faced. It showed just how out of touch it was with the concerns of those suffering hardships of war: rank and file soldiers, the industrial workers, and the peasantry.? (Phillip, The problems of the Provisional Government, pg. 25).
Along with issues of the war, there were material shortages, short supply of coal, there were factories closing, and angry workers and peasants demanding reparations, as well as land they were promised through the ‘Land reform plan?.
After returning from war, the workers and poor decided they wanted the land they were promised, so spread throughout the countryside cutting down trees on private properties in hope to obtain the land. The Provisional Government did attempt to solve the land issue through creating the “Land Committees”, to prepare information on land ownership should it be needed for when the Constituent Assembly was assembled and wished to make any reforms.
Months went by without showing signs of improvement or change therefore, the peasants, fed up of living in poverty, decided to take land, livestock and machinery in increasing numbers.
Although the Provisional Government and Soviet were in ?dual power?, they were not exactly on good terms especially as the Provisional Government, were mainly Bourgeoisie (elitists and ruling classes), plus they kept their distance from the working class. The Provisional?s reaction to the war did not go down well with the Russian people nor politicians which gave benefit to the Petrograd Soviet, who had control of the railways and postal services throughout Petrograd. The Provisional Government could not meet the rapidly increasing demands of the workers and peasants, the chaos got too much, still those in charge were no longer capable of controlling the people.
In April 1917, with amnesty for all political prisoners being implemented and political members making their return from exile, including Russian politician, communist revolutionary and founder of the Bolshevik Party, Vladimir Lenin. Before Lenin?s return, the Bolsheviks did not have much backing with a minuscule 20,000 following having no political effect nor did they play a role in the revolution of March 1917.
However, with Lenin?s return, and that of various other leaders joining him and his party provided extra support. The party grew strength with the return of Lenin who was structured, well educated, had confidence and determination in what he wanted to achieve and his plans to get them. In his ‘April Thesis?, Lenin wrote, “The country is passing from the first stage of revolution-which, owing to the insufficient class-consciousness and organisation of the proletariat, placed power in the hands of the bourgeoisie- to its second stage, which must place power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest sections to the
peasants.” (Duiker.W.J. 2015, pg.82).
Alongside his energetic attitude, it was these qualities that encouraged the Bolsheviks to continue following him, whereas the Provisional Government was suffering a huge loss from every angle. Lenin?s party believing and implementing the ‘Marxist Theory?, they catered toward the proletariat (the peasants and working class), they understood that it was only the elitist who were able to read and write, campaigning for support from the masses through images, slogans on posters and pamphlets, a way which the illiterate could relate and understand the message the party was putting out. They showed understanding of the social inequality, but Lenin did believe the people would be free from the terrible conditions soldiers and civilians were suffering, and take control from the ruling classes who had final say on all economic and political matters. Although to start off they were a small and not exactly popular group, they managed to gain support through their campaign for a system based on equality and when the Provisional Government refused to end the war with Germany. Unfortunately though, they were failing to win over the peasants who tried to obtain land, until with the backing of Leon Trotsky, who while working for the government organised a Bolshevik militia group known as the ‘Red Coats? to help the group when taking over government to bring on a revolution, they offered the peasants land and their promise not to bother them when making their bid to power. The group was made up of soldiers and workers who would attack the government when the provisional were at their weakest. Lenin was arrested and accused of being a German spy but was later released as there was zero evidence to support the claims.
Meanwhile Lenin went to Finland, the Bolsheviks helped entice the progression of what would be the last Russian Revolution of WWI and known as the ‘Summer Offensive?, a war planned by Kerensky. He worked with Kornilov, who he had made Supreme Commander of the Russian armies. However, Kornilov later started making outrageous suggestions, such as, demanding the return of the death penalty which would destroy everything the people wished for. When Kerensky was made aware of the issue he, ‘denounced Kornilov and called on the Soviet to help defend the Petrograd, from counter-revolution?, (Corin, C+F, pg.55. 2002).
The Minister of War initiated the war, which lasted only days, by attacking Astro-Hungarian and German forces. Kerensky followed the plan in the hope that, by winning the war the Provisional Government would strengthen and support from the people would be restored, however it turned out to be a last ditch attempt to regain following but failed awfully, ending with approximately 1,500 troops dead, with more retreating from the front line. This opened the door for the Bolsheviks to get their infiltration plan together to overthrow the government.
In the mass discontent following the ‘July Days?, the Russian population grew highly sceptical of the Provisional Government?s abilities to alleviate the economic distress and social resentment among the lower classes. Pavel Miluikov describes the situation in Russia, late July 1917 as, ‘chaos in the army, chaos in foreign policy, chaos in the industry and chaos in the nationalist questions?. (history website, 22.10.18).
The Bolsheviks were gaining power and offering the people ‘Land, Peace, and Bread?. Land being, the ban of private ownership of land by the wealthy, instead to be shared among the peasants and poorest sections of society, peace meaning the end of the war, and bread, representing the end of food and supply shortages. This was what the people and the Petrograd wanted.
The support for the Bolsheviks was growing massively, starting with a mere 20,000 following in February 1917 to having gained 200,000 by August 1917. Lenin also returned from Finland in August 1917 and was urgently encouraging the takedown, whereas Zinoviev and Kamenev, two other leaders and members of the Bolsheviks wanted to wait for the elections. Trotsky brought his own methods, to which could be a helpful one. During a meeting on October 10th 1917, the Bolshevik Central Committee voted all in except, Kamenev and Zinoviev, that ‘an armed uprising is inevitable and the time has come.? (Russia, 1917-24: why did the Bolsheviks succeed?).
Lenin felt that now was the time to make their bid for power, promising the people there would be no more involvement from the Provisional Government, and for the Soviet to take power instead. Lenin understood the peoples needs and catered toward them, along with highlighting the failings of the provisional to sway the people toward them in aide to push the revolution.
Trotsky used Lenin?s ideas to achieve a Marxist Revolution, which were published in Lenin?s 1902 publication, ‘What has to be done?? although it took some convincing, Lenin was able to win over his party, and with Kerensky fleeing the Petrograd, now was the right time to step in as the people were now desperate for change and the Provisional Government was breaking down.
The Bolsheviks along with the Red Coats took over many government buildings and finally removed the Provisional Government from Winter Palace, the governments main quarters and they were arrested. ‘The palace was not stormed, in fact the gates were opened and very few casualties resulted.? (Phillip, S, pg.33, 2000).
The Bolsheviks had acted on this coup they had been planning for only six months before hand, yet managed to remove the provisional government and take power for themselves.
Lenin started to announce reforms such as, private land gone, wages were increased and an eight-hour work day put in place to shorten the daily work expectancy. Now a new Bolshevik government was in play, change was being made and the people were looking to a brighter future due to the war ending after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, a peace treaty signed later between Germany and Russia.
Throughout this paper I have aimed to point out how equal measures of failures from the government and Lenin?s impact on the Bolsheviks enabled them to take power from the Provisional Government.
I conclude that, from the Provisional Government took power they demonstrated repeatedly their only concern was continuing the war, despite the wishes and concerns of their people who only wanted peace, liveable conditions and stability but their pleas were still consistently ignored. They proved that although they were educated folk, they could not relate to nor control the peasants and working class people. The constant neglect of all matters non-related to military and the collapsing of the economy provided for Lenin and the Bolsheviks to use what they knew the people of Russia needed but were denied of to benefit their campaign, finessing the public to support the Bolshevik party to victory. In conclusion with all other factors, with the support of figures such as Trotsky, and the errors of leaders such as Kerensky all aided in the new communist era in Russia and of course, the Russian Revolution of October 1917.