The creation of a one-party state and the party congress of 1921

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  • Created on: 12-12-16 17:19

Bolshevik opposition

The Bolsheviks faced opposition from a range of groups:

  • Other left-wing groups who were denied a share of power by the Bolsheviks (e.g. Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs)).
  • Groups on the right (e.g. Tsarist supporters) and liberal groups who often represented the interests of the middle class and who now feared the Bolsheviks would take away their businesses and deny them political freedoms.
  • Nationalist groups (e.g. Ukranians, Poles and Finns) who saw the collapse of the Tsarist regime as a chance to assert independence. 
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How did the Bolsheviks deal with the other left-wi

  • SRs and Mensheviks hoped that they would be given a share in the new government. Calls for a socialist coalition, even from some leading Bolsheviks (Kamenev), were firmly rejected by Lenin. 
  • SRs and Mensheviks hoped that calling for a Consituent Assembly in Jan 1918 would be a chance to regain initiative. The Assembly was to be democratically elected and it favoured the SRs, who were able to mobilise their support among the peasantry. The SRs emerged the largest single party with 410 seats and 21 million votes; the Bolsheviks won only 175 seats with over 9 million votes. 
  • The Assembly would therefore pose a threat to continued Bolshevik rule, so after only one meeting it was condemned as an instrument of the bourgeoisie. 
  • In place of the Assembly, Lenin used the All-Russian Congress of Soviets as an instrument for popular support. Here the Bolsheviks had more influence.
  • Not only had Lenin ignored calls for a socialist coalition, but he alse ensured that there was no real forum for opposition. 
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The destruction of other political parties.

  • Removal of the vote from 'bourgeoisie classes' (e.g. employers and priests), stripped the opposition parties of possible support. 
  • Mensheviks and SRs found it difficult to publish their newspapers due to restrictions imposed by the Bolsheviks. 
  • Left-wing SRs who had been given a role in the Bolshevik government in 1917 and 1918 lost all influence when they walked out of government in March 1918 in protest of the Bolshevik decision to pull out of WW1.
  • March 1918 - Bolshevik Party renamed itself the Communist Party, and by 1921 all other parties were effectively banned. 
  • April 1921 - Lenin declared: 'The place for Mensheviks and the SRs is in prison'. During the first 3 months of 1921, 5,000 Mensheviks were arrested. There were further waves of arrests of SR and Menshevik supporters later in 1921 and 1922, but by this stage they had ceased to exist as organised parties. 
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The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk 1918

  • Initial opposition came largely from other socialist groups because the conservatives had been so shocked by the events of October 1917 that the implications of the Revolution took some time to sink in. 
  • The demoralised conservatives found a cause of renewed outrage when Lenin put a quick end to Russian involvement in WW1. 
  • The Treaty took Russia out of the war at great cost. Russia lost control over the Baltic States (Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia), Finland, Ukraine and parts of the Caucasus region. 
  • This was a national humiliation for the conservatives, espicially for military officers who had served in the Tsar's army. The only way to restore Russia's pride, and with it the reputation of the armed forces, was to overthrow the Bolshevik regime and reject the Treaty. 
  • The Treaty also spurred on the Whites because it offered the promise of foreign help. The Allied powers (Britain, France, USA and Japan) wanted to keep Russia in WW1, and were willing to provide arms, money and troops to those who would ensure Russia remained in the fight. 
  • Lenin signed the Treaty because he realised that a key factor in the collapse of the Tsarist regime and Provinsial Government was the pressure of fighting WW1. If the new government was going to consolidate it's hold over Russia and deal with internal enemies, it needed to pull out of the war and concentrate on the job at hand. 
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The Russian civil war, 1918-21.

  • Reds - Bolsheviks and their supporters. Bolshevik support was made up of the industrial workers and many peasants who saw the Bolsheviks as the best guarantors of their gains from the Revolution. 
  • Whites - included a range of political groups. Those who wished to see the return of the Tsar, liberals, supporters of the Provinsial Government, military leaders, national minorities seeking independence from Russia, members of the Mensheviks and SRs, the Czech Legion (part of the Austro-Hungarian Army stranded in Russia as prisoners of war) rebelled against the Reds. They also recieved aid from Allies in WW1.
  • After signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, opposition to the Bolsheviks mounted, resulting in a series of military campaigns. It was not until the end of 1920 that the Bolsheviks had defeated the Whites and secured communist rule over the country. 
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How did the Bolsheviks win the civil war?

  • At the beginning of the civil war it looked bleak for the Bolsheviks. The area directly under Bolshevik control was limited to a central core based in Moscow, stretching to Petrograd in the north-west. They were surrounded on all sides by White forces.
  • However, the Whites were a combination of different groups, united only by their desire to get rid of the Bolsheviks. These divisions were reflected in their military strategy. Co-operation was limited and it was not helped by the long front on which they fought. The Whites did recieve aid from the Allies in WW1, but, through corruption and inefficiency, they failed to put it to good use. 
  • By the end of 1920, all of the White strongholds had been defeated abd Bolshevik rule had extended across the country. 
  • The Bolshevik's military strategy was more coherent than the Whites' thanks to Leon Trotsky. Trotsky turned the Red Army into and effective fighting machine and conscription was introduced to increase the number of soldiers to over 5 million by the end of the war. 
  • The Bolsheviks had also been able to extend government direction over the economy and emplyed War Communism. 
  • There was also a degree of active support for what the Bolshevik's stood for, especially from workers. The peasants didn't like all aspects of the Bolshevik rule, but the Land Decree 1917 had guaranteed a distribution of land in their favour. Thus the Bolsheviks didn't neglect the political dimension of the war.
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Key results of the civil war

  • Bolshevik state had become highly centralised due to the demands of the civil war. Power was now firmly in the hands of the government (Sovnarkom) and party leadership (politburo) based in Moscow. 
  • The civil war resulted in the Bolsheviks making extensive use of terror against their political opponents. This set the tone for the development of the Party after the civil war. 
  • The supporters of the Bolsheviks had been through a formative experience that must have affected them deeply. This experienced seemed to reinforce militaristic values on the population.
  • These results were to be highly influential in moulding the system of government established by the Bolsheviks. 
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The Tenth Party Congress, 1921

  • By the Tenth Party Congress in March 1921, the civil war was all but won and attention could now be focused on dealing with divisions within the Bolshevik Party.
  • Party stability was being threatened by a huge growth in Party membership during the civil war; from 300,000 at the end of 1917, to over 730,000 by 1921. To ensure conformity within the Party, a firm line was taken against dissent. 
  • The ban on the formation of factions within the Party was put forward by Lenin. Known as 'On Party Unity', it was an attempt to impose the view of the leadership on the Party. The penalty for breaking this rule was expulsion from the Party. 
  • Despite winning the civil war, this political tightening of power o the Party leadership came at a time of continuing Bolshevik anxiety over their hold over Russia. 
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