October 1917

Was the Bolshevik seizure of power in October 1917

The Bolshevik Party and its programme became the focus for all opposition to the Provisional Government and support for them grew rapidly during the summer. The frustration of soldiers and workers exploded in the July Days, partly engineered by middle-ranking Bolsheviks. But the Bolshevik leadership was not ready to take power and the uprising fizzled out. The Bolsheviks were not the tightly disciplined, unified body that some have supposed, although its organisation was better than that of other parties. Kerensky tried to use Kornilov to gain control of Petrograd but Kornilov had his own agenda.

 5     The Kornilov affair was disastrous for right-wing forces and the Provisional Government but gave the Bolsheviks a boost.

 6     Lenin urged his party leadership to stage an immediate uprising but, initially, they were reluctant.

 7     Trotsky persuaded Lenin to put off the uprising until the All-Russian Congress of Soviets so that the Bolsheviks could claim to have taken power in the name of the soviets.

 8     Kerensky’s inept attempts to ward off the Bolshevik coup played into their hands.

 9     During 24–26 October, the Bolshevik take-over was carried out successfully

10     Large numbers of ordinary people supported the idea of the soviets taking power, but not the idea of the Bolsheviks taking power in a one-party state.

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Key Dates and Events in 1917

2 Provisional government formed (Tsar abdicates)

16 June offensive

3-4 July days

26-30 Kornilov affair

25-26 Bolshevik seizure of power

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Social and political problems

  • Middle classes: Small number but growing number of merchants, bankers and industrialists as the industry developed. The intelligentsia sought more participation in politics!
  • Land and agriculture: Methods were inefficient and backwards- still used wooden ploughs and very few animals and tools. Not enough land to go around, vast expansion of peasant population in the later half of the 19th century led to overcrowding and competition for land. Peasants wanted social change!
  • Urban workers and industry: Around 58% were literate, twice the national average which meant that they could articulate their grievances and were receptive to revolutionary ideas. Wages were generally low and high number of deaths from accidents and work related health issues. The industry production was very low in the start of the 19th century but increased fast and by 1914, Russia was the fourth largest producer of iron, steel and coal. Instability in cities and the misery of the workers led to social + political instability in the towns.
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Economic Problems

Inflation: From 1914-1917 inflation increased by 400 percent

Crisis in cities : Overcrowded + poor housing + poor living and working conditions (created by economic problems in Russia) led to social tension in Cities

2) Continued impact of WW1 (social and economic problems):

The war caused acute distress in the cities, especially Petrograd and Moscow. The war meant that food, goods and raw materials were in short supply and hundreds of factories closed and thousands of workers put out of work. Led to inflation and lack of fuel meant that most were cold as well as hungry- urban workers became were hostile towards the PG. In the countryside, peasants became increasingly angry about the conscription of all young men who seldom returned from the Front.

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Political problems, interrelated with social and e

The political failures of the government undermined their power and authority, which created the circumstances for Lenin's RTP:

1) Nature of PG helped Lenin to power. PG was not elected by the people, it saw itself as a temporary body, which could not make any binding long-term decisions for Russia.

2) Divisions in PG helped Lenin to power. In PG there were divisions between socialists + liberals who often blocked each others decisions. This internal weakness of the PG crippled their ability to enforce control over the country.

3) Nature of PG helped Lenin to power. The PG had only power over government affairs, real power lay in the hands of the soviets (worker's unions). Soviets had all the practical power in petrograd such as the control over factories and railways.

4) Government passes legislation that allowed freedom of speech, press as well as the dismantling of the secret police. Now political parties could mobilize publically and attract members more easily. The opposition to the PG got it a lot easier to rebel, and the PG had dismantled the secret police, so they couldnt stop the uprisings.

The four above factors made Lenin's RTP possible, as they made the PG a weak political body, which could not resist any oppostion. 

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Political problems, interrelated with social and e

The PG also committed several blunders during the months leading up to the october revolution, which benefitted the Bolsheviks directly.
June offensive:
In June PG launched an all out offensive on Germany to put the country in a better position in the war (WW1). The offensive (called June offensive) ended in disaster and PG was deeply discredited. As a result, the Bolsheviks and other political parties got increased support.
July days:
In July a spontaneous uprising occured, which consisted of 500 000 soldiers, workers and sailors rebelled in Kronstadt. They later marched to petrograd to demand overthrow of PG. However, the rebellion was dismantled as PG still retained control of some loyal Russian troops. Even though this affair hurt the reputation of the PG, it also damaged the Bolshevik reputation as the PG blamed them for the whole incident.
Fitzpatrick argues that "the whole affair damged Bolshevik morale and Lenin's credibility as a revolutionary leader"

Kornilov affair:
In August 1917, general Kornilov took his army and marched to Petrograd to overthrow PG. He was discontent with the way PG handled politics and WW1. Alexander Kerensky, leader of PG, panicked and since he was unable to put up an adequate defence by using loyal forces, he armed the Bolsheviks so they could help him. However, Kornilov's army did not reach Petrograd as some of his soldiers mutinied and railway workers sabotaged the railways. Now the PG reputation was shattered and the government started to disintergrate. Meanwhile, the Bolsheviks got more support because they were percieved as the defenders of Petrograd, and they were also armed now compared to other political parties.

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