How did the Bolsheviks establish a one-party state between 1917 & 1924?



  • Bolsheviks claimed to initiate a democratic system that represented interests of peasants and proletariat— by 1921 a one-party state was established.
  • Communist rule under Bolsheviks was to be authoritarian, highly centralised & supplemented by heavy use of terror.

Creation of a One-party state & Party Congress 1921:

  • Bolsheviks faced difficulties in securing their hold on power.
  • Despite growing support Bolsheviks remained a relatively small group.
  • Did not have enough support to lead by popular revolution so had to seize power by force.
  • Opposition included:
  • Other left-wing groups who shared socialist aims but were denied a share in power e.g. Mensheviks, Revolutionaries (SR’s).
  • Right-wing groups e.g. Tsarist supporters & liberal groups, represented middle class & now feared Bolsheviks would take away their business & deny them political freedoms.
  • Nationalist groups e.g. Ukrainians, Poles & Finns, saw collapse of Tsarist regime as a chance to assert their independence.

How did the Bolsheviks deal with other left-wing groups:

  • Left-wing groups who shared socialist aims expected a share in the new government— Lenin made clear there was to be no sharing of power— calls for a socialist coalition from the SR’s, Mensheviks & even some leading Bolsheviks e.g. Lev Kamenev, were firmly rejected by Lenin.
  • SR’s & Mensheviks hoped the calling of a parliament the Constituent Assembly in Jan 1918 would be a chance to regain initiative— assembly to be democratically elected (played to strengths of SR’s who were able to mobilise support among peasantry.
  • Bolsheviks gained 175 seats but SR’s gained 410.
  • To use the Assembly as a national parliament would pose threat to continued Bolshevik rule— Lenin dissolved the Assembly after only one meeting & condemned it as an instrument of the bourgeoisie.
  • Replaced with All-Russian Congress of Soviets as an instrument of popular support.
  • In this way Lenin ignored calls for socialist coalition & ensured there was no real forum for opposition.

Destruction of other political parties:

  • Removal of the vote from ‘bourgeois classes’ e.g. employers & priests, stripped opposition parties of a possible reservoir of support.
  • Mensheviks & SR’s struggled to publish their newspapers due to restrictions imposed by Bolsheviks.
  • March 1918, Bolshevik party renamed the Communist Party & all other parties effectively banned by 1921
  • April 1921 Lenin declared ‘The place for Mensheviks and the SR’s is in prison’— first 3 months of 1921, 5000 Mensheviks arrested.

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk 1918:

  • Initial Bolshevik opposition came from other Socialist groups because the conservatives had been shocked by events of October 1917 that the implications of the revolution took time to sink in—demoralised conservatives re-angered when Lenin put a quick end to Russian involvement in WWI.
  • Peace concluded in Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (1918)— took Russia out of war at great cost— Russia lost control over the Baltic States of Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Ukraine, Latvia.
  • It was national humiliation for conservatives (especially military officers who had served in the Tsar’s army) that could not be tolerated so they rejected the treaty and aimed to overthrow the Bolshevik regime.
  • Treaty provided


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