Theme 1- Communist government in the USSR, 1917-85


How did the Bolsheviks establish a one-party state between 1917-24?

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

  • The Bolsheviks were a very small party and didn't have enough support to lead a popular revolution. They faced opposition from many groups, who they needed to overcome
  • Left-wing groups - Socialist revolutionaries and Mensheviks
  • Right-wing groups - Tsarists and the middle class
  • Nationalist groups - Ukranians, Poles, FIns etc.

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

  • Lenin had no desire to share power, and calls for a socialist coalition were rejected
  • Constituent assembly - democratically elected; SRs emerged as single largest party. This posed a threat to Bolshevik rule
  • Lenin quickly dissolved the assembly so there was no real forum for opposition

The destruction of other political parties

  • Removal of the vote from bourgeoisie (priests, business owners), stopped them voting for right-wing parties
  • Placed restrictions on Menshevik and SR newspapers
  • March 1918 - Bolsheviks renamed themselves the communist party. 1921 - all other parties effectively banned
  • Mensheviks and SRs arrested

The treaty of Brest-Litovsk, 1918

  • A treaty that took Russia out of 1st world war at great cost. They lost the Baltic states, and was seen as a national humiliation for conservatives.
  • Conservatives needed to overthrow Bolsheviks to reject the treaty
  • Allies wanted Russia in war - were willing to supply arms, money, troops to the Whites, who wanted Russia in the war. 
  • Lenin pulled out because on the strain on resources, and the need to resolve internal conflicts first

The Russian civil war, 1918-21

  • Fought between the Reds (Bolsheviks) and the Whites (opposition)
  • The Whites included: Tsarists, liberals, military leaders, Mensheviks and SRs. They recieved aid from the allies
  • Bolsheviks attacked at Pulkovo heights near Petrograd - the Reds won, but was just the start of the war. Bolsheviks only defeated the Whites in 1920

How did the Bolsheviks win the civil war?

  • The Reds were surrounded by the Whites from their core in Moscow
  • The Reds were well organised, but Whites weren't as they were made up of different groups
  • Bolsheviks held major cities, industry hubs and transport links
  • Leon Trotsky was an incredible military leader- organised Red Army very well
  • Bolsheviks controlled the economy - could distribute resources to the Red Army from peasants through war communism.
  • Large-scale nationalism of industry gave adequate supplies for the Red Army
  • Active support from the workers

The key results of the civil war

  • Bolshevik state became highly centralised
  • Extensive use of terror against political opponents - set tone of party
  • Reinforced military values

The 10th party congress, 1921

  • The party had grown hugely - posed a threat to party stability
  • Lenin banned factions within the party
  • This came at a time of political uncertainty - Kronstadt mutiny (revolt by sailors) and Tombov uprising (major peasant uprising)

The nature of Government under Lenin

The apparatus of government

  • Governing Russia demanded a clear line of authority with efficient decision making
  • Trade unions and factory commitees brought


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