An Analysis of the Bolsheviks’ Success by Mistakes of the Provisional Government

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Assess the claim that the most important reason for the success of the Bolsheviks in 1917 was the mistakes of the Provisional Government.

In some ways, the most important reason for the eventual Bolshevik takeover in 1917 was the mistakes of the Provisional Government. From the start it lacked both control and support. It had not been elected, thus it failed to command much authority or acquire a power base, as it had no definite programme for government, which undeniably lost it support.

The war was arguably the most pressing problem for the Provisional Government. Most people wanted to withdraw from it, especially following the major offensive that the Provisional Government launched against the Germans, which horribly backfired. Therefore, when the Provisional Government took the unpopular decision to continue the campaign against Germany, this further weakened its capacity to consolidate power as it showed just how out of touch the government was with the grievances of those suffering from the afflictions of war. The Bolsheviks were able to exploit this as they found common ground between the demands of the workers, soldiers, and peasants. The war also undermined the Provisional Government’s ability to deal with the other problems it faced.

The Provisional Government had to share power with the Petrograd Soviet. This was a council of representatives of the workers and soldiers, which therefore had a better claim to legitimacy. They had control over large sections of the army and navy in and around Petrograd. It gave orders to soldiers and other key people without the agreement of the Provisional Government, which was illustrated by the Petrograd Soviet’s Order No.1. Kerensky failed to gain any real level of trust from the Soviet and had little choice but to tolerate it.

This weakened him in the eyes of the public, and the system of ‘dual power’ that emerged only served to add to the chaos, which Lenin and the Bolshevik’s successfully harnessed. Kerensky also delayed the summoning of a Constituent Assembly, failing to take a lead on land reform for the peasants, which lost them their valuable support. The Government was clearly unable to control what was happening, which was emphasised by the mutinies that took place under Bolshevik slogans such as “All Power to the Soviets”, in what became to be known as the ‘July Days’.

The Kornilov Affair was another blow to the Provisional Government that increased support for the Bolsheviks. In August 1917, general Kornilov marched his army to Petrograd to overthrow the Provisional Government. Since Kerinsky was unable to put up an adequate defense using loyal forces, he armed the Bolsheviks so they could help him. However, Kornilov’s army never reached Petrograd. Kerensky’s ambiguous role in the affair shattered the reputation of the Provisional Government and led to an upsurge in support for the Bolsheviks, who had taken a lead in organizing the workers against Kornilov, whilst support for the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries, both associated with the Provisional Government, declined.

Kerensky and the Provisional Government were now dangerously isolated and drifting towards final collapse. However, other factors also contributed to the success of the Bolsheviks in 1917. One was the continued impact of World War One. Food, goods and raw materials were in short supply and hundreds of factories closed. The inflation and lack of fuel that followed encouraged vicious resentment towards the Provisional Government, who was apparently doing nothing to solve the problems as the cities starved. The Bolsheviks proved themselves to be skillful at reading the situation and understanding what was required in order to gain support using powerful slogans such as “Peace, bread, land” which appealed to all members of society.

This was mostly due to the efforts of Lenin, so his return was greatly influential in the Bolshevik’s seizing of power. Following the crisis of the war, people in Petrograd and Moscow were quickly becoming more radical and willing to listen to revisionist ideas. Lenin was a charismatic and dynamic leader, who succeeded in securing the Russian revolution as a people’s revolution as his political ideas attracted widespread support and were used for propaganda purposes in the Bolsheviks’ popular newspaper Pravda. The Communist Party’s view of the October Revolution was that it was a popular revolution, which was inspired and organised by Bolsheviks and in particular by Lenin.

His ideas in his speech, the April Theses, were made into simple but effective and radical slogans such as “all power to the soviets”, which appealed to the workers as they provided them with a radical solution to their hardships. Without Lenin and his speech, promising to bring an end to the war, give land to the peasants and give workers control of factories, the Bolshevik revolution would never have taken place as he called for people to join the party. In the end, the October Revolution proved to be a well-organised and masterly executed coup d’état by a party that had skillfully aligned itself with the demands of the workers and the peasants.

Overall, I believe that the failures of the Provisional Government led to the Bolshevik takeover of 1917, which Lenin and others such as Trotsky then successfully exploited. The Provisional Government had failed to end the war. It was blamed for food shortages and rising prices. It had failed to give land to peasants, and- just like the Tsar- lacked awareness of the concerns of its people. It had not held elections to allow the Russian people to choose their own government. Liberal historians such as Robert Conquest believe that the Bolsheviks had only limited popular support, and rather harnessed the weaknesses of the Provisional Government to seize power as groups in society became fed up with empty promises, and became willing to lend an ear to revolutionary groups-as they themselves became more radical-such as the Bolsheviks.

Cite this paper

An Analysis of the Bolsheviks’ Success by Mistakes of the Provisional Government. (2023, Apr 26). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/an-analysis-of-the-bolsheviks-success-by-mistakes-of-the-provisional-government/

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