Lenin was able to consolidate his power because of the weakness of his opponents. Find evidence to support or refute this statement. Chloe Tomlinson
There were many different equally important reasons why Lenin and the Bolsheviks were able to hold on to their power. For Lenin, and the Bolsheviks, winning political power was relatively easy, compared with retaining it. They had many different objects to overcome, such as; Russia was in chaos, politically and economically, and normal government had broken down in large areas, yet despite all these problems Lenin was able to consolidate his power – and create the world’s first communist state. There are four main topics in which Lenin was able hold on to his power; Trotsky’s organisation of the Red Army, the disunity of white oppression, war communism and the leadership qualities of Lenin. The first topic to discuss is Trotsky’s organisation of the Red Army.
The “Red Army” refers to the traditional colour of the communist movement. The conception was that it should be “formed from the class-conscious and best elements of the working classes.” All citizens of the Russian republic over the age of 18 were eligible. It introduced new methods and orders, one of the foremost order he issued was, “I give warning…” Trotsky was a superb leader and built it for nothing. Trotsky also had previous experience in relation to armies, he was very courageous, exactly the type of leader that was needed. This formation of the Red Army was very supportive towards Lenin as they were a formidable fighting force, and by 1921 had seen of many threats. For example, the White army, Green armies and various interventionist armies. A second reason in support of this statement is the disunity of white oppression. In June 1918 the Russian civil war broke out. The supporters of the government were called the Reds and their opponents the Whites. Japan, Britain, France and the US intervened on the side of the Whites. However the aid was half-hearted and morale among many of the foreign troops were low.
The white oppression was seen as a weakness of Lenin’s opponents as the “whites”, as they were referred to, lacked good leaders, commanders were often cruel, an white generals did not trust each other. Bolshevik forces defeated the different White generals who never fought together and were separated from each other. The main White armies under the Generals Kolchak Denikin, Yudenich, and Wrangel were each in turn crushed. Some of the factors contributing to the Reds victory was due to; the Control of industry, Bolshevik unity, White disunity. Bolsheviks outnumbered the reds by about three to one and also the fact that most of the industry and railways remained under Bolshevik control A third reason why Lenin was able to consolidate his power was due to War communism. This topic of discussion falls into the category of one of the longer-term effects in Lenin’s chief policies enacted by his aims and ideology. War Communism was an emergency programme established by Lenin during the civil war. It was also a method he used to try and consolidate his power and maintain control of the country.
War Communism- helped Lenin achieve his aims of controlling Russia and move towards a more socialist state. The industry was nationalised, grain requisitioning from the peasants to be able to fight the civil war, banning of private trade, labour discipline and the Red Terror. All helped Lenin and the Bolsheviks win the Civil War and so securing their power as well as carry out Bolshevik ideology. As War Communism made Lenin able to win the civil war and secure his power, it was therefore very possible to argue that Lenin’s rise to power was not complete until after the civil war when he had full control over the country. War Communism was in favour of Lenin being able to consolidate power as the Bolsheviks used terror effectively. There was a six week period known as the Red Terror that saw any remaining aristocracy (most begun to flee the country after February revolution). Monarchists and riches middle class, were arrested, executed, exiled or stripped of their power, estates and privilege. Additionally, in March, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed with the Germans, was the Bolsheviks ending the war.
Russia lost the Ukraine, its Polish and Baltic territories, and Finland. The treaty was hugely unpopular in Russia but necessary if the Bolsheviks were to establish control of Russia. Lenin believed that the revolution would soon spread to Germany and this would reduce the effect of the Treaty. A final point that supports the statement of Lenin consolidating his power due to the weakness of his opponents was due to the fact that Lenin had good leadership qualities. An example of this would be that the Bolsheviks were highly disciplined party that was fiercely loyal to Lenin and was also a politically astute man. Lenin was able to adapt Marxism to fit the changing situation, keeping Bolshevik support and popularising the parties polices. Furthermore, another advantage was that radical parties were very popular in Russia before the October Revolution and Lenin was skilfully able to take some of the policies of his rivals and make them appear to both Marxism and distinctly Lennist. There is also a refute side to this statement as there is within every discussion.
There are two main topics that refute such as my first viewpoint is that the Bolshevik party had no experience of running a country before and they did also not have the support from most of the Russian population. Therefore they were in a weak position and need more support. Lenin could not afford the popular tide of aspirations that had led to the failure of the Tsar as well as the Provisional Government, so he gave the people what they wanted in order to secure support for his reign. For example Lenin gave the Russian people Land reform. This was an aim that gave that gave the peasants the right to take over the estates of the gentry, without compensation to the landlords, and for themselves decide the best way to divide it up.
This however, went against Bolshevik ideology and was the start of the “kulak problem” that Stalin was later to be faced with. Another point in refute to this statement is that Maxim Gorky, a leading Bolshevik party, intellectual, was particularly unhappy with Lenin’s actions. He revealed his despondency of the time, writing “the best Russians had lived for almost a 100 years with the idea of a Constituent Assembly as a political organ. Extra information on refute to this statement also comes from yet again, War Communism.
This included forced seizure of grain, nationalization of all trade and industry and strict control of labour. As a result of this program and of the ravages of the war, industrial and agricultural production declined sharply, and the population suffered severe hardship. It caused a famine that led to the death of an estimated 5 million people. This would have made Lenin and the Bolshevik party massively unpopular as an estimated of 5 million people were dead and holding Lenin responsible as he introduced this emergency programme which resulted severely for everyone.
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