The provisional government was deposed in early October by the Bolsheviks as a result of the October Revolution. The storming and capitulation of the Winter Palace on the night of the 7th to 8th of November marked the beginning of Soviet rule. Lenin was elected as the Chair of the Council of People’s Commissars by the Russian Congress of Soviets. In April 1917 Lenin published his April Thesis. This document outlined Lenin’s aims for the future: to end the war; to give all power to the Soviet; to give all property and land to the people and worldwide revolution.
After the Bolsheviks seizure of power, they soon faced many social and economic problems. Numerous observers during the revolution, had thought that the new government would only survive for a months because of the growing disorder and civil war. With Lenin as leader, the Bolshevik party had to combat growing inflation, the war with Germany, civil strikes, poor working conditions and food shortages. The shortages were on essential supplies including food, clothing, and fuel. Levels of agricultural and industrial production were down compared to levels in 1913.
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Various historians debate that without the leadership and organizational skills of Lenin during the months of turmoil the Bolshevik party would not have succeeded and would not have been able to consolidate power. The promise that had brought so much support to the Bolsheviks party was that the war with Germany was going to end. Lenin knew that opposition to the war had been a key factor in the Bolsheviks success in October, and he knew that he would have to honor the promise he made to end the war. The Russian army was badly beaten and had taken heavy casualties.
Most of the soldiers left were highly untrained and most did not have adequate weapons and ammunition. Casualties totaled an estimated 1. 8 million killed, another 2. 8 million wounded and 2. 4 million taken prisoner. Lenin knew that without peace with Germany and Austria-Hungary his party’s power and regime would be easily challenged. Therefore an armistice was signed with the Germans and peace negotiations began. Lenin ordered that any German conditions should be accepted but he had great difficulty in convincing his colleagues such as Trotsky that this was the way forward.
He realized that the Bolsheviks needed to get a quick treaty from the Germans to bring about the end of the war so that the Bolsheviks could concentrate on the work they needed to do in Russia. Eventually peace was signed in March 1918 in the form of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Under the treaty, Russia lost Riga, Lithuania, Livonia, Estonia and some of White Russia. Russia ended up losing 62 million people, 27% of farm land, 26% of railway lines and 74% of iron and coal reserves. Some historians argue that the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was one of Lenin’s major failures in his policies.
Lenin’s practical and realistic approach enabled him to strengthen the Bolshevik party even more. After the winning the Civil War against the Whites, the Russia economy was left in ruins. The Bolshevik Party faced many problems; the Kronstadt rising, political opposition and economic crisis this meant that Lenin had to remove ‘War Communism’ to avoid disaster. Lenin thought that the collapse of Russian economy was mainly due to the introduction of ‘War Communism’ during the Civil War. The majority of resources were allocated to the civil war fronts.
In Russia, land was seized and redistributed to be worked using limited resources and equipment. Any surplus in production was seized by the state, completely eliminating incentive to produce any surplus at all. Successive rationing resulted in famine and despair. As nationalization of both agriculture and industry had gone too far, individuals soon lost their initiative to work because they could not make private profits. To counter the food shortages and the forced seizures of grain that had in part caused the March 1921 naval mutiny Lenin had to create a new policy.
In 1921, Lenin introduced the New Economic Policy. In the early stages, the focus of the policy was to create an incentive for peasant population to produce more food for the towns. The NEP gave the peasants more rights in land ownership and more freedom to sell or lease their land. A new class of profiteers emerged who did very well out the new freedom to trade. They became known as the NEP men. Capitalism had started to make a comeback then, but although the profiteers, peasants and shopkeepers were happy, many workers who had supported the revolution thought that the NEP was a betrayal of their values.
Lenin. Although suffering bitter opposition, Lenin saw it as the only way to get Russia back on track economically. Even though the economy was now striving in a capitalistic environment, the Bolsheviks retained control of large industrial plants, banking and foreign trade – reassuring communism supporters. Although is some ways the NEP was highly successful the Peasants and workers were happier and produced more food and goods, but their farms were small and quite inefficient. Without the Lenin creating the
NEP, the Russia economy would have been left in disorder and strikes and riots would have rippled through the cities. Another way Lenin maintained his position as leader of the USSR was by attacking and using terror to wipe out opposition. Lenin soon closed down opposition newspapers, and all were banned. After the Bolsheviks took power the constituent assembly was dissolved and all power was given to Lenin. Lenin created a secret police called the Cheka whom would silence anyone who opposed him.
The Cheka used terror and killing to solidify the Bolshevik power. This eventually led to the outlawing of rival political parties. Lenin used his secret police in his plans to use terror to achieve his goals and as a political weapon against his enemies. Anyone opposed to the communist state was arrested. By 1921 Lenin had strengthened his control and the White armies and their allies had been defeated. In conclusion, despite starting off in a vulnerable position, Lenin and the Bolshevik government were able to build up their power and stability.
With the completing promises, using propaganda and having the support of the peasants’ and workers helped Lenin consolidate power. With the Cheka, the Bolsheviks were able to weaken its enemies and build up its support. Certain changes to the system, such as the NEP, were also vital in maintaining their influence and power. All these factors and events worked together steadily to provide support for Lenin and helped him to maintain his power throughout his rule. Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted. -Lenin