“Revolutionary Government Resorted To Extreme Measures To Consolidate Power.” How Valid Is This Statement?

1569 words - 6 pages

"Revolutionary Government resorted to extreme measures to consolidate power." How valid is this statement?The Bolshevik take over of October 1917 was achieved with speed and little bloodshed; however, the new government was far from secure. The Bolsheviks controlled little except Petrograd and many thought that they would struggle to hang on to power. Many people were against the Bolsheviks "The insane attempt of the Bolsheviks is on the eve of collapse…the Bolsheviks are alone" (soldier section of SR party, October 1917)1 . One Socialist Revolutionary leader gave it 'no more than a few days', while the Menshevik leader, Tsereteli, gave it three weeks2. This dire situation forced the Bolsheviks to resort to extreme measures like shut down the Constituent Assembly, signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the use of terror and then 1917 land decree.Lenin had promised to the people that a new parliament, the Constituent Assembly, was to be elected. One of the dearest dreams of the Russian people was to have a government in which they would elect and would represent their interests. This was not one of Lenin's dreams. In Lenin's eyes, the Constituent Assembly posed a real threat to his socialist vision. He believed it to be a real threat because what if the elections were held and the Bolsheviks did not receive the majority of votes? On the other hand, if he didn't let the elections take place, how could he claim he represented the interests of the people of Russia like they always wanted? The results of the elections are below,% of the votesSocialist Revolutionaries 40.4Bolsheviks 23.2Other Socialists 15.0National Parties 7.7Kadets 4.6Mensheviks 2.9Cossacks 2.2Figure 1: Election results for the Constituent Assembly3, taken from Oxley, Russia: From Tsars to Commissars, page 115Lenin did his best to make sure that the Bolsheviks won the elections. His efforts did not succeed as the Bolsheviks only received around a quarter of the votes (refer to Figure 1), with the Socialist Revolutionaries (SR's) receiving a majority of the votes. Lenin was furious and dealt with the matter forcibly. When the Assembly met on the 5th January 1918, he ordered the Red Guards to close down the Assembly. Lenin declared that his form of government represented a higher stage of democracy than the elected assembly. The Bolsheviks and Left SR's met and declared themselves the Government. Lenin, however, only brought the Left SR's in as junior partners in the SOVNARKOM (the new government party, exclusively made up of Bolsheviks). He believed this was useful because, with the Left SR's in the party, he could claim to represent the interests of the peasants. The remainder were labelled 'counter-revolutionary'. Later the Left SR's were eventually removed from government because they opposed Lenin's signing of a peace treaty with Germany - The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. These political machinations, which trampled the democratic will of the majority of Russians supports the...

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