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The Role Of Lenin In The Bolshevik Seizure Of Power And Consolidation Of Power In 1917

1521 words - 7 pages

Assess the role of Lenin in the Bolshevik seizure of power and consolidation of power in 1917.In any account of history, it is difficult to determine whether individuals or historical forces beyond the control of the individual played the important roles. There is the argument that the actions of great individuals created the turning points in world history. Aligned with this is the historical argument that it was the activities of Lenin in October 1917, which explains why Russia was a communist nation for so many decades. On the other hand it can be argued that history is directed by natural forces beyond the control of any human; accidents, fate, economic developments, mass movements and ...view middle of the document...

Only the Bolsheviks among the major political parties remained untainted by association with the government and were therefore completely free to organise opposition to it, a situation of which the party took full advantage.The result of the new party line was a massive increase in the party membership, particularly in the large cities. In January 1917 the party had only 23 600 members. By the end of April, numbers had climbed to 80 000, and by the end of July it was 240 000. In February 1917, the Bolsheviks held only 40 of the 1500 seats in the Petrograd soviet, by September 1917 that number had increased to provide a majority in both the Petrograd and Moscow Soviets. It was this popular support that provided the basis for the October Revolution. This overwhelming growth of support is unthinkable without Lenin's commitment to the plan laid out in the April Theses.When power fell into their hands on October 25 1917, the Bolsheviks were ready to seize it, but it is clear that without Lenin's continual goading, the party would have missed its chance. Trotsky himself accepts this judgement:"Had I not been present in 1917 in Petersburg, the October Revolution would still have taken place - on the condition that Lenin was present and in command. Had neither Lenin nor I had been in Petersburg, there would have been no October Revolution; the leaderships of the Bolshevik party would have prevented it from occurring - of this I have not the slightest doubt."The second part to this argument that needs to be addressed is the question of without the October Revolution the Soviet Union would never have existed. In the November 1917 elections for the Constituent Assembly, results show that despite all the support in the towns for the Bolsheviks, they would not have gained power through constitutional means. The Social Revolutionaries secured an absolute majority, with the support of the vast peasant base, of 370 of 707 seats, while the Bolsheviks only got 175 seats. Had the October coup never been attempted, it is likely that the Bolsheviks would never have held power. Lenin himself certainly believed this. He said, "Insurrection must rely upon the turning point in the history of the growing revolution..." It is clearly true that if the Bolsheviks had not gained power, world history would be very different.The other argument is that Lenin was merely an actor in events controlled by natural forces. Firstly Lenin was never in a position to make a revolution and he knew it, stating, "We of the older generation may not live to see the decisive battles of this revolution." In the absence of a revolutionary crisis neither he, nor any other individual, could bring down the government that ruled over the largest nation in the world. Even in October, he spoke not as an individual making a revolution, but an opportunist hoping to seize upon opportunities thrust up by forces far larger than him. There are two elements to the opportunity that allowed the Bolsheviks to...

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