THEME ONE: LENIN’S CONTROL, 1917-24 Flashcards Preview

RUSSIA: Communist Government in the USSR, 1917-85 > THEME ONE: LENIN’S CONTROL, 1917-24 > Flashcards

Flashcards in THEME ONE: LENIN’S CONTROL, 1917-24 Deck (22):

What were the aims of the Bolsheviks?

To get rid of the upper and middle classes that exploited the workers and peasants under the capitalist system that had developed with the Industrial Revolution.
The Bolsheviks believed that the system should be replaced by socialism, through which a government representing the workers would improve the living and working conditions of the people as a whole. Eventually communism would be established, when people would have control over their own lives.


What happened during the October Revolution?

At the time the Bolsheviks were still a small party of about 300,000 members, but in order to justify Bolshevik rule as representing the interests of the workers, the Revolution was portrayed by the Bolsheviks as a mass uprising of the workers. Propaganda presented the event as a heroic storming of the Winter Palace in Petrograd with mass support. The reality was different. The troops left guarding the palace by this time were the Women's Death Battalion, who opened the gates to let the Bolsheviks in.


Who opposed the Bolsheviks in 1917?

Other left-wing groups who were denied a share of the power by the Bolsheviks, such as the SRs and the Mensheviks.
Groups on the right (eg Tsarist supporters) and liberal groups who often represented the interests of the middle class and who now feared the Bolsheviks would take away their businesses and deny them political freedoms.
Nationalist groups within the Russian Empire, such as Ukrainians, Poles and Finns, who saw the collapse of the Tsarist regime as a chance to assert their independance.


Why was the Constituent Assembly a turning point for democracy in Russia?

It was seen by many politicians as the first step in forming a democratically elected government.


How did the Bolsheviks destroy other political parties?

The removal of the vote from 'bourgeois classes', such as employers and priests, stripped the opposition parties of a possible reservoir for support.
The Mensheviks and SRs found it difficult to publish their newspapers due to restrictions imposed by the Bolsheviks.
SRs lost all influence when they walked out of the government in March 1918 in protest at the Bolshevik decision to pull out of WW1.
March 1918, Bolshevik Party renamed itself the Communist Party and, by 1921, all other political parties were effectively banned.
April 1921, Lenin declared: 'The place for the Mensheviks and the SRs is in prison'. Fist three months of 1921 , 5,000 Mensheviks were arrested. Further arrests continued into 1922, but by this stage they had ceased to exist as organised parties.


What were the consequences of the signing of the Treaty of Brest Litovsk?

Russia lost control of the Baltic States of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, Finland, Ukraine and parts of the Caucasus region.
National humiliation for the conservatives, especially the military officers who had served in the Tsar's army. Thereby providing a neccesary spur to those who wished to fight against the Bolsheviks, known as the Whites, because it offered the promise of foreign help.


Who were the sides in the Russian Civil War?

The Bolshevik Reds against...
The 'White' opposition included a range of political groups. There were those who supported the Tsar; liberals, including supporters of the Provisional Government; military leaders unhappy with the Treaty of Brest-Litosvk, national minorities seeking independance from Russia, and members of the Menshevik and SR parties who had been denied any involvement in the government. The Czech Legion, part of the Austro-Hungarian Army stranded in Russia as prisoners of war, rebelled against the Reds. The Whites also recieved aid from the Allies in the First World War.


How did the Bolsheviks win the civil war?

Largely achieved due to the better organisation of the Reds in military, economic and political terms. The Bolsheviks military strategy had been more coherant than the White, mostly due to Leon Trotsky.
Trotsky, who became Commisar for War in early 1918, turned the Red Army into an effective fighting machine The army was formed from the Red Guard units and pro-Bolshevik elements of the old Tsarist armed forces. Conscription was introduced to swell the number of soldiers to over 5 million by the end of the war. The Bolsheviks had also been able to extend government direction over the economy to ensure resources were organaised and deployed effectively through the imposition of policies known as War Communism.


What were the key results of the civil war?

Bolshevik state had become highly centralised due to the demands of the civil war.
Bolsheviks had made extensive use of terror against their political opponents. This set the tone for the development of the Party after the civil war.
Supporters of the Bolsheviks underwent a formative experience that seemed to reinforce militaristic values in the population.


Why was the Tenth Party Congress (1921) significant in establishing power at the top of the
Communist Party?

The ban on the formation of factions was put forward by Lenin at the Congress of 1921. This measure, known as 'On Party Unity', was an attempt to impose the view of the leadership on the Party. Despite victory in the civil war, this political tightening of the power of the Party leadership came at a time of continuing Bolshevik anxiety over their hold over Russia. 1921, the Bolsheviks had faced the Kronstadt Mutiny and the Tambov Rising.


What happened during the Kronstadt Mutiny?

The mutiny of sailors stationed at the Kronstadt naval base against the imposition of orders on the local soviet from the Bolshevik government. The slogan of the mutineers was 'Soviets without Bolsheviks'. The mutiny was brutally crushed by the Red Army, but the affair was a severe shock to the regime because the sailors had previously been strong supporters of the Bolshevik Revolution.


What happened during the Tambov Rising?

A peasant uprising in the Tambov region of Russia that was sparked off by the arrival of Bolshevik units to requsition grain for use in the cities and the army. The uprising was largely spontaneous at first, but the peasants were ale to build on their strength by forming a Green Army and establishing control over a large area. It took over 50,000 Bolshevik troops to put down the revolt.


What were the key features of the state structure?

The Sovnarkom was the Council of Peopl's Commisars and took the role of a cabinet of top government ministers who were, in theory, responsible for making key decisions and giving government orders. Its members, about 20 in total, were elected by the Central Executive Committee. It was a smal group that could make quick decisions and it met on a daily basis during the civil war.
The Central Executive Committee was a larger group elected by the Congress of Soviets. Its task was to oversee the work of the government and its administration.
The All-Russian Congress of Soviets was the supreme law-making body of the state. All law issued by the Sovnarkom had to be approved by the Congress. It was, in theory, a highly represetative body made up of members elected by local soviets, all those citizens engaed in 'useful work'.


How was the Party structured?

The Politburo was a group of 7 to 9 leading members of the Party, chosen by the Central Committee to make key decisions affecting policy. It met daily under Lenin and became more important than the Sovnarkom.
The Central Committee was a group of 30-40 members chosen by the Party Congress. After 1919, power was increasingly delegated to the Politburo instead of CC.
The Party Congress was a body made up of representatives of local Party branches. It discussed the general programme of the Party and there were fierce debates at the 9th and 10th Party Congresses of 1920 and 1921. It met yearly under Lenin from 1917 until 1926.
Below this were local Party branches, each headed by a Party secretary. These could be very powerful, eespecially those in key cities or provinces.


What is ‘Democratic Centralism’ and how was it used by the Bolsheviks?

Soviets were used as bodies that represented the workers at local level. Their wishes could be expressed through a structure of representative organisations that would take their concerns to decision-making bodies at the higher levels of government. Decisions coud then be made in the interests of 'the people'. and passed down to regional and local level for implementation. Althought the soviets continued to exist they were dominated by the Bolsheviks, who ensured they were no longer responsive to pressure from the workers they were supposed to represent. Local soviets were used as a type of local government, but they were firmly in the hands of local Party bosses who gave the orders. This system turned representative bodies into rubber-stamping bodies that merely carried out orders given by the centre.


How much personal power did Lenin have?

Lenin's official position within government were as Chair of the Sovnarkom and as one of the Politburo members. Lenin preferred a collective leadership whereby issues were discussed before decisions could be made. In 1919 he dismissed all suggestions of a personal dictatorship as 'utter nonsense'. Lenin was seen as a source of inspiration by many of the Bolsheviks, therefore enabling him to use his influence to make important decisions. Yet, from 1922 onwards Lenin's power to exert influence over Party and government was limited by severe illness. However, power had been centralised in the Party structure rather than in the personal authority of Lenin.


Was Lenin a dictator?

Despite the growing centralisation of power seen under Lenin, this was arguably a strategic measure put in place to establish control over a an extremely large, chaotic country. Power was taken away from the bourgeoisie and placed in the hands of the Bolshevik Party, rather than Lenin himself, who would act as a dictatorship of the proletariat to promote socialism by government control over the economy in the interests of the workers. When the risk of counter-revolution was dealt with, then Lenin beleived that the state would wither away and communism would develop.


What was the nomenklatura system and how did it improve Party unity and control?

The nomenklatura system was created to ensure the development of a more committed communist bureaucracy. This involved drawing up lists of approved party employees suitable for certain jobs from which appointments could be made. This was a system that encouraged loyalty to the Party leaders. To not be loyal was to lose your place on the list and, with it, your chances of promotion. It was an effective tool of centralisation administered by the General Secretary. By 1924, the membership of the Communist Party had reached about one million.


What were the key features of the Soviet Constitution of 1924?

The Soviet constitution confirmed the power of the Communist Party in the state but did give some representation to Party members from each of the republics. The name 'USSR' also emphasised the fact that this was formally a federal system. There was no use of 'Russia' in the name of the new state.However, Russians had the advantage of numbers over the national minorities. Russia made up 90% of the land-area and 72% of the population of the new state. In addition, nearly 3/4 of the Communist Party were Russian.


How was terror used under Lenin?

Bolshevik terror was implemented by the Cheka, which was headed by Felix Dzerzhinsky. It was a Party committee formed in December 1917 to deal with counter-revolution, sabotage and speculation, and it was soon operating outside the law. Also dealt with enemies inside the Party and played a key role in establishing central control over the Party apparatus.
The Cheka was based in the Lubyanka building in Moscow. It was here that arrests were planned, prisoners were tortured and executions of suspects were carried outmwithout using official courts. Left-wing opponents had been arrested in August 1918 after an assassination attempt on Lenin. Waves of further arrests occured in 1921 and 1922, known as the Red Terror. Between 1917 and 1923, the Cheka was responsible for the executions of up to 200,000 people. The secret police grew enormously, from 40,000 in December 1918 to 250,000 by 1921.
1922, Cheka was replaced by the OGPU. Terror became more bureaucratic, discreet and inward-looking. A purge, known as a Chitska (cleansing), in 1918 and another during the early 1920s were focused on groups within the Party. Under Lenin, about 1/3 of the Party were purged.


What evidence is there of debate within the Party?

Both Kamanev and Zinoviev had opposed Lenin's decision to launch the Revolution in 1917.
There was a fierce debate within the Party over whether to accept the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918.
The introduction of the NEP in 1921 led to the formation of right and left-wing factions within the Party.
The role of the trade unions was to be a source of much debate within the Party. A Workers' Opposition group, led by Alexander Shliapnikov and Alexandra Kollontai, favoured a great role for the trade unions and this was discussed at the Ninth and Tenth Party Congresses of 1920 and 1921. Lenin took action to crush this group but it didn't stop other groups, such as Workers' Truth, emerging.


Summarise the conclusion provided (Page 20)

By 1924, the leadership of the Communist Party had dealt successfully with all opposition outside its ranks as well as crushing any significant dissent within its structure. This was achieved so successfully that the Party was able to expand enormously without sacrificing unity or the conformity of its members. Authoritarianism and terror had seemed necessary to ensure survival in a way similar to the dictatorship that had been established in response to circumstances. However, it soon became clear that the Revolution was in danger of becoming a dictatorship of the Communist Party.