October Revolution!!! By Megan and Claire
“Why was the Provisional Government unable to deal successfully with the problems it faced in 1917? What problems did it face? War, land qs, minority demands, failing economy, disintegrating army, food shortages, lawlessness, Kornilov affair. Was the PG doomed from the start? • The job of the PG was to run Russia until elections so that a Constituent Assembly could take place. • They controlled the war effort. They had power but no authority. • The PG had been chosen by a committee of the Duma; it had not been elected by the people. • The PG’s second major weakness was that its authority was limited by its unofficial partnership with the Soviet. • Alexander Kerensky, the SR leader, was for a time chairman of the Soviet as well as a minister in the Provisional Government. The Soviet did not set out to be an alternative government. • It regarded its role as supervisory, checking that the interests of the soldiers and workers were fully understood by the new government. • However, in the times that followed the February Revolution, the Provisional Government often seemed unsure of its own authority. Such diffidence tended to give the Soviet greater prominence. • Soviets soon appeared in all major cities and towns of Russia. The soviets were to play an increasingly important role in the development of the Revolution, but in the early stages were not dominated by the Bolsheviks and were not opposed to the Provisional Government. It was significant, however, that even before the Bolshevik influence became predominant, the ability of the Petrograd Soviet to restrict the Provisional Government’s authority had been clearly revealed. • It can be argued that the Provisional Government’s problem was not that it lacked power but it did not use the power that it had. • The PG had to run the war effort. This preoccupation prevented it from dealing with Russia’s social and economic problems
“Why was the Provisional Government unable to deal successfully with the problems it faced in 1917? Revolutionaries Return • Between 1914 and 1917 the German Foreign Office had given regular financial support to Lenin and the Bolsheviks, in the hope that if they achieved their revolutionary aims they would pull Russia out of the war. • Lenin’s return was very significant. Before this the Bolsheviks had accepted Feb events as part of a genuine revolution. They were willing to work with the other revolutionary and reformist parties. However Lenin changed all of this. • Germans let him ride through their country in hope he would cause trouble in Russia: “virus in a bottle”. • In his speech on 3 April he declared that the Feb Rev had not given political freedom and had created a “parliamentary-bourgeois republic” he condemned the PG and called for its overthrow. • By this time Bolshevik support was growing and growing so Lenin’s views were incredibly significant in the failure of the PG. People were more willing to support the Bolshevik party. • Lenin released the April theses which said: the Soviet was the only body that had the right to govern, the PG was simply the old, class-ridden duma, it was the task of the B party to overthrow the PG. • Lenin insisted the Bolsheviks should transfer power to the workers. This caused problems for the PG as its had no support from another party. War • Forced to continue war by Allies • Would not end war even though it had very little/no support • Had no military discipline left in army. • Acton- Russia lacked leverage to force allies into peace and P.G unwilling to sue for separate peace, saw summer offensive as chance to move unruly soldiers out of Petrograd.
“Why was the Provisional Government unable to deal successfully with the problems it faced in 1917? Minorities: Minorities wanted independence. Moderate socialists wanted Ukrainian independence. Liberals thought it would lead to the break up of Russia. Why: This caused a lot of PG infighting which led to a loss of confidence. The Bolsheviks were seen as the only alternative Figes- Resignation of 3 Kadet ministers over Ukraine issue caused political crisis that eventually ended P.G. Economic Problems: Factories were closing. Prices rose drastically (500% price increase for bread and 770% for pork). Why: Little could do while war continued, attempts to take grain from peasants made them only more angry Land Question: Peasants wanted land. PG wanted constituent assembly to take charge of land reforms – this was useful to the peasants. Why: landowners supported PG. This was important to PG as it knew support was failing elsewhere. Felt needed more authority. Therefore land seizures rose a lot and support fell. Brovkin- P.G not to blame for land seizures, fault lay with Bolsheviks for whipping up peasants.
“Peace, bread, land” Is this an adequate explanation of the October Revolution? • The essence of Lenin’s argument was summed up in the slogans “Peace, Bread and Land” and “All power to the Soviets”. • Lynch argues that “these proved to be more than slogans. They identified the basic problems confronting Russia: the war with Germany, the chronic food shortage, and the disruption in the countryside.” He goes onto say these problems brought about the Provisional Government’s collapse. PEACE • By March 1917 10 million peasants had been pressed into military service with over 1.5 million killed and another 4 million seriously wounded. • In the summer of 1917 PG launched an offensive against Germany. It lasted for about three days and resulted in high rates of desertion and more territory being lost. Longer term it meant the moderate socialist leaders in the gov lost their credibility with the soldiers and workers. • PG continued the war despite its clear unpopularity. • Figes- The soldiers were so obsessed with the idea of peace that they would have supported the Tsar if he had promised an end to the war. LAND • The February Revolution had led to many peasants to believe that they would be beneficiaries of a major land redistribution. • This did not happen so the many peasants in Russia took the law into their own hands and seized the property and estates of local landlords. • In July 237 cases were reported of land seizures by the peasants. • It seemed that no party had a real answer to the land problem. The PG set up a Land Commission to redistribute land however the organisation made very little headway. • The majority of the PG members came from the landed and propertied classes therefore they were unlikely to be enthusiastic for a policy that would threaten their own social position. • Although some may not have supported the Bolsheviks they willing accepted the Bolshevik promise that land would be handed to them.
“Peace, bread, land” Is this an adequate explanation of the October Revolution? BREAD • Workers had become highly politicised and radicalised in September and October where food was very short and wages could not keep pace with rising inflation. • Hunger was a crucial factor in October. Workers had given up hope of receiving help from the PG and only the Bolsheviks seemed to offer the hope of real change in their situations. • Fisher says that the “Provisional Government not only inherited the food problem, but along with it the incapacity of its predecessor to handle it” • As the PG failed to legitimise the peasant take-over of land this created a rift with the peasants who no longer wanted to give grain to the cities. • Cities had no food. 500% price increase for bread and 770% for pork. • The war meant key supplies were diverted to the army. This angered: • People in cites as they had no food • Peasants as they were forced to give up grain by soldiers • Support for Bolsheviks as they promised bread by ending the war. People were so desperate so Bolshevik support grew massively. “Peace, bread, land” are key points in explaining the October Rev but must mention other reasons as well. Mistakes of Kerensky through Kornilov affair and offensive against Germany Political issues through PG not doing a great deal on the excuse they were waiting for the elections. How problems in Russia were dealt with by the PG (or lack of help from the PG)
“To what extent can the decline of the Provisional Government be dated from the July days?” Before July: • Must mention lack of support for the war and the effects the summer offensive had on morale of soldiers/country. • Also the lack of action over the land question (1st slide) • There had been very little improvement In the country since Feb: still starvation and high unemployment, failing economy. • Although the Bolsheviks offered the answer to a lot of Russia’s problems in the July elections they only managed to be the 4th largest party. July Days: • Mounting frustration of soldiers and workers erupted on to the streets in an uprising known as the July Days. Wanted end to war, help for workers, social reform. • The incident proved that although people were angry with PG Bolsheviks did not have full support yet and still some confidence in the PG. After July Days: • Problems got even worse and PG lost all confidence through Kornilov affair. • Kornilov was right wing army officer who had never really accepted the Feb Rev. He told Kerensky he intended to bring loyal troops to Petrograd to save PG from being overthrown. However Kerensky feared a takeover from him. Despite the obvious readiness of the people of Petrograd to resist a military takeover, the Kornilov episode did not strengthen the PG’s position. Kerensky later admitted that the incident was “the prelude to the October Revolution”. • It also exposed the political weakness of the PG and how vulnerable it was in the face of military threat. • Lynch believes it was “the Bolsheviks who gained the most from the failure of Kornilov’s attempted coup” . They had been able to present themselves as defenders of Petrograd and the Revolution which perhaps made up for the debacle of the July Days.
How important were the contributions of Lenin and Trotsky in bringing about the October Revolution? LENIN: • On his return he completely changed the Bolshevik party. He pushed through controversial policies with his oration skills. The average Russian was disillusioned with the PG and no longer believed in their promises. Lenin’s promise of “Peace, Bread, Land” was simple, clear and gained him great support. Also wasn't there at time of revolution. TROTSKY: • best orator in the party. Head of Military Revolutionary committee. He persuaded Lenin to delay his plans for revolution. Pipes believes the October Rev was organised by Trotsky and was not done on a wave of popular support. Also says Lenin and Trotsky slyly took power and the Rev was a classic coup. BOLSHEVIK PARTY: • Main opposition to PG. Party public thought would change current situation in the country. Would oppose the war, promised food to public. April these gave them direction. PROVIONAL GOVERNMENT: • Divisions in the PG. Did not change a lot/enough to make people have confidence in it. They were waiting for the elections until they thought any real change could be made. There was plenty of infighting to make people lose confidence. Rosenburg says Kadets refusal to enter coalition PG fatally undermined power of PG. Shapiro believes the administrative incompetence led to the delay of Constituent Assembly elections which was a key failure of the PG. Lenin and Trotsky did play an important role in that they planned a revolution, wrote April theses, pushed forward policies which appealed to many But other reasons could be lack of confidence in the PG, failing economy made many turn to any other party to help their situation.