.. and the relation of this to the international upheaval. The separation between the utopian internationalists and the more practical Russia-oriented people was already apparent (Pipes, 127). The Bolsheviks’ hope of seizing power was hardly secret. Bold refusal of the provisional Government was one of their major ideals.
Three weeks before the revolt they decided to stage a demonstrative walkout from the advisory assembly. When the walkout was staged, Trotsky denounced the Provisional Government for its alleged counterrevolutionary objectives and called on the people of Russia to support the Bolsheviks (Daniels, 110). On October 10 of 1917, Lenin made the decision to take power. He came secretly to Petrograd to try and disperse any hesitancies the Bolshevik leadership had over his demand for armed revolt. Against the opposition of two of Lenin’s long-time lieutenants, Zinovieiv and Kamenev, the Central Committee accepted Lenin’s resolution which formally instructed the party organizations to prepare for the seizure of power.
Finally, of October 25 the Bolshevik revolution took place to overthrow the provisional government. They did so through the agency of the Military-Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet. They forcibly overthrew the provisional government by taking over all of the government buildings, such as the post office, and big corporations, such as the power companies, the shipyard, the telephone company. The endorsement of the coup was secured from the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, which was concurrently in session. This was known as the “October Revolution” (Luttwak, 74) Through this, control of Russia was shifted to Lenin and the Bolsheviks.
In a quick series of decrees, the new “soviet” government instituted a number of sweeping reforms, some long overdue and some quite revolutionary. They ranged from “democratic” reforms, such as the disestablishment of the church and equality for the national minorities, to the recognition of the peasants’ land seizures and to openly socialist steps such as the nationalization of banks. The Provisional Government’s commitment to the war effort was denounced. Four decrees were put into action. The first four from the Bolshevik Revolutionary Legislation were a decree on peace, a decree on land, a decree on the suppression of hostile newspapers, and a declaration of the rights of the peoples of Russia (Stossenger, 130).
By early 1918 the Bolshevik critics individually made their peace with Lenin, and were accepted back into the party and governmental leadership. At the same time, the Left and Soviet administration thus acquired the exclusively Communist character which it has had ever since. The Left SR’s like the right SR’s and the Mensheviks, continued to function in the soviets as a more or less legal opposition until the outbreak of large-scale civil war in the middle of 1918. At that point the opposition parties took positions which were either equally vocal or openly anti-Bolshevik, and one after another, they were suppressed. The Eastern Front had been relatively quiet during 1917, and shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution a temporary armstice was agreed upon.
Peace negotiations were then begun at the Polish town of Brest-Litovsk, behind the German lines. In agreement with their earlier anti-imperialist line, the Bolshevik negotiators, headed by Trotsky, used the talks as a discussion for revolutionary propaganda, while most of the party expected the eventual return of war in the name of revolution. Lenin startled his followers in January of 1918 by explicitly demanding that the Soviet republic meet the German conditions and conclude a formal peace in order to win what he regarded as an indispensable “breathing spell,” instead of shallowly risking the future of the revolution (Daniels, 135). Trotsky resigned as Foreign Commissar during the Brest-Litovsk crisis, but he was immediately appointed Commissar of Military Affairs and entrusted with the creation of a new Red Army to replace the old Russian army which had dissolved during the revolution. Many Communists wanted to new military force to be built up on strictly revolutionary principles, with guerrilla tactics, the election of officers, and the abolition of traditional discipline. Trotsky set himself emphatically against this attitude and demanded an army organized in the conventional way and employing “military specialists” — experienced officers from the old army.
Hostilities between the Communists and the Whites, who were the groups opposed to the Bolsheviks, reached a decicive climax in 1919. Intervention by the allied powers on the side of the Whites almost brought them victory. Facing the most serious White threat led by General Denikin in Southern Russia, Lenin appealed to his followers for a supreme effort, and threatened ruthless repression of any opposition behind the lines. By early 1920 the principal White forces were defeated (Wren, 151). For three years the rivalry went on with the Whites capturing areas and killing anyone suspected of Communist practices. Even though the Whites had more soldiers in their army, they were not nearly as organized nor as efficient as the Reds, and therefore were unable to rise up (Farah, 582). Police action by the Bolsheviks to combat political opposition commenced with the creation of the “Cheka.” Under the direction of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the Cheka became the prototype of totalitarian secret police systems, enjoying at critical times the right the right of unlimited arrest and summary execution of suspects and hostages.
The principle of such police surveillance over the political leanings of the Soviet population has remained in effect ever since, despite the varying intensity of repression and the organizational changes of the police — from Cheka to GPU (The State Political Administration) to NKVD (People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs) to MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs) to the now well-known KGB (Committee for State Security) (Pipes, 140). 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. Many socialists who had backed Lenin’s revolution at first now had second thoughts. To escape punishment, they fled. By 1921 Lenin had strengthened his control and the White armies and their allies had been defeated (Farah, 582).
Communism had now been established and Russia had become a socialist country. Russia was also given a new name: The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This in theory meant that the means of production was in the hands of the state. The state, in turn, would build the future, classless society. But still, the power was in the hands of the party (Farah, 583). The next decade was ruled by a collective dictatorship of the top party leaders.
At the top level individuals still spoke for themselves, and considerable freedom for factional controversy remained despite the principles of unity laid down in 1921. — Works Cited Daniels, Robert V., A Documentary History of Communism. New York: Random House Publishing, 1960. Farah, Mounir, The Human Experience. Columbus: Bell & Howess Co., 1990. Luttwak, Edward N., The Grand Strategy of the Soviet Union.
New York: St. Martins Press, 1983. Pipes, Richard, Survival is Not Enough. New York: S&S Publishing, 1975. Stoessinger, John G., Nations in Darkness. Boston: Howard Books, 1985.
Wren, Christopher S., The End of the Line. San Francisco: Blackhawk Publishing, 1988.