Elections and Events of the Constituent Assembly

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In 1917, all revolutionary groups were agreed that a popularly elected Constituent Assembly should be convened to make the most important decisions about the Russian future. Lenin was reluctant to adhere to the commitment but felt that the Bolsheviks had no choice but to allow the election to proceed: the people wanted an election although Lenin knew that they would lose.  

Election was held in November 1917 and results show that the SR’s attained the most number of seats to be followed by the Bolsheviks. The vast majority of peasants, who made up 80% of the country at the time, supported the Socialist Revolutionary’s while the Bolsheviks received most of their support from among the urban workers and the soldiers, especially those in Moscow and Petrograd. The election clearly demonstrated the urban nature of the Bolsheviks support and the fact that less than a quarter of the population had been willing to vote for them in a free election.  

Party
Votes
Percent
Deputies
Socialist-Revolutionary Party (SR’s)
17,100,000
41.0
380
Bolsheviks
9,800,000
23.5
168
 
How did this consolidate their power?
 
The urban nature of the Bolshevik support was consistent with the party’s basic outlook and orientation. Ideologically, it placed overwhelming importance on the urban working class which was seen as the hope of the future. In contrast, the peasantry were considered as a ‘backward’ class that could play an important role under proletarian leadership in the revolution, but was ultimately doomed to disappear in the course of historical development.  

Despite the elections, in hindsight, fundamentally leading to the civil war within Russia, the Bolsheviks did not change their methods and continued their dictatorial leadership which contributed greatly to their success in the civil war and consolidated their power. It could be argued that the fact that they won the civil war despite losing seats in the Constituent Assembly Elections consolidated their power greatly due to the fact they used; the establishment of the single party state and the defeat of opposition, reconciliation with the population and the structuring of a thorough regime but, most importantly, the Bolsheviks maintained the democratic and arguably ruthless methods which ensured that they won the war and went on to rule effectively for a great number of years.  

The Constituent Assembly
Results of the National Elections to the Constituent Assembly, November 1917: Party
Percentage of the Vote
Socialist Revolutionaries
40.4
Bolsheviks
24.0
Mensheviks
2.6
Left Socialist Revolutionaries
1.0
Other Socialist Parties
0.9
Kadets
4.7
Other Liberalist Groups
2.8
National Minorities
13.4
Others
10.2
 
• The Constituent Assembly had previously been promised to be created by the Provisional Government after the February Revolution. They also promised to held elections, but these never took place. • In order to consolidate their power, the Bolsheviks had to keep their promises and this included holding free elections to please the public. They eventually took place on 12th November 1917. • Unsurprisingly to Lenin, the Socialist Revolutionaries won the most seats with 40.4% of the votes to the Bolsheviks’ 24%. He now needed to act pragmatically to prevent the Constituent Assembly from challenging the Bolsheviks rule. • Lenin allowed the new Constituent Assembly to meet for the first and only time on 5th January 1918 in Tauride Palace, Petrograd. Here, the Bolsheviks demanded that the assembly should be subservient to the decrees passed by the Soviet and Sovnarkom. He wanted to dissolve the assembly, condemning it as an instrument of the bourgeoisie and replace it with and All-Russian Congress of Soviets as an instrument of popular support instead. These were the first stages of Lenin’s dictatorial approach to consolidation of power. • The Bolsheviks demands were rejected by 237 votes to 137. Despite this, Lenin persisted in his dictatorial...
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