Explain How the Bolsheviks Were Able to Consolidate Their Power in the Period from 1917 to 1921.

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  • Topic: Russian Civil War, Communism, Vladimir Lenin
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Explain how the Bolsheviks were able to consolidate their power in the period from 1917 to 1921.

The Bolsheviks were able to consolidate their power in Russia in the years after the Revolution because they were better organised and better led than their opponents. In addition, they had a compelling ideology, and offered more to Russia’s peasants and workers than their opponents could at the time. More than anything, though, they were completely ruthless, willing to do whatever was necessary in order to win.

1. Policies implemented by the Bolsheviks in 1917-18, which appealed to the people: redistribution of land to the peasants; improved wages and conditions for industrial workers; withdrawal from the war, for the soldiers.

2. When opposition emerged in 1918, the Bolsheviks introduced repressive measures: arrests of political leaders; closure of parties and printing presses; dissolution of the Constituent Assembly (the Duma).

3. When the Civil War broke out in 1918, the Bolsheviks took ruthless action to crush their enemies. They won the Civil War because: •They were united, while the Whites were divided..
They controlled the internal lines in Russia, and could move troops easily from one front to another. •The Bolsheviks controlled the major industrial and population centres. •War Communism allowed the Bolsheviks to mobilize their resources better. •Trotsky’s leadership was crucial.

They were utterly ruthless, setting up the secret police (Cheka) to eliminate their enemies. •The Whites failed to win over the peasants, due to their brutality and their repossession of land. •The Bolsheviks had a propaganda advantage.

4. The Bolsheviks were willing to eliminate their own former supporters, when this became necessary, as happened during the Kronstadt Rebellion in 1921. Their opponents could not match this level of ruthless pragmatism.

5. Finally, the Bolsheviks offered an ideological vision which their opponents lacked. The...
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