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How Far Do You Agree That the Main Reason for the Fall of the Provisional Government Was the Skill and Determination of Lenin in 1917?

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Submitted By EmilyAnnTurner
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To an extent it is valid to say that Lenin's skill and determination as leader of the Bolsheviks was the main reason for the overthrow of the Provisional government. Although, there are significant other factors that contributed to the downfall of the government, such as the weakness the government it in itself possessed, the misjudgment and mistakes it made, and other contributing factors, such as the influential role of Trotsky, which helped impact on the eventual overthrow of the government. Evidence suggests that one of the main reasons for the fall of the Provisional government, was the weaknesses it in itself possessed. For example, the dual authority government can be seen as a weakness because it was not an elected body, and came into being as a rebellious committee of the old duma, refusing to disband at the Tsar's order. This meant it consequently lacked legitimate authority as a result. It had no constitutional claim upon the loyalty of Russian people and no natural fund of good will to rely on, meaning it was judged entirely on how it dealt with the nations problems, making it vulnerable from the start. Its second major weakness was that its authority was limited by its unofficial partnership with the Petrograd Soviet. To begin with there was considerable co-operation between the two, with some people (e.g.- Kerensky) being members of both bodies. The soviet did not set out to be an alternative government, and regarded its role as supervisory, checking that the interests of the people were fully understood by the new government. However, things changed when the Provisional Government seemed unsure of its own authority after the February revolution, resulting in the Petrograd Soviet gaining greater prominence. Soviets played an increasing important role in the development of the revolution, but the Bolsheviks- at this stage- did not dominate them. This importance and ability of the Petrograd Soviet in restricting the Provisional Governments authority was clearly revealed in its issuing of 'Soviet order number 1', meant that decrees of the Provisional Government in regard to military affair were binding only if they were approved by the Petrograd Soviet. This order gave the Soviet an effective veto over the government, and highlighted the Provisional Governments lack of control. The weaknesses that the dual authority government faced appeared to be direct results from the strain of the war. After the February revolution, the government had no choice but to fight on, for financial, not realistic reasons, because if it did not fight then Russia wouldn't receive supplies and war credits from its western allies, on which it relied. Tsardom had left Russia virtually bankrupt, putting huge strains on the provisional government, and making them solely dependant on its large injections from abroad. In the end, the huge strain proved unsustainable, with the preoccupation with war preventing the government from dealing with major social and economic problems. The government was now in a paradoxical situation, and needed Russian in war to survive, but doing so meant it was destroying its own chances of survival. This caused the first serious rift between the Petrograd Soviet and the Provisional Government and makes clear the increasingly difficult circumstances the government had to deal with. Contrastingly, the Provisional Government did have successes in that it was able to resist the challenge of July days, despite the direct challenge upon them, and led to the near extinction of the Bolsheviks. Also, the failure of the rising meant that the disunity of the opposition was highlighted. For instance, the demonstration was confused and disorderly, with demonstrators even falling out amongst themselves! This disunity made it reasonably easy for the provisional Government to crush the rising, bringing troops over from the front, who were still loyal to the government to help disperse the demonstrators. In conjunction with the rising failing, this also highlighted a failure of the Bolsheviks as well, because although they wanted to take power and had the intention to do it, they had no real plan, and so were behind from the beginning. This made it clear that the Bolsheviks were far from being the dominant party and also showed that the Provisional Government still had enough strength to deal with and put down an armed rebellion. Linking into this, it's also evident that it wasn't just the weaknesses of the Provisional Government that led to its fall in 1917, but also, the 2 main mistakes it made, which made it easier for the Bolsheviks to survive. These mistake were: the land question and the Kornilov affair. Land shortage was a chronic problem in Russia and the chief cause of peasant unrest since serf emancipation in 1861. After the February revolution, the peasants were led to believe they would benefit from major land distribution, but the government did no such thing, resulting in peasants taking the law into their own hands and seizing property from local landlords, and the 1917 national peasant revolt showed the increasing unpopularity of the Provisional government, who had no real answer to the land problem. The government did however, set up land commission to redistribute land, but little progress was made where massive tasks were concerned, and it is often questioned whether the government had the true desire and drive to achieve land reforms. This is because, the majority of its members were from the landed and properties classes and so reforms would of perhaps threatened their own positions- a risk they weren't willing to take- and so had no intention of achieving successful land reforms, if it meant they would lose their own possessions in a state land grab as a result. The land issue was equally difficult for the Bolsheviks however, who did not have a land policy, and as a Marxist party dismissed the peasantry and lacked revolutionary initiative. Despite saying it was 'pointless for the Bolsheviks to make an alliance with the peasantry in April', Lenin made a tactical adjustment and adopted the Social Revolutionaries 'Land to the peasants' policy, which became the Bolsheviks new slogan. In mid 1917, the Bolsheviks recognised the peasants land seizures as 'legitimate', providing considerable swing of support towards the Bolsheviks in the countryside, which massively increased their popularity, considering that the peasantry dominated a huge percentage of the population. This consequently meant that the support for the Provisional government lessened, as their weakness were greatly exposed by the Bolsheviks who cleverly noted this flaw and fully exposed it by seizing the opportunity to gain peasant support. Another mistake the government made was Kernsky's involvement in the Kornilov affair crisis, which completely undermined the success the government had in the July days, and allowed the Bolsheviks to redeem themselves from their humiliation. General Kornilov- right wing army officer- did not accept the February revolution and believed that Russia had a duty to first destroy its socialist enemies before it could fulfill its patriotic duty of defeating Germany. With German forces becoming a heavy threat to the Petrograd, Kornilov declared that Russia was about to topple into anarchy and that the government was in great danger of a socialist inspired insurrection. On this matter, he informed Kerensky that he intended to bring over his loyal troops to save the Petrograd Soviet from being overthrown, however Kerensky massively misjudged the intentions of Kornilov who actually intended to remove the Provisional government and impose military rule. On discovery Kerensky immediately ordered Kornilov to surrender his post and put him under martial law. Despite surviving, the Kornilov affair highlight a massive misjudgment from the provisional government leader and also emphasised their political weaknesses, revealing how vulnerable the government was to military attack. The Bolsheviks however, benefited from the affair because the were freed from prison to defend the government they pledged to overthrow, showing them as true successful defenders, and diverting attention away from their failure in the July Days. This could be seen as the beginning of their recovery and the turning point for the downfall of the provisional government. Despite some serious mistakes and misjudgments made by the Provisional government, and the weaknesses that it in itself possessed , the skill and determination of Lenin, did play a major role in the fall of the government in 1917. There is no doubting the great significance Lenin's return to Petrograd in April brought. He insisted that the Bolsheviks were the only true revolutionary party and issued the April theses, in which entailed the future policies of the Bolsheviks. He insisted that the party abandon all ties and co-operation with other parties, transfer power to the workers, and above all, overthrow the Provisional government in a second revolution. He also demanded that authority pass to the soviets, which meant that if the Bolsheviks could statistically dominate the Soviets, they would be in a strong position to take over the state. Lenin also adopted two slogans, 'Peace, bread and land' and 'All power to the Soviets', which were his way of presenting the problems that Russia faced and asserted that as long as the Provisional Government remained in power that these problems could not be solved, because the ministers were only interested in the interests of their own class. Lenin's analysis was perceptive and true, because the Provisional governments failure to deal with the three principal issues was ultimately a huge factor in its downfall. Also, Lenin was successful in creating a party with drive and conviction. For instance, there was a lack of a tradition of legitimate party policies in tsarists Russia, and with democracy not entering into it, power would go to the most flexible and ruthless party. The Bolsheviks, under the leadership of Lenin stepped up, and fulfilled this requirement by adjusting to circumstances if necessary, this is apparent through their changes in land policy to gain peasant control. Despite this, they never lost sight of their eventual goal- to seize power of the state. It's sometimes even claimed that Lenin's Bolsheviks were a 'new breed of politician', in that they were utterly self confident, disrespectful of all other parties and ideas, and totally devoted to their leader. This drive, determination and ruthlessness made them an unstoppable force of history and gave other parties very limited hope of gaining power for themselves. He used these political skills in conjunction with his ability to attract peasant support away from the Provisional government to contribute to its downfall. Also, building on his political skills, he used this judgment to pursue an urgent revolution in spite of the reservations of other leading Bolsheviks. Even though Lenin was an extremely determined leader, it's important to consider the contribution of other factors in relation to the downfall of the provisional government. For example there was an extreme influx in Bolshevik party members in 1917, increasing from 24,000 members in February to 340,000 in October of that year. This increase, is viewed by many as a general radicalisation of Russian politics that occurred when the Provisional government got into increasing difficulties. This meant that the Bolsheviks were successful in their land takeover because of the increasingly amount of Bolsheviks in factories and committees, who whilst not necessarily being pro- Bolshevik, were certainly not pro- government and so there was scope here for the Bolsheviks to gain more support. Finally, a major significant factor to contribute to the downfall of the provisional government was the work of Trotsky in organising the October rising. Trotsky was the man who actually organised the rising, despite Lenin being the influence behind it. Using his position as chairman of the Petrograd soviet, he helped set up the Military Revolutionary Committee to organise the defence of the Petrograd against another possible German attack, which proved crucial, because with the control of the MRC, brought with it the control of the Petrograd. With the control of the effective military force- the only one in Russia- he was able to call upon the help of the red guards, and within three days overthrow the Provisional government, under Lenin's orders. Overall, there are lots of different factors which contributed to the downfall of the provisional government in 1917. There is no doubt that Lenin was a superb man of drive and determination, the same as he was a great political leader. Which is seen through his 'land to the peasants' philosophy, which brought him much support. However, whilst this is the case, it's important to consider that the Provisional government had many weaknesses within itself, such as the problem of dual authority and the huge strain of the war, which allowed it to be exposed to the threats of the Lenin and the Bolsheviks, almost inviting them to expose their weaknesses and seize power. In conjunction with this, the role of Trotsky was vital in securing the downfall of the provisional government, because without him, the organisation and planning of the attack would of been hugely lacking. But as to whether the main reason for the fall of the provisional government was the skill and determination of Lenin in 1917, I would suggest is a true and valid statement, contributed to enormously via the work of Trotsky who helped lead the uprising that ultimately resulted in the governments overthrow in 1917.…...

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