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Demolition, 1915–1917

  • Robert Service
Chapter
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Part of the Studies in European History book series (SEURH)

Abstract

How did it come about the Bolsheviks could seize power in the Russian capital in October 1917? The official answer in the USSR was that their success resulted from the tight fit between the party’s policies and the aspirations of the workers, peasants and conscripts of the former Russian Empire. Soviet spokesmen claimed that socialist revolution was unavoidable and that the military, economic and political disarray of wartime Russia was a mere backdrop for the doom of capitalism. Nevertheless Russia’s socialists supposedly still needed to have correct doctrines and policies, close organisational co-ordination and brilliant leadership. These prerequisites fell into place with Lenin’s return from emigration after the fall of the Romanovs. His crucial contribution lay in his guiding the Bolshevik party and communicating revolutionary ideas to the lower social orders. According to his admirers, Lenin was a straight-speaking politician whereas every rival contemporary politician strove to deceive. Popular opinion moved in favour of the Bolsheviks. Mass organisations already existed that strengthened the party’s march on power, and the Bolsheviks gained a majority of seats in the main city soviets in autumn 1917. In the USSR the slightest disrespect for the historical trinity of ‘Lenin, the party and the masses’ was considered heretical — and substantial discussion was possible only on peripheral matters [23].

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© Robert Service 1999

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  • Robert Service

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