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VCE History: Unit 3. Crisis of Dual Authority. Abdication of Nicholas II was most significant event of the February revolution.

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Vce history unit 3

VCE History: Unit 3

Crisis of Dual Authority

Abdication and dual government

  • Abdication of Nicholas II was most significant event of the February revolution.

  • On 28th of February the Provisional Government was formed with (as Kerensky put it) official authority and formal power, while the Petrograd Soviet was also formed with the ‘genuine’ power of the people.

Abdication and dual government

The first phase lenin returns

  • From February through to April the Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviet generally worked together and were supported by the revolutionary parties, including the Bolsheviks.

  • The second phase was from Lenin’s return on 3 April, when he launched a rivalry campaign that separated the Soviet from the Provisional Government and their supporters.

  • Lenin’s return instilled a radical Marxist mindset into the Bolshevik Party.

The first phase & Lenin returns

The provisional government authority without power

  • Chairman of the State Duma, Rodzianko formed the PG and Prince Lvov was appointed Prime Minister (both from the existing ruling class).

  • The other 10 members of the PG were all from the Fourth Duma (formed in 1912).

  • All were wealthy or noble and most were members of the Free Masons. Some were openly liberal and opposed the Tsar – including Miliunov (Foreign Minister) and Kerensky (former leader of Socialist Revolutionaries).

The Provisional Government:Authority without power

Provisional government policies

The Provisional Government offered many freedoms that the Tsar had denied:

  • Full amnesty (freedom) of political and religious prisoners.

  • Freedom of speech

  • Freedom of the press

  • Freedom to strike and assemble

  • Abolition of class, religious and national restrictions

  • Plans to vote for a Constituent Assembly

  • Replaced Tsarist police with elected people’s militia

  • Supportive military troops asked to protect Petrograd

Provisional Government Policies

Soviet order no 1

However, it was the Petrograd Soviet, formed with 600 soldiers and workers who had control of important functions such as the army, railways, communications, employers and employees. They were very powerful.

Soviet Order No. 1 provides evidence of this power:

  • Every military unit had to listen to their orders above those of the PG

  • All political activities had to be subordinate (secondary) to the aims of the Soviet

  • Orders of the PG should be followed, unless the Soviet disagreed

  • All military arms and equipment were transferred to Soviet from the Tsar’s officers

Soviet Order No. 1

Sp vs pg

Petrograd Soviet – no ‘official authority’

but had mass support and control of key

military and infrastructure.

Provisional Government – authority placed in hands of elite brains trust, derived from Tsar’s Duma. Had decision-making power but always at the risk of PS disagreement and questioned because of their position in the tsarist system.

SP vs PG

Why the provisional government failed to win support

  • Weak political and popular foundation – they weren’t voted in, were always temporary and represented an elitist tsarism that had caused revolution in the first place.

  • Continued fighting – war was going badly, but they committed to the war due to loans and sense of duty.

  • June offensive – unwise proactive attack of Austrian line on June 18. Aimed to rebuild confidence, caused pain.

  • Lack of focus on economic problems – granted freedoms but not ideas for re-invigorating economy… no bread for the people!

  • Lost support of both upper and working classes – tried to please everybody and reached an ‘impossible middle road’ (Kerensky). Without the tsar the Soviet had more power to rise up.

Why the Provisional Government failed to win support

Turning point 1 lenin s april theses

  • As of April 1917 the Bolshevik influence was limited with most leaders exiled in Europe or Siberia.

  • The Provisional Government released those in Siberia and allowed others to cross the border.

  • The German’s assisted Lenin hoping that he would lead the revolutionaries to defeat the government and then withdraw the Russian troops from the war (which they did). He, along with Trotsky, returned to Petrograd on April 3rd.

Turning Point 1: Lenin’s April Theses

Lenin s april theses

  • Lenin was radical, seeking exclusive power for the Bolshevik’s.

  • The PG’s freedom of speech allowed him to voice these opinions, starting at Finland Station when he returned.

  • His two slogan’s ‘Peace, Land, Bread!’ and ‘All Power to the Soviet’s’ were very effective at gaining popular support.

  • This growth in support would, eventually, lead to a transfer from the Provisional Government’s upper-class democracy to a revolutionary dictatorship of the workers and peasants.

Lenin’s April Theses

Lenin s april theses1

Lenin demanded: Bolshevik’s.

  • That Russia leave the ‘capitalist’ war;

  • Transfer from the ‘first stage’ of the revolution (placing power in the bourgeoisie) to the ‘second stage’ (placing the power in the hands of the leader of the proletariat, himself).

  • Dismissal of the Provisional Government.

  • Transfer of power to the Soviet of Worker’s Deputies (Petrograd Soviet).

  • Confiscation of all land and redistribution of land and wealth to the ‘local soviets’ (the peasantry and working class).

Lenin’s April Theses

Menshevik reaction

  • The Mensheviks were a more moderate party, with Bogdanov declaring Lenin’s thesis as ‘madness’.

  • Even some of the Bolsheviks, such as Kamenev, thought that Lenin’s arguments were ‘unacceptable’.

  • This made it clear that the Bolshevik’s would seek to gain power without the cooperation of other revolutionaries.

  • So the saying ‘All power to the Soviets’ really could be interpreted as ‘All power to the Bolshevik’s’!

  • Lenin sought to gain the Petrograd Soviet supporter base to gain sole political power. He had ended a period of relative cooperation between Russia’s political parties.

Menshevik reaction

Turning point 2 july day s

  • By late June the country was collapsing socially and economically, with 568 factories closing down and the dismissal of 104,000 workers.

  • Street demonstrations were common and from 3 to 6 July began to directly challenge the PG, with an estimated 500,000 protestors behaving in a disorganised and undisciplined way (drinking, looting etc).

  • The Bolshevik’s were blamed for the disturbances and this was a real setback for them. Trotsky tried to blame the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks.

  • Lenin fled to Finland, or as Pipes put it ‘the real culprit abandons his army…’

Turning Point 2: July Day’s

Surviving and thriving

Despite the July Days being a disaster it turned out well for the Bolshevik’s because:

  • They survived;

  • Lenin resolved his differences with Trotsky (a great tactician);

  • Trotsky used the failures to develop more effective strategies for the October Revolution.

  • Lenin learnt that revolution could not come from spontaneous outbursts by the masses but by strong, direct leadership from above. Surprise attacks rather than large-scale public protests would be the way forward.

  • Bolshevik’s realised that they needed to act alone by achieving majority support in the Petrograd Soviet.

  • The PG still had enough military support to defeat these mass protests so the Bolsheviks needed smaller, smarter operators.

Surviving and thriving

Turning point 3 kornilov revolt

  • Kerensky was appointed Prime Minister of the PG, two days after the July Days revolt and attacked the Bolshevik’s (arrested leaders, banned Pravda etc).

  • In August, General Kornilov was appointed Commander in Chief of the Russian Army. He was described as having the ‘heart of a lion and the brain of a sheep’.

  • Threatened by Germany at war, he marched his troops on Petrograd to ‘defend’. Kerensky saw this as a threat to the PG (military dictatorship) and declared Kornilov a ‘traitor’.

  • The Bolshevik’s were released and given weapons to protect Petrograd from the ‘tsarist general’.

  • This, of course, gave Trotsky the opportunity to arm and train the Red Guard in preparation for October.

Turning Point 3: Kornilov Revolt

Growth in support

By defeating Kornilov and his troops, the Bolshevik support grew rapidly with voting in the Moscow Soviet growing from 11% in July to 51% in September.

The Bolshevik’s were poised to take advantage of:

  • Demoralisation of the army

  • Increase popularity for the ‘defenders of Petrograd’

  • Self-appointment and support as the ‘true revolutionaries’

  • Majority in the Petrograd and Moscow Soviet

  • Trotsky being elected Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet.

Growth in support