How significant a figure in the revolutions of 1917 in Russia was Lenin?
The significance of Lenin had changed throughout the revolutions of March and November and, his influence over other important people made him a figure of significance and not from different aspects. The argument of whether he was the actual single figure who managed to single handily guide Russia into a completely different era of rule. "He had limitless capacity to persuade, cajole and goad...Lenin returned clandestinely from Finland to participate and the consequent decision came from his pen". But many looked at Lenin's role as "Lenin's role fell far short of Trotsky... Yet there is no doubt that without Lenin the Bolshevik coup would have been postponed and might have failed...". The return of Lenin, leader of the Bolsheviks was to change the whole course of the revolution. In this essay, I am going to outline how significant was Lenin in the revolutions of 1917, how he significant he was in changing Russia into a revolution and whether this played a part with other factors, Trotsky.
The significance of the Lenin is doubted in the revolution of March 1917 due to the current state of Russia at the time and it was more to do with the impact of the First World War. The real reasons for March Revolution was the conditions Russia was in at this time; the country was in war with Germany and was unprepared to fight a modern war. This shows us that Lenin was not significant because he had no influential change towards the revolution it was more a revolution of the people.
The organisation, structure and membership of the Bolshevik party before the revolution were not sufficient enough to lead a revolution. The effect of the "arrests, deportations and exile" seemed to "cripple" the Bolshevik party. The Bolshevik party were "orphaned" by their leaders because of the party didn't have enough leadership and also their newspaper was not being produced which lacked information for what the members should carry out. The communication between the members of the party was not effective and, Shliapnikov was the messenger which maintained their last line of communication. The lack of intellectual capability among the members in Russia didn't match Lenin's which showed the insignificance of Lenin in the February revolution.
The emerging powers after the Tsar's abdication were the Provisional Government. The Dumas provisional government were the dominant group who were pushing for power after the abdication of the tsar. The insignificance of Lenin is seen because of his physical position in exile in Switzerland did not give him the physical position of being in Russia and actively winning over the people to go for a revolution.
The angry situation between the people of Russia and the Provisional Government, Lenin's and the Bolshevik Parties appealing slogan "Peace, Bread and Land", acted as a wary message to the provisional Government. The return of Lenin was the physical starting point of his aim to completely change the whole course of the revolution. The ability of Lenin to win over the Bolshevik Party Central Committee allowed him to get a foothold in power. The April thesis was not only significant because it established the Bolshevik demands as the only socialist antiwar party. The gradual anger and annoyance of the war would build up so that the people would support the Bolsheviks Lenin's ability to visualise and need exactly what was essential and was determined to do so. The significance of Lenin was appearing to be more prominent and important because, Lenin's ideas seemed to fit the disgruntled people's requirements and was comparable to the needs of the Russian people. Lenin had managed to format and shape the Bolshevik parties needs onto one platform that was most definitely likeable to the peasant demands which resulted in the party gaining popular support and by September they voted in a Bolshevik majority in the Petrograd Soviet.
Roman Malinovsky was Lenin's agent while he was in exile in Switzerland. In 1906, he worked for the St Petersburg steelworkers union and become general of the union. After this he became elected at the Duma and eventually took charge of the 6 members of the Bolshevik group. Malinovsky becoming Lenin's agent is evidence to show us that he had influence over certain people who had important positions which contributed towards the revolution. This is clear evidence that Lenin had contact with some of the people in the demonstrations which effectively commanded and directed the Bolsheviks to cause a revolution.
Lenin's leadership, hard working qualities and the ability to use and manipulate the events so that they were dominated by Bolshevik success after his return to Russia, enabled the Bolsheviks Party to effectively seize control. Before the arrival of Lenin, the Bolsheviks had accepted the events of February Revolution which lead to the formation of dual power as part as a genuine revolution. The loyalty of some of the Bolsheviks was questioned when they were wanted to work with other revolutionary and reformist parties. However, Lenin's energetic and erratic speeches when he arrived at Petrograd's Finland station argued against the provisional government and called for a second revolution. Lenin's ability to reform the Bolshevik party and keep loyalty in the party was essential for the November revolution.
From March to November 1917 still stayed as one of the minority party in the soviets. By Autumn of 1917, had lost support because since July Aleksandr Kerensky had lost popular support. The state of Russia was seen as approaching a war and the breakdown of the economy overtaxed the patience of workers, solider and peasants. Lenin's ability to capitalise the weary situation of the disillusionment of the people was the trigger of him being successful to begin the revolution.
Kerensky's mistake to launch an attack against the Austro-Hungarians led to the major demonstrations in Petrograd which shows us that the soldiers did not approve of this. The power of the people has the potential to take over the country. The soldiers turned to the Bolsheviks as they were all greatly influenced by the Bolshevik Party. Lenin's desire was that the soviets would be in support of the party. Lenin hoped that the soviets would be in support of their party and take sole power of the country. At the start of the processions Lenin was on holiday and was surprised by the sudden attempt for power when these disturbances started and the leaders could not make up their mind whether to try and seize power or not. Lenin's hesitation gave the government time to move loyal troops into the city hence stopping the riots quickly. The hesitation shows us that Lenin's decisiveness was lacking at this time because of the confusion among the leaders at the time, which didn't enable the Bolsheviks take full advantage of the situation and turn it so that it could have been successful stepping stone for power and popularity.
The Korinlov coup was vital to for the Bolsheviks to become one of the major powers. The power and influence was seen by Lenin and Trotsky's authority over the MRC (Red Guards) was seen by the troops attitude and response to overthrowing the Soviets in Kornilov's attempt to take over Petrograd. The inability of Kornilov's troops was seen when they were easily persuaded by the Bolsheviks to abandon the attempt to overthrow the soviet. This event of attempted overthrowing was clear that the Bolsheviks had the most influence over the soldiers who had done the fighting because the majority of these "Red Guards" were practically the Bolsheviks' private army. Lenin's power and authority is noticed by seeing the soldiers backing down and not even to attempting to take over the Petrograd Soviet.
Trotsky's organisation and ability to win over people was a largely the happening of the October revolution. His position of being the chairman of the Petrograd soviet meant that he had the military power and was in charge of the military revolutionary committee which could defend Russia under attack from the Germans. Leon Trotsky was very important figure for the October Revolution and this shows Lenin's insignificance but, Lenin was as a person whose main role in all this was his insistence that there must be a revolution told what Trotsky to do and, so the happenings of the October revolution was largely seen under Trotsky's name because he was the more public figure of the party.
Lenin's contributions to the Bolsheviks before 1917 were his intellectual leadership and his determination to build up to the October Revolution. He was the leader of the party who was essential for the coming together of the revolution. Trotsky's role was very significant because he greatly helped the Bolsheviks even though he became a member in the summer and since that time Lenin's role fell far shorter than that of Trotsky. I think that Trotsky was more successful because he was in both of the revolutions and controlled the troops so that they acted in his favour. The Tsar abdicating before the revolution led to his downfall, the provisional government showed the inability to govern Russia and Kerensky mistake to send Russia to war was the turning point where the Bolsheviks were given weapons. The mistake of employing Kornilov was a mistake to try and weaken the Bolsheviks. The combination and sequence of these factors gave the opportunity for Lenin and Trotsky to take advantage of the situation give their party the leadership and co-operation to carry out the revolutions at the right time.