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To what extent was the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk significant for

the Bolshevik consolidation of power?

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was significant to the Bolshevik

consolidation of power, in that it allowed Lenin to pull Russia out of
the war and deliver on his key promises of land, bread and peace.
However, it was not as important to the Bolshevik triumph as victory
in the Civil War, which eliminated all armed opposition, and the
introduction of NEP, which strengthened the Bolsheviks support
among the peasants and workers.


The Bolsheviks used a combination of persuasion and force to

consolidate power following the October Revolution. The Treaty of
Brest-Litovsk was a key element of the former, as it allowed Lenin to
honour his promise of land, bread, peace. However, it also helped
spark a civil war, and forced the Bolsheviks to resort of brute force
in order to eliminate their armed opponents. In the end, Lenin was
obliged to restore capitalism in the countryside in order to win back
support from the peasants, workers and soldiers.

How significant was Lenins leadership in the Bolshevik

consolidation of power in the period to 1924?

Lenins leadership was crucial to the Bolshevik consolidation of

power. It was he who decided to make peace with Germany, he who
introduced the key economic and social reforms of 1917-18, he who
appointed Trotsky commander of the Red Army, and he who
introduced NEP. Without any one of these actions, the Bolsheviks
might not have retained power. Even so, there were other important
factors at work in the Bolshevik triumph by 1924.

To what extent did practice triumph over Communist theory

in the Bolshevik consolidation of power?

Undoubtedly, the Bolsheviks resorted to practical, non-ideological

solutions to the problems they faced in the years following the
October Revolution. Economically, State Capitalism, War
Communism and NEP were all introduced to counter urgent threats
facing the Party and the nation. However, NEP also represented a
longer-term vision for the future one based on Marxs conviction
that capitalism was an inevitable phase of development. By
contrast, at a political level Lenin never deviated from the principle
of democratic centralism, by which the Party enforced the
dictatorship of the proletariat.

While the Bolsheviks came to power intending to implement
Communist ideology, they were quickly forced to compromise their
ideas in order to hold onto power. By 1921, Lenin was advocating a
policy that was basically rural capitalism (NEP) in order to repair the
economic and win back public support following the disaster of War
Communism and the Civil War.

To what extent was the New Economic Policy (NEP) essential

to the Bolshevik consolidation of power?

The Bolsheviks used a combination of persuasion and force to

consolidate power following the October Revolution. NEP was the
key element of persuasion, as it allowed Lenin to implement his
slogan of land, bread, peace and thereby win over the peasants,
workers and soldiers. However, NEP alone did not secure the
Bolsheviks in power. It was victory in the Civil War that eliminated
their armed opponents and left the Party in sole possession of
political power.

To what extent did the New Economic Policy (NEP)

compromise the Communist Partys ideology?

New Economic Policy undoubtedly compromised the Communist

Party's ideology, as espoused by Lenin in 1917. However, it did was
not necessarily contradict the principles of Marxism, as Lenin
acknowledged towards the end of his life.

1. Marxs ideology: capitalism would be overthrown by a workers

revolution, establishing socialism. The Bolsheviks shared this

2. Problems facing Russia when the Bolsheviks came to power: the

nation was in ruins; they had no idea what form of socialism to
adopt, or how to do it.

3. Policies pursued by the Bolsheviks: state capitalism, War

Communism, NEP.

4. NEP was a combination of rural capitalism and industrial

socialism. It was undoubtedly a retreat from Bolshevik ideology,
but this was not incompatible with Marxism, as Russia was not
ready yet for full socialism. War Communism convinced Lenin
that Russia needed to complete its capitalist development.

Hence, it can be seen that while NEP did indeed contradict the
socialist principles Lenin and his colleagues espoused, it was not
necessarily the wrong path for a Marxist party to pursue in Russia at
that nations stage of development.

How effectively did the Communist Party deal with the

challenges it faced in the period from the end of the Civil
War until 1929?
The Bolsheviks faced serious challenges when they came to power
in 1917. The four most important were dealing with armed
opponents (known as Whites) who were determined to oust them
from government, winning over public support (especially among
the peasants, who represented over 80 percent of the population),
setting the country on the path to industrialisation, and establishing
socialism in Russia. By 1929, only the first two of these had been

1. The Bolsheviks aims when they came to power: consolidate

power; establish a socialist system; and industrialise the country.

2. The Civil War: the Bolsheviks secured their political power in the
short term by destroying the armed opposition; but the county
was in ruins.

3. Problems facing Russia in 1921: physical and human devastation;

low agricultural production, resulting in virtually no surplus to
finance industrialisation; fuel shortages; low industrial production
(20 percent of 1913 level); widespread opposition to War
Communism; Kronstadt Rebellion (1921).

4. NEP introduced, to solve these problems. This involved rural

capitalism (to restore incentives and production); a mixed
industrial sector (to raise production); more political freedom.

5. NEP was very successful, and Lenin endorsed it as the path for
the future.

6. Following Lenins death (1924), there was debate over NEP. Its
perceived failings: didnt deliver a big agricultural surplus for the
state to devote to industrialisation; it was creating a class of
wealthy capitalist peasants (kulaks).

7. By 1929, Russia had fully recovered from WWI and the Civil War,
and the Bolsheviks had restored their popularity and secured
their hold on power. However, by their own criteria, they had not
succeeded in establishing a socialist system and industrialising
Russia. To this extent, they had not dealt with the biggest
challenges they faced.

Assess the impact of War Communism and the New

Economic Policy (NEP) on both the peasantry and proletariat
in Russian society between 1918 and 1928.

War Communism had a devastating impact on both the peasantry

and the proletariat in Russia in the years after the Revolution.
However, the New Economic Policy (NEP) that followed the Civil War
had the opposite effect, raising living standards and restoring
support for the Bolshevik Party.

1. Background to the Civil War and the introduction of War

2. Main features of War Communism.

3. Impacts of War Communism on the country: it helped the

Bolsheviks win the Civil War, but it destroyed the economy.

4. Impacts on the peasantry: lack of incentives resulted in falling

food production. Government responded with repression;
resulted in chaos in the countryside; loss of support for the

5. Impacts on the proletariat: lack of fuel and food resulted in

starvation and low production. Workers had to be forced to
produce. Opposition grew. The Kronstadt sailors rebelled, and
had to be crushed by the Red Army.

6. Lenin introduced NEP in 1921 to rebuild the economy and restore

the Bolsheviks popularity among the peasants and workers.

7. Impacts on the peasantry: incentives resulted in increased food

production; opposition fell and support for the Bolsheviks grew.
Some peasants became rich.

8. Impacts on the proletariat: wages and working conditions

improved; production increased. But most benefits went to the
peasants rather than the workers.

Hence, while War Communism proved disastrous for the peasants

and workers in Russia, NEP improved their lives significantly.
However, it failed to satisfy the economic, ideological and political
needs of the Bolshevik Party, and so it was abandoned in favour of
the Stalinist path to rapid industrialisation.

Why did Stalin win the power struggle in the Soviet Union in
the period up to 1929?

Stalin used the ideological and political debates of the 1920s to

attack Trotsky and establish his primacy within the Party. He was
aided by the fact that Trotsky could not match his ruthless
determination and his skill as a politician. In particular, Trotsky
suffered from a failure of judgment as to the nature and extent of
the threat he faced.

1. Stalin developed a power base via his position as General

Secretary. The Civil War allowed him to appoint thousands of his
supporters to positions of power.

2. Trotsky lacked such a power base in the Bolshevik party, since he

had joined it late. Many feared Trotskys power over the army,
following the Civil War.

3. Trotskys personal qualities did not lend themselves to leadership
of a political party: he was arrogant and rude to his colleagues;
he was too intellectual for his colleagues; he failed to recognise
the threat Stalin posed.

4. Stalin, by contrast, was a very clever politician. He was also

ruthless, determined, and very patient.

5. He used the ideological debates of the 1920s to out-manoeuvre

Trotsky. His slogan Socialism in one country was a winner.

6. Finally, Trotsky failed to take the opportunity he had to destroy

Stalin, using Lenins testament. He was too loyal to the party.

Evaluate the impact of Lenins death on party leadership

and the debate over modernisation within the Bolshevik

Lenins death in 1924 sparked a power struggle between Stalin and

Trotsky. Stalin used the economic debates over modernisation that
dominated the mid-1920s to discredit Trotsky, Lenins nominated
successor, and consolidate power in his own hands. In so doing, he
set the direction the country would take for the next 60 years.


Assess the impact of the purges on the development of

Stalinism in the 1930s.

The purges were played a crucial role in the establishment of the

system we know as Stalinism, by eliminating all the dictators
rivals within the Party. Even so, they were not the only factor used
by Stalin to consolidate his power during the 1930s. Propaganda,
collectivization and industrialization also played an important role.

1. Propaganda: made Stalin look like a great leader.

2. Collectivisation: gave Stalin control over the peasantry; created a

group of people who were ready to kill for him; accustomed the
Party to mass murder.

3. Industrialisation: delivered benefits to the nation and many of its

people. Stalin took the credit.

4. The Terror: allowed Stalin to eliminate his rivals in the Party, and
to blame his failures on others.
Trials were held of wreckers in factories.
The kulaks were blamed for the failure of collectivisation.
The murder to Kirov eliminated Stalins key rival in the Party,
as well as many of his allies.
The show trials eliminated all other rivals.
The Great Purge, eliminated any possible opposition in the
nations major economic, political and cultural institutions.

Hence it can be seen that the Terror played the key role in Stalins
consolidation of power, but was not the only factor at work. The
dictator also used propaganda, collectivisation and industrialisation
to establish his totalitarian regime.

To what extent did leadership conflict and differing visions

for the USSR shape the history of the Soviet Union in the
period 1917-1941?

Leadership conflict and differing ideological visions for the USSR

were crucial to the history of the Soviet Union in the two decades
following the October Revolution. This was particularly so following
the death of Lenin in 1924. The power struggle between Stalin and
Trotsky coloured almost all the events that followed. Had Trotsky
won the power struggle instead of Stalin, or had Stalins power been
constrained following the debacle of collectivisation, millions of lives
might have been spared.

1. The ideological debates of the mid-1920s were linked to the

power struggle taking place between Trotsky and Stalin,
following Lenins death. Stalin used the debates over
industrialisation, foreign relations and Party structure to win.
The industrialisation debate: NEP vs rapid industrialisation.
NEP won.
foreign relations: Permanent Revolution (internationalism) vs
Socialism in One Country (isolationism). Isolationism won.
Party structure: free debate vs a ban on factions. The ban on
factions won.

2. Stalin now turned against NEP, using this to oust Bukharin from
the leadership.

3. Stalin now embarked on a policy of collectivisation and

industrialisation via central planning.

4. When collectivisation failed, Stalin faced opposition within the

Party. His key rival was Sergei Kirov. Following Kirovs murder
(probably ordered by Stalin), Stalin launched a purge of Kirovs

5. With Kirov removed, Stalin turned on the rest of his colleagues.

He eliminated them in a series of show trials, then launched the
Great Purge.

6. Fortunately, industrialisation was more successful than

collectivisation. By 1941, the USSR had become one of the most
industrialised nations in the world.

Hence, the ideological debates and accompanying leadership
struggle of the mid 1920s shaped Russian history up until 1941.
They established the political primacy of Joseph Stalin and, in
consequence, the economic direction the country would take.

How did Russias leaders use terror to consolidate their

power between 1918 and 1939?

Terror was a key element of Bolshevik policy from the earliest days
of the Revolution. It reached its peak under Stalin in the 1930s, but
the purges of those years would not have been possible without the
apparatus built by Lenin and Dzerzhinsky.

1. The use of terror during Lenins time:

Used from the earliest days after the Revolution. Opposition
leaders were arrested and the Constituent Assembly closed. By
mid-1918, Russia was a one party state.
When the Civil War broke out, Lenin set the secret police the
task of eliminating the Revolutions enemies. Tens of thousands
were murdered.
Following the Kronstadt Rebellion, and thousands of sailors
were shot.

2. The use of terror during Stalins time:

The kulaks were eliminated following collectivisation in 1932-
33. Seven million people starved to death, and millions of others
were sent to labour camps.
Following Kirovs murder in 1934, Stalin unleashed a series of
show trials, aimed at discrediting and eliminating his enemies
within the Central Committee.
In 1937, Stalin launched the Great Purge a full-scale assault
on every institution in the Soviet Union. 18 million people died
during the 1930s.

Hence, it can be seen that terror was an integral part of the

Bolsheviks strategy to deal with their political opponents. Joseph
Stalin only took it to its logical extreme, during the purges of the

Account for the changes in Soviet society under Stalin to


Between 1929 and 1941 Stalin introduced a series of changes to

Soviet society in order to modernize the country and consolidate his
personal power. Modernisation involved the abandonment of NEP
and its replacement with collectivization and rapid industrialization.
The consolidation of power involved the introduction of the Cult of
Personality and the widespread us of terror. By 1941 the Soviet
Union had been transformed from an authoritarian state under the
control of the Bolshevik Party to a totalitarian one under the control
of Stalin.

Evaluate the view that Stalinism produced positive changes
for Soviet society.

Undoubtedly, Stalinism did produce some positive changes for

Soviet society, economic development in the cities being the most
obvious. However, for the most part Stalins contribution was
negative. Under his rule the country transformed from an
authoritarian system under the control of the Bolshevik Party to a
totalitarian one under the control of Stalin himself. All of his rivals
and opponents were swept away during this period, as were millions
of people whose only crime was that they were citizens of Russia.

How did Russias leaders use terror to consolidate their

power between 1918 and 1939?

Terror was a key element of Bolshevik policy from the earliest days
of the Revolution. It reached its peak under Stalin in the 1930s, but
the purges of those years would not have been possible without the
apparatus built by Lenin and Dzerzhinsky.