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Reforms following the November Revolution
Economic reforms
The Bolsheviks also introduced a series of reforms aimed at consolidating their support
among the peasants and the working class:
 all land owned by the church, the Tsar and the nobles was handed over to the peasants.
 working hours were reduced.
 insurance was introduced for workers.
 factories were put under the control of workers’ committees.
Lenin called this system ‘state capitalism’.
Political changes
The Mensheviks and moderate SRs walked out of the All Russia Congress of Soviets
following the November Revolution, leaving the Bolsheviks and left SRs in control.
The Bolsheviks forged an alliance with the left SRs.
Strikes broke out in November and December 1917, when workers realised the Bolsheviks
were not intending to share power with other political forces.
The Bolsheviks employed two tactics to deal with this opposition: they arrested opposition
leaders and closed their printing presses; and they proceeded with the election for the
Constituent Assembly (the Duma), confident that they would win a majority of its seats.
In the December election, the Bolsheviks received only 24 percent of the national vote. They
delayed the opening of the Assembly till January, then arrested and intimidated its members.
When the Assembly finally met, the Bolsheviks realised they could not control its
proceedings. They closed it down the same day, preferring to rule via the All Russian
Congress of Soviets (which they did control). There was very little popular opposition to this.
Peace with Germany
The Bolsheviks then initiated peace negotiations with Germany. They agreed to cede
significant land and resources to Germany and pay harsh reparations.
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed on March 3rd, 1918.
The capital was moved to Moscow.
The left Socialist Revolutionaries refused to ratify the treaty, and walked out of the Soviet.
This left the Bolsheviks as the sole party in power.
The White armies
Civil War broke out almost immediately after the Bolsheviks had consolidated their power in
Petrograd, Moscow and the major cities of the northeast.
The anti-Bolshevik forces consisted of monarchists, liberals, moderate Socialist
Revolutionaries, anarchists and ex-officers from the imperial army. They were known as the
‘Whites’. They were not united politically or ideologically.
The Whites were aided by the French, British and Americans, who hoped to get Russia back
into the war by overthrowing the Bolsheviks. The foreign powers also wanted to rid Europe
of communism, which they feared might spread west following the war.
Trotsky and the Red Army
Trotsky was appointed War Commissar in March 1918. He brought his organisational and
military skills to the Red Army, and turned it into a formidable fighting force.
Trotsky recruited 50,000 former imperial army officers into the Red Army.
Conscription was introduced for all workers and peasants. The Red Army to 5 million men.
The Civil War
Reasons for the Bolshevik victory:
 The Whites were badly divided, geographically and ideologically. The Bolsheviks, on the
other hand, controlled the interior lines. meaning they could coordinate their attacks and
concentrate their forces on each of the White armies, crushing them one by one.
 The Bolsheviks controlled the regions where most of the nation’s population, resources
(both industrial and agricultural) and transportation were found.
 The Bolsheviks were better led. Trotsky’s genius was vital to the victory.
 The White forces failed to win over the peasants, because they returned the land the
Bolsheviks had handed out.
 The Bolsheviks used terror very effectively against their opponents.
 The Whites used terror indiscriminately, killing many innocent people. This turned
people against them.
 The Bolsheviks also had a propaganda advantage, since the Whites were supported by
foreign powers.
By the end of 1919, the Red Army had defeated the most potent of the White armies, driving
the remnants into Siberia. By 1921, the Red Army had recaptured virtually all the territories
of the old Russian Empire. Finally, the Japanese were driven out in 1922, allowing the
Bolsheviks to impose their control over eastern Siberia.
The Red Terror
The Cheka was established in December 1917, under the control of Felix Dzerzhinsky.
Revolutionary Tribunals were set up, to deal with enemies of the regime. It became a crime to
oppose the regime.
By mid 1918, all opposition parties had been abolished and the royal family executed.
The Cheka’s activities were stepped up in August 1918, following an attempt on Lenin’s life.
Hundreds were shot. By 1924, as many as 250,000 people had been put to death.
The Kronstadt Rebellion
By 1921, the Bolsheviks had won the Civil War, but the cost had been high. Ten million
people had died, mostly from starvation, cold and disease. The Bolsheviks’ enemies had been
eliminated, but now opposition was growing among formerly staunch supporters.
In February 1921, the Kronstadt sailors revolted. They were demanding new elections to the
soviets, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly for all left wing
groups, a return to free trade unions and the release of left wing political prisoners – all
polices the Bolsheviks had promised before they seized power in 1917.
Lenin and Trotsky sent troops to crush the revolt. Hundreds of sailors were shot by the
Cheka, making a mockery of the Bolsheviks’ claims to represent the working class.