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Noor Elkholi
IB 11 HL History
Mr. Ryan Welborn
May 31, 2011
Option 2: Compare and contrast the roles of Lenin and Trotsky in the 1917
Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, and in the foundation of the new Soviet State until
In the early twentieth century, Russian Bolsheviks were in need of leaders who
would unify the communist peoples of Russia into one party, thus creating a
foundation for a new communist state in Russia and spreading their realm until
their seizure of power. Vladimir Ulianov, also known as Lenin, rose to the challenge
as he advocated for the immediate seizure of Russian authority. Having been exiled
by the Russian government for his reformation and radical views, Lenin organized
his views under the heavy influence of Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto”, and
imposed them on the party he had created years prior – the Bolsheviks. Trotsky,
properly named Lev Bronstein, rose from a similar party named the Mensheviks,
from which he too was exiled after the 1905 revolution in Russia. Shortly, in July
1917, Trotsky joined the Bolsheviks and played a leading role in the seizure of
Bolshevik power alongside Lenin. Mutually, Lenin and Trotsky lead a Bolshevik
Revolution, in which the Bolsheviks seize power and create the foundation of a new
Soviet State until 1924.
An important factor in enabling these two men to rise to the challenge of
spreading the reign of Bolshevism was the unison in their ideas and causes for the
Bolshevik party. Several times, both were met with opposition from the rest of their
party. For example, after the failure of the February Revolution in Russia in 1917,
both Lenin and Trotsky supported phasing a second revolution, despite opposition
from the rest of the Bolshevik party. Similarly, Lenin and Trotsky agreed on several
ideals for the purpose of the Bolshevik party. They both agreed that in order for
Bolshevik control to reign after second successful Russian revolution, the dismissal
of the Constituent Assembly was necessary, as was the end of Russian participation
in the First World War. In harmony, they agreed to the terms they would agree to in
obtaining peace with Germany as they signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk thus
ending the First World War. Militarily, the two had very similar views such as the
idea of conscription for labor duties for those not fighting in the army. As is evident,
to them an economy with perfect distribution of income and a ban on trade unions
was essential, and was the only way the world could prosper. It is important to note
that the two worked not as two individuals, but as a sole ruling body. Often times
Lenin advised Trotsky how to handle situations and in fact probably favored him as
his successor. In fact, Trotsky was the one who persuaded Lenin to wait until
October to conduct the Second Revolution, that way the Bolsheviks will have
established their power among the Soviets. Their personalities meshed perfectly
together as one was an insisting, speech making orator, while Trotsky was the more
intellectual realist. Hence as a team, they gave the Bolsheviks a strong-willed leading
Though both would not have been successful without the other, both Lenin and
Trotsky played quite different roles in organizing what was to become Communist
Russia in the near future. They both played little to no roles in the early February
Revolution, however it was obvious that Trotsky was the immediate participator
and organizer in the later October Revolution. Lenin directed the Revolution from
his desk, though as a whole, he was leader of the party and the main driving force in
the Bolshevik control of Russia. Trotsky, after being elected Chairman of Petrograd
Soviets in 1917, had immense practical power over the city of Petrograd in terms of
railways, bridges and such. Hence, Trotsky was an extremely valuable asset to the
Bolsheviks and giving them the ability to claim the name of the Soviets, hence
gaining the support of workers. In a sense, Trotsky was politically below Lenin, as
Lenin was appointing Trotsky to certain positions after the Bolshevik seizure of
power. Trotsky, who was Commissar of Foreign Affairs, was ordered by Lenin to
negotiate for peace with Germany, causing Trotsky to resign as a result. During the
civil war, Lenin appointed Trotsky as Commissar for War, in which he proved up to
the challenge by organizing the Red Army and leading them to triumph in the civil
war, directing operations and successfully suppressing the Kronstadt Rising in
1921. According to historian Michael Lynch, “Trotsky’s outstanding achievement as
Commissar for War was his creation of the Red Army, which more than any other
factor explains the survival of the Bolshevik government. In several occasions, both
were in dissonance when it came to making several decisions. For example, when
Lenin introduced the New Economic Policy (NEP), Trotsky was quite opposed to it,
though Lenin got his way in the end.
Until Lenin’s death in 1924, he and Trotsky had worked in unison in creating a
perfect Bolshevik power. As Lenin left the Bolsheviks with words of advice, it is
probable that he would have favored Trotsky as his successor, but as that did not go
into play, Lenin’s legacy was to be succeeded by Joseph Stalin. Nothing however
could make up the harmonization of the personalities of Trotsky and Lenin as their
political aims and views were strong, their intellect tough, and their oratory
convincing. How these aspects impacted their respective roles is what led to a new
Russia for years and years to follow.