Explain how the Bolsheviks were able to consolidate their power in the period from 1917 to 1921.
The Bolsheviks were able to consolidate their power in Russia in the years after the Revolution because they were better organised and better led than their opponents. In addition, they had a compelling ideology, and offered more to Russia’s peasants and workers than their opponents could do. More than anything, though, they were ruthless and determined. Failure was not something they were willing to countenance.
In the weeks following the November Revolution, the Bolsheviks attempted to implement the promises they had made to their supporters. They redistributed land owned by the Tsar, church and nobility to the peasants, improved wages and working conditions, gave women greater rights, and initiated peace negotiations with Germany.
Not all Russians welcomed the Bolshevik coup, however, and a wave of strikes and protests broke out once it was realised that Lenin and his cronies did not intend to share power with other political forces.
The Bolsheviks dealt with the protesters by arresting their leaders and closing down their printing presses. At the same time, they proceeded with the election for the Constituent Assembly (the Duma), confident that they would win a majority of its seats. This would allow them to claim that they represented the majority of the people.
The election was held in December 1917, but the result was a disaster for the Bolsheviks. They got only 24 percent of the national vote. Lenin reacted by delaying the opening of the Assembly, then closing it down altogether – ruling instead via the All Russian Congress of Soviets (which the Bolsheviks did control). The Cadet Party (which represented Russia’s small middle class) was banned; all opposition newspapers were closed, and a secret police force (the Cheka) established. Next, the Bolsheviks signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany (March 1918), taking Russia out...