Why did the Bolsheviks triumph?



fait accompli . Who looked that one up?  There are great and complicated machinations at work in this chapter that I do not expect you to commit to detailed memory.  Even Pipes admits the complexity is too great for his short treatment here.

The long and short of it is that gaining power was as easy for Lenin as “picking up a feather”.  As the woman in the documents you will read in class testifies to the “white” soldiers walked out and dropped their munitions.  There was no resistance.

There were three keys to this event which you should know in at least their basic form.  Failure of a major offensive in WWI, failure of the Provisional Government (PG) to hold an election, and the Kornilov affair, which you should know in the basic terms that Pipes lays down here.

Pipes makes a curious statement here that one, despite Lenin’s fears, cannot “betray” a revolution.  I think what he means here is that whereas there maybe be treasonous persons like a Benedict Arnold, a true revolution from below will have such power as to make their betrayal if not meaningless, than a mere bump in the road.

* a note on the image here.  I pulled it from another blog which noted it as the storming of the winter palace in the fall of 1917.  I noodled around a bit and found out there it is actually a still from Eisenstein’s 1926 film “October” and that the film sequence was actually modeled after the 1920 reenactment in which Lenin actually took place, not on the event of 1917 which was “far less photogenic” according to Wikipedia.

9 Responses to “Why did the Bolsheviks triumph?”

  1. Samantha Ayala-Lucio says:

    Like you said, there was a lot of information to grasp, yet it was an interesting reading.
    A thing that has already happened or been decided, the definition of fait accompli. During that chunk of text, Pipe says, “He did not trust even an illegally convened soviet congress packed with his adherents to hand him power. […] Hold your congress, if you insist, but first seize power and then present it with a fait accompli” (52). During that time period Lenin started to come out of hiding because he knew the Bolshevik’s time had come and so did his colleagues.
    Something I found interesting however, was the fact the Lenin had no care for his country whatsoever and purely wanted power and was rather interested on Germany and France.
    In addition, towards the end of the section, the fact that the Mensheviks were not content with the Bolsheviks and continued to support them, just seemed something intelligent from their part, being a small group and all, “It is essential above all to take into account the tragic fact that any violent liquidation of the Bolshevik coup will, at the same time, result inevitably in the liquidation of all conquests of the Russian Revolution” (59).

  2. Vivien Bautista says:

    I thought it was interesting that Pipes mentioned that even though Kerensky appointed Kornilov as the commander of the Russian army, he attempted to accuse Kornilov of trying to steal the capital city. Pipes describes Kornilov as a Russian George Patton- popular amongst the troops and partriotic but lacking aptitude in politics.

    After convincing Kornilov to send troops to Pertograd, Kerensky accused Kornilov but instead of Kornilov being found guilty, people had evidence against Kerensky. This resulted in the start of Kerensky’s downfall because the army would turn against him.

  3. Alexander Monta says:

    I think that what Pipes meant by saying that you can’t betray a revolution is that Lenin wasn’t planning a revolution so much as a coup d’état. “With these words, he demonstrated that what he was planning was not a revolution. For how can one ‘betray’ a revolution? Can one imagine anybody being accused of betraying the French Revolution? A coup d’état, on the other hand, can indeed be betrayed”( 53). I think a revolution feeds off the people and public sentiments, and their will to accomplish whatever it is that they are setting out to do, whereas a coup d’état is a more dangerous game, involving the special organization of people to take the government in one swift movement. If someone were to tell of the plan to seize government buildings, the police would be prepared, and the over throwers would be arrested and the coup would be finished, whereas if it were a true revolution created by the masses, public sentiment would keep the resistance going, as opposed to a coup where the resistance is only made up of the ambitions of a small group.

  4. Monserrat says:

    I’m curious as to why the socialist revolutionists didn’t take over Petrograd the way the Bolsheviks did. I the coup as Pipe continues to mentions happend over night. Basically lenin’s plan what to insert some of his advisors into the certain military units to have military control, also Lenin took over all the telegraphs and communication forms. Lenin just wanted power as Richard said but this power to have Russia meant what to him. It’s crazy that for the first time Lenin changed any structure for Eurpoes form of government from a group powered government to just one ruler. Bolsheviks triumphed because they timed it right and they also spread out in the capital city. All of lenin’s plans, even though he never showed his face, was well planned and aswe can see know effective. Maybe not correct or right but worked and forever changed Russia’s view of power.

  5. Sid Cunniff says:

    fait accompli. The literal translation into English of this French phrase is a fact realized or accomplished. One dictionary defined the term as, “An accomplished fact; an action which is completed before those affected by it are in a position to query or reverse it”.
    I didn’t know they had a term for this action! It’s really interesting as this relates to the term coup d’ètat. Pipes defines it as “an action accomplished by a better organized, more conscious, better-armed minority which imposed its will on the majority and conquered it” (33). fait accompli, please correct me if I’m wrong, is pretty much the middle of a coup d’état, where the affected ones haven’t reacted yet, prabably because they don’t have the power to react.

    What I find interesting was how pipes mentioned the size between the three main Russian radical parties. Bolsheviks, being the smallest, Mensheviks in the middle, and then the Socialists Revolutionaries. Pipes also mentioned WHO the Bolsheviks and Menshebiks consisted of. The Bolsheviks had 78.3% of thier candidates from Great Russain provinces while the Mensheviks only had 34% (Half the amount!). Why did the Mensheviks have the majority consisting of Georgians, Jews, and other ethnic minorities?

  6. Victor Mohler says:

    I like the quote that Sid mentioned in his comment “an action accomplished by a better organized, more conscious, better-armed minority which imposed its will on the majority and conquered it” (33). Pipes defines this quote to be more of an “overthrow” than a “revoliutsiia”. I agree with Pipes because to me it seems as if though the communist party did not cause a revolution but just overthrew the existing government.

  7. Stephen Hager says:

    I thought that it was interesting that Lenin mentioned that others had betrayed the revolution. I agree with Pipes that this was indicative of a coup, because one can’t really betray an ouvert and majority-back revolution. There isn’t really anything that one could do to stop such a massive movement.

  8. Ava Gaughen says:

    I can’t tell if I missed something or if it wasn’t expressly stated, but the long-term purpose and ultimate government that Lenin and the Bolsheviks wanted to impose was unclear to me. Pipes does note that Lenin didn’t want totalitarianism, “forcing him to install a totalitarian regime, which had not been his intention” (44) but what Lenin wanted for Russia/the world was unclear. Yes he wanted power and Pipes does acknowledge Lenin’s shortcomings as a statesman but what was the purpose? World domination? Using Russia as a “stepping stone to global upheaval”? This goal seems almost as vague as Welkpolitik. But overall, this chapter was very good at analyzing the various factors and potential factors in the Bolsheviks success in coming to power.

  9. Olivia Sanchez says:

    Although I originally thought that this book would be easier to understand considering it’s size, I have to say that I miss reading Kissinger. I think this book is more confusing because I really don’t know much about the Russian Revolution, and thus all these ideas are very foreign to me. Despite this, while reading, I came across a quote that I think describes the whole Bolshevik idea quite clearly, and it states that “totalitarian parties did not compete with rival parties, but liquidated them” (39). I thought this was interesting to read, for it pointed out the fact that for the Bolsheviks, and totalitarian parties to come, domination was a right, not an option.

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