The Bolsheviks’ aims were to overthrow the Tsarist regime in Russia, and the Bolsheviks achieved this when the Tsar abdicated his throne in March 1917. The Duma then decided to from a Provisional Government, which would rule Russia until elections for a new Government could be held. The demise of the Provisional Government became the Bolshevik’s next aim.
The Provisional Government organised a constituent assembly which was dominated by the Socialist Revolutionaries as they were supported by the peasants. However, the Bolsheviks lacked support in the Constituent assembly but Lenin was determined to assert his plans to make Russia and communist country. Lenin used his secret police: The Cheka, to intimidate, imprison and murder political rivals. It is here that we see Trotsky’s first contribution to the success of the Bolsheviks.
When people began to protest against the forced closure of the Constituent assembly, Trotsky’s Red Guard were ordered to shoot at the demonstrators and they wounded and killed more than a hundred protestors.
Trotsky’s next contribution towards the success of the Bolsheviks was his brilliant execution of the November Revolution. Trotsky was given the responsibility of planning the details of the seizure of the power over Petrograd. The Bolsheviks staged their revolution quickly and efficiently under the great direction of Trotsky. Within two days, Trotsky’s Red Guard had sized railway stations, telegraph offices, state banks and other similar important places required to give the Bolsheviks control over Petrograd.
Trotsky’s next contribution towards the success of the Bolsheviks was under his position as Commissar for Foreign Affairs. Trotsky was given the responsibility of negotiating the treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Trotsky’s intention was to delay talks of the treaty hoping that there would be a similar revolution in Germany. A revolution in Germany would result in the treaty of Brest-Litovsk becoming void as Russia would owe nothing to the new German Government. Trotsky achieved his aims and managed to hold off any finalisation of the treaty for nine weeks. Although Russia had lost important coal and iron sources and a third of its grain producing land in the treaty, the nine week period gave the Bolsheviks a “breathing space” in which they could re-orientate themselves and concentrate in other areas of the revolution.
The forming of the Red Army was undoubtedly Trotsky’s greatest contribution towards the success of the Bolsheviks. Trotsky was given the task of recruiting an army loyal to the Bolsheviks. Trotsky’s main limitation was finding someone to train the new recruits. Trotsky therefore decided to recruit Tsarist officers to train the “raw” recruits. Trotsky forced the former Tsarist officials to cooperate by threatening them if they refused to ally with the Bolsheviks:
* Any officer that refused to join the Bolsheviks would be sent to prison.
* Any officer that deserted the Bolshevik army would have their family sent to prison.
Trotsky managed to recruit 22,000 Tsarist officers to train the 330,000 new recruits to the Red Army. To guarantee loyalty from the entire Army, Trotsky decided to enforce discipline through a terror system:
* Any one who incited desertion or anyone that did not fulfil a military order would be shot.
* Any/Every Red Army member who deserted his post would be shot.
* Any/Every who sells their equipment will be shot.
* Those guilty of harbouring deserters will be shot.
* Houses in which deserters are found will be burned down.
Through the terror system, Trotsky was able to command the Red Army by managing their movements, managing the delivery of their supplies and by providing encouragement. This contributed to the success of the Bolsheviks because the Red Army remained loyal to the Bolsheviks and under Trotsky’s direction; the Red Army won the civil war. The foreign power left in 1919 and by the end of 1919 there were only a few remaining fights fighting against the Bolsheviks.
Trotsky’s next contribution towards the success of the Bolsheviks was the crushing of the Kronstadt mutiny. “War Communism” was introduced to supply the Red army during the civil war: Farmers’ harvests were seized to feed the Red Army. This led to a great famine in Russia which led to great discontent towards the Bolsheviks. The Kronstadt sailors, some of the original and most loyal supporters of the Bolsheviks, mutinied because of their discontent and planned to attack Petrograd. It was Trotsky’s job to crush the mutiny.
When crushing the mutiny, Trotsky had the Kronstadt naval base surrounded with 60,000 Red Army soldiers and attacked and bombed the head-quarters. Many of the Kronstadt sailors died in this attack, and survivors were captured and shot. The mutiny was successfully crushed! This triumph helped to contribute towards the success of the Bolsheviks by setting an example for everyone around Russia who opposed the Bolsheviks. This mutiny also opened the eyes of the Bolsheviks, and made them realise the damage War Communism was having on Russia. After the mutiny, Lenin introduced the New Economic Policy: the N.E.P. Under this political system, peasants were allowed to grow their own crops and sell any extra to towns and small businesses were privatised.
Therefore in conclusion, Trotsky’s contribution to the success of the Bolsheviks was enormous. Trotsky’s contributions have all been based around his military prowess and Trotsky’s contribution undoubtedly enabled the Bolsheviks to take control over Russia. Each of Trotsky’s contributions were vital to the existence and success of the Bolsheviks and Trotsky’s was indelibly the most capable and deserving man to be Lenin’s heir. However, ultimately his personality clashes with his fellow Bolsheviks paved the way for Stalin and not Trotsky’s to gain the position as leader of Russia.