Assess Lenin’s strengths and weaknesses as leader of Russia from 1917 to 1924.
During the period between 1917 and 1924, Lenin was able to consolidate and maintain power for both the Bolshevik party and himself. Lenin’s strengths and weaknesses lie in his ability to use force and compromise, to establish control within Russia and can be assessed through the decisions he made and the implementations of them on Russia. Lenin’s strengths can be seen in his ability to end the war with Germany; defeat opposition both politically and in the Civil War, under the Red Terror; his ruthlessness and determination in being able to force through unpopular decisions and change policy when necessary, as well as the introduction of the NEP following the period of war communism. However, what can be seen as strengths can also be interpreted as weaknesses; Lenin’s unwillingness to compromise with other parties and the dissolution of the Constitute Assembly arguably led to the Civil War; war communism although it perhaps got Russia through the war, resulted in a famine that killed five million people. Lenin had many strengths as leader of Russia between 1917-24, as aforementioned his determination and flexible policies enabled him to establish Bolshevik control over Russia as well as secure Russia economically, however, Lenin’s ruthlessness caused the deaths of millions in the Civil War, famine and under the Red Terror and consequently also proves to be one of his main weaknesses.
Lenin’s unwillingness to compromise or work with other socialist, driven by his pursuit of power, undoubtedly was a major weakness of his leadership and consequently instigated opposition to him and the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks only won 24% of the total vote for the election of the Constituent Assembly in November 1917, with the Soviet Revolutionaries winning the almost double the amount. Lenin however, was not a democrat; he was a revolutionary and so he used the Red Guards to dissolve the Assembly in January 1918. Lenin’s outlawing of all other parties and considering that the Bolsheviks had only a limited grip on Russia in the early days after the October Revolution, meant civil war was highly likely. They were bound to face military opposition from their wide range of opponents such as the SRs or old tsarist supporters, who were not prepared to accept absolute rule from a minority party. Conversely, it is debated that Lenin’s lack of co-operation was one of his strengths; by banning other parties; in the long-term the Bolshevik party was strengthened. Lenin arguably was convinced that his forces would win a civil war and that in winning they would wipe out all their opponents, military and political. Lenin’s lack of compromise meant he created opposition to the Bolsheviks and caused the deaths of over five million Russians in the Civil War. In terms of the Bolshevik security his ruthlessness can be seen as a strength, however, in terms of leader of Russia it is a clear weakness. Had Lenin been able to compromise in a socialist coalition Russia may well have been re-established as a democratic state with full representation of the people.