Explain Trotsky’s contribution to the success of the Bolsheviks up to 1922
Even before Trotsky was a Bolshevik, he contributed to the ideals of communism. With his great skills as an orator and his natural intelligence, he travelled around the world, advocating communism and its benefits and he did this alongside writing articles and books to spread the ideas of communism internationally. This contributed to communist movement by raising awareness of the ideals of communism, often in non and anti communist countries.
After a long exile Trotsky arrived back in Russia in May 1917. He disapproved of the support that many leading were now giving to the and the war effort and so in July he joined the . The new Prime Minister, , realized that Trotsky was a major threat to his government and had him arrested.
On 7th September, General demanded the resignation of the Cabinet and the surrender of all military and civil authority to the . Kerensky responded by dismissing Kornilov from office and ordering him back to Petrograd. Kornilov began to disrupt the peace in Russia, and forged an army, in an attempt to conquer the provisional government. Kornilov regarded the provisional government as weak and thought they would eventually destroy Russia. Kornilov marched his army to Petrograd, which had no army to defend itself. Kerensky realizing the imminent danger called on the Soviets and the Red Guards to defend Petrograd. Trotsky was released and on 23rd of September after which he was elected chairmen of the Petrograd Soviet. He immediately helped to enlist 25,000 armed recruits to defend Petrograd. While the Petrograd Soviet army dug trenches and fortified the city, delegations of soldiers were sent out to talk to the advancing troops. Meetings were held and Kornilov's troops eventually decided to refuse to attack Petrograd. This was an inadvertent, but major contribution to the Bolsheviks. If Trotsky had not managed to stop the revolt, it would have been likely that Kornilov would have succeeded in conquering the Provisional government. If the Provisional Government were conquered, it would be very doubtful that the Bolsheviks would manage to seize power. This victory also helped Trotsky as a person, helping him gain the respect, support and the trust of the Russian people.
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Trotsky’s next, and most important contribution, was that of the November revolution. Lenin placed Trotsky in charge of how the rising should take place. This was a vital job, as the slightest mistake could lead to failure, but Trotsky executed his task flawlessly. Throughout the summer, Trotsky has been training Bolshevik agents. He sent the agents into factories throughout Petrograd, to poison the people against the Provisional Government and to instruct people on what to do if/when a revolution would take place. Trotsky himself used his great oratory skills to preach to the people about a revolution, especially after the 23rd of October, when he knew a revolution was going to take place. It was Trotsky himself who built up the Red Guard units. These were people who believed in the Bolsheviks ideas of revolution, and who played a crucial part in the revolution. The Red Guards also helped to put down the ‘Kornilov Rising’ in August. Trotsky went to visit the Paul Fortress on November the 6th, the fortress was a place packed full of powerful arms and it was vital for Trotsky to gain the support of the people there. Trotsky persuaded and bribed them, detailing the benefits of a Bolshevik government to Russia. He gained their support, this was vital for the Bolsheviks, because they gained a large amount of arms to help the revolution. Trotsky played the key role in organizing the revolution, he choreographed all the Red Guards movements, such as where and what to take over (railway stations, telegraph offices, state banks and other important places). All of these things were a major contribution to the revolution, and they were all linked to Trotsky.
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.
A further, major contribution to the success of the Bolsheviks was the forming of the Red army. Trotsky, as the commissar of war, had to form the Red army to suppress the Whites, which would stop the civil war. Trotsky recruited 330,000 men to the army, but these were poorly trained civilians, he needed them to become soldiers, so he forced the former Tsarist officials to cooperate by threatening them if they refused to ally with the Bolsheviks. The threats included imprisonment of the officer, or the imprisonment of the officer’s family. Through this terror, Trotsky managed to recruit 22,000 officers who in turned transformed them in a proper army. However there remained loyalty issues in the army forcing Trotsky to enforce his terror to a greater extent through rules including:
- 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.
It was through this terror system, Trotsky managed to eventually win the civil war after three years, against a withering white army.
In conclusion, Trotsky’s contributions were extremely influential for the success of the Bolsheviks. All of the pivotal points in the Bolshevik years were all related to Trotsky, and I believe that he was the determining factor of these pivotal points. He contributed greatly with his tactics and strategies, his military prowess, his intelligence and his charisma.