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179By mid-summer signs multiplied that the Provisional Government was failing for a num-ber of structural as well as political reasons. Confronted by uncooperative conservatives from above and discontented radicals from below, the Russian middle class was simply not large and powerful enough to carry through a liberal transformation of a chaotic country on its own. Even if the Soviets initially refused power due to ideology and inexperience, they competed effectively for popular allegiance by proposing programs of more drastic changes. Added to the inherent problems of dual power were basic mistakes in policy. Most important was the decision to con-tinue the war with another offensive, a desperate gamble that speeded the dissolution of military authority at a time when civil order was vanishing. But equally significant was the conflict be-tween bourgeois interest in the sanctity of private property and mass desire for economic relief through social reform. Failing to understand that food and bread were more pressing than a new constitution, the Provisional Government threw the chance for a democratic development away. 4) Red October Since the Bolshevik seizure of power seemed to have come out of nowhere, the reasons for its surprising success are still hotly disputed. No doubt the ineptness of the Provisional Government provided the opportunity for a further radicalization according to the pattern of the French Revolution a century and a quarter before. But surprisingly the popular disillusionment with Kerensky did not stop with the SRs or Mensheviks and rather boosted the Bolsheviks. Tra-
120 ditional accounts argue that the clairvoyant and ruthless leadership of Lenin, not matched by any competitor, was the key difference between them. Soviet historians have also pointed to the growing support of the masses for the Bolshevik program of bread, land and peace which gave their takeover a popular legitimacy that the others lacked.180In contrast, post-Soviet critics and Western historians emphasize that the Communist victory was technically the result of a coup d'état. Was the "Glorious October Revolution" therefore the triumph of grass-roots democracy or a putsch of a radical minority leading inevitably to dictatorship? It is difficult to gauge the contribution of Lenin's leadership since the cult around his per-sonality has created a larger than life image of exceptional charisma. Born as Vladimir I. Ulya-nov into a liberal family of teachers, he seemed predestined for a promising legal career. But when his older brother was executed for sedition, Vladimir vowed to become a revolutionary, joining the radical wing of the labor movement. To escape from Tsarist persecution and impri-sonment in Siberia, he went into exile in Switzerland, seeking to apply Marxist structural analy-sis to Russia's belated development. In the process he adopted the pen name "Lenin," developed a Spartan life-style and made himself into the prototype of a professional revolutionary. With various pamphlets like "What is to be done?" (1902) he developed a reputation as a brilliant