During the spring and summer, the Bolsheviks would make several more attempts to bring about a second revolution by inciting the masses. Their repeated failures made it clear to Lenin that a repeat performance of the February Revolution was not to be and that a much more organized, top-down approach would be required.

The Bolsheviks and the Military

Lenin recognized that the current Russian leaders’ hesitation to pull the country out of World War I was a weakness that could be exploited. He knew that after four years of massive losses and humiliating defeats, the army was ready to come home and was on the verge of revolting. While other politicians bickered over negotiating smaller war reparations—and even over whether Russia might possibly make territorial gains by staying in the war longer—Lenin demanded that Russia exit the war immediately, even if it meant heavy reparations and a loss of territory. With this position, Lenin received growing support throughout the Russian armed forces, which would ultimately be key to his seizing power. Thus, he launched an aggressive propaganda campaign directed specifically at the Russian troops still serving on the front.

Lenin’s Radicalism

The period following Lenin’s return to Russia was a confusing time for Russian Socialists, who previously had held Lenin in high esteem and had believed he would unite them upon his return. Indeed, his radical positions caused greater division than ever among Russia’s various political groups. Lenin’s refusal to compromise backfired on him, however, and in the autumn he would need the support of these groups in order to secure power.

Eventually, Lenin did backtrack temporarily on his earlier extreme positions, with the aim of garnering more support. In particular, he temporarily embraced the Petrograd Soviet. Although this effort did have some limited success, it failed to produce the level of support that Lenin had hoped for. Therefore, he decided to concentrate instead on defaming the provisional government and also building up connections within the military so that after the revolution, he could deal with all his critics by force.

Popular pages: The Russian Revolution (1917–1918)