When Trotsky consigned the Bolsheviks’ rivals in Petrograd to ‘the dustbin of history’, he seemed ridiculously premature. Russia was awash with rival factions vying for power, most of which seemed to have stronger prospects of ultimate success than Lenin’s band of revolutionaries. But the Bolsheviks had some crucial advantages. To a people driven to despair by centuries of botched or blocked reform, their simple promise of ‘Peace, Land and Bread’, carried great resonance. And the Bolsheviks themselves were tight-knit, ruthless and brilliantly led. With military and popular support, they were rapidly able to capture a slew of urban centres in the months following the revolution. Critically, Moscow was secured by the middle of November after intense fighting. Delivering the promised peace would threaten the Bolsheviks’ survival: the Germans were able to impose draconian terms at Brest-Litovsk, taking a million square kilometres of Russian territory including the bulk of its industrial capacity.
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