When the Russian Revolution began in Mar., 1917, the Bolsheviks were unprepared, and under the provisional government they played a minor role. When Lenin returned from exile in April, he called for seizure of power, despite opposition within the party. The Bolsheviks gained strength in key areas, capitalizing on mass discontent, and in November they were able to seize control.
With a total party membership of about 200,000, they faced the problem of governing alone or sharing power. Lenin and Leon Trotsky demanded party dictatorship and destroyed all opposition from Mensheviks and other socialist groups. During the civil war (1918–20) the Bolshevik party—from 1918 the All-Russian Communist party—was at the height of its revolutionary ardor. Despite seemingly impossible odds, the party apparatus was strengthened at all levels.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.