“the Incompetence of Existing Government Contributed Greatly to the Outbreak of Revolutions” to What Extent Do You Agree with This Statement? Argue Your Case with Reference to the Russian Revolution (Oct 1917) and Chinese Revolution (1949). Essay

The incompetence of the Provisional Government (PG) and the Guomindang (GMD) made a considerable contribution to the outbreak of revolution in Russia (Oct 1917) and China (1949). Both the PG and GMD were relatively new forms of government placed in power to resolve longstanding issues such as low standards of living and significant needs for reform. As a result, Russia had removed its Tsarist system in February earlier that year and China also expelled its dynastic system to become a Republic in 1911.

However, Economic mismanagement and a nonexistent progression in reform made control by these governments questionable as their lack of action resurrected a desire for revolution for a second time. The shortcomings of the PG and GMD were intensified as working and living conditions continued to deteriorate and unpopular decisions were made regarding the government’s actions in WWI (Russia) and WWII (China).

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Mounting discontent made way for revolutionary groups such as the Bolsheviks and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as they were able to take advantage of government incompetence, fuelling support for their respective party. Economic mismanagement resulting from the PG and GMD’s incompetence contributed to the outbreak of revolution as its negative effects became more evident to the masses. In Russia, the PG faced issues such as hyperinflation, as it chose to continue its involvement in WWI after taking power.

By 1917 national debt was at $50 million roubles and price levels had risen between 100 and 200 percent. (Handout 1 – Key Reforms in Russia) Compounding this issue, wages generally decreased by 50 percent, resulting in workers having no choice but to work 18-hour days in order to live, but even then they could, “barely [buy] a week’s bed and bread. ” Consequently, discontent for the government was seen through strikes such as the July Days strike and the Baku Oil workers strike in September 1917.

Similarly, in the lead up to revolution in 1949, China’s economy was being mismanaged as it faced similar issues such as supporting the finances required for its war effort against Japan. The Chinese government reprinted money in order to cover debt and salary expenses. Over 80 percent of the GMD’s budget went to the war effort, resulting in the issuing of new notes totalling 374,762,200 Chinese dollars in 1948 alone. (Lynch) As a result, between 1938 and 1948 the price index in China had increased from 176 to 287,700,000. Lynch) Much like in Russia, inflation led to increased poverty amongst the masses as the cost of living increased while wages decreased. These conditions disillusioned the governments middle class support base as many turned to the CCP, “not out of love for the Communists, but because they were indifferent to the GMD. ” The economic mismanagement of both governments’ due to their incompetence resulted in a significant loss in support by the social classes that were most supportive of their regime, in turn this increased overall discontent towards the PG and GMD dramatically, as many began to seek change.

The inability for both the PG and GMD to introduce effective reforms due to their incompetence resulted in an increased level of discontent, thus contributing to the outbreak of revolution. During the PG’s control people saw little change from the ousted Tsarist regime as many of the members of the PG focused on keeping power. Landlords were continuing to charge excessively high rents and excessive taxing schemes were introduced to increase government revenue. In Russia, peasants made up 80-85% (Lynch) of the population so their support was vital in maintaining a well established system of government.

Despite this, the peasant classes were abused rather than harnessed as living and working conditions for peasants were unbearable with peasants facing mass whippings by authorities to “squeeze further [redemption] payments. ” (Handout 2 – Problems and issues in Modern History – Russian Revolution) The resulting discontent for the PG was seen when during June and July 1917 three-fifths of rural pastures were seized by peasants whom were fed up from no action being taken on land reform.

Furthermore, other changes sought by Russians promised under the PG were not met such as food and supply shortages. In China, the situation was quite similar, after gaining power the primary goal of the government changed to maintaining it and “the comfortable and profitable positions that came with it. ” (Grasso & Corrin) Land reform was also disregarded by the government in China, many new taxes were introduced such as kettle tax, grain transport tax, roof tax and road maintenance tax (Lynch).

Furthermore, the same struggles for food were seen in China as some resorted to “eating the bark from trees. ” Chinese peasants were also terrorised under ruthless warlords such as Zhang Zongzhang, whom “took a pathological delight in terrorising the population. ” (Lynch) This was compounded in China by the fact that the GMD dissolved workers unions such as the Chinese League for the protection of Civil Rights and disallowed the formation of workers unions unless they were heavily controlled by the government, having the effect of creating mounting discontent towards the GMD.

Despite these similarities the GMD went further than the PG by resorting to taking out loans in order to finance their party rather than industrial and economic growth. For that reason, “China remained [even more] hopelessly backward compared with modern industrial powers. ” (Grasso & Corrin) Together discontent with government generated among the peasants, workers and eventually, the merchants and landlords in both Russia and China. Essentially, lacking reform in land and to improve conditions due to incompetence allowed discontent to mount to levels required for an outbreak of revolution.

It’s evident the PG and GMD’s incompetence in approaching WWI and WWII was a significant feature in causing the outbreak of revolution as it had the effect of making their position of power questionable by creating discontent. At first Kerensky in Russia benefited from the patriotism of the people at the beginning of February as most were in high spirits to continue the war, even the returned Bolshevik Joseph Stalin, wrote in the Bolshevik newspaper ‘Pravda’ “the war will continue… the free people will stand firmly at their posts, will reply bullet for bullet and shell for shell. Despite this the Bolsheviks soon “withdrew their support for the war [while] the Provisional Government never did. ” (Handout 1 – Key Reforms in Russia) Similarly, Chiang Kai-shek also saw the benefits of patriotism that resulted as a reaction to the Japanese invasion but later this was not the case as his inaction resulted in discontent from the masses. Both countries situations differed as in Russia as the primary effects of the war were not evident as it was far out on its western boarders and people were only seeing a lack of food and supplies.

While, in China the Japanese invasion was spreading and main cities and Nanjing (China’s capital) and Shanghai (China’s financial and industrial centre) were being taken, making the issue of war far more real in China than it was in Russia. For that reason the inaction of the GMD and Chiang’s plan to “sell space to buy time,” (Lynch) combined with the communists contrasting views to retaliate triggered a turn in the peoples support from residing in the government to an external revolutionary group.

In both Russia and China two revolutionary groups, the Bolsheviks and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) were able to harness the discontent generated by the affects of their government’s incompetence and therefore show its contribution to the outbreak of revolution. Both these groups were able to harness discontent which built and evolved from poor living conditions created by the incompetence of the PG and GMD.

As discontent built through the government’s inability to address issues both groups were able to broaden their support and army base as from 1937 to 1945 the CCP was able to increase its influence and control in China from 1. 5 million to 90 million and increase its ‘Red Army’ from 80,000 to 900,000. (Lynch) These two communist groups however had a few fundamental differences which separate themselves from the other.

Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the Bolshevik party focused on a union based revolution in cities by gaining the support of discontent workers, while Mao Zedong thought to gain the support of those whom made up the majority (over 80%) of the population, the discontented and abused peasants in rural China. These fundamental differences set both parties apart as their support base was aimed at different classes of society, but despite this both were similar in the sense they were believed to be the real protectors of their country.

This is seen in Russia’s strange incident, the Kornilov Revolt where ultimately the Provisional government was discredited and a rightwing coup by Kornilov was averted due to “the credit [of]… the Bolsheviks. ” (Handout 2 – Problems and issues in Modern History – Russian Revolution) Similarly in China, patriotism was seen in the kidnapping of Chiang by the CCP in order to create a second United Front for the benefit of the people in order to have a greater defence towards the Japanese, resulting in the CCP being revealed as the “true combatants against the Japanese. (Lynch) The incompetence of existing governments alone does not cause the outbreak of revolutions, but it does allow pre-existing issues to deteriorate and result in a loss of support from the classes. There were the pre-existing issues within Russian and Chinese society prior to revolution such as poor economic health and standards of living. The incompetence of these governments to address specific issues such as inflation and land reform, cause an increased sense of disillusionment and discontent among the people.

Furthermore, by both countries making unpopular decisions on their war effort and the presence of revolutionary groups such as the Bolsheviks and the Chinese Communist Party, this discontent could be harnessed, as these revolutionary groups offered revolution by their party as the only true solution. Despite the Bolsheviks and the Chinese Communist Party having contrasting views in some areas, they both stood for what the people began to demand, ‘change. This desire generated from successions of failures and problems due to the incompetence of the PG and GMD. The revolution by the Bolsheviks was quick and only 7 months in the making, contrasting the CCP’s slow and ‘sweeping’ ideology rich revolution over a period of 20 years. The common feature was desire for change allowed both these revolutions to take place, regardless of support for the revolutionary party’s ideology, the desire for change fuelled by the discontent generated from the inaction and incompetence of government.

In both cases, incompetence prevented these governments from resolving the issues they were put in place to attend and for that reason disillusioned those that supported it, causing the people to believe the only resolution was the outbreak of revolution. Works Cited Grasso, J. , & Corrin, J. Modernisation and Revolution in China. Handout 1 – Key Reforms in Russia. Handout 2 – Problems and issues in Modern History – Russian Revolution. Lynch, M. China: From Empire to People’s Republic 1900-49.


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