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Hopes of Revolution in Europe

From the October seizure of power, the Bolsheviks were counting on a revolution in the West. As Marxists, it was inconceivable to them that socialism could survive for long in a backward peasant country such as Russia without the support of the proletariat in the advanced industrial societies. For many Bolsheviks the Russian Revolution was only part of the worldwide struggle between capitalism and socialism.

Germany was the focus of their revolutionary hopes. It had the strongest socialist traditions in Europe. And it was next door. The November 1918 Revolution was greeted with joy by the Bolsheviks, who saw in its workers' and soldiers' councils a sign that Germany was moving on the Soviet path.

But the German Soviet revolution did not materialize. The German socialists (the SPD), led by Friedrich Ebert, parted company with the Communists (KPD) and put their weight behind the consolidation of a democratic Republic by forming a government. The Spartacist uprising by the Communists was crushed by the Freikorps on their orders.

Yet the prospects of revolution in Europe looked favourable in the spring of 1919. The Austro-Hungarian Empire had collapsed, and in Hungary a Soviet Republic had been established by the Communists under Bela Kun. Communists had also seized power and installed Soviet Republics in Bavaria and Slovakia. There were smaller but no less active Communist movements in Serbia, Romania, Greece and Austria, all of them inspired by the October Revolution.

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