According to the Julian Calender, which was in use in Russia at the time, the Great October Socialist Revolution took place on October 25, 1917 (November 7th according to the Gregorian Calender in use today). To mark this monumental anniversary, I am posting here complete the seventh chapter of the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks), Short Course, from the Marxists Internet Archive. The best way to commemorate the October Socialist Revolution is to learn its lessons and apply them in making revolution.
As for education for cadres whether at work or in schools for cadres, a policy should be established of focusing such education on the study of the practical problems of the Chinese revolution and using the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism as the guide, and the method of studying Marxism-Leninism statically and in isolation should be discarded. Moreover, in studying Marxism-Leninism, we should use the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks), Short Course as the principal material. It is the best synthesis and summing-up of the world communist movement of the past hundred years, a model of the integration of theory and practice, and so far the only comprehensive model in the whole world. When we see how Lenin and Stalin integrated the universal truth of Marxism with the concrete practice of the Soviet revolution and thereby developed Marxism, we shall know how we should work in China.
(Mao Zedong, “Reform Our Study“)
THE BOLSHEVIK PARTY IN THE PERIOD OF PREPARATION AND REALIZATION OF THE OCTOBER SOCIALIST REVOLUTION (APRIL 1917 – 1918 )
1. situation in the country after the february revolution. party emerges from underground and passes to open political work. lenin arrives in petrograd. lenin’s april theses. party’s policy of transition to socialist revolution
The course of events and the conduct of the Provisional Government daily furnished new proofs of the correctness of the Bolshevik line. It became increasingly evident that the Provisional Government stood not for the people but against the people, not for peace but for war, and that it was unwilling and unable to give the people peace, land or bread. The explanatory work of the Bolsheviks found a fruitful soil.
While the workers and soldiers were overthrowing the tsarist government and destroying the monarchy root and branch, the Provisional Government definitely wanted to preserve the monarchy. On March 2, 1917, it secretly commissioned Guchkov and Shulgin to go and see the tsar. The bourgeoisie wanted to transfer the power to Nicholas Romanov’s brother, Michael. But when, at a meeting of railwaymen, Guchkov ended his speech with the words, “Long live Emperor Michael,” the workers demanded that Guchkov be immediately arrested and searched. “Horse-radish is no sweeter than radish,” they exclaimed indignantly.
It was clear that the workers would not permit the restoration of the monarchy.
While the workers and peasants who were shedding their blood making the revolution expected that the war would be terminated, while they were fighting for bread and land and demanding vigorous measures to end the economic chaos, the Provisional Government remained deaf to these vital demands of the people. Consisting as it did of prominent representatives of the capitalists and landlords, this government had no intention of satisfying the demand of the peasants that the land be turned over to them. Nor could they provide bread for the working people, because to do so they would have to encroach on the interests of the big grain dealers and to take grain from the landlords and the kulaks by every available means; and this the government did not dare to do, for it was itself tied up with the interests of these classes. Nor could it give the people peace. Bound as it was to the British and French imperialists, the Provisional Government had no intention of terminating the war; on the contrary, it endeavoured to take advantage of the revolution to make Russia’s participation in the imperialist war even more active, and to realize its imperialist designs of seizing Constantinople, the Straits and Galicia.
It was clear that the people’s confidence in the policy of the Provisional Government must soon come to an end.
It was becoming clear that the dual power which had arisen after the February Revolution could not last long, for the course of events demanded the concentration of power in the hands of one authority: either the Provisional Government or the Soviets.
It was true that the compromising policy of the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries still met with support among the masses. There were quite a number of workers, and an even larger number of soldiers and peasants, who still believed that “the Constituent Assembly will soon come and arrange everything in a peaceful way,” and who thought that the war was not waged for purposes of conquest, but from necessity— to defend the state. Lenin called such people honestly-mistaken supporters of the war. These people still considered the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik policy, which was one of promises and coaxing, the correct policy. But it was clear that promises and coaxing could not suffice for long, as the course of events and the conduct of the Provisional Government were daily revealing and proving that the compromising policy of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks was a policy of procrastination and of hoodwinking the credulous.
The Provisional Government did not always confine itself to a covert struggle against the revolutionary movement of the masses, to backstairs scheming against the revolution. It sometimes attempted to make an open assault on the democratic liberties, to “restore discipline,” especially among the soldiers, to “establish order,” that is, to direct the revolution into channels that suited the needs of the bourgeoisie. But all its efforts in this direction failed, and the people eagerly exercised their democratic liberties, namely, freedom of speech, press, association, assembly and demonstration. The workers and soldiers endeavoured to make full use of their newly-won democratic rights in order to take an active part in the political life of the country, to get an intelligent understanding of the situation and to decide what was to be done next.
After the February Revolution, the organizations of the Bolshevik Party, which had worked illegally under the extremely difficult conditions of tsardom, emerged from underground and began to develop political and organizational work openly. The membership of the Bolshevik organizations at that time did not exceed 40,000 or 45,000. But these were all staunch revolutionaries, steeled in the struggle. The Party Committees were reorganized on the principle of democratic centralism. All Party bodies, from top to bottom, were made elective.
When the Party began its legal existence, differences within its ranks became apparent. Kamenev and several workers of the Moscow organization, for example, Rykov, Bubnov and Nogin, held a semi-Menshevik position of conditionally supporting the Provisional Government and the policy of the partisans of the war. Stalin, who had just returned from exile, Molotov and others, together with the majority of the Party, upheld a policy of no-confidence in the Provisional Government, opposed the partisans of the war, and called for an active struggle for peace, a struggle against the imperialist war. Some of the Party workers vacillated, which was a manifestation of their political backwardness, a consequence of long years of imprisonment or exile.
The absence of the leader of the Party, Lenin, was felt.
On April 3 (16), 1917, after a long period of exile, Lenin returned to Russia.
Lenin’s arrival was of tremendous importance to the Party and the revolution.
While still in Switzerland, Lenin, upon receiving the first news of the revolution, had written his “Letters From Afar” to the Party and to the working class of Russia, in which he said:
“Workers, you have displayed marvels of proletarian heroism, the heroism of the people, in the civil war against tsardom. You must now display marvels of organization, organization of the proletariat and of the whole people, in order to prepare the way for your victory in the second stage of the revolution.” (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. VI, p. 11.)
Lenin arrived in Petrograd on the night of April 3. Thousands of workers, soldiers and sailors assembled at the Finland Railway Station and in the station square to welcome him. Their enthusiasm as Lenin alighted from the train was indescribable. They lifted their leader shoulder high and carried him to the main waiting room of the station. There the Mensheviks Chkheidze and Skobelev launched into speeches of “welcome” on behalf of the Petrograd Soviet, in which they “expressed the hope” that they and Lenin would find a “common language.” But Lenin did not stop to listen; sweeping past them, he went out to the masses of workers and soldiers. Mounting an armoured car, he delivered his famous speech in which he called upon the masses to fight for the victory of the Socialist revolution. “Long live the Socialist revolution!” were the words with which Lenin concluded this first speech after long years of exile.
Back in Russia, Lenin flung himself vigorously into revolutionary work. On the morrow of his arrival he delivered a report on the subject of the war and the revolution at a meeting of Bolsheviks, and then repeated the theses of this report at a meeting attended by Mensheviks as well as Bolsheviks.
These were Lenin’s famous April Theses, which provided the Party and the proletariat with a clear revolutionary line for the transition from the bourgeois to the Socialist revolution.
Lenin’s theses were of immense significance to the revolution and to the subsequent work of the Party. The revolution was a momentous turn in the life of the country. In the new conditions of the struggle that followed the overthrow of tsardom, the Party needed a new orientation to advance boldly and confidently along the new road. Lenin’s theses gave the Party this orientation.
Lenin’s April Theses laid down for the Party a brilliant plan of struggle for the transition from the bourgeois-democratic to the Socialist revolution, from the first stage of the revolution to the second stage—the stage of the Socialist revolution. The whole history of the Party had prepared it for this great task. As far back as 1905, Lenin had said in his pamphlet, Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, that after the overthrow of tsardom the proletariat would proceed to bring about the Socialist revolution. The new thing in the theses was that they gave a concrete, theoretically grounded plan for the initial stage of the transition to the Socialist revolution.
The transitional steps in the economic field were: nationalization of all the land and confiscation of the landed estates, amalgamation of all the banks into one national bank to be under the control of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, and establishment of control over the social production and distribution of products.
In the political field, Lenin proposed the transition from a parliamentary republic to a republic of Soviets. This was an important step forward in the theory and practice of Marxism. Hitherto, Marxist theoreticians had regarded the parliamentary republic as the best political form of transition to Socialism. Now Lenin proposed to replace the parliamentary republic by a Soviet republic as the most suitable form of political organization of society in the period of transition from capitalism to Socialism.
“The specific feature of the present situation in Russia,” the theses stated, “is that it represents a transition from the first stage of the revolution—which, owing to the insufficient class-consciousness and organization of the proletariat, placed the power in the hands of the bourgeoisie—to the second stage, which must place the power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest strata of the peasantry.” (Ibid., p. 22.)
“Not a parliamentary republic—to return to a parliamentary republic from the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies would be a retrograde step—but a republic of Soviets of Workers’, Agricultural Labourers’ and Peasants’ Deputies throughout the country, from top to bottom.” (Ibid., p. 23.)
Under the new government, the Provisional Government, the war continued to be a predatory imperialist war, Lenin said. It was the task of the Party to explain this to the masses and to show them that unless the bourgeoisie were overthrown, it would be impossible to end the war by a truly democratic peace and not a rapacious peace.
As regards the Provisional Government, the slogan Lenin put forward was: “No support for the Provisional Government!”
Lenin further pointed out in the theses that our Party was still in the minority in the Soviets, that the Soviets were dominated by a bloc of Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, which was an instrument of bourgeois influence on the proletariat. Hence, the Party’s task consisted in the following:
“It must be explained to the masses that the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies are the only possible form of revolutionary government, and that therefore our task is, as long as this government yields to the influence of the bourgeoisie, to present a patient, systematic, and persistent explanation of the errors of their tactics, an explanation especially adapted to the practical needs of the masses. As long as we are in the minority we carry on the work of criticizing and exposing errors and at the same time we preach the necessity of transferring the entire power of state to the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies. . . .” (Ibid., p. 23.)
This meant that Lenin was not calling for a revolt against the Provisional Government, which at that moment enjoyed the confidence of the Soviets, that he was not demanding its overthrow, but that he wanted, by means of explanatory and recruiting work, to win a majority in the Soviets, to change the policy of the Soviets, and through the Soviets to alter the composition and policy of the government.
This was a line envisaging a peaceful development of the revolution.
Lenin further demanded that the “soiled shirt” be discarded, that is, that the Party no longer call itself a Social-Democratic Party. The parties of the Second International and the Russian Mensheviks called themselves Social-Democrats. This name had been tarnished and disgraced by the opportunists, the betrayers of Socialism. Lenin proposed that the Party of the Bolsheviks should be called the Communist Party, which was the name given by Marx and Engels to their party. This name was scientifically correct, for it was the ultimate aim of the Bolshevik Party to achieve Communism. Mankind can pass directly from capitalism only to Socialism, that is, to the common ownership of the means of production and the distribution of products according to the work performed by each. Lenin said that our Party looked farther ahead. Socialism was inevitably bound to pass gradually into Communism, on the banner of which is inscribed the maxim: “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”
Lastly, Lenin in his theses demanded the creation of a new International, the Third, Communist International, which would be free of opportunism and social-chauvinism.
Lenin’s theses called forth a frenzied outcry from the bourgeoisie, the Mensheviks andtheSocialist-Revolutionaries.
The Mensheviks issued a proclamation to the workers which began with the warning: “the revolution is in danger.” The danger, in the opinion of the Mensheviks, lay in the fact that the Bolsheviks had advanced the demand for the transfer of power to the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.
Plekhanov in his newspaper, Yedinstvo (Unity), wrote an article in which he termed Lenin’s speech a “raving speech.” He quoted the words of the Menshevik Chkheidze, who said: “Lenin alone will remain outside the revolution, and we shall go our own way.”
On April 14 a Petrograd City Conference of Bolsheviks was held. The conference approved Lenin’s theses and made them the basis of its work.
Within a short while the local organizations of the Party had also approved Lenin’s theses.
The whole Party, with the exception of a few individuals of the type of Kamenev, Rykov and Pyatakov, received Lenin’s theses with profound satisfaction.
2. beginning of the crisis of the provisional government.
april conference of the bolshevik party
While the Bolsheviks were preparing for the further development of the revolution, the Provisional Government continued to work against the people. On April 18, Milyukov, Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Provisional Government, informed the Allies that “the whole people desire to continue the World War until a decisive victory is achieved and that the Provisional Government intends fully to observe the obligations undertaken towards our allies.”
Thus the Provisional Government pledged its loyalty to the tsarist treaties and promised to go on shedding as much of the people’s blood as the imperialists might require for a “victorious finish.”
On April 19 this statement (“Milyukov’s note”) became known to the workers and soldiers. On April 20 the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party called upon the masses to protest against the imperialist policy of the Provisional Government. On April 20-21 (May 3-4), 1917, not less than 100,000 workers and soldiers, stirred to indignation by “Milyukov’s note,” took part in a demonstration. Their banners bore the demands: “Publish the secret treaties!” “Down with the war!” “All power to the Soviets!” The workers and soldiers marched from the outskirts of the city to the centre, where the Provisional Government was sitting. On the Nevsky Prospect and other places clashes with groups of bourgeois took place.
The more outspoken counter-revolutionaries, like General Kornilov, demanded that fire be opened on the demonstrators, and even gave orders to that effect. But the troops refused to carry out the orders.
During the demonstration, a small group of members of the Petro-grad Party Committee (Bagdatyev and others) issued a slogan demanding the immediate overthrow of the Provisional Government. The Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party sharply condemned the conduct of these “Left” adventurers, considering this slogan untimely and incorrect, a slogan that hampered the Party in its efforts to win over a majority in the Soviets and ran counter to the Party line of a peaceful development of the revolution.
The events of April 20-21 signified the beginning of the crisis of the Provisional Government.
This was the first serious rift in the compromising policy of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries.
On May 2, 1917, under the pressure of the masses, Milyukov and Guchkov were dropped from the Provisional Government.
The first coalition Provisional Government was formed. It included, in addition to representatives of the bourgeoisie, Mensheviks (Skobelev and Tsereteli) and Socialist-Revolutionaries (Chernov, Ker-ensky and others).
Thus the Mensheviks, who in 1905 had declared it impermissible for representatives of the Social-Democratic Party to take part in a revolutionary Provisional Government, now found it permissible for their representatives to take part in a counter-revolutionary Provisional Government.
The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries had thus deserted to the camp of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie.
On April 24, 1917, the Seventh (April) Conference of the Bolshevik Party assembled. For the first time in the existence of the Party a Bolshevik Conference met openly. In the history of the Party this conference holds a place of importance equal to that of a Party Congress.
The All-Russian April Conference showed that the Party was growing by leaps and bounds. The conference was attended by 133 delegates with vote and by 18 with voice but no vote. They represented 80,000 organized members of the Party.
The conference discussed and laid down the Party line on all basic questions of the war and revolution: the current situation, the war, the Provisional Government, the Soviets, the agrarian question, the national question, etc.
In his report, Lenin elaborated the principles he had already set forth in the April Theses. The task of the Party was to effect the transition from the first stage of the revolution, “which placed the power in the hands of the bourgeoisie . . . to the second stage, which must place the power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest strata of the peasantry” (Lenin). The course the Party should take was to prepare for the Socialist revolution. The immediate task of the Party was set forth by Lenin in the slogan: “All power to the Soviets!”
The slogan, “All power to the Soviets!” meant that it was necessary to put an end to the dual power, that is, the division of power between the Provisional Government and the Soviets, to transfer the whole power to the Soviets, and to drive the representatives of the landlords and capitalists out of the organs of government.
The conference resolved that one of the most important tasks of the Party was untiringly to explain to the masses the truth that “the Provisional Government is by its nature an organ of the rule of the landlords and the bourgeoisie,” as well as to show how fatal was the compromising policy of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks who were deceiving the people with false promises and subjecting them to the blows of the imperialist war and counter-revolution.
Kamenev and Rykov opposed Lenin at the Conference. Echoing the Mensheviks, they asserted that Russia was not ripe for a Socialist revolution, and that only a bourgeois republic was possible in Russia. They recommended the Party and the working class to confine themselves to “controlling” the Provisional Government. In reality, they, like the Mensheviks, stood for the preservation of capitalism and of the power of the bourgeoisie.
Zinoviev, too, opposed Lenin at the conference; it was on the question whether the Bolshevik Party should remain within the Zimmerwald alliance, or break with it and form a new International. As the years of war had shown, while this alliance carried on propaganda for peace, it did not actually break with the bourgeois partisans of the war. Lenin therefore insisted on immediate withdrawal from this alliance and on the formation of a new, Communist International. Zinoviev proposed that the Party should remain within the Zimmerwald alliance. Lenin vigorously condemned Zinoviev’s proposal and called his tactics “arch-opportunist and pernicious.”
The April Conference also discussed the agrarian and national questions.
In connection with Lenin’s report on the agrarian question, the conference adopted a resolution calling for the confiscation of the landed estates, which were to be placed at the disposal of the peasant committees, and for the nationalization of all the land. The Bolsheviks called upon the peasants to fight for the land, showing them that the Bolshevik Party was the only revolutionary party, the only party that was really helping the peasants to overthrow the landlords.
Of great importance was Comrade Stalin’s report on the national question. Even before the revolution, on the eve of the imperialist war, Lenin and Stalin had elaborated the fundamental principles of the policy of the Bolshevik Party on the national question. Lenin and Stalin declared that the proletarian party must support the national liberation movement of the oppressed peoples against imperialism. Consequently, the Bolshevik Party advocated the right of nations to self-determination even to the point of secession and formation of independent states. This was the view defended by Comrade Stalin, in his report delivered at the conference on behalf of the Central Committee.
Lenin and Stalin were opposed by Pyatakov, who, together with Bukharin, had already during the war taken up a national-chauvinist stand on the national question. Pyatakov and Bukharin were opposed to the right of nations to self-determination.
The resolute and consistent position of the Party on the national question, its struggle for the complete equality of nations and for the abolition of all forms of national oppression and national inequality, secured for the Party the sympathy and support of the oppressed nationalities.
The text of the resolution on the national question adopted by the April Conference is as follows:
“The policy of national oppression, inherited from the autocracy and monarchy, is supported by the landlords, capitalists and petty bourgeoisie in order to protect their class privileges and to cause disunity among the workers of the various nationalities. Modern imperialism, which increases the striving to subjugate weak nations, is a new factor intensifying national oppression.
“To the extent that the elimination of national oppression is achievable at all in capitalist society, it is possible only under a consistently democratic republican system and state administration that guarantee complete equality for all nations and languages.
“The right of all the nations forming part of Russia freely to secede and form independent states must be recognized. To deny them this right, or to fail to take measures guaranteeing its practical realization, is equivalent to supporting a policy of seizure and annexation. It is only the recognition by the proletariat of the right of nations to secede that can ensure complete solidarity among the workers of the various nations and help to bring the nations closer together on truly democratic lines. . . .
“The right of nations freely to secede must not be confused with the expediency of secession of a given nation at a given moment. The party of the proletariat must decide the latter question quite independently in each particular case from the standpoint of the interests of the social development as a whole and of the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat for Socialism.
“The Party demands broad regional autonomy, the abolition of supervision from above, the abolition of a compulsory state language and the determination of the boundaries of the self-governing and autonomous regions by the local population itself in accordance with the economic and social conditions, the national composition of the population, and so forth.
“The party of the proletariat resolutely rejects what is known as ‘national cultural autonomy,’ under which education, etc., is removed from the competence of the state and placed within the competence of some kind of national Diets. National cultural autonomy artificially divides the workers living in one locality, and even working in the same industrial enterprise, according to their various ‘national cultures’; in other words it strengthens the ties between the workers and the bourgeois culture of individual nations, whereas the aim of the Social-Democrats is to develop the international culture of the world proletariat.
“The Party demands that a fundamental law shall be embodied in the constitution annulling all privileges enjoyed by any nation whatever and all infringements of the rights of national minorities.
“The interests of the working class demand that the workers of all the nationalities of Russia should have common proletarian organizations: political, trade union, educational institutions of the co-operatives and so forth. Only such common organizations of the workers of the various nationalities will make it possible for the proletariat to wage a successful struggle against international capital and bourgeois nationalism.” (Lenin and Stalin, The Russian Revolution, pp. 52-3.)
Thus the April Conference exposed the opportunist, anti-Leninist stand of Kamenev, Zinoviev, Pyatakov, Bukharin, Rykov and their small following.
The conference unanimously supported Lenin by taking up a precise stand on all important questions and adopting a course leading to the victory of the Socialist revolution.
3. successes of the bolshevik party in the capital. abortive offensive
of the armies of the provisional government. suppression of the
july demonstration of workers and soldiers
On the basis of the decisions of the April Conference, the Party developed extensive activities in order to win over the masses, and to train and organize them for battle. The Party line in that period was, by patiently explaining the Bolshevik policy and exposing the compromising policy of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, to isolate these parties from the masses and to win a majority in the Soviets.
In addition to the work in the Soviets, the Bolsheviks carried on extensive activities in the trade unions and in the factory committees.
Particularly extensive was the work of the Bolsheviks in the army. Military organizations began to arise everywhere. The Bolsheviks worked indefatigably at the front and in the rear to organize the soldiers and sailors. A particularly important part in making the soldiers active revolutionaries was played at the front by the Bolshevik newspaper, Okopnaya Pravda (Trench Truth).
Thanks to Bolshevik propaganda and agitation, already in the early months of the revolution the workers in many cities held new elections to the Soviets, especially to the district Soviets, drove out the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries and elected followers of the Bolshevik Party in their stead.
The work of the Bolsheviks yielded splendid results, especially in Petrograd.
A Petrograd Conference of Factory Committees was held from May 30 to June 3, 1917. At this conference three-quarters of the delegates already supported the Bolsheviks. Almost the entire Petrograd proletariat supported the Bolshevik slogan—”All power to the Soviets!”
On June 3 (16), 1917, the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets met. The Bolsheviks were still in the minority in the Soviets; they had a little over 100 delegates at this congress, compared with 700 or 800 Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries and others.
At the First Congress of Soviets, the Bolsheviks insistently stressed the fatal consequences of compromise with the bourgeoisie and exposed the imperialist character of the war. Lenin made a speech at the congress in which he showed the correctness of the Bolshevik line and declared that only a government of Soviets could give bread to the working people, land to the peasants, secure peace and lead the country out of chaos.
A mass campaign was being conducted at that time in the working-class districts of Petrograd for the organization of a demonstration and for the presentation of demands to the Congress of Soviets. In its anxiety to prevent the workers from demonstrating without its authorization, and in the hope of utilizing the revolutionary sentiments of the masses for its own ends, the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet decided to call a demonstration for June 18 (July 1). The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries expected that it would take place under anti-Bolshevik slogans. The Bolshevik Party began energetic preparations for this demonstration. Comrade Stalin wrote in Pravda that “. . . it is our task to make sure that the demonstration in Petrograd on June 18 takes place under our revolutionary slogans.”
The demonstration of June 18, 1917, was held at the graves of the martyrs of the revolution. It proved to be a veritable review of the forces of the Bolshevik Party. It revealed the growing revolutionary spirit of the masses and their growing confidence in the Bolshevik Party. The slogans displayed by the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries calling for confidence in the Provisional Government and urging the continuation of the war were lost in a sea of Bolshevik slogans. Four hundred thousand demonstrators carried banners bearing the slogans: “Down with the war!” “Down with the ten capitalist Ministers!” “All power to the Soviets!”
It was a complete fiasco for the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, a fiasco for the Provisional Government in the capital of the country.
Nevertheless, the Provisional Government received the support of the First Congress of the Soviets and decided to continue the imperialist policy. On that very day, June 18, the Provisional Government, in obedience to the wishes of the British and French imperialists, drove the soldiers at the front to take the offensive. The bourgeoisie regarded this as the only means of putting an end to the revolution. In the event of the success of the offensive, the bourgeoisie hoped to take the whole power into its own hands, to push the Soviets out of the arena, and to crush the Bolsheviks. Again, in the event of its failure, the entire blame could be thrown upon the Bolsheviks by accusing them of disintegrating the army.
There could be no doubt that the offensive would fail. And fail it did. The soldiers were worn out, they did not understand the purpose of the offensive, they had no confidence in their officers who were alien to them, there was a shortage of artillery and shells. All this made the failure of the offensive a foregone conclusion.
The news of the offensive at the front, and then of its collapse, roused the capital. The indignation of the workers and soldiers knew no bounds. It became apparent that when the Provisional Government proclaimed a policy of peace it was hoodwinking the people, and that it wanted to continue the imperialist war. It became apparent that the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets and the Petrograd Soviet were unwilling or unable to check the criminal deeds of the Provisional Government and themselves trailed in its wake.
The revolutionary indignation of the Petrograd workers and soldiers boiled over. On July 3 (16) spontaneous demonstrations started in the Vyborg District of Petrograd. They continued all day. The separate demonstrations grew into a huge general armed demonstration demanding the transfer of power to the Soviets. The Bolshevik Party was opposed to armed action at that time, for it considered that the revolutionary crisis had not yet matured, that the army and the provinces were not yet prepared to support an uprising in the capital, and that an isolated and premature rising might only make it easier for the counter-revolutionaries to crush the vanguard of the revolution. But when it became obviously impossible to keep the masses from demonstrating, the Party resolved to participate in the demonstration in order to lend it a peaceful and organized character. This the Bolshevik Party succeeded in doing. Hundreds of thousands of men and women marched to the headquarters of the Petrograd Soviet and the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of Soviets, where they demanded that the Soviets take the power into their own hands, break with the imperialist bourgeoisie, and pursue an active peace policy.
Notwithstanding the pacific character of the demonstration, reactionary units—detachments of officers and cadets were brought out against it. The streets of Petrograd ran with the blood of workers and soldiers. The most ignorant and counter-revolutionary units of the army were summoned from the front to suppress the workers.
After suppressing the demonstration of workers and soldiers, the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, in alliance with the bourgeoisie and Whiteguard generals, fell upon the Bolshevik Party. The Pravda premises were wrecked. Pravda, Soldatskaya Pravda (Soldiers’ Truth) and a number of other Bolshevik newspapers were suppressed. A worker named Voinov was killed by cadets in the street merely for selling Listok Pravdy (Pravda Bulletin). Disarming of the Red Guards began. Revolutionary units of the Petrograd garrison were withdrawn from the capital and dispatched to the trenches. Arrests were carried out in the rear and at the front. On July 7 a warrant was issued for Lenin’s arrest. A number of prominent members of the Bolshevik Party were arrested. The Trud printing plant, where the Bolshevik publications were printed, was wrecked. The Procurator of the Petrograd Court of Sessions announced that Lenin and a number of other Bolsheviks were being charged with “high treason” and the organization of an armed uprising. The charge against Lenin was fabricated at the headquarters of General Denikin, and was based on the testimony of spies and agents-provocateurs.
Thus the coalition Provisional Government—which included such leading representatives of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries as Tsereteli, Skobelev, Kerensky and Chernov—sank to the depths of downright imperialism and counter-revolution. Instead of a policy of peace, it had adopted the policy of continuing war. Instead of protecting the democratic rights of the people, it had adopted the policy of nullifying these rights and suppressing the workers and soldiers by force of arms.
What Guchkov and Milyukov, the representatives of the bourgeoisie, had hesitated to do, was done by the “socialists” Kerensky and Tsereteli, Chernov and Skobelev.
The dual power had come to an end.
It ended in favour of the bourgeoisie, for the whole power had passed into the hands of the Provisional Government, while the Soviets, with their Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik leaders, had become an appendage of the Provisional Government.
The peaceful period of the revolution had ended, for now the bayonet had been placed on the agenda.
In view of the changed situation, the Bolshevik Party decided to change its tactics. It went underground, arranged for a safe hiding place for its leader, Lenin, and began to prepare for an uprising with the object of overthrowing the power of the bourgeoisie by force of arms and setting up the power of the Soviets.
4. the bolshevik party adopts the course of preparing for armed uprising.
sixth party congress
The Sixth Congress of the Bolshevik Party met in Petrograd in the midst of a frenzied campaign of Bolshevik-baiting in the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois press. It assembled ten years after the Fifth (London) Congress and five years after the Prague Conference of the Bolsheviks. The congress, which was held secretly, sat from July 26 to August 3, 1917. All that appeared in the press was an announcement of its convocation, the place of meeting was not divulged. The first sittings were held in the Vyborg District, the later ones in a school near the Narva Gate, where a House of Culture now stands. The bourgeois press demanded the arrest of the delegates. Detectives frantically scoured the city trying to discover the meeting place of the congress, but in vain.
And so, five months after the overthrow of tsardom, the Bolsheviks were compelled to meet in secret, while Lenin, the leader of the proletarian party, was forced to go into hiding and took refuge in a shanty near Razliv Station.
He was being hunted high and low by the sleuths of the Provisional Government and was therefore unable to attend the congress; but he guided its labours from his place of concealment through his close colleagues and disciples in Petrograd: Stalin, Sverdlov, Molotov, Ordjoni-kidze.
The congress was attended by 157 delegates with vote and 128 with voice but no vote. At that time the Party had a membership of about 240,000. On July 3, i.e., before the workers’ demonstration was broken up, when the Bolsheviks were still functioning legally, the Party had 41 publications, of which 29 were in Russian and 12 in other languages.
The persecution to which the Bolsheviks and the working class were subjected during the July days, far from diminishing the influence of our Party, only enhanced it. The delegates from the provinces cited numerous facts to show that the workers and soldiers had begun to desert the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries en masse, contemptuously styling them “social-jailers.” Workers and soldiers belonging to the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary parties were tearing up their membership cards in anger and disgust and applying for admission to the Bolshevik Party.
The chief items discussed at the congress were the political report of the Central Committee and the political situation. Comrade Stalin made the reports on both these questions. He showed with the utmost clarity how the revolution was growing and developing despite all the efforts of the bourgeoisie to suppress it. He pointed out that the revolution had placed on the order of the day the task of establishing workers’ control over the production and distribution of products, of turning over the land to the peasants, and of transferring the power from the bourgeoisie to the working class and poor peasantry. He said that the revolution was assuming the character of a Socialist revolution.
The political situation in the country had changed radically after the July days. The dual power had come to an end. The Soviets, led by Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, had refused to take over full power and had therefore lost all power. The power was now concentrated in the hands of the bourgeois Provisional Government, and the latter was continuing to disarm the revolution, to smash its organizations and to destroy the Bolshevik Party. All possibility of a peaceful development of the revolution had vanished. Only one thing remained, Comrade Stalin said, namely, to take power by force, by overthrowing the Provisional Government. And only the proletariat, in alliance with the poor peasants, could take power by force.
The Soviets, still controlled by the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, had landed in the camp of the bourgeoisie, and under existing conditions could be expected to act only as subsidiaries of the Provisional Government. Now, after the July days, Comrade Stalin said, the slogan “All power to the Soviets!” had to be withdrawn. However, the temporary withdrawal of this slogan did not in any way imply a renunciation of the struggle for the power of the Soviets. It was not the Soviets in general, as organs of revolutionary struggle, that were in question, but only the existing Soviets, the Soviets controlled by the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries.
“The peaceful period of the revolution has ended,” said Comrade Stalin, “a non-peaceful period has begun, a period of clashes and explosions.” (Lenin and Stalin, Russian Revolution, pp. 139-140.)
The Party was headed for armed uprising.
There were some at the congress who, reflecting the bourgeois influence, opposed the adoption of the course of Socialist revolution.
The Trotskyite Preobrazhensky proposed that the resolution on the conquest of power should state that the country could be directed towards Socialism only in the event of a proletarian revolution in the West.
This Trotskyite motion was opposed by Comrade Stalin. He said :
“The possibility is not excluded that Russia will be the country that will lay the road to Socialism. . . . We must discard the antiquated idea that only Europe can show us the way. There is dogmatic Marxism and creative Marxism. I stand by the latter.” (p. 146.)
Bukharin, who held a Trotskyite position, asserted that the peasants supported the war, that they were in a bloc with the bourgeoisie and would not follow the working class.
Retorting to Bukharin, Comrade Stalin showed that there were different kinds of peasants: there were the rich peasants who supported the imperialist bourgeoisie, and there were the poor peasants who sought an alliance with the working class and would support it in a struggle for the victory of the revolution.
The congress rejected Preobrazhensky’s and Bukharin’s amendments and approved the resolution submitted by Comrade Stalin.
The congress discussed the economic platform of the Bolsheviks and approved it. Its main points were the confiscation of the landed estates and the nationalization of all the land, the nationalization of the banks, the nationalization of large-scale industry, and workers’ control over production and distribution.
The congress stressed the importance of the fight for workers’ control over production, which was later to play a significant part during the nationalization of the large industrial enterprises.
In all its decisions, the Sixth Congress particularly stressed Lenin’s principle of an alliance between the proletariat and the poor peasantry as a condition for the victory of the Socialist revolution.
The congress condemned the Menshevik theory that the trade unions should be neutral. It pointed out that the momentous tasks confronting the working class of Russia could be accomplished only if the trade unions remained militant class organizations recognizing the political leadership of the Bolshevik Party.
The congress adopted a resolution on the Youth Leagues, which at that time frequently sprang up spontaneously. As a result of the Party’s subsequent efforts it succeeded in definitely securing the adherence of these young organizations which became a reserve of the Party.
The congress discussed whether Lenin should appear for trial. Kamenev, Rykov, Trotsky and others had held even before the congress that Lenin ought to appear before the counter-revolutionary court. Comrade Stalin was vigorously opposed to Lenin’s appearing for trial. This was also the stand of the Sixth Congress, for it considered that it would be a lynching, not a trial. The congress had no doubt that the bourgeoisie wanted only one thing—the physical destruction of Lenin as the most dangerous enemy of the bourgeoisie. The congress protested against the police persecution of the leaders of the revolutionary proletariat by the bourgeoisie, and sent a message of greeting to Lenin.
The Sixth Congress adopted new Party Rules. These rules provided that all Party organizations shall be built on the principle of democratic centralism.
This meant :
1) That all directing bodies of the Party, from top to bottom, shall be elected;
2) That Party bodies shall give periodical accounts of their activities to their respective Party organizations;
3) That there shall be strict Party discipline and the subordination of the minority to the majority;
4) That all decisions of higher bodies shall be absolutely binding on lower bodies and on all Party members.
The Party Rules provided that admission of new members to the Party shall be through local Party organizations on the recommendation of two Party members and on the sanction of a general membership meeting of the local organization.
The Sixth Congress admitted the Mezhrayontsi and their leader, Trotsky, into the Party. They were a small group that had existed in Petrograd since 1913 and consisted of Trotskyite-Mensheviks and a number of former Bolsheviks who had split away from the Party. During the war, the Mezhrayonsti were a Centrist organization. They fought the Bolsheviks, but in many respects disagreed with the Men-sheviks, thus occupying an intermediate, centrist, vacillating position. During the Sixth Party Congress the Mezhrayonsti declared that they were in agreement with the Bolsheviks on all points and requested admission to the Party. The request was granted by the congress in the expectation that they would in time become real Bolsheviks. Some of the Mezhrayonsti, Volodarsky and Uritsky, for example, actually did become Bolsheviks. As to Trotsky and some of his close friends, they, as it later became apparent, had joined not to work in the interests of the Party, but to disrupt and destroy it from within.
The decisions of the Sixth Congress were all intended to prepare the proletariat and the poorest peasantry for an armed uprising. The Sixth Congress headed the Party for armed uprising, for the Socialist revolution.
The congress issued a Party manifesto calling upon the workers, soldiers and peasants to muster their forces for decisive battles with the bourgeoisie. It ended with the words:
“Prepare, then, for new battles, comrades-in-arms! Staunchly, manfully and calmly, without yielding to provocation, muster your forces and form your fighting columns! Rally under the banner of the Party, proletarians and soldiers! Rally under our banner, downtrodden of the villages!”
5. general kornilov’s plot against the revolution. suppression of the plot.
petrograd and moscow soviets go over to the bolsheviks
Having seized all power, the bourgeoisie began preparations to destroy the now weakened Soviets and to set up an open counter-revolutionary dictatorship. The millionaire Ryabushinsky insolently declared that the way out of the situation was “for the gaunt hand of famine, of destitution of the people, to seize the false friends of the people—the democratic Soviets and Committees—by the throat.” At the front, courts-martial wreaked savage vengeance on the soldiers, and meted out death sentences wholesale. On August 3, 1917, General Kornilov, the Commander-in-Chief, demanded the introduction of the death penalty behind the lines as well.
On August 12, a Council of State, convened by the Provisional Government to mobilize the forces of the bourgeoisie and the landlords, opened in the Grand Theatre in Moscow. The Council was attended chiefly by representatives of the landlords, the bourgeoisie, the generals, the officers and Cossacks. The Soviets were represented by Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries.
In protest against the convocation of the Council of State, the Bolsheviks on the day of its opening called a general strike in Moscow in which the majority of the workers took part. Simultaneously, strikes took place in a number of other cities.
The Socialist-Revolutionary Kerensky threatened in a fit of boasting at the Council to suppress “by iron and blood” every attempt at a revolutionary movement, including unauthorized attempts of the peasants to seize the lands of the landlords.
The counter-revolutionary General Kornilov bluntly demanded that “the Committees and Soviets be abolished.”
Bankers, merchants and manufacturers flocked to Kornilov at General Headquarters, promising him money and support.
Representatives of the “Allies,” Britain and France, also came to General Kornilov, demanding that action against the revolution be not delayed.
General Kornilov’s plot against the revolution was coming to a head.
Kornilov made his preparations openly. In order to distract attention, the conspirators started a rumour that the Bolsheviks were preparing an uprising in Petrograd to take place on August 27 — the end of the first six months of the revolution. The Provisional Government, headed by Kerensky, furiously attacked the Bolsheviks, and intensified the terror against the proletarian party. At the same time, General Kornilov massed troops in order to move them against Petrograd, abolish the Soviets and set up a military dictatorship.
Kornilov had come to a preliminary agreement with Kerensky regarding his counter-revolutionary action. But no sooner had Kornilov’s action begun than Kerensky made an abrupt right-about-face and dissociated himself from his ally. Kerensky feared that the masses who would rise against the Kornilovites and crush them would at the same time sweep away Kerensky’s bourgeois government as well, unless it at once dissociated itself from the Kornilov affair.
On August 25 Kornilov moved the Third Mounted Corps under the command of General Krymov against Petrograd, declaring that he intended to “save the fatherland.” In face of the Kornilov revolt, the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party called upon the workers and soldiers to put up active armed resistance to the counter-revolution. The workers hurriedly began to arm and prepared to resist. The Red Guard detachments grew enormously during these days. The trade unions mobilized their members. The revolutionary military units in Petro-grad were also held in readiness for battle. Trenches were dug around Petrograd, barbed wire entanglements erected, and the railway tracks leading to the city were torn up. Several thousand armed sailors arrived from Kronstadt to defend the city. Delegates were sent to the “Savage Division” which was advancing on Petrograd; when these delegates explained the purpose of Kornilov’s action to the Caucasian mountaineers of whom the “Savage Division” was made up, they refused to advance. Agitators were also dispatched to other Kornilov units. Wherever there was danger, Revolutionary Committees and headquarters were set up to fight Kornilov.
In those days the mortally terrified Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik leaders, Kerensky among them, turned for protection to the Bolsheviks, for they were convinced that the Bolsheviks were the only effective force in the capital that was capable of routing Kornilov.
But while mobilizing the masses to crush the Kornilov revolt, the Bolsheviks did not discontinue their struggle against the Kerensky government. They exposed the government of Kerensky, the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries, to the masses, pointing out that their whole policy was in effect assisting Kornilov’s counter-revolutionary plot.
The result of these measures was that the Kornilov revolt was crushed. General Krymov committed suicide. Kornilov and his fellow-conspirators, Denikin and Lukomsky, were arrested. (Very soon, however, Kerensky had them released.)
The rout of the Kornilov revolt revealed in a flash the relative strength of the revolution and the counter-revolution. It showed that the whole counter-revolutionary camp was doomed, from the generals and the Constitutional-Democratic Party to the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries who had become entangled in the meshes of the bourgeoisie. It became obvious that the influence of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries among the masses had been completely undermined by the policy of prolonging the unbearable strain of the war, and by the economic chaos caused by the protracted war.
The defeat of the Kornilov revolt further showed that the Bolshevik Party had grown to be the decisive force of the revolution and was capable of foiling any attempt at counter-revolution. Our Party was not yet the ruling party, but during the Kornilov days it acted as the real ruling power, for its instructions were unhesitatingly carried out by the workers and soldiers.
Lastly, the rout of the Kornilov revolt showed that the seemingly dead Soviets actually possessed tremendous latent power of revolutionary resistance. There could be no doubt that it was the Soviets and their Revolutionary Committees that barred the way of the Kornilov troops and broke their strength.
The struggle against Kornilov put new vitality into the languishing Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. It freed them from the sway of the policy of compromise. It led them into the open road of revolutionary struggle, and turned them towards the Bolshevik Party.
The influence of the Bolsheviks in the Soviets grew stronger than ever.
Their influence spread rapidly in the rural districts as well.
The Kornilov revolt made it clear to the broad masses of the peasantry that if the landlords and generals succeeded in smashing the Bolsheviks and the Soviets, they would next attack the peasantry. The mass of the poor peasants therefore began to rally closer to the Bolsheviks. As to the middle peasants, whose vacillations had retarded the development of the revolution in the period from April to August 1917, after the rout of Kornilov they definitely began to swing towards the Bolshevik Party, joining forces with the poor peasants. The broad masses of the peasantry were coming to realize that only the Bolshevik Party could deliver them from the war, and that only this Party was capable of crushing the landlords and was prepared to turn over the land to the peasants. The months of September and October 1917 witnessed a tremendous increase in the number of seizures of landed estates by the peasants. Unauthorized ploughing of the fields of landlords became widespread. The peasants had taken the road of revolution and neither coaxing nor punitive expeditions could any longer halt them.
The tide of revolution was rising.
There ensued a period of revival of the Soviets, of a change in their composition, their bolshevization. Factories, mills and military units held new elections and sent to the Soviets representatives of the Bolshevik Party in place of Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries. On August 31, the day following the victory over Kornilov, the Petrograd Soviet endorsed the Bolshevik policy. The old Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary Presidium of the Petrograd Soviet, headed by Chkheidze, resigned, thus clearing the way for the Bolsheviks. On September 5, the Moscow Soviet of Workers’ Deputies went over to the Bolsheviks. The Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik Presidium of the Moscow Soviet also resigned and left the way clear for the Bolsheviks.
This meant that the chief conditions for a successful uprising were now ripe
The slogan “All power to the Soviets!” was again on the order of the day.
But it was no longer the old slogan, the slogan of transferring the power to Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary Soviets. This time it was a slogan calling for an uprising of the Soviets against the Provisional Government, the object being to transfer the whole power in the country to the Soviets now led by the Bolsheviks.
Disintegration set in among the compromising parties.
Under the pressure of the revolutionary peasants, a Left wing formed within the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, known as the “Left” Socialist-Revolutionaries, who expressed their disapproval of the policy of compromise with the bourgeoisie.
Among the Mensheviks, too, their appeared a group of “Lefts,” the so-called “Internationalists,” who gravitated towards the Bolsheviks.
As to the Anarchists, a group whose influence was insignificant to start with, they now definitely disintegrated into minute groups, some of which merged with criminal elements, thieves and provocateurs, the dregs of society; others became expropriators “by conviction,” robbing the peasants and small townfolk, and appropriating the premises and funds of workers’ clubs; while others still openly went over to the camp of the counter-revolutionaries, and devoted themselves to feathering their own nests as menials of the bourgeoisie. They were all opposed to authority of any kind, particularly and especially to the revolutionary authority of the workers and peasants, for they knew that a revolutionary government would not allow them to rob the people and steal public property.
After the rout of Kornilov, the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries made one more attempt to stem the rising tide of revolution. With this purpose in view, on September 12, 1917, they convened an All-Russian Democratic Conference, consisting of representatives of the Socialist parties, the compromising Soviets, trade unions, Zemstvos, commercial and industrial circles and military units. The conference set up a Provisional Council of the Republic, known as the Pre-parliament. The compromisers hoped with the help of the Pre-parliament to halt the revolution and to divert the country from the path of a Soviet revolution to the path of bourgeois constitutional development, the path of bourgeois parliamentarism. But this was a hopeless attempt on the part of political bankrupts to turn back the wheel of revolution. It was bound to end in a fiasco, and end in a fiasco it did. The workers jeered at the parliamentary efforts of the compromisers and called the Predparlament (Pre-parliament) a “predbannik” (“pre-bath-house”).
The Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party decided to boycott the Pre-parliament. True, the Bolshevik group in the Pre-parliament, consisting of people like Kamenev and Teodorovich, were loath to leave it, but the Central Committee of the Party compelled them to do so.
Kamenev and Zinoviev stubbornly insisted on participation in the Pre-parliament, striving thereby to divert the Party from its preparations for the uprising. Comrade Stalin, speaking at a meeting of the Bolshevik group of the All-Russian Democratic Conference, vigorously opposed participation in the Pre-parliament. He called the Pre-parlia-ment a “Kornilov abortion.”
Lenin and Stalin considered that it would be a grave mistake to participate in the Pre-parliament even for a short time, for it might encourage in the masses the false hope that the Pre-parliament could really do something for the working people.
At the same time, the Bolsheviks made intensive preparations for the convocation of the Second Congress of Soviets, in which they expected to have a majority. Under the pressure of the Bolshevik Soviets, and notwithstanding the subterfuges of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries on the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets was called for the second half of October 1917.
6. october uprising in petrograd and arrest of the provisional government. second congress of soviets and formation of the soviet government. decrees of the second congress of soviets on peace and land. victory of the socialist revolution. reasons for the victory of the socialist revolution
The Bolsheviks began intensive preparations for the uprising. Lenin declared that, having secured a majority in the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies in both the capitals—Moscow and Petrograd—the Bolsheviks could and should take the state power into their own hands. Reviewing the path that had been traversed, Lenin stressed the fact that “the majority of the people are for us.” In his articles and letters to the Central Committee and the Bolshevik organizations, Lenin outlined a detailed plan for the uprising showing how the army units, the navy and the Red Guards should be used, what key positions in Petrograd should be seized in order to ensure the success of the uprising, and so forth.
On October 7, Lenin secretly arrived in Petrograd from Finland. On October 10, 1917, the historic meeting of the Central Committee of the Party took place at which it was decided to launch the armed uprising within the next few days. The historic resolution of the Central Committee of the Party, drawn up by Lenin, stated:
“The Central Committee recognizes that the international position of the Russian revolution (the revolt in the German navy which is an extreme manifestation of the growth throughout Europe of the world Socialist revolution; the threat of conclusion of peace by the imperialists with the object of strangling the revolution in Russia) as well as its military position (the indubitable decision of the Russian bourgeoisie and Kerensky and Co. to surrender Petrograd to the Germans), and the fact that the proletarian party has gained a majority in the Soviets—all this, taken in conjunction with the peasant revolt and the swing of popular confidence towards our Party (the elections in Moscow), and, finally, the obvious preparations being made for a second Kornilov affair (the withdrawal of troops from Petrograd, the dispatch of Cossacks to Petrograd, the surrounding of Minsk by Cossacks, etc.)—all this places the armed uprising on the order of the day.
“Considering therefore that an armed uprising is inevitable, and that the time for it is fully ripe, the Central Committee instructs all Party organizations to be guided accordingly, and to discuss and decide all practical questions (the Congress of Soviets of the Northern Region, the withdrawal of troops from Petrograd, the action of our people in Moscow and Minsk, etc.) from this point of view.” (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. VI, p. 303.)
Two members of the Central Committee, Kamenev and Zinoviev, spoke and voted against this historic decision. Like the Mensheviks, they dreamed of a bourgeois parliamentary republic, and slandered the working class by asserting that it was not strong enough to carry out a Socialist revolution, that it was not mature enough to take power.
Although at this meeting Trotsky did not vote against the resolution directly, he moved an amendment which would have reduced the chances of the uprising to nought and rendered it abortive. He proposed that the uprising should not be started before the Second Congress of Soviets met, a proposal which meant delaying the uprising, divulging its date, and forewarning the Provisional Government.
The Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party sent its representatives to the Donetz Basin, the Urals, Helsingfors, Kronstadt, the SouthWestern Front and other places to organize the uprising. Comrades Voroshilov, Molotov, Dzerzhinsky, Ordjonikidze, Kirov, Kaganovich, Kuibyshev, Frunze, Yaroslavsky and others were specially assigned by the Party to direct the uprising in the provinces. Comrade Zhdanov carried on the work among the armed forces in Shadrinsk, in the Urals. Comrade Yezhov made preparations for an uprising of the soldiers on the Western Front, in Byelorussia. The representatives of the Central Committee acquainted the leading members of the Bolshevik organizations in the provinces with the plan of the uprising and mobilized them in readiness to support the uprising in Petrograd.
On the instructions of the Central Committee of the Party, a Revolutionary Military Committee of the Petrograd Soviet was set up. This body became the legally functioning headquarters of the uprising.
Meanwhile the counter-revolutionaries, too, were hastily mustering their forces. The officers of the army formed a counter-revolutionary organization known as the Officers’ League. Everywhere the counterrevolutionaries set up headquarters for the formation of shock-battalions. By the end of October the counter-revolutionaries had 43 shock battalions at their command. Special battalions of Cavaliers of the Cross of St. George were formed.
Kerensky’s government considered the question of transferring the seat of government from Petrograd to Moscow. This made it clear that it was preparing to surrender Petrograd to the Germans in order to forestall the uprising in the city. The protest of the Petrograd workers and soldiers compelled the Provisional Government to remain in Petrograd.
On October 16 an enlarged meeting of the Central Committee of the Party was held. This meeting elected a Party Centre, headed by Comrade Stalin, to direct the uprising. This Party Centre was the leading core of the Revolutionary Military Committee of the Petrograd Soviet and had practical direction of the whole uprising.
At the meeting of the Central Committee the capitulators Zinoviev and Kamenev again opposed the uprising. Meeting with a rebuff, they came out openly in the press against the uprising, against the Party. On October 18 the Menshevik newspaper, Novaya Zhizn, printed a statement by Kamenev and Zinoviev declaring that the Bolsheviks were making preparations for an uprising, and that they (Kamenev and Zinoviev) considered it an adventurous gamble. Kamenev and Zinoviev thus disclosed to the enemy the decision of the Central Committee regarding the uprising, they revealed that an uprising had been planned to take place within a few days This was treachery. Lenin wrote in this connection: “Kamenev and Zinoviev have betrayed the decision of the Central Committee of their Party on the armed uprising to Rod-zyanko and Kerensky.” Lenin put before the Central Committee the question of Zinoviev’s and Kamenev’s expulsion from the Party.
Forewarned by the traitors, the enemies of the revolution at once began to take measures to prevent the uprising and to destroy the directing staff of the revolution—the Bolshevik Party. The Provisional Government called a secret meeting which decided upon measures for combating the Bolsheviks On October 19 the Provisional Government hastily summoned troops from the front to Petrograd. The streets were heavily patrolled. The counter-revolutionaries succeeded in massing especially large forces in Moscow. The Provisional Government drew up a plan: on the eve of the Second Congress of Soviets the Smolny— the headquarters of the Bolshevik Central Committee—was to be attacked and occupied and the Bolshevik directing centre destroyed. For this purpose the government summoned to Petrograd troops in whose loyalty it believed.
But the days and even the hours of the Provisional Government were already numbered. Nothing could now halt the victorious march of the Socialist revolution.
On October 21 the Bolsheviks sent commissars of the Revolutionary Military Committee to all revolutionary army units. Throughout the remaining days before the uprising energetic preparations for action were made in the army units and in the mills and factories. Precise instructions were also issued to the warships Aurora and Zarya Svobody.
At a meeting of the Petrograd Soviet, Trotsky in a fit of boasting blabbed to the enemy the date on which the Bolsheviks had planned to begin the armed uprising. In order not to allow Kerensky’s government to frustrate the uprising, the Central Committee of the Party decided to start and carry it through before the appointed time, and set its date for the day before the opening of the Second Congress of Soviets.
Kerensky began his attack on the early morning of October 24 (November 6) by ordering the suppression of the central organ of the Bolshevik Party, Rabochy Put (Workers’ Path), and the dispatch of armoured cars to its editorial premises and to the printing plant of the Bolsheviks. By 10 a.m., however, on the instructions of Comrade Stalin, Red Guards and revolutionary soldiers pressed back the armoured cars and placed a reinforced guard over the printing plant and the Rabochy Put editorial offices. Towards 11 a.m. Rabochy Put came out with a call for the overthrow of the Provisional Government. Simultaneously, on the instructions of the Party Centre of the uprising, detachments of revolutionary soldiers and Red Guards were rushed to the Smolny. The uprising had begun.
On the night of October 24 Lenin arrived at the Smolny and assumed personal direction of the uprising. All that night revolutionary units of the army and detachments of the Red Guard kept arriving at the Smolny. The Bolsheviks directed them to the centre of the capital, to surround the Winter Palace, where the Provisional Government had entrenched itself.
On October 25 (November 7), Red Guards and revolutionary troops occupied the railway stations, post office, telegraph office, the Ministries and the State Bank.
The Pre-parliament was dissolved.
The Smolny, the headquarters of the Petrograd Soviet and of the Bolshevik Central Committee, became the headquarters of the revolution, from which all fighting orders emanated.
The Petrograd workers in those days showed what a splendid schooling they had received under the guidance of the Bolshevik Party. The revolutionary units of the army, prepared for the uprising by the work of the Bolsheviks, carried out fighting orders with precision and fought side by side with the Red Guard. The navy did not lag behind the army. Kronstadt was a stronghold of the Bolshevik Party, and had long since refused to recognize the authority of the Provisional Government. The cruiser Aurora trained its guns on the Winter Palace, and on October 25 their thunder ushered in a new era, the era of the Great Socialist Revolution.
On October 25 (November 7) the Bolsheviks issued a manifesto “To the Citizens of Russia” announcing that the bourgeois Provisional Government had been deposed and that state power had passed into the hands of the Soviets.
The Provisional Government had taken refuge in the Winter Palace under the protection of cadets and shock battalions. On the night of October 25 the revolutionary workers, soldiers and sailors took the Winter Palace by storm and arrested the Provisional Government.
The armed uprising in Petrograd had won.
The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets opened in the Smolny at 10:45 p.m. on October 25 (November 7), 1917, when the uprising in Petrograd was already in the full flush of victory and the power in the capital had actually passed into the hands of the Petrograd Soviet.
The Bolsheviks secured an overwhelming majority at the congress. The Mensheviks, Bundists and Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, seeing that their day was done, left the congress, announcing that they refused to take any part in its labours. In a statement which was read at the Congress of Soviets they referred to the October Revolution as a “military plot.” The congress condemned the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries and, far from regretting their departure, welcomed it, for, it declared, thanks to the withdrawal of the traitors the congress had become a real revolutionary congress of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies. The congress proclaimed that all power had passed to the Soviets:
“Backed by the will of the vast majority of the workers, soldiers and peasants, backed by the victorious uprising of the workers and the garrison which had taken place in Petrograd, the Congress takes the power into its own hands”—the proclamation of the Second Congress of Soviets read.
On the night of October 26 (November 8), 1917, the Second Congress of Soviets adopted the Decree on Peace. The congress called upon the belligerent countries to conclude an immediate armistice for a period of not less than three months to permit negotiations for peace. While addressing itself to the governments and peoples of all the belligerent countries, the congress at the same time appealed to “the class-conscious workers of the three most advanced nations of mankind and the largest states participating in the present war, namely, Great Britain, France and Germany.” It called upon these workers to help “to bring to a successful conclusion the cause of peace, and at the same time the cause of the emancipation of the toiling and exploited masses of the population from all forms of slavery and all forms of exploitation.”
That same night the Second Congress of Soviets adopted the Decree on Land, which proclaimed that “landlord ownership of land is abolished forthwith without compensation.” The basis adopted for this agrarian law was a Mandate (Nakaz) of the peasantry, compiled from 242 mandates of peasants of various localities. In accordance with this Mandate private ownership of land was to be abolished forever and replaced by public, or state ownership of the land. The lands of the landlords, of the tsar’s family and of the monasteries were to be turned over to all the toilers for their free use.
By this decree the peasantry received from the October Socialist Revolution over 150,000,000 dessiatins (over 400,000,000 acres) of land that had formerly belonged to the landlords, the bourgeoisie, the tsar’s family, the monasteries and the churches.
Moreover, the peasants were released from paying rent to the landlords, which had amounted to about 500,000,000 gold rubles annually.
All mineral resources (oil, coal, ores, etc.), forests and waters became the property of the people.
Lastly, the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets formed the first Soviet Government—the Council of People’s Commissars—which consisted entirely of Bolsheviks. Lenin was elected Chairman of the first Council of People’s Commissars.
This ended the labours of the historic Second Congress of Soviets.
The congress delegates dispersed to spread the news of the victory of the Soviets in Petrograd and to ensure the extension of the power of the Soviets to the whole country.
Not everywhere did power pass to the Soviets at once. While in Petrograd the Soviet Government was already in existence, in Moscow fierce and stubborn fighting continued in the streets several days longer. In order to prevent the power from passing into the hands of the Moscow Soviet, the counter-revolutionary Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary parties, together with Whiteguards and cadets, started an armed fight against the workers and soldiers. It took several days to rout the rebels and to establish the power of the Soviets in Moscow.
In Petrograd itself, and in several of its districts, counter-revolutionary attempts to overthrow the Soviet power were made in the very first days of the victory of the revolution. On November 10, 1917, Kerensky, who during the uprising had fled from Petrograd to the Northern Front, mustered several Cossack units and dispatched them against Petrograd under the command of General Krasnov. On November 11, 1917, a counter-revolutionary organization calling itself the “Committee for the Salvation of the Fatherland and the Revolution,” headed by Socialist-Revolutionaries, raised a mutiny of cadets in Petro-grad. But the mutiny was suppressed by sailors and Red Guards without much difficulty by the evening of the same day, and on November 13 General Krasnov was routed near the Pulkovo Hills. Lenin personally directed the suppression of the anti-Soviet mutiny, just as he had personally directed the October uprising. His inflexible firmness and calm confidence of victory inspired and welded the masses. The enemy was smashed. Krasnov was taken prisoner and pledged his “word of honour” to terminate the struggle against the Soviet power. And on his “word of honour” he was released. But, as it later transpired, the general violated his word of honour. As to Kerensky, disguised as a woman, he managed to “disappear in an unknown direction.”
In Moghilev, at the General Headquarters of the Army, General Dukhonin, the Commander-in-Chief, also attempted a mutiny. When the Soviet Government instructed him to start immediate negotiations for an armistice with the German Command, he refused to obey. Thereupon Dukhonin was dismissed by order of the Soviet Government. The counter-revolutionary General Headquarters was broken up and Du-khonin himself was killed by the soldiers, who had risen against him.
Certain notorious opportunists within the Party—Kamenev, Zinoviev, Rykov, Shlyapnikov and others—also made a sally against the Soviet power. They demanded the formation of an “all-Socialist government” to include Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, who had just been overthrown by the October Revolution. On November 15, 1917, the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party adopted a resolution rejecting agreement with these counter-revolutionary parties, and proclaiming Kamenev and Zinoviev strikebreakers of the revolution. On November 17, Kamenev, Zinoviev, Rykov and Milyutin, disagreeing with the policy of the Party, announced their resignation from the Central Committee. That same day, November 17, Nogin, in his own name and in the names of Rykov, V. Milyutin, Teodorovich, A. Shlyapnikov, D. Ryazanov, Yurenev and Larin, members of the Council of People’s Commissars, announced their disagreement with the policy of the Central Committee of the Party and their resignation from the Council of People’s Commissars. The desertion of this handful of cowards caused jubilation among the enemies of the October Revolution. The bourgeoisie and its henchmen proclaimed with malicious glee the collapse of Bolshevism and presaged the early end of the Bolshevik Party. But not for a moment was the Party shaken by this handful of deserters. The Central Committee of the Party contemptuously branded them as deserters from the revolution and accomplices of the bourgeoisie, and proceeded with its work.
As to the “Left” Socialist-Revolutionaries, they, desirous of retaining their influence over the peasant masses, who definitely sympathized with the Bolsheviks, decided not to quarrel with the latter and for the time being to maintain a united front with them. The Congress of Peasant Soviets which took place in November 1917 recognized all the gains of the October Socialist Revolution and endorsed the decrees of the Soviet Government. An agreement was concluded with the “Left” Socialist-Revolutionaries and several of their number were given posts on the Council of People’s Commissars (Kolegayev, Spiridonova, Proshyan and Steinberg). However, this agreement lasted only until the signing of the Peace of Brest-Litovsk and the formation of the Committees of the Poor Peasants, when a deep cleavage took place among the peasantry and when the “Left” Socialist-Revolutionaries, coming more and more to reflect the interests of the kulaks, started a revolt against the Bolsheviks and were routed by the Soviet Government.
In the interval from October 1917 to February 1918 the Soviet revolution spread throughout the vast territory of the country at such a rapid rate that Lenin referred to it as a “triumphal march” of Soviet power.
The Great October Socialist Revolution had won.
There were several reasons for this comparatively easy victory of the Socialist revolution in Russia. The following chief reasons should be noted:
1) The October Revolution was confronted by an enemy so comparatively weak, so badly organized and so politically inexperienced as the Russian bourgeoisie. Economically still weak, and completely dependent on government contracts, the Russian bourgeoisie lacked sufficient political self-reliance and initiative to find a way out of the situation. It had neither the experience of the French bourgeoisie, for example, in political combination and political chicanery on a broad scale nor the schooling of the British bourgeoisie in broadly conceived crafty compromise. It had but recently sought to reach an understanding with the tsar; yet now that the tsar had been overthrown by the February Revolution, and the bourgeoisie itself had come to power, it was unable to think of anything better than to continue the policy of the detested tsar in all its essentials. Like the tsar, it stood for “war to a victorious finish,” although the war was beyond the country’s strength and had reduced the people and the army to a state of utter exhaustion. Like the tsar, it stood for the preservation in the main of big landed property, although the peasantry was perishing from lack of land and the weight of the landlord’s yoke. As to its labour policy the Russian bourgeoisie outstripped even the tsar in its hatred of the working class, for it not only strove to preserve and strengthen the yoke of the factory owners, but to render it intolerable by wholesale lockouts.
It is not surprising that the people saw no essential difference between the policy of the tsar and the policy of the bourgeoisie, and that they transferred their hatred of the tsar to the Provisional Government of the bourgeoisie.
As long as the compromising Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties possessed a certain amount of influence among the people, the bourgeoisie could use them as a screen and preserve its power. But after the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries had exposed themselves as agents of the imperialist bourgeoisie, thus forfeiting their influence among the people, the bourgeoisie and its Provisional Government were left without a support.
2) The October Revolution was headed by so revolutionary a class as the working class of Russia, a class which had been steeled in battle, which had in a short space passed through two revolutions, and which by the eve of the third revolution had won recognition as the leader of the people in the struggle for peace, land, liberty and Socialism. If the revolution had not had a leader like the working class of Russia, a leader that had earned the confidence of the people, there would have been no alliance between the workers and peasants, and without such an alliance the victory of the October Revolution would have been impossible.
3) The working class of Russia had so effective an ally in the revolution as the poor peasantry, which comprised the overwhelming majority of the peasant population. The experience of eight months of revolution —which may unhesitatingly be compared to the experience of several decades of “normal” development—had not been in vain as far as the mass of the labouring peasants were concerned. During this period they had had the opportunity to test all the parties of Russia in practice and convince themselves that neither the Constitutional-Democrats, nor the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks would seriously quarrel with the landlords or sacrifice themselves for the interests of the peasants; that there was only one party in Russia—the Bolshevik Party—which was in no way connected with the landlords and which was prepared to crush them in order to satisfy the needs of the peasants. This served as a solid basis for the alliance of the proletariat and the poor peasantry. The existence of this alliance between the working class and the poor peasantry determined the conduct of the middle peasants, who had long been vacillating and only on the eve of the October uprising wholeheartedly swung over towards the revolution and joined forces with the poor peasants.
It goes without saying that without this alliance the October Revolution could not have been victorious.
4) The working class was headed by a party so tried and tested in political battles as the Bolshevik Party. Only a party like the Bolshevik Party, courageous enough to lead the people in decisive attack, and cautious enough to keep clear of all the submerged rocks in its path to the goal—only such a party could so skilfully merge into one common revolutionary torrent such diverse revolutionary movements as the general democratic movement for peace, the peasant democratic movement for the seizure of the landed estates, the movement of the oppressed nationalities for national liberation and national equality, and the Socialist movement of the proletariat for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Undoubtedly, the merging of these diverse revolutionary streams into one common powerful revolutionary torrent decided the fate of capitalism in Russia.
5) The October Revolution began at a time when the imperialist war was still at its height, when the principal bourgeois states were split into two hostile camps, and when, absorbed in mutual war and undermining each other’s strength, they were unable to intervene effectively in “Russian affairs” and actively to oppose the October Revolution.
This undoubtedly did much to facilitate the victory of the October Socialist Revolution.
7. struggle of the bolshevik party to consolidate the soviet power.
peace of brest-litovsk. seventh party congress
In order to consolidate the Soviet power, the old, bourgeois state machine had to be shattered and destroyed and a new, Soviet state machine set up in its place. Further, it was necessary to destroy the survivals of the division of society into estates and the regime of national oppression, to abolish the privileges of the church, to suppress the counterrevolutionary press and counter-revolutionary organizations of all kinds, legal and illegal, and to dissolve the bourgeois Constituent Assembly. Following on the nationalization of the land, all large-scale industry had also to be nationalized. And, lastly, the state of war had to be ended, for the war was hampering the consolidation of the Soviet power more than anything else.
All these measures were carried out in the course of a few months, from the end of 1917 to the middle of 1918.
The sabotage of the officials of the old Ministries, engineered by the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, was smashed and overcome. The Ministries were abolished and replaced by Soviet administrative machinery and appropriate People’s Commissariats. The Supreme Council of National Economy was set up to administer the industry of the country. The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission (Vecheka) was created to combat counter-revolution and sabotage, and F. Dzerzhinsky was placed at its head. The formation of a Red Army and Navy was decreed. The Constituent Assembly, the elections to which had largely been held prior to the October Revolution, and which refused to recognize the decrees of the Second Congress of Soviets on peace, land and the transfer of power to the Soviets, was dissolved.
In order to put an end to the survivals of feudalism, the estates system, and inequality in all spheres of social life, decrees were issued abolishing the estates, removing restrictions based on nationality or religion, separating the church from the state and the schools from the church, establishing equality for women and the equality of all the nationalities of Russia.
A special edict of the Soviet Government known as “The Declaration of Rights of the Peoples of Russia” laid down as a law the right of the peoples of Russia to unhampered development and complete equality.
In order to undermine the economic power of the bourgeoisie and to create a new, Soviet national economy, and, in the first place, to create a new, Soviet industry, the banks, railways, foreign trade, the mercantile fleet and all large enterprises in all branches of industry — coal, metal, oil, chemicals, machine-building, textiles, sugar, etc.— were nationalized.
To render our country financially independent of the foreign capitalists and free from exploitation by them, the foreign loans contracted by the Russian tsar and the Provisional Government were annulled. The people of our country refused to pay debts which had been incurred for the continuation of the war of conquest and which had placed our country in bondage to foreign capital.
These and similar measures undermined the very root of the power of the bourgeoisie, the landlords, the reactionary officials and the counterrevolutionary parties, and considerably strengthened the position of the Soviet Government within the country.
But the position of the Soviet Government could not be deemed fully secure as long as Russia was in a state of war with Germany and Austria. In order finally to consolidate the Soviet power, the war had to be ended. The Party therefore launched the fight for peace from the moment of the victory of the October Revolution.
The Soviet Government called upon “all the belligerent peoples and their governments to start immediate negotiations for a just, democratic peace.” But the “allies”—Great Britain and France—refused to accept the proposal of the Soviet Government. In view of this refusal, the Soviet Government, in compliance with the will of the Soviets, decided to start negotiations with Germany and Austria.
The negotiations began on December 3 in Brest-Litovsk. On December 5 an armistice was signed.
The negotiations took place at a time when the country was in a state of economic disruption, when war-weariness was universal, when our troops were abandoning the trenches and the front was collapsing. It became clear in the course of the negotiations that the German imperialists were out to seize huge portions of the territory of the former tsarist empire, and to turn Poland, the Ukraine and the Baltic countries into dependencies of Germany.
To continue the war under such conditions would have meant staking the very existence of the new-born Soviet Republic. The working class and the peasantry were confronted with the necessity of accepting onerous terms of peace, of retreating before the most dangerous marauder of the time—German imperialism—in order to secure a respite in which to strengthen the Soviet power and to create a new army, the Red Army, which would be able to defend the country from enemy attack.
All the counter-revolutionaries, from the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries to the most arrant Whiteguards, conducted a frenzied campaign against the conclusion of peace. Their policy was clear: they wanted to wreck the peace negotiations, provoke a German offensive and thus imperil the still weak Soviet power and endanger the gains of the workers and peasants.
Their allies in this sinister scheme were Trotsky and his accomplice Bukharin, the latter, together with Radek and Pyatakov, heading a group which was hostile to the Party but camouflaged itself under the name of “Left Communists.” Trotsky and the group of “Left Communists” began a fierce struggle within the Party against Lenin, demanding the continuation of the war. These people were clearly playing into the hands of the German imperialists and the counterrevolutionaries within the country, for they were working to expose the young Soviet Republic, which had not yet any army, to the blows of German imperialism.
This was really a policy of provocateurs, skilfully masked by Left phraseology.
On February 10, 1918, the peace negotiations in Brest-Litovsk were broken off. Although Lenin and Stalin, in the name of the Central Committee of the Party, had insisted that peace be signed, Trotsky, who was chairman of the Soviet delegation at Brest-Litovsk, treacherously violated the direct instructions of the Bolshevik Party. He announced that the Soviet Republic refused to conclude peace on the terms proposed by Germany. At the same time he informed the Germans that the Soviet Republic would not fight and would continue to demobilize the army.
This was monstrous. The German imperialists could have desired nothing more from this traitor to the interests of the Soviet country.
The German government broke the armistice and assumed the offensive. The remnants of our old army crumbled and scattered before the onslaught of the German troops. The Germans advanced swiftly, seizing enormous territory and threatening Petrograd. German imperialism invaded the Soviet land with the object of overthrowing the Soviet power and converting our country into its colony. The ruins of the old tsarist army could not withstand the armed hosts of German imperialism, and steadily retreated under their blows.
But the armed intervention of the German imperialists was the signal for a mighty revolutionary upsurge in the country. The Party and the Soviet Government issued the call—”The Socialist fatherland is in danger!” And in response the working class energetically began to form regiments of the Red Army. The young detachments of the new army—the army of the revolutionary people—heroically resisted the German marauders who were armed to the teeth. At Narva and Pskov the German invaders met with a resolute repulse. Their advance on Petrograd was checked. February 23—the day the forces of German imperialism were repulsed—is regarded as the birthday of the Red Army.
On February 18, 1918, the Central Committee of the Party had approved Lenin’s proposal to send a telegram to the German government offering to conclude an immediate peace. But in order to secure more advantageous terms, the Germans continued to advance, and only on February 22 did the German government express its willingness to sign peace. The terms were now far more onerous than those originally proposed.
Lenin, Stalin and Sverdlov had to wage a stubborn fight on the Central Committee against Trotsky, Bukharin and the other Trotskyites before they secured a decision in favour of the conclusion of peace. Bukharin and Trotsky, Lenin declared, “actually helped the German imperialists and hindered the growth and development of the revolution in Germany.” (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XXII, p. 307.)
On February 23, the Central Committee decided to accept the terms of the German Command and to sign the peace treaty. The treachery of Trotsky and Bukharin cost the Soviet Republic dearly. Latvia, Es-thonia, not to mention Poland, passed into German hands; the Ukraine was severed from the Soviet Republic and converted into a vassal of the German state. The Soviet Republic undertook to pay an indemnity to the Germans.
Meanwhile, the “Left Communists” continued their struggle against Lenin, sinking deeper and deeper into the slough of treachery.
The Moscow Regional Bureau of the Party, of which the “Left Communists” (Bukharin, Ossinsky, Yakovleva, Stukov and Mantsev) had temporarily seized control, passed a resolution of no-confidence in the Central Committee, a resolution designed to split the Party. The Bureau declared that it considered “a split in the Party in the very near future scarcely avoidable.” The “Left Communists” even went so far in their resolution as to adopt an anti-Soviet stand. “In the interests of the international revolution,” they declared, “we consider it expedient to consent to the possible loss of the Soviet power, which has now become purely formal.”
Lenin branded this decision as “strange and monstrous.”
At that time the real cause of this anti-Party behaviour of Trotsky and the “Left Communists” was not yet clear to the Party. But the recent trial of the Anti-Soviet “Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites” (beginning of 1938) has now revealed that Bukharin and the group of “Left Communists” headed by him, together with Trotsky and the “Left” Socialist-Revolutionaries, were at that time secretly conspiring against the Soviet Government. Now it is known that Bukharin, Trotsky and their fellow-conspirators had determined to wreck the Peace of Brest-Litovsk, arrest V. I. Lenin, J. V. Stalin and Y. M. Sverdlov, assassinate them, and form a new government consisting of Bukharinites, Trotskyites and “Left” Socialist-Revolutionaries.
While hatching this clandestine counter-revolutionary plot, the group of “Left Communists,” with the support of Trotsky, openly attacked the Bolshevik Party, trying to split it and to disintegrate its ranks. But at this grave juncture the Party rallied around Lenin, Stalin and Sverdlov and supported the Central Committee on the question of peace as on all other questions.
The “Left Communist” group was isolated and defeated.
In order that the Party might pronounce its final decision on the question of peace the Seventh Party Congress was summoned.
The congress opened on March 6, 1918. This was the first congress held after our Party had taken power. It was attended by 46 delegates with vote and 58 delegates with voice but no vote, representing 145,000 Party members. Actually, the membership of the Party at that time was not less than 270,000. The discrepancy was due to the fact that, owing to the urgency with which the congress met, a large number of the organizations were unable to send delegates in time; and the organizations in the territories then occupied by the Germans were unable to send delegates at all.
Reporting at this congress on the Brest-Litovsk Peace, Lenin said that “. . . the severe crisis which our Party is now experiencing, owing to the formation of a Left opposition within it, is one of the gravest crises the Russian revolution has experienced.” (Lenin, Selected Works,Vol. VII, pp. 293-94.)
The resolution submitted by Lenin on the subject of the Brest-Litovsk Peace was adopted by 30 votes against 12, with 4 abstentions.
On the day following the adoption of this resolution, Lenin wrote an article entitled “A Distressful Peace,” in which he said:
“Intolerably severe are the terms of peace. Nevertheless, history will claim its own. . . . Let us set to work to organize, organize and organize. Despite all trials, the future is ours.” (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XXII, p. 288.)
In its resolution, the congress declared that further military attacks by imperialist states on the Soviet Republic were inevitable, and that therefore the congress considered it the fundamental task of the Party to adopt the most energetic and resolute measures to strengthen the self-discipline and discipline of the workers and peasants, to prepare the masses for self-sacrificing defence of the Socialist country, to organize the Red Army, and to introduce universal military training.
Endorsing Lenin’s policy with regard to the Peace of Brest-Litovsk, the congress condemned the position of Trotsky and Bukharin and stigmatized the attempt of the defeated “Left Communists” to continue their splitting activities at the congress itself.
The Peace of Brest-Litovsk gave the Party a respite in which to consolidate the Soviet power and to organize the economic life of the country.
The peace made it possible to take advantage of the conflicts within the imperialist camp (the war of Austria and Germany with the Entente, which was still in progress) to disintegrate the forces of the enemy, to organize a Soviet economic system and to create a Red Army.
The peace made it possible for the proletariat to retain the support of the peasantry and to accumulate strength for the defeat of the White-guard generals in the Civil War.
In the period of the October Revolution Lenin taught the Bolshevik Party how to advance fearlessly and resolutely when conditions favoured an advance. In the period of the Brest-Litovsk Peace Lenin taught the Party how to retreat in good order when the forces of the enemy are obviously superior to our own, in order to prepare with the utmost energy for a new offensive.
History has fully proved the correctness of Lenin’s line.
It was decided at the Seventh Congress to change the name of the Party and to alter the Party Program. The name of the Party was changed to the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks)—R.C.P.(B.). Lenin proposed to call our Party a Communist Party because this name precisely corresponded to the aim of the Party, namely, the achievement of Communism.
A special commission, which included Lenin and Stalin, was elected to draw up a new Party program, Lenin’s draft program having been accepted as a basis.
Thus the Seventh Congress accomplished a task of profound historical importance: it defeated the enemy hidden within the Party’s ranks— the “Left Communists” and Trotskyites; it succeeded in withdrawing the country from the imperialist war; it secured peace and a respite; it enabled the Party to gain time for the organization of the Red Army; and it set the Party the task of introducing Socialist order in the national economy.
8. lenin’s plan for the initial steps in socialist construction. committees of the poor peasants and the curbing of the kulaks. revolt of the “left” socialist-revolutionaries and its suppression. fifth congress of soviets and adoption of the constitution of the r.s.f.s.r.
Having concluded peace and thus gained a respite, the Soviet Government set about the work of Socialist construction. Lenin called the period from November 1917 to February 1918 the stage of “the Red Guard attack on capital.” During the first half of 1918 the Soviet Government succeeded in breaking the economic might of the bourgeoisie, in concentrating in its own hands the key positions of the national economy (mills, factories, banks, railways, foreign trade, mercantile fleet, etc.), smashing the bourgeois machinery of state power, and victoriously crushing the first attempts of the counter-revolution to overthrow the Soviet power.
But this was by no means enough. If there was to be progress, the destruction of the old order had to be followed by the building of a new. Accordingly, in the spring of 1918, a transition was begun “from the expropriation of the expropriators” to a new stage of Socialist construction—the organizational consolidation of the victories gained, the building of the Soviet national economy. Lenin held that the utmost advantage should be taken of the respite in order to begin to lay the foundation of the Socialist economic system. The Bolsheviks had to learn to organize and manage production in a new way. The Bolshevik Party had convinced Russia, Lenin wrote; the Bolshevik Party had wrested Russia for the people from the hands of the rich, and now the Bolsheviks must learn to govern Russia.
Lenin held that the chief task at the given stage was to keep account of everything the country produced and to exercise control over the distribution of all products. Petty-bourgeois elements predominated in the economic system of the country. The millions of small owners in town and country were a breeding ground for capitalism. These small owners recognized neither labour discipline nor civil discipline; they would not submit to a system of state accounting and control. What was particularly dangerous at this difficult juncture was the petty-bourgeois welter of speculation and profiteering, the attempts of the small owners and traders to profit by the people’s want.
The Party started a vigorous war on slovenliness in work, on the absence of labour discipline in industry. The masses were slow in acquiring new habits of labour. The struggle for labour discipline consequently became the major task of the period.
Lenin pointed to the necessity of developing Socialist emulation in industry; of introducing the piece rate system; of combating wage equalization; of resorting—in addition to methods of education and persuasion—to methods of compulsion with regard to those who wanted to grab as much as possible from the state, with regard to idlers and profiteers. He maintained that the new discipline—the discipline of labour, the discipline of comradely relations, Soviet discipline—was something that would be evolved by the labouring millions in the course of their daily, practical work, and that “this task will take up a whole historical epoch.” (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. VII, p. 393.)
All these problems of Socialist construction, of the new, Socialist relations of production, were dealt with by Lenin in his celebrated work, The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government.
The “Left Communists,” acting in conjunction with the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, fought Lenin over these questions too. Bukharin, Ossinsky and others were opposed to the introduction of discipline, one-man management in the enterprises, the employment of bourgeois experts in industry, and the introduction of efficient business methods. They slandered Lenin by claiming that this policy would mean a return to bourgeois conditions. At the same time, the “Left Communists” preached the Trotskyite view that Socialist construction and the victory of socialism in Russia were impossible.
The “Left” phraseology of the “Left Communists” served to camouflage their defence of the kulaks, idlers and profiteers who were opposed to discipline and hostile to the state regulation of economic life, to accounting and control.
Having settled on the principles of organization of the new, Soviet industry, the Party proceeded to tackle the problems of the countryside, which at this period was in the throes of a struggle between the poor peasants and the kulaks. The kulaks were gaining strength and seizing the lands confiscated from the landlords. The poor peasants needed assistance. The kulaks fought the proletarian government and refused to sell grain to it at fixed prices. They wanted to starve the Soviet state into renouncing Socialist measures. The Party set the task of smashing the counter-revolutionary kulaks. Detachments of industrial workers were sent into the countryside with the object of organizing the poor peasants and ensuring the success of the struggle against the kulaks, who were holding back their grain surpluses.
“Comrades, workers, remember that the revolution is in a critical situation,” Lenin wrote. “Remember that you alone can save the revolution, nobody else. What we need is tens of thousands of picked, politically advanced workers, loyal to the cause of Socialism, incapable of succumbing to bribery and the temptations of pilfering, and capable of creating an iron force against the kulaks, profiteers, marauders, bribers and disorganizers.” (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XXIII, p. 25.)
“The struggle for bread is a struggle for Socialism,” Lenin said. And it was under this slogan that the sending of workers’ detachments to the rural districts was organized. A number of decrees were issued establishing a food dictatorship and conferring emergency powers on the organs of the People’s Commissariat of Food for the purchase of grain at fixed prices.
A decree was issued on June 11, 1918, providing for the creation of Committees of the Poor Peasants. These committees played an important part in the struggle against the kulaks, in the redistribution of the confiscated land and the distribution of agricultural implements, in the collection of food surpluses from the kulaks, and in the supply of foodstuffs to the working-class centres and the Red Army. Fifty million hectares of kulak land passed into the hands of the poor and middle peasants. A large portion of the kulaks’ means of production was confiscated and turned over to the poor peasants.
The formation of the Committees of the Poor Peasants was a further stage in the development of the Socialist revolution in the countryside. The committees were strongholds of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the villages. It was largely through them that enlistment for the Red Army was carried out among the peasants.
The proletarian campaign in the rural districts and the organization of the Committees of the Poor Peasants consolidated the Soviet power in the countryside and were of tremendous political importance in winning over the middle peasants to the side of the Soviet Government.
At the end of 1918, when their task had been completed, the Committees of the Poor Peasants were merged with the rural Soviets and their existence was thus terminated.
At the Fifth Congress of Soviets which opened on July 4, 1918, the “Left” Socialist-Revolutionaries launched a fierce attack on Lenin in defence of the kulaks. They demanded the discontinuation of the fight against the kulaks and of the dispatch of workers’ food detachments into the countryside. When the “Left” Socialist-Revolutionaries saw that the majority of the congress was firmly opposed to their policy, they started a revolt in Moscow and seized Tryokhsvyatitelsky Alley, from which they began to shell the Kremlin. This foolhardy outbreak was put down by the Bolsheviks within a few hours. Attempts at revolt were made by “Left” Socialist-Revolutionaries in other parts of the country, but everywhere these outbreaks were speedily suppressed.
As the trial of the Anti-Soviet “Block of Rights and Trotskyites” has now established, the revolt of the “Left” Socialist-Revolutionaries was started with the knowledge and consent of Bukharin and Trotsky and was part of a general counter-revolutionary conspiracy of the Bu-kharinites, Trotskyites and “Left” Socialist-Revolutionaries against the Soviet power.
At this juncture, too, a “Left” Socialist-Revolutionary by name of Blumkin, afterwards an agent of Trotsky, made his way into the German Embassy and assassinated Mirbach, the German Ambassador in Moscow, with the object of provoking a war with Germany. But the Soviet Government managed to avert war and to frustrate the provocateur designs of the counter-revolutionaries.
The Fifth Congress of Soviets adopted the First Soviet Constitution —the Constitution of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.
During the eight months, February to October 1917, the Bolshevik Party accomplished the very difficult task of winning over the majority of the working class and the majority in the Soviets, and enlisting the support of millions of peasants for the Socialist revolution. It wrested these masses from the influence of the petty-bourgeois parties (Socialist-Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and Anarchists), by exposing the policy of these parties step by step and showing that it ran counter to the interests of the working people. The Bolshevik Party carried on extensive political work at the front and in the rear, preparing the masses for the October Socialist Revolution.
The events of decisive importance in the history of the Party at this period were Lenin’s arrival from exile abroad, his April Theses, the April Party Conference and the Sixth Party Congress. The Party decisions were a source of strength to the working class and inspired it with confidence in victory; in them the workers found solutions to the important problems of the revolution. The April Conference directed the efforts of the Party to the struggle for the transition from the bourgeois-democratic revolution to the Socialist revolution. The Sixth Congress headed the Party for an armed uprising against the bourgeoisie and its Provisional Government.
The compromising Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties, the Anarchists, and the other non-Communist parties completed the cycle of their development: they all became bourgeois parties even before the October Revolution and fought for the preservation and integrity of the capitalist system. The Bolshevik Party was the only party which led the struggle of the masses for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of the power of the Soviets.
At the same time, the Bolsheviks defeated the attempts of the capitulators within the Party—Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rykov, Bukharin, Trotsky and Pyatakov—to deflect the Party from the path of Socialist revolution.
Headed by the Bolshevik Party, the working class, in alliance with the poor peasants, and with the support of the soldiers and sailors, overthrew the power of the bourgeoisie, established the power of the Soviets, set up a new type of state—a Socialist Soviet state—abolished the landlords’ ownership of land, turned over the land to the peasants for their use, nationalized all the land in the country, expropriated the capitalists, achieved the withdrawal of Russia from the war and obtained peace, that is, obtained a much-needed respite, and thus created the conditions for the development of Socialist construction.
The October Socialist Revolution smashed capitalism, deprived the bourgeoisie of the means of production and converted the mills, factories, land, railways and banks into the property of the whole people, into public property.
It established the dictatorship of the proletariat and turned over the government of the vast country to the working class, thus making it the ruling class.
The October Socialist Revolution thereby ushered in a new era in the history of mankind—the era of proletarian revolutions.