C H A P T E R S E V E N
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 TOOPEN POLITICAL WORK. LENIN ARRIVES IN
PETROGRAD.LENIN'S APRIL THESES. PARTY'S POLICY OF
TRANSITION TO SOCIALIST REVOLUTION
2. BEGINNING OF THE CRISIS OF THE PROVISIONAL
GOVERNMENT. APRIL CONFERENCE OF THE BOLSHEVIK PARTY
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
4. THE BOLSHEVIK PARTY ADOPTS THE COURSE OF PREPARING
FOR ARMED UPRISING. SIXTH PARTY CONGRESS
5. GENERAL KORNILOV'S PLOT AGAINST THE REVOLUTION.
SUPPRESSION OF THE PLOT. PETROGRAD AND MOSCOW SOVIETS GO
OVER TO THE BOLSHEVIKS
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
7. STRUGGLE OF THE BOLSHEVIK PARTY TO CONSOLIDATE THE
SOVIET POWER. PEACE OF BREST-LITOVSK. SEVENTH PARTY
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
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
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 sup porters 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
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
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
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
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 theo- reticians 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.,
"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
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
This was a line envisaging a peaceful development of the
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 and the Socialist-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
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