MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE | History of CP Bolshevik

H I S T O R Y O F  T H E  C O M M U N I S T   P A R T Y

O F  T H E

S O V I E T  U N I O N

(B O L S H E V I K S)

C H A P T E R S E V E N
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 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 SOCIALIST REVOLUTION
7. STRUGGLE OF THE BOLSHEVIK PARTY TO CONSOLIDATE THE SOVIET POWER. PEACE OF BREST-LITOVSK. SEVENTH PARTY CONGRESS
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.
 

 

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 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 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 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., 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 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