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.
 

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 Petrograd 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, Kerensky 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.