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.
 

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 in tended 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 Petrograd 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 3I, 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-parliament 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.