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.
 

    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 South-Western Front and other places to organize the uprising. Comrades Voroshilov, Molotov, Dzerzhinsky, Ordjonihdze, 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 counter-revolutionaries 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 Rodzyanko 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 Petrograd. 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 Dukhonin 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