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.
 

 

7. STRUGGLE OF THE BOLSHEVIK PARTY TO CONSOLIDATE THE SOVIET POWER. PEACE OF BREST-LITOVSK. SEVENTH PARTY CONGRESS

    In order to consolidate the Soviet power, the old, bourgeois state machine had to be shattered and destroyed and a new, Soviet state machine set up in its place. Further, it was necessary to destroy the survivals of the division of society into estates and the regime of national oppression, to abolish the privileges of the church, to suppress the counter-revolutionary press and counter-revolutionary organizations of all kinds, legal and illegal, and to dissolve the bourgeois Constituent Assembly. Following on the nationalization of the land, all large-scale industry had also to be nationalized. And, lastly, the state of war had to be ended, for the war was hampering the consolidation of the Soviet power more than anything else.

    All these measures were carried out in the course of a few months, from the end of 1917 to the middle of 1918.

    The sabotage of the officials of the old Ministries, engineered by the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, was smashed and overcome. The Ministries were abolished and replaced by Soviet administrative machinery and appropriate People's Commissariats. The Supreme Council of National Economy was set up to administer the industry of the country. The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission (Vecheka) was created to combat counter-revolution and sabotage, and F. Dzerzhinsky was placed at its head. The formation of a Red Army and Navy was decreed. The Constituent Assembly, the elections to which had largely been held prior to the October Revolution, and which refused to recognize the decrees of the Second Congress of Soviets on peace, land and the transfer of power to the Soviets, was dissolved.

    In order to put an end to the survivals of feudalism, the estates system, and inequality in all spheres of social life, decrees were issued abolishing the estates, removing restrictions based on nationality or religion, separating the church from the state and the schools from the church, establishing equality for women and the equality of all the nationalities of Russia.

    A special edict of the Soviet Government known as "The Declaration of Rights of the Peoples of Russia" laid down as a law the right of the peoples of Russia to unhampered development and complete equality.

    In order to undermine the economic power of the bourgeoisie and to create a new, Soviet national economy, and, in the first place, to create a new, Soviet industry, the banks, railways, foreign trade, the mercantile fleet and all large enterprises in all branches of industry -- coal, metal, oil, chemicals, machine-building, textiles, sugar, etc. -- were nationalized.

    To render our country financially independent of the foreign capitalists and free from exploitation by them, the foreign loans contracted by the Russian tsar and the Provisional Government were annulled. The people of our country refused to pay debts which had been incurred for the continuation of the war of conquest and which had placed our country in bondage to foreign capital.

    These and similar measures undermined the very root of the power of the bourgeoisie, the landlords, the reactionary officials and the counter-revolutionary parties, and considerably strengthened the position of the Soviet Government within the country.

    But the position of the Soviet Government could not be deemed fully secure as long as Russia was in a state of war with Germany and Austria. In order finally to consolidate the Soviet power, the war had to be ended. The Party therefore launched the fight for peace from the moment of the victory of the October Revolution.

    The Soviet Government called upon "all the belligerent peoples and their governments to start immediate negotiations for a just, democratic peace." But the "allies" -- Great Britain and France -- refused to accept the proposal of the Soviet Government. In view of this refusal, the Soviet Government, in compliance with the will of the Soviets, decided to start negotiations with Germany and Austria.

    The negotiations began on December 3 in Brest-Litovsk. On December 5 an armistice was signed.

    The negotiations took place at a time when the country was in a state of economic disruption, when war-weariness was universal, when our troops were abandoning the trenches and the front was collapsing. It became clear in the course of the negotiations that the German imperialists were out to seize huge portions of the territory of the former tsarist empire, and to turn Poland, the Ukraine and the Baltic countries into dependencies of Germany.

    To continue the war under such conditions would have meant staking the very existence of the new-born Soviet Republic. The working class and the peasantry were confronted with the necessity of accepting onerous terms of peace, of retreating before the most dangerous marauder of the time -- German imperialism -- in order to secure a respite in which to strengthen the Soviet power and to create a new army, the Red Army, which would be able to defend the country from enemy attack.

    All the counter-revolutionaries, from the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries to the most arrant Whiteguards, conducted a frenzied campaign against the conclusion of peace. Their policy was clear: they wanted to wreck the peace negotiations, provoke a German offensive and thus imperil the still weak Soviet power and endanger the gains of the workers and peasants.

    Their allies in this sinister scheme were Trotsky and his accomplice Bukharin, the latter, together with Radek and Pyatakov, heading a group which was hostile to the Party but camouflaged itself under the name of "Left Communists." Trotsky and the group of "Left Communists" began a fierce struggle within the Party against Lenin, demanding the continuation of the war. These people were clearly playing into the hands of the German imperialists and the counter-revolutionaries within the country, for they were working to expose the young Soviet Republic, which had not yet any army, to the blows of German imperialism.

    This was really a policy of provocateurs, skilfully masked by Left phraseology.

    On February 10, 1918, the peace negotiations in Brest-Litovsk were broken off. Although Lenin and Stalin, in the name of the Central Committee of the Party, had insisted that peace be signed, Trotsky, who was chairman of the Soviet delegation at Brest-Litovsk, treacherously violated the direct instructions of the Bolshevik Party. He announced that the Soviet Republic refused to conclude peace on the terms proposed by Germany. At the same time he informed the Germans that the Soviet Republic would not fight and would continue to demobilize the army.

    This was monstrous. The German imperialists could have desired nothing more from this traitor to the interests of the Soviet country.

    The German government broke the armistice and assumed the offensive. The remnants of our old army crumbled and scattered be-fore the onslaught of the German troops. The Germans advanced swiftly, seizing enormous territory and threatening Petrograd. German imperialism invaded the Soviet land with the object of overthrowing the Soviet power and converting our country into its colony. The ruins of the old tsarist army could not withstand the armed hosts of German imperialism, and steadily retreated under their blows.

    But the armed intervention of the German imperialists was the signal for a mighty revolutionary upsurge in the country. The Party and the Soviet Government issued the call -- "The Socialist fatherland is in danger!" And in response the working class energetically began to form regiments of the Red Army. The young detachments of the new army -- the army of the revolutionary people -- heroically resisted the German marauders who were armed to the teeth. At Narva and Pskov the German invaders met with a resolute repulse. Their advance on Petrograd was checked. February 23 -- the day the forces of German imperialism were repulsed -- is regarded as the birthday of the Red Army.

    On February 18, 1918, the Central Committee of the Party had approved Lenin's proposal to send a telegram to the German government offering to conclude an immediate peace. But in order to secure more advantageous terms, the Germans continued to advance, and only on February 22 did the German government express its willingness to sign peace. The terms were now far more onerous than those originally proposed.

    Lenin, Stalin and Sverdlov had to wage a stubborn fight on the Central Committee against Trotsky, Bukharin and the other Trotskyites before they secured a decision in favour of the conclusion of peace. Bukharin and Trotsky, Lenin declared, "actually helped the German imperialists and hindered the growth and development of the revolution in Germany." (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XXII, p. 307.)

    On February 23, the Central Committee decided to accept the terms of the German Command and to sign the peace treaty. The treachery of Trotsky and Bukharin cost the Soviet Republic dearly. Latvia, Esthonia, not to mention Poland, passed into German hands; the Ukraine was severed from the Soviet Republic and converted into a vassal of the German state. The Soviet Republic undertook to pay an indemnity to the Germans.

    Meanwhile, the "Left Communists" continued their struggle against Lenin, sinking deeper and deeper into the slough of treachery.

    The Moscow Regional Bureau of the Party, of which the "Left Communists" (Bukharin, Ossinsky, Yakovleva, Stukov and Mantsev) had temporarily seized control, passed a resolution of no-confidence in the Central Committee, a resolution designed to split the Party. The Bureau declared that it considered "a split in the Party in the very near future scarcely avoidable." The "Left Communists" even went so far in their resolution as to adopt an anti-Soviet stand. "In the interests of the international revolution," they declared, "we consider it expedient to consent to the possible loss of the Soviet power, which has now become purely formal."

    Lenin branded this decision as "strange and monstrous."

    At that time the real cause of this anti-Party behaviour of Trotsky and the "Left Communists" was not yet clear to the Party. But the recent trial of the Anti-Soviet "Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites" (beginning of 1938) has now revealed that Bukharin and the group of "Left Communists" headed by him, together with Trotsky and the "Left" Socialist-Revolutionaries, were at that time secretly conspiring against the Soviet Government. Now it is known that Bukharin, Trotsky and their fellow-conspirators had determined to wreck the Peace of Brest-Litovsk, arrest V. I. Lenin, J. V. Stalin and Y. M. Sverdlov, assassinate them, and form a new government consisting of Bukharinites, Trotskyites and "Left" Socialist-Revolutionaries.

    While hatching this clandestine counter-revolutionary plot, the group of "Left Communists," with the support of Trotsky, openly attacked the Bolshevik Party, trying to split it and to disintegrate its ranks. But at this grave juncture the Party rallied around Lenin, Stalin and Sverdlov and supported the Central Committee on the question of peace as on all other questions.

    The "Left Communist" group was isolated and defeated.

    In order that the Party might pronounce its final decision on the question of peace the Seventh Party Congress was summoned.

    The congress opened on March 6, 1918. This was the first congress held after our Party had taken power. It was attended by 46 delegates with vote and 58 delegates with voice but no vote, representing 145,000 Party members. Actually, the membership of the Party at that time was not less than 270,000. The discrepancy was due to the fact that, owing to the urgency with which the congress met, a large number of the organizations were unable to send delegates in time; and the organizations in the territories then occupied by the Germans were unable to send delegates at all.

    Reporting at this congress on the Brest-Litovsk Peace, Lenin said that ". . . the severe crisis which our Party is now experiencing, owing to the formation of a Left opposition within it, is one of the gravest crises the Russian revolution has experienced." (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. VII, pp. 293-94.)

    The resolution submitted by Lenin on the subject of the Brest-Litovsk Peace was adopted by 30 votes against 12, with 4 abstentions.

    On the day following the adoption of this resolution, Lenin wrote an article entitled "A Distressful Peace," in which he said:

    "Intolerably severe are the terms of peace. Nevertheless, history will claim its own. . . . Let us set to work to organize, organize and organize. Despite all trials, the future is ours." (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XXII, p. 288.)

    In its resolution, the congress declared that further military attacks by imperialist states on the Soviet Republic were inevitable, and that therefore the congress considered it the fundamental task of the Party to adopt the most energetic and resolute measures to strengthen the self-discipline and discipline of the workers and peasants, to prepare the masses for self-sacrificing defence of the Socialist country, to organize the Red Army, and to introduce universal military training.

    Endorsing Lenin's policy with regard to the Peace of Brest-Litovsk, the congress condemned the position of Trotsky and Bukharin and stigmatized the attempt of the defeated "Left Communists" to continue their splitting activities at the congress itself.

    The Peace of Brest-Litovsk gave the Party a respite in which to consolidate the Soviet power and to organize the economic life of the country.

    The peace made it possible to take advantage of the conflicts within the imperialist camp (the war of Austria and Germany with the Entente, which was still in progress) to disintegrate the forces of the enemy, to organize a Soviet economic system and to create a Red Army.

    The peace made it possible for the proletariat to retain the support of the peasantry and to accumulate strength for the defeat of the Whiteguard generals in the Civil War.

    In the period of the October Revolution Lenin taught the Bolshevik Party how to advance fearlessly and resolutely when conditions favoured an advance. In the period of the Brest-Litovsk Peace Lenin taught the Party how to retreat in good order when the forces of the enemy are obviously superior to our own, in order to prepare with the utmost energy for a new offensive.

    History has fully proved the correctness of Lenin's line.

    It was decided at the Seventh Congress to change the name of the Party and to alter the Party Program. The name of the Party was changed to the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) -- R.C.P.(B.). Lenin proposed to call our Party a Communist Party because this name precisely corresponded to the aim of the Party, namely, the achievement of Communism.

    A special commission, which included Lenin and Stalin, was elected to draw up a new Party program, Lenin's draft program having been accepted as a basis.

    Thus the Seventh Congress accomplished a task of profound historical importance: it defeated the enemy hidden within the Party's ranks -- the "Left Communists" and Trotskyites; it succeeded in withdrawing the country from the imperialist war; it secured peace and a respite; it enabled the Party to gain time for the organization of the Red Army; and it set the Party the task of introducing Socialist order in the national economy.