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Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers 'and Soldiers' Deputies October 25-26, 1917
On the night of October 26, the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, overthrowing the government of the bourgeoisie, transferred power to the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets. Delegates began to arrive in Petrograd as early as October 17-18, since the opening of the congress was originally scheduled for the 20th. The Socialist-Revolutionary Menshevik leaders of the Central Executive Committee deliberately chose hostels in different parts of the city in order to prevent the unification of delegates. The ruse, however, failed. Very quickly, all delegate hostels turned into lively political clubs. The delegates went to factories and regiments. The tense situation in the capital city dispelled the conciliatory illusions of some delegates who had arrived from the front or from a distant province. In the evenings in the hostels, delegates shared their impressions of a stormy day. Everywhere there were heated conversations and disputes, and most of the delegates, The Bolsheviks who did not formally adhere to the party, unanimously spoke out against the Provisional Government. Even non-party people were captured by the fighting mood that reigned in the capital and among the Bolshevik delegates.
175 delegates arrived in Petrograd before October 22, 1917, of which 102 were Bolsheviks and shared the Bolshevik point of view (see: Central Archive. Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets R. and S. D. - Moscow-Leningrad: Gosizdat, 1928. S. LIII; from the editor). Every day, representatives of the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks came to the hostel with a list in their hands. Bolshevik delegates were summoned and sent to the workers' districts of Petrograd.
Bolshevik delegates, on the instructions of the Central Committee, spoke at factory and regimental meetings. Several times a day the delegate of the North Caucasus S.M. Kirov made passionate speeches.
Y.Z. Erman reported on the growth of the revolution in Tsaritsyn. Bolshevik delegates brought instructions in which tens of thousands of proletarians in industrial regions demanded the transfer of power to the Soviets. Bolshevik soldiers said that rumors about the impending revolution were being caught in the army. Kerensky's name was pronounced only with mockery and abuse. Ural, Donbass, Volga region, Ukraine, front - the whole country passed in front of the audience at stormy rallies. From the speeches of the Bolshevik delegates, the Petrograd workers were convinced that they were not alone, that they would be supported by the entire working class, by the entire peasant poor.
Of the 318 provincial Soviets represented at the II Congress, only 59 spoke in favor of "the power of democracy" and 18 passed half-hearted (partly for "the power of democracy", partly for the "power of the Soviets") decisions. The delegates of the 241 Soviet arrived at the congress with Bolshevik orders. 241 The Soviet unconditionally declared: "All power to the Soviets!" Such was the mood on the ground.
The fewer days remained before the opening of the congress, the more often the delegates gathered in Smolny.
Delegates from trenches, factories and villages came with worried, anxious faces. In the long, vaulted, dimly lit corridors, in the clouds of tobacco smoke, crowds of people were constantly moving, dark, oily jackets of workers, gray overcoats of soldiers and black ones - sailors, zipuns and Armenian peasants.
Delegations of workers 'districts and soldiers' regiments came to testify their devotion to the revolution and the opening Congress of Soviets.
All day on October 25, from early morning until late evening, factional meetings took place in the halls of Smolny. The most numerous faction of the congress was represented by the Bolsheviks. They constituted the overwhelming majority of the II Congress - 390 people out of the total number of 650 delegates who arrived for the opening of the Congress. During the work of the congress, several dozen more delegates arrived.
The Bolshevik faction was located on the first floor of Smolny. A continuous stream of people was heading towards her. The huge room, all of whose furniture consisted of a table and a few chairs, was crowded with people. The delegates to the congress - the Bolsheviks - sat on the floor along the walls.
The mood was upbeat, but calm and confident. Many Bolshevik delegates stayed here, in Smolny, in the building of the faction the last days before the congress and spent the night. Having spread a newspaper, a coat, or an overcoat on the floor, they dozed for 2-3 hours in order to be ready again in the morning to carry out Party assignments. Some of them were armed with revolvers, rifles, checkers; hand grenades hung from his belt.
The composition of the delegates to the Second Congress of Soviets was a clear demonstration of how much the Bolshevik Party, during the seven months of the existence of the Provisional Government, had succeeded in convincing the masses that it was impossible to resolve questions about land and peace outside the proletarian revolution.
The Mensheviks and Right Socialist-Revolutionaries — the most powerful parties of the First Congress of Soviets — turned up miserably bankrupt at the Second Congress. It took a very short time for these supposed friends of the people to be fully exposed in the eyes of the workers and peasants as traitors, deserters of the revolution.
The Right SRs, together with the SRs of the center, formed a group of 60 delegates. The rest of the members of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party followed the "left". Subsequently, during the congress, the "Left" SRs, having won back some of the provincial delegates - the right and the center - numbered 179 people, making up the second largest faction of the congress after the Bolsheviks. By the beginning of the congress, the Mensheviks of various trends, including the Bund, had a group of about 80 people behind them.
Pale and confused, the leaders of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries wandered dejectedly along the corridors of Smolny. These were generals without an army. At the factional meetings of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, who had broken up into innumerable groups, a split occurred. The leaders of the Mensheviks and Right Socialist-Revolutionaries decided at first not to take part in the congress. But the mood of the masses was so revolutionary that the rank-and-file members of the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary Party openly opposed this decision of their leaders.
There was a long debate in the Menshevik faction, but the Menshevik leaders failed to achieve unity. A break was announced for the meeting of the Central Committee of the Mensheviks. At 6 pm the meeting of the faction resumed. Dan announced that the Central Committee of the Mensheviks had decided to absolve themselves of responsibility for the coup, and therefore the Menshevik party could not stand on the Bolshevik barricades. The Central Committee of the Mensheviks suggested that the faction refuse to participate in the Congress of Soviets and at the same time decided to start negotiations with the Provisional Government on the creation of power.
The Socialist-Revolutionaries in the faction also had a debate about their attitude to the congress. The Central Committee of the Socialist-Revolutionaries proposed to refuse to participate in the congress, but the majority faction decided not to leave the congress.
To keep the front delegates in their hands, the Socialist-Revolutionary Mensheviks created a front group. Taking advantage of the absence of the Bolsheviks, who had gone to the meeting of their faction, the Socialist-Revolutionary Mensheviks, by 16 votes to 9, with 6 abstentions, fabricated the group's opinion, deciding to evade participation in the congress.
The factional meetings dragged on until late in the evening.
By agreement of all the factions, it was decided to open the congress by 8 pm. At 10 o'clock the Menshevik faction was still in session. The Bolsheviks sent two representatives to the Mensheviks to find out when the Mensheviks would appear in the meeting hall. The Mensheviks replied that they needed at least another hour (see: Towards the Congress of Soviets // Rabochaya Put, No. 46, October 26, 1917).
Finally, at eleven o'clock in the morning, a group of members of the old Central Executive Committee, Mensheviks, and Socialist-Revolutionaries, appears at the presidium table.
Despite the late hour, Smolny is still full of movement. The white columned hall is flooded with chandelier lights; people climbed the ledges of the columns, the windowsills, and the benches. A dense crowd crowds in doors and aisles. At 10 o'clock 40 minutes a fat Menshevik Dan, in a military jacket, with a doctor's armband on his sleeve, comes up to the table. On behalf of the Central Executive Committee of the first convocation, he opens the congress.
However, the Mensheviks and their inseparable companions - the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, it seemed, was the only reason they came to the congress to openly show their counter-revolutionary face to the insurgent workers and soldiers from its rostrum. From the very first moment they openly and unconditionally supported the counter-revolution, the nest of which - the Winter Palace - Petrograd workers and soldiers at that time, with rifles in their hands, took an attack.
"I am a member of the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee, and at this time our party comrades are in the Winter Palace under fire, selflessly performing their duty as ministers" (see: Central Archive. Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets R. and S. D. - Moscow-Leningrad: Gosizdat, 1928. S. 32), - Dan said, opening the congress.
The ministers, with whom Dan was in solidarity, at that time called troops from the front to pacify the Petrograd proletariat. They also sent Kerensky to the front to bring the Cossack units to Petrograd. They appointed the cadet Kishkin "dictator", giving him extraordinary powers to establish "order" in Petrograd.
“Without any speeches,” Dan said, “I declare the session of the congress open and propose to proceed with the election of the presidium” (ibid.).
The Bolsheviks proposed to form a presidium on the basis of proportional representation of all factions present at the congress. However, the Mensheviks and Right Socialist-Revolutionaries refused to give their representatives. The Menshevik internationalists also stated that they "refrain" from participating in the elections to the presidency of the congress "until some questions are clarified" (ibid. P. 33).
Following this, the Menshevik internationalists put forward the demand “first of all to discuss precisely the question of how to prevent the inevitable civil war” (ibid. P. 34).
A thin, embittered figure of Martov appears on the platform. The leader of the Mensheviks, in a hoarse voice, begins to shout curses at the Bolsheviks, calling the victorious uprising of the proletariat a "secret conspiracy" and inviting the insurgent workers and soldiers to come to their senses before it is too late. The essence of the Mensheviks' proposal was that the members of the congress should go to the streets of Petrograd to persuade the insurgent workers and soldiers to return to their homes.
On behalf of the Menshevik internationalists, Martov recommended to the Congress
"Elect a delegation to negotiate with other socialist parties and organizations in order to achieve an end to the clash that has begun." Martov saw the possibility of preventing a civil war, in his words, “in the creation of a unified democratic government” (ibid.).
Representatives of "other socialist parties and organizations" with whom Martov proposed to agree "on the creation of a unified democratic government" were sitting right there at the congress. And if they sincerely wanted to follow the path of the demands of the vast majority of the working masses, they should have taken part in the work of the congress, obeying all its decrees. Martov's proposal was fraught with something else. “An end to the collision that had begun” - which the Mensheviks demanded - meant an end to the siege of the Winter Palace, freedom of action for the ministers who sat there, headed by the “dictator” Kishkin, gaining time for the Provisional Government to receive reinforcements from the front and mobilize counter-revolutionary forces in Petrograd itself. This proposal meant direct support for the counter-revolution.
Other wavering factions of the congress - the "Left" Socialist-Revolutionaries and the front group, joined Martov's proposal. The Bolshevik faction declared that it
“He has absolutely nothing against Martov's proposal. On the contrary, it is interested in all the factions to clarify their point of view on the current events and to say what they see as a way out of this situation” (ibid. P. 35).
In such a formulation of the question — in the sense that the factions of the congress clarified their attitude to the events — Martov's proposal was unanimously adopted by the congress.
The adopted resolution clearly could not satisfy the Mensheviks. The main content of their proposal - "ending the collision that has begun" - was not taken into account by the congress. One after another, the representatives of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks demanded the floor for "extraordinary statements." Choking with impotent rage, they continued to shout about the "conspiracy" and "adventurism" of the Bolsheviks. From the rostrum of the Congress, they openly proclaimed a civil war against the Soviet regime.
"The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries consider it necessary to dissociate themselves from everything that is happening here and to gather public forces in order to stubbornly resist attempts to seize power" (ibid.), Said the Menshevik Ya.A. Kharash, acting as a representative of the XII Army committee.
After him on the podium appeared Menshevik officer GD Kuchin, who took the floor "on behalf of the front group."
“From now on, the arena of struggle is shifted to the localities - there must be a mobilization of forces,” the Menshevik envoy said.
- On whose behalf are you speaking? - they ask him from the field. - When were you selected? And what do the soldiers say? (Ibid. P. 36).
Kuchin begins to enumerate army committees one after another - II, III, IV, VI, VII and other armies. There are already obvious threats in his voice. He intimidates the congress by saying that the armies at the front will come to Petrograd and leave no stone unturned. He threatens the congress with the opening of the front and the death of Russia. In support of his words, Kuchin reads the resolutions of the army committees, full of the same threats.
Silence falls in the hall. A chill runs through the rows of delegates. The front-line units represent a tremendous fighting force. What if everything that this officer says is true? .. But here the tense silence of the hall is split by a loud, confident voice. Some front-line soldier in a mud-splattered overcoat hurriedly makes his way to the podium.
“They are presenting to us here the opinions of the heaps sitting in the army and front committees. The army has long been demanding their re-election ... The inhabitants of the trenches are eagerly awaiting the transfer of power into the hands of the Soviets” (ibid. P. 39).
And the orator, amid a storm of enthusiastic shouts and applause from the congress, shakes over the hall a bundle of soldiers' resolutions brought from the front.
After that the representative of the Latvian riflemen speaks. He says:
"You listened to the statement of two representatives of the army committees, and these statements would be valuable if their authors were real representatives of the army ... They do not represent the soldiers ... Let them go - the army is not with them!" (ibid. p. 38).
Kharash and Kuchin were typical representatives of the army committees elected almost at the beginning of the February Revolution. The rank and file soldier masses quite rightly viewed them as agents of the General Staff, which has changed little in its appearance since the fall of the autocracy. And from the very first minutes of the opening of the congress, a struggle began between representatives of the army, peasant, and railway top organizations speaking from the rostrum and the grassroots delegates who filled all the benches, ledges, and aisles of the huge hall: workers, soldiers, peasants. The rank-and-file delegates of the congress greeted every word of the committee members with hatred and ridicule, who spoke in the conference room as if in a hostile camp. Voices of indignation from the delegates' benches in response to the Menshevik-Socialist-Revolutionary threats, were only a faint echo of that enormous indignation at the policy of the Social-Compromisers that gripped the country. The voice of Kuchin and the other committee members reflected the yesterday of the revolution.
- Traitors ... You speak from the headquarters, not from the army! - they shouted contemptuously at Kuchin from the delegates' benches.
And in response to Kuchin's call for "all conscientious soldiers" to leave the congress, hundreds of soldiers' voices answered him from the audience:
The dirty attacks made by Kharash and Kuchin in their speeches were repeated after this in the declarations announced by the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, full of miserable anger at the socialist revolution and counter-revolutionary attacks against the Bolsheviks.
In the declaration of the Mensheviks, the Great Socialist Revolution was called an "adventure", a "conspiracy" that "plunges the country into civil strife" and "leads to the triumph of counter-revolution." The only way out of the situation the Mensheviks considered ... "negotiations with the Provisional Government on the formation of power" (ibid. P. 37).
The Socialist-Revolutionaries joined the Mensheviks' statement. Their declaration read out by Hendelman, in complete unity with the Menshevik declaration called the October uprising "a crime against the motherland and the revolution" (ibid. P. 38).
The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries announced in their declarations that they were leaving the congress. They were followed by a representative of the Bundist group, who also announced the decision to leave the congress.
On the podium is the representative of the Bundists Abramovich. He reported that all the Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Executive Committee of Peasant Deputies, and members of the City Duma had decided to perish along with the government, and therefore they were all going to the Winter Palace under fire. Abramovich invited all members of the congress to accompany the Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks to the Winter Palace.
“Not on the way,” they answered from their seats.
After that, the Mensheviks, Right Socialist-Revolutionaries and Bundists left the congress, to which they came only to throw from its rostrum an appeal for the rallying of the counter-revolutionary forces.
From the presidium table I had to go across the entire hall. The leaders of the Compromisers made their way through the dense crowd of delegates, and from all the pews they were escorted with ridicule, whistles, and indignant exclamations.
- Deserters! Traitors! Good road! - shouted after them.
However, the Socialist-Revolutionary-Menshevik leaders did not manage to take even their supporters with them. The leftward movement of the lower ranks of the compromising parties continued at the Congress itself. 80 people registered in the Menshevik faction, and 60 in the right-wing Socialist-Revolutionaries. It could be expected that 140 delegates would leave. But part of the Socialist-Revolutionaries went over to the Ukrainian Socialist-Revolutionaries; the number of the latter increased from 7 to 21 overnight. Some of the Mensheviks moved over to the united internationalists who remained at the congress. The number of united internationalists increased from 14 to 35. Many Right Socialist-Revolutionaries and non-Party people joined the "Left" Socialist-Revolutionaries. The number of "Left" Socialist-Revolutionaries increased to 179, while all the Socialist-Revolutionaries numbered 193 before the opening of the congress. Thus, only 70 people left the congress, no more. And at the Congress itself the process of isolating the Compromisers continued:
The Mensheviks-internationalists also remained a little longer at the congress. Despite the fact that the behavior of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries showed their obvious hostility to the revolution, the Menshevik internationalists continued to stubbornly insist on the need for an agreement with them to form a general democratic government.
Soon after the Compromisers left, echoes of dull, distant blows were heard in the Congress hall. It was the thunder of the guns. The delegates turned to the large dark windows, to where the last act of the great uprising - the storming of the Winter Palace - ended at midnight in October.
The Socialist-Revolutionary Mensheviks reappeared in the hall. With their faces distorted with panic and anger, they darted through the crowd of delegates, shouting that the Bolsheviks were shelling the Winter Palace. Abramovich rushed about on the podium again. Wringing his hands, he hysterically called the congress to help the members of the Provisional Government, among whom were party representatives delegated by the Mensheviks.
Abramovich is replaced on the podium by Martov.
- The information that was announced here even more insistently requires us to take decisive steps, - he begins.
But he is interrupted from places:
- What information? Why are you scaring us? Shame on you? These are just rumors!
- Not only rumors are heard here, but if you come closer to the windows, you will also hear cannon shots (ibid. P. 41).
Frightened by the thunder of gunfire, Martov accuses the Bolsheviks of a military conspiracy, of organizing bloodshed, and in conclusion, twitching nervously, reads out a declaration demanding the creation of a commission for the peaceful resolution of the crisis.
Until the conclusions of this commission were received, the Mensheviks-internationalists demanded that the work of the congress be closed.
As soon as the raspy voice of the Menshevik leader had died down and his stooped back disappeared through the door, the Socialist-Revolutionary representative of the Executive Committee of the Soviets of Peasants' Deputies made the same "admonitions" before the Congress. He urged the delegates not to take part "in this congress", but to go to the Winter Palace, where
“There are three members of the Executive Committee of Peasant Deputies, including Breshko-Breshkovskaya. We are now going there to die together with those who were sent there to do our will” (ibid. 44-45).
A handful of representatives of the Executive Committee of the Peasants' Deputies left the hall. Together with the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, they went to the Winter Palace. In pursuit of them from the rostrum of the Congress, the sailor of the Aurora generously, reassuringly throws:
- Do not be afraid! We shoot blanks.
The representative of the Aurora, informing the delegates that the Winter Palace is being fired with blank shells, at the same time assures the congress that the sailors will take all measures to ensure that the congress of Soviets can “calmly continue their occupations” (ibid. P. 45).
A new storm of applause reads the hall. A group of people who had arrived at the congress was squeezing in to meet a handful of Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries, members of the bourgeois duma and the Executive Committee of the Peasant Council making their way to the exit.
The presiding judge reports that “the Bolshevik faction in the Duma has come to win or die with the All-Russian Congress” (ibid. P. 42).
Bolsheviks - members of the Petrograd City Duma are shown in the hallway. The congress welcomes them with a standing ovation.
At 3.10 am on October 26, after a short break, the meeting of the Congress of Soviets was resumed with the announcement of the capture of the Winter Palace. The last stronghold of the counter-revolution has fallen. The ministers who sat in the Winter Palace - members of the Provisional Government - led by the "dictator" Kishkin, were arrested by the Red Guard and soldiers. The Provisional Government, which deservedly acquired the hatred of the masses in a short time, no longer existed.
One after another, I heard the Congress of Soviets more and more messages about the victories of the Great Proletarian Revolution. About the transition of more and more units to the side of the insurgent people.
The commissar of the Tsarskoye Selo garrison appears and declares:
“The Tsarskoye Selo garrison guards the approaches to Petrograd ... Having learned about the approach of the scooters, we prepared to repulse, but the alarm was in vain, as it turned out that there were no enemies of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets among the scooter comrades. When we sent our commissars to them, it turned out that they also stood for the power of the Soviets ... I declare that the Tsarskoye Selo garrison is for the All-Russian Congress, for the revolution, which we will defend to the last end” (ibid. Pp. 49-50).
After him, the representative of the 3rd scooter battalion, which was visited by Sergo Ordzhonikidze, rises to the podium. The congress greets the soldier with thunderous applause. The scooter representative says:
“Until recently, we served on the Southwestern Front. The other day, by telegraphic order, we were moved north. The telegram said that we were going to defend Petrograd, but from whom, we did not know; we were like blindfolded people; we did not know where they were sending us, but we vaguely guessed what the matter was. On the way, we were all tormented by the question: where, why?
At the Peredolskaya station, we staged a flying meeting together with the 5th scooter battalion to clarify the present situation. At the rally, it turned out that among all the scooters there was not a single person who would agree to oppose the brothers and shed their blood ... We decided that we would not obey the Provisional Government. There, we said, there are people who do not want to defend our interests, but send us against our brothers. I declare to you specifically: no, we will not give power to a government headed by the bourgeoisie and landowners! " (ibid. p. 50).
After the speech of the representative of the scooters, it was reported that a telegram had been received on the formation of a military revolutionary committee on the Northern Front, "which would impede the movement of echelons to Petrograd" (ibid. P. 52).
On behalf of the Congress of Soviets, greetings are sent to the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Northern Front.
The Congress of Soviets adopted the appeal "To the workers, soldiers and peasants" written by Lenin. It said:
“The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers 'and Soldiers' Deputies has opened. The vast majority of the Soviets are represented there. A number of delegates from peasant councils are also present at the congress. The powers of the compromising Central Executive Committee have ended.
Relying on the will of the vast majority of workers, soldiers, and peasants, relying on the victorious uprising of the workers and the garrison that took place in Petrograd, the congress takes power into its own hands.
The provisional government has been deposed. Most of the members of the Provisional Government have already been arrested ...
The congress decides: all power at the local level is transferred to the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers’, and Peasants' Deputies, which must ensure a genuine revolutionary order” (ibid. P. 53).
A short proclamation, written in a sparse, concise Leninist language, opened a new era in the life of a multimillion people. From now on, the rule of the landowners and the bourgeoisie was abolished forever, and the broad masses of the working people themselves were involved in governing the state. Lenin's appeal ended with a revolutionary appeal on behalf of the Congress of Soviets to the soldiers, workers, and employees. It called them to vigilance and perseverance.
“Soldiers! - it said. - Show active opposition to the Kornilovite Kerensky! Be on guard!
Railwaymen! Stop all trains sent by Kerensky to Petrograd!
Soldiers, workers, office workers, the fate of the revolution and the fate of the democratic world are in your hands!
Long live the revolution!" (ibid. pp. 53-56).
For the first time in history, the transfer of power from the hands of one class to the hands of another was decreed so simply and briefly.
The reading of the appeal was often interrupted by stormy applause from the delegates. The "Left" Socialist-Revolutionaries who remained at the congress also joined the appeal. At 5 o'clock in the morning, the appeal was adopted by the congress with all votes to 2, with 12 abstentions.
And although it was already morning and the delegates were tired, everyone's eyes were bright and youthful, and their hearts were filled with joyful hope. The October dawn broke over the capital. A new life dawned on the world.
2. Decrees of the Great Proletarian Revolution
Most of the Bolshevik delegates spent the rest of the night on October 26 here, in Smolny. The next day, October 26, was filled with feverish work. An appeal from the Second Congress of Soviets to the whole country and all armies was sent by telegraph and telephone wires. The meeting of the Military Revolutionary Committee went on almost continuously. His decisions were agreed with Lenin, and often directly written by the leader of the revolution. Lenin proposed that the normal activities of city institutions, interrupted by the uprising, be restored as soon as possible. In the morning, an order from the Military Revolutionary Committee appeared: to open all trade establishments from October 27. All vacant premises and apartments were taken under the control of the Military Revolutionary Committee.
The main attention was paid to the final defeat of the counter-revolution. The Military Revolutionary Committee ordered to suspend and detain all the troop echelons going to Petrograd on the way.
"By issuing this instruction, - so the order ended, - the Military Revolutionary Committee hopes for its full support from the All-Russian Railway Union and calls for vigilance all railway employees and workers loyal to the cause of the revolution" (Orders of the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet R. and S. D. // News of the Central Executive Committee and the Petrograd Soviet of Workers 'and Soldiers' Deputies, No. 208, October 27, 1917).
A special appeal was sent to all the railway workers, in which it was announced that the revolutionary power of the Soviets was taking upon itself the task of improving the material conditions of the railway workers.
This appeal, in the light of the recent conflict between the railway workers and the Provisional Government, played a huge role. It drove a wedge between the top and bottom of the railroad workers. It prevented the leaders of the railway workers' union from enticing the masses to fight against the revolution.
Lenin, Stalin and Sverdlov devoted a lot of time to organizing the food business, bringing grain to Petrograd and the front.
In the evening, after a stormy day, a meeting of the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks took place. At this meeting, the composition of the new was discussed. the Soviet government. The name of the new government was approved - the Council of People's Commissars.
The second and final session of the Congress of Soviets opened at 9 pm on October 26. Decisions of enormous historical importance were made there. The first of them is the abolition of the death penalty restored by Kerensky at the front and the immediate release of all arrested revolutionary soldiers and officers. Then a resolution was adopted on the release of the members of the land committees arrested by the Kerensky government and on the transfer of all local power to the Soviets.
“From now on, all power belongs to the Soviets. Government commissars are removed. The chairmen of the Soviets communicate directly with the revolutionary government "(Central Archive. Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of R. and S. D. - Moscow-Leningrad: Gosizdat, 1928, p. 57).
By a special resolution, the congress ordered all army organizations to take measures for the immediate arrest of Kerensky and his delivery to Petrograd.
Having approved the resolution, the congress proceeded to discuss the declaration on the main issues - about peace and land. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin made reports on these questions at the congress. Until that moment, the congress had not seen him. Lenin worked in Smolny, fully occupied with organizing the uprising. Now he ascended the rostrum of the congress not only as a leader and teacher as the masses knew him before, but also as the organizer of the victory won by the proletariat over the united forces of counter-revolution.
No sooner had the chairman called this name, which had thundered all over the world, when the hall trembled from an explosion of unheard-of applause. It was as if a sudden gust of wind swept through the hall. The delegates jumped up from their seats. The entire congress was on its feet. Stormy applause and enthusiastic shouts greeted the leader of the world's greatest revolution.
Hundreds of eyes with delight and love were turned to the podium, where a short man with a large open forehead and attentive sharp eyes stood, towering over the hall.
He waited for the storm of cheers to subside. But at his insistent demand, the applause finally ceased. He began his talk.
Lenin's speech, as if emphasizing with all its content - "much has been said, it's time to get down to business", put the line at the turn of two eras.
“The question of peace,” said Lenin, “is a burning question, a sore question of our time. Much has been said and written about him, and you probably all discussed him a lot. Therefore, allow me to move on to reading the declaration, which will have to be issued by the government you have elected” (VI Lenin Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of R. and S. D. November 7-8 (October 25-26) 1917 Peace Report 8 November (October 26) // Sochi. T. XXII. P. 13).
This declaration - the decree on peace - was adopted by the congress in the form of an "Appeal to the peoples and governments of all the belligerent countries." The "appeal" began with the words:
"The workers' and peasants' government, created by the revolution of October 24-25 and based on the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers’, and Peasants' Deputies, invites all the belligerent peoples and their governments to begin immediately negotiations on a just, democratic peace" (Central Archive. Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets D. - Moscow-Leningrad: Gosizdat, 1928.S. 59).
The "appeal" indicated that
"A just, or democratic, peace ... the government considers an immediate peace without annexations (i.e., without the seizure of foreign lands, without the forcible annexation of foreign peoples) and without indemnities" (ibid.).
The "appeal" proposed to conclude peace immediately, expressing readiness to take decisive steps immediately
“Until the final approval of all the conditions of such a peace by the plenipotentiary assemblies of the people's representatives of all countries and all nations” (ibid.).
At the same time, the "Address" stated that the Soviet government
“He does not at all consider the above conditions of peace to be ultimatum, that is, he agrees to consider any other conditions of peace, insisting only on the fastest possible proposal by any belligerent and on their complete clarity, on the unconditional exclusion of any ambiguity and any mystery when proposing peace terms” (ibid. p. 60).
At the same time, the Soviet government announced its abolition of secret diplomacy, expressed a firm intention to conduct all negotiations completely openly before the entire people. The Soviet government promised to proceed immediately to the full publication of the secret treaties, declaring these treaties unconditionally and immediately canceled.
The "appeal", proposing to immediately conclude an armistice for three months, ended with an appeal to the proletariat of the advanced capitalist countries - England, France, Germany.
"The workers of these countries will understand the tasks lying on them of freeing mankind from the horrors of war and its consequences ... will help us successfully complete the cause of peace and, at the same time, the cause of freeing the working people and the exploited masses of the population from all slavery and all exploitation" (ibid. S. 61-62).
The Peace Decree, adopted by the Second Congress of Soviets, was of great international importance.
The economic development of Russia, the national interests of the peoples of the country demanded its withdrawal from the unjust war. During the imperialist war, Russia increasingly turned into a semi-colony of foreign capital. Under the bourgeois Provisional Government, colonial dependence increased. The British and French imperialists, with the help of loans, were preparing for the complete enslavement of the country. Russia had to recoup the sacrifices of foreign imperialism; at the expense of Russia, imperialist Germany tried to achieve concessions in the West. But the Russian bourgeoisie was unable to save the country from becoming a colony. By virtue of its class, self-serving interests, entangled as by snares in loans, the Russian bourgeoisie was increasingly turning into agents of foreign imperialism. The petty bourgeoisie could not save the country,
Moreover, almost all the peasantry thirsted for peace. It did not seek peace in the name of socialism. It did not at all demand only a "democratic" peace, without annexations and indemnities. He needed peace primarily for the redistribution of the landlord's land.
Only one class could solve the tasks of the country's national development - the proletariat.
Long before the Bolshevik Party came to power, the Bolsheviks developed their platform of peace. Back in 1915, Lenin said that, once in power, the Bolsheviks would offer a democratic peace to all the belligerent countries on the terms of the liberation of the dependent and oppressed peoples. Under existing governments, neither Germany nor other belligerent countries would agree to these terms. Then the Bolsheviks would fully implement all the measures outlined in the party program, rebuild the country's economy, prepare, and wage a revolutionary war in defense of socialist society.
Only the working class led by the Bolsheviks liberated the country from semi-colonial dependence, pulled it out of an unjust war and laid the foundations for waging a just war.
The Russian proletariat became the spokesman for the country's national interests. He embodied the hopes of the democratic strata. But the proletariat solved the country's national democratic tasks not through a peace agreement with the government, but in the only possible revolutionary way: by turning the imperialist war into a civil war. The Russian proletariat accomplished the socialist revolution, simultaneously completing the unresolved tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution.
The "Decree on Peace" formulated the basis for the entire foreign policy of the Soviet state. The decree clearly and unequivocally announced the complete rejection of the Soviet government from any predatory goals. The "Peace Decree" dealt a decisive blow to the imperialist aims of the war, exposing its predatory character to the whole world. In his speech on the question of peace at the Congress of Soviets, Lenin pointed out:
“No government will say everything it thinks. We are against secret diplomacy, and we will act openly before the whole people "(VI Lenin Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets R. and S. D. November 7-8 (October 25-26) 1917 Peace report November 8 (October 26) // Soch. T. XXII. P. 16).
The peace program of the proletarian state was clear and fully defined. It was announced as an act of state, addressed to both the governments and the peoples of the belligerent countries. Lenin especially noted this circumstance in his report to the Congress of Soviets. He said:
“We cannot ignore the governments, because then the possibility of concluding peace is delayed, and the people's government does not dare to do this, but we have no right not to simultaneously appeal to the peoples. Everywhere governments and peoples diverge among themselves, and therefore we must help the peoples to intervene in questions of war and peace” (ibid. P. 15).
And further, dwelling on the question of the inadmissibility of the presentation of ultimatum conditions for peace, Lenin pointed out:
“We, of course, will in every way defend our entire program of peace without annexations and indemnities. We will not retreat from it, but we must knock out of the hands of our enemies the opportunity to say that their conditions are different, and therefore there is nothing to enter into negotiations with us. No, we must deprive them of this advantageous position and not put our conditions in an ultimatum” (ibid. Pp. 15-16).
Comrade Eremeev spoke out against this point at the session of the Congress of Soviets. “They might think that we are weak, that we are afraid” (Central Archive. Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets R. and S. D. - Moscow-Leningrad: Gosizdat, 1928, p. 65), - he said.
In his closing remarks, Lenin strongly objected to Eremeev.
“The ultimatum can be disastrous for our whole business,” he explained. “We cannot demand that any insignificant deviation from our demands would enable the imperialist governments to say that it was impossible to enter into peace negotiations because of our intransigence” (V.I. Lenin, Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets. and S. D. November 7-8 (October 25-26) 1917 Peace report on November 8 (October 26) // Works. T. XXII. P. 17).
But a particularly striking argument against the ultimatum, cited by Lenin in his concluding speech at the congress, was the indication that a peasant from "some distant province" would say:
“Comrades, why did you rule out the possibility of proposing any conditions for peace? I would discuss them, I would look them over, and then instruct my representatives in the Constituent Assembly what to do” (ibid.).
Every word of Lenin fell like a refreshing rain on the dry ground covered with caked blood. Hundreds of delegates in the Smolny hall eagerly listened to every word of Lenin's. The simple, artless words of Lenin's report and "Address" responded to the sore hearts of millions of people of different nations. They expressed their deepest aspirations and hopes.
The representatives of the oppressed nations unanimously supported the Bolshevik Peace Decree. The tall, slender figure of Felix Dzerzhinsky appeared on the podium of the congress.
His stern, ascetic face shone with joy of victory.
“We know,” said Dzerzhinsky, “that the only force that can liberate the world is the proletariat, which is fighting for socialism ...
Those on whose behalf this declaration was proposed are marching in the ranks of the proletariat and the poorest peasantry; all those who left this hall in these tragic moments are not friends, but enemies of the revolution and the proletariat. You will not find a response to this appeal from them, but you will find this response in the hearts of the proletariat of all countries. Together with such allies, we will achieve peace.
We do not exhibit separation of ourselves from revolutionary Russia. We always come across with it. We will have one fraternal family of peoples without strife and strife” (Central Archive. Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of R. and S. D. - Moscow-Leningrad: Gosizdat, 1928, pp. 17-18).
There was silence in the hall. The delegates listened tensely to the agitated speech of the Polish revolutionary and became infected with his confidence in victory. His passionate words seemed to push the walls of the hall, and the delegates saw how the age-old fetters of Tsarist Russia - the prisons of nations - were crumbling. One after another, fighters for the liberation of oppressed nations rose to the podium. The old revolutionary Stuchka on behalf of the Latvian proletariat and the poor, supported the peace decree. Comrade Kapsukas-Mitskevich added on behalf of the Lithuanian workers:
“There is no doubt that the “Appeal” will find a response in the hearts of all peoples inhabiting not only Russia, but also peoples of other countries. The voice of the revolutionary proletariat, army and peasantry will pass through bayonets and penetrate Germany and other countries and will contribute to universal liberation” (ibid. P. 18).
On the very next day after the revolution, at dawn, the radio spread throughout the world the great, wise words of the Soviet Peace Decree, breaking the iron shackles of the imperialist war. The people cried as they listened, and hope rekindled in their long-faded eyes.
The delegates of the Congress of Soviets at the meeting in Smolny accepted this historic decree with enthusiasm. The order of the meeting was violated. People jumped up from the benches, delegates mingled with the members of the presidium. Caps flew into the air, faces flushed, eyes lit up with enthusiasm.
The sounds of the "Internationale" - the anthem of the proletarian struggle - mingled with cheers and thunderous "hurray" in honor of the great leader of the revolution.
One of the congress delegates came to the podium and, amid a general roar of approval, proposed to greet Lenin as "the author of the appeal and a staunch fighter and leader of the victorious workers 'and peasants' revolution" (ibid. P. 21).
All the delegates stood up and gave an ovation to Lenin.
The chairman of the congress announced the transition to the second item on the agenda. With thunderous applause, Lenin again took the podium at the Congress. The next step is the question of land.
"I will read to you those points of the decree that your Soviet government should issue," says Lenin, and the stirring words of the "Decree on Land" are heard in the silent hall.
"one. Landowners' ownership of land is canceled immediately without any redemption.
2. Landlord estates, as well as all appanage, monastic, church lands, with all their living and dead implements, manor buildings and all accessories, are transferred to the disposal of volost land committees and district councils of peasant deputies, until the Constituent Assembly "(V. I. The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of R. and S. D. November 7-8 (October 25-26) 1917. Report on the world on November 8 (October 26) // Works. T. XXII. Pp. 20-21).
Further, the decree stipulated that “any damage to the confiscated property, which henceforth belongs to the entire people, is declared a grave crime punishable by a revolutionary court” (ibid. P. 21). Uyezd Soviets pledged to ensure the strictest order in the confiscation of landlord estates and revolutionary protection of everything that was transferred to the people of the economy.
“To guide the implementation of the great land transformations, until their final decision by the Constituent Assembly, must serve everywhere ... the peasant mandate, drawn up on the basis of 242 local peasant orders by the editors of the Izvestia All-Russian Council of Peasant Deputies ... (ibid.).
In conclusion, the decree stipulated that "the land of ordinary peasants and ordinary Cossacks will not be confiscated" (ibid.).
Together with the declaration of peace, the decree on land occupies the main place among the most important decisions of the Soviet government.
The vast majority of the peasantry had long awaited the expropriation of the landlords. This task, before the solution of which the bourgeois-democratic revolution was powerless, was solved by the decree on land. Lenin expressed his main idea at the same time, at the Second Congress of Soviets, in the following words:
“The point is that the peasantry should have firm confidence that there are no more landowners in the countryside, that let the peasants themselves decide all the issues, let them arrange their own lives” (ibid. P. 23).
The "Decree on Land" showed the peasant that the Soviet government would finally and irrevocably eliminate the landlords in the countryside with their oppression and exploitation, and at the same time gave the peasant confidence that the land would indeed be at his disposal.
A series of attacks on the Bolsheviks from the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks caused the 4th clause of the "Decree on Land", which offered the so-called "Peasant Mandate" as a "guide to the implementation of great land reforms". On the basis of 242 orders given by the peasants to the delegates of the 1st All-Russian Congress of Peasant Deputies, the Social Revolutionaries drew up a "Model Order" that summarized all peasant demands. The Social Revolutionaries published the order on August 19, 1917 in Izvestia of the All-Russian Council of Peasant Deputies. It proclaimed that all land would become the property of the whole people and “pass into the use of all working people on it” (ibid. P. 21), he established “equal land use” and prohibited the use of hired labor in agriculture. The Socialist-Revolutionary program was at odds with the Bolshevik program of land nationalization.
But in one - and, moreover, a decisive - issue, the "Order" had something in common with the Bolshevik program, formulated at the April conference in paragraph 17. This in common consisted in the demand for the confiscation of all landlord, appanage, and monastery lands and in the transfer of them into the hands of local Soviet bodies - the Soviets and volost committees. Namely, this was the main and most important revolutionary event that the peasantry was waiting for. It was important to take the land away from the landlords and declare that the peasants have the right to use it, that the landlord oppression has been liquidated. And since the majority of the peasantry in an organized manner expressed a desire to arrange the use of the seized land in the way it was outlined in the "Order", the October Socialist Revolution, with its first act on land, had to confirm this right of the peasants.
It should be noted that this situation was not unexpected for Lenin and for the whole party. Long before the October Revolution, before the Fourth Party Congress, Lenin pointed out in his brochure "Revision of the Agrarian Program":
“In order to eliminate any idea that the workers' party wants to impose any reform plans on the peasantry regardless of the will of the peasantry, regardless of the independent movement within the peasantry, option A is attached to the draft program, which, instead of directly demanding nationalization, says first on the party's support for the aspirations of the revolutionary peasantry to abolish private ownership of land” (VI Lenin, Revision of the agrarian program // Works. Vol. IX. P. 74).
As is known, Lenin always defended this idea when discussing the agrarian program. And he emphasized that this program "will not in any way introduce discord between the peasantry and the proletariat, as fighters for democracy" (ibid.).
Therefore, Lenin had every reason at the Second Congress of Soviets to reject, as frivolous, the accusation that the Bolsheviks were pursuing, they say, someone else's program. Lenin explained:
“There are voices here that the decree and the mandate itself were drawn up by socialist revolutionaries. So be it. Does it matter who it was drawn up, but, as a democratic government, we cannot bypass the decision of the lower classes, even if we did not agree with it. In the fire of life, applying it in practice, conducting it on the ground, the peasants themselves will understand where the truth is. And even if the peasants continue to follow the socialist-revolutionaries and even if they even give this party a majority at the Constituent Assembly, then here too we will say: - so be it. Life is the best teacher, and it will show who is right, and let the peasants from one end, and we will resolve this issue from the other end "(VI Lenin, Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets R. and S. D. November 7-8 (25-26 October) 1917. Report on the earth on November 8 (October 26) // Works. T. XXII. P. 23)
All the wisdom, perspicacity, and reality of Lenin's policy on this issue consisted precisely in the fact that, without hiding their disagreement with certain points of the "Order," the Bolsheviks nevertheless made it the basis of the agrarian platform of October. The party foresaw that the peasants, applying the law in practice, would themselves come “from the other end” to the Bolshevik solution of the problem, that they themselves would abandon the petty-bourgeois Socialist-Revolutionary “equalization” and move on to organizing new forms of agriculture. The peasantry will be convinced from the experience of life that the equalization of the land alone does not make the weak peasant free from kulak bondage. Now, for the elimination of landlord oppression, a struggle will flare up between the poor peasant strata of the countryside and the kulaks over the question of the distribution of land, its cultivation, implements, etc.
The program outlined in the "Order" essentially ceased to be a Socialist-Revolutionary program, since it was the Socialist-Revolutionaries who zealously supported the Provisional Government in its struggle against the attempts of the peasants to take the land from the landlords, that is, to implement the demand of their own "Order". Under these conditions, the "decree on land" is a special form of isolation of the Socialist-Revolutionaries from the peasantry. With one blow, the Soviet government wrested huge masses from the influence of the Compromisers. The first act of Soviet power, which was faced with the task of winning the masses from the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeois parties "through the revolutionary satisfaction of their most pressing economic needs" (Lenin V.I. Elections to the Constituent Assembly and the dictatorship of the proletariat // Soch. T. XXIV. P. 640), and consisted in meeting this demand of the peasantry.
The Peasant Mandate was published by the Social Revolutionaries on August 19. And two months later, on October 18, with the participation of the same Social Revolutionaries, members of the Kerensky government, a ministerial draft law on land was published, which fundamentally contradicted the "Order". The "Peasant Mandate" lay for over two months without moving. Only the proletarian revolution brought it to life. On Lenin's proposal, the Second Congress of Soviets turned the Peasant Mandate into an unshakable law, into a Decree on Land. By transforming the "Order" into law, the Bolsheviks thereby showed the peasants that the party of Lenin and Stalin in one day did more for the working people than the Socialist-Revolutionaries in seven months of the revolution.
The Land Decree was adopted by all votes to one, with eight abstentions. The mood of the congress was vividly expressed by the delegate, a peasant from the Tver province. He stated in his speech that he "brought deep bows and greetings to this meeting."
On behalf of his voters, he conveyed "greetings and gratitude to Comrade Lenin as the staunchest defender of the peasant poor" (Central Archive. Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of R. and S. D. - Moscow-Leningrad: Gosizdat, 1928, p. 74).
The peasant's speech was drowned in the enthusiastic shouts of the delegates.
The peasants fought for the land for hundreds of years. Over the centuries, peasants of all peoples of Russia have plowed millions of dessiatines of untouched virgin lands. With incredible labor, they cleared the land from the tenacious roots of a dense, dense forest, reclaimed it from wastelands and swamps.
But for centuries this land was taken from the peasants, obtained by the labor of generations. The feudal landlords seized the land, turning the peasants themselves into serfs. The capitalists, landowners, and kulaks, by the power of economic coercion, by the power of capital, drove the peasants into the sand. More than once the peasants rose up against the invaders, against the landlords. But then there was no proletariat, the only class that was consistently revolutionary to the end, capable of leading the peasant movement. Only in the October Socialist Revolution did the age-old vague, powerless aspirations of the working peasantry come true: the land was confiscated, without ransom taken from the landowner by the victorious oppressed classes under the leadership of the proletariat.
The "Decree on Land" destroyed landlord Russia. But the land of the landowners was mortgaged and repeatedly re-mortgaged in banks. The blow to landlord property was a blow to the entire capitalist system. The abolition of private ownership of land also undermined private ownership of all means of production. Moreover, the abolition of private ownership of land destroyed the age-old proprietary prejudices of the peasants. The road was opened for new, socialist forms of economy instead of the old, serf forms that kept the majority of peasants in poverty and hunger on tiny plots of land. This was the socialist face of the Land Decree.
The Decree on Land, like the Decree on Peace, carried the bourgeois-democratic revolution to the end, solved the tasks not completed by the bourgeois-democratic revolution, but did it "in passing, in passing."
“... In order to secure the gains of the bourgeois-democratic revolution for the peoples of Russia, we had to advance further, and we advanced further. We solved the issues of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in passing, in passing, as a "by-product" of our main and real, proletarian-revolutionary, socialist work "(Lenin V.I. On the four-year anniversary of the October Revolution // Works. T. XXVII. P. 26).
This is how Lenin wrote about the achievements of the Great Proletarian Revolution.
The last item on the agenda of the congress was the question of the structure of power. On this issue, the congress adopted a decree on the formation of a workers 'and peasants' government - the Council of People's Commissars. The decree adopted by the Congress read:
“The All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies resolves:
To form a Provisional Workers 'and Peasants' Government, which will be called the Council of People's Commissars, to govern the country until the convocation of the Constituent Assembly.
Control over the activities of People's Commissars and the right to dismiss them belongs to the All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers', Peasants' and Soldiers' Deputies and its Central Executive Committee "(Central Archive. Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of R. and S. D. - Moscow-Leningrad: Gosizdat, 1928. S. 79-80).
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was appointed chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, and Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was appointed People's Commissar for Nationalities.
The first Soviet government included only Bolsheviks. The "Left" SRs rejected the proposal of the Bolsheviks to share power with them. Their representative stated at the congress that
“Joining the Bolshevik ministry would create an abyss between them and the detachments of the revolutionary army who had left the congress — an abyss that would exclude the possibility of their mediation between the Bolsheviks and these groups” (ibid. P. 83).
Reflecting the ideology of the wealthy elite of the village and at the same time the peasant's thirst for land, the "Left" Socialist-Revolutionaries wavered between the Bolsheviks and the petty-bourgeois parties. While ideologically gravitating towards the latter, they at the same time understood perfectly well that the peasants could only get land from the hands of the Bolsheviks. Hence the rushing of the "Left" Socialist-Revolutionaries between the Bolsheviks and the petty-bourgeois parties arose. These were fellow travelers of the proletarian revolution for the time being, who, however, at a critical moment could change and betray.
In conclusion, the congress elected a Central Executive Committee of 101 people, which included: 62 Bolsheviks, 29 "Left" Socialist-Revolutionaries, 6 United Social Democrats-Internationalists, 3 Ukrainian Socialists and 1 Socialist-Revolutionary Maximalist.
At 5 hours 15 minutes in the morning on October 27, the Second Congress of Soviets closed amid loud exclamations: “Long live the revolution! Long live socialism! " (ibid. p. 92) and singing of the Internationale.