Thursday, March 16, 2017

The October Revolution and the Working Class of Russia and the World by RAY LIGHT (FROM ROL, USA NL #101)

 Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution:
The October Revolution and the
Working Class of Russia and the World


In 1943, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill admitted: “No government ever formed among men has been capable of surviving injuries so grave and cruel as those inflicted by Hitler on Russia. … Russia has not only survived and recovered from those frightful injuries but has inflicted, as no other force in the world could have inflicted, mortal damage on the German army machine.” (cited in The Great Conspiracy, Sayers and Kahn, page 139)
The German Nazi bombing and invasion of Poland had been launched on September 1, 1939. Within 48 hours, the Polish Air Force was destroyed. Most of the 500 first line Polish fighter planes were blown up on the ground by Nazi bombing of Polish airfields. In one week, the Polish army was vanquished, and the German military occupation of Poland was completed in less than four weeks!

Emboldened and fueled by its success in Poland, the Nazi war machine successfully bombed, invaded and occupied six countries in Spring 1940. On April 9, 1940 Germany invaded Denmark which capitulated in 6 hours. That same day, Nazi warships began to attack Norwegian ships and simultaneously landed troops in Norway. At the end of two months, the Nazis controlled Norway. On May 10, more than two million German troops invaded France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands by land and by air. It took the Nazis five days, including the brutal bombing of Rotterdam, to conquer the Netherlands. In stark contrast with the ability of France to remain unvanquished throughout the four years of World War I, on June 10, 1940 the French government withdrew from Paris and on June 14 the German army occupied the city and hoisted the swastika up on the Eiffel Tower. France, an advanced imperialist colonial power, the birthplace of bourgeois democratic revolution, the land of “liberté, égalité et fraternité,” succumbed to the Nazi invasion in just six weeks!

In Western and Eastern Europe in 1939 and 1940, Fascist Germany had experienced so little resistance to its brazen and brutal invasions from the governments and the citizenry that the Hitlerite fascist military and society were more arrogant and chauvinistic toward “inferior peoples” than ever. Brimming with self-confidence and a powerful military momentum, on June 22, 1941, the German Nazis launched the largest operation of World War II, Operation “Barbarossa,” against the Soviet Union. Initially, this was an invasion of more than three million German soldiers along a thousand mile front reaching from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Incredibly, by late January 1945, the Soviet Red army had driven the Nazi invaders back to within one hundred miles of the German capital of Berlin. In May of 1945 the Soviet counterattack had resulted in the total capitulation and defeat of Nazi Germany.*

*See The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer, 1959, pp. 625-626, 713-746, 847-853, 1097, 1139.

How did the USSR not only survive but largely on its own shoulders ultimately defeat the mightiest war machine in history, and, for the first time in human history, shift the balance of forces in the world in favor of socialism, in favor of workers power?


Principally, it was because, under the dictatorship of the proletariat, the Soviet workers and toilers were the owners of the USSR. The Soviet Union was truly the creation of the masses, and of the Soviet industrial working class in particular. In their tens of millions, the Soviet people courageously overthrew the Russian Tsarist regime and the bourgeois regime that followed it, establishing the first dictatorship of the proletariat in the world. Through unprecedented feats of economic production and innovation, the Soviet working class-led society took the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from a backward country to an advanced one in one generation. Then, immediately, the Bolshevik-led Soviet working class and masses were called upon to move heaven and earth to prevent the fascist hordes from taking it all away from them. They proved ready to defend their country with their very lives in what even fiercely anti-communist detractors like reactionary U.S. General Douglas McArthur admitted was the “greatest military achievement in all history.”

The mass character of the October Revolution was based on the ruthless and consistent Bolshevik struggle against opportunism waged by a disciplined and responsible vanguard party among the toiling masses and among the industrial working class in particular and on the Bolshevik mobilization of these masses around their urgent concrete demands for “peace, land and bread.” This article, which relies heavily on the brilliant History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik) (CPSU-B), (1939) documents the above facts beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Most importantly, the heroic conduct of the Soviet working class highlighted here smashes to smithereens two capitalist “big lies.” One, that capitalism is the best political-economic system the world has ever seen. And two, that the workers and toilers do not have the capacity to make a better world. The Soviet workers and masses created a clearly superior Socialist system then; and those of us in the ranks of the international working class today have the capacity to create a more all-encompassing Soviet Socialist world in our time.


The Abolition of Serfdom in Russia and the Rapid Rise of the Modern Industrial Working Class

The History points out: that Tsarist Russia entered on the path of
Peasant Uprising
capitalist development later than other countries. Manorial estates based on serfdom had been the prevailing form of tsarist economy. And industry could not be developed until serfdom was abolished. In 1861, frightened by the peasant revolts against the landlords and weakened by its defeat in the Crimean War, the tsarist government was compelled to abolish serfdom. At this historical moment, there were powerful remnants of landlord oppression of the peasants, including the widespread introduction of the “half and half” system under which the peasants were obliged to pay the landlords rent in kind in the amount of one-half of their harvests.*

*In the U.S. Black Belt South, after the freedom of the slaves in the U.S. Civil War of 1861-1865 and the outright betrayal of the freed slaves by the federal government in the subsequent decade, this system also became widespread and dominant. In the USA, known as “sharecropping,” this pre-capitalist remnant, unchallenged by a Soviet workers revolution, lasted into the modern day.

The History reports: “the situation remained almost the same as it had been under serfdom, the only difference being that the peasant was now personally free, could not be bought and sold like a chattel.” (History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik), CPSU-B, p. 3) The survivals of serfdom were still powerful enough to bring the peasant masses to ruination and drive many to leave their villages and seek work in factories and mills where they became a source of cheap labor for the capitalist mill owners. Even though hampered by the survivals of serfdom, the development of industrial capitalism in Russia proceeded at a rapid pace. According to the History: “during the twenty-five years, 1865-1890, the number of workers employed in large mills and factories and on the railways … more than doubled.” (ibid, p. 5) By the end of the 1890’s, the number of workers in these occupations, modern industrial proletarians, had doubled again!

In light of its growing strength, the very first workers organization, the South Russian Workers Union was formed in 1875 and lasted more than six months before being smashed by the tsarist government. In 1878, the Northern Union of Russian Workers was organized in St. Petersburg and soon began projecting demands of both an anti-tsarist (political) as well as a “bread and butter” (economic) character.

By early 1885 the eight thousand workers at the Morozov Mill in Orekhovo-Zuyevo, struck after suffering five wage cuts in the previous few years and being robbed by the big capitalist, Morozov, all the more through fines. The chief strike demand was to eliminate the fines and a subsequent trial revealed the vast extent of this additional robbery. The strike was suppressed by armed force and 600 workers were arrested. But later that year similar strikes broke out in Ivanovo-Voznesensk. Tellingly, “in the following year the tsarist government was compelled by its fear of the growth of the working-class movement to promulgate a law on fines which provided that the proceeds from fines were not to go into the pockets of manufacturers but were to be used for the needs of the workers themselves. The Morozov and other strikes taught the workers that a great deal could be gained by organized struggle.” (ibid, p. 8) Indeed, this was a surprisingly powerful early victory for the new and rising Russian industrial working class.

Prior to the appearance of Marxist groups in Russia, revolutionary work was attempted by the Narodniks or Populists. “The Narodniks first tried to rouse the peasants for a struggle against the tsarist government. With this purpose in view, young revolutionary intellectuals donned peasant garb and flocked to the countryside – ‘to the people’ ... Hence the term ‘Narodnik’ from the word narod, the people. But they found no backing among the peasantry ... The majority of them were arrested by the police. Thereupon the Narodniks decided to continue the struggle against the tsarist autocracy single-handed, without the people, and this led to even more serious mistakes.” (ibid, p. 11)

On March 1, 1881, a secret Narodnik society assassinated Tsar Alexander II with a bomb. “But the assassinated tsar was replaced by another, Alexander III, under whom the conditions of the workers and peasants became still worse. The assassination of individuals could not bring about the overthrow of the tsarist autocracy or the abolition of the landlord class. The method of combating tsardom chosen by the Narodniks, … by individual terrorism, was wrong and detrimental to the revolution.” (ibid, p. 11) It was based on the erroneous Narodnik theory of active “heroes” and a passive “mob,” which awaited exploits from the “heroes.”

The first Russian Marxist group arose in 1883; it was the Emancipation of Labor group formed by G.V. Plekhanov abroad in Geneva where he had taken refuge from tsarist persecution. Abroad Plekhanov studied Marxism and broke with his former Narodism, becoming an outstanding propagandist of Marxism. According to Lenin, Plekhanov’s book On the Development of the Monistic View of History, published in 1895, served to “rear a whole generation of Russian Marxists.” Plekhanov shattered the major Narodnik error that the role of the masses, the “mob,” the people, classes, was insignificant, and that “heroes,” outstanding individuals, and their ideas played a prime role in social development. In opposition to the Narodniks’ philosophic idealism, Plekhanov, in line with Marx’ and Engels’ historical materialism, asserted that “it is not the heroes that make history, but history that makes heroes, and that, consequently, it is not heroes who create a people, but the people who create heroes and move history onward.” (ibid, p. 15)

Plekhanov’s excellent Marxist work on the role of the masses and the great individual in history came just in time to become a cornerstone of Lenin’s mass line. For Lenin led in the creation of the St. Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class in 1895, the same year that Plekhanov’s major work appeared. Leninism has always been characterized by Lenin’s insistence on telling the proletariat the truth, whether bitter or sweet, by his tremendous confidence in the working class and the toiling masses. As Lenin said, “for the proletariat needs the truth and there is nothing so harmful to its cause as plausible, respectable, petty bourgeois lies.” And the theory and practice of the St. Petersburg League was itself dramatic proof of Lenin’s confidence in the working class implemented among the St. Petersburg workers.

The Russian Industrial Working Class on the Path to the Great October Socialist Revolution
Lenin proposed to pass from the propaganda of Marxism among the few politically advanced workers who gathered in the study
Members of St. Petersburg League of Struggle
circles to political agitation among the broad masses of the working class on the issues of the day. Under Lenin’s guidance, the St. Peterburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class linked up the struggle of the workers for economic demands — improvement of working conditions, shorter hours and higher wages — with the political struggle against tsardom. The Lenin-led League of Struggle had to wage sharp struggle against the “Economists,” an opportunist trend (connected to Western European reformist social-democrats, trade-union bureaucrats, etc.) that promoted the idea that workers were only capable of fighting for their immediate economic demands and certainly not capable of leading the peasant masses in a successful political struggle for the overthrow of the powerful tsarist state.

This turn towards mass agitation was of profound importance for the subsequent development of the working-class movement in Russia as the nineties were a period of industrial boom. The number of workers was increasing. The working-class movement was gaining strength. In the period of 1895-99, more than 220,000 workers took part in strikes. The working-class movement was becoming an important force in the political life of the country.

“Under Lenin’s guidance, the St. Petersburg League of Struggle ... was the first body in Russia that began to unite Socialism with the working-class movement. When a strike broke out in some factory, the League of Struggle, which through the members of its circles was kept well posted on the state of affairs in the factories, immediately responded by issuing leaflets and Socialist proclamations. These leaflets exposed the oppression of the workers by the manufacturers, explained how the workers should fight for their interests, and set forth the workers’ demands. The leaflets told the plain truth about the ulcers of capitalism, the poverty of the workers, their intolerably hard working day of 12 to 14 hours, and their utter lack of rights. They also put forward appropriate political demands.

“With the collaboration of the worker Babushkin, Lenin at the end of 1894 wrote the first agitational leaflet of this kind and an appeal to the workers of the Semyannikov Works in St. Petersburg who were on strike. In the autumn of 1895 Lenin wrote a leaflet for the men and women strikers of the Thornton Mills. These mills belonged to English owners who were making millions in profits out of them. The working day in these mills exceeded 14 hours, while the wages of a weaver were about 7 rubles per month. The workers won the strike. In a short space of time the League of Struggle printed dozens of such leaflets and appeals to the workers of various factories. Every leaflet greatly helped to stiffen the spirit of the workers. They saw that the Socialists were helping and defending them.

“In the summer of 1896 a strike of 30,000 textile workers, led by the League of Struggle, took place in St. Petersburg. The chief demand was for shorter hours. This strike forced the tsarist government to pass, on June 2, 1897, a law limiting the working day to 11½ hours. Prior to this the working day was not limited in any way.” (History of the CPSU(B), pp. 18-19,  my emphasis, ROL). (Again, what a powerful political accomplishment of the St. Petersburg industrial workers against the Tsarist-led Russian ruling classes!)

Lenin said that the St. Petersburg League of Struggle “was the first real rudiment of a revolutionary party which was backed by the working-class movement.” (ibid, p. 19) The formation of the St. Petersburg League of Struggle was followed by the formation of Marxist organizations in all the principal industrial centres as well as in the border regions.” (ibid, p. 27) In order to unite these local organizations across Russia into a single Marxist party, Lenin proposed and implemented the first revolutionary Marxist newspaper on an All-Russia scale. In “What is to be Done?” (1902) Lenin described the organization of news reportage, production and distribution around the newspaper, Iskra, as also providing the organizational scaffolding for the party itself.

The first (1905) Russian Revolution quickly followed. With the tsar’s support weakening among the peasants and military men fighting and dying in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, the growing workers movement in Russia in alliance with the peasantry was able to go from a general strike in October to an armed uprising in December 1905. The new revolutionary Soviets or “Councils” of Workers Deputies emerged in this revolution. They swept away the Bulygin Duma [consultative parliamentary body] and wrested concession after concession from the tsar.

However, a period of decline and defeat followed, “when tsardom, having recovered after the conclusion of peace with Japan, took advantage of the liberal bourgeoisie’s fear of the revolution, took advantage of the vacillation of the peasants, cast them a sop ... [with a new Duma, another “toothless parliament”], and passed to the offensive against the working class, against the revolution.” (ibid, p. 102)

The short period of only three years of revolution (1905-1907) had nonetheless provided the working class and peasantry with a rich political education vastly superior to that obtained in decades of peaceful development. The revolution had revealed: that tsardom was the sworn enemy of the people, that the liberal bourgeoisie sought an alliance with the tsar and not with the people, that seeking an alliance with the liberal bourgeoisie was tantamount to betrayal of the people, that only the working class could be the leader of the bourgeois democratic revolution and clear the way for socialism. Lastly, the revolution showed that the laboring peasantry was the only important force capable of forming an alliance with the working class.

The defeat of this first Russian Revolution, brought with it decline of the revolutionary movement and fatigue among the masses. Difficult conditions prevailed during the Stolypin reaction from 1908-1912. But already in 1911 the number of strikers almost doubled those of the years just preceding it.

The real rise in the revolutionary movement began in April and May 1912 when mass political strikes broke out in connection with the shooting down of workers in the Lena goldfields in Siberia. Of the six thousand striking Lena miners, over 500 workers were killed or wounded upon the orders of a tsarist officer of the gendarmerie. This new bloody deed of the tsarist autocracy in service to the British capitalist masters of the Lena goldfields was committed to break an economic strike of the miners. The shooting down of the unarmed Lena miners attempting to peacefully negotiate with company management stirred the whole country.

The indignation and outrage of the Russian working class was strengthened by a rapid growth of the proletariat that had accompanied the revival of industry since 1910. Compounding this growth of Russian proletarian power was the unprecedented concentration of Russian workers in large factories with 500 or more workers.*

*Even in the USA, the most advanced country industrially in the entire world, only about one-third of industrial workers were employed in such large plants in 1910, whereas in backward peasant Russia, in which the industrial working class was a much smaller percentage of the total population, about 54 per cent of industrial workers, that is, over half the total number of workers worked in such large factories!

300,000 participated in the political protest strikes against the bloody massacre of the Lena workers. “The May Day strikes of 1912 involved about 400,000 workers. These strikes bore a marked political character and were held under the Bolshevik revolutionary slogans of a democratic republic, an 8-hour day, and the confiscation of the landed estates. These main slogans were designed to unite not only the broad masses of the workers, but also the peasants and soldiers for a revolutionary onslaught on the autocracy.” (ibid, p. 160)

Indeed, in the revolutionary rise of 1912-1914, like the situation leading up to the revolution of 1905, the workers’ strike movement resonated with the peasantry and the armed forces. In this situation, the Bolsheviks created a daily mass political newspaper designed for the broadest sections of the workers, Pravda (Truth). “Pravda stood in the center of the struggle for the Party principle, for the building up of a mass working-class revolutionary party. Pravda rallied the legally existing organizations around the illegal centers of the Bolshevik Party and directed the working-class movement towards one definite aim—preparation for revolution.” (ibid, p. 168)

Average circulation of Pravda was 40,000 daily, with individual copies passed from reader to reader. Pravda was suppressed eight times in two and a half years, experienced confiscation of many issues and also was constantly paying fines for printing articles and letters condemned by the tsarist censors. The survival and blossoming of Pravda in the face of the incessant tsarist police state persecution required the active and consistent support of tens of thousands of advanced workers.

“Pravda had a vast number of worker correspondents. In one year alone it printed over eleven thousand letters from workers. ... Numbers of workers from the factories visited the editorial office every day. ... As a result of two and a half years of persistent struggle against the Liquidators* ... by the summer of 1914 the Bolsheviks had succeeded in winning the support of four-fifths of the politically active workers of Russia for the Bolshevik Party and for the Pravda tactics ... borne out, for instance, by the fact that out of a total number of 7,000 workers’ groups which collected money for the labor press in 1914, 5,600 groups collected for the Bolshevik press, and only 1400 groups for the Menshevik press.” (ibid, p. 168) (Moreover, more than half the financial support required for the Menshevik newspaper to function came from “rich friends” among the liberal bourgeoisie and the bourgeois intelligentsia.)

*In the midst of the massive political protest strikes in response to the massacre of the Lena workers, the Liquidators, and their ally, Trotsky, wanted to substitute a petition campaign to the State Duma requesting the granting of rights. They managed to obtain only 1300 signatures at a time when hundreds of thousands of workers backed the militant street actions and the revolutionary Bolshevik slogans.

But the outbreak of  World War I in 1914 disrupted the gathering Russian Revolution. British and French imperialism prevailed upon their Tsarist Russian junior partner to provide the main cannon fodder, the main soldiers, for the Entente Powers. In 1917, after almost three years of massive slaughter of the Russian armed forces and the other armies on the battlefields of World War I, it was clear that the Russian Tsar was isolated even within Russian ruling circles. This ancient pre-capitalist relic was an obstacle to the successful prosecution by his British and French imperialist masters (and the Russian bourgeoisie) of their war on the German and Austro-Hungarian forces. At the same time, the deep dissatisfaction of the Russian masses, exacerbated by the war, was threatening to re-establish on an even more acute basis the revolutionary situation that had been interrupted by the First Imperialist World War. The most overwhelming mass demand was for peace, that is, for Russian withdrawal from the imperialist war.

On February 18, 1917 (old calendar), a strike broke out at the Putilov Works in Petrograd. Four days later, the workers at most large factories were on strike. The next day, International Women’s Day, at the call of the Bolshevik City Committee, working women came out in the streets to demonstrate against starvation, war and tsardom, backed by a city-wide strike movement. By February 25 the whole of working-class Petrograd (St. Petersburg) had joined the revolutionary movement. The political strikes in the districts merged into a general city-wide political strike. By the next morning the political strike and demonstration began to assume the character of an uprising. The workers disarmed police and armed themselves.

The Commander of the Petrograd Military Area, ordered that workers must return to work by February 28. But on February 25 the tsar gave his Commander a contradictory order for him to “put a stop to the disorders in the capital not later than tomorrow.” The next day, February 26, the Fourth Company of the Reserve Battalion of the Pavlovsky Regiment opened fire not on the workers, but on the squads of mounted police fighting the workers, in direct opposition to the tsar’s command!

The Bolshevik Central Committee, quartered in Petrograd and headed by the youthful comrade Molotov, issued a manifesto calling for the continuation of the armed struggle against tsardom and the formation of a Provisional Revolutionary Government. The next day, the troops in Petrograd refused to fire on the workers and began to line up with the people in revolt. Less than 10,000 soldiers had joined the revolt by that morning but by evening, they numbered more than 60,000! The workers and soldiers in revolt began arresting the tsarist ministers and generals and to free revolutionaries from jail.

As news of the Petrograd victory spread to other towns and to the front, workers and soldiers everywhere began to overthrow tsarist officials. Unlike the first, the second Russian Revolution of the twentieth century, (February 1917), the bourgeois democratic revolution, had been won!

The Revolution of 1905 had shown that the Soviets were organs of armed uprising and at the same time the embryo of a new revolutionary governing power. Soviets arose in the very first days of the February 1917 revolution. This time, however, on Bolshevik initiative, both Soviets of  Worker Deputies and Soldier Deputies were established. But only in a few cities did the Bolsheviks have a majority in the Soviets from the outset. The reactionary forces, meanwhile, acted with lightning speed to counteract and isolate the Bolshevik-led industrial proletariat.

According to the History of the CPSU(B), “On February 27 (March 12), 1917, the liberal members of the Fourth State Duma, as the result of a backstairs agreement with the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik leaders, set up a Provisional Committee of the State Duma, headed by Rodzyanko, the President of the Duma, a landlord and a monarchist. And a few days later, the Provisional Committee of the State Duma and the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik leaders of the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, acting secretly from the Bolsheviks, came to an agreement to form a new government of Russia – a bourgeois Provisional Government, headed by Prince Lvov, the man whom, prior to the February Revolution, even Tsar Nicholas II was about to make the Prime Minister of his government! The Provisional Government included … prominent representatives of the capitalist class, and, as the representative of the ‘democracy,’ the Socialist-Revolutionary Kerensky.

“And so it was that the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik leaders of the Executive Committee of the Soviet surrendered the power to the bourgeoisie. Yet when the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies learned of this, its majority formally approved of the action of the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik leaders, despite the protest of the Bolsheviks.” (ibid, p. 194)

The History continues: “The result was a peculiar interlocking of two powers, of two dictatorships: the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, represented by the Provisional Government and the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry represented by the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.” (ibid, p.195)

With the outbreak of World War I, the Bolshevik Party, as The History explains, had been “the only proletarian party [in the world] which remained faithful to the cause of Socialism and internationalism and which organized civil war against its own imperialist government. All the other parties of the Second International, being tied to the bourgeoisie through their leaders, found themselves under the sway of imperialism and deserted to the side of the imperialists. ... The workers of Russia and the Bolshevik Party were the first in the world successfully to take advantage of the weakness of capitalism. They forced a breach in the imperialist front, overthrew the tsar and set up Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.

“Intoxicated by the first successes of the revolution, and lulled by the assurances of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries that from now on everything would go well, the bulk of the petty-bourgeoisie, the soldiers, as well as the workers, placed their confidence in the Provisional Government and supported it.

“The Bolshevik Party was confronted with the task of explaining to the masses of workers and soldiers, who had been intoxicated by the first successes, that the complete victory of the revolution was still a long way off, that as long as the power was in the hands of the bourgeois Provisional Government, and as long as the Soviets were dominated by the compromisers – the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries – the people would secure neither peace, nor land, nor bread, and that in order to achieve complete victory, one more step had to be taken and the power transferred to the Soviets.” (ibid, p. 197, my emphasis, ROL)

To become convinced of this Bolshevik truth and be ready to seize state power from those relatively enlightened bourgeois forces that had just “over night” replaced the tsar’s three hundred year old Romanov family dynasty, sufficient numbers of the proletarian and poor peasant masses, including among the soldiers and sailors, would have to experience this Bolshevik truth for themselves. This would take time.

Already by its All-Russian April Conference, the Bolshevik Party, utilizing the new bourgeois legality, was growing by leaps and bounds. Further elaborating the bold principles of his April Theses, Lenin said that the task of the Party was to “effect the transition from the first stage of the revolution which placed the power in the hands of the bourgeoisie ... to the second stage, which must place the power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest strata of the peasantry.” In the course of preparing for the Socialist Revolution, the Party’s immediate task was embodied in the slogan: “All power to the Soviets!” It was necessary to put an end to the dual power between the Provisional Government and the Soviets, to transfer the whole power to the Soviets, to drive the landlords and capitalists out of the organs of government and withdraw Russia from the imperialist world war.

At the Petrograd Conference of  Factory Committees held at the beginning of June, three quarters of the capital city’s delegates already supported the Bolsheviks. But at the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets that met immediately afterwards, the Bolsheviks were still in the minority with about 100 delegates compared with the 700 or 800 Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries(S-R’s) and others. In this situation, the petty-bourgeois opportunists leading the Petrograd Soviet’s Executive Committee called for a demonstration for June 18, expecting it to be held under anti-Bolshevik slogans. Instead, the demonstration revealed the growing revolutionary spirit of the masses and growing confidence in the Bolshevik Party. The Menshevik/S-R slogans calling for confidence in the Provisional Government and continuation of the imperialist war were lost in a sea of Bolshevik slogans. Four hundred thousand demonstrators carried “Down with the war!” and “All power to the Soviets!”

The History reports: “It was a complete fiasco for the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, a fiasco for the Provisional Government in the capital of the country. Nevertheless, the Provisional Government received the support of the First Congress of the Soviets and decided to continue the imperialist policy. On that very day, June 18, the Provisional Government, in obedience to the wishes of the British and French imperialists, drove the soldiers at the front to take the offensive.” (ibid, p. 211)

The Russian bourgeoisie gambled that, if successful, this was the means to put an end to the revolution. The bourgeoisie hoped to take the whole power into its hands, to push the Soviets out of the arena and to crush the Bolsheviks. But its failure was a foregone conclusion as the Russian military was at the end of its rope. When news of the collapse of the offensive reached the capital, indignation among the workers and soldiers was universal as it became apparent that the Provisional Government’s “policy for peace” was just a means to hoodwink the people and that the opportunists of the Petrograd Soviet’s Executive Committee and the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets were just tailing behind the bourgeois Provisional Government.

On July 3 worker and soldier indignation brought about spontaneous demonstrations in the Vyborg District of Petrograd, continuing all day. They grew into a huge general armed demonstration demanding transfer of power to the Soviets. While the Bolsheviks opposed armed action at the time as premature since the army and the provinces were not yet ready to support an uprising in the capital, the Party participated in the demonstration to lend it a peaceful and organized character. Hundreds of thousands marched to the Petrograd Soviet and the All-Russian Central Exec Committee of Soviets where they demanded the Soviets take power into their own hands, break with the imperialist bourgeoisie and pursue an active peace policy.

In the face of the peaceful demonstration, the streets of Petrograd ran red with the blood of workers and soldiers. After suppressing the demonstration the Mensheviks and S-R’s, in alliance with the bourgeoisie and Whiteguard generals, systematically attacked the Bolshevik Party. The Pravda premises were wrecked, and Pravda and many other Bolshevik newspapers were suppressed. The Trud printing plant where the Bolshevik publications were printed was wrecked. Prominent Bolsheviks were arrested. Lenin, among others, was charged with “high treason.” Revolutionary units of the Petrograd garrison were removed from the capital and sent to the front.

Dual power had come to an end with the whole power now in the hands of the Provisional Government. For the Menshevik/S-R petty-bourgeois opportunist leadership of the Soviets had clearly reduced the Soviets to merely an appendage of the bourgeois Provisional Government.
The Bolshevik Party’s tactics changed. It went underground and began to prepare for an uprising with the object of overthrowing the bourgeoisie and setting up the power of the Soviets. The Party had a membership of about 240,000. The Sixth Congress of the Bolshevik Party met secretly in Petrograd from July 26 to August 3, 1917. Even delegates from the provinces reported there that workers and soldiers belonging to the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary parties were tearing up their membership cards in anger and disgust and applying for admission to the Bolshevik Party. The Party, the working class and the peasant/soldier masses were headed for armed uprising.

Having seized the whole power, the bourgeoisie began preparations to destroy the now weakened Soviets and set up an open counter-revolutionary dictatorship. Military court-martials took savage vengeance on the soldiers at the front and meted out many death sentences. On August 3, General Kornilov, the Commander-in-Chief, demanded the introduction of the death penalty behind the lines as well! On August 12, a Council of State was convened in Moscow by the Provisional Government to mobilize the forces of reaction. The Bolsheviks called for a general strike protest in Moscow on the opening day of the reactionary convocation.

At the convocation, the S-R opportunist, Kerensky, boasted he would suppress “by iron and blood” every attempt at a revolutionary movement. As head of the Provisional Government, Kerensky intensified the terror against the Bolsheviks. However, General Kornilov’s plot against the revolution was coming to a head; and he was backed by bankers, merchants and manufacturers as well as representatives of French and British imperialism. Kornilov went beyond Kerensky, bluntly demanding that “the Committees and Soviets be abolished.”

In the face of Kornilov’s revolt, the Bolshevik Party Central Committee called for the workers and soldiers to put up active armed resistance to the counter-revolution. And no sooner than Kornilov began his attack, Kerensky, his opportunist ally, did an about-face and, along with other “mortally terrified S-R and Menshevik leaders,” turned to the Bolsheviks for protection! While mobilizing to crush Kornilov’s revolt, the Bolsheviks continued to expose the Kerensky government’s role in assisting Kornilov’s plot. Though not yet the ruling party, the Bolsheviks during these Kornilov days, acted as the real ruling power, for its instructions were loyally carried out by the workers and soldiers. The Kornilov revolt was thus crushed and this victory put new vitality into the Soviets of Workers and Soldiers Deputies.

The months of September and October 1917 witnessed a tremendous increase in the number of seizures of landed estates by the peasants. There was also a revival of the Soviets and their Bolshevization. On August 31, the day following the victory over Kornilov, the Petrograd Soviet endorsed the Bolshevik policy, the old S-R/Menshevik Presidium resigned, clearing the way for new Bolshevik leadership of the capital city’s Soviet. On September 5 the Moscow Soviet similarly went over to the Bolsheviks. The slogan “All power to the Soviets!” was again on the order of the day. This time, however, it was a slogan calling for an uprising of the Soviets (now led by the Bolsheviks) against the Provisional Government, the object being to transfer the whole power in the country to the Soviets.

The Great October Socialist Revolution Ushers in A New Era
On October 25 (November 7, 1917) Red Guards and revolutionary troops occupied the railway stations, post office, telegraph office, the Ministries and the State Bank. The Pre-parliament was dissolved. And the Smolny, headquarters of the Petrograd Soviet and the Bolshevik Central Committee, became the headquarters of the revolution from which all fighting orders emanated. On that historic day, 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!

On that night the revolutionary workers, soldiers and sailors took the Tsar’s Winter Palace by storm and arrested the Provisional Government. The armed uprising in Petrograd had won. At ten p.m. that very night the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets opened in the Smolny after the power had already passed.

The next night the Second Congress of Soviets adopted the Decree on Peace calling on all the belligerent countries to conclude an immediate armistice. It also appealed to the class-conscious workers of the three most advanced nations of mankind and most powerful states participating in the present war (Great Britain, France and Germany) “to bring to a successful conclusion the cause of peace, and at the same time the cause of emancipation of the toiling and exploited masses of the population from all forms of slavery and all forms of exploitation.”

The Second Congress also adopted that night the Decree on Land which decreed that “landlord ownership of land is abolished forthwith without compensation.” The basis of this agrarian law was a Mandate (Nakaz) of the peasantry, compiled from 242 mandates from various localities. Accordingly, private ownership of land was to be abolished forever and replaced by public, or state ownership of the land. The land 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 four hundred million acres of land!

According to the History of the CPSU(B), “Headed by the Bolshevik Party, the working class, in alliance with the poor peasants, and with the support of the soldiers and sailors, overthrew the power of the bourgeoisie, established the power of the Soviets, set up a new type of state – a Socialist Soviet state – abolished the landlords’ ownership of land, turned over the land to the peasants for their use, nationalized all the land in the country, expropriated the capitalists, achieved the withdrawal of Russia from the war and obtained peace, that is, obtained a much-needed respite, and thus created the conditions for the development of Socialist construction.

“The October Socialist Revolution smashed capitalism, deprived the bourgeoisie of the means of production and converted the mills, factories, land, railways and banks into the property of the whole people, into public property.

“It established the dictatorship of the proletariat and turned over the government of the vast country to the working class, thus making it the ruling class.

“The October Socialist Revolution thereby ushered in a new era in the history of mankind – the era of proletarian revolutions.” (ibid, pp. 245-246)


Next Issue:

Continuation of Two Part Presentation of  “The October Revolution and the Working Class of Russia and the World.”


The Russian working class triumph over a brutal civil war and global imperialist intervention

The amazing transformation in one generation of backward tsarist Russia into the modern powerful Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

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