Great October Socialist Revolution
The first victorious socialist revolution in history, accomplished in 1917 by the Russian working class in alliance with the poor peasantry under the leadership of the Communist Party (formerly, the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party [Bolshevik]), headed by Lenin. The name “October” comes from the date October 25 (November 7, new style), when the Russian Provisional Government was overthrown and state power passed into the hands of the soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ Deputies. As a result of the October Revolution the power of the bourgeoisie and landlords in Russia was abolished, the dictatorship of the proletariat was established, and the Soviet socialist state was founded. The Great October Socialist Revolution represented the triumph of Marxism-Leninism and opened a new era in the history of humanity—that of the transition from capitalism to socialism and communism.
The socialist revolution in Russia as a product of historical laws. On the basis of a profound study of world history and of the conditions under which capitalist society arose and developed, its laws of development, and the antagonistic contradictions it contained, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the founders of scientific communism, discovered the objective laws of social development. They also proved the inevitability of socialist revolution, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the transition of society from the capitalist socioeconomic system to that of communism. V. I. Lenin further developed all aspects of the Marxist theory of socialist revolution in the age of imperialism, the period when revolution came onto the agenda as an immediate practical task of the proletarian class struggle. Lenin scientifically proved that the world capitalist system had fully ripened for the socialist revolution by the beginning of the 20th century and that the imperialist stage is the eve of the socialist revolution. On the basis of the law of uneven economic and political development of the capitalist countries in the age of imperialism, Lenin concluded in 1915 that a proletarian revolution could first be victorious in several countries or even a single country. He developed the well-founded theory of the transformation of a bourgeois democratic revolution into a socialist one. He elaborated a strategy and tactics for the working class and its party and worked out the problem of the allies of the proletariat in the revolution. The Bolshevik Party set a classic example of the way to lead a victorious socialist revolution.
At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, Russia entered the imperialist stage of capitalist development, almost simultaneously with the most advanced capitalist countries. Monopolistic conglomerates such as Prodamet, Truboprodazha, Produgol’, and Prodvagon held the dominant positions in industry. At the beginning of World War I there were more than 150 monopolies in operation in Russia, and they controlled all the basic branches of industry. Prodamet, a merger of 30 major metalworking enterprises and joint-stock companies, owned more than 70 percent of all the share capital invested in the country’s metalworking industry and was responsible for more than 80 percent of all metal production. The Railwaymen’s Union, which had been formed as early as the 1880’s, was responsible for as much as 75 percent of all rail production. The Prodvagon syndicate had concentrated into its hands virtually all production of railroad cars in the country. The Produgol’ syndicate controlled 70 percent of all coal selling. As much as 80 percent of all kerosene sales in Russia were the domain of the Nobel’-Mazut Company. The sugar manufacturers’ syndicate controlled 90 percent of sugar production, and that of the match manufacturers controlled 95 percent of match production. During World War I about 900 new joint-stock companies came into existence, with capital assets of more than 1.6 billion rubles. Monopolistic associations of the trust type and financial groups whose working capital figured in the billions of rubles appeared—for example, the concerns of I. I. Stakheev and N. A. Vtorov. Lenin wrote that “the number of large stockholders is insignificant; but the role they play, like the wealth they possess, is tremendous” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 32, p. 109). Major banking associations arose alongside the industrial monopolies. These included the Russo-Asiatic Bank, the St. Petersburg International Commercial Bank, and the Azov-Don Bank. As much as 80 percent of all banking capital was concentrated in the hands of the 12 largest banks. Russia stood at the head of the major capitalist countries in the extent to which its banks had concentrated capital. Banking capital was intertwined with industrial capital, and finance capital appeared and attained an increasingly important position in the Russian economy. Similarly, the state apparatus and the capitalist monopolies became increasingly involved with each other. At the same time, monopoly capitalism was undergoing a process of transformation into state monopoly capitalism, a process that was accelerated during the war by the need to mobilize and regulate the economy for military purposes. State regulatory agencies came into existence, seeking to centralize the administration of many different branches of industry.
Thus, the extent to which industry had become monopolized and banking capital concentrated and the high level to which state monopoly capitalism had developed testified to the fact that the material prerequisites for the socialist revolution in Russia had matured sufficiently. The objective conditions for the transition to socialism had come together, and the transition to socialism, according to Lenin, was “merely the next step forward from state-capitalist monopoly” (ibid., vol. 34, p. 192).
Imperialism in Russia, not essentially different from that of the advanced capitalist countries, did have a number of special features. A highly advanced industrial and financial capitalism existed alongside the general backwardness of the country. Besides the monopolistic forms of capitalism, there were vast stretches of the country where capitalist relations were only beginning to take shape. The specific features of economic development and its social structure in Russia were the interconnection between the most highly developed forms of capitalism and premonopolistic forms and the fact that capitalist relations were permeated with the very powerful elements surviving from feudal serfdom. Russia’s economy was dependent on foreign finance capital to a considerable degree. In spite of important successes in industry, transport, and banking, Russia remained a technologically and economically backward agrarian country in comparison with the United States, Britain, Germany, and France. It held fifth place among the great powers.
Large landholdings belonging to lords continued to exist in Russian agriculture. At the beginning of the 20th century the nobility alone still owned 61.9 percent of all private landholdings in the country. The Russian village suffered from land hunger and high rents. Lenin characterized the situation in the country at the beginning of the 20th century thus: “The most backward system of landownership, the most ignorant peasantry on the one hand, and the most advanced industrial and finance capitalism on the other” (ibid., vol. 16, p. 417).
Capitalism developed under specific conditions in Russia and found itself entangled in a mesh of elements surviving from feudalism and serfdom. Lenin’s profound understanding of the dialectics of this intertwining of socioeconomic relationships in the country led him to conclude that revolution was inevitable. “Russia’s backwardness,” he wrote, “merged in a peculiar way the proletarian revolution against the bourgeoisie with the peasant revolution against the landowners” (ibid., vol. 38, p. 306).
Besides the existence and development of the economic prerequisites, the social forces for a revolution headed by the working class grew and became strong in Russia. In 1917 the total number of urban and rural proletarians reached 15 million persons, among whom factory workers were about 3.5 million. Although the proletariat constituted only about 10 percent of the total population (in 1913, 159.2 million), its strength did not lie in its size relative to the rest of the population, but as Lenin put it, “in the fact that the proletariat economically dominates the center and nerve of the entire economic system of capitalism, and also because the proletariat expresses economically and politically the real interests of the overwhelming majority of the working people under capitalism” (ibid., vol. 40, p. 23).
A highly concentrated working class was typical of Russia. In 1915 about 60 percent of all industrial workers were employed at major enterprises which had work forces greater than 500; in the United States the corresponding figure was only 33 percent. More than 35 percent were employed in factories where the work force exceeded 1,000 persons; in the United States, the figure was 17 percent. As much as 64 percent of the industrial proletariat was employed in the Petrograd and Central industrial regions. Other major proletarian centers were the Urals, the Donbas, the Krivorozh’e, and Baku. This concentration of large masses of workers in major enterprises in the most important centers of the country, their savage exploitation by the capitalists, their total lack of political rights, and the crude, arbitrary way in which the ruling classes dealt with them resulted in a high level of political maturity and revolutionary spirit among the Russian proletariat. The special features of their situation promoted the wide circulation and acceptance of socialist ideas among the Russian proletariat, the heightening of their consciousness and level of organization, and the formation of a revolutionary vanguard—the working-class party. Such a party, a Marxist party of a new type, was created at the beginning of the 20th century, under Lenin’s leadership, by the Russian proletariat. Surging forward to make the revolution, the working class of Russia had at its head the heroic party of the Bolsheviks. By 1917 the Party had gained vast experience in political struggle and had a scientifically based program for the socialist transformation of society. The Russian working class, led by the Marxist party of the Bolsheviks, became a mighty social force in the country and the dominant organization in the revolution.
The Russian proletariat had wide support among the semiproletarian masses of the town and village. The millions of poor peasants, who had an interest in the eradication of vestiges, of feudalism and above all in the liquidation of the large landlords, allied themselves with the working class in the approaching socialist revolution. In 1905, 30,000 of the largest landlords in Russia owned 70 million desiatinas (1 desiatina = 1.09 hectares), and 10.5 million peasant households (more than 109 million people in 1913) owned only 75 million desiatinas. If a large landlord estate had on the average 2,300 desiatinas, the peasant household had on the average only seven to 15. Half the peasant households had only one or two desiatinas. The peasants were forced to rent land from the large landowners on extremely unfavorable terms. By 1917, 30 percent of the peasantry had no horses, 34 percent had no farm equipment, and 15 percent raised no crops of their own. Because of mobilizations for the army, only 38.7 percent of the able-bodied male population remained on the peasant farms. The village poor suffered especially severely at the hands of the large landlords, the kulaks, and the tsarist authorities. The poor constituted 65 percent of the rural population and were the most reliable allies of the working class. There was also broad support for the working class among the nonproletarian urban working people. In 1917 a significant proportion of the population in Russia’s cities (a total of over 22 million inhabitants) were craftsmen, peddlers, and lower-echelon office workers, all of whom were exploited and lacked political rights.
One of the peculiarities of Russia’s historical development was its multinational character. The numerous nationalities (more than 100) that were part of the Russian empire were cruelly exploited by tsarism, the Russian and local national bourgeoisie, and the feudal lords. Tsarism transformed Russia into a prison for all the peoples by following a policy of cruel oppression of the non-Russian nationalities—one of forced Russification, suppression of national cultures, and encouragement of prejudices and chauvinist disputes between nationalities. The most severe national contradictions were typical of Russia. Thus, the entire course of objective social development drew the oppressed peoples of Russia (of whom the absolute majority were poor peasants) into a joint revolutionary struggle with the Russian working class against social and national oppression.
The combination of feudal, capitalist, and national oppression with the political despotism of the autocracy made the situation unbearable for the masses of people and lent special sharpness to the class contradictions in Russia.
At the beginning of the 20th century Russia became the focal point of the contradictions of world imperialism, the weakest link in the imperialist chain. Here the economic and social prerequisites for the coming revolution had matured. During this time the center of the revolutionary movement shifted from Western Europe to Russia. A revolutionary situation developed in the country and resulted in the first Russian bourgeois democratic revolution of 1905-07. This was the prologue and dress rehearsal of the October Socialist Revolution.
Lenin wrote: “The first revolution and the succeeding period of counterrevolution (1907-14) laid bare the very essence of the tsarist monarchy, brought it to the “utmost limit,” exposed all the rottenness and infamy, the cynicism and corruption of the tsar’s clique, dominated by that monster Rasputin. It exposed all the bestiality of the Romanov family—those pogrom-makers who drenched Russia in the blood of Jews, workers, and revolutionaries” (ibid., vol. 31, p. 12).
The Russian proletariat approached the decisive political battles of 1917 with a great revolutionary tradition. It already had behind it the experience of the people’s revolution of 1905-07 and the subsequent class battles. The ripening of a new revolutionary situation was sharply accelerated by World War I (1914-18), which laid bare the sharp socioeconomic and political contradictions in Russia and the rottenness of the tsarist regime and revealed that, to all appearances, the further existence of the bourgeois-feudal order meant disaster for the country. The war resulted in tremendous destruction of the productive forces. There was a general breakdown in industry, transport, and agriculture. During the war, 3,884 major enterprises shut down, or 37.8 percent of a total of 9,750. The railroads were unable to handle the freight load because of the shortage of locomotives and railroad cars. Industry suffered from a severe shortage of fuel and raw materials. The grain harvest in 1916 was reduced from that of 1913 by 1.6 billion poods (a pood = 16.38 kg). The sown area was also greatly reduced. Russia’s financial dependence on foreign governments grew tremendously. Only decisive revolutionary measures directed against the autocracy and capitalism could save the country from imminent economic disaster. In the fall of 1916 a pre-revolutionary situation developed and a new popular revolution grew inexorably closer. Lenin wrote: “The war has created such an immense crisis, so strained the material and moral forces of the people, has dealt such blows at the entire modern social organization, that humanity must now choose between perishing or entrusting its fate to the most revolutionary class for the swiftest and most radical transition to a superior mode of production” (ibid., vol. 34, pp. 197-98). The war and the resulting militarization of industry led to a further concentration of production and sales in the hands of monopoly finance capital. “The dialectic of history is such,” wrote Lenin, “that the war, by extraordinarily expediting the transformation of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism, has thereby extraordinarily advanced mankind toward socialism” (ibid., p. 193). The conditions for a victorious revolution had ripened in Russia.
The course toward socialist revolution. A step of utmost importance on the road to the socialist revolution in Russia was the February bourgeois democratic revolution of 1917, which overthrew the autocracy. During and after the February Revolution, as a result of the creative initiative of the broadest revolutionary masses throughout the country, soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies were created, as well as soviets of peasants’ deputies and soldiers’ committees in the active-duty army and the rear garrisons. At the same time, trade unions and factory committees became widespread and units of workers’ militia and the Red Guard were formed. The victory over tsarism set all classes of the society into motion. A power struggle for control of the country began. The two major social forces, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, stood in opposition to each other. Based on the armed power of the people, the soviets had the opportunity to take all power in the country into their own hands. But this opportunity was not realized because the leadership of the soviets had been seized by the petit-bourgeois parties of the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries (SR’s), who followed a policy of collaboration with the bourgeoisie and its main party, the Cadets.
The SR-Menshevik leadership of the soviets considered Russia not to be prepared for the socialist revolution and assumed that in the process of the bourgeois democratic revolution power could go to the bourgeoisie. Therefore, this leadership came to an agreement with the capitalist-landlord parties of the Constitutional Democrats (Cadets) and Octobrists and created conditions allowing them to take power. On March 2 (15) the bourgeois Provisional Government was established, headed by Prince G. E. L’vov. The Provisional Government was able to retain power only because of the cooperation of the soviets. In fact, dual power had been established in the country: it consisted of the Provisional Government, the organ of the bourgeois dictatorship, on the one hand, and the soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies, the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants, on the other. Lenin regarded the lack of sufficient political maturity and organizational effectiveness of the proletariat as the social cause of this dual power situation. Roughly 40 percent of the cadre, the most well-tempered in class attitude and revolutionary mood, had been mobilized for the front. Another social source of the situation was the unparalleled activization of petit-bourgeois layers of the population, who constituted an absolute majority in the country. Lenin wrote: “A gigantic petit-bourgeois wave has swept over everything and overwhelmed the class-conscious proletariat, not only by force of numbers but also ideologically; that is, it has infected and imbued very wide circles of workers with the petit-bourgeois political outlook” (ibid., vol. 31, p. 156).
The February Revolution did not resolve the fundamental questions on the minds of the people, questions concerning an end to the imperialist war and the conclusion of peace, the elimination of the system of large land-ownership, labor questions, and the abolition of national oppression. The bourgeois Provisional Government, supported by the collaborationist parties of the Mensheviks and SR’s, pursued an imperialist policy against the popular interests. The revolutionary Russian proletariat could not stop at the bourgeois democratic revolution, and as Lenin foresaw, its transformation into a socialist revolution was inevitable. Only a socialist revolution could resolve the pressing problems of social progress—the need to eliminate the bourgeois-landlord system in Russia, put an end to all forms of social and national oppression, and establish a dictatorship of the proletariat with the aim of building a socialist society.
A concrete and theoretically well-grounded program of struggle for the transition from the bourgeois democratic revolution to the socialist one was worked out by Lenin. In his Letters from Afar in March and in his April Theses he defined a course for the Communist Party to take toward the victory of the socialist revolution. He also delineated the driving forces of the revolution and the Party’s strategy and tactics. According to Lenin’s strategy, the power of the bourgeoisie and landlords would be overthrown by the forces of the revolutionary alliance between the working class and the poorest peasantry. The task was presented to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat in the form of a Soviet Republic—the best form of political organization for society, given the conditions in Russia, during the period of transition from capitalism to socialism. Lenin did not call for the immediate overthrow of the Provisional Government at this time, since it had the support of the soviets. Considering the peculiarities of the historical moment, Lenin warned against ultra-left adventuristic attempts to make a frontal assault upon the Provisional Government, as well as a right-opportunist attitude of confidence in it. He put forward the demand of “no support to the Provisional Government.”
Basing his policies on his estimation of the class forces in the country, Lenin directed the Party toward winning over the masses by broad and patient educational work to expose the counterrevolutionary nature of the Provisional Government and the betrayal of popular interests by the petit bourgeois parties that called themselves socialists, the Mensheviks and SR’s. In fact these parties represented the left wing of bourgeois democracy and were the main base of support of the state power of the imperialist bourgeoisie. The basic political line of the Bolsheviks, worked out by Lenin, was to transfer power to the soviets. But the SR-Menshevik leadership did not want that. The Bolsheviks strove to dislodge the Mensheviks and SR’s from their positions in the leadership of the soviets, win the majority in the soviets over to the Bolshevik side, and change the policies of the soviets. This was an orientation toward a peaceful development of the revolution. The transfer of power to the soviets would mean an end to dual power. “Humanity has not yet evolved and we do not as yet know of a type of government superior to and better than the soviets of workers’, agricultural laborers’, peasants’, and soldiers’ deputies,” wrote Lenin (ibid., p. 147).
In the April Theses an economic program for the transformation of Russia was also formulated. It provided for workers’ control over national production and distribution of goods, the amalgamation of all the banks in the country into a single national bank and the establishment of control over it by the soviets, confiscation of all landlords’ estates, nationalization of all the land in the country, and so forth. In the theses, Lenin also proposed that the Party’s program be revised and the Party be renamed, and that it was necessary to take the initiative in creating a Communist International.
The Bolshevik Party that emerged from the underground after the February Revolution had about 24,000 members. The Petrograd organization had 2,000, Moscow 600, and Kiev 200. The Party rallied around the platform developed by Lenin in the April Theses. It developed broad open political and organizational work among the masses and won to its ranks primarily the most active members of the working class. By the end of April it had a membership of more than 100,000 and was the mass political party of the Russian proletariat.
The Seventh (April) All-Russian Conference of the RSDLP (Bolshevik), which was held April 24-29 (May 7-12), played a large role in preparing for the socialist revolution. This conference, which was equal in importance to a Party congress, fully supported Lenin’s line on making a transition to the socialist revolution and elaborated the policies of the Party on all the fundamental questions of the revolution: war, the Provisional Government, the soviets, and agrarian and national questions. A new Central Committee of the Party was elected at the conference, with Lenin at its head.
Armed with Lenin’s April Theses and the resolutions of the conference, and above all with the slogan “All power to the soviets,” the Bolsheviks put all their energy into the work of winning the support of the popular masses and mobilizing them for the socialist revolution. They did an enormous amount of work in the soviets, trade unions, factory committees, the army, and cities and villages, exposing the collaborationist line of the Mensheviks and SR’s and winning the toiling masses over to their side, educating them, and establishing an alliance of the working class and the poor peasantry as the decisive force in the struggle for the victory of the socialist revolution. At countless meetings, assemblies, rallies, conferences, and congresses the best orators of the Bolshevik Party spoke out. The head of the Party, Lenin, spoke himself at many meetings, rallies, and congresses. The Bolsheviks organized the publication of many newspapers (in October there were as many as 80), leaflets, magazines, and pamphlets. Pravda did tremendous organizational, political, and ideological work. From March 5 (18) to July 5 (18), 1917, 99 issues were published, with a combined total of about 8 million copies. The daily printing run was 85,000-100,000 copies. On the pages of Pravda, issue after issue, the leading articles by Lenin and the appeals and resolutions of the Central Committee of the Party were published, as well as such items as the resolutions of meetings and rallies. As the class struggle continued, the Party’s aim was to convince millions of workers, soldiers, and peasants through their own experience that the Party’s policies were correct and should be defended in open struggle against the forces of counterrevolution.
One of the most crucial questions was that of war and peace. In a diplomatic note of April 18 (May 1) the minister of foreign affairs, P. N. Miliukov, expressing the Provisional Government’s desire to carry the war through “to a victorious conclusion,” aroused broad indignation and brought the revolutionary masses out in open antigovernment demonstrations. On April 20-21 (May 3—4) about 100,000 workers and soldiers of Petrograd, and after them the workers and soldiers of other cities, led by the Bolsheviks, demonstrated under banners reading “Down with the war!” and “All power to the soviets!” The mass demonstrations resulted in a crisis for the Provisional Government. Under pressure from the revolutionary forces, two ministers were removed from the Provisional Government, Miliukov and A. I. Guchkov, the minister of the navy. The SR-Menshevik leaders decided to created a coalition cabinet. Thus the first coalition government was formed on May 5 (18), with Prince G. E. L’vov as chairman. Joining the government along with representatives of the bourgeois-landlord parties (the Cadets and Octobrists) were the two Mensheviks I. G. Tsereteli and M. I. Skobelev and the two SR’s A. F. Kerensky and V. M. Chernov. The creation of the coalition government did not change the class nature of the government or the antipopular policies that it pursued.
The First All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies convened on June 3 (16), 1917, in Petrograd. At the congress the Bolshevik Party had 105 delegates, the Mensheviks 248, and the SR’s 285. The congress majority adopted SR-Menshevik resolutions—in particular, one of support for the Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks, headed by Lenin, exposed the policies of the conciliators at the congress. Bolshevik influence among the masses grew stronger. Mass worker dissatisfaction with the policies of the government was growing all over the country.
On June 18 (July 1) about 500,000 workers and soldiers in the capital demonstrated for the demands “All power to the soviets,” “Down with the war,” and “Down with the ten capitalist ministers.” Carrying out the wishes of American, British, and French imperialists, as well as Russian imperialists, and with the support of the Congress of Soviets assured, the Provisional Government opened an offensive against the Germans on June 18 (July 1), but it soon collapsed. The news of the offensive and its collapse intensified the struggle of the proletariat and the soldiers. A new crisis for the Provisional Government began on July 2 (15). On July 3 (16) spontaneous demonstrations of workers and soldiers began in Petrograd, demanding that power be turned over to the soviets. The Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) provided leadership to the spontaneous movement of the masses in order to keep it peaceful and well-organized. On July 4 (17) a peaceful demonstration was held in Petrograd with more than 500,000 participants. By order of the Provisional Government, and with the knowledge of the SR-Menshevik leaders of the All-Russian Executive Committee of the Soviets, there was an armed attack by military officers and cadets against the demonstrators. Fifty-six people were killed and 650 wounded.
The July events represented the last attempt by the revolutionary masses to solve the problem of power by peaceful means. On July 4(17) demonstrations took place in Moscow and other cities. The SR-Menshevik Central Executive Committee published an appeal in which it declared: “We have recognized the Provisional Government as the government of revolutionary salvation. We have recognized that it should have unlimited powers and unlimited authority.” A period of repression began. On July 5-6 (18-19) attacks were made on the editorial offices and printing presses of Pravda and on the Palace of Kshesinskaia, where the Central Committee and the Petrograd Committee of the Bolsheviks were located. On July 7 (20) a government decree ordering the arrest and trial of Lenin was published. He was forced to go underground, just as he had been under the tsarist regime. Bolsheviks began to be arrested, workers were disarmed, and revolutionary military units in Petrograd were disbanded or sent off to the front. On July 12 (25) the Provisional Government published a law introducing the death penalty at the front. The formation of a second coalition government, with Kerensky as chairman, was completed on July 24 (August 6). It was composed of Cadets, Mensheviks, and SR’s. Dual power came to an end. The possibility of a peaceful road of revolutionary development disappeared for the moment. Power passed completely into the hands of the counterrevolutionary Provisional Government. Lenin wrote: “The counterrevolution has become organized and consolidated and has actually taken state power into its hands” (ibid., vol. 34, p. 1). The betrayal of the SR’s and Mensheviks had resulted in a situation in which the soviets, under SR-Menshevik leadership, had already ceased to be organs of power. They had been transformed into mere appendages of the counterrevolutionary Provisional Government. Because of this, Lenin posed the question of temporarily dropping the slogan of “All power to the soviets.”
With the elimination of dual power, the development of the revolution entered a new phase. After analyzing every side of the situation that had developed in the country, Lenin concluded that the Party had to make a transition to a new tactic of struggle. He worked out this tactic in July in his theses entitled The Political Situation and in the articles “Three Crises,” “On Slogans,” “Constitutional Illusions,” and others like them. Lenin directed the Party toward armed insurrection as the only way of winning a victory for the revolution in the situation that had developed. In proposing that the Party drop the slogan “All power to the soviets,” which had formerly expressed an orientation toward a peaceful development of the revolution, Lenin explained that this would not mean an abandonment of the struggle for a republic of soviets. He was convinced that the soviets, once freed of domination by the petit-bourgeois parties, would become genuine organs of struggle for the proletarian dictatorship.
Lenin’s arguments were the basis of the resolutions adopted by the Sixth Congress of the RSDLP (Bolshevik), which was held semi-legally in Petrograd from July 26 to August 3 (August 8-16) and which represented a party that already had 240,000 members. Lenin guided the congress from underground through the Central Committee (he was then in Razliv). Those reporting at the congress included Ia. M. Sverdlov and J. V. Stalin. The congress approved the new tactics worked out for the Party by Lenin and oriented the Party toward preparations for an armed insurrection to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. The congress also approved the economic platform that Lenin had earlier proposed in the April Theses. It especially stressed the importance of the alliance between the proletariat and the poor peasantry as the main prerequisite for the victory of the socialist revolution. The new Central Committee elected by the congress and headed by Lenin appealed to the people with a manifesto calling for preparations for a decisive confrontation with the counterrevolution.
“In 1917 the Leninist Party presented a great example of historic initiative and of a correct assessment of the balance of class forces and the specific features of the moment. At the different stages of the revolution the Party applied flexible and diverse tactics, utilizing peaceful and nonpeaceful, as well as legal and illegal, means of struggle, and demonstrating its ability to combine these means to move from one form or method of struggle to another. This is one of the fundamental aspects of the strategy and tactics of Leninism that distinguishes it from both Social Democratic reformism and petit-bourgeois adventurism” (“Fiftieth Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution,” in Theses of the Central Committee of the CPSU, 1967, p. 8).
The struggle of classes and parties for power grew sharper every day. The distinctions between the conflicting sides became greater, the political isolation of the bourgeoisie and the petit-bourgeois parties grew deeper, and the influence of the Bolshevik Party increased. The bourgeoisie, headed by the Cadets, set out to unleash civil war and attempted to establish an open military dictatorship in the country. A conspiracy of the imperialist bourgeoisie against the revolution was begun, headed by General L. G. Kornilov, who had been supreme commander in chief since July 18 (31). This conspiracy was actively supported by the reactionary forces of Britain, France, and the United States. The Provisional Government convened the so-called State Conference in Moscow on August 12-15 (25-28). Its aim was to organize and mobilize all the forces of the Russian counterrevolution headed by Kornilov, Kaledin, Kerensky, Miliukov, Purish-kevich, Rodzianko, Riabushinskii, and others. In response to a Bolshevik appeal, Moscow’s working class greeted this congress of reactionaries and conspirators with a protest strike of 400,000 workers. The Moscow workers were supported by strikes and protest rallies by workers in Kiev, Kharkov, Nizhny Novgorod (now Gorky), Ekaterinburg (now Sverdlovsk), and other cities. After the Moscow conference, the counterrevolution, headed by the Cadet Party, moved toward the practical realization of its aims. The military-political center for preparations for the coup was set up at the supreme headquarters of the commander in chief in Mogilev. On August 25 (September 7), General Kornilov began a military revolt and started troops moving toward Petrograd (General A. M. Krymov’s III Cavalry Corps). The conspirators also planned offensives against Moscow, Kiev, and other major cities.
The Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) appealed on August 27 (September 9) to the workers, soldiers, and sailors of Petrograd to come to the defense of the revolution. The Bolshevik Party mobilized and organized the masses to defeat the Kornilov revolt. The Red Guard in the capital, which by then numbered about 25,000 fighters, was supported by the garrison of the city, the Baltic sailors, the railroad workers, the workers of Moscow, the Donbas, the Urals, and other proletarian centers, and the soldiers at the front and in the rear. The revolt was suppressed. The defeat of Kornilov’s revolt disorganized and weakened the counterrevolutionary camp, demonstrated the strength of the revolutionary forces, increased the authority of the Bolsheviks, and proved to be one of the decisive stages in the struggle for the victory of the socialist revolution. It signified the unswerving determination of the workers, soldiers, and poor peasants to deal a mighty blow to the forces of counterrevolution and indicated the tremendous growth of influence of the Bolshevik Party among broad segments of the working people of Russia.
A nationwide crisis had matured in the country, embracing all spheres of social, economic, and political relations. The policies of the bourgeois Provisional Government, opposed to popular interests, had brought the country to the brink of a national catastrophe. Disorder in industry and transport had intensified, and difficulties in obtaining provisions had increased. Gross industrial production in 1917 had decreased by 36.4 percent from what it had been in 1916. From March to October 1917 more than 800 enterprises had been closed down in the country. The production of cast iron, steel, coal, and petroleum had declined sharply. In the autumn, as much as 50 percent of all enterprises were closed down in the Urals, the Donbas, and other industrial centers. Mass unemployment had begun. At the same time, the cost of living increased sharply. The real wages of the workers fell about 40 to 50 percent from what they had been in 1913. The government resorted to issuing more paper money and contracting new loans. From the beginning of the war until February 1917 more than 8.2 billion rubles in paper money had been put into circulation, but in the following eight months a total of 9.5 billion was released. In 1917 new paper money was used to cover some 65.5 percent of budget expenditures. Russia’s national debt in October 1917 had risen to 50 billion rubles. Of this, debts to foreign governments constituted more than 11.2 billion rubles. The country faced the threat of financial bankruptcy.
The class consciousness of the proletariat in the fall of 1917 was indicated by the increased activity of the factory committees, which had been organized at plants and factories everywhere, the growing number of trade unions, and the strengthening of Bolshevik influence in these unions. In October 1917 there were more than 2 million factory and office workers in trade unions. The strike movement at that time was remarkable for its exceptional stubbornness, high level of organization, and political determination. In September and October there were strikes by the Moscow and Petrograd proletariat, the miners of the Donbas, the metalworkers of the Urals, the oil workers of Baku, the textile workers of the Central Industrial Region, and the railroad workers on 44 different railway lines. In these two months alone more than a million workers took part in mass strikes. Workers’ control over production and distribution was established in many factories and plants. This was an indication that the workers’ movement had risen to the highest stage of development. As a result of the political and economic struggle, the working class had to take power into its own hands.
The working-class movement, which was socialist in character, pulled the democratic movement of the peasants along behind it. Until October 1917 there were about 4,250 peasant uprisings against the landlords. In August, 690 peasant actions were recorded, and in September and October more than 1,300. When the Provisional Government sent out punitive detachments it only enraged the peasants. They would burn, seize, or destroy the landlords’ estates and take personal reprisals against the most hated landlords. Millions of soldiers came over to the side of the revolution, especially the garrisons in Petrograd, Moscow, and other cities, the Northern and Western fronts, and the sailors of the Baltic Fleet, who in September openly declared through their elected representative body, the Tsentrobalt, that they did not recognize the authority of the Provisional Government and would not carry out any of its commands.
The national liberation movement of the oppressed peoples in the outlying areas also grew stronger. The Provisional Government did not and could not resolve the national question. In local areas the old apparatus of oppression, hostile to the native population, was left in charge with almost no change. This great power chauvinist policy stirred deep discontent among the oppressed peoples in the outlying regions of the country. Bourgeois nationalist organizations were created in the following national areas: the Central Rada in the Ukraine, the Byelorussian Rada, the National Soviets in the Baltic region and Transcaucasia, and Shura-i-Islam in Turkestan. The national bourgeoisie tried to make use of the national liberation struggle of the oppressed peoples for its own narrow class interests. The nationalists tried to distract the workers from the all-Russian revolutionary struggle. They organized national military units (Ukrainian, Muslim, Moldavian, and Estonian) in order to seize power. The national liberation movement was not and could not be homogeneous in its class composition and political aims. Two sharply counterposed tendencies became apparent—the bourgeois nationalist and the revolutionary democratic. The Bolsheviks exposed the counterrevolutionary essence of bourgeois nationalism and encouraged the delineation of class distinctions within the national liberation movement, striving to provide leadership to its revolutionary democratic tendency. The latter, which combined workers, class-conscious toiling peasants, and the revolutionary democratic layer of the local intelligentsia, became more and more massive. Revolutionary democratic national organizations were created to counterbalance the organs of the bourgeois nationalists.
Only the Leninist Party had a program that could really solve the national question. The Bolsheviks linked the resolution of that question with the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat and for the republic of soviets. At the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets, Lenin declared: “Let Russia be a union of free republics” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 32, p. 286). The energetic activities of the Bolshevik organizations in the Baltic region, the Ukraine, Byelorussia, Moldavia, the Caucasus region, the Volga region, Central Asia, and Siberia guaranteed the unity of the struggle for soviet power being waged by the Russian working class and the proletarian and semiproletarian masses of the oppressed peoples.
With the defeat of Kornilov’s revolt, a new stage in the Bolshevization of the soviets began. Before that, the soviets of Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Riga, Kronstadt, Orekhovo-Zuevo, and Krasnoiarsk had supported Bolshevik positions, and after August, the soviets of Ekaterinoslav, Lugansk, and some other cities had as well. During and after the defeat of Kornilov a mass turn of the soviets toward the Bolsheviks began, both in the central and local areas. On August 31 (September 13) the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and on September 5 (18) the Moscow Soviet of Workers’ Deputies adopted Bolshevik resolutions on the question of power. The Bolsheviks won a majority in the soviets of Briansk, Samara, Saratov, Tsaritsyn, Minsk, Kiev, Tashkent, and other cities. In one day alone, September 1 (14), the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of Soviets received demands from 126 local soviets urging it to take power into its own hands. On instructions from the Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik), local Party organizations began a campaign for new elections to the soviets. The new elections gave the Bolsheviks a chance to win a majority in the soviets. In many cities prominent Party figures were elected as presidents of local soviets—for example, in Moscow, V. P. Nogin; in Baku, S. G. Shaumian; in Samara, V. V. Kuibyshev; in Cheliabinsk, S. M. Tsvilling; and in Shuia, M. V. Frunze. The Bolshevization of the soviets of peasants’ deputies proceeded more slowly. The slogan “All power to the soviets” was once again placed on the agenda, since the majority of them were now under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party. But the slogan now indicated the need to wage a struggle to transform the revolutionary Bolshevik soviets into insurrectionary organs aimed against the Provisional Government, organs of struggle for the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The Provisional Government, in a state of chronic crisis but still trying to retain power, proclaimed Russia a republic on September 1 (14) and created a directorate (a so-called Council of Five headed by A. F. Kerensky) to rule the country, proclaiming this to be a ruling body independent of the Cadets, who had organized the Kornilov revolt. In their effort to save the rule of the bourgeoisie, the Socialist Revolutionary-Menshevik Central Executive Committee convened the Democratic Conference of September 14-22 (September 27 to October 5), which selected from its own membership the Provisional Council of the Republic (the so-called Preparliament). The Bolsheviks boycotted the Preparliament, exposing its antidemocratic nature and calling for the convening of a Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, and at the same time preparing the masses to wage a battle against capitalism. At the same time the ideological and organizational disintegration of the petit-bourgeois conciliationist parties began. A left wing took shape in the SR Party and at the end of November declared itself the independent party of the Left SR’s. Opposition from the left within the Menshevik Party and the division within the organization grew stronger. There was a massive flow of members out of the Menshevik and Right Socialist Revolutionary parties. By October their influence within the working class had been reduced to nothing.
The creation of a new coalition government on September 25 (October 8), consisting of six capitalist ministers and ten “socialist” ministers, met with resolute protests on the part of the Bolshevik soviets. The political mood of the broad revolutionary masses was expressed especially strongly at provincial and regional congresses of soviets and at citywide conferences of soviets which were held on the eve of the October Revolution.
During the course of the revolutionary process the strength and solidarity of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) had grown. Between March and October the Party membership increased 15 times. The Party numbered about 350,000 members, of which as many as 60 percent were progressive workers. The forces of the Party were distributed throughout the regions as follows: Moscow and the Central Industrial Region, 70,000 (20 percent); Petrograd and its province, 60,000 (17 percent); the Ukraine, Moldavia, the Southwestern and Rumanian fronts, and the Black Sea Fleet, 60,000 (17 percent); the Baltic region and the Northern Fleet, 30,000 (8.5 percent); Byelorussia and the Western Front, 30,000 (8.5 percent); the Volga Region, 20,000 (5.5 percent); the Caucasus region, the Caucasian Front, and the Don region, 20,000 (5.5 percent); Siberia and the Far East, 15,000 (4.5 percent); and the rest of the country, 10,000 (3.5 percent).
The Party, inseparably linked to the masses, was in a state of combat readiness for the approaching class battles. Lenin wrote: “At the decisive moment, at the moment of taking power and establishing the Soviet Republic, Bolshevism was united; it attracted all the best of the trends of socialist thought akin to it and rallied around itself the entire vanguard of the proletariat and the overwhelming majority of the working people” (ibid., vol. 39, p. 216).
In September, Lenin gave a general analysis of the nationwide crisis. This crisis was expressed by the mighty revolutionary movement of the working class, led by Lenin’s Party and moving directly toward the conquest of power and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the form of the soviet; the broad sweep of the peasant movement, which assumed the character of a peasant war for the land; the adherence of the mass of soldiers to the revolutionary side and their willingness to support the workers’ and poor peasants’ struggle with arms; the upsurge of the national liberation movement and the nationwide peace movement against the imperialist war; and the Bolshevization of the Soviets. On the other hand, there was a chronic crisis in the Provisional Government and disorder and disintegration in the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois parties.
In Lenin’s writings, “The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It” (September), “The Crisis Has Matured” (end of September), and “Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power?” (end of September to October 1), and in his letters to the Central Committee, the Petrograd Committee, and the Moscow Committee of the Party (September and October), he indicated that the crisis had matured. Those at the bottom no longer wished to live in the old ways, and those at the top could no longer rule in the old way.
Lenin’s deep analysis of the new political situation in the country led him to the conclusion that “we have the following of the majority of the class, the vanguard of the revolution, the vanguard of the people, which is capable of carrying the masses with it. We have the following of the majority of the people … our victory is assured” (ibid., vol. 34, p. 244).
The victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution. By the autumn of 1917 the conditions for a victorious socialist revolution had matured in Russia. Its success depended on the political and organizational activity and the correct tactics of the Bolshevik Party. In September 1917, Lenin sent a letter to the Central Committee and the Petrograd and Moscow Committees of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) entitled “The Bolsheviks Must Assume Power” and another one to the Central Committee of the Party entitled “Marxism and Insurrection.” In these letters he posed the idea of preparations for an armed insurrection as a practical task for immediate action by the Party. He warned the Central Committee against adventurism and conspiratorial plots aimed at the “seizure” of power. “To be successful, insurrection must rely not upon conspiracy, not upon a Party, but upon the advanced class.… Insurrection must rely upon a revolutionary upsurge of the people. … Insurrection must rely upon that turning point in the history of the growing revolution when the activity of the advanced ranks of the people is at its height, and when the vacillations in the ranks of the enemy and in the ranks of the weak, half-hearted, and irresolute friends of the revolution are strongest” (ibid., pp. 242-43). All of these conditions existed. He recommended that the Party regard insurrection as an art, and he called upon it to concentrate its entire attention upon the military-technical preparations for the insurrection, create an overwhelming superiority of class forces, and ensure that a crushing blow would be struck at the decisive moment and the decisive place, first in Petrograd and Moscow. Lenin outlined a concrete plan for carrying out the insurrection which involved organizing a headquarters for the insurgent units; deploying forces; sending the main forces (Red Guard units, revolutionary regiments, and the fleet) to the key points—the telephone and telegraph centers, railroad stations, and bridges; arresting the General Staff and the Provisional Government; and ensuring the decisive defeat of any attempts at armed action by the counterrevolution.
On October 10 (23) the question of armed insurrection was discussed at a session of the Central Committee of the Party. Lenin, who had illegally returned to Petrograd from Finland, gave his report. By a vote of ten to two (L. B. Kamenev and G. E. Zinoviev), the Central Committee adopted Lenin’s resolution recognizing that the time was ripe for insurrection and that it was inevitable. The Central Committee advised all Party organizations to be guided by this resolution in their practical everyday work. At this Central Committee session a new Political Bureau, headed by Lenin, was elected. On October 12 (25) the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet adopted a statute creating the Military Revolutionary Committee (MRC), which became the legal staff for preparing the armed insurrection. The Central Committee resolution on insurrection was unanimously approved by the Moscow regional bureau of the Party on October 14 (27) and by the Petrograd Committee on October 15 (28), and both committees adopted specific plans of action. On October 16 (29) the Central Committee held an expanded session, with leading Party workers of Petrograd and representatives from trade unions and military organizations present. This session approved the Central Committee resolution of October 10 (23) on armed insurrection, Kamenev and Zinoviey again spoke emphatically against the armed insurrection. They argued that there were “no grounds for insurrection” and urged that “defensive tactics of watchful waiting” should be adopted. On the same day, at a closed session of the Central Committee a Party Military Revolutionary Center was elected to provide leadership for the insurrection, consisting of A. S. Bubnov, F. E. Dzerzhinskii, Ia. M. Sverdlov, J. V. Stalin, and M. S. Uritskii. This Party center joined the MRC and became its main nucleus. Among those active in the work of the MRC were V. A. Antonov-Ovseenko, G. I. Bokii, P. E. Dybenko, K. S. Eremeev, S. I. Gusev, N. V. Krylenko, S. V. Kosior, M. Ia. Latsis, K. A. Mekhonoshin, V. I. Nevskii, N. I. Podvoiskii, A. D. Sadovskii, N. A. Skrypnik, and G. I. Chudnovskii, as well as the Left SR’s P. E. Lazimir and G. N. Sukhar’kov. All the work in preparation for the insurrection was directly guided by V. I. Lenin.
In the October armed insurrection the Bolshevik Party relied on strong armed forces. The Petrograd Red Guard was in the vanguard of these; in the course of the struggle it had grown to nearly 40,000 fighters. This armed vanguard of the revolution had the support of 200,000 Red Guards in other cities in Russia. At the beginning of the insurrection the revolutionary soldiers in the Petrograd garrison numbered more than 150,000, according to the statistics of the MRC; the Baltic Fleet, which was on the side of the Bolsheviks, had more than 80,000 sailors and about 700 combat and auxiliary ships. These mighty armed forces of the revolution had the support of millions of revolutionary soldiers at the front (especially the Northern and Western) and in the rear-echelon garrisons. In turn, these armed forces rested upon the support of the revolutionary workers and poor peasants of the entire country, who were ready to wage war against capitalism.
A very important step in the preparations for the insurrection took place October 20-24 (November 2-6), when the MRC assigned its own commissars to the Peter and Paul Fortress, the military units, the naval vessels, the munitions depots, and a number of factories and other key points in the capital.
The Provisional Government, relying on the Cadets, Mensheviks, and SR’s, gathered together on its side the armed forces of counterrevolution. The military command staff brought forces loyal to it close to Petrograd and carried out a mobilization of counterrevolutionary forces in the capital and the suburbs. The cadets from Peterhof and Oranienbaum were called to Petrograd, the special alert order was given to the three Cossack regiments quartered in Petrograd, and all the cadet academies were placed on military alert. The garrison of the Winter Palace was increased to 2,700. Orders were sent to the supreme headquarters in Mogilev and the command headquarters of the Northern Front in Pskov to expedite the movement of troops toward the capital.
However, the Bolsheviks had created an overwhelming superiority of revolutionary forces over those of the counterrevolution. The position of the Provisional Government was hopeless.
The armed insurrection began on October 24 (November 6). On that day, by order of the Provisional Government, an attack was made by cadets on the print shop of the Bolshevik newspaper Rabochii put’ (as Pravda was called at that time), and an order was issued for the arrest and trial of members of the MRC. An attack was being prepared against the headquarters of the revolution—Smol’nyi, where the Central Committee of the Party and the MRC were located. On instructions from the Central Committee, the MRC sent soldiers of the Lithuanian regiment and a sapper battalion to the print shop. These forces repulsed the cadets and the printing of the paper was resumed. Central Committee members decided not to leave Smol’nyi and deployed their forces to lead the insurrection in its most important areas. The delegates to the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets were gathering at Smoi’nyi. Red Guard units of about 1.300 fighiera, detachments of revolutionary soldiers and sailors, and communications personnel from military units and factories in various parts of the city were called out. Cannon, machine guns, and armored cars were placed around the building. Over the radio station of the cruiser Aurora an appeal was issued by the MRC of Petrograd to the garrisons to defend the approaches to the city, urging them “to act firmly and with discretion, but where necessary, ruthlessly” to prevent even a single counterrevolutionary unit from entering Petrograd.
In the afternoon of October 24 (November 6) the cadets tried to raise the drawbridges across the Neva River in order to cut the workers’ districts off from the center of the capital. The MRC sent Red Guard units and soldiers to the bridges and placed almost all of them under guard. Toward evening soldiers of the Keksgol’m regiment occupied the central telegraph offices, a unit of sailors took over the Petrograd telegraph agency, and soldiers of the Izmailovskii regiment took the Baltic railroad station. Revolutionary units blocked off the Pavel, Nikolai, Vladimir, and Konstantin cadet academies. Telegrams were sent from the Central Committee and the MRC to Kronstadt and the Tsentrobalt calling on naval vessels of the Baltic Fleet to bring an expeditionary force. The order was carried out.
The situation called for decisive and offensive action by the revolutionary forces. However, some members of the MRC were still sluggish about moving ahead to attack the main centers of the counterrevolution—the headquarters of the Petrograd military district, the Winter Palace, and so forth. Some of them wanted to postpone the seizure of power until the Second Congress of Soviets had convened (the evening of October 25). The influence of the chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, L. D. Trotsky (who favored postponing the insurrection, which was equivalent to breaking it off), was felt, as was that of Kamenev and Zinoviev, who on the very eve of the insurrection argued that it was doomed to defeat.
Lenin, who still continued to function conspiratorially and feared for the fate of the insurrection, wrote to the Central Committee members on the evening of October 24 (November 6): “With all my might I urge comrades to realize that everything now hangs by a thread; that we are confronted by problems which are not to be solved by conferences or congresses (even congresses of soviets), but exclusively by peoples, by the masses, the struggle of the armed people… . We must at all costs, this very evening, this very night, arrest the government, having first disarmed the officer cadets (defeating them if they resist), and so on.”
“We must not wait! We may lose everything!”
And further: “The government is tottering. It must be given the death blow at all costs.
“To delay action is fatal” (ibid., vol. 34, pp. 435, 436).
On the evening of October 24, Lenin arrived at Smol’nyi and took direct leadership of the armed struggle. The Central Committee made his arrival known to all the districts, factories, and military units. With Lenin at their head, the revolutionary forces decisively went on the offensive. The planned seizure of strategic points in Petrograd continued. At 1:25 A.M. on October 25 (November 7), Red Guards from the Vyborg district, soldiers of the Keksgol’m regiment, and revolutionary sailors occupied the main post office building. At 2:00 A.M. the first squad of the 6th Reserve Sapper Battalion took Nikolai Railroad Station (now Moscow Station). At the same time, a Red Guard unit occupied the central power plant. At about 6:00 A.M. sailors of the naval guards seized the State Bank. At 7:00 A.M. soldiers of the Keksgol’m regiment occupied the central telephone station. At 8:00 A.M., Red Guards of the Moscow and Narva districts seized Warsaw Station. During the night, the cruiser Aurora had anchored off the Nikolai Bridge (now the Lieutenant Schmidt Bridge) and the naval vessel Amur anchored off the Admiralty Embankment. By morning the capital was in the hands of the insurgent people. On the morning of October 25 (November 7) the MRC adopted Lenin’s appeal “To the Citizens of Russia.” This stated: “The Provisional Government has been deposed. State power has passed into the hands of the organ of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies—the Revolutionary Military Committee, which is leading the Petrograd proletariat and the garrison.
“The cause for which the people have fought—namely, the immediate offer of a democratic peace, the abolition of landed property, workers’ control over production, and the establishment of Soviet power—this cause has been secured.
“Long live the revolution of workers, soldiers, and peasants!” (ibid., vol. 35, p. 1).
On the afternoon of October 25 (November 7) the revolutionary forces took the Mariinskii Palace, where the Preparliament was in session, and dispersed it. Sailors occupied the military port and the main admiralty building, where the naval high command was arrested.
At 2:35 P.M. a special session of the Petrograd Soviet began. An announcement was made on the deposition of the Provisional Government, followed by a report by Lenin on the existing situation. At 6:00 P.M. revolutionary units began to move toward the Winter Palace. At 9:40 P.M., at a signal from the Peter and Paul Fortress, a round of artillery from the cruiser Aurora thundered, and the storming of the Winter Palace began.
At 10:40 P.M. on October 25 (November 7), the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies began in Smol’nyi. At the opening of the congress, 390 of the 649 delegates who had arrived were Bolsheviks. The congress proclaimed the transfer of all power to the soviets. At 2:00 A.M. on October 26 (November 8) the Winter Palace was seized and the Provisional Government was arrested. On October 26 (November 8) the Congress of Soviets adopted the Decree on Peace and the Decree on Land, based on a report by Lenin. In the Decree on Peace, the Soviet power proposed to all the belligerent countries that negotiations begin immediately for a just and democratic peace without annexations or indemnifications. By the terms of the Decree on Land, landlord ownership was abolished; landlord estates and crown, monastery, and church lands, with all livestock, implements, and buildings, and everything pertaining thereto, were given to the peasants without any compensation. The right of private ownership of land was abolished and replaced by all-national ownership of the land. As a result of the implementation of this decree, the peasants received more than 150 million hectares of land and were freed from annual rent payments to landlords amounting to 700 million gold rubles. The congress elected an All-Russian Central Executive Committee and formed the first Soviet government—the Council of People’s Commissars (or Sovnarkom), headed by Lenin. With the establishment of the Soviet government began the building of the Soviet state—a state of a new type, a dictatorship of the proletariat.
The counterrevolutionary forces, headed by the former prime minister Kerensky, who had fled to the Northern Front area on October 25 (November 7), General P. N. Krasnov, commander of the III Cavalry Corps, and N. N. Dukhonin, the chief of staff to the supreme commander in chief, rebelled and began a civil war with the aim of overthrowing Soviet power. The enemy began an offensive, occupied Gatchina and Tsarskoe Selo, and went to the heights of Pulkovo, thus creating a direct threat to revolutionary Petrograd. In the capital the counterrevolutionaries formed a Committee for the Salvation of the Homeland and the Revolution, and on October 29 (November 11) they started a mutiny of the cadets, which was suppressed on the same day. On October 31 (November 13) revolutionary troops drove the forces of Kerensky and Krasnov back from Pulkovo, and on November 1 (14) they forced them to capitulate. Krasnov was arrested and Kerensky fled.
Following the victory of the insurrection in Petrograd, which was almost bloodless, the armed struggle began in Moscow on October 25 (November 7). A Party Center whose members included M. F. Vladimirskii, V. N. Podbel’skii, O. A. Piatnitskii, V. N. Iakovleva, and Em. Iaroslavskii, and an MRC whose members included V. P. Nogin, P. G. Smidovich, G. A. Usievich, A. Lomov, and A. S. Vedernikov were established to lead the insurrection. In Moscow the revolutionary forces encountered extremely bitter opposition from the organized counterrevolution. From October 25 (November 7) there was stubborn fighting. Red Guards from Petrograd, Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Shuia, Podol’sk, and other cities and sailors from the Baltic Fleet arrived to support the Moscow proletariat. The Moscow workers and revolutionary soldiers of the garrison disrupted the counterrevolutionaries’ plans to create a so-called all-Russian center of struggle against Soviet power in Moscow. On November 2 (15), Soviet rule was established in Moscow. The victory was won at the cost of great sacrifices; about 1,000 people had been killed during the insurrection.
The victory of the socialist revolution in Petrograd and Moscow laid the basis for the triumphal march of Soviet power throughout the country. The Party Central Committee, headed by Lenin, along with all the local Party organizations, led the struggle to establish Soviet rule in local areas. In most of the country this was done quickly and peacefully.
Two factors played a decisive role in the immediate victory of the revolution all over the country. The first was the existence of finished forms of proletarian power, such as the soviets, the decrees on land and peace, and the Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia; these expressed the spirit and aspirations of the toiling people and had an enormously revolutionizing effect. The second factor was the departure of the masses from the influence of the petit-bourgeois parties, the Mensheviks and SR’s, who were openly allied with the counterrevolution; this raised the authority of the Leninist Party of the Bolsheviks and its political and organizational activity in the eyes of the workers.
Soviet power was established in Central Russia at the same time as the armed insurrections in Petrograd and Moscow and immediately after them. On October 25 (November 7) it was established in Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Vladimir, Briansk, and the industrial cities of the Moscow region; on October 27 (November 9) in Yaroslavl; on October 28 (November 10) in Nizhnyi Novgorod, Kaluga, and Tver’; and on October 30 (November 12) in Voronezh. As a result of active resistance by the petit bourgeois parties, the establishment of Soviet power was somewhat delayed in the following cities: in Orel, until November 25 (December 8); in Kursk, until November 26 (December 9); in Tula, until December 7 (20), 1917; and in Tambov, until January 31 (February 13), 1918.
During November and December, Soviet power was established in most of the cities and factory settlements of the Urals. On October 26 (November 8) the Ekaterinburg and Cheliabinsk soviets and the Ufa Province MRC took power, and on October 27 (November 9) the Izhevsk Soviet did also. The SR’s and Mensheviks offered stubborn resistance to the establishment of Soviet power in Perm’, the administrative center of the Urals. There the struggle for power lasted right up until the convening of the provincial Congress of Soviets on December 16 (29).
A very difficult armed struggle for Soviet power developed in Orenburg Province, where one of the most dangerous centers of the Russian counterrevolution developed, headed by the cossack Hetman A. I. Dutov. Basing himself on cossack units, he seized Orenburg, Cheliabinsk, and a number of other cities of the Southern Urals and set up the so-called Cossack Army Government. As a result of decisive steps taken by the Soviet government, the Dutov antisoviet rebellion was crushed, and on November 20 (December 3), Soviet power was restored in Cheliabinsk. On January 18 (31), 1918, Orenburg was liberated from Dutov’s forces. In the industrial cities of the Volga Region, Soviet power was established immediately after it was established in Petrograd and Moscow. On October 26 (November 8), after overcoming two days of resistance by the counterrevolutionary forces, there was a Soviet victory in Kazan, and on October 27 (November 9) in Samara and Saratov. The workers and soldiers in Saratov were forced to fight for two days thereafter to suppress a counterrevolutionary rebellion, which surrendered on October 29 (November 11). In Tsaritsyn, Soviet power was established by peaceful means over the period from October 28 (November 10) to November 4 (17). The struggle in Astrakhan took a more complicated course. Combat between the revolutionary forces and the Astrakhan cossacks lasted from January 12 (25) until January 25 (February 7), 1918, and ended with the victory of the workers and soldiers.
Having become Soviet, Central Russia served as the base for the socialist revolution throughout the country. The news of the revolutionary victory in the capitals and other cities spread rapidly to the active-duty army. The military fronts nearest Petrograd and Moscow, the Northern and Western fronts, and the Baltic Fleet held an important place in Lenin’s plan for armed insurrection. The Bolshevik Party organizations in the army and the fleet made timely preparations to support the armed insurrections in Petrograd and Moscow and to take action on the fronts themselves. This was of the greatest importance, for as Lenin noted, without winning the army to the Bolshevik side, the socialist revolution could not succeed. The soldiers of the Northern and Western fronts and the sailors of the Baltic Fleet welcomed the socialist revolution and Soviet power. At the end of October and November, MRC’s were created everywhere at the fronts in the army. These took power within the army and introduced control over the command staffs of the Northern Front and Baltic Fleet. The commander of the Western Front was removed. The fleet and army units at the fronts placed their power at the disposal of the Soviet government. The victory of the revolution on the Northern and Western fronts made it possible to eliminate the main center of the counterrevolution, the headquarters of the supreme commander in chief at Mogilev, on November 18-20 (December 1-3). This headquarters had prepared the conspiracy against the socialist revolution.
The victory of the socialist revolution at the military fronts closest to the capital and in the Baltic Fleet were a major success for the Bolsheviks and had tremendous importance for the further development of the revolution. As Lenin wrote: “Resistance on the part of the armed forces against the October Revolution of the proletariat or against the winning of political power by the proletariat was entirely out of the question, considering that the Bolsheviks had an enormous majority on the Northern and Western fronts, while on the other fronts, far removed from the center, the Bolsheviks had the time and opportunity to win the peasants away from the SR party” (ibid., vol. 40, p. 10).
At the end of October and beginning of November, Soviet power was established throughout the part of the Baltic region that was not occupied by German troops. On the side of the revolution were 40,000 Latvian riflemen, who played a major role in establishing Soviet power in Latvia. The Minsk Soviet took power on October 25 (November 7). On October 27 (November 9), the Northern and Western Regional Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) passed a resolution creating a Revolutionary Committee, later called the MRC of the Northwestern Region and Western Front, which assumed authority for the Western Front and all of Byelorussia. The working people of the Ukraine had to overcome serious resistance on the part of the Central Rada (rada = council) in their struggle for the victory of the socialist revolution. The armed insurrection in Kiev against the Provisional Government began on October 29 (November 11) and was victorious on October 31 (November 13). However, power was usurped by the bourgeois nationalist Central Rada, which had powerful armed forces at its disposal. On November 7 (20) it proclaimed itself the supreme governing body of the so-called Ukrainian People’s Republic. The Central Rada began to fight against Soviet Russia, launched a campaign of terror against the revolutionary forces, and became one of the main centers of the all-Russian counterrevolution. The Bolsheviks everywhere in the Ukraine took up the struggle against the Central Rada for the establishment of Soviet power. The workers of the Donbas established Soviet power in Lugansk, Makeevka, Gorlovka, Kramatorsk, and other cities immediately after the victory of the armed insurrection in Petrograd. A major historical event occurred for the Ukrainian people with the convening of the All-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets, held December 11-12 (24-25) in Kharkov, where Soviet power had been established on November 10 (23). The Congress of Soviets on December 12 (25) proclaimed the Ukraine a Soviet republic and elected a Central Executive Committee of the Soviets of the Ukraine. This body organized the first Soviet Ukrainian government, the People’s Secretariat, composed of F. A. Artem, E. B. Bosh, V. P. Zatonskii, and N. A. Skrypnik. In December 1917 and January 1918 the armed struggle for Soviet power spread and developed throughout the Ukraine. The rebellions against the Central Rada established Soviet power in Ekaterinoslav on December 29 (January 11, 1918), in Odessa on January 17 (30), and in Poltava, Kremenchug, Nikolaev, Kherson, and Vinnitsa in January. On January 5 (18), 1918, Soviet Ukrainian troops began an offensive against Kiev. On January 16 (29) the workers of Kiev, led by those of the Arsenal Plant, began an armed insurrection against the Central Rada. On January 22 (February 4), Soviet troops entered Kiev. By January 26 (February 8), after bitter street fighting, these troops, along with armed workers’ detachments, had swept the city clean of the Central Rada’s forces. During those days in January the insurgent people of Kiev suffered the loss of more than 1,500 lives. During February, Soviet power was consolidated throughout the Ukraine. It was victorious in the Crimea in January 1918, and in Moldavia at the beginning of January.
In the Don region (the Donskoe Voisko Oblast) the Hetman of the Don cossacks, A. M. Kaledin, began an anti-Soviet rebellion in October. After seven days of fighting, on December 2 (15), the cossacks took Rostov, where Soviet power had been established earlier, on October 26 (November 8). The cossacks then launched an offensive against the Donbas. However, a considerable number of cossacks did not support Kaledin. On January 10 (23) a congress of front-line cossack units, meeting in Kamenskaia stanitsa (large cossack village), declared Kaledin’s Cossack army government deposed and proclaimed Soviet power in the Don region, setting up the Don MRC with F. G. Podtelkov as chairman. Soviet troops commanded by V. A. Antonov-Ovseenko liquidated Kaledin’s revolt; Rostov was liberated on February 24, and Novocherkassk on February 25.
The struggle for Soviet power in the Northern Caucasus was waged under very complex conditions. On October 28 (November 10) the soviet of Vladikavkaz voted for the Soviet power, and on November 4 (17) it adopted a resolution, based on a report by S. M. Kirov, declaring support for the Sovnarkom headed by Lenin. In November, Soviet power was established in Petrovsk-Port (Makhachkala) and Groznyi. But the counterrevolution, finding support among the cossacks and Caucasus Mountain tribes, founded the so-called Terek-Dagestan government on December 1 (14) and crushed the soviets of Vladikavkaz, Groznyi, and other cities. Under conditions in which terror and clashes between nationalities prevailed, the Bolsheviks of the Terek Oblast carried out preparations for a congress of the peoples of Terek. The first congress was convened in January 1918 in Mozdok, and the second in March in Piatigorsk. The second congress established the Terek People’s Soviet Republic as part of the RSFSR. Soviet power was established throughout the Terek region and a significant section of Dagestan. In the Kuban region and along the Black Sea coast, furious resistance on the part of the Kuban cossacks had to be overcome in the process of establishing Soviet power. On December 1 (14), Soviet power was victorious in Novorossiisk, and in January in Armavir. On March 14 revolutionary troops fought their way into Ekaterinodar (Krasnodar) and took control of it.
The socialist revolution in Transcaucasia was not immediately victorious. On October 31 (November 13), Soviet power was established in the proletarian city of Baku but only in the spring of 1918 was it extended to several raions in Azerbaijan. On April 25 the Baku Soviet set up the Baku Council of People’s Commissars, with S. G. Shaumian as chairman. In Georgia and Armenia the revolutionary forces were unable to take power. In Georgia the Mensheviks seized control, and in Armenia the Dashnaks.
In Middle Asia the revolution was opposed by the bourgeois nationalists, the bais (wealthy stock raisers, merchants, or landowners), the clergy, the Russian officers, and the kulaks. The center of the socialist revolution in this vast region was Tashkent, where a strong Bolshevik organization was functioning, based on the railroad workers, the soldiers of the city garrison, and the “men of the rear” (workers from the local nationalities, recruited as rear-echelon workers during the war). Soviet power was established in Tashkent on November 1 (14) as a result of an armed insurrection and fighting that had lasted from October 28 to 31 (November 10-13). On November 15 (28) the Regional Congress of Soviets elected the Council of People’s Commissars for the Turkestan krai, with F. I. Kolesov as chairman. During the period from November 1917 to February 1918, Soviet power was established in Samarkand, Ashkhabad, Krasnovodsk, Chardzhou, Merv, and other cities. By the spring of 1918 the Soviets held power throughout Middle Asia, with the exception of the Khiva khanate and the emirate of Bokhara, where the old order maintained its rule until 1920. At the end of April 1918 the Turkestan ASSR was founded as part of the RSFSR. In Kazakhstan, the Syr-Dar’ia Oblast became Soviet in November, the Akmolinsk Oblast between November 1917 and January 1918, and the Bukeev Horde in December 1917. Soviet power was established in the Turgai and Semipalatinsk oblasts in January and February 1918 and in the Semirech’e Oblast in March and April, after the suppression of armed resistance on the part of the nationalists of the Alash Horde and the cossacks of Semirech’e, Orenburg, and the Urals. On January 1 (14), 1918, Soviet power was victorious in Pishpek (now Frunze), and on March 3 in Vernyi (now Alma-Ata).
In Siberia and the Far East the establishment of Soviet power was accompanied by serious resistance from the Siberian counterrevolution. Krasnoiarsk became Soviet on October 28 (November 10), Omsk on November 30 (December 13), after the suppression of a counterrevolutionary mutiny, Tomsk on December 6 (19), Novonikolaevsk (now Novosibirsk) on December 13 (26), and Irkutsk on December 22 (January 4, 1918), after nine days of fighting between the revolutionary forces and the mutineers. Soviet power was victorious in Vladivostok on November 18 (December 1), in Khabarovsk on December 6 (19), and throughout the Far East by March 1918.
The Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia, adopted by the Sovnarkom on November 2(15), was of great importance for the victory of Soviet power in the border lands and outlying regions of the country. This historic enactment of the Soviet government brought national oppression to an end and proclaimed the equality and sovereignty of all the nationalities in the country and their right to unrestricted self-determination, including the right to separate and form an independent state. The government removed all national and religious privileges and restrictions and guaranteed the freedom of all the peoples, nationalities, and ethnic groups inhabiting Russia. On November 20 (December 3) the Sovnarkom issued an appeal “To All Muslim Toilers of Russia and the East,” which informed the formerly oppressed peoples that the unequal treaties had been rescinded and political oppression ended. It called on them to support the gains of the socialist revolution and to establish Soviet power.
Summing up the results of the triumphal march of Soviet power, Lenin wrote in March 1918: “In the course of a few weeks, having overthrown the bourgeoisie, we crushed its open resistance in civil war. We passed in a victorious triumphal march of Bolshevism from one end of a vast country to the other. We raised the lowest strata of the working people, oppressed by tsarism and the bourgeoisie, to liberty and independent life. We established and consolidated the Soviet Republic” (ibid., vol. 36, p. 79).
The establishment of the Soviet socialist state. As a result of the victory of the October Revolution, the Communist Party became the ruling party. The working class, hitherto oppressed and exploited, became the dominant class, and a new state was established—the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The first task of the socialist revolution was to smash the old state machinery and construct a new one, the Soviet state. After destroying the bourgeois-landlord state, with its army, procurator’s office, courts, police, and bureaucratic-official apparatus, the revolution deprived the exploiting classes and their parties of their most powerful means of struggle to restore the old system.
The new Soviet state was the primary weapon for the defense of the conquests of the revolution against domestic and external counterrevolution and an instrument in the struggle for the construction of a socialist society. The Soviet government relied in its activity on the support of the soviets, which had become the governmental form of the dictatorship of the proletariat; on soldiers’, military-revolutionary, and factory committees; and on trade unions, detachments of the Red Guard, and revolutionary regiments. It also depended on the exceptional creative energy of workers, revolutionary soldiers, and peasants, and on the revolutionary intelligentsia. The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission (Chekha) for the struggle against counterrevolution and sabotage was organized under the auspices of the Sovnarkom on December 7 (20), 1917. A decree on justice was signed on November 22 (December 5). On the basis of the Sovnarkom decree of December 16 (29), the old army was democratized: all power in the army was transferred to the soldiers’ committees and soviets, commandership was made an elective post, and old titles and orders were abolished. On January 15 (28), 1918, a decree was adopted on the formation of the Worker-Peasant Red Army, and on January 29 (February 11), another on the formation of the Worker-Peasant Red Fleet. Establishment of the armed forces of the socialist state expanded, initially on a volunteer basis.
The Soviet regime instituted socialist reforms in the area of the economy. Following the nationalization of the land and its transformation into all-national property and the transfer of the State Bank to the control of the Soviet regime, a decree introducing workers’ control over production and distribution was adopted on November 14 (27), 1917. The nationalization of the so-called state enterprises (the Obukhov, Baltic, and Izhorsk plants, and others), the railroads, and many private enterprises began in November. Experienced Party figures and vanguard workers were assigned to state and economic work. The Supreme Council of the Economy (Sovnarkhoz) was created on December 2(15) for the direction of the national economy.
The Soviet regime liquidated the vestiges of feudal relations, the estate system, and inequality of rights in all areas of social life. Simultaneously with the liquidation of landlord ownership of land as the basis of feudal vestiges, decrees were issued abolishing the estates and civil ranks; establishing uniform citizenship (November 10 ), equal rights for women, and civil marriage (December 18 ); and separating the church from the state and schools from the church (January 20 [February 2, 1918]).
Responding to the popularity of the slogan for a Constituent Assembly, the Soviet government held elections for the assembly in November and convoked it on January 5 (18), 1918. Since the elections were conducted on the basis of lists of parties prepared by organs of the Provisional Government, and since they were held in the period when the Soviet regime was still just becoming established and a sizable portion of the population was not acquainted with its decrees, the majority of deputies to the Constituent Assembly turned out to be representatives of parties which had been overthrown by the October Revolution (Mensheviks, SR’s, Cadets, and the nationalist parties and organizations). The composition of the Constituent Assembly did not reflect the new correlation of class forces in the country. The mood of the majority of the Constituent Assembly was counterrevolutionary; they refused to recognize the Soviet regime and to confirm the Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited People. For this reason, the Constituent Assembly was dissolved on January 6 (19) by the resolution of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. This action was given general support by the workers, soldiers, peasants, and their soviets.
The Third All-Russian Congress of Soviets assembled on January 10 (23), 1918. The Third All-Russian Congress of Peasants’ Deputies was assembled at the same time, and on January 13 (26) the two congresses were merged. This accelerated the amalgamation of the soviets of peasants’ deputies and the soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies everywhere, a process that strengthened the political foundation of the Soviet state. The congress adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited People, which set forth the main tasks of the Soviet regime—the elimination of exploitation of any kind, the merciless suppression of exploiters, the establishment of the socialist organization of society, and the construction of socialism. The congress’s legislation made the creation of the RSFSR official.
In instituting socialist reforms, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and the Sovnarkom adopted a number of important decrees. In order to liberate the country from financial bondage, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee issued a decree on January 21 (February 3), 1918, anulling the foreign and domestic loans contracted by the tsarist government and the bourgeois Provisional Government. The merchant fleet was nationalized (January 23), as were foreign trade (April 22) and private railroads (September 4). A decree nationalizing all large-scale industry was issued on June 28.
The most creative initiative and revolutionary energy of the working class and all toilers were displayed in the socialist reconstruction of the national economy. The means of production in industry were collectivized and turned into public property; this signified a revolutionary upheaval that marked the destruction of the foundations of the old, capitalist mode of production and the establishment of a socialist sector of the economy. In industry, bourgeois productive relations were liquidated and new, socialist relations established. Collectivization of the means of production in agriculture, which entailed 15 to 16 million peasant farms, could not be carried out immediately. Nationalization of the land and collectivization of the means of production in industry created the conditions for the millions of toiling peasants to be shifted gradually in the direction of socialism.
Fundamental transformations in the sphere of culture began with the victory of the October Revolution. Elementary and secondary schools and higher educational institutions, libraries, theaters, and museums became the property of the working people. Work was done to eliminate illiteracy among the adult population. A cultural revolution began. The services of literature, art, and the press were enlisted for the communist training and education of the working people. The achievements of science and culture were put to use in the service of the working people. The Marxist-Leninist ideology became dominant in the country.
The very first revolutionary act of the Soviet regime fundamentally undermined the forces of the bourgeoisie, landlords, reactionary bureaucracy, and counterrevolutionary parties; it broke the economic power of the overthrown exploiting classes, ensured the concentration of commanding posts in the hands of the Soviet regime, and persuasively demonstrated the genuinely popular nature of the Soviet regime, which has only the interests of the working people at heart.
During its very first days, the Soviet government initiated action in the struggle for peace. A policy of peace became the unshakable basis of its entire subsequent foreign policy. Negotiations for the conclusion of a peace treaty with Germany and its allies were begun in Brest on December 9 (22), 1917. The far-reaching expansionist aspirations of German imperialism were exposed during the course of these negotiations. However, the Soviet government was forced to accede to the onerous conditions of the peace treaty in order to obtain a breathing space to strengthen the Soviet regime and establish the armed forces. There was a sharp struggle in the Central Committee of the Party and the Sovnarkom over the question of signing the peace treaty. The group of “left communists,” headed by N. I. Bukharin, opposed the Leninist line for the conclusion of the treaty; they conducted propaganda for a “revolutionary war” against German imperialism. Trotsky adhered to an equally adventuristic position, presenting the formula “neither peace nor war.” He headed the Soviet delegation in Brest and refused to sign the terms of the peace treaty. On February 10 (23), 1918, negotiations were broken off. Taking advantage of this circumstance, the German command violated the armistice and on February 18 began an offensive all along the front. The old army retreated, and the new army was still only being established. German troops occupied the Baltic region and a considerable portion of Byelorussia, invaded the Ukraine, and threatened Petrograd. The Soviet Republic was in terrible danger.
The Communist Party and the Soviet government called on the people to repulse the invaders. The Sovnarkom’s appeal, “The Socialist Homeland in Danger!” was published on February 21. The workers and toiling peasants arose in arms against the German imperialists. February 23, 1918, became the birthday of the Red Army. The enemy’s offensive against Petrograd was halted by the heroic resistance of detachments of the Red Guard and the first units of the new Red Army. The German government agreed to resume peace negotiations. On March 3, the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty of 1918 was signed. Soviet Russia left the war and obtained a peaceful respite.
Lenin proposed a program for the initiation of socialist construction in his work The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Power (April 1918). He considered the following to be urgent common tasks for the entire nation: organizing a nationwide system of accounting and control; implementing operations on a self-supporting financial basis; struggling to increase labor productivity; organizing socialist competition; and inculcating the people with the new, proletarian discipline.
In the countryside, the policy of the Soviet regime was primarily directed toward implementing the agrarian reforms of the October Revolution—the Decree on Land. Lands held by landlords were confiscated and distributed. As the socialist revolution unfolded further in the villages, the class struggle between the poor peasants and the kulaks intensified. In the spring and especially in the summer and fall of 1918 the kulaks embarked on an open struggle against Soviet power. The middle peasantry showed signs of great vacillation. With the economy in a state of general decline, the anti-Soviet sabotage of the kulaks, who hid grain and hampered state grain purchases, caused hunger in the industrial centers. Workers and their families abandoned the cities; the factory proletariat decreased by half from what it had been in 1914.
The struggle for bread became a fight for the salvation of the Soviet Republic. Lenin said that the struggle for bread was ultimately the struggle for socialism. On May 13, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and Sovnarkom adopted the decree “On Granting the Commissar of Food Emergency Powers in the Struggle Against the Village Bourgeoisie, Which Is Concealing and Speculating in Grain Supplies.” Lenin called on workers to declare a “crusade” against the kulaks and unite with the village poor in the name of the salvation of the Soviet State. The creation of special food detachments composed of the most class-conscious workers began at the end of May 1918. They were sent to the grain-producing provinces. A decree on the organization of Committees of the Poor in the villages was adopted on June 11. The organization of these committees signified a further deepening of the socialist revolution in the countryside. With the arrival of the workers’ food detachments in the countryside and the organization of the Committees of the Poor, the struggle against the kulak class entered a new phase. The socialist revolution reached the most remote villages. With the aid of the food detachments, the Committees of the Poor not only provided enormous assistance in the resolution of the food problem but also began to redistribute kulak land and stock. The socioeconomic face of the countryside changed; by the end of 1918, the proportion of poor peasants—65 percent of the population in 1917—had declined to 35 percent; the middle peasantry, which had been 20 percent, was now 60 percent; and the kulaks, who had composed 15 percent were now 5 percent. At the end of 1918 the middle peasant became the leading figure in the village. The political and economic positions of the kulak class were greatly undermined. The alliance of the working class and the poorest peasantry was cemented, and the dictatorship of the proletariat strengthened.
The Fifth All-Russian Congress of Soviets, meeting July 4-10, 1918, adopted the first Soviet constitution (July 10)—the Constitution of the RSFSR, which legislatively consolidated the soviet socialist social and governmental system born of the Great October Socialist Revolution.
The overthrown exploiting classes unleashed a civil war to restore capitalism. In essence, this war began immediately after the victory of the October armed uprising in Petrograd. The united forces of the domestic bourgeois landlord counterrevolution and foreign imperialism stood in opposition to Soviet power and socialist reforms. Relying on the financial, military, and political aid of the Entente, the forces of counterrevolution succeeded in creating a massive army of White Guards. In 1918 and 1919 they managed to seize the Northern Caucasus, the Don, Siberia, the Far East, the Urals, northern European Russia, and part of the Volga Region, and then the Crimea, Ukraine, and Transcaucasia. Soviet power was overthrown throughout these vast territories, the old regime was reestablished, and White terror was installed. The Russian working class and toiling peasantry, under the leadership of the Communist Party headed by Lenin, put an enormous strain on their military, material, and spiritual resources and thus routed the troops of the interventionists and domestic counterrevolutionaries, driving them from the country’s territory. Soviet power was reestablished in all regions except for the Baltic, where the national bourgeoisie, aided by German troops, was able to maintain the capitalist order and create bourgeois republics. Bessarabia, which was occupied by Rumania, was not liberated.
As a result of the Civil War, the Russian proletariat and toiling peasantry and the Soviet armed forces—the Red Army and the navy—defended the conquests of the Great October Socialist Revolution, preserving and strengthening the first worker-peasant state in the world.
The worldwide historical significance of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The October Revolution was fundamentally different from all preceding revolutions. It overthrew the rule of the capitalists and landlords, established the dictatorship of the proletariat, liquidated capitalism in Russia, eliminated the exploitation of one man by another, abolished social and national oppression, and opened the way to the construction of socialism and communism. The inspirer and organizer of the revolution was the Communist Party headed by Lenin, which based its activity on knowledge of the laws of social development and skillfully united into one revolutionary movement such diverse revolutionary currents as the pandemocratic movement for peace, the peasant democratic movement for land, the national liberation movement of oppressed peoples for national equality, and the socialist movement of the proletariat for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The Russian proletariat was the basic moving force in the revolution. The Party organized an alliance of the working class and the poor peasantry, which became decisive in the victory of the socialist revolution. The powerful workers’ and pandemocratic movements that had begun in the West and the East and the profound sympathy and active support of the workers and toilers of all countries toward the October Revolution were extremely important for the victorious development of the October Revolution.
The following assessment of the October Revolution was made by the Central Committee of the CPSU:
“The October Revolution opened the way for resolving the fundamental problems presented by the entire preceding course of development of world history: the problems of a future society, of the nature of social progress, of war and peace, and of the fate of world civilization.
“The victory of October confirmed the Leninist theory of socialist revolution. The Marxist-Leninist doctrines passed the test of history:
“on the inevitable downfall of capitalism and the consolidation of socialism;
“on the vanguard role of the working class, led by the Communist Party, in the revolution and in the construction of a new society;
“on the dictatorship of the proletariat and its role in the struggle for the victory of socialism;
“on the soviets as the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the organs of genuine popular sovereignty and socialist democracy;
“on the alliance of the working class, peasantry, and other strata of toiling people—under the leadership of the working class—as the decisive force in the struggle for social liberation;
“on the industrialization of the country and the socialist transformation of agriculture;
“on the roads to the resolution of the national question; and
“on raising the standard of living of the toiling people and carrying out a cultural revolution” (“On the Preparation for the 50th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution.” Resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU of Jan. 4, 1967, pp. 4-5).
The October Revolution broke the front of world imperialism and opened a new era in the history of humanity—the era of the downfall of capitalism and the triumph of socialism and communism. As a result of the October Socialist Revolution, the world split into two opposing systems—the system of socialism and the system of capitalism.
The Great October Socialist Revolution “accelerated the course of historical events in the world. The ideas of Marxism-Leninism and of October spread all over the earth; they lifted peoples up to struggle for their freedom and independence against oppressors. The achievements of the October Revolution became a mighty base for revolutionary transformations in all parts of the world.… The creation of a worldwide socialist system is the continuation of the revolutionary renewal of the world that was begun by October.
“The October Revolution revealed the worldwide historical role of the working class as the standard-bearer and main fighter for socialism, the most progressive and militant class force of the present era. It gave powerful impetus to the revolutionary movement of the international working class, placing this class in the center of the current epoch” (ibid., p. 17).
The October Revolution was a watershed in the development of the national liberation movement. It initiated the crisis of the colonial system and opened the epoch of national liberation revolutions in the colonial and dependent countries. It merged into a single current the struggle of the proletariat and other revolutionary forces and the struggle of oppressed peoples against national colonial oppression.
The October Revolution had an enormous revolutionizing influence on all the peoples of the world; it awakened the oppressed peoples, raised the broadest strata of the toiling masses to active political life, and helped strengthen the organization of the international proletariat. It was the cradle of the contemporary worldwide communist movement, which has become the greatest political force of modern times.
By its existence and its worldwide historical and social transformations, the Soviet socialist state born of the October Revolution inspires people all over the earth in the struggle for peace, democracy, and socialism.
As a result of the victory of the October Revolution and the construction of the Soviet socialist state, humanity found a trusty bulwark in its struggle against wars of aggression and for peace and security. The October Revolution outlined the high road to socialism for all humanity.
Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed. (See “Reference Volume,” part 1.)
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Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia na Ukraine: Fevral’ 1917—aprel’ 1918 g. Sbornik dokumentov i materialov, vols. 1-3. Kiev, 1957.
Bor’ba za vlast’ Sovetov v Moldavii. (Mart 1917-mart 1918 gg.): Sbornik dokumentov i materialov. Kishinev, 1957.
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia v Belorussii: Dokumenty i materialy, vols. 1-2. Minsk, 1957.
Bor’ba za pobedu Sovetskoi vlasti v Azerbaidzhane, 1918-1920: Dokumenty i materialy. Baku, 1967.
Bor’ba za pobedu Sovetskoi vlasti v Gruzii: Dokumenty i materialy (1917-1921 gg.). Tbilisi, 1958.
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia i pobeda Sovetskoi vlasti v Armenii. Yerevan, 1957. (Collection of documents.)
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia v Estonii: Sb. dokumentov i materialov. Tallin, 1958.
Oktiabr’skaia revoliutsiia v Latvii: Dokumenty i materialy. Riga, 1957.
Bor’ba za Sovetskuiu vlast’ v Litve v 1918-1920 gg. Sbornik dokumentov. Vilnius, 1967.
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia i grazhdanskaia voina v Kirgizii (1917-1920 gg.): Dokumenty i materialy. Frunze, 1957.
Pobeda Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii v Kazakh-stane: 1917-1918 gg. Sb. dokumentov i materialov. Alma-Ata, 1957.
Pobeda Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii v Turkestane: Sb. dokumentov. Tashkent, 1947.
Podgotovka i provedenie Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii v Turkmenistane: Sbornik dokumentov. Ashkhabad, 1954.
Podgotovka i provedenie Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii v Uzbekistane: Sb. dokumentov. Tashkent, 1947.
WORKS OF PARTY FIGURES
Bubnov, A. S. O Krasnoi Armii. Moscow, 1958.
Dzerzhinskii, F. E. Izbr. proizv., vol. 1, 1897-1923. Moscow, 1957.
Kalinin, M. I. Izbr. proizv., vol. 1. Moscow, 1960.
Kirov, S. M. Izbr, stat’i i rechi (1912-1934). Moscow, 1957.
Krupskaia, N. K. O Lenine: Sb. st. [Moscow, 1960.]
Kuibyshev, V. V. Izbr. proizv. Moscow, 1958.
Sverdlov, la. M. Izbr. proizv., vol. 2. Moscow, 1959.
Ordzhonikidze, Sergo. Stat’i i rechi, vol. 1 (1910-26). Moscow, 1956.
Stalin, J. V. Soch., vols. 3-4. Moscow, 1953-54.
Stuchka, P. I. V bor’be za Oktiabr’: Sb. st. Riga, 1960.
Shaumian, S. G. Izbr. proizv., vol. 2, 1917-18. Moscow, 1958.
MEMOIRS OF PARTICIPANTS IN THE REVOLUTION
Antonov-Ovseenko, V. A. V revoliutsii. Moscow, 1957.
Bonch-Bruevich, V. D. Na boeivykh postakh FevraVskoi i Oktiabr’skoi revoliutsii, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1931. (Reminiscences of V. I. Lenin.)
Bonch-Bruevich, M. D. Vsia vlast’ Sovetam. Moscow, 1964.
Podvoiskii, N. P. God 1917. Moscow, 1958.
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia: Sb. vospominanii uchastnikov revoliutsii v Petrograde i Moskve. Moscow, 1957.
Istoriia KPSS, vols. 2-3. Moscow, 1966-68.
Vsemirnaia istoriia, vols. 7, 8. Moscow, 1958-61.
Istoriia grazhdanskoi voiny v SSSR: 1917-1922, vols. 1-3. Moscow, 1939-57.
Mints, I. I. Istoriia Velikogo Oktiabria, vols. 1-2. Moscow, 1967-68.
Istoriia Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii. Moscow, 1967.
Oktiabr’skoe vooruzhennoe vosstanie: Semnadtsatyi god v Petrograde, books 1-2. Leningrad, 1967.
Oktiabr’ v Moskve. [Moscow], 1967.
Golikov, G. N. Revoliutsiia, otkryvshaia novuiu eru. [Moscow, 1967.]
Istoriia SSSR s drevneishikh vremen do nashikh dnei, 2nd series, vol. 7. Moscow, 1967.
Velikii Oktiabr’ i mirovoi revoliutsionnyi protsess. Moscow, 1967.
Volobuev, P. V. Proletariat i burzhuaziia Rossii v 1917 g. Moscow, 1964.
Gaponenko, L. S. Rabochii klass Rossii v 1917 godu. Moscow, 1970.
Golub, P. A. Partiia, armiia i revoliutsiia: Otvoevanie partiei bol’shevikov armii na storonu revoliutsii. Mart 1917—fevral’ 1918. [Moscow, 1967.]
Gorodetskii, E. N. Rozhdenie Sovetskogo gosudarstva, 1917-1918. [Moscow, 1965.]
Geroi Oktaibria: Biografii aktivnykh uchastnikov podgotovki i provedeniia Oktiabr’skogo vooruzhennogo vosstaniia v Petrograde, vols. 1-2. Leningrad, 1967.
Geroi Oktiabria (Kniga ob uchastnikakh Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii v Moskve). Moscow, 1967.
Zetkin, K. Oktiabr’skaia revoliutsiia. [Khar’kov], 1924.
Williams, A. R. O Lenine i Oktiabr’skoi revoliutsii. Moscow, 1960. (Translated from English.)
Reed, J. 10 dnei, kotorye potriasli mir. Moscow, 1958. (Translated from English.)
Uchastie trudiashchikhsia zarubezhnykh stran v Oktiabr’skoi revoliutsii. Moscow, 1967. (Collection of articles.)
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia: Sb. vospominanii uchastnikov revoliutsii v Petrograde i Moskve.
G. N. GOLIKOV and M. I. KUZNETSOV
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.