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This kind of thing was quite typical of the early days of the Revolution, characterised by a certain naivety on the part of the masses who had yet to understand of what terrible violence the defenders of the old order were capable. Far from being a bloodthirsty regime of terror, the Revolution was an extraordinarily benign affair - until the counter-revolution showed its real nature.
The White General P. Krasnov was one of the first to lead an uprising against the Bolsheviks at the head of the Cossacks. He was defeated by the Red Guards and handed over by his own Cossacks, but again was released on parole. Of this Victor Serge writes correctly:. He should have been shot on the spot. At the end of a few days he recovered his liberty, after giving his word of honour never to take up arms again against the revolution. But what value can promises of honour have towards enemies of fatherland and property? He was to go off to put the Don region to fire and the sword.
Do the relatively small numbers involved in the actual fighting mean that the October overturn was a coup? There are many similarities between the class war and war between nations. In the latter too, only a very small proportion of the population are in the armed forces. And only a small minority of the army is at the front. Of the latter, even in the course of a major battle, only a minority of the soldiers are normally engaged in fighting at any given time.
Experienced soldiers know that a lot of time is spent waiting in idleness, even during a battle. Very often the reserves are never called into action.
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But without the reserves, no responsible general would order an advance. Moreover, it is not possible to wage war successfully without the wholehearted support of the population at home, even though they do not directly participate in the fighting. This lesson was carved on the nose of the Pentagon in the latter stages of the Vietnam war. The argument that the Bolsheviks were able to take power without the masses a coup is usually linked to the idea that power was seized, not by the working class, but by a party. Again, this argument is entirely false.
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Without organisation - the trade unions and the party - the working class is only raw material for exploitation. This was already pointed out by Marx long ago. True, the proletariat possesses enormous power. Not a wheel turns, not a light bulb shines, without its permission. But without organisation, this power remains as just potential. In the same way, steam is a colossal force, but without a piston box, it will be harmlessly dissipated in the air. In order that the strength of the working class should cease to be a mere potential and become a reality, it must be organised and concentrated in a single point.
This can only be done through a political party with a courageous and far-sighted leadership and a correct programme. The Bolshevik Party under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky was such a party. Basing themselves on the movement of the masses - a magnificent movement that represented all that was alive, progressive and vibrant in Russian society, they gave it form, purpose and a voice.
That is its cardinal sin from the standpoint of the ruling class and its echoes in the labour movement. That is what lies behind their hatred and loathing of Bolshevism, their vitriol and spiteful attitude towards it, which completely conditions their attitude even three generations later. Without the Bolshevik Party, without the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky, the Russian workers would never have taken power in , despite all their heroism.
The revolutionary party cannot be improvised on the spur of the moment, any more than a general staff can be improvised on the outbreak of war. It has to be systematically prepared over years and decades. This lesson has been demonstrated by the whole of history, especially the history of the twentieth century. Rosa Luxemburg, that great revolutionary and martyr of the working class, always emphasised the revolutionary initiative of the masses as the motor force of revolution.
In this, she was absolutely right. In the course of a revolution the masses learn rapidly. But a revolutionary situation, by its very nature, cannot last for long. Society cannot be kept in a permanent state of ferment, nor the working class in a state of white-hot activism. Either a way out is shown in time, or the moment will be lost.
There is not enough time to experiment or for the workers to learn by trial and error. In a life and death situation, errors are paid for very dearly! Therefore, it is necessary to combine the "spontaneous", movement of the masses with organisation, programme, perspectives, strategy and tactics - in a word, with a revolutionary party led by experienced cadres. There is no other way. It is necessary to add that at every stage the Bolsheviks always had before them the perspective of the international revolution.
They never believed that they could hold power in Russia alone. It is a striking testimony to the vitality of the October Revolution that, in spite of all the vicissitudes, all the crimes of Stalinism and the terrible destruction of the second world war, the basic conquests were maintained for so long, even when the revolution, deprived of aid from the rest of the world, was thrown upon its own resources.
Even in the last period, the collapse of Stalinism was not the result of any inherent defect of the nationalised planned economy, but flowed from treachery and betrayal of the bureaucracy which, as Trotsky brilliantly predicted, sought to reinforce its privileges by selling out to capitalism.
As a corollary of the slanders against October, we have the attempt to paint the February Revolution in glowing colours. The "democratic" regime of Kerensky, it is alleged, would have led Russia into a glorious future of prosperity, if only the Bolsheviks had not spoilt it all. The idealisation of the February Revolution does not stand up to the least scrutiny.
The February Revolution - which had overthrown the old Tsarist regime - had not solved one of the tasks of the national-democratic revolution: land reform, a democratic republic, the national question. It was not even capable of bringing about the most elementary demand of the masses - for an end to the imperialist slaughter and the conclusion of a democratic peace. In short, the Kerensky regime in the course of nine months gave ample proof of its total inability to meet the most basic needs of the Russian people.
It was this fact, and this alone, which enabled the Bolsheviks to come to power with the support of the decisive majority of society. Emerging from the ravages of the first world war, Tsarist Russia was a semi-colony particularly of France, Germany, and Britain. Russia produced less than 3 per cent of world industrial output. It could not compete on a world scale. For every hundred square kilometres of land, there were only 0.
Around 80 per cent of the population eked out a bare existence on the land, which was fragmented into millions of smallholdings. The Russian bourgeoisie had entered onto the stage of history too late. It had failed to carry out any of the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, that had been solved in Britain and France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. On the contrary, the Russian capitalists leaned on imperialism on the one hand and the Tsarist autocracy for support on the other.
They were linked by a thousand threads to the old landlords and aristocrats. Horrified by the Revolution, the bourgeoisie had become more conservative and suspicious of the workers. They had no revolutionary role to play. The only revolutionary class in Russia was the young, small, but highly concentrated proletariat.
Arising from the law of uneven and combined development, a backward country assimilates the material and intellectual conquests of the advanced countries. It does not slavishly reproduce all the stages of the past, but skips over a whole series of intermediate stages. This gives rise to a contradictory development, where the most advanced features are superimposed upon extremely backward conditions.
Foreign investment had meant the creation of highly advanced concentrated factories and industries in Russia. The peasants were uprooted, thrown into industry, and proletarianised over night. It fell to this youthful proletariat - which had none of the conservative traditions of its counterpart in the West - to take Russian society out of the impasse it faced. The attempt to counterpose the February regime to October has no foundation whatever. Had the Bolsheviks not taken power, the future that faced Russia was not one of prosperous capitalist democracy, but fascist barbarism under the jackboot of Kornilov or one of the other White generals.
Such a development would have signified, not advance, but a terrible regression. In the October Revolution, the victorious proletariat first had to tackle the basic problems of the national-democratic revolution, then went on, uninterruptedly, to carry out the socialist tasks.
This was the very essence of the permanent revolution. Capitalism had broken at its weakest point, as Lenin explained. The October Revolution represented the beginning of the world socialist revolution. The revolution of February had spontaneously thrown up committees of workers and soldiers, as had the revolution of The committees, or soviets, became transformed from extended strike committees into political instruments of the working class in the struggle for power, and later into administrative organs of the new workers' state.
They were far more democratic and flexible than the territorially elected bodies of bourgeois democracy. To paraphrase Marx, capitalist democracy allows the workers every five years to elect parties to misrepresent their interests. In Russia, with the establishment of peasants' soviets, they embraced the overwhelming majority of the population. Throughout the nine months between February and October, the soviets represented a rival power to the capitalist state.
It was a period of "dual power". One of the key demands of the Bolsheviks throughout this time was: "All power to the soviets! The October Revolution brought to power a new revolutionary government, which took its authority from the Congress of Soviets. Contrary to common belief, it was not a one-party regime but originally a coalition government of Bolsheviks and Left Social Revolutionaries. The urgent task facing the government was to spread the authority of Soviet power - the rule of the working class - throughout all Russia. On the 5 th January , the government issued a directive which declared that the local soviets were from then on invested with all the powers held by the former administration, and added: "The entire country must be covered with a network of new soviets.
The system of soviets was not, as the reformists claim, an exclusively Russian phenomenon. The November Revolution in Germany spontaneously threw up similar bodies. They were the embodiment of workers' self organisation. In every German port, town and barracks, workers', soldiers' and sailors' councils were established and held effective political power. Soviets were established in Bavaria and during the Hungarian Revolution of In Britain also, Councils of Action were established in , which were described by Lenin as "soviets in all but name", as well as during the General Strike committees of action and trades councils.
Although the Stalinists and reformists tried to prevent the reappearance of soviets, they re-emerged in the Hungarian Revolution of , with the creation of the Budapest Workers' Council. In its origins, the soviet - the most democratic and flexible form of popular representation yet devised - was simply an extended strike committee. Born in mass struggle, the soviets or workers' councils assumed an extremely broad sweep, and ultimately became transformed into organs of revolutionary direct government.
Beside the local soviets, elected in every city, town and village, in every large city there were also ward raionny soviets as well as district or provincial oblastny or gubiernsky soviets, and finally delegates were elected to the Central Executive Committee of the All-Russian Soviets in Petrograd.
The delegates were elected at every unit of labour to the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies, and subject to immediate recall. There was no bureaucratic elite. No deputy or official received more than the wage of a skilled worker. The Soviet government issued a whole series of economic, political, administrative and cultural decrees in the immediate aftermath of the revolution. At a grassroots level, there was a mushrooming of soviet organisation.
Everywhere attempts were made to do away with the distinction between legislative and executive functions, to allow individuals to participate directly in the application of decisions they had made. As a consequence, the masses began to take their destiny into their own hands.
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In November Lenin wrote an appeal in Pravda: "Comrades, working people! Remember that now you yourselves are at the helm of state. No one will help you if you yourselves do not unite and take into your hands all affairs of state Get on with the job yourselves; begin right at the bottom, do not wait for anyone. He was anxious for the masses to involve themselves in the running of industry and the state. In December Lenin wrote: "One of the most important tasks of today, if not the most important, is to develop [the] independent initiative of the workers, and of all the working and exploited people generally, develop it as widely as possible in creative organisational work.
At all costs we must break the old, absurd, savage, despicable and disgusting prejudice that only the so-called upper classes, only the rich, and those who have gone through the school of the rich, are capable of administering the state and directing the organisational development of socialist society.
Among all the numerous legends put in circulation in order to portray the October Revolution in an unfavourable light, that of the Constituent Assembly is perhaps the most persistent. According to this, the Bolsheviks before the revolution had advocated a democratically elected parliament Constituent Assembly , yet after the revolution they disbanded it.
Since they were in a minority, the argument goes, they decided to dissolve the democratically elected parliament and resort to dictatorship. This argument overlooks a number of fundamental questions. In the first place, the demand for a Constituent Assembly - which undoubtedly played a progressive role in mobilising the masses, especially the peasantry, against the Tsarist autocracy - was only one of a series of revolutionary-democratic demands, and not necessarily the most important one. The masses were won over to the revolution on other demands, notably "Peace, Bread and Land".
These, in turn, became a reality only because they were linked to another demand - all power to the soviets. The February Revolution failed precisely because it was not capable of satisfying these most pressing needs of the population. The complete impotence of the Kerensky regime was not accidental. It reflected the reactionary character of the Russian bourgeoisie. The capitalist class of Russia was a very weak class, tied hand and foot to the landlords, and subordinate to world imperialism. Only the revolutionary transfer of power into the hands of the most resolutely revolutionary part of society, the working class, made possible the ending of the war and the distribution of land to the peasants.
This was the function of the October Revolution. The calling of elections to the Constituent Assembly the following year was almost in the nature of an afterthought. The Bolsheviks intended to use this to try to mobilise the majority of the peasantry and rouse them to political life. But above all from the standpoint of the peasantry, formal parliamentary democracy is worse than useless if it does not carry out policies that solve their most pressing needs. Under certain circumstances, the Constituent Assembly could have played a progressive role.
But in practice, it became clear that this Constituent Assembly could only be an obstacle and a rallying point for the counter-revolution. Here, the slow moving mechanism of parliamentary elections lagged far behind the swift current of revolution. The real attitude of the peasantry was revealed in the civil war, when the right Social Revolutionaries SRs and most of the Mensheviks collaborated with the Whites. At the time of the October Revolution, the Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies represented all that was alive and dynamic in Russian society.
The working class voted for the Bolsheviks in the soviets, which were much more democratic that any parliament. At the same time, the soldiers, of whom a big majority were peasants also voted overwhelmingly for the Bolsheviks:. These figures show, on the one hand, a growing polarisation between the classes, to the right note the vote of the bourgeois Kadet party and the left, and a collapse of the parties of the "centre", the Mensheviks and SRs.
But the most striking feature is the sweeping victory of the Bolsheviks, who, from a mere 12 per cent in June were now an absolute majority. What this shows is that the Bolsheviks had the support of the overwhelming majority of the workers, and a sizeable section of the peasants also. In November the Menshevik leader Y. Martov himself had to admit that "almost the entire proletariat supports Lenin". Quoted in Liebman, op. Precisely on this basis, the Bolsheviks were able to overthrow the discredited Provisional Government and take power with a minimum of resistance.
These facts alone give the lie to the myth of the October Revolution as a coup. Thus, the democratic legitimacy of the October Revolution was clearly established. But this was not reflected in the elections to the Constituent Assembly, when the Bolsheviks only got Despite this, the Bolsheviks remained firmly in power. The right SRs had traditionally led the peasants, going back to the time of the Narodniks at the turn of the century. These middle class elements were the traditional village aristocracy - teachers, lawyers, and the "gentlemen who spoke well".
During the first world war, many of them became army officers. At the time of the February Revolution, these democratic revolutionaries exercised a considerable influence among the peasant soldiers. Their vague and amorphous "revolutionism" corresponded to the first stirring of consciousness among the peasantry. But the tide of revolution flows fast. Soon after the February Revolution, the right SRs betrayed the peasantry by abandoning the programme of peace, and the revolutionary struggle for land. Where could the peasants in uniform turn for support? Once awakened to political life, the peasant masses, specially the most active layer in the army whose experience of the war raised them to a higher level of understanding than their brothers in the villages, soon came to understand the need for a revolutionary overturn in order to conquer peace, bread and land.
This could only be achieved by a revolutionary alliance with the proletariat. The realisation of this fact was registered in the Soviet elections by a sharp swing to the left. By the autumn of , the old right SR leaders had lost their base among the soldiers, who went over in droves to the left SRs and their Bolshevik allies. The elections to the Constituent Assembly were organised in a hurry after the revolution on the basis of electoral lists drawn up before October.
The peasantry had not yet had time to understand the processes that were taking place. The split between the left and right SRs had not yet taken place. There was not time for the peasantry as a whole to grasp the meaning of the October Revolution and Soviet power, particularly in the vital fields of land reform and peace. The dynamics of a revolution cannot be easily translated into the cumbersome mechanism of parliamentarism. In the elections to the Constituent Assembly, the inert masses of the backward countryside was thrown into the balance.
Weighed down by the ballast of a thousand years of slavery, the villages lagged behind the towns. These right SRs were not the political representatives but the political exploiters of the peasantry. Implacably hostile to the October Revolution, they would have handed back power to the landlords and capitalists in the kind of democratic counter-revolution which robbed the German working class of power in November There were two mutually exclusive centres of power.
The reactionaries rallied around the slogan: "All Power to the Constituent Assembly. Basing themselves on the soviets, the Bolsheviks dissolved the Constituent Assembly. There was no resistance. This incident now causes an indignant reaction in some quarters. And yet, we are left with a self-evident contradiction. If the Constituent Assembly really represented the will of the masses, why did nobody defend it? Not a hand was raised in its defence, precisely because it was an unrepresentative anachronism.
The reason for this was very well explained by the celebrated English historian of the Russian Revolution, E. Its election manifesto had been full of lofty principles and aims but, though published on the day after the October Revolution, had been drafted before that event and failed to define the party attitude towards it. Now three days after the election the larger section of the party had made a coalition with the Bolsheviks, and formally split away from the other section which maintained its bitter feud against the Bolsheviks.
It was entirely different from the corresponding proportion in the membership of the peasants' congress, and did not necessarily represent the views of the electors on a vital point which had not been before them. He noted that in the large industrial cities the Bolsheviks had almost everywhere been ahead of the other parties. They secured an absolute majority in the two capitals taken together, the Kadets here being second and the SRs a poor third. But in matters of revolution the well-known principle applied: 'the town inevitably leads the country after it; the country inevitable follows the town.
Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution , , Vol. This was admitted in so many words by Kerensky himself, who wrote the following in his memoirs: "The opening of the Constituent Assembly ended as a tragic farce. Nothing happened to give it the quality of a memorable final stand in defence of freedom. The October Revolution was almost peaceful because no class was prepared to defend the old order, either the Provisional Government or the Constituent Assembly, as Kerensky here acknowledges.
The peasants were not prepared to fight to defend the Constituent Assembly. By contrast, in the civil war which followed, the majority of the peasants rallied to the Bolsheviks once they had experienced the rule of the White Guards, and saw the role of the right SRs and Mensheviks who invariably paved the way for the White counter-revolution. Under the dictatorship of the various White generals, the old landlords returned. The peasants maybe did not understand much about politics, but they understood that the Bolsheviks alone were prepared to give them the land - which they did by decree on the day after the revolution - whereas the so-called peasant parties were merely a fig leaf for the return of the old slave owners.
And that was enough to decide the issue. In his recently published book A People's Tragedy - The Russian Revolution, which, for some reason or other, purports to be a serious study of the Russian Revolution, Orlando Figes loses no opportunity to display a particularly poisonous hostility to Bolshevism. This is typical of the new style - one might almost call it a genre of "academic" histories, the sole intention of which is to slander Lenin and identify the October Revolution with Stalinism.
Yet even this author is compelled to admit that:. The SR intelligentsia had always been mistaken in their belief that the peasants shared their veneration for the Constituent Assembly. To the educated peasants, or those who had long been exposed to the propaganda of the SRs, the Assembly perhaps stood as a political symbol of 'the revolution. It was a national parliament, long cherished by the intelligentsia, but the peasants did not share the intelligentsia's conception of the political nation, its language of 'statehood' and 'democracy,' of 'civic rights and duties,' was alien to them, and when they used this urban rhetoric they attached to it a specific 'peasant' meaning to suit the needs of their own communities.
The village soviets were much closer to the political ideals of the mass of the peasants, being in effect no more than their own village assemblies in a more revolutionary form. Through the village and volost soviets the peasants were already carrying out their own revolution on the land, and they did not need the sanction of a decree by the Constituent Assembly or, for that matter, the Soviet government itself to complete this. The Right SRs could not understand this fundamental fact: that the autonomy of the peasants through their village soviets had, from their point of view, reduced the significance of any national parliament, since they had already attained their volia, the ancient peasant ideal of self-rule.
To be sure, out of habit, or deference to their village elders, the mass of the peasants would cast their votes for the SRs in the election to the Constituent Assembly. But very few were prepared to fight the SR battle for its restoration, as the dismal failure of the Komuch would prove in the summer of Virtually all the resolutions from the villages on this question made it clear that they did not want the Assembly to be restored as the 'political master of the Russian land,' in the words of one, with a higher authority than the local soviets.
And as an illustration of this fact, Figes quotes the words of the Right SR Boris Sokolov, who was closely acquainted with the opinions of the rank and file peasant from his work as an SR agitator in the army:. Their sympathies were clearly with the soviets. These were the institutions that were near and dear to them, reminding them of their own village assemblies I more than once had occasion to hear the soldiers, sometimes even the most intelligent of them, object to the Constituent Assembly.
To most of them it was associated with the State Duma, an institution that was remote to them.
Incidentally, the indignant protests of bourgeois historians on this subject reveal either complete ignorance of history, or else a highly selective memory. The leader of the English Revolution, Oliver Cromwell, used his Model Army to disperse the Parliament for reasons very similar to those that convinced the Bolsheviks of the need to close down the Constituent Assembly.
The moderate Presbyterians who dominated the Parliament represented the first unclear incoherent awakening of the Revolution. At a certain stage, they became transformed into a conservative force, blocking the road of the radicalised petty bourgeois masses who wanted to go further. There is no doubt that the removal of this obstacle was fundamental to the victory of the Roundheads.
Analogous processes occurred in the French Revolution, when the most consistent revolutionary trend associated with the Jacobins repeatedly purged the National Convention and indeed sent its opponents to the guillotine. Again, it is clear that without such determined action, the revolution could never have triumphed against the powerful enemies ranged against it inside and outside the borders of France.
All kinds of legalistic and moralistic arguments have been levelled against the Jacobins. But these miss the point. The essence of a revolution is that it is a decisive break with the old order. The ferocious resistance of the old possessing classes sometimes compels it to take drastic measures for its own self-preservation. But nobody has yet explained how Cromwell or Robespierre could have acted in any other way and succeeded in carrying out the Revolution.
After dispersing the Long Parliament, Cromwell commented that: "There was not so much as the barking of a dog or any general and visible repining at it. The same could be said of the reaction of the masses to the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly. At any rate up to the imperialist intervention, the Bolshevik Revolution was infinitely more peaceable than either of its great precursors.
At the Third All-Russian Congress of Soviets in January , Lenin said: "Very often delegations of workers and peasants come to the government and ask, for example, what to do with such-and-such a piece of land. And frequently I have felt embarrassed when I saw that they had no very definite views. And I said to them: you are the power, do all you want to do, take all you want, we shall support you At the Seventh Party Congress, a few months later, he emphasised that "socialism cannot be implemented by a minority, by the Party.
It can be implemented only by tens of millions when they have learned to do it themselves". These statements of Lenin, which can be duplicated at will, reflected his deeprooted confidence in the ability of working people to decide their own future. It contrasts sharply to the lies of the bourgeois historians who have attempted to smear the democratic ideas of Leninism with the crimes of Stalinism. This "dictatorship of the proletariat" was in every sense a genuine workers' democracy, unlike the later totalitarian regime of Stalin.
Political power was in the hands of the masses represented through the soviets. At first even the capitalist parties apart from the extremely reactionary and anti-Semitic Black Hundreds were left free to organise. It was only the exigencies of the subsequent civil war and the dangerous activities of the saboteurs and counter-revolutionaries that forced the Bolsheviks to ban other parties, as a temporary measure. For instance, the Left Social Revolutionaries moved into opposition and threatened to sabotage the revolution by murdering the German ambassador Count Mirbach in order to push Russia into war with Germany.
The Left SRs also carried out a failed assassination attempt against Lenin in , but which eventually cut short his life six years later. No sooner had the workers and peasants taken power, than they were faced with armed imperialist intervention to overthrow the Soviet power. Within days their forces were marching on Petrograd. Within two months this government was overthrown by a coup which established Admiral Kolchak as dictator.
The pretext used was to assist the "population struggling against Bolshevik tyranny". In a pincer movement, the Bolsheviks were in danger of losing Petrograd in the autumn of Trotsky, My Life , p. A lot of noise is made about the so-called Red Terror and the violent means used by the Revolution to defend itself. But what is conveniently forgotten is that the actual October Revolution was virtually peaceful. The real bloodbath occurred in the civil war when the Soviet republic was invaded by 21 foreign armies. The Bolsheviks inherited a ruined country and a shattered army.
They were immediately faced with an armed rebellion by Kerensky and the White officers, and later by the armies of foreign intervention. At one stage, the Soviet power was reduced to just two provinces, the equivalent of the ancient Principality of Muscovy. Yet the Bolsheviks managed to beat back the counter-revolution. Even if we assume incorrectly that Lenin and Trotsky somehow managed to seize power at the head of a small group of conspirators without mass support, the idea that they could go on to defeat the combined might of the White Guards and foreign armies on such a basis, is frankly absurd.
War necessarily involves violence, and civil war more than any other. The weak and embattled workers' state was compelled to defend itself arms in hand, or else surrender to the tender mercies of the White armies, which, in common with all counter-revolutionary armies in world history, used the most bestial and bloodthirsty methods to terrorise the workers and peasants.
Had they triumphed, it would have meant an ocean of blood. There is nothing more comical than the assertion that, if only the Bolsheviks had not taken power, Russia would have embarked on the road of a prosperous capitalist democracy. How does this idea square with the facts? As early as the summer of , the rising of General Kornilov showed that the unstable regime of dual power established in February was breaking down.
The only question was who would succeed in establishing a dictatorship - Kerensky or Kornilov. To all the hypocritical attacks against the Bolsheviks for the so called Red Terror there is a very simple answer. Even the most democratic capitalist government on earth will never tolerate the existence of armed groups which attempt to overthrow the existing order by violent means.
Such groups are immediately outlawed, and the leaders put in jail, or executed. This is regarded as perfectly lawful and acceptable. Yet the same standards are not applied to the embattled Bolshevik government, fighting for survival and attacked by enemies on all sides. The hypocrisy is even more nauseating if we bear in mind the fact that precisely these "democratic" Western governments organised the most military offensives against the Bolsheviks at this time.
Already at the Versailles Peace Conference, the governments of the victorious Allies were preparing to overthrow the Bolsheviks: "Bullitt in his testimony before the Senate foreign relations committee thus described the prevailing mood at the Paris conference in April 'Kolchak made a mile advance, and immediately the entire press of Paris was roaring and screaming on the subject, announcing that Kolchak would be in Moscow within two weeks; and therefore everyone in Paris, including I regret to say members of the American commission, began to grow very lukewarm about peace in Russia, because they thought Kolchak would arrive in Moscow and wipe out the Soviet government'.
Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, , Vol. The antidemocratic nature of the Russian bourgeoisie was evident even before the October Revolution, when they yearned for a Napoleon to restore "Order". According to the big capitalist Stepan Georgevich Lianozov:. Sooner or later the foreign powers must intervene here - as one would intervene to cure a sick child, and teach it how to walk Transportation is demoralised, the factories are closing down, and the Germans are advancing. Starvation and defeat may bring the Russian people to their senses. Incidentally, the revolting slander that Lenin was a "German agent", which is, incredibly, still in circulation, is at complete variance with the facts.
It was not Lenin but the Russian bourgeoisie that was pro-German and wanted to sell Russia to the enemy in , as Lianozov's remarks show. This was not the exception but the rule after October. These "patriots" actually longed for the arrival of the German army. They preferred the foreign jackboot to the rule of the Russian workers and peasants. This pro-German mood was widespread among the propertied classes. Louise Bryant recalled a conversation at the house of a well-to-do Russian family:. Every one began to malign the Bolsheviki. They said it would be wonderful if the Germans would only come in and take possession A discussion of the Germans followed and most of the company expressed themselves in favour of a German invasion.
Just for a test I asked them to vote on what they really would rather have - the soldiers' and workers' government or the Kaiser. All but one voted in favour of the Kaiser. In the civil war that followed October, one reactionary general succeeded another. But the idea that democracy would have been implanted on Russian soil on the bayonets of the White guard is a self-evident nonsense.
Behind the White's lines, the old landlords and capitalists returned and took their revenge against the workers and peasants. The great majority of the peasants were not socialists, although they sympathised with the Bolsheviks for their revolutionary agrarian programme. But once they realised that the White armies were on the side of the landlords, any support they might have had melted away.
The White generals represented Tsarist reaction in its most naked form. They anticipated Fascism, although they lacked its mass base. But that would not have made their rule any more pleasant. In payment for the fright they had suffered, and in order to teach the masses a lesson, they would have unleashed a reign of terror on a massive scale.
The Russian workers and peasants would have been subjected to the nightmare of a bourgeois totalitarian regime for years if not decades, on the lines of Franco or Pinochet. This would have been a regime of terrible social, cultural and economic decline. The horrible atrocities of the White armies under A.
Denikin, A. Kolchak, N.
Yudenich, P. Wrangel, and others, reflected the panic of a doomed elite. Wrangel boasted that, after shooting one Red prisoner in ten, he would give the others the chance to prove their "patriotism" and "atone for their sins" in battle. Red prisoners were tortured to death, rebellious peasants hanged, and ghastly pogroms were organised against the Jews in the occupied areas. And everywhere the power of the landlords was restored. As a means of self-defence, the Bolsheviks resorted to taking hostages. Victor Serge recalls:.
Already the Cheka the Extraordinary Commission for Repression against counter-revolution, speculation, and desertion , which made mass arrests of suspects, was tending to settle their fate independently, under formal control by the Party, but in reality without anybody's knowledge. It was becoming a State within the State, protected by military secrecy and proceedings in camera.
The Party endeavoured to head it with incorruptible men like the former convict Dzerzhinsky, a sincere idealist, ruthless but chivalrous Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary , p. In such a situation, excesses were inevitable, although Lenin and Dzerzhinsky did their best to prevent them. White atrocities provoked a violent backlash:.
The main defence of the Revolution did not lie in the Cheka, but in the revolutionary internationalist policies of the Bolsheviks. Their revolutionary propaganda was having an effect on the war-weary troops of the imperialist armies. Discontent and open mutiny in the armies of intervention forced the imperialists to withdraw. The international solidarity of the working class saved the Russian Revolution.
The following extract gives a rough idea of the situation:. Of the troops of several nationalities under British command on the Archangel front the Director of Military Operations at the war Office reported in March that their morale was 'so low as to render them a prey to the very active and insidious Bolshevik propaganda which the enemy are carrying out with increasing energy and skill.
On the 1 st March , a mutiny occurred among French troops ordered to go up to the line; several days earlier a British infantry company 'refused to go to the front,' and shortly afterwards an American company 'refused for a time to return to duty at the front'.
THE GUILLOTINE AT WORK Vol. 1: The Leninist Counter-Revolution | Christie Books
After the defeat of Kolchak, the Bolsheviks attempted to normalise the situation. In January , with the approval of Lenin and Trotsky, Dzerzhinsky recommended the abolition of the death sentence throughout the country, except in districts where there were military operations. On the 17 th January the decree was passed by the government and signed by Lenin as president of the Council of People's Commissars. But within three months the situation changed again.
The Poles captured Kiev. The Revolution was in mortal danger. The death penalty was reintroduced and the Cheka was given enlarged powers. Here, yet again, we see how foreign intervention aimed at restoring the old order in Russia compelled the Revolution to use violent methods to defend itself.
Only a hypocrite would deny the right of a people to defend itself against the threat of bloody counter-revolution by all the means at its disposal. Of course, if one considers that it is better for the masses simply to turn the other cheek, and meekly accept oppression, then the methods of the Bolsheviks must stand condemned. Such a philosophy can only mean the permanent acceptance of each and every reactionary regime that ever existed.
It would, in fact, rule out the process of social progress in general. Not morality or love of humanity, but only the cowardly defence of the status quo, that is the rule of the exploiters, is the real motive of those who slander the October Revolution. What crushed the White generals was not superior force of arms, but mass desertion, mutiny and constant risings in occupied areas. Under Trotsky, the Red Army was built into a revolutionary fighting force of more than five million soldiers.
The White General Count Kidovstev could offer the masses very little: "To start with, it is clear that you must have a military dictatorship, and afterwards that might be combined with a business element Only the Bolsheviks prevented this catastrophe, organising the revolutionary people on a war footing.
The Guillotine at Work Vol. 1: The Leninist Counter-Revolution
Under the inspired leadership of Leon Trotsky, the shattered remnants of the old army were rapidly welded into a new force - the Red Army. The very fact that the Red Army could be so rapidly created out of nothing is sufficient proof of the mass base of the revolution. At the outset, few people would have given much for the survival of the new regime. Against all the odds, the Red Army beat back the enemy on all fronts. Trotsky's remarkable achievement was recognised even by the enemies of the revolution, as the following quotations from German officers and diplomats prove:.
This victory of the oppressed underdogs in open struggle against their former masters is without doubt one of the most inspiring episodes in the annals of human history, so rich in defeated slave rebellions and similar tragedies. Again, we are entitled to ask the question to the slanderers of October: How does it come about that this tiny, unrepresentative group of conspirators succeeded in defeating the powerful White guard armies, backed by 21 foreign armies? Such a feat was only conceivable on the basis that the Bolsheviks had the active support, not only of the working class, but also of broad layers of the poor and middle peasants.
At this point, the whole myth of the conspiracy of a minority collapses under its own weight. The Bolshevik Revolution was no coup, but the most popular revolution in history. Only this explains how they were able, against all the odds, not only to take power, but to hold onto it firmly. And all this was done on the basis of a workers' democracy, a regime which gave the working class far greater rights than even the most democratic bourgeois regime.
The tide of revolution was sweeping throughout Europe. The revolution put an end to the first world war, as soviets were formed throughout Germany. General Golovin reported on his negotiations with Winston Churchill in May concerning continued British military intervention as follows: "The question of giving armed support was for him the most difficult one; the reason for this was the opposition of the British working class to armed intervention The British prime minister Lloyd George wrote in a confidential memorandum to Clemenceau at the Versailles Peace Conference: "The whole of Europe is filled with the spirit of revolution.
There is a deep sense not only of discontent but of anger and revolt amongst the workmen against prewar conditions. The whole existing order in its political, social and economic aspects is questioned by the masses of the population from one end of Europe to the other. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, ,Vol. With the cessation of foreign intervention, the Red Army quickly mopped up the remnants of the White armies.
The news of revolution in Europe, led the Bolshevik Karl Radek to declare: "The world revolution had come. The mass of the people heard its iron tramp. Our isolation was over. The first wave of revolution handed power to the leaders of Social Democracy, who derailed and betrayed the movement. Lenin saw the defeat of the first wave of the European revolution as a terrible blow that served to isolate the Soviet republic for a period. This was no secondary matter, but a matter of life or death for the revolution.
Lenin and the Bolsheviks had made it abundantly clear that if the revolution was not spread to the West, they would be doomed.
On the 7 th March , Lenin weighed up the situation:. When the Bolshevik Party tackled the job alone, it did so in the firm conviction that the revolution was maturing in all countries and that in the end - but not at the very beginning - no matter what difficulties we experienced, no matter what defeats were in store for us, the world socialist revolution would come - because it is coming; would mature - because it is maturing and will reach full maturity. I repeat, our salvation from all these difficulties is an all-European revolution. He then concluded: "At all events, under all conceivable circumstances, if the German Revolution does not come, we are doomed.
Weeks later he repeated the same position: "Our backwardness has put us in the front-line, and we shall perish unless we are capable of holding out until we shall receive powerful support from workers who have risen in revolt in other countries. The main task was to hold on to power for as long as possible. Lenin never envisaged the prolonged isolation of the Soviet state. Either the isolation would be broken or the Soviet regime would be doomed. Everything depended upon the world revolution.
Its delay created enormous difficulties that were to have profound consequences. Instead of the withering away of the state, the opposite process took place. On the basis of destitution aggravated by the civil war and economic blockade, the "struggle for individual existence", to use Marx's phrase, did not disappear or soften, but assumed in succeeding years an unheard of ferocity. Rather than building on the foundations of the most advanced capitalism, the Soviet regime was attempting to overcome pre-socialist and pre-capitalist problems.
The task became "catch up with Europe and America". This was very far from the "lowest stage of communism" envisaged by Marx. The Bolsheviks were forced to tackle economic and cultural problems that had long ago been solved in the West. Lenin once declared that socialism was "Soviet power plus electrification" to illustrate the basic task at hand. This was no recipe for a "Russian road to socialism". On the contrary. It was always linked to the perspective of world revolution. Nevertheless, it was an attempt to grapple with the isolation of the workers' state encircled by hostile capitalist powers.
This terrible backwardness of Russia, coupled with the isolation of the revolution, began to bear down on the Soviet working class. Civil war, famine and physical exhaustion forced them into political apathy and gave rise to increasing bureaucratic deformations in the state and party. International assistance was vital to ensure the survival of the young Soviet republic. All the Bolsheviks could do was to hold on to power - despite all the odds - for as long as possible until assistance came from the West.
The more easily comparatively, of course did the Russian proletariat pass through the revolutionary crisis, the harder becomes now its socialist constructive work. It would not be difficult to establish beyond doubt Lenin's position on the necessity for world revolution. Indeed, unless the Soviet state succeeded in breaking out of its isolation, he thought that the October Revolution could not survive for any length of time.
This idea is repeated time after time in Lenin's writings and speeches after the Revolution. The following are just a few examples. They could be multiplied at will:. We have never cherished the hope that we could finish it without the aid of the international proletariat. We never had any illusions on that score The final victory of socialism in a single country is of course impossible.
Our contingent of workers and peasants which is upholding Soviet power is one of the contingents of the great world army, which at present has been split by the world war, but which is striving for unity We can now see clearly how far the development of the Revolution will go. The Russian began it - the German, the Frenchman and the Englishman will finish it, and socialism will be victorious.
But we shall achieve victory only together with all the workers of other countries, of the whole world It may begin with brilliant success in one country and then go through agonising periods, since final victory is only possible on a world scale, and only by the joint efforts of the workers of all countries. That can be done only by the joint efforts of the workers of the world We never deceived ourselves into thinking this could be done by the efforts of one country alone. We knew that our efforts were inevitably leading to a worldwide revolution, and that the war begun by the imperialist governments could not be stopped by the efforts of those governments themselves.
It can be stopped only by the efforts of all workers; and when we came to power, our task Not merely because from now on all the states of the world are being firmly linked by imperialism into one, dirty, bloody mass, but because the complete victory of the socialist revolution in one country alone is inconceivable and demands the most active co-operation of at least several advanced countries, which do not include Russia We have never been so near to world proletarian revolution as we are now.
We have proved we were not mistaken in banking on world proletarian revolution Even if they crush one country, they can never crush the world proletarian revolution, they will only add fuel to the flames that will consume them all. Only then shall we be able to say with absolute confidence that the cause of the proletariat has triumphed, that our first objective - the overthrow of capitalism - has been achieved. We have achieved this objective in one country, and this confronts us with a second task.
Since Soviet power has been established, since the bourgeoisie has been overthrown in one country, the second task in to wage the struggle on a world scale, on a different plane, the struggle of the proletarian state surrounded by capitalist states. Comments serbunbehcet Oct 4 A pdf copy is really essential. Login or register to post comments. Tyrion Oct 4 It should be easy enough to convert through Calibre.
Tyrion Apr 6 Mlsm Jun 23 Excuse me, is there an italian edition? Ed Sep 1 Here's what they said the specific issue was: Quote: The. Rebel2real Nov 27 Any chance we can get part 2 in epub? E The Stonewall riots and Pride at Comments 1. Comments History as creation - Cornelius Castoriadis. Comments 6. Info The libcom library contains nearly 20, articles. Log in for more features Click here to register now.
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