Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies

"Our idea of strength is different. Our idea is that a state is strong when the people are politically conscious. It is strong when the people know everything, can form an opinion of everything and do everything consciously."


On October 25, 1917, soldiers and workers were storming the Winter Palace, renouncing the Provisional Government that for eight months had not met their demands of an immediate end to the war and nationalisation of the land. The government had been broken apart once already in April, and reformed into a Dual power. This coupling was unable to advance the demands of the masses, but only tied itself up into bureaucratic dead-lock. In July the masses swelled again pressing their demands for peace and land, this time not finding any "compromise", but bullets, mass arrests and deporations. On October 24, 1917, the masses took to the streets again, under the leadership of the Bolshevik party, and resolved not to give up until victory was one.

Throughout the day of October 25, Lenin was in the streets and barracks directing the revolutionary forces. The Second Congress of Soviets had been convened by the Petrograd Central Excecutive Committee, and initial cuacases were going on throughout the day; though without the Bolsheviks present: they were on the streets. By nightfall however, Delegates swarmed into the Smolny Institute, and the Congress saw the tide rise to an overwhelming majority of boisterous and sweating Bolsheviks; elected to the Congress by Soviets throughout the country. Minority leaders took the floor first, putting forward plans of concilliation and backpedalling of the revolutionary tide, explaining that the masses ought to lay down their weapons and plaqards, and enter into negotiations with the Provisional Government. The Congress hall, packed with men and women in every place conceivable, let up an enourmous roar at the suggestion: it was time for power to go into the hands of the Soviets, into the hands of the people.

"Lenin, whom the Congress has not yet seen, is given the floor for a report on peace. His appearance in the tribune evokes a tumultuous greeting. The trench delegates gaze with all their eyes at this mysterious being whom they had been taught to hate and whom they have learned without seeing him to love. "Now Lenin, gripping the edges of the reading-stand, let little winking eyes travel over the crowd as he stood there waiting, apparently oblivious to the long-rolling ovation, which lasted several minutes. When it finished, he said simply, 'We shall now proceed to construct the socialist order.'"

Selected exerpts of Lenin's speeches:

Report on Peace: "If any nation whatsoever is forcibly retained within the borders of a given state, if, in spite of its expressed desire — no matter whether expressed in the press, at public meetings, in the decisions of parties, or in protests and uprisings against national oppression — is not accorded the right to decide the forms of its state existence by a free vote, taken after the complete evacuation of the [aggressive] troops of the incorporating or, generally, of the stronger nation and without the least pressure being brought to bear, such incorporation is annexation, i.e., seizure and violence.

Concluding Speech on Peace: "Let everyone know what their governments have in mind. We do not want any secrets. We want a government to be always under the supervision of the public opinion of its country.... Our idea of strength is different. Our idea is that a state is strong when the people are politically conscious. It is strong when the people know everything, can form an opinion of everything and do everything consciously."

Report on Land: Voices are being raised here that the decree itself and the Mandate were drawn up by the Socialist-Revolutionaries. What of it? Does it matter who drew them up? As a democratic government, we cannot ignore the decision of the masses of the people, even though we may disagree with it."

Trotsky explains the results:

"The whole præsidium, with Lenin at its head, stood and sang with excited enraptured faces and shining eyes.".... The last sound of the [International] died away, but the Congress remained standing, a fused human mass enchanted by the greatness of that which they had experienced. And the eyes of many rested on the short, sturdy figure of the man in the tribune with his extraordinary head, his high cheekbones and simple features, altered now by the shaved beard, and with that gaze of his small, slightly Mongol eyes which looked straight through everything. For four months he had been absent. His very name had almost separated itself from any living image. But no. He was not a myth. There he stood among his own — how many now of "his own" — holding the sheets of a message of peace to the peoples of the world. Even those nearest, those who knew well his place in the party, for the first time fully realised what he meant to the revolution, to the people. It was he who had taught them; it was he who had brought them up. Somebody's voice from the depth of the hall shouted a word of greeting to the leader. The hall seemed only to have awaited the signal. Long live Lenin! The anxieties endured, the doubts overcome, pride of initiative, triumph of victory, gigantic hopes — all poured out together in one volcanic eruption of gratitude and rapture...."