In Defence of October

Study the lessons of the Russian Revolution

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The Seventh (April) All-Russia Conference of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.)

6) Speech on the Attitude Towards the Soviets May 8 (April 25)


Comrade Lenin pointed out that the French revolution passed through a phase of municipal revolution, that it drew its strength from the local organs of self-government, which became its mainstay. In the Russian revolution we observe a certain bureaucratism in the centres, and a greater exercise of power wielded by the Soviets locally, in the provinces. In the capital cities the Soviets are politically more dependent upon the bourgeois central authorities than those in the provinces. In the centres it is not so easy to take control of production; in the provinces this has already been carried out to some extent. The inference is—to strengthen the local Soviets. Progress in this respect is possible, coming primarily from the provinces.

Pravda No. 42, April 27 (May 10), 1917 Published according to the the text in Pravda

7) Draft Theses to the Resolution on the Soviets

In a number of local, especially working-class, centres the role of the Soviets has proved to be a particularly important one. They hold undivided power. The bourgeoisie has been disarmed and reduced to complete submission; wages have been raised, and the hours of work reduced without lowering production; food supplies are ensured; control over production and distribution has been initiated; all the old authorities have been displaced; the revolutionary initiative of the peasants is encouraged both on the question of power (the dismissal of the old and setting up of new authorities) and on the question of the land.

In the capital and certain large centres a reverse tendency is to be observed. The Soviets are less proletarian in their make-up, the influence of the petty-bourgeois elements in the executive committees is incomparably wider, and there is—especially in the commissions—“co-operation with the bourgeoisie”, who curbs the revolutionary initiative of the masses, bureaucratises the revolutionary movement of the masses and their revolutionary aims, and blocks all revolutionary measures that are liable to affect the capitalists.

It is quite natural and inevitable that after the fullest development of revolutionary energy in the capital, where the people and especially the workers had borne the greatest sacrifices in overthrowing tsarism—in the capital, where the central state power had been overthrown and the most centralised power of capital had given maximum power to the capitalists—the power of the Soviets (and the power of the proletariat) proved to be weak, the problem of developing the revolution very difficult, the transition to a new stage of the revolution extremely hard, and the resistance of the bourgeoisie stronger than anywhere else.

Hence: so long as the main effort in the capital cities and the large centres still has to be directed towards building up forces for completing the second stage of the revolution, in the local areas the revolution can and should be advanced by direct action, by the exercise of undivided power by the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, by developing the revolutionary energy of the worker and peasant mass, by establishing control over the production and distribution of products, and so on.

The following trend of the revolution can be traced:

--> (1) removal of the old government in the centre; (2) seizure of power by the bourgeoisie in view of the proletariat’s unpreparedness for tackling colossal tasks of nation-wide importance; (3) development of the revolution locally; (4) in local areas and particularly in the proletarian centres—communes and development of revolutionary energy of the masses; (5) the land—seizure of it, etc.; (6) factories; control over them; (7) undivided power; (8) local, municipal revolution going forward; (9) bureaucratisation, submission to the bourgeoisie in the centre.

Conclusions: (α) 1: build-up in the centre (build-up of forces for a new revolution);
(β) 2: advance the revolution (power? land? factories?) in the local areas;
(γ) 3: communes locally, i.e.
(α α) complete local autonomy; self-established;
(β β) without police, without government officials, full power by armed worker and peasant masses;
(δ) 4: combat bureaucratising and bourgeois-placating influence of the petty-bourgeois elements;
(ε) 5: gather local experience for prodding the centre: local areas become a model.

(σ) 6: bring home to the mass of workers, peasants, and soldiers that the reason for the revolution’s success locally is undivided power and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

(η) 7: in the centre, of course, it is more difficult, takes more time.

+ (ι) 8: development of the revolution by way of communes formed out of suburbs and blocks in the large cities....

(χ) 9: transformation (in the capital cities, etc.) into “servants of the bourgeoisie”.

Written April 25–26 (May 8-9), 1917 Published according to the manuscript
First published in 1925 Lenin Miscellany IV  

The February Revolution
Strikes and protests erupt on women's day in Petrograd and develop into a mass movement involving hundreds of thousands of workers; within 5 days the workers win over the army and bring down the hated and seemingly omnipotent Tsarist Monarchy.
Lenin Returns
Lenin returns to Russia and presents his ‘April Theses’ denouncing the Bourgeois Provisional Government and calling for “All Power to the Soviets!”
The June Days
Following the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets, the reformist leaders called a demonstration to show the strength of "democracy". 400,000 people attended, the vast majority carried banners with Bolshevik slogans.
The July Days
Spontaneous, armed demonstrations against the Provisional Government erupt in Petrograd. The workers and soldiers are suppressed by force, introducing a period of reaction and making the peaceful development of the revolution impossible.
The Kornilov Affair
Following the July days, the Bolsheviks were driven underground and the forces of reaction were emboldened. This process culminated in the reactionary forces coalescing around General Kornilov, who attempt to march on Petrograd and crush the revolutionary movement in its entirety.
The October Revolution
The Provisional Government is overthrown. State power passes to the Soviets on the morningm of 26th October, after the Bolsheviks’ Military Revolutionary Committee seize the city and the cabinet surrenders.
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