In Defence of October

Study the lessons of the Russian Revolution

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The State and Revolution

"The working class must break up, smash the “ready-made state machinery,” and not confine itself merely to laying hold of it."

The State and Revolution - The Marxist Theory of the State and the Tasks of the Proletariat in the Revolution

Lenin wrote The State and Revolution in August and September 1917, when he was in hiding. The need for such a theoretical work was mentioned by Lenin in the second half of 1916. It was then that he wrote his note on "The Youth International", in which he criticised Bukharin's anti-Marxist position on the question of the state and promised to write a detailed article on the Marxist attitude to the state. In a letter to A.M. Kollontai on February 17 (N.S.), 1917, he said that he had almost got ready material on that question (See Collected Works, Vol. 35, p. 286). This material was written in a small hand in a blue-covered notebook headed "marxism on the State". In it he had collected quotations from the works of Marx and Engels, and extracts from the books by Kautsky, Pannekoek and Bernstein with his own critical notes, conclusions and generalisations.

When Lenin left Switzerland for Russia in April 1917, he feared arrest by the Provisional Government and left the manuscript of "Marxism on the State" behind. When in hiding after the July events, Lenin wrote in a note:

"Entre nous, if I am knocked off, I ask you to publish my notebook 'Marxism on the State' (it got held up in Stockholm). It is bound in a blue cover. All the quotations from Marx and Engels are collected there, also those from Kautsky against Pannekoek. There are a number of remarks, notes and formulas. I think a week's work would be enough to publish it. I consider it important because not only Pkekhanov, but Kautsky, too, is confused...." When Lenin received his notebook from Stockholm, he used the material he had collected as a basis for his masterly book The State and Revolution.

According to Lenin's plan, The State and Revolution was to have consisted of seven chapters, but he did not write the seventh, "The Experience of the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917", and only a detailed plan has remained. In a note to the publisher Lenin wrote that if he "was too slow in competing this, the seventh chapter, or should it turn out to be too bulky, the first six chapters should be published separately as Book One."

The name F.F. Ivanovsky is known on the first page of the manuscript as that of the author. Lenin intended to publish the book under that pseudonym, otherwise the Provisional Government would have confiscated it. The book, however, was not printed until 1918, when there was no longer any need for the pseudonym. The second edition appeared in 1919; Lenin added to Chapter II a new section "The Presentation of the Question by Marx in 1852" for this edition.

 

23.02.1917
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.
16.04.1917
Lenin Returns
Lenin returns to Russia and presents his ‘April Theses’ denouncing the Bourgeois Provisional Government and calling for “All Power to the Soviets!”
18.06.1917
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.
16.07.1917
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.
9.09.1917
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.
26.10.1917
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.
  • V. I. Lenin

    V. I. Lenin

    "The dominating trait of his character, the feature which constituted half his make-up, was his will..."
  • L. Trotsky

    L. Trotsky

    “Astounding speeches, fanfares of orders, the unceasing electrifier of a weakening army.”
  • G. Plekhanov

    G. Plekhanov

    "In the final analysis the brilliant aspects of Plekhanov’s character will endure forever."
  • G. O. Zinoviev

    G. O. Zinoviev

    "Zinoviev has won the reputation of being one of the most remarkable orators – a difficult feat."
  • Y. M. Sverdlov

    Y. M. Sverdlov

    “He did not die on the field of battle, but we are right to see him as a man who gave his life for the cause.”
  • V. Volodarsky

    V. Volodarsky

    “He was always to be seen in the front row, the on-the-spot leader. So, they killed him.”
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Reading Guides

  • The 1917 February Revolution

    The 1917 February Revolution

    The February Revolution saw a mass strike develop from below at a furious pace which posed the question of state power within a week of its inception. Workers in Petrograd took to the streets against intolerable bread shortages, the slaughter
  • Lenin Returns in April

    Lenin Returns in April

    This reading guide contains some of Lenin’s most important writings and speeches made in the April period, accompanied by works which provide further details of events at that stage of the Revolution.
  • The June Days 1917

    The June Days 1917

    This reading guide informs the May-June period of the Revolution with analysis, accounts of those who were involved and important speeches and writings of the time.
  • The July Days 1917

    The July Days 1917

    This selection of texts covers the background, events and consequences of the July Days. Next, we will turn our attention to one of those consequences – the Kornilov putsch in late August.
  • The Kornilov affair

    The Kornilov affair

    Kornilov’s failed coup brought the direct action of the masses into play again, and proved to them once and for all that they were the only force in society capable of transforming their own living conditions. For the first time,
  • The October Insurrection 1917

    The October Insurrection 1917

    The following series of articles provides in-depth analyses and first-hand accounts of the events immediately preceding, during and after the greatest event in human history: the October Revolution, in addition to reflections on its aftermath.
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