At the Second Congress of the Social Democratic Labour Party held in London in 1903, there was a dispute between Lenin and Julius Martov over the future of the SDLP. Alexander Potresov later argued: "At first it seemed to us that we were a group of comrades: that not just ideas united us, but also friendship and complete mutual trust... But the quiet friendship and calm that had reigned in our ranks had disappeared quickly. The person responsible for this change was Lenin. As time went on, his despotic character became more and more evident. He could not bear any opinion different from his own... His opponent would become a personal enemy, in the struggle with whom all tactics were permissible. Vera Zasulich was the first to notice this characteristic in Lenin. At first she detected it in his attitude towards people with different ideas - the liberals, for example. But gradually it began to appear also in his attitude towards his closest comrades... At first we had been a united family, a group of people who had committed themselves to the Revolution. But we had gradually turned into an executive organ in the hands of a strong man with a dictatorial character." (1)
Alexander Schottmann was attending his first SDLP congress and compared the impact that Lenin and Martov had on him: "Martov resembled a poor Russian intellectual. His face was pale, he had sunken cheeks; his scant beard was untidy. His glasses barely remained on his nose. His suit hung on him as on a clothes hanger. Manuscripts and pamphlets protruded from all his pockets. He was stooped, one of his shoulders was higher than the other. He had a stutter. His outward appearance was far from attractive. But as soon as he began a fervent speech all these outer faults seemed to vanish, and what remained was his colossal knowledge, his sharp mind, and his fanatical devotion to the cause of the working-class."
Schottmann was also impressed with Lenin in his disagreements with George Plekhanov. "I remember very vividly that immediately after his first address I was won over to his side, so simple, clear, and convincing was his manner of speaking... When Plekhanov spoke, I enjoyed the beauty of his speech, the remarkable incisiveness of his words. But when Lenin arose in opposition, I was always on Lenin's side. Why? I cannot explain it to myself. But so it was, and not only with me, but with my comrades." (2)
Lenin argued for a small party of professional revolutionaries with a large fringe of non-party sympathizers and supporters. Martov disagreed believing it was better to have a large party of activists. Leon Trotsky commented that "the split came unexpectedly for all the members of the congress. Lenin, the most active figure in the struggle, did not foresee it, nor had he ever desired it. Both sides were greatly upset by the course of events." (3)
Although Martov won the vote 28-23 on the paragraph defining Party membership, with the support of Plekhanov, Lenin won on almost every other important issue. His greatest victory was over the issue of the size of the Iskra editorial board to three, himself, Plekhanov and Martov. This meant the elimination of Pavel Axelrod, Alexander Potresov and Vera Zasulich - all of whom were "Martov supporters in the growing ideological war between Lenin and Martov". (4)
Trotsky argued that "Lenin's behaviour seemed unpardonable to me, both horrible and outrageous. And yet, politically it was right and necessary, from the point of view of organization. The break with the older ones, who remained in the preparatory stages, was inevitable in any case. Lenin understood this before anyone else did. He made an attempt to keep Plekhanov by separating him from Zasulich and Axelrod. But this, too, was quite futile, as subsequent events soon proved." (5)
One of the main arguments was over the subject of democracy in the party. Plekhanov argued in favour of what he and Lenin called the "dictatorship of the proletariat". This meant "the suppression of all social movements which directly or indirectly threaten the interests of the proletariat". When delegates complained about this new development Plekhanov replied by saying that "every democratic principle must be appraised not separately and abstractly, but in its relation to what may be regarded as the basic principle of democracy". The success of the revolution is the supreme law and that might mean the rejection of the idea of "universal suffrage". Lenin applauded when he argued: "If the people, in a surge of revolutionary enthusiasm, should elect a good parliament, we should endeavour to make it a long parliament. If the elections miscarry, we shot try to disperse it, not in two years, but in two weeks." (6)
As Lenin and Plekhanov won most of the votes, their group became known as the Bolsheviks (after bolshinstvo, the Russian word for majority), whereas Martov's group were dubbed Mensheviks (after menshinstvo, meaning minority). Those who became Bolsheviks included Gregory Zinoviev, Anatoli Lunacharsky, Joseph Stalin, Mikhail Lashevich, Nadezhda Krupskaya, Mikhail Frunze, Alexei Rykov, Yakov Sverdlov, Lev Kamenev, Maxim Litvinov, Vladimir Antonov, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, Kliment Voroshilov, Vatslav Vorovsky, Yan Berzin and Gregory Ordzhonikidze.
Leon Trotsky supported Julius Martov. So also did Pavel Axelrod, Lev Deich, Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, Irakli Tsereteli, Moisei Uritsky, Vera Zasulich, Alexander Potresov, Noi Zhordania and Fedor Dan. Trotsky argued in My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1930): "How did I come to be with the 'softs' at the congress? Of the Iskra editors, my closest connections were with Martov, Zasulich and Axelrod. Their influence over me was unquestionable. Before the congress there were various shades of opinion on the editorial board, but no sharp differences. I stood farthest from Plekhanov, who, after the first really trivial encounters, had taken an intense dislike to me. Lenin's attitude towards me was unexceptionally kind. But now it was he who, in my eyes, was attacking the editorial board, a body which was, in my opinion, a single unit, and which bore the exciting name of Iskra. The idea of a split within the board seemed nothing short of sacrilegious to me." (7)
Martov refused to serve on the three-man Iskra board as he could not accept the vote of non-confidence in Axelrod, Potresov and Zasulich. Plekhanov tried to restore party harmony by reconstituting the editorial board on its old basis, with the return of Axelrod, Potresov, Martov and Zasulich. (8) Lenin refused and when Plekhanov insisted that there was no other way to restore unity, Lenin handed in his resignation and stated: "I am absolutely convinced that you will come to the conclusion that it is impossible to work with the Mensheviks." (9)
Plekhanov now began to attack Lenin and predicted that in time he would be a dictator. That he would use "the Central Committee everywhere liquidates the elements with which it is dissatisfied, everywhere seats its own creatures and, filling all the committees with these creatures, without difficulty guarantees itself a fully submissive majority at the congress. The congress, constituted of the creatures of the Central Committee, amiably cries Hurrah!, approves all its successful and unsuccessful actions, and applauds all its plans and initiatives." (10)
Another vigorous attack on Lenin came from Trotsky who described him as a "despot and terrorist who sought to turn the Central Committee of the Party into a Committee of Public Safety - in order to be able to play the role of Robespierre." If Lenin ever took power "the entire international movement of the proletariat would be accused by a revolutionary tribunal of moderatism and the leonine head of Marx would be the first to fall under the guillotine." He added that when Lenin spoke of the dictatorship of the proletariat, he really meant "a dictatorship over the proletariat". (11)
Lenin came under attack from the Marxist philosopher, Rosa Luxemburg. In 1904 she published Organizational Questions of the Russian Democracy, where she argued: "Lenin’s thesis is that the party Central Committee should have the privilege of naming all the local committees of the party. It should have the right to appoint the effective organs of all local bodies from Geneva to Liege, from Tomsk to Irkutsk. It should also have the right to impose on all of them its own ready-made rules of party conduct... The Central Committee would be the only thinking element in the party. All other groupings would be its executive limbs." Luxemburg disagreed with Lenin's views on centralism and suggested that any successful revolution that used this strategy would develop into a communist dictatorship. (12)
The SDLP journal, Iskra remained under the control of the Mensheviks so Lenin, with the help of Anatoli Lunacharsky, Lev Kamenev, Vatslav Vorovsky and Gregory Zinoviev, established a Bolshevik newspaper, Vperyod (Forward). Lenin wrote to Essen Knuniyants: "All the Bolsheviks are rejoicing... At last we have broken up the cursed dissension and are working harmoniously with those who want to work and not to create scandals! A good group of contributors has been got together; there are fresh forces... The Central Committee which betrayed us has lost all credit... The Bolshevik Committees are joining together; they have already chose a Bureau and now the organ will completely unite them.... Do not lose heart. We are all reviving now and will continue to revive... Above all be cheerful. Remember, you and I are not so old yet... everything is still before us." (13)
1905 Russian Revolution
On 27th June, 1905, sailors on the Potemkin battleship, protested against the serving of rotten meat infested with maggots. The captain ordered that the ringleaders to be shot. The firing-squad refused to carry out the order and joined with the rest of the crew in throwing the officers overboard. The mutineers killed seven of the Potemkin's eighteen officers, including Captain Evgeny Golikov. They organized a ship's committee of 25 sailors, led by Afanasi Matushenko, to run the battleship. (14)
A delegation of the mutinous sailors arrived in Geneva with a message addressed directly to Father Georgi Gapon. He took the cause of the sailors to heart and spent all his time collecting money and purchasing supplies for them. He and their leader, Afanasi Matushenko, became inseparable. "Both were of peasant origin and products of the mass upheaval of 1905 - both were out of place among the party intelligentsia of Geneva." (15)
The Potemkin Mutiny spread to other units in the army and navy. Industrial workers all over Russia withdrew their labour and in October, 1905, the railwaymen went on strike which paralyzed the whole Russian railway network. These events became known as the 1905 Revolution. These industrial disputes developed into a general strike. Leon Trotsky later recalled: "After 10th October 1905, the strike, now with political slogans, spread from Moscow throughout the country. No such general strike had ever been seen anywhere before. In many towns there were clashes with the troops." (16)
Later that month, Trotsky and other Mensheviks established the St. Petersburg Soviet. On 26th October the first meeting of the Soviet took place in the Technological Institute. It was attended by only forty delegates as most factories in the city had time to elect the representatives. It published a statement that claimed: "In the next few days decisive events will take place in Russia, which will determine for many years the fate of the working class in Russia. We must be fully prepared to cope with these events united through our common Soviet." (17)
The Bolsheviks had little influence in the Soviets. Lenin regarded this "undisciplined organism as a dangerous rival to the Party, a spontaneous proletarian assembly which a small group of 'professional revolutionists' would not be able to control." (18) Lenin urged his supporter to become involved in the revolution. "It requires furious energy and more energy. I am appalled, truly appalled to see that more than half a year has been spent in talk about bombs - and not a single bomb has yet been made... Go to the youth. Organize at once and everywhere fighting brigades among students, and particularly among workers. Let them arm themselves immediately with whatever weapons they can obtain - a knife, a revolver, a kerosene-soaked rag for setting fires." (19)
Funding of the Bolsheviks
Lenin also spent a great deal of time finding ways of raising money for the party. He secured large donations from Maxim Gorky and Savva Morozov, the Moscow millionaire textile manufacturer. Leonid Krassin, a leading Bolshevik, approached Morozov and explained Lenin's virtues as a radical political leader. He commented: "I know all about that; I agree; Lenin is a man of vision. How much does he want?" Krassin replied: "As much as possible". Morozov arranged to give 1,000 rubles a month?" (20)
This was not the main source of income. The armed hold-ups of Bolsheviks gangs provided much more. One raid on the Tiflis Post Office raised 250,000 roubles. The gang used bombs during the robbery and several people were killed. When George Plekhanov, one of the leaders of the Mensheviks, heard that the Bolsheviks were behind the robbery he declared: "The whole affair is so outrageous that it is really high time for us to break off all relations with the Bolsheviks." Lenin justified the action with the words: "In politics there is only one principle and one truth: what profits my opponent hurts me and vice versa." (21)
Lenin, and his two loyal assistants, Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, used this money to print revolutionary literature and newspapers such as Zvezda. Some money was used to gain control some of the unions that were emerging in Russia's main industrial cities. One of Lenin's agents, Roman Malinovsky, was elected as general secretary of the St Petersburg Metalworkers' Union and became one of his most trusted Bolshevik agents in Russia. (22)
In 1911, Lenin, Gregory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, David Riazanov, Anatoli Lunacharsky and other Bolsheviks moved to France and settled in a small village just outside of Paris. He was also joined by Yuri Piatakov and Evgenia Bosh. However, under the influence of Bosh, Piatakov fell out with Lenin on the "national question". As Kathy Fairfax, the author of Comrades in Arms: Bolshevik Women in the Russian Revolution (1999) has pointed out: "With her Ukrainian experience Bosh felt that nationalism of proletarian internationalism while Lenin considered that the nationalism of the oppressed had a revolutionary potential, especially in the tsarist empire." (23)
Roman Malinovsky - Okhrana Agent
In January, 1912, Lenin organised a Russian Social Democratic Labour Party conference In Prague. Lenin's major rivals, Jules Martov, George Plekhanov, Pavel Axelrod and Leon Trotsky, were all invited but they all declined to take part. Some of the delegates protested that the meeting was unrepresentational and Gregory Ordzhonikidze suggested that the RSDLP should be under the control of people living in Russia instead of by "out of touch émigrés". Despite this opposition Lenin was able to get all his motions carried unanimously. The Prague meeting had, in Lenin's own words "constituted itself as the supreme and legitimate assembly of the entire RSDLP". After this conference the Bolsheviks maintained a completely separate existence from the Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks now took the name the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party. (24)
At the Prague conference in 1912 Lenin suggested that Roman Malinovsky should join the Bolshevik Central Committee. Nickolai Bukharin objected to the proposal arguing that he was convinced that he was an Okhrana agent. He pointed out that in April 1910, Malinovsky and a group of his comrades were arrested. He was soon released but the rest remained in prison. Soon afterwards there was a wave of arrests among the Bolsheviks. This included Bukharin, who while in prison met several men who believed Malinovsky of being responsible for their arrest. (25)
Bukharin's objections were rejected by Lenin and advocated that Malinovsky should also be a Bolshevik candidate for the Duma. After being elected he became known as an eloquent and forceful orator. Before making his speeches he sent copies to Lenin and S. P. Beletsky, the director of Okhrana. It was later revealed that he was Okhrana's best-paid agent, earning 8,000 rubles a year, 1,000 more than the Director of the Imperial Police. (26)
After being elected in October, 1912, Roman Malinovsky became the leader of the group of six Bolshevik deputies. Lenin argued: "For the first time among ours in the Duma there is an outstanding worker-leader. He will read the Declaration (the political declaration of the Social Democratic fraction on the address of the Prime Minister). This time it's not another Alexinsky. And the results - perhaps not immediately - will be great." (27)
Malinovsky was now in a position to spy on Lenin. This included supplying Okhrana with copies of his letters. In a letter dated 18th December, 1912, S. E. Vissarionov, the Assistant Director of Okhrana, wrote to Nikolay Maklakov, the Minister of the Interior: "The situation of the Fraction is now such that it may be possible for the six Bolsheviks to be induced to act in such a way as to split the Fraction into Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. Lenin supports this. See his letter (supplied by Malinovsky)". (28)
When Elena Troyanovsky was arrested in 1913 her husband, Aleksandr A. Troyanovsky, wrote a letter claiming that if she was not released he would expose the double agent in the leadership of the Bolsheviks. S. P. Beletsky later testified that when he showed this letter to Malinovsky he "became hysterical" and demanded that she was released. In order that he remained as a spy Beletsky agreed to do this. Troyanovsky took this information to Nickolai Bukharin and when Lenin was told about this he called their actions as being worse than treason. Troyanovsky responded by leaving the Bolsheviks. Instead of carrying out an investigation into Malinovsky, Lenin launched an attack on Julius Martov and Fedor Dan, who he accused of acting like "gossipy old women". (29)
Bertram D. Wolfe argued that in 1913: "He (Malinovsky) was entrusted with setting up a secret printing plant inside Russia, which naturally did not remain secret for long. Together with Yakovlev he helped start a Bolshevik paper in Moscow. It, too, ended promptly with the arrest of the editor. Inside Russia, the popular Duma Deputy traveled to all centers. Arrests took place sufficiently later to avert suspicion from him... The police raised his wage from five hundred to six hundred, and then to seven hundred rubles a month." (30)
Nadezhda Krupskaya later explained: "Vladimir Ilyich thought it utterly impossible for Malinovsky to have been an agent provocateur. These rumors came from Menshevik circles... The commission investigated all the rumors but could not obtain any definite proof of the charge. Only once did a doubt flash across his mind. I remember one day in Poronino, we were returning from the Zinoviews and talking about these rumours. All of sudden Ilyich stopped on the little bridge we were crossing and said: 'It may be true!' - and his face expressed anxiety. 'What are you talking about, it's nonsence'. Ilyich calmed down and began to abuse the Mensheviks, saying that they were unscrupulous as to the means they employed in the struggle against the Bolsheviks." (31)
The First World War
In the international crisis that followed the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the Tsar Nicholas II made it clear that he was willing to go to war over this issue, Rasputin was an outspoken critic of this policy and joined forces with two senior figures, Sergei Witte and Pyotr Durnovo, to prevent the war. Durnovo told the Tsar that a war with Germany would be "mutually dangerous" to both countries, no matter who won. Witte added that "there must inevitably break out in the conquered country a social revolution, which by the very nature of things, will spread to the country of the victor." (32)
Witte realised that because of its economic situation, Russia would lose a war with any of its rivals. Bernard Pares met Witte and Grigori Rasputin several times in the years leading up to the First World War: "Count Witte never swerved from his conviction, firstly, that Russia must avoid the war at all costs, and secondly, that she must work for economic friendship with France and Germany to counteract the preponderance of England. Rasputin was opposed to the war for reasons as good as Witte's. He was for peace between all nations and between all religions." (33)
In August, 1914, Russian revolutionaries had a meeting in Switzerland to discuss the war. Leon Trotsky attempted to explain the level of nationalism that emerged during the first few days of the war. "The mobilization and declaration of war have veritably swept off the face of the earth all the national and social contradictions in the country". (34) Trotsky argued the workers believed that if their country conquered new colonies and markets they would enjoy higher living standards. In time of war, therefore, the workers still identified themselves with the cause of their exploiters. Julius Martov agreed with Trotsky that "their internationalism was still too weak to overcome the new flush of national patriotism which the war had produced." (35)
Lenin also came into conflict with George Plekhanov over this issue. He defended the socialists of the Allied countries for their patriotism as they had to give their full support to their governments against German militarism. Nickolai Bukharin described how Lenin reacted to the speech. "Never before or after did I see such a deathly pallor on Ilyich's face. Only his eyes were burning brightly, when, in a dry, guttural voice, he started to lash his opponent sharply and forcefully." (36)
Lenin criticised the views of Trotsky and Martov as being defeatest. He was appalled by the decision of most socialists in Europe to support the war effort. He was especially angry with the German Social Democratic Party (SDP) as Karl Liebknecht was the only member of the Reichstag who voted against Germany's participation in the war. He published several pamphlets on the war including The Tasks of Revolutionary Social Democracy in the European War and The War and Russian Social Democracy that were smuggled into Russia. He argued for the "tsarist monarchy to be defeated and the imperialist war turned into a European-wide civil war." (37)
Lenin argued: "The European and world war has the clearly defined character of a bourgeois, imperialist and dynastic war. A struggle for markets and for freedom to loot foreign countries, a striving to suppress the revolutionary movement of the proletariat and democracy in the individual countries, a desire to deceive, disunite, and slaughter the proletarians of all countries by setting the wage slaves of one nation against those of another so as to benefit the bourgeoisie - these are the only real content and significance of the war.The conduct of the leaders of the German Social-Democratic Party, the strongest and the most influential in the Second International (1889-1914), a party which has voted for war credits and repeated the bourgeois-chauvinist phrases of the Prussian Junkers and the bourgeoisie, is sheer betrayal of socialism." (38)
Lenin argued that "the slogan of peace is wrong - the slogan must be, turn the imperialist war into civil war." Lenin believed that a civil war in Russia would bring down the old order and enable the Bolsheviks to gain power. This brought him into conflict with Rosa Luxemburg. In 1915 Luxemburg published the highly influential pamphlet, The Crisis in the German Social Democracy. Luxemburg rejected the view of Lenin that the war would bring democracy to Russia: "It is true that socialism gives to every people the right of independence and the freedom of independent control of its own destinies. But it is a veritable perversion of socialism to regard present-day capitalist society as the expression of this self-determination of nations. Where is there a nation in which the people have had the right to determine the form and conditions of their national, political and social existence?"
In the pamphlet Rosa Luxemburg quoted Friedrich Engels as saying: “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.” She added: "A look around us at this moment shows what the regression of bourgeois society into barbarism means. This world war is a regression into barbarism.... The world war today is demonstrably not only murder on a grand scale; it is also suicide of the working classes of Europe. The soldiers of socialism, the proletarians of England, France, Germany, Russia, and Belgium have for months been killing one another at the behest of capital. They are driving the cold steel of murder into each other’s hearts. Locked in the embrace of death, they tumble into a common grave."
Luxemburg also pointed out that Germany was also fighting democratic states such as Britain and France: "Germany certainly has not the right to speak of a war of defence, but France and England have little more justification. They too are protecting, not their national, but their world political existence, their old imperialistic possessions, from the attacks of the German upstart." To Luxemburg, this was an imperialist war and could not be turned into a war of political liberation. (39)
According to Adam B. Ulam, the author of The Bolsheviks (1998): "Lenin in general liked Rosa for her fine revolutionary fervour, and for the fire with which she castigated the opportunists and Revisionists of the German Social Democracy." However, Lenin disliked it when she disagreed with him. The two had clashed over the issue of Polish independence. "For revolutionary propaganda he always extolled the slogan of national self-determination... but for the revolutionary organization Lenin had always demanded unity and centralization". When she questioned his views, as she did over the war, she became "a senseless fanatic". (40)
Lenin now devoted his energies to campaign to turn the war into a revolution. This included the publication of the pamphlet, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism. Lenin broke with the Marxist conception of history which saw every society passing through feudalism, then capitalism, before socialism could be established and insisted that conditions existed to make a successful revolution possible. Along with his close collaborators, Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, Lenin arranged for the distribution of these pamphlets that urged Allied troops to turn their rifles against their officers and start a socialist revolution. (41)
The Provisional Government
The First World War had a disastrous impact on the Russian economy. Food was in short supply and this led to rising prices. By January 1917 the price of commodities in Petrograd had increased six-fold. In an attempt to increase their wages, industrial workers went on strike and in Petrograd people took to the street demanding food. On 11th February, 1917, a large crowd marched through the streets of Petrograd breaking shop windows and shouting anti-war slogans.
Petrograd was a city of 2,700,000 swollen with an influx of of over 393,000 wartime workers. According to Harrison E. Salisbury, in the last ten days of January, the city had received 21 carloads of grain and flour per day instead of the 120 wagons needed to feed the city. Okhrana, the secret police, warned that "with every day the food question becomes more acute and it brings down cursing of the most unbridled kind against anyone who has any connection with food supplies." (42)
Harold Williams, a journalist working for the Daily Chronicle reported details of serious food shortages: "All attention here is concentrated on the food question, which for the moment has become unintelligible. Long queues before the bakers' shops have long been a normal feature of life in the city. Grey bread is now sold instead of white, and cakes are not baked. Crowds wander about the streets, mostly women and boys, with a sprinkling of workmen. Here and there windows are broken and a few bakers' shops looted." (43)
It was reported that in one demonstration in the streets by the Nevsky Prospect, the women called out to the soldiers, "Comrades, take away your bayonets, join us!". The soldiers hesitated: "They threw swift glances at their own comrades. The next moment one bayonet is slowly raised, is slowly lifted above the shoulders of the approaching demonstrators. There is thunderous applause. The triumphant crowd greeted their brothers clothed in the grey cloaks of the soldiery. The soldiers mixed freely with the demonstrators." On 27th February, 1917, the Volynsky Regiment mutinied and after killing their commanding officer "made common cause with the demonstrators". (44)
The President of the Duma, Michael Rodzianko, became very concerned about the situation in the city and sent a telegram to the Tsar: "The situation is serious. There is anarchy in the capital. The Government is paralysed. Transport, food, and fuel supply are completely disorganised. Universal discontent is increasing. Disorderly firing is going on in the streets. Some troops are firing at each other. It is urgently necessary to entrust a man enjoying the confidence of the country with the formation of a new Government. Delay is impossible. Any tardiness is fatal. I pray God that at this hour the responsibility may not fall upon the Sovereign." (45)
On 10th March, 1917, the Tsar had decreed the dissolution of the Duma. The High Command of the Russian Army now feared a violent revolution and on 12th March suggested that Nicholas II should abdicate in favour of a more popular member of the royal family. Attempts were now made to persuade Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich to accept the throne. He refused and the Tsar recorded in his diary that the situation in "Petrograd is such that now the Ministers of the Duma would be helpless to do anything against the struggles the Social Democratic Party and members of the Workers Committee. My abdication is necessary... The judgement is that in the name of saving Russia and supporting the Army at the front in calmness it is necessary to decide on this step. I agreed." (46)
Prince George Lvov, was appointed the new head of the Provisional Government. Members of the Cabinet included Pavel Milyukov (leader of the Cadet Party), was Foreign Minister, Alexander Guchkov, Minister of War, Alexander Kerensky, Minister of Justice, Mikhail Tereshchenko, a beet-sugar magnate from the Ukraine, became Finance Minister, Alexander Konovalov, a munitions maker, Minister of Trade and Industry, and Peter Struve, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Prince Lvov allowed all political prisoners to return to their homes. Joseph Stalin arrived at Nicholas Station in St. Petersburg with Lev Kamenev and Yakov Sverdlov on 25th March, 1917. The three men had been in exile in Siberia. Stalin's biographer, Robert Service, has commented: "He was pinched-looking after the long train trip and had visibly aged over the four years in exile. Having gone away a young revolutionary, he was coming back a middle-aged political veteran." (47)
Lenin and the April Theses
When Lenin returned to Russia on 3rd April, 1917, he announced what became known as the April Theses. As he left the railway station Lenin was lifted on to one of the armoured cars specially provided for the occasions. The atmosphere was electric and enthusiastic. Feodosiya Drabkina, who had been an active revolutionary for many years, was in the crowd and later remarked: "Just think, in the course of only a few days Russia had made the transition from the most brutal and cruel arbitrary rule to the freest country in the world." (48)
In his speech Lenin attacked Bolsheviks for supporting the Provisional Government. Instead, he argued, revolutionaries should be telling the people of Russia that they should take over the control of the country. In his speech, Lenin urged the peasants to take the land from the rich landlords and the industrial workers to seize the factories. Lenin accused those Bolsheviks who were still supporting the government of Prince Georgi Lvov of betraying socialism and suggested that they should leave the party. Lenin ended his speech by telling the assembled crowd that they must "fight for the social revolution, fight to the end, till the complete victory of the proletariat". (49)
Some of the revolutionaries in the crowd rejected Lenin's ideas. Alexander Bogdanov called out that his speech was the "delusion of a lunatic." Joseph Goldenberg, a former of the Bolshevik Central Committee, denounced the views expressed by Lenin: "Everything we have just heard is a complete repudiation of the entire Social Democratic doctrine, of the whole theory of scientific Marxism. We have just heard a clear and unequivocal declaration for anarchism. Its herald, the heir of Bakunin, is Lenin. Lenin the Marxist, Lenin the leader of our fighting Social Democratic Party, is no more. A new Lenin is born, Lenin the anarchist." (50)
The journalist, Harold Williams rejected the idea that Lenin could play an important role in affairs: "Lenin, leader of the extreme faction of the Social Democrats, arrived here on Monday night by way of Germany. His action in accepting from the German government a passage from Switzerland through Germany arouses intense indignation here. He has come back breathing fire, and demanding the immediate and unconditional conclusions of peace, civil war against the army and government, and vengeance on Kerensky and Chkheidze, whom he describes as traitors to the cause of International Socialism. At the meeting of Social Democrats yesterday his wild rant was received in dead silence, and he was vigorously attacked, not only by the more moderate Social Democrats, but by members of his own faction. Lenin was left absolutely without supporters. The sharp repulse given to this firebrand was a healthy sign of the growth of practical sense of the Socialist wing, and the generally moderate and sensible tone of the conference of provincial workers' and soldiers' deputies was another hopeful indication of the passing of the revolutionary fever." (51)
Albert Rhys Williams, an American visitor to Russia, disagreed with this viewpoint. Williams was convinced that the Bolsheviks would become the new rulers: "The Bolsheviks understood the people. They were strong among the more literate strata, like the sailors, and comprised largely the artisans and labourers of the cities. Sprung directly from the people's lions they spoke the people's language, shared their sorrows and thought their thoughts. They were the people. So they were trusted." (52)
Joseph Stalin was in a difficult position. As one of the editors of Pravda, he was aware that he was being held partly responsible for what Lenin had described as "betraying socialism". Stalin had two main options open to him: he could oppose Lenin and challenge him for the leadership of the party, or he could change his mind about supporting the Provisional Government and remain loyal to Lenin. After ten days of silence, Stalin made his move. In the newspaper he wrote an article dismissing the idea of working with the Provisional Government. He condemned Alexander Kerensky and Victor Chernov as counter-revolutionaries, and urged the peasants to takeover the land for themselves. (53)
Soon after taking power Pavel Milyukov, the foreign minister, wrote to all Allied ambassadors describing the situation since the removal of the Tsar: "Free Russia does not aim at the domination of other nations, or at occupying by force foreign territories. Its aim is not to subjugate or humiliate anyone. In referring to the "penalties and guarantees" essential to a durable peace the Provisional Government had in view reduction of armaments, the establishment of international tribunals, etc." He attempted to maintain the Russian war effort but he was severely undermined by the formation of soldiers' committee that demanded "peace without annexations or indemnities". (54)
As Robert V. Daniels, the author of Red October: The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 (1967) pointed out: "On the 20th April, Milyukov's note was made public, to the accompaniment of intense popular indignation. One of the Petrograd regiments, stirred up by the speeches of a mathematician who happened to be serving in the ranks, marched to the Marinsky Palace (the seat of the government at the time) to demand Milyukov's resignation." With the encouragement of the Bolsheviks, the crowds marched under the banner, "Down with the Provisional Government". (55)
Ariadna Tyrkova, a member of the Cadets, argued: "A man of rare erudition and of an enormous power for work, Milyukov had numerous adherents and friends, but also not a few enemies. He was considered by many as a doctrinaire on account of the stubbornness of his political views, while his endeavours to effect a compromise for the sake of rallying larger circles to the opposition were blamed as opportunism. As a matter of fact almost identical accusations were showered upon him both from Right and Left. This may partly be explained by the fact that it is easier for Milyukov to grasp an idea than to deal with men, as he is not a good judge of either their psychology or their character." (56)
On 5th May, Pavel Milyukov and Alexander Guchkov, the two most conservative members of the Provisional Government, were forced to resign. Mikhail Tereshchenko replaced Milyukov as Foreign Minister and Alexander Kerensky moved from Justice to the War Ministry, while five Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries from the Petrograd Soviet stepped into the cabinet to share the problems of the administration. This included Victor Chernov (Agriculture) and Irakli Tsereteli (Posts and Telegraphs). (57)
Kerensky appointed General Alexei Brusilov as the Commander in Chief of the Russian Army. He toured the Eastern Front where he made a series of emotional speeches where he appealed to the troops to continue fighting. On 18th June, Kerensky announced a new war offensive. According to David Shub: "The main purpose of the drive was to force the Germans to return to the Russian front the divisions which they had diverted to France in preparation for an all-out offensive against the Western Allies. At the same time, the Provisional Government hoped this move would restore the fighting spirit of the Russian Army." (58)
Encouraged by the Bolsheviks, who favoured peace negotiations, there were demonstrations against Kerensky in Petrograd. The Bolshevik popular slogan "Peace, Bread and Land", helped to increase support for the revolutionaries. By the summer of 1917, the membership of the Bolshevik Party had grown to 240,000. The Bolsheviks were especially favoured by the soldiers who found Lenin's promise of peace with Germany extremely attractive. (59)
Prince George Lvov was in conflict with Victor Chernov over the changes taking place over land ownership. Chernov issued circulars that supported the actions of the local land committees in reducing the rents of land leased by the peasants, seizing untilled fields for peasant use and commanding prisoner-of-war labour from private landowners. Lvov accused Chernov of going the back of the government and he prevailed on the ministry of justice to challenge the legality of Chernov's circulars. Without the full support of the cabinet in this dispute, Lvov resigned as prime minister on 7th July. (60)
The Russian Revolution
Alexander Kerensky became the new prime minister and soon after taking office, he announced another new offensive. Soldiers on the Eastern Front were dismayed at the news and regiments began to refuse to move to the front line. There was a rapid increase in the number of men deserting and by the autumn of 1917 an estimated 2 million men had unofficially left the army. Some of these soldiers returned to their homes and used their weapons to seize land from the nobility. Manor houses were burnt down and in some cases wealthy landowners were murdered. Kerensky and the Provisional Government issued warnings but were powerless to stop the redistribution of land in the countryside.
After the failure of the July Offensive on the Eastern Front, Kerensky replaced General Alexei Brusilov with General Lavr Kornilov, as Supreme Commander of the Russian Army. Kornilov had a fine military record and unlike most of the Russian senior officers, came "from the people" as he was the son of a poor farmer. "This combination made Kornilov the man of destiny in the eyes of those conservative and moderate politicians... who hoped that through him the Revolution might be tamed. But not only the right pinned its hopes on Kornilov. Kerensky and some in in his entourage hoped to use the general to destroy any future Bolshevik threat and to remove or diminish the tutelage of the soviets over the Provisional Government." (61)
However, the two men soon clashed about military policy. Kornilov wanted Kerensky to restore the death-penalty for soldiers and to militarize the factories. He told his aide-de-camp, that "the time had come to hang the German agents and spies, headed by Lenin, to disperse the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies so that it can never reassemble." On 7th September, Kornilov demanded the resignation of the Cabinet and the surrender of all military and civil authority to the Commander in Chief. Kerensky responded by dismissing Kornilov from office and ordering him back to Petrograd. (62)
Kornilov now sent troops under the leadership of General Aleksandr Krymov to take control of Petrograd. Kornilov believed that he was going to become military dictator of Russia. He had the open support of a number of prominent Russian industrialists, headed by Aleksei Putilov, owner of the steelworks and the leading Petrograd banker. Others involved in the plot included Alexander Guchkov, a backer of an organization called the Union for Economic Revival of Russia. According to one source these industrialists had raised 4 million rubles for Kornilov's conspiracy. (63)
Kerensky was now in danger and so he called on the Soviets and the Red Guards to protect Petrograd. The Bolsheviks, who controlled these organizations, agreed to this request, but in a speech made by their leader, Lenin, he made clear they would be fighting against Kornilov rather than for Kerensky. Within a few days Bolsheviks had enlisted 25,000 armed recruits to defend Petrograd. While they dug trenches and fortified the city, delegations of soldiers were sent out to talk to the advancing troops. Meetings were held and Kornilov's troops decided to refuse to attack Petrograd. General Krymov committed suicide and Kornilov was arrested and taken into custody. (64)
Kerensky now became the new Supreme Commander of the Russian Army. His continued support for the war effort made him unpopular in Russia and on 8th October, Kerensky attempted to recover his left-wing support by forming a new coalition that included three Mensheviks and two Socialist Revolutionaries. However, with the Bolsheviks controlling the Soviets, and now able to call on a large armed militia, Kerensky was unable to reassert his authority.
Some members of the Constitutional Democratic Party urged Pavel Milyukov to take action against the Provisional Government. He defended his position by arguing: "It will be our task not to destroy the government, which would only aid anarchy, but to instill in it a completely different content, that is, to build a genuine constitutional order. That is why, in our struggle with the government, despite everything, we must retain a sense of proportion.... To support anarchy in the name of the struggle with the government would be to risk all the political conquests we have made since 1905." (65)
The Cadet party newspaper did not take the Bolshevik challenge seriously: "The best way to free ourselves from Bolshevism would be to entrust its leaders with the fate of the country... The first day of their final triumph would also be the first day of their quick collapse." Leon Trotsky accused Milyukov of being a supporter of General Lavr Kornilov and trying to organize a right-wing coup against the Provisional Government. Nikolai Sukhanov, a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party argued that in Russia there was "a hatred for Kerenskyism, fatigue, rage and a thirst for peace, bread and land". (66)
Alexander Kerensky later claimed he was in a very difficult position and described Milyukov's supporters as being Bolsheviks of the Right: "The struggle of the revolutionary Provisional Government with the Bolsheviks of the Right and of the Left... We struggled on two fronts at the same time, and no one will ever be able to deny the undoubted connection between the Bolshevik uprising and the efforts of Reaction to overthrow the Provisional Government and drive the ship of state right onto the shore of social reaction." Kerensky argued that Milyukov was now working closely with other right-wing forces to destroy the Provisional Government: "In mid-October, all Kornilov supporters, both military and civilian, were instructed to sabotage government measures to suppress the Bolshevik uprising." (67)
Isaac Steinberg pointed out that only the Bolsheviks were showing determined leadership. "The army, exhausted by a desperate thirst for peace and anticipating all the horrors of a new winter campaign, was looking for a decisive change in policy. The peasantry, yearning for freed land and fearing to lose it in incomprehensive delays, was also waiting for this change. The proletariat, having seen lock-outs, unemployment and the collapse of industry and dreaming of a new social order, which must be born of the revolutionary storm, of which it was the vanguard, awaited this change." (68)
John Reed was a journalist who was living in Petrograd at the time: "Week by week food became scarcer. The daily allowance of bread fell from a pound and a half to a pound, than three-quarters, half, and a quarter-pound. Towards the end there was a week without any bread at all. Sugar one was entitled to at the rate of two pounds a month - if one could get it at all, which was seldom. A bar of chocolate or a pound of tasteless candy cost anywhere from seven to ten roubles - at least a dollar. For milk and bread and sugar and tobacco one had to stand in queue. Coming home from an all-night meeting I have seen the tail beginning to form before dawn, mostly women, some babies in their arms." (69)
It has been argued that Lenin was the master of good timing: "Rarely had he (Lenin) displayed to better advantage his sense of timing, his ability to see one jump ahead of his opponents. He had spurred his men on in April, May and June; he held them back in July and August; now, after the Kornilov fiasco, he once again spurred them on." (70) He began writing The State and Revolution, where he called upon the Bolsheviks to destroy the old state machinery for the purpose of overthrowing the bourgeoisie, destroying bourgeois parliamentarism... for the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat." (71)
Lenin now decided it was time to act. On 20th October, the Military Revolutionary Committee had its first meeting. Members included Joseph Stalin, Andrey Bubnov, Moisei Uritsky, Felix Dzerzhinsky and Yakov Sverdlov. According to Robert V. Daniels, the author of Red October: The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 (1967): "Despite Menshevik charges of an insurrectionary plot, the Bolsheviks were still vague about the role this organisation might play... Several days were to pass before the committee became an active force. Nevertheless, here was the conception, if not the actual birth, of the body which was to superintend the overthrow of the Provisional Government." (72)
Morgan Philips Price, a journalist working for the Manchester Guardian, watched Lenin and Leon Trotsky closely during this period: "Lenin struck me as being a man who, in spite of the revolutionary jargon that he used, was aware of the obstacles facing him and his party. There was no doubt that Lenin was the driving force behind the Bolshevik Party... He was the brains and the planner, but not the orator or the rabble-rouser. That function fell to Trotsky. I watched the latter, several times that evening, rouse the Congress delegates, who were becoming listless, probably through long hours of excitement and waiting. He was always the man who could say the right thing at the right moment. I could see that there was beginning now that fruitful partnership between him and Lenin that did so much to carry the Revolution through the critical periods that were coming." (73)
On 24th October, 1917, Lenin wrote a letter to the members of the Central Committee: "The situation is utterly critical. It is clearer than clear that now, already, putting off the insurrection is equivalent to its death. With all my strength I wish to convince my comrades that now everything is hanging by a hair, that on the agenda now are questions that are decided not by conferences, not by congresses (not even congresses of soviets), but exclusively by populations, by the mass, by the struggle of armed masses… No matter what may happen, this very evening, this very night, the government must be arrested, the junior officers guarding them must be disarmed, and so on… History will not forgive revolutionaries for delay, when they can win today (and probably will win today), but risk losing a great deal tomorrow, risk losing everything." (74)
Lenin insisted that the Bolsheviks should take action before the elections for the Constituent Assembly. "The international situation is such that we must make a start. The indifference of the masses may be explained by the fact that they are tired of words and resolutions. The majority is with us now. Politically things are quite ripe for the change of power. The agrarian disorders point to the same thing. It is clear that heroic measures will be necessary to stop this movement, if it can be stopped at all. The political situation therefore makes our plan timely. We must now begin thinking of the technical side of the undertaking. That is the main thing now. But most of us, like the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries, are still inclined to regard the systematic preparation for an armed uprising as a sin. To wait for the Constituent Assembly, which will surely be against us, is nonsensical because that will only make our task more difficult."
Lev Kamenev and Gregory Zinoviev opposed this strategy. They argued that the Bolsheviks did not have the support of the majority of people in Russia or of the international proletariat and should wait for the elections of the proposed Constituent Assembly "where we will be such a strong opposition party that in a country of universal suffrage our opponents will be compelled to make concessions to us at every step, or we will form, together with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, non-party peasants, etc., a ruling bloc which will fundamentally have to carry out our programme." (75)
Lenin thought the details of an uprising would be simple. "We can launch a sudden attack from three points, from Petrograd, from Moscow, from the Baltic Fleet... We have thousands of armed workers and soldiers in Petrograd who can seize at once the Winter Palace, the General Staff building, the telephone exchange and all the largest printing establishments... The troops will not advance against the government of peace... Kerensky will be compelled to surrender." When it was clear that the Bolshevik Central Committee did not accept Lenin's point of view he issued a political ultimatum: "I am compelled to tender my resignation from the Central Committee, which I hereby do, leaving myself the freedom of propaganda in the lower ranks of the party and at the party congress."
Leon Trotsky supported Lenin's view and urged the overthrow of the Provisional Government. On the evening of 24th October, orders were given for the Bolsheviks to occupy the railway stations, the telephone exchange and the State Bank. The Smolny Institute became the headquarters of the revolution and was transformed into a fortress. Trotsky reported that the "chief of the machine-gun company came to tell me that his men were all on the side of the Bolsheviks". (76)
The Bolsheviks set up their headquarters in the Smolny Institute. The former girls' convent school also housed the Petrograd Soviet. Under pressure from the nobility and industrialists, Alexander Kerensky was persuaded to take decisive action. On 22nd October he ordered the arrest of the Bolshevik Military Revolutionary Committee. The next day he closed down the Bolshevik newspapers and cut off the telephones to the Smolny Institute.
The following day the Red Guards surrounded the Winter Palace. Inside was most of the country's Cabinet, although Kerensky had managed to escape from the city. The palace was defended by Cossacks, some junior army officers and the Woman's Battalion. At 9 p.m. The Aurora and the Peter and Paul Fortress began to open fire on the palace. Little damage was done but the action persuaded most of those defending the building to surrender. The Red Guards, led by Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, now entered the Winter Palace. (77)
Bessie Beatty, an American journalist, entered the Winter Palace with the Red Guards: "At the head of the winding staircase groups of frightened women were gathered, searching the marble lobby below with troubled eyes. Nobody seemed to know what had happened. The Battalion of Death had walked out in the night, without firing so much as a single shot. Each floor was crowded with soldiers and Red Guards, who went from room to room, searching for arms, and arresting officers suspected of anti-Bolshevik sympathies. The landings were guarded by sentries, and the lobby was swarming with men in faded uniforms. Two husky, bearded peasant soldiers were stationed behind the counter, and one in the cashier's office kept watch over the safe. Two machine-guns poked their ominous muzzles through the entryway." (78)
Louise Bryant, another journalist commented that there were about 200 women soldiers in the palace and they were "disarmed and told to go home and put on female attire". She added: "Every one leaving the palace was searched, no matter on what side he was. There were priceless treasures all about and it was a great temptation to pick up souvenirs. I have always been glad that I was present that night because so many stories have come out about the looting. It was so natural that there should have been looting and so commendable that there was none." (79)
On 26th October, 1917, the All-Russian Congress of Soviets met and handed over power to the Soviet Council of People's Commissars. Lenin was elected chairman and other appointments included Leon Trotsky (Foreign Affairs) Alexei Rykov (Internal Affairs), Anatoli Lunacharsky (Education), Alexandra Kollontai (Social Welfare), Victor Nogin (Trade and Industry), Joseph Stalin (Nationalities), Peter Stuchka (Justice), Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko (War), Nikolai Krylenko (War Affairs), Pavlo Dybenko (Navy Affairs), Ivan Skvortsov-Stepanov (Finance), Vladimir Milyutin (Agriculture), Ivan Teodorovich (Food), Georgy Oppokov (Justice) and Nikolai Glebov-Avilov (Posts & Telegraphs). (80)
As chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, Lenin made his first announcement of the changes that were about to take place. Banks were nationalized and workers control of factory production was introduced. The most important reform concerned the land: "All private ownership of land is abolished immediately without compensation... Any damage whatever done to the confiscated property which from now on belongs to the whole People, is regarded as a serious crime, punishable by the revolutionary tribunals." (81)
The Constituent Assembly
After Nicholas II abdicated, the new Provisional Government announced it would introduce a Constituent Assembly. Elections were due to take place in November. Some leading Bolsheviks believed that the election should be postponed as the Socialist Revolutionaries might well become the largest force in the assembly. When it seemed that the election was to be cancelled, five members of the Bolshevik Central Committee, Victor Nogin, Lev Kamenev, Gregory Zinoviev, Alexei Rykov and Vladimir Milyutin submitted their resignations.
Kamenev believed it was better to allow the election to go ahead and although the Bolsheviks would be beaten it would give them to chance to expose the deficiencies of the Socialist Revolutionaries. "We (the Bolsheviks) shall be such a strong opposition party that in a country of universal suffrage our opponents will be compelled to make concessions to us at every step, or we will form, together with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, non-party peasants, etc., a ruling bloc which will fundamentally have to carry out our programme." (82)
On 4th November, 1917, the five men issued a statement: "The leading group in the Central Committee... has firmly decided not to allow the formation of a government of the soviet parties but to fight for a purely Bolshevik government however it can and whatever the sacrifices this costs the workers and soldiers. We cannot assume responsibility for this ruinous policy of the Central Committee, carried out against the will of a large part of the proletariat and soldiers." Nogin, Rykov, Milyutin and Ivan Teodorovich resigned their commissariats. They issued another statement: "There is only one path: the preservation of a purely Bolshevik government by means of political terror. We cannot and will not accept this." (83)
Eventually it was decided to go ahead with the elections for the Consistent Assembly. The party newspaper, Pravda, claimed: "As a democratic government we cannot disregard the decision of the people, even if we do not agree with it. If the peasants follow the Social Revolutionaries farther, even if they give that party a majority in the Constituent Assembly, we shall say: so be it." (84)
Eugene Lyons, the author of Workers’ Paradise Lost: Fifty Years of Soviet Communism: A Balance Sheet (1967), pointed out: "The hopes of self-government unleashed by the fall of tsarism were centered on the Constituent Assembly, a democratic parliament to draw up a democratic constitution. Lenin and his followers, of course, jumped on that bandwagon, too, posing not merely as advocates of the parliament but as its only true friends. What if the voting went against them? They piously pledged themselves to abide by the popular mandate." (85)
The balloting began on 25th November and continued until 9th December. Morgan Philips Price, a journalist working for the Manchester Guardian, reported: "The elections for the Constituent Assembly have just taken place here. The polling was very high. Every man and woman votes all over this vast territory, even the Lapp in Siberia and the Tartar of Central Asia. Russia is now the greatest and most democratic country in the world. There are several women candidates for the Constituent Assembly and some are said to have a good chance of election. The one thing that troubles us all and hangs like a cloud over our heads is the fear of famine." (86)
Despite the prevailing disorders and confusion, thirty-six million cast their secret ballots in parts of the country normal enough to hold elections. In most of the large centers of population, the voting was conducted under Bolshevik auspices. Yet twenty-seven of the thirty-six million votes went to other parties. A total of 703 candidates were elected to the Constituent Assembly in November, 1917. This included Socialist Revolutionaries (299), Bolsheviks (168), Mensheviks (18) and Constitutional Democratic Party (17).
The elections disclosed the strongholds of each party: "The Socialist-Revolutionaries were dominant in the north, north-west, central black earth, south-eastern Volga, in the north Caucasus, Siberia, most of the Ukraine and amongst the soldiers of the south-western and Rumanian fronts, and the sailors of the Black Sea fleet. The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, held sway in White Russia, in most of the central provinces, and in Petrograd and Moscow. They also dominated the armies on the northern and western fronts and the Baltic fleet. The Mensheviks were virtually limited to Transcaucasia, and the Kadets to the metropolitan centres of Moscow and Petrograd where, in any case, they took place to the Bolsheviks." (87)
It seemed that the Socialist Revolutionaries would be in a position to form the next government. As David Shub pointed out, "The Russian people, in the freest election in modern history, voted for moderate socialism and against the bourgeoisie." Most members of the Bolshevik Central Committee, now favoured a coalition government. Lenin believed that the Bolsheviks should retain power and attacked his opponents for their "un-Marxist remarks" and their criminal vacillation". Lenin managed to pass a resolution through the Central Committee by a narrow margin. (88)
Lenin demobilized the Russian Army and announced that he planned to seek an armistice with Germany. In December, 1917, Leon Trotsky led the Russian delegation at Brest-Litovsk that was negotiating with representatives from Germany and Austria. Trotsky had the difficult task of trying to end Russian participation in the First World War without having to grant territory to the Central Powers. By employing delaying tactics Trotsky hoped that socialist revolutions would spread from Russia to Germany and Austria-Hungary before he had to sign the treaty. (89)
The Constituent Assembly opened on 18th January, 1918. "The Bolsheviks and Left Socialist Revolutionaries occupied the extreme left of the house; next to them sat the crowded Socialist Revolutionary majority, then the Mensheviks. The benches on the right were empty. A number of Cadet deputies had already been arrested; the rest stayed away. The entire Assembly was Socialist - but the Bolsheviks were only a minority." (90)
Harold Williams, of the Daily Chronicle reported: "When the Assembly was opened the galleries were crowded, mostly with Bolshevik supporters. Sailors and Red Guards, with their bayonets hanging at various angles, stood on the floor of the House. To right and left of the Speaker's tribune sat the People's Commissars and their assistants. Lenin was there, bald, red-bearded, short and rather stout. He was apparently in good spirits, and chattered merrily with Krylenko (Commander-in-Chief of the Army). There were Lunacharsky and Mme Kollontai, and a number of dark young men who now stand at the head of the various Government departments and devise schemes for the imposition of unalloyed Socialism on Russia." (91)
Yakov Sverdlov was the first to mount the platform. He then read a statement that demanded that all state power be vested in the Soviets, therefore destroying the very meaning of the Constituent Assembly. He added: "all attempts on the part of any person or institution to assume any of the functions of government will be regarded as a counter-revolutionary act... every such attempt will be suppressed by all means at the command of the Soviet Government, included the use of armed force." (92)
This statement was ignored and the members of the Constituent Assembly demanded the election of a President. Victor Chernov, leader of the Socialist Revolutionaries, was proposed for the post. The Bolsheviks decided not to nominate their own candidate and instead endorsed Maria Spiridonova, the candidate of the Left Social-Revolutionaries. Spiridonova, since returning to Petrograd from Sibera in June, had become an important figure in the revolution as she believed that fighting a war with Germany meant postponing key reforms. (93)
Chernov won the vote of 244 against 151. In his opening address, Chernov expressed hope that the Constituent Assembly meant the start of stable and democratic government. He welcomed the Bolshevik land reforms and was pleased that the "soil would become the common property of all peasants who were willing and able to till it." However, he broke with the Bolsheviks over foreign policy when he stated that his government would strive for a general peace without victors or vanquished but would not sign a separate peace with Germany. (94)
Irakli Tsereteli the leader of the Mensheviks, rose to speak but was confronted with soldiers and sailors pointing rifles and pistols at his head. "The chairman's appeals for order brought more hooting, catcalls, obscene oaths, and fierce howls. Tsereteli finally managed, nevertheless, to capture general attention with his eloquent plea for civil liberty and the warning of civil war... Lenin did not speak. He sat on the stairs leading to the platform, smiled derisively, jested, wrote something on a slip of paper, then stretched himself out on a bench and pretended to fall asleep." (95)
When the Assembly refused to support the programme of the new Soviet Government, the Bolsheviks walked out in protest. The following day, Lenin announced that the Constituent Assembly had been dissolved. "In all Parliaments there are two elements: exploiters and exploited; the former always manage to maintain class privileges by manoeuvres and compromise. Therefore the Constituent Assembly represents a stage of class coalition.
In the next stage of political consciousness the exploited class realises that only a class institution and not general national institutions can break the power of the exploiters. The Soviet, therefore, represents a higher form of political development than the Constituent Assembly." (96)
Soon afterwards all opposition political groups, including the Socialist Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and the Constitutional Democratic Party, were banned in Russia. Maxim Gorky, a world famous Russian writer and active revolutionary, pointed out: "For a hundred years the best people of Russia lived with the hope of a Constituent Assembly. In this struggle for this idea thousands of the intelligentsia perished and tens of thousands of workers and peasants... The unarmed revolutionary democracy of Petersburg - workers, officials - were peacefully demonstrating in favour of the Constituent Assembly. Pravda lies when it writes that the demonstration was organized by the bourgeoisie and by the bankers.... Pravda knows that the workers of the Obukhavo, Patronnyi and other factories were taking part in the demonstrations. And these workers were fired upon. And Pravda may lie as much as it wants, but it cannot hide the shameful facts." (97)
Rosa Luxemburg agreed with Gorky about the closing down of the Constituent Assembly. In her book, Russian Revolution, written in 1918 but not published until 1922, she wrote: "We have always exposed the bitter kernel of social inequality and lack of freedom under the sweet shell of formal equality and freedom - not in order to reject the latter, but to spur the working-class not to be satisfied with the shell, but rather to conquer political power and fill it with a new social content. It is the historic task of the proletariat, once it has attained power, to create socialist democracy in place of bourgeois democracy, not to do away with democracy altogether."
Luxemburg went onto argue: "But socialist democracy is not something which begins only in the promised land after the foundations of socialist economy are created; it does not come as some sort of Christmas present for the worthy people who, in the interim, have loyally supported a handful of socialist dictators. Socialist democracy begins simultaneously with the beginnings of the destruction of class rule and of the construction of socialism. It begins at the very moment of the seizure of power by the socialist party. It is the same thing as the dictatorship of the proletariat. Yes, dictatorship! But this dictatorship consists in the manner of applying democracy, not in its elimination, but in energetic, resolute attacks upon the well-entrenched rights and economic relationships of bourgeois society, without which a socialist transformation cannot be accomplished. But this dictatorship must be the work of the class and not of a little leading minority in the name of the class – that is, it must proceed step by step out of the active participation of the masses; it must be under their direct influence, subjected to the control of complete public activity; it must arise out of the growing political training of the mass of the people." (98)
At the Seventh Party Congress held in March, 1918, Lenin proposed that the party should change its name from the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party to the Communist Party. He argued that the new name would indicate the am of the Bolsheviks would be to achieve Communism as outlined by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in their book, The Communist Manifesto.
(1) Lenin, What Is To Be Done? (1902)
An organization of workers must be first a trade organization; secondly, it must be as broad as possible; thirdly, it must be as little secret as possible. An organization of revolutionaries, on the contrary, must embrace primarily and chiefly people whose profession consists of revolutionary activity.
In an autocratic country, the more we narrow the membership of such an organization, restricting it only to those who are professionally engaged in revolutionary activities and have received a professional training in the art of struggle against the political police, the more difficult will it be to catch such an organization.
(2) David Shub, Lenin (1948)
To build that 'strongly organized party' was Lenin's main objective. Although sufficiently concerned with every comma that appeared in Iskra to do the proof-reading himself, he allowed Martov, Potresov and Zasulich to do much of the editing, while he followed closely the workings of the Iskra machinery inside Russia. There the fight against the Economists and other revisionist groups was carried by Iskra supporters into the underground Social Democratic committees and workers' organizations. Iskra also conducted a strong campaign against the use of individual terrorism as a political weapon. Discussions on this subject raged for weeks on end. It was not easy to convince men bred in the tradition of the People's Will to abandon political assassination in the fight against Tsarism.
To combat all forms of heresy Iskra agents in Russia started an intensive campaign of propaganda and agitation among workers and students. Lenin drew this distinction between propaganda and agitation... To carry their message home, Iskra agents distributed leaflets and newspapers at every opportunity. They addressed special leaflets to the intellectuals, to workers in various industries, dealing with their specific problems. Often the Social Democratic committees took the lead in organizing strikes. (There were no legal trade unions at the time.) More intensive propaganda was conducted in small clandestine groups called 'circles'.
But systematic work was impossible. It was difficult to find safe quarters, arrests were frequent, propagandizing was a dangerous business. Moreover, educated propagandists were hard to find; when one was arrested his circle usually disintegrated because there was no one to take his place. Although the curriculum of the propaganda circles called for between six and ten lectures, the course was seldom completed. In many cases the lecture consisted of reading lskra to the members. Each issue gave the propagandists material for discussion, for winning new adherents. Workers to whom the propagandist read several copies often became sufficiently interested to read the paper to their comrades. Thus Iskra passed from hand to hand, until the newsprint was so worn it could barely be read.
Most of the early Iskra propagandists were university and high-school students. These young men and girls were full of enthusiasm and revolutionary romanticism, but they were short on practical experience. Satisfying the curiosity of mature, albeit poorly schooled workers was a difficult assignment for the young zealots.
Often they had little actual knowledge of the conditions under which the workers who made up their audience lived, and frequently their answers to questions of economics rang false. Later, in the large cities, propagandists drawn from the ranks of self-educated workers began to appear and to exert a larger influence among their comrades.
Agitation was carried on by various means. In some cases one trained man read the latest issue of a legal newspaper to his fellow workers, injecting his comments. At the same time he tried to pick out those among his listeners who showed promise. These he took in hand, and furnished with 'legal' books on current problems. If the worker showed interest, he was given clandestine literature. After a probationary period he became a member of the Party.
(3) After the 2nd Congress of the Social Democratic Labour Party Leon Trotsky wrote about why the split took place.
One can say of Lenin and Martov that, even before the split, even before the Congress, Lenin was "hard" and Martov "soft". And they both knew it. Lenin would glance at Martov, whom he estimated highly, with a critical and somewhat suspicious look, and Martov, feeling his glance, would look down and move his thin shoulders nervously.
How did I come to be with the "softs" at the congress? Of the Iskra editors, my closest connections were with Martov, Zasulitch and Axelrod. Their influence over me was unquestionable.
The split came unexpectedly for all the members of the congress. Lenin, the most active figure in the struggle, did not foresee it, nor had he ever desired it. Both sides were greatly upset by the course of events. After the Congress Lenin was sick for several weeks with a nervous illness.
(4) Alexander Shotman attended the 2nd Congress of the Social Democratic Labour Party and after the debate joined the Bolsheviks. He explained his decision in his book, Reminiscences of an Old Bolshevik, published in 1932.
Martov resembled a poor Russian intellectual. His face was pale, he had sunken cheeks; his scant beard was untidy. His glasses barely remained on his nose. His suit hung on him as on a clothes hanger. Manuscripts and pamphlets protruded from all his pockets. He was stooped; one of his shoulders was higher than the other. He had a stutter. His outward appearance was far from attractive. But as soon as he began a fervent speech all these outer faults seemed to vanish, and what remained was his colossal knowledge, his sharp mind, and his fanatical devotion to the cause of the working class.
When Plekhanov spoke, I enjoyed the beauty of his speech, the remarkable incisiveness of his words. But when Lenin arose in opposition, I was always on Lenin's side. Why? I cannot explain it to myself. But so it was, and not only with me, but with my comrades and workers.
(5) Robert Bruce Lockhart, report sent to the British government (13th March, 1917)
So far the people of Moscow have behaved with exemplary restraint. For the moment, only enthusiasm prevails, and the struggle which is almost bound to ensure between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat has not yet made its bitterness felt.
The Socialist Party is at present divided into two groups: the Social Democrats and Soviet Revolutionaries. The activities of the first named are employed almost entirely among the work people, while the Social Revolutionaries work mainly among the peasantry.
The Social Democrats, who are the largest party, are, however, divided into two groups known as the Bolsheviki and the Mensheviki. The Bolsheviki are the more extreme party. They are at heart anti-war. In Moscow at any rate the Mensheviki represent today the majority and are more favourable to the war.
(6) David Shub, Lenin (1948)
Lenin understood quite clearly that the success of his blueprint for tight party organization depended on the degree of discipline he could enforce from the start. He began, therefore, by pushing through a motion which set up a presidium consisting entirely of Iskra men, with Plekhanov as chairman and himself and Pavlovich-Krasikov as vice-chairmen.
He won on this motion, despite the protests of Martov that the procedure was undemocratic. This was the opening skirmish in the Lenin-Martov battle which was soon to have far more serious repercussions.
Later, Lenin admitted quite frankly that the purpose of his move had been to wield the 'iron fist' against all Social Democratic groups that resisted Iskra's control over the Party.
Lenin lost to Martov, however, by a vote of twenty-three to twenty-eight on the wording of the rules defining Party membership. Lenin wanted to limit membership to those who not only subscribed to the party programme but participated actively in one of its organizations. Martov, on the other hand, was willing to admit all who accepted the programme and gave the Party 'regular personal cooperation under the guidance of one of its organizations'.
To many delegates this difference seemed merely verbal. Actually the minor variation in language contained the fissionable element that was to smash the Social Democratic Party into its ultimately irreconcilable Bolshevik and Menshevik factions.
Although Martov carried the Congress by a small margin on the paragraph defining Party membership, Lenin won on almost every other important issue. And he owed his victories largely to Plekhanov's support.
The members of Lenin's 1903 majority became known as 'Bolsheviks' (after bolshinstvo, the Russian word for majority), Martov's group were dubbed 'Mensheviks' (after menshirestvo, meaning minority).
The Congress voted for the dissolution of all independent Party organizations and their fusion into a single Party apparatus. After this vote the Bund and a number of other groups walked out. This left the Iskra group in complete command. But the elimination of the dissident factions brought no harmony. The fight between Martov and Lenin continued, with Plekhanov lining up on Lenin's side.
Lenin won on his motion for cutting the Iskra editorial board to three - himself, Plekhanov and Martov. This meant the elimination of Axelrod, Potresov and Zasulich - all of whom were Martov supporters in the growing ideological war between Lenin and Martov. Lenin was confident that in this three-man board he could wield control. Plekhanov would not take an active part in the day-to-day politics of the paper and on the broad issues Lenin felt certain Plekhanov would support him against Martov.
His confidence was reinforced by Plekhanov's fateful speech at the Congress on the subject of the 'dictatorship of the proletariat'. On Lenin's insistence Plekhanov had already written in the programme draft that the concept of proletarian dictatorship includes 'the suppression of all social movements which directly or indirectly threaten the interests of the proletariat'.
A delegate named Akimov-Makhnovetz spoke against the dictatorship clause, pointing out that no such provision was to be found in the programme of a single European Socialist Party.
Plekhanov replied by telling the delegates that `every democratic principle must be appraised not separately and abstractly, but in its relation to what may be regarded as the basic principle of democracy; namely, that salus populi lax suprenra est. Translated into a revolutionist's language, it means that the success of the revolution is the supreme law.
(7) George Buchanan, My Mission to Russia and Other Diplomatic Memories (1922).
As regarded the war, both Mensheviks and SRs advocated the speedy conclusion of peace without annexations or contributions. There was, however, a small Menshevik group, led by Plekhanov, that called on the working classes to cooperate for the purpose of securing the victory over Germany, which would alone guarantee Russia's new freedom. The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, were out and out 'Defeatists'. The war had to be brought to an end by any means and at any cost. The soldiers had to be induced by organized propaganda to turn their arms, not against their brothers in the enemy ranks, but against the reactionary bourgeois governments of their own and other countries. For a Bolshevik there was no such thing as country or patriotism.
(8) Ernest Poole, The Village: Russian Impressions (1918)
"These Bolsheviks," growled a man with a square head and a short heavy beard already half grey. "Bolsheviks, Bolsheviks - how they shout about being free men. What do they know about being free? They know nothing but books, they sit indoors and scribble and read and talk like clerks - and they are so busy making us free that they have no time to be free themselves! Let them come and find what freedom is! We'll show them!"
(9) Morgan Philips Price, wrote a memorandum about the Bolsheviks on 28th October, 1917.
The soldiers in the garrison towns in the rear follow the Bolsheviks to a man; and small wonder; for what interest have they to leave the towns and go to sit in trenches to fight about something that is of no interest to them, especially when they know that at the front they will get neither food to eat nor proper clothes against the winter cold? The workers in the factories are also strongly inclined to go with the Bolsheviks, because they know that only the end of the war will give them the food, for the lack of which they are half-starving.
(10) George Buchanan, report to the Foreign Office sent during the summer of 1917.
The Bolsheviks, who form a compact minority, have alone a definite political programme. They are more active and better organized than any other group, and until they and the ideas which they represent are finally squashed, the country will remain a prey to anarchy and disorder.
If the Government are not strong enough to put down the Bolsheviks by force, at the risk of breaking altogether with the soviet, the only alternative will be a Bolshevik Government.
(11) Harold Williams, Daily Chronicle (26th November, 1917)
Of constructive power the Bolsheviks have none, but they have enormous power for destruction. They can make a wilderness and call it peace. They can finally demoralize the army and reduce it to a rabble of hungry, looting bands, who will stream across the country, block the railways, reduce the civil population to starvation and the extreme of terror, and will fight like wolves over their prey. That they can do in the name of peace.
(12) Alfred Salter, The Labour Leader (7th March, 1918)
I see no vital difference in principle or motive between them (the Bolsheviks) and the I.L.P. We can cordially hold out the hand of fellowship to our comrades who have made in Russia not merely a political but a social revolution. We can be grateful for their unflinching courage, their uncompromising devotion to the ideal (called fanaticism by the worldly-wise), their openness and frankness, their clear and direct statement of policy. The world can never be the same again because of them, and we should be eternally thankful for it...
When Trotsky and Unin stood up at Brest before the German diplomatists, admitted their military inferiority and confronted the massed might of the Central Empires with nothing but principles, the whole world stood amazed. Ideas and ideals were suddenly seen to be the most powerful of all high explosives... It is agreed on all hands that more was achieved for the world at Brest in three weeks by the enunciation of principles and ideals by Trotsky and his colleagues, than had been accomplished by the Allies in three years of war. At one bound the Bolsheviks stepped on to the front of the stage of history, gripped the attention and received the admiration of the world. That position was won by them taking their stand, not on force or material power, but on the elementary principles of justice and human right...
We must definitely dissociate ourselves from their violence, suppression of opposing criticism and disregard of democracy... There is a calculated and unrestrained employment of force to, beat down opposition at home and abroad, as well as a deliberate incitement to other peoples to go and do likewise...
Suppressing and silencing opponents may succeed for the moment, as it did in the Czar's time, but Nemesis is always at hand. Socialism imposed by a minority-Socialism apart from true democracy, is not only meaningless, but valueless.
Russian Revolution Simmulation
Bloody Sunday (Answer Commentary)
1905 Russian Revolution (Answer Commentary)
Russia and the First World War (Answer Commentary)
The Life and Death of Rasputin (Answer Commentary)
The Abdication of Tsar Nicholas II (Answer Commentary)
The Provisional Government (Answer Commentary)
The Kornilov Revolt (Answer Commentary)
The Bolsheviks (Answer Commentary)
The Bolshevik Revolution (Answer Commentary)
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