R. Page Arnot

A Short History of the Russian Revolution

from 1905 to the present day (1937)

Part II
from February 1917 to the present day

From February to October 1917


THE FEBRUARY REVOLUTION began, according to our reckoning, on March 13th (for, up till 1917, the old antiquated calendar had persisted under the Greek Orthodox Church). It began in Petrograd—the name given to St. Petersburg in 1914 and for ten years thereafter—with a strike movement of the working-class population who were threatened with starvation by a failure of the bread supply. Regiments sent to suppress the strikers joined the revolt. The frantic efforts of the general commanding the Petrograd area, the frantic telegrams of the Tsar ordering suppression, had no result. Within a few hours the Tsardom collapsed. A change of monarch or a regency was advocated by the Duma Right Wing groups, headed by Rodzianko. The Tsar’s brother, Michael, was proposed. Overtures were made to the former commander-in-chief, the Tsar’s uncle, the Grand Duke Nikolai Nicholaevitch; but events moved too quickly under the pressure of the masses for any such compromise. A Provisional Government was hurriedly got together from the capitalist Duma parties. Within a few days this Government was recognised by the Allied Powers, who had been hoping that the Russian capitalists would conduct the war more vigorously than the Court Ministers of the Tsar. The liquidation of Tsarist Russia had begun.

From the moment when the curtain falls on the sombre drama of Tsardom, the stage becomes crowded with actors, and events succeed one another with breathless rapidity. To present even a summarised description of this is impossible. All that can be done is to make clear what were the decisive factors and chief tendencies in the revolution as it proceeded, and to enumerate the more salient events which throw light upon these tendencies.

In the first place, the Tsardom, heading the feudal landlords, the old bureaucracy, and the military caste, was overthrown so quickly by the revolution as the result of a unique historical situation. The deep movement of the poverty-stricken mass of the people, workers and peasants, was against the Tsar in order to get peace, as well as bread and real freedom. The Russian bourgeoisie, on the other hand, impelled and aided by the Anglo-French imperialists, were out to seize power for the purpose of continuing the war and waging it more fiercely and obstinately. Thus absolutely contrary political and social movements and class interests merged in a whirlpool that quickly overwhelmed the Tsardom.

In the second place, the relations between the Provisional Government and the Soviets must be understood. The workers who had made the revolution and who had organised themselves in Soviets were not the Government. The Government were the capitalists of Russia; but these capitalists had to admit the existence of the Soviets. In short, the revolution had established a Dual Power.

What did this mean? It meant there were two Governments. One Government, holding State power, was the Government of the capitalists and the landlords who had turned capitalist. To that extent the bourgeois-democratic revolution had been carried through. The other Government, a supplementary and parallel Government, took the shape of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, holding no organs of State power but resting on the authority of the vast majority of the people of Russia, including the armed forces. Two things had happened at once. The February Revolution had swept away the Tsarist monarchy and transferred power to the bourgeoisie; but, at the same time, it had to come very near to a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, represented by the Soviets. These Soviets were of a mainly working-class character in the towns. They were drawn, for the most part, from the natural groupings of the workers in the factories and workshops; and, as the delegates sat for short periods, the Soviets were able to express directly and within a short time any change of attitude amongst the masses of the workers. The Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies and the Soviets of Soldiers’ Deputies were similarly constructed. The Soviets had emerged as an instrument of working class democracy during the 1905 Revolution; in their re-emergence in 1917 we see the same feature of flexibility and vigour. In all their work there was a high degree of improvisation, and this enabled them to embody the whole of the masses in a rapidly changing situation in a way that was impossible for a static or rigid institution.

The third peculiarity of the situation was that the Soviets, though the mainspring of the revolution, did not feel sufficient confidence in themselves to take over power. They submitted themselves to the leadership of persons drawn, in the main, from the middle-class parties of the Duma. The Duma had been completely unrepresentative; the aggregate of peasants’ and workers’ votes counted for less than the votes of the wealthy classes and the nobility, and any Government formed from it might have been discounted from the outset. Hence it was termed a Provisional Government: and it was generally understood that the first acceptable Government of a Tsarless Russia would be formed through the summoning of a Constituent Assembly. This meant that the Soviets were voluntarily surrendering the power of the State and the supremacy which was theirs to the bourgeoisie and its Provisional Government. This was an extremely peculiar circumstance, which, as Lenin said, led to the interlocking of two dictatorships: the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (the Provisional Government) and the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry (the Soviets). Now, such a situation could not last. Two powers cannot co-exist in a single State. The capitalists were well aware of this, and, from the very first days, were straining every nerve to reduce the Soviets to a minor role, to enfeeble them, and to establish the sole power of the bourgeoisie.

The February Revolution had gone beyond the ordinary bourgeois-democratic revolution but had not reached the advanced type of bourgeois-democratic revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. The bourgeoisie were striving to pull it back, apparently with the acquiescence of the majority leaders of the Soviets. The cause of this peculiarity, and also the reason why the hesitant Mensheviks[1] and Social-Revolutionaries had received the majority in the Soviets, was as follows: the abdication of the Tsar had awakened to life tens of millions who had been politically asleep and suffering under the oppression of years. All the small business-men, small proprietors, peasants—in a word, the petty-bourgeoisie—had awakened and hailed the morning of the revolution, believing that an unclouded day had begun. A tidal wave of liberated petty-bourgeois feelings, of innocent, trusting sentiment for freedom, had swept over Russia, temporarily engulfing the majority of the working class. But, since the petty-bourgeoisie up till then had always depended upon the bourgeoisie, the capitalists, they were prepared trustfully to surrender to the guidance of the capitalists. This unreasoning confidence was the main explanation of this peculiarity, historically unparalleled, of the Dual Power.

Tsarist Russia had ceased to be the prison of the people. For a time it had become the freest country in the world. From the Arctic Circle, from the Altai Mountains, the prisoners of Siberia were returning; and from all over the globe, even from remote islands, the exiles were coming back. But, in the case of the exiles abroad, big difficulties were put in their way by the allied Governments of France, Britain, etc. The Governments of France and Britain, well aware of Lenin’s fight against the war, would gladly have kept him immured in Switzerland. Lenin and other Bolsheviks travelled back through Germany in a closed train and arrived in Petrograd a month after the beginning of the revolution. He was received at the railway station by a great demonstration and with an official address of welcome from the leaders of the Soviets, for at this time the Mensheviks had the hope of fusing together with the Bolsheviks in one united party. Lenin rudely shattered these illusions. On the day after his return, April 17th, Lenin announced a few short theses, since called “The April Theses,” dealing with the tasks of the revolutionary proletariat. It was not long before the whole Bolshevik Party was carrying on a steady propaganda for the views then expressed, which we give in full in the next section.


In our attitude towards the war not the slightest concession must be made to “revolutionary defencism,” for even under the new Government of Lvov and Co. the war on Russia’s part unquestionably remains a predatory imperialist war owing to the capitalist nature of that Government.

The class-conscious proletariat can consent to a revolutionary war, which would really justify revolutionary defencism, only on condition: (a) that the power of government pass to the proletariat, and the poor sections of the peasantry bordering on the proletariat; (b) that all annexations be renounced in deed as well as in words; (c) that a complete and real break be made with all capitalist interests.

In view of the undoubted honesty of the mass of the rank-and-file believers in revolutionary defencism, who accept the war as a necessity only and not as a means of conquest; in view of the fact that they are being deceived by the bourgeoisie, it is necessary thoroughly, persistently, and patiently to explain their error to them, to explain the indissoluble connection between capital and the imperialist war, and to prove that IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to end the war by a truly democratic, non-coercive peace without the overthrow of capital.

The widespread propaganda of this view among the army on active service must be organised.



The specific feature of the present situation in Russia is that it represents a TRANSITION from the first stage of the revolution—which, owing to the insufficient class consciousness and organisation of the proletariat, led to the assumption of power by the bourgeoisie—TO THE SECOND STAGE, which must place power in the hands of the proletariat and the poor strata of the peasantry.

This transition is characterised, on the one hand, by a maximum of freedom (Russia is NOW the freest of all the belligerent countries in the world): on the other, by the absence of violence in relation to the masses; and, finally, by the naïve confidence of the masses in the government of capitalists, the worst enemies of peace and Socialism. This specific situation demands on our part an ability to adapt ourselves to the specific requirements of Party work among unprecedentedly large masses of proletarians who have just awakened to political life.


No support must be given to the Provisional Government; the utter falsity of all its promises must be exposed, particularly of those relating to the renunciation of annexations. Exposure, and not the unpardonable illusion-breeding “demand” that this Government, a Government of capitalists, should CEASE to be an imperialist Government.


The fact must be recognised that in most of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies our Party is in a minority, and so far in a small minority, as against a BLOC OF ALL the petty-bourgeois opportunist elements, who have yielded to the influence of the bourgeoisie and are the conveyors of its influence to the proletariat, from the Narodni-Socialists and the Socialist-Revolutionaries down to the Organisation Committee (Chkheidze, Tseretelli, etc.), Steklov, etc., etc.

It must be explained to the masses that the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies is the ONLY POSSIBLE form of revolutionary Government, and that therefore our task is, as long as THIS Government submits to the influence of the bourgeoisie, to present a patient, systematic, and persistent EXPLANATION Of its errors and tactics, an explanation especially adapted to the practical needs of the masses.

As long as we are in the minority we carry on the work of criticising and exposing errors and at the same time advocate the necessity of transferring the entire power of State to the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, so that the masses may by experience overcome their mistakes.


Not a parliamentary republic—to return to a parliamentary republic from the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies would be a retrograde step—but a republic of Soviets of Workers’, Agricultural Labourers’, and Peasants’ Deputies throughout the country, from top to bottom.

Abolition of the police, the army, [2] and the bureaucracy.

The salaries of all officials, who are to be elected and be subject to recall at any time, not to exceed the average wage of a competent worker.


The agrarian programme must be centred around the Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies.

Confiscation of all landed estates.

Nationalisation of ALL lands in the country, the disposal of such lands to be in the charge of the local Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ and Peasants’ Deputies. The organisation of separate Soviets of Deputies of the Poor Peasants. The creation of model farms on each of the large estates (varying from 100 to 300 dessiatins, in accordance with local and other conditions, at the discretion of the local institutions) under the control of the Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies and for the public account.


The immediate amalgamation of all banks in the country into a single national bank, control over which shall be exercised by the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies.


Our IMMEDIATE task shall be, not the “introduction of Socialism,” but to bring social production and distribution of products at once only under the CONTROL of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies.


Party tasks:

(a) Immediate summoning of a Party congress.
    (b) Alteration of the Party programme, mainly:
      1. On the question of imperialism and the imperialist war.
      2. On the question of our attitude towards the State and our demand for a “Commune State.” [3]
      3. Amendment of our antiquated minimum programme.

(c) A new name for the Party. [4]


A new International.

We must take the initiative in creating a revolutionary International, an International directed against the SOCIAL-CHAUVANISTS and against the “Centre.” [5]

* * * * * * * *

From this moment onwards, the opposite poles stood out clearly. The lines of force were drawn, and events moved steadily towards the final defeat of one or another standpoint. But the position was not immediately clear to everyone, and, in point of fact, there were differences of attitude in the different political groupings, which only gradually sorted themselves out. The chief groupings that showed themselves within a month after the revolution were:

(1) To the right of the Constitutional Democrats, parties and groups representing the feudal landlords and the most reactionary sections of the capitalists;

(2) The Constitutional Democratic Party (Cadets) and kindred groups who represented the bourgeoisie as a whole, both the capitalist class and landlords become capitalists;

(3) Social-Democrats, Social-Revolutionaries, and kindred groups, representing small proprietors, small and middle peasants, the petty-bourgeoisie, and sections of the workers under the influence of the bourgeoisie;

(4) The Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, commonly known as the Bolsheviks, representing the class-conscious proletarians and the allied poor section of the peasantry.

The differences between the first two groups were small. For instance, the feudal landlords wished for a constitutional monarchy, with absolute power of the bureaucracy and the police, and were secretly favourable to the restoration of the Romanoff dynasty; while the Cadets were for a bourgeois parliamentary republic while retaining the bureaucracy and the police, and, in fear of the people, had pronounced themselves anti-monarchist. The landlords were against the summoning of a Constituent Assembly, while the Cadets pronounced themselves in favour of a Constituent Assembly but refused to fix a date for it.

The Social-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, who at that stage still were followed by the vast majority of the population, inevitably stood for a policy of “wait and see.”

3. May to August

Events moved. The first change took place at the beginning of May. The Soviets, within the first few days of their existence, had issued a call for peace without annexations and without indemnities. The Cadet Milyukoff, Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Provisional Government, issued at the beginning of May a statement in response to the alarmed representations of the capitalist Governments of Britain, France, etc., in which he made it clear that the Provisional Government would continue to wage war with the same war aims as the Tsardom. These war aims had been set forth in the secret treaties concluded between the Allies, in which the German colonies were to be annexed by Britain, Constantinople was to be handed over to the Tsar, etc., etc. When the soldiers learned from this official statement by Milyukoff that they were to shed their blood for the war aims of Tsardom, there were immediate demonstrations in the streets of Petrograd. So strong was the popular feeling that both Gutchkoff, the War Minister, and Milyukoff, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, were compelled to resign. The Government in mid-May was changed into a Coalition Government, with ten capitalist Ministers and six Ministers drawn from the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik majority parties of the Soviets. This Coalition Cabinet not only continued the same foreign policy as its predecessor, but made preparations for a renewed war offensive; for during this time there had been a sort of standstill on the western front. In addition, they began to prepare measures against the Bolsheviks.

This, however, was not to prove so easy, for each demonstration called by the Soviets showed that the Bolsheviks were becoming more popular amongst the masses with every day that passed. Louder and louder sounded their slogans: “Down with the ten capitalist Ministers! . . . All power to the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies! ... Bread! Peace! Freedom!”

In response to the pressure of the Entente, Alexander Kerensky, an outside Right Wing Social Revolutionary who had been Minister of justice in the first Cabinet and was now Minister of War, succeeded by his frenzied orations in stimulating the army to fresh military effort; and on July 1st, under General Brusilov, the Russian armies on the south-western front made a big drive forward into Galicia and captured thousands of Austrian prisoners. The effect on the allied Governments, who judged events in Russia from the standpoint of winning the war, was reassuring. Inside Russia, where everything was judged by the masses from the standpoint of winning the peace, the effect was far otherwise. Signs of renewed revolt began to show themselves. In mid July, matters came to a head. The counterrevolution had laid its plans. The following was the sequence of events:

On July 15th the ten capitalist Ministers resigned from the Coalition Government. The object was to manœuvre the Ministers drawn from the majority parties in the Soviets into a difficult position where they were to be forced to come to terms as junior partners of the Cadets. The effect on the masses in Petrograd of this resignation of the ten capitalist Ministers was a series of huge armed demonstrations demanding that the Provisional Government should now depend solely upon the Soviets. With the help of Tsarist officers, the Social-Revolutionary and Menshevik Ministers repressed the demonstrations, fired on the demonstrators, and, while the capital was at fever-heat, arranged for the publication of forged documents purporting to show that Lenin was a German spy and that the Bolshevik agitation was a plot of the German general staff against the Provisional Government. The forgery was vouched for by Alexinsky, a former close associate of Lenin at the beginning of the century. On the next day, Tsarist officers raided and wrecked the printing works of Pravda and searched for Lenin, whose arrest, together with that of other leading Bolsheviks, had been ordered by the Government. At the same time the death penalty, which had been abolished in the first days of the February Revolution, was restored. Kamenev, with his legalist notions (he had, disgracefully for a Bolshevik, signed a telegram of greetings to the Grand Duke Michael in the February days), was actually for Lenin giving himself over to the police. Stalin opposed and carried the majority against this. The Central Committee of the Party decided that Lenin must go into hiding, from which he was not allowed to emerge, so great was the danger of his assassination, for over three months. In general, an endeavour was made to terrorise the vanguard of the working class and to drive the Bolsheviks underground.

The next step was pressure from the Cadets and the capitalists generally upon the Provisional Government. Under this pressure the Coalition was reformed, with Alexander Kerensky as Prime Minister, on the terms put forward by the Cadets—namely, that the Socialist Ministers must be entirely independent of the Soviets.

A further step was the summoning of a “State Conference” called jointly by the Provisional Government and the Executive Committee of the Congress of Soviets and held outside the capital in Moscow. The Bolshevik members of the Soviets were not allowed to participate. But the army generals and the direct representatives of the bourgeoisie were invited. It was an attempt to form a parliament and centre of counter-revolution. The commander-in-chief, Kornilov, who was working at this moment for his own personal dictatorship as the representative of the bankers and capitalist magnates, made a declaration in favour of a severe regime to carry through the “salvation” of the country. General Kaledin, commander of the Don Cossacks, followed up with a speech in which he advocated that the Soviets should be abolished and that the army should refrain from politics. It was the public preparation of a counterrevolutionary coup d’etat which would have been carried out at the time of the “State Conference” (August 25th-28th) but for a one-day protest strike of the Moscow workers, nearly half a million of whom came out into the streets. The coup d’dtat, however, was only postponed.

Meantime, the Bolsheviks, at the Sixth Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Party, held in the second week of August under semi-legal conditions, had already sensed and understood the counter-revolutionary moves that were afoot. They drew the necessary conclusion—that armed insurrection must be prepared for. The Congress, in the absence of Lenin, was led by Stalin.

Following on the “State Conference,” Kerensky began discussing with Kornilov about measures to be taken to restore “law and order,” but Kornilov and his backers, the Tsarist generals, Cadets, banking and industrial circles, thought there was no need to make two bites of a cherry. Why trouble to establish a military dictatorship behind the facade of a Kerensky Government which would presently have to be turned down anyhow? Accordingly, Kerensky learned on September 8th that Kornilov, with regiments of picked troops, including the notorious “Savage Division,” was marching on Petrograd in order to proclaim himself, and not Kerensky, as dictator. In this awkward situation, and forced by the pressure of the masses, Kerensky was compelled to charge Kornilov with high treason. But it was not Kerensky who took action against Kornilov. It was the Bolsheviks who saved the situation. They mobilised the workers and soldiers of Petrograd. They sent trains filled with agitators and revolutionary soldiers to meet the advancing troops of Kornilov. By the time Kornilov’s troops had got within measurable distance of Petrograd they had become themselves more than half-revolutionary and quite unsuited to carry out a counterrevolution. The Kornilov attempt was defeated.


The Kornilov affair was an eye-opener. The workers and soldiers realised into what peril the revolution had been put by the compromising policy of the Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionaries. From this moment onwards there was an extremely rapid swing of the masses to the side of the Bolsheviks. Again resounded the slogans “All Power to the Soviets! . . . Bread! Peace! Freedom!” Before the end of September the majority of the trade unions had become Bolshevik. A few weeks later, in the elections of the Moscow Borough Dumas, the Bolsheviks had 52 per cent of the total vote of all classes of the population. There were elected 350 Bolsheviks, 184 Cadets, 104 Social-Revolutionaries, 31 Mensheviks, and several non-Party. It was clear that in Moscow the workers en masse and the soldiers en masse had gone Bolshevik. Again in the month of September new elections were being held for the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets. In the Soviet elections Petrograd, like Paris in the great French Revolution, led the rest of the country. Accordingly, when the Petrograd Soviet was re-elected with an overwhelming Bolshevik majority, it was clear from this also that the workers had swung to the side of the Bolsheviks.

All this while hunger had been growing. In the towns the conditions of life were steadily worsening for the working class, to whom each week of the Provisional Government (now in September entitled a “Directorate,” headed by Kerensky) had brought bitter enlightenment. For, as Lenin wrote in mid-September:

“During a revolution, millions and tens of millions of people learn in a week more than they do in a year of their ordinary somnolent life. For during a severe crisis in the life of a people it becomes particularly apparent what aims the various classes of the people are pursuing, what forces they control, and what methods they resort to in action.”

A similar process was to be seen amongst the twelve million soldiers whose agonies, instead of being relieved, as they had hoped, were being prolonged by the Kerensky Government. A similar process was also at work in the countryside itself. There the vast majority of the population dwelled; and it was because of this preponderant mass of peasantry, together with the intermediate strata in the towns, that Lenin could write: “Russia is a petty-bourgeois country.” Intermediate between the two main classes of capitalist society, the petty-bourgeoisie wavered continually between bourgeoisie and proletariat. But if once it joined the proletariat, then the victory of revolution was secured; then, swiftly, smoothly, irresistibly, the cause of peace, of land for the toilers, of freedom, would triumph. And now this process was begun. Already the class of poor peasants had learned not to put their trust in the earlier elected leaders of the Soviets. Chernov as leader of the Social-Revolutionaries had given out slogans for the peasants. Chernov as Minister of Agriculture held back the peasants from carrying out his own slogans. The situation became so acute that the peasants began to take action on their own, and punitive expeditions were being sent against them. A break began to appear in the ranks of the Social-Revolutionaries, the party which up to then had commanded the adherence of the peasantry, The Petrograd Conference of the Social-Revolutionary Party on September 23rd, conducted under the leadership of the Left Wing (Spiridonova, Kamkov, and others), demanded the end of coalition and the formation of a Government based upon Soviets. All was becoming ripe for insurrection. By the second week of October, Lenin was able to note in his article on the aims of the revolution that “the poverty of the poor peasants, the horrors of the war, the horrors of the famine—all these are bringing home more and more clearly to the masses the correctness of the proletarian path, the necessity of supporting the proletarian revolution.” Truly, the miserable grinding poverty and land-hunger of the peasantry was becoming unendurable. Thus in September and October the vast landslide began—the movement of the peasant, of the petty-bourgeois mass onto the same path as the town worker.

The significance of this was enormous. It meant that the ground was crumbling away beneath the feet of the Government and its backers. All the more desperately the “dark forces” prepared for a further attempt at a counter-revolution. All the more earnestly Lenin strove—to anticipate any such attempt—for an immediate transfer of power to the Soviets. He was in hiding in Finland. All through September and October the tone of his letters and articles becomes more and more urgent. Fortunately for the historian, the majority of these have been preserved and give to future ages a documentation of the revolution that is incomparable. At this particular moment Lenin was expressing through the voice of a single man the agony and urgent desire of millions of mankind. With Lenin were the majority of the Central Committee, and especially Stalin and Sverdlov. But in the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks there was resistance, there were difficulties. On the one hand Zinoviev and Kamenev, together with several other leading members of the Party, fought obdurately against insurrection. When finally they were defeated, they broke the discipline for which they as Party leaders were particularly responsible and published their differences with the Central Committee in the non-Bolshevik Press. They even disclosed the decision to carry through an armed rising. On November 1st Lenin wrote that:

“two members of the Central Committee have by a slanderous lie betrayed the decision of the workers to the capitalists. There can and must be only one answer to that: an immediate decision of the Central Committee in the following terms: ‘Regarding Zinoviev’s and Kamenev’s utterance in the non-Party Press as strike-breaking in the full sense of the term, the Central Committee expels both of them from the Party.’ It is not easy for me to write thus about former close comrades; but I should regard any hesitation in this respect as a crime, for a party of revolutionaries which did not punish prominent strikebreakers would perish.”

The other difficulty came from Trotsky, and was with regard to the timing of the revolution. Trotsky, when he returned to Russia after the revolution, belonged to a small group called the Meshrayontsy. As the summer approached, Trotsky dropped (or, to be precise, put in cold storage) his fundamental differences with the Bolsheviks—though as late as June 1917 he was attacking what he called their “organisational narrowness.” It was not until the eve of the Sixth Congress in August that Trotsky joined the Bolsheviks. In mid-September he was elected Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, where it was his business to carry out the decisions of the Party. But on the question of the timing of the revolution he insisted on its coincidence with the Second Congress of Soviets, which had been postponed till November. With the utmost urgency Lenin fought against this linking of the dates. On the very eve of the insurrection Lenin was compelled to write a letter to the Central Committee in the same tone of urgency, saying:

“It is absolutely clear that to delay the insurrection now will veritably be fatal. I exhort my comrades with all my heart and strength to realise that everything now hangs on a thread; that we are being confronted by problems that can be solved, not by conferences or congresses (even Congresses of Soviets), but exclusively by the people, by the masses, by the struggle of the armed masses. . . . History will not forgive revolutionaries for procrastinating when they can be victorious to-day (will certainly be victorious today) while they risk losing much—in fact, everything—to-morrow.”

It was on October 23rd that the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks had decided on insurrection, and had the decision confirmed at an enlarged Central Committee an October 29th. At the same time, to carry through the insurrection, the Central Committee appointed a Military Revolutionary Committee, consisting of Stalin, Sverdlov, Dzershinzky, Bubnov, and Uritsky. To these comrades was confided supreme operative direction of the rising.

The Second Congress of Soviets was due to open in Petrograd on November 7th. Before midnight, and very early in the morning of November 7th, detachments of soldiers of the Petrograd District garrison and Red Guards from the Petrograd factories had occupied all military and strategic positions. By mid-day, Kerensky had fled and the other Ministers had been arrested. With comparatively little fighting, with hardly any bloodshed, the insurrection had been carried through in the capital.

At 10 a.m. on November 7th, Lenin issued the following statement, in the name of the Revolutionary Military Committee, of which he had now taken over the leadership:

“To the Citizens of Russia, in the name of the Revolutionary Military Committee:

“The Provisional Government has been overthrown. The power of State has passed into the hands of the organ of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies—the Revolutionary Military Committee, which is leading the Petrograd proletariat and garrison.

“The cause for which the people have fought, namely, the immediate proposal of a democratic peace, the abolition of landed proprietorship, workers’ control over production, and the creation of a Soviet Government—the success of that cause is guaranteed.

“Long live the revolution of the soldiers, workers, and peasants!”

Late in the evening the Second Congress of Soviets opened. There were 670 delegates, of whom 300 were Bolsheviks and 169 Left Social-Revolutionaries, while the Mensheviks numbered 68 and the Right and Centre Social-Revolutionaries only 24. The Congress by an overwhelming majority endorsed the Revolution took over supreme power. At this second session on November 8th the Congress elected a new All-Russian Central Executive Committee Government.

The Central Executive Committee consisted of 69 Bolsheviks, 29 Left Social-Revolutionaries, half-dozen others, making 105 in all. The Soviet Government took the form of a Council of People’s Commissars, in which Lenin was chairman. The great Decree on Peace and the Decree on the Land were passed, and the Congress of Soviets concluded. The following is the Manifesto of the Congress:


“The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies has begun. A vast majority of the Soviets are represented at the Congress. There are also present a number of delegates from the Peasants’ Soviets. The mandate of the compromising Central Executive Committee has terminated. Backed by the will of the vast majority of workers, soldiers, and peasants, backed by the successful uprising of the workers and of the garrison in Petrograd, the Congress takes the power of government into its hands.

“The Provisional Government has been overthrown. The majority of the members of the Provisional Government are already arrested.

“The Soviet Government will propose an immediate democratic peace to all peoples and an immediate armistice on all fronts. It will secure the transfer the estates of the landlords, appanages, and monof asterial lands to the control of the peasants’ committees without compensation; it will protect the rights of the soldiers by introducing complete democracy in the army; it will establish workers’ control over production; it will see to it that the Constituent Assembly is convened at its appointed time; it will see to it that bread is supplied to the cities and articles of prime necessity to the villages; it will guarantee all the nations inhabiting Russia the genuine right of self-determination.

“The Congress decrees: all power in the localities shall pass to the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies, which must guarantee genuine revolutionary order.

“The Congress calls upon the soldiers in the trenches to be watchful and firm. The Congress of Soviets is convinced that the revolutionary army will succeed in defending the revolution from all attacks of imperialism until such time as the new Government succeeds in concluding a democratic peace, which it will propose directly to all the peoples. The new Government will take measures to supply all the needs of the revolutionary army by resorting to a determined policy of requisitioning and taxation of the propertied classes, and also to improve the condition of the soldiers’ families.

“The Kornilovists—Kerensky, Kaledin, and others—are attempting to bring troops against Petrograd. A few detachments who, duped by Kerensky, had moved on Petrograd, have come over to the side of the people in revolt.





“The All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.

“The Delegates from the Peasants’ Soviets.” November 8th (October 26th), 1917.”

These two days, November 7th and 8th, of the October Revolution, so called because under the old-styled calendar they fell on October 25th and 26th, marked the end of the second stage of the revolution, whose first stage had begun more than twelve years before. The second stage had lasted eight months. And now the dual control had passed away. Russia had become the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic.



1.  It has also to be remembered that: (1) the Mensheviks, being “patriotic," enjoyed more legality and were at this moment better known to the masses than the Bolsheviks, who had been drafted to the army (where many were killed) or shut away from sight in prison or Siberia; (2) masses raw from the villages had entered the factories, including many kulak types who preferred work in munition factories to military service; (3) the Petrograd Soviet had one delegate per thousand from the workers in large factories, while small workshops each had also one delegate, with the result that, though 87 per cent of the Petrograd working class was in large factories, their vote in the Soviet totalled only 120 as against the 122 votes exercised by the minority from the small workshops, comprising 13 per cent of the working class—and, of course, it is in small workshops that the influence of the petty-bourgeoisie was most strongly felt. It must also be remembered that there were also the Peasant Soviets and the Soviets of Soldiers (peasants in uniform) in which in the first months of the revolution a petty-bourgeois ideology prevailed and illusions had not been overcome.

2.  i.e. the standing army to be replaced by the universally armed people.

3.  i.e. a State after the model of the Paris Commune.

4.  Instead of "Social-Democrats," whose official leaders throughout the world have betrayed Socialism by deserting to the bourgeoisie (the “defencists” and the vacillating “Kautskians”), we must call ourselves a COMMUNIST PARTY.

5.  The “Centre” in the international Social-Democratic movement is the tendency which vacillates between the chauvinists (“defencists”) and internationalists, i.e. Kautsky and Co. in Germany, Longuet and Co. in France, Chkheidze and Co. in Russia, Turati and Co. in Italy, MacDonald and Co. in England, etc.

Next: II. Land, Bread, and Peace