Tag Archives: Stalin

100th Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 – As it Happened: Lenin and Trotsky Respond to News of February 1917 Revolution and Abdication of the Tzar

Wikipedia caption:  “A demonstration of workers from the Putilov plant in Petrograd (modern-day St. Petersburg), Russia, during the February Revolution. The left banner reads (misspelt*) “Feed the children of the defenders of the motherland”; the right banner, “Increase payments to the soldiers’ families – defenders of freedom and world peace”.  Both refer to the economic toll the First World War was having on civilian life.  Unknown [photographer] – State museum of political history of Russia. 1 February 1917″

Inspired by the “Disunion” series produced by the New York Times to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the US Civil War, we are going to attempt to publish a daily account of the historic events that led up to the first successful workers revolution in world history – the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia – in the words of its principal leaders and the shocked and terrified capitalist classes of the world and their respective bourgeois presses.

There were in fact not one but two revolutions that took place in Russia in 1917: the first one, in February, brought to power a bourgeois government made up chiefly of wealthy landlords and aristocrats who had prospered under Tzarism.  [When the February revolution occurred, many of those who would become the top leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution were in exile: as you will see from the documents reproduced below, Lenin was in Zurich, Switzerland and Trotsky was in New York City (they immediately made plans to return to Russia)].  The second, Bolshevik revolution of October 1917 overthrew that government and replaced it with a workers and peasants’ government based on elected workers, soldiers and peasants’ “soviets” (councils) led by that time largely by the Bolsheviks and supported by all the other revolutionary socialist, anarchist and leftist peasant-based parties and groups.

There has never been a party of honest and courageous revolutionary leaders so universally vilified and slandered as the leaders of the Bolshevik party were (and are to this day!) by the capitalists of the world and their paid liars in their bourgeois press.  Workers who have been taught to hate the Bolsheviks should carefully read these documents written by the great Bolshevik leaders and examine them for any traces of duplicity or double-dealing behind the backs of the workers and peasants of Russia.  Good luck finding any!  There has never been a political party in the history of the world more honest and transparent than Lenin’s Bolshevik Party of 1917! And you will undoubtedly be surprised to read Lenin’s repeated statements urging the immediate “arming of the workers” to defend the Revolution from those who wanted to restore the Tzar to his throne!

Led chiefly by Lenin and, later on, Leon Trotsky and a brilliant team of lifelong revolutionary socialists (almost all of whom had “graduated” from more or less lengthy terms of imprisonment in the brutal jails and Siberian prison camps of the universally despised Tzarist regime) the Bolsheviks fought against a rip tide of slander and calumny from their political opponents inside Russia and throughout the world. The trials that the Bolsheviks went through from April to November of 1917 would have utterly destroyed an organization that was not as battle-hardened and politically brilliant as were Lenin’s Bolsheviks.  Through the tumultuous spring and summer of 1917 the Bolsheviks went from being heroes to having their party members beaten to death in the streets to winning over the workers and soldiers exhausted by the brutal role they were forced to play in WWI as cannon fodder for the Germans on the Eastern Front – to victory in the October Revolution.  It is one of the most amazing stories in the history of the world and one that every revolutionary worker should take the time to study again and again to prepare herself for the many traps and subterfuges used by the various parties that pretend to fight for the workers but who ultimately prove to be the most ardent defenders of the capitalist system in the final analysis.

Workers in the USA have been taught from birth to hate the “commies” and especially the Russian communist leaders; Lenin being falsely portrayed as the founding father of loathsome Stalinism – which he most certainly was not!  In fact, Lenin was quite possibly the most honest and trustworthy leader that the working class ever had.  His mantra was the same as that of Marx, Engels and entirely within the best traditions of the workers’ movement from its earliest days: to tell the truth to the workers and peasants, no matter how unpleasant it may be.  Far from working hand-in-hand with Stalin, Lenin had decided to initiate a vigorous struggle against Stalin and his growing arrogant bureaucracy in the months before his death.  This struggle was continued by Trotsky after Lenin’s untimely death; and that struggle involved a huge section of the Communist Party of the USSR known as the “Left Opposition” and was not defeated by the Stalinists until the 1930s – after the Stalinists had murdered almost to the last man and woman everyone who had led the Bolshevik Party to victory in 1917 as well as all of the leading ‘left Oppositionists” – including the man who originated our political movement, Leon Trotsky, murdered by a Stalinist assassin in Mexico in 1940.  It is not for nothing that those of us in the Trotskyist movement call Stalin and his vicious bureaucratic clique “the gravediggers of the Revolution”.

Stalin organized the show trials and ordered the murders of most of the leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Source: Marxists Internet Archive

We’re going to start our series just before the legendary wartime rail journey made across a bleeding Europe by the Bolshevik leaders-in-exile who were given safe passage by the Germans in a “sealed train” in the desperate hopes of the German staff that these anti-Tsarist revolutionaries would pull Russia out of the war, enabling the Germans to transfer thousands of troops from the Eastern to the Western front.  They got their wish – but the victory of the Bolsheviks led not to a German victory in WWI but directly to the collapse of the German monarchy and the initiation of the first in a long series of attempts at workers revolution in Germany the very next year – the heroic Spartacist Uprising, ruthlessly suppressed by the German Social Democrats (SPD).

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 was a tremendous defeat for the working class not just in the USSR but internationally; it set the stage for the precipitous collapse of workers’ living standards inside the former Soviet Union and gave the green light to a resurgent US imperialism to launch their ill-fated wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East.  We seek to build a revolutionary socialist workers party that learns the lessons of 1917 as well as the brutal and tragic rise and collapse of Stalinism from 1927-1989 as we try to prevent WWIII through workers socialist revolution in the USA and around the world.  Long Live the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917!

We hope you enjoy this series and we welcome your comments and any supplementary material you would like to send to us to publish along with it.

— IWPCHI

[Note: Until the Bolsheviks took power in 1917, Russia and other countries where the Orthodox Church was the “official” church used an “old style” Julian calendar that was 13 days out of sync with the “new style” European calendar.  Dates given in these articles will show first the original “old style” date and then the “new style” date in parentheses.  Thus the Russian “October Revolution” of 25 October 1917 (old style) took place for most of the world on 7 November 1917 (new style). In this document, note that Lenin, writing from exile in Switzerland uses the “new style” calendar dates. – IWPCHI]

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Lenin and Trotsky respond to the news of the February 1917 Revolution and the Abdication of the Tsar:

Document 1:

V. I. Lenin
Draft Theses, March 4 (17), 1917[1]

Information reaching Zurich from Russia at this moment, March 17, 1917, is so scanty, and events in our country are developing so rapidly, that any judgement of the situation must of needs be very cautious.

Yesterday’s dispatches indicated that the tsar had already abdicated and that the new, Octobrist-Cadet government[2] had already made an agreement with other representatives of the Romanov dynasty. Today there are reports from England that the tsar has not yet abdicated, and that his whereabouts are unknown. This suggests that he is trying to put up resistance, organise a party, perhaps even an armed force, in an attempt to restore the monarchy. If he succeeds in fleeing from Russia or winning over part of the armed forces, the tsar might, to mislead the people, issue a manifesto announcing immediate conclusion of a separate peace with Germany!

That being the position, the proletariat’s task is a pretty complex one. There can be no doubt that it must organise itself in the most efficient way, rally all its forces, arm, strengthen and extend its alliance with all sections of the working masses of town and country in order to put up a stubborn resistance to tsarist reaction and crush the tsarist monarchy once and for all.

Another factor to bear in mind is that the new government that has seized power in St. Petersburg, or, more correctly, wrested it from the proletariat, which has waged a victorious, heroic and fierce struggle, consists of liberal bourgeois and landlords whose lead is being followed by Kerensky, the spokesman of the democratic peasants and, possibly, of that part of the workers who have forgotten their internationalism and have been led on to the bourgeois path. The new government is composed of avowed advocates and supporters of the imperialist war with Germany, i.e., a war in alliance with the English and French imperialist governments, a war for the plunder and conquest of foreign lands—Armenia, Galicia, Constantinople, etc. [See Note 3 at end of this first document – IWPCHI]

The new government cannot give the peoples of Russia (and the nations tied to us by the war) either peace, bread, or full freedom. The working class must therefore continue its fight for socialism and peace, utilising for this purpose the new situation and explaining it as widely as possible among the masses.

The new government cannot give the people peace, because it represents the capitalists and landlords and because it is tied to the English and French capitalists by treaties and financial commitments. Russian Social-Democracy must therefore, while remaining true to internationalism, first and foremost explain to the people who long for peace that it cannot be won under the present government. Its first appeal to the people (March 17) does not as much as mention the chief and basic issue of the time, peace. It is keeping secret the predatory treaties tsarism concluded with England, France, Italy, Japan, etc. It wants to conceal from the people the truth about its war programme, the fact that it stands for continuation of the war, for victory over Germany. It is not in a position to do what the people so vitally need: directly and frankly propose to all belligerent countries an immediate ceasefire, to be followed by peace based on complete liberation of all the colonies and dependent and unequal nations. That requires a workers’ government acting in alliance with, first, the poorest section of the rural population, and, second, the revolutionary workers of all countries in the war.

The new government cannot give the people bread. And no freedom can satisfy the masses suffering from hunger due to shortages and inefficient distribution of available stocks, and, most important, to the seizure of these stocks by the landlords and capitalists. It requires revolutionary measures against the landlords and capitalists to give the people bread, and such measures can be carried out only by a workers’ government.

Lastly, the new government is not, in a position to give the people full freedom, though in its March 17 manifesto it speaks of nothing but political freedom and is silent on other, no less important, issues. The new government has already endeavoured to reach agreement with the Romanov dynasty, for it has suggested recognising the Romanovs, in defiance of the people’s will, on the understanding that Nicholas II would abdicate in favour of his son, with a member of the Romanov family appointed regent. In its manifesto, the new government promises every kind of freedom, but has failed in its direct and unconditional duty immediately to implement such freedoms as election of officers, etc., by the soldiers, elections to the St. Petersburg, Moscow and other City Councils on a basis of genuinely universal, and not merely male, suffrage, make all government and public buildings available for public meetings, appoint elections to all local institutions and Zemstvos, likewise on the basis of genuinely universal suffrage, repeal all restrictions on the rights of local government bodies, dismiss all officials appointed to supervise local government bodies, introduce not only freedom of religion, but also freedom from religion, immediately separate the school from the church and free it of control by government officials, etc.

The new government’s March 17 manifesto arouses the deepest distrust, for it consists entirely of promises and does not provide for the immediate carrying out of a single one of the vital measures that can and should be carried out right now.

The new government’s programme does not contain a single word on the eight-hour day or on any other economic measure to improve the worker’s position. It contains not a single word about land for the peasants, about the uncompensated transfer to the peasants of all the estates. By its silence on these vital issues the new government reveals its capitalist and landlord nature.

Only a workers’ government that relies, first, on the overwhelming majority of the peasant population, the farm labourers and poor peasants, and, second, on an alliance with the revolutionary workers of all countries in the war, can give the people peace, bread and full freedom.

The revolutionary proletariat can therefore only regard the revolution of March 1 (14) as its initial, and by no means complete, victory on its momentous path. It cannot but set itself the task of continuing the fight for a democratic republic and socialism.

To do that, the proletariat and the R.S.D.L.P. must above all utilise the relative and partial freedom the new government is introducing, and which can be guaranteed and extended only by continued, persistent and persevering revolutionary struggle.

The truth about the present government and its real attitude on pressing issues must be made known to all working people in town and country, and also to the army. Soviets of Workers’ Deputies must be organised, the workers must be armed [emphasis added – IWPCHI]. Proletarian organisations must be extended to the army (which the new government has likewise promised political rights) and to the rural areas. In particular there must be a separate class organisation for farm labourers.

Only by making the truth known to the widest masses of the population, only by organising them, can we guarantee full victory in the next stage of the revolution and the winning of power by a workers’ government.

Fulfilment of this task, which in revolutionary times and under the impact of the severe lessons of the war can be brought home to the people in an immeasurably shorter time than under ordinary conditions, requires the revolutionary proletarian party to be ideologically and organisation ally independent. It must remain true to internationalism and not succumb to the false bourgeois phraseology meant to dupe the people by talk of “defending the fatherland” in the present imperialist and predatory war.

Not only this government, but even a democratic bourgeois republican government, were it to consist exclusively of Kerensky and other Narodnik and “Marxist” social-patriots, cannot lead the people out of the imperialist war and guarantee peace.

For that reason we cannot consent to any blocs, or alliances, or even agreements with the defencists among the workers, nor with the Gvozdyov-Potresov-Chkhenkeli Kerensky, etc., trend, nor with men who, like Chkheidze and others, have taken a vacillating and indefinite stand on this crucial issue. Those agreements would not only inject an element of falseness in the minds of the masses, making them dependent on the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie, but would also weaken and undermine the leading role of the proletariat in ridding the people of imperialist war and guaranteeing a genuinely durable peace between the workers’ governments of all countries.
Notes

[1] The first news of the February bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia reached Lenin on March 2 (15), 1917. Reports of the victory of the revolution and the advent to power of an Octobrist-Cadet government of capitalists and landlords appeared in the Zürcher Post and Neue Zürcher Zeitung by the evening of March 4 (17). Lenin had drawn up a rough draft of theses, not meant for publication, on the tasks of the proletariat in the revolution. The theses were immediately sent via Stockholm to Oslo for the Bolsheviks leaving for Russia.

[2] Lenin uses the appellation Octobrist-Cadet to describe the bourgeois Provisional Government formed at 3 p.m. on March 2 (15), 1917 by agreement between the Provisional Committee of the State Duma and the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik leaders of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. The government was made up of Prince G. Y. Lvov (Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior), the Cadet leader P. N. Milyukov (Minister of Foreign Affairs), the Octobrist leader A. I. Guchkov (Minister of War and Acting Minister of the Navy) and other representatives of the big bourgeoisie and landlords. It also included A. F. Kerensky, of the Trudovik group, who was appointed Minister of Justice.

The manifesto of March 4 (17) mentioned by Lenin later on was originally drawn up by Menshevik members of the Petrograd Soviet Executive Committee. It set out the terms on which the Executive was prepared to support the Provisional Government. In the course of negotiations with the Duma Committee, it was revised by P. N. Milyukov and became the basis of the Provisional Government’s first appeal to the people.

[3]  From Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Organisations https://www.marxists.org/glossary/orgs/p/r.htm#provisional-government

Provisional Committee

On February 27 (March 12), 1917, the Duma is called into session on the appeals of Councillor of State Rodzianko, who is desperately trying to save the Empire despite the extraordinary momentum of the February Revolution. At 4pm the Duma resolves to create the Provisional Committee of the State Duma. Its members are among the biggest landowners and most wealthy capitalists in Russia:

M.V. Rodzianko (Octobrist); V.V. Shulgin; V.N. Lvov; I.I. Dmitryukov (Octobrist); S.I. Shidlovsky (Octobrist); M.A. Karaulov; A.F. Kerensky (Labour Party); A.I. Konovalav (Progressive); V.A. Rzhevsky (Progressive); A.A. Bublikov (Progressive); P.N. Milyukov (Cadet); N.V. Nekrasov (Cadet); and N.S. Chkheidze (Menshevik).

The Committee discusses whether they should assume power over the country, filling up the vacuum caused by the revolution and the Tsar’s ineptitude. The Committee denies the move, and resolves that it must somehow save the Tsar. The Committee resolves that the only path towards this is to share power between Tsar and a new Prime Minister. [It was suggested to the Tzar that he should resign in favor of his son in order to give the new government a veneer of what to the new government appeared to be the necessary “legitimacy”! – IWPCHI] The despondent Tsar refused this offer. The Committee then asks his brother Mikhail to assume the throne, who also refuses.

On the following day, left without any other option, the Committee assumes power over the government. Along with the Petrograd Soviet, the Committee creates a new Provisional Government.

Provisional Government

Russian government established after the February Revolution of 1917 and lasting until the October Revolution of 1917.

The provisional government was born by decision of the Duma, which on the 27th of February, formed the Provisional Committee of Duma Members. The committee consisted of 12 members, chaired by Mikhail Rodzyanko (Octobrist), and was mostly made up of members of the Progressive Bloc, though it included two Socialists: Alexander Kerensky and Nikolai Chkheidze.

By March 1, the commandant of the Palace Guard at Tsarskoe Selo, and hundreds of high ranking officers announced their support for the provisional committee; the workers’ and soldiers’ revolution of February sent the monarchist officers a clear message: support for the Tsar would no longer be tolerated. The Provisional Committee attempted to gain legal legitimacy through the Tsar, but when Nicholas II refused, the committee assumed power.

Later in the day, the Committee asked the Ispolkom of the Petrograd Soviet for its support. The Ispolkom, without consulting the Soviet, presented an eight point programme, its conditions for support of the government:

1. Amnesty for all political prisoners
2. The right to speak, assemble, and strike
3. Equality for all nationalities, religions, and social origins.
4. Convocation of the Constituent Assembly
5. Police organs to be replaced by militia whose officers were elected
6. New elections to the soviets
7. Military units that participated in the Revolution not be sent to the front
8. Off duty-soldiers to receive temporary status as civilians

The programme was neither accepted nor declined, but ‘taken into consideration’; the Committee largely considering it consistent with their aims. A day after the Ispolkom presented it to the Provisional Committee, it asked the Petrograd Soviet to approve it, though the Soviet responded by pressing the demand that a “supervisory committee” be elected to serve as the correspondent to the Provisional Committee.

On March 2, 1917, the Provisional Committee became the Provisional Government. Pavel Milyukov picked the members of the new cabinet.

Chairman and Minister of the Interior: Prince G. E. Lvov
Minister of Foreign Affairs: P. N. Milyukov
Minister of Justice: A. F. Kerensky
Minister of Transport: N. V. Nekrasov
Minister of Posts and Telegraphs: I. G. Tsereteli
Minister of Trade: A. I. Konovalov
Minister of Public Education: A. A. Manuilov
Minister of War: A. I. Guchkov
Minister of Agriculture: A. I. Shingaryov
Minister of Treasury: M. I. Tereschenko
Minister of State Accounts: I. V. Godnev
Minister of Religion: V. N. Lvov

The Imperial family was arrested on the following day, March 3, 1917 […] The Ministers of the Provisional Government fled the country [after the Bolsheviks seized power in October], some of whom later assisted the United States, France, Britain, and Japan in the invasion of the R.S.F.S.R. during the Civil Wars of 1918-1922.

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Published: First published in 1924 in Lenin Miscellany II. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 23, pages 287-291.
Translated: M. S. Levin, The Late Joe Fineberg and Others
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive 2002 (2005). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Source: “Marxists Internet Archive” at https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/mar/04.htm#fwV23E122

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Document 2:

Leon Trotsky
OUR REVOLUTION
Two Faces
(Internal Forces of the Russian Revolution)
(March 1917)

Published in New York on March 17, 1917

Let us examine more closely what is going on.

Nicholas has been dethroned, and according to some information, is under arrest. The most conspicuous Black Hundred leaders have been arrested. Some of the most hated have been killed. A new Ministry has been formed consisting of Octobrists, Liberals and the Radical Kerensky. A general amnesty has been proclaimed.

All these are facts, big facts. These are the facts that strike the outer world most. Changes in the higher government give the bourgeoisie of Europe and America an occasion to say that the revolution has won and is now completed.

The Tzar and his Black Hundred fought for their power, for this alone. The war, the imperialistic plans of the Russian bourgeoisie, the interests of the Allies, were of minor importance to the Tzar and his clique. They were ready at any moment to conclude peace with the Hohenzollerns and Hapsburgs, to free their most loyal regiment for war against their own people.

The Progressive Bloc of the Duma mistrusted the Tzar and his Ministers. This Bloc consisted of various parties of the Russian bourgeoisie. The Bloc had two aims: one, to conduct the war to a victorious end; another, to secure internal reforms: more order, control, accounting. A victory is necessary for the Russian bourgeoisie to conquer markets, to increase their territories, to get rich. Reforms are necessary primarily to enable the Russian bourgeoisie to win the war.

The progressive imperialistic Bloc wanted peaceful reforms. The liberals intended to exert a Duma pressure on the monarchy and to keep it in check with the aid of the governments of Great Britain and France. They did not want a revolution. They knew that a revolution, bringing the working masses to the front, would be a menace to their domination, and primarily a menace to their imperialistic plans. The laboring masses, in the cities and in the villages, and even in the army itself, want peace. The liberals know it. This is why they have been enemies of the revolution all these years. A few months ago Milyukov declared in the Duma: “If a revolution were necessary for victory, I would prefer no victory at all.”

Yet the liberals are now in power – through the Revolution. The bourgeois newspaper men see nothing but this fact. Milyukov, already in his capacity as a Minister of Foreign Affairs, has declared that the revolution has been conducted in the name of a victory over the enemy, and that the new government has taken upon itself to continue the war to a victorious end. The New York Stock Exchange interpreted the Revolution in this specific sense. There are clever people both on the Stock Exchange and among the bourgeois newspaper men. Yet they are all amazingly stupid when they come to deal with mass-movements. They think that Milyukov manages the revolution, in the same sense as they manage their banks or news offices. They see only the liberal governmental reflection of the unfolding events, they notice only the foam on the surface of the historical torrent.

The long pent-up dissatisfaction of the masses has burst forth so late, in the thirty-second month of the war, not because the masses were held by police barriers-those barriers had been badly shattered during the war – but because all liberal institutions and organs, together with their Social-Patriotic shadows, were exerting an enormous influence over the least enlightened elements of the workingmen, urging them to keep order and discipline in the name of “patriotism.” Hungry women were already walking out into the streets, and the workingmen were getting ready to uphold them by a general strike, while the liberal bourgeoisie, according to news reports, still issued proclamations and delivered speeches to check the movement, – resembling that famous heroine of Dickens who tried to stem the tide of the ocean with a broom.

The movement, however, took its course, from below, from the workingmen’s quarters. After hours and days of uncertainty, of shooting, of skirmishes, the army joined in the revolution, from below, from the best of the soldier masses. The old government was powerless, paralyzed, annihilated. The Tzar fled from the capital “to the front.” The Black Hundred bureaucrats crept, like cockroaches, each into his corner.

Then, and only then, came the Duma’s turn to act. The Tzar had attempted in the last minute to dissolve it. And the Duma would have obeyed, “following the example of former years,” had it been free to adjourn. The capitals, however, were already dominated by the revolutionary people, the same people that had walked out into the streets despite the wishes of the liberal bourgeoisie. The army was with the people. Had not the bourgeoisie attempted to organize its own government, a revolutionary government would have emerged from the revolutionary working masses. The Duma of June 3rd would never have dared to seize the power from the hands of Tzarism. But it did not want to miss the chance offered by interregnum: the monarchy had disappeared, while a revolutionary government was not yet formed. Contrary to all their part, contrary to their own policies and against their will, the liberals found themselves in possession of power.

Milyukov now declares Russia will continue the war “to the end.” It is not easy for him so to speak: he knows that his words are apt to arouse the indignation of the masses against the new government. Yet he had to speak them – for the sake of the London, Paris and – American Stock Exchanges. It is quite possible that he cabled his declaration for foreign consumption only, and that he concealed it from his own country.

Milyukov knows very well that under given conditions he cannot continue the war, crush Germany, dismember Austria, occupy Constantinople and Poland.

The masses have revolted, demanding bread and peace. The appearance of a few liberals at the head of the government has not fed the hungry, has not healed the wounds of the people. To satisfy the most urgent, the most acute needs of the people, peace must be restored. The liberal imperialistic Bloc does not dare to speak of peace. They do not do it, first, on account of the Allies. They do not do it, further, because the liberal bourgeoisie is to a great extent responsible before the people for the present war. The Milyukovs and Gutchkovs, not less than the Romanoff camarila, have thrown the country into this monstrous imperialistic adventure. To stop the war, to return to the ante-bellum misery would mean that they have to account to the people for this undertaking. The Milyukovs and Gutchkovs are afraid of the liquidation of the war not less than they were afraid of the Revolution.

This is their aspect in their new capacity, as the government of Russia. They are compelled to continue the war, and they can have no hope of victory; they are afraid of the people, and people do not trust them.

This is how Karl Marx characterized similar situation:

“From the very beginning ready to betray the people and to compromise with the crowned representatives of the old regime, because the bourgeoisie itself belongs to the old world; keeping a place at the steering wheel of the revolution not because the people were back of them, but because the people pushed them forward; … having no faith in themselves, no faith in the people; grumbling against those above, trembling before those below; selfish towards both fronts and aware of their selfishness; revolutionary in the face of conservatives, and conservative in the face of revolutionists, with no confidence in their own slogans and with phrases instead of ideas; frightened by the world’s storm and exploiting the world’s storm, – vulgar through lack of originality, and original only in vulgarity; making profitable business out of their own desires, with no initiative, with no vocation for world-wide historic work … a cursed senile creature condemned to direct and abuse in his own senile interests the first youthful movements of a powerful people, – a creature with no eyes, with no ears, with no teeth, with nothing whatever, – this is how the Prussian bourgeoisie stood at the steering wheel of the Prussian state after the March revolution.”

These words of the great master give a perfect picture of the Russian liberal bourgeoisie, as it stands at the steering wheel of the government after our March revolution. “With no faith in themselves, with no faith in the people, with no eyes, with no teeth.” … This is their political face.

Luckily for Russia and Europe, there is another face to the Russian Revolution, a genuine face; the cables have brought the news that the Provisional Government is opposed by a Workmen’s Committee which has already raised a voice of protest against the liberal attempt to rob the Revolution and to deliver the people to the monarchy.

Should the Russian Revolution stop to-day as the representatives of liberalism advocate, to-morrow the reaction of the Tzar, the nobility and the bureaucracy would gather power and drive Milyukov and Gutchkov from their insecure ministerial trenches, as did the Prussian reaction years ago with the representatives of Prussian liberalism. But the Russian Revolution will not stop. Time will come, and the Revolution will make a clean sweep of the bourgeois liberals blocking its way, as it is now making a clean sweep of the Tzarism reaction.

Source: Marxists Internet Archive at https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1918/ourrevo/ch09.htm

We Salute the 98th Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917!

Petrograd Soviet in session, 1917

Petrograd Soviet in session, 1917

We proudly salute the 98th anniversary of the great Bolshevik Revolution of 1917!

On 7 November 1917 the revolutionary socialist workers and soldiers of Russia, led by the original Leninist vanguard Bolshevik party of Lenin, seized power out of the hands of the reactionary bourgeois-democratic Kerensky regime, which intended to continue participating in the bloodbath of WWI.

Red Guards of the workers of the "Vulcan" factory, 1917

Red Guards of the workers of the “Vulcan” factory, 1917

This revolution was not a putsch; the Bolsheviks had won to their program the industrialized workers of the major cities in Russia, as well, crucially, as the masses of Russian soldiers who refused to fight any longer for the hated Kerensky regime, and the long brutalized peasantry whose fathers and brothers had provided the bulk of the cannon fodder of the Tsarist regime.

Review of Bolshevik forces in Red Square, 1917

Review of Bolshevik forces in Red Square, 1917

Thus, for the first time since the too-brief insurrection of the Paris Commune in 1871, the working class found itself in possession of state power!  This time, however, it was led by a new type of revolutionary political formation: the Leninist vanguard party.  This party, armed with a firm dedication to revolutionary Marxist principles, and having won the hearts and minds of the industrialized working class, soldiers and leading revolutionary elements of the peasantry, was prepared to defend its possession of state power by any means necessary.

Lenin,_Trotsky_and_Voroshilov_with_Delegates_of_the_10th_Congress_of_the_Russian_Communist_Party_(Bolsheviks)

The betrayal of the revolution began before the death of Lenin, as Stalin and his acolytes started consolidating their power while Lenin lay dying.  The triumph of the Stalin clique over Trotsky’s Left Opposition led to the emergence of the Stalinist dogma of seeking reconciliation with the capitalist world while simultaneously embracing the thoroughly anti-Marxist and anti-Leninist theory that socialism could be successful in one country only.  This utter betrayal of the fundamental philosophy of Marxism/Leninism led inexorably – as Trotsky predicted – to the collapse of the USSR and the restoration of capitalism in Russia, brokered by the Stalinist bureaucracy itself, in 1989-91.

Thus the Third International collapsed in a heap.  Still, the “Communist Parties” whose Russian masters brokered the surrender of the USSR with nary a shot being fired in its defense remain, somehow, alive!  In Greece, and throughout Europe, these remnants of the utterly discredited Stalinist “Communist” parties still act as if they were somehow revolutionary, though they have refused to draw the necessary theoretical lessons from their 3rd international’s betrayal of the USSR.

Only the Trotskyists like ourselves remain as the sole representatives of the unbroken heritage of the revolutionary socialist traditions founded by Marx, Engels and Lenin.

Even the banners of the Fourth International have been sullied from time to time by the class-collaborationist programs of too many parties who claimed to be adherents of Trotsky but who proved to be anything but real Trotskyists.  We seek to reforge the revolutionary socialist traditions of the Fourth International, by seeking to recruit members of the completely discredited Third International who seek the road of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky.

We republish, in honor of the 98th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, Leon Trotsky’s essay “From July to October” as originally presented in his autobiography “My Life”.  This article describes in detail the development of the Russian revolution from July, 1917, when the Mensheviks and Kerenskyites tried to strangle the revolution in its cradle.  The essay proves conclusively the importance of the need for a revolutionary Marxist/Leninist/Trotskyist vanguard party in order to successfully outsmart the ruling class treachery that seeks to trick the naive workers into surrendering their arms in exchange for empty promises of reforms, after which the bourgeoisie will reorganise itself and drown the revolution in blood.  Lenin’s Bolsheviks, armed with a deep histroical analysis of the many ways that the ruling classes have destroyed revolutionary movements throughout history, did not succumb to the Sibyll’s song of the ruling class for a rapprochement between the workers and the capitalists.  ALL previous revolutionary movements HAD been seduced by the treacherous promises of leniency and reforms that came from the lying tongues of ruling classes in their desperate efforts to avoid overthrow.  All those who express their hatred of “Leninist vanguard parties” betray their actual support for the capitalist status quo – WITHOUT EXCEPTION!  By opposing the creation of Leninist vanguard parties, these fake-revolutionaries – chiefly anarchists and phony socialists – declare their opposition to the ONLY FORM of revolutionary Marxist paty that has EVER been successful in overthrowing the capitalist class!

We need to create new Bolshevik parties right here in the USA and all over the world in order to overthrow the capitalist classes of the world, which threaten to plunge the world into a third world war.  Time is running out, brother and sister workers!  We call upon all revolutionary socialist workers to contact us to begin the creation of the new Fourth International parties that will finally triumph over the ruthless, savage, greed-based capitalism that has kept billions of workers living in poverty, and that murders tens of thousands every day through war, assassination, and starvation.

Workers of the World, Unite!

Independent Workers Party of Chicago


Leon Trotsky
My Life
CHAPTER XXVI
FROM JULY TO OCTOBER

On June 4, a declaration that I had submitted concerning Kerensky’s preparation for an offensive at the front was read by the Bolshevik faction at the congress of the Soviets. We had pointed out that the offensive was an adventure that threatened the very existence of the army. But the Provisional government was growing intoxicated with its own speechifying. The ministers thought of the masses of soldiers, stirred to their very depths by the revolution, as so much soft clay to be moulded as they pleased. Kerensky toured the front, adjured and threatened the troops, kneeled, kissed the earth – in a word, downed it in every possible way, while he failed to answer any of the questions tormenting the soldiers. He had deceived himself by his cheap effects, and, assured of the support of the congress of the Soviets, ordered the offensive. When the calamity that the Bolsheviks had warned against came, the Bolsheviks were made the scapegoats. They were hounded furiously. The reaction, which the Kadet party was shielding, pressed in from all sides, demanding our heads.

The faith of the masses in the Provisional government was hopelessly undermined. At this second stage of the revolution, Petrograd was again too far in the van. In the July days, this vanguard came to an open clash with Kerensky’s government. It was not yet an uprising, but only a reconnaissance that went deep. But it had already become obvious in the July encounter that Kerensky had no “democratic” army behind him; that the forces supporting him against us were those of a counter-revolution.

During the session in the Taurid Palace on July 3, I learned of the demonstration of the machine-gun regiment and its appeal to other troops and to factory-workers. The news came as a surprise to me. The demonstration had been spontaneous, at the initiative of the masses, but next day it went farther, now with the participation of our party. The Taurid Palace was overrun by the people. They had only one slogan: “Power to the Soviets.”

In front of the palace, a suspicious-booking group of men who had kept aloof from the crowd seized the minister of agriculture, Chernov, and put him in an automobile. The crowd watched indifferently; at any rate, their sympathy was not with him. The news of Chernov’s seizure and of the danger that threatened him reached the palace. The Populists decided to use machine-gun armored cars to rescue their leader. The decline of their popularity was making them nervous; they wanted to show a firm hand. I decided to try to go with Chernov in the automobile away from the crowd, in order that I might release him afterward. But a Bolshevik, Raskolnikov, a lieutenant in the Baltic navy, who had brought the Kronstadt sailors to the demonstration, excitedly insisted on releasing Chernov at once, to prevent people from saying that he had been arrested by the Kronstadt men. I decided to try to carry out Raskolnikov’s wish. I will let him speak for himself.

“It is difficult to say how long the turbulence of the masses would have continued,” the impulsive lieutenant says in his memoirs, “but for the intervention of Comrade Trotsky. He jumped on the front of the automobile, and with an energetic wave of his hand, like a man who was tired of waiting, gave the signal for silence. Instantly, everything calmed down, and there was dead quiet. In a loud, clear and ringing voice, Lev Davydovich made a short speech, ending with ‘those in favor of violence to Chernov raise their hands!’ Nobody even opened his mouth,” continues Raskolnikov; “no one uttered a word of protest. ‘Citizen Chernov, you are free,’ Trotsky said, as he turned around solemnly to the minister of agriculture and with a wave of his hand, invited him to leave the automobile. Chernov was half-dead and half-alive. I helped him to get out of the automobile, and with an exhausted, expressionless look and a hesitating, unsteady walk, he went up the steps and disappeared into the vestibule of the palace. Satisfied with his victory, Lev Davydovich walked away with him.”

If one discounts the unnecessarily pathetic tone, the scene is described correctly. It did not keep the hostile press from asserting that I had Chernov seized to have him lynched. Chernov shyly kept silent; how could a “People’s” minister confess his indebtedness not to his own popularity, but to the intervention of a Bolshevik for the safety of his head?

Delegation after delegation demanded, in the name of the demonstrants, that the Executive Committee take the power. Chiedze, Tzereteli, Dan, and Gotz were sitting in the presidium like statues. They did not answer the delegations, and looked blankly off into space or exchanged perturbed and cryptic glances. Bolsheviks spoke one after another in support of the delegations of workers and soldiers. The members of the presidium were silent. They were waiting – but for what? Hours passed in this way. Then, in the middle of the night, the halls of the palace resounded suddenly with the triumphant blare of trumpets. The members of the presidium came to life as if they had been touched by an electric current. Some one solemnly reported that the Volyn regiment had arrived from the front to put itself of the disposal of the Central Executive Committee. In all of the Petrograd garrison, the “democracy” had not had a single unit that it could rely on. And so it had had to wait until an armed force could come from the front.

Now the whole setting changed immediately. The delegations were driven out; Bolsheviks were not allowed to speak. The leaders of the democracy were wreaking on us their vengeance for the fear that the masses had made them suffer. Speeches from the platform of the Executive Committee told of an armed mutiny suppressed by the loyal troops of the revolution. The Bolsheviks were declared a counter-revolutionary party. The arrival of that one Volyn regiment had done all this. Three and a half months later, the same regiment co-operated wholeheartedly in the overthrow of Kerensky’s government.

On the morning of the fifth I met Lenin. The offensive by the masses had been beaten off. “Now they will shoot us down, one by one,” said Lenin. “This is the right time for them.” But he overestimated the opponent – not his venom, but his courage and ability to act. They did not shoot us down one by one, although they were not far from it. Bolsheviks were being beaten down in the streets and killed. Military students sacked the Kseshinskaya palace and the printing-works of the Pravda. The whole street in front of the works was littered with manuscripts, and among those destroyed was my pamphlet To the Slanderers. The deep reconnaissance of July had been transformed into a one-sided battle. The enemy were easily victorious, because we did not fight. The party was paying dearly for it. Lenin and Zinoviev were in hiding. General arrests, followed by beatings, were the order of the day. Cossacks and military students confiscated the money of those arrested, on the ground that it was “German money.” Many of our sympathizers and half-friends turned their backs on us. In the Taurid Palace, we were proclaimed counter-revolutionists and were actually put outside the law.

The situation in the ruling circles of the party was bad. Lenin was away; Kamenev’s wing was raising its head. Many – and these included Stalin – simply let events take their own course, so that they might show their wisdom the day after. The Bolshevik faction in the Central Executive Committee felt orphaned in the Taurid Palace. It sent a delegation to ask me if I would speak to them about the situation, although I was not yet a member of the party; my formal joining had been delayed until the party congress, soon to meet. I agreed readily, of course. My talk with the Bolshevik faction established moral bonds of the sort that are forged only under the enemy’s heaviest blows. I said then that after this crisis we were to expect a rapid up swing; that the masses would become twice as strongly attached to us when they had verified the truth of our declaration by facts; that it was necessary to keep a strict watch on every revolutionary, for at such moments men are weighed on scales that do not err. Even now I recall with pleasure the warmth and gratitude that the members showed me when I left them. “Lenin is away,” Muralov said, “and of the others, only Trotsky has kept his head.”

If I had been writing these memoirs under different circumstances – although in other circumstances I should hardly have been writing them at all – I should have hesitated to include much of what I say in these pages. But now I cannot forget that widely organized lying about the past which is one of the chief activities of the epigones. My friends are in prison or in exile. I am obliged to speak of myself in a way that I should never have done under other conditions. For me, it is a question not merely of historical truth but also of a political struggle that is still going on.

My unbroken fighting friendship as well as my political friendship with Muralov began then. I must say at least a few words about the man. Muralov is an old Bolshevik who went through the revolution of 1905 in Moscow. In Serpukhov, in 1906, he was caught in the pogrom of the Black Hundred – carried out, as usual, under the protection of the police. Muralov is a magnificent giant, as fearless as he is kind. With a few others, he found himself in a ring of enemies who had surrounded the building of the Zemstvo administration. Muralov came out of the building with a revolver in his hand and walked evenly toward the crowd. It moved back a little. But the shock company of the Black Hundred blocked his path, and the cabmen began to howl taunts at him. “Clear a way,” ordered the giant without slackening his advance, as he raised the hand holding the revolver. Several men pounced on him. He shot one of them down and wounded another. The crowd drew back again. With the same even step, cutting his way through the crowd like an ice-breaker, Muralov walked on and on toward Moscow.

His subsequent trial lasted for two years, and, in spite of the frenzy of the reaction that swept over the country, he was acquitted. An agricultural expert by training, a soldier in an aut mobile detachment during the imperialist war, a leader of the October fighting in Moscow, Muralov became the first commander of the Moscow military region after the victory. He was a fearless marshal of the revolutionary war, always steady, simple, and unaffected. In his campaigning he was a tireless living example; he gave agricultural advice, mowed grain, and in his free moments gave medical treatment to both men and cows. In the most difficult situations he radiated calm, warmth, and confidence. After the close of the war, Muralov and I always tried to spend our free days together. We were united too by our love of hunting. We scoured North and South for bears and wolves, or for pheasants and bustards. At present, Muralov is hunting in Siberia as an exiled oppositionist.

In the July days of 1917, Muralov held his head up, as usual, and encouraged many others. In those days, we all needed a lot of self-control to stride along the corridors and halls of the Taurid Palace without bowing our heads, as we ran the gauntlet of furious glances, venomous whispers, grinding of teeth, and a demonstrative elbowing that seemed to say: “Look! Look!” There is no fury greater than that of a vain and pampered “revolutionary” philistine when he begins to perceive that the revolution which has suddenly lifted him to the top is about to threaten his temporary splendor.

The route to the canteen of the Executive Committee was a little Golgotha in those days. Tea was dispensed there, and sandwiches of black bread and cheese or red caviar; the latter was plentiful in the Smolny and later in the Kremlin. For dinner, the fare was a vegetable soup with a chunk of meat. The canteen was in charge of a soldier named Grafov. When the baiting of the Bolsheviks was at its worst, when Lenin was declared a German spy and had to hide in a hut, I noticed that Grafov would slip me a hotter glass of tea, or a sandwich better than the rest, trying meanwhile not to look at me. He obviously sympathized with the Bolsheviks but had to keep it from his superiors. I began to look about me more attentively. Grafov was not the only one: the whole lower staff of the Smolny – porters, messengers, watchmen – were unmistakably with the Bolsheviks. Then I felt that our cause was half won. But so far, only half.

The press was conducting an exceptionally venomous and dishonest campaign against the Bolsheviks, a campaign surpassed in this respect only by Stalin’s campaign against the opposition a few years later. In July, Lunacharsky made a few equivocal statements which the press naturally interpreted as a renunciation of Bolshevism. Some papers attributed similar statements to me. On July 10, I addressed a letter to the Provisional government in which I stated my complete agreement with Lenin and which I ended as follows: “You can have no grounds for exempting me from the action of the decree by virtue of which Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev are subject to arrest; you can have no grounds for doubting that I am as irreconcilably opposed to the general policy of the Provisional government as my above-mentioned comrades.” Messrs. the ministers drew the due conclusion from this letter, and arrested me as a German agent.

In May, when Tzereteli was hounding the sailors and disarming the machine-gun companies, I warned him that the day was probably not far distant when he would have to seek help from the sailors against some general who would be soaping the hangman’s rope for the revolution. In August, such a general made his appearance in the person of Kornilov. Tzereteli called for the help of the Kronstadt bluejackets; they did not refuse it. The cruiser Aurora entered the waters of the Neva. I was already in the Kresty prison when I saw this quick fulfilment of my prophecy. The sailors from the Aurora sent a special delegation to the prison to ask my advice: should they defend the Winter Palace or take it by assault? I advised them to put off the squaring of their account with Kerensky until they had finished Kornilov. “What’s ours will not escape us.”

“It won’t?”

“It will not.”

While I was in prison, my wife and boys called to see me. The boys had by that time acquired some political experience of their own. They were spending the summer in the country house of the family of a retired colonel. Visitors often came there, mostly officers, and as they helped themselves to vodka they would rail at the Bolsheviks. In the July days this railing reached its climax. (Some of these officers left soon after that for the South, where the future “White” forces were being gathered.) When, in the course of a meal, a certain young patriot called Lenin and Trotsky German spies, my older boy dashed at him with a chair and the younger one with a table-knife. The grown-ups separated them, and the boys, sobbing hysterically, locked themselves in their room. They were secretly planning to make their way on foot to Petrograd to find out what was happening to the Bolsheviks there, but fortunately their mother came, pacified them, and took them away. But in the city things seemed hardly better. The newspapers were denouncing the Bolsheviks, their father was in prison – the revolution was definitely disappointing. But that did not prevent them from delightedly watching my wife furtively slip me a pen-knife through the grating in the prison reception-room. I continued to console them by saying that the real revolution was still to come.

My daughters were being drawn more actively into political life. They attended the meetings in the Modern Circus and took part in demonstrations. During the July days, they were both shaken up in a mob, one of them lost her glasses, both lost their hats, and both were afraid that they would lose the father who had just reappeared on their horizon.

During the days of Kornilov’s advance on Petrograd, the prison regime was hanging by a thread. Everybody realized that if Kornilov entered the city he would immediately slaughter all the Bolsheviks arrested by Kerensky. The Central Executive Committee was afraid too that the prisons might be raided by the White-guard elements in the capital. A large detachment of troops was detailed to guard the Kresty. Of course it proved to be not “democratic” but Bolshevik, and ready to release us at any moment. But an act like that would have been the signal for an immediate uprising, and the time for that had not yet come. Meanwhile, the government itself began to release us, for the same reason that it had called in the Bolshevik sailors to guard the Winter Palace. I went straight from the Kresty to the newly organized committee for the defense of the revolution, where I sat with the same gentlemen who had put me in prison as an agent of the Hohenzollerns, and who had not yet withdrawn the accusation against me. I must candidly confess that the Populists and Mensheviks by their very appearance made one wish that Kornilov might grip them by the scruffs of their necks and shake them in the air. But this wish was not only irreverent, it was unpolitical. The Bolsheviks stepped into the harness, and were everywhere in the first line of the defense. The experience of Kornilov’s mutiny completed that of the July days: once more Kerensky and Co. revealed the fact that they had no forces of their own to back them. The army that rose against Kornilov was the army-to-be of the October revolution. We took advantage of the danger to arm the workers whom Tzereteli had been disarming with such restless industry.

The capital quieted down in those days. Kornilov’s entry was awaited with hope by some and with terror by others. Our boys heard some one say, “He may come to-morrow,” and in the morning, before they were dressed, they peered out of the window to see if he had arrived. But Kornilov did not arrive. The revolutionary upswing of the masses was so powerful that his mutiny simply melted away and evaporated. But not with out leaving its trace; the mutiny was all grist to the Bolshevik mill.

“Retribution is not slow in coming,” I wrote in the Kornilov days. “Hounded, persecuted, slandered, our party never grew as rapidly as it is growing now. And this process will spread from the capitals to the provinces, from the towns to the country and the army … Without ceasing for a moment to be the class organization of the proletariat, our party will be transformed in the fire of persecution into a true leader of all the oppressed, downtrodden, deceived and hounded masses.”

We were hardly able to keep pace with the rising tide. The number of Bolsheviks in the Petrograd Soviet was increasing daily. We represented almost half of the membership, and yet there was not a single Bolshevik in the presidium. We raised the question of re-electing the Soviet presidium. We offered to form a coalition presidium with the Mensheviks and the Populists. Lenin, as we afterward found out, was displeased at that, because he was afraid that it implied conciliatory tendencies on our part. But no compromise was effected. Despite our recent joint struggle against Kornilov, Tzereteli declined the coalition presidium.

We had hoped for this; nothing but a vote on the lists of candidates along party lines could solve the problem now. I asked whether the list of our opponents included Kerensky; formally, he was a member of the presidium, though he did not attend the Soviet, and showed his disregard of it in every way. The question took the presidium by surprise. Kerensky was neither liked nor respected, but it was impossible to disavow one’s prime minister. After consulting one another, the members of the presidium answered: “Of course, he is included.” We wanted nothing better. Here is an extract from the minutes: “We were convinced that Kerensky was no longer in the presidium [tumultuous applause], but we see now that we have been mistaken. The shadow of Kerensky is hovering between Chiedze and Zavadye. When you are asked to approve the political line-up of the presidium, remember that you are asked in this way to approve the policies of Kerensky. [tumultuous applause]” This threw over to our side another hundred or so of the delegates who had been vacillating.

The Soviet numbered considerably more than a thousand members. The voting was performed by going out the door. There was tremendous excitement, for the question at issue was not the presidium, but the revolution. I was walking about in the lobbies with a group of friends. We reckoned that we should be a hundred votes short of half, and were ready to consider that a success. But it happened that we received a hundred votes more than the coalition of the Socialist-Revolutionists and the Mensheviks. We were the victors. I took the chair. Tzereteli, taking his leave, expressed his wish that we might stay in the Soviet at least half as long as they had been leading the revolution. In other words, our opponents opened for us a credit account of not more than three months.

They made a gross miscalculation. We were undeviating in our march to power.
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Last updated on: 7.2.2007