Democracy and Class Struggle publishes the chapter from the Marxism Leninism Maoism textbook of CPI Maoist on the October Revolution
The period after the defeat of the 1905 Revolution was a period of extreme repression and reaction under the leadership of the Tsar’s Prime Minister, Stolypin. The working class was made the main target of attack.
Wages were reduced by 10 to 15 per cent, and the working day was increased to 10 to 12 hours. Black lists of worker activists were drawn up and they were not given jobs. Systems of fines on workers were introduced. Any attempt to organise was met with savage attacks by the police and goondas organised by the Tsar’s agents.
In such a situation many intellectuals and petty bourgeois elements started retreating and some even joined the camp of the enemy.In order to face this new situation, the Bolsheviks changed over from offensive tactics (like general strike and armed uprising used during the period of the 1905 Revolution) to defensive tactics.
Defensive tactics meant the tactics of gathering together of forces, the tactics of withdrawing the cadres underground and of carrying on the work of the party from underground, the tactics of combining illegal work with work in the legal working-class organisations. Open revolutionary struggle against Tsardom was replaced by roundabout methods of struggle.
The surviving legal organisations served as a cover for the underground organisations of the party and as a means of maintaining connections with the masses.
In order to preserve their connections with the masses, the Bolsheviks made use of he trade unions and other legally existing people’s organisations, such as sick benefit societies, workers’ co-operative societies,clubs, educational societies and even parliament. The Bolsheviks made use of the platform of the State Duma to expose the policy of the Tsarist government, to expose the liberal parties, and to win the support of the peasants for the proletariat. The preservation of the illegal Party organisation enabled the party to pursue a correct line and to gather together forces in preparation for a new rise in the tide of the revolution.
In implementing these tactics the Bolsheviks had to wage struggle against two deviations within the movement – the Liquidators and the Otzovists (Recallists). The Liquidators, who were Mensheviks,
wanted to close down the illegal party structure and set up a legal ‘labour’ party with the consent of the government. The Recallists, who were from among the Bolsheviks, wanted to recall all the
Bolshevik members of the Duma, and also withdraw from the trade unions and all other legal forms of organisation. They wanted only the illegal form of organisation.
The result of both sets of tactics would have been to prevent the party from gathering together the forces for a new advance of the revolution. Rejecting both deviations, the Bolsheviks used the correct tactics of combining both legal and illegal methods and were able to gain a strong presence in many workers’organisations and also win over a number of Menshevik worker organisations. This strengthened the party and prepared it for the next upswing in the revolutionary movement,which started from 1912.
The Bolsheviks held a separate Party Conference in January 1912 and constituted themselves as a separate party – the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks) [RSDLP (B)].
At this conference itself they assessed the rise in the revolutionary movement which was seen from the rise in the number of strikers in 1911. At this conference and at later meetings of the Central Committee, new tactics were decided upon according to the new situation. This involved extending and intensifying the struggles of the workers.
An important aspect of the tactics during this period was the starting of the daily newspaper, Pravda (Truth), which helped to strengthen the Bolshevik organisations and spread their influence among the masses. Earlier the Bolsheviks had a weekly paper, which was meant for advanced workers. Pravda, however, was a daily mass political newspaper, aimed at reaching out to the broadest sections of the workers.
Started on 5th May 1912, it lasted for two and a half years. During this period it faced numerous problems and heavy fines from the government’s censors.
It was suppressed eight times but reappeared again each time under a slightly changed name. It had an average circulation of 40,000 copies. Pravda was supported by a large number of advanced workers – 5600 workers’ groups collected for the Bolshevik press. Through Pravda, Bolshevik influence spread not only among the workers, but also among the peasants.
In fact during the period of the rise of the revolutionary movement (1912-14) the solid foundation was laid for a mass Bolshevik party. As Stalin said, “The Pravda of 1912 was the laying of the corner-stone of the victory of Bolshevism in 1917.”
With the outbreak of war in 1914, the revolutionary situation further ripened. The Bolsheviks did extensive propaganda among the workers against the war and for the overthrow of Tsardom. Units and cells were also formed in the army and the navy, at the front and in the rear, and leaflets distributed calling for a fight against the war.
At the front, after the Party’s intensive agitation for friendship and brotherhood between the warring armies’ soldiers, there were increasing instances of refusal of army units to take the offensive in 1915 and 1916.
The bourgeoisie and landlords were making fortunes out of the war, but the workers and peasants were suffering increasing hardships.
Millions had died directly of wounds or due to epidemics caused by war conditions. In January and February 1917, the situation became particularly acute. Hatred and anger against the tsarist government spread.
Even the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie, were wary of the Tsar, whose advisers were working for a separate peace with Germany. They too, with the backing of the British and French governments,
planned to replace the tsar through a palace coup. However the people acted first.
From January 1917 a strong revolutionary strike movement started in Moscow, Petrograd, Baku and other industrial centres. The Bolsheviks organised big street demonstrations in favour of a general strike.
As the strike movement gained momentum, on March 8, International Women’s Day, the working women of Petrograd were called out by the Bolsheviks to demonstrate against starvation, war and Tsardom.
The workers supported the working women with strikes and by March 11, the strikes and demonstrations had taken on the character of an armed uprising.
The Bureau of the Central Committee on March 11 issued a call for continuation of the armed uprising to overthrow the tsar and establish a provisional revolutionary government.
On March 12, 60,000 soldiers came over to the side of the revolution, fought the police and helped the workers overthrow the Tsar. As the news spread, workers and soldiers everywhere began to depose the Tsarist officials.
The February bourgeois-democratic revolution had won. (It is called February Revolution because the Russian calendar at that time was 13 days behind the calendar in other parts of the world and the date of the victory of the revolution was February 27th according to the Russian calendar).As soon as Tsardom was overthrown, on the initiative of the Bolsheviks, there arose Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.
However, while the Bolsheviks were directly leading the struggle of the masses in the streets, the compromising parties, the Mensheviks and Socialist- Revolutionaries (a petty-bourgeois party which was a continuation of the earlier Narodniks) were seizing the seats in the Soviets, and building up a majority there.
Thus they headed the Soviets in Petrograd, Moscow and a number of other cities. Meanwhile the liberal bourgeois members of the Duma did a backdoor deal with the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries and formed a Provisional Government. The result was the formation of two bodies representing two dictatorships: the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, represented by the Provisional Government, and the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, represented by the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. Lenin called this dual power.
Immediately after the bourgeois revolution Lenin whiled still in Switzerland, wrote his famous Letters from Afar, where he analysed this dual power. He showed how the Soviets were the
embryo of the workers’ government, which had to go ahead and win victory in the second stage of the revolution—the socialist revolution. Their allies in this would be the broad semi proletarian and small peasant masses and the proletariat of all countries.
On April 16, 1917, Lenin arrived in Petrograd after a long period of exile, and the very next day presented his famous April Theses before a meeting of Bolsheviks. He called for opposing the
Provisional Government and working for a Bolshevik majority in the Soviets and transferring state power to the Soviets. He presented the programme for ensuring peace, land, and bread.
Lastly, he called for a new party Congress with a new party name, the Communist Party, and for building a new International, the Third International.
The Mensheviks immediately attacked Lenin’s Theses and gave a warning that ‘the revolution is in danger’. However within three weeks, the first openly held All-Russia Conference (Seventh Conference) of the Bolshevik Party, approved Lenin’s report based on the same Theses. It gave the slogan, ‘All Power to the Soviets!’ It also approved a very important resolution, moved by Stalin, declaring the right of nations to self-determination, including secession.
In the following months, the Bolsheviks worked energetically according to the Conference line,convincing the masses of workers, soldiers and peasants of the correctness of their position. The
Sixth Party Congress was also held in August 1917 after a gap of ten years.
Due to the danger of attack from the Provisional Government, the Congress had to be held in secret in Petrograd, without the presence of Lenin. Stalin presented the main political reports, which called for the preparation for armed uprising. The Congress also adopted new Party Rules which provided that all Party organisations shall be built on the principles of Democratic Centralism.It also admitted the group led by Trotsky into the Party.
Soon after the Congress, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army, Gen. Kornilov, organised a revolt of the army in order to crush the Bolsheviks and the Soviets. However the soldiers of many divisions were convinced by the Bolsheviks not to obey orders and the revolt failed.
After the failure of this revolt the masses realised that the Bolsheviks and the Soviets were the only guarantee for achieving peace, land, and bread, which were their urgent demands.
Rapid Bolshevisation of the Soviets took place, the tide of the revolution was rising, and the Party started preparing for armed uprising.
In this period, Lenin, for security reasons, was forced to stay in Finland, away from the main arena of battle. During this period, he completed his book, The State and Revolution, which defended and
developed the teachings of Marx and Engels on the question of the state.
While particularly exposing the distortions on this question by opportunists like Kautsky, Lenin’s work then had tremendous theoretical and practical significance at the international level. This was because, as Lenin saw clearly at that time itself, the Russian February bourgeois revolution was a link in a chain of socialist proletarian revolutions being caused by the World War I.
The question of the relationship between the proletarian revolution and the state was no longer merely a theoretical question. Because of the revolutionary situation created by the war it was now a question of immediate practical importance and it was necessary for the international proletarian movement and the masses to be educated as to correct understanding regarding this.
As the revolutionary tide rose Lenin again landed in Petrograd on October 20, 1917. Within three days of his arrival, a historic Central Committee meeting decided to launch the armed uprising
within a few days. Immediately representatives were sent to all parts of the country and particularly to the army units.
On becoming aware of the plan for the uprising, the Provisional government started an attack on the Bolsheviks, on November 6, 1917, the eve of the holding of the Second All- Russia Congress of Soviets. The Red Guards and revolutionary units of the army retaliated and by November 7, 1917, state power had passed into the hands of the Soviets.
Immediately the next day the Congress of Soviets passed the Decree on Peace and the Decreeon Land. It formed the first Soviet government—the Council of People’s Commissar of which Lenin was elected the first Chairman.
The Great October Socialist Revolution had established the dictatorship of the proletariat.
It was however a long battle before the workers’ power was consolidated. Firstly the war with Germany had to be ended. This was finally done by signing the Brest-Litovsk Treaty in February 1918.
This too however did not bring a lasting peace. As soon as the World War I ended, the victorious imperialist powers of Britain, France, Japan and America started direct and indirect intervention and help to the old ruling classes of Russia to wage a civil war against the Soviet state.This civil war lasted till the end of 1920. The Soviet state emerged victorious but at the end of the war the economy was in ruins.