october revolution 1

A decisive political fight between two powers – the exploited and the exploiters – engulfed the path of the Great October Revolution following the victory of the Soviets in October as the revolution changed class equation/array of class power. A new vista for the working people was unfolding.

Kerensky’s expectation

After the February Revolution, the Soviets and the Provisional Government (PG) were in a duel for power. But, the PG melted away following the Soviets’ October-victory. Before to that, writes George Buchanan, the British ambassador to Russia, the “Duma […] gradually came to be regarded as an archaic institution, till it finally disappeared from the scene.” (My Mission to Russia and Other Diplomatic Memories, vol. II, Cassell and Company, Limited, London, New York, Toronto, Melbourne, 1923) So, there was neither the PG nor the duma. And, the Soviet didn’t experience a “natural death”, which was, according to Buchanan, expected by Kerensky.

The political struggle, determining in nature at this moment of the revolution, manifested in the workings of the Soviet and of the Constituent Assembly (CA) as the former was representing the workers, peasants, soldiers and sailors while the later with the ulterior motive of regaining lost power and privileges of the exploiting classes and imperialists was refusing to recognize the people power, and, with that purpose, was maneuvering violently to demolish the newly emerged Soviet power. And, “the clash between Soviet power and the Constituent Assembly result[ed] from the entire course of the Russian revolution.” (Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 26, p. 437, Progress Publishers, Moscow, erstwhile USSR, 1972; henceforth LCW) This “entire course of the Russian revolution” is ignored/not recognized by a group of scholars engaged with denouncing the revolution. They either don’t understand its meaning or lie about it. They also fail to read and deny to recognize the people-factor, a cornerstone of the revolution: people’s aspiration and interest, and manifestation of these, people’s power, and the legitimization people produce through course of revolution. These scholars loves to forget the fact that monarchs and emperors – chief bandits in banditdom, gangs of lords and knights – petty thieves, night watchers employed by thiefdom, crowns chief bandits put on their heads, even uniform and color of uniform of gendarmes engaged by banditrydom need legitimization, which these living and dead elements derive from people through deception.   The awakened people in Russia were not powerless, or were not keeping its power idle at this moment of the revolution: “the people and the army are but one, and that in the event of revolution only a small portion of army can be counted on to defend the dynasty.” (George Buchanan, op. cit.) Don’t these scholars like to trust their trusted diplomat’s finding? Don’t these scholars question: How it – “only a small portion of army can be counted on to defend the dynasty” – happens? What’s the organism that makes it happen? And, doesn’t the organism part of the process that produces legitimization?

The October Revolution “aroused desperate resistance of the exploiters”. (LCW, 26:435) The exploiters’ resistance to the revolution was evident in the CA, and in political incidents, initiated by the imperialist-bourgeois-monarchist axis, preceding inauguration of the CA. This “resistance of the exploiters” is also ignored/not mentioned by that group of scholars – a bourgeois “scholarly” quest for facts. By this act befitting to the scholars in the service of the bourgeoisie – a denial of political machinations by the exploiters – these scholars perform a single duty: defend the exploiters.

However, the Soviets were having strong ground. “By October, 20 million people had organized in the soviets, [while], in the summer of 1917, the soviets had a membership of 9–10 million people. The revolution was driven by the social self-organization of these millions of tortured people disillusioned by the war — especially in the workers’, armed, and peasant soviets, military and revolutionary committees, factory and plant committees, the professional and armed self-defense organizations. All were loosely structured for peoples’ mobilization, production, land distribution, and wielding of power, and all accomplished through a great deal of spontaneity and invention. The land decree accepted at the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets was also such an original product. It simultaneously expressed the desire of the peasants for land, and for social equality.” (Tamás Krausz, “One Hundred Years, One Hundred Messages”, Monthly Review, July 1, 2017)

“[B]y autumn 1917 the Bolsheviks held a majority in virtually every soviet.” (ibid.)

That group of scholars declines to identify the facts mentioned above: “The revolution was driven by the social self-organization of these millions of tortured people”, “workers’ […] and peasant soviets, military and revolutionary committees, factory and plant committees, the professional and armed self-defense organizations”, “loosely structured for peoples’ mobilization, production, land distribution, and wielding of power”. Ignoring these facts lead to distorted interpretation of the revolution – its spirit and its historical responsibilities and duties – although comprehending these helps understand the character/type of the revolution, the class forces the revolution was unleashing and representing, the class forces the revolution was encountering, and the measures required to encounter those forces. The entire scene charged with class conflict is either seen with a naïve view totally unaware of political fight between the exploited and the exploiters or is seen with the eyes of the exploiters, their logic, their arguments, their interests, and thus, the October Revolution, its achievements, and the duties it performed, the hostile class forces it had to encounter, the shackle it tore down are ignored. A faithful duty by a group of obligated servants, indeed!

Dire situation

The fight was being waged against the backdrop of a “critical food situation and the threat of famine caused by the profiteering and sabotage of the capitalists and officials, as well as by the general economic ruin”. (LCW, 26:391)

There was “a complete breakdown of the system of production. Just after the February Revolution, a whole series of production plants shut down amid the crisis. ‘The decrease in production and the mass closure of plants,’ one scholar has written [ref. is made to D O Churakov, “Revolutsia i sotsialno-ekonomicheskoe polozhenie rabochih (konyets 1917–1918)”, in Sorokin, ed., Oktyabr 1917, 213], ‘occurred right after February. [….] [There was] mass closure of private companies. […] By October, industrial production had fallen by 40 percent compared to the previous year, 1916.’ [….] Some companies slashed workers’ wages to half of pre-war levels. [….] Despite all the efforts of the ‘changing Soviet regime,’ the declining production, famine, and unemployment remained rampant in the years after 1917. The pillaging of food stocks was common, and many city-dwellers were driven to the countryside by the looting.” (Tamás Krausz, op. cit.)

The World War the imperialists were spearheading was another part of the backdrop. The revolution was facing a dire situation: There was the war, the onslaught of the imperialists; there were the war-weary soldiers and the hungry and tired working population, who were made cannon fodder by the blood-thirsty imperialists; there was the question of demobilization of armed forces. The terrible situation is evident from the following fact:

On December 30, 1917 at a conference of delegates to the Army Congress on the Demobilization of the Army Lenin raised 10 questions, two of which were: “(4) Would our army be capable, from the military point, of resisting a German offensive […]? If not, when would our army be in a position to resist a German offensive”; and, “(5) In the event of a swift German advance, could our army retire in good order and preserve its artillery, and if so, could the Germans’ advance into the heart of Russia be held up for long?” (LCW, 26:395)

The questions reflect the desperate situation the proletariat was facing while it was establishing its political power.

Two questions

“Two questions [took] precedence over all other political questions – the question of bread and the question of peace. The imperialist war, the war between the biggest and richest banking firms, Britain and Germany, that is being waged for world domination […] ruined all countries, exhausted all peoples, and confronted mankind with the alternative – either sacrifice all civilization and perish or throw off the capitalist yoke in the revolutionary way”. (LCW, 26:386)

A group of theoreticians ignore the reality: “the real conditions of the class struggle and civil war” (LCW, 26:378) With this “knowledge and practice”, they distort the analysis of the revolution. They forget that no revolution can be evaluated by ignoring the “real conditions of […] class struggle”.

There was the urgent need to “normalize the country’s economic life immediately and comprehensively, stopping at nothing and acting in the most revolutionary manner”. (LCW, 26:391)

This reality overwhelmed the working classes in Russia while the exploiting classes were striving with the questions related to a constituent assembly.

The CA

The Bolsheviks were calling for the CA-election since long; and, on the opposite, the PG, controlled by the bourgeoisie, continued withholding the CA election.

Calling for the CA was officially recognized as the main task of the PG. In March, the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet set up a committee on CA. Preparatory work for the CA elections involved all parties, associations, and unions of that time. Work over the draft of the Statute of Elections to the All-Russian Constituent Assembly was completed in August 1917. On November 12 (25), 13 (26) and 14 (27), 1917, elections, based on universal suffrage, to the CA were launched. (“Elections to the Constituent Assembly began 25 November 1917”, Presidential Library, St. Petersburg, Russia)

“[M]ore than thirty parties […] vied [in the election], albeit only five of those could be considered major political parties – the […] Bolsheviks, the […] Mensheviks, the Constitutional Democrats [Cadets/Kadets], the Social Revolutionaries [SR], and the rather nationalistic Ukrainian Social Revolutionary Party [USR].” (William A Dando, “A Map of the Election to the Russian Constituent Assembly of 1917”, Slavic Review, vol. 25, issue 2, June 1966)

“The machinery for handling the election was in the hands of commissions appointed by the [PG] before its fall, and naturally the Bolsheviks contested the authority of these commissions.” (ibid.)

In the voting, according to 67 electoral districts, 44, 433, 309 people took part. The results of the elections vary in different sources. Votes received by the SRs (right and left) in Russia’s regions ranged from 39.5 % to 45.5 %. Taking into account SRs and close associations of national regions this percentage rose up to 58 %. In the second place were the Bolsheviks with votes varying from 22.5 % to 25 %. (“Elections to the Constituent Assembly began 25 November 1917”, op. cit.)

The biggest success the Bolsheviks achieved during the elections in two capitals and industrial provinces (in Petrograd — 45 % vs. 16 % of SRs while in Moscow — 56 % vs. 25 %). The Mensheviks got only from 1.8 % – 3.2 % votes. Taking into account political organizations of Russian and national regions close to the Mensheviks this percentage went up to 4.7 %. The Cadets went by 4.5 % to 5.6 % votes. All right political organizations together with the Cadets had the support ranging from 13 % to 17 % votes. (ibid.)

In Petrograd, about 930,000 people voted; and among them 45% voted for the Bolsheviks, 27% for the SRs and 17% for the Cadets. The Bolshevik vote increased by 24%, the SR vote by 40%, the Cadet vote by 5%, and the Menshevik vote 2%. (A M Kulegin, “Constituent Assembly, All-Russian”, Saint Petersburg Encyclopedia, Committee of Culture of St. Petersburg, Peter the Great Institute)

Dissecting the votes

Oliver Henry Radkey, a scholar with an anti-Bolshevik bias, presents an analysis of the voting in the election in his The Election to the Russian Constituent Assembly of 1917 (Harvard University Press, Mass., 1950). Radkey based is study on investigations by the SR statistician Sviatitski, by Lenin, and, in the Archives of the October Revolution. Radkey also used other study materials from libraries in Harvard, Moscow, Paris, Prague and Stanford. Radkey’s study show the distribution of political strength in areas not previously accounted for. The facts found in the study, sponsored by professor Karpovich of Harvard, an émigré and an old member of the Right SR, support Lenin’s analysis of the CA.

Radkey writes about Lenin’s analysis:

“He [Lenin] conscientiously sought in the figures the lessons they contained for his party, whether flattering or otherwise, and his deductions constitute a thorough and penetrating analysis of the results.”

About the study by Radkey, Saul Berg (penname of Saul Mendelson) writes in “The Constituent Assembly in Russia, New Study Supports Bolshevik Analysis” (New International, vol. 16 no. 6, November-December 1950): “[A]n exceptionally thorough study of the 1917 election for the Russian Constituent Assembly.”

Referring the study Saul Berg writes:

“In the election […] the Bolsheviks received 9,844,637 votes and the SRs, […] 15,848,004 votes, out of a total of 41,686,876. Thus the Bolsheviks, in an election held shortly after they had led the seizure of power, obtained only 23 per cent of the total vote. […P]arties [claiming] to be socialist – […] Bolsheviks, SRs, Mensheviks, [USRs], etc. – obtained altogether over 80 per cent of the vote, despite the presence of plenty of bourgeois lists to choose from!

“Thus the election demonstrated the overwhelming desire of the worker, soldier and peasant masses for a basic social change, but equally demonstrated that in Russia as a whole the Bolshevik Party did not by itself have majority support. But although the peasants were reluctant to transfer their allegiance away from their traditional party, the SRs, they were not reluctant about supporting that left wing of their party which in Petrograd, for example, had participated in the seizure of power; and was everywhere, in the local soviets, advocating support of the new Soviet power.

“The SR party was in the process of splitting at the time the elections took place and Bolsheviks have always pointed to the Congress of Peasant Soviets, meeting several weeks after the [CA] elections and assembling representatives of hundreds of local soviets, as an indication of the way the SRs actually divided. At this Congress the small Bolshevik Minority established collaboration with a Left SR majority that voted to support the Soviet power. The Right SRs were snowed under in two weeks of democratic discussion. The evidence of the Peasant Congress has always been accompanied by the Bolshevik contention that the SR lists for the [CA] elections, being made up months in advance, in view of geographical necessities, were overloaded with the old public figures of the Party, mostly in the right-wing, and that, therefore, the SR deputies elected to the [CA] on these united lists were not representative of the views of the peasant voters. In sum, the Bolsheviks contended that ‘if the SR split had taken place in time for separate Left and Right lists to campaign throughout the country, the [CA] would have had a majority coalition of Bolsheviks and Left SRs. And it is true that if we divide the sixteen million SR votes in these elections in the same proportions as the Left and Right SRs divided at the Peasant Congress (about two to one in favor of the Left), the vote of Bolsheviks plus Left SRs would come to 49 per cent of the total, which, in view of scattered votes and the existence of a few additional small pro-Soviet groups, would give the Soviet coalition an easy majority.

“It is therefore gratifying to find that Radkey endorses fully the notion of the unrepresentative character of the SR lists (p.72):

“‘The election, therefore, does not measure the strength of this element [the Left SRs – S.B.]. The lists were drawn up long before the schism occurred; they were top-heavy with older party workers whose radicalism had abated by 1917. The people voted indiscriminately for the SR label … The leftward current was doubtless stronger everywhere on November 12 than when the lists had been drawn up …’ The writer’s judgments are based on his unpublished dissertation, The Party of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Russian Revolution of 1917 (Harvard University, 1939).” [emphasis in the original]

Saul Berg writes:

“Perhaps equal in interest to students of the Russian Revolution is Radkey’s breakdown of the election results in the various provinces and in various local situations, because of the light it sheds on the tempo of revolutionary development and on the problems involved a month before the election in the armed insurrection spearheaded by the Petrograd Soviet. In the immediate sense the revolution was made by two forces – the workers and the soldiers. The soldiers themselves, like the bulk of the Russian people, were peasants – but peasants with a speeded-up revolutionary education through their disgust with the war and their contact with the class-conscious urban proletariat. The Bolsheviks never claimed that they needed a sanctified 51 per cent counting of noses in the whole vast, chaotic country to have the right to overthrow the entirely undemocratic hand-picked [PG] of Kerensky. Furthermore, they faced the danger that if they did not act in October to satisfy the urgent pressure of the workers and soldiers, and postponed the insurrection until their agitation had penetrated deeper into the countryside, the revolutionary tide in the advanced centers would bog down in, demoralization and the insurrection would become impossible. The decision of the Petrograd Soviet to take power, therefore, meant that the workers and the advanced peasants (the soldiers) would take the lead in the nation and complete the development of the rest of the peasantry by actually carrying out in life the agrarian reform that the Right SRs had always promised, but never executed.” [emphasis in the original]

Saul Berg writes:

“In Radkey’s figures can be discerned the confirmation of this whole picture with astonishing consistency:

“Moscow and Petrograd – In each case the Bolsheviks received almost 50 per cent, and the much smaller Left SRs enough to give the two parties combined a majority. The Right SRs and Mensheviks in these centers of the whole struggle are naturally almost extinguished, the whole opposition vote going to the bourgeois Kadets […].

“Rural provinces near Moscow and Petrograd – Absolute majority for the Bolsheviks alone since these provinces are near enough for the workers’ and soldiers’ agitators to have canvassed them thoroughly. [….] The Bolsheviks received an overwhelming majority on the Northern and Western Fronts and in the Baltic Fleet. On the Southwestern and Rumanian Fronts and in the Black Sea they were only a substantial minority [….] if we omit Georgia, the Mensheviks received 2 per cent of the vote in all Russia! What a striking indication of the radical polarization of the population! Only five months before they had been the equal of the Bolsheviks in urban voting strength.

“[….] Radkey gives a number of examples of the vote in SR strongholds in the ‘black earth’ region. In the town the garrison votes Bolshevik, the shopkeepers Kadet or Menshevik. In the nearby villages the peasants, though thousands of miles away from the center of events, vote Bolshevik because the garrison soldiers have reached them with their message. As you travel farther away from the town, the SRs dominate the villages. In either case the peasant was voting for the same thing – the agrarian revolution.

“The sweep of the revolution was also demonstrated by the total lack of influence of the Orthodox Church. Everywhere votes for Orthodox lists were almost nil. Even more strikingly, in remote regions of the Urals where the Old Believer sects were strong, the majority of the peasants voted SR or Bolshevik and boycotted the Old Believer lists, despite their fanatical religious attachment to these sects.” [emphasis in the original]

Saul Berg writes while discussing the study by Radkey:

“One thing that does not occur to Radkey in his study is that the Bolsheviks never recognized the validity of the will of an assembly in which a majority was based on the inclusion of nationality groups that desired independence. [….] Therefore, […] an insurrection of the Russian masses could not be proved a minority coup d’état by adding to the conservative Russian minority the votes received by nationalist parties in the Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia, etc. [….]

“However, we have indicated that the Bolsheviks and Left SRs probably had the support of a majority of the entire electorate, Russian and non-Russian. If one merely eliminates predominantly non-Russian regions, leaving in only the results on Russian areas, including scattered non-Russian minorities within these areas, one finds that the Bolsheviks by themselves now have 26 per cent of the total vote and that our theoretical Bolshevik-Left SR combined total, calculated the same way as previously, rises from 49 per cent to 57 per cent! In addition, there were two national minority areas, those of the Letts and of the White Russians, where the Bolsheviks had an absolute majority, so that these two peoples would of their own choice have joined and further strengthened the Soviet regime.

“On the basis of Radkey’s statistical studies it will now appear totally ludicrous if anti-Bolsheviks continue to claim that the Soviet government of January 1918, based democratically on locally elected soldiers, workers and peasants soviets, which were multi-party in composition, should have considered the [CA] that then convened, with its majority combination of Right SRs who no longer represented anyone and minority nationality representatives who wanted independence, as entitled to exclusive sovereignty, partial sovereignty, or any consideration whatever other than the treatment they received. A body that meant nothing laid claim to sovereignty over the Russian people – it could only be dispersed. Actually, despite occasional phrases about Bolshevik ‘despotism’, Radkey can’t help admitting the conclusion his studies point to (p.2):

“‘Lenin dissolved the [CA] by force … Of more fateful significance was the fact that while the democratic parties heaped opprobrium upon him for this act of despotism, their following showed little inclination to defend an institution which the Russian people had ceased to regard as necessary to the fulfilment of its cherished desires.’”

Does anyone differ with the dissection of the votes cited above? The group denouncing the October Revolution never enters into such dissection. The group makes sweeping comments without looking into facts. It’s an amazing fraud practice! The dupery leads the group to ignore the balance of class forces in Russia, and changes that were going on in the balance, which are essential to evaluate the revolution, and to determine rationality and requirements of the measures taken. Thus, the group dives into a well filled with lies and deceptive narration.

An old balance of force

At that time, the CA was “the result of the balance of forces obtaining before the Great October Revolution. The […] counter-revolutionary majority of the [CA] elected on outdated party lists, [was] a reflection of an earlier period of the revolution and [was] trying to throw up a roadblock in the way of the workers’ and peasants’ movement.” (LCW, 26:429)

Looking at the composition of the CA helps perceive the reality centering the CA: “[T]he Party of Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, the party of Kerensky, Avksentyev and Chernov, obtained majority in the [CA]”. (LCW, 26:435) This CA was incapable of fulfilling the requirements of the exploited people’s emancipation.

“The political significance of the election to the [CA] is difficult to ascertain since the Assembly was partly condemned by a large segment of the Russian people as not being really necessary to fulfill their desires in this era of revolutionary development.” (William A Dando, op. cit.)

So, one finds an interesting, obviously with ulterior motive, development: a new reactionary organization, a new reactionary slogan.

“[T]he Union for the Protection of the Constituent Assembly was created on November 23 (December 6) 1917, and the slogan ‘All power to the Constituent Assembly’ was advanced to unite anti-Bolshevik forces.” (A M Kulegin, op.cit.)

However, steps to begin CA session were initiated. “On November 26 (December 9) 1917, the Soviet of People’s Commissars passed a decree that permitted the first meeting of the CA to take place as soon as more than 400 deputies (half of the entire assembly) had arrived in Petrograd. [….] The Guards showed no resistance [while] about 60 deputies entered the palace, but, for lack of a quorum, [the deputies] declared themselves a private meeting and sat in the White Hall for some hours. Later on the same day, the Soviet of People’s Commissars passed a decree proclaiming that the Cadets were enemies of the people and arrested its leaders. On December 20, 1917 (January 2, 1918), a decision was made to open the CA on January 5 (18) 1918. The Aurora cruiser company and a detachment of sailors from the Baltic Fleet were sent to protect the area of the Tauride Palace [the place of session of the CA]. Barrier troops were arranged at the approaches of the Tauride and Smolny Palaces. On January 4 (17), 1918, the Petrograd Soviet called upon workers and soldiers to keep away from counterrevolutionary demonstrations […] (ibid.)

“The CA started work at 16:00 on January 5 (18) 1918, and was attended by about 410 of 715 deputies. Centrist SRs held the majority, while Bolsheviks and left-wing SRs held 155 seats [38.5%]. [V M Chernov, leader of the SR party, was elected the Chairman.] The majority of the CA refused to discuss the Working and Exploited People’s Declaration of Rights (brought forth by Sverdlov, chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee) and similarly refused to validate decrees put forth by the Soviet of the People’s Commissars. The Bolshevik group responded by leaving the meeting hall. Left wing Socialist-Revolutionaries followed the Bolsheviks when right wing groups refused to vote on the Soviet government’s policy. The rest of the deputies, though without a quorum, passed acts proclaiming Russia a federative democratic republic. The meeting lasted about 13 hours and was closed at 04:40 [another account says, it was 5 a.m.] on January 6 (19), 1918, as requested by the Commander of the Guard, A.G. Zheleznyakov, who claimed it was necessary to leave the hall since it was late and the Guard was tired. On the night of January 7 (20), 1918, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee passed a decree dissolving the CA. Opposition groups decided to move their meetings out of Petrograd, and some of them later established a Committee of Members of the [CA] in Samara.” (ibid.)

Lenin presents the same description:

“The vast majority of working Russia […] demanded that the [CA] should recognize the gains of the Great October Revolution, the Soviet decrees on land, peace and workers’ control, and above all the power of the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasant Deputies. The All Russia Central Executive Committee, fulfilling the will of the vast majority of the working classes of Russia, has proposed that the [CA] should declare itself bound by the will. However, the majority of the [CA] – in line with the pretensions of the bourgeoisie, has rejected the proposal, thereby challenging the whole of working Russia.” (LCW, 26:429)

During a day-long debate it was found that “the Party of the Right [SR…] decided to fight against the power of the workers’, peasants’ and Soldiers’ Soviets, against the socialist measures, the transfer of lands and all implements to the peasants without compensation, the nationalization of banks, and the repudiation of the state debt.” (LCW, 26:429-30)

At the beginning of session, the CA “refused to discuss the […] proposal of the supreme organ of Soviet power, the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets, to recognize the program of Soviet power, to recognize the Declaration of Rights of the Working and Exploited People, to recognize the October Revolution and Soviet power.” (LCW, 26:435)

The Bolshevik group at the CA withdrew from the CA after making a statement on the CA’s counter-revolutionary attitude and measures. The Bolshevik group left it “to Soviet power to take the final decision on the attitude to the counter-revolutionary section of the [CA].” (LCW, 26:430)

It should be mentioned that the CA “was elected on the basis of electoral lists drawn up prior to the October Revolution, was an expression of the old relation of political forces, which existed when power was held by the compromisers and the Cadets. When the people at that time voted for the candidates of the [SR] Party, they were not in a position to choose between the Right [SR]s, the supporters of the bourgeoisie, and the Left [SR], the supporters of socialism. The [CA] was therefore bound to become an obstacle in the path of the October Revolution and Soviet power.” (LCW, 26:434-35) The scholars denouncing the October Revolution don’t like to tread the part the revolution charted – socialism – as that path has the power to demolish the property interests the scholars represent.

“The counterrevolution’s other line of attack was to reorganize the [CA], to rein in the socialist revolution and restore the framework of private ownership. However, the barricade of a revolution usually only has two sides. This was especially true in Russia after 1917. The SR-dominated [CA] chose a different path, continuing down the road of bourgeois legitimacy. That the assembly lasted all of one day speaks volumes about its prospects […] The situation arising after the February Revolution, in which the so-called dual power of the bourgeois provisional government and the Soviets fought it out, was taken to a new level in the struggle by October 1917. The dissolution of the [CA], officially decreed by the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets, showed that the revolutionary regime did not recognize any power above it: ‘The revolutionary proletariat does not hand over power to the counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie.’ The leading forces of Russian liberalism ended up in the camp of the White counterrevolution, a consequence of the specificities of Russian historical development.” (Tamás Krausz, op. cit.)

The Soviet had no option other than dissolving the CA as the CA was obstructing the Soviets’ efforts to move forward with the revolutionary program as implementation of the program was entrusted on the Soviets by the working classes.

On the night of January 19, 1918, the All-Russia Central Executive Committee in its meeting by a majority vote adopted the Decree on the Dissolution of the Constituent Assembly. Two votes went against while five abstained. (LCW, 26: note 158)

Dissolution of the CA was inevitable. It nullified its necessity by upholding the interests of the exploiting classes, against which the exploited were waging a life-and-death struggle. It was not possible for either of the contending class forces to move forward with the CA.

“Events in the Siberian Urals and the Far East were the clearest indicators that if the Bolsheviks did not disperse the disorganized and weak forces of the [CA], Admiral Kolchak — who ‘incidentally’ liquidated the remains of the Assembly more radically than the Bolsheviks, by physically eradicating it — would have done so.” (Tamás Krausz, op. cit.)

“The October Revolution, by giving power to the Soviets, and through the Soviets to the working and exploited classes, aroused the desperate resistance of the exploiters”. (LCW, 26:435) This “desperate resistance of the exploiters” is regularly ignored/not cited by the scholars denouncing the October Revolution. But, do they ask themselves: What would have been appropriate for the exploited with its newly-won political power? Would it have been appropriate for the Soviet to surrender power to the CA, which had itself outlived, which was unwilling to carry forward the tasks necessary, which was trying to reimose rule of the exploiters? Would it have been appropriate for the Soviet to let the CA carry on the CA’s business – regain the power lost, and consolidate it? What would have happened to the demands for peace, bread and basket? Do the October Revolution-denouncing scholars think allowing the CA to reverse the historical steps already made would have been appropriate? Then, shall the group of scholars answer the question: Was there any need to organize the revolution if ears are to be lent to those scholars making sounds to defend the overthrown exploiting interests? Nah. A defiant proletariat would say nay to the private property-prone-scholars denouncing political actions of the exploited.

Most of the Mensheviks were for cooperation with the liberal bourgeoisie and the CA. Could that Menshevik-path implement the tasks the revolution identified to carry on? Or, were the so-called liberal bourgeois liberal enough to allow the exploited people to smash the monarchist-bourgeois-imperialist property interest, allow the exploited to enjoy the rights the people required to have their democratic life, basically opposite to the “democracy” of the exploiters? Who shall answer “yes” to the questions?

This “desperate resistance of the exploiters” is not told and taken into account by the group of scholars condemning the revolution. They just enter into the business of comparing words used by Marx as a general feature and the actions the Bolsheviks had to take in a specific historical reality. “Scholarship” of the Marx-“experts”, indeed!

Which system?

The revolution had to find out an appropriate answer to the question while it was in duel with the CA: Which system to be followed to achieve socialism? There is the bourgeois parliamentary system; and, to many scholars, the system appears as the only and universal form irrespective of aim and goals of classes. But, the attitude is erroneous, and is incompatible to reality. By that time, the working classes in Russia gained some experience.

“The working classes learned by experience that the old bourgeois parliamentary system had outlived its purpose and was absolutely incompatible with the aim of achieving socialism, and that not national institutions, but only class institutions (Such as the Soviets) were capable of overcoming the resistance of the propertied classes and of laying the foundations of socialist society. To relinquish the sovereign power of the Soviets, to relinquish the Soviet Republic won by the people, for the sake of bourgeois parliamentary system and the [CA], would [have been] a step backwards and would cause the collapse of the October workers’ and peasants’ revolution.” (LCW, 26:435)

The Bolshevik and the Left SR groups were in overwhelming majority in the Soviets. The two groups enjoyed confidence of the workers and majority of the peasants. So, they had no option, but to withdraw from the CA. The Right SR and Menshevik groups were carrying on outside the CA a desperate struggle against the Soviet power, openly calling in the press for the overthrow of the Soviet power, defending saboteurs, calling to terrorism, which was begun by unidentified groups. The situation compelled the Central Executive Committee to dissolve the CA. (LCW, 26:435-36)

Significance of the Soviet is to be noted while discussing/dissecting the October Revolution. “The Revolution of 1917 was marked […] by the transformation of the bourgeois imperialist party into a republican party under the pressure of events, and […] by the emergence of democratic organizations, the Soviets [….]” (LCW, 26:437)

The Soviets were organized by the people in 1905. During that time its role and significance were not perceived by the reactionaries, but the socialists understood its significance, “something new and unprecedented in the history of world revolution. The Soviets, created solely by the initiative of the people, [were] a form of democracy without parallel in any other country of the world. [….] To hand over power to the [CA] would again be compromising with the malignant bourgeoisie. [….] [T]he slogan ‘All power to the Constituent Assembly’ conceal[ed] the slogan “Down with Soviet power”. (LCW, 26:437-40) The CA consistently “refused to recognize the power of the people”. (LCW, 26:441) The slogan “All power to the Constituent Assembly” was advanced to unite anti-Bolshevik forces. (A M Kulegin, op. cit.)

The Bolsheviks democratically achieved leadership in the Soviets. A look into changes in representation in the Soviets supports the claim. The Bolsheviks was for the revolutionary program of peace, bread and land while the CA was opposed to it.

Lenin explained the Soviets and the CA: The CA realized the highest form of democracy possible in a bourgeois republic while the Soviets were the only form ensuring an uninterrupted transition to Socialism.

Identifying significance of the political fight is essential for organizing a people’s democratic system, which aims to overthrow exploiters’ property relations.

Note: The article is the first section of part 7 of a series commemorating the Great October Revolution Centenary. Parts 1-6 and 8 of the series were originally carried by Countercurrents.org and Frontier, Kolkata.

Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka.


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  1. alanjjohnstone says:

    No mention of Martov’s critique of sovietism.

    As for the Bolsheviks and the soviets, once political power was seized by the Bolsheviks the independence and autonomy of soviets began to be dismantled. There was no consolidation of the power of the soviets under Lenin.

    But really, do we still have to return to the peculiarities of the Russian Revolution to understand the present day tasks and approaches to achieving socialism?

    Is there really any lessons to be learned from academics studying Russia in 1917 in 2018? Perhaps only negative ones.

    The Bolsheviks said “All power to the Soviets”. Just four days after seizing power the Central Executive Committee which was meant to be the highest organ of soviet power was sidelined when the Bolshevik Council of People’s Commissars ( or Sovnarkom) unilaterally arrogated to itself legislative power simply by promulgating a decree to this effect that made clear the government’s pre-eminence over the soviets and their executive organ.Within a month of taking power they had dissolved one of those soviets, and dissolved another 17 days later. The Bolsheviks had no problem at all with their “worker’s state” suppressing workers’ expressions of power.When it was beneficial to the Bolsheviks, they said “All power to the Factory Committees” but 9 days after taking power, they subordinated the factory committees to the trades unions and congresses which were more under the control of the Bolsheviks, and to the state itself under the direct control of the Bolsheviks.When the Mensheviks and SRs won majorities in soviets the offending soviets were disbanded, that their papers were closed down, their members harassed, exiled and shot .The Constituent Assembly to which all parties of the Russian revolutionary left worked toward even the Bolsheviks, and elected on the basis of the first free vote in that country , was abolished after only one day in session because the Bolsheviks were in the minority. Lenin helped not only impose such conditions but deliberately smeared left critics as counter-revolutionaries to tie them in with those who were in arms against the Bolshevik government. The Cheka, which was set up within a few weeks of October and the Commissar of Justice was Steinberg, a member of the Left SRs. but he could never get control of the Cheka because the Cheka only answered to the Bolshevik party central committee, in violation of the soviet principle.

    “The heart of the matter was that the Mensheviks and SRs were winning in the elections to the soviets in addition to regaining control of local trade unions and dumas. The process of the Menshevik-SR electoral victories threatened Bolshevik power . That is why in the course of Spring and Summer of 1918 , the soviet assemblies were disbanded in most cities and villages.To stay in power , the Bolsheviks had to destroy the soviets.Local power was handed over to ExComs , the Cheka , the military ,and special emissaries with “unlimited dictatorial power”. These steps generated a far-reaching transformation in the soviet system , which remained “soviet” in name only ” – Brovkin

    My take on the Revolution here

    • Farooque Chowdhury says:

      Thanks for the comment.

      The article carries information, data and arguments that answer the issues/questions raised in the comment. Another reading will find the answers. So, repetitions are not being made in this reply to the comment.

      Is there again any need to cite Martov’s and others critique of sovietism? Doesn’t the critique itself tell Martov & Co.’s position?

      Is it a scientific method to evaluate a single incident in an isolated fashion? Are not hundreds and thousands of incidents, I expect, known to alanjjohnstone that, if cited in the fashion alanjjohnstone has cited in the comment, show the exploiters are “good” souls, the exploiters’ political system is “democratic”, “socialist” and “communisitic”, imperialists are “socialists”, exploiters “help” the exploited, and similar position; and the bourgeoisie have “demolished”/are “demolishing” their political system/system of exploitation/etc.; and are not examples of these style available in the history of the bourgeoisie as well as in contemporary political incidents in the most advanced and the most backward bourgeois democracies? The same goes with other political systems prior to the system of the bourgeoisie, and with political theoreticians and philosophers prior to the bourgeoisie. Shall alanjjohnstone accept the method? alanjjohnstone knows there were suggestions made in the society owning slaves, which suggested to free slaves although slaves were retained, and system for retaining slaves was retained. Are/were not there billionaires donating/donated millions of dollars to their pets before they left this world forever? Then, I imagine, alanjjohnstone will argue tomorrow that the rich and the exploiters and their system stands “for” life. At least one member of a prominent royal family propagates ecological agriculture. Then, shall alanjjohnstone say: The royalists stand for ecological agriculturae? It’s a short and easy example. Serious and substantial similar examples are available in the economy and politics, and legislative and executive measures of the bourgeoisie and other ruling classes prior to the bourgeoisie. Shall that method be scientific? Shall following that method lead alanjjohnstone to somewhere else other than to the exploiters’ camp? I hope, alanjjohnstone has found answers, in brief, to the issues raised in the comment? Why not alanjjohnstone define the method and the viewpoint through which the political questions discussed in the article are to be analyzed and evaluated? These will take all the confusions.

      • Farooque Chowdhury says:

        Sorry, for the errors in the reply: it should be “stand” instead of “stands” in the sentence “Then, I imagine, alanjjohnstone will argue tomorrow that the rich and the exploiters and their system stands ‘for’ life. it should be “take out” instead of “take” in the sentence “These will take all the confusions.”

        • Farooque Chowdhury says:

          Dear alanjjohnstone, looking forward to your further arguments so that I can put my arguments, which — your and mine arguments — will take away many confusions.

  2. alanjjohnstone says:

    Not sure if i follow your argument but when a Marxist looks at historic events, it is not what the participants say about it and their role or what they even aspire towards but what is important is the reality of what took place. The reason why socialism is able to explain the past and the present and to foreshadow the future is because it establishes itself upon the facts of history and the truths of economic science.

    The Russian Revolution did stir and inspire large segments of workers, that fact i freely acknowledge but should it be recognized a socialist revolution when it took place?

    Socialists welcome critical and searching questions. Thinking is not and never has been a violation of socialist discipline. Socialists are not dogmatic sectarians who are blindly and religiously faithful to socialist conclusions despite the lessons of unfolding experience. Should an examination of the real world prove the case for socialism to be invalid, it would be a serious reflection on those who continued to be socialists. That is why socialists are open-minded, in contrast to being broadminded. They do not tolerate exploded myths and superstitions.

    The mention of Martov was an example of a contemporary and one-time ally of Lenin who challenged the whole conclusion of your article which was an endorsement of Lenin closing down the Constituent Assembly supposedly in preference to Soviet “democracy” (which my comment gave evidence of non-existence under the Bolsheviks)

    “Lenin explained the Soviets and the CA: The CA realized the highest form of democracy possible in a bourgeois republic while the Soviets were the only form ensuring an uninterrupted transition to Socialism.”

    Martov observed:
    “…The ‘Soviet State’ has not established in any instance electiveness and recall of public officials and the commanding staff. It has not suppressed the professional police . . . It has not done away with social hierarchy in production . . . On the contrary, in proportion to its evolution, the Soviet State shows a tendency in the opposite direction. It shows a tendency toward the utmost possible strengthening of the principles of hierarchy and compulsion. It shows a tendency toward the development of a more specialised apparatus of repression than before . . . It shows a tendency toward the total freedom of the executive organisms from the tutelage of the electors…”

    How do you reconcile such contrary analysis?

    I suggest Engels has an answer to that question writing in 1850 on the fate of Thomas Munzer, as the leader of a communistic party coming to power before conditions were ripe for establishment of a communistic society:

    “The worst thing that can befall a leader of an extreme party is to be compelled to take over a government at a time when society is not yet ripe for the domination of the class he represents and for the measures which that domination implies. What he can do depends not upon his will but upon the degree of antagonism between the various classes, and upon the level of development of the material means of existence, of the conditions of production and commerce upon which class contradictions always repose. What he ought to do, what his party demands of him, again depends not upon him or the stage of development of the class struggle and its conditions. He is bound to the doctrines and demands hitherto propounded which, again, do not proceed, from the class relations of the moment, or from the more or less accidental level of production and commerce, but from his more or less penetrating insight into the general result of the social and political movement. Thus, he necessarily finds himself in a unsolvable dilemma. What he can do contradicts all his previous actions and principles, and the immediate interests of his party and what he ought to do cannot be done. In a word, he is compelled to represent not his party or his class, but the class for whose domination the movement is then ripe. In the interest of the movement he is compelled to advance the interests of an alien class, and to feed his own class with talk and promises, and with the assertion that the interests of that alien class are their own interests. He who is put into this awkward position is irrevocably lost.”

    • Farooque Chowdhury says:

      You are correct, but partially: “looks at historic events”. Looking into historic events doesn’t take one to somewhere unless connections, etc. are identified, defined, characterized. What can one do if the person only looks at events, historic or non-historic or super-historic? For example, someone looks at events/incidents related to land tenure or legislation on taxation, legislation on trade, legislation on company, and then, a few years after new legislative measures on those issues. What conclusions can be drawn based on just looking at those events if no connections, relations, etc. are looked into? Or, someone looks into development of steam engine, expansion of railways, increase in goods transportation, even, destination of those goods transported by railways. What conclusions can be drawn if these are not connected/related, and these are not connected/related to other aspects/factors/forces, and speed, etc.? Here, in the cited examples, I’m skipping other basic issues/aspects including class and class struggle, ownership, political power, perspective, etc. to frame my arguments in simplest form.That’s the reason I’ve said: “partially”. I assume that further elaboration is not needed.

      “what the participants say”, sometimes turn part of historic events/incidents/development. about it and their role or what they even aspire towards but what is important is the reality of what took place. “Saying” sometimes is itself an event. For example, A proclamation, a declaration, an oath, a deliberation in parliament, In that case, what a person says has to be considered. Otherwise, how shall you evaluate and analyze Martov’s pious sayings, etc.? Should not the sayings of Lydon B Johnson’s, Hitler’s, and many other persons’/political actors’/company bosses’ be taken into consideration? But all sayings should not be taken into consideration. There are many sayings that equal to rubbish while many sayings are important. Even, Rasputin’s one saying should be brushed out while another should be taken into consideration. Should not sayings in a particular parliament be considered/analyzed while many sayings in many parliaments should be ignored. Isn’t it?

      Further arguments will follow.

    • Farooque Chowdhury says:

      I’m sorry that again I have to respond as the reply says: “it is not what the participants … and their role or what they even aspire towards but what is important is the reality of what took place.”

      Is it possible to ignore a participant’s role? Then, what shall happen to a robber or a murderer or a politician or a factory owner? I don’t know how shall you evaluate without taking into consideration a participant’s role! The, you like to ignore the role played by an imperialist chieftain, by a royalist general responsible for a mass killing, by Martov, by Bolshevik leaders, and by Lenin. Then, can you accuse Lenin, the effort you are making?

      The same argument with “even aspire”. I think further elaboration is not needed as it has already been explained.

      Dear alanjjohnstone, your reply says: “but should it be recognized a socialist revolution when it took place?”
      No problem, dear friend. In that case, you have to define a socialist revolution. I can accept that or present further arguments only after that defining by you. Should I overstep? I shouldn’t.

      You are correct as you say : “Socialists welcome critical … myths and superstitions.”
      What happens when myths produced by capitalists are accepted and propagated in the name of “critical questions”? Shouldn’t myths weaved by capitalist scholars be questioned? An attempt to question myths formed by capitalist propaganda will help you find answer related to the Soviet, the Bolshevik moves, and shall inspire you to throw away love for the constituent assembly, which you are defending, which the bourgeoisie tried to defend, but which was liquidated by Kolchak, and which the bourgeoisie themselves failed to defend.

      Is further arguments, as reply, required? I request to again go through the article, try to locate the premises there in the arguments, and try to challenge those; and that exercise will help challenge the article’s position; and that exercise will liberate you from presenting silly arguments, and will also spare me from replying to those arguments by presenting examples after example.

    • Farooque Chowdhury says:

      Only Martov was not Lenin’s one-time ally, Lenin had many other allies, who later abandoned him, and some of them later joined him while others went against him.

      You are citing, as you say, Martov as an example. Why not cite some other better than Martov? That will strengthen your arguments.

      Strange! Now you are citing Martov’s sayings. But have not you said “it is not what the participants say” in the 1st para of your reply? I’m turning confused.

      You are citing Munzer for dissecting 1917-’18 Russia? And, you are referring to that plan for communistic society although you are trying to evaluate whether there was socialist revolution or not in Russia!

      But, I have failed to find out arguments countering the arguments I have presented in my earlier reply to the comment. Then, should I consider that those arguments presented by me have been accepted? Should not I? Please, help me if I’m wrong in understanding your skipping of my arguments.

  3. alanjjohnstone says:

    I could respond to a number of points you make in your article where i think you are misinterpreting but i think the reference to 1905 will suffice.

    The 1905 soviets were very different from the 1917 version. The 1905 soviets arose spontaneously and were independent of any external ‘initiatives’. The popularity of these soviets derived largely from the absence of political agitators and party representatives in their midst. They expressed the workers’ political and economic demands in a situation where trade unions were non-existent and where the parties had little real influence over the masses. The situation was quite different in 1917. Although the February strikes were completely spontaneous (both the Putilov strikes on the 18th and the general strike on the 25th), the soviets did not arise directly out of them as they had done twelve years earlier. They resulted from the combined efforts of politicians and workers’ leaders. This explains why, when the first Provisional Soviet met that very evening, it contained no factory delegates. What had changed from 1905 was the way the politcal parties assessed 1917 soviets as a springboard to power, to be wooed from all sides and manipulated which explains why the intellectuals acquired decisive influence in the Petrograd Soviet and why this Soviet so rapidly lost contact with the masses. Contrary to what happened in 1905, they became the scene of factional in-fighting

    The Bolshevik slogan: ‘All power to the soviets’ was purely tactical rhetoric for achieving the supremacy of the Party

    But let us hear from Lenin lessons from the 1905 soviet experience


    “…if Social-Democratic activities among the proletarian masses are properly, effectively and widely organised, such institutions may actually become superfluous…that a most determined struggle must be waged against all disruptive and demagogic attempts to weaken the R.S.D.L.p. from within or to utilise it for the purpose of substituting non-party political, proletarian organisations for the Social-Democratic Party…that Social-Democratic Party organisations may, in case of necessity, participate in inter-party Soviets of Workers’ Delegates, Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, and in congresses of representatives of these organisations, and may organise such institutions, provided this is done on strict Party lines for the purpose of developing and strengthening the Social-Democratic Labour Party ”

    An advocacy for them to be mere appendages to the Party. The Bolsheviks were unequalled as tacticians, but it would be a perversion of the simple historical truth to try to set them up as the defenders of the soviets if one views soviets as the expression of workers’ democracy.

    • Farooque Chowdhury says:

      Doesn’t revolution have tactical questions, Mr. alanjjohnstone? Does revolution always deal only with strategic questions? All revolutions deal with strategic and tactical questions, and so they, accordingly, raise strategic and tactical slogans. Now, Mr. alanjjohnstone, you have to evaluate whether the slogan you have cited was a tactical slogan or not, and you, again, have to evaluate that whether the slogan, strategic or tactical, was appropriate or not. Tactical slogan changes with the change of situation or change in a/any part of situation, it changes within minutes. Am I wrong, Mr. alanjjohnstone? Please, help me rectify my position if I’m wrong.

  4. Farooque Chowdhury says:

    You are correct alanjjohnstone as you say: “The situation was quite different in 1917”. Thanks, you are moving towards a correct understanding. Find out, please, the difference, and the duties of the hour — 1917.

    I’m sorry to repeat you are citing a saying, a Bolshevik slogan, although you have said sayings should not be taken into consideration. And you are telling about the tactical aspect. Then, have not you found the error in your argument? Now, I’ll say: Please, have another look into your arguments and find out inconsistencies within and between those.

    Sorry, for my short reply as it has replied to all your arguments. Otherwise, I have to begin from A B C with a long reply, and I, again, have to show inconsistencies, which I have already mentioned briefly.

  5. alanjjohnstone says:

    Victor Serge once said that those who say that the seed of Stalinism can be traced back to Leninism but ignore there was also many other seeds that could have germinated differently. I agree. Lenin and Bolsheviks had various options to choose from, but overall they stemmed from a flawed reading of the revolutionary but in essence a non-revolutionary situation in Western Europe. Surely we can critique the policies Lenin chose.

    You original article praise the soviets of 1917 against the CA yet i have shown that those soviets were not organs or workers’ democracy but tactical tools for the Bolsheviks to impose their one-party rule. Once Bolshevik power was established the soviets simply became an emasculated rubber stamp for party rule. Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution that:
    “The party set the soviets in motion, the soviets set in motion the workers, soldiers, and to some extent the peasantry.”
    In other words, the soviets existed to allow the party to influence the workers. But what if the workers reject the decisions of the party? What happens when the workers refuse to be set in motion by the party but instead set themselves in motion and reject the Bolsheviks? What then for the soviets? The soviets were marginalised and undermined by the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution and neutered of any power simply because they often did reflect the wishes of the working class and not those of the Bolshevik Party.

    The tradition of the Bolsheviks is not based on the 2nd International [which did possess many failings] but rather on the Narodnik principle of a professional revolutionary organisation. The Bolsheviks created their particular, typically Russian type of political organism. Tkachev, sometimes known as “the First Bolshevik”, said “Neither now nor in the future is the people left to itself, capable of accomplishing the social revolution. Only we, the revolutionary minority, can and must accomplish the revolution and as soon as possible…The people cannot help itself. The people cannot direct its own fate to suit its own needs. It cannot give body and life to the ideas of the social revolution….This role and mission belong unquestionably to the revolutionary minority.”

    We can understand the Bolsheviks more by accepting that they made choices that other Marxists were not prepared to make. The Bolsheviks thought it possible for an active minority, representing the vague aspirations of the workers, to gain political power before the capitalist revolution itself had been completed. What would happen if such a minority gained a political victory over the capitalist classes? My citation of Engels describing Munzer didn’t seem to influence you but Marx himself answers this question in clear-cut terms in his article, “Moralising Criticism”. Briefly stated, his answer is the following: In those circumstances, the minority become merely the tools of the capitalist class, which has not been virile enough to gain or hold power. Such a minority finds itself in the position of having to develop and run capitalism for a class unable, at the time, to do it successfully itself. Hence, let it be remembered, in running capitalism, the minority will be compelled to use its power to keep the working class in its slave position.

    Marx explains ‘ its victory will only be a point in the process of the bourgeois revolution itself, and will serve the cause of the latter by aiding its further development. This happened in 1794, and will happen again as long as the march, the movement, of history will not have elaborated the material factors that will create the necessity of putting an end to the bourgeois methods of production and, as a consequence, to the political domination of the bourgeoisie’

    Marx admitted the possibility of a political victory of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie at a point of historic development when the previously necessary conditions for a socialist revolution were not yet mature. But he stressed that such a victory would be transitory.

    There was no socialist revolution. The Bolsheviks, finding Russia in a very backward condition, were obliged to do what had not been done previously, i.e. develop capitalism. The Russian Revolution was a bourgeois revolution without the bourgeoisie.The Marxist rhetoric was nothing more than an ideological garb cloaking it anti-working class actions. The issue then as framed by Martov was to make it democratic, something that was not possible in the Bolshevik scheme of a “proletarian” minority seizing power.

    The point of a revolutionary movement in a pre-revolutionary situation is to ensure the growth of proletarian power and the defence of the class. The Bolsheviks failed to do so, emasculating what workers organisations existed, sacrificing their independence and strength to the altar of their One-Party Rule. A choice was made by Bolshevism, nothing was inevitable. The assumption was made that Bolshevik rule needed to be a military dictatorship but was the assumption of the impossibility of a post-1917 parliamentary democracy in Russia mistaken? Could anything have been worse than that which actually occurred following October 1917; the Civil War, the Cheka terror, the gulags, the forced collectivisations, the deportations, the famines, the Stalinist purges – ultimately ending in the collapse back into mafia-capitalism of a Russia, controlled by oligarchs? The unforgiveable crime of doing this in the name of socialism and thus discrediting the very idea of socialism. Indeed, it would have been better if the October Revolution had never occurred. It is a lie that the Bolsheviks had no other choices to make but to impose party control over the State.

    I hope that broad but brief summary explains the reason that if we are to recall events of a hundred years ago, that we are truthful and accurate so that similar mistakes are not made again.

    • Farooque Chowdhury says:

      Sorry, I’m late in my reply to you.

      Victor Serge’s and your view point regarding Leninism and Stalinism is his and yours.

      I don’t know whether there’s something like Stalinism. “Ism” is wider and deeper; and I don’t know whether Stalin himself has ever claimed that he has contributed something fundamental to Leninism.

      You or Victor has all the rights to claim “Lenin and Bolsheviks had various options … in Western Europe.” You also have the right to “critique the policies Lenin chose.” I simply like to add: Please, consider/check the perspective-the reality-the limitations-the historical background against/within which Lenin was operating before drawing the conclusion on/denouncing the Russian revolutionary leader. In the series Countercurrents.org has posted/is posting, I have tried to present, in brief, that wider frame. Moreover, I request not to define proletarian actions in light of bourgeois definition as anyone will surely reach a wrong conclusion if the person tries to judge bourgeois revolutionary acts in light of feudal- or slave owning-societies. You simple consider the definitions of property or legitimacy or political power or source of political power or use of political power in different societies. The same goes with Lenin’s, Bolsheviks’, proletarian power, etc. A wrong reading of proletarian revolutionary measures would be found if a bourgeois yardstick is used. However, I full respect your right and choice

      Yes, you have correctly said I “praise the soviets of 1917 against the CA”, as I found no other arguments while I was evaluating the Soviet and the CA.

      You are correct in showing “soviets were not organs or workers’ democracy”, as you have chosen that side of the history and that side of class interest. So, you have chosen to cite Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution, an interesting and essential book, which I found years ago useful to understand conflicting interpretations. But, have you checked Trotsky’s position regarding the CA, his position on the perspective, within which he was an active participant and he was playing important role in shaping developments? Those go unanswered. I request to have a check or re-check.

      You claim: “The soviets were marginalised and undermined by the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution and neutered of any power simply because they often did reflect the wishes of the working class and not those of the Bolshevik Party.”

      Let me allow to present an example: In municipality “M” in country “C”, an overwhelming majority is working people; but can the overwhelming number of voters overpower the municipal authority all the time? When can they and when can’t? Now, extrapolate the municipality-situation to national level: An overwhelming working-exploited people can’t overpower a few hundred clutching all political power, the power to legislate while the all powerful few hundred can be overpowered in certain circumstance. When is this possible and when when is this not possible? I hope, you have got the answer to the issue I cited above from your reply.

      Thanks for clearly taking a stand for the 2nd International, for defending that “International”. Shall, do you think, Martov or Trotsky defend that “International” defending imperialist world war? Thanks that you have exposed your position: Defending, in essence, imperialist world war.

      I’m in a difficult position while making replies to your comments and your replies to my replies to your comments as I find you are unceasingly shifting position: From Martov’s to Trotsky’s to defender of the 2nd International. What’s your real position. Is it permanent inconsistency? Then, what conclusion can you draw? Is it possible to draw any conclusion? Even, you can’t draw a wrong conclusion with such a confusing and permanently shifting position. The position is “no” position in appearance, and position of a class hostile to the working people, in essence. That’s the reason I proposed, in one of my earlier replies, to, please, find out my premises on which I built up my arguments. It will be better if you also fix up your premises. Then, you’ll have substantial arguments, which I can accept or challenge cheerfully.

      You are correct as you say “the Bolsheviks … made choices that other Marxists were not prepared to make.” That’s the reason we, me, and hopefully you also, praise the Bolsheviks. They failed to betray the people while other “Marxists” were succeeding in betraying the people.

      I respect your right and choice to refer to the Munzr-Engels-Marx. Please, I’ll request, consider is it relevant here? Shall you now refer to Marx’s saying on Germany? These have been discussed/debated many times. I like to request: Please, have another look into those arguments-counter-arguments.

      Please, check the arguments Lenin presented for building up his theory on “Russia in a very backward condition”, revolution in Russia, etc., and then counter those arguments as other theoreticians tried to do those and Bolsheviks countered those, and then, they led the revolution.

      Now, I find you saying: “The Marxist rhetoric was nothing more than an ideological garb cloaking it anti-working class actions.”

      I’m confused Mr. alanjjohnstone. Once you are refereing to Marx to find fault with the Bolsheviks, and moments later, you are saying “The Marxist rhetoric …”

      And, now you are citing Martov, and refering to “democratic”. Which “democratic” — bourgeois or proletarian.

      And, now you are saying: “‘proletarian’ minority seizing power”. Then, who’s the majority? Is it, according to your claims, the capitalists, the royalists, the exploiters, the factory owners, the hoarders, the imperialist warriors? I repeat, you and I have fundamentally different premises, and you and I defend fundamentally different class interest, you resort to inconsistent arguments to defend the bourgeois viewpoint and I consistently satnd on the same premise.

      I think we should conclude our long exchange as we now find, our respective positions — permanently inconsistent and consistently consistent. It’ll continue unless any of us changes respective position. So, other differences are useless wastage of time.

      What shall you do with “truthful and accurate” as you express your hopes if you defend the bourgeoisie by upholding bourgeois worldview? Shall that help the exploited?

      Thanks, Mr. alanjjohnstone, for you helpful comments, and for the long exchange that remind me arguments defending the bourgeoisie.

  6. alanjjohnstone says:

    “Thanks for clearly taking a stand for the 2nd International, for defending that “International”. Shall, do you think, Martov or Trotsky defend that “International” defending imperialist world war? Thanks that you have exposed your position: Defending, in essence, imperialist world war.”

    I have done no such thing.

    ” I find you are unceasingly shifting position: From Martov’s to Trotsky’s to defender of the 2nd International.”

    I have done no such thing

    “you resort to inconsistent arguments to defend the bourgeois viewpoint”

    I have done no such thing

    “for the long exchange that remind me arguments defending the bourgeoisie.”

    I have one no such thing.

    We do have a problem with understanding one another but i have refrained from putting words into your mouth as you have tried to do by misinterpreting my attempts to provide factual events. I am content to cite pro- and anti-Bolsheviks to support my case which you appear to believe is inconsistent. But i think all my posts i have argued from a historical materialist position that the workers councils in the Russian Revolution were not as you say and to finish let Lenin have the final word.

    “We want state monopoly controlling the economy, controlled not by the Junkers but by the Bolshevik Party.”

    • Farooque Chowdhury says:

      Thanks for asserting your position. Now, it seems that you and me stand on the same ground:

      Your are not defending the 2nd International and the imperialist world war; you are not unceasingly shifting position; you are not resorting to inconsistent arguments to defend the bourgeois viewpoint; you are not defending the bourgeoisie.

      I agree with you as you write: “We do have a problem with understanding one another”. It’s a real problem. I apologize if I misunderstand you.

      I have not put words into your mouth. I have just identified your arguments. I’m sorry if you find any such effort by me. To throw away any confusion regarding my approach of referring you, I request you to check my replies to your comments/replies: I just quoted you. Please, check my replies. I again apologize if you find any misrepresentation of your position despite those direct quotes. I assure you that my effort was not to misrepresent your position, not to distort your statement. Misrepresentation or distortion of your position would not have helped me as I would have failed to build up my arguments, and my arguments would have failed to relate to your position.

      You have the liberty, as you say, “I am content to cite pro- and anti-Bolsheviks to support my case which you appear to believe is inconsistent.” Here’s the problem: How can you support your case by both — pro- and anti-Bolsheviks — if the anti-Bolsheviks don’t admit the facts the pro-Bolsheviks claim? That’s the reason, I now understand, for your claim that I have “put words into your mouth”, which I have not done. You have to anti-Bolsheviks’ statements and claims, find out character and essence of those as you’ll find I’ve cited many anti-Bolsheviks in the present part and in other parts of this series. I request you, please, check the sources I have cited, and find out their characters.

      A citation of Lenin in an isolated way is misleading. You’ll find Lenin saying “yes” in a certain situation and saying “no” in another. You’ll find Lenin said that they made many mistakes. So, with a smoother than smooth stroke you can nullify Lenin and the revolution he led based on that statement of Lenin if you don’t put that statement against the background/the perspective/the context, and the complete statement.

      Now, it seems: you and I happily stand on the same ground as you’ve said unequivocally, and you have not cancelled the arguments I presented in my replies to your comments/replies.

      Thanks, again, with the hope that we’ll jointly put our arguments tomorrow as now, you have the same viewpoint that i have: Proletarian viewpoint, completely opposite to that of the bourgeoisie.

  7. alanjjohnstone says:

    True, one quote from Lenin oes not make a convincing argument, but what if he says much the same elsewhere at different times. Doesn’t that convey something more substantial.

    It was Lenin who distorted this view of Marx and claimed that the lower stage, which Lenin called ‘socialism’, retained the state and wage-slavery and which in reality was nothing more than state-capitalism.
    Once you realise that Lenin was not the Marxist which many claim he was and that the Russian social system, under the Bolsheviks/ Communist Party, was state capitalism which eventually transformed itself into full blown market capitalism in the last few decades then there is no difficulty in recognising the essence of Marx and Engels thought.

    Once more since your article is centered around the CA, i leave the last word with Lenin, again.

    “As a democratic government we cannot ignore the decision of the rank and file of the people, even though we may disagree with it …and even if the peasants continue to follow the Social-Revolutionaries, even if they give this party a majority in the Constituent Assembly, we shall still say, be it so” (Report on the Land Question, 8 November 1917.)

    • Farooque Chowdhury says:

      You are partially correct. I have not said the number of quotations. I have said: “… if you don’t put that statement against the background/the perspective/the context, and the complete statement.” Please, check my reply above. It’s — the number-question — not only in the case of Lenin, but in all other cases irrespective of color — red or white. Here, number doesn’t determine, dear. Here, the number-game will be stupidity. It may happen that a single statement within a perspectives, etc. is powerful, logical, relevant, and supports an analysis. Please, check my reply again. I may be wrong. You please point it out to me. I’ll gladly accept your point, etc.

      Long debates ensued, and yet these continue on developments in post-1917 Russia. And, that’s the reason I’m not entering the debate here. Let’s concentrate on the issue we are discussing. There are a few data on the CA, and I hope, these will cancel statements on the CA the bourgeois scholars make.

      Thanks a lot.

      • Farooque Chowdhury says:

        Sorry for my error: it should be ” There are a few data on the CA in the present part (7) of the series,” instead of “There are a few data on the CA,” in the reply I made above.

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