Explanatory Note: On November 7th of 1917, workers and peasants organized in the Soviets took power in Russia. We publish this article by Mercedes Petit to commemorate the 83rd anniversary of the October Revolution
The Soviets took power
By Mercedes Petit
During the 20th century, all kinds of revolutionary processes took place. Some of these revolutions were triumphant while others were defeated. The most important of these revolutionary processes was the Russian Revolution on October 25− November in the Gregorian calendar during the Tsarist Empire. Among some of the main topics of discussion amongst fighters and revolutionaries around the world are the characteristics, lessons and further development of the Russian Revolution.
In 1917, Russia was ruled with an iron fist by the dictatorship of the Tsars. As a result of the feudal system under existence, millions of peasants lived in poverty, backwardness and ignorance. However, in some cities like St. Petersburg (the capital) and Moscow, there was a young industrial working class. Meanwhile, the tsarist empire was fighting in the First World War on the side of England and France.
During the war years, an untenable hardship affected the whole population in Russia in particular the masses of peasants and workers in the army who suffered the brunt of food scarcity and misery. In St. Petersburg, a growing discontent led to a successful insurrection which overthrew the Tsar. Afterwards, a weak provisional government led by Kerensky in an alliance formed by the party of the Russian bourgeoisie and the conciliatory parties that led the workers and peasants such as the Mensheviks( reformist social democrats) and the Party of Socialists-Revolutionaries. At the same time, democratic bodies of the masses, workers, soldiers and peasants in struggle (Soviets) which had first appeared in the 1905 Revolution, reemerged. By then, Bolshevik Party under the direction of Lenin and Trotsky was no longer in the minority and began to grow.
The Provisional Government led by Kerensky did not address any of the serious problems that affected workers and peasants. In fact, Russia continued its involvement in the war, land was not being distributed to the peasantry, there was no bread in the cities and the government did not fulfill its election promises. Within the Soviets, popular discontent with the conciliatory parties was on the rise. Thus, the Bolshevik Party was becoming increasingly influential. By late September, the Bolshevik Party had among its ranks almost all of the Soviet delegates in St. Petersburg and Moscow and directed the main army regiments. In early October, the Bolshevik Party leadership came to the conclusion that the political conditions were ripe for the Soviets to overthrow Kerensky and take power. A section of the Social Revolutionary Party joined the insurrectionary plan. Lenin, living in an underground refuge in Finland, followed the events step by step while Trotsky led the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet.
On October 25, the Soviets took power. For the first time in history, a revolutionary government of workers and peasants which proclaimed the struggle for international socialism emerged out of the mobilization of the masses and workers’ democracy.
Early Years and bureaucratization
Among some of the first actions taken by the Soviet government was the distribution of land, implementation of workers control in the factories and the creation of a long-delayed Constituent Assembly as well as Russia’s withdrawal from the imperialist war.
The Revolution was consolidating itself among those oppressed and exploited under the Tsarist regime. To crush the young Soviet republic, both the landed aristocracy and Russian bourgeoisie in alliance with imperialist powers started a bloody civil war. But the bourgeois counter-revolution was crushed thanks to the undaunted heroism of workers and peasants and the guidance of the Bolshevik Party by a principled leadership.
No other country produced a victory similar to the Russian Revolution in spite of a revolutionary wave that swept the rest of Europe. According to Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks, a Soviet Russia could only be maintained if it was part of a triumph of European and world socialist revolution.
However, the civil war weakened and isolated Russia, leading to a new political development when Stalin led a bureaucracy who had abandoned socialism and world revolution and destroyed workers’ democracy.
Lessons of October
After Lenin’s death on January 1924, Trotsky continued to lead the resistance against Stalin while defending the program and the party of the world socialist revolution. In 1935, in 18th anniversary of the Revolution, Trotsky wrote that even though that first victory of socialism was completely swept and the Soviet Union (USSR) under Stalin was “almost unrecognizable” compared to the early years, the Revolution left invaluable experiences. “Loyalty to the revolutionary program, relentless hostility to the bourgeoisie, decisive break with the social patriots [the reformists of all kinds], and deep trust in the revolutionary force of the masses, these are the main lessons of October.”
Are these lessons still valid today? Experience shows that they are indeed. The bourgeoisie sink the masses further into misery while conciliatory and reformist leaders betray workers and workers, peasants and all the oppressed are fighting and struggling all over the world. To end capitalism, and even to prevent it from returning in the hands of bureaucrats, it is necessary to defend the program and build the revolutionary party that allows for the definite triumph of socialism in every country and around the world, an internationalist and democratic socialism like the one that began to take its first steps in October 1917.
Source: El Socialista