Victor Serge

Year One of the Russian Revolution

II – The Counter-Revolutionary Socialists

Written: 1925–1928, Vienna, Leningrad, Dietskoye Seloe.
First Published: L’An 1 de la révolution russe, 1930.
This Version: New International, Vol. XIV No. 4, April 1948, p. 123–126.
Translation: Dan Eastman.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Our second installment of Victor Serge’s history of the first year of Bolshevik power is a condensation of Chapter III, The Urban Middle Class Versus the Proletariat. Some omitted passages are replaced by a short paraphrase in italics within brackets. Serge’s footnotes, mainly bibliographical, have been omitted.

The bulk of the chapter is concerned with the counter-revolutionary role of the anti-Bolshevik socialists. – Ed.

The first Soviet government was set up at this same meeting [the Second Congress of Soviets – Ed.] after a lively debate. The congress elected a new All-Russian Soviet Executive Committee of 102 members: 62 Bolsheviks, 20 Left Socialist-Revolutionaries [S-Rs], and several Internationalist Social-Democrats, besides various groups of less importance. The first Council of People’s Commissars – the term was proposed by Trotsky to avoid the now discredited appellation of “ministers” – was composed solely of Bolsheviks ...

The Left S-Rs, prey of incessant hesitation, refused to enter the Council of People’s Commissars although they were invited to do so by the Bolsheviks, who had no desire to govern alone ... But the Left S-Rs, those precious allies, in the name of the peasants they represented, demanded a coalition government comprising every party in the soviets, a government in which the Girondin counter-revolutionists would have posts.

“There was nothing for us,” says Trotsky, “but to leave the Left S-Rs the task of persuading their neighbors to the right to come over to the revolution. We believed it our duty to assume all responsibility in the name of our party, while they devoted themselves to that hopeless enterprise.”

The Second All-Russian Soviet Congress dispersed on the morning of October 27 after an all-night meeting. On the same day that it addressed its peace proposals to all belligerent powers, the Council of the People’s Commissars abolished the death penalty.

The Junkers’ Mutiny

The insurrection was victorious. But the situation was desperate. Petrograd had supplies for only a few days. None of the government agencies functioned. The new government had neither offices nor officials. Every hour delegates from the armies, the regiments, the soviets in the provinces, and from trade unions testified to the sympathy of the masses. But denunciatory telegrams also poured into Smolny. General Headquarters, the Municipal Dumas, the provincial councils, every former government body, in a word, announced to the “usurpers,” to the “traitors,” to the “bandits who are unleashing civil war” that order would be restored and the insurrectionists punished.

The bourgeois newspapers continued to appear, filled with sensational revelations of underhand plots, announcing the approach of loyal regiments from the front, the presence of Kerensky at the head of two army corps a few miles from the capital. A new provisional government was set up in secret: counter-revolutionary socialists, Mensheviks, and S-Rs prepared for a coup d’etat. The central telegraph agency refused to send dispatches from the People’s Commissars, the leaders of the railway workers’ union were hostile to the new government and sabotaged transportation. The news from Moscow was confusing: street battles, negotiations, seizure of the Kremlin by the Whites.

The “public” opinion of the bourgeoisie, of the middle classes, of the foreign press was that the Bolshevik regime would not last. At first they did not give it more than a few days, then several weeks, then several months. The idea that the proletariat would succeed in holding power seemed ridiculous.

A well-clothed mob filled the Nevsky Prospect, the central avenue of the city, commenting on the news, predicting the reestablishment of order, and jeering the Red Guard. Several isolated workers and soldiers were slain.

The cadets of the military schools (the Junkers) suddenly occupied the central telephone exchange. On the 28th day of October, the Red Guard surrounded the engineers’ club and the military school in the center of the city where the Junkers were quartered. Armored cars took up stations at the corners of these buildings. Artillery cannon cast their thin shadows across the pavement. Summoned to surrender in ten minutes, the Junkers replied with a volley of rifle fire. Their resistance was broken by the first shell that tore a large gap in the fa├žade of the military school. Some of the Junkers tried to flee, arms in hand. They were massacred.

Why did these sons of the petty bourgeoisie take up arms? One of the leaders of the S-R Party wrote to General Krasnov who was marching on Moscow: “Our forces consist of two or three hundred Junkers and fifty party members armed with grenades.” The S-R Party, which commanded the sole forces opposed to the proletariat, had counted on supporting, inside the city, the military offensive of Kerensky, of Krasnov, and of the GHQ from Mogilev.

The Cossack Division Marches on Petrograd

What forces did the “Leader of the Provisional Government,” Kerensky, command in his quarters at Gatchina? What forces opposed him? The troops of the Petrograd garrison, confident of the power of agitation, showed themselves little disposed to fight. Many of the officers were in hiding. The rest were hostile, with few exceptions.

At a meeting of officers called by the government, Lenin and Trotsky were at first unable to find one single man willing to accept the supreme command of the Red Army. Finally Colonel Muraviev volunteered. He was a man of talent, energetic and ambitious. A member of the S-R Party, he had put down, “Bolshevik leaders” here and there in the army, but had ended up as a Left S-R. The command was conferred on him, but a committee of five was appointed to accompany him, to keep an eye on his activities, and to shoot him at the first sign of treason. He proved to be loyal, filled with energy, a good organizer, and a good soldier. With Trotsky he divided the honors for the victory of Pulkovo. (The adventurer in him triumphed at the end of a few months; commander in chief of the Red Army on the Czechoslovakian front, he tried to escape to the enemy, and when caught committed suicide.)

Other officers joined with him, frequently moved by their aversion to Kerensky rather than by any attachment to the Soviets; their contempt for democracy led them to adopt the political line of the lesser evil. They were useful. Thus an old colonel, Valden by name, was in command of the Red artillery that was instrumental in saving the city from the heights of Pulkovo.

Everything had to be improvised. Sabotage had infected every department of the army. Cartridges, shells, and replacement parts for the cannon were all hidden, telephone and engineering apparatus was lacking. The Red Guard and the factory workers supplied everything, took every initiative, all the way from supplying the artillery with ammunition to digging trenches.

Kerensky had taken refuge among General Krasnov’s Cossacks ... In the city itself, the military uprising prepared by the S-Rs was to clear the way. They occupied Gatchina and Tsarskoye-Selo, less than fifteen miles from the capital. Only the heights of Pulkovo remained between them and the city. [But the Cossacks were demoralized and beaten back by the Soviet forces.] Krasnov himself was, in truth, forced to surrender by his own Cossacks, who allowed the Reds to occupy the Palace of Gatchina without putting up the slightest resistance.

The revolution made the mistake of showing magnanimity toward the commander of the Cossack division. It would have been far better to shoot him on the spot. He was set free a few days later on his word of honor not to carry arms against the revolution. But what are engagements of honor against the enemies of country and property? He later put the Don region to fire and sword.

Counter-Revolutionary Socialism

Nothing was more tragic than the collapse of the two great democratic socialist parties. Strong in prestige, in influence among the peasants, the intellectuals and the advanced middle classes, even among a small group of workers, the Socialist-Revolutionary Party had every opportunity for taking power within the bounds of legality and for setting up a socialist government. The country would have followed. The majority of the party, at the Fourth Congress, blamed the Central Committee for not having done so.

The leaders of the S-Rs, ridden by a mania for formal democracy, fearing mob rule above all, and dreaming of a parliamentary regime that would give their noble eloquence a fitting stage, preferred the road of collaboration with the liberal bourgeoisie to the more arduous road to power. The S-Rs exerted a predominating influence on Kerensky’s government. Kerensky himself was a member of their party. So was the Minister of Agriculture, Chernov, the verbose theoretician of populist socialism, who was the author of the program of agrarian reform which he himself never ceased deferring. In the Soviets the S-Rs, with the support of the Mensheviks, had had the majority. They had the majority of the Moscow Municipal Duma; they had almost half the votes in Petersburg. Their leader, Avksentiev, presided over the Provisional Legislative Council of the republic. They disposed of a strong army of active members. Their Central Committee could unleash a wave of terrorists, offering themselves by the hundreds as heroes and martyrs to the revolution. Had not the autocracy once trembled at their very mention?

The Mensheviks, the minority of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party, who had been at swords’ points with the Bolsheviks for more than twenty years in factional warfare – which was in reality the war between revolutionary intransigence and socialist opportunism – were influential in the industrial centers, among the intellectuals, in the cooperatives, in the trade-union leadership, and in governmental circles where they had such men, remarkable both for their personal qualities and for their revolutionary past, as Chkheidze and Tseretelli. They had gifted theoreticians and agitators, such as the great founder of Russian Social-Democracy, G.V. Plekhanov, such as Martov, Dan, and Abramovich. With the same hesitation as the S-Rs, the Mensheviks pronounced themselves for class collaboration, for democracy and the Constituent Assembly, and against “anarchy,” “premature socialism,” “Bolshevik hysteria,” and – “civil war” (sic).

In the Petrograd Municipal Duma on October 26, these two parties took the initiative in forming the Committee for the Salvation of Country and Revolution. They admitted three Cadets, representatives of the big bourgeoisie, to the committee (Nabokov, Countess Panina, and an unknown). The military organization of the S-R Party took charge of the uprising of the Junkers, the students of the military academies. Gotz appointed a colonel to lead the movement, and Avksentiev signed the order to seize arms and start the battle. The official journal of the S-R Party, Delo Naroda (People’s Cause), announced that “the president of the party Central Committee and honorary president of the All-Russian Peasant Soviet, V.M. Chernov, is leading General Krasnov’s troops.”

After the disarmament of the Junkers, the Committee of Public Safety, the Central Committee of the S-R Party, and the two signers of the order to fight, Avksentiev and a Menshevik, in chorus disavowed – to avoid the consequences so that they could start all over again – the uprising they had provoked, and which had cost the life blood of several hundred youths. The appeal of the Committee of Public Safety distributed on October 27 had plainly said:

“Resist this senseless adventure of the Bolshevik Military Revolutionary Committee by force of arms. We call on all troops faithful to the revolution to come to the Nicholas Military Academy and join the Committee of Public Safety.”

Not one single army unit replied to this appeal.

After this piece of underhanded trickery, the Girondin conspiracy against the revolution took on a permanent character. Being more active and better accustomed to illegal work, the S-Rs played the dominant role.

Not that the Social-Democrats were any the less counter-revolutionary. During the battle they had written: “In this grave hour for Petrograd and for the entire country, the revolution had received a terrible blow, not a blow in the back from General Kornilov, but a blow right on the chest from Lenin and Trotsky.” Conclusion: Workers unite, “to end civil war” (!) with the Committee of Public Safety, that is, with reaction.

On November 3, nine days after the revolution, a Menshevik conference met in Petrograd. Two opposing points of view were brought out there, summed up by Abramovich:

“The minority held it necessary to oppose Bolshevik force with force, with bayonets. The majority said the Bolsheviks had the sympathy of the masses of the proletariat and the army, and that their suppression would drive the soldiers to black reaction and anti-Semitism, would unleash the forces of the extreme right. The majority held it necessary to end the civil war by conciliation.”

“In the early days,” said Dan, “we counted on ending the Bolshevik conspiracy by force of arms. The attempt failed ... That is why we took a more conciliatory attitude.” (Direct quotation from Dan!)

These ferocious hangmen of the Russian proletariat were against the civil war only as long as they could not win! Dan argued for a policy that would tend to split the Bolsheviks, for approaching the “reasonable Bolsheviks” for a democratic understanding, thus isolating and finally crushing “the military faction around Lenin and Trotsky.” The arguments of a certain Weinstein deserve to be cited as an example of socialist casuistry in the service of reaction: “If we do not suppress the Bolsheviks, even by force of arms, someone else will do it, anyway.” Those who were for struggle against all the Bolsheviks without discrimination, the irreconcilables, outvoted Dan.

The men who spoke thus were not in the right wing of the party. The right wing of Social-Democracy was composed of the national-defense faction, with its newspaper Edinstvo (Unity), and its leader, Plekhanov, the father of Russian Marxism, the Russian Guesde. Sick and bedridden, old Plekhanov, receiving Jacques Sadoul on October 17, said of the Bolsheviks: “We must not only master, we must crush these vermin, drown them in blood. The salvation of Russia is at stake.” Sadoul wrote to Albert Thomas:

“Plekhanov is convinced that a showdown is coming soon, and he awaits it impatiently, to the point of saying – mind you, Plekhanov, whose democratic scruples you know – that if the uprising is not spontaneous it must be provoked. The ‘Bolshevik bands’ in his eyes are ‘a horrible mixture of utopian idealists, imbeciles, traitors, and anarchist provocateurs’.”

The pit into which Plekhanov had fallen was deep – bottomless, in fact. At least he followed his national-defense position out to its logical conclusion.

Maxim Gorky’s paper, Novaya Zhizn (New Life), then neutral, described the policy of the “moderate democrats” in these terms (speaking mainly of the socialists): their organizations “invite all good citizens to refuse to obey the Bolsheviks, to resist their orders actively, to sabotage and disorganize the supply system. Their slogan is: ‘Against the Bolsheviks, anything goes!’”


“Anything goes!”

Not mere words. The counter-revolutionary socialists made wide use of a pitiless weapon usually considered outside of civilized practice: the systematic sabotage of all enterprises serving the general public, such as the food supply, public services, etc. From its start, the class war violated the conventional forms of military law.

When the victorious Reds entered the Municipal Duma building in Moscow, they found nothing but ruins. The ledgers had been used to stop up the windows; the desks and filing cabinets were empty; the typewriters out of commission. The city officials, sixteen thousand of them, were on strike. Their strike against the workers’ revolution lasted four months, and that in a city already ravaged by famine and epidemic before the insurrection.

“To get the city administration running again proved an almost insurmountable task under these conditions. The total strike of the city officials, doctors, teachers, and engineers was supported by a business boycott and by sabotage from the new officials. But we had to pay salaries (the civil and military administration of Moscow employed more than two hundred thousand men), feed tens of thousands of refugees, and keep the water, sewer, tram, slaughter, and electric services going. These were the problems that suddenly confronted inexperienced workers and party members, who could count on no assistance.”

The participation of a certain number of skilled workers in the sabotage and strike marked the influence of the counter-revolutionary socialists.

The same situation prevailed in Petrograd. The sabotage affected the great national ministries. In the Agricultural Section of the Ministry of Supplies, every single official and employee went on strike, and took the current accounts along with them. The Supply Section of the Soviet, a handful of workers, occupied the vast, deserted offices of the ministry. Everything was gone.

“Kalinin and I found several lumps of sugar in the bottom of a filing cabinet,” wrote a comrade. “We made some tea ... The ministry had been deserted when it was captured by Schlichter with a Red Guard unit ...”

The strike at the State Bank started somewhat later, on November 14. A worker wrote:

“I found the building empty. Obolensky, Piatakov, and Smirnov were sitting in one of the offices, trying to find some way of obtaining some money to buy paper and ink for the Council of People’s Commissars. They negotiated with the clerks and the one lone official who had remained at his post ...”

The Bolsheviks finally had five million francs turned over to them, after many formalities; V. Bonch-Bruyevich administered this treasure with parsimony. In some of the banks the employees consented to work, but fearing that they would later have to make good their compliance, demanded the supervision of the Red Guard to save appearances.

Trotsky found the Ministry of Foreign Affairs deserted. A Prince Tatischev consented to open the offices only after he was put under arrest. The Commissariat of Foreign Affairs functioned at Smolny with neither office nor personnel. Trotsky was preoccupied with military affairs, and had only a very summary idea of foreign politics. “I have taken this work,” he said, “only to be able to devote more of my time to the party. My commission is limited: publish the secret treaties, and close up shop.” Various documents were found to have disappeared.

Twelve office boys and one official remained at the Ministry of Justice.

To make a long story short: In every ministry, in every office, in every bank the story was the same; and in the same way the most important funds and documents had disappeared.

A clandestine government under the presidency of M. Prokopovich, who had replaced the “missing” Kerensky, was formed. This secret authority directed the strike of the officials in concert with the strike committee. The largest commercial, industrial and banking firms, such as the Tula Agricultural Bank, the Moscow People’s Bank, and the Bank of the Caucasus, continued to pay the wages and salaries of their striking employees. The old All-Russian Soviet Executive, composed of Mensheviks and S-Rs, used the funds of the Executive, which had been raised among the working class, for the same purpose.

The Initiative of the Masses

“We need miracles of proletarian organization.” The solution lay in these words of Lenin. The resistance of entire classes could be successfully combated only by the initiative of energetic and numerous masses.

The policy of the Bolsheviks in this period consisted mostly in watching over. stimulating, sometimes guiding, more often sanctioning the initiative of the masses. The People’s Commissariats were ordered by decree “to work in close contact with the mass organizations of the workers, women, sailors, soldiers, and officials.” The decree of October 28 (November 10, New Style) assigned the administration of local supplies to the municipalities. Another decree of the same date urged them to solve the housing crisis by their own methods, and gave them the power to requisition and confiscate apartments. This decree was characteristic in its sharp solution of the problem, without regard for the principle of private property. A November 14 decree urged the workers’ committees to take over the control of production, accounting and finance in the factories. As we know, the decree on land left the initiative largely to the rural soviets.

As there was no central government, the initiative of the masses accounted for everything. The Council of People’s Commissars was nothing more than a very high moral authority. Shliapnikov wrote of the council:

“Its first sessions were held in Lenin’s little office on the second story of Smolny. Its staff was quite small at first: V. Bonch-Bruyevich and two or three assistants. I believe they did not even take the minutes of the first few sessions.”

The sessions were long. A tremendous number of practical problems demanded immediate solution. They were discussed with delegations of workers. The council decided that the People’s Commissars were to receive the same wage as a skilled worker (500 rubles a month), with an extra hundred rubles for each dependent. As the leader of the revolutionary government, Lenin devoted himself to consolidating its authority. He demanded that all formalities be observed, and observed them himself, thus inspiring in his collaborators, and by diffusion throughout the whole government, a feeling of power, confidence and respect ...

The Governmental Crisis

During the insurrection itself in Petrograd, and all during the street battle in Moscow, the Bolsheviks carried on negotiations with the socialist parties. The Left S-Rs insistently demanded the formation of a socialist coalition government; and as we shall see, this proposal met the approval of numerous influential members of the Bolshevik Party. The negotiations were opened by the All-Russian Executive Committee of the Railway Workers’ Union (Vikzhel), in which the Mensheviks and Right S-Rs had a majority.

The Vikzhel was a sort of state within the state. On October 26, while the Council of People’s Commissars was still without any real authority, the Vikzhel was already supreme on all the railways. It could stop the transportation of troops and munitions at its pleasure, and it did. “Resolutely against civil war,” it equally opposed, with a weak impartiality, the transportation of either Red or White troops. The negotiations were carried on in the Petrograd Municipal Duma, the center of the activities of the Committee of Public Safety. Lenin and the majority of the Central Committee never took the negotiations very seriously, although they preoccupied the enemy.

As long as the issue of battle in Moscow was undecided, the Vikzhel and the democratic organizations around it demanded draconic conditions of the Bolsheviks: (1) All troops to be placed under the command of the Municipal Duma. (2) The workers to be disarmed and Kerensky’s troops admitted to the city. (3) All political prisoners to be released. (4) The Military Revolutionary Committee to be dissolved.

The victories of Moscow and Pulkovo led the Vikzhel to take a more conciliatory attitude. The Bolshevik Riazanov, who was in favor of an agreement with the Vikzhel, carried the new conditions of the socialists to the All-Russian Soviet Executive (Vitsik).

They demanded a socialist ministry with not more than half the posts filled by the Bolsheviks. They were willing to give the Bolsheviks the Ministries of the Interior, Labor, and Foreign Affairs, but at the same time they demanded that neither Lenin nor Trotsky should be included. (This was according to the plan for splitting the Bolshevik Party advanced by the Mensheviks). This ministry was to be responsible to a Council of the Nation composed of one hundred and fifty members from the All-Russian Soviet Executive, seventy-five members from the peasant soviets, eighty delegates from the army and the fleet, forty delegates from the trade unions, and seventy socialist members of the Municipal Duma. A majority of one hundred and sixty-five was promised the Bolsheviks.

Acceptance of this proposal meant veiled capitulation on the part of the Bolsheviks. Their insufficient majority in the proposed parliamentary assembly would lead to hesitant political action. The power of the socialist minority, through its representatives in the government, would enable it to sabotage all revolutionary measures. This deception of the masses would weaken the Bolsheviks, while the bourgeoisie and the middle classes became increasingly conscious of their danger. The majority of the Bolshevik Central Committee, counting on the unreserved support of the party and the masses of the proletariat, turned the proposal down.

Shortly after this, there was a crisis in the Central Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars. The Bulletin of the Central Committee for November 5 said:

“The All-Russian Soviet Executive adopted the resolution of Lenin-Trotsky on freedom of the press by thirty-four against twenty-eight votes. The People’s Commissars; Nogin, Rykov, Miliutin, Teodorovich, Riazanov, and Derbishev resigned. They addressed the following statement to the Vitsik and to the Council of People’s Commissars: ‘We believe it necessary to form a socialist government embracing all parties in the Soviet. Only such a government can ensure the fruits of the heroic struggle of the working class and the army in October–November. We believe that a purely Bolshevik government can maintain power only by the exercise of political terror. The Council of People’s Commissars is taking this course; we cannot follow.’”

Shliapnikov shared this view, but did not believe that he could leave his post. “Kamenev, Rykov, Miliutin, Zinoviev, and Nogin resigned from the Central Committee.”

The attitude of the remaining majority of the Central Committee was set forth in two documents. The first was the answering address of the majority to the minority, dated November 3:

“The present political line of the party is contained in the motion proposed by Comrade Lenin and adopted yesterday, November 2, by the Central Committee. This motion considers as treason to the proletariat any attempt to have our party divest itself of the power with which it is invested on the basis of our program by the All-Russian Soviet Congress, acting in the name of millions of workers, soldiers, and peasants.”

The minority was summoned to submit or leave the party.

“A split would be extremely unfortunate, but an open and honest split would be preferable to sabotage inside the party, the non-application of our own resolutions, disorganization and prostration ... We do not doubt for a moment that if our differences are brought before the masses, our policy will be supported without reserve by the workers, the soldiers, and the revolutionary peasants, and the hesitant policy of the opposition rapidly condemned to isolation and powerlessness.”

This statement was signed by Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Sverdlov, Uritsky, Dzerzhinsky, Joffe, Bubnov, Sokolnikov, and Muranov.

Grave as it was, the crisis remained limited to the upper circles of the party and was of short duration. In the All-Russian Soviet Executive, Lenin made but short and disdainful mention of “the departure of several intellectuals.” He added:

“Only those who believe in the people, who throw themselves into the trials of the living masses, will maintain power.”

On November 7 Pravda published an appeal to the masses, of which the following were the important passages:

“May all those of little faith, the vacillaters and skeptics, those who have let themselves be intimidated by the bourgeoisie, or by their direct or indirect agents, be ashamed of themselves. There is not a shadow of hesitation among the masses.”

The members who had resigned were harshly criticized as deserters. On the next day Pravda published a Letter to the Comrades, signed by Zinoviev. Zinoviev stated that the Mensheviks and the S-Rs had refused to accept the conditions of the Soviet, and that under these circumstances he had decided to withdraw his resignation from the Central Committee, and he urged his comrades in the opposition to do likewise. He wrote:

“It is our right and duty to warn the party against mistakes. But we must remain with the party. We prefer to make our mistakes with millions of workers and soldiers and suffer with them, rather than cut ourselves off from the historical movement at this decisive moment. There cannot and will not be a split in our party.”

History offers no other example of so grave a crisis in the working-class movement so easily and healthily solved. The great qualities of the Bolshevik party – its discipline, strong morale, collective thinking, its frank exploration of differences, the insignificance of personal pride among the members, and their strong attachment to the working class and the organization – were revealed once more ...

Reliance on the Masses

The Bolshevik proponents of a socialist coalition government feared that the Bolshevik Party – which they were accustomed to consider as the conscious minority of the working class – would be isolated from the worker and peasant masses, if it took power alone. They did not understand what immense influence the party had gained since the July Days, nor the power contained in a policy which conformed with the vital interests of the whole proletariat. They feared civil war within the ranks of socialism; and their fears were legitimate at the time. The counter-revolutionary nature of democratic socialism had not yet been demonstrated, as it since has been so abundantly in Russia and Germany.

It was legitimate but illusory to hope that the socialists would hesitate to align themselves with the counter-revolution, to open fire on what they themselves called a people’s uprising, to take arms against the true socialists. The proponents of a coalition government underestimated the democratic corruption of the socialist parties, their domination by the bourgeoisie, the reactionary spirit of their leaders, and the mentality and interests of their lower middle-class memberships. This was a patent error, especially after the edifying experience with democratic socialism in the war, when it had lined up with the imperialist governments in every country of the world ...

Lenin appealed incessantly to the initiative of the masses. The spontaneity of the masses appeared to him the necessary condition for the success of the organized activities of the party. On November 5 he signed an appeal to the people inviting them to combat the sabotage. The majority of the people is with us, and our victory is certain, he said:

“Comrades, workers! Remember that from now on you will run the state yourselves. No one will help you if you do not yourselves unite and take over all state affairs ... Organize around your soviets. Strengthen them. Get to work at the bottom, without waiting for orders. Institute a severe revolutionary discipline. Repress the anarchic excesses of drunkards, Junkers and counter-revolutionists mercilessly. Take rigorous control of production and administration. Arrest and deliver to the revolutionary courts whoever prejudices the people’s cause ...”

The peasants were urged to “take full power for themselves instantly.” Initiative, more initiative, and yet more initiative! That was the slogan Lenin gave the masses on November 5, ten days after the victorious insurrection.

Last updated on: 2 August 2018