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Lenin and the Russian Revolution (Part 3)


What should be be considered when discussing the October Revolution is how the rapid time-table of the Bolsheviks revealed they had no intention of having workers' rule but only party rule and exposes the misrepresentations of the Leninists and Trotskyists.

"... just four days after seizing power, the Bolshevik Council of People's Commissars (CPC or Sovnarkom) "unilaterally arrogated to itself legislative power simply by promulgating a decree to this effect. This was, effectively, a Bolshevik coup d'etat that made clear the government's (and party's) pre-eminence over the soviets and their executive organ. Increasingly, the Bolsheviks relied upon the appointment from above of commissars with plenipotentiary powers, and they split up and reconstituted fractious Soviets and intimidated political opponents." [Neil Harding, Leninism, p. 253] ...the Bolsheviks immediately created a power above the soviets in the form of the CPC. Lenin's argument in The State and Revolution that, like the Paris Commune, the workers' state would be based on a fusion of executive and administrative functions in the hands of the workers' delegates did not last one night. In reality, the Bolshevik party was the real power in "soviet" Russia. ...." From Anarchism FAQ


Some will argue that the authoritarianism of the Bolsheviks was rooted in the authoritarianism of the Social Democracy and the 2nd International but what about the lack of "authoritarianism" of Julius Martov and the Left Mensheviks who also had their roots in the 2nd International. Was not Rosa Luxemburg’s critique of Lenin and his Blanquism  from her roots in the 2nd International? Was Karl Kautsky's defence of the democractic social revolution not rooted in the 2nd International?

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? 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.

"...Says Marx ' its victory will only be a point in the process of the bourgeois (capitalist) 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'....It appears therefore that 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'" wrote Martov

We see the real content and meaning of the Russian Revolution. It was “only a point in the process of the capitalist revolution itself”. 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 theory adopted by them was nothing more than an ideological garb .

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.”

The tradition of the Bolsheviks is not based on the 2nd International [which indeed possessed many failings] but rather on the Narodnik principle of a professional revolutionary organisation. The Bolsheviks created their particular, typically Russian type of political organism.

“No less than mystic is the concept of a political form that, by virtue of its particular character, can surmount all economic social and national conditions” - Martov

The SPGB argues that the Russian Revolution was inevitably capitalist, and so the issue then as framed by Kautsky, Martov etc. 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.

We have stated that a choice was made by Bolshevism , nothing was inevitable. This article also emphasises that important point. http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/Pubs.html
It is well worth quoting in length from it.

"DURING the whole period I was active in the Trotskyist movement, I accepted the view that the revolution of October 1917 was a great leap forward on the road to socialism, and that the regime it established was a healthy workers’ state until it started degenerating from 1923-24 onwards with the ascendancy of Stalinism and the defeat of the Trotskyist opposition. Since then a closer examination of the actual history of the revolution has led me to question this view. As early as the summer of 1918, the Bolsheviks had lost the support of large sections of the working class and of the peasantry, and were ruling dictatorially...

...The disillusion of the workers was expressed in a declaration by the striking workers at the Sormovo factory in June 1918: "The Soviet regime, having been established in our name, has become completely alien to us. It promised to bring the workers socialism, but has brought them empty factories and destitution." A workers’ protest movement, the Extraordinary Assemblies of Factory and Plant Representatives, was formed in March 1918 with a membership of several hundred thousand at the height of its influence in June.

The response of the Bolsheviks was to nationalise the factories, replace workers’ control by one-man management, and dissolve the oppositional Soviets. By the summer of 1918 with the departure of the Left SRs from the government and the suppression of their uprising, and the Red Terror unleashed by the Cheka, the Bolshevik one-party dictatorship was in place. Any popular control from below of the Soviets or the government had disappeared.

In addition, there is ample evidence that the hard core of devoted self-sacrificing Bolshevik party cadres were already being swamped by careerists and corrupt elements in the party and Soviet institutions. In September 1919, a report landed on Lenin’s desk showing that the Smolny was full of corruption.

In the light of these facts, one can no longer uphold the Trotskyist thesis that from 1917 to 1923-24 the Soviet Union was a "healthy" workers’ state, and that the degeneration into bureaucratic dictatorship took off only afterwards...

...All one can say is that the "workers’ state" that was born in October 1917 was premature and infected from infancy. Unfortunately, as it degenerated, it infected the working-class movement internationally, and proved an obstacle on the road to socialism.

My old comrade, the late Alex Acheson, who joined the movement in the 1930s and remained a committed Trotskyist till his death last year, once said to me: "It might have been better if the October Revolution had never occurred."

What factors or actions by the participants might have resulted in the non-occurrence of October and a different outcome? Assuming that nothing is inevitable until it has happened, and that "men make their own history", there are three possibilities.

Firstly, that Lenin’s April Theses that set the Bolshevik party on the road to the October insurrection had been rejected by the party. Let us recall that up till Lenin’s arrival in Petrograd, the Bolshevik leadership was pursuing a policy of critical support for the Provisional government. They felt this was consistent with the view that since the Russian bourgeoisie was incapable of bringing about a bourgeois revolution, this task would have to be carried out by the proletariat supported by the peasantry, but that the revolution could not go immediately beyond the stage of establishing a bourgeois republic. In February, the Petrograd proletariat had carried out this "bourgeois revolution" with the support of the peasant soldiers. Now that the bourgeois republic was in place, the next stage was not the immediate struggle for working-class power, but a relatively prolonged period of bourgeois democracy. Lenin now abandoned this view which he had himself defended under the slogan of "the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry", and argued for no support for the Provisional Government, and for agitation for power to the Soviets. He swung the Bolshevik party to this policy. But it was not inevitable that he should have done. The Bolshevik party might have continued its policy of critical support for and pressure on the February regime.

Secondly, even after his steering the party on its new course, Lenin had to fight again in October to commit the party to insurrection against the opposition of Zinoviev, Kamenev, etc. It is not inconceivable that Zinoviev and Kamenev might have carried the day. Then there would have been no October.

Thirdly, even after October there was, as I have pointed out, a very real possibility of a coalition Bolshevik-Menshevik-SR government, based either on the Soviets or a combination of the Constituent Assembly and the Soviets as organs of local power and administration. This possibility foundered against the mutual intransigence of the Bolshevik hardliners on one side and the Menshevik and SR right-wing on the other. But in both camps there were conciliatory wings, the Menshevik Internationalists and some Left SRs and the Bolshevik "moderates" – Kamenev, Rykov, Nogin, etc....

....A coalition government of Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and SRs, having a much broader based support than a purely Bolshevik one, would have been able to confront the White Armies more successfully, and thus shortened the Civil War, and reduced the destruction of the economy....

....It can also be argued that the attitudes and actions of the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, SRs, their leaderships and individuals, were themselves determined by the whole of their past histories and ideological roots, and they could not have acted otherwise than they did. That what happened was inevitable. But this is to look at events from a distance and with the hindsight of 1997. What happened happened. But in 1917-18, these parties, leaderships and individuals did have a choice of actions....."

The Socialist Party think we can understand Leninism and the Russian Revolution much more by accepting that they made non - socialist  choices that others associated with the 2nd International were not prepared to make.

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