Socialist and Peoples' History

Introduction to Leon Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, Indian Edition of 2014

 

Soma Marik and Kunal Chattopadhyay

 

The Making of a Revolution

The publication of Leon Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution in India, for the first time in an Indian edition, is part of the evidence that the fall of Stalinism has not meant a collapse of unfalsified communism, but rather, it has enabled a revival of democratic-revolutionary socialism from below. In the last few years there have appeared a large number of works on Trotsky, as well as editions of many of his writings. The bourgeois biographies by Robert Service, Geoffrey Swain, or Ian Thatcher are clearly aimed at “cutting Trotsky down to size,” at proving that he was nothing but a failed Stalin, conceited, unpleasant, more wrong than right—even a paragon of murder and authoritarianism. From such a perspective, the History of the Russian Revolution too could be seen as nothing more than a self-serving work, since Trotsky, the author, can be seen here restoring the role actually performed by Trotsky, the politician. The fact that Service, Swain and Thatcher all make distorted claims, false assertions, and present information that is often plainly wrong, is known more to specialists than to the general reader.[1] Yet the very fact that major publishers are willing to publish so many books on Trotsky and that supposedly serious scholars are willing to spend time writing garbled narratives is evidence that Trotsky and his Marxism remain important for the present.

In the life as well as the writing achievements of Trotsky, the Russian Revolution occupies pride of place. Like Thucydides, he produced a work, which has defined the subject matter that he chose to write on. Like Thucydides, he was a participant, who could be severely objective, but unlike Thucydides, he did not try to hide his partisan stance. But his greatest similarity with Thucydides was that all subsequent overall accounts of the Russian revolution, to be considered serious studies and not tendentious works that either produced hagiographies of Lenin, Stalin and the absolutely wise and perfect Bolsheviks, or equally tendentious works that sought to ignore reality in a bid to present the Revolution of 1917 as a conspiracy of a handful against the alleged democracy of the Provisional Government, had to be measured against his work.[2]

What makes Trotsky’s book so remarkable is a combination of absolute commitment to working class struggle for emancipation (a political project) with a very serious attempt at factual accuracy and objectivity. The commitment – not to party but to class led by party and party created and enriched by the experiences of the class – comes out consistently, but perhaps nowhere better than in the argument that:

“The history of a revolution is for us first of all the forcible entrance of the masses into the realm of their own destiny.… The masses go into a revolution not with a prepared plan of social reconstruction, but with a sharp feeling that they cannot endure the old regime. Only the guiding layers of a class have a political program, and even this still requires the test of events, and the approval of the masses. The fundamental political process thus consists in the gradual comprehension by a class of the problems arising from the social crisis—the active orientation of the masses by a method of successive approximations”.[3]

As a good Marxist, Trotsky was committed to scientific history writing. For him, however, historical objectivity did not involve a claim to stand away from the battle, or a claim that the historian should stand on the wall observing both sides. He saw such a claim as a spurious objectivity that actually aided the reactionary forces.

“The serious and critical reader will not want a treacherous impartiality, which offers him a cup of conciliation with a well-settled poison of reactionary hate at the bottom, but a scientific conscientiousness, which for its sympathies and antipathies – open and undisguised – seeks support in an honest study of the facts, a determination of their real connections, an exposure of the causal laws of their movement. That is the only possible historic objectivism, and moreover it is amply sufficient, for it is verified and attested not by the good intentions of the historian, for which only he himself can vouch, but the natural laws revealed by him of the historic process itself”.[4]

To take a contemporary study, that of Orlando Figes, by no means the most extreme reactionary one (such an epithet should be left for Richard Pipes), the central effort is to make a case that even without the Bolshevik or October revolution, the progressive development of Russia was not ruled out. Figes admits that Tsarist Russia was extremely backward. For example, "The death rate in this city of the Tsars (St. Petersburg) was the highest of any European capital, including Constantinople, with a cholera epidemic on average once in every three years".[5] Figes argues that perhaps timely land reforms and certain concessions by the Tsarist state could have staved off the revolution, which was ultimately orchestrated as a coup d’etat by Lenin and a minority. Trotsky’s analysis is useful in reminding us that concessions, reforms, are finally based on class and other social interests, but also that states, as the power-holding entities, can get detached from the class/es they represent. The demand for some sort of concession was widespread even among the upper layers – reform minded nobles, big bourgeoisie, and their intellectual allies. But the ‘Court Camarilla’, as the term Trotsky uses, shut its ears and eyes. But more important was the social pressure from below. Figes or other bourgeois historians reject the conclusions that the empirical data presented by them indicate. Miliukov, the leader of the Constitutional Democratic (Cadet) Party, and Russia’s most important liberal leader of 1917, urged in 1915 that there should be reforms since Russia was treading a volcano. This was nothing but an unvarnished truth, since peasants were groaning under not only tax and other economic burdens caused by Tsarist policies and capitalist development in a backward economy, but also by the terrible pressure of war. The politically conscious sections of the working class, as Leopold Haimson showed in a seminal article, was turning against not only the upper classes but also against the intellectuals of the moderate left in the years immediately before the War.[6] To turn one’s back on all this and to see in the revolution essentially a conspiracy, is to reject the historian’s craft. Trotsky, by contrast, refuses to see either the wickedly conspiratorial or the absolutely wise party as the cause of the revolution. Instead, he stresses that revolution breaks out when all the antagonisms of a society have reached their highest tension.

A revolution occurs only when certain basic conditions are met. Marxists have denied that revolutions can be simply willed into existence if there is a correct leadership. There must first of all be a split within the ruling class. As long as a ruling class is united, it is able to tackle problems better. Every major revolution such as the English Revolution of 1640-49, the French Revolution, all developed when the elite was in conflict. Figes recognises this for the pre-February situation. But he fails to see that such conflicts persisted. As Rosenberg’s study showed, there was a conflict within the liberal forces, and the rightwing liberals led by Miliukov were dominant.[7] The idea that there existed a democratic alternative, which was demolished through a coup d’etat, has to be shown by a concrete study of events, rather than wishful thinking. As the events showed, attempts at forging a liberal-moderate left alliance failed, and not just because of poor leadership.

A second, equally important, or even more important, factor in bringing about a revolution is the refusal of the toiling masses to go on being ruled in the old way. The preparedness of the working class to go the whole way is vital. And if we look at a key detail, strike statistics during the War, it is evident that the February General Strike and the growth of soviets did not fall from the sky. A widespread strike developed in January 1916 in St Petersburg on the anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’ when workers were massacred in the 1905 revolution during a peaceful agitation in the form of humble petition to the Tsar. The number of strikes doubled during the following year, going from economic strikes to political strikes, from partial and sectional struggles to the idea of a general strike. The intermediary layers, particularly in the countryside, were in ferment, a process enormously speeded up by the deepened economic crisis and brutalities unleashed by the First World War.

For Figes, however, these were not the real reasons why the working class turned to revolution. As noted earlier, Figes does not deny the masses all roles. However, that they supported the Bolsheviks, according to him, is because lacking any alternative political ideology, they embraced this “dogmatism”. So the working class did not accept key Marxist ideas because these had greater explanatory power concerning their lived experiences, nor because Marxism suggested a way out, but because they were simpletons and saw things in black and white. If only they had passed through the kind of schooling provided by Professor Figes, it would all have been so different. This is much like the official histories that used to be churned out from the USSR, arguing that the correct line of the party was the key to the revolution. What Trotsky’s work argues, and what subsequent serious studies, such as Victoria Bonnell’s Roots of Rebellion (for the period between the revolution of 1905 and the war), or the slew of works on social history during 1917, by David Mandel, Dianne Koenker, or others suggest, is that the working class was not putty in anyone’s hands.[8] Paul Le Blanc’s work on Lenin and the Revolutionary Party, or Soma Marik’s Reinterrogating the Classical Marxist Discourses of Revolutionary Democracy [9], bring together these studies to show that the making of the revolutionary party was a long process, which cannot be explained as the expansion of some original scheme out of one book by Lenin.

The massive The History of the Russian Revolution was written in a relatively brief period, about a year, while Trotsky was in exile in Prinkipo, an island off the coast of Turkey. From 1923, Trotsky had been fighting openly against the rise of a bureaucratic stratum that was taking away all power in the USSR. This had resulted in his ouster from the party and the Communist International, internal exile to Alma Ata in Kazhakhstan, and ultimately forcible removal from the USSR. The person, who had been the principal organiser of the October insurrection, who had organised the defence of the revolution against imperialist aggression and counter-revolution during the Civil War, was now being publicly hounded and vilified as an agent of counterrevolution within the international communist movement. Along with Stalin’s all out assault on the final traces of working class power, proceeded hand in hand with a massive campaign of lies and a rewriting of history – of Marxist theory, of the Bolshevik Party, of Trotsky’s role, of Stalin’s own role. Trotsky’s great biographer, Isaac Deutscher, reminded readers at a time when his role had been totally obscured, that the anti-Trotskyist campaign was not slackened for a single moment.[10] Trotsky thus wrote The History of the Russian Revolution both to present the actual history of the Russian Revolution and to defend his own role within it. That there were strong political motives behind writing the book do not make it a merely political tract of low historical worth.

Three points need to be briefly considered by the modern reader. The first is that Trotsky nowhere provides references to the sources. He explained in his preface that he was not relying on his memory. Unlike Thucydides, who lived in an age when literature was just emerging from the shadow of orality, Trotsky had at hand printed sources. A careful reader would also find steady references to various memoirs and documents. That no serious work of scholarship has challenged his documentation, even when taking great objection to his interpretations, indicate that the sources he used have not been impugned. The second question is, whether, in trying to assert his role, he had not inflated it. Stalinist propaganda of course systematically tried to paint him black. But a single verification of his sources in the final years of the Soviet Union, when the Stalin School of Falsification was finally published in that country, showed that the materials kept in the archives corresponded to the documents he had published.[11] The final question is more complicated and will be dealt with later. This relates to the role of Lenin. Was he, in reacting to the Stalin cult, not accepting and reinforcing the Lenin cult? It is certain that Lenin looms very large in the book. But it is not an infallible Lenin. It is a great revolutionary whose role is painted, and one can find scope to disagree with this or that point made by Trotsky. But he shows, for example, that Lenin’s proposed tactical line for carrying out the insurrection was not necessarily the best way, because while Lenin was a major driving force behind the insurrection, he was in hiding and therefore cut off from the nitty-gritty of tactical measures.

The Fall of Tsarism

A real history had to begin with setting the social and political context and revealing the splits developing at the top. In attempting to do so, Trotsky begins with an exposition of a law of historical materialism, which he calls the law of combined development. This was not a law generated out of nothing, but the result of his reflections on his theory of permanent revolution, first articulated in the Russian context, and subsequently generalised.[12]

In the first chapter, Trotsky establishes the unique “combined” character of Russia’s economic development, with backward agrarian conditions coexisting with the most sophisticated modern industries. Trotsky writes:

“A backward country assimilates the material and intellectual conquests of the advanced countries…. Although compelled to follow after the advanced countries, a backward country does not take things in the same order. The privilege of historic backwardness—and such a privilege exists—permits, or rather compels, the adoption of whatever is ready in advance of any specified date, skipping a whole series of intermediate stages.”[13]

Forced to defend itself from, and compete with, neighbouring capitalist powers, Russia absorbed modern military and related technology and along with them industries—but only by grafting the most modern capitalist methods, with the aid of state aid and foreign investment, on top of the most backward rural social relations. This was done, moreover, not by a new capitalist state, but by the old regime itself, dominated by the monarchy and the Dvoryanstvo [nobility].

But the rulers of Russia, in importing modern technology and industry, also imported the modern class struggle. The Russian working class developed under special conditions, with peasants turning into proletarians in a generation. This included

“sharp changes of environment, ties, relations, and a sharp break with the past. It is just this fact—combined with the concentrated oppressions of tsarism—that made the Russian workers hospitable to the boldest conclusions of revolutionary thought—just as the backward industries were hospitable to the last word in capitalist organization.”[14]

While the working class was numerically small, far away from being a majority of the population, its social and economic position made it possible for this class to lead the peasant majority in making a revolution. Such a revolution would have to fight the capitalists, not just the landlords, and at the same time, by overthrowing capitalism provoke a counterrevolution that could only be met by an international chain of revolutions.

Trotsky writes, in a chapter entitled ‘The Proletariat and the Peasantry’:

“The law of combined development of backwards countries—in the sense of a peculiar mixture of backwards elements with the more modern factors—here rises before us in its most finished form, and offers a key to the fundamental riddle of the Russian revolution.… In order to realize the Soviet state, there was required a drawing together and mutual penetration of two factors belonging to completely different historical species: a peasant war—that is, a movement characteristic of the dawn of bourgeois development—and a proletarian insurrection, the movement signalizing its decline. That is the essence of 1917.”[15]

Trotsky depicts the ruling circles, particularly the Tsar Nicholas II and the Tsarina, Alexandra with pitiless clarity. As the waves of modernity moved forward, the last of the Romanovs and his spouse rejected it, and retreated to a decadent medieval past, mired in superstition, ignoring social reality, and functioning as shallow, banal people who looked away as the social crisis intensified and their world crumbled.[16] Quoting the diary of the Tsar, he shows that Nicholas could not comprehend the gravity of the political crisis even as the state apparatus and the narrow clique around him separated from the landlord-bourgeois bloc. Trotsky argues that the apparently personal traits of the tsar symbolised the obsolescence of the monarchy. “In reality his ill-luck flowed from the contradictions between those old aims which he inherited from his ancestors and the new historic conditions in which he was placed.”[17]

The Russian bourgeoisie hated the tsar, his court, and wanted the end of the semi-feudal and superstitious order. But they were even more afraid of a revolution from below, which might be set in motion if they started off a revolt from above. The 1905 Revolution had begun with modest banquet campaigns by liberals and had ended in general strikes and insurrections. Remembering it, they “could not fail to ask… Will not the palace revolution, instead of a means for preventing a real revolution, turn out to be the last jar that loosens the avalanche? May not the cure prove more ruinous than the disease?”[18]

Tsarism and Russian capitalism alike were closely linked to Western capital. An economically backward partner, during the War Russia’s principal role was to provide assistance that would benefit the Western allies. Notably, the soldiers shifted for the battle of Tannenberg, late August 1914 (though they did not reach the Eastern Front in time) perhaps made the difference during the final German push for Paris, halted at the First Battle of the Marne, early September 1914[19]. “The one thing the Russian generals did with a flourish was drag human meat out of the country.”[20] Fifteen million men were conscripted into the army, and five and a half million of them were killed, captured, or wounded in the three years of war. The outbreak of War and a temporary wave of patriotism had enabled the rulers to defuse class bitterness, on the rise since 1912. But, as Trotsky notes,

 “The war itself, its victims, its horror, its shame, brought not only the old, but also the new layers of workers into conflict with the tsarist regime. It did this with a new incisiveness and led them to the conclusion: we can no longer endure it. The conclusion was universal; it welded the masses together and gave them a mighty dynamic force.”[21]

The futility of the war was obvious; and it led to a revival of strikes and popular dissatisfaction. By 1916, political, and not merely economic strikes were becoming prominent.

It was in this situation that the five days of insurrection developed, toppling the monarchy. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, March 8, 1917, which by the unreformed Russian calendar fell on February 23, Petrograd women workers of several textile mills, demanded bread from the local Duma [city council]. They wanted a strike, which the Bolshevik leaders at the local level were not keen to arrange. But the women went ahead nevertheless, and soon a general strike developed. Within a day half the city’s workers were out, and political demands outstripped economic ones. The Cossacks, relatively privileged landed groups residing in the lower Dnieper and Don Basins in Ukraine and Southern Russia, and who were the principal suppliers of the Tsarist cavalry, were called out. Here, Trotsky’s narrative reaches amazing heights:

“Decisive moment! But the horsemen, cautiously, in a long ribbon, rode through the corridor just made by the officers…the Cossacks, without openly breaking discipline, failed to force the crowd to disperse, but flowed through it in streams…. The officers hastened to separate their patrol from the workers, and, abandoning the idea of dispersing them, lined the Cossacks out across the street as a barrier to prevent the demonstrators from getting to the center. But even this did not help: standing stock-still in perfect discipline, the Cossacks did not hinder the workers from ‘diving’ under their horses. The revolution does not choose its paths: it made its first steps toward victory under the belly of a Cossack’s horse.”[22]

On the third and the fourth days rebels confronted the army. Quite a significant number were shot – something usually ignored by bourgeois historians who like to talk about the “peaceful” February Revolution in opposition to the violent” October Revolution.[23] But the workers persisted, and eventually made a dent on the soldiers’ morale and discipline. An army, bound by the most rigid of disciplines, does not easily go against the orders of its superiors. Workers, accustomed to partial battles, can do so. Trotsky explains:

“The more the soldiers in their mass are convinced that the rebels really are rebelling—that this is not a demonstration after which they will have to go back to the barracks and report, that this is a struggle to the death, that the people might win if they join them, and that this winning will not only guarantee impunity, but will alleviate the lot of all—the more they realize this, the more willing they are to turn aside their bayonets, or go over with them to the people. In other words, the revolutionists can create a break in the soldiers’ mood only if they themselves are actually ready to seize the victory at any price whatever, even the price of blood. And this highest determination never can, or will, remain unarmed”.[24]

By the fifth day, the army had gone over to the revolutions. The tsar abdicated, with his generals telling him bluntly that his departure was the minimum to save the state. Workers and soldiers marched to the Tauride Palace, not, however, to directly take power in their hands. The grassroots leadership that had overthrown the old power was not yet confident. So it left the top echelons of power to professional politicians and parties who had at best stood on the sidelines, or who had even tried to forestall the revolution.

In the next chapter, Trotsky discusses the question of leadership. No party could claim to have led the February revolution. But it was not a spontaneous revolution. There were worker activists. Modern historians have discussed issues, like who first issued the call for a general strike.[25] Trotsky argues that while the principal leaders of all the socialist parties were either in exile abroad, or in prison or internal exile, the revolutionary tradition among the workers had not died. Working class militants who were politically mature, who played leading roles at the factory or locality level, (the class vanguard in Marxist terms) had assessed the different socialist parties and their politics, and, asserts Trotsky, were drawing Bolshevik conclusions.

“To the smug politicians of liberalism and tamed socialism everything that happens among [the?] masses is customarily represented as an instinctive process, no matter whether they are dealing with an anthill or a beehive. In reality the thought which was drilling through the thick of the working class was far bolder, more penetrating, more conscious, than those little ideas by which the educated classes live. Moreover, this thought was more scientific: not only because it was to a considerable degree fertilized with the methods of Marxism, but still more because it was ever nourishing itself on the living experience of the masses which were soon to take their place in the revolutionary arena. Thoughts are scientific if they correspond to an objective process and make it possible to influence that process and guide it.”[26]

He concludes:

“To the question, who led the February Revolution? We can then answer definitely enough: Conscious and tempered workers educated for the most part by the party of Lenin. But we must here immediately add: This leadership proved sufficient to guarantee the victory of the insurrection, but it was not adequate to transfer immediately into the hands of the proletarian vanguard the leadership of the revolution.”[27]

 

The Dual Power and the Reorientation of the Bolshevik Party

The subsequent chapters take up the themes of dual power (the Provisional Government, a bourgeois – landlord organ, and the Soviet, a worker and soldier institution), and the recurrent crises of the February regime. The bourgeois politicians were afraid of the popular uprising, and initially hoped that the Tsar’s forces would suppress it. When that hope faded, they simply waited in the Tauride palace, expecting to be arrested. To their shock, they were approached by workers and soldiers, who demanded that they should form a government. A moderate socialist of the populist variety, Alexander Kerensky, who would come to have enormous power and influence over the next months, urged that the Duma, dissolved by the Tsar but its members still keeping together, should place themselves at the head of the already successful insurrection. The first semi-government was named the Provisional Committee. The Provisional Government that finally emerged was somewhat different in terms of personnel.

At the same time, in the same building, was set up the Executive Committee of the Workers and Soldiers soviet. Drawing upon the experience of the 1905 Revolution, a few Menshevik leaders took the initiative in this. They did so, not in order to develop the revolution, but in the hope that by forming the Soviet in this way, they would be able to keep the radical elements under control. But the aims of the Mensheviks and the reality diverged quickly. The famous Order No. 1 of the Soviet, virtually dictated to the left Menshevik Skobelev by soldiers, was an order that established the political rights of soldiers, in a country where till the day before, a feudal order had existed in the army. It was the Soviet that took charge of food supplies through a Food Commission. It also controlled communications, as workers voluntarily turned to this institution. It was the moderate socialist intellectual leadership of the soviet that, instead of taking power, went to the powerless bourgeois liberals and asked them to form a government.  The Dual Power emerged, not because of an objective need, but because the political consciousness of the workers and their allies had not reached the stage where they would move to institutions of working class democracy and decide to build a life without the bourgeoisie. This bears special reassertion in a country where the influence of Stalinism has remained strong among leftist forces. According to the Stalinist theory of stages, there must be a self-contained bourgeois democratic revolution (termed Peoples Democratic, New Democratic etc), because without this, economic development cannot reach the stage where socialist revolution comes on the agenda. It is not possible to deal with all the variants of this theory here.[28] But where all such theories stumble is over the fact that between February and October 1917, the only thing that evolved was the consciousness of the masses, not the mode of production.

Doug Lorimer, a member of the Socialist Workers Party of Australia, which later renamed itself the Democratic Socialist Party, wrote a pamphlet on the theory of permanent revolution, in which he asserted that Trotsky had misrepresented Bolshevik theory and policy in the 1920s and 1930s.[29]This is based on the argument that a dictatorship of the proletariat is created only when the economy is nationalized. In that case, the entire struggle between Lenin and Kamenev in the Bolshevik party, with Stalin as an early supporter of Kamenev, would remain inexplicable. After all, was not Kamenev championing the “Leninist” slogan (1905) of “revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry”, and accusing Lenin of ultra-leftism and Trotskyism? The April Theses of Lenin were published in Pravda in 1917, with the comment that these represented Lenin’s personal viewpoint. Thus the top level of the Bolshevik Central Committee did not support Lenin. Trotsky traces the struggle in the Bolshevik party, and shows how Lenin won over the party by appealing over the heads of the leadership to the party ranks. It still took a month of struggle and compromises.[30] Moreover, if Lenin had indeed held the rigid views Lorimer ascribes to him, he would hardly have stated: “We shall now proceed to construct the Socialist order”, as John Reed[31] records him in a book Lenin himself approved of, at the Second Congress of Soviets.

Indeed, the return of Lenin was a crucial turning point in the revolution.  If the Bolshevik leadership of the February days, Shlyapnikov, Zalutsky and Molotov, had been inadequate, the Bolshevik leadership that replaced them, Stalin, Kamenev and Muranov, was much more moderate as well as dogmatic. Trotsky spares no details in chronicling the defensist, compromising nature of Stalin’s leadership during March, in an attempt to use all the documentary evidence to break through the lies being manufactured by the Stalinist bureaucracy concerning the infallibility of the party, and the closeness between Lenin and Stalin. Once again, in a country where the Stalin cult remains strong among the left, these details are worth studying.  Stalin forcefully stressed that the revolution must be bourgeois. In Pravda, the “defensist” line was firmly stated:

“Our slogan is not the meaningless ‘down with war.’ Our slogan is pressure upon the Provisional Government with the aim of compelling it…to make and attempt to induce all the warring countries to open immediate negotiations…and until then every man remains at his fighting post!”[32] 

The Stalin-Kamenev leadership even began to gravitate toward the idea of reuniting with the Mensheviks in a single party.[33] Lenin launched a sharp attack on this line, though he was careful to make it possible for his erring comrades to withdraw from their positions.

Lenin’s struggle was waged in distinct stages. His first task was to win over the general staff—the Bolshevik Party itself. In the two chapters, ‘The Bolsheviks and Lenin’ and ‘Rearming the Party’, Trotsky considers this process. This was followed by deep propaganda among the masses. Lenin was absolutely clear that in a country where general democratic situations existed, anything other than democratic struggles to win over the majority of the toiling masses was a false course. For that reason, it was not enough to win over the majority in the capital. This was achieved, if in a relatively unstable manner, by the time of the First All Russia congress of Soviets (October 25-26, 1917). The final chapters of the first volume trace this process, including the Bolshevik call for a demonstration, called off when the Soviet claimed it would be used by conspirators. On June 11, Tseretelli, speaking at a meeting including the executive committee, members of the presidium of the congress, and other leaders, demanded that the Bolsheviks be disarmed. But the Bolsheviks did not have special arms. The people who had the arms were the soldiers and the workers. As Trotsky puts it: “That classic moment of the revolution had arrived when the bourgeois democracy, upon the demands of the reaction, undertakes to disarm the workers who had guaranteed the victory. [34]

Hoping to show that the masses were still with them, the moderate socialists called a counter-demonstration on 18 June. To the consternation of the Menshevik and Social Revolutionary leaders, this turned out to be a triumph of the Bolsheviks. Tseretelli had thrown down a challenge – let the demonstration show which side had the greater forces.

“The delegates of the congress, assembled on Mars Field, read and counted the placards. The first Bolshevik slogans were met half laughingly… But these same slogans were repeated again and again. “Down with the Ten Minister-Capitalists!”, “Down with the Offensive!”, “All Power to the Soviets!” The ironical smiles froze, and then gradually disappeared. Bolshevik banners floated everywhere. The delegates stopped counting the uncomfortable totals.”[35]

 

Class and Gender: A Missing Dimension of the History

Before we turn to the next two volumes, dealing with the failure of counter revolution and the Soviet seizure pf power, one point needs to be raised. Trotsky’s narrative, superb in its scope, holds the reader enthralled even today, close to a century after the events it describes and nearly eighty years since he wrote it. But that is why, some of the omissions tend to be overlooked. An introduction to a classic work is not a place to propose rectifications into that work. But the omissions need to be mentioned. The most vital one is the seeming gender neutrality of the narrative that actually stumbles. After the eruption of women workers on International Women’s Day, women mostly disappear from the descriptions. Where they appear, it is to assert that women will look after the home while men go off for political battles. Yet the reality was more complex.[36]

There were a significant number of Bolshevik women. While a very limited number held senior party positions, there is no doubt that quite a few of them were active supporters of Lenin, and worked in various capacities to mobilize party members and non-member supporters and other workers along similar lines as Lenin. Apart from Nadezhda Krupskaya, one should mention Maria Ulyanova, Alexandra Kollontai, Inessa Armand, and others. Kollontai, a leading woman activist, the first to be elected to a Bolshevik Central Committee (in the Congress of 1917), was a firm supporter of Lenin right from her return to Russia.

Kollontai, in association with other women, like Vera Slutskaya, Konkordia Samoilova, and Klavdia Nikolaieva, was also seriously involved in organising toiling women – both women workers and the soldatki [soldiers’ wives]. By 1917 women formed 43 percent of the workforce. They had to be organised if the revolutionary movement was to proceed. The first weeks after February saw an unprecedented increase in the number of women organising themselves to make political and economic demands. Bolsheviks were active among them. In Petrograd, the best documented city, Bolshevik women were active in two kinds of work among militant women. One was the formation of the Union of Soldatki. Bolshevik influence over the army was to grow significantly as a result of the Bolshevik women’s struggle to organise the Soldatki and to champion their demands. The other work was that of organising women workers for their demands. The social peace established by the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries after February was broken for the first time by several thousand women workers in the city laundries. They fought for an 8-hour working day, and for minimum wages. Bolshevik women like Goncharskaya, Novikondratieva and Sakharova led these struggles. Under the influence of Kollontai, the party press, primarily Pravda regularly reported about the strike. After a month’s strike, there was a partial victory.[37]

In trying to organise women workers, the Bolshevik women had to wage an ideological and organisational struggle against pro-war bourgeois feminists. As a result, not only the women, but the party as a whole had to turn its attention to work among the women. A meeting of the Executive Committee of the Petersburg Committee of the Bolsheviks gave Slutskaya the task of organising work among the women.[38] She felt that in order to do this work properly, there should be a bureau of working women, autonomous but under the city Committee. Despite all her assurances that this was only to facilitate practical work, the Petrograd Committee meeting witnessed much resistance to her proposal. The meeting resolved to revive the defunct Rabotnitsa, a journal originally brought out by Bolshevik women in 1914 and then suppressed by the police but left examination of Slutskaya’s proposals for a later date.[39] Eventually very few raion [district] committees set up women’s bureaux. The reasons for the non-functioning character of the bureaux can be found in the party’s hostility to any kind of feminism.[40] The journal Rabotnitsa was revived, and it became the centre of agitational and organisational work among women workers. The fact that it was a paper meant it could avoid the charge “feminist deviation”. Rabotnitsa enabled the two types of women activists – those like Armand and Kollontai on one hand, and those like Samoilova or others, to coexist. As Kollontai wrote later:

“As late as the spring of 1917 Konkordiya Nikolaevna found superfluous the formation of an apparatus in the party for work amongst women. On the other hand she warmly welcomed the rebirth of Rabotnitsa as an ideological centre … Comrade Samoilova would not tolerate anything that smacked of feminism and she regarded with great caution any organisational scheme which in her opinion might introduce “division according to sex” into the proletariat.”[41]

The return of a powerful agitator and leading cadre like Kollontai to Russia had meant a strong impetus to the work of organising working class women. But she too failed to get the party to sanction the creation of any kind of special apparatus for work among women. This meant that work among women was not often recognised as a distinct kind of work requiring special efforts. After prolonged attempts, Kollontai, Samoilova and others eventually got the party to agree to a women workers' conference, held on November 12 and 18, 1917, in Petrograd and attended by 500 elected delegates representing over 80,000 women workers.[42] It aimed at mobilising the working class women for the coming elections to the Constituent Assembly, and to prepare the grounds for an All-Russia women’s conference. Some Bolshevik women activists and leaders realised it quite well that the task of mobilisation would be easier if the women workers were separately organised where they could find a congenial atmosphere to overcome their hesitations and inhibition which were the results of their social upbringing.

The publication of Rabotnitsa had positive consequences. Women, traditionally treated as backward, brainless, were finding voices of their own. Their understanding of the gendered nature of class struggle came out, as when an activist, Prokhorova, wrote, “Many women comrades say that everything will be done without us. But comrades, whatever is done without us will be dangerous for us."[43] The paper provided space for the voices of female factory workers criticising sexist behaviour of male colleagues, not merely overseers. The editors of the paper, who included Samoilova, Klavdia Nikolaeva, and Praskovia Kudelli, were no less committed Bolsheviks than their male counterparts. These writings helped to emerge the early articulations of a Bolshevik-feminist discourse that went beyond Bolshevik orthodoxy of defining class in the cast of an adult male. A major historian of Bolshevik women has written that not only was sexism among the ranks of the proletariat criticised, but trade union leaderships (through demands for equal pay for equal work) and also the Bolshevik leadership, which was urged to increase its efforts to reach out to the women workers.[44] That the most important leader of the October insurrection found no space to put in some of these dimensions also means that this is an area where his work has to be read today in conjunction with Marxist-feminist work on the subject.

The Failure of Coalitionism:

The first Provisional Government had been an almost purely bourgeois government with only Kerensky as a token leftist. But by May, a crisis had shaken it, and the moderate socialists had entered into a coalition, not to push the regime to the left, but to provide it with a left cover. This first coalition government had ten bourgeois and six socialist ministers. The coalition attempt however failed. As Rosenberg’s study shows, the Liberals, gathered under the banner of the Cadet party, were not willing to make adequate concessions to the moderates.[45]This has to be seen, not as accidents of history, but as the expression of basic class interests. In the second volume of The History, Trotsky traces the conflict between the soviet parties and the soviet masses, as the moderate parties swung rightward and the masses moved left.  Early in July, workers and soldiers went out on to the streets, demanding that the Central Executive Committee of the soviets should take over power. The compromising socialists refused outright. Street encounters and casualties occurred. The collapse of the demonstrations followed, because the workers and soldiers were still confused. They had come out with arms. But they were still urging class collaborators to seize powers from the upper classes. This confusion was what resulted in uncertain aims and actions. The compromising leaders now took the path advocated by Tseretelli. The Bolshevik papers were shut down. Lenin went underground. A number of others, including Trotsky, were arrested. But this victory came at a price. The most openly counter-revolutionary forces had to be employed. In other words, there was a growing polarization.

Meanwhile the failure of the Provisional Government was becoming evident in all ways. The economic crisis continued unabated, and the national debt—fuelled by the war—was approaching the value of Russia’s total wealth, at 70 billion roubles. The massive inflation led to the printing of notes in bulk, increasingly valueless and sneeringly named “kerenkies”; “both “the bourgeois and the worker, each in his own way, embodied in that name a slight note of disgust.[46]  Factory owners were deliberately closing down shops as a systematic campaign of sabotage, resulting in a decline of metal production by 40 percent and textile output by 20 percent. In the cities the shadow of famine loomed closer, convincing the participants in the February uprising that the “future contained no glimmer of hope. This was not what the workers had expected from the revolution.”[47] The land question was left untouched. The struggle of the oppressed nationalities was likewise deferred. And the key political issue, the convening of the Constituent Assembly, was finally decided upon as late as mid-June, when it was announced that the Assembly election would be held in September 17. The Cadet press started a campaign against this immediately.

The consequence of the July days was an emboldened counter revolution. The Bolsheviks were vilified and attacked as German agents. Lenin and Zinoviev explained from underground why they were not submitting to the authorities. It was clear that a frame up was being planned. There were many, even in the Bolshevik ranks, who hesitated at this. Only later, with the murders of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, did it become clear to all that in the class struggle, the bourgeoisie does not play by rules when its domination is seriously threatened.

A routine charge against revolutionaries is that they are in the pay of foreign powers. Trotsky’s discussion of this issue shows that charges of German gold were routine, but when it was turned against the Bolsheviks, it reached unprecedented heights. But the July victory did not strengthen the government. Kerensky became the Minister –President. A renewed coalition was proposed, with the bourgeoisie dictating terms – such as, continuing the war, no social reforms till the Constituent Assembly met, and responsibility of ministers to their consciences, in other words, no responsibility to the masses.[48]

The story did not end there. In order to restore discipline in the army, General Lavr Kornilov, the only successful commander during Russia’s disastrous military offensive of June 1917, was appointed Supreme Commander. The right wing press tried to make a cult out of him. Kerensky and Kornilov entered into a Bonapartist conspiracy. Their aim was to beat back the revolution.

Kornilov was chosen probably also because after February 1917 he had claimed to be a republican. But this did not make him less counter-revolutionary. He demanded the restoration of the death penalty at the rear and gave orders to shoot deserters and set up their corpses as examples. He also threatened the peasants with severe penalties for violating the proprietary rights of the landlords.[49] The upper classes felt that in Kornilov they had acquired the strong man who would put down the disturbances.

Meanwhile, Kerensky, in order to create a semblance of a social base for his regime, and to put on display the alleged national unity, organised a State Conference for August 12–14 in Moscow, which was notable for its over-representation of the rich and ruling classes. It was also notable for the behind-the-scenes manoeuvring of the “partners”—Kornilov and Kerensky—against each other. Both wanted “order,” but the democrats nursed their illusions of a bourgeois republic while the Cadets and their military allies wanted to drown the working class in blood. As a result, the State Conference saw dramatic confrontations. But these were confrontations within forces who were agreed on blocking workers, peasants and soldiers from power.

Soldiers and workers saw the State Conference as a direct threat to soviet power. The Moscow city Soviet was still dominated by the compromisers. Over their heads, the trade unions and local soviets, with Moscow Bolsheviks often in the leadership, called a general strike. They plunged the city into darkness, showing that bourgeois power was still at the mercy of the toilers. Trotsky cites Miliukov, the liberal leader and historian, as writing that “The delegates coming to the Conference... could not ride on the tramways, nor lunch in the restaurants.”[50]The Bolshevik paper, The Proletarii, asked those who had thought the militancy a special problem of Petrograd and had moved to Moscow, “From Petrograd you went to Moscow—where will you go from there?[51] 

The Counterrevolutionary Plot and its Collapse

Kornilov and his backers had decided that they would organise a coup on August 27. The plan had been to provoke the Bolsheviks into an insurrection, through imposition of martial law in the capital and if necessary by using provocateurs claiming to be Bolsheviks. Kerensky was fully involved in this. Kerensky’s memoirs, cited by Trotsky, show that from June 1917, he had held conversations with right-wingers about the possibility of a coup or a dictatorship. That he claims he was not interested in such a power is undercut by his admission that for months he, claiming to be a minister of the revolution, was a party to such counterrevolutionary discussions. During the second half of August, the conspiracy proceeded so far that elements of it were clearly understood, not only by the Bolsheviks, but by the Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary dominated Soviet leadership, who could not, however, denounce Kerensky, but only Kornilov. The Bolshevik paper Proletarii was shut down for appealing to workers not to respond to provocations.

The plan was to concentrate rightwing cavalry troops in Petrograd, then declare martial law, and then publish measures leading to an untimely insurrection. As Trotsky writes:

“The events, the documents, the testimony of the participants, and finally the confessions of Kerensky himself, unanimously bear witness that the Minister-President, without the knowledge of a part of his own government, behind the back of the soviets which had given him the power, in secrecy from the party of which he considered himself a member, had entered into agreement with the highest generals of the army for a radical change in the state régime with the help of armed forces.”[52]

Under the pretext of protecting the capital after the fall of Riga to the German army, three “loyal” divisions were moved closer to Petrograd as the first step of the projected coup. In the early morning hours of August 28, troops began their march on Petrograd, and reports started coming to the Executive Committee, terrifying the democrats. But Kerensky too was upset, for by this time, it was no longer a coup in which he would share power with Kornilov. As Eisenstein’s film October suggested, both Kerensky and Kornilov fancied himself for the role of Bonaparte, and Kornilov now thought he did not need Kerensky. Kerensky was now in a paroxysm of fear, and he dismissed Kornilov and ordered his troops to halt. Kornilov simply ignored the order. Kerensky had no forces loyal to himself.

The Bolsheviks understood that while Kerensky was a traitor, Kornilov was the counterrevolutionary who had to be stopped immediately, at any cost. Thus arose the Bolshevik scheme of a united front. The news of Kornilov’s march on Petrograd led to huge mass meetings in the factories. Every one of them vowed to defend the city and urgently demanded arms from the Soviet Executive. Thousands of Petrograd workers threw themselves into the struggle to stop Kornilov, at least 25,000 enlisted for the Red Guards who were co-ordinated by the Soviet’s Military Revolutionary Committee. The government was forced to re-arm the militia they had disarmed in July. At Putilov 8,000 of the workforce were sent to perform defence and agitation duties. Those who remained behind worked hard to overproduce military equipment in defence of the revolution.

The Menshevik-SR leadership of the Petrograd Soviet were obliged to set up a Committee of Struggle against the counter-revolution and to invite the Bolsheviks to participate in it. There were three delegates each from the SRs, the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks plus delegates from the main trade unions.

Bolshevik leaders, whether Kamenev, out in the open, or Trotsky, still in prison, or Lenin, still in hiding, realised that the situation had changed. During the defense of Petrograd, sailors came to Trotsky, who was still in prison as a result of the July Days, and ask him what they should do. “Use Kerensky as a gun-rest to shoot Kornilov,” advised Trotsky. “Afterward we will settle with Kerensky.”[53]

Until the outbreak of the Kornilov coup Lenin had been arguing that the counter-revolution had already occurred in July, so talk of a military coup was fraudulent rhetoric by the Mensheviks. He vigorously demanded no blocks or alliances with the Mensheviks. But as the reality of the situation sank in, he changed his tactics. The Bolsheviks active in the city called for united action with the Mensheviks and SRs and also with Kerensky. Lenin started arguing that workers who wanted to defend Petrograd against Kornilov must be mobilised to put forward demands on Kerensky that would develop their militancy and simultaneously expose the weakness and vacillation of the moderate leaders. His proposals included arrests of bourgeois leaders and legalisation of land transfer to peasants, and workers’ control over factories.

As workers mobilised, the coup fell apart. The supposedly reliable soldiers had simply not known what they were being sent to do. Delegations of soldiers and workers met the troops sent by Kornilov, and the projected army of counterrevolution just melted. The coup failed, because those who had planned it were totally isolated from the Russian people. They thought the masses just needed a whip to abandon the revolution. As Trotsky writes, “This mistake in estimating the mood of the masses brought all their other calculations to the dust.[54] Both politically and organisationally, the Kornilov coup and the defence against it had immense consequences. The soviets, which had become lifeless, were revitalised. While at the top the compromisers still had formal leadership, one step below, new revolutionary forces were pushing up. And the coup itself pushed soldiers back to the Bolsheviks.

The Soviet Conquest of Power

The theme that October 1917 was a coup has a pedigree as long as the revolution itself, and the fall of the Soviet Union has seen no end of the long line of books condemning October as a coup, a theme that was examined and debunked at length in the third volume of Trotsky’s The History, ‘The Triumph of the Soviets’, exploded this myth solidly, long before the current crop of scholars. At the same time, it also challenged the view that the party, rather than working class, organised in numerous institutions, though certainly led by the party, had made the revolution.[55]

It is a standard experience of history that the masses, even in times of revolution, do not begin by turning to the most revolutionary party. Thus it was that in 1917, the masses turned initially to the compromising social democrats and populists. The masses desired a quick solution to their most burning problems - in the case of Russia, a speedy end to the War, bread and land. Instead, the reformists offered them speeches and promises. The Bolsheviks based themselves at every stage on the masses. After defeating the tendency headed by Kamenev and Stalin, Lenin had to wage a struggle against ultra-lefts who immediately put forward the slogan "down with the Provisional Government", at a time when the masses still had illusions in the Menshevik and SR leaders who were supporting the Provisional Government. He explained that before the Bolsheviks could conquer power, they must first "conquer" the masses, and this had to be done by a combination of the experience of the masses and the patient work of the Bolsheviks, summed up in Lenin's slogan "patiently explain!"

At the Petrograd City Conference of the party, held in April Lenin said:

“We do not have complete political liberty, of course. But nowhere else is there such freedom as exists in Russia today. “Down with war” does not mean flinging the bayonet away. It means the transfer or power to another class. ….. We are still a minority and realise the need for winning a majority. Unlike the anarchists, we need the state for the transition to socialism .... The role of the Soviets .... is that they apply organised force against the counter-revolution ...... There can be no dual power in a state .... the way out of the war lies through the victory of the Soviet .... This is the type of state under which it is possible to advance towards socialism .... So long as the Soviets have not seized power, we shall not take it. A living force, however, must impel the Soviets to seize power .... So long as the Provisional Government has the backing of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, you cannot “simply” overthrow it. The only way it can and must be overthrown is by winning over the majority in the Soviets.[56]

By July the masses in Petrograd had been won over to the idea of Soviet power. At this point it was the top leadership of the Bolshevik Party that tried to restrain them, since the leadership was aware that the masses all over the country were not yet ready to overthrow the compromisers. The Bolshevik Party grew gradually, over the year. The table below shows the growth of some of the principal party committees.

 

  Growth of Party Committees[57]

Party Committee           Early March                   Seventh Conference               Sixth Congress

                                                                                    April                                       July                       

Petrograd                                      2000                                16,000                                  26,000

Moscow                                          600                                  7,000                                  15,000

Ivanovo-Voznesensk                        10                                  3,564                                    5,440

Ekaterinoslav                                  400                                  1,500                                    3,500

Lugan                                             100                                  1,500                                    2,596

Kharkov                                          105                                  1,200                                       —

Saratov                                             60                                  1,600                                    3,000

Kiev                                                200                                  1,900                                    4,000

Ekaterinburg                                     40                                  1,700                                    2,800

 

Despite this, it has been argued that the Bolshevik strategy was undemocratic. Three major possible criticisms have to be considered. First, the Bolsheviks overthrew a democratic regime. Second, they acted through their party, not through the Soviets. Finally, Lenin and Trotsky, particularly Lenin, was said to have been ‘dictatorial’. Following the defeat of Kornilov, there was a brief period when the right wing was completely disarmed. The Bolsheviks again attempted to go over peacefully to Soviet democracy. They recognised that the workers and peasants in their majority wanted a purely socialist government, and proposed that the Menshevik-SR bloc should take power, promising in that case to restrict themselves to peaceful propaganda.[58] But the Mensheviks and the SRs rejected this and again turned to coalition building with the already discredited Cadets, pretending that Kornilov’s coup was his personal work.

It is obvious that wherever there was a possibility, the Bolsheviks tried to minimise violence and to take power peacefully. It is also clear that this confidence was based on a rising tide in the Soviets, factory councils and trade unions, even more than in the municipal bodies. Throughout Russia, from late August, new elections to Soviets were being organised. The Bolsheviks made significant gains. Thus, at the Second Congress of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies of Urals, representing 505,780 workers and soldiers, which met on August 17-21, the Bolsheviks had 77 deputies against 23 for the Mensheviks.[59] On August 31- September 1, the Petrograd Soviet adopted a resolution on power, which led to the resignation of the old executive committee.[60] In Kiev, a Conference of Factory and Shop Committees passed a Bolshevik resolution with 161 votes for, 35 against, and 13 abstentions.[61]

The defeat of the Menshevik-SR bloc in the Petrograd Soviet (279-115 votes) had been questioned by the compromisers. On September 9, the presidium of the Petrograd Soviet insisted that the Soviet must state whether it was changing its line or not, saying it stood for the old line. Both sides had mustered their strength, and the presidium lost by 414 votes to 519, with 67 abstentions.[62]

On September 5, the Moscow Soviet passed a resolution condemning the Provisional Government and the Central Executive Committee by 355 votes to 254.[63] At the Kiev Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, the Bolshevik resolution won on 8th September by 130 votes to 66, showing a swing of 35 previously non-Bolsheviks delegates to them. On September 10, a regional Congress of Soviets in Finland adopted Bolshevik resolutions by big majorities.[64]

In August, work had barely begun in the rural areas. But by September 21, the Saratov Soviet had 320 Bolsheviks against 103 SRs. 76 Mensheviks, and 34 non-party deputies.[65] In Kronstadt, new elections resulted in a further shift to the left in an already radical Soviet, so that now it had 100 Bolsheviks, 75 left SRs, 12 Menshevik Internationalists, 7 anarchists, and 90-odd unaffiliated, but mostly leftwing, delegates. The right wing of the Soviet spectrum was practically wiped out.[66] Newly elected Soviets in Reval, Dorpat, Wenden, all had a Bolshevik-left SR majority. In Talinn, the Estonian regional committee elected a little later, in October, had 6 Bolsheviks, 4 left SRs, 1 Menshevik Internationalist, and one rightwing Menshevik.[67]

In Petrograd, Moscow, and the other major centres, the Bolshevik influence grew even more swiftly. From the last week of September, the open struggle between the Bolsheviks and their opponents began for hegemony over the Soviets in the final lap of the race for power. The Petrograd Soviet adopted Trotsky’s resolution calling for the consolidation and federation of all Soviet organisations and the immediate convocation of the Second All Russia Congress of Soviets.[68] This unleashed a flood of similar resolutions calling for the assumption of full power by the Congress.[69]

 The most detailed all-Russia studies, by numerous scholars, disclose that the trend was towards Bolshevism.[70]The Bolsheviks were in the majority in the Workers’ Soviets in most industrial cities and in most Soldiers’ Soviets in garrison towns, with strongholds in Finland, Estonia, Petrograd, the Northern Front, the Baltic Fleet, the Central Industrial Region (around Moscow), the Urals, Western and Central Siberia. The Socialist Revolutionaries predominated among the peasants and the frontline committees. Their bases included the black-earth region, the middle Volga, and the Western, Southern and Rumanian fronts. The Mensheviks dominated only in Georgia.

The last attempt made by the parties of moderate leftism to shore up their position came when they convoked the Democratic Conference on September 14. That Conference, in turn, set up the Council of the Republic, popularly known as the Pre-Parliament. Marc Ferro assesses the significance of the Democratic Conference in the following terms:

The democratic conference, convoked and organised by the Executive Council of the Soviets, reflected in its composition, the great variety of institutions that the Revolution had thrown up rather than their numerical strength or real power. Over thirty types of organization were represented, from the league of clergy and laymen to the Soviets, although the nationalities, for one, had only 43 places out of 1250…. [The SR-Menshevik bloc controlling the VTsIK, flouted democracy and] distributed seats as suited them. Workers’ and soldiers’ Soviets were allotted 230 places, as were the peasant Soviets, whereas the municipal councils took 300, the zemstva [local self-governing bodies created during Tsarist Russia] 200 and the cooperative movement 161.”[71]

 

Notwithstanding all this effort, even this attempt miscarried. The principle of bourgeois participation in government was approved by 766 votes to 688, with 38 abstentions. But then, an amendment excluding the Cadets was also passed with 595 votes against 493 with 72 abstentions.[72] A coalition without the Cadets was a senseless coalition. Kerensky then threatened to resign, refusing to participate in a homogeneous government, and as a result a renewed vote was taken and a Council of Republic created with bourgeois participation. But this was not a genuinely representative body. It was not elected, but nominated by the conference and the government, its composition was the following — 15 percent of all the groups represented in the Democratic Conference, together with 120 seats for the propertied classes and 20 for the Cossacks.[73]In view of the highly distorted system of representation in the Democratic Conference, it meant that the really representative bodies like the Soviets, peasants committees etc. would be underrepresented while utterly inconsequential bodies would get large representations. As a result, the moderate socialists got far more seats than they could get in Soviets, or in the case of the upper classes even in municipal dumas (since they were not represented in the Soviets at all).

But while the class collaborationist socialists were moving further and further to the right, accommodating every demand of the bourgeoisie, not only the workers and the soldiers in the capital cities, but other social forces were also moving in a more revolutionary direction. Trotsky analyses in two chapters of the third volume on the peasantry and the oppressed nationalities, whose struggles provided a massive impetus, and without whose conscious support the revolution could not have won and subsequently held out.

The peasantry had supported the Socialist Revolutionary party, the heir to the populist tradition. The Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) was dominated by the upper layers of the peasantry who “got tangled up in a coalition” and were beholden to a government rife with landowners and the bankers to whom they owed billions of rubles. The Socialist Revolutionaries

“went to pieces, therefore, not on the Utopian character of their socialism, but on their democratic inconsistency. It might have taken years to test out their Utopianism. Their betrayal of agrarian democracy became clear in a few months. Under a government of Social Revolutionaries the peasants had to take the road of insurrection in order to carry out the Social Revolutionary program.[74] 

One historian cited by Trotsky counted 4,954 agrarian conflicts against landlords between February and October.[75]

The fusion of the two revolutionary currents—proletarian and peasant—proved irresistible. Trotsky writes:

“The 17th, 18th and 19th centuries of Russian history climbed up on the shoulders of the 20th, and bent it to the ground. The weakness of this belated bourgeois revolution was manifested in the fact that the peasant war did not urge the bourgeois revolutionists forward, but threw them back conclusively into the camp of reaction. Tseretelli, the hard-labour convict of yesterday, defended the estates of the landlords against anarchy! The peasant revolution, thus rejected by the bourgeoisie, joined hands with the industrial proletariat. In this way the 20th century not only got free of those past centuries hanging upon it, but climbed up on their shoulders to a new historic level. In order that the peasant might clear and fence his land, the worker had to stand at the head of the state: that is the simplest formula for the October revolution”.[76]

 

The other source was national oppression and the national liberation struggles. Within Russia’s imperial borders, 57 percent of the population was non-Russian. Instead of capitalist development in Russia integrating the multi-ethnic society, it codified ethnic and national distinctions, creating specific oppressions to keep the nationalities divided.

With the coming of the February Revolution, the hope for liberation for the second-class citizens of Russia was simultaneously raised and dashed by the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, who used the claim of “unity” to deny long-denied national rights: “The compromisist democracy merely translated traditions of the Tzarist national policy into the language of libertarian rhetoric.[77] The Bolsheviks, by insisting on the right of nations to self-determination, fought and mobilised the masses.

This was the context in which Lenin and Trotsky began to work for an insurrection. Lenin’s personal role was certainly important, but it was not dictatorial. His central achievement was to make the Bolshevik party and the militant workers understand that however weak the Kerensky government might be, it would simply not give way to a socialist regime. It would have to be forcibly overthrown.

In this context, Trotsky also treats at length the internal struggles in the party. This has much value today. On one hand, it shows, as Trotsky intended, that the Stalinist hagiography was a myth. On the other hand, it also tells us that real Bolshevism, unlike what followed since Stalin’s conquest of power, was thoroughly democratic. Even on the eve of an insurrection the Bolsheviks could debate, and at times even take out aspects of the crucial debate into the public.

Lenin began calling for insurrection when the Bolsheviks obtained hegemony in the Petrograd and Moscow Soviets by September 1917. This meant, in his view that the active majority of revolutionary elements were with them.[78] As further evidence of the strengthening of the left wing, he cited the growth of internationalist influence among the Mensheviks and SRs. So unlike in April and July when he had attempted to rein in over enthusiastic radicals, he now wanted to spur them forward. As a result, the differences in the Central Committee surfaced anew.[79] Lenin suggested that the large number of party members present as a result of their participation in the Democratic Conference virtually made up a Party Congress, and that they should decide upon the need to steer a course for the revolution.[80]

The struggle in the Central Committee, and throughout the party, was quite serious. A few days later, Lenin still in hiding, wrote another letter to the Central Committee, entitled ‘Marxism and Insurrection’. He opposed the view that politics of insurrections were always Blanquist. When there was a mass upsurge, when the enemy was in disarray, and when certain other conditions were met, a conspiracy for the technical side of the insurrection was a necessary action, not a Blanquist aberration.[81]

The majority of the Central Committee was hesitant. In its meeting of September 15, the agenda was Lenin’s letters. It was decided, with 6 votes to 4 with 6 abstentions, to burn all but one copy of the letter.[82] On September 21, Trotsky’s call to boycott the Council of the Republic won by single vote, but was overturned by the Bolshevik delegates of the Democratic Conference. Two days later, the Central Committee, with 15 members present, voted 8-7 in favour of a proposal to openly confront the moderates’ appeal for peace as hypocritical one.[83] But rank and file pressure went to support Lenin and his allies. Bukharin later related that at the Democratic Conference:

“the sailors posted by Kerensky to defend the Democratic conference against us, the Bolsheviks, turned to Trotsky and asked him, shaking their bayonets : ‘How soon can we get to work with these things?[84]

 

Finally, on October 5, the Central Committee decided to withdraw from the Pre-Parliament, with Kamenev expressing his dissent.[85] On October 7, Trotsky, on behalf of the Bolshevik fraction of the Pre-Parliament, read out a statement denouncing the Pre-Parliament as “a new edition of the Bulygin Duma”, an unrepresentative and counter-revolutionary body, and said, “we, the social democratic Bolshevik group, declare we have nothing in common with this government that betrays the people and with this council which connives at counter-revolution.”[86]  This was a call for an insurrection.

The boycott of parliamentary institutions on the part of anarchists and semi-anarchists is dictated by a desire not to submit their weakness to a test.... A revolutionary party can turn its back to a parliament only if it has set itself the immediate task of overthrowing the existing regime.”[87]

Much is made of certain proposals made by Lenin, so they should be briefly examined. Impatient at what he considered the dilatory tactics of the Central Committee, he put forward a proposal to Smilga, that the latter, as chairman of the Regional Committee of the Army, Navy and Workers of Finland, could call out troops, overthrow Kerensky, and hand over power to the Congress of Soviets.[88] Two days later, in an article entitled ‘The Crisis has Matured’, he objected to waiting for the Congress of Soviets, on the ground that time would be lost and Cossacks would be mobilised against any seizure of power.[89] He also suggested that the insurrection should be called directly by the party, rather than by the Soviets, and if necessary in Moscow, rather than in Petrograd.[90] He wrote repeatedly that “To ‘wait’ for the Congress of Soviets is idiocy ....”[91] or that “To wait for the Congress of Soviets would be a childish game of formalities, a disgraceful game of formalities, and a betrayal of the revolution.”[92]

It is not true that with these proposals, he was suggesting that Soviet democracy be rejected in favour of party dictatorship. As the proposal to Smilga showed explicitly, he wanted power to go to the Congress of Soviets. But he was apprehensive that those who were actually opposed to staging the insurrection were taking refuge behind the slogan of waiting for the Soviet Congress. At the same time, his proposals also showed his failure to understand how far the organisation of the insurrection could be assisted if it was launched in the name of the Soviets. On this issue his opponent was Trotsky, who devised a different tactical approach to the uprising.

This is an issue where Trotsky had to step gingerly. Yet he achieved his task as a historian with great dexterity. By the time he was writing, a Lenin cult was in position. He had no wish to denigrate Lenin. But he was also trying to restore his position in history.  He shows that while Lenin was the central leader of the revolution and the key figure who had turned the Bolshevik party round, he himself was not there on the ground, and therefore unaware of the precise relationship of forces. Trotsky was also fighting against the lies heaped by Stalinist professors showing that the concrete work of organising the insurrection was Lenin’s deed.

Thus, in the third volume, we find a full chapter entitled ‘Lenin summons to Insurrection’. In it, Trotsky argues:

“Besides the factories, barracks, villages, the front and, the soviets, the revolution had another laboratory: the brain of Lenin. Driven underground, Lenin was obliged for a hundred and eleven days – from July 6 to October 25 – to cut down his meetings even with members of the Central Committee. Without any immediate intercourse with the masses, and deprived of contacts with any organisations, he concentrated his thought the more resolutely upon the fundamental problems of the revolution, reducing them – as was both his rule and the necessity of his nature – to the key problems of Marxism.”[93]

 

But this does not mean that Trotsky was willing to ascribe to Lenin the single-handed power to make or unmake the insurrection. One of the present authors had, because of this chapter and similar comments, many years back, accused Trotsky of ignoring Marxist views on the role of the individual in history.[94] A careful reading shows this not to be the case. In the first place, Trotsky here is drawing attention to Lenin’s theoretical work. Rejecting the mechanical determinism of the Second International’s moderates, who often behaved as though History personified would ensure the collapse of capitalism, and who abused the criticisms levelled by Marx and Engels against minority putschism (“Blanquism”, etc) by turning them into flat rejections of the use of force in a revolution, Lenin argued that when the majority of conscious workers and their allies were willing to fight for class power, making an insurrection was a necessity, because the bourgeoisie would not hand over power. Perhaps, at this point, it is worth quoting the great revolutionary whose authority is misused to condemn the Bolsheviks. At the time of the German revolution of 1918-19, this is what Rosa Luxemburg wrote:

“From the  Deutsche Tageszeitung,  Die Vossische and Vorwärts to the independent Freiheit, from Reventlow, Erzberger and Scheidemann to Haase and Kautsky, comes a unanimous call for a National Assembly. At the same time there is a unanimous cry of fear at the idea of the power being in the hands of the working class.

All the ‘people’, the whole ‘nation’, are to be called upon to decide by majority resolution the further fate of the revolution.

This slogan is a matter of course to the open and disguised agents of the ruling classes. We shall discuss neither in the National Assembly nor about the National Assembly with the guards of the capitalists’ safes.

But even independent leaders are joining the ranks of the guards of capital in this decisive question.

In this way, as Hilferding states in Freiheit, they want to spare themselves the revolution, the use of force, the civil war with all its horrors. Petit-bourgeois illusions! They imagine that the greatest revolution since the beginning of humankind will develop in such a form that the various social classes will come together, engage in a pleasant, calm and ‘dignified’ discussion with each other, and will afterwards hold a vote, perhaps even one with a famous ‘division’. When the capitalist class sees that it is in the minority, it, as a well-disciplined parliamentary party, will declare with a sigh, There is nothing we can do! We see that we are outvoted. All right, we shall submit and hand over all our lands, factories, mines, all our fire-proof safes and our handsome profits to the workers ...”

Indeed, the species embodied by Lamartine, Garnier Pages, Ledru Rollin, namely the species of petit-bourgeois illusionists and babblers of 1848, has not died out; it has reappeared – without the lustre and talent and allure of newness – in a boring-pedantic-scholarly German edition written by Kautsky, Hilferding and Haase.”[95]

In other words, it was the theoretical position of the revolutionary left that power cannot go to the working class without open battle against the bourgeoisie, and without class power socialism could not be built. This is where Lenin made a decisive contribution in 1917, especially in opposition to those of his own comrades who fell into the trap of equating insurrections with Blanquism.

But Trotsky was also able to make two other arguments. First, even in this chapter, and then in the next, he demonstrated that Lenin did not create an insurrection out of nothing. Even less did he create the leadership of the insurrection out of nothing. He fought passionately with his comrades precisely because he knew that the Bolshevik party, built over so many years, with so many vanguard workers, could not be replaced in the middle of a revolution:

“It required a mighty confidence in the proletariat, in the party, but also a very serious mistrust of the Central Committee, in order over its head, upon his own personal responsibility, from underground, and by means of a few small sheets of notepaper minutely inscribed, to raise an agitation for an armed revolution, for an armed overthrow of the government. How could it happen that Lenin, whom we have seen at the beginning of April isolated among the leaders of his own party, found himself again solitary in the same group in September and early October? This cannot be understood if you believe the unintelligent legend which portrays the history of Bolshevism as an emanation of the pure revolutionary idea. In reality Bolshevism developed in a definite social milieu undergoing its heterogeneous influences and among them the influence of a petty bourgeois environment and of cultural backwardness. To each new situation the party adapted itself only by way of an inner crisis.

In order that the sharp pre-October struggle in the Bolshevik upper circles may come before us in a true light, it is necessary again to look back at those processes in the party of which we spoke in the first volume. This is the more necessary since exactly at this present time the faction of Stalin is making unheard-of efforts, and that, too, on an international scale, to wipe out of historic memory every recollection of how the October revolution was in reality prepared and achieved.”[96]

In the next chapter, ‘The Art of Insurrection’, Trotsky attempts to demonstrate that theoretical clarity by itself could not have made a successful insurrection. This was at the same time therefore a restatement of the historical role of Trotsky himself in October, for it was he, as the principal leader of the Petrograd Soviet, who took the actions that led to the insurrection while constantly hiding it from the enemies of the revolution.

When the old executive committee of the Petrograd Soviet had resigned, Trotsky had been elected the new chairman. From this position, he symbolised Bolshevism to the mass of workers and soldiers. Also, from this position, he was better able to feel the pulse of the workers and soldiers. He was sanguine that for the insurrection to succeed, it had to be made through the Petrograd Soviet. The Central Committee majority, while agreeing on the need for an insurrection, likewise differed with Lenin’s tactical Proposals. On October 15, there was a meeting of the Central Committee, the Petersburg Committee and other prominent activists. The discussions revealed that many activists, including some who had been to the left of Lenin during the July Days, felt that an uprising in the name of the party would not get adequate popular support.[97] The next day, there was a meeting of the Central Committee which Lenin could at last attend. There too, reports were presented that showed that an uprising organised by the Petrograd Soviet would be more popular than one organised by the party.[98]

In many Soviets, the majority was left, but not purely Bolshevik. The leftists included Left SRs, anarchists (mainly in factory committees, but also in a few Soviets like Kronstadt), leftwing Mensheviks, etc. The left SR support was vital above all, for they represented the revolutionary peasantry. Another reason for sticking to the Soviets was that the long established dual power tradition could be used to screen offensive moves. Thus, when a rumour arose concerning a counter-revolutionary plan to abandon the capital, Trotsky formally proposed an all out opposition to any transfer of seat of the government out of Petrograd. On October 11, he spoke before the Congress of Northern Soviets: “Our government can run away from Petrograd, but the revolutionary people will never leave Petrograd.”[99]The Petrograd Soviet became aware that Kerensky was trying to transfer many of the military units out of Petrograd. The Executive Committee of the Soviet decided to respond by creating a Committee of Defence, soon to be renamed Military Revolutionary Committee. This was an executive organ of the Petrograd Soviet, and the tasks given to it included both defensive and offensive ones.[100] Trotsky did not move according to a set plan, but improvised, using events as they came up.  A delegation of workers came to him and said that they needed weapons, which an arms factory would supply if the Soviet ordered it. Trotsky gave an initial order for five thousand rifles, which was immediately complied with.[101] In the same way, the Garrison Conference of October 18, saw almost the entire garrison declaring their readiness to come out at the call of the Petrograd Soviet.[102]On the same day, Trotsky issued a declaration: 

“I declare in the name of the Soviet: we have not been planning any kind of armed initiative. However, if the course of events forced the Soviet to take an initiative, workers and soldiers would respond....  at the first attempt.... to disrupt the Congress of Soviet.... we shall answer with a counter attack.[103]

 

This gave the complete definition of the intended insurrection a political offensive under the formula of military defence. The All Russia Central Executive Committee postponed the Soviet Congress by six days at last moment. The Petrograd Soviet put the six days to good use.  On the night of October 21, General Polkovnikov, in charge of the Petrograd garrison, refused to allow any access to the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet.   The Military Revolutionary Committee responded by calling on the soldiers not to accept any directive unless countersigned by it.[104] On October 23, Trotsky won over the garrison at the Peter and Paul Fortress and the Kronverk Arsenal.[105]As yet, every step had been taken by pointing to the quite genuine counter revolutionary threat and calling for defence. Trotsky’s strategy was thus covered by Soviet legality. He was aware that the masses were in favour of action by the Soviets. By October 24, when the insurrection began, it had been virtually secured. The government’s attempt at this stage, to close down the Bolshevik press, provided the perfect scope. The Military Revolutionary Committee stated, on the same day that “Two revolutionary papers, Rabochii Put and Soldat, have been closed down by the plotters from the General staff. The Soviet will not tolerate the strangling of free speech.[106] The insurrection had begun. The deceptive ruses were intended for the enemy. For the working masses, at each stage the Bolsheviks proclaimed the goal of Soviet power, and explained that it could be established by overthrowing the Provisional Government.

In his The History, Trotsky explains the nature of class-party relationship as it had developed on the eve of the revolution:

“The Party set the Soviets in motion, the Soviets set in motion the workers, soldiers and to some extent the peasantry. What was gained in mass was lost in speed. If you represent this conducting apparatus as a system of cog-wheels ...... the impatient attempt to connect the party directly with the gigantic wheel of the masses - omitting the medium sized wheel of the Soviets — would have given rise to the danger of breaking the teeth of the party wheel, and nevertheless not setting sufficiently large masses in motion.”[107]

 

It has been remarked that:

“In so far as the October insurrection meant a total rupture with the remnants of the Tsarist state, as well as the emerging bourgeois state, the revolution’s victory meant, not a continuity of the old legality, but its destruction, however peaceful the revolution might be. But, the degree of Bolsheviks’ commitment to Soviet democracy and Soviet legality is a different matter. As long as there existed Provisional Government, claiming (though with indifferent success) the allegiance of the troops, it was pointless to imagine that a Congress of Soviets could meet and decide to take over power, without meeting armed resistance from the government.”[108]

The political leadership of the insurrection certainly came from the Bolsheviks, whose Central Committee had decided on it. But the party acted democratically through the Soviet. Trotsky has sometimes been accused of Soviet legalism. It is possible to argue that as the President of the Petrograd Soviet, he was aware that the working class could / should not be duped. Charges of this kind actually reveal a substitutionist attitude, with the working class being treated as a backward mass fit only to be led by the Party.

The decision for going ahead with the insurrection on the eve of the Soviet Congress, rather than after it gave a formal sanction, was based on an awareness that what decision the Second Congress of Soviets would adopt depended on who controlled the guns. As recent history shows repeatedly, even an anti-dictatorial democratic struggle, whether in Thailand or in Egypt, has to face this hurdle, the question of the armed forces. There was no coup involved in October, but the guns had to be won over.

Conclusion

The October Revolution was a tremendous act of social emancipation. It ended centuries of tsarist oppression along with the extremely exploitative capitalist development of Russia. It liberated the peasants and the nationalities. It aroused the masses to political life, and provided inspiration to a whole generation. The democratic and socialist ideals of October did not only attract the exploited and oppressed masses. They also inspired the best of the artists and intellectuals, who were irresistibly drawn to the cause of the Revolution. Going beyond Russian borders, the October revolution inspired radicals fighting for national liberation and social emancipation everywhere. Virendranath Chattopadhyay, the Indian revolutionary, a member of the Berlin Committee, testified that they were electrified when the Bolshevik tribune talked about the liberation of colonies at the negotiations of Brest Litovsk in March 1918. In an age when Stalinists are becoming upholders of neo-liberalism, when cynicism is rampant, when the very idea of building a new and better world is met with knowing sneers it is difficult to imagine the spirit of liberation that was born out of the Russian Revolution.

For all the horrors of Stalinism, the October Revolution proved in practice the superiority of a nationalized planned economy. It proved that it was possible to run the economy of a vast country without landlords, bankers and private capitalists. In the words of Leon Trotsky, it proved the superiority of socialism, not in the language of Marx's Capital but in the language of cement, iron, steel, coal and electricity. Thanks to the colossal advantages of a nationalized planned economy, the USSR made notable strides forward in education, science, art and culture. A land where large sections of the population had been illiterate before October experienced a cultural revolution like no other in previous history. The discourse and the actuality of women’s liberation, under the greatly difficult situations of civil war, economic isolation, and the legacy of backwardness, were well integrated into the project of socialist construction until the rise of Stalinism and the consequent partial reversal of the gains of women.

The Stalinist bureaucracy that usurped power however was a major impediment. In the long run, as scholars like H. H. Ticktin have shown, it ruined the economy[109].And ultimately it turned to capitalist restoration to preserve its privileges and transform them into lasting class power – in the name of democratic revolutions in the USSR, and some East European countries, and in the name of the party in China.

And what have the admirers of capitalism got to say about Russia today? The restoration of capitalism has not conferred any benefits on the peoples of the former USSR. As Trotsky predicted, the return to capitalism in the Soviet Union has caused an unprecedented decline in the productive forces and culture. In place of the monstrous corrupt regime of the Stalinist bureaucracy, we have the even more monstrous and corrupt regime of Putin. There can be no return to the conditions of 1917. But for working people anywhere, resistance to neoliberal capitalism must lead to reassertion of class power, class democracy. For this, re-learning the lessons of what really happened during the Russian revolution is vital, and no book is more suitable for that than Trotsky’s great history.

 

 



[1] The Trotsky biographies are, Robert Service, Trotsky, A Biography (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), Ian D. Thatcher, Trotsky (London: Routledge, 2003), Geoffrey Swain Trotsky, Longman, 2006. For critiques of the biographies see Paul Le Blanc, “Second Assassination of Leon Trotsky,” Links, International Journal of Socialist Renewal, December 25, 2009 (http://links.org.au/node/1440); Thomas Twiss and Paul Le Blanc, “Revolutionary Betrayed: Leon Trotsky and His Biographer,” International Socialist Review, issue 71, May-June 2010; and David North, Leon Trotsky & the Post-Soviet School of Historical Falsification [Oak Park, MI: Mehring Books, 2007].

Serious recent works on Trotsky’s Marxism and aspects of his life and work see Kunal Chattopadhyay, The Marxism of Leon Trotsky (Kolkata: Progress Publishers, 2006); Bill Dunn and Hugo Radice, eds., 100 Years of Permanent Revolution, Results and Prospects (London: Pluto Press, 2006); Ernest Mandel, Trotsky As Alternative (London: Verso, 1995); Michael Löwy, The Politics of Combined and Uneven Development (Chicago, IL: Haymarket, 2010).

[2]For Cold War histories that claim/ed that the Bolsheviks were a minority bent on seizing power in an undemocratic manner, see L Schapiro, The Origin of the Communist Autocracy, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966); Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution, (New York: Knopff. 1990). For the most popular post-Cold War account along that tradition see Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924, (London: Jonathan Cape, 1996). Figes is different from the earlier Cold Warriors, not in his assessment of the evils of the Russian revolution, but in his rejection of those historians’ views that the masses were passive tools. Instead, he argues, it was to degenerate into dictatorship and violence precisely because it was a people’s revolution. The people, you see, were barbaric. Simon Schama must be applauding from his corner. See Simon Schama, Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. (New York: Vintage Books, 1990). For orthodox Stalinist historiography, see the classic work, Isaac Izrailevich Mints, Istoriia Velikogo Oktiabria, 3 vols. (Moscow: Izdatelstvo Nauka, 1967-72).

 

[3]Leon Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, (Delhi: Aakar Books. 2011), pp. 17-18. Hereafter all quotations from the History will be from this edition, and by page.

[4] Ibid, p.21.

[5] Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy: pp 112-113.

[6] Leopold Henri Haimson, “The Problem of Political and Social Stability in Urban Russia, 1905-1917,” Slavic Review 23 (Dec. 1964): 619-642 and Slavic Review 24 (March 1965): 1-22

[7]William G. Rosenberg, Liberals in the Russian Revolution: The Constitutional Democratic Party 1917-1921, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974).

[8]V.E. Bonnell, Roots of Rebellion, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983); D. Koenker; Moscow Workers and the 1917 Revolution, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981);  D. Mandel; The Petrograd Workers’ and the Fall of the Old Regime, (London:MacMillan, 1984); The Petrograd Workers and the Soviet Seizure of Power, (London:MacMillan, 1984); Factory Committees and Workers’ Control in Petrograd in 1917, (Montreuil: IIRE, 1993).

[9]Paul Le Blanc, Lenin and the Revolutionary Party, (New York: Humanity Books, 1993); Soma Marik, Reinterrogating the Classical Marxist Discourses of Revolutionary Democracy,  (Delhi: Aakar Books, 2008).

[10]Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Outcast: 1929–1940 (New York: Vintage Books, 1963), p. 125

[11]L. Trotsky,  Stalinskaya shkola falsifikatsii, in Voprosy Istorii, no. 7, 1989.

[12]On this see George Novack, Understanding History (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1972); Michael Lowy, The Politics of Combined and Uneven Development: The Theory of Permanent Revolution, (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2010), and Kunal Chattopadhyay, The Marxism of Leon Trotsky.

[13]Leon Trotsky, History, pp. 26-27.

[14]Ibid, p 33.

[15]Ibid

[16]Ibid, pp. 72-84.

[17]Ibid, p. 116.

[18]Ibid, p.92.

[19]This traditional view has however been questioned by John Sweetman, Tannenberg 1914, (London:Cassell, 2002). But Dennis Showalter, Tannenberg: Clash of Empires, 1914, ( Hamden, Connecticut: Archon, 1991); as well as a number of other scholars argue that Younger Moltke was so much anxious about the pace of Russian advance in East Prussia that he weakened the right wing of the German push along Belgium leading to Von Kluck's defeat at Marne.

[20]Leon Trotsky, History,p.40.

[21] Ibid, p.165.

[22] Ibid. pp.124-125 .

[23] One can mention a number of historians. In particular, it is possible to talk about Richard Pipes, a scholar who worked as an analyst for the CIA. See Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution. For critiques of Pipes’ view that the October Revolution was, rather than a popular general uprising, a coup foisted upon the majority of the Russian population and the national minorities, by a tiny segment of the population driven by a select group of intelligentsia who subsequently established a “totalitarian” dictatorship which was intolerant and repressive from the start, see David C. Engerman, Know your enemy. The rise and fall of America's Soviet experts. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) See also Peter Kenez,  ‘The Prosecution of Soviet History: A Critique of Richard Pipes' The Russian RevolutionThe Russian Review, vol. 50, 1991, pp. 345-51.

[24]Leon Trotsky, History, p.141

[25]This discussion has been summarized in Soma Marik, Reinterrogating the Classical Marxist Discourses, pp.321-23.

[26]Trotsky, pp.169-70.

[27]Ibid., p.171

[28] This has been done in Kunal Chattopadhyay, Leninism and Permanent Revolution, Antar Rashtriya Prakashan, Baroda, 1987; as well as in Kunal Chattopadhyay, The Marxism of Leon Trotsky. See also the editors’ introduction in Kunal Chattopadhyay, Anindya Banerjee and Saurobijoy Sarkar Eds, Leon Trotsky, Permanent Revolution and Results and Prospects, Aakar Books, Delhi, 2006

[29] Doug Lorimer, Trotsky's Theory of Permanent Revolution—a Leninist Critique, Resistance Books, Sydney, 1998.

[30] On this, see Soma Marik, Reinterrogating the Classical Marxist Discourses, pp. 328-330, 333-335, 338-340.

[31] John Reed, Ten Days That Shook the World, London: Penguin (1977), p. 128

[32] Trotsky, History, p. 305.

[33] Ibid., p.321.

[34] Ibid, p.457.

[35] Ibid, p.462.

[36] This has been discussed at length in Marik, Reinterrogating…, and in a number of specialized articles like Soma Marik (2004), ‘Gendering the Revolutionary Party’, in B. Chaqtterjee and K. Chattopadhyay (Eds), Perspectives on Socialism, Kolkata, Progressive Publishers, pp. 13-50; Soma Marik (1999), ‘Biplabi Dal o Linga Samata’, in P. Majumdar (Ed.), Loukik Udyan – Manabi Sankhya, Kolkata: UBI Staff welfare and Cultural Society, pp. 379-406.

[37] See M. Donald, ‘Bolshevik Activity Amongst the Working Women of Petrograd in 1917’, International Review of Social History, vol.XXVII, 1982. See also Pravda, 7 May 1917 and 31 May 1917.

[38] Pervyi legalnyi komitet Bolshevikov v 1917g, Moscow, 1927, p.33.

[39] Ibid., p.40

[40] Lyudmilla Stal, a prominent Bolshevik woman, made this point later in her memoirs of 1917. See M. Donald, ‘Bolshevik Activity Amongst the Working Women of Petrograd in 1917’, p.137.

[41] Ibid., p.139.

[42] See Pravda, 26.11.1917.

[43] Rabotnitsa, 30 May 1917.

[44]B. Evans Clements, Bolshevik Women, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, pp. 132-3.

[45] W. G. Rosenberg, Liberals in the Russian Revolution: The Constitutional Democratic Party, 1917-1921, Princeton Univ Pr (June 1974)

 

[46] Trotsky, History, vol II, p.515.

[47] Ibid, p.516.

[48] Ibid, pp. 626, 629-30.

[49] Ibid, p. 653.

[50]Ibid, p.658.

[51]Ibid.p. 659.

[52]Ibid, pp.706-7.

[53]Ibid, p. 739.

[54]Ibid, p. 733.

[55] For similar views see particularly Charles Bettelheim (1976), for whom “The establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat means that the proletariat sets itself up as the ruling class and this cannot be done through organs of the soviet type, which are mass organisations, or through state organs exclusively derived from these. The constitution of the proletariat as ruling class is necessarily effected through an apparatus that is specifically proletarian in ideology and aims, and in the role of leadership and unification that it plays in relation to the masses. ‘In other words, through a proletarian party that plays this leading role, politically and ideologically, and plays it, too, in relation to the machinery od state issuing from the mass organisation”. Class Struggle in the USSR, First Period 1917-1923. New York: Monthly Review Press, p. 109.

[56] V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition, volume 24, Moscow, 1980, Progress Publishers, hereafter cited in the form LCW:  24, pp. 145-6.

[57] Based on data in Voprosy Istorii KPSS, no.2, 1958.

[58] V.I. Lenin, ‘On Compromises’ in LCW: 25, pp.310-14.

[59] V. V. Kutuzov, ed., Velikaia Oktiabrskaia Sotsialisticheskaia Revolutsiia — Khronika Sobytii. , Moscow, 1957, vol.3, p.226. The SRs had 40, giving the Bolsheviks a clear lead over the combined Menshevik-SR bloc.

[60] A. Andreyev, The Soviets of Workers and Soldiers Deputies on the eve of the October Revolution, Moscow, 1971, p.260.

[61] L. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, vol.2, p. 781.

[62] Ibid, p.806 gives the voting figures.

[63] Ibid., p.804.

[64] Ibid., p. 805.

[65] A. Andreyev, The Soviets of Workers and Soldiers Deputies on the eve of the October Revolution, p.263.

[66] L.Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, vol.2, p.803.

[67] O. Anweiler, The Soviets, p.179.

[68] The text of the resolution is in Vtoroi Vesrossiiskii Sezd Sovetov , Moscow, 1957, pp.119-20. It gives 22 September as the date. O. Anweiler, The Soviets, p.181 gives the date as 21 September.

[69] For a nearly complete checklist, see Vtoroi Vserossiiskii S”ezd Sovetov, pp.121-216.

[70] Apart from Anweiler and Trotsky, see A. Rabinowitch, The Bolsheviks Come to Power, New York 1976.

[71] M. Ferro, The Bolshevik Revolution, London, 1985, Routledge and Kegan Paul, p.233.

[72] L.Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, vol.2, p. 839, Ferro, The Bolshevik Revolution, p,233 gives somewhat different figures.

[73] L. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, vol.2, p.841; M. Ferro, The Bolshevik Revolution, p.233.

[74] L. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, vol 3, p 872.

[75]Ibid., p.871.

[76] Ibid, p.888.

[77]Ibid, p. 891.

[78] V.I. Lenin, ‘The Bolsheviks must assume power’ in LCW: 26, Moscow, 1977, p.19.

[79] R. Schlesinger, History of the Communist Party of the USSR , pp.121-2, rejects the view that Lenin found the Central Committee, or large parts of it, as a hindrance, saying that it is a Trotskyist myth, Trotsky’s own detailed account is in L. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, vol.3, pp. 975- 1016. As we have argued, Trotsky did not make as simplistic a claim as Schlesinger implies.

[80] LCW: 26, p.20.

[81] Ibid, pp.22-4

[82] The Bolsheviks and the October Revolution, Minutes of the Central Committee of the Russia Social Democratic Labour party (Bolsheviks), August 1917 — February 1918, London, Pluto Press, 1974, translated by Anne Bone, with additional notes by T. Cliff, p.58.

[83] Ibid., p.69

[84] Quoted in L.Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, vol.2, p.839.

[85] The Bolsheviks and the October Revolution, p.78.

[86] Rabochii Put, October 8, 1917, English translation in The Bolsheviks...., pp.79-81.

[87] L. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, vol.2, p.841.

[88] LCW: 26, p.70

[89] Ibid., p.83.

[90] V.I. Lenin, ‘Letter to the Central Committee, the Moscow and Petrograd Committees and the Bolshevik Members of the Petrograd and Moscow Soviets, in ibid., pp.20-21, 58, 80-81, 141.

[91] Ibid., p.141.

[92] Ibid., p.83.

[93] L.Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, vol.3, p. 975.

[94]Kunal Chattopadhyay, ‘Rus Biplaber Oitihasiker Bhumikaye Trotsky’, [Trotsky as Historian of the Russian Revolution] Arani, 1977-78, pp.72-85, especially pp.83-84. Reading the essay, Professor Sushovan Sarkar , the founder of Marxist historiography in Bengal, had argued that this was a rather mechanical view of the materialist conception of history. He argued that leadership is something that develops historically, and while leadership is certainly only a link in a chain; the leadership cannot be replaced overnight.

[95]Rosa Luxemburg, ‘Die Nationalversammlung’, in Gesammelte Werke, Bd 4, Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1990, pp. 407-8. This translation is based on the translation provided by Robert Looker, edited and introduced, Rosa Luxemburg: Selected Political Writings, New Tork: Random House, 1972, pp.262-3, but somewhat modified.

[96] L.Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, vol.3, pp.138-139.

[97] See J. Bunyan and H. H. Fisher, The Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1918: Documents and Materials, Stanford, 1934, pp.69-74.

[98] The Bolsheviks and the October Revolution, pp.97-99.

[99] Leon Trotsky Speaks, Pathfinder Press, New York, 1972, p.59

[100] L.Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, vol.3, pp.950-52.

[101] Ibid, p.949

[102] Ibid, pp. 954-55.

[103] M. Macauley, ed, The Russian Revolution and the Soviet State 1917-1921: Documents, London, 1988, pp.119-21

[104] Leon Trotsky Speaks, pp.67-8

[105] N. N. Sukhanov (1955) (Tr. And Ed, Joel /Carmichael), The Russian Revolution, London: Oxford University Press, pp.595-6.

[106] Bunyan and Fisher, The Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1918: Documents and Materials, p.86.

[107] L. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, vol.3, p. 1130.

[108] Soma Marik, Reinterrogating , p. 356

[109] Ticktin has written extensively on the Soviet Union and its breakdown. See for example H H Ticktin: Origins of the Crisis in the USSR: Political Economy of the disintegration of a system, Myron Sharpe, Armonk, 1992. For a positive appreciation of Ticktin and a critique of earlier approaches (Mandel versus Tony Cliff, etc), see Marcel van der Linden, Western Marxism and the Soviet Union, Chicago, Haymarket Books, 2009.