Russian Revolution (1917)
The Russian Revolution remains one of the most significant events of revolutionary history. The depth of expropriation of capital and working class self-organisation, it’s long-term effects on the twentieth century via Stalinism and the Cold War, and it’s context within the period 1905-1926 when revolution appeared to be on the cards internationally remains one of the very high points of class struggle. An understanding of the Russian Revolution, and the many questions it raises about the role of revolutionary organisations, workers’ control, the development of state capitalism and counter-revolution is essential to an understanding of the dynamics of revolution and class conflict for any who are remotely interested in these subjects.As a result of it’s significance, the history of the Russian Revolution has been a site of massive ideological conflict, between anti-Communist and Communist; anarchist and Leninist; Trotskyist and Stalinist; with a whole range of differing interpretations and outright mis-representations of events. At libcom.org, although we have sympathy with the anarchist and “ultra left” positions on the revolution we have attempted to present articles which cut through many of the traditional cliches, instead focusing on the the self-activity of the working class and peasantry in seizing control of production and an analysis of the role of both Bolshevik, anarchist and other political groups; in other words attempting to avoid the common trap of picking a side and sticking with it. The failure of the Russian Revolution revolution cannot be put down simplistically to the personalities of Lenin and Trotsky (or Marx), nor the ‘material conditions’ of civil war and ‘backwardness’ relied on by Leninist interpretations, but must be situated within Bolshevism’s origins in Social Democracy and the inability of anarchist and grass-roots workers’ organisations to defend themselves ideologically and physically from the Bolsheviks’ incorporation into a new repressive state capitalist apparatus.Although we are presenting this feature close to the anniversary of the October Revolution, you will notice very little on this site dealing with October itself. The Russian Revolution is best understood as a process which began with mass class struggle and the fall of Tsarism in February along with an upsurge in working class self-organisation with the development of the soviets, militias and factory committees across Russia and the Ukraine, then the internal counter-revolution which the Bolsheviks launched almost immediately after October, repressing workers’ organisation and political opposition, and culminating in the suppression of the Kronstadt uprising and the development of Stalinism in the ’20s.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 was a political movement in Russia that climaxed in 1917 with the overthrow of the Provisional Government that had replaced the Russian Tsar system, and led to the establishment of the Soviet Union, which lasted until its collapse in 1991.
The Revolution can be viewed in two distinct phases:
- The first was that of the February Revolution of 1917, which displaced the autocracy of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, the last effective Tsar of Russia, and sought to establish in its place a liberal republic.
- The second phase was the October Revolution, in which the Soviets, inspired and increasingly controlled by Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik party, seized power from the Provisional Government. This second revolution was especially widesweeping, affected both urban areas and the countryside. While many notable historical events occurred in Moscow and St.Petersburg, there was also a broadbased movement in the rural areas as peasants seized and redistributed land.
The underlying causes of the Russian Revolution are rooted deep in Russia’s history. For centuries, autocratic and repressive czarist regimes ruled the country and most of the population lived under severe economic and social conditions. During the 19th century and early 20th century various movements aimed at overthrowing the oppressive government were staged at different times by students, workers, peasants, and members of the nobility. Two of these unsuccessful movements were the 1825 revolt against Nicholas I and the revolution of 1905, both of which were attempts to establish a constitutional monarchy. Russia’s badly organized and unsuccessful involvement in World War I (1914-1918) added to popular discontent with the government’s corruption and inefficiency. In 1917 these events resulted in the fall of the czarist government and the establishment of the Bolshevik Party, a radical offshoot of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, as the ruling power
People were frustrated with Russia’s social, economic, and political situation. More importantly, people were distressed by the fact that there was no competent leader who could get them out of this mess.
- The Revolution of 1905 did not bring any lasting changes, but it sure whetted the citizens’ appetite for civil rights.
- World War I fueled public discontent when the Russian army, led by an incompetent Czar, lost battle after battle.
- Meanwhile at home, Tsarina Alexandra, who grew up as a German princess, added insult to injury. In Nicholas’ absence, she fired qualified personnel, replaced it by knuckleheads, and declared controversial character Rasputin a saint.
Consequently, her subjects spread the word that she was a German spy and a nymphomaniac in liaison with Rasputin, who had his own sinister agenda and who had made Nicholas his puppet on a string.
- In addition, food shortages became even more severe and the inflation rate went up.
- The tsar seemed unable to improve conditions and was stubbornly unwilling to explore other options.
In 1912, the Social Democrats split into two camps–the radical Bolsheviks and the comparatively moderate Menshiviks. In 1914, another disastrous war once again brought on a crisis. If the Russo-Japanese war had been costly and unpopular, it was at least remote. The First World War, however, took place right on Russia’s western doorstep. Unprepared militarily or industrially, the country suffered demoralizing defeats, suffered severe food shortages, and soon suffered an economic collapse. By February of 1917, the workers and soldiers had had enough. Riots broke out in St. Petersburg, then called Petrograd, and the garrison there mutinied. Workers soviets were set up, and the Duma approved the establishment of a Provisional Government to attempt to restore order in the capital. It was soon clear that Nicholas possessed no support, and on March 2 he abdicated the throne in favor of his brother Michael. No fool, Michael renounced his claim the next day. The Provisional Government set up by the Duma attempted to pursue a moderate policy, calling for a return to order and promising reform of worker’s rights. However, it was unwilling to endorse the most pressing demand of the soviets–an immediate end to the war. For the next 9 months, the Provisional Government, first under Prince Lvov and then under Alexandr Kerensky, unsuccessfully attempted to establish its authority. In the meanwhile, the Bolsheviks gained increasing support from the ever more frustrated soviets. On October 25, led by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, they stormed the Winter Palace and deposed the Kerensky government. Although the Bolsheviks enjoyed substantial support in St. Petersburg and Moscow, they were by no means in control of the country as a whole. They succeeded in taking Russia out of the war (though on very unfavorable terms), but within months civil war broke out throughout Russia. For the next three years the country was devastated by civil strife, until by 1920 the Bolsheviks had finally emerged victorious
The economic causes of the Russian Revolution were based largely on the Czar’s mis-management, compounded by World War I. Over fifteen million men joined the army, which left an insufficient number of workers in the factories and on the farms. The result was widespread shortages of food and materials. Factory workers had to endure terrible working conditions, including twelve to fourteen hour days and low wages. Many riots and strikes for better conditions and higher wages broke out. Although some factories agreed to the requests for higher wages, wartime inflation nullified the increase. There was one protest to which Nicholas responded with violence (see Causes: Political); in response, industrial workers went on strike and effectively paralyzed the railway and transportation networks. What few supplies were available could not be effectively transported. As goods became more and more scarce, prices skyrocketed. By 1917, famine threatened many of the larger cities. Nicholas’s failure to solve his country’s economic suffering and communism’s promise to do just that comprised the core of the Revolution.
The Russian Socialist Party, the Bolsheviks brought about dramatic changes in Russian society following the 1917 Revolution. They took advantage of the unique time and place and once they had gained control of Russia they were willing to go to any lengths to ensure they remained in power and their Socialist ideals were put into action. The social organisation in Russia was an unjust system of autocracy, resulting in a majority of discontent. Russian society consisted of large amounts of peasants who owned a small amount of the land but made up the greatest proportion of the population. Socialism, and thus the Bolsheviks, was seen as a great attraction as dramatic change was what the majority wanted to see to change this unfair social structure. Under Marxism, for a socialist state to be implemented a Revolution must take place; there must be a dramatic change in leadership and direction in a short space of time. Karl Marx’s ideal of an egalitarian socialist state where wealth and resources were divided equally appealed to the Russian masses. In March 1917, the Tsar was forced to abdicate and a Provisional Government and Soviet were established to govern the country. However they did not promise what the people wanted to hear – the Bolsheviks promised what they would not, raising their own popularity in Russia. There were many opposition groups based around Marx’s ideas of socialism during this time, although the Bolsheviks were unique. They knew what appealed to society, and their tightly-knit units meant they were equipped for what was to come, all they had to do was wait until the time was right to stage a takeover.
The social causes of the Russian Revolution mainly stemmed from centuries of oppression towards the lower classes by the Czarist regime and Nicholas’s failures in World War I. Roughly 85% of the Russian people were peasants, under harsh oppression from the upper classes and the Czarist regime. Serfdom is most often associated with the Middle Ages, yet it accurately describes the social situation in Russia under Nicholas: A small class of noble landowners controlled a vast number of indentured peasants. In 1861, Czar Alexander II of Russia emancipated these peasants not for moral reasons, but because it was preventing Russia from advancing socially. Overall, all of the aforementioned contributed to the vast discontent of the Russian citizens, which further motivated the Revolution.
The Political aspect of the Russian Revolution is essentially the combination or result of the Social and Economic problems created by the dictatorship of Czar Nicholas II. Since at least 1904, Russia’s lower class workers had faced a dire economic situation.Most of them were working 11 hour days. Health and safety provisions were dismal, and wages were falling. There were numerous strikes and protests as time went on. Almost all of these were either ignored by Nicholas or broken up, often in a violent and deadly fashion (see Bloody Sunday). His failed attempt at conquest in and around Manchuria was also very unpopular with the people. Some in the educated classes (many educated in the West) of Russia also resented the autocracy of Nicholas. In 1915, things took a critical turn for the worse when Nicholas decided to take direct command of the army, personally overseeing Russia’s main warfront and leaving his incapable wife Alexandra in charge of the government. By the end of October 1916, Russia had lost between 1.6 and 1.8 million soldiers, with an addition two million prisoners of war and one million who had gone missing, which likely did little for the army’s morale. Mutinies began to occur, and in 1916 reports of fraternizing with the enemy started to circulate. Soldiers went hungry and lacked shoes, munitions, and even weapons. Rampant discontent lowered morale, only to be further undermined by a series of military defeats. Nicholas was blamed, and what little support he had left began to crumble. As this discontent and utter hate of Nicholas grew, the State Duma (lower class of Russian parliament comprised of landowners, townspeople, industrial workers, and peasants) issued a warning to Nicholas in November 1916 stating that disaster would overtake the country unless a constitutional form of government was put in place. In typical fashion, Nicholas ignored them. As a result, Russia’s Czarist regime collapsed a few months later during the February Revolution of 1917. A year later, the Czar and his family were executed. Ultimately, Nicholas’s inept handling of his country and the War destroyed the Czarist regime and cost him both his rule and his life
In 1917 Russia went through two revolutions: February 24 – 29 and October 24 – 25. The first revolution overthrew the tsarist government and replaced it with a Provisional Government of Duma members (mostly members of the Cadet party), who allowed a Contact Commission of the Petrograd Soviet to advise the government. Protests and strikes against the new government quickly grew as Russia’s involvement in World War I lingered on, and the Provisional Government responded by establishing a Coalition Government with the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet. This Dual Power however, created a confused bureaucratic quagmire, leading the government to inaction on urgent issues such as the widespread famine and slaughter on the front. Such crisis resulted in opportunities for some to seize autocratic power, as Kerensky and General Kornilov attempted.
The February Revolution came about almost spontaneously when people of Petrograd protested against the tsarist regime because of food shortages in the city. There was also great dissatisfaction with Russia’s continued involvement in the First World War. As the protests grew, various political reformists (both liberal and radical left) started to coordinate some activity. In early February the protests turned violent as large numbers of city residents rioted and clashed with police and soldiers. When the bulk of the soldiers garrisoned in the Russian capital Petrograd joined the protests, they turned into a revolution ultimately leading to the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in a nearly bloodless transition of power.
The immediate cause of the February Revolution of 1917 was the collapse of the czarist regime under the gigantic strain of World War I. The underlying cause was the backward economic condition of the country, which made it unable to sustain the war effort against powerful, industrialized Germany. Russian manpower was virtually inexhaustible. Russian industry, however, lacked the capacity to arm, equip, and supply the some 15 million men who were sent into the war. Factories were few and insufficiently productive, and the railroad network was inadequate. Repeated mobilizations, moreover, disrupted industrial and agricultural production. The food supply decreased, and the transportation system became disorganized. In the trenches, the soldiers went hungry and frequently lacked shoes or munitions, sometimes even weapons. Russian casualties were greater than those sustained by any army in any previous war. Behind the front, goods became scarce, prices skyrocketed, and by 1917 famine threatened the larger cities. Discontent became rife, and the morale of the army suffered, finally to be undermined by a succession of military defeats. These reverses were attributed by many to the alleged treachery of Empress Alexandra and her circle, in which the peasant monk Grigory Yefimovich Rasputin was the dominant influence. When the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, protested against the inefficient conduct of the war and the arbitrary policies of the imperial government, the czar—Emperor Nicholas II—and his ministers simply brushed it aside.
Despite its occurrence at the height of World War I, the February Revolution traced its roots far beyond the immediate effects of the war. Chief among these was Imperial Russia’s failure, throughout the 19th century, to modernize its archaic social, economic and political structures. Among the key problems facing Russia in the decades before the February Revolution were:
- An inefficient, autocratic political structure, complicating attempts at reform
- An overwhelmingly rural population; 83% were peasants in 1897
- Economic and technological retardation relative to Western Europe
- Growth of opposition parties, which would provide a threat to governments that did not seem to represent the people
- An outdated and disorganized army
- A corrupt bureaucracy
From these conditions sprang considerable agitation among peasants as well as the small working and professional classes. This tension had erupted into general revolt with the 1905 Revolution, and did so again under the strain of total war in 1917.
The 1917 March Revolution occurred both because of Russian military failures during the First World War and because of public dissatisfaction with the way in which the country was being run by Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorovna of Hesse and Tsar Nicholas’s ministers, who were acting on his authority while he was away at the Army Headquarters as Commander-in-Chief. The lack of strong leadership is illustrated by a telegram from Octobrist politician Mikhail Rodzianko to the Tsar on 26 February 1917, in which Rodzianko begged for a strong, capable minister.
Much of the tension was caused by the personal assumption of military command by the Tsar. Involvement in the war was seen to be the root of most of the (primarily economic) problems Russia was experiencing internally. The public’s association of the Tsars with the unpopular war served only to worsen further his already-wavering position.When Emperor Nicholas II left for the war front he left the Tsarina in charge of running Russia. This was a big mistake because Empress Alexandra was German and therefore many Russians considered her to be a German spy. The Empress became even more unpopular among the Russians because of Grigori Rasputin’s influence on her. She presumably never agreed with the fact that Tsar Nicholas had to share his power with the Duma so now that she was in charge she acted independently and changed many parliamentarians with Rasputin’s friends. This also led to rumors that Rasputin had an affair with the Empress.
In February 1917, Russians had numerous motivations for a popular uprising: Russia was in the midst of a harsh winter; there was a concerning lack of food; and general lassitude towards the war, in the midst of the economic crisis, was prominent. At the beginning of February, Petrograd workers began several strikes and demonstrations. On February 22, workers at Putilov, Petrograd’s largest industrial plant, announced a strike. Although some clashes with the Tsar’s forces did occur, no one was injured on the opening day. The strikers were fired, and some shops closed, resulting in further unrest at other plants. The next day, a series of meetings and rallies were held for International Women’s Day, which gradually turned into economic and political gatherings. Demonstrations were organised to demand bread, and these were supported by the industrial working force who considered them a reason for continuing the strikes. The women workers marched to nearby factories bringing out over 50,000 workers on strike. By February 25th, virtually every industrial enterprise in Petrograd had been shut down, together with many commercial and service enterprises. Students, white-collar workers and teachers joined the workers in the streets and at public meetings. In the streets, red banners appeared and the crowds chanted “Down with the German woman! Down with Protopopov! Down with the war!”
Clashes with the police, who found the crowds impossible to control, resulted in numerous casualties on both sides, and demonstrators armed themselves by looting the police headquarters. On February 25, after three days of riots, the Tsar sent a large battalion of soldiers to the city to quell the uprising. Although the soldiers killed many demonstrators, they grew progressively sympathetic to the crowds, and deserted their officers to join the protesters. The addition of soldiers helped to arm the revolt, and many of them were soon firing on the hapless police, who quickly succumbed and joined the demonstrations as well.
Tsar’s Return and Abdication
Mikhail Rodzianko, Chairman of the Duma, sent the Tsar a report of the chaos in a telegram:
The capital is in chaos. The government is unable to act; the transport service is broken down; the food and fuel supplies are completely disorganised. There is wild shooting on the streets. It is urgent that a new government is formed. There must be no delay. Hesitation is fatal.
Nicholas, however, wrote a telegram to his wife on 27 February, claiming “Again, that fat-bellied Rodzianko has written me a load of nonsense, which I won’t even bother to answer.” But when the Tsar heard that his children, including the Tsarevich Alexei had contracted measles, he took a train to Petrograd on March 1. The train was instructed to divert by a group of disloyal troops. When the Tsar finally reached his destination, the Army Chiefs and his remaining ministers (those who had not fled on February 28 under pretense of a power-cut) suggested in unison that he abdicate the throne. He did so on March 2, on behalf of himself and his son, the Tsarevich. Nicholas nominated his brother, the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, to succeed him. But the Grand Duke realised that he would have little support as ruler, so he declined the crown, stating that he would take it only if that was the general consensus of an elected government. On 22 March 1917, Nicholas, no longer Tsar and addressed with contempt by the sentries as “Nicholas Romanov”, was reunited with his family at the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo. He was placed under house arrest with his family by the Provisional Government.
A provisional government was formed at the initiative of Alexander Guchkov’s Progressive Block, and took control of the Russian state apparatus, but the socialists also formed the Petrograd Soviet (or workers’ council). The Petrograd Soviet and the Provisional Government competed for the power over Russia.
Provisional Government and Petrograd’s
A new Provisional Government was formed, also called the Duma, while elections were being planned. Between February and October revolutionists attempted to foment further change, working through the Petrograd Soviet or more directly. In July, the Petrograd Bolsheviks, in combination with the Petrograd anarchists, fomented a civil revolt. This revolt failed.
On February 27 the provisional committee of the Duma announced that it would handle restoration of order, and on February 28 it placed its commissars (representatives) in charge of the ministries. The provisional committee formed the Provisional Government and demanded the abdication of the czar. Nicholas abdicated March 2 in favor of his brother, Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich. Aleksandrovich, however, stipulated that he would accept the crown only at the request of a future constituent assembly. The Provisional Government, except for the addition of the socialist leader Aleksandr Fyodorovich Kerensky, was made up of the same liberal leaders who had organized the progressive bloc in the Duma in 1915. The prime minister, Prince Georgy Yevgenyevich Lvov, was a wealthy landowner and a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party (Kadets), which favored an immediate constitutional monarchy and ultimately a republic. Lvov was largely a figurehead; the outstanding personality in the Provisional Government until early May was Pavel Milyukov, minister of foreign affairs and strongest leader of the Kadets since its founding in 1905. He played the principal role in formulating policy. Kerensky, the minister of justice, who had been leader of the Trudovik (“laborite”) faction in the Duma, was the only representative of moderate socialist opinion in the Provisional Government.
The October Revolution was led by Lenin and was based upon the ideas of Karl Marx. It marked the beginning of the spread of communism in the twentieth century. It was far less sporadic than the revolution of February and came about as the result of deliberate planning and coordinated activity to that end. The financial and logistical assistance of German intelligence via their key agent, Alexander Parvus was a key component as well.
On October 24 – 25 the Bolshevik party led Russian workers and peasants to revolution, under the slogan of: “All power to the Soviets”. On October 25 – 26, the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets met and created the Soviet Government through the elections of a new Council of People’s Commissars and Central Executive Committee. The new government resolved to begin construction on a Socialist society, but soon encountered extreme obstacles: while attempting to come to peace with all warring nations, only Germany agreed to peace (see the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk). When World War I ended, fresh off the battlefields of the Western Front, the Entente powers (US, UK, France, Japan, etc) invaded Russia from all directions, assisted by tsarist generals and provisional government politicians. A four year Civil War ravaged the country with catastrophic famine and casualties, forcing the government to adopt War Communism in order to survive. By the end of the war, a devastated Russia began to slowly rebuild with such programs as the NEP.
Initially, the event was referred to as the October coup (Октябрьский переворот) or the Uprising of 25th, as seen in contemporary documents (for example, in the first editions of Lenin’s complete works). With time, the term October Revolution came into use – it is also known as the “November Revolution,” having occurred in November according to the Gregorian Calendar – and the event became seen as an event of major importance.
The Great October Socialist Revolution (Russian: Великая Октябрьская Социалистическая Революция, Velikaya Oktyabr’skaya sotsialisticheskaya revolyutsiya) was the official name for the October Revolution in the Soviet Union [Советский Союз] after the 10th anniversary of the Revolution in 1927
On 10 October JC (all dates hereafter are from the Julian calendar unless otherwise noted), the Bolsheviks’ Central Committee voted 10-2 for a resolution saying that “an armed uprising is inevitable, and that the time for it is fully ripe”.
On 23 October 1917 (November 5 by the Gregorian calendar (GC)), Bolshevik leader Jaan Anvelt led his leftist revolutionaries in an uprising in Tallinn, the capital of the Autonomous Governorate of Estonia. On 25 October (7 November GC) 1917, Bolsheviks led their forces in the uprising in Saint Petersburg (then known as Petrograd), the capital of Russia, against the ineffective Kerensky Provisional Government.For the most part, the revolt in Petrograd was bloodless, with the Red Guards led by Bolsheviks taking over major government facilities with little opposition before finally launching an assault on the Winter Palace on the night of 25/26 October. The assault led by Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko was launched at 9:45 p.m. signaled by a blank shot from the cruiser Aurora. (The Aurora was placed in Petrograd (modern Saint Petersburg) and still stands there now.) The Winter Palace was guarded by Cossacks, cadets (military students), and a Women’s Battalion. It was taken at about 2 a.m. The earlier date was made the official date of the Revolution, when all offices except the Winter Palace had been taken.
Later official accounts of the revolution from the Soviet Union would depict the events in October as being far more dramatic than they actually had been. (See firsthand account by British General Knox). This was helped by the historical reenactment, entitled The Storming of the Winter Palace staged in 1920. This reenactment, watched by 100,000 spectators, provided the model for official films made much later, which showed a huge storming of the Winter Palace and fierce fighting (See Sergei Eisenstein’s October: Ten Days That Shook the World). In reality the Bolshevik insurgents faced little or no opposition. The insurrection was timed and organized to hand state power to the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, which began on 25 October. After a single day of revolution eighteen people had been arrested and two had been killed.
The Second Congress of Soviets consisted of 670 elected delegates; 300 were Bolshevik and nearly a hundred were Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who also supported the overthrow of the Kerensky Government. When the fall of the Winter Palace was announced, the Congress adopted a decree transferring power to the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, thus ratifying the Revolution. The transfer of power was not without disagreement. The center and Right wings of the Socialist Revolutionaries as well as the Mensheviks believed that Lenin and the Bolsheviks had illegally seized power and they walked out before the resolution was passed. As they exited, they were taunted by Leon Trotsky who told them “You are pitiful isolated individuals; you are bankrupts; your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on — into the dustbin of history!” The following day, the Congress elected a Council of People’s Commissars (Sovnarkom) as the basis of a new Soviet Government, pending the convocation of a Constituent Assembly, and passed the Decree on Peace and the Decree on Land. This new government was also officially called “provisional” until the Assembly was dissolved.
The Council of People’s Commissars now began to arrest the leaders of opposition parties. Dozens of Kadet leaders and members of the Russian Constituent Assembly were imprisoned in The Peter and Paul Fortress. These were to be followed by the arrests of Socialist-Revolutionary Party and Menshevik leaders. On 20 December 1917 the Cheka was created by the decree of Lenin. These were the beginnings of the Bolshevik’s consolidation of power over their political opponents.
The Decree on Land ratified the actions of the peasants who throughout Russia seized private land and redistributed it among themselves. The Bolsheviks viewed themselves as representing an alliance of workers and peasants and memorialized that understanding with the Hammer and Sickle on the flag and coat of arms of the Soviet Union.
- All Russian banks were nationalized.
- Private bank accounts were confiscated.
- The Church’s properties (including bank accounts) were seized.
- All foreign debts were repudiated.
- Control of the factories was given to the soviets.
- Wages were fixed at higher rates than during the war, and a shorter, eight-hour working day was introduced.
Bolshevik-led attempts to seize power in other parts of the Russian Empire were largely successful in Russia proper — although the fighting in Moscow lasted for two weeks — but they were less successful in ethnically non-Russian parts of the Empire, which had been clamoring for independence since the February Revolution. For example, the Ukrainian Rada, which had declared autonomy on 23 June 1917, created the Ukrainian People’s Republic on 20 November, which was supported by the Ukrainian Congress of Soviets. This led to an armed conflict with the Bolshevik government in Petrograd and, eventually, a Ukrainian declaration of independence from Russia on 25 January 1918. In Estonia, two rival governments emerged: the Estonian Provincial Assembly proclaimed itself the supreme legal authority of Estonia on 28 November 1917 and issued the Declaration of Independence on 24 February 1918, while an Estonian Bolshevik sympathizer, Jaan Anvelt, was recognized by Lenin’s government as Estonia’s leader on 8 December, although forces loyal to Anvelt controlled only the capital. The success of the October Revolution transformed the Russian state from parliamentarian to socialist in character. A coalition of anti-Bolshevik groups including invading armies from the victorious Allies attempted to unseat the new government in the Russian Civil War from 1918 to 1922.The United States did not recognize the new Russian government until 1933. In an attempt to reverse the gains of the revolution, the United States and other Western powers attacked and occupied parts of the Soviet Union for over two years before finally withdrawing. The European powers recognized the Soviet Union in the early 1920s and began to engage in business with it after the New Economic Policy (NEP) was implemented.
Soviet in Memoriam of the Event
The term Red October (Красный Октябрь, Krasnyy Oktyabr) has also been used to describe the events of the month. This name has in turn been lent to a steel factory made notable by the Battle of Stalingrad, a Moscow sweets factory that is well-known in Russia, and a fictional Soviet submarine. Sergei Eisenstein’s film October describes and glorifies the revolution and was commissioned to commemorate the event.7 November, the anniversary of the October Revolution, was an official holiday in the Soviet Union and still is in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan.The October revolution of 1917 also marks the inception of the first Communist government in Russia. After this Russia became the Russian SFSR and later part of the USSR, which dissolved in 1991. The Russian SFSR still existed, but in 1991—1993 it was transformed from a Soviet republic into the modern semi-presidential Russian Federation.
The Russian Revolution and the World
There are some who say that the Russian revolution was intended to spread across the world. Lenin and Trotsky said that the goal of socialism in Russia would not be realized without the success of the world proletariat in other countries, e.g. without German Revolution. However, till this day, this issue is subject to conflicting views on the communist history by various Marxist groups and parties.Some state that it was Stalin who was the first to later reject this idea, stating that socialism was possible in one country.Others counter that this was simply an excuse for Stalin and his followers to push back democratic gains won during the revolution and consolidate his bureaucratic dictatorship.The confusion regarding Stalin’s position on the issue stems from the fact that he, after Lenin’s death in 1924, successfully used Lenin’s argument – the argument that socialism’s success needs the workers of other countries in order to happen – to defeat his competitors within the party by accussing them of betraying Lenin and, therefore, the ideals of the October Revolution. He also had many of them executed during the great purge.
The two revolutions in 1917 were of different character. The first was a spontaneous revolution made by the masses. They hated the reactionary monarchy for its suppression of personal liberty and its general backwardness. The Provisional Government, soon set up, consisted chiefly of liberal bourgeoisie. (The Social Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks joined the Provisional Government only after July 1917). They wanted to create a democratic republic similar to that of the United States and France. They wanted to give to the Russians those political liberties and civil liberties as enjoyed by the Western countries. They regarded Russia as an ally of the western democratic nations and deemed it necessary to continue the war against Germany. But the middle class had neglected the land hunger and war-weariness of the masses.The masses gradually turned to the Bolsheviks. The peasants welcomed the Bolsheviks’ slogan ‘peace, land and bread’. The workers welcomed the Bolsheviks’ slogan ‘All power to the Soviets’. Popularity of the Bolsheviks increased when there was rapid inflation at home and more military defeats at the front. The number of party members increased tenfold between January and August 1917. (The Bolsheviks had 200,000 members in August.) When the Provisional Government was digging its own grave by an internal split in August, Lenin made use of his well-organized and highly disciplined party to seize power at once. (The other socialist parties (the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries) had a wrong belief that their historical hours had not yet arrived. They allowed the bourgeois government to stay in power. They still thought a socialist revolution would only take place after a period of bourgeois rule.) Lenin’s coup d’etat was a planned revolution and his intention was to set up a socialist society in Russia. This was the first communist government set up in the world.