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October 1917: Coup d'etat

or social revolution?
The legitimacy of the Russian

Ernest Mandel

Gerd Arntz (1932)

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No.9 The Formative Years of the Fourth
To such an extent that Ernest Mandel, in several years before coming to live in the
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Write for more information on their availability and price. International (1933-1938), Daniel BensaYd (48 doing the work of a historian and a political Netherlands in 1934.
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No. 10 Marxism and Liberation Theology, Michael (and thus essential) question : was October
Readers are encouraged to send us their comments on the Lowy (40pp £2, $3.50, 20 FF) 1917 a totalitarian coup d' etat or a socially
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No. 16 Do the workers have a country?, Jose Iriarte
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No. 17/18 October 191 7: coup d' etat or social revolution, during the period 191 7 -21.
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Ernest Mandel (64pp. £4, $6,40 FF)
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By way of an introduction Ernest Mandel Russian Revolution ...

---= , , ~tages 01 the 1917 revoluti At the beginning of April, 191 7, the first congress
of the Soviets - declared to be "pan-Russian" but in
The initi ative had been taken with the
demonstration of June 18. The proletariat in the capital
reality limited largely to St. Petersburg - had 480 interpreted this first victory as a beginning of the final
by Frant;ois Vercammen delegates from the capital, 138 from local councils, offensive. Going further than the Bolshevik party
and 46 from the army. It agreed to support the intended, th e ma sses wanted to overthrow the
bourgeois-liberal government of Princ e Lvov government. However, this vanguard of the mass
During February 191 7, in the midst()fw~~rtlie W6rlcersfolJ1lda way to organize themselves: through (demanding, however, to exercise control over that movement had failed to grasp the real situation. It was
autocratic Tsarist regime in Russiawas 9yet1:llrown by the fOrmation of soviets (councils) - in the factories, government! ). It supported continuing the military too far out in front. As a result, at the beginning of
mass demonstrations. Eight monthsl~tyFip' OCtober in their nei<Yhbourhoods, and on a city-wide level - as effort; at the same time calling for an extension of the July, the pendulum swung sharply back again, quite
the working class - supported bya ,pop\llar uprising well as t~ou<Yh a red guard (revolutionary militia). movement for workers' councils into all countries. far to the right. The bourgeoisie wanted to find a way
in the whole country - conquered political power Even at the front , the soldiers elected their own to begin snuffing out the fire of the revolution. The
and began to construct a new , socialist society. The committees and ... their officers! Later, during the At the end of April , the government again tried to man of the moment was named Kerensky. 1
20th century was transformed. summer of 19 17, the peasantry, in its turn, joined in. promote a pr o - wa r policy , provoking lar ge
Thus the en t ire soc ial bas e of the regime was demonstration s and a strong strike mov ement for Having become prime minister, Kerensky struck
As predicted by some, and feared by others, the eliminated. immediate economic demands. The pendulum was hard at the Bolshevik Party and the other revolutionary
WorId War of 1914 gave birth to revolution. swinging to the left. At the (first) congress of factory organizations . He tried to re-establish the cohesion of
committees in Petrograd, the Bolsheviks already had a the army. He restored the death penalty, dissolved the
majority because of their support for the call for "an insurgent regimes, and named General Kornilov to
uncondition al 8-hour work day", and " workers' head the general staff. All of this was based on the
Dual power control" (by a vote of 421 to 335). Paradoxically, at
The crisis of the regime "legality" of the workers councils and on their higher
Between the end of February and the end of the top echelons of the state and on the level of the bodies; Karensky was attempting to transform their
The 1917 revolution was the final climax to an October 1917, Russia liv ed through a very specific national soviet structures , this leftward shift first subversive reality! The (reformist ) Executive
endemic crisis that shook Russian society during the kind of revolutionary situation: dual power. translated itself - to the detriment of the liberals - Committee of th e Workers Council s actively
second half of the 19th century. A great military Sufficiently resolute to tum out the Tsarist regime in by reinforc ing the position of the reformi sts collaborated with this political approach, helping to
power in Europe (but also an imposing force in Asia), February , the working class was not immediately (Mensheviks, Social-Revolutionaries). Initially, the y empty the soviets of their revolutionary content. They
it was a society trapped in economic backwardness ready to take "full" power. But it covered the factories entered into a coalition government "betwee n the became dis cre dited in the eyes of the vanguard
whereas further West the capi talist mode of and cities with a den se network of councils which classes," which they led from that point on. workers.
production triumphed. The Tsarist state had tried to quickly expanded to include the army and, finally , the
use its power to bring about certain changes: agrarian At the beginning of June, the real first congress of Kerensky thus organized a general offensive
countryside. In essence a counter-power, these soviets workers and soldiers deputies met. With its 1090 against the conquests which the masses had imposed
reform, democrati zation of the administrati ve - more and more numerous, better and better
apparatus, modernization of the educational system, elected del ega tes (of which 822 wer e properly after February. In addition, he postponed indefinitely
coordinated - threatened at any moment to overthrow mandated and had the right to vote) it represented the realization of popular demands - always
social legislation, recognition of the right to form
workers' industrial organizations "from the top ", the bourgeoisie. some 20 million people. Elected on the basi s of acknowledging them but. .. always postponing them
cultural autonomy for the nationalities of the empire, universal suffrage, the congress constituted the most for future consideration. The dual power was eroded,
Two of these soviet structures played a decisive
etc. But each tentativ e reform was only partial and representative and democratic body that Russia had without totally disappearing as such. The Bolshevik
role : those which, e lec ted on a territorial basi s
timid, and it was always followed by a counter-reform ever known. Based on a deepgoing political pluralism, Party experienced grave difficulties, but maintained its
exercised a political power " in society" from the
- all the more brutal since it was necessary to regain it debated, over three weeks (June 3-30) , all of the majority position among the working class (as
outset, and the factory councils, which embodied the vital questions facing the population. The delegates
control of temporarily "liberated" social and political demonstrated by the municipal elections which the
dynamic power of the working class. included 283 SRs (Social-Revolutionaries) , 248
forces. party won at the end of August).
These councils, resulting from the urgent needs of Mensheviks, 105 Bolsheviks, and 73 unaffiliated
"Too little and too late": The crisis exploded in its individuals , with the rest divided between different Some in "high places" believed that the hour for a
the masses, also reflected their level of consciousness
totality for the first time in 1905. That revolution small socialist groups. Its executive committee, which radical counter-revolution had arrived: the military
and their political prejudices. In order for the task of
failed, but the reversal was only partial. In 1914 the had the character of a virtual "counter-government", coup d'Etat. Kornilov turned his back on Karensky
taking power to become clearly posed it was necessary
declaration of war put a stop to a new wa ve of was composed of 104 Mensheviks, 100 SRs, 35 and took his chances at the end of August, 1917
for a revolutionary party to put it forward, to make it a (similar events spring to mind: Allende and Pinochet,
revolutionary strikes. Three years later history took its Bolsheviks, and 18 socialists from other currents.
revenge: the world conflict became a powerful catalyst priority. The organization capable of doing this was September 1973 in Chile; or Ebert-Noske and Kapp,
the Bolshevik Party . But that group remained a After a short time it combined force s with th e
for all the suffering, the frustrations , and the hopes Executive Committee of the All-Russian Peasant Germany, 1920). In three days, the "army " with which
accumulated over the years. minority among the workers and in the soviets until Karensky attacked the capital was routed. The soviets
September 1917. Thu s, the history of dual power is Congress, which was held separately, and where the
SRs held an absolute monopoly. of Petrograd had taken the lead in the resistance. In
Economic clisis: the regime was no longer able to also the history of a struggle between different this way they recaptured their place at the center of the
feed its population. Political-institutional crisis : the political parties - representing the workers and The coalition government, very popular at the workers ' counter-power.
autocratic state lost all legitimacy. Agrarian crisis: the popular movements - over this decisive question of outset, rapidly discredited itself. Similar causes bring
h unger for land on the part of the peasantry was the revolution: for or against the taking of power by similar results, but flavoured with an awakening class
reinforced by the general difficulty of daily life. C1isis the soviets. consciousness: the popular masses intervened directly
for the nationalities: they were increasingly suffocated one more time in the political arena, with their own The revolution of October 1917
by forced Russification. methods of struggle. Aware of the press ure s
At the start of September the pendulum swung to
developing at the base, the Executive Committee of the left just as sharply as it had swung right at the
the workers' councils, under reformist leadership, tried
The changing relationship of forces: to tak e over the mo ve ment b y allowing a
beginning of July.
The revolution of February 1917 February-June demonstration. On June 18, in Petrograd , it was Within the workers ' council s, the Bolshev ik Party
neverthele ss th e slogans of the B o lshevik s - became a majority - first in Petrograd and Moscow.
Intolerable poverty during the winter of 1916- 17 At the outset, di ffere nt reformi st currents especially " All Power to the Soviets" (still under the Within the party, Lenin, still in exile in Finland, put
sparked off the revolution in February. Women - (Me nsheviks , Social-Revol utionaries, workerists) leadership of the reformis ts) - which was by far the
workers and housewives - lit the spark with their dominated these structures of self-organization. They most popular.
International Women 's Day. Starting with textile led the soviets and, very quickly (by May 1917) were 1. Keremky 's name has entered in to the Marx ist vocabu lary .
workers, the strike e x tended rapid ly a nd al so taking part in the pro vis ional (bourgeo is) "Kerensk yism" des ignates, from that time forw ard , the ult imate
spontaneously to the entire proletariat of Petro grad - government. They attempted to contain the pressure of bourgeois solution to crises which have the effrontery to open a door
the capital of Russia at the time. In a few days the the masses through the politics of class collaboration.
mass strike had been transformed into an insurrection, Revolution and counterrevolution: to the proletarian revolution. But once it proves incapable of defeating
with the military garrison coming over to the The evolution of the situation within the workers the power of the workers through such Bonapart ist methods,
revolution. The demand for "bread" was quickly councils during this period of dual power is, from that July-August Karenskyism validates, in the eyes of the broad masses, the "extreme" I'

joined by demands for "immediate peace" and "down time forward , tightly linked to an intensifying class The new relationship of forces was tested during revolutionary Marxist solu tion : the overthrow of th e establ ished
with the Tsar". In the maelstrom of the insurrection, struggle. the "July days". order. I !
. , , _ _ _ . _, , _ • • _ . _ _ . _ • • _ _ « _ _ __ • • _ _ _ . _ ., •• _ _ _ _ _ _ •• _ _ _ .-.l.._.. __ !

I Russian Revolution ... Ernest Mandel Ernest Mandel Russian Revolution ...

union movement was. for its part, extremely weak, and majority (Dan, Lieber, Tseretelli) engaged in incurably of those responsible - the ruling classes of Europe -
the seizure of power and the
the activities of the factory committees remained class-collaborationist politics. They would pay the raised hopes in the trenches and combativity in the
insurrection on the order the
question: When? How? subordinate, although important). price in a left split, led by Martov and Martynov. workplace.
These two, genuine "centrists", opposed the war, had a
Between April and Sc]:)ternbt;r The political parties organized themselves very late base in the workers councils. and favoured a socialist The governments signed an armistice in November
struggle for a and in a particular fashion (one which reflects the revolution in 1917. But they hesitated and vacillated 1918. But many countries were already undergoing
social reality of that epoch in Russia: a despotic state, when confronted with the key problem of the revolutionary crises - imperial Germany first of all.
methods of workers' delnoCralcy
was through paternalistic and totalitarian at the same time, revolution: the seizure and exercise of power. Along with Tsarist Russia. Prussian militarism was the
of worker~' aelm()""n,rV overwhelming, suffocating or absorbing "civil principal barrier against subversion on the European
society"). The Bolsheviks: A faction within the RSDLP until continent after 1789 (the French revolution). The
1912. the Bolsheviks became the key revolutionary country was destabilized by a rapid succession of
The Kadets: In 1917, aside from various party in 1913-1914, gaining the allegiance of worker struggles. Between 1918 and 1923, the German
monarchist groups which had become marginalized, cadres in the cities and the leadership of a general proletariat tried to "speak Russian". But it lacked a
the Kadets ("Constitutional Democrats"), constituted strike in Petrograd. The consolidation, implantation, revolutionary party at its head, with the same
the main party of the dominant classes. This party and growth of the party came at the cost of internal combativity and organizational tradition. The
formed the first provisional government, in the wake struggles and debates: In 1914 there was a departure of revolutionary wave was crushed for the first time in
of the February 1917 revolution. Muliukov - I the right-wing national chauvinists: in March and January 1919. It reappeared no less powerfully in
professor, historian, and ideologue - was. along with April 1917 the growth of a new opportunist wing 1920, then in 1921 and 1923.
Gutchkov, its principal leader. (Stalin-Kamenev-Zinoviev), a majority - ready to
support the liberal government, to accept the A union was conceivable between the USSR - a
The Workerists: Kerensky led, in 1917. the continuation of the war which was opposed by the vast country with rich agricultural lands, but backward
Popular Socialists, or Trudoviks (workerists). By then radical theses of Lenin. In July there was a struggle and living under precarious circumstances - and a
quite weak numerically, the party had known its hour against an ultraleft current in favor of immediately socialist Germany - powerful, industrial, situated in
of glory in the pseudo-parliaments of 1906-1914. seizing power and a fight against sectarianism on the the heart of Europe with a large proletariat constituting
mn.~!7,~re , soldiers'. and There it represented the peasant masses who had been part of an older layer of cadre who were reluctant to a mortal enemy to European reaction. Confronted with
the end of the month. awakened to political life after 1905. This party fuse with other currents (including Trotsky'S). In this potential "socialist bloc", a large imperialist
Revolutionary grouped together political personalities, relying on .the August there was a debate about revolutionary coalition came together. It consisted of the German
Soviet. with aspirations and dissatisfactions of the conservative initiatives and shifting the foundation for workers army (defeated but still imposing), a Russian army
respOJf1m:u to a provocation by the petty-bourgeoisie in the provinces and in the democracy from the territorial councils to the factory (out of power, but with which the White generals, that
Polkovnikov (who countryside. Kerensky himself became a figure on committees. Finally, in October, there was the debate is the counter-revolutionaries, launched a civil war),
garrison which was whom the big bourgeoisie could rely. with the right wing of the party over insurrection, a and the military forces of France, England, and the
behind the revolution). Thus the discussion which was replayed again and again, in United States - the "victors" in the war. This
a measure of self-defence. In a The parties of the Second International: Three many different keys, during subsequent years. coalition invaded the USSR.
apparatus of repression was parties, all of which were members of the Second
Ppl,roar,,,'j Political power was within International, contested for the allegience of the But in October, the Bolsheviks were a party of the In the political arena, the activity of social
worker and peasant masses: The Mensheviks, the masses which engaged in the struggle for power - a democracy, having passed to the side of the capitalist
national congress of workers system, was decisive. Dominant within the world
councils to make final decision. Its political Bolsheviks, and the Social-Revolutionaries (SRs). All party recognized and supported by the popular
movement. working class, it cut off solidarity, discredited the
now transformed from what it had claimed to be socialist, that is to say Marxist, and
USSR, and blocked the development of a
been in June of 19 . Out of 650 delegates. the revolutionary. Except for small minorities, each had,
The Mezhrayontsi: Trotsky, on the basis of his revolutionary movement in Western Europe. It had a
reformist bloc wing Mensheviks and SRs) in 1914, adopted a hostile attitude toward the
own revolutionary positions, had been a member of - single goal: to crush the socialist revolution and
controlled less than The Bolsheviks. for their imperialist war. Therefore, the process of political
or had been dragged along by - the Menshevik restabilize the bourgeois order. The USSR was
had an absolute majority of around 390 delegates. clarification was complicated. It was necessary for
faction. He broke with them in August 1914. In July devastated by the civil war. In Finland, Germany,
were the left wing Mensheviks and left these parties to be tested in the fire of battle during the
1917, he rejoined the Bolsheviks, along with the Austria, Hungary, Italy, the proletariat was defeated-
SRs. The a minoritv. walked out of the eight months of dual power. The events of the summer
Mezhrayontsi (the "interdistrict" or "intercraft" at times with the aide of private armies of a new type:
congress. to the side of the counter-revolution. of 1917 were conclusive: splits between left and the the "Freikorps" in Germany, the "fascists" in Italy.
right wings of SRs and Mensheviks; revolutionary
A new executive committee of the workers' unity within the Bolshevik party. This did not In the USSR, six years of uninterrupted war from
Active and influential in Petrograd, this
councils - a real legislative body for the new soviet eliminate a certain continuing degree of political 1914 to 1920, provoked an economic, social, and
revolutionary Marxist group was a small minority: 60
power - elected on a pluralist basis: 67 confusion among the rank and file and in the periphery human disaster. The workers' state, completely
to 80 members in 1915, 150 on the eve of February
Bolsheviks, 29 left SRs. with 20 seats given to of each of these parties, and also between them. isolated, stood fast. But the construction of socialism
1917,300 in April (the Bolsheviks were 16,000 at that
different revolutionary groups. The executive time in Petrograd), 4,000 in July - when the suffered badly under these frighteningly difficult
I committee, in turn. elected the first government of the The SRs: Officially reconstituted in 1902, this conditions.
Bolshevik Party could count 180,000 members
new workers' state. "We begin the construction of a party rested on a long revolutionary tradition which throughout the country.
new socialist order," declared Lenin. originated in the middle of the 19th century. It had !
been a strong political adversary to the RSDLP The minority currents: The phenomenon of the
A joyous and painless revolution at the outset! But (Russian Social Democratic Labour Party). "intercraft" committees underlines the existence of
it would have to pass through terrible trials during the Completely hegemonic in the peasant movement, the many revolutionary currents and groups, marginal on
The end of a cycle
civil war years, 1918-1920, before consolidating itself. SRs also had a strong influence in big urban the scale of the entire country but important at times in 1917 -1923: The first cycle of the international
enterprises. Poorly organized and confused politically, one city, one workplace, one sector. Among them revolution came to an end. Another cycle began, one
the SRs helped - between February and August 1917 ! were the anarchists, the revolutionary syndicalists, the of capitalist stabilization on a world scale. In the
- to guarantee an indispensable social base for the "maximalists" (an ultraleft split from the SRs), the USSR the situation was favorable for the emergence of
of class collaborationist government, of which the Menshevik Internationalists (Martov, Martynov), the a privileged bureaucracy with Stalin at its head. Lenin,
Mensheviks constituted a political head. United Social-Democratic Internationalists (small but dying, undertook a "last struggle" against the
influential because of the journal Zhizn - New bureaucracy between 1921 and 1923. In Western
Life - of Maxim Gorky). social-democracy (the "stinking
called it) renewed itself. It
of the workers' movement
Ernest Mandel Russian Revolution .. ,

anger agai nst the treacherous leaders were enough to explai n the create in Russia, immediately or in the short term, an
ekment ary a bso lu ti s t a tti tu de [! ] of the comm ittee s whi ch
ideal society, a paradise on earth. They "put utopia in
structured during their participation in the movement which led
to Octobe r, w h ic h w as no t th e a b sol u tis m a ttitu de o f the power" in the world of the Soviet historian Alexander
Bolsheviks but in so li darity with the movement they led .' Nekritch, from whom we are used to a li ttle more
For Dan, one of the main Menshevik leaders, on objectivity!
There is currently a real campaign of denigration we will simply ci te some of the many testimonies fro m the eve of the Revolution, the masses: In reality , the taking of power by the soviets had a
of the October 19 17 Revolution underway, in both the the Bolsheviks ' opponents . ... began more and more frequently to express their di scontent very p reci se aim: to ob tain a certain number of
West and in Eastern Europe. It is often very bitter. It is ... the Bolshev iks were working stu bbom ly and without let-up. and their impatience with impetuous movements and ended .. .by concrete goals. These were: immediate end to the war;
based on historica l falsi ficati on s and my ths that are Th.;y were among the m asses. at factory- benches , every d ay turning to comm unism ... Strikes fo llowed one after the other.
The workers sought to answer the rapid rise in the cost of living distribute the land to the peasants ; ensure the right of
just as great as S talini st my ths and fals ifi ca tion s. without a pau se. Tens of speakers, big and little. were speak ing
in Petrograd . at the factories and in the barracks, every blessed with wage rises. But all their efforts fai led with the continuous self-determ ination for th e oppres sed nationalitie s;
Fighting against it is not on ly indispensable from a d ay . Fo r the mass es , th e y had be c o me thei r o wn people . d rop in value of the paper mo ney. T he com munists launched in avoid the crushing of Red Petrograd which Kerensky
their own ranks the slogan of " workers' control " and adv ised
scien tific and po litical po int of view. It is als o a becau se they we re always there, taking the lead in de tails as wanted to g ive over th e Germ an arm y; st op the
them to take th e running of the factories into their own hands, in
question of intellectual cleanliness. The fight for truth well as in the most important affairs of the factory or barracks.
They had become the so le ho pe. if on ly because since they were
order to stop the "sabotage" of the capital ists. At the same time, sabotage of the economy by the bourgeoisie; establ ish
is also a fight for a minimum of decency in public life. one with the masses. they were lav ish with promises and swee t
the peasants statted to take over the big propertics, to chase o ut workers ' con trol over production; stop the victory of
the land owners and to set fi re to their manor houses for fear
thou gh simple fairy tales . The mass lived and breathed together the counter-revolution.
In the fi rst chapter we will deal with three of the with th e Bolsheviks. It was in the hands of the part y o f Lenin
that the domains wou ld escape from them between that poi nt
and the call ing of the Constituent Assembly ·
myth s th at are the most frequ ently encountered in and T rotsky . We can summ a rize th e ir goals in the cl assic
CUlTent polemical wri ti ng. T o t al k abou t m il it ar y c o n s p ira c y ins tead o f n ~: t i o na l The October Re vo lu ti on took pl ace under the Marxist formu la: to carry out the historic tasks of the
insurrectio n. when the party was follo wed by the o verwhelming slogan "All power to the Soviets". The hi storian Beryl
maj o rity of the people, when the party had al ready de facto
(national) bourgeois democratic revolution through the
c o nq ue red a ll re al po we r. and a u th o r ity , w a s c lea rlv an Williams su mmed up the process which led to October establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat; that is
absurdi ty" _ . in the following fashion: to say the destructi on of the state, particularly the
The myth of The Gelman historian Oskar Anwei ler, who was a Soviet power. rather than party programmes or the Constit uent appara tus of the bo urgeois state. T he re vo lutio n
a minority coup d'etat severe critic of the Bolsheviks noted that:
Assembly, wa s seen by the masses as the so lution to their
problems and only the Bolsheviks were reall y identified with
certainly rapidly grew over into the carrying ou t of
so vie t powe r...The party wa s now in a pos itio n to rid e the
so cia li s t tasks. B ut thi s was no t be ca use the
The first mystification deals with the nature of the The Bolsheviks were in the m ajority in the co uncils of deputies
in alm ost all the big industrial centres and also in most of the popu lar wave into power.- Bolsheviks were utopians. It was because the masses
October Rev olu ti on. It was onl y a diabo lical coup counc il s of soldiers ' deput.ies in the garrison towns.' refused an y self-lim itation on their emancipation , as
d'etat organized by that master of manoeuvres Lenin , I n the Seco nd Co ng ress of th e Sov ie ts, th e
Marc Ferr o, a no the r fer o ci o us c ritic of t he supp orters of th e perspectiv e " A ll power to th e T ro ts k y had foresee n as earl y as 19 0 6 . Fee lin g
and ca rr ied ou t by a s mall sec t of profess io nal themselves the masters in the state and in the street,

Bolsheviks, could not stop himself noting that: soviets " won 69.6 % of the mandates . In th e A ll -
revo lu tionaries. The comments which fo llowed the they were not inclined to stay quietly in the factories,
attempted coup d ' etat in Mo scow on 26, August 1991 In th e f ir s t p la ce, Bo ls he v iz ati o n wa s t he effec t of the Russian Congre ss of Peasant Depu ties , which met
radica lizati on of the m asses and was th us the expression of the December 9-23, 1917, there was a slight majority (Left allowing themselves to be still and forever exploited. '"
are very revealing from this point of view. Some went democra tic will. ..
so far as to say that a second (failed) putsch made it SRs and Bolshev iks) in fa vour of soviet power. The T he initi ative s to intro duc e w orker s' cont ro l
The rad icalizat ion of the masses is sufficiently explai ned by the i historian Anw eiler c o ncluded, in exa mi n in g the
possible to eliminate what a first (successful) putsch ineffec ti veness of govemmenta l policy (wi th the participatio n
multiplied spontaneously on the eve of and following
had created in 1917. of the sociali sts since May) which, unde r cover of necess ity, attitude of the masses in relation to the dissolution of the Oc tobe r rev o lution . They a lso led alm os t
in s tit uted con c ili a ti on proce d ures be twe e n the ru lin g an d the Constituent Assembly by the Soviet government in automatically to the expropriation s of factories when
T he tru th is qu ite d iffe re n t. T he Oc to ber popul ar classes . Negotiation, far from changing the estahlished January 1918 that: indu strialists tried to impose mass sackings or factory
order, perpetuated ir. ..
Revolution was the culminati ng point of one of th e In the ranks of the people it is rare tha t the re were pro tes ts closures.' I
From that time on , in th e towns and in the army. there was
most deep-rooted mas s movem ents ever known, In against the coerc ive measures of the Bo lsheviks; and this was
discontent. Al so, those who fro m the beginning, had contested Between November 1917 and March 19 18, 836
Europe of the peri od only the ri sing of the German certainl y no t only because of intellectual and physical terrorism,
the ve ry prin ciple of c lass co ll a bora ti on were gra tified , and
which was s till q u ite " soft" a t the tim e . Th e f act th a t the enterpri ses were nationalized; three -quarters of the
workers in 1920 in reaction to the Kapp-von Luttwitz among them the most intransige nt, that is to say the Bolsheviks
Bo ls hev iks had very large ly anticipated the decisi ons o f the
putsch, and the Catalan insurrection, in reaction to the of [he Leni n tendency. The wo rkers demanded le ss inh uman
Constituent Assembly on questions as importan t as peace and
orders of expropriation emanated fro m local organs
working cond itions. It w as the bru tal o r cunning rejecti on of such as factory committees, trade unions, local soviets,
mili tary-fascist taking of pow er by th e Francoists, land we ighed no less heavil y in the balance .. . The worki ng and
th is by the po ssessi ng cbsses wh ic h led to the fa cto r v
peasant masses were ... more incl ined to the give their agreement a nd loc al eco nomi c co un c il s. O nl y 5 % were
we re of co mpara bl e sco pe, bu t neverthe less more oc cupati ons , the seq uestrati on o f th e ow ners and then, afte'r
to concrete measures by the new masters. Desp ite the defic ie ncy
limited and less long-lasting. October. vengeance on th e bourgeoisie ..
of the soviets bo th in q ue stio ns of organizati o n and , o ften.
nationalized by the centre. "
T h i.s movement h a d a po p u la r basi s wh o se fo r m s of re presentation, the masses considered them as ··theirs".'
Historical sources do not leave any doubt about the organ ization have be en desc ribed . The fear of re press ion and
The Bolsheviks did not hope to achieve " utopia",
representativity of the Bolshev iks in October 19 17. that is immediate socialism in Ru ssia alone. In fac t,
There is no need , to be convinced of this, to use the they unanimously rejected such an idea, Lenin never
The myth of the bloody utopia: hid fro m th e Ru ssia n masse s t ha t, fo r him , the
writing of those who were close to Len in.' The scope
of the mass movement before, during an d after the Lo ndon 1979. G . Comte , La revolution ru.sse par les temoins, Paris immediate socialism? historical role of winnin g power in Ru ssia was to
October Revolution, is today well -established 2 Here
1963 . 1....1. Ferro , Oc tobe r 19 17 , A Social H isrory of rhe Russian encourage the international revolution, particularly the
Re volution. Lo ndon 1980. R . Ko hn, D ie russischc Revolution in Second mystification and historical falsification: German revol ution (taking advantage of the fact that
Augenzeugenberichten, Miinchen 1977. M. Liebman, Leninism under , the Bolsheviks carried out their putsch in order to the relationship of fo rces was more favourable to the
Lenin, Lo ndon, 1975 . R. Medvedev, The Revolution o(Ocrober, New
York , .1 979 . Among the analy ses of the post-Stalini st Soviet Union.
1. See in particul ar Dav id MandeL The Petrograd Workers and rhe
particularly in relation to the role of the worki ng class : A.G.Egorova, 9. A. Nekritch. L' armee rouge assassinee, Paris 1965.
StiViCi Seizure of' Power, Lo ndon, 1984. R. Lorenz, Die russische 5. M . Ferro, Des soviets au communisme bureaucratique, Par is, 1980,
Raoocij klas , Oktja/Jr'sko; rcm ljutcii . Mosc ow 1967 . G .A.Trukan,
Revolution 191 7: DcI' A ll/Ha nd d('/' Arbeiter , B elU ei'll [m d Solda ren. pp. 139- 140, 164. 10 . On this see what rem a ins the most impressiv e e ye - w itness
Rabocij Kla s v bobe :a pobedu i uprocenie so verskoJ v iasti, Moscow
Nymphenburger Verlagsangestalt, 198 1. 1. Reed, Ten Days which 6. Dan, in Martov -Dan, Geschichte del' russischen Sozialdemokratie. account: V. Serge, }'ear One of the Russian Revolution , London 1972.
1975. For a pre-Stalinist Soviet work. see P.N. Amosov et al: Ok(iabrs
Sho o k the World London. 1966. S.A . Sm ith, Red Pe fragra d, Berlin 1926, pp. 300·301. M any striking testimonies are reproduced in S. A. Smith op cit.
kaja Revoljililcija i Fah:avkomv, Moscow 1927 ,
Cambridge , 1985 . And obv iously L. Trotsky. History 0/ rhe Russian
3. N.N. Sukhanov , The Russian Revo/ution1917, Volume II, O xford 7. B. W illi ams, The Russian Revolution 1917-1921, London, 1987. 11. S. A. Smith, op . cit, p. 223 f.
Revolution , Sphere Books, London 1967.
J 955. pp, 528 et 579. i pp. 38,39. 12. T homas F. Remington, Building Socia lism in Soviet Russia,
2. See, as well as the books mentioned in the previous note: E.H. Carr.
The Russian Revoluriol1j1'01l1 Lenin to Stalin 1917-1929, Macmi llan, 4 . O . Anweiler. Les So viets en Russie 190 5 1921, Paris, 197 i , p. 231. I 8.0, Anweiler, op. cit, p. 274. University of Pittsburgh Press, 1984, p. 39.
L_ _ _ __ _
~ Russian Revolution ... Ernest Mandel Ernest Mandel Russian Revolution .. .

proletariat in Russia than in any other country in the
party ever known. There were barely 700 full-timers
among 250-300,000 members. It functioned in a very
with a thousand threads.;s It was in these conditions that the "technical"
overthrow of the Provisional Government should take
While the October Revolution was not a putsch,
democratic manner: there were numerous discussions nor was it simply the culmination of a spontaneous place on October 25 , with so little bloodshed. There
Julius Braunthal has emphasized the importance of
and differences of opinion which were, in general, mass movement. It was also an insurrec tion were fewer deaths than are normally caused by road
this question for Lenin:
publicly expressed. 16 methodically prepared and carried out by the accidents during a normal weekend in the main
"The whole future of the international workers' revolution, of
Bolsheviks and their allies, supporters of soviet power: countries of Europe. For those who counterpose the
socialism, is at stake." This argument recurred in practically all This freedom of oppression did not only concern a
the articles and letters in which he pushed the Central the anarchists and the Left Social-Revolutionaries. "glorious,February Revolution " to the Bolsheviks'
few leaders who, when in minority, expressed their
Committee, in autumn 1917, to go into action. He repeated, "the "bloody putsch", let us remind them that the first cost
growing maturity and the inevitable character of the world opinions publicly (like Bukharin or the "Left It was not a secret or minority insulTection. It was
• 17/1 1315 victims in Petrograd, while the second hardly a
socialist revolution can no longer be doubted ... We are on the Communists"), including in separate daily an insurrection organized in the full light of day,
threshold of the world revolution. We would be real traitors to dozen. co
newspapers. It also concerned entire bodies of the mainly within the institutions emanating from the
the International if, in such a moment, in such favourable
conditions, we did not respond to the appeal of the German party. Thus, for months during 1917, the party soviets. In short. what was the revolution of October 1917?
revolution (for example [the sailors] of the German navy) by committee in Viborg sent its own agitators into the The culminating point of a formidable mass
resolutions alone"."
Baltic fleet, to oppose the arguments of the Petro grad This was the result of a new legitimacy which had movement, guided towards the taking of power by a
Of course, it should not be assumed from what has committee, which it considered too tolerant of the been accepted by the great majority of the workers and vanguard workers' party closely rooted in the masses.
been said that a socialist perspective was not an Provisional Government. soldiers and, a little later, a good part of the peasants. A party which sought above at! to achieve the most
essential element in Bolshevik propaganda, that it had The legitimacy of the soviets and the factory councils burning immediate demands of the population, while
Two Bolshevik currents publicly disagreed during outstripped that of the Provisional Government, the aiming for broader national and international socialist
not influenced, even in only a marginal way, the
the conference of factory committees before the military high command, the employers and the big goals. 2'
concrete measures taken.
October Revolution. The first was represented by landowners.
For Lenin and the Bolsheviks at that point - Miliutin and Larin, supported by Ryazanov, Lozovsky
contrary to their positions before April 1917 - "soviet and Shliapnikov. It wanted to combine workers' In the workplaces, the workers thus increasingly
power", "workers' power" (or "workers' and peasants' control with the demand for central planning. The recognized the authority of the factory committees 20. E.H.Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, Vol I, Penguin 1950, p. 160:
power") and socialist orientation were practically second, represented by Skrypnik and Chubar, insisted rather than that of the employers. The almost effortless success of the Petrograd coup of 25
October 1917 seemed to show that it indeed had behind it the
considered as synonyms. above all on decentralized initiatives at the base. In Petrograd, thanks to the agitation and vast majority of the population. The boast of the Bolsheviks that
organization masterfully led by Leon Trotsky, all the the revolutiou itself cost remarkably few lives and that most of
But Lenin incessantly emphasized that this only This tradition remained alive. There was still a these were lost in attempts of their opponents to wrest the
meant that it was possible - and necessary - to trace of it to be found in 1921, at the Tenth Congress regiments of the garrison decided in public assemblies victory from them when it had already been won, was justified.
begin following this path, nothing more. Lenin knew of the Communist Party, while the battle on the to no longer recognize the orders of the military
For the figures, W.H. Chamberlin, The Russian RevolUTion, Volume 1
that a fully developed socialist society (in the banning of factions raged (we will come back to this hierarchy but those of the Soviet and the Military
1917-18, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1952 (second
traditional, Marxist, sense of the term: a classless later). During the discussion, Lenin had vigorously Revolutionary Committee.
edition), p.85.
society) could only exist after the victory of the attacked Kiselyov, a delegate who had criticized 21. S.A. Smith (op. cit. pp. 150-156) correctly opposes the thesis of
international revolution. He repeated this in January certain extraordinary disciplinary powers that the draft many Western historians that the Bolsheviks were congenitally
1918 before the Third Congress of the Soviets: resolution gave the Central Committee. Having opposed to institutionalized workers' control. But it is to be regretted
18. Quotation from the platform known as that of "the 46". See
I have no illusions about our having only just entered the period obviously been carried away in his polemic, he Documents of the 1923 Opposition, London 1975, p. 7. that he himself makes concessions to this thesis on the basis of the
of transition to socialism, about not yet having reached immediately made a self-criticism: "black years" of 1920-1921. On this question he hardly mentions the
socialism ... We are far from having even completed the 19. See in SA Smith (op. cit pp. 58-60, 63-64, 85-86, 139 f.) the
later position of Lenin and Trotsky at the Third and Fourth
transitional phase from capitalism to socialism. We never Comrades, I am very sorry that I used the word "machine-gun" many initiatives of workers' control in the enterprises. The Red
and hereby give a solemn promise never to use such words Congresses of the Communist International and those of Trotsky, the
cherished the hope we would finish it without the aid of the Guards themselves came from the militias established by these
international proletariat. " again even figuratively, for they only scare people and Left Opposition and the Fourth International in favour of workers'
afterwards you can't make out what they want. Nobody intends control from 1923.
to shoot at anybody and we are sure that neither Comrade
Kiselyov nor anybody else will have cause to do so."

The myth of a party-sect of fanatics The Bolshevik Party was at that time a party fully
integrated into Russian society and its living forces.
Third mystification and historical falsification. The This is the point tellingly made by the first platform of
October 1917 "putsch" was perpetrated by a small sect the Workers' Opposition, in its opposition to the rise
of power-hungry, fanatical highly-centralized of the Stalinist faction six years after the revolution:
professional revolutionaries manipulated by Lenin.
The Party (was) ... that living independent collectivity which
In reality, from the months of February to October sensitively seizes living reality beeause it is bound to this reality
1917, the Bolshevik Party became a mass party,
bringing together the real vanguard of the Russian
base of the Bolsheviks, the members elected directly by the workers
proletariat: the natural leader of the class, recognized
were 93%, the members designated by the trade unions, the parties
as such. The number of professional revolutionaries
and the soviets 7%. At the third conference, that of October 1917,
(full-time organizers) in its ranks was extremely these percentages were respectively 88% and 12% (op. cit. p. 118). It
limited. This party was the least bureaucratized mass is difficult to consider as "bureaucratized" or "becoming
bureaucratized" a body of which 88% of its members are factory
13. J. Braunthal, Geschichte der Internationale, Vol. II, Berlin-Bonn workers, directly elected by their workmates ..
1978. p. 113. 16. Trotsky points out in his History afthe Russian Revolution that the
Lenin, Collected Works , Volnme 26, Moscow!London, p. 489, Bolshevik party named J 4 people as its representative s in
presiding committee of the Second Congress of the Soviets, 6 of
15. to show that from the U"~,l1U 1HJt; was a tendency to
whom opposed to the insurrection.
bureaucratization of the mass mov,ement, Ferro proves the
contrary. At the second conference of factory committees, the main Lenin, Col/ected Works, Vol 42, p. 289.
Ernest Mandel Russian Revolution ...

and peoples of all the belligerent countries, the Provisional a succession of disasters which led humanity 30 years
Workers' and Peasants' Government of Russia appeals in
later to the barbarity of Auschwitz and Hiroshima.
particular also to the class-conscious workers of the three most
advanced nations of mankind and the largest states participating
The most clear~sighted socialists - not only
in the present war, namely Great Britain, France and Germany.
The workers of these countries have made the greatest revolutionaries like Lenin, Trotsky and Rosa
contribution to the cause of progress and socialism; they have Luxemburg but also moderates like Jean Jaures - had
The victory of the October revolution cannot be indicated, which are equally just for all nationalities without furnished the great examp les of the Chartist movement in
exception. foreseen this before 1914.
understood outside the context of the First World War England, a number of revolution of historic importance effected
by the French proletariat, and finally the heroic struggle against The Soviet government fought for immediate
of 1914~ 1918. Of all the Bolsheviks' slogans that of an The Soviet government extended this principle of the Anti-Socialist Law in Ge rmany and the prolonged,
immediate end to the war, "peace without annexations the peoples' right to decide their own fate to all the persistent and disciplined work of creating mass proletarian peace with Germany and Austro-Hungary during the
or indemnities" was the most popular. It became the colonies and semi~colonies outside Europe. This was a organizations in Germany, a work which serves as a model to Brest-Litovsk negotiations. A growing number of
the workers of the whole world. All t hese examples of workers and soldiers from all countries already
main difference between the Bolsheviks and the other revolutionary act which had incalculable historical
proletarian heroism and historical creative work are a pledge
parties claiming to be socialist or revolutionary. It was repercussions. It gave a decisive impulse to the that the workers of the countries mentioned will understand the rejected the war, which explains the wide popularity
above all the soldiers, of whom the great majority developing national liberation movements in countries duty that now faces them of saving mankind from the horrors of throughout the world for the Soviet position ,
like India, China and Indonesia, as well as significant war and its consequences, that these workers, by particularly when it was expressed in Trotsky'S
were peasants, who no longer wanted the war. comprehensive, determined, and supremely vigorous action,
support to already important anti~imperialist will help us to conclude peace successfully, and at the same exemplary use of the negotiation table as an agitational
The falling apart of the army, which was mainly movements such as that in Turkey." time emancipate the labouring and exploited masses of our method.
still Tsarist, disarmed the provisional government and population from all form s of slavery and all forms of
then the first attempts at counter~revolution. This is In one of its very first statements during the peace exploitation." The representatives of Germany and Austro-
what made possible the victory and then consolidation negotiations with Germany at Brest-Litovsk, on Hungary complained of violation of all diplomatic
And in conclusion, in a still more striking fashion:
of the October revolution. De cember 30, 1917, the Soviet government norms.8
In the Manifesto of March 14 [1 917], we [the soviets] called for
proclaimed the extension of the right of nations to
Perhaps the most significant fact about the revolution of 1917 is the overthrow of the bankers, but, [before the October What is this? Speaking directly to soldiers over the
that between spring and autumn this great [army], the largest decide on their own fate, recognized by the American Revolution] far from overthrowing our own bankers, we entered
heads of their officers? Calling on them to disobey
ever put into the field by any country, was transformed into an president Woodrow Wilson, to all colonial and semi- into an alliance with them. Now we have overthrown the
"enormous, exhausted, badly clothed, badly fed embittered mob government of the bankers. orders if not to mutiny? Calling on the colonies to
colonial countries. At the same time, this government
of people, united by thirst for peace and general
The governments and the bourgeois will make every effort to rise? Calling on workers to strike. From a Foreign
disillusionment"." abolished all unequal treaties with China, particularly
unite their forces and drown the workers' and peasants' Affairs minister is this not trampling on the elementary
those concerning the Chinese Eastern railway and the revolution in blood. But the three years of war have been a good
The most clear-sighted Mensheviks later admitted rules of civilization and of "friendship between
right to extra~territoriality of all Russian citizens in lesson to the masses - [as is proved by] the soviet movement
this. Their leader Dan stated bluntly that: in other countries and the mutiny in the German navy, which nations"?
China, Mongolia and Iran. These principles were also
The continuation of the war brought the Bolshevik victory in was crushed by the officer cadets of Wilhelm the hangman ...
incorporated into the first Soviet constitution, that of Very soon the French and British governments
the Russian Revolution." The workers' movement will triumph and will pave the way to
the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic peace and socialism"
followed in the footsteps of their implacable enemies,
In addition, the attitude of the Bolsheviks and the (RSFSR) of 1918. the Central Powers, and denounced the Soviet
soviets after the taking of power in October 1917 Trotsky, speaking to the peoples of Europe revolutionaries in their tum.
made it possible to have a real evaluation of the policy The reaction of anti~imperialist forces in Asia was affected by the war, proclaimed:
immediate. In China, the Bolsheviks were called the On the other hand, for the peoples , the
of the new revolutionary state. The workers and soldiers must wrest from the criminal hands of
huang-i-tang, "the party of the greatest humanism". the bourgeoisie the cause [the right to decide] of the war and "ci vilization" and "norms of friendship between
Sun Yat-sen, the Chinese nationalist leader, sent a take it into their own hands. nations" that the belligerent nations claimed to stand
message of solidarity to Lenin. In Iran, the national- In other words, in the eyes of the Bolsheviks, the for meant senseless massacre, destruction of entire
The right of the peoples to decide democratic movement identified with the October towns, inhuman oppression and exploitation. It was
October revolution was a means to put an end to the
their own fate Revolution, once Trotsky withdrew all the the Russian war; in so doing it should encourage and speed up the the civilization of plague and death. Lenin and Trotsky
troops and instructors from the country. development of the world socialist revolution. incarnated the hope of a superior civilization, of life,
Lenin's first speech to the Second Congress of liberty and equal rights for all women and men.
Soviets to present the policy of the new regime One of the effects of this policy was the famous Is this borne out by history? Incontestably.
brought into being in October was his report on the conference of the Peoples of the East at Baku in 1920. Imperialist propaganda - which right social-
peace. In it we find a vigorous affirmation of the right The world war was a decisive turning point in the democracy also partly circulated - was much more
The Soviet regime for the first time in history, even history of capitalism. It was the beginning of the epoch
to self-determination, whose democratic thrust is very virulent then than the anti~communist propaganda of
abolished secret diplomacy, deciding to publish all in which the destructive, barbaric, regressive features
relevant today: the Cold War period or today. It had however a lot less
diplomatic documents and secret treaties. Most of the system were going to develop significantly in effect among the toiling masses. They saw the
If any country whatsoever is forcibly retained within the importantly, it decided to immediately start peace comparison to its capacity to maintain a periodic
borders of a given state, if, in spite of its expressed desires -
sincerity of the Soviet regime.
negotiations with all the belligerent governments who development of productive forces.
no matter whether expressed in the press, at public meetings, in
the decisions of parties, or in protests and uprisings against were prepared to do so.
national oppression - it is not accorded the right to decide the The First World War was ten million human
forms of its state existence by a free vote, taken after the beings massacred, including the flower of Europe's The Soviet regime: internationalism
complete evacuation of the troops of the incorporating or,
young men, in the pursuit of goals to which no one in action
generally, of the stronger nation and without the least pressure October 1917: a revolution for peace
being brought to bear, such incorporation is annexation, i.e. today lends any legitimacy at all." This was the first of
seizure and violence. This appeal was accompanied by an appeal to the They saw that the first Soviet Constitution, that of
The government considers it the greatest of crimes against workers of the major imperialist countries to take the 1918 , eliminated the distinction between "national
humanity to continue this war over the issue of how to divide path of peace and socialism: 26. Lenin, "Report on Peace, October 26 ", Collected Works, Vol. 26, citizens" and "foreigners". Anybody living in Soviet
among the strong and rich nations the weak nationalities they pp. 251 -252.
have conquered , and solemnly announces its determination
Russia and ready to work there would immediately
While addressing this proposal for peace to the governments
immediately to sign terms of peace to stop this on the terms 27. Ibidem pp. 253.

28. Obviously this not mean there were not

22. W.H. Chamberlin, op cit p. 223 reasons for the war, particularly the riv alry between Britain and wealth to he suspected. w as also the
24. Lenin, Collected Works , Vol. 250. 3
Germany in the divi sion of the spo ils arising from the dismantling of Ts ari st Russi a and the German- A ustro-Hungarian co alition for
23. Martov-Dan, op.cit. 304. 25. David Mitchell,1919 Red Mirage , London 1970, p .. 160 the Ottoman Empire and the dominaTion of the Middle East, whose oil domination over the Balkans.
Russian Revolution ... Ernest Mandel Ernest Mandel Russian Revolution ...

enjoy all political rights, including the right to vote. strikes. It would be insanity for the governments not to realize wave be explained, including of political strikes, spectacle of nearly 300 million people organized into a vast Red
that the very idea of a monstrous world war must inevitably call Anny under German instructors and Gennan generals."
John MacLean, the shopstewards leader from the against the "paix de rapine" imposed by the German
forth the indignation and the revolt of the working class.
munitions factory in Glasgow, Scotland was Proletarians consider it a crime to fire at each other for the Ludendorff on the Russian Revolution at Brest Litovsk Concerning the situation in Italy, during the wave
imprisoned by the British government for having gone profits of the capitalists. the ambitions of dynasties. or the in January 19187 of factory occupations in September 1920, the
greater glory of secret diplomatic treaties.
on strike. He was named Consul General for the historian Gaetano Salvemini wrote:
RSFSR and thus achieved diplomatic immunity: If the governments cut off every possibility of nonnal progress. In May 1917, open mutiny erupted in the French
and thereby drive the proletariat to desperate steps, they army. Fifty-four divisions refused to obey orders. Over The bankers, the big industrialists and the big landowners
which forced London to release him. themselves will have to bear the entire responsibility for the waited for the social revolution like sheep waiting to be led to
consequences of the crisis they bring about. ..
100,000 poilus [rank-and-file soldiers] were the slaughterhouse 35
The Bolsheviks thus showed that they remained courtmartialed, 23,000 found guilty, 423 sentenced to
The proletariat conscious that at this moment it is the bearer In his History of the International, the Austro-
faithful to the best traditions of the socialist of the entire future of humanity. The proletariat will exert all its death, 55 actually shot according to official figures.
movement. The Second International had tragically energy to prevent the annihilation of the flower of all peoples. Many others were short without trial or pounded to Marxist Julius Braunthal described the situation during
failed in this domain on August 4. 1914 when its best threatened by all the horrors of mass murder, starvation and
death through artillery fire. In August 1917, a mass the Socialist International's first post-war meeting, in
pestilence. August 1919 in the following terms:
leaders had accepted the logic of the war, in violation strike in Barcelona was machine-gunned into
of their most solemn oaths and the resolutions adopted Jean Jaures, a great figure of French socialism, submission, leaving 70 dead, hundreds of wounded Europe was in ferment. It seemed as if we were on the verge of
by their own organization during successive summed up this message in succinct terms in the final and 200 prisoners. In February 1918, the Austro-
decisive struggles between revolution and counter-revolution.
congresses. phrase of his speech to the Bas!e congress: Hungarian fleet mutinied at Catarro. And he added:
In sharpening the danger of war, the governments should see
After this historic capitulation, the practice of the that the peoples can easily make the count: their own revolution From October 1918 this turnaround led to an Immediately after the meeting of the founding congress of the
Ie, there was a revolutionary upsurge in Europe which seemed
new Soviet regime which was in conformity with its would cost fewer dead than the war of others. uninterrupted series of revolution. Rather later than the to confinn Lenin's prognosis."
principles, did more to stimulate a strong regrowth of Bolsheviks had hoped. But nevertheless they were real
Going even further, Victor Adler, the leader of In relation to Germany he noted that:
internationalism within the masses than thousands of revolutions: in Finland, in Austria, in Hungary,
Austrian social-democracy stated that:
speeches, articles, pamphlets or books. creation of soviet power in Bavaria, revolutionary The imperialism of the Western powers imposed limits on tbe
If the crime 101' starting the war] is committed. a historic social revolution in Germany. But even within these limits, the
It was this which made possible the creation of the punishment will follow it: it will be the beginning of the end of crisis in Italy.32 The world revolution was a tangible conditions existed for a social revolution which would break the
Third International and unleashed a powerful the reign of these criminals. reality during these two years. power of the big capitalist bourgeoisie; for heavy industry,
mines and the chemical industry which was then owned by a
movement of solidarity with the besieged Russian With hindsight, these analyses and perspectives In December 1918, at a Herald rally in the Albert few to become public property; to break [the power] of finance
Revolution. can seem rather unrealistic, in the light of the events of Hall, London, Robert Williams, general secretary of capital by imposing state control of the banks; the conditions for
August 1914. Nevertheless, it should be noted that breaking the power of Junkers by the division [in a way
the Transport Workers' Federation, urged favourable to the peasants] of big land properties; and above all
neither Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg and Martov, nor "preparedness for revolution". "The s un of by fhe development of an organ of the revolution's power - an
A socialist revolution: the revolution Jaures and Adler predicted that a revolution would international socialism," he said, "is melting armed force recruited among the workers and led by the
immediately follow the outbreak of war - and socialists, as was the case of Volkswehr created by Austrian
against the war capitalism throughout Europe."" In January 1919, a social-democracy,3X
revolutions did indeed break out three or four years general strike broke out in Belfast, and in Seattle USA.
The new Soviet regime had in fact put into practice later. In February 1919 a general strike in Barcelona lasted In his report to the Third Congress of the
the resolutions adopted in 1907 and 1913 by the one month. Communist International, Trotsky cited two
Second International itself. In fact, the policy of a retrospecti ve judgements of the European bourgeoisie
The world revolution was not only a tangible which fully confirmed this analysis of the situation in
socialist answer to the threat of war was not simply to The period after the First World reality for the Bolsheviks, the revolutionary socialists,
denounce the dangers of unprecedented butchery on 1919-20. The reactionary French newspaper Le Temps
War and for a good section of the "centrist" socialist left wrote on April 28, 1921:
calling for a halt or an end to the massacre. Thanks to
throughout the world. It was also a tangible reality for
the consistent efforts of the left, then led by Lenin, It is true that Adler himself capitulated in August Last year's May day was set as the beginning of a general strike
the bourgeoisie. which was in its turn to usher in the first phase of the
Martov and Rosa Luxemburg at the 1907 Stuttgart 1914 to the "criminals" that he denounced in 1913 and
revolution. Today absolute confidence prevails in the nation's
Congress of the Socialist International, the that he then did everything to prevent the revolution The British prime minister Lloyd George wrote in effort to surmount all the crises consequent upon the war.
unanimously voted resolution stated: rather than prepare it. It is also true that the masses. relation to this:
And the daily newspaper most representative of the
In case war should break out anyway. it is their Ithe socialist including the social-democrats, let themselves be The whole of Europe is filled with the spirit of revolution.
parties 1duty to intervene for its speedy termination and to strive
Swiss bourgeoisie Neue Zurcher Zeitung wrote at the
swept up into the wave of chauvinism of the period. There is a deep sense not only of discontent but of anger and
with all their power to utilize the economic and political crisis revolt amongst the workmen against the pre-war conditions. same time about Germany:
created by the war to rouse the masses and therehy hasten the These are unchallengeable facts. But it would be The whole existing order in its political, social and economic
Gennany of 1921 bears no resemblance to Gennany of 1918.
downfazll of capitalist class rule." aspects is questioned by the masses of the population from one
rather jumping the gun to conclude that they were Governmental consciousness has become so strong that
end of Europe to the other.
In 1913 in the Basle extraordinary congress, the necessarily the product of a reformist daily practice communist methods meet with opposition among almost all the
Lloyd George sent a confidential memorandum to layers of fhe popUlation, although fhe number of communists,
Socialist International addressed a solemn warning to (combining economic strikes and the preparation of who during the revolutionary days comprised a small and
all governments: "good" electoral results) or that this was the reflection the delegates to the Versailles Peace Congress on resolute handful, has since grown inordinately.
Let the governments remember that, given the present condition of the growing integration of the proletariat into the March 23, 1919:
It is true that outside Russia the revolutionary wave
of Europe and the mood of the working class, they cannot bourgeois state and society. If Gennany ever goes over to the Spartakists, it is inevitable that
unleash a war without danger to themselves. Let them only had temporary victories: the creation of
she should throw in her lot with the Russian Bolsheviks. Once
remember that the Franco-German War was followed by the Because in that case how could we explain the turn that happens, all Eastern Europe will be swept into the orbit of ephemeral soviet republics in Hungary and Bavaria.
revolutionary outbreak of the Commune; that the Russo- in the masses' attitude from 19177 That is to say from the Bolshevik Revolution and within year we may witness a
Japanese War set into motion the revolutionary energies of the
peoples of the Rnssian Empire: that the military naval arms the moment that "the political and economic crisis
31. David Mitchell, op cit, p.IS 35. G. Salvemini, The Fascist Dictatorship Italy, New York, 1927,
race gave the class contliets in England and on the continent an created the war" in fact poverty,
unheard-of sharpness and unleashed an enormous wave of pp,30-31.
disease . massacres. the of democratic 32. Bavaria is German horder region which meets Austria. This
freedoms , as the Stuttgart Bas ic geographical position is important. as we 36. J. Braunthal, op.cit. p. 175.
resolutions How the simultaneous revolutionary upsurge in the west of Ibidem p. 186.
Austria, in Hungary east border of Austria and in Austria itself.
38. Ibidem p. 232.
33, Mitchell , op cit, p.
Idem pp. X9~90. 39. L. Trotsky, The First Five Years of the Communist International,
34. Mitchell, op cit p. 171 Vol.I, p.177,NewYork 1945.
Revolution ... Ernest Mandel Ernest Mandel Russian Revolution ...

The first phase of the Gennan revolution was defeated the world. This change in the international relationship of assault could mount in ever-rising waves, that in this process
the consciousness of the leading layers of the working class
in January 1919. The Austrian revolution was stopped forces between the classes saved Soviet Russia from
would bewme clarified, and that in this way the proletariat
There were only a handful of small revolutionary military suffocation in 1920 when the unanimous would attain state power in the course of one or two years.
in a deliberate way by the (centrist) Austrian Socialist
groups representing some tens of thousands of people threat of a general strike by the British workers' There was this historical possibility. But it did not materialize.
Party which negotiated a compromise with the History has with the assistance of the bourgeoisie's bad or
outside Russia at the first Congress of the Communist movement prevented British imperialism from
bourgeoisie."O good will. its
International in March 1919. But in the months which intervening c·············· .................................................................................................................................................................................................. . cunning, its
followed, the sympathy "for Moscow" would spread alongside the experience. its
counter- instinct for
to such a point that the majority of organized workers
Defeats in Europe: the responsibility in many countries (Spain, Italy, France, Norway, revolutionary
granted the
of the reformists Bulgaria, Czecho-Slovakia) and a strong minority in forces of bourgeoisie a
f air I y
others asked to join the Communist InternationaL In Weygand and
But this compromise was not a result of an Foch during the
Austria, Poland, Switzerland, the leaders of the breath in
objectively unfavourable relationship of forces. On Russo-Polish space.
Socialist Parties could only stop this tidal wave by
this point we should note the terrible historic war. In this miracles have
themselves breaking with reformist social-democracy taken place.
responsibility of the leaders of the Austrian SP. In fact, very precise
and forming the so-called "Two-and-a-half
the taking of power by the Austrian socialists sense as well the But it is
International". which made oaths in favour of the undoubtedly
which was perfectly possible at the time would Bolsheviks'
have fundamentally changed the situation in Europe in dictatorship of the proletariat." the case that
hopes in the
favour of the revolution. This would have assured a It should be pointed out that the deep radicalization world revolution the masses
territorial junction with the soviet republics of Bavaria of the international proletariat after the October were hardly il- wanted the
and Hungary which had been recently established and Revolution had its roots in the conditions in each lUSOry . revolution in a
were situated on either side of Austria. By their refusal country. It was not simply a product exported from whole series of
These hopes countries.
to take power, the Austrian socialists interrupted the Moscow. It profoundly changed the international w ere There is much
chain of the social revolution; if they had acted relationship of forces between the classes. To try to undoubtedly proof and
otherwise the three proletarian republics would have hold back this revolutionary wave with the aid of the excessive if we many personal
mutually strengthened each other, provoking a reformists, the bourgeoisie had to grant the proletariat talk about deci- testimonies
revolutionary momentum which could have spread
important reforms for which it had been fighting for sive short term w h i c h
throughout the whole of Europe. more than 25 years, particularly the eight-hour day and victories. Lenin underline this.
The German revolution started in 1918 and then simple universal suffrage. So deep was the and Trotsky If, despite this,
suffered a heavy blow. But it then went through radicalization that there was even a general strike in recognized this the revolu-
another upward phase which culminated in the Switzerland and a call by the social-democrat leader quite quickly. In tionary
impressive general strike of March 1920 against the Troelstra for a revolution in the Netherlands, two a rather paradox- struggle did not
Kapp-von Liittwitz putsch and was followed by a third countries which had remained neutral during the war ical fashion, they triumph
wave in 1923 with the general strike against the Cuno and which were a lot more stable than the rest of had sinned by an outside Russia
government. Europe. excess of this is because
spontaneism. The there was not
And most importantly, if the Bolsheviks had revolutionary
"illusions" in the world revolution, these illusions an adequate
43. The revolutionary wave even affected the faraway town of Seattle wave seemed leadership or
were shared by millions of wage-workers throughout in the United States where a general strike broke out whith took semi· then so deep that I................................................................................................................................................................. =-~======~. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ====~ ...................... ,even that the
soviet forms of organization. they had rather hegemonic
44. The left Menshevik leader, Martov, tried after the event 10 give a under-estimated the role of the subjective factor of leaders hips of the mass movement intervened actively
40. R. Rosdolsky (Die revolutioniire Siruarioll on CEsterreich im
"sociological" interpretation of the international workers' the revolutionary leadership in wresting a victory: to prevent this victory.
Jahre 1918 und die Politik der So:ialdemokraten - Der CEsterreische
radicalizat ion which followed 1917. He s tated ( J. Martov, What lies ahead of us is not chaotic, spontaneous assault, the
Janllarstreik 1918, Berlin, 1973) has shown on the basis of archive Despite the hesitations and the contradictions in his
Boiscevismo mondia/e. Einaudi, Toronto 1960. The Russian original first stage of which we observed in Europe in 1918-1919. It
material how the Austrian social-democratic leaders manoeuvred, in
dates from 1919) that this radicalization was essentially among the seemed to us (and there was some historical justification for it) diagnostic this is also the conclusion that Braunthal
dose association with the imperial government, to first channel and that in the period when the bourgeoisie was disorganized. this
soldiers and unorganized workers, who took the standpoin t of himself reached:
then suffocate this strong general strike in Vienna. Ono Bauer, leader
"consumers" opposed to the standpoint of the "producers", Why is it that nothing like this fa social revolution] happened?
of the left wing of the Austrian SP, recognizes that the end of the
traditional social-demOcratic skilled and semi-skilled workers. In the last instance it is because the German social democracy
general strike before it became a revolution was massively resisted
did not intervene in the revolution as a revolutionary party,
within the proletariat. This cannot be sustained to defend in the light of the facts. Not only in 45. On August 9, 1920. a Council of Action was organized by the because the majority of the leaders as well as the masses (their
Russia and Italy but also in Gennany. the wage-workers opting for the Parliamentary Committee of the British trade unions, the Executive own base) were far from thinking in revolutionary terms, and
41. For a presentation of this question. see the Introduction by Y.
Communist International were above all skilled and semi-skilled Committee of the Labour Party and the parliamentary group of this thus were not mentally prepared for the test of the revolution."
Bourdet to a selection of texts by Max Adler. Democratie et crmseiis
workers in the big factories, while the reforn1ists received their main party with the goal of warning the government:
ollvriers, Paris 1967. Yvon Bourdet essentially justifies the refusal of The Gennan people, the Gennan and international
support from morc or less unskilled workers from small and medium
the Austro-Marxists to conquer power, under-estimating both the that a war is being prepared by the Allies against Soviet Russia proletariat, humanity as whole, have paid a terrible
enterprises and the less developed sectors of the econom y. The on the Polish question. It states that such a war would be an
international revolutionary potential of the period and the seriousness price for this bankruptcy, based on crimes. We will
division in Germany between the USPD and SPD first, and then intolerable crime humanity. It thus warns the
of the short-term consequences of the political choice (while come back to this.
between left and right in the USPD (up to March] 921), and then in government that all the strength of the workers will be
emphasizing that the failure of the Austro-Marxist project of a "slow used to this war. .. and that a Council of Action will be
revolution" allowed the of fascislTI) . form ed to take all the measures necessary to
42. the far-right putsch of Kappfvon
the trade unions workers of the More than 1,000 delegates on August the offooning local
L. Trotsky, ibidem 219.
for the constitution of a "pure" workers' government composed Revolll{jO!1 Russia in 1917 - The l/iew/J-om Councils of Action and preparing a genera! strike. Councils were
of the SPD, the USPD and the trade unions . formed in more than 350 towns. Braunthal, cit p.
Ernest Mandel Russian Revolution .. .

land belonging to the big landowners. At the end of peasant families each comprising 6 people, that is 12
the 19th century, in the so-called "black earth" zone inhabitants of the Tsarist countryside, consumed the
(the heart of Russia), the landowners leased 50% of same as one single American worker (without his
their property to the peasants; in the other parts of the family ) in 1905. That is a difference of 1: 12 (and at
country it was 35 to 40%. The farm rents were that time the consumption of an American worker was,
The Tsarist regime was overthrown in February the peasantry varied between 50 and 100% of the net extremely high, sometimes as much as half the obviously, very much less than it is today).
1917, eight months before the October Revolution. It income per farm , according to size. harvest.
was then that the soviets the workers', soldiers' and The massive exportation of wheat by Russia, the
In addition, during the division of the land, the big Adding up the cost of buying the land, the taxes main source of its foreign currency before the export
peasants' councils - were created. However, at the
landowners took the good land which had previously and the rents, gives a total cost to the peasantry which of oil, was only possible because the charges of rent
beginning of this crucial period, the Bolsheviks were
been available to the peasants, and too often only implies inevitable pauperization of the majority of and taxes forced the peasants to sell wheat even if they
not a majority in the soviets and were not in power. It
"gave" them the right to buy less fertile land. families in the countryside. Between 1888 and 1898, did not have enough to eat. If they had been able to
was other political forces, the bourgeois liberals and
Mensheviks, who formed the provisional government, The peasants got practically nothing from the the number of horses owned by the peasants fell from really satisfy their needs , Russia would have been a
and had the opportunity to prove themselves. But they Tsarist state in exchange for this heavy contribution. 19.6 to 17 million. Their cattle livestock fell from 34.6 country which imported not exported wheat.
turned out to be incapable of resolving all the burning In the heartlands of central Russia, living and working to 24.5 million. The number of farms without horses
In his once classic work on Russia, the very
problems that existed. It was this incapacity which conditions remained as they had been for the last rose by 22% within the same period. (All these figures
conservative Sir Donald Mackenzie Wallace, official
explains the continuing growth of the Bolsheviks' thousand years. The yield by hectare was a quarter of come from official surveys of the time.)
representative of the British establishment, summed up
influence and the creation of a new revolutionary what it was in Britain, and less than a fifth for the Teodor Shanin, correcting - no doubt advisedly the deterioration of the situation of the Russian
situation in the autumn. average peasant farm (that is to say without including - the figures that Lenin used in his 1908 text "The peasants in the following figures: the annual tax
the land worked by the aristocracy and the Agrarian Programme of Russian Social Democracy arrears (that is the unpaid taxes) rose from 0.9 roubles
Immediate peace was not the only task which
bourgeoisie ):8 during the First Russian Revolution", presents the per male inhabitant in 1882 to 6 roubles in 1893 and to
confronted the provisional government. The
population felt the urgency of other problems and the In these conditions, the burden of the rent and following table for the stratification of the peasantry in 22 roubles in 1899 in the seven provinces of the black
soviets were committed to resolving them without taxes to be paid year after year made it impossible for European Russia towards 1905: earth zone.")
delay (without that always meaning that the masses the peasants to accumulate any reserves. This led on
• 15.8% of well-off peasant families had 15 desiatin
consciously supported the power of the soviets). the one hand to a gradual exhaustion of the fertility of or more;
This is particularly true for the questions of land,
the land by over-cultivation (we see that ecological Urban poverty
problems do not only date from the Stalinist period!) • 51.4% of peasant families had between 7 and 15
workers' poverty, and political institutions. desiatin; Urban and working-class poverty was no less
and also led to periodic famines at every bad harvest.
In these three key fields of socio-political life, The worst was that of 1891. dramatic. Anatole Kopp, mainly using the figures of
• 32.4% of poor peasant families had less than 7 the Soviet author G. Pouzis, stated that in the 131
Russia carried a heritage of barbarism, of desiatin.
More serious than this financial burden was the towns situated in the territories which constituted the
backwardness, of under-development, to which were
lack of land. It has been estimated that the size of a Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic (RSFSR):
added the effects of a rapid and savage (In each case this is property per family and not by
farm sufficient to feed a peasant family was 6.5 to 7
industrialization carried out by the autocracy. head of the population.) Only 9% of houses were linked to this system [of drains). Of
desiatin. The peasants working on formerly noble or the 195,000 existing in 213 towns of the RSFSR which, before
The historic merit of the October Revolution is that pu blic land received only 3.17 or 4.9 desiatin He deduces that on average for the period 1897- the Revolution, had a water supply system, only 12.5% were
it made it possible to rapidly clean out these Augean respectively. Given the growth of the population and 1905 there were in Russia: connected to it."

stables produced by Tsarism, for which the great the very limited rural exodus, the average amount of In 1912, the number of people per apartment was
• between 0.8 and 1.2% of capitalist farmers (5.1 to
majority of the Russian people - prisoner of these land available to each adult peasant was 4.83 desiatin 8.7 in Moscow, around 8 in Petrograd compared to 3.6
7.6% of the peasant population);
inhuman conditions - paid in human suffering. in 1861 and 3.1 desiatin in 1905. Around 5 million in Berlin, 4.2 in Vienna and 2.7 in Paris.
adult men in the country could not really use their • between 6 and 8% of landless workers (3 to 4% of
It should be enough simply to describe these labour power, even at the low average level of The average working day was usually 10 hours,
the peasant population);
conditions to see once again the hypocrisy, if not the productivity cited. The peasants needed 60 to 70 without counting the many hours of overtime.
cynicism, of all those who hold the October • between 2.6 and 3.9% of rich peasants; According to the historian Prokopovitch, in 1909 in
million desiatin of land in addition.
Revolution responsible for the misery which existed in Petrograd three times the average annual wage was
• between 12.4 and 10.7% of well-off peasants;
Russia until the early 19208. In 1905, in comparison with the 112 million necessary to keep a family decently. Working-class
desiatin in the hands of the peasants there were 101.7 • 51.8% of middle peasants; poverty was thus enormous. In 1908, a working-class
million in the hands of the nobility, the clergy and the family spent 48% of its income on food (which was
• between 24 .. 2 and 26.4% of poor peasants:"
bourgeoisie, and 145 million desiatin in state and extremely inadequate), 21 % on housing (usually
The agrarian question public lands. Agricultural enterprises of more than 50 The poor therefore represented a third of the miserable) and 15% on clothing. For all other needs,
The abolition of serfdom in 1861 was accompanied desiatin each (15 times greater than the average village populations. particularly health care and even elementary
by heavy charges on the peasants. It is estimated that peasant farm) occupied in themselves 80 million education, there was only 15% of a very meagre wage.
The barbaric conditions and poverty in which the
the capitalized yield of the land that the peasants were desiatin.
peasantry lived under Tsarism was clearly expressed Pokrovski estimated that between 1892 and 1902,
to receive at that time was around 648 million gold The conclusion is obvious, the peasants could only in their level of consumption. B y head of the
roubles. but the total price the peasants were obliged to obtain the land they needed by radical elimination of population, the average peasant farm, aside fro m
pay was 867 million roubles. The peasants had in the noble and bourgeois big property owners. expenses in food and spent 5.5 roubles per 50. D. Mackenzie Wallace, Russia on the Eve of War and Revolution,
addition to pay an agricultural tax of 1.56 roubles per Cyril E.Black, Rundom House, 1961, p. 346.
For as long as this agricultural revolution did not year on clothing, 2.5 roubles for cultural-spiritual
desiatin (a desiatin is equivalent to 2. 7 acres). This
take the could only continue to rent 1 roubles for other material Two 5 1. A. Kopp, Changeria vie, changer fa vil/e, Paris, 1975, 26 1.
makes in all 170 million while the
and noble 0.23 roubles per 52. James H.Baker: "S!.pp t,~rdmra Moscow of the
desiatin. revolution", p. in: Daniel The Workers' Revolution in
48. All these can be found in L Trotsky , pp. 49, T. Russia as "Develop ing Society ''', Vol London. Russia, 1917 Th e View from Below, Camhridge University
r<Nwri", n to a 1902 survey, the sums to be paid etseq. 1985, pp.98,lOL 1987.
Russian Revolution ... Ernest Mandel Ernest Mandel Russian Revolution ...

the real wage of a Russian worker had fallen by 20%.53 The English professors Kochan and Abraham cite It was probably the Russian Jews who now had to undergo the In what is probably the most objective history of
And in a later enlarged edition of his work, this an almost unbelievable fact: worst torments. [Dreadful pogroms took place.] "One third of
the Russian Revolution written by a non-socialist,
the Jews must die, one third emigrate and one third assimilate,"
communist historian, who was much praised by Lenin, /\ cirCUlar [was] issued by Delyanov, the Minister of Education William Henry Chamberlin wrote:
said Pobedonostev [lay head of the Orthodox church and one of
described the miserable living conditions of the in 1887, banning lower~lass children from secondary schools: the models for Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor]. What were the outstanding characteristics of the first period of
Russian workers at the end of the 19th century: "... children of coachmen. cooks, washerwomen, small
The apparent victory over Islamic nationalism in Transcaucasia the deepening of the revolution? Loosening of discipline in the
shopkeepers and persons of similar type, whose children,
merely encouraged the intelligentsia of Georgia and Armenia to army, increasingly radical demands of the industrial workers,
63.7% of workers were illiterate .... In the factories of Moscow perhaps with the exception of those gifted with unusual
first for higher wages, then for control over production and
the textile workers were almost always obliged to sleep on the;; abilities, should certainly not be brought out of the social feel secure enough to tum to revolutionary agitation. In Asia,
distribution, arbitrary confiscation of housing in the towns, to a
looms. The whole family in fact slept on these looms tW01lnd. enviro~ment to which they belong". the government's increasing support for a determined
greater degree of land in the country districts, insistence in such
a~half metres long and two metres wide. They had to clean the proselytizing movement was bonnd to of[(;nd the Islamic
The super-exploitation of women workers was non ~Russian parts of the country as Finland and Ukraine on the
dirty pieces with their clothes. The employers said to the doctor traditionalists among local population ... Central Asia and the grant of far~reaching autonomy.""
that the workers "liked" to live like this ... particularly serious. In 1914, women workers' wages Far East were the happy hunting ~grounds of Russian imperialist
The doctor who gave [this] information on textile workers were half those of men. In 1916 they had fallen to less adventurers, dubious carpet ~baggers and pseudo viceroys ... Far from acting under the influence of radical
became an inspector, which, let it be said in utopia or of extreme thirst for power, the intelligentsia
than 40%. In his 1,000 page book The Russian Revolution,
immediately changed his attitude. Two years later, he
the workers' living conditions in most of the governmental
in 1917 was characterized by growing moderation,
Can the idea that the October revolution did a Richard Pipes defends the preposterous thesis that the
enterprises of the Vladimir government: pollution, bact aiL two hesitation and absence of any will to exercize power,
families in a room with one or two windows ... useful and healthy job in radically eliminating these revolution was the result of the intelligentsia's
in the last analysis determined by extreme class
The Russian workers then ate worse than the [German] afterthc abominations really be challenged? devotion to utopian ideas and extreme thirst for power polarization in the country.
imperialist war, during the civil war and the blockade, The since the end of the 19th century. 6i But in order to
usual food was salted meat, smoked fish. The only fresh meat
was offaL..
support this conspiracy theory, he has to obliterate the **
The Tsarist state powerful workers' strikes leading up to a general Is it surprising that at the time of the February
In these living and housing conditions, the workers were otten
ill. In the Moscow textile factories, 134 women in 1000 had strike on Feburary 25, ("a startling event in wartime" 1917 revolution, the peasants, workers and oppressed
tuberculosis. In addition there was an epidemic, which the The oppressive role of the Tsarist state had a as Moynahan adds) which occurred before the nationalities emitted an almost unanimous cry: Enough
doctors qualified as "traumatic" and entirely "proletarian": the pTecise financial dimension: 80% of its budget was soldiers' mutiny of February-March 1917. All this is enough. Land, the right to self-determination, the 8-
injuries ... In one [big] textile factory, in a three~year period
only one in three workers had not been injured.
spent on the army and the repressive apparatus. This occurred because of the extreme deterioration of hour day and workers' control straightaway.
parasitic drain on the national income was essentially
The rate of infantile mortality in the essentially at the Cost of the peasantry (but also at the cost of the workers' living conditions, not because of the But the Provisional Government hesitated, dragged
working-class areas of Petrograd was at least double workers, given the indirect taxes). Industry was intelligentsia'S incitement. 6 ] its feet, postponed the decision, put off decisions on
that of the "mixed" areas. Almost a quarter of the fillanced above all thanks to foreign investment. these questions until after the Constituent Assembly,
babies born within the capital died before they were a and the elections to the Constituent in turn were
Russian industry was not competitive in the world 60. Kochan Abraham, op.cit., pp. 223~224, 196~197.
year old. repeatedly postponed.
market. Nor could the narrow base of the national 61. Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolutioll, Vintage Books, New
If we think that the descriptions from this Marxist market, given the poverty of the great majority of the York 1990. Is it surprising in these conditions that the masses
source are excessive, this is the judgement of a ~ery popUlation, give it sufficient outlets. In addition, increasingly took their fate into their own hands, that
62. See in this respect, among other sources, Moynahan's fiercely
moderate bourgeois historian: imported products were cheaper and of better quality they sought to resolve their vital problems themselves,
anti~communist book Comrades (pp. 49~56).
It is frequently argued that the slums of Britain achieved an than the products of Russian industry. Thus there was that they identified with Bolshevik policies and the
63. Ibidem pp. 4, 7.
obscenity of inhumanity which no other society could an extreme protectionist policy and a constant power of the soviets, when they resolved these
conceivably equal. In the sense that the misery of the lOwer 64. Chamberlin op cit p. 143 problems from one day to the next?
depths in English and Scottish slums equalled the misery of the tendency to military expansionism towards the East
lowest depths ... , this is true. But by no means all Britisb and South East. Countries like Turkey, Iran,
workers belonged to the lowest depths, while almost all Russian Afghanistan, China, Korea as well as regions of the
workers did so belong ... In Russia there were no gradations: .-
workers were wage-slaves in the strictest sense and their Wages, CaucaSians were forced, by threats or bayonets, to buy
were insufficient to support a family.j(, Russian goods. The term "Cossack capitalism
The academic of Russian origin, l')fichol as V. (imperialism)" has been correctly used to describe this.
Riasanovsky, whose works are frequently used in It ended badly with the Russo-Japanese war at
Western universities wrote: Tsushil11a when the Western annies were defeated.

... despite the labour legislation and despite the fact that Wages But the most oppressive and repressive aspect of
undoubtedly rose in the years which preceded the First World Tsarisll1 was expressed in all the institutions (or their
War (which, let it be said in passing, Soviet historians .~Ontinue
to deny hotly), the Russian workers in general remained very
absenCe) formed by the autocracy and what they
poor. Badly~paid, housed in overcrowded slums, almo;t repreSented for the peoples of the empire: lack of
illiterate and deprived of any other advantage, the prOletarians demOCratic rights and freedoms; extreme bureaucratic
of imperial Russia offered an excellent example of the' indigent
and exploited workforce characteristic of the first phase, of
arbitrariness; accentuated national oppression:
capitalism and which Marx described so powerfUl!yin With the emergence of national intelligentsia among nearly all
Capita!." the minority peoples, the government had either to concede the
need for some local autonomy in the vulnerable borderlands or
else to seek to convert these new forces to its own beliefs. The
upshot was a vigorous policy of Russification. In the Ukraine,
53. M. Pokrovski, Geschichte Russlands, Hirschfeld, Leipzig 1919, Whi te Russia, Lithuania and Poland, the teaching of the
p.275. vernacular was restricted or forbidden in schools and the use of
Russian enforced. In the Bailie provinces, Livonia, Estonia and
54. M.Pokrovski, Russische Geschichte, Btichergilde Courland, the government exercised similar discrimination
Berlin 1930, pp. 249-252. against the German element
55. Smith, op. cit p.

56. E. The Shadow of the 58. LiOflel Kochan and Richard The
20 Harmondsworth, 1978, p. 344. Russia, Barrnondsworth, 1983 , p.
Riasanovsky, Histoire fa Russie, Paris 1987. pp. 59. SA. Smith. op. cit p. pp. 4748.
Ernest Mandel Russian Revolution ...

As you know. the Bolsheviks have changed the names of the the hands of mili tary dictators like the admiral
old regiments, The Moscow troops have on their backs K.L. -
Karl Liebknecht. We (the northern White Anny) took one of
Kolchak or the general Wrangel.
these regiments prisoner. We took it before the war tribunaL
The trials on the White front are very short. Each soldier is
interrogated and if he admits to being communist then he is
immediately condemned to death by hanging or bullet. The White dictatorship or soviet power
Both East and West, the condemnation of the Moscow, the monarchists feel at ease. The first visit of the Reds know this perfectly welL
Gennan ambassador was to the Grand Duchess, sister·in·law of The concrete choice was not between bourgeois
October Revolution is generally based on the idea that Nicholas II. He then saw other notorious royalists, It is Lieutenant K. stood before the prisoner regiment and declared:
the Bolshevik "putsch" prevented the obviously a question of preparing a restoration of the Tsar. The "Those among you who are real communists, show their democracy and Bolshevik dictatorship. It was between
absolutist monarchists are ready to accept everything without courage and step forward." There was a long and oppressive counter-revolutionary dictatorship of soviet power.
institutionalization and consolidation of democracy. pause after these words. Then more than half the regiment
shame, and particularly a military alliance with Gennany and
Because of this it led to the establishment of a Ukrainian independence. if stepped forward in line. They were condemned to death by There is no doubt about the dictatorial character of
"totalitarian regime". Democracy or dictatorship, this firing squad. But before the execution, each soldier had to dig
A member of the German embassy, the Freiherr his own grave .... the counter-revolution. John Rees gave a good
was the alternative in October 1917 and in the months description of the terror used by the reactionary forces:
Karl von Bothmer, completely confinned this: The condemned men were ordered to undress ... so that their
that followed. unifonns would not be stained by their blood nor cut to pieces
For some time, monarchist circles have been being very active "The greater the terror, the greater our victories," declared
by the bullets. The communists slowly took off their shirts and Komilov. We must save Russia he argued "even if we have to
Once again this is a flagrant mystification or and are talking freely to us ... During these discussions, I have tied them up in a bundle .... Then, naked, they dug their set fire to half of it and shed the blood of three fourths of all the
falsification of history. met a series of important personalities who are sympathetic to graves ... A command, a flash in the night, the shots rang out ...
us. They all said the same sort of thing: We can do nothing Russians!"
The communists were still upright, very straight. A second
In reality, the polarization of social and political without you. You have to intervene directly, then we can act,6" salvo. The bullets went straight to their hearts, the blood gushed Ataman Semyonov was placed under the authority of the White
forces had reached a paroxysm in Russia. This ou!. .. " general Kolchak." The spectacle of the zones under his control
left no ambiguity as to the nature of his rule:
polarization was such that it did not leave any space To the smallest detail this description prefigures Innocent men and women dangled by the scores from telegraph
for an experiment in institutionalized or indeed Counter-revolutionary repression the methods used by the Nazi special forces, the SS, poles in the vicinity of his capital, and his men machine.gunned
prolonged bourgeois democracy. From July 1917, days during the Second World War: massacre of political freight cars full of victims at execution fields along the railway.
which were marked by a radicalization of popular This class hatred was not directed in the first place
commissars and Jews forced to dig their own graves.
demands, the bourgeois parties - and the military against the Bolsheviks and their allies. It was directed By the orders of another White leader, Baron Urgan·Sternberg,
They were, what is more, prisoners of war. This was
cliques to which they were linked - had adopted a above all at the popular masses, starting with the "men and women suffered death by beating, hanging,
the action of "defenders of democracy" against the beheading, disembowling and countless other tortures which
much more repressive course. "wild" peasants in their villages, demanding that the
"Bolshevik dictatorship". transfonned living human beings into what one witness called a
"plunderers" should be brought into line. 'formless bloody mass'." Even his own staff physician
Kornilov's military coup d'etat in August 1917 did The Freiherr von Bothmer reported in his above- described one of the Baron's written orders as "the product of
not fall from the sky. It reflected the sharpening of the It was the bourgeoisie and the nobles, with the the diseased brain of a pervert and a megalomaniac affected
mentioned book:
socio-political struggle. Its failure simply reinforced hesitant support of the reformist parties, particularly with a thirst for human blood".
the right Social Revolutionaries, who started the Civil The Czecho·Slovaks [prisoners of war whom imperialism
the thirst for revenge on the part of the possessing anned against the Soviet power during the summer of 1918] and
classes and their henchmen. This was seen on the eve War after the Russian Revolution. They showed proof the Siberians acted with an extreme lack of scruples in relation
and immediately after the October insurrection. of an unlimited cruelty in the period of 1918-21. to the members of soviets who fell into their hands, The large The pogroms
number of executions made a deep impression on all
This hate of the Russian property-owning classes This line of cruelty based upon deep contempt for Bolsheviks,"
In 1918-1921, the Ukraine was the theatre of the
took on a rarely-seen force. It can for example be the masses was expressed most clearly by the Tsarina The German writer Alfons Paquet, the worst pogroms, massacres of the Jewish communities,
compared to that of the French bourgeoisie at the time Alexandra herself. She wrote to her husband: "Be correspondent in Russia of the Frankfurter Zeitung, that Europe was to know before the "final solution" of
of the Paris Commune in 1871 and the Spanish Peter the Great, Ivan the Terible, be Tsar Paul- crush also noted that, after the temporary occupation of the Nazis. According to Zvi Gitelman, there were 2000
reaction in the summer of 1936. them all under your feet. "69 Jaroslav in July 1918, the Bolshevik members of the pogroms, 1200 of which were in the Ukraine. The
And on the very eve of the revolution she still soviet were executed by the counter-revolution with, author estimated the total number of victims at
Jacques Sadoul noted pertinently that they:
wrote to the Tsar: "Dearest, show the power of your on this occasion, the active participation of the SRs. 150,000. These massacres were accompanied by
... wanted to establish an absolutist regime which would drown
fist - that is what Russians need ... They themselves unbelievable cruelty:
the revolution in blood, and massacre and deport the Jews, Does it need to be recalled that at the same time the
Bolsheviks, socialists and Kadets. ask for this - so many have said to me recently: 'We terrorists of the left SRs killed some of the most Men were buried up to their necks and then killed by the hooves
need the knout'. "70 of horses driven over them, or were literally pulled apart by
important Bolshevik leaders, including Volodarski and horses driven in opposite directions. Children were smashed
The American journalists A.R. Williams, who Uritsky. One left SR, Fanny Kaplan, made an attempt against walls in view of their parents; pregnant women were a
Russian reaction and German lived in Russia during the revolution, cited the on Lenin which was nearly successful. favorite target, their unborn children killed in their mothers'

imperialism following passage by N. Chiffrin in the anti-Bolshevik Bolshevik writers asserted quite correctly:
daily Le Jour of September 7, 1919:
This class hatred was so deep that in the space of a It was under the salvos of the Czechoslovak rifles, behind the
mountain of dead bodies of the finest flower of the proletariat of 74. On November 17, 1918, "Admiral Kolchak ... was declared
few months, the nobility and the "patriotic"
Siberia and the Urals, ... that the so·called "people's anny" (the 'Supreme Ruler of all Russia' ... The British and French
monarchists who were indignant about the soldiers' Whites) was fonned" representatives approved of the coup ,.. The Socialist Revolutionaries,
lack of enthusiasm for Kerensky's offensive on the in hiding in Ufa, disowned the Corps but were unable to do much
soldiers' desire for peace were such that they did not manage to The attempts by conciliatory parties to create a
Polish Galician front in June 1917, called for the organize effective military offensives against the German forces, for more. Some of them made precarious peace with the Communists; the
regime called the "Constituent Assembly" failed
arrival of German troops in Petrograd in order to crush whic he was strongly reproached by the right, We should remember Socialist Revolutionary members of the Directory, Zenzinov and
rapidly. A series of coups d'etat gave power back into
the revolutionary hotbed and became strongly that large part of Poland had been incorporated into the Russian Avksentiev, were forced to emigrate; and Chernov eventually
66 it is Sadoul who points out: empire. escaped abroad." (Leonard Shapiro, The Russian Revolution of 1917,
Basic Books, New York1984, p. 175.
arrival of the IGerman ambassador] Mirbach in 67. Sadoul op cit, p. 322
71. A.RWilliams, die Revolution, Berlin, 1922, pp. to the counter,revolutionaries,
75. The tenn "White" is used to
68. Bothmer, Graf Mirbach in Moskau, Tiibingen 233·234. opposed to "Reds". A White general i$ thus general from
hr, i,'h,n'''HW Paris, 1920, 288. Bothmer. p. counter.revolutionaryanny.
69. Moynahan op cit p.
a refo r mist, was the head of the Pr ovisional lIIustrierte Geschichte der russischen Revolution, Berlin, J928, p. 76. John Rees: "In Defence of October" ,International Socialism, No
political si tnation within the armed forces and the 70. Moynahan op cit p. 539. 52. Autumn 1991.
! ~..~.. ~_R_u_ss_i_an__R_e_vo_l_u_tz_·o_n_.. _.___________________________________________
Erl_1e_s_t_M_a_n_d_e~1 Ernest Mandel Russian Revolution ...

i ff.L.~ I sight. Thousands of women were raped and hundreds were left The soviets were ferociously persecuted. The Once the Constituent Assembly was convoked and the How can the October Revolution be held responsible
i 'I I. iusane by their experiences." democra( IC .
nght S 0 f th e workers were t0 ta11 y deme
. d. distribution of the land to the peasants carried out in an for the victims of the White terror and pogroms?
These pogroms were coldly and consciously This is what caused the the defeat of the Whites. orderly and legal fashion, a bourgeois democracy
Sophists argue that the Civil War and the White
organized by the counter-revolutionary leaders. As the comparable to that in Poland, although certainly with
Terror are only products of the revolution. The answer
- very reactionary - British author Bruce Lincoln A major factor in Kolchak's defeat was the low morale of his limitations that Western Europe did not experience,
forces; there were frequent desertions to the communist side in is in the question: was not the Revolution itself the
notes: could have stabilized.
course of the battle. Another was his failure to win over the product of the Ancien Regime'? Here we come up
popUlation. which. although far from pro-communist, preferred
Ko longer spontaneous outpourings of racial and religious This is not a realistic view. It underestimates the against a conception of history as a continuous flow
hatred, pogroms now became coldly calculated incidents of Soviet rule in the last resort.
I explosive character of social contradictions. To think without being attached anywhere in time or in space.
wholesale rape, extreme brutality and unprecedented There were many reasons for the victory the Red Army the
destruction. In a single day at the end of August. in the Jewish civil war, but most of them add up to one simple fact: the that the capitalists would have accepted social This conception does not make it possible to ever draw
settlement of Kremenchuk, the Whites raped 350 women, people as whole, in spite of the unpopularity of the legislation which undermined the competitiveness of out any conclusions. While saying that it is an attempt
including pregnant women, women who had just birth communists. preferred the Soviet regime to the available to understand the movement of history as a whole, this
and even women who were dying. alternatives. The peasants disliked both sides. and wished above
their factories, to think that the landowners would
all to left alone: but whcn it came to the choice, they have accepted a division of their property, becau se method in facts hides the precise responsibility of
According to Salo W. Baron, after the pogroms preferred the Communists. who gave them land, to the Whites, these reforms had been carried out by a Constituent given social and political forces, in relation to specific
organized under the "socialist" Petljura, the massacres took. or threateued to take. it away.':
Assembly elected by universal suffrage, is to actions.
left in their wake some 100,000 new widows, and Chamberlin states likewise: misunderstand the lessons of European history of the Revolutions are at present not very popular, to say
200,000 new orphans. No less than 28% of all 1920s and 1930s.
Ou July 1611918], the Siberian government ordered the the least. Unfortunately, even R.V. Daniels, author of
Ukrainian Jewish houses were said to have been suppression of all existing Soviets and forbade the election of
During this period, bourgeois democracy was not two rather left books The Honor the Revolution and
burned, and in addition 10% abandoned by their new ones. Throughout July and August the policy of the
Siberian government was directed to the restoration of private only severely restricted or indeed suppressed - Red Petrograd, is caught up by the "spirit of the time"
owners. 79
property in every fonn ...
except to a very limited extent - in Poland and the and writes in the New York Times Review of Books
The counter-revolution also drew on the support of When the Whites began to bring back the landlords. the
Baltic countries, and strongly restricted in Finland. It of April 26,1992:
the German occupying army. When it conquered the peasants organized guerrilla bands and fell upon them."
was also eliminated in Italy, in Germany and in Spain, Mr Moynahan shows what a revolution really means. The
town of Odessa and its surroundings, it published a This is why the Whites lost. They could not win or three countries that were a lot more developed that normal bonds of society give way to mindless murder and
statement dated November 16, 1918, also reproduced mayhem.
reconstitute a popular base. Their armies were, in Russia in 1917.
in its newspaper Neue Nachrichten, and which in general, officer armies, without the ability or even the This is nothing but anti-working-class and anti-
particular asserted that: desire to recruit conscripts. We see to what extent The Menshevik leaders themselves recognized this. peasant prejudice. Why is the revolutionary masses
We have penetrated into Russian territory with the intention of these officers feared the peasants. Dan wrote: upsurge "mindless" and "mayhem" while the ruling
re-establishing order and freeing the country from the Bolshevik Having assessed the effective relationship of forces, it [the state's and private violence is supposed to be
usurpers ... All the elements harmful to Russia, that is the Menshevik CCI reached the conclusion that - independently of "normal",? The Tsarist-capitalist participation in the
Bolsheviks and those who support them, are now declared their subjective intentions - the victory of the elements
outlaws. Whoever shelters them will be taken before a military A third way? marching on Petrograd would have necessarily meant the
First World War cost between 5 and 6 million deaths.
tribunal.'o victory of tbe worst of counter-revolutions. Was that not "mindless" murder? Why was the pre-
The list of atrocities committed by the Whites can Confronted with this diagnosis, which it is difficult war rule based on the knout, countless executions and
be prolonged indefinitely: to contest, opponents of October often react in two deportations, barbaric oppression (pogroms!) and mass
diametrically opposed directions. Some consider that The price of October 1917 starvation "normal" and the masses' revolt against
The assassinations by Yudenich (650 people shot or hung in the
town of Iamburg alone in August 1919) ... : by the Baltic gangs
there was no basis for a (bourgeois) democratic regime these evils a dissolution of the "normal bonds of
and the Germans of von der Galtz (approximately 4000 victims) in Russia whether this was for social reasons (extreme The choice was thus truly either victory of the society"? Was slavery also "normal" and revolts
... by Kolchak (a thousand Red soldiers burnt alive at Perm instability; absence of middle classes, the traditional socialist revolution or victory of a counter-revolution against slavery "mindless murder and mayhem"?
during his withdrawal) ...
support of democracy) or for ethno-cultural reasons that would have been among the most bloody ever
(lack of democratic traditions in the Russian empire, known, which would have brought to power a Russian
tendency of the masses to vacillate wildly between Hitler still worse than the German Hitler we know.
The social counter-revolution resigned passivity and chaotic and uncontrollable Moral judgement and class
It is in the light of this diagnosis and of everything
The "political alternative" to the power of the
explosions ).
that it implies that we can reply to the question
soviets had, obviously, a precise socio-economic In these conditions, for these people the' whether, in the final analysis, the price paid by the There is, moreover, an aspect of this question
content as is the case during any social revolution. "totalitarian deviation" of the Bolsheviks was October Revolution was too high or not. OUf answer is which we should not try to hide. In time of revolution,
Where the Whites established their dictatorship, the inevitable but was nevertheless worse than an a definite no. A defeat of the revolution in 1917 would the toiling population is first of all carried towards
gains of October were rapidly if not immediately authoritarian right-wing regime. have cost the Russian people and Europe much too generous reactions. But, faced with civil war, when it
eliminated. The landowners took back their estates. dear. sees itself repeatedly provoked and subject to
For others, there was nevertheless the possibility of
The rights of the national minorities were suppressed. aggression from its class enemies, it also tends to use
a third way. In their opinion, if the Kerensky regime In order to distort the calculation, the opponents of
had not been overthrown by the "Bolshevik putsch" it direct indeed sometimes "savage" violence. Baboeuf
the October revolution use the sort of magical
could have gradually stabilized, carrying out moderate already pointed out in his letter to his wife,
77. Z. Gitelman, A Century of Ambivalence, The Jews ofRlIssia
disappearing trick that they use for the French
repression against both the far right and the far left. commenting on the execution of the Princesse de
the Soviet Union, New York. 1988. pp. 99- I 06. Revolution. They add up pell-mell the victims of the
Lamballe after the taking of Bastille, that these
revolution and of the counter-revolution, the economic
78. B. Lincoln, Red Victory, New York! 989, p. 322-223. excesses were the largely inevitable product of years
effects of the first and of the second and then say that
79. Salo Shapiro. Op.CiL pp.l of confrontation by the people with the violence and
all cost of the Revolution.
of their oppressors. gD To
cit, 19.
Russian Revolution ... Ernest Mandel

conditions, that the masses in all circumstances would The cost of Stalinism was dramatic for the Soviet
show themselves to be scrupulously respectful of all and intemational proletariat.
the rights of women and men is really to demand a
The scope of thi s Stalinist counter-revo lu tion
expresses the historic tragedy which occurred a lot
In the final analysis, what is hidden by all these better than any su btle analy ses of the so -c alled In general the October Revolution was the product them selves by their own free vote will indicate what parties
abs tract , p se udo-moral condemnations of responsibility of Lenin's ideas (or indeed tho se of of objective social contradictions , which acquire an they recognize as soviet parties ."
revolutionary violence - without any consideration of Marx) for Stalin's crimes. During the 1920s and irrepressible ex pl os ive dynamic , as well as th e It is undeniable that the workers considered the
the precise historic context - is open class prejudice. 1930s, Stalin assassinated a million communists. Can evolution of the relationship of forces between the Mens heviks in 1920 as a soviet party, because they
The traditional violence of those in power is "normal". we seriously say that this is "a detail of history"? Is it classes an d the soc ial layers operating in this had quite a number of e lecte d represen tativ es ,
It represents a "lesser evil" whatever its extent. The not odious to throw butcher and victims into the same framework. It also resulted from the activity of the particularly in Charkov and Moscow.
rebellious response of the risen people is by definition bag?89
Bolshevik Part y in unt ang lin g th es e knots o f
"worse", even if its scope is much less than that of the The same remark also applies to the anarchists.
contradictions in the interests of the toiling masses and
property-owners. The hypocrisy hits us in the face. the international proletariat. The banning of the soviet parties, as well as the
This class prejudice often hides a fear of the banning of factions within the government party which
This said, in the light of the later evolution of the
masse s wh os e social support is once aga in quite 87. M. Raeff, Comprendre f' Ancien nigime russe, Paris, 1982, p. 176. was its logical follo w-on (each faction is in fact
Russia of soviets and of the USSR , we should ask
obvious. As a rather moderate French historian says: 8S . I have dealt with these problems, incl ud ing that of the specific another party in formation), were undoubtedly seen as
whether some of the policies put into operation by the
nature of the Soivet Therm idor, in my latest book Power and Money· temporary measures , related to particular
After 186 1, th e intelligents ia and the state had the constant Bolshev ik party , after the taki ng of power, did not
preoccupation of controll ing the peop le through fear of their A Marxist Theory of Bureaucracy , London, Verso Press, 1992. The circumstances , which would therefore be repealed
encourage the process of bureaucratic degeneration of
anarchic and destruc tive potential. The common fe ar (due to term 'Thermidor" originally indicated a political counter· revo lution. when the objective situation improved. Obviously we
ignorance) prevents them from having an objective idea of the durin g th e French Revolution of 1789 · 1S 15. Starting i.n 1794 the first workers' state.
should ask what were the precise consequences of
peop le, based on a concrete knowledge of the rea lit y of the ("thermidor"was the name of a month in the revolution ary calendar)
country. Thu s both have succumbed to the popu lar stikhiinost This bureaucratic degeneration, in the 1920s and these specific decisions, pu t into effect at a particular
this counter· revolut ion di smantled the democratic and popular fornls moment.
(elementary force) of the beginning of the 20th centu ry." 1930s, was certainly not initiated nor fundamentally
of organizat ion created in the ri si ng against the Ancien regime,
It is just as mistaken to want to add together the caused by the orientation of this party. It also had its
without challening its bourgeois character. By analogy, the "Sov iet But we should also ask another question: what
cost of the October 1917 revolution and that of the roots in the objective contradictions of Soviet society
T he rm idor" refer s to th e Stalinist cou nt e r-revolution which were the consequences of the theories which were put
later Stalinist regime. Stalinism is in fact the product e limina ted socialist democracy and introduced a bureaucratic and the international situation which then prevailed.
forward to justify such bannings, even if they were
of a real bureaucratic counter-revolution. To confuse dictatorship without re·establishing cap it alism in the USSR. However, decisions like the concrete attitude to the
conjunctural? I think that the theoretical justifications
the two is an under-estimation, or indeed a negation of Bolshevik party - or different components of its
89. The hi stori an Ma rc Ferro g ives the fo ll ow ing fig ures whi c h caused a lot more hann in the more long term, than the
the scope of this later, or the radical break that the leadership - at precise moments also had an effect on
ill ustrate the transform ation of the CPSU: between the first half of measures themselves - and continue to do so today.
"Soviet Thermidor" - the bureaucratic counter- 1924 and the second half of 1925, the number of workers among the the process of bureaucratization of the regime. We
revolution - constituted in relation to October and the candidates members of the party fell from 64.5 to 43.S%. Is this not should try to understand some of the mistakes which
period which immediately followed."' eloquent? (M. Ferro, op. cil. , p. 246). Th is was only an indication of were made.
The danger of substitutionism
The banni ng of soviet parties was based on a
The banning of the soviet parties substitutionist conception of building socialism - and
of socialist/communist policies in general. That is a
The mo st serious of these mistakes was the
conception which Trotsky had always vigorousl y
banning of the soviet parties at the very moment that
denounced (except in the "black years" of ] 920-21)
I the revolutionary government had defini tively won the
and that Lenin also fought against during a good part
civil war of 1918-20. Trotsky, although not very
of his life.
inclin ed to self-criticism of the dec ision s of th e
I leadership and government of which he was the most
influen tial member after Lenin, made two ex plicit
In this conception, the proletariat in its majority not
co nsc iou s e nou gh to rule a country (th e social-
I democrats are of the same opinion and even add: to
judgements on this.
lead a trade union). Another argument was introduced
In 1936 he wrote: later: that of losing its class char ac ter and its
The pro hibi tion of factions ended in a prohibiti on to th ink corruption (including through colonial superprofits).
otherwise than the infallible leaders. The poli ce-manufactured
monolith ism of the party resulted in a bureaucratic impunity This starting point very quickl y lea ds to th e
which has become the source of all kinds of wantonness and
c orrllption.~)
conclu sion that the party must rule instead of the
actually existing working class. The party apparatus;
Two years later, in the Transitional Programme or even its leadership , or even its "infallible leader",
that he wrote in 1938 for the founding conference of are then the decisive instruments for changing society.
the Fourth International , he came ou t ex plicitly in Stalin expressed the real content of substitutionism in
favour of multi-partyism: a formula which leaves no room for misunderstanding:
Democrat ization o f the so viets is impo ss ib le with ou t
legali zat io n of soviet parties . The workers an d peasants

I 91. Leon Trotsky, "The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of
90. L. Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed, Pioneer Publishers. New the Fourth International" in The Transitional Programme for Socialist 27 "1
I York 1945, p. 105 Revoution, Pathfinder Press, New York 1973, pp. 145·6.
L_. __
~ ~R_U_s_sl_·a_n_R

"the cadres decide everything".


workers' bureaucracy which produced the ideology of

Ernest Mandel
~iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii~ 1J~lJR
Russian Revolution... N
relationships of bourgeois society, without which a socialist almost 30%, horse livestock by 25, cattle livestock by
substitutionism. But once it existed, this ideology in its transformation cannot be accomplished. But this dictatorship 20%, swine livestock by 28%, and industrial
The substitutionist doctrine of the party feeds a must be the work of the class and not of a little leading minority
turn encouraged the objective process of production by almost 60%. In exchange for the same
verticalist, statist, paternalist and authoritarian in the name of the class - that is it must proceed step by step
bureaucratization. out of the direct participation of the masses; it must be under quantity of wheat, the peasants only received 5% of
conc eption of the regime, even when the worst
their direct influence, subjected to the control of complete the same industrial products that they had received in
excesses and crimes of Stalinism are avoided. It can public activity; it must arise out of the growing political training 1917 -18. Thus they refused to sell wheat for money
certainly be hedged around with all sorts of restrictive of the mass of the people." that had practically no value. And thus it was
clauses: the party (the party leadership) rules in place The position of Rosa Luxemburg Rosa Luxemburg is much less lucid when, in the necessary to requisition the wheat.
of the working class but is based on it, mobilizes it, same pamphlet, she criticized the orientations of the 11/1
This is what Rosa Luxemburg understood when But this also led to an absolute fall in wheat
notes its reactions, corrects its own mistakes in the Bolshevik Party and the Soviet regime on the
she warned the Bolshevik leaders of the danger in her production and not simply a retreat by the peasants to
light of experience, etc. nationality question and the peasant question. On these
first comments on the Russian Revolution: a subsistence economy. And as wheat production fell,
questions she adopted dogmatic potions which did not
But this does not in the least change the But with the repression of political life in the land as a whole,
there was in time less and less to requisition.
take into account the immediate or historic political
fundamental attitude. It is not the working class which life in the soviets must also become more crippled. Without
Then followed a general trend to speculation and
and economic necessities (concerning the period of
rules, which democratically takes decisions. A small general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and
assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in transition). She criticized the central slogans of the the black market, which was particularly hard on the
minority rules in its stead. every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in right to self-determination and the distribution of the poorest layers of the popUlation.
In these conditions the soviets are emptied of at
which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. land to those who worked it in the agrarian reform as
Trotsky, head of the Red Army during the Civil
This quotation from Luxemburg does not correctly "petty-bourgeois" and opportunist. War, found himself at the head of an army that was
least one vital component of their content. They can at
the limit be an effective fighting instrument against the describe the state of public life in Russia in 1918. However, if the Bolsheviks had opposed the the essentially composed of millions of peasants. He
class enemy. But they no longer assure the direct There was then a strong diversity and discussion of desire for self-determination of the peoples integrated travelled constantly throughout this enormous country.
political ideas, and legal or quasi-legal activity of by force into the Tsarist empire; if they had opposed Because of this he saw better than Lenin and the other
exercise of power by the proletariat and (or) the toiling
many organizations. Rosa wrote her pamphlet in the great desire for land from the majority of the leaders of the party the immediate concerns of the
masses as a whole.
prison and did not have sufficient information peasants, they would have lost power. 'What happened peasantry. He thus proposed, one year before Lenin,
Without real multi-partyism, in practice, the available. in the USSR after 1928, and what is happening today abandoning "war communism" in favour of the early
soviets cannot experience real democracy. They are a tragic confirmation of this. adoption of a more flexible policy, the "NEP" (New
But she offered a remarkable and prophetic critical
cannot really choose between different alternatives in diagnosis of the more long-terms trends, particularly Economic Policy). At this point he ran into the
In fact, if the leadership were wrong in this
economic, social, cultural policies. from 1920-21. To have formulated them already in the resistance of Lenin and the majority of the
question - Lenin and Trotsky much less than the leadership.95
To the extent that the suppression of soviet summer of 1918 - "only the bureaucracy will remain others - it was through leftist sectarianism and not by
an active element" - shows an exceptional lucidity an excess of opportunism. We can moreover use the On this question we agree with the assessment of
democracy takes on a repressive aspect, this repression
and capacity for theoretical analysis. argument of "parallelism" with Kautsky's reasoning the Soviet historian Roy Medvedev who considers that
no longer targets simply the big, medium and petty
against Rosa. Kautsky also used the argument of the attempt to continue the policy of requisitioning
bourgeoisie. It also hits the working class. We can We consider that Rosa was also right when she
opportunism to the peasants against Rosa. wheat after the end of the Civil War provoked the
even say that the more numerous the proletariat is, the wrote that:
social crisis of 1921, including the Kronstadt rising.
more hegemonic it is from a social point of view, the The basic error of the Lenin-Trotsky theory is that they too, just This was a serious error which cost them dearly.96
more it is the target. like Kautsky , oppose dictatorship to democracy ... The latter
naturally decides in favour of "democracy", that is, of bourgeois The workers' and peasants' alliance
democracy ... Lenin and Trotsky, on the other hand, decide in
favour of dictatorship [of the proletariat] ...
and war communism.
95. Trotsky, afte the failure of his premature proposal of the NEP for a
... to spur the working class ... to create a socialist democracy to
Self-emancipation replace bourgeois democracy not to eliminate democracy
It is difficult to judge at what point the policy of while defended an alternative proposal of the "militarization of
requisition of wheat by the Soviet regime under siege, Jabour". This was unanimously approved by the Ninth Party
altogether. Congress. The NEP - or New Economic Policy - was introduced in
Such a conception and such political orientation called "war communism" was inevitable, to a certain
But socialist democracy is not something which begins only in 1921. It represented a profound break with the command economy of
i are contrary to Marx's main contribution to socialist extent at least, in 1918-1920. But it is certain that it
the promised land after the foundations of socialist democracy War Communism, introducing a liberalization of the market and
theory (including the theory of revolutionary are created; it does not come as some sort of Christmas present
threatened more and more to break the workers-
peasant production , encouraging a certain development of small
organization): the idea of the self-liberation and the for the worthy people who, in the interim, have loyally peasants' alliance, that is the very basis of the Soviet
private industry and proposing to accept foreign investment.
increasing self-organization of the proletariat. The supported a handful of socialist dictators. Socialist democracy regime. 94
begins simultaneously with the beginnings of destruction of 96. Roy Medvedev , La Revolution d' oetobre, Paris. 1978, p. 210. In
emancipation of the workers will be the doing of the class rule and of the construction of socialism. It begins at the It is no less certain that it led to a greater and March 1917, the garrison in Kronstadt , a port on the Baltic rebelled.
workers themselves, not that of the trade unions, the very moment of the seizure of power by the socialist party. It is greater decline of productive forces, particularly the The negotiations started with the rgime having failed, the rebellion
parties, the governments or the state. These are the same thing as the dictatorship of the proletariat. production of foodstuffs, which threatened to bring was crushed by the Red Army. I do not intend in this essay to analyze
about the collapse of the whole Russian economy. more deeply the probblem posed by the Kronstadt revolt and its
indispensable instruments in the historical process. But Yes, dictatorship! But this dictatorship consists in the manner of
applying democracy, not in it s elimination, in energetic , repression by the Soviet regime. It is my opinion, given that the Civil
they can never replace the activity of the wage- Agricultural, essentially cereal production, fell by War had not yet ended, that we are dealing here WIth a question of
resolute attacks upon the well -entrenched rights and economic
workers themselves and other layers of the exploited political judgement, of tactics, and not of principle. The difficulty in
and oppressed. The fundamental emancipating role of the discussion lies in the fact that most of those who criticise the
their self-activity cannot be ignored. Ibidem, pp. 393-94. Kautsky was the best-known theorist and decision of the Bolsheviks base their judgement on specifically
leader of German social-democracy and the Second International. He political assessments: the nature of the demands , the nature of the
It would be to misunderstand the driving role of 92. Rosa Luxemburg, Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, Path finder Press , political force s present, etc. But, in our opinion, in
New 1970, p. 39 1. Rosa Luxemburg was a Polish revolutionary war is nature of the social forces (and their which is
material and social interests in history to think that the "War communism" is name politico-economic
leader and Marxist theori st. She was very active in the German decisive
substitutionist created the movement. She was assassinated by reactionary forces in po li cy appli e d during C ivil 91 8- 1920 ). It was
bureaucratization. It was rather the existence of the 191 9, dutr~ rtf'ri7E'r1 by radical " statization" and exceptional meansures such But this question , the infonnati on available does not make it 29
as forced requisition of food from the peasants, possioble to reach definite conclusion s. According to some people,
Russian Revolution... Ernest Mandel
~E-rn-e-s-t-M-a-n-d-eTl-h-e--R-e-d--T-e-r-rO-r--------------------_________R_U_s_sl_·a_n_R_e_v_O_lU_tl_·o_n_...~1 ~
,. "~ r

i Moreover , during " war co mmuni sm " the and deviations of "war communism". .I' the depths of the palace. Antonov-Ovseenk, who led
proletariat was weakened, not only numerically but the Red Army detachment, cried: "I'll shoot the first r);;+
But here we touch on another important mistake The question of the Terror - and the creation of one to touch a prisoner". He ended by convincing the f
also physically and morally . In 1921, an industrial
that was made during the Brest-Litovsk negotiations the Cheka (the secret political police) - are directly crowd:
producer during production only consumed 30% of the
by most of the Bolshevik leaders and cadres with the linked to the consequences of the Brest-Litovsk peace.
energy that used in 19 13-14, and less than half of that Do you know where this madness leads? When you kill a White
notable exception of Lenin, who at that point reached Both can only be explained in the light of these events. Guard prisoner it is the revolution you kill and not the counter-
used in 1916- 17. Thi s led to a severe fall in work revolution, I have given twenty years of my life in exile and in
the summit of his political lucidity. This is the delay in
productivity which Chamberlin estimated as having The question of the terror - independent of the prison for thi s revolution,.. lIt] means something better, it
reac hing separate peace with each of the Central means life and liberty for all. You give your blood and your life
declined in 1920 to 20% of the 1913 level. 9"l question of its unacceptable excesses - is less clear
Powers for the revoluti on, but you shou ld also give it something el e,..:
than some claim. The experience of the Spanish Civil
Some people have idealized the policy of " war your intelligence. You should put commitment to the revolution
There was an important difference between th e War in 1936 is a clear illustration of this fac t. At that above satisfy ing your passions. You have the courage to bring
communism", emphasi zing the passage to "directly
peace conditions proposed by these empires during the time not only the Stalinist but also the anarchists and vi tory to the revolution. Now, in the name of your honour, you
communist" fo rm s of production and distri bution. the social-democrats of the right, centre and left should give proof of magnaminity. You love the revolution. The
fi rst phase of the negotiations of Brest-Litovsk, opened only thing I ask you is not to kill the thing you love. ""
Kritsmann, whose stati stics we have used in what has without distinction , as well as many autonomous and
in December 1917, and the conditions obtained from
just been said, talks about the "heroic years of the unorganized groups of workers, applied wide-ranging But having suffered from the savage violence of
them after the interruption of the negotiations by the
great Russian Revolution".98 Many Bolshevik leaders measures of "red terror". They had no choice. the counter-revolutionaries the climate changed .
Soviets and the continuation of the advance by the
have followed suit. Again, should we be surprised?
German army. Confronted with an implacable, murderous and
Mak in g a law o ut of necessity, these lat te r torturing enemy, who takes the women and children of Moreover, we should be clear on the limits of the
The first were still acceptable to a large section of
theorized the constraints of lack and rationing. They militants as hostages , who shoots prisoners of war and Terror. Up to March 1920, the total number of victims
public opinion in the working class and the urban
idealized the return to a " natural" economy (more political opponents en masse, so mething has to be of the Red Terror was officially estimated at 8,620
petty-bourgeoisie. The second were widely felt as a
exactly to an economy of three sectors : a subsistence done to limit the losses. This is a question of common people. Morizet estimates the number at a little more
national humiliation and a betrayal of the interests of than 10,000. After the defeat of the White Armies of
ec onomy, an exc hange eco nomy and a monetary sense. To force the murderers to stop if they do not
the proletari at of th e Soviet U nion and of the Denikin e and Ko lchak , the death penalty was
economy). want to pay too high a price for their crimes.
international proletariat. In addition, they meant the abolished for several months by the Soviet
All Marxist tradition and the good sense of the control of the Ukraine by imperial Germany and the We should note moreover that Lenin tried to avoid government (it was only reintroduced from the time of
proletariat argue against this "communi sm of repression of the Ukrainian peasant movement. They being forced to use terror after the October revolution. the Polish offensive against the Ukraine in May 1920).
poverty", however sympathetic and stimulating - for provoked the break i n the coalition between the In particular he said:
the future! - were the very egalitarian "models" Bolsheviks and the left SRs. They gave a strong The atmosphere in Soviet Russia was far fro m the
We are accused of making arrests. Indeed , we have made
developed and applied at this time. 99 This "model" did stimulus to the Civil War. arrests; today we arrested the director of the State Bank. We are universal fear described by so many historians. We
not unleash any dynamic able to bring the country out accused of resorting to terrorism, but we have not resorted, and can see this from reading what Morizet, any eye-
The majority of the Cen tral Committee and the I hope wi II not reso rt , to the terrori sm of th e Frenc h witness, said about the trial of a high-ranking White
of growing famine . And it caused a confusion that revolutionaries who guillotined unanned men. I hope we shall
Bolsheviks refused to sign the peace conditions officer, Galkin, by the Revolutionary Tribunal at
Stalin was cynically able to call on in 1928-34. not resort to it, because we have strength on our side, When we
resulting from the first ph ase of the Brest-Litov sk arrested anyone we told him we would let him go if he gave us Moscow on July ]4, 1921:
negotiations. They lls ed as an argument for the ir a written promise not to engage in sabotage . Such written
promises have been given ,'01 I do not think I have ever seen a public or magi strates more
position - as did Trotsky for his intermediary sympathetic to the accused that on that day. The four hundred
The question of peace negotiations position "neither war nor peace" - the fact that this But the counter-revolutionaries acted with total worlers or solddiers who crowded into the chamber, the three
cynicism and lack of scruples, despite the initial judges and the prosecutor, all four of them young, all looked
T he Civil War and the intervention by the position correspon ded to the sentiments of th e with a sort of friend ship on this little man of thirty-fiv e, in hi s
majority of the urb an population . But it did not generosity of the Bolsheviks. The general Krasnov , worn clothers, that a debonair under-officer guarded, revolver in
imperialist powers particularly German imperialism,
correspond to the sentiments of the majority of the Kaledin and others, the pupil-officers arrested during hand to obey the rules. There was no barrier between them and
against Soviet Russia, partly explains the the origins the October insurrection, were released on the promise him. Four armed soldiers, interested in the discussions above all
peasant population, without mentioning those of the vaguely cov ered the fre e space around the garden benc h
soldiers in th e army which was in full flight of that they would refrain from any anti-governmental reserved for the accused, the table of defence and ours.
decomposition. action. They immediately broke their word, took arms Rather than a terrible audience of the Revolutionary Tribunal,
and caused the death of thousands of workers. one wou ld have thou ght on self watching an impass ioned
particularly anarchi sts, the Kronstadt sailors were basically workers, And above all it did not lead to any concre te discussion between men who disagreed on the an swer to a
like those of 1917- 18. T heir revolt was an extension of the worers' alternative: immediate overthrow of the rule of the The people make these mistakes once, twice, and question of conscience.Hk
protests in Petrograd and elsewhere. So what was at posed was the
Hohenzollern and Habsburgs. What could guarantee then reply harshly. Is this surprising? Galkin was given a light sentence, then rapidly
question of soviet. proletarian democracy.
this? Immediate organization of the "revolutionary Among the particularly cynical action of the future pardoned, although he had taken arms agains t the
According to others. particularly Trotsky, the proletarian sai lors of war"? With an non-existent army?"X) soviet regime. But he stated that he detested still more
"victims of the Terror", A.R. Williams points out the
1917 - 18 had largely disappeared. They had di ed at the front or had the counter-revolutionary White dictators after the
Whites' use of Red Cross lorries to cross the front
been absorbed by the Red Army or state apparatus. The 192 1 sailors The only result of the refu sal to sign the peace experience he had of them. The Tribunal believed him.
lines and bring munitions to the White armies .'02
were the sons of middle or well-off peasants. Their revolt reflected the conditions immediately was to allow the German army
peasants ' rejection of " war communism" an d the req uisi ti ons of to occupy new and very important territories, and in Williams even reports on a moving expression of
wheat. It was necessary to negotiate with them but not to give in to a the generous spirit of the revolution during the taking
particular to take the immensely rich Ukraine away
soc ial dynamic which could strengthen the coun ter-revolu ti onary
from the Soviet Republic. Lenin predicted this from of the Winter Palace . The pupil -officers g ave The Cheka
threat that hung over Petrograd, a nationa l and international threat,
day to day. We seen once against that the price that the themselves up. The crowd was mad with rage, having
because the thawing of the ice floes cou ld open the port of Kronstadt
Revolution had to pay for this mistake was very high. discovered among other things the torture chambers in The question of the Cheka is very different from
to the White fleet in the Baltic.
what we have just been talking about: temporary
97. Chamberlin op cit Vol 2, p. 108 measures during a cruel civil war. The Cheka was the
98. L. Kritsman, Die heroi"sche Periode der grossen russischen
,, 10 I. Lenin, "Speech at a joint meeting of the Petrograd Soviet of
Revolution, Wien-Berlin, 1929.
Workers' and Soldiers ' Deputies and delegates from the fronts
99. Marx and Engels warned against this primitive "communism of

November 4 (17), 1917", Collected Works, Vol 26. p. 295 . !03. Ibidem, p. 126.
misery'" which would only generali7.e poverty and lead inevitably to 100. The Hohenzollern and the Habsburg: ruling families of Germany 102. A.R. Williams, op.cit, pp, 112 ff. 104. Monzet, op. cit, p, 429.
I the renaissance of all the "old shit", and Austro-Hungary.
L ~ ___________ ~
_ _ _ .l __ _
'--- -- - - - - - - - - - -- -- - - - - - - - - -- _.
Russian Revolution ... Ernest Mandel

creation of an institution, an apparatus, with the hostile to the Bolshevik regime admits however that
inevitablc tendency of any institution and any this independence was only conjunctural at first:
apparatus to become permanent, and to escape any In the inevitable clash between the arbitrary violence of the
control. Cheka and the system of Soviet law evolved by the People's
Commissariat for Justice, the Cheka gained the upper hand
A fascist torturer can be shot after a public trial, whenever the regime came under threat; when the crises
Did the organizational conceptions of Lenin open Lenin a heartless man of iron, a producer only of political
even a summary one. But a secret political police receded the lPeople's Commissariat] won the advantage.
resolutions, indifferent and insensitive to the
the road to the excesses of the October Revolution and
cannot be submitted to public control. Lenin himself was resolutely favourable to the beauties of nature. loved the fields, the meadows, the rivers.
the Stalinist dictatorship? the mountains, the sea, the ocean. 10,
constitution of a state based on law and the need to
The archives of the Cheka, which have begun to be
make decisive steps in this direction. In a conflict One of the theses frequently put forward by the The rather limited importance that Lenin gave to
published thanks to glasnost (the policy of his personal role is revealed by his reaction when the
which set Dzerzhinsky against Kamenev in 1921, critics of Bolshevism is that the excesses which
"transparence" under Gorbachev), showed that the
concerning the reforms of the political police after the occurred after 1918 - the dissolution of the Central Committee proposed to start publishing his
worm was in the fruit from the very beginning, despite Collected Works:
end of the Civil War, Lenin supported Kamenev who Constituent Assembly, the Terror, the prolongation of
the personal honesty of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the first
had proposed to limit the competence of the Cheka to war communism - were in the last analysis the result Why') !l's quite useless. years ago we wrote anything.
leader of the Cheka, who nobody suspects of improper l!' s not worth reproducing all
questions of espionage, political crimes, the protection of Lenin's organizational conceptions. We can sum up
intentions. The mention of just one fact is enough: the
of the railways and food stores. All other repressive the conceptions attributed to Lenin, the ultimate source Lenin's simplicity and honesty in rejecting all
members and informers of the Cheka gave themselves
activity should be the responsibility of the People's of all evil, by these authors in the following way: kinds of material privileges appears clearly from the
a bonus (a part of the "spoils") for any goods seized
Commissariat of Justice. revolutions are "made" by the revolutionary party and following facts:
from "speculators" or those who committed
not by the masses; this party should be a highly-
"economic crimes". There is no doubt of the dynamic It should also be noted that the Cheka was hardly a Lenin gave away the gifts of food and fuel which peasant
centralized, limited troop of professional admireres brought to the Kremlin ... Commissars' salaries were
to corruption this represents. Chamberlin fully creature of the Bolshevik Party or of Lenin. It was
revolutionaries; it - because of this - largely fixed at two-thirds of the rate for the highest category for
confirms this judgement. 105 above all the left SRs who played a key role in its industrial technicians ...
creation. But all that being said, it is none the less true escapes the control of the working class; this class is
The same goes for the tendency of the Cheka to War communism had not killed the theatres of Moscow or
that the tendency to become independent, less and less unable to raise itself to the level of revolutionary stifled the exuberance of the avant-garde. The demand for
escape from all control. This dangerous dynamic was political action, let alone reach a revolutionary theatre seats was so enonnous that both Lenin and Balabanova
controllable, was present from the beginning of the
affirmed very early. One anecdote illustrates this.
Cheka. Victor Serge used the term "professional political consciousness. w7 [then secretary of the Communist International - EM] united
Lenin had the greatest admiration and friendship for at least in detennination not to accept preferential treatment
degeneration". This is why we think that the creation Other authors, such as Louis Fischer, go a step were turned away one evening from the Arts Theatre where a
the left Menshevik leader Martov. One day Lenin Stanislavsky production of Chekov's Three Sisters was
of the Cheka was undoubtedly a mistake. further and say that Lenin's organizational
called him into the Kremlin, gave him a false passport playing. 00
and said: "Leave the country immediately. If not the conceptions, as they were classically expressed in the
pamphlet What is to be done?, were inspired by not The myth of Lenin as cynical and unscrupulous in
Cheka will arrest you in a few days and I would not be 105. Chamberlin op cit p. Vol2 p. 71. the "struggle for power" is based above all on a rather
able to stop them." very pleasant psychological traits of the person in
106. G. Leggett, The Cheka: Lenin's {Iolitical police, Oxford 1981, p. disgusting calumny, that he accepted "German gold"
question: blind hatred of Tsarism and the property-
G. Leggett, a reactionary who was extremely 17l. in 1917 to finance Bolshevik propaganda. This
owning classes; a thirst for vengeance for the
calumny was the basis of persecutions of the
execution of his brother by the autocracy; the
Bolsheviks after the revolutionary days of July 1917.
conviction that violence, terror, "the extermination of
the enemy" play an essential role in all revolutions. In what is one of the best biographies of Lenin,
Ronald W. Clark demonstrates a certain agnosticism
All these affinnations, in whatever variant, are in
on this question, going almost so far as to say there is
the best of cases a unilateral view of historical reality,
no smoke without fire. He then recounts, without
of the writings of Lenin and the actions which he
totally dismissing it, the assertion by an employee of
inspired or led.
the German Foreign Affairs Ministry, that 50 million
gold marks were "invested" in the Bolshevik
movement. II !
Lenin and power
But the same Ronald Clark cites in passing the
Above all, the portrait of Lenin as a monomaniac most striking proof of the unfounded nature of this
for absolute personal power does not tally with the calumny: Pravda, the main journal of the Bolsheviks,
image of him that emerges from the many accounts of was always short of money.
those who knew him. Nikolai Valentinov, who was Urgent and constant appeals were launched for a
very critical of the Bolshevik leader, said: few tens of thousands of roubles. I How could a
J It a huge mistake, and many. almost all. make it to consider movement which had received millions of gold marks
be so short of money?
107. Stephen F.Cohen, "Bolshevism and Stalinism" (in Robert
Stalinism - Essays in Historica! Interpretation, Norton
108. N. Valentinov, Encounters with Lenin, Oxford University Press
1977) cites a large number of authors who have this judgement. The
sources are too numerous to be reproduced here. We can simply note
examples: Fainsod, Hannah Arendt. Robert V.Daniels. 109. LB.Kamenev, Lenins literarisches Erbe, Hamburg. 1924.

Mitchell, op cit pp 156.

Ill. W. Clark, the Man Behind the Mask, 1988, pp.

32 2j9-240. 33
12. Idem, p. 227.
Russian Revolution ... Ernest Mandel Mandel Russian Revolution ...

The principle of democratic centralism and autonomy (sic) for the history of Soviet Russia in 1918-20.130 Where was voted against the dissolution of the Constituent should have legislative and decision-making powers.
local Party organizations implies universal and full freedom to
this so-called monolithic Bolshevik Party that was a Assembly in January 1918, at a meeting of the Central The same bloc also imposed a substantial increase in
criticize, so long as this does not disturb the unity of a definite Executive Committee of the Soviets. soldiers' and sailors' pay that the government said it
action ... result of the claimed Leninist obsession for hyper-
could not fulfil.
The Central Committee has absolutely no right to call upon the centralization? I • During the negotiations on the Brest-Litovsk
party organizations to accept its resolution in favour of support- agreement, the "left communists" around Bukharin It could be objected that Lenin violently - a
ing the demand for a Cadet Ministry. It is the duty of every In reality, we have never seen a workers' party
party member to take an absolutely independent and critical sta- with so many differences of opinion and so much I published a daily newspaper to defend in public their violence that remained essentially verbal and did not
nd on this question and to declare for the resolution that in his
freedom of expression, including in public, as the I minority position. lead to any disciplinary measures - opposed these
opinion more correct ly solves the problem within the ruptures of discipline.
framework of the decisions of the Unity Congress. The St Bolshevik Party of this period - and certainly not the • The current know as the "democratic centralist"
Petersburg worker Social Democrats know that the whole Party German or Austrian social-democratic parties even in I tendency led by the "left communists" like Ossinsky, This is true but this is not the essential point.
organization is now built on a democratic basis. This means that
all the Party members take part in the election of officials, their best moments. We could cite many different II' put forward in the review Kommunist from 1918 a
illustrations of this. But we will simply mention the , Because what these episodes show is that the party
committee members and so forth, ... that all the party members plan for workers' management of industry which was
detennine the line of tactics of the party organizations. "6 formed by the organizational conceptions of Lenin
following: very different from that of the majority of the Central
was non-monolithic; that very many leaders and
An author like Louis Fischer knew his sources • During the discussion on the opportuneness of the Committee. It started, very timidly, to put it into
cadres, as much workers as intellectuals, maintained a
perfectly. However, he deliberately does not comment October insurrection, Zinoviev and Kamenev, the practice. 132
great independence of thought, an ultra-sharp critical
on the passages in Lenin's writing which go in this main members of the Central Committee, publicly • The Workers' Opposition led by Chliapnikov, spirit and that the daily practice of this party reflected
directionY7 This is manifest intellectual dishonestly, disagreed with the position of the majority in an article Miasnikov and Kollontai, established in 1920, much more this critical independence than any sort of
something that he is well-acquainted with. published in the journal of Maxim Gorky. defended its minority positions publicly. monolithic or hyper-centralist education.
Fischer lived in the USSR between 1923 and 1936
• During the discussion on the formation of a coalition • Again in 1921,1. Vardin (Megaldze), the director of In addition it should be noted that Lenin's
as a foreign correspondent, particularly for the
government of all the workers' parties, after the Seco- the Cheka, against Lenin's opposition, proposed to inspiration was not really different. At the Tenth Party
American periodical The Nation. As such he made an
nd Congress of the Soviets, six members of the Central legalize all the opposition parties and groupings which Congress, in March 1921, when factions were banned,
apology for the Moscow that was extremely useful to
Committee and a number of members of the Council accepted the Soviet system of government. They were he opposed the proposal to ban tendencies as well. He
Stalin and international Stalinism. 128 However, in the
of Peoples' Commissars, publicly took a position to be authorized to present separate lists of candidates stated clearly that when the party is divided on
biography of Lenin which he wrote thirty years later,
against the decision of the majority. They also resign- in the elections to the soviets and a free press in line important questions it is impossible to prevent the
he said:
ed from their posts to give more weight to their with their size. 13 3 election of the leadership on the basis of different
Stalin's vendetta against Trotsky plunged Soviet Russia into a opposition.'31 tendency platforms.
bloodbath. In reality directed against Trotsky, the Moscow An episode recounted by Ilyin-Zhenevsky, deputy
Trials of the 1930s cost the country its top leaders ... In 1937 it He himself, on more than one occasion when he
• Ryazanov and Lozovsky, two Bolshevik leaders, People's Commissar for Defence, is a good illustration
was the turn of the military leaders of Russia and, in their
thousands, its best industrial managers, writers, planners, of this liberal atmosphere. At the end of March 1918 was in a minority in the leadership, decided to look
administrators ... It will always be impossible to measure what there was the first conference of soldiers and sailors of elsewhere and sought to organize a minority tendency
disasters this mad policy brought for Russia. 130. Haimsom goes into the claimed relationship between the posit- or defend minority positions in public
the Red Army. At the opening of the conference, there
The person who in 1936-38 was an advocate of this ions of Lenin and those of the populist/terrorist Thachev. But he does
was a proposal to elect an honorary presiding These facts cannot be hidden without distorting the
"mad policy" did not find it necessary to formulate a not say a word about the positions of Victor Adler and Karl Kautsky
committee of Lenin, Trotsky and Zinoviev. The history of the Soviet Russia of Lenin's time.
on the need to introduce of socialist consciousness from the outside,
single word of regret, of excuse or of self-criticism. He anarchists were opposed. The proposal was adopted
that is to say from the intellectuals, into the working class. It can
preferred to cross to the other side of the barricade. but only with a small majority, a lot of the Bolsheviks
however be demonstrated that this is the real origin of the so much
Yesterday the wonderful Stalin was the successor criticized passage in "What is to be done" (see L. Haimson, The voting with the anarchists.
Russian Marxists and the Origins of Bolshevism, Boston, 1966, p.
An internal tension in Leninism
of the wonderful Lenin. Today the despot Stalin is a Against the opposition of the leaders of the
by-product of the Leninist inclination for personal 16). It is true that in the writings and practice of Lenin
Bolshevik delegation and of Ilyin-Zhanovsky
power and violence. We see what these two symmet- 131. This episode, which is not very well-known, deserves to be
representing the government, a bloc of anarchists and there are also different features of paternalism,
rical positions have in common: in the last analysis explained in detail:
"left" Bolsheviks forced through that the conference authoritarianism and substitutionism. In fact, the total
Stalin derives from Lenin, yesterday for good and When the Second Congress of the Soviets ratified the Bolshevik organizational theory and practice of Lenin seems to
today for evil. seizure of power on October 25, it was broadly assumed even be dominated by a balancing act, as explained in the
among the Bolsheviks that the new government would include
representatives of all the soviet parties. Martov's proposal that works of Marcel Liebman, Paul Le Blanc and above
Bolshevik Opposition, apprehensive over the possibility of
the congress should immediately consider the establishment of dictatorial rule, joined in condemning restraints on newspapers all the excellent essay by Stephen Cohen already
such a regime was seconded by Lunacharsky and passed by the which were not actually calling for rebellion. Larin ... offered a mentioned. 135
A non-monolithic party delegates unanimously .... resolution to this effect. It failed, twenty-two to thirty-one, with
The secondary Bolshevik leadership was strongly in favour of a number of abstentions ... In a first approximation this balancing act can be
We touch here on a much more general historical coalition. Nein was rebuffed in Petrograd, and the Moscow city All five of Lenin's critics within the Central Committee left - summed up as follows: in the phases of a
falsehood that is found in many authors who deal with organization, led by Rykov and Nogin, openly backed Zinoviev Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rykov, Miliutin, and Nogin. Collectively
and Kamenev. Even the Moscow Regional Bureau, dist-
revolutionary upsurge, the tumultuous rise of the mass
they declared " ... Long live the government of the soviet
inguished by its left-wing coloration, resolved to accept coalit- parties!" ... movements, the democratic and even libertarian
ion if the Bolsheviks had a majority of cabinet posts, On emphases predominate in Lenin's practice. In the
November 2 the coalition issue began to come to a head when a Shliapnikov, the Commissar of Labour, joined this group in a
125. Lenin, "Freedom to Criticize and Unity of Action", Collected resolution was passed by the Central Executive Committee declaration to the Central Executive Committee: "We take the periods of revolutionary slump, the decline of activity
Works, Vol 10, p. 443. insistinf! that Lenin and Trotsky be included in any cabinet and stand that it is necessary to fonn a socialist government of all of the mass movement, the themes of centralism and
that at kast half the portfolios go to the Bolsheviks. In opposit- parties in the soviet..."
126. Lenin. "Let the Workers Decide", Collected Works, Vol 10, p. replacement of the cl a ss by the party take
ion to this minimal condition, the whole Bolshevik Right voted
502-03. From R. Daniels, The Conscience of the Revolution, Boulder, 1988 pp predominance.
against the party - Kamenev ... , Zinoviev, almost half the Coun-
cil of Commissars (Ryko v, Lunac harsky, Nogin , 64-66.
Pari s: 1966.
Miliutin. and others including Lozovsky and the 132. See Thomas F. Remington , op. cit. on running conflict and 134. A.F.Ilyin-Zhenevsky, The Bolsheviks in power
during 1930s, that ex-Mensheviks Ryazanov and Yurenev ...
debate on the qll es tion of indus trial ad m in is tratio n inside th e of the year 1918, London, 1984. pp. 48-5 1.
cadres condemned the crisi s erupted . The Central Executive Bolshevik Party.
the moves made
Ol S:CW;S lflg the government 135. M. Liebman, op. cit. , P. LeBlanc. Lenin and Revolutionary
to muzzle the press, and thc representatives of the 133. Cited in S. Farber, op.cit.. p. 206. Party, Humanities Press, 1990, S.Cohen op. cit.
Fischer op cit p. 462.

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historical events he moved in this direction. An bureaucratization process in the Russia of 19207 That
, ced and unjust. The starting point for such an attitude element of this process of clarification was the gradual is, in a country which was drained bloodless, hit by
is a psychological interpretation which can hardly be
The Russian example illustrates a more general assertion of the dialectical unity between the self- famine, whose transport system was totally
proved. historical rule: it is in non-revolutionary periods that activity of the class and the role of the vanguard party, disorganized, with a working class reduced to less than
! the programmatic, political and organizational bases except in the "black years" of 1920-21 (some would half if not a third of what it was in 1917. A working
At the limit this psychological interpretation could are created for the "breakthrough" of the revolutionary say 1919-21). class on a rapid road to demobilization, not because of
be replaced by a sociological one. The democratic and party during the later years of struggle. the end of the Civil War but because of the absolute
libertarian Lenin acted under the pressure of the Authors like Leopold Haimson assert that the
The thesis whereby the party conceived by Lenin necessity of finding an individual supply of food. In
workers' vanguard and masses. The hyper-centralist Russian intellectuals and Marxists have never been
17/ 1 was a party essentially composed if not dominated by such social and material conditions, the immediate re- 17/1
and substitutionist Lenin sought a pragmatic solution able to resolve the problem of the contradiction
bourgeois intellectuals and not workers has no factual establishment of soviet democracy, indeed decisive
between spontaneity and consciousness, between the
in a situation where, in practice the masses were not steps to workers' management were a total utopia.
basis. This opinion is put forward by Alfred Meyer, action of the masses and the action inspired and
active. which even asserts that democratic centralism was a organized by the vanguard. However, the October The leadership of the party and of the state were
But this sociological explanation is not fair to system that: Revolution gave this answer, illustrated by the striking supposed to give the priority to an upturn in
Lenin either. It does not take into account the whole of .. . functioned pretty well, while the party was and classic formula given by Trotsky in his History of production, particularly agricultural production, a rise
Russian history from 1918 to 1923. In particular it commanded by a strong leader who ruled it with an the Russian Revolution: in work productivity and the re-establishment of
does not make it possible to understand the almost iron grip. ' 39 Without a guiding organization the energy of the masses would employment.
desperate violence with which Lenin reacted from dissipate like steam not enclosed in a piston box. But
Lenin and Trotsky's mistake was to generalize the
1922, if not the end of 1921, faced with the growing This second assertion fits the facts no more than nevertheless what moves things is not the piston or the box, but
the steam. exceptional conditions of the time. From the beginning
bureaucratization of the state and of the party (a burea- does the first.
of the NEP in 1921-22, the numerical weakening and
It remains the case that the organizational model of
cratization of which he then became aware). It does To demonstrate the contrary we can cite Beryl the tendency to decomposition and social degeneration
What is to be done? even applied in a limited period
not explain "Lenin's last fight" against the tentacular Williams, who is nevertheless very hostile to the of the working class were halted.
has produced problems: a certain type of leaders,
bureaucracy, nor the violence of his final confrontation Bolsheviks and to Lenin:
"committee men" un able to adapt to tumultuous mass It was at this point that a gradual broadening of
with Stalin, nor the truly pathetic tone he used on this As the Bolsheviks popularity rose, so did party membership. In movements. Lenin ' s companion Krupskaya wrote on soviet democracy could have speeded up the socio-
occasion: the process the party was to change out of all recognition. By
October, it was a mass party, not the elite intellectual grouping this subject: political re-establishment of the working class, making
I suppose I have been very remiss with respect to the workers of of 1903 or of popular imagination. Figures for membership are easier its slow re-politicization. But by limiting what
The "committeeman" was usually a rather self-assured person.
Russia for not having intervened energetically and decisively difficult to establish, but it would seem that the party grew He saw what a tremendous influence the work of the committee remained of democracy in a draconian fashion at this
enough ... tenfold in the course of the year to rather more than a quarter of had on the masses, and as a rule he recognized no inner~party
a million. The vast majority of members by October were very moment, the Soviet leaders on the contrary made
democracy. "Inner-party democracy only leads to trouble with
Any "sociological" explanation can only ignore a workers ... Again in contrast to popular belief, they were not worse the depoliticization of the proletariat and of the
the police. We are connected with the movement as it is," the
historical fact, that is nevertheless difficult, and that highly organized or united, although they probably had more committeeman would say. Inwardly, they rather despised the party. '43
cohesion and certainly stronger leadership than their rivals. But Party workers abroad, who, in their opinion, had nothing better
Paul Le Blanc correctly counterposed to the too there were great differences in approach between the Central to do than squabble among themselves "they ought to be It is impossible to judge to what point a "new
mechanical view of the "balancing act" as it was Committee, local "sulrelites" in district committees and soviets, made to work under Russian conditions". The committeeman
and "sub-sub-elites" in the factories. Local activists, like their course" would have met with success. But the tragic
formulated by Liebmann. It was in the years of rea- objected to the over-ruling influence of the Centre abroad [that
supporters, tended to act with remarkable independence"" is of Lenin! EMJ. At the same time, they did not want results of the policy followed in 1921 are too obvious
ction, in 1908-11, in the struggle against the
This honest description gives a much more faithful innovations. They were neither desirous nor capable of not to conclude: what was utopian in 1920 was no
"liquidating" tendency that Lenin to a large extent adjusting themselves to quickly changing conditions. '"
picture of the real functioning of the party than the longer so from 1922.
grouped together and trained the Bolshevik cadres
different legends about "democratic centralism" under In any case, the real history of Soviet Russia
which made it possible for his party to become
Lenin. It makes it possible to understand why Lenin between 1918 and 1923 can only be understood in
hegemonic in the Russian workers' movement from
had serious clashes with these "committee men" at function of all these contradictory elements and not as
1912. some original sin of Lenin.
least four times; in 1905-16; at the beginning of the
revolution in February 1917; on the eve of October; Those who want to find the origins of Stalinism
from 1921-22. The first three times the clash ended to should first of all look at the social forces and their
his advantage, thanks to the support he won from the mutual relations, which is more in line with the
broad workers' vanguard, including outside the party. principles of historical materialism than to simply look
136. According to L. H.Haimson, Lenin more than Marx and the
The fourth time he lacked this support, with the tragic at ideas. But, as for the intellectual sources, Stalinist
"orthodox Marxists" was convinced that "passions" played a central
consequences that we know. organizational conceptions do not continue those of
role in individual and social choices. But he deeply distrusted these
passions, including his own. This led to his ideological intransigence. Lenin: they represent their brutal and terrorist
He had been traumatized by some personal disappointments, negation.
particularly in his relations with Plekhanov, (op. cit., pp. 139. 186- Towards a coherent conception
Lenin never really presented a total, completely
But Haimson himself recognized that at the end of the Second
coherent conception of the party and its organizational Re-establish soviet democracy
Congress of the RSDLP, Lenin had adopted a very conciliating
attitude to the Mensheviks, particularly Martov. He was ready to principles . But it does seem , that in the light of immediately?
withdraw his proposals to change the editorial board of Iskra. It was
Manov' s intransigence and not Lenin' s which provoked the split.
How was it po ssible to effectively oppose the
(ibidem pp. 182-183). 143. In March 192 1 the Tenth Congress of the CP bal1ned factions
On the overwhe lm ingly composition of the
Bolshevik Party see The Workers' Revolution Russia View 141. L. History of the Revolution. New 1980 ,
famous " Lenin promotion" of 1924, wave
q ue s tion brou g h t hundre ds
by P. Le Blanc, op. ciL, pp. 60 et 126. Krupskaya, Reminiscences New York 1970, uneducated workers who were not forged in struggle, paradox lc;aHy
605). On this period see M. Lewin ,
140. B. Williams , op.cit. , pp. 28~29 . pp . 124~ 125. contributed to the depoliticization of the party and proletariat
Lenin's Last Struggle, London , 1970.
i Ernest Mandel Russian Revolution ...

But in the predetermined framework, the action of the everywhere belongs to "Bolshevism"
masses. of the parties and their leaders could lead to
several possible variants: victory of an ultra-
reactionary bourgeois counter-revolution (which could Was it right to take power?
only be bloody, repressive, and destructive of the
Of course the counterposition between these two
The October revolution raises the key strategic leaders can also have a decisive effect on the course of workers' movement and all independent activity of the
options , fatalism and opportunism. should not be
question which confronts the whole of the socialist events. working and peasants masses); victory of the
exaggerated, even though they do remain two
workers' movement: how should a party which revolution through the soviets taking power, making it
fundamentally different options. Too great a
identifies with the working class and socialism· (or possible to start building a new society (in fusion with 17/1
simplification of the problem can confuse things and
communism) behave in a revolutionary situation. This "Parametric" determinism or at least with the support of the international make the choice more difficult.
question refers back to another, broader, question, that revolution).
of long-term socialist (or communist) strategy; a It is not a question of counterposing a detem1inist There is, in this sense, the possibility of
approach (identified with "fatalism") to an agnostic or The fatalist approach was, in great measure, the adventurist, putschist, "Blanquist" excesses in the
question that we will not go into here.
teleological philosophy of history (which would then product of the "Marxism" of the Second International, "voluntarist" course: attempts to seize power by
Revolutions do not fall from the sky. They cannot inspired by Kautsky. It was a conception strongly
be identified with "voluntarism"). We are discussing minorities who do not enjoy the support of the
be mechanically detached from the periods which here voluntarism which respects the major historical- marked by a mechanistic determinism of semi- majority of wage-workers.
precede them , the periods in which the conditions materialist constraints. Darwinian inspiration. It implied that, even when
which lead to their explosion slowly mature. In the confronted with a revolutionary explosion, the But the existence and the danger of such deviations
same way, what the parties identifying with the We must avoid mechanistic and linear deter- socialists could not in the final analysis do otherwise can only be an excuse to avoid the real strategic choice
working class do and are depends to a large extent on minism, which has done a lot of harm, replacing it than submit to the inexorable march of events; which existed in Russia just before the October
their composition and their activity in pre- with a richer determinism, based on the dialectic of The voluntarist approach implied on the contrary that Revolution.
revolutionary or non-revolutionary phases (although objective and subjective factors. 146 We express this socialists were conscious of the possibility of The Bolsheviks obviously enjoyed the support of
we cannot deny that the revolution itself can understanding of what is "possible" by the concept influencing in a decisive fashion the historic outcome the majority of the proletariat. The people obviously
noticeably modify some of these factors). "parametric determinism", an understanding of history through their own action. This is the principal merit of wanted a radical, revolutionary change. Was it right, in
which makes it possible to take into account what is the Bolsheviks, who tried to do just that. And this is
It is schematic but useful to sum up the two "latent" and "virtual". Such a concept was already these precise circumstances, to take power?
fundamentally counterposed strategic philosophies the main lesson that Rosa Luxemburg learnt from the
used by Marx in Volume 1 of Capital. October events; a lesson which led her to moderate her The revolutionary Marxists of today. like those of
during a revolution by the formula: fatalism or
The course of events is neither totally criticisms of Lenin and Trotsky and to support the 1917 and the following years, remain convinced that
predetermined nor totally undetermined. The possible Russian Revolution in an enthusiastic fashion: the answer is an unreserved "yes".
outcome of the revolution oscillates within Whatever a party could offer of courage, revolutionary
predetermined limits. farsightedness and consistency in a historic hour, Lenin,
Fatalism Trotsky and the other comrades have given in good measure.
Determinism, political choices,
or reasonable voluntarism In Russia in 1917, neither a return to a semi-feudal All the revolutionary honour and capacity which Western
regime nor the rise of capitalism based on social·democracy lacked were represented by the Bolsheviks. experience
Their October uprising was not only the actual salvation of the
The fatalist approach is based on the idea that the parliamentary democracy , nor the totally finished Russian Revolution: it was also the salvation of the honour of Recently, the critical study of Bolshevik tactics in
"objective conditions'" and the "balance of power" building of a classless socialist society were possible. international socialism.
the years which followed the October Revolution, has
determine practically everything, that the course of and again: given rise to a confrontation on the nature of historical
events is largely independent of decisions of parties
145. Agnosticism considers that it is impossible to know what is What is in order is to distinguish the essential from the non· determinism between John Rees and Samuel Farber.
and their leaders, that the task of these latter is essential. the kernel from the additional excrescences in the
reality beyond what is apparent (ie a doctrine which declares the The first accuses the second of having abandoned all
essentially to draw the boundaries between what is policies of the Bolsheviks. In the present period, when we face
materialist determinism, because he presents a range
unknowable inaccessible to human beings) or which considers any decisive final struggles in all the world, the most important
"objectively possible" and the rest (which would be
metaphysics as useless. Teleology is a set of speculations applied to problem of socialism was and is the burning question of our of alternatives, analyses, other choices which could
adventurism and illusions). time. It is not a matter of this or that secondary question of
the question of the purpose of the world, men or, here, of history. It have been possible for revolutionary socialist policy in
thus tends to interpret the course of history starting from a supposed tactics, hut of the capacity for action of the proletariat. the
We should therefore have the courage to say to the strength to act , the will to power of socialism as such. In this,
Russia in 1918-23
masses that a series of their aspirations are impossible. purpose.
Lenin and Trotsky and their friends were the first, those who Marxism does not suggest that in every circumstance, political
146. The term "mechanistic" designates a current of materialist went ahead as an example to the proletariat of the world; they will or ideology can playa key role. The degree to which
The Mensheviks embodied this orientation during thinking which excessively simplifies the interaction between are still the only ones up to now who can cry with Hutten: "I workers can "make their own history" depends on the weight of
1917. Their main contacts abroad were the Austro- have dared!" objective factors bearing down on them .... In Russia (after
different factors. by defining rigid chains of cause and effects and
October 1927) the limits of action were reduced to
Marxists whose leader and theorist Otto Bauer has which neglects in particular the historical dimension. Mechanism This is the essential and the enduring in Bolshevik policy. In
this sense their's is the immortal historical service of having with$tanding, under ever narrowing constrictions, a siege. Every
gone down in history as the very prototype of the originates in the natural sciences of the 18th century which used
marched at the head of the international proletariat with the ounce of willpower and political consciousness was necessary
fatalist Marxist. extensively comparisons with machines and particularly with a watch conquest of political power and the practical placing of the
mechanism. In a mechanistic conception of historical materialism, of problem of the realization of socialism. and of having advanced
The voluntarist approach to strategy in a Marxist theory , economic contradictions determine a rigid, unique mightily the settlement of the score between capital and labour
revolutionary period is on the other hand based on the and inevitable succession of societies (primitive communist. antique in the entire world. In Russia the problem could only be posed. 148. Rosa Luxemburg, "The Russian Revolution" in op.cit.. p. 375
It could not be solved in Russia. And this sense. the future
idea that, whatever the weight of objective factors slave, feudal, capitalist, socialist). and pp,395.
(economic, social, historical and cultural tradition), The (more authentic) dialectical conception of historical 149. The January 1919 Spartakist uprising in Germany, the attempt
which partially determine the course of events, this is obviously integrates socio-economic factors and constraints. But it led by Bettelheim to take power in Vienna, Austria a little later, and
not totally predetermined. The concrete actions of al$o takes into account the weight of other factors (for example: 147. Charles Darwin an English naturalist and biologist of the above all the "March 192] Action" in Germany as well as the
classes the main sections of the states. cultures, ideologies, traditions of struggle). particular it 19th century, known his work on the evolution of living species Bulgarian CP's coup against Stambulinsky, fall into this category.
and orientation of and their emphasizes the active role of socio-political struggles , the class through the process of natural His theories, Auguste Blanqui. important French J9th
struggle. This is what makes it possible to understand course very rich but a very simpl istic century, his name to
of is determined by the interaction these different tf"nSf"",yi into the field of conquer power basing oneself on an activ e minority and using
144. I hope to prepare a future Norehook this question. factors and not simply by the " iron logic" of economic contradictions. sociology. conspiratorial methods.
lMr Russian Revolution... Ernest Mandel Ernest Mandel Russian Revolution.. . I TNdf.T(5)
J1--~1f ~~~~~~~~~~~
i ' to ke ep th e worke rs ' s ta te f rom bein g ove rcome. T he approach, starting from pre-established schemas, is
counter-producti ve (as is any purely pragmatic
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"subjective factor" was reduced to withstanding, unde r ever
narrowing constrictions, to a choice between capitulation to the ! obstacle to the guarantee of human rights for women independence of the judicial power can enter into open II
Whites or defending the revolution with whatever means were orientation). Both avoid the big strategic choices. ! and men, as long as market and monetary phenomena conflict wi th equal opportunities, when there is an i
at hand."" : exist (that is to say during the whole trans itio nal inequality of wealth, of income, of soc ial statu s: I
Many things are clear after the event, but were not
But this way of posi ng the problem ha s t wo ! period): the corruptibility of judges; the need to limit phenomena which will survive during the period of II
at the time. They could not be so. As Napoleon
fundamental weaknesses. the number of lawyers that an indiv idual can use transition to which Farber refers.
Bonaparte said: "We' ll start fighting then we'll see."
because if not those who have with more money have I
First of all it does not respond to the essenti al Lenin liked to repeat these words of a master tactician.
greater possibili ties of defending themselves or - i
obj ec ti o n , th a t is th a t sov iet democrac y was
definiti vely suffocated at the moment when the soviet
und er ci vil law - of accusi ng others ; free legal A coalition government? II! . . 17/1 I
defence; the need fo r strict public control and thus ,II L. ___. i
parties were banned, after the Civil War, and not when Mistakes and socialist democracy elimination of the principle that a "closed case" cannot The problem of the choice of poss ib le actions
the alternative was either to capitulate to the Whites or
It is just because this is the case that the revolution be reo pen e d ; sub stan tia l modificat ion s of th e obviously has a much broader dimension than that of
to defend the revolution wi th all the means available.
It was thus suffoc ated after the victory, when there has a vital need of plurali st soviet democracy, of an procedural codes to make them more transparent to the the undoub tedJy very limited possible variants of i
active political life, of the masses' right in practice to mass of citizens; generalization of the principle of the Bolshevik tactics. Thi s choice is posed for all those I
was no White army still present on Soviet territory.
criticize and to intervene. Because if the revolution as revocabilit y of j udg es (thus elimin a tio n of the from 191 7 un t il today , from Plekhan ov to Eric
The measures then taken were inspired by the idea the beginning of building a classless society is an principle tha t they appointed for li fe); an d the Hobsbawm, who say decidedly: they should not have I

that, precisely because of the victory in the Civil War, immense laboratory, then mistakes are inevitable: it is maximum extension of the principle of jury trials. taken power, the October Revolution was "premature". I
the revolutionary mobilization of the Civil War was thu s vital to have mechani sms which make it possible There is no reas on why these juridical changes What should have been done? Wait passively for
going to decline. This demobilization , in the eyes of
the Bolsheviks, could threaten soviet power still more
not so much to avoid mistakes - which is impossible would undermine or limit the rights of individuals or events to occur? Deli ver the country to the rabbl e I
than the White armies. John Rees does not mention
- but to correct them as quickly as possible, and then the "state based on law". They are in fac t necessary arm y of W ilh e lm II ? Ru ss ian and inte rn at io nal I
to av oid them being repeated in the future. Lenin conditions if we want all women and men, and not refo rmists do not put for ward anything coheren t,
this explanation. Thus he does not unmask its illogical himse lf noted that th e fas hi o n in which a part y
and mistaken character. only privileged minorities (including bureaucrats and except ab surd illusions in an impossible bourgeois
behaved in relation to its own mistakes determined its intellectuals) to enjoy their formal rights to the full! democracy.
Rees then dissolves these concrete problems in an future.
How e ver , the severe criticism of "rev olu tion ary Centrists like Martov and Otto Bauer/Hilferdi ng
abstract and general formula. The question was not to And it is in this contex t that soviet democracy justice" rejects them dogmatically, as if on principle. defended an alternative solution in a hesitant and timid
know whether if, in general, "all means necessary", acquires all its value.
should be used to defend soviet power and prevent a Social in equality in the legal system is a well- way. Marto v ca ll e d it " a unified re vol uti o nary
White victory . The question is to know whether this or known scandal in our "states based on law ". Three democratic government": a coalition of all the parties
that concrete measure made easier or more difficult the recent events provide a J:ather spectacular confirmation identifying with socialism.
victorious pursuit of the Civil War. Democracy and social equality of thi s, if one is needed. Prince Victor- Emm anuel, A whole wing of the Bolsheviks also looked to
claimant to the throne of Italy, has been acquitted of such project (as we saw in the previous chapter). It
Was this the case in the creation of the Cheka? Samuel Farber is thus, in my opinion, correct as
the murder of a young German after the legal process was however fundamentally impossible, not because
Was this the case in the continuation and stepping up opposed to John Rees fo r the general method of
approach. But, once again, he is only right in a general dragged on for e leven years. Would a c it ize n of of the supposed "sectarianism" of the Bolsheviks but
of wheat requisitions in 19 19-20 and in general the average means be able to drag things out for so long? for much deeper reasons.
excesses of "war communism"? Was this the case with and abstract fashion and not in a large number of the
the banning of the soviet parties? concrete judgements he makes. In fact he uses purely In Japan , after 24 years, the Hitachi corporation In fact, the right SRs and the right Mensheviks did
formal criteria of democracy ex cessively; criteri a has won a case against one of its employees, sacked not want to give up at any price the policy of "national
The Soviet power, the leaders of the Bol shev ik which tum out to be in practice much less democratic for having refused to work overtime. A lawyer who defence", that is to say the continuation of the war
Party, had a real ch oic e: to take or not take these than they seem at first sight. has es tabli she d a work ers' ad v ic e ce ntre, Mr which had unavoidable implications. The centre-left
measures. Were they right? Were they wrong?
Farber in sists stro ngl y on the importance of a Kawahito, said about this case: Menshev ik Dan, who was himself a (more and more
John Rees argues as if the question was not even Li ke many of Japan' s laws, this one is deli berately unclear. hesitant) supporter of "revolutionary national defence"
"state based on law", the need for written laws, the Today's decision was wrong because Japanese workers w ill
posed. And, curiously, he does not mention the central wrote on this:
principle according to which the accused is presumed now be unable to refuse overtime and the incidence of karclshi
argument which could, if not totally justify, at least
innocent until proven guilty , etc. lS I Our movement (death from overwork) will rise further. .. One in fo ur white The continuing defence of the country, while waiting to sign a
largely explain the behaviour of the Bolsheviks in this collar workers now fear death from overwork, according to a
incorporated most of these principles into the theses democrati c peace, requi red that an army of several millio n
regard. It was formu lated by Rosa Luxemburg in her recent Tokyo s urv e y by Nippon Kay aku , a medecin e people be maintained, and that everything should be done to
which it adopted during its 1979 and 1985 congresses, manufacturer...
pamphlet on the Russian Revolution. prevent it beco ming dis organi zed. As a consequ ence the
entitled "Socialist Democracy and the Dictatorship of Clearly, the Su preme Court has fa voured big business and appli cation of the agrarian reform had to be put off until after
The socialist revolution, as well as the beginning of the Proletariat". We did not wait for the upheavals in believes ec onomic power comes from overtime. It has given the meeti ng of the Con st it uen t As se mbly . In fac t, a
building a classless society, constituted a totally new Eastern Europe nor the publi cation of Farber' s book to priority to economy over human life. '" revolutionary ex propri ation of the big landowner s and the
di strib ution o f la nd wo uld hav e inevitably pro vok ed the
assert and defend these rights .'52
1\0;1 experience. There was absolutely no handbook of pre-
established rules that could be referred to. The Russian
Revolution was an immense historical laboratory, both
But Farber does not deal with a series of other I
The Kennedy family spent one million doll ars in
less than six months to defend a member of the family
accused of rape. :.\4 Could an ordinary person do that?
desertion of millions of peasant soldiers who would not have
stayed at the front at such a time.'''

r i pr o bl em s whic h a lthou gh no t "fo rm al " are .l In oth e r wo rd s , neither th e majority of th e

1 'I exalting and dramatic. Advances could only be made
by experimentation, in feeling the way. I The United States , Italy and Japan are of course
capitalist countries and not post-capitalist societies.
Mensheviks nor the right SRs were ready to accept
immediate peace, the immediate division of the big

Ixi properties and workers' control over production. The

Only practice can show if this or that concrete 151. S. Farber, Befo re Stalinism, Poli ty Press, 1990, pp. 159-162. But thi s does not change anything in the fact that these
measure - we are not talking here about general 152. The resolution "Socialist Democracy and the Dictatorship of the three cases illustrate the ambiguity of the concept of Menshevik minister of labour, Skobelev, agreed to re-
ori en tation - is correct or false . Any dogmatic Proletariat" was first presented at the 11 th World Congress of the es tabl ish the authority of the manufactu rers and
Fourth International in 1979. Adopted first by an indicative vote, it managers in the enterprise s, a demand of the
153. The Times , November 29, 1991. A white-collar worker in an
was rediscussed, amended and finally adopted at the 12th World
150. J. Rees, "In Defence of October" in Internatiof>.al Socialism, No Congress in Janu ary 1985 . For this version see International I office worker, a blue-collar worker is a manual worker. 43
52. Viewpoint, special issue, 1985. I 154. Sunday Times Magazine, December 1,199 1. 155. Dan op.cit., p. 298.
_ _ _ _ __ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ ------.J
- - _ ._ - -- - -

·a_n_R __a_n_d_e_l~
__ev_.o_l_u_tl_·o_n_.._._____________________________________________E_'_·n_e_st_A1 I Ernest Mandel Russian Revolution ...

. ! employers' aSSOClatlOn. On what programme could a It went over to the side of the established order one Nobody made the slightest objection when I expressed the from the workplaces in Russia. They even took on
opinion that order should be re-established by the force of anns.
governmental coalition then be established? hundred per cent, and was at most prepared to The war minister, colonel Reinhardt. wrote an order naming
themselves the right to repress the workers when they
undertake some timid reforms. general Hoffman as the commander-in-chief... The objection ignored their judgements. This pretentious and
The "conciliators" made the exclusion of Lenin was made that the genral would be too unpopnlar with the paternalist arrogance has the same substitutionist
and Trotsky a condition for the constitution of such a This policy was concretized in a number of ways: workers ... I insisted that a decision must be made? Someone
arrogance as underlies Stalinist behaviour. This
"workers' united front" government. It was obviously finalization of the agreement on institutionalized said: "CouJdn't you do it yourself?" I replied briet1y and firmly:
"I don't see any objection, Someone has to play the role of the paralIe] between reformist and Stalinist behaviour
an unacceptable condition for the Bolsheviks who negotiations (class collaboration) between the trade- mad dog. I'm not afraid of this responsibility. should be highlighted.
nevertheless held the absolute majority of mandates in union bureaucracy and the employers; formation of a
Nor did the same Noske hesitate to post the Let us repeat: all this is the absolute opposite of the
the congress of soviets! coalition government with the bourgeoisie; liquidation
following warning doctrine and orien- '" 17/1
of the workers' councils not only as bodies of political
A coalition government of the Bolsheviks, left on the walls of tation of Marx,
power but even as bodies of workers' control and dual
SRs, left Mensheviks (the "internationalists" around Berlin a few months centred on the
power within the enterprises; above all, a secret
Martov) would at the limit have been possible. It was later: concept of the self-
agreement with the command of the imperial armed
moreover partially constituted because a coalition The brutality and the emancipation of the
forces, on the joint proposal of Ebert, social-
government of the Bolsheviks-left SRs was formed. bestiality [sic J of the
democratic leader. and General Groener: working class.
Spartakists who fight
But it was Martov' s group which from the outset
against us force me
refused to follow this path. There can no longer be any discussion today on the question of Marx and
the alliance made in November between Chancellor Ebert and to give the following
order: anyone taken Engels had a pre-
the anny chiefs, even in the version of a telephone agreement
between Groener and Ebert in the night of November 9 to 10 arms in hand in the monition of this
cannot fonna!ly substantiated. From November 10, Marshal struggle against the substitutionism and
Do nothing? Hindenburg telegraphed to the military commanders that the government will be
summarily shot. its implications
central command had decided to collaborate with the
The German example Chancellery in order to "prevent the spread of terrorist
These massacres
when, in their
Bolshevism in Gennany". famous letter of
It could be argued that, after all, it was better not to were justified in the
General Groener [wrote] some years later: "We made an September 1879,
follow a revolutionary path which could only lead to alliance against Bolshevism". name of hostility to
they condemned the
failure. This is only in appearance a Pontius Pilate "Bolshevism". It
But what Ebert, Noske and Groener called posi tion of the
position. can be noted, not
"Bolshevism" was, in Germany, a very broad popular reformist Manifesto
without a certain
In reality, by refusing to act, one influences events movement challenging bourgeois society, of the "Zurich
irony, that these
as much as one does in acting - because one opts for independently of the existence of adventurist and Three" (Hochberg,
same people were
the status quo and leaves the field open to the class minority ultra-left groups. For example, the general Bernstein and
indignant about the
opponent who can take the initiative freely. strike for the defence of the workers' councils in Schramm) in very
Red Terror against
February-March 1919, or the formidable mass ironic terms:
Scholastics say, not incorrectly, that there are sins "people taken arms
mobilization against the Kapp-von Ltittwitz putsch in in hand against the If we want to win to
of omission as well as of commission. [our] cause the upper
March-April 1920. government" layers of society (as
This fundamental question of strategic choice can (however, Trotsky the Zurich Three
be most clearly illustrated by comparing the behaviour never considered or hope), we must not
of the German social-democrats who had the majority frighten them at any
Reformism and counter-revolution practised execution cost. The Zurich
during 1918 with the behaviour of the Bolsheviks in of members of the Three think that they
1917 (the right wing of the USPD occupying a middle In a revolutionary period, the refusal to get White Army). have made a
involved in the revolution and the taking of power tranquillizing
position quite similar to that of Martov in Russia).
But the funda- discovery: the party
almost inevitably means being part of the counter- must show that it is
Let us leave aside the question of the~ social mental fact is else-
revolution. The choice is then no longer between not ready to take the
composition of the leadership of the German social- action and inaction. It is between revolutionary action where. Leaders of road of a bloody and
democratic party and the material interests and counter-revolutionary action. The reformists are in parties that call violent revolution.
but that it has decided ... to take the road of legality, that is of
represented. Let us even leave aside the question of the fact led to repress the spontaneous, semi-spontaneous themselves socialist take on themselves the right to reforms. [The logical conclusion of this argument is thus thatl if
real motivation of this majority current. The disastrous or organized movement of the toiling masses; forbid the broad masses to organize strike or even to Berlin show itself again to be so badly brought up as to have
historical balance sheet of reformism is clear. another March 18 [that is a revolutionary explosion], the social-
opposing it first by manoeuvres and lies and then by organize unarmed demonstrations, in the name of
democrats, rather than participating in fhis struggle as "rabble
The SPD refused to take power. It refused to violent action. priorities, of "principles", of political judgements burning to climb onto the barricades" [terms used by the
envisage the possibility of an advance , however which are very far from being shared by everyone, and "Zurichois"] they should rather "take the road of legality",
The role of Gustav Noske, the social-democratic which turn out to be far from a papal infallibility."" dismantle the barricades and, if necessary, march in step with
moderate, to socialism. It refused to purge seriously minister, is notorious on this. He did not hesitate to the glorious troops against the exclusive, brutal and unlettered
the state apparatus inherited from the Empire - masses. 162
write: The Mensheviks, even the left wing, opposed
particularly its military, legal and diplomatic branches. initiatives for workers' control that emanated directly This is a forecast and condemnation of the
behaviour of the reformists Ebert and Noske forty
years before the facts!
157. P. Erouc, op cit, p,l73,
159. Gustav Noske, Von Kiel bis Kapp, Berlin 1920. The main justification that the German social-
156. Pierre Broue Revolution 158, For the manoeuvres and lies in regard to the popUlation, Ebert
160. Cited by Broue, op.cit., p. 273. The Spartakists were the Gennan democrats put forward for their policy of opposition to
1971 publishes a very extensive denied that he wanted to bring the Army troops into Berlin (the
revolutionary movement.
'''A " "ill lil J made by the USPD), he faced with the first
workers ' and soldiers ' He said that there was For who were not brought in Roman
brought back from the front which statements by Pope (by virtue of his office) are 162. Marx "AA.
44 books of Benoist Mechin. were to cross Berlin. In fact really had into supposed to infallible, which says a lot about about democratic Leipzig", Correspondallce. Paris/Moscou, 1981, pp.
Frolich, Paul Levi, Franz Borkenau the troops of the ten divisions led by General character of the very Christian Catholic Church.
-......,-·--·. ----- - --- ·- -----1

JAAt ~ i i h Si i:i ~i i:i i:i ,~iSi.i ~i i ~i,:i il~i ini :i i:i :i i·i ~i iowi i iei ir
iiiidiiiiuiiiiriiiiiniiiigiiiiaiiiiiiiiriiiieviiiiOiiiiliiiiuiiiitiiiiioiiiiniiiiariiiiyiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiciiiihiiiiriiiioiiiiniiiioiiiiloiiiigiiiiyiiiiiiiiiiiiEiiiiiiiirniiii·iiiieiiiistiiiiMiiiiiiiiaiiiiniiiidiiiiiiiie;;o;i' Cllapter 8 i N~
. crisis, is that democracy had to be defended, indeed
defended at all costs , including against milli ons of
(International events in italics, others are Russian or Soviet)
By way of conclusion I
workers - it does not matte r here if they form a
'r ---l
International and Russ·· i··a-n·········r··e. ·a··. ·c ti~-n-:·~·~acked·· · ~~~·· · · · · · ·~f literac;·- :~ -~~~~~Si~~-~;-:~U~~ti:.-·~~·;~Udget for
(slight) majority or a strong minority of the proletariat Second congres s of RSDLP. Divi sion between Bolshev iks and
and the electorate. Mensheviks.

To do this they has f irst to ignore or de ny the 1904-07 October Revolution with extreme violence during the public education which had been 195 million roubles II r -.-..·,..·-,.'.: I
l I

Russo Japanese War (1904-05 ) years which followed the Bolshevik revolution; stating in 1916 and that the February revolution increased to
reality of the counter-revolutionary threat. '63 But by
17/1 Rise and defeat of the Russian Revolution (190S -07)
that it only had purely destructive effects. 940 million roubles, was increased to 2_9 billion 7
taking the path of repression, by using the old state
L._ _ J
Swttgarr Congress of the Second International (1907) roubles in 1918 by the Bolsheviks and then to 10 I '
apparatus of the property-owning classes for this
purpose, th ey opened th e road to a pro cess of 1907-12
billion in 1919. The number of primary schools was i I
Great cultural wealth increased from 38,387 in 191 7 to 52,274 in 1918 and I
consolidation of "elites ' - thus also paving the way Period of reaction and weakeni ng of RSDLP
to 62,238 in 1919. Pre-school teaching which was t
which led to the bloodthirsty regi me of the Nazi Split of Bolsheviks and Mensheviks into separate parties ( 1912)
The French newspapers , particularly Le Temp s, practically non-existent under Tsarism, already I
dictatorship. The Weimar Republic gave birth to the 1913-14

had whole columns denouncing the "Asiatic covered 200,000 children in 1921 and 561,000 in
Third Reich. It was in 1918- 19, in 1920 and 1923 that Basle Congress of the Second International (19/ 3). barbarism" which had allegedly stamped out all 1921.'69
all was decided, in the repression of the revolution and Revolutionary rise of workers' struggles in Russia artistic , scientific and literary life in Soviet Russia. In
the German masses - the reformists not only playing Start of First World War July 1920, the French Academy of Sciences Unafraid of making himself ridiculous, professor i i
a passive role but getting actively involved in the Norman Stone does not hesitate to assert that before
counter-revolutionary camp. '64
Crisis of Second In ternational suppressed a report by Monsieur Victor Henri, posted
in Russia, on the scientific activity in the country. In 1917 Tsarism was already on the road to successful l
The Nazi dictatorship and the Second World War 1925, The Times of London published a Note of the modernization of Russia_ He cites its "rapid scientific
Extension of First World War
cost humanity 50 million deaths. That was the Admiralty stating that the Soviet government had and cultural development" . 170
concrete alternative to the October Revolution. That is February Revolution: overthrow of Tsarism. Emergence of dual brought nothing to Russia except blood , poverty and But in Tsarist Russia there were at most a few
the most striking histori ca l justification for this power. . famine. '65 thousand scientists. The great majority of the
revolution. July days: Revolution or counter-revolution? popUlation was illiterate. Thanks to the work started
The Prussian country squire Karl von Bothmer,
October Revolution: Establishment of soviet power
summed up the central argument of this campaign of by the October Revolution, there were, at the
Anti-war movements in belligerent coullIries denigration when he wrote: beginning of the 1980s , more than two million
1918-20 sc ientists; 125 million graduates of secondary
No constructive force has shown itself. Nowhere are any
Dissolution of Constituent Assembly creative forces appearing . [The government] only maintains
education; 14.8 million citizens with post-secondary
Republic of Councils in Finland itself through criminal means, without being able to show it has diplomas; and more than 80% of the workforce who
achieved anything . '''' had secondary education certificates.'7'
Signing of Brest -Litovsk Treaty
I At the same time as von Bothmer was writing this,
End of First World War As for the industrial leap forward , what ever its
Beginning of generalized Civil War Beryl Williams more honestly noted that: price the balance sheet is at least clear.
First revolutionary wave in Germany (1918) The combination of arti stic experimentation and intense
intellectual debate over cultural matters was to give rise to a
Revolutionary upsurge in Austria
period of artistic vigour and utopian dream s in the period of the
Assasinations of Luxemburg and Liebknecht in Germany (1 919) revolution and the civil war. '" A humanist revolution
I Foundation of Third International (1919)
She noted that in fact at the end of 1918, there
First Congress of Peoples of the East in Baku So much for the "no n-achievement s" of the
were already three times more museums in Russia than
Republics of Councils in Hungary and Bavaria Russian Revolution.
before the Revolution. 168
163. This is one of Lenin's argument in his polemic with Kautsky: Kapp -von Liittwitz putsch in Germany (1920) But let us leave the material domain for the moral
In fact, the rise of the theatre and cinema in the
"The proletarian revolution and the renegade Kautsky", Collected and spiritual which the opponents of the revolution
USSR , and of painting , posters and avant-garde
Works , Volum e 28. Kautsky 's work was publi s h ed as The Kronstadt rebellion have talked so much about, not without a certain
Dictatorship of the Proletariat, Universi ty of Michigan Press, 1964. sculpture, of urbanism and architecture, or psychology
End of the Civil War. Tenth Congress of CPSU. Beginning of NEP. hypocrisy.
and psychiatry, of analysis of the economic situation,
In the section of this text on Russia, Kautsky does not say anything New upsurge of struggles in Germany and Italy
of historiography, not to mention literature, impressed Even von Bothmer has to recognize that the
about the dangers of counter-revolution !! Fascists (Mussolini) come to power in Italy (i922)
the whole world. This cultural flowering was greater Russian Revolution, in forbidding any sale of alcohol,
164. On the German "elites" left in place by soc ial-democracy, and Final defeat of German Revolution (1923)
than the famous "golden years" of the Weimar made alcoholism practically disappear from the big
their role in the rise of Nazism see: Arthur Rosenberg, Entstehung Illness (from 1922) then death of Lenin ( 1923) Republic, whose base and material wealth was towns. There were no drunks in Moscow and
und Geschichte der Weimarer Republik; Evelyn Anderson, Hammer 1925-35 nevertheless much broader. Petrograd. 172
odeI' Amboss.
Gradual establishment of Stalinist regime
The Weimar Republic was established in Germany on November 9, End ofNEP (1928). Forced collectivization in the countryside
When we know the extent to which the plague of
19 18, after the abdication of Wilhe lm II, with the participation of alcoholism affected Ru ssia before October, - and
World economic crisis
many social-democrats. The rise of education after the re-establishment of the state monopoly on
Hitler Chancel/or (1933 )
A government which included the social-democrats sent troops in to The Revolution also undertook an immense effort
Rise and defeat of Second Chinese Revolution (1925-2 7)
Saxony to oust a left social-democrat government which enjoyed
1936· 39 169. A. Morizet, op,cit., p. 179.
broad popular support. (op.cit., pp. 774-775).
Spanish Civil War (l936-39) 165. The Times, November 17, 1925.
After having repressed the German revolution, this regime turned out 170. N . Stone, Sunday Times, January 5, 199 L
Electoral victory of Popular Front in France (1936)
to be incapable to dealing with the social and economic crisis. In 166. K. v. Bothmer, op.cit. , pp . 102, 131,132.
171. V.P. Tomin, Uroven' obrazovanniya naseleniya SSE, Moscow,
Moscow Trials, beginning of Purges
46 1933 called Hitler into power, who then gradually established the
Nazi dictatorship. Beginning of Second World W ar
167. B. Williams, op.cit., p. 80. 1981. [~7_)
168. Idem, p. 94. 172. von Bothmer, op.cit.. p. 47 .
Russian Revolution ... Ernest Mandel i Ernest Mandel Russian Revolution ...

selling alcohol under Stalin - , and when we know its

ravages in the Soviet Union of today, then we
participation of thousands of citizens of Odessa. 178 William G. Rosenberg, said SO.182 But this statement is
contradicted by the systematic call for the mobilization
Forward to liberty and beauty of existence. d;

There is a further justification for the revolution,

l \J
. i I Dp,. )
r~J~ i:'

understand quite easily the importance of this , of factory workers in the Red Army, in order to defend supplied by the stubbornly anti-Bolshevik author,
question. Class spirit Soviet power. In fact, the vast majority of workers Leonard Shapiro, on thc basis of his own memories as
replied positively to this appeal. There were of a young boy in Petro grad at the end of 1920:
In the same way the publicist Alfons Goldschmidt
Between this popular-proletarian spirit and the course undoubted fluctuations in the attitude if the
felt himself in total security in Petrograd and Moscow. Life was extremely hard. Diet was near starvation level ... Yet
very nature of the revolution in the institutional working class in relation to the Bolsheviks in 1918. my recollection. no doubt inHuenced by the adults around me. is
The streets were clear. In the midst of the famine
domain there is an undeniable inter-connection. Let us 1919, 1920. But whatever its critical aspect, the of enthousiasm and excitement. Life was new, hopeful. it
lorry loads of flour passed. They were not attacked. was moving forward to some great future. In spite of the
cite once again Alfons Paquet who nevertheless support of the majority of the workers remained. 1711
There was no pillage of food shops. 173 hardships and the brutality of the regime. the spirit of euphoria
recognizes what was the essential in this spirit: evoked by the fall of the monarchy March 1917. was not yet
The Red Army was moreover impregnated with
The humanism of the revolution was also The first incomparable contribution of the Russian Revolution dead.
this proletarian class spirit. The Soldier's Handbook
expressed in a generous culturo-moral pluralism, that is to have taken up. in full radicalism and with an iron hand. the And David Mitchell notes:
fight against the egoism of capitalism. whether in a private or contained passages such as:
was touching and also naive. The German writer
state form. The merit of Bolshevism is to have made that Liberatarian who [Victorl Serge, meant business, could feel
Alfons Paquet was a slandering critic of the revolution You must be among your comrades. Your leaders are brothers
possible ... that Trotsky was right, that a hold, bloody. but
who are more experienced than you. In battle, in exercise, in the
who could not, despite himself, help sympathizing barracks, at work, you must obey them. As soon as ,ou are out
always spirited was being made to usher in the
The collapse of Europe is happening before our eyes. but the
springtime of a new
with it. 174 basis of its reconstruction has already been established. Let us of the barracks you are absolutely free ... If someon~ asks you:
try to understand fully the ideas of the revolution and draw hope how do you fight? Answer: I fight with the rine. the bayonet. We cannot say more. History is a severe but fair
He describes how on the first anniversary of from them for the future. the machine gun and also with the truth which I address to those
enemy soldiers who are workers and peasants so that they know judge; it simply has to be given the time to do its
October, a long list of "freedom fighters" was
And he made this conclusion of striking topicality: that in reality I am not their enemy but their brother. work. In 1810, indeed in 1815, there was no longer
inscribed on the white walls of the former military
very much sympathy for the French Revolution of
academy. The list included the names of Victor Hugo, One day. for example. the workers [of the towns bordering the Chamberlin also notes:
Rhine which are] Basle. Strasbourg. Mannheim. Mayence. 1789, except in very limited revolutionary circles. But
Emile Zola, Ibsen, Emile Verhaeren, Nekrassov, Ruhrort [a mining agglomeration]. Emmerich and Rotterdam Intensive education propaganda was a feature of the
in 1848, not to mention 1889, the judgement had
Saltykov, Michalovski, Byron, Chopin, Koltzov, could form a jount council of the Rhine basin and thus could organization of the Red Army. Amateur plays and communist
lectures were given in the soldiers' clubs which were profoundly changed. Weare convinced that it will be
Constantin Meunier, Mussorgski, Pushkin, Rimsky- make their influence felt in the transformation of this axis in a
great European river route. going beyond country borders and established wherever sicumstances permited. Vivid posters the same for the verdict made on the October
Korsakov, Scriabin, Beethoven, Marx, Engels, endeavoured to bring home to the workers and the peasants
the law established by those on top ... The idea of such councils Revolution.
Auguste Blanqui, Bebel, Lassalle, Jean Jaures, could also. in many ways. serve the European goal. that is the what wouild happen to them if the factory owner recovered his
Plekhanov, Spartacus, Gracchus Babeuf, Garibaldi, building of a joint peace economy."" factory, the landlord took back his land and the old Tsarist
officials and the Cossacks returned to rule.
Robespierre, Danton, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Robert There is here undeniably a class spirit. It is
Owen, Herzen, Bakunin, Voltaire, Pertel, and many Among many other testimonies which attest to this
undoubtedly on that basis that supporters of the power
others. 175 class spirit, there is a fact cited by S.A. Smith. When
of private property, the power of wealth, put it in the
at the end of December 1917, it was necessary to
In 1918-19 the works of Pushkin, Lermontov, dock. It remains for us in line with the requirements of
reduce employment in the munitions factories and the
Gogol, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Dostoyevsky, Goncharov, social justice and historical facts, totally defendable
Putilov factories in Petrograd, the workers drew up
Grigorovich, Ostrovsky, Ryleiev, Zola, Anatole from all points of view, starting with the moral point
lists of priorities. No party membership, even that of
France, Merimee, Walter Scott, Romain Rolland, of view.
the Bolshevik Party, was taken into account. 186
Aulard, Louis Blanc, Jean Jaures, Bebel, Plekhanov
Alfons Goldschmidt, in Petro grad, saw this class
and Kautsky (these two firm opponents of the October
Revolution), were published in printruns of between
25,000 and 100,000. The first impression: a proletarian city. The worker rules. The Hope
worker dominates the streets.'so
At the same time, the revolution stimulated a The historical meaning of the October Revolution
Alfons Paquet noted:
formidable participation by the masses in cultural life: , was admirably expressed by Maxim Gorky, who was
Councils exclusively composed of proletarians rule the
Theatre audiences were solidly proletarian. dressed in shabby
however a severe critic:
enterprises. the urban neighbourhoods. the villages. the districts
clothes. topped by threadbare overcoats in teeth~shattering and the provinces. Whoever honestly thinks that the irreppressible aspiration of
cold.177 humanity to freedom, to beauty and to an existence guided by
The Bolshevik government distributed arms to the reason is not a useless dream but a real force which, by itself.
On May Day 1920,20,000 people in Petrograd saw workers in almost all towns in the country during the could create new ways of living - that it is in itself a lever
a spectacle entitled The Liberation of Work, which told ci viI war. Is this not proof that this was not the which could change the world - ; every honest person must
the story of the historical fight for emancipation, from recognize the general significance of the activity of these
government of a clan or a sect but a class government, consistent revolutionaries. The revolution should be conceived
the slave revolts of Antiquity to the Russian convineed that it enjoyed the confidence of the as a vast attempt to give shape to the guiding ideas and response
Revolution. The celebrated film of Serge Eisenstein, envisaged by the chief thinkers of humanity ...
majority of this class?
The Battleship Potemkin, was filmed with the Come with us. towards the new life for which we are working ..
Many historians have asserted that the Bolsheviks
lost members and indeed the support of the working
173. A. Goldschmidt. Moskau 1920. Berlin. 1920. class after the Brest-Litovsk peace and the start of the
182. W. G. Rosemberg. "Russian Labor and Bolshevik power. Social
174. It was Paquet who made the wcll·known and ignoble accusation Red Terror in 1918. Even a well-disposed critic,
dimensions of protest Petrograd after October" in The Workers
that the Soviet regime had "socialized women". He cited an alleged
Revolution Russia 19j7, The View from Below, op.cit.. 98 f.
decree by the anarchists of Saratov . which they immediately
denounced a gross provocation. 183 . See in particular op.cit.. pp. 32-33 A.
178. B.Williams. op. cit.. 93~93.
A. Geist deT russischen Revolutiol1. Munich. 1920,
For information on the people named, see anr'cmllx. 179. A Paquet. op.cit., pp. 40, 51·52. A,f\1orizet. 187. Quoted in A.R. Williams, pp.

176. Morizet, p. 194-195. See appendix for authors names. 180. A. Goldschmidt. op.cit., p. 185. W.H.l n ;C1mlw r l op. ci t., Vol II p. 34 188. Shapiro, op. cit., 219. 49
177. D. Mitchell 156. 181. A. Paquet, Der Geist der russischen Revolution. op.cit. , p. 186, S.A. Smith. op.cit., pp. 189. D. Mitchell op. 166.
JN~ r~'<--T ·~~;~b-;';;;;-;~;~-d
r the wOll1en's lI1ovell1ent
r------1Ir ~he
12 . . <
mobilization of women was much more direct in the 1917 revolution than it had been in 1905. The Soviet regim:I'
started the sizeable task of assuring legal, social and sexual equality for all. However, the specific potential represented by the I
Adler , Victo r (185 2- 19 18) : Founder and leader of th e
Austro-Hungarian Social Democracy. Located in the
occupied its northem portion in 1828) and Iran. Majority
Islamic population, the Azeri s. No rthern part of the

I autonomous women's liberation movement was never clearly recognised. This not only weakened the fight for women's I centre-left of the Second International. country became one of the federated republics of the i
i emancipation but also the revolutionary dynamic for the whole of society. ! USSR. Today inde pendent. Population of around 7 I'

Anarchists: A revolutionary current, weakly organized but million people. Capital: Baku.
with an important tradition in Russia going back to the I
l i 19th century (Bakunin , Krapotkin). Having collaborated Baboeuf, Francois Noel (G racchus) (1 760-1797): Political I
Because the hi story of revolutions - even written by revol utionaries - has left women on the margin and only considered i for a peri od of time with the Bolshev iks during the figure during the French revolution of 1789. On the left
progress for wo men as a sub-product of general social progres s, the explanation of the relati onship between social ', Oc tober revolution they turned again to oppos iti o n wing of radical democracy, defended a collectivist and I
transformation and women 's liberation has often between simplistic. As far as the Russian Revolution is concerned, the against the new power. Makhno was the best known communi st point of view . Editor of the Tribun du
impression has often been given [before the bureaucratization], during the 1920s, there was a steady progression towards! anarchist leader during the revolution. Peuple . Main force beh ind the Conspiracy of Equals.
women's liberation and then, imperceptibly towards the 1930s, with the consolidation of Stalin' s power, a regression occurred, ! Guillotined.
Antonov-Ovseenko, Vladimir (1884-1938 ): Member of the
expressed by changes in the laws on abortion, divorce and homosexuality ... Such a balance sheet ignores too many problems 'II

RSDLP in 1902. Joined the Menshev ik faction. Officer Baku: Centre of oil production, situated on the Caspian sea,
and implies too a-critical support for the Bolsheviks' policy. in the Tsarist army, led a mutiny. Imprisoned, escaped, capital of the Azerbaijan Republic. The "Congress of
. j
We have [to use] the progress made in theoretical work on women's oppression by the women's movement in the last ten ! we nt into hid ing, and then abroad. Mem ber of the Bak u" is the Congress of the Peoples of the East which
Mezhrayontsi, joined Bolshevik Party in 1917. A leader met in 1920.
years ... However, to be constructive, a critical approach has to take a historical viewpoint. It is not adequate ... to judge the I
of the October insurrection. Political commissar for the
Bolsheviks and the Russian Revolution with today 's criteria. I Red Army during the civil war. Part of the anti-Stalinist Bakunin, Mikh ail: Ru ssian anarchist revolutionary.
It is legitimate to ask if a better mastery of the policy concerning the relations between the sexes could have changed the opposition for a time, capitulated to Stalin . Sent to Important member of the First International.
course of events. When we ask this question, we have to consider the policy of the Bolsheviks concerning women's liberation i Barce lona in 1936 d urin g the Spani s h civ il war.
Executed by Stalin when he returned to the USSR. Baltic States: Name given to those countries which border on
not in isolation, nor in counterposing it to an abstract conception of what it should be, but in placing it in the context of the i the Baltic between the mouth of the Niemen. River on
development of the relationship between the party and the working class, the decline of democratic norms, the growing Armenia: A mountainous country, with a mostly Christian the West and the Gulf of Finland on the East. (The Baltic
passivity of the masses, and in making the link between the evolution of the situation and the general political life at the time, majority. Subject to massacres (by the Turks, 1894- is the sea in Northern Eu rope between Sweden, Finland,
while bringing out the independent dynamic of the women's movement; the rise and fall of the "woman question" is not 1896, and 1915 - 16) and to terri torial conquests by the ex-USSR, Poland, Germany, and Denmark.) These
identical with the rise and fall of proletarian democracy or workers ' control, particularly as the communist leaders and rank ne ighbours. Di vided between Turkey, Iran, and the countries formed the Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia,
and file did not consider women' s problems as of great political importance ... Ru ss ian empire. One of the fift een republics of the and Lithuania (today independent).
US SR . Now independent. Aro und 3.5 milli o n
It would seem premature at this stage to try to draw out a conclusion which attributes the failures of the 1920s to this or inhabitants. Capital : Yerevan. Basle Congress: Congress of the Socialist International held
that factor. .. But it is obvious that the history of the Soviet Union suggests the impOltant role which a women's movement in Basle (Switzerland) in 19 13.
should play in a transitional period and in a practice of women's liberation, in fighting against bureaucratic and anti - i Auschwitz: The name of a territory in Poland where theNazis
Bauer, Otto (1881 -1938): Austro-Marxist, leader of the left
democratic practices and in ensuring that the revolution links the changes in production with a transformation of the family cons tructed one of the main German concentration
wing of the Austrian SP. Important Gernlan-speaking
and the elimination of the sexual division of labour. camps in 1940-45. (Around 2.5 million inmates. mostly
Marxist theoretician. Prominent figure in the Socialist
Jews and Poles, perished there.)
Intern at ional. Defended the theory of "gradual
Austro- Hungary: Founded in 1867 by way of a revolu tion" against the seizure of powe r in Austria
Alix Holt "The Bolsheviks and women's oppression" in Femmes et mOUVemen! ouvrier,
"compromise" between the Austrian an d Hungarian during 1918- 1919.
La Breche, Paris, 1979, pp 90-93, 130. i
rulin g classe s . A multinati o na l and lin g ui sti c
I conglomerati on including at least I I nationaliti es.
Bebel, August (1840-1913 ): One of the principal founders of
i the Ge rm an social democracy . Leader of the Second
B roke n up i n 19 18 through the fo rmati o n of
International where he was part of the center-left.
Czechoslovakia, Aus tria, Poland, Hungary, and the
Yugoslav kingdom of Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia. Beethoven, Ludwig van (1770- 1827): German composer.
The ideas of the majority of the Bolsheviks on 'the question of women's oppession and the tasks that this implies for the I Austro-Marxism: An Austrian Marxist CUITent, particularly
Considered one of the greatest composers of Western
party were in fact anything but clear: the fear that any acti vi ty or initiative taken by the women would be marked by bourgeois II classical music.
prominent before the First World War. Counted among
influences predominated up to 19 17 and afterwards. j
its representatives Max Adler, Rudolph Hilferding, Karl Bernste in , Edward ( 1850 - 1932) : Executor of Engel s's
Renner, and Otto Bauer. Developed original theses on
The men were not the only ones to be suspicious, far from it. This is clear from the discussions which ran through the I the national question and on workers councils. In 19 18-
estate. Leader of German social democracy. Started an
Bolshevik leadership at the time of the October Revolution. After having decided in October 191 7 to reconstitute the "Bureau" I 19 1. 9, opposed the conquest of power by the sociali st
importan t theoretical controversy over " revisionism"
(meanin g the rev ision. in a reformi st direction, of
which had existed ten years earlier, the party leadership realized that a simple body for "agitation among the wives of peasants I movement in the name of "Austrian exceptionalism" Marxist conception s) with his book, Ev olutionary
and soldiers" was not sufficient. The success of the first All-Russian Congress of Peasant and Working Women which was I and of the "gradual revolution". Socialism (Schocken, New York 196 1).
attended by more than one thousand delegates overcame the resistance of those men and women who like Samoilova, were i
still more hostile in 1917 to the idea of creating special bodies for intervention among women. But it took more than a year I A vkse ntiev, Nikolai (1 878- 1943 ): Leade r of the SR s. Bette lhei m, E rnst: Representa tive in Austria of the
before the commissions which had been formed after the Congress - then defined as simple technical bodies responsible for ! Participated in the mobilizations of students in 1899. Hun gar ian communi st leader Bela Kun. Tried to
I Acti vist in the SR party in Russia and in exile. After the
applying the decision of the Central Committee - were transformed into departments (Zhenotdel) whose task was to organize I organize, in June 1919, an abortive, ultraleftist attempt
revo lution of 1905 deported. escaped, wen t into exile.
locally the women non-members of the party in order to inform them of their rights and win their collaboration in building the I to seize power when confronted with the passivity of the
Moved to the right. Supported the entrance of Russia
socialist state. While representatives of the Zhenotdel were integrated into all the party committees, their functioning was far I into the war in 19 14. Pres ide nt of the Pan-Russ ian
social democratic leadership.
from being homogeneous. The importance and impact of their intervention depended to a large extent on the attitude of the i Soviet of Peasants after the February 19 17 revolution. Blanc, Louis (1 81 1-1 882): French utopian socialist and
local authorities towards them. In any case, the question of an autonomous women's organization outside the party was never i Minister under Kerensky. Struggled against the Soviet political personality. Minister during the revolution of
posed. The resistance which women encountered to participation in these groups, the threats of husbands hostile to the idea of I regime from the moment of its formation. Turned up in 1848.
seeing their wives being "politically active", never seemed to shake the conviction of most Bolsheviks that the involvement ofj the East, presiding over an anti-Bolshevik government
women workers and peasants in social life was dependent on the economic changes that the Soviet state would be capable of i in Ufa, then in Omsk. Pushed back to Siberia by the Blanqui, Auguste (1805-1881 ): Perhaps the greatest French
achieving, and that specific organizational structures were quite secondary. dictatorship of Kolchak. Made his way to Paris (1919) revolutionary of the 19th century , of communist
then New York (1940). inspiration. Spent more than 20 years of his life in prison
Jacqueline Heinen, "Introduction" to the collection of Alexandra Kollontai Conferences surla liberation des femm es, I for political activities. Gave his name to "Blanquism,"
La Breche, Paris 1978, pp XVIII-XIX iI Azerbaijan: A country between the Russian empire (which ofte n criti c ized as an elit ist revo lutionary us in g
_ _ _ __ .L-.__ ___ _ .~ _
Russian Revolution ... Ernest Mandel Ernest Mandel Russian

conspiratorial methods because he wanted to conquer Chopin, Frederic: Polish pianist and composer. Considered Congress of the Peoples of the East: The first Congress of Desiatin: Surface measure equalling 2.7 acres (utilized in
power based only on an activist minority. to be one of the greatest composers of Western classical the Peoples of the East met in Baku, Azerbaijan, in Russian studies of agriculture).
music. September 1920. It included close to two thousand
B1anquism: See Auguste B1anqui delegates (of whom 55 were women ... ), two-thirds Dostoyevsky, Feodor (1821-1881): Russian writer of
Cheka: Political police of the Soviet regime. communists, coming from around 40 different international acclaim. Son of a tyranical landowner. he
Brest-Litovsk: City in Byelorussia (formerly Polish) where nationalities, most importantly Turks, Persians and involved himself in liberal political circles. Condemned
the negotiations took place for a separate peace between Chernov, Victor (1873-1952): Principal leader and to death by Tsarism, pardoned and deported to Siberia.
Parsees, Russians, and the peoples of the Caucasus and
the Soviet power and the German bloc in 1917-1918. theoretician of the SRs. Active during the 1890s. Often depicted the suffering and humiliation of
Central Asia: Armenians, Georgians, but also Uzbeks,
Internationalist during the war. Returned to Russia after humanity in his novels.
Khazrs, Kurds, Tadjiks, Chechens, Ingush, etc.
Brest-Litovsk Negotiations: Negotiations for a separate the February 1917 revolution. Minister of Agriculture
peace between the Sovietpower and the Central Powers under Kerensky. Leader of the right-wing of the SRs Constituent Assembly: Assembly of elected representatives, Dzerzhinsky, Felix (1877-1926): Polish. Active in the
(above all Germany). Begun in December 1917. during October 1917. President of the Constituent established for the purpose of adopting a constitution. Russian and Polish social democracy. Eleven years in
concluded in March 1918 with the Treaty of Brest- Assembly which was dispersed in January 1918. Fought The necessity for a constituent assembly was imposed prison, exiled. Liberated from prison by the revolution
Litovsk. The Soviet regime was obliged to cede large against soviet power. Threatened simultaneously by the on Russia by the revolution of February, 1917. But when of February 191 Member of the Bolshevik Central
and very rich territories. including the Ukraine. The Red Army and by Kolchak. emigrated in 1921. Active in it finally convened, its legitimacy was contested on two Committee from August 1917 until his death. Founder
Soviet government annulled this treaty-made Paris. Then lived in New York. fronts. Its members had been elected before the October of the Cheka, known for his personal integrity. President
meaningless by the defeat of Germany and by the revolution but it did not meet until afterward; it did not of the National Economic Council in 1924, alternate
Chubar, Vias (1891-1941): Ukranian peasant. Bolshevik in member of the Political Bureau in 1924-25. Died of a
Russian civil war-in November 1918. reflect the experience of the revolution-the rapid and
1907. President of the Economic Council of the Ukraine heart attack.
from 1920 to 1922. Joined the CC in 1921 and the profound change in the relationship of forces. It stood
Bolshevism: Doctrine and practice of the Bolshevik current. counterposed to the legitimate alternative authority of
Often utilized as a synonym for Leninism, but this Political Bureau in 1926. Disappeared during the Ebert, Friedrich (1871-1925): German political figure.
Moscow Trials. the Congress of Soviets. It was dissolved by the new
current included various trends of thought. Social democrat, leader of the SPD from 1913. Patriot
revolutionary power in January 1918.
during the First World War. Contributed to the
Bolshevik: Russian word for "majority." Name of a current Civil War: Unless otherwise specified. the war begun in repression of the Spartakist insurrection (1919).
October 1917, then generalized in 1918 by national and Cossack: Originally (15th and 16th centuries) designating the
led by Lenin which divided the second congress of the free and militarized communities resisting the Chancellor of the German Republic (1919-1925).
international counterrevolutionary forces trying to
RSDLP (1903). Very much weakened by repression conquerors (Tatars, Turks ... ) and established in
overthrow the Soviet power. The imperialist alliance Engels, Friedrich (1820-1895): Principal collaborator of
after the 1905 revolution. In 1912 constituted itself as an particular along the rivers Don and Dnieper. Defeated by
included mainly Germany, France, Great Britain, the Karl Marx. Made his own contributions to the
independent party. Gained a new mass base in 1913- the Russians. The survivors created army corps sent to
U.S., Canada, and Japan. It ended in 1920-21 with the development of Marxist theory.
1914. In 1917, led the October revolution. In 1918 took the frontiers of the empire, a personal guard for the Tsar.
defeat of the counter-revolution.
the name of Communist Party. They were a particularly feared repressive force. Enlightenment, Age of: Eighteenth century Europe, marked
Cold War: "East-West" conflict between the imperialist Specialists in individual combat on horseback. by a profound revolution in philosophical and scientific
Bracke, Wilhelm (1842-1880): One of the founders of powers and the Soviet bloc, begun in 1948. Termed Furnished an important part of the White armies in the
German social democracy. Correspondent of Marx. ideas, parallel with the great bourgeois revolutions of the
"cold" because there was no world military conflict. But civil war of 1918-21. Many poor Cossacks also joined time.
it was accompanied by many "local" and "regional" the Bolsheviks at the beginning of the revolution, and
Bukharin, Nikolai (1888-1938): Joined the Bolsheviks in
wars (such as the one, especially devastating, fought the anarchist armies (notably in the Ukraine). Estonia: Country on the Baltic. The northernmost of the three
1906. Went into exile in 1910. Member of the Bolshevik
against the Vietnamese revolution by American Baltic republics of the USSR. Around 1.6 million
Central Committee in 1917. Remained close to Lenin, Councils of Deputies: See Soviets.
imperialism) . inhabitants. Capital Tallinn (formerly Reval).
although he clashed with him during the war on the
national question and on the problem of the state. In Comintern: Third International. "Czechoslovakians": Czech prisoners of war, armed by First World War (1914-1918): Called "The Great War" ...
1918, he was opposed to signing the Treaty of Brest- imperialism (under French command), and participating until the outbreak of the Second World War (1939-
Litovsk, creating the group of "Left Communists." Communist International: Third International. in the USSR's civil war as part of the fight against Soviet 1945). First great inter-imperialist military conflict over
Defender of the NEP and leader of the Communist power in Siberia during the summer of 1918. It was the the division of the world. Saw the "Central Powers"
International during the 1920s. Allied with Stalin Concentration camps: Unless otherwise specified, the revolt of the Czech Legion, May 25,1918, which (Germany and Austria-Hungary)-and their allies-
against the opposition from 1923 to 1927, went into camps built after 1933 by Hitler's Nazi regime. This marked the beginning of the generalized civil war. opposed to the French-English "Entente"-and their
opposition and then returned to supporting Stalin in system of camps aimed first to crush all resistance and to allies (including the Russian Empire and the United
1929. Liquidated during the Moscow trials. Author of impose the Hitler regime in Germany itself. It was Dan, Theodore (1871-1947): Leader of the Russian Social States). Bloodied a good portion of the European
numerous basic works. already in place by 1939, before the outbreak of the Democracy. Spokesman for the Mensheviks beginning continent, involved Asia, Africa, and the principal seas
Second World War. Therefore its first inmates were in 1903. Pacifist during the war. Joined the right wing of of the world. It ended in the defeat of the Central
Byelorussia: Also called White Russia. Situated between the German prisoners (common criminals, political Menshevism in 1917. Opposed the October revolution. Powers. Sixty-five million soldiers were mobilized
Baltic countries and Russia, the Ukraine and Poland. prisoners - particularly communists but also socialists Exiled in 1922. Author with Martov of an important during this war. According to conservative estimates, it
During past centuries Byelorussia has belonged to and liberals) and those who belonged to groups history of the Russian social democracy. resulted in the death of 18.5 million people.
various powers in the region. Became a federated earmarked for annihilation (Jews and Gypsies); later
republic of the USSR. Today independent. Population of those living in countries that were occupied early Danton, George (1759-1794): Lawyer. One of the principal Foch, Ferdinand 0851-1929): Marshal in the French army.
around ten million. Capital: Minsk. (Austria... ). With the start of the war the camps received representatives of the Jacobin current in the French Played an important role in the joint command of allied
members of the Resistance, political prisoners, and Jews Revolution. forces against the Germans during the First World War.
Byron, George (1788-1824): English romantic poet. Elected from the occupied European countries. Some of the Active against the Russian Revolution in 1918-1919.
to the Greek Committee for Liberation against Turkish camps: Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Darwin, Charles (1809-1882): English naturalist and
domination. Killed after joining the insurgents fighting Dachau, Mauthausen, Neuengamme, Ravensbruck, biologist of the 19th century, known for his work on the France, Anatole (1844-1924): French writer. Author of
for their independence. Treblinka. They were one of the most frightening evolution of species by natural selection. Best known historical novels. Participant in progressive causes.
institutions of the Nazi dictatorship and truly merited the book: Origin of Species. His theories, Darwinism, are
Caucasus: Mountainous geographical region situated in the name "death camps," which comes from their inhuman extremely rich but are sometimes presented in an overly- French Revolution: Unless otherwise specified, this refers to
southern USSR. Bounded by the Black Sea on the West, living conditions, hard labor and, beginning in 1942, the simplified way (as with neo-Darwinism) and wrongly the bourgeois revolution of 1789-1815 and, more
the Caspian on the East. Bordering on Turkey and Iran. construction of an industrial system for mass murder, applied to the realm of sociology. precisely, to its first, radical, years of 1789-1794. The
targetting Jews in particular. principal stages of the French Revolution were the
Powers: German-dominated bloc during the First Democratic-Centralist Opposition: An opposition group overthrow of the old regime in 1789, the proclamation of
and which arose at the 9th congress of the CP (1920) the republic in 1792, the government of the Jacobins
Smirnov, and It 1793-1794, the "Thermidor" of 1794, the the
rtpn""m"prt extreme centralization Directorate in 1795-1799,
I lMIDJ I Russian Revolution ...
I Jt~ ~~~~~~~~~
Ernest Mandel"•.o.n.···~II~\,
; l l,I;'" i t

I ~ i Garibaldi, Giuseppe (1807-1882 ): Patriot of the Italian

j' monarchist family, he became a republican, partisan of a social democracy and of the Second International before Left Communist Opposition: Opposition group which '[Wtr.
: .'. revolution. Stru ggled for the unifi c ation a nd
I' humanitarian democracy. Tried to reflect the political, the First World War (during which he was part of the formed at the beginning of 1918 around the question of 1 i ;
I "'I I independence of Italy against feudali sm, Austri a, the moral, and literary preoccupations of his times. centre-left). Became a refonnist signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, begun by Bukharin, I I !
i "I kingdom of the two Sicilies, the Papacy, and France.
Kerensky, Alexander (18 8 1-1970) : Socialist la wyer. In
Radek , and U ritsk y . P ro posed a programm e for a i '
Ibsen, Henrik ( 1828-1906): Norwegian poet and dramatic combined s truggle of communi s ts " against
I Georgia: Country in the Caucasus between the Black Sea and author of modest ori gin . Expressed in his writings a 19 17, main leader of the "workers" current. Minister of
concessions," in pursuit of a defensive revolutionary I

I I Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey. One of the social and philosophical inspiration, the fla vor of revolt, Justice in March 191 7, then Minister of War. Head of
the provisional government in July 191 7. Became an
war, for the extension of nationalizations and centralized
;!~:;e:::~t~~:~~n~e~.~b~~~io~f i~~:bYt~~t~' c:~~:r
of love, and of freedom.
I "'.;li/\I ally of the bourgeois ie. Repres sed the revolutionary
control in the economic sphere, and reinforcement of
Soviet power at the rank and file level. I
I ! Tbilisi. Inte rnational , First: Inte rnation a l Work i ng men' s movement. Gave his name to "Kerenskyism": the final
Association (1 864-1 876) . Founded primaril y by Marx constitutional option for the bourgeoi s ie when Left Opposition: Also called "Bolshevik-Leninists." Anti- 1711
German Revolution: Unless otherwise stated, this refers to and Engels. confronted with a g rowin g rev o lutionary wav e . Stalinist opposition (anti -bureaucratic). Formed in 1923
I the revolutionary struggles which occurred in Germany
between 1918 and 1923. Inte r national, Second: Socialist In te rnatio na l. Broad
Emigrated to England, then to France and the United
within the CPS U, inspi red in partic ular by T rotsky.
workers international fo unded in 1889. It split deeply in Gave birth in 1929 to the International Left Opposition

G ogol, Nikolai ( 1809-1 852): Born in the Ukraine. Wri ter and
dramatist, creator of the modern Russian novel.
19 14 w hen the m aj o rit y of its le adin g a pp ar a tu s
ca pitulated in the fac e o f impe rialist press ures and
Kollontai, Alexandra (1 872-1952): Russian revolutionary.
Member of the RSDLP in 1899. At first a Bolshevik,
and in 1938 to the Fourth International.

Lenin, Vladimir (18 7 0-1 924 ) : On e o f th e main

I renounced the fight against war. Reconstituted on a then a Menshevik up to 1914. Intemationalist during the
G orky , Ma x im (1 8 6 8 -1936): G re at Ru ss ian w r ite r, re presentatives of the second genera tion of Rus sian
reformist basis in 1923. war. Rejoined Bolshevism in 19 15. Went into exile.
sympathi zer of the Bolsheviks and a fri end of Lenin, Marx ists. Jo in e d a Marx ist circl e in early 18 90s.
Retumed to Russia. entered into the CC of the Bolshevik
although close to his left critics. In 1917, hesitated in the International, Third: Communist International. Fo unded in Pole micised with populi s m and " legal Mar xis m. "
P a rty in Augu s t 19 17 . Commi s ar of Health.
face of the revolution. His journal, No vy Zhizn (New 19 19 on a revolutionary basis. Transformed during the Deported. Emigrated. Leader of the Bolsheviks starting
Spokeswoman for the Workers' Oppossition in 1920-
Life) was known for its internationalist, unified social- 1920s and 1930s into a diplom ati c instrumen t in the in 1903. Ideological spokesperson for the left in the
22. Under Stalin did no t play an y political role and
democ ratic outlook. Adopte d a pos ition of critical hands of th e Stalinist Sov iet bureauc rac y . Form all y Second International. Best known leader of the October
retired to diplomatic activity. One of the principal
support to the Bolshevik regime beginning in the 1920s. dissolved in 1943. Replaced by the Cominform. 191 7 Russian revolution, of the CPS U, and of the Third
leaders and theorists of Marxist feminism.
He capitulated in the end to Stalin. International, until his death.
International, Fourth: Founded in 1938 on a revol utionary Kolchak, Alexander (18 74-1920): Vice-Adm iral and
Gotz, Abraham (1882-1 940): Leader of the SRs. Member of basis by, most significantly, Leon Trotsky. Continued Leninism: Term that became prominent after Lenin's death.
political figure of the Russian ri ght. Tried to unify the
the right wing in 191 7. Partisan of Kerensky. Actively the tradition of the anti-Stalinist Left Opposition. Designates th e body of Marxist doctrine and the
White armies under his "supreme command" during the
opposed the October Revolution. Arrested during the practical politics that he personified.
civil war. Installed a bloody military dicatatorship in the
civil war. Condemned to de ath in 1922. His sentence Jacobin: The most important of the radical petty-bourgeois territories under his control. Shot after being captured in
cunents during the French revolution of 1789. Lermontov, Mikhail (1814-1841): Russian poet and
was commuted. Died in 1940. Siberia.
nov e list, part of the tradition popular during the
Habsburg: The house (dynasty) of Habsburg which reigned Juares, Jean (1859-1914): Academic, journalist, and deputy. romantic age.
KoItsov, Alexis (1874-1920) : Popular Russian poet. Self-
in Austria from 1278 to 1918. One of the main representatives of French humanist taught. His works speak of love and liberty.
so ciali s m. As sas s inated becaus e he oppo sed th e Liebknecht, Karl (187 1-1919): German social democratic
Herzen, Alexander ( 1812- 1870): Russian writer and literary declaration of the First World War and defended pacifist Kornilov, L.G. (1870-1918) : Carreer Russian o fficer. revolutionary , son of Wilhelm Liebknecht.
critic. Was one of the first socialists in Russia and one of positions. C ommand e r in Chi e f during July 191 7 . Tried to Distinguish ed for hi s antimilitarist ac tivity.
the main initiators of the "populist" current. organize a coup d' etat. Formed a "voluntary army" Internationalist during the world war. Imprisoned and
Kadet: "Constitutionalist-democratic" curren t. In 1917 during the civil war. then liberated in 1918 as a result of the revolution.
Hilferding Rudolf (1877-1941): German political figure of became the principle bourgeois party. Formed the first Founder of the Gennan Communist Party. Assassinated
Austrian origin . Social democrat and leader of the provisional government after the ovelthrow of the Tsar Kronstadt revolt: Unless otherwise stated, this refers in the in January 1919 by reactionary forces.
Second International. Author of an impOltant study on in February 1917. present text to the events of March 1921: the military
f inance capital. Became a reformi s t. Ministe r of garrison of Kronstadt, a port on the Baltic, rebelled Liebknecht, Wilhelm (1826-1900): German socialist. Took
finances in 1923, 1928-29. Kamenev, Lev ( 1885-1936) : Joined the Rus s ian Social against the Bolshevik power. Ne gotiations having part in the revolution of 1848. Correspondent of Marx .
De mocrac y in 1901. Deported , escaped . Became a failed, the rebellion was crushed by the Red Army. Founder of the First International. Founder of the
Hindenburg, Paul von (1 847-1934): German Marshal and Bolshevik as an emigre and a close colla borator of Social-Democratic Workers ' Party (1869).
statesman. Was given sole command of the German and Lenin. Underground in Russi a . Arrested in 1914. Kropotkin, Peter (1842-19 2 1): Rus s ian revolutionary
Austrian forces during the First World War (191 6). Liberated by the February revolution of 191 7. Opposed anarchist. Former prince, officer, explorer, and scholar. Liquidationism: Refening to " liquidators, " a wing of the
Elected to the presidency of the Reich in 1925: reelected the orientation of Lenin in April 191 7, then the decision Active in Switzerland, France, and England. Returned to Menshe v iks who, after the defeat of the 1905-1907
in 1932, named Hitler as chancellor (1933). for an insurrection in October. Standard bearer of the Russia in 1917 . His writings and influence have reached Rus sian Revolution wanted to dissolve the underground
"conciliators," resigned from the Cc, re-elected to it in many countries. apparatus of the party and pursue only legal activity.
Hiroshima: City in Japan which was the first victim of 19 18. Remained one of the principal lead ers of the
nuclear ho locaust. The Japanese city of Nagasaki was CPSU- and also of the CI- during the 1920s. Allied Kun, Bela (1 885-1937): Hungarian revolutionary. Became a Lithuania: The [southemmost) of the three Baltic republics
also struck by an American atomic bomb in 1945. with Stalin against the opposition from 1923 to 1925, Bolshevik while a prisoner of war in Russia. Head of the of the USSR. Sharing a frontier with Byelorussia,
went into opposition from 1925-27 then capitulated in Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919. Emigrated. Leader Poland, Russia, and Latvia. Today independent. Around
Hi tle r, Adolph (1889-1945 ) : He ad of Ge rman fasci sm 1928. Liquidated during the Moscow Trials. of the CI. Supported Stalin. Liquidated in the Stalin 3.6 million inhabitants. Capital: Vilnius .
(Nazism). Appointed Chancellor in 1933 by Hindenburg purges.
whom he succeeded as president after his death in 1934. Kamkov, Katz (1885-1 9 38): Le ader of the le ft SR s. Lloyd George, David (1863-1945 ): British political figure.
Assumed total power as "Reichsfuhrer." Established a Supported the Octobe r revolution and an alliance with Larin, Lou (1882- 1932): Activist social-democratic student Prime minister in 1916-1922.
personal, totalitarian dictatorship. Instituted the Gestapo the Bolsheviks in 191 7. Denounced the treaty of Brest- in 1901. Deported, escaped many times. Leader of the
(state police) and concentration camps. Imposed single- Litovsk as treacherous. One of the organizers of theJuly : Menshevik " liquidator" faction. Internationalist during Lozovsky, Salomon (1878-1 952 ) : Worker, joine d th e
party rule. Crushed the worke rs ' movement in blood. 19 18 assassination of Mirbach, the German ambassador the war. Joined the Bolshevik party in the summer of RSDLP in 1901. Bolshevik in 1903. Emigrated in 1909.
Designated communists , Jews, and G y psies for in Petrograd. That event was one of the elements in the I 19 17. Participated in many groups opposed to positions Bec ame "conciliator." On return to Russia in 19 17,
ge noci d al annih ila ti o n. I n v ad ed A us tri a, "left SR u pris ing" an d was des igned to prov oke a of Lenin. Capitulated to Stalin in 1926. partisan of a coalition with the Mensheviks, founded the
Czechoslovakia, and Poland before the declaration of renewal of the war with Germany. Died in prison. Socialist Workers Party. Leader of the textile workers
the Second World War. Lassalle, Ferd inand (1825 - 1864): Founder of the first union. Joined in 19 19. President of the International of
Kapp, Wolfgang (1 858- J 922) : German political fi gure . German Workers Party in 1863. This party fused with Red Trade Unions from 192 1 to 1937, then Commissar
Hohenzollern: Royal dynasty appearing in Central Europe at Ultra-nationalist. Organized a coup d ' etat in Berlin the Marxist Workers Party at the Gotha congress (1875), of Foriegn Affairs. Purged in 1949.
the end of the 12th century. Oue of its branches ruled against the Weimar Republic in 1920, with General giving birth to the SPD.
over Prussia (begining in 1525) then over the German Luttwitz. This attempted putsch was thwarted by a Ludendorff, Eric (1865-1937): Germ an general. Close
imperi,aJ regime (1871-1 9 18). general strike. Latvia: One of the three Baltic republics, situated on the collaborator of Hindenburg, partisan like him of war to
I Baltic between Estonia and Lithuania. Incorporated into the end. Nationalist and anti-Semite, participated with
Hugo, Victor (1802-1885): French writer of the 19th century, Kautsky, Karl (I 854~ 1938): Collaborator with Engels and I the USSR. Today independent. Around 2.7 million Hitler in the Munich putsch of 1923 . Candidate for
given broad recognition. Politically active, from a executor of his estate. Principal _._._.
theorist of German ....1I
inhabitants. Capital: Riga. president in 1925.
- - - - - - - - --
7N:df: i Russian Revolution... Ernest Mandel Ernest Mandel Russian

:,.' I ------------------------------------------------~
Lunacharsky, Anatole (1875-1933): Art and literary critic.
Activist in 1892. Bolshevik in 1903. Moved away from
mechanists found their inspiration in the natural
sciences of the 18th century which utilized many
elimination, from the CPSU and from the state, of all
potential opposition to the faction led by Stalin. They
Pobedonostev: Lay representative of the Russian Orthodox
church at the beginning of the 20th century. One of the
I Lenin in 1908. Became a Menshevik. Author in 1910 of comparisons with machines, in particular with the constituted one of the central features of Stalin's purges. models for the "Grand Inquisitor" in Dostoyevsky's
I a study entitled Religion and Socialism. Internationalist intemal workings of a clock. According to a mechanistic novel, The Brothers Karamazov.
during the war. Member of the Mezhrayontsi, adhered to interpretation of historical materialism, the evolution of Mussorgski, Modest (1839·1881): Russian composer. Son of
the Bolshevik party in 1917. Peoples Commissar for the productive forces and the contradictions of a ruined landowner. Close to the suffering of the Pogrom: Anti-Semitic movement, often officially promoted,
education from October 1917 to 1929. economic productive relations determine a unique. common people. ~ marked by looting and massacres.
inevitable succession of societies (primitive
Luxemburg, Rosa (1870-1919): Polish revolutionary and communism, ancient slavery. feudalism, capitalism, and Nazism: A contraction of "National-Socialism," the official Poland: Country of Central Europe. Between [1792 and 1795
Marxist theorist. Played an important role in the struggle socialism). The dialectical (more authentic) conception name of Hitler's Gennan fascist movement. Racist. anti· the former of Poland was progressively
against reformism in the German social democracy. of historical materialism integrates socio·economic Semitic, nationalist, totalitarian. and anti~communist divided between Prussia, Poznania, Austria, Galicia and
Known for her studies of imperialism and the critiques influences and constraints. But it also accounts for the current. Ideology of the Third Reich. the Hitler the Russian empire which made Warsaw the capital of
which she fonnulated with regard to Leninism (on the intluence of other specific factors (for example states, dictatorship. one of its 1915. Poland its unity
question of the party, as well as, during the Russian cultures, ideologies). It especially stresses the active role and its at the end of the first world war.
revolution, on the agrarian question and democracy). of socio·political struggles, the class struggle. This Nekrasov, Nikolai (1821·1877): Russian joumalisL literary Integrated into the Warsaw Pact (the Soviet bloc of
Internationalist during the war. Imprisoned. Liberated in penn its us to comprehend that the course of history is critic, and poet. Celebrated for having chronicled the Eastern countries), dominated by a Stalinist
1918. Assassinated in January 1919 by reactionary determined by the interaction of various different misery of the people. bureaucracy. Became a people's Broke its ties
forces. factors. and not solely by the "iron logic" of economic to Moscow! 989-1991.
contradictions. NEP: "New Economic Policy" put into operation in 1921.
Makhno, Nestor (1889-1934): Ukranian anarchist. Represented a profound break with the command Populism: Principle revolutionary current in 19th century
Organized a peasant and Cossack arnlY in the southern Menshevik: The Russian term for "minority." A current of economy of war communism. Liberalized the market Russia. Represented Russian socilaism from 1848 to
Ukraine after the October revolution. Allied with the "revolutionaries of the right," constituted in 1903 within and peasant production, favored the development of 1881. Complex, it includes diverse movements and
Red army against Denikin (1919) and Wrangel (1920). the RSDLP. Opposed to Bolshevism. During the First small private industry, tried to attract foreign capital orientations (including both rural and urban organizing.
This alliance broke up after the defeat of the White World War it divided between an internationalist current investment. propaganda. and assassination attempts against high
armies. Took refuge in Romania (1921), then in Paris. (Martov) and another, anti·Gennan and favourable to government officials and the Tsar). Russian Marxism
military intervention (including Plekhanov). It divided Nogin, Victor (1878-1924): Worker. Member of the RSDLP waged a battle against these perspectives (Plekhanov,
Martov, Julius (1873-1923): Leader of the RSDLP. Friend of in 1917 between a class-collaborationist wing, the from 1898. Bolshevik in 1903. Deported, emigrated, Lenin). But this current had an impact on the entire
Lenin. Ideological leader of the Menshevik current majority (Dan, Lieber, Tseretelli) and a left splitoff underground. Conciliator in 1910. Elected to the CC in Russian revolutionary tradition and, in particular. gave
starting in 1903, where he personified the left wing. (Martov. Martynov). Opposed the October 1917 April 1917. Partisan of a coalition government. People's birth to the Social· Revolutionary Party at the beginning
Internationalist during the war. "Centrist" on the revolution. Commissar for Industry. Denounced after his death as an of the 20th century.
question of the socialist revolution and taking power in "enemy of the people" during the Stalin purges.
October 1917. Developed a critique of the Soviet regime Menshevik Internationalists: Left wing split from the Provisional Government: Depending on the context and
during the civil war. Left Russia in 1920. Mensheviks, including Martov and Martynov. October Revolution: Without further modification. this without further modification, one of the governments
Condemned Russia's entry into the war against refers to the Russian Revolution of October 1917 ~and, between the revolution of February 1917 and the
Martynov, A. (1865-1935): Militant popUlist in 1884. Gennany and the further pursuit of that war which was by extension, to the years which followed). There have constitution of the RSFSR in January 1918. After the
Arrested. Joined the RSDLP in 1889. Leader of the extolled by the majority of the Menshevik current. been other "October Revolutions," (for example, the October Revolution in 1917, it had the name
"economists," polemicized against Lenin. Leader of the Chinese revolution of 1949). "Provisional Government of the Workers and Peasants."
Menshevik "Liquidators" after 1905. Internationalist Merimee, Prosper (1803-1870): French writer. Introduced
during the war. Belonged to the left wing of the into the court of Napoleon Ill. Translator of Russian Ossinsky, V. (1887·1933): Socialist, Bolshevik in 1907. Prussia: Former state in Northern Gennany. Its origins go
Mensheviks in 1917. Joined the CP in 1925. Worked novelists. Deported numerous times. President of the national back to the 9th century. Fonned as a kingdom in the 18th
until his death in the CI. economic council in 1918. Ideological leader of the century. Its borders varied according to its conquests
Meunier, Constantin (1831-1905): Belgian painter and "Left Communists." Alternate then member of the CC in (encompassing at times part of present-day Germany,
Marx, Karl (1818-1883): Formulated, with Engels, the sculptor. Seeing the miserable life of coal miners, 1921-1930. Arrested during the Moscow trials then part of present-day Poland and part of the ex-USSR).
foundations of historical materialism (Marxism). depicted the conditions faced by working people. disappeared (liquidated in the purges?). One of the key states involved in the Gennan unification
Theoretician and militant of the communist workers which was achieved as a result of the war of 1870-1871.
movement. Founder of the First International. It should Mezhrayontsi: The "interdistrict" (or "intercraft") I Ostrovsky, Alexander (1823-1886): Russian dramatic Officially disappeared in 1934 as part of the Reich.
be noted, in connection with the questions treated in this committees. Organization which came together mostly . author. In the tradition of Gogol, developed a real,
NSR, that Marx and Engels stressed the revolutionary in 1917, with revolutionary cadres who did not align popularly inspired national theatre. Depicted the Pushkin, Alexander (1799-1837): Russian writer. Imperial
(that is to say anti-reformist) content of their outlook. with either of the two main factions of Russian social prejudices of the Russian bourgeoisie. functionary, but defended liberal ideas. Condemned two
They foresaw the possibility that Russia, given the democracy, among them Trotsky. Joined the Bolshevik times to exile. Considered to be the founder of modem
party in July 1917. Ottoman Empire: Turkish empire, built starting in the [5th Russian literature.
conditions at the end of the 19th century, might make a century, became a great power in the Mediterranean,
direct transition to socialism without passing through an Miliukov, Pavel (1859·1943): Russian political figure. successor to the Byzantine empire and to the Arab Radek, Karl (1885· 1939): Born in Galicia. Active in the
historic stage of capitalist development. (The realisation Founder of the Kadet party. Tried to save the monarchy Caliphate. Covered at its height (16th·17th centuries) a Polish and Gennan social democracy, then the Russian.
of this possibility in life would depended on the course in February 1917. Minister of Foreign Affairs in the large part of southeastern Europe, the Middle East, and Arested, escaped. Polemicized with Kautsky.
of the national and intemational class struggle.) They provisional government. Political councilor to the White North Africa. After a long period of decline and retreat, Internationalist during the war. Admitted into the
stood opposed to mechanistic interpretations of their general Denikin during the civil war. Emigrated to became an ally of Gennany during the First World War. Bolshevik Party in 191 . Close to Lenin despite
theories and to unilinear conceptions of world history France. Finally dismantled after the defeat of the Central disagreement on the national question. Vice-Commissar
and human society. On these questions see, for example, Powers, an insurrection by Mustafa Kemal, and the of Foreign Affairs in the Soviet government in 1918.
Marx, "A.A. Bebel, W. Liebknecht, W. Bracke, and Miliutin, Vladimir (1859-1943): Economist. Joined RSDLP institution of a republic. Participated in the negotiations at Brest-Litovsk.
others," September 17·18 1879; Engels "Letter to in 1908. Bolshevik in 1910. Repeatedly deported. Occupied with the Gennan question. Worked in the CI.
Joseph Bloch," September 21-221890; Marx "Letter to Commissar of Agriculture after the October revolution. Owen, Robert ([ 77 i -1858): One of the great English utopian Rector of the Peoples University of the East in Moscow.
Vera Zassulich," March 8, 1881; Marx, "Letter to the Partisan of a coalition government. Director of the socialists, founder of the cooperative movement. Opposed Stalin. Died in prison.
editor of Otetchestvennye Zapisky," November 1877; central office for statistics in 1928. Disappeared during
Marx and Engels, "Preface to the Second Russian the Stalin purges. Commissar: Member of the Soviet government, Reich: Gennan word meaning empire. Used to designate the
edition of the Manifesto of the Communist Party," with a function (Le., Commissar of Gennan state and three political regimes: First empire or
21,1882. Roman Empire (962-1806); Second Reich
established Bismarck (1871·1918); Hitler's Third
Russian Revolution ... Ernest Mandel i Ernest Mandel Russian Revolution ...

1945, then president of the republic. the main factions of the RSDLP. Internationalist during of the Soviet government until the Treaty of Brest- place under Stalin.
the war. Member of the Mezhrayontsi, adhered to the Litovsk was signed, which it denounced as treacherous.
Robespierre, Maximillian de (1758-1794): One of the Bolshevik party in 1917. Partisan of collaboration with It turned against the Bolsheviks and organized, in July of SS: Section for protection. Military political police of Nazi
principal representatives of the Jacobin current during the Mensheviks after October. Founder of the Marx- 1918, the "uprising of the Left SRs." Germany. Played an important role, with the Gestapo, in
the French revolution. Engels institute which he headed until 1930. the repression and also in the administration of the
Disappeared during the Stalin purges. Socialist International: Second International. concentration camps, (Hdeath camps").
Rolland, Roman (1866-1944): French writer. Author of
historical and philosophical dramas of a humanist and Rykov, Alexis (1881-1938): Joined the RSDLP in 1901. Soviet: Russian term for "council." Indicates the structures of Stalin, Joseph (1879-1953): Georgian. Joined the RSDLP in
universalist content. Became a supporter of the USSR at Bolshevik in 1903. Opposed Lenin's orientation to the self-organization that appeared during the revolution of 1898. Bolshevik in 1903. Longtime revolutionary cadre
the begining of 1927. 1905 revolution and supported the "committeemen". 1905, then reemerged in 1917: the councils of workers, aligned with the Leninist wing of the party.
Elected to the Ce. Arrested several times (8 years in peasants, and soldiers. Having both a territorial and Underground in the Caucusus. Deported to Siberia
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1712-1778): Great radical, petty- prison) and escaped. Leader of the "conciliators" in pyramidal structure (with the possibility of recalling during the war. Conciliationist with to the
bourgeois ideologist of the Enlightenment. One of the 1910. Commissar of the Interior (1917). Member of the officials from top to bottom), as well as including the provisional government in February 1917. l";"lIl',llvU
precursors of modem historiography and sociology. Political Bureau from 1923 to 1929. In 1928 joined councils. Formed the skeleton of a new with Lenin's position in April. Elected to the Ce.
Bukharin in opposition to Stalin. Liquidated during the revolutionary state in 1917, the institutional framework Commissar for Nationalities from 1919 to 1923.
Russia: Country of Eastern Europe. Became, from the tenth to Secretary of the CC in 1922.
Moscow Trials. of socialist democracy. Lost their vitality during the
the twentieth century, the center of a vast empire opposed to Lenin in 1922-1923 on the nationalities
civil war. Gutted of all truly representative content and
dominated by the tsar. Great European power (and SaUykov(-Shchedrin), Mikhail (1826-1889): Russian writer question and on the internal party Became,
of all power by the Stalinist bureaucracy.
Asiatic: Siberia). Beginning in 1789 (the French and journalist. Painted a satiric picture of nobility and of starting in 1924 and up until his death, the main leader of
Revolution) became a guardian of order on the European the provincial elite of his day. Spartacus: Leader of rebelling slaves in ancient Rome the CPSU and of the Soviet state. Organized the great
continent (with imperial Germany). Main arena of the (capital of present-day Italy), greatest such revolt in purges of the 19308. Personified the process of
1917 revolution. Incorporated into the USSR at the Scott, Walter (1771-1832): Scottish writer of world acclaim. antiquity. Defeated the Roman army after ten years. bureaucratic degeneration suffered by the Soviet
beginning of 1923. Became the center of the Stalinist Author of historical novels. Dominant influence among Killed in 71 Be. regime.
bureaucracy, dominating other members of the Union. historians of the 19th century.
After the dissolution of the USSR, the Russian regime SPD: German social democratic party. Founded in 1891, Stalinism: Dicatatorial and bureaucratic regime identified
tried to maintain its status as a great power. Capital: Scriabin, Alexander (1872-1915) Russian pianist and included the tradition of the Social-Democratic Workers with Stalin as an individual.
Moscow. composer. Tried to develop a universal art. Influenced Party (going back to 1875) through a fusion of the
by contact with oriental philosophies. Marxist currents and the Lassalleans. Represented most Stuttgart Congress: Congress of the Socialist International
Russian Empire: Empire which was built during the IOth- notably by Kautsky. Became, until the first world war, held in Stuttgart (Germany) in 1907.
20th centuries. Extended from Eastern Europe to the Shliapnikov, Alexander (1883 -1943): Metal worker. the main party of the Second International. In 1914 a
frontiers of Turkey, Mongolia, and China, from the Member of the RSDLP in 1899. Bolshevik in 1903. Two majority of its leaders capitulated to the interest of their Sun Vat-Sen (1866-1925): Leader of the 1911 republican
Baltic to the furthest coasts of the Arctic and Siberia. years in prison after the 1905 revolution. Emigrated in own imperialist power and accepted the participation of revolution in China. Founder of the Koumintang.
The Russians therefore dominated very diverse ethnic 1908-1914. Underground in 1915-1917. Commissar of Germany in the war. Having become reformist, the party
groups and nationalities, including the Islamic labor after the October revolution. Favored a coalition Teodorovich, Ivan (1876-1938): Peasant. Social Democrat
participated in the repression of the German revolution
populations of the South and, in the West, the government. Elected to the Central Committee in 1918. in 1898. Bolshevik in 1903. Many years in prison.
populations of Central Europe whose level of industrial Member of the workers opposition. Opposed Stalinism, Elected to the CC in April 1917. Conciliationist in April
development was quite high (as in Poland). After the then capitulated. Liquidated during the Stalin purges. Spiridonova, Maria (1882?-1941 ?): Militant SR. Shot a and November. Commissar for Supplies after the
revolution of October 1917, replaced by the USSR. general responsible for the massacre of peasants in 1906. October revol ution. Secretary of the Peasant's
Siberia: Asiatic part of the ex-USSR which extends to the far Twelve years in prison camps. Liberated by the International in 1928. Disappeared during the Stalin
Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP): north of Asia. Under tsarism as under Stalinism, revolution of February 1917. Leader of the Left SRs. purges.
Founded in 1898 (but temporarily destroyed by political prisoners (often revolutionaries) were sent into Internationalist. Supported a coalition with the
repression). Brought together all of the Russian internal exile in Siberian camps. "Thermidor": This term originally referred to a political
Bolsheviks. Denounced the signing of the Treaty of
revolutionary currents which claimed to be Marxist. counter-revolution during the French revolution of
Skrypnik, Nicolas (1872-1933): Ukranian social democratic Brest-Litovsk. Prepared the "uprising of the Left SRs"
Divided in 1903 between two main factions, Bolsheviks 1789-1815. Beginning in July 1794 ("Thermidor" was a
worker. Bolshevik in 1903. Spent a number of years in in July 1918. Arrested in 1919. Disappeared during the month on the calendar during this period) after the
(led by Lenin) and Mensheviks (led by Martov).
prison. One of the leaders of the Ukranian revolution Stalin purges. overthrow of Robespierre, this counterrevolution
Temporarily reunified by the revolution of 1905.
Formally split into two parties in I 912-giving birth in beginning in 1918. Member of the CC, under Stalin I SR: See Social Revolutionaries. dismantled the democratic and popular forms of power
particular to the Bolshevik Party-although the local opposed the opposition, but also resisted the born during the uprising against the old regime, without
units remained united until 1917. Many independent Russification of the Ukraine. Committed suicide. Stalin purges: Key element in the system of terror put in overturning its bourgeois character. By analogy, the
personalities-including Trotsky-joined the Bolshevik place by the Stalin regime. Resting on one of the most "Soviet Thermidor" described the Stalinist
party in 1917. It became the CPSU in 1918. Social Democrat: Today this term designates the current to repressive penal codes in the world, developed during counterrevolution which liquidated socialist democracy
which the reformist socialist parties belong. Before the the 1930s. Brought about the mass repression of the and instituted a bureaucratic dictatorship, without
Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic: Founded in First World War it referred to the Marxist current as a peasants in the context of a forced collectivization of reestablishing capitalism in the USSR.
January 1918 by the Fifth All-Russian Congress of whole, including its more revolutionary elements (Le., agriculture at the beginning of that decade. The purges
Soviets. Lenin was then a Russian social democrat). Third Reich: Hitler's Nazi regime in Germany (1933-1945).
struck communist cadres in successive generations, at
United Internationalist Social Democrats: A small the summit and at the base. First the majority of those Tolstoy, Leo (1828-1910): World renowned Russian writer.
Russo-Japanese War: War waged in 1904-1905 between the
revolutionary group in 1917. Influenced by the journal from before 1917 were eliminated (through the Moscow From an old aristocratic family. Author of broad
Tsarist regime and Japan for possession of the
published by Maxim Gorky.J trials of 1936-38). Then cadres who had emerged during historical novels depciting Russian society.
easternmost territories. The Tsarist army, (and
the revolution and the civil war, then those of the NEP.
especially navy) was battered. The Russian defeat
Popular Socialist: See Workerists. then those who had fought in Spain (1936-39), as well as Transcaucasus: One of the three natural divisions of the
contributed to the maturation of the 1905 revolution.
many higher officers in the Red Army (from the time of Caucusus, situated in its southern portion.
The Japanese victory had a big impact in the Orient: it
the Civil War up to the Second World War)-and a good
was the first time that an Asiatic power gained the upper
number of other cadres even though they were Stalinists Trotsky, Leon (1879-1940): Social Democrat in 1896.
hand over a Western empire.
themselves. The leading apparatus of the CP was Deported, escaped, emigrated. One of the main
Russo-Polish War: Unless otherwise stated, the war between thereby decimated. Hundreds of thousands of people participants in the 1905 revolution. Long an independent
Soviet Red Army and the Polish government in executed communists but also former personality in the RSDLP, often with
1920. Soviet instead the Mensheviks. Looked for
the ldC,tlLIll~
- - " ' - - -. - -
"" 7 - · · · ------··~· - .... - ---- -~--~- - - - -. _ _ ~ -~--. __ ~ .. _~ _ ____._ -.__ _ ~. _. _ ................. .. -- "1

, . . . .~D. IF.R.U.SS.i.a.n.R.e.V.O.IU.t.iO.n•.•..____________________________________________E.rn.e.s.t.A1.a.n.d.e.l~
the process of bureaucratization in the regime after the William II, with the participation of numerous social Bibliography of authors cited
I N~

~- -l
death of Lenin. Exiled. Founded the Fourth International democrats. After repressing the German revolution, it
in 1938. Assassinated by Stalin's agents in Mexico. proved unable to manage the economic and social crisis.
Hitler was handed power in 1933, and he would by
Trudovik: See Workerist. degrees establish the Nazi dictatorship.
Tsar: Russian word indicating certain Slavic sovereigns, such
as the emperor of Russia.
Weygand, Maxime (1867-1965): French general, chief of
staff for Foch.
Much has been written about the Russian Stalinism - Essays in Historical Interpretation, W.W. I :1'

Revolution. In this bibliography we only include Norton, New York 1977 .

Turgenev, Ivan (1818-188 3) : Russian write r strongly
books by authors and other figures who have been Crankshaw, Edward: The Shadow of the Winter Palace, ' I
influenced by Western European thought. Depicted the
"Whites": Te rm usually us ed to indicate the counter-
revolutionaries, in opposition to the "Reds." A White
referred to in this NSR. Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1978. I I
conditions of serfs in Russia. general is a general in the counterrevolutionary army Adler, Max: Max Adler: Democratie et Conseils Ouvriers, Dan, Teodor: The Origins of Bolshevism, Schocken Books, I !
(itself called a "White army"). Maspero, Paris 1967. New York 1970.
T wo-and-a-half International: "International of Vienna,"
found ed in 192 1 by centrist socialists who vacillated White Russia: See Byelorussia. Amosov, P. N. et al. : Oktja b rs kaja R evo Lj uucija i Daniels, Robert V. : ed. , A D oc umentary History of
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Notebooks for Study and Research

NQ17/18 1992 £4,$6, 40FF
In the "studies" series

October 1917:
Coup d'Etat or social revolution
The legitimacy of the Russian Revolution
Ernest Mandel

Presentation p. 3
By way of introduction: The stages of the 1917 revolution - F. Vercammen p.4
Chapter 1 October 1917: coup d'etat or social revolution p.8
Chapter 2 The international significance p.12
Chapter 3 The national significance p. 18
Chapter 4 The political significance p.22
Chapter S The Bolshevik orientation: a critical analysis p.27
Chapter 6 Lenin's organizational conceptions p.33
Chapter 7 The strategic dimension p.40
Chronology p.46
Chapter 8 By way of conclusion p.47
October 1917 and the women's movement p.SO
Names of people, places, organizations p.S1
Bibliography of authors cited p.61

Although it is no longer "fashionable" to refer to it, the Russian Revolution remains a major experience of this century.
Knowledge of it is indispensable to those who wish to understand the contemporary world, or to see clearly how to proceed in the
fight for socialism. Ernest Mandel here sets out to analyse it in a polemical and critical essay. Polemical because today this
revolution is the target of such a strong campaign of ideological denigration that one of the formative experiences of this century
has become incomprehensible. The author, acting as both historian and poltical activist, comes back to the most essential
question: was October 191 7 a totalitarian coup d'etat or a sociallu liberating uprising.? Critical, because there is nothing less
useful that an apologetic reading of history. While vigorously reasserting the deep legitimacy of the Russian Revolution, Ernest
Mandel also sets out to situate the mistakes which the Bolshevik leadership made in the period 191 7-21. This is a valuable
contribution to the discussion on the lessons to be learnt from the history of Bolshevism.

Ernest Mandel: Involved in the revolutionary socialist movement from the end of the 1930s, he participated in the struggle
against Nazi occupation of Belgium. Leader of the Socialist Workers' Party (Belgium) and of the Fourth International, he is the
author of many works including Marxist Economic Theory, Late Capitalism and Long Waves of Capitalist Development. He has
already published a first Notebook: The Place of Marxism in History.

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