"Peaceful" Bolsheviks

"Peaceful" Bolsheviks
"Peaceful" Bolsheviks

The strength of the Bolsheviks in October lay in the ability to preserve party unity, despite significant differences. For the time being, the Bolsheviks always managed to settle conflicts, avoiding a split in the face of numerous opponents.


Petrograd. Autumn 1917. Photo by J. Steinberg

The clearest example is the conflict around the position of Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, taken by them in October 1917. Then they opposed the resolution of Vladimir Lenin on the armed uprising and even reported about the upcoming event in the Menshevik newspaper Novaya Zhizn. Lenin reacted to this very harshly, declaring "betrayal". The question of excluding the "traitors" was even raised, but everything was limited to a ban on making official statements. This "October episode" (that is how Lenin described it in his "Political Testament") is well known. Slightly less is known about the disagreements on the eve of the coup itself.

Formed by the Bolsheviks and Left SRs, the Military Revolutionary Committee (VRK) did a tremendous job (in particular, took control of the Petrograd garrison), creating a base for the final seizure of power. But the Central Committee was in no hurry to implement it. A kind of "wait and see" approach prevailed there. Joseph Stalin described this situation on October 24 as follows:

“Within the framework of the WRC, there are two trends: 1) an immediate uprising, 2) to concentrate forces at the beginning. The Central Committee of the RSDLP (b) joined the 2nd."

The party leadership was inclined to believe that it was necessary to first convene a congress of Soviets and exert powerful pressure on its delegates in order to replace the Provisional Government with a new, revolutionary one. However, the "temporary" themselves were supposed to be overthrown only after the decision of the congress. Then, according to Leon Trotsky, the question of the uprising will turn from "political" to purely "police".

Lenin was categorically against such tactics. He himself was outside Smolny, where he was not allowed. It seems that the leadership did not want Lenin's presence at the headquarters of the uprising, because he was against the tactics he had chosen. On October 24, Lenin sent letters to Smolny several times, demanding that he be admitted there. And every time he was refused. Finally he flared up, exclaiming, “I don't understand them. What are they afraid of?"

Then Lenin decided to act "over the head" of the Central Committee and appeal directly to the grassroots organizations. He wrote a short but energetic appeal to the members of the Petrograd Committee of the RSDLP (b). It began like this: “Comrades! I am writing these lines on the evening of the 24th, the situation is extremely critical. It is clearer that now, indeed, delay in the uprising is like death. With all my might I convince comrades that now everything hangs in the balance, that the next in turn are issues that are not resolved by conferences, not by congresses (at least even by congresses of Soviets), but exclusively by the peoples, by the masses, by the struggle of the armed masses. " (By the way, during the discussion of the Brest Peace Treaty, Lenin, remaining in the minority, threatened the Central Committee that he would appeal directly to the party masses. And, obviously, then many remembered his appeal to the PC.)

"Peaceful" Bolsheviks
"Peaceful" Bolsheviks

Red Guard of the Vulkan plant

Then Lenin, waving his hand at the ban of the Central Committee, went to Smolny, putting on a wig and tying up a dental bandage. His appearance immediately changed the balance of power. Well, the support of the Petrograd Committee decided the whole matter. The military revolutionary committee went on the offensive, and the uprising itself entered a decisive phase. Why was Ilyich in such a hurry, opposing the "flexible", "legitimist" plan of his comrades-in-arms?

“From October 21 to 23, Lenin watched with satisfaction the success of the Revolutionary Military Commission in the struggle against the Petrograd military district for control of the capital's garrison,” writes the historian Alexander Rabinovich. - However, unlike Trotsky, he saw these victories not as a gradual process of undermining the power of the Provisional Government, which, if successful, could lead to a relatively painless transfer of power to the Soviets at the Congress of Soviets, but only as a prelude to a popular armed uprising. And each new day only confirmed his former conviction that the best opportunity to create a government under the leadership of the Bolsheviks would be an immediate seizure of power by force; he believed that waiting for the opening of the congress would simply provide more time for preparing forces and fraught with the threat of the hesitant congress creating at best a conciliatory socialist coalition government”(“The Bolsheviks Come to Power: The 1917 Revolution in Petrograd”).

Indeed, Lenin doubted the courage and radicalism of the majority of the delegates. They might be afraid to make a decision to eliminate the Provisional Government. As befits a real politician, Lenin was a good psychologist and perfectly understood the most important thing. It is one thing when they demand of you to join the struggle for power, and quite another when they bring it to you "on a silver platter."


There was also no particular radicalism among the masses, whose support might have been required at the time of the congress and its decision to eliminate the Provisional Government. On October 15, a meeting of the Petrograd Committee was held, at which the Bolshevik leadership was in for an unpleasant surprise. In total, 19 representatives of regional organizations took the floor. Of these, only 8 reported the militant mood of the masses. At the same time, 6 representatives noted the apathy of the masses, and 5 simply stated that people were not ready to speak. Of course, the functionaries took action to mobilize the masses, but it is clear that a radical change was impossible in a week. This is supported by the fact that on October 24, “not a single mass demonstration was organized, as happened in February and July, which was considered to be the signal for the beginning of the last battle between the left forces and the government” (“The Bolsheviks Come to Power”) …

If the Congress of Soviets gave up slack, if endless debate and search for compromises began, then the radical anti-Bolshevik elements could perk up and become more active. And they had enough strength. In Petrograd at that time there were the 1st, 4th and 14th Don regiments, as well as the 6th consolidated Cossack artillery battery. (We should not forget about the 3rd Cavalry Corps of General Pyotr Krasnov, which was located near Petrograd.) There is evidence that on October 22 the Cossacks were preparing a large-scale military-political action. Then a Cossack religious procession was planned, timed to coincide with the 105th anniversary of the liberation of Moscow from Napoleon. And the Cossacks thought to do it, as always, with weapons. It is significant that the route to the Kazan Cathedral ran through the Liteiny Bridge, Vyborgskaya side and Vasilievsky Island. The Cossacks walked past train stations, a telegraph office, a telephone exchange and a post office. Moreover, the route also passed by Smolny. Note that a different route was originally planned.

The authorities banned the Cossack move, obviously, fearing the activation of very right-wing forces. (Kerensky and Co. spoke of “Right Bolshevism.”) And this ban aroused Lenin's joy: “The abolition of the Cossack demonstration is a gigantic victory! Hooray! Advance with all your might, and we will win in quite a few days. " On October 25, the Cossacks refused to support the “temporary” ones at the most crucial moment, when they learned that the infantry units would not support the government. But they could have changed their mind if the Congress of Soviets had taken up a senseless talking shop.

Lenin splendidly calculated all the risks and nevertheless insisted that an armed uprising take place just before the congress. This expressed his iron political will. And the leadership of the Bolsheviks showed the ability to compromise their ambitions and find a way out of acute conflict situations. In this it compares favorably with other party leaderships.

As noted above, Lenin did not at all rush Russia to carry out socialist transformations. The historian Anatoly Butenko asked a quite reasonable question about this: “Why, right after the April party conferences, Lenin declares that he is not in favor of the immediate development of the ongoing bourgeois revolution into a socialist one? Why does he answer such an accusation by L. Kamenev: “This is not true. Not only do I not count on the immediate degeneration of our revolution into a socialist one, but I directly warn against this, I directly declare in thesis No. 8: “Not the“introduction”of socialism as our immediate task, but the transition immediately (!) To the control of the SRD (Council of Workers deputies. - AE) for social production and distribution of products "(" Truth and lies about the revolutions of 1917 ").

Commenting on the October victory, Lenin says nothing about the socialist revolution, although this is often attributed to him. In fact, it was said: "The workers 'and peasants' revolution, the need for which the Bolsheviks have been talking about all the time, has taken place." Or here's another quote: "The party of the proletariat can in no way set itself the goal of introducing socialism in the country of the" small "peasantry" ("The tasks of the proletariat in our revolution").

So socialist reorganization was not at all put on the agenda by Lenin. And structural transformations in industry began with the democratization of production, with the introduction of workers' control (this is the question of the original authoritarianism of the Bolsheviks and the destroyed democratic alternatives). On November 14, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and the Council of People's Commissars approved the "Regulations on workers' control", according to which the factory committees were given the right to interfere in the economic and administrative activities of the administration. The factory committees were allowed to seek the provision of their enterprises with cash, orders, raw materials and fuel. They also took part in hiring and firing workers. In 1918, workers' control was introduced in 31 provinces - at 87.4% of enterprises employing more than 200 people. Tellingly, the regulation stipulated the rights of entrepreneurs.

The policy of the Bolsheviks met with fierce criticism from both the right and the left. The anarchists were especially zealous. Thus, the anarcho-syndicalist newspaper Golos Truda wrote in November 1917:

“… Since we definitely see that there can be no question of an agreement with the bourgeoisie, that the bourgeoisie will never agree to workers' control, therefore, we must understand and say to ourselves also definitely: not control over the production of the master's factories, but direct the transfer of factories, plants, mines, mines, all instruments of production and all means of communication and movement into the hands of the working people. " The anarchists characterized the control exercised by the Bolsheviks as "workers' and state control" and considered it "a measure belated" and unnecessary. Say, "in order to control, you need to have something to control." The anarchists suggested first "socializing" enterprises and then introducing "social and labor control".

It must be said that very many workers supported the idea of immediate socialization, and it was in a practical sense. “The most famous is the fact of the socialization of the Cheremkhovsky mines in Siberia,” says O. Ignatieva. - Anarcho-syndicalist resolutions were adopted by the congress of food workers and bakers in Moscow in 1918. At the end of November 1917.in Petrograd, the idea of dividing the enterprise found support from a significant part of the workers of the Krasnoye Znamya plant.

Decisions to transfer management into the hands of the workers of the union were made on a number of railways: Moscow-Vindavsko-Rybinsk, Perm, and others. This allowed the "Voice of Labor", not without reason to declare in January 1918 that the anarcho-syndicalist method is supported by the working people. … On January 20, 1918, in the first issue of the newspaper of the Petrograd anarcho-communists, Rabocheye Znamya, new facts were presented: the Bavaria brewery, the Kebke canvas product plant, and the sawmill passed into the hands of the workers (Anarchists' views on the problems of October revolution").

The Bolsheviks themselves were in no hurry with socialization and nationalization. Although the latter was already becoming an elementary state necessity. In the summer of 1917, a rapid "capital flight" began from "democratic" Russia. The first was given by foreign industrialists, who were very dissatisfied with the introduction of the 8-hour working day and the resolution of strikes. The feeling of instability and uncertainty about the future also affected. Domestic entrepreneurs also followed foreigners. Then the thoughts of nationalization began to visit the Minister of Trade and Industry of the Provisional Government, Alexander Konovalov. He himself was an entrepreneur and politician with no leftist views (a member of the Central Committee of the Progressist Party). The capitalist minister considered the main reason for nationalizing some enterprises to be constant conflicts between workers and entrepreneurs.

The Bolsheviks carried out nationalization selectively. And in this regard, the story with the AMO plant, which belonged to the Ryabushinsky, is very indicative. Even before the February Revolution, they received 11 million rubles from the government for the production of cars. However, this order was never fulfilled, and after October the factory owners generally fled abroad, instructing the management to close the plant. The Soviet government offered the administration 5 million in order for the enterprise to continue functioning. She refused, and then the plant was nationalized.

And only in June 1918 the Council of People's Commissars issued an order "On the nationalization of the largest enterprises." According to him, the state had to give back enterprises with a capital of 300 thousand rubles or more. But even here it was stipulated that the nationalized enterprises were given to the owners for free lease use. They got the opportunity to finance production and make a profit.

Then, of course, a total military-communist attack on private capital began, and enterprises lost their self-government, falling under strict state control. Here, the circumstances of the Civil War and the accompanying radicalization have already affected. However, at first, the Bolsheviks pursued a rather moderate policy, which again undermines the version of their original authoritarianism.

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