‘The Crisis Has Matured, Be Ready’ – October 1917
R Arun Kumar
THE political scene in Russia was rapidly changing in October. Every passing day witnessed new political developments and a shift in balance of forces in favour of the Bolsheviks. The time for the Bolsheviks to capture power had come. On the other hand, fearing these developments, the ruling bourgeoisie and landlords, once again started to organise forces to stop this onward march of the Bolsheviks and the revolution. The indecisive petty-bourgeois were forced to take a stand, either way. Increasingly, the ‘middle path’ was getting closed.
Within the first three days of October, the social-democrat newspapers were forced to divulge the plot behind Kornilov revolt. From the official documents they had published, it became clear that what Kornilov carried out was not a ‘revolt’ against the provincial government and also not an ‘adventure’ of an ambitious general. It was a thoroughly planned out conspiracy against the revolution, intended to wipe out the Bolsheviks and the Soviets, in order to ensure complete bourgeoisie control over State power. The organisers of the ‘revolt’ were the counter-revolutionary generals, representatives of the Cadet party of the bourgeois, the members of provincial government like Kerensky and also representatives of certain embassies. These facts further angered the people of Russia. Kerensky, who was a Socialist-Revolutionary representative in the provincial government was thoroughly exposed.
The Bolsheviks proved right in their analysis of the Kornilov revolt. Kerensky, and the bourgeoisie who had distanced from the Kornilov revolt fearing popular wrath, were now exposed as fellow conspirators. The subsequent steps they had taken to consolidate their class rule, further proved their part in the entire Kornilov episode as it was completely according to the understanding they had arrived with Kornilov. The only change in their plans was, they had to sacrifice Kornilov.
In order to further postpone the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, a ‘pre-parliament’ was constituted. This was to serve as the ‘mask’ in the fight against the Soviets. This was once again a part of the understanding that the bourgeoisie had arrived at, with Kornilov. The counter-revolution now started consolidating under Kerensky.
The attacks on the people by the ruling classes had intensified. Prices of the bread were increased, forcing people to starve. Scarcity of bread angered the people. Cost of living increased both in the cities and villages. Famine became rampant. Due to the sabotage of both the landlords and the bourgeoisie, agricultural produce was not reaching the cities or the front where the soldiers were fighting and industrial goods necessary for farmers were not reaching the rural areas. Sabotage of coal production once again reached heights. Factory production too was sabotaged in order to force workers to cede to the dictates of the capitalists.
Bolsheviks sensing the changing mood of the people intensified their agitation. The slogan ‘All Power to the Soviets’ reached a new crescendo. Peasants in the rural areas, responded to the Bolshevik call of ‘occupying landed estates’. The pacification attempts of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, who were traditionally considered to be the leaders of the peasant masses failed to stop them. Moreover, they got exposed of their class compromise and lost their grip on the peasants. Peasants started rallying behind the Bolsheviks, who had by that time already won majority of the working class support. Kerensky sent troops to the rural areas to suppress the peasant movement and stop them from occupying landed estates. The peasants refused to cow down and started resisting. A ‘broad river of peasant uprisings’ started sweeping the whole of Russia.
On the other hand, army officers at the front openly declared that the soldiers were not ready to fight any longer. They were starving, barefooted and tired out. The end to war, promised by the provincial government was not anywhere near. The realisation that they were cheated gradually dawned upon them. Even the Cossack troops were influenced by all these developments and began distancing from the provincial government. The appeals to be patient no more pacified their anger.
Lenin, analysing these developments stated that Russia was now in the ‘third stage of its revolution’. He also looked at the international developments, where the German naval cadets had revolted against their officers. He concluded that the crisis had matured and it is time for the Bolsheviks to assume State power as they already enjoy majority in the Soviets; people were decisively behind them and the ruling class and compromisers are thoroughly exposed. On October 7, he had returned to Petrograd from his exile, but continued to remain underground. He constantly changed his addresses, in order to ward off the spies and government police, who were on the lookout for him.
Lenin exhorted the Bolsheviks to go to the barracks, the Cossack units, the working people and explain to them that the crisis had matured. He stated that the whole future of the Russian revolution was at stake and also the honour of the Bolshevik party. Lenin explained that the slogan ‘All Power to the Soviets’, in those changed circumstances meant to be ready for even an armed uprising. He outlined a detailed plan for the uprising showing how the army units, the navy and the Red Guards should be used and what key positions in Petrograd should be seized for the success of the Revolution. The Bolsheviks had issued the call – ‘Be Ready’.
All the best forces of the party were sent to the factories and barracks to explain to the masses their task and assess their mood correctly for choosing the proper moment for overthrowing the Kerensky government. Lenin cautioned: “The party could not be guided by the temper of the masses because it was changeable and incalculable; the Party must be guided by an objective analysis and an appraisal of the revolution”. Lenin was supremely confident that victory was assured for the Russian proletariat if it moves without vacillations and delay. He stated that revolutions always were complicated processes as they give birth to a new social order. “If the situation were not exceptionally complicated there would be no revolution. If you are afraid of the wolves, do not go into the forest”.
Lenin clearly stated: “no policy can be based on a ‘coalition’, on a ‘compromise’ between the interests of the starving and ruined and the interests of the exploiters”. He clearly argued against any sort of compromise with the capitalists, who he stated should be resisted at all times. “It is as clear as daylight that whoever is afraid of resistance, whoever does not believe that it is possible to break this resistance, whoever warns the people: ‘beware of the resistance of the capitalists, you will not be able to cope with it’, is thereby again calling for compromise with the capitalists”.
In a ‘Letter to Comrades’, after Kamenev and Zinoviev had violated party discipline and wrote in non-party papers about the decisions of the party central committee, giving away the decisions of the Bolsheviks about taking over State power, he wrote: “When people allow themselves to be frightened by the bourgeoisie, all objects and phenomena naturally appear yellow to them. First, they substitute an impressionist, intellectualist criterion for the Marxist criterion of the movement; they substitute subjective impressions of moods for a political analysis of the development of the class struggle and of the course of events in the entire country against the entire international background. They ‘conveniently’ forget, of course, that a firm party line, its unyielding resolve, is also a mood-creating factor, particularly at the sharpest revolutionary moments”.
Lenin termed Kamenev and Zinoviev as ‘strike breakers’ and ‘blacklegs’. He declared that “to remain silent in the face of such unheard-of strike-breaking would be a crime” and that he would “fight with all my might, both in the central committee and at the Congress, to secure the expulsion of both of them from the Party”. Through these kinds of writings in bourgeoisie press, “vacillation and confusion are brought into the ranks of the fighters”, he stated. The situation, Lenin stated, can be remedied only by restoring the unity in the Bolshevik front and by expelling the blacklegs.
“Difficult times. A hard task. A grave betrayal. Nevertheless, the task will be accomplished; the workers will consolidate their ranks, the peasant revolt and the extreme impatience of the soldiers at the front will do their work”!