This year is the 100th anniversary of the most significant political event of the 20th century. The Great October Socialist Revolution of November 1917 marked the first time in history that political power was taken by the working class. To honour this centenary, People’s Voice will print a series of historic and contemporary articles over the course of the year, beginning with this analysis of the overthrow of the tsarist autocracy in early 1917, written by Vladimir Lenin, but first published in 1924.
The prediction of the socialists who have remained faithful to socialism and have not succumbed to the savage and beastly war hysteria has proved correct. The first revolution, caused by the world-wide predatory war among the capitalists of various countries, has broken out. The imperialist war, that is, a war for the capitalist division of spoils, for the strangling of weak nations, has begun to turn into civil war, that is, a war of the workers against the capitalists, of the toilers and the oppressed against their oppressors, against tsars and kings, landowners and capitalists, a war for mankind’s complete liberation from wars, from poverty of the masses, from oppression of man by man!
To the Russian workers has fallen the honour and the good fortune of being the first to start the revolution—the great and only legitimate and just war, the war of the oppressed against the oppressors.
The St. Petersburg workers have vanquished the tsarist monarchy. Having started the uprising unarmed in face of machine-guns, in their heroic struggle against the police and the tsar’s armies, the workers won over the majority of the soldiers of the St. Petersburg garrison. The same thing occurred in Moscow and in other cities. Abandoned by his armies, the tsar had to capitulate: he signed an abdication on behalf of himself and his son. He suggested that the throne be transferred to his brother Mikhail.
Owing to the great rapidity of the revolution, the direct assistance of the Anglo-French capitalists, insufficient class-consciousness of the mass of the workers and the people in St. Petersburg, the organisation and preparedness of the Russian landowners and capitalists, they succeeded in seizing power. The key posts, the premiership and the Ministries of the Interior and War, in the new Russian government, the “Provisional Government”, have gone to Lvov and Guchkov, the Octobrists who had done their best to help Nicholas the Bloody and Stolypin the Hangman crush the Revolution of 1905, shoot down and hang workers and peasants fighting for land and freedom. The less important ministerial posts have gone to the Cadets: Foreign Affairs to Milyukov, Education to Manuilov, Agriculture to Shingaryov. One quite insignificant post, that of Minister of Justice, has gone to the glib-tongued Trudovik Kerensky, whom the capitalists need-to pacify the people with empty promises, fool them with high-sounding phrases, reconcile them to the government of landlords and capitalists who, in union with the capitalists of England and France, want to continue the predatory war, a war for the seizure of Armenia, Constantinople, Galicia, a war to enable the Anglo-French capitalists to retain the booty they have taken from the German capitalists (all Germany’s African colonies), and, at the same time, recover the spoils seized by the German capitalist robbers (part of France, Belgium, Serbia, Rumania, etc.).
The workers could not, of course, trust such a government. They had overthrown the tsarist monarchy in their fight for peace, bread and freedom. They immediately saw why Guchkov, Milyukov and Co. succeeded in wresting victory from the hands of the working people. The reason was that the Russian landlords and capitalists were well prepared and organised; that they had on their side the power of capital, the wealth both of the Russian capitalists and of the richest capitalists in the world, the English and the French. The workers realised from the very start that in order to fight for peace, bread, and freedom, the labouring classes, the workers, soldiers and peasants, must organise, close their ranks, unite independently of the capitalists and against the capitalists.
Thus the St. Petersburg workers, having overthrown the tsarist monarchy, immediately set up their own organisation, the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, immediately proceeded to strengthen and extend it, to organise independent Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. Only a few days after the revolution, the St. Petersburg Soviet of Workers and Soldiers’ Deputies comprised over 1,500 deputies of workers and peasants dressed in soldier’s uniform. It enjoyed such wide confidence among the railway workers and the entire mass of the labouring population that it began to develop into a real peoples government.
And even the most faithful friends and patrons of Guchkov-Milyukov, even the most faithful watchdogs of Anglo-French predatory capital, the staff correspondent of the richest newspaper of the English capitalists, Robert Wilson of The Times, and the staff correspondent of the richest paper of the French capitalists, Charles Rivet of Le Temps, even they, while hurling curses at the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, have been obliged to admit that there are two governments in Russia. One—recognised by “everybody” (actually, by everybody among the wealthy), the landlord and capitalist government of the Guchkovs and the Milyukovs. The other—recognised by “nobody” (of the wealthy classes), the government of the workers and the peasants—the St. Petersburg Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies that is trying to establish Soviets of Workers’ and Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies throughout Russia.
Let us see, now, what each of these two governments is saying and doing.
1. What is the landlord and capitalist government of Lvov-Guchkov-Milyukov doing?
It is handing out the most glowing promises right and left. It promises the Russian people the fullest freedom. It promises to convoke a national Constituent Assembly to determine Russia’s form of government. Kerensky and the Cadet leaders declare themselves in favour of a democratic republic. The Guchkovs-Milyukovs are unsurpassed masters of theatrical revolutionism. Their publicity machine is working at top speed. But what about their deeds?
While promising freedom, the new government actually negotiated with the tsar’s family, with the dynasty, with a view to restoring the monarchy. It invited Mikhail Romanov to become regent, that is, temporary tsar. The monarchy in Russia would have been restored, bad not the Guchkovs and the Milyukovs been stopped by the workers, who marched through the streets of St. Petersburg and inscribed on their banners: “Land and Freedom! Death to the Tyrants!”—who, together with the cavalry regiments, assembled on the square in front of the Duma and unfurled banners with the inscription: “Long Live Socialist Republics in All Countries!” Mikhail Romanov, the ally of the Guchkovs-Milyukovs, realised that in this situation it would be wiser to decline the offer, pending his election to the throne by the constituent assembly, and Russia has—temporarily—remained a republic.
The government did not deprive the former tsar of his freedom. The workers compelled his arrest. The government wanted to hand over the command of the army to Nikolai Nikolayevich Romanov. The workers forced his removal. Obviously, were there no Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, the landlords, the Lvovs-Guchkovs, would come to terms with a Romanov or with some other landowner.
In its manifesto to the people and in Milyukov’s telegram to all Russian representatives abroad, the government declared that it would abide by all the international treaties entered into by Russia. These treaties had been concluded by the deposed tsar. The government does not dare to publish them—first, because it is bound hand and foot by Russian, English and French capital; second, because it fears that the people would tear the Guchkovs and the Milyukovs to pieces if they discovered that the capitalists were ready to sacrifice another five or ten million workers and peasants in order to win Constantinople, strangle Galicia, etc.
What, then, is the value of these promises of freedom, if the people are not allowed to know the truth about the treaties of the landowner tsar, for which the capitalists are prepared to shed more and more soldiers’ blood?
And what is the value of the promises of various freedoms, and even of a democratic republic, to a people threatened with famine, a people whom they wish to lead blind fold to the slaughter in order that the Russian, English, and French capitalists may rob the German capitalists?
At the same time the government of the Guchkovs and Milyukovs is suppressing by sheer force every attempt of the Russian workers to come to an understanding with their brothers, the workers of other countries: the government does not permit Pravda, which resumed publication in St. Petersburg after the revolution, the manifesto issued in St. Petersburg by the Central Committee of our Party, the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, or the proclamations of Duma Deputy Chkheidze and his group, to be sent abroad.
Workers and peasants! You can rest assured: you have been promised freedom—freedom for the dead, freedom for those who have died of hunger, who have been slaughtered in the war!
In none of its programmes has the new government said a single word about land for the peasants or higher wages for the workers. No date has as yet been set for convocation of the constituent assembly. No elections to the St. Petersburg City Council have as yet been appointed. The people’s militia is being placed under the supervision of rural and urban local government bodies which, in accordance with the Stolypin law, were elected only by capitalists and the richest landowners. Governors are being appointed from the landowning class—and this is “freedom”!