In the midst of the counter-revolutionary repression on the revolutionary masses of Russia by the Provisional Government after the July revolt (See MEL, August 1-15, 2017 issue), the Bolshevik Party held its 6th Congress underground. The Congress squarely placed on the agenda the necessity to prepare the proletariat to overthrow the Provisional government by force and seize state power.
Meanwhile, the Russian bourgeoisie, having seized all powers in the July days, began its preparations to destroy the now weakened Soviets and to set up an open counter-revolutionary dictatorship. Representatives of the bourgeoisie declared the ‘death’ of the Soviets while at the war-front severe courts-martial were held to avenge the revolt of the soldiers and death sentences meted out wholesale. On August 3, 1917, General Kornilov, the Commander-in-Chief of the army, demanded the introduction of the death penalty behind the battle lines as well.
The Provisional government convened a Council of State on August 12, to mobilize the forces of the bourgeoisie and the landlords. The Council was attended mainly by representatives of the landlords, the bourgeoisie, the generals, the officers and Cossacks. The Soviets were represented by Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries. The Socialist Revolutionary Kerensky heading the Provisional government arrogantly threatened to suppress the revolutionary movement and General Kornilov demanded the abolition of the Soviets. In his plot to crush the revolution, General Kornilov received open support and financial assistance from the Russian bourgeoisie and landlords as well as Britain and France.
In protest against the convocation of the Council of State, the Bolsheviks on the day of its opening called a general strike in Moscow in which the majority of the workers took part. Strikes were organised in a number of other cities as well.
Kornilov made his preparations to crush the revolution quite openly. He floated a rumour that the Bolsheviks were planning an uprising in Petrograd on August 27 — the end of the first six months of the February revolution. The Provisional Government, headed by Kerensky, unleashed a reign of terror against the Bolsheviks. At the same time, General Kornilov massed troops to attack Petrograd, abolish the Soviets and set up a military dictatorship. All this was done under the slogan of “save the fatherland”.
|Red Guard detachment of electric factory workers, 1917|
The Bolshevik Party organized the workers and soldiers of Petrograd to put up active armed resistance to the counter-revolution. The workers quickly armed themselves and prepared for the resistance. The Red Guard detachments grew enormously in strength. The trade unions mobilized their members. The revolutionary military units in Petrograd were also ready for battle. Trenches were dug around Petrograd, barbed wire fences erected and the railway tracks leading to the city were broken up, to prevent Kornilov’s forces from marching into the city. Several thousand armed sailors joined in the defence of Petrograd. Delegates were sent to the army units which were going to attack Petrograd. When these soldiers understood the real purpose of Kornilov’s action – to crush the revolution – they refused to participate in the counter revolution. Revolutionary Committees and headquarters were set up to fight Kornilov at each point.
Even while mobilizing the masses to defeat Kornilov’s attack, the Bolsheviks unceasingly continued their struggle against the Kerensky government. They exposed the Kerensky government, the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries before the masses, pointing out that their whole policy of supporting the bourgeoisie and continuing the war was in effect assisting Kornilov’s counter-revolutionary plot.
As a result of all these measures, Kornilov’s plot against the revolution was crushed.
The defeat of the Kornilov revolt revealed in a flash the relative strength of the revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces. The illusions amongst the masses about the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries had been completely shattered by their active support to the policy of prolonging the imperialist war, and by the economic hardships that this had led to.
The defeat of the Kornilov revolt further showed that the Bolshevik Party had advanced to become the decisive force of the revolution and was capable of foiling any attempt at counter-revolution. During the days of Kornilov’s counter-revolutionary attack, the Bolshevik Party acted as the real ruling power and its instructions were unhesitatingly carried out by the workers and soldiers.
Lastly, the defeat of the Kornilov revolt showed that the Soviets which appeared to be finished, actually possessed tremendous latent power of revolutionary resistance. Undoubtedly, it was the Soviets and their Revolutionary Committees that had barred the way of the Kornilov troops and smashed their attack.
The struggle against Kornilov infused new vitality into the languishing Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. It helped to release them from the influence of the policy of compromise of the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries. It led them onto the open road of revolutionary struggle and turned them towards the Bolshevik Party. The influence of the Bolsheviks in the Soviets grew stronger than ever before.
The influence of the Bolsheviks on the peasantry and rural masses also grew stronger. The broad masses of the peasantry were coming to realize that only the Bolshevik Party could deliver them from the war, and that only this Party was capable of crushing the landlords and was prepared to turn over the land to the peasants. Undeterred by the repression unleashed against them, the peasants began to sieze the landed estates. They began to take the road of revolution.
Bolshevization of the Soviets began to take place. Factories, mills and military units held new elections and sent to the Soviets representatives of the Bolshevik Party in place of Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries. On August 3I, the day following the victory over Kornilov, the Petrograd Soviet endorsed the Bolshevik policy. On September 5, the Moscow Soviet of Workers’ Deputies went over to the Bolsheviks.
The Bolshevik Party assessed that the main conditions for a successful revolutionary uprising were now ripe. The slogan “All power to the Soviets!” was again on the order of the day. But it now no longer meant transferring the power to Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary Soviets, as it did in the days following the February Revolution. It was now a slogan calling for an uprising of the Soviets against the Provisional Government, with the aim of transferring political power fully to the Soviets which were now led by the Bolsheviks.
The Bolshevik Party led by Lenin stepped up the preparations for the revolution. This struggle was crowned with victory when the Russian working class, under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party, successfully put an end to the bourgeois power on November 7, 1917 and established the world’s first state of the dictatorship of the proletariat.