Russian revolution of 1917

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Russian revolution of 1917
DateNovember 7th, 1917
Post-Tsarist Russia
Result Bolshevik victory
Bolsheviks Russian Republic
Casualties and losses
Wounded soldiers Officers arrested

The October Revolution (also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, or simply the Russian Revolution) was a socialist revolution which took place in the Russian bourgeois republic on 7 November 1917, following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas Romanov and the establishment of the Russian Provisional Government in March 1917. Brought on by the popular support for the Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin and the failure of the Provisional Government to exit the First World War, the situation of dual power between the government and the worker-led Soviets led to the overthrow of the state and the establishment of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) in the same year.

It received massive international attention at the time and initiated the events of the Russian Civil War, provoking military interventions from the United States, United Kingdom and other countries. Key eyewitnesses to the event include John Reed.

Nomenclature[edit | edit source]

The October Revolution actually occurred on 7 November using the modern Gregorian calendar. However, on Russia's Gregorian calendar that that was used until the revolution, the date was 25 October.

Events[edit | edit source]

Background[edit | edit source]

See also: February Revolution, Russian Republic (1917–1918)

The government of Kerensky failed to take up the task of necessary reforms and continued the imperialist war which was losing Russia its most class-conscious workers and resulting in financial bondage to the Entente. At its Central Committee meeting on 29 October, the Bolshevik Party elected a Party Center led by Stalin to direct the revolution in Petrograd. The Menshevik newspaper Novaya Zhizn printed a statement saying the Bolsheviks were planning an uprising. Trotsky revealed the date of the uprising, leading the Bolsheviks to begin it one day earlier than planned.[1]

Revolution in Petrograd[edit | edit source]

Early in the morning of 6 November 1917, Kerensky dispatched armored cars to the printing plant of Rabochy Put, the main Bolshevik newspaper. Soldiers and Red Guards defended the building, and it officially called for the overthrow of the government by 11 a.m. Lenin arrived that night to personally lead the revolution, and the revolutionaries surrounded the Winter Palace.

On 7 November, revolutionaries occupied the railway and telegraph stations, post office, State Bank, and Ministries. They dissolved the Provisional Council.[1] The actual seizure of power from the Kerensky government was relatively bloodless. The Winter Palace was attacked and seized on the night of 7 November 1917, and the soviets seized power and dismissed the bourgeois parliament, ending dual power.[2] The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets began at 10:45 p.m. on 7 November, and the Bolsheviks secured a majority over the Mensheviks, Bundists, and right-SRs.

On the night of 8 November, the Congress adopted the Decree on Peace, ordering an armistice of at least three months that would lead to a permanent end to the First World War. The Decree on Land, passed on the same night, abolished landlordism and redistributed over 400 million acres of land to the peasantry. It also outlawed landlords from charging rent from peasants.[1]

Revolution in Russian Turkestan[edit | edit source]

The revolution took longer to build momentum in Russian Turkestan due to the lack of existing socialist influence in the region. Aside from territories under direct control of the Russian Tsar, the Tsar had vassalised the Emirate of Bukhara and the Khanates of Khiva and Kokand. The population composition consisted of segregated Russian kulak settlers and the local populace, whom were stratified into the clerical nobility of the theocratic regime and the peasantry. The region was highly underdeveloped in terms of agriculture, literacy and social progress and repression was reminiscent of the Medieval ages. The Russian occupation worsened the situation and landlessness among the peasants grew, doubling between 1909 and 1911.[3] However, the region was rife with activity of Djadidists (bourgeois nationalists), who went on to ally with the Bolsheviks.

Impact and aftermath[edit | edit source]

The Great October Socialist Revolution inspired a number of communist and anti-colonialist movements across the globe. Underlining the importance of the unity of the revolutionaries who broke with the social-chauvinism of the Second International, the Third International (Communist International)'s program united disjointed communist groups. The workers' state immediately showed solidarity by annulling unjust treaties imposed by the former Tsarist regime along with other colonial powers against China, Turkey and Iran and going on to assist Turkey in its liberation against the imperialist Treaty of Severing. Along with actively platforming and aiding third-world revolutionary movements in the Baku Congress of the Peoples of the East and Communist University for the Toilers of the East respectively, the Soviet state stood in solidarity with Weimar Germany against the imperialist Treaty of Versailles to subjugate the latter. Through its progressive nationalities' policy of the Soviet Union, the respect and trust of bourgeois nationalists struggling against imperialism was won.[4]

Historiography[edit | edit source]

Bourgeois historiography pivots around denying the necessity of the October Revolution (Richard Pipes) insisting that Kerensky's liberal-democratic revolution sufficed and denying the general incompetence of the government resulting to susceptibility to a military coup, like the one which had already been staged by Lavr Kornilov. According to such historians, if the anomaly of the first world war and the Bolshevik Revolution had not struck, Russia may have progressed out of backwardness herself or achieved stability under a liberal democracy. These historians deny the historical materialist view of history and ignore the underlying superstructure , viewing instead the First World War as well, as a result of serendipities and breakdown of diplomatic relations. As outlined by Joseph Stalin, reforms are adopted and kept afloat in response to revolutionary social movements (the limited political reforms were a result of the 1905 revolution and were quickly rescinded over the years) and Russia constituted the weakest link in the imperial system – which was only exacerbated and catalysed by the conditions of the first world war.[5][6]

Trotsky and Trotskyist historians tend to exaggerate the role of Trotsky in the October Revolution and his military exploits. While he was a major figure responsible for the establishment of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, he joined the Bolshevik Party only 6 months prior to the revolution and continued to be involved in anti-party activities, like revealing party plans to a bourgeois newspaper and not following party directions for the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.

Another source of contention within the bourgeois historiographical paradigm is whether or not Lenin and the Bolsheviks' actions during the Russian Civil War lead (inevitably) to 'Stalinism', a phenomenon of supposedly ossified bureaucracy, omniscient state and mass repressions, which is a caricature that is often painted of the Soviet history. Glossed over are the democratic advances made under Stalin. Stalin is presented as having usurped power when he held just the post of General Secretary even before Lenin's death. The humanist prison reforms aimed towards rehabilitation which were brought forth after relaxation of the Red Terror are missed as well.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Joseph Stalin (1939). History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks): 'The Bolshevik Party in the Period of Preparation and Realization of the October Socialist Revolution'. [MIA]
  2. Vijay Prashad (2017). Red Star over the Third World: 'Red October' (p. 30). [PDF] New Delhi: LeftWord Books.
  3. Joshua Konitz, Dawn Over Samarkand
  4. See Amanullah Khan's letter to Vladimir Lenin available in Wikisource
  5. Stalin, Joseph (1924). The foundations of Leninism: The historical roots of Leninism.
  6. Walter Rodney, The Russian Revolution: A View from the Third World