Thursday, March 8, 2012

A debate with an anarchist on the Bolsheviks and the Russian Revolution of 1917

I am able here to only reprint part of the debate, but it is interesting nonetheless, even if taken in media res.



Lenin and Trotsky had frantically managed to position themselves as ‘leaders’ by October, yes, but that doesn’t mean that their tactics precipitated the revolution. Read Trotsky’s “history of the Russian revolution” where he admits this openly : He writes: “‘The soldiers lagged behind the shop com­mittees. The committees lagged behind the masses … The party also lagged behind the revolutionary dynamic - an organisation which had the least right to lag, especially in a time of revolution … The most rev­olutionary party which human history until this time had ever known was nevertheless caught unawares by the events of history. It recon­structed itself in the fires, and straightened out its ranks under the onslaught of events. The masses at the turning point were a hundred times to the left of the extreme left party” The Bolsheviks actually OPPOSED the Petrograd strikes in February, urging workers to wait till mayday and were rightfully ignored. Trotsky admits that the Bolsheviks had no role in instigating the revolution, why can’t you?

The October coup merely replaced one bourgeois government with another. The article you link to describes the set up of what Lenin called ‘workers control’, but in practice it was anything but [the article being referenced here on "Lenin and workers' control" can be found on this blog at]. Yes, workers had voted for them in large numbers late in 1917 (they were the party promising most workers power after all), but as early as 1918 these promises were being exposed as opportunistic lies. No land was to be given to the peasants. Workers found that they were banned from going on strike, they were not allowed to form independent trade unions or elect whoever they chose to the Soviets.

Let me ask you this: if the Soviet system as set up by the Bolsheviks in 1917 was so democratic, what happened when they failed to elect Bolsheviks? What happened when Mensheviks and SRs won majorities, as they did in Tula, Kostroma, Briansk, and many many other industrial centres in 1918? They were ALL disbanded by FORCE. There’s your Bolshevik ‘democracy’.

As Volin wrote in ‘the voice of Labour in 1917’, “‘Once their power has been consolidated and legalised, the Bolsheviks, as state socialists, that is as men who believe in centralised and authoritarian leadership - will start running the life of the country and of the people from the top. Your soviets … will gradually become simple tools of the central government … You will soon see the inauguration of an authoritarian political and state apparatus that will crush all opposition with an iron fist… “All power to the soviets” will become “all power to the leaders of the Party”

History proved him 100% right.


My Rebuttal:

First of all, let me say that I sympathize with your clear antipathy to authoritarianism and oppression, which I share. However, I think your reading of the Russian revolution and the behavior of the Bolshevik Party is misguided and incorrect.

You claim that the Bolsheviks did not instigate the revolution and intimate that the only role they played between February and October was to "position" themselves as leaders. I will not contest that the Bolsheviks weren't the "instigators" the revolution; that the whole thing was simply orchestrated by the Party, No genuine mass revolution in history has been this way. However, the Bolsheviks did play a very important role in the whole period leading up to February 1917, and certainly between February and October.