Civil War after 1917

Trotsky, a recent Netflix series produced by Russian state television, is a scandalous misrepresentation of both Trotsky’s life and the October Revolution. Alan Woods and Josh Holroyd respond to this insulting portrayal of Trotsky and the Bolsheviks’ legacy.

In drawing up a balance sheet of 1918, the first and most important point is that, against all the odds, the Russian Revolution of October 1917 survived. Lenin held a small celebration when the revolution outlasted the three months or so of the Paris Commune. He had thought the survival of the revolution would be touch and go, as it was. But in early February 1918, when the Paris Commune milestone was passed, the forces of reaction were still gathering.

The last few months of 1918 were no less tumultuous than the earlier part of the year. The civil war dominated all aspects of life, intensifying on several fronts. The pressures of counter-revolution at home also increased, with attempted assassinations of leading Bolsheviks and countless plots by Cadets, SRs, Anarchists and Mensheviks.

Whilst the broad mass of the working class continued to give their support to the Bolshevik Party, activists within the party were often split on crucial issues. The issue of whether or not to wage a revolutionary war against Germany and its forces of occupation proved one of the more divisive questions that very nearly led to a complete split in the party.

The Russian Revolution took place during World War One: war and peace were critical issues. The overthrow of the Tsar and the establishment of a democratic government in February 1917 were regarded by the Provisional Government, and by the SR and Menshevik majority in the Petrograd Soviet, as a justification for continuing the support of the war effort in the name of the defence of the revolution.

It is not the task of this article to go into any detail of the seizure of power in October 1917. Leon Trotsky has brilliantly captured this event in his History of the Russian Revolution, John Reed in Ten Days that Shook the World and many other pieces, including recent articles from In Defence of Marxism. The fact of the matter is that the resounding slogan of the Bolshevik Party, "All Power to the Soviets!” received an immediate and overwhelming endorsement from the soldiers and working class in virtually every town and city throughout the Russian Empire.

100 years ago, the world was shaken by the October Revolution. We rightly celebrate this heroic act as the first instance of workers’ power in history. But how exactly did the Bolsheviks and the working class exercise a power never-before wielded by the proletariat? What problems did they face – economic, administrative, political and military, from within and outside Russia – and how did they meet them? Derek Gunby provides an analysis and balance sheet of 1918: the first year of the Russian Revolution.

Este año es el 97º aniversario de la ofensiva de Kiev de 1920 por el ejército polaco y la derrota decisiva de las tropas soviéticas en la Batalla de Varsovia: un acontecimiento de gran importancia histórica que marcó un punto de inflexión en el curso de la revolución europea. Este frente de la Guerra Civil rusa fue una prueba grave e importante para el partido bolchevique, que provocó un debate sostenido e intenso entre sus filas.

The October Revolution was an earthquake that sent shockwaves throughout the world. The idea that workers could take power into their own hands and run society without the need for kings, queens and capitalists had a big impact amongst the working masses throughout the world. For this reason, the ruling classes of all countries united in an effort to crush the new workers state in its infancy.

This year is the 97th anniversary of the 1920 Kiev Offensive by the Polish Army and the decisive defeat of the Soviet troops at the Battle of Warsaw: an event of great historic importance that marked a turning point in the course of the European revolution. This front of the Russian Civil War was a grave and important test for the Bolshevik Party, sparking daily and intense debate throughout its ranks.