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.

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.

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.

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 this power never-before wielded by the working class? What problems did they face – economic, administrative, political and military, from within and outside Russia – and how did they meet these problems?

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