In Defence of October

Study the lessons of the Russian Revolution

About us 1917 Live

 

The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It

 

Government Disruption of the Work of the Democratic Organisations

We have examined various ways and means of combating catastrophe and famine. We have seen everywhere that the contradictions between the democrats, on the one hand, and the government and the bloc of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks which is supporting it, on the other, are irreconcilable. To prove that these contradictions exist in reality, and not merely in our exposition, and that their irreconcilability is actually" borne out by conflicts affecting the people as a whole, we have only to recall two very typical “results” and lessons of the six months’ history of our revolution.

The history of the “reign” of Palchinsky is one lesson. The history of the “reign” and fall of Peshekhonov is the other.

The measures to combat catastrophe and hunger described above boil down to the all-round encouragement (even to the extent of compulsion) of “unionisation” of the population, and primarily the democrats, i.e., the majority of the population, or, above all, the oppressed classes, the workers and peasants, especially the poor peasants. And this is the path which the population itself spontaneously began to adopt in order to cope with the unparalleled difficulties, burdens and hardships of the war.

Tsarism did everything to hamper the free and independent “unionisation” of the population. But after the fall of the tsarist monarchy, democratic organisations began to spring up and grow rapidly all over Russia. The struggle against the catastrophe began to be waged by spontaneously arising democratic organisations—by all sorts of committees of supply, food committees, fuel councils, and so on and so forth.

And the most remarkable thing in the whole six months’ history of our revolution, as far as the question we are examining is concerned, is that a government which calls itself republican and revolutionary, and which is supported by the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries in the name of the "authorised bodies of revolutionary democracy", fought the democratic organisations and defeated them!!

By this fight, Palchinsky earned extremely wide and very sad notoriety all over Russia. He acted behind the government’s back, without coming out publicly (just as the Cadets generally preferred to act, willingly pushing forward Tsereteli "for the people", while they themselves arranged all the important business on the quiet). Palchinsky hampered and thwarted every serious measure taken by the spontaneously created democratic organisations, for no serious measure could be taken without “injuring” the excessive profits and wilfulness of the Kit Kityches. And Palchinsky was in fact a loyal defender and servant of the Kit Kityches. Palchinsky went so far—and this fact was reported in the newspapers—as simply to annul the orders, of the spontaneously created democratic organisations!

The whole history of Palchinsky’s “reign”—and he “reigned” for many months, and just when Tsereteli, Skobelev and Chernov were “ministers”—was a monstrous scandal from beginning to end; the will of the people and the decisions of the democrats were frustrated to please the capitalists and meet their filthy greed. Of course, only a negligible part of Palchinsky’s “feats” could find its way into the press, and a full investigation of the manner in which he hindered the struggle against famine can be made only by a truly democratic government of the proletariat when it gains power and submits all the actions of Palchinsky and his like, without concealing anything, to the judgement of the people.

It will perhaps be argued that Palchinsky was an exception, and that after all he was removed. But the fact is that Palchinsky was not the exception but the rule, that the situation has in no way improved with his removal, that his place has been taken by the same kind of Palchinskys with different names, and that all the “influence” of the capitalists, and the entire policy of frustrating the struggle against hunger to please the capitalists, has remained intact. For Kerensky and Co. are only a screen for defence of the interests of the capitalists.

The most striking proof of this is the resignation of Peshekhonov, the Food Minister. As we know, Peshekhonov is a very, very moderate Narodnik. But in the organisation of food supply he wanted to work honestly, in contact with and supported by the democratic organisations. The experience of Peshekhonov’s work and his resignation are all the more interesting because this extremely moderate Narodnik, this member of the Popular Socialist Party, who was ready to accept any compromise with the bourgeoisie, was nevertheless compelled to resign! For the Kerensky government, to please the capitalists, landowners and kulaks, had raised the fixed prices of grain!

This is how M. Smith describes this “step” and its significance in the newspaper Svobodnaya Zhizn[1] No. 1, of September 2:

“Several days before the government decided to raise the fixed prices, the following scene was enacted in the national Food Committee: Rolovich, a Right-winger, a stubborn defender of the interests of private trade and a ruthless opponent of the grain monopoly and state interference in economic affairs, publicly announced with a smug smile that he understood the fixed grain prices would shortly be raised.

“The representative of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies replied by declaring that he knew nothing of the kind, that as long as the revolution in Russia lasted such an act could not take place, and that at any rate the government could not take such a step without first consulting the authorised democratic bodies—the Economic Council and the national Food Committee. This statement was supported by the representative of the Soviet of Peasants’ Deputies.

“But, alas, reality introduced a very harsh amendment to this counter-version! It was the representative of the wealthy elements and not the representatives of the democrats who turned out to be right. He proved to be excellently informed of the preparations for an attack on democratic rights, although the democratic representatives indignantly denied the very possibility of such an attack.”

And so, both the representative of the workers and the representative of the peasants explicitly state their opinion in the name of the vast majority of the people, yet the Kerensky government acts contrary to that opinion, in the interests of the capitalists!

Rolovich, a representative of the capitalists, turned out to be excellently informed behind the backs of the democrats—just as we have always observed, and now observe, that the bourgeois newspapers, Rech and Birzhevka, are best informed of the doings in the Kerensky government.

What does this possession of excellent information show? Obviously, that the capitalists have their “channels” and virtually hold power in their own hands. Kerensky is a figurehead which they use as and when they find necessary. The interests of tens of millions of workers and peasants turn out to have been sacrificed to the profits of a handful of the rich.

And how do our Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks react to this outrage to the people? Did they address an appeal to the workers and peasants, saying that after this, prison was the only place for Kerensky and his colleagues?

God forbid! The Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, through their Economic Department, confined themselves to adopting the impressive resolution to which we have already referred! In this resolution they declare that the raising of grain prices by the Kerensky government is "a ruinous measure which deals a severe blow both at the food supply and at the whole economic life of the country", and that these ruinous measures have been taken in direct “violation” of the law!!

Such are the results of the policy of compromise, of flirting with Kerensky and desiring to “spare” him!

The government violates the law by adopting, in the interests, of the rich, the landowners and capitalists, a measure which ruins the whole business of control, food supply and the stabilisation of the extremely shaky finances, yet the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks continue to talk about an understanding with commercial and industrial circles, continue to attend conferences with Tereshchenko and to spare Kerensky, and confine themselves to a paper resolution of protest, which the government very calmly pigeonholes!!

This reveals with great clarity the fact that the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks have betrayed the people and the revolution, and that the Bolsheviks are becoming the real leaders of the masses, even of the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik masses.

For only the winning of power by the proletariat, headed by the Bolshevik Party, can put an end to the outrageous actions of Kerensky and Co. and restore the work of democratic food distribution, supply and other organisations, which Kerensky and his government are frustrating.

The Bolsheviks are acting—and this can be very clearly seen from the above example—as the representatives of the interests of the whole people, which are to ensure food distribution and supply and meet the most urgent needs of the workers and peasants, despite the vacillating, irresolute and truly treacherous policy of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, a policy which has brought the country to an act as shameful as this raising of grain prices!


Notes

[1] Svobodnaya Zhizn (Free Life)—a newspaper with a Menshevik trend published in Petrograd from September 2–8 (15–21), 1917, instead of the suspended Novaya Zhizn.

 

23.02.1917
The February Revolution
Strikes and protests erupt on women's day in Petrograd and develop into a mass movement involving hundreds of thousands of workers; within 5 days the workers win over the army and bring down the hated and seemingly omnipotent Tsarist Monarchy.
16.04.1917
Lenin Returns
Lenin returns to Russia and presents his ‘April Theses’ denouncing the Bourgeois Provisional Government and calling for “All Power to the Soviets!”
18.06.1917
The June Days
Following the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets, the reformist leaders called a demonstration to show the strength of "democracy". 400,000 people attended, the vast majority carried banners with Bolshevik slogans.
16.07.1917
The July Days
Spontaneous, armed demonstrations against the Provisional Government erupt in Petrograd. The workers and soldiers are suppressed by force, introducing a period of reaction and making the peaceful development of the revolution impossible.
9.09.1917
The Kornilov Affair
Following the July days, the Bolsheviks were driven underground and the forces of reaction were emboldened. This process culminated in the reactionary forces coalescing around General Kornilov, who attempt to march on Petrograd and crush the revolutionary movement in its entirety.
26.10.1917
The October Revolution
The Provisional Government is overthrown. State power passes to the Soviets on the morningm of 26th October, after the Bolsheviks’ Military Revolutionary Committee seize the city and the cabinet surrenders.
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