editorial

by Martin Levy

October 25 old-style, November 7 on the current calendar. Exactly 100 years ago this autumn the workers, soldiers and sailors of Petrograd overthrew the Russian Provisional Government in the name of the Petrograd Soviet. Following the capture of the Winter Palace, all state power was transferred to the Congress of Soviets.

Is it just a coincidence that the blank shot announcing the assault on the Winter Palace was fired by the cruiser Aurora? The name means dawn, and this was a new dawn, not just for Russia, but for the world. Within a few weeks the revolution had swept Russia, though in Moscow and a number of other places it required fierce fighting.

In this issue of CR we celebrate the significance of the Great October Socialist Revolution. Several articles are taken from communist publications 50 years ago, most of the authors having either directly experienced – like Alexandra Kollontai – or lived through that momentous event. We include some observations written in connection with the 90th anniversary. And then we also have images and poetry from the revolutionary period and some modern-day observations.

1917: The Socialist Revolution

FROM THE ARCHIVES

1917: The Socialist Revolution

Andrew Rothstein

 

1. RUSSIA AFTER TSARDOM

On 8 April 1917, after a week in Russia, Lenin’s trusted comrade Alexandra Kollontai wrote to him and his wife:i

“The people are still intoxicated by the great act. I say the people, because it is not the working class which holds front place but a diffuse and motley mass dressed in soldiers’ greatcoats. At present it is the soldier who dictates the mood, the soldier too who is creating a peculiar atmosphere in which the greatness of the vividly expressed democratic liberties, the awakening of consciousness of equal rights for all citizens and complete failure to understand the complexity of the moment, are all mixed up together. Amidst the feverish activity and striving to build something new, different from the past, there is too loud a sound of triumph already attained, as though the cause has been won completely. Not only is the ‘internal enemy’ underestimated – biding his time, and of course far from finished off – but undoubtedly our people, and particularly the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, lack the resolution and political judgement for carrying on what has begun, consolidating power in the hands of democracy. ‘We are already in power’ – that is the complacently mistaken mood of the majority in the Soviet. And of course this intoxication with successes achieved is taken advantage of by the Guchkovii Government, bowing hypocritically before the will and decision of the Soviet in minor details, but naturally in the main – and particularly on the question of the war – keeping the ‘reins’ in its own hands.”

“We want an End to this War”