The “Great October Revolution” was not a revolution but a coup d’état against the Government functioning in a democratic way with popular support
Saji Narayanan C K
Russian writer and historian Alexander Solzhenitsyn was awarded Nobel Prize in 1970. He commented about the so called “Great October Revolution”: “‘The October Revolution’ is a myth generated by the winners, the Bolsheviks, and swallowed whole by progressive circles in the west.” It is a paradox, why the communists even in Kerala, where the communist parties are having their last remnants, are not serious enough in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the “Great October Revolution” which had started from October 25, 2016 and was going to end with October 25, 2017 which was an event of inspiration to their cadre during the entire lastcentury. The “Great October Revolution” was only a coup d’état against the Government led by Socialist Revolutionary Party functioning in a democratic way with popular support, which was against the imperial regime and which did not have class bias. This Communist Government was overthrown through violent force by another autocratic communist group called Bolsheviks who did not command people’s support. There was nothing we can call “revolution” in it when we go through the actual incidents that led to it. It was only a power struggle between Social Revolutionary Party and Lenin’s Bolshevik party.
According to the communist official version of History, Communist Party in Russia under the Leadership of Lenin rose to power through the October Revolution. For Communists, ‘Revolution’ means an armed revolt by the suppressed working class against the Government of the opposite class which suppresses working class, thereby bringing a power shift. There are several examples of how the Communist Parties all over the world had through distortions in history misled their cadre as well as the people of the countries under their rule, in order to inspire them. The narrative about “Great October Revolution” of 1917 is only one among them.
Not a Revolution but a Coup
It was the Russian revolution of 1905 called “Bloody Sunday” that inspired the October “Revolution” (also called as the Bolshevik Revolution) in 1917. In 1905, it was a revolt against the maladministration of the Tsar Government, which resulted in the formation of a Soviet in St. Petersburg. When First World War started, the then Tsar Emperor took the leadership of the Army and went to the military camps to fight against the enemy Germans. Before leaving, his German wife was crowned as the Empress to rule the Country. This created resentment in the minds of the patriotic people of Russia. The re-naming of Russian City St. Petersburg in German name as “Petrograd” also hurt the patriotic sentiments of the people. Russian people were angry when the Russian Ruler held peace talks with Germany. Further, the war created an economic crisis in Russia. The Government was unable to provide timely salary to the fighting soldiers and supply essential food articles at affordable rates to its people. Factory workers declared strikes for increase in wages. The atrocities in
workplaces, poverty, famine, defeat in the war etc. added to this. The “State Duma” or the democratically elected Russian Parliament also turned against the Tsar Emperor in 1916. These situations were sufficient enough for the Communists to easily turn the people against the Government. At the same time Communist banners raised against the war. This was opposed by the patriotic Russian people.
The Social Democrats influenced by Marxism who participated in the struggle had to flee from the country. They were staying in Switzerland. But the Social democrats in the other countries like Germany and France in the same period disappointed the Russian Social Democrats when they supported their respective countries in their war efforts upholding their Nationalist spirit, violating their international line. French Communists opposed Germany and German Communist opposed France in the war. This was a setback to the Russian Communist dreams about a Revolution which expected support from the Communists of other countries including their enemy country Germany.
If anything that can be characterised as “revolution” in Russian History, it was the “February Revolution” which happened during February 23 to 27, 1917 according to the Russian Julian calendar (according to the Gregorian calendar that we use, it was from March 8 to12) in the form of continuous strikes against the Tsar Emperor. According to Gregorian calendar, that we follow International Women’s Day is on March 8, but according to Russian Julian calendar it is on February 23. Starting from international women’s day, the labourers in Petrograd went on strike several times. Most of the Factories were closed. Students and teachers also
supported the workers’ strike. Even though the Emperor ordered the military to forcefully suppress the strike, the soldiers who lost their morale and who were in a revolting mood refused to face the striking people which included women. Instead the military also joined the strike.
The Emperor declared State Duma as an illegal body, but Duma took charge of law and order situation. Military leaders and State Duma demanded the Emperor to quit. Thereafter a Provincial Government was formed on March 3, 1917 under the leadership of Prince Georgy Yevgenievich Lvov who was the leader of Russian parliament. The Emperor was put under house arrest. Parallel to it, the striking Socialist Parties established a Soviet rule in Petrograd with the involvement of soldiers and labourers.
But when the socialists established Soviet rule in Petrograd parallel to the Provincial Government, twin power centres (dvoevlastie) started working in Russian society. After the “February Revolution” the country saw struggle between the two for power. Soviet councils were led by Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionary Party. Their reforms were not Marxian, but democratic. At the same time the Provincial Government was ready to accept the views of the Soviets. But later, Alexander Kerensky who was a leading lawyer as well as the leader of Socialist Revolutionary Party also joined the Provincial Government. His main opponent outside was the Bolshevik party led by Vladimir Lenin.
At the time of “February Revolution” Lenin was in exile. Because of war, even after the end of Tsarist regime, he could not reach Russia. Then Lenin held secret talks with Germany which was in war with Russia. In order to weaken the war efforts of Russia which was fighting against Germany, German officials helped Lenin and his men to travel in a train through the war affected terrains to Russia. Thus in April 1917, Lenin reached Russia.
Even though Bolsheviks under the leadership of Lenin propagated across Russia the slogan “all powers to Soviets”, their popular support was very little. When Lenin exhorted Russians to withdraw from war and fight against the Tsarist Regime, only 10000 people and a weak extremist Communist party were in his support.
On Jun 18, the provincial Government again ordered to start a war, but the military as well as the workers were against it and held strike. But strangely, Lenin rejected the strike. It was a big question mark before the historians why in the best opportunity to create a movement against the Government, the Bolsheviks were not ready for a Revolution. This stand resulted in losing support among the soldiers and workers. Instead, Bolsheviks led mass armed demonstrations in Petrograd demanding “All Power to the Soviets”. Trotsky and other Bolsheviks were arrested. Lenin had to flee to Finland. On July 7, Democratic Party leader stepped down and the Socialist Revolutionary Party leader Kerensky became the Russian Prime Minister
making the Government almost Communist. But in August when Military turned against the Government, Kerensky, the leader of Socialist Revolutionary Party and member of the Provincial Government sought the help of Bolsheviks. Bolsheviks, on the other hand, changed their stand against the Government and showed their opportunism. With the assistance of Bolsheviks, the Government suppressed the Military revolt.
As a result in September, Trotsky and others came out of Jail and Trotsky took the leadership of, Soviets. In October, Lenin came back to Petrograd. Thereafter Bolsheviks passed a resolution demanding that the Provincial Government should step down. According to Russian Julian calendar it was on October 25 that the 24 hour long October “Revolution” took place. According to the Gregorian calendar that we follow, it falls on November 7. When the Provisional Government was in session in Winter Palace, the Military Revolutionary Committee formed by the Bolsheviks entered the building and arrested all the members of the Government. Thereafter Lenin, who was hiding on that day, came out and declared the end of the Provisional Government. This Military coup which lasted only for 24 hours is known as the “Great October Revolution”. Instead of the Provisional Government that came into power in February, Soviet Government came into power in October. Even though the motivation for change of Government and Marxist interpretation was given by Lenin who was in hiding, the Military coup was led by Trotsky.
It will be interesting to know the source of finance of Lenin and his men to manage the Military coup. G. Edward Griffin in his book The Creature from Jekyll Island (P.123) makes a serious allegation after studying the financial sources of Bolsheviks: “The Bolshevik Revolution was not a spontaneous uprising of the masses. It was planned, financed and orchestrated by outsiders. Some of the financing came from Germany which hoped that internal problems would force Russia out of the war against her. But most of the money and leadership came from financiers in England and the United States.” The book also reveals that before and after revolution Lenin and Trotsky kept close contact with these financiers. Some Historians allege that German secret service operated through a spy named Alexander Parvus and helped Lenin and Trotsky in planning etc. This is one of several examples of how Communists do not hesitate to go to any extent to achieve their objects.
People reject the Leaders of “Revolution”
Immediately after the so called revolution, Russia’s Constituent Committee elections were held on 25th November, 1917. It was in effect a referendum about the people’s backing of October Revolution. But Bolsheviks under the leadership of Trotsky, Lenin etc. who captured power, lost the election without getting public support. Socialist Revolutionary Party which was overthrown came first with 41 per cent votes where as Bolsheviks got almost half of it i.e. 23.5 per cent. As a consequence, under the Chairmanship of Victor Chernov who was the leader of Socialist Revolutionary Party and was a Minister in the Provincial Government, the Constituent Committee met on January 18, 1918. But the Bolsheviks who were annoyed with losing people’s mandate dissolved the Committee on the very next day. Chernov had to flee to Europe. In the entire history of Communist Government in USSR, that was the last democratic and free election
conducted before 1990. Communist Government clinged on to power by destroying the democratic spirit. Several historians point out that the fact that Bolsheviks could not command people’s mandate and their act of dissolving the duly elected Constituent Committee are sufficient proof that the October Revolution was a mere Military coup and nothing more.
Civil War for Four Years
After this, what we see is a four year long civil war between the minority Government led by Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin etc. and others who opposed this injustice. Communist
historians count this also in the account of October “Revolution”. The liberals formed a very weak “White Army” in 1918 during the civil war to fight against the oppressive Communist regime. It included military officials, Social Revolutionaries, supporters of the Emperor and others. Western powers like America, England, France and Japan supported the “White Army” that was fighting against “Red Army” of Soviets. Their military conducted parade in Vladivostok inside Russian border in support of the “White Army”. There was also a “Black Army” to fight against the Bolshevik regime under the leadership of N.I.Makhno, a Ukrainian leader who refused to join the Red Army. Further there was also “Green Army” of the peasants against the Bolshevik regime. An armed rebellion by the Soviet naval soldiers, some of the Red Army soldiers and people against the economic policies of the Bolshevik Government is famously known as the “Kronstadt rebellion”.
The Bolsheviks used all sorts of massacres, atrocities, oppressions etc. in order to suppress the Civil War which started in 1918. These atrocities by Communists are known in history as “Red Terror”. It was Yakov Sverdlov, the Chairman of Bolshevik Central Executive Committee, who declared officially “Red Terror” in September 1918. In the morning of July16, 1918, as per the orders of Lenin, Tsar Emperor, his family and servants who were in house arrest were brutally murdered. The famous “Kronstadt rebellion” was suppressed by the Bolshevik regime by massacring about 10,000 people using military. The extensive Civil War continued for about four years till 1923. Finally Bolsheviks succeeded in suppressing all the opponents who were not properly organised.
Lessons Learnt From October “Revolution”
Experiences during the period of Civil War led the world Communist Parties to become an autocratic suppressive movement. It taught the Communist Parties that only through annihilation of political opponents can they exist and grow to gain power. Even though the class enemies of Communists were the capitalists, Lenin led the “Revolution” against Marxist Revolutionaries. Thereafter, Stalin also continued the annihilation of political opponents.
Marxism embraces industrial workers and considers peasants outside it. When Bolshevik Government acted against peasants and captured grains in the communist way, even Soviets turned against the Bolsheviks.
Trotsky believed in “World Revolution” wherein he
proposed that revolution will not be complete by only
having it in one country and that communists should spread it to all other countries. Even though Soviet formation and revolution were experimented in Germany and Hungary almost at the time of Russian Civil war, all of them miserably failed within no time.
Balance Sheet of the “Revolution”
Trotsky who played a leading role in filling Russia with blood also had to face the cruelties of Communism. Bible (Matthew 26:52) says “ all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” Trotsky was the living example of this proverb in the Communist history. After Trotsky quarrelled with Stalin, he had to flee from Russia and had to live first in Turkey and then in Mexico under the heavy protection of guards. Stalin’s assassinator gang followed him and made attempts to murder him. Finally in 1940, Trotsky was brutally murdered in his study room in Mexico by the secret service personnel of Stalin by hitting his head with an Ice axe.
In Communist Russia it is modestly estimated that two million people who expressed views different from the Communist Government were killed. This number is estimated to be more than the number of people killed by Hitler. Still calculated history writers depicted Hitler more as a villain, the reason stated by some of the analysts is that Hitler lost the war, whereas Communist Stalin did not! In spite of the large human cost involved in establishing Communist rule in USSR, economic development could not be achieved. Poverty could not be eliminated, whereas poverty was distributed equally. This was their socialism which came out to the external world when the iron curtain was removed in 1990. Till then, Communists all over the world including in India, misled their cadre by inspiring them with songs and stories about the Communist “heaven” in USSR. Thus the autocratic suppression that the Russian people experienced starting from October “Revolution” ended with the establishment of democracy in 1990 through the reforms of Gorbachev.
Twisting of History
It was Soviet Marxist historians who twisted the Military Coup d’état in Russia and described it as “Revolution”. The most popular book that gave fame to October “Revolution” in outside world was “Ten Days that Shook the World” written by an American Communist by name John Reed which was first published in 1919. The preface to its second edition was given by Lenin, which shows the support given by Russian Communist Party to the Communist version contained in it. But Revisionist historians and other western historians brought out the real history behind the so called October “Revolution”. Solzhenitsyn who wrote the famous ‘The Gulag Archipelago’ which describes the torturous story of Communists in Russia said in an interview by Spiegel: “On Oct. 25, 1917, a violent 24-hour coup d’état took place in Petrograd. It was brilliantly and thoroughly planned by Leon Trotsky. Lenin was still in hiding then to avoid being brought to justice for treason. What we call ‘the Russian Revolution of 1917’ was actually the February Revolution…….. I have shown that in ‘The Red Wheel’.” The non Communist historians say that on one day “Great Revolution” in October actually went away unnoticed by the people of Russia or even those in the Petrograd. Even before it, in August, the second Conference of Factory Committee evaluated that capitalism has been wiped out in Russia under the Provincial Government. The Anarchist, Peter Arshinov who participated in the rebellion also records this.
Alexander Berkman who was an admirer of Russian Revolution became totally disappointed seeing the cruelties done by Communist leaders to cling on to power and wrote the book The Bolshevik Myth. He had to flee from Russia in 1921 after writing the book. After leaving Russia the pamphlets written by him about Russian Revolution were collectively named as “The Russian Tragedy”.
Communist in India now mainly confined to Kerala, Tripura and JNU, fearing a debate on the distortions of history opted not to celebrate in a large profile the 100th anniversary of the “Great October Revolution”. Similar is going to be the fate of the 200th birth year of Karl Marx which is starting from May 5, 2017
running till May 5, 2018. This is a shame to all Communists when the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda and 100th birth anniversary of RSS founder Dr Hedgevar and former Sar Sanghchalak Sri Guruji were widely celebrated all over India including Kerala.
(The writer is national president of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh)