Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Bolsheviks Seize Power! 7 November 1917.

Power In The Hands Of The People - For A While: One hundred years on, the revolution which the Bolsheviks not so much made, as destroyed, deserves to be remembered for what it was – a joyous eruption of ‘people power’. It unleashed the creative political and cultural energies of ordinary men and women in ways that by turns astounded, delighted and inspired the whole world. So much so that, even today, a century later, it is the event’s historic assertion: that a better world is possible; which keeps the vivid colours of the Russian people’s revolution so bright in the memory – and hopes – of humankind.

“GO HOME!” Ordered the Bolshevik soldiers surrounding the Tauride Palace in Petrograd. The assembled delegates to the All-Russian Constituent Assembly looked at the rifles and bayonets pointed at them, looked at one another, and dispersed. Thus, was representative democracy ushered-off the Russian political stage in the snows and freezing mists of January 1918. The Assembly, elected by more than 40 million Russians in the first free election of their nation’s history, had deliberated for precisely thirteen hours.

The shutting down of the Constituent Assembly by the Bolshevik government of Vladimir Lenin provoked very little in the way of protest. Lawyers and other professionals objected, of course, rightly foreseeing that a revolutionary regime upheld by rifles and bayonets was unlikely to be the most reliable guarantor of individual liberty and human rights. For the remainder of the politically active population, however, there was simply too much going on.

Their revolution, which had begun nine months earlier on International Women’s Day (8 March) 1917 was still in full-swing, Constituent Assembly, or no Constituent Assembly. So, too, was the debate about the best form of democracy. Perhaps Comrade Lenin was right on this issue. Perhaps the workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ “soviets” (councils) whose members were directly elected at the factory, barracks and village level, and instantly recallable if they deviated from their mandates, were a better and more accountable form of democratic representation.

What mattered most to Russia’s political activists in the winter of 1917-18 was their conviction that the revolution still belonged to them: that they were still in charge; still directing the flow of events. Many of them, while harbouring serious reservations about the Bolsheviks’ blatantly unconstitutional seizure of power on 7 November 1917, were nevertheless relieved that the Provisional Government of Alexander Kerensky, and its criminal determination to continue the war against Germany, had been removed. They were also heartened by the Bolsheviks’ uncompromising determination to defend the revolution against Tsarist reactionaries like Kornilov. It was possible to fault Lenin’s methods, but not his revolutionary zeal!

With the benefit of a century’s hindsight, it is easy to dismiss these notions as short-sighted and naïve. How could any thinking Russian not understand that a political party guilty of seizing power in a carefully-planned and ruthlessly executed coup d’état had already pronounced the revolution’s death sentence? That the Bolshevik’s aggressively ideological regime, based on the fragile majorities it had constructed in the far-from-stable urban soviets (while the peasantry, 80 percent of Russia’s population, gave their support, overwhelmingly, to the Bolshevik’s rivals, the Socialist Revolutionary Party) could only ever be a regime of rifles and bayonets?

Easy, yes, but wrong. It would take the Bolsheviks many years to fasten a collar around the boisterous puppy that was the Russian Revolution. Many years, during which they would have to overcome innumerable setbacks and dangers.

On 30 August 1918, the young Left Socialist Revolutionary, Fanny Kaplan, very nearly assassinated Lenin. Her party had rebelled against Lenin’s cession of vast tracts of the former Russian Empire to their German foes in the peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk, causing the Bolsheviks to proscribe her party and arrest its leaders. Lenin recovered from Kaplan’s attack, but her bullets left him frail and in deteriorating health.

In the crackdown that followed Kaplan’s attempted assassination, the Bolshevik “Extraordinary Commission”, the Cheka, began its ominous transition: from skilful intelligence gatherer, to the Bolshevik Government’s terroristic secret police.

Meanwhile, the British, French and Americans dispatched troops to Russia, and supplied huge quantities of arms and ammunition to the counter-revolutionary “Whites”, in a concerted effort to strangle the world’s first socialist revolution in its cradle. The resulting civil war which raged from 1918 until well into the 1920s cost millions of Russian lives – including tens-of-thousands of the most decent and democratic Bolsheviks.

As we who live in the Twenty-First Century can well attest, civil wars and the terror-tactics they unleash are tremendously corrosive of civilised values and the democratic institutions they underpin. Mass killing and systematic repression coarsens a culture – raising up sociopaths and psychopaths to dangerously important political and administrative positions. Socialism did not make Joseph Stalin inevitable, but the Bolsheviks’ utter refusal to share power with any of the other participants in the Russian Revolution most certainly did.

One hundred years on, the revolution which the Bolsheviks not so much made, as destroyed, deserves to be remembered for what it was – a joyous eruption of ‘people power’. It unleashed the creative political and cultural energies of ordinary men and women in ways that by turns astounded, delighted and inspired the whole world. So much so that, even today, a century later, it is the event’s historic assertion: that a better world is possible; which keeps the vivid colours of the Russian people’s revolution so bright in the memory – and hopes – of humankind.

This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 7 November 2017.

29 comments:

peter petterson said...

The beginning of the end, in the end.

Jens Meder said...

But has anyone described yet how plain political "people power" can create a substantially "better world" (more fair and sustainably prosperous for all?) than what we have now -

without "democratizing" also the responsibilities and risks of economic power ?

I mean - is it not impossible just to vote more food and houses into existence?

Joe Hendren said...

Hi Chris

I think you would enjoy reading Bertrand Russell's account of his visit to Russia in August 1920 - its one of my favorite chapters in his autobiography. My memory only allows me to paraphrase but on a visit accompanied by other Brits sympathetic to socialism Russell thought the shots he heard in the night were executions. His friends attempted to convince him it was only cars backfiring.

Len said...

I like your last paragraph.

Nick J said...

Its the old individual versus the group story, give either too much power and the imbalance results in extreme abuse. The ideology created by Marx was always going to create this imbalance, take the term "dictatorship of the proletariat." The imbalance is implicit, the violence follows. The roots of Stalins' purges existed in the methodology and beliefs of Lenin, the violence just got amplified.

Polly said...

I went to Russia in !979, Kiev, Moscow and Leningrad, it was tough and hard on the citizens.
Food was not plentiful, tenement housing was drab and often not heated, clothing was bad quality.
Russia was still trying to get over the horrors of Hitler's invasion plus they were suffering from Churchill's and America's Iron Curtain policies.
Under Putin Russia has got stronger and will get stronger in coming years.
There is hidden and untold wealth in their vast frozen lands.
I wish all Russians a future wellbeing.
They are good people.

Anonymous said...

The most important single event of the twentieth century.

Nick R said...

I'm not sure what happened after 1917 to justify such a glowing take on the revolution. Chris appears to be celebrating the armed suppression of democracy by brutal despots who ended up killing more of their own citizens that Hitler. And Hitler was pretty damned determined when it came to killing Russians. Is that really what he thinks freedom looks like?

Plato warned that tyrants always first appear as protectors of the people. I think he would have recognised Lenin and his mates for what they really were. Not sure I can say the same about Chris.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"I mean - is it not impossible just to vote more food and houses into existence?"

You keep plugging away at this, but no one is actually suggesting that you can vote more food and houses into existence. It's a question of building and redistribution. The voting comes before that.


David Stone said...

I would have thought that what those events are to be remembered for is that the violent overthrow of a stable if not a democratic regime by violent revolution is likely to end in a more repressive regime and a worse situation than existed before.
Also from more recent history the regime change episodes ,partially domestically instigated, partially externally, tell the same story.
Despotic regimes get overthrown when they start to relinquish power and are perceived as weak and able to be replaced by a more rigorous , more determined leader seizing their opportunity. Democracy and civil equity only comes gradually through enlightened actions of statesmanlike people in power.
D J S

Anonymous said...


The writings of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn have not gone in vain or unnoticed by Dr. Putin.
Aleksandr's warnings, teachings and observations have not gone in vain...
However, to fully understand what happened in 1917, one actually has to go back to 1913 with the release of the Learned Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and the formation of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank formed at Jekyll Island under the directions of the Rothschild Family.
Mayer Rothschild stated that "Give me control of a nation's money system, and I care not for whoever might run the nation!"
Stalin once said "Those who cast the votes decides nothing! Those who count the votes decide everything!" Clinton tried this with illegal alien voters, but fortunately, got caught!
So herein lies the problem; the fact that the Russian Revolution of 1917 was actually a radical Zionist operation to remove the religious systems of Russian Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholics from the regions in Russia and Eastern Europe that were non-Zionist!
The CHEKA was staffed only with radicalised Zionist. The Red Terror was an attempt to eradicate the 'Goyem' from Russia and the Eastern European Nations. The cost was 60 million dead from firing squads, GULAGs, starvation, and Crimes Against Humanity on their soil.
Stalin's real name was Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili.
Trotsky's real name was Lev Davidovich Bronstein.
Nikita Kruschev's real name was Solomon Perlmutter.
Changing their names covered their real identities (just like Hollywood Stars...) and actual, true purpose; to destroy Christianity in the East and West, and establish a communist state served by the profane, unwashed Goyem (trans. Hebrew word for Cattle) who would have no rights, and could be executed on the spot for failure to comply.
Sounds sort of like the U.S. Police State, and Gaza, don't you think??? In fact, U.S. Police, Sheriffs and Federal Agents actually go to Israel for training on 'crowd control and management'
One needs to look up on line the term Holodomor, and see who is truly responsible for this; especially in the 1930's Ukraine, where Capt. Nikita Kruschev oversaw the theft of the Ukrainian grain harvests, and the murder / starvation of millions of Ukrainians! Historical Fact!
One should review the horror sketches of the GULAG sometime.
The fact that many Jews (Orthodox, non-Zionist, Ringworm, and Torah) were sacrificed in order that their displacement would only leave Talmudic Zionist Jews is a horrendous historical record.
I remember as a boy watching Kruschev pound his shoe at the UN and made the translated comment 'We will bury you!" He meant that not in the sense that communism would overtake capitalism; he meant that a Zionist World Government (aka New World Order) would literally bury the opposition...in the dirt that would be their (our) graves, thus purging the Earth of Goyem!
See the following You Tube videos by Snordster; 'Slave', 'Monster', and The Black Swan Is On The Wing'. Check out 'The Roach Motel at the End of the Universe' as well.
Then see Michael Rivero's You-Tube presentation titled 'All Wars are Bankers Wars'., and 'Endgame'.
The real reason that JFK was killed was that he had an Executive Order on his desk that would have shut-down and closed the Reserve banking Act forever, and return the control of the U.S.'s money back to the U.S. Treasury.
AIPAC gets millions of dollars in US Taxpayer Money daily funneled over to Israel. & yet, see the You Tube on Snordster titled 'Israel Declares War on U.S. Veterans'.
As Anthony J. Hilder reported in his video 'Millennium 2000'; "They want it all"

sumsuch said...

You don't comment on the Balfour Declaration?

Instead this crap about the good side of the Russian Revolution-totalitarianism's foundation.

I prefer the 'gentle girl' Chekhov's everyday kindnesses to Gorky's mysterious disappearance in the 30s.

You know socialism via democracy was solidly established in Britain by the late 1880s?

Too much blood, despite senile/Carlylean hero-worshipping Fabians in the 30s.


manfred said...

Read the article again Nick R. You've got it arse about kite.

greywarbler said...

@Nick R
I think you didn't put on your reading lasses plus your thinking cap when you read this post. It may be that the word revolution makes you see Red!

Thanks for the background to the Bolshies Chris. My history knowledge is lacking, I have had a booklet about the Revolution for reference but not studied it. It seems that when trying to change systems in a 'robust' way, suddenly everyone has a different nostrum, usually with unreasoned assurance that they are in the right. Caution, history, wisdom get left.
Signposts are abandoned as aiding the enemy, and compasses left behind. It is wise to note the huge amount of externalities that are lost and counted unwillingly later when it is found that progress has led to a net one step further along the path which is still under construction.

greywarbler said...

Anonymous at 23.38
This is a sweeping line up of history to people who are deluged by fictional paranoia through television and media every day. It reads so encompassingly bad I can't believe it but there will be some truth in it though I am not sure which and where as there are so many assertions.

Nick J said...

Anonymous @23.38 You might find it useful to read Niall Fergusons latest tome on the impact of networks of people on history (as opposed to hierarchies and individuals). Yes, there were some groups who existed right out in the open who are now regarded as a conspiracy. As for any Jewish Marxist / financial conspiracy to rule the world, keep dreaming. I once kept reasonable council with a significant number of Jews in Sydney years back, none of them appeared to be plotting to take over the world on behalf of shady Jewish conspirators. I think we may be safe.

David Stone: spot on, the French revolution seems to work as the model for the later events. It is the collapse or overthrow of the post-revolutionary despots that we should really be concentrating upon. Its not all cut and dried, for example the dictatorship of Napoleon bequeathed France with a legal framework used today, and the prior authoritarian ancien regime bequeathed us the modern bureaucratic model of government. You are so right about how democratic systems take a long time to build, and that this takes real leadership.

Jens Meder said...

Guerilla Surgeon -
O.K. - the decision or voting to build and redistribute comes before the action.

But isn't that decision and action more democratic and effective when overwhelmingly acted on personal initiative, enterprise and responsibility than exclusively as a government or other monopoly task and responsibility ?

And how can that action achieve any results, if workers consume all the fruits of their labor "hand-to-mouth" - with no capital or reserves saved or created by anyone ?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"But isn't that decision and action more democratic and effective when overwhelmingly acted on personal initiative, enterprise and responsibility than exclusively as a government or other monopoly task and responsibility ? "

No.

"And how can that action achieve any results, if workers consume all the fruits of their labor "hand-to-mouth" - with no capital or reserves saved or created by anyone ?"

The only reason most people consume all the fruits of their labour hand to mouth, is because they don't get enough for their labour. Try being poor for six months or so Jens. It'll give you a completely new perspective on the fruits of labour, and what you spend it on.

David Stone said...

Jens Meder

"But isn't that decision and action more democratic and effective when overwhelmingly acted on personal initiative, enterprise and responsibility than exclusively as a government or other monopoly task and responsibility ?"

I think the point is that some significant involvement of the state is needed in order to maintain an environment where personal initiative , enterprise and responsibility can exist.
Given a completely free reign private enterprise becomes monopolistic, fewer and fewer agents come to control all the resources and then there is no more opportunity for personal initiative and enterprise than if the state controlled it all. And less equity.
Both the state and private enterprise need to be able to exist for each other.
Cheers D J S

Victor said...

Chris

I found myself in total agreement with this piece until I got to the bit where you exonerate the Bolshevik's allies of the charge of naivety for not seeing the savagely authoritarian potential of the October coup.

Martov had recognised the authoritarian side of Leninism as early as the Russian socialists' 1903 London conference and even Trotsky had his misgivings until carried away by the pace of events and the exuberance of his own verbosity in 1917.

Moreover, Lenin's recurrent tactics of splitting and purging the Bolsheviks in exile became notorious in the years between 1903 and 1914, whilst his emphasis on the "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" invested that hitherto slippery concept with a centrality that, by my understanding, is absent in Marx's works. And, of course, in Russian conditions, such a dictatorship could only ever be that of a small minority over the vast majority.

On top of all this was Lenin's behaviour from the moment he arrived at the Finland Station, when he palpably distanced himself from the ecumenical mood of the revolutionary gathering that greeted him.

I also disagree over the centrality of Dora Kaplan's attempted assassination of Lenin to the onset of the Red Terror. The Cheka had already rounded up Petograd's anarchists and was sharpening its claws on "Kulaks" and other perceived class enemies. And Rosa Luxembourg had already articulated her well-informed disquiet over what was happening in Russia.

I can certainly understand the kind of "no enemies to the left" enthusiasms that a great revolution generates. But there were surely enough warning signs by the time the Constituent Assembly was sent packing.

Jens Meder said...

Good on you, David Stone - we agree!

And does not our state sponsored compulsory retirement wealth creation through the NZ Super Fund (+ resumption of an unconditional $1000.- Kiwi Saver "kick-start" to all who have not received it yet - from "cradle to grave") -

fit wonderfully and socio-economically in a fair and effectively universal wealth creative way- with individual participation in the efforts and rewards by all -

into our agreement ?

greywarbler said...

David Stone 8/11 21.22

This is short, astute, meaningful, central, to what NZ need to realie and practice to function appropriately. Things at present are very inappropriate!

Given a completely free reign private enterprise becomes monopolistic, fewer and fewer agents come to control all the resources and then there is no more opportunity for personal initiative and enterprise than if the state controlled it all. And less equity.
Both the state and private enterprise need to be able to exist for each other.
Cheers D J S

Victor said...

Anonymous@23.38

I wasn’t going to dignify your bucket-load of filth and bilge with a response.

However, it’s a sad fact that lots of people today actually believe the garbage they cull from the further shores of the internet. So some sort of corrective may be necessary, if only as a matter of record.

Firstly, the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” was long ago proved to be a forgery, put out by the Tsarist secret police, in a bid to discredit the regime’s opponents.

Secondly, the notion that the Russian Revolution was a Zionist undertaking, aimed at de-Christianising Eastern Europe, is pure poppycock. Rightly or wrongly, Zionism aimed at establishing a Jewish state in Palestine, so that, amongst other things, Jews could build a new life far away from their East European vale of tears.

Thirdly, the notion that the Cheka was staffed “only by radicalised Zionists” is absolute balony. From mid-1918 onwards, it was staffed exclusively by Bolsheviks, who regarded Zionism as yet another form of bourgeois nationalism, which it was their duty to suppress.

Fourthly, you seem to be saying that Stalin’s original name( Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili) shows him to be of Jewish origins. But the name is recognisably and typically Georgian, because (guess what?) Stalin came from Georgia, a fact that he never denied.

Far from being Jewish, Stalin was, like you, an anti-Semite, although, to be fair, he only became obsessively so towards the end of his life, when anti-Semitism became the thinly disguised policy of the Soviet Union and its client states.

Fifthly, Trotsky never denied his Jewish origins. However, he early on forswore loyalty to any source of purely national or ethnic identity, his over-riding concern being the global triumph of revolutionary socialism.

Sixthly, if Nikita Krushchev's real name was ‘Solomon Perlmutter’, this would have come as a surprise to both his father and his mother, who were ethnic Russians, albeit from Ukraine. Yet again, you’re engaging in pure fantasy.

Seventhly, the Hebrew word for cattle is ‘bakar’. The term ‘goyim’ means ‘nations’.

Eighthly, your notion that the Jews (or the Zionists or whatever) were or are intent on enslaving all other peoples, let alone purging the earth of them, is totally without factual basis.

Ninethly, you seem to think there’s a connection between Zionism and the Talmud. This is simply not the case. The Talmud is a voluminous selection of legal and religious disquisitions and arguments on issues of personal and communal conduct. It is NOT a political manifesto, let alone a programme for establishing a state or (qua your absurd and obscene beliefs) for instituting a tyrannical or multi-genocidal world government.

Tenthly, I’m not aware that non-Zionist Jews (of whom I’m one) suffer abnormally from Ringworm or any other fungal infection.

I could go on holding you up to the ridicule you so richly deserve. But it’s a depressing enterprise and my OOS is hurting. So I’ll leave it there and go and watch Coro Street.

Nick J said...

Thank you Victor, well said. All those ridiculous conspiracy theories, flat earth etc totally bewildering, give us such a pain.

David Stone said...

Good to have your historical guidance Victor.
As one with inadequate historical knowledge an avalanche of assertions such as that to which you respond leaves one wondering.
D J S

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Victor, thank you for responding to anonymous's post. I got halfway through a decided it was a Gish gallop and a prime example of Brandolini's (I think) law, that the effort required to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude more than the effort required to produce it. You have my ardent admiration.

manfred said...

I thank you also, Victor. Anonymous's ravings are a perfect example of the counter propaganda that takes people who may have once been on the loony left and gets them, through encrypting their racism and paranoia, to agree with the premises of the extreme right.

Victor said...

Nick, David, GS and Manfred

Thanks very much for your comments. Much appreciated.

I wish it wasn't necessary to confront this sort of thing. But, as long as its left hanging around unanswered, there's always the chance someone will believe it all.

Charles E said...

Yes well done Victor! You are a hero.
Chris how did this poison slip through?

On the topic, my only comment of the tragedy that is Russia for centuries now, is that whatever promise those on the left saw there up to a 100 years ago, it was as false as the views of that anti-Semite. Communism, as has been famously said, is merely the (fake) human face of fascism. And what do we see from Russia this last 100 years? Fascism, back then and right now. So Anonymous, you coward, you are a fascist so fuck you.