Russian Revolution: II. Dictatorship over the Proletariat
In October 1917 the Bolsheviks staged an insurrection using the Military Revolutionary Committee which had been set up by the soviets after the attempted Kornilov coup. The result was a transfer of power from the hands of the soviets to the small party which followed Lenin. Two of the Bolshevik leaders, Kamenev and Zinoviev, opposed the insurrection on the following grounds:
A majority of workers and a significant part of the army in Russia are for us. But all the rest are in question. We are convinced, for example, that if it now comes to elections for the Constituent Assembly, then the majority of peasants will vote for the SRs.
Their dissent was ignored and, in years to come, used by Stalin to discredit them as counter-revolutionaries. Let there be no confusion about the nature of the Bolshevik seizure of power: it was a conspiratorial coup designed to subjugate what was left of spontaneous mass action to Leninist control. Those who look to the October coup with admiration, as do most of the current Left groups, show an anti-socialist contempt for democracy.
In January 1918 the Constituent Assembly was elected by universal suffrage. The voting figures were as follows:
Votes cast for each party
Ukranian SRs 1,286,157
Seats in the Constituent Assembly
Social Revolutionaries 370
Left SRs 40
Popular Socialists 2
National groups 86
(Data taken from O.H. Radkey, The Elections to the Russian Constituent Assembly of 1917, pp.16-17.)
The petty-bourgeois democrats . . . are suffering from illusions when they imagine that the working people are capable, under capitalism, of acquiring the high degree of class consciousness, firmness of character, perception and wide political outlook that will enable them to decide, merely by voting, or at all events, to decide in advance, without long experience of struggle, that they will follow a particular party . . . Capitalism would not be capitalism if it did not, on the one hand, condemn the masses to a downtrodden, crushed and terrified state of existence, to disunity and ignorance, and if it did not, on the other hand, place in the hands of the bourgeoisie a gigantic apparatus of falsehood and deception to hoodwink the masses of workers and peasants, to stultify their minds and so forth.(Lenin. Collected Works, Vol. 30, pp.266-67.)
Sovnarkom, having heard the report of the chairman of the Cheka, finds that under present circumstances it is necessary to safeguard the rear by means of terror. In order to strengthen the work of the Cheka its forces must be increased by reliable party comrades. The Soviet Republic must be safeguarded from its class enemies by isolating them in concentration camps, by shooting all persons associated with White Guard associations, plots and conspiracies, and by publishing the names of all those shot and the reason for the shooting.
When a government pretending to act in defence of workers makes use of the same methods of political struggle as those employed by reactionaries in their fight . . . against the insurgent masses, then the proletariat must raise its voice and declare openly: ‘The responsibility for terror falls on those who use it’. The working class never has and never will have anything in common with these methods of struggle. We appeal to the organised proletariat to support our protest. (Posledniia Novosti, No.5, 213, 28 September 1918, evening edition.)
The Bolshevik dictatorship has provided one of the most compelling arguments used by the enemies of socialism. The only lesson to be learnt from the Russian Revolution is that a society based upon human freedom cannot be created by a faction which sees the mass of humanity as incapable of self-emancipation.