Labor Standard Logo

Re-Arming the Party: Bolsheviks and Socialist Revolution in 1917

Introductory Comment by George Shriver, co-managing editor, Labor Standard:

We are posting this essay by Paul Le Blanc on the Labor Standard home page in honor of November 7, 1917, roughly on the hundredth anniversary of that historic event.

Lenin and TrotskyThat was the day by the Western calendar when the workers and soldiers of Petrograd, led by the Bolshevik party, in turn led by Lenin, Trotsky, and their comrades-in-arms, and acting through the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet and with the support of the Second Congress of Soviets of Russia, gave all power to the Soviets, the councils of workers, soldiers, and peasants deputies.

In this essay Paul Le Blanc takes up the arguments of two scholars who specialize in the history of the Russian revolution. Lars Lih and Eric Blanc. In recent times these two scholars have argued that, as Paul Le Blanc explains, the disagreement between Lenin and Kamenev in April 1917 was not all that significant. And yet a few months later, in October 1917 Kamenev came out publicly, together with Zinoviev, against the decision by the majority of the Bolshevik Central Committee to carry through an insurrection to remove the pro-capitalist Kerensky government from power and give all power to the Soviets. Lenin denounced Kamenev and Zinoviev as “strikebreakers” for their harmful action in October 1917 and called for their removal from Bolshevik ranks.

Lars Lih and Eric Blanc deny the close connection between Kamenev’s position in April and his position in October, arguing that Trotsky and his supporters have exaggerated the differences. Paul Le Blanc shows, I think convincingly, that there is plenty of historical evidence, aside from that of Trotsky and his co-thinkers, that Lenin’s April Theses actually did “rearm the party,” preparing it to carry through the great event that we celebrate on November 7. And this rearming was accomplished despite opposition from Kamenev and other secondary figures in the Bolshevik party, including Stalin.

This, then, is not just a dispute in the field of historical scholarship, but an issue that still arises in the politics of the struggle for socialism everywhere today—that is, whether or not to take power from the capitalist class, what Marx called the “expropriation of the expropriators.”

Click here: Re-Arming the Party: Bolsheviks and Socialist Revolution in 1917