November 17, 2017

Lenin İn October - By Sokolnikov

The first meeting of the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks with Vladimir Ilyich, at which the question of the insurrection was discussed, was held on October 23 ( old style, October 10) in the apartment of the Menshevik, Sukhanov. Sukhanov represented the typical frame of mind of  the"petty-bourgeois   intellectuals who had taken on the coloring of sympathizers with socialism and internationalism, but who at the same time were horrified at Bolshevism and hated the dictatorship of the proletariat. Sukhanov did not suspect that his capacious dining-room was being used as a meeting place by the general staff which was planning the October ". mutiny." It was his wife who had offered the apartment for the meeting of the Central Committee. Since the armed demonstration of July the Bolshevik Party was in a state of semi-illegality. A number of its leaders were in hiding. Kerensky's orders for their arrest were still in force. The Bolshevik papers were from time to time forbidden by the authorities. Not long prior to this meeting, Vladimir Ilyich had crossed from  Finland  into Petrograd. He considered the moment ripe tor his intervention. He was afraid that the Central Committee might vacillate, which would lead to loss of time, and decided to take charge of the policy of the Central Committee himself. 

The majority of the members of the Central Committee had not seen Vladimir Ilyich since the July defeat. In those days he kept closest contact with Stalin: From motives of secrecy the members of the Central Committee arrived at Sukhanov s apartment singly. All of us that evening were excited at the prospect of meeting Vladimir Ilyich. We were excited not only because decisions were to he taken, the tremendous historical significance of which was clear to all, but also because at this meeting of the Bolshevik Central Committee, which for three months had been deprived of Vladimir Ilyich's direct guidance in its day-to-day work, we were to meet our undisputed leader. Had Lenin's directives been correctly carried out ? Had the Central Committee rightly understood Lenin's line ? How far were the mistakes committed by certain members of the Central Committee reparable ?

At last, when practically all were assembled, Lenin appeared. His arrival literally roused an outburst of joy. Nobody could keep his place ; we all jumped up and rushed towards him with loud greetings and friendly handshakes. The fact that Lenin had safely avoided arrest and escaped the vengeance of ' the Junkers, that his place of concealment had been kept_ secret with masterly skill, that Kerensky's sleuths had proven impotent, that Lenin was now in complete safety, surrounded by the love of the workers of Petrograd- all this explains the spirit of enthusiasm that prevailed in the room on Lenin's arrival. The sensation was kept alive the whole evening by his unfamiliar appearance : his beard and mustache had been shaved and his head was adorned by a grey wig. This grey wig 'was not a masterpiece of the wigmaker's art. It would slip from his head at the most inconvenient moments. At one time, in the street, the wig, together with the hat that covered it, was carried away by the wind. Such misadventures had developed in Lenin the habit of frequently stroking his wig with both hands. This gesture frequently punctuated the report he delivered in Sukhanov's apartment. When the excitement aroused by the reunion with Lenin had subsided,his " evangelical appearance " became a source of general hilarity and witticism. The steaming samovar on the table and all the other accessories of tea-drinking were intended to give the impression of a peaceful, domestic party in the event if undesirable visitors penetrating into the apartment. 

The meeting of the Central Committee began. Lenin put  the question of insurrection on the agenda of the meeting and on the agenda of the revolution. Without Lenin's presence and the pressure he exerted, would it have been possible to overcome the wavering of certain members of the Central Committee regarding the necessity for insurrection and for making immediate preparation for insurrection? Sooner or later insurrection would have become inevitable; it was inevitable corollary of the pitch of intensity reached by the class struggle. But the longer it was delayed the less chances would there be for success. The vigorous, bold and successful assumption of the offensive in October was due to Len'n's genius as a tactician and to defeat of the capitulationist and reformist moods among some comrades who strove to prevent insurrection. This was one of the Lenin's greatest political victories.

Preparation for insurrection in the days immediately preceding the October Revolution were undertaken almost without concealment. On October 22, the military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet demanded recognition of its right to control every order issued by the General Staff of the Petrograd Military Area. Regiment after regiment adopted resolutions in which they declared that they would obey only the Military Revolutionary Committee and the Petrograd Soviet. Lenin's article in the "Rabochy Put" left no doubt as the intentions of the Bolshevik Party. Even the publication in the news papers of the differences prevailing among the members of the MRC on the question of insurrection only served as a sort of documentary evidence of the imminence of revolutionary out break.

The Kerensky government took no timely and active measures of the defence. It is very probable that it over estimated its own powers and in stupid self complacent reliance on the "might" of its coalition with the Cadets, was prepared to allow the preparation for the insurrection to go to some lengths in order to provide a justification for wreaking sanguinary vengeance on the proletariat.

At last, on the morning of October 24  (old style) Kerensky took action. The Bolshevik papers "Rabochy Put" and "Soldat" were closed down. Provisional Goverment resolved to bring criminal proceedings against the members of the Military Revolutionary Committee. After this wise decision Kerensky made a speech in the Council of the Republic in which he branded the Bolsheviks as accomplices of the Germans. 

Meanwhile, the insurrection which had been appointed for the night of October 24, was being developed systematically in accordance with a broad plan of action. The basis of this plan was Lenin's thesis of an "attack" by the combined forces of the Petrograd workers, the garrison of the Baltic Fleet and the troops in the surrounding areas. On the evening of October 24, Lenin removed to the Smolny, and on the morning of October 25, Kerensky fled to Gatchina.

Lenin's arrival at the Smolny was effected secretly. Even on the very eve of the insurrection, Lenin was desirous that his appearance should not cause commotion and complications. Lenin still wore his wig and his face was tied in a broad handkerchief as though he was suffering from toothache . Disguised in this fashion, he was conducted along the corridors of the Smolny to the appointed room. The two or three members of the Menshevik Socialist Revolutionary Central Executive Committee of the soviets ( only a few hours remained before the opening of the second congress of Soviets) whom Lenin and his convoy encountered in the Smolny did not recognize him. Gotz stared at him a little too persistently. Did he recohnize him? He  did not.

Ilyich foresaw that the night would be a stormy one. He lay down to rest for a few short hours in the almost bare room to which he had been conducted. It contained several chairs and two tables. In one of the corners there were piles of newspapers and several heaps of leaflets. A couch was made up for Lenin of these newspapers. In a similar " newspaper couch" in another corner, the writer of these lines arranged himself. It was cold. We were obliged to cover ourselves with a thick blanket of newspapers on top of our overcoats.

While Lenin was resting on his improvised newspaper couch gathering fresh strength, at the meeting of the central executive Committee the Menshevik Dan was appealing to the masses not to respond to the call to insurrection. But Dan exerted himself in vain. Lenin's plan of insurrection was certain of success; and the success of the insurrection, in its turn, guaranteed that the power of the Congress of Soviets, the opening of which had been appointed for October 25, would be real, and not illusory.

At 2 PM the Military Revolutionary Committee moved its forces to the attack. The October Struggle had begun.

Soon after the government had been overthrown, a delegation of soldiers from one of the regiments at the front called upon Lenin. Two of the delegates were conducted in to Lenin's room; the others waited in  the antechamber. When the delegates who had conversed with Lenin emerged, they were surrounded by their comrades who began to question them. 

" What does Lenin look like? " asked one of the soldiers.
" What does he look like? Just like you and me, red haired and pock-marked. As though he just come from the plough"

Lenin produced a profound impression on the soldiers from the front. And indeed, the october upheaval was not merely a model of revolutionary tactics; it was also classic example of the transformation of an imperialist war into a civil war.

Handtyped from the book Lenin In Action