October: Russia 1917 Part 7

russian revolution october 1917 vladimir ilyich lenin ulyanov 1870 1924 russian revolutionary anonymous

Centenary the Bolshevik Revolution 1917–2017

In 2017 we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and the beginning of the most important struggle for socialism, peace and progress in history. Throughout the year, FRFI has carried articles analysing the lessons of the Bolshevik Revolution. In FRFI 259 we examined the developments up to Kornilov’s attempted coup in August 1917. Below, we conclude the series with an article by Patrick Newman first published in FRFI 72 in October 1987, which looks at the momentous events of the October Revolution.


Lenin now realised that the time had come for an armed uprising in Petrograd and Moscow, the seizure of power and the overthrow of the government. The majority of the people were on the side of the Bolsheviks.

Kornilov’s attempted coup had been thwarted, yet the forces backing it – the industrialists, the bourgeois parties and the Allies – were undefeated. The conspirators were kept in reserve for another attempt. Only five arrests were made, and Kornilov placed under merely nominal detention. Events were moving rapidly towards the October revolution – the seizure of state power.

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October: the revisionism of China Miéville


October: The Story of the Russian Revolution by China Mieville, Verso, £18.99

China Miéville's October: The Story of the Russian Revolution, attempts to portray the revolutionary events of 1917 in the form of a partisan novel, as a skilled fiction writer – and ex-SWP organiser – turns his pen to history. Aimed at new readers, Miéville's month-by-month narrative paints a 'tide of acceleration' of the revolution which is at times gripping, capturing the days that shook the world in vivid colours, encouraging the reader to be inspired by the 1917 revolutionaries. However, despite his dramatic account, for Miéville, the revolution was flawed by what he sees as a failure of Lenin and the Bolsheviks to unite with the social democrats and form a 'unity government' with left-leaning Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs). LOUIS BREHONY argues that not only was this impossible, but that Miéville's seemingly revolutionary ideas are consistent with his and with the British left’s support for a Labour Party dedicated to the survival of British capitalism.

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Lenin and the Bolshevik Party

From Revolutionary Communist 6, 1976

Presidium of the 9th Congress of the Russian Communist Party Bolsheviks

This is an extended review of Tony Cliff’s Lenin: Volume One: Building the Party. London: Pluto Press Limited, 1975. Hardback and paperback editions. It is a slightly abridged version of an article of the same title in Revolutionary Marxist Papers 8, July 1976.

Please also see the Editorial from Revolutionary Communist 6 which made criticisms of certain aspects of the argument put forward in this review. 

Tony Cliff, the leader of the International Socialism group of Great Britain, has written the first volume of a projected three volume political biography of Lenin. The first volume deals with the period ending in 1914, and its subtitle, Building the Party, indicates Cliff’s main focus: How did a handful of Russian Marxists manage to construct the most successful mass revolutionary workers’ party in history, the only party which proved able to lead the proletariat to the conquest of state power and then to consolidate and defend that conquest in the face of the ferocious international capitalist reaction?

Writing in the magazine International Socialism, another IS spokesman Duncan Hallas assesses Cliff’s Lenin in the most glowing terms: ‘This book is the most important work on the theory and practice of building a socialist organisation that has appeared for a long time. As a biography it has its faults. It would be no great exaggeration to say that it might well have been called Building the Party – Illustrated from the Life of Lenin. No matter. A manual for revolutionaries – and that is what we have here – is needed more urgently than a fully rounded biography. This is a work whose lessons can and must be applied to the practical tasks of party building.’

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Counter-revolution defeated: Russia 1917 Part 6

General Kornilov
General Lavr Kornilov

Centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution 1917–2017

In 2017 we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and the beginning of the most important struggle for socialism, peace, and progress in history. Throughout the year, FRFI is carrying articles which analyse the lessons of the Bolshevik Revolution. In FRFI 258 we examined the developments up to July 1917. Below, we continue the series with an edited version of an article by Patrick Newman first published in FRFI 71 in September 1987, which looks at Kornilov’s attempted coup.

Counter-revolution defeated

After the July days, the masses had fallen back in confusion. Would the forces of reaction seize the opportunity to crush them? In earlier proletarian revolutions – France 1848, 1871 and Russia 1905 – the bourgeoisie was able to wreak a terrible revenge, killing thousands of workers. But in Russia 1917 the counter-revolution was too weak to take advantage of its most favourable moment.

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Women in the Revolution

Alexandra Kollontai
Alexandra Kollontai

It was on International Working Women’s Day in 1917 that women factory workers came out onto the streets of Petrograd and joined workers at the Putilov Works who were protesting against government food rationing. There was a growing resentment against the Tsarist regime, and women in particular wanted to show their dissatisfaction, not only with the lack of food, but with the increasingly unpopular war that had been devastating Europe for over two years. The Bolsheviks had been vocal opponents of the war since its outbreak in 1914 and this fact helped strengthen their position. Women workers came out on the streets and marched to nearby factories to recruit over 50,000 workers for strike action. The government tried to stop the demonstrations but women boldly went against the advice of their union leaders and spoke with soldiers who then refused to open fire on the demonstrations and turned their weapons instead against the Tsarist forces. The influence that women had in the February revolution was significant. The changes brought about as a result of this and the later October revolution did more to advance women’s emancipation than anything that had come before and would change the history of the world forever. Lucy Roberts reports.

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