The explosion of the Russian Revolution of February 1917 was not scheduled on any politician’s agenda, neither was it a product of the “high level of consciousness” of the people. It exploded as a rebellion of female textile workers against their work conditions, and it expanded like wildfire because of the general misery, the killing in the World War front, the repression against any opposition… the protest was so strong and generalized that the government of the Tsar was left “suspended in the air,” and its capability of exercising its authority shook completely.
By Juan P.
“Below,” the Soviets and Popular and Workers’Councils were reborn. Originally they served to organized the demonstrations, but they also started working like a “new power”. However, the main political parties of the time, including the socialists and left-wing parties, decided to support a “provisional government” led by an aristocrat who held the social situation on a similar level to what it was under the Tsarist rule.
So, the spontaneous revolutionary momentum of the working people caused a strong political crisis, “healed” by the main political parties that changed the faces of the government to help changing anything essential about it. Something similar –with obvious, important differences- to what happened here, in the Spanish State, with the political crisis opened after M15, the miners’ struggles, the general strikes, the Marches for Dignity…: the generalized demonstration “below” but without a centralized leadership provoked a crisis of political legitimacy of the institutions, later wrapped up by the “new parties,” which generated illusions in the vote as if those same institutions could change the situation. We went from the slogan “Surround the Congress” to try to elect many deputies for that same Congress.
The particularity with Russia is that the dual power situation was really deep, and the instability went on for months, deepening along with the “provisional governments” not complying with their promises of change. Like in the beginning, the deepening of the crisis did not have bases on an “advanced ideological consciousness” but on the imperious necessity of the vast majority of the population to put an end to their daily hardships.
In this frame, a small “radical”political party grew in influence stating that, to satisfy the popular necessities, the Soviets should rule, and they needed to declare immediate peace and carry out an Agrarian Reform to divide the land of the aristocratic land-owners, and that workers should control the companies and the economy; that all nationalities had the right to speak their own languages and even declare its independence if they wished; that discrimination towards women should end… it was the Bolshevik Party.
And this party not only said that but its members encouraged every workers’ strike, every popular demonstration, every soldiers’mutiny, every land occupation… and in each one of these conflicts, the party would say “All power to the Soviets!” When the right moment came, when there was the possibility of going from words to facts, the Bolshevik Party made a plan to give the final hit: it displayed its “red guard” along the key points of Petrograd, the capital of the country, and stopped the “provisional government,” and the recently inaugurated National Congress of All Soviets chose a new government. For the first time, a political party (although very different to the other ones) did not serve to close the political crisis for things to continue the same but actually took advantage of that crisis to change it all.
No party can “force” the situation and “cause” a revolution. But neither can a spontaneous social convulsion triumph unless there is an organizing axis, a revolutionary party to transform the convulsion into an organized fight for power.