When it comes to the Great October Socialist Revolution, it is rightly recognized historical the significance of this greatest event for our country and humanity, as well as the economic and political consequences, is the appearance of the Soviet Union on the world stage. However, unexplored and unreasonable issues remain that are of particular importance in the XNUMXst century.
Was it possible to avoid a revolution in Russia (as it eventually happened in Europe), despite the maturity of the social and political situation and the presence of a multitude of political, economic, spiritual and moral prerequisites? Is it right to further among the factors of victory in October 1917 of the year to recognize only the role of Lenin's strategy, or is it time to evaluate the tactics of the uprising? Is the plan developed and implemented by Petro-Soviet unique or non-universal, that is, suitable for different countries and social and political situations?
Among the foreign authors who were among the first to publish their work on the October Revolution in Russia were John Reed, a popular witness of events, author of the book “Ten Days That Shook the World”, which showed special attention to detail, American Researcher William Chamberlin, who wrote hot on the heels of the multivolume work “The Russian revolution 1917 – 1921”, as well as the Italian political scientist Kurt Zukkert, who came to the USSR in 1929 a year to meet with October events in its membership and to review the documents, including the informal, which will continue to publish the most interesting work on the technique of a coup d'etat.
Where did the government look?
On the eve of the decisive events, the St. Petersburg and Moscow newspapers of the Menshevik and Social Revolutionary group were filled with alarming materials: “Where does the Kerensky government look?”, “What measures are being taken to protect Russia from the Bolshevik danger?”, “Why have Lenin, Trotsky and other members of the Central Committee of the Party still haven't you been arrested yet? ” The questions were legitimate, because the Bolshevik party could not (or did not see the point) hide the preparation of the uprising. His day is close, the leaders of the RSDLP (b) at the factories and in the barracks loudly declared. But society’s impression of the inaction and apathy of the Kerensky Cabinet is refuted by numerous facts.
Thanks to 20, thousands of Cossacks and Junkers were taken under the protection of strategic objects. Taken diverse measures to ensure the security of the government. The entrance to the Mariinsky Palace, where the Council of the Republic met, was guarded by the Cossacks. Before the Winter were placed two batteries 75-mm guns. The passage to the General Staff building was blocked by two rows of military vehicles.
By order of Kerensky, army units took control of the Winter and Tavrichesky palaces, ministries, telephone exchanges and telegraph, bridges, railway stations, intersections of the busiest central streets, and most importantly, the General Staff. And that is not all. The cadets of the cadets, loyal to the government, patrolled Petrograd round the clock, the newest military equipment, including armored cars, was brought to the streets. On the roofs of houses along Nevsky Prospect, at the beginning and at the end of all city arteries, there were machine guns at the entrances to the square.
Moreover, the head of the Provisional Government moved from military-police actions to political ones, enlisting the support of some influential forces and achieving the neutrality of others (in particular the largest trade unions).
Urgent measures to restore order were taken by the military commander of Petrograd, Colonel Georgy Polkovnikov. They signed orders prohibiting demonstrations, rallies and threatening to arrest deserters. A cold shower for many revolutionaries and a factor in stabilizing the situation was Polkovnikov’s promise to arrest 200 thousands of deserters and clean up the streets. Nevertheless, the situation in the city remained alarming.
Could Kerensky do something else under those conditions? Unlikely. As numerous studies show, if the leaders of England, France, and Italy appeared in its place, they would act like the head of the Provisional Government of Russia.
The image of the weakling and the destroyer of the state, which accompanied the politician down to his deathbed, was firmly attached to Kerensky (because of which even our compatriots abroad refused to accept the coffin with his body at the Russian cemetery in New York). However, one should remember the fact that it was this man who with a decisive hand suppressed the uprising of soldiers and deserters in July of 1917, and in August he broke off the adventure of General Kornilov (not afraid to ask for help from the Bolsheviks). It was then that Lenin dropped: "We must fear Kerensky - he is not a fool."
But in October, the situation changed radically. The efforts of the Provisional Government were faced with the Leninist strategy of preparing an armed uprising and with the tactics of Lev Trotsky, the chairman of the executive committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers 'and Soldiers' Deputies, who formed the special Military Revolutionary Committee.
Slogans and numbers
In the Soviet party historiography, in the textbooks a lot was written about the Leninist plan of an armed uprising. And this is understandable. The role of Lenin as a brilliant strategist was fixed in Soviet historical science, which had a basis. However, after 100 years, there are many reasons for, without pathos and emotion, assess the relationship between strategy and tactics in the success of the October Revolution, the role of the various stages of the preparatory work and organization of the uprising.
Lenin saw the need and the opportunity to raise the working masses against the Kerensky government, “to flood Russia with a wave of proletarian wrath,” to signal the whole society, to appear at the Congress of Soviets (forcing the Mensheviks to obey). Fearing accusations of Blanquism, preparing and conducting a conspiracy, Lenin did a lot to ensure the popular character of the uprising, "based on the advanced class, on the revolutionary upsurge ... when the activity of the front ranks is greatest."
Nevertheless, from our days, this strategy seems to be too generalized and not specific enough, despite the high degree of detail of landmarks and many activities. Although the Leninist plan for preparing the uprising was extensive and even with many important details, and the strategy of action covered considerable space and a wide variety of social groups, the necessary calculations were not envisaged, which led to schematism and abstract ideas, slogans instead of numbers. The abundance of managerial terms (“to organize, mobilize, distribute, surround, occupy, arrest”) could not replace the necessary specifics, which in the end resulted, in the opinion of Kurt Zuckert, many of the problems of the preparatory period.
We have to agree that Lenin, forced to watch the events from afar, did not always have the opportunity to understand and appreciate the contradictory situation in detail. Moreover, he was held captive by philosophically generalized ideas of Karl Clausewitz, the greatest German theorist of the war, which also prevented the necessary concreteness of the plan of revolution.
For example, four factors of success of the uprising, known to historians and political scientists for the “Left-wing Children in Communism” disease, were re-evaluated, namely the possibilities to combine the Bolshevik coup with the end of the imperialist war; to use for a certain time the struggle of two groups of powers, which in a different socio-political situation could unite against the Bolshevik revolution; endure a relatively long civil war due to the enormous size of the country and (partly) the poor state of the means of communication plus the existence of a bourgeois-democratic revolutionary movement among the peasantry.
However, a century later, let us ask ourselves: were these four conditions sufficient for the success of October and is it permissible to exaggerate in that victory the role of strategic guidelines and the socio-political background?
We must pay tribute to the initial chapter of modern Russian history and note the conditionality of the success of October 1917 of the year with two circumstances of extreme importance: the democratic and flexible structure of the Bolshevik organization and the exceptional popularity of the councils of deputies (as evidenced by the widespread slogan “All power to the Soviets”!). Nevertheless, the question is legitimate: is the strategy capable of guaranteeing the seizure of power? The question is theoretical and at the same time political, relevant in modern conditions. If all the same, yes, then why did the strategic vision integrating diverse activities not work, for example, in Italy in the 1919-20-years and in Germany of those years?
From the publications of Palmiro Tolyatti, Antonio Gramsci, the leaders of the Italian Communist Party, and her documents, you can see that the October success of the Bolsheviks was perceived in their country with great enthusiasm and that the Leninist strategy, which was fully applied there, was completely enthusiastic. Italy more than other European countries matured for the socialist revolution. For her, almost everything was ready:
the revolutionary situation in the country, the indignation and ferment of the proletarian masses, the "epidemic of general strikes";
the paralysis of economic and political life, which began with the seizure by workers of factories, and by peasants of landlords' lands;
the collapse of the army, the police and the state apparatus against the background of the apparent powerlessness of the executive branch and the ruling class as a whole. Moreover, the parliament was under the control of left-wing parties, trade unions were active. However, the revolution was exhausting itself in strategy, in the metaphorical language of Italian political scientists.
There was a preparation for a decisive assault on the authorities, but how to conduct it, there were only the most general arguments. As a result, the monarchy was recognized as a serious obstacle to the uprising, sometimes called socialist to justify the helplessness of revolutionaries.
Nonsense? Alas, it was. Problems of tactics were not resolved not only in Italy, but also in almost all countries of Western Europe, which is recognized by many researchers.
Invisible Rehearsal Rebellion
Tactics - the condition for success. This military formula is filled with new meaning, if you look closely at Petrograd in October 1917 of the year and at the thorough preparatory work launched by the Military Revolutionary Committee formed by the Petrograd Soviet headed by Leo Trotsky.
According to the obtained plan of urban communications, the capital was divided into sectors, outlined strategic points and sent teams of specialist workers-soldiers to the places. Trotsky repeatedly emphasized that there should be a technician next to a man with a gun. On October 21, under the direct supervision of Antonov-Ovseenko, the secretary of the Petrograd Military Revolutionary Committee, who was inseparably observing the training, the station was captured. Choice thousand sailors of the Baltic fleet and the proven proletarians of the Putilov and Vyborg factories, as well as the Latvian riflemen, from October 10, conducted classes on the ground, or rather, in the conditions of the city.
In the center of the capital, mingling with the crowds of deserters, the Red Guards penetrated the ministries, the General Staff, the post office, railway stations, telephone exchanges, the telegraph and other institutions, the barracks. A telegraph operator was assigned to each group to control the movement by rail. The sewer wells under the General Staff building were examined in order to cut it off from the army in a matter of minutes. With the help of two engineers and two workers, the sailors Dybenko were instructed to study the location of gas and water pipes, electrical substations, telephone and telegraph cables on the ground.
These events (as part of the general rehearsal of the October uprising) were carried out clearly and disciplined for two weeks, without causing suspicion among the heads of institutions, enterprises and even the special services.
Indicative of the case when visiting the three sailors of the power plant, located in the vicinity of the seaport. They managed to pass not only to the territory, but also to the boss himself, who took the visitors for envoys of the commander of the military district, who promised five days ago to provide reliable protection for an important strategic facility. There were no questions about the verification of documents and even those necessary in such cases. The arrivals assured the frightened leader that the power station was taken under reliable protection from the actions of the crowd.
Approximately in the same way, other groups of sailors took control of three more power stations of Petrograd, as well as Central Telegraph, which was guarded by fifty gendarmes and soldiers lined up in front of the building to repel the capture of the building.
This defensive tactic, still referred to as guarding and enforcing law and order, is vivid evidence of the stenciliness and even the nullity of police measures effective in pushing back a rebellious crowd, but useless when well-trained attackers are able to blend in unnoticed with rows of defenders, which is what happened at the Central Telegraph. Three sailors from the Dybenko team (who studied the building plan and visited it in advance) were able to get inside under the guise of their own, and another Baltic team made their way to the opposite house with minimal forces, so that if necessary, insure the gendarmes and soldiers with backshots.
The plan of operations was thought out by a former officer of the tsarist army, Antonov-Ovseenko, a political exile and revolutionary, a chess lover, that even Lenin acknowledged, stressing that the organization of the uprising was possible only for the master of the most ancient game. In a small room on the top floor of the Smolny Antonov-Ovseenko, together with Trotsky, played a chess game on the topographic map of Petrograd, and one late October 24 announced one to another: “It's done!”.
For almost 24 hours the situation remained confusing and even paradoxical.
The Bolsheviks, taking control of the entire technical structure of the city and announcing the seizure of power, left the government free rein, as if forgetting about the ministers. Kerensky was not overthrown, retaining power. However, the ministers gathered in the Winter Palace were no longer able to govern; the government was cut off from the rest of Russia. The means of communication were in the hands of the Bolsheviks, the exits from the city were blocked, even the General Staff was isolated from the outside world.
Under these conditions, the units guarding the city, one by one, began to pass into the subordination of the Military Revolutionary Committee. The Provisional Government tailored to Western manners (supported by the US Consul General John Snodgrass) were thrown off without much effort. Thus, a practical point was put in the theoretical debate of Trotsky with Lenin, Kamenev and Zinoviev.
Ten years later, this tactic was included in the Comintern’s manuals and in the curriculum of Sun Yat-sen University, which worked in Volkhonka in those years in Moscow.
In the organization of the October Revolution, the role of Lev Trotsky, who abroad is often compared to Mao Zedong and Ernesto Che Guevara, is great.
According to Trotsky, in order to organize an uprising, you need to form and prepare percussion units, not necessarily numerous. Mass is not enough, just a small detachment. “All the people - too much for the uprising. We need a small detachment of cold-blooded, determined fighters who have mastered revolutionary tactics ... Not a mass of workers, deserters and refugees, but a shock detachment is needed. ” It is necessary to observe tactics, act on a limited space with a small number of people, focus on the main directions. "To hit accurately and hard without making a fuss."
Revolt is not art, according to Trotsky, but a machine. To start it, we need technicians. And only engineers who understand the state’s technical-bureaucratic military machine will be able to stop it: flaws, gaps, weaknesses. It is not necessary to provoke a strike. The monstrous chaos that reigns in Petrograd is stronger than the strike. This is chaos, paralyzing the state, preventing the government from taking measures against the uprising. ” “If we cannot rely on a strike, let's rely on chaos,” he formulated the tasks. The uprising does not need favorable conditions, he summed up in the future, we need percussion military units and equipment: detachments of armed men under the command of engineers.
Trotsky did a lot on the rational organization of the seizure of power in Petrograd and the development of tactics aimed at strategic points of defense of the state. The complex of activities carried out under the leadership of Lev Davidovich is sometimes called a scientifically-prepared coup d'état.
If Lenin, following Marx, considered revolt an art, recognizing the inevitable role of improvisation, then Trotsky understood it as a science, a kind of social technology, in modern terms.
The novelty of Trotsky’s revolutionary tactics, according to Kurt Zuckert, consisted precisely in maximum rationalism. These unbiased assessments involuntarily elevate Trotsky to the level of “the genius of small deeds and tactics,” which deserves our attention.
The seizure of power is still predominantly military art, but we should not forget the possibilities and the role of socio-political technologies. The fact that the decisive role played by the decisive role in the success of the Great October Socialist Revolution was played by tactical questions, in no way diminishes the significance of this historical event. On the side of the Bolsheviks there were about 20 thousands of soldiers and sailors, but a special role belonged to the shock one thousand. She, who actually seized power, should be remembered in the 2017 year, since some politicians and public figures show complacency when assessing the number of unauthorized actions on Moscow and other streets.