Karl Kautsky as Architect of the October Revolution
Part 2: 1917: The Bolsheviks Apply Kautsky’s Tactics

Lih, Lars T.

Date Written:  05/07/2019
Year Published:  2019  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23701

The Bolsheviks came into 1917 with two pieces of Kautsky advice firmly under their belts: enlist the peasantry as a revolutionary ally, and do not deviate from militant anti-agreementism.



Throughout 1917, the final say in the composition of the government had always rested with the Soviet, for the simple but profound reason that it commanded the ultimate loyalty of the Petrograd workers and soldiers (that is, "real force"). Thus the February Revolution and the October Revolution gave rise to a government in essentially the same way: the relevant soviet authority spoke, and that was it. In February, there was indeed a real "insurrection" from below, but in October the so-called uprising was a police action set in motion by duly constituted authorities.

One ill effect of the over-intense focus (I might even call it fetishism) on the October "insurrection" is to obscure the real problem with Bolshevik rule, which is neither the rejection of parliamentary forms nor the use of "insurrection." It is, plain and simple, the rapid and complete destruction of political freedom. The Bolsheviks started by outlawing political parties and newspapers (the Kadets were outlawed in December 1917) and ended up squeezing all independent political and civil life out of society. This was done by the time NEP was established in 1921 and the resulting suffocation of independent civil society was never dented until perestroika.

However, it must be strongly emphasized that at no time prior to October did Lenin or the Bolsheviks speak of "insurrection" as a method opposed to majority rule, nor can we find any hint of a project to destroy political freedom. Quite the opposite. The Bolsheviks had long defined themselves as champions of political freedom for Russia, and indeed Russian Social Democracy was key in giving Russia what political freedom it had in the decade before the revolution. But ultimately the significance of this fact fades before the realities of the system created during the civil war.
Insert T_CxShareButtonsHorizontal.html here