The Bolsheviks in Action

  • Leonard Schapiro


On his arrival in Russia, Lenin adopted, for tactical reasons, the doctrine that it was the Soviets which must seize power. To have acted otherwise would have been to risk alienating mass support, since the confidence of the masses in the Soviets grew daily. But, Lenin had at the same time to curb the growing impulse which his own rank and file was showing, against the views of its leaders, to seize power at once: such a premature attempt must either have given power to the Soviets with their non-bolshevik majorities, or have precipitated strong counter-measures by the Provisional Government. He discerned the danger of premature action early in May 1917. A note on Russian War Aims which the Kadet Foreign Minister, Milyukov, had dispatched to the Allied powers on 1 May provoked angry demonstrations in Petrograd from workers who thought it showed a determination to carry on the war to victory. Owing to the impulsiveness of rank and file Bolsheviks, these demonstrations had assumed a more extreme form than Lenin had intended. The slogan of the demonstrators ‘Down with the Provisional Government’, evoked a reprimand to the Petrograd Bolshevik Committee from Lenin and a reminder that the proper policy was to wait until the masses had been won over to the Bolsheviks by the bankruptcy of the Provisional Government.1


Central Committee Socialist Party Socialist Revolution Party Organization Social Democratic Party 
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  1. 17.
    For the June demonstration see Chamberlin, Vol. I, pp. 160–2; Trotsky, History, Vol. I, pp. 450–4; Yaroslavsky, Vol. IV, pp. 139–41. The agitation was particularly strong in the bolshevik army organization; on 29 June at a conference of the bolshevik party military organization a part of the Petrograd garrison agitated loudly that the conference should lead a rising—see N. I. Podvoysky, in Krasnaya letopis’, no. 6, 1923, p. 77.Google Scholar
  2. 19.
    Proletarskaya revolyutsiya, no. 5(17) 1923, p. 111.Google Scholar

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© Leonard Schapiro 1977

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  • Leonard Schapiro

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