USM Open Source History Text: The World at War: World History 1914-1945

A Bolshevik October

As news that General Kornilov was marching against Petrograd spread, the Petrograd soviet created an armed faction, its Military-Revolutionary Committee. During the fall, the Bolshevik Party gained the majority position in the Moscow and Petrograd soviets. Eventually, the Bolsheviks were also able to take control of the armed wing in Petrograd. The Provisional Government and the other socialist parties within the Petrograd soviet did nothing to check the growing power of the Bolsheviks. By late October, the time was right for the Bolsheviks to strike. On Lenin’s word, and with Trotsky leading the way, the Bolshevik-controlled Military-Revolutionary Committee systematically seized key locations of the government. On October 24th, the Bolsheviks disbanded the Provisional Government in the name of the workers. By the afternoon of the 25th, the Bolshevik-led Military-Revolutionary Committee had control of Petrograd.

Nobody knew what would come now that the Bolsheviks, under the auspices of the Petrograd soviet and its armed Military-Revolutionary Committee, had assumed power. While the Bolsheviks had control over the armed wing of the Petrogard soviet, the force still acted, in theory, in the name of the soviet as a whole, which included the other socialist parties, the Social Revolutionaries (SRs) and the Mensheviks. In raw numbers, these two parties far outnumbered the Bolsheviks. The SRs alone had the support of around 40% of the Russian population, compared to around 25% for the Bolsheviks. But the Bolsheviks dominated the cities, foremost Petrograd and Moscow, and this is where the action was. The result was that the SRs were unable to bring their weight to bear, while the Bolsheviks could count on the immediate support of urban workers. In the wake of the October Revolution, Lenin, who had been orchestrating the insurrection from abroad, returned triumphantly to the capital. He was not about to relinquish what had just been won. Instead of falling back on the soviet system and its committee rule, Lenin declared that from then on the soviets would rule through a Council of People’s Commissars. Lenin took his position as head of this new all-Bolshevik governing body. This decision marked the end of the first revolutionary period. The October Revolution, unfolding with stunning speed, was complete by October 26th.

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