The October Revolution

  • Leonard Schapiro


Trotsky had accepted Lenin’s leadership in July. After his release from prison on bail on 17 September, his ascendancy over the Petrograd Soviet grew. Probably Trotsky could have made the October Revolution without Lenin, at any rate in Petrograd. But it is doubtful whether without the control which Lenin gained over his party in the weeks before and after the seizure of power the revolution would have had any chance of surviving. Soviet historians of the revolution (and not only Soviet historians), with little regard for the very full published documentation which is available, have often falsified the story of the rising until it bears little relation to the known facts.1 One such falsification for example is the assertion that Trotsky had ‘boastingly blurted out’ the date fixed for the revolution, namely 7 November (25 October), with the result that it had to be hastily changed to 6 November.2 But while there is no truth in this and similar absurdities, there was in the last weeks before the rising a difference of opinion on tactics between Lenin and Trotsky. Lenin thought in terms of seizure of power by the ‘proletariat’, which he identified with the bolshevik party, its Red Guard, its factory committees, and its organizations in the army.


Central Committee Popular Support Socialist Party Socialist Revolution Party Committee 
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  1. 3.
    Proletarskaya revolyutsiya, no. 10 (1922), p. 58.Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    For Lenin’s plan, see Lenin, Vol. XXI, pp. 193–4, and pp. 197–9. The first letter, ‘Bol’ sheviki dolzhny vzyat ‘vlast’, which asserts that ‘to wait for a formal Bolshevik majority is naive’, was sent to the Petrograd and Moscow Committees, over the heads of the Central Committee. For the meeting see Bukharin in Proletarskaya revolyutsiya, no. 10, 1922, p. 316 and ibid., no. 10 (69), 1927, pp. 246–7, for the protocol of this meeting.Google Scholar
  3. 13.
    B. & F., pp. 56–8. For Trotsky’s account of this historic meeting in Sukhanov’s flat (in Sukhanov’s absence) see Proletarskaya revolyutsiya, no. 10 (1922), pp. 57–8.Google Scholar
  4. 14.
    Lenin’s solidarity with Zinoviev during this period is well demonstrated by some of his letters to Inessa Armand, written between November 1916 and February 1917 and recently published for the first time, with the avowed object inter alia of proving the contrary. They reveal to anyone familiar with Lenin’s style of controversy nothing but insignificant minor friction over Zinoviev’s attitude to Lenin’s denunciation of Radek—see ‘Neopublikovannye dokumenty V.I. Lenina’ in Bol’shevik no. 1, 15 January 1949, pp. 39–53.Google Scholar
  5. 15.
    Text in Zinoviev, Sochineniya, Vol. VII (i), pp. 547–51.Google Scholar
  6. 22.
    Trotsky, History, Vol. III, pp. 163–4.Google Scholar
  7. 28.
    Proletarskaya revolyutsiya, no. 10 (69), 1927, pp. 296–8.Google Scholar
  8. 36.
    Vs. syezd II, pp. 37–48. Erlich was put to death by the Soviet authorities in 1941. For details of this judicial murder see J. Braunthal in Socialist International Information, Vol. I, No. 4, 24 November 1951.Google Scholar

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© Leonard Schapiro 1977

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  • Leonard Schapiro

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