Revolution Arises Amongst the Masses
A. B. Razlatzky
"Volga Komsomolets", May 14th 1989
What constitutes a great social revolution? It is a landmark at the boundary between formations, a break in history. It is a change in the methods of production and in the ruling class. It is a restructuring of the consciousness of all society and a transformation to new social relations.
Is it possible, in some sense or another, to fit the February Revolution into this model? No, there is not way to do that. But why?
What then was the February Revolution? What is its significance in history?
Great social revolutions occur in society, they encompass the whole of society, changing the fundamental relations. Here there is no room for great variety; either the conservation of the old, or the victory of the new. Change in the superstructure can be much more variegated. Clearly, in addition to fundamental processes, they can reflect the collision of political forces, structural regroupment. These changes can take place both before and after decisive breaks in social relations. But only those occurring after such a break can have a really revolutionary content, since they reflect the search for better forms for the expression of the new relations, their political and legislative consolidation.
Nothing whatever was consolidated by the February Revolution. It only signified the crisis of the old system, the impossibility of its continued existence. This situation is not hard to imagine, if we remember that we lived through a similar moment not that long ago. This was the April Plenum of the CC of the CPSU in the year 1985. Possibly, these events are not comparable in terms of their historical scale, but their common features are quite obvious.
Perestroika was proclaimed at the April Plenum, but did this really signify that it had taken place? On the contrary, both in the Plenum and in the February Revolution were only harbingers of coming events, of the accelerating processes taking place in society.
What did the February Revolution announce? In order to understand this it is essential to assess the position of the social forces and the changes occurring within them.
The landlords had occupied the ruling position in the past and at the moment of the February Revolution held on to their powerful tradition, the strong dependence on the land of the peasants. The traditional nobility stood above the bureaucratic apparatus, and in this way it realized the linking of all Russian territory, the cooperation of the functional systems of the state. It was no accident that the Temporary Committee of the State Duma was headed by the powerful landowner M.V. Rodzyanko, whereas the head of both the Provisional Governments was none other than the landlord, prince G.E. Lvov.
The petty-bourgeoisie was principally composed of the peasants who were the most numerous section of the population. Individually, the peasant depended heavily on the landowner, as a tenant on his land. In order to overcome this dependency, the peasants needed to be organized, but at the time there were still no organizing forces. The S.R.s (Socialist Revolutionaries) chose as their arena of activity, not the practical organization of the peasantry, but debates in the Provision Government.
In all previous revolutions against feudalism, the bourgeoisie had played the decisive role. But not in Russia. The bourgeoisie is not powerful in its own right but only when it can bring the workers along with it. But for this it would have had to create among its hired hands such conditions as would have made them want to fight. The February strike in Petrograd drew in more than two hundred thousand workers and was directed against the bourgeoisie to no less an extent than against the aristocracy.
The working class was the most powerful social force, its organization had been prepared by the activities of the social-democrats and was embodied in the founding of the Soviets. Lack of experience, a definite terror in the face of such grandiose tasks, the lack of historical precedent; these were what held the proletariat back from decisive measures. But with the contemporaneous founding of the Temporary Committee and the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, the latter quickly began the organization of cooperation, avoiding the links and relations of Tsarist Russia, through its party channels, and this, at once equalized it with the Provisional Government and produced the dual power.
And finally, the army. Of course, the army is not a social force. But much depended upon it, upon which side it would act. In the given conditions, the army did not display the least interest in the unique path which could lead to a transformation to capitalism. For this the bourgeoisie would have had to link up with the anti-feudal peasant organizations, leading their struggle for the break-up of the old relations, that is the seizure and division of the landlords estates. But the bourgeoisie, not without reason, was too afraid of its own workers. The industrial bourgeoisie did not want to sacrifice itself for the sake of the victory of the rural bourgeoisie.
This is why, at once, a union between the bourgeoisie and the landlords was forged.
The going over of the armed forces to the side of the proletariat went so quickly that the counter-revolutionary Kornilov rebellion was simply a delay; by August of 1917 the decisive advantage already lay with the revolutionary forces. However, it was precisely these confrontations that defined an alternative exit from the crisis situation. Either the victory of Kornilov and the strengthening of the rule of the landowners, together with definite concessions on the part of the bourgeoisie allied with it, or the victory of the proletarian-peasant forces which actually took place. There could be no other outcome. And deal making which went on incessantly between the Mensheviks and the bourgeoisie, and between the S.R.s and the landlords, at the time of the Provisional Government from February to October of 1917 showed that parties never represent real social forces in their own right, but are powerful exclusively because of their links with classes, and that policies, which do not pose the questions which the class itself is posing, quickly loose all support and all historical significance.
In the context of social processes, it is not hard to understand the significance of the superficial phenomena which accompany them. Such an unprecedented democratization of political life as in the post February period certainly did not signify the democratization of relations in society. It was a conscious gift of the ruling landlords with a single objective; to grant an unlimited space for the search for political solutions to get out of the crisis and to strengthen the positions of the landowners. True, it was an impossible hope, there were no such solutions.
The hopes in the Constituent Assembly were empty in all respects. Elections to it were conducted through state channels of the old forces; this is why, gathering after the fundamental changes had taken place in society, it was no longer supported by anyone. And had it managed to successfully convene before October, it would not have been able to suggest anything different than the landlord/bourgeois policies of the Provisional Government, which was confirmed by the practical activities of the "Samara Institute."
We must not impart a sense of self-sufficiency to superstructural processes. The significance of violent or non-violent changes of authority, of various political turning-points can be correctly assessed only in correspondence with the deep process gripping the whole population of Russia; the unity and activism of the proletariat, the going over to its side of other classes, social groups and even individual people, and, in the end, the replacement of the old ruling class, was the accompaniment to fundamental breaks in social relations.
The starting point of this path was linked to the preceding political struggle of the Russian proletariat. The February revolution marked the escape of the workers revolution from the control of the ruling class and its subsequent sharp intensification. October was the landmark for the definitive break. And both of them belong to history, precious historical experience of our people.
The interpreter on the English language - Perry Vodchik