In the first days of the revolution the slogan “All power to the Soviets!” was a novelty. “Soviet power” was set up in opposition to the power of the Provisional Government for the first time in April. The majority in the capital were still in favour of a Provisional Government
without Milyukov and Guchkov. In June, this slogan secured the demonstrative recognition of the overwhelming majority of the workers and soldiers. The Provisional Government was already isolated in the capital. In July, the slogan “All power to the Soviets!” was the
issue in a struggle which flared up between the revolutionary majority in the capital and the Lvov-Kerensky government. The compromising Central
Executive Committee, relying on the backwardness of the provinces, went over to the side of the government. The struggle
ended in favour of the government. The adherents of Soviet power were outlawed. There set in a dead season of “socialist” repressions and “republican” jailings, of Bonapartist intrigues and military plots, of firing squads at the front and “conferences” in the rear. This went on
until the latter part of August. Towards the end of August the picture radically changed. The Kornilov revolt called forth the exertion of all the energies of the revolution.
The Soviets in the rear and the Committees at the front, which were almost defunct in July and August, “suddenly” revived and took over power in Siberia and the Caucasus, in Finland and the Urals, in Odessa and Kharkov. Had this not been so, had power not been taken,
the revolution would have been crushed. Thus, “Soviet power,” proclaimed in April by a “small group” of Bolsheviks
in Petrograd, at the end of August obtained the almost universal recognition of the revolutionary classes of Russia. It is now clear to all that “Soviet power” is not only a popular slogan, but the only sure weapon in the struggle for the victory of the revolution, the only way out
from the present situation.
The time has at last come to put the slogan “All power to the Soviets!” into practice. But what is “Soviet power,” and how does it differ
from every other power? It is said that transferring power to the Soviets means forming a “homogeneous” democratic government,
organizing a new “cabinet” consisting of “socialist” Ministers, and, in general, “seriously changing” the composition of the Provisional Government. But that is not true. It is not at all a matter of replacing some members of the Provisional Government by others. What matters is to make the new, the revolutionary classes the masters of the country. What matters is to transfer power to the proletariat and revolutionary peasantry. But for this, a mere change of government is far from enough. What is needed, first of all, is to purge thoroughly all government departments and institutions, to expel the Kornilovites from all of them, and to place loyal members of the working class and the peasantry everywhere. Then, and only then, will it be possible to say that power has been transferred to the Soviets “centrally and locally.”
What is the reason for the notorious helplessness of the “socialist” Ministers in the Provisional Government? What is the reason for the fact that these Ministers have proved to be wretched playthings in the hands of men outside the Provisional Government (recall the “reports” Chernov and Skobelev, Zarudny and Peshekhonov made at the “Democratic Conference”!)? The reason is, first of all, that, instead of their directing their departments,
their departments directed them. The reason is, among others, that every department is a fortress, in which are still entrenched bureaucrats of tsarist times who transform the pious wishes of the Ministers into an “empty sound,” and who are ready to sabotage every revolutionary measure
of the authorities. In order that power may pass to the Soviets actually and not nominally, those fortresses must be captured, the lackeys of the Cadet-tsarist regime must be expelled from them and replaced by elected and recallable officials loyal to the revolution. Power to the Soviets implies a thorough purge of every government institution in the rear and at the front, from top to bottom. Power to the Soviets implies that every “chief” in
the rear and at the front must be elected and subject to recall. Power to the Soviets implies that all “persons in authority” in town and country, in the army and navy, in “departments” and “establishments,” on the railways and in post and telegraph offices must be elected and
subject to recall.
Power to the Soviets means the dictatorship of the proletariat and revolutionary peasantry. This dictatorship differs radically from the dictatorship
of the imperialist bourgeoisie, from that dictatorship which Kornilov and Milyukov tried only very recently to establish with the benevolent help of Kerensky and Tereshchenko. Dictatorship of the proletariat and revolutionary peasantry implies the dictatorship of the labouring majority
over the exploiting minority, over the landlords and capitalists, the profiteers and bankers, for the sake of a democratic peace, for the sake of workers’ control over production and distribution, for the sake of land for the peasants, for the sake of bread for the people.
Dictatorship of the proletariat and revolutionary peasantry implies an open, mass dictatorship, exercised in the sight of all, without plots and underhand dealings. For such a dictatorship has no reason to hide the fact that it will show no mercy to lockout capitalists who swell
unemployment by various “unburdenings,” or to profiteering bankers who force up the price of food and cause starvation. Dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry implies a dictatorship which does not coerce the masses, a dictatorship by the will of the masses, a dictatorship for the purpose of curbing the will of the enemies of the masses. That is the class essence of the slogan “All power to the Soviets!” Developments in home and foreign affairs, the protracted war and the longing for peace, the defeats at the front and the need to defend the capital, the rottenness of the Provisional Government and its projected “removal” to Moscow, economic disruption and starvation, unemployment and exhaustion—all this is irresistibly impelling the revolutionary classes of Russia to power. It means that the country is already ripe for the dictatorship of
the proletariat and revolutionary peasantry. The time has at last come for the revolutionary slogan “All power to the Soviets!” to be put into effect.
Rabochy Put, No. 35
October 13, 1917