(POWER to the SOVIETS – continued)
And now for the Bolsheviks came the showdown with Kerensky. Kerensky had had a difficult time finding troops at the front who would support the Provisional Government, but he did find support from a Cossack general, P. N. Krasnov, who, with 700 Cossacks, was advancing on Petrograd as the Congress of Soviets was coming to a close. A battle between the revolutionaries and Kransov’s forces was fought on November 11, ten miles from Petrograd – a crucial turning point for the twentieth century.
The Bolsheviks defeated the forces under General Krasnov. For the time being the Bolshevik revolution was secure. But opposition to the Bolshevik takeover was organizing. Pockets of hostility to the Bolsheviks remained, some in Cossack areas. And Latvia, Estonia and Finland declared their independence. Leaders of the Petrograd Soviet, dominated by Lenin, continued to rule by decree, in the name of "the people." The Petrograd Soviet ordered postal employees, telegraph operators and railway employees back to work. Postal and telegraph workers who did not recognize the authority of the new Soviet government were to be dismissed from their positions without benefit of their pensions.
Hearing that for Russia the war was over, desertions at the front increased. With what seemed to be the fall of authority, criminal activity was rising. Roaming the countryside were bands of anarchists, reveling in what to them seemed a new freedom. On November 20, a regime of moderate socialists in the Ukraine announced the independence of a new Ukraine republic.
On November 23, the Petrograd Soviet decreed that all "class distinctions, class privileges and class limitations, class organizations and institutions, as well as all civil ranks" were abolished. And the Petrograd Soviet decreed that the property of the nobility was to be confiscated. Where Soviets were in control, especially in Petrograd, the wealthy were giving up space in their homes to members of the "working class," and moving into their attics or basements.
November 25 was the day that had been scheduled for the election of delegates to the Constituent Assembly. Lenin favored postponing these elections. He was opposed by comrades who observed that the Bolsheviks had often attacked the Provisional Government for its postponement of the elections, and they argued that hope for the elections was too widespread to ignore and that the credibility of the Bolsheviks had to be maintained. Bolsheviks, moreover, were looking forward to the Constituent Assembly as a means of legitimizing their revolution.
Elections for seats in the Constituent Assembly were held, and they were a disappointment for the Bolsheviks. Bolsheviks won only 25 percent of the vote. With most Russians being peasants, SR candidates won a majority of the seats. The majority of the delegates elected to the Constituent Assembly were sympathetic with socialism, but not necessarily in support of the Bolsheviks. The Constituent Assembly was scheduled to open on December 11, but the Bolsheviks postponed the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly to January.
Meanwhile, the tsar's old empire continued to break apart, and the chance of civil war was rising. On November 28, Estonia proclaimed its independence. In the Don region – near Rostov, a seaport on the Black Sea – an anti-Bolshevik army was forming. On December 2, General Kornilov and other officers escaped from prison, and with 400 Cossack soldiers they began making their way toward Rostov. On December 7, Trotsky ordered a force against Kornilov, and after the battle Kornilov was left with just a few men, with whom he escaped, reaching Rostov on December 19.
The Soviet regime issued a decree that replaced the old court system with "People's Courts," its judges to be elected. Originally Lenin had believed that leadership of a communist revolution after acquiring power could turn the revolution over to the masses. But Lenin was not about to try this. He still saw the need for organization and his leadership. Lenin was swamped with practical considerations. He stopped the vengeance of factory workers putting engineers and other skilled white-collar men to cleaning latrines, but he had to take action against managers who were sabotaging what had been their factories. And he faced a strike by teachers, engineers and other white-collar workers. Rather than leave matters to the spontaneity of the masses, a decree was issued establishing a Supreme Economic Council to manage the entire economy. In Russia's cities, meanwhile, hunger had worsened. Grain supplies had dropped to new lows. So Lenin sent armed detachments of workers and poor peasants to confiscate food that peasants had stored, and armed clashes occurred between resisting peasants and the requisition teams.
Fearing counter-revolution and sabotage, the Bolsheviks created a commission to be known by its acronym, CHEKA (the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage). And to combat "counter revolution" in the Ukraine and bring the Ukraine into the Soviet camp, the Bolsheviks mobilized an army.
Russian money, the ruble, was falling precipitously in value on the world currency market, and, rather than adopt the anarchist dream of abolishing money, the Bolsheviks nationalized all banking institutions. Also there were negotiations with Germany that could not be left to the spontaneity of the masses, and, on December 22, the Bolsheviks began negotiating with representatives of Germany at a town of Brest-Litovsk (Brest), approximately 150 kilometers on the other side of the German frontline – a line that ran from a few miles east of the city of Riga in the north, a little west of Minsk, a few miles east of Czernowitz and to the border of Romania and the Russian Empire at the town of Vylkove, by the Black Sea.
Copyright © 1998-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.