revolutionary masses in Petrograd demonstrated
against Milyukov, the Provisional Government,
and all imperialistic aims. As a consequence of
this and other pressure, Milyukov and others
were compelled to resign, and on May 18 a new
Provisional Government was organized, a "coalition government" which contained representatives of the revolutionary democracy, of the
Soviets,—coalition being accepted against the
violent protests of the Bolsheviki.
At this stage, a bourgeois revolution had been
definitely accomplished, not by the bourgeoisie,
but by the proletariat, who momentarily, however, allowed the bourgeoisie to usurp power.
It was a political revolution. But with this
change at the top, there was a movement at the
bottom, an elemental bursting forth of the revolutionary activity of the people. This activity
alone, destroying and reconstructing fundamentals, could accomplish the Revolution.
The revolutionary masses had constituted as
instruments of revolutionary action their Soviets,
of Workers, of Soldiers and of Peasants,—the
self-governing units of the organized producers,
completed forms of the "sections" and "communes" of the French Revolution. These Soviets
constituted the only real power; but under the
influence of the moderate Socialists, all power
was yielded to the bourgeois Provisional Government. The Soviets were class organizations
characteristic of the proletarian revolution;
under the pressure of revolutionary events, they
usurped powers of government, developing from
exclusive instruments of revolutionary action
into instruments of revolutionary government.
The moderate Socialists, under the guidance of
the Mensheviki (representing the dominant opportunistic Socialism) and the Social-Revolutionists, wanted to degrade the Soviets into a
"parliamentary opposition"; the revolutionary
Socialists, represented by the Bolsheviki, wanted
all power to the Soviets, a revolutionary government of the Soviets alone. This was the decisive
struggle of the Revolution,—the struggle between
the bourgeois Provisional Government and the
developing proletarian government of the Soviets.
The world concerned itself much with the attitude and proposals of the politicians during
these early days; but the decisive events of the
Revolution were being prepared by the masses.
The bourgeois political tendency, which aimed
simply at a change in the forms of government,
enthroning the bourgeois republic and bourgeois
supremacy, was superficially dominant; but the
real factor was the economic revolutionary tendency of the masses, which aimed at a complete
annihilation of the old regime and a reconstruction of the industrial system. This was apparent
in the peasants seizing the land, in spite of the
prohibitions of the Provisional Government; this
was apparent in city after city, where,even at this
early stage, the Soviet usurped the functions of
government, in the workers electing Shop Committees to control factory production, and seizing
factories closed down by owners as a measure
against the Revolution.
The Provisional Government, being bourgeois, paltered on the land question, since
confiscation would be inimical to the interests
of the bourgeois peasants, capital and the
banks; the Provisional Government, being imperialistic, had to dodge and bluster about the
war and the purposes of the war, and lie about
peace while continuing to wage war; and the
Provisional Government, being capitalist, had
to protect the interests of the capitalists in all
vital measures. The old bureaucracy had been
retained; and all progressive measures were
sabotaged by these hang-overs of the old regime, as the capitalists sabotaged production.
The crisis developed more acutely; the revolution had only begun. But revolution is the
great educator and developer of class action—
temporary reverses created a new opportunity.
Czarism having persisted beyond its historical necessity, its overthrow found the proletariat highly developed, much stronger than
the bourgeoisie; the breach created in the old
order, by the momentarily joint attack upon
Czarism, provided an opportunity for the
revolutionary proletariat, directing the poorer
peasantry, to break through for action and the
conquest of power. Revolutionary Socialism
seized the opportunity.
The bourgeois-"Socialist" coalition government did not improve matters: the crisis
dragged along miserably and agonizingly.
Words instead of action, promises instead of
accomplishment, reaction instead of revolution—this was the course of events, supplemented by starvation and disorganization.
Victor Chernov, Social-Revolutionist, was
compelled to resign from the Provisional
Government, because his measures to prevent