Origin of the dual power

The February revolution of 1917 which overthrew the Romanov dynasty was the spontaneous outbreak of a multitude exasperated by the privations of the war and by manifest inequality in the distribution of burdens. It was welcomed and utilized by a broad stratum of the bourgeoisie and the official class, which had lost confidence in the autocratic system of government and especially in the persons of the Tsar and of his advisers; it was from this section of the population that the first Provisional Government was drawn. The revolutionary parties played no direct part in the making of the revolution. They did not expect it, and were at first somewhat nonplussed by it. The creation at the moment of the revolution of a Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ Deputies was a spontaneous act of groups of workers without central direction. It was a revival of the Petersburg Soviet which had played a brief but glorious role in the revolution of 1905, and was, like its predecessor, a non-party organization elected by factory workers, Social-Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and Bolsheviks being all represented in it. It did not at first aspire to governmental power, partly because its leaders took the hitherto accepted view that Russia was ripe only for a bourgeois, and not yet for a socialist, revolution, and partly because it had no sense of its own competence or preparedness to govern. The attitude of the Soviet was afterwards described by Lenin as a “voluntary surrender of state power to the bourgeoisie and its Provisional Government.” The fact, however, that the writ of the Soviet was recognized by an ever-increasing number of workers and soldiers gave it, in spite of itself, a position of authority which could not be ignored; and this was the practical and almost accidental basis of the so-called “dual power” set up by the February revolution, when public authority was in some sort exercised by two bodies whose attitude to each other swung uneasily between rivalry and cooperation: the Provisional Government, which was the legal successor of the Tsarist government and recognized as such by the outside world, and the self-constituted and therefore revolutionary Soviets of Workers’Deputies. The example of Petrograd was followed by the setting up of Soviets in Moscow and other large cities and, somewhat later, in country districts; and this, in turn, led to the summoning of a first “all-Russian conference” of Soviets at the end of March 1917.

E.H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1923, Vol. 1

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