‘Every move on the political chessboard seemed to justify Lenin’s boldest calculations’

From the moment of the April conference every move on the political chessboard seemed to play into the hands of the Bolsheviks and to justify Lenin’s boldest calculations. Milyukov’s note of April 18 [May 1 on the modern calendar] had been a slap in the face not so much for the Bolsheviks as for those moderate elements in the Soviet which, while rejecting the Bolshevik policy of peace through civil war and national defeat, were none the less insistent on a renunciation of ” imperialist ” designs and on immediate efforts to secure a ” democratic ” peace.

Milyukov’s resignation brought about the downfall of the government. In the first Provisional Government Kerensky had been the only socialist minister; and his equivocal position had been marked by his frequent attempts to disown responsibility for acts of other ministers. Early in May a new government was formed in which, though Lvov remained premier, six socialist ministers were included as representatives of the Soviet: two portfolios were held by SRs , two by Mensheviks and two by independent socialists.

This rearrangement was designed ostensibly to increase the power and prestige of the Soviet by strengthening its control of the government. The results were quite different.

The new government, still the prisoner of an administrative machine run by the bourgeoisie and by the old official class, hard pressed by the allies and faced by the quite insoluble problem of a democratic peace, could do little to satisfy the soldiers and workers who more and more clamored for some token that an end to the war was at hand. The Soviet had hitherto been a coalition of socialist parties for the defense of the interests of the workers against the bourgeoisie. Now it could no longer win credit in their eyes by harassing a bourgeois government in which it was strongly represented. Splits developed in the SR and Menshevik parties between those who supported and those who attacked the socialist ministers. Most important of all, the Bolsheviks were now the only party uncompromised by participation in a feeble bourgeois-socialist  coalition and offering a clear-cut policy of peace at any price. The process by which they eventually won the confidence of the vast majority of soldiers and workers, and became the dominant power in the Soviets, had begun.

E.H. Carr, “From February to October,” The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1923


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