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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

All Power to the Soviets! -- The April slogan of the Bolsheviks that changed the world

All Power to Soviets, oil on canvas, V. Ladyzhensky USSR 1972

From the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1979:

All Power to the Soviets!

(Russian, “Vsia vlast’ Sovetam!”), the main political slogan of the Bolshevik Party during preparation and implementation of the Great October Socialist Revolution. It was put forward in the April Theses of V. I. Lenin and was secured in the decisions of the All-Russian April Conference of the RSDLP (Bolshevik). The meaning of the slogan changed in the process of the struggle for socialist revolution. During the peaceful development of the revolution (April through June 1917), the slogan meant the liquidation of dual power (rule both by the Soviets and by the Provisional Government) by means of the transfer of all power to the soviets and the creation of a soviet government from Socialist Revolutionaries (SR’s) and Mensheviks, since they formed a majority in the soviets. During this period, the Bolsheviks, who were not in the government, had to act as an opposition party among the broad masses, criticizing the inconsistencies and vacillations of the petit-bourgeois parties and using the right to recall deputies to achieve a change in the party structure of the Soviets and in the final account to create a Bolshevik soviet government. During this period, the question of overthrowing the bourgeois Provisional Government by means of an armed insurrection was not raised, since the government was supported by the SR-Menshevik Soviets. The Provisional Government could not have given much resistance, since it had no real strength and stayed in power only in coalition with the Soviets.

As the revolution developed, the masses became convinced through experience that the Provisional Government and the SR-Menshevik leadership of the soviets who supported it were not implementing their demands. The process of overcoming the illusions of conciliation began. Clear indicators of this process were the mass demonstrations in Petrograd (April, June, and July) and other cities. In the July Days of 1917, an autocracy of the bourgeoisie was established. The SR-Menshevik soviets turned into powerless appendages of the bourgeois government. This change, in Lenin’s view, created the necessity for the temporary suspension of the slogan. The Sixth Congress of the RSDLP (B) suspended the slogan “All Power to the Soviets!” After the Bolshevization of the central soviets as well as of many local ones, the meaning of the slogan “All Power to the Soviets!” changed: now it was a call to the struggle for turning the revolutionary, Bolshevik Soviets into organs of insurrection against the bourgeois government and for establishing a dictatorship of the proletariat. The slogan “All Power to the Soviets!” was realized as a result of the victory of the October Revolution. The Second All-Russian Congress of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, on Oct. 25 (Nov. 7), 1917, took all power into its own hands and formed the Soviet government (the Sovnarkom, or Council of People’s Commissars).



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