The Lessons of October, notes

Chapter 1

  1. This essay was written in Russia in 1924. Trotsky’s own History of the Russian Revolution was not to be published until 1932, when he was in exile.
  2. The Third or Communist International, also known as the Comintern.


Chapter 2

  1. The group was founded by Plekhanov and other Russian émigrés in Switzerland in 1883.
  2. The July Days 1917 saw spontaneous mass demonstrations of armed workers and soldiers demanding an end to the Provisional Government and “All power to thesoviets!” As a revolutionary movement it was premature. The leadership of the soviets had no intention of breaking with the Provisional Government. It was followed by a period of reaction and witch-hunt against the Bolsheviks.
  3. That is, they called for support for the Provisional Government in continuing the war against Germany “in defence of the revolution.” After February 1917 this was also the position of a large part of the Bolshevik Party, including Pravda, of which Stalin was one of the editors. Lenin, on the other hand, argued that the war remained an imperialist war, waged by a bourgeois Provisional Government. He continued to argue for revolutionary defeatism.
  4. The Economists held that the economic struggle of the working class was in itself sufficient to develop a mass movement and revolutionary leadership. They therefore played down the importance of the revolutionary party.


Chapter 4

  1. Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881) and his followers argued in favour of armed insurrection by small groups of conspirators, as opposed to the Marxist concept of mass revolutionary action.
  2. These were the Constitutional Democrats, who wanted to see a constitutional monarchy in Russia.
  3. This is a reference to the Zimmwerwald conference of September 1915, at which various socialist groups declared their opposition to the war, including a section of the Russian Menshevik Party, which was split on the issue.


Chapter 5

  1. The Scandinavian socialist parties called an international peace conference in summer 1917 and invited the executive committee of thesoviets. The Mensheviks and SRs accepted. Of the Bolsheviks, Kamenev supported the idea but Lenin argued that the conference was a political manoeuvre by the German government, working through the German socialists who were part of the wartime coalition, to feel out advantageous peace terms. The Bolsheviks April Conference rejected the invitation.
  2. Chernov and Tseretelli were ministers in the Provisional Government.
  3. General Kornilov, appointed commander-in-chief by the Provisional Government, attempted a coup in September 1917.
  4. Both the Democratic Conference and the Pre-Parliament were attempts by the Mensheviks to set up an alternative to thesoviets, where their support was fading.


Chapter 6

  1. This treaty between Soviet Russia and Germany was signed on March 3, 1918.
  2. The four Central Committee members who resigned were Kamenev, Zinoviev, Rykov and Nogin. Miliutin, Teodorovich, Rykov and Nogin resigned as People’s commissars. Within a matter of weeks, however, they had backed down and asked to be reinstated.


Chapter 7

  1. In November 1922.

Return to Topic 6 index.