Dual Power

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Dual Power


a distinctive and extremely contradictory intermingling of two powers in Russia, which was created after the February bourgeois-democratic revolution and existed from March until the beginning of July 1917: bourgeois power—the Provisional Government—and the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry—the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies. The Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and the soviets in the provinces were the results of the revolutionary creativity of the masses. At the same time, the leaders of the big bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisified landowners formed the Provisional Executive Committee of the State Duma on February 27 (March 12).

Supported by the armed force of the people, the Soviets had the opportunity to take power into their own hands. However, the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks had a majority, and therefore the Soviets did not take advantage of the opportunity. Lenin perceived the social essence of dual power in the insufficient political maturity and organization of the proletariat (about 40 percent of the most experienced and class conscious workers were mobilized and sent to the front) and also in the unprecedented activization of the petit-bourgeois strata of the population, who composed an absolute majority in the country.

On March 1 (14) the Socialist Revolutionary and Men-shevik leaders of the executive committee of the Petrograd Soviet concluded an agreement with the Provisional Committee of the State Duma on the formation of a Provisional Government composed mainly of representatives of the Cadets and Octobrists. The Soviet stipulated as a condition for its support of the Provisional Government the recognition by the government of the Petrograd Soviet’s right of “control.” The bourgeois government, not having any real forces at its disposal for the suppression of the revolutionary masses, stayed in power only because of its agreement with the Soviets, which, especially in the provinces, frequently functioned as the actual authority. In the capital dual power was manifested in the division of power between the Petrograd Soviet and the Provisional Government and in the provinces, between the Soviets and the commissars of the Provisional Government and the committees of social organizations.

Dual power expressed a transitional phase in the development of the revolution, in that “it has gone farther than the ordinary bourgeois-democratic revolution, but has not yet reached a ’pure’ dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” (V. I. Lenin. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed.. vol. 31, p. 155). Dual power could not continue for long since it contained within itself irreconcilable contradictions. The Bolsheviks’ slogan “All power to the Soviets!” advanced in V. I. Lenin’s April Theses, called for the liquidation of dual power—that is, the transfer by peaceful means of all power to the working people. In the July days of 1917 the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries openly went over to the camp of the counterrevolution. On July 9 (22) the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and the Executive Committee of the All-Russian Soviet of Peasants’ Deputies announced that they recognized the unrestricted authority of the Provisional Government. All power in the country passed to the Provisional Government, which established a counterrevolutionary dictatorship. The Socialist Revolutionary-Menshevik Soviets lost their significance as organs of revolutionary-democratic dictatorship. The Petrograd Soviet became a powerless adjunct of the bourgeois government. Dual power had come to an end. The transfer of power to the working people became possible only by means of an armed uprising, which took place on Oct. 24–25 (Nov. 6–7), 1917.


Lenin. V.I. “Odvoevlastii.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 31.
Lenin. V.1. “Zadachi proletariata ν nashei revoliutsii.” Ibid. Pages 154–57.
Lenin, V.1. Politicheskoe polozhenie. Ibid., vol. 34.
Lenin, V.I. “K lozungam.” Ibid.
Istoriia KPSS, vol. 3, book 1. Moscow, 1967. Chapter 1.
Oktiabr’skoe vooruzhennoe vosstanie, book 1. Leningrad, 1967.
Mints. I. I. Istoriia Velikogo Oktiabria, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1967—68.