First All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers and Soldiers Deputies
First All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies
a congress held in Petrograd June 3–24 (June 16 to July 7), 1917. The decision to convoke the congress was made in March 1917 by the All-Russian Conference of Soviets. The election of delegates to the congress took place amid a bitter struggle between the Bolsheviks and the conciliatonist Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries (SR’s).
The congress was attended by 1,090 delegates, who represented 305 joint soviets of workers’, soldiers’, and peasants’ deputies; 53 regional, provincial, and district associations of soviets; 21 organizations from the army field forces; five organizations from the navy; and eight organizations from troops in the rear areas. Of the 777 delegates who declared their party affiliation, there were 105 Bolsheviks, 285 SR’s, 248 Mensheviks, 32 Menshevik Internationalists, 10 United Mensheviks, and 24 adherents of other factions and groups. Items on the agenda included revolutionary democracy and governmental power; attitude toward the war with relation to problems of defense and the struggle for peace; preparations for a constituent assembly; the problem of nationalities in Russia; the land question and problems of peasant, worker, and soldier life; the organization of production and the distribution and control of transportation resources; the food question; problems of financial policy; local government; and organizational questions and elections.
On June 4 (17) the Menshevik M. I. Liber presented a report on the attitude toward the Provisional Government. His report justified the entry of Mensheviks and SR’s into a coalition government and attempted to prove that the soviets could not take power. Lenin spoke at the congress, and in reply to the Menshevik I. G. Tsereteli, who stated that there was no political party in Russia that would be ready to take power into its own hands, he declared: “I reply, ‘Yes, there is. No party can refuse this, and our Party certainly doesn’t. It is ready to take over full power at any moment’” (Poln. sobr. soch, 5th ed., vol. 32, p. 267). The Bolsheviks proposed a draft resolution on the attitude toward the Provisional Government, which read in part: “Having established …the complete failure of the policy of conciliationism with the capitlists, the congress recognizes as the only alternative the transfer of all state power to the All-Russian Soviet of Workers, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies” (Pervyi Vserossiiskii s”ezd Sovetov rabochikh i soldatskikh deputatov, Vol. 1, 1930, p. 285). The draft resolution of the Social Democrat Internationalists, introduced by A. V. Lunacharskii, closely resembled that of the Bolsheviks. The SR-Menshevik majority voted down both drafts and adopted a draft resolution introduced by the Menshevik F. I. Dan, calling for support of the Provisional Government.
On the second agenda item, the Mensheviks and SR’s called for support of the foreign policy of the Provisional Government. Speaking for the Bolsheviks were Lenin, L. B. Kamenev, and N. V. Krylenko. In his speech of June 9 (22), Lenin denounced the policy of the Mensheviks and SR’s, who proposed to “fight” against the imperialist war by means of manifestos, resolutions, and “socialist” congresses. The Bolsheviks introduced two draft resolutions, one on the attitude toward the war (presented by E. A. Preobrazhenskii) and one on the question of peace (presented by S. G. Shaumian). The congress rejected both drafts and adopted the SR-Menshevik resolution.
The dissatisfaction of the masses with the actions of the Provisional Government, with the economic dislocation, and with the order for an offensive at the front took the form of a movement among the workers and soldiers for a political demonstration. Under pressure from the revolutionary masses the congress scheduled a demonstration in Petrograd for June 18 (July 1). The conciliators hoped to turn it into a manifestation of confidence in the Provisional Government. But the huge demonstrations of workers and soldiers on June 18 (July 1) were held under Bolshevik banners. They took place in Petrograd (see JUNE CRISIS OF 1917), Moscow, Kiev, Kharkov, and other cities. On June 19 (July 2,) Tsereteli addressed the congress with a report on the opening of a frontline offensive by the Russian Army. In the name of the Menshevik and SR factions, V. S. Voitinskii introduced a motion to send a proclamation to the soldiers at the front expressing for the offensive. B. P. Pozern, G. E. Zinoviev, A. V. Lunacharskii, and V. P. Nogin spoke in condemnation of the offensive and explained the situation that had arisen in connection with the demonstration of June 18 (July 1). The congress approved Voitinskii’s resolution. On all the remaining questions the congress confirmed the Menshevik-SR resolutions, thus demonstrating how far the Mensheviks and SR’s had strayed from the revolution. It elected the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, consisting of 320 persons (58 Bolsheviks, 123 Mensheviks, 119 SR’s, 13 United Social Democrats, and seven representatives from the remaining parties).
REFERENCESVserossiiskoe soveshchanie Sovetov rabochikh i soldatskikh deputatov (stenographic record). Moscow-Leningrad, 1927.
Pervyi Vserossiiskii s”ezd Sovetov rabochikh i soldatskikh deputatov (stenographic record), vols 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1930–31.
D. A. KOVALENKO