Provisional Revolutionary Government

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Provisional Revolutionary Government


The question of a provisional revolutionary government, its tasks, and the class nature of its power was considered by V. I. Lenin in his works on the tactics of the Bolsheviks during the Revolution of 1905-07. Lenin believed that a democratic revolution may give rise to “the government of a revolutionary epoch, one that immediately replaces the over-thrown government and rests on the people’s insurrection” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 11, p. 30). The question of a provisional revolutionary government became especially important in the age of imperialism, when the bourgeoisie had become counterrevolutionary and the conditions for the hegemony of the proletariat had fully matured.

In solving the question of the provisional revolutionary government, the Bolsheviks proceeded from Lenin’s theory of the development of the bourgeois-democratic revolution into the socialist revolution. According to the theory, the provisional revolutionary government prepares the ground for the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The functions of a provisional revolutionary government were to consolidate the gains of the revolution, suppress the resistance of counterrevolutionary forces, and carry out the minimum program of the RSDLP. The revolutionary nature of the transformation also determined the nature of the power of the provisional revolutionary government. “It can be only a dictatorship,” Lenin wrote, “for the realization of changes urgently and absolutely indispensable to the proletariat and the peasantry will evoke desperate resistance from the land-lords, the big bourgeoisie, and tsarism. Without a dictator-ship it is impossible to break down that resistance and repel counterrevolutionary attempts” (ibid., p. 44).

The moving force of the Revolution of 1905-07 was the proletariat, allied with the whole peasantry and the power that would arise during the uprising and be the expression of the will of these classes. The provisional revolutionary government must bring about a revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the whole peasantry. Lenin emphasized that “of course, it will be a democratic, not a socialist dictatorship. It will be unable (without a series of intermediate stages of revolutionary development) to affect the foundations of capitalism” (ibid.).

The question of the provisional revolutionary government and of the participation in it of the Social Democrats was the subject of a bitter political debate between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. The Mensheviks did not recognize the hegemony of the proletariat in the democratic revolution. Citing the example of the bourgeois revolutions of the 17th-19th centuries, they believed that control of the democratic revolution should be in the hands of the bourgeoisie and that the government that would arise during the revolution would be an ordinary bourgeois government. They denied that the Social Democrats could participate in this government because, in their opinion, this would frighten the bourgeoisie away from the revolution. The Bolsheviks admitted the possibility that representatives of the Social Democratic Party could participate in the provisional revolutionary government. Such participation would supplement pressure on the provisional revolutionary government “from below” by broad masses of the people with pressure “from above” aimed at the fullest implementation of the revolutionary transformation. The resolution of the Third Congress of the RSDLP (April 1905) “On the Provisional Revolutionary Government” pointed out: “depending on the relationship of forces and other factors that cannot be precisely determined in advance, the participation of representatives of our party in a provisional revolutionary government is permissible” (KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh, 7th ed., part 1, 1954, p. 78). The resolution emphasized that a condition for such participation would be the preservation of the Social Democrats’ independence.

During the Revolution of 1905-07 the Soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies that were set up in several cities began to play the role of bodies of the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry. The Bolsheviks actively participated in their work. In its manifesto issued during the bourgeois-democratic revolution of February 1917 the Bureau of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) called on the revolutionary people for an armed struggle against tsarism and for the formation of a provisional revolutionary government. The Petrograd soviet of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies was founded, and it began to carry out the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. However, as a result of the conciliatory policy of the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries (SR’s) who had a majority in the soviet immediately after the February Revolution, the Petrograd Soviet voluntarily ceded power to the bourgeois Provisional Government, which was the organ of the counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie and the landlords. The Mensheviks, who had opposed participation in the provisional revolutionary government in 1905, joined the bourgeois Provisional Government on May 6(19), 1917, and fought vigorously against the socialist revolution. During the July Days of 1917, after the SR and Menshevik leaders had openly switched to a counterrevolutionary position and the bourgeoisie had brought about the liquidation of dual power, the soviets ceased being organs of power and became appendages of the bourgeois Provisional Government.

Lenin’s propositions on the provisional revolutionary government and the permissibility, in principle, of participation in it by representatives of the Communist Party are used by the fraternal Communist and workers’ parties in the people’s democratic and national liberation revolutions of a new type that are taking place today.


Lenin, V. I. “Sotsial-demokratiia i vremennoe revoliutsionnoe pravitel’stvo.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 10.
Lenin, V. I. “Revoliutsionnaia demokraticheskaia diktatura proletariata i krest’ianstva.” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “O vremennom revoliutsionnom pravitel’stve.” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “Doklad ob uchastii sotsial-demokratii vo vremennom revoliutsionnom pravitel’stve. [Ill s’’ezd RSDRP].” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “Dve taktiki sotsial-demokratii v demokraticheskoi revoliutsii.” Ibid., vol. 11.
KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh i resheniiakh s”ezdov, konferentsii iplenumov TsK, 7th ed., part 1. Moscow, 1954. Pages 77-78.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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