Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers and Soldiers
Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies
held in Smolny in Petrograd on Oct. 25-27 (Nov 7-9), 1917; played a world historical role and opened the era of socialist revolution.
Supported by the will of the vast majority of workers, soldiers, and peasants and by the victorious uprising of workers and the garrison in Petrograd, the congress took power over Russia into its own hands. To govern the country the congress formed the Workers’ and Peasants’ Soviet Government, headed by V. I. Lenin, and turned power in the provinces over to the Soviets of workers’, soldiers’, and peas-ants’ deputies. The congress adopted the Decree on Peace, the Decree on Land, and other resolutions and appeals.
The resolution of the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies concerning the convocation of the Second Congress of Soviets in mid-September 1917 was sabotaged by the Socialist Revolutionary (SR) and Menshevik leadership of the Central Executive Committee (CEC) of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. The CEC intended to substitute the Democratic Conference for the Congress of Soviets; however, on the insistence of the Bolshevik faction, the CEC was forced to adopt a resolution on September 23 (October 6) to open the congress on October 20 (November 2). On September 30 (October 13) the Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) published an appeal calling for a struggle for the convocation of the Congress of Soviets. During September and October there were regional and provincial congresses of Soviets that evidenced the further bolshevization of the Soviets. Local Soviets demanded the convocation of the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets. Perceiving that it would not be able to prevent the convocation of an all-Russian congress, the Bureau of the CEC postponed its opening from October 20 to October 25. (November 7). By this time the delegates from the provinces had begun to assemble, bringing with them instructions calling for the transfer of power to the Soviets. At the October 21 (November 3) session of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik), questions of the agenda and leadership of the Bolshevik faction of the congress were considered. The most important reports—on state power, the war, and the land—were assigned to Lenin by the Central Committee.
The congress opened on October 25 (November 7) at 10:40 P.M. at the height of the October armed uprising, in which many delegates from the provinces participated. At the congress 402 Soviets were represented, including 195 joint Soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies, 119 Soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies with the participation of peasants’ deputies, 46 Soviets of workers’ deputies, 22 Soviets of soldiers’ and sailors’ deputies, 19 Soviets of peas-ants’ deputies, and one soviet of cossacks’ deputies. The delegates expressed the will of the toiling masses of all the peoples of multinational Russia.
According to the information of the Board of All Factions, by the opening of the congress there were 649 delegates, of whom 390 were Bolsheviks, 160 SR’s, 72 Mensheviks, 14 United Internationalists, six Menshevik Internationalists, and seven Ukrainian Socialists. By the end of the congress there were 625 delegates, of whom 390 were Bolsheviks, 179 Left SR’s, 35 United Internationalists, and 21 Ukrainian Socialists.
The presidium of the congress included 14 delegates from the RSDLP (Bolshevik) led by Lenin, who stayed in Smolny and directed the concluding operations of the uprising; he did not attend the first session. There were seven Left SR dele-gates and one Ukrainian Socialist delegate in the presidium. The first session began with debates on the powers of the congress. Mensheviks, Right SR’s, Bundists, and others made public a declaration of protest “against the military conspiracy and seizure of power” and left the congress. A recess was declared at 2:40 A.M., and the session resumed at 3:10 A.M. The congress greeted the announcement of the capture of the Winter Palace and the arrest of the Provisional Government with a stormy ovation. Moving to a consideration of the question of state power, at 5:00 A.M. the congress adopted by an overwhelming majority (two opposed and 12 abstentions) the appeal “To Workers, Soldiers, and Peasants!” written by Lenin and read by A. V. Lunacharskii. It stated that the congress was taking power into its own hands and that in the provinces all power was passing to the Soviets of workers’, soldiers’, and peasants’ deputies, which were to ensure genuine revolutionary order. The Left SR’s supported the appeal. The first session closed at 5:15 A.M.
The second session began at 9:00 P.M., October 26. Lenin spoke on the two fundamental questions on the agenda: peace and land. He read to the Congress the Decree on Peace, which he had written; it was adopted unanimously (about 11:00 P.M., October 26). At 2:00 A.M. a majority of the congress (one opposed, eight abstentions) adopted the Decree on Land, which was written and read by Lenin. The Bolshevik faction introduced a proposal on the organization of the Soviet government. It was opposed by the Menshevik Inter-nationalists, Left SR’s, and the delegate of Vikzhel’ (All-Russian Executive Committee of the Railroad Trade Union), who demanded the creation of a government made up of SR’s, Mensheviks, and Bolsheviks. At 4:00 A.M. the congress adopted by an overwhelming majority the resolution on the organization of state power proposed by the Bolsheviks. The congress elected a new All-Russian Central Executive Committee of 101 members, of whom 62 were Bolsheviks and 29 Left SR’s.
The congress entrusted the government of the country to the Soviet of People’s Commissars, which included only Bolsheviks because of the refusal of the Left SR’s to join. Lenin was elected chairman of the Soviet of People’s Commissars.
The second session of the congress also adopted resolutions on the transfer of power in the provinces to the Soviets, the freeing of arrested members of the land committees, the abolition of the death penalty at the front, the immediate arrest of the head of the former bourgeois Provisional Government, A. F. Kerensky, the struggle against counter-revolutionary actions, and the formation of provisional revolutionary committees in the army. The congress adopted an appeal to the cossacks, calling for them to switch to the side of Soviet power, and an appeal to the railroad workers to maintain order on the railroads. The congress concluded its work at 5:15 A.M., October 27. It signified the historic victory of the socialist revolution in Russia and initiated the formation of the Republic of Soviets.
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G. E. REIKHBERG