David North
The Russian Revolution and the Unfinished Twentieth Century

The Bolshevik Seizure of Power in October 1917: Coup d’État or Revolution?

This lecture was delivered at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on April 18, 1995.

One of the staples of anti-Marxist literature is that the Russian Revolution was a putsch, or coup d’état, engineered by a handful of ruthless malcontents who were determined to impose a totalitarian dictatorship upon the people. According to this argument, the Bolshevik Party was nothing more than a tiny sect prior to 1917, and it came to power only because it was able to exploit the mass confusion created by the revolution. But where did the revolution that caused all the confusion come from? Harvard University historian Richard Pipes insists that the revolution was entirely the work of a crazed intelligentsia “which we have defined as intellectuals craving power. … They were revolutionaries not for the sake of improving the conditions of the people but for the sake of gaining domination over the people and remaking them in their own image.”[1]

Since the 1980s a number of historians have attempted to provide a more detailed picture of the Russian working class and its political life prior to 1917. The best of these works give readers a sense of what was going on among the masses, and show that the Bolsheviks had established, well before 1917, a commanding political presence within the working class. By 1914 the Mensheviks, who once had held strong positions within the popular organizations of the working class, were in headlong retreat before the surging Bolsheviks. It should come as no surprise that Professor Richard Pipes has denounced empirically-grounded research into the development of the pre-1917 Russian workers movement.

Hordes of graduate students, steered by their professors, in the Soviet Union as well as the West, especially the United States, have assiduously combed historical sources in the hope of unearthing evidence of worker radicalism in prerevolutionary Russia. The results are weighty tomes, filled with mostly meaningless events and statistics, that prove only that while history is always interesting, history books can be both vacuous and dull.[2]

I will make use of some of these “weighty tomes” and cite their “meaningless events and statistics” to give a brief overview of the political development of the Russian working class in the decade that preceded the conquest of power by the Bolsheviks. The defeat of the 1905 revolution resulted in a staggering decline in the numerical strength and political influence of the revolutionary organizations. In the years of revolutionary upsurge, between 1905 and 1907, both the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks—the two antagonistic factions of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP)—had grown by tens of thousands. After June 1907 their mass membership faded away. The impact of defeat produced widespread demoralization. Revolutionary politics and aspirations were abandoned even by activists who had devoted years to the struggle. The drift among broad sections of the Russian intelligentsia back to religion and the flourishing of all sorts of backward attitudes, including a fascination with pornography, found its reflection within the membership of the revolutionary movement. By 1910, according to Trotsky, Lenin’s loyal and active contacts within Russia numbered about ten people.

However, this was not an unproductive period. Lenin and Trotsky, despite their disagreements, were analyzing the events of 1905 and drawing strategic lessons that laid the foundations for the victory of the socialist revolution in 1917. For Trotsky, the 1905 revolution demonstrated that the democratic revolution in Russia could be led only by the working class, and that the democratic revolution would assume an increasingly socialistic direction. This insight into the sociopolitical dynamics of the Russian Revolution laid the basis for the theory of permanent revolution.

For Lenin, the experiences of 1905 led to a deepening of his analysis of the differences between Bolshevism and Menshevism. They shed new light on the significance of the split in the socialist workers movement. The tactics employed by the Mensheviks throughout the 1905 revolution confirmed Lenin’s belief that Menshevism represented an opportunist current that reflected the influence of the liberal bourgeoisie on the working class. The development of a revolutionary movement, Lenin insisted, required the persistent deepening of the struggle to expose before the working class this political characteristic of Menshevism.

Under the leadership of the shrewd Prime Minister, Stolypin, the tsarist regime enjoyed, after the close call of 1905, a revival of its political fortunes. However, Stolypin’s assassination in 1911, which was organized by the secret police, removed the tsar’s most capable minister just as the workers movement entered into a new phase of radical activity. The mass strikes in 1912 created a new political climate favorable to a rapid growth in Bolshevik influence.

The period of reaction, from 1907 to 1912, produced a sharp turn to the right among the Mensheviks. Drawing their inspiration from what was, in fact, the weakest side of German Social Democracy—that is, the domination of the German party by the reformist trade unions—the Mensheviks moved into the political orbit of the bourgeois liberals, and their aspirations assumed a definite reformist coloration. During the period of reaction, the Mensheviks benefited from their ties with the bourgeois liberal Cadets. But with the upsurge of the working class from 1912 on, the Bolsheviks began to overtake them, even in the trade unions once dominated by the Mensheviks.

An indication of the political radicalization of the working class came in April 1913, at a meeting of the Petersburg metalworkers union. This organization had been dominated by the Mensheviks for several years. However, with 700 to 800 workers present, the meeting elected a Bolshevik majority to the union’s interim directing board.[3]

In late August 1913, a second election was held for a permanent directing board. It was attended by between 1,800 to 3,000 workers out of a total union membership of 5,600. A Bolshevik directing board was elected, and the Mensheviks managed to obtain only about 150 votes. The class-conscious workers of St. Petersburg discerned the differences in the positions of the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. The latter opposed the involvement of the trade unions in struggles of an overtly political and revolutionary character. The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, sought openly to utilize the unions for precisely such a purpose.

Throughout the remainder of 1913 and into 1914, the Bolsheviks continued to oust the Mensheviks from their dominant positions in the unions. Among the organized tailors, for example, the Bolsheviks achieved an overwhelming majority in the leadership by July 1914. Out of eleven board members, ten were Bolsheviks and one was a Socialist-Revolutionary. The Mensheviks had lost all their support.

The printers, who were among the most skilled and educated workers, elected Bolshevik candidates in April 1914 to nine of the eighteen full seats on their board of directors and to eight of the twelve candidate seats.

Another indication of the growth of the Bolsheviks’ support at the expense of the Mensheviks comes from the respective sizes of their press circulation. The Menshevik newspaper, Luch, had a press run of about 16,000 per issue. But Pravda, the Bolshevik daily, had a press run of 40,000.

By July 1914, on the eve of the war, the class struggle in the major industrial centers of Russia had assumed revolutionary dimensions. Incidents of street fighting between workers and police were reported in St. Petersburg. For the tsarist regime the war came at an opportune moment. While the pressure of war led, over a period of three years, to a sharpening of social conflict, its initial impact was to douse the revolutionary workers movement with a tidal wave of chauvinist fervor. The highly developed Bolshevik organization, which had been operating under conditions of borderline legality, was shattered and again driven underground.

Trotsky was to write later that had it not been for the war, the eruption of revolution in late 1914 or 1915 would have meant a mass proletarian movement unfolding, from the beginning, under the leadership of the Bolsheviks. The revolution began in February 1917 under conditions that were far less favorable to the Bolsheviks than they had been in July 1914. First, their organization was barely functioning in Russia. A great number of their working class factory cadre had been drafted into the army and were dispersed along a wide front. The factories were populated by far less politically experienced workers. Finally, the mass mobilization of the peasantry inside the army meant that when the revolution erupted, the proletarian character of the social movement, at least in its beginning stages, was far less pronounced than it had been in 1914. That is why the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, based largely on the peasantry, emerged out of the first weeks of the revolution as the largest political party.

Despite the unfavorable relation of forces the Bolsheviks were not entirely without influence in the revolutionary events that brought about the collapse of the tsarist regime in February–March 1917. As Trotsky explained in The History of the Russian Revolution, the uprising of February 1917 was not purely “spontaneous,” i.e., without any trace of political leadership. Years of political agitation and education by the Bolsheviks, and even the Mensheviks, at least to the extent that the general conceptions of Marxism found expression in the activities of the latter, had left their residue on the consciousness of St. Petersburg workers.

Every mass movement possesses a certain type or level of consciousness, which has been formed over an extended period of time. The collective social and political consciousness of the working class was not a blank slate. The events of 1905 had not been simply forgotten. A generation of more conscious workers had followed and been influenced by the theoretical and political conflicts between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. There is a reason why the eruption of February 1917 led to the creation of soviets (workers councils) and assumed the form of a political struggle against tsarism, rather than of apolitical rioting and looting. Insofar as the war had not entirely destroyed the underground organization and eliminated their cadre from the factories, the Bolsheviks were still in a position to impart a more militant consciousness to the mass uprising of February 1917. Taking all this into account, we agree with—and contemporary historical research substantiates—Trotsky’s assertion that the February Revolution was led by “conscious and tempered workers educated for the most part by the party of Lenin.”[4]

Lenin’s “secrets”

The most common assertion of the reactionary historians is that the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks was the outcome of a sinister conspiracy organized and carried out behind the backs of the Russian people, including the working class in whose name the revolution was made. To fathom how the greatest revolution in history arose as the product of such a conspiracy, one must refer once again to Richard Pipes:

Lenin was a very secretive man: although he spoke and wrote voluminously, enough to fill fifty-five volumes of collected works, his speeches and writings are overwhelmingly propaganda and agitation, meant to persuade potential followers and destroy known opponents rather than reveal his thoughts. He rarely disclosed what was on his mind, even to close associates. As supreme commander in the global war between classes, he kept his plans private. To reconstruct his thinking, it is necessary, therefore, to proceed retroactively, from known deeds to concealed intentions.[5]

Consider this: To produce fifty-five volumes of political literature, each volume between 300 and 500 pages, means that Lenin, in the course of his thirty-year political career, had an average annual written output of between 600 and 1,000 pages (in printed form). This output included economic studies, philosophical tracts, political treatises, resolutions, newspaper commentaries and articles, extensive professional and personal correspondence, innumerable memoranda and private notes, such as the Philosophical Notebooks, which enable us to follow the intellectual development of Lenin’s conceptions. Much of Lenin’s working day, for years on end, was spent at the writing desk. And yet all this writing, according to Pipes, was nothing more than the means by which Lenin skillfully concealed what he was really thinking!

It must be pointed out that Pipes’ indictment of Lenin utilizes the very reasoning employed by Stalin in the organization of the frame-up of Leon Trotsky and the Old Bolsheviks during the Moscow Trials of the 1930s. Stalin and his accomplices claimed that the public writings and statements of Trotsky over a period of several decades, including the years when he stood at the leadership of the Red Army, were a cover for his secret decades-long conspiracy to destroy the Soviet Union. The “investigative methods” of Stalin and the celebrated Harvard historian—described by Pipes himself as the retroactive movement “from known deeds to concealed intentions”—calls to mind the juridical procedures of a medieval witch trial.

As for the specific allegation that Lenin kept his thoughts to himself as he “plotted” the secret overturn of the Provisional Government, it is hard to take this argument seriously. One must bear in mind that throughout 1917 Lenin exercised his influence upon the Bolshevik Party and the working class principally through the written word. Indeed, it was a written document, known unpretentiously as the “April Theses,” that decisively changed party policy following Lenin’s return from exile, and set the Bolsheviks on the road to power. Later, between July and October 1917, he was in hiding and depended on the force of his written arguments to influence the Bolshevik Party. Lenin could hardly have overcome the resistance inside the Bolshevik Party leadership to his call for the overthrow of the Provisional Government had it not been for the influence he exerted upon the party’s mass membership through the medium of his writings. John Reed recognized the unique character of Lenin’s authority when he wrote in his famous Ten Days That Shook the World that Lenin was one of the very few political leaders in world history who had become the leader of masses because of his intellectual powers.

The conspiracy theory favored by Pipes and so many others is most convincingly refuted by historical research carried out by scholars who have unearthed a wealth of information about the scope of the mass working class movement upon which the Bolshevik bid for power was based. A study of this material leads one to the conclusion that the conquest of power by the Bolshevik Party was anything but the outcome of a putsch prepared in the back room of a safe house in Petrograd. The Bolshevik Party spent much of the year trying to keep pace with a mass movement that possessed a dynamic momentum whose equal had not been seen since the French Revolution.

Bolshevism and the working class

On the eve of the February Revolution, according to The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the Russian Revolution, there were approximately 3.5 million workers in the factories and mines of Russia. There were another million and a quarter workers located in transport and construction. The actual number of people who might be classified as wage workers comprised 10 percent of the population, or about 18.5 million.[6] Petrograd was a great industrial center whose environs were the home of 417,000 industrial workers. Of these, about 270,000 were metalworkers. Fifty thousand workers were employed in the textile industry and 50,000 in the chemical industry. The other major industrial center of Russia was Moscow, with about 420,000 workers, one-third of whom were textile workers and one-quarter metalworkers.

There were also large concentrations of industrial workers in the Urals, Ukraine— whose Donbass region employed approximately 280,000 workers—as well as in the Baltic region, Transcaucasia and Siberia. Relative to the size of the entire population, the working class was numerically small. But it was highly concentrated. Over 70 percent of the workers in Petrograd were employed in enterprises consisting of more than 1,000 workers. Two-thirds of Ukrainian workers were in enterprises that employed more than 500 workers. It was the same in the Urals.[7]

Before Lenin’s return to Russia in April 1917, the Bolshevik Party leadership in the capital had adopted a policy of giving conditional support to the bourgeois Provisional Government, including its continuation of the war against Germany and Austria-Hungary, on the grounds that the revolution could not leap over the bourgeois democratic stage of its development. Lenin opposed this policy, but he was still in Switzerland and unable to intervene directly in the deliberations of the party leadership in Petrograd. The editorial board of Pravda, led by Stalin, refused to publish statements by Lenin which took strong exception to the conciliatory policies of the Bolshevik Party. Not until Lenin returned to Russia was he able, in the course of several weeks of factional struggle, to change the party’s orientation. The divisions in the Bolshevik Party arose from the fact that Lenin was fighting to change a programmatic position that he had developed and defended for many years. To the Old Bolsheviks whom he now attacked, Lenin’s new line—calling for the preparation of the overthrow of the Provisional Government and the assumption of power by the working class—was a heretical capitulation to the theory of permanent revolution that had been propounded by Leon Trotsky, in opposition to the Bolsheviks, for a decade.

Lenin had come, by his own route, to the perspective with which Leon Trotsky had been so prominently identified. The experience of the World War, refracted through his own study of modern imperialism, had led Lenin to conclude that the Russian Revolution was the beginning of a world socialist revolution; that the international crisis of capitalism, interacting with the weakness of the Russian bourgeoisie and its subordination to international capital, left open no possibility of a progressive bourgeois democratic stage of Russian development; and that the only class capable of breaking Russia’s subordination to imperialism and carrying through the democratic tasks of the revolution was the proletariat. These conclusions formed the basis of Lenin’s “April Theses,” which called for the transfer of state power to the workers’ soviet.

The debate at the April conference was not that of a small circle of underground revolutionaries. As the membership of the party grew rapidly, the inner-party struggle involved and was followed by significant strata of the working class. The British historian Steve Smith has argued that Lenin’s “April Theses” had a direct and powerful impact on the consciousness of the most advanced sections of the Petrograd working class, particularly in the Vyborg district and on Vasil’evskii Island. Smith offers as evidence a resolution passed by general assemblies of workers at the Puzyrev and Ekval’ factories during the “April Days”—that is, the first great working class demonstrations against the Provisional Government:

The government cannot and does not want to represent the wishes of the whole toiling people, and so we demand its immediate abolition and the arrest of its members, in order to neutralize their assault on liberty. We recognize that power must belong only to the people itself, i.e., to the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies as the sole institution of authority enjoying the confidence of the people.[8]

Leon Trotsky wrote in his History of the Russian Revolution that the principal feature of a revolution is “the direct intervention of the masses in historic events.” Despite the efforts of the representatives of the bourgeoisie, such as Milyukov, and the moderate leaders of the Soviet to establish the authority of the Provisional Government, the events of February unleashed a burst of popular democratic creativity. The factory and work committees that were formed in Petrograd and throughout Russia were the practical expression of the determination of the proletariat to assert its power and reorganize society along anticapitalist lines. Factory committees evolved into complex structures involved in virtually every aspect of daily life. They formed subcommittees that were responsible for the security of their factories, food supply, culture, health and safety, the improvement of working conditions, and the maintenance of labor discipline through the discouragement of drunkenness.

As the revolution deepened, the committees became increasingly preoccupied with the organization and control of production. The Blackwell Encyclopedia cites the work of a Soviet historian, Z.V. Stepanov, who “counted 4,266 acts by 124 factory committees in Petrograd between 1 March and 25 October and calculates that 1,141 acts related to workers control of production and distribution; 882 concerned organization questions; 347 concerned political questions; 299 concerned wages; 241 concerned hiring and firing and the monitoring of conscription.”[9]

By the late summer and autumn of 1917, the factory committees began to demand that the employers provide them with access to order books and financial accounts. By October some form of workers control was in effect in 573 factories and mines, with a combined work force of 1.4 million workers.

Throughout 1917 the Bolsheviks developed enormous strength within the factory committees. Well before the Bolsheviks obtained a majority inside the Petrograd Soviet, they were in the leadership of the most important factory committees. A study of the resolutions passed by local assemblies shows that there was an enthusiastic response to the slogans and principal demands of the Bolshevik Party. In Moscow, which was less developed politically than Petrograd, the month of October 1917 saw more than 50,000 workers pass resolutions in support of the Bolshevik demand for the transfer of power to the soviets; and there is overwhelming evidence that the Bolshevik seizure of power was welcomed by a large majority of the working class.

We are given an idea of the mood of the working class in October 1917 in the study of developments at the textile center of Ivanovo-Kineshma, 250 miles northeast of Moscow, by the historian David Mandel. Strong support for the Bolsheviks predated the outbreak of revolution. By October 1917 it had become overwhelming. If anything, workers in Ivanovo-Kineshma expressed impatience with the slow pace of Bolshevik activity in Petrograd. When a Bolshevik orator, in a speech to the Kineshma Soviet in late September 1917, posed the rhetorical question: “History calls on us to take power … Are we ready?” a voice from the audience replied, “We have been ready for a long time now, but we don’t know why they are still asleep in the center.”[10]

Even if one is inclined to treat such historical anecdotes skeptically, there is no doubt about the reality of the objective process they are intended to illustrate. Between April and October, the Bolshevik Party experienced a phenomenal growth. In April 1917 the Petrograd organization of the Bolsheviks consisted of about 16,000 workers. By October its membership had risen to 43,000, of whom two-thirds were workers. In June 1917 the elections to the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets produced 283 Socialist-Revolutionary delegates, 248 Menshevik delegates and only 105 Bolshevik delegates. The elections to the Second All-Russian Congress, which assembled on the eve of the October Revolution four months later, produced an astonishing transformation: the Bolsheviks’ share of the delegates rose to 390, the Socialist-Revolutionaries’ share fell to 160 and the Mensheviks to seventy-two.

Workers repeatedly changed their political affiliations in the course of the revolution, generally moving to the left as they became increasingly disgusted with the Provisional Government and the refusal of the moderate socialist parties to break with it. As the historian Tim McDaniel has pointed out:

Economic crisis, the continuation of war, the acceleration of class conflict, and the Kornilov putsch transformed the vast majority of politically active workers into enemies of the Provisional Government in its various incarnations. … They came to see no essential distinction between the new government and the old tsarist regime, except that the Provisional Government was now more clearly a “bourgeois dictatorship.”[11]

The letter of a worker who had been a member of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party to a Bolshevik newspaper reflects the shifts in the political mood during 1917:

Because of profound misunderstanding I joined the SR party, which has now passed to the side of the bourgeoisie and lent a hand to our exploiters. So that I shall not be nailed to this mast of shame, I am quitting the ranks of the chauvinists. As a conscious proletarian, I am joining the Bolshevik comrades who alone are the genuine defenders of the oppressed people.[12]

Of course, the radicalization of the working class in 1917 was not a homogeneous process without its own complex contradictions. Even in areas where the strength of the Bolsheviks grew rapidly, as among the Donbass miners, they also encountered opposition. There were times when they were the victims of sharp shifts in the moods of workers. And yet, for all its contradictions, the October Revolution was the outcome of a massive and politically-conscious movement of the working class.[13]

Summing up the results of his research into the causes of the Bolshevik victory, Professor Steve Smith has written:

[T]he Bolsheviks themselves did not create popular discontent or revolutionary feeling. This grew out of the masses’ own experiences of complex economic and social upheavals and political events. The contribution of the Bolsheviks was rather to shape workers’ understanding of the social dynamic of the revolution and to foster an awareness of how the urgent problems of daily life related to the broader social and political order. The Bolsheviks won support because their analysis and proposed solutions seemed to make sense. A worker from the Orudiinyi works, formerly a bastion of defensism where Bolsheviks were not even allowed to speak, stated in September that “the Bolsheviks have always said: ‘It is not we who will persuade you, but life itself.’ And now the Bolsheviks have triumphed because life has proved their tactics right.”[14]

More than a half-century ago, when there still existed an American intelligentsia that believed in the possibility of human progress and was capable of reflecting intelligently, even if not entirely sympathetically, on the meaning of the Russian Revolution, there appeared an influential book by the literary critic Edmund Wilson entitled To the Finland Station. Wilson, notwithstanding his own patrician distrust of the masses in revolution and his pragmatic disdain for dialectics, argued that Lenin’s arrival at the Finland Station in April 1917 marked a high point in man’s struggle to make himself the unfettered master of his own social development.

“The point is,” wrote Wilson, “that western man at this moment can be seen to have made some definite progress in mastering the greeds and the fears, the bewilderments, in which he has lived.”[15]

We heartily agree with this assessment, from which Wilson was later to retreat under the pressure of McCarthyism. The Russian Revolution still represents the highest point in the conscious efforts of humanity to assume control of its own destiny, to consciously master all that represents, in one form or another, the domination of the uncomprehended forces of nature over human development.

Marxism did not introduce into the world a new set of utopian conceptions. It recognized the potential for changing history within existing social forces. It discovered a social force, the working class, capable of ending the historically-evolved forms of class oppression. The oppression of the proletariat by the capitalist class had to be ended not simply because it was, in the conventional sense of the term, morally wrong; but because this oppression had become a fetter on the progressive development of human society itself. Precisely therein lay the immorality of capitalist oppression.

Marxism introduced into the working class an understanding of the historical process of which it was a part; and thereby transformed this class from an object of history into its conscious subject. The Marxist education of the working class began in 1847. The October Revolution, seventy years later, was the outcome of this great process of socialist enlightenment.

For reasons which must be studied and assimilated, the Russian Revolution suffered a tremendous setback. But this fact by no means invalidates the enduring significance and relevance of the events of 1917


Richard Pipes, Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime (New York: Vintage Books, 1995), p. 495.


Ibid., p. 494.


Victoria Bonnell, Roots of Rebellion (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), p. 394.


Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1980), p. 199.


Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution (New York: Vintage Books, 1991), p. 394.


Harold Shukman, ed., The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the Russian Revolution (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, Ltd., 1994), p. 19.




Steve A. Smith, “Petrograd in 1917: the view from below,” in The Workers’ Revolution in Russia, 1917: The View From Below, ed. Daniel H. Kaiser (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 66.


The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the Russian Revolution, p. 22.


David Mandel, “October in the Ivanovo-Kineshma industrial region,” ed. Frankel, Frankel and Knei-paz, Revolution in Russia: Reassessments of 1917 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 160.


Tim McDaniel, Autocracy, Capitalism and Revolution in Russia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), p. 355.


The Workers’ Revolution in Russia,1917: The View from Below, pp. 73–74.


This conclusion has been substantiated by the outstanding scholarship of Alexander Rabinowitch, professor emeritus of the University of Indiana. In the preface to The Bolsheviks in Power, the third volume of his monumental study of the Russian Revolution, Rabinowitch—summing up the conclusions of the antecedent volumes—writes:

The Bolsheviks Come to Power, together with Prelude to Revolution, challenged prevailing Western notions of the October revolution as no more than a military coup by a small, united band of revolutionary fanatics brilliantly led by Lenin. I found that, in 1917, the Bolshevik party in Petrograd transformed itself into a mass political party and that, rather than being a monolithic movement marching in lock step behind Lenin, its leadership was divided into left, centrist, and moderate right wings, each of which helped shape revolutionary strategy and tactics. I also found that the party’s success in the struggle for power after the overthrow of the tsar in February 1917 was due, in critically important ways, to its organizational flexibility, openness, and responsiveness to popular aspirations, as well as to its extensive, carefully nurtured connections to factory workers, soldiers of the Petrograd garrison, and Baltic Fleet sailors.” [Bloomington and Indianapolis: 2007, pp. ix–x]

Professor Rabinowitch’s conclusions carry exceptional weight, and not only because of the authority he has earned in the course of a half-century as a master of the historian’s craft. Rabinowitch has explained that—having grown up in a family of Russian emigrés with strong Menshevik sympathies—he began his research into the Russian Revolution firmly believing that the Bolshevik seizure of power lacked mass support. The weight of the evidence that he uncovered as he combed the archives of Leningrad-St. Petersburg compelled him to revise his conceptions. Professor Rabinowitch’s work exemplifies an intellectual integrity and devotion to truth that should serve as an example to a new generation of scholars.


Ibid., p. 77.


Edmund Wilson, To The Finland Station (London: Macmillan Publishers, 1983), p. 472.