On the centenary of the Russian revolution, Socialist Books is proud to present a sneak peek of our upcoming new publication – Trotsky in 1917. This will be the most complete English-language collection of Trotsky’s writings from the year of the Russian revolution, the great majority of which are translated for the first time.
We will have more details soon, and will be launching sales at Socialism 2017. In the meantime, below we are publishing a new translation of Trotsky’s speech to the Petrograd Soviet, given on 25 October (Julian calendar) 1917.
And if this whets your appetite, why not pick up a copy of Lessons of October, originally written by Trotsky as the introduction to his collected works of 1917 and recently reproduced by Socialist Books.
The overthrow of the Provisional Government
Speeches given 25 October, published 26 October, Rabochii Put No. 46
In the name of the Military Revolutionary Committee, I announce that the Provisional Government no longer exists. (Applause) Some ministers are under arrest. (‘Bravo!’) Others will be arrested in the coming days or hours. (Applause) The revolutionary garrison, which is at the disposal of the Military Revolutionary Committee, has dispersed the meeting of the Pre-parliament. (Stormy applause. A cry: ‘Long live the Military Revolutionary Committee!’)
They said that an insurrection of the garrison at the present time would lead to a pogrom and drown the revolution in rivers of blood. So far it has been bloodless. We do not know of a single victim. In the history of the revolutionary movement I do not know of an example where such huge masses were involved and which passed off bloodlessly. The authority of the Provisional Government headed by Kerensky was dead, waiting to be swept away by the broom of history.
We must acknowledge the heroism and dedication of the Petrograd soldiers and workers. Here, we were up all night, and on the telephones followed how detachments of revolutionary soldiers and workers’ guards quietly went about their task. The inhabitants slept peacefully and didn’t know that during this time one power was being replaced by another. The stations, post, telegraph, the Petrograd telegram agency, and the state bank are occupied. (Stormy applause) The Winter Palace is not yet taken, but its fate will be decided in the course of the next few minutes. (Applause) The Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies is right to be proud of the soldiers and workers who it relies on, and who it led into battle to a glorious victory.
The nature of bourgeois and petit-bourgeois governments is to deceive the masses. For us now – for us, the Soviets of Soldiers’ Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies – the test is posed, unprecedented in history, of the creation of a government which will have no other aim than the satisfaction of the needs of the soldiers, workers and peasants. The state must be the instrument of the masses in the struggle for their emancipation from all slavery.
The best forces of bourgeois science will understand that the conditions created by the Soviets of Soldiers’ Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies will be the best for their work. It is imperative to establish control over production. The peasants, workers and soldiers must feel that the national economy is their economy. This is the basic principle of constructing power. The introduction of universal labour service is an urgent task of a genuine revolutionary government.
Next, comrade Trotsky says that on the agenda is a statement of the Military Revolutionary Committee and a statement on the tasks of the Soviet power. The speaker on the second item will be comrade Lenin. (Thunderous applause) Comrade Trotsky announces that political prisoners have been released and several of them are already carrying out the duties of revolutionary commissars. Comrade Trotsky says that comrade Zinoviev will also be a guest at today’s meeting of the Petrograd Soviet.
During the night, telegrams about the real situation were sent in the name of the Petrograd Soviet to all Russia. Radio-telegrams have been sent to the serving army about the fall of the old government and the imminent formation of a new one. The first steps of the new government must be the following: an immediate truce on all fronts, the transfer of land to the peasants, the speediest convocation of a genuine, democratic Constituent Assembly. The whereabouts of the former minister-president, Kerensky, are unknown but we believe that they will soon be known.
To a question about the attitude of the front to the events, comrade Trotsky replies that we have only been able to send telegrams.
No reply has yet been received but we have heard many times here from representatives of the front who have reproached us for, so far, not taking decisive steps. With us now is Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, who due to a whole series of factors could not be among us until this moment.
Trotsky outlines the role of comrade Lenin in the history of the revolutionary movement in Russia and proclaims: “Long live Comrade Lenin, who is returning to us!”
One of the immediate tasks of the Military Revolutionary Committee is to send a delegation to the front to inform it about the revolution in Petrograd. The Petrograd Soviet must designate commissars from its ranks to send to the fronts. The Military Revolutionary Committee and its members cannot make a report now because it is occupied all the time with urgent work. I can report that a telegram has just been received that troops are moving up to Petrograd from the front. The dispatch of commissars is vital, it would be criminal from our side not to send out revolutionary commissars to the whole country to tell the broad masses about the events. (Voice: “You are predetermining the will of the All-Russia Congress of Soviets.”) The will of the All-Russia Congress of Soviets was predetermined by the great fact of the insurrection of the Petrograd workers and soldiers that took place tonight. Now it remains only to consolidate our victory.
 The Pre-Parliament was a body with very little democratic legitimacy, that had been set up shortly beforehand by opponents of the Soviets.
 G. Zinoviev, a close associate of Lenin, had been with him in hiding until 25th October.
 This section is from a second speech made by Trotsky at the same meeting.
Translation © Socialist Publications, 2017