The Mensheviks after October
Socialist Opposition and the Rise of the Bolshevik Dictatorship
In this major contribution to our understanding of the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Brovkin provides the fullest account to date of the Menshevik party during the first year of Soviet rule. Focusing on the period from October 1917 through October 1918—months when the Soviet political system still permitted a degree of electoral competition among political parties—he explores the moderate socialists' opposition to the Bolsheviks. Why, he asks, did the competition between the Bolsheviks and their socialist opponents lead to a violent confrontation? And how did their struggle shape the increasingly repressive political system that emerged during this period?
Brovkin examines several major aspects of Menshevik party history in an effort to discover the organization's place in the revolutionary upheavals that rocked Russian society. He analyzes the debates within the party over the best policy for opposing the Bolsheviks and describes the Mensheviks' attempt to undermine their rivals by winning the support of the working class. He depicts too the struggle for party leadership and the changing composition of the membership. Finally, Brovkin explores the Mensheviks' interactions with their sometime ally the Socialist Revolutionary (SR) party and other opposition groups and traces the increasingly confrontational competition between the moderate socialists and the Bolsheviks, concluding his account with the onslaught of the Red Terror and the first stage of the civil war.
Drawing on an impressive array of primary sources, Brovkin convincingly shows that as the political struggle progressed, the Mensheviks, together with the SRs, were seen as a serious challenge to the Bolsheviks. He argues, further, that the Bolsheviks' determination to counter this perceived threat led them to undertake the repressive actions that both crushed their opposition and transformed the Soviet government into a dictatorship.