Bolsheviks: Revolutionary wing of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party which, under the leadership of Lenin, led the working class to the taking of power in October 1917. Trotsky and his supporters joined the Bolshevik Party at its conference of July 1917, past differences between them having been resolved through the experience of the revolution. He was elected to the Bolshevik central committee and, with Lenin, led the struggle for power.
Mensheviks (‘minority’): The reformist wing of the RSDLP got their name from the split with the Bolsheviks (‘majority’) over organizational questions at the 1903 Party Congress. In 1917 with their mistaken ‘two-stage’ theory of the Revolution, Menshevik ministers helped prop up the capitalist Provisional Government, supported by imperialist foreign policy and fought against the proletarian revolution. After October, they became an openly counter-revolutionary party.
Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs): The SRs based themselves on the peasantry. Their program called for “free, popular rule, nationalization of the land and nationalization of all great industries”. After the February revolution they became, with the Mensheviks, the mainstay of the bourgeois Provisional Government. By the time of the October Insurrection, the right wing of the SRs sided openly with the counter-revolution. The left wing of the SRs, having split, formed a short-lived agreement with the Bolshevik government.
Kadets: The Constitutional Democratic Party of the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie in Russia. Failing to save the monarchy in February 1917, they took the advantage of their key position in the Provisional Government to pursue their counter-revolutionary and imperialist policies. After the October revolution they actively supported the invasion of Russia by the armies of the imperialist powers.
Black Hundreds: Popular name for the “Union of the Russian People” – a league of the most reactionary monarchists and nationalists who employed methods of criminal terror against revolutionaries and were the chief instigators of the pogroms (massacres of Jews).
Cossacks: Cavalry soldiers who formed a caste and almost a ‘nationality’ in Tsarist Russia, since they enjoyed exemption from taxes and privileged land allotments in special territories.
Provisional Government: After the overthrow of the Tsar in February 1917, the Provisional Government held formal power. It was made up of landowners and industrialists, mainly Kadets, together with Kerensky, and was supported by the Mensheviks and SRs. The precise composition of the Provisional Government changed between February and October, but nor its essential character as defender of capitalism and the old state.
Soviets: Councils of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies – bodies of elected delegates, created by the initiative of the masses. Until August 1917 the Mensheviks and SRs had a majority in the Soviets.
Kerensky: A Socialist Revolutionary, on the right wing of the party, who was Minister of Justice, then Minister of War, before becoming President of the Provisional Government in the period leading up to its overthrow in the October revolution.
Zinoviev and Kamenev: Members of the Bolshevik Central Committee, eventually executed on Stalin’s orders in 1936 after the Moscow Trials.
Petrograd: Capital of Tsarist Russia, today called Leningrad.
Winter Palace: The Tsar’s official residence in Petrograd.
1905 (First) Revolution: The “dress rehearsal” for the revolution of 1917, when the working class clearly established itself as the leading force in the struggle and gave rise to the first Soviets, before it was crushed.
Bloody Sunday: January 9, 1905, when a peaceful demonstration of workers led by a priest, Gapon tried to present a petition to Tsar Nicholas II and was met with volleys of gunfire. This massacre sparked off the revolution of 1905.
Social Democratic Parties: The term was originally used in the late 19th century to distinguish workers’ parties based on Marxism from the parties of capitalist democracy. With the growth of a conservative bureaucratic leadership during the long period of relative stability and economic growth in Western Europe and North America in the last part of the century, however, these parties underwent a profound degeneration. On the outbreak of the 1914 World War the vast majority of their leaders took up a nationalist position in support of their own capitalist classes, thus demonstrating their abandonment of Marxism.