How (not why) did the Bolshevik party seize such complete control of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets ("the supreme governing body of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic from 1917 until 1936, effectively").

I'm not asking why it happened, as there's all sorts of explanations (individual persons, the party's platform or structure, the civil war, the failure of the German revolution, and so on) but how the Bolshevik party did it, as (says Wikipedia, and it makes sense I feel) their

combination was theoretically designed by Vladimir Lenin and placed into practice by Bolshevik party

  • military power?
    – user15163
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 17:10
  • i really like the idea it couldn't have happened if the constituent assembly or a representative democratic organ kept control of the red army. it was pretty left wing and would've fought against the whites, at a guess? or does that make no sense?
    – user15163
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 17:44
  • that has no grounding in history whatsoever though
    – user15163
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 17:50
  • having some knowledge of the period, I think they just killed everyone else. But I lack the resources and time to turn that into a solid answer right now.
    – jwenting
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 5:09

3 Answers 3


First I will highlight a crucial paragraph from the Wikipedia article you cite:

In 1917 Vladimir Lenin in his April theses came up with famous slogan "All power to the Soviets!".[5] Following the February Revolution, Lenin considered that in Russia existed dual power as interweaving of bourgeoisie power (Provisional Government) and power of revolutionary masses (soviets).[5] All other Russian political parties considered soviets as temporary public organizations and dual power did not exist for them as they were preparing for elections to the All-Russian Constituent Assembly.[5]

This hints at the fact that the Bolsheviks dominated the soviets largely because of the simple fact that they alone remained strongly committed to the power of the soviets. Over the course of 1917, the Menshiviks and SRs effectively abandoned the soviets in favor of the Provisional Government.

There is a very brief summary of key events in the early meetings of the Congress of Soviets on Marxists.org. At the first meeting of the Congress in June 2017, just 105 of the 1,034 delegates were Bolsheviks, or about 10%. But already at the second meeting in October 2017 there were 390 Bolshevik delegates out of the total 649, a strong majority of 60%. The Bolshevik majority voted against negotiating with the Provisional Government, and as a result, the non-Bolshevik delegates walked out. This second meeting happened in the midst of the October Revolution, which soon ended the Provisional Government and led to civil war.


In October 1917 two soviet meetings were held: Soldiers' and Workers'soviets and Farmers'soviets. In the former Bolsheviks had 338/739 seats. These soviets represented only about 20% of population. 80% were represented by the farmers' soviets. But, according to wiki, these soviets took the power. For better outlook, some deputies from the farmers' soviets were imported. Notice, even in these soviets, bolsheviks did not have majority. (They never won any votes honestly).

Simply in 1917-8 all other parties, starting from cadets and right esers, and ending by left esers and maximalists/anarchists, were declared outlaws. And finally only bolsheviks remained.

Recursively, more left parties helped bolsheviks to dispose of the right ones, only to be disposed, too, at the next turn. The last liquidated political ally were anarchists - they were not already in soviets, but they were allies in the battle against Crimea. Simply at some moment bolsheviks turned they weapons at 90% degrees and destroyed the "allies".

What is the most interesting, when I visited one antifascist demonstration in Prague in 1997, I found that nowadays anarchists again play allies of communists. The explanation sounded as: "communists are different now".

  • i like this answer, though i won't accept it cos it seems possible a historian can answer it rather than we use speculation.
    – user15163
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 22:20
  • also, thanks for the comment on repentant communists! i totally agree, and i find it baffling that anyone would trust a stalinist party etc. that regrets some (?) of stalin's actions. i am sympathetic to some marxists, but they are groups etc. that have historically been most opposed to the others and the failures etc. of the bolsheviks
    – user15163
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 22:31

This is off the top of my head, and a very, very crude description of what happened, but from what I remember (this being a course held by a professor specialized in the history of the soviet union), the Bolsheviks and/or Lenin successfully petitioned the Congress of Soviets to transfer power to a Bolshevik government / a government formed by Lenin.

This - Lenins - government then established the Tcheka ("secret police"), which oppressed and murdered any political opposition the Bosheviks faced (I'm not aware of whether that was members of / or affiliates of the Congress of Soviets itself). I don't mean to say this was overnight, but this was the general trend. The Bolshevik party was a "tight-knit" party, so as far as I understood, party organisers in different cities established groups of thugs that forcefully repressed anyone apposed to the rule of the Bolshevik party (though again, I'm not aware of whether this was primarily monarchists and/or merchants, or rather members of workers councils as well).

Obviously, I'm kind of lacking on detail on what further role the Congress of Soviets played after it had effectively handed off all power to the Bolshevik party - I'd be happy to see questions incorporating some of my pointers and adding a little info in that regard!

Addendum - I need to look at the other answers - I'm sure they're more on the mark than mine, but I did want to add this quickly: This paragraph on the October Revolution at the English Wikipedia describes how the Bolsheviks took power in the capital, and also how come there is confusion on the issue due to later propaganda efforts: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/October_Revolution#Later_Soviet_portrayal . I think the de facto taking of power is rather relevant to how power was also seized in the All-Russion Congress of Soviets. (though admittedly, this answer is still skewed and off the mark...)

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