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Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolutions of 1917

 

 

By Paul Le Blanc

 

Russian Revolutions of 1917, two revolutions that occurred in Russia in 1917. The first revolution, in February, overthrew the Russian monarchy. The second revolution, in October, created the world’s first Communist state.

 

The Russian revolutions of 1917 involved a series of uprisings by workers and peasants throughout the country and by soldiers, who were predominantly of peasant origin, in the Russian army. Many of the uprisings were organized and led by democratically elected councils called soviets. The soviets originated as strike committees and were basically a form of local self-government. The second revolution led to the rise of the modern Communist movement and to the transformation of the Russian Empire into what became known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The goal of those who carried out the second revolution was the creation of social equality and economic democracy in Russia. However, the Communist regime that they established eventually turned into a bureaucratic dictatorship, which lasted until 1991.

 

October 1917 and its relevance: A discussion with China Miéville

 

 

Eric Blanc interviews China Mi
éville

 

July 25, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Historical Materialism with the author's permission — For those interested in engaging with the history of the Russian Revolution in the hope of more effectively challenging capitalism, a tension between the universal and the particular looms large. The difficulty that inevitably arises is how to disentangle what was historically specific about Russia 1917 and Bolshevism from what might reflect a more generalised tendency. To quote award-winning author China Miéville’s recent October: The Story of the Russian Revolution (Verso): ‘This was Russia’s revolution, certainly, but it belonged and belongs to others, too. It could be ours. If its sentences are still unfinished, it is up to us to finish them.’

 

1917: The View from the Streets #16 & 17 - ‘Workers and soldiers: Everything is working in our favor’

 

 

July 22, 2017
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — One hundred years ago this week, the Bolsheviks responded to the ‘July Days’ setback by calling on working people to ignore provocations and expose rightist slanders.

 

The July demonstrations subsided quickly due to the Provisional Government’s success in painting the Bolsheviks as German-sponsored saboteurs of the Russian war effort; an upsurge in violence associated with the demonstrations; and news that loyal troops were on their way to Petrograd. The government quickly shut down Pravda, evicted the Bolsheviks from their party headquarters, and arrested many of their leaders. Lenin escaped arrest by going underground and fleeing in disguise to Finland. The two documents below represent the Bolsheviks’ responses to the rapidly developing situation.

 

Selection, translation, and annotation by Barbara Allen

 

1917: The View from the Streets #14 & 15 - The 1917 July Days uprising: Soviet leadership clashes with ranks

 

 

July 16, 2017
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — One hundred years ago this week, between 16-20 [3-7] July 1917, a protest movement of workers and soldiers in Petrograd was repelled by military and police attacks, with hundreds of casualties.

 

The July Uprising or July Days came about due to the failure of the Russian military offensive in June, a worsening of the crisis in Petrograd’s food and fuel supply, and a crisis of confidence in the government after two Liberal (Kadet) ministers resigned over their opposition to Ukrainian autonomy. In the wake of the offensive’s collapse, massive unrest arose in the Russian army, which could no longer fight effectively. The uprising began among soldiers in the Petrograd garrison who feared transfer to the front, but it also involved workers who were already on strike over low wages. Workers and soldiers demanded “all power to the soviets” and raised other radical slogans.

 

The Oath: The story of the Jewish Bund

 

 

Jewish Bund demonstration during the Russian Revolution of 1917

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

We swear an endless loyalty to the Bund.

Only it can free the slaves now.

The red flag is high and wide.

It waves in anger, it is red with blood!

Swear an oath of life and death!

Di Shvue

 

'Letter from Afar', corrections from up close: Censorship or retrofit?

 

 

In March 1917 Alexandra Kollontai, then in Oslo, provided a link between Lenin,
still in Switzerland, and the Bolsheviks in Russia.

 

By Lars Lih

 

June 26, 2017  — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — The standard “rearming the party” interpretation of Bolshevism in 1917 is a gripping and highly dramatic narrative that goes something like this: Old Bolshevism is rendered irrelevant by the February revolution, the Russian Bolsheviks flounder until Lenin returns home and rearms the party, and the party is subsequently divided over fundamental issues throughout the year. Party unity is restored—to the extent that it was restored—after the other leading Bolsheviks cave in to Lenin’s superior force of will. Only by these means was the party rearmed by a new strategy that proclaimed the socialist nature of the revolution—an essential condition for Bolshevik victory in October.

 

1917: The View from the Streets #12 & 13 - A Bolshevik appeal finds an echo in the streets

 

 

The banners read: "World peace. All power to the people. All land to the people."

and "Down with the minister-capitalists"

 

June 22, 2017 
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — One hundred years ago today, on June 22 (9) 1917, the Bolshevik Party circulated among Petrograd workers the first proclamation below (drafted by Joseph Stalin). Nine days later, the Bolsheviks’ slogans won mass support at a giant Soviet-called demonstration.

 

The proletariat and its ally: The logic of Bolshevik ‘hegemony’

 

 

By Lars Lih

 

June 19, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — Were the Bolsheviks fundamentally prepared or fundamentally unprepared by their previous outlook to meet the challenges of 1917? To answer this question, we must first arrive at an understanding of the political strategy of Old Bolshevism. A coherent political strategy must answer two fundamental questions:

1917: The View from the Streets #10 & 11 - Soviet executive calls for peace - and renewed military offensives

 

 

 

Fraternization between Russian and German soldiers on the Eastern Front, World War I

 

May 15, 2017 
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — One hundred years ago, on May 15 (2), 1917, the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies issued two appeals – one to all socialists of the world and the other to all soldiers at the front.

 

Pravda: ‘Mandate for Soviet Elections’

 

 

Introduction by John Riddell

April 2, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — The following declaration appeared 7 May 1917 on the front page of the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda under the title, Draft of a mandate for use in electing delegates to the Soviet of Worker and Soldier Deputies. This Mandate marked the first appearance of the slogan “All power to the soviets” in an official party statement. Its purpose was to help the soviet constituency distinguish genuine revolutionary candidates from revolutionaries in name only.

A revolutionary line of march: ‘Old Bolshevism’ in early 1917 re-examined

 
Lev Kamenev reading Pravda
 

March 31, 2017 Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Historical MaterialismIn the hundred years since the overthrow of Tsarism, there has been a near consensus among socialists and scholars that Bolshevism underwent a strategic rupture in early 1917. According to this account, the Bolsheviks supported the liberal Provisional Government until Vladimir Lenin returned to Russia in April and veered the party in a radical new direction by calling for socialist revolution and soviet power.

 

Through a re-examination of Bolshevik politics in March 1917, the following article demonstrates that the prevailing story is historically inaccurate and has distorted our understanding of how and why the Bolsheviks eventually came to lead the Russian Revolution.

 

1917: The View from the Streets #9 - Petrograd Soviet: 'World’s workers must join to achieve peace'

 

 Petrograd Soviet meets at the Taurida Palace, Petrograd, March 1917

 

March 27, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — One hundred years ago today, on March 27 (14), 1917, the Petrograd Soviet issued the following appeal “To the Peoples of the World,” calling for a restoration of workers’ unity in the cause of peace.

 

The moderate socialists who dominated the Petrograd Soviet until September 1917 pursued a policy of “revolutionary defensism,” which advocated defending Russia and its revolution against German aggression while calling upon European socialists to pressure their governments to bring about peace.

 

This policy toward the war would not be consistently defined until the return from Siberian exile of Tsereteli and other Menshevik leaders on April 2 (March 20), 1917. Therefore, the document below reflects the views in the Soviet at a time when moderate socialists were still open to making concessions to their radical counterparts regarding the Soviet’s position on the war and other issues. Discussions in the Soviet were crucial to the realignment of leftist forces that occurred in the wake of the February Revolution.

 

‘All Power to the Soviets!’ - Biography of a slogan

 
 
Banners: “Power to the Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Soviets”;
“Down with the Minister Capitalists”.
 

By Lars Lih

 

March 24, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — “All power to the Soviets!” is surely one of the most famous slogans in revolutionary history. It is right up there with “Egalité, liberté, fraternité” as a symbol of an entire revolutionary epoch. In this essay and others to follow later in the spring, I would like to examine the origin of this slogan in its original context of Russia in 1917.

 

1917: The View from the Streets #8 - 'The only guarantee of Polish independence is international solidarity'

 
 
Maria Koszutska (1876 – 1939), theorist and leader of the PPS-Left

 

March 17, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary websiteOne hundred years ago, on March 17 (4) 1917, the following appeal calling on Polish workers to support the Russian Revolution and fight for Polish independence was adopted at a rally of Polish socialist workers in Petrograd.

 

After the outbreak of World War One, the bulk of Poland (which had previously been ruled by the Tsarist government) came under German occupation. By 1917, roughly three million Poles – many of whom had been evacuated from Poland on the eve of the German invasion – found themselves under Tsarist rule. In response, Polish socialist parties began organizing the large groups of displaced Polish workers in industrial cities like Petrograd and Moscow.

 

1917: The View from the Streets #7 - ‘Soldiers, take power into your own hands!’

 
 

March 14, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website —100 years ago today, on March 14 (1), 1917, the Social Democratic Interdistrict Committee (Mezhrayonka), supported by the Petersburg Committee of Socialist-Revolutionaries, issued the following appeal to soldiers.

 

At that time, the Duma Committee and the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies were striving to bring order into the revolutionary events on the streets and to prevent the tsarist autocracy from restoring its control over the city. Dominated by moderate socialists, the Soviet pursued a policy of cooperation with liberals in the Duma.

 

The appeal below presented a militant alternative to the Duma Committee’s course. According to Michael Melancon (2009), it circulated on March 14 (1), 1917, probably before Order No. 1 was issued, and may have influenced the wording of Order No. 1. Alexander Shlyapnikov, who published the leaflet in 1923, states that the Executive Committee of the Petersburg Soviet confiscated it on the morning of March 15 (2), 1917.

 

Selection, translation, and annotation by Barbara Allen.

 

1917: The View from the Street #6 - Culmination of the Russian February Revolution ‘For a general strike against autocracy’

 
 

 

March 12, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — 100 years ago today, on March 12 (February 27) 1917, Socialists in Petrograd distributed the following appeal for an insurrectional general strike to bring down tsarism. That day, the culmination of the Russian February revolution, witnessed the crumbling of tsarist power.


1917: The View from the Streets #5 - Women’s Day 1917: How a women’s protest strike launched the Russian revolution

 
 

March 6, 2017 Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary websiteOne hundred years ago today, on or about March 6 (February 21), the Petrograd Mezhrayonka (Interdistrict Committee) distributed the following leaflet regarding International Women’s Day (IWD).


Although the origins of IWD were in the United States, German Social Democrat Clara Zetkin proposed in 1910 the annual celebration of the holiday on March 8 (February 23 in Russia). The holiday was first celebrated on this date in 1911 in Germany and several other European countries. Russia followed with a small demonstration in 1913, but IWD was overshadowed in Russia by May Day and the anniversary of Bloody Sunday (January 9, 1905).


In 1917, Russia’s various socialist groups failed to unite behind common slogans for International Women’s Day and therefore were unable to carry out a joint action. Without a printing press at the time, the Bolsheviks did not issue any leaflets for IWD.

Before Lenin: Bolshevik theory and practice in February 1917 revisited

 
Petrograd protesters on 23 February
 

By Eric Blanc

 

March 1, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Historical Materialism Assessing Bolshevik policy before Lenin’s return to Russia in April 1917 has long been one of the most heated historiographic controversies in the socialist movement.

1917: The View from the Streets #4: ‘For a provisional revolutionary government of workers and poor peasants'

 

 

February 15, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — 100 years ago this week, in February 1917, the Bolshevik Petersburg Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party issued the following proclamation as a response to Menshevik appeals to workers to come out in support of the Duma (parliament) on the day of its convocation (see Document #3).

 

The Bolshevik committee warned workers not to trust attempts to ally them with Duma liberals, calling instead for a one-day strike on February 23 (10) to commemorate the second anniversary of the trial of the Bolshevik deputies to the State Duma. The Petersburg Committee had forgotten, however, that many factories would be closed on that date, because it fell during a Russian religious holiday.

 

1917: The View from the Streets: Leaflets of the Russian revolution #3 – ‘Only a provisional gov't can bring freedom and peace'

 

 

February 6, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — 100 years ago today, on February 6 (January 24), 1917, a Menshevik-influenced workers’ group within the Central War Industry Committee issued the following appeal for a demonstration calling for a provisional government.

 

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