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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.
“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'
March 17, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — One 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.
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 website — One 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.
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.
Reviewed by Doug Enaa Greene
October 1917 – Workers in Power.
Paul Le Blanc, Ernest Mandel, David Mandel, François Vercammen, and contemporary texts by Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin, Leon Trotsky.
Edited by Fred Leplat and Alex de Jong
London: Merlin Press, the IIRE and Resistance Books, 2016. 256 pages
‘1917: The View from the Streets’: Leaflets of the Russian revolution #2 – ‘The Day of the People’s Wrath is Near’
a revolutionary current of Russian Social Democracy.
January 22, 2017 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website – 100 years ago today, on January 22 (9) 1917, an estimated 150,000 workers in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) carried out a protest strike against the war and the tsarist autocracy, a foreshock of the Russian revolution that broke out six weeks later (see “Historian’s summary” below).
The following call for this action was circulated during the previous days by the Social Democratic Interdistrict Committee (Mezhraionka). January 22 (9) was the anniversary of Bloody Sunday in 1905, when the tsarist government used military force to violently suppress a peaceful demonstration. (See “Note on Russian dates,” below).
The Interdistrict Committee members wanted to rally all Marxist Social Democrats to unite the factions of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party, in order to present a united socialist front against the war, the autocracy, and liberal attempts to draw workers into a patriotic effort to support the war. During 1917 the Mezhrayonka fused with the Bolshevik current.
Translation and annotation by Barbara Allen.
‘1917: The View from the Streets’: Leaflets of the Russian revolution #1 - ‘Down with the war. Long live the revolution!’
December 2, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — One hundred years ago this month, an organizing committee of Bolshevik-influenced students issued this underground proclamation calling on students in Russia who were opposed to the war to come together with workers and peasants to put a provisional revolutionary government in power. The organizing committee linked revolutionary student circles at higher educational institutions in Petrograd, Russia. Its proclamation reflects the impact of the Zimmerwald movement upon leading student revolutionary activists in Russia. It was originally published by Alexander Shlyapnikov in 1923.
By Doug Enaa Greene
To my friend and comrade Francesca.
November 6, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — “What side of the barricades are you on?” This phrase expresses the poignant meaning that the term barricades has in the revolutionary lexicon. Barricades represent a line of demarcation in the class war between the exploiters and the exploited. To stand with the exploited on the barricades is to pick a side, it is an action of solidarity with one's comrades, and shows that one is read to sacrifice their life for the cause. Although barricades dominated the insurrectionary movements during the nineteenth century, as time passed the barricade was found wanting as a effective tactic to topple the state, especially as the forces of order redesigned cities to prevent uprisings and revolutionaries pursued legal channels for political advance. When revolutionary opportunities came following the Russian Revolution, the barricade was relegated to the background in favor of more sophisticated approaches to insurrection.
By Eric Blanc
October 14, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from John Riddell’s blog with permission — This article reexamines the perspectives on the state and revolution advocated by the early Karl Kautsky and revolutionary social democrats across the Tsarist Empire. Contrary to a common misconception, these “orthodox” Marxists rejected the possibility of a peaceful and gradualist utilization of the capitalist state for socialist transformation. I show that Second International “orthodoxy” proved to be a sufficiently radical political foundation for the Bolsheviks and Finnish socialists to lead the Twentieth century’s first anti-capitalist seizures of power.
By Doug Enaa Greene
July 28, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — When the names of Russian Marxism are remembered, those of Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky and Nikolai Bukharin figure as leading lights. However, these figures built upon the pioneering work of Georgi Plekhanov. Plekhanov almost single-handedly introduced Marxism into the Russian Empire and popularized it for a generation of socialist militants. However, Plekhanov's Marxism was seriously flawed in a number of ways and he was not up to the challenge of revolutionary politics. It fell to the generation who came after him to carry the struggle forward to victory. Yet Plekhanov's limitations do not take away from his contributions as a pioneer, something always recognized by his Marxist pupils.
By Paul Le Blanc
July 18, 2016 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal – The title of this session – “the darker the night, the brighter the star” – is the title of the fourth and final volume of Tony Cliff’s biography of Leon Trotsky, who was a central leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution of workers and peasants, which turned the Russian Tsarist empire into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. One of the founders of modern Communism and the Soviet state, Trotsky is also the best known of those who fought against the degeneration of that revolution and movement brought on by a vicious bureaucratic dictatorship led by Joseph Stalin.
By Eric Blanc
May 2, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from International Socialist Review with the author’s permission — Given the importance Marxists place on the fight against racial and national oppression, it is surprising that relatively little attention has been paid to the socialists of imperial Russia’s borderlands. Most of the inhabitants of the tsarist empire were non-Russian (Poles, Jews, Ukrainians, Finns, Latvians, Georgians, Muslims, etc.), as were most revolutionaries. Yet academic and activist historiography has distorted our understanding of the socialist movement’s overall development by narrowly focusing on Central Russia.
Victor Serge (left), Benjamin Péret, Remedios Varo, and André Breton
By Doug Enaa Greene
January 18, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, reposted from Red Wedge with the author's permission — In 1941, reflecting on his own life, which spanned several revolutions, exile, and prison, Victor Serge commented:
Lars Lih: The ironic triumph of ‘old Bolshevism’ -- the ‘April debates’ and their impact on Bolshevik strategy
June 1, 2015 --Johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Lars T. Lih challenges a commonly held view of the Russian Bolshevik party's conduct during the Russian Revolution of 1917, stressing the continuity between the Bolsheviks’ positions before World War I and those advanced during the revolutionary upheaval.
The text is based on a talk Lih gave in 2010 and recently revised. Following the text is a note on other places where Lih’s views on this topic are available – John Riddell.
* * *
By Lars T. Lih
Pravda editor Lev Kamenev.
Article by Lars Lih, introduction by John Riddell
April 22, 2015 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Did the Bolsheviks, as has often been argued, set aside their pre-1914 strategy in April 1917 on Lenin’s insistence? Recent studies by Lars Lih criticise this thesis, maintaining that the actual course followed by the Bolsheviks in 1917 was close to that of pre-war “Old Bolshevism”.
In the following article, Lih tests his conclusion by examining the editorial course of the Bolsheviks’ main newspaper, Pravda, soon after the February revolution and before Lenin’s return to Russia.
Lih’s text is followed by both a translation and the original Russian text of a March 1917 Pravda editorial by Lev Kamenev, and by a note on further reading.