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Soviets: World’s workers must unite for peace

“1917: The View from the Streets”: Leaflets of the Russian revolution – #9

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 known as Mensheviks who dominated the Petrograd Soviet until September 1917 pursued a policy of “revolutionary defensism,” which advocated military defense of Russia and its revolution against German aggression while calling upon European socialists to pressure their governments to bring about peace. Read more…

‘All Power to the Soviets!’ Part 1: Biography of a slogan

A Series by Lars T. Lih (Spring, 2017)

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

The following article is the first in a seven-part series. An appendix to this article, “Mandate for Soviet Elections,” has been posted separately. See also other writings of Lars Lih. –JR

By Lars Lih. “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.

Our slogan consists of three words: вся власть советам, vsya vlast’ sovetam. “Vsya” = “all,” “vlast’” = “power”, and “sovetam” = “to the soviets”. The Russian word sovet simply means “advice,” and, from that, “council.” By now, of course, we are very used to the Russian word, because it evokes a specific set of meanings arising out of the revolutionary experience of 1917. Read more…

Pravda: ‘Mandate for Soviet Elections’

For possible use in electing delegates to the Soviet of Worker and Soldier Deputies

PravdaThe 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.

The statement has been translated and submitted by Lars Lih as an appendix to his contribution, “’All Power to the Soviets!’ Part 1: Biography of a Slogan” and as a guide to the meaning of that slogan in 1917.–JR Read more…

Louis Proyect: The revolutionary democratic-dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry? Say what?

Louis Proyect responds here to analyses of  the 1917 Russian revolution by Eric Blanc and Lars Lih that have appeared on this website. Louis’ article first appeared on his site, https://louisproyect.org/, on March 4, 2017, and is reposted with permission. For links to related material, see bottom of this post.

Louis Proyect (from louisproyect.org)

By Louis Proyect. When I first heard the term “revolutionary democratic-dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” not long after joining the SWP in 1967, I said to myself “What the fuck is that?” Democratic dictatorship, say what?

Soon, I learned that this was a term coined by V.I. Lenin to convey the goals of the Bolshevik Party in the coming Russian revolution. Basically, it meant that the workers would make a revolution against the feudal class in Russia that dominated the countryside and that was represented politically by the Czar. After that stage had been accomplished, Russia would go on to the next stage of capitalist development freed from feudal constraints. Under those conditions, the workers would take advantage of constitutional freedoms to build a socialist party modeled on the German social democracy that can overthrow the capitalist system. Read more…

‘The only guarantee of Polish independence is international solidarity’

Proclamation of Polish socialist workers in Petrograd

“1917: The View from the Streets” – leaflets of the Russian revolution – #8

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

One hundred years ago today, 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.

Little is known about the initiators of the following appeal. Given its simultaneous stress on class struggle, internationalism, and Polish independence, the authors were likely members of the revolutionary Marxist Polish Socialist Party-Left and/or the far left wing of the Polish Socialist Party (Revolutionary Fraction).[1] Whereas most Polish nationalists and the moderate leaders of the Polish Socialist Party (Revolutionary Fraction) had throughout the war sought to promote Polish independence through a pact with German or Austrian imperialism, the following appeal makes the case for why national liberation could only be won through the struggle and solidarity of the international working class.

Selection, translation, and annotation by Eric Blanc. Read more…

‘Soldiers, take power into your own hands!’

‘Your representatives and worker deputies should become the people’s Provisional Revolutionary Government.’

“1917: The View from the Streets” – leaflets of the Russian revolution – #7

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.

Soldiers demonstration 1917

Read more…

‘For a general strike against autocracy’

Culmination of the Russian February Revolution

“1917: The View from the Streets”: Leaflets of the Russian revolution – #6.

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.

The day after the demonstration by women workers on March 8 (February 23), more than 200,000 striking workers marched into the center of Petrograd. Large numbers of students and middle-class professionals joined the demonstrations on March 10 (February 25 ). Soldiers at first hesitated to forcefully remove demonstrators, but on March 11 (February 26), some soldiers followed orders to shoot at demonstrators, killing hundreds.

Soldiers rally to the revolution-2

Soldiers rally to the revolution

Read more…

Women’s Day in Russia 1917: A day to prepare for victory

“1917: The View from the Streets” – leaflets of the Russian revolution – #5

A leaflet issued by Russian socialists 100 years ago to honor Working Women’s Day anticipated the revolution that began that day.

For a French translation, see Europe Solidaire.

One hundred years ago, on or about March 6 (February 21, according to the Julian calendar in use in Russia at the time), the Petrograd Mezhrayonka (or Interdistrict Committee) distributed a leaflet regarding International Women’s Day (IWD), coming up in two days’ time on March 8. That day in 1917 became the first day of the Russian Revolution, begun by a strike of women textile workers.

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).

Women demonstrate in Petrograd, 1917

Women demonstrate in Petrograd, 1917

Read more…

Eric Blanc – Before Lenin: Bolshevik theory and practice in February 1917 revisited

By Eric Blanc. Eric Blanc is an independent researcher in Oakland, California. He is the author of the forthcoming monograph, Anti-Colonial Marxism: Oppression & Revolution in the Tsarist Borderlands (Brill Publishers, Historical Materialism Book Series). Reposted from Historical Materialism Blog. For links to other articles by Eric Blanc, see below.

Introduction

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Petrograd, February 1917. Slogans: “Women’s demonstration,” “Glory to women, fighters for freedom.” (HM Blog)

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. As Frederick Corney’s recent documentary collection has illustrated, debates over this issue were a central component of the political struggle waged in the early 1920s by Leon Trotsky and his supporters against the degeneration of the Soviet regime under the leadership of Joseph Stalin.[1] Read more…

Review: ‘To the Masses’ – A dive into refreshing water

We continue here our series of republished reviews of the newly published proceedings of the Third Comintern Congress. The following review by Chris Bambery first appeared in Counterfire.org, 2 February 2017. For a list of other reviews, see bottom of page.–JR

To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921, ed. and trans. John Riddell (Haymarket Books 2015), x, 1299 pp., $55.

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Clara Zetkin: ‘Her speeches strike home time after time.’

By Chris Bambery. Imagine a hot, hot day. You’re trekking in the heat when suddenly an azure bay comes into view. Hurriedly you peel off and dive in to the fresh water. You feel refreshed, alert to the world around you. After plunging into To the Masses, I feel something the same. Collected here are the speeches, resolutions and more from the Third Congress of the Communist International (Comintern), held in Moscow in 1921, bringing together the young revolutionary Communist Parties from across the globe.

It brings to a conclusion the crucial work of John Riddell in editing a series which started with the collapse of the Second International after social democratic parties across Europe rallied to their respective states with the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914. It continued to the Comintern’s Fourth Congress, in 1922, the last prior to Lenin’s death and prior to its degeneration into an appendage of Soviet diplomacy. John has done us all an immense service. Read more…

Review: ‘To the Masses’ – debating the world revolution

We continue here our series of reviews of the newly published proceedings of the Third Comintern Congress. The following review by John Rose first appeared in International Socialism #153 (3 January 2017). For a list of other reviews, see bottom of page.–John Riddell

To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921, ed. and trans. John Riddell (Haymarket Books 2015), x, 1299 pp., US$55.

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Lenin takes notes at Third Congress

By John Rose. To the Masses is the last volume of a hugely ambitious project to make the proceedings of the (four) congresses of the Communist International held during Lenin’s time available in English. It’s an extraordinary achievement for John Riddell, a Canadian revolutionary socialist historian and activist. With good reason the publisher can boast of “this newly translated treasure of 1,000 pages of source material…supplemented by an analytic introduction, detailed footnotes, a glossary with 430 biographical entries, a chronology, a comprehensive index”. The volume also includes 32 appendices which portray behind the scenes exchanges between delegates at the congress.

A brief review cannot begin to do justice to a resource like this. It will justifiably demand the attention of generations of professional and amateur historians, socialist activists and curious general readers who want to deepen their understanding of the desperate struggle to internationalise the world’s first socialist revolution in Russia in October 1917. Read more…

Lars Lih: Workers and intellectuals – A ‘revolutionary Social Democrat’ consensus

By Lars T. Lih

In place of an introduction

The following essay was written in 2011 for circulation among colleagues. I have decided to publish it unchanged in 2017 for two main reasons. First and foremost, the essay explains and documents the views of Lenin, the Russian Bolshevik Alexander Bogdanov, and Karl Kautsky on a crucial issue: the proper relations between workers and intellectuals within Social Democracy. It therefore serves as an extension of my earlier attack on the “textbook interpretation” of Lenin’s views.

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V.I. Ulyanov (Lenin)

In this essay, I focus on a variation of the textbook interpretation that is put forward by many writers on the Left: Yes, Lenin was “worried about workers” in 1902, when he wrote What is To be Done?, but he renounced this outlook in 1905 because he was so impressed with the revolutionary prowess of the workers, something that was supposedly a complete surprise to him. In contrast to this thesis, Lenin actually stressed that the revolution in 1905 had confirmed his earlier views, making Bolshevism the guardian of the Russian Social Democratic tradition. Read more…

‘For a provisional revolutionary government of workers and poor peasants’

“1917: The View from the Streets” – leaflets of the Russian revolution – #4.

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Alexander Shlyapnikov, sketch by Yuri Artsybushev about December 1917

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. Read more…

‘Only a provisional government can bring freedom and peace’

‘1917: The View from the Streets’ – leaflets of the Russian revolution – #3

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Menshevik leader Fyodor Dan (1871-1947)

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.

The War Industry Committees were set up by Russian businessmen in 1915 to assist the Russian imperial government with military supplies. Managers and engineers filled the committees, which were supplemented by groups of workers elected from factories. Bolsheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries were generally opposed to such collaboration by workers with owners and managers of industry, but some Mensheviks participated in the worker groups.

Read more…

‘The day of the people’s wrath is near’

‘1917: The View from the Streets’ – leaflets of the Russian revolution #2

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 (Mezhrayonka). 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) Read more…