Part 2 of Lars Lih’s series ‘All Power to thte Soviets’
By Lars T. Lih, April 2017. 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:
- What are the driving forces of the revolution in Russia—that is, what classes of Russian society would determine the course of the revolution, what were their interests and degree of organization, how would these classes clash and interact?
- What are the prospects of the upcoming revolution—that is, what progressive accomplishments could socialists reasonably hope for and what accomplishments were unlikely to happen?
By Lars T. Lih. Three vivid and emotive Russian words are indispensable for a real understanding of the hegemony scenario: vlast, narod, and vozhd. While each of them have typical English equivalents that are not in themselves inaccurate, the English words leave out much that is important. Read more…
A previously untranslated reminiscence by Grigory Zinoviev
One hundred years ago today, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin returned to Russia with a small group of revolutionaries aboard the famous ‘sealed train.’ The following reminiscence of this event was written after Lenin’s death in 1924 by Grigory Zinoviev, one of Lenin’s companions on the train. Introduction and translation by Ben Lewis. Republished with permission from Weekly Worker. Read more…
By Eric Blanc. The following article continues a series initiated by Eric Blanc’s “Before Lenin: Bolshevik Theory and Practice in February 1917 Revisited.”
In 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. Read more…
“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…
A Series by Lars T. Lih (Spring, 2017)
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…
For possible use in electing delegates to the Soviet of Worker and Soldier Deputies
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.
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 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.
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…
Proclamation of Polish socialist workers in Petrograd
“1917: The View from the Streets” – leaflets of the Russian revolution – #8
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). 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…
‘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.
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.
“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).
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.
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. Read more…
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.
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…