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The 1917 July Days uprising: Soviet leadership clashes with ranks

July 16, 2017

‘1917: The view from the streets’ – leaflets of the Russian Revolution #14-15.

July Days in Petrograd: Protesters on Nevskii Prospect flee army assault.

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.

Members of the Bolshevik Military Organization, anarchists, and Left SRs encouraged the soldiers’ revolt. The Bolshevik CC originally opposed the uprising, but quickly changed its position to one of support after tens of thousands of demonstrators surrounded the Tauride Palace, where the Soviet met.

The defeat of the July movement temporarily checked the revolution’s impetus, as the Provisional Government drove the Bolshevik movement semi-underground and arrested Leon Trotsky and many other revolutionary leaders.

The first document below represents the position toward the uprising of the moderate socialists who then held a majority in the soviets. The second document provides the Bolshevik point of view.

Selection, translation, and annotation by Barbara Allen


‘Protests strike blows against our brothers at the front’

July 16-17 (3-4), 1917.

To all workers and soldiers of the city of Petrograd.

Soldier and worker comrades!

Despite the clearly expressed will of all socialist parties without exception, unknown people are calling upon you to go out armed onto the street. This is how they propose that you should protest against the disbanding of regiments which dishonored themselves at the front by criminally abandoning their duty to the revolution.

As the authorized representatives of all Russia’s revolutionary democratic forces, we declare to you:

Army and front organizations demanded the disbandment of regiments at the front, which was carried out by the order of War Minister Comrade A.F. Kerensky, whom we chose.

The protests in defense of the disbanded regiments strike blows against our brothers who are spilling their blood at the front.

We remind the soldier comrades that not one military unit has the right to go out armed without the permission of the commander in chief, who is acting in full agreement with us.

We declare that all those who violate this decision during this so critical time for Russia are traitors and enemies of the revolution.

We will implement this decision by all the means at our disposal.

Bureau of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies

Bureau of the All-Russian Executive Committee of Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies.

 

‘Let the All-Russian Soviet take all power’

July 16-17 (3-4), 1917

Worker and soldier comrades of Petrograd! Given that the counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie has obviously come out against the revolution, let the All-Russian Soviet of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies take all power into its hands.

This is the will of the revolutionary population of Petrograd, which has the right to bring its will, by means of peaceful and organized demonstration, to the attention of the Executive Committees of the All-Russian Soviet of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies, which is now in session.

Long live the will of the revolutionary workers and soldiers!

Long live the power of the soviets!

The coalition government suffered failure. Unable to carry out the tasks for which it was created, it collapsed. The revolution faces enormous and extremely difficult tasks. A new authority is needed that would, in unity with the revolutionary proletariat, the revolutionary army, and the revolutionary peasantry, resolutely fortify the people’s conquests. Only the soviets of workers’, soldiers’, and peasants’ deputies can be such an authority.

Yesterday, the revolutionary garrison of Petrograd and workers came out to advance the slogan “All power to the Soviet!” We call for the transformation of this movement, which flared up in the regiments and in the factories, into the peaceful, organized expression of the will of all of worker, soldier, and peasant Petrograd.

Central Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party (RSDWP)
Petersburg Committee of the RSDWP
Inter-district Committee of the RSDWP
Military Organization of the CC RSDWP
Commission of the Workers’ Section of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies

Published in A.G. Shlyapnikov Semnadtsatyi god, volume 4, 1931, pp. 259-260, 263.

References:

Rex A. Wade, The Russian Revolution, 1917, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 172-184.

Alexander Rabinowitch, Prelude to Revolution: The Petrograd Bolsheviks and the July 1917 Uprising, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 135-214.

Other leaflets in the “1917: The view from the streets” series

1. “Down with the war; long live the revolution!” (December 1916, Bolshevik-influenced students)
2. “The day of people’s wrath is near!” (c. January 20 [7] 1917, Mezhrayonka)
3. “Only a provisional government can bring freedom and peace” (February 6 [January 24] 1917, Mensheviks)
4. “For a provisional revolutionary government of workers and poor peasants”  (February 15 [2], 1917, Bolsheviks)
5. “Women’s Day in Russia 1917: A day to prepare for victory” (March 6 [February 21] 1917)
6. “For a general strike against Autocracy” (March 12 [February 27], 1917, Mezhrayonka)
7. “Soldiers, take power into your own hands” (March 14 [1], 1917. Mezhrayonka)
8. “The only guarantee of Polish independence is international solidarity (March 17 [4], 1917, Polish left socialists)
9. “Soviets: The world’s workers must unite for peace” (March 27 [14], 1917, Petrograd Soviet)
10-11. Moderate socialists call for peace – and renewed offensives
12-13. A controversial Bolshevik appeal finds an echo in the streets

 

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