What Was Done
The Russian Revolution of 1917 (The Dirty Commie Rats took over.)
I. Interpretive Introduction (Historiography)
Explanations for what happened in 1917 range across the political spectrum. What happened? Who dunnit? What shape or direction did the events take?
prediction was that socialist revolutions would take place in highly
developed capitalist countries (like
Revisionist Marxists emerged after Marx’s death. They argued that a socialist society could be brought into being democratically and peacefully through the legislative process and through the pressure of trade union collective bargaining. (They believed that violence would pervert the development of a socialist state. They believed that decisions should be made by all workers in a democratic fashion.)
argued that Russia, like other 3rd World countries, had been exploited indirectly by the great capitalist
powers. A world-wide revolution could be provoked by
In the tradition of Hobbes and Edmund Burke, conservatives argue that all revolutions follow the same pattern: when authority is overthrown, things fall apart. Too much freedom encourages social unrest and can lead to the nightmare of civil war. (The Time of Troubles III)
Americans portray Lenin and Stalin as Commie Rats who created a rogue state which played havoc with our security for nearly eighty years. Anything that can be done should be done to avoid the creation of another state which embraces an ideology in opposition to our fundamental beliefs in natural rights. (life, liberty, property) We will support any government which provides law and order and creates the conditions where business can get done.
“Hey, s**t happens.” The stars aligned in the perfect formation to allow a tiny minority like the Bolsheviks to seize power. Pure luck. It is a stretch to attach a meaning to an essentially random act.
II. 1905 Revolution
a. Russo-Japanese War (1904-05)
Catastrophic military defeat in the Far East results in a national humiliation, the loss of territories, and the revelation that the vaunted Russian military could not compete even with another “3rd World” power, much less the Germans or the British.
b. Bloody Sunday
1905 slaughter outside the
c. October Manifesto
tsar concedes. The autocracy ends; a constitutional monarchy is installed
which promises real power to the Duma (legislative
assembly) and promises civil liberties. At long last,
liberalism has come to
d. The Duma
Bolsheviks SR’s Mensheviks Cadets Octobrists
Slavophiles, not Marxists; Peasants not workers; radicals and moderates Conservative Liberals who accept terms of
limited constitutional monarchy Constitutional
Democrats. Liberals Revisionist Marxists: pro-Duma Not in play: a tiny minority
Slavophiles, not Marxists;
Peasants not workers; radicals and moderates
Liberals who accept terms of limited constitutional monarchy
Constitutional Democrats. Liberals
Revisionist Marxists: pro-Duma
Not in play: a tiny minority
And its usurpation
Ministers became answerable to the tsar not the Duma. The effort to create a market economy over rode political concerns.
III. The February Revolution 1917
In February 1917 a spontaneous uprising against tsar was sparked by desertions and mutinies in the army as WWI dragged on. The Bolsheviks were not in play. It resulted in a tentative move, again, towards liberal society.
a. World War One
4 million casualties and counting; victory against the Austrians but repeated defeat against the Germans; economic turmoil at home. Tsar at the front, the tsarina and Rasputin in control at home.
b. Abdication of the Tsar (March 15)
Now, who would gain sovereignty?
c. The Provisional Government (control of army, capital, police and ports, ala Paul
i. War Policy
liberals resolved to honor their alliances with the Brits and the French and
fight on. Their goal was a negotiated victory which
would give them
ii. Land Policy
Government restricts land seizures by peasants until “after elections” ie never.
iii. Constituent Assembly
A new constitutional convention. Founding Fathers stuff.
iv. Kerensky to Power
A charismatic speaker, a Menshevik, is appointed to build a bridge between the government and the Soviets.
v. Kerensky Offensive
WWI offensive against the Germans in central Europe is turned back: a disastrous failure, and the patience of the soldiers snaps.
d. The Soviets
grass roots assemblies elect representatives to councils of workers, peasants
and soldiers. SR’s dominate. The
i. Order #1
Soldiers are given permission to disobey officers if they are not consulted in the decision making process. Democracy is brought to the army.
ii. Lenin’s April Theses
1. “All power to the Soviets”
He immediately announces that the workers are finally in a position where they can seize power for themselves.
2. “Land, Peace and Bread”
His slogan calls for immediate land reform, an end to the war, and the opening of the granaries to a famished populace. (Good politics!)
iii. July Days 1917
July another spontaneous uprising took place.
Workers and soldiers in
e. Kornilov Affair
the rescue came this right wing general who tried to
seize power to protect the country from a communist revolution and to restore
the tsar to power. In response Kerensky
armed the workers in
Given a second opportunity, Lenin took full advantage of it. He could claim that the workers, not the government, had saved the country from the coup. His seizure of power was bloodless. A sizeable chunk of the people supported him.
IV. The October Revolution 1917
a. Council of People’s Commissars Lenin
i. Peace initiative, land seizures, factory seizures, nobility abolished, Church suppressed, alphabet reformed, calendar reformed, Cheka
ii. Suppression of Constituent Assembly
in December: SR’s dominate. Bolsheviks get only 40%. This was the last
relatively free election in
Lenin creates one party system and has the Cheka arrest all opposition.
iii. Treaty of Brest-Litovsk Mar 1918
surrenders and pulls
V. The Civil War 1918-21
(Trotsky) v. Whites, Allies and
b. War Communism
VI. The NEP 1921
a. One Step Backward
b. Lenin’s Death 1924
VII. Stalin Revolution 1928-34
a. Power Struggle and “What is to be Done” redux
i. Bukharin v. Trotsky
b. Socialism in One Country
i. Five Year Plans