For a people’s Provisional Revolutionary Government

Introducing another translation in the series: ‘1917: the view from the streets’ - leaflets of the Russian Revolution, No7

The abdication of Nicholas II on March 2 1917. In the royal train: minister of the court Baron Fredericks, General N Ruzsky, VV Shulgin, AI Guchkov and Nicholas II

One hundred years ago, on March 14 (March 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.

Nonetheless, the soviet’s ‘order No1’, which it issued on March 14 in response to soldiers’ pressure and published on March 15, called for soldiers to elect representative committees all along the chain of command, stipulated that officers treat soldiers respectfully and asserted the soviet’s primary influence over soldiers, who should obey only duma commands that did not contradict soviet resolutions.

The duma committee announced the formation of the Provisional Government on March 15, and Nicholas II abdicated on behalf of himself and his son. By March 16, the autocracy had collapsed. Thus, the ground had been prepared for the ‘dual power’ in Petrograd that prevailed between the March (February) and November (October) 1917 revolutions.

The appeal below presented a militant alternative to the duma committee’s course. According to Michael Melancon (2009), it was circulated on March 14 1917, probably before order No1 was issued, and may have influenced the wording of that order. 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 1917.

 

This series is edited by John Riddell and the leaflets have been translated and annotated by Barbara Allen.

First published at: http://johnriddell.wordpress.com

 

Soldiers, take power into your own hands!

Comrade soldiers!

It has come to pass! You enslaved peasants and workers arose, and with a crash the autocratic government collapsed in disgrace.

Soldiers! The people were patient for a long time. The peasants long suffered under the power of the gentry landowners, the land captains, the district police officers, and the whole gang of servants of the tsarist autocracy. Millions of peasants became swollen from hunger, while the state treasury, the monasteries and the landowners seized all the land, and while the nobles got fat from sucking the people’s blood. Without land, the peasant cannot even put his chickens out to feed!

Brother soldiers!

As peasants, as workers, what do you need? All the land and full freedom - that is what you need! You did not shed your blood in vain. For two days Petrograd has been under the power of soldiers and workers. It has been two days since the dissolved state duma elected a Provisional Committee, which it calls a Provisional Government. Still, you have not heard a word from [MV] Rodzianko [duma chair] or [PN] Miliukov [Cadet Party leader and Provisional Committee spokesman] about whether the land will be taken from the gentry landowners and given to the people. The prospects are poor!

Soldiers! Be on your guard to prevent the nobles from deceiving the people!

Go ask the duma, will the people have land, freedom and peace?

Soldiers! Why does the duma say nothing about this? Autocratic arbitrariness needs to be completely uprooted. The people’s cause will perish unless we conclude the business by convening the Constituent Assembly, to which all peasants and all workers would send their deputies - not like in the current duma, composed of the wealthy and highest ranks of society, which dooms the people’s cause!

Take power into your hands, so that this Romanov gang of nobles and officers does not deceive you. Elect your own platoon, company and regiment commanders. Elect company committees for managing food supplies. All officers should be under the supervision of these company committees.

Accept only those officers whom you know to be friends of the people.

Obey only delegates sent from the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies!

Soldiers! Now, when you have arisen and achieved victory, those coming to join you include not only friends, but also officers, who are former enemies and who only pretend to be your friends.

Soldiers! We are more afraid of the fox’s tail [intrigues] than the wolf’s tooth [outright aggression]. Only the workers and peasants are your true friends and brothers. Strengthen your unity with them! Send your delegate-representatives to the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, already supported by 250,000 workers in Petrograd alone. Your representatives and worker deputies should become the people’s Provisional Revolutionary Government. It will give you both land and freedom!

Soldiers, listen to us! Demand an answer from the duma right now. Will it take land from the gentry landowners, state treasury and monasteries? Will it transfer land to the peasants? Will it give the people complete freedom? Will it convene the Constituent Assembly? Don’t waste time!

Soldiers! Talk about this in your companies and battalions! Hold meetings! Elect from among you commanders and representatives to the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.

  •  All land to the peasants!
  •  All freedom to the people!
  •  Long live the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies!
  •  Long live the Provisional Revolutionary Government!

Translated from AG Shlyapnikov Semnadtsatyi god Vol 1, 1923, pp337-38. On Shlyapnikov’s role in the 1917 events, see Barbara C Allen Alexander Shlyapnikov 1885-1937: life of an old Bolshevik Chicago 2016.

Sources

M Melancon, ‘From the head of Zeus: the Petrograd soviet’s rise and first days, February 27- March 2 1917’ The Carl Beck papers in Russian and East European Studies Pittsburgh 2009, pp37-39. Melancon translates long excerpts from the leaflet.

RA Wade The Russian Revolution, 1917 Cambridge 2000, pp45-52, 101-02.

The Mezhrayonka

Here are some English-language articles on the Interdistrict Committee (Mezhrayonka), originator of this and several other leaflets in the ‘View from the streets’ series.

M Melancon, ‘Who wrote what and when: proclamations of the February revolution in Petrograd, February 23 - March 1 1917 Soviet Studies Vol 40 (1988), pp479-500.

JD White, ‘The February revolution and the Bolshevik Vyborg District Committee (in response to Michael Melancon)’ Soviet Studies Vol 41 (1989), pp602-24.

DA Longley, ‘The Mezhraionka, the Bolsheviks and International Women’s Day: in response to Michael Melancon’ Soviet Studies Vol 41 (1989), pp625-45.

ID Thatcher, ‘The St Petersburg/Petrograd Mezhraionka, 1913-1917: the rise and fall of a Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party unity faction’ The Slavonic and East European Review Vol 87, No2 (April 2009), pp284-321.