Soviet leadership clashes with ranks
‘1917: the view from the streets’ - leaflets of the Russian Revolution, Nos14-15
One hundred years ago this week, between July 16 and 20 [3 and 7] 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 (Cadet) 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 Organisation, anarchists and Left Socialist Revolutionaries 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.
This series is edited by John Riddell and the leaflets have been translated and annotated by Barbara Allen from AG Shlyapnikov Semnadtsatyi god Vol 4 (1931), pp259-60, 263.
First published at http://johnriddell.wordpress.com.
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 dishonoured themselves at the front by criminally abandoning their duty to the revolution.
As the authorised representatives of all Russia’s revolutionary democratic forces, we declare to you:
- Army and front organisations demanded the disbandment of regiments at the front, which was carried out by the order of war minister, comrade AF Kerensky, whom we chose.
- The protests in defence 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 organised 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 has failed. 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, organised 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 Organisation of the CC RSDWP
Commission of the workers’ section of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies