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The Counter-Revolution. July through early September, 1917.

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the counter revolution

The Counter-Revolution

July through early September, 1917


In April, June, and July, the principal actors were the same: the Liberals, the Compromisers and the Bolsheviks. At all these stages the masses were trying to crowd the bourgeoisie out of the government. But the difference in the political consequences of mass interference in the several cases was enormous. It was the bourgeoisie who suffered in consequence of the “April days.” The annexation policy was condemned – in words at least; the Kadet party was humiliated; the portfolio of foreign affairs was taken from it. In June the movement came to nothing. A gesture was made against the Bolsheviks, but the blow was not struck. In July the Bolshevik party was accused of treason, shattered, deprived of food and drink. Whereas in April Miliukov had been forced out of the government, in July Lenin was forced underground.

july days1
July Days
  • Machine Gunnist want to take power
    • “All power to the soviets”
  • Rest of country was not ready to take power
    • Weak relationships with peasants (rural areas)
  • Boshevik response
    • Tries to stop them but is unsuccessful so they support
  • Severe repression

Petrograd, 4 July 1917. Street demonstration on NevskyProspekt just after troops of the Provisional Government have opened fire with machine guns.

great slander july 5 th
Great Slander (July 5th)
  • Bolshevik leadership is collaborating with Germans
    • This greatly impacts Bolshevik organization and membership for a few weeks
  • “One of the initiators of the business, the attorney general, Bessarabov, later frankly described in the press how, when it became clear that the Provisional Government in Petrograd was wholly without reliable armed forces, it was decided in the district headquarters to try to create a psychological change in the regiments by means of some strong medicine.” (73)
great slander continued
Great Slander continued
  • “In the assault upon the Bolsheviks all the ruling forces, the government, the courts, the Intelligence Service, the staffs, the officialdom, the municipalities, the parties of the soviet majority, their press, their orators, constituted one colossal unite. The disagreements among them, like the different tone qualities of the instruments in an orchestra, only strengthened the general effect.” (90)
response to july slander
Response to July Slander
  • “ An intolerable atmosphere, in which you as well as we are choking….Lenin has fought thirty years for the revolution. I have fought twenty years against the oppression of the people. A suspicion against us in that direction could be expressed only by those who do not know what a revolutionist is. I have been sentenced by a German court to eight months’ imprisonment for my struggle against German militarism…This everyone knows. Let nobody in this hall ay that we are hirelings of Germany, for that is not the voice of convinced revolutionists but the voice of scoundrels.”- Trotsky (75)

“publish and paste up a manifesto in which is shall be declared that the accusation of espionage against the Bolshevik faction is a slander and a plot of the counter-revolution.”

    • Resolution passed by Moscow soldier and worker soviets on July 10th
  • Petrograd soviet did nothing
impact of the great slander on bolsheviks
Impact of the Great Slander on Bolsheviks
  • “Membership fell off rapidly, and several organizations, especially in the southern provinces, even ceased to exist entirely.” (195)
  • “At certain points in the Moscow region the Bolsheviks were obliged to withdraw not only from the soviets, but also from the trade unions.” (196)
  • “The workers…recoiled and jumped back as though from a blow in the solar plexus. The blow was in reality psychological rather than physical, but it was no less real for that.” (198)
the compromisers the counter revolution lifts it s head
The Compromisers/ The counter-revolution lifts it’s head
  • “The Compromisers were torn between the necessity of reviving their half-friendship with the bourgeoisies, and the need of softening the hostility of the masses.” (92)
    • July 7th
      • Various repressive measures
    • July 9th
      • “The provisional government is…endowed with unlimited powers.” (93)
    • July 12th
      • Restored death penalty-on the front
    • July 13th
      • Bolshevik press is shut down
kornilov becomes commander in chief
Kornilov becomes Commander-in-Chief
  • “Would accept the apointment only on the following conditions: “Responsibility only to his own conscious and the people; no interference in the appointment of the high commanding staff; restoration of the death penalty at the rear.” (98)
    • Kornilov (and Kadet party)
kerensky is indispensible
Kerensky is “indispensible”
  • “He won the game by giving it away. The Compromisers threw themselves upon Comrade Kerensky with suppressed curses and public prayers. Both sides, the Kadets and the socialists, easily persuaded the headless ministry to abolish itself, empowering Kerensky to form the government anew and at his sole personal discretion.” (99)
    • July 24: Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries give “unconditional and unlimited powers to Kerensky”
ministry of july 24th
Ministry of July 24th
  • “the socialists were the majority, but they were mere shadows of the Liberals.” (101)
  • “The reaction was on the offensive, the democracy in retreat. Classes and groups which had retired in fright during the first days of the revolution began to lift their heads.” (101)
    • Extermination of the Bolsheviks
    • Free trade
august 7th
August 7th
  • “The reaction was on the offensive, the government in retreat. On August 7th, the most popular Black hundred agency, partisans of the Rasputin circles and of Jewish pogroms, were liberated from prison. The Bolsheviks remained in the Kretsy prison”
popularity of kornilov
Popularity of Kornilov
  • “The candidacy of Kornilov for the role of savior of the country was thus openly advanced by the most authoritative representative of the possessing and educated classes of Russia.” (104)
russian council of churches
Russian Council of Churches
  • “which had for its official aim to complete the emancipation of the orthodox church from bureaucratic activities, but whose real aim was to protect it from the revolution.” (104)
    • Self-interest to keep their land and wealth
state conference in moscow aug 13
State Conference in Moscow (Aug 13)
  • “The speeches of the other members of the government exposed not so much a personal bankruptcy, as the bankruptcy of the compromise system.” (127)
    • “In the interests of national unity it had been decided to pretend that the agrarian question did not exist.” (127)
  • Membership determined by government
    • “make sure in advance that the conference should contain an equal number of representative from the possessing classes and the people.” (106)
    • Bolsheviks not invited
  • “Divided in two halves: to the right sat the bourgeoisie, to the left the democracy” (126)

“Minister-President” Kerensky

    • “Any new attempts against the government “will be put down with blood and iron.” (126)
    • “Whatever ultimatums no matter who may present to me, I will know how to subdue him to the will of the supreme power, and to me, its supreme head” (126)
state conference continued aug 14 th
State conference continued (Aug 14th)
  • Initially there was an appearance of Unity
    • “The hall rose and stormily applauded Kornilov and Kerensky. The unity of the nation was once more preserved.” (128)
  • Kornilov speaks:
    • “paint the condition of the army and the situation at the front in the blackest colors, and with an obvious intent to cause fright” (129)
    • Bolshevik paper wrote: “The Tarnopol defeat made Kornilov commander-in-chief, the surrender of Riga might make him dictator” (129)
  • Cossack General Kaledin
    • “developed the full military program of the reaction: abolish the committees, restore power to the commanders, equalize the front and the rear, reconsider the rights of the soldiers –that is, reduce them to nothing.” (130)
  • “The chapter of the Social Revolutionaries and Mencheviks is at an end, the Cossack and junker chapter is next in order.” (133)

Divisions (Kornilov vs. Provisional Government)

    • “These clashes were merely a weak, smothered, parliamentarized echo of those contradictions which were convulsing the country.” (136)
    • “The left half was disappointed and demoralized, and the right enraged” (140)
  • A symbolic handshake or kiss of unity
  • Failure to create legitimate government/coalition

“With a broken voice which fell from a hysterical shriek to a tragic whisper, Kerensky threatened an imaginary enemy, intently searching for him throughout the hall with inflamed eyes. . . .“ Miliukov really knew better than anybody else that this enemy was not imaginary. ”Today citizens of the Russian land, I will no longer dream. . . May my heart become a stone. . . .“ Thus Kerensky raged-”Let all those flowers and dreams of humanity dry up. (A woman 5 voice from the gallery: ’You cannot do that. Your heart will not permit you.) I throw far away the key of my heart, beloved people. I will think only of the state.“

The hall was stupefied, and this time both halves of it. The social symbol of the State Conference wound up with an insufferable monologue from a melodrama. That woman’s voice raised in defense of the flowers of the heart sounded like a cry for help, like an S.O.S. from the peaceful, sunny, bloodless February revolution. The curtain came down at last upon the State Conference.” (141)

bolsheviks during the conference
Bolsheviks during the Conference
  • “During those very hours Moscow was in the secret control of a committee of six – two Mensheviks, two Social Revolutionaries, two Bolsheviks” (134)
  • General strike in Petrograd
kerensky s plot
Kerensky’s Plot
  • Tried to get rid of Kornilov
    • Attempted to take him off of his position as Leader of the Army and Kadets
  • Concedes to Kornilov’s (and the right wing’s) program
kornilov s attempted insurrection
Kornilov’s attempted insurrection
  • “The soldiers of Kornilov never even made the attempt to employ weapons to force their way to Petrograd. The officers did not dare give them the command. The government troops were nowhere obliged to resort to force in stopping the onslaught of the Kornilov army. The conspiracy disintegrated, crumbled, evaporated in the air.” (171)
  • “The difficulty was not Kornilov’s malaria, but a far deeper, more fatal, and incurable disease paralyzing the will of the possessing classes.” (173)
kornilov and the cossacks
Kornilov and the Cossacks
  • “These fundamental data sufficiently explain the self-contradictory position of the Cossackdom as a whole. In its lower strata it came in close contact with the peasantry; in its upper, with the landlords. At the same time the upper and lower strata were united by a consciousness of their special situation, their position as a chosen people, and were accustomed to look down not only upon the worker but also upon the peasant. This was what made the middle Cossack so useful for putting down revolts.” (205)
bolshevik response to kornilov s insurrection
Bolshevik response to Kornilov’s insurrection
  • Able to block trains and telegrams
    • “The revolution was omnipresent. It penetrated everywhere, coiling itself around the conspiracy. It had everywhere its eye, its ear, its hand.” (174)
    • “The railroad workers tore up and barricaded the tracks in order to hold back Kornilov’s army.” (176)
  • Arming workers
    • “ it was decided to demand the arrest of all conspirators, to arm the workers, to supply them with soldier instructors, to guarantee the defense of the capital from below, and at the same time to prepare for the creation of a revolutionary government of workers and soldiers.” (175)

“The rebel general had stamped his foot, and legions rose up from the group-but they were the legions of the enemy.” (177)

  • “It is time to understand at last that the Bolsheviks are not an irresponsible group, but one of the divisions of the organized revolutionary democracy, and that broad masses stand behind them, not always disciplined perhaps, but nevertheless devotedly loyal to the revolution.” (203)