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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL - Dossier 1917: April-May: The irrepressible rise to the social explosion (fr, it, pt) [machine translation]

Date Sat, 16 Sep 2017 13:57:03 +0300


After the fall of the Tsar, the euphoria quickly dissipates under the pressure of the burning questions to be solved - to end the war, to share the land, to satisfy the workers' demands. An alliance was formed between the anarchists and the Bolshevik base to push for social revolution. ---- Anarchist calico in the crowd. From g. to dr.: " Bread and Freedom " (Russian title of Kropotkin's The Conquest of Bread ), " Unity is Strength ", " Everything for Freedom ", " Death to the Enemies of Freedom ". ---- When the imperial autocracy blindly repressed all contestation, a sort of fraternity of arms linked the various socialist tendencies. But now that the Tsar has fallen, and the construction of a new society arises concretely, the divergences become blatant. The gap between the moderates and the revolutionaries began to widen.

At the Petrograd Soviet, the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary majority (SR) advocated conciliation, patience, respect for bourgeois property, and trusted the provisional government to negotiate peace and convene a Constituent Assembly.

The Communist Anarchist Federation (FAC), however, refuses the status quo, rejects the provisional government, mocks the Constituent Assembly and distrusts the Soviet. It advocates the prolongation of the political revolution by a social revolution, immediate peace by the direct action of the soldiers, workers and peasants.

During the first three or four weeks of the revolution, anarchists are the only ones on this radical line.

However, they are soon surprised to see it also adopted by a leading figure: Lenin, the main leader of the Bolshevik Party, which in Petrograd counts ten times more members than the FAC. As soon as he returned from exile, Lenin published his " theses of April " [1]putting the party's social-democratic program on its head, replacing it with a new doctrine, in many respects analogous to that of the anarchists: passage without waiting from the bourgeois stage to the socialist stage of the revolution ; republic of the soviets and not a parliamentary republic ; suppression of the police and the corps of civil servants ; formation of a " Common State "on the model of the Paris Commune ; replacement of the professional army by an army of popular militias. He goes so far as to advocate the abandonment of the word " social democratic " to rename the " Communist " party - a term traditionally linked to anarchism !

The Bolshevik base seduced by the most radical line

This politico-cultural upheaval scandalizes the cadres of the Bolshevik Party. One of them, Goldenberg, denounces even a drift of Lenin towards " primitive anarchism passed " [2]. On the other hand, this radical line seduces the party's base, the thousands of young workers and soldiers, newly adherents who have read nothing of Marx but are eager to fight with the bourgeoisie. In the red bastions of Vyborg and Kronstadt, they joined the Bolsheviks because their organization was several steps ahead of that of the anarchists, but in practice their proximity is obvious.

The strategy of the anarchists, too few and structured to weigh them alone, will consist in dragging the Bolshevik base in the insurrectionary action, going beyond the instructions of the leadership of the party. As early as April, this solidarity of action is noticeable on the occasion of the first crisis that shakes the provisional government.

In April 1917, in Petrograd, the demonstrations took an anti-government turn
On the banners: " Cease fire immediately on all fronts " ; " All power to the Soviets of Workers' Deputies, Soldiers and Peasants " ; " Social-Democratic Party of Russia " (most likely, in fact, its Bolshevik faction). cc The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Library
The death knell of the spirit of February

On March 14, a proclamation of the Petrograd Soviet " to the peoples of the world " called for peace. On the front, the army remained the weapon at the foot, awaiting the opening of negotiations. But the revelation of a government note to Paris and London, stating that Russia's war aims remained unchanged, caused an outburst of anger: tens of thousands of people parading spontaneously in Petrograd shouting slogans hostile to the war and the provisional government.

A sign of a divorce, there are no more bourgeois democrats in the crowd of workmen and soldiers marching in arms. And the organization of a patriotic counter-demonstration brings forth already the specter of the civil war.

This April 21, 1917 is a first turning point: the charm of February is broken.

The calm returns, however, the very next day, at the call of the Soviet. Proof that its authority remains undisputed, unlike that of the provisional government. To save the latter, a compromise was negotiated: the ministers compromised in the diplomatic note were thanked, and replaced by Menshevik and SR leaders from the Soviet.

During this April crisis, anarchists and Bolsheviks parade together, the Bolsheviks demanding for the first time " All power to the Soviets " on their banners. A watchword against which the anarchists do not know too much about which dance: on the one hand, it implies a decentralization of power analogous to their " revolutionary commons " ; on the other hand, what does it mean to exalt soviets dominated by the Reform Party ? [3]The FAC will in fact take time to understand that the popular representativeness of the Soviet makes this institution unavoidable to hope to win a mass audience.

For the rest, the April crisis strengthened the anarchists' conviction of an imminent divorce between the people and the provisional government, and left the Bolshevik Party, whose conference at the end of April gave reason to Lenin's theses.

Iron fights between employers and factory committees

Still obsessed with the idea of stabilizing Russia and normalizing the situation, the bourgeois-socialist coalition of the government, backed by the Petrograd Soviet, is becoming more and more bogged down by referring serious questions - peace, land, control worker ... - to the future Constituent Assembly whose election is, herself, constantly deferred.

Meanwhile, the class struggle rises irresistibly.

In the aftermath of February, employers saw with horror, in its enterprises, elected " committees of factories ", which meet during working hours and multiply the demands.

Grigori Maximov (1893-1950)
This young graduate of agronomy took part in the revolution of February. Benjamin of the Union of Anarcho-Syndicalist Propaganda, soon pivot of Golos Trouda, he was elected to the Central Committee of Factory Committees of Petrograd in May 1917.
They are often supported by groups of armed workers who claim to " defend the factory " against possible employers' militias. These armed groups, soon to be called Red Guards, will gradually be structured. Bolsheviks and anarchists are playing leading roles - a " Black Guard " is well established in Russky Renault before merging into the Red Guard [4].

After dropping a bit of ballast, the employers counterattack. To break the will to demand, he takes the pretext of the economic slump to lay off with full turn or even shut down the factories squarely. Famine will bring the workers back to reason, he thinks [5]. Factory committees respond. In addition to the strikes and sequestration of cadres, they often instituted a " workers ' control " ". This includes opening up order books and account books, verifying the boss's assertions, monitoring inventories and machines so that they do not move freely in the provinces ... In a number of medium-sized companies - , under the impetus of Justin Jouk, the Schlüsselbourg Blowing -, workers' control will go until the wild recovery in self-management.

The counter-revolution begins to bark

In June, the country continues to slide towards the social revolution. In addition to the conflicts in the factories which neither the Soviet nor the government were able to contain, the countryside entered the dance. The peasants do not have the patience to wait for a Constituent Assembly to deal with agrarian reform. They take possession of the land of the squire and share it. And, as in 1905, the manors began to flame ; some landowners are killed, others are fleeing.

Excessive, the possessing classes seek to react. A true counter-revolutionary campaign was launched, orchestrated by the Church, the General Staff, the Cossack atamans and the conservative newspapers. The government is called for " recovery ". The plot of the extremist Bolsheviks, anarchists and maximalists manipulated by " the Jews " [6]. The red regiments " hidden " in Petrograd must be sent to the front . In dining out, we openly aspires that the German army comes restore order [7].

In the Provisional Government, we are convinced that the country must be strengthened around a unifying project, and this will be ... a great summer offensive on the Austrian front ! Kerensky, a socialist advocate and ambitious minister, who increasingly appears as the government's leading head, is going to spend countless hours in this perilous undertaking.

Guillaume Davranche (AL Montreuil)

In the folder:

February-March 1917: After the Tsarists, drive the capitalists
Minority but galvanized, anarchists advocate expropriation all the way
A tract of the Communist Anarchist Federation of Petrograd (March 1917)
The first libertarian wave (1905-1908)
April-May: The irrepressible rise to the social explosion
Anarcho-syndicalists in factory committees
June-July: Creating insurrection is not enough
The fiasco of the Journées de juillet
August-September: The counter-revolution digs its own tomb
The Other Components of Russian Socialism in 1917
October red (and black): The assault in the unknown
A Ukrainian revolutionary: Maroussia emerges from oblivion
November 1917-April 1918: From pluralism to the confiscated revolution . Four cleavage points:
People's Power vs. State Power
Socialization against nationalization
Popular militia against hierarchical army
On requisitions and expropriations
Epilogue 1918-1921: Resistance and eradication

[1] In the Pravda of 7 April 1917.

[2] Nicholas Sukhanov, The Russian Revolution 1917, CNLH, 1966

[3] Voline, The Unknown Revolution, Volume 2, Entremonde, 2010, p. 47.

[4] Rex A. Wade, Red Guards and Workers' Militias in the Russian Revolution, Stanford University, 1984, p.

[5] Marc Ferro, The Revolution of 1917, Albin Michel, 1997, p. 399.

[6] Marc Ferro, The Revolution of 1917, Albin Michel, 1997, p. 445.

[7] Orlando Figes, The Russian Revolution, Volume 1, Gallimard, 2009, p. 749.

http://www.alternativelibertaire.org/?Dossier-1917-avril-mai-L-irrepressible-montee-vers-l-explosion-sociale
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