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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL - Dossier 1917: February-March: After the tsarists, drive the capitalists (fr, it, pt) [machine translation]
Wed, 13 Sep 2017 09:21:42 +0300
In February 1917 autocracy collapsed like a chateau of cards. Joy almost unanimous.
However, this is not enough to solve the social distress and suffering of a useless war.
Now the socialist intelligentsia, desirous of " normalizing " the revolution, knows only
how to temporize. Yet in some of the red bastions of Petrograd, exasperation is palpable.
---- " Feed the children of the defenders of the mother country. Petrograd Textile
Workers' Parade shouting famine on February 23, 1917. The weather was very lenient for a
week and undoubtedly favored street demonstrations. ---- A few years later, the Russians
had to say of Nicolas II, jokingly, that it would have been necessary to award him a medal
of revolutionary merit posthumously, as he had worked for the fall of the tsarist regime
by the stupidity of his policy.
History, indeed, furnishes but few instances of a government so obstinately attached to
sawing the branch on which it sat.
The incompetence and cruelty of this anachronistic monarchy had alienated almost all
sectors of society: the progressive intelligentsia, of course, but also the modernist
patronage and especially the working class and part of the peasantry. It was by a miracle
that the regime had survived the revolution of 1905-1906. His entry into the war against
Germany in August 1914 was destined to be fatal. More than ever, the conflict exposed the
regime's defects, unable to bear the logistical effort of mobilizing 12 million soldiers.
The campaign which was to resupply the people around the triptych "
autocracy-nation-orthodoxy " turned into disaster.
From 1915-1916, Russia was on the verge of defeat. Discredited by the hecatomb, surpassed
by needs, the State, in full disaggregation, was supplemented already by the associations
citizens, patronages and cooperatives.
The revolution of February 1917 swept away the regime as a castle of cards, to the general
At the end of a week of strikes, demonstrations and riots in the capital, Petrograd, the
tsar, tetanized, yielded to the supplications of the staff and, no doubt relieved himself,
renounced the throne. Petrograd snow covered the abdication with an explosion of joy.
Then, very quickly, public opinion forgot the Romanovs. The page of Tsarism was turned.
The socialist intelligentsia wants to calm the situation
For the progressive intelligentsia, it is an immense hope, mingled with a dull anguish.
Hope to see Russia finally attaining " European modernity " ; the anguish of having to
deal with an actor unpredictable, hungry and exhausted patience: the people.
These herds of workers and workers, vomited by the giant factories that have grown like
mushrooms for twenty years, what will they demand ? These hordes of mutinous soldiers,
mujiks, dressed in uniforms, whom their officers were still treating like dogs the day
before, what are they capable of ? The crowds of enraged sailors who, on the 1st of March,
shot the whole staff of Kronstadt, took a taste for blood ? How, finally, will the
hinterland react and its unfathomable multitude of barefooters who, in 1905-1906, had set
fire to the manors of the nobility in order to seize the land ?
At the beginning of March 1917, however, the crowd celebrating the revolution by singing
La Marseillaise is still motley: ladies in hats and bourgeois democrats ; high-school
students ; sailors and soldiers brandishing their rifles ; workmen and workmen wearing red
ribbons and who already claimed the eight hours ; revolutionaries somewhat stunned by the
rapidity of events and brutally exposed to their responsibilities: what to do now ?
Government and Soviet: two non-antagonistic powers ... for now
At the end of February, two distinct powers emerge from the ruins of the tsarist state. On
the one hand, a group of parliamentary leaders is a provisional government composed of
modernist bourgeois and a progressive aristocrat, Prince Lvov. On the other hand, the
socialist intelligentsia of Petrograd - Menshevik, Bolshevik and SR - replicated the
experience of 1905 and founded a " Soviet[council]of Workers 'and Soldiers ' Deputies "
and called the factories and barracks to send delegates . Miracle: it works. It works even
beyond expectations. In a few days, the room of the palace of Tauride where the soviet was
installed is filled with nearly 3,000 delegates mandated. A proletarian Parliament was
born, but also an administration, which will ensure the supply of Petrograd.
We must not believe that the Soviet and the Provisional Government are opposed, quite the
contrary. The socialist intellectuals piloting the Soviet have no desire to govern a
country in full shipwreck, under the pressure of crowds unleashed that deep inside of them
they dread. They have been very relieved that this cabinet is being constituted as a
lightning rod, with an ideological alibi in keeping with " Marxist science ": Russia is
not ripe for socialism, it must first go through a long phase of modernization capitalist
period during which the bourgeoisie must govern.
In this view, the Soviet's role is limited to that of a " representative chamber " of
workers 'and soldiers' interests with the government ... at least until the convocation of
a Constituent Assembly supposed to define the architecture of Russia new.
In practice, this pattern will be untenable. First of all, because the 250,000 soldiers of
the Petrograd garrison send delegates to the Soviet and declare that they will only accept
orders from him. The same goes for factory workers.
The situation is thus paradoxical: the government issues decrees but hardly has the means
to enforce them ; the Soviet exercises real power, without any formal responsibility.
From February to August 1917, however, there was a clear consensus between the
Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviet: urgency to " complete the revolution ",
normalize the situation and get the country out of chaos. The role of Lvov is therefore to
win the confidence of the allied countries, the employers, the military staff and the
administration of the ministries. That of the Soviet is to moderate the popular demands,
the fundamental triptych of which is land to peasants, workers' control over production
and the conclusion of peace. Wasted effort. So much to ride a furious bull. By continually
postponing to the Constituent Assembly the satisfaction of these demands, the moderates
will discredit themselves in the space of six months for the benefit of the revolutionaries.
In the rest of the country, among the dozens of Soviets created in a few weeks, the
situation is mixed: some are in the same conciliatory position as in Petrograd ; others
are more radical, in the first rank of which the Soviet of ... Cronstadt ! Although the
island is only a district of the capital, it acquires its own soviet, before accepting its
inclusion in that of Petrograd . Nevertheless, over the course of the weeks, Cronstadt
became a Bolshevik bastion, anarchist and maximalist SR.
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
 Israel Getzler, " Kronstadt 1917-1921. The Fate of a Soviet Democracy ", Cambridge
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