The war—combined with the wreck of the International—greatly disoriented the workers politically, and made it possible for the factory administration, then just lifting its head, to speak patriotically in the name of the factories, carrying with it a considerable part of the workers, and compelling the more bold and resolute to keep still and wait. Anarchism is an attempt to cleanse liberalism of the police. A chart showing four major historians of the Russian Revolution. In keeping with her cinematic approach, Merridale presents Lenin’s train ride as the starting point of everything from the “infant Soviet state to world Cold War.” She quotes Winston Churchill: “Full allowance must be made for the desperate stakes to which the German war leaders were already committed. Learn vocabulary, terms, and more with flashcards, games, and other study tools. tn_subject: ['biography', 'history', 'world'], For a few brief months, Russia became one of the freest countries in the world. Lenin was not Zeus, with the revolution bursting, fully formed, from his head. Russia remained a nation at war, though the war had been the catalyst for revolution and peace was one of the primary demands of the strikers and demonstrators. Their nature demands the whip—writes the Russian tsarina to the Russian tsar about the Russian people, just two months and a half before the monarchy tips over into the abyss. build a holistic view of Russian society. In Smith’s view, the failure of Russian democracy in 1917 is best explained by the willingness of moderate socialists to continue the country’s involvement in World War I, in keeping with their belief that the bourgeoisie was next in line for political power. Learn more about the Russian Revolution in … The … Smith’s approach to history, with an emphasis on long-term factors and the experience of ordinary people, also feels the most relevant to our own historical moment. Of the three books under review, Smith’s is the most sympathetic to emancipatory politics, and it offers the most persuasive explanation of the Russian Revolution’s origins and terrible failures. tn_loc:'atf' Once again, economic inequality is a pressing political issue around the world. Still, politics and economics have their patterns; if these patterns can be understood, they can be adjusted or controlled. He feared that the Bolsheviks would never be able to win an election that included peasants, who were much more likely to support the Socialist Revolutionary Party than urban workers were. Exiles received a living allowance for clothes, food, and rent, and they could bring along family members or hire domestic servants. Even in the present epoch of intolerable misfortune only a small percentage of the population of our planet resorts to suicide. Buy this book. McMeekin displays plenty of sympathy for the murdered czar and his family, but less for the millions of Russians who suffered under the czarist regime. For him, as for the revolutionaries, violence wasn’t only a matter of floggings or executions; it included poverty, malnutrition, workplace exploitation, preventable disease, and gender-based abuse. He sent a telegram to his Bolshevik comrades, declaring: “No trust in and no support for the provisional government. That mask of indifference which was called breeding in certain circles, was a natural part of Nicholas at birth. At the time, even many of his fellow Bolsheviks thought this was madness: There was no way that Russian workers were ready to form a dictatorship of the proletariat. Sign Up For Take Action Now, Ready to Fight Back? Merridale acknowledges as much in her book, but her narrative is nevertheless structured on the idea that Lenin brought with him a new social and political world. In 2008, Cambridge University Press published my book, Revolution and the People tn_articleid: [250962], For the most part, the crises, reversals, and surprises, along with the long strings of names, places, and deaths, are consistent from one account to another. One hundred years after the Russian Revolution, historians are still arguing about what made this seismic political shift possible. (Indeed, throughout the Russian Revolution, Germany continued to send large sums to the revolutionaries.) Some great quotes from Orlando Figes’ history of the Russian Revolution (endorsed by Communist Eric Hobsbawm, no less!). Lenin found that his only viable route back was through Germany, Sweden, and Finland, but traveling through Germany would leave him vulnerable to accusations that he was on the German payroll. However, the Duma committee wasn’t eager to take responsibility for the increasingly volatile situation. The story of the revolution is not the story of a terrifyingly powerful Lenin, but rather of the failure of the czarist administration and the provisional government to kill him and other key revolutionaries. BOOKS IN REVIEW Its very position as minority of the nation suggests that it could not have given its struggle a sufficient scope—certainly not enough to take its place at the head of the state—if it had not found a mighty support in the thick of the people. Welcome back. As I watched our ‘socialists’ speaking to the crowds … Stephen A. Smith Dmitri Volkogonov Liberal- Revisionist Most of my work to date has explored the inter-relationships between social and political history, particularly in the context of revolution. On January 22, 1905, 150,000 people gathered to ask Nicholas II for his support and assistance. As in the early 20th century, we are living in an age in which mass movements and popular fury have a new currency. Smith’s approach to history, with an emphasis on long-term factors and the experience of ordinary people, also feels the most relevant to our own historical moment. Czar Nicholas II sent Cossack horsemen to put the rebellion down, but they simply cantered through the crowds without using their swords or whips; they had chosen not to fight the people. The generals took out their own criminal incapacity on the peaceful population. It wasn’t easy: Britain and France, which were relying on their alliance with Russia, had no wish to help a fierce opponent of the “imperialist war” return home. Kerensky especially suspect; arming the proletariat is the only guarantee…no rapprochement with other parties.” Lenin was virtually alone in his insistence that power pass into the hands of the workers immediately. A new generation of democratic socialists may glean more complicated lessons from 1917: not only about the dangerous magnetism of power and violence, but about the possibility of achieving a political transformation that spans continents. Christopher Read, From Tsar to Soviets: the Russian People and their Revolution 1917-1921, London 1996. Dismissing him as “out-of-touch,” McMeekin argues that Lenin would have had “little impact on the political scene had he not been furnished with German funds to propagandize the Russian army.” Lenin and the Bolsheviks, he adds, “played no role worth mentioning in the fall of the tsar.”. S.A. Smith’s Russia in Revolution takes a more familiar line than McMeekin’s, linking the origins of the revolution to czarist abuses. In order to comment, you must be logged in as a paid subscriber. That same morning, Kerensky escaped Petrograd in a US embassy car. The revolutionary ideas were barely kept glowing in small and hushed circles. Revolutionary organizers were convinced that it was time to stop the strikes, believing that such action could never succeed without the support of the army. Causes of the 1905 Revolution. n. Sophie PinkhamSophie Pinkham recently received a PhD in Slavic languages and literature from Columbia. Melancholy reflections have not so far, however, prevented people form bearing or being born. The people, most of whom had little understanding of the finer points of Marxism, wanted socialism, and quickly. Buy this book In contrast, historians of the Russian Revolution of 1917 can jus-tifiably say: “the revolution is continuing.” Researchers, politicians and ordinary citizens in Russia continue to identify with the main figures of their revolution and view the events of ninety years ago through the eyes of their participants. Log out? As McMeekin puts it, “The world’s first proletarian government was thus forced to devote its primary energies to strikebreaking.”. The movement from capitalism to socialism (and vice versa) is not inevitable and can be reversed; teleological thinking leads to strategic blunders and gross misinterpretations of reality. You can read our Privacy Policy here. Telegraph and telephone workers walked out on November 7, with transportation workers, schoolteachers, and Moscow’s municipal workers following close on their heels. Trade unions were strangled. Attempts to strengthen Tsarism, 1905-1914. Orthodox Marxists did not want this workers’ council to attempt to take power immediately and begin building full socialism; in their view, that would have meant skipping a stage in the revolutionary process, since parliamentary democracy—the “bourgeois phase”—had to precede communism. mind, listen to the Revolution.’ This part of True October is a collection of quotes from historians purposefully structured so that they read like a conversation. In American political discourse, Russia’s cautionary tales are still used as blunt instruments to assert the impossibility of any kind of socialist revolution. 1. The local committees had an episodic existence, and often had no connections with the workers’ districts.”, “The principles of liberalism can have a real existence only in conjunction with a police system. Workers and peasants were told to wait their turn. freestar.config.enabled_slots.push({ He had long called for an immediate end to the war. The tsar and tsarina used shingles for the greatest variety of purposes. By February 27, an estimated 25,000 garrison troops had defected. A revolutionary party can turn its back to a parliament only if it has set itself the immediate task of overthrowing the existing regime.”, “Without a guiding organization, the energy of the masses would dissipate like steam not enclosed in a piston box. The”, “Transcending class distinctions, the speaker [Stalin] portrays the relation between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat as a mere division of labor. still unfolding, The Soul of the Russian Revolution (New York I9I7). Enormous tracts of land were violently laid waste. Though the lot of the Russian worker was difficult, it was nevertheless comparable to that of workers throughout Europe. But the people are seeking the way out of their unbearable difficulties in revolution.”, “The more isolated the dynasty became, and the more unsheltered the autocrat felt, the more he needed some help from the other world. The causes of these two revolutions encompass Russia’s political, social, and economic situation. How long they have been saying to me, for whole years, the same thing: ‘Russia loves to feel the whip.’ That is their nature!” This orthodox Hessian, with a Windsor upbringing and a Byzantine crown on her head, not only “incarnates” the Russian soul, but also organically despises it. Transformation born of violence is likely to end in violence. The”, “Do the consequences of a revolution justify in general the sacrifices it involves? Here again, Lenin was in a tiny minority. .article-wrap .article-body aside.left.custom_background_250962{background:none !important; A brief description about this is given below. Other Bolsheviks walked into the Central Telegraph Office and disconnected the phone lines to the Winter Palace. ), The Petrograd Soviet’s executive committee was less than overjoyed at Lenin’s return, fearing that he would further destabilize the situation. They include some brief biographical information, a list of texts the historian has written or contributed to, a summary of their historiographical positions and some quotations. The Russian Revolution of 1905 was a major factor contributing to the cause of the Revolutions of 1917. It would be as well to ask in face of the difficulties and griefs of personal existence: Is it worth while to be born? The more active layers of the workers were mobilized. Yevgeny Yevtushenko: “Lord, let me be a poet, Let me not deceive people”. In that lies the fundamental, and you may say the whole, difference between the Russian Revolution and all those preceding it. He takes the long view, privileging large-scale economic, social, and political trends over individual actors and contingent circumstances. The provisional government granted amnesty to political prisoners, abolished the death penalty, banned flogging in prisons, ended the practice of deportation to Siberia, and dissolved the czarist secret police. A new generation of democratic socialists may glean more complicated lessons from 1917: not only about the dangerous magnetism of power and violence, but about the possibility of achieving a political transformation that spans continents. Lenin’s refusal to compromise with the provisional government or the pro-war “revolutionary defencists” made the Bolsheviks the only political party offering an alternative to dual power, which came to seem like a form of impotence or treachery in its failure to end the war, food shortages, and general disorder. Many of the socialists had abandoned pacifism, insisting that the war had to be won and the motherland defended, and that allies could not be abandoned. Nicholas”, “On December 13, the tsarina suggests to the tsar: “Anything but this responsible ministry about which everybody has gone crazy. After the arrest of the Duma faction, the Bolsheviks had no centralized party organization at all. Perhaps the hardest thing to understand about Lenin and the Bolsheviks is their insouciant attitude toward mass death, despite their adherence to a utopian philosophy that sought to eradicate human suffering. Meanwhile, the foolish, foppish Kerensky unwittingly smoothed the way for the Bolsheviks, remaking himself as a dictator, moving into the Winter Palace, sleeping in the czar’s bed, and traveling in the czar’s train carriage. As the French socialist leader Jean Jaurès, assassinated in July 1914, warned, “If the social revolution emerges from this chaos instead of coming about as the supreme expression of progress, as a higher act of reason, justice, and wisdom, it will be part of this universal mental crisis, an excess of the contagious fury brought about by the suffering and violence of war.”. Lenin on the TrainBy Catherine Merridale Logged in as  Smith takes pains not to cast the Bolsheviks as the only perpetrators of violence in the revolution and ensuing civil war; the White armies, nationalists, peasants, and anarchist bandits also committed atrocities. The external rout was completed with an internal one.”. Lenin’s liability was his history of German support, which Kerensky and others tried to use against him. In 1905, Nicholas faced revolution in Russia for the first time. Because after Tsar Alexander II took power he created many … Russia was unusual only in that it had few intermediary institutions to buffer popular resentment of the czar. By using this website, you consent to our use of cookies. The Bolsheviks’ victory was brought about by Lenin’s skillful but risky effort, at a moment of Russian vulnerability, to transform the “imperialist war” into a civil war by infiltrating the armed forces and “turning the armies red,” spurring mutinies and mass desertions by soldiers who took their weapons with them. The revolutionary elements were thrown from the factories to the front. But different historians—often with distinct political allegiances—offer very different answers to the question of why many of these events happened in the way they did. Severe penalties were imposed for striking. targeting:{ Demonstrators in homemade helmets and padded jackets waved red banners demanding an end to Russia’s involvement in the world war. Nixon’s Ghost Haunts the Impeachment—and American Culture. “If there had been no Rasputin,” said Senator Tagantsev, a man of the old regime, “it would have been necessary to invent one.” There is a good deal more in these words than their author imagined.”, “At the first sound of the drum, the revolutionary movement died down. The Russian Revolution was, first, a political revolution that overthrew the monarchy of Nicholas II and made the construction of a new governmental system a central problem of the revolution. tn_keyword: ['communism', 'russia'], By signing up to receive emails, you agree to receive occasional promotional offers for programs that support The Nation's journalism. No revolution is inevitable, but it feels perverse to minimize longer-term factors so energetically. tn_pos: 'rectangle_1', In American political discourse, Russia’s cautionary tales are still used as blunt instruments to assert the impossibility of any kind of socialist revolution. But the economic situation was deteriorating rapidly, with factory closures and rampant inflation. Once again, economic inequality is a pressing political issue around the world. Copyright (c) 2021 The Nation Company LLC, As its title suggests, Catherine Merridale’s, In fact, he and other Russian revolutionaries. placementName: "thenation_right_rail", How historians narrate the story of the Russian Revolution tells us much about their philosophy of history, as well as about their attitude toward the revolutionary project and the politics of the left. Explore our collection of motivational and famous quotes by authors you know and love. But the notion of Lenin, or communism, as a bacillus betrays a willful blindness to the larger constellation of factors that make profound social change possible. A now out-dated but still useful history by the Western economic historian James Mavor, The Russian Revolution (London I928), suggests that the real revolution in economic and social matters was yet to come, and thus anticipates the concept of the "second Revolu- Ready to Fight Back? The revolutionaries set up the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. Marxist historians such as Carr view the Russian Revolution as a movement that primarily involves the masses, and which was led by Lenin. Stalinism was thus the deformed offspring of Marxism and Russian political culture, warped by larger social, economic, and political factors that often had little to do with ideology. The Russian Revolution of 1917 is a collective term for two so-called revolutions—one in February and one in October—that occurred in Russia in 1917, which dismantled the Tsarist autocratic regime and led to the creation of the Soviet Union and, ultimately, several decades of communist dominance. The city was on fire. At a difficult turn, at a moment of failure and disappointment, the old prejudices not yet burnt out would flare up, and the enemy would naturally seize upon these as upon an anchor of, “The Russian proletariat found its revolutionary audacity not only in itself. For Merridale, the story of Lenin’s train journey is partly “a parable about great-power intrigue, and one rule there is that great powers almost always get things wrong.”. Upon his arrival in the Finland Station’s waiting room, Lenin told the festive crowd, “The piratical imperialist war is the beginning of civil war throughout Europe.” When he arrived at the headquarters of the Bolshevik central committee, he lectured for two hours straight, though it was already in the early morning and he’d just spent eight days on a train. They transported Lenin in a sealed truck like a plague bacillus from Switzerland to Russia.” Though Merridale is sympathetic to the desire for social equality that motivated the Russian left, she writes that Churchill’s bacillus comparison has its merits, and she likens the German support to today’s “global games,” in which great powers finance local rebellions in order to destabilize their opponents. He enumerates the ways in which violence was ingrained in the czarist order, especially for the lower classes. On February 23, 1917, an unseasonably warm day, women at the Vyborg cotton mills in the Russian city of Petrograd (formerly St. Petersburg) marked the recently created International Women’s Day. Nevertheless it was with a sense of awe that they turned upon Russia the most grisly of all weapons. As a steam-hammer converts a sphere and a cube alike into sheet metal, so under the blow of too great and inexorable events resistances are smashed and the boundaries of “individuality” lost.”, “Between his consciousness and events stood always that impenetrable medium — indifference.”, “A revolution is always distinguished by impoliteness, probably because the ruling classes did not take the trouble in good season to teach the people fine manners.”, “The boycott of parliamentary institutions on the part of anarchists and semianarchists is dictated by a desire not to submit their weakness to a test on the part of the masses, thus preserving their right to an inactive hauteur which makes no difference to anybody. W.H.Chamberlin, The Russian Revolution, (2 vols. The famous bread shortages of Petrograd in the winter of 1917 were “mostly mythical.” Drawing on newly discovered archival sources, he even argues that in 1916–17, morale in the army was on the rise, and that Russian soldiers were better fed than their German counterparts. The workers’ press was swept away. When I began my academic career in the 1970s, the shadow of the 1917 Revolution loomed over the whole of Russian history. Oh, how [the Soviet leaders of the February 1917 revolution] feared the masses! I want everyone to be corrupt to the bones.” ― George Orwell, 1984. The German government was also willing to arrange for Lenin’s journey back to Petrograd. There were several causes for the outbreak of the Russian Revolution. Quotes tagged as "russian-revolution" Showing 1-30 of 72 “I hate purity, I hate goodness! For more information, visit our Privacy PolicyX. McMeekin writes that Lenin was merely “an afterthought” in 1905 and “barely worth the attention of tsarist police agents” until he returned to Russia in April 1917. The then prevailing condition of Russia was largely responsible for the revolution. The Cheka was also responsible for containing the damage done by the Bolsheviks’ defeat in the November 1917 elections, in which the party won only 24 percent of the vote, as opposed to 40 percent for the Socialist Revolutionaries, who had indeed maintained the loyalty of the peasants. Smith emphasizes the agency of ordinary people in determining the trajectory of Russian history, devoting particular attention to workers, who did so much to further the revolution, and to the peasants, who rose up against the old order and then rebelled against the new one. 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