Kerensky Ends the War

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by SavinkovDidNothingWrong, Jun 5, 2019.

  1. SavinkovDidNothingWrong Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2018
    Location:
    Assyrian National Republic
    What if the Russian Provisional Government under Alexander Kerensky signed a peace treaty akin to Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers, taking Russia out of World War 1 before the Bolsheviks could seize power? Since it is unlikely that Lenin would have been able to garner the support to launch the October Revolution without Russia staying in the war, how does a surviving Russian Republic develop and affect the rest of the world in the post-war era?
     
  2. Onkel Willie Kaiser

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2008
    Location:
    Netherlands
    There are powers within Russia hostile to the republic even without the Bolsheviks, such as Tsarist commanders in command of sizeable forces. Russia could very well end up resembling Warlord Era China if these commanders decide to oppose Kerensky.
     
    The Chimera Virus and Riain like this.
  3. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2015
    I see Little Potential for a Russian Warlord era.

    Kerensky's problem was that there was No coherent coalition in sight to back this. In His coalition, the Kadets were squarely opposed. Those who supported immediate peace (parts of Mensheviks and SRs mostly) did not want to base themelves on the soviets (where they were the majority) alone and ditch the Duma because they either didn't want a "dictatorship of the Proletariat" anyway (SRs) or thought Russia not mature for it (Menshies). Those who wanted Peace and Soviet rule were the Bolsheviks.

    You need a PoD where either the Kadets accept massive concessions, or the moderate left leans on the soviets, possibly only until they've held Constituent Assembly elections. I've chosen the latter for my TL Feeble Constitution.
     
  4. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2015
    Tons of possible implications of a Republican Russia of course. If you're interested, I'd be glad to discuss some possibilities in my TL Thread.

    If you want a somewhat less leftist Republic, you need to handwave the Kadets into supporting this course. Could be exciting, too.

    Either way, gazillions of butterflies in all domains, some 15-20 years down the Road the world will Look utterly irrecogbisable to us.
     
    The Chimera Virus likes this.
  5. SavinkovDidNothingWrong Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2018
    Location:
    Assyrian National Republic
    Can I have a link to your TL?
     
    Salvador79 likes this.
  6. David T Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2007
    I'll repeat what I posted last year:

    What people often fail to realize is that no significant political group in Russia in 1917 openly advocated a separate peace with Germany--which, it was assumed, would lead to a German victory (the Yanks were not coming for many months). And that includes the Bolsheviks--their argument was not that there should be a separate peace with the Kaiser, but that a real socialist revolution in Russia would lead to a similar revolution in Germany and elsewhere--so that peace could be made with the "German workers and soldiers," not with the Kaiser. If Kerensky had tried to pull a Brest-Litovsk, the Bolsheviks would be the first to scream "Treason!" and "sell-out to German imperialism!"

    I'll quote two historians here:

    (1) Dominic Lieven, The End of Tsarist Russia: The March to World War I and Revolution, p. 255: "In 1917, the liberal and moderate socialist parties all joined the provisional government and supported its commitment to remaining in the war. Their stance was reasonable. To make a separate peace with Germany-—the only peace that was ever actually going to be on offer-—risked placing the fate of Europe and of the Russian Revolution in the kaiser's hands. With the Russian masses increasingly hostile to the war, the moderate socialists' position nevertheless allowed the only organized party outside the government—the Bolsheviks—to mobilize grassroots support. If the Bolsheviks in 1917 had openly advocated a separate peace with Germany, then their cause would have been ruined. By arguing-—even often believing—-that they could end the war without making a separate peace with Berlin, they avoided this trap." https://books.google.com/books?id=nqGvDAAAQBAJ&pg=PA355

    (2) Adam Ulam, The Bolsheviks, pp. 334-5: "Following its overthrow, the Provisional Government did not lack excellent advice as to what steps it might have taken to preserve democracy in Russia. The usual criticism concerns its failure to make peace and thus to remove the most persuasive element of the Bolsheviks' propaganda. But to argue this is to misunderstand the situation of Russia right after the February Revolution. As was natural in a country that had suffered so many casualties, Russia longed for peace. To an overwhelming majority of politicians and, as we have seen, to the masses of population and soldiers as well, the only way to a speedy peace was defeat of Germany. From the perspective of two world wars such resolution looks foolish and suicidal. But to the average Russian of 1917 a separate peace with Germany and Austria meant only one thing: a victory of the Central Powers and Europe's domination by Imperial Germany. Russia undoubtedly could have gotten a better peace then than subsequently at Brest Litovsk. But who could conceive of the Western Allies, then barely holding out, being capable of withstanding the assault of all Germany's armies? And in a German-dominated Europe would Russia be allowed to preserve her territorial integrity, or her newly won republican and democratic freedoms? Thus it was not only the notions of honor and of loyalty to the allies that made the generals and politicians believe that a victorious prosecution of war was a matter of life and death for Russia, and especially demcocratic Russia.

    "But the criticism overlooks an even more basic fact. Had it believed it necessary and beneficial, the Provisional Government and the General Staff still could not have concluded a separate peace. Its severest critics, the "internationalist Mensheviks" and the Bolsheviks, all pleaded for peace, but one to be concluded with the "German workers and soldiers" after they had overthrown their Emperor and generals. Had the Provisional Government at any point shown the slightest inclination to do what the Bolsheviks subsequently did at Brest Litovsk, it immediately would have been denounced for selling out to the Kaiser, for betraying the Revolution and the international proletariat. And Lenin's voice would have been the most insistent in this denunciation." https://books.google.com/books?id=dN5V8WX5WP0C&pg=PA334 https://books.google.com/books?id=TdCK1WkconkC&pg=PA335

    (For people who don't believe the Bolsheviks were capable of accusing Kerensky of being too soft on the Germans: In OTL they simultaneously attacked him for being for pro-war...and for planning to abandon Petrograd to the Germans to "decapitate" the Revolution! Note Trotsky's statement of October 11: "The government may flee from Petrograd, but the Petrograd soviet and the revolutionary population will not go away anywhere,they will fight, and, if need be, will die at their posts"--strange words from a supposed "defeatist"! https://web.archive.org/web/20021107232130/http://www.scottreid.com/lenin.htm)

    Anyway, let's even ignore what the reaction of the Bolsheviks would be. Kerensky was dependent on the moderate socialists and the liberals, and they were totally against the idea of a separate peace.

    First, to look at the socialists: In the case of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, one should remember that hostility to Germany was a major theme of Russian Populism--the official bureaucracy of Russia since the time of Peter the Great was seen as the product of German influence. As for the Mensheviks, their orthodox-Marxist belief that backward Russia was not ready for socialism and that there could be nothing more than a bourgeois democratic revolution made them insistent on coalition with the strongly pro-war Kadets. Here I'll recycle something I wrote some time ago about the extraordinary tenacity of Russia's moderate socialists on the war:

    ***

    "In December 1917 the Party of Socialist Revolutionaries held its Fourth Congress. The extreme left of the party had already defected to form the Left SR Party but there were still people of quite left-wing views at the Congress. One of them, Kogan-Bernstein, proposed that the forthcoming Constituent Assembly summon the Allies to begin peace talks without delay, and in the event of their refusal or failure to reply within a specified time limit, Russia would have a free hand. The resolution did not say how this freedom would be used, but it did at least imply separate action if not a separate peace. The resolution was voted down 72-52 with 32 abstentions. (Oliver Radkey, *The Sickle under the Hammer: the Russian Socialist Revolutionaries in the Early Months of Soviet Rule*, p. 192.) And this was after not only the disastrous summer offensive but the October insurrection! Yet *even then*, only one-third of the mainstream SRs were willing to demand tangible progress toward peace, even at the cost of breaking with the Allies. So how likely were they (or their similarly-minded Menshevik comrades) to do so several months earlier?

    "If there was anyone who just might have filled this role, it could have been Victor Chernov, leader of the left-center of the SRs, a man who had resigned from the PG protesting its dilatoriness on the issues of peace and land reform, and a man who was very popular in the Russian village. If only Chernov's faction of the SRs had either gained control of the party or formed their own party; if the Constituent Assembly elections had been held months earlier; if Chernov's backers had won; and if the Assembly had made Chernov Prime Minister of Russia, the country would at least have had a leader of greater legitimacy than Kerensky and perhaps more willing to confront the Allies. Chernov later claimed that while he had opposed a separate peace in 1917 he would have been willing to consider one as a last resort if the struggle for a general settlement had meant the immolation of Russia on the altar of the Allied cause. Unfortunately, Chernov's actual conduct during 1917--including during the Fourth Congress--was marked by constant compromising with the pro-war right-center of his party, and as Radkey remarks "if he could not see signs of immolation in the situation of December, 1917, then he would never see them." (p. 190)" https://www.alternatehistory.com/fo...if-he-withdrew-from-wwi.450550/#post-17506152

    ***

    As for the Kadets and other forces to the right of Kerensky, it is sufficient to cite the words of Kornilov: "The Provisional Government, under the pressure of the Bolshevik majority in the Soviets, acts in full agreement with the plans of the German General Staff . . . I cannot betray Russia into the hands of its historic enemy, the German tribe, and make the Russian people slaves of the Germans." https://books.google.com/books?id=kdQFBAAAQBAJ&pg=PA107

    Kerensky should have avoided the summer offensive. But to make a separate peace was just not possible, and if he tried he would have lost power immediately instead of in October. (In particular, in the weeks following the February Revolution, the mood in the country would be violently against it. Sukhanov, a left-wing "Zimmerwaldist" Menshevik wrote with regret that "During the first weeks the soldiers of Petrograd not only would not listen, but would not permit any talk of peace. They were ready to lift up on their bayonets any uncautious 'traitor' or exponent of 'opening the front to the enemy.'" (Quoted in Adam Ulam, The Bolsheviks, p. 325. https://books.google.com/books?id=TdCK1WkconkC&pg=PA325; see https://books.google.com/books?id=6-D_AwAAQBAJ&pg=PA202 for a slightly different translation. No doubt by summer the mood of the country had changed but there was still no political support for a separate peace.)
     
    TeePee, Barry Bull, Bad@logic and 5 others like this.
  7. aap5454 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2015
    Salvador79 likes this.
  8. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2015
    With pleasure: here.
     
  9. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2015
    aap5454 likes this.
  10. SavinkovDidNothingWrong Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2018
    Location:
    Assyrian National Republic
  11. Ricardolindo Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2018
    Location:
    Portugal
    While I'm sure, that, a peace in Brest-Litovsk's level was unthinkable, at the time, what about a more moderate peace treaty? After all, I read that the peace treaty that the Germans originally offered the Bolsheviks, before Brest-Litovsk, was very generous.
     
    cjc likes this.
  12. raharris1973 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2004
    I think we’ve done a good job of showing why a separate peace was not a viable option for the Provisional Government.

    Good job pointing out the wishful nature of Boleshevik peace advocacy.

    But this suggests a different political alternative for Kerensky. Refusing any dishonorable separate peace, or any peace with an unreformed Germany under a Hindenburg Ludendorff clique. But making it clearer that Russia sees a multilateral peace between democratized allies AND adversaries as a goal, and does not support any demands from either side for annexations or indemnities that would get in the way of peace. Could Kerensky have gotten some political mileage out of doing some coopting or copycatting of the Boleshevik rhetoric? For instance, emphasizing multilateral peace talks and the goal of peace with a revolutionary democratic Germany? Emphasis on, we will encourage revolution in Germany and make peace, in collaboration with both our allies and a democratic Germany. Combine that with no Kerensky offensive and agitprop across German lines.

    Diplomatically, this is combined with seeking allied endorsement of some formula between the 14 Points and 'no annexations, no indemnities'. Essentially saying to the allies, fairly publicly, we are not abandoning you, but we do want to end this war, together.

    The positions above comport with the expressed and written opinions of the democratic Socialist parties, and the Bolesheviks. The only people it offends are the bourgeois and reactionary parties.

    Does a different rhetorical emphasis, and a tougher stand vis-a-vis Russian bourgeois nationalists and allied partners, and a refusal to launch an offensive make it any easier for Kerensky to hold power against the Bolesheviks? Does it critically expose Kerensky to ouster by a bourgeois-nationalist led military coup?

    The reason I keep going back to this is because these were pretty much broad consensus positions among Socialist politicians.

    Did positions like this actually matter to the workers and soldiers of the Petrograd Soviet and garrison? Or if Kerensky is promising what is wanted but unable to deliver, do they still support a Boleshevik takeover?

    Was the Socialist rhetoric the hows and whys of ending the war just airy, fairy elite nonsense, while for people on the ground, the party rank and file, it was just a question of "hey, do we get out of the war or not, damn the details of how or why?"
     
    SlideAway likes this.
  13. SlideAway Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2009
    I'm not sure how different this is -- Kerensky did endorse the "no annexations / no indemnities" formula for peace. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1172237
     
    raharris1973 likes this.