Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by GiantMonkeyMan, Oct 16, 2018.
Should be Trotsky in the car next to Lenin.
That picture unintentionally compares me to Kerensky so I've officially threadbanned @Drunkrobot for the insult.
Thanks for @Cregan for continuing to check over and support what I've written and @WotanArgead for help with Russian translating.
Saving Soviet Democracy: A Russian Revolution Timeline
The crisis in the Provisional Government over the situation in the Ukraine and the intense conflict in the streets at the beginning of the month led to the collapse of the First Coalition Government and the scrambling together of the Second. Prince Lvov, the old champion of Russian Liberalism, resigned and Kerensky ascended to the Prime Minister role, bringing together a cabinet of Kadets and right-wing socialists. The day after, tired and relieved to be free from the stress, Prince Lvov told a friend, "In order to save the situation it would be necessary to break up the soviets and fire on the people. I could not do that. But Kerensky can." The Social Revolutionary Party was in a crisis of its own and the members that joined Kerensky came as individuals and not representatives of their Party. Miliukov returned to government as Kerensky's right hand and Victor Chernov, the vacillating centre-left Minister of Agriculture, was jettisoned from the cabinet for his unreliability.
Kerensky moved into the Winter Palace, into the living quarters of the Tsar, and replaced the royal portraits with pictures of himself. The Soviet was ordered to vacate from Tauride Palace to allow the Duma to assemble there and there was little the Soviet Executive could do, particularly as key figures like the Menshevik Irakli Tseretelli had joined Kerensky's government. The peasants of the Voronezh Soviet, along with many other peasant soviets, demanded Chernov's reinstatement, "Chernov must remain Minister of Agriculture, the peasants' minister. He has our support; in him the peasants believe, and count on realizing, under his leadership, the socialization of the land." For the peasantry, Chernov was a symbol of the ongoing land revolution but Kerensky was juggling the interests of the reactionary military and bourgeois interests who were demanding the end of the upheaval in the countryside and the reinvigoration of the war effort. The French and British embassies proclaimed their support for ridding the Russian government of "the fog of Zimmerwaldist poison" and so Chernov soon found himself in the political wilderness with the unenviable role of being in the centre-left of a party that had just expelled its left-wing and hardened around the leadership of the right.
Soldiers and officers loyal to the Provisional Government disbanded first the Ukrainian Rada and then the Finnish Parliament for their allusions towards independence. The Ukrainian situation was particularly volatile as many regiments composed of Ukrainian conscripts were declaring their loyalty to the Rada as opposed to the Provisional Government so all the Russian patriots were united in crushing them. General Kornilov was instilled as commander of the South-Western Front and the death penalty was reinstated. Disobedience on the floundering front with an advancing German army was now met with the guns and sabres of Kornilov's loyal Cossacks. The Congress of Trade and Industry, an assemblage of Russian businessmen, declared on July 20th that, "a dictatorial power is needed to save the motherland". The Russian bourgeoisie were baying for the suppression of the Soviet entirely, even if the moderate socialists had continued their collaboration. Kerensky planned to oblige them as best as he could but the Smolny Institute, new home of the Soviet, was bristling with machine guns and armed soldiers and workers. Despite all the hopes of the bourgeoisie, and the political negligence of the SR and Menshevik Executive, the Soviet remained strong and independent.
Some people saw in Kerensky a Bonaparte, ready to save Russia from itself, but it didn't escape the notice of many that their new leader had just organised a disastrous offensive that even now threatened to collapse completely and allow German forces to drive into the Ukraine. The total Russian territory lost throughout the war had a devastating effect on the Russian economy with nearly a third of all of Russia's factories, accounting for approximately 20% of total Russian industrial output, fallen under German occupation. American involvement on the Western Front was building and Romania saw some decisive victories that scattered the German and Austro-Hungarian occupying armies. Russia's continued participation in the war was all the more vital for the Allied Powers but the Germans were committed to an advance into Ukraine and the ad hoc defence Kerensky had assembled from units formerly earmarked for the offensive was barely holding on. Kerensky's ascension to power came as a mirror to the temporary scattering of the revolutionary left.
The Bolsheviks and the Socialist-Internationalists existed in a semi-legality, their leaders and branches hounded but their worker and soldier activists remained to weather a storm of propaganda from the right-wing press and the frustrations of their fellow workers. Latsis, of the Military Organisation, said miserably, "The counter-revolution is victorious. The Soviets are without power. The junkers are running wild". In Kresty prison, the leaders of the left began their defence against the court proceedings. Zurudny, the Minister of Justice for the Provisional Government, by some twist of destiny, had been the council for the defence of the Soviet leaders in 1906, now he was leading the prosecution against his former associates Trotsky and Martov. The prisoners agreed to present a unified fight to completely destroy the government's arguments, as Vera Zasulich had once done to the Tsarist government after she had assassinated Colonol Trepov and as the Soviet leaders had done in 1906, and even the anarchist-communists Asnin and Bleikhman were involved.
Late on July 26th, in a workers meeting hall in the Vyborg district, 150 Bolsheviks from across Russia met for their much delayed Sixth Congress. Attending were representatives of the Left-SRs and the Socialist-Internationalists. Lenin and Kamenev were imprisoned, Zinoviev had fled to hiding at a sympathetic peasant's barn Finland, but Yakov Sverdlov, and Nikolai Bukharin led the meeting admirably. In the workers districts, the factory committees and workers' soviets were closing ranks with the Bolsheviks and the other repressed revolutionaries. In this moment of darkness, sparks were felt from all across the working class showing solidarity to their comrades and, while the mood was tense, altogether the Bolshevik Party remained strong, more than accustomed to existing in clandestine, semi-legality. The next day, at the insistence of the Kadets, Kerensky banned public meetings that would be deemed a danger to the war effort.
The Union of Left Social Revolutionaries, Soyuz Levykh Sotsialistov Revolyutsionerov, coagulated into existence during the final days of July and in the beginning of August. Formed by those who had been expelled from the SRs for their support of the violent July movement and the remnants of the tiny Union of Social Revolutionaries Maximalists, a section of the SRs who had already split from the party after the 1905 revolution, its programme was almost Bolshevik in its demands. They found immediate support from many of the soldier SRs, who were frustrated with the intransigence of the right-wing leadership of the party and the capitulation to the officers, and amongst the more politically volatile peasant soviets, who felt abandoned by the party in the wake of Chernov's political defeat. Maria Spiridonova and Boris Kamkov had gone into hiding due to their participation in the July crisis in the Tambov district where rebellious peasants eagerly joined a party willing to fight for the land revolution but Mark Natanson became the party's figurehead leader.
Imprisoned along with Lenin and Martov, the two rivals Natanson had once shared a train through Germany with, he smuggled many articles and statements, with clear Bolshevik influence in style and content, out to be published in the new ULSR press. The Bolsheviks also reorganised their newspaper and pamphlet activities, mixing statements from afar from Zinoviev, smuggled statements from Lenin, with the agitational cries of Stalin, Bukharin, and Shliapnikov. Once again the Provisional Government tracked down the presses of both the ULSR and the Bolsheviks, destroying the machines and arresting the print workers. The contributors and editors used pseudonyms but the police knew that notes and articles had been smuggled from Kresty prison so encouraged the guards to rile up the non-political prisoners to riot against the revolutionaries only to find the worker and soldiers prisoners being organising and preparing for a hunger strike.
The three revolutionary parties, and the anarchist fringe, were not officially banned but any public criticism of the war and any efforts to actively hamper the war effort were punishable by arrest and censorship. Workers factories and Red Guard organisations were disarmed where the Provisional Government felt they could do it swiftly enough to avoid great conflict but certain districts remained closed off to government forces. In the two capitals Petrograd and Moscow the Left-SRs set up branches of their new party formation, attracting working class and radical members of the SRs, much to the frustration of the party they emerged from. They spread slowly but steadily around the Volga, the rebellious Tambov district, and all the black earth regions where the peasant land revolution was most volatile and the peasants felt most betrayed by the Social Revolutionary's effective abandonment of Chernov. Maria Spiridonova was a popular counter to the ponderously slow shifts and changes in rural politics. Whilst older and richer peasants remained tied to the SRs out of loyalty, the poorer and younger peasantry were more ready to abandon their traditional party for either the ULSP or the Bolsheviks who were similarly making inroads.
Two currents emerged in the court of Kerensky's government as a result of the political upheaval. On the left, the SRs and the Mensheviks were feeling the steady decrease of their popularity due to their intransigence and collaboration. The only solution, that did not involve actively supporting the social revolution taking place in the factories and amongst the peasants, was to satisfy one of the democratic demands of their constituents by formalising the Constituent Assembly elections. All the more important to do it whilst they still remained politically prominent and therefore able to capture the majority of the vote. On Kerensky's right, the Liberals, the bourgeoisie, and all the reactionary right wing cared little for the prospect of giving the population more democratic control. The democracy of the Soviet had interfered with both the economic control of Russian business by tepidly giving hope to the factory workers and had allowed room for anti-war socialism to poison Russian society. Dictatorship was the only reasonable answer, a violent shock to set Russian society back on the correct path.
Thus emerged General Lavr Kornilov, the man on the pale horse, who had replaced General Brusilov at the head of the army - Kerensky had determined that the blame for the failed offensive would fall on another's shoulders. A cult of bravery had formed around Kornilov although his former superior Brusilov claimed he had "the heart of a lion and the brains of a sheep". He had once disobeyed an order from Brusilov to retreat in good order and as a result saw his forces defeated and ended up captured in an Austrian prisoner of war camp. Luck was on his side and he escaped to return to Russia not to find a court martial for his disobedience but acclaim for his bravery. In effect, Kornilov neither had the political acumen to understand the dealings of the politics in Petrograd and the Duma nor did he have the patience to deal with collaboration moderate socialists but he had gathered a mystique about him to rival Kerensky's. He was perfect for all the counter-revolutionary interests to rally behind. Rodzianko, the former attendant to the Tsar, and Guchkov, the Octobrist Minister of War prior to Kerensky, had backed his promotions early after February.
Between Kerensky and Kornilov was the political middleman Boris Savinkov who had a colourful history of his own. Savinkov had been a Social Revolutionary terrorist in the days of the First Russian Revolution, a gambler and a poet, only to abandon any notions to socialism altogether in a sharp right-wing shift. Now he was the voice the Black Hundreds spoke through, writing political statements for Kornilov and acting as Deputy Minister of War for Kerensky. He called the Soviet the "Council of Rats', Dogs', and Chickens' Deputies" and Kerensky once said to him, "You are a Lenin, but of the other side". It was he who had convinced Kerensky to appoint Kornilov, much to Kerensky's future frustration as Kornilov soon began dictating terms. The banning of soldiers' meetings and the end of the power of soldiers' committees, the militarisation of military industries and railways with a ban on strikes, the enforcement of quotas for workers supplying war material with the punishment being immediate firing for failure.
The nation was divided and Kerensky and the Provisional Government were balancing on a precipice. In order to unify all the disparate interests of Russian politics, Kerensky called a State Conference to take place in Moscow to take place on the 15th of August for two days in the Bolshoi Theatre. It couldn't have taken place in Petrograd because the populace was just too volatile, although none in the government would ever say it aloud. Over three hundred delegates attended the Conference, arriving to a welcome of a city-wide general strike, such was Moscow's relative calm that the trams didn't run and the restaurants closed so the delegates had to serve themselves food. Inside the opulent building, the delegates took their seats. On the right, starched shirts, well-pressed suits and expensive frock-coats of the middle classes and the rich. On the left, the representatives from the Soviet in their soldiers' uniforms, their workers' tunics, their faces grim. Kerensky had hoped to utilise the Conference to pull together some element of national unity but only found these divisions spelled out clearly.
- The Agrarian Foes of Bolshevism by Oliver Radkey
- The Economics of World War One edited by Stephen Broadberry and Mark Harrison
- The History of the Russian Revolution by Leon Trotsky
- The Agrarian Foes of Bolshevism by Oliver Radkey
Instead of the Social Revolutionary Party awkwardly rallying around Chernov whilst maintaining a right-wing leadership, here we have many of the very people frustrated with their party abandoning them for the newly formed Union of Left Social Revolutionaries. This is in part the effect of the stronger Left-SR organisational influence and as a reaction to a deeper collaboration of the SRs with the repression of revolutionary leaders after the July crisis.
- A People's Tragedy by Orlando Figes
- The Soviets: The Russian Workers, Peasants, and Soldiers Councils by Oskar Anweiler
Things are starting to come to ahead.
It's been a slow burn but we're getting there.
I know the anarchists aren't really playing a big roll in the Russian revolution at this point, but didn't a lot of big names in anarchism show up after the February revolution, like Pyotr Kropotkin or Emma Goldman? Are they doing anything interesting?
Kropotkin was a fading star by the beginning of the revolution and died just four years after, while Goldman emigrated to the US a long time ago before it.
I wonder what effect Lenin and co. being locked up after the July Days is going to have. I imagine that it will make it harder for the Bolsheviks to monopolise their role as leaders of the left-wing opposition to the government without Lenin to serve as a figurehead. Additionally the shared suffering of being locked up with the rest of the revolutionary left could go some way to smoothing relations between the leaders of the disparate revolutionary factions and make cooperating across party lines easier.
Prince Kropotkin offered support for the Entente powers in the war. Not his greatest moment. He returned to Russia after February to cheering crowds, was offered a job in the Provisional Government and refused, but would be tainted amongst some of the anarchist community similarly to how Plekhanov was tainted for the Marxists. He's elderly, not as active in the organising of the anarchist-communists, but he gives lectures and writes articles mainly criticising the Provisional Government - similarly to Maxim Gorky, the PG find it hard to suppress him because of his popularity and due to his political neutrality.
Emma Goldman only get's deported to Russia in 1918/1919 so she's not shown up yet. Currently in the timeline, however, parallel to the events erupting as a result of the Rada being suppressed by Russian nationalism, anarchists in the Ukraine are developing their movement under a little-known leader known as Nestor Makhno. I plan on writing a specific interlude on the Ukraine at some point. Suffice to say, anarchists during this period will be on the periphery of the movement but are also influential. A small little butterfly I put in is that Shlema Asnin survives the Provisional Government raid on Durnovo Villa, he was one of the key leaders of the anarchist-communists in Petrograd prior to his death.
The Bolsheviks were a party with a high level of internal autonomy in this period, they were well suited to survive the semi-legality and pressures of government suppression. They operated independently from Lenin whilst he was hiding in a barn in Finland, as Zinoviev is doing in this timeline, and in many ways by being closer to the centre of politics, even whilst in a prison cell, Lenin can in fact effect things more directly and promptly. But yes his imprisonment with the other revolutionary leaders, much as his train ride with them at the start of this timeline, brings them closer. They are already tarred with the same brush by the the reactionary press. However, Lenin's a difficult man to work with so it won't be smooth sailing.
I'm well aware of the Bolshevik's ability to act autonomously. What I was thinking was more symbolic. With the revolutionary parties thrown into disarray by the July Days a free Lenin, as the face of the Bolshevik Party, could serve as a symbolic figure for revolutionaries to rally around. With Lenin in prison he becomes just another one of the many revolutionary leaders that was arrested. Revolutionary sentiment is still going to grow but Lenin and, by extension, the Bolsheviks are going to find it harder to present themselves as the sole leaders of the revolution when the time comes.
It is logical that an earlier split of the ULSR must isolate Chernov.
As it looks, there might be a more General uprising / general Strike etc. down the line instead of OTL's October Coup.
The general idea of the timeline has always been to strengthen the soviet democratic elements of the Russian Revolution and also diffuse the potential for a single-party dictatorship. I'm glad both of you are finding it all plausible so far. The Bolsheviks will remain important but there will just not exist the same sort of political conditions of OTL and we will definitely see more plurality.
I'm afraid that you're taking inspiration from potentially biased sources. Almost all of your sources (particularly the ones which you say most helped you) are inclined to look favorably on the Soviets (Heck, one of them was written by someone related to Trotsky!). I just don't think it's right to talk about plausibility when the other side isn't even being seriously considered. I mean no disrespect, but in my eyes it seems intellectually dishonest.
Considering the conscientiousness with which @GiantMonkeyMan has listed these sources, I'm willing to give them a fair shake and assume that they've given thought to who their sources are.
Both Oliver Radkey and Orlando Figes are anti-Bolsheviks with vaguely pro-SR leanings. Alexander Rabinowich's works are sympathetic to the Bolsheviks but not uncritical. I worried about quoting Trotsky and others on the left too often to be fair. One thing I would say is that I've rarely quoted Trotsky or whoever unless I can verify what he's written with Figes who has effectively the most definitive contemporary work on the period or someone else. This is going to sound supremely lazy but I have a hard copy of Figes' work so I have to type everything up by hand whereas I can just copy and paste from digital versions of other works which is much quicker.
The Russian Revolution is a period where a lot of conflicting ideologies offer different perspectives. I laid out pretty clearly in the introduction that I was going to be exploring the left-wing soviet democratic elements. If there's any particular thing that I've quoted or particular point that you've disagreed with in the text then by all means bring it up and we can explore those situations and events further.
Thank you for being willing to engage in a dialogue. All that I ask is that other perspectives be considered - perhaps how other groups saw the Soviets, if that's possible. I myself could have done more research.
What heresy is this? A reasonable dialogue on far-left revolutionary politics !?!!?
I suppose you would prefer some leftist sectarianism? Alright...
YOU TROTSKYITE, SOCIAL FASCIST WRECKER!
I feel that the work does show some aspects of the what the anti-soviet groups were thinking and doing. However, I had planned on writing a bit more specifically about the soviets, how they organised democratically, in this period in order to better understand their establishment and development much as I did an interlude for the Bolshevik Party. Unfortunately, it got away from me a bit and I ended up writing as much as a normal update on just the 1905 Soviets!
I'll keep what you've said in mind, might have to dig up my Richard Pipes books wherever they are, and try to offer a broader perspective.
Sorry that this has taken so long to get out. I really wanted to write an interlude on the developments in the soviets, the reasons why they were shifting leftwards and the processes of how this was possible as organs of direct democracy, but I couldn't find the words and in the end decided to just continue with the main body of the work. I want to say thanks to the forty people who voted for my timeline in the Turtledove awards. That's very kind of you and if we ever meet I'll buy you a drink.
Saving Soviet Democracy: A Russian Revolution Timeline
By the beginning of August, the faltering of the left-wing parties in the face of reaction had already begun to swing around and the left was once again rapidly growing. This was exemplified nowhere clearer in the defections from the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries, and the inexorable shift in the internal politics of the Soviet as workers and soldiers voted eclectically to withdraw their moderate candidates in favour of Bolsheviks or Left-SRs. The soviets were organised on the principle that at any time the workers, soldiers, and peasants could vote to withdraw their delegates and vote in a new delegate and all through August district soviets would see the weighting of party representation swing leftward. A clear signifier of the impact would resound out from the meeting of the Soviet Workers' Section on August 7th. The Workers' Section had last met in July, in the midst of the upheaval, and had condemned the Bolshevik support of the aborted uprising. The August meeting was supposed to be based around some organisational questions, particularly in how workers could better prepare for the national defence, but quickly the minutes were torn up by the intervention of the Bolsheviks.
The Bolshevik delegates, supported enthusiastically by the Left-SRs and the Socialist-Internationalists, demanded the meeting be altered to discuss the plight of the imprisoned revolutionary internationalists. Volodarsky gave an impassioned speech condemning the imprisonment of stalwart comrades, the Central Executive Committee in particular received his wrath. The Social Revolutionary Avram Gots talked about the necessities of the war effort and the Menshevik Fyodor Dan defended the authorities' crackdown. For the first time, however, the moderate socialists were outnumbered. The meeting voted overwhelmingly for the Bolshevik motion that the persecution of the left-wing comrades was "a blow to the revolutionary cause, a shameful stain" and that it served only the counter-revolution. Shliapnikov's motion condemning the reintroduction of the death penalty was also passed and a vote to create a special commission to explore and organise support for political prisoners also was introduced.
Such were the shifts in representation within the soviets that the Moscow District Soviet narrowly endorsed the one-day general strike in response to Kerensky's State Conference. The Moscow Soviet had been firmly in the hands of the SRs and the Mensheviks until the very beginning of August when the defections to the Left-SRs and the Socialist-Internationalists tipped the balance. The strike was peaceful and there was enough moderate socialist influence that the slogans most of the workers gathered under were not combative or overtly revolutionary however a significant demonstration of close to 20,000 workers called for the freedom of political prisoners and the end of the war. There was a grudging co-operation between the revolutionary organisations and the reformists in Moscow, not out of any shared vision but rather due to the growing sense of momentum to the counter-revolution. Kerensky's government was being squeezed between two rapidly growing extremes.
Kerensky himself wanted to take centre stage at the conference but his two hour introductory speech, seemingly an attempt to threaten and cajole both the right and the left, showed how isolated he truly was. The Kadet leader Miliuikov would write, "He appeared to want to scare somebody and to create an impression of force and power. He only engendered pity". Kerensky's government, in trying to please both the right and the left, had failed to discover firm allies and now the man himself, in trying to assert his authority, found little more than scorn. At various points either the right side of the chamber would applaud an attack on "those who would overthrow the government with bayonets" or the left would politely clap a criticism of "those who would use force of arms against the power of the people" but never at all did the entire chamber join in praise except when the man had finally finished. It would take more than platitudes to unite a disparate nation.
The Menshevik Chkheidze read out the official position of the Soviet Executive, defending the gains of the revolution, and the left side of the chamber cheered whilst the right remained silent and scowled. The delegation from the Soviet was strict in its organisation as the moderate leaders didn't want the rumblings of the extreme wing to reveal the divisions. Even Chernov was refused the opportunity to speak at the Conference, not even to respond to criticisms directed towards him from the benches of the right-wing. The Bolsheviks boycotted the State Conference as Chkheidze and Tseretelli refused to allow them to speak, instead Yakov Sverdlov came from Petrograd to speak at the demonstration of the striking workers, alongside popular Muscovite Bukharin. In an example of his astute political manoeuvring, Sverdlov, after giving some of his own words condemning the repression of the Provisional Government, read an official statement from the left-SR Maria Spiridonova, officially a fugitive in hiding, and then spoke of Lenin's clever machinations in the legal proceedings facing the political prisoners. The Bolsheviks were more than willing to take on the mantle of leaders of the revolutionary left, particularly when there were no other revolutionaries there to contradict them.
In the afternoon of the first day of the conference, the much celebrated commander of the army arrived to cheering crowds and middle class women showered him with petals. He first went to the Iversky shrine, the place where the Tsars had traditionally prayed, and later he met with business leaders who told him they would help fund a right-wing authoritarian government. For the past week, all the right-wing newspapers, and more than a few centrist liberal papers, had been singing the man's praises. His victories were exaggerated and his losses ignored and liberal newspaper Novoe vremia suggested that "it was difficult, in fact probably impossible, to find a more suitable general and supreme commander in these days of mortal danger being experienced by Russia". He was prepared to speak the next day and Kerensky was worried that he would steal the show, insisting that he should only speak on military matters. The general had other ideas. When he rose to the podium, all the politicians of the government, and all the business leaders and officers at the right side of the chamber, rose to their feet and clapped. Remaining sat were those of the left, for once united if only under the gaze of the symbol of counter-revolution, in particular the soldier delegates remaining sitting received the ire of the right-wing with cries of "Get up!" resounding through the chamber and being resoundingly ignored.
Much to Kerensky's relief, Kornilov wasn't a great speaker, with none of the flair or verbosity of a politician, but through him spoke the voice of all the counter-revolution. He was blunt: the war was going poorly, soon Riga would be lost, and after Riga perhaps Pskov or beyond. "By a whole series of legislative measures introduced after the revolution by people strange to the spirit and understanding of an army, the army has been converted into a crazy mob trembling only for its own life." His meaning was implicit. The government and the anti-war left had, through their prevaricating and lack of support for the armed forces, allowed a German advance that could soon threaten Petrograd itself. The Archbishop Platon, one of the reactionary members of the Church Council, would tell Kornilov after the days proceedings, "If a miracle is necessary for the salvation of Russia, then in answer to the prayers of his church, God will accomplish this miracle" and the Moscow Bolshevik newspaper would print what this "miracle" might entail, "The Tarnopol defeat made Kornilov commander-in-chief, the surrender of Riga might make him dictator".
The final day of the Conference did little to heal the great chasm between the left and the right. "It is hard for me," Kerensky was to bitterly claim, "because I struggle against the Bolsheviks of the left and the Bolsheviks of the right, but people demand that I lean on one or the other... I want to take a middle road, but no-one will help me." The industrial strikes were spreading, the rail network was strained leading to great shortages of food in the cities, crime was rapidly growing out of control. One Bolshevik newspaper reported that the reason for the lack of basic goods "lies in the intentional derangement of all economic life by the messiers capitalists, factory owners, plant owners, landowners, bankers, and their hangers-on" but the reality was more complex with the mass of strikes and meetings that workers attended definitely contributing to the drop in productivity. There was no easy option for Kerensky, only a series of bad ones. A few days later, the siege of Riga ended in a victory for the Germans. As a result, many of the propertied classes arranged to leave Petrograd, fearing the capital city would soon be next or that the industrial unrest would make living in the city impossible. As a result, the idea of resorting to the mailed fist of authority began to have a seductive appeal for the man.
Kornilov had no real understanding of the differences between the various leftist parties and tended to lump the reformists willing to co-operate in with the far-left; General Martynov said that Kornilov was "an absolute ignoramus in the realm of politics". The counter-revolution looked to Kornilov not due to his political acumen but his worth a symbol, his valour and patriotism. He was effectively to be a figurehead with all the interests of business and the Old Order behind him. Kerensky and Kornilov reached a détente by the middle of August, with Kerensky thinking that he could utilise Kornilov to suppress dissent and then maintain his own position of power, particularly in light of the Petrograd City Duma elections on the 20th. Proletarii, one of the few unbanned Bolshevik newspapers, would write in the build up to the election, "Every worker, peasant, and soldier must vote for our list because only our party is struggling staunchly and bravely against the raging counter-revolutionary dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and large landowners." It was a shocking victory for what would become known as the Soviet Alliance.
After the balloting, it took several days to tabulate the results and there were immediate rumours that the electoral office were trying to suppress the news. The Bolsheviks received the largest share of the vote with 168,509 votes accounting for 61 seats, the Union of Left Social Revolutionaries, a relatively new formation, managed to capture 63,447 votes or 26 seats, and the Socialist-Internationalist Party gained 19,085 votes or 7 seats - for a total of 94 seats. The SRs had performed badly compared to the last city elections in May, receiving only 142,734 votes accounting for 52 seats and the Mensheviks had almost disappeared with only 11,830 votes which accounted for 4 seats. The Kadets completed the tally with 114,483 votes or 42 seats. The Bolsheviks effectively formed a minority City Duma government with the support of the Left-SRs and the SIP but could be outvoted in terms of numbers by the combined presence of the SRs, the Kadets, and the remnants of the Mensheviks.
The City Dumas had little in the way of legislative power but regardless it was a propaganda coup for the Bolsheviks and the other left-wing parties and brought dismay to the parties of government. It also signalled to both Kornilov and Kerensky that something needed to be done about this looming threat but in reality Kornilov had been moving before the results had even been collated as on the 20th, the same day of the city election, two cavalry divisions advanced towards Petrograd. The reactionaries had arranged that officers barracked in the capital would seize control of Kresty prison in order to carry out swift justice on the imprisoned radicals. The right-wing were salavating at the thought of a coup, hungering for the cutting down of the Soviet leadership and the far-left fringe both. Kerensky was split between wanted to crush the looming threat of far-left radicalism and the realisation that the right-wing didn't want to answer to him, or any sort of democracy, at all.
When Savinkov, the deputy Minister of War, went to Kornilov's Headquarters on behalf of Kerensky, his message was a contradiction. Kerensky wanted Kornilov's assurance that he would dismantle the reactionary Union of Officers, one of the General's core supporting organisations, but also that he should advance the Third Cavalry Corps on Petrograd. The conspirators for the coup had been mobilising regardless of Kerensky's intransigence. The Reval "Shock Battalion of Death" was to proceed to Tsarskoe Selo on the outskirts of Petrograd to the south, General Dolgorukov's First Cavalry Corps was to mobilise from Finland to the city's north. The date of the coup was set for the six-month anniversary of the February revolution, August 27th. It was hoped that the left would engage in more rioting as a pretext for martial law. "It is time," Kornilov said to his chief-of-staff, "to hang the German agents and spies, Lenin first of all, and disperse the Soviet of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies – yes, and disperse it so it will never get together again."
- Moscow in 1917: The View from Below by Diane Koenker
- October by China Mieville
- The Agrarian Foes of Bolshevism by Oliver Radkey
- The Russian Revolution, 1917 by Rex A. Wade
In talking about the Petrograd City Duma elections, it's important to note that the Bolsheviks vote was a complete shock to many but represented a part of that significant shift in public conciousness away from the moderate parties and towards the radical. Here is both Alexander Rabinowich and Oliver Radkey on the numbers:
- The Bolsheviks Come to Power by Alexander Rabinowitch
Here's the numbers given by Oliver Radkey in The Agrarian Foes of Bolshevism, edited for visual purposes.
Parties - Votes (Seats)
Social Revolutionaries: 205,666 (75)
Mensheviks: 23,552 (8)
Bolshevik: 183,694 (67)
Kadets: 114,485 (42)
Minor Parties: 17,107 (-)
Residue: 4,875 (-)
In this timeline, the Bolshevik vote count is actually smaller. I made this decision in part to signify the existence of the Socialist-Internationalist Party: Trotsky's Mezhraiontsy never joined the Bolsheviks and some of the Mensheviks who might have jumped ship to the Bolsheviks would have instead joined the SIP. Incidentally, this is why the Menshevik vote is even worse. In this timeline, I had to consider how an early split of the Social Revolutionaries could have played out. I decided that the Left-SRs would not be as huge as they potentially could have been, this is because they're a relatively new organisation whose leadership has been scattered, but their vote count dropped the main SR party's results by enough that now the Bolsheviks are the largest party. The Soviet Alliance is forming before our eyes, taking up half the support of the capital, and conciousness is only shifting further left.
- The Bolsheviks Come to Power by Alexander Rabinowich.
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