Letters from the Street

Philosophy, theology, and whatever else crosses my mind.

Russian Revolution: The Bolshevik Revolution Succeeds — November 5, 1917-November 7, 1917 (October 23-October 25, 1917 Old Style)

November 5, 1917 (October 23, 1917 old style)
For several weeks the Bolsheviks have been carrying on extensive campaigns of agitation throughout the country. Though missing great speakers in Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev; Trotsky and Sverdlov work tirelessly. Most importantly, however, are the thousands upon thousands of ordinary workers, soldiers, peasants, and sailors who convince their fellow workers that the time has come to seize power in their own hands. The Soviets issue “Revolutionary Decree No. 1”: hiring and firing of workers is controlled by the Soviet.

November 6, 1917 (October 24,1917 old style)
The Provisional Government attempts to close the current underground Bolshevik newspaper (which since July had moved offices and changed names: Lislok Pravdy, Proletary, Rabochy Put). At the same time, an offensive is launched against Smolny — the headquarters of the Bolshevik Central Committee and the Revolutionary Military Committee. It’s the eve of the meeting of the Second Congress of Soviets. Lenin writes the Central Committee of the Bolshevik party to arrest the Provisional Government members immediately. Troops of the Military Revolutionary Committee surround the Winter Palace where the Provisional Government is in session. Telegraph offices, railway stations, and governmental buildings are occupied without any noteworthy resistance. In the name of the Military Revolutionary Committee, not in the Bolsheviks’ name, the Provisional Government is overthrown.

The October Revolution begins. By nightfall, Trotsky has led the Red Guards and soviet workers to control all the bridges that cross the Neva (except the Dvortsovyi) and key positions throughout the city, including all roads into the city. Lenin arrives at Smolny, and takes command of the Red Guards and Workers’ Soviets.

November 7, 1917 (October 25,1917 old style)
By morning, the Red Guards have seized the General Post Office, the Nikolaevsky, Varshaysky and Baltiisky train stations, the power stations, the State Bank, the central telephone exchange, and main Government buildings. The Winter Palace, General Staff headquarters, the Mariinsky Palace, and a few other points still remain in the hands of the Provisional Government. At 10am the Revolutionary Military Committee publishes: To the citizens of Russia!, announcing victory. Ministers of the Provisional Government are arrested. South from Petrograd, the border between Bolshevik and anti-Bolshevik forces runs between Tsarskoe Selo and Pulkovo. Today, Tsarskoe Selo is part of Pushkin. Late in the evening, Lenin comes out of hiding and joins his comrades at the Smolny Institute, a former school converted into the Soviet’s headquarters. Lenin announces the end of the Provisional Government and the victory of the revolution.

In Moscow, revolutionary forces encounter stiff opposition from Colonel Ryabtsev. The battles are fierce with casualties on both sides.

At 10:40 in the evening, the Second All-Russian Congress of the Soviets opens in the Smolny, and the Mensheviks and SRs walk-out. Kerensky flees to the North in order to start a counter-revolutionary movement.



In a recent period of history, traditional colonialism largely came to an end. Especially in the years after World War II, many former colonies fought for and gained political independence from their former masters. However, political independence didn’t confer complete independence. Those countries were still subject to the imperialistic nature of capitalism in the modern era. Whether or not a country’s governmental processes are ruled by the power structure in, say, the UK, France, or the USA, many decision are still made which keep them subservient. For instance, multinational corporations can move factories in and out without any consent of the people who live there, regardless of economic conditions, environmental impact, etc. And the international financial bodies, such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization, ensure that these countries stay in debt, in poverty, and in a state of virtual peonage to the 1%.

This isn’t an abstract notion. It is daily reality to billions of people the world over. Recently, we saw a striking enactment of the nature of neo-colonialism, as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria wreaked havoc over wide swaths of the Caribbean and North America. In states such as Texas and Florida, the disaster response from government, businesses, and NGOs, was immediate and powerful, In Puerto Rico, a colony of the USA in all but name, the response was pitifully inadequate, and continues to be.

One glaring example of how this is working out concerns the electrical power distribution infrastructure. In places like Texas, most of the work is being done by utility companies which have mutual aid agreements with each other. Workers from electrical power companies which were not affected by the storms have been deployed to areas that were. In Puerto Rico, a contract was given to a tiny utility company called “Whitefish,” based in Montana, to restore the power grid. Whitefish had only two employees at the time Maria hit. One of them is a close associate of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. They have no track record of doing this kind of work and are being paid millions to do it by the Puerto Rican electrical power authority. In other words, wealth is being extracted from Puerto Rico and being paid to Whitefish owners in the US. In the old days of colonialism, they used to extract raw resources such as minerals and spices to make money. Now, they just extract money.

This would be a great time to create a sustainable power structure in Puerto Rico. Blessed with lavish sunshine and wind, the new grid could be based on these renewable sources. It’s not a fantasy. China, according to the BBC, installed more than 34 gigawatts of solar power in 2016. That’s right, in one year. By contrast, Puerto Rico’s total electricity production prior to Hurricane Maria was 4.878 gigawatts. This clearly indicates that it could be done in Puerto Rico.

But creating a self-sustaining energy production capacity doesn’t serve the needs of the old-line power corporations. They want to sell natural gas, petroleum and coal. They have to keep their markets dependent on non-renewable sources. The people who actually live in Puerto Rico are given no choice.

As Marx said in a letter on British rule in India, “The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilization lies unveiled before our eyes, turning from its home, where it assumes respectable forms, to the colonies, where it goes naked.”

Russian Revolution: September 18–November 4, 1917 (September 5–October 22, 1917 Old Style)

September 18 – 23, 1917 (September 5 – 10, 1917 old style)
The Third Conference of Petrograd Factory Committees takes place. There will be two more conferences prior to the Bolshevik revolution. The Moscow Soviet announces its support for a Soviet Government (355 – 254 votes). At a Congress of Soviets of Siberia, held in Krasnoyarsk, the Soviet renews its pledge of support for the Bolshevik party.

September 25, 1917 (September 12, 1917 old style)
Lenin illegally publishes Lessons of Revolution, recounting events since the February Revolution. Lenin also finishes his most important theoretical work: The State and Revolution.

September 27, 1917 (September 14, 1917 old style)
Lenin finishes his work “The Impending Catastrophe and How To Combat It”, where he presents a detailed outline of what the Bolsheviks will do to save the country from ruin. Lenin also sends a letter to the Central Committee in both Moscow and Petrograd, explaining The Bolsheviks Must Assume Power.

September 27–October 5, 1917 (September 14-22 1917 old style)
The Provisional Government convokes a “Democratic Conference”, with 1,200 delegates, in the hope of creating some kind of democractic legitamacy. Bolsheviks are in attendance, though the government aimed to arrest Lenin and Zinoviev, who did not attend. The conference votes against forming a new Coalition government. The Provisional Government, unhappy with this decision, decides to form a representative “Provisional Council” within the Conference to decide this issue, which in turn refuses a new Coalition government. Determined to get a “correct” result, a “Pre-parliament” is then created, chosen mostly by the Provisional Government, and this group approves a new Coalition government! The Bolsheviks agree to participate in the new Pre-parliament, despite the objections of Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and others. During this time, Lenin publishes an article On Compromises, explaining the Bolsheviks will seek compromises with others, so long as it does not betray their core principles.

October 1, 1917 (September 18, 1917 Old Style)
Kerensky orders the dissolution of the Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet. The fleet refuses. In Tashkent, the Soviet overthrows the local government. Kerensky sends troops to take back the city, and succeeds; with many arrests and the re-introduction (not since peasants were last serfs in 1861) of public flogging. Workers from 40 soviets immediately call a General Strike in response, lasting for a week.

October 6, 1917 (September 23, 1917 old style)
The Bolshevik Central Committee approves a list of candidates for the Constituent Assembly, which includes Lenin and Stalin.

October 8, 1917 (September 25, 1917 old style)
The third (and last) meeting of the Coalition government occurs, amidst staunch protests from the elected Soviets. Trotsky is elected as Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet.

October 13, 1917 (October 5, 1917 old style)
With Trotsky, Stalin, and other Bolshevik leaders present, the party votes again on their earlier decision to join the Pre-Parliament. This time around, only 1 vote (Kamenev) supports joining the government. Trade union membership amounts to nearly 2 million workers throughout Russia. In 1917, the total population of the country is 145 million. No hard occupational data exists for 1917, but by December, 1926, after a huge growth in the working class, the total number of workers in the USSR only amounts to 7.93 million workers; e.g. making up around 5% of the total population of the country. In 1917, the number of workers was considerably less than this. Fraternization of Russian and German soldiers increases dramatically, and throughout the front mass mutinies occur in favor of elected officers.

October 14, 1917 (October 6, 1917 old style)
The Petrograd Soldiers’ Soviet declares that it no longer reports to the Provisional Government.

October 20, 1917 (October 7, 1917 old style)
Lenin sneaks back into the country and arrives in Petrograd. The Pre-parliament begins its first session. When the Bolshevik time slot arrives, Trotsky delivers a scathing speech, and drops a bombshell: the Bolsheviks will not participate. For the next 11 days the Pre-parliament tries to create some unity among its remaining members, but on their first and most urgent question — what to do about the War — it fails to find a majority position. Mass confusion and despair began to set in, as delegates confront their profound ineptitude. Meanwhile, Headquarters plans to launch a new offensive before the 20th, which many Generals (who support the government) think is “completely crazy”.

October 21, 1917 (October 8, 1917 old style)
Sailors of the Baltic Fleet, through their elected organs, declare that they will not recognize the authority of the Provisional Government, nor will they execute any of its orders. On the 11th, the Central Committee of the Black Sea fleet demands: All power to the Soviets! Meanwhile, the Kiev Soviet votes in favor of a Soviet Government (130 – 66 votes).

October 22, 1917 (October 9, 1917 old style)
The Mensheviks and SRs desperately try to reassert their influence in the Soviets, and convoke a new session, with over 1,000 deputies, to try to undo the September 1 decision. The Soviet again votes, now 519 – 414 votes (67 abstentions), in favor of a Soviet Government.

October 23, 1917 (October 10, 1917 old style)
The Fourth Conference of Petrograd Factory Committees takes place. There will be one more conference prior to the Bolshevik revolution. The Bolshevik Central Committee debates and approves the decision to overthrow the Provisional Government, and to follow the tactics suggested by Lenin, who illegally arrived in Petrograd 3 days earlier. Kamenev and Zinoviev strongly disagree with the majority decision to overthrow the government. The Politburo is created. Lenin takes his vitamin pills and after 10 hours of debate he convinces his comrades that now is the time to seize power. Finally, they agree to an armed insurrection.

October 25, 1917 (October 12, 1917 old style)
The Petrograd Soviet forms the Military Revolutionary Committee, which will lead the insurrection.

October 30 – November 4, 1917 (October 17 – 22, 1917 old style)
The Fifth Conference of Petrograd Factory Committees takes place, or the First All Russian conference of factory committees.


Russian Revolution: August 16 – Sept. 1, 1917

August 16, 1917 (August 3, 1917 old style)August 16, 1917 (August 3, 1917 old style)

Stalin is elected to the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks.

August 17,1917 (August 14, 1917 old style)

The division in the State Conference becomes palpable when General Kornilov arrives. Kerensky patriotically asserts his authority, to which Miliukov explains: “In reality, he invokes only a feeling of pity”. Kornilov speaks with heavy defeatism, with attentive Allied diplomats in the audience, and explains that the Germans can easily win Riga, and if he is not allowed a full military dictatorship, Petrograd is sure to fall. Rhetoric vehemently crosses the aisles, threats abound, open fighting nearly breaks out. The government is starkly divided between Social Democracy and Military Dictatorship. Amazingly, world renown Anarchist Peter Kropotkin shows his support for the defense of Russia through a dictatorship, explaining that: “We need a federation such as they have in the United States.”

August 20 – 25, 1917 (August 7 – 12, 1917 old style)

The Second Conference of Petrograd Factory Committees takes place. There will be three more conferences prior to the Bolshevik revolution.

August 25- 28, 1917 (August 12-15, 1917 old style)

The Provisional Government holds a State Conference in Moscow. Workers Soviets overwhelming vote for a general strike in opposition to the Conference, but the Petrograd Soviet votes 364 to 304 to not strike. The Workers partly accept this, and instead strike for a single day: 400,000 workers walk out. As a result of the backwardness of the Petrograd Soviet, a vote is taken to hold new elections, and receives support in the form of 175 votes to 4.

End of August 1917 (Mid of August 1917 old style)

Kornilov, the commander in chief of the Provisional Government, sends troops to Petrograd.

August 27, 1917 (August 14, 1917 old style)

Kerensky judges Kornilov’s move as an attempted military coup. He fires Kornilov from his post as commander in chief and orders him to come to Petrograd, and makes himself the new commander in chief.

August 31, 1917 (August 18, 1917 old style)
The Petrograd Soviet, despite the objection of Menshevik president Cheidze, holds a vote on the abolition of the death penalty. The vote resolves: 900 to 4 to abolish the death penalty. Only the top leaders of the Menshevik party — Tseretelli, Cheidze, Dan, Lieber — vote against. On the 22nd, the Provisional Government agrees to abide by the Soviet decision, fearful of retribution otherwise.

September 1, 1917 (August 19, 1917 old style)
Kornilov refuses to come to Petrograd. He goes to Bykhov instead, surrenders, and gets caged. He manages to escape later. Kornilov demands that Kerensky allow him to reassign his army to Petrograd. Kerensky refuses.

Russian Revolution: June 24 — August, 1917

June 24, 1917 (June 11, 1917 old style)
The Mensheviks continue their assault on the Bolsheviks, agitating that they be arrested, and claim the party is controlled by Germany. After days of debate, the Mensheviks drop their demand to disarm the workers. Further, realizing their support would vaporize following the dispersal of the June 10 protests, the Mensheviks put forward a motion to hold demonstrations on the 18th, and the Soviet passes the motion.

July 1 – 11, 1917 (June 18 – 28, 1917 old style)
Kerensky’s unsuccessful military offensive on the Austrian front, led by General Aleksey Alekseyevich Brusilov, despite incredibly low moral, poor supplies and logistics, and in the absence of sound strategic thinking. German counter-attacks bring devastating loses: 150,000 Russians are killed, with nearly 250,000 wounded. The pro-peace Bolsheviks show their massive support with an enormous demonstration against the war of 400,000 workers and soldiers in Petrograd, Moscow, Kiev, Kharkov, Ekaterinoslav, and other cities, nearly all protestors carrying banners echoing the Bolshevik line. Meanwhile, under the cover of the demonstrations, the Anarchists attack several prisons, “liberating” 460 criminals. The Provisional Government turns this into propaganda, claiming the Bolsheviks helped. Many of the Petrograd Anarchists are arrested.

July 4, 1917 (June 21, 1917 old style)
After the demonstration of July 1 (June 18th old style), workers at the Putilov factory go on strike. The Bolsheviks, together with workers from 70 other factories, meet with the Putilov workers, sympathize with their grievances, but call for restraint. Workers are starving. Soldiers demand to be sent home to plough the fields: the 1st Machine Gun Regiment declares that “detachments shall be sent to the front only when the war has a revolutionary character.” Entire divisions of soldiers are arrested for disobedience. Soldiers are constantly demanding that Bolsheviks immediately overthrow the government, but the Bolsheviks need the support of the entire Soviet. Lenin understands that the present calamities will lead to a change in the Soviet, which will then enable a real, democratic, Soviet revolution.

July 6, 1917 (June 23, 1917 old style)
The Kronstadt Anarchists demand the liberation of Petrograd anarchists, lest they liberate them by force.

July 7. 1917 (June 24, 1917 old style)
Izvestia reports plans by the Provisional Government to close a series of factories in Petrograd, potentially leaving thousands jobless. Meanwhile, the Oranienbaum garrisons inform the government that they support Kronstadt.

July 9, 1917 (June 26, 1917 old style)
The Grenadier Guard Regiment returns from the front and joins the Kronstadt Anarchists.

July 14, 1917 (July 1, 1917 old style)
The 2nd Machine Gun Regiment demands: All power to the Soviets!, while the 3rd Infantry Regiment refuses to send 14 replacement companies to the front. Meanwhile, the 1st Machine Gun Regiment marches from Oranienbaum to Petrograd. The Soviet Executive Committee, now sharing power within the Provisional Government, tells them to go home, but the soldiers refuse. The Bolsheviks organise food and quarters for the machine-gunners. According to the historian/observer Sukhanov, in these days Petrograd “felt itself to be upon the verge of some sort of explosion.”

July 16, 1917 (July 3, 1917 old style)
This period is called the July Days. Mass demonstrators in Petrograd are making noise for the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and want the Soviet to replace the Provisional Government. Again, the slogan of the day is All Power to the Soviets. After receiving an order to go to the front, thousands of machine-gunners hold a meeting about an armed insurrection. The Bolsheviks try to cool things off, while the Anarchists stoke the fire. The soldiers decide to march, fully armed, and send delegates from one factory after another, with workers dropping everything to join the march. Tens of thousands go marching, demanding All power to the Soviets! The Bolsheviks change tactics. No longer trying to restrain the masses, they agree to support them, so long as they peacefully march to the seat of government, elect delegates, and present their demands to the Executive Committee of the Soviets. The masses agree. Meanwhile, the Government spends the entire day calling on troops from across the country to come in defense of the capital. The Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs) decry the Bolsheviks for the insurrection, claiming they are threatening the Soviets. The leadership of the Petrograd Soviet changes its composition and becomes a Bolshevik majority. Further strengthening the Bolshevik majority, the Mensheviks and SRs refuse to co-operate and walk out, having lost their majority power. They remain in control of the Soviet Executive Committee, and thus the ravine deepens further between local Soviets and the Soviet Executive Committee.

July 17, 1917 (July 4, 1917 old style)
Today the Bolsheviks are the demonstrators. At 3am, 80,000 workers and soldiers reach the Tauride Palace. Junkers (military cadets) meet the demonstrators, and tear up placards. A shot is fired, but disaster is averted. The Bolsheviks spend the early hours of morning figuring out how to organize the demonstrators. By 11 am the demonstrators assemble yet again. Now, entire Regiments arrive, but they are no longer at the front of the demonstrations: the workers have taken the lead by sheer mass of numbers. Even in factories where Mensheviks and SRs hold influence, four out of five workers join the demonstrations. The nation witnesses a massive General Strike. Lenin speaks to the demonstrators, encouraging their slogan of All power to the Soviets! Over 500,000 people attend the demonstrations in Petrograd. The first of the soldiers from the front arrive ready to support the Provisional Government, and frightened that a revolution is imminent, are ordered to launch ambushes against the masses. 400 people are killed and wounded. The Mensheviks, hands covered in blood, eventually “convince” the demonstrators to go home. Chaos ensues and approx. 400 people get injured. Bolshevik leaders get arrested. To keep the Bolsheviks in their place, the Provisional Government spreads the rumor that Lenin is a German spy. This little nasty had worked like a charm against the Czarina and should do the trick now. Lenin goes underground in Finland. He’ll be back October 20 (October 7 old style.)

July 18, 1917 (July 5, 1917 old style)
At 6am, the Government begins the offensive. The offices and printing machinery of Pravda are destroyed. Workers distributing the paper are murdered in the streets. Ironically, the last documents to come from the press are the continued Bolshevik position of stopping the demonstration. Government agents then ransack the Kshesinskaya Palace, headquarters of the Bolshevik Central Committee and Petrograd Committee. Union and Soviet workers are arrested in mass from factories and meeting halls in retaliation for their leadership of the demonstrations. Wide-scale fear and intimidation grips the city as the police presence intensifies to an almost martial law status; the mere mention of Lenin or the Bolsheviks is cause for arrest.

July 19, 1917 (July 6, 1917 old style)
Around 120 Kronstadt sailors refuse to give in, and retreat to the Peter and Paul fortress. Red Guards (a militia of regular factory workers) accompany the sailors, following their pledge to protect them. The Government forces setup a barricade and begin a seige. Stalin mediates and reaches an agreement with both sides: the Kronstadters will disarm, in return for getting free passage back to Kronstadt. The General Strike comes to an end, and workers return to their jobs, fearful of arrest. The Government induced terror becomes near hysteria, and countless numbers are arrested as spies. All troops called in from the front arrive in Petrograd, in a massive show of force.

July 20, 1917 (July 7, 1917 old style)
Prince Georgy Yevgenyevich Lvov resigns as prime minister and minister of the interior of the Provisional Government. He had held this post since March 15, 1917. Kerensky becomes the new prime minister. He will keep this office until November 7, 1917 (October 25 old style.) The Provisional Government orders the arrest of Lenin, claiming he is a German spy, and that the Bolsheviks incited the uprising. The Provisional Government further orders the disbandment of the Petrograd garrison.

July 21, 1917 (July 8, 1917 old style)
The Provisional Government attempts to improve public relations, and announces that it will hold elections to the Constituent Assembly on September 17, work on legislation for the 8 hour day, create better labor safety, and carry out land reform. None of these promises would be kept.

July 24, 1917 (July 11, 1917 old style)
Lenin goes into hiding.

July 25, 1917 (July 12, 1917 old style)
The Provisional Government re-introduces the death penalty in the army. The Provisional Government re-introduces a law allowing drumhead trials at the front (summary executions for retreating, etc). Furthermore, all radical political ideals are censored, and many newspapers are shut down. On the 19th, Lenin responds that a worker’s government will “close down the bourgeoisie’s newspapers”.

August 1, 1917 (July 18, 1917 old style)
Kerensky, as head of the Provisional Government, makes Kornilov commander in chief.

August 7, 1917 (July 24, 1917 old style)
The Second Coalition Government is formed; Kerensky appoints himself President. The Mensheviks, Cadets, and SRs join the government.

August 9 – August 16, 1917 (July 26 – August 3, 1917 old style)
Sixth Congress of the Bolsheviks occurs, representing 240,000 party members. Since Lenin is in hiding, Stalin delivers the report on the work of the Central Committee. The Congress resolves that a peaceful revolution has become impossible. Further, the Party decides on the principle of democratic centralism.

August, 1917
Since March, 568 enterprises, laying off more than 104,000 workers, have closed down. Prices on average have risen by 248% compared to 1913 prices, though urban centers are hit the hardest; in Moscow prices inflated by 836%. Meanwhile, real wages fell by 57.4% since 1913. Bread rations are severe; in Moscow the ration allows 2 pounds of bread per person, for an entire week. In this month, there are 440 cases where peasants and soldiers seize the land of big estate holders. The Provisional Government can barely keep up with the amount of work required to suppress the countless uprisings.


I’m working on a one-person play about Karl Marx. It will be a mix of monologue, rap, and old worker’s songs (we need to keep that old stuff alive!)

I’m changing the words of some of the songs so as to make them relevant either to today’s scene, or to the life and ideas of Karl Marx. Here’s one of them, borrowing heavily from Woody Guthrie’s Do Re Mi (I like John Mellencamp’s version from the tribute album “A Vision Shared.”)


Now if you want to get some pay, you’ve got to work the livelong day,

Do what the boss man tells you to and never have your say.

Cuz he owns the whole damn load, all the land and all the roads,

All the judges and the cops and politicians, by the way,

See, he’s got more money than you even know,

And it gives him all the power over how things go, so

If you ain’t got the do re mi, folks, you ain’t got the do re mi,

Why, you never stand a chance against the bosses

As long as they have it all under lock and key.

This whole world could be a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or to see;

But believe it or not, you won’t find it so hot

If you ain’t got the do re mi.

If you ain’t got the do re mi, folks, you ain’t got the do re mi,

Why, you never stand a chance against the bosses

Without having proletarian unity.

This whole world could be a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or to see;

Yeah your little ass is grass without the whole damn working class

Takin’ over the do re mi.

Russian Revolution: May 30–June 23, 1917

May 30, 1917 (May 17, 1917 old style)
The Kronstadt Soviet declares itself the sole governing power of Kronstadt.

June 12-16, 1917 (May 30 – June 3, 1917 old style)
The First Conference of Petrograd Factory Committees takes place and supports Bolshevik policies. There will be four more conferences prior to the Bolshevik revolution. See the next one on August 20 – 25, 1917 (August 7 – 12, 1917 old style)

June 13, 1917 (May 31, 1917 old style)
Minister of War Guchkov, a member of the Cadet party, resigns after street demonstrations against him. Kerensky replaces him.

June 16 – July 7, 1917 (June 3 – 24, 1917 old style)
The First All-Russian Congress of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Soviets begins in Petrograd. The Socialist Revolutionaries have the majority, the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks the minority. The Congress almost unanimously agrees to end World War I, though only through tremendous consternation agrees to support the Provisional Government, despite Bolshevik protests. Tensions flare between the parties, with the Mensheviks insisting that the Bolsheviks must be disarmed, despite not having weapons, which would in practice mean disarming the Soldiers’ Soviets. The Bolsheviks insist that all power must go to the Soviets.

June 18, 1917 (June 5, 1917 old style)
The Parliament in Finland (a territory of Russia) declare Finland a sovereign state, except on questions of foreign policy and war. The Provisional Government sends troops to crush the Parliament, which soon wavers, and votes in favor of their own dissolution.

June 23, 1917 (June 10, 1917 old style)
the Central Rada (formed in Kiev on March 17) proclaim the independence of the Ukraine. The ongoing Congress of Soviets unanimously supports this declaration of independence. The demonstration the Bolsheviks planned to hold against the Government is banned. The Mensheviks then go factory to factory, telling workers not to stage a demonstration, who in turn berate the Mensheviks. The Mensheviks see a massive conspiracy — “The masses are thick with Bolsheviks” — and secretly ask the Cossacks to help them crush the Bolsheviks, to which the Cossack ataman replies: “We, Cossacks, will never go against the Soviet.” Whole regiments accept the ban on the demonstration solely on the basis of Bolshevik acceptance, whose party policy wholly accepts any and all decisions of the Soviet.

Russian Revolution: May 7-May 23, 1917

May 7 – 12, 1917 (April 24 – 29, old style)
Seventh All-Russian Conference of the Bolshevik party. Lenin’s April Theses are officially the party’s program. The new slogan is All Power to the Soviets.

May 14, 1917 (May 1, Old Style)
The Petrograd Soviet votes in favor of forming a new, Coalition Government, despite Bolshevik condemnation and in contradiction to the March 1 decision of the Soviet. Weeks earlier, Lenin warned about the dangers of this new Dual Power. Miliukov’s resignation comes on the following day.

May 15, 1917 (May 2, 1917 old style)
Pavel N. Milyukov resigns as foreign minister.

May 17, 1917 (May 4, 1917 old style)
Leon Trotsky arrives from America.

May 18, 1917 (May 5, 1917 old style)
The Second Provisional Government, also called First Coalition Government, is formed. The seats are occupied as follows

Lvov – President and Minister of the Interior
Kerensky – Minister of War and Navy (Socialist Revolutionist)
Chernov – Minister of Agriculture (Socialist Revolutionist)
Pereverzev – Minister of Justice
Tereshehenko – Minister of Foreign Affairs
Shingarev – Minister of Finance
Nekrasov – Minister of Communications
Konovalov – Minister of Commerce
Peshekhonov – Minister of Supplies
Manuilov – Minister of Education
Skobelev – Minister of Labor (Menshevik)
Tsereteli – Minister of Posts and Telegraph (Menshevik)

The First Coalition Government will end on July 15, 1917.

May 23, 1917 (May 10 Old Style)
The Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies resolves that only discharged and wounded soldiers can perform as militiamen. Lenin explains his critique.

Russian Revolution: May 1-4, 1917

May 1, 1917 (April 18, old style)
Massive May Day celebrations occur in Russia. Foreign Minister Pavel N. Milyukov (also spelled Miliukov) sends a declaration to the Allies regarding the Russian Government’s war aims. The government’s position is that of being ready to quit the war without any ambitions regarding territorial annexations. However, knowing that the French and the British wouldn’t be happy with that position, Milyukov attaches a note of his own. Milyukov elaborates that Russia is still willing to “continue the war until complete victory” and that Russia is very much interested in expanding her territory.This note is leaked to the press and will cause the Provisional Government’s first crisis. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Miliukov secretly promises the Allies that Russia will continue the war until complete victory and the annexation of new territory is achieved. Miliukov’s secret note prompts armed demonstrations of furious soldiers in the streets for two days. The Bolsheviks resolve that the resignation of Miliukov is not enough; a new Soviet government must be formed, and give party members new instructions.

May 3 – 4, 1917 (April 20 – 21, old style)
The April Days, also called the April Crisis. Mass demonstrations in Petrograd and Moscow against Pavel N. Milyukov’s declaration of war aims.

Individual Rights or Solidarity Rights?

I suppose it goes back to the Enlightenment. The scientific revolution triggered the end of the Middle Ages. Instead of being told what to think, people started to think for themselves. And learn. The old doctrines of church and state began to be replaced by empirical investigation and the rise of reason. Not just in the physical sciences, but also in philosophy, culture — and politics.

The Enlightenment had a huge impact on how people thought about their relationship to government and each other. The revolutions in the US and France were major outcomes of these changes.

One of the things that changed was the concept of what Jefferson called “inalienable rights.” A right is something you’re born with. We all have it. It’s not given or even guaranteed by the government, although it can be taken away by someone stronger than you.

Americans have been raised on the recitation of these rights. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” “Freedom of religion, of assembly, of petition.” “Freedom from unlawful search and seizure.” And so forth.

These freedoms, coming as they did on the heels of millennia of authoritarian government (tribal rulers, kings, princes, emperors, popes and caliphs, etc.), were truly revolutionary in their impact. As the power of the hereditary aristocracy gave way to the power of business tycoons, some of whom like Andrew Carnegie rose from very humble beginnings to the very peaks of success, and as the divine right of kings gave way to the Declaration of the Rights of Man (sic), at last it was possible for individuals to make their own decisions, based not on who their parents were, but on what they could learn, make, think and do.

It was truly liberating. It was an entirely necessary development to create the kind of material wealth that so many of us enjoy today. By “so many of us,” I don’t just mean the 1%. People in the working class in all advanced industrial nations enjoy a standard of living that a king in a dark, dank castle could not have dreamed of. (Except, of course, when it comes to the power to rule.)

Many still consider these rights, these individual rights, to be the height and summation of all that humans can aspire to. Liberty forever! (Equality and fraternity, not so much.)

I’m not writing this to discount the importance of these rights. They are still of the utmost importance to our lives, and will remain so indefinitely. But that is not the end of the story of the development of the concept of rights. There is something else happening. The idea of rights is still expanding. Here’s where I think it is leading.

As important as these individual rights are, they leave large gaps in our ability to provide all people with security, good health, shelter, good nutrition, good education, etc. All of those things remain commodities to be bought and sold on the market. Take health care: you pay for it like you pay to go to a movie or for a Louis Vuitton handbag. But health care is not a luxury, it is something that everyone needs.

Under our concept of individual rights, healthcare will always be a commodity to be bought and sold. Why? Because under individual rights, one person has the right to ask for as much money as the market will bear, and to keep all of it for him or herself, regardless of how that affects anyone else.

Let me repeat that: regardless of how that affects anyone else.

That’s how pollution gets poured into our streams and air. That’s how poor people are evicted from their homes so that some developer can make even more money on the property.

We need another kind of rights, in addition to the individual rights that have done so much for us. We need solidarity rights. These are rights that we hold in common, not ones that each of us has separately. The right to decent shelter, clothing, food or health care is not a personal right. You can’t take these things away from someone else, under our current system, because they own and control them.

Within solidarity rights, things change. The individual doesn’t own something like health care. They can’t use it to extort money out of other people. Same with housing, food, or education. These are rights we have, not rights that have. In sharing good food, for instance, we’re not taking something away from someone else, because it never belonged to them in the first place. They still have a right to be compensated for their labor in producing it, they just don’t get to set the highest rate they can and pocket the profit that they exploited from people who need good food.

When Bernie talks about doing away with college tuition, he’s not talking about “free tuition” as his critics say. He is talking about how we all own education, in common with each other. We’re not trying to take something away from anyone else. That something was taken away from us, when it was made a commodity that someone else could get rich from. Rich off of your back. Rich off of the work you do to provide for yourself and your family. Rich off the choices you have to make, whether to have the good insurance or the car that doesn’t break down.

This idea of solidarity rights will continue to evolve. 50 or 100 years from now, we may realize that there are other solidarity rights that at this time we would not be able to recognize, because in the grand scheme of things, we are still barely out of medieval times and we don’t have the perspective yet.

The expansion of solidarity rights will go hand in hand with the expansion of socialism in our economic and political lives. Without greater economic justice, there will be no development of solidarity rights, and without solidarity rights, economic justice will not last.

Workers of the world, you have your chains to lose and a world to gain — for each other!

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