Russian Revolution: June 24 — August, 1917
by Dr. Bruce Arnold
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.
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.