Letters from the Street

Philosophy, theology, and whatever else crosses my mind.

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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.

Russian Revolution: March 17, 1917

March 17, 1917 (March 4, 1917 old style)
Ukrainian nationalists respond to the political upheaval in Russia and form the Central Rada, or the Central Council. The Central Rada will issue their First Universal on June 23, 1917.

Burr Attacks Ross in NC: It’s No Dog Whistle

I’ve been watching the campaign ads for the Senate and Governor’s races here in North Carolina. Set aside the fact that, in keeping with the general tenor of things, they are pretty ugly. There is an important  difference. 

On the whole, the Republicans have nothing but attack ads. More dishonest than usual, too. They have no ads at all putting forth their platform. They don’t say what they’ll do. They don’t say what they won’t do. They just say how awful their opponents are, and in the worst possible way. . 

For instance, Burr shows a picture of Ross, the evil ACLU lawyer who supposedly opposed the creation of the sex offender registry –  which has a smidgen of truth, she did work for the ACLU – a picture of Ross, as I was saying, with a shadowy black man’s face in the background. 

Black man, sex offender. Shades of Emmett Till. 

Talk about bringing out the worst in people for political gain. The term “dog whistle” has become current to describe a kind of racist talk that is not explicit – you don’t exactly hear it, like you can’t hear a dog whistle – but it sends a message anyway. Furtive. Even deniable. But effective. The point is made. 

Well, this goes past dog whistles. This  is a bull  horn. 

All the more reason to get out the vote in a couple of weeks,  or right now if you want to be an early voter. We have a chance to turn these racist, misogynistic throwbacks out of office. The Democrats won’t be perfect, but they won’t be this bad. And they will create a climate in which further progressive change is possible, instead of just fighting against the latest outrage all the time. 

Help get others to the polls. Get on the phone banks and call your neighbors, or go door to door. And for God’s sake, vote.

Time for the NRA to Step Up

Another mass shooting happens in Orlando and all the predictable responses emerge like 17 year cicadas. “Ban assault weapons.” “If someone had been armed, they could have stopped it.”

Some of these responses are worthwhile and some are nonsense. I’m not going to rehash them. There will be plenty of people doing that over the next few days or weeks, with the usual results: not much.

Let’s try something new. Let’s ask the NRA to step up.

I don’t mean the leadership. That won’t happen. Take executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre: in office for 25 years, earning around $970,000 per year as of the 2010 IRS filing. He just might have a vested interest in appealing to the crowd that pays his salary, rather than approaching this situation with compassion and common sense. Fear-mongering is very good business.

So when I say “the NRA,” I mean the millions of regular members. Lots of them sport the bumper sticker that says “I am the NRA.” That’s right, you are. You’re the ones we need the most right now, not LaPierre or board members such as Motor City Madman Ted Nugent.

I have a suggestion for you, the members of the NRA.

But first, let me establish some credibility here. I am a gun owner, somewhere between the person who owns one gun for personal protection and a real collector. I’d rather not publicly advertise how many I own, but it’s more than a few. Handguns, rifles, shotguns. I handload ammo for about ten different calibers. I’ve worked part-time as a range safety officer and salesperson at my local range. I like to hunt. It’s nothing for me to put 1,000 rounds down-range in an average month (I keep stats.) I have a concealed carry license. I’ve shot an elephant gun (not at an elephant, I was helping a custom builder sight it in at the range.) My favorite pistol is the Browning Hi-Power. My favorite revolver is the .44 Special. My favorite shotgun is a 16 gauge L.C. Smith side-by-side (belonged to my great-grandfather.) And I own an AR-15, because it’s very accurate, ammunition is readily and inexpensively available, and I never tire of the recoil as I do with some larger calibers.

I’ve been a member of the NRA for many, many years.

So here are my suggestions for you, the NRA rank and file:

1. Stop listening to that blowhard, LaPierre. We should have gotten rid of him after the “jackbooted thugs” comment back in 1995. He’s making huge money, preying on your fears. Who knows if he even believes half of that nonsense, so long as it keeps the money – your money – rolling in.
(Maybe the good, kind, level-headed members of the NRA board, and there are many, could find someone else for the job. This is the only suggestion I have for the leadership.)

2. We already have background checks for all sales through an FFL (federally licensed firearms dealer, for the non-gunnies in the crowd.) Why not background checks for all sales? Go to an FFL, pay a small fee, he or she runs a check, it’s done. I sure don’t want to risk selling a firearm to a criminal or someone with a disqualifying mental condition, do you? Here in NC, and I believe we’re not the only ones, if you have a concealed carry license, you don’t have to have a background check because you’ve already jumped through all the hoops. Good enough.

3. We have to take training to get a concealed carry license. It’s a great idea. I learned a lot. Why not have training for any firearms owner? It would make that argument about the meaning of “well-regulated militia” carry a lot more weight, wouldn’t it?

4. If, as we know, guns can be the only means for the small, the frail, or the sickly to protect themselves, that very capacity is what makes them so deadly in the hands of these murderers. It’s not enough to point out how many millions of us don’t use them for crime. It doesn’t erase the slaughter caused by those who do. We have to accept this ghastly truth. While we know that the Clinton-era assault weapons ban had no measurable impact, we could re-visit the idea. Maybe handle it like silencers: pay a one-time fee, get a letter from your local sheriff. Again, it’s not that different from what we did to get a concealed carry license, so why make a fuss about it?

5. Something needs to be done about the mental health part of this issue. Gun owners always like to pint out how often these mass shootings are due to mental health issues, and often they are. It’s way not enough to just point it out. In fact, it’s rank hypocrisy to say it’s a mental health problem and do nothing about the problem. I am a licensed mental health professional. I diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders. I know for a fact that our mental health system is so broken that it’s not a system at all. Very few of our states have anything that comes close to meeting the need. The much-ballyhooed lobbying power of the NRA (that’s you and me, remember, not the leadership) could make a powerful difference in ensuring that mental illness doesn’t go untreated.

6. Speaking of mental health, something needs to be done about the place on the form we fill out when purchasing a weapon (the 4473) that asks whether we have a disqualifying mental condition. How easy would it be to lie? Nothing easier. So we need a national registry. There are some requirements for that: it needs to be as complete as possible, it needs to protect confidential health information, and it needs safeguards to prevent unwarranted inclusion on the list. Those are all achievable, and I have ideas about how it could be done. This isn’t the place to go into details. My point in all of this is to say that if the genuinely good people of the NRA want to be taken seriously by our neighbors, we need to be asking for these things as strongly as we resist encroachment on our Second Amendment rights.

7. Finally, stop with all the rumor-mongering already. For instance, so many of you started stockpiling everything even remotely firearms-related when Barack Obama was elected President, prices skyrocketed on guns, most ammunition became scarce or unavailable (including the lowly .22LR), and even primers were almost impossible to find. And yet over 7 years have gone by, and Obama hadn’t taken a single gun from any of us. If you don’t feel foolish by now, you must be living in fantasy land.

None of these suggestions involve registration, confiscation, or banning a specific class of arms. They take what we’re already doing to the next step, that’s all.

I know, from years of being around fellow “gun nuts,” that the overwhelming majority of us are good, decent people. Educated. Hard-working. Reliable neighbors. Community-minded. Fun-loving. Kind to children, animals, and the down-and-out. The average scared-of-guns sort of person doesn’t know that we live right next door because they feel perfectly safe around us.

Words can no longer convey the desolation I feel over the innocent people being lost to this violence. I’d like to say more, but I just don’t know how.

If we don’t come up with ways to try to reduce these heart-wrenching tragedies like Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and the Pulse shooting, eventually people who don’t know the first thing about us or our guns will do it for us. It’s not enough to express our grief over the senseless loss and chant “More guns, less crime.” I’ve said that myself. Now, I’ve had to stop and look for better solutions, because it rings more and more hollow with every drop of blood. Sooner or later, sooner rather than later, that blood will be on our hands if we keep on selfishly doing nothing.

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