Letters from the Street

Philosophy, theology, and whatever else crosses my mind.

Russian Revolution: April 9, April 13, April 16, April 17 1917

(Catching up after vacation.)

April 9, 1917 (March 27 old style)

Trotsky leaves exile in New York to return to Russia. Meanwhile, the Provisional Government declares that its purpose in continuing the war is solely for the defense of Russia. This serves as a compromise position with the Petrograd Soviet, which accepts this new formulation.

April 13, 1917 (March 31 old style)

Plekhanov arrives in Petrograd, after nearly 40 years in exile. Plekhanov is a different man from when he left, now supporting the War for territory, and the advance of capitalism in Russia.

April 16, 1917 (April 3,1917 old style)
Lenin, Zinoviev and other Bolsheviks arrives in Petrograd coming from Switzerland. They are met at the train station by a large contingent of jubilant workers, soldiers, and party members.

April 17, 1917 (April 4,1917 old style)
Lenin presents his April Theses, his agenda for the continuation of the Revolution. He argues that the ruling Provisional Government is unacceptable because the workers, and the workers alone, should be the ones in power. The Bolsheviks soon produce an educational pamphlet for workers on Political Parties in Russia and the Tasks of the Proletariat. Meanwhile, the steamer Trotsky is traveling on is stopped for inspection by the British Navy in Canada, and despite the General Amnesty and having his visa in order, he is thrown into a British prison, along with several other Socialists for their opposition to the War.


Russian Revolution: April 3, 1917

April 3, 1917 (March 21 Old Style)

Lenin’s Letters from Afar, are published, though highly abridged.

Transition to Socialism: Peaceful if Possible, Says Engels

I’ve been posting historical information from the Russian Revolution. At times, the revolution was violent. In nearly every case, this was provoked by the reactionary forces, either of those who were loyal to the Tsar and the old order, or other countries such as Germany, England, and the United States.

The question comes up, must a socialist revolution be violent?

It’s important to remember that the Russian Revolution happened in a particular place, at a particular time, under particular conditions. Those conditions never existed before and never will again. It is not a model for how a revolution has to happen. There are lessons to be learned, for sure, from the failures, from the successes, from the excesses.

Let’s not forget this: while much of the world speaks out in condemnation when the left commits a violent act, or even talks about it (such as the opposition to the appearance of Milo Yiannopoulos, or the Black Panther Party in the 60s and 70s), the ruling class uses violence against the 99% all the time. Every time they kill a black person on the street, every time they shoot an innocent person on a no-knock warrant, every time they fire someone without cause, every time they use dogs or fire hoses on peaceful protesters such as at the Standing Rock encampment, every time they dump toxic waste in a community, every time they use fake emissions testing, every time they arrest and deport a hard-working immigrant, they assert the ability and will to use violence against us. And every time they do, the rest of us know that we could be next, and that innocence is no shield. So this whole topic is rife with hypocrisy and double standards.

Remember this?

Elian Gonzalex

Deadly enemy of the state right there, requiring the deployment of (I kid you not) over 100 federal agents to bring him down.

Just keep that in mind.

Here’s what Friedrich Engels had to say on the topic, from “The Principles of Communism”, published in 1847, the year before he and Karl Marx wrote “The Communist Manifesto.” I believe that they are as valuable now as they were then:

“Will the peaceful abolition of private property be possible?

“It would be desirable if this could happen, and the communists would certainly be the last to oppose it. Communists know only too well that all conspiracies are not only useless, but even harmful. They know all too well that revolutions are not made intentionally and arbitrarily, but that, everywhere and always, they have been the necessary consequence of conditions which were wholly independent of the will and direction of individual parties and entire classes.

“But they also see that the development of the proletariat in nearly all civilized countries has been violently suppressed, and that in this way the opponents of communism have been working [against] a revolution with all their strength. If the oppressed proletariat is finally driven to revolution, then we communists will defend the interests of the proletarians with deeds as we now defend them with words.”

As a lifelong pacifist, I struggle with this issue as much as anyone. There is so much that can be done with nonviolent direct action, as proved by Gandhi, King, and many others. And yet, in the face of extreme injustice, my own moral purity is not what’s at stake.

Russian Revolution: April 2, 1917

April 2, 1917 (March 20, Old Style)

The Provisional Government abolishes all religious and ethnic restrictions formerly imposed by the Monarchy. Non-Russian languages are now allowed at private educational institutions and record keeping.

Russian Revolution: April 1, 1917

April 1, 1917 (March 18 Old Style)

Stalin becomes a member of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.

Russian Revolution: March 30, 1917

March 30, 1917 (March 17 Old Style)

Poland appeals for independence. The Provisonal Government refuses.

Russian Revolution: March 27, 1917

March 27, 1917 (March 14 Old Style)

The Petrograd Soviet addresses “the people of the whole world” declaring an earnest desire for peace, an end to World War I, without annexations or indemnities.

Russian Revolution: March 25, 1917

March 25, 1917 (March 12, 1917 old style)
The Provisional Government abolishes the death penalty. Stalin arrives in Petrograd after being released from prison. Three days later, he is appointed to the editorial board of Pravda.

Russian Revolution: March 22, 1917

March 22, 1917 (March 9 Old Style)

The USA is the first government in the world to formally recognize the new Provisional Government. Two days later, France, England, and Italy would follow suit, after recieving assurance the government would continue to wage war.

Russian Revolution: March 21, 1917

March 21, 1917 (March 8 Old Style)

The Petrograd Soviet creates the Contact Commission as an organ of communication with the Provisional Government. Meanwhile, the Provisional Government refuses to allow Finland the independence it demands.

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