The first Congress of Soviets met in Petrograd in early June 1917. Most delegates opposed Russia’s continued participation in the war. The congress voted to organize an antiwar demonstration on June 18. In Petrograd on that day more than 300,000 people marched and rallied, calling for an end to the war and for the ejection of the capitalist politicians from the Provisional Government. On July 4 an even more militant protest drew 500,000 soldiers, sailors, and workers. Many of them marched in armed units, calling for the overthrow of the Provisional Government. The Bolshevik leaders believed that a confrontation with the government was premature. However, Bolsheviks were swept along in the demonstration and were closely identified with it. Neither the Congress of Soviets nor a majority of the workers supported the extreme demand that the Provisional Government be overthrown. This lack of support made it easier for antirevolutionary forces to isolate and discredit the Bolsheviks. In the aftermath of the July 4 demonstration, the government and its supporters unleashed a fierce campaign of repression and propaganda against them.
Progovernment newspapers denounced Lenin as a German agent. Troops loyal to the government raided and wrecked Bolshevik offices. Many prominent Bolsheviks (including Trotsky) were arrested, and warrants were issued for Lenin and other leaders, who went into hiding. In the midst of this July Crisis, Kerensky assumed dictatorial powers. He appointed as head of the armed forces General Lavr Kornilov, an authoritarian figure who was favored by the upper classes and opponents of the revolution. A staunch Russian patriot, Kornilov appeared to have the ability to reestablish orderIn fact, Kornilov was conspiring with certain aristocrats and military leaders to establish order by suppressing the soviets and replacing the Provisional Government with a military dictatorship.
There were efforts to patch together a compromise between Kerensky and Kornilov, but these efforts collapsed. A frightened Kerensky then called on all supporters of the soviets to mobilize against the threatened coup as Kornilov’s troops approached Petrograd in late August. The soviets were given arms. The arrested Bolsheviks were freed to help defend the February Revolution. The Bolsheviks played a prominent and effective role in this effort, and the attempted coup was thwarted. Revolutionary agitators who won over Kornilov’s troops were largely responsible for preventing the coup. With armed workers and revolutionary troops controlling the streets of the capital, political realities now tilted in a much more revolutionary direction.
The Russian workers and peasants saw clearly that the landowners and capitalists and their leading political representatives had actively supported Kornilov. Kerensky was badly compromised because of his earlier overtures to Kornilov. The moderate SR and Menshevik leaders were discredited for supporting Kerensky. The Bolsheviks—who had built an effective political organization and put forward the popular demands of “Peace, Bread, Land” and “All Power to the Soviets”—had greater mass support than ever before. "Russia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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