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Revolutionary violence


Russia in 1917
Russia in 1917

The lifting of tsarist repression released thousands of experienced revolutionaries from prison or from exile in Siberia or abroad. Many of them went to Petrograd or Moscow, where they spread their radical message among the masses. They found a receptive audience in thousands of insurgent workers and soldiers.

Of special significance was the return of Lenin to Petrograd in April 1917. Lenin had lived abroad, mainly in Switzerland, from 1900 to 1905 and again from 1907 to 1917. He had become convinced that consistent struggles for radical democracy in Russia would encourage workers and peasants to struggle for socialism. Lenin also believed that the devastation of World War I would inspire working people throughout the world to fight for socialism. He rallied the swelling ranks of Bolsheviks around slogans such as “Bread, Peace, Land” and “Down with the Provisional Government—All Power to the Soviets!” His party became increasingly attractive to large numbers of bitter and disillusioned young workers, soldiers, and sailors.

At the end of May 1917, maverick revolutionary Leon Trotsky returned to Petrograd from a ten-year exile abroad. He found that the program of the Bolsheviks had come essentially to include his ideas about “permanent revolution,” and he soon joined their ranks. Much of the rank-and-file membership of the Mensheviks also went over to the Bolsheviks at this time. Among the SRs, the rank and file and some of the younger leaders turned away from Kerensky and the older leaders associated with him. Various anarchist groups also came to advocate a socialist revolution.

As the people embraced more radical political ideas, growing numbers of young workers, distrustful of the upper classes and the armed forces under the Provisional Government, began arming.

They organized workers’ militia groups known as the Red Guards. Militant workers were also forming factory committees to assert their authority in a growing number of workplaces. As growing numbers of soldiers and sailors became more radical, traditional discipline and authority structures within the military disintegrated. However, all this ferment was by no means the work of Lenin and his followers. The popularity of Bolshevik slogans and proposals was growing dramatically, but many workers still voted for the better-known moderate socialists in elections to the soviets. On June 3, elected delegates from the soviets throughout Russia gathered in Petrograd for the first time. At this first Congress of Soviets, only 137 of the 1,090 delegates were Bolsheviks. "Russia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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