Workers' Democracy in Revolutionary Petrograd

This set of short articles was written as a series, for the UK left-wing paper Socialist Worker in the early 1990s, but was never published. Although unsourced—as befits something written for a newspaper—the article draws on the histories of the revolution written in the 1970s and 1980s by what was then a new generation of social historians in the West who were both anti-Stalinist and broadly sympathetic to the revolution. By the time the articles were written the tide in writing about the revolution was moving in a more hostile direction.

The Putilov workers

Petrograd was the revolutionary center of Russia in 1917. During the war its population grew to 2.4 million. Amongst these were 400,000 factory workers heavily concentrated in the metal and engineering sectors that had some of the largest plants in the world. None was more important than the giant Putilov works. 

Putilov was crucial to the government’s war effort and in 1916 the state put its own board in control. The pressure on the workers was enormous as conditions

generally worsened. When they went on strike they faced police repression and even drafting into the army. But the growing militancy could not be suppressed and in February 1917 the Putilov workers were a leading force in the overthrow of the tsar.

In the factory there was revolution, too. The director and his aide were killed and their bodies thrown a local canal. Hated foremen were “carted out” of the works. This involved bundling them into large wooden wheelbarrows, sometimes covering them with oil or whatever could be found, and running them through the factory gates.

This did not mean that the Putilov works were necessarily  Bolshevik. In February there were only about 100 Bolsheviks in the plant. Elsewhere the Bolsheviks had bigger and more loyal support. The Putilov workers were still politically moderate. Their mood was one of euphoria and goodwill. As defense workers they now looked forward to a more efficient war effort. What changed this was the growing class polarization in Russian society more generally, which pushed them towards the Bolsheviks. 

One factor in their radicalization was the growing economic difficulties. Petrograd was constantly threatened by shortages of food, fuel and raw materials. Employers and managers tried to use these to push back the gains that the workers had made in February.

But as the Putilov workers struggled, their horizons widened, and discontent and militancy grew. The air seemed alive with politics. “What a marvellous sight to see the Putilov factory pour out . . . to listen to Social Democrats, Socialist Revolutionaries, Anarchists, anybody, whatever they had to say, as long as they would talk,” wrote the American journalist John Reed.

In the thousands the Putilov workers joined the newly created Metalworkers Union. In the factory they looked increasingly to their own factory committee for leadership, and in the city to the Petrograd Soviet. Support for the war began to wither and the demands for “workers’ control of production and distribution” grew.

These workers were not revolutionary saints. They brought with them all of the rubbish of the old society. At one time one Putilov shop complained about the number of Chinese in Petrograd. On another occasion a shop wanted all married women sacked.

But as the struggle developed, they increasingly found a class unity, which brought together the different shops in the plant and linked them to the wider labor and revolutionary movement. Skilled workers played a central role. Their skill could have been the basis for highly sectional craft politics. But joined in a common struggle against worsening conditions and unrestrained by traditional craft unionism, the Putilov workers came together in a defense of one another.

In April a majority of Bolsheviks were elected to the factory committee in the plant. But despite a warm welcome for Lenin in May, the plant had not yet been won to Bolshevik politics. Throughout May and June rapid inflation pushed the workers to the left and in the many discussions and meetings the Bolsheviks began to win the arguments.

By July radicalization was preceding so fast that the workers and the Bolsheviks in the plant were in danger of becoming isolated by their militancy. In the July Days many Putilov workers stormed to the Tauride Palace where both the Government and the Petrograd Soviet met. “The Putilov workers say they will not disperse until…the Soviet takes power in its hands” said one representative. Only with difficulty were the workers held back.

Their isolation did not last long. As the Putilov workers swung to the left so did other factories. In August volunteers streamed out to fight the attempted coup of General Kornilov. They carried with them guns and armored cars made in the plant’s workshops and they joined up with thousands of other workers from across Petrograd.

As this happened, the temper of Putilov increasingly became the temper of the Petrograd working class. By October the Bolsheviks won eight out of eleven places in the plant’s reelections for the Petrograd Soviet. Across the city the same shift was occurring and it was being echoed in the large industrial centers of Russia.

The factory committees

Russia in 1917 exploded into democracy. Everywhere it seemed that there were committees. The self-activity of the working class that Marx had talked of became a reality in the factories, meeting rooms, and even of the street corners of Russia.

Looking back it is easy to draw up neat diagrams of the relationships of the different committees. But this misses the point. Because they represented the self-activity of workers, the various committees were unplanned and grew up chaotically. They argued with one another and questioned each other’s authority. But they did so because they were alive, and when order began to emerge in their relations, what it lacked in neatness it gained in commitment.

At the base of this new democracy were the factory committees and they found their fullest development in Red Petrograd. Tsarist repression meant that Russian workers had a limited experience of union organization. But within the workshops there was a tradition of appointing experienced and reliable workmen as spokesmen. This provided the basis for a rapid development of steward committees in the workshops in 1917. The factory committees linked these shop committees together to speak for the whole plant.

The factory committees were most developed in the metal industry, where 60 percent of the city’s factory workers were to be found. In the Putilov plant, for example, the factory committee linked together representatives from some forty different shops. But the same general trends could also be found in textile, chemical, and leather plants. By October there were committees in every large factory in Petrograd.

These factory committees quickly linked up with each other. Four Petrograd factory committee conferences were held before the seizure of power in 1917—in June, August, September, and October. Two more were held in November and January 1918. 

The first conference led to the creation of the Petrograd Central Council of Factory Committees, and in October 1917 this council organized the First All Russian Conference of Factory Committees in Petrograd.

The factory committees were the basis of workers’ control in 1917. In February when the tsar was overthrown no one had much idea of what workers control meant. The Russian word “control” really means no more than supervision. There were plenty of people who wanted control to mean no more than this.

Many workers also accepted that there were limits to how far they could influence their plants. But from the outset the factory committees took away employers’ rights of hiring and firing. They were a major force in the winning of the eight-hour day and the subsequent squeezing out of overtime.

But the factory committees found it impossible to restrict their role. At the first conference of the Petrograd committees one delegate declared that “control is indispensible, but what control, organized how and by whom?”

This was a question that could only be answered on the ground. “Whether we like it or not,” said another delegate, “factory committees must involve themselves in the economic life of their enterprises which would stop without them.”

In the best and biggest factory committees a structure of subcommittees and commissions developed which forced back the frontier of control. The factory committees began to organize production, find raw materials, and even sell the finished goods. They were responsible too for the development of the Red Guard to protect both their factories and the gains of the revolution. By October there were some 20,000 Red Guards in Petrograd.

Recently, the content of over 1500 Petrograd factory committee documents has been analyzed for 124 committees covering nearly 75 percent of the city’s factory workers. The results give us a good picture of how the activities of the committees developed.

Approximately a quarter of the points discussed related to practical questions of how plants were working. Another quarter dealt with work conditions, wages, and the food supply. Nearly 18 percent concerned organizational questions and links with other factory committees and soviets. Discussion of the overall economic situation, strikes and lockouts made up another 13 percent of points, and educational and cultural questions 3 percent. Political issues and campaigns, the formation and arming of the Red Guard made up the remaining 15 percent of points.

Factory committees were therefore based in the activities of their own plants, but their interests quickly spread beyond the factory gates.

But the analyzis also shows that between February and October the balance of discussion changed. Issues of control and the rights of the committees became more important nearer to October. At the same time the prominence of discussion of political issues also rose, reflecting the increasingly revolutionary mood.

From the start the Bolsheviks were always disproportionally represented in the factory committees. But at the beginning this was often because they were the best militants. They gained further respect by their strong defense of the rights of the committees. Winning the political arguments was a longer process.

But the factory committees proved more sensitive guides to the growing and widening militancy than any other organizations in 1917. With the deepening politicization in July and August and the increasing polarization in September and October after the failure of the Kornilov coup, the factory committees swung behind the Bolsheviks.

The local soviets

Russia in 1917 was “the Republic of the Soviets.” “Soviet” is simply the Russian word for council, and everywhere workers’ councils emerged, drawing together the activities of all of the other committees that were set up in that year. 

This was dual power. On the one side stood the Provisional Government trying to run and control Russia. On the other stood the Soviets of Workers, Peasants, and Soldiers Deputies with real power in their hands. Such a situation could not last. Either the Provisional Government would have to assert itself or the soviets would push it aside.

At the top of the soviet side was the All Russian Congress of Soviets. Beneath it were the various city and town soviets and below these in the larger cities were the district soviets.

The district soviets are the least known form of workers’ democracy in 1917. But in cities like Moscow and Petrograd they had their origin in the events of 1905. In Petrograd in 1917 within two weeks of the February Revolution eleven district soviets had been established on a broader and more substantial basis than in 1905. Like the factory committees their closer relationship with their local communities made them more sensitive to shifts in militancy below.

Like any large city, Petrograd gave itself easily to local organization. District soviets were set up in the traditional districts and subdistricts of the city. Nineteen have been counted as existing at one time or another during 1917. But the strongest and most continuous were based in the heavily working-class
areas. Smaller town soviets in their own right existed in the towns around Petrograd and most importantly on the nearby Kronstadt island and naval base.

The Vyborg Soviet was one of the first to be established in the midst of the February events. Vyborg was in the northeast of the city, separated from the wealthier administrative areas by the river Neva. The district was a mass of engineering factories that jostled with the homes of workers. It was also a stronghold of Bolshevism. In February the Bolsheviks already had 500 members in the area and in May they got more than half the votes in the local town council elections.

The Vyborg Soviet appears to have been set up spontaneously. Others perhaps had some encouragement from the Petrograd Soviet itself. Generally the district soviets included the delegates from the area to the Petrograd Soviet but they also had their own delegates. Unlike the Petrograd Soviet where there was a strong contingent of soldiers, the workers of that area dominated the district soviets.

These soviets had their own general meetings, elected executives, and set up their own commissions to supervise and run their areas. The district soviets played an important role in linking up with the factory committees who would often turn to them in local labor disputes. They had to deal with housing problems, prices, and social problems like drunkenness. The most active became involved in providing welfare—running hospitals and public dining rooms. Some had their own libraries, clubs, and lectures.

As the food supply worsened, the district soviets played an increasing role in trying to get supplies from the countryside. The Vyborg Soviet took over some prison bakeries and organized the distribution of bread in its area.

District soviets also challenged for control of the local militias and Red Guards. In the February Revolution workers’ militias had been set up in Petrograd. In the next months the bourgeois city council tried to create a city militia under its control. But the district soviets tried to insist that they should run the city militia as well as keep the workers’ militias going. They also organized the Red Guards from the different plants in their areas.

Beyond Petrograd itself, the district soviets sent out parcels and agitators to troops at the front. Some made connections with the countryside using the ties of local workers with families in rural areas. The Vyborg Soviet was an important intermediate link between the Kronstadt sailors and the Petrograd Soviet itself.

In every way these Soviets seemed to be workers’ democracy in action. “The masses of the Vyborg district,” said one participant, “brought all their needs and expectations to the soviet; for them it was the meaningful and accessible organ of power. From morning to night, workers, youth, soldiers came with various problems. None went away without an answer.”

As with the factory committees there were no neat lines of responsibility. At one stage the Petrograd Soviet encouraged the creation of an Inter District Committee of the soviets. But the Soviet Executive Committee drew back when it realized that the local soviets were becoming increasingly assertive in the face of its conservative policies.

In February, only the Bolsheviks dominated the Vyborg Soviet. Mensheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries, and nonparty delegates ran the rest. But all were insistent that they should keep their own autonomy and power. After the July Crisis there were attempts to disarm the workers but this only alienated the district soviets more. As they became more radical, left Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries and above all Bolsheviks were increasingly elected.

The district soviets began to demand that the Petrograd Soviet should itself be reorganized to more truly reflect the real political character of the city. Just as in the factory committees, Bolshevik influence on the ground paved the way for October and “All power to the soviets.”

The Petrograd Soviet

When soviets first appeared in Russia in 1905, few knew what to make of them. But it soon became apparent that the workers’ council was a new form of workers’ democracy. When the Petrograd Soviet first met in October 1905 in the Tauride Palace it had only thirty–forty members, but when the tsarist government disbanded it there were 562 delegates whose debates the Soviet’s own newspaper Izvestiya recorded for all Russia.

By February 1917 there was no doubt that the Petrograd Soviet would once again become the main vehicle for working class democracy in the city. On February 27, while the street battles that overthrew the tsar were still going on, and while bourgeois members of the Imperial Duma were dithering about overthrowing the tsar, a group of former political prisoners met in the Tauride Palace to call for the formation of a Petrograd Soviet of Workers and Soldiers Deputies.

At nine o’clock in the evening, with only a handful of delegates present, it met; but within twenty-four hours it was inundated with worker and soldier delegates. On the 28th Izvestiya appeared calling on “the entire population to rally to the soviet immediately, to organize local committees in the working-class quarters, and to take over the conduct of affairs.”

The Soviet elected the Menshevik Chkheidze as president and the Socialist Revolutionary Alexander Kerensky as one of its vice presidents. At the outset each party had two representatives on the executive, but the ethos was set by the ideas of the Mensheviks. Politically they believed that the revolution was trapped within bourgeois limits and that the war must be critically supported. Culturally they were deeply suspicious of the ordinary workers and soldiers, what one member Sukhanov called “the ignorant wantonness of the grey mass.”

To the surprise of the bourgeois leaders in the capital, therefore, the executive of the Soviet rushed to support the formation of Provisional Government rather than try to take power itself. But the Soviet in these early days also had a different dynamic, which came from below. Two decisions tied the hands of the executive in how much they could hand over to the new middle class leaders.

One was Order No. 1. To the consternation of the executive, which only realised too late what had happened, the Soviet called on soldiers to elect committees and to see themselves, not the Provisional Government, as responsible to the Soviet for any political actions. Then the Soviet agreed only to give qualified support to the Provisional Government generally. The famous formula was “insofar as”—the government would be backed insofar as its policies had the support of the Soviet.

Taken together, these two decisions in the first days of the Soviet laid the basis for dual power. Despite the wishes of its leaders, the Soviet was asserting that the Provisional Government could only rule as long as they tolerated it. This was recognized by Guchkov, the Minister of War who resigned in disgust in April: “The Provisional Government possesses no real power . . . (it) . . . exists only while this is permitted by the Soviet.”

The slogan “All power to the soviets” was first heard as early as March 2 but it became a more general minority demand in April, and on April 30 the workers’ section of the soviet passed a motion in support of the idea. This was the slogan that Lenin took up when he returned to Russia and to which he won the Bolshevik Party. 

Winning the Soviet was more difficult. The Bolsheviks always had a strong minority of support, but in the early days Shlyapnikov noted “the hostility against us was fairly general.”

Within the Soviet, representation was biased toward groups that were radicalizing more slowly. The Petrograd soldiers had one delegate per company, giving them 2,000 to the workers’ 900. The workers had one delegate for each 1,000, and one for every plant with less than 1,000. The result was that the big plants, which had 87 percent of the workers, had 484 delegates, compared to 422 from the small plants with only 13 percent of the workers. 

Then the Soviet was also held back because it became the unofficial center of soviet activity throughout Russia. By March 22, eighty soviets were in contact with it and the Soviet was enlarged to give some permanent representation to the provinces.

But the pressures of the class struggle were irresistible. To the bourgeoisie, the Petrograd Soviet was the symbol of everything they hated. Their hero General Kornilov wanted “to hang the German spies headed by Lenin…and disperse the Soviet.”

The winning of the soul of the Petrograd Soviet by the Bolsheviks was not automatic. The Provisional Government lurched from crisis to crisis. As it did so the tide of class struggle surged forward only to ebb. But each time the surge was stronger. Finally in late August it broke the back of resistance.

The attempted coup of General Kornilov finally discredited both the Provisional Government and the Soviet’s old leadership. The Soviet led the defense of Petrograd and swung to the left as it did so.

On September 1 the Soviet voted for a Bolshevik resolution calling for an immediate peace, the confiscation of the land, and workers control. On September 9 it elected a new executive of fourteen Bolsheviks, six Socialist Revolutionaries and three Mensheviks, and on September 25 Trotsky replaced Chkheidze as President. 

The stage was now set for October. It was the Petrograd Soviet that called for the Second Congress of Soviets to meet and to establish “a truly revolutionary government.” The Bolsheviks had won Petrograd; could they win Russia?

Petrograd and Russia

In the midst of the October Revolution in Petrograd, John Reed was told by an anti-Bolshevik army officer that “Russia is not a city but a whole country.” Like many sections of the upper classes the officer hoped that the rest of Russia would rise up and crush Red Petrograd.

In one sense the officer was correct. Petrograd was not Russia, even the cities and towns were not Russia. About one tenth of the urban inhabitants of Russia lived in Petrograd. But only one in five Russians lived in a town at all. 

Politically, however, the officer was wrong. Russia did not come to the aid of reaction. The larger part of it followed the trail laid down by the workers of Petrograd. This movement was slower and more halting, but in the autumn of 1917 the pace of events quickened across the whole country.

By October nearly 70 percent of the factories in the core areas of Russia had set up their own factory committees; 108 factory committee conferences and ninety-four central councils of one kind or another have been traced in the different towns and regions of the country. Seventy-seven of these central councils were outside Petrograd.

Of course the power of these committees varied. Only a minority attained the stature of the Petrograd committees. The foundation of over fifty central councils outside Petrograd can be dated: 20 percent were formed in March and April, 30 percent in May and June, 20 percent in July and August, and 30 percent in September and October.

But the underlying tendencies were the same. When the First All Russian Factory Committee Conference met in Petrograd in October 1917 its 167 delegates represented forty-nine different industrial centers. The Bolsheviks had over half the delegates and many of the rest enthusiastically backed the call to take power.

The rise of the soviets followed a similar pattern. By May 1917 there were some 400 in existence; by August it was 600, and in October 900. The exact form of these Soviets varied. In June twenty-eight were purely workers’ soviets, 106 were workers and soldiers’ soviets, and 305 were united workers, soldiers, and peasants’ soviets.

When the First All Russian Congress of Soviets met in June-July 1917, over 20 million voted for the 1095 delegates. The Bolsheviks were a clear minority with only 105 representatives. By September it was obvious that the mood was rapidly changing. Now the old Soviet leadership did everything to delay and disrupt the calling of the Second Congress. But when it met on the day after the seizure of power, 399 of the 649 delegates present were Bolshevik.

Soviet power could not have been won in Russia if the mass of peasants and the army had been hostile. Regularly in the previous century, European governments had relied on the peasants or peasants in uniform to crush the towns. This time it did not happen.

The peasants were not interested in socialism but they were interested in land. Under the influence of the landowners, the Provisional Government dallied and the peasants turned away. During 1917 the numbers of peasant “riots” grew. The peasants seized land; they took tools, machines, and wood from estates; they burnt manor houses and attacked landlords and their agents who had oppressed them.

But the peasant parties themselves were only prepared to talk about action. Only the Bolsheviks urged the peasants to take the lands for themselves. Then in October the Bolsheviks implemented the Model Decree on Land that had been drawn up under the influence of the Socialist Revolutionaries—the main peasant party. Their leaders were outraged at the “daylight robbery” of their program. Lenin’s reply was simple: “A fine party, which had to be driven out of power for its program to be implemented!” This the peasants could understand. The Bolsheviks had given them land and to this extent they would back them.

The army also turned away from the old regime; 15.5 million had been put into uniform. By 1917 only 9 million were left, with 7 million at the front. The countryside had been stripped of nearly half its male workers.

In 1914 the soldiers had been patriotic to the core. By 1917 they were embittered and disillusioned. Order No. 1 of the Petrograd Soviet gave them a voice. They began to demand their rights and dignity and above all, like the workers they began to set up committees.

It was through these committees that the soldiers confronted the vital question—was the enemy a national or class one? The Bolsheviks had far more influence in the army than amongst the peasants. But even so they could not have been effective on their own.

The army turned because many soldiers were moving towards them and because generally the troops looked to the soviets and above all the Petrograd Soviet for leadership. The nearer the troops were to the working-class areas and the soviets the more pro-Bolshevik they became by October. But everywhere the minimum demand was for peace and land, and that was what the Bolsheviks offered.

When Kerensky appealed to the soldiers in October, at best he could draw on a few companies to support him. The biggest army the world had ever seen, probably better equipped than it had ever been, had turned away from the state it was supposed to defend. 

No, Russia was not a city, but the Russia of the ordinary workers, peasants, and soldiers looked to that city. Petrograd, said Lenin in 1917, “is the geographical, political, and revolutionary center of Russia. All Russia is following after the life of Petrograd. Every step of Petrograd is a guiding example to Russia.”

The death of revolutionary Petrograd

“Our revolution will remain the classic revolution of history,” said Trotsky in 1917. For revolutionary socialists this remains true today. The Bolsheviks came to power in 1917 because they represented the mass upsurge of democracy from below. But if we look at Russia and the so-called “socialist countries” later, the last thing we see is workers democracy. Where did the workers’ power go?

1917 was not just a revolution for Russia, but also a revolution for the world. To succeed the Bolsheviks believed they had to join up with a European revolution. International revolution was not just a duty but also a necessity. Without it the pressures of international capitalism and Russian backwardness would combine to crush the hopes of 1917.

But in the next years Russia remained isolated. Europe came close to revolution but the fires were put out and the new state remained alone. The result was that the pressures on the revolution became intolerable and nowhere were they felt more than in Petrograd. 

Beneath the radicalization of 1917 had been the growing economic crisis. Petrograd, isolated in the north of Russia from its food, fuel, and raw materials, felt this crisis more than the rest of the country.

In the first months after October there was a desperate battle to cope with the growing shortages and to demobilize the war economy. The problems were made worse by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which gave Germany most of the vital food and resources in the south of Russia.

Then in the early summer of 1918 the civil war intensified. Not only did the Western capitalist powers help the counterrevolutionaries with men, arms, and money, but also they imposed a hunger blockade on Russia and especially the vital Baltic ports of which Petrograd was the most important.

The result was that the city was slowly strangled and its working class destroyed. In October 1917 there were still some 400, 000 factory workers in the city. By April 1918, six months after the revolution, there were only 160,000 at work. By 1922 the figure was down to only 70,000. But some of these were new workers. Of the 1917 workforce, perhaps only 50,000 remained in the city, whose population had collapsed to only 800,000 against the 2.4 million of 1917.

Where did the workers go? Some, often the best, went into the Red Army. Others were sent to keep industry going in the rest of Russia which was only slightly less badly hit. Still others went to staff the new soviet state. But many were simply forced out of Petrograd by hunger.

Petrograd starved and rotted. Without fuel the water pipes and sewers froze and burst. The city was cannibalized for wood, houses were pulled down, wooden pavements ripped up—but people still froze to death in their homes.

Cholera, typhus, killer flu, and TB flourished amongst the hungry and shivering population. The undernourished workers went through the motions of work, periodically leaving in search of food and fuel or to sell some small item they had made or stolen.

Factory after factory closed. At the Putilov works at the end of the civil war, said a visiting Italian trade unionist, “the great chimneys rise skyward without a thread of smoke and a sepulchral silence reigns throughout the buildings. . . . The technical and administrative offices are almost deserted.”

In the few factory shops where workers could be found, these years of hardship crushed the pride and confidence of 1917. “The proletariat is declassed,” said Lenin, “i.e. dislodged from its class groove. The factories and the mills are idle—the proletariat is weak, scattered and enfeebled.”

The Bolshevik Party was inevitably affected. “If we do not close our eyes to reality we must admit,” said Lenin in 1922, “that the proletarian policy of the party is not determined by the character of its membership, but by the enormous, undivided prestige enjoyed by the old guard of the party.”

It is a testament to the strength of the revolution in 1917 that the soul of the revolution took so long to die. But the prestige of the old guard could not protect it forever. They too would be affected.

In 1917 workers had begun to uproot the foundations of capitalism in the factories and the state and looked forward to a world revolution that would complete their work. Now in the 1920s the factories were no longer filled with a class-conscious proletariat, and the pressures on the revolutionary state came from both inside and outside Russia. 

In his last years Lenin fought against the degeneration of the revolution, and after his death in 1924 the various oppositions took up this cause. But the recovery was too slow and uneven to provide a mass working-class base to fight against the new bureaucracies and the growing power of Stalin.

In Petrograd, the crisis did not disappear with the end of the civil war. Former Red Army soldiers could not always find jobs and unemployment rose. By 1928 the city, now renamed Leningrad, still had not got back to its 1917 population. In the factories the number of workers had recovered but many were new. About half of the 1917 workforce seems never to have come back.

Under Stalin, Red Petrograd was finally buried. But its spirit was harder to destroy. Whenever workers have fought in the twentieth century they have recaptured it in Spain, Hungary, France, Portugal, Chile, Poland, or wherever they have tried to change society themselves.

This is the threat that revolutionary Petrograd poses to ruling classes everywhere. To socialists it is a hope. Trotsky was right: despite its defeat the Russian Revolution remains “the classic revolution of history.” Nothing expresses what it was about better than the history of Petrograd in 1917.

A note on sources 

For an account of Russian history that reflects the perspective here, see my Russia: Class and Power in the Twentieth Century (London: Bookmarks, 2002). I have also written several essays on the changing views of 1917, and co-edited a volume that explores some of the bigger issues: M. Haynes and J. Wolfreys, eds. Revolution and the Modern World (London: Verso, 2007). Kevin Murphy, in his award-winning Revolution and Counter Revolution in a Moscow Metal Factory (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2006), looks at workers in Moscow from a similar angle.

Issue #90

july 2013

Will the revolution be tweeted?

Mass struggles in an age of social media
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