16/8/1917 The Bolsheviks adopt an ominous new slogan #1917Live

Since the Provisional Government survived the crisis of the July Days Kerensky has been steadily consolidating his power. He has taken over from Prince Lvov as Prime Minister and formed a new government. This has a majority of socialists but these are mostly from the less radical wings of their parties and they are in the government as individuals rather than representatives of their parties. Kerensky’s government is also no longer tied to the programmes of the Petrograd Soviet.

Kerensky has appointed Kornilov to head the army, now in a chaotic state following the failure of the recent offensive. Kornilov wants to restore order in the army through iron discipline and has become popular in conservative circles. He demands more powers from Kerensky.

The Bolsheviks meanwhile are on the back foot, their leaders in exile or on the run, with Lenin accused of being a German spy. However the party remains active and continues to look to the future. Its congress meets today and discusses the way forward. Following the failure of the Petrograd Soviet to accept power in July, they abandon the slogan “All power to the Soviets”. In its place they are now for “Complete Liquidation of the Dictatorship of the Counterrevolutionary Bourgeoisie”.

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Lenin in disguise (Marxist Internet Archive: Russian Revolution)

31/7/1917 Kerensky replaces Brusilov with Kornilov as army commander #1917Live

Something has gone very wrong with the Russian army. The recent offensive in Galicia has been a disaster, leading to a breakdown in discipline and a surge in desertions. Now the Germans and Austro-Hungarians are attacking in their turn and making great gains.

The offensive had been the brain child of Kerensky, then the war minister and now Prime Minister. Two days ago he met senior generals at the army headquarters in Mogilev, where they blamed the Revolution for the army’s plight. Denikin is particularly scathing of interference in the army’s affairs by the Petrograd Soviet and the invitation to insubordination he sees in its order that army units should elect soldiers’ committees and disobey orders that conflict with its own resolutions.

Now Kerensky decides that something will have to be done about the army. He dismisses Brusilov, thereby deflecting the blame for the offensive’s failure from himself. Brusilov’s replacement as commander in chief is Kornilov. Kornilov’s appointment is greeted with delight by those who feel that the Revolution has gone too far and that order needs to be restored. They hope that he will not merely restore order within the army but within society at large.

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Lavr Kornilov (Spartacus International)

22/7/1917 Alexander Kerensky, Russia’s new Prime Minister #1917Live

The crackdown following the recent unrest in Petrograd sees the Bolsheviks in some disarray. They have been blamed for all the trouble, their leader Lenin denounced as a German spy. Senior Bolsheviks now languish in jail or lead a precarious existence on the run. Lenin himself and Zinoviev have fled to Finland, still part of the Russian Empire but a place in which it is easier for them to lie low.

Meanwhile the rise of Kerensky continues. The recent political turmoil has all been too much for Prince Lvov, who now resigns as head of the Provisional Government, naming Kerensky as his successor. This young man of destiny now sets about forming his new cabinet.

Pressing matters however must be dealt with immediately. The scale of the disaster following the recent failed offensive against the Germans and Austro-Hungarians is now increasingly apparent, with enemy advances continuing and the Russian army gripped be desertion and indiscipline. Kerensky acts in an effort to stem the flood. General Kornilov is appointed commander of the South Western Front, where the army’s disintegration is most pronounced. Kornilov is known to be a tough general of the old school; if anyone can restore order, it is him. Starting as he means to go on, Kornilov demands the reintroduction of the death penalty for deserters.

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Alexander Kerensky (Wikipedia)

Lavr Kornilov (Wikipedia)

4/5/1917 Unrest continues in Petrograd

It is becoming apparent that the Russian Revolution did not end with the overthrow of the Tsar but remains an ongoing process. The Provisional Government in Petrograd struggles to assert its authority over a fractious nation. Many see the Petrograd Soviet as a more legitimate body than Prince Lvov‘s government, with radical elements hoping that the council of workers and soldiers will seize power.

The actions of members of the Provisional Government do not always endear them to the masses. The Petrograd Soviet is supporting an end to the war, based on a peace without annexations or indemnities. The Provisional Government has agreed to formally endorse this peace offensive, but when the Soviet’s declaration of war aims is sent to foreign embassies, Milyukov, the foreign minister, inserts an addendum saying that Russia remains committed to a decisive victory and will stand by its allies. This undercuts the Soviet proposal and implies that Russia remains committed to the secret deals negotiated by the Tsarist government.

The result is uproar. Radicals take to the streets in Petrograd. Armed revolutionary soldiers hope that the Petrograd Soviet will overthrow the Provisional Government and assume power. Fighting breaks out between the demonstrators and reactionary elements.

Kornilov, the Petrograd garrison commander, wants to deploy loyal troops to clear the streets. But the Provisional Government fears civil war, as do the leaders of the Petrograd Soviet, who also have no desire to assume the reigns of government. The Soviet leaders order the demonstrators to disperse. They meekly obey. Prince Lvov meanwhile enters into negotiations with the Menshevik Irakli Tsereteli, a leading figure in the Soviet. Defusing the situation, the Soviet’s executive and the the Provisional Government issue a joint declaration repudiating Milyukov’s note. Lvov also promises Tsereteli that if the Soviets formally join his government then he will arrange for Milyukov’s sacking.

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Demonstrating soldiers in Petrograd (World Socialist Web Site)