15/12/1917 Russia and Germany agree an armistice #1917Live

The Bolsheviks came to power in Russia promising to end the war. Now they manage to agree an armistice with the Germans, which will last for one month during which time representatives of the two countries will seek to negotiate a permanent end to their conflict.

For the Germans, this is a great coup. With Russia on its way out of the war they are now free to start transferring troops to the Western Front in preparation for their spring offensive next year. They also hope to extract concessions from the Russians that will improve the German food situation.

Lenin meanwhile knows that he cannot continue the war with the Germans; attempting to do so would rapidly make him as unpopular as Kerensky. In any case, the Russian army is disintegrating and unable to mount serious resistance to the Germans. By now around 370,000 men have deserted the ranks, either heading for home to benefit from the recently announced land reforms or milling around in lawless bands to terrify the countryside. The disintegration of the army is not something that upsets Lenin and his Bolshevik comrades: it prevents a reactionary general like Kornilov using it against the Soviet government.

Lenin has predicted that socialist revolution would start in Russia but then spread to the world’s more advanced nations. He sees the peace negotiations with Germany as part of this process. He hopes to play for time, time in which the soldiers and workers of the other belligerent states will also demand an end to the war, turning on their masters to usher in the new age of socialism.

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Signing of the armistice (Wikipedia) note Kamenev at front on the right

2/12/1917 Using unconventional methods, the Bolsheviks assert their power over the State Bank and the army

The Bolsheviks continue to consolidate their position. Striking civil servants are still a problem for the new regime. Many of Russia’s officials are opposed to the Bolsheviks’ seizure of power and have been on strike in protest. By now though the strikes are declining in effectiveness as enough civil servants return to work in order for some semblance of orderly public administration to progress.

One area where the Bolsheviks have had particular problems is the State Bank, whose staff have refused to obey the orders of Sovnarkom, the Soviet government. This puts the Bolsheviks in an awkward position, as it prevents them from paying their supporters. Finally though the situation is resolved by the removal at gun point of the State Bank’s cash reserves.

Another pole of opposition to the Bolsheviks is the army. Lenin has sent an order to all units to elect their own representatives to conduct local armistice negotiations with the Germans. Dukhonin, the acting army commander, has attempted to prevent this order reaching frontline troops. Dukhonin’s efforts are thwarted by the Germans, who have themselves retransmitted Lenin’s order, hoping to speed the disintegration of the Russian army.

Lenin decides that he has had enough of Dukhonin. He is dismissed and Krylenko, the Sovnarkom war commissar, heads to army headquarters at Mogilev to replace him. But when Krylenko arrives, Dukhonin is dead. An angry crowd of soldiers had attacked the general, accusing him of organising the release from captivity of Kornilov. Dukhonin is beaten to death and his body reportedly used for target practice.
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State Bank employees demonstrate in support of the Constituent Assembly (St Petersburg Encyclopaedia: Constituent Assembly, All-Russian)

Nikolai Dukhonin (World War 1: November 22, 1917 – Bolsheviks Begin Armistice Talks with Central Powers)

26/11/1917 Sykes-Picot revealed: the world learns of British and French plans to carve up the Middle East #1917Live

The Bolsheviks are seeking to completely discredit the pre-revolutionary regime and its secret agreements with the Allies. Trotsky has overseen the publication of these covert pacts within Russia, including both the agreement to cede Constantinople to Russia and the Sykes-Picot agreement carving up the Middle East between Britain and France. These are now beginning to be reported on outside Russia, with the Manchester Guardian revealing the Sykes-Picot agreement to the English-speaking world today.

Sykes-Picot’s publication is deeply embarrassing to the Allies, as it reveals a duplicity at the heart of Anglo-French plans for the Middle East. Sharif Hussein of Mecca is leading an Arab Revolt against Turkey, having been led to believe by the British that they supported the establishment of an Arab state stretching from Syria to the Arabian peninsula. Balfour’s recent declaration of British support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine has already dented the credibility of British guarantees to the Arabs; with the British and French now revealed to be intent on dividing the Middle East between them, Sharif Hussein looks like he has been taken for a ride.

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The Manchester Guardian reveals the secret treaties (Wikipedia: Sykes–Picot Agreement)

25/11/1917 Russia votes for a Constituent Assembly #1917Live

The position of the Bolsheviks in Russia is now more secure. The fighting in Moscow has come to an end with the defeat of the their opponents. In Petrograd Sovnarkom is taking over the organs of central government, breaking the civil servants’ strike that initially paralysed their administration.

The Bolsheviks feel secure enough to allow voting to begin today to elect an assembly to draw up a constitution for Russia. The size of the country means that voting will take place on a staggered basis over the next two weeks. Elections to the Constituent Assembly kept being postponed by the Provisional Government, so much so that the Bolsheviks accused Kerensky of planning to cancel them completely. The still precarious nature of Lenin’s regime means that he must now go ahead with the elections.

The vote for the Constituent Assembly is the first democratic election in Russia’s history; even women are voting, something that is still only being considered in other countries. The problem with free elections of course is that people do not always vote in accordance with their objective class interests. Nevertheless, Lenin hopes that the Bolsheviks and their allies in the Left-SRs will win a majority, thereby vindicating his seizure of power.

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Election poster, I think for the Socialist Revolutionaries (Saint Petersburg Encyclopaedia: Constituent Assembly, All-Russian)

17/11/1917 The Bolsheviks tighten their grip on power #1917Live

The Bolsheviks have seen off Kerensky‘s attempt to overthrow their government in Petrograd. They are beginning to break the civil servants’ strike that hampered their takeover of the administrative organs of central government. And the military situation is also improving in Moscow, where anti-Bolshevik forces are now being pushed back relentlessly. Nevertheless, the Bolsheviks’ situation remains precarious and they are acutely aware that they could rapidly find themselves as impotent and marginalised as Kerensky’s Provisional Government was in its last days.

When the Bolsheviks established their Council of People’s Commissars (Sovnarkom), they declared it to be a Soviet government, responsible to the Soviet Executive. Now however Sovnarkom declares itself able to pass emergency legislation without the Soviet’s approval.The Soviet Executive votes narrowly to accept its effective marginalisation.

Within the Bolsheviks there is some disquiet at the direction the party is heading. Moderates, including Zinoviev and Kamenev, resign from the party’s central committee in protest at the suppression of the opposition press and Sovnarkom’s sidelining of the Soviet (Kamenev also resigns as chair of the Soviet Executive). None of this overly concerns Lenin. Let his moderate comrades have their protest; he knows they will come back into the fold soon enough.

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Moscow scene (Russia Travel Blog: Moscow destroyed by the Bolsheviks in the autumn 1917) This link features some fascinating pictures of central Moscow in late 1917.

12/11/1917 As the Bolsheviks’ situation improves, Kerensky departs the stage #1917Live

Lenin‘s Bolsheviks seized power easily in Petrograd but Moscow has proved a tougher nut to crack, with forces loyal to the ousted Provisional Government continuing to resist there. Even in Petrograd the rule of the Bolsheviks remains shaky, with a civil servants’ strike hampering Lenin’s commissars in their takeover of public administration while activists from other left parties grumble at the Bolshevik seizure of power.

Kerensky, the former prime minister, fled the capital as the Bolsheviks replaced his Provisional Government with Sovnarkom, the Council of People’s Commissars. He has found some loyalist troops and sends them to smash the Bolsheviks in Petrograd. But if there is a tide in the affairs of men it has well and truly gone out for Kerensky. A rising by anti-Bolshevik troops within Petrograd is easily suppressed and Kerensky’s force is blocked outside the capital by a revolutionary militia. Fearing that his soldiers will now hand him over to the Bolsheviks, Kerensky disguises himself as a sailor and flees.

The situation in Moscow also begins to improve for the Bolsheviks, with more of the city centre coming under their control. Perhaps Lenin’s government is not about to collapse after all. The world may soon see what a truly revolutionary regime guided by Marxism is able to accomplish.

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Fighting in Moscow (Russia Travel Blog: Moscow destroyed by the Bolsheviks in the autumn 1917) This link features some fascinating pictures of central Moscow in late 1917.

9/11/1917 The embattled Bolshevik government decrees land reform, bans the opposition press #1917Live

The Bolsheviks have overthrown the Provisional Government and established their own revolutionary government, the Council of People’s Commissars (Sovnarkom). One the new government’s first steps was to issue a land reform decree, written by Lenin himself, handing over to village communities church and crown lands and land held by private landlords, without the payment of any compensation. This popular measure has been introduced partly to appeal to the left faction of the Socialist Revolutionaries, on whose support the Bolsheviks are currently dependent. As word of this decree filters out across the country it leads to a renewed wave of desertions by soldiers who are keen to return home to take advantage of the land redistribution.

But for now Russia remains in such a chaotic state that the writ of Sovnarkom runs only in Petrograd itself. Even there they are having problems assuming the reins of power, as a civil servants’ strike is paralysing public administration. In Moscow the Bolsheviks have been even less successful in their seizure of power, with fighting continuing in the central district. Today the Bolsheviks suffer a reverse as forces loyal to the Provisional Government evict them from the Kremlin. Perhaps in response to this crisis, Sovnarkom takes the extreme step of banning opposition newspapers. This ban covers not just the papers of rightwing parties like the Kadets but also those of other socialist groups.

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Lenin addressing the Congress of Soviets (Jacobin: From February to October)