8/10/1917 Trotsky elected chairman of the Petrograd Soviet’s executive

Things are just not going Kerensky‘s way. Russia’s prime minister has survived the attempted coup by Kornilov, the man he appointed to lead the army, but since then he has struggled to control events. Their role in resistance to Kornilov has rehabilitated the Bolsheviks: with the July Days unpleasantness now forgotten, Bolshevik leaders have been released from jail and there is even talk that Lenin may return to Petrograd from wherever he is hiding. Meanwhile the various armed popular committees that sprang into being to oppose Kornilov are refusing Kerensky’s orders to dissolve themselves, as is the revolutionary sailors’ committee in the Baltic Fleet.

In an attempt to revitalise his fortunes, Kerensky now reforms the Provisional Government. His latest cabinet has a majority of socialists, but the key posts are occupied by Kadets (Constitutional Democrats). Before the revolution the Kadets were considered dangerous radicals working to undermine Tsarist autocracy, but now the wheel has turned so far that to many they are sinister reactionaries, tainted by their reputed association with Kornilov’s failed coup. Kerensky’s continued fondness for including the Kadets in government further undermines his support amongst the workers’ organisations that had once enthusiastically backed him.

While Kerensky tries to reassert his authority political developments continue elsewhere. The executive of the Petrograd Soviet resigned after the council of workers and soldiers backed a Bolshevik resolution calling for a government responsible to it. Now a new executive is formed with a Bolshevik majority, headed by Leon Trotsky, the recently freed Bolshevik firebrand. The executive rejects Kerensky’s government and calls once more for a Soviet government.

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Leon Trotsky (in 1920) (Wikipedia: List of books by Leon Trotsky)

14/9/1917 The Petrograd Soviet swings behind the Bolsheviks #1917Live

Kornilov‘s coup against Kerensky‘s government has failed. Alexeev, Kerensky’s new army commander, takes over at the Mogilev headquarters. Kornilov is placed under arrest, albeit in very agreeable circumstances. Krimov, who had led his march on Petrograd, is less fortunate. After a fraught meeting with Kerensky, in which he accuses the prime minister of having betrayed Kornilov, Krimov shoots himself, believing Russia to be doomed.

Kerensky attempts to reassert his authority. In place of his recently dissolved cabinet, he forms a five man Directory headed (naturally) by himself. He declares Russia a socialist republic, formally ending he monarchy that everyone had forgotten about. He orders all militias to disarm. But the workers militias that formed in Petrograd to oppose Kornilov keep their weapons.

Russia is still in a chaotic state, gripped by agrarian and industrial unrest. And the Kornilov affair has weakened Kerensky. Conservatives hate him for failing to support the general. Others suspect him of intriguing with Kornilov before their rupture. With Kerensky’s support ebbing away leftwing groups like the Bolsheviks find themselves in the ascendant. Now the Petrograd Soviet for the first time has a Bolshevik majority. Today it agrees to a motion, proposed by the Bolshevik Kamenev, calling for the establishment of a Soviet government.

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A meeting of the Petrograd Soviet (Awful Avalanche: Biography of Bolshevik Leader Lev Kamenev)

12/9/1917 Bolsheviks in the ascendant as Kornilov’s coup fails #1917live

Kornilov‘s attempt to overthrow Russia’s Provisional Government and establish a dictatorship is unravelling. Thanks to agitators from Petrograd his men are deserting the cause and throwing their lot in with the revolution. In some cases Kornilov loyalists are being arrested by their own men. Krimov, leading Kornilov’s vanguard, narrowly escapes this fate, but he is obliged to travel under escort to Petrograd. Elsewhere generals fall over themselves to disassociate themselves from Kornilov’s failed putsch.

So Kornilov’s counter-revolution is over: there will be no man on a white horse to save Russia. The news is a shock to reactionary elements who had hoped that the general would restore order to an increasingly chaotic country. But the Revolution‘s supporters are jubilant. The Bolsheviks are particularly pleased. Their involvement in the anti-Kornilov militias in Petrograd has rehabilitated them following the unpleasantness of the July Days. It has also put guns in the hands of large numbers of working people who are now effectively under Bolshevik control.

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Men of Kornilov’s Savage Division, which has now turned against him (Wikipedia)

11/9/1917 Kornilov’s coup comes unstuck #1917Live

General Kornilov has ordered his men to march on Petrograd after being dismissed by Kerensky. Now at last the enemies of the revolution have their Bonaparte, a man who will restore order in Russia. In response to the crisis, the Prime Minister has assumed emergency powers. Now he declares himself commander in chief of the army, with Alexeev his chief of staff. But power has ebbed away from Kerensky: with most of the generals supporting Kornilov, he has no men at his disposal to deploy against the rebel general.

But independently of Kerensky, the working people of Petrograd are rallying against Kornilov. Armed militias comprising workers and revolutionary soldiers have sprung into being, often under the direction of Bolshevik activists. The Kronstadt sailors return to Petrograd to defend the city from the general’s coup. Railway workers have sabotaged the line to prevent Kornilov’s men taking the train all the way to the capital. And agitators have gone to meet Kornilov’s men, to persuade them to abandon the general’s putsch.

Krimov leads Kornilov’s vanguard and is under orders to press on to Petrograd at once and establish martial law. But he finds himself stuck at Luga on the city’s outskirts, with revolutionary soldiers and agitators urging his men to disobey his orders. Krimov’s authority evaporates as his soldiers wander off to impromptu meetings and learn that Kornilov was using them for counter-revolution. Krimov’s men turn on their officers, either ignoring their orders to advance or arresting them. Kornilov’s attempted coup appears to be over.

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Workers militia in an electrical factory (Alpha History: The Kornilov Affair)

10/9/1917 The 18th Brumaire of Lavr Kornilov #1917Live

After being sacked by telegram, General Kornilov has ordered his men to march on Petrograd, where he believes that Kerensky is being held prisoner by the Bolsheviks. However as time passes the general realises that Kerensky is not a prisoner and he has indeed ordered his dismissal. This is a shock, as Kornilov and been planning a crackdown on the Bolsheviks and other extremists with Kerensky. But instead of calling off his men he decides that he will have to save Russia himself. Now he is in open rebellion against the prime minister.

Kornilov’s move is greeted with jubilation in conservative circles, where the general is seen as Russia’s best hope of avoiding a descent into chaos or worse. Senior army officers declare their support for him. But in Petrograd working people fear the consequences of a Kornilov coup. Armed militias spring into being to defend the capital, with the Bolsheviks playing a leading role in their organisation.

Krimov leads Kornilov’s vanguard, which is advancing on Petrograd by train. But when they reach the city’s outer limits they find that the railwaymen have torn up the tracks to block their advance. And they also find agitators from the capital waiting to meet them. The agitators urge the soldiers not to lend their support to a reactionary cause. The soldiers begin to wonder what they are doing, to the dismay of their officers.

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Kornilov in Moscow before his coup (Wikipedia)

Militamen in Petrograd (Leftcom: The Kornilov Affair Mobilises the Masses)

9/9/1917 Russia’s Bonaparte? Kornilov marches on Petrograd #1917Live

Kerensky and Kornilov, his army commander, had been planning a crackdown in Russia, to return order to a country wracked by revolutionary chaos. But the prime minister has become afraid of his ambitious general. Now he is convinced that Kornilov is about to stage a coup of his own that will establish him as the Bonaparte of the Russian Revolution.

In the early hours of the morning Kerensky meets with his cabinet in an atmosphere of crisis. Desperate times require desperate measures, so Kerensky secures the resignation of his ministers, taking on emergency powers himself. He telegrams Kornilov informing him that he has been dismissed as army commander.

When Kornilov receives Kerensky’s telegram he is astonished. Despite their tensions, Kornilov had thought that he and Kerensky were working together to save Russia. Now Kornilov decides that there is only one possible explanation for this telegram: Kerensky is now a prisoner of the Bolsheviks, who have forced him to send it.

As a man of action, Kornilov knows what is to be done. He orders his men to march on Petrograd to free Kerensky from the sinister clutches of the Bolsheviks.

News of Kornilov’s move causes a sensation in Petrograd. The Soviet executive meets. Despite the hostility of some (especially the Bolsheviks) towards Kerensky and his government, it passes a motion calling for resistance to Kornilov’s putsch.

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Lavr Kornilov (Seventeen Moments in Soviet History: Kornilov Affair Images)

8/9/1917 Kerensky falls out with his general

German gains at Riga have shaken Russia, with it now looking like Petrograd itself could fall to the next German offensive. Many feel that the country’s chaotic situation is responsible for the army’s failings, as indiscipline and insubordination have spread from the home front.

Russia is indeed in an increasingly chaotic state. The cities are seeing an increase not just in industrial unrest but in crime and general lawlessness. The countryside too is a scene of violent unrest, with angry peasants turning on the squires and nobles who for so long have dominated them. The peasants have grown tired of waiting for the politicians to organise land reform and have taken matters into their own hands, burning down manor houses and redistributing land amongst themselves, sometimes killing their former masters while they are at it. Small wonder then that insubordination has spread into the army, with soldiers deserting or refusing to obey orders and sometimes turning on their officers.

So it is that some are saying that something must be done to restore order. Kerensky appointed Kornilov to head the army, hoping that he would whip it into shape and then perhaps do the same to society at large. But Kornilov has become increasingly popular with conservative elements in Russia, the people who want an end brought to this revolutionary madness. They see the general as the strongman who will save Russia and encourage him to make himself dictator.

Kerensky is now increasingly convinced that he has created a monster. And when news arrives that Kornilov is seeking new powers for himself he fears that the general’s coup is now beginning.

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Alexander Kerensky (Wikipedia)

(Alpha History: The Kornilov Affair)