7/7/1918 The Bolshevik regime secure once more as the Left SR uprising fizzles out #1918Live

The Left faction of the Socialist Revolutionaries (the Left SRs) used to be allies of the Bolsheviks but now they are enemies. After murdering Count Mirbach, the German ambassador, the Left SRs have taken up arms and are calling on the masses to overthrow the Bolsheviks as betrayers of the revolution. Yesterday the situation hung in the balance, with Bolshevik forces in Moscow heavily outnumbered by the Left SRs, who controlled most of the armed militia of the Cheka, the political police.

But now the Left SR rising is over. The masses have failed to rally to the Left SRs while the rebels failed to capitalise on their temporary advantage by storming the Kremlin and arresting the Bolshevik leaders. Instead the uprising runs out of steam, with the Bolsheviks managing to round up Maria Spiridonova and other Left SR leaders (who have conveniently all gone to attend a meeting of the Soviet Congress without any armed guards) and muster enough forces of their own to oblige the surrender of the rebellious Cheka units.

With the Left SRs defeated, the Bolsheviks are once more secure in Moscow. Left SR supporters can now be purged from the Cheka and other Soviet bodies. The reformed Cheka will then be free to ensure there is no fresh challenge from the Left SRs or other disgruntled parties on the left.

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Anarchist allies of the Left SRs (Alpha History: the Left SRs)

Pro-Bolshevik troops guarding the Bolshoi Theatre (Wikipedia: Aufstand der Linken Sozialrevolutionäre)

6/7/1918 The Left SR uprising: a deadly threat to the Bolsheviks at the heart of their power

The Bolsheviks in Russia are embattled, with counter-revolutionary forces threatening their rule across the country. The Czechoslovak Legion provides a particularly potent threat, controlling the Trans-Siberian Railway; working in alliance with the Komuch government in Samara they threaten to bring an end to Bolshevik rule. Vladivostok has fallen to the Legion, which they now proclaim to be an Allied protectorate. The Allies begin to think of using the port to aid anti-Bolshevik forces in Russia, with the ultimate aim of bringing the country back into the war against Germany. President Wilson goes so far as to suggest that Japan could send forces to secure Vladivostok, allowing the Czechoslovaks to redeploy further to the west.

But the Bolsheviks face other threats further to home. When the Bolsheviks seized power last November, they did so in alliance with the left faction of the Socialist Revolutionary Party (the Left SRs). However the Left SRs were not supportive of the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty with Germany, seeing it as a betrayal of the revolution. Left SR commissars resigned from Sovnarkom, the Soviet government, but the party remained broadly supportive of the soviet regime, a kind of loyal opposition. Since then they have become increasingly disenchanted by the Bolsheviks’ authoritarianism and their perception that the country is being transformed into a German client state.

Now the Left SRs decide to act. One of their activists assassinates Count Mirbach, the German ambassador, an act of propaganda by deed intended to ignite a general uprising of the masses against the Bolsheviks. When Dzerzhinsky, Lenin’s head of the Cheka (the political police), tries to arrest the murderers he is himself arrested: most members of the Cheka in Moscow are in fact loyal to the Left SRs rather than the Bolsheviks.

The Germans are understandably furious at the murder of their ambassador. Lenin is summoned to the German embassy where he issues a grovelling apology. His situation is now desperate. The Left SRs have far more armed men in the capital than he does: if they press their advantage the Bolshevik regime could find itself decapitated.

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Wilhelm von Mirbach (Wikipedia)

29/6/1918 Vladivostok falls to the Czechoslovak Legion #1918Live

Since hostilities broke out with Bolsheviks, the Czechoslovak Legion has been expanding along the Trans-Siberian Railway. Now finally Vladivostok falls into the Czechoslovaks’ hands, meaning that they control the railway all the way from Samara to the Pacific Ocean.

The original goal of the Czechoslovaks had been to leave Russia and travel to Western Europe, where they could rejoin the war against the Central Powers and help found an independent Czechoslovakia. Now that the railway line is in their hands they should be able to leave Russia unmolested. But Russia has distracted the Czechoslovaks. They have formed an alliance with the Komuch, the left-liberal government in Samara, and are now part of the struggle to overthrow the Bolsheviks. Perhaps there is some grand strategy at work here: if the Bolsheviks are overthrown then Russia might rejoin the war against Austria-Hungary and Germany. Or perhaps events have developed their own momentum, drawing the Czechoslovaks into Russia’s civil war without the consequences being thought through.

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Czechoslovak troops in Vladivostok (Wikipedia: Czechoslovak Legion)

map (Johnny Depp Zone: TPAOL Tidbit #5 ~ The Czech Legion)

28/6/1918 In response to industrial unrest the Bolsheviks nationalise industry #1918Live

Bolshevik rule in Russia is threatened by Denikin and Alexeev‘s White Army in the south and by the Czechoslovak Legion and the Komuch in Siberia. Within the heartland of Soviet Russia the Bolsheviks are facing other threats to their rule. Unrest seems to be particularly prevalent in Petrograd, the cradle of the revolution. The economic crisis has led to a wave of strikes that have paralysed industry there. Harsh counter-measures, including the Cheka’s firing on striking workers, have failed to bring Petrograd’s workers to heel. If anything the situation has worsened with strikes continuing to escalate, threatening to spread from Petrograd to the rest of Soviet Russia.

The Bolshevik leadership fears that labour unrest is a prelude to a coup attempt by their Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary rivals. These fears are accentuated when Volodarsky, a Bolshevik press commissar, is assassinated during industrial unrest. To combat this threat the Bolsheviks now take a bold step: the nationalisation of Russian heavy industry. Previously the revolution had meant that factories were coming under the control of workers’ committees. Now they will be brought under state control, self-management replaced by direction from the centre. Striking workers can then be threatened with dismissal and strike organisers arrested.

The nationalisation decree is issued today by Sovnarkom, the Soviet government. In tandem the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries are expelled from soviet assemblies. The last opposition newspapers are shut down and the Cheka let loose on any leftist opposition to the Bolsheviks.

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Russian factory workers (Libcom.org: Russian Labour and Bolshevik Power after October)

13/6/1918 An inconvenient Grand Duke meets his end

When the Tsar abdicated, he named his younger brother, Grand Duke Michael, as his successor. Michael had no interest in the throne and declined to accept the crown. After the Bolshevik seizure of power he tried to flee to Finland but his escape was thwarted. Subsequently the Bolsheviks removed him to Perm in Siberia.

The outbreak of hostilities in Siberia between the Bolsheviks and the Czechoslovak Legion has made the local Bolsheviks nervous. The Czechoslovaks, now allied to the Komuch in Samara, are advancing on Perm: perhaps they will free the Grand Duke and make him the figurehead of a counter-revolutionary movement. To forestall this, the Bolsheviks hit on a simple solution. Together with Nicholas Johnson, an Englishman who is his last retainer, Grand Duke Michael is taken out to a remote forest location and shot. His killers loot his body of valuables and then bury it in an unmarked grave, hoping that it will never be found.

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Grand Duke Michael and Nicholas Johnson (Wikipedia)

8/6/1918 The Komuch: an anti-Bolshevik government in Siberia, supported by the Czechoslovaks

An agreement between the Bolsheviks and the Czechoslovak Legion to transport the Czechoslovaks out of Russia via Vladivostok has broken down. After initially chasing the Red Guards from Chelyabinsk, the disciplined Czechoslovaks are taking over ever more towns along the Trans-Siberian Railway.

The Legionnaires initially declared themselves neutral in Russia’s civil war. Today however they find themselves attacking the Samara, capital of the Volga region, on behalf of the Komuch (the Committee of Members of the Constituent Assembly). Dominated by members of the right faction of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, the Komuch is an attempt to revive the Constituent Assembly, the elected parliament suppressed by the Bolsheviks in January.

The Czechoslovaks easily rout the Bolshevik defenders of Samara. Now the Komuch establishes itself there. Its leaders hope to unite democratic and moderate opposition to the Bolshevik government in Moscow, in contrast to the more reactionary aspirations of Denikin and Alexeev further west. The Czechoslovaks meanwhile hope that an overthrow of the Bolsheviks will speed their rejoining of the war against Germany and Austria-Hungary.

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The Komuch: Ivan Brushvit, Prokopiy Klimushkin, Boris Fortunatov, Vladimir Volsky (chairman) and Ivan Nesterov (Wikipedia)

4/6/1918 Trotsky: “Long Live Civil War!”

The revolution in Russia has not brought an end to the country’s problems. The cities are now facing severe shortages of food, which have led to prices spiralling out of reach of ordinary people in the cities. With wages failing to keep pace, many are reduced to selling their possessions to raise money. Ever increasing numbers of women are finding themselves obliged to take up prostitution.

The food crisis has a number of causes. The Russian railways are in a state of collapse, while many trains arrive in the cities empty, their cargoes of grain pilfered en route. The peasants meanwhile are reluctant to sell food at the fixed prices being offered by the Bolsheviks, which have been rendered derisory by inflation.

An effect of the crisis is that Russia’s cities are emptying out as people head to the countryside to be closer to food sources. This exodus appears to affect all classes of society, particularly the labouring poor who have only arrived in the cities relatively recently and have closer links to the land. Meanwhile those who continue to live in the cities are nevertheless spending increasing amounts of time in the countryside, seeking to trade goods for food with farmers (a phenomenon seen also in Germany and Austria-Hungary).

The response of the Bolsheviks to this crisis is to institute a state grain monopoly. Armed cadres are being sent to the countryside to seize the peasants’ surplus in order to feed the cities. Today Trotsky addresses a Soviet assembly, defending the grain seizures as a necessary civil war. “Civil war has to be waged for grain […] Yes, long live civil war! […] Civil war in the name of direct and ruthless struggle against counter-revolution!”