Jul 31, 2017
This article continues our series on the Russian Revolution, taken from the words of participants.
The crisis of July 1917 coincided with the departure of the ministers of the bourgeois Kadet Party from the Russian Provisional Government. However, the Socialist- Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, frightened by the demonstrations in Petrograd and deeply compromised in their collaboration with the bourgeoisie, were ready to form a new coalition.
Prince Lvov, the previous head of the government who had noisily resigned on July 13th, expressed his pleasure: “I am convinced that our ‘deep breach’ in the Lenin front is incomparably more significant for Russia than the German breach in our South-Western Front.” Lenin commented: “Two enemies, two hostile camps, and one has made a breach in the front of the other – this is how Prince Lvov sums up Russia’s internal situation. Let us, then, give Prince Lvov our heartfelt thanks for his frankness! After all, he is a thousand times more correct than those sentimental Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik philistines who imagine that the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, which inevitably becomes exceedingly aggravated during a revolution, is likely to disappear because of their curses and magic spells!”
A new coalition government was formed on July 24th, with the socialist Kerensky at its head. The Kadet Party set the tone for it. They hoped to pursue and deepen the pro-bourgeois policies that the coalition government had carried out since February. However, the illusions that the coalition of the “compromisers” with the bourgeoisie created were becoming less and less effective.
At the front, the Russian offensive collapsed. According to the words of the general Denikin: “The cowardice and lack of discipline in certain units reached such a pitch that the Commanding Officers were compelled to ask our artillery to cease firing, because the fire of our own guns caused a panic among our soldiers.… Immediately I began to receive anxious reports from officers commanding sectors at the front to the effect that the men were abandoning the unattacked front line en masse, entire companies deserting.… I have never yet gone into battle with such superiority in numbers and technical means. Never had the conditions been more full of such brilliant promise. On a front of about 14 miles, I had 184 battalions against 29 enemy battalions; 900 guns against 300 German; 138 of my battalions came into action against 17 German battalions of the 1st line. All that was wasted.”
Lenin predicted that the war and the government's entire policy would quickly cause it to become discredited: “Famine is again drawing near. Everybody sees that the capitalists and the rich are unscrupulously cheating the treasury on war deliveries…, that they are raking in fabulous profits through high prices, while nothing whatsoever has been done to establish effective control by the workers over the production and distribution of goods. The capitalists are becoming more brazen every day; they are throwing workers out into the street, and this at a time when the people are suffering from shortages.…
“A government which calls itself revolutionary and democratic has been leading peasants by the nose for months and deceiving them by promises and delays.… The government has become so brazen in its defense of the landowners that it is beginning to bring peasants to trial for ‘unauthorized’ seizures of land.…
“Let the [Bolshevik] Party loudly and clearly tell the people the whole truth … that the ‘new’ government of Kerensky, Avksentyev [the Socialist-Revolutionary Minister of the Interior] and Co. is merely a screen for the counter-revolutionary Kadets and the military clique which is in power at present; that the people can get no peace, the peasants no land, the workers no eight-hour day, and the hungry no bread unless the counter-revolution is completely stamped out. Let the Party say so, and every step in the march of events will bear it out.”