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Reading Project 1917

While watching an waiting for the Trump administration to unfold and for Congress to do its thing, I'm also reading about what happened one century ago: a day-to-day series online titled Project1917. And I'm making vague comparisons with contemporary attitudes.

The revolution that ended Russia's monarchy in mid-March 1917 raised hopes for a democratic Russia, expressed by a medical officer in Russia's army, Vasily Kravkov, who wrote on 16 March 1917:

The humanizing influence of the revolution is beginning to be felt. Little by little the arbitrariness of the strong and the herd-like mentality of the weak are beginning to fade away, the entire mentality of society is slowly reorganizing itself on principles of citizenship, the strong are already not quite so quick to strike the weak, and the weak in turn, having realised their strength, are beginning to demand greater respect.

On the same day, a higher ranking officer, a three-star general, Anton Denikin, had a rightwing attitude about events. He wrote:

I bear my cross silently. Sometimes it is heavy, not so much as a result of the military situation, as of the cravenness and depravity of the civilian front. Politics is always a dirty business. I must now delve into it, yet still come out untainted.

Denikin was raabid anti-Semite, blaming all of Russia troubles on the Jews. (Anti-Semitism was bigger in Russia in those days than it is in the US today.) After 1918, Denikin would become a general in the anti-Bolshevik army during the Russian Civil War.

Russia's socialists were, of course, supporting the revolution in May 1917 (months before the Bolsheviks took power in the name of the revolution's councils (soviets). Like the Democrats today they had their divisions. Russia was still officially at war with Germany. Russian soldiers believed in the new democracy and were a bit extreme by trying to democratize the army. Appropriately they were anti-war, and the war was dividing the democrats and socialists. There was the old socialist theoretician Georgi Plekhanov, now 61, supporting the war and blaming the Germans, he wrote:

If the rot has reached such proportions in the army, that it can no longer offer resistance, why not say so openly, that the Russian revolutionary people may lay out its neck for the yoke of German militarism. Yet while you have but an ounce of powder left to you, you must fight on! You have no right to raise the white flag of the German Emperor.

Russia's man of letters, Maxim Gorky, wrote on 8 May:

Following the traditions established during the Tsarist era, some journalists continue the old ways of abusing those they oppose in their polemics, hitting them “where it hurts”, “right in the gut”, “below the belt”. It clearly follows that there is no space for calm, academic disputes in our papers, but I continue to maintain that a free press needs to develop a tradition of respecting public figures.

Lenin — a leader of the alt-left Bolsheviks — was in the capital, Petrograd. He hated thw war and believed it a capitalist creation. On 15 May he wrote:

Some say: Leave things as they are, put still greater trust in the Provisional Government. The [Provisional Government's] threat to resign may be a trick calculated to make the Soviet [the democratic councils] say: We trust you [Provisional Government] still more. Others propose a coalition cabinet. We propose a third way: A complete change of the Soviets’ policy, no confidence in the capitalists, and the transfer of all power to the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. A change of personalities will give nothing; the whole policy must be changed.

I welcome your opinions and help.

Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.