One hundred years ago in the aftermath of defeat of the July 16-20 [3-7 in New Style] protest movement by workers and soldiers, the Bolsheviks responded to the “July Days” setback by calling on the people to ignore provocations and expose rightist slander.
The wave of protests was repelled by military and police attacks, with hundreds of casualties, on the orders of the Provisional Government — the capitalist government that came to power after the February Revolution overthrew the Tsar and which was supported by the moderate socialists.
It was a key phase in the storm that swept Russia during 1917. This storm culminated in the October Revolution when, led by the Bolsheviks, the soviets (councils) of workers, soldiers and peasants took power, overthrowing the Provisional Government.
The July Uprising came about due to a worsening of the crisis in Petrograd’s food and fuel supply and the failure of the deeply unpopular military offensive as part of the Provisional Government’s commitment to continuing participation in World War I.
The uprising began among soldiers in the Petrograd garrison who feared transfer to the front and involved workers on strike over low wages. Workers and soldiers demanded “all power to the soviets” and raised other radical slogans.
Members of the Bolshevik Military Organisation, anarchists, and Left Socialist Revolutionaries encouraged the revolt, while the moderate socialists still in charge of the Petrograd Soviet and supporting the Provisional Government, opposed it.
The defeat of the uprising temporarily checked the revolution’s impetus. The July demonstrations subsided quickly due to the Provisional Government’s success in painting the Bolsheviks as German-sponsored saboteurs of the Russian war effort; an upsurge in violence associated with the demonstrations; and news that loyal troops were on their way to Petrograd.
The government quickly shut down the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda, evicted the Bolsheviks from their headquarters, and arrested many of their leaders. Lenin escaped arrest by going underground and fleeing in disguise to Finland.
The two documents below represent the Bolsheviks’ responses to the rapidly developing situation.
The documents have been selected and translated by Barbara Allen. They are reprinted from JohnRiddell.wordpress.com and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal as part of the “View from the streets” series.
‘Don’t yield to provocation’
Calm and restraint! Workers, soldiers!
The demonstration of July 16-17 has ended. You told the ruling classes what your goals are. Dark and criminal forces are casting a shadow over your demonstration by calling for blood to be shed. Together with you and all revolutionary Russia, we mourn for the recently fallen sons of the people.
Responsibility for victims falls upon the underground enemies of the revolution. But they did not and will not succeed in distorting the meaning of our demonstration.
Now it remains to wait and see what response your appeal, “All Power to the Soviets”, will meet across the entire country. The demonstration has ended. Days of persistent agitation to enlighten the backward masses and to enlist the provinces to join our side are beginning anew.
Worker and soldier comrades! We call upon you to be calm and practice restraint. Don’t give the malicious forces of reaction any reason to accuse you of violent acts. Don’t yield to provocation. Don’t come out onto the streets or engage in any clashes.
Worker comrades! Return peacefully to your work benches. Soldier comrades! Remain peacefully in your units.
Everything that exists is working in our favour. Victory will be ours. There is no need for rash acts.
Steadfastness, restraint, and calm are our watchword.
Appeal from the Central Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party (RSDWP), the Petersburg Committee of the RSDWP, the Military Organisation of the RSDWP, and the Inter-district Committee of the United Social-Democratic Internationalists, July 18 (5), 1917.
‘Slander should be exposed’
To the people of Petrograd! To workers! To soldiers! To all honest citizens! Slander should be exposed! Take the slanderers to court!
An unprecedented accusation has been lodged against Comrade Lenin — the charge that he received and still receives money from German sources for his agitation. Newspapers have already aired this monstrous slander...
They already print calls to murder Bolsheviks. Deceived soldiers are already circulating from hand to hand lists of people who may be exterminated.
The goal is clear. The counterrevolutionary forces want to use the simplest means to deprive the revolution of a leader, to sow discord among the masses, and to stir them up against the most popular leaders — the meritorious worthy fighters for revolution.
We declare: all information about Comrade Lenin’s financial ties or other ties to the ruling classes of Germany is a lie and slander.
Former deputy [Grigory] Alexinsky, who initiated the case, is a notorious slanderer, who has accused many people of having been bribed by the Germans. In France, a union of journalists from Russia, Britain, Italy, and neutral countries already condemned him for dishonesty and malicious slander, and excluded him from all the democratic organisations of Paris. He was not admitted to the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.
We demand from the Provisional Government and from the Central Executive Committee of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies an immediate, public investigation of all the circumstances surrounding the mean conspiracy by pogromists and hired slanderers against the honour and lives of the leaders of the working class.
This entire affair needs to be cleared up. This investigation will convince all the people that there is not even one stain on comrade Lenin’s revolutionary honour.
Take the slanderers and distributors of slander to court! Subject pogromists and liars to public ridicule!
Leaflet from the Central Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party, countering the charges of being German agents. July 18 (5), 1917.