Revolution and counter-revolution in Russia: a timeline

Submitted by Anon on 29 August, 2007 - 6:03

Key dates


February (March by the western calendar): workers' demonstrations in Russia overthrow the Tsar (king). Prince Lvov leads Provisional Government; Petrograd workers set up a "Soviet" (workers' councils).
March: First All-Russian Conference of Soviets. Moderate socialists (Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries) dominate
April: Lenin returns to Russia, publishes April Theses proposing "All power to the Soviets"; begins to win Bolshevik party over this idea
July: Big street demonstration in Petrograd against the Provisional Government. Bolsheviks restrain this movement, beliving that if the workers take power in Petrograd they will quickly be crushed because the rest of the country is much more conservative. Right SR Kerensky replaces Lvov as prime minister
August: General Kornilov leads attempted right-wing coup against Provisional Government. Bolsheviks leader successful resistance
September: Bolsheviks gain majority in Petrograd and Moscow Soviets.
October 25 (November 7): Key points in Petrograd occupied by revolutionaries; Winter Palace stormed. Congress of Soviets opens, with a Bolshevik majority, and takes power
November: Counter-revolutionaries begin civil war. In late 1917 and early 1918 British, french and other foreign forces begin intervention to help these "Whites"
December: Congress of Peasant Soviets has majority of Left SRs, split from SR party. Left SRs join coalition government with Bolsheviks


March: As German troops advance, Bolsheviks sign the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, ceding vast areas in return for peace
Summer: Civil war stepped up. Right SRs openly side with counter-revolution; Mensheviks dither; Left SRs, who support revolution but oppose Brest Litovsk treaty, start terrorist campaign. All are banned
November: Revolution in Germany. Kaiser overthrown, workers' councils set up. Mensheviks swing round to critical support for Soviet government and are relegalised


Januaries: Revolutionaries crushed in Berlin; Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht murdered by troops working with Socialist Democratic Party government. Most intense period of civil war in Russia. Revolutionary uprisings in Europe
April: Soviet Republic in Bavaria
March-August: Soviet Republic in Hungary. Workers put pressure on Western governments to abandon anti-Soviet intervention. By the end of the year the Red Army is in a strong position


March: Poland invades Russia
Late in year: Poland defeated and civil war ends
September: Mass factory occupations in Italy


Early: collapse of industry in Soviet Union: overall its producing less than 1/5 of Russia's 1913 output. From spring, famine. Millions starve to death. Under policy of "war communism", with economic allocation by military command", soviet whither. With the removal of the immediate threat from imperialists, workers and peasants are less patient
February: Mass economic strikes in Petrograd. Georgia, until now under a Menshevik government, is forcibly annexed under Stalin's direction (and against Trotsky's protests). Menshevik party banned again in Russia
March: Rebellion by sailors at the naval base of Kronstadt, near Petrograd. Bolshevik Party congress brings in New Economic Policy to ease "war communism" by controlled reintroduction of free market. A debate on trade unions ends in victory for Lenin, who argues for trade-union independent from this "workers' state with bureaucratic deformations". Party puts a ban, intended to be temporary, on factions. Uprising by German CPs ends in fiasco.
June-July: At the 3rd Congress of the Communist International, the Bolsheviks call for an orientation to "the conquest of the masses" in the west, as a necessary preliminary to the "conquest of power".


March: Stalin becomes general secretary
May: Lenin suffers a stroke. He is out of action almost all the time from now until his death in January 1924
Late 1922 to early 1923: "Lenin's last struggle". He tries to form a bloc with Trotsky to fight Stalin and the growing bureaucratism, but the party and state machine falls into the hands of the "troika" of Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin


October: First Trotsky opposition manifesto, the "Platform of the 46", argues for more democracy and more industrialisation. In Germany, the CP, following the advice of Zinoviev and Stalin, muffs a revolutionary opportunity and is heavily defeated
December: Trotsky publishes "The New Course", calling for more democracy


February-May: "Lenin Levy". Core of Bolshevik party swamped in a mass of 240,000 new recruits, many of them careerists, easily manipulated by the growing bureaucratic machine.
Summer: 5th Congress of Comintern, under Zinoviev's leadership, promotes a blustering ultra-left course. Trotsky polemicises against this. Western CPs "Bolshevised" - given more efficient organisation, but also bureaucratic regimes and bans on factions.
Autumn: Trotsky publishes "Lessons of October", drawing the lessons of the defeat in Germany. Bureaucrats respond with an international slander campaign against him.
December: Stalin comes out for "Socialism in One Country", previously considered an absurdity by all Marxists.


Growing tensions between Zinoviev and Kamenev, on one side, and Stalin, on the other. Stalin shifts towards an alliance with th right wing led by Bukharin, who advocate a longer-term policy based on the richer peasants. The split between Zinoviev-Kamenev and Stalin comes out into the open in December 1925.


Early in year: Joint opposition (Trotsky-Zinoviev-Kamenev) formed. Intense political battle from summer 1926 to end of 1927, over democracy, industrialisation and planning, and international issues. Comintern is shifting towards seeking powerful bourgeois and bureaucratic friends, rather than relying on workers' struggle; this leads to missed opportunities in the British general strike, and bloody defeat in China.


December: Defeat of the Opposition. Trotsky and Zinoviev expelled from party. Zinovievites immediate capitulate; Trotskyist sent into exile in remote parts of USSR.


January: "Strike of the kulaks"; richer peasants refuse to supply the cities. Stalin resorts to force to get supplies, and begins to turn against Bukharin and the right wing. Pyatakov and a few other Trotskyists capitulate.


January: Trotsky deported from USSR
July: Preobrazhensky, Radek and some other Trotskyist leaders capitulate
Late 1929-early 1930: Stalin's wavering policy lurches into a full-scale drive against the peasantry. By February 1930 over 50% of peasants are in collective farms. Then there is another lurch backwards, but after that Stalin's changes of policy becomes stable. By 1936 90% of peasants are in collective farms. Together with this goes a vast mobilisation of resources for forced-march industrialisation. Results: number of livestock drops by about two-thirds, as panicked peasants slaughter animals. There is severe famine in 1932. Social inequality and bureaucratic privilege increase. Industrial labour forces double between 1927 and 1936. All independent trade union acitivity crushed. Savage labour laws punish "economic sabotage" by death and absenteeism and leaving your job by jail. Real wages fall by over 50% between 1928 and 1935. Between 1927 and 1937, electricity output increases by a factor of 7; steel by 3.5; coal by 3.5. Output of industrial consumer goods stagnates. Consumption per head of meat, lard and butter falls by over 50% between 1928 and 1932.

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