|DEFEAT OF THE TSARIST ARMY.
ECONOMIC DISRUPTION. CRISIS OF TSARDOM
The war had already been in progress for three years.
Millions of people had been killed in the war, or had died of
wounds or from epidemics caused by war conditions. The
bourgeoisie and landlords were making fortunes out of the war.
But the workers and peasants were suffering increasing hardship
and privation. The war was undermining the economic life of
Russia. Some fourteen million able-bodied men had been torn from
economic pursuits and drafted into the army. Mills and factories
were coming to a standstill. The crop area had diminished owing
to a shortage of labour. The population and the soldiers at the
front went hungry, barefoot and naked. The war was eating up the
resources of the country.
The tsarist army suffered defeat after defeat. The German
artillery deluged the tsarist troops with shells, while the
tsarist army lacked guns, shells and even rifles. Sometimes
three soldiers had to share one rifle. While the war was in
progress it was discovered that Sukhomlinov, the tsar's Minister
of War, was a traitor, who was connected with German spies, and
was carrying out the instructions of the German espionage
service to disorganize the supply of munitions and to leave the
front without guns and rifles. Some of the tsarist ministers and
generals surreptitiously assisted the success of the German
army: together with the tsarina, who had German ties, they
betrayed military secrets to the Germans. It is not surprising
that the tsarist army suffered reverses and was forced to
retreat. By 1916 the Germans had already seized Poland and part
of the Baltic provinces.
All this aroused hatred and anger against the tsarist
government among the workers, peasants, soldiers and
intellectuals, fostered and intensified the revolutionary
movement of the masses against the war and against tsardom, both
in the rear and at the front, in the central and in the border
Dissatisfaction also began to spread to the Russian
imperialist bourgeoisie. It was incensed by the fact that
rascals like Rasputin, who were obviously working for a separate
peace with Germany, lorded it at the tsar's court. The
bourgeoisie grew more and more convinced that the tsarist
government was incapable of waging war successfully. It feared
that the tsar might, in order to save his position, conclude a
separate peace with the Germans. The Russian bourgeoisie
therefore decided to engineer a palace coup with the object of
deposing Tsar Nicholas II and replacing him by his brother,
Michael Romanov, who was connected with the bourgeoisie. In this
way it wanted to kill two birds with one stone: first, to get
into power itself and ensure the further prosecution of the
imperialist war, and, secondly, to prevent by a small palace
coup the outbreak of a big popular revolution, the tide of which
In this the Russian bourgeoisie had the full support of
the British and French governments who saw that the tsar was
incapable of carrying on the war. They feared that he might end
it by concluding a separate peace with the Germans. If the
tsarist government were to sign a separate peace, the British
and French governments would lose a war ally which not only
diverted enemy forces to its own fronts, but also supplied
France with tens of thousands of picked Russian soldiers. The
British and French governments therefore supported the attempts
of the Russian bourgeoisie to bring about a palace coup.
The tsar was thus isolated.
While defeat followed defeat at the front, economic
disruption grew more and more acute. In January and February
1917 the extent and acuteness of the disorganization of the
food, raw material and fuel supply reached a climax. The supply
of foodstuffs to Petrograd and Moscow had almost ceased. One
factory after another closed down and this aggravated
unemployment. Particularly intolerable was the condition of the
workers. Increasing numbers of the people were arriving at the
conviction that the only way out of the intolerable situation
was to overthrow the tsarist autocracy.
Tsardom was clearly in the throes of a mortal crisis.
The bourgeoisie thought of solving the crisis by a palace
But the people solved it in their own way.