MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE | History of CP Bolshevik

H I S T O R Y O F  T H E C O M M U N I S T   P A R T Y

O F  T H E

S O V I E T  U N I O N

(B O L S H E V I K S)

C H A P T E R S I X
THE BOLSHEVIK PARTY IN THE PERIOD OF THE IMPERIALIST WAR. THE SECOND REVOLUTION IN RUSSIA (1914-MARCH 1917)
1. OUTBREAK AND CAUSES OF THE IMPERIALIST WAR

2. PARTIES OF THE SECOND INTERNATIONAL SIDE WITH THEIR IMPERIALIST GOVERNMENTS. DISINTEGRATION OF THE SECOND INTERNATIONAL INTO SEPARATE SOCIAL-CHAUVINIST PARTIES

3. THEORY AND TACTICS OF THE BOLSHEVIK PARTY ON THE QUESTION OF WAR, PEACE AND REVOLUTION

4. DEFEAT OF THE TSARIST ARMY. ECONOMIC DISRUPTION. CRISIS OF TSARDOM

5.THE FEBRUARY REVOLUTION. FALL OF TSARDOM. FORMATION OF SOVIETS OF WORKERS' AND SOLDIERS' DEPUTIES. FORMATION OF THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT. DUAL POWER

4
 
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 regions.

    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 was swelling.

    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 coup.

    But the people solved it in their own way.