The First Weak Link

  • Ken Post


In 1906 Trotsky felt that since ‘a European war inevitably means a European revolution … the bourgeoisie has every reason to avoid such a test’ (Trotsky, 1962, pp. 244–5). However, as a great power, tsarist Russia was unable to escape the capitalists’ global crisis, which took the form of the First World War, and on 1 August 1914 its people found themselves being mobilised to fight on the side of Britain and France against Germany and the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires. It was the effects of this effort on the system as a whole and its regime that in the course of two-and-a-half years were to move Russia into a full revolutionary situation.


Class Struggle Capitalist Class Russian Revolution Systemic Crisis Class Isolation 
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Notes and References

  1. 2.
    The Bolsheviks had formed a separate party in January 1912, which in May 1917 took the name RSDLP (Bolshevik).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Mandel, 1983, p. 1. My debt to this scholar’s research will soon become apparent, although one could wish its presentation had been more fully theorised.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Further data and quotations in Mandel, 1983, pp. 25, 26, 28. In addition to this work, other important studies on Russian working-class development are Bonnell, 1983, Koenker and Rosenberg, 1985, and Smith, 1983.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    It should be noted that Mandel’s final verdict, however, is that the ‘primary determinants of political culture’ in this category of workers ‘was not sex but the level of skill’; the more skilled seamstresses tended to be literate and even active in public affairs (Mandel, 1983, pp. 27–8). For a general study see Glickman, 1984.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    For a full study of the February events, see Hasegawa, 1981.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    On this see Figes, 1989, Chapter 2.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Trotsky, 1967, vol. III, pp. 11, 15–16, 24–5. For an important study of how peasant action combined with that of other forces in the provinces, see Raleigh, 1986; his general line, that this sort of constellation was crucial outside the two main cities, seems irrefutable.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Trotsky, 1967, vol. III, pp. 142, 148. It is worth recording that only 12 of the 21 members could attend and that the final vote was 10 for Lenin’s proposal and two against; Trotsky and Stalin were among those backing Lenin.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    Data cited in Trotsky, 1962, p. 196. The comparison with the USA, later to be the Soviet Union’s rival for some forty years as a ‘superpower’, would be extremely interesting to pursue. Already in 1906 Kautsky, in his American and Russian Workers, drew an important distinction between them: ‘[i]n no other country than America is there so much basis for speaking of the dictatorship of capital, while the militant proletariat has nowhere acquired such importance as in Russia’ (quoted in Trotsky, 1962, p. 197).Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    It should be made clear that I actually believe that the peasants should be included as one of the basic revolutionary classes in 1917, since large numbers of them were taking (often unacknowledged) action against the regime. See further Figes, 1989, Chapters 2 and 3. For reexaminations of the events of 1917 from perspectives other than my own, see Frankel et al., 1992.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© K. W. J. Post 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ken Post
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Social StudiesThe HagueNetherlands

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