The dream of 1917 …

The revolution of November 7, 1917, in Petrograd was more than just a revolution. It was a world shaking event bring in its wake numerous insurrections in the wreck of the old Europe and even as far away as Patagonia where agricultural workers staged their own abortive rising.
At the same time you see the demobbed soldiery of the first world war armies becoming mutinous and rebelllious with the remarkable event of British conscripts forming a soldier’s council in Leatherhead. And even though the forces deployed to Russia may not have been quite so disaffected some of the soldiers were definitely mutinous.
And not just the British, the Canadians had similar problems with the soldiers deployed to Vladivostok.
At the same time the various governments left standing at the end of the first world war were terrified that the contagion of revolution was going to spread and overwhelm them. Having seen the old order deposed once they were frightened that their own populace might try and repeat the experiment.
And this was not an idle fear. In Germany, in Hungary, something very close to a socialist insurrection happened.
In other places the establishment took precautions.
In Scotland there was of course the events of January 1919 when the British government put tanks of the streets of Glasgow and disarmed the Scottish regiments in case they should find common cause with the workers.
The impact of this event was reflected in literature, for example in Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Cloud Howe when the demobbed soldiers unfurl the Red Flag at the war memorial dedication to the outrage of the middle class people staging a polite middle class event.
The revolution in Russia was an inspirational event. My mother used to recount that one of her earliest memories was being held up at the window of their flat to see men in working clothes carrying red flags marching down the road and her father telling her that this was the future, despite the fact that, as the owner of a small tailor’s shop he probably wouldn’t have normally been first in line to support revolution and expropriation.
So, when we look at the history of Russian civil war we should remember that show trials, the forced labour camps, the expropriations hadn’t happened yet. People were still excited by the change and the prospect of a more equal society.
And this is in part why the white forces lost. Even the Menshevik/SR forces couln’t offer anything quite as eniticing as the Bolsheviks. And when Kolchak began to forcibly return things to as they were before the revolution a large part of the civil population became seriouly disaffected.

About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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