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Bolsheviks in the Russian revolution - how the revolution degenerated

Once reformism had contained workers in the West then revolution in war-torn, poverty stricken Russia was doomed to degenerate. However much of the left have spent their time either excusing or denouncing the Bolsheviks rather than trying to understand how such a huge popular revolution descended into dictatorship so rapidly.

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The following articles, by some of the best social historians of the revolution, go a long way in explaining the process. The debate initiated by William Rosenberg is especially thought-provoking. There is also a link to articles on the degeneration of the Spanish revolution where surprisingly similar processes took place. (Adobe Acrobat to read pdf files.

'Russian labor and Bolshevik power after October' by William G Rosenberg (smaller version)
Reply to Rosenberg by Lewin Reply to Rosenberg by Brovkin Response by Rosenberg

'Worker activism and social polarization in 1917' by William Rosenberg and Diane Koenker

'The Mensheviks' political comeback: elections to the provincial soviets in the spring 1918' by Vladimir Brovkin


'Institution building in Soviet Russia; the case of 'State Kontrol'' by T.F. Remington

'The evolution of local soviets in Petrograd 1917-1918' by Alexander Rabinowitch

'The commune state in Moscow in 1918' by Richard Sakwa

'The "July uprising" of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries in Moscow 1918' by Lutz Hafner

'The anarchists in the Russian revolution' by Paul Avrich

'Russian anarchists and the civil war' by Paul Avrich

'Workers' unrest and the Bolsheviks' response in 1919' by Vladimir Brovkin

'Peasants into Bolsheviks; the utopian essence of War Communism' by Bertrand Patenaude

'Urbanisation and deurbanisation in the Russian revolution and civil war' by Diane Koenker

'Bolshevik opposition to Lenin; G.T. Miasnikov and the Workers Group' by Paul Avrich

Further reading on the revolution's degeneration:
Rabinowitch, A., The Petrograd Bolsheviks and the July 1917 Uprising ('68)
Farber, S., Before Stalinism; The Rise and Fall of Soviet Democracy
Sirianni, C., Workers Control and Socialist Democracy
Kaiser, D.(ed.), The Workers' Revolution in Russia, 1917
Smith, S.A., Red Petrograd: Revolution in the Factories ('83)
Goodey, C., 'Factory Committees and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat (1918)', Critique, 4 ('74)
McAuley, M., Bread and Justice: State and Society in Petrograd, 1917-1922 ('91)
Sakwa, R., Soviet Communists in Power. A Study of Moscow During the Civil War, 1918-1921 ('88)
Aves, J., Workers against Lenin: Labour Protest and the Bolshevik Dictatorship
Avrich, P., Kronstadt, 1921

Articles on the degeneration of the Spanish revolution by Michael Seidman
(Michael Seidman has also written a very thought provoking article on the factory occupations in Paris in May 1968 in French Historical Studies,Vol.18 p255)

When Insurrections Die (1917-1937) by Gilles Dauve ... brilliantly compares the degeneration of the Russian, German, Italian and Spanish revolutions.

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