Bolsheviks Gain Strength in Russia
A Poet Speaks Out in Britain
Special to The Great War Project
(25 June) In Russia on the Eastern Front, “the summer of 1917 was a chaotic one,” reports historian Adam Hochschild.
“Russian troops were killing their officers or replacing them with soldiers’ soviets, and by the hundreds of thousands they kept on leaving the front. History had never before seen an army dissolve on such a scale.”
Political chaos reigned in Petrograd, Russia’s capital. Reports Hochschild, “there were more strikes and stormy meetings as the Provisional Government” – remember the Tsar was overthrown earlier in the spring – “tried to corral the Bolsheviks and other radical sects into continuing the war.”
In Petrograd soldiers were marching against the war shouting, “Down with capitalism,” and “Stop the war.“ By then,” Hochschild writes,
“a Bolshevik takeover was on the way.”
Anti-war activists in London tried to bring that spirit to Britain hoping to spark a similar outbreak of sentiment against the war. Activist Sylvia Pankhurst, who ran a radical newspaper in London, published appeals, urging soldiers to lay down their arms. She published “critical letters from soldiers at the front,” reports Hochschild.
“Her newspaper was the first to publish a statement unlike any the war had yet seen —
an eloquent avowal from a front-line officer and a highly decorated one at that, declaring his intention to stop fighting.”