Red Petrograd: revolution in the factories 1917-1918 - S.A. Smith

Red Petrograd: revolution in the factories 1917-1918 - S.A. Smith

Well researched and detailed study of the factory-level impact of the Russian Revolution in Petrograd, dealing in particular with implementation of workers' control by the factory councils.

This book explores the impact of the 1917 Revolution on factory life
in the Russian capital. It traces the attempts of workers to take
control of their working lives from the February Revolution through
to June 1918, when the Bolsheviks nationalised industry. Although
not primarily concerned with the political developments of the
Revolution, the book demonstrates that the sphere of industrial
production was a crucial arena of political as well as economic
conflict.

Having discussed the structure and composition of the factory
workforce in Petrograd prior to 1917 and the wages and conditions
of workers under the old regime, Dr Smith shows how workers saw
the overthrow of the autocracy as a signal to democratise factory life
and to improve their lot. After examining the creation and activities
of the factory committees, he analyses the relationship of different
groups of workers to the new labour movement, and assesses the
extent to which it functioned democratically.

The central theme of the book is the factory committees'
implementation of workers' control of production. Dr Smith rejects
the standard Western interpretation of this movement as
'syndicalist', showing that its ideological perspectives were close to,
but not identical with, those of the official Bolshevik party.
Essentially, workers' control was a practical attempt to maintain
production and to preserve jobs in a situation of deepening economic
chaos. On coining to power in October, the Bolsheviks envisaged an
expansion of workers' control, and the committees pressed for
nationalisation and workers' management. The collapse of industry
and the reluctance of employers to continue their operations,
however, convinced the Bolshevik leadership that workers' control
was inadequate as a means of restoring order in the economy, and
they subordinated the committees to the trade unions in 1918.
Dr Smith assesses the extent to which the Bolsheviks' capacity to
carry out a genuinely revolutionary programme was limited by their
own ideology or by the economic and social conditions in which the
revolution was born. Throughout, he places the struggle in the
factories in the context of an international and comparative
perspective. The book will thus appeal not only to historians of
Russia and the Russian Revolution, but also to students of labour
history and of revolutionary theory.

S.A. SMITH is Senior Lecturer at the University of Essex. He
studied at the Universities of Oxford, Birmingham, Moscow and
Beijing.

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Comments

EdmontonWobbly
Sep 11 2013 14:02

So whats with all the apologetics for Leninism on here lately?

georgestapleton
Sep 11 2013 15:41

I'm not sure if you've read the book. I haven't, but I know of it as a book that is very critical of the Bolsheviks.

And this quote would suggest I'm right:

Quote:
Dr Smith assesses the extent to which the Bolsheviks' capacity to carry out a genuinely revolutionary programme was limited by their own ideology or by the economic and social conditions in which the revolution was born.

Reddebrek
Sep 11 2013 16:22

EW hasn't read it, and given that the foreword makes it clear what the book is about I think he is literally judging it by its cover.

The book explicitly criticises what it calls orthodox Leninism and its entire premise, economic struggles in the factories gave rise to political struggles rejects Lenin's "the workers alone will only achieve Trade Union conciousness"

Quote:
The experience of 1917 again suggests that when the power of the state is relatively ineffective, defensive struggles by workers to control production can quickly become offensive struggles to take power from management, and that these struggles have profound implications for the balance of power within society as a whole.

Reddebrek
Sep 11 2013 17:24

Oh and just an FYI this has been on the Libcom reading guide for the Russian Revolution and was the only entry missing, well that and the film Reds.

http://libcom.org/library/russian-revolution-1917-reading-guide

EdmontonWobbly
Sep 11 2013 17:35

Naw you guys are right, I did read the review in bed this morning and was all blurry eyed and seemed to have missed a couple key words that made the quote above appear to say the exact opposite of what it said.

Reddebrek
Sep 11 2013 18:40

That's fair enough EW, for what it's worth some of the sentences and tone of the book seem to imply a respect for Lenin as a person, though amusingly these compliments often end with a practical example of why he was wrong.

Entdinglichung
Sep 11 2013 20:00

knowing the author a bit, he probably wouldn't reject the label "Luxemburgist"

Steven.
Sep 12 2013 18:16
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
So whats with all the apologetics for Leninism on here lately?

Apart from this, what else do you consider is "apologetics for Leninism" on here?

Craftwork
Feb 18 2018 14:07