Dispatch from (Formerly) occupied Petrograd

Today Russian Minister of War Jack Rosenthal has resigned his post, accepting a position with the Nobel Family’s Branobel Oil Company in Baku. His demise illustrates the radicalizing direction of Russia’s Great Revolution.

Earlier this Spring, with Russia’s military high command struggling to gain control on what remained of its front lines, the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies catapulted themselves onto the world scene.

Starbucks on the Nevsky
The British Eviction took place at Nevsky Place, site of $tarbuck$ and the Nobel Brothers Petroleum Company

The capital’s powerful Soviet placed under arrest the whole of Britain’s lone army in Europe, consuming shitty coffee in a CTAPBAKC on the Nevsky, and expelled them to Finland. The audacious move stunned both the British and their allies in Russia’s Provisional Government, Jack Rosenthal and Caleb Jeanniton.

When learning of the British evacuation, Minister of War Rosenthal responded with surprise:  “My only move [in March] was to move my fleet that I have [to Skagerrak]. I wasn’t supposed to take [Petrograd].”

But the Revolution did not abide.   Kronstadt sailors refused their deployment and returned to Petrograd, securing the capital for the Soviet to which they pledged loyalty.

On 27 March, immediately after the British expulsion, the Petrograd Soviet spoke to the world. Its remarks are excerpted below:

Comrade-proletarians, and toilers of all countries:

We, Russian workers and soldiers, united in the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, send you warmest greetings… Our victory is a great victory for the freedom and democracy of the world….

We are appealing to our brother-proletarians of the Austro-German-Italian coalition, and, first of all, to the German proletariat. From the first days of the war, you were assured that by raising arms against autocratic Russia, you were defending the culture of Europe from Asiatic despotism. Many of you saw in this a justification of that support which you were giving to the war. Now even this justification is gone: democratic Russia cannot be a threat to liberty and civilization.

We will firmly defend our own liberty from all reactionary attempts from within, as well as from without. The Russian revolution will not retreat before the bayonets of conquerors, and will not allow itself to be crushed by foreign military force. But we are calling to you: Throw off the yoke of your semi-autocratic rule, as the Russian people have shaken off the Tsar’s autocracy; refuse to serve as an instrument of conquest and violence in the hands of kings, landowners, and bankers and then by our united efforts, we will stop the horrible butchery, which is disgracing humanity and is beclouding the great days of the birth of Russian freedom.

Toilers of all countries: We hold out to you the hand of brotherhood across the mountains of our brothers’ corpses, across rivers of innocent blood and tears, over the smoking ruins of cities and villages, over the wreckage of the treasuries of civilization; we appeal to you for the reestablishment and strengthening of international unity. In it is the pledge of our future victories and the complete liberation of humanity.  

Proletarians of all countries, unite!

 

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Lenin’s Arrival in Petrograd, 3 April

Days later Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik Party, returned from exile denouncing the war.  The core elements of his program:

  • In our attitude towards the war, which under the new [provisional] government of Rosenthal and Jeanniton unquestionably remains on Russia’s part a predatory imperialist war owing to the capitalist nature of that government, not the slightest concession to “revolutionary defencism” is permissible.
  • The specific feature of the present situation in Russia is that the country … must place power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest sections of the peasants.
  • No support for the Provisional Government of Rosenthal and Jeanniton.
  • Not a parliamentary republic … but a republic of Soviets of Workers’, Agricultural Labourers’ and Peasants’ Deputies throughout the country, from top to bottom.
  • The salaries of all officials, all of whom are elective and displaceable at any time, not to exceed the average wage of a competent worker.

The audacity of these demands and the popularity they attracted prompted Rosenthal to action. To reassure allies of his and Russia’s loyalty, on 1 May he issued “Rosenthal’s Note On War Aims” to allied governments and explicitly not for public consumption. But YIKES!  It got leaked! The key phrase: “The Provisional Government … will, in every way, observe the obligations assumed toward our Allies.”

The memo, gone viral on The Twitter, sealed Rosenthal’s fate and he resigned only days later.  He will now earn a lucrative salary in the oil trade.

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