Wednesday, March 8, 2017

March 8 1917-2017

Happy and combatant Working Women's Day. 

Today, one hundred years ago, began the Russian Revolution. Its first phase to be precise, the so called "February Revolution" (the Julian calendar in use in Russia back then was 13 days off relative to the Gregorian one). It was the beginning of a revolutionary cycle that affected not just Russia but much of Europe. 

The situation was dire in Russia, the war had been lingering for years already and the masses were utterly exhausted by the ever-growing demands of the totalitarian regime and the war effort. Let's not forget that most of those killed in World War I were subjects of the Russian Empire. 

Since March 3rd, strikes had been popping around like mushrooms, the most famous one being the one at the huge Putilov factory. On March 7th, in spite of the unrest, the Tsar left for the front. On March 8th worker women marched in large numbers demanding something as basic as "bread", their striking male comrades joined them. It was a general strike at the capital of the most backward and reactionary state of Europe.

On March 9th the protesters gathered hundred of thousands and they already demanded the head of the autocrat. By March 10th, in spite of the prohibition, the marches broke all records, not a single industry was active in the city. Four people were killed but the uprising did not stop at all. 

On March 11th an inexperienced commander, General Khabalov, was ordered to put down the protests at any cost. On March 12th the city was besieged by his garrison. However soon troops began quarreling among them and one company was the first to mutiny, opening fire against the police.

That very same day the Petrograd Soviet was formed, while the (very conservative and not really democratic) Duma had been rendered ineffective by an imperial edict.

Before the day was over, four regimients mutinied and even the usually loyal cossacks hesitated. Officers were killed or had to flee for their lives.

The next day, Tsar Nicholas attempted to go back to Petrograd but could not reach it. His guards either deserted or declared "neutrality": the fake Emperor's clothes were gone. On request of the Duma, the Tsar abdicated. Few days later a provisional government under Octobrist (conservative) Rodzianko was formed.

In five days or so, Russia had gone from totalitarian empire to unstable provisional republic(?) That's how revolutions happen: they may only throw down rotten structures but when they do, they are fast and merciless.

In the following months the two opposing powers: the soviets (popular councils) and the Duma will go on a crash course. It may sound "unreal" but this is true history: this actually happened... and will happen again with whatever variations, because the real issues have never been solved but rather just aggravated.

As La Polla Records sang:
This story that was maybe true
seems a lie, we're going to tell it anyhow.
In the Russia of the beloved Tsar
lived a peasant named Ivan,
toiling the land without rest,
always hungry, no time to think.
Sowing, sowing and sowing yet again,
and Count Borrowich gets all the harvest,
the petty priest asks for resignation,
invites himself to Ivan's home
and he eats all the best. 
Ivan was there... (chorus, thrice)
A good day he worked with the hoe,
came some men, they told him: Comrade,
There are no more masters to whom obey,
you are a free man, we've taken power!
Thinking, thinking and thinking yet again,
Ivan gradually gets used to the idea:
the nobility has been deposed,
there will be no more jerks living at his expense.
Ivan was there...
Jumping around one-legged
the sickle and the hammer in the red banner,
with effort and some attention
what extreme flips reality makes!

Original song in Castilian (Spanish):

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