File No. 861.00/405

The Consul at Petrograd ( Winship) to the Secretary of State

No. 287

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my despatch on the subject of “The revolutionary movement in Petrograd,” No. 274, of March 20, 1917.1 The situation in regard to the food supply of the city of Petrograd, and in regard to the supply of materials and fuel to the factories here has taken a turn for the worse in the last week. This is due to the labor situation here. There is not a branch of industry in this city in which the workmen are not making excessive demands. There is no organization among the workmen with which the employers may deal and close firm agreements. Committees elected by the workmen and arbitration courts exist in every factory (established according to the agreement between the Petrograd Manufacturers’ Association and the Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies) but both the committees and the courts are powerless. Strikes, partial and complete, arise on the least excuse, whether the question refers to wages, hours, overtime, managers, foremen or piecework, and the decisions of the committees, factory arbitration courts, and district arbitration courts are not obeyed. The Council [Page 22] of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies has itself issued a proclamation to the workingmen of Petrograd warning against this disorganization and against excessive demands. All the extremely radical socialists have also warned against this. The effect of the warning has been, however, very slight. On the 6th of this month the Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies issued a proclamation addressed to the employers and employees engaged in the draying business, stating that there are 6,200 loaded freight cars standing in the freight yards of Petrograd waiting to be unloaded. None of the truck drivers and freight-yard stevedores will work more than eight hours a day. They also refuse to work on Sundays and holidays. The proclamation states that the shortage of bread is due to this reduction in the hours of work. It is hoped that this crisis may be relieved by the soldiers’ taking up this task. Before this proclamation was issued a similar appeal was issued by the Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies to the journeymen bakers who also refuse to work on holidays and more than eight hours on any other day.

There has been very little work done since the beginning of the revolution. The days from March 8 to March 21 were the days of the revolution, when no work was done at all. After that time until the present there have been three Sundays, one religious holiday, and one new holiday (the 5th of April, when the 180 victims of the revolution who were selected by the workmen’s organizations as most worthy of the honor, were buried in the center of Mars Field). On this day about 800,000 took part in the funeral parade which entered Mars Field at 9 o’clock in the morning and ceased after 9 o’clock in the evening. This week is the week before Easter and it is understood that the workmen have decided not to work from Thursday the 12th until Sunday the 22d, a week after Easter Sunday, inclusive, a period of 11 days. Thus, up to the present, out of the last 33 days, 18 have been holidays and the work on the remaining 15, less than half, has been extremely irregular, listless and unproductive.

It has already been mentioned that in the first days following the formation of the Temporary Government, two governments existed simultaneously, and that both claimed supreme power. These were the Executive Committee of the Duma which elected the Ministers of the Temporary Government and the Council of Workmen’s Deputies, later the Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies. These two organs were only brought together by the action of one man, A. F. Kerensky, a presiding officer of the Council of Deputies and a member of the Duma, who joined the Temporary Government as Minister of Justice. This insured that the Council of Deputies would support the Temporary Government at least for the time [Page 23] being. During the last week a strong group in the Council has severely criticized Kerensky on two grounds: first, his leniency to the Imperial Family, imprisoned in the palace at Tsarskoe Selo, and second, his release of General Ivanov. Ivanov started from the front for Petrograd in the first days of the revolution with a detachment of troops to quell the insurrection. Yesterday Kerensky unexpectedly appeared in the Council of Soldiers’ Deputies, then sitting separate from the workmen’s section, stated his position in both these matters and put a question of confidence declaring that if the assembly did not have full confidence in him and in any measure he chose to take he would resign. He received a full and enthusiastic expression of confidence. This is very important as it forestalled what might have become an open and fatal breach between the two existing organs of government.

Kerensky also stated that the Temporary Government was about to announce its freedom from any aims of conquest or territorial aggrandizement in continuing the war. This was to reply to the widespread and successful agitation at present being waged among the laboring class by the extreme antiwar socialists demanding that the war be continued on a basis of mere defense against the menace to the accomplishments of the revolution contained in the German military spirit. The chief principles of this agitation are contained in the “Proclamation to the People of the World,” already reported. These agitators are opposed to the agreement between the Allies providing for the transfer of Constantinople to Russia1 as this would involve enslavement of the Turks. They also oppose retaking the Polish territory now occupied by the Germans. Their campaign phrase is “peace without annexation or contribution.”

A special conference of great significance also took place yesterday when the soldier delegates, elected at the front, held a session with the delegates from the workmen of the munition plants in Petrograd. The soldiers put a number of questions among which were: If the present number of workmen is not increased, will the amount of work done during an eight-hour day insure a full supply of ammunition for the army? Will work be done on holidays? Why are there 6,200 freight cars standing unloaded? Why does Petrograd not resume work at this time when it is most needed?

Explanation was made that although the workmen made excessive and disorganized demands at first the Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies was now in control, that many large factories were affected by a shortage of fuel and material, that energetic measures were being taken and that the workmen’s demands were not excessive in view of the hardships they suffered before the revolution.

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A resolution was adopted to the effect that since the enemy was most threatening the workmen must be supplied with food, work must go on with fresh energy and without any regard whatever for the number of hours or for overtime.

The announcement of the Temporary Government hinted at yesterday by Kerensky was made public this morning. This proclamation states that the Temporary Government aims at a successful termination of the war, no acquisition of territory, no subjugation of other nations, and a guaranty to all peoples that they shall be free to determine their own destiny. The government will stand by its obligations to the Allies not forgetting, however, the rights of its own country. These principles will govern the foreign policy of the present Ministry.

I have [etc.]

North Winship

[The following documents relating to a separate peace between Russia and Germany will be found in Foreign Relations, 1917, Supplement 2, Volume I:

  • Telegram from the Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Russia (No. 1308, April 12, 1917, 5 p.m.) requesting investigation of reports of peace negotiations between Russian and German socialists and stating that “a separate peace would make impossible any assistance for Russia, financial or otherwise, from this country.”
  • Telegram from the Ambassador in Russia to the Secretary of State (No. 1192, April 14, 1917) reporting an interview with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is “absolutely certain no possibility of separate peace,” and says, “socialists here have never so suggested but that most radical faction is advocating revolution in Central Empires, deposing ruling monarchs thereof, and thereafter negotiating universal socialistic peace.”
  • Telegram from the Minister in Sweden to the Secretary of State (No. 300, April 14, 1917) giving the Swedish telegraph bureau’s account of the peace discussion in the Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies, which resulted in the adoption of a resolution approving the appeal of March 27 to the peoples of the world1 but declared that the war must continue until the desired terms of peace without annexation could be obtained.
  • Telegram from the Minister in Sweden to the Secretary of State (No. 301, April 14, 1917) giving an account by the British Minister at Stockholm of the British and French labor missions to Russia “to convince their Russian confreres that peace on any other basis than that constantly had in mind by the Allies would be against the best interests of the Russian people as well as the Allies themselves.”
  • Telegrams from the Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Russia (No. 1321, April 16, 1917, and No. 1337, April 19) transmitted for representatives of American Jewry and for the executive manager of the National City Bank, conveying arguments against a separate peace between Russia and the Central powers.
  • Telegram from the Ambassador in Russia to the Secretary of State (No. 1225, April 25, 1917) containing the reply of the Russian Provisional Government to telegram No. 1321, see supra, which reply contained the assurance that “no Russian party, whatever its political program, has contemplated nor could contemplate the eventuality of a separate peace with the foreign aggressor.”
  • Telegram from the Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Russia (No. 1339, April 19, 1917) requesting a report for the purpose of publication to allay apprehensions concerning the possibility of a separate peace; and telegrams from the Ambassador in Russia (Nos. 1213 and 1215, April 21) conveying positive assurances that no such possibility existed.]

  1. Ante, p. 7.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1917, Supplement 2, vol. i.
  3. Quoted in the despatch from the Consul at Petrograd Apr. 3, ante, p. 18.