File No. 861.00/371

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

No. 295

Sir: I have the honor to refer to despatch No. 274 of March 20, 1917, “The revolutionary movement in Petrograd,”1 and to state that the All-Russian Conference of Councils of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies adopted, after long and often stormy debate, the resolution, on the relation of the Councils of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies to the Temporary Government, summarized below. The first resolution introduced into the All-Russian Conference of Councils of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies was withdrawn after being subjected to severe criticism especially from the more extreme elements of the conference. The resolution is, in substance, as follows:

The Temporary Government, which arose during the progress of the revolution, has published a program-platform to which the Petrograd Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies has given its adherence.
The All-Russian Conference of Councils of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies admits that this program-platform contains the fundamental demands of the Russian democracy, and that up to the present time the Temporary Government, in general and as a whole, is carrying out this program.
The conference calls on the entire Russian revolutionary democracy to gather around the Councils of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies, as the centers of democratic organization created by the revolution, which, in alliance with other progressive forces, are capable of resisting the Imperial and the bourgeois counter-revolutions, and of widening and fortifying the conquests of the revolution.
The conference recognizes the necessity of a constant political control of, and pressure on, the Temporary Government, and on its provincial organs, in order to insure its perseverance in an energetic struggle with the counter-revolution, in decisive efforts to fully democratize Russia and in preparation for the conclusion of a general peace without annexations or contributions, based on the right of each nation to determine its own future.
The conference calls on the democracy to support the Temporary Government, but not to assume responsibility for the entire Temporary Government in all its acts, in so far as it labors to organize and broaden the conquests of the revolution and in so far as it bases its foreign policy on a surrender of annexationist principles.
At the same time the conference calls on the Russian democracy, gathering around the Councils of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies, to be ready to decisively resist every attempt made by the Temporary Government to escape the control and pressure of democracy, or to avoid putting into effect the promises contained in the program platform.

The substance of the program-platform and an account of its origin were given in despatch No. 274 of March 20, 1917.

The resolution as adopted is considerably longer and fuller than the first resolution introduced. The words “and on its provincial organs” in paragraph 4 were adopted at the insistence of the deputies belonging to the Social Revolutionary Party. The extreme socialists, Maximalists, voted for the resolution, as adopted, after the reediting of paragraphs 3 and 4 in the sense of a more clear, decisive and radical phraseology. The speech made by the representative of the majority in the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies in favor of the resolution in its final form, was a strong appeal for support of the Temporary Government. Tseretelli declared that the Temporary Government had sought the assistance of the Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies in the first moments of the revolution, and had entered into a definite contract with the Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies, as expressed in the program-platform. This program-platform, he said, was the minimum demand of the revolutionary soldiers and workmen, that they must assist the Temporary Government in attaining this minimum and that they must not, at the present, strive for more and greater radical reforms than they could realize and make permanent. The soldiers and workmen, he said, must keep to this line of action until it should become plain that the Temporary Government ceased to represent the entire revolutionary democracy of all classes of the Russian people and represented only the selfish interests of a part of the middle class.

The attitude toward the Temporary Government, expressed in the resolution and as amplified by Tseretelli, as just explained, is the [Page 30] attitude now held by all fractions of the socialist element in the Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies except the fraction of Maximalists. The Maximalists, however, do not advocate an immediate break between the Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies and the Temporary Government, but insist that the Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies should act more aggressively toward the Temporary Government and urge it to faster and more sweeping reforms, especially in the field of foreign politics. The Maximalists, for instance, demand an immediate peace conference in which the socialists’ views expressed at the Zimmerwald conference should prevail, and they openly oppose the new “Loan of Liberty” on pacifist grounds. The Executive Committee of the Conference of Councils of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies has voted to actively support the loan, but the vote was not unanimous, being 21 for to 14 against.

Lenin, the anarchist-communist, whose return to Russia via France and England was not allowed by the French and English Governments, and who obtained a laisser-passer and extraterritorial rights for himself and his party and their baggage through Germany, is now in Petrograd and is a daily contributor’ to the organ of the Maximalists, but his most extreme demands, for immediate cessation of the war, disbanding of the army and distribution of its arms and ammunition among the people, overthrow of the Temporary Government and establishment of a commune and socialist dictatorship over the whole of Russia by the Petrograd Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies, adoption instead of a parliamentary republican form of government of a republic of Councils of Workmen’s and Peasants’ Deputies, abolition of the police, and all existing officials, all officials to be elective and removable at their electors’ will, and none of them to be paid more than the average salary of a good workman, confiscation of all lands without payment and their nationalization under the control of local peasants’ deputies with separate councils of deputies for the poorest class of peasants, union of all banks in the country into one national bank under the control of the Council of Workmen’s Deputies, have been decisively condemned by all the socialist parties except the Maximalists.

Before closing, the All-Russian Conference of Councils of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies adopted a number of other resolutions, most important of which is the one concerning the Constitutional Convention. This resolution declares that the convention should be called in Petrograd as soon as possible; representatives should be elected on the basis of universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage for all men and women above 20 years of age, with no qualifications regarding length of residence in a locality, and that the army should vote separately without any limitation on the preparatory political [Page 31] campaign in the army; that the central organ of all the Councils of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies should take an active part in preparing the election law, and should control the course of the elections; that the main questions to be decided by the convention are the following: the form of government and the fundamental laws of Russia, questions of race and nationality, forms of local government, questions of international politics, democratization of the army, the land question, labor legislation, and questions regarding national economics. During the debates on this resolution it became clear that the convention is not expected to be able to meet before September and that the elections will all be held on one day except at the front, although there was a tendency among some delegates to urge that the elections in the cities, where the revolutionary and socialist workmen are strongest, should be held before the elections in the provinces so as to influence the provincial elections.

Thirteen resolutions were adopted concerning labor questions, the most striking of which are the resolutions endorsing the establishment of an eight-hour day by law everywhere in Russia, a universal minimum wage, arbitration courts in all industrial enterprises, factory and labor inspectors, imported contract labor (Chinese), unemployment and social insurance. The resolution on the land question includes a demand that all estates of more than a maximum area should be confiscated without payment by the Constitutional Convention and distributed among the people, and that the Temporary Government should at once forbid all land deals except mortgages necessary in this agricultural season and approved by local committees, which should at once be elected by universal suffrage in all townships, counties, and provinces to settle questions of rent, wages, and other disputes regarding land. The resolution admits, however, that the final decision of the land question belongs solely to the Constitutional Convention.

A resolution containing the outlines of an organization of second All-Russian Conference was also adopted.

The food supply of Petrograd is still under normal but is not alarming at the present moment. The Temporary Government has introduced transport service obligatory on the owners of all horse and motor cars, wagons and trucks, as well as a system whereby the owners of all passenger automobiles must turn over their machines to the United Transport Division for service under its order from six to ten hours on three or less than three consecutive days. Payment is to be made for this service. The card system has been introduced for bread, flour, sugar, as well as gasoline.

Since the revolution no newspapers have appeared on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. It is interesting to note that a certain [Page 32] Mikhailov, one of the most extreme and energetic of the Maximalists in Petrograd, a typesetter on the newspaper Day and an influential member of the printers’ union, who has been extremely active, taking a strong attitude against the Temporary Government and especially supporting the printers’ refusal to work on Sunday, has been found to have been regularly in the employ of the old Department of Police as a spy and agent-provocateur and is now under arrest.

I have [etc.]

North Winship
  1. Ante, p. 7.