The Russian revolution and the factories of Petrograd, February 1917 to June 1918

Smith, S. A. (Stephen Anthony) (1980). The Russian revolution and the factories of Petrograd, February 1917 to June 1918. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.


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This thesis explores the ways in which the factory workers of Petrograd struggled between February 1917 and June 1918 to improve their position as workers and to democratise relations within the factories. It begins by examining the sociology of the factory workforce and posits the centrality of the division between a fully proletarianised minority of skilled, literate, male workers and the majority of low-paid, unskilled, peasant and women workers. These two groups had a different relationship to the labour movement during the revolution of 1917. Chapter 2 examines the position of workers within the tsarist factory, and chapter 3 the ways in which this position changed as a result of the overthrow of the autocracy in February 1917. Chapter 4 looks at the creation of the factory committees, their political complexion, and their activities in spheres as diverse as law and order, labour discipline and the campaign against drunkenness. Chapters 5 and 6 examine the political coloration of the trade unions, and the extent to which the two organisations were genuinely democratic. Chapters 7 and 8 analyse the battle by the factory committees for workers' control of production, challenging the Western interpretation of this battle as being inspired by anarcho-syndicalism, and interpreting it instead as an attempt to stem disorder in the economy and to preserve jobs. The debates about workers' control are surveyed, and chapter 10 shows how the terms of the debate about the roles of the factory committees and trade unions changed as a result of the Bolshevik seizure of power. Within the space of a few weeks, the movement for workers' control of production developed into a movement for workers' self-management and for the nationalisation of industry. In a context of mounting economic chaos, mammoth redundancies and plummeting labour discipline, the Bolshevik government decided that workers' self-management conflicted with the priority of raising productivity in industry. June 1918 saw a move to nationalise industry, but the end of the democratic experiment in workers' management.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Faculties (to 1997) > Faculty of Commerce and Social Sciences
School or Department: Department of Political Science and International Studies
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
D History General and Old World > DK Russia. Soviet Union. Former Soviet Republics
H Social Sciences > HX Socialism. Communism. Anarchism
J Political Science > JC Political theory


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