July 17–23: The “July Days”: Insurrection and counterrevolution in Petrograd

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The insurrection in Petrograd known as the “July Days” reaches high tide and then recedes before the combined efforts of the Provisional Government and the parties that currently lead the Soviet. From the old tsarist reactionaries and the Constitutional Democrats, to the petty-bourgeois Mensheviks, Trudoviks, and Socialist Revolutionaries—virtually the entire political spectrum is united in a “counterrevolutionary orgy” against the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks are slandered as the traitorous cause of the catastrophic defeats of the Russian armies in the field, and Lenin is declared to be a German agent.

A vicious crackdown results in sporadic clashes in Petrograd, workers and soldiers fight back, and the reactionaries accumulate pretexts for further repression. Bolshevik offices and printing plants are ransacked, and leaders of the revolution—including Trotsky—are thrown into prison. Lenin goes into hiding. The fascist Black Hundred gangs run amok, beating Bolshevik workers and soldiers with impunity. There are an estimated 700 injuries and 160 deaths.

As Trotsky later recalls:

The struggle of the other parties among themselves was almost like a family spat in comparison with their common baiting of the Bolsheviks. In conflict with one another they were, so to speak, only getting in training for a further conflict, a decisive one. Even in employing against each other the sharpened accusation of German connections, they never carried the thing through to the limit. July presents a different picture. In the assault upon the Bolsheviks all the ruling forces, the government, the courts, the Intelligence Service, the staffs, the officialdom, the municipalities, the parties of the soviet majority, their press, their orators, constituted one colossal unit. The very disagreements among them, like the different tone…

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