Left Socialist Revolutionaries

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Left Socialist Revolutionaries


(Left SR’s), a petit bourgeois political party in Russia from 1917 to 1921.

The Left SR’s began as an antiwar opposition in the SR Party during World War I. Its leaders were M. A. Spiridonova, B. D. Kamkov, and M. A. Natanson. In 1917, after the February revolution, the left wing of the SR Party centered on the newspaper Zemlia i volia (Land and Liberty), which exposed the imperialist nature of the war. At the Third Congress of the party, from May 25 (June 7) to June 4 (17), 1917, the Left SR’s formed the “left opposition” and issued a declaration that revealed three major points of political disagreement with the Central Committee of the SR Party: they condemned the war as imperialist and advocated an immediate end to the war and Russia’s withdrawal from it, denounced SR collaboration with the counterrevolutionary bourgeois Provisional Government, and demanded an immediate solution of the land problem based on the SR program of “socialization” and transfer of the land to the peasants on an equalizing basis. These disagreements, which gradually deepened, led first to the formation of a left-wing SR faction within the party and later, after the October Revolution, to a final break and the formation of a new party.

At the Democratic Conference in Petrograd in 1917 the Left SR’s opposed any coalition with the Constitutional Democrats (Cadets), and at the Pre-Parliament, after declaring that they considered the policies of the SR party leadership to be traitorous, they walked out of the assembly. The Left SR’s worked with the Bolsheviks in the military revolutionary committees and participated in the armed insurrection of October 1917. They were included in the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Oct. 25–27 (Nov. 7–9), 1917 (while the right SR’s walked out of the congress), voted for its decrees, and had members elected to the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. By a resolution of the Fourth Congress of the SR Party, held Nov. 26-Dec. 5 (Dec. 8–18), 1917, the Left SR’s were expelled from the party.

On Dec. 2 (15), 1917, the First Congress of the Left SR’s formally established the organizational separation of the party. At the Extraordinary All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies in November 1917 and then at the Second AllRussian Congress of Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies in December 1917, the Left SR’s on the whole supported the Bolsheviks, although at first they rejected the proposal to enter the Soviet government and insisted instead on the creation of a “homogeneous” government with representation from all the socialist parties. The Bolsheviks, taking into account the fact that the Left SR’s had recognized the October Revolution and Soviet power and keeping in mind their influence among the peasantry, came to a temporary agreement with them. At the end of the year, seven Left SR’s joined the Council of People’s Commissars, including A. L. Kolegaev as people’s commissar of agriculture, I. Z. Shteinberg as people’s commissar of justice, and P. P. Prosh’ian as people’s commissar of posts and telegraph.

The Left SR’s helped implement the agrarian policies of Soviet power, organize the Red Army, and fight against counterrevolution. But even while they formed the bloc with the Bolsheviks, the Left SR’s differed with them on a number of important questions (regarding the Constituent Assembly, the counterrevolutionary press, the All-Russian Extraordinary commission [All-Russian Cheka], and the zemstvos [bodies of local self-government], for example). The underlying reason for all these differences was the rejection by the Left SR’s, as a petit bourgeois party, of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

In February 1918, with the complicated political circumstances and the tendency of the Left SR’s toward vacillation and adventurism, the Left SR’s came out against the Bolsheviks. At the All-Russian Central Executive Committee session of Feb. 23, 1918, they voted against signing the Brest-Litovsk Treaty with Germany, and at the Extraordinary Fourth Congress of Soviets, on Mar. 14–16, 1918, they voted against its ratification. When the treaty was nevertheless ratified by the overwhelming majority of the congress, the Left SR’s declared themselves no longer bound by the terms of their agreement with the Bolsheviks and left the Council of People’s Commissars, although they remained in the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and other Soviet institutions.

In the first months after the October Revolution the Left SR’s expressed the interests of the working peasantry, but as the socialist revolution unfolded in the countryside many of these peasants moved away from the Left SR’s, as was shown especially in the elections for local soviets in late June 1918. The main social base of the Left SR’s became the kulaks, against whom the Soviet decrees on the committees of poor peasants were directed, and a section of the middle peasantry, whose interests were also affected by those decrees. On June 24, 1918, the Left SR Central Committee resolved to “rectify the line of Soviet policy” by all possible means, a decision backed by the Third Congress of the party on June 28-July 1. The Fifth All-Russian Congress of Soviets, held July 4–10, 1918, marked the beginning of open struggle against the Bolsheviks; 1,164 deputies were in attendance, of which 773 were Bolsheviks and virtually all the rest were Left SR’s. When the majority of delegates failed to support the Left SR’s, they resorted to “active” measures. On July 6, 1918, the Left SR la. G. Bliumkin assassinated the German ambassador in Moscow, W. von Mirbach, an act serving as the signal for a counterrevolutionary revolt.

After the defeat of the revolt, the Fifth All-Russian Congress of Soviets voted to expel from the soviets those Left SR’s who supported the political line of their Central Committee. However, many of the rank-and-file members of the Left SR Party and even some of its leaders refused to support the adventurist actions of the leadership. The party split, and in September 1918 the Party of Narodnik Communists and the Party of Revolutionary Communists broke away from the Left SR’s as separate groups. The former organization existed until November 1918 and the latter until September 1920, each of them finally joining the RCP (Bolshevik). In 1918 a number of the Left SR leaders, including V. A. Algasov, A. L. Kolegaev, G. D. Zaks, B. F. Malkin, and lu. V. Sablin, joined the Bolshevik Party. Some Left SR leaders deserted to the side of the open enemies of Soviet power and took part in counterrevolutionary plots and insurrections. In 1918–19 individual groups of Left SR’s played a political role of some importance in the battle against the White Guards in such places as Ukraine, the Far East, and Turkestan, but they also opposed the Bolshevik leadership. In the early 1920’s, the Left SR Party, having lost all influence among the masses, went out of existence.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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