All-Russia democratic conference

All-Russia democratic conference

An appearance of General L. G. Kornilov with a speech caused another crisis of the Provisional Government. Representatives of the socialist parties characterized the events that took place on August 25—31 (September 7—13), as an attempt of a counter-revolutionary conspiracy and attributed the entire “bourgeoisie” to the number of its accomplices. These allegations were caused by an inclination to weld the “socialist front” together and counterpoise it to all non-socialist elements declared the “enemies of the revolution.” The Provisional Government found itself in an awkward situation. The Central Committee of the Socialist Revolutionary Party issued A. F. Kerensky with an ultimatum, either no single constitutional democrat is included in the new government coalition, or no one socialist revolutionary will enters it. During this period, the political quarters, insisting on the complete shift of power in favor of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, have grown stronger. The Bolsheviks Party once again rapidly gaining popularity in the society over a background of their struggle against the Kornilov affair — counterrevolutionary movement, was among these forces. Temporarily, the power in the country shifted to the Directory or the Council of Five, established on September 1 (14) consisting of the Minister-Chairman socialist-revolutionary (SR) A. F. Kerensky, Minister of Foreign Affairs, the sugar factory owner M. I. Tereshchenko, the Secretary of War Major General A. I. Verkhovsky, Naval Minister Rear Admiral D. N. Verderevsky and the Telegraph- Postmaster General Menshevik A. M. Nikitin.

For the nation-wide solution to the question of power and acceptable solutions to solve the crisis, the All-Union Central Executive Committee and the Executive Committee of Peasants’ Soviets decided to gather a democratic conference in Petrograd. According to the organizers’ intention, apart from the grouped around the Soviets representatives of revolutionary democracy, various nationwide democratic organizations of Russia had to participate in it as well: cooperatives, county councils (zemstvos), army committees, city dumas, etc. Concerning the purpose of the meeting, initially there was no even understanding. Menshevik F. I. Dan saw it in the creation of a uniform democratic government. At the same time, his fellow-party mate I. G. Tsereteli believed that the meeting should elect a representative body, which the Provisional Government would be accountable to.

The meeting was opened at the Alexandrinsky Theater on September 14 (27), 1917. According to “Izvestia” newspaper, all together 1,582 delegates attended, including 230 — from the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, 230 — from the Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies, 100 — from the Trade Unions, 300 from municipal governments, 200 — from the zemstvos, 125 — from the army and navy, and 120 — from the general cooperation, and so on. Of the political parties, the largest number attended from the SRs — 532, 172 — from the Mensheviks, 136 — from the Bolsheviks, 55 representatives — from the Labor People’s Socialist Party, 23 — from the Ukrainian Socialist Revolutionaries, 15 — from Bundists, and 28 representatives — from the other national socialist parties. In addition, 400 participants have enrolled as a non-party ones.

There was a different attitude toward a democratic meeting among the socialist parties. The extreme right flank, in particular the right SRs, encouraged saving of the principle of coalition in the formation of the government. The Menshevik A. N. Potresov, expressing the common opinion of the extreme right-wing defenders, shared this position. He pointed out that a coalition with the bourgeoisie is not only possible but also vitally important, since to suppress the growth of Bolshevism will be possible only by the joint efforts. At the same time, the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, where the position of the Bolsheviks dominated at that time, stated that only a complete break with the bourgeoisie and the creation of the authorities from plenipotentiary representatives of workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ organizations can save the revolution.

Voting during the meeting on the new government cabinet was controversial and did not let its participants to arrive at consensus. Some of them voted for a coalition with the bourgeoisie, some for a coalition, but without the Cadets, part — for a plainly socialist coalition. In the end, of course, under the influence of the speeches of I. G. Tsereteli and A. F. Kerensky, a resolution allowing the creation a new coalition government with the participation of the Cadets was adopted. As a protest against this decision, the Bolsheviks left the meeting room.

The most important result of the meeting was the creation on September 20 (October 3) of a representative body, the so-called Provisional Council of the Russian Republic, which has remained in history as the Pre-parliament. It included representatives of all groups and factions attending the meeting. It was entrusted to form a new government.

The section presents the studies and memoirs reflecting the activities of the All-Russian Democratic Conference; the reports on the meetings from September 14 (27) to September 22 (October 5), 1917; the publications of periodicals; photographs of the meeting chairman N. D. Avksentiev and other participants.