MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Organisations



Progressive Bloc

Formed when the Russian Duma was recalled to session during the War, Nicholas II's response to mounting social-tensions. In July 1915, the Progressive Party combined with the Cadet Party, Left Octobrists, and Nationalists to form a political front in the duma that supported a social-chauvinist stance towards the continuation of WWI.


Progressive Party

A small group representing the large bourgeois in the Russian Duma, the progressives had attempted to unite the separate parties in the Duma under the flag of non-partisanship.

In November 1912, the progressives formed an independent party.

During WWI the Progressive party was fiercely social-chauvinist, and although in full support of the monarchy, the parties chauvinism outstripped their loyalty, demanding changes to the military leadership due to mounting loses and failures; gearing all national industry to the war effort; and the establishment of a separate "responsible Ministry" with representatives of Russia's industrial bourgeois.

After the February Revolution, some of the parties members served in the provisional government. After the October revolution, the party fought the Soviet government.


Proletarian Party of America

The Proletarian Party of America (PPA) was a small communist political party in the United States, originating in 1920 and terminated in 1971. The Proletarian Party of America (PPA) emerged from the Socialist Party of Michigan, based in Detroit in 1920, but the organization’s story dates to a few years prior to this event. The Michigan party, the state affiliate of the Socialist Party of America (SPA), was won over to a unique Left Wing ideology during the years of American participation in World War I. The key figure in the Michigan organization which later became the PPA was a Scottish born shoe store owner named John Keracher, in association with a tool and die maker named Dennis Batt and radical activists Al Renner and Harry M. Wicks. At Keracher’s behest, the Socialist Party of Michigan eschewed all participation in electoral politics, instead favoring Marxist theoretical study to prepare the working class for the task of revolutionary leadership. Throughout the years of 1918 and 1919, the party established a network of Marxist study circles called “Proletarian Universities,” with the movement particularly strong in Detroit, Chicago, and Rochester, New York.

At the 1919 State Convention of the Socialist Party of Michigan, Keracher was elected head of the state organization and an amendment was adopted by the assembled delegates calling for the expulsion from the Socialist Party of Michigan of anyone who engaged in electoral politics. Keracher, Batt, and other Michiganders were prominent as well in the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party, a formal faction deeply inspired by the Russian Revolution which was engaged in the attempt to “win the Socialist Party for the Left Wing.” The Left Wing Section organized candidate slates for each of the electoral districts of the SPA and made use of bloc voting by sympathetic branches of the party’s language federations to achieve results. The outgoing National Executive Committee of the SPA cried election fraud, however, and refused to tally the results of the 1919 party election or to leave office on July 1, the appointed date. Instead, the outgoing NEC went on the offensive with a series of suspensions of language federations and the expulsion of the Michigan party, ostensibly for violation of the national constitution of the SPA for the anti-political provisions adopted at the 1919 state gathering.

Keracher and the Michigan socialists allied with the suspended language federations in calling for immediate formation of a Communist Party of America, as opposed to the tactics advocated by Alfred Wagenknecht and L.E. Katterfeld of the NEC of continuing the fight to its conclusion at the 1919 Emergency National Convention of the SPA, scheduled for August 30 in Chicago. Wagenknecht, Katterfeld, and their associates wound up bolting the Emergency National Convention to establish the Communist Labor Party of America, while Keracher, Batt, and the federations formed a rival Communist Party of America. Two years of bitter stuggle followed between these competing Communist organizations.

The idiosyncratic Michiganders were a poor match for the disciplined and highly orthodox Communists of the federations led by Alexander Stoklitsky, Oscar Tyverovsky, and Nicholas Hourwich of the Russian Communist Federation and Joseph Stilson of the Lithuanian Communist Federation. Early in 1920, a split ensued, due in part to the decision of the Michigan group to continue the public operation of the Proletarian Universities and to publish their monthly journal, The Proletarian, outside of the control of the Central Executive Committee. The Communist Party’s Executive Secretary, C.E. Ruthenberg, recalled the necessary change of the Communist Party to an underground organization after the Palmer Raids of January 1920 as the root cause of the problem:

“The Proletarian group was still part of the Communist Party in January 1920 after the raids. I personally went to Detroit to reorganize the CP and conferred with [Al] Renner, [A.J.] MacGregor, and [John] Keracher. They refused to become part of an underground party. They were dropped out of the CP in February of 1920 because they refused to have any part in the reorganization.”

The expelled Michigan “Proletarian University” would soon establish themselves as the Proletarian Party of America.

The new party attempted without success to gain affiliation with the Communist International for a few years before eventually abandoning the mission. In 1922, the unified CPUSA attempted to recruit the PPA into its legal arm, the Workers Party of America and the Trade Union Educational League on its own terms, to no avail.

Keracher’s work with Detroit’s Proletarian University had brought him into close contact with Charles H. Kerr, founder of Charles H. Kerr & Co., the largest Marxist publishing house in the United States. Keracher became a member of the Kerr Board of the Directors in 1924 and in 1928 Charles Kerr sold him the bulk of his controlling shares in the firm. Thereafter, the Proletarian Party controlled the operations of Kerr & Co., publishing a number of Keracher’s works, including How the Gods Were Made (1929), Producers and Parasites (1935), The Head-Fixing Industry (1935), Crime: It’s Causes and Consequences (1937), and Frederick Engels (1946). Owing to poor finances, few other new Kerr titles were ever published by the PPA, although the backlist of the company was no doubt invaluable in maintaining the organization’s solvency. The PPA published a newspaper in the 1930s called Proletarian News, and concentrated on working in common cause with trade unionists on various local strike actions.

Harry Wicks wound up returning to the Communist Party of America, where he was known as a bitter factionalist. Dennis Batt retired from radical politics after a time, to become a labor journalist and staunch supporter of the American Federation of Labor. The banner of the PPA and Charles H. Kerr & Co. was carried forward by Al Wysocki.


Provisional Committee

On February 27 (March 12), 1917, the Duma is called into session on the appeals of Councillor of State Rodzianko, who is desperately trying to save the Empire despite the extraordinary momentum of the February Revolution. At 4pm the Duma resolves to create the Provisional Committee of the State Duma. Its members are among the biggest landowners and most wealthy capitalists in Russia:

M.V. Rodzianko (Octobrist); V.V. Shulgin; V.N. Lvov; I.I. Dmitryukov (Octobrist); S.I. Shidlovsky (Octobrist); M.A. Karaulov; A.F. Kerensky (Labour Party); A.I. Konovalav (Progressive); V.A. Rzhevsky (Progressive); A.A. Bublikov (Progressive); P.N. Milyukov (Cadet); N.V. Nekrasov (Cadet); and N.S. Chkheidze (Menshevik).

The Committee discusses whether they should assume power over the country, filling up the vacuum caused by the revolution and the Tsar's ineptitude. The Committee denies the move, and resolves that it must somewhow save the Tsar. The Committee resolves that the only path towards this is to share power between Tsar and a new Prime Minister. The despondent Tsar refuses this offer. The Committee then asks his brother Mikhail to assume the thrown, who also refuses.

On the following day, left without any other option, the Committee assumes power over the government. Along with the Petrograd Soviet, the Committee creates a new Provisional Government.


Provisional Government

Russian government established after the February Revolution of 1917 and lasting until the October Revolution of 1917.

The provisional government was born by decision of the Duma, which on the 27th of February, formed the Provisional Committee of Duma Members. The committee consisted of 12 members, chaired by Mikhail Rodzyanko (Octobrist), and was mostly made up of members of the Progressive Bloc, though it included two Socialists: Alexander Kerensky and Nikolai Chkheidze.

By March 1, the commandant of the Palace Guard at Tsarskoe Selo, and hundreds of high ranking officers announced their support for the provisional committee; the workers' and soldiers' revolution of February sent the monarchist officers a clear message: support for the Tsar would no longer be tolerated. The Provisional Committee attempted to gain legal legitimacy through the Tsar, but when Nicholas II refused, the committee assumed power.

Later in the day, the Committee asked the Ispolkom of the Petrograd Soviet for its support. The Ispolkom, without consulting the Soviet, presented an eight point programme, its conditions for support of the government:

1. Amnesty for all political prisoners
2. The right to speak, assemble, and strike
3. Equality for all nationalities, religions, and social origins.
4. Convocation of the Constituent Assembly
5. Police organs to be replaced by militia whose officers were elected
6. New elections to the soviets
7. Military units that participated in the Revolution not be sent to the front
8. Off duty-soldiers to receive temporary status as civilians

The programme was neither accepted nor declined, but 'taken into consideration'; the Committee largely considering it consistent with their aims. A day after the Ispolkom presented it to the Provisional Committee, it asked the Petrograd Soviet to approve it, though the Soviet responded by pressing the demand that a "supervisory committee" be elected to serve as the correspondent to the Provisional Committee.

On March 2, 1917, the Provisional Committee became the Provisional Government. Pavel Milyukov picked the members of the new cabinet.

Chairman and Minister of the Interior: Prince G. E. Lvov
Minister of Foreign Affairs: P. N. Milyukov
Minister of Justice: A. F. Kerensky
Minister of Transport: N. V. Nekrasov
Minister of Posts and Telegraphs: I. G. Tsereteli
Minister of Trade: A. I. Konovalov
Minister of Public Education: A. A. Manuilov
Minister of War: A. I. Guchkov
Minister of Agriculture: A. I. Shingaryov
Minister of Treasury: M. I. Tereschenko
Minister of State Accounts: I. V. Godnev
Minister of Religion: V. N. Lvov

The Imperial family was arrested on the following day, March 3, 1917.

On April 18, 1917, Milyukov sent the Allied governments confirmation that Russia was prepared to continue the fight in WWI to a "victorious end". Immediately thereafter, massive spontaneous demonstrations of workers soldiers and peasants erupted against the continuation of war, reaching enormous proportions on April 20 and 21.

The Provisional Government responded by pushing the Foreign Minister Milyukov and War Minister Guchkov out of the government, and made a proposal to the Petrograd Soviet to form a coalition government, while Russia's participation in the war raged on. [...]

On October 25, 1917 the workers, soldiers, and peasantry of Russia combined with the Bolshevik party and toppled the Provisional Government. The sections of the army loyal to the provisional government refused to suppress the revolts, and instead did nothing or turned sides to the revolution. At the end of the second day the Winter Palace was taken; the esteemed palace guards refusing to fight the rising red tide.

The Minsters of the Provisional Government fled the country, some of who later assisted the United States, France, Britain, and Japan in the invasion of the R.S.F.S.R. during the Civil Wars of 1918-1922.