Document Type


Date of Award



Works councils, Soviet Union, Labor unions and communism, Petrograd (R.S.F.S.R.), Russia (Federation), Saint Petersburg

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Sidney Harcave

Second Advisor

Alton Donnelly

Third Advisor

Carole Fink


This study approaches the Russian revolution from a relatively unexplored perspective. It examines the social and political attitudes and actions of the industrial working class of Petrograd. This important section of the population is of crucial importance in understanding the dynamic of the Russian revolution as it evolved from February to October 1917.

The methodological problems presented by such an undertaking are large and perilous. First, there is the problem of determining the minds of the inarticulate. All too often the historian is forced to adopt a distressingly high level of inference due to the paucity of sources and the difficulty of interpreting such fragmentary records as have survived. Second, there is the problem of weighing the variables that operated to help form the consciousness of the industrial workers. Among these were: the attitudes and actions of the Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviet, the attitudes and the actions of the industrialists and manufacturers and their organizations, the attitudes and programs of the political parties, especially the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and anarchists, and finally, the vagaries of an economy that was progressively deteriorating. To further bedevil the task, all of these variables were in a state of flux as the year 1917 progressed from February to October. And third, the problem of organizing a coherent, narrative account around the experience of 400,000 individuals from as many as 100 industrial enterprises with all the forces influencing them is, to say the least, problematical.

But if the undertaking is a difficult one, it is also a necessary one. Traditionally, both Western and Soviet scholarship have tended to focus on the leadership of the revolution, usually in terms of political parties or the Provisional Government. It goes without saying that no full understanding of the Russian revolution, or of the role of the industrial working class in it, can be possible without close attention to the extent to which workers adhered to one or another of the competing political parties and programs. It should not be assumed, however, that there is no relationship between the “leaders” and the “led,” that the working class was in some sense a passive instrument. Indeed, it is a contention of this study that to a significant degree the respective political parties and political institutions formed their policies in relation to the positions adopted and the actions carried out by the working class. If this is true, there cannot be any proper understanding of the “leaders” without undertaking to understand the “led.”

This is not in the least to suggest that “leadership” does not exist, nor that it is unimportant. Surely the career of Alexander Kerensky in 1917 illustrates that oratorical ability, force of personality, or “charisma” can take an individual a long way in political life, and can in fact move masses of people—at least in the short run. But individuals cannot be convinced over long periods of things that bear no corroboration in their everyday lives. So, as the meteoric political rise of a Kerensky might well be attributed to his “leadership” abilities, his almost equally precipitous fall—at least in the esteem of the workers—can be attributed to their ability and willingness to formulate or embrace an alternative vision of the future that conformed more closely to the experiences of their everyday lives.