Why did the Socialist Revolutionary Party fail to realize its democratic alternative in 1917?

Morozov K.N. Why did the Socialist Revolutionary Party fail to realize its democratic alternative in 1917? // The Russian Peasant Studies. 2018. V.3. №2. P. 55-70.

DOI: 10.22394/2500-1809-2018-3-2-55-70


The article analyzes the reasons why the Socialist Revolutionary Party (PSR), one of the most influential organizations that operated in Russia in 1917, failed to realize its democratic alternative despite its victory in the elections to the Constituent Assembly. In contrast to the still prevailing view that only a White or Red dictatorship could be established in Russia, the author believes that the necessary minimal and sufficient preconditions for the development along the path of democracy were ripe, and that the processes of the growth of the elements and the structures of civil society such as public organizations, parties, and trade unions began in Russia in 1917. However, the upward flow was opposed by the downward flow consisting of archaization, violent actions instead of peaceful ones, and the dispersion of modernity, all of which were especially evident during the Civil War. The reasons for the failure of the Socialist-Revolutionary alternative, on the one hand, lay in objective conditions, including the tense social and political contradictions caused by the too-long delay of the country’s modernization by the previous regime, the general bitterness and fatigue caused by the war, and in the psychological attractiveness of the populist Bolshevik slogans that promised «everything and immediately». This was in contrast to the Socialist-Revolutionaries who proposed to defend the country from the irresponsible actions of the Bolsheviks seeking power, and to postpone the implementation of socio-economic transformations before the convocation of the Constituent Assembly.
On the other hand, the reasons for the PSR failures in 1917 are also to be found in the party itself, as seen in its actions in the interweaving of undrawn illusions, ideological discrepancies, and the personal struggles for power in the Party. Among these reasons are the illusions about yesterday’s Bolshevik “friends-enemies”, in which many Socialist-Revolutionaries saw enemies like Kornilov or Denikin as not so terrible, the generosity of these people, and their incorrigible optimism. In addition, the desire to act by legal methods, without experimentation and adventures, also played a role.
It seems that the Socialist-Revolutionary democratic alternative was valuable not only for its traditional Narodnik (the love of people and democracy), or its attempts to take the path of decisive reforms to the social state and to modernization (taking into account the interest of the working classes of society), but equally for the existence of the socio-political conditions when the Socialist-Revolutionaries (the center and the right) would lose (according to the laws of the pendulum) the next elections in a few years to more right-wing forces. There would have been a working mechanism of parliamentarism, the changing of power in a democratic way, strong trade unions, and strengthened institutions of civil society in place, rather than the simulacra soon to be created by the Bolsheviks, and their reinforced undemocratic managerial traditions which were also unresolved in the post-Soviet period. 


Socialist Revolution Party, democratic alternative, political struggle in 1917, reasons for the failure of the Socialist Revolutionary Party in 1917.

About the author

Morozov Konstantin N., Dsc (History), Professor of the Department of the History of Russian Statehood STEPS ION RANEPA. 119571, Moscow, Vernadsky Prospect, 82.
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  


Read 2532 times Last modified on Mar 22 2023

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