Red Clydeside: A history of the labour movement in Glasgow 1910-1932


The Soviets at work, 1919

by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

image from Red Clydeside collection

The Russian councils, or soviets, grew out of a series of strikes during the failed Russian Revolution of 1905. The strikes, caused by the progressively worsening conditions of the working class, were launched by unorganised workers in a period when political organizations had no real influence on the mass of workers and trade unions existed only in embryonic form.

Most of the workers' and soldiers' councils established at this time operated also as pressure groups to further the claims of the working classes and peasants. The soviets attracted the most articulate and politically alert workers, and they found support in the socialist organizations and the embryonic trade unions.

A further radicalisation of the movement amidst the deteriorating social conditions played into the hands of the Bolshevik majority in the soviets, resulting in the October Revolution of 1917. However, shortly after the Bolshevik revolution, Lenin and his allies suppressed the soviets, or municipal workers' and soldiers' councils, and established dictatorial power in the hands of the Bolshevik Party.

Source: Bissett Collection, Glasgow University Special Collections