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Conciliation Boards in Revolutionary Petrograd: Aspects of the Crisis of Labor-Management Relations in 1917

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image of Russian History

In the past several years, our understanding of the Russian Revolution of 1917 has been enriched by studies of local, grass roots organizations which arose in the wake of the February Revolution and responded to the specific needs of their initiators. Studies of the raionnye sovety and factory militias, for example, have closely examined popular institutions which reflect in microcosm the larger issues and conflicts underlying the question of national reconstruction.1 By focusing on events "from below" we have gained a clearer understanding of the constraints within which the Provisional Government and Petrograd Soviet operated and the reasons for the widening gap between effective policy formulation and its execution. The conciliation boards (primiritel'nye kamery) provide a similarly productive area of investigation by illustrating some of the critical problems of labor-management relations, particularly the conflict over the dismissal of administrative personnel in the metal working industry of the capital. This issue is, admittedly, a small aspect of labor-management conflict in the revolutionary period, but one that is richly suggestive of the depth and contours of social conflict within the factories and the difficulty of finding institutional mechanisms for its resolution, even in the initial "peaceful" phase of revolutionary development. The dismissal of administrative personnel was an issue that dominated the proceedings of the local boards and in many ways influenced their further development.

Affiliations: 1: (Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, U.S.A.


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