Today in labor history: U.S. tries to overthrow workers' government in Russia

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On Sept. 4, 1918, U.S. troops landed at Archangel, in northern Russia, seeking to overthrow the new workers' government that had ousted the czar a year earlier. Earlier, American troops had landed at Vladivostok, in the Russian Far East.

Under the slogan "Peace, bread, and land," the virtually bloodless Russian Revolution of 1917 had rid the country of the brutally oppressive reign of Czar Nicholas II. The revolution had mass support of Russia's long-suffering peasants and workers. It was led by Vladimir Lenin and the Social Democratic Labor Party, also known as the Bolsheviks ("majority"), which advocated the establishment of a workers' and peasants' state and construction of socialism.

The revolution's immediate trigger was the years of misery brought on by Russia's involvement in the inter-imperialist warfare known as World War I. Thus one of the new government's first acts was to pull Russia out of the war, with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in the spring of 1918.

All this was anathema to the U.S., Britain and France, who were deathly afraid that their own workers would rise up as well against their own robber baron capitalists who were getting even richer off the war. And the Bolsheviks were bitterly opposed by Russia's feudal nobility, rich industrialists and other conservatives, who embroiled the country in civil war.

The Western powers, along with imperial Japan, launched their invasion of Russia aimed at ousting the new revolutionary government. This war lasted until 1920. When it became clear that Bolshevik government had the overwhelming support of the country's people, the Western countries started pulling out their troops. By the time the American troops finished evacuating, 174 of them had been killed in action or died of wounds incurred over the course of the invasion.

As with subsequent U.S. invasions of other countries, soldiers on both sides paid the price for a "rich man's war."

Photo: Invading U.S. troops parade in Vladivostok, in northeast Russia (Siberia),  August 1918. Wikimedia Commons

 

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