Barbara Allen

Thursday May 25 2017, 6.30 pm. 

Lecture Theatre B36, Birkbeck, University of London

Malet St Building (enter via Torrington Square), WC1E 7HX

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Alexander Shlyapnikov and the Russian Metalworkers in 1917

Alexander Shlyapnikov reacted to the revolutionary events of 1917 with both caution and radicalism. A proponent of a radical stand of opposition to the Provisional Government in February-March 1917,  he was edged away from a central role in the Bolshevik party by more senior moderate Bolsheviks who returned from Siberian exile. He then immersed himself in the economic struggle of summer 1917, organizing the Metalworkers’ Union through his work on a wage-rates agreement (tariff). His trade-union work may have moderated his political stance for a time, but the inability of wage-rates negotiations to address fundamental inequities may have frustrated him with moderation and made him more eager for the triumph of soviet power. Thus, he and other Metalworkers’ Union leaders helped bring the Bolsheviks to power in October 1917, but Shlyapnikov favoured a coalition government of socialist parties represented in the All-Russian Soviet.


Barbara Allen is Associate Professor of History at La Salle University in the USA. Her biography of Alexander Shlyapnikov – a leader of the metalworkers’ union, and one of the most prominent figures in the Workers Opposition in the Bolshevik party in 1920-21 – was published in 2015. Based on extensive research in the Communist party and secret police archives, this book painted a much more detailed picture of Shlyapnikov, and of the metalworkers’ union, than had been available before.  | University web page

Alexander Shlyapnikov in 1917 or 1918, drawn by Yury Artsybushev.
Workers and soldiers in St Petersburg, 1 May 1917. The banner says “long live the international festival of labour – long live socialism”.
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