September 1917 In Russia From The Perspective Of Morgan P. Price

The October Revolution of 1917, when the Bolsheviks seized power from the Provisional Government of Russia, did not materialize out of thin air. Instead, it was the result of a prolonged crisis, when social tensions and economic problems coincided with a divided and inefficient government to create a volatile political situation. Morgan Philips Price, a British reporter and a convert to the Bolshevik cause, left a vivid account of the situation right before the October Revolution. Admittedly, his sympathies toward the Bolshevik cause made him biased in their favor and against other political forces, especially the Menshevik faction that was formerly a part of the same Social Democratic Party. Still, his perspective is worth studying, and he posits that the main reason behind the revolutionary events was the irreconcilable conflict between the oppressors and the oppressed and the Provisional Government’s inability to solve it.

Before discussing Price’s perception of the revolutionary situation in the country, it makes sense to cover his place and role in the events. Price was a reporter who covered the developments on the Eastern Front of the First World War for the British newspaper Manchester Guardian (Chretien, 2017). It is important to note that, at least at the beginning of his career, he was not a socialist. However, after spending time in Russia, which he studied extensively as a scholar, and acquainting himself more with the situation in the country, he became leaning closer toward the Bolshevik creed (Chretien, 2017). Moreover, he became one of the most important external news outlets for Lenin’s party – arguably the most important one in the English language (Chretien, 2017). As such, he certainly was biased in favor of the Bolshevik interpretation of the events, which is why one should take his estimations of other parties with a grain of salt.

When describing the overall situation in Russia as it was in September 1917, Price summed it up with a single word ‘anarchy.’ Although he had little sympathy toward the Tsarist government, he recognized the obvious truth that its deposition worsened the situation in administrative terms. According to Price, the Provisional Government, comprised of the representatives of the parliamentary parties, was too weak and divided to develop and enact a coherent economic and social policy (Chretien, 2017). In contrast, the Petrograd Soviet, comprised of the representative of the city’s workers and soldiers, had popular support and the power to back up its demands but limited influence among the political elite (Chretien, 2017). As a result of this dual power dynamic, many administrative matters were left unsolved, which resulted in the ever-worsening situation overall.

In economic terms, Price witnessed the same anarchy that plagued the politics of Russia, especially when it came to the relations between the entrepreneurs and the workers. The reporter noted that, with the ever-growing inflation that left the salary increase far behind, the crucial thing to do was to straighten the supply lines and cut out the middlemen and speculators (Chretien, 2017). However, he also noted that, as soon as the Soviet began to press such demands, the Provisional Government promised to cut a deal with the industrialists – a promise that was never fulfilled (Chretien, 2017). The fact that Price’s criticism singles out the Mensheviks specifically may indicate his Bolshevik leanings, meaning that his criticism may be exaggerated in this regard (Chretien, 2017). Still, the high inflation and the Provisional Government’s inability to solve the country’s economic problems are well-established facts often quoted as the leading reasons for the October revolution (Hyun, 2019). Given that, one may conclude that Price’s account is largely true to the facts, regardless of his partisan sympathies.

One of the most acute sources of social tension was the problem that Russia faced in the countryside – the conflict between the peasants and the landlords. While the peasants were personally free, they rarely owned the land they worked on, which allowed their landlords to exploit their work for a hefty profit. According to Price, a considerable proportion of the Russian peasantry was against the private property on land and insisted that it should belong to the communes that actually toiled it (Chretien, 2017). However, the landlords wanted to keep their property and had backing from the liberal parties within the Provisional Government, such as Cadets, which is why the peasants’ wishes had little chance of being heard. With both parties locked in a struggle and neither willing to compromise, the conflict could hardly be solved for a mutual benefit.

The situation was not any better in the cities and factories, as both had problems of their own. The prices for food and basic necessities, such as coal or firewood for heating and cooking, were on a steep rise because of high wartime demand and logistical problems alike (Chretien, 2017). Industrial workers had their conflicts with the entrepreneurs, who, uncontrolled by the government, were free to set any price for their wares. Without a governmental regulatory policy, any raise in workers’ wages only resulted in higher prices, fueling the vicious cycle of inflation even more. Thus, with the ever-present threat deficit and even the threat of hunger, the situation in the Russian cities was even more volatile than in the countryside.

Based on the factors listed above, Price posited that the October Revolution was inevitable. Naturally, one should be mindful of his Bolshevik sympathies, which would likely lead him to represent their ascension to power as a historically inevitable result. Still, there is much truth to his perspective, even if one accounts for his bias. The Provisional Government clearly proved unable to handle the economic problems faced by the country (Hyun, 2019). Moreover, the industrialists and landlords, backed by the government, and the peasant, workers, and soldiers, backed by their Soviets, were both adamant in their positions and unwilling to compromise (Hyun, 2019). Given that, the October revolution was most likely inevitable – not necessarily due to Russia’s backwardness but, rather, due to the extremely inefficient government in the midst of a volatile sociopolitical situation.

To summarize, Price left a concise yet reasonably convincing account of the situation preceding the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia. While his Bolshevik sympathies most likely led him to exaggerate the faults of other parties, there is no denying the gravity of the situation Russia faced at the time. Skyrocketing inflation and the lack of a coherent economic policy and any attempt at government regulation worsened the standard of living considerably. Moreover, the conflicts between the Provisional Government and the Soviet in Petrograd mirrored the countrywide clashes between the industrialists and landlords on the one side and workers and peasants on the other side. With neither willing to back down, the new outbreak of revolutionary violence was a matter of time.


Chretien, T. (Ed.). (2017). Eyewitnesses to the Russian revolution. Haymarket Books.

Hyun, C.D. (2019). The Russian revolution. Grand Valley Journal of History, 7(1), 1.