Anne O’Donnell writes: Vacant offices. Barren corridors. The hush of work not being done settles across the capital city, a silence of memos untyped, papers unpushed, file cabinets sealed shut. The machine of state is not in use. This is not Washington today; it is Petrograd, Russia, 100 years earlier, where after the Bolsheviks seized power in late October, the bureaucrats of the Russian state — tens of thousands of them — locked their desks and pocketed the keys on their way out the door. They declared themselves on strike, protesting what they viewed as the Bolsheviks’ shocking and illegitimate violation of the public trust.
Some held out a month, some lasted two, with the longest — the bankers in the former Ministry of Finance — standing firm until mid-March. In these five months, ordinary accountants, lawyers and administrators demonstrated great civic courage at significant personal cost. They either lived with the threat of arrest or were arrested, then handed over to the capricious Extraordinary Commission for the Battle to Combat Sabotage and Counterrevolution — known as the Cheka, forerunner to the K.G.B. — which shot people in basements and which was created in December 1917 with the express purpose of suppressing the “sabotage of government employees,” as the new regime called the strike.
Compared to the events the revolutionaries wanted to commemorate, the strike is mostly forgotten. This is in part because it ultimately had little effect, or rather, it had an effect profoundly contrary to what its participants intended. Truth be told, their intentions hardly mattered. But the decisions they faced and the choices they made are worth remembering today, as we approach the centenary of the October Revolution amid reports of a “deep state” protest in the United States. [Continue reading…]