Category: John Reed
John Reed- Ten Days That Shook the World (1919) Chapter II “The Coming Storm”

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

John Reed- Ten Days That Shook the World (1919) Chapter II “The Coming Storm”

https://communismgr.blogspot.com/2016/11/john-reed-ten-days-that-shook-world_23.html
Ten Days That Shook the World.
By John Reed.
CHAPTER II: THE COMING STORM.
In September General Kornilov marched on Petrograd to make himself military dictator of Russia. Behind him was suddenly revealed the mailed fist of the bourgeoisie, boldly attempting to crush the Revolution. Some of the Socialist Ministers were implicated; even Kerensky was under suspicion. (See App. II, Sect. 1) Savinkov, summoned to explain to the Central Committee of his party, the Socialist Revolutionaries, refused and was expelled. Kornilov was arrested by the Soldiers’ Committees. Generals were dismissed, Ministers suspended from their functions, and the Cabinet fell.
Kerensky tried to form a new Government, including the Cadets, party of the bourgeoisie. His party, the Socialist Revolutionaries, ordered him to exclude the Cadets. Kerensky declined to obey, and threatened to resign from the Cabinet if the Socialists insisted. However, popular feeling ran so high that for the moment he did not dare oppose it, and a temporary Directorate of Five of the old Ministers, with Kerensky at the head, assumed the power until the question should be settled.
The Kornilov affair drew together all the Socialist groups-“moderates” as well as revolutionists-in a passionate impulse of self-defence. There must be no more Kornilovs. A new Government must be created, responsible to the elements supporting the Revolution. So the Tsay-ee-kah invited the popular organisations to send delegates to a Democratic Conference, which should meet at Petrograd in September.
In the Tsay-ee-kah three factions immediately appeared. The Bolsheviki demanded that the All-Russian Congress of Soviets be summoned, and that they take over the power. The “centre” Socialist Revolutionaries, led by Tchernov, joined with the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, led by Kamkov and Spiridonova, the Mensheviki Internationalists under Martov, and the “centre” Mensheviki, [*] represented by Bogdanov and Skobeliev, in demanding a purely Socialist Government. Tseretelli, Dan and Lieber, at the head of the right wing Mensheviki, and the right Socialist Revolutionaries under Avksentiev and Gotz, insisted that the propertied classes must be represented in the new Government.
[* See Notes and Explanations.]
Almost immediately the Bolsheviki won a majority in the Petrograd Soviet, and the Soviets of Moscow, Kiev, Odessa and other cities followed suit.
Alarmed, the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries in control of the Tsay-ee-kah decided that after all they feared the danger of Kornilov less than the danger of Lenin. They revised the plan of representation in the Democratic Conference, (See App. II, Sect. 2) admitting more delegates from the Cooperative Societies and other conservative bodies. Even this packed assembly at first voted for a Coalition Government without the Cadets. Only Kerensky’s open threat of resignation, and the alarming cries of the “moderate” Socialists that “the Republic is in danger” persuaded the Conference, by a small majority, to declare in favour of the principle of coalition with the bourgeoisie, and to sanction the establishment of a sort of consultative Parliament, without any legislative power, called the Provisional Council of the Russian Republic. In the new Ministry the propertied classes practically controlled, and in the Council of the Russian Republic they occupied a disproportionate number of seats.
The fact is that the Tsay-ee-kah no longer represented the rank and file of the Soviets, and had illegally refused to call another All-Russian Congress of Soviets, due in September. It had no intention of calling this Congress or of allowing it to be called. Its official organ, Izviestia (News), began to hint that the function of the Soviets was nearly at an end, (See App. II, Sect. 3) and that they might soon be dissolved… At this time, too, the new Government announced as part of its policy the liquidation of “irresponsible organisations”-i.e. the Soviets.
The Bolsheviki responded by summoning the All-Russian Soviets to meet at Petrograd on November 2, and take over the Government of Russia. At the same time they withdrew from the Council of the Russian Republic, stating that they would not participate in a “Government of Treason to the People.” (See App. II, Sect. 4)
The withdrawal of the Bolsheviki, however, did not bring tranquillity to the ill-fated Council. The propertied classes, now in a position of power, became arrogant. The Cadets declared that the Government had no legal right to declare Russia a republic. They demanded stern measures in the Army and Navy to destroy the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Committees, and denounced the Soviets. On the other side of the chamber the Mensheviki Internationalists and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries advocated immediate peace, land to the peasants, and workers’ control of industry-practically the Bolshevik programme.
I heard Martov’s speech in answer to the Cadets. Stooped over the desk of the tribune like the mortally sick man he was, and speaking in a voice so hoarse it could hardly be heard, he shook his finger toward the right benches:
“You call us defeatists; but the real defeatists are those who wait for a more propitious moment to conclude peace, insist upon postponing peace until later, until nothing is left of the Russian army, until Russia becomes the subject of bargaining between the different imperialist groups…. You are trying to impose upon the Russian people a policy dictated by the interests of the bourgeoisie. The question of peace should be raised without delay…. You will see then that not in vain has been the work of those whom you call German agents, of those Zimmerwaldists [*] who in all the lands have prepared the awakening of the conscience of the democratic masses….”
[* Members of the revoloutionary internationalist wing of the Socialists of Europe, so-called because of their participation in the International Conference held at Zimmerwald, Switzerland, in 1915]
Between these two groups the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries wavered, irresistibly forced to the left by the pressure of the rising dissatisfaction of the masses. Deep hostility divided the chamber into irreconcilable groups.
This was the situation when the long-awaited announcement of the Allied Conference in Paris brought up the burning question of foreign policy….
Theoretically all Socialist parties in Russia were in favour of the earliest possible peace on democratic terms. As long ago as May, 1917, the Petrograd Soviet, then under control of the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries,had proclaimed the famous Russian peace-conditions. They had demanded that the Allies hold a conference to discuss war-aims. This conference had been promised for August; then postponed until September; then until October; and now it was fixed for November 10th.
The Provisional Government suggested two representatives-General Alexeyev, reactionary military man, and Terestchenko, Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Soviets chose Skobeliev to speak for them and drew up a manifesto, the famous nakaz– (See App. II, Sect. 5) instructions. The Provisional Government objected to Skobeliev and his nakaz; the Allied ambassadors protested and finally Bonar Law in the British House of Commons, in answer to a question, responded coldly, “As far as I know the Paris Conference will not discuss the aims of the war at all, but only the methods of conducting it….”
At this the conservative Russian press was jubilant, and the Bolsheviki cried, “See where the compromising tactics of the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries have led them!”
Along a thousand miles of front the millions of men in Russia’s armies stirred like the sea rising, pouring into the capital their hundreds upon hundreds of delegations, crying “Peace! Peace!”
I went across the river to the Cirque Moderne, to one of the great popular meetings which occurred all over the city, more numerous night after night. The bare, gloomy amphitheatre, lit by five tiny lights hanging from a thin wire, was packed from the ring up the steep sweep of grimy benches to the very roof-soldiers, sailors, workmen, women, all listening as if their lives depended upon it. A soldier was speaking-from the Five Hundred and Forty-eight Division, wherever and whatever that was:
“Comrades,” he cried, and there was real anguish in his drawn face and despairing gestures. “The people at the top are always calling upon us to sacrifice more, sacrifice more, while those who have everything are left unmolested.
“We are at war with Germany. Would we invite German generals to serve on our Staff? Well we’re at war with the capitalists too, and yet we invite them into our Government….
“The soldier says, ‘Show me what I am fighting for. Is it Constantinople, or is it free Russia? Is it the democracy, or is it the capitalist plunderers? If you can prove to me that I am defending the Revolution then I’ll go out and fight without capital punishment to force me.’
“When the land belongs to the peasants, and the factories to the workers, and the power to the Soviets, then we’ll know we have something to fight for, and we’ll fight for it!”
In the barracks, the factories, on the street-corners, end less soldier speakers, all clamouring for an end to the war, declaring that if the Government did not make an energetic effort to get peace, the army would leave the trenches and go home.
The spokesman for the Eighth Army:
“We are weak, we have only a few men left in each company. They must give us food and boots and reinforcements, or soon there will be left only empty trenches. Peace or supplies… either let the Government end the war or support the Army….”
For the Forty-sixth Siberian Artillery:
“The officers will not work with our Committees, they betray us to the enemy, they apply the death penalty to our agitators; and the counter-revolutionary Government supports them. We thought that the Revolution would bring peace. But now the Government forbids us even to talk of such things, and at the same time doesn’t give us enough food to live on, or enough ammunition to fight with….”
From Europe came rumours of peace at the expense of Russia. (See App. II, Sect. 6)…
News of the treatment of Russian troops in France added to the discontent. The First Brigade had tried to replace its officers with Soldiers’ Committees, like their comrades at home, and had refused an order to go to Salonika, demanding to be sent to Russia. They had been surrounded and starved, and then fired on by artillery, and many killed. (See App. II, Sect. 7)…
On October 29th I went to the white-marble and crimson hall of the Marinsky palace, where the Council of the Republic sat, to hear Terestchenko’s declaration of the Government’s foreign policy, awaited with such terrible anxiety by all the peace-thirsty and exhausted land.
A tall, impeccably-dressed young man with a smooth face and high cheek-bones, suavely reading his careful, non-committal speech. (See App. II, Sect. 8) Nothing…. Only the same platitudes about crushing German militarism with the help of the Allies-about the “state interests” of Russia, about the “embarrassment” caused by Skobeliev’s nakaz. He ended with the key-note:
“Russia is a great power. Russia will remain a great power, whatever happens. We must all defend her, we must show that we are defenders of a great ideal, and children of a great power.”
Nobody was satisfied. The reactionaries wanted a “strong” imperialist policy; the democratic parties wanted an assurance that the Government would press for peace…. I reproduce an editorial in Rabotchi i Soldat (Worker and Soldier), organ of the Bolshevik Petrograd Soviet:
THE GOVERNMENT’S ANSWER TO THE TRENCHES
The most taciturn of our Ministers, Mr. Terestchenko, has actually told the trenches the following:
1. We are closely united with our Allies. (Not with the peoples, but with the Governments.)
2. There is no use for the democracy to discuss the possibility or impossibility of a winter campaign. That will be decided by the Governments of our Allies.
3. The 1st of July offensive was beneficial and a very happy affair. (He did not mention the consequences.)
4. It is not true that our Allies do not care about us. The Minister has in his possession very important declarations. (Declarations? What about deeds? What about the behaviour of the British fleet? (See App. II, Sect. 9) The parleying of the British king with exiled counter-revolutionary General Gurko? The Minister did not mention all this.)
5. The nakaz to Skobeliev is bad; the Allies don’t like it and the Russian diplomats don’t like it. In the Allied Conference we must all ‘speak one language.’
And is that all? That is all. What is the way out? The solution is, faith in the Allies and in Terestchenko. When will peace come? When the Allies permit.
That is how the Government replied to the trenches about peace!
Now in the background of Russian politics began to form the vague outlines of a sinister power-the Cossacks. Novaya Zhizn (New Life), Gorky’s paper, called attention to their activities:
At the beginning of the Revolution the Cossacks refused to shoot down the people. When Kornilov marched on Petrograd they refused to follow him. From passive loyalty to the Revolution the Cossacks have passed to an active political offensive (against it). From the back-ground of the Revolution they have suddenly advanced to the front of the stage….
Kaledin, ataman of the Don Cossacks, had been dismissed by the Provisional Government for his complicity in the Kornilov affair. He flatly refused to resign, and surrounded by three immense Cossack armies lay at Novotcherkask, plotting and menacing. So great was his power that the Government was forced to ignore his insubordination. More than that, it was compelled formally to recognise the Council of the Union of Cossack Armies, and to declare illegal the newly-formed Cossack Section of the Soviets….
In the first part of October a Cossack delegation called upon Kerensky, arrogantly insisting that the charges against Kaledin be dropped, and reproaching the Minister-President for yielding to the Soviets. Kerensky agreed to let Kaledin alone, and then is reported to have said, “In the eyes of the Soviet leaders I am a despot and a tyrant…. As for the Provisional Government, not only does it not depend upon the Soviets, but it considers it regrettable that they exist at all.”
At the same time another Cossack mission called upon the British ambassador, treating with him boldly as representatives of “the free Cossack people.”
In the Don something very like a Cossack Republic had been established. The Kuban declared itself an independent Cossack State. The Soviets of Rostov-on-Don and Yekaterinburg were dispersed by armed Cossacks, and the headquarters of the Coal Miners’ Union at Kharkov raided. In all its manifestations the Cossack movement was anti-Socialist and militaristic. Its leaders were nobles and great land-owners, like Kaledin, Kornilov, Generals Dutov, Karaulov and Bardizhe, and it was backed by the powerful merchants and bankers of Moscow….
Old Russia was rapidly breaking up. In Ukraine, in Finland, Poland, White Russia, the nationalist movements gathered strength and became bolder. The local Governments, controlled by the propertied classes, claimed autonomy, refusing to obey orders from Petrograd. At Helsingfors the Finnish Senate declined to loan money to the Provisional Government, declared Finland autonomous, and demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops. The bourgeois Rada at Kiev extended the boundaries of Ukraine until they included all the richest agricultural lands of South Russia, as far east as the Urals, and began the formation of a national army. Premier Vinnitchenko hinted at a separate peace with Germany-and the Provisional Government was helpless. Siberia, the Caucasus, demanded separate Constituent Assemblies. And in all these countries there was the beginning of a bitter struggle between the authorities and the local Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies….
Conditions were daily more chaotic. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers were deserting the front and beginning to move in vast, aimless tides over the face of the land. The peasants of Tambov and Tver Governments, tired of waiting for the land, exasperated by the repressive measures of the Government, were burning manor-houses and massacring land-owners. Immense strikes and lock-outs convulsed Moscow, Odessa and the coal-mines of the Don. Transportation was paralysed; the army was starving and in the big cities there was no bread.
The Government, torn between the democratic and reactionary factions, could do nothing: when forced to act it always supported the interests of the propertied classes. Cossacks were sent to restore order among the peasants, to break the strikes. In Tashkent, Government authorities suppressed the Soviet. In Petrograd the Economic Council, established to rebuild the shattered economic life of the country, came to a deadlock between the opposing forces of capital and labour, and was dissolved by Kerensky. The old régime military men, backed by Cadets, demanded that harsh measures be adopted to restore discipline in the Army and the Navy. In vain Admiral Verderevsky, the venerable Minister of Marine, and General Verkhovsky, Minister of War, insisted that only a new, voluntary, democratic discipline, based on cooperation with the soldiers’ and sailors’ Committees, could save the army and navy. Their recommendations were ignored.
The reactionaries seemed determined to provoke popular anger. The trial of Kornilov was coming on. More and more openly the bourgeois press defended him, speaking of him as “the great Russian patriot.” Burtzev’s paper, Obshtchee Dielo (Common Cause), called for a dictatorship of Kornilov, Kaledin and Kerensky!
I had a talk with Burtzev one day in the press gallery of the Council of the Republic. A small, stooped figure with a wrinkled face, eyes near-sighted behind thick glasses, untidy hair and beard streaked with grey.
“Mark my words, young man! What Russia needs is a Strong Man. We should get our minds off the Revolution now and concentrate on the Germans. Bunglers, bunglers, to defeat Kornilov; and back of the bunglers are the German agents. Kornilov should have won….”
On the extreme right the organs of the scarcely-veiled Monarchists, Purishkevitch’s Narodny Tribun (People’s Tribune), Novaya Rus (New Russia), and Zhivoye Slovo (Living Word), openly advocated the extermination of the revolutionary democracy….
On the 23rd of October occurred the naval battle with a German squadron in the Gulf of Riga. On the pretext that Petrograd was in danger, the Provisional Government drew up plans for evacuating the capital. First the great munitions works were to go, distributed widely throughout Russia; and then the Government itself was to move to Moscow. Instantly the Bolsheviki began to cry out that the Government was abandoning the Red Capital in order to weaken the Revolution. Riga had been sold to the Germans; now Petrograd was being betrayed!
The bourgeois press was joyful. “At Moscow,” said the Cadet paper Ryetch (Speech), “the Government can pursue its work in a tranquil atmosphere, without being interfered with by anarchists.” Rodzianko, leader of the right wing of the Cadet party, declared in Utro Rossii (The Morning of Russia) that the taking of Petrograd by the Germans would be a blessing, because it would destroy the Soviets and get rid of the revolutionary Baltic Fleet:
Petrograd is in danger (he wrote). I say to myself, “Let God take care of Petrograd.” They fear that if Petrograd is lost the central revolutionary organisations will be destroyed. To that I answer that I rejoice if all these organisations are destroyed; for they will bring nothing but disaster upon Russia….
With the taking of Petrograd the Baltic Fleet will also be destroyed…. But there will be nothing to regret; most of the battleships are completely demoralised….
In the face of a storm of popular disapproval the plan of evacuation was repudiated.
Meanwhile the Congress of Soviets loomed over Russia like a thunder-cloud, shot through with lightnings. It was opposed, not only by the Government but by all the “moderate” Socialists. The Central Army and Fleet Committees, the Central Committees of some of the Trade Unions, the Peasants’ Soviets, but most of all the Tsay-ee-kah itself, spared no pains to prevent the meeting. Izviestia and Golos Soldata (Voice of the Soldier), newspapers founded by the Petrograd Soviet but now in the hands of the Tsay-ee-kah, fiercely assailed it, as did the entire artillery of the Socialist Revolutionary party press, Dielo Naroda (People’s Cause) and Volia Naroda (People’s Will).
Delegates were sent through the country, messages flashed by wire to committees in charge of local Soviets, to Army Committees, instructing them to halt or delay elections to the Congress. Solemn public resolutions against the Congress, declarations that the democracy was opposed to the meeting so near the date of the Constituent Assembly, representatives from the Front, from the Union of Zemstvos, the Peasants’ Union, Union of Cossack Armies, Union of Officers, Knights of St. George, Death Battalions, [*] protesting…. The Council of the Russian Republic was one chorus of disapproval. The entire machinery set up by the Russian Revolution of March functioned to block the Congress of Soviets….
[*See Notes and Explanations.]
On the other hand was the shapeless will of the proletariat-the workmen, common soldiers and poor peasants. Many local Soviets were already Bolshevik; then there were the organisations of the industrial workers, the Fabritchno-Zavodskiye Comitieti– Factory-Shop Committees; and the insurgent Army and Fleet organisations. In some places the people, prevented from electing their regular Soviet delegates, held rump meetings and chose one of their number to go to Petrograd. In others they smashed the old obstructionist committees and formed new ones. A ground-swell of revolt heaved and cracked the crust which had been slowly hardening on the surface of revolutionary fires dormant all those months. Only an spontaneous mass-movement could bring about the All-Russian Congress of Soviets….
Day after day the Bolshevik orators toured the barracks and factories, violently denouncing “this Government of civil war.” One Sunday we went, on a top-heavy steam tram that lumbered through oceans of mud, between stark factories and immense churches, to Obukhovsky Zavod, a Government munitions-plant out on the Schlüsselburg Prospekt.
The meeting took place between the gaunt brick walls of a huge unfinished building, ten thousand black-clothed men and women packed around a scaffolding draped in red, people heaped on piles of lumber and bricks, perched high upon shadowy girders, intent and thunder-voiced. Through the dull, heavy sky now and again burst the sun, flooding reddish light through the skeleton windows upon the mass of simple faces upturned to us.
Lunatcharsky, a slight, student-like figure with the sensitive face of an artist, was telling why the power must be taken by the Soviets. Nothing else could guarantee the Revolution against its enemies, who were deliberately ruining the country, ruining the army, creating opportunities for a new Konilov.
A soldier from the Rumanian front, thin, tragical and fierce, cried, “Comrades! We are starving at the front, we are stiff with cold. We are dying for no reason. I ask the American comrades to carry word to America, that the Russians will never give up their Revolution until they die. We will hold the fort with all our strength until the peoples of the world rise and help us! Tell the American workers to rise and fight for the Social Revolution!”
Then came Petrovsky, slight, slow-voiced, implacable: “Now is the time for deeds, not words. The economic situation is bad, but we must get used to it. They are trying to starve us and freeze us. They are trying to provoke us. But let them know that they can go too far-that if they dare to lay their hands upon the organisations of the proletariat we will sweep them away like scum from the face of the earth!”
The Bolshevik press suddenly expanded. Besides the two party papers, Rabotchi Put and Soldat (Soldier), there appeared a new paper for the peasants, Derevenskaya Byednota (Village Poorest), poured out in a daily half-million edition; and on October 17th, Rabotchi i Soldat. Its leading article summed up the Bolshevik point of view:
The fourth year’s campaign will mean the annihilation of the army and the country…. There is danger for the safety of Petrograd…. Counter-revolutionists rejoice in the people’s misfortunes…. The peasants brought to desperation come out in open rebellion; the landlords and Government authorities massacre them with punitive expeditions; factories and mines are closing down, workmen are threatened with starvation…. The bourgeoisie and its Generals want to restore a blind discipline in the army…. Supported by the bourgeoisie, the Kornilovtsi are openly getting ready to break up the meeting of the Constituent Assembly….
The Kerensky Government is against the people. He will destroy the country…. This paper stands for the people and by the people-the poor classes, workers, soldiers and peasants. The people can only be saved by the completion of the Revolution… and for this purpose the full power must be in the hands of the Soviets….
This paper advocates the following: All power to the Soviets-both in the capital and in the provinces.
Immediate truce on all fronts. An honest peace between peoples.
Landlord estates-without compensation-to the peasants.
Workers’ control over industrial production.
A faithfully and honestly elected Constituent Assembly.
It is interesting to reproduce here a passage from that same paper-the organ of those Bolsheviki so well known to the world as German agents:
The German kaiser, covered with the blood of millions of dead people, wants to push his army against Petrograd. Let us call to the German workmen, soldiers and peasants, who want peace not less than we do, to… stand up against this damned war!
This can be done only by a revolutionary Government, which would speak really for the workmen, soldiers and peasants of Russia, and would appeal over the heads of the diplomats directly to the German troops, fill the German trenches with proclamations in the German language…. Our airmen would spread these proclamations all over Germany….
In the Council of the Republic the gulf between the two sides of the chamber deepened day by day.
“The propertied classes,” cried Karelin, for the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, “want to exploit the revolutionary machine of the State to bind Russia to the war-chariot of the Allies! The revolutionary parties are absolutely against this policy….”
Old Nicholas Tchaikovsky, representing the Populist Socialists, spoke against giving the land to the peasants, and took the side of the Cadets: “We must have immediately strong discipline in the army…. Since the beginning of the war I have not ceased to insist that it is a crime to undertake social and economic reforms in war-time. We are committing that crime, and yet I am not the enemy of these reforms, because I am a Socialist.”
Cries from the Left, “We don’t believe you!” Mighty applause from the Right….
Adzhemov, for the Cadets, declared that there was no necessity to tell the army what it was fighting for, since every soldier ought to realise that the first task was to drive the enemy from Russian territory.
Kerensky himself came twice, to plead passionately for national unity, once bursting into tears at the end. The assembly heard him coldly, interrupting with ironical remarks.
Smolny Institute, headquarters of the Tsay-ee-kah and of the Petrograd Soviet, lay miles out on the edge of the city, beside the wide Neva. I went there on a street-car, moving snail-like with a groaning noise through the cobbled, muddy streets, and jammed with people. At the end of the line rose the graceful smoke-blue cupolas of Smolny Convent outlined in dull gold, beautiful; and beside it the great barracks like façade of Smolny Institute, two hundred yards long and three lofty stories high, the Imperial arms carved hugely in stone still insolent over the entrance….
Under the old régime a famous convent-school for the daughters of the Russian nobility, patronised by the Tsarina herself, the Institute had been taken over by the revolutionary organisations of workers and soldiers. Within were more than a hundred huge rooms, white and bare, on their doors enamelled plaques still informing the passerby that within was “Ladies’ Class-room Number 4” or “Teachers’ Bureau”; but over these hung crudely-lettered signs, evidence of the vitality of the new order: “Central Committee of the Petrograd Soviet” and “Tsay-ee-kah” and “Bureau of Foreign Affairs”; “Union of Socialist Soldiers,” “Central Committee of the All-Russian Trade Unions,” “Factory-Shop Committees,” “Central Army Committee”; and the central offices and caucus-rooms of the political parties….
The long, vaulted corridors, lit by rare electric lights, were thronged with hurrying shapes of soldiers and workmen, some bent under the weight of huge bundles of newspapers, proclamations, printed propaganda of all sorts. The sound of their heavy boots made a deep and incessant thunder on the wooden floor…. Signs were posted up everywhere: “Comrades! For the sake of your health, preserve cleanliness!” Long tables stood at the head of the stairs on every floor, and on the landings, heaped with pamphlets and the literature of the different political parties, for sale….
The spacious, low-ceilinged refectory downstairs was still a dining-room. For two rubles I bought a ticket entitling me to dinner, and stood in line with a thousand others, waiting to get to the long serving-tables, where twenty men and women were ladling from immense cauldrons cabbage soup, hunks of meat and piles of kasha, slabs of black bread. Five kopeks paid for tea in a tin cup. From a basket one grabbed a greasy wooden spoon…. The benches along the wooden tables were packed with hungry proletarians, wolfing their food, plotting, shouting rough jokes across the room….
[Graphic page-33 — text of placard in russian, translation follows]
COMRADES: FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR HEALTH,
PRESERVE CLEANLINESS.
Upstairs was another eating-place, reserved for the Tsay-ee-kah– though every one went there. Here could be had bread thickly buttered and endless glasses of tea….
In the south wing on the second floor was the great hall of meetings, the former ball-room of the Institute. A lofty white room lighted by glazed-white chandeliers holding hundreds of ornate electric bulbs, and divided by two rows of massive columns; at one end a dais, flanked with two tall many-branched light standards, and a gold frame behind, from which the Imperial portrait had been cut. Here on festal occasions had been banked brilliant military and ecclesiastical uniforms, a setting for Grand Duchesses….
Just across the hall outside was the office of the Credentials Committee for the Congress of Soviets. I stood there watching the new delegates come in-burly, bearded soldiers, workmen in black blouses, a few long-haired peasants. The girl in charge-a member of Plekhanov’s Yedinstvo [*] group-smiled contemptuously. “These are very different people from the delegates to the first Siezd (Congress),” she remarked. “See how rough and ignorant they look! The Dark People….” It was true; the depths of Russia had been stirred, and it was the bottom which came uppermost now. The Credentials Committee, appointed by the old Tsay-ee-kah, was challenging delegate after delegate, on the ground that they had been illegally elected. Karakhan, member of the Bolshevik Central Committee, simply grinned. “Never mind,” he said, “When the time comes we’ll see that you get your seats….”
[* See Notes and Explanations]
Rabotchi i Soldat said:
The attention of delegates to the new All-Russian Congress is called to attempts of certain members of the Organising Committee to break up the Congress, by asserting that it will not take place, and that delegates had better leave Petrograd…. Pay no attention to these lies…. Great days are coming….
It was evident that a quorum would not come together by November 2, so the opening of the Congress was postponed to the 7th. But the whole country was now aroused; and the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries, realising that they were defeated, suddenly changed their tactics and began to wire frantically to their provincial organisations to elect as many “moderate” Socialist delegates as possible. At the same time the Executive Committee of the Peasants’ Soviets issued an emergency call for a Peasants’ Congress, to meet December 13th and offset whatever action the workers and soldiers might take…
What would the Bolsheviki do? Rumours ran through the city that there would be an armed “demonstration,” a vystuplennie-“coming out” of the workers and soldiers. The bourgeois and reactionary press prophesied insurrection, and urged the Government to arrest the Petrograd Soviet, or at least to prevent the meeting of the Congress. Such sheets as Novaya Rus advocated a general Bolshevik massacre.
Gorky’s paper, Novaya Zhizn, agreed with the Bolsheviki that the reactionaries were attempting to destroy the Revolution, and that if necessary they must be resisted by force of arms; but all the parties of the revolutionary democracy must present a united front.
As long as the democracy has not organised its principal forces, so long as the resistance to its influence is still strong, there is no advantage in passing to the attack. But if the hostile elements appeal to force, then the revolutionary democracy should enter the battle to seize the power, and it will be sustained by the most profound strata of the people….
Gorky pointed out that both reactionary and Government newspapers were inciting the Bolsheviki to violence. An insurrection, however, would prepare the way for a new Kornilov. He urged the Bolsheviki to deny the rumours. Potressov, in the Menshevik Dien (Day), published a sensational story, accompanied by a map, which professed to reveal the secret Bolshevik plan of campaign.
As if by magic, the walls were covered with warnings, (See App. II, Sect. 10) proclamations, appeals, from the Central Committees of the “moderate” and conservative factions and the Tsay-ee-kah, denouncing any “demonstrations,” imploring the workers and soldiers not to listen to agitators. For instance, this from the Military Section of the Socialist Revolutionary party:
Again rumours are spreading around the town of an intended vystuplennie. What is the source of these rumours? What organisation authorises these agitators who preach insurrection? The Bolsheviki, to a question addressed to them in the Tsay-ee-kah, denied that they have anything to do with it…. But these rumours themselves carry with them a great danger. It may easily happen that, not taking into consideration the state of mind of the majority of the workers, soldiers and peasants, individual hot-heads will call out part of the workers and soldiers on the streets, inciting them to an uprising…. In this fearful time through which revolutionary Russia is passing, any insurrection can easily turn into civil war, and there can result from it the destruction of all organisations of the proletariat, built up with so much labour…. The counter-revolutionary plotters are planning to take advantage of this insurrection to destroy the Revolution, open the front to Wilhelm, and wreck the Constituent Assembly…. Stick stubbornly to your posts! Do not come out!
On October 28th, in the corridors of Smolny, I spoke with Kameniev, a little man with a reddish pointed beard and Gallic gestures. He was not at all sure that enough delegates would come. “If there is a Congress,” he said, “it will represent the overwhelming sentiment of the people. If the majority is Bolshevik, as I think it will be, we shall demand that the power be given to the Soviets, and the Provisional Government must resign….”
Volodarsky, a tall, pale youth with glasses and a bad complexion, was more definite. “The ‘Lieber-Dans’ and the other compromisers are sabotaging the Congress. If they succeed in preventing its meeting,-well, then we are realists enough not to depend on that!”
Under date of October 29th I find entered in my notebook the following items culled from the newspapers of the day:
Moghilev (General Staff Headquarters). Concentration here of loyal Guard Regiments, the Savage Division, Cossacks and Death Battalions.
The yunkers of the Officers’ Schools of Pavlovsk, Tsarskoye Selo and Peterhof ordered by the Government to be ready to come to Petrograd. Oranienbaum yunkers arrive in the city.
Part of the Armoured Car Division of the Petrograd garrism stationed in the Winter Palace.
Upon orders signed by Trotzky, several thousand rifles delivered by the Government Arms Factory at Sestroretzk to delegates of the Petrograd workmen.
At a meeting of the City Militia of the Lower Liteiny Quarter, a resolution demanding that all power be given to the Soviets.
This is just a sample of the confused events of those feverish days, when everybody knew that something was going to happen, but nobody knew just what.
At a meeting of the Petrograd Soviet in Smolny, the night of October 30th, Trotzky branded the assertions of the bourgeois press that the Soviet contemplated armed insurention as “an attempt of the reactionaries to discredit and wreck the Congress of Soviets…. The Petrograd Soviet,” he declared, “had not ordered any uystuplennie. If it is necessary we shall do so, and we will be supported by the Petrogruad garrison…. They (the Government) are preparing a counter-revolution; and we shall answer with an offensive which will be merciless and decisive.”
It is true that the Petrograd Soviet had not ordered a demonstration, but the Central Committee of the Bolshevik party was considering the question of insurrection. All night long the 23d they met. There were present all the party intellectuals, the leaders-and delegates of the Petrograd workers and garrison. Alone of the intellectuals Lenin and Trotzky stood for insurrection. Even urrection. Even | | the military men opposed it. A vote was taken. Insurrection was defeated!
Then arose a rough workman, his face convulsed with rage. “I speak for the Petrograd proletariat,” he said, harshly. “We are in favour of insurrection. Have it your own way, but I tell you now that if you allow the Soviets to be destroyed, we’re through with you!” Some soldiers joined him…. And after that they voted again-insurrection won….
However, the right wing of the Bolsheviki, led by Riazanov, Kameniev and Zinoviev, continued to campaign against an armed rising. On the morning of October 31st appeared in Rabotchi Put the first instalment of Lenin’s “Letter to the Comrades,” (See App. II, Sect. 11) one of the most audacious pieces of political propaganda the world has ever seen. In it Lenin seriously presented the arguments in favour of insurrection, taking as text the objections of Kameniev and Riazonov.
“Either we must abandon our slogan, ‘All Power to the Soviets,’ ” he wrote, “or else we must make an insurrection. There is no middle course….”
That same afternoon Paul Miliukov, leader of the Cadets, made a brilliant, bitter speech (See App. II, Sect. 12) in the Council of the Republic, branding the Skobeliev nakaz as pro-German, declaring that the “revolutionary democracy” was destroying Russia, sneering at Terestchenko, and openly declaring that he preferred German diplomacy to Russian…. The Left benches were one roaring tumult all through….
On its part the Government could not ignore the significance of the success of the Bolshevik propaganda. On the 29th joint commission of the Government and the Council of the Republic hastily drew up two laws, one for giving the land temporarily to the peasants, and the other for pushing an energetic foreign policy of peace. The next day Kerensky suspended capital punishment in the army. That same afternoon was opened with great ceremony the first session of the new “Commission for Strengthening the Republican Régime and Fighting Against Anarchy and Counter-Revolution”-of which history shows not the slightest further trace…. The following morning with two other correspondents I interviewed Kerensky (See App. II, Sect. 13)-the last time he received journalists.
“The Russian people,” he said, bitterly, “are suffering from economic fatigue-and from disillusionment with the Allies! The world thinks that the Russian Revolution is at an end. Do not be mistaken. The Russian Revolution is just beginning….” Words more prophetic, perhaps, than he knew.
Stormy was the all-night meeting of the Petrograd Soviet the 30th of October, at which I was present. The “moderate” Socialist intellectuals, officers, members of Army Committees, the Tsay-ee-kah, were there in force. Against them rose up workmen, peasants and common soldiers, passionate and simple.
A peasant told of the disorders in Tver, which he said were caused by the arrest of the Land Committees. “This Kerensky is nothing but a shield to the pomieshtchiki (landowners),” he cried. “They know that at the Constituent Assembly we will take the land anyway, so they are trying to destroy the Constituent Assembly!”
A machinist from the Putilov works described how the superintendents were closing down the departments one by one on the pretext that there was no fuel or raw materials. The Factory-Shop Committee, he declared, had discovered huge hidden supplies.
“It is a provocatzia,” said he. “They want to starve us-or drive us to violence!”
Among the soldiers one began, “Comrades! I bring you greetings from the place where men are digging their graves and call them trenches!”
Then arose a tall, gaunt young soldier, with flashing eyes, met with a roar of welcome. It was Tchudnovsky, reported killed in the July fighting, and now risen from the dead.
“The soldier masses no longer trust their officers. Even the Army Committees, who refused to call a meeting of our Soviet, betrayed us…. The masses of the soldiers want the Constituent Assembly to be held exactly when it was called for, and those who dare to postpone it will be cursed-and not only platonic curses either, for the Army has guns too….”
He told of the electoral campaign for the Constituent now raging in the Fifth Army. “The officers, and especially the Mensheviki and the Socialist Revolutionaries, are trying deliberately to cripple the Bolsheviki. Our papers are not allowed to circulate in the trenches. Our speakers are arrested-“
“Why don’t you speak about the lack of bread?” shouted another soldier.
“Man shall not live by bread alone,” answered Tchudnovsky, sternly….
Followed him an officer, delegate from the Vitebsk Soviet, a Menshevik oboronetz. “It isn’t the question of who has the power. The trouble is not with the Government, but with the war…. and the war must be won before any change-” At this, hoots and ironical cheers. “These Bolshevik agitators are demagogues!” The hall rocked with laughter. “Let us for a moment forget the class struggle-” But he got no farther. A voice yelled, “Don’t you wish we would!”
Petrograd presented a curious spectacle in those days. In the factories the committe-rooms were filled with stacks of rifles, couriers came and went, the Red Guard [*] drilled…. In all the barracks meetings every night, and all day long interminable hot arguments. On the streets the crowds thickened toward gloomy evening, pouring in slow voluble tides up and down the Nevsky, fighting for the newspapers…. Hold-ups increased to such an extent that it was dangerous to walk down side streets…. On the Sadovaya one afternoon I saw a crowd of several hundred people beat and trample to death a soldier caught stealing…. Mysterious individuals circulated around the shivering women who waited in queue long cold hours for bread and milk, whispering that the Jews had cornered the food supply-and that while the people starved, the Soviet members lived luxuriously….
[* See Notes and Explanations]
At Smolny there were strict guards at the door and the outer gates, demanding everybody’s pass. The committee-rooms buzzed and hummed all day and all night, hundreds of soldiers and workmen slept on the floor, wherever they could find room. Upstairs in the great hall a thousand people crowded to the uproarious sessions of the Petrograd Soviet….
Gambling clubs functioned hectically from dusk to dawn, with champagne flowing and stakes of twenty thousand rubles. In the centre of the city at night prostitutes in jewels and expensive furs walked up and down, crowded the cafés….
Monarchist plots, German spies, smugglers hatching schemes….
And in the rain, the bitter chill, the great throbbing city under grey skies rushing faster and faster toward-what?
John Reed- Ten Days That Shook the World (1919) Chapter II “The Coming Storm”

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

John Reed- Ten Days That Shook the World (1919) Chapter II “The Coming Storm”

https://communismgr.blogspot.com/2016/11/john-reed-ten-days-that-shook-world_23.html
Ten Days That Shook the World.
By John Reed.
CHAPTER II: THE COMING STORM.
In September General Kornilov marched on Petrograd to make himself military dictator of Russia. Behind him was suddenly revealed the mailed fist of the bourgeoisie, boldly attempting to crush the Revolution. Some of the Socialist Ministers were implicated; even Kerensky was under suspicion. (See App. II, Sect. 1) Savinkov, summoned to explain to the Central Committee of his party, the Socialist Revolutionaries, refused and was expelled. Kornilov was arrested by the Soldiers’ Committees. Generals were dismissed, Ministers suspended from their functions, and the Cabinet fell.
Kerensky tried to form a new Government, including the Cadets, party of the bourgeoisie. His party, the Socialist Revolutionaries, ordered him to exclude the Cadets. Kerensky declined to obey, and threatened to resign from the Cabinet if the Socialists insisted. However, popular feeling ran so high that for the moment he did not dare oppose it, and a temporary Directorate of Five of the old Ministers, with Kerensky at the head, assumed the power until the question should be settled.
The Kornilov affair drew together all the Socialist groups-“moderates” as well as revolutionists-in a passionate impulse of self-defence. There must be no more Kornilovs. A new Government must be created, responsible to the elements supporting the Revolution. So the Tsay-ee-kah invited the popular organisations to send delegates to a Democratic Conference, which should meet at Petrograd in September.
In the Tsay-ee-kah three factions immediately appeared. The Bolsheviki demanded that the All-Russian Congress of Soviets be summoned, and that they take over the power. The “centre” Socialist Revolutionaries, led by Tchernov, joined with the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, led by Kamkov and Spiridonova, the Mensheviki Internationalists under Martov, and the “centre” Mensheviki, [*] represented by Bogdanov and Skobeliev, in demanding a purely Socialist Government. Tseretelli, Dan and Lieber, at the head of the right wing Mensheviki, and the right Socialist Revolutionaries under Avksentiev and Gotz, insisted that the propertied classes must be represented in the new Government.
[* See Notes and Explanations.]
Almost immediately the Bolsheviki won a majority in the Petrograd Soviet, and the Soviets of Moscow, Kiev, Odessa and other cities followed suit.
Alarmed, the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries in control of the Tsay-ee-kah decided that after all they feared the danger of Kornilov less than the danger of Lenin. They revised the plan of representation in the Democratic Conference, (See App. II, Sect. 2) admitting more delegates from the Cooperative Societies and other conservative bodies. Even this packed assembly at first voted for a Coalition Government without the Cadets. Only Kerensky’s open threat of resignation, and the alarming cries of the “moderate” Socialists that “the Republic is in danger” persuaded the Conference, by a small majority, to declare in favour of the principle of coalition with the bourgeoisie, and to sanction the establishment of a sort of consultative Parliament, without any legislative power, called the Provisional Council of the Russian Republic. In the new Ministry the propertied classes practically controlled, and in the Council of the Russian Republic they occupied a disproportionate number of seats.
The fact is that the Tsay-ee-kah no longer represented the rank and file of the Soviets, and had illegally refused to call another All-Russian Congress of Soviets, due in September. It had no intention of calling this Congress or of allowing it to be called. Its official organ, Izviestia (News), began to hint that the function of the Soviets was nearly at an end, (See App. II, Sect. 3) and that they might soon be dissolved… At this time, too, the new Government announced as part of its policy the liquidation of “irresponsible organisations”-i.e. the Soviets.
The Bolsheviki responded by summoning the All-Russian Soviets to meet at Petrograd on November 2, and take over the Government of Russia. At the same time they withdrew from the Council of the Russian Republic, stating that they would not participate in a “Government of Treason to the People.” (See App. II, Sect. 4)
The withdrawal of the Bolsheviki, however, did not bring tranquillity to the ill-fated Council. The propertied classes, now in a position of power, became arrogant. The Cadets declared that the Government had no legal right to declare Russia a republic. They demanded stern measures in the Army and Navy to destroy the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Committees, and denounced the Soviets. On the other side of the chamber the Mensheviki Internationalists and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries advocated immediate peace, land to the peasants, and workers’ control of industry-practically the Bolshevik programme.
I heard Martov’s speech in answer to the Cadets. Stooped over the desk of the tribune like the mortally sick man he was, and speaking in a voice so hoarse it could hardly be heard, he shook his finger toward the right benches:
“You call us defeatists; but the real defeatists are those who wait for a more propitious moment to conclude peace, insist upon postponing peace until later, until nothing is left of the Russian army, until Russia becomes the subject of bargaining between the different imperialist groups…. You are trying to impose upon the Russian people a policy dictated by the interests of the bourgeoisie. The question of peace should be raised without delay…. You will see then that not in vain has been the work of those whom you call German agents, of those Zimmerwaldists [*] who in all the lands have prepared the awakening of the conscience of the democratic masses….”
[* Members of the revoloutionary internationalist wing of the Socialists of Europe, so-called because of their participation in the International Conference held at Zimmerwald, Switzerland, in 1915]
Between these two groups the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries wavered, irresistibly forced to the left by the pressure of the rising dissatisfaction of the masses. Deep hostility divided the chamber into irreconcilable groups.
This was the situation when the long-awaited announcement of the Allied Conference in Paris brought up the burning question of foreign policy….
Theoretically all Socialist parties in Russia were in favour of the earliest possible peace on democratic terms. As long ago as May, 1917, the Petrograd Soviet, then under control of the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries,had proclaimed the famous Russian peace-conditions. They had demanded that the Allies hold a conference to discuss war-aims. This conference had been promised for August; then postponed until September; then until October; and now it was fixed for November 10th.
The Provisional Government suggested two representatives-General Alexeyev, reactionary military man, and Terestchenko, Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Soviets chose Skobeliev to speak for them and drew up a manifesto, the famous nakaz– (See App. II, Sect. 5) instructions. The Provisional Government objected to Skobeliev and his nakaz; the Allied ambassadors protested and finally Bonar Law in the British House of Commons, in answer to a question, responded coldly, “As far as I know the Paris Conference will not discuss the aims of the war at all, but only the methods of conducting it….”
At this the conservative Russian press was jubilant, and the Bolsheviki cried, “See where the compromising tactics of the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries have led them!”
Along a thousand miles of front the millions of men in Russia’s armies stirred like the sea rising, pouring into the capital their hundreds upon hundreds of delegations, crying “Peace! Peace!”
I went across the river to the Cirque Moderne, to one of the great popular meetings which occurred all over the city, more numerous night after night. The bare, gloomy amphitheatre, lit by five tiny lights hanging from a thin wire, was packed from the ring up the steep sweep of grimy benches to the very roof-soldiers, sailors, workmen, women, all listening as if their lives depended upon it. A soldier was speaking-from the Five Hundred and Forty-eight Division, wherever and whatever that was:
“Comrades,” he cried, and there was real anguish in his drawn face and despairing gestures. “The people at the top are always calling upon us to sacrifice more, sacrifice more, while those who have everything are left unmolested.
“We are at war with Germany. Would we invite German generals to serve on our Staff? Well we’re at war with the capitalists too, and yet we invite them into our Government….
“The soldier says, ‘Show me what I am fighting for. Is it Constantinople, or is it free Russia? Is it the democracy, or is it the capitalist plunderers? If you can prove to me that I am defending the Revolution then I’ll go out and fight without capital punishment to force me.’
“When the land belongs to the peasants, and the factories to the workers, and the power to the Soviets, then we’ll know we have something to fight for, and we’ll fight for it!”
In the barracks, the factories, on the street-corners, end less soldier speakers, all clamouring for an end to the war, declaring that if the Government did not make an energetic effort to get peace, the army would leave the trenches and go home.
The spokesman for the Eighth Army:
“We are weak, we have only a few men left in each company. They must give us food and boots and reinforcements, or soon there will be left only empty trenches. Peace or supplies… either let the Government end the war or support the Army….”
For the Forty-sixth Siberian Artillery:
“The officers will not work with our Committees, they betray us to the enemy, they apply the death penalty to our agitators; and the counter-revolutionary Government supports them. We thought that the Revolution would bring peace. But now the Government forbids us even to talk of such things, and at the same time doesn’t give us enough food to live on, or enough ammunition to fight with….”
From Europe came rumours of peace at the expense of Russia. (See App. II, Sect. 6)…
News of the treatment of Russian troops in France added to the discontent. The First Brigade had tried to replace its officers with Soldiers’ Committees, like their comrades at home, and had refused an order to go to Salonika, demanding to be sent to Russia. They had been surrounded and starved, and then fired on by artillery, and many killed. (See App. II, Sect. 7)…
On October 29th I went to the white-marble and crimson hall of the Marinsky palace, where the Council of the Republic sat, to hear Terestchenko’s declaration of the Government’s foreign policy, awaited with such terrible anxiety by all the peace-thirsty and exhausted land.
A tall, impeccably-dressed young man with a smooth face and high cheek-bones, suavely reading his careful, non-committal speech. (See App. II, Sect. 8) Nothing…. Only the same platitudes about crushing German militarism with the help of the Allies-about the “state interests” of Russia, about the “embarrassment” caused by Skobeliev’s nakaz. He ended with the key-note:
“Russia is a great power. Russia will remain a great power, whatever happens. We must all defend her, we must show that we are defenders of a great ideal, and children of a great power.”
Nobody was satisfied. The reactionaries wanted a “strong” imperialist policy; the democratic parties wanted an assurance that the Government would press for peace…. I reproduce an editorial in Rabotchi i Soldat (Worker and Soldier), organ of the Bolshevik Petrograd Soviet:
THE GOVERNMENT’S ANSWER TO THE TRENCHES
The most taciturn of our Ministers, Mr. Terestchenko, has actually told the trenches the following:
1. We are closely united with our Allies. (Not with the peoples, but with the Governments.)
2. There is no use for the democracy to discuss the possibility or impossibility of a winter campaign. That will be decided by the Governments of our Allies.
3. The 1st of July offensive was beneficial and a very happy affair. (He did not mention the consequences.)
4. It is not true that our Allies do not care about us. The Minister has in his possession very important declarations. (Declarations? What about deeds? What about the behaviour of the British fleet? (See App. II, Sect. 9) The parleying of the British king with exiled counter-revolutionary General Gurko? The Minister did not mention all this.)
5. The nakaz to Skobeliev is bad; the Allies don’t like it and the Russian diplomats don’t like it. In the Allied Conference we must all ‘speak one language.’
And is that all? That is all. What is the way out? The solution is, faith in the Allies and in Terestchenko. When will peace come? When the Allies permit.
That is how the Government replied to the trenches about peace!
Now in the background of Russian politics began to form the vague outlines of a sinister power-the Cossacks. Novaya Zhizn (New Life), Gorky’s paper, called attention to their activities:
At the beginning of the Revolution the Cossacks refused to shoot down the people. When Kornilov marched on Petrograd they refused to follow him. From passive loyalty to the Revolution the Cossacks have passed to an active political offensive (against it). From the back-ground of the Revolution they have suddenly advanced to the front of the stage….
Kaledin, ataman of the Don Cossacks, had been dismissed by the Provisional Government for his complicity in the Kornilov affair. He flatly refused to resign, and surrounded by three immense Cossack armies lay at Novotcherkask, plotting and menacing. So great was his power that the Government was forced to ignore his insubordination. More than that, it was compelled formally to recognise the Council of the Union of Cossack Armies, and to declare illegal the newly-formed Cossack Section of the Soviets….
In the first part of October a Cossack delegation called upon Kerensky, arrogantly insisting that the charges against Kaledin be dropped, and reproaching the Minister-President for yielding to the Soviets. Kerensky agreed to let Kaledin alone, and then is reported to have said, “In the eyes of the Soviet leaders I am a despot and a tyrant…. As for the Provisional Government, not only does it not depend upon the Soviets, but it considers it regrettable that they exist at all.”
At the same time another Cossack mission called upon the British ambassador, treating with him boldly as representatives of “the free Cossack people.”
In the Don something very like a Cossack Republic had been established. The Kuban declared itself an independent Cossack State. The Soviets of Rostov-on-Don and Yekaterinburg were dispersed by armed Cossacks, and the headquarters of the Coal Miners’ Union at Kharkov raided. In all its manifestations the Cossack movement was anti-Socialist and militaristic. Its leaders were nobles and great land-owners, like Kaledin, Kornilov, Generals Dutov, Karaulov and Bardizhe, and it was backed by the powerful merchants and bankers of Moscow….
Old Russia was rapidly breaking up. In Ukraine, in Finland, Poland, White Russia, the nationalist movements gathered strength and became bolder. The local Governments, controlled by the propertied classes, claimed autonomy, refusing to obey orders from Petrograd. At Helsingfors the Finnish Senate declined to loan money to the Provisional Government, declared Finland autonomous, and demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops. The bourgeois Rada at Kiev extended the boundaries of Ukraine until they included all the richest agricultural lands of South Russia, as far east as the Urals, and began the formation of a national army. Premier Vinnitchenko hinted at a separate peace with Germany-and the Provisional Government was helpless. Siberia, the Caucasus, demanded separate Constituent Assemblies. And in all these countries there was the beginning of a bitter struggle between the authorities and the local Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies….
Conditions were daily more chaotic. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers were deserting the front and beginning to move in vast, aimless tides over the face of the land. The peasants of Tambov and Tver Governments, tired of waiting for the land, exasperated by the repressive measures of the Government, were burning manor-houses and massacring land-owners. Immense strikes and lock-outs convulsed Moscow, Odessa and the coal-mines of the Don. Transportation was paralysed; the army was starving and in the big cities there was no bread.
The Government, torn between the democratic and reactionary factions, could do nothing: when forced to act it always supported the interests of the propertied classes. Cossacks were sent to restore order among the peasants, to break the strikes. In Tashkent, Government authorities suppressed the Soviet. In Petrograd the Economic Council, established to rebuild the shattered economic life of the country, came to a deadlock between the opposing forces of capital and labour, and was dissolved by Kerensky. The old régime military men, backed by Cadets, demanded that harsh measures be adopted to restore discipline in the Army and the Navy. In vain Admiral Verderevsky, the venerable Minister of Marine, and General Verkhovsky, Minister of War, insisted that only a new, voluntary, democratic discipline, based on cooperation with the soldiers’ and sailors’ Committees, could save the army and navy. Their recommendations were ignored.
The reactionaries seemed determined to provoke popular anger. The trial of Kornilov was coming on. More and more openly the bourgeois press defended him, speaking of him as “the great Russian patriot.” Burtzev’s paper, Obshtchee Dielo (Common Cause), called for a dictatorship of Kornilov, Kaledin and Kerensky!
I had a talk with Burtzev one day in the press gallery of the Council of the Republic. A small, stooped figure with a wrinkled face, eyes near-sighted behind thick glasses, untidy hair and beard streaked with grey.
“Mark my words, young man! What Russia needs is a Strong Man. We should get our minds off the Revolution now and concentrate on the Germans. Bunglers, bunglers, to defeat Kornilov; and back of the bunglers are the German agents. Kornilov should have won….”
On the extreme right the organs of the scarcely-veiled Monarchists, Purishkevitch’s Narodny Tribun (People’s Tribune), Novaya Rus (New Russia), and Zhivoye Slovo (Living Word), openly advocated the extermination of the revolutionary democracy….
On the 23rd of October occurred the naval battle with a German squadron in the Gulf of Riga. On the pretext that Petrograd was in danger, the Provisional Government drew up plans for evacuating the capital. First the great munitions works were to go, distributed widely throughout Russia; and then the Government itself was to move to Moscow. Instantly the Bolsheviki began to cry out that the Government was abandoning the Red Capital in order to weaken the Revolution. Riga had been sold to the Germans; now Petrograd was being betrayed!
The bourgeois press was joyful. “At Moscow,” said the Cadet paper Ryetch (Speech), “the Government can pursue its work in a tranquil atmosphere, without being interfered with by anarchists.” Rodzianko, leader of the right wing of the Cadet party, declared in Utro Rossii (The Morning of Russia) that the taking of Petrograd by the Germans would be a blessing, because it would destroy the Soviets and get rid of the revolutionary Baltic Fleet:
Petrograd is in danger (he wrote). I say to myself, “Let God take care of Petrograd.” They fear that if Petrograd is lost the central revolutionary organisations will be destroyed. To that I answer that I rejoice if all these organisations are destroyed; for they will bring nothing but disaster upon Russia….
With the taking of Petrograd the Baltic Fleet will also be destroyed…. But there will be nothing to regret; most of the battleships are completely demoralised….
In the face of a storm of popular disapproval the plan of evacuation was repudiated.
Meanwhile the Congress of Soviets loomed over Russia like a thunder-cloud, shot through with lightnings. It was opposed, not only by the Government but by all the “moderate” Socialists. The Central Army and Fleet Committees, the Central Committees of some of the Trade Unions, the Peasants’ Soviets, but most of all the Tsay-ee-kah itself, spared no pains to prevent the meeting. Izviestia and Golos Soldata (Voice of the Soldier), newspapers founded by the Petrograd Soviet but now in the hands of the Tsay-ee-kah, fiercely assailed it, as did the entire artillery of the Socialist Revolutionary party press, Dielo Naroda (People’s Cause) and Volia Naroda (People’s Will).
Delegates were sent through the country, messages flashed by wire to committees in charge of local Soviets, to Army Committees, instructing them to halt or delay elections to the Congress. Solemn public resolutions against the Congress, declarations that the democracy was opposed to the meeting so near the date of the Constituent Assembly, representatives from the Front, from the Union of Zemstvos, the Peasants’ Union, Union of Cossack Armies, Union of Officers, Knights of St. George, Death Battalions, [*] protesting…. The Council of the Russian Republic was one chorus of disapproval. The entire machinery set up by the Russian Revolution of March functioned to block the Congress of Soviets….
[*See Notes and Explanations.]
On the other hand was the shapeless will of the proletariat-the workmen, common soldiers and poor peasants. Many local Soviets were already Bolshevik; then there were the organisations of the industrial workers, the Fabritchno-Zavodskiye Comitieti– Factory-Shop Committees; and the insurgent Army and Fleet organisations. In some places the people, prevented from electing their regular Soviet delegates, held rump meetings and chose one of their number to go to Petrograd. In others they smashed the old obstructionist committees and formed new ones. A ground-swell of revolt heaved and cracked the crust which had been slowly hardening on the surface of revolutionary fires dormant all those months. Only an spontaneous mass-movement could bring about the All-Russian Congress of Soviets….
Day after day the Bolshevik orators toured the barracks and factories, violently denouncing “this Government of civil war.” One Sunday we went, on a top-heavy steam tram that lumbered through oceans of mud, between stark factories and immense churches, to Obukhovsky Zavod, a Government munitions-plant out on the Schlüsselburg Prospekt.
The meeting took place between the gaunt brick walls of a huge unfinished building, ten thousand black-clothed men and women packed around a scaffolding draped in red, people heaped on piles of lumber and bricks, perched high upon shadowy girders, intent and thunder-voiced. Through the dull, heavy sky now and again burst the sun, flooding reddish light through the skeleton windows upon the mass of simple faces upturned to us.
Lunatcharsky, a slight, student-like figure with the sensitive face of an artist, was telling why the power must be taken by the Soviets. Nothing else could guarantee the Revolution against its enemies, who were deliberately ruining the country, ruining the army, creating opportunities for a new Konilov.
A soldier from the Rumanian front, thin, tragical and fierce, cried, “Comrades! We are starving at the front, we are stiff with cold. We are dying for no reason. I ask the American comrades to carry word to America, that the Russians will never give up their Revolution until they die. We will hold the fort with all our strength until the peoples of the world rise and help us! Tell the American workers to rise and fight for the Social Revolution!”
Then came Petrovsky, slight, slow-voiced, implacable: “Now is the time for deeds, not words. The economic situation is bad, but we must get used to it. They are trying to starve us and freeze us. They are trying to provoke us. But let them know that they can go too far-that if they dare to lay their hands upon the organisations of the proletariat we will sweep them away like scum from the face of the earth!”
The Bolshevik press suddenly expanded. Besides the two party papers, Rabotchi Put and Soldat (Soldier), there appeared a new paper for the peasants, Derevenskaya Byednota (Village Poorest), poured out in a daily half-million edition; and on October 17th, Rabotchi i Soldat. Its leading article summed up the Bolshevik point of view:
The fourth year’s campaign will mean the annihilation of the army and the country…. There is danger for the safety of Petrograd…. Counter-revolutionists rejoice in the people’s misfortunes…. The peasants brought to desperation come out in open rebellion; the landlords and Government authorities massacre them with punitive expeditions; factories and mines are closing down, workmen are threatened with starvation…. The bourgeoisie and its Generals want to restore a blind discipline in the army…. Supported by the bourgeoisie, the Kornilovtsi are openly getting ready to break up the meeting of the Constituent Assembly….
The Kerensky Government is against the people. He will destroy the country…. This paper stands for the people and by the people-the poor classes, workers, soldiers and peasants. The people can only be saved by the completion of the Revolution… and for this purpose the full power must be in the hands of the Soviets….
This paper advocates the following: All power to the Soviets-both in the capital and in the provinces.
Immediate truce on all fronts. An honest peace between peoples.
Landlord estates-without compensation-to the peasants.
Workers’ control over industrial production.
A faithfully and honestly elected Constituent Assembly.
It is interesting to reproduce here a passage from that same paper-the organ of those Bolsheviki so well known to the world as German agents:
The German kaiser, covered with the blood of millions of dead people, wants to push his army against Petrograd. Let us call to the German workmen, soldiers and peasants, who want peace not less than we do, to… stand up against this damned war!
This can be done only by a revolutionary Government, which would speak really for the workmen, soldiers and peasants of Russia, and would appeal over the heads of the diplomats directly to the German troops, fill the German trenches with proclamations in the German language…. Our airmen would spread these proclamations all over Germany….
In the Council of the Republic the gulf between the two sides of the chamber deepened day by day.
“The propertied classes,” cried Karelin, for the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, “want to exploit the revolutionary machine of the State to bind Russia to the war-chariot of the Allies! The revolutionary parties are absolutely against this policy….”
Old Nicholas Tchaikovsky, representing the Populist Socialists, spoke against giving the land to the peasants, and took the side of the Cadets: “We must have immediately strong discipline in the army…. Since the beginning of the war I have not ceased to insist that it is a crime to undertake social and economic reforms in war-time. We are committing that crime, and yet I am not the enemy of these reforms, because I am a Socialist.”
Cries from the Left, “We don’t believe you!” Mighty applause from the Right….
Adzhemov, for the Cadets, declared that there was no necessity to tell the army what it was fighting for, since every soldier ought to realise that the first task was to drive the enemy from Russian territory.
Kerensky himself came twice, to plead passionately for national unity, once bursting into tears at the end. The assembly heard him coldly, interrupting with ironical remarks.
Smolny Institute, headquarters of the Tsay-ee-kah and of the Petrograd Soviet, lay miles out on the edge of the city, beside the wide Neva. I went there on a street-car, moving snail-like with a groaning noise through the cobbled, muddy streets, and jammed with people. At the end of the line rose the graceful smoke-blue cupolas of Smolny Convent outlined in dull gold, beautiful; and beside it the great barracks like façade of Smolny Institute, two hundred yards long and three lofty stories high, the Imperial arms carved hugely in stone still insolent over the entrance….
Under the old régime a famous convent-school for the daughters of the Russian nobility, patronised by the Tsarina herself, the Institute had been taken over by the revolutionary organisations of workers and soldiers. Within were more than a hundred huge rooms, white and bare, on their doors enamelled plaques still informing the passerby that within was “Ladies’ Class-room Number 4” or “Teachers’ Bureau”; but over these hung crudely-lettered signs, evidence of the vitality of the new order: “Central Committee of the Petrograd Soviet” and “Tsay-ee-kah” and “Bureau of Foreign Affairs”; “Union of Socialist Soldiers,” “Central Committee of the All-Russian Trade Unions,” “Factory-Shop Committees,” “Central Army Committee”; and the central offices and caucus-rooms of the political parties….
The long, vaulted corridors, lit by rare electric lights, were thronged with hurrying shapes of soldiers and workmen, some bent under the weight of huge bundles of newspapers, proclamations, printed propaganda of all sorts. The sound of their heavy boots made a deep and incessant thunder on the wooden floor…. Signs were posted up everywhere: “Comrades! For the sake of your health, preserve cleanliness!” Long tables stood at the head of the stairs on every floor, and on the landings, heaped with pamphlets and the literature of the different political parties, for sale….
The spacious, low-ceilinged refectory downstairs was still a dining-room. For two rubles I bought a ticket entitling me to dinner, and stood in line with a thousand others, waiting to get to the long serving-tables, where twenty men and women were ladling from immense cauldrons cabbage soup, hunks of meat and piles of kasha, slabs of black bread. Five kopeks paid for tea in a tin cup. From a basket one grabbed a greasy wooden spoon…. The benches along the wooden tables were packed with hungry proletarians, wolfing their food, plotting, shouting rough jokes across the room….
[Graphic page-33 — text of placard in russian, translation follows]
COMRADES: FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR HEALTH,
PRESERVE CLEANLINESS.
Upstairs was another eating-place, reserved for the Tsay-ee-kah– though every one went there. Here could be had bread thickly buttered and endless glasses of tea….
In the south wing on the second floor was the great hall of meetings, the former ball-room of the Institute. A lofty white room lighted by glazed-white chandeliers holding hundreds of ornate electric bulbs, and divided by two rows of massive columns; at one end a dais, flanked with two tall many-branched light standards, and a gold frame behind, from which the Imperial portrait had been cut. Here on festal occasions had been banked brilliant military and ecclesiastical uniforms, a setting for Grand Duchesses….
Just across the hall outside was the office of the Credentials Committee for the Congress of Soviets. I stood there watching the new delegates come in-burly, bearded soldiers, workmen in black blouses, a few long-haired peasants. The girl in charge-a member of Plekhanov’s Yedinstvo [*] group-smiled contemptuously. “These are very different people from the delegates to the first Siezd (Congress),” she remarked. “See how rough and ignorant they look! The Dark People….” It was true; the depths of Russia had been stirred, and it was the bottom which came uppermost now. The Credentials Committee, appointed by the old Tsay-ee-kah, was challenging delegate after delegate, on the ground that they had been illegally elected. Karakhan, member of the Bolshevik Central Committee, simply grinned. “Never mind,” he said, “When the time comes we’ll see that you get your seats….”
[* See Notes and Explanations]
Rabotchi i Soldat said:
The attention of delegates to the new All-Russian Congress is called to attempts of certain members of the Organising Committee to break up the Congress, by asserting that it will not take place, and that delegates had better leave Petrograd…. Pay no attention to these lies…. Great days are coming….
It was evident that a quorum would not come together by November 2, so the opening of the Congress was postponed to the 7th. But the whole country was now aroused; and the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries, realising that they were defeated, suddenly changed their tactics and began to wire frantically to their provincial organisations to elect as many “moderate” Socialist delegates as possible. At the same time the Executive Committee of the Peasants’ Soviets issued an emergency call for a Peasants’ Congress, to meet December 13th and offset whatever action the workers and soldiers might take…
What would the Bolsheviki do? Rumours ran through the city that there would be an armed “demonstration,” a vystuplennie-“coming out” of the workers and soldiers. The bourgeois and reactionary press prophesied insurrection, and urged the Government to arrest the Petrograd Soviet, or at least to prevent the meeting of the Congress. Such sheets as Novaya Rus advocated a general Bolshevik massacre.
Gorky’s paper, Novaya Zhizn, agreed with the Bolsheviki that the reactionaries were attempting to destroy the Revolution, and that if necessary they must be resisted by force of arms; but all the parties of the revolutionary democracy must present a united front.
As long as the democracy has not organised its principal forces, so long as the resistance to its influence is still strong, there is no advantage in passing to the attack. But if the hostile elements appeal to force, then the revolutionary democracy should enter the battle to seize the power, and it will be sustained by the most profound strata of the people….
Gorky pointed out that both reactionary and Government newspapers were inciting the Bolsheviki to violence. An insurrection, however, would prepare the way for a new Kornilov. He urged the Bolsheviki to deny the rumours. Potressov, in the Menshevik Dien (Day), published a sensational story, accompanied by a map, which professed to reveal the secret Bolshevik plan of campaign.
As if by magic, the walls were covered with warnings, (See App. II, Sect. 10) proclamations, appeals, from the Central Committees of the “moderate” and conservative factions and the Tsay-ee-kah, denouncing any “demonstrations,” imploring the workers and soldiers not to listen to agitators. For instance, this from the Military Section of the Socialist Revolutionary party:
Again rumours are spreading around the town of an intended vystuplennie. What is the source of these rumours? What organisation authorises these agitators who preach insurrection? The Bolsheviki, to a question addressed to them in the Tsay-ee-kah, denied that they have anything to do with it…. But these rumours themselves carry with them a great danger. It may easily happen that, not taking into consideration the state of mind of the majority of the workers, soldiers and peasants, individual hot-heads will call out part of the workers and soldiers on the streets, inciting them to an uprising…. In this fearful time through which revolutionary Russia is passing, any insurrection can easily turn into civil war, and there can result from it the destruction of all organisations of the proletariat, built up with so much labour…. The counter-revolutionary plotters are planning to take advantage of this insurrection to destroy the Revolution, open the front to Wilhelm, and wreck the Constituent Assembly…. Stick stubbornly to your posts! Do not come out!
On October 28th, in the corridors of Smolny, I spoke with Kameniev, a little man with a reddish pointed beard and Gallic gestures. He was not at all sure that enough delegates would come. “If there is a Congress,” he said, “it will represent the overwhelming sentiment of the people. If the majority is Bolshevik, as I think it will be, we shall demand that the power be given to the Soviets, and the Provisional Government must resign….”
Volodarsky, a tall, pale youth with glasses and a bad complexion, was more definite. “The ‘Lieber-Dans’ and the other compromisers are sabotaging the Congress. If they succeed in preventing its meeting,-well, then we are realists enough not to depend on that!”
Under date of October 29th I find entered in my notebook the following items culled from the newspapers of the day:
Moghilev (General Staff Headquarters). Concentration here of loyal Guard Regiments, the Savage Division, Cossacks and Death Battalions.
The yunkers of the Officers’ Schools of Pavlovsk, Tsarskoye Selo and Peterhof ordered by the Government to be ready to come to Petrograd. Oranienbaum yunkers arrive in the city.
Part of the Armoured Car Division of the Petrograd garrism stationed in the Winter Palace.
Upon orders signed by Trotzky, several thousand rifles delivered by the Government Arms Factory at Sestroretzk to delegates of the Petrograd workmen.
At a meeting of the City Militia of the Lower Liteiny Quarter, a resolution demanding that all power be given to the Soviets.
This is just a sample of the confused events of those feverish days, when everybody knew that something was going to happen, but nobody knew just what.
At a meeting of the Petrograd Soviet in Smolny, the night of October 30th, Trotzky branded the assertions of the bourgeois press that the Soviet contemplated armed insurention as “an attempt of the reactionaries to discredit and wreck the Congress of Soviets…. The Petrograd Soviet,” he declared, “had not ordered any uystuplennie. If it is necessary we shall do so, and we will be supported by the Petrogruad garrison…. They (the Government) are preparing a counter-revolution; and we shall answer with an offensive which will be merciless and decisive.”
It is true that the Petrograd Soviet had not ordered a demonstration, but the Central Committee of the Bolshevik party was considering the question of insurrection. All night long the 23d they met. There were present all the party intellectuals, the leaders-and delegates of the Petrograd workers and garrison. Alone of the intellectuals Lenin and Trotzky stood for insurrection. Even urrection. Even | | the military men opposed it. A vote was taken. Insurrection was defeated!
Then arose a rough workman, his face convulsed with rage. “I speak for the Petrograd proletariat,” he said, harshly. “We are in favour of insurrection. Have it your own way, but I tell you now that if you allow the Soviets to be destroyed, we’re through with you!” Some soldiers joined him…. And after that they voted again-insurrection won….
However, the right wing of the Bolsheviki, led by Riazanov, Kameniev and Zinoviev, continued to campaign against an armed rising. On the morning of October 31st appeared in Rabotchi Put the first instalment of Lenin’s “Letter to the Comrades,” (See App. II, Sect. 11) one of the most audacious pieces of political propaganda the world has ever seen. In it Lenin seriously presented the arguments in favour of insurrection, taking as text the objections of Kameniev and Riazonov.
“Either we must abandon our slogan, ‘All Power to the Soviets,’ ” he wrote, “or else we must make an insurrection. There is no middle course….”
That same afternoon Paul Miliukov, leader of the Cadets, made a brilliant, bitter speech (See App. II, Sect. 12) in the Council of the Republic, branding the Skobeliev nakaz as pro-German, declaring that the “revolutionary democracy” was destroying Russia, sneering at Terestchenko, and openly declaring that he preferred German diplomacy to Russian…. The Left benches were one roaring tumult all through….
On its part the Government could not ignore the significance of the success of the Bolshevik propaganda. On the 29th joint commission of the Government and the Council of the Republic hastily drew up two laws, one for giving the land temporarily to the peasants, and the other for pushing an energetic foreign policy of peace. The next day Kerensky suspended capital punishment in the army. That same afternoon was opened with great ceremony the first session of the new “Commission for Strengthening the Republican Régime and Fighting Against Anarchy and Counter-Revolution”-of which history shows not the slightest further trace…. The following morning with two other correspondents I interviewed Kerensky (See App. II, Sect. 13)-the last time he received journalists.
“The Russian people,” he said, bitterly, “are suffering from economic fatigue-and from disillusionment with the Allies! The world thinks that the Russian Revolution is at an end. Do not be mistaken. The Russian Revolution is just beginning….” Words more prophetic, perhaps, than he knew.
Stormy was the all-night meeting of the Petrograd Soviet the 30th of October, at which I was present. The “moderate” Socialist intellectuals, officers, members of Army Committees, the Tsay-ee-kah, were there in force. Against them rose up workmen, peasants and common soldiers, passionate and simple.
A peasant told of the disorders in Tver, which he said were caused by the arrest of the Land Committees. “This Kerensky is nothing but a shield to the pomieshtchiki (landowners),” he cried. “They know that at the Constituent Assembly we will take the land anyway, so they are trying to destroy the Constituent Assembly!”
A machinist from the Putilov works described how the superintendents were closing down the departments one by one on the pretext that there was no fuel or raw materials. The Factory-Shop Committee, he declared, had discovered huge hidden supplies.
“It is a provocatzia,” said he. “They want to starve us-or drive us to violence!”
Among the soldiers one began, “Comrades! I bring you greetings from the place where men are digging their graves and call them trenches!”
Then arose a tall, gaunt young soldier, with flashing eyes, met with a roar of welcome. It was Tchudnovsky, reported killed in the July fighting, and now risen from the dead.
“The soldier masses no longer trust their officers. Even the Army Committees, who refused to call a meeting of our Soviet, betrayed us…. The masses of the soldiers want the Constituent Assembly to be held exactly when it was called for, and those who dare to postpone it will be cursed-and not only platonic curses either, for the Army has guns too….”
He told of the electoral campaign for the Constituent now raging in the Fifth Army. “The officers, and especially the Mensheviki and the Socialist Revolutionaries, are trying deliberately to cripple the Bolsheviki. Our papers are not allowed to circulate in the trenches. Our speakers are arrested-“
“Why don’t you speak about the lack of bread?” shouted another soldier.
“Man shall not live by bread alone,” answered Tchudnovsky, sternly….
Followed him an officer, delegate from the Vitebsk Soviet, a Menshevik oboronetz. “It isn’t the question of who has the power. The trouble is not with the Government, but with the war…. and the war must be won before any change-” At this, hoots and ironical cheers. “These Bolshevik agitators are demagogues!” The hall rocked with laughter. “Let us for a moment forget the class struggle-” But he got no farther. A voice yelled, “Don’t you wish we would!”
Petrograd presented a curious spectacle in those days. In the factories the committe-rooms were filled with stacks of rifles, couriers came and went, the Red Guard [*] drilled…. In all the barracks meetings every night, and all day long interminable hot arguments. On the streets the crowds thickened toward gloomy evening, pouring in slow voluble tides up and down the Nevsky, fighting for the newspapers…. Hold-ups increased to such an extent that it was dangerous to walk down side streets…. On the Sadovaya one afternoon I saw a crowd of several hundred people beat and trample to death a soldier caught stealing…. Mysterious individuals circulated around the shivering women who waited in queue long cold hours for bread and milk, whispering that the Jews had cornered the food supply-and that while the people starved, the Soviet members lived luxuriously….
[* See Notes and Explanations]
At Smolny there were strict guards at the door and the outer gates, demanding everybody’s pass. The committee-rooms buzzed and hummed all day and all night, hundreds of soldiers and workmen slept on the floor, wherever they could find room. Upstairs in the great hall a thousand people crowded to the uproarious sessions of the Petrograd Soviet….
Gambling clubs functioned hectically from dusk to dawn, with champagne flowing and stakes of twenty thousand rubles. In the centre of the city at night prostitutes in jewels and expensive furs walked up and down, crowded the cafés….
Monarchist plots, German spies, smugglers hatching schemes….
And in the rain, the bitter chill, the great throbbing city under grey skies rushing faster and faster toward-what?
John Reed- Ten Days That Shook the World (1919) Preface & Chapter I “The Background”

Monday, November 21, 2016

John Reed- Ten Days That Shook the World (1919) Preface & Chapter I “The Background”

https://communismgr.blogspot.com/2016/11/john-reed-ten-days-that-shook-world.html
Ten Days That Shook the World.
By John Reed.
PREFACE.
This book is a slice of intensified history—history as I saw it. It does not pretend to be anything but a detailed account of the November Revolution, when the Bolsheviki, at the head of the workers and soldiers, seized the state power of Russia and placed it in the hands of the Soviets.
Naturally most of it deals with “Red Petrograd,” the capital and heart of the insurrection. But the reader must realize that what took place in Petrograd was almost exactly duplicated, with greater or lesser intensity, at different intervals of time, all over Russia.
In this book, the first of several which I am writing, I must confine myself to a chronicle of those events which I myself observed and experienced, and those supported by reliable evidence; preceded by two chapters briefly outlining the background and causes of the November Revolution. I am aware that these two chapters make difficult reading, but they are essential to an understanding of what follows.
Many questions will suggest themselves to the mind of the reader. What is Bolshevism? What kind of a governmental structure did the Bolsheviki set up? If the Bolsheviki championed the Constituent Assembly before the November Revolution, why did they disperse it by force of arms afterward? And if the bourgeoisie opposed the Constituent Assembly until the danger of Bolshevism became apparent, why did they champion it afterward?
These and many other questions cannot be answered here. In another volume, “Kornilov to Brest-Litovsk,” I trace the course of the Revolution up to and including the German peace. There I explain the origin and functions of the Revolutionary organisations, the evolution of popular sentiment, the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, the structure of the Soviet state, and the course and outcome of the Brest- Litovsk negotiations….
In considering the rise of the Bolsheviki it is necessary to understand that Russian economic life and the Russian army were not disorganised on November 7th, 1917, but many months before, as the logical result of a process which began as far back as 1915. The corrupt reactionaries in control of the Tsar’s Court deliberately undertook to wreck Russia in order to make a separate peace with Germany. The lack of arms on the front, which had caused the great retreat of the summer of 1915, the lack of food in the army and in the great cities, the break-down of manufactures and transportation in 1916—all these we know now were part of a gigantic campaign of sabotage. This was halted just in time by the March Revolution.
For the first few months of the new régime, in spite of the confusion incident upon a great Revolution, when one hundred and sixty millions of the world’s most oppressed peoples suddenly achieved liberty, both the internal situation and the combative power of the army actually improved.
But the “honeymoon” was short. The propertied classes wanted merely a political revolution, which would take the power from the Tsar and give it to them. They wanted Russia to be a constitutional Republic, like France or the United States; or a constitutional Monarchy, like England. On the other hand, the masses of the people wanted real industrial and agrarian democracy.
William English Walling, in his book, “Russia’s Message,” an account of the Revolution of 1905, describes very well the state of mind of the Russian workers, who were later to support Bolshevism almost unanimously:
They (the working people) saw it was possible that even under a free Government, if it fell into the hands of other social classes, they might still continue to starve….
The Russian workman is revolutionary, but he is neither violent, dogmatic, nor unintelligent. He is ready for barricades, but he has studied them, and alone of the workers of the world he has learned about them from actual experience. He is ready and willing to fight his oppressor, the capitalist class, to a finish. But he does not ignore the existence of other classes. He merely asks that the other classes take one side or the other in the bitter conflict that draws near….
They (the workers) were all agreed that our (American) political institutions were preferable to their own, but they were not very anxious to exchange one despot for another (i.e., the capitalist class)….
The workingmen of Russia did not have themselves shot down, executed by hundreds in Moscow, Riga and Odessa, imprisoned by thousands in every Russian jail, and exiled to the deserts and the arctic regions, in exchange for the doubtful privileges of the workingmen of Goldfields and Cripple Creek….
And so developed in Russia, in the midst of a foreign war, the Social Revolution on top of the Political Revolution, culminating in the triumph of Bolshevism.
Mr. A. J. Sack, director in this country of the Russian Information Bureau, which opposes the Soviet Government, has this to say in his book, “The Birth of the Russian Democracy”: The Bolsheviks organised their own cabinet, with Nicholas Lenine as Premier and Leon Trotsky— Minister of Foreign Affairs. The inevitability of their coming into power became evident almost immediately after the March Revolution. The history of the Bolsheviki, after the Revolution, is a history of their steady growth….
Foreigners, and Americans especially, frequently emphasise the “ignorance” of the Russian workers. It is true they lacked the political experience of the peoples of the West, but they were very well trained in voluntary organisation. In 1917 there were more than twelve million members of the Russian consumers’ Cooperative societies; and the Soviets themselves are a wonderful demonstration of their organising genius. Moreover, there is probably not a people in the world so well educated in Socialist theory and its practical application.
William English Walling thus characterises them:
The Russian working people are for the most part able to read and write. For many years the country has been in such a disturbed condition that they have had the advantage of leadership not only of intelligent individuals in their midst, but of a large part of the equally revolutionary educated class, who have turned to the working people with their ideas for the political and social regeneration of Russia….
Many writers explain their hostility to the Soviet Government by arguing that the last phase of the Russian Revolution was simply a struggle of the “respectable” elements against the brutal attacks of Bolshevism. However, it was the propertied classes, who, when they realised the growth in power of the popular revolutionary organisations, undertook to destroy them and to halt the Revolution. To this end the propertied classes finally resorted to desperate measures. In order to wreck the Kerensky Ministry and the Soviets, transportation was disorganised and internal troubles provoked; to crush the Factory- Shop Committees, plants were shut down, and fuel and raw materials diverted; to break the Army Committees at the front, capital punishment was restored and military defeat connived at.
This was all excellent fuel for the Bolshevik fire. The Bolsheviki retorted by preaching the class war, and by asserting the supremacy of the Soviets.
Between these two extremes, with the other factions which whole- heartedly or half-heartedly supported them, were the so-called “moderate” Socialists, the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries, and several smaller parties. These groups were also attacked by the propertied classes, but their power of resistance was crippled by their theories.
Roughly, the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries believed that Russia was not economically ripe for a social revolution—that only a political revolution was possible. According to their interpretation, the Russian masses were not educated enough to take over the power; any attempt to do so would inevitably bring on a reaction, by means of which some ruthless opportunist might restore the old régime. And so it followed that when the “moderate” Socialists were forced to assume the power, they were afraid to use it.
They believed that Russia must pass through the stages of political and economic development known to Western Europe, and emerge at last, with the rest of the world, into full-fledged Socialism. Naturally, therefore, they agreed with the propertied classes that Russia must first be a parliamentary state—though with some improvements on the Western democracies. As a consequence, they insisted upon the collaboration of the propertied classes in the Government.
From this it was an easy step to supporting them. The “moderate” Socialists needed the bourgeoisie. But the bourgeoisie did not need the “moderate” Socialists. So it resulted in the Socialist Ministers being obliged to give way, little by little, on their entire program, while the propertied classes grew more and more insistent.
And at the end, when the Bolsheviki upset the whole hollow compromise, the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries found themselves fighting on the side of the propertied classes…. In almost every country in the world to-day the same phenomenon is visible.
Instead of being a destructive force, it seems to me that the Bolsheviki were the only party in Russia with a constructive program and the power to impose it on the country. If they had not succeeded to the Government when they did, there is little doubt in my mind that the armies of Imperial Germany would have been in Petrograd and Moscow in December, and Russia would again be ridden by a Tsar….
It is still fashionable, after a whole year of the Soviet Government, to speak of the Bolshevik insurrection as an “adventure.” Adventure it was, and one of the most marvellous mankind ever embarked upon, sweeping into history at the head of the toiling masses, and staking everything on their vast and simple desires. Already the machinery had been set up by which the land of the great estates could be distributed among the peasants. The Factory-Shop Committees and the Trade Unions were there to put into operation workers’ control of industry. In every village, town, city, district and province there were Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, prepared to assume the task of local administration.
No matter what one thinks of Bolshevism, it is undeniable that the Russian Revolution is one of the great events of human history, and the rise of the Bolsheviki a phenomenon of world-wide importance. Just as historians search the records for the minutest details of the story of the Paris Commune, so they will want to know what happened in Petrograd in November, 1917, the spirit which animated the people, and how the leaders looked, talked and acted. It is with this in view that I have written this book.
In the struggle my sympathies were not neutral. But in telling the story of those great days I have tried to see events with the eye of a conscientious reporter, interested in setting down the truth. J. R. New York, January 1st 1919.

Notes and Explanations[edit]

To the average reader the multiplicity of Russian organisations-political groups, Committees and Central Committees, Soviets, Dumas and Unions-will prove extremely confusing. For this reason I am giving here a few brief definitions and explanations.
Political Parties
In the elections to the Constituent Assembly, there were seventeen tickets in Petrograd, and in some of the provincial towns as many as forty; but the following summary of the aims and composition of political parties is limited to the groups and factions mentioned in this book. Only the essence of their programmes and the general character of their constituencies can be noticed….
1. Monarchists, of various shades, Octobrists, etc. These once-powerful factions no longer existed openly; they either worked underground, or their members joined the Cadets, as the Cadets came by degrees to stand for their political programme. Representatives in this book, Rodzianko, Shulgin.
2. Cadets. So-called from the initials of its name, Constitutional Democrats. Its official name is “Party of the People’s Freedom.” Under the Tsar composed of Liberals from the propertied classes, the Cadets were the great party of political reform, roughly corresponding to the Progressive Party in America. When the Revolution broke out in March, 1917, the Cadets formed the first Provisional Government. The Cadet Ministry was overthrown in April because it declared itself in favour of Allied imperialistic aims, including the imperialistic aims of the Tsar’s Government. As the Revolution became more and more a social economic Revolution, the Cadets grew more and more conservative. Its representatives in this book are: Miliukov, Vinaver, Shatsky.
2a. Group of Public Men. After the Cadets had become unpopular through their relations with the Kornilov counter-revolution, the Group of Public Men was formed in Moscow. Delegates from the Group of Public Men were given portfolios in the last Kerensky Cabinet. The Group declared itself non-partisan, although its intellectual leaders were men like Rodzianko and Shulgin. It was composed of the more “modern” bankers, merchants and manufacturers, who were intelligent enough to realise that the Soviets must be fought by their own weapon-economic organisation. Typical of the Group: Lianozov, Konovalov.
3. Populist Socialists, or Trudoviki (Labour Group). Numerically a small party, composed of cautious intellectuals, the leaders of the Cooperative societies, and conservative peasants. Professing to be Socialists, the Populists really supported the interests of the petty bourgeoisie-clerks, shopkeepers, etc. By direct descent, inheritors of the compromising tradition of the Labour Group in the Fourth Imperial Duma, which was composed largely of peasant representatives. Kerensky was the leader of the Trudoviki in the Imperial Duma when the Revolution of March, 1917, broke out. The Populist Socialists are a nationalistic party. Their representatives in this book are: Peshekhanov, Tchaikovsky.
4. Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. Originally Marxian Socialists. At a party congress held in 1903, the party split, on the question of tactics, into two factions-the Majority (Bolshinstvo), and the Minority (Menshinstvo). From this sprang the names “Bolsheviki” and “Mensheviki”-“members of the majority” and “members of the minority.” These two wings became two separate parties, both calling themselves “Russian Social Democratic Labour Party,” and both professing to be Marxians. Since the Revolution of 1905 the Bolsheviki were really the minority, becoming again the majority in September, 1917.
a. Mensheviki. This party includes all shades of Socialists who believe that society must progress by natural evolution toward Socialism, and that the working-class must conquer political power first. Also a nationalistic party. This was the party of the Socialist intellectuals, which means: all the means of education having been in the hands of the propertied classes, the intellectuals instinctively reacted to their training, and took the side of the propertied classes. Among their representatives in this book are: Dan, Lieber, Tseretelli.
b. Mensheviki Internationalists. The radical wing of the Mensheviki, internationalists and opposed to all coalition with the propertied classes; yet unwilling to break loose from the conservative Mensheviki, and opposed to the dictatorship of the working-class advocated by the Bolsheviki. Trotzky was long a member of this group. Among their leaders: Martov, Martinov.
c. Bolsheviki. Now call themselves the Communist Party, in order to emphasise their complete separation from the tradition of “moderate” or “parliamentary” Socialism, which dominates the Mensheviki and the so-called Majority Socialists in all countries. The Bolsheviki proposed immediate proletarian insurrection, and seizure of the reins of Government, in order to hasten the coming of Socialism by forcibly taking over industry, land, natural resources and financial institutions. This party expresses the desires chiefly of the factory workers, but also of a large section of the poor peasants. The name “Bolshevik” can not be translated by “Maximalist.” The Maximalists are a separate group. (See paragraph 5b). Among the leaders: Lenin, Trotzky, Lunatcharsky.
d. United Social Democrats Internationalists. Also called the Novaya Zhizn (New Life) group, from the name of the very influential newspaper which was its organ. A little group of intellectuals with a very small following among the working-class, except the personal following of Maxim Gorky, its leader. Intellectuals, with almost the same programme as the Mensheviki Internationalists, except that the Novaya Zhizn group refused to be tied to either of the two great factions. Opposed the Bolshevik tactics, but remained in the Soviet Government. Other representatives in this book: Avilov, Kramarov.
e. Yedinstvo. A very small and dwindling group, composed almost entirely of the personal following of Plekhanov, one of the pioneers of the Russian Social Democratic movement in the 80’s, and its greatest theoretician. Now an old man, Plekhanov was extremely patriotic, too conservative even for the Mensheviki. After the Bolshevik coup d’etatYedinstvo disappeared.
5. Socialist Revolutionary party. Called Essaires from the initials of their name. Originally the revolutionary party of the peasants, the party of the Fighting Organisations-the Terrorists. After the March Revolution, it was joined by many who had never been Socialists. At that time it stood for the abolition of private property in land only, the owners to be compensated in some fashion. Finally the increasing revolutionary feeling of peasants forced the Essaires to abandon the “compensation” clause, and led to the younger and more fiery intellectuals breaking off from the main party in the fall of 1917 and forming a new party, the Left Socialist Revolutionary party. The Essaires, who were afterward always called by the radical groups “Right Socialist Revolutionaries,” adopted the political attitude of the Mensheviki, and worked together with them. They finally came to represent the wealthier peasants, the intellectuals, and the politically uneducated populations of remote rural districts. Among them there was, however, a wider difference of shades of political and economic opinion than among the Mensheviki. Among their leaders mentioned in these pages: Avksentiev, Gotz, Kerensky, Tchernov, “Babuschka” Breshkovskaya.
a. Left Socialist Revolutionaries. Although theoretically sharing the Bolshevik programme of dictatorship of the working-class, at first were reluctant to follow the ruthless Bolshevik tactics. However, the Left Socialist Revolutionaries remained in the Soviet Government, sharing the Cabinet portfolios, especially that of Agriculture. They withdrew from the Government several times, but always returned. As the peasants left the ranks of the Essaires in increasing numbers, they joined the Left Socialist Revolutionary party, which became the great peasant party supporting the Soviet Government, standing for confiscation without compensation of the great landed estates, and their disposition by the peasants themselves. Among the leaders: Spiridonova, Karelin, Kamkov, Kalagayev.
b. Maximalists. An off-shoot of the Socialist Revolutionary party in the Revolution of 1905, when it was a powerful peasant movement, demanding the immediate application of the maximum Socialist programme. Now an insignificant group of peasant anarchists.
Parliamentary Procedure
Russian meetings and conventions are organised after the continental model rather than our own. The first action is usually the election of officers and the presidium.
The presidium is a presiding committee, composed of representatives of the groups and political factions represented in the assembly, in proportion to their numbers. The presidium arranges the Order of Business, and its members can be called upon by the President to take the chair pro tem.
Each question (vopros) is stated in a general way and then debated, and at the close of the debate resolutions are submitted by the different factions, and each one voted on separately. The Order of Business can be, and usually is, smashed to pieces in the first half hour. On the plea of “emergency,” which the crowd almost always grants, anybody from the floor can get up and say anything on any subject. The crowd controls the meeting, practically the only functions of the speaker being to keep order by ringing a little bell, and to recognise speakers. Almost all the real work of the session is done in caucuses of the different groups and political factions, which almost always cast their votes in a body and are represented by floor-leaders. The result is, however, that at every important new point, or vote, the session takes a recess to enable the different groups and political factions to hold a caucus.
The crowd is extremely noisy, cheering or heckling speakers, over-riding the plans of the presidium. Among the customary cries are: “Prosim! Please! Go on!” “Pravilno!” or “Eto vierno! That’s true! Right!” “Do volno! Enough!” “Doloi! Down with him!” “Posor! Shame!” and “Teesche! Silence! Not so noisy!”
Popular Organisations
1. Soviet. The word soviet means “council.” Under the Tsar the Imperial Council of State was called Gosudarstvennyi Soviet. Since the Revolution, however, the term Soviet has come to be associated with a certain type of parliament elected by members of working-class economic organisations-the Soviet of Workers’, of Soldiers’, or of Peasants’ Deputies. I have therefore limited the word to these bodies, and wherever else it occurs I have translated it “Council.”
Besides the local Soviets, elected in every city, town and village of Russia-and in large cities, also Ward (Raionny) Soviets-there are also the oblastne or gubiernsky (district or provincial) Soviets, and the Central Executive Committee of the All-Russian Soviets in the capital, called from its initials Tsay-ee-kah. (See below, “Central Committees”).
Almost everywhere the Soviets of Workers’ and of Soldiers’ Deputies combined very soon after the March Revolution. In special matters concerning their peculiar interests, however, the Workers’ and the Soldiers’ Sections continued to meet separately. The Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies did not join the other two until after the Bolshevik coup d’etat. They, too, were organised like the workers and soldiers, with an Executive Committee of the All-Russian Peasants’ Soviets in the capital.
2. Trade Unions. Although mostly industrial in form, the Russian labour unions were still called Trade Unions, and at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution had from three to four million members. These Unions were also organised in an All-Russian body, a sort of Russian Federation of Labour, which had its Central Executive Committee in the capital.
3. Factory-Shop Committees. These were spontaneous organisations created in the factories by the workers in their attempt to control industry, taking advantage of the administrative break-down incident upon the Revolution. Their function was by revolutionary action to take over and run the factories. The Factory-Shop Committees also had their All-Russian organisation, with a Central Committee at Petrograd, which co-operated with the Trade Unions.
4. Dumas. The word duma means roughly “deliberative body.” The old Imperial Duma, which persisted six months after the Revolution, in a democratised form, died a natural death in September, 1917. The City Duma referred to in this book was the reorganised Municipal Council, often called “Municipal Self-Government.” It was elected by direct and secret ballot, and its only reason for failure to hold the masses during the Bolshevik Revolution was the general decline in influence of all purely political representation in the fact of the growing power of organisations based on economic groups.
5. Zemstvos. May be roughly translated “county councils.” Under the Tsar semi-political, semi-social bodies with very little administrative power, developed and controlled largely by intellectual Liberals among the land-owning classes. Their most important function was education and social service among the peasants. During the war the Zemstvos gradually took over the entire feeding and clothing of the Russian Army, as well as the buying from foreign countries, and work among the soldiers generally corresponding to the work of the American Y. M. C. A. at the Front. After the March Revolution the Zemstvos were democratized, with a view to making them the organs of local government in the rural districts. But like the City Dumas, they could not compete with the Soviets.
6. Cooperatives. These were the workers’ and peasants’ Consumers’ Cooperative societies, which had several million members all over Russia before the Revolution. Founded by Liberals and “moderate” Socialists, the Cooperative movement was not supported by the revolutionary Socialist groups, because it was a substitute for the complete transference of means of production and distribution into the hands of the workers. After the March Revolution the Cooperatives spread rapidly, and were dominated by Populist Socialists, Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries, and acted as a conservative political force until the Bolshevik Revolution. However, it was the Cooperatives which fed Russia when the old structure of commerce and transportation collapsed.
7. Army Committees. The Army Committees were formed by the soldiers at the front to combat the reactionary influence of the old regime officers. Every company, regiment, brigade, division and corps had its committee, over all of which was elected the Army Committee. The Central Army Committee cooperated with the General Staff. The administrative break-down in the army incident upon the Revolution threw upon the shoulders of the Army Committees most of the work of the Quartermaster’s Department, and in some cases, even the command of troops.
8. Fleet Committees. The corresponding organisations in the Navy.
Central Committees
In the spring and summer of 1917, All-Russian conventions of every sort of organisation were held at Petrograd. There were national congresses of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Soviets, Trade Unions, Factory-Shop Committees, Army and Fleet Committees-besides every branch of the military and naval service, Cooperatives, Nationalities, etc. Each of these conventions elected a Central Committee, or a Central Executive Committee, to guard its particular interests at the seat of Government. As the Provisional Government grew weaker, these Central Committees were forced to assume more and more administrative powers.
The most important Central Committees mentioned in this book are:
Union of Unions. During the Revolution of 1905, Professor Miliukov and other Liberals established unions of professional men-doctors, lawyers, physicians, etc. These were united under one central organisation, the Union of Unions. In 1905 the Union of Unionsacted with the revolutionary democracy; in 1917, however, the Union of Unions opposed the Bolshevik uprising, and united the Government employees who went on strike against the authority of the Soviets.
Tsay-ee-kah. All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. So called from the initials of its name.
Tsentroflot. “Centre-Fleet”-the Central Fleet Committee.
Vikzhel. All-Russian Central Committee of the Railway Workers’ Union. So called from the initials of its name.
Other Organisations
Red Guards. The armed factory workers of Russia. The Red Guards were first formed during the Revolution of 1905, and sprang into existence again in the days of March, 1917, when a force was needed to keep order in the city. At that time they were armed, and all efforts of the Provisional Government to disarm them were more or less unsuccessful. At every great crisis in the Revolution the Red Guards appeared on the streets, untrained and undisciplined, but full of Revolutionary zeal.
White Guards. Bourgeois volunteers, who emerged in the last stages of the Revolution, to defend private property from the Bolshevik attempt to abolish it. A great many of them were University students.
Tekhintsi. The so-called “Savage Division” in the army, made up of Mohametan tribesmen from Central Asia, and personally devoted to General Kornilov. The Tekhintsi were noted for their blind obedience and their savage cruelty in warfare.
Death Battalions. Or Shock Battalions. The Women’s Battalion is known to the world as the Death Battalion, but there were many Death Battalions composed of men. These were formed in the summer of 1917 by Kerensky, for the purpose of strengthening the discipline and combative fire of the army by heroic example. The Death Battalions were composed mostly of intense young patriots. These came for the most part from among the sons of the propertied classes.
Union of Officers. An organisation formed among the reactionary officers in the army to combat politically the growing power of the Army Committees.
Knights of St. George. The Cross of St. George was awarded for distinguished action in battle. Its holder automatically became a “Knight of St. George.” The predominant influence in the organisation was that of the supporters of the military idea.
Peasants’ Union. In 1905, the Peasants’ Union was a revolutionary peasants’ organisation. In 1917, however, it had become the political expression of the more prosperous peasants, to fight the growing power and revolutionary aims of the Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies.
Chronology and Spelling
I have adopted in this book our Calendar throughout, instead of the former Russian Calendar, which was thirteen days earlier.
In the spelling of Russian names and words, I have made no attempt to follow any scientific rules for transliteration, but have tried to give the spelling which would lead the English-speaking reader to the simplest approximation of their pronunciation.
Sources
Much of the material in this book is from my own notes. I have also relied, however, upon a heterogeneous file of several hundred assorted Russian newspapers, covering almost every day of the time described, of files of the English paper, the Russian Daily News, and of the two French papers, Journal de Russie and Entente. But far more valuable than these is the Bulletin de la Presse issued daily by the French Information Bureau in Petrograd, which reports all important happenings, speeches and the comment of the Russian press. Of this I have an almost complete file from the spring of 1917 to the end of January, 1918.
Besides the foregoing, I have in my possession almost every proclamation, decree and announcement posted on the walls of Petrograd from the middle of September, 1917, to the end of January, 1918. Also the official publication of all Government decrees and orders, and the official Government publication of the secret treaties and other documents discovered in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when the Bolsheviki took it over.
CHAPTER I: THE BACKGROUND.
Toward the end of September, 1917, an alien Professor of Sociology visiting Russia came to see me in Petrograd. He had been informed by business men and intellectuals that the Revolution was slowing down. The Professor wrote an article about it, and then travelled around the country, visiting factory towns and peasant communities-where, to his astonishment, the Revolution seemed to be speeding up. Among the wage-earners and the land-working people it was common to hear talk of “all land to the peasants, all factories to the workers.” If the Professor had visited the front, he would have heard the whole Army talking Peace….
The Professor was puzzled, but he need not have been; both observations were correct. The property-owning classes were becoming more conservative, the masses of the people more radical.
There was a feeling among business men and the intelligentzia generally that the Revolution had gone quite far enough, and lasted too long; that things should settle down. This sentiment was shared by the dominant “moderate” Socialist groups, the oborontsi (See App. I, Sect. 1) Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries, who supported the Provisional Government of Kerensky.
On October 14th the official organ of the “moderate” Socialists said:
The drama of Revolution has two acts; the destruction of the old régime and the creation of the new one. The first act has lasted long enough. Now it is time to go on to the second, and to play it as rapidly as possible. As a great revolutionist put it, “Let us hasten, friends, to terminate the Revolution. He who makes it last too long will not gather the fruits….”
Among the worker, soldier and peasant masses, however, there was a stubborn feeling that the “first act” was not yet played out. On the front the Army Committees were always running foul of officers who could not get used to treating their men like human beings; in the rear the Land Committees elected by the peasants were being jailed for trying to carry out Government regulations concerning the land; and the workmen (See App. I, Sect. 2) in the factories were fighting black-lists and lockouts. Nay, furthermore, returning political exiles were being excluded from the country as “undesirable” citizens; and in some cases, men who returned from abroad to their villages were prosecuted and imprisoned for revolutionary acts committed in 1905.
To the multiform discontent of the people the “moderate” Socialists had one answer: Wait for the Constituent Assembly, which is to meet in December. But the masses were not satisfied with that. The Constituent Assembly was all well and good; but there were certain definite things for which the Russian Revolution had been made, and for which the revolutionary martyrs rotted in their stark Brotherhood Grave on Mars Field, that must be achieved Constituent Assembly or no Constituent Assembly: Peace, Land, and Workers’ Control of Industry. The Constituent Assembly had been postponed and postponed-would probably be postponed again, until the people were calm enough-perhaps to modify their demands! At any rate, here were eight months of the Revolution gone, and little enough to show for it….
Meanwhile the soldiers began to solve the peace question by simply deserting, the peasants burned manor-houses and took over the great estates, the workers sabotaged and struck…. Of course, as was natural, the manufacturers, land-owners and army officers exerted all their influence against any democratic compromise….
The policy of the Provisional Government alternated between ineffective reforms and stern repressive measures. An edict from the Socialist Minister of Labour ordered all the Workers’ Committees henceforth to meet only after working hours. Among the troops at the front, “agitators” of opposition political parties were arrested, radical newspapers closed down, and capital punishment applied-to revolutionary propagandists. Attempts were made to disarm the Red Guard. Cossacks were sent to keep order in the provinces….
These measures were supported by the “moderate” Socialists and their leaders in the Ministry, who considered it necessary to cooperate with the propertied classes. The people rapidly deserted them, and went over to the Bolsheviki, who stood for Peace, Land, and Workers’ Control of Industry, and a Government of the working-class. In September, 1917, matters reached a crisis. Against the overwhelming sentiment of the country, Kerensky and the “moderate” Socialists succeeded in establishing a Government of Coalition with the propertied classes; and as a result, the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries lost the confidence of the people forever.
An article in Rabotchi Put (Workers’ Way) about the middle of October, entitled “The Socialist Ministers,” expressed the feeling of the masses of the people against the “moderate” Socialists:
Here is a list of their services.(See App. I, Sect. 3)
Tseretelli: disarmed the workmen with the assistance of General Polovtsev, checkmated the revolutionary soldiers, and approved of capital punishment in the army.
Skobeliev: commenced by trying to tax the capitalists 100% of their profits, and finished-and finished by an attempt to dissolve the Workers’ Committees in the shops and factories.
Avksentiev: put several hundred peasants in prison, members of the Land Committees, and suppressed dozens of workers’ and soldiers’ newspapers.
Tchernov: signed the “Imperial” manifest, ordering the dissolution of the Finnish Diet.
Savinkov: concluded an open alliance with General Kornilov. If this saviour of the country was not able to betray Petrograd, it was due to reasons over which he had no control.
Zarudny: with the sanction of Alexinsky and Kerensky, put some of the best workers of the Revolution, soldiers and sailors, in prison.
Nikitin: acted as a vulgar policeman against the Railway Workers.
Kerensky: it is better not to say anything about him. The list of his services is too long….
A Congress of delegates of the Baltic Fleet, at Helsingfors, passed a resolution which began as follows:
We demand the immediate removal from the ranks of the Provisional Government of the “Socialist,” the political adventurer-Kerensky, as one who is scandalising and ruining the great Revolution, and with it the revolutionary masses, by his shameless political blackmail on behalf of the bourgeoisie….
The direct result of all this was the rise of the Bolsheviki….
Since March, 1917, when the roaring torrents of workmen and soldiers beating upon the Tauride Palace compelled the reluctant Imperial Duma to assume the supreme power in Russia, it was the masses of the people, workers, soldiers and peasants, which forced every change in the course of the Revolution. They hurled the Miliukov Ministry down; it was their Soviet which proclaimed to the world the Russian peace terms-“No annexations, no indemnities, and the right of self-determination of peoples”; and again, in July, it was the spontaneous rising of the unorganised proletariat which once more stormed the Tauride Palace, to demand that the Soviets take over the Government of Russia.
The Bolsheviki, then a small political sect, put themselves at the head of the movement. As a result of the disastrous failure of the rising, public opinion turned against them, and their leaderless hordes slunk back into the Viborg Quarter, which is Petrograd’s St. Antoine. Then followed a savage hunt of the Bolsheviki; hundreds were imprisoned, among them Trotzky, Madame Kollontai and Kameniev; Lenin and Zinoviev went into hiding, fugitives from justice; the Bolshevik papers were suppressed. Provocators and reactionaries raised the cry that the Bolsheviki were German agents, until people all over the world believed it.
But the Provisional Government found itself unable to substantiate its accusations; the documents proving pro-German conspiracy were discovered to be forgeries; [*] and one by one the Bolsheviki were released from prison without trial, on nominal or no bail-until only six remained. The impotence and indecision of the ever-changing Provisional Government was an argument nobody could refute. The Bolsheviki raised again the slogan so dear to the masses, “All Power to the Soviets!”-and they were not merely self-seeking, for at that time the majority of the Soviets was “moderate” Socialist, their bitter enemy.
[*Part of the famous “Sisson Documents”]
But more potent still, they took the crude, simple desires of the workers, soldiers and peasants, and from them built their immediate programme. And so, while the oborontsi Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries involved themselves in compromise with the bourgeoisie, the Bolsheviki rapidly captured the Russian masses. In July they were hunted and despised; by September the metropolitan workmen, the sailors of the Baltic Fleet, and the soldiers, had been won almost entirely to their cause. The September municipal elections in the large cities (See App. I, Sect. 4) were significant; only 18 per cent of the returns were Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary, against more than 70 per cent in June….
There remains a phenomenon which puzzled foreign observers: the fact that the Central Executive Committees of the Soviets, the Central Army and Fleet Committees, [*1] and the Central Committees of some of the Unions-notably, the Post and Telegraph Workers and the Railway Workers-opposed the Bolsheviki with the utmost violence. These Central Committees had all been elected in the middle of the summer, or even before, when the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries had an enormous following; and they delayed or prevented any new elections. Thus, according to the constitution of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, the All-Russian Congress should have been called in September; but the Tsay-ee-kah [*2] would not call the meeting, on the ground that the Constituent Assembly was only two months away, at which time, they hinted, the Soviets would abdicate. Meanwhile, one by one, the Bolsheviki were winning in the local Soviets all over the country, in the Union branches and the ranks of the soldiers and sailors. The Peasants’ Soviets remained still conservative, because in the sluggish rural districts political consciousness developed slowly, and the Socialist Revolutionary party had been for a generation the party which had agitated among the peasants…. But even among the peasants a revolutionary wing was forming. It showed itself clearly in October, when the left wing of the Socialist Revolutionaries split off, and formed a new political faction, the Left Socialist Revolutionaries.
[*1 See Notes and Explanations.]
[*2 See Notes and Explanations.]
At the same time there were signs everywhere that the forces of reaction were gaining confidence.(See App. I, Sect. 5) At the Troitsky Farce theatre in Petrograd, for example, a burlesque called Sins of the Tsar was interrupted by a group of Monarchists, who threatened to lynch the actors for “insulting the Emperor.” Certain newspapers began to sigh for a “Russian Napoleon.” It was the usual thing among bourgeois intelligentzia to refer to the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies (Rabotchikh Deputatov) as SabatchikhDeputatov-Dogs’ Deputies.
On October 15th I had a conversation with a great Russian capitalist, Stepan Georgevitch Lianozov, known as the “Russian Rockefeller”-a Cadet by political faith.
“Revolution,” he said, “is a sickness. Sooner or later the foreign powers must intervene here-as one would intervene to cure a sick child, and teach it how to walk. Of course it would be more or less improper, but the nations must realise the danger of Bolshevism in their own countries-such contagious ideas as ‘proletarian dictatorship,’ and ‘world social revolution’… There is a chance that this intervention may not be necessary. Transportation is demoralised, the factories are closing down, and the Germans are advancing. Starvation and defeat may bring the Russian people to their senses….”
Mr. Lianozov was emphatic in his opinion that whatever happened, it would be impossible for merchants and manufacturers to permit the existence of the workers’ Shop Committees, or to allow the workers any share in the management of industry.
“As for the Bolsheviki, they will be done away with by one of two methods. The Government can evacuate Petrograd, then a state of siege declared, and the military commander of the district can deal with these gentlemen without legal formalities…. Or if, for example, the Constituent Assembly manifests any Utopian tendencies, it can be dispersed by force of arms….”
Winter was coming on-the terrible Russian winter. I heard business men speak of it so: “Winter was always Russia’s best friend. Perhaps now it will rid us of Revolution.” On the freezing front miserable armies continued to starve and die, without enthusiasm. The railways were breaking down, food lessening, factories closing. The desperate masses cried out that the bourgeoisie was sabotaging the life of the people, causing defeat on the Front. Riga had been surrendered just after General Kornilov said publicly, “Must we pay with Riga the price of bringing the country to a sense of its duty?” [*]
[* See “Kornilov to Brest-Litvosk” by John Reed. Boni and Liveright N.Y., 1919]
To Americans it is incredible that the class war should develop to such a pitch. But I have personally met officers on the Northern Front who frankly preferred military disaster to cooperation with the Soldiers’ Committees. The secretary of the Petrograd branch of the Cadet party told me that the break-down of the country’s economic life was part of a campaign to discredit the Revolution. An Allied diplomat, whose name I promised not to mention, confirmed this from his own knowledge. I know of certain coal-mines near Kharkov which were fired and flooded by their owners, of textile factories at Moscow whose engineers put the machinery out of order when they left, of railroad officials caught by the workers in the act of crippling locomotives….
A large section of the propertied classes preferred the Germans to the Revolution-even to the Provisional Government-and didn’t hesitate to say so. In the Russian household where I lived, the subject of conversation at the dinner table was almost invariably the coming of the Germans, bringing “law and order.”… One evening I spent at the house of a Moscow merchant; during tea we asked the eleven people at the table whether they preferred “Wilhelm or the Bolsheviki.” The vote was ten to one for Wilhelm…
The speculators took advantage of the universal disorganisation to pile up fortunes, and to spend them in fantastic revelry or the corruption of Government officials. Foodstuffs and fuel were hoarded, or secretly sent out of the country to Sweden. In the first four months of the Revolution, for example, the reserve food-supplies were almost openly looted from the great Municipal warehouses of Petrograd, until the two-years’ provision of grain had fallen to less than enough to feed the city for one month…. According to the official report of the last Minister of Supplies in the Provisional Government, coffee was bought wholesale in Vladivostok for two rubles a pound, and the consumer in Petrograd paid thirteen. In all the stores of the large cities were tons of food and clothing; but only the rich could buy them.
In a provincial town I knew a merchant family turned speculator-maradior (bandit, ghoul) the Russians call it. The three sons had bribed their way out of military service. One gambled in foodstuffs. Another sold illegal gold from the Lena mines to mysterious parties in Finland. The third owned a controlling interest in a chocolate factory, which supplied the local Cooperative societies-on condition that the Cooperatives furnished him everything he needed. And so, while the masses of the people got a quarter pound of black bread on their bread cards, he had an abundance of white bread, sugar, tea, candy, cake and butter…. Yet when the soldiers at the front could no longer fight from cold, hunger and exhaustion, how indignantly did this family scream “Cowards!”-how “ashamed” they were “to be Russians”… When finally the Bolsheviki found and requisitioned vast hoarded stores of provisions, what “Robbers” they were.
Beneath all this external rottenness moved the old-time Dark Forces, unchanged since the fall of Nicholas the Second, secret still and very active. The agents of the notorious Okhrana still functioned, for and against the Tsar, for and against Kerensky-whoever would pay…. In the darkness, underground organisations of all sorts, such as the Black Hundreds, were busy attempting to restore reaction in some form or other.
In this atmosphere of corruption, of monstrous half-truths, one clear note sounded day after day, the deepening chorus of the Bolsheviki, “All Power to the Soviets! All power to the direct representatives of millions on millions of common workers, soldiers, peasants. Land, bread, an end to the senseless war, an end to secret diplomacy, speculation, treachery…. The Revolution is in danger, and with it the cause of the people all over the world!”
The struggle between the proletariat and the middle class, between the Soviets and the Government, which had begun in the first March days, was about to culminate. Having at one bound leaped from the Middle Ages into the twentieth century, Russia showed the startled world two systems of Revolution-the political and the social-in mortal combat.
What a revelation of the vitality of the Russian Revolution, after all these months of starvation and disillusionment! The bourgeoisie should have better known its Russia. Not for a long time in Russia will the “sickness” of Revolution have run its course….
Looking back, Russia before the November insurrection seems of another age, almost incredibly conservative. So quickly did we adapt ourselves to the newer, swifter life; just as Russian politics swung bodily to the Left-until the Cadets were outlawed as “enemies of the people,” Kerensky became a “counter-revolutionist,” the “middle” Socialist leaders, Tseretelli, Dan, Lieber, Gotz and Avksentiev, were too reactionary for their following, and men like Victor Tchernov, and even Maxim Gorky, belonged to the Right Wing….
About the middle of December, 1917, a group of Socialist Revolutionary leaders paid a private visit to Sir George Buchanan, the British Ambassador, and implored him not to mention the fact that they had been there, because they were “considered too far Right.”
“And to think,” said Sir George. “One year ago my Government instructed me not to receive Miliukov, because he was so dangerously Left!”
September and October are the worst months of the Russian year-especially the Petrograd year. Under dull grey skies, in the shortening days, the rain fell drenching, incessant. The mud underfoot was deep, slippery and clinging, tracked everywhere by heavy boots, and worse than usual because of the complete break-down of the Municipal administration. Bitter damp winds rushed in from the Gulf of Finland, and the chill fog rolled through the streets. At night, for motives of economy as well as fear of Zeppelins, the street-lights were few and far between; in private dwellings and apartment-houses the electricity was turned on from six o’clock until midnight, with candles forty cents apiece and little kerosene to be had. It was dark from three in the afternoon to ten in the morning. Robberies and housebreakings increased. In apartment houses the men took turns at all-night guard duty, armed with loaded rifles. This was under the Provisional Government.
Week by week food became scarcer. The daily allowance of bread fell from a pound and a half to a pound, then three quarters, half, and a quarter-pound. Toward the end there was a week without any bread at all. Sugar one was entitled to at the rate of two pounds a month-if one could get it at all, which was seldom. A bar of chocolate or a pound of tasteless candy cost anywhere from seven to ten rubles-at least a dollar. There was milk for about half the babies in the city; most hotels and private houses never saw it for months. In the fruit season apples and pears sold for a little less than a ruble apiece on the street-corner….
For milk and bread and sugar and tobacco one had to stand in queue long hours in the chill rain. Coming home from an all-night meeting I have seen the kvost (tail) beginning to form before dawn, mostly women, some with babies in their arms…. Carlyle, in his French Revolution, has described the French people as distinguished above all others by their faculty of standing in queue. Russia had accustomed herself to the practice, begun in the reign of Nicholas the Blessed as long ago as 1915, and from then continued intermittently until the summer of 1917, when it settled down as the regular order of things. Think of the poorly-clad people standing on the iron-white streets of Petrograd whole days in the Russian winter! I have listened in the bread-lines, hearing the bitter, acrid note of discontent which from time to time burst up through the miraculous goodnature of the Russian crowd….
Of course all the theatres were going every night, including Sundays. Karsavina appeared in a new Ballet at the Marinsky, all dance-loving Russia coming to see her. Shaliapin was singing. At the Alexandrinsky they were reviving Meyerhold’s production of Tolstoy’s “Death of Ivan the Terrible”; and at that performance I remember noticing a student of the Imperial School of Pages, in his dress uniform, who stood up correctly between the acts and faced the empty Imperial box, with its eagles all erased…. The Krivoye Zerkalostaged a sumptuous version of Schnitzler’s “Reigen.”
Although the Hermitage and other picture galleries had been evacuated to Moscow, there were weekly exhibitions of paintings. Hordes of the female intelligentzia went to hear lectures on Art, Literature and the Easy Philosophies. It was a particularly active season for Theosophists. And the Salvation Army, admitted to Russia for the first time in history, plastered the walls with announcements of gospel meetings, which amused and astounded Russian audiences….
As in all such times, the petty conventional life of the city went on, ignoring the Revolution as much as possible. The poets made verses-but not about the Revolution. The realistic painters painted scenes from mediæval Russian history-anything but the Revolution. Young ladies from the provinces came up to the capital to learn French and cultivate their voices, and the gay young beautiful officers wore their gold-trimmed crimson bashliki and their elaborate Caucasian swords around the hotel lobbies. The ladies of the minor bureaucratic set took tea with each other in the afternoon, carrying each her little gold or silver or jewelled sugar-box, and half a loaf of bread in her muff, and wished that the Tsar were back, or that the Germans would come, or anything that would solve the servant problem…. The daughter of a friend of mine came home one afternoon in hysterics because the woman street-car conductor had called her “Comrade!”
All around them great Russia was in travail, bearing a new world. The servants one used to treat like animals and pay next to nothing, were getting independent. A pair of shoes cost more than a hundred rubles, and as wages averaged about thirty-five rubles a month the servants refused to stand in queue and wear out their shoes. But more than that. In the new Russia every man and woman could vote; there were working-class newspapers, saying new and startling things; there were the Soviets; and there were the Unions. The izvoshtchiki (cab-drivers) had a Union; they were also represented in the Petrograd Soviet. The waiters and hotel servants were organised, and refused tips. On the walls of restaurants they put up signs which read, “No tips taken here-” or, “Just because a man has to make his living waiting on table is no reason to insult him by offering him a tip!”
At the Front the soldiers fought out their fight with the officers, and learned self-government through their committees. In the factories those unique Russian organisations, the Factory-Shop Committees, [*] gained experience and strength and a realisation of their historical mission by combat with the old order. All Russia was learning to read, and reading-politics, economics, history-because the people wanted to know…. In every city, in most towns, along the Front, each political faction had its newspaper-sometimes several. Hundreds of thousands of pamphlets were distributed by thousands of organisations, and poured into the armies, the villages, the factories, the streets. The thirst for education, so long thwarted, burst with the Revolution into a frenzy of expression. From Smolny Institute alone, the first six months, went out every day tons, car-loads, train-loads of literature, saturating the land. Russia absorbed reading matter like hot sand drinks water, insatiable. And it was not fables, falsified history, diluted religion, and the cheap fiction that corrupts-but social and economic theories, philosophy, the works of Tolstoy, Gogol, and Gorky….
[* See Notes and Explanations]
Then the Talk, beside which Carlyle’s “flood of French speech” was a mere trickle. Lectures, debates, speeches-in theatres, circuses, school-houses, clubs, Soviet meeting-rooms, Union headquarters, barracks…. Meetings in the trenches at the Front, in village squares, factories…. What a marvellous sight to see Putilovsky Zavod (the Putilov factory) pour out its forty thousand to listen to Social Democrats, Socialist Revolutionaries, Anarchists, anybody, whatever they had to say, as long as they would talk! For months in Petrograd, and all over Russia, every street-corner was a public tribune. In railway trains, street-cars, always the spurting up of impromptu debate, everywhere….
And the All-Russian Conferences and Congresses, drawing together the men of two continents-conventions of Soviets, of Cooperatives, Zemstvos, [*] nationalities, priests, peasants, political parties; the Democratic Conference, the Moscow Conference, the Council of the Russian Republic. There were always three or four conventions going on in Petrograd. At every meeting, attempts to limit the time of speakers voted down, and every man free to express the thought that was in him….
[* See Notes and Explanations]
We came down to the front of the Twelfth Army, back of Riga, where gaunt and bootless men sickened in the mud of desperate trenches; and when they saw us they started up, with their pinched faces and the flesh showing blue through their torn clothing, demanding eagerly, “Did you bring anything to read?”
What though the outward and visible signs of change were many, what though the statue of Catharine the Great before the Alexandrinsky Theatre bore a little red flag in its hand, and others-somewhat faded-floated from all public buildings; and the Imperial monograms and eagles were either torn down or covered up; and in place of the fierce gorodovoye (city police) a mild-mannered and unarmed citizen militia patrolled the streets-still, there were many quaint anachronisms.
For example, Peter the Great’s Tabel o Rangov-Table of Ranks-which he rivetted upon Russia with an iron hand, still held sway. Almost everybody from the school-boy up wore his prescribed uniform, with the insignia of the Emperor on button and shoulder-strap. Along about five o’clock in the afternoon the streets were full of subdued old gentlemen in uniform, with portfolios, going home from work in the huge, barrack-like Ministries or Government institutions, calculating perhaps how great a mortality among their superiors would advance them to the coveted tchin (rank) of Collegiate Assessor, or Privy Councillor, with the prospect of retirement on a comfortable pension, and possibly the Cross of St. Anne….
There is the story of Senator Sokolov, who in full tide of Revolution came to a meeting of the Senate one day in civilian clothes, and was not admitted because he did not wear the prescribed livery of the Tsar’s service!
It was against this background of a whole nation in ferment and disintegration that the pageant of the Rising of the Russian Masses unrolled….