DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF THE PEOPLES OF RUSSIA (See App. XI, Sect. 2)
. . . The first Congress of Soviets, in June of this year, proclaimed the right of the peoples of Russia to self-determination.
The second Congress of Soviets, in November last, confirmed this inalienable right of the peoples of Russia more decisively and definitely.
Executing the will of these Congresses, the Council of People’s Commissars has resolved to establish as a basis for its activity in the question of Nationalities, the following principles:
(1) The equality and sovereignty of the peoples of Russia.
(2) The right of the peoples of Russia to free self-determination, even to the point of separation and the formation of an independent state.
(3) The abolition of any and all national and national religious privileges and disabilities.
(4) The free development of national minorities and ethnographic groups inhabiting the territory of Russia.
Decrees will be prepared immediately upon the formation of a Commission on Nationalities.
In the name of the Russian Republic,
People’s Commissar for Nationalities
President of the Council of People’s Commissars
V. ULIANOV (LENIN)
The Central Rada at Kiev immediately declared Ukraine an independent Republic, as did the Government of Finland, through the Senate at Helsingfors. Independent “Governments” spring up in Siberia and the Caucasus. The Polish Chief Military Committee swiftly gathered together the Polish troops in the Russian army, abolished their Committees and established an iron discipline. . . .
All these “Governments” and “movements” had two characteristics in common; they were controlled by the propertied classes, and they feared and detested Bolshevism. . . .
Steadily, amid the chaos of shocking change, the Council of People’s Commissars hammered at the scaffolding of the Socialist order. Decree on Social Insurance, on Workers’ Control, Regulations for Volost Land Committees, Abolition of Ranks and Titles, Abolition of Courts and the Creation of People’s Tribunals. . . . (See App. XI, Sect. 3)
Army after army, fleet after fleet, sent deputations, “joyfully to greet the new Government of the People.”
In front of Smolny, one day, I saw a ragged regiment just come from the trenches. The soldiers were drawn up before the great gates, thin and grey-faced, looking up at the building as if God were in it. Some pointed out the Imperial eagles over the door, laughing. . . . Red Guards came to mount guard. All the soldiers turned to look, curiously, as if they had heard of them but never seen them. They laughed good-naturedly and pressed out of line to slap the Red Guards on the back, with half-joking, half-admiring remarks. . . .
The Provisional Government was no more. On November 15th, in all the churches of the capital, the priests stopped praying for it. But as Lenin himself told the Tsay-ee-kah, that was “only the beginning of the conquest of power.” Deprived of arms, the opposition, which still controlled the economic life of the country, settled down to organise disorganisation, with all the Russian genius for cooperative action-to obstruct, cripple and discredit the Soviets.
The strike of Government employees was well organised, financed by the banks and commercial establishments. Every move of the Bolsheviki to take over the Government apparatus was resisted.
Trotzky went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the functionaries refused to recognise him, locked themselves in, and when the doors were forced, resigned. He demanded the keys of the archives; only when he brought workmen to force the locks were they given up. Then it was discovered that Neratov, former assistant Foreign Minister, had disappeared with the Secret Treaties. . . .
Shliapnikov tried to take possession of the Ministry of Labour. It was bitterly cold, and there was no one to light the fires. Of all the hundreds of employees, not one would show him where the office of the Minister was. . . .
Alexandra Kollontai, appointed the 13th of November Commissar of Public Welfare — the department of charities and public institutions-was welcomed with a strike of all but forty of the functionaries in the Ministry. Immediately the poor of the great cities, the inmates of institutions, were plunged in miserable want: delegations of starving cripples, of orphans with blue, pinched faces, besieged the building. With tears streaming down her face, Kollontai arrested the strikers until they should deliver the keys of the office and the safe; when she got the keys, however, it was discovered that the former Minister, Countess Panina, had gone off with all the funds, which she refused to surrender except on the order of the Constituent Assembly. (See App. XI, Sect. 4)
In the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Supplies, the Ministry of Finance, similar incidents occurred. And the employees, summoned to return or forfeit their positions and their pensions, either stayed away or returned to sabotage. . . . Almost all the intelligentzia being anti-Bolshevik, there was nowhere for the Soviet Government to recruit new staffs. . . .
The private banks remained stubbornly closed, with a back door open for speculators. When Bolshevik Commissars entered, the clerks left, secreting the books and removing the funds. All the employees of the State Bank struck except the clerks in charge of the vaults and the manufacture of money, who refused all demands from Smolny and privately paid out huge sums to the Committee for Salvation and the City Duma.
Twice a Commissar, with a company of Red Guards, came formally to insist upon the delivery of large sums for Government expenses. The first time, the City Duma members and the Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary leaders were present in imposing numbers, and spoke so gravely of the consequences that the Commissar was frightened. The second time he arrived with a warrant, which he proceeded to read aloud in due form; but some one called his attention to the fact that it had no date and no seal, and the traditional Russian respect for “documents” forced him again to withdraw. . . .
The officials of the Credit Chancery destroyed their books, so that all record of the financial relations of Russia with foreign countries was lost.
The Supply Committees, the administrations of the Municipal-owned public utilities, either did not work at all, or sabotaged. And when the Bolsheviki, compelled by the desperate needs of the city population, attempted to help or to control the public service, all the employees went on strike immediately, and the Duma flooded Russia with telegrams about Bolshevik “violation of Municipal autonomy.”
At Military headquarters, and in the offices of the Ministries of War and Marine, where the old officials had consented to work, the Army Committees and the high command blocked the Soviets in every way possible, even to the extent of neglecting the troops at the front. The Vikzhel was hostile, refusing to transport Soviet troops; every troop-train that left Petrograd was taken out by force, and railway officials had to be arrested each time — whereupon the Vikzhel threatened an immediate general strike unless they were released. . . .
Smolny was plainly powerless. The newspapers said that all the factories of Petrograd must shut down for lack of fuel in three weeks; the Vikzhel announced that trains must cease running by December first; there was food for three days only in Petrograd, and no more coming in; and the Army on the Front was starving. . . . The Committee for Salvation, the various Central Committees, sent word all over the country, exhorting the population to ignore the Government decrees. And the Allied Embassies were either coldly indifferent, or openly hostile. . . .
The opposition newspapers, suppressed one day and reappearing next morning under new names, heaped bitter sarcasm on the new regime. (See App. XI, Sect. 5) Even Novaya Zhizn characterised it as “a combination of demagoguery and impotence.”
From day to day (it said) the Government of the People’s Commissars sinks deeper and deeper into the mire of superficial haste. Having easily conquered the power . . . the Bolsheviki can not make use of it.
Powerless to direct the existing mechanism of Government, they are unable at the same time to create a new one which might work easily and freely according to the theories of social experimenters.
Just a little while ago the Bolsheviki hadn’t enough men to run their growing party — a work above all of speakers and writers; where then are they going to find trained men to execute the diverse and complicated functions of government?
The new Government acts and threatens, it sprays the country with decrees, each one more radical and more “socialist” than the last. But in this exhibition of Socialism on Paper-more likely designed for the stupefaction of our descendants — there appears neither the desire nor the capacity to solve the immediate problems of the day!
Meanwhile the Vikzhel’s Conference to Form a New Government continued to meet night and day. Both sides had already agreed in principle to the basis of the Government; the composition of the People’s Council was being discussed; the Cabinet was tentatively chosen, with Tchernov as Premier; the Bolsheviki were admitted in a large minority, but Lenin and Trotzky were barred. The Central Committees of the Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary parties, the Executive Committee of the Peasant’s Soviets, resolved that, although unalterably opposed to the “criminal politics” of the Bolsheviki, they would, “in order to halt the fratricidal bloodshed,” not oppose their entrance into the People’s Council.
The flight of Kerensky, however, and the astounding success of the Soviets everywhere, altered the situation. On the 16th, in a meeting of the Tsay-ee-kah, the Left Socialist Revolutionaries insisted that the Bolsheviki should form a coalition Government with the other Socialist parties; otherwise they would withdraw from the Military Revolutionary Committee and the Tsay-ee-kah. Malkin said, “The news from Moscow, where our comrades are dying on both sides of the barricades, determines us to bring up once more the question of organisation of power, and it is not only our right to do so, but our duty. . . . We have won the right to sit with the Bolsheviki here within the walls of Smolny Institute, and to speak from this tribune. After the bitter internal party struggle, we shall be obliged, if you refuse to compromise, to pass to open battle outside. . . . We must propose to the democracy terms of an acceptable compromise. . . . ”
After a recess to consider this ultimatum, the Bolsheviki returned with a resolution, read by Kameniev:
The Tsay-ee-kah considers it necessary that there enter into the Government representatives of all the Socialist parties composing the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies who recognise the conquests of the Revolution of November 7th-that is to say, the establishment of a Government of Soviets, the decrees on peace, land, workers’ control over industry, and the arming of the working-class. The Tsay-ee-kah therefore resolves to propose negotiations concerning the constitution of the Government to all parties of the Soviet, and insists upon the following conditions as a basis:
The Government is responsible to the Tsay-ee-kah. The Tsay-ee-kah shall be enlarged to 150 members. To these 150 delegates of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies shall be added 75 delegates of the Provincial Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies, 80 from the Front organisations of the Army and Navy, 40 from the Trade Unions (25 from the various All–Russian Unions, in proportion to their importance, 10 from the Vikzhel, and 5 from the Post and Telegraph Workers), and 50 delegates from the Socialist groups in the Petrograd City Duma. In the Ministry itself, at least one-half the portfolios must be reserved to the Bolsheviki. The Ministries of Labour, Interior and Foreign Affairs must be given to the Bolsheviki. The command of the garrisons of Petrograd and Moscow must remain in the hands of delegates of the Moscow and Petrograd Soviets.
The Government undertakes the systematic arming of the workers of all Russia.
It is resolved to insist upon the candidature of comrades Lenin and Trotzky.
Kameniev explained. “The so-called ‘People’s Council,’” he said, “proposed by the Conference, would consist of about 420 members, of which about 150 would be Bolsheviki. Besides, there would be delegates from the counter-revolutionary old Tsay-ee-kah, 100 members chosen by the Municipal Dumas–Kornilovtsi all; 100 delegates from the Peasants’ Soviets-appointed by Avksentiev, and 80 from the old Army Committees, who no longer represent the soldier masses.
“We refuse to admit the old Tsay-ee-kah, and also the representatives of the Municipal Dumas. The delegates from the Peasants’ Soviets shall be elected by the Congress of Peasants, which we have called, and which will at the same time elect a new Executive Committee. The proposal to exclude Lenin and Trotzky is a proposal to decapitate our party, and we do not accept it. And finally, we see no necessity for a ‘People’s Council’ anyway; the Soviets are open to all Socialist parties, and the Tsay-ee-kah represents them in their real proportions among the masses. . . . ”
Karelin, for the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, declared that his party would vote for the Bolshevik resolution, reserving the right to modify certain details, such as the representation of the peasants, and demanding that the Ministry of Agriculture be reserved for the Left Socialist Revolutionaries. This was agreed to. . . .
Later, at a meeting of the Petrograd Soviet, Trotzky answered a question about the formation of the new Government:
“I don’t know anything about that. I am not taking part in the negotiations. . . . However, I don’t think that they are of great importance. . . . ”
That night there was great uneasiness in the Conference. The delegates of the City Duma withdrew. . . .
But at Smolny itself, in the ranks of the Bolshevik party, a formidable opposition to Lenin’s policy was growing. On the night of November 17th the great hall was packed and ominous for the meeting of the Tsay-ee-kah.
Larin, Bolshevik, declared that the moment of elections to the Constituent Assembly approached, and it was time to do away with “political terrorism.”
“The measures taken against the freedom of the press should be modified. They had their reason during the struggle, but now they have no further excuse. The press should be free, except for appeals to riot and insurrection.”
In a storm of hisses and hoots from his own party, Larin offered the following resolution:
The decree of the Council of People’s Commissars concerning the Press is herewith repealed.
Measures of political repression can only be employed subject to decision of a special tribunal, elected by the Tsay-ee-kah proportionally to the strength of the different parties represented; and this tribunal shall have the right also to reconsider measures of repression already taken.
This was met by a thunder of applause, not only from the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, but also from a part of the Bolsheviki.
Avanessov, for the Leninites, hastily proposed that the question of the Press be postponed until after some compromise between the Socialist parties had been reached. Overwhelmingly voted down.
“The revolution which is now being accomplished,” went on Avanessov, “has not hesitated to attack private property; and it is as private property that we must examine the question of the Press. . . . ”
Thereupon he read the official Bolshevik resolution:
The suppression of the bourgeois press was dictated not only by purely military needs in the course of the insurrection, and for the checking of counter-revolutionary action, but it is also necessary as a measure of transition toward the establishment of a new régime with regard to the Press — a régime under which the capitalist owners of printing-presses and of paper cannot be the all-powerful and exclusive manufacturers of public opinion.
We must further proceed to the confiscation of private printing plants and supplies of paper, which should become the property of the Soviets, both in the capital and in the provinces, so that the political parties and groups can make use of the facilities of printing in proportion to the actual strength of the ideas they represent-in other words, proportionally to the number of their constituents.
The reëstablishment of the so-called “freedom of the press,” the simple return of printing presses and paper to the capitalists, — poisoners of the mind of the people-this would be an inadmissible surrender to the will of capital, a giving up of one of the most important conquests of the Revolution; in other words, it would be a measure of unquestionably counter-revolutionary character.
Proceeding from the above, the Tsay-ee-kah categorically rejects all propositions aiming at the reëstablishment of the old régime in the domain of the Press, and unequivocally supports the point of view of the Council of People’s Commissars on this question, against pretentions and ultimatums dictated by petty bourgeois prejudices, or by evident surrender to the interests of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie.
The reading of this resolution was interrupted by ironical shouts from the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, and bursts of indignation from the insurgent Bolsheviki. Karelin was on his feet, protesting. “Three weeks ago the Bolsheviki were the most ardent defenders of the freedom of the Press . . . The arguments in this resolution suggest singularly the point of view of the old Black Hundreds and the censors of the Tsarist régime-for they also talked of ‘poisoners of the mind of the people.’”
Trotzky spoke at length in favour of the resolution. He distinguished between the Press during the civil war, and the Press after the victory. “During civil war the right to use violence belongs only to the oppressed. . . . ” (Cries of “Who’s the oppressed now? Cannibal!”).
“The victory over our adversaries is not yet achieved, and the newspapers are arms in their hands. In these conditions, the closing of the newspapers is a legitimate measure of defence. . . . ” Then passing to the question of the Press after the victory, Trotzky continued:
“The attitude of Socialists on the question of freedom of the Press should be the same as their attitude toward the freedom of business. . . . The rule of the democracy which is being established in Russia demands that the domination of the Press by private property must be abolished, just as the domination of industry by private property. . . . The power of the Soviets should confiscate all printing-plants.” (Cries, “Confiscate the printing-shop of Pravda!”)
“The monopoly of the Press by the bourgeoisie must be abolished. Otherwise it isn’t worth while for us to take the power! Each group of citizens should have access to print shops and paper. . . . The ownership of print-type and of paper belongs first to the workers and peasants, and only afterwards to the bourgeois parties, which are in a minority. . . . The passing of the power into the hands of the Soviets will bring about a radical transformation of the essential conditions of existence, and this transformation will necessarily be evident in the Press. . . . If we are going to nationalise the banks, can we then tolerate the financial journals? The old régime must die; that must be understood once and for all. . . . ” Applause and angry cries.
Karelin declared that the Tsay-ee-kah had no right to pass upon this important question, which should be left to a special committee. Again, passionately, he demanded that the Press be free.
Then Lenin, calm, unemotional, his forehead wrinkled, as he spoke slowly, choosing his words; each sentence falling like a hammer-blow. “The civil war is not yet finished; the enemy is still with us; consequently it is impossible to abolish the measures of repression against the Press.
“We Bolsheviki have always said that when we reached a position of power we would close the bourgeois press. To tolerate the bourgeois newspapers would mean to cease being a Socialist. When one makes a Revolution, one cannot mark time; one must always go forward-or go back. He who now talks about the ‘freedom of the Press’ goes backward, and halts our headlong course toward Socialism.
“We have thrown off the yoke of capitalism, just as the first revolution threw off the yoke of Tsarism. If the first revolution had the right to suppress the Monarchist papers, then we have the right to suppress the bourgeois press. It is impossible to separate the question of the freedom of the Press from the other questions of the class struggle. We have promised to close these newspapers, and we shall do it. The immense majority of the people is with us!
“Now that the insurrection is over, we have absolutely no desire to suppress the papers of the other Socialist parties, except inasmuch as they appeal to armed insurrection, or to disobedience to the Soviet Government. However, we shall not permit them, under the pretence of freedom of the Socialist press, to obtain, through the secret support of the bourgeoisie, a monopoly of printing-presses, ink and paper. . . . These essentials must become the property of the Soviet Government, and be apportioned, first of all, to the Socialist parties in strict proportion to their voting strength. . . . ”
Then the vote. The resolution of Larin and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries was defeated by 31 to 22; the Lenin motion was carried by 34 to 24. Among the minority were the Bolsheviki Riazanov and Lozovsky, who declared that it was impossible for them to vote against any restriction on the freedom of the Press.
Upon this the Left Socialist Revolutionaries declared they could no longer be responsible for what was being done, and withdrew from the Military Revolutionary Committee and all other positions of executive responsibility.
Five members-Nogin, Rykov, Miliutin, Teodorovitch and Shiapnikov-resigned from the Council of People’s Commissars, declaring:
We are in favour of a Socialist Government composed of all the parties in the Soviets. We consider that only the creation of such a Government can possibly guarantee the results of the heroic struggle of the working-class and the revolutionary army. Outside of that, there remains only one way: the constitution of a purely Bolshevik Government by means of political terrorism. This last is the road taken by the Council of People’s Commissars. We cannot and will not follow it. We see that this leads directly to the elimination from political life of many proletarian organisations, to the establishment of an irresponsible régime, and to the destruction of the Revolution and the country. We cannot take the responsibility for such a policy, and we renounce before the Tsay-ee-kah our function as People’s Commissars.
Other Commissars, without resigning their positions, signed the declaration-Riazanov, Derbychev of the Press Department, Arbuzov, of the Government Printing-plant, Yureniev, of the Red Guard, Feodorov, of the Commissariat of Labour, and Larin, secretary of the Section of Elaboration of Decrees.
At the same time Kameniev, Rykov, Miliutin, Zinoviev and Nogin resigned from the Central Committee of the Bolshevik party, making public their reasons:
. . . The constitution of such a Government (composed of all the parties of the Soviet) is indispensable to prevent a new flow of blood, the coming famine, the destruction of the Revolution by the Kaledinists, to assure the convocation of the Constituent Assembly at the proper time, and to apply effectively the programme adopted by the Congress of Soviets. . . .
We cannot accept the responsibility for the disastrous policy of the Central Committee, carried on against the will of an enormous majority of the proletariat and the soldiers, who are eager to see the rapid end of the bloodshed between the different political parties of the democracy. . . . We renounce our title as members of the Central Committee, in order to be able to say openly our opinion to the masses of workers and soldiers. . . .
We leave the Central Committee at the moment of victory; we cannot calmly look on while the policy of the chiefs of the Central Committee leads toward the loss of the fruits of victory and the crushing of the proletariat. . . .
The masses of the workers, the soldiers of the garrison, stirred restlessly, sending their delegations to Smolny, to the Conference for Formation of the New Government, where the break in the ranks of the Bolsheviki caused the liveliest joy.
But the answer of the Leninites was swift and ruthless. Shliapnikov and Teodorovitch submitted to party discipline and returned to their posts. Kameniev was stripped of his powers as president of the Tsay-ee-kah, and Sverdlov elected in his place. Zinoviev was deposed as president of the Petrograd Soviet. On the morning of the 5th, Pravda contained a ferocious proclamation to the people of Russia, written by Lenin, which was printed in hundreds of thousands of copies, posted on the walls everywhere, and distributed over the face of Russia.
The second All–Russian Congress of Soviets gave the majority to the Bolshevik party. Only a Government formed by this party can therefore be a Soviet Government. And it is known to all that the Central Committee of the Bolshevik party, a few hours before the formation of the new Government and before proposing the list of its members to the All–Russian Congress of Soviets, invited to its meeting three of the most eminent members of the Left Socialist Revolutionary group, comrades Kamkov, Spiro and Karelin, and ASKED THEM to participate in the new Government. We regret infinitely that the invited comrades refused; we consider their refusal inadmissible for revolutionists and champions of the working-class; we are willing at any time to include the Left Socialist Revolutionaries in the Government; but we declare that, as the party of the majority at the second All–Russian Congress of Soviets, we are entitled and BOUND before the people to form a Government. . . .
. . . Comrades! Several members of the Central Committee of our party and the Council of People’s Commissars, Kameniev, Zinoviev, Nogin, Rykov, Miliutin and a few others left yesterday, November 17th, the Central Committee of our party, and the last three, the Council of People’s Commissars. . . .
The comrades who left us acted like deserters, because they not only abandoned the posts entrusted to them, but also disobeyed the direct instructions of the Central Committee of our party, to the effect that they should await the decisions of the Petrograd and Moscow party organisations before retiring. We blame decisively such desertion. We are firmly convinced that all conscious workers, soldiers and peasants, belonging to our party or sympathising with it, will also disapprove of the behaviour of the deserters. . . .
Remember, comrades, that two of these deserters, Kameniev and Zinoviev, even before the uprising in Petrograd, appeared as deserters and strike-breakers, by voting at the decisive meeting of the Central Committee, October 23d, 1917, against the insurrection; and even AFTER the resolution passed by the Central Committee, they continued their campaign at a meeting of the party workers. . . . But the great impulse of the masses, the great heroism of millions of workers, soldiers and peasants, in Moscow, Petrograd, at the front, in the trenches, in the villages, pushed aside the deserters as a railway train scatters saw-dust. . . .
Shame upon those who are of little faith, hesitate, who doubt, who allow themselves to be frightened by the bourgeoisie, or who succumb before the cries of the latter’s direct or indirect accomplices! There is NOT A SHADOW of hesitation in the MASSES of Petrograd, Moscow, and the rest of Russia. . . .
. . . We shall not submit to any ultimatums from small groups of intellectuals which are not followed by the masses, which are PRACTICALLY only supported by Kornilovists, Savinkovists, yunkers, and so forth. . . .
The response from the whole country was like a blast of hot storm. The insurgents never got a chance to “say openly their opinion to the masses of workers and soldiers.” Upon the Tsay-ee-kah rolled in like breakers the fierce popular condemnation of the “deserters.” For days Smolny was thronged with angry delegations and committees, from the front, from the Volga, from the Petrograd factories. “Why did they dare leave the Government? Were they paid by the bourgeoisie to destroy the Revolution? They must return and submit to the decisions of the Central Committee!”
Only in the Petrograd garrison was there still uncertainty. A great soldier meeting was held on November 24th, addressed by representatives of all the political parties. By a vast majority Lenin’s policy was sustained, and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries were told that they must enter the government. . . . See next page.
The Mensheviki delivered a final ultimatum, demanding that all Ministers and yunkers be released, that all newspapers be allowed full freedom, that the Red Guard be disarmed and the garrison put under command of the Duma. To this Smolny answered that all the Socialist Ministers and also all but a very few yunkers had been already set free, that all newspapers were free except the bourgeois press, and that the Soviet would remain in command of the armed forces. . . . On the 19th the Conference to Form a New Government disbanded, and the opposition one by one slipped away to Moghilev, where, under the wing of the General Staff, they continued to form Government after Government, until the end. . . .
Meanwhile the Bolsheviki had been undermining the power of the Vikzhel. An appeal of the Petrograd Soviet to all railway workers called upon them to force the Vikzhel to surrender its powers. On the 15th, the Tsay-ee-kah, following its procedure toward the peasants, called an All–Russian Congress of Railway Workers for December 1st; the Vikzhel immediately called its own Congress for two weeks later. On November 16th, the Vikzhel members took their seats in the Tsay-ee-kah. On the night of December 2d, at the opening session of the All–Russian Congress of Railway Workers, the Tsay-ee-kah formally offered the post of Commissar of Ways and Communications to the Vikzhel— which accepted. . . .
Having settled the question of power, the Bolsheviki turned their attention to problems of practical administration. First of all the city, the country, the Army must be fed. Bands of sailors and Red Guards scoured the warehouses, the railway terminals, even the barges in the canals, unearthing and confiscating thousands of poods 1 of food held by private speculators. Emissaries were sent to the provinces, where with the assistance of the Land Committees they seized the store-houses of the great grain-dealers. Expeditions of sailors, heavily armed, were sent out in groups of five thousand, to the South, to Siberia, with roving commissions to capture cities still held by the White Guards, establish order, and get food. Passenger traffic on the Trans–Siberian Railroad was suspended for two weeks, while thirteen trains, loaded with bolts of cloth and bars of iron assembled by the Factory–Shop Committees, were sent out eastward, each in charge of a Commissar, to barter with the Siberian peasants for grain and potatoes. . . .
Kaledin being in possession of the coal-mines of the Don, the fuel question became urgent. Smolny shut off all electric lights in theatres, shops and restaurants, cut down the number of street cars, and confiscated the private stores of fire-wood held by the fuel-dealers. . . . And when the factories of Petrograd were about to close down for lack of coal, the sailors of the Baltic Fleet turned over to the workers two hundred thousand poods from the bunkers of battle-ships. . . .
Toward the end of November occurred the “wine-pogroms” (See App. XI, Sect. 7) — looting of the wine-cellars-beginning with the plundering of the Winter Palace vaults. For days there were drunken soldiers on the streets. . . . In all this was evident the hand of the counter-revolutionists, who distributed among the regiments plans showing the location of the stores of liquor. The Commissars of Smolny began by pleading and arguing, which did not stop the growing disorder, followed by pitched battles between soldiers and Red Guards. . . . Finally the Military Revolutionary Committee sent out companies of sailors with machine-guns, who fired mercilessly upon the rioters, killing many; and by executive order the wine-cellars were invaded by Committees with hatchets, who smashed the bottles-or blew them up with dynamite. . . .
Companies of Red Guards, disciplined and well-paid, were on duty at the headquarters of the Ward Soviets day and night, replacing the old Militia. In all quarters of the city small elective Revolutionary Tribunals were set up by the workers and soldiers to deal with petty crime. . . .
The great hotels, where the speculators still did a thriving business, were surrounded by Red Guards, and the speculators thrown into jail. (See App. XI, Sect. 8) . . .
Alert and suspicious, the working-class of the city constituted itself a vast spy system, through the servants prying into bourgeois households, and reporting all information to the Military Revolutionary Committee, which struck with an iron hand, unceasing. In this way was discovered the Monarchist plot led by former Duma-member Purishkevitch and a group of nobles and officers, who had planned an officers’ uprising, and had written a letter inviting Kaledin to Petrograd. (See App. XI, Sect. 9). . . . In this way was unearthed the conspiracy of the Petrograd Cadets, who were sending money and recruits to Kaledin. . . .
Neratov, frightened at the outburst of popular fury provoked by his flight, returned and surrendered the Secret Treaties to Trotzky, who began their publication in Pravda, scandalising the world. . . .
The restrictions on the Press were increased by a decree (See App. XI, Sect. 10) making advertisements a monopoly of the official Government newspaper. At this all the other papers suspended publication as a protest, or disobeyed the law and were closed. . . . Only three weeks later did they finally submit.
Still the strike of the Ministries went on, still the sabotage of the old officials, the stoppage of normal economic life. Behind Smolny was only the will of the vast, unorganised popular masses; and with them the Council of People’s Commissars dealt, directing revolutionary mass-action against its enemies. In eloquent proclamations, (See App. XI, Sect. 12) couched in simple words and spread over Russia, Lenin explained the Revolution, urged the people to take the power into their own hands, by force to break down the resistance of the propertied classes, by force to take over the institutions of Government. Revolutionary order. Revolutionary discipline! Strict accounting and control! No strikes! No loafing!
On the 20th of November the Military Revolutionary Committee issued a warning:
The rich classes oppose the power of the Soviets — the Government of workers, soldiers and peasants. Their sympathisers halt the work of the employees of the Government and the Duma, incite strikes in the banks, try to interrupt communication by the railways, the post and the telegraph. . . .
We warn them that they are playing with fire. The country and the Army are threatened with famine. To fight against it, the regular functioning of all services is indispensable. The Workers’ and Peasants’ Government is taking every measure to assure the country and the Army all that is necessary. Opposition to these measures is a crime against the People. We warn the rich classes and their sympathisers that, if they do not cease their sabotage and their provocation in halting the transportation of food, they will be the first to suffer. They will be deprived of the right of receiving food. All the reserves which they possess will be requisitioned. The property of the principal criminals will be confiscated.
We have done our duty in warning those who play with fire.
We are convinced that in case decisive measures become necessary, we shall be solidly supported by all workers, soldiers, and peasants.
On the 22d of November the walls of the city were placarded with a sheet headed “EXTRAORDINARY COMMUNICATION”:
The Council of People’s Commissars has received an urgent telegram from the Staff of the Northern Front. . . .
“There must be no further delay; do not let the Army die of hunger; the armies of the Northern Front have not received a crust of bread now for several days, and in two or three days they will not have any more biscuits — which are being doled out to them from reserve supplies until now never touched. . . . Already delegates from all parts of the Front are talking of a necessary removal of part of the Army to the rear, foreseeing that in a few days there will be headlong flight of the soldiers, dying from hunger, ravaged by the three years’ war in the trenches, sick, insufficiently clothed, bare-footed, driven mad by superhuman misery.”
The Military Revolutionary Committee brings this to the notice of the Petrograd garrison and the workers of Petrograd. The situation at the Front demands the most urgent and decisive measures. . . . Meanwhile the higher functionaries of the Government institutions, banks, railroads, post and telegraph, are on strike and impeding the work of the Government in supplying the Front with provisions. . . . Each hour of delay may cost the life of thousands of soldiers. The counter-revolutionary functionaries are the most dishonest criminals toward their hungry and dying brethren on the Front. . . .
The MILITARY REVOLUTIONARY COMMITTEE GIVES THESE CRIMINALS A LAST WARNING. In event of the least resistance or opposition on their part, the harshness of the measures which will be adopted against them will correspond to the seriousness of their crime. . . .
The masses of workers and soldiers responded by a savage tremor of rage, which swept all Russia. In the capital the Government and bank employees got out hundreds of proclamations and appeals (See App. XI, Sect. 14), protesting, defending themselves, such as this one:
TO THE ATTENTION OF ALL CITIZENS.
THE STATE BANK IS CLOSED!
Because the violence exercised by the Bolsheviki against the State Bank has made it impossible for us to work. The first act of the People’s Commissars was to DEMAND TEN MILLION RUBLES, and on November 27th THEY DEMANDED TWENTY-FIVE MILLIONS, without any indication as to where this money was to go.
. . . We functionaries cannot take part in plundering the people’s property. We stopped work.
CITIZENS! The money in the State Bank is yours, the people’s money, acquired by your labour, your sweat and blood. CITIZENS! Save the people’s property from robbery, and us from violence, and we shall immediately resume work.
EMPLOYEES OF THE STATE BANK.
From the Ministry of Supplies, the Ministry of Finance, from the Special Supply Committee, declarations that the Military Revolutionary Committee made it impossible for the employees to work, appeals to the population to support them against Smolny. . . . But the dominant worker and soldier did not believe them; it was firmly fixed in the popular mind that the employees were sabotaging, starving the Army, starving the people. . . . In the long bread lines, which as formerly stood in the iron winter streets, it was not the Government which was blamed, as it had been under Kerensky, but the tchinovniki, the sabotageurs; for the Government was their Government, their Soviets — and the functionaries of the Ministries were against it. . . .
At the centre of all this opposition was the Duma, and its militant organ, the Committee for Salvation, protesting against all the decrees of the Council of People’s Commissars, voting again and again not to recognise the Soviet Government, openly cooperating with the new counter-revolutionary “Governments” set up at Moghilev. . . . On the 17th of November, for example, the Committee for Salvation addressed “all Municipal Governments, Zemstvos, and all democratic and revolutionary organisations of peasants, workers, soldiers and other citizens,” in these words:
Do not recognise the Government of the Bolsheviki, and struggle against it.
Form local Committees for Salvation of Country and Revolution, who will unite all democratic forces, so as to aid the All–Russian Committee for Salvation in the tasks which it has set itself. . . .
Meanwhile the elections for the Constituent Assembly in Petrograd (See App. XI, Sect. 15) gave an enormous plurality to the Bolsheviki; so that even the Mensheviki Internationalists pointed out that the Duma ought to be re-elected, as it no longer represented the political composition of the Petrograd population. . . . At the same time floods of resolutions from workers’ organisations, from military units, even from the peasants in the surrounding country, poured in upon the Duma, calling it “counter-revolutionary, Kornilovitz,” and demanding that it resign. The last days of the Duma were stormy with the bitter demands of the Municipal workers for decent living wages, and the threat of strikes. . . .
On the 23d a formal decree of the Military Revolutionary Committee dissolved the Committee for Salvation. On the 29th, the Council of People’s Commissars ordered the dissolution and re-election of the Petrograd City Duma:
In view of the fact that the Central Duma of Petrograd, elected September 2d, . . . has definitely lost the right to represent the population of Petrograd, being in complete disaccord with its state of mind and its aspirations . . . and in view of the fact that the personnel of the Duma majority, although having lost all political following, continues to make use of its prerogatives to resist in a counter-revolutionary manner the will of the workers, soldiers and peasants, to sabotage and obstruct the normal work of the Government — the Council of People’s Commissars considers it its duty to invite the population of the capital to pronounce judgment on the policy of the organ of Municipal autonomy.
To this end the Council of People’s Commissars resolves:
(1) To dissolve the Municipal Duma; the dissolution to take effect November 30th, 1917.
(2) All functionaries elected or appointed by the present Duma shall remain at their posts and fulfil the duties confided to them, until their places shall be filled by representatives of the new Duma.
(3) All Municipal employees shall continue to fulfil their duties; those who leave the service of their own accord shall be considered discharged.
(4) The new elections for the Municipal Duma of Petrograd are fixed for December 9th, 1917. . . .
(5) The Municipal Duma of Petrograd shall meet December 11th, 1917, at two o’clock.
(6) Those who disobey this decree, as well as those who intentionally harm or destroy the property of the Municipality, shall be immediately arrested and brought before the Revolutionary Tribunals. . . .
The Duma met defiantly, passing resolutions to the effect that it would “defend its position to the last drop of its blood,” and appealing desperately to the population to save their “own elected City Government.” But the population remained indifferent or hostile. On the 31st Mayor Schreider and several members were arrested, interrogated, and released. That day and the next the Duma continued to meet, interrupted frequently by Red Guards and sailors, who politely requested the assembly to disperse. At the meeting of December 2d, an officer and some sailors entered the Nicolai Hall while a member was speaking, and ordered the members to leave, or force would be used. They did so, protesting to the last, but finally “ceding to violence.”
The new Duma, which was elected ten days later, and for which the “Moderate” Socialists refused to vote, was almost entirely Bolshevik. . . .
There remained several centres of dangerous opposition, such as the “republics” of Ukraine and Finland, which were showing definitely anti-Soviet tendencies. Both at Helsingfors and at Kiev the Governments were gathering troops which could be depended upon, and entering upon campaigns of crushing Bolshevism, and of disarming and expelling Russian troops. The Ukrainean Rada had taken command of all southern Russia, and was furnishing Kaledin reinforcements and supplies. Both Finland and Ukraine were beginning secret negotiations with the Germans, and were promptly recognised by the Allied Governments, which loaned them huge sums of money, joining with the propertied classes to create counter-revolutionary centres of attack upon Soviet Russia. In the end, when Bolshevism had conquered in both these countries, the defeated bourgeoisie called in the Germans to restore them to power. . . .
But the most formidable menace to the Soviet Government was internal and two-headed — the Kaledin movement, and the Staff at Moghilev, where General Dukhonin had assumed command.
The ubiquitous Muraviov was appointed commander of the war against the Cossacks, and a Red Army was recruited from among the factory workers. Hundreds of propagandists were sent to the Don. The Council of People’s Commissars issued a proclamation to the Cossacks, (See App. XI, Sect. 16) explaining what the Soviet Government was, how the propertied classes, the tchin ovniki, landlords, bankers and their allies, the Cossack princes, land-owners and Generals, were trying to destroy the Revolution, and prevent the confiscation of their wealth by the people.
On November 27th a committee of Cossacks came to Smolny to see Trotzky and Lenin. They demanded if it were true that the Soviet Government did not intend to divide the Cossack lands among the peasants of Great Russia? “No,” answered Trotzky. The Cossacks deliberated for a while. “Well,” they asked, “does the Soviet Government intend to confiscate the estates of our great Cossack land-owners and divide them among the working Cossacks?” To this Lenin replied. “That,” he said, “is for you to do. We shall support the working Cossacks in all their actions. . . . The best way to begin is to form Cossacks Soviets; you will be given representation in the Tsay-ee-kah, and then it will be your Government, too. . . .
The Cossacks departed, thinking hard. Two weeks later General Kaledin received a deputation from his troops. “Will you,” they asked, “promise to divide the great estates of the Cossack landlords among the working Cossacks?”
“Only over my dead body,” responded Kaledin. A month later, seeing his army melt away before his eyes, Kaledin blew out his brains. And the Cossack movement was no more. . . .
Meanwhile at Moghilev were gathered the old Tsay-ee-kah the “moderate” Socialist leaders-from Avksentiev to Tchernov — the active chiefs of the old Army Committees, and the reactionary officers. The Staff steadily refused to recognise the Council of People’s Commissars. It had united about it the Death Battalions, the Knights of St. George, and the Cossacks of the Front, and was in close and secret touch with the Allied military attachès, and with the Kaledin movement and the Ukrainean Rada. . . .
The Allied Governments had made no reply to the Peace decree of November 8th, in which the Congress of Soviets had asked for a general armistice.
On November 20th Trotzky addressed a note to the Allied Ambassadors: (See App. XI, Sect. 18)
I have the honour to inform you, Mr. Ambassador, that the All–Russian Congress of Soviets . . . on November 8th constituted a new Government of the Russian Republic, in the form of the Council of People’s Commissars. The President of this Government is Vladimir Ilyitch Lenin. The direction of Foreign Affairs has been entrusted to me, People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs. . . .
In drawing your attention to the text, approved by the All–Russian Congress, of the proposition for an armistice and a democratic peace without annexations or indemnities, based on the right of self-determination of peoples, I have the honour to request you to consider that document as a formal proposal of an immediate armistice on all fronts, and the opening of immediate peace negotiations; a proposal which the authorised Government of the Russian Republic addresses at the same time to all the belligerent peoples and their Governments.
Please accept, Mr. Ambassador, the profound assurance of the esteem of the Soviet Government toward your people, who cannot but wish for peace, like all the other peoples exhausted and drained by this unexampled butchery. . . .
The same night the Council of People’s Commissars telegraphed to General Dukhonin:
. . . The Council of People’s Commissars considers it indispensable without delay to make a formal proposal of armistice to all the powers, both enemy and Allied. A declaration conforming to this decision has been sent by the Commissar for Foreign Affairs to the representatives of the Allied powers at Petrograd.
The Council of People’s Commissars orders you, Citizen Commander, . . . to propose to the enemy military authorities immediately to cease hostilities, and enter into negotiations for peace.
In charging you with the conduct of these preliminary pourparlers, the Council of People’s Commissars orders you:
1. To inform the Council by direct wire immediately of any and all steps in the pourparlers with the representatives of the enemy armies.
2. Not to sign the act of armistice until it has been passed upon by the Council of People’s Commissars.
The Allied Ambassadors received Trotzky’s note with contemptuous silence, accompanied by anonymous interviews in the newspapers, full of spite and ridicule. The order to Dukhonin was characterised openly as an act of treason. . . .
As for Dukhonin, he gave no sign. On the night of November 22nd he was communicated with by telephone, and asked if he intended to obey the order. Dukhonin answered that he could not, unless it emanated from “a Government sustained by the Army and the country.”
By telegraph he was immediately dismissed from the post of Supreme Commander, and Krylenko appointed in his place. Following his tactics of appealing to the masses, Lenin sent a radio to all regimental, divisional and corps Committees, to all soldiers and sailors of the Army and the Fleet, acquainting them with Dukhonin’s refusal, and ordering that “the regiments on the front shall elect delegates to begin negotiations with the enemy detachments opposite their positions. . . . ”
On the 23d, the military attaches of the Allied nations, acting on instructions from their Governments, presented a note to Dukhonin, in which he was solemnly warned not to “violate the conditions of the treaties concluded between the Powers of the Entente.” The note went on to say that if a separate armistice with Germany were concluded, that act “would result in the most serious consequences” to Russia. This communication Dukhonin at once sent out to all the soldiers’ Committees. . . .
Next morning Trotzky made another appeal to the troops, characterising the note of the Allied representatives as a flagrant interference in the internal affairs of Russia, and a bald attempt “to force by threats the Russian Army and the Russian people to continue the war in execution of the treaties concluded by the Tsar. . . . ”
From Smolny poured out proclamation after proclamation, (See App. XI, Sect. 19) denouncing Dukhonin and the counter-revolutionary officers about him, denouncing the reactionary politicians gathered at Moghilev, rousing, from one end of the thousand-mile Front to the other, millions of angry, suspicious soldiers. And at the same time Krylenko, accompanied by three detachments of fanatical sailors, set out for the Stavka, breathing threats of vengeance, (See App. XI, Sect. 20) and received by the soldiers everywhere with tremendous ovations — a triumphal progress. The Central Army Committee issued a declaration in favour of Dukhonin; and at once ten thousand troops moved upon Moghilev. . . .
On December 2d the garrison of Moghilev rose and seized the city, arresting Dukhonin and the Army Committee, and going out with victorious red banners to meet the new Supreme Commander. Krylenko entered Moghilev next morning, to find a howling mob gathered about the railway-car in which Dukhonin had been imprisoned. Krylenko made a speech in which he implored the soldiers not to harm Dukhonin, as he was to be taken to Petrograd and judged by the Revolutionary Tribunal. When he had finished, suddenly Dukhonin himself appeared at the window, as if to address the throng. But with a savage roar the people rushed the car, and falling upon the old General, dragged him out and beat him to death on the platform. . . .
So ended the revolt of the Stavka. . . .
Immensely strengthened by the collapse of the last important stronghold of hostile military power in Russia, the Soviet Government began with confidence the organisation of the state. Many of the old functionaries flocked to its banner, and many members of other parties entered the Government service. The financially ambitious, however, were checked by the decree on Salaries of Government Employees, fixing the salaries of the People’s Commissars — the highest-at five hundred rubles (about fifty dollars) a month. . . . The strike of Government Employees, led by the Union of Unions, collapsed, deserted by the financial and commercial interests which had been backing it. The bank clerks returned to their jobs. . . .
With the decree on the Nationalisation of Banks, the formation of the Supreme Council of People’s Economy, the putting into practical operation of the Land decree in the villages, the democratic reorganisation of the Army, and the sweeping changes in all branches of the Government and of life, — with all these, effective only by the will of the masses of workers, soldiers and peasants, slowly began, with many mistakes and hitches, the moulding of proletarian Russia.
Not by compromise with the propertied classes, or with the other political leaders; not by conciliating the old Government mechanism, did the Bolsheviki conquer the power. Nor by the organized violence of a small clique. If the masses all over Russia had not been ready for insurrection it must have failed. The only reason for Bolshevik success lay in their accomplishing the vast and simple desires of the most profound strata of the people, calling them to the work of tearing down and destroying the old, and afterward, in the smoke of falling ruins, cooperating with them to erect the frame-work of the new. . . .
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59