IN the relations of a weak Government and a rebellious people there comes a time when every act of the authorities exasperates the masses, and every refusal to act excites their contempt. . . .
The proposal to abandon Petrograd raised a hurricane; Kerensky’s public denial that the Government had any such intention was met with hoots of derision.
Pinned to the wall by the pressure of the Revolution (cried Rabotchi Put), the Government of “provisional” bourgeois tries to get free by giving out lying assurances that it never thought of fleeing from Petrograd, and that it didn’t wish to surrender the capital. . . .
In Kharkov thirty thousand coal miners organised, adopting the preamble of the I. W. W. constitution: “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common.” Dispersed by Cossacks, some were locked out by the mine-owners, and the rest declared a general strike. Minister of Commerce and Industry Konovalov appointed his assistant, Orlov, with plenary powers, to settle the trouble. Orlov was hated by the miners. But the Tsay-ee-kah not only supported his appointment, but refused to demand that the Cossacks be recalled from the Don Basin. . . .
This was followed by the dispersal of the Soviet at Kaluga. The Bolsheviki, having secured a majority in the Soviet, set free some political prisoners. With the sanction of the Government Commissar the Municipal Duma called in troops from Minsk, and bombarded the Soviet headquarters with artillery. The Bolsheviki yielded, but as they left the building Cossacks attacked them, crying, “This is what we’ll do to all the other Bolshevik Soviets, including those of Moscow and Petrograd!” This incident sent a wave of panic rage throughout Russia. . . .
In Petrograd was ending a regional Congress of Soviets of the North, presided over by the Bolshevik Krylenko. By an immense majority it resolved that all power should be assumed by the All–Russian Congress; and concluded by greeting the Bolsheviki in prison, bidding them rejoice, for the hour of their liberation was at hand. At the same time the first All–Russian Conference of Factory–Shop Committees (See App. III, Sect. 1) declared emphatically for the Soviets, and continued significantly,
After liberating themselves politically from Tsardom, the working-class wants to see the democratic régime triumphant in the sphere of its productive activity. This is best expressed by Workers’ Control over industrial production, which naturally arose in the atmosphere of economic decomposition created by the criminal policy of the dominating classes. . . .
The Union of Railwaymen was demanding the resignation of Liverovsky, Minister of Ways and Communications. . . .
In the name of the Tsay-ee-kah, Skobeliev insisted that the nakaz be presented at the Allied Conference, and formally protested against the sending of Terestchenko to Paris. Terestchenko offered to resign. . . .
General Verkhovsky, unable to accomplish his reorganisation of the army, only came to Cabinet meetings at long intervals. . . .
On November 3d Burtzev’s Obshtchee Dielo came out with great headlines:
Citizens! Save the fatherland!
I have just learned that yesterday, at a meeting of the Commission for National Defence, Minister of War General Verkhovsky, one of the principal persons responsible for the fall of Kornilov, proposed to sign a separate peace, independently of the Allies.
That is treason to Russia!
Terestchenko declared that the Provisional Government had not even examined Verkhovsky’s proposition.
“You might think,” said Terestchenko, “that we were in a madhouse!”
The members of the Commission were astounded at the General’s words.
General Alexeyev wept.
No! It is not madness! It is worse. It is direct treason to Russia!
Kerensky, Terestchenko and Nekrassov must immediately answer us concerning the words of Verkhovsky.
Russia is being sold!
What Verkhovsky really said was that the Allies must be pressed to offer peace, because the Russian army could fight no longer. . . .
Both in Russia and abroad the sensation was tremendous. Verkhovsky was given “indefinite leave of absence for illhealth,” and left the Government. Obshtchee Dielo was suppressed. . . .
Sunday, November 4th, was designated as the Day of the Petrograd Soviet, with immense meetings planned all over the city, ostensibly to raise money for the organisation and the press; really, to make a demonstration of strength. Suddenly it was announced that on the same day the Cossacks would hold a Krestny Khod— Procession of the Cross — in honour of the Ikon of 1612, through whose miraculous intervention Napoleon had been driven from Moscow. The atmosphere was electric; a spark might kindle civil war. The Petrograd Soviet issued a manifesto, headed “Brothers–Cossacks!”
You, Cossacks, are being incited against us, workers and soldiers. This plan of Cain is being put into operation by our common enemies, the oppressors, the privileged classes-generals, bankers, landlords, former officials, former servants of the Tsar. . . . We are hated by all grafters, rich men, princes, nobles, generals, including your Cossack generals. They are ready at any moment to destroy the Petrograd Soviet and crush the Revolution. . . .
On the 4th of November somebody is organising a Cossack religious procession. It is a question of the free consciousness of every individual whether he will or will not take part in this procession. We do not interfere in this matter, nor do we obstruct anybody. . . . However, we warn you, Cossacks! Look out and see to it that under the pretext of a Krestni Khod, your Kaledins do not instigate you against workmen, against soldiers. . . .
The procession was hastily called off. . . .
In the barracks and the working-class quarters of the town the Bolsheviki were preaching, “All Power to the Soviets!” and agents of the Dark Forces were urging the people to rise and slaughter the Jews, shop-keepers, Socialist leaders. . . .
On one side the Monarchist press, inciting to bloody repression-on the other Lenin’s great voice roaring, “Insurrection!. . . . We cannot wait any longer!”
Even the bourgeois press was uneasy. (See App. III, Sect. 2) Birjevya Viedomosti (Exchange Gazette) called the Bolshevik propaganda an attack on “the most elementary principles of society-personal security and the respect for private property.”
Appeal of the Petrograd Soviet to the Cossacks to call off their Krestny Khod — the religious procession planned for November 4th (our calendar). “Brothers–Cossacks!” it begins. “The Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies addresses you.”
But it was the “moderate” Socialist journals which were the most hostile. (See App. III, Sect. 3) “The Bolsheviki are the most dangerous enemies of the Revolution,” declared Dielo Naroda. Said the Menshevik Dien, “The Government ought to defend itself and defend us.” Plekhanov’s paper, Yedinstvo (Unity) (See App. III, Sect. 4), called the attention of the Government to the fact that the Petrograd workers were being armed, and demanded stern measures against the Bolsheviki.
Daily the Government seemed to become more helpless. Even the Municipal administration broke down. The columns of the morning papers were filled with accounts of the most audacious robberies and murders, and the criminals were unmolested.
On the other hand armed workers patrolled the streets at night, doing battle with marauders and requisitioning arms wherever they found them.
On the first of November Colonel Polkovnikov, Military Commander of Petrograd, issued a proclamation:
Despite the difficult days through which the country is passing, irresponsible appeals to armed demonstrations and massacres are still being spread around Petrograd, and from day to day robbery and disorder increase.
This state of things is disorganising the life of the citizens, and hinders the systematic work of the Government and the Municipal Institutions.
In full consciousness of my responsibility and my duty before my country, I command:
1. Every military unit, in accordance with special instructions and within the territory of its garrison, to afford every assistance to the Municipality, to the Commissars, and to the militia, in the guarding of Government institutions.
2. The organisation of patrols, in co-operation with the District Commander and the representatives of the city militia, and the taking of measures for the arrest of criminals and deserters.
3. The arrest of all persons entering barracks and inciting to armed demonstrations and massacres, and their delivery to the headquarters of the Second Commander of the city.
4. To suppress any armed demonstration or riot at its start, with all armed forces at hand.
5. To afford assistance to the Commissars in preventing unwarranted searches in houses and unwarranted arrests.
6. To report immediately all that happens in the district under charge to the Staff of the Petrograd Military District.
I call upon all Army Committees and organisations to afford their help to the commanders in fulfilment of the duties with which they are charged.
In the Council of the Republic Kerensky declared that the Government was fully aware of the Bolshevik preparations, and had sufficient force to cope with any demonstration. (See App. III, Sect. 5) He accused Novaya Rus and Robotchi Put of both doing the same kind of subversive work. “But owing to the absolute freedom of the press,” he added, “the Government is not in a position to combat printed lies.12. . . . ” Declaring that these were two aspects of the same propaganda, which had for its object the counter-revolution, so ardently desired by the Dark Forces, he went on:
12 This was not quite candid. The Provisional Gevernment had suppressed Bolshevik papers before, in July, and was planning to do so again.]
“I am a doomed man, it doesn’t matter what happens to me, and I have the audacity to say that the other enigmatic part is that of the unbelievable provocation created in the city by the Bolsheviki!”
On November 2d only fifteen delegates to the Congress of Soviets had arrived. Next day there were a hundred, and the morning after that a hundred and seventy-five, of whom one hundred and three were Bolsheviki. . . . Four hundred constituted a quorum, and the Congress was only three days off. . . .
I spent a great deal of time at Smolny. It was no longer easy to get in. Double rows of sentries guarded the outer gates, and once inside the front door there was a long line of people waiting to be let in, four at a time, to be questioned as to their identity and their business. Passes were given out, and the pass system was changed every few hours; for spies continually sneaked through. . . .
Pass to Smolny Institute, issued by the Military Revolutionary Committee, giving me the right of entry at any time. (Translation)
Military Revolutionary Committee
attached to the
Petrograd Soviet of W. & S. D. Commandant’s office
16th November, 1917 No. 955
Is given by the present to John Reed, correspondent of the American Socialist press, until December 1, the right of free entry into Smolny Institute. Commandant
One day as I came up to the outer gate I saw Trotzky and his wife just ahead of me. They were halted by a soldier. Trotzky searched through his pockets, but could find no pass.
“Never mind,” he said finally. “You know me. My name is Trotzky.”
“You haven’t got a pass,” answered the soldier stubbornly.
“You cannot go in. Names don’t mean anything to me.”
“But I am the president of the Petrograd Soviet.”
“Well,” replied the soldier, “if you’re as important a fellow as that you must at least have one little paper.”
Trotzky was very patient. “Let me see the Commandant,” he said. The soldier hesitated, grumbling something about not wanting to disturb the Commandant for every devil that came along. He beckoned finally to the soldier in command of the guard. Trotzky explained matters to him. “My name is Trotzky,” he repeated.
“Trotzky?” The other soldier scratched his head. “I’ve heard the name somewhere,” he said at length. “I guess it’s all right. You can go on in, comrade. . . . ”
In the corridor I met Karakhan, member of the Bolshevik Central Committee, who explained to me what the new Government would be like.
“A loose organisation, sensitive to the popular will as expressed through the Soviets, allowing local forces full play. At present the Provisional Government obstructs the action of the local democratic will, just as the Tsar’s Government did. The initiative of the new society shall come from below. . . . The form of the Government will be modelled on the Constitution of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. The new Tsay-ee-kah, responsible to frequent meetings of the All–Russian Congress of Soviets, will be the parliament; the various Ministries will be headed by collegia— committees-instead of by Ministers, and will be directly responsible to the Soviets. . . .
On October 30th, by appointment, I went up to a small, bare room in the attic of Smolny, to talk with Trotzky. In the middle of the room he sat on a rough chair at a bare table. Few questions from me were necessary; he talked rapidly and steadily, for more than an hour. The substance of his talk, in his own words, I give here:
“The Provisional Government is absolutely powerless. The bourgeoisie is in control, but this control is masked by a fictitious coalition with the oborontsi parties. Now, during the Revolution, one sees revolts of peasants who are tired of waiting for their promised land; and all over the country, in all the toiling classes, the same disgust is evident. This domination by the bourgeoisie is only possible by means of civil war. The Kornilov method is the only way by which the bourgeoisie can control. But it is force which the bourgeoisie lacks. . . . The Army is with us. The conciliators and pacifists, Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviki, have lost all authority-because the struggle between the peasants and the landlords, between the workers and the employers, between the soldiers and the officers, has become more bitter, more irreconcilable than ever. Only by the concerted action of the popular mass, only by the victory of proletarian dictatorship, can the Revolution be achieved and the people saved. . . .
“The Soviets are the most perfect representatives of the people-perfect in their revolutionary experience, in their ideas and objects. Based directly upon the army in the trenches, the workers in the factories, and the peasants in the fields, they are the backbone of the Revolution.
“There has been an attempt to create a power without the Soviets — and only powerlessness has been created. Counter-revolutionary schemes of all sorts are now being hatched in the corridors of the Council of the Russian Republic. The Cadet party represents the counter-revolution militant. On the other side, the Soviets represent the cause of the people. Between the two camps there are no groups of serious importance. . . . It is the lutte finale. The bourgeois counter-revolution organises all its forces and waits for the moment to attack us. Our answer will be decisive. We will complete the work scarcely begun in March, and advanced during the Kornilov affair. . . . ”
He went on to speak of the new Government’s foreign policy:
“Our first act will be to call for an immediate armistice on all fronts, and a conference of peoples to discuss democratic peace terms. The quantity of democracy we get in the peace settlement depends on the quantity of revolutionary response there is in Europe. If we create here a Government of the Soviets, that will be a powerful factor for immediate peace in Europe; for this Government will address itself directly and immediately to all peoples, over the heads of their Governments, proposing an armistice. At the moment of the conclusion of peace the pressure of the Russian Revolution will be in the direction of ‘no annexations,# no indemnities, the right of self-determination of peoples,’ and a Federated Republic of Europe. . . .
“At the end of this war I see Europe recreated, not by the diplomats, but by the proletariat. The Federated Republic of Europe — the United States of Europe-that is what must be. National autonomy no longer suffices. Economic evolution demands the abolition of national frontiers. If Europe is to remain split into national groups, then Imperialism will recommence its work. Only a Federated Republic of Europe can give peace to the world.” He smiled-that fine, faintly ironical smile of his. “But without the action of the European masses, these ends cannot be realised-now. . . . ”
Now while everybody was waiting for the Bolsheviki to appear suddenly on the streets one morning and begin to shoot down people with white collars on, the real insurrection took its way quite naturally and openly.
The Provisional Government planned to send the Petrograd garrison to the front.
The Petrograd garrison numbered about sixty thousand men, who had taken a prominent part in the Revolution. It was they who had turned the tide in the great days of March, created the Soviets of Soldiers’ Deputies, and hurled back Kornilov from the gates of Petrograd.
Now a large part of them were Bolsheviki. When the Provisional Government talked of evacuating the city, it was the Petrograd garrison which answered, “If you are not capable of defending the capital, conclude peace; if you cannot conclude peace, go away and make room for a People’s Government which can do both. . . . ”
It was evident that any attempt at insurrection depended upon the attitude of the Petrograd garrison. The Government’s plan was to replace the garrison regiments with “dependable” troops-Cossacks, Death Battalions. The Army Committees, the “moderate” Socialists and the Tsay-ee-kah supported the Government. A wide-spread agitation was carried on at the Front and in Petrograd, emphasizing the fact that for eight months the Petrograd garrison had been leading an easy life in the barracks of the capital, while their exhausted comrades in the trenches starved and died.
Naturally there was some truth in the accusation that the garrison regiments were reluctant to exchange their comparative comfort for the hardships of a winter campaign. But there were other reasons why they refused to go. The Petrograd Soviet feared the Government’s intentions, and from the Front came hundreds of delegates, chosen by the common soldiers, crying, “It is true we need reinforcements, but more important, we must know that Petrograd and the Revolution are well-guarded. . . . Do you hold the rear, comrades, and we will hold the front!”
On October 25th, behind closed doors, the Central Committee of the Petrograd Soviet discussed the formation of a special Military Committee to decide the whole question. The next day a meeting of the Soldiers’ Section of the Petrograd Soviet elected a Committee, which immediately proclaimed a boycott of the bourgeois newspapers, and condemned the Tsay-ee-kah for opposing the Congress of Soviets. On the 29th, in open session of the Petrograd Soviet, Trotzky proposed that the Soviet formally sanction the Military Revolutionary Committee. “We ought,” he said, “to create our special organisation to march to battle, and if necessary to die. . . . ” It was decided to send to the front two delegations, one from the Soviet and one from the garrison, to confer with the Soldiers’ Committees and the General Staff.
At Pskov, the Soviet delegates were met by General Tcheremissov, commander of the Northern Front, with the curt declaration that he had ordered the Petrograd garrison to the trenches, and that was all. The garrison committee was not allowed to leave Petrograd. . . .
A delegation of the Soldiers’ Section of the Petrograd Soviet asked that a representative be admitted to the Staff of the Petrograd District. Refused. The Petrograd Soviet demanded that no orders be issued without the approval of the Soldiers’ Section. Refused. The delegates were roughly told, “We only recognise the Tsay-ee-kah. We do not recognise you; if you break any laws, we shall arrest you.”
On the 30th a meeting of representatives of all the Petrograd regiments passed a resolution: “The Petrograd garrison no longer recognises the Provisional Government. The Petrograd Soviet is our Government. We will obey only the orders of the Petrograd Soviet, through the Military Revolutionary Committee.“ The local military units were ordered to wait for instructions from the Soldiers’ Section of the Petrograd Soviet.
Next day the Tsay-ee-kah summoned its own meeting, composed largely of officers, formed a Committee to cooperate with the Staff, and detailed Commissars in all quarters of the city.
A great soldier meeting at Smolny on the 3d resolved:
Saluting the creation of the Military Revolutionary Committee, the Petrograd garrison promises it complete support in all its actions, to unite more closely the front and the rear in the interests of the Revolution.
The garrison moreover declares that with the revolutionary proletariat it assures the maintenance of revolutionary order in Petrograd. Every attempt at provocation on the part of the Kornilovtsi or the bourgeoisie will be met with merciless resistance.
Now conscious of its power, the Military Revolutionary Committee peremptorily summoned the Petrograd Staff to submit to its control. To all printing plants it gave orders not to publish any appeals or proclamations without the Committee’s authorisation. Armed Commissars visited the Kronversk arsenal and seized great quantities of arms and ammunition, halting a shipment of ten thousand bayonets which was being sent to Novotcherkask, headquarters of Kaledin. . . .
Suddenly awake to the danger, the Government offered immunity if the Committee would disband. Too late. At midnight November 5th Kerensky himself sent Malevsky to offer the Petrograd Soviet representation on the Staff. The Military Revolutionary Committee accepted. An hour later General Manikovsky, acting Minister of war, countermanded the offer. . . .
Tuesday morning, November 6th, the city was thrown into excitement by the appearance of a placard signed, “Military Revolutionary Committee attached to the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.”
To the Population of Petrograd. Citizens!
Counter-revolution has raised its criminal head. The Kornilovtsi are mobilising their forces in order to crush the All–Russian Congress of Soviets and break the Constituent Assembly. At the same time the pogromists may attempt to call upon the people of Petrograd for trouble and bloodshed. The Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies takes upon itself the guarding of revolutionary order in the city against counter-revolutionary and pogrom attempts.
The Petrograd garrison will not allow any violence or disorders. The population is invited to arrest hooligans and Black Hundred agitators and take them to the Soviet Commissars at the nearest barracks. At the first attempt of the Dark Forces to make trouble on the streets of Petrograd, whether robbery or fighting, the criminals will be wiped off the face of the earth!
Citizens! We call upon you to maintain complete quiet and self-possession. The cause of order and Revolution is in strong hands.
List of regiments where there are Commissars of the Military Revolutionary Committee. . . .
On the 3rd the leaders of the Bolsheviki had another historic meeting behind closed doors. Notified by Zalkind, I waited in the corridor outside the door; and Volodarsky as he came out told me what was going on.
Lenin spoke: “November 6th will be too early. We must have an all-Russian basis for the rising; and on the 6th all the delegates to the Congress will not have arrived. . . . On the other hand, November 8th will be too late. By that time the Congress will be organised, and it is difficult for a large organised body of people to take swift, decisive action. We must act on the 7th, the day the Congress meets, so that we may say to it, ‘Here is the power! What are you going to do with it?’”
In a certain upstairs room sat a thin-faced, long-haired individual, once an officer in the armies of the Tsar, then revolutionist and exile, a certain Avseenko, called Antonov, mathematician and chess-player; he was drawing careful plans for the seizure of the capital.
On its side the Government was preparing. Inconspicuously certain of the most loyal regiments, from widely-separated divisions, were ordered to Petrograd. The yunker artillery was drawn into the Winter Palace. Patrols of Cossacks made their appearance in the streets, for the first time since the July days. Polkovnikov issued order after order, threatening to repress all insubordination with the “utmost energy.” Kishkin, Minister of Public Instruction, the worsthated member of the Cabinet, was appointed Special Commissar to keep order in Petrograd; he named as assistants two men no less unpopular, Rutenburg and Paltchinsky. Petrograd, Cronstadt and Finland were declared in a state of siege-upon which the bourgeois Novoye Vremya (New Times) remarked ironically:
Why the state of siege? The Government is no longer a power. It has no moral authority and it does not possess the necessary apparatus to use force. . . . In the most favourable circumstances it can only negotiate with any one who consents to parley. Its authority goes no farther. . . .
Monday morning, the 5th, I dropped in at the Marinsky Palace, to see what was happening in the Council of the Russian Republic. Bitter debate on Terestchenko’s foreign policy. Echoes of the Burtzev–Verkhovski affair. All the diplomats present except the Italian ambassador, who everybody said was prostrated by the Carso disaster. . . .
As I came in, the Left Socialist Revolutionary Karelin was reading aloud an editorial from the London Times which said, “The remedy for Bolshevism is bullets!” Turning to the Cadets he cried, “That’s what you think, too!”
Voices from the Right, “Yes! Yes!”
“Yes, I know you think so,” answered Karelin, hotly. “But you haven’t the courage to try it!”
Then Skobeliev, looking like a matinée idol with his soft blond beard and wavy yellow hair, rather apologetically defending the Soviet nakaz. Terestchenko followed, assailed from the Left by cries of “Resignation! Resignation!” He insisted that the delegates of the Government and of the Tsay-ee-kah to Paris should have a common point of view-his own. A few words about the restoration of discipline in the army, about war to victory. . . . Tumult, and over the stubborn opposition of the truculent Left, the Council of the Republic passed to the simple order of the day.
There stretched the rows of Bolshevik seats-empty since that first day when they left the Council, carrying with them so much life. As I went down the stairs it seemed to me that in spite of the bitter wrangling, no real voice from the rough world outside could penetrate this high, cold hall, and that the Provisional Government was wrecked-on the same rock of War and Peace that had wrecked the Miliukov Ministry. . . . The doorman grumbled as he put on my coat, “I don’t know what is becoming of poor Russia. All these Mensheviki and Bolsheviki and Trudoviki. . . . This Ukraine and this Finland and the German imperialists and the English imperialists. I am forty-five years old, and in all my life I never heard so many words as in this place. . . . ”
In the corridor I met Professor Shatsky, a rat-faced individual in a dapper frock-coat, very influential in the councils of the Cadet party. I asked him what he thought of the much-talked-of Bolshevik vystuplennie. He shrugged, sneering.
“They are cattle-canaille,“ he answered. “They will not dare, or if they dare they will soon be sent flying. From our point of view it will not be bad, for then they will ruin themselves and have no power in the Constituent Assembly. . . .
“But, my dear sir, allow me to outline to you my plan for a form of Government to be submitted to the Constituent Assembly. You see, I am chairman of a commission appointed from this body, in conjunction with the Provisional Government, to work out a constitutional project. . . . We will have a legislative assembly of two chambers, such as you have in the United States. In the lower chamber will be territorial representatives; in the upper, representatives of the liberal professions, zemstvos, Cooperatives — and Trade Unions. . . . ”
Outside a chill, damp wind came from the west, and the cold mud underfoot soaked through my shoes. Two companies of yunkers passed swinging up the Morskaya, tramping stiffly in their long coats and singing an oldtime crashing chorus, such as the soldiers used to sing under the Tsar. . . . At the first cross-street I noticed that the City Militiamen were mounted, and armed with revolvers in bright new holsters; a little group of people stood silently staring at them. At the corner of the Nevsky I bought a pamphlet by Lenin, “Will the Bolsheviki be Able to Hold the Power?” paying for it with one of the stamps which did duty for small change. The usual street-cars crawled past, citizens and soldiers clinging to the outside in a way to make Theodore P. Shonts green with envy. . . . Along the sidewalk a row of deserters in uniform sold cigarettes and sunflower seeds. . . .
Up the Nevsky in the sour twilight crowds were battling for the latest papers, and knots of people were trying to make out the multitudes of appeals (See App. III, Sect. 6) and proclamations pasted in every flat place; from the Tsay-ee-kah, the Peasants’ Soviets, the “moderate” Socialist parties, the Army Committees-threatening, cursing, beseeching the workers and soldiers to stay home, to support the Government. . . .
An armoured automobile went slowly up and down, siren screaming. On every corner, in every open space, thick groups were clustered; arguing soldiers and students. Night came swiftly down, the wide-spaced street-lights flickered on, the tides of people flowed endlessly. . . . It is always like that in Petrograd just before trouble. . . .
The city was nervous, starting at every sharp sound. But still no sign from the Bolsheviki; the soldiers stayed in the barracks, the workmen in the factories. . . . We went to a moving picture show near the Kazan Cathedral — a bloody Italian film of passion and intrigue. Down front were some soldiers and sailors, staring at the screen in childlike wonder, totally unable to comprehend why there should be so much violent running about, and so much homicide. . . .
From there I hurried to Smolny. In room 10 on the top floor, the Military Revolutionary Committee sat in continuous session, under the chairmanship of a tow-headed, eighteen-year-old boy named Lazimir. He stopped, as he passed, to shake hands rather bashfully.
“Peter–Paul Fortress has just come over to us,” said he, with a pleased grin. “A minute ago we got word from a regiment that was ordered by the Government to come to Petrograd. The men were suspicious, so they stopped the train at Gatchina and sent a delegation to us. ‘What’s the matter?’ they asked. ‘What have you got to say? We have just passed a resolution, “All Power to the Soviets.”’ . . . The Military Revolutionary Committee sent back word, ‘Brothers! We greet you in the name of the Revolution. Stay where you are until further instructions!’”
All telephones, he said, were cut off: but communication with the factories and barracks was established by means of military telephonograph apparatus. . . .
A steady stream of couriers and Commissars came and went. Outside the door waited a dozen volunteers, ready to carry word to the farthest quarters of the city. One of them, a gypsy-faced man in the uniform of a lieutenant, said in French, “Everything is ready to move at the push of a button. . . . ”
There passed Podvoisky, the thin, bearded civillian whose brain conceived the strategy of insurrection; Antonov, unshaven, his collar filthy, drunk with loss of sleep; Krylenko, the squat, wide-faced soldier, always smiling, with his violent gestures and tumbling speech; and Dybenko, the giant bearded sailor with the placid face. These were the men of the hour — and of other hours to come.
Downstairs in the office of the Factory–Shop Committees sat Seratov, signing orders on the Government Arsenal for arms-one hundred and fifty rifles for each factory. . . . Delegates waited in line, forty of them. . . .
In the hall I ran into some of the minor Bolshevik leaders. One showed me a revolver. “The game is on,” he said, and his face was pale. “Whether we move or not the other side knows it must finish us or be finished. . . . ”
The Petrograd Soviet was meeting day and night. As I came into the great hall Trotzky was just finishing.
“We are asked,” he said, “if we intend to have a vystuplennie. I can give a clear answer to that question. The Petrograd Soviet feels that at last the moment has arrived when the power must fall into the hands of the Soviets. This transfer of government will be accomplished by the All–Russian Congress. Whether an armed demonstration is necessary will depend on . . . those who wish to interfere with the All–Russian Congress. . . .
“We feel that our Government, entrusted to the personnel of the Provisional Cabinet, is a pitiful and helpless Government, which only awaits the sweep of the broom of History to give way to a really popular Government. But we are trying to avoid a conflict, even now, to-day. We hope that the All–Russian Congress will take . . . into its hands that power and authority which rests upon the organised freedom of the people. If, however, the Government wants to utilise the short period it is expected to live-twenty-four, forty eight, or seventy-two hours-to attack us, then we shall answer with counter-attacks, blow for blow, steel for iron!”
Amid cheers he announced that the Left Socialist Revolutionaries had agreed to send representatives into the Military Revolutionary Committee. . . .
As I left Smolny, at three o’clock in the morning, I noticed that two rapid-firing guns had been mounted, one on each side of the door, and that strong patrols of soldiers guarded the gates and the near-by street-corners. Bill Shatov13 came bounding up the steps. “Well,” he cried, “We’re off! Kerensky sent the yunkers to close down our papers, Soldat and Rabotchi Put. But our troops went down and smashed the Government seals, and now we’re sending detachments to seize the bourgeois newspaper offices!” Exultantly he slapped me on the shoulder, and ran in. . . .
13 Well known in the American labor movement.]
On the morning of the 6th I had business with the censor, whose office was in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Everywhere, on all the walls, hysterical appeals to the people to remain “calm.” Polkovnikov emitted prikaz after prikaz:
I order all military units and detachments to remain in their barracks until further orders from the Staff of the Military District. . . . All officers who act without orders from their superiors will be court-martialled for mutiny. I forbid absolutely any execution by soldiers of instructions from other organisations. . . .
The morning papers announced that the Government had suppressed the papers Novaya Rus, Zhivoye Slovo, Rabotchi Put and Soldat, and decreed the arrest of the leaders of the Petrograd Soviet and the members of the Military Revolutionary Committee. . . .
As I crossed the Palace Square several batteries of yunker artillery came through the Red Arch at a jingling trot, and drew up before the Palace. The great red building of the General Staff was unusually animated, several armoured automobiles ranked before the door, and motors full of officers were coming and going. . . . The censor was very much excited, like a small boy at a circus. Kerensky, he said, had just gone to the Council of the Republic to offer his resignation. I hurried down to the Marinsky Palace, arriving at the end of that passionate and almost incoherent speech of Kerensky’s, full of self-justification and bitter denunciation of his enemies.
“I will cite here the most characteristic passage from a whole series of articles published in Rabotchi Put by Ulianov–Lenin, a state criminal who is in hiding and whom we are trying to find. . . . This state criminal has invited the proletariat and the Petrograd garrison to repeat the experience of the 16th-18th of July, and insists upon the immediate necessity for an armed rising. . . . Moreover, other Bolshevik leaders have taken the floor in a series of meetings, and also made an appeal to immediate insurrection. Particularly should be noticed the activity of the present president of the Petrograd Soviet, Bronstein–Trotzky. . . .
“I ought to bring to your notice . . . that the expressions and the style of a whole series of articles in Rabotchi Put and Soldat resemble absolutely those of Novaya Rus. . . . We have to do not so much with the movement of such and such political party, as with the exploitation of the political ignorance and criminal instincts of a part of the population, a sort of organisation whose object it is to provoke in Russia, cost what it may, an inconscient movement of destruction and pillage; for given the state of mind of the masses, any movement at Petrograd will be followed by the most terrible massacres, which will cover with eternal shame the name of free Russia. . . .
“ . . . By the admission of Ulianov–Lenin himself, the situation of the extreme left wing of the Social Democrats in Russia is very favourable.” (Here Kerensky read the following quotation from Lenin’s article.):
Think of it! . . . The German comrades have only one Liebknecht, without newspapers, without freedom of meeting, without a Soviet. . . . They are opposed by the incredible hostility of all classes of society — and yet the German comrades try to act; while we, having dozens of newspapers, freedom of meeting, the majority of the Soviets, we, the best-placed international proletarians of the entire world, can we refuse to support the German revolutionists and insurrectionary organisations? . . .
Kerensky then continued:
“The organisers of rebellion recognise thus implicitly that the most perfect conditions for the free action of a political party obtain now in Russia, administered by a Provisional Government at the head of which is, in the eyes of this party, ‘a usurper and a man who has sold himself to the bourgeoisie, the Minister–President Kerensky. . . . ’
“ . . . The organisers of the insurrection do not come to the aid of the German proletariat, but of the German governing classes, and they open the Russian front to the iron fists of Wilhelm and his friends. . . . Little matter to the Provisional Government the motives of these people, little matter if they act consciously or unconsciously; but in any case, from this tribune, in full consciousness of my responsibility, I quality such acts of a Russian political party as acts of treason to Russia!
“ . . . I place myself at the point of view of the Right, and I propose immediately to proceed to an investigation and make the necessary arrests.” (Uproar from the Left.) “Listen to me!” he cried in a powerful voice. “At the moment when the state is in danger, because of conscious or unconscious treason, the Provisional Government, and myself among others, prefer to be killed rather than betray the life, the honour and the independence of Russia. . . . ”
At this moment a paper was handed to Kerensky.
“I have just received the proclamation which they are distributing to the regiments. Here is the contents.” Reading: ”‘The Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies is menaced. We order immediately the regiments to mobilise on a war footing and to await new orders. All delay or non-execution of this order will be considered as an act of treason to the Revolution. The Military Revolutionary Committee. For the President, Podvoisky. The Secretary, Antonov.‘
“In reality, this is an attempt to raise the populace against the existing order of things, to break the Constituent and to open the front to the regiments of the iron fist of Wilhelm. . . .
“I say ‘populace’ intentionally, because the conscious democracy and its Tsay-ee-kah, all the Army organisations, all that free Russia glorifies, the good sense, the honour and the conscience of the great Russian democracy, protests against these things. . . .
“I have not come here with a prayer, but to state my firm conviction that the Provisional Government, which defends at this moment our new liberty-that the new Russian state, destined to a brilliant future, will find unanimous support except among those who have never dared to face the truth. . . .
“ . . . The Provisional Government has never violated the liberty of all citizens of the State to use their political rights. . . . But now the Provisional Government. . . . declares: in this moment those elements of the Russian nation, those groups and parties who have dared to lift their hands against the free will of the Russian people, at the same time threatening to open the front to Germany, must be liquidated with decision! . . .
“Let the population of Petrograd understand that it will encounter a firm power, and perhaps at the last moment good sense, conscience and honour will triumph in the hearts of those who still possess them. . . . ”
All through this speech, the hall rang with deafening clamour. When the Minister–President had stepped down, pale-faced and wet with perspiration, and strode out with his suite of officers, speaker after speaker from the Left and Centre attacked the Right, all one angry roaring. Even the Socialist Revolutionaries, through Gotz:
“The policy of the Bolsheviki is demagogic and criminal, in their exploitation of the popular discontent. But there is a whole series of popular demands which have received no satisfaction up to now. . . . The questions of peace, land and the democratization of the army ought to be stated in such a fashion that no soldier, peasant or worker would have the least doubt that our Government is attempting, firmly and infallibly, to solve them. . . .
“We Mensheviki do not wish to provoke a Cabinet crisis, and we are ready to defend the Provisional Government with all our energy, to the last drop of our blood-if only the Provisional Government, on all these burning questions, will speak the clear and precise words awaited by the people with such impatience. . . . ”
Then Martov, furious:
“The words of the Minister–President, who allowed himself to speak of ‘populace’ when it is question of the movement of important sections of the proletariat and the army-although led in the wrong direction-are nothing but an incitement to civil war.”
The order of the day proposed by the Left was voted. It amounted practically to a vote of lack of confidence.
1. The armed demonstration which has been preparing for some days past has for its object a coup d’etat, threatens to provoke civil war, creates conditions favourable to pogroms and counterrevolution, the mobilization of counter-revolutionary forces, such as the Black Hundreds, which will inevitably bring about the impossibility of convoking the Constituent, will cause a military catastrophe, the death of the Revolution, paralyse the economic life of the country and destroy Russia;
2. The conditions favourable to this agitation have been created by delay in passing urgent measures, as well as objective conditions caused by the war and the general disorder. It is necessary before everything to promulgate at once a decree transmitting the land to the peasants’ Land Committees, and to adopt an energetic course of action abroad in proposing to the Allies to proclaim their peace terms and to begin peace-parleys;
3. To cope with Monarchist manifestations and pogromist movements, it is indispensable to take immediate measures to suppress these movements, and for this purpose to create at Petrograd a Committee of Public Safety, composed of representatives of the Municipality and the organs of the revolutionary democracy, acting in contact with the Provisional Government. . . .
It is interesting to note that the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries all rallied to this resolution. . . . When Kerensky saw it, however, he summoned Avksentiev to the Winter Palace to explain. If it expressed a lack of confidence in the Provisional Government, he begged Avksentiev to form a new Cabinet. Dan, Gotz and Avksentiev, the leaders of the “compromisers,” performed their last compromise. . . . They explained to Kerensky that it was not meant as a criticism of the Government!
At the corner of the Morskaya and the Nevsky, squads of soldiers with fixed bayonets were stopping all private automobiles, turning out the occupants, and ordering them toward the Winter Palace. A large crowd had gathered to watch them. Nobody knew whether the soldiers belonged to the Government or the Military Revolutionary Committee. Up in front of the Kazan Cathedral the same thing was happening, machines being directed back up the Nevsky. Five or six sailors with rifles came along, laughing excitedly, and fell into conversation with two of the soldiers. On the sailors’ hat bands were Avrora and Zaria Svobody,— the names of the leading Bolshevik cruisers of the Baltic Fleet. One of them said, “Cronstadt is coming!” . . . It was as if, in 1792, on the streets of Paris, some one had said: “The Marseillais are coming!” For at Cronstadt were twenty-five thousand sailors, convinced Bolsheviki and not afraid to die. . . .
Rabotchi i Soldat was just out, all its front page one huge proclamation: SOLDIERS! WORKERS! CITIZENS!
The enemies of the people passed last night to the offensive. The Kornilovists of the Staff are trying to draw in from the suburbs yunkers and volunteer battalions. The Oranienbaum yunkers and the Tsarskoye Selo volunteers refused to come out. A stroke of high treason is being contemplated against the Petrograd Soviet. . . . The campaign of the counter-revolutionists is being directed against the All–Russian Congress of Soviets on the eve of its opening, against the Constituent Assembly, against the people. The Petrograd Soviet is guarding the Revolution. The Military Revolutionary Committee is directing the repulse of the conspirators’ attack. The entire garrison and proletariat of Petrograd are ready to deal the enemy of the people a crushing blow.
The Military Revolutionary Committee decrees:
1. All regimental, division and battle-ship Committees, together with the Soviet Commissars, and all revolutionary organisations, shall meet in continuous session, concentrating in their hands all information about the plans of the conspirators.
2. Not one soldier shall leave his division without permission of the Committee.
3. To send to Smolny at once two delegates from each military unit and five from each Ward Soviet.
4. All members of the Petrograd Soviet and all delegates to the All–Russian Congress are invited immediately to Smolny for an extraordinary meeting.
Counter-revolution has raised its criminal head.
A great danger threatens all the conquests and hopes of the soldiers and workers.
But the forces of the Revolution by far exceed those of its enemies.
The cause of the People is in strong hands. The conspirators will be crushed.
No hesitation or doubts! Firmness, steadfastness, discipline, determination!
Long live the Revolution!
The Military Revolutionary Committee.
The Petrograd Soviet was meeting continuously at Smolny, a centre of storm, delegates falling down asleep on the floor and rising again to take part in the debate, Trotzky, Kameniev, Volodarsky speaking six, eight, twelve hours a day. . . .
I went down to room 18 on the first floor where the Bolshevik delegates were holding caucus, a harsh voice steadily booming, the speaker hidden by the crowd: “The compromisers say that we are isolated. Pay no attention to them. Once it begins they must be dragged along with us, or else lose their following. . . . ”
Here he held up a piece of paper. “We are dragging them! A message has just come from the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries! They say that they condemn our action, but that if the Government attacks us they will not oppose the cause of the proletariat!” Exultant shouting. . . .
As night fell the great hall filled with soldiers and workmen, a monstrous dun mass, deep-humming in a blue haze of smoke. The old Tsay-ee-kah had finally decided to welcome the delegates to that new Congress which would mean its own ruin — and perhaps the ruin of the revolutionary order it had built. At this meeting, however, only members of the Tsay-ee-kah could vote. . . .
It was after midnight when Gotz took the chair and Dan rose to speak, in a tense silence, which seemed to me almost menacing.
“The hours in which we live appear in the most tragic colours,” he said. “The enemy is at the gates of Petrograd, the forces of the democracy are trying to organise to resist him, and yet we await bloodshed in the streets of the capital, and famine threatens to destroy, not only our homogeneous Government, but the Revolution itself. . . .
“The masses are sick and exhausted. They have no interest in the Revolution. If the Bolsheviki start anything, that will be the end of the Revolution . . . ” (Cries, “That’s a lie!)” “The counter-revolutionists are waiting with the Bolsheviki to begin riots and massacres. . . . If there is any vystuplennie, there will be no Constituent Assembly. . . . ” (Cries, “Lie! Shame!”)
“It is inadmissible that in the zone of military operations the Petrograd garrison shall not submit to the orders of the Staff. . . . You must obey the orders of the Staff and of the Tsay-ee-kah elected by you. All Power to the Soviets-that means death! Robbers and thieves are waiting for the moment to loot and burn. . . . When you have such slogans put before you, ‘Enter the houses, take away the shoes and clothes from the bourgeoisie-’” (Tumult. Cries, “No such slogan! A lie! A lie!”) “Well, it may start differently, but it will end that way!
“The Tsay-ee-kah has full power to act, and must be obeyed. . . . We are not afraid of bayonets. . . . The Tsay-ee-kah will defend the Revolution with its body. . . . ” (Cries, “It was a dead body long ago!”)
Immense continued uproar, in which his voice could be heard screaming, as he pounded the desk, “Those who are urging this are committing a crime!”
Voice: “You committed a crime long ago, when you captured the power and turned it over to the bourgeoisie!”
Gotz, ringing the chairman’s bell: “Silence, or I’ll have you put out!”
Voice: “Try it!” (Cheers and whistling.)
“Now concerning our policy about peace.” (Laughter.) “Unfortunately Russia can no longer support the continuation of the war. There is going to be peace, but not permanent peace-not a democratic peace. . . . To-day, at the Council of the Republic, in order to avoid bloodshed, we passed an order of the day demanding the surrender of the land to the Land Committees and immediate peace negotiations. . . . ” (Laughter, and cries, “Too late!”)
Then for the Bolsheviki, Trotzky mounted the tribune, borne on a wave of roaring applause that burst into cheers and a rising house, thunderous. His thin, pointed face was positively Mephistophelian in its expression of malicious irony.
“Dan’s tactics prove that the masses — the great, dull, indifferent masses-are absolutely with him!” (Titantic mirth.) He turned toward the chairman, dramatically. “When we spoke of giving the land to the peasants, you were against it. We told the peasants, ‘If they don’t give it to you, take it yourselves!’ and the peasants followed our advice. And now you advocate what we did six months ago. . . .
“I don’t think Kerensky’s order to suspend the death penalty in the army was dictated by his ideals. I think Kerensky was persuaded by the Petrograd garrison, which refused to obey him. . . .
“To-day Dan is accused of having made a speech in the Council of the Republic which proves him to be a secret Bolshevik. . . . The time may come when Dan will say that the flower of the Revolution participated in the rising of July 16th and 18th. . . . In Dan’s resolution to-day at the Council of the Republic there was no mention of enforcing discipline in the army, although that is urged in the propaganda of his party. . . .
“No. The history of the last seven months shows that the masses have left the Mensheviki. The Mensheviki and the Socialist Revolutionaries conquered the Cadets, and then when they got the power, they gave it to the Cadets. . . .
“Dan tells you that you have no right to make an insurrection. Insurrection is the right of all revolutionists! When the down-trodden masses revolt, it is their right. . . . ”
Then the long-faced, cruel-tongued Lieber, greeted with groans and laughter.
“Engels and Marx said that the proletariat had no right to take power until it was ready for it. In a bourgeois revolution like this. . . . the seizure of power by the masses means the tragic end of the Revolution. . . . Trotzky, as a Social Democratic theorist, is himself opposed to what he is now advocating. . . . ” (Cries, “Enough! Down with him!”)
Martov, constantly interrupted: “The Internationalists are not opposed to the transmission of power to the democracy, but they disapprove of the methods of the Bolsheviki. This is not the moment to seize the power. . . . ”
Again Dan took the floor, violently protesting against the action of the Military Revolutionary Committee, which had sent a Commissar to seize the office of Izviestia and censor the paper. The wildest uproar followed. Martov tried to speak, but could not be heard. Delegates of the Army and the Baltic Fleet stood up all over the hall, shouting that the Soviet was their Government. . . .
Amid the wildest confusion Ehrlich offered a resolution, appealing to the workers and soldiers to remain calm and not to respond to provocations to demonstrate, recognising the necessity of immediately creating a Committee of Public Safety, and asking the Provisional Government at once to pass decrees transferring the land to the peasants and beginning peace negotiations. . . .
Then up leaped Volodarsky, shouting harshly that the Tsay-ee-kah, on the eve of the Congress, had no right to assume the functions of the Congress. The Tsay-ee-kah was practically dead, he said, and the resolution was simply a trick to bolster up its waning power. . . .
“As for us, Bolsheviki, we will not vote on this resolution!” Whereupon all the Bolsheviki left the hall and the resolution was passed. . . .
Toward four in the morning I met Zorin in the outer hall, a rifle slung from his shoulder.
“We’re moving!” (See App. III, Sect. 7) said he, calmly but with satisfaction. “We pinched the Assistant Minister of Justice and the Minister of Religions. They’re down cellar now. One regiment is on the march to capture the Telephone Exchange, another the Telegraph Agency, another the State Bank. The Red Guard is out. . . . ”
On the steps of Smolny, in the chill dark, we first saw the Red Guard — a huddled group of boys in workmen’s clothes, carrying guns with bayonets, talking nervously together.
Far over the still roofs westward came the sound of scattered rifle fire, where the yunkers were trying to open the bridges over the Neva, to prevent the factory workers and soldiers of the Viborg quarter from joining the Soviet forces in the centre of the city; and the Cronstadt sailors were closing them again. . . .
Behind us great Smolny, bright with lights, hummed like a gigantic hive. . . .
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:12