NEXT morning, Sunday the 11th, the Cossacks entered Tsarskoye Selo, Kerensky (See App. VIII, Sect. 1) himself riding a white horse and all the church-bells clamouring. From the top of a little hill outside the town could be seen the golden spires and many-coloured cupolas, the sprawling grey immensity of the capital spread along the dreary plain, and beyond, the steely Gulf of Finland.
There was no battle. But Kerensky made a fatal blunder. At seven in the morning he sent word to the Second Tsarskoye Selo Rifles to lay down their arms. The soldiers replied that they would remain neutral, but would not disarm. Kerensky gave them ten minutes in which to obey. This angered the soldiers; for eight months they had been governing themselves by committee, and this smacked of the old régime. . . . A few minutes later Cossack artillery opened fire on the barracks, killing eight men. From that moment there were no more “neutral” soldiers in Tsarskoye. . . .
Petrograd woke to bursts of rifle-fire, and the tramping thunder of men marching. Under the high dark sky a cold wind smelt of snow. At dawn the Military Hotel and the Telegraph Agency had been taken by large forces of yunkers, and bloodily recaptured. The Telephone Station was besieged by sailors, who lay behind barricades of barrels, boxes and tin sheets in the middle of the Morskaya, or sheltered themselves at the corner of the Gorokhovaya and of St. Isaac’s Square, shooting at anything that moved. Occasionally an automobile passed in and out, flying the Red Cross flag. The sailors let it pass. . . .
Albert Rhys Williams was in the Telephone Exchange. He went out with the Red Cross automobile, which was ostensibly full of wounded. After circulating about the city, the car went by devious ways to the Mikhailovsky yunker school, headquarters of the counter-revolution. A French officer, in the court-yard, seemed to be in command. . . . By this means ammunition and supplies were conveyed to the Telephone Exchange. Scores of these pretended ambulances acted as couriers and ammunition trains for the yunkers.
Five or six armoured cars, belonging to the disbanded British Armoured Car Division, were in their hands. As Louise Bryant was going along St. Isaac’s Square one came rolling up from the Admiralty, on its way to the Telephone Exchange. At the corner of the Gogolia, right in front of her, the engine stalled. Some sailors ambushed behind wood-piles began shooting. The machine-gun in the turret of the thing slewed around and spat a hail of bullets indiscriminately into the wood-piles and the crowd. In the archway where Miss Bryant stood seven people were shot dead, among them two little boys. Suddenly, with a shout, the sailors leaped up and rushed into the flaming open; closing around the monster, they thrust their bayonets into the loop-holes, again and again, yelling . . . The chauffeur pretended to be wounded, and they let him go free-to run to the Duma and swell the tale of Bolshevik atrocities. . . . Among the dead was a British Officer. . . .
Later the newspapers told of another French officer, captured in a yunker armoured car and sent to Peter–Paul. The French Embassy promptly denied this, but one of the City Councillors told me that he himself had procured the officer’s release from prison. . . .
Whatever the official attitude of the Allied Embassies, individual French and British officers were active these days, even to the extent of giving advice at executive sessions of the Committee for Salvation.
All day long in every quarter of the city there were skirmishes between yunkers and Red Guards, battles between armoured cars. . . . Volleys, single shots and the shrill chatter of machine-guns could be heard, far and near. The iron shutters of the shops were drawn, but business still went on. Even the moving-picture shows, all outside lights dark, played to crowded houses. The street-cars ran. The telephones were all working; when you called Central, shooting could be plainly heard over the wire. . . . Smolny was cut off, but the Duma and the Committee for Salvation were in constant communication with all the yunker schools and with Kerensky at Tsarskoye.
At seven in the morning the Vladimir yunker school was visited by a patrol of soldiers, sailors and Red Guards, who gave the yunkers twenty minutes to lay down their arms. The ultimatum was rejected. An hour later the yunkers got ready to march, but were driven back by a violent fusillade from the corner of the Grebetskaya and the Bolshoy Prospekt. Soviet troops surrounded the building and opened fire, two armoured cars cruising back and forth with machine guns raking it. The yunkers telephoned for help. The Cossacks replied that they dare not come, because a large body of sailors with two cannon commanded their barracks. The Pavlovsk school was surrounded. Most of the Mikhailov yunkers were fighting in the streets. . . .
At half-past eleven three field-pieces arrived. Another demand to surrender was met by the yunkers shooting down two of the Soviet delegates under the white flag. Now began a real bombardment. Great holes were torn in the walls of the school. The yunkers defended themselves desperately; shouting waves of Red Guards, assaulting, crumpled under the withering blast. . . . Kerensky telephoned from Tsarskoye to refuse all parley with the Military Revolutionary Committee.
Frenzied by defeat and their heaps of dead, the Soviet troops opened a tornado of steel and flame against the battered building. Their own officers could not stop the terrible bombardment. A Commissar from Smolny named Kirilov tried to halt it; he was threatened with lynching. The Red Guards’ blood was up.
At half-past two the yunkers hoisted a white flag; they would surrender if they were guaranteed protection. This was promised. With a rush and a shout thousands of soldiers and Red Guards poured through windows, doors and holes in the wall. Before it could be stopped five yunkers were beaten and stabbed to death. The rest, about two hundred, were taken to Peter–Paul under escort, in small groups so as to avoid notice. On the way a mob set upon one party, killing eight more yunkers. . . . More than a hundred Red Guards and soldiers had fallen. . . .
Two hours later the Duma got a telephone message that the victors were marching toward the Injinierny Zamok— the Engineers’ school. A dozen members immediately set out to distribute among them armfuls of the latest proclamation of the Committee for Salvation. Several did not come back. . . . All the other schools surrendered without resistance, and the yunkers were sent unharmed to Peter–Paul and Cronstadt. . . .
The Telephone Exchange held out until afternoon, when a Bolshevik armoured car appeared, and the sailors stormed the place. Shrieking, the frightened telephone girls ran to and fro; the yunkers tore from their uniforms all distinguishing marks, and one offered Williams anything for the loan of his overcoat, as a disguise. . . . “They will massacre us! They will massacre us!” they cried, for many of them had given their word at the Winter Palace not to take up arms against the People. Williams offered to mediate if Antonov were released. This was immediately done; Antonov and Williams made speeches to the victorious sailors, inflamed by their many dead — and once more the yunkers went free. . . . All but a few, who in their panic tried to flee over the roofs, or to hide in the attic, and were found and hurled into the street.
Tired, bloody, triumphant, the sailors and workers swarmed into the switchboard room, and finding so many pretty girls, fell back in an embarrassed way and fumbled with awkward feet. Not a girl was injured, not one insulted. Frightened, they huddled in the corners, and then, finding themselves safe, gave vent to their spite. “Ugh! The dirty, ignorant people! The fools!” . . . The sailors and Red Guards were embarrassed. “Brutes! Pigs!” shrilled the girls, indignantly putting on their coats and hats. Romantic had been their experience passing up cartridges and dressing the wounds of their dashing young defenders, the yunkers, many of them members of noble families, fighting to restore their beloved Tsar! These were just common workmen, peasants, “Dark People.” . . .
The Commissar of the Military Revolutionary Committee, little Vishniak, tried to persuade the girls to remain. He was effusively polite. “You have been badly treated,” he said. “The telephone system is controlled by the Municipal Duma. You are paid sixty rubles a month, and have to work ten hours and more. . . . From now on all that will be changed. The Government intends to put the telephones under control of the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs. Your wages will be immediately raised to one hundred and fifty rubles, and your working-hours reduced. As members of the working-class you should be happy —”
Members of the working-class indeed! Did he mean to infer that there was anything in common between these — these animals — and us? Remain? Not if they offered a thousand rubles! . . . Haughty and spiteful the girls left the place. . . .
The employees of the building, the line-men and labourers — they stayed. But the switch-boards must be operated — the telephone was vital. . . . Only half a dozen trained operators were available. Volunteers were called for; a hundred responded, sailors, soldiers, workers. The six girls scurried backward and forward, instructing, helping, scolding. . . . So, crippled, halting, but going, the wires slowly began to hum. The first thing was to connect Smolny with the barracks and the factories; the second, to cut off the Duma and the yunker schools. . . . Late in the afternoon word of it spread through the city, and hundreds of bourgeois called up to scream, “Fools! Devils! How long do you think you will last? Wait till the Cossacks come!”
Dusk was already falling. On the almost deserted Nevsky, swept by a bitter wind, a crowd had gathered before the Kazan Cathedral, continuing the endless debate; a few workmen, some soldiers and the rest shop-keepers, clerks and the like.
“But Lenin won’t get Germany to make peace!” cried one.
A violent young soldier replied. “And whose fault is it? Your damn Kerensky, dirty bourgeois! To hell with Kerensky! We don’t want him! We want Lenin. . . . ”
Outside the Duma an officer with a white arm-band was tearing down posters from the wall, swearing loudly. One read:
To the Population of Petrograd!
At this dangerous hour, when the Municipal Duma ought to use every means to calm the population, to assure it bread and other necessities, the Right Socialist Revolutionaries and the Cadets, forgetting their duty, have turned the Duma into a counter-revolutionary meeting, trying to raise part of the population against the rest, so as to facilitate the victory of Kornilov–Kerensky. Instead of doing their duty, the Right Socialist Revolutionaries and the Cadets have transformed the Duma into an arena of political attack upon the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, against the revolutionary Government of peace, bread and liberty.
Citizens of Petrograd, we, the Bolshevik Municipal Councillors elected by you-we want you to know that the Right Socialist Revolutionaries and the Cadets are engaged in counter-revolutionary action, have forgotten their duty, and are leading the population to famine, to civil war. We, elected by 183,000 votes, consider it our duty to bring to the attention of our constituents what is going on in the Duma, and declare that we disclaim all responsibility for the terrible but inevitable consequences. . . .
Far away still sounded occasional shots, but the city lay quiet, cold, as if exhausted by the violent spasms which had torn it.
In the Nicolai Hall the Duma session was coming to an end. Even the truculent Duma seemed a little stunned. One after another the Commissars reported-capture of the Telephone Exchange, street-fighting, the taking of the Vladimir school. . . . “The Duma,” said Trupp, “is on the side of the democracy in its struggle against arbitrary violence; but in any case, whichever side wins, the Duma will always be against lynchings and torture. . . . ”
Konovski, Cadet, a tall old man with a cruel face: “When the troops of the legal Government arrive in Petrograd, they will shoot down these insurgents, and that will not be lynching!” Protests all over the hall, even from his own party.
Here there was doubt and depression. The counter-revolution was being put down. The Central Committee of the Socialist Revolutionary party had voted lack of confidence in its officers; the left wing was in control; Avksentiev had resigned. signed. A courier reported that the Committee of Welcome sent to meet Kerensky at the railway station had been arrested. In the streets could be heard the dull rumble of distant cannonading, south and southwest. Still Kerensky did not come . . .
Only three newspapers were out-Pravda, Dielo Naroda and Novaya Zhizn. All of them devoted much space to the new “coalition” Government. The Socialist Revolutionary paper demanded a Cabinet without either Cadets or Bolsheviki. Gorky was hopeful; Smolny had made concessions. A purely Socialist Government was taking shape-all elements except the bourgeoisie. As for Pravda, it sneered:
We ridicule these coalitions with political parties whose most prominent members are petty journalists of doubtful reputation; our “coalition” is that of the proletariat and the revolutionary Army with the poor peasants . . .
On the walls a vainglorious announcement of the Vikzhel, threatening to strike if both sides did not compromise:
The conquerors of these riots, the saviours of the wreck of our country, these will be neither the Bolsheviki, nor the Committee for Salvation, nor the troops of Kerensky-but we, the Union of Railwaymen . . .
Red Guards are incapable of handling a complicated business like the railways; as for the Provisional Government, it has shown itself incapable of holding the power . . .
We refuse to lend our services to any party which does not act by authority of . . . a Government based on the confidence of all the democracy. . . .
Smolny thrilled with the boundless vitality of inexhaustible humanity in action.
In Trade Union headquarters Lozovsky introduced me to a delegate of the Railway Workers of the Nicolai line, who said that the men were holding huge mass-meetings, condemning the action of their leaders.
“All power to the Soviets!” he cried, pounding on the table. “Theoborontsi in the Central Committee are playing Ko&rgrave;nilov’s game. They tried to send a mission to the Stavka, but we arrested them at Minsk. . . . Our branch has demanded an All–Russian Convention, and they refuse to call it. . . . ”
The same situation as in the Soviets, the Army Committees. One after another the various democratic organisations, all over Russia, were cracking and changing. The Cooperatives were torn by internal struggles; the meetings of the Peasants’ Executive broke up in stormy wrangling; even among the Cossacks there was trouble. . . .
On the top floor the Military Revolutionary Committee was in full blast, striking and slacking not. Men went in, fresh and vigorous; night and day and night and day they threw themselves into the terrible machine; and came out limp, blind with fatigue, hoarse and filthy, to fall on the floor and sleep. . . . The Committee for Salvation had been outlawed. Great piles of new proclamations (See App. VIII, Sect. 2) littered the floor:
. . . The conspirators, who have no support among the garrison or the working-class, above all counted on the suddenness of their attack. Their plan was discovered in time by Sub–Lieutenant Blagonravov, thanks to the revolutionary vigilance of a soldier of the Red Guard, whose name shall be made public. At the centre of the plot was the Committee for Salvation. Colonel Polkovnikov was in command of their forces, and the orders were signed by Gotz, former member of the Provisional Government, allowed at liberty on his word of honour. . . .
Bringing these facts to the attention of the Petrograd population, the Military Revolutionary Committee orders the arrest of all concerned in the conspiracy, who shall be tried before the Revolutionary Tribunal. . . .
From Moscow, word that the yunkers and Cossacks had surrounded the Kremlin and ordered the Soviet troops to lay down their arms. The Soviet forces complied, and as they were leaving the Kremlin, were set upon and shot down. Small forces of Bolsheviki had been driven from the Telephone and Telegraph offices; the yunkers now held the centre of the city. . . . But all around them the Soviet troops were mustering. Street-fighting was slowly gathering way; all attempts at compromise had failed. . . . On the side of the Soviet, ten thousand garrison soldiers and a few Red Guards; on the side of the Government, six thousand yunkers, twenty-five hundred Cossacks and two thousand White Guards.
The Petrograd Soviet was meeting, and next door the new Tsay-ee-kah, acting on the decrees and orders (See App. VIII, Sect. 3) which came down in a steady stream from the Council of People’s Commissars in session upstairs; on the Order in Which Laws Are to be Ratified and Published, Establishing an Eight hour Days for Workers, and Lunatcharsky’s “Basis for a System of Popular Education.” Only a few hundred people were present at the two meetings, most of them armed. Smolny was almost deserted, except for the guards, who were busy at the hall windows, setting up machine-guns to command the flanks of the building.
In the Tsay-ee-kah a delegate of the Vikzhel was speaking: “We refuse to transport the troops of either party. . . . We have sent a committee to Kerensky to say that if he continues to march on Petrograd we will break his lines of communication. . . . ”
He made the usual plea for a conference of all the Socialist parties to form a new Government. . . .
Kameniev answered discreetly. The Bolsheviki would be very glad to attend the conference. The centre of gravity, however, lay not in composition of such a Government, but in its acceptance of the programme of the Congress of Soviets.
. . . The Tsay-ee-kah had deliberated on the declaration made by the Left Socialist Revolutionaries and the Social Democrats Internationalists, and had accepted the proposition of proportional representation at the conference, even including delegates from the Army Committees and the Peasants’ Soviets. . . .
In the great hall, Trotzky recounted the events of the day.
“We offered the Vladimir yunkers a chance to surrender,” he said. “We wanted to settle matters without bloodshed. But now that blood has been spilled there is only one way-pitiless struggle. It would be childish to think we can win by any other means. . . . The moment is decisive. Everybody must cooperate with the Military Revolutionary Committee, report where there are stores of barbed wire, benzine, guns.
. . . We’ve won the power; now we must keep it!”
The Menshevik Yoffe tried to read his party’s declaration, but Trotzky refused to allow “a debate about principle.”
“Our debates are now in the streets,” he cried. “The decisive step has been taken. We all, and I in particular, take the responsibility for what is happening. . . . ”
Soldiers from the front, from Gatchina, told their stories. One from the Death Battalion, Four Hundred Eighty-first Artillery: “When the trenches hear of this, they will cry, ‘This is our Government!’” A yunker from Peterhof said that he and two others had refused to march against the Soviets; and when his comrades had returned from the defence of the Winter Palace they appointed him their Commissar, to go to Smolny and offer their services to the real Revolution. . . .
Then Trotzky again, fiery, indefatigable, giving orders, answering questions.
“The petty bourgeoisie, in order to defeat the workers, soldiers and peasants, would combine with the devil himself!” he said once. Many cases of drunkenness had been remarked the last two days. “No drinking, comrades! No one must be on the streets after eight in the evening, except the regular guards. All places suspected of having stores of liquor should be searched, and the liquor destroyed. (See App. VIII, Sect. 4) No mercy to the sellers of liquor. . . . ”
The Military Revolutionary Committee sent for the delegation from the Viborg section; then for the members from Putilov. They clumped out hurriedly.
“For each revolutionist killed,” said Trotzky, “we shall kill five counter-revolutionists!”
Down-town again. The Duma brilliantly illuminated and great crowds pouring in. In the lower hall wailing and cries of grief; the throng surged back and forth before the bulletin board, where was posted a list of yunkers killed in the day’s fighting-or supposed to be killed, for most of the dead afterward turned up safe and sound. . . . Up in the Alexander Hall the Committee for Salvation held forth. The gold and red epaulettes of officers were conspicuous, the familiar faces of the Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary intellectuals, the hard eyes and bulky magnificence of bankers and diplomats, officials of the old régime, and well-dressed women. . . .
The telephone girls were testifying. Girl after girl came to the tribune-over-dressed, fashion-aping little girls, with pinched faces and leaky shoes. Girl after girl, flushing with pleasure at the applause of the “nice” people of Petrograd, of the officers, the rich, the great names of politics-girl after girl, to narrate her sufferings at the hands of the proletariat, and proclaim her loyalty to all that was old, established and powerful. . . .
The Duma was again in session in the Nicolai Hall. The Mayor said hopefully that the Petrograd regiments were ashamed of their actions; propaganda was making headway.
Revolutionary law and order. A proclamation of the Finland Regiment, in December, 1917, announcing desperate remedies for “wine pogroms.” For translation see Appendix 5.
. . . Emissaries came and went, reporting horrible deeds by the Bolsheviki, interceding to save the yunkers, busily investigating. . . .
“The Bolsheviki,” said Trupp, “will be conquered by moral force, and not by bayonets. . . . .”
Meanwhile all was not well on the revolutionary front. The enemy had brought up armoured trains, mounted with cannon. The Soviet forces, mostly raw Red Guards, were without officers and without a definite plan. Only five thousand regular soldiers had joined them; the rest of the garrison was either busy suppressing the yunker revolt, guarding the city, or undecided what to do. At ten in the evening Lenin addressed a meeting of delegates from the city regiments, who voted overwhelmingly to fight. A Committee of five soldiers was elected to serve as General Staff, and in the small hours of the morning the regiments left their barracks in full battle array. . . . Going home I saw them pass, swinging along with the regular tread of veterans, bayonets in perfect alignment, through the deserted streets of the conquered city. . . .
At the same time, in the headquarters of the Vikzhel down on the Sadovaya, the conference of all the Socialist parties to form a new Government was under way. Abramovitch, for the centre Mensheviki, said that there should be neither conquerors nor conquered-that bygones should be bygones. . . . In this were agreed all the left wing parties. Dan, speaking in the name of the right Mensheviki, proposed to the Bolsheviki the following conditions for a truce: The Red Guard to be disarmed, and the Petrograd garrison to be placed at the orders of the Duma; the troops of Kerensky not to fire a single shot or arrest a single man; a Ministry of all the Socialist parties except the Bolsheviki. For Smolny Riazanov and Kameniev declared that a coalition ministry of all parties was acceptable, but protested at Dan’s proposals. The Socialist Revolutionaries were divided; but the Executive Committee of the Peasants’s Soviets and the Populist Socialists flatly refused to admit the Bolsheviki. . . . After bitter quarrelling a commission was elected to draw up a workable plan. . . .
All that night the commission wrangled, and all the next day, and the next night. Once before, on the 9th of November, there had been a similar effort at conciliation, led by Martov and Gorky; but at the approach of Kerensky and the activity of the Committee for Salvation, the right wing of the Mensheviki, Socialist Revolutionaries and Populist Socialists suddenly withdrew. Now they were awed by the crushing of the yunker rebellion . . .
Monday the 12th was a day of suspense. The eyes of all Russia were fixed on the grey plain beyond the gates of Petrograd, where all the available strength of the old order faced the unorganised power of the new, the unknown. In Moscow a truce had been declared; both sides parleyed, awaiting the result in the capital. Now the delegates to the Congress of Soviets, hurrying on speeding trains to the farthest reaches of Asia, were coming to their homes, carrying the fiery cross. In wide-spreading ripples news of the miracle spread over the face of the land, and in its wake towns, cities and far villages stirred and broke, Soviets and Military Revolutionary Committees against Dumas, Zemstvos and Government Commissars–Red Guards against White-street fighting and passionate speech. . . . The result waited on the word from Petrograd. . . .
Smolny was almost empty, but the Duma was thronged and noisy. The old Mayor, in his dignified way, was protesting against the Appeal of the Bolshevik Councillors.
“The Duma is not a centre of counter-revolution,” he said, warmly. “The Duma takes no part in the present struggle between the parties. But at a time when there is no legal power in the land, the only centre of order is the Municipal Self–Government. The peaceful population recognises this fact; the foreign Embassies recognise only such documents as are signed by the Mayor of the town. The mind of a European does not admit of any other situation, as the Municipal self-government is the only organ which is capable of protecting the interests of the citizens. The City is bound to show hospitality, to all organisations which desire to profit by such hospitality, and therefore the Duma cannot prevent the distribution of any newspapers whatever within the Duma building. The sphere of our work is increasing, and we must be given full liberty of action, and our rights must be respected by both parties. . . .
“We are perfectly neutral. When the Telephone Exchange was occupied by the yunkers Colonel Polkovnikov ordered the telephones to Smolny disconnected, but I protested, and the telephones were kept going. . . . ”
At this there was ironic laughter from the Bolshevik benches, and imprecations from the right.
“And yet,” went on Schreider, “they look upon us as counter-revolutionaries and report us to the population. They deprive us of our means of transport by taking away our last motor-cars. It will not be our fault if there is famine in the town. Protests are of no use. . . . ”
Kobozev, Bolshevik member of the Town Board, was doubtful whether the Military Revolutionary Committee had requisitioned the Municipal automobiles. Even granting the fact, it was probably done by some unauthorised individual, in the emergency.
“The Mayor,” he continued, “tells us that we must not make political meetings out of the Duma. But every Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary here talks nothing but party propaganda, and at the door they distribute their illegal newspapers, Iskri (Sparks), Soldatski Golos and Rabotchaya Gazeta, inciting to insurrection. What if we Bolsheviki should also begin to distribute our papers here? But this shall not be, for we respect the Duma. We have not attacked the Municipal Self–Government, and we shall not do so. But you have addressed an Appeal to the population, and we are entitled also to do so. . . .
Followed him Shingariov, Cadet, who said that there could be no common language with those who were liable to be brought before the Attorney General for indictment, and who must be tried on the charge of treason. . . . He proposed again that all Bolshevik members should be expelled from the Duma. This was tabled, however, for there were no personal charges against the members, and they were active in the Municipal administration.
Then two Mensheviki Internationalists, declaring that the Appeal of the Bolshevik Councillors was a direct incitement to massacre. “If everything that is against the Bolsheviki is counter-revolutionary,” said Pinkevitch, “then I do not know the difference between revolution and anarchy. . . . The Bolsheviki are depending upon the passions of the unbridled masses; we have nothing but moral force. We will protest against massacres and violence from both sides, as our task is to find a peaceful issue.”
“The notice posted in the streets under the heading ‘To the Pillory,’ which calls upon the people to destroy the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries,” said Nazariev, “is a crime which you, Bolsheviki, will not be able to wash away. Yesterday’s horrors are but a preface to what you are preparing by such a proclamation. . . . I have always tried to reconcile you with the other parties, but at present I feel for you nothing but contempt!”
The Bolshevik Councillors were on their feet, shouting angrily, assailed by hoarse, hateful voices and waving arms. . . .
Outside the hall I ran into the City Engineer, the Menshevik Gomberg and three or four reporters. They were all in high spirits.
“See!” they said. “The cowards are afraid of us. They don’t dare arrest the Duma! Their Military Revolutionary Committee doesn’t dare to send a Commissar into this building. Why, on the corner of the Sadovaya to-day, I saw a Red Guard try to stop a boy selling Soldatski Golos. . . . The boy just laughed at him, and a crowd of people wanted to lynch the bandit. It’s only a few hours more, now. Even if Kerensky wouldn’t come they haven’t the men to run a Government. Absurd! I understand they’re even fighting among themselves at Smolny!”
A Socialist Revolutionary friend of mine drew me aside. “I know where the Committee for Salvation is hiding,” he said. “Do you want to go and talk with them?”
By this time it was dusk. The city had again settled down to normal-shop-shutters up, lights shining, and on the streets great crowds of people slowly moving up and down and arguing. . . .
At Number 86 Nevsky we went through a passage into a courtyard, surrounded by tall apartment buildings. At the door of apartment 229 my friend knocked in a peculiar way. There was a sound of scuffling; an inside door slammed; then the front door opened a crack and a woman’s face appeared. After a minute’s observation she led us in — a placid-looking, middle-aged lady who at once cried, “Kyril, it’s all right!” In the dining-room, where a samovar steamed on the table and there were plates full of bread and raw fish, a man in uniform emerged from behind the window-curtains, and another, dressed like a workman, from a closet. They were delighted to meet an American reporter. With a certain amount of gusto both said that they would certainly be shot if the Bolsheviki caught them. They would not give me their names, but both were Socialist Revolutionaries. . . .
“Why,” I asked, “do you publish such lies in your newspapers?”
Without taking offence the officer replied, “Yes, I know; but what can we do?” He shrugged. “You must admit that it is necessary for us to create a certain frame of mind in the people. . . . ”
The other man interrupted. “This is merely an adventure on the part of the Bolsheviki. They have no intellectuals. . . . The Ministries won’t work. . . . Russia is not a city, but a whole country. . . . Realising that they can only last a few days, we have decided to come to the aid of the strongest force opposed to them — Kerensky — and help to restore order.”
“That is all very well,” I said. “But why do you combine with the Cadets?”
The pseudo-workman smiled frankly. “To tell you the truth, at this moment the masses of the people are following the Bolsheviki. We have no following-now. We can’t mobilise a handful of soldiers. There are no arms available. . . . The Bolsheviki are right to a certain extent; there are at this moment in Russia only two parties with any force — the Bolsheviki and the reactionaries, who are all hiding under the coat-tails of the Cadets. The Cadets think they are using us; but it is really we who are using the Cadets. When we smash the Bolsheviki we shall turn against the Cadets. . . . ”
“Will the Bolsheviki be admitted into the new Government?”
He scratched his head. “That’s a problem,” he admitted. “Of course if they are not admitted, they’sll probably do this all over again. At any rate, they will have a chance to hold the balance of power in the Constituent-that is, if there is a Constituent.”
“And then, too,” said the officer, “that brings up the question of admitting the Cadets into the new Government — and for the same reasons. You know the Cadets do not really want the Constituent Assembly-not if the Bolsheviki can be destroyed now.” He shook his head. “It is not easy for us Russians, politics. You Americans are born politicians; you have had politics all your lives. But for us-well, it has only been a year, you know!”
“What do you think of Kerensky?” I asked.
“Oh, Kerensky is guilty of the sins of the Provisional Government,” answered the other man. “Kerensky himself forced us to accept coalition with the bourgeoisie. If he had resigned, as he threatened, it would have meant a new Cabinet crisis only sixteen weeks before the Constituent Assembly, and that we wanted to avoid.”
“But didn’t it amount to that anyway?”
“Yes, but how were we to know? They tricked us — the Kerenskys and Avksentievs. Gotz is a little more radical. I stand with Tchernov, who is a real revolutionist. . . . Why, only to-day Lenin sent word that he would not object to Tchernov entering the Government.
“We wanted to get rid of the Kerensky Government too, but we thought it better to wait for the Constituent. . . . At the beginning of this affair I was with the Bolsheviki, but the Central Committee of my party voted unanimously against it — and what could I do? It was a matter of party discipline. . . .
“In a week the Bolshevik Government will go to pieces; if the Socialist Revolutionaries could only stand aside and wait, the Government would fall into their hands. But if we wait a week the country will be so disorganised that the German imperialists will be victorious. That is why we began our revolt with only two regiments of soldiers promising to support us — and they turned against us. . . . That left only the yunkers. . . . ”
“How about the Cossacks?”
The officer sighed. “They did not move. At first they said they would come out if they had infantry support. They said moreover that they had their men with Kerensky, and that they were doing their part. . . . Then, too, they said that the Cossacks were always accused of being the hereditary enemies of democracy. . . . And finally, ‘The Bolsheviki promise that they will not take away our land. There is no danger to us. We remain neutral.’”
During this talk people were constantly entering and leaving-most of them officers, their shoulder-straps torn off. We could see them in the hall, and hear their low, vehement voices. Occasionally, through the half-drawn portières, we caught a glimpse of a door opening into a bath-room, where a heavily-built officer in a colonel’s uniform sat on the toilet, writing something on a pad held in his lap. I recognised Colonel Polkovnikov, former commandant of Petrograd, for whose arrest the Military Revolutionary Committee would have paid a fortune.
“Our programme?” said the officer. “This is it. Land to be turned over to the Land Committees. Workmen to have full representation in the control of industry. An energetic peace programme, but not an ultimatum to the world such as the Bolsheviki issued. The Bolsheviki cannot keep their promises to the masses, even in the country itself. We won’t let them. . . . They stole our land programme in order to get the support of the peasants. That is dishonest. If they had waited for the Constituent Assembly-”
“It doesn’t matter about the Constituent Assembly!” broke in the officer. “If the Bolsheviki want to establish a Socialist state here, we cannot work with them in any event! Kerensky made the great mistake. He let the Bolsheviki know what he was going to do by announcing in the Council of the Republic that he had ordered their arrest. . . .
“But what,” I said, “do you intend to do now?”
The two men looked at one another. “You will see in a few days. If there are enough troops from the front on our side, we shall not compromise with the Bolsheviki. If not, perhaps we shall be forced to. . . . ”
Out again on the Nevsky we swung on the step of a streetcar bulging with people, its platforms bent down from the weight and scraping along the ground, which crawled with agonising slowness the long miles to Smolny.
Meshkovsky, a neat, frail little man, was coming down the hall, looking worried. The strikes in the Ministries, he told us, were having their effect. For instance, the Council of People’s Commissars had promised to publish the Secret Treaties; but Neratov, the functionary in charge, had disappeared, taking the documents with him. They were supposed to be hidden in the British Embassy. . . .
Worst of all, however, was the strike in the banks. “Without money,” said Menzhinsky, “we are helpless. The wages of the railroad men, of the postal and telegraph employees, must be paid. . . . The banks are closed; and the key to the situation, the State Bank, is also shut. All the bank-clerks in Russia have been bribed to stop work. . . .
“But Lenin has issued an order to dynamite the State Bank vaults, and there is a Decree just out, ordering the private banks to open to-morrow, or we will open them ourselves!”
The Petrograd Soviet was in full swing, thronged with armed men, Trotzky reporting:
“The Cossacks are falling back from Krasnoye Selo.” (Sharp, exultant cheering.) “But the battle is only beginning. At Pulkovo heavy fighting is going on. All available forces must be hurried there. . . .
“From Moscow, bad news. The Kremlin is in the hands of the yunkers, and the workers have only a few arms. The result depends upon Petrograd.
“At the front, the decrees on Peace and Land are provoking great enthusiasm. Kerensky is flooding the trenches with tales of Petrograd burning and bloody, of women and children massacred by the Bolsheviki. But no one believes him. . . .
“The cruisers Oleg, Avrora and Respublica are anchored in the Neva, their guns trained on the approaches to the city. . . . ”
“Why aren’t you out there with the Red Guards?” shouted a rough voice.
“I’m going now!” answered Trotzky, and left the platform. His face a little paler than usual, he passed down the side of the room, surrounded by eager friends, and hurried out to the waiting automobile.
Kameniev now spoke, describing the proceedings of the reconciliation conference. The armistice conditions proposed by the Mensheviki, he said, had been contemptuously rejected. Even the branches of the Railwaymen’s Union had voted against such a proposition. . . .
“Now that we’ve won the power and are sweeping all Russia,” he declared, “all they ask of us are three little things: 1. To surrender the power. 2. To make the soldiers continue the war. 3. To make the peasants forget about the land. . . . ”
Lenin appeared for a moment, to answer the accusations of the Socialist Revolutionaries:
“They charge us with stealing their land programme. . . . If that is so, we bow to them. It is good enough for us. . . . ”
So the meeting roared on, leader after leader explaining, exhorting, arguing, soldier after soldier, workman after workman, standing up to speak his mind and his heart. . . . The audience flowed, changing and renewed continually. From time to time men came in, yelling for the members of such and such a detachment, to go to the front; others, relieved, wounded, or coming to Smolny for arms and equipment, poured in. . . .
It was almost three o’clock in the morning when, as we left the hall, Holtzman, of the Military Revolutionary Committee, came running down the hall with a transfigured face.
“It’s all right!” he shouted, grabbing my hands. “Telegram from the front. Kerensky is smashed! Look at this!”
He held out a sheet of paper, scribbled hurriedly in pencil, and then, seeing we couldn’t read it, he declaimed aloud:
Pulkovo. Staff. 2.10 A.M.
The night of October 30th to 31st will go down in history. The attempt of Kerensky to move counter-revolutionary troops against the capital of the Revolution has been decisively repulsed. Kerensky is retreating, we are advancing. The soldiers, sailors and workers of Petrograd have shown that they can and will with arms in their hands enforce the will and authority of the democracy. The bourgeoisie tried to isolate the revolutionary army. Kerensky attempted to break it by the force of the Cossacks. Both plans met a pitiful defeat.
The grand idea of the domination of the worker and peasant democracy closed the ranks of the army and hardened its will. All the country from now on will be convinced that the Power of the Soviets is no ephemeral thing, but an invincible fact. . . . The repulse of Kerensky is the repulse of the land-owners, the bourgeoisie and the Kornilovists in general. The repulse of Kerensky is the confirmation of the right of the people to a peaceful free life, to land, bread and power. The Pulkovo detachment by its valorous blow has strengthened the cause of the Workers’ and Peasants’s Revolution. There is no return to the past. Before us are struggles, obstacles and sacrifices. But the road is clear and victory is certain.
Revolutionary Russia and the Soviet Power can be proud of their Pulkovo detachment, acting under the command of Colonel Walden. Eternal memory to those who fell! Glory to the warriors of the Revolution, the soldiers and the officers who were faithful to the People!
Long live revolutionary, popular, Socialist Russia!
In the name of the Council,
L. TROTZKY, People’s Commissar. . . .
Driving home across Znamensky Square, we made out an unusual crowd in front of the Nicolai Railway Station. Several thousand sailors were massed there, bristling with rifles.
Standing on the steps, a member of the Vikzhel was pleading with them.
“Comrades, we cannot carry you to Moscow. We are neutral. We do not carry troops for either side. We cannot take you to Moscow, where already there is terrible civil war. . . . ”
All the seething Square roared at him; the sailors began to surge forward. Suddenly another door was flung wide; in it stood two or three brakeman, a fireman or so.
“This way, comrades!” cried one. “We will take you to Moscow-or Vladivostok, if you like! Long live the Revolution!”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59