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Ten Days that Shook the World
by John Reed
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Epilogue: The original book of this text had a number of newspaper
clipings from the 1920's and 1930's included. Most of these relate to
the violent deaths encountered by those playing a part in this book.
Others reveal that Eisenstein made a film of "Ten Days". Stalin, who is
not mentioned in the book, suppressed the work. Louise Bryant,
mentioned in the text, was married to John Reed, and after his death
married William Bullitt in 1923 (divorced 1930) and died in Paris in
1936 at age 41. Mr. Bullitt was the first ambassador to Russia in the
Roosevelt administration, and later to France. Harvard University
accepted a commissioned portrait of Reed in 1935 from a group of his
classmates and hung it in Adams House, site of the boarding house where
Reed lived at Harvard. ]
Ten Days That Shook the World
by John Reed
Table of Contents
Notes and Explanations.
Chapter 1. Background.
Chapter 2. The Coming Storm.
Chapter 3. On the Eve.
Chapter 4. The Fall of the Provisional Government.
Chapter 5. Plunging Ahead.
Chapter 6. The Committee for Salvation.
Chapter 7. The Revolutionary Front.
Chapter 8. Counter-Revolution.
Chapter 9. Victory.
Chapter 10. Moscow.
Chapter 11. The Conquest of Power.
Chapter 12. The Peasants’ Congress.
Appendices I - XII
THIS book is a slice of intensified history—history as I saw it. It
does not pretend to be anything but a detailed account of the November
Revolution, when the Bolsheviki, at the head of the workers and
soldiers, seized the state power of Russia and placed it in the hands
of the Soviets.
Naturally most of it deals with “Red Petrograd,” the capital and heart
of the insurrection. But the reader must realize that what took place
in Petrograd was almost exactly duplicated, with greater or lesser
intensity, at different intervals of time, all over Russia.
In this book, the first of several which I am writing, I must confine
myself to a chronicle of those events which I myself observed and
experienced, and those supported by reliable evidence; preceded by two
chapters briefly outlining the background and causes of the November
Revolution. I am aware that these two chapters make difficult reading,
but they are essential to an understanding of what follows.
Many questions will suggest themselves to the mind of the reader. What
is Bolshevism? What kind of a governmental structure did the Bolsheviki
set up? If the Bolsheviki championed the Constituent Assembly before
the November Revolution, why did they disperse it by force of arms
afterward? And if the bourgeoisie opposed the Constituent Assembly
until the danger of Bolshevism became apparent, why did they champion
These and many other questions cannot be answered here. In another
volume, “Kornilov to Brest-Litovsk,” I trace the course of the
Revolution up to and including the German peace. There I explain the
origin and functions of the Revolutionary organisations, the evolution
of popular sentiment, the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, the
structure of the Soviet state, and the course and outcome of the Brest-
In considering the rise of the Bolsheviki it is necessary to understand
that Russian economic life and the Russian army were not disorganised
on November 7th, 1917, but many months before, as the logical result of
a process which began as far back as 1915. The corrupt reactionaries in
control of the Tsar’s Court deliberately undertook to wreck Russia in
order to make a separate peace with Germany. The lack of arms on the
front, which had caused the great retreat of the summer of 1915, the
lack of food in the army and in the great cities, the break-down of
manufactures and transportation in 1916—all these we know now were part
of a gigantic campaign of sabotage. This was halted just in time by the
For the first few months of the new régime, in spite of the confusion
incident upon a great Revolution, when one hundred and sixty millions
of the world’s most oppressed peoples suddenly achieved liberty, both
the internal situation and the combative power of the army actually
But the “honeymoon” was short. The propertied classes wanted merely a
political revolution, which would take the power from the Tsar and give
it to them. They wanted Russia to be a constitutional Republic, like
France or the United States; or a constitutional Monarchy, like
England. On the other hand, the masses of the people wanted real
industrial and agrarian democracy.
William English Walling, in his book, “Russia’s Message,” an account of
the Revolution of 1905, describes very well the state of mind of the
Russian workers, who were later to support Bolshevism almost
They (the working people) saw it was possible that even under a free
Government, if it fell into the hands of other social classes, they
might still continue to starve….
The Russian workman is revolutionary, but he is neither violent,
dogmatic, nor unintelligent. He is ready for barricades, but he has
studied them, and alone of the workers of the world he has learned
about them from actual experience. He is ready and willing to fight his
oppressor, the capitalist class, to a finish. But he does not ignore
the existence of other classes. He merely asks that the other classes
take one side or the other in the bitter conflict that draws near….
They (the workers) were all agreed that our (American) political
institutions were preferable to their own, but they were not very
anxious to exchange one despot for another (i.e., the capitalist
The workingmen of Russia did not have themselves shot down, executed by
hundreds in Moscow, Riga and Odessa, imprisoned by thousands in every
Russian jail, and exiled to the deserts and the arctic regions, in
exchange for the doubtful privileges of the workingmen of Goldfields
and Cripple Creek….
And so developed in Russia, in the midst of a foreign war, the Social
Revolution on top of the Political Revolution, culminating in the
triumph of Bolshevism.
Mr. A. J. Sack, director in this country of the Russian Information
Bureau, which opposes the Soviet Government, has this to say in his
book, “The Birth of the Russian Democracy”: The Bolsheviks organised
their own cabinet, with Nicholas Lenine as Premier and Leon Trotsky—
Minister of Foreign Affairs. The inevitability of their coming into
power became evident almost immediately after the March Revolution. The
history of the Bolsheviki, after the Revolution, is a history of their
Foreigners, and Americans especially, frequently emphasise the
“ignorance” of the Russian workers. It is true they lacked the
political experience of the peoples of the West, but they were very
well trained in voluntary organisation. In 1917 there were more than
twelve million members of the Russian consumers’ Cooperative societies;
and the Soviets themselves are a wonderful demonstration of their
organising genius. Moreover, there is probably not a people in the
world so well educated in Socialist theory and its practical
William English Walling thus characterises them:
The Russian working people are for the most part able to read and
write. For many years the country has been in such a disturbed
condition that they have had the advantage of leadership not only of
intelligent individuals in their midst, but of a large part of the
equally revolutionary educated class, who have turned to the working
people with their ideas for the political and social regeneration of
Many writers explain their hostility to the Soviet Government by
arguing that the last phase of the Russian Revolution was simply a
struggle of the “respectable” elements against the brutal attacks of
Bolshevism. However, it was the propertied classes, who, when they
realised the growth in power of the popular revolutionary
organisations, undertook to destroy them and to halt the Revolution. To
this end the propertied classes finally resorted to desperate measures.
In order to wreck the Kerensky Ministry and the Soviets, transportation
was disorganised and internal troubles provoked; to crush the Factory-
Shop Committees, plants were shut down, and fuel and raw materials
diverted; to break the Army Committees at the front, capital punishment
was restored and military defeat connived at.
This was all excellent fuel for the Bolshevik fire. The Bolsheviki
retorted by preaching the class war, and by asserting the supremacy of
Between these two extremes, with the other factions which whole-
heartedly or half-heartedly supported them, were the so-called
“moderate” Socialists, the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries,
and several smaller parties. These groups were also attacked by the
propertied classes, but their power of resistance was crippled by their
Roughly, the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries believed that
Russia was not economically ripe for a social revolution—that only a
_political_ revolution was possible. According to their interpretation,
the Russian masses were not educated enough to take over the power; any
attempt to do so would inevitably bring on a reaction, by means of
which some ruthless opportunist might restore the old régime. And so it
followed that when the “moderate” Socialists were forced to assume the
power, they were afraid to use it.
They believed that Russia must pass through the stages of political and
economic development known to Western Europe, and emerge at last, with
the rest of the world, into full-fledged Socialism. Naturally,
therefore, they agreed with the propertied classes that Russia must
first be a parliamentary state—though with some improvements on the
Western democracies. As a consequence, they insisted upon the
collaboration of the propertied classes in the Government.
From this it was an easy step to supporting them. The “moderate”
Socialists needed the bourgeoisie. But the bourgeoisie did not need the
“moderate” Socialists. So it resulted in the Socialist Ministers being
obliged to give way, little by little, on their entire program, while
the propertied classes grew more and more insistent.
And at the end, when the Bolsheviki upset the whole hollow compromise,
the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries found themselves fighting
on the side of the propertied classes…. In almost every country in the
world to-day the same phenomenon is visible.
Instead of being a destructive force, it seems to me that the
Bolsheviki were the only party in Russia with a constructive program
and the power to impose it on the country. If they had not succeeded to
the Government when they did, there is little doubt in my mind that the
armies of Imperial Germany would have been in Petrograd and Moscow in
December, and Russia would again be ridden by a Tsar….
It is still fashionable, after a whole year of the Soviet Government,
to speak of the Bolshevik insurrection as an “adventure.” Adventure it
was, and one of the most marvellous mankind ever embarked upon,
sweeping into history at the head of the toiling masses, and staking
everything on their vast and simple desires. Already the machinery had
been set up by which the land of the great estates could be distributed
among the peasants. The Factory-Shop Committees and the Trade Unions
were there to put into operation workers’ control of industry. In every
village, town, city, district and province there were Soviets of
Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, prepared to assume the task
of local administration.
No matter what one thinks of Bolshevism, it is undeniable that the
Russian Revolution is one of the great events of human history, and the
rise of the Bolsheviki a phenomenon of world-wide importance. Just as
historians search the records for the minutest details of the story of
the Paris Commune, so they will want to know what happened in Petrograd
in November, 1917, the spirit which animated the people, and how the
leaders looked, talked and acted. It is with this in view that I have
written this book.
In the struggle my sympathies were not neutral. But in telling the
story of those great days I have tried to see events with the eye of a
conscientious reporter, interested in setting down the truth.
New York, January 1st 1919.
Notes and Explanations
To the average reader the multiplicity of Russian
organisations-political groups, Committees and Central Committees,
Soviets, Dumas and Unions-will prove extremely confusing. For this
reason I am giving here a few brief definitions and explanations.
In the elections to the Constituent Assembly, there were seventeen
tickets in Petrograd, and in some of the provincial towns as many as
forty; but the following summary of the aims and composition of
political parties is limited to the groups and factions mentioned in
this book. Only the essence of their programmes and the general
character of their constituencies can be noticed....
1. _Monarchists,_ of various shades, _Octobrists,_ etc. These
once-powerful factions no longer existed openly; they either worked
underground, or their members joined the _Cadets,_ as the _Cadets_
came by degrees to stand for their political programme.
Representatives in this book, Rodzianko, Shulgin.
2. _Cadets._ So-called from the initials of its name,
Constitutional Democrats. Its official name is "Party of the People's
Freedom." Under the Tsar composed of Liberals from the propertied
classes, the _Cadets_ were the great party of _political_ reform,
roughly corresponding to the Progressive Party in America. When the
Revolution broke out in March, 1917, the _Cadets_ formed the first
Provisional Government. The _Cadet_ Ministry was overthrown in April
because it declared itself in favour of Allied imperialistic aims,
including the imperialistic aims of the Tsar's Government. As the
Revolution became more and more a _social economic_ Revolution, the
_Cadets_ grew more and more conservative. Its representatives in this
book are: Miliukov, Vinaver, Shatsky.
2a. _Group of Public Men._ After the _Cadets_ had become unpopular
through their relations with the Kornilov counter-revolution, the
_Group of Public Men_ was formed in Moscow. Delegates from the _Group
of Public Men_ were given portfolios in the last Kerensky Cabinet.
The _Group_ declared itself non-partisan, although its intellectual
leaders were men like Rodzianko and Shulgin. It was composed of the
more "modern" bankers, merchants and manufacturers, who were
intelligent enough to realise that the Soviets must be fought by
their own weapon-economic organisation. Typical of the _Group:_
3. _Populist Socialists,_ or _Trudoviki_ (Labour Group).
Numerically a small party, composed of cautious intellectuals, the
leaders of the Cooperative societies, and conservative peasants.
Professing to be Socialists, the _Populists_ really supported the
interests of the petty bourgeoisie-clerks, shopkeepers, etc. By
direct descent, inheritors of the compromising tradition of the
Labour Group in the Fourth Imperial Duma, which was composed largely
of peasant representatives. Kerensky was the leader of the
_Trudoviki_ in the Imperial Duma when the Revolution of March, 1917,
broke out. The _Populist Socialists_ are a nationalistic party. Their
representatives in this book are: Peshekhanov, Tchaikovsky.
4. _Russian Social Democratic Labour Party._ Originally Marxian
Socialists. At a party congress held in 1903, the party split, on the
question of tactics, into two factions-the Majority (Bolshinstvo),
and the Minority (Menshinstvo). From this sprang the names
"Bolsheviki" and "Mensheviki"-"members of the majority" and "members
of the minority." These two wings became two separate parties, both
calling themselves "Russian Social Democratic Labour Party," and both
professing to be Marxians. Since the Revolution of 1905 the
Bolsheviki were really the minority, becoming again the majority in
a. _Mensheviki._ This party includes all shades of Socialists who
believe that society must progress by natural evolution toward
Socialism, and that the working-class must conquer political power
first. Also a nationalistic party. This was the party of the
Socialist intellectuals, which means: all the means of education
having been in the hands of the propertied classes, the intellectuals
instinctively reacted to their training, and took the side of the
propertied classes. Among their representatives in this book are:
Dan, Lieber, Tseretelli.
b. _Mensheviki Internationalists._ The radical wing of the
_Mensheviki,_ internationalists and opposed to all coalition with the
propertied classes; yet unwilling to break loose from the
conservative Mensheviki, and opposed to the dictatorship of the
working-class advocated by the Bolsheviki. Trotzky was long a member
of this group. Among their leaders: Martov, Martinov.
c. _Bolsheviki._ Now call themselves the _Communist Party,_ in
order to emphasise their complete separation from the tradition of
"moderate" or "parliamentary" Socialism, which dominates the
Mensheviki and the so-called Majority Socialists in all countries.
The _Bolsheviki_ proposed immediate proletarian insurrection, and
seizure of the reins of Government, in order to hasten the coming of
Socialism by forcibly taking over industry, land, natural resources
and financial institutions. This party expresses the desires chiefly
of the factory workers, but also of a large section of the poor
peasants. The name "Bolshevik" can _not_ be translated by
"Maximalist." The Maximalists are a separate group. (See paragraph
5b). Among the leaders: Lenin, Trotzky, Lunatcharsky.
d. _United Social Democrats Internationalists._ Also called the
_Novaya Zhizn_ (New Life) group, from the name of the very
influential newspaper which was its organ. A little group of
intellectuals with a very small following among the working-class,
except the personal following of Maxim Gorky, its leader.
Intellectuals, with almost the same programme as the _Mensheviki
Internationalists,_ except that the _Novaya Zhizn_ group refused to
be tied to either of the two great factions. Opposed the Bolshevik
tactics, but remained in the Soviet Government. Other representatives
in this book: Avilov, Kramarov.
e. _Yedinstvo._ A very small and dwindling group, composed almost
entirely of the personal following of Plekhanov, one of the pioneers
of the Russian Social Democratic movement in the 80's, and its
greatest theoretician. Now an old man, Plekhanov was extremely
patriotic, too conservative even for the Mensheviki. After the
Bolshevik _coup d'etat, Yedinstvo_ disappeared.
5. _Socialist Revolutionary party._ Called _Essaires_ from the
initials of their name. Originally the revolutionary party of the
peasants, the party of the Fighting Organisations-the Terrorists.
After the March Revolution, it was joined by many who had never been
Socialists. At that time it stood for the abolition of private
property in land only, the owners to be compensated in some fashion.
Finally the increasing revolutionary feeling of peasants forced the
_Essaires_ to abandon the "compensation" clause, and led to the
younger and more fiery intellectuals breaking off from the main party
in the fall of 1917 and forming a new party, the _Left Socialist
Revolutionary party._ The _Essaires,_ who were afterward always
called by the radical groups _"Right Socialist Revolutionaries,"_
adopted the political attitude of the Mensheviki, and worked together
with them. They finally came to represent the wealthier peasants, the
intellectuals, and the politically uneducated populations of remote
rural districts. Among them there was, however, a wider difference of
shades of political and economic opinion than among the Mensheviki.
Among their leaders mentioned in these pages: Avksentiev, Gotz,
Kerensky, Tchernov, "Babuschka" Breshkovskaya.
a. _Left Socialist Revolutionaries._ Although theoretically sharing
the Bolshevik programme of dictatorship of the working-class, at
first were reluctant to follow the ruthless Bolshevik tactics.
However, the _Left Socialist Revolutionaries_ remained in the Soviet
Government, sharing the Cabinet portfolios, especially that of
Agriculture. They withdrew from the Government several times, but
always returned. As the peasants left the ranks of the _Essaires_ in
increasing numbers, they joined the _Left Socialist Revolutionary
party,_ which became the great peasant party supporting the Soviet
Government, standing for confiscation without compensation of the
great landed estates, and their disposition by the peasants
themselves. Among the leaders: Spiridonova, Karelin, Kamkov,
b. _Maximalists._ An off-shoot of the _Socialist Revolutionary
party_ in the Revolution of 1905, when it was a powerful peasant
movement, demanding the immediate application of the maximum
Socialist programme. Now an insignificant group of peasant
Russian meetings and conventions are organised after the continental
model rather than our own. The first action is usually the election
of officers and the _presidium._
The _presidium_ is a presiding committee, composed of
representatives of the groups and political factions represented in
the assembly, in proportion to their numbers. The _presidium_
arranges the Order of Business, and its members can be called upon by
the President to take the chair _pro tem._
Each question (_vopros_) is stated in a general way and then
debated, and at the close of the debate resolutions are submitted by
the different factions, and each one voted on separately. The Order
of Business can be, and usually is, smashed to pieces in the first
half hour. On the plea of "emergency," which the crowd almost always
grants, anybody from the floor can get up and say anything on any
subject. The crowd controls the meeting, practically the only
functions of the speaker being to keep order by ringing a little
bell, and to recognise speakers. Almost all the real work of the
session is done in caucuses of the different groups and political
factions, which almost always cast their votes in a body and are
represented by floor-leaders. The result is, however, that at every
important new point, or vote, the session takes a recess to enable
the different groups and political factions to hold a caucus.
The crowd is extremely noisy, cheering or heckling speakers,
over-riding the plans of the _presidium._ Among the customary cries
are: _"Prosim!_ Please! Go on!" _"Pravilno!"_ or _"Eto vierno!_
That's true! Right!" _"Do volno!_ Enough!" _"Doloi!_ Down with him!"
_"Posor!_ Shame!" and _"Teesche!_ Silence! Not so noisy!"
1. _Soviet._ The word _soviet_ means "council." Under the Tsar the
Imperial Council of State was called _Gosudarstvennyi Soviet._ Since
the Revolution, however, the term _Soviet_ has come to be associated
with a certain type of parliament elected by members of working-class
economic organisations-the Soviet of Workers', of Soldiers', or of
Peasants' Deputies. I have therefore limited the word to these
bodies, and wherever else it occurs I have translated it "Council."
Besides the local _Soviets,_ elected in every city, town and
village of Russia-and in large cities, also Ward _(Raionny)
Soviets_-there are also the _oblastne_ or _gubiernsky_ (district or
provincial) _Soviets,_ and the Central Executive Committee of the
All-Russian _Soviets_ in the capital, called from its initials
_Tsay-ee-kah._ (See below, "Central Committees").
Almost everywhere the _Soviets_ of Workers' and of Soldiers'
Deputies combined very soon after the March Revolution. In special
matters concerning their peculiar interests, however, the Workers'
and the Soldiers' Sections continued to meet separately. The
_Soviets_ of Peasants' Deputies did not join the other two until
after the Bolshevik _coup d'etat._ They, too, were organised like the
workers and soldiers, with an Executive Committee of the All-Russian
Peasants' _Soviets_ in the capital.
2. _Trade Unions._ Although mostly industrial in form, the Russian
labour unions were still called Trade Unions, and at the time of the
Bolshevik Revolution had from three to four million members. These
Unions were also organised in an All-Russian body, a sort of Russian
Federation of Labour, which had its Central Executive Committee in
3. _Factory-Shop Committees._ These were spontaneous organisations
created in the factories by the workers in their attempt to control
industry, taking advantage of the administrative break-down incident
upon the Revolution. Their function was by revolutionary action to
take over and run the factories. The _Factory-Shop Committees_ also
had their All-Russian organisation, with a Central Committee at
Petrograd, which co-operated with the Trade Unions.
4. _Dumas._ The word _duma_ means roughly "deliberative body." The
old Imperial Duma, which persisted six months after the Revolution,
in a democratised form, died a natural death in September, 1917. The
_City Duma_ referred to in this book was the reorganised Municipal
Council, often called "Municipal Self-Government." It was elected by
direct and secret ballot, and its only reason for failure to hold the
masses during the Bolshevik Revolution was the general decline in
influence of all purely _political_ representation in the fact of the
growing power of organisations based on _economic_ groups.
5. _Zemstvos._ May be roughly translated "county councils." Under
the Tsar semi-political, semi-social bodies with very little
administrative power, developed and controlled largely by
intellectual Liberals among the land-owning classes. Their most
important function was education and social service among the
peasants. During the war the _Zemstvos_ gradually took over the
entire feeding and clothing of the Russian Army, as well as the
buying from foreign countries, and work among the soldiers generally
corresponding to the work of the American Y. M. C. A. at the Front.
After the March Revolution the _Zemstvos_ were democratized, with a
view to making them the organs of local government in the rural
districts. But like the _City Dumas,_ they could not compete with the
6. _Cooperatives._ These were the workers' and peasants' Consumers'
Cooperative societies, which had several million members all over
Russia before the Revolution. Founded by Liberals and "moderate"
Socialists, the Cooperative movement was not supported by the
revolutionary Socialist groups, because it was a substitute for the
complete transference of means of production and distribution into
the hands of the workers. After the March Revolution the
_Cooperatives_ spread rapidly, and were dominated by Populist
Socialists, Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries, and acted as a
conservative political force until the Bolshevik Revolution. However,
it was the _Cooperatives_ which fed Russia when the old structure of
commerce and transportation collapsed.
7. _Army Committees._ The _Army Committees_ were formed by the
soldiers at the front to combat the reactionary influence of the old
regime officers. Every company, regiment, brigade, division and corps
had its committee, over all of which was elected the _Army
Committee._ The _Central Army Committee_ cooperated with the General
Staff. The administrative break-down in the army incident upon the
Revolution threw upon the shoulders of the _Army Committees_ most of
the work of the Quartermaster's Department, and in some cases, even
the command of troops.
8. _Fleet Committees._ The corresponding organisations in the Navy.
In the spring and summer of 1917, All-Russian conventions of every
sort of organisation were held at Petrograd. There were national
congresses of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Soviets, Trade
Unions, Factory-Shop Committees, Army and Fleet Committees-besides
every branch of the military and naval service, Cooperatives,
Nationalities, etc. Each of these conventions elected a Central
Committee, or a Central Executive Committee, to guard its particular
interests at the seat of Government. As the Provisional Government
grew weaker, these Central Committees were forced to assume more and
more administrative powers.
The most important Central Committees mentioned in this book are:
_Union of Unions._ During the Revolution of 1905, Professor
Miliukov and other Liberals established unions of professional
men-doctors, lawyers, physicians, etc. These were united under one
central organisation, the _Union of Unions._ In 1905 the _Union of
Unions_ acted with the revolutionary democracy; in 1917, however, the
_Union of Unions_ opposed the Bolshevik uprising, and united the
Government employees who went on strike against the authority of the
_Tsay-ee-kah._ All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the
Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies. So called from the
initials of its name.
_Tsentroflot._ "Centre-Fleet"-the Central Fleet Committee.
_Vikzhel._ All-Russian Central Committee of the Railway Workers'
Union. So called from the initials of its name.
_Red Guards._ The armed factory workers of Russia. The _Red Guards_
were first formed during the Revolution of 1905, and sprang into
existence again in the days of March, 1917, when a force was needed
to keep order in the city. At that time they were armed, and all
efforts of the Provisional Government to disarm them were more or
less unsuccessful. At every great crisis in the Revolution the _Red
Guards_ appeared on the streets, untrained and undisciplined, but
full of Revolutionary zeal.
_White Guards._ Bourgeois volunteers, who emerged in the last
stages of the Revolution, to defend private property from the
Bolshevik attempt to abolish it. A great many of them were University
_Tekhintsi._ The so-called "Savage Division" in the army, made up
of Mohametan tribesmen from Central Asia, and personally devoted to
General Kornilov. The _Tekhintsi_ were noted for their blind
obedience and their savage cruelty in warfare.
_Death Battalions._ Or _Shock Battalions._ The Women's Battalion is
known to the world as the _Death Battalion,_ but there were many
_Death Battalions_ composed of men. These were formed in the summer
of 1917 by Kerensky, for the purpose of strengthening the discipline
and combative fire of the army by heroic example. The _Death
Battalions_ were composed mostly of intense young patriots. These
came for the most part from among the sons of the propertied classes.
_Union of Officers._ An organisation formed among the reactionary
officers in the army to combat politically the growing power of the
_Knights of St. George._ The Cross of St. George was awarded for
distinguished action in battle. Its holder automatically became a
_"Knight of St. George."_ The predominant influence in the
organisation was that of the supporters of the military idea.
_Peasants' Union._ In 1905, the _Peasants' Union_ was a
revolutionary peasants' organisation. In 1917, however, it had become
the political expression of the more prosperous peasants, to fight
the growing power and revolutionary aims of the Soviets of Peasants'
Chronology and Spelling
I have adopted in this book our Calendar throughout, instead of the
former Russian Calendar, which was thirteen days earlier.
In the spelling of Russian names and words, I have made no attempt
to follow any scientific rules for transliteration, but have tried to
give the spelling which would lead the English-speaking reader to the
simplest approximation of their pronunciation.
Much of the material in this book is from my own notes. I have also
relied, however, upon a heterogeneous file of several hundred
assorted Russian newspapers, covering almost every day of the time
described, of files of the English paper, the _Russian Daily News,_
and of the two French papers, _Journal de Russie_ and _Entente._ But
far more valuable than these is the _Bulletin de la Presse_ issued
daily by the French Information Bureau in Petrograd, which reports
all important happenings, speeches and the comment of the Russian
press. Of this I have an almost complete file from the spring of 1917
to the end of January, 1918.
Besides the foregoing, I have in my possession almost every
proclamation, decree and announcement posted on the walls of
Petrograd from the middle of September, 1917, to the end of January,
1918. Also the official publication of all Government decrees and
orders, and the official Government publication of the secret
treaties and other documents discovered in the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs when the Bolsheviki took it over.
Ten Days That Shook The World
TOWARD the end of September, 1917, an alien Professor of Sociology
visiting Russia came to see me in Petrograd. He had been informed by
business men and intellectuals that the Revolution was slowing down.
The Professor wrote an article about it, and then travelled around
the country, visiting factory towns and peasant communities-where, to
his astonishment, the Revolution seemed to be speeding up. Among the
wage-earners and the land-working people it was common to hear talk
of "all land to the peasants, all factories to the workers." If the
Professor had visited the front, he would have heard the whole Army
The Professor was puzzled, but he need not have been; both
observations were correct. The property-owning classes were becoming
more conservative, the masses of the people more radical.
There was a feeling among business men and the _intelligentzia_
generally that the Revolution had gone quite far enough, and lasted
too long; that things should settle down. This sentiment was shared
by the dominant "moderate" Socialist groups, the _oborontsi_ (See
App. I, Sect. 1) Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries, who
supported the Provisional Government of Kerensky.
On October 14th the official organ of the "moderate" Socialists said:
The drama of Revolution has two acts; the destruction of the old
régime and the creation of the new one. The first act has lasted long
enough. Now it is time to go on to the second, and to play it as
rapidly as possible. As a great revolutionist put it, "Let us hasten,
friends, to terminate the Revolution. He who makes it last too long
will not gather the fruits...."
Among the worker, soldier and peasant masses, however, there was a
stubborn feeling that the "first act" was not yet played out. On the
front the Army Committees were always running foul of officers who
could not get used to treating their men like human beings; in the
rear the Land Committees elected by the peasants were being jailed
for trying to carry out Government regulations concerning the land;
and the workmen (See App. I, Sect. 2) in the factories were fighting
black-lists and lockouts. Nay, furthermore, returning political
exiles were being excluded from the country as "undesirable"
citizens; and in some cases, men who returned from abroad to their
villages were prosecuted and imprisoned for revolutionary acts
committed in 1905.
To the multiform discontent of the people the "moderate" Socialists
had one answer: Wait for the Constituent Assembly, which is to meet
in December. But the masses were not satisfied with that. The
Constituent Assembly was all well and good; but there were certain
definite things for which the Russian Revolution had been made, and
for which the revolutionary martyrs rotted in their stark Brotherhood
Grave on Mars Field, that must be achieved Constituent Assembly or no
Constituent Assembly: Peace, Land, and Workers' Control of Industry.
The Constituent Assembly had been postponed and postponed-would
probably be postponed again, until the people were calm
enough-perhaps to modify their demands! At any rate, here were eight
months of the Revolution gone, and little enough to show for it....
Meanwhile the soldiers began to solve the peace question by simply
deserting, the peasants burned manor-houses and took over the great
estates, the workers sabotaged and struck.... Of course, as was
natural, the manufacturers, land-owners and army officers exerted all
their influence against any democratic compromise....
The policy of the Provisional Government alternated between
ineffective reforms and stern repressive measures. An edict from the
Socialist Minister of Labour ordered all the Workers' Committees
henceforth to meet only after working hours. Among the troops at the
front, "agitators" of opposition political parties were arrested,
radical newspapers closed down, and capital punishment applied-to
revolutionary propagandists. Attempts were made to disarm the Red
Guard. Cossacks were sent to keep order in the provinces....
These measures were supported by the "moderate" Socialists and their
leaders in the Ministry, who considered it necessary to cooperate
with the propertied classes. The people rapidly deserted them, and
went over to the Bolsheviki, who stood for Peace, Land, and Workers'
Control of Industry, and a Government of the working-class. In
September, 1917, matters reached a crisis. Against the overwhelming
sentiment of the country, Kerensky and the "moderate" Socialists
succeeded in establishing a Government of Coalition with the
propertied classes; and as a result, the Mensheviki and Socialist
Revolutionaries lost the confidence of the people forever.
An article in _Rabotchi Put_ (Workers' Way) about the middle of
October, entitled "The Socialist Ministers," expressed the feeling of
the masses of the people against the "moderate" Socialists:
Here is a list of their services.(See App. I, Sect. 3)
Tseretelli: disarmed the workmen with the assistance of General
Polovtsev, checkmated the revolutionary soldiers, and approved of
capital punishment in the army.
Skobeliev: commenced by trying to tax the capitalists 100% of their
profits, and finished-and finished by an attempt to dissolve the
Workers' Committees in the shops and factories.
Avksentiev: put several hundred peasants in prison, members of the
Land Committees, and suppressed dozens of workers' and soldiers'
Tchernov: signed the "Imperial" manifest, ordering the dissolution of
the Finnish Diet.
Savinkov: concluded an open alliance with General Kornilov. If this
saviour of the country was not able to betray Petrograd, it was due
to reasons over which he had no control.
Zarudny: with the sanction of Alexinsky and Kerensky, put some of the
best workers of the Revolution, soldiers and sailors, in prison.
Nikitin: acted as a vulgar policeman against the Railway Workers.
Kerensky: it is better not to say anything about him. The list of his
services is too long....
A Congress of delegates of the Baltic Fleet, at Helsingfors, passed a
resolution which began as follows:
We demand the immediate removal from the ranks of the Provisional
Government of the "Socialist," the political adventurer-Kerensky, as
one who is scandalising and ruining the great Revolution, and with it
the revolutionary masses, by his shameless political blackmail on
behalf of the bourgeoisie....
The direct result of all this was the rise of the Bolsheviki....
Since March, 1917, when the roaring torrents of workmen and soldiers
beating upon the Tauride Palace compelled the reluctant Imperial Duma
to assume the supreme power in Russia, it was the masses of the
people, workers, soldiers and peasants, which forced every change in
the course of the Revolution. They hurled the Miliukov Ministry down;
it was their Soviet which proclaimed to the world the Russian peace
terms-"No annexations, no indemnities, and the right of
self-determination of peoples"; and again, in July, it was the
spontaneous rising of the unorganised proletariat which once more
stormed the Tauride Palace, to demand that the Soviets take over the
Government of Russia.
The Bolsheviki, then a small political sect, put themselves at the
head of the movement. As a result of the disastrous failure of the
rising, public opinion turned against them, and their leaderless
hordes slunk back into the Viborg Quarter, which is Petrograd's _St.
Antoine._ Then followed a savage hunt of the Bolsheviki; hundreds
were imprisoned, among them Trotzky, Madame Kollontai and Kameniev;
Lenin and Zinoviev went into hiding, fugitives from justice; the
Bolshevik papers were suppressed. Provocators and reactionaries
raised the cry that the Bolsheviki were German agents, until people
all over the world believed it.
But the Provisional Government found itself unable to substantiate
its accusations; the documents proving pro-German conspiracy were
discovered to be forgeries; [*] and one by one the Bolsheviki were
[*Part of the famous "Sisson Documents"]
released from prison without trial, on nominal or no bail-until only
six remained. The impotence and indecision of the ever-changing
Provisional Government was an argument nobody could refute. The
Bolsheviki raised again the slogan so dear to the masses, "All Power
to the Soviets!"-and they were not merely self-seeking, for at that
time the majority of the Soviets was "moderate" Socialist, their
But more potent still, they took the crude, simple desires of the
workers, soldiers and peasants, and from them built their immediate
programme. And so, while the _oborontsi_ Mensheviki and Socialist
Revolutionaries involved themselves in compromise with the
bourgeoisie, the Bolsheviki rapidly captured the Russian masses. In
July they were hunted and despised; by September the metropolitan
workmen, the sailors of the Baltic Fleet, and the soldiers, had been
won almost entirely to their cause. The September municipal elections
in the large cities (See App. I, Sect. 4) were significant; only 18
per cent of the returns were Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary,
against more than 70 per cent in June....
There remains a phenomenon which puzzled foreign observers: the fact
that the Central Executive Committees of the Soviets, the Central
Army and Fleet Committees, [*] and the Central Committees of some of
[*See Notes and Explanations.]
the Unions-notably, the Post and Telegraph Workers and the Railway
Workers-opposed the Bolsheviki with the utmost violence. These
Central Committees had all been elected in the middle of the summer,
or even before, when the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries had
an enormous following; and they delayed or prevented any new
elections. Thus, according to the constitution of the Soviets of
Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, the All-Russian Congress _should
have been called in September;_ but the _Tsay-ee-kah_ [*] would not
[*See Notes and Explanations.]
call the meeting, on the ground that the Constituent Assembly was
only two months away, at which time, they hinted, the Soviets would
abdicate. Meanwhile, one by one, the Bolsheviki were winning in the
local Soviets all over the country, in the Union branches and the
ranks of the soldiers and sailors. The Peasants' Soviets remained
still conservative, because in the sluggish rural districts political
consciousness developed slowly, and the Socialist Revolutionary party
had been for a generation the party which had agitated among the
peasants.... But even among the peasants a revolutionary wing was
forming. It showed itself clearly in October, when the left wing of
the Socialist Revolutionaries split off, and formed a new political
faction, the Left Socialist Revolutionaries.
At the same time there were signs everywhere that the forces of
reaction were gaining confidence.(See App. I, Sect. 5) At the
Troitsky Farce theatre in Petrograd, for example, a burlesque called
_Sins of the Tsar_ was interrupted by a group of Monarchists, who
threatened to lynch the actors for "insulting the Emperor." Certain
newspapers began to sigh for a "Russian Napoleon." It was the usual
thing among bourgeois _intelligentzia_ to refer to the Soviets of
Workers' Deputies (Rabotchikh Deputatov) as _Sabatchikh_
On October 15th I had a conversation with a great Russian capitalist,
Stepan Georgevitch Lianozov, known as the "Russian Rockefeller"-a
Cadet by political faith.
"Revolution," he said, "is a sickness. Sooner or later the foreign
powers must intervene here-as one would intervene to cure a sick
child, and teach it how to walk. Of course it would be more or less
improper, but the nations must realise the danger of Bolshevism in
their own countries-such contagious ideas as 'proletarian
dictatorship,' and 'world social revolution'... There is a chance that
this intervention may not be necessary. Transportation is
demoralised, the factories are closing down, and the Germans are
advancing. Starvation and defeat may bring the Russian people to
Mr. Lianozov was emphatic in his opinion that whatever happened, it
would be impossible for merchants and manufacturers to permit the
existence of the workers' Shop Committees, or to allow the workers
any share in the management of industry.
"As for the Bolsheviki, they will be done away with by one of two
methods. The Government can evacuate Petrograd, then a state of siege
declared, and the military commander of the district can deal with
these gentlemen without legal formalities.... _Or if, for example, the
Constituent Assembly manifests any Utopian tendencies, it can be
dispersed by force of arms...."_
Winter was coming on-the terrible Russian winter. I heard business
men speak of it so: "Winter was always Russia's best friend. Perhaps
now it will rid us of Revolution." On the freezing front miserable
armies continued to starve and die, without enthusiasm. The railways
were breaking down, food lessening, factories closing. The desperate
masses cried out that the bourgeoisie was sabotaging the life of the
people, causing defeat on the Front. Riga had been surrendered just
after General Kornilov said publicly, "Must we pay with Riga the
price of bringing the country to a sense of its duty?" [*]
[* See "Kornilov to Brest-Litvosk" by John Reed. Boni and Liveright
To Americans it is incredible that the class war should develop to
such a pitch. But I have personally met officers on the Northern
Front who frankly preferred military disaster to cooperation with the
Soldiers' Committees. The secretary of the Petrograd branch of the
Cadet party told me that the break-down of the country's economic
life was part of a campaign to discredit the Revolution. An Allied
diplomat, whose name I promised not to mention, confirmed this from
his own knowledge. I know of certain coal-mines near Kharkov which
were fired and flooded by their owners, of textile factories at
Moscow whose engineers put the machinery out of order when they left,
of railroad officials caught by the workers in the act of crippling
A large section of the propertied classes preferred the Germans to
the Revolution-even to the Provisional Government-and didn't hesitate
to say so. In the Russian household where I lived, the subject of
conversation at the dinner table was almost invariably the coming of
the Germans, bringing "law and order."... One evening I spent at the
house of a Moscow merchant; during tea we asked the eleven people at
the table whether they preferred "Wilhelm or the Bolsheviki." The
vote was ten to one for Wilhelm...
The speculators took advantage of the universal disorganisation to
pile up fortunes, and to spend them in fantastic revelry or the
corruption of Government officials. Foodstuffs and fuel were hoarded,
or secretly sent out of the country to Sweden. In the first four
months of the Revolution, for example, the reserve food-supplies were
almost openly looted from the great Municipal warehouses of
Petrograd, until the two-years' provision of grain had fallen to less
than enough to feed the city for one month.... According to the
official report of the last Minister of Supplies in the Provisional
Government, coffee was bought wholesale in Vladivostok for two rubles
a pound, and the consumer in Petrograd paid thirteen. In all the
stores of the large cities were tons of food and clothing; but only
the rich could buy them.
In a provincial town I knew a merchant family turned
speculator_-maradior_ (bandit, ghoul) the Russians call it. The three
sons had bribed their way out of military service. One gambled in
foodstuffs. Another sold illegal gold from the Lena mines to
mysterious parties in Finland. The third owned a controlling interest
in a chocolate factory, which supplied the local Cooperative
societies-on condition that the Cooperatives furnished him everything
he needed. And so, while the masses of the people got a quarter pound
of black bread on their bread cards, he had an abundance of white
bread, sugar, tea, candy, cake and butter.... Yet when the soldiers at
the front could no longer fight from cold, hunger and exhaustion, how
indignantly did this family scream "Cowards!"-how "ashamed" they were
"to be Russians"... When finally the Bolsheviki found and requisitioned
vast hoarded stores of provisions, what "Robbers" they were.
Beneath all this external rottenness moved the old-time Dark Forces,
unchanged since the fall of Nicholas the Second, secret still and
very active. The agents of the notorious _Okhrana_ still functioned,
for and against the Tsar, for and against Kerensky-whoever would
pay.... In the darkness, underground organisations of all sorts, such
as the Black Hundreds, were busy attempting to restore reaction in
some form or other.
In this atmosphere of corruption, of monstrous half-truths, one clear
note sounded day after day, the deepening chorus of the Bolsheviki,
"All Power to the Soviets! All power to the direct representatives of
millions on millions of common workers, soldiers, peasants. Land,
bread, an end to the senseless war, an end to secret diplomacy,
speculation, treachery.... The Revolution is in danger, and with it the
cause of the people all over the world!"
The struggle between the proletariat and the middle class, between
the Soviets and the Government, which had begun in the first March
days, was about to culminate. Having at one bound leaped from the
Middle Ages into the twentieth century, Russia showed the startled
world two systems of Revolution-the political and the social-in
What a revelation of the vitality of the Russian Revolution, after
all these months of starvation and disillusionment! The bourgeoisie
should have better known its Russia. Not for a long time in Russia
will the "sickness" of Revolution have run its course....
Looking back, Russia before the November insurrection seems of
another age, almost incredibly conservative. So quickly did we adapt
ourselves to the newer, swifter life; just as Russian politics swung
bodily to the Left-until the Cadets were outlawed as "enemies of the
people," Kerensky became a "counter-revolutionist," the "middle"
Socialist leaders, Tseretelli, Dan, Lieber, Gotz and Avksentiev, were
too reactionary for their following, and men like Victor Tchernov,
and even Maxim Gorky, belonged to the Right Wing....
About the middle of December, 1917, a group of Socialist
Revolutionary leaders paid a private visit to Sir George Buchanan,
the British Ambassador, and implored him not to mention the fact that
they had been there, because they were "considered too far Right."
"And to think," said Sir George. "One year ago my Government
instructed me not to receive Miliukov, because he was so dangerously
September and October are the worst months of the Russian
year-especially the Petrograd year. Under dull grey skies, in the
shortening days, the rain fell drenching, incessant. The mud
underfoot was deep, slippery and clinging, tracked everywhere by
heavy boots, and worse than usual because of the complete break-down
of the Municipal administration. Bitter damp winds rushed in from the
Gulf of Finland, and the chill fog rolled through the streets. At
night, for motives of economy as well as fear of Zeppelins, the
street-lights were few and far between; in private dwellings and
apartment-houses the electricity was turned on from six o'clock until
midnight, with candles forty cents apiece and little kerosene to be
had. It was dark from three in the afternoon to ten in the morning.
Robberies and housebreakings increased. In apartment houses the men
took turns at all-night guard duty, armed with loaded rifles. This
was under the Provisional Government.
Week by week food became scarcer. The daily allowance of bread fell
from a pound and a half to a pound, then three quarters, half, and a
quarter-pound. Toward the end there was a week without any bread at
all. Sugar one was entitled to at the rate of two pounds a month-if
one could get it at all, which was seldom. A bar of chocolate or a
pound of tasteless candy cost anywhere from seven to ten rubles-at
least a dollar. There was milk for about half the babies in the city;
most hotels and private houses never saw it for months. In the fruit
season apples and pears sold for a little less than a ruble apiece on
For milk and bread and sugar and tobacco one had to stand in _queue_
long hours in the chill rain. Coming home from an all-night meeting I
have seen the _kvost_ (tail) beginning to form before dawn, mostly
women, some with babies in their arms.... Carlyle, in his _French
Revolution,_ has described the French people as distinguished above
all others by their faculty of standing in _queue._ Russia had
accustomed herself to the practice, begun in the reign of Nicholas
the Blessed as long ago as 1915, and from then continued
intermittently until the summer of 1917, when it settled down as the
regular order of things. Think of the poorly-clad people standing on
the iron-white streets of Petrograd whole days in the Russian winter!
I have listened in the bread-lines, hearing the bitter, acrid note of
discontent which from time to time burst up through the miraculous
goodnature of the Russian crowd....
Of course all the theatres were going every night, including Sundays.
Karsavina appeared in a new Ballet at the Marinsky, all dance-loving
Russia coming to see her. Shaliapin was singing. At the Alexandrinsky
they were reviving Meyerhold's production of Tolstoy's "Death of Ivan
the Terrible"; and at that performance I remember noticing a student
of the Imperial School of Pages, in his dress uniform, who stood up
correctly between the acts and faced the empty Imperial box, with its
eagles all erased.... The _Krivoye Zerkalo_ staged a sumptuous version
of Schnitzler's "Reigen."
Although the Hermitage and other picture galleries had been evacuated
to Moscow, there were weekly exhibitions of paintings. Hordes of the
female _intelligentzia_ went to hear lectures on Art, Literature and
the Easy Philosophies. It was a particularly active season for
Theosophists. And the Salvation Army, admitted to Russia for the
first time in history, plastered the walls with announcements of
gospel meetings, which amused and astounded Russian audiences....
As in all such times, the petty conventional life of the city went
on, ignoring the Revolution as much as possible. The poets made
verses-but not about the Revolution. The realistic painters painted
scenes from mediæval Russian history-anything but the Revolution.
Young ladies from the provinces came up to the capital to learn
French and cultivate their voices, and the gay young beautiful
officers wore their gold-trimmed crimson _bashliki_ and their
elaborate Caucasian swords around the hotel lobbies. The ladies of
the minor bureaucratic set took tea with each other in the afternoon,
carrying each her little gold or silver or jewelled sugar-box, and
half a loaf of bread in her muff, and wished that the Tsar were back,
or that the Germans would come, or anything that would solve the
servant problem.... The daughter of a friend of mine came home one
afternoon in hysterics because the woman street-car conductor had
called her "Comrade!"
All around them great Russia was in travail, bearing a new world. The
servants one used to treat like animals and pay next to nothing, were
getting independent. A pair of shoes cost more than a hundred rubles,
and as wages averaged about thirty-five rubles a month the servants
refused to stand in _queue_ and wear out their shoes. But more than
that. In the new Russia every man and woman could vote; there were
working-class newspapers, saying new and startling things; there were
the Soviets; and there were the Unions. The _izvoshtchiki_
(cab-drivers) had a Union; they were also represented in the
Petrograd Soviet. The waiters and hotel servants were organised, and
refused tips. On the walls of restaurants they put up signs which
read, "No tips taken here-" or, "Just because a man has to make his
living waiting on table is no reason to insult him by offering him a
At the Front the soldiers fought out their fight with the officers,
and learned self-government through their committees. In the
factories those unique Russian organisations, the Factory-Shop
Committees, [*] gained experience and strength and a realisation of
[* See Notes and Explanations]
their historical mission by combat with the old order. All Russia was
learning to read, and _reading-_politics, economics, history-because
the people wanted to _know...._ In every city, in most towns, along the
Front, each political faction had its newspaper-sometimes several.
Hundreds of thousands of pamphlets were distributed by thousands of
organisations, and poured into the armies, the villages, the
factories, the streets. The thirst for education, so long thwarted,
burst with the Revolution into a frenzy of expression. From Smolny
Institute alone, the first six months, went out every day tons,
car-loads, train-loads of literature, saturating the land. Russia
absorbed reading matter like hot sand drinks water, insatiable. And
it was not fables, falsified history, diluted religion, and the cheap
fiction that corrupts-but social and economic theories, philosophy,
the works of Tolstoy, Gogol, and Gorky....
Then the Talk, beside which Carlyle's "flood of French speech" was a
mere trickle. Lectures, debates, speeches-in theatres, circuses,
school-houses, clubs, Soviet meeting-rooms, Union headquarters,
barracks.... Meetings in the trenches at the Front, in village squares,
factories.... What a marvellous sight to see Putilovsky Zavod (the
Putilov factory) pour out its forty thousand to listen to Social
Democrats, Socialist Revolutionaries, Anarchists, anybody, whatever
they had to say, as long as they would talk! For months in Petrograd,
and all over Russia, every street-corner was a public tribune. In
railway trains, street-cars, always the spurting up of impromptu
And the All-Russian Conferences and Congresses, drawing together the
men of two continents-conventions of Soviets, of Cooperatives,
Zemstvos, [*] nationalities, priests, peasants, political parties; the
[* See Notes and Explanations]
Democratic Conference, the Moscow Conference, the Council of the
Russian Republic. There were always three or four conventions going
on in Petrograd. At every meeting, attempts to limit the time of
speakers voted down, and every man free to express the thought that
was in him....
We came down to the front of the Twelfth Army, back of Riga, where
gaunt and bootless men sickened in the mud of desperate trenches; and
when they saw us they started up, with their pinched faces and the
flesh showing blue through their torn clothing, demanding eagerly,
"Did you bring anything to _read?"_
What though the outward and visible signs of change were many, what
though the statue of Catharine the Great before the Alexandrinsky
Theatre bore a little red flag in its hand, and others-somewhat
faded-floated from all public buildings; and the Imperial monograms
and eagles were either torn down or covered up; and in place of the
fierce _gorodovoye_ (city police) a mild-mannered and unarmed citizen
militia patrolled the streets-still, there were many quaint
For example, Peter the Great's _Tabel o Rangov-_Table of Ranks-which
he rivetted upon Russia with an iron hand, still held sway. Almost
everybody from the school-boy up wore his prescribed uniform, with
the insignia of the Emperor on button and shoulder-strap. Along about
five o'clock in the afternoon the streets were full of subdued old
gentlemen in uniform, with portfolios, going home from work in the
huge, barrack-like Ministries or Government institutions, calculating
perhaps how great a mortality among their superiors would advance
them to the coveted _tchin_ (rank) of Collegiate Assessor, or Privy
Councillor, with the prospect of retirement on a comfortable pension,
and possibly the Cross of St. Anne....
There is the story of Senator Sokolov, who in full tide of Revolution
came to a meeting of the Senate one day in civilian clothes, and was
not admitted because he did not wear the prescribed livery of the
It was against this background of a whole nation in ferment and
disintegration that the pageant of the Rising of the Russian Masses
The Coming Storm
IN September General Kornilov marched on Petrograd to make himself
military dictator of Russia. Behind him was suddenly revealed the
mailed fist of the bourgeoisie, boldly attempting to crush the
Revolution. Some of the Socialist Ministers were implicated; even
Kerensky was under suspicion. (See App. II, Sect. 1) Savinkov,
summoned to explain to the Central Committee of his party, the
Socialist Revolutionaries, refused and was expelled. Kornilov was
arrested by the Soldiers' Committees. Generals were dismissed,
Ministers suspended from their functions, and the Cabinet fell.
Kerensky tried to form a new Government, including the Cadets, party
of the bourgeoisie. His party, the Socialist Revolutionaries,
ordered him to exclude the Cadets. Kerensky declined to obey, and
threatened to resign from the Cabinet if the Socialists insisted.
However, popular feeling ran so high that for the moment he did not
dare oppose it, and a temporary Directorate of Five of the old
Ministers, with Kerensky at the head, assumed the power until the
question should be settled.
The Kornilov affair drew together all the Socialist
groups-"moderates" as well as revolutionists-in a passionate impulse
of self-defence. There must be no more Kornilovs. A new Government
must be created, responsible to the elements supporting the
Revolution. So the _Tsay-ee-kah_ invited the popular organisations
to send delegates to a Democratic Conference, which should meet at
Petrograd in September.
In the _Tsay-ee-kah_ three factions immediately appeared. The
Bolsheviki demanded that the All-Russian Congress of Soviets be
summoned, and that they take over the power. The "centre" Socialist
Revolutionaries, led by Tchernov, joined with the Left Socialist
Revolutionaries, led by Kamkov and Spiridonova, the Mensheviki
Internationalists under Martov, and the "centre" Mensheviki, [*]
[* See Notes and Explanations.]
represented by Bogdanov and Skobeliev, in demanding a purely
Socialist Government. Tseretelli, Dan and Lieber, at the head of the
right wing Mensheviki, and the right Socialist Revolutionaries under
Avksentiev and Gotz, insisted that the propertied classes must be
represented in the new Government.
Almost immediately the Bolsheviki won a majority in the Petrograd
Soviet, and the Soviets of Moscow, Kiev, Odessa and other cities
Alarmed, the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries in control of
the _Tsay-ee-kah_ decided that after all they feared the danger of
Kornilov less than the danger of Lenin. They revised the plan of
representation in the Democratic Conference, (See App. II, Sect. 2)
admitting more delegates from the Cooperative Societies and other
conservative bodies. Even this packed assembly at first voted for a
_Coalition Government without the Cadets._ Only Kerensky's open
threat of resignation, and the alarming cries of the "moderate"
Socialists that "the Republic is in danger" persuaded the
Conference, by a small majority, to declare in favour of the
principle of coalition with the bourgeoisie, and to sanction the
establishment of a sort of consultative Parliament, without any
legislative power, called the Provisional Council of the Russian
Republic. In the new Ministry the propertied classes practically
controlled, and in the Council of the Russian Republic they occupied
a disproportionate number of seats.
The fact is that the _Tsay-ee-kah_ no longer represented the rank
and file of the Soviets, and had illegally refused to call another
All-Russian Congress of Soviets, due in September. It had no
intention of calling this Congress or of allowing it to be called.
Its official organ, _Izviestia_ (News), began to hint that the
function of the Soviets was nearly at an end, (See App. II, Sect. 3)
and that they might soon be dissolved... At this time, too, the new
Government announced as part of its policy the liquidation of
"irresponsible organisations"-i.e. the Soviets.
The Bolsheviki responded by summoning the All-Russian Soviets to
meet at Petrograd on November 2, and take over the Government of
Russia. At the same time they withdrew from the Council of the
Russian Republic, stating that they would not participate in a
"Government of Treason to the People." (See App. II, Sect. 4)
The withdrawal of the Bolsheviki, however, did not bring
tranquillity to the ill-fated Council. The propertied classes, now
in a position of power, became arrogant. The Cadets declared that
the Government had no legal right to declare Russia a republic. They
demanded stern measures in the Army and Navy to destroy the
Soldiers' and Sailors' Committees, and denounced the Soviets. On the
other side of the chamber the Mensheviki Internationalists and the
Left Socialist Revolutionaries advocated immediate peace, land to
the peasants, and workers' control of industry-practically the
I heard Martov's speech in answer to the Cadets. Stooped over the
desk of the tribune like the mortally sick man he was, and speaking
in a voice so hoarse it could hardly be heard, he shook his finger
toward the right benches:
"You call us defeatists; but the real defeatists are those who wait
for a more propitious moment to conclude peace, insist upon
postponing peace until later, until nothing is left of the Russian
army, until Russia becomes the subject of bargaining between the
different imperialist groups.... You are trying to impose upon the
Russian people a policy dictated by the interests of the
bourgeoisie. The question of peace should be raised without delay....
You will see then that not in vain has been the work of those whom
you call German agents, of those Zimmerwaldists [*] who in all the
[* Members of the revoloutionary internationalist wing of the
Socialists of Europe, so-called because of their participation
in the International Conference held at Zimmerwald, Switzerland,
lands have prepared the awakening of the conscience of the
Between these two groups the Mensheviki and Socialist
Revolutionaries wavered, irresistibly forced to the left by the
pressure of the rising dissatisfaction of the masses. Deep hostility
divided the chamber into irreconcilable groups.
This was the situation when the long-awaited announcement of the
Allied Conference in Paris brought up the burning question of
Theoretically all Socialist parties in Russia were in favour of the
earliest possible peace on democratic terms. As long ago as May,
1917, the Petrograd Soviet, then under control of the Mensheviki and
Socialist Revolutionaries,had proclaimed the famous Russian
peace-conditions. They had demanded that the Allies hold a
conference to discuss war-aims. This conference had been promised
for August; then postponed until September; then until October; and
now it was fixed for November 10th.
The Provisional Government suggested two representatives-General
Alexeyev, reactionary military man, and Terestchenko, Minister of
Foreign Affairs. The Soviets chose Skobeliev to speak for them and
drew up a manifesto, the famous _nakaz_- (See App. II, Sect. 5)
instructions. The Provisional Government objected to Skobeliev and
his _nakaz;_ the Allied ambassadors protested and finally Bonar Law
in the British House of Commons, in answer to a question, responded
coldly, "As far as I know the Paris Conference will not discuss the
aims of the war at all, but only the methods of conducting it...."
At this the conservative Russian press was jubilant, and the
Bolsheviki cried, "See where the compromising tactics of the
Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries have led them!"
Along a thousand miles of front the millions of men in Russia's
armies stirred like the sea rising, pouring into the capital their
hundreds upon hundreds of delegations, crying "Peace! Peace!"
I went across the river to the Cirque Moderne, to one of the great
popular meetings which occurred all over the city, more numerous
night after night. The bare, gloomy amphitheatre, lit by five tiny
lights hanging from a thin wire, was packed from the ring up the
steep sweep of grimy benches to the very roof-soldiers, sailors,
workmen, women, all listening as if their lives depended upon it. A
soldier was speaking-from the Five Hundred and Forty-eight Division,
wherever and whatever that was:
"Comrades," he cried, and there was real anguish in his drawn face
and despairing gestures. "The people at the top are always calling
upon us to sacrifice more, sacrifice more, while those who have
everything are left unmolested.
"We are at war with Germany. Would we invite German generals to
serve on our Staff? Well we're at war with the capitalists too, and
yet we invite them into our Government....
"The soldier says, 'Show me what I am fighting for. Is it
Constantinople, or is it free Russia? Is it the democracy, or is it
the capitalist plunderers? If you can prove to me that I am
defending the Revolution then I'll go out and fight without capital
punishment to force me.'
"When the land belongs to the peasants, and the factories to the
workers, and the power to the Soviets, then we'll know we have
something to fight for, and we'll fight for it!"
In the barracks, the factories, on the street-corners, end less
soldier speakers, all clamouring for an end to the war, declaring
that if the Government did not make an energetic effort to get
peace, the army would leave the trenches and go home.
The spokesman for the Eighth Army:
"We are weak, we have only a few men left in each company. They must
give us food and boots and reinforcements, or soon there will be
left only empty trenches. Peace or supplies... either let the
Government end the war or support the Army...."
For the Forty-sixth Siberian Artillery:
"The officers will not work with our Committees, they betray us to
the enemy, they apply the death penalty to our agitators; and the
counter-revolutionary Government supports them. We thought that the
Revolution would bring peace. But now the Government forbids us even
to talk of such things, and at the same time doesn't give us enough
food to live on, or enough ammunition to fight with...."
From Europe came rumours of peace at the expense of Russia. (See
App. II, Sect. 6)...
News of the treatment of Russian troops in France added to the
discontent. The First Brigade had tried to replace its officers with
Soldiers' Committees, like their comrades at home, and had refused
an order to go to Salonika, demanding to be sent to Russia. They had
been surrounded and starved, and then fired on by artillery, and
many killed. (See App. II, Sect. 7)...
On October 29th I went to the white-marble and crimson hall of the
Marinsky palace, where the Council of the Republic sat, to hear
Terestchenko's declaration of the Government's foreign policy,
awaited with such terrible anxiety by all the peace-thirsty and
A tall, impeccably-dressed young man with a smooth face and high
cheek-bones, suavely reading his careful, non-committal speech. (See
App. II, Sect. 8) Nothing.... Only the same platitudes about crushing
German militarism with the help of the Allies-about the "state
interests" of Russia, about the "embarrassment" caused by
Skobeliev's _nakaz._ He ended with the key-note:
"Russia is a great power. Russia will remain a great power, whatever
happens. We must all defend her, we must show that we are defenders
of a great ideal, and children of a great power."
Nobody was satisfied. The reactionaries wanted a "strong"
imperialist policy; the democratic parties wanted an assurance that
the Government would press for peace.... I reproduce an editorial in
_Rabotchi i Soldat_ (Worker and Soldier), organ of the Bolshevik
THE GOVERNMENT'S ANSWER TO THE TRENCHES
The most taciturn of our Ministers, Mr. Terestchenko, has actually
told the trenches the following:
1. We are closely united with our Allies. (Not with the peoples, but
with the Governments.)
2. There is no use for the democracy to discuss the possibility or
impossibility of a winter campaign. That will be decided by the
Governments of our Allies.
3. The 1st of July offensive was beneficial and a very happy affair.
(He did not mention the consequences.)
4. It is not true that our Allies do not care about us. The Minister
has in his possession very important declarations. (Declarations?
What about deeds? What about the behaviour of the British fleet?
(See App. II, Sect. 9) The parleying of the British king with exiled
counter-revolutionary General Gurko? The Minister did not mention
5. The _nakaz_ to Skobeliev is bad; the Allies don't like it and the
Russian diplomats don't like it. In the Allied Conference we must
all 'speak one language.'
And is that all? That is all. What is the way out? The solution is,
faith in the Allies and in Terestchenko. When will peace come? When
the Allies permit.
That is how the Government replied to the trenches about peace!
Now in the background of Russian politics began to form the vague
outlines of a sinister power-the Cossacks. _Novaya Zhizn_ (New
Life), Gorky's paper, called attention to their activities:
At the beginning of the Revolution the Cossacks refused to shoot
down the people. When Kornilov marched on Petrograd they refused to
follow him. From passive loyalty to the Revolution the Cossacks have
passed to an active political offensive (against it). From the
back-ground of the Revolution they have suddenly advanced to the
front of the stage....
Kaledin, _ataman_ of the Don Cossacks, had been dismissed by the
Provisional Government for his complicity in the Kornilov affair. He
flatly refused to resign, and surrounded by three immense Cossack
armies lay at Novotcherkask, plotting and menacing. So great was his
power that the Government was forced to ignore his insubordination.
More than that, it was compelled formally to recognise the Council
of the Union of Cossack Armies, and to declare illegal the
newly-formed Cossack Section of the Soviets....
In the first part of October a Cossack delegation called upon
Kerensky, arrogantly insisting that the charges against Kaledin be
dropped, and reproaching the Minister-President for yielding to the
Soviets. Kerensky agreed to let Kaledin alone, and then is reported
to have said, "In the eyes of the Soviet leaders I am a despot and a
tyrant.... As for the Provisional Government, not only does it not
depend upon the Soviets, but it considers it regrettable that they
exist at all."
At the same time another Cossack mission called upon the British
ambassador, treating with him boldly as representatives of "the free
In the Don something very like a Cossack Republic had been
established. The Kuban declared itself an independent Cossack State.
The Soviets of Rostov-on-Don and Yekaterinburg were dispersed by
armed Cossacks, and the headquarters of the Coal Miners' Union at
Kharkov raided. In all its manifestations the Cossack movement was
anti-Socialist and militaristic. Its leaders were nobles and great
land-owners, like Kaledin, Kornilov, Generals Dutov, Karaulov and
Bardizhe, and it was backed by the powerful merchants and bankers of
Old Russia was rapidly breaking up. In Ukraine, in Finland, Poland,
White Russia, the nationalist movements gathered strength and became
bolder. The local Governments, controlled by the propertied classes,
claimed autonomy, refusing to obey orders from Petrograd. At
Helsingfors the Finnish Senate declined to loan money to the
Provisional Government, declared Finland autonomous, and demanded
the withdrawal of Russian troops. The bourgeois Rada at Kiev
extended the boundaries of Ukraine until they included all the
richest agricultural lands of South Russia, as far east as the
Urals, and began the formation of a national army. Premier
Vinnitchenko hinted at a separate peace with Germany-and the
Provisional Government was helpless. Siberia, the Caucasus, demanded
separate Constituent Assemblies. And in all these countries there
was the beginning of a bitter struggle between the authorities and
the local Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies....
Conditions were daily more chaotic. Hundreds of thousands of
soldiers were deserting the front and beginning to move in vast,
aimless tides over the face of the land. The peasants of Tambov and
Tver Governments, tired of waiting for the land, exasperated by the
repressive measures of the Government, were burning manor-houses and
massacring land-owners. Immense strikes and lock-outs convulsed
Moscow, Odessa and the coal-mines of the Don. Transportation was
paralysed; the army was starving and in the big cities there was no
The Government, torn between the democratic and reactionary
factions, could do nothing: when forced to act it always supported
the interests of the propertied classes. Cossacks were sent to
restore order among the peasants, to break the strikes. In Tashkent,
Government authorities suppressed the Soviet. In Petrograd the
Economic Council, established to rebuild the shattered economic life
of the country, came to a deadlock between the opposing forces of
capital and labour, and was dissolved by Kerensky. The old régime
military men, backed by Cadets, demanded that harsh measures be
adopted to restore discipline in the Army and the Navy. In vain
Admiral Verderevsky, the venerable Minister of Marine, and General
Verkhovsky, Minister of War, insisted that only a new, voluntary,
democratic discipline, based on cooperation with the soldiers' and
sailors' Committees, could save the army and navy. Their
recommendations were ignored.
The reactionaries seemed determined to provoke popular anger. The
trial of Kornilov was coming on. More and more openly the bourgeois
press defended him, speaking of him as "the great Russian patriot."
Burtzev's paper, _Obshtchee Dielo_ (Common Cause), called for a
dictatorship of Kornilov, Kaledin and Kerensky!
I had a talk with Burtzev one day in the press gallery of the
Council of the Republic. A small, stooped figure with a wrinkled
face, eyes near-sighted behind thick glasses, untidy hair and beard
streaked with grey.
"Mark my words, young man! What Russia needs is a Strong Man. We
should get our minds off the Revolution now and concentrate on the
Germans. Bunglers, bunglers, to defeat Kornilov; and back of the
bunglers are the German agents. Kornilov should have won...."
On the extreme right the organs of the scarcely-veiled Monarchists,
Purishkevitch's _Narodny Tribun_ (People's Tribune), _Novaya Rus_
(New Russia), and _Zhivoye Slovo_ (Living Word), openly advocated
the extermination of the revolutionary democracy....
On the 23rd of October occurred the naval battle with a German
squadron in the Gulf of Riga. On the pretext that Petrograd was in
danger, the Provisional Government drew up plans for evacuating the
capital. First the great munitions works were to go, distributed
widely throughout Russia; and then the Government itself was to move
to Moscow. Instantly the Bolsheviki began to cry out that the
Government was abandoning the Red Capital in order to weaken the
Revolution. Riga had been sold to the Germans; now Petrograd was
The bourgeois press was joyful. "At Moscow," said the Cadet paper
_Ryetch_ (Speech), "the Government can pursue its work in a tranquil
atmosphere, without being interfered with by anarchists." Rodzianko,
leader of the right wing of the Cadet party, declared in _Utro
Rossii_ (The Morning of Russia) that the taking of Petrograd by the
Germans would be a blessing, because it would destroy the Soviets
and get rid of the revolutionary Baltic Fleet:
Petrograd is in danger (he wrote). I say to myself, "Let God take
care of Petrograd." They fear that if Petrograd is lost the central
revolutionary organisations will be destroyed. To that I answer that
I rejoice if all these organisations are destroyed; for they will
bring nothing but disaster upon Russia....
With the taking of Petrograd the Baltic Fleet will also be
destroyed.... But there will be nothing to regret; most of the
battleships are completely demoralised....
In the face of a storm of popular disapproval the plan of evacuation
Meanwhile the Congress of Soviets loomed over Russia like a
thunder-cloud, shot through with lightnings. It was opposed, not
only by the Government but by all the "moderate" Socialists. The
Central Army and Fleet Committees, the Central Committees of some of
the Trade Unions, the Peasants' Soviets, but most of all the
_Tsay-ee-kah_ itself, spared no pains to prevent the meeting.
_Izviestia_ and _Golos Soldata_ (Voice of the Soldier), newspapers
founded by the Petrograd Soviet but now in the hands of the
_Tsay-ee-kah,_ fiercely assailed it, as did the entire artillery of
the Socialist Revolutionary party press, _Dielo Naroda_ (People's
Cause) and _Volia Naroda_ (People's Will).
Delegates were sent through the country, messages flashed by wire to
committees in charge of local Soviets, to Army Committees,
instructing them to halt or delay elections to the Congress. Solemn
public resolutions against the Congress, declarations that the
democracy was opposed to the meeting so near the date of the
Constituent Assembly, representatives from the Front, from the Union
of Zemstvos, the Peasants' Union, Union of Cossack Armies, Union of
Officers, Knights of St. George, Death Battalions, [*] protesting....
[*See Notes and Explanations.]
The Council of the Russian Republic was one chorus of disapproval.
The entire machinery set up by the Russian Revolution of March
functioned to block the Congress of Soviets....
On the other hand was the shapeless will of the proletariat-the
workmen, common soldiers and poor peasants. Many local Soviets were
already Bolshevik; then there were the organisations of the
industrial workers, the _Fabritchno-Zavodskiye Comitieti-_
Factory-Shop Committees; and the insurgent Army and Fleet
organisations. In some places the people, prevented from electing
their regular Soviet delegates, held rump meetings and chose one of
their number to go to Petrograd. In others they smashed the old
obstructionist committees and formed new ones. A ground-swell of
revolt heaved and cracked the crust which had been slowly hardening
on the surface of revolutionary fires dormant all those months. Only
an spontaneous mass-movement could bring about the All-Russian
Congress of Soviets....
Day after day the Bolshevik orators toured the barracks and
factories, violently denouncing "this Government of civil war." One
Sunday we went, on a top-heavy steam tram that lumbered through
oceans of mud, between stark factories and immense churches, to
_Obukhovsky Zavod,_ a Government munitions-plant out on the
The meeting took place between the gaunt brick walls of a huge
unfinished building, ten thousand black-clothed men and women packed
around a scaffolding draped in red, people heaped on piles of lumber
and bricks, perched high upon shadowy girders, intent and
thunder-voiced. Through the dull, heavy sky now and again burst the
sun, flooding reddish light through the skeleton windows upon the
mass of simple faces upturned to us.
Lunatcharsky, a slight, student-like figure with the sensitive face
of an artist, was telling why the power must be taken by the
Soviets. Nothing else could guarantee the Revolution against its
enemies, who were deliberately ruining the country, ruining the
army, creating opportunities for a new Konilov.
A soldier from the Rumanian front, thin, tragical and fierce, cried,
"Comrades! We are starving at the front, we are stiff with cold. We
are dying for no reason. I ask the American comrades to carry word
to America, that the Russians will never give up their Revolution
until they die. We will hold the fort with all our strength until
the peoples of the world rise and help us! Tell the American workers
to rise and fight for the Social Revolution!"
Then came Petrovsky, slight, slow-voiced, implacable: "Now is the
time for deeds, not words. The economic situation is bad, but we
must get used to it. They are trying to starve us and freeze us.
They are trying to provoke us. But let them know that they can go
too far-that if they dare to lay their hands upon the organisations
of the proletariat we will sweep them away like scum from the face
of the earth!"
The Bolshevik press suddenly expanded. Besides the two party papers,
_Rabotchi Put_ and _Soldat_ (Soldier), there appeared a new paper
for the peasants, _Derevenskaya Byednota_ (Village Poorest), poured
out in a daily half-million edition; and on October 17th, _Rabotchi
i Soldat._ Its leading article summed up the Bolshevik point of view:
The fourth year's campaign will mean the annihilation of the army
and the country.... There is danger for the safety of Petrograd....
Counter-revolutionists rejoice in the people's misfortunes.... The
peasants brought to desperation come out in open rebellion; the
landlords and Government authorities massacre them with punitive
expeditions; factories and mines are closing down, workmen are
threatened with starvation.... The bourgeoisie and its Generals want
to restore a blind discipline in the army.... Supported by the
bourgeoisie, the Kornilovtsi are openly getting ready to break up
the meeting of the Constituent Assembly....
The Kerensky Government is against the people. He will destroy the
country.... This paper stands for the people and by the people-the
poor classes, workers, soldiers and peasants. The people can only be
saved by the completion of the Revolution... and for this purpose the
full power must be in the hands of the Soviets....
This paper advocates the following: All power to the Soviets-both in
the capital and in the provinces.
Immediate truce on all fronts. An honest peace between peoples.
Landlord estates-without compensation-to the peasants.
Workers' control over industrial production.
A faithfully and honestly elected Constituent Assembly.
It is interesting to reproduce here a passage from that same
paper-the organ of those Bolsheviki so well known to the world as
The German kaiser, covered with the blood of millions of dead
people, wants to push his army against Petrograd. Let us call to the
German workmen, soldiers and peasants, who want peace not less than
we do, to... stand up against this damned war!
This can be done only by a revolutionary Government, which would
speak really for the workmen, soldiers and peasants of Russia, and
would appeal over the heads of the diplomats directly to the German
troops, fill the German trenches with proclamations in the German
language.... Our airmen would spread these proclamations all over
In the Council of the Republic the gulf between the two sides of the
chamber deepened day by day.
"The propertied classes," cried Karelin, for the Left Socialist
Revolutionaries, "want to exploit the revolutionary machine of the
State to bind Russia to the war-chariot of the Allies! The
revolutionary parties are absolutely against this policy...."
Old Nicholas Tchaikovsky, representing the Populist Socialists,
spoke against giving the land to the peasants, and took the side of
the Cadets: "We must have immediately strong discipline in the
army.... Since the beginning of the war I have not ceased to insist
that it is a crime to undertake social and economic reforms in
war-time. We are committing that crime, and yet I am not the enemy
of these reforms, because I am a Socialist."
Cries from the Left, "We don't believe you!" Mighty applause from
Adzhemov, for the Cadets, declared that there was no necessity to
tell the army what it was fighting for, since every soldier ought to
realise that the first task was to drive the enemy from Russian
Kerensky himself came twice, to plead passionately for national
unity, once bursting into tears at the end. The assembly heard him
coldly, interrupting with ironical remarks.
Smolny Institute, headquarters of the _Tsay-ee-kah_ and of the
Petrograd Soviet, lay miles out on the edge of the city, beside the
wide Neva. I went there on a street-car, moving snail-like with a
groaning noise through the cobbled, muddy streets, and jammed with
people. At the end of the line rose the graceful smoke-blue cupolas
of Smolny Convent outlined in dull gold, beautiful; and beside it
the great barracks like façade of Smolny Institute, two hundred
yards long and three lofty stories high, the Imperial arms carved
hugely in stone still insolent over the entrance....
Under the old régime a famous convent-school for the daughters of
the Russian nobility, patronised by the Tsarina herself, the
Institute had been taken over by the revolutionary organisations of
workers and soldiers. Within were more than a hundred huge rooms,
white and bare, on their doors enamelled plaques still informing the
passerby that within was "Ladies' Class-room Number 4" or "Teachers'
Bureau"; but over these hung crudely-lettered signs, evidence of the
vitality of the new order: "Central Committee of the Petrograd
Soviet" and _"Tsay-ee-kah"_ and "Bureau of Foreign Affairs"; "Union
of Socialist Soldiers," "Central Committee of the All-Russian Trade
Unions," "Factory-Shop Committees," "Central Army Committee"; and
the central offices and caucus-rooms of the political parties....
The long, vaulted corridors, lit by rare electric lights, were
thronged with hurrying shapes of soldiers and workmen, some bent
under the weight of huge bundles of newspapers, proclamations,
printed propaganda of all sorts. The sound of their heavy boots made
a deep and incessant thunder on the wooden floor.... Signs were posted
up everywhere: "Comrades! For the sake of your health, preserve
cleanliness!" Long tables stood at the head of the stairs on every
floor, and on the landings, heaped with pamphlets and the literature
of the different political parties, for sale....
The spacious, low-ceilinged refectory downstairs was still a
dining-room. For two rubles I bought a ticket entitling me to
dinner, and stood in line with a thousand others, waiting to get to
the long serving-tables, where twenty men and women were ladling
from immense cauldrons cabbage soup, hunks of meat and piles of
_kasha,_ slabs of black bread. Five kopeks paid for tea in a tin
cup. From a basket one grabbed a greasy wooden spoon.... The benches
along the wooden tables were packed with hungry proletarians,
wolfing their food, plotting, shouting rough jokes across the room....
[Graphic page-33 -- text of placard in russian, translation follows]
FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR HEALTH,
Upstairs was another eating-place, reserved for the _Tsay-ee-kah-_
though every one went there. Here could be had bread thickly
buttered and endless glasses of tea....
In the south wing on the second floor was the great hall of
meetings, the former ball-room of the Institute. A lofty white room
lighted by glazed-white chandeliers holding hundreds of ornate
electric bulbs, and divided by two rows of massive columns; at one
end a dais, flanked with two tall many-branched light standards, and
a gold frame behind, from which the Imperial portrait had been cut.
Here on festal occasions had been banked brilliant military and
ecclesiastical uniforms, a setting for Grand Duchesses....
Just across the hall outside was the office of the Credentials
Committee for the Congress of Soviets. I stood there watching the
new delegates come in-burly, bearded soldiers, workmen in black
blouses, a few long-haired peasants. The girl in charge-a member of
Plekhanov's _Yedinstvo_ [*] group-smiled contemptuously. "These are
[* See Notes and Explanations]
very different people from the delegates to the first _Siezd_
(Congress)," she remarked. "See how rough and ignorant they look!
The Dark People...." It was true; the depths of Russia had been
stirred, and it was the bottom which came uppermost now. The
Credentials Committee, appointed by the old _Tsay-ee-kah,_ was
challenging delegate after delegate, on the ground that they had
been illegally elected. Karakhan, member of the Bolshevik Central
Committee, simply grinned. "Never mind," he said, "When the time
comes we'll see that you get your seats...."
_Rabotchi i Soldat_ said:
The attention of delegates to the new All-Russian Congress is called
to attempts of certain members of the Organising Committee to break
up the Congress, by asserting that it will not take place, and that
delegates had better leave Petrograd.... Pay no attention to these
lies.... Great days are coming....
It was evident that a quorum would not come together by November 2,
so the opening of the Congress was postponed to the 7th. But the
whole country was now aroused; and the Mensheviki and Socialist
Revolutionaries, realising that they were defeated, suddenly changed
their tactics and began to wire frantically to their provincial
organisations to elect as many "moderate" Socialist delegates as
possible. At the same time the Executive Committee of the Peasants'
Soviets issued an emergency call for a Peasants' Congress, to meet
December 13th and offset whatever action the workers and soldiers
What would the Bolsheviki do? Rumours ran through the city that
there would be an armed "demonstration," a _vystuplennie_-"coming
out" of the workers and soldiers. The bourgeois and reactionary
press prophesied insurrection, and urged the Government to arrest
the Petrograd Soviet, or at least to prevent the meeting of the
Congress. Such sheets as _Novaya Rus_ advocated a general Bolshevik
Gorky's paper, _Novaya Zhizn,_ agreed with the Bolsheviki that the
reactionaries were attempting to destroy the Revolution, and that if
necessary they must be resisted by force of arms; but all the
parties of the revolutionary democracy must present a united front.
As long as the democracy has not organised its principal forces, so
long as the resistance to its influence is still strong, there is no
advantage in passing to the attack. But if the hostile elements
appeal to force, then the revolutionary democracy should enter the
battle to seize the power, and it will be sustained by the most
profound strata of the people....
Gorky pointed out that both reactionary and Government newspapers
were inciting the Bolsheviki to violence. An insurrection, however,
would prepare the way for a new Kornilov. He urged the Bolsheviki to
deny the rumours. Potressov, in the Menshevik _Dien_ (Day),
published a sensational story, accompanied by a map, which professed
to reveal the secret Bolshevik plan of campaign.
As if by magic, the walls were covered with warnings, (See App. II,
Sect. 10) proclamations, appeals, from the Central Committees of the
"moderate" and conservative factions and the _Tsay-ee-kah,_
denouncing any "demonstrations," imploring the workers and soldiers
not to listen to agitators. For instance, this from the Military
Section of the Socialist Revolutionary party:
Again rumours are spreading around the town of an intended
_vystuplennie._ What is the source of these rumours? What
organisation authorises these agitators who preach insurrection? The
Bolsheviki, to a question addressed to them in the _Tsay-ee-kah,_
denied that they have anything to do with it.... But these rumours
themselves carry with them a great danger. It may easily happen
that, not taking into consideration the state of mind of the
majority of the workers, soldiers and peasants, individual hot-heads
will call out part of the workers and soldiers on the streets,
inciting them to an uprising.... In this fearful time through which
revolutionary Russia is passing, any insurrection can easily turn
into civil war, and there can result from it the destruction of all
organisations of the proletariat, built up with so much labour.... The
counter-revolutionary plotters are planning to take advantage of
this insurrection to destroy the Revolution, open the front to
Wilhelm, and wreck the Constituent Assembly.... Stick stubbornly to
your posts! Do not come out!
On October 28th, in the corridors of Smolny, I spoke with Kameniev,
a little man with a reddish pointed beard and Gallic gestures. He
was not at all sure that enough delegates would come. "If there _is_
a Congress," he said, "it will represent the overwhelming sentiment
of the people. If the majority is Bolshevik, as I think it will be,
we shall demand that the power be given to the Soviets, and the
Provisional Government must resign...."
Volodarsky, a tall, pale youth with glasses and a bad complexion,
was more definite. "The 'Lieber-Dans' and the other compromisers are
sabotaging the Congress. If they succeed in preventing its
meeting,-well, then we are realists enough not to depend on _that!"_
Under date of October 29th I find entered in my notebook the
following items culled from the newspapers of the day:
Moghilev (General Staff Headquarters). Concentration here of loyal
Guard Regiments, the Savage Division, Cossacks and Death Battalions.
The _yunkers_ of the Officers' Schools of Pavlovsk, Tsarskoye Selo
and Peterhof ordered by the Government to be ready to come to
Petrograd. Oranienbaum _yunkers_ arrive in the city.
Part of the Armoured Car Division of the Petrograd garrism stationed
in the Winter Palace.
Upon orders signed by Trotzky, several thousand rifles delivered by
the Government Arms Factory at Sestroretzk to delegates of the
At a meeting of the City Militia of the Lower Liteiny Quarter, a
resolution demanding that all power be given to the Soviets.
This is just a sample of the confused events of those feverish days,
when everybody knew that something was going to happen, but nobody
knew just what.
At a meeting of the Petrograd Soviet in Smolny, the night of October
30th, Trotzky branded the assertions of the bourgeois press that the
Soviet contemplated armed insurention as "an attempt of the
reactionaries to discredit and wreck the Congress of Soviets.... The
Petrograd Soviet," he declared, "had not ordered any _uystuplennie._
If it is necessary we shall do so, and we will be supported by the
Petrogruad garrison.... They (the Government) are preparing a
counter-revolution; and we shall answer with an offensive which will
be merciless and decisive."
It is true that the Petrograd Soviet had not ordered a
demonstration, but the Central Committee of the Bolshevik party was
considering the question of insurrection. All night long the 23d
they met. There were present all the party intellectuals, the
leaders-and delegates of the Petrograd workers and garrison. Alone
of the intellectuals Lenin and Trotzky stood for insurrection. Even urrection. Even | |
the military men opposed it. A vote was taken. Insurrection was
Then arose a rough workman, his face convulsed with rage. "I speak
for the Petrograd proletariat," he said, harshly. "We are in favour
of insurrection. Have it your own way, but I tell you now that if
you allow the Soviets to be destroyed, _we're through with you!"_
Some soldiers joined him.... And after that they voted
However, the right wing of the Bolsheviki, led by Riazanov, Kameniev
and Zinoviev, continued to campaign against an armed rising. On the
morning of October 31st appeared in _Rabotchi Put_ the first
instalment of Lenin's "Letter to the Comrades," (See App. II, Sect.
11) one of the most audacious pieces of political propaganda the
world has ever seen. In it Lenin seriously presented the arguments
in favour of insurrection, taking as text the objections of Kameniev
"Either we must abandon our slogan, 'All Power to the Soviets,' " he
wrote, "or else we must make an insurrection. There is no middle
That same afternoon Paul Miliukov, leader of the Cadets, made a
brilliant, bitter speech (See App. II, Sect. 12) in the Council of
the Republic, branding the Skobeliev _nakaz_ as pro-German,
declaring that the "revolutionary democracy" was destroying Russia,
sneering at Terestchenko, and openly declaring that he preferred
German diplomacy to Russian.... The Left benches were one roaring
tumult all through....
On its part the Government could not ignore the significance of the
success of the Bolshevik propaganda. On the 29th joint commission of
the Government and the Council of the Republic hastily drew up two
laws, one for giving the land temporarily to the peasants, and the
other for pushing an energetic foreign policy of peace. The next day
Kerensky suspended capital punishment in the army. That same