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Ten Days That Shook the World
> Chapter 5. Plunging Ahead
Ten Days That Shook the World.
November 8th. Day broke on a city in the wildest excitement and confusion, a whole nation having up in long hissing swells of storm. Superficially all was quiet; hundreds of thousands of people retired at a prudent hour, got up early, and went to work. In Petrograd the street-cars were running, the stores and restaurants open, theatres going, an exhibition of paintings advertised . All the complex routine of common lifehumdrum even in war-timeproceeded as usual. Nothing is so astounding as the vitality of the social organismhow it persists, feeding itself, clothing itself, amusing itself, in the face of the worst calamities .
The air was full of rumours about Kerensky, who was said to have raised the Front, and to be leading a great army against the capital.
launched by him at Pskov:
The disorders caused by the insane attempt of the Bolsheviki place the country on the verge of a precipice, and demand the effort of our entire will, our courage and the devotion of every one of us, to win through the terrible trial which the fatherland is undergoing .
Until the declaration of the composition of the new Governmentif one is formedevery one ought to remain at his post and fulfil his duty toward bleeding Russia. It must be remembered that the least interference with existing Army organisations can bring on irreparable misfortunes, by opening the Front to the enemy. Therefore it is indispensable to preserve at any price the morale of the troops, by assuring complete order and the preservation of the Army from new shocks, and by maintaining absolute confidence between officers and their subordinates. I order all the chiefs and Commissars, in the name of the safety of the country, to stay at their posts, as I myself retain the post of Supreme Commander, until the Provisional Government of the Republic shall declare its will .
In answer, this placard on all the walls:
FROM THE ALL-RUSSIAN CONGRESS OF SOVIETS
The ex-Ministers Konovalov, Kishkin, Terestchenko, Maliantovitch, Nikitin and others have been arrested by the Military Revolutionary Committee. Kerensky has fled. All Army organisations are ordered to take every measure for the immediate arrest of Kerensky and his conveyance to Petrograd.
All assistance given to Kerensky will be punished as a serious crime against the state.
With brakes released the Military Revolutionary Committee whirled, throwing off orders, appeals, decrees, like sparks. (See
App. V, Sect. 1
) Kornilov was ordered brought to Petrograd. Members of the Peasant Land Committees imprisoned by the Provisional Government were declared free. Capital punishment in the army was abolished. Government employees were ordered to continue their work, and threatened with severe penalties if they refused. All pillage, disorder and speculation were forbidden under pain of death. Temporary Commissars were appointed to the various Ministries: Foreign Affairs, Vuritsky and Trotzky; Interior and Justice, Rykov; Labor, Shliapnikov; Finance, Menzhinsky; Public Welfare, Madame Kollontai; Commerce, Ways and Communications, Riazanov; Navy, the sailor Korbir; Posts and Telegraphs, Spiro; Theatres, Muraviov; State Printing Office, Gherbychev; for the City of Petrograd, Lieutenant Nesterov; for the Northern Front, Pozern .
To the Army, appeal to set up Military Revolutionary Committees. To the railway workers, to maintain order, especially not to delay the transport of food to the cities and the front . In return, they were promised representation in the Ministry of Ways and Communications.
Cossack brothers! (said one proclamation). You are being led against Petrograd. They want to force you into battle with the revolutionary workers and soldiers of the capital. Do not believe a word that is said by our common enemies, the land-owners and the capitalists.
At our Congress are represented all the conscious organisations of workers, soldiers and peasants of Russia. The Congress wishes also to welcome into its midst the worker-Cossacks. The Generals of the Black Band, henchmen of the land-owners, of Nicolai the Cruel, are our enemies.
They tell you that the Soviets wish to confiscate the lands of the Cossacks. This is a lie. It is only from the great Cossack landlords that the Revolution will confiscate the land to give it to the people.
Organise Soviets of Cossacks Deputies! Join with the Soviets of Workers and Soldiers Deputies!
Show the Black Band that you are not traitors to the People, and that you do not wish to be cursed by the whole of revolutionary Russia!
Cossack brothers, execute no orders of the enemies of the people. Send your delegates to Petrograd to talk it over with us . The Cossacks of the Petrograd garrison, to their honour, have not justified the hope of the Peoples enemies .
Cossack brothers! The All-Russian Congress of Soviets extends to you a fraternal hand. Long live the brotherhood of the Cossacks with the soldiers, workers and peasants of all Russia!
On the other side, what a storm of proclamations posted up, hand-bills scattered everywhere, newspapersscreaming and cursing and prophesying evil. Now raged the battle of the printing pressall other weapons being in the hands of the Soviets.
First, the appeal of the Committee for Salvation of Country and Revolution, flung broadcast over Russia and Europe:
TO THE CITIZENS OF THE RUSSIAN REPUBLIC!
Contrary to the will of the revolutionary masses, on November 7th the Bolsheviki of Petrograd criminally arrested part of the Provisional Government, dispersed the Council of the Republic, and proclaimed an illegal power. Such violence committed against the Government of revolutionary Russia at the moment of its greatest external danger, is an indescribable crime against the fatherland.
The insurrection of the Bolsheviki deals a mortal blow to the cause of national defence, and postpones immeasurably the moment of peace so greatly desired.
Civil war, begun by the Bolsheviki, threatens to deliver the country to the horrors of anarchy and counter-revolution, and cause the failure of the Constituent Assembly, which must affirm the republican régime and transmit to the People forever their right to the land.
Preserving the continuity of the only legal Governmental power, the Committee for Salvation of Country and Revolution, established on the night of November 7th, takes the initiative in forming a new Provisional Government; which, basing itself on the forces of democracy, will conduct the country to the Constituent Assembly and save it from anarchy and counter-revolution. The Committee for Salvation summons you, citizens, to refuse to recognise the power of violence. Do not obey its orders!
Rise for the defence of the country and Revolution!
Support the Committee for Salvation!
Signed by the Council of the Russian Republic, the Municipal Duma of Petrograd, the
Tsay-ee-kah (First Congress),
the Executive Committee of the Peasants Soviets, and from the Congress itself the Front group, the factions of Socialist Revolutionaries, Mensheviki, Populist Socialists, Unified Social Democrats, and the group Yedinstvo.
Then posters from the Socialist Revolutionary party, the Mensheviki
Peasants Soviets again; from the Central Army Committee, the
Famine will crush Petrograd! (they cried). The German armies will trample on our liberty. Black Hundred
will spread over Russia, if we allconscious workers, soldiers, citizensdo not unite .
Do not trust the promises of the Bolsheviki! The promise of immediate peaceis a lie! The promise of breada hoax! The promise of landa fairy tale!
They were all in this manner.
Comrades! You have been basely and cruelly deceived! The seizure of power has been accomplished by the Bolsheviki alone . They concealed their plot from the other Socialist parties composing the Soviet .
You have been promised land and freedom, but the counter-revolution will profit by the anarchy called forth by the Bolsheviki, and will deprive you of land and freedom .
The newspapers were as violent.
Our duty (said the
) is to unmask these traitors to the working-class. Our duty is to mobilise all our forces and mount guard over the cause of the Revolution!
for the last time speaking in the name of the old
threatened awful retribution.
As for the Congress of Soviets, we affirm that there has been no Congress of Soviets! We affirm that it was merely a private conference of the Bolshevik faction! And in that case, they have no right to cancel the powers of the
while pleading for a new Government that should unite all the Socialist parties, criticised severely the action of the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Mensheviki in quitting the Congress, and pointed out that the Bolshevik insurrection meant one thing very clearly: that all illusions about coalition with the bourgeoisie were henceforth demonstrated vain
blossomed out as
Lenins newspaper which had been suppressed in July. It crowed, bristling:
Workers, soldiers, peasants! In March you struck down the tyranny of the clique of nobles. Yesterday you struck down the tyranny of the bourgeois gang .
The first task now is to guard the approaches to Petrograd.
The second is definitely to disarm the counter-revolutionary elements of Petrograd.
The third is definitely to organise the revolutionary power and assure the realisation of the popular programme
What few Cadet organs appeared, and the bourgeoisie generally, adopted a detached, ironical attitude toward the whole business, a sort of contemptuous I-told-you-so to the other parties. Influential Cadets were to be seen hovering around the Municipal Duma, and on the outskirts of the Committee for Salvation. Other than that, the bourgeoisie lay low, biding its hourwhich could not far off. That the Bolsheviki would remain in power longer than three days never occurred to anybodyexcept perhaps to Lenin, Trotzky, the Petrograd workers and the simpler soldiers .
In the high, amphitheatrical Nicolai Hall that afternoon I saw the Duma sitting in
tempestuous, grouping around it all the forces of opposition. The old Mayer, Schreider, majestic with his white hair and beard, was describing his visit to Smolny the night before, to protest in the name of the Municipal Self-Government. The Duma, being the only existing legal Government in the city, elected by equal, direct and secret suffrage, would not recognise the new power, he had told Trotzky. And Trotzky had answered, There is a constitutional remedy for that. The Duma can be dissolved and re-elected . At this report there was a furious outcry.
If one recognises a Government by bayonet, continued the old man, addressing the Duma, well, we have one; but I consider legitimate only a Government recognised by the majority, and not one created by the usurpation of a minority! Wild applause on all benches except those of the Bolsheviki. Amid renewed tumult the Mayor announced that the Bolsheviki already were violating Municipal autonomy by appointing Commissars in many departments.
The Bolshevik speaker shouted, trying to make himself heard, that the decision of the Congress of Soviets meant that all Russia backed up the action of the Bolsheviki.
You! he cried. You are not the real representative of the people of Petrograd! Shrieks of Insult! Insult! The old Mayor, with dignity, reminded him that the Duma was elected by the freest possible popular vote. Yes, he answered, but that was a long time agolike the
like the Army Committee.
There has been no new Congress of Soviets! they yelled at him.
The Bolshevik faction refuses to remain any longer in this nest of counter-revolution Uproar. and we demand a re-election of the Duma . Whereupon the Bolsheviki left the chamber, followed by cries of German agents! Down with the traitors!
Shingariov, Cadet, then demanded that all Municipal functionaries who had consented to be Commissars of the Military Revolutionary Committee be discharged from their position and indicted. Schreider was on his feet, putting a motion to the effect that the Duma protested against the menace of the Bolsheviki to dissolve it, and as the legal representative of the population, it would refuse to leave its post.
Outside, the Alexander Hall was crowded for the meeting of the Committee for Salvation, and Skobeliev was again speaking. Never yet, he said, was the fate of the Revolution so acute, never yet did the question of the existence of the Russian state excite so much anxiety, never yet did history put so harshly and categorically the questionis Russia to be or not to be! The great hour for the salvation of the Revolution has arrived, and in consciousness thereof we observe the close union of the live forces of the revolutionary democracy, by whose organised will a centre for the salvation of the country and the Revolution has already been created . And much of the same sort. We shall die sooner than surrender our post!
Amid violent applause it was announced that the Union of Railway Workers had joined the Committee for Salvation. A few moments later the Post and Telegraph Employees came in; then some Mensheviki Internationalists entered the hall, to cheers. The Railway men said they did not recognise the Bolsheviki and had taken the entire railroad apparatus into their own hands, refusing to entrust it to any usurpatory power. The Telegraphers delegate declared that the operators had flatly refused to work their instruments as long as the Bolshevik Commissar was in the office. The Postmen would not deliver or accept mail at Smolny . All the Smolny telephones were cut off. With great glee it was reported how Uritzky had gone to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to demand the secret treaties, and how Neratov had put him out. The Government employees were all stopping work .
It was warwar deliberately planned, Russian fashion; war by strike and sabotage. As we sat there the chairman read a list of names and assignments; so-and-so was to make the round of the Ministries; another was to visit the banks; some ten or twelve were to work the barracks and persuade the soldiers to remain neutralRussian soldiers, do not shed the blood of your brothers!; a committee was to go and confer with Kerensky; still others were despatched to provincial cities, to form branches of the Committee for Salvation, and link together the anti-Bolshevik elements.
The crowd was in high spirits. These Bolsheviki
try to dictate to the
Well show them! Nothing could be more striking than the contrast between this assemblage and the Congress of Soviets. There, great masses of shabby soldiers, grimy workmen, peasantspoor men, bent and scarred in the brute struggle for existence; here the Menshevik and Social Revolutionary leadersAvksentievs, Dans, Liebers,the former Socialist MinistersSkobelievs, Tchernovs,rubbed shoulders with Cadets like oily Shatsky, sleek Vinaver; with journalists, students, intellectuals of almost all camps. This Duma crowd was well-fed, well-dressed; I did not see more than three proletarians among them all .
News came. Kornilovs faithful
had slaughtered his guards at Bykhov, and he had escaped. Kaledin was marching north . The Soviet of Moscow had set up a Military Revolutionary Committee, and was negotiating with the commandant of the city for possession of the arsenal, so that the workers might be armed.
With these facts was mixed an astounding jumble of rumours, distortions, and plain lies. For instance, an intelligent young Cadet, formerly private secretary to Miliukov and then to Terestchenko, drew us aside and told us all about the taking of the Winter Palace.
The Bolsheviki were led by German and Austrian officers, he affirmed.
Is that so? we replied, politely. How do you know?
A friend of mine was there and saw them.
How could he tell they were German officers?
Oh, because they wore German uniforms!
There were hundreds of such absurd tales, and they were not only solemnly published by the anti-Bolshevik press, but believed by the most unlikely personsSocialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviki who had always been distinguished by their sober devotion to facts .
But more serious were the stories of Bolshevik violence and terrorism. For example, it was said printed that the Red Guards had not only thoroughly looted the Winter Palace, but that they had massacred the
after disarming them, had killed some of the Ministers in cold blood; and as for the woman soldiers, most of them had been violated, and many had committed suicide because of the tortures they had gone through . All these stories were swallowed whole by the crowd in the Duma. And worse still, the mothers and fathers of the students and of the women read these frightful details,
often accompanied by lists of names,
and toward nightfall the Duma began to be besieged by frantic citizens .
A typical case is that of Prince Tumanov, whose body, it was announced in many newspapers, had been found floating in the Moika Canal. A few hours later this was denied by the Princes family, who added that the Prince was under arrest so the press identified the dead man as General Demissov. The General having also come to life, we investigated, and could find no trace of any body found whatever .
As we left the Duma building two boy scouts were distributing hand-bills (See
App. V, Sect. 2
) to the enormous crowd which blocked the Nevsky in front of the doora crowd composed almost entirely of business men, shop-keepers,
clerks. One read!
FROM THE MUNICIPAL DUMA
The Municipal Duma in its meeting of October 26th, in view of the events of the day decrees: To announce the inviolability of private dwellings. Through the House Committees it calls upon the population of the town of Petrograd to meet with decisive repulse all attempts to enter by force private apartments, not stopping at the use of arms, in the interests of the self-defence of citizens.
Up on the corner of the Liteiny, five or six Red Guards and a couple of sailors had surrounded a news-dealer and were demanding that he hand over his copies of the Menshevik
(Workers Gazette). Angrily he shouted at them, shaking his fist, as one of the sailors tore the papers from his stand. An ugly crowd had gathered around, abusing the patrol. One little workman kept explaining doggedly to the people and the news-dealer, over and over again, It has Kerenskys proclamation in it. It says we killed Russian people. It will make bloodshed .
Smolny was tenser than ever, if that were possible. The same running men in the dark corridors, squads of workers with rifles, leaders with bulging portfolios arguing, explaining, giving orders as they hurried anxiously along, surrounded by friends and lieutenants. Men literally out of themselves, living prodigies of sleeplessness and workmen unshaven, filthy, with burning eyes, who drove upon their fixed purpose full speed on engines of exaltation. So much they had to do, so much! Take over the Government, organise the City, keep the garrison loyal, fight the Duma and the Committee for Salvation, keep out the Germans, prepare to do battle with Kerensky, inform the provinces what had happened, Propagandise from Archangel to Vladivostok . Government and Municipal employees refusing to obey their Commissars, post and telegraph refusing them communication, railroads roads stonily ignoring their appeals for trains, Kerensky coming, the garrison not altogether to be trusted, the Cossacks waiting to come out . Against them not only the organised bourgeoisie, but all the other Socialist parties except the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, a few Mensheviki Internationalists and the Social Democrat Internationalists, and even they undecided whether to stand by or not. With them, it is true, the workers and the soldier-massesthe peasants an unknown quantitybut after all the Bolsheviki were a political faction not rich in trained and educated men .
Riazanov was coming up the front steps, explaining in a sort of humorous panic that he, Commissar of Commerce, knew nothing whatever of business. In the upstairs cafe sat a man all by himself in the corner, in a goat-skin cape and clothes which had beenI was going to say slept in, but of course he hadnt sleptand a three days growth of beard. He was anxiously figuring on a dirty envelope, and biting his pencil meanwhile. This was Menzhinsky, Commissar of Finance, whose qualifications were that he had once been clerk in a French bank . And these four half-running down the hall from the office of the Military Revolutionary Committee, and scribbling on bits of paper as they runthese were Commissars despatched to the four corners of Russia to carry the news, argue, or fightwith whatever arguments or weapons came to hand .
The Congress was to meet at one oclock, and long since the great meeting-hall had filled, but by seven there was yet no sign of the presidium . The Bolshevik and Left Social Revolutionary factions were in session in their own rooms. All the livelong afternoon Lenin and Trotzky had fought against compromise. A considerable part of the Bolsheviki were in favour of giving way so far as to create a joint all-Socialist government. We cant hold on! they cried.
Too much is against us. We havent got the men. We will be isolated, and the whole thing will fall. So Kameniev, Riazanov and others.
But Lenin, with Trotzky beside him, stood firm as a rock. Let the compromisers accept our programme and they can come in! We wont give way an inch. If there are comrades here who havent the courage and the will to dare what we dare, let them leave with the rest of the cowards and conciliators! Backed by the workers and soldiers we shall go on.
At five minutes past seven came word from the left Socialist Revolutionaries to say that they would remain in the Military Revolutionary Committee.
See! said Lenin. They are following!
A little later, as we sat at the press table in the big hall, an Anarchist who was writing for the bourgeois papers proposed to me that we go and find out what had become of the presidium. There was nobody in the
office, nor in the bureau of the Petrograd Soviet. From room to room we wandered, through vast Smolny. Nobody seemed to have the slightest idea where to find the governing body of the Congress. As we went my companion described his ancient revolutionary activities, his long and pleasant exile in France . As for the Bolsheviki, he confided to me that they were common, rude, ignorant persons, without aesthetic sensibilities. He was a real specimen of the Russian
. So he came at last to Room 17, office of the Military Revolutionary Committee, and stood there in the midst of all the furious coming and going. The door opened, and out shot a squat, flat-faced man in a uniform without insignia, who seemed to be smilingwhich smile, after a minute, one saw to be the fixed grin of extreme fatigue. It was Krylenko.
My friend, who was a dapper, civilized-looking young man, gave a cry of pleasure and stepped forward.
Nicolai Vasilievitch! he said, holding out his hand. Dont you remember me, comrade? We were in prison together.
Krylenko made an effort and concentrated his mind and sight. Why yes, he answered finally, looking the other up and down with an expression of great friendliness. You are S.
They kissed. What are you doing in all this? He waved his arm around.
Oh, Iam just looking on . You seem very successful.
Yes, replied Krylenko, with a sort of doggedness, The proletarian Revolution is a great success. He laughed. Perhapsperhaps, however, well meet in prison again!
When we got out into the corridor again my friend went on with his explanations. You see, Iam a follower of Kropotkin. To us the Revolution is a great failure; it has not aroused the patriotism of the masses. Of course that only proves that the people are not ready for Revolution .
It was just 8.40 when a thundering wave of cheers announced the entrance of the presidium, with Leningreat Leninamong them. A short, stocky figure, with a big head set down in his shoulders, bald and bulging. Little eyes, a snubbish nose, wide, generous mouth, and heavy chin; clean-shaven now, but already beginning to bristle with the well-known beard of his past and future. Dressed in shabby clothes, his trousers much too long for him. Unimpressive, to be the idol of a mob, loved and revered as perhaps few leaders in history have been. A strange popular leadera leader purely by virtue of intellect; colourless, humourless, uncompromising and detached, without picturesque idiosyncrasiesbut with the power of explaining profound ideas in simple terms, of analysing a concrete situation. And combined with shrewdness, the greatest intellectual audacity.
Kameniev was reading the report of the actions of the Military Revolutionary Committee; abolition of capital punishment in the Army, restoration of the free right of propaganda, release of officers and soldiers arrested for political crimes, orders to arrest Kerensky and confiscation of food supplies in private store-houses . Tremendous applause.
Again the representative of the
The uncompromising attitude of the Bolsheviki would mean the crushing of the Revolution; therefore, the
delegates must refuse any longer to sit in the Congress. Cries from the audience, We thought you walked out last night! How many times are you going to walk out?
Then the representative of the Mensheviki Internationalists. Shouts, What! You here still? The speaker explained that only part of the Mensheviki Internationalists left the Congress; the rest were going to stay
We consider it dangerous and perhaps even mortal for the Revolution to transfer the power to the SovietsInterruptionsbut we feel it our duty to remain in the Congress and vote against the transfer here!
Other speakers followed, apparently without any order. A delegate of the coal-miners of the Don Basin called upon the Congress to take measures against Kaledin, who might cut off coal and food from the capital. Several soldiers just arrived from the Front brought the enthusiastic greetings of their regiments . Now Lenin, gripping the edge of the reading stand, letting his little winking eyes travel over the crowd as he stood there waiting, apparently oblivious to the long-rolling ovation, which lasted several minutes. When it finished, he said simply, We shall now proceed to construct the Socialist order! Again that overwhelming human roar.
The first thing is the adoption of practical measures to realise peace . We shall offer peace to the peoples of all the belligerent countries upon the basis of the Soviet termsno annexations, no indemnities, and the right of self-determination of peoples. At the same time, according to our promise, we shall publish and repudiate the secret treaties . The question of War and Peace is so clear that I think that I may, without preamble, read the project of a Proclamation to the Peoples of All the Belligerent Countries .
His great mouth, seeming to smile, opened wide as he spoke; his voice was hoarsenot unpleasantly so, but as if it had hardened that way after years and years of speakingand went on monotonously, with the effect of being able to go on forever . For emphasis he bent forward slightly. No gestures. And before him, a thousand simple faces looking up in intent adoration.
PROCLAMATION TO THE PEOPLES AND GOVERNMENTS OF ALL THE BELLIGERENT NATIONS.
The Workers and Peasants Government, created by the revolution of November 6th and 7th and based on the Soviets of Workers, Soldiers and Peasants Deputies, proposes to all the belligerent peoples and to their Governments to begin immediately negotiations for a just and democratic peace.
The Government means by a just and democratic peace, which is desired by the immense majority of the workers and the labouring classes, exhausted and depleted by the warthat peace which the Russian workers and peasants, after having struck down the Tsarist monarchy, have not ceased to demand categoricallyimmediate peace without annexations (that is to say, without conquest of foreign territory, without forcible annexation of other nationalities), and without indemnities.
The Government of Russia Proposes to all the belligerent peoples immediately to conclude such a peace, by showing themselves willing to enter upon the decisive steps of negotiations aiming at such a peace, at once, without the slightest delay, before the definitive ratification of all the conditions of such a peace by the authorised assemblies of the people of all countries and of all nationalities.
By annexation or conquest of foreign territory, the Government meansconformably to the conception of democratic rights in general, and the rights of the working-class in particularall union to a great and strong State of a small or weak nationality, without the voluntary, clear and precise expression of its consent and desire; whatever be the moment when such an annexation by force was accomplished, whatever be the degree civilisation of the nation annexed by force or maintained outside the frontiers of another State, no matter if that nation be in Europe or in the far countries across the sea.
If any nation is retained by force within the limits of another State; if, in spite of the desire expressed by it, (it matters little if that desire be expressed by the press, by popular meetings, decisions of political parties, or by disorders and riots against national oppression), that nation is not given the right of deciding by free votewithout the slightest constraint, after the complete departure of the armed forces of the nation which has annexed it or wishes to annex it or is stronger in generalthe form of its national and political organisation, such a union constitutes an annexationthat is to say, conquest and an act of violence.
To continue this war in order to permit the strong and rich nations to divide among themselves the weak and conquered nationalities is considered by the Government the greatest possible crime against humanity; and the Government solemnly proclaims its decision to sign a treaty of peace which will put an end to this war upon the above conditions, equally fair for all nationalities without exception.
The Government abolishes secret diplomacy, expressing before the whole country its firm decision to conduct all the negotiations in the light of day before the people, and will proceed immediately to the full publication of all secret treaties confirmed or concluded by the Government of land-owners and capitalists, from March until November 7th, 1917. All the clauses of the secret treaties which, as occur in a majority of cases, have for their object to procure advantages and privileges for Russian capitalists, to maintain or augment the annexations of the Russian imperialists, are denounced by the Government immediately and without discussion.
In proposing to all Governments and all peoples to engage in public negotiations for peace, the Government declares itself ready to carry on these negotiations by telegraph, by post, or by pourparlers between the representatives of the different countries, or at a conference of these representatives. To facilitate these pourparlers, the Government appoints its authorised representatives in the neutral countries.
The Government proposes to all the governments and to the peoples of all the belligerent countries to conclude an immediate armistice, at the same time suggesting that the armistice ought to last three months, during which time it is perfectly possible, not only to hold the necessary pourparlers between the representatives of all the nations and nationalities without exception drawn into the war or forced to take part in it, but also to convoke authorised assemblies of representatives of the people of all countries, for the purpose of the definite acceptance of the conditions of peace.
In addressing this offer of peace to the Governments and to the peoples of all the belligerent countries, the Provisional Workers and Peasants Government of Russia addresses equally and in particular the conscious workers of the three nations most devoted to humanity and the three most important nations among those taking part in the present warEngland, France, and Germany. The workers of these countries have rendered the greatest services to the cause of progress and of Socialism. The splendid examples of the Chartist movement in England, the series of revolutions, of world-wide historical significance, accomplished by the French proletariatand finally, in Germany, the historic struggle against the Laws of Exception, an example for the workers of the whole world of prolonged and stubborn action, and the creation of the formidable organisations of German proletariansall these models of proletarian heroism, these monuments of history, are for us a sure guarantee that the workers of these countries will understand the duty imposed upon them to liberate humanity from the horrors and consequences of war; and that these workers, by decisive, energetic and continued action, will help us to bring to a successful conclusion the cause of peaceand at the same time, the cause of the liberation of the exploited working masses from all slavery and all exploitation.
When the grave thunder of applause had died away, Lenin spoke again:
We propose to the Congress to ratify this declaration. We address ourselves to the Governments as well as to the peoples, for a declaration which would be addressed only to the peoples of the belligerent countries might delay the conclusion of peace. The conditions of peace, drawn up during the armistice, will be ratified by the Constituent Assembly. In fixing the duration of the armistice at three months, we desire to give to the peoples as long a rest as possible after this bloody extermination, and ample time for them to elect their representatives. This proposal of peace will meet with resistance on the part of the imperialist governmentswe dont fool ourselves on that score. But we hope that revolution will soon break out in all the belligerent countries; that is why we address ourselves especially to the workers of France, England and Germany .
The revolution of November 6th and 7th, he ended, has opened the era of the Social Revolution . The labour movement, in the name of peace and Socialism, shall win, and fulfil its destiny .
There was something quiet and powerful in all this, which stirred the souls of men. It was understandable why people believed when Lenin spoke .
By crowd vote it was quickly decided that only representatives of political factions should be allowed to speak on the motion and that speakers should be limited to fifteen minutes.
First Karelin for the Left Socialist Revolutionaries. Our faction had no opportunity to propose amendments to the text of the proclamation; it is a private document of the Bolsheviki. But we will vote for it because we agree with its spirit .
For the Social Democrats Internationalists Kramarov, long, stoop-shouldered and near-sighteddestined to achieve some notoriety as the Clown of the Opposition. Only a Government composed of all the Socialist parties, he said, could possess the authority to take such important action. If a Socialist coalition were formed, his faction would support the entire programme; if not, only part of it. As for the proclamation, the Internationalists were in thorough accord with its main points .
Then one after another, amid rising enthusiasm; Ukrainean Social Democracy, support; Lithuanian Social Democracy, support; Populist Socialists, support; Polish Social Democracy, support; Polish Socialists supportbut would prefer a Socialist coalition; Lettish Social Democracy, support . Something was kindled in these men. One spoke of the coming World-Revolution, of which we are the advance-guard; another of the new age of brotherhood, when all the peoples will become one great family . An individual member claimed the floor. There is contradiction here, he said. First you offer peace without annexations and indemnities, and then you say you will consider all peace offers. To consider means to accept .
Lenin was on his feet. We want a just peace, but we are not afraid of a revolutionary war . Probably the imperialist Governments will not answer our appealbut we shall not issue an ultimatum to which it will be easy to say no . If the German proletariat realises that we are ready to consider all offers of peace, that will perhaps be the last drop which overflows the bowlrevolution will break out in Germany .
We consent to examine all conditions of peace, but that doesnt mean that we shall accept them . For some of our terms we shall fight to the endbut possibly for others will find it impossible to continue the war . Above all, we want to finish the war .
It was exactly 10:35 when Kameniev asked all in favour of the proclamation to hold up their cards. One delegate dared to raise his hand against, but the sudden sharp outburst around him brought it swiftly down . Unanimous.
Suddenly, by common impulse, we found ourselves on our feet, mumbling together into the smooth lifting unison of the
A grizzled old soldier was sobbing like a child. Alexandra Kollontai rapidly winked the tears back. The immense sound rolled through the hall, burst windows and doors and seared into the quiet sky. The war is ended! The war is ended! said a young workman near me, his face shining. And when it was over, as we stood there in a kind of awkward hush, some one in the back of the room shouted, Comrades! Let us remember those who have died for liberty! So we began to sing the Funeral March, that slow, melancholy and yet triumphant chant, so Russian and so moving. The
is an alien air, after all. The Funeral March seemed the very soul of those dark masses whose delegates sat in this hall, building from their obscure visions a new Russiaand perhaps more.
You fell in the fatal fight
For the liberty of the people, for the honour of the people .
You gave up your lives and everything dear to you,
You suffered in horrible prisons,
You went to exile in chains .
Without a word you carried your chains because you could not ignore your suffering brothers,
Because you believed that justice is stronger than the sword .
The time will come when your surrendered life will count
That time is near; when tyranny falls the people will rise, great and free!
Farewell, brothers, you chose a noble path,
You are followed by the new and fresh army ready to die and to suffer .
Farewell, brothers, you chose a noble path,
At your grave we swear to fight, to work for freedom and the peoples happiness .
For this did they lie there, the martyrs of March, in their cold Brotherhood Grave on Mars Field; for this thousands and tens of thousands had died in the prisons, in exile, in Siberian mines. It had not come as they expected it would come, nor as the
desired it; but it had comerough, strong, impatient of formulas, contemptuous of sentimentalism; real .
Lenin was reading the Decree on Land:
(1.) All private ownership of land is abolished immediately without compensation.
(2.) All land_owners estates, and all lands belonging to the Crown, to monasteries, church lands with all their live stock and inventoried property, buildings and all appurtenances, are transferred to the disposition of the township Land Committees and the district Soviets of Peasants Deputies until the Constituent Assembly meets.
(3.) Any damage whatever done to the confiscated property which from now on belongs to the whole People, is regarded as a serious crime, punishable by the revolutionary tribunals. The district Soviets of Peasants Deputies shall take all necessary measures for the observance of the strictest order during the taking over of the land-owners estates, for the determination of the dimensions of the plots of land and which of them are subject to confiscation, for the drawing up of an inventory of the entire confiscated property, and for the strictest revolutionary protection of all the farming property on the land, with all buildings, implements, cattle, supplies of products, etc., passing into the hands of the People.
(4.) For guidance during the realisation of the great land reforms until their final resolution by the Constituent Assembly, shall serve the following peasant
App. V, Sect. 3
) (instructions), drawn up on the basis of 242 local peasant
by the editorial board of the
of the All-Russian Soviet of Peasants Deputies, and published in No.88 of said
(Petrograd, No.88, August 19th, 1917).
The lands of peasants and of Cossacks serving in the Army shall not be confiscated.
This is not, explained Lenin, the project of former Minister Tchernov, who spoke of erecting a frame-work and tried to realise reforms from above. From below, on the spot, will be decided the questions of division of the land. The amount of land received by each peasant will vary according to the locality .
Under the Provisional Government, the
flatly refused to obey the orders of the Land Committeesthose Land Committees projected by Lvov, brought into existence by Shingariov, and administered by Kerensky!
Before the debates could begin a man forced his way violently through the crowd in the aisle and climbed upon the platform. It was Pianikh, member of the Executive Committee of the Peasants Soviets, and he was mad clean through.
The Executive Committee of the All-Russian Soviets of Peasants Deputies protests against the arrest of our comrades, the Ministers Salazkin and Mazlov! he flung harshly in the faces of the crowd, We demand their instant release! They are now in Peter-Paul fortress. We must have immediate action! There is not a moment to lose!
Another followed him, a soldier with disordered beard and flaming eyes. You sit here and talk about giving the land to the peasants, and you commit an act of tyrants and usurpers against the peasants chosen representatives! I tell you he raised his fist, If one hair of their heads is harmed, youll have a revolt on your hands! The crowd stirred confusedly.
Then up rose Trotzky, calm and venomous, conscious of power, greeted with a roar. Yesterday the Military Revolutionary Committee decided to release the Socialist Revolutionary and Menshevik Ministers, Mazlov, Salazkin, Gvozdov and Maliantovitchon principle. That they are still in Peter-Paul is only because we have had so much to do . They will, however, be detained at their homes under arrest until we have investigated their complicity in the treacherous acts of Kerensky during the Kornilov affair!
Never, shouted Pianikh, in any revolution have such things been seen as go on here!
You are mistaken, responded Trotzky. Such things have been seen even in this revolution. Hundreds of our comrades were arrested in the July days . When Comrade Kollontai was released from prison by the doctors orders, Avksentiev placed at her door two former agents of the Tsars secret police! The peasants withdrew, muttering, followed by ironical hoots.
The representative of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries spoke on the Land Decree. While agreeing in principle, his faction could not vote on the question until after discussion. The Peasants Soviets should be consulted .
The Mensheviki Internationalists, too, insisted on a party caucus.
Then the leader of the Maximalists, the Anarchist wing of the peasants: We must do honour to a political party which puts such an act into effect the first day, without jawing about it!
A typical peasant was in the tribune, long hair, boots and sheep-skin coat, bowing to all corners of the hall. I wish you well, comrades and citizens, he said. There are some Cadets walking around outside. You arrested our Socialist peasantswhy not arrest them?
This was the signal for a debate of excited peasants. It was precisely like the debate of soldiers of the night before. Here were the real proletarians of the land .
Those members of our Executive Committee, Avksentiev and the rest, whom we thought were the peasants protectorsthey are only Cadets too! Arrest them! Arrest them!
Another, Who are these Pianikhs, these Avksentievs? They are not peasants at all! They only wag their tails!
How the crowd rose to them, recognising brothers!
The Left Socialist Revolutionaries proposed a half-hour intermission. As the delegates streamed out, Lenin stood up in his place.
We must not lose time, comrades! News all-important to Russia must be on the press to-morrow morning. No delay!
And above the hot discussion, argument, shuffling of feet could be heard the voice of an emissary of the Military Revolutionary Committee, crying, Fifteen agitators wanted in room 17 at once! To go to the Front!hellip;
It was almost two hours and a half later that the delegates came straggling back, the presidium mounted the platform, and the session recommenced by the reading of telegrams from regiment after regiment, announcing their adhesion to the Military Revolutionary Committee.
In leisurely manner the meeting gathered momentum. A delegate from the Russian troops on the Macedonian front spoke bitterly of their situation. We suffer there more from the friendship of our Allies than from the enemy, he said. Representatives of the Tenth and Twelfth Armies, just arrived in hot haste, reported, We support you with all our strength! A peasant-soldier protested against the release of the traitor Socialists, Mazlov and Salazkin; as for the Executive Committee of the Peasants Soviets, it should be arrested
Here was real revolutionary talk . A deputy from the Russian Army in Persia declared he was instructed to demand all power to the Soviets . A Ukrainean officer, speaking in his native tongue: There is no nationalism in this crisis .
the proletarian dictatorship of all lands! Such a deluge of high and hot thoughts that surely Russia would never again be dumb!
Kameniev remarked that the anti-Bolshevik forces were trying to stir up disorders everywhere, and read an appeal of the Congress to all the Soviets of Russia:
The All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers and Soldiers Deputies, including some Peasants Deputies, calls upon the local Soviets to take immediate energetic measures to oppose all counter-revolutionary anti-Jewish action and all
whatever they may be. The honour of the Workers, Peasants and Soldiers Revolution demands that no
The Red Guard of Petrograd, the revolutionary garrison and the sailors have maintained complete order in the capital.
Workers, soldiers and peasants, you should follow everywhere the example of the workers and soldiers of Petrograd.
Comrade soldiers and Cossacks, on us falls the duty of assuring real revolutionary order.
All revolutionary Russia and the entire world have their eyes on us .
At two oclock the Land Decree was put to vote, with only one against and the peasant delegates wild with joy . So plunged the Bolsheviki ahead, irresistible, over-riding hesitation and oppositionthe only people in Russia who had a definite programme of action while the others talked for eight long months.
Now arose a soldier, gaunt, ragged and eloquent, to protest against the clause of the
tending to deprive military deserters from a share in village land allotments. Bawled at and hissed at first, his simple, moving speech finally made silence. Forced against his will into the butchery of the trenches, he cried, which you yourselves, in the Peace decree, have voted senseless as well as horrible, he greeted the Revolution with hope of peace and freedom. Peace? The Government of Kerensky forced him again to go forward into Galicia to slaughter and be slaughtered; to his pleas for peace, Terestchenko simply laughed . Freedom? Under Kerensky he found his Committees suppressed, his newspapers cut off, his party speakers put in prison . At home in his village, the landlords were defying his Land Committees, jailing his comrades . In Petrograd the bourgeoisie, in alliance with the Germans, were sabotaging the food and ammunition for the Army . He was without boots, or clothes . Who forced him to desert? The Government of Kerensky, which you have overthrown! At the end there was applause.
But another soldier hotly denounced it: The Government of Kerensky is not a screen behind which can be hidden dirty work like desertion! Deserters are scoundrels, who run away home and leave their comrades to die in the trenches alone! Every deserter is a traitor, and should be punished . Uproar, shouts of
Do volno! Teesche!
Kameniev hastily proposed to leave the matter to the Government for decision. (See
App. V, Sect. 4
At 2.30 A. M. fell a tense hush. Kameniev was reading the decree of the Constitution of Power:
Until the meeting of the Constituent Assembly, a provisional Workers and Peasants Government is formed, which shall be named the Council of Peoples Commissars. (See
App. V, Sect. 5
The administration of the different branches of state activity shall be intrusted to commissions, whose composition shall be regulated to ensure the carrying out of the programme of the Congress, in close union with the mass-organisations of working-men, working-women, sailors, soldiers, peasants and clerical employees. The governmental power is vested in a
made up of the chairmen of these commissions, that is to say, the Council of Peoples Commissars.
Control over the activities of the Peoples Commissars, and the right to replace them, shall belong to the All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers, Peasants and Soldiers Deputies, and its Central Executive Committee.
Still silence; as he read the list of Commissars, bursts of applause after each name, Lenins and Trotzkys especially.
President of the Council:
A. E. Rykov
V. P. Miliutin
A. G. Shliapnikov
Military and Naval Affairs
a committee composed of V. A.
N. V. Krylenko, and F. M. Dybenko.
Commerce and Industry:
V. P. Nogin
A. V. Lunatcharsky
E. E. Skvortsov
L. D. Bronstein
G. E. Oppokov
E. A. Teodorovitch
Post and Telegraph:
N. P. Avilov
Chairman for Nationalities:
I. V. Djougashvili
To be filled later.
There were bayonets at the edges of the room, bayonets pricking up among the delegates; the Military Revolutionary Committee was arming everybody, Bolshevism was arming for the decisive battle with Kerensky, the sound of whose trumpets came up the south-west wind . In the meanwhile nobody went home; on the contrary hundreds of newcomers filtered in, filling the great room solid with stern-faced soldiers and workmen who stood for hours and hours, indefatigably intent. The air was thick with cigarette smoke, and human breathing, and the smell of coarse clothes and sweat.
Avilov of the staff of
was speaking in the name of the Social Democrat Internationalists and the remnant of the Mensheviki Internationalists; Avilov, with his young, intelligent face, looking out of place in his smart frock-coat.
We must ask ourselves where we are going . The ease with which the Coalition Government was upset cannot be explained by the strength of the left wing of the democracy, but only by the incapacity of the Government to give the people peace and bread. And the left wing cannot maintain itself in power unless it can solve these questions .
Can it give bread to the people? Grain is scarce. The majority of the peasants will not be with you, for you cannot give them the machinery they need. Fuel and other primary necessities are almost impossible to procure .
As for peace, that will be even more difficult. The allies refused to talk with Skobeliev. They will never accept the proposition of a peace conference from
You will not be recognised either in London and Paris, or in Berlin .
You cannot count on the effective help of the proletariat of the Allied countries, because in most countries it is very far from the revolutionary struggle; remember, the Allied democracy was unable even to convoke the Stockholm Conference. Concerning the German Social Democrats, I have just talked with Comrade Goldenberg, one of our delegates to Stockholm; he was told by the representatives of the Extreme Left that revolution in Germany was impossible during the war . Here interruptions began to come thick and fast, but Avilov kept on.
The isolation of Russia will fatally result either in the defeat of the Russian Army by the Germans, and the patching up of a peace between the Austro-German coalition and the Franco-British coalition
at the expense of Russia
or in a separate peace with Germany.
I have just learned that the Allied ambassadors are preparing to leave, and that Committees for Salvation of Country and Revolution are forming in all the cities of Russia .
No one party can conquer these enormous difficulties. The majority of the people, supporting a government of Socialist coalition, can alone accomplish the Revolution .
He then read the resolution of the two factions:
Recognising that for the salvation of the conquests of the Revolution it is indispensable immediately to constitute a government based on the revolutionary democracy organised in the Soviets of Workers, Soldiers and Peasants Deputies, recognising moreover that the task of this government is the quickest possible attainment of peace, the transfer of the land into the hands of the agrarian committees, the organisation of control over industrial production, and the convocation of the Constituent Assembly on the date decided, the Congress appoints an executive committee to constitute such a government after an agreement with the groups of the democracy which are taking part in the Congress.
In spite of the revolutionary exaltation of the triumphant crowd, Avilovs cool tolerant reasoning had shaken them. Toward the end, the cries and hisses died away, and when he finished there was even some clapping.
Karelin followed himalso young, fearless, whose sincerity no one doubtedfor the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, the party of Maria Spiridonova, the party which almost alone followed the Bolsheviki, and which represented the revolutionary peasants.
Our party has refused to enter the Council of Peoples Commissars because we do not wish forever to separate ourselves from the part of the revolutionary army which left the Congress, a separation which would make it impossible for us to serve as intermediaries between the Bolsheviki and the other groups of the democracy . And that is our principal duty at this moment. We cannot sustain any government except a government of Socialist coalition .
We protest, moreover, against the tyrannical conduct of the Bolsheviki. Our Commissars have been driven from their posts. Our only organ,
(Banner of Labour), was forbidden to appear yesterday .
The Central Duma is forming a powerful Committee for Salvation of Country and Revolution, to fight you. Already you are isolated, and your Government is without the support of a single other democratic group .
And now Trotzky stood upon the raised tribune, confident and dominating, with that sarcastic expression about his mouth which was almost a sneer. He spoke, in a ringing voice, and the great crowd rose to him.
These considerations on the dangers of isolation of our party are not new. On the eve of insurrection our fatal defeat was also predicted. Everybody was against us; only a faction of the Socialist Revolutionaries of the left was with us in the Military Revolutionary Committee. How is it that we were able to overturn the Government almost without bloodshed? . That fact is the most striking proof that we
were not isolated.
In reality the Provisional Government was isolated; the democratic parties which march against us were isolated, are isolated, and forever cut off from the proletariat!
They speak of the necessity for a coalition. There is only one coalition possiblethe coalition of the workers, soldiers and poorest peasants; and it is our partys honour to have realised that coalition . What sort of coalition did Avilov mean? A coalition with those who supported the Government of Treason to the People? Coalition doesnt always add to strength. For example, could we have organised the insurrection with Dan and Avksentiev in our ranks? Roars of laughter.
Avksentiev gave little bread. Will a coalition with the
furnish more? Between the peasants and Avksentiev, who ordered the arrest of the Land Committees, we choose the peasants! Our Revolution will remain the classic revolution of history .
They accuse us of repelling an agreement with the other democratic parties. But is it we who are to blame? Or must we, as Karelin put it, blame it on a misunderstanding? No, comrades. When a party in full tide of revolution, still wreathed in powder-smoke, comes to say, Here is the Powertake it!and when those to whom it is offered go over to the enemy, that is not a misunderstanding . that is a declaration of pitiless war. And it isnt we who have declared war .
Avilov menaces us with failure of our peace effortsif we remain isolated. I repeat, I dont see how a coalition with Skobeliev, or even Terestchenko, can help us to get peace! Avilov tries to frighten us by the threat of a peace at our expense. And I answer that in any case, if Europe continues to be ruled by the imperialist bourgeoisie, revolutionary Russia will inevitably be lost .
There are only two alternatives; either the Russian Revolution will create a revolutionary movement in Europe, or the European powers will destroy the Russian Revolution!
They greeted him with an immense crusading acclaim, kindling to the daring of it, with the thought of championing mankind. And from that moment there was something conscious and decided about the insurrectionary masses, in all their actions, which never left them.
But on the other side, too, battle was taking form. Kameniev recognised a delegate from the Union of Railway Workers, a hardfaced, stocky man with an attitude of implacable hostility. He threw a bombshell.
In the name of the strongest organisation in Russia I demand the right to speak, and I say to you: the
charges me to make known the decision of the Union concerning the constitution of Power. The Central Committee refuses absolutely to support the Bolsheviki if they persist in isolating themselves from the whole democracy of Russia! Immense tumult all over the hall.
In 1905, and in the Kornilov days, the Railway Workers were the best defenders of the Revolution. But you did not invite us to your Congress Cries, It was the old
which did not invite you! The orator paid no attention. We do not recognise the legality of this Congress; since the departure of the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries there is not a legal quorum . The Union supports the old
and declares that the Congress has no right to elect a new Committee .
The Power should be a Socialist and revolutionary Power, responsible before the authorised organs of the entire revolutionary democracy. Until the constitution of such a power, the Union of Railway Workers, which refuses to transport counter-revolutionary troops to Petrograd, at the same time forbids the execution of any order whatever without the consent of the
also takes into its hands the entire administration of the railroads of Russia.
At the end he could hardly be heard for the furious storm of abuse which beat upon him. But it was a heavy blowthat could be seen in the concern on the faces of the presidium. Kameniev, however, merely answered that there could be no doubt of the legality of the Congress, as even the quorum established by the old
was exceededin spite of the secession of the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolution arises .
Then came the vote on the Constitution of Power, which carried the Council of Peoples Commissars into office by an enormous majority .
The election of the new
the new parliament of the Russian Republic, took barely fifteen minutes. Trotzky announced its composition: 100 members, of which 70 Bolsheviki . As for the peasants, and the seceding factions, places were to be reserved for them. We welcome into the Government all parties and groups which will adopt our programme, ended Trotzky.
And thereupon the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets was dissolved, so that the members might hurry to their homes in the four corners of Russia and tell of the great happenings .
It was almost seven when we woke the sleeping conductors and motor-men of the street-cars which the Street-Railway Workers Union always kept waiting at Smolny to take the Soviet delegates to their homes. In the crowded car there was less happy hilarity than the night before, I thought. Many looked anxious; perhaps they were saying to themselves, Now we are masters, how can we do our will?
At our apartment-house we were held up in the dark by an armed patrol of citizens and carefully examined. The Dumas proclamation was doing its work .
The landlady heard us come in, and stumbled out in a pink silk wrapper.
The House Committee has again asked that you take your turn on guard-duty with the rest of the men, she said.
Whats the reason for this guard-duty?
To protect the house and the women and children.
Robbers and murderers.
But suppose there came a Commissar from the Military Revolutionary Committee to search for arms?
Oh, thats what theyll
they are . And besides, whats the difference?
I solemnly affirmed that the Consul had forbidden all American citizens to carry armsespecially in the neighbourhood of the Russian
See Notes and Explanations. [
to shop the