Liberty to Brest-Litovsk


Whom to obey ?—Parties before the revolution—Liberalism and Cadets
—Populist Socialists and Marxists—Order No. 1, and persecution of officers
—Democratic peace—Soviet and Provisional Government—
Bolshevist influence—Dual power.

AFTER the downfall of the old regime even educated people found it difficult to decide in whose hands the new power was now concentrated, while the broad masses were completely baffled.  For a time the Taurida Palace was indeed the centre of power.  But there were to be found both the Provisional Government and the Soviet of Workmen’s Deputies.  Later, the Provisional Government settled down in the Marie Palace, forming a sort of third centre.  Which of them was to be obeyed ?  Who was supreme ?  Deputations from the provinces became frequently confused between these three organisations, not knowing to whom to present themselves to express their loyalty to the new régime.

Still more serious was the fact that the Government itself did not actually know whom to lean upon.  It did lean, one might say, upon all in general and no one in particular.  A Government can be strong only when backed by well-organised public opinion and a well-organised military force.  Prince G. Lvov’s Government possessed neither the one nor the other.  It was a bourgeois Government in its composition, for the Cabinet contained only one Socialist Minister, A. Kerensky, but the bourgeoisie itself, of which the Soviets stood in such fear, was unorganised.  The only numerous non-Socialist party, the “ Cadets,” could offer a moral and logical resistance to the Socialist whirlwind, but was too weak to give any serious support to the Government.

The Tsarist regime, like every other despotic power, feared its subjects, distrusted them, placed obstacles in the way of every attempt at organisation, of every awakening of intellectual forces.  The whole nineteenth century of Russian history is filled with the hard and unequal struggle between the autocracy and the Russian intelligentsia.  It was a struggle not merely for political liberty, but also for the right to impart ideas and knowledge to the people.  The Government was niggardly and grudging in opening new schools, forbidding private persons to teach the peasants’ children without special license, impeding the Zemstvos in their task of public education.  That is why in some provinces half the population is still illiterate.  A special license was also necessary, but very seldom obtained, for opening a village library, for giving lectures and magic-lantern shows, for organising a choral society, for lending books to read.  For venturing on such pernicious courses, people were frequently put into prison or exiled to Siberia.

Even co-operative institutions were placed under suspicion, and while the Ministry of Agriculture encouraged co-operators, the police persecuted and oppressed them.

Any organisation of political parties or meetings in the country was out of the question.  This was permitted only to the Union of Russian people.  In such wise the vast majority of the population was purposely kept by the Tsarist Government in complete ignorance of the political needs and the general life of even their native country, while the political workers were artificially estranged from those whom they were both willing and able to serve.  When the storm broke out it was found that the intelligentsia, that flower and brain of the nation, were completely severed from the masses.  The masses had not the faintest idea of what Russia really was, and of why every citizen must possess both rights and duties within his own country ?  And most important of all, they had no idea of the meaning of the State and why the existence of a State was necessary for each individual.  This latter consideration, as a matter of fact, was but vaguely realised, even by most of the intelligentsia.

Nevertheless, among the thin upper strata of the town population there was some semblance of political life, and political parties became organised ;  of these, the Duma included about ten.  It would be difficult to identify the parties by their social composition, for the division was not one of classes, but of ideas.

The priests, who were fairly numerous in the last Duma, were mostly grouped on the extreme Right benches.  But some of them belonged to the Opposition.  Not a few landowners, particularly from the rich “ black earth ” provinces, also belonged to the Right wing.  Yet landowners, to whose class had belonged the vast majority of Russian writers and public men, were to be found not only on the Right, but also in the Centre and on the Left.  It was the same with the peasants.  Only workmen clustered jealously beneath the Marxist banner hoisted upon the extreme Left wing.

The political divisions were manifold.  The monarchists were divided into several groups.  At the extreme Right were the reactionaries who professed the long outworn theory of absolute autocracy.  They were opposed to any kind of national representation, and although themselves members of the Duma, never made the slightest effort to protect the rights and honour of the Russian Parliament.  Some of them belonged to the Union of the Russian People.  This was an obscure organisation, which did not scruple to make use of any methods of political struggle, including political murder, and was patronised by the Tsarist Government.

The most prominent of the convinced monarchists was Vl. Purishkevich, a capable man, but unrestrained almost to the point of hooliganism.  He became greatly changed during the war.  Perhaps the highest proof of both his monarchism and patriotism was given by his participation in Rasputin’s murder.  Purishkevich submitted to the new regime, realising Russia’s urgent need of fundamental reforms.  But the Revolution proved that monarchical organisations had no roots whatever in the country.  The Tsar received no support, neither from above nor from below.  After the Revolution the Right currents were no longer of any importance.

The centre of the Duma was represented by moderately constitutional parties—the Nationalists and the Octobrists.  Both of them prized their close relations with the Tsarist Government which helped them during elections and treated them with a certain contemptuous favour.  The Octobrist programme was very similar to that of the former Premier, Peter Stolypin.  The Octobrists were particularly persistent in their support of Stolypin’s agrarian reform, by which he hoped to establish small peasant holdings without the confiscation of private property in land.  It seemed probable at one time that the Octobrists might become the Government party, but the Tsar and his councillors proved too self-centred and blind even for that.  The old regime neither would nor could seek serious public support.  When the blow fell it was V. Shulgin and A. Guchkov, the leaders of the two parties which might have been the support of the Throne, who brought to Nicholas II. the Duma’s demand that he should sign the act of abdication drafted beforehand by the Duma.

The Left wing of the Duma was represented by Radicals and Socialists.  The small group of “ Progressists ” was sometimes to the right, sometimes to the left of the Cadets.  Mischievous tongues said that the Progressists were distinguished from the Cadets simply by their refusal to submit to Milyukov.  But their main distinction lay in their greater readiness to submit to the insinuations and solicitations of the Socialists.  Among the members of the Cabinet, A. Konovalov belonged to the Progressists, but later joined the Cadets.  The Progressists were of no real importance in the country.

The only influential and numerous radical party were the Cadets.

It may be considered as one of the special features of Russian political life that owing to the absence of political freedom the Liberal parties in Russia had been formed after the Socialist ones.

Liberalism had been engendered as a movement and a political creed already in the eighteenth century.  It became strengthened and acquired a more active, or rather a more revolutionary character after the Napoleonic wars.  Both in Russian literature and in Russian political life Liberalism had played an important part.  It acquired, however, a serious political importance only at the beginning of the twentieth century, when public forces were drawn to it in a conspirative manner, forming the Union of Liberation.  In the October revolution of 1905 the Union of Liberation was transformed into an open party with a definite programme and organisation.  This was the party of the People’s Liberty or the Constitutional-Democratic party (hence “ Ca-dets ” from the initial letters).

The party’s character is precisely defined by its name.  The Cadets were constitutional monarchists, who held that Russia stood in urgent need of wide democratic reforms.  In their programme they persistently advocated the principle that the interests of all the people, the interests of Russia as a whole, were above those of a separate class or group.  As social reformers the Cadets adopted the Social-Democratic minimum Labour programme.  The basis of their economic programme lay in endowing the peasants with land out of the Crown reserves, appanages, church, and private lands.  Private lands were to be expropriated from their owners, but compensation given somewhat upon the principle of land resumption for railway or other public purposes.  For their scheme of compulsory expropriation the Cadets were attacked from the Right by the landowners, who considered this as a robbery.  Socialists attacked them because of the compensation, as they wished to have the land taken for nothing.  The Cadets, however, could never agree to such a scheme, as they recognised the right of property as a necessary foundation of contemporary Russia’s economic order and development.

Great irritation among the Right parties was also provoked by the Cadets’ demand for the granting of a wide cultural and national self-determination to all the peoples inhabiting Russia.  The monarchists considered this to be an attempt against the autocratic rights of the Crown and the integrity of the Russian Empire.  The Left parties, on the other hand, were displeased that the Cadets did not go as far as the principle of a federation of Sovereign States, but drew the line at national and regional autonomy.

The foremost and fundamental aim of the Cadet party was the realisation in Russia of a constitutional form of government and the establishment of political liberties.  They therefore attached great importance to work in the Duma.  The party’s history is indissolubly linked up with the brief history of the Russian Parliament, where the Cadets never possessed an absolute majority but always occupied a prominent place.  The most powerful speeches denouncing the imperfection of the Tsarist regime resounded from the Cadet benches, for the Cadets numbered many brilliant speakers (Rodichev, Milyukov, Maklakov, Shingarev, Nabokof, Kokoshkin).  Such speeches raised the prestige of the Duma, and if in the days of revolutionary exaltation the crowd rushed to the Taurida Palace, thereby proving its trust in national representation, one may boldly assert that the Cadets had done much to create such confidence.

The Cadet party had never been in power, it always filled the place of a responsible Opposition.  But when the war broke out the Cadets declared at once that all differences and contradictions were to be sunk in the common task of national defence and the struggle against German militarism.  Their behaviour had an important influence upon the attitude of Russian public opinion and united all forces around the cause of defence.

In all its stormy and difficult political career the Cadet party never once changed either its programme or its leaders and never split into factions, always remaining one.  Only one serious alteration of the programme was adopted after the Revolution and the Tsar’s abdication ;  the Cadets recognised the desirability of a republic in lieu of a constitutional monarchy.

Such was the radical party.

The Socialists were divided into two principal groups—the Populist Socialists and the Marxists.  They were not united.  Their fundamental divergence lay in that the former group idealised the muzhik and held that, owing to the village commune, the Russian peasant was a potential Socialist, and that once the land should become common property the most important step towards reaching the Socialist order of society would be accomplished.  For decades such ideas were developed in Russian literature, and entire generations of Russian youths were brought up upon this idealisation of the people.

In contrast with these views the Social-Democrats expounded the ideas of Karl Marx, asserting that Russia, like other peoples, was bound to pass through various stages of economic development.  They considered the factory-workers to be best fitted to be the bearers of advanced Socialist ideas, and made the dictatorship of the proletariat one of their primary aims.

Marxism made its appearance in Russia as a definite political force only in the ’eighties of the last century.  One of its chief Russian sponsors was the emigré, G. Plekhanov, a gifted publicist and polemist.  Simultaneously, with him, three young economists, who rapidly became prominent, opened the struggle against the Populist Socialists, opposing the Marxian doctrine, which to them seemed scientifically proved, to the Utopia of their rivals.  These three were Michael Tugan-Baranovsky, Peter Struve, and Vladimir Ulianov Lenin.  Later, each of them went his own way, but they appeared on the political arena underneath a common Marxian banner.

The two principal Socialist parties were divided into several groups, and these groups were split into factions.  From the Populist Socialists originated the Party of Toil and the Social-Revolutionaries.  The former came into being in the days of the first Duma, where it represented a motley and chaotic mixture of peasants, little accustomed to literary intricacies, but eager to get the land, and of an idealistically benevolent Socialist intelligentsia, to whom the peasant represented the very essence of wisdom.  During the second Revolution the Party of Toil became merged in a group of literary Populist Socialists led by the two editors of a very popular review—Russkoie Bogatstvo—B. Miakotin and A. Peshekhonov.  They formed a moderate Populist Socialists’ Party of Toil, which had no influence either during elections or upon the masses.

On the other hand, the Social-Revolutionary party acquired at once tremendous influence and a wide sphere of action.  Its trump card lay in its agrarian programme expressed by the brief mottoes :  “ The land is the Lord’s ” and “ All the land to all the people.”  Translated into less picturesque language, this signified that all land, whether belonging to the State, appanages, monasteries, or private owners, was to be merged into a State land fund, whence each toiler might receive his share.  Land property is confiscated without compensation.  Private possession of land is abolished.  Land can neither be sold nor inherited.

The nationalisation of factories is not mentioned in the Social-Revolutionary programme.  Politically, the Social-Revolutionaries always advocated a federative Russian republic.  The composition of the party was extremely varied.  School teachers and small intelligentsia became affiliated with it.  The more prominent leaders numbered several important Moscow Jewish merchants.

Psychologically the Social-Revolutionary party attracted persons with a more romantic turn of mind who were repelled by the dry Marxian doctrine of economic materialism.  Maybe the dangers and adventures that its tactics involved served as an inducement to others.  Holding that historical events are vitally influenced by the personality of those in power the Social-Revolutionaries were terrorists, and before the Revolution had committed several political assassinations.  Gentle visionaries and poets, deeming that isolated heroic deeds and sacrifices could revolutionise the world, frequently became the executors of such terroristic acts.  The Social-Revolutionaries attached great importance to political liberty and led an active and self-denying struggle against autocracy.  When the longed-for hour of freedom struck they were naturally bound to fill a prominent place among other political parties.

When the Social Revolutionaries assembled at Petrograd from Siberia and from exile abroad, where many of them had been compelled to live for years, it became apparent that this was not one united party firmly bound together by a common political outlook and a unity of leadership, but rather a chaotic mixture of various tendencies and individuals of far from equal morality.  The Social-Revolutionaries were divided into those of the Right, the Centre, and the Left.  These groups were also split up into various factions which need not be described in detail, but which increased the vagueness and disorderliness of Social-Revolutionary policy.  The Right wing was composed of the so-called Social-Revolutionary patriots.  To them belonged the old revolutionary Mme. Breshko-Breshkovskaja, Lebedev, Boris Savinkov, and finally Kerensky.  The Centre was led by Victor Chernov, an ambitious publicist, a demagogue, unscrupulous in his speeches and methods.  On the Left was a group of Social-Revolutionary Maximalists with the hysterical Marie Spiridonova at their head.  The true substance of these factions and their leaders was mainly defined by their attitude in relation to the war and to Bolshevism.

At the beginning of the Revolution the Bolsheviks were not yet considered a separate party, but formed part of the United All-Russian Labour Social-Democratic party, as the Russian Marxists styled themselves.  The party became divided into Mensheviks and Bolsheviks in 1903 at a party conference filled with the usual squabbling over formulas and words.  Lenin, who demanded that the party should adopt more revolutionary, or, as was then termed, Blanquist tactics, asserted that he had behind him the majority of the delegates (hence the term “ Bolsheviks ”—majority).  Others declared that Lenin had falsified the representation of provincial committees, a trick to which Lenin was much inclined.  However, in spite of that, he and his adherents stubbornly insisted that their adversaries who supported the evolutionary method were in the minority (hence the term “ Mensheviks ”—minority).  From that time on both these groups waged a constant strife within the party, but outwardly held together, attaching great value to their external unity.  Their divergencies were mainly concerned with questions of tactics and party organisation.  The programme was identical for both groups.  It was the programme of international Social-Democracy.  Some supplements and alterations were introduced into the agrarian programme merely in order to keep pace with the Social-Revolutionaries.  Lenin, however, attaching great value to the growth of the proletariat, was against the transference of the land to the peasants.

During the first Revolution (1905) the Bolsheviks employed such questionable methods of struggle and exhibited such a low standard of political morality that it seemed as if the Mensheviks ought sharply to sever all ties with their comrades of the Left.  But as the Bolsheviks were much more dexterous in gaining access to the masses, the Mensheviks still clung to them in order not to lose touch with the workmen, and therefore became co-partners in the spreading of Bolshevist poison.

It was hard for the Mensheviks to sever relations with the Bolsheviks, when both the Right and Left wings of the party set out the theory of class-war as the immutable law of life in every human society.  They were bound to deny the principle of nationality, as the proletarians have no fatherland.  The dictatorship of the proletariat constituted their primary aim.  True, the Mensheviks differed from the Bolsheviks in their estimate of the proper moment :  they held that the Social revolution ought not to be precipitated since it was necessary first to consolidate political liberty by passing through the stage of a bourgeois republic, but the ultimate aim of concentrating all the economic life in the hands of the State was common to both.

Within their own house, at party conferences, Mensheviks sometimes indulged in passionate arguments with Bolsheviks.  But apparently considering their differences as purely family matters, they attached no significance to them whatever, and thought not of a separation but rather of complete fusion.

On his return from Siberian exile, Tsereteli hastened to declare in one of his earliest speeches, “ Factions no longer exist.  Bolsheviks and Mensheviks are united.  All are ranged in one Revolutionary Democracy.”

Besides these two principal Social-Democratic factions there existed also a group of Internationalists, which stood to the Left of the Mensheviks and but slightly differed from the Bolsheviks.  Its leader was Martov-Zederbaum, who returned to Russia with Lenin through Germany and held views closely akin to Lenin’s.  Standing beside them, or rather set aside by them, was the Group of Unity organised by G. Plekhanov.  He was contemptuously called the Social-patriot because he warned the people of the German peril and demanded the prosecution of war to the end.  His was not revolutionary, but evolutionary Marxism.  Plekhanov was sufficiently intelligent, well-educated and honest to know that it was impossible to step straight from the Empire of Nicholas II. into the reign of Marx.  His views differed so entirely from those of the Executive Committee, that supreme organ of the Soviet, that Plekhanov was not admitted to its membership.  Yet Lenin, Zinoviev, Trotsky, even Radek, an Austrian, were elected, although the rest of the Socialists were perfectly aware of their political immorality.  They did not, however, consider honesty and integrity as being the foremost and indispensable qualities of any man, still less so of a politician.

Such were, broadly outlined, the principal parties and political tendencies existing in Russia at the moment of the Revolution.  At that time they only included the numerically insignificant educated and literate upper circles.  Whereas an enormous majority, tens of millions of citizens, who would soon be called upon to fashion the State’s and their own destinies by means of voting papers, knew nothing of these parties, and were utterly incapable of distinguishing one from another.

Very soon, however, setting aside party divisions and subdivisions, the political thoughts and will of the people began to concentrate themselves on the two fundamental problems—the war, and the character of the new order.

On the one side were the defencists, who held that the war must be carried on to a victorious end, and that the Revolution should be political, but not social.  This standpoint was defended by the Cadets, and Socialists of the Right, the Populist-Socialists as well as the “ Unity ” group.  At the head of this movement stood the Committee of the Duma.  Towards them turned the Officers and Generals.  Former emigrés and revolutionaries, like the anarchist, Prince Kropotkin, Herman Lopatin, Pankratov, and others, at the risk of losing their popularity supported the defencist movement.  Their patriotic task was complicated by the fact that they found themselves obliged to refute the tempting watchwords of the other Socialists, and to agree upon many points not merely with the Cadets, but also with the Octobrists and conservatively disposed Generals.  Demagogues skilfully availed themselves of this opportunity to incite the masses against all conceptions of national Socialism.

The watchwords of the opposite side were the liquidation of the war and the deepening of the Revolution, i.e. a realisation of Socialist aims by means of a further revolution.

An enormous majority of the rank and file and the Central Committees of both the important Socialist parties—the Social-Democrats and the Social-Revolutionaries—whose chief stronghold was the Soviet of Soldiers’ and Workmen’s Deputies, represented the second tendency.  In relation to the war they stood not for defence, but for a democratic peace, concluded with the aid of the united international proletariat, including the Austro-German proletariat.

Russia’s tragedy lay in the fact that the Revolution broke out amid the complications of an exhausting war, which had to be carried on at all costs to a victorious end to save the country from slavery and destruction.  And it so happened that the revolutionary leaders were semi-defeatists who had remained concealed in the rear, Socialists whose minds were filled with the doctrines of Marx to the exclusion of patriotism, or else actual defeatists like Chheidze.  For three years Chheidze made speeches in the Duma on the necessity of liquidating the war as soon as possible, and in spite of this, or it may be for this very reason, he was elected President of the Petrograd Soviet.  For, in the early days of the Revolution, the word “ Motherland ” was banned by the Socialist majority.  The Revolutionary Democracy shrugged its shoulders contemptuously even when such popular Socialist writers as Vladimir Korolenko sounded the warning that “ the Motherland was in danger.”

Korolenko wrote a passionate appeal to the Democracy, imploring them to forget all quarrels, because “ the same cloud which of yore threatened Russia from the east is now approaching from the west. . . . The Hohenzollern wants Russia to remain for long obscure and oppressed. . . .”  But patriotic speeches, whatever their origin, awoke no response from the Revolutionary Democracy.  On the contrary, as if a prey to some spiritual perversion fatal to Russia, the majority of the Socialists behaved with extreme suspicion towards all defencists, even when they were Socialists.  The idea of a struggle against Germany became in the mentality of the Left mysteriously linked with the idea of a struggle against the Revolution.  This may be partly explained by the hypnotic influence of German ideas through the medium of Social-Democracy, through faith in the Internationalist sentiments of the German proletariat, and through the utterly unfounded fear of a counter-revolution which haunted the Socialists from the very first days.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that counter-revolution was infinitely more terrible to them than the Kaiser.  That is why they were incapable of safeguarding the army.

The Government had barely been established when on the 14th of March the Soviet issued its famous Order No. 1.  It was addressed to the Petrograd garrison, but was sent out in millions of copies to all units at the front and in the rear, and served as a signal for the disintegration of the Russian Army.  The Soviet ordered all military units “ to proceed immediately to the election of committees composed of representatives of the rank-and-file.”  Delegates of these committees were incorporated in the Soviet of Workmen’s Deputies, which was to be called henceforth the Soviet of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies.  All arms were to be taken over and controlled by the Soldiers’ Committees and under no circumstances to be handed over to officers, not even at their express demand.

By this order the Soviet destroyed discipline at one stroke, subordinating officers to the privates and heedlessly introducing the elective principle into the army.

Certainly no one would have the boldness to assert that discipline might not have been destroyed in the Russian Army by the Revolution merely taking its course.  But even a revolution, whatever its likeness to a storm, an earthquake, or collective insanity, still contains some elements of intelligent purpose.  As a man in a fit of passion may sometimes be prevented from committing a crime, so in a revolution the appeal of wisdom, of conscience, or honour, sometimes restrained the mob when it was on the verge of committing a collective crime.  The leading organs of Revolutionary Democracy, as the Soviets had styled themselves from the very outset, should have reflected both in word and deed the highest standard of Socialist and Revolutionary intelligence.  They constituted the brain, and it was their duty to give a wise lead to the people’s newly awakened will for freedom, and not to submitting to blind elemental forces.  But in social questions, as well as in their attitude towards the war, the Russian Socialists showed no evidence of any statesmanlike or constructive wisdom.  Not only did they not endeavour to retain the discipline and with it the fighting efficiency of the army, but in a sort of frenzied blindness they scattered the seeds of strife and corruption throughout the army.

Both Order No. 1 and all the subsequent behaviour of the Soviet was penetrated with a distrust of the officers.  Although the Stavka and the entire commanding staff had immediately recognised the authority of the Provisional Government, the Soviet had nevertheless placed all officers under suspicion.  On the very day when the Soviet adopted its appeal to the peoples of the world, breathing the love of international peace, rancorous speeches against the officers of the Russian Army were being uttered at a Soviet meeting.  A petty journalist, Steklov (Nakhamkes), one of those who had found shelter from the war behind an office desk, now as a member of the Soviet thundered against the former Tsarist Stavka, which according to him was a centre of counter-revolution.  “ Rebellious generals, not wishing to submit to the will of the Russian people, are openly conducting an agitation among the soldiers.  We have demanded that the Provisional Government proclaim beforehand as outlaws all those rebellious generals who dare thus to raise their miserable, sacrilegious arm.  It is not only every officer’s but every soldier’s, every citizen’s right and duty to kill him before he raises his arm.”

This speech, with its incitement to bloodshed, with its criminal appeal to the soldiers to murder the commanders, was greeted with applause by the Soviet, and printed in the Soviet Izvestia, No. 18.

The occasion of the speech was a proclamation of the Minister of War, Guchkov, and the Commander-in-Chief, General Alexeiev, reminding the army that “ Russia is menaced with fresh trials.  We are faced by stern dangers from the enemy.”  If the soldiers do not retain a strong military discipline, “ the army will cease to be a menace to the enemy, and will easily become its prey.  Any one who tells you otherwise, who incites you to disorder and to disobedience of your superiors, is a traitor to his country, working to the German’s profit and Russia’s destruction.”  The army leaders insisted that officers should remain in command of their units.  “ The orders of the Provisional Government alone are compulsory for the army, for divided control will lead to complete disruption ” (March 23).

That prophecy has, as we know, been fulfilled.  But the Soviet groups did not understand the language of statesmen.  Imbued with the Marxian doctrine of class war, they immediately applied narrow party dogmas to all national problems, and bent all their energies to discover the lurking-place of the imperialist and capitalist counter-revolution which they were bound to fight.

And since the first Provisional Government was above all a defencist government, it was immediately placed under suspicion.

A few days after its formation, the Provisional Government issued a manifesto beginning with the following words :

The sublime work is accomplished.  The powerful impulse of the Russian people has overthrown the old order.  A new free Russia is born.  The great upheaval has crowned the long years of struggle.

Ratifying their original promise of calling a Constituent Assembly within the shortest possible period of time and of meanwhile embodying all the political liberties in legal forms, the Government of Prince Lvov pointed out the necessity of defending the country from the outward enemy.

The Government believe that the same spirit of lofty patriotism that was exhibited by the people in their struggle against the old régime will inspire our gallant soldiers upon the field of battle.  The Government will for its own part do everything in its power to provide our Army with all necessary supplies to bring the War to a victorious end.  The Government will strictly adhere to all alliances which bind us to other Powers, and will unswervingly fulfil all agreements with our Allies.  (March 19.)

An appeal to the army, signed by Prince Lvov and the Minister of War and Marine, Guchkov, was issued simultaneously.  It appeared in a measure as an answer to the fatal Order No. 1.

Russia firmly believes that the Army, inspired by the lofty spirit of patriotism, will immovably preserve the foundations of its power :  unity, and a firm internal order of authority and subordination.  No alteration of the military order and command can take place otherwise than by order of the Provisional Government, or by the supreme military authorities acting on their behalf. . . . The subordination of soldiers to officers constitutes the foundation of the Army’s might and the country’s safety.  The collapse of such submission would hurl the Army and the nation into an abyss of destruction.  This shall not be.

Such was the Provisional Government’s view of its own and the army’s duties.  But the Soviet pursued totally different aims and spoke a different language.

On March 27 the Soviet issued an address to the Peoples of the World, filled with revolutionary ardour and faith in a world revolution :

We declare the time ripe for the beginning of a decisive struggle against the predatory tendencies of the Governments of all countries.  The time has come for the peoples to take into their own hands the decision concerning War and Peace.  Filled with the consciousness of its revolutionary might, the Russian democracy declares that it will use every means to oppose the predatory policy of its governing classes, and summons the peoples of Europe to combined action in favour of peace.

Turning to the Germans, the Petrograd Soviet invited them to “ overthrow the yoke of a semi-autocratic order,” declaring at the same time that it will “ staunchly defend its own liberty against all reactionary attempts, whether from within or from without.”

The entire document exactly reflects the naïve and magniloquent exaltation of the first stage of the Russian Revolution, and strikes one by its complete absence of any consciousness of external danger.

These men, dazed by their own catchwords and the crowd’s applause, had ceased to hear the rumble of guns upon the as yet distant German front.  Any reminder of the fact that the enemy occupied a vast stretch of Russian territory, that only after driving him back to the German frontiers could any talk of a democratic peace become possible, was looked upon as unseemly Imperialism.

Other watchwords sounded from the Left wing revision of treaties, clear statement of war-aims, immediate armistice, fraternisation.

And it was not easy to distinguish which of the Socialist factions supported these demands as a whole, and which did not ; or how far were they due to Bolshevist influence.  All the Socialists, with the exception of the Social-Patriots, were rather closely associated with each other, and endeavoured not so much to clear up as to smooth over their existing differences.

The Social-Revolutionaries always called the Bolsheviks their “ comrades-in-idea,” and agreed with them upon the main issues.  At the Congress of Soviets in May, the Social-Revolutionary leader, V. Chernov, addressing himself to Lenin, said quite rightly, “ My appetite is not less than the appetites of the Bolsheviks.”  Though not Marxists, the Social-Revolutionaries advocated class-war, and at their Petrograd conference in May carried a resolution defining their attitude to both the crucial questions, those of War and Revolution.  “ It has become the happy lot of the Russian people to be the first skirmisher in the transfer of the front from without to within, in the sacred task of transforming the military into a revolutionary crisis.”

Still closer were the ties which bound the Bolsheviks to other Marxian factions.  Bolshevist Maximalism, alluring by its successes in easy popularity and the imagined possibility of a speedy realisation of Socialist ideals, was filtering through all circles of the Revolutionary Democracy.  Common points of departure in the Marxian programme and similarity of revolutionary traditions were the threads which bound all Socialists firmly to their Socialist centre, i.e. the Soviet, which included both Social-Revolutionaries and Social-Democrats.  But as gradually through Soviet speeches and the Soviet Press, Bolshevist ideas became increasingly, not assimilated, but caught up by the masses, the position of the Socialist Centre became more and more difficult.  The very walls of the Taurida Palace seemed to shriek :  “ The Revolution is not over !  Deepen the Revolution ! ”  But such a call was binding, it pushed the Soviet along a certain definite road, and in the end drove it into an impasse and confronted it with contradictions whose only solution lay in a fresh catastrophe.

Accustomed as they were to living in an atmosphere of an abstract and irresponsible dogmatism, the leaders of the Soviet were in continual fear of departing from that programme of which the main principles were the struggle against the bourgeoisie and the seizure of power by or, more correctly, the dictatorship of the proletariat.  The Bolsheviks took advantage of the doctrinal susceptibilities of their comrades, and it was no easy task for Socialists of the Centre to object when the Bolsheviks demanded the transfer of power to the Soviets.

The first Soviet would not agree to this.  It had participated together with the Committee of the Duma in the formation of the Provisional Government, thereby in a way guaranteeing its support to the Cabinet.  As a matter of fact neither the Socialist parties nor the Petrograd Soviet as their mouthpiece offered any confidence or support to Prince Lvov’s Cabinet.  They declared with reserve that they trusted the Government in so far as it defended and confirmed the “ conquests of the Revolution.”  This was a vague and variable notion, and such support might be withdrawn at any moment.  Even Tsereteli, one of the more statesmanlike Social-Democrats, declared in the Soviet :  “ The fullness of executive power must belong to the Provisional Government in so far as such power tends to strengthening the Revolution ” (April 3).

In mid-April the first conference of Soviets, after prolonged and passionate debates concerning the bourgeois character of Prince Lvov’s Cabinet, adopted a lengthy resolution of warning.  The conference recognised that the programme published by the Government at the time of its formation “ contains the fundamental political claims of Russian democracy, and that so far the Provisional Government as a whole is following a general course leading towards the fulfilment of its accepted obligations.”  It seemed but natural that such a declaration would be followed by a vote of confidence and support.  But the dogmatic necessity of fighting the bourgeoisie prevented the Soviet Socialists from adopting the only wise and statesmanlike decision, therefore they added :  “ The Conference invites the Democracy, without accepting responsibility for the activity of the Government as a whole, to support the Provisional Government in so far as it infallibly advances in the direction of a consolidation and a widening of the conquests of the Revolution, and in so far as its foreign policy is based upon a rejection of predatory tendencies.  In order to force the Government to submit to the will of the Revolutionary Democracy, the latter must rally around the Soviets of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Delegates as being the organised centres of democracy created by the Revolution.”  This was necessary, it was explained, for the realisation of the following clause of the resolution :

The Conference recognises the urgency of a constant political control and pressure to be exercised by the Revolutionary Democracy on the Provisional Government and its local agents for the purpose of stimulating them to energetic struggle against counter-revolutionary forces, to decisive steps towards the entire democratisation of Russian life, and towards the preparation of a universal peace without annexations and indemnities, based upon the self-determination of the peoples.

This decision placed the Government under control of the Soviets, which, after all, were a perfectly chaotic organisation, whose composition and rights were most marvellously ill-defined.

But even before this decision was taken, the irresponsible politicians of the Soviet interfered in all affairs of State, both civil and military.  Regimental committees organised by them were disrupting the army.  The Izvestia was frantically attacking Generals, especially the Commander-in-Chief, Alexeiev.  In a despatch of April 14, from Headquarters, General Alexeiev announced :

A number of enemy deserters give evidence that the Germans and Austrians hope that various organisations working inside Russia and at present impeding the work of the Provisional Government will produce anarchy throughout the country, and demoralise the Russian Army.

In response to this the entire Left Press raised a campaign against the Generalissimo.  Even the Menshevist Labour Gazette (Rabochaya Gazeta) declared that these were “ counter-revolutionary tendencies,” and expressed the hope that the Provisional Government “ will be able to show Headquarters its proper place.”  A series of coarse articles, of senselessly insolent resolutions concerning officers and Generals, were published in the Socialist papers, which were read with avidity by soldiers at the front.  The Socialist Press repeated over and over again that a revolution was beginning in Germany.  This was said in the Pravda, the Izvestia, and in the German leaflets which the German aviators scattered in the Russian trenches.  The Izvestia wrote in the beginning of April (No. 27) :

The bourgeois papers never cease to talk about the peril menacing Russia from Germany, and attribute our military reverses to our internal strife. . . . They want to persuade the soldiers of the necessity of going on with the War.

The necessity of carrying on the war was urged both by the Provisional Government and by the Generals whom it had placed at the head of the army.  Accordingly the preposterous assertions that the war could be ended without fighting prejudiced the soldiers’ confidence, not so much in the bourgeois Press as in the Government and the officers.  Generals demanded discipline and self-restraint.  The Soviets demanded nothing and promised everything.  No wonder the Russian soldier’s head was turned and that he felt drawn towards the Soviet and away from the Government.

As early as March 21, the Soldiers’ Section of the Soviet declared, “ Military units may be led out of Petrograd to their former places of encampment by order of the Minister of War countersigned by the Executive Committee.”  In other words, military units were subordinated not to the military authorities but to the Soviet.

The Soviet exercised a jealous surveillance over the Government’s activity.  When the Minister of Finance insistently urged them to support the Liberty Loan, they procrastinated for weeks, unable to decide whether they ought to support it or not, so slightly conscious were they of their ties with the Russian State.  Yet when at the beginning of the Revolution the papers mentioned that the Government intended to send the Tsar and his family over to England, the Soviet immediately interfered.  The Izvestia (No. 13) published a report of a Soviet meeting, at which N. Sokolov1 (a Social-Democrat) announced the measures adopted to prevent Nicholas II.’s departure :

We have mobilised all military units subjected to our influence, and have rendered the situation such as actually to make it impossible for Nicholas II. to leave Tsarskoe-Selo without our consent ;  we have wired along all railway lines that every railway organisation, each station-master, every group of railway-workmen, is bound to detain Nicholas II’s train whenever and wherever it may appear.

In such a manner, setting the Government aside and frequently acting in conflict with its intentions, the Soviet Committee issued independent orders paralysing the new-born power, which was still too weak even to struggle for its independence.  For instance, Sokolov declared in the course of the same speech that “ the Government which had at first somewhat hesitated, subsequently found itself obliged to sanction all our actions.”

In order to prevent the Government from doing anything disagreeable to the Soviet in future, a “ Contact Commission ” was elected consisting of five members (Skobelev, Steklov-Nakhamkes, Sukhanov-Gimmer, Filipovsky, and Chheidze), which “ by exercising constant organised pressure was to force the Government to execute all and sundry demands ” (words uttered by Steklov at the same meeting of the Soviet, March 22).  This commission did not take part in the Cabinet meeting but came to the Marie Palace, where mixed meetings were arranged between Ministers and members of the Executive Committee.

The Provisional Government denied the existence of a dual authority, and when delegates from the front presenting themselves to Prince Lvov said that the front was disturbed by rumours of a dual authority, the Ministers hastily reassured them.  Kerensky announced in April :  “Complete unity of aims and purpose exists between the Provisional Government and the Soviet.  The Provisional Government is invested with the fullness of power” (Izvestia, No. 40).  And Tsereteli announced at the conference of Soviets :  “ Only irresponsible circles can speak of dual authority.  Only one order is now conceivable in Russia, and that is Revolutionary Order.  The Provisional Government as the responsible organ of the bourgeoisie now stands in the same path ” (April 21).

But, as a matter of fact, from the very first days of the Revolution the new regime was double-headed.  Such acute difference in relation to the fundamental problems of the political reconstruction of Russia existed between these two groups that any compromise became impossible.  The Bolsheviks proved to be the ballast which heeled the whole ship to the Left.  They were, however, only able to do so because the Revolutionary Democracy was closely akin to them.  At first the Bolsheviks had no real success in Soviet circles, and the political aspirations and doctrines of the Soviet Centre followed an independent course of development.  The Bolshevist current was only one of many factors, and far from being the most important one.

But when Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, and many other less known but none the less pernicious Bolsheviks appeared upon the scene, they drew the rest of the Socialists, day by day and step by step, ever further to the Left.  And, first and foremost, they started to prepare for the seizure of power, availing themselves of every means within their reach :  of the violence and vagueness of the rising popular forces, German aid, the weakness of the more statesmanlike elements, and the general weariness of a poverty-stricken, ignorant people exhausted by the double burden of an evil Tsarist regime and the terrible military tension ;  and, finally, of the blindness of their Socialist comrades.

1 N.D. Sokolov, a lawyer of rather limited intelligence, who acquired a shameful celebrity as one of the authors of Order No. 1.