Liberty to Brest-Litovsk


Attitude towards President Wilson—Cool reception of Allied Socialists
—Friendly relations with Zimmerwaldists—The Robert Grimm Scandal
—The Stockholm Conference.

THE Revolutionary Democracy tried to lead the new Russia along the path indicated by the resolutions passed by the international Socialistic minority.  This also determined its relations with the Allies and with Germany.

As the Soviet politicians persistently asserted that the war must be decided, not by the force of bayonets, but by that of the Labour “ Internationale,” they were not too pleased when the United States joined in the war.  In this new belligerent coming to the aid of the Allies and of Russia they only saw a new obstacle to a democratic peace.  When on the 7th June President Wilson issued his Note on the objects of the war in which he said that the war must not end in the re-establishment of a status quo ante, that nations must not be subjugated, but that damage done should be made good, the answer to this in the Izvestia, the official organ of the Soviet and of Revolutionary Democracy, was as follows :

President Wilson is mistaken if he thinks that such ideas can enter the hearts of the Revolutionary people of Russia.  Russian Revolutionary Democracy knows too well and feels too sure that the road to the passionately longed-for universal peace lies only through the united struggle of the toilers all over the world against world imperialism.  It cannot be misled by any hazy and high-flown phrases.  It is obvious what feelings will be aroused by the strange attempt to represent the spirit of brotherhood and peace, which is growing stronger and stronger in international Socialism, as being the result of German intrigue.  That is not the language spoken by the democracy of Russia.

Other Socialistic papers followed suit.  The Social Revolutionary Dielo Naroda (People’s Cause) declared that “ Liberty and right are obtained by the people by means of an internal struggle, by revolution.”  Gorky’s half-Bolshevist Novaia Zhizn (New Life), in analysing the Note, says :  “ Only a decisive universal rupture of civil peace, only the most pitiless war on the imperialistic cliques of all countries will save Europe from plunging into savagery.”  This displeasure at Wilson’s “ imperialism ” found official expression in the Note which on the 13th June, Tereshchenko, Minister of Foreign Affairs, delivered to M.A. Thomas.  In that Note the Russian Government proposed to convene a conference of the Allies for the purpose of reconsidering the agreements as to the aims of the war.  By this means did the Socialistic Ministers carry out part of the plan of international policy drawn up by the Soviet.  Obviously this plan did not include the maintenance of friendly relations with the Socialists of Allied countries who had come to greet the Russian people, now freed from the yoke of Tsarism.  They had a cool reception from the Socialist Ministers, and a still cooler one from the Soviet.  And how could it be otherwise ?  The new arrivals were representatives of the Socialistic majority which, in England and France, had supported the policy of defending their country against the Germans, while the Soviet, as well as Lenin, took the point of view of the Zimmerwald minority, and had no sympathy with “ chauvinist Socialists.”

When the first delegation of French and English Socialists came to Russia in April, the Bolsheviks at once raised a clamour against them.  On the 29th April, at a meeting of the Social-Democratic party in Moscow, convened in honour of the Allied Socialists, the Bolsheviks came forward with a declaration of protest in which they pointed out that the Socialist delegates represented the Government and not the people.  The Bolsheviks reminded them that, “ since the beginning of the war, part of the Socialists had forsaken the idea of class war and were in solidarity with the imperialistic bourgeoisie. . . . The representatives of this political tendency in England and France had taken part in Government, had entered bourgeois Ministries, and under the banner of ‘War to a finish’ had carried on a fierce struggle against Zimmerwald Socialists.”  As the delegates were representatives of the Right Socialistic wing the Bolsheviks would enter into no negotiations with them.  “ We consider it necessary to protest most decidedly against the claims of the delegates to speak in the name of all the Socialistic proletariat of their respective countries, and we consider it our duty to explain to Russian workmen that the majority of the French and English proletarians are far from taking a Socialist-chauvinist point of view.”

Similar assertions were made by Russian Zimmerwaldists at meetings and in the Press.  The French and English Socialists were forced to publish explanations that they were no pretenders, but fully qualified delegates of their respective parties, in which the majority were for carrying on a defensive policy.

The French delegates, M. Mouthey, M. Cachin, E. Lafont, reminded their hearers that among French Socialists the rift was not by any means as great as the Bolsheviks represented.  In France both the majority and the minority voted for war credits (with the exception of three votes).  The English delegates, Messrs. Thorne, O’Grady, and Sanders, declared that the Independent Labour Party, to which the Bolsheviks referred, hardly represented 1 per cent of organised Labour in England.

The very necessity for entering into such explanations shows how the Allied Socialists were received.  And it was not only the Bolsheviks who were hostile.  The Executive Committee also issued a declaration which again showed the ambiguity of its position, so caustically pointed out in Lenin’s pamphlet.  The occasion for this declaration was the question asked by Mr. Philip Snowden in Parliament concerning the visit of the British delegates to Russia.  The Executive Committee made haste to reply, indirectly condemning the Allied Socialists for their culpable friendliness to their respective Governments.  “ Being fully aware that the delegates represent only one fraction of the British Labour movement, the Executive Committee has not, however, been informed of the special relation of the British Government to its mission.”

Then follows an appeal to the “ Socialistic parties and trade unions of these countries, with a formal invitation to take part in the celebrations of Russian Liberty, through properly elected representatives of the whole Labour movement.”

This hazy declaration is full of half-expressed condemnation and distrust of the Allied delegates who do not hold to the strictly class point of view.

Even such prominent Labour leaders as Messrs A. Henderson, Albert Thomas, and Vandervelde met with no success among the Revolutionary Democracy.  But when the Socialists of the Central Powers appeared, they were received with open arms, no questions were raised, and a confidence was shown them that disregarded not only caution but even common sense.  The Austrian Otto Bauer, then a prisoner of war in Russia, took part in meetings of the Executive Committee, and after spending some days in this centre of the Revolutionary Democracy, left for Austria.  An important part in the activities of the Soviet was played by the Socialists of enemy States who had come from abroad, and who continued to work for the international minority.  Afterwards it was found that this internationalism was quite compatible with German imperialism, working in conjunction with the Kaiser’s diplomacy.  But their connection with Berlin has not been fully revealed.  Both the Bolsheviks and members of the Soviet persistently demanded the abolition of secret diplomacy.  They were diligently supported by the agents of the “ Internationale ” from abroad.  But their own diplomacy, their own international connections and affairs were carefully veiled in secrecy, and only chance lifted the curtain here and there.

The greatest influence on the Soviet was wielded by Ganetski-Fürstenberg, Karl Radek, and Robert Grimm (especially the latter).  The past and present activities of these heroes of Zimmerwald were exposed in the Russian press, both in the Cadet (Constitutional-Democratic) papers and in those of the national Socialists, especially in Plekhanov’s Yedinstvo (Unity).  The resulting portraits were far from attractive.  Karl Radek, an Austrian Jew and a journalist, had been expelled from three Socialistic parties, from the Polish party in Galicia, from the P.P.S. in Russian Poland, and from the German Social-Democratic party.  In the Lemberg Socialistic paper Naprzód (Forward) for September 7, 1910, a letter was published from E. Hecker, the editor, announcing that Radek had been dismissed from the editorial staff, “ not because of any difference of opinion, but because he lounged about taverns, and called for food and drink and did not pay, and because when he was on the staff of the Naprzód he had stolen a comrade’s watch.  A poor lady teacher backed a bill for him, which he did not meet, and the teacher had to pay it with her last penny.  This action is ethically worse than the theft of a watch,” says E. Hecker.  This resulted in his comrades giving him the nickname of “ Kradek,” which means “ thief.”  Hecker’s letter was reprinted in 1917 in the Rech and was not refuted either by Radek or his friends.  This petty adventurer came with Lenin from Switzerland via Berlin and Stockholm.

Ganetski-Fürstenberg was an adventurer on a larger scale, a collaborator with Parvus the provocateur, a Socialist with a very tarnished reputation.  Parvus (Helfand) had grown rich, as he asserted, by corn contracts in Turkey, or, as others declared, through the generosity of the German Government.  During the war Parvus settled in Copenhagen, where he opened a suspicious Socialistic bureau.  His friend Ganetski-Fürstenberg had been sent out of Denmark for shady smuggling transactions.  This same Ganetski was an old friend of Lenin’s, and together with the latter and with Zinoviev, at the Congress of Russian Social-Democrats in Austria, they whitewashed Malinovski, the important agent provocateur.  Malinovski had been a Social-Democratic member of the Duma, where he was an extremist, acting under double orders—those of Lenin on the one hand, and of the director of the Tsar’s police on the other (the exact documents referring to this fantastic affair have been published).  Through Ganetski-Fürstenberg the Bolsheviks used to obtain large sums of money from an unknown source abroad.  This was discovered after the first attempt at a coup d’état made by the Bolshevists in July 1917.

The activity of Robert Grimm is even more curious as characteristic not merely of Russian Socialists but of Zimmerwaldists in general.  A Swiss, and the president of the Zimmerwald Conference, he had yet on August 8, 1914, voted for the Swiss army estimates, and wrote in the Berner Tageblatt :  “ Our valiant soldiers, who do their duty without a murmur, must feel behind them the unanimous support of an organised people.”  But it proved that this internationalist, as not infrequently happens, had two standards—one for his own country and another for Russia.  As soon as the Revolution began Grimm hurried off to Russia.  Milyukov, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, knew that Grimm was not only bringing with him the resolutions of the Zimmerwald and Kienthal Conferences, but had likewise been commissioned by the German Government to prepare the ground for a separate peace.  Milyukov refused absolutely to let him into the country, in spite of all the persistence shown in the matter by the Department of Foreign Communications attached to the Soviet.  When Milyukov had to leave, Tereshchenko, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, allowed Grimm to enter Russia after Skobelev and Tsereteli had vouched for him.  Grimm was solemnly received by the Soviet, and elected member of the Executive Committee, to which the Russian Social Democrat Plekhanov could gain no admittance.  Grimm immediately began his propaganda in the barracks, preaching a separate peace with Germany.

The Mensheviks who had vouched for him were abashed.  Skobelev said they did not think that separate peace was part of the Zimmerwald programme.  But their position became distinctly delicate when on the 16th June the Provisional Government published a cipher telegram, dated 5th June, from Hoffmann, the Swiss Minister of Foreign Affairs, to M. Odiet, the Swiss chargé d’affaires in Petrograd.  In this telegram Hoffmann commissioned M. Odiet to inform Grimm by word of mouth that “ Germany will not make any further advance as long as an agreement with Russia seems possible.  After conversing with people of high position I am convinced that Germany is seeking a peace with Russia, honourable to both parties.”  Then came the possible conditions of peace, defined in very general terms.  On being made aware of the existence of this telegram, Tsereteli and Skobelev were commissioned by the Government to call on Robert Grimm for explanations.  The latter declared that he knew nothing of the matter, that he considered the telegram “ a German attempt to make use of his Petrograd speeches in favour of a universal peace.”  But when the Socialist Ministers demanded that the Zimmerwald leader should declare publicly that “ he considered such procedure on the part of the German Government a piece of underhand provocation, and the mediation of the Swiss Minister in this matter as flunkeyism and an encouragement of provocation,” Grimm of course refused to do so, saying that such a declaration might be prejudicial to the neutrality of his native country.  This internationalist could not afford to quarrel with his country or with Germany.  The Ministers who had stood surety for him, instead of trying to penetrate further into his pacifist activity, suggested that the president of the Zimmerwald Conference should leave Russia, which he did very precipitately.

On the day after his departure there was a Congress of Soviets at which the Left wing protested against the arbitrary expulsion of such a prominent internationalist as Grimm.  The Ministers Skobelev, Tsereteli, and Kerensky had to defend and exonerate themselves.  As yet the Bolsheviks had no majority in the Soviets, and the motion by which it was found that Tsereteli and Skobelev had acted “ in accordance with the interests of the Russian Revolution and of international Socialism ” was passed by a majority of 640 to 121.

Then the Bolshevist minority, together with the internationalists, billed the whole of Petrograd with invitations to meetings of protest against the expulsion of their comrade Grimm.  A few days after, the official Izvestia No. 98 stated that the cipher telegram from Hoffmann was merely a reply to a cipher telegram from Grimm himself, in which he had described the state of affairs in Russia for the information of the German Government.  “ The longing for peace is universal,” wrote Grimm.  “ Obstacles to its attainment are raised by France and difficulties made by England.  At present negotiations are being carried on with them. . . . One of these days it may be expected that pressure will be put on them.  The only thing that might prevent the success of negotiations would be a German advance on the eastern front.  Let me know about the military aims of the Government of which you are aware, as this will guarantee negotiations.”

Thus part of Robert Grimm’s secret diplomacy was unmasked.  He turned out to be a German agent, and had succeeded in imposing on the Russian Socialist Ministers by an impudent lie.  But how could they help believing the president of the Zimmerwald Conference himself, when that Conference was to them what Church Councils were to Catholics in the Middle Ages ?

While assuming an attitude of ill-concealed unfriendliness towards the Allied Socialists, who supported their respective Governments in the struggle against Germany, the Soviet considered it its duty to take the initiative in paving the way to peace.

This Socialist-pacifist policy reflected the political outlook of the leaders of the first Soviet.  The actual methods of realising this policy were as yet obscure, but the Soviet leaders knew that the Socialist Patriots who were represented by the delegates from Italy, France, and England, would not share their point of view.  In the Entente countries the Socialists had proclaimed a class truce during the war with Germany.  The behaviour of the German Social-Democracy had proved that the solidarity of the international proletariat could not be depended upon, whereas it was precisely on this solidarity that the Russian Revolutionary Democracy built up its hopes of a democratic peace.

One of the means towards attaining this purpose was the so-called Conference.  It became the subject of endless talk and passionate arguments.  Lengthy proclamations and resolutions were sown broadcast by telegraph and wireless.  And although the Conference remained a mere project, nevertheless this unborn international infant had its passionate defenders and no less passionate opponents.

It is not my purpose to follow the endless and not excessively interesting history of the correspondence and intercourse between the various Socialist groups and committees upon the subject of the proposed Stockholm Conference.  Especially so as many, and perchance the most interesting negotiations of all, took place in the secret recesses of international Socialist diplomacy, still jealously concealed from the criticism of public opinion.

From whom did the initiative proceed ?  What was the part played in all this by Austro-German Socialists, and what did they seek at the Conference ?  Did not Branting, the able and honourable Swedish Socialist, become the plaything of the no less clever but dishonest adventurer Parvus ?  As yet it is extremely difficult to give a precise answer to questions like these.

In any case Scheidemann’s and Adler’s visit to Copenhagen in April 1917 served as a stimulus for raising the question of a Socialist Conference, at which the Socialists of all belligerent countries should discuss war aims.  Meanwhile Helfand-Parvus had made Copenhagen his headquarters, and thence this adroit adventurer managed his miscellaneous enterprises, such as the contraband sale of expensive drugs for the Russian Army, the supply of cheap German coal for the needs of Danish co-operative societies, revolutionary propaganda in Russia, and perhaps not in Russia alone.  The coal transaction,1 being of great advantage to the Danish Socialist party, tended to strengthen Parvus’s position both in Germany and in Denmark.  As is generally known, the Danish Socialists were the most energetic in advocating the meeting of the Stockholm Conference, the invitation to attend it having been brought to the Petrograd Soviet at the beginning of May 1917 by the Danish Socialist Borgbjerg.  But this representative of Socialist diplomacy had the imprudence to bring in his other pocket a copy of Scheidemann’s peace terms, thereby clearly establishing the connection existing between the Stockholm device and the German Social-Democrats, who supported the Kaiser’s policy.

It should be noted that, from the standpoint of organised international Socialism, the preparations for the Stockholm Conference had taken an illegal course.  The right of calling such a conference belonged exclusively to the Central International Bureau and to its president Vandervelde, whereas Vandervelde, as well as most of the Italian and French Socialists, was opposed to a conference with German Socialists.  A separate Dutch-Scandinavian committee was therefore formed at Stockholm, and this committee assumed the initiative.  Simultaneously R. Grimm was sending out invitations to yet another Socialist Assembly—the third Zimmerwald Conference.  The Russian Socialists of the Centre, the then guiding spirits of the Petrograd Soviet, held the view that the victory of the Revolution laid an obligation on them to place themselves at the head of a world-wide Socialist movement.  They believed that history had placed the destinies of mankind in their hands, and therefore declining all proposals of the newly-arrived Socialists, they passed the following resolution :

The Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies assumes the initiative in the convocation of an international Socialist conference.  All parties and groups of the proletariat Internationale, who are ready to adopt the platform of the Soviet message to the peoples of the world, must be invited to take part in the Conference.

It should be added that the Allied Socialists, dazzled by the revolutionary successes of their Russian comrades, did not sufficiently endeavour to sober them down nor to bring them back from the abstract realm of revolutionary formulæ to the unfortunate realities of the war.  Such friendly reticence only strengthened the Petrograd Soviet’s childish assurance that they indeed formed the vanguard of world Socialism.  Russia’s poverty, the illiteracy of the masses, the absence of organisation among labour—all this faded away before the intoxicating sonority of revolutionary cant.

Upon the question of the Stockholm Conference some of the Allied Socialists seemed inclined to grant concessions to the Soviet.  The British Labour leader, A. Henderson, became one of the most passionate defenders of the scheme.  But upon his return to England from Russia he was met by strong opposition from the British workmen themselves.  In common with their French and Belgian brothers they had not the slightest desire to meet the Germans until France and Belgium were evacuated.

The British Government learnt from a telegram of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tereshchenko, that Kerensky’s Cabinet had adopted a very reserved attitude in respect to the Stockholm Conference and considered this enterprise as a purely party matter, its decisions being in nowise binding upon the Russian Government.

This was confirmed by Albert Thomas in one of his speeches :  “ The resolution to take part in the Conference, adopted in May, was provoked by a feeling of admiration for the Russian Revolution and the desire to lend it active support.  At present it is an open secret that Kerensky no longer exhibits the same interest in the Conference.”2

Having weighed all the alternatives in the balance, the Governments of France and England refused passports to members of the Stockholm Conference, thereby virtually sealing its fate.  The organisers of the Conference desired that it should constitute a powerful peace congress dictating its will to the Governments, but not a conspirative Socialist meeting.  The former plan proved to be impossible of realisation.  The Russian Socialist Centre groups proved incapable of altering the course of international relations.

It should be noted that the Bolsheviks were opposed to Stockholm.  They did not wish to sit with the Socialist Patriots, who according to Bolshevist opinion had falsified the Internationale for the gratification of their governments behind the Socialists’ backs.  Perhaps the Bolsheviks were also opposed to the Conference, because at the time they did not consider themselves strong enough to speak at a responsible international congress.  Or perhaps they hoped that Grimm might succeed in calling a third Zimmerwald Conference, the principles of which would be sympathetic not only to the Bolsheviks but also to Socialists of the Centre.

The Socialist Ministers gradually became more familiar with the machinery of government ;  they gained a clearer sense of the realities and practical limitations of Russian life, and began to make earnest endeavours to frame a more sober policy.  But the principles of the Zimmerwald Conference obsessed them like an evil spirit, distorting their good intentions, and drove them, sometimes against their will, along a path which led to the ruin and destruction of Russia.  And in the van, a noisy and brazen mob, ran the Bolsheviks, seducing the soldiers, labourers, and peasantry with lying promises and poisonous party cries.  The Revolutionary Democracy resisted, though weakly, and still tried to fight against the madness of these party cries.  But it could not help itself, because many of these cries were symbols of their common faith, because its own banners, as well as those of the Bolsheviks, bore the same device—class warfare and the dictatorship of one class over the whole nation.

Professing such principles, the Revolutionary Democracy was unable either to defend its native country or to reorganise the State on the basis of the new liberty attained, or even to hold the power it had for any length of time.

Perhaps one of the explanations and even extenuations of the weakness of the Socialistic Centre may lie in the fact that it was more scrupulous and humane than the extreme Left wing.  While calling on the masses to wage class warfare, the Centre, at the same time, did not desire any coercion and stopped half-way.  It intoxicated and weakened the soldiers by talking about a democratic peace, but bashfully withdrew from the idea of a separate peace, justly seeing in it treachery and destruction.  But the Bolsheviks feared nothing, lied always and to all, and were not squeamish as to their tools and means.

Although the whole Soviet welcomed the suspicious gang of Radek, Fürstenberg, Grimm, etc., as comrades, the latter were more akin to the Bolsheviks.  Leo Deutch, the old Russian Marxist and revolutionary, was right when he wrote in the Yedinstvo :  “ Why have people of a criminal type clustered round Lenin, especially from 1903, when the split in the Russian Social-Democratic party was brought about by him, until the present time ?  The spirit of the agent provocateur naturally clung to Lenin as the inevitable consequence of his tactics, expressed in the maxim—Any means are good enough.  It is known to the chronique scandaleuse of our party that Lenin and his assistants, Kameniev-Rosenfeldt and Zinoviev-Radomyslov, have committed acts which are clearly criminal.”

These and other accusations of the corruption of the Bolsheviks were almost daily to be met with in the pages of Russian papers, just as in every list of the Tsarist Okhranniks (secret police) half the names were those of Bolsheviks.  And among them were seen such prominent members as the deputy Malinovski, Tchernomazov, the editor of the Pravda (Truth), Schneur, who subsequently went to conclude peace with the Germans, and many others besides.

1 A detailed account is given in the booklet of the French Socialist P.G. La Chesnais, Parvus et le parti socialiste danois (Paris).

2 This quotation, as well as certain other data concerning the Stockholm Conference, is taken from P. Milyukov’s book, A History of the Second Russian Revolution.  He has been most friendly in allowing me the opportunity of using his MS. chapter upon “ The Struggle for a Democratic Peace.”  The book has appeared in Kiev.