Liberty to Brest-Litovsk
CHAPTER VII

REAR AND FRONT BROKEN THROUGH


Independent Ukraine and the Ministerial crisis—The July Bolshevist insurrection
—German advance—Front broken through—Disputes about Capital Punishment—
State of the army—The “ Save the Revolution ! ”—The Committees or powerful Government ?



IN July a series of very important events took place, which gave a clear idea of the extent of Russia’s dissolution.

The whole period from the entry of the Socialists into the Cabinet early in May, until the November Bolshevist revolution, is full of the tragically futile attempts of the Soviet Centre to effect a transition from the Zimmerwald position to that of State responsibility.  Although the Revolutionary Democracy with all the sincerity of despair tried to rally round Kerensky’s Government, and gave all its strength, all its best men, this transition proved impossible.  There was no opposition from the Right.  In spite of all the acuteness of the difference of opinions, both the Constitutional-Democrats and the employers’ party in Moscow sent their members to the Cabinet, although after every crisis it became more and more difficult to find a common language, since the Socialists were obstinately pursuing the path of class government as opposed to national.  The Left wing, i.e. the majority of the Social-Democrats and part of the Social-Revolutionaries, carried on an incessant agitation, both secret and open, striving to obtain the immediate introduction of the dictatorship of the proletariat.  The doctrinal exponent of this group was Lenin, while the practical executor was Trotsky.  In reality, Chernov, the Social-Revolutionary, was also working in that direction.  The Socialist Centre could not withstand the pressure put upon it.  Trusting neither the bourgeoisie nor the Radicals, the Centre gradually went over to the Left, lost its footing and fell, dragging after it the whole of the Russian population, in whose name the first and second Soviets had acted.

Bound to the Bolsheviks by their primary ideas and programme, the Socialists of the Centre, even after the July insurrection, could not break away from their “ comrades-in-ideas.”  Meanwhile, in July, both the Bolsheviks and the Germans almost simultaneously managed to break through the rear and front respectively.

Considering the vastness of Russia, the complicated network of military operations, the national, economic, party, and class conflicts,—the general chaos entailed by every revolution,—it is no easy matter to reconstruct the real history of the Russian Revolution, or even of separate episodes.  It is still more difficult to fix exactly where the casual and elemental end, and forethought, intention, and planning begin.  But there are certain coincidences, at whose meaning we may guess.

On the night of the 16th July a Bolshevist insurrection broke out in Petrograd.  It coincided with certain other events which shook the stability of the Russian State, with the declaration of the independence of the Ukraine, the Government crisis, and the German advance.

The dismemberment of Russia, aflame with revolution, began all over her vast area (on August 1, 1914, Russia occupied one-sixth of the whole surface of the earth).

First separate towns and boroughs, then whole provinces, would declare their independence.  And the weaker the Revolutionary Government grew, the more strongly was the separatist tendency of the component parts felt.  This is partly explained by the lawful feeling of self-preservation, by the desire to shield oneself from infection, anarchy, and political dissolution.  But it was likewise to a great extent due to political adventure and personal ambition.

The history of the Ukraine secession bears obvious traces of both one and the other of the aforesaid causes.  Strictly speaking, the Ukraine, as a definite political or even ethnological whole, never existed.  In bygone days Kiev was the capital of ancient Russia.  The inhabitants of a part of Southern Russia, i.e. the provinces of Poltava, Chernigov, Kiev, Volhynia, and Podolia, speak the South Russian language or dialect.  Philologists are still disputing as to whether this may be called a language.  Apparently it would be more correct to consider that there are three dialects of the common Russian language, namely, the Great Russian, White Russian, and Little Russian.  The last is likewise spoken by the Ruthenians in Galicia.  For several centuries the South Russian provinces lived the same life as the rest of the Russian Empire, and together with the rest of the population established both the Russian State and Russian culture.  But in addition Little Russia had her own culture, her own folklore, her own customs, her own songs, and even her own literature—the latter very poor as compared with that of Russia as a whole.  There were some far from numerous circles among the educated classes who made it their aim to arouse the national Ukraine spirit.  They were unsuccessful.  The Tsar’s Government, with its usual despotic narrowness and blind centralisation, fought against these as yet purely cultural aspirations of the Ukraine patriots by means of brutal repression.  It was even forbidden to print books in the Little Russian dialect, and the works of their poet Shevchenko could for a long time circulate only in manuscript.  When at last books and newspapers were allowed to be printed, the common people simply failed to understand them, since for the expression of the more complex, more abstract ideas, the Ukrainists employed the so-called Lvov or Lemberg language, which is entirely unfamiliar to the peasantry of Southern Russia.

The use of the Lvov literary language by the Ukrainians of Southern Russia to-day has a more than philological significance.  Those Ukrainians who under the Tsar’s regime found it impossible to work in Russia, took refuge among the kindred population of Eastern Galicia, where, under the protection of the Austrian Government, who sought in them a counterpoise to Polish influence and a lever for weakening Russia, they established in Lemberg a Ukrainian national and literary centre.  The movement was fostered not only from Vienna, but from Berlin.  The idea of enfeebling Russia by creating an independent Ukraine was a favourite theme of aggressive Austrian and German politicians before the war ;  and during the war a so-called “ League for the Liberation of the Ukraine ” was one of the chief instruments of the propaganda of the Central Powers in Eastern Europe.  The Russian Government watched this movement with the greatest suspicion, and shortly after the war began, closed down in Russia the Ukrainian Press, the long-standing restrictions on which had been relaxed after 1905.  The Revolution restored to the Ukrainians liberty of action, and Kiev became the centre of a new national movement in which both hitherto quiescent Russian Ukrainians and Ukrainians from Galicia took a very active part.  It should be added that the ardour of the Galician Ukrainians was stimulated by the political oppression they had suffered after the Russian occupation of Galicia.

In May a Congress assembled in Kiev loosely representing several parties, chiefly Socialists, which had adopted the Ukrainian national programme, and also a number of Ukrainian educational and co-operative organisations in the south of Russia.  This Congress was very demonstrative in its assertion of Ukrainian autonomy or home rule, but it was not separatist—indeed the separatists were at this stage in a very small minority.  The chief work of the Congress was to elect a sort of permanent parliament or Rada, which is the Ukrainian for Soviet or Council.  At first this Rada had no place in the Russian administrative system.  It was a purely private institution.  The representative of the Provisional Government in Kiev, as in other parts of Russia, was a Commissary (in place of the former Governor-General) who took counsel with a local Committee representing all parties and all sections of the population.  But the Ukrainian Rada was a very active organising centre, and made every effort to enforce its views both on the local Commissary and the military authorities, and on the Central Government.  It engaged in agitation among the peasantry and among the troops, and played, in fact, in Kiev the part that in Petrograd was played by the extreme Socialists.  Its nationalist propaganda was reinforced by demagogic Socialist appeals.

The primary aim of the Ukrainians was to create a force which would help them to attain their national objects.  They urged the Government to form Ukrainian regiments out of the Southern Russian soldiers in the army.  The Government, on the advice of the military authorities, refused.  Thereupon the Ukrainians formed in Kiev two regiments of their own, consisting chiefly of deserters, and seized the necessary arms and ammunition from the military stores.  This act of violence led to disorders, ending in concessions and compromise.  The Rada had strengthened its position by sheer daring, by the exercise of unlimited bluff.  As in Petrograd, so in Kiev the Provisional Government was unwilling to use force to check the process of disintegration, and the Ukrainian leaders, Professor Grushevsky, the literary leader of the movement in Lemberg, the Russian Ukrainian novelist Vinichenko, the insurance agent Petliura, and other lesser lights were emboldened by their unexpected success.  Early in July they formed a scheme for the autonomous administration of the indefinite area called the Ukraine, and flourished it threateningly in the face of the Provisional Government.

The Government, instead of giving an immediate reply, decided to delegate two of its members, Tsereteli and Tereshchenko, to Kiev to investigate the situation and report, but not to take any decision.  It so happened that Kerensky and Nekrasov were in Kiev at the time, and they took part unofficially in the negotiations with the leaders of the Rada.  Somehow the Ukrainians succeeded in so impressing the young Russian Ministers with the seriousness of the situation that these latter consented to a ready-made scheme for the establishment of a Ukrainian General Secretariat or Autonomous Government for the administration of the Ukraine.  The only important alteration in the scheme put forward by the Rada was the limitation of the territory in question from nine provinces to five.  The Russian Ministers exceeded their powers by signing an agreement, wired that they had done so, and on July 14 returned to Petrograd to report.

The Cadet members of the Government raised strong objections to the whole proceeding.  On the strength of independent reports they denied that the situation in the Ukraine was so serious as to necessitate such a farreaching concession.  Further they insisted that Tsereteli and Tereshchenko had exceeded their instructions in signing an agreement, and they denied the right of the Government to predetermine the mutual relations between the various parts of Russia, since such questions could only be decided by the Constituent Assembly.  Nekrasov declared that the scheme had the character of an ultimatum, and must be accepted as it stood.  After a heated debate the majority of the Ministers present accepted Nekrasov’s point of view.  Thereupon Shingarev and the other Cadet Ministers resigned on the ground that they could not be parties in a grossly illegal act.  That was in the evening of July 14.  On the following day this serious Ministerial crisis was overshadowed by much graver events.

From that time on, the Ukrainian movement gathered strength and became more and more extreme, until after the Bolshevist rising in November the Rada proclaimed the complete independence of the Ukraine, and, after various misadventures, concluded a few months later a separate peace with Germany.  The stand made by the Cadets against the dismemberment of Russia was severely condemned by the moderate Socialists, who regarded continual concessions as the only possible form of tranquil and orderly government.  They lived to rue their error.

The Government, after the retirement of the Cadets, maintained a feeble and unhappy existence throughout the throes of a violent crisis, which ended in the resignation of Prince Lvov, and the constitution of a third Provisional Government with Kerensky as Premier.

From that moment the predominance of the Socialists in the Government was assured, and therefore they may be considered responsible for all the acts and all the failures to act of the authorities.

At the time of this Ministerial crisis, and while negotiations were being carried on in regard to the new Ministers and their programmes, the Germans broke through the Russian line, and the Bolsheviks made an attempt to break through the rear.  On the night of the 16th-17th of July they instigated part of the Petrograd garrison to leave their barracks, and led them to the Taurida Palace, in order to force the Soviet to proclaim itself the, Government.  The Bolsheviks also summoned two warships from Cronstadt, manned by Bolshevist sailors.  Armoured cars and motor-lorries with machine-guns began to rush up and down the streets of the astonished capital.  On all sides there was a splutter of random firing.  Not only the victims, but even those who were shooting had a very vague idea of what was the matter, or of whom they were fighting against.

The firing went on for two days, during which Lenin, Trotsky, Lunacharsky, and other Bolshevist orators made speeches from the balcony of Kchesinska’s house, inciting the mob to overthrow the Government and take the power into their own hands.  The Executive Committee of the Soviet in session at the Taurida Palace was in danger and asked for help, for the exhortations of Tchernov and Prince Tsereteli, who tried to address the mob, nearly led to the arrest of the orators.  Cossacks were sent to the assistance of the Soviet, and were fired at by workmen with machine-guns.  The Bolsheviks tried to seize the Intelligence Department where the information concerning German spies was concentrated.  But they were driven off by the disabled soldiers, who in general showed no little steadiness and shrewdness in those days of general confusion and dismay.  The other regiments, i.e. the notorious Petrograd garrison, who were now transformed into a well-fed, lazy, revolutionary Pretorian guard, looked on indifferently at the Bolshevist insurrection.  Even then some one found a vindication of the indifference :  “ We don’t want to spill the blood of our brothers,” that is, to interfere in civil war.

The Government was at a complete loss.  It was only the day before, on Sunday evening, that the Cadet Ministers had left the Cabinet.  Kerensky had gone off to the front.  The insurrection of the Bolsheviks took place on Monday night.  All Tuesday, Prince Lvov was practically the sole representative of the Government, and his only guard were the disabled soldiers.

So little did the Revolutionary Democracy realise what was happening, so little was it inclined to regard the Bolsheviks as enemies of the people, that at the time when the Bolshevist machine-guns were shooting down the peaceful crowds in the streets, the Social-Revolutionary Gr. Schreider, Mayor of the Petrograd City Council, which had been already re-elected under the new universal suffrage law, announced that he had opened soup-kitchens for the Cronstadt sailors.  And the Socialist majority of the Council were indignant when the Cadet members announced that they saw no necessity to feed the sailors who had come to Petrograd to shoot peaceful citizens and overthrow the Government.

But however weak Prince Lvov’s Government might be, it still was firm enough to crush the insurrection by armed force.  It still had at its disposal some disciplined troops, capable of carrying out orders.  Troops were called out, and surrounded Kchesinska’s house and the barracks of the machine-gun regiment, the principal stronghold of Bolshevism.  Seeing that matters were taking an unpleasant turn, the sailors made haste to go back to Cronstadt.  Three days after the insurrection was put down, almost without bloodshed.  Public opinion expressed its indignation.  On all sides were heard demands that decisive measures should be taken against the insurgents, who had tried to bring about a civil war.  The Central Committee of the Cadet party passed a resolution demanding the immediate arrest of Lenin and his accomplices, and the protection of the freedom of Russia from any fresh attempts of this kind.  The Government ordered the ringleaders to be tried.  Measures were taken to disarm the principal supporters of Bolshevism—the machinegun regiments and the Red Army (the formation of which had at one time been advocated by the Izvestia).  Searches and arrests were ordered.  It seemed as if at last the Government were going to fight for the establishment of a firm authority.  The Soviet seemed as though it were ready to support the Government.  In one of its appeals it said that these street manifestations “ amounted to treachery.  Whoever makes an attempt in the rear to coerce the will of the plenipotentiaries of Democracy, is plunging a dagger into the back of the Revolutionary Army now fighting against the Kaiser’s troops, and is stirring up civil war in its ranks.”

But here again the Revolutionary Democracy stopped half-way, and could not muster enough courage or good sense to draw the logical conclusions from the behaviour of its Left wing.  On the 20th July, three days after the insurrection, Alexinsky, a Social-Democrat of the Plekhanov group, and the Social-Revolutionary Pankratiev (an old revolutionary) wrote to the papers saying that they had documentary proofs that the Bolsheviks had received money from Berlin, through Stockholm.  Even the banks were named :  the Disconto Gesellschaft, Nya Bank, the Siberian Bank.  The names of the intermediaries were also given :  Parvus, Ganetsky, Sumenson, and Kozlovsky.  The first result of this disclosure was that Alexinsky was not admitted to the Soviet.  The papers raised a cry that the Bolsheviks had received money from the Germans, and the Soviet promised to make a strict inquiry into the matter, but begged that there might be “ no expression of opinion with regard to the events or to comrade Lenin.”  One must contrast this careful attitude towards the Bolsheviks who, according to the words of the Soviet itself, had plunged a dagger into the back of the army, with the ease with which the Soviet discredited and insulted the Russian officers, generals, and statesmen of the defencist camp, in order to understand what were the hopes, and where lay the sympathies, of the Revolutionary Democracy.

Kerensky, Minister of War, reported to the Government on the ruinous effect the events of Petrograd and Bolshevist propaganda were having on the troops at the front.  After some debate, orders were given for the arrest of Lenin, Zinoviev, Kameniev, Trotsky, and others.  In the wireless message sent by Kerensky to various places it was declared :  “ It has been proved without any doubt that the disorders in Petrograd were organised with the help of the agents of the German Government.  At the present time the disorders have been completely suppressed.  The ringleaders and persons who have been stained by fraternal blood and by crimes against the Motherland and the Revolution are to be arrested.”  The telegram ended with an appeal to rally round the Government and the organs of Democracy, for the sake of security “ against the foreign foe and his allies in our own camps” (21st July).

This sounded all the more impressive as it came from the head of the Government.  Kerensky undertook to form a new Cabinet, and the Soviet Executive Committee promised him its unlimited support.  A somewhat complicated and verbose appeal, issued in regard to this, ended as follows :  “Revolutionary discipline must encase the country like strong armour.  The Government will, as one man, begin the struggle against the counter-revolution, and for the organisation of revolutionary order.”

Another appeal made by the Soviet declared :  “ The insane attempt (of the Bolsheviks) has caused a great reaction among the masses, causing a tendency to panic which may issue in a counter-revolution.”

The anxieties in connection with the struggle against this counter-revolution (which was indeed threatening not from the Right, but the Left) quite hid from the members of the Soviet even the possibility of any military danger.

In the meantime, Petrograd had learnt of the shameful behaviour of the troops at the front, resulting in the Germans breaking the Russian line.  An official communiqué of the 21st July even stated the reasons of this disaster, saying that “ the 607th Regiment left the trenches of its own accord and retired, in consequence of which neighbouring troops likewise retreated, thereby enabling the enemy to develop his successes.  Our defeat was due to the now inveterate habit of discussion by the troops in place of obedience, so that elements who did advance were left unsupported, and in some cases positions were abandoned when no enemy pressure was felt.”

Every day the newspapers gave further particulars.  It was clear that the ruin of the army was an accomplished fact, the ruin which had been feared by patriots from the first days of the Revolution, and against which the public had been warned by every military authority.

On the 23rd July the telegram of the Commissaries of the XI. Army was received.  This was the first terrible, public acknowledgement of the state of dissolution in the army.  It was issued, not by the Cadets, not by any Generals, but by representatives of the Revolutionary Democracy, and the impression was therefore all the greater.

The German advance against the XI. Army, which began on the 6th July, is becoming calamitous, and is even threatening to ruin Revolutionary Russia.  There is an abrupt and perilous change in the spirit of the troops, lately advancing by the heroic efforts of the thoughtful minority.  The will to advance has rapidly evaporated, the majority of the regiments are in a state of increasing dissolution, there is no authority or subordination whatever, persuasion and protests have lost their force, and those who make them are threatened and sometimes shot.  There have been cases when the order to advance at once to the rescue has been discussed for hours at meetings, with the result that the reserves have been twenty-four hours late in arriving.  Not infrequently the troops abandoned their trenches after the first shots of the enemy.  Hundreds of versts to the rear streams of fugitives may be seen, with rifles or without, healthy, fit, lost to all shame, feeling themselves quite immune from all punishment.  Sometimes whole regiments retreat in this manner.  The members of the Army and Front Committees and Commissaries are unanimous in acknowledging the necessity for extreme measures. . . . To-day the Commander-in-Chief of the XI. Army, with the consent of the Commissaries and Committees, has given orders to fire on the fugitives.  Let the whole country know the truth about what has taken place, let it shudder, and find the courage to fall ruthlessly on all those who are ruining Russia by their faint-heartedness, and are betraying their country and the Revolution.

The Germans were driving back the Russian Army.  It became necessary to evacuate Galicia in haste, to leave districts once taken at a great cost.  The retreat was accompanied by rioting and crime.  And on all sides demands were heard for the re-introduction of capital punishment in the army, as the only means of restoring weakened discipline, of stopping the final decay of the army.  The Commander-in-Chief of the south-western front, General Kornilov, wired demanding the restoration of discipline and of capital punishment :

I, General Kornilov, who have given all my life for my country, declare that our Motherland is perishing.  An army of ignorant men who have lost their senses, unprotected by authority from systematic corruption and dissolution, lost to all feelings of manly dignity, is in full flight.  On fields which cannot even be called fields of battle there is a reign of horror, disgrace, and shame, such as the Russian Army has not known since its formation. . . . The mild measures of the Government have weakened all discipline. . . . Death from the hands of our own brethren is always hovering over the army. . . . Capital punishment will save many innocent lives at the cost of those of a few traitors, betrayers, and cowards.

Even then General Kornilov was accused of counter-revolutionary tendencies, but his views were shared by the Commissary of the south-western front, the well-known revolutionary, Boris Savinkov.

An able writer, who for many years was the chief leader of the militant Social-Revolutionaries, the terrorist who in Tsarist times had organised the assassination of Ministers and of the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovitch, Savinkov was clothed in all the panoply of revolutionary authority, and the Soviet found it more difficult to dispose of him than of General Kornilov.  Two days after the first telegram telling of the dissolution of the XI. Army, Savinkov telegraphed that the VII. Army, which had been prepared to take the offensive, was also running away.

The heroes that have fallen in battle inspired the army to fight valiantly, but now that they are dead, the army is running away.  How shall I answer for the bloodshed if I do not insist that with an iron resolution such order and discipline shall be immediately introduced into the army as will prevent the cowardly and faint-hearted making a breach in the front.  Men who of their own accord abandon their trenches bring ruin on whole regiments and on their comrades who are faithfully doing their duty, and these deserters cover both the Revolution and Russia with eternal disgrace.  There is no choice :  the death penalty for those who refuse to risk their lives for their country, for land and liberty.

But the reality was even more terrible.  The Russian soldiers, who had lately been so self-sacrificing and heroic in doing their duty, now seemed to be possessed by devils, and turned into a mob of cowards and criminals.  Even Savinkov had not the courage to tell all that took place during the retreat.  Only about a month after, when fresh news was daily brought of the shameful behaviour of the soldiers, and when the Revolutionary Democracy listened, sighed, and carried on endless discussions about the advisability of introducing capital punishment, Savinkov’s mother published an account of a conversation she had had with her son.  She had trembled so often for his life during the Tsar’s reign ;  she herself had sympathised with and assisted her son’s revolutionary activity, and she was always against capital punishment, and was convinced that her son shared her views.  But he told her the frightful story of a small town called Kalush, where the retreating Russian Army yielded to its most brutal instincts.

My heart sank with horror at the tale, when I heard how publicly, in the sight of everybody, in the very street, a savage horde amused itself by violating young and old ;  when, one after another, in an uninterrupted stream, these savages gratified their brutal instincts on what was already the corpse of a child, and with laughter and yells pointed to the mother, lying in hysterical convulsions near the spot ; . . . when at one blow they struck off the head of every one who dared to protest ;  when they sent treacherous bullets into the backs not of their enemies, but of their own heroes ;  when, wildly hooting, whistling shrilly, they lifted up on their bayonets the commander who had attempted to stop their shameful flight . . . then I understood . . . I understood !  And how easy it seemed to me, after all these refined executions, was death by shooting.  (See the Rech, August 9, 1917.)

This nightmare then seemed incredible.  Since then every day of Russian life has accustomed us to the terrible, has shown what a mob may turn into when deprived of discipline and drunk with unlimited liberty.  In the summer of 1917 the papers began to be filled with stories of robberies, oppression, murders, crimes, both wholesale and individual.  Not infrequently they were committed under the pretext of land confiscation, the struggle against capitalism, settlement of accounts with the bourgeoisie and the counter-revolutionaries.  But, by whatever name it went, it was wicked oppression.  These were all forerunners of that bloody whirlwind which was to break over Russia, when the triumphant Bolsheviks began to inaugurate the reign of Marxism and Communism.

Of course, neither Prince Lvov’s nor Kerensky’s Government encouraged oppression, by whomsoever committed.  They tried to bring the masses to their senses.  But only by words, and not by deeds.  The most terrible occurrences, the most disgraceful corruption of the army, and the most shameless dissolution of the Russian State could not tear away these peculiar rulers from academic dogmatism, nor bring them into the path of an actual fight for the right, for order, for the safety of Russia.

During the first eight months, individuals, the crowd, and whole organisations grew accustomed to commit those pogroms, insults, oppression, and crimes, which would subsequently be signed by the Soviet authorities in the form of decrees.

Sometimes it seemed as if that cry of “ I understand !  I understand !” which burst from Mme. Savinkov would burst likewise from the Government—from the Soviet.

When Kerensky was informed that the committee of the south-western front had decided to shoot those who ran away, he approved of that “ truly revolutionary decision.”  But later on, in the heat of the dispute about capital punishment, when all the commanders, all sensible people, cried out that capital punishment was necessary, that without it the army could not be saved, the same Kerensky solemnly declared that he had never as yet signed a single death sentence.

The hesitation and indecision of the Government only increased the ferment in the army.  The best soldiers and officers paid for this weakness.  Kornilov was right when, in the summer of 1917, he said that it was necessary to execute the few in order to save the rest who had not lost all conception of honour.  The sense of duty, not infrequently attaining the heights of heroism, was at that time still alive in the Russian Army.  In battle officers went ahead, but often soldiers followed them.  And among them, mingling with the heroes, the traitors carried on their base traffic, unpunished and unashamed, overwhelming the simple-minded soldiers with a hail of incomprehensible words, thereby unloosing the hands of scoundrels and cowards.  Truly terrible was the position of honest soldiers of all ranks, from General to private, when they saw how the orderly military organisation, in which every one knew his place, was turning into a disorderly mob, no longer bound together by the old discipline, and as yet not united by any new moral demands.

In private letters from the front (which are always characteristic of the mood of the army), a real cry of despair is becoming more and more insistent.  Here, for instance, is a letter written before the July (1917) Bolshevist mutiny, by a twenty-four-year-old officer who had thrown up the university at the outbreak of the war and volunteered as a private to fight the Germans, had taken part in many a hard battle, and had received several military decorations.  He writes :

In spite of all the difficulty of creating anything at present, I still think that we shall be able to establish some sort of order.  It is very hard at present.  At times it seems as if we could manage it, but then again despair overcomes us.  The cause of all the trouble is the awful ignorance of the soldiers ;  they are rough and unusually tactful by turns.  Everything must be looked on as an excess. . . . But it is awfully hard to lead these men to battle, intoxicated as they are with some kind of liberty, and thinking so little of fighting.

Still more disheartening is the letter of another officer who, before the war, had been a schoolmaster at a factory and in close touch with the workmen.  During the first days of the Revolution he enjoyed the happiness of freedom, together with the soldiers.  Then irresponsible agitators descended upon them, and began to egg on the soldiers to undermine their confidence in their officers.

The only comfort now is that they look upon even Kerensky as a venal bourgeois, a reactionary and imperialist.  Now I can feel no uplifting of spirit.  I go forward with clenched teeth, with all my might trying to stifle the feeling of hopelessness which has overwhelmed me.  But don’t be anxious about me.  Lacking faith and an uplifting of spirit, there is yet a feeling of duty, and I shall have strength enough to do it.

The same pessimism in regard to the events at the front is seen in letters of doctors and nurses who were living the same life as the army and saw all that was going on.

Their position was as difficult as that of all educated people.  The committees, elected by an absurd suffrage system, encouraged by a blind and irresponsible demagogic revolutionary democracy, were completely upsetting the work of the medical and sanitary organisations.  Illiterate orderlies conducted the elections, distributed the duties among the doctors, insulted the nurses, discharged them, upset the patients, who, before consenting to be operated upon, would call a meeting of the committee of lower employees and ask for their competent opinion as to whether it was necessary to amputate a gangrened leg or not.

The doctors and nurses bore all this.  They could not throw up their work, nor leave the sick and wounded entrusted to their care.  With clenched teeth, under a hail of insult and humiliation, like the Russian officers they went on doing their duty.  Their bitterness was increased by seeing the soldiers turning into a mob of “ revolted slaves ” (one of Kerensky’s most apt expressions).

In my ward I have some wounded of the mutinied regiments.  They have already managed to fraternise with our orderlies, on the basis of common ideals, namely, to take care of their own skins, and not to bother about either their comrades or their country.  One feels quite powerless before such an obstinate and stupid gang, deaf to all ideas of duty and truth.

The above was written in the middle of July by a young nurse, who had worked at the front since the beginning of the war.  I had seen her at work, I had seen how cheerfully and devotedly she worked for the Russian Army, bringing brightness and cheerfulness into the hard conditions of life at the front by her generous and superabundant youth.  But now this energetic, self-sacrificing, merry girl was absolutely disheartened.

And how could she help losing heart ?  The nurses of the Northern front who had come to the Congress at Minsk asked the soldiers :

“ Our faith is shattered, and a bitter question arises Whom are we serving ?  Those who are going forth to die for their country, or those who are sowing anarchy and killing the champions of a brighter future ? ”

Many others asked themselves similar bitter questions.  Later on, in consequence of the Bolshevist coup d’état, Russia was fated to drink the cup to the dregs, to know what a destructive force the army of many millions might become after throwing off the last vestiges of authority.

Military men had already foreseen this, and had made every effort to stop the process of decay.  The Commander - in - Chief, Kornilov, prohibited meetings within the zone of military operations, but could not prevent whole car-loads of the Pravda and other Bolshevist literature arriving at the front.  The civilians at the head of the Soviet and the Government did not believe the Generals.  The secession of the Ukraine, the evacuation of Galicia, and the gangrene in the army, the insurrection of the Bolsheviks, which had revealed their connection with Germany—all this was not enough to remove the scales from the eyes of the Revolutionary Democracy, to make it understand where the storm came from.  Its relations with the Bolsheviks were as friendly as heretofore.  After the first few days of panic, when the Socialistic Press reproached the followers of Lenin for having “ plunged a dagger into the back of the Revolution,” it again turned all its attention to the foes on the Right.

“ After having skimmed the cream from the pseudo-revolutionary movement let loose by the Bolsheviks, the counter-revolutionaries are hastening to take the necessary repressive measures for their own purposes ” says the Izvestia for 26th July.

We find the same note in the Novaia Zhizn, the paper of the influential Russian writer, Maxim Gorky, which, under the guidance of a group of Social-Democratic Internationalists, was very persistent in trying to prove that salvation lay only in the creation of “ strong revolutionary power.”  “ No one except the Soviets was able to exert such power.”  And this power was required—to fight the counter-revolutionaries.

After this, Lenin and Zinoviev of course had the right to publish an “ open letter ” in order to explain that they had merely disappeared in the name of liberty, and did not wish to give themselves up into the hands of the counter-revolutionaries.

“ Only the Constituent Assembly, if it be convened and convened not by the bourgeoisie, will have the right of expressing its views on the order of the Provisional Government for our arrest.”  These words regarding the jurisdiction of the Constituent Assembly have a peculiar flavour at the present time, when the Bolsheviks have shown what they understand by its rights.  Of course, even before this they did not hide their theoretical contempt for Right and Liberty, and, ever since they existed as a party, have given sufficient practical proofs of the perfect shamelessness of their tactics.  But so strong were the ties which bound the other Socialists to the Bolsheviks that it was beyond the power of the Socialist Centre to break them.  This was done later by the Bolsheviks themselves.  But in the summer of 1917 they did not want an open rupture.  Their object was to detach the Soviets from non-Socialistic Russia, so as to be able to carry out the Marxist programme more rapidly, and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat.

But still Revolutionary Democracy was not prepared to attack the bourgeoisie.  It did not want to drive it away, but merely to force it to adopt the Soviet programme.  In regard to this a struggle took place which made it very difficult for Kerensky to form a new Cabinet.  Prince Lvov resigned on the 20th July, explaining in a letter in the papers the reasons for his resignation.  He could not accept the programme proposed by the Socialist Ministers and accepted by the Provisional Government.  “ I cannot agree to it, in view of its being an obvious departure from the non-party idea to that of seeking to attain purely Socialistic, party aims.”  He saw this, first of all, in the intention of the Government to declare for a republic without waiting for the Constituent Assembly, which ought to determine the form of Government.  But the chief difference of opinion between the first Premier of the Provisional Government and the other Ministers was in regard to the land question.

“ Though I am an advocate for the transference of the land to the labouring peasantry,” says Prince Lvov, “ nevertheless, I think that the Land Bills introduced by the Minister of Agriculture are unacceptable.”

At that time the Minister of Agriculture was Victor Chernov, who was supported by the Social Revolutionary party.  His Bill was a true reflection of the programme and ideology of that party in the solution of the land problem.  They considered that all the land ought to be taken away from the landowners, without any compensation.  Every toiler had a right to the land, but as soon as he ceased to till it with his own hands, the land was to be taken away.  Land must not be either bought or sold, and could not be private property, as the land belonged to God.  This was the only time the Social Revolutionaries used the name of God.  In less poetical language this meant that the land ought to belong to the Government.

These general ideas of agrarian socialism began, with the assistance of V. Chernov and his comrades, to assume the form of legislative projects.  On resigning, Prince Lvov thus characterised them :  “ The Ministry of Agriculture is passing laws which undermine the national ideas of right.  Not only do these laws fail to combat the tendency to seize property, not only do they fail to bring agricultural relationships into their normal channel, but they justify, as it were, the ruinous arbitrary seizures of land that are going on all over Russia, they confirm the seizures already accomplished, and strive to place before the Constituent Assembly an already determined agrarian question.

“ I consider the Land programme of the Minister of Agriculture ruinous to Russia, because it will leave Russia bankrupt, ruined both morally and materially.”

The ensuing anarchy in the villages to a considerable extent confirmed his opinion, but at the same time any attempts to restrict the peasantry in their seizures of land were considered to be manifestations of the counter-revolutionary tendency, so much feared by Socialists.

When, after the resignation of Prince Lvov and the Cadets, Kerensky and the Revolutionary Democrats who supported him began to seek for new men and a new platform, at the united meeting of the central democratic organisations on the 29th July, a voluminous motion was passed.1  “ The country and the Revolution are in the greatest danger, owing both to the impending military disaster and to the anarchistic and counter-revolutionary attempts.”  In putting on the same level the far from equal dangers, the meeting declared that it was necessary to create a firm Government, in which the bourgeoisie was to take part.  But any agreement between the Revolutionary Democracy and the bourgeoisie was only possible if the bourgeoisie would “ acknowledge all the conquests made by the Revolution,” and, above all, would stand up to the end for the formula of “ Peace without annexation and indemnities, on the basis of self-determination.”  The Soviet politicians knew that this formula, drawn up by the Socialistic minority at Zimmerwald, was objected to, not only by the Cadets, but also by their own fellow-Socialists of the type of Plekhanov.  Men of such different opinions as the Cadet Milyukov, the Social-Democrat Plekhanov, and the Anarchist Kropotkin, unanimously asserted that peace could only be obtained by victory over the enemy, and not by Soviet negotiations with the international proletariat.  Knowing this, and likewise publicly declaring that authority and power should be founded on an agreement with the bourgeoisie, the representatives of the Soviet inserted into their resolution the following threat :  “The passive opposition shown by certain groups of the bourgeoisie to all the revolutionary measures of the Provisional Government, the boycotting of authority, the desire to retard agrarian, political, financial, and economic reforms, and to put off the Constituent Assembly—all this is nothing but an attempt to seize power, by taking advantage of the embarrassed state of the country.  Such opposition is equivalent to direct assistance to the darkest forces of counter-revolution, and tends to prepare the way for the complete destruction of the country.”  Later on the same accusations, couched in a cruder form and leading to more sanguinary results, were brought by the Bolsheviks against all their opponents, including the Revolutionary Democracy whom they had defeated.  It is one of the strange features of the Revolution that the accusations of imperialism, bourgeois, and counter-revolutionary tendencies were gradually shifted from the Right to the Left parties.  First they were brought against Milyukov and Lvov, then against Kerensky and Tsereteli, and finally against the Social-Revolutionaries.

Counter-revolution was likewise spoken of by members of the Government in July 1917.  The new Minister of the Interior, Prince Tsereteli, sent circulars all over Russia, saying :  “ No arbitrary seizures of land and property, no oppression, no incitement to civil war and breaches of military duty are permissible.”  This would have been all very well, had it not been followed by an explanation regarding the source of all these destructive factors.  “ The treacherous blow dealt by Anarchy has caused confusion in the country.  Hoping to snatch away all that has been obtained by the Revolution, Counter-Revolution has lifted its head.  The dissolution and anarchy at the rear have found their way into the army at the front.”  Prince Tsereteli’s words seemed to imply that counter-revolution (which by the way had as yet shown no signs of its existence) had rotted the army.  He does not say a single word about the Bolsheviks.  For they were an influential Left group of the Social-Democratic party, whose unity he had lauded and defended.

The Committee of the Duma, with M. Rodzianko at the head, was considered to be the chief hot-bed of counter-revolution.  Rodzianko had no influence over the masses, but certain tendencies of State policy found their expression in him.  Thus, on the 31st July, when there were endless discussions about the programme of the new Government, the Provisional Committee of the Duma passed a definite motion which began with a quotation from Kornilov’s telegram :  “ An army of ignorant men who have lost their senses, and are not bound by any authority.”  The national representatives pointed out that “ the cause of the general calamity lies in the seizure of Government power by irresponsible organisations, and the creation by them of a divided central authority, accompanied by a subversion of local authority.”

In order to save both the army and Russia, it was necessary that authority should be strong.  “ The Government must not be guided by the orders of party organisations and separate classes of society.”

Milyukov, who spoke at this sitting, pointed out still more clearly that the Government ought not to be dependent on the Soviets, that its policy should be united and national, and not the class policy of Zimmerwald.  “ We demand,” said he, “ that measures should be taken to create a strong army by the restoration of strict military discipline, and the resolute prevention of any interference on the part of Army Committees in questions of military tactics and strategy.”

This was a programme directly contrary to that of Revolutionary Democracy, who wanted both to establish civil government and to organise the army exclusively on the basis of elected committees and organisations.  Given such a difference of opinion, it was no easy task for Kerensky, while seeking support from the Revolutionary Democracy, to form a Coalition Government.  For three weeks Russia was practically without any properly organised central authority.  However, the force of its former state inertia was sufficiently great to keep the whole machinery still at work.  Notwithstanding the weakness and contradictions which brought discord into the governing parties, the people as a whole were ready to obey and waited patiently, even longed for new laws to be passed, just as the army longed for strict, uniform, and sensible orders.  The expectations of the people were not justified.  The new Government, finally formed on the 6th August, turned out to be as helpless as its predecessor.

It included the Social-Revolutionaries Kerensky, Savinkov, Lebedev, Arksentiev, Chernov ;  the Social-Democrats Skobelev, Nikitin, and Prokopovich ;  the Socialist-Populist Peshekhonov ;  the Cadets Kokoshkin, Oldenburg, Yurienev, Kartashov ;  the Radical Efremov, and three Independents, Zarudny, Tereshchenko, and Nekrasov.  This was the so-called “Save the Revolution” Government.

As in all Cabinets, among the new Ministers there were both strong and weak men, able men and those whose capacity was limited.  But not one was strong enough to guide the Russian vessel of State from anarchy to order, nor able enough to pull the Government out of the mire of dogmatism and inaction.

Partly owing to pressure brought to bear by the Soviet circles, who still regarded the Bolsheviks as their comrades, and partly owing to its own inner weakness and heterogeneous composition, the new Cabinet was not even able to wage serious warfare with that part of the Social-Democratic party whom the Public Prosecutor had accused of high treason.  Some of the minor Bolsheviks who had received money from the Germans were indeed arrested.  But Trotsky and Lenin remained at large, drove about to the various barracks and meetings, and made incendiary speeches against the Allies, against the War, against the bourgeoisie.  Finally, on the 5th August, they were arrested.  And at once in the Petrograd City Council, where all political perturbations and passions were reflected, the Internationalists, the closest friends of the Bolsheviks, put a question as to the causes of the arrests.  The City Council, two-thirds of whom were Socialists and one-third Cadets, supported the question, or rather the protest against the arrest of men who had opposed the Provisional Government with arms in their hands.

At a Congress of Bolsheviks (8th August) it was announced that Lenin and Zinoviev, for whose arrest orders had been given, were hiding somewhere in Russia, and were in constant touch with their party.  Although the Public Prosecutor had accused them of high treason, no measures whatever were taken for their arrest.  Another Bolshevik, Kamenev-Rosenfeldt, came straight from prison to a meeting of the Central Executive Committee, where he met with an ovation.  Several days after the Izvestia published a statement that this revolutionary hero used to receive 100 roubles a month from the Tsar’s police for his work as an “ agent provocateur.”  But even after this he still remained a member of the Executive Committee.  At the same meeting where the Revolutionary Democracy greeted the Bolshevist secret police agent so enthusiastically, members of the Government rose to make speeches.  But in their speeches there was no bold condemnation of the Left traitors.  On the contrary, the Ministers hastened to point out to the Soviet that the principal foes were of course among the Right parties.  Prince Tsereteli spoke of the bourgeoisie having gone over to the counter-revolutionaries, while Kerensky declared pathetically that he would allow no Restoration.  These words were already an echo of the conflict which had taken place between the head of the Government and experienced army leaders.




1 As was often the case in Soviet organisations, this meeting was somewhat undefined in character.  Besides the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Delegates, and the Soviet of Peasants’ Delegates, Provincial Delegates of some sort were present.