THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE MASSES
THE Moscow State Conference brought no relief to Russia. It only laid bare the conflict between the High Command of the Army and the Government, and the awful state of the country whose destiny was linked with that of Kerenskys weak and ambiguous Cabinet.
Of course these were only partial ties, for by that time the domination of the masses, dreamed of and proclaimed by the Socialists, became ever more apparent. From the very first days of the Revolution agitators and propagandists of the Left invaded villages, factories, and the army, disseminating the abstract arguments of programmes ratified at Socialistic congresses whose members stood more often than not remote from real life. This propaganda was founded upon two principles : class-war and the transfer of power to the labouring masses, i.e. the proletariat, to whom were often added the peasantsa class who in Russia are landowners with a variety of forms of tenure.
Russia being essentially an agricultural country, the principal motto becameall land to the people. All liberty to the people was added, but the second part of the sacred formula had far less effect upon the masses. Even factory workers in Russia had not completely severed their ties with their native village, and now they dreamed of a return to the land promised to them by the new authorities. There was, however, no need for them to hasten back to the country. They were prospering in town. Shortly after the March Revolution an eight-hours day was summarily introduced in all industries, the workmen refusing to admit either piecework or a minimum of output. Factories engaged in war-work, municipal works, railway workshops, transportthe whole apparatus of national economics seemed paralysed. The workmens demands rose to fabulous proportions, while the efficiency of labour steadily declined.
At the same time the latent mistrust of workmen towards their employers and the entire skilled staff, from managers down to engineers and even doctors, was being artificially fostered. The industrial commanding staff was passing through the same humiliations and even the same dangers as the commanding staff of the army.
It could not now be affirmed that all talk of the inefficiency of labour at munition factories, of a terrible decline in the productivity of national labour, were but the calumnious attacks of the bourgeoisie according to Tseretelis oft-repeated assertions in the Soviet. When called to the Ministry the Socialists realised the stern truth of the bourgeois warnings. How could it be otherwise, when the industrial centres of Moscow and Petrograd, as well as the Donetz coal regionthe sole purveyor of fuel for factories, railways, and cities were becoming a prey to anarchy, furious, at times bloody, slaying all industrial output ?
Long before the enthronement of the Bolsheviks the productivity of mines and factories had been impaired, transport disorganised, the food-supply dislocated. Workmen, unaccustomed to intelligent discipline and lacking strong moral or professional traditions, destroyed all industry with childish blindness.
In vain did the bourgeois and the Right-Socialistic press warn the worker that by ruining industry they in the long run ruined themselves. The Moscow factory owners, members of the Union of Commerce and Industry, presented reports to the Government, pointing out Russias rapid economic ruin. The same was more than once repeated by engineering and technical unions. The Minister of Commerce and Industry, A. Konovalov, in his speech at a meeting of factory owners in Moscow, pointed out the dangerous forms assumed by class-war : If the leaders of the Soviet fail to control the movement and direct it into the channel of legal class struggle, we shall witness a complete paralysis of the countrys economic life, and scores of years must elapse before these ruins can be rebuilt. Moscow labour organisations responded to his speech with angry protests and the customary epithet of bourgeois. A. Konovalov was indeed a big owner of cotton mills. Able and ambitious, he was alert to realise the claims of the present moment, and not only met the demands of his employees, but often forestalled them. As member of the Duma, he was a leader of the Progressive Party. He entered the Government as a member of the Left, and at first was in close friendship with Kerensky. Much later, towards the autumn of 1917, A. Konovalov joined the Cadet party. But his leanings to the Left did not protect him from furious attacks on the part of the Socialistic press, which explained his activity by his bourgeois origin, although the Minister of Labour, M. Skobelev, against whom A. Konovalov was obliged to struggle, was, like the latter, also a millionaire.
All this ended in A. Konovalovs resigning his post on 2nd June, in spite of all Prince Lvovs and the other Ministers attempts to retain him. He was the third Minister to resign from the first Government created by the Revolution. According to the papers, A. Konovalov proffered very definite motives for his resignation. He did not consider it possible to remain at the post of Minister of Commerce and Industry when industry was being destroyed. A. Konovalov completely approved of the Governments financial measures, the raising of the income-tax, and the direct taxation of excess profits, etc. He also supported arbitration, collective tariffs, and a whole series of the measures that constituted the minimum programme of the Social-Democratic party. But he disapproved of the proposed system of Government control and regulation of production, considering this a device for getting rid of experienced men and disorganising industry.
According to A. Konovalov the Government was powerless to re-establish broken discipline owing to its lack of authority. Therefore, he had lost all faith in the Governments work and held that he no longer had any right to participate in it. His step was severely criticised by the Left and by the centre of the Revolutionary Democracy, the Soviet. They considered it an indication of mere bourgeois unwillingness to deepen the Revolution, a favourite catchword which expressed the ever-growing craving for a general upheaval.
But economics cannot be built upon phraseology, however revolutionary. They take their own implacable course. A month after Konovalovs resignation the Minister of Labour, M. Skobelev, he who at the beginning of his career as a statesman had sent a wireless declaration to the world at large announcing the intention of the Socialist Ministers to deepen class-war, who in one of his first ministerial speeches had promised to place factory owners under a press, now spoke a language entirely different. Using other words, and seasoning his remarks with flattering addresses to the comrades, he was actually compelled to endorse the opinion of his antagonist, the bourgeois A. Konovalov.
In July Skobelev found himself obliged to issue an appeal to all Russian workmen, beginning with the stern warning : Workmen, comrades, I appeal to you at a critical period of the Revolution. Industrial output is rapidly declining, the quantity of necessary manufactured articles is diminishing, the peasants are deprived of industrial supplies, we are threatened with fresh food complications and increasing national destitution. He points out further that the revolutionary authority of the Provisional Government submits national economics to State regulation and control. It has created the Chief Economic Committee, which must resolutely direct all branches of national economics. However, this Committee can only accomplish its task with the assistance of the workmen themselves. The success of the struggle against economic devastation depends upon the productivity of labour. During the Tsarist regime the workmens situation was one of intolerable oppression. The new Government had issued laws providing for stern taxation of large incomes and warprofits. Still the peoples money thus garnered ought to be carefully spent.
The Revolution has swept away the oppression of the police regime, which stifled the labour movement, and the liberated working class is enabled to defend its economic interests by the mere force of its class solidarity and unity. They possess the freedom of strikes, they have professional unions, which can adapt the tactics of a mass economic movement, according to the conditions of the present economic crisis.
However, at present purely elemental tendencies are gaining the upper hand over organised movement, and without regard to the limited resources of the State, and without any reckoning as to the state of the industry in which you are employed, and to the detriment of the proletarian class movement, you sometimes obtain an increase of wages which disorganises the enterprise and drains the exchequer.
Frequently the workmen refuse all negotiations and by menace of violence force the gratification of their demands. They use violence against officials and managers, dismiss them of their own accord, interfere arbitrarily with the technical management and even attempt to take the whole enterprise into their own hands.
The Ministry of Labour insisted that all conflicts should be solved not arbitrarily, but in Arbitration Courts and Conciliation Councils. Workmen, comrades, our Socialistic ideals shall be attained not by the seizure of separate factories, but by a high standard of economic organisation, by the intelligence of the masses, and the wide development of the countrys productive forces. The appeal ends : Workmen, comrades, remember not only your rights, but also your duties, think not only of your wishes, but of the possibilities of granting them, not only of your own good, but of the sacrifices necessary for the consolidation of the Revolution and the triumph of our ideals (10th July).
Thus, having at last realised at what a pace liberated Russia was sliding down a dangerous incline of licentious appetites and utter negation of all discipline, the Socialists, now become Ministers, began to remind the masses of their duties, if not to their country, then at least to the Revolution. But, like the soldier who openly declared to Kerensky that he would rather be a living deserter than a dead hero, the workmen remained deaf to this new and disagreeable exigency of their leaders. The transition from limitless praise of the labouring masses, of their intelligence, maturity, and so on, to any kind of criticism proved extremely difficult. Moreover, here, as in the task of organising defence or creating the new Government, the policy of the Soviet was full of contradictions, reflecting both a variety of sectional vacillations and the struggle between a dogmatic application of Socialism and the more opportunist tendencies of the Right. For instance, on 3rd August, at the very climax of the military and Government crisis, the Economic Section of the Soviet found it necessary to present an inquiry concerning the Governments economic policy and demanding the granting of the rights of State authority to local organisations, formed according to the principles of revolutionary democracy. Replying to this demand, Skobelev acknowledged that local organising power was in advance of the central authorities, but he insisted that regional organs, whether elected or unelected, should be subordinated to the central authorities.
Economic conditions proved themselves to be the sensitive apparatus which most exactly marked the general dislocation of the State organism. How true were the words of those who had said that transport and the entire national economy were a prey to a diseased spirit ! Russia possessed grain, possessed food-supplies, raw material, even labour was sufficient. But that inner organising link, which joins separate human lives into a strong and well-ordained human society, had snapped. The old compulsory forms of a community which had created the Great Russian Empire had disappeared, having outlived themselves and being incapable of adapting themselves to the new demands of the times, or of resisting the enemys blows. The ideologists of democracy thought that old forms might at a moments notice be replaced by new ones, boundlessly free, erected apart from any ties of succession with old forms of life and custom, upon a bare abstract framework. In their haste to imbue the masses with Socialistic doctrines, the orators spoke to them of rights and claims, but forgot to tell them of their duties. Soldiers and soldiers wives, street-sweepers and engine-drivers, medical assistants and portersall presented nothing but demands ; demands, and demands. The Revolutionary Democracy encouraged such exigency, viewing it as the expression of human personality freed from oppression, and absolutely forgetting that human dignity consists not so much in receiving lifes bounties as in giving ones best to life. Innumerable trade unions, organised in haste and falling at once under Bolshevist influence, also presented the most devastating claims to the State, to municipalities, and to private business. At first they scarcely ever met with any refusal. As early as April the Minister of Ways and Communications, Nekrasov, sanctioned such claims of the railwaymen as played an important part in the deterioration of the railways, for they ruined the finances without demanding a fixed output of work, and gave up the management to the mercy of committees. A month after the Revolution foremen in various workshops began to receive wages of 700-800 roubles a month, while professional engineers were left with their former salaries of 300-400 roubles.
Only the Russian intelligentsia remained silent in the midst of this bacchanalia of demands. School-teachers, who received pittances, passed resolutions that new advances of salaries should be extremely moderate in order not to overburden the revolutionary treasury. Officers and Government officials were also silent, although the frightful increase in the cost of living placed them in a most precarious material situation. There is no exaggeration in saying that not a single union of intellectual workers ever presented material demands.
Later, when this insane lust had borne its bitter fruit, when the Socialist Ministers had come into touch with the State mechanism and realised that the State and people are inseparable, they attempted to disabuse the masses. But it was too late. The more so, as Socialistic programmes do not provide for the value of brain-work, and everything in them is based upon the priority of manual workers over the rest of the population. Marx spoke only of the rights of proletarian dictatorship, while the rest of humanity was placed in interdict under the prejudicial title of bourgeoisie.
Faithful followers of Marxs doctrine considered it their duty to discredit all the intelligentsia in the eyes of the Russian masses by confusing it with the bourgeoisie. Tremendous discontent had accumulated amidst the people during the old regime. The implacable Marxist gospel preached by the revolutionaries transformed this legitimate and natural discontent into a veritable exasperation, directed against the propertied and educated classes, which had themselves suffered from absolutism and were now condemned by a new ruling class to pay for the sins of its predecessors.
Strictly speaking, the Russian Revolution, i.e. the revolutionary struggle against autocracy for the freedom and rights of the people, had lasted scores of years, and had created thousands of heroes and martyrs, who had given their energy and life for the realisation of their ardently desired ideals. A vast majority of the revolutionaries belonged to the nobility and the bourgeoisie merely because there were more educated people among those classes.
But when the longed-for days of freedom came at last all this was forgotten and the entire superior strata of society were placed under suspicion. At first, indeed, the masses and their soldiers were extremely good-natured. The wave of hatred did not sweep over Russia all at once, but burst out sporadically, here and there directed by some evil hand. In any case the Revolution was not the outcome of class antagonism. It was born of the war, the famine and the debility of the old political regime. This is a fact which ought always to be borne in mind in order to comprehend the influence of the subsequent class-war propaganda.
A wonderful solidarity among all classes of the community marked the beginning of the Revolution. Every one sided with Freedom against Tsarism. Only the police endeavoured to defend the old regime. And the policemen were indeed cruelly dealt with. But they were usually seized fully armed, while handling machineguns, and firing at the crowd by order of Protopopov. This shooting lasted in Petrograd for four days. When the last machine-gun policemen were removed from the belfry of St. Isaacs Cathedral, a new and highly original order prevailed in the city. There were no police. Only the somewhat comical figures of a hastily organised militia appeared here and there. There were no authorities whatever. Day and night the streets were seething with soldiers. Whole units rolled into the Taurida Palace to save the Revolution. External forces which might hold back these crowds no longer existed. And yet, not only during the revolutionary honeymoon, but actually for several months, life in the large cities was almost perfectly safe, in spite of the fierce propaganda of class-war and the shameless incitement of the masses against the bourgeoisie, which embraced all persons with white hands. This Marxist moulding of the masses emanated from the Soviet.
The masses seemed to feel that they were being driven to a dangerous course and did not give way at once. Even in the country, where, as in the towns, all the police were immediately arrested and sent to the front, where no new authorities were established to replace the old, the peasants at first assumed an expectant attitude. The expression, Well just wait for the new Law, was a current phrase, which reflected the peasants habitual wariness. And they actually did wait. They cast longing glances at the landowners land, cattle and other goods, but abstained from plunder, awaiting the order from the Centre.
Then appeared agitators, sometimes Bolsheviks, but more often Social-Revolutionaries with mandates from the Petrograd or local Soviet, and explained to the peasants that they had nothing to wait for, but must hasten to execute the will of the people and expropriate the expropriators, that is, take everything from the landowners.
It was just as difficult for peasants to withstand such arguments as it had been for soldiers to maintain discipline after the Order No. 1. Gradually the Russian country-side was turned into a veritable hell. Landowners houses, corn-stacks, stables, cattle-shedsall were set ablaze. Their owners were turned out, sometimes murdered. Already, before the November Revolution, some districts had not a single landowner left. Large landowners who exploited their land by hired labour were not the only ones to suffer ; millions of peasant small-holders and merely well-to-do peasants shared the same fate. The deepening of class-consciousness, or rather, of class-antagonism, went full swing.
But the creation of a new life upon such basis proved no easy matter ; instead of a new, perfect, free order there was a return to the old primitive forms of cave-dwellers, when homini hominus lupus est, when each strove to snatch the utmost he could get for himself, sacrificing nothing for the community. All the moral foundations erected at such hard cost by generations were smashed like brittle glass beneath the blows of the soulless theory of economic materialism. Liberty, unfettered either by law or by a habit of self-discipline, unbridled the masses, while the socialistic intelligentsia seemed to sanction the increasing immorality by decking it out in the attire of class-struggle.
Whatever were the errors and even crimes of the masses, the responsibility for them rests primarily with their leaders. With passionate conscientiousness the masses endeavoured to unravel the chaos of novel ideas which had flooded their obscure brains. For even the words were utterly incomprehensible and un-Russian, republic, contribution, annexation, internationalism, socialism. To what curious misinterpretation were those strange words subjected, which were destined to upset the entire Russian life. But even Russian words expressing general notions, not only political, but even geographical, held absolutely no meaning for the illiterate peasants, workmen, and soldiers gathered at meetings or in the Soviets. They were so willing to repudiate Constantinople and the Straits without the slightest notion of their whereabouts. They adopted the resolution in favour of the self-determination of peoples, with no inkling as to what nationalities inhabited the Russian Empire, and so on. The chaotic mentality of the crowd made itself particularly evident during the elections. Universal suffrage had been adopted both by the Cadets and the Socialists as an essential basis of democracy, but there existed very important divergencies. Shall the army vote ? What is to be the qualification of age and residence ? The Cadets insisted that the age limit should be fixed at twenty-five, and that the vote should be granted to any one who had lived a year in a given locality. The Revolutionary Democracy demanded that the vote should be granted to all citizens of both sexes from the age of eighteen without any qualification as to term of residence, and that full rights should be given to soldiers both at the front and in the rear. In the end the Government accepted the Socialist formula, only raising the age limit. All citizens of both sexes over twenty years obtained the right of voting in municipal and Zemstvo elections, and subsequently for the Constituent Assembly. During the summer new municipal councils were elected in almost every town upon the principle of universal suffrage. The Government cherished naive hopes of obtaining in this way legally elected local organs, which would relegate the Soviets to the background. The election results were highly instructive. In the towns, where reserve regiments were quartered, the soldiers vote decided the elections. Whole military units, influenced by this or the other socialistic group, voted for it en bloc. The soldier masses, more and more transformed through loss of discipline into a soldier rabble, developed a somewhat original understanding of their new civic rights. Liberty of election was encroached upon at every turn. Acts of violence, degenerating ever more frequently into crime, were constantly performed. For instance, at the beginning of August, in the small district town of Egorievsk, after a meeting addressed by a Bolshevik, Kohan, a crowd of soldiers severely handled the mayor and a member of the municipal council for their refusal to give out election forms to 1000 soldiers who had arrived in town after the publication of the electors register.
Side by side with cases of direct violence, the electors were being systematically terrorised, particularly in the factories, where the committees acted despotically and the workmen were compelled to join certain parties for fear of remaining out of work. The profusion of promises, which always forms the negative side of every election campaign, reached its climax in the face of the inexperienced and over-confident Russian electors. The magic words-peace, bread, and landwere bandied about by all Socialist sections. They promisedand possibly many believed in it themselvesa speedy millennium. Their speeches, though frequently exceedingly abstract, were very realistically interpreted. When the Revolutionary Socialists carried at the Moscow municipal elections a victory at which they themselves were alarmed, many people jokingly said that it happened owing to the list of Social-Revolutionary candidates being labelled No. 3. In Russian the figure 3 and the letter Z are written the same way, and the magic word Zemlia (land) begins with the letter Z. The more simple-minded electors used to come to the town-hall to inquire when the land would be distributed to them, as they had voted for the Social-Revolutionaries, who promised land to all toilers. On the whole, the almost illiterate mass of Russian electors, both men and women devoid of any political experience, exhibited such a gregarious state of mind, such a lack of comprehension, and such a childish desire to obtain the utmost advantage for themselves, that bitter doubt as to whether universal suffrage could benefit a country at Russias stage of political development, crept into many minds. Under such wholesale infatuation the Socialists everywhere obtained the majority, and the Social-Revolutionaries headed the list. Still, the Cadets scored an average of one-third of the total votes, and in some places had an absolute majority.
The first result of the Socialist control of the municipal and Zemstvo councils was a complete financial disorganisation of these institutions, already impoverished by the war. Of course there could be no question of abuse. On the contrary, the Socialists were influenced by a sincere desire to conduct business in the best possible way. Contrary to the Bolsheviks, the Revolutionary Democracy undoubtedly possessed practical honesty. (I say practical because, bound by doctrine, they could not afford the luxury of intellectual honesty.) But municipal economy is, primarily, a huge business enterprise. Its stability is based upon a wise distribution and payment of labour, and the discipline of the workers. The Socialists, accustomed to consider the State as a principle opposed to their ideals, entered the Government and local institutions, not so much as citizens entrusted with the guarding of the entire populations interests, but as conquerors occupying a fallen citadel. They forgot that they represented the population as a whole, and not only met all the workmens demands half-way, but often prompted their exigencies. In their haste to redress the social injustices of the old regime, they upset all existing relations at one stroke, and overwhelmed the workmen with bounties at the expense of a Treasury already ruined by war. Just as in the army the soldier was put to the top, while the commanding staff was not only set aside but humiliated, so in the industrial army manual workmen enjoyed all the privileges and became the objects of coarse flattery, whereas brain workers were set aside and placed under suspicion.
The economic life of large cities like Petrograd, Moscow, Kiev, Kharkov, and others became disorganised. Trams barely crawled along, because the work men, while receiving wages for an eight hours day in the repair shops, had nevertheless almost ceased to repair the cars. It is curious to note that the electric-power stations, whose staff is by far the most highly trained, remained in perfect order.
The municipal councils also adopted an extremely unreasonable food policy. Instead of being ameliorated, the food supply grew worse. This may be primarily explained by the fact that the supply was influenced by the general disorganisation of transport and labour output. Loaders at wharves and stations, pointsmen, trainlinkers, packersin a word, millions of men working at the food supplyceased day by day to perform their duties. The cost of their collective idleness to the State and nation probably never entered their heads. Yet owing to their slackness the arrival of food supplies to the towns and the northern timber regions daily diminished. But neither individual workers nor collective labour organisations took heed of the nations interests, and merely supported their own professional advantages. At one of the largest Volga ports, Tsaritsin, where corn was shipped for the whole of northern Russia, enormous supplies of grain lay rotting, because Russian loaders had struck, continually raising prices. Fifty roubles a day were already insufficient. In the meantime they opposed by armed force a company of Persian loaders, who were willing to work at more moderate terms.
At the same time, the new food-supply committees, organised throughout the country, followed a policy of arbitrary interference in the industrial and economic life of the country, placing fatal obstacles in the way of private initiative and private commerce. The Tsars Government had also acted in the same manner in some branches, such as the purchase and distribution of grain. Such measures were called for by war circumstances, but they demanded strong Government authority and national discipline.
The Provisional Government, apparently expecting such self-discipline from a people liberated from an autocratic regime, augmented State intervention in all sections of the supply of primary necessities. The Socialists, who always advocated the centralisation of all economic functions in Government hands, particularly insisted upon such measures. But the Cadet Ministers also followed the same course in spite of protests from a section of the party. Already towards midsummer of 1917, bread, sugar, meat, eggs, and butter were controlled by the Government, although, strictly speaking, it did not even possess the proper apparatus for effecting such a monopoly. Both producers and consumers suffered equally, particularly in the large towns. Petrograd and Moscow were even then short of food. The privations endured by the population at the present moment are but a painful protraction of a long agony. In 1917 the advanced section of the Russian intelligentsia, which found itself playing the part of municipal rulers, was firmly convinced that the organisation of food supply would be impossible without replacing private commercial interchange by that of State monopoly. The results were deplorable. Ironical tongues said that it was an organisation of famine, not of food supply. But here, as elsewhere, the power of doctrine proved stronger than the voice of reality.
The Russian Revolution will provide the social psychologist with extremely interesting studies of the psychology of the masses and their leaders, while it must serve as a clear warning to the politician. It is a cruel object-lesson, demonstrating that a life of complete liberty, unfettered by any compulsory system, may only be possible to man after he attains the highest degree of culture. Does there exist anywhere in the world a nation which as a whole has attained such a standard ? When this compulsion does not exist, then the evil charms of the dark instincts of hatred, lust, and cruelty arise from the depths. Yet at the same time the very state of impunity creates a kind of oppressive irritation among the masses, as though the consciousness of wrong lay hidden in the peoples soul and begat exasperation. And in Russia this exasperation did not diminish, but grew in proportion to the satisfaction of the demands of the masses. Evidently their inner equilibrium was broken by degrees, as the habits of effort, compulsion, and obedience to duty gave way. Like children, they longed for some one, wiser and stronger than they, to say, This cannot be, you dare not do it. But no authoritative voice spoke out to them, and, like children, they fell a prey to blind rage.
Two principles seemed to be at war with each other in the soul of the Russian people, as they listened to the voices of their new leadersthe lust of usurpation and the consciousness that there is no truth in violence.
One may boldly assert that, despite all the crimes committed by the mob, the masses were more innocent and better than their leaders. Particularly the peasant masses, in whose midst the deep ; partly religious, partly moral conceptions of good and evil were still alive, whose balance had not been over-strained by the deadening roar of the factory wheel, nor their conscience stunned by the still more deadening Marxist doctrine. In the midst of the working classes themselves, the voices of separate individuals or organised groups sometimes made themselves heard, reminding men of the interests of the whole, of the existence of Russia, whom every one was bound to serve. But the Revolutionary Democracy was incapable either of hearkening to these voices or, still less, of uniting all such patriots in common service for the country. For the Soviet leaders had so long considered themselves as the servants, not of Russia, but of the Revolution and the proletariat.
A resolution passed by the staff of one of the railway workshops in the province of Saratov may be pointed out as an example of workmens honest adherence to their duty. Early in September Moscow Bolsheviks endeavoured to provoke a strike. The workmen passed a resolution to the effect that they considered a strike of the engine staff as inadmissible, criminal, treasonable, and contradictory to civic duty. Officials and workmen adjure their comrades to refuse to strike and summon them to self-restraint. This was not the only case, but those who preached self-restraint were by no means popular.
Not even the unembellished picture, honestly drawn by the Government at the Moscow Conference, could change the mentality of the leaders or the representatives of the popular masses present at the Conference as delegates of the Soviet. They were simply incapable of realising how far their behaviour, their immature ideas, their support of this or the other group, reacted upon the destiny of the State. And this, although all that the members of the Government said was ruthless in its absolute clearness.
The new Minister of Commerce and Industry, a well-known economist of the Marxist school, S. Prokopovish, in a warning speech delivered at the State Conference, spoke of the disorganisation of transport and trade. He said that the Donetz coal-mines were producing only 50 per cent of their normal output, that the disorderly seizure of land was ruining agriculture and threatening the towns and northern provinces with famine. He reminded the workmen that all classes of the population were interested in industrial developmentsconsumers and producers, business-men and workmen, and therefore it behoved them to safeguard industry, not to ruin it.
He was applauded both from Right and Left, perchance by the very same men who drove out engineers in wheel-barrows or threw them into blazing furnaces. In the same way they applauded the Minister of Finance, Nekrasov, although the picture drawn by him of the state of Russian finances was of the gloomiest. The new revolutionary régime costs the State far more than did the old, was the ministers frank statement.
Nekrasov started his career as an Octobrist, then remained for a long time in the Cadet party, which he left in connection with the Ukraine problem, as he supported the policy of Ukraine independence. Already before the Revolution he had entered into close relations with circles of the Left. In the Provisional Government he sided with Kerensky and had great influence with him. Combined with Nekrasovs skill and inclination for upholding good relations with sections of the Left, his statement concerning the cost of the democratic regime carried especial weight. Using the language of figures, the Minister of Finance proved that the cost of democracy to the people was beyond comparison heavier than that of autocracy. The new food-supply committees alone, organised after the Revolution, will demand from the Treasury 500 millions a year. Whereas during the Tsarist regime the upkeep of all the ministries cost 48 millions.
In some regions the payment of State revenues had decreased by 60 to 70 per cent. Meantime the Soviet Commission dealing with separation allowances for soldiers wives had drawn up a scheme for such a liberal increase of allowances that instead of the former 700 millions a year, the expenditure would reach 11 milliards.
And yet when after such a speech Kerensky summoned every one to make sacrifices for the motherland, disdainful smiles of mistrust flitted over the countenances of the members of the Soviet, the workmen and the soldiers, who filled the Left sector of the theatre. The Rightthe bourgeoisie sectionapplauded far more lustily. Certainly not because the Russian bourgeoisie as such proved more altruistic, and the Russian democracy more selfish, but simply because proprietary Russia had accumulated far more knowledge and understanding of statesmanship than the masses of the people. Men who have passed through a university or secondary school training can more easily realise the necessity of a strict State system and general submission to laws, however irksome, than those who have never learned to lift their eyes from the narrow groove into which they were born. Instead of adopting a firm statesmanlike standing and endeavouring to explain to the people the active possibilities and claims of real life, those who assumed the part of inspirers and spiritual leaders of these illiterate masses, unused to thinking, were themselves tossed between Marxism and flashes of common sense.
The State Conference exhibited the results of such duality. The question of the formation in one way or another of a strong power, a power which not only gives but claims, and if necessary chastises, arose in all its tragic inevitableness. This was realised by both sides. The main point of the divergency lay in the question as to who should be the mainstay of this powerthe Soviets or a disciplined military force. The dispute was settled, settled irrevocably, by the sharp rupture between Kornilov and Kerensky.
1 A more detailed account of the economic consequences of the Revolution may be found in the book, Peace Conference and Economic Russia, by N. Nordman (London).