KERENSKYS SWAN SONG
BEGINNING from March and ending with November, the Revolutionary Democracy grouped in the Soviet was all the time sliding towards the Left, like a sandhill washed away by the waves.
Already in Moscow the motion passed by the Left majority, and their persecution of proprietary Russia and the army commanders, their cowardly disinclination to acknowledge the real requirements of life, especially in questions of food supply and labour, their friendship with their brethren in ideasthe Bolsheviksall this showed that the Soviet circles were prepared to make concessions only to the Left. They were likewise driven in the same direction by their former trend of thought, and especially by the success of Bolshevist propaganda among the masses, the ground for which had been prepared by the Socialistic Centre itself.
During the Moscow Conference the Bolsheviks stirred up disorders in that city, taking the form of a series of strikes, which were partly successful, though some were quickly suppressed. The influence of the Bolsheviks over the Soviets was likewise growing, as the bulk of the latter consisted of persons of indefinite and unstable political opinions. In the Petrograd Soviet and the Executive Committee the former leadersSkobelev, Tsereteli, Chheidzeno longer exercised their former influence. On the 11th of September Prince Tsereteli had a battle royal with the Petrograd Soviet before he succeeded in securing the adoption of the resolution on the necessity for the introduction of capital punishment in the army, his opponents stigmatising this as a counter-revolutionary measure. The furious debate showed the acute divergence of opinions in the Soviet. Prince Tsereteli bitterly emphasised the fact that the Bolsheviks, who were chiefly to blame for the decay of the army, listened to communications concerning military disorders with the proud air of victors.
The resolution concerning capital punishment was passed with great difficulty. But, as if to conciliate the Bolsheviks, at the next meeting of the Soviet a motion was passed by a great majority, protesting against the Bolshevist comrades who had been arrested for the July revolt or their German associations being still detained in prison. Plekhanov, in drawing attention to the increasing influence of the Bolsheviks in the Soviet, wrote : Tsereteli has come to such measures as are an abjuration of Zimerwald. Therefore his admirers are turning against him, are voting against his motion, and are ready to follow another leader (Yedinstvo, 8th September). This was written a few days before the Kornilov affair. Independently of this, after the Moscow Conference, the Soviet policy took a decided turn to the Left. And this in spite of the factor perhaps because of itthat the anarchistic ferment in the masses stirred up by the Bolsheviks began to assume such a dangerous character that Kerensky was obliged to concert with Kornilov decided measures against the expected insurrection.
But when Kornilov began to make preparations for carrying out this plan, the Government had not the courage to steer the ship of State in the right course, or to strengthen their position with the help of the troops who were still loyal. The actual Bolshevist danger, which was already in sight, seemed less terrible to the Government than the imagined danger of Kornilovs military dictatorship. Fears of the same imaginary danger left the Socialists of the Centre quite oblivious of the fact that German troops were occupying the whole of the Western borderland of Russia, and were threatening at any time to strike at its heart.
Surely it is not necessary that Riga should fall in order that the need for discipline in the army should be understood ? This was said by Kornilov, five days before the fall of Riga, when the Commander-in-Chief already knew that he was not able to hold the town, the capture of which, greatly increasing the difficulty of defending the Gulf of Finland, opened for the Germans the way to Petrograd both by land and sea. But it turned out that even the capture of Riga did not knock any wholesome sense of the necessity of national selfdefence into Revolutionary Democracy. The official communiqué mentioned that the regiments left the battlefield of their own accord, that the disorganised masses are retreating in an irresistible torrent, and are filling all the roads. The Soviet replied by long speeches of protest against the enemies of the Revolution, who never fail to take advantage of the misfortune at the front in order to play a great political game. The Izvestia accused the authors of the official communiqué of a malicious distortion of actual events. The General Headquarters notice only the reckless gallantry of the officers, while their silence as regards the soldiers, the emphasising of exceptional cases of treachery and cowardice among them, acquires a very definite and very dangerous meaning. It is evident that while the army is fighting gallantly and is dying for the cause of the Revolution, a clique of shady persons, unusually near to the higher commanding circles, is carrying on a hideous provocation, and by means of systematic lies and a perversion of facts is setting Russia against her army, and is taking advantage of the misfortune which has befallen the country for sinister purposes with the design of throwing discredit on the revolutionary order in the army, of setting the masses of the population, both at home and abroad, against the Russian Revolution (Izvestia, 4th September).
With the Soviet majority in such a mood, vain were Prince Tseretelis belated demands for the reintroduction of capital punishment into the army, and vain was the still more belated order issued by Kerensky in which he at last declared that it was necessary to support the authority of the officers, who made no demands, who never made any representations of their needs. The flower of the army, its officers, had lived through the bloodless Revolution in fraternal unity with the soldiers, consolidating the work of those who had thrown off the shameful fetters of slavery. The officers have shown that they are one flesh with the people. Then followed a short enumeration of all the undeserved trials which had fallen to the lot of the officers : distrust, curtailment of rights, insults, mockery. In spite of all, the officers had remained at their posts, had shown the greatest heroism, manifested by the fact that in some units almost all the officers had been killed off. No less courage had been shown by those officers who, hand in hand with the committees and the more intelligent soldiers, had struggled against those who understood liberty to mean freedom from all obligations, who had fallen under the evil influence of the conscious or unconscious agents of the Kaiser, and, hiding their cowardice under ideal watchwords, were bringing ruin and treachery into the ranks of the army (4th September).
Had Kerensky used such language in addressing the representatives of the whole of organised Russia, gathered together at the State Conference in Moscow in August, perhaps it might have arrested the ruin of the army, it might have healed the breach between the Government and the army commanders. Only by joint action could they have saved Russia from Bolshevist anarchy and the ruin of the army. Such an agreement seems all the more possible, as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, Kornilov, round whom the most experienced Generals had gathered, was, of course, no counter-revolutionary, that is to say, was in nowise striving to restore the old regime.
The son of a Transbaikal Cossack, Lavr Kornilov was a real democrat by birth. At the age of thirteen he was still herding cows in the sleepy hollow of a Siberian village. Thanks to his exceptional abilities he made his way, finishing his course of studies in the high school and entering the army as an officer. In Russia officers did not form a caste open only to the gentry, as in Prussia, but any one with a certain amount of education might get a commission. On finishing at the military academy of the General Staff, Kornilov went to Turkestan and wrote some interesting works on this picturesque and remote region, and secured a great influence over the natives, having learned the Turkoman language. This acquaintanceship proved to be of great service to him later, after he was arrested. The Tekke Turkoman Regiment treated him less as a prisoner to be guarded than as a chief to be protected.
During the war Kornilov commanded a division. In Galicia in the Carpathians his division had to cover the retreat of the whole Russian Army. For three days they withstood the pressure of greatly superior forces, and it was only thanks to their steadiness and heroism that the army escaped with its artillery, munitions, and, material. Almost the whole division perished. Kornilov was wounded and taken prisoner. He managed to escape from prison, disguised as a beggar. In this he was aided by his knowledge of languages, and probably also by his exceedingly democratic appearance, for he had nothing of the General about him.
After the Revolution Kornilov was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the troops of the Petrograd district, but he did not occupy this post for long, as he could not permit the Petrograd Soviet to interfere in his military orders. He was then appointed to command an army, and after Alexeievs resignation he was made Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the whole Army. Kornilov was a brave soldier, well-educated, honest, and upright. As a fervent patriot he knew and perceived all the defects of the Tsarist régime, and understood that a return to the old order was not only impossible but even undesirable for Russia.
Kornilov was not opposed to the democratisation of the army, but he said that an army which had lost its discipline was more dangerous than any wild beast, and strove to reorganise the army in such a way that respect for the soldiers person should be compatible with the demands of discipline.
At the Moscow State Conference Kornilov declared : I am not against army committees. In his scheme of army reforms he again said plainly that the committees must not interfere in matters of strategy or discipline, but must still be retained for purely economic questions.
It is surprising how little these new elective institutions have diverged from the straight path, and how often they have lived up to the ideal, sealing their gallant work with blood.
These words are the best refutation of the accusations and suspicions of the Left, who were alarmed at Kornilovs growing popularity. Patriots had great hopes of his influence for Russia, hopes doomed, alas, to a tragic disappointment.
The fear of a counter-revolution, which reigned not only in the Smolny Institute, whither the Soviet had migrated, but also in the Winter Palace, where Kerensky had taken up his abode, prevented the possibility of any agreement between the Premier and the military commanders.
The strained relations, so full of mutual distrust, ended in a catastrophe the details of which await the historian. In order to sift this matter calmly and impartially it is necessary to know all the preliminary negotiations, to re-establish that chaos of conflicting influences, intrigues, and chance occurrences, which, like a net, enveloped the inexperienced Ministers, who could nowhere find serious support. The general position was as follows :
On the 9th of September there was a rumour all over Petrograd that General Kornilov was marching on the city in order to arrest the Soviet, and declare himself dictator. On the 10th of September the newspapers announced that Vladimir Lvov1 had come to Kerensky and, in the name of General Kornilov (the Headquarters in Mohilev), had demanded that all civil and military authority should be placed in the hands of the General and a new Cabinet be formed.
This is how subsequent events are described by Boris Savinkov, the revolutionary then acting as Minister of War. According to his account, among the members of the Officers Union there was a group of men who were conspiring to overthrow the Government, and to make General Kornilov dictator. This was being done without Kornilovs knowledge.
General Kornilov, who was considered to be a loyal citizen, was at the same time dissatisfied with the weakness of the Government policy, and insisted on the necessity of an exceedingly powerful, revolutionary authority, in which I also agreed with him. . . . When, on the 5th-6th of September, at Headquarters I again told him that in the near future the Provisional Government would examine the bill which was being prepared by the order of the Prime Minister, for the measures to be taken at the base, he believed that the Government was no longer hesitating, and when bidding me farewell on the 6th September at Headquarters he declared that he would give his full support to the Prime Minister, for the good of the country. On my return to Petrograd I reported my conversations with General Kornilov to the Prime Minister, and on the evening of the 8th September the bill for legalising measures at the base (i.e. severe penalties for breaches of discipline) was to have been examined by the Provisional Government. But on the 8th September I was summoned to the Winter Palace, and the Prime Minister told me something that was a complete surprise to me. He told me that V.N. Lvov had come to him with an ultimatum from General Kornilov, who demanded that the supreme authority should be given over to the Commander-in-Chief, with all military and civil power over the country, and that he, the Commander-in-Chief, was to form a Cabinet in which I was to be Minister of War and the Prime Minister was to be Minister of Justice. The ultimatum was in writing, but was signed, not by General Kornilov, but by V.N. Lvov himself. Then the Premier called Kornilov up on the Hughes apparatus, and asked himwithout reading out to him the text of the declaration signed by V.N. Lvovwhether he was ready to sign the ultimatum presented by V.N. Lvov ? General Kornilov replied, Yes, I am ready to sign. On the same day (8th of September) the Prime Minister sent a telegram to General Kornilov at Headquarters, demanding that Kornilov should immediately give up his post and leave the army.2
Thus a great deal of suspicion and this conversation over the telephone, perhaps based on a misunderstanding, was sufficient for all communication between the Premier and the Commander-in-Chief of the Army to be broken off at once. Then followed a series of repressive measures against Headquarters. An order was sent to all the railways not to obey the orders of the Commander-in-Chief, and above all, not to transport any troops by his orders. It was in vain that efforts were made by General Alexeiev, Milyukov, Maklakov, and other public men, to act as intermediaries, to persuade the Government first of all to inquire into the matter, and only then to decide the fatenot only of a talented Russian General, but perhaps of the army itself. The Government at once took decisive measures against Kornilov and other Generals, who were defending Russia against Germany, such stern measures as it had not ventured to take against the Cronstadt sailors who in July had shot down peaceful inhabitants in the streets of Petrograd.
On the 11th of September an order was given for the arrest of the insurgent General, who wanted to start a fratricidal war. This order was carried out. General Kornilov offered no resistance, and allowed himself to be arrested. Before his arrest, General Kornilov issued an Order from Headquarters, also dated 11th September, in which he declared that he never had any idea of becoming dictator, nor planned any insurrection or revolution, but had marched his cavalry on Petrograd in accordance with a preliminary agreement with Kerensky himself, who had wanted to have trustworthy troops at his disposal, as the Bolsheviks were again preparing for action.
This was likewise corroborated by B. Savinkovs evidence : The movement of the cavalry corps towards Petrograd had been undertaken by order of the Provisional Government for the protection both of the Government and of the Soviet, the representatives of which had in July been in no less danger than the Ministers (Rech, 29th of September 1917).
In his last Army Order, issued at Mohilev on the 11th of September, General Kornilov explained the march of events to commanders, commissaries, and elected organisations, and concluded the Order with the following words :
I pledge you my word of honour, as an officer and a soldier, and assure you once more that I, General Kornilov, the son of a simple Cossack peasant, have by my whole life and not in words only shown my unfailing devotion to my country and to freedom, that I am alien to any counter-revolutionary schemes whatever, that I stand on guard over the liberties we have, won, desiring only that the great Russian nation should continue to enjoy its independent existence.
Kornilovs Order did not get into the newspapers, which obtained their information and explanations only from Government circles. The true meaning of this conflict, so fatal to Russia, was understood by the population only later, after the November catastrophe. After the lesson given by the Bolsheviks, many officers rushed to the Don Territory, to enter Kornilovs Volunteer Army, though in August they had believed him to be an enemy of the people. But for the higher officers the idea of Kornilovs being deprived of the supreme command was unthinkable. From the Generals commanding the Western, South-Western, and Rumanian fronts came telegrams requesting Kerensky not to dismiss the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, and expressing their complete solidarity with him. The most decisive opinion was formulated by the Commander of the South-Western front, General Denikin : I am a soldier, and am not accustomed to beat about the bush. On the 29th of July at a conference with the members of the Provisional Government I declared that by a series of measures the Government had destroyed and corrupted the army and trampled our martial banners in the mud. I interpreted the fact of my having been allowed to remain in the position of Commander-in-Chief as the avowal by the Provisional Government of its heavy sin before the Motherland and its desire to amend the evil it had wrought. To-day I have received the communication that General Kornilov, who has presented certain demands which may yet save the country and the army, is to be dismissed from the post of Supreme Commander-in-Chief. Accepting this as a return of the authorities to the course of a deliberate destruction of the army, and therefore that of the country, I hold it my duty to announce to the Provisional Government that I will not follow the same course.
Such were the thoughts and words of one of the most gifted of Russian military leaders. But Kerensky, having completely lost his head, was no longer capable of hearkening to the voice of wisdom and honour.
By Kerenskys orders Generals Kornilov, Denikin, Lukomsky, and others were arrested and tried as rebels, counter-revolutionaries, and enemies of the people.
They were in great danger, surrounded by soldiers whose minds had been inflamed by false rumours. Fortunately, however, when Kornilov was put into the Bykhov prison, he was surrounded by his faithful Turkomans, who protected not only him but also his fellow-prisoners, officers who were members of the Officers Union.
Incomparably harder was the position of Generals Denikin, Markov, Erdeli, and others, who had been arrested at Berdichev (Headquarters of the South Western front). They were in constant danger of being lynched. In order to save their lives, they were transferred to the same prison in which Kornilov was incarcerated. On the wavy, as they were being taken along, scenes occurred which were a foretaste of the subsequent Bolshevist massacres of officers.
Neither Kerensky, who had appointed himself Supreme Commander-in-Chief, nor the committees even attempted to protect the Generals from insult by the soldiers.
A mob of soldiers met the arrested Generals and accompanied them to the railway station. They were not allowed to be taken in motor-cars, but were forced to walk. On the way there were cries of Take them through the mud ! Let them churn it up with their Generals feet. There was a shower of insults and coarse jokes. The soldiers shouted : Denikin, head up ! Bring down your foot firmer ! Look lively ! Stones were thrown. General Orlov was wounded in the head. It was only the self-sacrifice of the military Cadets who formed the escort that saved the arrested Generals from being mishandled, although no one had any definite idea of what they were guilty. People merely repeated the accusations made by Kerensky Enemies of the people and counter-revolutionaries. This took place much later (16th of October). Before this, during the whole month, arrests were made among the military. An order was issued for the arrest of General Kaledin, the ataman, or chief, of the Don Cossacks. He was at Novocherkassk, the capital of the Don Territory, and the Cossacks refused to give him up.
The arrest of Kornilov and other Generals was the final step that led to the long-impending breach between the whole of the army commanders and the leaders of Soviet circles. They spoke different languages, thought in different ways of the future of Russia, and sooner or later a breach between these two parties was inevitable. The military, with Kornilov at their head, found themselves incapable of taking the power into their own hands. Patriotic people, both national Socialists and large non-Socialistic organisations, with the Cadets at their head, were likewise unable to give Headquarters the requisite political support. At the critical moment Kornilov found himself in the company of such petty political adventurers as Zavoiko and Aladin. Responsible politicians tried to mitigate the catastrophe when all was practically lost. As a result, the two Russias who had met so inimically at the Moscow Conference, parted in a long and tragic divorce.
Kerensky, who shared the fears of the Soviet as regards counter-revolution, having branded Kornilov and Denikin as rebels and traitors, then got rid of all non-Socialistic Russia, and became wholly dependent on Soviet circles.
Again frail authority began to crumble away. The Cadet Ministers-Kokoshkin, Yureniev, and Oldenburgwho disapproved of Kerenskys action against Kornilov, left the Cabinet. A sort of Directory, under the name of The Five, was formed of the remaining Ministers. They wereKerensky, Nekrasov, Tereshchenko, Admiral Verderevsky, and General Verhovsky.
On the same day Russia was proclaimed a Republic. This was really an infringement of the rights of the Constituent Assembly, where the elected representatives of the people were to determine the form of government themselves. But the Left wing thought fit to establish a republic beforehand. Kerensky lost his head so far as to take upon himself the supreme command of the army. When Nicholas II., after removing the Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaievitch, declared himself the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the enormous Russian Army, people smiled. But every one knew that he had the wise and talented leader, General Alexeiev, at his back.
By the bitter irony of fate Kerensky was walking in the footsteps of the autocrat who had been overthrown by the Revolution, and with the self-assurance of a madman took upon his shoulders that awful military responsibility for which he had neither the knowledge, the talents, nor even the force of character.
And again General Alexeiev was beside him, ready, as before, to give up all his strength, all his patriotism, to the service of Russia. But just as before the decaying routine of despotism and the Tsars prejudices had rendered impotent the heroism of the Russian soldier and the talents and energy of Russian Army leaders, so now General Alexeiev found himself before a new obstaclerevolutionary prejudices and the anarchy created thereby.
Like Nicholas II., Kerensky thought (perhaps sincerely) that he was necessary to Russia, and that in the army he would be of more use than General Kornilov, with all his military experience. Having risen to the very height of military authority, the new Supreme Commander-in-Chief tried to bring the army to its sensesthe very army which he himself had completely thrown off its balance.
In agreement with General Alexeiev, Kerensky drew up and issued an Order to the Army and Navy (14th of September) demanding the cessation of arrests and deposition of commanders, and the transportation of troops in accordance with the orders of the authorities.
This Order, signed by Kerensky and General Alexeiev, contained a part of the demands on which Kornilov had insisted in vain. I order that the political struggle among the troops shall cease, and that all efforts should be directed towards strengthening our fighting power, was the very first clause. But how could it be expected that this Order would be obeyed when, before clearing up the Kornilov affair, the Government itself had already sent round a telegram directing the non-fulfilment of orders ; when, in view of everybody, the higher circles were seething with political struggles, contrary tendencies clashed and chaos reigned, affecting all spheres of military and civil life. Under such conditions it was useless to speak of strong authority, of severe penalties, of duty.
The Order of the 14th of September remained a dead letter. Kerensky was powerless to put it into force, the more so as the Government commissaries who should have carried out the ideas of the Government and Revolutionary Democracy in the army listened principally to the Soviet, and not to the Ministers. Any real support of the ideas of a firm and sole authority could not be expected from the Soviet. To the latter this seemed a counter-revolutionary idea, coming chiefly from the Cadets, Right Socialists, and counter-revolutionary Generals.
After the Kornilov affair the Soviet politicians, alarmed at the bare glimpse of the terrible spectre of strong authority, threw themselves in terror to the Left for support. This was merely an intensification of their former radical leaning to the Left. In spite of the fact that General Kornilov, in his evidence, had categorically denied the accusation of wishing to establish a military dictatorship, the Revolutionary Democracy was in a state of panic. At meetings, political and other, speeches were made on the growth of counter revolution. At a meeting of the Executive Committee a member of the Government, the Minister Avksentiev, also proclaimed the danger which threatened the conquests of the Revolution.
From the leaders the panic spread to the soldiery. These rushed off to catch the Kaledinists and Kornilovists. In Helsingfors, Viborg, Dvinsk, Reval, awful brutal massacres of officers took place. The poisonous seeds of class suspicion and civil war were cast in greater and greater abundance among the masses. Their mentality grew distorted, full of hate, goading them to crime. Under the Bolsheviks this hatred was to form the basis of government in the Soviet Republic. But the first Soviets must also share the responsibility of having darkened the minds of the people, since their preaching laid the foundation of the evil work.
The military chaos, dyed red with the blood of defenceless officers, was spreading in consequence of the interference of the Soviet in the affairs of the Government. Avksentiev, the Minister, spoke in the Soviet of the threatening advance of Kaledins counter-revolutionary troops from the South (which turned out to be entirely wrong, as Kaledin had not moved anywhere nor undertaken any operations against the Provisional Government). To counter this, the Military Commission of the Central Committee of the Soviet of Workmens Delegatesaccording to Avksentiev himself without consulting the War Office, had called out a division of soldiers and destroyers from Finland to Petrograd. Such actions increase the danger and cause a panic, the Minister very truly reproached them. While the Soviet was trying, timidly and undecidedly, to take the command into its own hands, the Germans were preparing to land troops in Finland. This was public knowledge and discussed in the Press. But neither the plans of the Germans nor the war in general troubled the Soviet very much. The members were occupied with the question of creating a new authority. On the 13th of September, at a meeting of the Soviet Executive Committee, Kamenev (the same who had been in the service of the Tsars police) introduced a resolution in the name of the Bolsheviks for the formation of a Government composed of representatives of the revolutionary proletariat and the peasantry. He proposed to establish a democratic republic, to abolish private property in land for the gentry, to annul secret treaties, and immediately to propose a democratic peace.
In the name of the Mensheviks Prince Tsereteli brought in another resolution, with an appeal to forget class interests for the sake of national and support the Coalition Government. It is curious that for the purpose of keeping order Prince Tsereteli proposed to act in close union with the Committee of the National Struggle against Counter-Revolution, attached to the All-Russian Central Committee.
Thus by the Mensheviks themselves was approved that inquisitorial tribunal, hastily organised under the stimulus of fear, which later on, under the name of the Extraordinary Commission for the Struggle against Counter-Revolution, Speculation, and Sabotage, became a terrible instrument against all Russian citizens, not excepting the Mensheviks. It was Kamenev who won, and not Prince Tsereteli. His resolution was passed with the hearty support of the Social-Revolutionaries, led by Chernov. The Bolsheviks got a majority of 279 against 115. The presiding officials, who had supported Prince Tseretelis resolution, resigned. Thus came about the retirement of the Centre Socialists, with Chheidze at their head, who had tried to infuse Zimmerwald class principles into the execution of the national tasks of the defence and reconstruction of the Russian State. For six months they had been the most influential political group, on whom, to a considerable extent, depended the direction of State affairs. They were replaced by pure Zimmerwaldists, irreconcilable Socialists, who demanded that the doctrines of Karl Marx should be put into practice without delay and without reservation.
The Revolutionary Democracy was totally at a loss, and the position was made worse by the Bolsheviks, who had been released from prison without any trial and who immediately began a furious campaign against the Provisional Government. When Trotsky appeared after his release from prison he had an ovation.
It was becoming evident that the Executive Committee, which had been the guiding organ of the Soviet, no longer satisfied the Soviet which had elected it. The hero of the day was Trotsky. His speeches in the Soviet were warmly supported. Trotsky demanded a purely Socialistic Government, and reproached the Soviet for supporting Kerensky, who had introduced capital punishment. At the same time Trotsky reminded them that the Jacobins had known how to defend the Revolution and fight the bourgeoisie, by establishing the guillotine for the latter.
The Mensheviks called out :
The guillotine led to Napoleon !
I prefer Napoleon to Kerensky, replied Trotsky frankly.
Thus on the 22nd of September 1917 one of the future leaders of Soviet Russia on the one hand condemned capital punishment, and on the other pointed to Terror as the mainstay of Socialistic authority.
Practically, Terror was rearing its head in various places. Whole districts were pogromed. Landlords were being murdered. Officers were murdered. Engineers were murdered. The cost of human life began to depreciate as rapidly as the rate of exchange of the Russian rouble. The masses, with increasing greediness, tried to take from the new régime only profits and privileges, while their leaders clung to abstract watchwords which bore the high-flown name of the conquests of the Revolution. This hazy term was acquiring a more and more Maximalistic interpretation, and, as a consequence, both the power of the Provisional Government and the influence of the first Executive Committee with which Kerensky and the Socialist Ministers were closely connected began to totter.
Before finally laying down its authority, the Central Executive Committee made one more attempt to find support in those democratic masses who had formerly upheld it. A so-called Democratic Conference was held in Petrograd. Besides delegates from provincial Soviets, there were representatives of co-operative societies, trade unions, national organisations, etc. No representatives of the so-called proprietary Russia were invited to the Conference, only those of the Revolutionary Democracy. The political chaos which reigned in the latter once more showed itself at this Conference, the chief object of which was to determine what kind of Government must be set up. It was resolved that the Conference was not to be dismissed until the conditions for the formation and functioning of Government were drawn up, in a form acceptable to the Democracy. But what form was the Government to take, in order to become really powerful, to preserve unlimited freedom, which was considered one of the conquests of the Revolution ? The Democracy at the Conference was powerless to solve this problem. The Conference sat from the 27th of September till the 6th of October. Speeches were made by Kerensky, Ministers, soldiersany one and every one made speeches. There was a moment when the Government almost succeeded in convincing the members of the Conference of the necessity for a Coalition.
The motion supporting a Coalition Government had already been passed by a majority of 766 votes against 688. But the victory was uncertain. Amendments began to be made. One was to the effect that no Cadets or Kornilovists were to take part in the Government. Then later, the whole motion was put to the vote a second time, and was rejected. There were 813 votes against it, 183 for it, and 80 non-voters.
This muddle in the settlement of a question which they themselves considered fundamental clearly shows what an unstable mass, unaccustomed to examine questions seriously, or seriously to support definite opinions, was the Revolutionary Democracy at that time. Ideas were so confused that in answer to the demand that no Cadets should be admitted, as implicated in the Kornilov affair, Mme. Ekaterina Kuskova, a representative of co-operative societies, a talented writer, and a Social-Democrat of the Plekhanov group, said : Such an amendment is unworthy of a Democratic Conference, because it implies the supposition that some one in this hall might enter into a coalition with the accomplices of the Kornilov insurrection. Several months later (in February 1918), when Bolshevist tyranny was at its height, Ekaterina Kuskova courageously announced in the Vlast Naroda (Peoples Power), a Moscow paper, that practically every honest patriot must accept Kaledins programme.
No one used such language at the Democratic Conference. The Revolution had overshadowed the Motherland. And Chhenkeli, the Georgian Social-Democrat, was right when he said bitterly : I hear speeches about social, political, and other problems, but I do not hear the most important thingI do not hear of any alarm for Russias fate.
And how could this show itself in an assembly of people, the majority of whom considered themselves bound to stand up for the interests of a class and not of the State, of the Internationale and not the nation, persons among whom internationalists like Trotsky were growing more and more important ? Trotsky demanded that the Soviets should take the Government into their own hands. On becoming a Government, the Soviets would appeal to the democracies of the whole world, demanding peace. If this peace is not attained, then the proletariat will know what to fight for, and the Germans advancing on Petrograd will meet with such a repulse as they have never had before.
Of course, none of the audience could then guess what a future awaited the clever demagogue and eloquent orator Trotsky, that before them stood the future author of the most shameful Peace of Brest-Litovsk, and the future Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army. Even then, however, many acknowledged that in the person of Trotsky there had appeared a dangerous political opponent of the Socialist Centre, while people with more penetration felt that he was a dangerous enemy of the Russian State and the Russian people.
Just as the Moscow State Conference did not strengthen but rather weakened the Provisional Government by whom it had been convened, so the Petrograd Democratic Conference did not strengthen but weakened the Central Executive Committee which had convened it. Two days after the termination of the Conference the Petrograd Soviet had its election. Chheidze, who had been the President of the Soviet from the first day of the Revolution, was not re-elected. Trotsky was chosen to fill his place. And, as if with the object of removing any suspicion as to the meaning of this election, a motion was immediately passed refusing any support whatever to a Government of power and privilege and counter-revolutionary oppression.
In regard to Kerensky and his companions this sounded like bitter irony, as not only had they no privilege, but they had no power at all. Just a week before, Kerensky had published an order dispersing the Centro-Flot, i.e. the elective Naval Committee, which was a plaything of the Bolsheviks and the Germans. From the moment of its formation the Centro-Flot never obeyed any one. In the middle of September it issued a special order to the Baltic Fleet, protesting against the Government delaying the inauguration of a Federal Democratic Republic. As the Germans were already advancing on the Gulf of Finland this was a dangerous game to play, and it was extremely necessary to take energetic measures against the impudence of the sailors. But the Government proved powerless to exact obedience, and was obliged simply to cancel its order. It was likewise powerless against Finnish separatism, already seeking for a way of throwing off the anarchistic yoke of the Russian soldiers and workmens Soviets and other Territorial Committees and Soviets, which were issuing orders not to obey the Finnish Government so long as the bourgeois took part in it.
Day by day the machinery of Government grew worse and worse. In the provinces and distant borderlands, and in the centre of Russia, the voice of State authority was no longer heard, and orders were given arbitrarily by one committee or another, which troubled themselves not at all about the interest of Russia as a whole. Workmens organisations also showed complete oblivion of national interests. The railwaymen raised their demands, threatening to strike, although the transport of corn was in danger of failing. At the Donetz coalfields anarchy was on the increase. Some collieries were taken away from the owners by the miners. At others the latter not only demanded an enormous increase of wages, but the payment of arrears of all such rises for 1915-1916 as well. It must be mentioned that the extravagant economic demands of the miners were to a great extent justified by the fact that during the war the mine-owners had been specially barefaced in their exploitation of this laborious kind of work, taking advantage of the workmen being unable to leave. The shareholders got enormous dividends (up to 200 per cent), while wages were raised at a most parsimonious rate. The workmens anger was growing. But this does not of course justify the brutal attacks and lynching of directors, engineers, and, in general, all the educated employees. Requisitions, robberies, and murders were common not only in the coalfieldsthey had spread all over Russia. And, moreover, though the law-courts continued to operate, they found no one to carry out the sentences passed. The mob released criminals and prisoners, and the judges lived under perpetual threat of mob-law.
Under such circumstances, on the 8th of October Kerensky managed with great difficulty to form a new Coalition Government, as it was necessary to fill up the Directory. The Social-Democrats Prokopovitch, Gvozdev, Nikitin, the Cadets Kartashov, Kishkin, Konovolov, Smirnov, Tretyakov, joined the Cabinet. The rest belonged to no particular party.
These parties whom the experiences and disappointments of the Revolution had not brought any nearer each other, but rather still further separated, who were neither welded together inwardly, nor supported from outside by homogeneous and cordial assistancethese people were called upon to solve more and more complicated problems of State, both in home and foreign politics.
The Government had to wage war with an enemy who had even formerly excelled the Russian Army in technical matters and in discipline. Meanwhile the army had almost ceased to exist. It was not an army, but merely a crowd of millions of men who disregarded not only their officers, but even their committees, and who thought only of how to get home quickly. Neither could that be called a navy where warships were ruled by committees which passed resolutions like the following : We do not acknowledge the Provisional Government, which is an alliance between open Kornilovists and leaders of the Democracy. (This was the ironical name of Kerensky and his supporters.) Such a motion was passed by the Soviet in Cronstadt, a few days after the formation of the new Cabinet. Those were the September days when the Germans advanced from the sea and occupied the islands of Dago and Oesel, the next stages after Riga on the road to Petrograd. The Left Press again began to speak of the struggle for peace, as the only condition of successful defence. The common watchword of all the Socialist papers, except the Volia Naroda (the organ of the Right Social-Revolutionaries), was : The Revolution is in danger both from the Germans and from the Kornilovists.
Gorkis half-Bolshevst Novaia Zhizn, which considered itself the organ of the Social-Democratic Internationalists (a small group standing between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks), expresses very clearly the point of view held both by the Left Press and the Cronstadt sailors :
The group of usurpers of power in the Winter Palace has undertaken to carry out the amended and supplemented programme of the 14th of August (i.e. the programme of the Left portion of the Moscow Conference). In reality it cannot and will not give us anything but war to the end instead of peace, lead instead of land, and a bayonet instead of bread. Until this Government of disgrace to the Revolution is liquidated it is of no use to think of the termination of the general crisis in the country, or of the cessation of anarchy. Only a democratic authority can end the counter-revolution, and not the present fictitious Government, which is the direct source of counter-revolution and Kornilovism (Novaia Zhizn, October 19th, 1917).
These were no chance opinions of separate groups, but the systematic enunciation of watchwords elaborated in the Centre, i.e. the Committee of the Social-Democratic party, and in the Petrograd Soviet, where the Bolsheviks were already playing the leading part. They made no secret of their work, but boldly prepared for battle, not only against the bourgeoisie, but against the Socialist Centre likewise.
On the 20th of October the Council of the Republic was opened in Petrograd. This was the name given to the consultative assembly of representatives of all parties and large public organisations, convened by the Provisional Government. This was something like a Parliament where, in expectation of the Constituent Assembly, the public opinion of the country might find expression.
The Bolsheviks demonstratively left the Council on the first day, without even waiting to see what course affairs would take. Trotsky read a declaration, in which it was said that the Bolsheviks did not wish to have anything in common with a Government of treachery against the people, nor with a Council of counter-revolutionary collusion. The foreign policy of the bourgeoisie and its Government is criminal. After forty months of war the metropolis is threatened with mortal danger. In answer to this there is a plan of removing the Government to Moscow. The idea of surrendering the revolutionary capital to the German troops in no way rouses the indignation of the bourgeois classes.
The inhabitants of Petrograd remembered these words with some irony several months after, when Trotsky and his colleagues themselves ran away from the Germans to Moscow. But in the Council of the Republic the Bolsheviks spoke for the last time as an irresponsible Opposition, and repeated all their war cries : All power to the Soviets. All the land for the people. An immediate democratic peace. Hail to the Constituent Assembly !
Their declaration and departure, their speeches at meetings, the tone of their press, the extent of their secret and open agitationall clearly showed that Lenin was again preparing for battle. Lenin himself, in spite of the fact that the arrested Bolsheviks had been liberated, very cautiously kept in hiding, but his hand was felt in the well-planned and aggressive activity of the whole Left Socialist wing. The push was visible to all, and especially to the Government and those guiding circles which sat in the Council of the Republic.
All felt the approaching danger, but no one knew how to avert it, nor how to formulate it clearly, and, still less, how to rally and organise against it, in order in consort to repel the approaching foe. Each group, each party continued to live and think, shut in by party walls, repeating the same formulae, which had not only been worn threadbare during the Revolution, but had also shown their utter futility.
The Revolutionary Democracy, in the person of the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries, kept speaking of the inviolability of the Army Committees, of the repeal of capital punishment, of democratic peace without annexations and indemnities, of fighting the counterrevolution. Vainly did General Alexeiev try to convince the members of the Council not to slacken discipline, as without a firm military force it was impossible either to fight or to restore order at the base, demoralised by lawlessness and by the want of proper authority. The Council listened to his speeches in a very unfriendly spirit. Almost the same animosity was called forth by the speeches of the Populist-Socialists. E. Kuskova, in a powerful speech, full of bitter patriotism, called upon her audience to battle against anarchy, to form a bloc of defencists, as it was necessary to take measures that we should really come out of the war without annexations and indemnities, which will not be paid to the Russian people, but by the Russian people. Her speech was interrupted by applause from the Right and criticism from the Left.
The public men, gathered together in the Council of the Republic, could not come to any agreement even on the question of defending Russia.
They disputed for several days, and when on the 1st of November they at last began to vote, it turned out that there were as many as five different motions : (1) the Menshevik ; (2) Menshevik-Internationalist ; (3) Social-Democrat ; (4) Left Social-Revolutionary ; and (5) Co-operative Societies, together with Cadets, Cossacks, Plekhanovists, and several national groups. Notwithstanding the anarchy at home and the military menace abroad, the same differences of opinion concerning words still continued, but the radical divergence in the points of view on the war, defence, and army grew greater and greater. The Left wing still continued to fear everything that gave grounds for suspicion of the desire for victory over the Germans. The aim of the Socialists was not victory, but the liquidation of the war. The Plekhanovists and Populist-Socialists alone supported the motion of the Co-operative Societies and the Cadets, who had moved that Only an active defence of the country can protect the integrity of our countrys independence. But the Socialists desired, by means of a democratic peace, to protect the interests of the proletariat of the whole world. It is obvious that both the aims and methods were totally different. It is not to be wondered at that the debate on the motions was very stormy, and resulted in all the motions being rejected. It turned out that the Council of the Republic, to which Kerenskys Government looked for support, had not even a majority desirous of defending Russia against the Germans. The last support was failing the Government. It now tried to take up the position of passive defence, and found at the same time that it had wrecked the Headquarters Staff of the Russian Army by discharging or arresting the ablest Generals, and appointing to responsible command not those officers who could be of most use in fighting the Germans, but such as knew how to ingratiate themselves with the Army Committees.
The soldiery had been converted into a dangerous mob of embittered, excited, and, moreover, armed men. The prestige of the officers was dead. The officers made desperate attempts to save the army. In spite of the constant danger which threatened them from the soldiers, steeped in suspicion, they remained at their posts and tried to organise themselves. Some days before the Bolshevist coup détat the Soviet of Officers Delegates in Moscow passed a resolution, in which they demanded protection for the honour and lives of officers. The officers pointed out that it was necessary to revise the Declaration of Soldiers Rights, to stop the interference of the Committees in the appointment of commanders, to cease political persecution (the Committees introduced regular examination of officers, to find out whether they were adherents of Kornilov or not), and, finally, to penalise the murder of officers. This last demand shows plainly what went on in the army at that time. The officers and a part of the soldiers who understood all the horror of the situation were quite powerless, as the Government and its army commissaries did not venture to struggle against the storm-tossed sea of soldiery. Kerensky took upon himself the responsibility of the Russian Army, without having any idea of what an army may, in general, be founded on. When experienced and honest military specialists tried to explain to him the secret of military psychology and organisation, he jealously suspected them of merely trying to get power into their own hands to establish a Dictatorship. This over-estimation of his own fitness for all forms of statesmanship, and the under-valuation of the experience and knowledge of others, made Kerensky follow a path that led to the ruin of Russia, and also to his own.
The resolution of the Soviet of Officers ended in the following words, now seen to be prophetic : On the day when the officers fall in the struggle against anarchy, the military power of Russia will be completely wrecked, and, together with it, the Russian Empire. The moment has arrived when silence is criminal.
But the voices of the people who thought of saving the Russian Empire did not reach the minds of the leaders of the mob, not to speak of the mob itself. They did not think of saving Russia, but only of saving the Revolution. And when Vladimir Burtzev, the old Socialist, who had passed half his life in prisons, in exile, or as a refugee abroad, who was famous for having unmasked the Tsarist agent provocateur Azevwhen in his paper Obstcheye Dielo (the Common Cause) he raised a cry that the country was in danger, his former friends on the Left shrugged their shoulders contemptuously. Naturally, for did not Vladimir Burtzev demand the release and rehabilitation of Kornilov, whom Revolutionary Democracy had branded as an enemy of the people ? Burtzev said that it was necessary to apply to Kaledin, to place him and Kornilov in power. To appeal to the whole population of Russia, as was done in 1613, and to assemble all, all, all together under one banner to save the country.
But where was that strong arm which could do this, when the national flag was torn to rags and thrown in the mud, and the red flag that replaced it was torn by the Socialists themselves from each others hands, when its red had ceased to be a symbol of the crimson dawn and had become the ominous symbol of bloody civil war ?
The spectre of civil war hovered over Russia. Part of the Socialists openly called for armed insurrection. In Moscow preparations were being made for a general strike of municipal employees, who wanted to fight the Provisional Government with the same weapons they had used against Tsarism, i.e. by stopping the trams, railways, and, if necessary, by cutting off the water and electric light. Socialists of the Centre went the rounds of the works and barracks, trying to bring the men to their senses, but they met with a very unfriendly reception. Bolshevist speeches were more acceptable to the masses. The Government took no measures at all, for what kind of serious measure was the order for Lenins arrest, given by the Minister of Justice, or the order to close Burtzevs paper, and even sequestrate the printing-office (evidently for the too hostile attacks on Kerensky and the passionate defence of Kornilov ). The papers published soothing communiqués, saying that the necessary measures had been taken against the possibility of a Bolshevist attempt. Many believed this. Indeed, at that time very few people clearly understood the extent of the Bolshevist danger. The Government itself was foremost in this non-comprehension. All its actions and declarations bear the stamp of a wonderful, unpardonable, and thoughtless self-assurance. In answer to the British Ambassadors inquiry as to whether the Provisional Government was aware of the military preparations of the Bolsheviks, Kerensky replied that it was, and had every means at its disposal to overcome them finally. In reality there was nothing of the kind. In the Marie Palace, where the Council of the Republic held its meetings, and in the Winter Palace, where Kerensky lived and the members of the Government used to assemble, there were only floods of oratory. There was not even a plan of campaign. To make up for this, in the Smolny Institute, where the Petrograd Soviet was sitting, with Trotsky as leader, not only had a plan of campaign been drawn up, but it was being acted upon. The object of the Bolsheviks was to seize power by force of arms, and therefore they, first of all, formed a Military Revolutionary Committee, attached to the Petrograd Soviet. On the 3rd of November the authority of this committee was acknowledged by the Petrograd garrison and fortress. The very next night the representatives of the committee came to the Headquarters of the Petrograd District, for the purpose of assuming control over them. Colonel Polkovnikov, the Chief of the District, refused to acknowledge their authority. Then the representatives of the garrisons assembled in the Smolny Institute and sent telephonograms, saying that the Headquarters had become the tool of counter-revolutionary forces. No garrison orders were to be fulfilled, unless signed by the Military Revolutionary Committee. The Revolution is in danger. Long live the Revolutionary Garrison. Kerensky was still Premier, but the Soviet had already appointed commissaries to all the military units, and to all especially important points in Petrograd, and informed the population of these appointments, announcing that the persons of the commissaries were inviolable, and that any opposition offered to the commissaries would be regarded as opposition to the Soviet. The Headquarters of the District, instead of arresting the ringleaders and drawing up its forces for the defence of the members of the Government and Government institutions, issued a counter-proclamation. In the Winter Palace it was resolved to regard the formation of the Military Revolutionary Committee as a criminal act, aggravated by its being committed in the theatre of war.
On the 6th of November, at a sitting of the Council of the Republic, Kerensky made a detailed report on the state of affairs, and on the measures which the Government intended to take. In a parliamentary country his action would have been quite proper, but it produces an embarrassing, a tragi-comical impression if one remembers that at that time there was neither parliament nor Government authority in Russia, that while he was speaking the second Revolution, so fatal to the country, was taking place.
This was Kerenskys last overt, responsible, political act. And it was the last day of the authority exercised by the Revolutionary Democracy, as whose favourite Kerensky had begun his career as statesman. This is how he defined his view of the problems which life had so tragically set before Russia.
Of late, the nearer the time approaches for the convening of the Constituent Assembly, which will for ever establish in Russia a free Democracy, obtained by the great Russian Revolution thus began Kerenskys speech the more impudent and brazen become the attempts of the two wings of Russian society to prevent and destroy the possibility of convening the Constituent Assembly. The Government considers it a duty to protect the liberty of every person, and therefore remains apparently indifferent, in spite of exceedingly violent attacks.
The extreme Right demands that the Government should be replaced by a Dictatorship (voices from the Right benches correct him : Strong Government ! and then asked him where did these reactionary demands come from?). Kerensky could only name two newspapers, of no political importance whatever, viz. the Novaia Rus (New Russia) and Zhivoye Slovo (Living Word), and Burtzevs Obstcheye Delo (The Common Cause). He placed them on a level with the Bolshevist papers Soldat and Rabotchi Put (The Workmans Way), which published direct calls to insurrection, and gave their support to overt preparations for the latter.
Kerensky quoted extracts from Lenins article, Letters to Comrades, in the Rabotchi Put, where this State criminal Lenin called upon the Petrograd proletariat and troops to repeat the experiment of the 16th-18th July. One of Lenins articles concluded with the following ironical words : What are you going to wait for ? For a miracle ? Are you going to wait for the Constituent Assembly ? Wait and starve ! Kerensky has promised you to convene the Constituent Assembly !
At political meetings the audience was also incited to open rebellion. The campaign was carried on principally by Bronstein-Trotsky. But, says Kerensky, I must point out an exceedingly important thing, namely, the very definite, obvious, and inseparable connection between the attacks made by both wings. The articles in the Rabotchi Put and the Soldat are similar in style and turns of phrases with those in Novaia Rus.
Thus Kerensky placed on the same level the Bolsheviks, strong in their nearness to the masses, and the small group of people, without either political power or party to back them, who wrote for the Novaia Rus. Even on the eve of ruin, when the armed Bolsheviks were already advancing against him from the left, Kerensky was still timidly expecting an attack from the right.
He made a further quotation from Lenins article Having scores of newspapers, freedom of meetings, having a majority in the Soviet, wethe international proletariat who hold the best position in the worldcan we refuse to support the German revolutionaries and insurgent organisations ? Kerensky begged his audience to notice, It is of great importance to me that this should be noticed, that the organisers of the insurrection themselves acknowledge that the political conditions for the free activity of all parties are at present most advanced in Russia, under the present Provisional Government. Those who organise an insurrection in such a free country are not assisting the proletariat of Germany, but are aiding the ruling classes of Germany, are opening the front of the Russian State to the mailed fist of the Kaiser and his friends. The action of the party which is doing this either consciously or unconsciously I declare to be treachery and treason to the Russian State. Kerensky reminds them that there are only three weeks left to the elections to the Constituent Assembly. The Government is preparing to hand over the land to the Land Committees temporarily, until the Constituent Assembly. The Government is sending delegates to the Paris Conference, in order to draw the attention of the Allies to the question of the necessity for a decided and accurate definition of the aims and objects of the war, and questions in regard to the measures for bringing the war to an end, i.e. the question of peace.
Having enumerated all these proposals of the Government, Kerensky returns to the Bolsheviks. They have already begun to carry out the insurrection, they have sent out orders to the troops not to obey the orders from Headquarters. The military authorities consider this action of the Revolutionary Headquarters as clearly criminal, and have demanded that this order should be annulled without any delay. But even here, though there was every reason to take immediate, decisive, and energetic measures, the military authorities, at my instigation, considered it necessary first to give the men an opportunity of becoming aware of their conscious or unconscious mistake (cries from the Right : That is whats wrong ! ) and to give time for this mistakeif it be a mistaketo be rectified by them. We had to do this for another reason also, namely, because during the first twenty-four hours after this order had been issued, no practical consequences resulting therefrom were observed among the troops. In general, I prefer that the authorities should act more slowly, but, to make up for that, more surely, and, when requisite, more resolutely.
The Prime Minister then acknowledged that his expectations of the Bolsheviks showing hearty repentance were not justified. At three oclock in the morning an announcement was made to us (he did not state by whom) that the ultimatum of the military authorities had been accepted. Thus at 3 A.M. the organisers of the insurrection had been obliged to declare formally that they had committed an unlawful act, which they now repudiated (Milyukov, from his seat : That is original ! ). Butas I had expected, and was sure, from the whole preceding tactics of these menthis was a case of their usual delay and deliberate deceit (voices from the Right : At last you have learned that much !). At the present time all periods of grace have expired, and still we do not see the declaration which should have been made in the regiments. On the contrary, there has been an unauthorised distribution of cartridges and arms, and likewise the troops have been called out twice to the assistance of these Revolutionary Headquarters. Thus, I am obliged to inform the Provisional Government that the actual attitude of a certain part of the population is that of open insurrection (cries from the Right : It has come ! ). That is from the legal point of view, and I propose that a corresponding judicial investigation should be immediately begun (noise from the Left). It is likewise proposed to make the necessary arrests (protests from the Left). Yes, yes ! Listen ! Because at, the present time, when the State is being ruined by treason, whether conscious or unconscious, the Provisional Government, myself included, would rather be killed and destroyed than betray the life, the honour, and independence of the State. These words raised a storm of applause in the whole meeting, with the exception of the Left group. Kerensky continued : The Provisional Government may be reproached for its weakness and excessive patience, but at any rate no one has the right to say that the Provisional Government, while I have been at its head, aye, and even before, has had recourse to any measures of coercion before immediate danger and ruin threatened the State. He reminded his auditors that the Government considered it their duty to strengthen the cause of freedom, that they never infringed the complete freedom in the enjoyment of political rights by the citizens of the Russian State. This gives him the right to demand that the country should support our decisive measures. This support had already been promised him from the front. The general Army Committees at Headquarters promised to support the authorities in their struggle against the destroyers of the State, and declared that the army demands that the Provisional Government, in agreement with the Council of the Republic and the All-Russian Central Committee of the Soviets, should immediately and universally stop the wild military pogroms in towns and villages, and calls upon it to suppress all rioting resolutely and energetically.
No sooner had Kerensky read this resolution than the Minister, A. Konovalov, handed him some kind of document. This was an Order of the Military Revolutionary Committee to the effect that the Petrograd Soviet was in danger, that the troops must prepare for action, and wait for orders. The Order bore two signaturesPodvoisky and Antonov.
As a lawyer, Kerensky first of all estimated this document from a criminal point of view, and only then drew his political conclusions from it. He read it aloud and said : So, at the present time, the state of affairs in the capital is one which the law and the judicial authorities term a state of insurrection. It is an attempt to raise the rabble against the existing order, to prevent the Constituent Assembly being convened, and to open out the front to the serried ranks of the mailed fist of the Kaiser.
The word rabble raised a storm of protest from the Left, but Kerensky repeated it : I say it deliberatelyrabblebecause the whole of intelligent Democracy and its Central Executive Committee, all army organisations, all that free Russia is proud of, and should be proud ofthe reason, the conscience, and honour of the great Russian Democracyall protest against this.
He concluded his speech with the demand that the Council should support the Government.
This was Kerenskys swan song. Into it he put all his wisdom, as a statesman, a Premier, and Commander-in-Chief, or rather, he betrayed all his blindness.
One great excuse for him is that he was not the only one who did not understand the interdependence of political forces and the psychology of the masses. At the same sitting another member of the Cabinet, Gvozdev, Minister of Labour and Social-Democrat, declared : I have been a workman for twenty years, and I think I have some right to speak in the name of Revolutionary Democracy. I assert that the Petrograd workmen are incapable of organising a pogrom, and an insurrection leads to nothing else. In what has been said here, to wit, that the Government does not possess the confidence of the people (this was said by Kamkov, the Social-Revolutionary), I see a libel on the intelligence of the people. I have never curried favour with any one. I only speak of what is true, and am convinced that intelligent workmen will take no part in the present movement. Gvozdev demands that the question should be put squarely : Either you are with Trotsky, or against him.
But he did not manage to get this clearly stated, neither by his comrades the Social-Democrats, nor the Social-Revolutionaries. The Left motion is so characteristic that I quote it in extenso, the more so as it was the last political act of Revolutionary Democracy.
The attempt at insurrection, for which preparations have lately been made, and which has for its object the seizure of power, threatens to cause civil war, creates conditions favourable to pogroms and the mobilisation of Black-gang counter-revolutionary forces, and will inevitably lead to the Constituent Assembly not being convened, to a new military catastrophe and the fall of the Revolution, accompanied by economic paralysis and the complete ruin of the country. The ground for the success of this agitation has been prepared not only by the objective conditions of war and disorganisation, but likewise by the delay in carrying out urgent measures, and therefore it is first of all necessary that a decree should immediately be passed for the transference of the land to the jurisdiction of the Land Committees, and that decisive action be taken in our foreign policy, with a proposal to the Allies to announce the conditions on which peace might be concluded, and to start peace negotiations. In order to fight against active outbursts of anarchy and pogroms it is necessary, to take immediate measures to liquidate them, and for this purpose a Committee of Public Safety should be formed in Petrograd, consisting of representatives of the municipal corporation and of Revolutionary-Democratic institutions, acting in concert with the Provisional Government.
In this Left motion there was no repudiation of Trotsky, but only an indirect condemnation of the Bolsheviks, and the liquidation of the insurrection was to be entrusted, not to the Government, but to a new committee, which was yet to be formed.
The second motion was proposed by the Cadets, Co-operators, and the Right Centre in general.
The Provisional Council of the Russian Republic, having heard the communication of the Prime Minister, declares that in the struggle against the traitors to the country and the cause of the Revolution, who, before the face of the enemy, and on the eve of the Constituent Assembly, have had recourse to the organisation of open rebellion in the capital, the Council will give its full support to the Government, and demands that the most resolute measures be taken for the suppression of the rebellion.
The Cossacks likewise seconded this motion. But, before voting, they made a separate declaration, full of harsh accusations both against all open and secret Zimmerwaldists, those criminals and traitors, and against the Government.
The Provisional Government, having proved its failure to act in regard to the events of the 3rd-5th of July, and shown its utter weakness of authority after these events, and inaction in the face of events that are now about to take place, is thereby guilty of collusion with the Bolsheviks. In view of the aforesaid, and not wishing to shed Cossack blood, as was the case on the 3rd-5th of July, and not being assured that the Provisional Government has really decided to finish with the Bolshevist movement and to free its policy from the influence of the Zimmerwaldists, the Cossack Section announces that the Cossacks are ready to do their duty to their country and to Liberty, but demand guarantees from the Government that no favour will be shown to the Bolsheviks.
This sounded like a threat, as all were aware that Kerensky reckoned very much on the Cossack forces, which nevertheless did not prevent him a few days before the rebellion from prohibiting an intended Cossack church procession. The Cossacks paid no attention to the prohibition, but the irritation among them was growing, and Kerensky paid dearly for it.
When the motions were put to the vote, the Socialist motion was supported by 123 votes, while the Cadets only got 102, twenty-six members having abstained from voting. Kerensky did not retain the confidence of the majority. Even this stake he lost.
Among those who had abstained from voting were the Populist Socialists, some of the Co-operators, Vera Figner, and N. Chaikovsky. At that decisive moment these old revolutionaries could not muster up their courage to take either one side or another definitely, but silently stepped aside.
While the Council of the Republic was engrossed in passing motions, firing had already commenced in the streets, and ominous motor-cars with machine-guns and rifles had begun to appear.
1 The very appearance of V. Lvov in this affair is even now incomprehensible. A member of the Duma, belonging to the Right wing, narrow and insignificant, he had got into Prince Lvovs Cabinet only because some one was wanted to manage ecclesiastical affairs. In the Provisional Government this rabid Monarchist, for some reason or other, began to vote with the Left wing, led by Kerensky. This man Lvov, destitute of any serious ability, by the irony of fate was destined to play a tragic part in Russian history.
2 Boris Savinkovs Account, Rech, September 26, 1917.