THE NOVEMBER REVOLUTION
THE Bolsheviks opened military operations on the 6th of November. On the night of the 6-7th, the Military Revolutionary Committee occupied the railway stations. The orders of the district staff were with great difficulty transmitted, as the exchanges were seized by Bolshevist soldiers, and even when transmitted were not obeyed. The cruisers Aurora and Zaria Svobody with two torpedo-boats had come up from Cronstadt. Several Bolsheviks still remaining in prison were liberated by order of the Military Revolutionary Committee. The Governor of the prison had some doubts as to whether he should obey the order, but the soldiers of the Volynsky Regiment, who were on guard, rang up their regimental committee and received the command to obey the Military Revolutionary Committee.
The revolt, of which the true dimensions were realised by very few,1 was beginning to develop into an actual revolution.
The Bolsheviks were distributing to these workmen arms which had not been confiscated after the July revolt. A Red Guard, advocated long ago by the very first Executive Committee, was being organised. On the 7th November, Petrograd was already in the hands of the rebels. In the afternoon soldiers and sailors surrounded the Marie Palace ; armoured cars drove up. An officer transmitted the order of the Military Revolutionary Committee that the members of the Council of the Republic should quit the Palace. The President of the Council of the Republic, Avksentiev, communicated the order to the assembled members. There were very few of thembarely a hundred (out of 800)yet even here was discord. The Right wing, headed by the Cadets, was of opinion that they ought not to submit to the demand, but the majority decided to withdraw under protest, and yield to force.
Upon the same day the Military Revolutionary Committee declared in a special proclamation :
The Provisional Government is deposed. All State power has passed into the hands of the Petrograd Soviet of Workmens and Soldiers Deputies, i.e. to a Military Revolutionary Committee placed at the head of the Petrograd garrison and proletariat. The goal for which the people fought, the immediate proposal of a democratic peace, the abolition of private landed property, Labour control of industry, the establishment of a Soviet Governmentall this is guaranteed.
Thus seven months after his arrival in Russia did Lenin once again repeat his long-standing programme ; but it was no longer the abstract speech of a propagandist. It was the programme of a Government in formation. Only a small band of men, bearing the sonorous and dangerous title of Ministers of the Provisional Government, stood between him and power. But the man who had been able to enlist the sympathies of the workers and soldier masses found no difficulty in despatching them once for all.
In the afternoon of the 7th of November, Kerensky, with his assistant Kuzminsky, left Petrograd in a motorcar, as was generally thought for the front.2 Konovalov remained as his substitute, while N.M. Kishkin was invested with extraordinary power for re-establishing order in the capital. In other words, he was made Dictator. But he lacked the main attribute of a dictatormilitary force. A company of Cadets from the artillery school marched to the Winter Palace and went away again. Later came a small detachment of Cadets from other military schools. A company of 135 women-soldiers of the Womens Battalion was also quartered in the Palace. None of the other military units came to defend the Government.
P. Arzubiev gives the following narrative of what was going on at the Staff and in the Winter Palace during the night of 6-7th November. This talented and trustworthy journalist had spent a long time at the front, and had known the meaning of war, had known the Russian Army in the days of its brave fighting. As a correspondent he had accompanied Kerensky in his visits to the front, and was a witness of his frantic efforts to substitute eloquence for compulsion. Arzubievs career as a military correspondent ended with the last hours of the old Russian Armys existence.
According to Arzubiev, on the eve of the rising the Intelligence Department of the General Staff had been receiving the most contradictory reports. Some said that Government troops formed an overwhelming majority. Those who were more observant pointed out that there was unrest in the barracks, that various obscure persons were persuading the soldiers that if they held aloof and did not come out to fight against the Ministers they would suffer for it later on.
Next day (it was the 7th of November, the day of Kerenskys departure) the magic words flew throughout bourgeois Petrograd : It has come.
It was the beginning of that long-expected something, whose coming was awaited with fear or hope by the inmates of Petrograd, by soldiers, by workmen in the factories, by women in the queues, by all, in fact, with the exception of the plenipotentiary leaders of the Revolutionary Democracy and the members of the Provisional Government.
Neither of them apparently believed in the Bolshevist peril, and now that it had at last burst upon them they completely lost their heads. Bolshevist patrols occupied the State Bank and the Telephone Exchange. The Peter and Paul Fortress was also in their hands. The Council of the Republic was dispersed. Patrols of the Pavlovsky Regiment appeared in the afternoon upon the Nevsky Prospect and began to verify the officers passports.
A feeling of unconcealed fear and the consciousness of pitiful helplessness pervaded the Intelligence Department. . . .
I resolved to go to the Winter Palace. Had not Kerensky, in the name of the Provisional Government, declared their decision to die at their post. . . .
The Winter Palace was empty. Scared couriers huddled together in corners, fearfully awaiting the coming of new masters. Journalists, the chorus of all contemporary historical tragedies, were chatting volubly in one of the apartments. A short distance away, in the large hall, Ministers roamed about in solitary state.
No one paid any attention to the Ministers, no one came to take their orders. Every one abandoned them in the moment of danger, just as eight months before every one had abandoned Nicholas II. Had the troops of the Military Revolutionary Committee appeared at once, they might have arrested the entire united Cabinet without firing a single shot.
Delegates of the 14th Don Cossack Regiment appeared at last. Apparently this regiment could be relied upon. Therefore the Government could dispose of the Cadets, the womens shock battalion, and several hundreds of Cossacks. They also possessed six guns, and two or three armoured cars also remained. Not a bad beginning. The suppression of the revolt of the 17th July had been undertaken with, perhaps, fewer forces.
But some kind of authority for giving orders was needed even over six guns. Yet upon that fatal day the attentive observer could trace no authority either in the Palace or at the Staff, whither he again retraced his steps. N. Kishkin, seeing the inactivity of the Military Authorities, dismissed a colonel and at once named General Bagratuny as his successor.
Bagratuny never dreamed of giving orders or of organising a defence were it only with the troops at his disposal. What was the meaning of it ? Was it a premeditated strike or a paralysis of will to act in the face of danger ? It was the fatal consequence of the system established in the army by Kerensky, which resulted in all posts of the higher command being occupied by men of weak character, devoid of firm principles and moral courage, ready to bow down to force whatever its origin. Yet surely we had strong men among our soldiers, men of another caste, whose character had been steeled amid the hardships of war and in the stern school of former military service ! Where were they ?
One of these men arrived at the Staff. It was General Alexeiev. Officers, privates, even the brazen Staff clerks, stood at attention before him. For one lightning moment the fascination of glory and authority, the old half-forgotten hypnotism of military discipline, pervaded that distracted, timid crowd. Alexeiev passed rapidly into Kishkins apartment, stayed there for a quarter of an hour, went out again, addressed a few kindly, encouraging words to the officers who clustered round him, and walked downstairs.
I do not know the reason of Alexeievs visit. Forgetting all former offences, deceits and injustice, did he wish to offer his assistance to the perishing Government ? If such was the case his offer was apparently rejected, and the man who alone might perhaps have saved a cause obviously doomed to perdition, once more departed rejected and misunderstood. His departure served as a signal for a general stampede. Officers who had presented themselves at the Staff of their own free will, dispersed. Clerks began to disappear, and so did even some of the officers occupying permanent posts at the Staff. The vast reception-rooms became empty.
Four armoured cars drove up to the Palace Square. (The Staff Headquarters occupied one side of it, and the Winter Palace the other.) These were already Bolshevist armoured cars. The enemy was preparing for assault, yet no one seemed to be thinking of defence. Not a shot was fired. After standing for a while before the Palace, the armoured cars turned back.
In one of the streets leading to the Palace, Arzubiev overheard a conversation between a small platoon of a shock battalion, which defended the Government, and two soldiers delegated from the fortress with an ultimatum to the Ministers to surrender within a space of twenty minutes, as otherwise the fortress guns would open fire.
The journalist offered to take these messengers to the Staff, and on the way began to test the firmness of the delegate comrades.
Do you imagine there are no guns in the Palace ? They have mine-throwers, and bomb-throwers, and all kinds of machines. You will be smashed to smithereens.
We ourselves know that we cant hold out, but what could we do ? Theyve sent us, and so we went. Its the majority that decides, we only follow suit.
Well, thought I, what sort of people are in the fortress I do not knowbut the delegates are no good.
Yet General Bagratuny, to whom they presented their ultimatum, was equally useless. The Cadets, the shock troops, the officers who were ready to fight for the Government, received no orders and could not even make out whether the Government intended to defend itself or to surrender !
General, said N. Kishkin, in a loud voice, I command you to resist the rebels.
The General smiled. But the smile was not a merry one. He answered gently :
I have been accustomed, sir, as a soldier, to weigh the circumstances. To my mind the actual circumstances present no data for offering resistance.
As a soldier it is your duty to die when ordered to do so !
Yes, of course ; still the actual circumstances. . .
Kishkin decided that there was nothing to hope from the Staff, and returned to the Winter Palace, where all the other Ministers were also assembled. They were all able to escape, but regarded such an act as unworthy of members of the Provisional Government, and confronted the peril bravely. A. Konovalov, N. Kishkin, M. Tereschenko, N. Smirnov, Tretyakov, Palchinsky, Rutenberg, Gvozdev, Nikitin, Liverovsky, Maslov, M. Bernatsky, A. Kartashevall assembled in the Palace, now transformed into a besieged fortress, only without defenders. A few hundred Cadets, who had no cartridges for their rifles, and the Womens Company could not be counted as a serious defensive force.
The women-soldiers found themselves in the Palace by accident. On the 5th of November, the day before the Bolshevist rising, Kerensky had held a review of the Womens Battalion. The women were certain that after the review they would be immediately sent to the front. They were full of burning zeal to fight the Germans, and did not in the least realise what was going on around them. Great was their disappointment when they were ordered to return to their barracks. After the review was over some one proposed to Kerensky to keep the battalion at the Palace. The commander of the battalion refused, but told off one company of 135 women-privates to guard the motor-cars which fetched benzine from the stores where the workmen were on strike. So that when the Reds commenced the siege of the Palace, the Womens Company, to its amazement and indignation, found itself drawn into the civil war. They had trained themselves to fight the Germans, but had not the slightest desire to be mixed up in political conflicts. The story of the Womens Company furnished another proof of the childish inefficiency of Generalissimo Kerensky, incapable even of organising the defence of the Palace, much less of Russia. As a member of the Petrograd Municipal Council I made an inquiry concerning the position of the Womens Battalion after the coup détat, and both officers and women-privates spoke to me with equal indignation of how they had been drawn into a struggle the meaning of which they did not even understand.
The Winter Palace was quite unprepared for defence. There was no trace of those mine- and bomb-throwers with which Arzubiev had tried to intimidate the delegates from the fortress. There were no arms, no cartridges, not even bread for the defenders. The members of the Government assembled in the Palace had not the slightest possibility of defending themselves. No one came to their assistanceneither workmen nor soldiers.
Only civilians in the Town Hall listened excitedly to the speeches of the deposed leaders of the first Soviet, who had come to seek aid for Kerensky and his adherents and called upon the members to die for the Provisional Government. Members of the Municipal Council answered with enthusiastic promises, and even marched demonstratively towards the Palace, naively believing that having been elected by universal suffrage, their authority would be recognised by the people. But the mob had no respect whatever for any lawful authorities, albeit it had formerly voted for them. The members of the Municipal Council soon realised this. The first sentinels they came across barred the way. They tried to persuade them, but the soldiers did not give in. Whereupon the whole procession returned to the Town Hall, where, in accordance with a receipt prescribed by the Socialistic wing of the Council of the Republic, a Committee of Public Safety was organised, whose first act consisted in a declaration that The question regarding the situation of the Government remains an open one. These words concealed an ambiguous expectation of a new master. His coming was at hand.
Petrograd did not sleep that night listening to the firing, to the rattle of machine-guns, to the boom of the fortress guns. The capital was transformed into a battlefield whose centre lay around the former Palace of the Tsars. The streets swarmed with excited crowds, armoured cars rushed up and down, horsemen galloped past, armed patrols warmed themselves round bonfires. One might have thought that the Russian capital was preparing for a battle against the Germans. In reality it was but the beginning of a class-war which was destined to last for months.
The crowd of soldiers, workmen, women, and common street rabble, which surged around the Winter Palace, stormed in, meeting with scarcely any resistance. The assailants possessed artillery, machine-guns, shells, and cartridges. The defenders were not only few in numbers, but almost unarmed.
In spite of the deafening firing, there were not many victims. The Womens Battalion suffered no casualties. The women-soldiers said to me afterwards with a contemptuous smile : As if the Red Guards are soldiers ! They do not know how to hold a rifle ; they cant even handle a machine-gun.
Most of the bullets did indeed fly high over the peoples heads. Although in the square soldiers joined the Red Guards, perhaps they took no pains to shoot properly. Soldiers of the Kexholm Regiment, which was supposed to be a special bulwark of Bolshevism, said afterwards that they had been ordered to leave the barracks in the morning without being told where and for what purpose they were led out.3 Only upon finding themselves in front of the Winter Palace at nightfall did they realise the true state of affairs. But even soldiers who were out of sympathy with the movement had no means of escape, for they were intermixed with the Red Guards, who, although they did not know the use of firearms, were full of neophyte zeal.
The consciousness of their own wrongdoing still felt by some of the soldiers may, perhaps, explain the reason why the Ministers were not mishandled by the mob. Fortunately for them, Kerensky, against whom the Bolsheviks had aroused the blind hatred of the masses, was not present when the furious mob stormed the Winter Palace. Everything was plundered, broken, and destroyedeven the hospital occupied by wounded soldiers. What could not be taken away was smashed to atoms. It seemed as if a horde of savages had swept the vast Palace which since the March Revolution had belonged to the nation. The crowd was so dense that not all could join in the delight of taking part in the plunder and destruction. Numbers remained outside. Furious, savage shouts greeted the appearance of the arrested Ministers.
A.V. Kartashev, the Minister of Public Worship, told me later that when they were being led from the Winter Palace to the Fortress of SS. Peter and Paul, he could feel the dark waves of hatred rising on all sides from the howling, infuriated mob. Every moment he expected these waves to break the thin chain of the convoy which closely encircled the arrested Ministers. Each time, when these waves dashed too closely, they were saved by the presence of mind of the soldiers, who, lowering their bayonets, started almost at a run to escape the infuriated mob ready to seize its victims. I heard the same story from the Cadets and women-soldiers who were taken prisoners at the Palace. They were all saved from lynching by the Bolshevist soldiers themselves, i.e. by soldiers who considered themselves Bolsheviks although probably realising neither the meaning of Bolshevism nor its consequences.
When, after having been set at liberty, A.V. Kartashev, an idealist, a man of great spiritual power and full of the moral courage inseparable from true religious sentiment, lived over again those dark hours, he frankly admitted to me : I felt the agony of a man dying slowly at the stake.
Another chance incident helped to save them. On their way to the fortress they had to cross the Neva Bridge. Suddenly, as they were crossing the bridge, arrested Ministers, military convoy, the frenzied crowdall came under a volley of rifle-fire. No one knew where the shots came from, but in trying to escape from this common deadly peril, every one flung themselves prone on the road, and lay there for several minutes while the bullets whizzed over their heads. This cooled down the victors. The soldiers were the first to jump up, and together with the Ministers reached the fortress at a brisk trot.
When the gates closed upon them, both the prisoners and the convoy heaved a sigh of relief. The people had proved more terrible than the gaolers.
Here is a description of Petrograds state of mind on the morrow of the coup détat (8th November), given by a capable journalist, a non-party Socialist, S. Kondurushkin.
This morning Petrograd is almost empty. The people, terrified by the all-night bombardment, are afraid to venture into the street. All Government offices are closed. The Winter Palace is occupied by the rebels. The Tsars garden is strewn with the bodies of those who were killed in the night. The treasures of the Winter Palace have been plundered. The Ministers are arrested and imprisoned in the fortress.
How Maklakov, Khvostov, Sukhomlinov (the Tsarist Ministers imprisoned in the fortress) must laugh ! Welcome, the fresh party of traitors to the State ! Even Socialism has failed to save the Ministers.
Guns are placed on the Nevsky Prospect. Patrols occupy street corners, bonfires are made of bourgeois papers (confiscated from newsboys), and soldiers and street urchins are warming themselves around them. Lorries, bristling with machine-guns and crowded with soldiers and sailors, tear along the empty streets towards the railway stations. Those are the rebels hastening to meet the Government troops. Their faces are radiant ; they are convinced that they are making the Revolution and saving their country.
Towards evening the streets are filled with silent people. At first sight these seem to be the same as in March, but look at their facesit is as if there was death in their homes. Those other days had been full of enthusiasm, many believed in the speedy coming of a new era. Now all faces are sullen and melancholy. Only men with rifles are enthusiastic ; what strong and well-fed fellows they are, these Petrograd soldiers and sailors ! I might even add, what blockheads !
These were already the new masters. The power of the Revolutionary Democracy and of the Provisional Government which leaned upon it was at an end. They had been animated by a sincere desire to serve the people, but they were too weak, too dogmatical, and paid for their weakness, not only with the cruel price of humiliation and suffering, but maybe by losing faith in the very people whose servants the Ministers considered themselves to be.
The political March Revolution, which deposed autocracy, avoided all violent measures even against the most hated representatives of the old regime, beginning with Nicholas II. himself. In the early days of the March Revolution each time that evil sparks of hatred and revenge flamed up among the mob Kerensky boldly quenched them. He would not suffer the Ministers, not even Sukhomlinov, to be lynched.
The November Revolution, which overthrew the Democratic Government, followed another coursethe course of violence and bloodshed. The short era of Russian political liberty was over. In its stead came the gloomy period of enforced communism, and step by step Russia began to relapse into the most terrible experiences of the Middle Ages.
This catastrophic change did not become immediately apparent. Although the Provisional Government was under arrest, and Lenin and Trotsky, surrounded at Smolny with machine-guns and with artillery, issued one decree after another in the name of the new Government of workmen and peasants, no one believed such a state of affairs would last. Their orders were so absurd, the Red Guards and Bolshevist Committeemen were so unlike ordinary Government agents that public opinion was certain all this was not a coup détat, but merely a passing adventure. The Bolsheviks themselves frankly admitted that they would not hold out for more than a fortnight.
Besides, where was the possibility of judging the situation, when neither the Bolsheviks nor their opponents had any idea of what was going on, not only in Russia, but even in Petrograd itself ?
In his diary, dated the 9th November, S. Kondurushkin gave an interesting description of Smolnythe Bolshevist citadel.
It would be curious to have a look at what is going on at Bolshevist Headquarters at the Smolny Institute !
The vast court of the old Elizabethan, building is crowded with dozens of motor-cars. For seven months Tsereteli, Chheidze, Skobelev, Gotz, Lieber, Dan, have driven in those motor-cars. . . . Now they are taken up by Lenin, Trotsky, Bronstein, Kollontai, Kamenev-Rozenfeldt, Zinoviev-Apfelbaum. . . . What a pleiad !
Will the Motherland shortly witness a new constellation rising in our political spheres ?
Between the entrance-pillars a large machine-gun points its muzzle at the doorway. Several groups of armed guardsall is enthusiasm and bayonets !
On the ground-floor I receive a pass for going upstairs. I mount. I roam over the marble stairs, along the wide corridors. For a century and a half this had been womens intimate domain. Gentle maidens, in snow-white pinafores and modest gowns, had paced the polished floors of these halls and corridors. Now they are crowded with soldiers and sailors, trampling the refuse and mud with their heavy boots. Party-girls are seated at tables selling papers and pamphlets. Smoke, dust, evil smells, cigarette-ends. . . .
The authorities occupy the apartments. Long queues of soldiers with papers and letters await their turn at the door ; dark-complexioned, nimble little men run in and out, the crowd winds up around them.
. . . All right ! Very good ! Yes, yes ! Oh, do leave me in peace, Ive not slept three nights . . .
Kerenskys troops are approaching Petrograd. Smolny is agitated. Motor-horns sound at the gates ; soldiers and sailors are hastily running up and down stairs.
I glance over the piles of books lying on the table and buy a few. At home in the evening I look through them. Surely these are the ravings of a madman, but not literature !
Excitement, frenzy, torrents of meaningless words, threats, and delirious visions of some new unknown life. But not a trace of consciousness of the actual Russia. A madmans ravings are also consecutive and full of fiery vividness, but because of their absence of connection with reality they are nevertheless only ravings.
We, in Petrograd, are cut off from all the world. Of what is happening in Russia or abroad we know nothing. Perhaps we in Petrograd have all gone mad already !
Such an idea occurred to many of us in those days, so difficult was it to obtain a clear understanding of what was really happening in this whirl of events and rumours. Authentic news was also hard to obtain. Bolshevist papers lied as usual, all others were suppressed. Sailors and Red Guards broke into printing-offices and, with levelled bayonets, dispersed both printers and members of the staff. Wild rumours spread over the city. The Town Hall became the only centre of anti-Bolshevist political life and public defence. Every evening meetings were held, which received often contradictory and confused reports of all that had taken place in the city, of the shooting of the Cadets, of arrests and looting, of negotiations with Smolny, of some obscure political vacillations at Headquarters. All this sounded feverish, uncertain, distracted.
Kerensky was expected to bring over troops and overthrow the Bolsheviks. Small bands of Cadets, acting without plan or unity, fought against the Bolsheviks, who dealt with them as cruelly as only men who are a prey to the frenzy of civil war can deal. Hundreds of young men were flung into the fortress or into prison. Relatives in despair rushed from place to place searching for their near and dear among corpses in the mortuaries, among the drowned cast up by the Neva and its adjacent canals, among the prisoners whose lists no one knew.
And still the troops of the Provisional Government did not arrive. Only later it became known that no such troops actually existed. The few units which might perhaps have been persuaded to advance against the Bolsheviks could not be moved to Petrograd owing to the extremely ambiguous, half-Bolshevist attitude taken up by the Central Executive Committee of the Railway Union, the so-called Vikzhel. Under pretext of putting an end to the civil war the Vikzhel forbade the transit of anti-Bolshevist units, while allowing Bolshevist troops to travel.
The Bolsheviks themselves, after proclaiming themselves a Government, did not know what forces were at Kerenskys disposal. Trotsky, then merely President of the Petrograd Soviet, ordered trenches to be dug around the city against Kerenskys Kornilov bands. Skirmishes were taking place around Petrograd at Krasnoe-Selo, Gatchina, and Tsarskoe. No one knew their results. In Petrograd itself there was no organised military resistance. The youthful heroism of the Cadets was of no importance whatever. The military situation became clear five days after the occupation of the Winter Palace. The Pravda published on the 14th of November a statement of General Krasnov, signed by him, in which he reported his last conversation with the Commander-in-Chief. Kerensky was very nervous and excited.
General, you have betrayed me, said Kerensky.
Your Cossacks say that they will arrest and deliver me to the sailors.
Yes, replied Krasnov, such talk is current ; I know there is no sympathy for you anywhere.
But the officers also say the same.
The officers are also dissatisfied with you.
What am I to do ? Am I to commit suicide ?
General Krasnov proposed that Kerensky should go to Petrograd carrying a white flag and enter into negotiations with the military revolutionary staff. Kerensky apparently acquiesced and asked for a guard, but while the general was assembling the convoy the Commander-in-Chief disappeared.
In such terms did the Cossack General, clearly ill-disposed towards Kerensky, describe the last moments spent by the ill-starred Commander-in-Chief in the midst of his handful of supporters. It is difficult to define precisely what had taken place at Gatchina, but it is certain that Kerensky had no military supporters and found himself obliged to cling to a few hundred Cossacks (of whom there were not more than 1500). Moreover, the Cossacks had for a long time been antagonistic towards him, while Kerensky himself mistrusted them, suspecting them of counter-revolutionary leanings. Besides this, the Cossacks had no desire to fight against superior forces of Red Guards. They began to fraternise and ended the battle, or rather the slight skirmish, by a peace treaty which guaranteed them a safe return to their homes. Under such conditions Kerenskys sojourn among them became very dangerous, because he was confronted by a foe who did not even spare peaceful citizens. When the Cossacks retreated from Tsarkoe Selo the Red Guards raided the dainty little town and proceeded to lay down the law. The priests in the churches were at that time offering prayers for the cessation of fratricidal war. One of them, Father John Kochurov, was dragged out of the church for that prayer and shot before the eyes of his schoolboy son.
With the disappearance of Kerensky the Petrograd military operations came to an end. No aid was forthcoming from Headquarters, for there too no one knew what to do. The Chief of the Staff, Dukhonin, assumed the post of Supreme Commander-in-Chief on the 14th November in view of General Krasnovs report that Commander-in-Chief Kerensky had abandoned the detachment and his present abode was unknown. General Dukhonin ordered no more troops to be sent to Petrograd, more especially as negotiations are in progress between political parties concerning the formation of a Provisional Government. In anticipation of the solution of the crisis, I summon the troops calmly to fulfil their duty in order to prevent any further German advance.
Such was the end of Kerenskys military career. He did not even risk going to Headquarters to seek support from there. Who, indeed, could have given it ? After the arrest of Kornilov and other Generals, the authority of Headquarters was already broken.
Negotiations concerning the formation of a Government were actually taking place. Part of the Socialistic Centre dreamed of creating a Coalition Ministry of members of all Socialistic parties, including the Bolsheviks. But the parties, themselves split up into numerous factions, could arrive at no agreement upon the subject. One faction of the Mensheviks desired an agreement. Another was opposed to it. A sharp cleavage took place in the Social-Revolutionary party. Social-Revolutionaries of the Left were acting in accord with the Bolsheviks. Those of the Right supported Kerensky and were consequently antagonists of the Bolsheviks. The Centre, led by Chernov, denounced the Military Revolutionary Committee, but sought for an understanding with Smolny. The Bolsheviks put an end to both vacillations and hopes, by adopting the resolution that the Central Executive Committee, which was entirely in their hands, was the only source of authority. This resolution finally set aside all those very Socialists who had persisted with such enduring and touching fidelity in treating the Bolsheviks as their comrades-in-ideas.
Even the Internationalists, that intermediate faction of the Social Democrats which from the first days of the Revolution had professed the same ideas as the Bolsheviks, expressed their indignation.
They withdrew from the Central Executive Committee, declaring as their motive that the Bolshevist resolution was a challenge to all parties. . . . Responsibility for the prolongation of the civil war falls upon the Bolsheviks.
The breach was soon healed. They became reconciled and remained in the Soviets, occasionally allowing themselves the luxury of criticism.
In acute opposition to the Bolsheviks stood all the State Socialists, Plekhanovs group, the Populist Socialists, a faction of the Social-Revolutionaries. In this they were at one with the Cadets, who adopted an irreconcilable attitude. Notwithstanding the firing in the streets, the constant domiciliary visits, arrests, and menaces, the Cadet party never ceased openly and determinedly to denounce the Bolsheviks at various meetings and in the Municipal Council. The leader of the party, P. Milyukov, was absent from Petrograd. The central figure of the conflict became A.Y. Shingarev, one of the most popular Cadet leaders. A doctor by profession, a man of enormous capacity for work and chivalrous devotion to duty, he was respected and admired not only by his numerous adherents, but also by opponents. Enemies he had none. Modest, straightforward, gentle, although sternly inexorable in questions of moral principle, he was a typical Russian democrat, both in private life and in his ideas. His name was familiar to all reading Russia. He was thrice elected to the Duma, was a member of Prince G. Lvovs Cabinet, first as Minister of Agriculture, later as Minister of Finance. At the same time he remained member of the Petrograd Municipal Council, and after the November Revolution took advantage of his position to lead a daring anti-Bolshevist campaign from the platform of the Town Hall. His speeches had an enormous influence upon the Municipal Council, and rendered any compromise with Smolny morally impossible to the Social-Revolutionary members. A.Y. Shingarev denied with harsh indignation all possibility of compliance with the Bolsheviks, whom he denounced as usurpers and criminals. There may be fanatics and madmen in their midst, said he, but there seem to be more provocateurs and members of the Okrana. . . . The Bolsheviks have an undoubted mixture of German spies and in confirmation of his statement he described a domiciliary visit at one of the womens organisations. The Reds looted the premises, carried off clothes, money, valuables. They carried off everything they could lay their hands upon, but they left something behind. After they were gone a German mark was found upon the floor. Any attempt at an agreement with such people would be countenancing a crime. Those among you, he added, turning to the Socialists, who think to put an end to bloodshed by peaceful methods of agreement, are greatly mistaken. You will achieve nothing, for they will not stop half-way in their struggle.
Shingarev demanded the restoration of the authority of the Provisional Government and the most energetic struggle against the Bolsheviks.
As I have said, during those November days the Petrograd Municipal Council was not only the sole existing political centre, besides the Smolny Institute, but also the only lawful body of representatives of the people. In this we could rival the Soviet. Elections to the Soviet were absolutely arbitrary, whereas the Municipal Council had been elected on the arch-democratic principle of universal or proportional representation. Various parties were represented as follows : 75 Social-Revolutionaries (205,000 votes), 67 Bolsheviks (183,000 votes), 42 Cadets (115,000 votes). The remaining 15 members represented various small Socialistic groups, which altogether obtained only 35,000 votes out of the total of 530,000. The Bolsheviks were in an absolute minority. For this reason the Socialist members of the Municipal Council attempted to influence the population against the Bolsheviks. They motored to the factories, made speeches, put up posters, appealing to the reason, conscience, or even to the mere instinct of self-preservation of their electors. All was in vain. Popularity had flown from the Social-Revolutionaries. Their followers of yesterday now ran after the chariot of the conqueror, believing that Lenin and Trotsky would give them peace and bread, liberty and happiness.
The Bolsheviks did not at once realise the full scope of their influence. They thought themselves obliged at first to reckon with the Municipal Council, and did not risk employing those physical methods of compulsion which had enabled them to seize and retain power. After the coup détat the Bolshevist members issued an appeal to the population, declaring the Municipal Council to be a bourgeois institution. Instead of fulfilling their plain duties, the Social-Revolutionaries of the Right and the Cadets have transformed the Municipal Council into an arena of political strife against the Soviets, against the Revolutionary Government of peace, bread, and liberty. Then the Bolsheviks demonstratively left the Town Hall. Their seats remained empty. Only one or two Bolsheviks, obviously delegated for obtaining information, remained gloomily listening to the orators whose speeches usually denounced Bolshevist crimes.
The opposition of the Petrograd Municipal Council acted as a stimulant to the irreconcilable attitude adopted by the majority of the intelligentsia towards the Bolsheviks. But the Municipal Council was unable to engage in any active conflict against the armed usurpers.
On the night of the coup détat a Committee of Public Safety had been organised in connection with the Municipal Council, comprising, besides members of the Council, representatives of various democratic organisations, such as the Central Executive Committee of Workmens Deputies, the Peasants Deputies, the Centro-Flot, the Army Committees, etc.
Amid the turmoil of civil war this Committee acted as a kind of Red Cross unit. Owing to its mixed composition, and partly thanks to the Social-Revolutionary and Internationalist members, the Municipal Council was able to render assistance, not only to the Womens Battalion, which found itself under the surveillance of the Red Guard, but also to the military Cadets. The Municipal Council obtained the release of hundreds of arrested Cadets, provided them with money, and helped them to leave Petrograd.
The Cadets were the last organised unit of the Russian Army. Being reliable soldiers, after the March Revolution they were chiefly employed to mount guard. At the time of the November Revolution they found themselves in respect of Kerensky in the position of the Swiss Guards of Versailles in the reign of Louis XVI. The officers were unorganised ; whereas after all the Cadet schools constituted armed and disciplined military units. Their composition, as regards class and political sympathies, was extremely varied. Before the war the Cadet schools, which trained the future officers, were more or less caste institutions where free education was given to officers sons. But after the terrible losses sustained by the officers staff in the war the Cadet schools began to admit young men of very low educational standard as well as privates who had distinguished themselves in active service. Just before the Revolution these schools were filled with sons of peasants, artisans, small shopkeepers, clerks, and had generally become absolutely democratic. This, however, did not prevent the Bolsheviks from declaring that all the Cadets were the sons of landowners and capitalists.
This untruth was necessary to them for deepening class consciousness, or rather class-war. Even Gorky, who in many respects was very sympathetic to extreme Marxian tendencies, wrote an indignant protest in his paper. It is, of course, an impudent lie to say that all the Cadets are landowners sons, and as such are subject to extermination. It is a falsehood perpetrated by adventurers and frantic demagogues.
Yet this conscious falsehood, so persistently and variously repeated by the Bolsheviks, rendered the very name of Cadet odious to the masses. The Red Guards, and especially the soldiers who had joined them, were persuaded that they were fighting not against Kerensky or the Provisional Government, but against the Cadets. In Bolshevist language, the very word Cadet became a word of abuse ; whereas people who clung to any hope of saving Russia from anarchy saw in these very Cadets the last mainstay of the crumbling State.
The Cadets, who had been training for war with Germany, were drawn by the force of events into the vortex of a far more terrible civil war. Among them were young men of various political convictions. Many were probably simply indifferent to politics ; but being educated soldiers they remained more loyal to duty and their oath of allegiance. When the Bolsheviks set up the frenzied persecution of the Cadets they, too, naturally began to feel a fierce resentment against those who incited the mob against them. After the fighting at Petrograd and Moscow, numbers of Cadets, together with the officers, fled to the south to join General Alexeiev. They preferred enlisting in the ranks of an army, even a Volunteer Army, to living under the constant menace of being lynched by soldiers or Red Guards.
At Moscow, the resistance to the Military Revolutionary Committee was infinitely better organised than the attempts at self-defence made by the Provisional Government at Petrograd.
The Moscow regional commander, Colonel Riabov, shut himself up in the Kremlin with a detachment of officers, students, and Cadets. They possessed arms and even guns. The Municipal Council organised a Committee of Public Safety, which found itself in the very centre of the fighting, as the Town Hall is situated by the Kremlin. The Social-Revolutionaries, beginning with the Mayor (Mr. Rudnev), felt very uncertain. By force of habit they were on the side of the Reds, but were defended by the Whites, as the Bolsheviks had contemptuously nicknamed their opponents. The number of fighting-men was extremely insignificant on both sides. The majority of the workmen and the soldiers remained neutral and waited to see who would carry the day. Once more, as in Petrograd, the democratic elector, who had so largely voted for the Social-Revolutionaries and also given them an absolute majority in the Moscow Municipal Council, proffered no support to the men of his choice at the moment of real peril.
The battle lasted seven days. Shells rained over Moscow, setting fire to the houses, whose inhabitants dared not leave them, for rifle and machine-gun bullets whizzed along the streets. The city was transformed into a battlefield, over which peaceful citizens still found themselves obliged to wander, as no one had sufficient food supplies to last so long. No one knew exactly the whereabouts of the Government or of Bolshevist forces. Every one expected the arrival of troops from the front. When it became obvious that no troops were forthcoming, the Committee of Public Safety concluded a treaty with the Military Revolutionary Committee which guaranteed the personal inviolability and liberty of the vanquished, i.e. of the Whites. On the 15th of November Moscow was handed over to the Bolsheviks.
Thus was all armed resistance practically ended in the cities, where the Soviets had at their disposal stores of ammunition and a considerable, although disorderly, contingent of man-power. On the contrary, in the south, in Cossack lands, the nucleus of a Volunteer Army was formed in November. General Alexeiev, disguised as a workman, with only a few roubles in his pocket, fled to the Don. Officers, who did not wish to acknowledge the Bolshevist authority, and dreamed of continuing the struggle against Germany, soon began to flock around him. The Socialist-Revolutionary Democracy eyed this new movement with disfavour, as concealing a possibility of the regeneration of a strong and disciplined Russian Army. Generals always excited suspicion among the first Soviets members : What if they are plotting a counter-revolution ?
When it became known that Kornilov, Denikin, and other Generals arrested by Kerensky had escaped from the Bykhov Prison and joined Alexeiev and Kaledin at Novocherkassk, this suspicious attitude towards the Southern Volunteer Army became still more pronounced. The paper edited by the Social-Revolutionary leader, V. Chernov, while demanding a purely Socialistic Ministry with the exclusion of Bolsheviks, said : Bolsheviks are victorious in the north ; Kaledin in the south. They join hands for the destruction of the Revolution. Our task is to knock both counter-revolutions on the head. We must fight the Bolsheviks by force of organisation, and Kaledinby force of arms (Dielo Naroda, 16th December 1917).
Far greater sympathy was manifested in Socialist circles towards another effort of resistance to Bolshevist usurpation organised by civilians, namely, the strike of the Government officials.
Like the rest of the population Russian officials welcomed the March Revolution which brought the Russian people their longed-for political liberty. They expressed their readiness to serve under the Provisional Government, and all remained at their posts. But when the Bolsheviks seized power the officials at one with all the Russian intelligentsia received them with indignant protest, and not only did not wish to work with them, but flatly refused to recognise the Soviet rule.
It might have seemed that the modest, down-trodden officials, stifled by office routine, unaccustomed to political struggle, would be the last men capable or desirous of struggling against the new club-law, proclaimed as it was in the name of Socialism. But the Russian bureaucracy so constantly, and frequently with such good cause, denounced and rebuked by the intelligentsia opposition had proved itself capable of imbuing its servants with a sense of responsibility towards Russia as a whole which was lacking in many representatives of the liberal professions ; and in the dark hour of misfortune which beset the Russian State created by the strenuous efforts of generations of Russian men and women, these inconspicuous workers who had built and supported it all rose up to defend it.
It goes without saying that the officials were incapable of offering any armed resistance when even the officers were unable to do so. But the entire State machine was in the hands of the officials, and they resolved to prevent the Bolsheviks from assuming its control.
After the March Revolution, numerous officials employed in various Government offices and institutions had organised themselves in unions. After the November coup détat these separate unions became associated in a Union of Unions, which comprised both senior and junior officials.
During the Kerensky régime, besides the sittings of the Provisional Government where Ministers mainly discussed and decided problems of general policy, there also met the so-called Minor Council of Ministers, comprised of all the Assistant Ministers, which settled questions relating to administration. After the arrest of the Provisional Government the Minor Council of Ministers continued its sittings, striving to preserve the succession of authority and, if possible, to reinstate the power of the Provisional Government.
They met secretly, like conspirators, constantly changing their quarters, as the Bolsheviks might appear at any moment and arrest them. These remnants of the Provisional Government were certainly devoid of any physical force, but the entire mechanism of the State, in so far as it is regulated by office work, was under their control. The officials indignantly refused to recognise the commissaries and offered them every possible resistance. The Minor Council met this patriotic state of mind half-way. A strike of Government officials was decided upon. When Bolshevist commissaries came to the Government offices and institutions they found either closed doors, or were met by officials who refused even to speak to the Soviet representatives. If the latter insisted, bureaux would be locked up before their very faces and keys carried away.
An important part in the organisation of the Union of Unions and of the official strike was played by Countess Sophia Panin. She was a member of the Minor Council as Assistant Minister of Education.
An aristocrat by birth, the sole heiress of one of the largest fortunes in Russia, she devoted all her mind and rare energy, to say nothing of means, to public education. Countess Sophia Panin had erected in one of the Petrograd working-class districts a model Peoples Palace, which she managed herself, thereby winning the workmens sympathy and approval. The Tsarist regime was no lover of such hobbies, and placed obstacles in the way of all cultural enterprises. But owing to her close ties with Court circles, Countess Panin contrived to safeguard her Peoples Palace from police aggression. She was what is known in Russia as a cultural worker, and took no part in politics. The war broke out. Countess Panin devoted herself to the complicated home war-work, without which no army could have endured the strain of the war. The Revolution compelled her to take up politics. She joined the Cadets party, was elected to the Central Committee4 and afterwards successively occupied the posts of Assistant Minister of Public Welfare and Assistant Minister of Education. A woman of indomitable courage and resolution, Countess Panin lent not only moral, but also important material support to the strike of officials. Every strike primarily demands funds. As this strike was organised for the defence not of any class interests, but of those of the entire State, it naturally had to be supported by State funds. Countess S. Panin provided the officials with means to continue the strike for two months by advancing certain sums to their leaders.
The strike of the officials gradually developed, arousing the vexation of one part of the population and the sympathy of the other. The State Bank became the object of the most bitter contest. The Bolsheviks made their appearance at the Bank, demanding that ten million roubles should be placed to the current account of the Soviet of Peoples Commissaries. The Council of the State Bank refused upon the plea that The Soviet of Peoples Commissaries is an institution which does not possess legal rights.
The Bolsheviks arrested several officials. The Commissary reappeared at the State Bank and announced that the ten millions were wanted for the Red Guard, which would disperse if not paid. This was for the Director of the Bank a most unconvincing argument. He would have been only too pleased if all the Reds dispersed. The soldiers of the Semenovsky regiment who mounted guard at the Bank, apparently realising that the whole nations wealth stored in the Banks cellars could not be handed over for plunder to a band of usurpers, ignored the Commissary and obeyed the Director of the Bank. The building was several times surrounded by troops. The officials would not yield. Then the Bolsheviks changed the sentry and arrested the Council of the Bank. All the clerks struck work and withdrew, carrying away books and keys, and informing the population of their action in the following proclamation :
The State Bank is closed. The acts of violence performed by the Bolsheviks at the State Bank have rendered work impossible. The very first act of the Peoples Commissaries took the form of a demand for 10 million roubles, while on the 14th of November they already demanded 25 millions without stating the ultimate allocation of these sums. Even during the Tsarist régime the State Bank did not pay out money without receiving an account. We, the officials of the State Bank, cannot take part in the plunder of the nations inheritance. We have struck work. Citizens, if you safeguard the nations wealth from plunder, and defend us from violence, we shall immediately resume our work.
Some attempts were made to support the strikers by collections, but unfortunately, mostly by resolutions passed in various political parties and organisations, such as the Municipal Council, the Unions of Professors and representatives of other liberal professions, the Committee for Saving the Country and the Revolution, organised to fight the Bolsheviks, etc. The latter Committee issued a proclamation of protest against the seizure of the State Bank :
This must be put a stop to. We call upon all Petrograd citizens to protest. Workmen, you are menaced with unemployment. Soldiers, the Bolsheviks make robbers of you. Protest ! Down with the rule of the usurpers !
Neither the soldiers nor the workmen responded to the call. They believed the Bolshevist leaders, who incited them against the officials, accusing them of sabotage, counter-revolutionary plots and branding them as enemies of the people. The Military-Revolutionary Committee issued a threatening order :
The wealthy classes and their menials will forfeit the right of obtaining victuals. All the food supplies in their possession will be requisitioned and the property of the chief offenders confiscated (20th November).
In vain did the intelligentsia strive to prove both in the Press and at extempore street meetings, which were still possible, that the Bolsheviks were the real enemies of the people, that on the contrary the officials were safeguarding the nations interests by preventing the Bolsheviks from ruining the State.
In vain did the officials themselves attempt to refute the Bolsheviks slanderous accusations by publishing a special appeal to the population :
It is not true that the officials are not giving money for the army and bread for the population, and are stopping railway communication, ran the declaration of the Union of Unions. On the contrary, all institutions administering these branches are unceasingly and unsparingly working by order of the Union of Unions.
It is not true that the officials are hand in glove with the rich. The salary of most of the officials does not exceed a workmans wages. We ourselves are part of the toiling democracy ; we uphold not the rich, but the rights of the whole nation, the rights of an all-national authority, the rights of the Constituent Assembly.
Lenins Soviet of Peoples Commissaries is not a Government of workmen and soldiers, but a group of men who have usurped power despite the will of a vast majority of the population.
They threaten to disperse the Constituent Assembly if it does not submit to their will. They are preparing a new civil war, to drown in the blood of the people the cause of national liberty.
We should be traitors to our Motherland if we offered our knowledge and labour to the usurpers, if we assisted them in organising their power over the country, strengthening them for the struggle against the Constituent Assembly, and seizing millions of money belonging to the nation for the continuation and spreading of civil war.
But we are not traitors, and we declare that we will not work with those who are plotting against the Constituent Assembly.
This proclamation was posted up secretly in the night in the streets of Petrograd. Several young men, caught upon the spot with proclamations, were arrested by the Bolsheviks. But the masses, whom the strikers were attempting to convince, read their bitterly truthful declaration with a contemptuous sneer.
Workmen, soldiers, women, had but one answer to all the speeches of their opponents : We dont believe you. You are bourgeois, Kornilov minions. Youve drunk enough of our blood.
There was little sense in those words, but they were repeated with the immutable accuracy of a sacred formula responding to some vague long-concealed sentiments, which now stirred the people. An impenetrable veil seemed to be drawn between the crowd possessed by Bolshevist frenzy and all those who attempted to struggle, at least by word if not by deed, against this wholesale class madness. Every act of opposition to Bolshevism aroused the acute anger of the crowds. The Peoples Commissaries very cleverly fanned it into flames in the Press by their speeches and their decrees. Spite against the officers and officials, against the entire intelligentsia, which had from the very beginning refused to submit to the Soviet of Peoples Commissaries, grew apace.
Amid the helpless protests of the more cultured classes, both among the intelligentsia and workmen, and to the loud applause of the ignorant misled populace, the Bolsheviks took drastic action against the unsubmissive officials. The great majority of the strikers were modest toilers living from hand to mouth upon small salaries. Some of them occupied Government lodgings ; the Bolsheviks turned them out into the street in the cold with their wives and children. But neither material privations nor arrests, perquisitions nor menace of court-martial could prevail upon the strikers to surrender. True, at the time the Bolsheviks had only proclaimed the terror, but had not yet introduced it as a system of government. Still shots were always heard round Smolny. No one knew who might be shot at any time. But all did know that for sabotage people were taken to Smolny. And yet, in spite of danger and threats, the little clerks, whose names never were and never will be known, staunchly defended the Russian State, parts of which were being, one by one, smashed to atoms by the Bolsheviks.
This strike of Government officials in which all, from Assistant Ministers down to the last junior clerk, took part, presented one of the most interesting episodes of the Russian Revolution. It demonstrated that Russian statehood had created not only submissive executors of the masters will, but had also imbued those insignificant executors with a deep, self-sacrificing national sense of duty, which in the moment of peril developed into heroism.
If that heroism came to nothing and ended in victory for the Bolsheviks, the fault lay least of all with the officials themselves. . . . Like most Russians, they believed that Lenins power could not last ; that after a certain lapse of time the Constituent Assembly would come into being and the Provisional Government would be reinstated.
History, however, decreed otherwise. In a months time it became necessary to prepare for what was called the liquidation of the strike. It was drawn out until the opening of the Constituent Assembly. When it became obvious that no Constituent Assembly was possible, it was decided to end the strike. By that time the Bolsheviks had already decided they could manage everything themselves and were not in need of experienced and expert officials. They appointed porters as head-clerks, charwomen as headmistresses of girls schools, etc. Numbers of officials remained literally in the street doomed to a lingering death.
Like all the rest of the Russian intelligentsia, the officials were confronted with the hard dilemma of either surrendering to the mercy of the victors, whom they looked upon as criminals and enemies of Russia, or of taking up physical labour, which could not be easily obtained, or as a last resource of starting on a pilgrimage across the vast country weltering in anarchy until they might reach some border State unconquered by the Soviets.
The meritorious service rendered by the officials to the Russian State was emphasised in the farewell decree issued on the 1st December by the late members of the Provisional Government. It was signed by several assistant Ministers and by the Socialist Ministers, S. Prokopovich, A. Nikitine, K. Gvosdev, A. Liverovsky, S. Maslov. The non-Socialist Ministers were unable to sign it, as they had not been liberated, but were still held as hostages in the Peter and Paul Fortress.
Most valuable service has been rendered by the personnel of officials and clerks working in Government institutions in safeguarding the institutions from at tempts at encroachment on the part of irresponsible and illegal usurpers. Thus ran the declaration : Fearing neither threats, nor violence, neither shrinking from personal sacrifice, fully conscious of their right and their duty to the Motherland, the officials and employees unfalteringly carried out their trust, protested bravely and decisively against the seizure of the institutions by rebels and prevented individuals, styling themselves the Peoples Commissaries, from taking possession of the national inheritance.
The members of the late Provisional Government, calling upon the people to struggle against the Bolsheviks, pointed out the perils of their rule :
The negotiations for an armistice started by the rebels in the name of the Russian State can only lead to a separate peace shameful and ruinous for Russia. Unless powerfully opposed by the Army and the People, these insane actions will reduce Russia to a state of political and economic slavery, provoke a rupture with the Entente Powers, eliminate Russia from among the Great Powers, and doom her to the fate of a vanquished nation surrendering to the mercy of the conquerors. Such unprecedented temerity of action by the rebels obliges the Provisional Government of the Russian Republic to declare that these actions can in nowise be recognised as acts of Government or as expressing the will of the people.
Admitting that the usurpers will not refrain from laying their hands even upon the Constituent Assembly, if the latter does not submit to their will, the Provisional Government appeals to all citizens in the Army and the Homeland for a united defence of the Constituent Assembly as a guarantee of the possibility of its powerful and firm declaration of the will of the People.
While acknowledging the merits and courage of the Government officials in safeguarding the interests of the State ; the representatives of the Provisional Government give a far from favourable estimate of the activities of other organisations :
The Committees for Saving the Motherland and the Revolution and Committees of Public Safety organised at the outbreak of the rebellion offered no support to the legal supreme authority, but aimed at the creation of a uniform Socialistic Cabinet. The Provisional Government has throughout firmly adhered to the principle of an all-National power. Acting upon such a basis, the Provisional Government could not recognise the authority of the rebels and would not participate in the attempt to create a new power upon the eve of the Constituent Assembly.
This was an allusion to the attempt to entice the Socialist Ministers to compromise with the Bolsheviks. After the coup détat various public forces grouped around the first Soviet endeavoured in their own way to oppose the Bolsheviks. They first organised the Committee for Saving the Motherland and the Revolution. Later, they formed the Committee for the Defence of the Constituent Assembly.
As the leaders of the Socialist Centre might at any moment be arrested or even shot, they were obliged to act in secrecy and return to their former mode of living with false passports and under disguise, hiding in other peoples flats as in the days of Tsarism. It is extremely difficult to trace their underhand activity, particularly as it brought no results. It was naturally difficult for representatives of parties which for so long had been in friendly intercourse with the Bolsheviks to find a psychological standpoint justifying a change of attitude on their part.
Upon a certain November day the Bolsheviks suddenly arrested the Lord Mayor and several members of the Municipal Council, both Socialists and Cadets. The Lord Mayor, Gr. Shreider, was one of the superior representatives of the Social-Revolutionary party, an honest, fairly able man, and a capable journalist. When he was brought to the Smolny and led into the room occupied by the previously arrested members of the Municipal Council, the arrested Lord Mayor made a tour of the Red Guard sentries and shook hands with them all.
What are you doing ? indignantly asked one of the municipal members, a Cadet.
Whats the matter ? I look upon them as comrades.
And I look upon them as gaol-birds, replied the Cadet brusquely.
When at a meeting of the Petrograd municipal corporation another Social-Revolutionary, the Mayor of Moscow, Rudnev, was telling the tragic story of the capture of Moscow by the Bolsheviks, he was always trying to emphasise the fact that he had not sought nor desired an armed struggle against them.
Even after the Bolsheviks had openly renounced their former friendship, after the Social-Revolutionary Kerensky and many others had been denounced as counter-revolutionaries, the Socialists of the Centre still found it hard to understand that now they could no longer sit between two stools, that they would either have to declare war against the Bolsheviks or submissively don the Bolshevist uniform. For the Bolsheviks were Socialists, and Socialists must stand shoulder to shoulder against the rest of non-Socialistic mankind, lumped together as the bourgeoisie. The attempt of the Socialistic parties to come to an agreement with the Bolsheviks, referred to by the Ministers, is thus comprehensible. It was a childish scheme, as neither the former Ministers nor the Peoples Commissaries desired such an agreement.
The Socialistic group that had seized power had no intention of sharing it with any one. On the contrary, the Bolsheviks were getting a firmer grip of everything, abolishing all organisations, all institutions which, in one way or another, were incarnations and expressions of the peoples will.
The first stage of the armed struggle between the Bolsheviks and the adherents of the Provisional Government was rapidly brought to a close. Hardly had Petrograd been encircled by trenches against the Kronilovist gangs of Kerensky, by Trotskys orders, than there were no longer any anti-Bolshevist gangs either in Petrograd or in the environs. Kerensky himself disappeared on the 14th of November, and it was only in the summer of 1918 that he again turned up, not in Russia, but abroad. Moscow resisted from the 8th to the 15th of November. Then the Bolsheviks were victorious. In both Moscow and Petrograd armed resistance was at an end. True, it was necessary to conquer the rest of Russia, but the Bolsheviks held the arsenals and munition works, the State Bank, and the Government Printing Works. They declared Petrograd to be in a state of siege, and treated the population as conquerors treat a conquered country.
In the Council of the Republicthat last organ of State where the various currents of Russian political life could still find expressionthe Bolsheviks, on demonstratively leaving that bourgeois institution, repeated their war-cry : All power to the Soviets ! All the land to the people ! Hail to an immediate, honest, democratic peace ! Hail to the Constituent Assembly !
Now they were in a position to fulfil these promises, but the Bolsheviks were consistent only in the fulfilment of the first two clauses of that short, but tempting programmepower to the Soviets, and land to all.
1 A. Shingarev, a clever and observant man, wrote in the Russkija Viedomosty, on the 6th November : Will the Bolsheviks come out or not ? Personally, I believe that the whole thing will be limited to empty rhodomontade and political blackmailing by cowardly rioters and obscure demagogues.
2 I am obliged to compile the narrative of the first days of the coup détat from brief newspaper extracts prepared while I was still in Russia. Hence mistakes are possible. I apologize beforehand to my readers, as I have nothing else to go upon, and I was not an eye-witness of these events. I returned to Petrograd from the Caucasus four days after the coup détat.
3 I repeat this from the statement made by the Esthonian representative in London, Prof. A. Piip, who had it from Esthonian soldiers.
4 She was the second woman member of the Central Committee of the Cadet Party. The first was the author of this work, elected in the spring of 1908.