THE Bolsheviks, who generally speaking are very consecutive in theory, have applied higher principles of social revolution to all branches of life, to economics, to justice, to the Press, and even to the Church.
It was not difficult to abolish political freedom in the interest of a class, and actually for the alleged rule of the proletariat, seeing that the old régime had died, and the new representative one was not yet formed. Much more difficult and unrealisable was their effort to rebuild the complicated system of national economics, which was previously based on personal property and private initiative, subjected to, but not restricted by state laws. In economics, as in politics, the Bolsheviks aimed at absolute submission of individuality to the State. And according to their scheme the State acquires such absolute power over the property and life of everybody as not only the Romanovs, but even the despots of ancient Assyria or Egypt never dared to dream of. In this respect the Bolsheviks are more insatiable than all the Imperialists of the world. Starting from the Marxist principle that only the State has the right to dispose of every mans work, seeing that any other labour organisation gives birth to capitalistic exploitation, the Bolsheviks desired to make the Soviet power the only employer. To this end they nationalised the banks, industry and trade. All State loans were cancelled. All payments on coupons were stopped. The land and the factories became the property of the workers. The houses were confiscated. Additional inmates were installed by force in private homes, and even the furniture in them nationalised. The latter measures, however, are of secondary importance ; they are meant partly for the greater humiliation of the bourgeois, and partly with a view to general compulsory equalisation. First, we must distinguish among the economic Soviet measures, that which is done for the purpose of carrying out new Socialistic principles from what is done for the weakening and in some cases simply for the ruining of the bourgeois, including the intelligentsia. The second category requires no criticism by logic. It must rather be examined from the standpoint of morals, as in it we see only the fury of civil war sown by the Bolsheviks. The Soviet leaders yield easily to wrath, as, like all despots, they feel that their power cannot last long. Their weakness is organic, internal, because their theory is unrealisable and they are unable to create new forms of production. Economics have their laws, which are stronger than the will of despots, even of Socialists. It is quite possible to take away personal property from those who have it. But to distribute the confiscated property justly and equably among all the inhabitants proved to be impossible. Still more impossible was their system of state direction of labour, that is, their particular form of State serfdom. The old serf system died in Russia because it proved inefficient not only morally, but also economically. Now the Bolsheviks have made an experiment in State serfdom in one part of Russia, and have failed. One of the reasons of their failure is the fact that under their system labour bears a still more acute and more compulsory character than under that of capitalism. And yet theoretically the Soviet power is considered to be the dictatorship of the proletariat, a dictatorship of men of physical labour. And who can compel dictators to work ?
Seeing that there are undoubtedly learned men among the leaders of Bolshevism who are well informed on economic questions, and that Lenin himself began his career with scientific economic researches, they certainly can see the weakness and instability of their economic prospects, and they name in advance the culprits of their unavoidable bankruptcy. It is, certainly, the bourgeoisie and its creatures who are guilty by sabotaging the Soviet Powers measures. Prince Tsereteli was right in saying in the Constituent Assembly that this accusation is a proof of the poverty of Socialism. But it was in the first March Revolution that the apparatus of capitalism was shaken, the economic commanding staff weakened, all employers, directors, engineers, discredited, and all discipline, without which no productive, collective labour is possible, destroyed.
That the modern capitalistic régime has engendered and is fostering social diseases and injustices is a plain truth, against which no thinking, honest man will seek to argue. The question is, how can mankind be cured of these ailments, how to create a commonwealth founded on justice and humanity. What has happened in Russia shows that Socialism does not hold the keys to this paradise, and that a different morality, different methods, a different attitude to human mentality and to every man individually are required to create a new mankind.
The extreme wing of the Socialists completed and deepened what had been done, if not under the guidance, then at any rate with the encouragement and approval of the Socialistic Centre. They carried the system to an extreme, and thereby fully revealed its defects.
The incitements against the bourgeoisie were a necessary part of their work, because in this way the class-consciousness was elucidated, according to the favourite expression of the Marxists. Civil war was an inevitable consequence of this acute antagonism of interests of one class against another.
Having carried through the coup détat, the Bolsheviks through the Commissary of Labour, Shliapnikov, addressed an appeal to the workmen, calling on them to put the Revolution and its conquests on a firm basis.
The propertied classes are endeavouring to create anarchy and the ruin of industry by provoking the workmen to excesses and violence over the question of foremen, technicians, and engineers. They hope thereby to achieve the complete and final ruin of all businesses and eventually to close the doors of all the mills and factories. The revolutionary Commission of Labour asks you, our worker-comrades, to abstain from all acts of violence and excess. By a joint and creative work of the, labour masses and proletariat organisations, the Commission of Labour will know how to surmount all the obstacles in its way. The new revolutionary Government will apply the most drastic measures against all industrials and those who continue to sabotage industry, and thereby prevent the carrying out of the tasks and aims of the great proletarian and peasant Revolution. Executions without trial and other arbitrary acts will only damage the cause of Revolution. The Commission of Labour calls on you for self-control and revolutionary discipline. (12th November.)
Thus, while inciting against the skilled industrials, as being not only the chief enemies of the revolutionary people, but also lunatics, who have themselves ruined their businesses to spite the workmen, the Bolsheviks hypocritically took refuge in a spurious warning against violence.
As a matter of fact these arbitrary acts not only tallied with the theory of class hatred, carried to the point of class extermination, but at the same time led surely to one of the goals of the Marxist movement in general and its Bolshevist faction in particular. The Socialists had always clamoured for the disorganisation of the bourgeois régime, and the Bolsheviks have accomplished this part of the programme with success. This was a necessary stage on the road to the substitution of the socialistic régime for the capitalistic. This substitution could only take place after the fire of the world Revolution had destroyed the old rotten props of the bourgeoisie. Russias example must carry away the proletariat of the whole world. Seeing that Russia is a backward country with a small and unorganised middle class, it will be easiest of all to make the Revolution, or as Lenin said, the social experiment in Russia. Even if it is not possible to achieve final success, the road will be opened, and an example shown. As Lenin was not sure of the duration of his power, he hastened to make the experiment as quickly as possible, without at all guaranteeing success, or stopping to think of the sufferings of the people over whom he had seized power. With regard to Russia he acted not with the strict firmness of a surgeon who wishes to save the patient, but with the cold cruelty of a vivisector, who does not care whether the rabbit dies after the experiment or remains crippled for life, dragging out a miserable existence.
The Bolsheviks always considered their acts from the international point of view and endeavoured not only to sweep the Russian bourgeoisie from the face of the earth, but also to carry disorganisation into the capitalistic régime the world over.
In their official issues published in Geneva for circulation in Europe, they characterise the importance of the economic decrees of the Soviet of Peoples Commissaries as follows.
In the preface to the Decree on the Nationalisation of the Banks they say :
This is a dagger-thrust straight into the heart of the capitalistic economic system. It is well known that in our time the bank is the real centre both of production and of exchange in every country. In this capacity it directs world policy, and the terrific explosion of the present war must be ascribed precisely to this concealed power. Hence the monopolisation of the banks is a decisive step towards the downfall of contemporary Imperialism. It is the foundation of new economic relations, where gold will cease to have power.
The decree for the stopping of the payment of coupons is accompanied by an identical note :
The cessation of payment of coupons and dividends is closely connected with the annulment of the foreign loans, proclaimed by the government of the Soviets. Both these measures, as also the nationalisation of the banks, are directed against the very foundations of capitalistic finance, against its system of credit. It is certainly not easy by one blow to liberate economic life from this complicated network. Capitalistic finance is continuing in Russia and against Russia its underground work. But the Soviets have shown how to break its backbone, and its hour of downfall is near.
They certainly succeeded in breaking the backbone of the Russian financial system. Russian money has lost all value on the world market. Even in Russia it is enormously depreciated. And it could not be otherwise when the whole Bolshevist financial system is built exclusively on the printing of paper money, not guaranteed by any kind of reserve.
This leads to a hypertrophy of the budget of the Soviet of Peoples Commissaries. As they have created a monstrous bureaucratic apparatus through trying to turn almost every one into officials, their budget has reached simply comic proportions. With the general disorder and absence of records, nobody will be able, to fix exactly the expenditure of the Soviets. In summer 1918, however, the Pravda published a speech of M. Gukovsky, Commissary for Finances, delivered by him at the Congress of the Soviets, in which he pointed out that it would be necessary to expend during the first half-year twenty-four billion roubles, whereas the revenues would not exceed one billion, and even that was not quite certain. Since then the expenses of the Soviets have grown still more, because in view of the rise of the prices of food-stuffs, living has become very expensive, and it is necessary to raise the salaries of the officials. Besides, the expenses for the army are continuously growing. And the revenues come only from forced contributions from the inhabitants, and chiefly from the printing machine of the State.
The socialisation of the land destroyed the possibility of taxing the landowners. There are no trade profits because private trade is stopped, and nationalised trade brings only losses, as also does industry, now transferred to the hands of the Soviet workmen. The Bolsheviks did not risk nationalising all, industry at once. They did this gradually, and in most cases not entirely but only partially. They established, however, the workmens control. The details of this are set forth in a long decree which curiously enough contains a clause providing for the right of the proprietor to lodge a complaint against the decisions of the workmens Soviet. In fact, however, the proprietor is quite powerless before the will of the undisciplined workmen.
During the first period of the Russian Revolution, the more reasonable Socialists, and also in part the Radicals, recognised the need of introducing State control over industry. The road to this was already prepared by the regulation of the distribution of orders, raw material, produce, and transport, which had become familiar during the war in all belligerent countries, including Russia.
But to hand over the whole business into the hands of the workmen was certainly a product of Socialistic rule.
The Russian workmen had neither any experience nor professional organisation, nor even elementary economic knowledge. Their control mostly meant looting and rioting. They dismissed engineers, technicians, foremen, and generally speaking the whole skilled staff. On railways the workmen elected pointsmen as directors. One of the principles of the Bolshevist reconstruction of life was the right of the whole staff to participate in all matters affecting the concern or institution in question. In the universities, the doorkeepers and floor-sweepers took their seats beside the professors to decide together academic questions. In the hospitals the lowest menial attendants elected or dismissed doctors. In schools the maid-servants were appointed to the post of lady-superintendent. This brought such chaos into life that finally even people who were willing to carry out their functions under the Bolsheviks were involuntarily compelled to practise sabotage.
In a paper dated October 1918, that is, a year after the Bolshevist coup detat, an order of the Bolshevist Commissary of Moscow was published in which he complained that only secret saboteurs served on railways, and as a result of this there were 2000 unloaded cars accumulated in the Moscow railway junction.
The fundamental idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat regarding the right of physical toilers to dictate their will to all the rest, and especially to the brain workers, who formerly directed and organised the working energy of the nation, was carried out by the Bolsheviks to its uttermost limits.
One can only wonder at the economic flexibility of the Russian people, who still manage to live in some way in spite of the absurdities of the economic and administrative phantasies of the Soviet dictators. The reason for this is that Russia is an agricultural country, that the town population did not exceed 10 per cent of the whole. It is now even less. Thus in Petrograd, for instance, there were 2½ million people at the time of the Bolshevist coup detat, and ten months later only 800,000 remained. The people in the villages remain unconcerned, are trying to lead their lives independently of Bolshevist fancies, and when pressed too hard by the commissaries get peace by paying or else by shooting them.
The result of the workmens control showed itself very rapidly and led to a complete ruin of production. The workmen proved unable to conduct any complicated business ; they sold the raw material and shared the money among themselves. The Soviet of Peoples Commissaries was compelled to subsidise even those concerns which had quite a short time previously given good profits. This demoralised the workmen and turned the factory committees into assemblies of parasites.
Lenin and his adherents kept stubbornly repeating to the masses that their welfare would be secured as soon as they took from the bourgeoisie all it had filched from them. The primary axiom that labour is the essential condition of life is set aside and replaced by the tempting dream of an everlasting repartition of property. The land, factories, capital, houses, furniture, clothesall must be divided. Then will come an end to the idleness of the landowners, capitalists, engineers, directors, and all other counter-revolutionaries, and the peasants and workmen, in their turn, will be able to become idle.
How often at improvised street meetings the absurd words were heard : We shall take everything from you, we shall divide all and each will get 100,000 roubles.
This was said with a threat. The opponent, more often than not being a badly-dressed intellectual, with patched boots, who perhaps never held so much as a 1000 rouble note in his hands, tried in vain to make the dreamers listen to reason : But where will you get so much ? Rich people are not so numerous. You will begin to divide and end by plundering, and all the same there will not be enough for every one.
From all sides angry eyes are fixed at the insolent bourgeois. Not enough, you say ? Probably hidden away in all the trunks ? Dont like to part with it ? Therell be enough for us. Youve drunk enough of our blood.
The idea of requisitions, for which there was a formula in the Communist Manifestoexpropriate the expropriatorshas utterly shaken the peoples wealth, sapped productivity, disaccustomed the people to work, and killed the basic conceptions of right, law, and justice.
The plunder was not restricted to landlords estates, private capital, and factories. Annexations and indemnities, which the Socialists feared so much in international relations, were applied to the widest extent in internal life. The Soviets, revolutionary committees, extraordinary commissions, all sought annexations and imposed indemnities on the inhabitants of the conquered towns. Such was the system of government. When the naive president of a provincial Soviet asked for money from the Soviet of the Peoples Commissaries they mostly answered : Havent you got any rifles ?
The picking of pockets proceeded with an extraordinary rapidity. But to whom and where the money wentnobody knows, and probably never will know exactly. In any case the members of the committees and the commissaries were not in need of money.
Plunder became a custom. People boasted of it as of a proud achievement.
If on the one hand petty pickpockets, especially when caught red-handed, were ruthlessly shot, on the other hand the Soviet leaders and their Press systematically encouraged plunder. In February 1918 Lenin uttered in the Smolny a farewell speech to agitators bound to the provinces. The programme stated by him is marked by tempting simplicity.
We have before us two strong foes. The first is international capital. There is no doubt that so far it is stronger than the Soviet Republic and that their existence alongside of each other is impossible. But the capitalists are already sending to us their commissaries, and will perhaps recognise the Soviet Power and even the annulment of the loans. Lenin explained this concession on the part of the capitalists of the Allied countries by the enthusiasm with which the legislative work of the Soviets was met by the workmen of the whole world. Our position is absolutely solid, because we have behind us all the workmen of the entire world. But in order to strengthen it, we must struggle with the second foeinternal ruin. Neither the Tsars, nor Kerenskys authority could organise the distribution of food-stuffs. The Soviet Power must surmount this difficulty and, before all settle the economic life of the villages. No one will help you, comrades. The whole bourgeoisie, officials, saboteurs, go against you, because they know that if the people, whose common property was hitherto in the hands of capitalists and village tight-fists, now divide all among themselves, they will clear Russia of drones and weeds. In the villages the rich peasants will be against the Bolsheviks, but it will be easy for you to fight there, because the masses will be with you. They will see that not punitive expeditions are coming to them from the centre, but agitators, bearing light into the village, eager to rally all those who work for themselves and do not try to live at the expense of others. . . . A struggle will blaze up between the rich and the working peasants, and the poor ought to be helped not with a book, but with experience of a personal struggle. . . . External war is ending. That is unmistakable. Now begins internal war. The bourgeoisie, having hidden their plunder in trunks, are saying quietly to themselves : Never mind, we will wait a little longer ! The people must make them return what they have plundered. You must do this on the spot. It will not be the police who will compel them to do this. It is for the people to do this, and there is no other means to fight with the bourgeoisie. (Pravda, February 19.)
It was in this cold-blooded and well thought out way that Lenin instructed the agitators to organise a general wholesale plunder. Like all Lenins acts this speech is not an accidental outbreak of wrath, but only a link in his consecutive, systematic heartless work.
It is natural that with such encouragement of wholesale violence the Bolsheviks were bound to cancel justice.
The juridical statutes of Russia, created in 1863, in the so-called epoch of the great reforms in the reign of Alexander II. were constructed on a very humane and well-proportioned plan. Even the later innovations which aimed at restricting the independence of the courts could not injure the main foundations of Russian justice. But the Bolsheviks destroyed it by a single decree. They said that the former laws were created to support the bourgeois régime and to protect the institution of property. The old courts were guided by these laws. Hence there was no more need for these courts. There was no need of any juridical standards. It would be enough to have revolutionary tribunals, through which the people themselves would punish or pardon. On November 24, a decree was issued abolishing the Senate, the Higher Courts, and all other courts of justice. Their functions were to be carried out by special judges, elected through the Soviets.
It is said that when Shcheglovitov, one of the most hated of the Tsars Ministers, who by his contempt for law and for the independence of the judges, demoralised the Ministry of Justice at the head of which he stood, read, while imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress, the decree for the revolutionary tribunals he sarcastically said : And yet the Cadets repeatedly charged me in the Duma with turning the tribunal into a weapon of political struggle. How far the Bolsheviks have left me behind ?
He was right, seeing that the Bolsheviks denied the chief factors of justice recognised in modern society, the independence of the courts from the authorities and politics, and the guidance of the judge by exact and definitely established laws.
Clause five of the decree declared that the tribunal was to be guided in its decisions and sentences by the old laws in so far as these laws were not cancelled by the Revolution, and do not contradict the revolutionary conscience and the revolutionary conception of right.
In a note to this clause it is explained how to distinguish existing laws from non-existing ones, seeing that there has been no official decree for the cancelling of all the laws.
Cancelled are to be considered all laws contradicting the decrees of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet of Soldiers, Workmen, and Peasants, and of their Government, or the minimum programmes of the Russian Social Democratic Party, and of the Party of Social-Revolutionaries.
With one stroke of the pen the programmes of parties, written more for propagandas sake than for use, obtained the force of law.
What new jurists were called on to see that the new justice should be carried out ? In a detailed memorandum for the organisation of Soviet Justice1 we find the following :
Our Republic is based on the juridical consciousness of the masses, and not on the consciousness of the class of oppressors. It does not need to create legal principles or special laws, which would fetter the masses. On the contrary, it needs a law coming directly from the depths of the people. Neither does the Republic require a class of skilful and cunning jurists, who, under the outward guise of legality, defend the narrow interests of the propertied minority. It requires judges who know how correctly to reflect the peoples juridical conscience, and who are interpreters not of their own conception of right, but only of that of the mass of the people themselves.
Such an attempt to elucidate the direct ideas of justice from the depth of the peoples wisdom was undertaken even before the Bolsheviks came into power.
At the beginning of the first Revolution, when Kerensky was Minister of Justice, the Tribunal of the Justices of Peace (Police Courts), one of the best Russian juridical institutions, was subjected to a radical change. Besides the judge, elected by the Municipal Council, representatives of the workmens class and soldiers elected by the local Soviets appeared in court. Thus the attempt to add representatives of the proletariat class to deal out justice was made at the time when the Revolutionary Democracy was in power. The High Courts were not abolished then, but their authority, particularly in the provinces, was greatly diminished. The judes dinstruction were not able to draw up their inquiries. The crowd forced its way into the cells, released the prisoners, and held the court officials under perpetual threat of violence. The sentences could not be served, because there was no police or administrative authority who could see that it was carried out.
But the Bolsheviks went farther. They not only abolished the old courts, but replaced them with new, the political meaning of which is quite definitely formulated in the decree :
Revolutionary tribunals of workmen and peasants are instituted for fighting with the forces of counter-revolution, for the adoption of all measures to defend the Revolution and its conquests against them, and likewise for the settlement of special cases in connection with fighting against speculation, profiteering, and sabotage, and other misdeeds of merchants, industrials, officials, etc. These tribunals consist of a president and six members, elected by the Soviets.
The mixing up of political opponents (counter-revolution) and speculators in one category is one of the methods habitually employed by the Bolsheviks to obscure the popular mind, and to lay the whole guilt for the economic ruin on the opponents of the Soviets. The hungry crowd, frequently without waiting for any tribunals, settled in its own way the cases of the so-called speculators, whose only fault often was that they were found in possession of several pounds of flour or sugar.
The revolutionary tribunals exercised judgement not so much upon the speculators as upon counter-revolutionaries, that is, the political enemies of Bolshevism. In Petrograd the tribunal started working at the end of December. One of the first cases dealt with was that of Countess Sophia Panin, who was under indictment for the embezzlement of 92,000 roubles.
The Soviet authorities had at their disposal all the buildings of the law-courts abolished by them, but with their customary longing for palaces they seized the small but pretty palace of the Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaievitch, former Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army, and installed in it the new Peoples Tribunal. All the entrances were occupied by sentries armed with rifles, whose duty it was to check the passes, as nobody was allowed to enter without a permit. And yet on the day of the Countess Sophia Panins trial the white and gold hall rapidly filled up. The audience consisted of friends of the accused, her colleagues on various public bodies, journalists and workmen who were attached to her through visiting the Peoples Palace she built for the workmen. There were also many lawyers. The Soviet had just abolished the Bar. When the lawyers met to discuss the situation, the sailors chased them away. The lawyers, however, had had time to pass a protest against the destruction of Russian justice, and decided that they would visit as far as possible the sittings of the tribunal in order to fight by all means against it.
The trial of Countess Panin resembled a scene from a historic drama. She was an aristocrat by birth and position. After having given all her knowledge, energy, intelligence, and means to the interests of the democracy, this woman, whose working life and whole ambition aimed only at the education of her own people and the honour and freedom of Russia, was accused of embezzling State money. No direct charge of counter-revolution was made against her ; but the Cadets, to whose party she belonged, were proclaimed enemies of the people. Her arrest and trial increased her popularity. The Petrograd University gave her an honorary doctors degree. A series of protests, signed by organisations and individuals, appeared in the papers. The prosecution instituted against her revived in the public mind her twenty years of benevolent activity.
This woman, on whose side stood, it may be said without exaggeration, the whole of honest Russia, was being tried by a group of nobodies, elected by no one knew whom.
At the judges table sat several men with unintelligent surly-looking countenances, partly in soldiers tunics, and partly in workmens clothes. They remained silent. The President, also a workman, tried to overcome his confusion so as not to lower the dignity of the revolutionary tribunal. But there was no real assurance either in him or in his comrades. What struck me was that there was no air of triumph in these victorious revolutionaries, but rather they seemed to feel guilty and ashamed. It was the same look as the Red Guards had, when some days after the coup detat, they disarmed the indomitable Womens Battalion. Evidently the general and outspoken indignation had at first a depressing effect, even on the Bolshevist Commissaries.
The trial of Countess Panin produced the impression that not she but the Soviet of Peoples Commissaries was at the Bar. All that was said in favour of the accused was an accusation against them. Her chief defender was a workman. With sincere emotion he narrated how, thanks to the accused, his whole life became changed. He had lived in darkness and emptiness until he met Countess Panin. She had taught him to read. It was in her Peoples Palace that he acquired general human interests ; he there began to think, began to live for the sake of thought and truth, felt that joy of intellectual effort which may beautify any life. The workman finished with the words : For all that you did for me and many of us I bow low to you. During the reading of the protocol and the indictment Countess Panin remained calm and reserved. But when the workman bowed to her, she quickly covered her face with her hands to conceal her emotion. The prosecution and threats did not shake her. But the fervent gratitude which burst straight from the heart of one of her many pupils and living witnesses of her work touched her deeply. On the prisoners bench she experienced that moral uplift which is the chief reward of a social worker, and supports him in the heavy days of trial.
In answer to the speech of the workman for the defence, another workman spoke as prosecutor. I have not the text of his speech, and probably no one has it, seeing that in this strange and eccentric court there were no shorthand writers, nor even a decent secretariat. But I can well recall the impression this prosecutor made on me. This was almost the first Bolshevik idealist I had heard during all those months of socialistic inebriation. He was very young, scarcely more than twenty, and he spoke with that fervent belief in the righteousness of his cause which was burning in the speech of the defence.
You say that citizen Panin is a noble woman, and has done much good for the people ? Well, I dont wish to dispute this. We may leave her to be noble-minded, and I may even respect her for that. But she is acting against us, and for that we must destroy her. We are bringing forth a new gospel. We will be swept away, we will surely be swept off very soon, but we shall tell these tidings to the world, and we have to remove from our road all those who are against us, even if they be such good people as citizen Panin is, who has nevertheless appropriated the peoples money, and ought to be made to suffer for that.
Even this speech, undoubtedly full of Bolshevist enthusiasm, had no effect on the judges. Their countenances remained sleepy and dull. They simply sat and waited to see what the President would order them to sign. And the President waited to see what the obscure lawyer Stuchka, now Commissary of Justice, would order him to sign. The latter, to the frank indignation of the audience, was fussing about in the hall, and finally disappeared into the judges room to dictate to them the sentence they were to pass.
Even Shcheglovitov never went so far as to do this. He gave his orders by telephone, but never entered the consulting-room of the judges, said the lawyers who were present at the trial.
The prisoner only said a few words. She announced that she certainly did not count herself guilty, as she considered herself obliged not to give over to the Bolsheviks the peoples money entrusted to her. Then, turning to the soldiers sitting at the judges table, she added : I believe that you, who have repeatedly carried out military duty, will understand me better than any one. I was the sentry on guard, watching the peoples goods. Could I abandon them without waiting for the changing of the guard ? The Bolsheviks were for us not the next sentry, but bandits.
But the soldiers remained as before surly and resentful. No words, however fervent and sincere, had any effect on them. They knew quite well that it was not to mete out justice that they were brought to the palace of their former Commander-in-Chief, but only to pass sentence. They were indifferent to all the rest. The sentence was decided beforehand. Countess Panin was to remain in prison until she gave up 92,000 roubles.2 In addition, public censure was pronounced on her. The whole audience applauded the prisoner. Public opinion throughout the Press condemned the judges, the sentence, and the Soviet Power which had arranged all the tragic comedy. Even Maxim Gorkis paper Novaya Zhizn, the unalterable enemy of the Cadets, wrote as follows :
We believe that even the judges who passed the sentence never had any doubt whatever as to whom actually public censure will fall upon, whether on S.V. Panina, or on those who cast her into prison. Let it not be said that the prisoner had the sympathy of the bourgeois only. No, through the mouth of the workman Ivanov (the defender), the little band of the proletariat intelligentsia of Russia declared that workmens aristocracy who knows what culture is and has learnt how to appreciate its agents in our intellectually poor country.
Two days later another trial was held in the same palace which aroused great excitement in Petrograd. This time it was General Boldyrev, the Commander of the Fifth Army who was being tried. He was accused of sabotaging the Soviet Power, of crimes committed against the Revolution and the people, which consisted in the fact that the General did not answer the summons of ensign Krylenko, did not recognise his authority, and refused to give him troops to fight with Kerensky.
General Boldyreff explained that he acted on the decision of the Army Committee, who did not wish to submit to the demands of one party.
I have always considered that the army exists not for parties, but for the defence of the whole country, and as the Fifth Army was defending the approaches to Petrograd, it was dangerous to move it from its positions.
This happened before the conclusion of peace. The counsel for the defence, one of whom was a soldier, member of the Committee of the Fifth Army, pointed out the military merits of General Boldyrev to the judges, declaring that throughout the campaign he shared all the hardships with the soldiers, and when in combat frequently marched at the head of his unit. Moreover, General Boldyrev was a real democrat, a peasants son, who had made his way not by protection, but by his own work.
The defending soldier argued that if they tried General Boldyrev, then the whole Army Committee should be tried, since they all acted in complete agreement. The political significance of the trial was still more clearly emphasised by the Presidents question to the accused :
If the Army Committee had recognised Krylenko as Commander, would you have submitted to him ?
I consider imperative upon me only the will of the Russian people expressed through the Constituent Assembly, answered the General in a firm voice.
He was sentenced to three years imprisonment.
A great outburst of anger arose in the hall. All rose to their feet and cries were heard of : Shame ! Gendarmes ! This is worse than autocracy ! Poor Russia !
The defending soldier came up to the General and saluting him said : Never mind, General, you will be released before the three years are up.
All caught up the word : Before ! long before !3
A much less severe sentence was passed on another prisoner, for whom the uniform of a Russian officer was only a disguise, concealing a most dishonest adventurer.
This was the case of Colonel Schneur. The indictment against him was that being shamelessly disgraced through his criminal relations with the Department of Police, he, Schneur, became the executant of important and responsible orders of the Soviet authorities, thereby knowingly prejudicing and compromising them.
The name of Lieutenant Schneur appeared for the first time in the papers in November, when a Soviet official communiqué was published to the effect that on 13th November three parlementaires, with Lieutenant Schneur at their head, had been sent over to the Germans. Subsequently, on 7th December a scandalous disclosure was published in the newspaper Dien. In this well-informed socialistic organ, L. Lvov (a well-known journalist) conducted a campaign of bold exposure, very dangerous to him and his paper, daily publishing a series of scandalous proceedings characterising the Bolshevist agents.
Schneur also found his way into this unattractive portrait gallery, where ruffians, informers, political traitors, and mere blackguards crowded one after an other. Lieutenant Schneur, who had been put out of the army some time before for unseemly acts, at once occupied a place among the Soviet notables. After his journey to the Germans as a parlementaire he got an appointment on the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Krylenko, who, before all army ranks were cancelled, promoted, him to the rank of colonel.
And suddenly a long letter appeared in the Press, written by Schneur in 1910 from Paris to the Department of Police, in which he offered his services as a secret agent. He boasted in this letter of his close relations with prominent Russian revolutionaries, and assured the Tsar police that he could at any time occupy a central place in their midst in order to keep a watch over them. My only wish is to inflict a decisive blow on the Russian Revolution. This application did not succeed. The Tsars Department of Police rejected Schneurs overtures. But fortune still awaited him in the future. Circumstances changed during the eight years. In his speech at the trial Schneur said : My life, in its variety and brightness, represents a cinematograph ribbon of 50,000 metres long. And in truth his life resembled the adventures of the criminal heroes who flash so frequently before the eyes of the spectator in a cinema. Schneur, though only for a short time, did succeed in obtaining a central position among the revolutionaries. On the recommendation of Trotsky, Schneur was appointed Chief of Staff of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. There were many such shady heroes as he was in the suite, but for some reason or other the Bolsheviks were more severe to Schneur than to the others, and he was arrested and tried.
At the trial Krylenko, who had previously befriended him and given him a high and responsible post, gave now a very disdainful and unfavourable report about his former subordinate.
The newspaper Dien, in exposing Lieutenant Schneur, said quite plainly that this gentleman, who was so unsuccessful in the offer of his services as secret police agent, was much more successful when he offered his services to the German Intelligence Department. And Krylenko in his evidence said :,?P>
Schneur entered into unnecessary negotiations with the German Generals, took part in their luncheon parties and attempted to make speeches. There was so much doubt as to Schneurs devotion to the public cause, that suspicion arose as to his possible connection with the German agents.
These suspicions did not prevent the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army from promoting Schneur Colonel to get rid of him, as he was too much of an annoyance . . ., but every one regarded this as humorous, and eventually from taking Colonel Schneur to the Headquarters and making him Chief of Staff.
This disgraceful evidence of Krylenko is one of the many proofs of his criminal attitude to the Russian Army. Its organisation, leaders, fate, and honour were for him only objects of derision. In this mockery there were features that touch the limits of insanity.
When at Headquarters it was discovered that Schneur had been in communication with the secret police, he was arrested and about to be tried, which means to be shot. Eventually they changed their mind. Dukhonin and other honest officers they at once subjected to the cruel fate, without thinking twice. But Schneur, a spy, traitor and provocateur, awoke in them pity.
The revolutionary tribunal likewise pitied him and passed on him a very lenient sentence : To deprive Schneur of his civil rights and of public confidence and to expel him beyond the boundaries of the Russian Federal Republic for ever !
Nearly every one of the tribunals sittings was marked by conflicts between the judges and the public who formed the audience. The return to the wildest forms of trial, deprived of guarantees, without laws, without regular procedure or inquiry, even without the presentation to the prisoner of the indictment against him, naturally awoke general protest. Public indignation found its expression in the speeches of attorneys and lawyers and in the outcries of members in the audience. More than once the angry and outraged President ordered the soldiers to clear the hall. The locks in the rifles were then heard to click, and it seemed that in addition to moral violence against law and right, physical violence would be committed against the protesting audience.
In the winter of 1918 the chiefs of Bolshevism still refrained from wholesale murders. At least it was so in Moscow and Petrograd. But in the provinces the wildest cruelties, the wickedest and most senseless crimes were committed in the name of the revolutionary tribunal. The papers were full of such reports. I take the first paper that comes into my hand, the Socialist Revolutionary Volia Strany, which contains a report from the village of Sosnovka in the Saratov Province.
A shoemaker refused to let a band of soldiers into his house in the night. They tried to break in. The shoemaker shot at them. The military tribunal then sentenced him to capital punishment by cutting off his head. The sentenced man asked to see a priest. This was refused to him. But his wife and two little daughters were brought to him. The scene of farewell was heart-rending. The most awful thing was that the execution took place in the presence of the family. As there were no experienced executioners then, it took ten whole minutes for one of the soldiers to cut the head off. At last he finished ! The wife went mad. A whole series of similar cases of the most brutal application of force instead of law could be cited.
In addition to military tribunals, the taking of hostages was instituted. Professors, merchants, teachers, ministers, officers, workmen, priests, all indeed were arrested who were not sufficiently yielding. In some cases all the more or less notable men of the town were put in prison, so that the counter-revolution should not dare raise its head. In some cases simply those were imprisoned for whom a ransom could be paid. To a certain extent the arrested Ministers were meant to be hostages. The Bolsheviks frankly said that if the Soviet Power was overthrown the Ministers would be made to pay dearly for that. By degrees, as civil war spread and the rule of the Bolsheviks acquired a more sanguinary character, the institution of hostages also became stained with blood. Frequently a whole family was made to answer for one of its members.4
In the meanwhile criminality grew to a shocking extent. In Petrograd alone, in January 1918, 15,000 robberies took place in private apartments, and 9300 thefts from shops and 135 murders were committed. These crimes awoke an echo in all classes of society. As there were no courts of justice, the dangerous conviction grew in every average comparatively quiet man that he must settle not only his own grievances by punishing his offender, but also deal with any criminal he met in the street. All over Russia, not excepting the capitals, a ruthless death-penalty was inflicted on the thief caught red-handed. They were killed like mad dogs in the streets, at the market, or stations, wherever they were caught. Sometimes they were shot, sometimes beaten to death, or thrown into the water when near a river. Frequently the real thief would get away, particularly in the case of a professional, and instead of him the infuriated crowd would get hold of an innocent man and make him pay for the crime.
The people in the street dealt as cruelly with those who were suspected of being speculators, particularly in food-stuffs, which were growing more and more scarce and more difficult to obtain.
One evening in a well-frequented street, the Liteinaia, in Petrograd, I encountered an extraordinary procession. I could not at first make out what it meant. A crowd of youngsters, women, soldiers, and civilians with cries and threats were surrounding a cart in which some men were standing and supporting a peculiar object, resembling a scarecrow. This object, thickly covered with rags and bits of paper, was kept standing upright on a barrel, and at each jolt swayed to all sides like a doll or a lifeless body. A pot was thrust over its head covering its face. From out of the pot some pitch was dripping on to the rags. Only the movements of the hands clutching convulsively at this or that neighbour, made me see that it was not a doll but a man.
Whatever is the matter ? I asked one of the women standing by.
A speculator has been caught, she answered with great excitement. Hes been hoarding up sour cream in his shop. Well teach him how to do so.
She hurried on, exasperated, but at the same time relieved. This savage act of meting out justice clarified the anger that was boiling in the half-famished population, and even afforded them a sense of moral satisfaction. The State rulers had ceased dealing out justice and punishing the wrongdoers.
The crowd created for itself a substitute for justice, hideous, blind and merciless, but it eased the darkened conscience of the people.
It should be said that these lynchings and settlements with profiteers, robbers, speculators, horsethieves, pickpockets, and other transgressors against what remained in the peoples mind as right, and especially the claims of property, began long before the Bolshevist régime, at the time of the Provisional Government. All State service having fallen to pieces, there was nobody to see that the laws should be observed.
Revolution in itself is the negation of all old laws, and an effort to put something new in place of the old. But everyday life demands the immediate settlement of various conflicts and misdeeds. Hence the revolutionary crowds act for themselves. The Bolsheviks have only increased and deepened these conditions, having formally abolished the old law-courts. Here, as in everything, they evinced that mixture of dogmatic demagogy, and simple criminality, which forms the characteristic peculiarity of Bolshevism.
The Provisional Government fought against the spirit of destruction, against hostilities to the State and society, against low and sometimes brutal instincts by words of persuasion, not as an authority who makes demands and punishes evildoers with the sword, but as a priest with a cross in his hand and a sermon on his lips. The Bolsheviks have recognised all the outbursts of the lower instincts of society as a lawful manifestation of the revolutionary will, and in their speeches and articles praised them, particularly when the cruelty shown was part of the class struggle on which Bolshevism built its social relations.
The Soviet Power deprived of the right to act and the possibility of expressing their views those who disagreed with it, and tried to sober and clear the peoples mind and conscience. After having destroyed the peoples representation, they took away freedom of speech. The struggle with the Press lasted several months.
By means of an armed rising the Bolsheviks threw down the Provisional Government in which their own comrades, the Socialists, were in a majority. The power was seized, but literate, thinking, and especially writing Russia would not submit to the usurpers, whereupon the Bolsheviks simply decided to shut the mouths of their opponents.
On November 10th, the day when the decree on the establishment of the Soviet Power appeared, another decree was issued regarding the Press, which may be called a decree for the muzzling of the Press.
In the grave and decisive hour of the change of Government, and the days following them, the Temporary Revolutionary Committee was compelled to adopt a series of measures against the counter-revolutionary press of various shades. Immediately on all sides cries were raised that the new power was violating the fundamental principle of its programme, encroaching on the freedom of the press. The Workmens and Peasants Governrnent draws the attention of the people to the fact that this Liberal screen in our midst actually conceals the liberty of the propertied classes, who have taken into their hands the lions share of the whole press, in order to be able, unhindered, to poison the minds, and to bring confusion into the consciousness, of the masses. Every one knows that the bourgeois press is one of the most powerful weapons of the bourgeoisie. At the critical moment when the new power, that of the workmen and peasants, is taking firm hold, it was impossible to leave the weapon entirely in the hands of the enemy at a time when it is as dangerous as bombs and machine-guns. For this reason provisional measures have been taken for cutting off the flood of mud and slander in which the yellow and green press would have willingly drowned the young conquest of the people. As soon as the new régime takes firm root, all administrative repressive measures will stop. Complete freedom will be given it within the boundaries of responsibility, in accordance with the widest and most progressive law in this respect.
And pending this freedom the papers will be closed for the following offences :
(1) For inciting to open public resistance or to disobedience to the Government ; (2) for sowing troubles, by means of an obviously slanderous distortion of the facts ; (3) for inciting to acts which are of a criminal character and liable to punishment.
The first two points were well known to the Russian Press, seeing that under Tsarism all prosecutions against the Press were based on accusations of sowing trouble, and of disobedience to the authorities. The third point provoked an involuntary smile ; under its provisions the Bolshevist Press should have been the first to be closed, since it incited to murder and looting.
At least in those days the Bolsheviks tried to justify themselves.
At the sitting of the Central Executive Committee on November 16th the following resolution regarding the Press was adopted :
The closure of the bourgeois papers was caused not only by the purely fighting requirements in the period of the rising and the suppression of counter-revolutionary attempts, but likewise as a necessary temporary measure for the establishment of a new régime in the sphere of the press, under which the capital proprietors of printing-works and paper would not be able to become autocratic beguilers of public opinion.... The reestablishment of the so-called freedom of the press, viz. the simple return of printing-offices and paper to capitalists, poisoners of the peoples conscience, would be an unpermissible surrender to the will of capital, i.e. a counter-revolutionary measure.
The Right Socialists, who were then still in the Committee, protested. Trotsky, in supporting this resolution, said, Under conditions of civil war the prohibition of newspapers is a lawful measure. . . . Those measures which are employed to frighten individuals must be applied to the Press also. . . . All the resources of the Press must be handed over to the Soviet Power. You say that formerly we demanded freedom of the Press for the Pravda ? But then we were in a position to demand a minimum programme ; now we insist on the maximum programme. When the power was in the hands of the bourgeoisie we demanded juridical freedom of the Press. When the power is held by the workmen and peasantswe must create conditions for the freedom of the Press. (Pravda, 18th November.)
These were not accidental speeches uttered in the heat of debate, but a programme which Trotsky and his colleagues carried out to the end. Never since the Russian Press existed has it had to suffer such prosecutions and insults. In this, as in all other spheres of life, Socialist despotism proved to be far harsher than that of the Tsar. The old régime still reckoned with the law, public opinion, and a certain code of morals. The Bolsheviks cast all this aside as being bourgeois prejudices. His Majesty the Proletariat must monopolise public opinion. His voice alone might be heard in the country. All other human speech must be silenced. This assumption was made as the foundation of the Bolshevist-Socialistic conception of the world. On it they built, as it seemed to them, a new life, which in reality threw back Russia to the fifteenth century, if not earlier. They trampled with the fury of fanatics on the most precious inheritance of humanity, freedom of thought and speech.
From the beginning of the Bolshevist rule Russian journalists of all opinions, both Socialists and Radicals, became real martyrs. Sailors armed to the teeth, Red Guards in wolf-skin capsperhaps the same who killed Dukhonin forced their way into the printing-works, scattered about the type, made havoc of all papers and documents, arrested the staff, and frequently the workmen also, exercised violence over defenceless people whose only weapon was free speech. After such exploits the victors sometimes went off, and sometimes installed themselves in the printing-works and newspaper-offices to prevent the counter-revolutionaries from addressing their readers again.
The Smolny tried not to interfere in these outrages, and to divest themselves of all responsibility. The members of the editorial office had no physical possibility of making the brigands produce any document proving their right to make such raids. In some cases, however, the raiders produced a document. It is not difficult to make up an order in a country where each committee, whether that of a town, a district, a region, or a house, represents a separate authority, or, as they say in Russia, a separate Sovdepia.5 Any one of these committees and Soviets issued documents, passports, permits, orders. A seal was affixed, and below it an illegible signature. With that kind of document in their hands, bold people passed through all the closed doors, forced everybody to obey them, and took all they wanted.
To newspaper-offices they came not with documents, but simply with rifles. In November, during the elections for the Constituent Assembly, the Cadets wished to issue an evening paper, Borba (Struggle). I took part in it. We began the paper in a sharply outspoken, oppositional tone. On the very first evening our paper was bought wholesale on the Nevsky. And on the same evening several schoolboys selling it were arrested. It was only on the second day that the Red Guards discovered the printing-office where the Borba was being printed, and arrived there in an armed crowd. They broke to pieces the set-up type. They tore to bits a batch of Cadet electoral proclamations and handbills, and spoilt the printing-machines with their bayonets.
When I arrived on the next day, such a chaos reigned in the spacious premises of the printing-office as if a herd of oxen had trampled through it. I passed on into the compositors room. The workmen stood near the boxes sullen and angry. The printers workmen in Russia, as everywhere, belong to the most developed and best organised class. Their trade union existed even in the time of Tsarism.
I knew that most of the compositors were much more to the Left than I. There were Social-Revolutionaries and Social-Democrats among them. I thought that after such a raid not one of them would wish to risk himself for the sake of a Cadet electoral sheet.
What have your comrades done here yesterday ? I asked.
A unanimous indignant outcry came from them in answer :
Comrades, you say ? They are no comrades of ours. They are hooligans, robbers, policemen, worse than the Tsars policemen.
The workmen gathered round me and told me of the raid made by the Reds, of their threats, of their ignorance, and kept on saying :
No comrades of ours, policemen and nothing else.
Well, that means the end of our paper, they threaten to arrest all of you ? said I.
An end to the paper ? By no means ! How dare they gag us ? If you, the newspaper staff, are not afraid, we dont mean to surrender. So decide for yourself.
Scores of eyes were looking questions at me.
Whats there to decide ? We must fight and not keep silent ! We will soon give you the material.
I saw a light flash over their frowning faces, and I understood that in spite of all party differences and prejudicesin spite of the fact that my colleagues and I represented the bourgeois party to these people, a general thirst for freedom and a common indignation against the oppressors bound us together. And I must say that those moments passed with the workmen in the raided printing-office gave me then that stimulating feeling of solidarity which is essential for public work. But thinking of these compositors now, I wonder, with a heavy heart, what Bolshevist Russia has done to them ? Has she killed them physically by starvation or with a bullet, or killed their spirit, that proud human feeling of independence which so clearly marked our printers ? It is that feeling which the Bolsheviks cannot stand in any one.
Notwithstanding the workmens courage, we issued only three numbers. Eventually the Reds came and placed a sentry in the printing office. They were stronger than we. The work had to be stopped. Borba (the Struggle) was ended.
These repressive measures were not specially directed against the bourgeois or Cadet Press. The Bolsheviks viewed with the same intolerance all their opponents, without any indulgence to their comrade Socialists, whom indeed they treated more contemptuously, calling them Social-Patriots.
On the 30th November, in one night, searches were made and ten newspapers were closedNasha, Rech, Sovremennoie Delo, Utro, Rabochaia Gazeta, Volia Naroda, Trudovoe Slovo, Edinstvo, and Rabotcheie Delo, the last six Socialist. One of the best printing-offices in Petrograd, belonging to Suvorin, where three newspapers were published, was requisitioned for the Soldatskaia-Pravda.
This time it was not the freak of some enterprising committee, but the order came from the Inquiry Commission of the Military Revolutionary Committee. All the Socialist Committees entered a protest, including the Central Committee of the Social-Democratic party to which the Bolsheviks had belonged.
The Central Committee of the Social-Democratic party decided to bring to the knowledge of all the members of the party that the central organ of the party, the Rabochaia Gazeta, is closed by the Military Revolutionary Committee. While branding this as an arbitrary act in defiance of the Russian and international proletariat, committed by so-called Socialists on a Social-Democrat paper, and the Labour Party, whose organ it is, the Central Committee has decided to call upon the party to organise a movement of protest against this act in order to open the eyes of the labour masses to the character of the régime which governs the country.
But the workmens eyes were opened, only much later, and as yet were fixed exclusively on the Bolsheviks, who continued their policy of frightfulness, which was incomparably more drastic than that of the Tsars régime. Lenin outdid Stolypin.
In November, immediately after the accession of Lenin and Trotsky to power, all the newspapers were closed. Little by little they appeared, then were again closed, either wholesale or separately. The editors had to conduct humiliating negotiations with the Smolny. Their papers appeared under new names. They had to change printing-offices, and altogether lived under martial law, under a continuous menace of closure, searches, arrest, and personal violence against the entire staff, from the editor down to the humblest workman.
In February again all the papers were prohibited. But for some reason the chief Cadet paper, Nash Viek (the former Rech), was still allowed to appear. This made the editorial staff feel very uncomfortable. Many of them thought that it was wrong to benefit by the right of appearing, no one knew why, when all the other organs of Russian thought were condemned to silence. Still it was decided to continue the paper. This was the only tribune from which the voice of reason and conscience could be heard. Under what conditions the staff worked may be judged from the fact that when on the eve of my departure from Russia, in March, I went to Nash Viek, to which I regularly contributed, and took with me a short paragraph on a womens meeting at which Mme. Kollontay, a zealous Bolshevist leader and Minister of Public Welfare, spoke, the editor, a friend of mine, said, It is very interesting, but if we publish it we shall have the sailors coming here with bayonets.
And he was right. All the articles were considered in that light : Would the Reds come with their bayonets or not ?
In spite of this, the Russian journalists, with an unyielding stubbornness, with the courage of real soldiers, led an unequal and obdurate struggle against the Bolsheviks, refuting their errors and exposing their crimes, the falseness of their ideas, and the lunacy or treachery of their leaders. Many mistakes, many slips, many weaknesses and blunders were committed by the Russian Press during the first happy period of the Russian Revolution. But when the cruel days of the Bolshevist reaction arrived, those same journalists showed that those were errors of logic and not of conscience. They did not go into the camp of the victors, would make no concessions or compromise. This was a real heroic struggle not only for freedom of speech, but for a free united Russia. And the Russian intelligentsia has the right to say with pride that in the darkest year of the fierce tyranny the Russian journalists, literally at the risk of their lives, remained at their posts, standing out for the real interests of the people against a band of fanatics, traitors, and hypocrites.
There was much embitterment in this struggle, without speaking of the dangers. The well-known publicist, B. Miakotin, one of the editors of the popular Socialistic review, Russkoe Bogatstvo, belonging to the party of the Populist-Socialists, was in the printing-office of the Volia Naroda when the Reds broke in. They behaved with violence, threw about the type, and took away the manuscripts. B. Miakotin had suffered imprisonment and was sent to exile during the Tsars régime. He was really of the Left, irreconcilable to the last degree, and even considered the Cadets as not sufficiently democratic. Seeing how the agents of the Socialistic Government were behaving with his paper, B. Miakotin cried out indignantly, I would have preferred to see my paper closed by the gendarmes of the Tsar than by these hooligans.
And the hooligans continued their destructive work. They tried to weaken the Press by means of threats, arrests, and prosecutions of journalists. This was of no avail. They made advertisements a Government monopoly, having correctly reckoned that this would be a heavy material blow to the papers. But even this was of no avail, seeing that the journalists made every sacrifice provided they had some means of expressing themselves. The Bolsheviks requisitioned most of the printing-offices and the paper. But seeing that most of the printers were opposed to the Soviet, there was always some way of printing a paper. Finally, in July 1918, the Bolsheviks definitely, as they say themselves, closed the papers for ever. Since then in the part of Russia seized by them there is no Press, except the official Bolshevist organs. The dictatorship of the proletariat, as the Bolsheviks themselves call their régime, has killed the freedom of the Press, or better to say killed the Press itself. So it became clear that free, human speech, the foundation of civilised comity, as indeed of all other liberties, of all the fundamental rights of the man and citizen, was incompatible with a Socialistic State.
The Bolshevist power showed that any despotism, whether that of the Tsar or of Socialism, is compelled to have recourse to identical repressive measures, and make use of the same terminology.
In addressing the Moslems, Lenin generously promised them the inviolability of their beliefs and customs. But with regard to the ruling religion among the Russian people, the Orthodox Church, the Soviet of the Peoples Commissaries did not deem fit to observe this inviolability. It displayed not only disrespect, but derision for the religious feeling of Orthodox people.
The Revolution brought great trials to the Orthodox Church. During the first period, it is true, she was treated with great consideration. To protect her interests and to effect within her the necessary reforms a new Ministry was created, called the Ministry of Cults, under the direction of a gifted young philosopher, Anton Kartashev. He was the very man for the post. With a small group of writers and scholars he had long endeavoured to arouse the Orthodox Church from her lethargy, and to set new ideals before her ignorant and indolent priests.
After the Revolution all their discussions bore fruit. Kartashev, as Minister of Public Worship, was able to give practical effect to the proposals for Church reform. It was not easy work. The clergy, bewildered by the Revolution, unaccustomed either to think or to act, were a feeble support. When at the end of August a Church Council met in Moscow, for the first time for two hundred years, the event was barely noticed by the general public, absorbed as it was in the whirl of revolutionary politics. For the first two weeks the proceedings were languid and formal. But the guns of the Bolshevist insurrection roused the spirit of the Church. To the sound of the bombardment of the Kremlin the Council elected a Patriarch.
The Bolsheviks were not slow in showing their hostility to the Church. Kartashev, with the other members of the Provisional Government, was thrown into the fortress, where for four months he lay under the constant menace of death. In Tsarskoye Selo, when Kerenskys troops were fighting the Red Guard, a priest ventured to pray publicly for the cessation of civil strife. The Reds took him out into a square and shot him before the eyes of his son. But these were isolated acts. Later the Church was subjected to systematic persecution.
On 27th January a hundred armed sailors entered the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, declaring that they had come to inspect the buildings and requisition them for hospital purposes. The order came from the Commissary for Social Welfare, Madame Kollontay, a militant atheist, whose logical capacity is not so strong as her revolutionary ardour.
The appearance of Bolshevist soldiers within the monastery enclosure aroused intense excitement among the parishioners. On 2nd February fifteen soldiers came with a commissary appointed to take over the buildings. When they demanded the keys of Bishop Prokopius the church bells rang out. At once several thousands of men and women, including a few soldiers, ran to the rescue. The Reds were disarmed and arrested ; machine-gunners were sent to relieve them, and in the shooting that followed a priest named Skipetrov was mortally wounded.
Now the Alexander Nevsky Monastery had its martyr, and the sins of the monks were forgotten. The monastery at once became a centre of that new piety of suffering in which the people, worn out by the constant disturbances and the conflicting appeals of endless political orators, sought support and comfort, counsel and repose. On the following Sunday a great Church procession was arranged as a protest against the sacrilege and murder, and all the churches of Petrograd were invited to take part.
Never, not even in the first days of the war, had the cold, skeptical capital seen such an outburst of religious fervour. About 200,000 people thronged the square before the Kazan Cathedral and the neighbouring streets. Church banners waved like standards of a new army ; above the sea of people rose the familiar figures of the saints on hundreds and hundreds of icons ; and the whole procession moved to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery singing prayers and psalms. Though it was the depth of winter, they sang most loudly and earnestly of all the Easter prayer, Christ is risen from the dead. It was as though they looked for a miracle. And not in vain. These thousands of people, differing so in position, education, and ideas, but united in one powerful religious impulse, themselves without knowing it, constituted a miracle of ecclesiastical revival. And the centre of this miracle was that same Alexander Nevsky Monastery which had seemed hopelessly petrified in official splendour and worldly wealth. The wave of revival spread all over Russia, from town to town, bringing strength and courage and enlightenment.
But the Bolsheviks were intent on carrying out their programme. On the eve of this Church procession, which aroused and amazed Petrograd, they published their decree for the separation of Church and State. Intrinsically there is nothing criminal in the idea of separation ; it is obviously a question for frank and simple discussion ; but the decree came from a band of usurpers, most of whom were not even Orthodox. It was imposed on the people. Its whole tone, and still more the acts of the Soviet Government, were imbued with hostility to the Church. The Church was deprived of all her rights, and was not so much separated from the State as placed in complete subjection to the secular power. Ecclesiastical and religious societies have no right to own property. All properties of ecclesiastical and religious societies existing in Russia are declared to be the property of the people. Buildings and objects intended for use in religious services are to be handed over by a special decree of the local or central authorities for use, free of charge, by the corresponding religious society.
That is to say, if the secular authorities so will it, the doors of a church may be closed in the face of the parishioners. In a supplementary order Madame Kollontay explained : Church services may be continued if a petition to that effect is made by the collective of believersa typically Bolshevist perversion of the Russian languagewho must pledge themselves to undertake the repair and maintenance of the buildings and staff.
By all these orders the freedom of conscience proclaimed at the beginning of the Revolution was abolished. It is worth noting that these measures applied only to the Orthodox Church. Other religious communities, such as the Lutherans, Mohammedans, Jews, and others were untouched.
Having in mind how submissively the Russian Church accepted her degradation at the hands of Rasputin it might have been thought that she would meekly endure anything. But one of the causes of the submission of the Church authorities to Rasputin was the fact that the Tsar was the official head of the Church. Now they were their own masters ; they were free to act, and they rose in indignant protest. Their one head was the Patriarch, and they listened to his voice. He declared his will firmly. In reply to the separation decree, the Church Council in Moscow formally anathematised the Bolsheviks. To all the churches was sent an epistle from the Patriarch cursing the usurpers as sons of perdition, who were crucifying the Church and had sold Russia to the hereditary enemy of the SlavsGermany.
This epistle of the Patriarch is the boldest and most solemn and public protest that has yet been made against the Bolshevist Power.
It was impossible to print it in full. The papers that printed extracts from it were punished with fines and suspension. Moscow expected that the Patriarch himself would be arrested, but the Bolsheviks did not dare.
Like all the Bolshevist decrees, the decree for the separation of the Church was not systematically carried out. But the attitude of the Government encouraged all the elements of anarchy and disorder, and the transfer of the churches and monasteries to the local Soviets in many cases gave the mob a welcome opportunity for plunder. Churches were robbed. In the Kremlin itself, where at every gate and at every corner stood a Bolshevist guard, unknown robbers carried off from the Patriarchs sacristy in the Cathedral of the Assumption tens of millions worth of ancient Church treasures. Naturally the robbers were not discovered. More than that, priests were insulted and beaten, bishops were imprisoned, church processions were violently dispersed, and in Kiev the Metropolitan Vladimir was shot dead.
The attitude of the people to the various anti-Church measuresfor instance, to the new institute of civil marriage and simplified divorceis one of distrust. There was considerable excitement last May when the registers of births, deaths, and marriages were taken from the churches. The Soviet Government found it necessary to appeal to the population of Moscow, on 22nd May, in a long declaration, in which they explain that they have established complete liberty of conscience. Every man may believe as he chooses. But the Church controlled not only the souls of men, but a large capital. The people paid its last farthing for gold settings for icons, diamond headgear, all the splendour of the churches, all the luxury in which the Church authorities bathed. The Peoples Commissaries have taken all this from the churchmen and given it back to the people. Let the workmen and peasants dispose of Church property and not the clerical authorities.
Thus here, too, the principles of the dictatorship of the proletariat were applied. The churches were placed at the disposal, not of the faithful, not of the parish, not of those who cared for the church and for the means of worship, but of those who had seized power by force of arms. So invaders sometimes treat an alien religion in a conquered land.
But the men who call themselves the peoples Government fought the Church as a political and social enemy. The Church has always served the rich and not the poor, and therefore when the ancient oppressors started a campaign against the workers, so continues this declaration, written in a clumsy imitation of the popular style, the managers of the Church went with the oppressors. They raised the cry that the Soviet Government was polluting holy things, oppressing the faith, robbing Church property. They rang the curfew, organised religious processions, called on the faithful to revolt, cursed the Peoples Government, provoked fighting and pogroms. On the pretext of defending Church property they attacked the workers and tried to destroy their freedom. They begin by lying, and then call on the people to commit crimes.
There is a strange irony in the charge that the Church is destroying the liberty of the workers when all liberty is destroyed in Russia, when not only the body of the Orthodox Church, but the body of the whole Russian land, is torn asunder by the formula proclaimed by Karl Marx in his famous Communist manifesto : Expropriate the expropriators.
But surely, if there is a vital principle in the Church, the loss of material goods will not weaken, but strengthen her. And that is just what is happening in the Russian Church. Within her, new leaders are coming to the front, new characters are being formed ; and from without there are gravitating to her honest patriots who long for the resurrection of a united Russia. Among the Orthodox are people of various classes and various political views ; but it is possible that there are few Socialists among them, and that is a cause of alarm to those who wish to see Russia continuing her Socialistic experiments.
In the people, certainly, a great change has taken place. Some have yielded to the temptation of a cheap atheism. Others, on the contrary, came closer to the Church and valued it as one of the few remaining embodiments of Holy Russia.
On one of the Sundays in January 1918 I went out, after morning service, from the ancient Chudov Monastery in the Kremlin. Its red-brick walls were mutilated with traces of bombardment. On the walls, over the windows, and under the roof pieces were torn out. That had happened in the November days, when the Bolsheviks were attacking the Whites who had sought refuge in the Kremlin. The Kremlin was bombarded from the Vorobyevy Hills. The shells hit the palace, the Church of the Twelve Apostles, blew off the head of one of the towers, pierced the cupola of the ancient Uspensky Cathedral. But the Chudov Monastery, in which was situated at one time the Patriarchal Schoolthis symbol of the first Russian Universitysuffered most of all. The old walls, built as far back as in the fifteenth century, withstood the siege. The church remained whole, and in it, as in all the Kremlin churches in that winter, the customary services were held. The churches and the great spaces in front of them were crowded with people.
Below, near the archway of the monastery, voices were heard humming. Disputes went onthe confusing, agitating discussions which for a whole year have filled Russia with the noise and strife of verbal chaos. This time they were not foreign comments, nor bookish echoes, but deep-felt sentiments arising from the very bottom of the troubled sea. Womens voices sounded louder and more assertive than the mens.
They want everything for themselves, shouted a young woman, evidently closing a series of arguments ; it will be necessary to get these out also. And who will suffer from all this ? Again we. Again the people. And they will certainly run away.
Theyll run away ! theyll run away ! passed as an echo through the crowd.
An angry soldiers bass voice interjected and put the question, which seemed absurd, but was very near to this crowd :
You just tell me, have you seen the Cadets in the trenches ? They fought here ; but have you seen them in the trenches ?
Another womans voice with a note of hysteria answered sharply :
Well, what of that, that they were Cadets ? They protected our Holy things. They did right. For you they are nothing ; only stones : for us they are Holy. And we shall defend them to the last.
But who touched your Holy things ?
A storm of voices arose all round. Not so much angry, as reproachful words flew out :
But look at our cathedrals. And what have you done in our Alexander Nevsky Monastery ? . . . And who killed the priest ? Have they a God at all ? . . . They behave as if accursed by the power of Anti-Christ. . . . .
At the other end a mans hoarse and hasty voice was heard attacking :
Well, thats what I say, enough of all christenings. I dont wish, you understand, to be christened. Thats why the law was issued.6 Why christening ? We must drop it. I dont wish it.
An aged woman with a shawl over her head stood up on her tip-toes the better to see the scoffer. She then turned to me and said with contempt in her voice :
I knew it. He has a dark face. They all have dark faces.
This is how she probably saw it. It was however not at all dark, but the most ordinary grey soldiers face ; young and unbearded ; strained with the arduous, to him unaccustomed, verbal struggle. The soldier sincerely believed that he was in the right. But around him stood indignant people thinking otherwise. It was not so much their words as their malevolent looks that pricked the soldier like needles. And one could not even call the opponents bourgeois, they were of the same class as himself. The soldier got angry, and in repelling the attacks on him grew more violent.
Well, dont get christened. Who forces you to it ? But do no violence against others ; dont prevent them from believing in God if they wish to, calmly said a man of an intelligent aspect.
Ah ! so ; now it means do no violence . . . And when violence was done against me, where were you ? When my blood was sucked, didnt you see it ?
Who sucked it ? Have we done so ? Whats the use of talking such nonsense ?
An aged woman said with contempt :
May be the Holy things sucked your blood ; thats why you attacked our Orthodox Church.
Well, I wont have them christen me. . . . Let them try, and I will christen them. . . .
And with a threat he raised his fist over the womans head. A laugh, the disdainful laugh of people who are not more to be frightened by any threats, passed through the crowd.
You should have said so before.... You only know the fist.... Weve always seen that from the policemen. Thats an old dodge.
And again a sonorous womans voice was heard :
And still we shall never give up our Holy things.
This phrase, Holy things, beat like a white bird over the tortuous confusion of ideas. Together with the pigeons it circled round the Kremlin square between the belfries and the cupolas, over the damaged red monastery wall, and rose towards the golden crosses of the ancient cathedrals, over which a short time ago the shells had whistled. And it descended again to the earth, flew over the crowd ; was repeated from mouth to mouth, with a prayer, with derision, with fear, with anger, with faith, with pangs of expectation, with joy and hope. The utterances sounded broken and unconnected. They did not contain any of the ready harmony of a Cabinet or public-meeting eloquence. But one felt drawn to them by the force of reproach, sadness, and wrath in the people. Three surly-looking soldiers with rifles approached. They listened for a moment, and exchanged glances with each other.
Well have to fetch the sentry. It is time they were dispersed, said one of them aloud, and disappeared.
The other two remained. They listened silently and gloomily. May be they thought of their old church in their village, and the dark icons in the corner of their room in the cottage, and the whole habitual form of the Orthodox rite to which they were used from their childhood.
But, generally speaking, the soldiers, having succumbed to Bolshevism, began openly to break with religion. Whether they were infected by the simplicity of Socialistic rationalism, or whether they felt themselves banished from sacraments, they are less frequently seen in a church. In the religious processions which rallied hundreds of thousands of devotees that winter least of all were soldiers seen.
And yet these religious processions have taken hold of a great number of people who formerly kept far from the church. So tormentingly heavy became Russian life, so difficult it came to be to find protection on earth, that involuntarily eyes were raised to heaven.
At the end of January I had occasion to take part in one of these great Church processions.
This was also in the Kremlin, in the so-called Red Square, near the renowned church of Vassili Blazhenny. From all parts of Moscow, from all its innumerable churches, separate processions of parishioners arrived. One after another these processions reached the square and a golden sea of icons and banners swayed over the crowd. They shone like lamps in the twilight of the day. New and old, simple and luxurious, they stood firmly, like an army called for review by some sovereign order. Around them pressed scores and thousands of people, expectant, and shedding forth their emotion, griefs, and hopes in prayers and chants. And although snow lay on the groundit was deep winterand a long way off till the spring feast of Easter, they continuously repeated the Easter prayer : Christ is risen from the dead. . . .
From above, the images of the saints we all know from our childhood looked at the praying people. The Mother of God, with white hands raised, beseeched the Lord. Saint Nicholas, with the sign of a cross, was blessing the people below. Our Saviour, the Apostles, and the Saintsall from the height of the banners were gazing on the troubled, tortured, wounded, suffering, human herd.
The Kremlin bells rang, announcing to the people that the Patriarch was coming to pray together with the people. In front of him were carried slowly, one after another, the Kremlin Holy things, ornamentally wrought, magnificent, ancient, through the narrow fortress arches. As if in honour of their elder brothers the flickering rows of the church banners already crowding the square gave way to them. Excitedly and nervously, rarely exchanging a word here and there, the crowd awaited the Patriarch, the only man entitled to consider himself the representative of all Russia. And not only the faces, but it seemed that hearts also turned to that spot where, below the golden mitre of Patriarch Tikhon, slowly floated the dark purple, gold-embroidered banners of the Uspensky Cathedral.
The images of the Saints waved over the crowd as though they blessed the people, disgraced, hungry, wearied in body and spirit, not expecting intercession from any one on earth.
In the middle of the square, on a platform, the Patriarch, surrounded by the senior clergy, officiated at a divine service. Their voices were not heard, the words of the prayers were not heard. But in the breathing of the crowd of many thousands, welded in one sorrow, one longing, was heard a single prayer rising to the grey low sky :
Lord, save and protect the Russian land. . . .
Who may not be found here ? . . . It is not one class, not one party. It is simply the Russian people in all their variety. And many, many women, young and old, girls humble and high. Many wept, not trying at all to hide their tears. And yet a kind of satisfaction, some relief was felt by all from the joint prayer in the midst of a town filled with devout traditions of the past, full of reminiscences of the mighty and ancient Russian State.
Indeed, it was long ago, many centuries ago, that Moscow lived through foreign invasion and troubles and all kind of disturbances. She fought with her enemies, overcame them, again leading the Russian people out into the wide historic road. Then also, in front of these Moscow Holy things, the peoples prayer sounded :
Lord, save and protect the Russian land !
1 Lœuvre sociale et politique du Gouvernement Socialiste de Russie. Recueil de documents et dactes. Génève. Official publication of the Soviet of the Peoples commissaries.
2 Her friends paid in the money for Countess Panin. She was released from prison. Now she is conducting political work together with other Russian patriots in the south of Russia, for the regeneration of her country.
3 Fortunately they were right. General Boldyrev is free, and together with Admiral Kolchak has organised a Russian Army in Siberia, which is now fighting against Trotsky and his Red soldiers.
4 In October 1918 the wife of the former mayor of Moscow, Rudnev, was locked up in a Moscow gaol. He had fled and she was imprisoned as hostage.
5 This word, which is a contraction from SOViet of the Workmens DEPuties, has acquired rights of citizenship in Russia, and the entire part of Russia seized by the Bolsheviks and held under the power of the Soviets is called Sovdepia.
6 The law was, that all the registers should be withdrawn from the churches and given over to the civil authorities.