WAR WITH THE RUSSIANSPEACE WITH THE GERMANS
WHILE yet preparing to seize the supreme power, the Bolsheviks had drawn up their principal decrees. Among these was a solemn declaration of the rights of the peoples of Russia. The Bolsheviks attached great importance to it and published it almost simultaneously with the decrees concerning the land and peace (15th November).
This declaration established the following abstract principles : (1) the equality and the sovereign rights of the peoples of Russia ; (2) the right of the peoples of Russia to free self-determination, extending to their separation and the formation by them of independent states ; and (3) the free development of the national minority and of the racial groups peopling the territory of Russia.
As this territory is inhabited by no fewer than one hundred different races, any measure extending or altering their mutual relations is of course of great importance not only for each one of them individually, but also for Russia as a whole.
The proper solution of the national question has long occupied the attention of public thought in Russia. The centralising rule of autocracy raised many obstacles to the free and reasonable development both of its non-Russian subject nationalities and of the Russian people itself, and this considerably weakened the coherence and unity of Russia. But in spite of this short-sightedness, notwithstanding all the blunders of the bureaucracy, Russian rule in the East, in Siberia, in Central Asia, in Trans-Caucasia, improved the economic and social conditions of life among the native population, laid down railways, introduced a postal and telegraph service, opened schools, instituted courts of justice, and guaranteed safety to all.
Russian literature, journalism, science, and art had an enormous influence on the more educated members of the various races, for whom the Russian intellectual class was rather a comrade in the development of one general Russian form of civilisation than the representative of a conquering, sovereign race. They were especially brought together by a common struggle with the old regime. Georgians, Jews, Armenians, Tartars, Esthonians, Russiansall struggled together for political freedom. It seemed as if amidst common privations and persecutions, in prison and in exile, they had formed a firm alliance, that they might afterwards, working all together and as one man, create more fitting conditions of life in Russia. Of course, there were differing currents of thought among them, but on the whole the leading intelligent classes not only of the Great Russian race, but of Russia in the broad sense of the word, were advancing toward that political order which gives each race, each territory, the possibility of free development.
Almost all were agreed as to the necessity for the broad autonomy of races. The autonomous point of view was developed in greatest detail by the Cadet party. The Socialists, and a section of the Radicals, went further and insisted on federation. Under autocratic rule this dispute was of semi-conspirative nature, as even abstract ideas, when not in accord with the views of the Government, were then punished as a crime, while the pursuit of autonomy was regarded as an attempt on the unity of the Russian Empire. After the Revolution of March 1917 the various racial movements assumed an impassioned character. The Polish question was simplest of all to solve. The Provisional Government proclaimed Poland an independent state. Finland got back her constitutional rights, infringed by the Imperial Government during the last quarter of a century. But the claims of Finland to complete independence were not supported either by the Government of Prince Lvov or by that of Kerensky. Other races which had never yet enjoyed national independence or had lost it long ago (e.g. the Georgians) made various demands, which frequently did not express the will of the people, but merely the ambitions of a small group. Attempts were made at the separation of whole territories which had never yet claimed independence (the Ukraine).
The Provisional Government did not attempt to meet these demands, considering that it had no right to settle such fundamental questions without the representatives of the people, and awaited the summoning of the Constituent Assembly for their solution.
But the Bolsheviks shattered all these national dreams. Their attitude towards the nationalities of Russia is full of their characteristic contradiction between solemn and pathetic promises on paper and shameless arbitrariness in practice. This characteristic runs right through all their actions, as the reflection of their disorderly anarchism. On the other hand, the predominant Marxist side of their teaching impels them to an international imperialism distinctly opposed to the principle of racial self-determination.
Marx placed class distinctions above national ones (the proletariat has no fatherland). This idea, with certain variations, emerges at all the international Social-Democratic congresses. Lenin, in fact, makes it his direct aim to create, by means of a world-revolution, a class super-state, extending over the whole world. His speeches on the free self-determination of nations are inevitably filled with hypocrisy and falsehood. The very idea of freedom is a stranger to Lenin and his comrades, and is incompatible with their Moslem-like conviction that the Bolshevist Koran contains all those truths which must be instilled into mankind by sword and fire. But when, for the extension of the influence and authority of the Soviet of Peoples Commissaries, they stood in need of one or another nation, they always tried to bribe it by verbal promises.
Following the general declaration of the self-determination of nations, decrees were issued and appeals made to the individual peoples. Having begun separate peace negotiations with the Germans, the Bolsheviks started a zealous anti-British propaganda in the East, particularly emphasising the despotism of the British in India.
On 5th December Lenin issued an appeal to the Mussulman workers of Russia and the East.
Moslems of the East, Tartars of the Volga and the Crimea, Kirghizes and Sarts of Siberia and Turkestan, Turks and Tartars of the Trans-Caucasus, Chechentsi and mountaineers of the Caucasus, all ye whose mosques and houses of prayer have been destroyed, whose beliefs and customs have been trampled under foot by the Tsars and oppressors of Russia : Henceforth your beliefs and customs, the institutions of your national civilisation, are free and unassailable. Live your lives freely and without hindrance.... Support the Revolution and its fully-empowered Government....
Moslems of the East, Persians and Turks, Arabs and Hindoos, all ye whose lives and property, freedom and native land have for centuries been but objects of traffic for the greedy marauders of Europe, all ye whose lands the robbers who began the War (i.e. the Allies) desire to share !
Far-off India, that India which has been oppressed for centuries by the enlightened freebooters of Europe, has already raised the banner of revolt, organising its Soviet of Delegates, throwing off the hated yoke of slavery, and calling the peoples of the East to battle and to liberation.
In the declaration declining Constantinople for Russia it proceeds :
The treaty for the partition of Turkey and its surrender of Armenia is torn up and destroyed. As soon as military operations are over, the Armenians will be guaranteed the right of freely determining their political destiny.
This passage is clearly calculated to attract the sympathies of the Turks, not of the Armenians. After the terrible massacres of the Armenians by the Turks during the war (with the indubitable participation of the Germans) to speak of the free self-determination of an Armenia not separated from Turkey is simply mockery of the Armenian people. The declaration is signed by Lenin and by Dzhugashvili, the Commissary for National Affairs. The latter is a Georgian, and a section of the Georgians has always been hostile to the Armenians, and in Trans-Caucasia has fought against them in alliance with the Mohammedans. This also explains a great deal.
It must also be remarked that the declaration refers to Mussulman beliefs with a respect with which the Bolshevist Commissaries never speak of the Christian Orthodox Church dominant in Russia.
Later, during the Brest-Litovsk peace negotiations, where Turkey kept increasing the demands she presented to the Bolshevist delegates, a special decree concerning Turkish Armenia was issued (14th of January). In it was announced that the Soviet of Peoples Commissaries supports the right of the Armenians to self determination, extending to independence.
For this end the following guarantees were to be given : the Russian troops were to be withdrawn and replaced by a popular militia, and a Soviet of Delegates of the Armenian People was to be created.
This latter point expresses the real attitude of the Bolsheviks to different nationalities. Submit to us, introduce our system of government among yourselves, ruin your own people as we are ruining the Russians, and we will be your friends.
The celebrated formula of the self-determination of nations, which brought so much confusion into the Russian Revolution and about which the Bolsheviks raised the loudest clamour, was now interpreted by them exclusively as the self-determination of nations on a Bolshevist basis.
During his negotiations with Trotsky at Brest General Hoffman, in declining to accept this formula, was fully entitled to refer to the fact that the Bolsheviks themselves acknowledged the right of peoples to self-determination less than any one else.
The Bolsheviks broke up the Congress of White Russians at Minsk at the point of the bayonet (31st December). They not only sent an ultimatum to the Rada (Council) of the Ukraine in Kiev (19th December), but even began a regular war against it. In the Caucasus the Georgians saved themselves from the Bolsheviks by rushing into the arms of the Germans. In Moscow itself the Soviet forbade the Union of Great Russians to hold meetings and to print papers. The Bolshevist troops obliged the Don Cossacks by force to acknowledge the authority of the Peoples Commissaries.
These were individual episodes in that ferocious and savage civil war to which the Bolsheviks devoted themselves, sometimes with the fury of fanatics, some times with the greed of banditti, while at times they managed to combine the psychology of both. The leaders of the Bolsheviks strove to concentrate the attention of the masses, of whom they were then masters, on the details of civil war, that their thoughts might be diverted from the peace with the Germans. The Soviet published news of what was doing at Brest-Litovsk, but sparingly and incompletely. On the other hand, it published joyful official telegrams about its victories on the Home Front, about the capture of Moscow and Orenburg, Vorenezh and Simferopol, Kiev, Taganrog, Rostov, Irkutsk, and many other Russian cities. The Democratic peace, about which the Bolshevist Press continued to clamour, amounted to nothing more than a hasty, and shameful capitulation to a powerful Germany and to new wars with less powerful opponents at home.
On 19th December an ultimatum was sent to the Rada. On 24th January a war broke out in Finland between the Reds and the Whites, in which the Bolshevist Guards took an active part. On 27th January war began with Roumania, against whom the Bolsheviks, for some reason or other, had long borne a grudge. (May not Rakovsky, Lenins Roumanian associate, have had a finger in the pie ?) On 31st December the Bolsheviks imprisoned the Roumanian Ambassador in the Petropavlovsky fortress and released him only on the demand of the whole corps diplomatique, who visited the Smolny for the purpose. But when, after the declaration of war, the Soviet of Peoples Commissaries, in the rudest manner possible, forced the Roumanian Legation to leave Russia at twenty-four hours notice, the diplomatists of the Alliance were powerless to shield the dignity of their colleagues. This, however, is far from being the only instance of the helplessness exhibited by the diplomatists of the Alliance before the insolence of the Bolsheviks, with respect to whom the political leaders of the Entente failed to assume any definite attitude.
Roumania retaliated on the Bolsheviks by disarming the Russian troops on her territory, which may of course have been a matter of necessity. But she also occupied a portion of Russian territory, including Kishinev, the principal city of Bessarabia.
On all the other fronts the Bolsheviks fought with varying success, sometimes retreating, sometimes victorious.
The different stages of this bloody and insane civil war are so confused and form such a chaos that to describe them in brief is far from easy. The fact alone that at one and the same time, though in different places and in differing mutual relations, the Germans were now the allies, now the antagonists, of the Bolsheviks, complicates the story seriously. As a general rule it may be stated that the Germans supported the Bolshevist authority in such actions as tended to the ruin of Russia. They also supported in their struggle against Bolshevist authority those parts of Russia or those nationalities whose separatist tendencies were a danger to the future unification of Russia.
In Finland the Germans assisted the White Guard to defeat the Reds, and helped toward the separation of Finland from Russia. In the Ukraine the Germans supported the separatists, thus fulfilling the cherished idea of Bismarck, who had dreamt of weakening Russia by cutting off the wealthy South from the industrial North. On the Don the German prisoners of war and officers helped the Bolsheviks to drive out of the Cossack territory the handful of officers who under General Alexeiev and General Kornilov had just begun the formation of the Volunteer Army. In Siberia the Germans, along with the Bolsheviks, established the destructive Soviet Authority by the most bloody of methods. Yet at the same time, after the conclusion of the Brest-Litovsk peace, when a German Ambassador was already in Moscow, the Moscow papers printed official telegrams from the Vorenezh front reporting the capture by the Germans of one or another village from the Bolsheviks. The German forces did this in agreement with the Ukraine Government, which in January 1918 had sent a separate delegation to Brest and concluded a separate peace with the Germans. The Bolsheviks did not acknowledge either this peace or the right of the Ukraine to conclude a separate peace in general. On January 30th, aided by the local Bolsheviks, they brought about a revolution in Kiev. They deposed the Rada and instituted Soviets. The Ukraine Government tried conclusions with the latter. But the forces of the Soviet of Peoples Commissaries came up and occupied Kiev after a series of bloody battles and a destructive bombardment of the city. This Bolshevist victory was accompanied by a regular massacre. Not satisfied with the death or the shooting of those officers who had fought in the field, the Bolsheviks went from house to house with their lists and shot down the officers whom they found without mercy, in the presence of their wives, mothers, and children. According to an approximate estimate, about 2000 officers were killed. The story of the Kiev massacre is one of the most abominable blood-stained pages in the dark story of the Russian Civil War.
Ferocity is the distinguishing feature of all the feats of the Bolsheviks on the home front. They acknowledge this themselves, and even emphasise their ruthlessness in their conflict with the recusants.
At the third Congress of Soviets Lenin said : Yes, we are men of violence. We stand for violence against those who exploit the poor, and we are not to be shaken by the cries of those who weep and lose their heads in the face of the great struggle. (January 22nd.)
They showed especial cruelty towards the so-called Kornilovists. The Bolsheviks hastened to crush the Russian Army in the process of regeneration, because they were afraid of this handful of brave men who had carried off the national flag of Russia to the Don, so that what was left of real Russia might rally round it.
Hastily echelon after echelon of the Soviet troops were despatched to the so-called Don front. That they might concentrate all their as yet insignificant forces against the Kornilovists, the Bolsheviks were ready to make any terms with the Germans.
This willingness to give way to the Germans was not a matter of chance, nor simple treachery, but part of a definite plan. By strengthening their position in Russia, even though it were with the help of German Generals, the Bolsheviks satisfied their vast ambitions and made for themselves a base for organising a universal revolutionary conflagration. As to their first personal aim, of course, they were silent ; about the second they raised as great a clamour as they could.
Their leaders, especially those acquainted with the life of the West, such as Lenin and Trotsky, lied deliberately, affirming that the world-revolution had become a fact.1 This lie was repeated without cessation, in print and verbally, and in the reports brought from abroad by Bolshevist Commissaries.
A few days after the November Revolution the Moscow Izvestia (the official organ of the Bolsheviks) published the report of the foreign delegation of the Bolsheviks on the international situation.
There is no European revolution, said the report, but the period of ferment among the popular masses of the warring countries is already giving way to a new period of open mass struggle for peace. The existence of a Workmens and Peasants Government in Russia, the definite practical steps it has taken towards the conclusion of peace, and the demand for an armistice, will cause the proletariat of all the warring countries to rise, and the more powerful and determined the Workmens Government will be, the sooner the popular movement in favour of peace will pass into an open revolutionary outbreak. (November 21,1917.)
In another article the delegates wrote :
The creation of a united democratic front among us will give a powerful impetus to the cause of peace. The voice of the proletariat sounds in the West. Peace is coming.
This theme, with sundry variations, has been constantly repeated by the Bolshevist Press. The clearer became the severity of the German conditions of peace, the more shamelessly the Bolshevist orators and journalists clamoured about the general peace which the coming world-revolution would bring with it.
In Austria, indeed, in January 1918 a great ferment broke out among the workmen. The foreign correspondents of the Soviet exaggerated it and wired news of great disturbances in Germany. This coincided with the Third Congress of Soviets.
The uncultured, poorly educated majority in the Congress were unable to penetrate the depths of the deception in which they were entangled. It was in vain that the scanty opposition, the so-called Social Patriots, strove to explain to the peasants and workmen gathered at the Congress that the Bolsheviks were leading Russia to destruction. They were simply ignored. The vanity of the delegates was flattered by the mistaken conviction instilled into them that they were masters of the situation and that the Commissaries were mere executors of their will, though, as a matter of fact, the Soviet of Peoples Commissaries even then formed not the dictatorship of the proletariat, but a dictatorship over the proletariat.
Partly in order that with the help of the Congress the Russian proletariat might be prepared for the degradation of Brest-Litovsk, partly because, perhaps, they really still calculated on the support of their German comrades and wished to gain time, the Peoples Commissaries succeeded, about the end of January, in obtaining a ten days suspension of the peace negotiations and carried on a double game at the Congress. In a series of clever speeches Trotsky withdrew the attention of its members from the external front to the home front. The international position of the Soviet Republic was represented as being not at all that of a country severed from its friends and given over into the hands of its enemies. On the contrary, certain little-known foreign orators, speaking for the Socialists of Switzerland, America, Sweden and Norway, assured the simple members of the Congress that the whole world was following the proceedings of the Workmens and Peasants Government with admiration. According to the words of these visitors, Parliamentarianism had outlived itself everywhere, and the power of the old capitalist system, which could not resist the pressure of the victorious proletariat, was coming to an end everywhere. Their hearers gratefully applauded them, without asking either of what groups in particular they were delegates, or in what manner the success of the Social revolution had expressed itself in the countries in whose name they spoke.
Chicherin, the future Minister of Foreign Affairs, who at that time was quite unknown, except for the fact that he had just returned from England, where he had been imprisoned for pacifist agitation, represented the political condition of Great Britain in January 1918 in the following manner :
The working masses of England are turning their eyes towards revolutionary Russia, and are beginning to exhibit great political activity in their own country. The revolutionary ferment in England is growing, in spite of all the efforts of the leaders of the English compromising Socialist parties, who strive to restrain the revolutionary current in the masses by means of watchwords stolen from the Russian revolutionaries. A shameless campaign of persecution and slander is carried on by the venal Press of the English bourgeoisie against the Russian revolutionary movement.
The Peoples Commissaries kept repeating in all possible forms that the proletariat of Russia had become the vanguard of the proletariat of the world, that Europe and America gazed with envy on the Soviet Republic which had created a new Socialistic paradise. Chaos reigned all around. Fighting went on. Railway transport deteriorated more and more, and grew slower and slower. Difficulties in the supply of food were clearly leading to famine. Germany was treating Russia as a conquered country, yet at the same time the Izvestia wrote :
Now, when the revolution has begun in Germany as well, our comrades at Brest are supported by the workmen not of Russia alone, but also of the Central Powers. And this support gives them indomitable power, and they will know how to resist the demands of Austro-German Imperialism. (Izvestia, February 3, 1918.)
This was published in an official organ at a moment when both the Bolshevist civil employees and all who read the papers knew of the indemnities and annexations required of Russia by the Germans. The German Generals went their own way. If they had condescended to negotiate with the Bolsheviks, whom of course they despised, it was not that the Conference at Brest-Litovsk should be turned into a political meeting, whence the voices of the Bolshevist agitators might resound over the whole of Europe. The Germans needed, at any cost, a speedy cessation of military operations on their Eastern front and a treaty even if signed by the Soviet of Peoples Commissaries. They would have been very glad if the treaty could have been signed by some one of greater authority, but this was impossible. When Count Mirbach brought his delegation to Petrograd, there were men among his Staff who had formerly lived in Russia and had old acquaintances among the Russians. They tried to renew their intercourse with them, and both in Petrograd and in Moscow sought to enter into negotiations with more responsible Russian circles and men of mark. All this, of course, was carried on in great secrecy ; but I have the right to affirm that such attempts were made, that the Germans made applications to commercial and industrial circles and to politicians, but met with an energetic repulse. The feeling of loyalty to the Allies was too strong among them, and did not admit of any compromises with the enemy. Perforce the Germans had to continue their negotiations with the Bolsheviks, though of course they could not but understand that a peace treaty signed by Trotsky, Radek, & Co. was neither more nor less than a forged bill of exchange. Like usurers doing business with a slippery customer, the Germans accepted a document which went beyond the bounds of all prudence, so that when the day of reckoning came there might be something to discount.
The chronology of the peace negotiations between the Soviet of Peoples Commissaries and the Central Powers was as follows :
November 12Peace decree.
13The parlementaires under Lieut. Schneur set forth.
28Meeting of the Plenipotentiaries at Brest-Litovsk.
31The Russo-German Conference in Petrograd began work.
February 10The Russian delegation declined to sign the Peace Treaty.
18The Germans resumed military operations.
19The Soviet of Peoples Commissaries despatched a wireless accepting the German conditions.
March 3Treaty signed, worse than the former one.
17The All-Russia Congress of Soviets ratified the treaty.
Altogether four months elapsed between the proposal of an armistice made by the Bolsheviks, who had declared themselves the Government of Russia, and the final ratification of the Peace Treaty. During this period the subsidence of the Russian Empire went on day by day, and the Germans found it increasingly possible to dictate any conditions they liked to their adversaries. The Bolsheviks cannot even be called a defeated side, as they, had not fought the Germans, but after seizing the government of the country, had declared military operations at an end. It would be more correct to say that both the Bolsheviks and the Germans had conquered Russia, each in their own way and each for their own endsthe Kaiser, in the name of German Imperialism ; Lenin, in the name of Socialistic world-Imperialism.
The details of the intercourse, negotiations, agreements, and mutual deception of these two singular allies, have not yet been revealed to the public. The Press has only been able to publish fragmentary information about the negotiations at Brest and also about the Russo-German Conference when it was opened in Petrograd on New Years Eve, in the offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The principal representative of the Central Powers at this Conference was Count Mirbach. He arrived with his delegation while the diplomatic representatives of the Allied Powers and their military missions were still in the capital. The situation was very critical. An unpleasant collision might be expected any day, the more so that the first few days both Germans and Austrians sported their uniforms.
At last, in the beginning of February, the German conditions were published. Their chief sting lay in the ironically formulated second paragraph :
Since the Russian Government, in agreement with its principles, has already proclaimed for all the peoples, without exception, belonging to the State of Russia, the right of self-determination, extending to complete separation, it therefore takes note of the decisions, expressing the will of the people concerning the desire of Poland, Lithuania, Courland, an portions of Esthonia and Livonia for complete national independence and separation from the State of Russia.
This fairly good parody of Bolshevist phraseology signified neither more nor less than the appropriation of a considerable slice of Russian territory. That same annexation was threatened about which the Russian Socialists had raised such a clamour. But they had feared that Russia would annex, disbelieving those who said that if discipline were not retained in the army it would not be Russia who would annex, but Russia from whom portions would be cut away.
When the German conditions were laid before the Central Executive Committee, a lengthy resolution of protest was passed in reply to them. Arguing against the German decision upon the destiny of the races dwelling on the Western border of Russia, the Bolsheviks, inter alia, said :
The statement of the German delegation that the will of the people in the territories mentioned has already been expressed, is not correct. In a state of siege, under the pressure of a military censorship, the people of the occupied territories could not express their will.2
The resolution wound up with the usual appeal to the workers of the whole world and with a proposal to transfer the peace negotiations to Stockholm. The Germans, of course, refused to do so. After some time, a delegation was again despatched to Brest-Litovsk. On this occasion one of the principal statesmen who entered into the so-called Russian delegation was an international adventurer, the Austrian Jew, Sobelson, better known by his nom de plume of Karl Radek. An educated man, far from stupid, but with a very discreditable past, his thoughts of course were least of all of Russia. The negotiations carried on by such men could not bear a serious character, and were more of the nature of a ribald bouffonade. Indeed, the Bolshevist delegates themselves did not estimate the value of the Brest-Litovsk treaty from the point of view of the interests of the nation, the rule over whom they had seized, but exclusively as a means of propaganda.
The actual significance of the Brest-Litovsk negotiations lies in the fact that they tore off German imperialism the disguise which it had temporarily borrowed from the wardrobe of democracy, and exposed the cruel reality of landholding and capitalistic annexationism. The Brest-Litovsk negotiations have made everything clear ; more than this cannot be required of them. (Izvestia, 22nd January.)
But the Germans persistently pursued their aim. They were weary of the peace farce. They had to put an end to it and at the same time show their own working classes the real importance of the Bolshevist babblers.
They laid down such conditions that even the Bolsheviks found it disadvantageous to submit to the will of the Germans immediately and without protest. Trotsky produced a stage-effect which cost the Smolny and its supporters no small amount of fear and agitation. On February 10, at a meeting of the Peace Conference at Brest-Litovsk, Trotsky read the following declaration :
In the name of the Soviet of Peoples Commissaries the Government of the Russian Federated Republic informs the governments and nations warring against us and of the Allied and neutral countries, that while declining to sign an annexationist treaty Russia on her part declares the state of War with Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria at an end. Simultaneously, the Russian forces on all the lines of the front are given the order for complete demobilisation.
At the same time, the Commander-in-Chief Krylenko issued an order for demobilisation, beginning thus :
The peace negotiations are finished. The German capitalists, bankers and land-owners, supported by the silent co-operation of the English and French bourgeoisie, have required of our comrades, the members of the Peace Delegation at Brest, conditions which the Russian revolution cannot sign. But we cannot, will not, and shall not wage war against those Germans and Austrians who, like us, are workmen and peasants. (February 10.)
Therefore the war was declared at an end and the demobilisation of the whole front was announced.
This was called shortlyneither peace nor war. If the Bolsheviks had really been pacifists, such a declaration, and especially the simultaneous order for demobilisation, might be explained as the highest expression of peaceableness, as Tolstoys non-resistance of evil carried to the extreme. But it was not a question of peaceableness. The Peoples Commissaries wanted to use their military power in another direction. They fanned the flames of civil war ; they stormed Russian towns ; sent artillery to shell Kiev, Voronezh, Rostov ; they shot prisoners of war and the wounded. They had neither the power nor the wish to fight the Germans. Trotsky and Radek, those international adventurers who had built their career on Socialism, knew that they would have to submit to the Germans, but calculated that it would be more profitable not to do so at once.
On returning from Brest, Trotsky reported to the Central Executive Committee. He pointed out the inextricable position of the Peoples Commissaries :
Germany demands annexations and a war indemnity of ten milliards. Nevertheless, we must not carry on the War. The opinion that we ought to carry on the peace negotiations along with our Allies has no foundation. If we were to acknowledge it, we should also acknowledge that we must continue the War along with our Allies. But this would mean still further to weaken Russia which is already destitute. Even admitting that the fortunes of War will be on the side of the Allies, which is very unlikely, this would be victory not for Russia, but for the Allies only, who would then present their bills.
Trotsky said that when he declared that the Soviet did not wish to continue this unrevolutionary war, was demobilising the Russian Army and abrogating the state of war, German Secretary of State Kuehlmann exchanged sinister smiles with Hofmann and Count Czernin. One could read in their faces : They will agree and sign everything.
But when Trotsky, in the name of the delegation, announced its refusal to sign an annexationist treaty, Kuehlmann, notwithstanding all his self-control, was bewildered. For the learned experts of the German delegation this was a surprise from the legal point of view as well. Their learned counsel made a long search in his books and discovered an analogical case only in the history of the wars of the Persians with the Greeks.
The report does not say whether this ancient analogy consoled the members of the Central Committee. Trotsky himself, seeking to justify the treachery of the Soviet, accused the Allies, as usual, of being the cause of the calamities and degradation which had overtaken Russia.
The Germans are acting with the tacit consent of England, France and America at the expense of Russia, Lloyd George saidlet Russia determine her own frontier. In these words, Lloyd George pointed out to the Germans that the more they took from Russia the easier would be their settlement with the Allies afterwards. . . .
We stand within a ring of the Imperialists of the whole world, united against us. The whole question lies in how the nations will come out of the war : will France come out of the war under the leadership of her Stock Exchange, or of her heroic proletariat ? Will Lloyd George remain master of England, or will new masters appearthe workmen, who even now give enormous moral support to the Russian revolution ?
Trotsky finished his speech with an appeal to the proletariat of Germany and Austria, whom he held responsible for the fate of Russia.
As we know, the German proletariat then gave no answer to Trotsky and the Soviet, unless we take as an answer the eloquent silence of the German Social Democrats. On the other hand, the Government of the Kaiser, speaking in the name of the German people, announced on February 18th that the armistice was at an end and that the war was resumed.
This created a regular panic in the ranks of the Bolsheviks. A conflict took place between Trotsky and Lenin, who demanded that a peace be signed at once, whatever its nature. That same night (February 18th-19th), in consequence of Lenins insistence, the Soviet of Peoples Commissaries sent Berlin a radiogram, agreeing to sign a peace treaty on the conditions laid down by the Germans. In a series of articles, venomous and frank to the verge of cynicism, Lenin explained why the most miserable peace would be more profitable for the Soviet authority than war. The young Russian Revolution could not stand war on all fronts at once, and ought not to risk the lives of the Red Guards, the cream of the leading proletariat. Lenin argued that by stopping the war the Soviet authority frees itself from both the warring imperialist groups and can utilise their mutual enmity and the War, can utilise the period of free hands for continuing and fortifying the social revolution. The reorganisation of Russia on the basis of the dictatorship of the proletariat and of the nationalisation of the banks and larger industrial undertakings, accompanied by the barter of produce between town and country, is quite possible economically, given the guarantee of several months peaceful labour. Such a reorganisation would make Socialism invincible both in Russia and in the world at large, creating at the same time a firm economic basis for a mighty Red Army of workmen and peasants. (Pravda for February 24th.)
Lenin considered that what they would sign would be not a peace treaty, but a breathing space. This word, as well as Lenins expression that they must sign a Tilsit peace, was repeated by some with bitter irony, by others with the full conviction that they were right. Lenin argued that to refuse to sign the German conditions would be revolutionary bluster and bombast, that the Soviet was not bound to listen to the Social Patriots (this nickname had already been given to the Left wing of the Socialist Revolutionaries), who clamour about treachery and demand that the Soviet authorities should fight for the liberation of Poland, Lithuania, and Courland. Without breaking away from the fundamental principles of Marxism and of Socialism in general, no follower of Marx can deny that the interests of Socialism are higher than the interests of the national right to self-determination.
But even in the Central Executive Committee men accustomed not only to revolutionary, but also to internationalistic bombast, did not accept these arguments at once. Actually, they had already agreed to capitulate, but the Germans were in no haste to reply, disbelieving the radiogram and demanding a document signed by the Soviet. While the courier despatched with this document was on his way to Brest, endless debates took place in the Soviet. Two currents of opinion appeared. Some supported Lenin. Others considered that the conclusion of a separate peace with Germany on such conditions was a blow, not only to the Russian, but also to the German proletariat (this was the opinion of the Social-Revolutionaries). The internationalist Social-Democrats declared that the conclusion of such a peace will undermine the authority of the revolution and allow the Russian counter-revolution to find support in German imperialism. Even when arguing against the Bolshevist peace which was to ruin Russia, the Socialists were thinking not of Russia, but of the Revolution. As before, they had the same aim with Lenin ; they both placed the interests of Socialism above the interests of the nation. But he was bolder than they were and went to his goal along a straighter path. His arguments convinced the Central Executive Committee. Lenins proposal to agree to the German conditions was accepted by 116 votes against 85. That same night (February 24) the parlementaires set out for Brest.
In point of fact, the Soviet authorities had no choice before them. The answer of the Germans, signed by von Kuehlmann, to the Bolshevik proposal sent by courier was instinct with the authoritativeness of conquest, and concluded with the following order :
The above conditions must be accepted within 48 hours. The Russian plenipotentiaries must at once proceed to Brest-Litovsk, so that within three days they may sign the treaty of peace, which is to be ratified in the course of two weeks.
This was a regular ultimatum. It was clear that the Germans would no longer allow the Bolshevist delegates to waste time in long, agitated conversations, but would make them conclude a peace without any evasions or declamation. Von Kuehlmanns conditions were more severe than the original ones. Not only Courland, but Esthonia as well, was to pass into the hands of the Germans. Armenia was to be restored to Turkey. The Ukraine and Finland were to be cleared of Soviet troops and of the Red Guard. The Bolsheviks were bound to cease all propaganda against the Central Powers. The war indemnity was to be paid according to the German proposals, i.e. with a very large payment in gold. The whole of the Russian Army, including the newly formed units, was to be demobilised.
The units referred to in the last point could scarcely have been a serious danger to the Germans, and this demand was made rather for the greater humiliation of the Bolsheviks than for any practical end. The Central Executive Committee submitted to Lenins magisterial demand for the signature of the peace with the Germans, but still a section of the Soviet raised a martial clamour.
Having announced the cessation of the armistice on February 18th, the Germans immediately renewed military operations and advanced along the whole front, taking one town after another. Dvinsk, Minsk, Reval, Pskov, all that previously had been but an unattainable military dream, now fell into their hands. With every day they kept drawing nearer to Petrograd. Their advance aroused panic and bewilderment in Bolshevist circles. With feverish haste the Smolny turned out declarations and orders whose solemnity was equalled by their absurdity.
After having already decided on surrender to the Germans, and having sent to von Kuehlmann a courier with a letter agreeing to any terms the Germans might see fit to offer, the Soviet overwhelmed the people with appeals calling on the brave to range themselves under the banners of the Soviet for the defence of their Socialistic fatherland. For the first time the word fatherland was used in an official document, but its meaning was lost owing to the adjective, as it was emphasised that for non-Socialists Russia should not be their fatherland.
Even under the pressure of the German advance the Bolsheviks continued to split the population of the Russian Empire into two warring camps, and to hound on the one against the other. On the one hand, the bourgeois groups look forward to the coming of the German Generals for the crushing of the Revolution ; on the other, they make a furious onslaught on the authority of the Soviet. A similar spirit animates the Press of the compromising parties (so they called the non-Bolshevist Socialists). They depict the matter as if we had voluntarily lowered our banner before the Hohenzollerns. (Appeal to the working population.)
The agents of the bourgeoisie, the scribblers of the Press, all those who have hitherto clamoured and accused, who had prided themselves on their patriotism, now await impatiently the coming of the Germans, which is to free them from the rule of the Soviets, wrote the Bolshevist papers.
Calling on the workmen and the peasants to devote all their powers to the cause of revolutionary defence, the Peoples Commissaries announced that every bourgeois resisting the arrangements for the work on National defence must be immediately put on his trial and forcibly made to work.
All the members of the bourgeois class who are able to work must be enrolled in the labour battalions under the supervision of the Red Guards. Those who resist are to be shot. The words to be shot are to be found in every order, in every appeal, along with the call to preserve order with a hand of iron.
To show what the Soviet authorities meant by this order I shall quote in full a document posted up in the streets of Petrograd :
The All-Russia Extraordinary Commission, attached to the Soviet of Peoples Commissaries to combat the counter-revolution sabotage and speculation, informs all citizens that hitherto the Commission has been generous in its conflict with the enemies of the people, but at the present moment, when the hydra of counter-revolution is growing more impudent with every day, inspired by the treacherous attack of the German counter-revolutionist, when the bourgeoisie of the world is attempting to strangle the vanguard of the revolutionary Internationalthe Russian proletariat, the All-Russia Extraordinary Commission, acting on the resolution of the Soviet of Peoples Commissaries, sees no other means of suppressing counter-revolutionists, spies, speculators, burglars, hooligans, saboteurs, and other parasites than their merciless destruction red-handed, and therefore announces that all agents and spies of the enemy, counter-revolutionary agitators, speculators, organisers of rebellions, and participators in the preparation of rising for the overthrow of the Soviet authority, all fleeing to the Don to join the counter-revolutionary forces of the Kaledin and Kornilov gang and the Polish counter-revolutionary legions, sellers and purchasers of arms, to be sent to the Finnish White Guards, the Kaledin, Kornilov, and Dovbor-Musnitsky troops, or for the arming of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie of Petrograd, will be shot without mercy, red-handed, by the detachments of the Commission. (February 22nd.)
All is characteristic in this document, even its very style. It is written without a single full stop, as if to make it easier to lump up all together, both criminals and the enemies, external and internal, of the Soviet authority. This confusion corresponds to the judicial conceptions of the Soviet authority which permits its detachments to kill on the spot all those whom the Reds may wish to kill. It reflects the malice, social immorality, mendacity and contempt for the human personality which pertain to the Soviet authority.
These moral qualities of Bolshevism will be reflected very clearly in all the long and complicated documents published by the Soviet during the painful days of the German advance, when the Soviet authority assumed the position of an original form of passive resistance.
The working masses were called on to help the Soviets in their double conflict with the bourgeoisie, external and internal. And it was not of the Germans, but of the Russian bourgeoisie, that the Bolsheviks spoke with the most sincere exasperation. In a lengthy manifesto, announcing the formation of a Red Socialistic Army, it was explained that the army was needed for fighting the enemies of the workmens and peasants revolution.
These foes are many. First of all, they are our own bourgeoisie, land-owners, capitalists, Kornilovists, and so forth. . . . It is not only the Russian bourgeoisie that directs its forces against our revolution, but all the Imperialists, who fear that the conflagration of the Socialist revolution which has broken out in Russia may pass over to their countries.
In this manifesto Austria and Germany are not even mentioned. There is only a hint, or rather an accusation more than once expressed by Trotsky and his comrades, that the Allies, having come to terms with the Germans, wanted to crush the Russian Revolution : Facts at our disposal definitely show that the united bourgeois forces of the whole world are preparing an organised campaign against the Russian Revolution. . . .
The call to defend the revolutionary and Socialistic fatherland was repeated by the Bolsheviks in a variety of forms. Words were sown broadcast by them with their usual impetuosity, but their organisation of the defence was very peculiar. In the life of the civilian population it expressed itself in a series of new acts of oppression and new restrictions which led to still greater disorganisation everywhere. Almost all the papers were closed. All publications opposing the cause of revolutionary defence and taking the part of the German bourgeoisie, and also those which aim at utilising the irruption of the Imperialist hordes for the overthrow of the power of the Soviet, are to be closed. The editors and contributors of these publications who are fit for work are to be mobilised for trench-digging. Though, as a matter of fact, not a single paper showed any signs of pro-Germanism, yet ALL the papers were closed, excepting the principal Cadet paper, Nash Viek (this was the title then given to the Rech), which somehow managed to escape, though it undoubtedly and openly aimed at the overthrow of the Soviet authority.
To ruin civil life was far easier than to organise the defence of the State. The military measures taken were so senseless that though we were not at all in the mood for laughter, yet we could not read the wonderful specimens of military creativeness produced by the defenders of the Socialist fatherland without a smile.
In expectation of an air-raid, orders were given that every aeroplane flying past was to be reported to the Staff by the House Committees of the city, though these domestic organisations were scarcely adapted for making such observations.
The Soviet of Peoples Commissaries announced :
Let all our enemies at home and abroad know that we are ready to defend the acquisitions of the Revolution to the last drop of our blood.
A special committee for the revolutionary defence of Petrograd was appointed, on which were civilian Bolsheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries. The supreme Commander-in-Chief, Ensign Krylenko, who had just issued the order for the general demobilisation of the army, now issued an order for its revolutionary mobilisation. This warrior had curious ideas of war with the Germans.
We must meet the onslaught of the enemy with public revenge, with public terror. If we can succeed in throwing against him united masses of revolutionary citizens who will do battle, our desperate battle of civil war, not only according to the rules of military strategy, but by stealth also everywhere in small detachments and important engagements, for every town, every village, every street, every house in the cities, then there will be no forces which the Germans could set against us. Detachments of 1000-1500 men, sufficiently supplied with elementary weapons and light batteries, detachments capable of quickly entrenching themselves and attacking with the impetuosity of our revolutionary detachments of the civil warsuch detachments will be sufficient for stopping the German advance.
Apparently they were not sufficient. The Germans occupied one town after another. It cannot even be said that they captured them, as no one fought with them, no one defended these towns.
The soldiers and sailors, completely demoralised, stupefied by a hail of contradictory orders and promises, threw down everything and ran away in all directions. As soldiers, they understood that men cannot fight without what is most important in warwithout commandersand they sought safety in flight.
Petrograd presented a most wonderful picture. No one knew where the enemy was, and indeed no one knew who the enemy was.
The three weeks which had passed between the proclamation of that singular formulaneither war nor peaceand the final signing of the Peace Treaty, only intensified the nightmare in which Petrograd had lived since the Bolshevist Revolution. The papers were suppressed, as the Press is one of the principal weapons in the hands of the dark powers. But the official periodicals too contained scarcely any information from the front, as people still continued to call the line of disposition of the German forces, though it did not possess the principal feature of a frontthere was only the German Army on it, while the opposing Russian Army had long ceased to exist. It had ceased to exist not only because Krylenko had issued the order for demobilisation. Even before it, during several months, the soldiers had been demobilising without orders. The few units which still managed to hold out at the front, having lost their disciplinary cement, had ceased to be military units.
This was a period of general flight, or rather of a general desire to fly, anywhere from the unfortunate, ruined, starving city, which was struggling in the grip of a double war. But only the privileged were able to escape. The Germans were spread over the whole of the West, including Finland, where the Reds were retreating daily under the pressure of the Whites, who were supported by the Germans. It was possible to escape along two railway-lines onlyalong the Northern Railway, which leads to Vologda and beyond it to Siberia, and along the Nicolaievsky line to Moscow. The soldiers simply fought for places in the trains, while civilians could only obtain tickets through the Soviets. The Bolshevist officials and their families were the first to disappear, as news came from the West that in the districts occupied by the Germans the latter made short work of the Bolsheviks. Knowing people managed, for large sums of money, to buy tickets and permits, as departure from Petrograd was formally forbidden. A disorderly, extravagant evacuation of Government institutions and a part of the works was carried on. Some civilians managed to slip into railway-cars along with machinery, lathes, and bundles of Government papers ; but these favourites of fortune were few and the trains were crammed principally with sailors and soldiers.
When the enemy army advanced, when the Germans took Dvinsk, Minsk, Lutsk, and finally Pskov, the soldiers fled to the East, like leaves driven by the wind. This coincided with the February snow-storms, when the already disorganised railway traffic was almost completely stopped by snow-drifts. Trains took forty-eight hours, instead of the usual twelve, to travel between Petrograd and Moscow. Locomotives and cars were covered with a coating of ice. Icicles hung from the roofs, the buffers, the platforms, decorating the whole train with a tracery of ice. The soldiers not only filled the cars, but clambering over the icy surface mounted on to their roofs, hung on the buffers between the cars, stood on the steps, or got into the tender. Sometimes a gust of wind would sweep them to the ground. Some fell because their strength gave way. Others were lifted off with frozen hands and feet, or sometimes dead.
Railway-stations became real fields of battle. Shots were heard from them night and day, especially from the terminus of the Nicolaievsky Railway which links Petrograd with Moscow and Central Russia. The soldiers took the terminus by storm, and the railwaymen were constantly in terror for their lives, as the crazed bands of soldiers threatened all and sundry with lynching.
The first to fly was the garrison of Petrograd, those same reserve units whom the Provisional Government had bound itself not to remove from the city, as they were needed for the protection of the acquisitions of the Revolution. From that time onwards, day by day, the garrison continued changing into an enormous mob of undisciplined parasites. The soldiers lived at Government expense, peddled all kinds of trash in the streets, travelled gratis on trams and trains, misbehaved themselves in the streets, and sometimes marched about the town with placards bearing the most peremptory demands, such as : Down with the capitalist Ministers ! Death to Kerensky ! Long live the Universal Revolution ! and so forth. But they took no very active part in the political conflict. They took care of themselves. The majority were soldiers from the rear who had never been in battle. To the sound of firing they were not accustomed, nor did they intend to accustom themselves to it. In their parlance, We dont want to shed the blood of our brothers. Such was the answer they gave both when they were to be sent to the front and when they were to be used for suppressing internal disorder. The hasty flight of the garrison from Petrograd was only a fresh proof that they had no wish to shed their own blood in any cause whatever.
The next to go were the soldiers and sailors from Finland, from Cronstadt, from Dvinsk, from Reval, from all places where the Russian Army once formed a solid wall against the enemy. Now the former unselfish and courageous defenders of their country had become a herd of fleeing cowards. From the Warsaw, from the Baltic, from the Finland termini, they made their way across the city, on foot, on carts, on trams, directing their course to that same Moscow Railway. Along the Liteiny Prospect, from the Neva, day and night, sledges drove along, piled high with every manner of chattels, trunks, baskets, and bags. Many of them bore the names or the initials of their owners. Sometimes they bore a coronet. These were not sailors, but typical officers bags. Beside the loads marched sullen sailors. The passers-by knew well enough that these were loads with plundered officers property. And it was with contemptuous anger, with a painful realisation not only of their own impotence, but also of the impotence of the whole nation, that the passers-by turned their backs on these men who had so bravely disposed of their defenceless officers and were running like dastards from the enemy.
The walls of the houses were plastered with posters bearing boldly printed appeals to defend the Socialist fatherland, appeals to the courage of the proletariat, and so forth. But the soldiers ran past in a businesslike way, quickening their pace, faster and faster, as if the Germans were already there, so near that in another moment they would appear and take them prisoners all. The soldiers feeling of community was already dead in these men. They were incapable of thinking either of the capital created by Peter the Great, or of Russia, or of anything abstract or ideal. Only the animal instinct of self-preservation now lived in these men, in whom nothing of the soldier remained but the uniform.
During these gloomy days, besides the fleeing soldiers there were other men in uniform on the streets of Petrogradthe former officers of the former Russian Army. They wore no arms, no shoulder-straps, no cockades, nor any other formal marks to distinguish them from the sea of soldiers flooding the streets of the capital. But we could distinguish the officers without any mistake by their military bearing, which had completely vanished in the soldiers. What especially betrayed the officers was the expression on their faces. There was a restraint in them, a deliberate, almost haughty restraint ; there was none of that mazed consternation, that hurriedness which gave a bewildered expression to the soldiers, imbued with panic. Looking at the soldiers, especially when they crowded about the very doors of the railway-termini, ready to strangle one another if only they could escape from the city, one might really believe that they were possessed by devils, paltry, dirty devils, who had for the time crushed out all human feelings in these unfortunate beings.
One day I was passing through the Znamensky Square. A newsvendor next me was sullenly shouting, Germans in Gatchina ! Germans in Gatchina ! Some absurd telegrams had been received to the effect that German scouts were within some thirty versts of Petrograd. A crowd of soldiers clamoured nervously and impatiently at the wide doors of the railway-station, waiting to be let in. Past them ran Soviet motor-cars in which workmen sat with thoughtful, anxious faces. From the Ligovka towards the Nevsky Prospect marched ranks of men in civilian attire. They marched awkwardly, not keeping step, evidently unaccustomed to the ranks. The weapons which hung on them, too, were not uniform nor worn in the same manner. Some had their rifles slung muzzle downwards, some muzzle upwards. One would be belted with two revolvers, right and left. Another, for some reason or other, had belted on a cavalry sword.
These men were but little like a trained unit fit for the fighting-line. But there was none of the defiant insolence of the Red Guards about them, rather a thoughtful seriousness and the consciousness of a great responsibility.
This was one of the few workmen units of the Red Army. It consisted of workmen from the Putilov works, and was setting out in this state for the front.
Not far from me stood a short old man with a bundle of newspapers under his arm. His soldiers overcoat and cap could not conceal his officers bearing. Judging by his grey hair and moustaches, he was an officer who had seen much service, most probably a General. With quick, wise eyes he glanced at the semi-civilian warriors awkwardly marching past him, and quickly turned away. One could fancy that if they had fallen into his hands he would have turned them into real soldiers and led them properly against the Germans.
Meanwhile, on the other side, round the mounted statue of the obstinate and short-sighted autocrat, Alexander III., among lofty heaps of snow, several young men, also in soldiers overcoats, swiftly and skilfully cleared away the snow, throwing it with their shovels into high sledges. They did not even glance at the Red Guards. War was no longer their business. They had been set aside from it.
They were young officers who had undertaken to clear away the snow from the streets of Petrograd. This means of earning money was yet within their reach, and enabled them not to die of hunger in Bolshevist Russia. While it was possible they had done their duty as soldiers honestly, believing that sooner or later, along with the Allies, they would crush the enemy and celebrate a victory.
But fate decided otherwise. Socialistic agitators saw in the army only a dangerous nest of counter-revolutionaries, and feared the officers more than anything else. From the very first day of the Revolution the Revolutionary-Democracy began sowing discord between the soldiers and their officers. The officers were insulted, humiliated, and deprived of power. The Bolsheviks finished the evil begun by Order No. 1. The officers were expelled from the army, or obliged to fly to save themselves from the savage excesses of the soldiers, by which so many of their comrades had perished. With the officers the Russian Army vanished too.
The Germans could not break it. It was killed, poisoned by the strange spiritual gangrene of Socialism, poorly assimilated even by its leaders themselves, to say nothing of the masses.
When the Germans grasped the fact that Russia was paralysed, they simply advanced and began to occupy one territory after another. There was none to stop their advance or put any bound to it. The Germans stopped when and where they chose and found it convenient. The Russian officers could only look with impotent despair on the victorious march of the foe against whom for three years the Russian people had fought so heroically and at the cost of such terrible sacrifices.
While destroying the officers the Bolsheviks understood at the same time that without them there could be no army, and tried to draw them to themselves. An order was given for all officers to report at the General Staff Headquarters. The defence of Petrograd was entrusted to the well-known, experienced General of Engineers, Schwarz. Several Generals were kept on in the Staff itself. But all this was a mere caricature of defence, as at the head of it stood the Bolshevist leaders, who brought chaos and destruction into whatever they touched. The Commander-in-Chief, Ensign Krylenko, issued one senseless order after another. He once seriously asked a British officer whether it would not be better to blow up the Okhta Powder-Works that they should not fall into the hands of the enemy, and was much astonished when the Englishman remarked that, as the works were situated in a suburb, all the population of Petrograd should first be removed some twenty versts from the capital. It had never struck the Commander-in-Chief that the whole city would be blown up with the powder-works.
The Naval Commissary, a sailor named Dybenko, celebrated for his ferocity, having gathered together a detachment of some 2000 sailors, led them himself to Narva, to defend the Socialist fatherland against the White Guard bands of General Hoffmann and Wilhelm. Before departing he issued a magniloquent manifesto :
Long live the Revolutionary War ! Death to all cowards ! and so forth.
But as soon as the Bolshevist leader heard the crackle of the German machine-guns he bolted like a rabbit, creating a panic among the other units. Dybenko was so terrified that, making his way by a branch-line to the Nicolaievsky Railway, he demanded of the railwaymen, revolver in hand, that they should give him a special train, and calmed down only when he found himself in Moscow.3
Lenin was not far out when he considered that with such defenders it was more advantageous for the Soviet to agree to all the demands of Germany.
On March 3rd the Bolshevist delegation at Brest-Litovsk signed the Peace Treaty, but accompanied it by a declaration in which they complained with ingenuous cynicism that they had no army, though they themselves had dispersed that army.
This is a peace dictated by armed force, said the declaration. This is a peace which revolutionary Russia, with clenched teeth, is driven to accept perforce. In the existing situation Russia has no choice having demobilised her troops, Russia has thereby placed her destiny in the hands of the German people.
And the German people took advantage of the non-existence of a Russian Army and laid down conditions more severe even than the original ones. They included an enormous indemnity and annexations both in the west and in the east of Russia. The Germans retained those territories which they had occupied during their fortnights advance, including Reval and Pskov, and presented the Turks with a series of Trans-Caucasian townsBatoum, Kars, and Ardagan. As the Germans demanded complete demobilisation, the Commander-in-Chief, Krylenko, consoled himself with the following declaration :
One of the conditions of peace is the complete demobilisation of our Army. We shall replace it by the general training of every man to the use of arms. Every workman, every work woman, every peasant, man or woman, must be able to use rifle, revolver, and machine-gun. In the ranks of the people who are building up a Socialist community, among the predatory capitalists there must not be a single man untrained in the use of arms. (March 4th.)
By order of the Germans the ratification of the Peace Treaty was to take place not later than March 17th. To escape some of the odium the Bolsheviks held an Extraordinary Congress of Soviets in Moscow. By this time all delegates inconvenient and undesirable for the Bolsheviks had been eliminated from the provincial Soviets, and in the Congress they had an overwhelming majority. Out of the 876 delegates gathered together there were 500 Bolsheviks and 198 of the Left-wing Social-Revolutionaries. The rest belonged to the more moderate Socialist parties.
The Allied Governments were so poorly informed as to the situation in Russia that the President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, decided that the Congress was a sort of Parliament and considered it necessary to send it a greeting, expressing to it his sincere sympathy for the Russian people :
Though the Government of the United States is unfortunately unable at present to give Russia that direct and active support which it would wish to give her, I would wish to assure the Russian people through this Congress that the Government of the United States will take advantage of every opportunity to guarantee Russia anew her full sovereignty and complete independence in her internal affairs, and the restoration of her great part in the life of Europe and of contemporary mankind. With its whole heart, the people of the United States sympathises with the Russian people in its efforts to free itself for ever from autocracy and to become master of its own destiny.
This greeting, coming from the head of a democratic State, was sent after the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly, after the brutal murder of three of its members (Shingarev, Kokoshkin, and Loginov), after a whole series of illegal acts, assaults, and murders, and, finally, after the separate peace negotiations at Brest, which were accompanied by a series of hostile demonstrations against the Allies. As a matter of course this telegram had a depressing effect on Russian public opinion. Not only did it not draw us nearer to the Allies, but it increased our painful feeling of being cut off from the rest of the world.
The vast majority of thinking Russians did not acknowledge the Brest-Litovsk peace. In Moscow the representatives of all the Socialist parties lodged a protest with the foreign consuls against the treaty. Similar protests were lodged by the Cadet party, the Commercial and Industrial group and other organisations.
And at this moment one of the most powerful among the Allies, the United States, greets the criminals who had made peace with the common foe as if they were the representatives of the Russian people.
This was not only insulting, it opened up the full depth of the misunderstanding of Russia, her calamities, desires, and needs. It is to be regretted that the further history of the relations between the Soviets and the Allies is a protracted confirmation of this ignorance and misunderstanding which are ruinous not for Russia alone.
War with Germany, if not finished, was broken off, and no one knew for how long.
The Soviet of Peoples Commissaries, having fled on March 11 to Moscow (it was not so long since Trotsky had assailed Kerensky for intending to transfer the capital thither), took up its quarters in the Kremlin, which still bore traces of the Bolshevist bombardment, that it might thence, by blood and violence, establish Socialism not only in Russia, but in the whole world.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The first year of the Russian Revolution ended with the Peace of Brest-Litovsk. Such a catastrophe Russia had not experienced for centuries. It appeared that the psychology of the Revolution had not strengthened but weakened, both in the army and in the people, the will to victory, without which no defence of ones native land is possible.
The Bolsheviks took advantage of the prevailing depression of the masses to subjugate the latter. For this purpose it was necessary to betray Russia to Germany. This they did without a moments hesitation, as peace made them masters of the situation.
But the more responsible and clear-headed circles of the Russian people did not acknowledge either the peace of Brest or the authority of the Bolsheviks. The situation was paradoxical and apparently without any solution. A vast country, occupying one-sixth of the land of the globe, with a population of 175 millions, remained without any government, without any formal bonds between its constituent parts and in altogether undefined relations to its neighbours. It seemed as if some giant hand had reversed the centripetal force which bound together millions of people into one whole, and, transforming it into a centrifugal force, had reduced the State to a heap of separate grains of dust.
But a people of many millions which under severe historical conditions had created a powerful State, a literature, an art, and a civilisation of its own cannot but fight against anarchy. It inevitably brings forward its boldest and most powerful members, who will begin building up the wrecked State anew. Again, with intensified will and enlightened thought, they will create for their people a fitting and vital form of common life.
The foundation of such a regeneration of Russia was laid in the south a few days after the November revolution. It was not without grounds that the Bolsheviks persecuted the Kornilovists with such fury. Those two Russias, the split between which was disclosed with such picturesque distinctness in Moscow at the State Conference in August, where the appearance of General Alexeiev and General Kornilov was greeted on the one hand with enthusiasm and on the other with mocking hostility, now found themselves literally in two hostile camps, the victory falling to the Leftthe International camp.
In the first place, all the material advantages were on the side of the Bolsheviks. They held the munition works and stores, the factory for printing paper money, the railways, and the banks. All these external signs of power fell into their hands because the masses believed that the Bolsheviks held the secret of creating an earthly paradise. They were going to arrange matters so that there would no longer be the division of people into rich and poor, exploiters and exploited. The old dream of the destitute was to come true. All would be equal. Abstractly speaking, the world was beautiful, man was free, what more then was to be desired ?
The masses, ignorant and unaccustomed to critical thought, could not grasp either the spiritual poverty of their leaders, nor the fallacy of their ideas. They trusted them, and with the childish greediness of men sufficiently exhausted by Social injustice, awaited the fulfilment of the promises which for months had issued from the lips of Socialist orators.
Strong in this trust and in their possession of the material means of warfare, the Socialist Marxists who, under the name of Bolsheviks, had seized the power in Russia, were in a condition to carry out any experiments they chose to the bitter end. All roads were open to them. If they have suffered shipwreck, if the vast Social laboratory called Sovdepia4the very name is ridiculousis not a glorious kingdom of happiness and freedom, but a dark chaos of crime and sorrow, it is only the Bolsheviks and their ideas that are to blame. It is no easy work to separate the blunders and crimes of individuals from the fundamental errors of the Socialist system, developed during dozens of years by the theorists of Socialism. The Bolsheviks are extremists. They occupy the extreme left flank of contemporary Socialism, and the methods to which they had recourse in Russia compose the maximum dose of Socialistic medicine for curing mankind of the diseased contradictions of capitalism.
But the Bolsheviks are undoubtedly Socialists, and their criminal example must sober many minds. Events have already shown the results of Bolshevist policy. Terror, famine, ruin, slavery, a terrible deterioration of moralsthis is to what Lenin has brought Russia. During the course of many months he has been dictating his will to the Russian people and though actually enjoying full power he has suffered shipwreck.
To expose the causes of the complete failure of the Bolsheviks in detail it would be necessary to write another book, more than one, indeed. Economists and politicians will seek the explanation of the Bolshevik failure in their contempt for right and for the law of economic necessity, of which the followers of Marx themselves have always spoken as of the principal law governing human society. Psychologists and mystics will seek it in their despotism, in their contempt for truth and good, as an absolute principle. Undoubtedly, the struggle of the Bolsheviks for power is one of the most soul-stirring pages and perhaps one of the most instructive for the last few centuries in the history of the eternal war between good and evil.
Within the boundaries of Russia, this struggle, at the beginning of Lenins reign, was a very unequal one. Non-Bolshevist Russia had no means of resistance. After Kerensky had proclaimed General Kornilov a traitor, the patriotic wing of Russian society lost its principal support and hopethe Army Headquarters. While the General Staff was in existence there were hopes of saving from disruption at least part of the army, that principal sign and support of political life. After the arrest of General Kornilov all went wrong. There was no one on whom the Government could lean. There was nowhere for the healthy elements of society to group themselves. Bolshevism, and with it internationalism, was already victorious on September 12th, the day when General Kornilov was arrested. From this moment the Bolshevist advance on the home front develops without hindrance. They capture one position after another without meeting with any organised resistance.
The arrest of the Provisional Government and the flight of Kerensky only confirmed the victory of the Bolsheviks.
But that very evening when Russian guns were firing on the capital of Russia, when civil war had unfurled its crimson banner over Russia, an old man of no great height, with grey moustaches and the calm and wrinkled face of the average Russian shopkeeper or clerk, left Petrograd by the Nicolaievsky railway.
This was General Alexeiev, the former Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army. A brilliant strategist, he had carried out most complicated operations on a vast front. During the summer of 1915, when under the pressure of the splendidly armed German forces, the Russian Army was obliged to retreat all but unarmed, yet not broken, it was saved by the military genius of General Alexeiev. Against the Germans he could defend himself. But to protect the Russian Army from the turbulent onslaught of the crazy pacifists, half-educated agitators, German traitors and dishonourable demagogues who flooded the front after the Revolution, was beyond his power. His foes gained the upper hand not on the field of battle, but by a deep flanking movement to the rear. With the intuition of a warrior patriot, he was one of the first to feel the coming danger, and as far back as May 1917, when pessimism was so freely identified with counter-revolutionism, he said, at a congress of officers : Russia is perishing, because unless we defeat the Germans Russia cannot be saved.5
The victory over the enemy was celebrated by the roar of cannon and the rattle of machine-guns in the Palace Square. But General Alexeiev would not surrender, nor would he acknowledge himself defeated. Attired in worn civilian garb, with a few roubles in his pocket, lost in the crowd of passengers who were listening fearfully to the firing, he made his way to the South, there to regenerate the Russian Army, that necessary pledge for the regeneration of Russia.
General Alexeiev and the Russian patriots who gathered round him immediately were without men or means. And above all, it was impossible for them to attract the masses at once by word and manifesto. Honourable, thinking men could not promise the immediate realisation of all their hopes and aims when they knew that the War and the Revolution had left the people destitute, that before Russia lay difficulties, privations, and sacrifices, and not the sumptuous festival of immediate general prosperity.
Duped by a torrent of lies, blinded by the mirage of impossible promises, the people turned away from their faithful servants, believed them to be their enemies, and senselessly repeated every slander, every absurdity, launched against them by the Bolsheviks.
The news that General Alexeiev had made his way to the Don Territory and was recruiting a volunteer army at Novocherkassk spread rapidly throughout the North. Officers and military cadets streamed towards him. But to make their way to him was far from easy. The majority of them had no money. They had to obtain forged soldiers documents, as the Red Guard and Bolshevist bands searched the trains and shot down all who aroused their suspicion. No small number of young men perished without reaching the Don.
Those who did reach the territory of the Cossacks found themselves in no easy position. General Alexeiev began his work with a capital of 400 roubles. To organise relations with Northern Russia was difficult. The closing of the banks upset all calculations and made it impossible for sympathisers to support the volunteers. All around them in the territory of the Don the same revolutionary ferment and the same anarchical process was going on as in the north of Russia. The Cossack regiments returned from the front infected with Bolshevism. The situation was unstable. Their hetman, General Kaledin, sympathised from the bottom of his heart with the formation of a volunteer army which would undertake the task of continuing the war with Germany along with the Allies, and the restoration of a united Russia. But General Kaledin saw the dangerous currents of feeling developing among the Cossacks and was powerless to resist them.
The arrival in Novocherkassk of Kornilov, Denikin, Markov, and other Generals made the situation still more difficult. Their escape from the prison of Bykov, full of danger and adventure, surrounded them with a halo of legendary heroism. But if in this brilliant group of military leaders some saw the incarnate hope of Russias resurrection, in others their name aroused the old fear of counter-revolution, though during the whole of the first period of the Russian Revolution the military had honourably supported the democratic Provisional Government and had not made a single attempt at the restoration of the Imperial dynasty.
The fame of Alexeievs army went far beyond its actual numbers. The Bolsheviks decided that it would be more advantageous for them to crush the volunteers before they gained strength, and, even before concluding peace with the Germans, began to concentrate around Rostov and Novocherkassk an army of several tens of thousands of bayonets, which included a well-organised Hungarian unit. General Alexeiev was unable to accept battle. He had not even 4000 men at his back. Again he had to save by retreat not the Russian Army, but the small though precious germ of a future Russian Army.
On February 9th the Volunteer Army, consisting almost exclusively of officers and under the immediate leadership of General Kornilov, marched out of Rostov, crossed the frozen Don, and departed into the depths of the Kuban steppes.
From that moment onwards the history of this army has been a long series of difficulties and great exploits. It had no money, no clothing, no munitions, no base, no country, no allies. Ragged and beggared, driven to the very foot of the Caucasian mountains, these Russian patriots preserved the banner of the Russian Army and the Russian State. They experienced privations and failures which at times bordered on catastrophes. On April 13, near Ekaterinodar, General Kornilov, who had been their comrade in the field and their heroic leader, was killed by a shell. The following September witnessed the death of General Alexeiev, whose health had long been broken.
But the army stood it all, remained whole and developed into a real army. It is now led by General Denikin, one of the best representatives of Russian military tradition. The whole Kuban territory is at his disposal. Already he has tens of thousands of men at his command. He is closely linked with the Don, the Crimea and Siberia, where Admiral Koltchak has succeeded in forming a strong and democratic government. All these spacious territories of Russia are now free from Bolshevism, whose yoke the North still suffers.
Slowly and in torment Russia is living through that last and most terrible paroxysm of the RevolutionBolshevism. The process of healing comes from the borders towards the centre, gradually liberating territory after territory. It is a painful process which for a weaker and less numerous people might be mortal. But there have already been great crises in the history of the Russian people, yet the national instinct has in the end led Russia into the right way. Russia will find it now also.
8th March.Food Riots begin in Petrograd.
10th March.Nicholas II. signs the Ukase for the dissolution of the Duma.
12th March.The soldiers revolt in Petrograd. Ministers arrested.
13th March.Committee of the Duma formed. By evening the Soviet of Workmens and Soldiers Delegates formed. Admiral Nepenin, commanding Baltic Fleet, murdered by sailors. Massacre of officers at Cronstadt and Helsingfors.
15th March.Nicholas II. abdicates the throne, in his own name and that of his heir Alexis, in favour of his brother Michael Alexandrovich. A Provisional Government is formed, with Prince G. Lvov at the head. The Petrograd Soviet of Workmens and Soldiers Delegates issues Order No. 1 to the troops.
16th March.The Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich hands over full authority to the Provisional Government until the convocation of the Constituent Assembly. General Kornilov appointed Commander-in-Chief of the troops of the Petrograd region.
19th March.The Provisional Government proclaims a political amnesty. Manifesto of Home Rule for the Grand Duchy of Finland issued.
27th March.Proclamation of the Petrograd Soviet of Workmens and Soldiers Delegates to the workers of the whole world about peace.
30th March.The Provisional Government grants independence for Poland.
31st March.Abolition of capital punishment in the Civil and Military Law Codes.
12th April.Promulgation of the Law on the Corn Monopoly. Opening of the first Congress of the All-Russian Soviet of Workmens and Soldiers Delegates.
15th April.General Alexeiev appointed Supreme Commander-in-Chief. Arrival of Lenin from abroad. Lenins first visit to the Soviet.
1st May.Declaration made by P. Milyukov, Minister of Foreign Affairs, on the aims of the war which must be brought to a victorious end.
4th May.Armed demonstration of soldiers in Petrograd against the Provisional Government, and a counter demonstration of confidence in the Provisional Government.
6th May.Resolution passed by the Provisional Government concerning land committees.
9th May.Resolution passed by the Soviet to the effect that only its Executive Committee may call out troops. Prince Lvov applies to Rodzianko, and to the President of the Soviet, Chheidze, proposing the introduction of new Ministers to the Government.
10th May.Solemn meeting of the members of all the four Dumas.
13th May.The Congress of Don Cossacks considers it necessary that all orders should be given exclusively by the Provisional Government. After hesitating three weeks the Soviet passes a resolution in favour of supporting the Loan of Liberty.
14th May.Resignation of A. Guchkov, the War Minister. The Executive Committee of the Soviet is in favour of participation in a Coalition Ministry. General Kornilov resigns the post of Commander-in-Chief of the troops of the Petrograd region.
16th May.Resignation of P. Milyukov, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
18th May.Opening of the first Congress of Peasants Delegates.
19th May.List of new Coalition Ministry published. Kerensky appointed Minister of War and of Marine.
20th May.Congress of Officers at the Stavka. General Alexeiev makes his historical speech.
31st May.The Cronstadt Soviet decides not to submit to the Provisional Government.
3rd June.The Soviet announces that on 21st of June an international Socialistic Conference will be convened at Stockholm.
6th June.General Alexeiev leaves the post of Supreme Commander-in-Chief. General Brussilov appointed in his stead.
13th June.Tereschenko, Minister of Foreign Affairs, hands a note to A. Thomas proposing to convene a conference of Allies for the purpose of revising agreements on the aims of the War.
17th June.Opening of the Congress of Soviets of Workmens and Soldiers Delegates. Robert Grimm deported from Russia.
27th June.The Ukrainian Central Rada (Parliament) passes an Act declaring the Ukraine autonomous.
1st July.Kerensky issues an order for an advance on the South-Western front.
15th July.Ministerial crisis. Ministers of the Cadet party leave the Ministry, in view of divergence of opinion on the Ukrainian question.
16th July.Bolshevikt insurrection in Petrograd. With the help of the Cronstadt sailors they try to seize power.
20th July.Germans break through the South-Western front. Prince Lvov resigns.
21st July.The Provisional Government appoints Kerensky Prime Minister.
25th July.Capital punishment restored for the troops.
31st July.General Kornilov appointed Supreme Commander-in-Chief.
4th August.The Public Prosecutor publishes results of inquiry as to the Bolsheviks receiving large sums of money from Germany.
6th August.New Cabinet formed.
7th August.Trotsky and Lunacharsky arrested.
25th August.State Conference opened in Moscow.
3rd September.Germans take Riga.
9th September.Conflict between General Kornilov and Kerensky.
10th September.Order issued to arrest Kornilov and other Generals. Cadet Ministers leave the Government.
10th-14th September.Massacres of officers at Helsingfors, Viborg, Reval, Dvinsk. Conference of Provisional Government with representatives of various political organisations to deal with the ministerial crisis.
13th September.Kerensky becomes Supreme Commander-in-Chief.
14th September.Russia is declared a Republic.
15th September.Establishment of the Council of Five.
18th September.A General Meeting of the Soviet passes a resolution moved by the Bolsheviks.
20th September.General Alexeiev resigns his post as Chief of the Staff, and is replaced by General Dukhonin.
22nd September.In the Petrograd Soviet Trotsky mentions the guillotine for the first time.
27th September.Democratic Conference in Petrograd.
3rd October.Germans occupy the islands of Oesel and Dago.
8th October.Trotsky elected President of the Petrograd Soviet. The Soviet passes a resolution against the Provisional Government. The General Secretariat of the Ukraine announces that the administration of the Ukraine has passed into its hands.
20th October.Opening of the Council of the Republic.
4th November.Bolsheviks form a Military Revolutionary Committee.
5th November.Bolsheviks begin to shoot. No action taken by Kerenskys Government.
7th November.The Military Revolutionary Committee declares the Provisional Government to be deposed. In the day soldiers disperse the Council of the Republic. Kerensky leaves Petrograd. Winter Palace taken in the night. Ministers arrested and placed in St. Peter and Paul Fortress. Russia declared a Soviet Republic.
10th November.Beginning of civil war in Moscow.
12th November.Bolsheviks decree on the peace published.
13th November.Bearers of the flag of truce sent out.
15th November.General Alexeiev begins to form a volunteer army at Novocherkassk.
25th November.Elections to Constituent Assembly.
28th November.Meeting of plenipotentiaries at Brest-Litovsk.
5th-11th December.The members of the Constituent Assembly attempt to open the Assembly. Members Kokoshkin and Shingarev arrested.
15th December.Bolsheviks take the Stavka. Supreme Commander-in-Chief General Dukhonin is murdered by the mob.
18th December.Armistice of twenty-eight days.
19th December.Bolshevist Ultimatum to the Ukrainian Rada.
27th December.All private banks seized.
31st December.Bolshevist German Conference in Petrograd starts work.
13th January.Rumanian Ambassador arrested.
18th January.Opening and closing of the Constituent Assembly. Murder of Kokoshkin and Shingarev. 27th January.General Alexeievs Volunteer Army transferred to Rostov.
30th January.Rada repudiated by the Bolsheviks. Kiev taken by Soviet troops.
10th February.Bolshevist delegation refuses to sign the peace treaty. Order issued for complete demobilisation.
18th February.Germans resume hostilities.
19th February.The Soviet of Peoples Commissaries sends wireless accepting German terms.
22nd February.Under pressure of the numerous Red Army General Alexeiev retreats to the Kuban.
3rd March.Peace treaty between Bolsheviks and Germans signed at Brest-Litovsk.
17th March.The All-Russian Congress of Soviets ratifies the treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
1 They affirmed this beginning with the autumn of 1917. Since that time Many changes have taken place in the world. Thanks to the wonderful energy of the Bolsheviks and the no less wonderful short-sightedness of the statesmen of the West, the Revolution has actually become a universal fact, and who knows when and how it will end ?
2 These words might be used as a weapon against the later declarations of the Bolsheviks that they express the will of the people, if indeed words in general could serve as a weapon against them.
3 For this exploit Dybenko was tried and sentenced to imprisonment, but escaped and did not serve out his sentence. Later he was again taken into favour.
4 A portmanteau nickname given to Bolshevist Russia, from Soviet of Deputies.
5 This historical speech is quoted more fully in Chapter IV.