Transcriber's note: Minor typographical errors in the original text have been corrected and footnotes moved to the end of the book.
The Enemy of Political and Industrial Democracy
Author of "Social Democracy Explained" "Socialism, a Summary and Interpretation of Socialist Principles" "Applied Socialism" etc.
Harper & Brothers Publishers New York and London
* * * * * * *
BOLSHEVISM AMERICANISM AND SOCIAL DEMOCRACY SOCIAL DEMOCRACY EXPLAINED
HARPER & BROTHERS, NEW YORK
* * * * * * *
I. THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
II. FROM REVOLUTION TO REVOLUTION
III. THE WAR AND THE PEOPLE
IV. THE SECOND REVOLUTION
V. FROM BOURGEOISIE TO BOLSHEVIKI
VI. THE BOLSHEVIK WAR AGAINST DEMOCRACY
VII. BOLSHEVIST THEORY AND PRACTICE
POSTSCRIPTUM: A PERSONAL STATEMENT
I. AN APPEAL TO THE PROLETARIAT BY THE PETROGRAD WORKMEN'S AND SOLDIERS' COUNCIL
II. HOW THE RUSSIAN PEASANTS FOUGHT FOR A CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
III. FORMER SOCIALIST PREMIER OF FINLAND ON BOLSHEVISM
In the following pages I have tried to make a plain and easily understandable outline of the origin, history, and meaning of Bolshevism. I have attempted to provide the average American reader with a fair and reliable statement of the philosophy, program, and policies of the Russian Bolsheviki. In order to avoid confusion, and to keep the matter as simple and clear as possible, I have not tried to deal with the numerous manifestations of Bolshevism in other lands, but have confined myself strictly to the Russian example. With some detail—too much, some of my readers may think!—I have sketched the historical background in order that the Bolsheviki may be seen in proper perspective and fairly judged in connection with the whole revolutionary movement in Russia.
Whoever turns to these pages in the expectation of finding a sensational "exposure" of Bolshevism and the Bolsheviki will be disappointed. It has been my aim to make a deliberate and scientific study, not an ex-parte indictment. A great many lurid and sensational stories about the Bolsheviki have been published, the net result of which is to make the leaders of this phase of the great universal war of the classes appear as brutal and depraved monsters of iniquity. There is not a crime known to mankind, apparently, of which they have not been loudly declared to be guilty. My long experience in the Socialist movement has furnished me with too much understanding of the manner and extent to which working-class movements are abused and slandered to permit me to accept these stories as gospel truth. That experience has forced me to assume that most of the terrible stories told about the Bolsheviki are either untrue and without any foundation in fact or greatly exaggerated. The "rumor factories" in Geneva, Stockholm, Copenhagen, The Hague, and other European capitals, which were so busy during the war fabricating and exploiting for profit stories of massacres, victories, assassinations, revolutions, peace treaties, and other momentous events, which subsequent information proved never to have happened at all, seem now to have turned their attention to the Bolsheviki.
However little of a cynic one may be, it is almost impossible to refrain from wondering at the fact that so many writers and journals that in the quite recent past maintained absolute silence when the czar and his minions were committing their infamous outrages against the working-people and their leaders, and that were never known to protest against the many crimes committed by our own industrial czars against our working-people and their leaders—that these writers and journals are now so violently denouncing the Bolsheviki for alleged inhumanities. When the same journals that defended or apologized for the brutal lynchings of I.W.W. agitators and the savage assaults committed upon other peaceful citizens whose only crime was exercising their lawful and moral right to organize and strike for better wages, denounce the Bolsheviki for their "brutality" and their "lawlessness" and cry for vengeance upon them, honest and sincere men become bitter and scornful.
I am not a Bolshevik or a defender of the Bolsheviki. As a Social Democrat and Internationalist of many years' standing—and therefore loyal to America and American ideals—I am absolutely opposed to the principles and practices of the Bolsheviki, which, from the very first, I have regarded and denounced as an inverted form of Czarism. It is quite clear to my mind, however, that there can be no good result from wild abuse or from misrepresentation of facts and motives. I am convinced that the stupid campaign of calumny which has been waged against the Bolsheviki has won for them the sympathy of many intelligent Americans who love fairness and hate injustice. In this way lying and abuse react against those who indulge in them.
In this study I have completely ignored the flood of newspaper stories of Bolshevist "outrages" and "crimes" which has poured forth during the past year. I have ignored, too, the remarkable collection of documents edited and annotated by Mr. Sisson and published by the United States Committee on Public Information. I do not doubt that there is much that is true in that collection of documents—indeed, there is some corroboration of some of them—but the means of determining what is true and what false are not yet available to the student. So much doubt and suspicion is reasonably and properly attached to some of the documents that the value of the whole mass is greatly impaired. To rely upon these documents to make a case against the Bolsheviki, unless and until they have been more fully investigated and authenticated than they appear to have been as yet, and corroborated, would be like relying upon the testimony of an unreliable witness to convict a man serious crime.
That the Bolsheviki have been guilty of many crimes is certain. Ample evidence of that fact will be found in the following pages. They have committed many crimes against men and women whose splendid service to the Russian revolutionary movement serves only to accentuate the crimes in question. But their worst crimes have been against political and social democracy, which they have shamefully betrayed and opposed with as little scruple, and as much brutal injustice, as was ever manifested by the Romanovs. This is a terrible charge, I know, but I believe that the most sympathetic toward the Bolsheviki among my readers will, if they are candid, admit that it is amply sustained by the evidence.
Concerning that evidence it is perhaps necessary to say that I have confined myself to the following: official documents issued by the Bolshevist government; the writings and addresses of accredited Bolshevik leaders and officials—in the form in which they have been published by the Bolsheviki themselves; the declarations of Russian Socialist organizations of long and honorable standing in the international Socialist movement; the statements of equally well-known and trusted Russian Socialists, and of responsible Russian Socialist journals.
While I have indicated the sources of most of the evidence against the Bolsheviki, either in the text itself or in the foot-notes and references, I have not thought it advisable to burden my pages with such foot-notes and references concerning matters of general knowledge. To have given references and authorities for all the facts summarized in the historical outlines, for example, would have been simply a show of pedantry and served only to frighten away the ordinary reader.
I have been deeply indebted to the works of other writers, among which I may mention the following: Peter Kropotkin's Memoirs of a Revolutionist and Ideals and Realities of Russian Literature; S. Stepniak's Underground Russia; Leo Deutsch's Sixteen Years in Siberia; Alexander Ular's Russia from Within; William English Walling's Russia's Message; Zinovy N. Preev's The Russian Riddle; Maxim Litvinov's The Bolshevik Revolution: Its Rise and Meaning; M.J. Olgin's The Soul of the Russian Revolution; A.J. Sack's The Birth of Russian Democracy; E.A. Ross's Russia in Upheaval; Isaac Don Levine's The Russian Revolution; Bessie Beatty's The Red Heart of Russia; Louise Bryant's Six Red Months in Russia; Leon Trotzky's Our Revolution and The Bolsheviki and World Peace; Gabriel Domergue's La Russe Rouge; Nikolai Lenine's The Soviets at Work; Zinoviev and Lenine's Sozialismus und Krieg; Emile Vandervelde's Trois Aspects de la Revolution Russe; P.G. Chesnais's La Revolution et la Paix and Les Bolsheviks. I have also freely availed myself of the many admirable translations of official Bolshevist documents published in The Class Struggle, of New York, a pro-Bolshevist magazine; the collection of documents published by The Nation, of New York, a journal exceedingly generous in its treatment of Bolshevism and the Bolsheviki; and of the mass of material published in its excellent "International Notes" by Justice, of London, the oldest Socialist newspaper in the English language, I believe, and one of the most ably edited.
Grateful acknowledgment is hereby made of friendly service rendered and valuable information given by Mr. Alexander Kerensky, former Premier of Russia; Mr. Henry L. Slobodin, of New York; Mr. A.J. Sack, Director of the Russian Information Bureau in the United States; Dr. Boris Takavenko, editor of La Russia Nuova, Rome, Italy; Mr. William English Walling, New York; and my friend, Father Cahill, of Bennington.
Among the Appendices at the end of the volume will be found some important documents containing some contemporary Russian Socialist judgments of Bolshevism. These documents are, I venture to suggest, of the utmost possible value and importance to the student and general reader.
"NESTLEDOWN," OLD BENNNIGTON, VERMONT, End of January, 1919.
THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
For almost a full century Russia has been the theater of a great revolutionary movement. In the light of Russian history we read with cynical amusement that in 1848, when all Europe was in a revolutionary ferment, a German economist confidently predicted that revolutionary agitation could not live in the peculiar soil of Russian civilization. August Franz von Haxthausen was in many respects a competent and even a profound student of Russian politics, but he was wrong in his belief that the amount of rural communism existing in Russia, particularly the mir, would make it impossible for storms of revolutionary agitation to arise and stir the national life.
As a matter of historical fact, the ferment of revolution had appeared in the land of the Czars long before the German economist made his remarkably ill-judged forecast. At the end of the Napoleonic wars many young officers of the Russian army returned to their native land full of revolutionary ideas and ideals acquired in France, Italy, and Germany, and intent upon action. At first their intention was simply to make an appeal to Alexander I to grant self-government to Russia, which at one time he had seemed disposed to do. Soon they found themselves engaged in a secret conspiratory movement having for its object the overthrow of Czarism. The story of the failure of these romanticists, the manner in which the abortive attempt at revolution in December, 1825, was suppressed, and how the leaders were punished by Nicholas I—these things are well known to most students of Russian history. The Decembrists, as they came to be called, failed, as they were bound to do, but it would be a mistake to suppose that their efforts were altogether vain. On the contrary, their inspiration was felt throughout the next thirty years and was reflected in the literature of the period. During that period Russian literature was tinged with the faith in social regeneration held by most of the cultured intellectual classes. The Decembrists were the spiritual progenitors of the Russian revolutionary movement of our time. In the writings of Pushkin—himself a Decembrist—Lermontoff, Gogol, Turgeniev, Dostoyevsky, and many others less well known, the influence of the Decembrist movement is clearly manifested.
If we are to select a single figure as the founder of the modern social revolutionary movement in Russia, that title can be applied to Alexander Herzen with greater fitness than to any other. His influence upon the movement during many years was enormous. Herzen was half-German, his mother being German. He was born at Moscow in 1812, shortly before the French occupation of the city. His parents were very rich and he enjoyed the advantages of a splendid education, as well as great luxury. At twenty-two years of age he was banished to a small town in the Urals, where he spent six years, returning to Moscow in 1840. It is noteworthy that the offense for which he had been sent into exile was the singing of songs in praise of the Decembrist martyrs. This occurred at a meeting of one of the "Students' Circles" founded by Herzen for the dissemination of revolutionary Socialist ideals among the students.
Upon his return to Moscow in 1840 Herzen, together with Bakunin and other friends, again engaged in revolutionary propaganda and in 1842 he was again exiled. In 1847, through the influence of powerful friends, he received permission to leave Russia for travel abroad. He never again saw his native land, all the remaining years of life being spent in exile. After a tour of Italy, Herzen arrived in Paris on the eve of the Revolution of 1848, joining there his friends, Bakunin and Turgeniev, and many other revolutionary leaders. It was impossible for him to participate actively in the 1848 uprising, owing to the activity of the Paris police, but he watched the Revolution with the profoundest sympathy. And when it failed and was followed by the terrible reaction his distress was almost unbounded. For a brief period he was the victim of the most appalling pessimism, but after a time his faith returned and he joined with Proudhon in issuing a radical revolutionary paper, L'Ami du Peuple, of which, Kropotkin tells us in his admirable study of Russian literature, "almost every number was confiscated by the police of Napoleon the Third." The paper had a very brief life, and Herzen himself was soon expelled from France, going to Switzerland, of which country he became a citizen.
In 1857 Herzen settled in London, where he published for some years a remarkable paper, called Kolokol (The Bell), in which he exposed the iniquities and shortcomings of Czarism and inspired the youth of Russia with his revolutionary ideals. The paper had to be smuggled into Russia, of course, and the manner in which the smuggling was done is one of the most absorbing stories in all the tragic history of the vast land of the Czars. Herzen was a charming writer and a keen thinker, and it is impossible to exaggerate the extent of his influence. But when the freedom of the serfs, for which he so vigorously contended, was promulgated by Alexander II, and other extensive reforms were granted, his influence waned. He died in 1870 in Switzerland.
Alexander II was not alone in hoping that the Act of Liberation would usher in a new era of prosperity and tranquillity for Russia. Many of the most radical of the Intelligentsia, followers of Herzen, believed that Russia was destined to outstrip the older nations of western Europe in its democracy and its culture. It was not long before disillusionment came: the serfs were set free, but the manner in which the land question had been dealt with made their freedom almost a mockery. As a result there were numerous uprisings of peasants—riots which the government suppressed in the most sanguinary manner. From that time until the present the land question has been the core of the Russian problem. Every revolutionary movement has been essentially concerned with giving the land to the peasants.
Within a few months after the liberation of the serfs the revolutionary unrest was so wide-spread that the government became alarmed and instituted a policy of vigorous repression. Progressive papers, which had sprung up as a result of the liberal tendencies characterizing the reign of Alexander II thus far, were suppressed and many of the leading writers were imprisoned and exiled. Among those thus punished was that brilliant writer, Tchernyshevsky, to whom the Russian movement owes so much. His Contemporary Review was, during the four critical years 1858-62 the principal forum for the discussion of the problems most vital to the life of Russia. In it the greatest leaders of Russian thought discussed the land question, co-operation, communism, popular education, and similar subjects. This served a twofold purpose: in the first place, it brought to the study of the pressing problems of the time the ablest and best minds of the country; secondly, it provided these Intellectuals with a bond of union and stimulus to serve the poor and the oppressed. That Alexander II had been influenced to sign the Emancipation Act by Tchernyshevsky and his friends did not cause the authorities to spare Tchernyshevsky when, in 1863, he engaged in active Socialist propaganda. He was arrested and imprisoned in a fortress, where he wrote the novel which has so profoundly influenced two generations of discontented and protesting Russians—What is to Be Done? In form a novel of thrilling interest, this work was really an elaborate treatise upon Russian social conditions. It dealt with the vexed problems of marriage and divorce, the land question, co-operative production, and other similar matters, and the solutions it suggested for these problems became widely accepted as the program of revolutionary Russia. Few books in any literature have ever produced such a profound impression, or exerted as much influence upon the life of a nation. In the following year, 1864, Tchernyshevsky was exiled to hard labor in Siberia, remaining there until 1883, when he returned to Russia. He lived only six years longer, dying in 1889.
The attempt made by a young student to assassinate Alexander II, on April 4, 1866, was seized upon by the Czar and his advisers as an excuse for instituting a policy of terrible reaction. The most repressive measures were taken against the Intelligentsia and all the liberal reforms which had been introduced were practically destroyed. It was impossible to restore serfdom, of course, but the condition of the peasants without land was even worse than if they had remained serfs. Excessive taxation, heavy redemption charges, famine, crop failures, and other ills drove the people to desperation. Large numbers of students espoused the cause of the peasants and a new popular literature appeared in which the sufferings of the people were portrayed with fervor and passion. In 1868-69 there were numerous demonstrations and riots by way of protest against the reactionary policy of the government.
It was at this time that Michael Bakunin, from his exile in Switzerland, conspired with Nechaiev to bring about a great uprising of the peasants, through the Society for the Liberation of the People. Bakunin advised the students to leave the universities and to go among the people to teach them and, at the same time, arouse them to revolt. It was at this time, too, that Nicholas Tchaykovsky and his friends, the famous Circle of Tchaykovsky, began to distribute among students in all parts of the Empire books dealing with the condition of the peasants and proposing remedies therefor. This work greatly influenced the young Intelligentsia, but the immediate results among the peasants were not very encouraging. Even the return from Switzerland, by order of the government, of hundreds of students who were disciples of Bakunin and Peter Lavrov did not produce any great success.
Very soon a new organization appeared. The remnant of the Circle Tchaykovsky, together with some followers of Bakunin, formed a society called the Land and Freedom Society. This society, which was destined to exert a marked influence upon revolutionary Russia, was the most ambitious revolutionary effort Russia had known. The society had a constitution and a carefully worked out program. It had one special group to carry on propaganda among students; another to agitate among the peasants; and a third to employ armed force against the government and against those guilty of treachery toward the society. The basis of the society was the conviction that Russia needed an economic revolution; that only an economic revolution, starting with the producers, could overthrow Czarism and establish the ideal state of society.
The members of this Land and Freedom Society divided their work into four main divisions: (1) Agitation—passive and active. Passive agitation included strikes, petitions for reforms, refusal to pay taxes, and so on. Active agitation meant riots and uprisings. (2) Organization—the formation of a fighting force prepared to bring about a general uprising. (3) Education—the spreading of revolutionary knowledge and ideas, a continuation of the work of the Tchaykovsky Circle. (4) Secularization—the carrying on of systematic work against the Orthodox Church through special channels. One of the early leaders of this society was George Plechanov, who later founded the Russian Social Democracy and gave to the Russian revolutionary movement its Marxian character, inspiring such men as Nikolai Lenine and Leon Trotzky, among many others. The society did not attain any very great amount of success in its efforts to reach the peasants, and it was that fact more than any other which determined Plechanov's future course.
When the failure of the Land and Freedom methods became evident, and the government became more and more oppressive, desperate individuals and groups resorted to acts of terrorism. It was thus that Vera Zasulich attempted the assassination of the infamous Chief of Police Trepov. The movement to temper Czarism by assassination systematically pursued was beginning. In 1879 the Land and Freedom Society held a conference for the purpose of discussing its program. A majority favored resorting to terroristic tactics; Plechanov and a few other well-known revolutionists were opposed—favoring the old methods. The society split, the majority becoming known as the Will of the People and adopting a terroristic program. This organization sentenced Czar Alexander II to death and several unsuccessful attempts were made to carry out the sentence. The leaders believed that the assassination of the Czar would give rise to a general revolution throughout the whole of Russia. In February, 1880, occurred the famous attempt to blow up the Winter Palace. For a time it seemed that the Czar had learned the lesson the Will of the People sought to teach him, and that he would institute far-reaching reforms. Pursuing a policy of vacillation and fear, however, Alexander II soon fell back into the old attitude. On March 1, 1881, a group of revolutionists, among them Sophia Perovskaya, made another attempt upon his life, succeeding, at first, only in damaging the bottom of the Czar's carriage and wounding a number of Cossack soldiers. "Thank God, I am untouched," said the Czar, in response to the inquiry of an officer of his guard. "It's too soon to thank God!" cried N.I. Grinevitsky, hurling a bomb at the Czar. Within a short time Alexander II and his assailant were both dead.
The assassination of Alexander II was a tragic event for Russia. On the very morning of his death the ill-fated monarch had approved a plan for extensive reforms presented by the liberal Minister, Loris-Melikoff. It had been decided to call a conference three days later and to invite a number of well-known public men to co-operate in introducing the reforms. These reforms would not have been far-reaching enough to satisfy the revolutionists, but they would certainly have improved the situation and given Russia a new hope. That hope died with Alexander II. His son, Alexander III, had always been a pronounced reactionary and had advised his father against making any concessions to the agitators. It was not surprising, therefore, that he permitted himself to be advised against the liberals by the most reactionary bureaucrats in the Empire, and to adopt the most oppressive policies.
The new Czar was greatly influenced by his former tutor, the reactionary bureaucrat Pobiedonostzev. At first it was believed that out of respect for his father's memory Alexander III would carry out the program of reforms formulated by Loris-Melikoff, as his father had promised to do. In a Manifesto issued on the 29th of April, 1881, Alexander III promised to do this, but in the same document there were passages which could only be interpreted as meaning that all demands for constitutional reform would be resisted and Absolutism upheld at all cost. Doubtless it was due to the influence of Pobiedonostzev, Procurator of the Holy Synod, that Alexander III soon abandoned all intention of carrying out his father's wishes in the matter of reform and instituted such reactionary policies that the peasants feared that serfdom was to be restored. A terrible persecution of the Jews was begun, lasting for several years. The Poles, too, felt the oppressive hand of Pobiedonostzev. The latter was mastered by the Slavophil philosophy that the revolutionary unrest in Russia was traceable to the diversity of races, languages, and religions. He believed that Nihilism, Anarchism, and Socialism flourished because the people were cosmopolitan rather than nationalistic in experience and feeling, and that peace and stability could come only from the persistent and vigorous development of the three principles of Nationality, Orthodoxy, and Autocracy as the basis of the state.
In this doctrine we have the whole explanation of the reactionary policy of Alexander III. In the Manifesto of April 29th was announced the Czar's determination to strengthen and uphold autocracy. That was the foundation stone. To uphold orthodoxy was the next logical necessity, for autocracy and orthodoxy were, in Russia, closely related. Hence the non-orthodox sects—such as the Finnish Protestants, German Lutherans, Polish Roman Catholics, the Jews, and the Mohammedans—were increasingly restricted in the observance of their religion. They might not build new places of worship; their children could not be educated in the faith of their parents. In many cases children were taken away from their parents in order to be sent to schools where they would be inculcated with the orthodox faith. In a similar way, every attempt was made to suppress the use of languages other than Russian.
Along with this attempt to force the whole population into a single mold went a determined resistance to liberalism in all its forms. All this was accompanied by a degree of efficiency in the police service quite unusual in Russia, with the result that the terroristic tactics of the Will of the People party were unavailing, except in the cases of a few minor officials. Plots to assassinate the Czar were laid, but they were generally betrayed to the police. The most serious of these plots, in March, 1887, led to the arrest of all the conspirators.
In the mean time there had appeared the first definite Marxian Social Democratic group in Russia. Plechanov, Vera Zasulich, Leo Deutsch, and other Russian revolutionists in Switzerland formed the organization known as the Group for the Emancipation of Labor. This organization was based upon the principles and tactics of Marxian Socialism and sought to create a purely proletarian movement. As we have seen, when revolutionary terrorism was at its height Plechanov and his disciples had proclaimed its futility and pinned their faith to the nascent class of industrial wage-workers. In the early 'eighties this class was so small in Russia that it seemed to many of the best and clearest minds of the revolutionary movement quite hopeless to rely upon it. Plechanov was derided as a mere theorist and closet philosopher, but he never wavered in his conviction that Socialism must come in Russia as the natural outcome of capitalist development. By means of a number of scholarly polemics against the principles and tactics of the Will of the People party, Plechanov gathered to his side of the controversy a group of very brilliant and able disciples, and so laid the basis for the Social Democratic Labor party. With the relatively rapid expansion of capitalism, beginning with the year 1888, and the inevitable increase of the city proletariat, the Marxian movement made great progress. A strong labor-union movement and a strong political Socialist movement were thus developed side by side.
At the same time there was a revival of terrorism, the one available reply of the oppressed to brutal autocracy. While the Marxian movement made headway among the industrial workers, the older terroristic movement made headway among the peasants. Various groups appeared in different parts of the country. When Alexander III died, at the end of 1894, both movements had developed considerable strength. Working in secret and subject to terrible measures of repression, their leaders being constantly imprisoned and exiled, these two wings of the Russian revolutionary movement were gathering strength in preparation for an uprising more extensive and serious than anything that had hitherto been attempted.
Whenever a new Czar ascended the throne in Russia it was the fashion to hope for some measure of reform and for a degree of liberality. Frequently, as in the case of Alexander III, all such hopes were speedily killed, but repeated experiences of the kind did not prevent the birth of new hopes with the death of successive Czars. When, therefore, Alexander III was succeeded by his son, Nicholas II, liberal Russia expectantly awaited the promulgation of constitutional reforms. In this they were doomed to disappointment, just as they had been on the occasion of the accession of the new Czar's immediate predecessor. Nicholas II was evidently going to be quite as reactionary as his father was. This was made manifest in a number of ways. When a deputation from one of the zemstvos, which congratulated him upon his ascension to the throne, expressed the hope that he would listen to "the voice of the people and the expression of its desires," the reply of the new Czar was a grim warning of what was to come. Nicholas II told the zemstvos that he intended to follow the example of his father and uphold the principles of Absolutism, and that any thought of participation by the zemstvos or other organizations of the people in state affairs was a senseless dream. More significant still, perhaps, was the fact that the hated Pobiedonostzev was retained in power.
The revolutionists were roused as they had not been for a decade or more. Some of the leaders believed that the new reign of reaction would prove to be the occasion and the opportunity for bringing about a union of all the revolutionary forces, Anarchists and Socialists alike, peasants and industrial workers. This hope was destined to fail, but there was an unmistakable revolutionary awakening. In the latter part of January, 1895, an open letter to Nicholas II was smuggled into the country from Switzerland and widely distributed. It informed the Czar that the Socialists would fight to the bitter end the hateful order of things which he was responsible for creating, and menacingly said, "It will not be long before you find yourself entangled by it."
In one respect Nicholas II differed from Alexander III—he was by nature more humane and sentimental. Like his father, he was thoroughly dominated by Pobiedonostzev's theory that Russia, in order to be secure and stable, must be based upon Nationality, Orthodoxy, and Autocracy. He wanted to see Holy Russia homogeneous and free from revolutionary disturbances. But his sensitive nature shrank from the systematic persecution of the non-orthodox sects and the Jews, and he quietly intimated to the officials that he would not approve its continuance. At the same time, he was not willing to face the issue squarely and openly announce a change of policy or restore religious freedom. That would have meant the overthrow of Pobiedonostzev and the Czar's emancipation from his sinister influence, and for that Nicholas II lacked the necessary courage and stamina. Cowardice and weakness of the will characterized his reign from the very beginning.
When the officials, in obedience to their ruler's wishes, relaxed the severity which had marked the treatment of the Jews and the non-orthodox Christian sects, the change was soon noted by the victims and once more there was a revival of hope. But the efforts of the Finns to secure a modification of the Russification policy were quite fruitless. When a deputation was sent from Finland to represent to the Czar that the rights and privileges solemnly reserved to them at the time of the annexation were being denied to the people of Finland, Nicholas II refused to grant the deputation an audience. Instead of getting relief, the people of Finland soon found that the oppression steadily increased. It was evident that Finnish nationality was to be crushed out, if possible, in the interest of Russian homogeneity.
It soon became apparent, moreover, that Pobiedonostzev was to enjoy even more power than he had under Alexander III. In proportion as the character of Nicholas II was weaker than that of his father, the power of the Procurator of the Holy Synod was greater. And there was a superstitious element in the mentality of the new Czar which Pobiedonostzev played upon with infinite cunning. He ruled the weak-willed Czar and filled the ministries with men who shared his views and upon whom he could rely. Notwithstanding the Czar's expressed wishes, he soon found ways and means to add to the persecutions of the Jews and the various non-orthodox Christian sects. In his determination to hammer the varied racial groups into a homogeneous nation, he adopted terrible measures and so roused the hatred of the Finns, Armenians, Georgians, and other subject peoples, stirring among them passionate resentment and desire for revolutionary action. It is impossible to conceive of a policy more dangerous to the dynasty than was conceived and followed by this fanatical Russophil. The Poles were persecuted and forced, in sheer despair, and by self-interest, into the revolutionary movement. Armenians were persecuted and their church lands and church funds confiscated; so they, too, were forced into the revolutionary current.
Worse than all else was the cruel persecution of the Jews. Not only were they compelled to live within the Pale of Settlement, but this was so reduced that abominable congestion and poverty resulted. Intolerable restrictions were placed upon the facilities for education in the secondary schools, the gymnasia, and in the universities. It was hoped in this way to destroy the intellectual leadership of the Jews. Pogroms were instigated, stirring the civilized world to protest at the horrible outrages. The Minister of the Interior, Von Plehve, proclaimed his intention to "drown the Revolution in Jewish blood," while Pobiedonostzev's ambition was "to force one-third of the Jews to conversion, another third to emigrate"—to escape persecution. The other third he expected to die of hunger and misery. When Leo Tolstoy challenged these infamies, and called upon the civilized world on behalf of the victims, the Holy Synod denounced Tolstoy and his followers as a sect "especially dangerous for the Orthodox Church and the state." Later, in 1900, the Holy Synod excommunicated Tolstoy from the Orthodox Church.
The fatal logic of fanatical fury led to attacks upon the zemstvos. These local organizations had been instituted in 1864, by Alexander II, in the liberal years of his reign. Elected mainly by the landlords and the peasants, they were a vital part of the life of the nation. Possessing no political powers or functions, having nothing to do with legislation, they were important agencies of local government. The representatives of each county constituted a county-zemstvo and the representatives elected by all the county-zemstvos in a province constituted a province-zemstvo. Both types concerned themselves with much the same range of activities. They built roads and telegraph stations; they maintained model farms and agricultural experiment stations similar to those maintained by our state governments. They maintained schools, bookstores, and libraries: co-operative stores; hospitals and banks. They provided the peasants with cheap credit, good seeds, fertilizers, agricultural implements, and so forth. In many cases they provided for free medical aid to the peasants. In some instances they published newspapers and magazines.
It must be remembered that the zemstvos were the only representative public bodies elected by any large part of the people. While the suffrage was quite undemocratic, being so arranged that the landlords were assured a majority over the peasants at all times, nevertheless they did perform a great democratic service. But for them, life would have been well-nigh impossible for the peasant. In addition to the services already enumerated, these civic bodies were the relief agencies of the Empire, and when crop failures brought famine to the peasants it was always the zemstvos which undertook the work of relief. Hampered at every point, denied the right to control the schools they created and maintained, inhibited by law from discussing political questions, the zemstvos, nevertheless, became the natural channels for the spreading of discontent and opposition to the regime through private communication and discussion.
To bureaucrats of the type of Pobiedonostzev and Von Plehve, with their fanatical belief in autocracy, these organizations of the people were so many plague spots. Not daring to suppress them altogether, they determined to restrict them at every opportunity. Some of the zemstvos were suspended and disbanded for certain periods of time. Individual members were exiled for utterances which Von Plehve regarded as dangerous. The power of the zemstvos themselves was lessened by taking from them such important functions as the provisioning of famine-stricken districts and by limiting in the most arbitrary manner the amount of the budget permitted to each zemstvo. Since every decision of the zemstvos was subject to veto by the governors of the respective provinces, the government had at all times a formidable weapon at hand to use in its fight against the zemstvos. This weapon Von Plehve used with great effect; the most reasonable actions of the zemstvos were vetoed for no other reason than hatred of any sort of representative government.
The result of all this was to drive the zemstvos toward the revolutionary movements of the peasants and the city workers. That the zemstvos were not naturally inclined to radicalism and revolution needs no demonstration. Economic interest, tradition, and environment all conspired to keep these popular bodies conservative. Landowners were always in the majority and in general the zemstvos reflected the ideas and ideals of the enlightened wealthy and cultivated classes. The peasant representatives in the zemstvos were generally peasants of the most successful and prosperous type, hating the revolutionists and all their works. By means of a policy incredibly insane these conservatively inclined elements of the population were goaded to revolt. The newspapers and magazines of the zemstvos became more and more critical of the government, more and more outspoken in denunciation of existing conditions. Presently, the leaders of the zemstvos followed the example of the revolutionists and held a secret convention at which a program for common action was agreed upon. Thus they were resorting to illegal methods, exactly as the Socialists had done. Finally, many of the liberal zemstvo leaders formed themselves into a political party—the Union of Liberation—with a special organ of its own, called Emancipation. This organ, edited by the brilliant and courageous Peter Struve, was published in Stuttgart, Germany, and, since its circulation in Russia was forbidden, it had to be smuggled into the country and secretly circulated, just as the revolutionary Socialist journals were. Thus another bond was established between two very different movements.
As was inevitable, revolutionary terrorism enormously increased. In the cities the working-men were drawn mainly into the Social Democratic Working-men's party, founded by Plechanov and others in 1898, but the peasants, in so far as they were aroused at all, rallied around the standard of the Socialist-Revolutionists, successors to the Will of the People party. This party was peculiarly a party of the peasants, just as the party of Plechanov was peculiarly a party of industrial workers. It emphasized the land question above all else. It naturally scorned the view, largely held by the Marxists in the other party, that Russia must wait until her industrial development was perfected before attempting to realize Socialism. It scorned the slow, legalistic methods and resolutely answered the terrorism of Czarism by a terrorism of the people. It maintained a special department for carrying on this grim work. Its Central Committee passed sentences of death upon certain officials, and its decrees were carried out by the members of its Fighting Organization. To this organization within the party belonged many of the ablest and most consecrated men and women in Russia.
A few illustrations will suffice to make clear the nature of this terroristic retaliation: In March, 1902, Sypiagin, the Minister of the Interior, was shot down as he entered his office by a member of the Fighting Organization, Stephen Balmashev, who was disguised as an officer. Sypiagin had been duly sentenced to death by the Central Committee. He had been responsible for upward of sixty thousand political arrests and for the suffering of many exiles. Balmashev went to his death with heroic fortitude. In May, 1903, Gregory Gershuni and two associates executed the reactionary Governor of Ufa. Early in June, 1904, Borikov, Governor-General of Finland, was assassinated by a revolutionist. A month later, July 15th, the infamous Von Plehve, who had been judged by the Central Committee and held responsible for the Kishinev pogrom, was killed by a bomb thrown under the wheels of his carriage by Sazanov, a member of the Fighting Force. The death of this cruel tyrant thrilled the world. In February, 1905, Ivan Kaliaiev executed the death sentence which had been passed upon the ruthless Governor-General of Moscow, the Grand-Duke Serghei Alexandrovich.
There was war in Russia—war between two systems of organized terrorism. Sometimes the Czar and his Ministers weakened and promised concessions, but always there was speedy reaction and, usually, an increased vigor of oppression. The assassination of Von Plehve, however, for the first time really weakened the government. Czarism was, in fact, already toppling. The new Minister of the Interior, Von Plehve's successor, Prince Svyatpolk-Mirski, sought to meet the situation by a policy of compromise. While he maintained Von Plehve's methods of suppressing the radical organizations and their press, and using provocative agents to entrap revolutionary leaders, he granted a certain degree of freedom to the moderate press and adopted a relatively liberal attitude toward the zemstvos. By this means he hoped to avert the impending revolution.
Taking advantage of the new conditions, the leaders of the zemstvos organized a national convention. This the government forbade, but it had lost much of its power and the leaders of the movement ignored the order and proceeded to hold the convention. At this convention, held at St. Petersburg, November 6, 1904, attended by many of the ablest lawyers, doctors, professors, scientists, and publicists in Russia, a resolution was adopted demanding that the government at once call representatives of the people together for the purpose of setting up a constitutional government in Russia. It was a revolutionary act, a challenge to the autocracy, which the latter dared not accept. On the contrary, in December the Czar issued an ambiguous ukase in which a number of concessions and reforms were promised, but carefully avoiding the fundamental issues at stake.
Meanwhile the war with Japan, unpopular from the first, had proved to be an unbroken series of military defeats and disasters for Russia. From the opening of the war in February to the end of the year the press had been permitted to publish very little real news concerning it, but it was not possible to hide for long the bitter truth. Taxes mounted higher and higher, prices rose, and there was intense suffering, while the loss of life was enormous. News of the utter failure and incompetence of the army and the navy seeped through. Here was Russia with a population three times as large as that of Japan, and with an annual budget of two billions as against Japan's paltry sixty millions, defeated at every turn. What did this failure signify? In the first place, it signified the weakness and utter incompetence of the regime. It meant that imperialist expansion, with a corresponding strengthening of the old regime, was out of the question. Most intelligent Russians, with no lack of real patriotism, rejoiced at the succession of defeats because it proved to the masses the unfitness of the bureaucracy.
It signified something else, also. There were many who remembered the scandals of the Turkish War, in 1877, when Bessarabia was recovered. At that time there was a perfect riot of graft, corruption, and treachery, much of which came under the observation of the zemstvos of the border. High military officials trafficked in munitions and food-supplies. Food intended for the army was stolen and sold—sometimes, it was said, to the enemy. Materials were paid for, but never delivered to the army at all. The army was demoralized and the Turks repulsed the Russians again and again. Now similar stories began to be circulated. Returning victims told stories of brutal treatment of the troops by officers; of wounded and dying men neglected; of lack of hospital care and medical attention. They told worse stories, too, of open treachery by military officials and others; of army supplies stolen; of shells ordered which would fit no guns the Russian army ever had, and so on. It was suggested, and widely believed, that Germany had connived at the systematic corruption of the Russian bureaucracy and the Russian army, to serve its own imperialistic and economic ends.
Such was the state of Russia at the end of the year 1904. Then came the tragic events of January, 1905, which marked the opening of the Revolution. In order to counteract the agitation of the Social Democrats among the city workers, and the formation by them of trades-unions, the government had caused to be formed "legal" unions—that is, organizations of workmen approved by the government. In order to give these organizations some semblance to real labor-unions, and thereby the better to deceive the workers, strikes were actually inspired by agents of the government from time to time. On more than one occasion strikes thus instigated by the government spread beyond control and caused great alarm. The Czar and his agents were playing with fire.
Among such unions was the Gathering of Industrial Working-men of St. Petersburg, which had for its program such innocent and non-revolutionary objects as "sober and reasonable pastimes, aimed at physical, intellectual, and moral improvement; strengthening of Russian national ideas; development of sensible views concerning the rights and duties of working-men and improvement of labor conditions and mutual assistance." It was founded by Father Gapon, who was opposed to the revolutionary movement, and was regarded by the Socialists as a Czarist tool.
On January 3d—Russian calendar—several thousand men belonging to the Gathering of Industrial Workin-gmen of St. Petersburg went out on strike. By the 6th the strike had assumed the dimensions of a general strike. It was estimated that on the latter date fully one hundred and forty thousand men were out on strike, practically paralyzing the industrial life of the city. At meetings of the strikers speeches were made which had as much to do with the political demands for constitutional government as with the original grievances of the strikers. The strike was fast becoming a revolution. On the 9th Father Gapon led the hosts to the Winter Palace, to present a petition to the Czar asking for reforms. The text of the petition was widely circulated beforehand. It begged the Czar to order immediately "that representatives of all the Russian land, of all classes and groups, convene." It outlined a moderate program which had the support of almost the entire nation with the exception of the bureaucracy:
Let every one be equal and free in the right of election; order to this end that election for the Constituent Assembly be based on general, equal, direct, and secret suffrage. This is our main request; in it and upon it everything is founded; this is the only ointment for our painful wounds; and in the absence of this our blood will continue to flow constantly, carrying us swiftly toward death.
But this measure alone cannot remedy all our wounds. Many others are necessary, and we tell them to you, Sire, directly and openly, as to our Father. We need:
I. Measures to counteract the ignorance and legal oppression of the Russian people:
(1) Personal freedom and inviolability, freedom of speech and the press, freedom of assemblage, freedom in religious affairs;
(2) General and compulsory public education at the expense of the state;
(3) Responsibility of the Ministers to the people, and guaranties of lawfulness in administration;
(4) Equality before the law for all without exemption;
(5) Immediate rehabilitation of those punished for their convictions.
(6) Separation of the Church from the state.
II. Measures against the poverty of the people:
(1) Abolition of indirect taxes and introduction of direct income taxes on a progressive scale;
(2) Abolition of the redemption payments, cheap credit, and gradual transferring of the land to the people;
(3) The orders for the naval and military Ministers should be filled in Russia and not abroad;
(4) The cessation of the war by the will of the people.
III. Measures against oppression of labor by capital:
(1) Protection of labor by legislation;
(2) Freedom of consumers' and producers' leagues and trades-unions;
(3) An eight-hour workday and a regulation of overtime;
(4) Freedom of struggle against capital (freedom of labor strikes);
(5) Participation of labor representatives in the framing of a bill concerning state insurance of working-men;
(6) Normal wages.
Those are, Sire, the principal wants with which we have come to you. Let your decree be known, swear that you will satisfy them, and you will make Russia happy and glorious, and your name will be branded in our hearts and in the hearts of our posterity for ever and ever. If, however, you will not reply to our prayer, we shall die here, on the place before your palace. We have no other refuge and no other means. We have two roads before us, one to freedom and happiness, the other to the grave. Tell us, Sire, which, and we will follow obediently, and if it be the road of death, let our lives be a sacrifice for suffering-wearied Russia. We do not regret the sacrifice; we bring it willingly.
Led on by the strange, hypnotic power of the mystical Father Gapon, who was clad in the robes of his office, tens of thousands of working-people marched that day to the Winter Palace, confident that the Czar would see them, receive their petitions, and harken to their prayers. It was not a revolutionary demonstration in the accepted sense of that term; the marchers did not carry red flags nor sing Socialist songs of revolt. Instead, they bore pictures of the Czar and other members of the royal family and sang "God Save the Czar" and other well-known religious hymns. No attempt was made to prevent the procession from reaching the square in front of the Winter Palace. Suddenly, without a word of warning, troops appeared from the courtyards, where they were hidden, and fired into the crowded mass of human beings, killing more than five hundred and wounding nearly three thousand. All who were able to do so turned and fled, among them Father Gapon.
Bloody Sunday, as the day is known in Russian annals, is generally regarded as the beginning of the First Revolution. Immediately people began to talk of armed resistance. On the evening of the day of the tragedy there was a meeting of more than seven hundred Intellectuals at which the means for carrying on revolution was the topic discussed. This was the first of many similar gatherings which took place all over Russia. Soon the Intellectuals began to organize unions, ostensibly for the protection of their professional interests, but in reality for political purposes. There were unions of doctors, writers, lawyers, engineers, professors, editors, and so on. Quietly, and almost without design, there was being effected another and more important union, namely, the union of all classes against autocracy and despotism.
The Czar gave from his private purse fifty thousand rubles for the relief of the families of the victims of Bloody Sunday. On the 19th of January he received a deputation of carefully selected "loyal" working-men and delivered to them a characteristic homily, which infuriated the masses by its stupid perversion of the facts connected with the wanton massacre of Bloody Sunday. Then, at the end of the month, he proclaimed the appointment of a commission to "investigate the causes of labor unrest in St. Petersburg and its suburbs and to find means of avoiding them in the future." This commission was to consist of representatives of capital and labor. The working-men thereupon made the following demands:
(1) That labor be given an equal number of members in the commission with capital;
(2) That the working-men be permitted to freely elect their own representatives;
(3) That the sessions of the commission be open to the public;
(4) That there be complete freedom of speech for the representatives of labor in the commission;
(5) That all the working-people arrested on January 9th be released.
These demands of the working-men's organizations were rejected by the government, whereupon the workers agreed to boycott the commission and refuse to have anything to do with it. At last it became evident to the government that, in the circumstances, the commission could not accomplish any good, and it was therefore abandoned. The Czar and his advisers were desperate and vacillating. One day they would adopt a conciliatory attitude toward the workers, and the next day follow it up with fresh measures of repression and punishment.
Little heeding the stupid charge by the Holy Synod that the revolutionary leaders were in the pay of the Japanese, the workers went on organizing and striking. All over Russia there were strikes, the movement had spread far beyond the bounds of St. Petersburg. General strikes took place in many of the large cities, such as Riga, Vilna, Libau, Warsaw, Lodz, Batum, Minsk, Tiflis, and many others. Conflicts between strikers and soldiers and police were common. Russia was aflame with revolution. The movement spread to the peasants in a most surprising manner. Numerous extensive and serious revolts of peasants occurred in different parts of Russia, the peasants looting the mansions of the landowners, and indulging in savage outbreaks of rioting.
While this was going on the army was being completely demoralized. The terrible defeat of the Russian forces by the Japanese—the foe that had been so lightly regarded—at Mukden was a crushing blow which greatly impaired the morale of the troops, both those at home and those at the front. Disaster followed upon disaster. May saw the destruction of the great Russian fleet. In June rebellion broke out in the navy, and the crew of the battle-ship Potyamkin, which was on the Black Sea, mutinied and hoisted the red flag. After making prisoners of their officers, the sailors hastened to lend armed assistance to striking working-men at Odessa who were in conflict with soldiers and police.
It was a time of turbulent unrest and apparent utter confusion. It was not easy to discern the underlying significance and purpose of some of the most important events. On every hand there were strikes and uprisings, many of them without any sort of leadership or plan. Strikes which began over questions of wages and hours became political demonstrations in favor of a Constituent Assembly. On the other hand, political demonstrations became transformed, without any conscious effort on the part of anybody, into strikes for immediate economic betterment. There was an intense class conflict going on in Russia, as the large number of strikes for increased wages and shorter hours proved, yet the larger political struggle dwarfed and obscured the class struggle. For the awakened proletariat of the cities the struggle in which they were engaged was economic as well as political. They wisely regarded the political struggle as part of the class struggle, as Plechanov and his friends declared it to be. Yet the fact remained that the capitalist class against which the proletariat was fighting on the economic field was, for the most part, fighting against autocracy, for the overthrow of Czarism and the establishment of political democracy, as earnestly, if less violently, than the proletariat was. The reason for this was the recognition by the leading capitalists of Russia of the fact that industrial progress was retarded by the old regime, and that capitalist development requires popular education, a relatively high standard of living, political freedom, and stability and order in government. It was perfectly natural, therefore, for the great associations of manufacturers and merchants to unite in urging the government to grant extensive political reforms so long as the class conflict was merely incidental.
What had begun mainly as a class war had become the war of all classes against autocracy. Of course, in such a merging of classes there necessarily appeared many shadings and degrees of interest. Not all the social groups and classes were as radical in their demands as the organized peasants and city workers, who were the soul of the revolutionary movement. There were, broadly speaking, two great divisions of social life with which the Revolution was concerned—the political and the economic. With regard to the first there was practical unanimity; he would be a blind slave to theoretical formulae who sought to maintain the thesis that class interests divided masses and classes here. All classes, with the exception of the bureaucracy, wanted the abolition of Czarism and Absolutism and the establishment of a constitutional government, elected by the people on a basis of universal suffrage, and directly responsible to the electorate.
Upon the economic issue there was less agreement, though all parties and classes recognized the need of extensive change. It was universally recognized that some solution of the land question must be found. There can never be social peace or political stability in Russia until that problem is settled. Now, it was easy for the Socialist groups, on the one hand, and the moderate groups, upon the other, to unite in demanding that the large estates be divided among the peasants. But while the Socialist groups—those of the peasants as well as those of city workers—demanded that the land be taken without compensation, the bourgeois elements, especially the leaders of the zemstvos, insisted that the state should pay compensation for the land taken. Judgment upon this vital question has long been embittered by the experience of the peasants with the "redemption payments" which were established when serfdom was abolished. During the period of greatest intensity, the summer of 1905, a federation of the various revolutionary peasants' organizations was formed and based its policy upon the middle ground of favoring the payment of compensation in some cases.
All through this trying period the Czar and his advisers were temporizing and attempting to obtain peace by means of petty concessions. A greater degree of religious liberty was granted, and a new representative body, the Imperial Duma, was provided for. This body was not to be a parliament in any real sense, but a debating society. It could discuss proposed legislation, but it had no powers to enact legislation of any kind. Absolutism was dying hard, clinging to its powers with remarkable tenacity. Of course, the concessions did not satisfy the revolutionists, not even the most moderate sections, and the net result was to intensify rather than to diminish the flame.
On the 2d of August—10th, according to the old Russian calendar—the war with Japan came to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Portsmouth. Russia had experienced humiliating and disastrous defeat at the hands of a nation far inferior in population and wealth, but infinitely superior in military capacity and morale. The news of the conditions of peace intensified the ardor and determination of the revolting Russian people and, on the other hand, added to the already great weakness of the government. September witnessed a great revival of revolutionary agitation, and by the end of the month a fresh epidemic of strikes had broken out in various parts of the country. By the middle of October the whole life of Russia, civil, industrial, and commercial, was a chaos. In some of the cities the greater part of the population had placed themselves in a state of siege, under revolutionary leadership.
On the 17th of October—Russian style—the Czar issued the famous Manifesto which acknowledged the victory of the people and the death of Absolutism. After the usual amount of pietistic verbiage by way of introduction the Manifesto said:
We make it the duty of the government to execute our firm will:
(1) To grant the people the unshakable foundations of civic freedom on the basis of real personal inviolability, freedom of conscience, of speech, of assemblage of unions.
(2) To admit now to participation in the Imperial Duma, without stopping the pending elections and in so far as it is feasible in the short time remaining before the convening of the Duma, all the classes of the population, leaving the farther development of the principle of universal suffrage to the new legislative order.
(3) To establish as an unshakable rule that no law can become binding without the consent of the Imperial Duma, and that the representatives of the people must be guaranteed a real participation in the control over the lawfulness of the authorities appointed by us.
We call upon all faithful sons of Russia to remember their duty to their fatherland, to aid in putting an end to the unprecedented disturbances, and to exert with us all their power to restore quiet and peace in our native land.
The Czar's Manifesto rang through the civilized world. In all lands it was hailed as the end of despotism and the triumph of democracy and freedom. The joy of the Russian people was unbounded. At last, after fourscore years of heroic struggle and sacrifice by countless heroes, named and nameless, the goal of freedom was attained. Men, women, and children sang in the streets to express their joy. Red flags were displayed everywhere and solemnly saluted by the officers and men of the Czar's army. But the rejoicing was premature, as the events of a few hours clearly proved. With that fatal vacillation which characterized his whole life, Nicholas II had no sooner issued his Manifesto than he surrendered once more to the evil forces by which he was surrounded and harked back to the old ways. The day following the issuance of the Manifesto, while the people were still rejoicing, there began a series of terrible pogroms. The cry went forth, "Kill the Intellectuals and the Jews!"
There had been organized in support of the government, and by its agents, bodies of so-called "patriots." These were, in the main, recruited from the underworld, a very large number of them being criminals who were released from the prison for the purpose. Officially known as the Association of the Russian People and the Association to Combat the Revolution, these organizations were popularly nicknamed the Black Hundreds. Most of the members were paid directly by the government for their services, while others were rewarded with petty official positions. The Czar himself accepted membership in these infamous organizations of hired assassins. Within three weeks after the issuance of the Manifesto more than a hundred organized pogroms took place, the number of killed amounting to nearly four thousand; the wounded to more than ten thousand, according to the most competent authorities. In Odessa alone more than one thousand persons were killed and many thousands wounded in a four-days' massacre. In all the bloody pages of the history of the Romanovs there is nothing comparable to the frightful terror of this period.
Naturally, this brutal vengeance and the deception which Nicholas II and his advisers had practised upon the people had the immediate effect of increasing the relative strength and prestige of the Socialists in the revolutionary movement as against the less radical elements. To meet such brutality and force only the most extreme measures were deemed adequate. The Council of Workmen's Deputies, which had been organized by the proletariat of St. Petersburg a few days before the Czar issued his Manifesto, now became a great power, the central guiding power of the Revolution. Similar bodies were organized in other great cities. The example set by the city workers was followed by the peasants in many places and Councils of Peasants' Deputies were organized. In a few cases large numbers of soldiers, making common cause with these bodies representing the working class, formed Councils of Soldiers' Deputies. Here, then, was a new phenomenon; betrayed by the state, weary of the struggle to democratize and liberalize the political state, the workers had established a sort of revolutionary self-government of a new kind, entirely independent of the state. We shall never comprehend the later developments in Russia, especially the phenomenon of Bolshevism, unless we have a sympathetic understanding of these Soviets—autonomous, non-political units of working-class self-government, composed of delegates elected directly by the workers.
As the revolutionary resistance to the Black Hundreds increased, and the rapidly growing Soviets of workmen's, peasants' and soldiers' delegates asserted a constantly increasing indifference to the existing political state, the government again tried to stem the tide by making concessions. On November 3d—new style—in a vain attempt to appease the incessant demand for the release of the thousands of political prisoners, and to put an end to the forcible release of such prisoners by infuriated mobs, a partial amnesty was declared. On the 16th a sop was thrown to the peasants in the shape of a decree abolishing all the remaining land-redemption payments. Had this reform come sooner it might have had the effect of stemming the tide of revolt among the peasants, but in the circumstances it was of no avail. Early in December the press censorship was abolished by decree, but that was of very little importance, for the radical press had thrown off all its restraints, simply ignoring the censorship. The government of Nicholas II was quite as helpless as it was tyrannical, corrupt, and inefficient. The army and navy, demoralized by the defeat suffered at the hands of Japan, and especially by knowledge of the corruption in high places which made that defeat inevitable, were no longer dependable. Tens of thousands of soldiers and marines had joined with the workmen in the cities in open rebellion. Many more indulged themselves in purposeless rioting.
The organization of the various councils of delegates representing factory-workers and peasants, inevitable as it seemed to be, had one disastrous effect, the seriousness of which cannot be overstated. As we have seen, the cruel, blundering policy of the government had united all classes against it in a revolutionary movement of unexampled magnitude. Given the conditions prevailing in Russia, and especially the lack of industrial development and the corresponding numerical weakness of the industrial proletariat, it was evident that the only chance of success in the Revolution lay in the united effort of all classes against the old regime. Nothing could have better served the autocracy, and therefore injured the revolutionary cause, than the creation of a division in the ranks of the revolutionists.
This was exactly what the separate organizations of the working class accomplished. All the provocative agents of the Czar could not have contrived anything so serviceable to the reaction. Divide et impera has been the guiding principle of cunning despots in all ages, and the astutest advisers of Nicholas II must have grinned with Satanic glee when they realized how seriously the forces they were contending against were dividing. Stupid oppression had driven into one united force the wage-earning and wage-paying classes. Working-men and manufacturers made common cause against that stupid oppression. Now, however, as the inevitable result of the organization of the Soviets, and the predominance of these in the Revolution, purely economic issues came to the front. In proportion as the class struggle between employers and employed was accentuated the common struggle against autocracy was minimized and obscured. Numerous strikes for increased wages occurred, forcing the employers to organize resistance. Workers in one city—St. Petersburg, for example—demanded the immediate introduction of an eight-hour workday, and proclaimed it to be in force, quite regardless of the fact that longer hours prevailed elsewhere and that, given the competitive system, their employers were bound to resist a demand that would be a handicap favoring their competitors.
As might have been foreseen, the employers were forced to rely upon the government, the very government they had denounced and conspired to overthrow. The president of the Council of Workmen's Deputies of St. Petersburg, Chrustalev-Nosar, in his History of the Council of Workmen's Deputies, quotes the order adopted by acclamation on November 11th—new style—introducing, from November 13th, an eight-hour workday in all shops and factories "in a revolutionary way." By way of commentary, he quotes a further order, adopted November 25, repealing the former order and declaring:
The government, headed by Count Witte, in its endeavor to break the vigor of the revolutionary proletariat, came to the support of capital, thus turning the question of an eight-hour workday in St. Petersburg into a national problem. The consequence has been that the working-men of St. Petersburg are unable now, apart from the working-men of the entire country, to realize the decree of the Council. The Council of Workmen's Deputies, therefore, deems it necessary to stop temporarily the immediate and general establishment of an eight-hour workday by force.
The Councils inaugurated general strike after general strike. At first these strikes were successful from a revolutionary point of view. Soon, however, it became apparent that the general strike is a weapon which can only be used effectively on rare occasions. It is impossible to rekindle frequently and at will the sacrificial passion necessary to make a successful general strike. This the leaders of the proletariat of Russia overlooked. They overlooked, also, the fact that the masses of the workers were exhausted by the long series of strikes in which they had engaged and were on the verge of starvation. The consequence was that most of the later strikes failed to accomplish anything like the ends sought.
Naturally, the government was recovering its confidence and its courage in proportion to the class divisions and antagonisms of the opposition. It once more suppressed the revolutionary press and prohibited meetings. Once more it proclaimed martial law in many cities. With all its old-time assurance it caused the arrest of the leaders of the unions of workmen and peasants, broke up the organizations and imprisoned their officers. It issued a decree which made it a crime to participate in strikes. With the full sanction of the government, as was shown by the publication of documentary evidence of unquestioned authenticity, the Black Hundreds renewed their brutality. The strong Council of Workmen's Deputies of St. Petersburg, with which Witte had dealt as though it were part of the government itself, was broken up and suppressed. Witte wanted constitutional government on the basis of the October Manifesto, but he wanted the orderly development of Russian capitalism. In this attitude he was supported, of course, by the capitalist organizations. The very men who in the summer of 1905 had demanded that the government grant the demands of the workers and so end the strikes, and who worked in unison with the workers to secure the much-desired political freedom, six months later were demanding that the government suppress the strikes and exert its force to end disorder.
Recognition of these facts need not imply any lack of sympathy with the proletariat in their demands. The class struggle in modern industrial society is a fact, and there is abundant justification—the justification of necessity and of achievement—for aggressive class consciousness and class warfare. But it is quite obvious that there are times when class interests and class warfare must be set aside in favor of larger social interests. It is obviously dangerous and reactionary—and therefore wrong—to insist upon strikes or other forms of class warfare in moments of great calamity, as, for example, during disasters like the Johnstown flood and the Messina earthquake, or amid the ravages of a pestilential plague. Marx, to whom we owe the formulation of the theory of class struggle which has guided the Socialist movement, would never have questioned this important truth; he would never have supported class separatism under conditions such as those prevailing in Russia at the end of 1905. Only doctrinaires, slaves to formulae, but blind to reality, could have sanctioned such separatism. But doctrinaires always abound in times of revolution.
By December the government was stronger than it had been at any time since the Revolution began. The zemstvos were no longer an active part of the revolutionary movement. Indeed, there had come over these bodies a great change, and most of them were now dominated by relatively reactionary landowners who, hitherto apathetic and indifferent, had been stirred to defensive action by the aggressive class warfare of the workers. Practically all the bourgeois moderates had been driven to the more or less open support of the government. December witnessed a new outburst in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and other cities. Barricades were raised in the streets in many places. In Moscow, where the most bitter and sanguinary struggles took place, more than a thousand persons were killed. The government was better prepared than the workers; the army had recovered no little of its lost morale and did not refuse to shoot down the workers as it had done on previous occasions. The strikes and insurrections were put down in bloody vengeance and there followed a reign of brutal repression indescribably horrible and savage. By way of protest and retaliation, there were individual acts of terrorism, such as the execution of the Governor of Tambov by Marie Spiridonova, but these were of little or no avail. The First Revolution was drowned in blood and tears.
FROM REVOLUTION TO REVOLUTION
No struggle for human freedom was ever wholly vain. No matter how vast and seemingly complete the failure, there is always something of enduring good achieved. That is the law of progress, universal and immutable. The First Russian Revolution conformed to the law; it had failed and died in a tragic way, yet its failure was relative and it left something of substantial achievement as the foundation for fresh hope, courage, and effort. Czarism had gathered all its mighty black forces and seemed, at the beginning of 1906, to be stronger than at any time in fifty years. The souls of Russia's noblest and best sons and daughters were steeped in bitter pessimism. And yet there was reason for hope and rejoicing; out of the ruin and despair two great and supremely vital facts stood in bold, challenging relief.
The first of these facts was the new aspect of Czarism, its changed status. Absolutism as a legal institution was dead. Nothing that Nicholas II and his advisers were able to do could undo the constitutional changes effected when the imperial edict made it part of the fundamental law of the nation that "no law can become binding without the consent of the Imperial Duma," and that the Duma, elected by the people, had the right to control the actions of the officials of the government, even when such officials were appointed by the Czar himself. Absolutism was illegal now. Attempts might be made to reintroduce it, and, indeed, that was the real significance of the policy pursued by the government, but Absolutism could no longer possess the moral strength that inheres in the sanctity of law. In fighting it the Russian people now had that strength upon their side.
The second vital and hopeful fact was likewise a moral force. Absolutism with all its assumed divine prerogatives, in the person of the Czar, had declared its firm will "to grant the people the unshakable foundations of civic freedom on the basis of real personal inviolability, freedom of conscience, of speech, of assemblage and of unions." This civic freedom Absolutism had sanctioned. By that act it gave the prestige of legality to such assemblages, discussions, and publications as had always hitherto been forced to accept risks and disabilities inseparable from illegal conduct. Civic freedom had long been outlawed, a thing associated with lawlessness and crime, and so long as that condition remained many who believed in civic freedom itself, who wanted a free press, freedom of public assemblage and of conscience in matters pertaining to religion, were kept from participation in the struggle. Respect for law, as law, is deeply rooted in civilized mankind—a fact which, while it makes the task of the revolutionist hard, and at times impedes progress, is, nevertheless, of immense value to human society.
Civic freedom was not yet a fact. It seemed, as a reality, to be as far away as ever. Meetings were forbidden by officials and broken up by soldiers and police; newspapers were suppressed, as of old; labor-unions, and even the unions of the Intellectuals, were ruthlessly persecuted and treated as conspiracies against the state. All this and more was true and discouraging. Yet there was substantial gain: civic freedom as a practical fact did not exist, but civic freedom as a lawful right lived in the minds of millions of people—the greatest fact in Russia. The terms of the Manifesto of October 17th—Absolutism's solemn covenant with the nation—had not been repealed, and the nation knew that the government did not dare to repeal it. Not all the Czar's armies and Black Hundreds could destroy that consciousness of the lawful right to civic freedom. Nothing could restore the old condition. Whereas in the past the government, in suppressing the press and popular assemblages, could say to the people, "We uphold the law!" now when the government attempted these things, the people defiantly cried out, "You break the law!" Absolutism was no longer a thing of law.
Nicholas II and all his bureaucrats could not return the chicken to the egg from which it had been hatched. They could not unsay the fateful words which called into being the Imperial Duma. The Revolution had put into their souls a terrible fear of the wrath of the people. The Czar and his government had to permit the election of the Duma to proceed, and yet, conscious of the fact that the success of the Duma inevitably meant the end of the old regime, they were bound, in self-protection, to attempt to kill the Duma in the hope that thereby they would kill, or at least paralyze, the Revolution itself. Thus it was, while not daring to forbid the elections for the Duma to proceed, the government adopted a Machiavellian policy.
The essentials of that policy were these: on the one hand, the Duma was not to be seriously considered at all, when it should assemble. It would be ignored, if possible, and no attention paid to any of its deliberations or attempts to legislate. A certain amount of latitude would be given to it as a debating society, a sort of safety-valve, but that was all. If this policy could not be carried out in its entirety, if, for example, it should prove impossible to completely ignore the Duma, it would be easy enough to devise a mass of hampering restrictions and regulations which would render it impotent, and yet necessitate no formal repudiation of the October Manifesto. On the other hand, there was the possibility that the Duma might be captured and made a safe ally. The suffrage upon which the elections were to be based was most undemocratic and unjust, giving to the landlords and the prosperous peasants, together with the wealthy classes in the cities, an enormous preponderance in the electorate. By using the Black Hundreds to work among the electors—bribing, cajoling, threatening, and coercing, as the occasion might require—it might be possible to bring about the election of a Duma which would be a pliant and ready tool of the government.
One of the favorite devices of the Black Hundreds was to send agents among the workers in the cities and among the peasants to discredit the Duma in advance, and to spread the idea that it would only represent the bourgeoisie. Many of the most influential Socialist leaders unfortunately preached the same doctrine. This was the natural and logical outcome of the separate action of the classes in the Revolution, and of the manner in which the proletariat had forced the economic struggle to the front during the political struggle. In the vanguard of the fight for the Duma were the Constitutional Democrats, led by Miliukov, Prince Lvov, and many prominent leaders of the zemstvos. The divorce between the classes represented by these men and the proletariat represented by the Social Democrats was absolute. It was not surprising that the leaders of the Social Democratic party should be suspicious and distrustful of the Constitutional Democrats and refuse to co-operate with them.
But many of the Social Democrats went much farther than this, and, in the name of Socialism and proletarian class consciousness, adopted the same attitude toward the Duma itself as that which the agents of the Black Hundreds were urging upon the people. Among the Socialist leaders who took this position was Vladimir Ulyanov, the great propagandist whom the world knows to-day as Nikolai Lenine, Bolshevik Prime Minister and Dictator. Lenine urged the workers to boycott the Duma and to refuse to participate in the elections in any manner whatever. At a time when only a united effort by all classes could be expected to accomplish anything, and when such a victory of the people over the autocratic regime as might have been secured by united action would have meant the triumph of the Revolution, Lenine preached separatism. Unfortunately, his influence, even at that time, was very great and his counsels prevailed with a great many Socialist groups over the wiser counsels of Plechanov and others.
It may be said, in explanation and extenuation of Lenine's course, that the boycotting of the elections was the logical outcome of the class antagonism and separatism, and that the bourgeois leaders were just as much responsible for the separatism as the leaders of the proletariat were. All this is true. It is quite true to say that wiser leadership of the manufacturing class in the critical days of 1905 would have made concessions and granted many of the demands of the striking workmen. By so doing they might have maintained unity in the political struggle. But, even if so much be granted, it is poor justification and defense of a Socialist policy to say that it was neither better nor worse, neither more stupid nor more wise, than that of the bourgeoisie! In the circumstances, Lenine's policy was most disastrous for Russia. It is not necessary to believe the charge that was made at the time and afterward that Lenine was in the pay of the government and a tool of the Black Hundreds. Subsequent incidents served to fasten grave suspicion upon him, but no one ever offered proof of corruption. In all probability, he was then, and throughout the later years, honest and sincere—a fanatic, often playing a dangerous game, unmoral rather than immoral, believing that the end he sought justified any means.