By Alexander Petrunkevitch, Samuel Northrup, Harper Frank,And Alfred Golder
THE JUGO-SLAV MOVEMENT
By Robert Joseph Kerner
Whatever may be its final outcome the Russian Revolution of 1917 bids fair to remain one of the great events of modern history. Its consequences are still immeasurable and today to many they appear as fraught with menace as with hope. They have within less than a year led a mighty empire to the brink of dissolution and no man can foretell where and how the process will end for worse or for better. The Russian Revolution saved the Central Powers at the moment when their prospect looked darkest, but on the other hand it facilitated the entrance of the United States into the war as one for liberty and democracy. Time has yet to show whether the loss or the gain has been the greater for the Allied cause and for mankind. It will be paid for at a heavy price but our hope cannot easily be shaken that sooner or later an event so full of promise for the misruled millions of the autocratic empire of the Tsar will mark a step forward, not backward, in the progress of the world. The whole story of the sudden out-break in Petrograd which in little more than a day swept away the fabric of imperial government will not soon be told, if ever. All real information on the subject is timely and valuable. We need such studies as those contained in the present volume, in order that we may understand what has happened, and why it has happened.
The rise of the modern Jugo-Slav movement offers us a very different picture. The subject and even the name are new to most people, the scale is much smaller; the events have been less dramatic. But the unconquerable resistance which a small disjointed nationality has offered throughout the ages to ill fortune, oppression, and to attempts to obliterate it entirely arouses our admiration. The movement too was intimately connected with the outbreak of the present world war which cannot be understood without taking it into account. It still represents only an ardent hope for the future but when the day of peace and justice comes no permanent allotment can be made of the lands east of the Adriatic that shall not give it at least some satisfaction.
ARCHIBALD CARY COOLIDGE.
MARCH 18, 1918. THE ROLE OF THE INTELLECTUALS IN THE LIBERATING MOVEMENT IN RUSSIA
By Alexander Petrunkevitch
In an interview dated November 21, and published in the New York Times in a special cable from Petrograd, Leon Trotzky in defending the attitude of the people toward the Bolsheviki coup d'etat is reported to have said substantially the following: "All the bourgeoisie is against us. The greater part of the intellectuals is against us or hesitating, awaiting a final outcome. The working class is wholly with us. The army is with us. The peasants, with the exception of exploiters, are with us. The Workmen's and Soldiers' government is a government of workingmen, soldiers, and peasants against the capitalists and landowners."
On the other hand my father, Ivan Petrunkevitch, floorleader of the Constitutional Democratic party in the first Duma and since that time owner and publisher of the Petrograd daily Rech writes in a private letter dated June 12: "... the present real government, i. e., the Council of Soldiers' and Workmen's Deputies, whose leaders are neither soldiers nor workmen, but intellectuals, etc." Nothing has happened during the months intervening between the letter and the interview to change the composition of the Council appreciably. It is true that Kerensky who was vice-president of the Council has been meanwhile deposed; that Tshcheidze had to relinquish the presidency in the Council to Trotzky long before Kerensky's downfall; but the leaders of the Council still are intellectuals, are well educated men, some of them well known writers on political and economic questions and withal very different from the masses which they lead and which they purport to represent. In justice to those who had to give way to the Lenine-Trotzky crowd of supporters, I wish to state emphatically that I do not want to put them on the same plane. Tseretelli, Plekhanov, Tshcheidze, and their co-workers are men of great courage, high ideals, and personal integrity. On the other hand their successors in power are men of a totally different type. The integrity of many of their number has been openly questioned, the accusations, published & broadcast, remained unanswered, and no suit for libel was brought by the men thus accused. Lenine was put under suspicion of having accepted German help and of having planned with Germany's agents the disorganization of the Russian army. It has been even charged on apparently good evidence that the leaflets distributed at the front were printed with German money. Trotzky was accused by Miliukov in the Rech (June 7) of having received $10,000 from German-Americans for the purpose of organizing the attack on Kerensky's government. Ganetsky was forced to leave Denmark by an order of the Danish government, having been convicted of dishonest dealings in a Danish court. Zinoviev is accused of forgery. Others are also under suspicion which has been only increased by the arrest and imprisonment of Burtzev who is known for his untiring efforts to hunt down traitors to the cause of the Russian Revolution and who had important evidence in his possession. It is also a remarkable fact that the majority of the present leaders are known broadly only under assumed names. Lenine's true name is Uljanov, Trotzky's—Bronstein, Zinoviev's—Apfelbaum, Sukhanov's—Gimmer, Kamenev's—Rosenfeld, Steklov's—Nakhamkis, and a number of others whose identity is not even always known. Trotzky's assertion that the Workmen's and Soldiers' Government is a government of workingmen, soldiers, and peasants is therefore nothing but a perversion of facts.
There is, however, nothing extraordinary in the fact itself that intellectuals are the real leaders of all Russian parties. Better education and wider knowledge of the affairs of the world have always appealed to the dark masses who realize only dimly their own desires and grasp at any concrete formulation of reforms which contains a tangible promise or seems to express those desires. At the same time they often put their own meaning into the words of their leaders, which is true even of factory workers in the larger cities. As for the peasants, representing about 90 per cent of the entire population, they are still very poorly educated, questions of national import remain outside their horizon, and even their language is not the language of the educated Russian, inasmuch as it lacks the rich vocabulary of modern life and is devoid of the very conceptions to which this vast treasury of words applies. Their mind, great as it is in its potentialities, still moves in the furrows of familiar ideas abhorring things too much at variance with inherited traditions or actual experience. Yet in the turmoil of revolutionary activity the peasants are going to have their say and may become the decisive factor, because they are voters and are casting their votes for those leaders whose words they believe to contain the greatest promise and the least menace of a general disruption of their accustomed mode of life.
We are thus brought back, for the present at least, to the necessity of recognizing that even the state of anarchy under which Russia is laboring, even the rule of the renowned proletariat so much trumpeted about by Lenine and Trotzky, is in reality the work of intellectuals, an answer of the masses to the call of their leaders, a groping for principles beyond their perception.
It suffices a very casual examination of the programs and resolutions of various political parties to see the truth of this statement. They are expressive of the opinions of the leaders, not of the masses; are couched in the language of the educated Russian, not in that of the workman or peasant and, except for the concluding slogans like "Peace, Bread, and Land," are alien to the very spirit of the masses. In this respect all parties are confronted with the same difficulty since all strive to get the support of the masses, yet have to express principles evolved through careful and extensive study of national, political, and economic problems, strange to the uneducated mind. For the same reason the methods of surmounting the difficulty differ in many respects and are characteristic of each party.
The Conservative Intellectuals of Russia early realized the necessity of meeting the peasant on his own ground and the advantage of appealing to him in his own language. The idea of a benevolent ruler, an all-suffering motherland, and an all-unifying church exercised a powerful appeal upon the imagination, for a long time superseding and forcing into the background the growing, elemental, and unfulfilled longing for more land. The ideology of a perfect monarchy is so simple and its shortcomings so easily attributable to dishonesty of officials, that it answered the peasant's thoughts as long as he was not able to see the folly of distinguishing between the system and its realization, but separated in his mind the image of his loving monarch from the cruel reality of everyday life as he still distinguishes between the faith and the priest. The great mistake of all conservatives is that they seek to bring about a state of perfect justice by improving only the quality of the ruling body without changing the conditions of life of the ruled mass. Yet even so the Conservatives had quite a following among the peasants up to the time of the revolution of 1917 and in a way may still have a future before them.
The Octoberists find no support in the masses and do not make any serious attempt to gain it. They frankly acknowledged themselves as the party of industry and trade, having no wider interests at heart than the maintenance of order and law throughout the country. Their leaders were forced into a revolutionary attitude only at the time when there was danger of a universal collapse of Russia if the tsar's government persisted, and they may be forced to join in a counter-revolution, if their interests are again endangered. Their ideology is that of a capitalistic class and their power depends entirely on the future development of industry and trade in Russia. For the present they are nowhere. Unable to find a new basis for their activity in place of class interest, they lack unity of purpose and are deserted by their own former supporters among their employees. Trade and industry are disorganized and the party may never be resurrected.
The Constitutional Democrats are in this respect better off. They find their support chiefly among more or less educated people of various pursuits: lawyers, bankers, brokers, journalists, teachers, artists, scientists, etc. Their program embraces the interests of all classes and demands political, judicial, economic, industrial and agrarian legislation of a very radical and extensive kind. Their horizon of vision includes the sufferings and aspirations of the often incongruous elements of the vast whole, but their ideology is still based on the long outworn idealistic capitalism and for this reason alone does not and cannot appeal to not-owning classes. Their agrarian program is in this respect the most striking example. It is worked out in great detail and is aimed at a betterment of the condition of peasants without deep injury to the present landowners. It recognizes the right of the peasant to more land, it provides for future state ownership of land to prevent it from falling into wrong hands, but does not condemn the principle of landownership, nor the injustice of present ownership, and for that reason elaborates a method of compensation for compulsorily alienated land through universal taxation.
To avoid excessive burden to the impoverished peasant the compensation is to be in the shape of bonds representing the average value of the land in each particular case, only the interest on these bonds to be paid yearly from universal taxes—a topsy-turvy mortgage system, as it were, in which the state becomes the proprietor and mortgagor of the land, while its present owners are turned into forced mortgagees. Under this system the peasants will get all land available, but 90 per cent will have to pay for what is owned by a small fraction of even the remaining 10 per cent of the entire population. The proposed scheme proved to be too radical for the tsar's government in 1906 and caused the downfall of the first Duma. It provoked at the time bitter comment in Germany also, where the conservative and national-liberal press accused the Russian Constitutional Democratic party of putting forward impossible demands and of attacking the very principle of property ownership. Yet the principle underlying the proposed reform is unquestionably capitalistic and is the chief cause of the hatred and contempt which the party enjoys on the part of Social-Democrats.
In the beginning of the sixties the conservative land committee appointed by Alexander II, composed of hereditary landowners, avowed enemies of any economic liberation of peasants, out of fear that private ownership of land might enrich the peasants and make them dangerous to the established order, devised a scheme of communal ownership of land and unconsciously taught the peasants the principles of socialism. In 1907 Constitutional Democrats opposed the bill of the Government for the dissolution of land communities and substitution of private for communal land ownership at the request of individual peasants. The objection raised was on the ground that peasants suddenly possessed of a chance to get ready money would sell their land to a few exploiters and being unable to put it to good use would rapidly become paupers. The best men in the Duma opposed Stolypin's bill, and the law was introduced by stealth and promulgated during a forced recess of the Duma. Contrary to expectation the law neither led to the results desired by the Government, nor to those feared by Constitutional Democrats. It remained a dead letter. Few members of peasant communities applied for separation. The Government tried to boost its scheme by building at its own expense model, fake peasant homes. The peasants had already their own idea as to remedies in regard to land shortage and did not want any substitute.
The difficulty of making the peasant respect the principle of private ownership of land is due to many causes. The most liberal minded landowners were usually those who spent their winters in various occupations in large cities and used their estates as summer homes and a partial source of income. The work of supervision was only too often intrusted to utterly unscrupulous and uneducated managers belonging to the peasant class, while the neighboring peasants were employed as day laborers in the field and garden. This kind of labor was already available, because peasants were unable to derive sufficient income from their own land to pay the heavy taxes and to support their families. Scarcely any landowners understood anything of agriculture and few paid any attention to it. I know splendid estates which brought in miserable incomes, not normal even under the antiquated system of four year crop rotation and quite absurd if measured by standards of modern American farming, yet sufficient to place at the disposal of the owners a splendid mansion in Moscow or Petrograd and a no less splendid summer home on their estate. There, during the hot summer days, the owners were enjoying their comfort in idleness and talking of reforms necessary for the benefit of the peasants, while peasant women were cutting the wheat for them with sickles, stooping and sweating under the scorching rays of the sun. The superintendents of those estates enriched themselves at the expense of the blind or careless and carefree owners under the very eyes of the peasants who hated the superintendents, pitied or despised the liberal owners, as the case might be, and gloomily compared their own poverty and labor with the ease and wealth of their employers.
The more thrifty and less liberal owners, who remained the greater part of the year on their estates, were perhaps more respected but still less liked. Any attempt at careful management of the estate was invariably considered to be a sign of stinginess or of hardheartedness. The idea of property is not clearly defined in the mind of the average peasant who considers plants that are not planted but grow wild to be a gift of God. In disputes involving such cases the line between rightful possession and theft is difficult to draw, and men who took the controversy to court were invariably hated. A glaring example of this kind was an otherwise liberal minded landowner, a well known professor of sociology, who spent three-quarters of a year in lecturing at a foreign university of which he was a member and who was finally murdered on his own estate.
The home life of even liberal intellectuals was another barrier between them and the masses. Not only was coarse food considered to be good enough for domestics, but they seldom, if ever, had a decent corner for themselves in the house and their miserable wages were out of all proportion with the long hours of service required. Many families had guests almost daily, the company sitting around a samovar, discussing and conversing until one or two in the morning, while the sleepy domestics were stealing a nap in the anteroom, ready to appear at the call of the mistress. The table had to be cleared after the guests and the family retired for the night and the breakfast had to be prepared, boots polished, stoves heated, rooms cleaned in the early morning. For the master might rest until ten or eleven, but the children have to be at school by eight and the servants must be ready to serve them. And though many families kept professional servants, the country homes depended almost entirely in winter as well as in summer on local help.
Attempts to improve the condition of peasants were numerous and in some respects successful, but found an obstacle on the one hand in the attitude of the Government and on the other in the conservatism and suspicion of the peasants themselves. Fire insurance and cooperative enterprises helped to a certain degree, but an almost complete absence of expert agriculturists in the ranks of the landowners prevented them from demonstrating on their own estates the value of applied knowledge as well as from teaching the peasants how to increase the productivity of the land through intensive farming. Thus it came to pass that the vast majority of landowners, both conservative and liberal, remained strangers to the people among whom they lived, whose labor they employed, and for whose welfare many were in earnest concerned. The Constitutional Democratic party is strong in the cities. In the country it has no followers and in the sweeping incendiary fires of 1905-06 estates were burned which belonged in several cases to men who spent their life in fighting for freedom against the tsar's government.
No less unfortunate is the party in its relation to the class of factory workers. That part of its program which relates to the labor question embraces a number of important reforms meeting almost all demands of the working class. The barrier between them is the capitalistic principle. A perusal of the lists of Constitutional Democrats who have subscribed large sums for the Russian liberty loan will show why workmen speak of them as capitalists even though the party has accepted the principle of progressive income taxation. There is a feeling of intense hatred toward all Constitutional Democrats on the part of all workmen.
Nothing is more instructive than the rapid change in the position which the Constitutional Democratic party occupied in the eyes of the people after the revolution. Before the outbreak of hostilities all parties were against war. But soon, under the influence of the German methods of warfare in Belgium, France, and Russia, the feeling changed. Even the Mensheviki among the Social-Democrats declared themselves in favor of war and the only party remaining firm in condemning all war was that of the Bolsheviki. The entrance of the Turks into the war was almost considered a godsend by the Constitutional Democrats, Octoberists, and Conservatives in the Duma because it cleared the way for a final settlement of the Balkan problem and promised the elimination of Turkey from Europe. Long after Sazonov was removed, when the consent of England and France to give Russia free hand in Constantinople and the Straits was read in a telegram before the Duma, a general outburst of enthusiasm took place, the members demanding to know why Sazonov, who was justly credited with this achievement, was in retirement and not in charge of the foreign office which he should have held by right. Miliukov's speeches and writings on the future settlement of the Balkan problem were jokingly spoken of as his dissertation for the degree of foreign secretary. At home the party was pursuing a policy of patient endurance, postponing strife for the future until the crimes of the tsar's government made further silence impossible. At that time the whole tissue of treason was not yet known, but enough was in evidence to demand vigorous protest. Not being a revolutionary party the Constitutional Democrats abstained from any action not strictly within the law and merely condemned the activity of the Government. They desired amelioration of the fundamental laws, but even that they would have preferred to accomplish by persuasion rather than by force. In fact they considered socialist demands unreasonable, socialization of Russia premature, and any violent overthrow unwise and hazardous. For the latter opinion they found support in the failure of the uprising of the working class in 1905-06, when the punitive expeditions proved the loyalty of the army to the throne. Consequently the attitude of the army in the memorable days of the March revolution was a great surprise to them. At the same time they attributed to themselves the lion share in the overthrow, presumably on the ground that masses follow leaders and the Constitutional Democrats were the only ones who had a chance for open protest in the Duma and made use of it. This delusion led to a series of tactical errors and cost them dearly. In all elections they polled a comparatively small vote. Trying to save Russia for the Allies they failed to meet the Russian Socialists on their own ground and were forced to explain away differences of opinion much too thoroughgoing to be explained away. In a country which is in the throes of the most remarkable revolution ever witnessed, they tried to apply non-revolutionary methods and drew on themselves the suspicion of the masses of being counter-revolutionists. From the very moment when Miliukov announced the passing of the supreme power from the Tsar to Grand Duke Michail, when his words were answered by angry shouts in favor of a democratic republic, the position of the party became precarious. They had either to revise their own program and to catch up with the rush of the progressive current, or else to find themselves in the role of inundated rocks over which the waters flow. The announcement that the party would support a demand for a republic was too late to change the first impression, while the proposition to accept unconditional expropriation of land in place of the compensation plan was defeated in heated debate at the party convention. Under normal circumstances the party would have probably been steadily losing support, but the arrest and imprisonment of the best and highly honored leaders by the Bolsheviki is bound to put fresh vigor into their efforts and give new life to their cause.
The leaders of the Bolsheviki themselves have fallen into error of a different kind. Being primarily a party of the wage earning day laborers, the program of the Bolsheviki puts the interest of the proletariat above everything else. From insufficient observation of peasant life and the fact that peasants want socialization of land, they jump to the conclusion that the country is ready for complete socialization. Only the more educated leaders among them realize that such a conclusion is premature. But to bring about the necessary change in as near a future as possible, the leaders of the Bolsheviki have fanned hatred of the proletariat toward the "bourgeois" classes. One must give them credit in this respect. They know the value of simple language when they put this hatred into words. Listen to the Russian Marseillaise: "Rise, brothers, all at once against the thieves, the curs—the rich ones! Against the vampire Tsar! Beat them, kill them—the cursed evil-doers! Glow, dawn of better life!" The simple ideology, the easy catch phrases in which the language of this ideology is couched, the primeval character of the passion aroused, contribute to the success which the party enjoys among working people and homeless paupers. Therein lies the power of the Bolsheviki. But reaction is bound to come and here again the peasants will play the chief role. All accounts of conversations with peasants tend to show that they have very vague ideas of socialism. In fact the Social-Democrats have not taken the trouble to acquaint the peasants with the principles of their teaching, leaving that field almost entirely to the influence of socialist-revolutionists.
Among the intellectuals none have come nearer to the understanding of peasant psychology than those men and women who from the first espoused the cause of the peasant. Realizing the space separating educated men from their less fortunate brothers, they gave up their life as intellectuals and "went among the people." They donned peasant garb and acquired peasant tongue. From this group of workers for freedom later the Socialist-revolutionary party developed. "All land for the peasant" is their slogan, while their promise to expropriate all land without any compensation naturally meets with approval on the part of the land-hungry peasants. Moreover, their program does not demand immediate complete socialization of Russia, leaving that to a gradual process of evolution and change of existing conditions. In the ten years preceding the first revolution thousands of young intellectuals joined the party and fought the tsar's regime. They showed a degree of self-abnegation found only in people whose heart is kindled with the true spirit of devotion to a great cause. The revolution of 1905 would never have taken place but for their organized "terror from below." The high regard held for them by the widest circles has caused their rise in power during the first two months of the revolution of 1917. But tactical errors committed by the leaders of the party as well as dissensions within the party itself contributed to a rather rapid change of sentiment toward them on all sides. In a measure as the Constitutional Democrats vigorously objected to their policy to put into life as soon as possible the agrarian reforms promised by them, the Social-Democrats on their part attacked them for their moderation in other demands. For some reason not yet clear, Kerensky was slighted in the very beginning of his political career when his nomination to the executive council of the Socialist-revolutionist party was opposed by a large majority. Just as the Constitutional Democrats made a series of tactical errors due to the fact that they thought themselves representative of the spirit of the Russian people, whereas in reality they stood sponsors only for a relatively small minority, even so the Socialist-revolutionists misjudged the attitude of other parties toward themselves. They overrated the ability of the masses to distinguish between their attitude toward war in general and the necessity to continue the present war. They overrated the ability of the soldiers to distinguish between slavish obedience and military discipline. They tried to play the role of a center. They tried to mediate between Social-Democrats and Constitutional Democrats and naturally failed in this attempt. Some of their leaders, notably Mr. Tschernov, were accused by Constitutional Democrats of being pro-German if not actual German agents. Others, including Kerensky himself and even Mme. Breshkovsky, were accused by the Bolsheviki of having been almost bribed by the capitalistic interests of America, England, and France. Needless to say that the accusations had no basis whatever in actual facts and represent simply an ugly outgrowth of misguided jealousy of the masses to guard their dearly won right to a social revolution against those whom they consider the worst enemies of socialism, and the desire of unscrupulous leaders to profit by it. Thus the Socialist-revolutionists were gradually relegated in the mind of the extremists to the great body of the hated "bourgeois." Only in their rightful element, among the peasants, they continue to enjoy a great deal of popularity, and the returns to the Constituent Assembly show that theirs will be the absolute majority even though they lost some of their popularity.
The progress of the Russian Revolution presents a sad spectacle of an almost complete failure on the part of the majority of intellectuals to understand the spirit of the times and to guide the masses through the labyrinth of errors. In days past the Russian intellectuals were the forefighters for freedom and the Russian people will ever be indebted to them for this. They prepared the soil for the revolution by spreading ideas of freedom by all means at their disposal. They weakened the tsar's power and thus contributed to its overthrow by persistent attacks upon the system of autocratic government. They helped to awaken the spirit of self-consciousness in the masses. But they did not evolve new principles. They did not open wide avenues for the development of a new order of social organization. They misunderstood the masses and consequently were unable to control the forces set loose. And if Russia is going to be saved from utter ruin amidst the clamor and strife of party leaders and to evolve a new democratic system, it will be due not to the intellectuals, but to the great spirit of the dark masses of the Russian peasants.
FORCES BEHIND THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION FORCES BEHIND THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
By Samuel N. Harper
One was struck by the remarkable unity that characterized the short first period of the Russian Revolution of last March. One knew, however, that there were two distinct sets of forces behind the movement, operating through two kinds of organizations. There were first the already existing and parliamentary institutions which had become revolutionary in spirit and methods of action. On the other hand there were the institutions produced by the revolution itself, emerging from the chaos in the midst of which the other, already functioning bodies, were trying to take a new and directing line. The most prominent of the first type of institution was the Duma, the legislative parliament of the old regime, and of the second type, the Petrograd Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies.
The Duma, however, was only one of several legal institutions that had developed under the old regime, and represented the first stages of parliamentary, popular government. There were the local provincial and municipal councils, and also the officially recognized war-industry committees, which had come to have semi-governmental functions. Finally one could bring under this category, with a little forcing, the cooperative societies, which had assumed enormous importance during the two and a half years of war.
In these institutions we had self-government, and participation in public affairs, and also the idea of cooperation between the various classes and political tendencies—the idea of coalition. The election law of the Duma provided for the representation of all group interests of the community, and representation by an actual member of the group, by a bona fide peasant in the case of the peasantry. The seats in the assembly were distributed specifically to landlords, manufacturers, the smaller bourgeoisie, workmen, and peasants. The election law of the local government bodies made similar provision for group representation. On the war-industry committees, the workmen had elected representatives, sitting with the representatives of the manufacturers and owners. In the cooeperative movement the bourgeois-intellectual element had taken the initiative, but had always emphasized the direct participation of the workmen and peasants in the actual management of the societies, as the theory of the movement demanded.
Thus the broader democratic classes of the country, the workmen and peasants, were represented in the somewhat popular institutions that had developed under the old regime. But the actual control was in the hands of the less democratic elements—the landlords, the manufacturers, men of the liberal professions, and of the so-called Intelligentsia class. Most of these men were of liberal and democratic tendencies, but they were in actual fact, as compared with the broader masses, of the privileged classes. They had emphasized always the essentially democratic character of the activity of the institutions in which they were the leaders. They put particular stress on the fact that the activities of the local provincial councils, for example, were directed mainly toward the amelioration of conditions of life among the peasantry. But the fact that the control over these institutions, even in the cooperative movement (so far as independent control was allowed by the bureaucracy of the old regime), was secured to the less democratic elements of the community, did contradict the idea of coalition, of the bringing together of all interests and forces. These institutions had been permitted to exist and develop only because they were controlled by the more conservative groups. The cooperative societies represented more truly the idea of coalition. Here in the cooperative movement the leaders of political liberalism had always noted with relief that one was gradually attaining the end toward which they knew they must work—the organic union between the so-called Intelligentsia, and the "people," meaning the broader, democratic classes.
When the anarchy resulting from the incompetence, stupidity and perhaps treason of the old bureaucracy reached such an acute stage in the first weeks of March that the leaders of the Russian public saw that some action must be taken by some one, it was the Duma that assumed the initiative, acting in a revolutionary manner, through an executive committee. The municipal and provincial councils, organized in unions for war-work, and the war-industry committees, turned without delay to the revolutionary parliament, in which many of their leading workers were members. The leaders of the cooeperative movement could not act with such rapidity and precision. They had not been permitted to organize a central committee, to coordinate the work of the thousands of small and scattered societies. These first leaders of the revolution felt justified in taking the initiative because they alone were organized. Also they thought they could speak in the name of all classes, including the most democratic, because the institutions through which they acted did include representatives of all classes. To emphasize its special anxiety that the more democratic groups feel their direct participation in the movement of which it had taken the leadership, the Executive Committee of the Duma not only accepted but encouraged the development of the revolutionary institutions of the second category, of which the first to emerge was the Petrograd Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies.
This Council was organized during the very first days of the revolution; it was in fact the resurrection of a revolutionary body of the 1905 revolution. The Duma invited the Council to share its own convenient quarters. Perhaps the invitation was an afterthought, for the workmen and soldiers of Petrograd in revolt had gravitated toward the Duma, had calmly entered and taken possession of the large corridors of the palace. The Council was a strictly revolutionary, and a very democratic body, composed of directly elected delegates from the factories and garrison regiments of Petrograd. It immediately became the organizing center for what came to be called the "revolutionary democracy," as opposed to the "bourgeoisie."
The Executive Committee of the Duma consulted with the Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies on the composition of the proposed Provisional Government, and on the political program to be announced. For as we saw, it was the first thought of these leaders to secure unity of action. They recognized that the Council did in fact represent "revolutionary democracy," at least of Petrograd. As the workmen and soldiers of Petrograd were completely out of hand, armed and fighting on the streets, arresting officers, ministers and police, and showing a tendency to start general and anarchic pillaging, the Duma leaders saw a restraining authority in the Council of these same workmen and soldiers. They therefore either did not wish, or did not dare, to object at the time to the famous order No. 1 to the garrison of Petrograd, issued by the Council, and not by the Executive Committee of the Duma. Many have claimed that this particular order, which was extended to the front, was responsible for the later demoralization of the whole Russian army. Others, the leaders of revolutionary democracy, have insisted that this order prevented the immediate and complete collapse of the whole army.
In preparing the slate for the new government, the Executive Committee of the Duma selected one of the presiding officers of the Council, Kerensky. When Miliukov, the Duma leader, announced the composition of the new provisional government to the crowd, composed largely of workmen and soldiers gathered in the main corridors of the Duma, he emphasized the cooperation between Duma and Council, the consent of Kerensky to enter the government, and also the fact that most of the members of the new government had worked in and through institutions, in which peasants and workmen also had been represented.
Though the word "coalition" was not used during the first weeks of the revolution, one had constantly in mind the idea of "bringing together all the vital forces of the country." In this last expression I quote one of the first and most emphasized slogans of the revolution. But the problem proved most difficult, complicated by the fact that one had to solve at one and the same time two most stupendous tasks. One had to consolidate the conquests of the revolution, and also prosecute the war. The prosecution of the war required the acceptance of a strong authority, vested in the Provisional Government. But naturally the first aim of the revolution was to extend its ideas to the rest of the country, for the actual overthrow of the old order had been largely the work of Petrograd. The two tasks were closely associated with one another, because one could not reorganize the country for the war until the new ideas had taken root.
The first parliamentary leaders wished to use as the basis for carrying out both tasks the old institutions, the municipal and provincial councils, and the cooeperative societies, at the same time taking steps gradually to democratize them. But the strictly revolutionary leaders wished to democratize immediately, and put this forward as the first object to be accomplished. So they demanded and promoted the organizing of revolutionary democracy all over the country, through councils of workmen, soldiers, and peasants, through army committees, land committees, professional unions, and so forth. The champions of this immediate democratization policy were almost exclusively members of the various socialist parties, some of them representing the most extreme views. The majority of them were not consciously striving to undermine the authority of the Provisional Government. They recognized and in fact advocated the compromise represented in the first group of leaders. They trusted most of them, but wished at the same time to organize revolutionary democracy, for self-protection for the moment, and perhaps for self-assertion at a later date. But a minority of the socialist leaders did not take this constructive line. From the very start they professed to distrust the first Provisional Government, for they did not believe in "coalition"—the co-operation between the various group interests of the community. Their theory was that of class struggle; they proclaimed this to be their aim, and worked to give to the revolution this character. Though a minority, they were a very active and energetic group, and tended to give the tone in the meetings and resolutions of revolutionary democracy, thus dulling the spirit of cooperation, which characterized the first period of the revolution.
The extremists wished a social revolution, "permanent revolution," class struggle, and they agitated openly and with energy. The workmen and soldiers of Petrograd had borne the brunt of the physical side of the revolution. Only workmen and soldiers had been killed fighting for the revolution during that first week. These particular groups were therefore proclaimed the "pride and flower of the revolution," and told that they must establish the dictatorship of the proletariat, thus consolidating the conquests of the revolution, which should not be allowed to remain a mere bourgeois affair.
The moderate, constructive socialists did not accept this extreme view, but they nevertheless recognized the need for an effective organization of revolutionary democracy all over the country, to ensure the adoption of truly democratic policies. So they also set about to strengthen and extend the councils and committees that had emerged with the revolution, coordinating them in conferences and formal congresses. Much of the activity along these lines was in fact of a constructive character. But class and party considerations were always in the foreground at all these congresses. Also the constructive socialists did not accept the idea of a formal coalition at the beginning. They did not participate as organizations in the first government. Kerensky was a socialist, but he entered the first government as a member of the Duma, and not as the representative of the Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies.
The resolution of a conference of the Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies, called during the fourth week of the revolution, summarizes the attitude of revolutionary democracy toward the problem of the moment. The full text of the resolution, given in a literal translation to preserve as far as possible the style of the original, is an interesting document:
"Whereas the Provisional Government, that was brought into power by the overthrow of the autocracy, represents the interests of the liberal and democratic bourgeoisie, but shows a tendency to follow the right line, in the declaration published by it in agreement with the representatives of the Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies, therefore the all-Russian Conference of Councils of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies, while insisting on the need of constant pressure being brought to bear on the Provisional Government to arouse it to the most energetic struggle with the counter-revolutionary forces, and to decisive measures in the direction of an immediate democratization of the entire Russian life, nevertheless recognizes that political expediency dictates support of the Provisional Government by the Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies so long as the Provisional Government, in agreement with the Council, moves inflexibly toward the consolidation of the conquests of the revolution and the extension of these conquests."
The expression "so long as," emphasized in the translation of the resolution, has been one of the most far-reaching of the formulae produced by the revolution. Around this phrase has centered the struggle of these last months. The extremists decided from the very start that the condition had not been fulfilled. The more moderate socialists took an attitude of constant watchfulness, and latent distrust.
"Revolutionary Democracy" could not be organized in a week or a month, so for the first period it was represented by the revolutionary democracy of Petrograd, through the Petrograd Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies, supplemented by delegates from similar councils of other cities, and by representatives from the army at the front. It was more difficult to organize the peasants scattered through the country, and not concentrated in barracks or factories. The workmen and soldiers of Petrograd therefore assumed to represent all revolutionary democracy, and they had the physical force behind them. They were there on the spot, at the administrative and political center inherited from the old regime, ready to act without delay when they decided that the Provisional Government should no longer be supported. And the workmen and soldiers of Petrograd were being won over gradually to the extremists, the Bolsheviki.
As the Provisional Government was aiming first of all to preserve social peace, adopting a policy of conciliation, it did not oppose the supervision exercised by the Council. In fact it realized that only recognition of such supervision would ensure any measure of common action. The Duma committee had been asked to efface itself, for as an institution of the old regime it aroused the suspicions of the revolutionary bodies. The efficiency of the local government bodies was sacrificed to the idea of immediate democratization. The establishment of revolutionary committees all over the country, and in the army even, was countenanced and accepted, though perhaps only because it was seen that it could not be prevented except by repressive measures, to which the first leaders were unwilling to resort. Perhaps also the latter realized that physical force was not on their side.
The Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies acted on the principle of a direct mandate from the whole people. It issued orders to revolutionary democracy, as we saw. It insisted on the exercise of a real control, even on the right to countersign, as it were, some of the orders of the Provisional Government. Then it definitely questioned the policy and measures of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of War. When these two men were forced to resign, the other members of the government demanded that revolutionary democracy share in the responsibility of government, if it insisted on such a measure of control. The Councils at first refused, but later agreed, and a frankly and officially recognized coalition government was formed. Socialists entered the government not only as members of their respective parties, but as representatives of revolutionary democracy organized in the Councils, which now contained delegates from the peasantry, hurriedly brought in by a somewhat artificial system of representation.
The first Coalition Government drew up a program of policy. As this program was somewhat vaguely worded, coalition in the strict and true sense of the word was not secured. The socialists had entered the coalition under pressure, as we saw. Some of them felt called upon to justify the step in a statement, later discovered and made public, to socialists of other countries. In the statement they explained that they had entered the government, in order to "deepen and extend the class struggle." And this is what some of them did actually start in to do, using their authority and powers as ministers to turn the organs of revolutionary democracy in this direction, promoting suspicion of and antagonism toward the bourgeoisie. The socialist ministers also held themselves directly responsible to the Councils. Finally the socialist members of the government tried to force immediate decisions on questions of a fundamental nature, which should be decided only by the Constituent Assembly, thus not adhering to the program drawn up as the basis for the coalition. The position of the non-socialist members of the government therefore became untenable, and a whole group of them resigned.
The resignation of the most influential bourgeois group of the first Coalition Government coincided quite accidentally with an armed uprising which the extremists, the Bolsheviki, had been planning for several weeks. For the extremists were again putting forward their demand, this time supported by armed force, that all the "capitalist" ministers resign, and that all authority pass into the hands of the Councils. But the Councils refused to take over authority, the constructive majority replying that they would not accept the responsibility. In their judgment only a government representing all the vital forces of the country, that is a coalition government, could succeed. The moderate socialists prevailed in the Councils, and a second coalition was formed, this time under the presidency of a socialist, Kerensky. Some weeks elapsed before the new government was finally organized. The non-socialist groups were willing to enter a coalition government led by a socialist, but only on a definite program, which would exclude all fundamental legislation. Objection was raised also to certain individual socialists, whose record in the first coalition government made one doubt their willingness to adhere honestly to any coalition program. This objection was withdrawn later; but the non-socialists gave only their second-best men as members of the new government. The non-socialists also had demanded that the Provisional Government be absolutely independent, its members not responsible to any councils or party committees. For the Councils of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies were as we saw exclusively socialistic, and had become mere party bodies.
In the meantime the democratization of local government bodies was going on apace, and very successfully in view of the chaotic conditions produced by revolution and war. As the new local municipal and provincial councils, elected by universal suffrage, began to convene, the revolutionary committees and councils were expected gradually to disappear. The elections for the Constituent Assembly were to take place as soon as the new local governing bodies could verify and correct the lists of voters. The Constituent Assembly was to replace definitely not only all revolutionary councils and committees, but also the Duma, which continued to exist legally, though without functioning. The main objective of the constructive elements was to hold the situation together until the Constituent Assembly could be convened; the date had been advanced, even at a sacrifice of regularity in election procedure. And a coalition government seemed to be the only possible solution, despite the difficulties already encountered in applying the principle.
The councils, the land committees and the other organizations that had come into existence with and in the course of the revolution were, as we saw, almost exclusively socialist in their political affiliations. This was true even of the peasant congresses, though it was generally admitted that the bulk of the peasantry was not consciously socialistic. Of all the revolutionary bodies the peasant councils were clearly the least representative. This was particularly true of the first alleged all-Russian Peasant Congress. The peasantry, the great mass of the population, became articulate very slowly. The non-socialist groups were striving to bring about a more true expression of peasant views; and their moderate program was making headway, though they found it difficult to compete with the extremists, who made most generous promises. But the non-socialist groups were beginning to take a stronger line, as they saw the experiments of the extremists lead to disillusionment. They proposed to organize councils and congresses of the non-socialist elements. This project was immediately branded as counter-revolutionary by "revolutionary democracy." Perhaps to ward off the contemplated move of the non-socialists, Kerensky issued a general invitation for a state conference at Moscow of all parties, groups, and organizations, at which the opinions of all could be expressed, presumably for the guidance of the Coalition Government.
The Moscow Conference did in fact give to all organizations, Duma, Councils of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies, the recently elected local-government bodies, cooeperative and professional unions, in fact every group, socialist and non-socialist, revolutionary and pre-revolutionary institutions, the opportunity to express views. The speeches did perhaps help the Coalition Government to sense the situation with which it had to deal, though the Conference showed that the Coalition Government was unstable, and that the extreme ideas of the Bolsheviki had penetrated deeply in the broader masses. Again the Bolsheviki attacked the principle of coalition, and demanded that revolutionary democracy take over all authority.
Then came the Kornilov affair, which in its conception was an effort on the part of the constructive groups, including the moderate socialists, to discredit the extremists, and establish a stronger government, free from party ties and party programs, representing a national movement to organize "all the vital forces of the country," to use again the phraseology of the revolution. But there was a misunderstanding, and also perhaps it was premature—"revolutionary democracy" was not yet sufficiently sobered to accept a program of common constructive effort. The movement had the opposite effect; it split the country into two openly hostile camps, and brought revolutionary democracy still more under the influence of the extremists. The Coalition Government fell to pieces, and a Directorate of Five, with almost dictatorial powers, still headed by Kerensky, assumed authority.
The Bolsheviki now demanded the absolute and final renunciation of the principle of coalition, and the formation of a purely socialistic government. Kerensky and the constructive socialists refused to participate in such a government, and opened negotiations with the non-socialist leaders, to attempt once more the coalition form of government. The extremists then sent out a call to "revolutionary democracy" to meet in another conference, which they called a Democratic Conference, as opposed to the State Conference of Moscow. They declared that no bourgeois, counter-revolutionary group would be admitted to the conference. Kerensky allowed the conference to meet. It passed contradictory resolutions, first voting against the principle of a coalition form of government, but later seeming to advocate and support this principle. The moderate socialists fought hard for the coalition idea, and Kerensky and his followers seemed at last to have won out. In any case, at the beginning of October, Kerensky formed a third coalition government, and convened a preliminary parliament in which all parties were represented. This time a definitely outlined program, as the basis for cooeperation, was accepted by the socialists, which made it possible for the non-socialists to give their best men to the new combination. The Provisional Government of October 8, at least the fifth since the revolution, and the third Coalition Government, unquestionably brought together the strongest and most representative group of men since the revolution. The Bolsheviki declared their intention to break it up as quickly as possible, and there was not much optimism in non-socialist circles; one felt that it would not survive many weeks. But this third Coalition Government gave a greater promise of success than any previous attempt. There was hope that it would last, and hold the situation together, at least until the Constituent Assembly could meet.
This hope was not realized, as we know, and the break-up of the government came within a month, when the Bolsheviki at last accomplished their long-planned armed uprising, and by force established what they called the dictatorship of the proletariat. Acting on the very eve of the opening of the Constituent Assembly, the elections for which were already in progress, the Bolsheviki showed clearly their contempt for a really national, popular form of government. The Bolshevik uprising was followed by civil war. But this was the aim of the extremists, for they were against social peace, cooperation, coalition, and were striving for class war.
Until this last month the Russian Revolution, though marked by extreme antagonisms, and much wrangling, was nevertheless comparatively peaceful in character. There was no extensive violence, such as would justify the use of the term "civil war." It was to avoid civil war that such constant, and on the whole honest, efforts were made to "unite all the vital forces of the country." For it was seen that civil war would perhaps ruin the revolution, and in any case would eliminate Russia as a factor in the war, and the constructive leaders constantly emphasized that on the successful outcome of the war depended also the success of the revolution. But the efforts of the more constructive and moderate groups failed. This very short outline of the attempts to solve the problems with which revolutionary Russia was confronted by applying the principle of coalition gives an interpretation of the recent events in Russia from another angle. In any case one has tried to point out the forces in conflict during these last months, perhaps suggesting one of many possible issues from the present chaos.
THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
By Frank Alfred Golder
The intelligent public that has been watching the erratic courses which the Russian ship of state has been sailing during the last few years suspected that something was wrong with it, but not until after the March revolution did it become fully known what incompetent and irresponsible officers were in command. It was then learned that a great part of the time the Emperor was either drunk or doped, that the Empress was hysterical and on the verge of a mental breakdown, and that they were assisted by senile Sturmer, mentally unbalanced Protopopov, and profligate Rasputin, none of whom could read a compass nor lay out a course and steered the ship as they willed. All the passengers, first, second, and third class, grand dukes, intelligentsia, and laborers saw the danger and shouted warning but the officers neither saw nor heard. In order to save themselves and the vessel each class of passengers, quite independent of the other, resolved that at the first opportune moment it would throw the officers overboard and take charge of the ship; but while they were plotting the crew mutinied, arrested the officers, and left the ship to drift in sight of the breakers.
Nicholas Romanov is to blame for the plight of his country and for his own misfortunes. He was warned, he was given his chances, but he abused them all. When he entered on his reign he was popular and had the good will of his people with him. For some reason or other it was assumed that he was liberal minded and that under him the people would breathe a little more freely than under his autocratic father. This hope was so strong that it was unconsciously accepted as a fact. Stories were told that the Tsar fraternized with students and workmen and that he was determined to destroy the bureaucratic wall which kept the people from him. It was on the strength of this report that the Zemstvo of Tver petitioned him that in the future it might have direct access to him and have a say in the government. Here was a great opportunity but he turned it against himself. His reply was, "It has come to my attention that recently some people have been carried away by senseless dreams that the representatives of the zemstvos should take part in internal affairs. Let it be known to all that I shall guard the autocracy as firmly as did my father." This was his program and it deeply disappointed the people. On the top of this came the tragedy at Moscow on the day of his coronation when hundreds of people lost their lives in the attempt to obtain a loving cup which was promised them in commemoration of the event. Then followed the wholesale killing of the factory hands at Iaroslav, of the peasants in Kharkov, the miners on the Lena, and other such massacres and pogroms. Nicholas himself withdrew to his palaces and left the affairs of state in the hands of the court clique which dragged Russia into the Japanese war and brought on the revolution of 1905. Before it was over the Emperor promised a constitution but as soon as the disturbance was quelled he went back on his word.
It was known that he was weak and he now proved that he was also a liar. He dismissed one Duma after another, he created an upper house to act as a brake, he juggled with the electoral laws so that whereas according to the law of December 24, 1905 the working classes and the peasants were entitled to 68 per cent of the Duma's representation, by the law of June 14, 1907 they were allowed only 36 per cent, Poland's delegation was cut down from 37 to 12 per cent, Caucasus' from 29 to 9, Siberia's from 21 to 14, and Central Asia's from 23 to 1. In fact he did everything to make the Duma ineffective and a laughing stock. But that was not enough, his pride was hurt and he wanted to be revenged, and the number of people arrested, imprisoned, exiled, and executed for political crimes was greater than before.
It has been said that Nicholas was not cruel and the blame for the bloody deeds in his reign was laid to his ministers. Indeed, there is something in his face that is kindly and makes a very good first impression. But those who knew him better had learned to distrust that smile. When the Emperor was most gracious to one of his ministers it was a sign that his resignation would be called for the next day. In this respect Nicholas II was like Alexander I. The following story tells something of the real character of the man who had the lives of millions of people at his mercy. The committee appointed by the Duma to take charge of the papers of the Tsar found that many important documents of state, such as reports from the commanders-in-chief, ministers, and others, he had never read, and some he had not even looked at. They did, however, come across a notebook which had been carefully kept and guarded. On opening it they noted that Nicholas, with his own hand, wrote down the names of those revolutionists who, in 1905-06, were executed, the kind of execution, and other such details. [FN: This story was told to the writer by a member of the committee.] That interested him, but matters of state he left to his time servers, to his hysterical wife, yes, to Grigory Rasputin, a dirty, ignorant, and licentious peasant, until the country blushed with shame and it became a saying, "Now we have Grigory I [Rasputin] as tsar."
The present war was declared by the Tsar but the people approved it because they hoped that the defeat of Germany would mean the defeat of the German reactionary influence in Russia, especially about the court, and a closer union with democratic England and France. I was present at the capital at the time that the war broke out and heard the cheers when the Emperor made the declaration. It seemed as if Nicholas by coming out against Germany had redeemed himself in the eyes of his people who were willing to wipe out the past, and give him another chance. During the first months of the war he was as popular as during the first weeks of his reign. It was not like the Japanese war when the soldiers refused service; in this German war, the men called to colors went without a murmur, they hoped that something good would come out of it. Offers of help from individuals as well as commercial and civic bodies poured in on the Government. The ministers said that everything was ready, that in a few months the Russians would be in Berlin. At first, all went well, but soon news came of the catastrophe in eastern Prussia, of the traitorous acts of the Minister of War, of the campaign in the Carpathians where the Russians were slaughtered like sheep because they had no guns, no ammunition, and no supplies. Again the poor people were betrayed and a cry of horror and vengeance went up as on January 9, 1905, Bloody Sunday. The Tsar would probably have been overthrown there and then had it not been for the war and the hatred of Germany. The liberals and patriots of all kinds thought that all was not yet lost and they went to work with a will, giving themselves, their money, their strength, and their lives, but they soon became convinced that it was all in vain so long as Rasputin, the Empress, and their clique ran the government.
[FN: Several months before the revolution the following confidential conversation took place between Alexeiev, the Russian commander-in-chief, and a journalist:
ALEXEIEV: I can get nothing from them [ministers]. My supplies are decreasing.... It is even necessary to think. Through the Duma they begged the Emperor to put in ministers whom the people could trust, but he, as if to show his contempt for public opinion, selected men of low character, one worse than the other, men with whom even decent monarchists would not shake hands, and in shame withdrew from court.]
[FN: about bread. We are already cutting down the allowance. They have forgotten about food for the horses....]
JOURNALIST: What are you going to do about it?
A. What shall I do? With these people there is nothing that can be done.
J. Have you said anything to the Tsar about it?
A. I have... but it does no good.
A. While you talk to him he pays attention, gets worked up, is eager to do something... but as soon as he leaves you he forgets about it. All kinds of pressure are brought to bear upon him, he is not a free man.
J. Is it true that the Tsarina has much influence?
A. It is only too true. Her influence is irresistible. What is worse she never comes out in the open. She interferes with everybody, but works behind their backs. You never can tell what she will do next. Every time she comes here she makes new trouble.
J. Do the ministers ever consult you?
A. They come, they talk. What can they do? The honest ministers leave and the worthless remain.... If it were not for the war I would resign too. If I should leave what would not they do with the army? Do I not understand that Sturmer and Company are thinking only of an alliance with Germany?... The home situation is serious. They [ministers] are purposely instigating hunger disturbances in order to provoke a revolution so as to have an excuse for breaking away from the Allies and end the war. Our army is now in condition to crush Germany and without that there can be no real peace in Europe. But a permanent peace is not wanted by Sturmer and Protopopov, they wish to keep the people under the heel of a strong Germany. Apart from the Germans no one will protect them from the revolution. The pity of it all is that at the head of the government there still are men who are interested in crushing the people.]
[FN: Princess Vasilchikov, a prominent court lady, became convinced that the Empress and her ministers were ruining the country and therefore wrote her a courteous letter, pleading with her to save Russia. For her pains she received an order to retire to her estate, and her husband, who held a very prominent position, left the capital with her. (Novoe Vremia, March 11-24, 1917.)]
Members of the royal family and the grand dukes urged the Tsar to change his course and not ruin the country and the dynasty but he, drugged by Dr. Badmaev and duped by Rasputin, Protopopov and Company, sent them all out of the capital with orders not to return until sent for. They became so desperate that they murdered Rasputin but the Empress remained and the government policy became more reactionary than ever and as Prince Iusupov said the country was drifting to destruction or to a state of anarchy. It was quite evident that the only way to save the country was through a revolution and it was merely a question whether it would come first from the top or from the bottom and when.
[FN: As late as October, 1916, the old Empress saw her son at Kiev and pointed to him that Rasputin and the other members of the court circle would overthrow the dynasty and destroy the country but it did no good. Only a few days before the outbreak of the revolution his own brother, Mikhail Alexandrovich, pleaded with him along the same lines and with the same success. (Rech, March 7-20, 1917.)]
[FN: The old and scholarly Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich went to see the Emperor about November 1, 1916, and in order to impress him with the critical situation of the country he wrote out his ideas so as to leave them. He was received in a kindly manner by the Tsar who listened to the reading of the letter and then took it over so as to read it to the Empress. When he came to the place where her name was mentioned she snatched it from him and tore it up. In the course of the conversation that followed the old Duke said some sharp things but he could not get anything but smiles from the Tsar, and when the old man's cigarette went out the Tsar lighted it for him. It was impossible to get an out and out talk, or satisfaction of any kind, and Nicholas Mikhailovich left the court in disgust. Two days later he was requested to retire to his estate for two months. Here is the Grand Duke's letter:
"You have said more than once that you would carry on the war to a successful finish. Do you believe that with the conditions as they exist at present in the rear this can be done? Are you acquainted with the internal situation, not only in the interior of the Empire but also on the outskirts (Siberia, Turkestan, Caucasus)? Are you told all the truth or is some of it concealed from you? Where is the root of the evil? Allow me to tell you briefly the essentials of the case.
"So long as your method of selecting ministers was known to a limited circle only affairs went on somehow, but from the moment your system became generally known it is stupid to govern Russia in that way. Repeatedly you have told me that you could trust no one, that you were being deceived. If that is true then the same influences are at work on your wife, dearly beloved by you, who is led astray by [—].
[FN: the evil circle that surrounds her. You trust Alexandra Fedorovna—that is easy to understand. But that which comes out of her mouth is the result of clever fabrication and not the truth. If you are not strong enough to remove these influences from her, at least put yourself on guard against this steady and systematic interference of those who act through your beloved. If your persuasion is ineffective, and I am certain that you have more than once fought against this influence, try some other means so as to end with this system once for all. Your first impulses and decisions are always unusually true and to the point, but as soon as another influence comes in you begin to hesitate and end up by doing something different from what you originally decided. If you should succeed in removing this continuous invasion of the dark forces there would take place at once the birth of a new Russia, and there would return to you the confidence of the greater number of your subjects. All other matters would soon settle themselves. You would find people who under different conditions would be willing to work under your personal leadership. At the proper time, and that is not far distant, you can of your own free will organize a ministry which should be responsible to you and to constitutional institutions. This can be done very simply, without any force from outside as was the case with the act of October 17, 1905. I hesitated a long time before venturing to tell you this truth, and I finally consented when your mother and sister urged me to do so. You are at the beginning of a new era of disturbances, I will go farther, at the beginning of a new era of attempts at assassination. Believe me that in trying to loosen you from the chains that bind you I do it from no motives of personal interest and of this you and Her Majesty are convinced, but in the hope and in the expectation of saving you, your throne, and our dear native land from some very serious and irreparable consequences." (Rech, March 9-22, 1917.)
[FN: "An important role was played at court by Dr. Badmaev, Rasputin's friend. There were many rumors afloat in court and it is difficult to tell the truth. But this I can say that Nicholas Alexandrovich was drugged with different drugs from Thibet. In this Rasputin took part. During the last days they brought the Emperor to a state of almost total insanity and his will power was completely gone. In all matters of state he consulted the Empress who led him to the edge of the precipice." Interview given out by Prince Iusupov, in Novoe Vremia, March 14-27, 1917.]
[FN: One of the editors of the Novoe Vremia who has large acquaintance in the aristocratic circles of the capital told the writer that for months before the revolution it was commonly talked about in the homes of military leaders and fashionable circles that for the good of Russia the Empress must be killed. Last fall (1916) there came to his home one of his friends, an aide-de-camp of one of the grand dukes, and confided to him that he was meditating an act of terrorism in order to get a certain person out of the way. Another topic of conversation was the revolution after the war.]
[FN: "I will say this—at court there reigned a kind of nightmare, each day fewer and fewer people remained there. If the revolution had not broken out from the bottom it would have from the top." Interview given out by Prince Iusupov, in Novoe Vremia, March 14-27, 1917.]
It is only since the political upheaval that the activities and plans of the grand dukes have become public, but the cry for a revolution on the part of the great mass of intelligent people was heard before and everywhere. On my return to Russia, in February, 1916, after an absence of a little more than two years, I noticed many changes but none greater than in the public opinion in regard to the administration. On the way across Siberia, I met with many Russians, some of whom were army officers, and one and all bitterly criticized the government for its mismanagement of the war, for the betrayal of Russia as they called it, for its incompetency, and general worthlessness. At the capital, it was the same, everywhere, street, car, and public places, the government was denounced; there was no attempt at concealment. In the archives where I worked, which are almost under the very nose of the imperial family, the criticism was as open as in private homes. In fact there was no exception. When mention was made of the Court, of Rasputin, and of the Empress, there was a kind of a painful smile; it was not a subject that self-respecting patriotic Russians liked to talk about in public or before strangers; it was like dirty linen that ought not to be hung out for public view.
There was reason enough and suffering enough to justify the complaining. Petrograd was overcrowded owing to the thousands of refugees who had been driven there, rooms and apartments were difficult to find and very expensive, and the cost of living had gone up so high that it was hard for the poor to make ends meet. It was almost impossible to get about in the city, as the war had reduced the number of cabs and the few that did business asked such exorbitant fares that only the rich could afford to ride in them. The street car situation was in a hopeless tangle. Even before the war there were not enough accommodations for the public, but since the opening of hostilities many of the cars had broken down and there were no mechanics to repair them and no new cars to replace them. At a time when the population increased, the transportation facilities decreased. Passengers poured into the cars like a stream, filled the seats, blocked the aisles, jammed the entrance, stood on the steps, hung on behind, and clung to anything that might bear them along. Difficult as it was to get into the car, it was worse to get out, and it is easier to imagine than to describe the pushing, swearing, tearing, and fighting that one witnessed. The railways were in an equally bad condition. One had to wait weeks for a ticket. Men and women were crowded into the same coupes; the cars were packed so full of human beings that they suggested cattle cars, except that they were not so sanitary, for they contained people suffering from contagious diseases and were without fresh air.
The food situation was very serious. For many years, Russia had been the granary of Europe but during the winter of 1916-17 suffered from shortage of food. Passengers told how in southern Russia grain and flour were rotting and yet in northern Russia the inhabitants were starving owing to the breakdown of the transportation system. It was pointed out that while the railway officials refused to give cars for bringing in the necessities of life, yet articles of luxury, expensive fruits, and such things did come into the city—a state of affairs which meant, of course, that some one was grafting. Sugar could be obtained only by cards and in very limited quantities; flour could not be bought at all, and black, sour bread could often be had only by standing in long lines and for hours at a time. There were no shoes and people asked what became of the hides of the thousands of animals that were annually slaughtered and shot. It was said that these, like other things, were sold to Germany.
As usual the poorer classes suffered the most. The well-to-do sent their servants who after a time returned with bread; at the worst it was only an inconvenience, but the workman had no servants to run his errands. In the morning, the laborer left his home for his work with little or no breakfast, at noon there was no luncheon for him because his wife was standing in the bread or sugar line, and when he returned in the evening there may have been bread enough but little else. The wife was tired and discouraged, the children crying and hungry, and life became a burden.
We may say that the conditions in Russia were no worse than in France or Germany. This is doubtless true, but there is this difference: the people of France and Germany had confidence in their leaders and realized that they were doing the best that they could, while the Russians knew they could put no trust in their Government, that the suffering was unnecessary and was due to corruption, favoritism, and incompetency. The Russians have as much patriotism and patience as any other people, but when they saw themselves abused and imposed upon they had a right to complain.
In addition to the criticism of the Government the other favorite topic of conversation was the revolution that would come after the war. This was discussed as openly as the problems of war; the two were bound up together, first a successful ending of the war, and then a change in government.
This public denunciation and open discussion of a coup d'etat came as a shock to me, for I remembered quite vividly how the same people cheered the Emperor when he declared war. Three years ago no one would have dared to talk like that. To be sure enough was said then of the desirability of a more liberal government, but it was a far-off question, one that the next generation might have to deal with. Now the talk was of an overturn immediately after the war.
The court circle was not ignorant of what was being said for the spies kept them fully informed. In conversation with a journalist two months before the outbreak of the revolution, the Minister of the Interior, Protopopov, a protege of Rasputin, said that he was aware of the revolutionary propaganda and that he was ready to face any attempt that might be made to overthrow the government.
"I will not stop at anything," he remarked,... "the first thing that I shall do is to send them [revolutionaries] from the capital by the car loads. But I will strangle the revolution no matter what the cost may be." [FN: Novoe Vremia, March 19-April 1, 1917.] He had no doubt that he could handle the situation and he inspired those about him with the same confidence, particularly the Emperor whom he assured that the discontent was confined chiefly to the intelligentsia and to a small number of the gentry, and that the common people and the army were devoted to the autocracy.
To the question that arises why the revolution, which was expected after the war, came off before its conclusion, the answer is that the present revolution was not planned nor desired by any one of importance; it came as a surprise to all. It just happened. If some one must have the credit or blame, it is Protopopov who was at the time suspected of being queer mentally and who has since lost his reason entirely. He was so sure of himself and of his ability to put down the uprising and thereby show himself a real statesman that he concluded not to wait for the revolution to come in the ordinary course of events, but to hurry it a bit. Although there is no conclusive proof for this statement, there is plenty of convincing circumstantial evidence. We know that it was proposed to have the workmen of Petrograd strike on February 27, the day of the opening of the Duma, as a protest against the government; we know also that to meet this situation, the Minister of the Interior had placed machine guns in the garrets, in steeples, on housetops, and other such places where they could command the important streets and shoot down the mob. The rising did not take place because Miliukov, the great liberal leader, learned that the Government was behind this move and that preparations had been made to slaughter the unsuspecting workmen. He, therefore, addressed them in an open letter calling on them not to make any demonstration, and they did not. For the time being the strike was off, but the air was full of discontent and restlessness, and it was difficult to say when trouble would break out again. With this in view, a number of representatives of various organizations met to discuss the situation and to determine what attitude they should take and what counsel they should give to the labor leaders. Miliukov and a few others urged that all uprisings should be discouraged because they would interfere with the war, would cost the lives of many innocent persons, and would accomplish nothing. There were, however, others, especially Anisimov, who argued strongly in favor of a strike, saying that this was the opportune time to overthrow the present regime and to establish a democratic government.[FN: I have this story from Miliukov.] When the revolution came off and the papers of the secret police were seized, it was discovered that Anisimov, who urged the revolt, was the paid agent of the Government and was doubtless doing its bidding. This shows that the Government instigated and abetted the uprising. But this is not all the evidence. Between February 27 and the outbreak of the revolution men impersonating Miliukov went to the factories, calling on the workmen to rise against the Government.[FN: I have this story from Miliukov.] There is still another bit of evidence. In order to give the laboring classes cause for revolt, the food supply in the factory districts was reduced and many people suffered from hunger and in their desperation came out into the streets. During the revolutionary week little, if any, food came in, but immediately after it the soldiers found 250,000 "puds" of flour, [FN: Russkaia Svoboda, 1917. No. 3, p. 24.] enough to last Petrograd ten days, meat, besides other food hidden in police stations and elsewhere out of reach of the public. It has been said that the Government instigated the uprising in order to bring about a separate peace with Germany. No direct proof has as yet been produced to substantiate this charge, and the only testimony that I have bearing on this case is the statement made by commander-in-chief Alexeiev in a confidential interview with a journalist already quoted. [FN: There is not the least bit of evidence to show that the Emperor himself was mixed up in these intrigues. Among the papers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs there is but one document that throws any light on the question of a separate peace during the time of the monarchy. It is a letter from the minister of the German Court to the minister of the Russian Court insinuating a separate peace. This letter was shown, as was intended, to the Tsar, who read it, put it aside, and did not answer it. This, however, does not mean that Sturmer, Protopopov and the clique of the Empress were not planning to bring about a situation which would compel a separate peace.]
These four points—the encouragement of a revolt by the secret agents, the impersonation of Miliukov, the concealment of food in the factory districts, the desire of a separate peace with Germany—make out a fairly good case to show that the Government was behind the disturbance. Aside from the reason already given for the desire of a separate peace, the other reason for the action of the ministry was this: It feared that the revolutionary movement, if permitted to take its natural course, would develop such strength that it could not be put down when it broke out, and, therefore, the Minister of the Interior decided to take it in hand and at the right moment crush it with such force that it would be a long time before it could raise its head again. Before it was over he hoped to drag in prominent members of the Duma (or the Duma itself) and other revolutionary leaders, and make an end of them. This plan need not astonish us, for this method, in one form or another, had been made use of by the autocracy time and again. Protopopov overreached himself, his scheme miscarried, the soldiers about the capital went back on him, and the little comedy that he had staged in which he was to play the leading part became a tragedy and the shot which was intended for the revolution hit his royal master and brought autocracy to the ground. In view of the fact that Protopopov has since become insane, one wonders whether the man was mentally well balanced at the time that he was in office. But the Tsar has only himself to blame for his plight; he was warned against this nominee of Rasputin, but he would not take advice.
Early in the week of March 5-12, 1917, the trouble began in the factory districts. There were bread riots, car stoning, window smashing, and other such acts, which are more or less common and no one paid much attention to them. On Thursday, the disturbances spread to other parts of the city and crowds began to gather on the Nevski, but the throng was orderly and the police seemed to have little difficulty in keeping it on the move. Friday the crowd was more bold: it marched up and down the streets, calling for bread, singing revolutionary songs, and occasionally waving a red flag and quickly snatching it back again. This, too, did not make much impression for it is well known that in Russia strikes and disturbances have in view political as well as economic betterment. Late Friday afternoon, while I was walking on the Nevski, a company of mounted police and a large number of Cossacks dashed by on the way to disperse a procession that was coming towards me. When I came up to the Fontanka Bridge I noticed the crowd was gathered about the Cossacks; it patted the horses and cheered their riders, while the police were nowhere in sight. I listened to what was being said and heard that the police tried to use their whips and swords on the people and this angered the Cossacks so much that they attacked the police, killed the captain, and drove them all away. It was no secret that there was bad blood between the soldiers and the police; the former complained that while they were suffering and fighting at the front, the latter were having an easy time, enriching themselves by graft, and oppressing the soldiers' families. The soldiers and the strikers started out with one idea—hatred of the police. When the police had been dispersed, the Cossacks and soldiers begged the people to move on, but they, especially the young women students who were numerous, went up to them and pleaded with them to espouse their cause. "Comrades," they would say, "come over on our side, our cause is your cause." The rough, ignorant warriors were disturbed; they did not like their jobs, and in a kindly way begged the men and women to go home, but, as it did no good, for they massed again, the Cossacks rode in a body into their midst and kept turning and turning until the crowd was forced from the street onto the sidewalk. In the meantime, another company of Cossacks formed a line across the street, from wall to wall, and swept everybody before it into stores, courtyards, and other openings. Even this did not do much good, for as soon as the horsemen passed, the mob fell in behind and cheered the Cossacks. There was no roughness, but at the same time it was easy to see that the crowd did not yet know to what extent the army could be trusted.
By Saturday the inhabitants of the city began to feel the effect of the disorder; cars were not running, telephones were barely working, factories and shops were closed, banks and stores were locked, there was little to eat, for the only provision on hand was water; every one who could filled the tubs for fear the water mains would be blown up. The crowd on the streets was larger than ever, more red flags were in evidence, but all this failed to give the impression of a revolution. Such demonstrations had been seen before; revolutionary talk was cheap and was not taken seriously. As on the day before, the soldiers and Cossacks tried by gentle means to disperse the crowd, but failed, for the men and women in the crowd complained that they were hungry and pleaded with the military for the sake of their own families to stand by the people. It was easy to see that these guardians of the peace were in trouble, they knew that every word said was true, and what was more to the purpose, members of their own families were in the crowd. An officer who was sent with his company to shoot on the people told how that same morning his own sister took part in the demonstration and called for bread for her children. This was no exceptional case. But as soldiers they must do their duty and keep order. Realizing that the stratagems of the day before failed in their purpose, the Cossacks tried other tactics on this day. They fell behind the procession, and discharged their pistols in the air and dashed at full speed into the mob. Woe unto him who did not get out of the way. But they all did; in a second there was not a person on the street. It is still a wonder how it was all done so quickly. As soon as the horsemen passed, the crowd dropped behind them and raising their hats cheered them. "Comrades," they said, "come over to us, you know that the government is bad, you know how the soldiers have been killed through its incompetency, you know that our wives and children are hungry," and more such pleas. The Cossacks and the other soldiers who tried to keep order were caught, they begged the crowd to break up and go home, they pointed out that they had to do their duty and that somebody might get hurt. It was reported that in some places the soldiers did fire and kill several persons. During Saturday, men were sent, it is not clear by whom, to the different factories to persuade the workers to join in a great demonstration on Sunday. The military commander of the city telegraphed to the Emperor for orders and the latter sent word to shoot, if necessary, and to put down the uprising at any cost, and that accounts for the posters that were put up on Sunday morning warning the inhabitants not to gather in the streets because the soldiers would shoot to kill. This had happened before and was no joke, and many people would not leave their homes that day. Those who did had to walk; there was no other way of getting about. Few people, on the whole, were on the street that morning aside from the soldiers and Cossacks who were guarding the bridges and keeping an eye out for disturbances. After luncheon I started to make a call and as I passed the barracks of the Volynski regiment, situated near where I lived, I saw a company of soldiers lined up, heard the command to load, to shoulder arms, to march, and off they went to the Nevski. I followed them for a distance and then turned aside and went my way. In returning I had to cross the Nevski and found that all avenues thither were guarded and that no one was allowed to go in that direction. I managed, however, by showing my American passport, to get through the line and reach the street. Excited people were moving up and down and from them I learned that about three o'clock a number of people forced their way to the Nevski and were fired upon by the soldiers and the machine guns that were concealed. Among the killed of the day was a captain of police who was knocked down by a Cossack.
Sunday night was full of excitement and fear and there were not many who slept soundly. Firing was heard at different times but what it portended, none of us could tell. It became evident that the situation was becoming serious, yet we all felt that the Government could handle it. When I went out on the street Monday morning, the first thing I saw was the placard of the military commander announcing that unless the workmen went to the shops, they would be sent to the front the following day. Groups of people were talking excitedly and from them I learned that the Volynski regiment had revolted and had killed its officers, because the day before they had commanded the soldiers to shoot on the people. It seems that the soldiers returned home much excited over their deed and full of remorse. In the course of the night some of the revolutionary soldiers from the city upbraided them and they were greatly incensed with their officers and the Government. They, as well as other regiments, were particularly worked up over the report that hirelings of the secret police dressed in soldiers' uniforms went about firing on the crowd and that the new recruits, under penalty of death, were commanded to shoot on the people in the streets. When in the morning the officers congratulated the men on their deed of yesterday, they jumped on them and murdered them. I heard that other regiments had also revolted; but there were so many rumors afloat that it was not easy to know what to believe. About four in the afternoon, I started for home and found the Nevski full of frightened and nervous people, and hardly any soldiers. No one seemed to know what to expect. Sounds of shooting were heard and they were explained as the battle between the regiments that had revolted and those that had remained loyal. In the distance columns of smoke were seen and report had it that palaces were burning. Again it was difficult to know the truth. As I proceeded on my way, I was joined by the little minister of the British American Church, where I had attended services the day before, where he had prayed fervently for the Tsar and his family and asked God to put down the anarchists, and other lawless men. We were discussing the situation, not knowing exactly what to make of it. Perhaps the word revolution passed our lips but neither of us nor those about us took it seriously. Near the Liteiny a gate opened and about two dozen armed soldiers led by a petty officer stepped out and marched towards the center of the street. Immediately the crowd, excited and scared, scattered and ran for their lives but the soldiers motioned for them to stop and told them that they would not shoot. We left them, and proceeded on our way, trying as before to interpret what we saw. While in the midst of our discussion we were struck by a new and unfamiliar sound—tra-ta-ta, tra-ta-ta, and we instinctively knew that a machine gun was firing. In a flash the streets were cleared and my minister and I found ourselves sticking like posters against the wall. It was my first "baptism of fire" and I had enough presence of mind to observe its effect upon myself and others. Physically there was no effect for no one seemed hit. I tried to locate the gun and the man behind it, but did not succeed. When the firing ceased, I went on my way. As I neared the Nicholas station, there came rushing forth from around the corner a crowd of hoodlums and soldiers, with drawn swords, which they had taken from the officers, and such other weapons as they could pick up, shouting, "Down with the Government!" Then it dawned upon me that the revolution was on in earnest, that the anarchists of yesterday's prayer had become the heroes of a great cause. What struck me most of all was the kind of men and women who made this world event. I watched them during the week, and they seemed to be in great part boys and girls, hoodlums, students, poorly dressed men and women, without organization, plans, or leaders. It is difficult to analyze the various motives that brought them out into the street. Not one of the so-called revolutionists was seen, heard, shot, or wounded. When it was all over they appeared on the scene, rushing from Switzerland, the United States, France, and other parts of the world, to make speeches and to divide the spoils. It was a revolution without revolutionists, unless you call the soldiers that, but they were not consciously making a revolution, and when it was done, they were thoroughly surprised and frightened. There are a number of reasons why the Government collapsed so easily. It was not really overthrown but it toppled over like a rotten tree, and until it fell, the people did not realize how decayed it actually was. Its misconduct of the war, scandals like that of Rasputin, ministers such as Protopopov discredited and disgraced the dynasty and when the end came, it had few friends who shed tears.