One day as I came to Smolny to the outer gate I saw Trotzky and his wife just ahead of me. They were halted by a soldier. Trotzky searched through his pockets, but could find no pass.
“Never mind,” he said finally. “You know me. My name is Trotzky.” See more
“You haven’t got a pass,” answered the soldier stubbornly.
“You cannot go in. Names don’t mean anything to me.”
“But I am the president of the Petrograd Soviet.”
“Well,” replied the soldier, “if you’re as important a fellow as that you must at least have one little paper.”
Trotzky was very patient. “Let me see the Commandant,” he said. The soldier hesitated, grumbling something about not wanting to disturb the Commandant for every devil that came along. He beckoned finally to the soldier in command of the guard. Trotzky explained matters to him. “My name is Trotzky,” he repeated.
“Trotzky?” The other soldier scratched his head. “I’ve heard the name somewhere,” he said at length. “I guess it’s all right. You can go on in, comrade.”
Now in the background of Russian politics began to form the vague outlines of a sinister power—the Cossacks. See more
In the Don, something very like a Cossack Republic had been established. The Kuban declared itself an independent Cossack State. The Soviets of Rostov-on-Don and Yekaterinburg were dispersed by armed Cossacks, and the headquarters of the Coal Miners’ Union at Kharkov raided. In all its manifestations the Cossack movement was anti-Socialist and militaristic. Its leaders were nobles and great land-owners, like Kaledin, KornilovCommander in Chief of the Petrograd command - from 18 March 1917, Generals Dutov, Karaulov and Bardizhe, and it was backed by the powerful merchants and bankers of Moscow.
I have personally met officers on the Northern Front who frankly preferred military disaster to cooperation with the Soldiers’ Committees. The secretary of the Petrograd branch of the Cadet party told me that the break-down of the country’s economic life was part of a campaign to discredit the Revolution. See more
An Allied diplomat, whose name I promised not to mention, confirmed this from his own knowledge. I know of certain coal-mines near Kharkov which were fired and flooded by their owners, of textile factories at Moscow whose engineers put the machinery out of order when they left, of railroad officials caught by the workers in the act of crippling locomotives…
What a revelation of the vitality of the Russian Revolution, after all these months of starvation and disillusionment! The bourgeoisie should have better known its Russia.
The trial of KornilovCommander in Chief of the Petrograd command - from 18 March 1917 was coming on. More and more openly the bourgeois press defended him, speaking of him as “the great Russian patriot.” Burtzev’s paper, Obshtchee Dielo (Common Cause), called for a dictatorship of Kornilov, Kaledin and Kerensky! See more
I had a talk with Burtzev one day in the press gallery of the Council of the Republic. A small, stooped figure with a wrinkled face, eyes near-sighted behind thick glasses, untidy hair and beard streaked with grey.
“Mark my words, young man! What Russia needs is a Strong Man. We should get our minds off the Revolution now and concentrate on the Germans. Bunglers, bunglers, to defeat Kornilov; and back of the bunglers are the German agents. Kornilov should have won.”
On the front the Army Committees were always running foul of officers who could not get used to treating their men like human beings.
In the barracks, the factories, on the street-corners, endless soldier speakers, all clamouring for an end to the war, declaring that if the Government did not make an energetic effort to get peace, the army would leave the trenches and go home. See more
The spokesman for the Eighth Army: “We are weak, we have only a few men left in each company. They must give us food and boots and reinforcements, or soon there will be left only empty trenches. Peace or supplies—either let the Government end the war or support the Army.”
For the Forty-sixth Siberian Artillery: “The officers will not work with our Committees, they betray us to the enemy, they apply the death penalty to our agitators; and the counter-revolutionary Government supports them. We thought that the Revolution would bring peace. But now the Government forbids us even to talk of such things, and at the same time doesn’t give us enough food to live on, or enough ammunition to fight with.”
From Europe came rumours of peace at the expense of Russia.
The Government, torn between the democratic and reactionary factions, could do nothing: when forced to act it always supported the interests of the propertied classes. Cossacks were sent to restore order among the peasants, to break the strikes. In Tashkent, Government authorities suppressed the Soviet.
Day after day the Bolshevik orators toured the barracks and factories, violently denouncing “this Government of civil war.” One Sunday we went, on a top-heavy steam tram that lumbered through oceans of mud, between stark factories and immense churches, to Obukhovsky Zavod, a Government munitions-plant out on the Schlüsselburg Prospekt. See more
The meeting took place between the gaunt brick walls of a huge unfinished building, ten thousand black-clothed men and women packed around a scaffolding draped in red, people heaped on piles of lumber and bricks, perched high upon shadowy girders, intent and thunder-voiced. Through the dull, heavy sky now and again burst the sun, flooding reddish light through the skeleton windows upon the mass of simple faces upturned to us.
Lunatcharsky, a slight, student-like figure with the sensitive face of an artist, was telling why the power must be taken by the Soviets. Nothing else could guarantee the Revolution against its enemies, who were deliberately ruining the country, ruining the army, creating opportunities for a new Kornilov.
A soldier from the Rumanian front, thin, tragical and fierce, cried, “Comrades! We are starving at the front, we are stiff with cold. We are dying for no reason. I ask the American comrades to carry word to America, that the Russians will never give up their Revolution until they die. We will hold the fort with all our strength until the peoples of the world rise and help us! Tell the American workers to rise and fight for the Social Revolution!”
The impotence and indecision of the ever-changing Provisional Government was an argument nobody could refute.
Against the overwhelming sentiment of the country, Kerensky and the “moderate” Socialists succeeded in establishing a Government of Coalition with the propertied classes; and as a result, the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries lost the confidence of the people forever.
September and October are the worst months of the Russian year–especially the Petrograd year. Under dull grey skies, in the shortening days, the rain fell drenching, incessant. The mud underfoot was deep, slippery and clinging, tracked everywhere by heavy boots, and worse than usual because of the complete break-down of the Municipal administration. See more
Bitter damp winds rushed in from the Gulf of Finland, and the chill fog rolled through the streets. At night, for motives of economy as well as fear of Zeppelins, the street-lights were few and far between; in private dwellings and apartment-houses the electricity was turned on from six o’clock until midnight, with candles forty cents apiece and little kerosene to be had. It was dark from three in the afternoon to ten in the morning. Robberies and housebreakings increased. In apartment houses the men took turns at all-night guard duty, armed with loaded rifles. This was under the Provisional Government.
In the Tsay-ee-kah three factions immediately appeared. The Bolsheviki demanded that the All-Russian Congress of Soviets be summoned, and that they take over the power. The “centre” Socialist Revolutionaries, led by Tchernov, joined with the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, led by Kamkov and Spiridonova, the Mensheviki Internationalists under Martov, and the “centre” Mensheviki, represented by Bogdanov and Skobeliev, in demanding a purely Socialist Government. Tseretelli, Dan and Lieber, at the head of the right wing Mensheviki, and the right Socialist Revolutionaries under Avksentiev and Gotz, insisted that the propertied classes must be represented in the new Government. See more
Almost immediately the Bolsheviki won a majority in the Petrograd Soviet, and the Soviets of Moscow, Kiev, Odessa and other cities followed suit.
Alarmed, the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries in control of the Tsay-ee-kah decided that after all they feared the danger of Kornilov less than the danger of Lenin. They revised the plan of representation in the Democratic Conference, admitting more delegates from the Cooperative Societies and other conservative bodies. Even this packed assembly at first voted for a Coalition Government without the Cadets. Only Kerensky’s open threat of resignation, and the alarming cries of the “moderate” Socialists that “the Republic is in danger” persuaded the Conference, by a small majority, to declare in favour of the principle of coalition with the bourgeoisie, and to sanction the establishment of a sort of consultative Parliament, without any legislative power, called the Provisional Council of the Russian Republic.
An alien Professor of Sociology visiting Russia came to see me in Petrograd. He had been informed by business men and intellectuals that the Revolution was slowing down. The Professor wrote an article about it, and then travelled around the country, visiting factory towns and peasant communities–where, to his astonishment, the Revolution seemed to be speeding up. See more
Among the wage-earners and the land-working people it was common to hear talk of “all land to the peasants, all factories to the workers.” If the Professor had visited the front, he would have heard the whole Army talking Peace…
The Professor was puzzled, but he need not have been; both observations were correct. The property-owning classes were becoming more conservative, the masses of the people more radical. There was a feeling among business men and the intelligentzia generally that the Revolution had gone quite far enough, and lasted too long; that things should settle down. This sentiment was shared by the dominant “moderate” Socialist groups, the oborontsi Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries, who supported the Provisional Government of Kerensky.
There is the story of Senator Sokolov, who in full tide of Revolution came to a meeting of the Senate one day in civilian clothes, and was not admitted because he did not wear the prescribed livery of the Tsar’s service!