On November 27th, a committee of Cossacks came to Smolny to see Trotsky and Lenin. They demanded if it were true that the Soviet Government did not intend to divide the Cossack lands among the peasants of Great Russia? “No,” answered Trotsky. The Cossacks deliberated for a while. “Well,” they asked, “does the Soviet Government intend to confiscate the estates of our great Cossack land-owners and divide them among the working Cossacks?” To this Lenin replied. “That,” he said, “is for you to do. We shall support the working Cossacks in all their actions…. The best way to begin is to form Cossacks Soviets; you will be given representation in the Tsay-ee-kahThe Central Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party, and then it will be your Government, too…. See more
The Cossacks departed, thinking hard. Two weeks later General Kaledin received a deputation from his troops. “Will you,” they asked, “promise to divide the great estates of the Cossack landlords among the working Cossacks?”
“Only over my dead body,” responded Kaledin.
The garrison of Moghilev rose and seized the city, arresting Dukhonin and the Army Committee, and going out with victorious red banners to meet the new Supreme Commander. Krylenko entered Moghilev next morning, to find a howling mob gathered about the railway-car in which Dukhonin had been imprisoned. See more
Krylenko made a speech in which he implored the soldiers not to harm Dukhonin, as he was to be taken to Petrograd and judged by the Revolutionary Tribunal. When he had finished, suddenly Dukhonin himself appeared at the window, as if to address the throng. But with a savage roar the people rushed the car, and falling upon the old General, dragged him out and beat him to death on the platform….
Toward the end of November occurred the “wine-pogroms”- looting of the wine-cellars - beginning with the plundering of the Winter Palace vaults. For days there were drunken soldiers on the streets…. In all this was evident the hand of the counter-revolutionists, who distributed among the regiments plans showing the location of the stores of liquor.
Zinoviev announced the agreement with the Peasants' Congress, to a shaking roar which rose and burst into storm as the sound of music blared down the corridor, and the head of the procession came in. See more
On the platform the presidium rose and made place for the Peasants’ presidium, the two embracing; behind them the two banners were intertwined against the white wall, over the empty frame from which the Tsar’s picture had been torn….
Lenin suddenly mounted the tribune; for ten minutes the room went mad. “Down with him!” they shrieked. “We will not listen to any of your People’s Commissars! We don’t recognise your Government!” See more
Lenin stood there quite calmly, gripping the desk with both hands, his little eyes thoughtfully surveying the tumult beneath. Finally, except for the right side of the hall, the demonstration wore itself out somewhat.
“I do not come here as a member of the Council of People’s Commissars,” said Lenin, and waited again for the noise to subside, “but as a member of the Bolshevik faction, duly elected to this Congress.” And he held his credentials up to that all might see them.
“However,” he went on, in an unmoved voice, “nobody will deny that the present Government of Russia has been formed by the Bolshevik party—” he had to wait a moment, “so that for all purposes it is the same thing….” Here the right benches broke into deafening clamour, but the centre and left were curious, and compelled silence.
Lenin’s argument was simple. “Tell me frankly, you peasants, to whom we have given the lands of the pomieshtchiki; do you want now to prevent the workers from getting control of industry? This is class war. The pomieshtchiki of course oppose the peasants, and the manufactures oppose the workers. Are you going to allow the ranks of the proletariat to be divided? Which side will you be on?
“We, the Bolsheviki, are the party of the proletariat—of the peasant proletariat as well as the industrial proletariat. We, the Bolsheviki, are the protectors of the Soviets—of the Peasants’ Soviets as well as those of the Workers and Soldiers. The present Government is a Government of Soviets; we have not only invited the Peasants’ Soviets to join that Government, but we have also invited representatives of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries to enter the Council of People’s Commissars….
“The Soviets are the most perfect representatives of the people—of the workers in the factories and mines, of the workers in the fields. Anybody who attempts to destroy the Soviets is guilty of an anti-democratic and counter-revolutionary act. And I serve notice here on you, comrades Right Socialist Revolutionaries—and on you, Messrs. Cadets—that if the Constituent Assembly attempts to destroy the Soviets, we shall not permit the Constituent Assembly to do this thing!”
Already through the Iberian Gate a human river was flowing, and the vast Red Square was spotted with people, thousands of them. I remarked that as the throng passed the Iberian Chapel, where always before the passerby had crossed himself, they did not seem to notice it…. See more
The Holy Orthodox Church had withdrawn the light of its countenance from Moscow, the nest of irreverent vipers who had bombarded the Kremlin. Dark and silent and cold were the churches; the priests had disappeared. There were no popes to officiate at the Red Burial, there had been no sacrament for the dead, nor were any prayers to be said over the grave of the blasphemers.
Mountains of dirt and rock were piled high near the base of the wall. Climbing these we looked down into two massive pits, ten or fifteen feet deep and fifty yards long, where hundreds of soldiers and workers were digging in the light of huge fires. See more
A young student spoke to us in German. “The Brotherhood Grave,” he explained. “To-morrow we shall bury here five hundred proletarians who died for the Revolution.”
He took us down into the pit. In frantic haste swung the picks and shovels, and the earth-mountains grew. No one spoke. Overhead the night was thick with stars, and the ancient Imperial Kremlin wall towered up immeasurably.
“Here in this holy place,” said the student, “holiest of all Russia, we shall bury our most holy. Here where are the tombs of the Tsars, our Tsar—the People—shall sleep….” His arm was in a sling, from a bullet-wound gained in the fighting. He looked at it. “You foreigners look down on us Russians because so long we tolerated a mediæval monarchy,” said he. “But we saw that the Tsar was not the only tyrant in the world; capitalism was worse, and in all the countries of the world capitalism was Emperor…. Russian revolutionary tactics are best….”
As we left, the workers in the pit, exhausted and running with sweat in spite of the cold, began to climb wearily out. Across the Red Square a dark knot of men came hurrying. They swarmed into the pits, picked up the tools and began digging, digging, without a word….
I sat one evening in a traktir—a kind of lower-class inn—across the street from the gates of Smolny; a low-ceilinged, loud place called “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” much frequented by Red Guards. They crowded it now, packed close around the little tables with their dirty table-cloths and enormous china tea-pots, filling the place with foul cigarette-smoke, while the harassed waiters ran about crying “Seichass! Seichass! In a minute! Right away!” See more
In one corner sat a man in the uniform of a captain, addressing the assembly, which interrupted him at every few words.
“You are no better than murderers!” he cried. “Shooting down your Russian brothers on the streets!”
“When did we do that?” asked a worker.
“Last Sunday you did it, when the yunkers…”
“Well, didn’t they shoot us?” One man exhibited his arm in a sling. “Haven’t I got something to remember them by, the devils?”
The captain shouted at the top of his voice. “You should remain neutral! You should remain neutral! Who are you to destroy the legal Government? Who is Lenin? A German…”
“Who are you? A counter-revolutionist! A provocator!” they bellowed at him.
When he could make himself heard the captain stood up. “All right!” said he. “You call yourselves the people of Russia. But you’re not the people of Russia. The peasants are the people of Russia. Wait until the peasants…”
“Yes,” they cried, “wait until the peasants speak. We know what the peasants will say… Aren’t they workingmen like ourselves?”
Even the sun came out, pale and watery, at noon. The colds and rheumatism of the rainy months vanished. The life of the city grew gay, and the very Revolution ran swifter….
In front of Smolny, one day, I saw a ragged regiment just come from the trenches. The soldiers were drawn up before the great gates, thin and grey-faced, looking up at the building as if God were in it. Some pointed out the Imperial eagles over the door, laughing…. See more
Red Guards came to mount guard. All the soldiers turned to look, curiously, as if they had heard of them but never seen them. They laughed good-naturedly and pressed out of line to slap the Red Guards on the back, with half-joking, half-admiring remarks….
The Provisional Government was no more. On November 15th, in all the churches of the capital, the priests stopped praying for it.
I went to the State Bank to see the new Commissar, a redhaired Ukrainian Bolshevik named Petrovitch. He was trying to bring order out of the chaos in which affairs had been left by the striking clerks. See more
In all the offices of the huge place perspiring volunteer workers, soldiers, and sailors, their tongues sticking out of their mouths in the intensity of their effort, were poring over the great ledgers with a bewildered air….
The Duma was again in session in the Nicolai Hall. The Mayor said hopefully that the Petrograd regiments were ashamed of their actions; propaganda was making headway. See more
— Emissaries came and went, reporting horrible deeds by the Bolsheviki, interceding to save the yunkers, busily investigating….
“The Bolsheviki,” said Trupp, “will be conquered by moral force, and not by bayonets.….
We strolled toward the Imperial Palaces, along the edge of the vast, dark gardens, their fantastic pavilions and ornamental bridges looming uncertainly in the night, and soft water splashing from the fountains. See more
At one place, where a ridiculous iron swan spat unceasingly from an artificial grotto, we were suddenly aware of observation, and looked up to encounter the sullen, suspicious gaze of half a dozen gigantic armed soldiers, who stared moodily down from a grassy terrace. I climbed up to them. “Who are you?” I asked.
“We are the guard,” answered one. They all looked very depressed, as undoubtedly they were, from weeks and weeks of all-day all-night argument and debate.
“Are you Kerensky’s troops, or the Soviets’?”
There was silence for a moment, as they looked uneasily at each other. Then, “We are neutral,” said he.
Then the old Mayor stepped into the tribune: “Comrades and citizens! I have just learned that the prisoners in Peter Paul are in danger. Fourteen cadets of the Pavlovsk school have been stripped and tortured by the Bolshevik guards. One has gone mad. They are threatening to lynch the Ministers!” See more
There was a whirlwind of indignation and horror, which only grew more violent when a stocky little woman dressed in grey demanded the floor, and lifted up her hard, metallic voice. This was Vera Slutskaya, veteran revolutionist and Bolshevik member of the Duma.
“That is a lie and a provocation!” she said, unmoved at the torrent of abuse. “The Workers’ and Peasants’ Government, which has abolished the death penalty, cannot permit such deeds. We demand that this story be investigated, at once; if there is any truth in it, the Government will take energetic measures!”
A commission composed of members of all parties was immediately appointed, and with the Mayor, sent to Peter Paul to investigate. As we followed them out, the Duma was appointing another commission to meet Kerensky—to try and avoid bloodshed when he entered the capital.