Trotsky’s presentation of peace terms may well appeal to the average man, who will not perceive the fundamental errors on which they are based. If the Bolsheviks intend to suggest that every community can determine its allegiance to this or that political state or to become independent, the present political organization of the world would be shattered and the same disorder would generally prevail as now exists in Russia. It would be international anarchy.
This Government not disposed as yet to recognize any independent governments until the will of Russian people has been more definitely expressed in this general subject.
This government has found it impossible to recognize Lenin, Trotsky and their associates as the de facto government of Russia, since there is inadequate evidence that they are the real agents of the sovereignty of the Russian people. See more
When the Bolshevik faction under the leadership of Lenin seized by force the public offices at Petrograd and Moscow arresting or expelling the provisional ministers and military commanders who had obtained authority through legal succession from the revolutionary body which had come into power on abdication of the Czar, they set up in those two cities arbitrary and irresponsible authority based solely on physical control over the residents.
Dedicated as the Government of the United States is to the principle of democracy and to a special order based on individual liberty and the supremacy of the popular will operating through liberal institutions, it cannot but consider the attempt by any class of society, whether distinguished by birth, wealth, occupation or poverty, to arrogate to itself superior political authority to be inimical to democracy. Such class despotism differs only from autocratic monarchy in that the sovereign authority is in the latter case exercised by an individual without sanction of the popular will while in the former case it is exercised by a group of individuals. Upon despotisms of every nature the people of the United States have looked invariably with disfavor as subversive of the rights of man, and hostile to justice and liberty.
Holding these views, this government has watched with deep concern the overthrow by force of the provisional authority representing the revolution at Petrograd, and that on the eve of the popular election of a Constituent Assembly called to establish a constitutional government based on the principle of democracy.
The American people have rejoiced with the people of Russia in the dawn of a democratic era and the prospects of an orderly exercise of popular sovereignty through agencies lawfully and peaceably created. They have been prepared to give every moral and material aid to Russia in her period of transition from absolutism to constitutional democracy; and this sympathetic spirit has been increased by the conviction that the Russian nation, like this nation, recognized in the Imperial German Government the greatest peril to liberty and democracy in the world and especially threatening to new-born freedom in Russia. Convinced of the mutual appreciation of the German menace this government naturally anticipated that the Russian democracy would with the zeal and determination of a people jealous of their rights resist the intrigues of German agents and prosecute with courage and vigor the war which the free people of the world are waging against Prussian militarism.
Relying upon a full realization by the Russian people of the imminent danger to their political and territorial integrity from autocratic Germany and upon their faithful adherence to their cobelligerents, this government has watched with disappointment and amazement the rise of class despotism in Petrograd and the open efforts of the leaders of the Bolsheviki to withdraw from the conflict even at the expense of national honor and the future safety of democracy in Russia.
It has been justly claimed that democracies sacredly perform their treaty obligations whatever the cost may be, that they are hostile to autocracy and unswervingly loyal to nations which have befriended them in their time of need. Russia, as the world knows, is overwhelmingly democratic in spirit and purpose, and yet those who today claim to represent the nation threaten to violate treaties made with other free peoples, to make friends with the most inveterate enemy of Russian aspirations, and to abandon the faithful friends of Russia in the great struggle against the Prussian autocracy.
There are a number of people who are telling us about Russia and advising us as to what the outcome will be and what we ought to do. I have seen several and a number have written me their views. See more
The conclusions and opinions are almost as many as the advisers, and their advice to our policy is about as harmonious. I have yet to find one, who, pinned down to the application of his theory, is able to furnish a plan that is practical except one who frankly asserts that the best thing to do is to let things alone as far as it is possible to do so.
With this latter policy I am in entire accord. The Russian situation is to me an unanswered and unanswerable riddle. None of our observers, and some are well trained, has been to find a way out or to advise a course of action leading to satisfactory results.
When the Root Mission returned, they were all, with the exception of Charles R. Crane, who knew Russia better than the others, most optimistic as to the power of the Kerensky Government to restore order and to keep the Russian armies in the field. But not long after their return Kerensky was overthrown and the Bolsheviks seized the government at Petrograd. Thus their recommendations predicated on the success of the Provisional Government could not be adopted, or, if they had been, would have been useless. Yet the Root Mission was composed of very able men who were doubtless as capable of judging the situation and giving advice as any this government could have sent out.
I confess that I do not feel warranted in hazarding even a guess to what the outcome will be. This makes the adopting of an active policy most difficult.
Historically the Russian situation is unprecedented. It is wholly novel. It seems to me that the controlling forces are idealism and ignorance supported by weapons. The especial characteristics of the idealists who are masters in Petrograd are lack of any sentiment of nationality and a determination, frankly avowed, to overthrow all existing governments in every country. The Bolsheviki are anarchists rather than Socialists, though they would undoubtedly repudiate such a charge.
I cannot see how this element which is hostile to the very idea of nationality can claim that they are the government of a nation or expect to be recognized as such. They are avowedly opposed to every government on earth; they openly propose to excite revolutions in all countries against existing governments; they are as hostile to democracy as they are to autocracy. If we should recognize them in Russia, we would encourage them and their followers in other lands. That would be a serious error. Both France and Great Britain seem to be tempted. If they decide to deal with them I believe it will be a mistake. The correct policy for a government which believes in political institutions as they now exist and based on nationality and private property is to leave these dangerous idealists alone and have no direct dealings with them. To recognize them would give them an exalted idea of their own power, make them more insolent and impossible, and win their contempt, not their friendship.
It is true that the Teutonic Powers are recognizing them. They may profit temporarily by this policy, but it is my belief that they may suffer in the end. Of course these governments are tempted by the possibility of obtaining supplies to arrange peace with these people, or rather by disorganizing the Russian armies and causing confusion in the Russian provinces make peace unavoidable. The result would be that German and Austria could remove their military forces for use elsewhere and Russia’s resources would be at their mercy. They will probably succeed in these objects, but they may have to pay a heavy price in the end. The truth lies in the future.
It was my belief that the Bolsheviki pursuing their doctrine of breaking down political power, would go to pieces. Thus far my belief has not been justified. Their cry of ‘Peace and Land’ is popular with the ignorant Russians who have suffered grievously in the past. And yet I cannot see how unorganized and undirected physical power such as now dominates affairs in Petrograd can continue. It has in itself every element of destruction. Up to the present, however, the logic of events has failed.
As to Lenin and Trotsky I am in doubt. They may be acting entirely in German’s interest, but I cannot make that belief harmonize with some things which they have done. In fact they may be honest in purpose and utterly dishonest in methods. For national and personal honor, for truth and for the individual rights of life, liberty and property they seem to have no regard. How can anyone deal with such people? They are wanting in international virtue. International obligation and comity mean nothing to them. The one thing they are striving to bring about is the ‘Social Revolution’, which will sweep away national boundaries, racial distinctions and modern political, religious and social institutions, and make the ignorant and incapable mass of humanity dominant in the earth. They indeed plan to destroy civilization by mob violence.
As far as one can judge from the ever-changing and confused conditions, the Bolshevik program is to make way with the military and political authority in Russia and to incite similar destruction in other countries. This will undoubtedly first result in the division of Russia into separate states, some favorable and some hostile to the Bolshevik idea. A general disorganization of trade, industry and transportation will follow with discontent and disorder everywhere. People will become hungry and demand food. They will become desperate and rob and kill, aided by the criminal element. With weakened military and political power the Bolsheviki will be unable to suppress these outrages.
It seems to me that Russia is about to be the stage on which will be acted one of the most terrible tragedies of all history. Civil war seems certain. The cities will be the prey of mobs, thieves and murderers. Factions will struggle for mastery. Russia will fairly swim in blood, a prey to lawlessness and violence. And then to add to these horrors will come the ruthless Germans to take from this struggling mass of humanity their lands and property and to force them to obey.
I believe that the Russian ‘Terror’ will far surpass in brutality and destruction of life and property the Terror of the French Revolution. The latter at least possessed the semblance of government and made pretense of legality. Russia possesses neither. There is no authority, no law. It is a seething caldron of anarchy and violence. I can convince of no more frightful calamity for a people that that which seems to fall upon Russia.
The only possible remedy would be for a strong commanding personality to arise who would be able to gather a disciplined military force sufficiently strong to restore order and maintain a government. As yet no leader has shown enough strength to organize the Cossacks into an effective army. They may succeed, but no one knows how much the Cossacks returning from the front are inoculated with Bolshevism. Many are very hopeful, but I cannot say that I am overconfident. However, they are at present the only hope that has appeared. I am opposed to giving these leaders any open support, as their enterprise seems to me too uncertain and the whole situation too chaotic to put faith in any one group or faction.
‘Do nothing’ should be our policy until the black period of terrorism comes to an end and the rising tide of blood has run its course. It cannot last forever, but Russia will sink low before better days come.
The Root Mission, excepting Charles R. Crane, have arrived and I had a long interview with them yesterday preceded by one in the morning with Mr. Root alone. I am astounded at their optimism. I cannot see upon what it is founded. See more
When I expressed doubts as to Keresnky’s personal force and ability to carry through his plans in view of the strong opposition developing against him, they assured me that everything would come out all right and that Russia would continue the war against the Central Powers with even greater vigor than under the Czar.
I hope they are right and I presume they know more about it than I do, and yet in spite of what they say I am very sceptical about Kerensky. He compromises too much with the radical element of the Revolution.
From the first I have felt that the attempt being made to harmonize the radicals and moderates in Russia would be a failure, but I confess that the confident tone of Mr. Root and his colleagues has shaken, though it has not removed, my doubts.
The French Revolution is the great example of the complete overthrow of a social system and the establishment of a new one. That revolution started off moderately with an attempt to reform the old system by introducing a measure of popular government. Gradually the radical revolutionists who sought to do away with the old ideas gained ground until they finally developed the Jacobin despotism which through fanaticism and violence produced the Terror, and France sank into a hideous state of disorder. It was not until the atrocities of Robespierre’s rule became unendurable that France rose in its might against the butchers and restored order and protected personal rights.
Now I believe that is the normal process and that Russia in revolution will go through a similar evolution. First, Moderation; second, Terrorism; third, Revolt against the New Tyranny and restoration of order by arbitrary military power. In my judgement the demoralized state of affairs will grow worse and worse until some dominant personality arises to end it all.
I may be all wrong about this. I hope I am. Mr. Root and his confreres may be entirely right. I hope they are. The present government may develop into a constitutional democratic government; it may become stronger, suppress radicalism, and make society safe from lawlessness. Yet the logic of events in my opinion does not warrant such hopes.
I naturally hesitate to set my judgement against so experienced and wise a statesman as Elihu Root, especially after he has been on the ground and has been in contact with the forces at work in Russia, but even taking his statements as accurate I cannot agree in the conclusions which he reached.
Nevertheless, as long as there is a chance that he is right and I am wrong, I feel that we should do all that we can to strengthen morally and materially the existing government. If Mr. Root is wrong, nothing that we can do will stay the current which is toward a period of disorder and national impotency. All our efforts will amount to nothing; they will simply be chips swept along by the tide to be swallowed up in the calamity which seems to be in store for Russia.
The Revolution has succeeded, but Russia may pay for it with the loss of her national strength, if not with the loss of her national life. I think that our policy should be based on the hypothesis that Russia will go from bad to worse; and we should therefore prepare for the time when Russia will no longer be a military factor in the war. No other course is safe.
I am in a quandary about the views of the Root Mission, but I cannot rely upon them without doing violence to my better judgement.
I hope with all my heart that the new forces in Russia may be guided by the principles and objects it sets forth!
It would seem that certain phrases uttered by you are being used by the radical socialists (probably under German influence) to force the Provisional Government to declare a policy which will remove the chief incentive to Russian offensive operations, namely control to the Dardanelles and possession of Constantinople. It is an adroit scheme to advance argument of what is the use of Russia continuing the war and why should she not make a separate peace, if neither in territory nor in indemnity she can be compensated for the enormous expenditure of life and money which a vigorous prosecution of the war will entail.
[Letter to the US Ambassador in Petrograd David R. Francis]
You may state to the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the information of his government that the High Commission now on its way from this country to Russia is sent primarily to manifest to the Russian Government and people the deep sympathetic feeling which exists among all classes in America for the adherence of Russia to the principle of democracy which has been the foundation of the progress and prosperity of this country. The High Commissioners go to convey the greetings of this Republic to the new and powerful member which has joined the great family of democratic nations.
The Commissioners, who will bear this fraternal message to the people of Russia, have been selected by the President with the special purpose of giving representation to the various elements which make up the American people and to show that among them all there is the same love of country and the same devotion to liberty and justice and loyalty to constituted authority. The Commission is not chosen from one political group but from the various groups into which the American electorate is divided. United, they represent the Republic. However they may differ on public questions they are one in support of democracy and in hostility to the enemies of democracy throughout the world.
This Commission is prepared, if the Russian Government desires, to confer upon the best ways and means to cooperate in the prosecution of the war against the German autocracy which is today a grave menace to all democratic governments in the world. It has been the solemn duty of those who love democracy and individual liberty to render harmless this autocratic government whose ambitions, aggressions and intrigues have been disclosed in the present struggle. Whatever the cost in life and treasure this supreme object must be attained by the united strength of the democracies of the earth, for only thus can come that permanent and universal peace which is the hope for all people.
To the common cause of humanity which Russia has so courageously and unflinchingly supported for nearly three years, the United States is pledged. To cooperate and aid Russia in the accomplishment of the task, which as a great democracy is more truly hers today than ever before, is the desire of the United States. To stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder, against autocracy will unite the American and Russian peoples in a friendship for the ages.
With this spirit the High Commissioners of the United States will present themselves in the confident hope that the Russian Government and people will realize how sincerely the United States hopes for their welfare and desires to share with them in their future endeavors to bring victory to the cause of democracy and human liberty.
My dear Mr. President: We have not, as you know, congratulated the Russian Government or people upon the establishment of democratic institutions in that country; merely recognizing the Government as the one with which we desired intercourse. See more
I thought, therefore, that it would be worth while, immediately after the declaration of a state of war, to send a telegram to Francis to be communicated to the Russian Government, going a little further than we did in the telegram of recognition. I submit for your consideration a draft of such a telegram but in doing so I realize that it can be very materially improved in language.
I hope, if you approve of the plan, you will make the corrections which you desire.