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.
The Russian people have been poisoned by the very same falsehoods that have kept the German people in the dark, and the poison has been administered by the very same hands. The only possible antidote is the truth.
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.
It is amazing to me that any group of persons should be so ill-informed as to suppose, as some groups in Russia apparently suppose, that any reforms planned in the interest of the people can line in the presence of a Germany powerful enough to undermine or overthrow them by intrigue or force. Anybody of free men that compounds with the present German Government is compounding for its own destruction.
I have not lost faith in Russian outcome by any means. Russia, like France in a past century, will no doubt have to go through deep waters but she will come out upon firm land on the other side and her great people, for they are a great people, will in my opinion take their proper place in the world.
Mr. Creel informs me that you are leaving for Russia at once. In our conversation of yesterday I tried to make clear my views as to the nature and extent of any manifestation of our interest in the Russian struggle, and I know that you will be guided by them in everything that you say or do. See more
We want nothing for ourselves and this very unselfishness carries with it an obligation of open dealing. Wherever the fundamental principles of Russian freedom are at stake, we stand ready to render such aid as lies in our power, but I want his helpfulness based upon request and not upon offer. Guard particularly against any effect of officious intrusion or meddling, and try to express the disinterested friendship that is our sole impulse.
It is a distinct service that you are privileged to render your country and the whole democratic movement, and I know that this will serve at once as reward and inspiration.
The war aspects [will] take care of themselves if a band … [is] forged between the Russian and the American people.
I venture to take the liberty to send to the members of the great council now meeting in Moscow the cordial greetings of their friends the people of the United States, to express their confidence in the ultimate triumph of ideals of democracy and self-government against all enemies within and without, and to give their renewed assurance of every material and moral assistance they can extend to the Government of Russia in the promotion of the common cause in which the two nations are unselfishly united.
Я возьму на себя смелость передать самые теплые приветствия членам Совета, который сейчас проходит в Москве, от их друзей, американского народа. Я хочу выразить их уверенность в конечном триумфе идеалов демократии и самоуправления, несмотря на всех врагов внутри страны и за пределами России. Я также хочу вновь передать заверения американцев о любой материальной и моральной поддержке, предложенной российскому правительству для продвижения общего дела, в котором бескорыстно объединились два народа.
The Russian revolution is being suppressed by the Allies. The Bolsheviks are being persecuted. Capital punishment has been reinstated in the army. Poor Kerensky is a Danton-like marionette, his strings in the hands of England and President Wilson. See more
The democratic states of the West are refusing passports to socialists who wish to travel to Stockholm and thus stifle liberty in the name of liberty. An already-dead Europe stands on the path to a gaping grave.
I hope with all my heart that the new forces in Russia may be guided by the principles and objects it sets forth!
In a view of the approaching visit of the American delegation to Russia to express the deep friendship of the American people for the people of Russia and to discuss the best and most practical means of cooperation between the two peoples in carrying the present struggle for the freedom of all peoples to a successful consummation, it seems opportune and appropriate that I should state again, in the light of this new partnership, the objects the United States has had in mind in entering the war. See more
Those objects have been very much beclouded during the past few weeks by mistaken and misleading statements, and the issues at stake are too momentous, too tremendous, too significant for the whole human race to permit any misinterpretations or misunderstandings, however slight, to remain uncorrected for a moment.
The war has begun to go against Germany, and in their desperate desire to escape the inevitable ultimate defeat those who are in authority in Germany are using every possible instrumentality, are making the use even of the influence of groups and parties among their own subjects to whom they have never been just or fair or even tolerant, to promote a propaganda on both sides of the sea which will preserve for them their influence at home and their power abroad, to the undoing of the very men they are using.
The position of America in this war is so clearly avowed that no man can be excused for mistaking it. She seeks no material profit or aggrandizement of any kind. She is fighting for no advantage or selfish object of her own, but for the liberation of peoples everywhere from the aggressions of autocratic force. The ruling classes in Germany have begun of late to profess a like liberality and justice of purpose, but only to preserve the power they have set up in Germany and the selfish advantages which they have wrongly gained for themselves and their private projects of power all the way from Berlin to Baghdad and beyond. Government after government has by their influence, without open conquest of its territory, been linked together in a net of intrigue directed against nothing less than the peace and liberty of the world. The meshes of that intrigue must be broken, but cannot be broken unless wrongs already done are undone; and adequate measures must be taken to prevent it from ever again being rewoven or repaired.
Of course, the Imperial German Government and those whom it is using for their own undoing are seeking to obtain pledges that the will end in the restoration of the status quo ante. It was the status quo ante out of which this iniquitous was issued forth, the power of the Imperial German Government within the Empire and its widespread domination and influence outside of that Empire. That status must be altered in such fashion as to prevent any such hideous thing from ever happening again.
We are fighting for the liberty, the self-government, and the undictated development of all peoples, and every feature of the settlement that concludes this war must be conceived and executed for that purpose. Wrongs must be first be righted, and then adequate safeguards must be created to prevent their being committed again. We ought not to consider remedies merely because they have a pleasing and sonorous sound. Practical questions can be settled only by practical means. Phrases will not accomplish the result. Effective readjustments will; and whatever readjustments are necessary must be made.
But they must follow a principle, and that principle is plain. No people must be forced under sovereignty under which it does not wish to live. No territory must change hands except for the purpose of securing those who inhabit it a fair chance of life and liberty. No indemnities must be insisted on except those that constitute payment for manifest wrongs done. No readjustments of power must be made except such as will tend to secure the future peace of the world and the future welfare and happiness of its peoples.
And then the free peoples of the world must draw together in some common covenant, some genuine and practical cooperation that will in effect combine their forces to secure peace and justice in the dealings of nations with one another. The brotherhood of mankind must no longer be a fair but empty phrase; it must be given a structure of force and reality. The nations must realize their common life and effect a workable partnership to secure that life against the aggressions of autocratic and self-pleasing power.
For these things we can afford to pour out blood and treasure. For these are the things we have always professed to desire, and unless we pour out blood and treasure now and succeed, we may never be able to unite or show conquering force again in the great cause of human liberty. Of the forces of autocracy can divide us they will overcome us: if we stand together, victory is certain and the liberty which victory will secure. We can afford then to be generous, but we cannot afford then or now to be weak or omit any single guarantee of justice and security.
I dare say that I shall attempt some statement to correct the misapprehension apparently existing in Russia, but it is the opinion of the Secretary of State, and I dare say he is right, that I should communicate the statement to our Ambassador in Petrograd and let him make it public there. See more
I will, of course, furnish you with a copy with the suggestion that it be withheld from publication until the dare of its probable arrival in Petrograd, or until after it has been acknowledged by Mr. Francis.
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.