The road to Petrograd from Halifax went unnoticed, as if in a tunnel. It was the tunnel to revolution. The only thing I remember from Sweden was the ration cards for bread: it was the first time I’d seen this… At Finland station in Petrograd a huge crowd was waiting for us. When they suddenly lifted me in the air, I immediately remembered Halifax, where I found myself in a similar position.
But this time, the hands were friendly.
The face is light. It really lights up and fades.
Dearest Anna Vasilyevna, I have left Petrograd with absolute certainty that disaster for the state is inevitable, and with the recognition that the military-political objectives which determined the entire meaning and content of my work were a failure. I’m at sea again; it’s been two days already, and, as before, I’m sitting down to write to you, but what I have written seems redundant. But I can’t think of anything else to say. It’s all the same, basically. See more
I’m tired, and I’m finding it hard to write. I can’t think of a thing that I want to tell you, nor do I have the capacity to say anything to you. I’d better go and walk around on the deck and try not think about anything. Please forgive this letter.
My astronomical passion for spring has increased. Of course, with the eternally cloudy sky of Petrograd, you only get to see the stars as a special gift, but nevertheless, by the time I left for the dacha I knew the most important stars so well that I recognised them not by their mutual arrangement, but just like that; each separately, as though “in person”.
It’s bitterly cold in the room; they’re saying that there’s no firewood. The ministry still hasn’t been established. They’ve unanimously decided to continue the war, while our soldiers go and explain our signalling to the enemy. What heinousness! See more
Our nation is pitiful; there’s always been desertion, but never has there been such an open betrayal anywhere. A complete lack of moral sentiment.
I left power because there simply wasn’t any; the disease lies in the strange separation between power and responsibility. There are some who have complete power, but without a shadow of responsibility, while those who are in visible positions of power carry full responsibility, but without a shadow of actual power… See more
The state cannot be managed based on the foundation of an ongoing rally, and even less so can be done by the army based on collective leadership. After all, it is we who not only overthrew the holders of power, but overthrew and abolished the very idea of power; we destroyed the necessary foundations on which all power is built.
The revolution is expanding in breadth and depth, capturing new spheres, invading industry, agriculture and distribution, raising the question of whether it can take complete power. The province is at the head of the movement. If Petrograd was ahead in the beginning of the revolution, now it is starting to lag behind. This creates the impression that Executive Committee of Petrograd have already reached a certain point and now they are trying to stop. See more
But in revolutionary times, you cannot stand still, you can only keep moving – forward or backward. Therefore, he who tries to stop during a time of revolution will fall behind, and he will experience no mercy. The revolution will push him into the counter-revolutionary camp.
It wasn’t long ago that we considered ourselves to be the faithful servants of the Russian Tsar. Now that there is no Tsar, we are not servants - we are free citizens. The title of “citizen”, which we have earned as a result of a long and bitter fight at the cost of countless casualties, has given us immense rights, but it has also bestowed upon us more responsibilities. See more
The first of these responsibilities is to protect our freedom and to protect the revolution. The second responsibility is to our allies.
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.
We spent the whole of yesterday crossing Finland "of the thousand lakes."
The moment the frontier was passed, how far we felt from Russia! In every town, and even the smallest village, the appearance of the houses with their clean windows, spotless shutters, shiny tiled floors and straight fences, indicated decency, order, domestic economy, a sense of comfort and home. Under the grey sky, the landscape was deliciously pretty and varied, particularly towards evening, when we were between Tavastehus and Tammerfors. See more
The woods, gardens. and meadows wore their young spring green; the rivers tumbled along with a happy murmur, and the limpid lakes were streaked with dark shadows.
Near Uleaborg, this morning, nature assumed a sterner mood. Here and there snowdrifts lay scattered over a barren heath, where scraggy birch trees fought for their lives against' a hostile climate. The rivers foamed in their beds, carrying down huge ice-floes.
Cachin and Montet joined me for a talk in my compartment.
Montet, who had been sullen and self-absorbed since we left Petrograd, suddenly challenged me with:
"Fundamentally, the Russian revolution is right. It is not so much a political as an international revolution. The bourgeois, capitalist and imperialist classes have plunged the world into a frightful crisis they are now unable to overcome. Peace can only be brought about in accordance with the principles of the Internationale. I have come to a very clear conclusion: I've been thinking about it all night: the French socialists must go to the Stockholm Conference to summon a full assembly of the Internationale and draw up the general scheme of peace terms."
"But if the German social democracy refuses the Soviet's invitation, it will be a disaster for the Russian revolution; and France will be involved in that disaster!"
"We gave tsarism a pretty long term of credit; we mustn't be stingy with our confidence in the new regime. The Soviet has assured us that if the Entente will honestly revise its war aims and the Russian army knows that it is now fighting for a genuinely democratic peace, a splendid national revival throughout Russia will result which will be a guarantee of our victory."
I endeavoured to convince him that the Soviet's assurance was quite worthless, because the Soviet can no longer control the mob passions it has released:
"Look at what is happening at Kronstadt and Schlusselburg - only thirty-five versts from Petrograd. At Kronstadt, the commune is master of the town and forts; two-thirds of the officers have been massacred; a hundred and twenty officers are still under lock and key, and a hundred and fifty are compelled to sweep the streets every day. At Schlusselburg, too, the commune reigns supreme, but with the assistance of German prisoners-of-war who have formed themselves into a trade union and impose their will on the workshops. Faced with this intolerable situation, the Soviet is utterly helpless. Admitted, for the sake of argument, that Kerensky succeeds in restoring the semblance of discipline among the troops and even galvanizing them into action, how on earth is he to cope with the administrative disorganization, the agrarian movement, the financial crisis, the economic débâcle the universal spread of strikes and the progress of separatism? ... I tell you, even a Peter the Great would not suffice!"
Montet asked me:
"Is it really your opinion that the Russian army is incapable of any effort?"
"I believe it is still possible to get the Russian army in hand again, and even that it could undertake certain secondary operations before long. But any intense and continuous action, such as a mighty and sustained offensive, is now out of its power owing to the anarchy in its rear. That's why I attach no importance to the sudden national revival the Soviet has promised you; it would simply be a futile demonstration. So the only effect of the pilgrimage to Stockholm would be to demoralize and divide the Allies."
About half-past twelve the train stopped at some tumbledown sheds in a desolate and deserted region. We had reached Torneo.
While the police and customs formalities were in progress. Cachin remarked, pointing to the red flag flying over the station - a dirty, faded, tattered flag:
"Our revolutionary friends might at least afford newer flag to display at the frontier."
To which Montet replied, with a smile:
"Don't mention the red flag; you'll upset the Ambassador."
"Upset me? Not in the least. The Russian revolution can have any flag it likes, even a black flag, provided it is an emblem of power and order. But just look at that rag, which was once purple. It's a fitting symbol of the new Russia: a dirty bit of cloth falling in pieces
The Torneo, which is the frontier here, was still icebound. I crossed it on foot, behind the sledges taking my luggage to Haparanda.
A lugubrious procession passed us - a convoy of Russian wounded, all serious cases, coming from Germany through Sweden. As might be expected, the transport collected to receive them was wholly inadequate, and about a hundred stretchers were laid on the ice, on which these wretched human relics shivered under a thin blanket. What a return to their native land! ... But will they even have a native land to return to?