The amazing decision of the Government to employ methods quite alien to England, and rather belonging to the police of the Continent, probably arises from the appearance of papers which are lucid and fighting, like the papers of the Continent. The business may be put in many ways. But one way of putting it is simply to say that a monopoly of bad journalism is resisting the possibility of good journalism. Journalism is not the same thing as literature; but there is good and bad journalism, as there is good and bad literature, as there is good and bad football. For the last twenty years or so the plutocrats who govern England have allowed the English nothing but bad journalism. Very bad journalism, simply considered as journalism.
It always takes a considerable time to see the simple and central fact about anything. All sorts of things have been said about the modern Press, especially the Yellow Press; that it is Jingo or Philistine or sensational or wrongly inquisitive or vulgar or indecent or trivial; but none of these have anything really to do with the point.
The point about the Press is that it is not what it is called. It is not the "popular Press." It is not the public Press. It is not an organ of public opinion. It is a conspiracy of a very few millionaires, all sufficiently similar in type to agree on the limits of what this great nation (to which we belong) may know about itself and its friends and enemies. The ring is not quite complete; there are old-fashioned and honest papers: but it is sufficiently near to completion to produce on the ordinary purchaser of news the practical effects of a corner and a monopoly. He receives all his political information and all his political marching orders from what is by this time a sort of half-conscious secret society, with very few members, but a great deal of money.
This enormous and essential fact is concealed for us by a number of legends that have passed into common speech. There is the notion that the Press is flashy or trivial because it is popular. In other words, an attempt is made to discredit democracy by representing journalism as the natural literature of democracy. All this is cold rubbish. The democracy has no more to do with the papers than it has with the peerages. The millionaire newspapers are vulgar and silly because the millionaires are vulgar and silly. It is the proprietor, not the editor, not the sub-editor, least of all the reader, who is pleased with this monotonous prairie of printed words. The same slander on democracy can be noticed in the case of advertisements. There is many a tender old Tory imagination that vaguely feels that our streets would be hung with escutcheons and tapestries, if only the profane vulgar had not hung them with advertisements of Sapolio and Sunlight Soap. But advertisement does not come from the unlettered many. It comes from the refined few. Did you ever hear of a mob rising to placard the Town Hall with proclamations in favour of Sapolio? Did you ever see a poor, ragged man laboriously drawing and painting a picture on the wall in favour of Sunlight Soap—simply as a labour of love? It is nonsense; those who hang our public walls with ugly pictures are the same select few who hang their private walls with exquisite and expensive pictures. The vulgarisation of modern life has come from the governing class; from the highly educated class. Most of the people who have posters in Camberwell have peerages at Westminster. But the strongest instance of all is that which has been unbroken until lately, and still largely prevails; the ghastly monotony of the Press.
Then comes that other legend; the notion that men like the masters of the Newspaper Trusts "give the people what they want." Why, it is the whole aim and definition of a Trust that it gives the people what it chooses. In the old days, when Parliaments were free in England, it was discovered that one courtier was allowed to sell all the silk, and another to sell all the sweet wine. A member of the House of Commons humorously asked who was allowed to sell all the bread. I really tremble to think what that sarcastic legislator would have said if he had been put off with the modern nonsense about "gauging the public taste." Suppose the first courtier had said that, by his shrewd, self-made sense, he had detected that people had a vague desire for silk; and even a deep, dim human desire to pay so much a yard for it! Suppose the second courtier said that he had, by his own rugged intellect, discovered a general desire for wine: and that people bought his wine at his price—when they could buy no other! Suppose a third courtier had jumped up and said that people always bought his bread when they could get none anywhere else.
Well, that is a perfect parallel. "After bread, the need of the people is knowledge," said Danton. Knowledge is now a monopoly, and comes through to the citizens in thin and selected streams, exactly as bread might come through to a besieged city. Men must wish to know what is happening, whoever has the privilege of telling them. They must listen to the messenger, even if he is a liar. They must listen to the liar, even if he is a bore. The official journalist for some time past has been both a bore and a liar; but it was impossible until lately to neglect his sheets of news altogether. Lately the capitalist Press really has begun to be neglected; because its bad journalism was overpowering and appalling. Lately we have really begun to find out that capitalism cannot write, just as it cannot fight, or pray, or marry, or make a joke, or do any other stricken human thing. But this discovery has been quite recent. The capitalist newspaper was never actually unread until it was actually unreadable.
If you retain the servile superstition that the Press, as run by the capitalists, is popular (in any sense except that in which dirty water in a desert is popular), consider the case of the solemn articles in praise of the men who own newspapers—men of the type of Cadbury or Harmsworth, men of the type of the small club of millionaires. Did you ever hear a plain man in a tramcar or train talking about Carnegie's bright genial smile or Rothschild's simple, easy hospitality? Did you ever hear an ordinary citizen ask what was the opinion of Sir Joseph Lyons about the hopes and fears of this, our native land? These few small-minded men publish, papers to praise themselves. You could no more get an intelligent poor man to praise a millionaire's soul, except for hire, than you could get him to sell a millionaire's soap, except for hire. And I repeat that, though there are other aspects of the matter of the new plutocratic raid, one of the most important is mere journalistic jealousy. The Yellow Press is bad journalism: and wishes to stop the appearance of good journalism.
There is no average member of the public who would not prefer to have Lloyd George discussed as what he is, a Welshman of genius and ideals, strangely fascinated by bad fashion and bad finance, rather than discussed as what neither he nor anyone else ever was, a perfect democrat or an utterly detestable demagogue. There is no reader of a daily paper who would not feel more concern—and more respect—for Sir Rufus Isaacs as a man who has been a stockbroker, than as a man who happens to be Attorney-General. There is no man in the street who is not more interested in Lloyd George's investments than in his Land Campaign. There is no man in the street who could not understand (and like) Rufus Isaacs as a Jew better than he can possibly like him as a British statesman. There is no sane journalist alive who would say that the official account of Marconis would be better "copy" than the true account that such papers as this have dragged out. We have committed one crime against the newspaper proprietor which he will never forgive. We point out that his papers are dull. And we propose to print some papers that are interesting.
From a moving picture show, I hurried to Smolny. In room 10 on the top floor, the Military Revolutionary Committee sat in continuous session, under the chairmanship of a tow-headed, eighteen-year-old boy named Lazimir. He stopped, as he passed, to shake hands rather bashfully. See more
“Peter-Paul Fortress has just come over to us,” said he, with a pleased grin. “A minute ago we got word from a regiment that was ordered by the Government to come to Petrograd. The men were suspicious, so they stopped the train at Gatchina and sent a delegation to us."
A steady stream of couriers and Commissars came and went. Outside the door waited a dozen volunteers, ready to carry word to the farthest quarters of the city. One of them, a gypsy-faced man in the uniform of a lieutenant, said in French, “Everything is ready to move at the push of a button.”
The counterrevolution is preparing another Kornilov putsch. The first Kornilov conspiracy was defeated, but counterrevolution was not broken. See more
It only retreated, hiding behind the back of Kerensky’s government and asserted itself in its new position. The second Kornilov putsch that is being prepared now has to be rooted out in order to keep the revolution out of danger.
An examination and inspection of Red Guard’s readiness for battle. The Smolny looks like a fortress: machine guns, rifles, boxes of ammunition. And our best comrade workers with rifles behind their backs… Worker women in nurse kerchiefs. The revolution headquarters are preparing an offensive.
We announce to all workers, soldiers, and all citizens of Petrograd:
In the interest of protecting the revolution and all its conquests from assaults by the counterrevolution, we have appointed commissars to military units and important posts in the capital and its outskirts. See more
Orders and decrees that pertain to these posts are to be fulfilled only after they have been approved by commissars that we have appointed. Commissars as representatives of the Soviet are inviolable. Opposition to the commissars is opposition to the Soviet.
A rumor went around that they will come to crush us. Policemen came over for the night to protect us. No one slept, didn’t even undress.
Vladivostok. A meeting took place between local foreign consuls and Russian authorities on the question of protecting foreign nationals.
How painful it is to read this emissary’s telegram! Foreigners—for the most part, of course, our allies, do not trust our current state, are afraid for the life of their compatriots, who live in Russian towns. See more
And they are totally right! For Bolshevik propaganda and calls for soldier and worker demonstrations on the streets do not portend anything good. It is not shameful that they do not trust us with their lives, that they are afraid of us, but it is shameful that we have let ourselves fall that far. They are beginning to treat us like a small, barbarian nation that does not recognise the rights of other persons and another’s property. Wake up, brothers!
Where the Russian has the advantage over us is that he is much less than we the slave of convention. It never occurs to him that he should do anything he does not want to because it is expected of him. See more
Why he bore with a certain equanimity the oppression of centuries (and he surely bore it with equanimity,for it is inconceivable that a whole people could long endure a tyranny which they found intolerable) is that though politically coerced he was personally free.
The Russian's personal freedom is much greater than the Englishman's. He is bound by no rules. He eats what he likes at the hours that suit him, he dresses as he chooses without regard to common usage (the artist will wear a bowler hat and a stiff collar as unconcernedly as the lawyer a sombrero) ; his habits seem to him so natural that everyone else accepts them as natural too; though often he talks for effect he never seeks to appear other than he is, he is only inclined to exaggerate himself a little; he is not shocked by a position he does not share; he can accept anything and he is perfectly tolerant of other people's eccentricities in thought or behaviour. There is a deep streak of masochism in Russians. Sacher Masoch was himself a Slav and first drew notice to the malady in a volume of short stories which are not otherwise remarkable. According to the reminiscences of his wife he was himself a victim of the state he described. Briefly, it is a sexual desire in a man to be subjected to ill treatment, physical and mental, by the woman he loves. For example, Sacher Masoch himself insisted on his wife going for a trip with a lover while he, disguised as a footman, suffering agonies of jealousy, performed for the couple a variety of menial services. In Sacher Masoch's stories the women are described as large and strong, energetic, audacious and cruel. They use men with every sort of indignity. Russian fiction is full of characters of this sort. Dostoievsky's heroines are of this overbearing type; tenderness, sweetness, gentleness, charm do not appeal to the men who love them; on the contrary they find a horrible delight in the outrages to which they are exposed. They want to abase themselves. Turgenev's heroines are intelligent, alert, active and enterprising, while the men are weak of will, dreamers incapable of action. It is a characteristic of Russian fiction, and I imagine it corresponds to a deep-rooted instinct in the Russian character. No one can have lived among Russians without being struck by the aggressive way in which women treat men. They seem to take a sensual pleasure in humiliating them before others; they are contentious and brutal in their conversation; the men will endure things said to them that few Englishmen would tolerate; you will see them flush at a gibe, but make no attempt to retaliate; they are femininely passive, they cry easily.
The Russian sets store on self-abasement because it comes easily to him; he can accept humiliation because to humiliate himself gives him a singular sensual gratification.
The poverty of types in Russian fiction is rather surprising. You meet the same people, under a variety of names, not only in the works of the same author but in the works of others. Alyosha and Stavrogin are the two prominent and marked types. They seem to haunt the imagination of Russian writers, and it may be supposed that they represent the two sides of Russian character, the two persons whom every Russian feels more or less in himself. And it may be that it is the presence in him of these two irreconcilable selves which makes the Russian so unbalanced and so contradictory.
It is humour which discerns the infinite diversity of human beings, and if Russian novels offer only a restricted variety of types it is perhaps because they are singularly lacking in humour. In Russian fiction you will look in vain for wit and repartee, badinage, the rapier thrust of sarcasm, the intellectual refreshment of the epigram, or the lighthearted jest. Its irony is coarse and obvious. When a Russian laughs he laughs at people and not with them; and so the objects of his humour are the vapours of hysterical women, the outrageous clothes of the provincial, the antics of the inebriated. You cannot laugh with him for his laughter is a little ill-mannered. The humour of Dostoievsky is the humour of a bar loafer who ties a kettle to a dog's tail.
Dear Alya! Thank you for the letter. I hope that you are now behaving yourself well. I have bought you a few gifts. Not so long ago, Nadia, Andryusha and I went to the steppe. Many thorny bushes grew there, completely dry, with stars on the edges. See more
I wanted to set them on fire, at first they would not burn, the wind put out the fire. But then, I got lucky, and the bush crackled, the stars burned like a Christmas tree. We made a big fire, and every minute threw more and more in. The fire broke out absolutely red. When the last branch was burned, we started trampling the ground. It smoldered for a long while, and sparks were flying from under the boot. Only a gigantic, black, smoldering circle was left from the fire. Everyone is asking me about you here, Alya, what you are like, have you grown up a lot, whether you behave. I respond, “When I was there she behaved herself well, with me not there—I don’t know.”
But even if they would confiscate all the money in the banks, we would still have our jewels. Mine were in a state bank in Moscow. I thought that it would be wiser to take them from there before it was too latej it would be safer, I thought, for me to hide them at home. See more
We decided therefore to go to Moscow and take the jewels from the bank, and to see Aunt Ella, who had not met my husband. Taking very few things with us, we left at the end of October. In Moscow we stopped in the house of the Yusupovs, near the Nicholas station.
"I heard this morning that the executive committee of the Soviet had decided to form a Government, and at half -past twelve one of the cadets sent me a message to say that the Bolsheviks would oust the Ministers from their respective departments in the course of the next few days. See more
At one o'clock the three Ministers — Tereschenko, Konovalov, and Tretyakov — whom I had asked to luncheon arrived quite unmoved. On my remarking that after the reports which had reached me that morn- ing I had hardly expected to see them, they said that those reports, to say the least, were premature.
Tereschenko then told me that he had, on a preceding evening, gone to Kerensky and had persuaded him to issue an order for the arrest of the executive committee of the Soviet, but that after he had left that order had been cancelled on the advice of a third person. They all three assured me that the Government had sufficient force behind them to deal with the situation, though Tetriakoff spoke very disparagingly of Kerensky, saying that he was too much of a Socialist to be relied on to put down anarchy. I told him that I could not understand how a Government that respected itself could allow Trotzky to go on inciting the masses to murder and pillage without arresting him, and Konovaloff said that he quite agreed. The Russian revolution, he remarked, had passed through several phases and we had now arrived at the last. He trusted that I would, before leaving for England, see a great change in the situation. Turning to Tereschenko, I said : * I shan't believe that we are really going till we are on the train.' 'And I,' he replied, 'not till we have crossed the Swedish frontier.'
Unless Kerensky is prepared to throw in his lot unreservedly with those of his colleagues who advocate a firm, continuous policy, the sooner he goes the better. The Government is but a Government in name and things cannot be much worse than they are at present. E\en if they have to make way for the Bolsheviks, the latter would not be able to hold out for long, and would sooner or later provoke a counter-revolution.
Tereschenko spoke again this afternoon in the Provisional Council, but on the question being put to the vote, there was a majority against the Government. The resolution eventually adopted, while condemning the contemplated Bolshevik rising, threw the responsibility for the crisis on the Government. The situation, it affirmed, could only be saved by transferring the control of the land to the land committees and by inducing the Allies to publish their conditions and to commence negotiations for peace. In order, moreover, to cope with any counter-revolutionary or subversive movement it advocated the formation of a committee of public safety, composed of representatives of the organs of revolutionary democracy, that was to act in concert with the Provisional Government."