IN Moscow I saw two peasant soldiers gazing at a poster being stuck up on a kiosk.
"We can't read a word of it," they cried, indignant tears in their eyes. "The Czar only wanted us to plough and fight and pay taxes. He didn't want us to read. He put out our eyes."
"To put out the eyes" of the masses, to put out their minds and consciences, was the deliberate policy of the Russian autocracy. For centuries the people were steeped in ignorance, narcotized by the church, terrorized by the Black Hundreds, dragooned by the Cossacks. The protesters were thrown into dungeons, exiled to hard labor in Siberian mines, and hung up on gibbets.
In 1917 the social and economic fabric of the land was shot to pieces. Ten million peasants dragged from their ploughs were dying in the trenches. Millions more were perishing of cold and hunger in the cities while the corrupt ministers intrigued with the Germans and the court held bacchanalian revels with the notorious monk, Rasputin. Even the Cadet, Milyukov, was forced to say: "History does not know of another government so stupid, so dishonest, so cowardly, so treacherous."
All governments rest upon the patience of the poor. It seems everlasting, but there comes an end to it. It came in Russia in March, 1917
The masses felt that more vicious even than the Kaiser in Berlin was their own Czar in Petrograd. Their cup of bitterness was full. They marched forth against the palaces to end it all. First, out of the Viborg district, came the working women crying for bread. Then long lines of workingmen. The police turned the bridges to prevent them entering the city, but they crossed on the ice. Looking at the red-flagged throngs from his window, Milyukov exclaimed: "There goes the Russian Revolution---and it will be crushed in fifteen minutes!"
But the workingmen came on in spite of Cossack patrols on the Nevsky. They came on in face of wilting fire from machine gun nests. They came on until the streets were littered with their bodies. Still they came on, singing and pleading until soldiers and Cossacks came over to the people's side, and on March 12 the Romanov dynasty, which had misruled Russia for 300 years, went crashing to its doom. Russia went mad with joy while the whole world rose up to applaud the downfall of the Czar.
It was mainly the workers and soldiers who made the Revolution. They had shed their blood for it. Now it was assumed that they would retire in the orthodox manner leaving affairs in the hands of their superiors. The people had taken the power away from the Czarists. Now appeared on the scene the bankers and lawyers, the professors and politicians, to take the power away from the people. They said:
"People, you have won a glorious victory. The next duty is the formation of a new state. It is a most difficult task, but fortunately, we, the educated, understand this business of governing. We shall set up a Provisional Government. Our responsibility is heavy, but as true patriots we will shoulder it.
"Noble soldiers, go back to the trenches. Brave workingmen, go back to the machines. And peasants, you go back to the land."
Now the Russian masses were tractable and reasonable. So they let these bourgeois gentlemen form their "Provisional Government." But the Russian masses were intelligent, even if they were not literate. Most of them could not read or write. But they could think. So, before they went back to the trenches, the shops and the land, they set up little organizations of their own. In each munition factory the workers selected one of their number whom they trusted. In the shoe and cotton factories the men did likewise. So in the brickyards, the glass-works and other industries. These representatives elected directly from their jobs were called a Soviet (Council) of Workmen Deputies.
In like manner the armies formed Soviets of Soldiers' Deputies, the villages Soviets of Peasant Deputies.
These deputies were elected by trades and occupations, not by districts. The Soviets consequently were filled, not with glibly talking politicians, but with men who knew their business; miners who understood mining, machinists who understood machinery, peasants who understood land, soldiers ,who understood war, teachers who understood children.
The Soviets sprang up in every city, town, hamlet and regiment throughout Russia. Within a few weeks after the old state-apparatus of Czardom went to pieces, one-sixth the surface of the earth was dotted over with these new social organizations---no more striking phenomenon in all history.
The commander of the Russian battleship Peresvet told me his story: "My ship was off the coast of Italy when the news arrived. As I announced the Czar's fall some sailors shouted, 'Long live the Soviet.' That very day on board ship a Soviet was formed, in all aspects like the one in Petrograd. I regard the Soviet as the natural organization of the Russian people, finding its root in the mir (commune) of the village and the artel (co-operative syndicate) of the city."
Others find the Soviet idea in the old New England town-meetings or the city assemblies of ancient Greece. But the Russian workingman's contact with the Soviet was much more direct than that. He had tried out the Soviet in the abortive Revolution of 1905. He had found it a good instrument then. He was using it now.
After the Czar's overthrow there was a short season of good will amongst all classes known as the "honeymoon of the Revolution." Then the big fight began---a battle royal between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat for the mastery of state power in Russia. On the one side the capitalists, landlords and finally the intelligentsia lining up behind the Provisional Government. On the other side the workmen, soldiers and peasants rallying to the Soviets.
I was set down in the midst of this colossal conflict. For fourteen months I lived in the villages with the peasants, in the trenches with the soldiers, and in the factories with the workers. I saw the Revolution thru their eyes and took part in most of the dramatic episodes.
I have used the names Communist and Bolshevik interchangeably, tho the party did not officially change its name to Communist until 1918.
In the French Revolution the great word was "Citizen." In the Russian Revolution the great word is "Comrade!"---tovarishtch. I have written it more simply tovarish.
For the right to use here some of my articles I am indebted to the editors of Asia, the Yale Review, the Dial, the Nation, the New Republic, and the New York Evening Post.
The visitor to Soviet Russia is struck by the multitudes of posters---in factories and barracks, on walls and railway-cars, on telephone-poles---everywhere. Whatever the Soviet does, it strives to make the people understand the reason for it. If there is a new call to arms, if rations must be cut down, if new schools or courses of instruction are opened, a poster, promptly appears telling why, and how the people can co-operate. Some of these posters are crude and hurried, others are works of art. Ten of them are reproduced in this book in almost the exact colors of the originals. The cost has been borne by friends of Russia, and the reader is particularly indebted to Mrs. Jessie Y. Kimball and Mr. Aaron Berkman.
On the next page is reproduced the first issue of the first revolutionary newspaper-the official Soviet News (Izvestia). It was published on the day of the Czar's fall and every day since then.
ON a white night of early June, 1917, I first entered Petrograd, the city that lies almost within the Arctic Circle. Tho it was midnight, the wide squares and prospekts bathed in the soft spectral light of this northern night were all alluring.
Past blue-domed barbaric churches and the silver rippling Catherine Canal we drove along the Neva, while across the river the slender spire of Peter and Paul rose like a golden needle. Then by the Winter Palace, the burnished dome of Saint Isaac's and countless shafts and statues to the memory of Czars who had gone.
But all these were monuments to rulers of the past. They had no hold on me for I was interested in the rulers of the present. I wanted to hear the great Kerensky then at the zenith of his spell-binding powers. I wanted to meet the ministers of the Provisional Government. I met many of them, heard them and talked with them. They were able, amiable and eloquent. But I felt they were not real representatives of the masses, that they were "Caliphs of the passing hour."
Instinctively I sought out the rulers of the future, the men in the Soviets elected directly out of the' trenches, factories and farms. These Soviets had sprung up in almost every army city and village of Russia, over one-sixth of the surface of the earth. These local Soviets were now sending their delegates to the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets in Petrograd.
I found the Soviet in session in the Military Academy. A tablet recording the fact that "His Imperial Majesty, Nicholas II, made this place happy by his presence January 28, 1916," still hung on its walls, the one relic of the glittering past.
The gold-braided officers, the smiling courtiers, and lackeys had been swept from the halls. His Imperial Majesty, the Czar, was gone. His Republican Majesty, the Revolution, ruled here now, acclaimed by hundreds of black-bloused, khaki-clad delegates.
Here were men coming up from the ends of the earth. From the frozen Arctic and burning Turkestan they hailed, slant-eyed Tartars and fair-haired Cossacks, Russians, Big and Little, Poles, Letts and Lithuanians---all tribes and tongues and costumes. Here were toil-scarred delegates from the mines, the forge and the farm, battle-scarred soldiers from the trenches and sea-bronzed sailors from the five fleets of Russia. Here were the "March" revolutionists, colorless and quiet before the March storm blew the Czar from his throne, but now daubed with red revolutionary paint and calling themselves Socialists. Here were veterans of the Revolution, loyal to the cause thru long years of hunger, exile and Siberia, tried and tested by suffering.
Cheidze, the President of the Soviet Congress, asked me why I came to Russia. "Ostensibly as a journalist," I told him. "But the real reason is the Revolution. It was irresistible. It drew me here like a magnet. I am here because I could not stay away."
He asked me to address the Congress. The "Soviet News" (Izvestia) of July 9, reports my words thus:
Comrades: I bring you greetings from the Socialists of America. We do not venture to tell you here how to run a Revolution. Rather we come here to learn its lesson and to express our appreciation for your great achievements.
A dark cloud of despair and violence was hanging over mankind threatening to extinguish the torch of civilization in streams of blood. But you arose, comrades, and the torch flamed up anew. You have resurrected in all hearts everywhere a new faith in freedom.
Equality, Brotherhood, Democracy, are great and beautiful words. But to the unemployed millions they are merely words. To the 160,000 hungry children of New York they are hollow words. To the exploited classes of France and England they are mocking words. Your duty is to change these words into reality.
You have made the Political Revolution. Freed from the threat of German militarism your next task is the Social Revolution. Then the workers of the world will no longer look to the West, but to the East---toward great Russia, to the Field of Mars here, in Petrograd, where lie the first martyrs of your Revolution.
"Long live free Russia!" "Long live the Revolution!" "Long live Peace to the World!"
In his reply Cheidze made a plea for the workers of all nations to bring pressure to bear on their governments to stop "the horrible butchery which is disgracing humanity and beclouding the great days of the birth of Russian freedom."
A storm of cheers, and the Congress took up the order of the day---the Ukraine, Education, War Widows and Orphans, Provisioning the Front, Repairing the Railways, etc. This should have been the business of the Provisional Government. But that Government was flimsy and incompetent. Its ministers were orating, wrangling, scheming against one another and entertaining diplomats. But somebody must do the hard work. By default it was already passing into the hands of these Soviets of the people.
This First Congress of Soviets was dominated by the intelligentsia---doctors, engineers, journalists. They belonged to political parties known as Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary. At the extreme left sat 107 delegates of a decided proletarian cast---plain soldiers and workingmen. They were aggressive, united and spoke with great earnestness. They were often laughed and hooted down---always voted down.
One of the 10,000 city and village Soviets in which, as a peasant said, "we are teaching ourselves how to rule ourselves." This is the Petrograd Soviet to which 20,000 workers have been elected in four years.
The masses hearing Lenin express their demands. "Under the pitiless pelting of facts I have been driven to the conclusion that if Lenin and 18 other Bolshevik (leaders) had perished, events in Russia would have taken much the same course. The robbed and oppressed masses---a hundred millions of men and women---moved toward the goal of their long unfulfilled desires like a flow of molten lava that no human force can dam. or turn aside."---PROFESSOR E. A. Ross.
"Those are the Bolsheviks," my bourgeois guide informed me, venomously. "Mostly fools, fanatics and German agents." That was all. And no more than that could one learn in hotel lobbies, salons, or diplomatic circles.
Happily, I went elsewhere for information. I went into the factory districts. In Nijni I met Sartov, a mechanic who invited me to his home. A long rifle stood in the corner of the main room.
"Every workingman has a gun now," Sartov explained. "Once we used it to fight for the Czar---now we fight for ourselves."
In another corner hung an ikon of Saint Nicholas, a tiny flame burning before it.
"My wife is still religious," Sartov apologized. "She believes in the Saint---thinks he will fetch me safely thru the Revolution. As tho, a saint would help a Bolshevik!" he laughed. "Yeh! Bogu! There's no harm in it. Saints are queer devils. No telling what one of them may do."
The family slept on the floor, insisting that I take the bed, because I was an American. In this room I found another American. In the soft gleam of the ikon-light his face looked down at me from the wall, the great, homely, rugged face of Abraham Lincoln. From that pioneer's hut in the woods of Illinois he had made his way to this workingman's hut here upon the Volga. Across half a century, and half a world, the fire in Lincoln's heart had leaped to touch the heart of a Russian workman groping for the light.
As his wife paid her devotion to Saint Nicholas, the great Wonder-Worker, so he paid his devotion to Lincoln, the great Emancipator. He had given Lincoln's picture the place of honor in his home. And then he had done a startling thing. On the lapel of Lincoln's coat he had fixed a button, a large red button bearing on it the word, B-o-l-s-h-e-v-i-k.
Of Lincoln's life Sartov knew little. He knew only that he strove against injustice, freed the slaves, that he was reviled and persecuted. To Sartov, that was the earnest of his kinship with the Bolsheviks. As an act of highest tribute he had decorated Lincoln with this emblem of red.
I found that factories and boulevards were different worlds. A world of difference, too, in the way they said the word "Bolshevik." Spoken on the boulevards with a sneer and a curse, on the lips of the workers it was becoming a term of praise and honor.
The Bolsheviks did not mind the bourgeoisie. They were busy expounding their program to the workers. This program I got first hand from delegates coming up to the Soviet Congress from the Russian Army in France.
"Our demand is, not to continue the war, but to continue the Revolution," these Bolsheviks blurted out.
"Why are you talking about Revolution?" I asked, taking the rôle of Devil's Advocate. "You have had your Revolution, haven't you? The Czar and his crowd are gone. That was what you were aiming at for the last hundred years, wasn't it?"
"Yes," they replied. "The Czar is gone, but the Revolution is just begun. The overthrow of the Czar is only an incident. The workers didn't take the government out of the hands of one ruling class, the monarchists, in order to put it into the hands of another ruling class, the bourgeoisie. No matter what name you give it, slavery is the same."
I said the world at large held that Russia's task now was to create a republic, like France or America; to establish in Russia the institutions of the West.
"But that is precisely what we don't want to do," they responded. "We don't cherish much admiration for your institutions or governments. We know that you have poverty, unemployment and oppression. Slums on one hand, palaces on the other. On the one side, capitalists fighting workmen with lockouts, blacklists, lying press, and thugs. Workmen on the other side, fighting back with strikes, boycotts, bombs. We want to put an end to this war of the classes. We want to put an end to poverty. Only the workers can do this, only a communistic system. That is what we are going to have in Russia."
"In other words," I said, "you want to escape the laws of evolution. By some magic you expect suddenly to transfer Russia from a backward agricultural state into a highly organized co-operative commonwealth. You are going to jump out of the eighteenth century into the twenty-second."
"We are going to have a new social order," they replied, "but we don't depend on jumping or magic. We depend upon the massed power of the workmen and peasants."
"But where are the brains to do this?" I interrupted. "Think of the colossal ignorance of the masses."
"Brains!" they exclaimed hotly. "Do you think we bow down before the brains of our 'betters'? What could be more brainless and stupid and criminal than this war? And who are guilty of it? Not the working classes, but the governing classes in every country. Surely the ignorance and inexperience of workmen and peasants could not make a worse mess than generals and statesmen with all their brains and culture. We believe in the masses. We believe in their creative force. And we must make the Social Revolution anyhow."
"And why?" I asked.
"Because it is the next step in the evolution of the race. Once we had slavery. It gave way to feudalism. That in turn gave way to capitalism. Now capitalism must leave the stage. It has served its purpose. It has made possible large scale production, world-wide industrialism. But now it must make its exit. It is the breeder of imperialism and war, the strangler of labor, the destroyer of civilization. It must in its turn give place to the next phase ---the system of Communism. It is the historic mission of the working-class to usher in this new social order. Tho Russia is a primitive backward land it is for us to begin the Social Revolution. It is for the working-class of other countries to carry it on."
A daring program---to build the world anew.
No wonder the ideas of James Duncan of the Root Mission seemed trivial as he came with tedious talk of craft unions, the union label, and the eight-hour day. His hearers were amused or bored. Next day a newspaper reported the two-hour speech thus: "Last night the Vice-President of the American Federation of Labor addressed the Soviets. Coming over the Pacific he evidently prepared two speeches, one for the Russian people and the other for the ignorant Eskimos---obviously last night he thought he was addressing the Eskimos."
For the Bolsheviks to put forward a big revolutionary program was one thing; to get it accepted by a nation of 160,000,000 was quite another---especially as the Bolshevik Party counted then not more than 150,000.
Many factors, however, were conspiring to give Bolshevik ideas prestige with the people. In the first place the Bolsheviks understood the people. They were strong among the more literate strata, like the sailors, and comprised largely the artisans and laborers of the cities. Sprung directly from the people's loins they spoke the people's language, shared their sorrows and thought their thoughts.
It is not quite correct to say that the Bolsheviks understood the people. They were the people. So they were trusted. The Russian workingman, betrayed so long by the classes above him, puts faith only in his own.
This was brought home to a friend of mine in a grotesque manner. Krasnoschekov is his name, now President of the Far East Republic. Coming from the Workers' Institute in Chicago, he entered the lists as a champion of the workers. An able, eloquent man, he was elected President of the City Council of Nikolaievsk. The bourgeois paper promptly appeared with an assault upon him as an "immigrant roustabout."
"Citizens of great Russia," it asked, "do you not feel the shame of being ruled by a porter, a window cleaner from Chicago?"
Krasnoschekov wrote out a hot reply, pointing out his distinction in America as lawyer and educator. On the way to the newspaper with his article he turned in at the Soviet, wondering how much this assault had hurt him in the eyes of the workers.
"Tovarish Krasnoschekov!" someone shouted as he opened the door. With a cheer the men rose to their feet. "Nash! Nash!" (Ours! Ours!) they cried, grasping his hand. "We just read the paper, comrade. It made us all glad. We always liked you, tho we thought you were a bourgeois. Now we find out you are one of us, a real workingman, and we love you. We'll do anything for you."
Ninety-six per cent of the Bolshevik Party were workingmen. Of course the Party had its intelligentsia, not sprung directly from the soil. But Lenin and Trotzky lived close enough to the hunger line to know the thoughts of the poor.
The Bolsheviks were mostly young men not afraid of responsibility, not afraid to die (1) and, in sharp contrast to the upper-classes, not afraid to work. Many of them became my friends, particularly the exiles returning on the immigrant tide now flowing back from America.
There was Yanishev, who was literally a workman of the world. Ten years earlier he had been driven out of Russia for inciting his fellow-peasants against the Czar. He had lived like a water-rat on the docks of Hamburg; he had dug coal in the pits of Austria and had poured steel in the foundries of France. In America he had been tanned in leather-vats, bleached in textile mills and clubbed in strike-lines. His travels had given him a knowledge of four languages and an ardent faith in Bolshevism. The peasant had become now an industrial proletarian.
Some satirist has defined a proletarian as a "talking workingman." Yanishev was not a talker by nature. But now he had to talk. The cry of millions of his fellow-workers for the light drew the words to his lips and in mills and mines he spoke as no intellectual could speak. Night and day he toiled until midsummer came and he took me on a memorable trip to the villages.
Another comrade was Woskov, formerly agent of New York Carpenters' Union No. 1008, now in the Workers' Committee that ran the rifle factory at Sestroretsk. Another was Volodarsky, virtually a galley-slave of the Soviet and deliriously happy in it. Once he exclaimed to me: "I have had more real joy in these few weeks than any fifty men ought to have in all their lives!" There was Neibut, with his pack of books and with eyes glowing over the English in Brailsford's The War of Steel and Gold! To Bolshevik propaganda these immigrants brought Western speed and method. In Russian there is no word "efficient." These young zealots were prodigies of efficiency and energy.
The center of Bolshevik action was Petrograd. In this there is the fine irony of history. This city was the pride and glory of the great Czar Peter. He found a swamp here and left a brilliant capital. To make a foundation he sunk into these marshes forests of trees and quarries of stone. It is a colossal monument to Peter's iron will. At the same time it is a monument of colossal cruelty, for it is built not only on millions of wooden piles, but on millions of human bones.
Like cattle the workmen were herded in these swamps to perish of cold and hunger and scurvy. As fast as they were swallowed up more serfs were driven in. They dug the soil with bare hands and sticks, carrying it off in caps and aprons. With thudding hammers, cracking whips, and groans of the dying, Petrograd rose like the Pyramids, in the tears and anguish of slaves.
Now the descendants of these slaves were in revolt. Petrograd had become the Head of the Revolution. Every day it started out missionaries on long crusading tours. Every day it poured out bales and carloads of Bolshevik gospel in print. In June, Petrograd was publishing Pravda (Truth), (2) The Soldier, The Village Poor, in millions of copies. "All done on German money," said the Allied observers, as ostrich-like, they sat with heads buried in the boulevard cafés, believing what they preferred to believe. Had they turned the corner they would have seen a long line of men filing past a desk, each laying on it a contribution, ten copecks, ten rubles, maybe a hundred. These were workers, soldiers, even peasants, doing their bit for the Bolshevik press.
The greater the success of the Bolsheviks, the louder the hue and cry against them. While the bourgeois press praised the sense and moderation Of the other parties, it called for an iron fist for the Bolsheviks. While "Babushka" and Kerensky were given regal quarters in the Winter Palace, the Bolsheviks were thrown into jail.
In the past all parties suffered for their principles. Now it was chiefly the Bolsheviks who suffered. They were the martyrs of today. This gave them prestige. Persecution lifted them into prominence. The masses, now giving heed to Bolshevik doctrine, found it strangely akin to their own desires.
But it was not the sacrifice and enthusiasm of the Bolsheviks that was finally to bring the masses under their banner. More powerful allies were working with them. Hunger was their chief ally---a threefold hunger: a mass hunger for bread, and peace, and land.
In the rural Soviets rose again the ancient cry of the peasants, "The land belongs to God and the people." The city-workers left out God and cried, "The factories belong to the workers." At the front the soldiers proclaimed, "The war belongs to the devil. We want nothing to do with it. We want peace."
A great ferment was working in the masses. It set them organizing Land Committees, Factory Committees, Committees of the Front. It set them talking, so that Russia became a nation of a hundred million orators. It sent them into the streets in tremendous mass demonstrations.
One of the great Cathedrals of the Communist Faith-the Putilov Factory in Petrograd. Banners and speakers proclaim the International unity I all races and peoples.
Petrograd Demonstrates ---The river of red flowing by the Admiralty. To the left is the Street of Grand Noblemen now called the Street of Village Poverty to remind men forever whence came the splendrous buildings.
THE spring and summer of 1917 was a series of demonstrations. In this Russia always excelled. Now the processions were longer, led not by priests but by the people, with red banners instead of ikons, and instead of church hymns, songs of revolution.
Who can forget Petrograd of July first! Soldiers in drab and olive, horsemen in blue and gold, white-bloused sailors from the fleet, black-bloused workmen from the mills, girls in vari-colored waists, surging thru the main arteries of the city. On each marcher a streamer, a flower, a riband of red; scarlet kerchiefs around the women's heads, red rubashkas on the men. Above, like crimson foam, sparkled and tossed a thousand banners of red.
As this human river flowed it sang.
Three years before I had seen the German war machine rolling down the valley of the Meuse on its drive towards Paris. The cliffs resounded then to ten thousand lusty German voices singing "Deutschland über Alles," while ten thousand boots struck the pavement in unison. It was powerful but mechanical, and, like every act of those grey columns, ordered from above.
But the singing of these red columns was the spontaneous outpouring of a people's soul. Some one would strike up a revolutionary hymn; the deep resonant voices of the soldiers would lift the refrain, joined by the plaintive voices of the working-women; the hymn would rise, and fall, and die away; then, down the line, it would burst forth again---the whole street singing in harmony.
Past the golden dome of Saint Isaac's, past the minarets of the Mohammedan Mosque, marched forty creeds and races, welded into one by the fire of the Revolution. The mines, the mills, the slums and trenches were blotted from their minds. This was the day the people had made. They would rejoice and be glad in it.
But in their joy they did not forget those who, to bring this day, had marched bound and bleeding to exile and death on the plains of Siberia. Close at hand, too, were the martyrs of the March Revolution; a thousand of them lying in their red coffins on the Field of Mars. Here the militant strains of the Marseillaise gave way to the solemn measures of Chopin's Funeral March. With muffled drums and lowered banners, with bowed heads, they passed the long grave, weeping or in silence.
One incident, trivial in itself, but significant, marred the peace of the day. It was on Sadovaya where I was standing with Alex Gumberg, the little Russian-American, friend and pilot to so many Americans in the days of the Revolution. The wrath of the sailors and workingmen was roused by a red banner with the inscription "Long live the Provisional Government." They started to tear it down and in the mêlée some one shouted "The Cossacks are coming."
The very name of these ancient enemies of the people struck terror into the crowds. White-faced, they stampeded like a herd, trampling the fallen and yelling like madmen. Happily it was a false alarm. The ranks re-formed and with songs and cheers took up the march again.
But this procession was more than an outburst of emotion. It was sternly prophetic, its banners proclaiming: "Factories to the Workers! Land to the Peasants! Peace to All the World! Down with the War! Down with the Secret Treaties! Down with the Capitalist Ministers!"
This was the Bolshevik program crystallized into slogans for the masses. There were thousands of banners, so many that even the Bolsheviks were surprised. Those banners were signals indicating a big storm brewing. Everybody could see that, and everybody did see it, except those sent to Russia specifically commissioned to see it---the Root Mission for example. While these gentlemen were in revolutionary Russia they were absolutely isolated from the Revolution. As the Russian proverb goes: "they went to the circus, but they did not see the elephant."
On this July 1st the Americans were invited to a special service in the Cathedral of Kazan. In the church they knelt to receive the kisses and blessings of the priests, while the streets outside rang with songs and cheers from the vast procession of exalted people. Blind men! They did not see that faith that day was not in the mass within those musty walls, but in the masses without.
Yet they were no blinder than the rest of the diplomats cheering the first glowing reports of Kerensky's drive on the Eastern Front. The drive, like its leader, a dazzling success at first, turned into a tragic fiasco. It slaughtered 30,000 Russians, shattered the morale of the army, enraged the people, forced a cabinet crisis, and brought the disastrous repercussion in Petrograd, the armed upheaval of July sixteenth.
July 1st gave warning of the coming storm. July 16th saw it break in fury. First long files of older peasant soldiers with placards: "Let the 40-year-old men go home and harvest the crops." Then barrack, slum and factory belching out torrents of men in arms who converged on the Tauride Palace, and, for two nights and a day, roared through its gates. Armored cars, with sirens screaming and red flags flying from the turrets, raced up and down the streets. Motor trucks, crammed with soldiers, bayonets jutting out on every side, dashed by like giant porcupines on a rampage. Stretched full length on the car fenders lay sharpshooters, rifles projecting beyond the lamps, eyes on the watch for provocators.
This outpouring was much bigger than the river that ran thru these streets on July first, and more sinister, for it glittered with, steel and hissed with curses---a long grey line of wrath. It was the spontaneous outburst of men against their rulers---ugly, reckless, furious.
Under a black banner marched a band of Anarchists, with Yarchuk the tailor at the head. On him was the stamp of the sweat-shop. Long bending over the needle had left him undersized. Now, in place of a needle, he was wielding a gun---the symbol of his deliverance from slavery to the needle.
Gumberg asked him, "What are your political demands?"
"Our political demands?" hesitated Yarchuk.
"To hell with the capitalists!" interjected a big sailor. "And our other political demands," he added, "are---to hell with the war and to hell with the whole damn Cabinet."
Backed up in an alley was a taxi-cab, the nozzles of two machine-guns poking thru the windows. In answer to our query, the driver pointed to a banner reading, "Down with the Capitalist Ministers."
"We are tired of begging them not to starve and kill the people," he explained. "When we talk they won't listen; but wait till these two pups (sobachki) speak!" He patted the guns affectionately. "They will listen then all right."
A mob with nerves at trigger-tension, with such weapons in its hands, and such temper in its soul, did not need much provocation. And provocators were everywhere. Agents of the Black Hundred plied their trade of dissension among the crowds, inciting to riot and pogroms. They turned loose two hundred criminals from Kresty to pillage and loot. In the ensuing ruin they hoped to see the Revolution killed and the Czar restored. In some places they did bring on frightful slaughter.
At a tense moment, in the tight-packed concourse of the Tauride, a provocatory shot was fired. From that shot sprang a hundred. From every quarter rifles blazed, comrades firing point blank into comrades. The crowd screamed, crashed up against the pillars, surged back again, and then fell flat upon the ground. When the firing ceased, sixteen could not rise. During this massacre a military band two blocks away was playing the Marseillaise.
Fighting in the streets is panicky business. At night, with bullets spitting from hidden loopholes, from roofs above and cellar-ways below, with the enemy invisible and friends pouring volleys into friends, the crowds stampeded, back and forth, fleeing from a hail of bullets in one street only to plunge into leaden gusts sweeping thru the next.
The storm petrels of the Revolution---the sailors---first to raise the red flag in the fleet, always first to hurry to the rescue of the Soviets.
Escaping the bullets in the July Uprising by lying flat on the pavement. This picture is hardly perennial. Any disturbance in Russia is liable to bring it forth again as the authentic photograph of the event.
Three times that night our feet slipped in blood on the pavement. Down the Nevsky was blazed a trail of shattered windows and looted shops. The fighting ranged from little skirmishes, with nests of provocators, to the battle on Liteiny, which left twelve horses of the Cossacks, stretched upon the cobbles. [Over these horses stood a big izvoschik (cabman), tears in his eyes. In time of Revolution the killing of 56 and wounding of 650 men might be endured, but the loss of 12 good horses was too much for an izvoschik's heart to bear.]
Only Petrograd's long experience in barricade and street fighting, and the native good sense of the people, prevented the, shambles from being more bloody than they were. Upon the chaotic insurgent masses was brought to bear a stabilizing force in tens of thousands of workingmen, backed by the directing mind of the Bolshevik Party. The Bolsheviks saw clearly that this uprising was a spontaneous elemental thing. They saw these masses striking out powerfully but rather blindly. They determined that they should strike to some purpose. They determined to let the full force of this demonstration reach the Soviet Central Executive Committee. This was a committee of 200 selected by the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets before it adjourned. It was in permanent session in the Tauride Palace, and upon it the masses were converging.
The Bolsheviks alone had influence over these masses. All parties implored them to use it. Placing their speakers upon the central portico, they met each regiment and delegation with a short address.
From our vantage point we could view the whole concourse crammed with people, with here and there a man lifted upon his artillery horse, while many banners marked out a red current thru the solid mass.
Below us was a sea of upturned faces, the fears, and hopes, and angers written on them but half legible in the twilight of the Russian night. From down the. street could be heard the roar of marching hosts, cheering the armored cars. The automobile searchlights focusing on the speaker, silhouetted him against the walls of the Palace, a gigantic figure in black. Every gesture, ten times magnified, cut a sweeping shadow across the white façade.
"Comrades," said this giant Bolshevik, "you want revolutionary action. The only way to get it is thru a revolutionary government. The Kerensky Government is revolutionary in name only. They promise land, but the landlords still have it. They promise bread, but the speculators still hold it. They promise to get from the Allies a declaration of the objects of the war, but the Allies simply tell us to go on fighting.
"In the cabinet a fundamental conflict rages between the Socialist and the bourgeois ministers. The result is a deadlock and nothing at all is done.
"You men of Petrograd come here to the Soviet Executive Committee saying, 'Take the Government. Here are the bayonets to back you!' You want the Soviets to be the government. So do we Bolsheviks. But we remember that Petrograd is not all of Russia. So we are demanding that. the Central Executive Committee call delegates from all over Russia. It is for this new congress to declare the Soviets the government of Russia."
Each crowd met this declaration with cheers and loud cries, "Down with Kerensky"; "Down with the Bourgeois Government"; "All Power to the Soviets."
"Avoid all violence and bloodshed," was the parting admonition to each contingent. "Do not listen to provocators. Do not delight your enemies by killing each other. You have amply shown your power. Now go home quietly. When the occasion for force arises we will call you."
In the swirling flood were cross currents made by the Anarchists, the Black Hundreds, German agents, hoodlums, and those volatile elements which always join the side with the most machine-guns. One thing was now clear to the Bolsheviks: the revolutionary workmen and soldiers around Petrograd were overwhelmingly against the Provisional Government and for the Soviet. They wanted the Soviet to be the government. But the Bolsheviks were afraid this would be a premature step. As they said, "Petrograd is not Russia. The other cities and the army at the front may not be ripe for such drastic action. Only delegates from the Soviets of all Russia can decide that."
Inside the Tauride the Bolsheviks were using every argument to persuade the members of the Soviet Executive Committee to call another All-Russian Congress. Outside the Tauride, they were using every exhortation to quiet and appease the clamoring masses. This was a task that taxed all their wits and resources.
Some contingents came to the Tauride very belligerent. The Cronstadt sailors arrived in a particularly ugly temper. In barges they came up the river, eight thousand strong. Two of their number had been killed along the way. It had been no holiday excursion, and they had no intention of gazing at the walls of the Palace, filling the courtyard with futile clamor, then turning around and going home. They sent in a demand that the Soviet produce a Socialist Minister, and produce him at once.
Chernov, Minister of Agriculture, came out. He took for his rostrum the top of a cab.
"I come to tell you that three bourgeois Ministers have resigned. We now look to the future with great hope. Here are the laws which give the land to the peasant."
"Good," cried the hearers. "Will these laws be put into operation at once?"
"As soon as possible," Chernov answered.
"Soon as possible!" they mocked him. "No, no! We want it now, now. All the land for the peasant now! What have you been doing all these weeks anyhow?"
"I am not answerable to you for my deeds," Chernov replied, white with rage. "It is not you that put me in my office. It was the Peasants' Soviet. To them alone I make my reckoning."
At this rebuff a howl of derision went up from the sailors. With it went the cry: "Arrest Chernov! Arrest him!" A dozen hands stretched out to clutch the Minister and drag him off. Others sought to drag him back. In a vortex of fighting friends and foes, his clothes torn, the Minister was being borne away. But Trotzky, coming up, secured his release.
Meanwhile, Saakian scrambled up on the cab. He struck an attitude of stern command.
"Listen!" he cried. "Do you know who is now addressing you?"
"No," a voice called out. "And we don't give a damn."
"The man who is now addressing you," resumed Saakian, "is the Vice-President of the Central Executive Committee of the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Soldiers' and Workmen's Deputies."
This prodigious title instead of serving to impress and quiet the crowd, was greeted by laughter and cries of "Down with him!" (doloi, doloi). But he had come out to tame this mob, and with great vim he fired into it a fusillade of short abrupt sentences.
"My name---Saakian!" (The mob: "Down with him!")
"My party-Socialist Revolutionary!" ("Down with him!")
"My official religion---according to the passport---Armenian-Gregorian!" ("Down with him!")
"My real religion---Socialism!" ("Down with him!")
"My relation to the war---two brothers killed." A voice: "There should have been a third."
"My advice to you---trust us, your leaders and best friends. Stop this foolish demonstration. You are disgracing yourself, disgracing the Revolution, bringing disaster to Russia."
These sailors were already enraged. To slap them in the face thus was an idiotic act. Pandemonium broke loose. Again Trotzky to the rescue.
He steps upon the platform, the hero and idol of the Cronstadt sailors. He knows the temper of his hearers. He knows, today, they have no ears for censure.
"Revolutionary sailors, pride and flower of the revolutionary forces of Russia! " he began. "In this battle for the Social Revolution we fight together. Together, comrades, our fists beat upon the doors of this Palace until the ideals for which our blood has flowed shall at last be incarnated in the constitution of this, country. Hard and long has been the heroic struggle! But out of it will come a free life for free men in a great free land. Am I not right?"
"Right you are, Trotzky," yells the crowd.
Trotzky moves away.
"But you haven't told us anything," they cry. "What are you going to do about the Cabinet?" They may be a mob, with an appetite for flattery, but they are not so unthinking as to be pacified by phrases, even from Trotzky.
"I am too hoarse to talk more," he pleads. "Riazanov will tell you."
'No, you tell us!" Trotzky again mounts the cab.
"Only the All-Russian Congress can assume full power of government. The Labor Section has agreed to call this congress. The Military Section will without doubt follow. In two weeks the delegates can be here."
"Two weeks!" they cry in astonishment. "Two weeks is too long. We want it now!"
But Trotzky prevails. The sailors acquiesce, cheering the Soviets and the coming Revolution.
They move peacefully away, convinced that the Second All-Russian Congress will be called.
This is precisely what the leaders in the Soviet Executive Committee do not want. They are dead set against the Soviet becoming the government. They have many reasons to give. But the real reason is fear of these very masses by whom they have been lifted to their exalted stations. The intelligentsia distrust the masses below them. At the same time they exaggerate the abilities and good intentions of the grand bourgeoisie above them.
They do not want the Soviets to take the power. They have no intention of calling a Second All-Russian Congress in two weeks, two months, or at all. But they are frightened by these turbulent crowds crashing into the courtyard, hammering at the doors. Their tactics are to placate the mob, and they seek help from the Bolsheviks. At the same time these intelligentsia play another game. They join the Provisional Government in calling regiments from the front "to quell the mutiny and restore order in the city."
On the third day the troops arrive. Bicycle battalions, the reserve regiments, and then long grim lines of horsemen, the sun glancing on the tips of their lances. They are the Cossacks, ancient foes of the revolutionists, bringing dread to the workers and joy to the bourgeoisie. The avenues are filled now with well-dressed throngs cheering the Cossacks, crying "Shoot the rabble." "String up the Bolsheviks."
A wave of reaction runs thru the city. Insurgent regiments are disarmed. The death penalty is restored. The Bolshevik papers are suppressed. Forged documents attesting the Bolsheviks as German agents are handed to the press. Alexandrov, the Czar's prosecutor, hales them before the bar, indicted for high treason under section 108 of the Penal Code. Leaders like Trotzky and Kollontai are thrown into prison. Lenin and Zinoviev are driven into hiding. In all quarters sudden seizures, assaults and murder of workingmen.
In the early morning of July 18th I am suddenly wakened by piercing cries from the Nevsky. With the clattering of horses' hoofs are mingled shouts, desperate pleas for mercy, curses---one terrible blood-curdling scream. Then, the thud of a falling body, the groans of a man dying, and silence. An officer coming in explains that some workingmen had been caught pasting up Bolshevik posters along the Nevsky. A squad of Cossacks had ridden them down, lashing out with whips and sabres, cleaving one man open, and leaving him dead on the pavement.
At this new turn of events the bourgeoisie are elated. Ill-based elation! They do not know that the screams of this murdered workman will penetrate the furthermost corners of Russia, rousing his comrades to wrath and arms. This July day they cheer the Volynsk regiment, as with band playing it enters the city to suppress this uprising, whose purpose is to offer all power to the Soviets. Ill-starred cheers! They do not know that on a coming November night they will see this regiment in the forefront of the rising that triumphantly delivers all power to the Soviets.
The troops are called in to conquer Petrograd; but in the end Petrograd conquers them. The infection of this Bolshevik stronghold is irresistible. It is a huge blast furnace of the Revolution, burning away all dross and indifference. No matter how cold and sluggish they may enter the city, out of it they go fired by the spirit of the Revolution.
The city rose in tears and blood, in hunger and cold, in the forced labor of myriads of the starved and beaten. Their bones lie buried deep in the mud below. But their outraged spirits seem to live again in the Petrograd workingmen of today---spirits powerful and avenging. The serfs of Peter built the city; presently their descendants will be coming into their own.
It does not appear thus in midsummer 1917. The black shadow of reaction hovers over them. But the Bolsheviks bide their time. History, they feel, is on their side. Their ideas are working out in the villages, in the fleet and at the front.
To these places I now make my way.
1. Appendix I. The Death of a Red Regiment.
2. Reproduction of this newspaper on pages 306-7
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