1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Russia
RUSSIA (see 23.869).—The history of Russia in the years 1910–21 was dominated by the revolution. The connexion between the World War of 1914–8 and that crisis is evident, but even the years preceding the outbreak of the war, both at home and abroad, must be considered chiefly as leading up to the catastrophe. The decay of the bureaucratic system of government, the entanglements of the foreign policy of the empire, the spread of extreme theories among the educated classes, the misery and discontent of the common people, were manifested by striking symptoms both on great occasions and in everyday life.
The Last Years of Tsardom.—The transition from an autocratic to a constitutional régime is a difficult problem to solve under any circumstances, and it was rendered especially difficult in Russia by the lack of political education among the people, the doctrinaire fanaticism of the intellectual leaders and the short-sighted egotism of the Government. Instead of realizing the necessity of working together and supporting one another in order to avoid a revolutionary catastrophe, the traditional rulers and the reformers were intent on destroying each other. The First Duma had ended its days in a vain attempt to appeal to the country against the Imperial Government. In the face of terroristic attacks bureaucratic circles invited the support of enlightened public opinion, but they did it in a characteristic fashion. General Trepov conducted negotiations with a view to forming a Cadet Ministry, but competent observers were convinced that his ultimate object in applying to the advanced doctrinaires was to effect an unworkable coalition which would have to be given up after a short interval in favour of a military dictatorship (Isvolsky, Memoirs, 201F).
The Stolypin Ministry, which was actually formed in 1906, started also with a programme of coöperation between the Government and “leaders of public opinion,” and it sought an agreement with the more moderate sections of Liberals, especially with the Octobrists, the supporters of a policy aiming at putting into practice the Manifesto of Oct. 30. The failure of this attempt is a fact of historical importance in so far as it showed conclusively how irreconcilable the tendencies of the Imperial bureaucracy were with the programme of Moderate Liberalism. Our survey of the period must start with a brief account of Stolypin's policy, as its failure led directly to the events of the revolution which put an end to the monarchy of the Romanovs.
Stolypin's Policy.—The protagonist of the drama in 1906–10, P. A. Stolypin, was as fine a representative of Old Russia as the governing class of the time could muster—not a great statesman nor an original thinker, but a high-minded, patriotic country gentleman endowed with the traditional courage of his class, with practical experience in Zemstvo work and provincial administration, accessible to ideas of reform, but constitutionally adverse to radical theories. When Minister of the Interior in Goremykin's Ministry he had taken part in negotiations with the “leaders of public opinion,” even with Cadets like Muromtsev and Milyukov; on assuming the premiership he tried to introduce into his Cabinet Liberals like Count Heyden, A. Guchkov, N. Lvov, but he did not insist on this combination and eventually formed his Ministry on bureaucratic lines, while relying on the support of the Moderates in the Duma.
The sanguinary repression of revolutionary attempts and of agrarian revolts was taken in hand with ruthless energy, and it succeeded in driving discontent underground and in reëstablishing external order, but it cast its shadow on the constructive work of Stolypin's statesmanship. After the clash with the intractable Second Duma the electoral system was altered by the Manifesto of June 3 1907.
This coup d'état secured to the Government a numerical majority in the Third and in the Fourth Dumas, while at the same time it weakened the moral authority of these Assemblies and made the Moderates more susceptible to the appeals of the Lefts.
Some of the points of the complicated electoral system introduced by the Manifesto of June 3 1907 may be mentioned. The deputies were chosen by provincial electoral colleges, only the principal landowners and capitalists had the right to vote personally in these colleges, while other citizens had to exercise their right through representatives chosen at preliminary meetings. The direct franchise was conceded to persons holding land in varying quantities in the different provinces, roughly from 150 dessiatines (about 400 ac.) to 600 dess. (about 1,600 ac.), or town property of the value of 15,000 rubles (about £1,500). The preliminary assemblies were constituted separately for smaller landowners, smaller householders in the towns, the clergy, factory and workshop workmen and peasants. Electors belonging to different nationalities could be divided into separate electoral groups by ministerial decree. The elections in Petrograd, Moscow, Kiev and Odessa were to be carried out by direct suffrage.
Stolypin's counter-offensive against the revolutionary movement could not be restricted to measures of police and emergency legislation: it made itself felt in the intellectual domain.
In spite of the outward pacification of the country there was no real settlement, and the flames of political passion burst out occasionally with ominous violence. The close of 1910 was marked by an increased agitation among the students—the most sensitive and audacious element of Russian society. Harrowing tales of flogging and tortures practised on political convicts in the prisons of the North and of Siberia had reached the educational centres, and a series of strikes and indignation meetings began in all the various high schools of the empire. The professors and academic authorities did all they could to put an end to these disturbances and to ensure the continuation of teaching, and the majority of the undergraduates supported them in this respect. The reactionary bureaucrats, however, with M. Kasso, the Minister of Public Instruction, at their head, decided to use these sad occurrences in order to overthrow the self-government of the universities, conceded to these institutions by the Imperial ukaz of Aug. 27 1905, and to curb the rebellious spirit of the students by stern centralization. Towards the end of the Christmas vacation M. Kasso and the Council of Ministers issued decrees ordering the establishment of a strict régime of official inspection, the closing of students' unions and societies with the exception of the scientific ones, and, eventually, the direct interference of the police for the maintenance of order within the universities and high schools. As a protest against these measures, strikes and obstructions broke out again in all the establishments for higher education; lectures had to be delivered in the presence of police officers, armed constables occupied the halls and corridors of academic buildings, and wholesale arrests and deportations of undergraduates took place. In Moscow the Rector (Prof. Maniulov) and his assistants declared that they could not assume responsibility for the carrying into effect of the ministerial measures, and resigned their offices, when thereupon they were deprived of their chairs; 63 professors and lecturers tendered their resignations as a mark of sympathy with their dismissed comrades. This did not disturb the minister in the least, and he promptly accepted most of the resignations, although this involved the intellectual ruin of the oldest and most famous university of Russia. The “Pride's Purge” in Moscow was followed by a number of dismissals in other educational establishments; it was obvious that some of these repressive measures had been prompted by feelings of jealousy and revenge on the part of the minister.
The unsparing scourging of the academic corporations produced the desired effect of outward submission, but it brought the feelings of hatred and humiliation among the intellectuals to the highest pitch, and the outcasts and convicts of the university “Stories” afterwards formed the principal contingent among the embittered intellectual leaders of the revolution.
Another sign of the times may be discerned in Stolypin's legislation in respect of the Zemstvos of the western provinces (Kiev, Volhynia, Podolia, Mogilev, Minsk and Vitebsk). The introduction of a measure of local self-government would have been in itself a boon to the population of these provinces, but Stolypin made it an occasion for a renewed humiliation of the non-Russian nationalities, strongly represented in these districts. The project of the Government disfranchised the numerous Jewish population, and drove the Poles into a position of inferiority by dividing the electorate according to national colleges and establishing beforehand the preponderance of the Russian colleges by means of an artificial scheme of repartition. The unfairness and political short-sightedness of these restrictions provoked a strong opposition even in the docile Third Duma.
In the Council of the Empire a coalition between the Rights and the Lefts led to the rejection of the bill. Stolypin did not submit in the face of such an assertion of independence. He prorogued the Duma for three days (May 14–17), and in the interval obtained an Imperial decree promulgating the law as an emergency measure on the strength of Art. 87 of the Organic Laws. In consequence of this snub administered to the Legislative Assemblies, the Octobrist Centre could no longer support the Government; the leader of the Octobrists, A. Guchkov, resigned the presidentship of the Duma, and votes of censure on the Government were passed in both Houses on the resumption of their sittings. Stolypin's position was made untenable by these events. His victories meant in truth the breakdown of his programme. The Premier had again to rely exclusively on the goodwill of the autocratic Tsar as against independent public opinion, and he had to strive for that goodwill in the enervating and treacherous surroundings of Court intrigue, in which obsequious chamberlains were more expert than himself. The consciousness of failure was clearly expressed in Stolypin's behaviour after the smashing of the universities and the snubbing of the Legislative Assemblies. He looked worn in July 1911, and alluded repeatedly to his approaching resignation (Prof. Pares, in the Russian Review, 1912).
The coup de grâce came from the midst of the secret police, that had become the mainstay of the Imperial system in its struggle against rebellion. One of the agents of this organization, Bogrov, inflicted a mortal wound on Stolypin at a gala performance in the Kiev Opera House on Sept. 14 1911. The hatred of oppressed nationalities and of the humiliated intellectual class had armed the hand of the assassin, a well-educated Jew.
One part of Stolypin's activity calls for special examination, his land reform, which may be considered as the immediate introduction to the social revolution of 1917.
Defects of the Emancipation.—The agrarian revolts of 1905 attracted the attention of the Government and of society to the deplorable condition of the most numerous and important social class, the peasantry. The causes of the growing impoverishment of the peasantry are to be sought primarily in the manner in which the emancipation of 1861 had been carried out. The Emancipation Act of Feb. 19 1861, liberating the peasants from personal serfdom and giving them part of the land on certain conditions, was meant at the same time to achieve two other purposes: it tried to secure the necessary number of workmen for the landowners, who had lost the gratuitous labour of their serfs, and to ensure the collection of taxes and redemption payments. Each peasant received at the emancipation a certain quantity of land from the landowner; he had to pay for it a redemption price, the amount of which was fixed by the Government: the payments had to be completed in 45 years. The plot of land which the peasants got as their share on the transaction was called the holding (nadél): its size varied greatly in different provinces. “Large” holdings ranged between 2¾ (about 8 ac.) and 12 dess. (33 ac.), while minimum holdings corresponded to one-half of the maximum ones. The landowner's share comprised, besides his domain land, from one-third to one-half of the land formerly occupied by the peasants, on the condition that the latter should receive no less than the minimum holding. Besides these two principal types of holdings the Emancipation Act of 1861 established also the “beggarly” or “gratuitous” holding, which was to be no less than one-quarter of the maximum one. The gratuitous holding was established by free agreement between the peasants and the landowner; in this case the peasants had to pay no redemption, while the landowner kept all the rest of his land. On the whole the quantity of land held by the peasants had been much reduced.
The following figures for the province of Saratoff may serve as an illustration:—
|Peasants who held|| before
|More than the “large” holding||48.1||5.8 per cent|
|From ¾ to 1 of the “large” holding||35.8||4.8 per cent|
|Less than ¾ of the “large” holding||16.1||52.2 per cent|
In 1861 688,826 peasants received beggarly holdings; they held 502,383 dessiatines. In 35 provinces 921,826 souls were assigned one-half of the large holding each and held 1,530,000, or less than 2 dessiatines per soul.
The peasants' landholdings, which were already whittled down at the time of the Emancipation, were further reduced after it by the increase of the population. A Commission for the investigation of the conditions and needs of the peasantry described the diminution of the peasants' holdings in the following manner: in 1860, 4.8% decrease on the average; in 1880, 3.5 decrease and in 1900 2.6 decrease. Besides a portion of the arable land, the peasant lost at the Emancipation the right of using the landowner's pasturage, of cutting wood in his forest, and some other subsidiary rights important in peasant farming.
The redemption payments were a heavy charge on the peasant's budget. The Agricultural Commission of 1872 found that squires had to spend on taxes less than 14.5 kopeks per dess., while the peasants paid more than 95.5 k. per dess. In addition the peasants had to pay the poll-tax, the amount of which was about 4r. 45k. per soul. The same Commission states that in 37 provinces the taxes and redemption payments of the former state and appanage peasants comprised 92.75% of their net income from land, the payments of former unfree peasants 198.25 percent. Professor Yanson calculated that in the province of Novgorod the taxation of peasants who got small holdings was, in relation to the net income of their land, 275% in the case of the peasants who owned their land, and 565% in the case of those who had to pay the land redemption. This means that the peasants had to find other sources of revenue in order to satisfy the collectors of the land tax. The Government made some attempts to relieve the peasants' tax load. The salt tax was abolished in 1880, the poll-tax in 1882. But these measures could certainly not solve the financial difficulties of the peasantry. Arrears grew rapidly to enormous proportions.
The following figures show the growth of arrears from redemption payments in the province of Tambov:—
Driven by land hunger, the peasants farmed on lease a large part of the State's appanages and of squires' land, but this expedient cannot be considered as an effective help in the solution of the land problem. The rent paid by the peasants to the landowners was usually very high. It is important to notice that certain plots of land, the use and possession of which was an essential necessity for the whole community, for example strips bordering on watercourses, remained usually after the Emancipation in the hand of the landowner. This gave him the power to require exorbitant rent for such land and keep the peasants in permanent fear of losing these grounds, without which village life was practically impossible. This led to continual collisions. Under such conditions the backward and extensive methods of peasant cultivation proved very difficult to reform.
One of the most important defects of the peasant's landholding before the land settlement of Stolypin was the intermixture of strips in the open fields. The land of a community lay only seldom in a compact block. It was usually divided into a number of smaller “shots” sometimes mixed up with lands of other villages and landowners. The blocks of land belonging to the same community were again subdivided into strips, which were sometimes 2 to 3 yd. broad and some hundred yards long. Each household held a certain number of strips 20–30–50, sometimes even 100–150. The strips were scattered at a great distance from the farmyard, and the driving to them entailed a considerable waste of time and work: this hampered greatly the farming arrangements of the villagers. A peasant of the province of Novgorod calculated that he and his horse had to make about 1,548 versts (a verst is about 34 mile) every summer merely to go to and from his field situated at a distance of 3 versts from his farmyard. But some strips lay at a distance of 15–20 v. and even more. The intermixture of strips separated from each other only by narrow balks obliged the whole community to follow the same system of cultivation, which was usually the three-fields one. The very large extent of fallow land, the poor manure produced by weak, badly fed cattle, the carelessness of the holders who were not sure of keeping their land permanently—all this had the most ruinous effect on the peasants' farming. Under such conditions, hampering individual energy and initiative, the production on the peasants' holdings was very low indeed. The average value of the gross produce in 27 provinces of one dessiatine of peasants' land was 8r. 99k., while the average cost of production per dess. was 5r. 22k.; so that the net produce per dess. amounted only to 3r. 77k. The productiveness of the squires' estate was 12–18% higher than that of the peasants, but if we take into consideration that a large area of landowners' land was taken on lease by the peasants, the difference in the results of cultivation would be much greater. Mr. Yermolov puts it at about 50%.
Decay of the Peasantry.—The growing impoverishment of the peasantry during the whole period which followed the Emancipation of 1861 is reflected in the following description of peasants' life under normal conditions, taken from a memoir of the Zemstvo of Tula:
The peasant's life is hard and unsightly even in periods of comparative welfare. Generally he lives in a cottage of 8–9 yd. width and no more than 3 yd. in height. Cottages without chimneys are still very common, the smoke being let out through a hole in the roof. The roof is almost always thatched. In many provinces the walls are covered with dung for the sake of warmth. A peasant's family, sometimes a numerous one, is huddled together in a space of 20–30 sq. yards. The floor of the cottage is almost always bare soil, because lambs, calves, pigs and even cows are put in during the cold weather. Skin diseases are very common among the population. Meat, bacon, oil, butter appear on the peasant's table only on exceptional occasions, perhaps two or three times a year; his usual fare is composed of bread, porridge, kvass, cabbage and onions.
A very characteristic sympton of the decay of the peasants' farming is the reduction of the number of horses and the increase in the numbers of horseless households. A comparison of the figures of the horse statistics in 1888 and 1893–4 proves that in 31 provinces the number of horses had fallen by 10.88 per cent. The number of horseless households had increased during the same period in 23 provinces of central Russia from 21.56% to 26.85 per cent. More than 25% of the households have no horses at all; another 25% have only one horse each.
Let us now examine a peasant's normal budget as it is presented in the remarkable work of Mr. F. A. Shcherbina (edited by Prof. A. J. Chuprov). A medium budget of a peasant was balanced at 54r. 92k. The budget of a medium peasant householder consisted of the following items:—
|Corn on his land||16 r. 20 k.|
|Corn on household land||1 r. 92 k.|
|Straw and hay||8 r. 16 k.|
|Gardening||2 r. 63 k.|
|Cattle-breeding||9 r. 99 k.|
|Trade or craft||8 r. 47 k.|
|Sundries||7 r. 26 k.|
|Total||55 r. 63 k.|
|Corn||18 r. 10 k.|
|Food for cattle||8 r. 45 k.|
|Vegetables and fruit||1 r. 30 k.|
|Meat||3 r. 90 k.|
|Rent||1 r. 2 k.|
|Taxes||2 r. 65 k.|
|Sundries||20 r. 10 k.|
|Total||55 r. 54 k.|
Assuming that 19 puds of corn per head are the minimum necessary during one year and that 7.5 puds are sufficient for fodder, Mr. Maress calculated that 70.7% of the peasant population had less than 19 puds per head, 20.4% had between 19 and 26.5 puds per head, and only 8.9% had more than 26.5 puds per head. This means that 70.7% of the farming population could not live on the income from their land and would be reduced to semi-starvation if they could not find any supplementary means of existence. No wonder the standard of living of the great mass of the people stood exceedingly low. The following figures enable us to form a judgment as to the comparative consumption of corn in various countries; in studying them one must remember that corn was the staple food in Russia and that meat played a negligible part in the bill of fare of the people.
Average Corn Consumption and Production, per head
(in kilograms): 1909–14.
The state of mind produced by this situation among the peasantry may be gathered from the opinions expressed by peasant deputies in the Second Duma in the course of the debates on agrarian reform. One of the members of the Right, Prince Sviatopolk Mirski, had said that the ignorant and inexperienced mass of the Russian people had to be guided by the landlords as a flock is guided by shepherds. Kisselev, a peasant belonging to the group of toil, replied:—
“I should like the whole of peasant Russia, the whole of the Russian land, to remember well these words of the noble descendant of Rurik. . . . We have had enough of that kind of thing! What we want are not shepherds, but leaders, and we know how to find them without your help. With them we shall find our way to light, to truth, to the promised land!”
Afanassiev, a non-party deputy, an ex-soldier, said, among other things:—
“In the Japanese war I led a number of mobilized soldiers through estates (of the squires). It took us forty-eight hours to reach the meeting place. The soldiers asked me: ‘Where do you lead us?’ ‘To Japan.’ ‘What for?’ ‘To defend our country.’ They replied: ‘What is that country? We have been through the estates of the Lissetskys, the Besulovs, the Padkopailovs. . . . Where is our land? Nothing here belongs to us.’ ”
The same deputy said on another occasion:—
“Work, sweat and use the land! But if you do not wish to live on the land, to till it, to work on it, you have no right to own it!”
The great majority distrusted projects of expropriation based on the idea of compensating the former landowners, as likely to lead to unfair adjudications to the advantage of the squires. Some of the leaders were calculating how much should be taken outright, without any compensation; a few demanded the whole. Pianych, a socialist, exclaimed: “Throw them all off!”
Government Policy.—In order to meet this disastrous situation the Government made attempts in three directions—the increase of the size of peasants' holdings, emigration and the improvement of agricultural methods. It would be erroneous to think that the deficiency in land could be entirely removed by new distributions from the estates of the squires and the domains of the Crown. In 1906 the distribution of land among different classes of landowners was as follows (La Réforme agraire en Russie, Ministère de l'agriculture, 1912):—
|Crown land||133,038,883 dess.|
|Peasants' holdings||119,067,754 dess.|
|Land bought by communities and associations of peasants||11,142,560 dess.|
|Land bought by individual peasants||12,944,154 dess.|
|Land of the gentry||49,287,886 dess.|
|Land owned by other classes||22,664,493 dess.|
|Land owned by various institutions||6,985,893 dess.|
The enormous area of the Crown lands was mainly covered by forests or situated in the northern and eastern provinces, so that it could not be used for agricultural purposes; the surface of convenient land in the hands of the Crown was only about 3,700,000 dess. The arable land owned by the Church and different ecclesiastical institutions amounted to 1,672,000 dess. (Statistics of the Holy Synod, 1890); the appanages comprised arable land of 2,000,000 dess. If we take into consideration that a large part of the landowners' land was covered also by forests, we come to estimate the surface of the arable land owned by squires at about 35,000,000 dess. (Yermolov). The sum total that could be disposed of would thus amount to 45,000,000 dess., or about 30% of the area of the peasants' holdings; divided among the villagers it would make less than one additional dessiatine per soul. The insufficiency of the land reserve becomes even more evident if we keep in mind that about 85% of the Crown's arable land, 90% of the appanage arable land, and a considerable part of the squires' land were already leased by the peasantry. Of the 7,449,228 dess. which were sold by a newly instituted Peasant Bank to the peasants from 1882 to Jan. 1 1906, village communities acquired 25.6%; peasants' associations 72%; individual householders only 2.4 per cent.
The peasants' revolt of 1905 and the new schemes of Stolypin gave an entirely new direction to the agrarian policy of the State. The Manifesto of Nov. 3 1905 suspended all redeeming payments after Jan. 1 1906. Of the surface of 2,846,620 dess., which the bank sold directly from Jan. 1 1906 to June 1 1913 peasants' communities got 5.5%, peasants' associations 14.8%, individual owners 79.7 per cent. The peasants also acquired from the landowners, with some assistance of the bank, 4,375,163 dess. It is estimated by Oganovsky that the result of the bank activity until July 1 1910 was the creation of 45 to 50 thousand separate farms and of 130–140 thousand small compact plots the owners of which live in hamlets.
Let us turn now to the policy of the Government concerning emigration. The law of 1889 had subjected emigration to official supervision. Those were allowed to emigrate who were able to pay the expenses of the journey and of the installation of a new household, provided their departure did not harm the remaining members of the community. No Government assistance was given to the emigrants. Permission to emigrate was refused if the local authorities considered that the emigrants could find work in the old district. Those who emigrated without an official permission had to be sent back. These regulations resulted in a great reduction of the emigration movement, which was practically closed to the poorest peasants.
The events of 1905 and the new orientation of the Government brought a great change in the emigration policy. Greater facilities were granted, and Government assistance was promised by the Provisional Rules of June 6 1906. But the growth of emigration which followed the new regulations was obstructed by a complete lack of organization. The following figures give us some insight into the working of the new laws:—
These figures prove that the emigration policy of the Government was far from successful.
We have now to consider the third branch of the Government activity, directed towards the solution of the agrarian question. The scheme for improving agricultural methods was based on a reform of the distribution of the land. In 1861 a legal confirmation of the peasants' customary commune was considered the best means to secure the return of the money advanced by the State for redemption. The statistics of landownership in 1905 showed that 23.2% of the households and 17% of the land owned by the peasants were held by private tenure; 76.8% of the farms and 82.7% of the peasants' land were in communal tenure. The right of property was attributed not to separate householders but to the whole village community, as a juridical person. In the case of communal land tenure only the farmyard belonged to households in permanent tenure; other land belonged to the whole community, and was subject to occasional redivisions. Unfree domestic servants were assigned to peasants' communities, but did not obtain holdings: they formed in this way a village proletariat.
In the reign of the Emperor Alexander III. the communal tenure, which was regulated by the Liberation Act of 1861, came to be regarded as a political safeguard, and its decay was considered to be a national danger. The law of Dec. 14 1893 made practically impossible the transition from communal to household tenure. But the growing impoverishment of the peasantry gave evidence that the existing land system ceased to be beneficial. The special conference established by an Imperial Order on Jan. 22 1902 recognized for the first time the necessity of a fundamental change in the existing land settlement of the peasants. The majority of the Conference were of the opinion that the communal tenure and the intermixture of strips were the chief causes of the alarming condition of the peasantry.
Stolypin's Land Settlement.—The agrarian disorders of 1906 gave increased importance to the problem, and proved that the settlement of it could not be postponed any longer. In the years 1906–7 the problem of land reform excited the strongest interest in governmental circles, and played a most prominent part in the programmes of different parties and in the debates of the First and the Second Dumas. Stolypin took the initiative on the part of the Government and eventually obtained the support of the Third Duma. His scheme was directed towards a political purpose, the creation of a conservative class of small peasant owners who could be counted upon to defend the existing régime. This class had to be strong and progressive from the economic point of view, as it was clear that the improvement of the peasants' condition could be attained only by more intensive farming. As was said above, some measures had been taken to enlarge the area of the peasants' holdings without violating the interests of the squires. But the greatest part of the Government activity was directed to a complete reconstruction of rela- tions inside the village, to the creation of separate farms and to the spread of individual ownership. The Imperial ukaz of Nov. 9 1906, the Land law of June 14 1910, and the Agricultural law of May 29 1911 were enacted for this purpose. The leading features of Stolypin's scheme were as follow. Each householder possessed of land in a village community can demand that his land shall be constituted a plot in individual property. A simple majority of the village assembly may convert the holdings into the land owned privately. The land has to be assigned to the claimant, if possible, in a single block. The conversion of the land of the entire community can be decreed by a resolution of the village meeting passed by a simple majority of the members. All the communities where there had not been any redivision of land since 1861 were declared to have passed from communal tenure to individual or household ownership. The formation of compact plots could not be refused if it was asked for by not less than one-fifth of the householders. The Land Commissions created by the ukaz of March 4 1906 were entrusted with the redistribution of land under the new land settlement.
In the Duma the Right clung to the opinion which had been predominant in the time of Alexander III.; the Left entertained the hope that the communal land tenure was to form the cradle of future collectivism. The Cadets mostly agreed with the principles of the Government scheme, but they objected to the coercive character of its methods. The majority of the House supported the Government and carried its bill through the Duma. The motives that influenced the deputies of the Duma were well expressed by the chairman of the Land Committee, S. Shidlovsky, in his speech on Oct. 23 1908:—
“Our attitude as regards the decree of Nov. 9 is in substance a favourable one, because this decree aims at the development of individual land tenure and individual land tenure is certainly the necessary condition of improved cultivation, and the latter means the solution of the agrarian problem . . . . The foundation of a State ruled by law consists in a free, independent and energetic personality. Such a personality cannot exist unless you allow the common right of ownership, and no one who wishes the State to be ruled by law should oppose the spread of private property in land. Land is, after all, only a basis for the application of labour and capital, and labour is most productive when the labourer is placed in favourable conditions. In the forefront in this respect we have to place an open door for personal enterprise, free play for creative energy, security against outside interference, personal interest. . . . The avenue towards a permanent improvement in the existence of our peasants is to be found in an immediate increase of production and income from land, and this cannot be achieved without the help of outside capital. . . . A law which opens the way to personal property enables the agricultural worker to display his creative force.”
It seemed as if the reform had achieved an immediate and striking success. Before Jan. 1 1913 the Commission had arranged farms on an area of 7,413,064 dess., held by 738,980 households; strips had been concentrated into blocks on an area of 4,359,537 dess., held by 585,571 households.
The following figures illustrate the first part of the Commission's work from 1907 to 1911.
Up to April 1 1911 the number of peasants who wanted to leave the commune amounted to 2,116,600, or 23% of the whole number (9.2 millions). The movement towards enclosures was not equally popular in all the parts of the Empire. To make the process clearer we may divide the country into 5 areas: (1) South-East, (2) Agricultural Centre, (3) two Industrial Centres, round Petrograd and round Moscow, (4) South-West and West, (5) North and North-East (Oganoysky).
The following figures show the proportions of demand for compact plots in each of these provinces in proportion to 1,000 households:—
| N. and
|Till Nov. 1907||2.8||0.9||0.5||5.2||0.4||1.4|
|Nov. 1907—Nov. 1919||7.9||7.2||3.7||14.6||2.7||6.7|
|Nov. 1908—May 1909||15.8||9.1||6.6||15.6||1.7||8.9|
|May 1909—Jan. 1910||6.1||5.0||4.8||7.3||2.1||4.9|
|Jan. 1910—July 1910||5.2||4.6||4.8||8.6||1.4||4.7|
|Aug. 1910—April 1911||2.5||3.1||1.8||6.1||1.0||2.8|
The number of demands for separate farms before April 1911 for each 1,000 households who held their land in communal tenure were:—S.E. 320.6; Agr. Cent. 236.9; Ind. Cent. 172.5; S.W. 427.3; N. and N.E. 77.9; whole country 234.9.
These figures show that the greatest number of demands for separate farms were made in the South and South-East provinces, where the most extensive agricultural methods prevailed. It appears also that after May 1909 the number of householders applying for farms diminished in a marked proportion. The area of the compact plots was generally very small: and the percentage of poor peasants who asked for enclosure was growing. Their intention in getting rid of communal ties was to sell their land.
To judge by these data, the Government scheme of creating a class of small independent farmers was not in a fair way to success. As was shown above, most of those who asked for separation held only a small plot, and belonged to the poorer peasantry. Even with Government assistance they were unable to start separate farms, as this undertaking involves in the beginning a considerable outlay of capital. Besides, the natural conditions in some parts of Russia were not favourable to separate farms or homesteads. One of the chief difficulties was the lack of water, which cannot be found at all, except in connexion with considerable rivers, in very large tracts of the “black soil” area. This fact, together with the traditional leaning of the peasantry to village life, obliged the Land Commission to keep up on many occasions the village system even after the concentration of the fields.
A memoir drawn up by the conference of Old Ritualists held at Moscow on Feb. 22–25 1906 discloses the view taken by the peasantry on the question of communal land tenure. The opponents of the commune suggested that it made impossible any improvements in agricultural methods and diminished the productive power of the soil; its supporters stated that communal tenure was the only system based on justice; this consideration is characteristic of the traditional feeling among the Russian people. The Government scheme sacrificed justice for the sake of expected increased production. Stolypin himself described the new land settlement as “a stake on the strong.”
The small area of the holdings of the new farmers and their economic helplessness had, however, a very unfavourable influence on the expected increase of production. A farmer who held only 8–10 dess. of land could not introduce any extensive improvements in his household in the absence of cheap credit. Stolypin recognized that “primitive methods were used by the peasantry as before.” On the other hand, the rapid growth of emigration was one of the results of the new settlement.
The land settlement of 1906–10 was carried out with uncommon energy, but the social needs of the population were not satisfied. The Government was accused of having destroyed by a stroke of the pen an institution formed by centuries. The sudden change affected not only the economic conditions of the peasants' life, but the juridical relations between the members of the family were also shaken. Before the new settlement the life of the peasants was based on the participation in the common holding of all the members of the household. The new law substituted for this family tenure the individual ownership of the chief householder. All the other members of the family suddenly lost their rights in the land.
Other important inconveniences were also pointed out: the compulsory introduction of the reform, the danger of the increased competition, the buying up of the peasants' land for speculative purposes, the increased difficulties of existence in the case of the small households. The great end of the settlement—the creation of a strong, wealthy and conservative class of small landowners, was not attained. The necessity of extensive Government assistance and credit for the improvement of agriculture was felt more and more, but the financial estimates under this heading for 1911 amounted only to 4,000,000 rubles.
Altogether it may be said that Stolypin's agrarian measures could take effect only if they were accompanied by a steady policy making for agricultural education and backed by extensive credit. Even in such a case a long time would have been necessary to enable them to strike root. Their immediate consequence was rather to increase the fermentation in the villages and to excite and embitter the feelings of the villagers, who were losing faith in the village community without acquiring any other standard of economic organization. Thus the legislation of 1906–11 helped the agrarian upheaval instead of preventing it.
The Third and Fourth Dumas.—The death of Stolypin left a wide gap in the ranks of the Government, and the appointment of M. Kokovtsov, the Minister of Finance, to the premiership did not result in a rejuvenation of the bureaucratic system. The new Premier was in favour of continuity in policy; this meant that he would keep on the lines traced by Stolypin's initiative and avoid new departures as far as possible. He was a trained administrator, placed by chance at the head of the country in a time when caution and routine were certainly insufficient to meet the requirements of a critical situation. The principal achievement of the three years of Kokovtsov's rule was apparent success in the management of financial operations. The budget grew every year and reached in 1914 the enormous sum of 3 milliard rubles, and yet not only was a deficit avoided, but some 1,500 millions in gold were accumulated as a reserve fund to sustain the currency and meet possible emergency calls.
The instability of the vast structure buttressed on the chronic alcoholism of the people was duly perceived by public opinion, and a campaign was started in the Duma to put an end to this shameful and perilous situation. One of the Duma members, Chelyshiv, was the soul of this active agitation in the Legislative Assemblies and in Government circles. He succeeded in obtaining the formation of a commission to examine and report on the subject, but his abolitionist plans were obstructed by the opposition of the Finance Ministry, which did not see its way to balance the budget without the resources supplied by the monopoly of the sale of spirits.
Yet signs were not wanting that the welfare of the country was seriously threatened, in spite of the deceptive appearances of an enormous and duly balanced budget. The harvest of 1911 was so poor that in 1912 Russia was visited by a severe famine. Yet the Government refused to let voluntary organizations assist in fighting the disaster; only associations affiliated to the Red Cross or to the Zemstvos were allowed to send agents into the provinces, to collect and to distribute funds. The public works organized by bureaucratic boards were conducted in a very unsatisfactory manner: the peasants got hardly any help from them, as support was systematically directed to assist householders who owned horses and were altogether better off. Public opinion was incensed but powerless. As regards workmen in factories and workshops some progress was made in connexion with insurance against ill-health, but in other respects the employers were left very much to their own way, with the result that strikes, which had decreased considerably in number and intensity after the collapse of the revolutionary movement in 1907, began to multiply again. In 1912 2,032 cases of strikes were registered, in 1913 4,098. On many occasions the unrest was quelled by the intervention of Cossacks and soldiers. The most terrible case of the kind occurred in the gold-fields of a company largely supported by British and other foreign capital the Lena Company: a dispute as to wages and maintenance was terminated by a fusillade in which 162 workmen were killed.
It is difficult to estimate the exact effect of this kind of administration on the peasants and workmen subjected to it, although there can be no doubt that bitter resentment was increased by the fact that it was driven underground. But indirectly the disappointment and disaffection of society left its mark in the growth of political opposition in spite of all the efforts of the Government to suppress it and to obtain outward compliance by means of artificial restrictions of the franchise and downright pressure on the electors.
The dissolution of the Third Duma on the completion of its period of five years presented an opportunity for an attempt of this kind on a large scale. The Third Duma had been led by the Octobrist party in conjunction with the moderate Right. This policy had suffered shipwreck through the absolutist bent of Stolypin's administration and the colourless leadership of Kokovtsov. In the last sessions before its dissolution the Duma assumed a frankly hostile attitude towards the Ministry and the leader of the Octobrists, A. Guchkov, pronounced thundering indictments against the “irresponsible influences” which shaped the course of politics from behind the scenes: the egregious mismanagement of the Artillery Department, presided over by the Grand Duke Serge Mikhailovich, and the scandalous influence of the Empress's protégé Rasputin, gave good grounds for these attacks. The decree of June 3 1907, which had introduced an intricate and restricted franchise, provided convenient handles for the gerrymandering of elections, and Kokovtsov's Government made full use of them in order to secure a Government majority in the Fourth Duma. Especially conspicuous was the mobilization of the parish priests by command of the Procurator of the Holy Synod, Sabler: the clergy were enjoined to exert all their influence on the peasants in order to ensure the election of deputies of the Right. The bureaucracy was so far successful in this campaign that, thanks to its pressure and to the evident breakdown of the plan of a coalition with the Government, the Octobrists were defeated in a number of districts and their leader, Guchkov, succumbed at the polls.
The party grouping may be tabulated as follows:—(1) The Right, 67; (2) Moderate Right, 38; (3) Nationalists, 55; (4) Centre (Krupensky's group), 28; (5) Octobrists, 87; (6) Progressists, 37; (7) Constitutional Democrats, 60; (8) Social Democrats, 14; (9) Polish circle, 13; (10) Mahommedans, 6; (n) No party, 20; (12) Group of Toil, 7; (13) Of unknown party allegiance, 17.
The new Duma was thus apparently more reactionary than the one which had preceded it. But public discontent and the inability of the Government to frame any effective policy of reform produced the unexpected result that a combination was brought about between the groups of the Left, the Octobrists, and even, in some cases, the Right Centre. In a general way the Duma assumed an attitude of opposition as regards the Government and the reactionary Council of the Empire. This line of policy was especially conspicuous in a long series of interpellations and resolutions of want of confidence carried against arbitrary acts of the authorities. The following interpellations may be mentioned among many: on the illegal acts of the police during a search in the house of the deputy Petrovsky; on the acquisition of the Kiev-Voronezh railway line by the State; on naphtha trusts; on the secret dealings of the Government with Baron Günsburg, the principal director of the Lena gold-field; on an illegal ordinance of the Petrograd prefect concerning the suppression of hooliganism; on a reform of the Medico-Surgical Academy of Petrograd by an illegal order of its principal; on the spending of money without warrant from the Legislature and failures in carrying out the conditions as to grants and credits, etc. And yet when a bill was passed by the Duma to establish rules as to the responsibility of civil servants, the Council of the Empire refused to sanction the most modest requirements in this respect, although even the Minister of Justice had expressed his agreement. On the other hand, the Government did not scruple to prosecute a deputy (Kusnetsov) for a speech he had made in the Duma, and the administrative department of the Council of the Empire laid down the principle that members of the Legislature were liable to prosecution in such cases.
All measures of home policy, even the most urgent ones, were regarded from the point of view of political strife. The Education Committee of the Duma, in conjunction with the Zemstvos, had worked out a plan for the provision and equipment of a sufficient number of elementary schools in order to secure universal instruction throughout the country. It was calculated that some ten million children had to be accommodated in the schools, in addition to about five million who were already enrolled for a course of three years in the schools of the towns and the Zemstvos (provinces). In order to achieve the result by 1924, the Duma proposed to develop gradually a network of schools by means of appropriations successively increased by 10,000,000 rubles a year in the course of 10 to 12 years. This scheme could not be carried out in its entirety and in a systematic form on account of obstruction from the Board of Education and from the Council of the Empire. Besides the distrust of these reactionary bodies as regards all kinds of enlightenment, they were opposed to any policy which gave precedence to secular schools over Church schools, although it could not be contested that the former were much more advanced and perfect in teaching and organization. The comprehensive law of consolidation which would have ensured a steady progress towards systematic instruction in the country was wrecked by the Council of the Empire: the “enlightened bureaucrat” Count Witte did not scruple to oppose the bill in alliance with the stalwarts of reaction, because, as he expressed it himself, it was an attempt to obtain paradise by means of child-murder, the murdered child being the Clerical school organization. Thwarted in its comprehensive policy, the Duma nevertheless proceeded on its course by occasional increase of credits for elementary education.
These constant conflicts produced a perceptible sliding towards the Left in the ranks of the Duma legislators. One of the symptoms of this process consisted in the disruption of the Octobrist party. It broke up into three small groups—the Left, hardly distinguishable from the Cadets; the Centre, which professed to devote its activity mainly to the strengthening of the Zemstvos; and the Right, which still clung to the idea of a possible alliance with a reformed Government. The dismemberment of the Duma into a number of small party groups gave additional influence to the Cadet nucleus, which, though it counted few members in the Duma, acted under strong discipline and had a powerful press.
In one direction only the majority of the Duma was fairly in agreement with the Government, namely as regards foreign affairs and in questions concerning the interests of the dominant nationality of the Empire. In spite of certain minor disagreements between the parties of the Left and the Centre and Right, the Duma as a whole was decidedly Nationalistic. The Third Duma had bequeathed to the Fourth a definite line of policy concerning the Finland conflict: the Legislature backed the Government in its endeavours to subordinate the autonomy of the Finnish State to the superior claims of the Empire. The view that the union between the Grand Duchy and Russia was a real and not a personal one led to the assertion of the supreme jurisdiction of the Imperial Senate and of the St. Petersburg Court of Appeal over Finnish tribunals; to the passing of laws commuting the obligation of personal military service for money payments; and to the recognition of Russians dwelling in Finland as citizens of the Grand Duchy on equal terms with native Finns. Even the Cadets did not contest the general principle from which such demands were derived, although they disapproved of the raising of issues which embittered the intercourse between nationalities and led to unpleasant consequences in the shape of passive resistance and the incarceration of Finnish officials who refused to recognize the legality of the interference of Russian institutions in Finnish affairs, apart from the traditional channel of the governor-general and Senate as representing the authority of the Grand Duke.
The creation of the new province of Chelm (Kholm), separated from the provinces of Lublin and Sedlitz, envenomed another national conflict of long standing—that between Russians and Poles. The new Government was formed out of districts in which the dominant ethnographic element of the population was Little Russian and not Polish, although this population had been included for centuries within the boundaries of the Polish State and had been recognized as part of Congress Poland annexed to Russia by the Treaty of Vienna (1815). The Duma passed the law of separation without taking heed of the violent protests of Polish public opinion.
The Conflict with the Central Empires.—The Nationalistic orientation of the Third and Fourth Dumas was put to the test by the growing entanglements of foreign policy in the course of the years 1911–4. Russia had definitely joined the combination of Western Powers against the predominance of Germany, and opinion in the country fully supported this momentous change of front. The annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria under the protection of Germany “in shining armour” was strongly resented, not only by Stolypin and Isvolsky as the official exponents of Imperial policy, but by the nation at large, the more bitterly as it was felt that Russia was not in a position to give free vent to her dissatisfaction. No wonder that in 1911, during the Agadir affair, Russia was found on the side of Kaiser William's opponents. But matters became especially serious when the Macedonian hostilities, which had been smouldering for decades, burst out into flames in 1912. The coalition between Bulgarians, Serbians and Greeks against Turkey had been rendered possible and effective by the support on which they reckoned from Russia; and O. Hartwig, the Minister Resident at Belgrade, was one of the principal agents in bringing it about. M. Sazonov, the successor of M. Isvolsky at the Foreign Office, cautious, but devoted to the great tradition of Russia's protectorate over the Balkan Christians, was intent on using to the full the favourable situation created by the union between the three Balkan States, the sympathy of Western Liberals and the temporary indecision of the Central Powers. In this he was supported by the Tsar Nicholas, who, however, made it clear to his agents that Russia would not risk an actual war.
The crushing defeat inflicted on the Turks by the Balkan allies seemed to justify completely the combination engineered by Hartwig. But the harvesting of the fruits of victory proved a more difficult task than the actual fighting. The Central Powers had realized the menace of a permanent Balkan League to their ascendancy in the Near East. Austria vetoed any extension of Serbia towards the Adriatic. With the support of Germany she succeeded in depriving the Serbs and Montenegrins of the position they had won in Albania. Russia did not dare to back the latter's claims to the finish at the London Conference, and the Western Powers were disinclined to proceed without Russia. The eviction of the Serbs from the west proved fatal to the peace of Europe. They tried to recoup themselves in the east by demanding districts of western Macedonia which had been previously conceded to the Bulgarians. M. Sazonov tried to stop the growing animosity between the Balkan allies by offering the mediation of Russia, and Nicholas II. attempted rather late in the day to exert his personal influence on the wily Ferdinand of Bulgaria as well as on the Serbians. These attempts at conciliation proved unavailing: the Bulgarians broke away first, but were soon checkmated by a coalition between Serbia, Greece and Rumania. The Peace of Bucharest, which gave the Dobrudja to Rumania, western Macedonia to Serbia and important districts of Thrace and Macedonia to Greece, shattered all hopes of an effective Balkan League, and laid Bulgaria open to the insidious intrigues of Austria and Germany. M. Sazonov manifested clearly the ill-humour of Russia; but this powerless discontent made her diplomatic defeat still more humiliating.
All these events were watched by Russian public opinion with keen interest and warm sympathy for the cause of the Slavs. It was realized more and more clearly that the struggle did not concern merely the small States of the Balkans, but also their big neighbours; in the Duma and in the press the attitude of the Government was applauded or criticized from the point of view of national self-consciousness and imperialistic aspirations. M. Sazonov found unexpected support from M. Milyukov, the leader of the Cadets. B. Maklakov and V. Bobrinsky came forward as the spokesmen of Slavonic solidarity. No one knew exactly how much was involved in the risk of a breach with Germany, but the public at large sought a kind of compensation for the disappointments of home politics in a bold attitude in foreign affairs. In this way, when the climax in the antagonism between Austria and Serbia was reached in the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Russian public was prepared to back the Government against any hostile acts of the Central Powers. The outrageous treatment of Serbia by Austria-Hungary was rightly interpreted as a provocation to the Entente, and especially to Russia. It is well known that everything was done to preserve peace, short of surrendering Serbia to an Austrian inquisition and waiting patiently till Germany should complete the mobilization which was proceeding under the guise of “precautionary measures.” The only person of any weight who advised submission at any price was Count Witte. Everybody else, from the Emperor to the most humble citizen, understood that no choice was left but to fight for existence. The dynasty was granted a unique opportunity to retrieve its misdeeds and blunders by placing itself wholeheartedly at the head of a great popular movement. The Duma, usually so critical, expressed by the voice of its various leaders the unanimous resolve of the nation to withstand the common enemy with patriotic unanimity.
Russia in the World War.—In the light of subsequent events the declarations made on the outbreak of the World War assume a particular significance. The representatives of alien nationalities expressed emphatically their resolve to stand by Russia in the struggle. Goldman, a Lett, said: “Neither our nationality nor our speech nor our creed prevent the Letts and the Esthonians from harbouring warm patriotic feelings towards Russia and from standing shoulder to shoulder with the great Russian people for the defence of the fatherland.” Friedman, a Jew, spoke in the same strain: “We have lived and we live in particularly oppressive conditions. Nevertheless, we have always felt ourselves citizens of Russia and faithful sons of the fatherland. No power will ever be able to tear us from our mother-country Russia, from a land to which we have been tied for centuries. We come forward to the defence of this country not only to perform a duty, but because we are attached to it.” Even the Poles chimed in. Iaronsky pointed on their behalf to the tragic situation of Poland:—
“The Polish nation torn into three parts sees its sons in mutually hostile camps. In spite of that our feelings of sympathy for the Slavs weld us into one whole. This is suggested to us not only by the justice of the cause taken up by Russia, but also by political reflection. God help the Slavs led by Russia to repulse the Teutons in the same way as they were repulsed five hundred years ago by Poland and Lithuania in the battle of Grünwald. Let us hope that the blood shed by us and the terrors of a fratricidal war may lead to the reunion of the three fragments of the Polish people.”
If the alien nationalities spoke in this way no wonder the Russian groups expressed their resolve to spare no effort in the struggle, and to support the Government to the utmost in the task of defending the country. Even the Group of Toil declared by Kerensky's voice that they were persuaded of the righteousness of Russia's cause and ready to sacrifice everything for the country's defence. Only from the little group of Social Democrats came threatening notes. Their spokesman dwelt on the solidarity of the proletariat all the world round, on the common guilt of all the Governments in provoking the war, on the resolve of the proletariat to bring about a speedy peace, on the hope that the present terrible catastrophe would result in the abolition of all wars. These discordant notes were lost, however, in the general display of enthusiasm.
The Tsar's Government was on the crest of a mighty popular wave; it might have steered a course towards victory and national regeneration if it had possessed the moral strength to rise to the occasion, to throw away the tawdry equipment of despotism and to concentrate the forces of the people for the momentous struggle. Events soon proved that it was not only incapable of such an effort, but that its leadership was in itself a hindrance to success at home and in the war.
At the start, however, two steps in the right direction were taken by the Government: the abrogation of the State monopoly of the sale of spirits, and the promise of autonomy to the Poles. The Gordian knot of the temperance problem was cut by Imperial decree in spite of the difficulties raised by finance experts. The beneficial influence of the measure on the morals and health of the people and of the army cannot be doubted.
The results for the Imperial Treasury were not so appalling as was predicted by timorous specialists. They can be gathered from a comparison between the budgets of two consecutive years—1914 and 1915.
|Surplus of ordinary revenue||1,293,853||262,645,956||−261,352,103|
|From free balance of Treasury||—||27,099,925||−27,999,925|
|Deficit to be met by loan||144,700,000||—||144,700,000|
The proposed budget for 1915 included 502,642,000 rubles of ordinary revenue from new taxes and increases of existing taxation. The necessity for this increase of taxation arose from the reduction in the Government spirit monopoly operations and the influence of war upon revenue. In the 1914 budget the revenue from the spirit monopoly totalled 936,217,500 r. or 26.2% of the total ordinary revenue. For 1915 the estimated revenue from this source was only 144,360,000 r. or 4.7% of the total ordinary revenue, a decrease equal to 22.1% of the ordinary revenue of 1914. On the other hand account must be taken of the saving that would be effected in expenditure on the spirit monopoly. This expenditure totalled 246,787,567 r. in the 1914 estimates, but was reduced by 140,374,401 r. in the 1915 estimates. So the expected decrease in the net revenue from the spirit monopoly was about 651,000,000 rubles.
The appeal to the Poles was made in a proclamation of the commander-in-chief, Grand Duke Nicholas. The grant of autonomy was held out as a reward of coöperation against the common enemy, the Germans. It would have been better if the promise had come directly from the Tsar, and if instead of vague words something tangible had been conceded at once. As a matter of fact the high bureaucracy began at once to put obstacles in the way of any reform, and the matter never reached a further stage than that of discussions in a Government committee. The damage done by these vacillations was incalculable. Instead of enlisting the wholehearted support of Polish patriots Imperial bureaucracy drove them into a position of distrust and hostility, which became especially keen in view of the tactless and offensive behaviour of Russian authorities in Galicia, and could not be placated by occasional concession in details. This episode may serve as an example of the stupid policy followed by the Government in regard to all minor nationalities of the Empire: their enthusiastic rally was discouraged in every way, and old enmities were revived and increased at the most critical time. The case of the Jews was especially flagrant: numbers of them continued to perform their military duties faithfully and zealously, but many others took advantage of opportunities to spy and to betray their persecutors, and the round of executions and pogroms set in again with increasing force.
The Effects of Misgovernment.—In the field the old cancers of corruption and favouritism were again producing disappointment and disaster. The army did not lack excellent leaders—the chief-of-staff of the Southern command, Alexeiev, the corps commanders Ruzsky, Brusilov, Radko Dmitriev, were generals of the first rank. The officers and the common soldiers fought with the traditional tenacity and valour; no sacrifices were spared and brilliant victories were won. And yet on decisive occasions incredible things had happened. Samsonov's army was destroyed, thanks to a slackness in coöperation on the side of Samsonov's colleague, Rennenkampf, who was believed to play for his own hand. The suspicion was confirmed by a similar lapse on the part of the same commander later on at the battle of Lodz, when he failed to close the noose in which two corps of Mackensen's army had been caught. In Jan. 1915 an intelligence officer, Miassoyedov, actually sold the plans of the northern concentration to the Germans, and brought about a crushing defeat of Sivers' army. Worst of all it became clear towards the spring of 1915 that the army was insufficiently provided with munitions, aircraft, artillery and other appliances of war. The onslaught of Mackensen's and Hindenburg's Germans had to be met by soldiers many of whom had to man the trenches with sticks, in expectation that the death of comrades might give the chance of picking up rifles; batteries were forbidden to fire more than a couple of times an hour; the armies were surrounded by multitudes of “Kids”—marauders and deserters. Even in these terrible circumstances the Russians fought stubbornly, retreated step by step, and eventually, with the help of Alexeiev's strategy, succeeded in arresting the stream of the invasion on the lines of the Dvina and the Dniester. But the psychological effect of this desperate campaign was a lasting one. The common men had learned that their blood was shed without stint by a Government which had been criminally careless and inefficient. The way was opened to the insidious propaganda of revolutionary defeatists and traitors. The revolution of 1917 was prepared on the battlefields of Gorlice and Krasnostav.
The progressive elements of Russian society attempted to save the situation by a great effort. The Zemstvo and Town Unions, which had been doing wonders in hospital work and equipment, offered their services for the preparation of munitions:—
Towards the end of May 1915, at a congress of representatives of trade and industry, the discussion of technical questions was interrupted by an impassioned speech delivered by one of the leading Moscow millionaires, V. Riabushinsky, just back from the front and full of the impressions of the life and death struggle against the invaders. “The whole of Russia forms the rear of the army,” he said. “We cannot busy ourselves with our everyday affairs at the present moment: every workshop, every factory must be used to break the enemy's force.” It was not a question of forming this or that committee, but of sinking all differences and appealing to the
assistance of every able man, without distinction of parties, as people had done in the West in France and in England. Prince Lvov spoke in the same strain on June 5 at a meeting of delegates of the Zemstvo Union. “At this great historical juncture,” he said, “what is needed is not criticism, but energetic work. We do not want to produce irritation, but a bold spirit and combined efforts. We must strive to concentrate all the forces of the land and to inspire Government and society with mutual confidence.” (Vinogradoff, Self-Government in Russia, 116, 117).
Technical committees were created with the participation of leaders of industry, Zemstvo workers, representatives of the working class: they displayed fervid energy and achieved good results. But the main condition demanded by Riabushinsky and Lvov—mutual confidence between the people and the Government—was conspicuously absent. Subordinate officials joined in the efforts of the unions, but the central Government continued to flounder in the morass of Court intrigues and supine reaction. The worthless Minister of War, Sukhomlinov, was indeed dismissed and put on his trial; the ancient bureaucrat Goremykin had to resign the premiership; but the appointment of his successor, Stürmer, provoked a general outburst of indignation. He was known for his reactionary opinions, and had shown his mettle in helping to coerce the progressive Zemstvo of Tver. His great merit was his subserviency and affected devotion to the Imperial family, especially to the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. This obstinate and hysterical lady meddled more and more with affairs of State, particularly after the assumption of the supreme command by the Emperor. And behind her stood various favourites, chief among whom was the astute peasant Gregory Rasputin, whose exploits had made the Petrograd Court a place of scandal for the whole world. No wonder that the opening of the Duma in Feb. 1916 gave rise to manifestations very different from those which had occurred in that assembly in July 1914. The ally of Stolypin, Shidlovsky, speaking on behalf of the bloc of progressive parties, said: “The general longing of the entire country towards a situation in which the country could entertain confidence in its Government, and feel in union with it, has been traduced as an incitement to seize power. . . . The forces of the nation, bereft of unity, aim and guidance, have been spent in vain, and the great national effort has weakened under the dissolving influence of discontent and indifference.” The leader of the Progressives, Efremov, addressed the ministers in the following words: “You must understand that your duty as patriots is to go, and to clear the place for a national Ministry.”
The discord between the Government and the Duma found expression on many occasions in connexion with important questions of internal policy. The Duma rejected a bill as to the organization of coöperative societies because it placed them at the mercy of the administration. A strike at the Putilov works, suppressed by military force, gave rise to a heated discussion in which the Duma, while condemning the strike as “a stab in the back,” expressed the desire that the legal activity of trade unions should be given free scope and that chambers of arbitration should be founded for the settlement of trade disputes. Perhaps the most significant pronouncement was made in the course of the debates on the budget of the Holy Synod. The Duma voted a resolution to the effect that it considered necessary a reform of the Church administration on the principle of the supremacy of Councils and of a wide application of local self-government. For this purpose a national Council should be convoked without delay. The reform should extend to central and to local administration, to ecclesiastical courts, especially in the matter of divorce procedure, and to the ecclesiastical schools; the parish should be developed as much as possible; bishops should not be transferred from one See to another, more particularly if the consent of the Church had not been obtained. The State should cease to look upon the clergy as a political instrument, and all circulars and orders in this sense should be revoked.
The Government seemed to take delight in ignoring and thwarting all these resolutions. Stürmer was called to one minis- terial post after the other. In Feb. he was appointed Home Secretary in succession to N. Khvostov, in July Foreign Secretary in succession to S. Sazonov, who was dismissed because he had urged the necessity of settling the Polish question in the sense of definite and real autonomy. Altogether ministerial portfolios were shuffled like cards at the bidding of the Empress. According to the winged word of Eugene Trubetskoy, ministers were following each other like “fleeting shadows.” It may be sufficient to notice the advent of M. Protopopov, a convert from the ranks of the Liberal bloc to the Ministry of the Interior (Sept. 16). The dismay and indignation of the country found expression in a series of resolutions demanding the appointment of a Cabinet supported by the confidence of the people. Even conservative institutions like the Council of the Empire and the Association of the United Gentry joined in the chorus.
The Popular Leaders.—Before proceeding with the narrative of events which led up to the actual revolution, let us consider the various currents of thought and party organization of the intellectuals who were preparing for the coming conflict.
It is not necessary to dwell at any length on the Octobrists and the Cadets. The former drew their main strength from the provincial gentry and the Zemstvo institutions, the latter from the urban middle class and the liberal professions. The Octobrists pleaded for gradual development from local self-government, while the Cadets placed their hopes on the introduction of a constitutional democracy in which actual leadership would fall to the representatives of Western culture. The importance of far-reaching social and economic reforms was fully realized by the Cadets, and they were prepared to place them in the forefront of their political activity, but in spite of a recognition of the “four-tails” formula (i.e. universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage), the Cadets had no hold on the mass of the people, and relied on the selection of the educated by the uneducated.
Socially and psychologically, the leading groups of the years of upheaval were bound to come from the midst of the extreme revolutionary intellectuals, and it is to them that we have to turn our attention. Three leading currents may be distinguished in the history of revolutionary thought in Russia: militant idealism born of bitter resentment at the backward state of Russia in comparison with the West; the tendency to seek regeneration in a closer contact with the folklore of the common people; the economic materialism proclaimed by Marx and transplanted by various Russian thinkers. In theory, the views of the first group were most vividly expressed by writers like P. Lavrov and N. Mikhaïlovsky. The stress was laid by them on the propaganda of progressive ideas of European civilization among the intellectuals, especially among the youth, in order to form the minds of irreconcilable fighters for emancipation in all fields of human activity. Lavrov had initiated a philosophical theory (anthropologism) somewhat akin to the humanism of the modern pragmatic school; Mikhaïlovsky had preached “subjective” ideals with great effect as a journalist and literary critic. His violent radicalism was directed not only against the “powers that be,” but also against agitation among the masses without corresponding enlightenment. He repudiated “class struggle” as a “school of bestiality,” from which men issued as “live corpses with faces distorted by rage.” In contrast to these “Westerners” appeared a group of writers who clung to the conception of a special aptitude of the Russian people for social brotherhood and communal economics (Zlatovratsky, Korolenko, Oganovsky, Kacharovsky): their antecedents must be sought in the romantic teaching of the Slavophils as well as in emotional motives in sympathy with the toil and struggle of the peasantry.
In the case of active revolutionaries like Chernov, the radicalism of the Westerners was allied with the romanticism of the Populists, and in various combinations both tendencies helped to shape the views and the policy of the Social Revolutionary party. In the beginning of the 20th century one could distinguish some five groups representative of this party. The struggle with the Government in the first revolution (1905–6) welded these sets into a more compact body, the principal organ of which (the Messenger of Revolutionary Russia) proclaimed the necessity of a close alliance between revolutionary intellectuals, conspiring proletarians and the struggling peasantry. As the programme of the Social Revolutionaries aimed at union between the classes in common opposition to the Government, it laid chief stress on political rights, democratic organization and the raising of the status and consciousness of the individual. Their methods of terrorism and insurrection were themselves the outcome of the heightened sense of personality and of the importance attached to energetic action and self-sacrifice.
The ways of the Social Democrats were different; they adopted Marx's teaching as a gospel and tried to develop and to apply it in every direction. Their chief exponent was for a time G. Plekhanov, a philosopher and economist who had taken up his residence abroad, in Switzerland and in Italy. He held strictly to the evolutionary construction laid down by Marx, according to which Capitalism appears as a necessary stage in the development of production and gives way to Collectivism only when the majority of the workers have been turned into wage-earning proletarians. Marx's principal disciple, Engels, had added that it would be the greatest misfortune for the working-class if it seized power before it had fully reached the stage of complete consciousness and Western organization. As a consequence of this, Plekhanov and his followers did not consider the Russian people ready for class war against the bourgeoisie, and insisted, on the contrary, on combined action with the social groups possessed of better education and greater political experience. Some Marxians went even further in the direction of compromise with the middle class and with the Government. For a time an “economic” orientation was very much the fashion; it discarded political action as untimely and hopeless, and insisted on “business” efforts for the improvement of the standard of living, increase in wages, industrial organization, better protection for the working-class, etc. The “Revisionist” movement, initiated in Germany by Brentano and Bernstein, found a wide field for application (Struve, Bulgakov, Prokopovich). Struve declared the formula of a class war to be a “myth,” although he conceded it a certain value inasmuch as it helped to rouse the self-consciousness of the proletarians. Bulgakov analyzed the situation in regard to the distribution and cultivation of land, and came to the conclusion that the process of economic evolution consisted substantially in the gradual disappearance of brutal exploitation of human beings by fellow men; in industry this was effected by the concentration of production and increasing control, in agriculture by the breaking up of large estates and the strengthening of a class of prosperous husbandmen. Both movements converge in swelling the current of rising democracy.
The realities of Russian life did not prove favourable to a growth of these tendencies towards social peace. The burden of increasing taxation, the disastrous conduct of the Japanese war, the reactionary stupidity of the Government,—all contributed to revive the revolutionary spirit in the ranks of the Social Democratic party. The history of this revival may be traced from the appearance in Dec. 1900 of the Iskra (The Spark), a newspaper conducted by Lenin and Martov, supplemented by a monthly review Zaria (The Dawn) for more detailed exposition and argument. Lenin's pamphlets, What is to be done? (1902) and Letter to a Comrade (1903), express one of the leading ideas of his later activity. He pleads in them for centralized direction and decentralized responsibility, that is, for an oligarchy of leaders and strict discipline as regards the execution of their decisions by subordinate units. Democratic watchwords are set aside and efficiency of organization is demanded at all costs. This led to the disruption of the party. At the London Congress of 1903 the fateful division between “Bolsheviks” and “Mensheviks” was inaugurated, as a consequence of disagreement concerning the problem of leadership and discipline. The Bolshevik (meaning “Majority”) group carried its proposals by a very narrow majority, and captured the Central Council of the party, from which they excluded entirely their opponents. The latter, who had a majority on the staff of the Iskra, proclaimed a boycott against Lenin and his adherents. The insignificance of the immediate cause of the split was only apparent: in truth the division arose from fundamental opposition between the democratic orientation of Plekhanov and the oligarchical spirit represented by Lenin. The struggle was not suggested by a deep cleavage of principle among the rank and file of the party, but by disputes among its intellectual leaders.
Questions of principle arose, however, in the course of the Japanese war and the first revolution. While Plekhanov and the Mensheviks were for coöperation with the Liberals in the fight for political freedom and for a gradual introduction of social reforms, Lenin set his hopes on the hatred of the peasantry for the landlords, and preached a ruthless Jacquerie. In his pamphlet, The Agrarian Programmes of Social Democracy, he contended that orthodox Marxians had failed to grasp the peculiarities of the Russian situation inasmuch as they were still talking about a coalition of the bourgeoisie of the towns, while in Russia the moving power was to be sought in the rising of the peasant bourgeoisie against the squires. He contrasted the abstract views of the town proletariat with the intense revolutionary temper of the peasants who were “ready to fly at the throat of the landlords and to strangle them.” In his view the proletariat had to supply leaders and instructors when the revolution had been set going, but he looked to the exasperated peasantry for bringing down the existing order.
It is hardly needful to point out the close connection between these literary disputes and the Zimmerwald agitation of 1915–16, as well as with the eventual overthrow of the old régime in 1917. Let us note that the Congress of the Social Democratic party in 1917 sided definitely with Lenin and the Bolsheviks.
The Revolution.—The situation in the beginning of 1917 was extremely tense and abnormal. The Emperor had left the capital and taken up his residence at the army headquarters in order to see as little as possible of the ministries, the Duma, or the Court, and to lead a “simple life” among the selected retainers of the Stavka; the Empress continued to look for hypnotizing inspiration to monks and priests and interfered constantly in affairs of State in favour of reaction. Even the staunchest conservatives, like Trepov, found it impossible to remain in office under such conditions, and the field was left clear for half-insane subjects like Protopopov and bigoted courtiers like Prince N. Galitsin. The army at the front held on sullenly to its positions, but was war-weary and distrustful of its leaders; the enormous levies in the rear provided crowds of conscripts, who resented the separation from their households and their land, chafed under the drudgery of stupefying training and swallowed eagerly the germs of insidious propaganda. The factory workmen in the towns were deeply affected by internationalistic and socialistic ideas, while the peasants were groaning under the heavy toll of conscription and the economic demands arising from a war which they had ceased to understand. Among the intellectuals there was a widespread feeling of uneasiness as regards the coming catastrophe: some were afraid of “cutting off the branch on which they were sitting,” and many realized the madness of plunging into revolution in the midst of a war for existence. But the prevailing sentiment was despair as to any improvement under the reactionary Government. Even in Court circles the notion of a revolutionary movement was spreading rapidly, although, of course, officers of the Guards did not look further than to the elimination of Nicholas II. and of his spouse by a conspiracy similar to those which had put an end to the vagaries of Peter III. and of Paul. Such facts as Milyukov's scathing denunciation of the Empress Alexandra's protégé Stürmer (Nov. 1–14 1916), and the assassination of Rasputin by some aristocrats among whom there was a Grand Duke, Dmitri Pavlovich, showed that the indignation of upper circles of society had reached a revolutionary pitch. The Allied mission, in which Lord Milner represented Great Britain, left Petrograd just in time not to witness the explosion which everybody was expecting. But the decision came from below, and not from the stormy currents on the surface.
The principal centres of political agitation were the factories of Petrograd and the queues of householders and servants lined up for hours in sleet and snow at the doors of the bakers. It seems almost ludicrous now to consider the quest of food as one of the principal causes of unrest, but people did not realize then what might result in this respect from a disruption of orderly intercourse, and ascribed the scarcity of bread and the high prices to the inefficiency of the hated Government. Already in Nov. 1916 there had been talk in Petrograd, of the imminence of a general protest strike. On March 8 1917, bread riots actually broke out, and on the next day (Friday) the streets were full of a surging mob which protested against everything. On the Saturday the police fired on the mob, and on Sunday troops used their weapons. Already on that day it was clear that part of the garrison could not be depended on. The Pavlovsky regiment of Grenadier Guards, after an encounter with rioters, in which it fired on the crowd, came back to barracks in a very ugly mood; the men declared to their officers that they would not help to murder their brothers in the streets. On Monday (March 12) the military revolt broke loose. The Volhynsky and Litovsky Guards marched against the Arsenal in the Liteynaya. They were opposed by some other troops, but before long one regiment after the other joined in the revolt, and by March 14 the principal positions in the town had been occupied by the rebels. The premier regiment of the army, the Preobrazhensky Guards, marched to the Taurida Palace where the Duma was sitting and placed itself at the disposition of its president, M. Rodzianko. An Executive Committee of the Duma was formed and subsequently a Provisional Government of members of all parties except the extreme Right (Prince Lvov, Milyukov, Guchkov, Shingarev, Tereshtchenko, Nekrasov, Godnev, V. Lvov, Manuilov, and Kerensky). At the same time another centre of authority was set up at the Smolry Institute, where a Council of Workmen's delegates appeared. It represented the factory workmen, artisans and various nondescript elements which had taken part in the Revolution and claimed a share in the reorganization of the country, and it was joined by representatives of the soldiers.
On March 15 Nicholas II. abdicated in favour of his brother Michael, who, however, declined to ascend the throne unless invited to do so by the will of the nation. In less than a week the mighty Imperial power of the Romanovs had been overthrown almost without bloodshed. All the commanders of the armies in the field and the governors of provinces, including the Grand Duke Nicholas, Viceroy of the Caucasus, hastened to promise loyal support to the new Government.
Discordant Tendencies.—People were elated in those days. Even statesmen and historians were carried away by the general rejoicings over the newly acquired freedom of Russia. Nothing seemed impossible to the great nation which had come to its own after centuries of bondage. And yet it was evident that a task of superhuman magnitude had to be faced. The story of the “Zauberlehrling” was repeating itself: the pupil of the magician had succeeded in calling up the waters of the deep, but did not possess the word capable of arresting them, and they rose and flooded the place, and drowned the unfortunate amateur in witchcraft. The party leaders thought that the Revolution could be directed by programmes and compromises. In reality the Revolution meant the overthrow of all accepted creeds, morals and habits of the people, a confusion of their entire nature in which, for a time, nothing could be relied upon—neither duty, nor humanity, nor affection. A people renowned for its Christian spirit and stubborn patience gave vent to outbursts of bestial lust and cruelty, to hysterical moods of blind selfishness. Even those of the leaders, who had apprehensions as to the effect, consoled themselves by comparisons with the French Revolution, as if the French Revolution had to deal with cultural problems of such complexity as the Russian one, or had challenged the existence of the educated class.
The history of the Russian Revolution starts with the gradual dissolution of all fundamental institutions and notions. The first to go was the army, as it was the most tangible and irksome form of State organization. The first act of the Soviet of Workmen was to issue an order to all army units enjoining the formation of Soldiers' Committees to watch over the behaviour of officers, to take over arms, etc. It is to be imagined what effect this order exercised on the discipline of the army. The patriotic Minister of War in the Provisional Government, A. Guchkov, strove might and main to stop the disintegration of discipline, the fraternization with the enemy, and the cowardly desertions. He called up a legendary hero of the war, Kornilov, and placed him at the head of the Petrograd garrison. But all these efforts were of no avail in the face of the disorganization of the soldiery; the adulation of the demagogues, the propaganda of German and native Defeatists, and the regime of Soldiers' Committees was substituted for hierarchical command. In April Kornilov left for the front in disgust, and in May Guchkov resigned in despair.
Next came the turn of foreign policy. The mob, led by the Council of Workmen and Soldiers, was repeating the magic formula of “peace without annexation and indemnities.” How could fidelity to the Alliance concluded in the fateful months of August 1914, how could the aspirations towards a command of the Straits or any other aims of Russian national policy be made to square with this abstract, colourless formula, devised at Zimmerwald by the enemies of European civilization?
The extremists in Russia took a perverse delight in ignoring completely the menace of German domination, and dreamed, or pretended to dream, of a rising of the German Socialists that would substitute class war for the struggle of empires. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Milyukov, was not willing to dissociate himself from the Allies and to disregard the German danger, nor was he prepared to tear up as a scrap of paper the agreement concluded with much difficulty by Sazonov, in which the Western Powers had acknowledged the justice of Russia's claim to Constantinople and the Straits. He had to retire, because the mob did not want to go on with the war and cared nothing about the Allies or about Imperial interests of Russia, while those who pulled the strings behind the scenes kept in touch with the Germans and were bent on the destruction of historical empires in accordance with Zimmerwald policy. After stormy demonstrations Milyukov resigned.
Even worse than these ministerial changes was the displacement of the centre of gravity in the political world. The Duma was set aside by the appointment of the Provisional Government. As the Duma had been elected on a narrow and artificial franchise, it carried no weight with the people. Its Executive Council could not find its right place by the side of the Provisional Government, and looked helplessly on the latter's efforts to assume authority. An attempt was made to summon the members of all the four Dumas to a kind of political conference, but this only led to a good many speeches without any practical results. The four Dumas in conjunction looked even more like ghosts than the fourth one by itself. This meant that a number of influential public men—Rodzianko, Shidlovsky, Shulgin, Maklakov, N. Lvov, Karaulov—vanished into oblivion, some for ever, others at the most critical moments of the incipient Revolution. The Provisional Government was left in isolation in the face of a seething mass of half-educated people, who had lost all sense of duty and all respect for authority. This would have been bad enough in itself, but the Provisional Government had to reckon not only with these heaving throngs but with a rival and energetic organization—the Soviet Workmen and Soldiers.
The resignations of Guchkov and Milyukov rendered necessary a reconstruction of the Provisional Government, and it was effected in the direction of the Left. The outstanding facts in this reconstruction were the appointments of Kerensky as Minister of War and Marine, the Social Revolutionary Chernov as Minister of Agriculture, the Social Revolutionary Skobelev as Minister of Labour. Prince Lvov was kept president of the Council, but he was not much more than a figure-head: the principal personage in the new combination was A. F. Kerensky, while the appearance of Chernov and Skobelev as members of the Government showed that the country was to be subjected to socialistic experiments of the most extreme kind. The dykes had burst and torrents of disorderly agitation were let loose on the land. The composition of the new Ministry was intended to bring some harmony in the action of the two rival centres, the Ministry and the Council of Workmen and Soldiers, to which a third element, delegated from the peasants, had been added. In practice the Government was made amenable to the direct influence of the council, whose aggressive Socialism was not tempered by any sense of responsibility. At its head stood a characteristic figure Cheidze, a Georgian Social Democrat, who hated everything that savoured of Russian national tradition. He had nothing to recommend him as a political leader except his stubborn opposition under the old regime. His election to be chairman of the Soviet, showed that the men, who were ready to discard all bonds of national honour and self-preservation for the sake of peace at any price, had the masses behind them.
The most terrible symptoms of the advancing disease was the arrival from abroad of Bolshevik leaders—Lenin coming through Germany, under the benevolent protection of the Kaiser, and Trotsky arriving from America. These men were resolved to preach the doctrine of Zimmerwald and Kienthal. Their zeal did not cool down in Russian surroundings. Riazanov demanded that deserters should be free from punishment for the sake of individual freedom. Steklov incited soldiers and citizens to kill generals suspected of counter-revolutionary designs without further inquiry. The weak spot in the armour of Russia had been discovered. A hysterical stampede began which spread rapidly from the rear to the front, and it is not a paradox to say that the Government was powerless against this organized disorganization: the Soldiers' Committees at the front acted systematically against the officers, fraternization with the enemy was encouraged by many of them, and when it came to a fight, they debated for hours whether they should obey orders or leave the line. In case of serious onslaughts on the part of the Germans and the Austrians, whole regiments gave way. The state of the army was depicted in the most mournful colours by no less a man than that great citizen-soldier of Russia General Alexeiev:—
“Let us be frank; the fighting spirit of the Russian army is exhausted. But yesterday stern and powerful, it now faces the enemy in a trance of fatal inaction. A longing for peace and quiet has replaced the old traditional loyalty to the country. Base instincts of self-preservation are reawakened. Where is the powerful authority at home for which the whole State is yearning? We are told it will come soon. But we do not see it yet. What has become of our love for the Mother country? Where is our patriotism? The sublime word of brotherhood is inscribed upon our banners, but it is not written in our hearts. Class antagonism is raging in our midst; whole classes who had honourably fulfilled their duty to their country are placed under suspicion. As a result a deep abyss has yawned between soldiers and officers.”
In front of this disruption of moral ties the reproaches and warnings of progressive leaders who had not lost the sense of their allegiance to the Motherland did not avail, and yet among these patriots there were many who had passed their lives in prison and exile for the sake of their opinions—Plekhanov, Krapotkine, Breshkovskaya, Herman Lopotin.
Kerensky's Rule.—The most conspicuous, although by far not the most worthy representative of the “Defencists,” was the favourite of the Revolution, the new Minister of War and Marine, A. F. Kerensky. None had thundered with more effect against the oppressive measures of the old regime, none could speak with such enthusiasm, of freedom, the sanctity of revolution, popular inspiration, the right of the masses, and the dawn of a new era. Unfortunately, impassioned feelings and eloquent words do not serve as substitutes for statesmanlike foresight, clearness of purpose, and strength of will. After attaining to a unique position at the head of revolutionary Russia Kerensky entangled himself in a net of contradictory measures, of ill-judged assertions of authority, and of weak-minded compromises and renunciations. With incredible levity and conceit he assumed that he could, by his personal magnetism, repair the harm which was being done to the army by the propaganda of Defeatists. He rushed from corps to corps, harangued soldiers' meetings, revelled in their applause, and believed that he had achieved wonders by his appearance at the front. Witnesses of these meetings did not fail to notice that the soldiers, after listening with some interest to the new kind of theatrical performances, did not conceal their incredulity as to results. These results were disclosed in a manner which did not admit of any doubts when the time came for testing the effects of this oratorical campaign in a struggle with the enemy.
Towards the beginning of July 1917 a general offensive movement was attempted, in the hope that the gallantry of specially formed shock battalions would kindle the fighting spirit of other troops, and that the whole line would advance and break at least the thoroughly shaken Austrian army. The first onslaught in the south-west was successful; Kornilov's shock troops pushed as far as Stanislau (Stanislawów) in Galicia. But it was the last flickering flame in the case of an army disintegrated by defeatist propaganda. In the north the ordinary troops refused to support their comrades and looked on with irony at their desperate efforts against heavy odds. In the midst of the fighting a general débâcle began: the Russian regiments rolled back in disorderly retreat, and the only fact which prevented an immediate collapse was the extreme weakness of the enemy on the Austrian front.
The Russian nation, as represented by its army, had definitely succumbed in the great struggle. Even more terrible perhaps than the defeats at the front was the corresponding chaos in the country. A Separatist disaffection in the Ukraine seized the opportunity presented by the great catastrophe to assert claims as to an independent Government, based on the fact that the provinces on both shores of the Dnieper had for some centuries formed part of a Cossack republic and of the Polish-Lithuanian State. The fundamental unity of the Russian people, as well as the immense benefits brought by the reunion in the 17th century and the common progress in the 18th and 19th centuries, were set at nought by these people. The bulk of the Ukrainian population would not have followed them, in spite of many grievances against Petrograd rule, if it had not been for the hysterical stampede of the Revolution. As it was, people dreamt of a new heaven and a new earth in Kiev and in Poltava, as well as in Petrograd and in Moscow, only with the difference that their visions were reminiscences of Cossack prowess and licence. The representatives of the Provisional Government—the romantic socialist Tseretelli, the wealthy amateur Tereshtchenko, the shifty intriguer Nekrasov—were not able to make any stand against such treasonable pretensions, and conceded an autonomy bordering on complete separation. Some of the Cadet members of the Provisional Government—Prince Lvov, and Shingarev—protested and resigned, but their withdrawal was hardly noticed. Kerensky was placed definitely at the head of the Government and continued his campaign of eloquent appeals.
In the general confusion the group of relentless realists, the Bolsheviks—thought the moment opportune to show their hand. On July 14 a military revolt broke out in Petrograd: regiments converted by the extremists—the first machine-gun regiment at their head—seized strategic points in the capital; cruisers and destroyers flying the black and red flag of terroristic Revolution came into the Neva from Kronstadt. For three days it seemed doubtful whether the Provisional Government would be able to hold its own. The attempt was, however, somewhat premature. Part of the Petrograd garrison remained passive, and this made it possible for some loyal troops to suppress the rebellion. The Government was afraid, however, to strike hard: Trotsky, Lunacharsky and Kamenev were let out after a brief arrest; Lenin had disappeared as soon as it became evident that the outbreak had miscarried. Apart from the usual irresolution of ministers who had not learnt to govern during their long apprenticeship in the ranks of a critical Opposition, the hands of the Executive power were tied by the pressure from the Soviet of Workmen, Peasants and Soldiers. The Social Revolutionaries and Social Democrats, although disagreeing with the Bolsheviks and afraid of them, worshipped the word “Revolution,” and were loth to adopt coercive measures against their comrades of the extreme Left. Stern measures against the extremists might have seemed a return to the oppression of the Tsarist regime, and the Socialists preferred risking their own safety to the danger of being accused of the crime of “lèse-Révolution.”
So the see-saw of contradictory decrees and measures continued for some time. While the military chiefs addressed passionate appeals to the Government for a restoration of discipline, for stern punishment of deserters, for abolition of the political authority of the Army Committee, Socialists, even moderate ones, defended the “new discipline” of the noble revolutionary army, minimized its defeats and demoralization, and consoled themselves with the prospect of a rebirth of the nation under the mighty influence of the revolutionary spirit. In the meantime, the peasants were grabbing the estates and the live stock of the squires, burning houses, and killing some of the unpopular owners. The Minister of Agriculture, Chernov, looked upon this lawlessness of self-help as a perfectly natural outbreak of the policy of expropriation. The factory workers and workshop artisans in the towns were not less insistent in the assertion of their rights; wages went up by leaps and bounds, while the work done became more and more careless and casual. Owners and engineers were sometimes thrown out of their establishments, seized by the proletarians. It happened, indeed, that after trying their hand at management for some time the workmen requested or compelled their former employers to return as managers, but such isolated cases did not counter-balance the general effect of disorder and slackness. The decay of Russian industries was proceeding fast. The efforts of military chiefs and responsible leaders to arrest the spread of treason, disorganization, and demoralization were denounced by the Socialists of the Soviet and their representatives in the Provisional Government as counter-revolutionary attempts.
The Second Revolution.—Prince Lvov recognized that it was no longer possible for Liberals to work with Chernov and his companions. He resigned from the premiership, and the Cadets in the Ministry followed him. Kerensky became prime minister. Although he retained the portfolio of War and Marine, he set himself the task of constructing a “strong revolutionary” Government. In order to find a basis for a national coalition he called a conference in Moscow, in which all classes, groups and principal institutions of the Russian State were to be represented. The Bolsheviks refused to take part and ridiculed the idea of a congregation of that kind. On Aug. 26 about 2,000 delegates met in the Grand Theatre, representatives of the various parties, of Zemstvos and municipalities, of universities, of army, of factory workmen, of peasant communities, etc. The meeting might have been a first step towards the regeneration of Russia, if the leaders had clearly realized that the danger did not lie in counter-revolution but in disorganization. But Kerensky opened the discussion by a speech in which warnings as to the danger to the country were intermixed with the usual revolutionary catchwords, and no lead was given in the direction of any practical reform. Kornilov, as commander-in-chief, delegates of the officers, and many of the former political leaders, spoke strongly of the necessity of reëstablishing discipline, of a strong executive, of national work to be carried on by all parties and classes. But the delegates of the Left, who were in the majority, not only turned a deaf ear to all such exhortations, but manifested openly their contempt and dislike for the old ideals of patriotism. Among the worst were the soldiers delegated by various army committees. The whole attempt was a failure; instead of bracing up the political consciousness of the nation it revealed a state of complete paralysis on the part of the so-called rulers of the country.
At the beginning of September Riga fell, after a half-hearted and disconnected defence by the XI. Army. In the Soviet, Tseretelli tried to bring through the reintroduction of capital punishment for treason and desertion, and although he succeeded in collecting a narrow majority, this measure, insisted upon by the officers, was nullified by motions in the opposite direction—for example, by a demand that the arrested Bolsheviks should be liberated. It was evident that no serious effort to arrest anarchistic effervescence could be expected either from the Provisional Government or from the Soviet: they felt spellbound as soon as the sacred word “Revolution” was pronounced by the enemies of the State. The commander-in-chief, Kornilov, was not the man to submit meekly and without a struggle to the fatal policy of drift. He threw his authority into the scales against social disorder, and tried to force the Provisional Government to side with him. With this object in view he ordered some cavalry divisions on which he could rely to march toward Petrograd. He began negotiations with Kerensky through the medium of Boris Savinkov, a Social Revolutionary and active terrorist, who was acting as Assistant Minister of War at the time. This is how Savinkov related the main occurrences of this momentous crisis:—
“When, on the 5th–6th of September, at Headquarters I again told him that in the near future the Provisional Government would examine the bill which was being prepared by the order of the Prime Minister, for the measures to be taken at the base, he believed that the Government was no longer hesitating, and when bidding me farewell on the 6th of September at Headquarters he declared that he would give full support to the Prime Minister, for the good of the country. On my return to Petrograd I reported my conversations with General Kornilov to the Prime Minister, and on the evening of the 8th of Sept. the bill for legalizing measures at the base (i.e. severe penalties for breaches of discipline) was to have been examined by the Provisional Government. But on the 8th of Sept. I was summoned to the Winter Palace, and the Prime Minister told me something that was a complete surprise to me. He told me that V. N. Lvov had come to him with an ultimatum from Gen. Kornilov, who demanded that the supreme authority should be given over to the Commander-in-Chief, with all military and civil power over the country, and that he, the Commander-in-Chief, was to form a Cabinet in which I was to be Minister of War and the Prime Minister was to be Minister of Justice. The ultimatum was in writing, but was signed, not by Gen. Kornilov, but by V. N. Lvov himself. Then the Premier called Kornilov up on the Hughes apparatus, and asked him without reading out to him the text of the declaration signed by V. N. Lvov—whether he was ready to sign the ultimatum presented by V. N. Lvov. Gen. Kornilov replied, ‘Yes, I am ready to sign.’ On the same day (8th of Sept.), the Prime Minister sent a telegram to Gen. Kornilov at Headquarters, demanding that Kornilov should immediately give up his post and leave the army.” (Tyzkova-Williams, 214, 215.)
Kornilov's attempt to assume power was obviously conducted in a very clumsy manner: he was not a statesman, but a soldier, and the people around him were in no way able to make up for his deficiencies in political training. It is almost inconceivable how he could have chosen as his messenger the half-witted V. Lvov. But, apart from that blunder, the chief advisers of Kornilov, were Zavoiko, a minor bureaucrat of the old regime, crafty and plausible, but devoid of insight and authority, and Aladine, a noisy half-educated demagogue, a member of the First Duma, who had turned Nationalist and had nothing to recommend him but his posing as the mouthpiece of the secret diplomacy of the Entente. However this may be, the intended coup d'état miscarried completely and made the situation only worse. Kerensky assumed the part of a heroic defender of the Revolution against a military conspiracy, all the various Socialistic groups joined him in the outcry against the would-be dictator, the army did not rise to support the general, who wanted to reëstablish discipline and unity of command, the leader of the cavalry corps, which had advanced to the outskirts of Petrograd, shot himself, and Kornilov and his principal supporters—Danikine and Lukomsky—were arrested and charged with treason. The outcome of the whole affair was a recrudescence of revolutionary zeal, and a violent rush to the Left. In the country the panic produced by Kornilov's attempt expressed itself in wholesale massacres.
The victorious Kerensky did not realize that he had thrown away the last chance of salvation from the rising tide of anarchy and terrorism. He appointed himself commander-in-chief and imagined that he was strong enough to defeat the onslaught from the Left as well as from the Right. Yet he received warning after warning of the crumbling away of political organization. The central executive of the Soviet had been effected by the landslide towards the Left. They called a Democratic Conference in Petrograd from which all bourgeois elements were excluded: the membership was restricted to delegations from Soviets, trade unions, coöperative societies and peasants' communes. This Assembly, in which the various Socialist groups had entirely their own way, could not even agree on a resolution calling for a Coalition Government capable of defending Russia in the hour of supreme danger. A motion in the sense was first passed and then rejected in consequence of the reluctance to admit Cadets and adherents of Kornilov to any share in the Government.
In contrast with this confusion of ideas and lack of resolution the extremists were quite clear in their minds, and the snake of Bolshevism was lifting its head again. Trotsky, who had been let out of prison, was more popular than ever, when he discoursed on the necessity of forming a Government of the Soviets and appealing for peace to the proletarian masses of the world. At the new elections to the Executive of the Soviets of Workmen, Peasants and Soldiers, he was elected President against Cheidze. This meant that the dualistic system was recognized to be obsolete, and the Provisional Government with Kerensky at its head was to be discarded in favour of a concentration of power in the hands of the Extremists. A motion condemning Kerensky and his Government was passed by the Soviet Executive.
Kerensky tried to parry the blows by supplementing a tottering Coalition Ministry with a Council of the Republic composed of representatives of all the political parties, principal associations and institutions. This body met at Petrograd on Oct. 20. Jt gave a measure of its capacity for political action by starting a long discussion on the question of the active or passive defence of Russia against the ever-increasing German menace. Although the Bolsheviks ostentatiously left the Council as a protest against the presence of “bourgeois” elements and the “counter-revolutionary” policy of the Council, the remaining parties were unable to agree on any definite and patriotic motion. The Internationalist delusions of many Socialists were strong enough to prevent any firm declaration directed against the Germans. Five motions were made, and all five were rejected one after the other. Defencists like Plekhanov were powerless against the Internationalists led by Martov.
The Bolshevist Usurpation.—The time of the Bolshevists had come. In the first days of Nov. 1917 the Soviet under Trotsky's leadership formed a military Revolutionary Committee, and on the 3rd, the authority of that Committee was recognized by the Petrograd garrison. Then steps were openly taken to form an armed force dependent on the Soviet and independent of the Provisional Government. By the side of this force, which was considered not to be entirely trustworthy, the sailors of the Baltic fleet could be counted upon implicity: they had long ago thrown in their lot with the advocates of civil war and terrorism. Kerensky assured his ministers, and proclaimed loudly to the population that he had taken the necessary measures to suppress any attempt at a revolt. In reality he had no troops at his disposal except a couple of battalions of military cadets and one company of women. The commander-in-chief of the Russian army relied on speeches against machine-guns, as the Chinese generals of 1860 had relied on painted dragons against the rifles of the English and French expeditionary force. The result was a similar one. On Nov. 7, Bolshevik sailors surrounded the Winter Palace, and after a brief scrap with the women arrested the ministers, the premier and commander-in-chief having disappeared in good time. A lieutenant with some soldiers drove out the Council of the Republic. The Cadet battalions were overpowered, and their remnants massacred by the soldiery and the mob. A small force of Cossacks under Gen. Krasnov skirmished for a few days against the sailors and armed workmen on the outskirts of Petrograd, but eventually concluded an armistice and withdrew. In Moscow the struggle was fierce, and Cadets held out for some time in the Kremlin together with a few loyal battalions. But there, too, defenders of the Government submitted to superior gun-power, lack of supplies and the discouraging influence of discussions and treachery. All along the front the demoralized soldiery rose against their officers and massacred them in the name of the Revolution. The commander-in-chief at headquarters, Dukhonin, was dragged out by a mob of soldiers and murdered.
The first act of the Bolshevik dictators was to satisfy the craving of the masses corrupted by them: private property was abolished, with the reservation that the land of the peasants and Cossacks was not to be confiscated. At the same time the new Soviet Government addressed to all the belligerent States the proposal to conclude peace. The Entente Powers were invited to join in direct negotiations with the Central Empires; failing this, Soviet Russia would conclude a separate peace. The advanced Socialists had no scruples as to the “letting down” of Allies who had been struggling for three years against the German Junkers: what they were chiefly afraid of was an Allied victory.
The same contempt for truth, duty and justice, was displayed in the domain of home politics. The coup d'état had left one institution still standing—the Constituent Assembly in process of formation. The Bolsheviks had clamoured for its immediate convocation, and accused all the parties with the criminal design of delaying or preventing its meeting. They were now at the head and could not forthwith stop the elections. These had been prepared laboriously by idealistic doctrinaires—by staunch believers in universal, equal, direct, and secret suffrage. All citizens of both sexes who had attained the age of 20 were to take part in it. To make the arrangements absolutely perfect, the principle of proportionate representation had also been introduced in a somewhat peculiar form. The various parties were to present lists containing as many names as there were seats allotted to the electoral district. The attribution of these seats to the parties was to be made in proportion to the number of votes cast in support of each list, the candidates taking places in the order of their seniority in the parties nomination. The absurdity of these mechanical devices had been already demonstrated by the municipal and rural elections, but the defects of the latter were greatly intensified in the case of the Constituent Assembly. Ignorant peasants were led off to record their votes for long lists of men whom they did not know and in support of platforms they did not understand. The extreme parties did not shrink from any kind of violence and fraud to bring in their nominees. Nevertheless, some sort of elections were actually held, right in the midst of revolutionary chaos, in the months of Nov. and Dec. The result was that the Social Revolutionaries got a large majority, thanks to the votes of the peasantry, while next came the Bolsheviks, who drew their chief support from the workmen in the towns and from the soldiers. The Mensheviks and the Cadets came in with negligible numbers, the latter with 15 out of a total of 600.
The Bolsheviks were not satisfied with such results. As soon as it became clear that they had not won in the gamble for votes, they began to revile the “parliamentarism” of the Constituent Assembly and of all national organizations as opposed to class groups. When the members of the Constituent Assembly came to Petrograd, and tried to get into the Taurida Palace, they were met by armed guards and ejected from the building. Leading members of the Cadet party, Countess S. Panina, Shingarev and Kokostsev, were arrested as “enemies of the people” and thrown into the dungeons of the Fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul. An order for the arrest of Chernov and Avksentiev was also issued, but they could not be found. At last, on Jan. 18 1918 the opening sitting of the Constituent Assembly was held. Trusty heroes from the Kronstadt fleet, with loaded rifles, surrounded the deputies from all sides; the galleries were packed with a howling mob. In spite of this, the election of the President resulted in a defeat for the Bolsheviks and the Social Revolutionaries of the Left allied with them. Their candidate, Marie Spiridonova, received 158 votes against V. Chernov, who got 244. Nor did the Assembly consent to register all the decrees handed in by the Bolsheviks and to abdicate its legislative power in favour of the Soviets. The armed rulers were not disposed to bow before the recalcitrant Assembly. After sitting one day, it was dissolved and ejected from the Taurida Palace.
By way of justification for this act of treacherous violence, it was maintained that the Constituent Assembly did not reflect the “will of the Revolution,” that the “masses” had moved away from the standpoints represented by the party lists, and that, altogether, “formal democracy” has no right to decide in times of Revolution: the leadership ought to belong to the advanced organizations conscious of their aim and intent on achieving it. It was not difficult even for “nebulous” Social Revolutionaries of the Centre and Right to refute these sophisms. They urged with perfect truth that the will of the Revolution in this case meant simply the arbitrary sway of a gang of reckless adventurers, that the Assembly, in spite of all its defects, was the one authorized institution entitled to speak for Russia, an institution which had been recognized and made use of by the Bolsheviks as long as it suited the purposes of their propaganda. But what force had arguments in the face of rifles? The soldiers had run away from the front in order to rob and kill in the name of the Revolution: no one was ready to satisfy and to glorify them to the same extent as the Bolsheviks. Hence there was ample “pragmatic” justification for the Bolsheviks' coup d'état. Naturally the first acts of the new era were decrees of the Executive Council proclaiming the abolition of private property and the resolve to conclude a democratic peace.
Peace of Brest Litovsk.—Two parties were necessary in order to conclude that honourable peace “without annexations and indemnities” which the Bolsheviks announced before having informed themselves of the views of the other party as to the conditions of such a peace. Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev and their colleagues had, however, made up their minds about certain points, so that the ordinary negotiations were for them only a formal act, attractive in so far as they enabled their sans culotte delegation to exchange salutations and to sit at the same table with the diplomatists and soldiers of powerful empires. The Bolsheviks had long ago made their choice between the belligerents; they expected and preferred the victory of the Germans, who had served them and provided them with funds in the hour of need. Hypocritical invitations to the Allies to follow in their wake at Brest Litovsk could deceive no one as to their choice. And as they had done more than anyone to corrupt and disband the Russian army, they knew perfectly well that they had nothing to oppose General Hoffmann, when the latter chose to “bang his boot on the table” (Trotsky). Some show was made in their newspapers of strikes in Austria and in Berlin, but it was clearly a case of discussing terms with an opponent who had disarmed you and may dispatch you at his pleasure. No wonder that Baron Kühlmann, after accepting the formula of an honourable peace “without indemnities and annexations” on the basis of the self-determination of peoples, required the representatives of the Soviet Republic to cede Poland and Courland to the Central Empires, to recognize Finland, Esthonia and Latvia as independent States, to give up the Ukraine on both shores of the Dnieper, and to pay a contribution of 300 million rubles. Trotsky tried to get away with a theatrical gesture; he and his colleagues declared that they could not sign such a humiliating peace, and they departed in noble style. Even this little pretence was not vouchsafed to them. General Hoffmann ordered some German divisions to advance, and the revolutionary army was at once on the run. The delegation of Soviets had to come back crestfallen and to sign a second more dishonourable edition of the Treaty of Brest Litovsk. Lenin was in no way disturbed: he explained to the Third Congress of the Soviets that the Germans had their knees on Russia's chest and that it was no use struggling. Breathing space must be had at any price, in the hope of a further fulfilment of Zimmerwald predictions. The Congress ratified the Brest Litovsk document by a large majority, and a German envoy, Count Mirbach, was sent to Moscow to watch over the exact fulfilment of conditions by the vanquished. Trotsky, who is particularly fond of repeating, at every turn of his account of these affairs, such phrases as “we know” or “we expected,” may well claim that this degradation had been foreseen and to a great extent brought about by his party. But the breathing space required by Lenin was provided, not by the Brest Litovsk peace, which was the opening move for the complete enslavement of Russia by the Germans, but by the unexpected fact that the Allies did not succumb, in spite of the treacherous conduct of the Bolsheviks. The Marxist prognostics of the victory of Germany as the nation best organized in a technical and economic sense was shown to be fallacious. The staying power of the Austrian, Bulgarian and German armies proved to be less than that of the soldiers of France, Great Britain and the United States. The victory of the Allies saved Russia from the consequences of Brest Litovsk.
The Rule of the Communists.—In spite of the fact that the elections to the Constituent Assembly had resulted in an overwhelming majority for the Social Revolutionists, the drastic way in which Lenin and his companions had satisfied the popular demands for peace at any price, for land and for proletarian privileges, ensured to them the more or less fervid support of the masses. The lower classes enjoyed the defeat and humiliations of their betters even apart from direct advantages and even at the cost of some discomfort for themselves. The pent-up resentment and envy of generations found vent in acts of brutal violence and disorder. It was pleasant to see maids of honour sweeping the streets, and generals insulted and sometimes murdered by their soldiers. We are told of cases when the descendants of serfs dug out the skeletons of their former squires from their graves and threw them into sewers. It was an act of frenzy on the part of revolted slaves when the commander-in-chief, Dukhonin, was torn to pieces at his headquarters and Ensign Krylenko installed in his place, or when, later, the heroes of the great war—Ruzsky and Radko Dmitriev—were massacred in Piatigorsk because they did not truckle under the threats of the disbanded soldiery. The officers slaughtered in Helsingfors, in Kronstadt, in Kiev, in Sevastopol, paid with their blood for the disaster of Tsushima, the Sukhomlinov misrule, the cruel discipline of the Old Army. As a result, Bolshevik domination spread over the land like a forest fire, and all attempts at resistance proved unavailing against its elemental progress. The cadets of the military schools of Moscow held the Kremlin for a few days with great gallantry, but they were betrayed by the head of the Moscow garrison; he surrendered them to the Communists “for the sake of peace.” Occasional resistance in other towns was put down with even greater ease. The personnel of many administrative institutions went on strike, and attempted to stalemate the usurpers by refusing to serve under them: the strikers were reduced to obedience after a couple of months by the necessity of earning their bread somehow. Countess Panina, one of the most enlightened and public-spirited Russian women, had acted as Assistant Minister in Kerensky's last Ministry: she was thrown into prison for having supported this strike movement, which the Bolsheviks treated as a “sabotage” of Government services. She was eventually released, but two among the most idealistic, most self-sacrificing of the Liberals who had taken part in the Provisional Government, Shingarev and Kokoshkin, fell victims to a dastardly gang of murderers in a hospital where they had been lodged on account of illness.
The only serious attempt to oppose armed resistance to the bandits was offered by Gen. Alexeiev and the indefatigable Kornilov. They collected a few thousands of devoted men, most of them officers, formed them into improvised units, and took the field against the Bolsheviks in a far-off corner of the empire in Northern Caucasus. Kornilov fell in the unequal struggle, but his comrades succeeded in building up gradually a “Volunteer Army” which held its own in the Kuban territory. It was too weak to advance because the Cossacks, instead of joining it with all their forces, wavered and negotiated. Hetman Kaledin, a brilliant general who had won conspicuous distinction in Brusilov's campaign of 1916, was so grievously affected by this lack of patriotism that he committed suicide; and his successor, Krasnov, preferred to enter into an agreement with the Germans, who were spreading their tentacles from the Ukraine to the Donets and to the Volga.
The rise of the revolutionary tide was, however, not a constant and unbroken process. The shattered forces of the past did not give way without repeated attempts to reassert their vitality. The Orthodox Church that had grown up with the Russian people in its hard struggle for existence could not be reconciled with the rule of aggressive materialists. Everywhere the clergy exerted its influence publicly and secretly against the anti-Christian rulers. Tikhon, the newly appointed Patriarch of Moscow, whose chair had been set up again by a national Council of the Orthodox Church after an interval of 200 years of Babylonian bondage to lay bureaucracy, denounced and anathematized the Communists. Everywhere processions and ceremonies recalled to the popular mind the ancient traditions of creed and ritual, and even the most hardened among the rioters and deserters responded at times to these emotional appeals. The Bolsheviks turned sanctuaries into public halls, desecrated revered shrines, tortured priests and shot bishops, but these persecutions strengthened the moral hold of the Church on the flock, purified the sunken priesthood by a new baptism of blood. Among the Intellectuals themselves, religion regained many adherents, and men like Eugene Trubetskoy or Bulgakov, who had stood up for Christian ideals in the days when it was considered ridiculous for an educated man to do so, found themselves at the head of a powerful movement.
The Liberals also did not give up the struggle. A number of more or less secret associations sprang up. The Press was being gradually gagged by the Bolsheviks, but these associations continued their underground existence in spite of the espionage and arrests. The most influential were the Radical League of Reconstruction (Soyuz Vozrojdenia) led by Avksentiev and Argunov, the “Centre,” composed of Cadets and Left Octobrists with N. Astrov and N. Shtchpkin at their head, and a union of the Rights whose principal leaders were Krivoshein and Gourko. The question of yielding to the Germans and crushing the Communists with their help was eagerly discussed in connexion with the plan of a monarchical restoration. The idea found favour among the Rights and was supported among the Cadets by P. Milyukov, who had fled to Kiev, and considered that the game was definitely lost by the western Allies and that it was wiser to accept defeat from the Germans than from the Bolsheviks. This view was, however, decisively rejected by the Liberals and the Radicals, who remained staunch in their allegiance to the Entente and could not bear to think of German domination. The chastisement for this independence of mind followed closely upon the offence: the Cadets had held a conference in Moscow on the political situation on May 13, 14 and 15, and had endorsed the policy of their leaders to remain faithful to the Entente: on May 17 their various centres were raided and many representatives arrested. Others fled south and east, but Moscow was still the nucleus of a “National Centre.”
Policy of the Allies.—How did the Entente Powers react against the disruption of their alliance with Russia? Their ambassadors, having watched with anxiety the decay of the monarchy, offered ineffectual advice, and informed their Governments of the precariousness of the situation without being able to suggest any effective course of policy. When the blow fell, the Entente Powers accepted the verdict of the Revolution as a necessary consequence of Tsarist misrule, and the President of the United States actually felt more free to join the western coalition, since the danger of a victorious advance of Tsarism had been removed. The device of a double diplomacy was adopted: while Sir George Buchanan and M. Noulens continued officially to represent Great Britain and France, special envoys were dispatched to Petrograd as emissaries of various groups of Socialists faithful to national traditions. Arthur Henderson for Great Britain and M. Albert Thomas for France were even entrusted with official missions. The main object was to steer the Russian Revolution into a warlike course, to keep up the eastern front, and to provoke a resumption of the Russian offensive. The results of this unusual diplomacy were very heterogeneous. While Albert Thomas eagerly supported Kerensky in his patriotic appeals to the army, as well as in his attempts to arrange a coalition with the Soviets, Arthur Henderson became convinced of the urgent need of peace and favoured a meeting of Labour delegates in Stockholm.
The evolution of Russia was not much affected by these contradictory views of the Entente emissaries. The offensive was tried with disastrous results. The Russian army dissolved under the influence of the “peace at any price” movement. Disappointment with the conduct of revolutionary Russia was reflected in the sympathy on the part of certain circles in England for Kornilov's attempt, a sympathy which did not help but rather hampered him. The advent of the Bolsheviks drove the western Powers into an attitude of absolute helplessness. They could do nothing to counteract the Brest Litovsk negotiations, and, at the same time, they were not in a position to break off all relations with the Communist Government for fear of its taking sides with the Germans. Even the shooting of the British naval attaché by Bolsheviks did not rouse them from their torpor. The Brest Litovsk peace, the occupation of southern Russia by German troops, the intervention of the Germans in Finland, obliged them, however, to adopt a decision. The embassies were gradually withdrawn, the semi-commercial and semi-diplomatic mission of Mr. Lockhart did not lead to any favourable results, and in the summer of 1918 all official relations with the Government of the Soviets were broken off. A state of more or less active hostility set in when the anti-Bolshevik troops were being reorganized on an extensive scale in various parts of Russia. The White forces received support from the Allies in the shape of military supplies, occasional expeditions, and a blockade of the ports controlled by the Soviets. Concurrently with this intermittent support of Russian national armies, the Allies encouraged and protected all the nationalities of the Empire which were striving for a separation from Russia: Poland and Rumania came to be looked upon by the French as the bulwarks of Western civilization against Russian barbarism and German militarism. The Baltic States (Latvia, Esthonia, Lithuania) and the Caucasian formations (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbäijän) were backed in their separatist aspirations by Great Britain. This tendency to dismemberment of the Russian Empire could not be harmonized with the ideals and efforts of Russian patriots, but the Entente Powers did not pause to reflect on the inadvisability of destroying with one hand what they were helping to build up with the other. Psychologically, their centrifugal policy was connected with old antagonism to the Russian Empire, with dreams of national self-determination, restricted somehow by the vital interests of the “Big Four,” and—after the victory over the Central Powers—with the Versailles delusions of overwhelming power over the world. The incoherence and vacillations of Entente policy might not have been so pernicious if Russian patriots had been able to muster an overwhelming array of anti-Bolshevik forces in Russia itself. Unfortunately this was not the case.
Anti-Bolshevik Governments.—During the first months of the Soviet regime, while the power of the proletarian dictators was still shaky and unorganized, several concentrations opposing them were formed in the East. First, Colonel Semenov, a leader of Transbaikalian Cossacks, had started a guerrilla warfare on the borders of Mongolia and Manchuria, advancing in the direction of Chita when luck favoured him and retreating across the Chinese frontier when he met superior forces of the Bolsheviks, together with the Magyar, Austrian and German prisoners of war mobilized by the latter. In May 1918, he succeeded in forming a provisional government in Chita. Soon afterwards, Admiral Kolchak, a brilliant naval officer, who had distinguished himself in the Japanese War, organized another Provisional Government in Novo Nikolayevsk at the junction of the Siberian railway with the Maritime province line. The Japanese, who had landed a detachment in Vladivostok, supported him in a general way.
About the same time, in the spring and early summer of 1918, there occurred another startling event. Czech detachments which had been formed to fight for Russia from among prisoners of war, and who had fought gallantly against the Central Coalition in the last campaign, demanded to withdraw after the débâcle of the Russian army and the advent of the Bolsheviks. They were allowed to do so by the Soviet authorities, but they were to be disarmed, and in the course of their movement east towards Vladivostok they were subjected to offensive and treacherous treatment. Some of them refused to give up their arms; others, after having been disarmed, broke away, recovered arms and munitions, and turned on the undisciplined rabble of the Red troops. As a result of encounters of this kind, the Czechs, and some Slovak detachments which had joined them, seized great tracts of the Siberian railway line near the Volga, near Irkutsk, and by Vladivostok. Eventually, after many vicissitudes, these corps made their junction along the whole line. The total number of troops who effected this coup de théâtre averaged some 80,000 men. It would be useless to follow in detail the swaying fortunes of these detachments. Their daring exploits would hardly have achieved success if a considerable portion of the population of eastern Russia had not sympathized with them. As it happened, these disciplined troops succeeded in creating the backbone of resistance against the Moscow dictators: in Siberia, Provisional Governments were formed in Vladivostok, in Harbin (General Horvath), and in Tomsk, besides the centres of military administration started by Col. Semenov and Admiral Kolchak.
Unfortunately the various governments comprised different and mutually hostile groups, which could not be prevailed upon to act loyally together. The Vladivostok concentration reflected the Socialist ferment in the country, and worked for an independent Siberia. The Government formed in Tomsk was an Executive of a Siberian Duma, composed of delegates from various organizations—zemstvos, municipalities, political parties, social groups (workmen, students, coöperative associations). The majority of these constituencies followed a socialistic orientation, but their Executive adopted a more conservative policy and admitted several Cadets into its ranks. From Samara came yet another political tendency: some thirty fugitive members of the Constituent Assembly, dismissed by the Bolsheviks, had assembled there, and their political creed was expressed in the demand for a restoration of that Assembly, which they considered as the only body constitutionally entitled to wield power in Russia. Their aim was to reconstitute an All-Russian State, which would include Siberia as an autonomous part of its organization. On the other hand the administrations of General Horvath and Admiral Kolchak, while reserving the ultimate decision as to the system of Government to a new Constituent Assembly, discarded the authority of the one elected in December 1917 as not representative of Russian opinion. These administrations favoured the propertied classes and built up their personnel from the remnants of the military and civil bureaucracy of the monarchical period. Even in the face of the enemy all these groups found the greatest difficulty in establishing coöperation. The Vladivostok Government submitted to the authority of the West Siberian one, but the negotiations with Horvath were protracted and fruitless. A coup d'état on a small scale was attempted in Vladivostok by Horvath's lieutenant, Gen. Pleshkov, but the Allies intervened to reëstablish the Socialist administration because it was approved of by the Vladivostok zemstvo.
In the west a conference held in Ufa laid down the foundations of an All-Russian scheme in connexion with the Constituent Assembly of 1917, and succeeded in persuading the Siberian Government in Omsk to recognize its authority. The moving element in this case came from the Moderate Socialists, chiefly Social Revolutionaries, but Social Democrats of the Plekhanov persuasion and some Cadets were in agreement with them. A directorate of five consisting of Avksentiev, Zenzinov, Vologodsky, V. Vinogradov and Gen. Boldyrov was established. Admiral Kolchak accepted the portfolio of War in the Ministry which was to conduct the actual administration. This amalgamation of Governments was arranged in the beginning of Oct., and a mobilization of certain classes of the Siberian population which had been started somewhat earlier was carried out on a more extensive scale: it yielded some 150,000 men, whose military instruction had to be taken in hand under very difficult conditions. Many delays and mistakes occurred, and the different sets of people who had been brought together with such difficulty quarrelled over the task, suspected and accused one another. The officers who had served under the old régime were displeased with the policy of the Directors, whom they accused of indecision and vain talk; the Socialists chafed at the high-handed way in which they were treated by the military chiefs and the employees of the Ministries. In the night of November 18 these dissensions came to a head. A party of soldiers led by officers of the Omsk garrison arrested the Socialist members of the Directorate, Avksentiev and Zenzinov, and two of their assistants, while a third Director, Vologodsky, joined a meeting of Ministers which elected Admiral Kolchak as Supreme Ruler. In the communique issued on the occasion by the newly constituted Government, it was explained that “wide social circles had been discontented with the wavering behaviour of the Provisional All-Russian Government in regard to certain tendencies of the Left leading to the renewal of a destructive policy. While condemning the coup d'état as an illegal act the new Government endorsed it by taking advantage of the accomplished fact: Avksentiev and Zenzinov were allowed to escape and the two remaining Directors, Boldyrov and Vinogradov, retired.
Such a start did not augur well for the future of the reconstruction movement: it showed that the enemies of the Bolsheviks were still irreconcilably divided by the old feud between Conservative Nationalists and Socialistic idealists. These conflicts helped to keep alive in the mass of the people a spirit of lawlessness and distrust. And yet nothing was more needed in those days than steadiness and forbearance as regards details; those who had assumed the task of restoring order were least able to lay claim to efficient administration—the lack of experience and even honesty was felt everywhere. The mobilization, for example, was carried out in the most haphazard fashion, crowds of conscripts being left even without accommodation.
The fact that the Bolsheviks in Siberia were drawing largely for support on the Austrian, Magyar, and German prisoners, of whom about half a million were dispersed in various localities of the wide country, and the difficult situation of the Czechs astride the Siberian railway, had provoked an intervention of the Allies. Japanese, American, British and French detachments were landed in Vladivostok with instructions of varying intensity; all the intervening Powers gave assurances of their disinterestedness, of their friendship for the Russian people, of their resolve to leave it entirely free to decide as to its destiny; but while the Japanese were committed by their past and their future to safeguard and promote their own interests, the Americans were enjoined to restrict themselves to guarding railway communications and stores, and the French colonial troops held aloof. The British followed a middle course in the sense that part of their contingent, Col. J. Ward's Hampshire Regiment, was pushed forward right through Siberia, but there was no clear military aim in that operation and steps were retraced when the real difficulties set in. Material support was given by the British more than by anybody else, but these measures were in the nature of a risky speculation dependent on the trend of home politics and on the ability of the “White Guards” to win the game.
A somewhat different situation arose in the north of Russia, where the rule of the Soviet Commissars was overthrown both in Archangel and in the Murman, and a patriotic Government was set up under the leadership of N. Tchaïkovsky, a “Popular Socialist,” who had lived in England for many years as an exile. The opposition between progressive and conservative circles, and the difficulty of conducting business with the available demoralized elements, were also felt there, but Great Britain's stake in the game was much more conspicuous, and the British detachments under Generals Maynard and Ironside formed a very important part of the forces operating against the Bolsheviks. There was, however, no real cohesion between the Russians and their British allies, although cases of acute hostility were exceptional. Apart from such dissensions the ground was felt to be shaky on account of the war-weariness and the fickle temper of the common people. The massacre of the British officers by the men of Dyer's battalion showed that Bolshevik propaganda and Bolshevik habits were by no means a thing of the past.
The southern front, organized by General Denikin after Alexeiev's death, was suffering from similar weakness. The Voluntary Army constituting its backbone had become an efficient and powerful instrument of war; the officers' division, which had formed its bulk in the beginning, had expanded gradually into several corps by drawing into its ranks veteran soldiers who had learnt their trade in the terrible battles against Germans and Austrians. But the trusty regiments named after Kornilov, Alexeiev, Markov and Drozdovsky, had to act together with the levies of the Don and the Kuban Cossacks, who, though unrivalled as irregular horsemen, had their own axe to grind in the conflict. The Don province had been subjected to repeated attacks and devastation, and many of the Cossacks were anxious to keep to their frontiers and to manage their own affairs. As for the Kuban people, they were divided among two sets: the men of the “line” in the north were patriotic enough and fought brilliantly, but the Black Sea Cossacks, mostly descendants of the Zaporog Cossacks transferred to the Kuban from the Dnieper by Catherine II., were animated by a spirit of separatism and ready to follow leaders who worked for a Cossack Republic. A great deal depended on the skill and the political insight of Denikin's administration, and in this respect, as on the eastern front, grievous blunders and abuses occurred. The main direction was necessarily in the hands of military commanders inclined to insist above all on discipline, and contemptuous as to political theories and subtle distinctions. Denikin himself, though perfectly honest and straightforward, held systematically aloof from constitutional disputes, and declared his task to be primarily one of liberation and restoration. His principal assistants, Generals Dragomirov and Lukomsky, had even less taste for political “metaphysics,” and one of the civil advisers, Prof. K. Sokolov, openly expressed the view that the only régime suited to the circumstances of the time was a “democratic dic- tatorship” satisfying the needs of the common people. Although nothing was prejudged as to the ultimate form of Government, the organization of the southern territories occupied by Denikin was cast in the mould of the supreme authority of the commander-in-chief. By his side stood a Special Council composed of the heads of departments and of a few representatives of public opinion. All the members—some twenty—were nominated by the commander-in-chief. The elements of military and civil bureaucracy were decidedly predominant, and the “Left” was confined to three Cadets, all moderate Liberals. The Socialist parties were excluded from the Government and kept under strict supervision as regards their Press. One of their influential leaders, Schreider, was deported by order of the Government; many others left of their own accord for the Crimea. The greatest difficulty was experienced in holding the balance between the aims of the Volunteer Army engaged in the reëstablishment of a National State and the aspirations of the Cossack communities tending towards federalism. The problem of reconciling these contradictory tendencies was a most difficult one. The Kuban Rada (Assembly) manifested openly separatist leanings: its leaders, Bytch and Makarenko, were dissatisfied with a dualistic arrangement contrived after many efforts between the Higher Command and the Rada. They wanted the political independence of the Kuban to be recognized, and sought an alliance with other Cossack territories in order to strengthen their demands. This political strife reacted in a most unfavourable manner on the conduct of operations in the field.
Reds v. Whites.—Disgust with the hypocritical tyranny of the Bolsheviks and the humiliation of Russia found a vent in conspiracies and risings among the intellectuals. The German ascendency was challenged by the murder of the ambassador, Count Mirbach, in July 1918. Almost simultaneously the commissar in charge of the police in Petrograd, Uritsky, was killed, and Lenin himself dangerously wounded by a Socialist. The Social Revolutionaries made an attempt to overthrow the Bolsheviks in Moscow, but were suppressed with great slaughter. Later on, the most experienced of Terrorists, Boris Savinkov, engineered a rising in Yaroslavl and neighbouring districts; it was quelled after bitter fighting. These isolated attempts in the heart of Russia were not so dangerous as the simultaneous advance from the east and the south. Kolchak's armies reached at one time Kazan and Simbirsk, Denikin pushed as far as Orel, and in the north there was some hope that Gen. Ironside's British column might have joined hands with Kolchak's force near Kotlas. The Communists made desperate efforts to meet the onslaught. The Red hosts were reorganized by former officers of the Imperial army, with Polivanov, Theremissov, Klembovsky, Parsky, Dalmetov at their head. Even Brussilov lent the prestige of his name to the cause of the Moscow Soviet. These men were inspired not only by the pressure of want and despair, but in many cases by a fatalistic belief that they were serving the interests of Russia under the Red flag as against reactionaries and foreigners. An iron discipline was reintroduced, disobedience, treachery and cowardice were promptly punished with death, desertion was repressed as far as possible, there was no more indulgence for committee discussions or for the “self-determination” of military units which had wrought havoc in the last stage of the war against the Central Empires. In every battalion, squadron and battery nuclei of devoted Communists were inserted in order to watch and to lead the apathetic rank and file. Altogether the proletarian dictators reverted without any scruple or confusion to the practices they had fiercely denounced in the time of defeatist propaganda. The cadres of the army were gradually filled by wholesale mobilizations, and although crowds of conscripts were swept away by desertion, there remained enough in the ranks to outnumber the White forces: the fact that the Bolsheviks had got hold of the solid centre of Great Russia against the weaker outlying portions of the Empire was bound to assert its overwhelming influence in the end. Of course, if there had been an elemental popular rising against the proletarian leaders, they could not have withstood the attack. But the Great Russian peasantry, although by no means sympathetic to Communist doctrines and hostile to many of the commissars, were yet under the spell of the opinion that they were defending their newly conquered land against the squires who wanted to get it back. While this broad basis of popular support remained unshaken the dictators could exert their cruelty and lusts with impunity. Terror against the bourgeoisie had been proclaimed by them from the very beginning: it formed one of the main planks of their platform. It was expanded into a system of wholesale slaughter and ruthless inquisitorial measures as a means of self-defence. The Extraordinary Commission (the famous Tchresvichayka) thrust the Tsar's Okhrana into the shade; as a matter of fact, it was served to a large extent by hangmen, torture-masters and spies borrowed from the Tsarist police, but acting with much greater independence and thoroughness. By the side of this cold-blooded and systematic machinery for crushing human beings acted innumerable gangs of ruffians and criminals, who robbed and killed in the sacred name of the Red Revolution with complete impunity and with the approval of the ruling powers. It is quite impossible to estimate the number of victims who fell a prey to this campaign of hatred.
Here is an extract from Bolshevik sources which may illustrate this butchery, although it does not in any way give an idea of its real dimensions:—
“In 1918 the persons arrested on the charges of counter-revolution, crime in office, speculation, use of forged and other people's documents, etc., numbered 47,348. In 1919 the activities of the Tchresvichayka developed, and the number of persons arrested reached 80,662. Out of the total number of persons arrested in 1919, 21,032 were classed as counter-revolutionaries, while 19,673 were arrested for crimes of office. Out of the 128,010 arrested in 1918–9 54,250, or 42½%, were liberated without subsequent consequences. Eight per cent of the total number of persons consisted of hostages. Nearly 11% were sentenced to compulsory labour, 29% retained in prison, and nearly 8% sent into concentration camps. In 1918 6,185 persons were executed and 3,456 in 1919, the total number during the two years being 9,641.” (Lazies, The Fight on the Home Front.)
In such cases it is not only the number of victims that counts, but also their quality: as in the times of Ivan the Terrible, only “God knows the names of the murdered,” but let us notice by way of example that some of the most respected among Moscow's citizens, whose whole lives had been devoted to the service of the people—the Astrovs, the Alferovs, N. Shtechepkin—were shot as “spies” in the summer of 1919.
What did the Whites oppose to the Red fury? In fighting prowess the Whites were more than a match for the Reds, especially on the southern front: the exploits of Wrangel's Caucasian corps in the attack and defence of Tsaritsin, the advance of the Volunteer army's infantry against heavy odds on Kharkov and Kursk, the rally at Rostov in the last months of 1920, are proofs of the excellent quality of Denikin's troops. Kolchak's Siberians were not seasoned to the same extent, but they were good material and improved rapidly, and the Orenburg and Ural Cossacks operating between the two groups did everything humanly possible to oppose the Reds. But neither the eastern nor the southern armies were supported by a tolerably organized rear. Kolchak and Denikin moved rapidly forward in the hope of cutting off the economically important district of the Ural, the Donets, the corn-growing provinces along the Volga and in the Ukraine, but their rapid advance involved a hasty and superficial occupation of wide tracts. They flooded their regiments with unwilling conscripts and had to rely for supplies on requisitions: the corn and the horses of the peasants were seized without any regard for the needs of the farmers, while the raids of Cossack cavalry into regions held by the Reds resulted in indiscriminate looting of friend and foe. What constantly happened in such circumstances was that the advancing Whites were received with “bread and salt” and attacked in the rear when they had been in the country for some time.
If the White leaders had succeeded in persuading the people that their aim was genuinely patriotic and that private interests had to be sacrificed for the sake of the great cause, all the miseries of civil war might have been endured, if not willingly, at least with resignation. But neither on the eastern nor on the southern front did the Whites establish confidence, that condition precedent of success. There cannot be the slightest doubt that not only Denikin and Kolchak, but also their principal followers were fighting for the ideal of a reunited and free Russia, but there was too much of the hated past intermixed with their efforts; corrupt officials, greedy squires had flocked to the White banners and were clamouring and pressing for revenge and compensation. The frequent cases of lynching of commissars and Communists were an inevitable consequence of the civil war and of the hatred inspired by the wreckers of Russia: it was impossible to draw the line between justified retribution and wanton cruelty in many of these explosions of wrath. Sometimes, as in the case of Jewish pogroms in the Ukraine, subordinate officers acted against the direct orders of the High Command. But there were other signs of the time in the policy of the White leaders which created the suspicion that they were out for a counter-revolution, for the reëstablishment of the old monarchy and the old gentry. The Socialists, who formed a great part of the intellectual class as far as the latter still existed, were driven back without any regard for the fact that they were natural allies in the struggle against Communism. One of the leading members of the Constituent Assembly was shot by Kolchak's Government in Ekaterinburg. The same fate befell leaders of the Kuban separatists in Ekaterinodar. The Liberal members of the Denikin “Special Council,” like N. Astrov, protested in vain against a policy directed against all Socialists indiscriminately. If Denikin had not personally prevented further persecutions and open reaction, the dictatorial schemes of the generals would have been embodied in some drastic Act of the State for which Prof. K. Sokolov would have supplied a juridical formula. As it was, for the mass of the people the repeated protestations of acceptance of the social results of the Revolution seemed belied by the way in which agrarian reform was to be regulated. The subtle distinctions concerning compensation and redemption tax reminded the peasants forcibly of the procedure followed by the Emancipation Act of 1861, and the Reds were not slow to take advantage of this unfortunate association of ideas. The Whites started also a propaganda office (Osvag), but although some 200 million rubles are said to have been spent on it, its activity was subjected to bitter criticism by various groups in the camp of the Whites. The state of affairs brought about two fatal results—confusion in the rear of the White armies, and discord between the patriotic forces in Russia and the Allies.
The conditions in the rear of Denikin's army were described by Soviet propagandists with ironical satisfaction. There can be no doubt that the activity of “green” bands of marauders, and the rise of such potentates as Makhno, a brigand whose followers are said to have mustered at times some thirty thousand, made orderly life in the rear impossible and drew off considerable forces at the most critical moments for the maintenance of some sort of communications. What proved even worse was the defection of dissatisfied Cossacks. When the Volunteer army was straining its forces to hold the line against the Reds north of Rostov, Kuban troops left their positions and went home, leaving Denikin's right flank unprotected.
A similar state of affairs prevailed on the eastern front: the population in the rear, excited by Communist propaganda and fraternizing with the lawless elements so numerous in Siberia—convicts and prisoners of war—conducted a constant guerrilla warfare against the Russian and foreign troops protecting the Trans-Siberian railway line. Kolchak tried to counteract this shocking demoralization by reorganizing his government under the leadership of an energetic and enlightened man, Pepelayev. It was too late and the administrative personnel too insufficient to avert the catastrophe. The eastern front gave way even before the southern one. Thousands of soldiers and refugees perished in the retreat through the icefields of Siberia in the winter of 1919–20; Kolchak and Pepelayev, who had sought the protection of the Czechoslovaks, were handed over to the Bolsheviks in pursuit with the consent of Gen. Janin, the commander of the Allied contingents, and shot; while the Czechs succeeded in extricating themselves and carrying off part of the gold reserve seized during the occupation of Kazan.
Allied Intervention.—The action of the Allies in these deplorable times was contradictory and ineffective. Large quantities of munitions and supplies were furnished to the patriotic armies; sometimes the consignments arrived late or were in damaged condition, while a good deal of pilfering and embezzling occurred, but, on the whole, it is certain that the White armies could not have held the field for a month without this material assistance. Huge sums of money were provided to help the Russian commanders to tide over their financial difficulties, and it is estimated that the British spent about £100,000,000 in these transactions. But while so much was done in this direction, the diplomatic and strategic steps taken by the Allies were not only inadequate, but often mischievous. The policy of support for the patriotic movement in Russia lived, as it were, under a cloud: it was disturbed and hampered right through by the opposition of strong currents of opinion in western Europe and in the United States. There was, to begin with, the fear of infection of Allied troops by Bolshevik propaganda—a fear justified to some extent by such facts as the conduct of French sailors and soldiers in Sevastopol and in Odessa, where the red flag was actually hoisted by French men-of-war, and certain battalions of the army of occupation showed a marked disinclination to fight the Reds. This fear that war-weary soldiers of the Entente might not be proof against Communist propaganda led to the undignified scampering out of the Crimea and from the south-west. Even more important was the sympathy shown to the cause of the Bolsheviks by Socialists in France and the Labour party in England, a sympathy in which they were supported by influential organs of the Radical press. This feeling manifested itself in a variety of shapes and degrees: some regarded the violence and destruction of the Communist upheaval as the beginning of a new era in social history characterized by the overthrow of capitalism; others condoned terroristic methods as a necessary means of revolutionary action; others again were prepared to admit that these methods were justified by the misrule of the Tsars that had provoked the vengeance of the people; all were inclined to balance the misdeeds of the Reds by the excesses of the Whites and all objected to intervention in favour of the latter. The reorganization of Russia on Imperial lines was distasteful to many English Conservatives who were still under the influence of the ideals of Disraeli. Last, but not least, there was a growing number of “realists” who contended that the Bolsheviks had proved their right to rule because they had defeated their opponents in the field and that in these circumstances it would be best to recognize facts and to draw from them such advantages as could accrue to business men from the needs of a great country.
The weaknesses and failings of the White organizations in Russia presented most convenient materials for the action of all these elements opposed to Allied intervention. The result was a series of inconsistent steps which contributed to the decline of the cause of reconstruction. In Jan. 1919 came the proposal of the “Big Four” that the belligerents of the civil war should meet in Prinkipo and discuss conditions of pacification—a proposal that reflected in a striking manner the peculiar combination of unpractical idealism, superficial knowledge and the yielding to “happy thoughts,” which formed one of the characteristics of the Versailles Conference. As the Arcadian perspectives of Prinkipo did not meet with the expected response on the part of the belligerents, schemes acknowledging the standing of the proletarian dictators began to crop up, in connexion with favourable reports by enterprising American journalists (Mr. Bullitt's mission). At the same time the British War Office countenanced the plan of a raid on Petrograd to be carried out by the victor of Sarikamish, Gen. Yudenich. This enterprise was attempted with insufficient forces (some 15,000 men); it was in the nature of a gamble, but even gamblers do not usually put stakes on opposite sides. In this case, however, the Allied High Commissioner, Gen. Sir Hubert Gough, paid more attention to the aspirations of Esthonians, who were anything but keen to promote Yudenich's success, than to the requirements of the Russians. The climax of that form of intervention was reached when Gen. Gough's chief-of-Staff, Col. Marsh, gave the Russians three-quarters of an hour to form a North-Western Government and to recognize the independence of Esthonia. No wonder the expedition did not prosper.
By Nov. 1919 Mr. Lloyd George had come to the conclusion that it was advisable to renounce intervention and to leave Russia to her fate. Though doing lip service to the unforgettable services of Russia in the war, he submitted that it was not in the interest of Great Britain to assist in strengthening that country. This point of view prevailed definitely in 1920. When Denikin was forced to abandon the North Caucasian territory, British policy steered towards a liquidation of the Russian imbroglio. Wrangel made a last and gallant stand in the Crimea, but he was recognized and supported by the French only, while Great Britain took up an attitude of neutrality favourable to the Moscow dictators.
In the war which Poland waged rather imprudently when the danger of restoration of Imperial Russia had vanished, Great Britain was prepared to surrender Poland to Bolshevik hegemony, and when the tables were turned before Warsaw, thanks to the assistance of the French, British diplomacy employed itself in arranging an armistice between Poles and Bolsheviks which enabled the latter to concentrate their forces against Wrangel and to crush him. This cleared the way to a “complete control” of Russia by the Communists, and enabled the British Premier to give effect to the plans of a resumption of commercial relations with “Sovdepia.” There were, indeed, two aspects of Bolshevik policy to be considered—the alluring prospect of exploitation of latent and immense natural sources offered by Mr. Krassin, and the uncompromising attitude of the Third International, founded in Moscow for the express purpose of revolutionizing the world by fair means or foul. While France and the United States refused to have anything to do with a “Government of assassins,” realistic considerations prevailed with Great Britain and Italy. Communist propaganda was treated as a bogey, and disarmed by certain stipulations as regards India and by vague promises of a general nature. On the other hand the door was open to trade, not indeed on account of “bulging corn bins” in Russia (as Mr. Lloyd George had once suggested), but on account of her need of everything in the way of raw materials and manufactures. The dictatorship of the proletariat was recognized as the de facto Government of Russia, and its leaders encouraged to adopt a policy of renunciation of their doctrines in return for retention of power.
The Soviet Constitution
It remains for us to consider the internal evolution of this newly recognized member of European society, and the results achieved by its rule.
Apart from general declarations of principles, the constructive policy of the Communists may be said to have been initiated at the fifth Congress of Soviets which met at Moscow in July 1918. It consisted originally of 1,132 members with power to vote, of whom 745 were Bolsheviks, 352 belonged to the Social Revolutionary Left, 14 were Maximalists, 4 Anarchists, 4 Social Democrats of the Internationalist group, 10 were outside any party, 3 belonged to “miscellaneous groups.” At a later stage the Social Revolutionaries disappeared in consequence of disagreement and risings, and the Congress was supposed to comprise about 1,000 members. From a formal point of view the most important business transacted by this Congress was the acceptance of the Constitution, but this was carried in a hurried manner at the close of the session and without any debates to speak of, when the opposition had been ejected from the Assembly. Nevertheless it is advisable to begin with a summary of its most important provisions. It proclaims itself to be the Constitution of the Federal Socialistic Republic of Soviets. As a matter of fact there was no federalism about it, as no means had been provided for any genuine expression of the will of the component parts. The Ukraine, for instance, was never allowed any self-determination, but was simply conquered by the Bolshevik armies and subjected to the rule of Moscow authorities, although the pretence of separate existence and organization was kept up. The social basis of the republic was formed by the workmen and the peasants, while all those who used the labour of others for their benefit were disfranchised. One of the fundamental assumptions of the system was that the normal kind of work that counts is manual work and all forms of activity which do not take the shape of manual work have, as it were, to justify their existence in relation to manual work. At best a rough equation was established between various forms of employment, at the worst people who could not claim the designation of workmen were declared to be bourgeois under suspicion. In principle no distinction was made between various kinds of performance in point of quality, and in introducing the project of the Constitution the reporter, Stekloff, appealed in as many words to the famous maxim of Fourier: “To everyone according to his needs.” It may be noticed, however, that the other side of the saying—“From everyone according to his faculties”—was also acknowledged in a somewhat peculiar form (by Trotsky): those who refuse to work need not eat. The threat was directed primarily against the civil servants who had thrown up their office work, but the principle admitted of wider application and came to be applied to workmen in general.
There was no attempt at democratic equality, in any sense. As regards electoral representation, for instance, an industrial worker was treated right through as worth five peasants: 25,000 of the former were reckoned for each delegate of a Soviet Congress and 125,000 of the latter; the same ratio obtained in local and provincial organization. Instead of the direct elections on which so much insistence was laid in the democratic stages of the revolutionary movement, all elections were managed on the principle of an ascending scale from lower to higher units. The result was that undesirable elements were weeded out in the process by means of wire-pulling or by downright violence. The clubs of Communists in the various local centres acted as committees of supervision, and terrorized the country so effectually that the Communist party, which on its own showing did not number more than 600,000 members, invariably captured three-fourths or more of the seats in the Assemblies.
The masses of the peasantry, to whom reference was so often made in the speeches of official Bolshevik orators, had much less chance of being heard than in the gerrymandered Dumas of the Tsarist regime: the so-called delegates of workmen, soldiers and peasants were generally intellectuals with a more or less incomplete educational record, but expert in journalistic propaganda and free from all received notions as to morality, humanity or justice. The Congress of Soviets should have met at least once in six months; but this rule fell into abeyance, and the years 1919 and 1920 saw only two congresses (the seventh and the eighth). The intermediate institution of the Central Executive Committee of 200 (later 300) had to act as a kind of Parliament in the absence of the Congress, and was entrusted with supreme authority all the while; but the Board of Commissars of the People, corresponding to a Council of Ministers under the Parliamentary regime, wielded the real authority. It took its lead again from its presidium, on which the Government of Russia entirely depended. In this way the appearance of democracy was reconciled with the reality of a very narrow oligarchy, according to the pattern worked out by the French Jacobins in the days of the Committee of Public Safety. A curious device of the sophistical combination consisted in making members of the Central Executive Council at the same time supervisors and subordinates of the commissars, as if genuine control could be expected from persons employed in working the machinery under control.
Local units were subjected to similar limitations: the bourgeois of all descriptions were condemned in every respect to the position of outcasts. Elections were to be conducted under constant pressure from the Communist clubs, and inconvenient persons were to be removed from participation in local as well as central government. A characteristic application of this all-pervading suppression of the bourgeois is the handing over of all technical means of publicity, in other words of the Press, to the workmen and peasants. This meant that there is no possibility for expressing any opinions except those approved by the Bolshevik clubs. The Press was not gagged—it ceased to exist as a free agent. It became a means of reproducing in thousands of copies the standard views decreed by the Bolsheviks. The Tsarist regime never aspired to this complete suppression of public opinion. The right of assembly was vindicated in the same way in the Constitution. The preamble of it started with a sounding declaration of freedom; but it was sufficient for commissars to declare a meeting to be counter-revolutionary in order to be entitled to put an end to it by force.
The Bolshevik legislators prided themselves on having got rid of the division of the functions of legislation and administration, and treating both as alternative manifestations of the will of the living communities of workmen and peasants. One of the effects of this unification of power in the collective unit was the right to recall representatives which belongs to the rural communities, the trade unions and the military units. In actual practice the recall was used to allow free play to the Communist wire-pullers, who were careful to watch over the orthodoxy of the various Soviets. The alternation of functions opened the door to log-rolling and capricious changes of policy. Perhaps the most striking expression of the inanity of these constitutional functions was to be found in the position of the delegates of the Red army, who had to represent simultaneously controlling power in the Executive Council and the “iron discipline” of the Bolshevik regime in the ranks.
Altogether the “Constitution” of the Federal Republic of Soviets was clearly intended to be an instrument for the oppression of the formerly privileged classes and a means of propaganda for the edification of people who want to believe in the benefits of Communist rule. When reproached with the duplicity and the contradictions of this paper arrangement the Bolshevist answers: all derogations from principle are justified by the necessity to fight the counter-revolutionaries and to destroy the bourgeoisie. Pure Communism can be introduced only when the people have been ground into uniform pulp: then Law and the State will disappear of themselves. As long as there is any opposition anywhere dictatorship of the proletariat has to be kept up, and as the mass of the people is not permeated with Communist consciousness the dictatorship can only be constituted by the enlightened minority. Hence the necessity of the rule of the few for the sake of the proletariat. It is interesting to read the justification of the Soviet system on the ground that it makes popular government a reality while parliamentary institutions provide mere fictions:—
“In democracies the only way in which a workman or a peasant participates in government is that he puts a voting paper once in four years in a ballot box. The Soviets are direct organizations of the masses; they are not impermeable, there is the right of recall. . . And this is not only the case with the Soviets which form, as it were, the top of power . . . the organization does not only belong to workmen, it is indeed a working one. In democratic commonwealths the supreme power belongs to parliaments, that is, to
talking-shops. Power is divided into a legislative and an executive one. The sending of deputies from the workmen to parliament once in four years gives rise to the fiction that workmen share in political work. In truth even the deputies do not share in it, because they talk. The real rulers are the members of a caste,—of a social bureaucracy.”
One might think that the rule of Soviets was free from all fictions and substitution of power.
Organization of Supplies and of the Army.—The greater part of the meetings of the Fifth Congress was taken up by the discussion of two topics of primary practical importance—the organization of supplies and the organization of the army. The first of these questions gave rise to a violent conflict between the Bolsheviks and the Social Revolutionaries of the Left. For the latter the socialization of the land was a measure of paramount importance for the future of Russia, and they wanted it carried out with corresponding regularity and deliberation, in conformity with the wishes and the interests of the peasant class as a whole. Spiridonova, the leader of this faction in the Congress, objected strongly to the anarchistic way in which land was grabbed by the peasants, and reproached Lenin with his cynical declaration that as the peasants had seized the land they might divide it as best they could. As a result of this cynical indifference the country-side had been a cockpit in which villagers and householders were arming and fighting for the possession of coveted plots. These rural feuds were not distasteful to the Bolsheviks, who were intent on crushing all well-to-do and thrifty elements of the population as representing the hated bourgeoisie. In practice they wanted corn supplies, knew that some were in the hands of the wealthier peasants and did not find any other means of getting at them but the raising of the poor peasants against the richer ones. The result was the creation of “Committees of the Indigent,” whose special purpose was to ascertain who had put by any supplies and to expropriate these “tight-fists.” Part of the loot would go to replenish the bins of the Red Government. This was called the “Dictatorship of the Indigent,” and Lenin boasted that the Bolsheviks had succeeded in driving a wedge into the compact mass of the peasantry.
The Social Revolutionaries opposed the Bolsheviks in terrorist measures as well as in the case of supplies. In the interval between the Fourth and the Fifth Congresses the Central Executive Committee had founded and organized the “Supreme Revolutionary Tribunal” from its own ranks. The Social Revolutionaries had consented in the beginning to take part in the constitution of this Tribunal, but they seceded from it in connexion with the first trial, when Adml. Shtchaskny had been condemned to death. They protested altogether against the reintroduction of capital punishment, although they did not scruple to participate in bloody repressions of risings and conspiracies. The same difference of opinion reappeared in connexion with the reorganization of the army. Trotsky came to the Congress with a complete programme for the reconstruction of the Red army which amounted to a return to the iron discipline of the ancient regime with a change of provost marshals. “Ote-toi de là, que je m'y mette” was the approved maxim of the time, and, after having preached and agitated for years against the death penalty and other cruel punishments inflicted “by order of the Tsar,” Trotsky found it simple and convenient to adopt all these Draconian measures and to employ former officers of the Old Army to enforce them as long as there was not a sufficient number of Red commanders and officers to provide the necessary personnel. The Social Revolutionaries were again true to theory, and denounced this change of front with bitter indignation. Their opponents retorted that it was absurd to reject the death penalty when inflicted by the courts while practising terrorism and shooting people at sight. The Bolsheviks wanted a disciplined army, and were not disposed to be fettered by sentimental considerations or the reproach of inconsistency. These conflicts coincided with the assassination of Count Mirbach and the suppression of a Social Revolutionary rising on Moscow: they ended in a disastrous way for the Social Revolutionaries, whose leaders were either shot or imprisoned.
In the interval between the Fifth and the Sixth Congresses the Central Executive Committee had to settle the foundations of two most important sides of social life—the organization of justice and the establishment of school education. Of course legislation in these respects was by no means restricted to the action of the Central Executive Committee in 1918: measures were taken both before and after, but our account must for the sake of convenience be concentrated around the laws and decrees of that year.
Administration of Justice.—Taking first the province of justice, we may notice to begin with the main principle of the Judicature: it is the substitution for the various courts of professional justice of popular courts consisting of three judges—a chairman and two assessors. The first of these was supposed to have some knowledge of legal subjects, though he need not be a trained lawyer; the assessors represent the lay community, and the framers of the new rules give emphatic expression to the wish that the common sense and the practical spirit of the lay members should prevail over technical considerations and a superstitious regard for laws enacted by overthrown governments. They refer with disapprobation to the bad influence of former lawyers who had found their way into the new courts and complicate their decisions by a casuistic treatment of the subject in the old style. The publications of the Narkomjust (People's Commissariat of Justice) gave unstinted praise to decisions free from the trammels of juridical dialectic and book-learning. The hope is expressed that the popular courts will open up new avenues of legal thought by the motives and arguments of their decisions and thus create a new and beneficial source of law.
One of the leading representatives of Soviet jurisprudence, Hochberg, compares the position of public and private law in the new system, and comes to the conclusion that the latter is the creation of the bourgeois social order, as it supposes an abstention of judicial authority from interference with the contents of claims and assumes an appearance of impartial indifference. This reminds one of the attitude of Pilate washing his hands, as regards the truth or justice of the verdict. Civil law is decentralizing, anarchistic, derived from a fiction of freedom, while public law aims at concentration and coöperation, and that is the law suitable to a socialistic commonwealth.
Another article on Soviet jurisprudence dwells on the total transformation of criminal law, and the author is not less nihilistic in his appreciation of this branch of legal organization than his colleague Hochberg was as regards private law; indeed, one branch is not more necessary than the other:—
“There can be no idea of retribution, because the modern scientific view does not recognize any free or responsible will. Determinists cannot build their law on the idea of punishment. It is certain that crime is the product of social conditions, and therefore cannot be imputed to any single individual. This being so, there is no reason to despair of the disappearance of crime and of the coercive law directed against it. Menger halted half way: he thought that infringements of rights are to some extent the result of human nature, of inherent self-will. But serious infringements of rights proceed from class distinctions and class antagonisms. There will be no burglary or theft when there is no private property protected by law: all serious motives for homicide and other crimes of violence will disappear when men are all comrades and there is no wealth or privilege to excite hatred. Whatever occasions there may remain for inordinate self-will will be rare anomalies and can be treated as negligible quantities.”
In spite of all these enchanting perspectives it is recognized that the stage of a lawless Elysium has not yet been reached, and in concession to human frailty certain prohibitions and rules have to be maintained in the epoch of transition. This epoch may last for a long time, because the new order can be secured only by psychological transformation, and psychological processes take many years to mature.
Meanwhile speculators, traders, hooligans and counter-revolutionary agitators have to be coerced, and this is the chief business of popular courts, reinforced in dangerous cases by the ruthless action of the Extraordinary Commission. Trade was made a punishable offence and threatened with most severe penalties. According to Clause I of the decree on speculation, “a person guilty of selling, storing or keeping with a view to sell, articles of food monopolized by the Commonwealth, if he is doing this as a trade, will be punished by imprisonment for a term not less than ten years with the hardest forced labour, and by confiscation of all his goods.” Clause 2 says: “A person guilty of selling, storing or keeping with a view to sell, articles of food at prices higher than the established ones, if he does this as a trade, will be punished by imprisonment for a term of not less than five years, and by the confiscation of all or part of his goods.” Clause 3 says: “A person guilty of selling, storing or keeping with a view to sell, other articles the price of which has been fixed and is subject to control, if he does it as a trade, will be punished by imprisonment for a term of not less than three years, etc.” Clause 4 says: “If he does not drive a trade (but does so occasionally), he will be punished by imprisonment for a term of not less than six months.” Similar penalties are imposed on those who collect provision cards with a view to trade with them.
These Draconian measures were mitigated in practice by the necessity of having recourse to lawyers, who had received their education under the old regime. The majority of the personnel of the higher courts had to be drawn from that class, and did what they could to soften the asperities of Soviet legislation.
In the same way Soviet legislators had to steer a middle course as regards private law; in 1918 law as to marriage, family relations and succession was cast in a new shape. As regards marriage the chief change was the abolition of the contrast between legitimate and illegitimate unions. The only difference was one of registration: some people might think it worth while to register their convention as to sexual relations, others did not attach importance to such routine; the consequences as to family status were about the same. Consorts kept their separate goods and had equally the right of protection and duty of maintenance as to the children. In case of disagreement in the conduct of their children's affairs, they have to apply to the local court. The latter may deprive either of them of the right of supervision in case of misuse. The wife, or woman living as such, may claim maintenance from the man with whom she has been living, if she is unable to maintain herself. As to the bringing up of children, she is allowed to claim assistance from the putative father, and if she has had such relations with several men so that fatherhood is uncertain, she enjoys the additional advantage of being able to claim contributions from each one of them. Succession is abolished. No one can dispose of his fortune by will, nor do the children inherit to the exclusion of other relations; after the death of a person his or her fortune is distributed among relations within certain degrees according to the measure of their needs. Their claims are preferred to the claims of the creditors of the deceased.
It is needless to add that Soviet legislation uprooted the rules as to contract of service. All forms of service are considered as forms of servility, as varieties of exploitation. Everyone must depend on the work of his hands and combination is entirely a matter of public law. It appears in the shape of professional unions industrial and rural alike, or in the shape of Soviet rule substituted for the old conception of the State. Members of the Soviet Republic are comrades in work, though not in service, and it is for the Soviet Commonwealth to assign them their shares in work and produce.
Here are some characteristic passages from an article in the official organ of the Commissariat of Justice:—
“The project of the Provisional Government accepted as a basis of the legal order of industrial undertakings the fiction of a free bilateral contract.” Under the rule of the Soviets “the industrial undertaking ceases to be governed by formal conventions or contracts and by one-sided declarations of the will of employers. The collective contract . . . loses the character of a bilateral convention and becomes an objective rule of conduct.” This principle was first proclaimed as an exception in the case of the establishment of a tariff of remuneration in the metal workers' trade. It was subsequently recognized to be the normal arrangement of the status of workmen. There can be no more talk of “hire” and “service”; the conception of “coöperation” taking their place. “The sense of duty and of responsibility arising from it has dictated the following clauses to the Petrograd metal workers, when they constituted their tariff without the employers. Clause 16: ‘When the working man receives a definite guarantee as to his earnings, he is bound to guarantee a corresponding amount of work in the shape of a definite form of production. Clause 23: In case of evident loafing or of premeditated slowness the workman is to be moved into a lower class and can even be dismissed.’ ‘The juridical life of the working men is being unified by movements in two directions—towards combining local undertakings into one common State economy and by uniting the interests of separate professional groups on the lines of a common class consciousness.’ ”
Education and Religion.—Another subject of primary importance considered by the Central Executive Committee in its fifth session in conjunction with trade unions was that of the proletarian school system. There was no discussion, and the conclusions of a committee for which Comrade M. Pokrovsky acted as reporter were approved en bloc. The report laid stress on the necessity of getting rid of all varieties in the curriculum of schools, produced by the sinister interests of the dominant class of the old regime. The old schools had been diversified not only by horizontal partitions as lower-middle and high-schools, but also by vertical sub-divisions as special types of humanistic, modern side (cf. Realschule), technical, ecclesiastical schools. This tendency towards specialization served the purpose of splitting up the compact and powerful mass of working men into a number of groups on which the dominant class could practice the divide et impera principle. The true educational ideal was to train all the youth of the country on the same lines, leading them through the various forms and stages of application of human energy to productive work. A course of nine years, beginning at the age of eight, would be necessary to achieve this object. Of course the old methods by which “gentlefolks'” children were taught to scrawl on paper would have to be discarded. The orientation of the school should be directed towards preparing for a life in which manual work was honoured and not despised. The aim should be to educate men able on leaving school to take up intelligently and successfully any kind of task. The curriculum would be a reproduction on a small scale of the cultural history of mankind. Astronomy would be shown to have guided the men of old in their observations of the seasons on which agriculture depends; zoölogy would be taught in connexion with the tending of domestic animals, botany on the live specimens of plants. The management of the school should be an introduction to civil life, the principle of collective labour permeating all details, methods of old-fashioned subjection and discipline being entirely discarded, and the school should be constituted as a “commune” and the senior pupils should take part in its administration together with the teachers and the representatives of the working population of the district. Punishments would not be necessary in these educational communes; order would be kept up by the sense of responsibility on the part of the pupils.
A quantity of literature was produced in Soviet Russia to spread the notions of the Proletcult (proletarian culture). In order to give an idea of this stuff, one or two extracts may be given from a paper by Comrade Bobrinsky:
“We have to proceed towards freedom through the iron yoke of proletarian dictatorship, towards equality through rationing according to class, towards fraternity through civil war. Proletarian science becomes in practice a weapon in the struggle for power and economic existence. Science becomes politics. The bourgeois contrast between knowledge and politics, between science and action, gives way a synthesis for the first time: science is turned into the political force of the proletariat, and proletarian politics is turned into science. . . . Natural science is combined into a unity with social science. . . . The old disputes about humanistic (classical) and realistic education, the old criticism directed against the estrangement from life, against the academic character of education find a simple and radical solution in the school of labour. . . . Technology has acquired a place of equality with other sciences and it serves as a transition from natural science to sociology. . . . Technology becomes the principal science in the system of historical materialism. According to historical materialism all changes in
social life are derived from the relations of Society to production. Everyone knows that, but it is not sufficiently recognized, that, according to Marx, the evolution of history is entirely dependent on the development of means of production and that changes in the latter are conditioned by changes in technique.”
It is appropriate to mention here the policy of the Soviets as regards religion, and, more especially, as regards the Orthodox Church, as its foundations are to be found in a profound contrast of cultural conceptions. The matter is well illustrated in a paper contributed to The Octobrist Upheaval by Comrade N. Lukin (Antonov). He begins by ridiculing the notion that the separation of the Church from the State meant emancipation for the Church from secular control coupled with the right to accumulate property and to influence public opinion on similar lines to those which obtain in Belgium. The revolution put religious associations on the same level as other common law associations, but deprived them of the right of holding property and of other privileges of juridical persons. As a natural consequence the Orthodox Church became one of the main instruments of counter-revolutionary agitation. The Council called together in Moscow did not attract any considerable attention on the part of workmen and peasants, but it was crowded with representatives of the old aristocracy, bureaucracy and counter-revolutionary “intelligentsia.” The newly elected Patriarch Tikhon excommunicated the authors of the decree of disestablishment and the Council denounced it as an attack on the national faith and the religious institutions of Russia, not omitting to mention that the clergy was being deprived of the means of subsistence. In view of such an irreconcilable attitude the Soviet power is bound to wage a ruthless war against the Orthodox Church. It is armed against it by Clause 5 of the decree of Separation forbidding all ecclesiastical ceremonies and acts directed against the Commonwealth. But it must not be forgotten that even apart from the conspiracies and direct risings, religion in general is antagonistic to the social conceptions of the new order. Even in its present state the Church is able to support ignorance among the mass of the people and to divert the proletariat from the struggle for an “earthly paradise” by making them dream about a “paradise in heaven.” The example of France and of America shows that the clergy is preaching war against social democracy with no less fervour because it is deprived of those powerful means of influencing men's brains which are at its disposal in countries still maintaining State religions. In creating a new world the proletariat stands in need of a complete and harmonious scientific outlook.
Foreign and Home Policy.—The Sixth Congress of Soviets met on Nov. 6 1918. Nineteen hundred and fourteen delegates assembled in Moscow, of whom 829 were Communists; 71 had been registered as sympathizing with Communism, and 2 as Revolutionary Communists, while 6 were declared to belong to the Social Revolutionary party, 1 to the Maximalists, 3 to no party. The president Sverdlov expressed his firm conviction that distribution of seats corresponded fully and correctly to the interests of “wide masses of the working population of Russia.” The debates were overshadowed by two main facts—by the victory of the Western Allies and by the appalling food crisis.
Lenin, while admitting that the situation was extremely dangerous, because Communist Russia had to reckon henceforth not with two belligerents engaged in a struggle for existence but with the united front of the victorious Entente, thought it augured well for the progress of the world revolution:—
“A complete victory of a Socialist revolution,” he said, “is unthinkable in any one country. It requires at least the coöperation of several advanced countries, and Russia is not one of them. This is why the question as to the expansion of the revolution into other lands and of our success in repulsing imperialism becomes one of the principal problems of the Revolution. . . We must raise the proletariat of all countries.”
He dwelt on the benefits conferred by the Brest Litovsk peace which gave Russia breathing-space and the possibility of reconstructing her army. Now the aim was to carry the contagion of the revolution into Central and Western Europe:—
“We can see already how the fire has broken out in most countries—in America, in Germany, in England. . . . The peace which the rapacious imperialists of England and France are going to inflict on conquered Europe will be a more humiliating and crushing one than the treaty of Brest Litovsk, but this very peace will be their undoing because it will rouse the revolutionary feelings of the world proletariat. We are not living in Central Africa but in civilized countries in the twentieth century. They are raising a Chinese wall against Bolshevism, but Bolshevism will pass the wall and spread its infection among the working men of all countries.”
In unison with Lenin, the president, Sverdlov, declared that before six months had passed they would see Soviet rule triumphant not only in Hungary, in Germany, in Austria, but in France and Great Britain.
The problem of supplies was to be solved by expropriation in the villages. Zinoviev explained that the plan of raising the poor peasants against the well-to-do ones was being carried out ith energy and success. A Congress of the “poor folk” in Petrograd had been attended by 16,000 delegates; they had resolved to organize a special “poor folk” army consisting of two men from each village. In the Novgorod Government alone 2,000 “poor folk” committees had been formed:—
“Their chief aim is to drive a wedge into village life . . . to kindle class struggle, to kindle the sacred hatred of the poor folk against the rich. . . . We say . . . the ‘tight-fists’ must be strangled as we said before: strangle the bourgeois in the towns. . . . We know perfectly well that we cannot carry out a proletarian revolutmn unless we crush the ‘tight-fists’ in the villages—crush them in the economic and, if necessary, in the physical sense.”
The Congress adopted a resolution in conformity with Zinoviev's proposal, the gist of which was that in order to get rid of strife and confusion produced by dualism in the villages it was necessary to assign to the “poor folk committees” instituted by the decree of July 11 1918, the superior authority and to carry out a reorganization of rural Soviets on the pattern of town Soviets turning them into true organs of Soviet power.
The seventh Congress met on Dec. 5 1919. Of the 1,109 delegates with power to vote, 890 were registered as Communists and 34 as belonging to no party. In the course of the Congress some representatives of the Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks (Dan, Martov and others) took part in the debates, declaring their adherence to the cause of the Socialist Republic under Soviet rule, but criticizing certain methods of Soviet administration. The atmosphere of the Congress was dominated by the elated feelings produced by the victories over Kolchak and Denikin. They were extolled as triumphs over the Entente. Lenin admitted in his speech that the progress of the World Revolution had been slower and more complicated than had been expected, but he maintained that on the whole the previsions of the Bolsheviks had been justified by the course of events. The miracle of the victory of helpless and backward Russia over the all-powerful Entente was traced by him to the instinctive sympathy of the working-classes of Great Britain, France and Italy towards their brothers in Russia. As a result of this feeling it was impossible for the Allies to expose their troops to a decisive conflict with the Red army; symptoms of fraternization had begun to appear in the ranks of the western soldiers and the Entente was obliged to withdraw them. The hope to combine the minor border states against Red Russia had also miscarried, and disillusionment had been brought by the collapse of the White Guards equipped by the “imperialistic wild beasts” of England whose greed and craving for world supremacy was worse than that of the Germans. Resolutions of the Soviet greeted the toiling masses in all countries, invited them to struggle against bourgeois Imperialism and declared the Peace of Versailles a shameless attempt to establish the domination of the Allies, to divide the world into conquerors and conquered, into great and small powers, without taking heed of self-determination.
Trotsky gave a glowing account of the victorious Red army. He described it as an exact reflection of the Soviet Republic. It was built up on the principle of class domination, the ruling class being that of town workmen:—
“They form about 15–18% of the army, but they lead it on account of their greater consciousness, their stronger solidarity the higher quality of their revolutionary mettle. The responsible posts of commissars are occupied almost exclusively by workers of the
Communist party. In every regiment, every battalion, every company is to be found a communistic cell. In this way a new communistic order of ‘Samurai’ has been formed. And the army is not merely a fighting organization, it is a political school the like of which has not been known to the world.”
Trotsky prided himself particularly on the incessant political propaganda. “In the beginning we had not a single elementary school in the army—now we have 3,800; before the 1st of Jan. we had 32 clubs: now we have 1,315. Before the 1st of Jan. we had not a single mobile library: now we have 3,392.”
As regards officers and other specialists drafted into the Red army from the cadres of the old Tsarist army, Trotsky maintained that thousands of them had reconciled themselves with their new position and were faithfully serving the new order. He was contemplating the institution of one man's rule instead of the system of commanders watched over by two commissars.
Economic Problems.—The most serious discussions took place in connexion with the problems of food and fuel-supplies. Tsurupa, the People's Commissar at the head of the Narkhoskom (the Commissariat of People's economics) gave an account of the working of bread monopoly. All corn supplies had been nationalized and the system was enforced by charging each province with a fixed contribution which was subsequently distributed among the districts of each province, while the districts assessed the villages with quotas according to estimation. The whole assessment of the country was reckoned at 324 million poods of corn of every kind: of the 30% which were charged to the first quarter some 60 millions were expected to come in by Dec. 1. This did not quite correspond to the demand, but as some provinces were not under the control of the Soviet power, the assessment might be said to have been carried out satisfactorily in the greater part of the country as regards corn. This did not mean, however, that the supply of corn was secured for those who needed it. Many thousands of poods lay stored and rotting at the stations, because there was no transport to convey them to their places of destination. As regards meat the situation was much worse. Only 600,000 poods were available instead of the five million delivered in 1918; the cause was the great falling off of the numbers of cattle held by the peasants. Butter and fats were also at a discount: the commissariat could not dispose of more than 300,000 poods for the whole of Russia, and that meant famine in respect of fats. Of fish roughly 75% of the normal supply had been caught but the transport conditions were badly hampering its distribution. The proposal of the Commissariat was to extend the State monopoly and the coercive assessment to all food products and it was adopted by the Congress.
As far as fuel was concerned, the situation had grown to be catastrophic. The loss of Baku and of the Donets coal-mines had largely reduced the quantity available. Instead of 500,000,000 poods of naphtha, e.g. Soviet Russia disposed of 80 million. It continued to exist only because all private stores and supplies had been confiscated. Things got better when the roads to the Donets and to Ural were cleared, but the disorganization of the transport told heavily on the distribution of fuel. As a matter of necessity Russia had to fall back once more on wood fuel, although the adaptation to a new system of heating involved immense losses. The first requirement was to provide material for the railways and that was being gradually achieved by means of labour conscription. As for domestic heating, its needs were so great that the only way of solving the problem was to cut down timber in the neighbourhood of cities, and Moscow, for example, was being served by means of the clearing of timber in an area of 18–30 square versts. The Commissariat was obliged to engage the services of private contractors and agents in order to get the required supplies. When, in discussion, fanatical Communists reproached Commissar Rykov with this deviation from the recognized principles of communism, he answered that there was no other way of collecting the timber and that, after all, the Extraordinary Commission was able to proceed against speculators and profiteers. In other words, the Soviet administrators might enable men to enrich themselves by private enterprise and then prosecute them on account of their gains.
Comrade Sofronov reported on the constructive work of the Soviet; this work had proceeded from the top to the bottom and the administration of the country had assumed the shape of parallel columns subordinated to “heads” and “centres,” each managing its own concerns, but with little connexion between them and often with opposed views on kindred subjects. The Narkomjus (People's Commissariat of Justice), for example, was not in agreement with the arbitrary terrorism of the Extraordinary Commission, but was powerless to influence or to restrict it, because it was acting within the column of the Home Commissariat, and no solution could be found for the difference between judicial and administrative tribunals.
The discussion gave rise to attacks on the bureaucratic centralization and the suppression of freedom by the communistic dictatorship. The reporter Sofronov admitted that there was a tendency towards one man's rule in all branches of the organization, but such a tendency, explicable in the course of civil war, could not be conceded as a principle. It did not check the complete anarchy of economic and legal relations produced by the lack of harmony in administration. It ought to be corrected by a reform of elections, which would regenerate the local Soviets and thus create a basis for political reorganization at the top. An essential condition for such a reform was the removal of counter-revolutionary elements. Therefore the electoral law ought to be supplemented by stringent enactments not only disfranchising the “tight-fists,” but making it a punishable offence for them to take part in any electoral or other meeting in the village.
Lenin came forward to defend the policy of Soviet rule against the reproach of anti-democratic tendency:—
“We do not promise,” he said, “that our constitution guarantees freedom and equality in general. Freedom—but it must be pointed out for what class and for what ends. Equality—but who shall be equal and with whom?—for those who work and who have been exploited in the course of centuries by the bourgeoisie, who are fighting the bourgeoisie even now. This has been stated in the constitution: the dictatorship of the workmen and of the poorest peasants in order to suppress the bourgeoisie.”
These ideas were more fully developed in Lenin's speech to the Congress of School Extension workers (May 6 1919):—
“It cannot be gainsaid that freedom is a powerful catchword for any revolution, democratic or socialistic. But our programme declares: freedom, if it obstructs the emancipation of labour from the oppression of capital, is a fraud. Any one of you who has read Marx, or even popular accounts of Marx, knows that he devoted the greater part of his life to ridiculing freedom and equality, the will of the majority and all the Benthams who commented on these things in glowing terms. He proved that at the back of all these phrases lay the interests of free trade, the freedom of free capital, which are used to oppress the workers. . . . We maintain that to grant freedom of meetings to the capitalists would be the greatest crime—it means freedom of meetings for counter-revolutionaries. We say to the bourgeois intellectuals, to the adherents of democracy: ‘You lie when you reproach us with the infringement of freedom. When your great bourgeois revolutionists of 1649 in England and of 1792–3 in France carried through their revolutions they did not concede to the monarchists the freedom of meetings. The French Revolution was called the Great one because it was not like the weakly phrase-making revolution of 1848: after overthrowing the monarchists it crushed them out of existence. . . . The peasant is a hybrid being: half a workman and half a speculator. This is a fact from which you cannot escape, unless you destroy money, destroy exchange. And to do that you want long years of firm domination of the proletariat, because it is only the proletariat that can conquer the bourgeoisie.’ When we are told ‘you have broken equality not only as against exploiters (a social revolutionary or a Menshevik might admit that), but you have broken equality as between workmen and peasants, you have broken the equality of toiling democracy, you are criminals,’ we answer: ‘Yes, we have broken the equality between workmen and peasants and we maintain that you, who defend this equality, are followers of Kolchak.’ . . . We ask you: ‘the ruined workmen of a ruined country, in which factories are at a standstill, would they be right to submit to a majority of peasants, who do not yield to them the surplus of their corn? Have they the right to take this surplus by violence if it is impossible to do so in any other way?’ The peasants are a special class: as toilers they are the enemies of capital, but at the same time they are proprietors. The peasant has been taught during centuries to consider the corn as his own, and that he is free to sell it. It is my right, thinks the peasant, because it is my labour, my sweat and my blood. It is not easy to change his psychology: it will take a difficult and long process to do so. He who imagines that the transition to socialism will be effected by one man convincing another, and this other a third, etc., is at best a child, or a political hypocrite. You can, if you have luck, smash an institution at one blow: it is
impossible to smash a habit, whatever your luck. We have given the land to the peasant, freed him from the squire, thrown off all his fetters, and yet he goes on thinking that liberty is free trade in corn, and serfdom the duty to surrender the surplus at a fixed price.”
The Eighth Congress of the Soviets.—The Eighth Congress of All-Russian Soviets was convened at Moscow on Dec. 23 1920. Approximately 80% of the delegates were members of the Communist party, the remaining 20% were not affiliated to any party. It was known that with reference to certain questions of policy there was an important divergence of views among leading Communists. These differences of opinion were especially marked in connexion with (1) economic reconstruction, including the question of concessions to foreigners, and (2) the demobilization of the army. Lenin was at the head of the so-called Right Wing, while the Left was under the leadership of Bukharin. The disillusionment of many Communists concerning Soviet administration was expressed in strong terms at the Congress. These criticisms were summarized and by one of the leaders, Ossinsky, in an article which contains the following passage:—
“For three years, the Soviet Government has seriously turned aside from the principles of proletarian democracy, and from the spirit of the Soviet Constitution. On the one hand, there have been created two legislative bodies, not provided by our constitution—the Council of Defence and the Military Revolutionary Council; on the other all constitutional organs (legislative as well as executive) have virtually disappeared. The eclipse of the Central Executive Committee is generally known. But even the Council of People's Commissars and the Council of Defence, which have ostensibly replaced the Central Executive Committee, have been, in their turn, eclipsed by still another body. In reality, the centre of political leadership has been shifted to the Central Committee of the Communist party, and even here to a smaller body, the ‘Political Bureau’ of this committee. Legislative measures, diplomatic acts, and military plans decided by this ‘Politik-Bureau’ are formally sanctioned and issued in the name either of the People's Commissars or the Council of Defence.” (The New Statesman, 1921, p. 635.)
The Congress decided to establish Provincial Economic Conferences which should be charged with the unification of all purely local economic institutions. Meetings were to be held no less than twice a month, and the persons who were to participate in the proposed Conferences were to be designated by the Supreme Economic Council, the Commissariats of Supplies, Labour, Finance, etc. All local branches or institutions of the Supreme Economic Council in the various provinces were to be subordinated to these Provincial Councils, with the exception of so-called “principal” industries, such as important metal factories, mines, etc., which still remained directly subordinate to the Supreme Economic Council.
The number of members of the Central Executive Committee was increased to 300 and sessions were to be held at least twice a month. The managing board of the Central Executive Council was given power to cancel any decisions of the Soviet of People's Commissars. All conflicts or disagreements between the People's Commissars and Central Institutions on one side, and the local Executive Committees on the other, were to be referred to and decided by the managing board of the Central Executive Committee. All decrees and regulations of general importance, including laws, military decisions and questions of foreign policy, were to be examined by and were subject to confirmation by the Soviet of People's Commissars. The Congress considered that the Soviet of Labour and Defence which had been created at the height of struggle between the republic and an Imperialistic world (Nov. 30 1918), should be reformed so as to form a committee of the Soviet of People's Commissars. An appeal was addressed to the peasants asking them to support the republic by contributing all their surplus agricultural produce to assist the Commonwealth. Trotsky favoured a partial demobilization of the regular army and the organization of a militia.
These were the principal decisions of the Congress. The general attitude of the Communist party was best expressed in speeches delivered by Lenin and by Zinoviev. Lenin welcomed the establishment of Soviet Republics in Bukhara, Azerbäïjän and Armenia, as showing that the Soviet system was acceptable, not only in industrial countries, but also in agricultural lands. It was hoped that a treaty would shortly be signed with Persia. Relations were being cemented between the Soviet Government and Afghanistan and Turkey. Lenin defended the policy of granting concessions to foreign capitalists. It would be ridiculous to talk of Russia's economic independence while the Soviet Republic remained a backward country. Guarantees would be demanded from those who received concessions and it was essential that everything should be done to promote trade relations without delay. He reminded his audience that a long series of wars had hitherto decided the fate of the revolution. They must prepare for the next chapter in this history:—
Without economic restoration they would be unable to hold their own. To achieve this economic aim it would be necessary to unite compulsion with moral suasion as successfully as they had been united in the Red army. Russia was a State of small farmers and the transition to communism was hampered by difficulties greater than those which would have arisen in other conditions. For the attainment of their economic objects the assistance of the peasants was ten times more necessary than it had been during the war. The peasants were not Socialists. The Communist workers “must tell the peasants that it was impossible to continue freezing and dying of starvation indefinitely.” If such conditions continued they would be defeated in the next chapter of the war. There must be a larger area of land under cultivation next spring, and there was no hope of salvation unless this economic victory was obtained. They recognized their obligation to the peasants. They had taken their bread in exchange for paper-money. They would compensate them as soon as industry was restored. The menace of Russia to the capitalist world could not be maintained without an improvement of economic life. As long as she remained a small farmers' country capitalism would find more favourable acceptance than Com- munism. The foundation ami basis of their home enemy (capitalism) has not been removed. Electrification would help them to remove it.
Zinoviev admitted that the Soviet régime was degenerating through the influence of an immense and inefficient bureaucracy. He laid the blame on the traditions of the old administration:—
The utilization of bourgeois specialists in the work of economic and administrative reconstruction was absolutely essential and inevitable. The worst feature of this recourse to specialists was that they exhibit a red-tape attitude towards their work, not entering into the spirit of it: they have brought the worst habits of Government lethargy and bourgeois bureaucracy into our administrative organs. Those workers and peasants, whom the Soviet Government drew into direct participation in the Government, although they saw the weak side of these specialists, were themselves powerless to raise affairs to a higher level. Thus a wrong attitude was taken up toward those who worked by brain and not by hand. Workers who stand at the lathe are regarded as useful members of society, but what about the man who counts the lathes, who works out plans of production, who carries out essential statistical work? Such men are sometimes contemptuously described as bureaucrats. . . .
The workers' and peasants' control must be transformed from an organ of supervision over the activity of Government institutions into an organization for attracting broad masses of the workers and the peasants to administrative tasks, for inculcating the methods of administration in accordance with the decree of the All-Russian Executive Committee dated Feb. 7 1920.
Russia in 1920–1
Soviet Russia had shrunk considerably by 1921 in comparison with the former Russian Empire. Instead of a population of some 180 millions it comprised in 1921 about 130 millions, of whom 10 millions were peasants and the rest were divided among the townsfolk and the nomadic and hunting tribes of the eastern steppes and of Siberia. It is estimated that the country lost 1,700,000 killed in the course of the World War, but it is impos- sible to form even an approximate conception of the number of those who perished from the indirect effects of the war through wounds, ill-health and privations, and of those who were destroyed by the massacres of the civil war, the misery of retreats and migrations, the epidemics of typhus, cholera, diphtheria which claimed a heavy toll in the unsanitary conditions of life. It would hardly be an exaggeration to put the number of victims of these disorders at some 10 millions. The abnormal increase of the death-rate has been definitely registered in certain cases, and there is good reason to suppose that in all centres where people congregated for political or economic reasons exceptional mortality prevailed and the health of the population was enfeebled through starvation and sickness. Petrograd, with 2,250,000 inhabitants in 1914, had been reduced to some 700,000, and Moscow to 1,000,000 instead of 1,800,000.
But, undoubtedly, the greatest inroads had been made by the separation of large territories that had acquired political independence. Finland accounts for a diminution of 3,000,000; Poland for 11,000,000; Esthonia and Latvia for 3,000,000; Lithuania for 5,000,000; Georgia, Armenia and Azerbäïjän for 8,000,000; Bessarabia for 3,000,000, the districts of White Russia and Volhynia, ceded to Poland, for 3,000,000.
Economic Disruption.—The great combination for economic intercourse guaranteed by the empire had been broken up to the detriment of most of its component parts. Of course, from the point of view of national separatism, the political independence of Esthonia or Latvia was a great conquest, a glorious assertion of self-determination, and a source of profit in the helpless condition of Russia. These Baltic States serve as a kind of neutral fringe in which Bolsheviks can be met in safety by representatives of western Powers and western commerce. Gold from the Russian State reserves was being stored there, Reval and Riga serving as outlets for whatever trade was conducted with the west by the bankrupt Government of Moscow. Undoubtedly such a position, recognized by Europe and at the same time highly useful to the Soviet, might be a lucrative one. But these new-born States hardly realized sufficiently that sooner or later an account would have to be rendered to a Russia restored to its national traditions and strength. Such a historical Russia would hardly consent to leave the gates of the Baltic in the hands of alien Governments, who had done their level best to thwart its efforts at restoration in 1919, who manifested on every occasion their hostility to the Russian people and were in more dangerous proximity to Petrograd than Ireland was to London. The Bolsheviks had no objection to using Lettish mercenaries for repressing popular risings in Russia, and Lettish stockbrokers for commercial dealings with the west, but the Russian Government could not be expected to remain anti-national for ever. In the case of Poland the necessities of the industrial situation are quite as obvious as those of the commercial one. Polish industry thrived on the economic connexion with Russia. Without the Russian market Poland is economically a lifeless strip of territory: Germany does not want Polish manufactures; the only commodity it did want from Poland was cheap labour, but recent occurrences in Silesia and elsewhere show to what an extent national animosities have obstructed intercourse, even in this respect. It will be a long time before Poland will be able to use the outlet to the sea for the purpose of considerable trade and it is not likely to become ever a sea-power of some standing. In the meantime Poland in 1921 was practically bankrupt, with its currency enormously depreciated. It would certainly not seek reunion with Russia, but it might regret the opportunity it had in 1919 for helping in the restoration of a national government in Russia. Lithuania, with its unhappy situation in the intersection of the lines of action of three powerful neighbours—Germany, Poland and Russia—had to keep up a front primarily against the Poles as its most dangerous neighbours. As German protection was excluded by the policy of the Entente and especially of France, it seemed certain that the Lithuanians would sooner or later have to lean on Russia. But it would have to be a Russia with a civilized Government and a solid national basis. As for Rumania, the seizure of Bessarabia, though confirmed by decree of the Entente Powers, and the wholesale dispossession of Russian landowners, had not pacified the province, of which half the population belonged to the Russian stock and in which even many Moldavians were reputed Russophiles. The alliance between Rumania and Poland, concluded in the spring of 1921, might serve the purpose against a possible Bolshevist offensive, but would hardly help against a reconstituted National State. In the Caucasus again, the various alien nationalities are so intermixed and so hostile to each other that it was impossible to expect the rise of any local federation or even of durable peace: the Armenians, the Georgians, the Caucasian Tartars, as soon as they were free of their movements, were inclined to jump at each other's throats, and the necessity of a strong empire holding their appetites for self-determination in check was recognized even in 1921: it formed the background of the Soviet Governments artificially created in Azerbäïjän, in Georgia and in Armenia. The factor of economic interdependence was also clearly to the fore: Georgians normally hate Armenians, though the rural population of Georgian stock wants the coöperation of the Armenians in the towns. The Tartars would fain swoop down on the people in the plains, and have repeatedly tried to do so, but after a time the necessity of drawing supplies from peaceful agriculturists and traders asserts itself among them. The oil treasures of Baku are of paramount importance to any Russian State and on the other hand these oil wells cannot be exploited without drawing supplies from a “Hinterland” furnishing food and manufactured articles. Above all, these regions can reckon on peaceful development only if there is a strong police force to keep the heterogeneous elements in order. Such a force could only be provided under existing conditions by Russia. Even the Bolsheviks had found access to this disturbed region as negotiators and pacifiers although their methods of pacification were of a peculiar kind—mainly the extermination or driving out of elements opposed to the Soviets.
On the whole there could be no doubt in 1921 that anti-Russian tendencies and political arrangements found their chief support in the absurdity of Bolshevik rule as well as from a recollection of the oppressive policy of the Tsarist period. A change for the better in the direction of freedom and democracy in Russia would render it possible to restore to some degree the economic and political ties which rendered fruitful the coöperation between these interdependent elements. As things stood, Soviet Russia was in 1921 deprived of important commercial outlets and industrial auxiliaries, and had to pay a proportionate price for such help as she could get from them.
Commercial Intercourse.—The curtailment of these resources was, however, of small importance when compared with the misrule of the Communist authorities in Russia proper. As a result of the civil war, of the proscription of trade, of the destruction of the middle classes, of the ruin of currency and credit, the processes of circulation had been impeded and blocked to such an extent that one had to look back to the Mongol invasions in order to find anything similar in magnitude to the misery of the situation up to the middle of 1921. The struggles in the Ukraine, with the repeated changes of rulers (democratic Ukrainians, the German protectorate, Petlura's bands, Bolsheviks, Denikin's White Guards, the Bolsheviks again, a Polish invasion, the Bolsheviks again), and the accompanying sequence of risings and punitive expeditions had made the south-western granary of the black soil almost unavailable for years to come. In the same way the Donets basin, the Cossack territories, the Volga provinces had been the scene of bitter conflicts and disturbances which had affected their productivity in a most unfavourable way.
In 1921 one could hardly talk of a Russian railway system. It was already worn out to a great extent by the war and rendered useless for the bulk of the population by the strain put on it by military exigencies. The Soviet administration had been trying hard to effect the most urgent repairs as to rails, engines and trucks, and had utilized a considerable part of the gold reserve to buy locomotives and rolling-stock abroad. But the needs were so great and the engineering resources of Russia had fallen so low, that there was no marked improvement in this respect.
The restrictions as to trade had been relaxed lately, by the decrees of March 29 and May 17 1921, and a lame attempt had been made to revive trade, but all these concessions were too much in contradiction with other standing features of Communist policy to produce an extensive change in the situation. The fact remained that the dictatorship of the Soviets had employed itself systematically on cutting the connecting nerves of the economic organism and had thereby produced a state of paralysis which it was out of question to heal by a few decrees.
One of the hateful consequences of this self-inflicted disorder was the severance between town and country. The rise and the growth of towns depend directly on ways of communication and the circulation of men and goods. They are primarily centres of distribution and exchange, and if the roads to them are obstructed they are unable to perform their economic functions of distribution and exchange. There was, of course, a secondary cause to their decay in “Sovdepia,” namely the fact that they were centres of industry and affected by the ruin. But their decay as centres of commerce was bound in itself to produce a back flow of the population towards the villages. Such a back flow was especially indicated in Russia, where the distinction between rural and urban life was never a very marked one, and where large numbers of the inhabitants, such as cabmen, carriers, porters, small tradesmen, were recruited from the villages for a time and accustomed to return to their rural homes at certain periods of the year. In “Sovdepia” this mixed population tried to escape from the deadening grip of the Bolsheviks in the towns to the rural districts. It could live a freer life there, and, besides, it was nearer to the direct source of food-stuffs—the tilled soil. In this way the economic evolution of “Sovdepia” might be described as a regress from commercial to natural husbandry.
Another side of this process of “naturalization” was connected with the disappearance of the mainspring of flourishing commerce—credit. The causes of this phenomenon are partly of an economic and partly of a political nature. As the whole system of Communism is based on war against capital, no accumulation of wealth or resources should be allowed in private hands. This being so, no transactions can be carried out in the strength of confidence in a person's ability to meet engagements in the future. Cash payments and (in view of the worthless currency) barter are the only legitimate forms of exchange. To this must be added the effect produced by arbitrary expropriations by the renunciation of State liabilities, at home and abroad, by the absence of any legal security against dispossession. In such conditions there can be no talk of prosperous economic intercourse. Not the market but the barrack is the social center.
The will of a people to live cannot be entirely extinguished even by a Communist regime. Practice reacts by all conceivable means against the theory. Clandestine trade had been going on in Russia all through the years 1918–21. The Sukharevka market in Moscow teemed with people bidding all kinds of goods for sale. Those who succeeded in getting a passage by rail or by river-craft carried little stores of merchandise in sacks, ostensibly for their own use, in reality for trade purposes. What prices such contraband goods fetched was another matter: people had to pay fantastic sums for the risks incurred by the traders, besides making up for the depreciation of the currency. Anyhow the flow of speculation had never ceased in spite of all the decrees of the Soviet, and the rulers had recently made up their mind to recognize the existence and to admit in half-hearted way the legality of local trade (March 1921). This was proclaimed in the west as a great victory of common sense over extremist doctrine: it was in truth an inevitable admission which did not do away with the main causes of the disorder—insecurity, disruption of communications, distrust, corrupt and arbitrary interference by the commissars. As long as these causes continued to operate, the economic life of Russia would be suffering from their cumulative effects, and the social intercourse of the country was bound to be disturbed by the fever of fraudulent and rapacious profiteering in an atmosphere of misery and disease.
Agriculture.—State of Peasantry.—One of the first decrees of the Bolshevjks proclaimed the abolition of private property and the nationalization of the land. In practice this decree sanctioned the disorderly grabbing of estates by the adjoining peasantry, and the new rulers connived at this form of appropriation for the sake of its psychological effect as a revolutionary act. This meant that they renounced “nationalization” at the same time as they professed to carry it out, and although they tried to save their face by distinguishing between the ownership attributed to the republic and the possession of land snatched by the peasants, the fact remained that the October Revolution as translated into agrarian terms meant the passage of some 50 million dessiatins (135 million ac.) from former landowners into the hands of “petty bourgeois” of the peasant class. The fact that some of the new proprietors held in village groups while others held in individual homesteads did not alter the fundamental opposition between the two social conceptions. The history of the years of Soviet domination up to July 1921 showed that the Communists did not realize at once the consequences of the agrarian revolution registered by their decree. They strove to carry out their programme of nationalization in two directions: they kept in the hands of the Commonwealth a considerable number of estates which had belonged to the State, the Imperial family and certain private landowners—they based their policy of food supply on the principle that the peasants were tenants at will of the republic liable to unlimited exactions for the benefit of the whole.
Under the first head a series of measures were adopted for the exploitation of estates on communistic principles. In the peculiar terminology of the Soviet a number of “Sovkhoses” and “Kolkhoses” were carved out of the land fund and put under the economic control of the administration. The “Sovkhoses” were economic organizations carried on under the immediate direction of the Government while the “Kolkhoses” were communes and associations of peasants enjoying economic support from the Government. Sovkhoses either carried on agriculture in general or cultivated special kinds of technical plants such as beetroot or tobacco. In the first case the Sovkhoses were mainly organized as colonies of industrial workers fitted out with agricultural implements of all kinds, cattle, seeds, etc. The object was to make town workers more independent of the “yoke” of the villages by giving them the opportunity of growing their own corn and vegetables, managing their own dairy farms, etc. These annexes of the factories, designed to rear privileged proletarians in a healthy atmosphere of occasional rural occupation and to provide the surrounding villages with examples of model farming, proved a dismal failure. According to a report presented to a congress of agricultural workers in July 1920 the delays and red tape of administrative patronage rendered the condition of the proletarian husbandmen exceedingly precarious. And as for the workers it could not be expected that they would be able to give satisfaction in their amphibious pursuits. The progress of the Kolkhoses was not more successful. Some were started as actual “communes” with individual coöperation and individual “profits,” and those were doomed to be a failure; other Kolkhoses merely drew assistance from the Government, and had to encounter the hostility of neighbouring, less-privileged villages. The negative results of this experiment may be gauged from the fact that the number of Kolkhoses in action decreased in one year from 1,900 to 1,500.
The immense area covered by peasant tenures on the old lines was little affected in its constitution by the Bolshevik usurpation. The attempt of the Soviet to bait the well-to-do peasants by the needy folk proved that the Communist intellectuals did not know the material with which they had to deal. There was no “village proletariat” to speak of, which could serve as a basis for the intended subversion of social relations in the villages; and such tramps and drunkards as the Bolsheviks were able to bring together in their crusade against welfare and order did not succeed in effecting much more than occasional disturbances, which ended mostly in the suppression of the “needy folk” by the peasantry.
Much more irksome were the requisitions and expropriations exercised in virtue of the eminent ownership of the Commonwealth. The Soviet was constrained to fall back on this means of extracting some supplies for feeding the army and the towns, but the decrees enjoining the confiscation of the entire produce with the exception of the quantity necessary for the subsistence of the husbandmen, could not fail to provoke a stubborn resistance. The answer of the peasantry was that the farmers restricted the area under seed to the extent necessary to feed them and their families. Why should they toil to increase cultivation if the fruits of their labour were to be taken from them? According to a Soviet authority (Larin) the quantity used for cultivation had shrunk from 5 milliard poods in 1917 to 2½ milliard poods in 1920. The Soviet Government brought all the weight of its terroristic coercion to bear against this passive resistance. It sent punitive expeditions, it encouraged its privileged proletarians to raid the countryside for supplies, it issued a decree ordering the maximum of available soil to be taken over in cultivation and threatening recalcitrant farmers with confiscation and imprisonment: all in vain as far as the general results were concerned. The hardships and disorder were increased hundredfold, but it proved impossible to drive a mass of 100,000,000 peasants by the whip to perform work which was distasteful to them.
The Soviet dictators had to acknowledge their defeat, and in the spring of 1921 (on March 23), in view of a threatening famine, a decree was issued by the Executive Council of the Soviet recognizing and guaranteeing the private tenure of householders who would conform to the payment of a tax in kind. Instead of charging the provinces with certain lump sums to be partitioned among the uyezds (districts) and, lower down among the volosts, and to be collected from the harvest according to the requirements of the Government, a land tax was imposed which had to be assessed according to the outfit and means of each separate household. It was calculated that this substitution of a land tax for the system of repartition amounted to the reduction from 470,000,000 poods of corn to 240,000,000. It remained to be seen whether the business of assessing and collecting the tax could be carried out with sufficient skill and fairness. The one positive asset of the revolutionary period from the point of view of the peasants consisted in the passage of land from the squires to the tillers, and this was certainly a conquest which the villagers were not going to give up. All attempts at political reconstruction would have to reckon with this basic fact.
Industry.—The history of industrial economy presents the same features, and describes the same curve, from partial disorganization through blockade and war to general ruin in consequence of absurd Utopianism, and, ultimately, to desperate attempts to reconstitute production by reverting to methods condemned and destroyed by the Communists. There is, however, a notable difference: while the enormous block of the rural population was able to oppose unconquerable passive resistance to the dictators in spite of terrorism and heavy losses, the scanty stratum of the industrial workers was almost worn out in the struggle.
We have again to start in our survey in the case from the years immediately preceding the Revolution. Bolshevik experiments were the culminating phase of a process of destruction which had started long before the Oct. 1917 upheaval: the guilt of the Communists consisted in the fact that instead of fighting the evil, they did everything in their power to aggravate it. The initial stage of industrial decay dates from the time when Russia was isolated from western resources by the Central Powers in alliance with Turkey and Bulgaria. The country had to attempt the impossible task of providing by its own primitive resources for the tremendous technical requirements of the war. The criminal levity of Tsarist administration under men like Sukhomlinov had left it with exhausted equipment and munitions by the end of some nine months of military operations, and an unsoluble problem was set to its patriotic leaders in 1915; they had to make up the deficiencies and to prepare further efforts. This meant technically that all the coal and all the railway machinery had to be diverted for the use of the army while the economic needs of the population were entirely disregarded. As a result, though, with the help of Zemstvo and Municipal Committees acting for purposes of national defence, the fabrication of shells and machine-guns was to some extent reëstablished and maintained, the economic work in the rear necessary for production and repairs was rapidly deteriorating. Train service, for example, was officially suspended for weeks between Petrograd and Moscow in order to make room for military transport and the most urgent needs of food supply. Repairs of locomotives had to be carried out in a more and more imperfect and insufficient manner, and the statistics as to the state of rolling-stock presented drastic symptoms of a lamentable deterioration. The March 1917 Revolution accentuated all these evils because another cause of decay came to the fore with ever-increasing force: the discontent and the demoralization of the workers broke out like a stream of all-consuming lava. The responsibility for the sufferings of the time was laid entirely at the door of greedy capitalists, and the workers were convinced that they were justified in demanding increased wages and decreased labour. A Minister of Labour of the Provisional Government, Skobelev, upheld emphatically their contention.
The following tables give illustrations of the change in the condition of the rolling stock:—
|Year|| Length of
| Per cent. of
out of order
| Number of sound |
per 100 Versts
Repair of Engines.
|Number of Engines repaired||797||1,177||640||405||2521|
Construction of New Engines.
|Year|| Number of new Engines |
constructed in Russia
In the cotton industry of the Moscow district the earnings of skilled and unskilled workmen per day was as follows:—
|Date||Unskilled workers||Carpenters of the|
|In kopeks||Per cent.
1919 = 100
|In kopeks||Per cent.|
1919 = 100
All partial attempts to put a stop to constant rioting, absenteeism, and slackness availed nothing against the general intoxication of the “glorious revolutionary days.”
Working Year of the Industrial Workmen in Days.
| Per cent |
|Absence for other causes||16.6||52||35.4||214|
|Total of days absent||24||124||100||416|
|Days of rest||93||55||38||41|
|Days of work||248||180|
The table shows that, notwithstanding the large decrease in the number of holidays after the Revolution, the working year of the workman, owing to the increase of sickness, absence from work and stoppages, has decreased by 68 days, or 25%; and if, further, the length of the working day be taken in account, in 1916, including overtime 10.1 hours, and at the beginning of 1920, 8.6 hours, then the decrease of the working year amounts to 900 hours or 30 per cent.
The Bolshevik victory in Oct. 1917 added yet another ingredient to the industrial ferment. The Marxist dictators, the industrial workers, were the chosen class, the leaders of the proletariat, and entitled therefore to carve out benefits and indulgences for themselves according to their own notions of right and expediency. More especially they were keen to ransom the employers' class, not only by appropriating the lion's share in actual profits but by exacting compensation for advantages which had accrued to employers in the past, as well as vengeance for ill-treatment of the workers in the course of centuries. The inference from this conception of economic relations between working men and their former employers was the system of workers' control which the Soviets started in their industrial policy. It meant that each factory and workshop had to be conducted in the future under the supervision and according to the directions of a board of workmen, while the employers were degraded to the position of technical experts and banking managers.
The object of the peculiar combination between Capitalism and Socialism designated as “workers' control” was avowedly to enable the workmen to draw on the resources of the capitalist to the last drop, and in this complete success was achieved thanks to the servitude imposed on the “employer” who could neither withdraw nor oppose any decree of the workman's board. But the system had yet another effect, namely a complete industrial anarchy and consequent ruin.
The next stage was reached when the Soviets attempted to put an end to this anarchy by a regime of nationalization.
Nationalization could be introduced into practice only by deriving economic direction and control, not from the accidental and separate groups of workmen in factories and workshops, but from the national centre. This centre was embodied in the Economic Council of the people, supported locally by subordinate councils in the provinces and districts, and relying for the execution of its decrees on a vast bureaucracy of head offices (Glaski) and “centres.”
It is difficult to form an adequate opinion as to the ramifications and numbers of this all-embracing bureaucracy. We have the evidence of its own members as to the actual working of the system. In theory it had to organize the repartition of raw materials, to assign means and draw supplies and to collect products in accordance with requirements. In reality the Soviet bureaucrats struggled with each other, stifled local opinion and individual enterprise, and had generally to record lamentable discrepancies between plans and achievements.
Bureaucratic nationalization proved as ineffectual as workmen's control in solving the problems of increased production and organization of labour. Theoretically, the workmen in the nationalized industries had to be considered not as privileged beneficiaries but as disciplined citizens serving the Commonwealth. Attempts to translate this view into practice were made. Workmen were mobilized for industrial purposes, sent to the Ural or to the Donets fronts, subjected to military control and martial law, armies that had been fighting the Poles or Denikin were switched off to execute economic tasks. Trotsky developed the idea of the militarization of industry as the only means of saving the country from collapse. But the results were not encouraging. Workmen deserted from the towns and hid in the villages, while those unfortunates who were unable to leave Petrograd, or other industrial towns, went on strike, made demonstrations and riots in the face of ruthless repressions; even when they performed their hard labour, it proved miserably inadequate for lack of physical health and moral energy.
Altogether, industrial nationalization proved as much of a failure as agricultural nationalization. And so the Soviets had to retreat, here as there, to a position characterized by the abandonment of all their economic doctrines and previsions. In 1921 Comrade Krassin was recommending in the West a programme that Lenin had announced to the loth Congress of Communists and to the Central Executive Council: capital and competent leadership were acknowledged as necessary forces in the process of industrial production: the national capitalists had been robbed and driven from Russia; therefore foreign capitalists had to be called in to take their place. They were promised guarantees against arbitrary expropriation “à la Russe” and they might think that they were less liable to succumb to it because they were not “comrades” but citizens of civilized states, and might count on the strong arm of their Governments. But the great inducement consisted obviously in the prospect of rapid profiteering on a scale commensurate with the risk incurred by those who ventured into the wolves' den.
In comparison with these gigantic schemes of exploitation other retrograde measures were modest and mild. Small capitalists, even when Russians, were allowed to start shops, and individual enterprise was to be encouraged somehow, although Communism was not renounced as an ideal, and big undertakings were to be kept in the hands of the State. The introduction of specialists was recommended as a necessary measure. Under the régime of the workmen's control, technical experts were treated as second-rate persons to be ordered about by the ignorant “demos” of proletarian boards, but experts were now invited to proceed to Sovdepia in order to help to restart productive industrial activity. In the factories piece-work was given a prominent place as against the “ca'canny” devices of time work, although previously workmen used to protest most violently against this form of remuneration. Altogether payment by results was being more and more recognized as an antidote against slovenly labour. As for working hours no account was taken of the 8-hour day, and forced labour was exacted for 10 or 12 hours when deemed necessary by the commissars.
Standard of Living.—Thus the Soviet dictators were trying in 1921 to back out of the impasse into which they had run the industry of the country. There was among the working class one group which had profited by the Oct. revolution it was the communistic nucleus used by the Soviet administration to spy on their comrades and to coerce them. They enjoyed all the privileges of an official class and could afford not only necessaries of life but such luxuries as were to be had in the market. Apart from these privileged Communists the working class was reduced to a condition of utter destitution. Even judging by the standard of the prices fixed from time to time by the ruling powers they could not make the two ends meet, because the prices had risen during Soviet domination from 16 to 25 times. In 1921 bread cost 19 times as much as in the second quarter of 1917, manufactured goods 22 times as much, footwear and soap 25 times. Wages indeed had increased also, but their nominal increase did not keep up with the cost of living. About the middle of 1918 an enquête had been made in Moscow as to the budgets of 2,173 workmen, and it resulted from it that on the average a bachelor working-man's wages did not exceed 462 rubles per month, though by occasional extra work they might be brought up to 624. The head of a family earned on the average 703 rubles, and might increase his earning by supplementary labour to 1,077 rubles per month. The ordinary budget was made up in the case of a bachelor by 22.2 rubles for lodging, 46.9 for food, 47.7 for clothing, 1.1 for house implements, 19.6 for health (baths, drugs, etc.), 13.4 cultural expenses (newspapers, books, etc.), 13 (parcels sent to village home), 32 miscellaneous expenses; in all, including other items, being 609 r. For heads of families the average monthly expenses rose to 952.7, of which 672.8 r. fell on food (Zagorsky, La République des Soviets, 214, 215). These figures show a considerable deficit in normal and well-regulated households: any disturbance in personal conduct, conditions of labour or health, was bound to result in downright starvation and ruin. Let us also notice that distress was much more marked in 1920 and 1921 than in 1918.
The only consolation for workmen was derived from the fact that the hated bourgeois were subjected to even greater hardships. In the early stages of Bolshevik domination this kind of consolation was a potent one: the feeling of triumph of the lower class over its former superiors made up for many privations, but in course of time the bourgeois were trodden down to that extent that there was not much satisfaction to be obtained from kicking them, while new contrasts arose between the mode of life of half-starved workers and of the Soviet bureaucrats shepherding them. The food situation became catastrophic in 1921. As a result of the restriction of cultivation, transport difficulties and civil disorder, a great part of the country was visited by downright famine, with terrible prospects ahead.
Credit and Finance.—In such conditions nothing could be expected but growing decay in public credit and finance. The Soviet Government had been living on the reserves accumulated under monarchical rule. The gold fund of the Imperial Treasury had been its chief asset in conducting political and commercial negotiations. Its remnant represented something like £50,000,000 in the first quarter of 1921. The needs of the home circulation were satisfied by constant emissions of paper notes. There was no system and no limit in this process of inflation. Paper notes had even come to be measured by weight instead of being reckoned at their indicated value. The Chief of the Soviet State often spoke with contempt of money currency as a worthless product of capitalistic exploitation. But the Communist Commonwealth had not yet discovered the means of replacing this system by a more adequate instrument of exchange. Figures in rubles were still being handled as if they represented realities. The only hope left for the Bolsheviks was that when they had spent the reserves captured from the Imperial Government and from the defeated armies, the national capital represented by the natural wealth of Russia in forests, minerals, fisheries, etc., should be put into the market. The handing over of this wealth to foreigners would mean, of course, economic subjection, a state similar to that of Asiatic and African dependencies of western Powers. But the Bolsheviks were not deterred by a prospect of that kind, provided it enabled them to continue in power. They mapped out a programme of concessions on the widest scale.
The Council of the Commissars of the people laid down a set of rules as to concessions, and the Councils of Economy and of Agriculture outlined a vast scheme of natural resources which should be offered to foreigners for exploitation. The rules were as follows:—
(1) Concessions should be granted by agreement on the principle of a division of profits.
(2) In case of the introduction of special machinery and appliances the concessionnaires would be granted privileges, e.g. large orders.
(3) The concessionnaires would be allowed to remain in possession for long periods in order that they should draw sufficient benefits from their concessions.
(4) The Government of the Soviets guaranteed immunity to the concessionnaires from nationalization, confiscation and requisitions.
(5) The concessionnaires would have the right to hire labourers on conditions specified in the Laws of the Commonwealth or on special conditions safeguarding the life and the health of the workmen.
(6) The Government pledged itself not to make any change in the conditions of the agreement by a one-sided exercise of its authority.
It would be impossible to enumerate all the resources of the country offered to enterprising capitalists for exploitation. Two or three examples must suffice to give an idea of the booty offered to foreign capitalists by Russian Communists. In Western Siberia, along the rivers Ob, Irtysh and Taz, an area of 70 million dess. (about 180 million ac.) was reserved for them. It is covered by immense forests of pines, firs, cedars and larches. If it were found necessary at the start to restrict exploitation to a strip along the rivers some 15 versts wide along each bank, there would still be available for immediate and easy use some 16 million dess. (about 42 million acres). The timber should be sawed and worked into pulp and cellulose in mills to be erected by the estuary of the Ob. Such mills ought to make up a settlement of the size of another Archangel. The natural route westwards lies down the Ob and by the Kara sea: it had already been utilized to some extent and its future importance could not be exaggerated. The whole region should be opened up by a number of railway lines. Mineral wealth of various kinds—platinum, coal, lead—is to be found in these districts. One of the most stupendous advertisements as to mineral wealth concerned the Kuzsnetsk coal mines along the Tom river. They were estimated to contain about 250 million tons of excellent coal. In European Russia 14 uyezds (districts) were advertised for agricultural exploitation and the construction of ways of communications of all kinds. All these districts are situated in the black soil region of south-eastern Russia. The application of powerful traction engines and steam ploughs would soon convert them into one of the principal granaries of Europe.
Such were the prospects held out in 1921 to enterprising capitalists. Not a word was wasted on the social and legal conditions of the human material connected with these tracts. It remained for the concessionnaires to fashion it with the assistance of the enlightened commissars: it was evident that the 5th clause of the Soviet rules ought not to be applied in such a way as to hamper the great process of economic restoration. The principal object was to get capitalists to speculate on the material basis described with such graphic details.
It remained to be seen how they would organize and keep in order the labouring population required for the carrying out of the concessions—whether the foreign capitalists would obtain feudal franchises with police powers of their own, or the Soviet power would keep watch on their behalf and use coercive measures to keep the Russian workmen up to the mark.
Another side of the repressive policy of the Soviets in the stress of dire need was presented by the appeal to the help of coöperatives. These organizations had gone through a chequered existence under the rule of the Soviets. In the early days of 1917 and 1918, the proletarian dictators used them as convenient tools at home and abroad in order to counteract the impression that Russia was ruled by an uncompromising despotism. The leaders of the coöperatives were encouraged to preach a non-party attitude, and to concentrate their efforts on purely economic work without any admixture of political opposition. In the campaign for the reopening of trade with Soviet Russia it was usual to assert that such trade would be carried on exclusively with coöperators and not with the ill-famed Moscow Government. In 1919, however, a sharp turn was given to the wheel, and the coöperatives were “nationalized”—declared to be subordinate committees of the Central Economic Council. In Sovdepia this measure was explained not only as a consequence of the general policy of Communism, but also as a necessary precaution against Social revolutionaries and Mensheviks, accused of having barricaded themselves within the coöperatives for purposes of political agitation.
In the beginning of the year 1921 a new current set in: coöperatives were to some extent reëstablished as autonomous organizations. The object was to revive them as agents of repartition. The Soviet decree of April 7 1921 was drawn up, however, in such a narrow and ambiguous form, that the institution remained doomed to mechanical subjection. The Act concerned primarily coöperatives of consumers. It allows combinations for protection and traffic only in an exceptional case and in obscure terms. As far as allowed, coöperatives are included in administrative units of state origin and local delimitation. All freedom of action is curtailed and subjected to strict supervision. Lastly, the members are not voluntary associates intending to help each other according to free agreement, but people brought together by the fact of dwelling in the same locality or belonging to the same professional group.
All this shows to what extent the principle of autonomous association was felt to be antagonistic to Soviet despotism. It might be assumed that the coöperatives would either remain inactive and fictitious, or else that they would contrive to escape the jealous supervision and the step-motherly pressure exercised by the “Glavki” and “centres.”
The hard facts of economic decay admitted of no controversy and could be illustrated by tabulated results. It was still impossible in 1921 to apply the same tests to the moral aspect of the condition of Russia, although there could be no doubt that the deterioration of national life in this respect was more harmful than economic decay. The aggressive tone of Communist propaganda could not deceive any one who considered the efforts of the “Proletcult” with common sense. It was not the number of schools that mattered, but their efficiency and educational influence. The prophecy of Dostoievsky in The Possessed had come true: the Bolsheviks had not only squandered the reserves accumulated by orderly government, and scattered some 2,000,000 of the best educated Russians across the world—they had poisoned the mainsprings of national morals for generations to come. One or two of the conclusions of Lord Emmott's Committee may be appropriately cited in this connexion; their studied moderation makes them particularly effective:—
“Child education in Soviet Russia is based upon an attempt to dissolve the ties hitherto existing between parent and child, and children are removed from the care of their parents soon after birth we have received no information on the moral and physical effects of this policy. Education, both child and adult, is not merely secular, but directly anti-religious in bias.”
As a specimen of the educational practice of Soviet Russia we will quote from the experience of a leading professor of the medical faculty of the university of Moscow, published under the pseudonym of “Donskry” in the Archives of the Russian Revolution, I (Berlin, 1921):—
“By order of the commissars 5,000 applicants had been admitted as freshmen in the medical faculty, although the lecture-rooms were constructed for 250. Representations had been made that it was impossible to admit persons who had received no appropriate instruction, but they were disregarded. The only thing required was that applicants should have attained the age of 16 years—the rules as to admission did not mention even the necessity of knowing how to read and write. The crowd of students dwindled to small numbers very soon, however, on account of the absence of heating during the winter and of the almost insuperable difficulty in getting materials for experimental teaching.”
Books of Reference.—Claude Anet, Through the Russian Revolution (1917); Lujo Brentano, Russland der kranke Mann (1918); E. J. Dillon, The Eclipse of Russia (1919); A. Iswolsky, The Memoirs of Alexander Iswolsky (edited and translated by C. L. Seeger, 1920); Carl Kautsky, The Dictatorship of the Proletariat (1920); A. Kerensky, The Prelude to Bolshevism—the Kornilov Rebellion (1919); Raoul Labry, L'Industrie Russe et la Revolution (1919), Une Législation communiste (1920); M. A. Landau-Aldanoff, Lénine (1919); V. Lenin, “Left Wing” Communism, an Infantile Disorder (1920), Land Revolution in Russia (1919), The Great Initiative (1920); Roger Lévy, Trotsky (1920); Francis MacCullagh, A Prisoner of the Reds (1921); P. N. Milinkov, History of the Second Russian Revolution (1920); Bolshevism—an International Danger (1920); K. Nabokov, Ordeal of a Diplomat (1921); A. Nekludoff, Diplomatic Reminiscences before and during the World War, 1911–1917 (1920); New Russia (weekly publication, 1920); Boris Noldé, Le Régne de Lenin (1920); R. W. Postgate, The Bolshevik Theory (1920); Maurice Paléologue, “La Russie des Tsars pendant la grande Guerre,” La Revue des Deux Mondes (Jan.-May 1921); M. A. Ransome, Six Weeks in Russia (1919), The Crisis in Russia (1921); Report (Political and Economic) of the Committee to Collect Information on Russia (1921); C. E. Russell, Unchained Russia (1918), The Russian Economist (N 1, 2 and 3 periodical 1920–1), The Russian Commonwealth; Alexander Schreiber, L'Organisation judicaire de la Russie des Soviets (1918); Ethel Snowden, Through Bolshevik Russia (1920), Soviet Russia (weekly publication, vols. I. and II. 1919–20); John Spargo, The Psychology of Bolshevism (1919), The Greatest Failure in all History (1920), Bolshevism, the Enemy of Political and Industrial Democracy (1919), Struggling Russia (weekly magazine, in progress 1919); Leon Trotsky, The Bolsheviki and World Peace (1918), Our Revolution (1918), War or Revolution (1918), A Paradise in this World (1920); The History of the Russian Revolution to Brest-Litovsk (1919); Émile Vandervelde, Three Aspects of the Russian Revolution (1918); Maurice Verstraete, Mes Cahiers Russes (1920); V. Victoroff-Toporoff, La première Année de la Révolution Russe (1919); Sir Paul Vinogradoff, Self-Government in Russia (1915), The Reconstruction of Russia (1919); H. G. Wells, Russia in the Shadows (1920); Ariadna Tyrkova Williams, From Liberty to Brest-Litovsk (1919); Robert Wilton, Russia's Agony (1918), The Last Days of the Romanovs (1920); S. Zagorsky, La République des Soviets, Bilan économique (1921). (P.Vi.)
- ↑ Persons doing the normal work of a villager.
- ↑ Statistics of the Taxation Department 1903.
- ↑ Nordman, Peace Problems: Russian Economics, p. 36.
- ↑ The Zimmerwald Manifesto of 1915 is full of momentous declarations.
The following are some of them:—
“The war that has produced this chaos is the outcome of Imperialism, of the endeavours of capitalist classes of every nation to satisfy their greed for profit by the exploitation of human labour and the treasures of Nature. . . .
“To raise welfare to a high level was the aim announced at the beginning of the war: misery and privation, unemployment and death, underfeeding and disease are the real outcome. For decades and decades to come the cost of the war will devour the strength of the peoples, imperil the achievements of social reform, and hamper every step on the path of progress. Intellectual and moral desolation, economic disaster, political reaction such are the blessings of this horrible struggle of nations. . . .
“In this intolerable situation we have met together, we representatives of Socialist parties, of trade unions, or of minorities of them, we Germans, French, Italians, Russians, Poles, Letts, Rumanians, Bulgarians, Swedes, Norwegians, Dutch and Swiss, we who are standing on the ground, not of national solidarity, with the exploiting class, but of the international solidarity of the workers and the class struggle. . . .
“The struggle is also the struggle for liberty, for brotherhood of nations, for Socialism. The task is to take up this fight for peace—for peace without annexations or war indemnities. Such peace is only possible when every thought of violating the rights and liberties of the nations is condemned. There must be no violent incorporation, either of wholly or partly occupied countries. No annexations, either open or masked, likewise no forced economic union, that is made still more intolerable by the suppression of political rights. The right of nations to dispose of themselves must be the immovable fundamental principle of international relations.
“Since the outbreak of the war you have put your energies, your courage, your steadfastness at the service of the ruling classes. Now, the task is to enter the lists for your own cause, for the sacred aims of Socialism, for the salvation of the oppressed nations and the enslaved classes, by means of the irreconcilable class struggle.”
- ↑ The following were the conditions of land reform proclaimed by
Denikin on July 19 1919:—
(1) Safeguarding of the interests of the toiling population;
(2) The creation and the placing on a sound basis of small and medium homesteads out of the land belonging to the State and private owners;
(3) The preservation of the right of the landowners to their land, coupled, however, with the apportionment in each district of the amount of land that is to be retained by the former owner and the order of the transfer of the remainder into the ownership of those who are land-poor;
(4) These transfers may be achieved by voluntary agreement, or by obligatory alienation for compensation. The new owners are to acquire inalienable rights to their allotments. (5) Intensive aid to be given to tillers of the soil, through technical improvement of the lands, expert agricultural assistance, the supply of implements, seeds, dead and live inventory, etc.
- ↑ Chap. IV., 7. The Fifth All-Russia Congress of Soviets of
Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Delegates considers that now, at
the decisive moment in the struggle between the workers and their
exploiters, there can be no place for the latter on any governing body.
Chap. XIII., 65. The following persons have neither the right to vote nor to be elected:—
(a) Those who employ others for the sake of profit.
(b) Those who live on income not arising from their own work.
- ↑ Chap. X., 53.
- ↑ Bukharin, “The Theory of Proletarian Dictatorship,” The October Upheaval and Proletarian Dictatorship, pp. 19, 20.
- ↑ A. Yablonsky, The Labour Constitution in the “Proletarian” Revolution and Law, 5–6 issue, Oct. 15 1918.
- ↑ “The October Upheaval and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat,” pp. 163 ff.
- ↑ Production of coal in the Donets basin for the first four months of 1913, 1919 and 1920 (in thousands of poods). Months 1913 1919 1920 January February March April Total . 143,000 117,000 156,000 84,000 500,000 36,600 34,800 33,300 12,500 117,200 14,000 19,300 24,300 13,800 71,400 (Report of Lord Emmott's Committee.)
- ↑ According to the decree of June 8 1919, the control of the Sovkhoses farms was given to the Glavsemkhose (the Central Board of Agriculture), which (1) united all agricultural farms organized by the industrial proletariat; and (2) united all the central boards controlling those branches of industry which were in need of agricultural plants for their production, such as “Glavsakhar,” “Glavtabak,” “Glavkrachmal,” “Centrochai,” and “Pharmacentre” (Economic Life Oct. 2 1919). The original area allotted to different industrial boards amounted to 200,000 dess. (540,000 ac.), but the area actually distributed amongst them was much smaller, amounting only to 80,000 dess. (Russian Economist, Jan. 1921).
The Workers' Control was established by the decree of Nov. 14
1917. It directed the production, sale and storage of products and
of raw materials and the administration of the financial side of the
business. It belonged to all workers by the intermediary of their
elected institutions with the participation of representatives of the
employees and of the technical staff.
The situation in the factories became chaotic, and the disorganization of the undertakings assumed the most extraordinary dimensions. The interference of the Workers' Committees made it quite impossible to realize any scheme planned in advance. All programmes of economical policy were annulled by the “judgment” of the Workers' Committees.
In the course of a report delivered to the Moscow Congress by
the Supreme Council of People's Economy in Jan. 1920, A. I.
Rykov, the president of the Council, made the following statement:
“The nationalization of industry has been carried out pretty fully. In 1918, 1,125 factories and works were nationalized, and by the end of 1919 the number was about 4,000. This means that nearly all industry has passed into the hands of the state (Soviet) organs, while private industry has been destroyed, as former statistics show that there were up to 10.000 industrial undertakings, including cottage industries. These latter are not subject to nationalization, and the 4,000 nationalized factories and works include not only the larger concerns, but likewise the bulk of the average industrial concerns of Soviet Russia. Of these 4,000 undertakings about 2,000 are working at present. All the rest have been closed. The number of operatives is estimated approximately at 1,000,000, which is between one-third and one-fifth of the numbers of the proletariat in 1914. Both as regards the number of hands and the number of undertakings in operation the Russian manufacturing industry is likewise undergoing a crisis.”
- ↑ From Jan. to June 1918, the Soviet regime at the Putiloff factory
gave the following results:—
Delivered Prevision Engines, new 2 4 Engines, new type 1 3 Engines, important repairs 2 10 Engines, medial repairs 0 12 Carriages, 3rd class, new 2 4 Carriages, 4th class, new 3 13 Carriages, for goods, new 169 309 Tramways 3 9
The real productivity of the factory is from 3 to 10 times inferior to those of the scheme of production established by the superior Council of National Economy. (Report of Mr. Molitof to the Petrograd Soviet, Aug. 15 1918, Labry, 187.)