Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 431
Publication Date: 1919
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A book by the American journalist John Reed about the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, which he experienced firsthand. Reed followed many of the prominent Bolshevik leaders closely during his time in Russia. He died in 1920, shortly after the book was finished, and he is one of the few Americans buried at the Kremlin Wall Necropolis in Moscow, a site normally reserved only for the most prominent Soviet leaders.
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TOWARD the end of September, 1917, an alien Professor of Sociology visiting Russia came to see me in Petrograd. He had been informed by business men and intellectuals that the Revolution was slowing down. The Professor wrote an article about it, and then travelled around the country, visiting factory towns and peasant communities — where, to his astonishment, the Revolution seemed to be speeding up. Among the wage-earners and the land-working people it was common to hear talk of “all land to the peasants, all factories to the workers.” If the Professor had visited the front, he would have heard the whole Army talking Peace. . . .
The Professor was puzzled, but he need not have been; both observations were correct. The property-owning classes were becoming more conservative, the masses of the people more radical.
There was a feeling among business men and the intelligentzia generally that the Revolution had gone quite far enough, and lasted too long; that things should settle down. This sentiment was shared by the dominant “moderate” Socialist groups, the oborontsi (See App. I, Sect. 1) Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries, who supported the Provisional Government of Kerensky.
On October 14th the official organ of the “moderate” Socialists said:
The drama of Revolution has two acts; the destruction of the old régime and the creation of the new one. The first act has lasted long enough. Now it is time to go on to the second, and to play it as rapidly as possible. As a great revolutionist put it, “Let us hasten, friends, to terminate the Revolution. He who makes it last too long will not gather the fruits. . . . ”
Among the worker, soldier and peasant masses, however, there was a stubborn feeling that the “first act” was not yet played out. On the front the Army Committees were always running foul of officers who could not get used to treating their men like human beings; in the rear the Land Committees elected by the peasants were being jailed for trying to carry out Government regulations concerning the land; and the workmen (See App. I, Sect. 2) in the factories were fighting black-lists and lockouts. Nay, furthermore, returning political exiles were being excluded from the country as “undesirable” citizens; and in some cases, men who returned from abroad to their villages were prosecuted and imprisoned for revolutionary acts committed in 1905.
To the multiform discontent of the people the “moderate” Socialists had one answer: Wait for the Constituent Assembly, which is to meet in December. But the masses were not satisfied with that. The Constituent Assembly was all well and good; but there were certain definite things for which the Russian Revolution had been made, and for which the revolutionary martyrs rotted in their stark Brotherhood Grave on Mars Field, that must be achieved Constituent Assembly or no Constituent Assembly: Peace, Land, and Workers’ Control of Industry. The Constituent Assembly had been postponed and postponed — would probably be postponed again, until the people were calm enough — perhaps to modify their demands! At any rate, here were eight months of the Revolution gone, and little enough to show for it. . . .
Meanwhile the soldiers began to solve the peace question by simply deserting, the peasants burned manor-houses and took over the great estates, the workers sabotaged and struck. . . . Of course, as was natural, the manufacturers, land-owners and army officers exerted all their influence against any democratic compromise. . . .
The policy of the Provisional Government alternated between ineffective reforms and stern repressive measures. An edict from the Socialist Minister of Labour ordered all the Workers’ Committees henceforth to meet only after working hours. Among the troops at the front, “agitators” of opposition political parties were arrested, radical newspapers closed down, and capital punishment applied to revolutionary propagandists. Attempts were made to disarm the Red Guard. Cossacks were sent to keep order in the provinces. . . .
These measures were supported by the “moderate” Socialists and their leaders in the Ministry, who considered it necessary to cooperate with the propertied classes. The people rapidly deserted them, and went over to the Bolsheviki, who stood for Peace, Land, and Workers’ Control of Industry, and a Government of the working-class. In September, 1917, matters reached a crisis. Against the overwhelming sentiment of the country, Kerensky and the “moderate” Socialists succeeded in establishing a Government of Coalition with the propertied classes; and as a result, the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries lost the confidence of the people forever.
An article in Rabotchi Put (Workers’ Way) about the middle of October, entitled “The Socialist Ministers,” expressed the feeling of the masses of the people against the “moderate” Socialists:
Here is a list of their services.(See App. I, Sect. 3)
Tseretelli: disarmed the workmen with the assistance of General Polovtsev, checkmated the revolutionary soldiers, and approved of capital punishment in the army.
Skobeliev: commenced by trying to tax the capitalists 100% of their profits, and finished — and finished by an attempt to dissolve the Workers’ Committees in the shops and factories.
Avksentiev: put several hundred peasants in prison, members of the Land Committees, and suppressed dozens of workers’ and soldiers’ newspapers.
Tchernov: signed the “Imperial” manifest, ordering the dissolution of the Finnish Diet.
Savinkov: concluded an open alliance with General Kornilov. If this saviour of the country was not able to betray Petrograd, it was due to reasons over which he had no control.