When the grave thunder of applause had died away, Lenin spoke again:
“We propose to the Congress to ratify this declaration. We address ourselves to the Governments as well as to the peoples, for a declaration which would be addressed only to the peoples of the belligerent countries might delay the conclusion of peace. The conditions of peace, drawn up during the armistice, will be ratified by the Constituent Assembly. In fixing the duration of the armistice at three months, we desire to give to the peoples as long a rest as possible after this bloody extermination, and ample time for them to elect their representatives. This proposal of peace will meet with resistance on the part of the imperialist governments—we don’t fool ourselves on that score. But we hope that revolution will soon break out in all the belligerent countries; that is why we address ourselves especially to the workers of France, England and Germany&…
“The revolution of November 6th and 7th,” he ended, “has opened the era of the Social Revolution&… The labour movement, in the name of peace and Socialism, shall win, and fulfil its destiny&…
There was something quiet and powerful in all this, which stirred the souls of men. It was understandable why people believed when Lenin spoke&…”
By crowd vote it was quickly decided that only representatives of political factions should be allowed to speak on the motion and that speakers should be limited to fifteen minutes.
First Karelin for the Left Socialist Revolutionaries. “Our faction had no opportunity to propose amendments to the text of the proclamation; it is a private document of the Bolsheviki. But we will vote for it because we agree with its spirit&…”
For the Social Democrats Internationalists Kramarov, long, stoop-shouldered and near-sighted—destined to achieve some notoriety as the Clown of the Opposition. Only a Government composed of all the Socialist parties, he said, could possess the authority to take such important action. If a Socialist coalition were formed, his faction would support the entire programme; if not, only part of it. As for the proclamation, the Internationalists were in thorough accord with its main points&…
Then one after another, amid rising enthusiasm; Ukrainean Social Democracy, support; Lithuanian Social Democracy, support; Populist Socialists, support; Polish Social Democracy, support; Polish Socialists support—but would prefer a Socialist coalition; Lettish Social Democracy, support&… Something was kindled in these men. One spoke of the “coming World-Revolution, of which we are the advance-guard”; another of “the new age of brotherhood, when all the peoples will become one great family&…” An individual member claimed the floor. “There is contradiction here,” he said. “First you offer peace without annexations and indemnities, and then you say you will consider all peace offers. To consider means to accept&…”
Lenin was on his feet. “We want a just peace, but we are not afraid of a revolutionary war&… Probably the imperialist Governments will not answer our appeal—but we shall not issue an ultimatum to which it will be easy to say no&… If the German proletariat realises that we are ready to consider all offers of peace, that will perhaps be the last drop which overflows the bowl—revolution will break out in Germany&…
“We consent to examine all conditions of peace, but that doesn’t mean that we shall accept them&… For some of our terms we shall fight to the end—but possibly for others will find it impossible to continue the war&… Above all, we want to finish the war&…”
It was exactly 10:35 when Kameniev asked all in favour of the proclamation to hold up their cards. One delegate dared to raise his hand against, but the sudden sharp outburst around him brought it swiftly down&… Unanimous.
Suddenly, by common impulse, we found ourselves on our feet, mumbling together into the smooth lifting unison of the Internationale. A grizzled old soldier was sobbing like a child. Alexandra Kollontai rapidly winked the tears back. The immense sound rolled through the hall, burst windows and doors and seared into the quiet sky. “The war is ended! The war is ended!” said a young workman near me, his face shining. And when it was over, as we stood there in a kind of awkward hush, some one in the back of the room shouted, “Comrades! Let us remember those who have died for liberty!” So we began to sing the Funeral March, that slow, melancholy and yet triumphant chant, so Russian and so moving. The Internationale is an alien air, after all. The Funeral March seemed the very soul of those dark masses whose delegates sat in this hall, building from their obscure visions a new Russia—and perhaps more.
You fell in the fatal fight
For the liberty of the people, for the honour of the people&…
You gave up your lives and everything dear to you,
You suffered in horrible prisons,
You went to exile in chains&…
Without a word you carried your chains because you could not ignore your suffering brothers,
Because you believed that justice is stronger than the sword&…
The time will come when your surrendered life will count
That time is near; when tyranny falls the people will rise, great and free!
Farewell, brothers, you chose a noble path,
You are followed by the new and fresh army ready to die and to suffer&…
Farewell, brothers, you chose a noble path,
At your grave we swear to fight, to work for freedom and the people’s happiness&…
For this did they lie there, the martyrs of March, in their cold Brotherhood Grave on Mars Field; for this thousands and tens of thousands had died in the prisons, in exile, in Siberian mines. It had not come as they expected it would come, nor as the intelligentzia desired it; but it had come—rough, strong, impatient of formulas, contemptuous of sentimentalism; real&…
Lenin was reading the Decree on Land:
(1.) All private ownership of land is abolished immediately without compensation.
(2.) All landowners’ estates, and all lands belonging to the Crown, to monasteries, church lands with all their live stock and inventoried property, buildings and all appurtenances, are transferred to the disposition of the township Land Committees and the district Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies until the Constituent Assembly meets.
(3.) Any damage whatever done to the confiscated property which from now on belongs to the whole People, is regarded as a serious crime, punishable by the revolutionary tribunals. The district Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies shall take all necessary measures for the observance of the strictest order during the taking over of the land-owners’ estates, for the determination of the dimensions of the plots of land and which of them are subject to confiscation, for the drawing up of an inventory of the entire confiscated property, and for the strictest revolutionary protection of all the farming property on the land, with all buildings, implements, cattle, supplies of products, etc., passing into the hands of the People.Footnote 3 is reproduced at the bottom.
(4.) For guidance during the realisation of the great land reforms until their final resolution by the Constituent Assembly, shall serve the following peasant nakaz3 (instructions), drawn up on the basis of 242 local peasant nakazi by the editorial board of the “Izviestia of the All-Russian Soviet of Peasants’ Deputies,” and published in No.88 of said “Izviestia” (Petrograd, No.88, August 19th, 1917).
The lands of peasants and of Cossacks serving in the Army shall not be confiscated.
“This is not,” explained Lenin, “the project of former Minister Tchernov, who spoke of ‘erecting a frame-work’ and tried to realise reforms from above. From below, on the spot, will be decided the questions of division of the land. The amount of land received by each peasant will vary according to the locality&…
“Under the Provisional Government, the pomieshtchiki flatly refused to obey the orders of the Land Committees—those Land Committees projected by Lvov, brought into existence by Shingariov, and administered by Kerensky!”
Before the debates could begin a man forced his way violently through the crowd in the aisle and climbed upon the platform. It was Pianikh, member of the Executive Committee of the Peasants’ Soviets, and he was mad clean through.
“The Executive Committee of the All-Russian Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies protests against the arrest of our comrades, the Ministers Salazkin and Mazlov!” he flung harshly in the faces of the crowd, “We demand their instant release! They are now in Peter-Paul fortress. We must have immediate action! There is not a moment to lose!”
Another followed him, a soldier with disordered beard and flaming eyes. “You sit here and talk about giving the land to the peasants, and you commit an act of tyrants and usurpers against the peasants’ chosen representatives! I tell you—” he raised his fist, “If one hair of their heads is harmed, you’ll have a revolt on your hands!” The crowd stirred confusedly.
Then up rose Trotzky, calm and venomous, conscious of power, greeted with a roar. “Yesterday the Military Revolutionary Committee decided to release the Socialist Revolutionary and Menshevik Ministers, Mazlov, Salazkin, Gvozdov and Maliantovitch—on principle. That they are still in Peter-Paul is only because we have had so much to do&… They will, however, be detained at their homes under arrest until we have investigated their complicity in the treacherous acts of Kerensky during the Kornilov affair!”
“Never,” shouted Pianikh, “in any revolution have such things been seen as go on here!”
“You are mistaken,” responded Trotzky. “Such things have been seen even in this revolution. Hundreds of our comrades were arrested in the July days&… When Comrade Kollontai was released from prison by the doctor’s orders, Avksentiev placed at her door two former agents of the Tsar’s secret police!” The peasants withdrew, muttering, followed by ironical hoots.
The representative of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries spoke on the Land Decree. While agreeing in principle, his faction could not vote on the question until after discussion. The Peasants’ Soviets should be consulted&…
The Mensheviki Internationalists, too, insisted on a party caucus.
Then the leader of the Maximalists, the Anarchist wing of the peasants: “We must do honour to a political party which puts such an act into effect the first day, without jawing about it!”
A typical peasant was in the tribune, long hair, boots and sheep-skin coat, bowing to all corners of the hall. “I wish you well, comrades and citizens,” he said. “There are some Cadets walking around outside. You arrested our Socialist peasants—why not arrest them?”
This was the signal for a debate of excited peasants. It was precisely like the debate of soldiers of the night before. Here were the real proletarians of the land&…
“Those members of our Executive Committee, Avksentiev and the rest, whom we thought were the peasants’ protectors—they are only Cadets too! Arrest them! Arrest them!”
Another, “Who are these Pianikhs, these Avksentievs? They are not peasants at all! They only wag their tails!”
How the crowd rose to them, recognising brothers!
The Left Socialist Revolutionaries proposed a half-hour intermission. As the delegates streamed out, Lenin stood up in his place.
“We must not lose time, comrades! News all-important to Russia must be on the press to-morrow morning. No delay!”
And above the hot discussion, argument, shuffling of feet could be heard the voice of an emissary of the Military Revolutionary Committee, crying, “Fifteen agitators wanted in room 17 at once! To go to the Front!” ...
It was almost two hours and a half later that the delegates came straggling back, the presidium mounted the platform, and the session recommenced by the reading of telegrams from regiment after regiment, announcing their adhesion to the Military Revolutionary Committee.
In leisurely manner the meeting gathered momentum. A delegate from the Russian troops on the Macedonian front spoke bitterly of their situation. “We suffer there more from the friendship of our ‘Allies’ than from the enemy,” he said. Representatives of the Tenth and Twelfth Armies, just arrived in hot haste, reported, “We support you with all our strength!” A peasant-soldier protested against the release of “the traitor Socialists, Mazlov and Salazkin”; as for the Executive Committee of the Peasants’ Soviets, it should be arrested en masse!Here was real revolutionary talk&… A deputy from the Russian Army in Persia declared he was instructed to demand all power to the Soviets&… A Ukrainean officer, speaking in his native tongue: “There is no nationalism in this crisis&… Da zdravstvuyet the proletarian dictatorship of all lands!” Such a deluge of high and hot thoughts that surely Russia would never again be dumb!
Kameniev remarked that the anti-Bolshevik forces were trying to stir up disorders everywhere, and read an appeal of the Congress to all the Soviets of Russia:
The All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, including some Peasants’ Deputies, calls upon the local Soviets to take immediate energetic measures to oppose all counter-revolutionary anti-Jewish action and all pogroms, whatever they may be. The honour of the Workers’, Peasants’ and Soldiers’ Revolution demands that no pogrom be tolerated.
The Red Guard of Petrograd, the revolutionary garrison and the sailors have maintained complete order in the capital.
Workers, soldiers and peasants, you should follow everywhere the example of the workers and soldiers of Petrograd.
Comrade soldiers and Cossacks, on us falls the duty of assuring real revolutionary order.
All revolutionary Russia and the entire world have their eyes on us&…
At two o’clock the Land Decree was put to vote, with only one against and the peasant delegates wild with joy&… So plunged the Bolsheviki ahead, irresistible, over-riding hesitation and opposition—the only people in Russia who had a definite programme of action while the others talked for eight long months.
Now arose a soldier, gaunt, ragged and eloquent, to protest against the clause of the nakaz tending to deprive military deserters from a share in village land allotments. Bawled at and hissed at first, his simple, moving speech finally made silence. “Forced against his will into the butchery of the trenches,” he cried, “which you yourselves, in the Peace decree, have voted senseless as well as horrible, he greeted the Revolution with hope of peace and freedom. Peace? The Government of Kerensky forced him again to go forward into Galicia to slaughter and be slaughtered; to his pleas for peace, Terestchenko simply laughed&… Freedom? Under Kerensky he found his Committees suppressed, his newspapers cut off, his party speakers put in prison&… At home in his village, the landlords were defying his Land Committees, jailing his comrades&… In Petrograd the bourgeoisie, in alliance with the Germans, were sabotaging the food and ammunition for the Army&… He was without boots, or clothes&… Who forced him to desert? The Government of Kerensky, which you have overthrown!” At the end there was applause.4. The Land And Deserters The Government was not forced to make any decision concerning the rights of deserters to the land. The end of the war and the demobilisation of the army automatically removed the deserter problem...
But another soldier hotly denounced it: “The Government of Kerensky is not a screen behind which can be hidden dirty work like desertion! Deserters are scoundrels, who run away home and leave their comrades to die in the trenches alone! Every deserter is a traitor, and should be punished&…” Uproar, shouts of “Do volno! Teesche!” Kameniev hastily proposed to leave the matter to the Government for decision.4
At 2:30 A. M. fell a tense hush. Kameniev was reading the decree of the Constitution of Power:
Until the meeting of the Constituent Assembly, a provisional Workers’ and Peasants’ Government is formed, which shall be named the Council of People’s Commissars.5. The Council Of People’s Commissars The Council of People’s Commissars was at first composed entirely of Bolsheviki. This was not entirely the fault of the Bolsheviki, however. On November 8th they offered portfolios to members of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, who declined.
The administration of the different branches of state activity shall be intrusted to commissions, whose composition shall be regulated to ensure the carrying out of the programme of the Congress, in close union with the mass-organisations of working-men, working-women, sailors, soldiers, peasants and clerical employees. The governmental power is vested in a collegium made up of the chairmen of these commissions, that is to say, the Council of People’s Commissars.5
Control over the activities of the People’s Commissars, and the right to replace them, shall belong to the All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’, Peasants’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, and its Central Executive Committee.
Still silence; as he read the list of Commissars, bursts of applause
after each name, Lenin’s and Trotzky’s especially.
President of the Council: Vladimir Ulianov (Lenin)
Interior: A. E. Rykov
Agriculture: V. P. Miliutin
Labour: A. G. Shliapnikov
Military and Naval Affairs—a committee composed of V. A.
Avseenko (Antonov), N. V. Krylenko, and F. M. Dybenko.
Commerce and Industry: V. P. Nogin
Popular Education: A. V. Lunatcharsky
Finance: E. E. Skvortsov (Stepanov)
Foreign Affairs: L. D. Bronstein (Trotzky)
Justice: G. E. Oppokov (Lomov)
Supplies: E. A. Teodorovitch
Post and Telegraph: N. P. Avilov (Gliebov)
Chairman for Nationalities: I. V. Djougashvili (Stalin)
Railroads: To be filled later.
There were bayonets at the edges of the room, bayonets pricking up among the delegates; the Military Revolutionary Committee was arming everybody, Bolshevism was arming for the decisive battle with Kerensky, the sound of whose trumpets came up the south-west wind&… In the meanwhile nobody went home; on the contrary hundreds of newcomers filtered in, filling the great room solid with stern-faced soldiers and workmen who stood for hours and hours, indefatigably intent. The air was thick with cigarette smoke, and human breathing, and the smell of coarse clothes and sweat.
Avilov of the staff of Novaya Zhizn was speaking in the name of the Social Democrat Internationalists and the remnant of the Mensheviki Internationalists; Avilov, with his young, intelligent face, looking out of place in his smart frock-coat.
“We must ask ourselves where we are going&… The ease with which the Coalition Government was upset cannot be explained by the strength of the left wing of the democracy, but only by the incapacity of the Government to give the people peace and bread. And the left wing cannot maintain itself in power unless it can solve these questions&…
“Can it give bread to the people? Grain is scarce. The majority of the peasants will not be with you, for you cannot give them the machinery they need. Fuel and other primary necessities are almost impossible to procure&…
“As for peace, that will be even more difficult. The allies refused to talk with Skobeliev. They will never accept the proposition of a peace conference from you. You will not be recognised either in London and Paris, or in Berlin&…
“You cannot count on the effective help of the proletariat of the Allied countries, because in most countries it is very far from the revolutionary struggle; remember, the Allied democracy was unable even to convoke the Stockholm Conference. Concerning the German Social Democrats, I have just talked with Comrade Goldenberg, one of our delegates to Stockholm; he was told by the representatives of the Extreme Left that revolution in Germany was impossible during the war&…” Here interruptions began to come thick and fast, but Avilov kept on.
“The isolation of Russia will fatally result either in the defeat of the Russian Army by the Germans, and the patching up of a peace between the Austro-German coalition and the Franco-British coalition at the expense of Russia—or in a separate peace with Germany.
“I have just learned that the Allied ambassadors are preparing to leave, and that Committees for Salvation of Country and Revolution are forming in all the cities of Russia&…
“No one party can conquer these enormous difficulties. The majority of the people, supporting a government of Socialist coalition, can alone accomplish the Revolution&…
“He then read the resolution of the two factions:
Recognising that for the salvation of the conquests of the Revolution it is indispensable immediately to constitute a government based on the revolutionary democracy organised in the Soviets of Workers,’ Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, recognising moreover that the task of this government is the quickest possible attainment of peace, the transfer of the land into the hands of the agrarian committees, the organisation of control over industrial production, and the convocation of the Constituent Assembly on the date decided, the Congress appoints an executive committee to constitute such a government after an agreement with the groups of the democracy which are taking part in the Congress.
In spite of the revolutionary exaltation of the triumphant crowd, Avilov’s cool tolerant reasoning had shaken them. Toward the end, the cries and hisses died away, and when he finished there was even some clapping.
Karelin followed him—also young, fearless, whose sincerity no one doubted—for the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, the party of Maria Spiridonova, the party which almost alone followed the Bolsheviki, and which represented the revolutionary peasants.
“Our party has refused to enter the Council of People’s Commissars because we do not wish forever to separate ourselves from the part of the revolutionary army which left the Congress, a separation which would make it impossible for us to serve as intermediaries between the Bolsheviki and the other groups of the democracy&… And that is our principal duty at this moment. We cannot sustain any government except a government of Socialist coalition&…
“We protest, moreover, against the tyrannical conduct of the Bolsheviki. Our Commissars have been driven from their posts. Our only organ, Znamia Truda (Banner of Labour), was forbidden to appear yesterday&…
“The Central Duma is forming a powerful Committee for Salvation of Country and Revolution, to fight you. Already you are isolated, and your Government is without the support of a single other democratic group&…
And now Trotzky stood upon the raised tribune, confident and dominating, with that sarcastic expression about his mouth which was almost a sneer. He spoke, in a ringing voice, and the great crowd rose to him.
“These considerations on the dangers of isolation of our party are not new. On the eve of insurrection our fatal defeat was also predicted. Everybody was against us; only a faction of the Socialist Revolutionaries of the left was with us in the Military Revolutionary Committee. How is it that we were able to overturn the Government almost without bloodshed?&… That fact is the most striking proof that we were not isolated. In reality the Provisional Government was isolated; the democratic parties which march against us were isolated, are isolated, and forever cut off from the proletariat!
“They speak of the necessity for a coalition. There is only one coalition possible—the coalition of the workers, soldiers and poorest peasants; and it is our party’s honour to have realised that coalition&… What sort of coalition did Avilov mean? A coalition with those who supported the Government of Treason to the People? Coalition doesn’t always add to strength. For example, could we have organised the insurrection with Dan and Avksentiev in our ranks?” Roars of laughter.
“Avksentiev gave little bread. Will a coalition with the oborontsi furnish more? Between the peasants and Avksentiev, who ordered the arrest of the Land Committees, we choose the peasants! Our Revolution will remain the classic revolution of history&…
“They accuse us of repelling an agreement with the other democratic parties. But is it we who are to blame? Or must we, as Karelin put it, blame it on a ‘misunderstanding’? No, comrades. When a party in full tide of revolution, still wreathed in powder-smoke, comes to say, ‘Here is the Power—take it!’—and when those to whom it is offered go over to the enemy, that is not a misunderstanding&… that is a declaration of pitiless war. And it isn’t we who have declared war&…
“Avilov menaces us with failure of our peace efforts—if we remain ‘isolated.’ I repeat, I don’t see how a coalition with Skobeliev, or even Terestchenko, can help us to get peace! Avilov tries to frighten us by the threat of a peace at our expense. And I answer that in any case, if Europe continues to be ruled by the imperialist bourgeoisie, revolutionary Russia will inevitably be lost&…
“There are only two alternatives; either the Russian Revolution will create a revolutionary movement in Europe, or the European powers will destroy the Russian Revolution!”
They greeted him with an immense crusading acclaim, kindling to the daring of it, with the thought of championing mankind. And from that moment there was something conscious and decided about the insurrectionary masses, in all their actions, which never left them.
But on the other side, too, battle was taking form. Kameniev recognised a delegate from the Union of Railway Workers, a hardfaced, stocky man with an attitude of implacable hostility. He threw a bombshell.
“In the name of the strongest organisation in Russia I demand the right to speak, and I say to you: the Vikzhel charges me to make known the decision of the Union concerning the constitution of Power. The Central Committee refuses absolutely to support the Bolsheviki if they persist in isolating themselves from the whole democracy of Russia!” Immense tumult all over the hall.
“In 1905, and in the Kornilov days, the Railway Workers were the best defenders of the Revolution. But you did not invite us to your Congress—” Cries, “It was the old Tsay-ee-kah which did not invite you!” The orator paid no attention. “We do not recognise the legality of this Congress; since the departure of the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries there is not a legal quorum&… The Union supports the old Tsay-ee-Kah, and declares that the Congress has no right to elect a new Committee&…
“The Power should be a Socialist and revolutionary Power, responsible before the authorised organs of the entire revolutionary democracy. Until the constitution of such a power, the Union of Railway Workers, which refuses to transport counter-revolutionary troops to Petrograd, at the same time forbids the execution of any order whatever without the consent of the Vikzhel. The Vikzhel also takes into its hands the entire administration of the railroads of Russia.”
At the end he could hardly be heard for the furious storm of abuse which beat upon him. But it was a heavy blow—that could be seen in the concern on the faces of the presidium. Kameniev, however, merely answered that there could be no doubt of the legality of the Congress, as even the quorum established by the old Tsay-ee-Kah was exceeded—in spite of the secession of the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolution arises&…
Then came the vote on the Constitution of Power, which carried the Council of People’s Commissars into office by an enormous majority&…
The election of the new Tsay-ee-kah, the new parliament of the Russian Republic, took barely fifteen minutes. Trotzky announced its composition: 100 members, of which 70 Bolsheviki&… As for the peasants, and the seceding factions, places were to be reserved for them. “We welcome into the Government all parties and groups which will adopt our programme,” ended Trotzky.
And thereupon the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets was dissolved, so that the members might hurry to their homes in the four corners of Russia and tell of the great happenings&…
It was almost seven when we woke the sleeping conductors and motor-men of the street-cars which the Street-Railway Workers’ Union always kept waiting at Smolny to take the Soviet delegates to their homes. In the crowded car there was less happy hilarity than the night before, I thought. Many looked anxious; perhaps they were saying to themselves, “Now we are masters, how can we do our will?”
At our apartment-house we were held up in the dark by an armed patrol of citizens and carefully examined. The Duma’s proclamation was doing its work&…
The landlady heard us come in, and stumbled out in a pink silk wrapper.
“The House Committee has again asked that you take your turn on guard-duty with the rest of the men,” she said.
“What’s the reason for this guard-duty?”
“To protect the house and the women and children.”
“Robbers and murderers.”
“But suppose there came a Commissar from the Military Revolutionary Committee to search for arms?”
“Oh, that’s what they’ll say they are&… And besides, what’s the difference?”
I solemnly affirmed that the Consul had forbidden all American citizens to carry arms—especially in the neighbourhood of the Russian intelligentzia&…