Red Letter
Daily Left Theory. 15 Minutes or Less. Refreshes at Midnight.
Ten Days that Shook the World: Chapter 8 (Counter-Revolution; 1 of 2)
by John Reed
Estimated Reading Time: 12 min

"All the available strength of the old order faced the unorganised power of the new, the unknown." 1917? 1959? 1968? Today?

NEXT morning, Sunday the 11th, the Cossacks entered Tsarskoye Selo, Kerensky1 himself riding a white horse and all the church-bells clamouring. From the top of a little hill outside the town could be seen the golden spires and many-coloured cupolas, the sprawling grey immensity of the capital spread along the dreary plain, and beyond, the steely Gulf of Finland.

Footnote 1 is reprinted at the bottom of the page.

There was no battle. But Kerensky made a fatal blunder. At seven in the morning he sent word to the Second Tsarskoye Selo Rifles to lay down their arms. The soldiers replied that they would remain neutral, but would not disarm. Kerensky gave them ten minutes in which to obey. This angered the soldiers; for eight months they had been governing themselves by committee, and this smacked of the old régime…. A few minutes later Cossack artillery opened fire on the barracks, killing eight men. From that moment there were no more “neutral” soldiers in Tsarskoye

Petrograd woke to bursts of rifle-fire, and the tramping thunder of men marching. Under the high dark sky a cold wind smelt of snow. At dawn the Military Hotel and the Telegraph Agency had been taken by large forces of yunkers, and bloodily recaptured. The Telephone Station was besieged by sailors, who lay behind barricades of barrels, boxes and tin sheets in the middle of the Morskaya, or sheltered themselves at the corner of the Gorokhovaya and of St. Isaac’s Square, shooting at anything that moved. Occasionally an automobile passed in and out, flying the Red Cross flag. The sailors let it pass….

Albert Rhys Williams was in the Telephone Exchange. He went out with the Red Cross automobile, which was ostensibly full of wounded. After circulating about the city, the car went by devious ways to the Mikhailovsky yunker school, headquarters of the counter-revolution. A French officer, in the court-yard, seemed to be in command…. By this means ammunition and supplies were conveyed to the Telephone Exchange. Scores of these pretended ambulances acted as couriers and ammunition trains for the yunkers.

Five or six armoured cars, belonging to the disbanded British Armoured Car Division, were in their hands. As Louise Bryant was going along St. Isaac’s Square one came rolling up from the Admiralty, on its way to the Telephone Exchange. At the corner of the Gogolia, right in front of her, the engine stalled. Some sailors ambushed behind wood-piles began shooting. The machine-gun in the turret of the thing slewed around and spat a hail of bullets indiscriminately into the wood-piles and the crowd. In the archway where Miss Bryant stood seven people were shot dead, among them two little boys. Suddenly, with a shout, the sailors leaped up and rushed into the flaming open; closing around the monster, they thrust their bayonets into the loop-holes, again and again, yelling— The chauffeur pretended to be wounded, and they let him go free—to run to the Duma and swell the tale of Bolshevik atrocities….Among the dead was a British Officer….

Later the newspapers told of another French officer, captured in a yunker armoured car and sent to Peter-Paul. The French Embassy promptly denied this, but one of the City Councillors told me that he himself had procured the officer’s release from prison….

Whatever the official attitude of the Allied Embassies, individual French and British officers were active these days, even to the extent of giving advice at executive sessions of the Committee for Salvation.

All day long in every quarter of the city there were skirmishes between yunkers and Red Guards, battles between armoured cars…. Volleys, single shots and the shrill chatter of machine-guns could be heard, far and near. The iron shutters of the shops were drawn, but business still went on. Even the moving-picture shows, all outside lights dark, played to crowded houses. The street-cars ran. The telephones were all working; when you called Central, shooting could be plainly heard over the wire…. Smolny was cut off, but the Duma and the Committee for Salvation were in constant communication with all the yunker schools and with Kerensky at Tsarskoye.

At seven in the morning the Vladimir yunker school was visited by a patrol of soldiers, sailors and Red Guards, who gave the yunkers twenty minutes to lay down their arms. The ultimatum was rejected. An hour later the yunkers got ready to march, but were driven back by a violent fusillade from the corner of the Grebetskaya and the Bolshoy Prospekt. Soviet troops surrounded the building and opened fire, two armoured cars cruising back and forth with machine guns raking it. The yunkers telephoned for help. The Cossacks replied that they dare not come, because a large body of sailors with two cannon commanded their barracks. The Pavlovsk school was surrounded. Most of the Mikhailov yunkers were fighting in the streets….

At half-past eleven three field-pieces arrived. Another demand to surrender was met by the yunkers shooting down two of the Soviet delegates under the white flag. Now began a real bombardment. Great holes were torn in the walls of the school. The yunkers defended themselves desperately; shouting waves of Red Guards, assaulting, crumpled under the withering blast…. Kerensky telephoned from Tsarskoye to refuse all parley with the Military Revolutionary Committee.

Frenzied by defeat and their heaps of dead, the Soviet troops opened a tornado of steel and flame against the battered building. Their own officers could not stop the terrible bombardment. A Commissar from Smolny named Kirilov tried to halt it; he was threatened with lynching. The Red Guards’ blood was up.

At half-past two the yunkers hoisted a white flag; they would surrender if they were guaranteed protection. This was promised. With a rush and a shout thousands of soldiers and Red Guards poured through windows, doors and holes in the wall. Before it could be stopped five yunkers were beaten and stabbed to death. The rest, about two hundred, were taken to Peter-Paul under escort, in small groups so as to avoid notice. On the way a mob set upon one party, killing eight more yunkers…. More than a hundred Red Guards and soldiers had fallen….

Two hours later the Duma got a telephone message that the victors were marching toward the Injinierny Zamok—the Engineers’ school. A dozen members immediately set out to distribute among them armfuls of the latest proclamation of the Committee for Salvation. Several did not come back…. All the other schools surrendered without resistance, and the yunkers were sent unharmed to Peter-Paul and Cronstadt….

The Telephone Exchange held out until afternoon, when a Bolshevik armoured car appeared, and the sailors stormed the place. Shrieking, the frightened telephone girls ran to and fro; the yunkers tore from their uniforms all distinguishing marks, and one offered Williams anything for the loan of his overcoat, as a disguise…. “They will massacre us! They will massacre us!” they cried, for many of them had given their word at the Winter Palace not to take up arms against the People. Williams offered to mediate if Antonov were released. This was immediately done; Antonov and Williams made speeches to the victorious sailors, inflamed by their many dead—and once more the yunkers went free…. All but a few, who in their panic tried to flee over the roofs, or to hide in the attic, and were found and hurled into the street.

Tired, bloody, triumphant, the sailors and workers swarmed into the switchboard room, and finding so many pretty girls, fell back in an embarrassed way and fumbled with awkward feet. Not a girl was injured, not one insulted. Frightened, they huddled in the corners, and then, finding themselves safe, gave vent to their spite. “Ugh! The dirty, ignorant people! The fools!”— The sailors and Red Guards were embarrassed. “Brutes! Pigs!” shrilled the girls, indignantly putting on their coats and hats. Romantic had been their experience passing up cartridges and dressing the wounds of their dashing young defenders, the yunkers, many of them members of noble families, fighting to restore their beloved Tsar! These were just common workmen, peasants, “Dark People.”—

The Commissar of the Military Revolutionary Committee, little Vishniak, tried to persuade the girls to remain. He was effusively polite. “You have been badly treated,” he said. “The telephone system is controlled by the Municipal Duma. You are paid sixty rubles a month, and have to work ten hours and more…. From now on all that will be changed. The Government intends to put the telephones under control of the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs. Your wages will be immediately raised to one hundred and fifty rubles, and your working-hours reduced. As members of the working-class you should be happy——”

Members of the working-class indeed! Did he mean to infer that there was anything in common between these—these animals—and us? Remain? Not if they offered a thousand rubles!— Haughty and spiteful the girls left the place….

The employees of the building, the line-men and labourers—they stayed. But the switch-boards must be operated—the telephone was vital…. Only half a dozen trained operators were available. Volunteers were called for; a hundred responded, sailors, soldiers, workers. The six girls scurried backward and forward, instructing, helping, scolding…. So, crippled, halting, but going, the wires slowly began to hum. The first thing was to connect Smolny with the barracks and the factories; the second, to cut off the Duma and the yunker schools…. Late in the afternoon word of it spread through the city, and hundreds of bourgeois called up to scream, “Fools! Devils! How long do you think you will last? Wait till the Cossacks come!”

Dusk was already falling. On the almost deserted Nevsky, swept by a bitter wind, a crowd had gathered before the Kazan Cathedral, continuing the endless debate; a few workmen, some soldiers and the rest shop-keepers, clerks and the like.

“But Lenin won’t get Germany to make peace!” cried one.

A violent young soldier replied. “And whose fault is it? Your damn Kerensky, dirty bourgeois! To hell with Kerensky! We don’t want him! We want Lenin….”

Outside the Duma an officer with a white arm-band was tearing down posters from the wall, swearing loudly. One read:

To the Population of Petrograd!

At this dangerous hour, when the Municipal Duma ought to use every means to calm the population, to assure it bread and other necessities, the Right Socialist Revolutionaries and the Cadets, forgetting their duty, have turned the Duma into a counter-revolutionary meeting, trying to raise part of the population against the rest, so as to facilitate the victory of Kornilov-Kerensky. Instead of doing their duty, the Right Socialist Revolutionaries and the Cadets have transformed the Duma into an arena of political attack upon the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, against the revolutionary Government of peace, bread and liberty.

Citizens of Petrograd, we, the Bolshevik Municipal Councillors elected by you—we want you to know that the Right Socialist Revolutionaries and the Cadets are engaged in counter-revolutionary action, have forgotten their duty, and are leading the population to famine, to civil war. We, elected by 183,000 votes, consider it our duty to bring to the attention of our constituents what is going on in the Duma, and declare that we disclaim all responsibility for the terrible but inevitable consequences….

Far away still sounded occasional shots, but the city lay quiet, cold, as if exhausted by the violent spasms which had torn it.

In the Nicolai Hall the Duma session was coming to an end. Even the truculent Duma seemed a little stunned. One after another the Commissars reported—capture of the Telephone Exchange, street-fighting, the taking of the Vladimir school…. “The Duma,” said Trupp, “is on the side of the democracy in its struggle against arbitrary violence; but in any case, whichever side wins, the Duma will always be against lynchings and torture….”

Konovski, Cadet, a tall old man with a cruel face: “When the troops of the legal Government arrive in Petrograd, they will shoot down these insurgents, and that will not be lynching!” Protests all over the hall, even from his own party.

Here there was doubt and depression. The counter-revolution was being put down. The Central Committee of the Socialist Revolutionary party had voted lack of confidence in its officers; the left wing was in control; Avksentiev had resigned. signed. A courier reported that the Committee of Welcome sent to meet Kerensky at the railway station had been arrested. In the streets could be heard the dull rumble of distant cannonading, south and southwest. Still Kerensky did not come—

Only three newspapers were out—Pravda, Dielo Naroda and Novaya Zhizn. All of them devoted much space to the new “coalition” Government. The Socialist Revolutionary paper demanded a Cabinet without either Cadets or Bolsheviki. Gorky was hopeful; Smolny had made concessions. A purely Socialist Government was taking shape—all elements except the bourgeoisie. As for Pravda, it sneered:

We ridicule these coalitions with political parties whose most prominent members are petty journalists of doubtful reputation; our “coalition” is that of the proletariat and the revolutionary Army with the poor peasants—

On the walls a vainglorious announcement of the Vikzhel, threatening to strike if both sides did not compromise:

The conquerors of these riots, the saviours of the wreck of our country, these will be neither the Bolsheviki, nor the Committee for Salvation, nor the troops of Kerensky—but we, the Union of Railwaymen—

Red Guards are incapable of handling a complicated business like the railways; as for the Provisional Government, it has shown itself incapable of holding the power—

We refuse to lend our services to any party which does not act by authority of — a Government based on the confidence of all the democracy….

Smolny thrilled with the boundless vitality of inexhaustible humanity in action.

In Trade Union headquarters Lozovsky introduced me to a delegate of the Railway Workers of the Nicolai line, who said that the men were holding huge mass-meetings, condemning the action of their leaders.

“All power to the Soviets!” he cried, pounding on the table. “Theoborontsi in the Central Committee are playing Kornilov’s game. They tried to send a mission to the Stavka, but we arrested them at Minsk…. Our branch has demanded an All-Russian Convention, and they refuse to call it….”

The same situation as in the Soviets, the Army Committees. One after another the various democratic organisations, all over Russia, were cracking and changing. The Cooperatives were torn by internal struggles; the meetings of the Peasants’ Executive broke up in stormy wrangling; even among the Cossacks there was trouble….

Footnote 2 is reprinted at the bottom of the page.

On the top floor the Military Revolutionary Committee was in full blast, striking and slacking not. Men went in, fresh and vigorous; night and day and night and day they threw themselves into the terrible machine; and came out limp, blind with fatigue, hoarse and filthy, to fall on the floor and sleep…. The Committee for Salvation had been outlawed. Great piles of new proclamations2 littered the floor:

— The conspirators, who have no support among the garrison or the working-class, above all counted on the suddenness of their attack. Their plan was discovered in time by Sub-Lieutenant Blagonravov, thanks to the revolutionary vigilance of a soldier of the Red Guard, whose name shall be made public. At the centre of the plot was the Committee for Salvation. Colonel Polkovnikov was in command of their forces, and the orders were signed by Gotz, former member of the Provisional Government, allowed at liberty on his word of honour….

Bringing these facts to the attention of the Petrograd population, the Military Revolutionary Committee orders the arrest of all concerned in the conspiracy, who shall be tried before the Revolutionary Tribunal….

From Moscow, word that the yunkers and Cossacks had surrounded the Kremlin and ordered the Soviet troops to lay down their arms. The Soviet forces complied, and as they were leaving the Kremlin, were set upon and shot down. Small forces of Bolsheviki had been driven from the Telephone and Telegraph offices; the yunkers now held the centre of the city. — But all around them the Soviet troops were mustering. Street-fighting was slowly gathering way; all attempts at compromise had failed…. On the side of the Soviet, ten thousand garrison soldiers and a few Red Guards; on the side of the Government, six thousand yunkers, twenty-five hundred Cossacks and two thousand White Guards.

Footnote 3 is reprinted at the bottom of the page.

The Petrograd Soviet was meeting, and next door the new Tsay-ee-kah, acting on the decrees and orders3which came down in a steady stream from the Council of People’s Commissars in session upstairs; on the Order in Which Laws Are to be Ratified and Published, Establishing an Eight hour Days for Workers, and Lunatcharsky’s “Basis for a System of Popular Education.” Only a few hundred people were present at the two meetings, most of them armed. Smolny was almost deserted, except for the guards, who were busy at the hall windows, setting up machine-guns to command the flanks of the building.

In the Tsay-ee-kah a delegate of the Vikzhel was speaking:

“We refuse to transport the troops of either party…. We have sent a committee to Kerensky to say that if he continues to march on Petrograd we will break his lines of communication….”

He made the usual plea for a conference of all the Socialist parties to form a new Government….

Kameniev answered discreetly. The Bolsheviki would be very glad to attend the conference. The centre of gravity, however, lay not in composition of such a Government, but in its acceptance of the programme of the Congress of Soviets.

— The Tsay-ee-kah had deliberated on the declaration made by the Left Socialist Revolutionaries and the Social Democrats Internationalists, and had accepted the proposition of proportional representation at the conference, even including delegates from the Army Committees and the Peasants’ Soviets….

In the great hall, Trotzky recounted the events of the day.

“We offered the Vladimir yunkers a chance to surrender,” he said. “We wanted to settle matters without bloodshed. But now that blood has been spilled there is only one way—pitiless struggle. It would be childish to think we can win by any other means…. The moment is decisive. Everybody must cooperate with the Military Revolutionary Committee, report where there are stores of barbed wire, benzine, guns.

— We’ve won the power; now we must keep it!”

The Menshevik Yoffe tried to read his party’s declaration, but Trotzky refused to allow “a debate about principle.”

“Our debates are now in the streets,” he cried. “The decisive step has been taken. We all, and I in particular, take the responsibility for what is happening….”

Soldiers from the front, from Gatchina, told their stories. One from the Death Battalion, Four Hundred Eighty-first Artillery: “When the trenches hear of this, they will cry, ‘This is our Government!’” A yunker from Peterhof said that he and two others had refused to march against the Soviets; and when his comrades had returned from the defence of the Winter Palace they appointed him their Commissar, to go to Smolny and offer their services to the real Revolution….

Then Trotzky again, fiery, indefatigable, giving orders, answering questions.

4. The Liquor Problem

Order Issued by the Military Revolutonary Committee

1. Until further order the production of alcohol and alcoholic drinks is prohibited.
2. It is ordered to all producers of alcohol and alcoholic drinks to inform not later than on the 27th inst. of the exact site of their stores.
3. All culprits against this order will be tried by a Military Revolutionary Court.
(signedThe Military Revolutionary Committee

“The petty bourgeoisie, in order to defeat the workers, soldiers and peasants, would combine with the devil himself!” he said once. Many cases of drunkenness had been remarked the last two days. “No drinking, comrades! No one must be on the streets after eight in the evening, except the regular guards. All places suspected of having stores of liquor should be searched, and the liquor destroyed.4 No mercy to the sellers of liquor….”

The Military Revolutionary Committee sent for the delegation from the Viborg section; then for the members from Putilov. They clumped out hurriedly.

“For each revolutionist killed,” said Trotzky, “we shall kill five counter-revolutionists!”

Down-town again. The Duma brilliantly illuminated and great crowds pouring in. In the lower hall wailing and cries of grief; the throng surged back and forth before the bulletin board, where was posted a list of yunkers killed in the day’s fighting—or supposed to be killed, for most of the dead afterward turned up safe and sound…. Up in the Alexander Hall the Committee for Salvation held forth. The gold and red epaulettes of officers were conspicuous, the familiar faces of the Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary intellectuals, the hard eyes and bulky magnificence of bankers and diplomats, officials of the old régime, and well-dressed women….

The telephone girls were testifying. Girl after girl came to the tribune—over-dressed, fashion-aping little girls, with pinched faces and leaky shoes. Girl after girl, flushing with pleasure at the applause of the “nice” people of Petrograd, of the officers, the rich, the great names of politics—girl after girl, to narrate her sufferings at the hands of the proletariat, and proclaim her loyalty to all that was old, established and powerful….

The Duma was again in session in the Nicolai Hall. The Mayor said hopefully that the Petrograd regiments were ashamed of their actions; propaganda was making headway.

In Ten Days that Shook the World, there is an image of flier printed at this point. The text is republished at the bottom as footnote 5.

— Emissaries came and went, reporting horrible deeds by the Bolsheviki, interceding to save the yunkers, busily investigating….

“The Bolsheviki,” said Trupp, “will be conquered by moral force, and not by bayonets.….”

Meanwhile all was not well on the revolutionary front. The enemy had brought up armoured trains, mounted with cannon. The Soviet forces, mostly raw Red Guards, were without officers and without a definite plan. Only five thousand regular soldiers had joined them; the rest of the garrison was either busy suppressing the yunker revolt, guarding the city, or undecided what to do. At ten in the evening Lenin addressed a meeting of delegates from the city regiments, who voted overwhelmingly to fight. A Committee of five soldiers was elected to serve as General Staff, and in the small hours of the morning the regiments left their barracks in full battle array…. Going home I saw them pass, swinging along with the regular tread of veterans, bayonets in perfect alignment, through the deserted streets of the conquered city….

At the same time, in the headquarters of the Vikzhel down on the Sadovaya, the conference of all the Socialist parties to form a new Government was under way. Abramovitch, for the centre Mensheviki, said that there should be neither conquerors nor conquered—that bygones should be bygones. —In this were agreed all the left wing parties. Dan, speaking in the name of the right Mensheviki, proposed to the Bolsheviki the following conditions for a truce: The Red Guard to be disarmed, and the Petrograd garrison to be placed at the orders of the Duma; the troops of Kerensky not to fire a single shot or arrest a single man; a Ministry of all the Socialist parties except the Bolsheviki. For Smolny Riazanov and Kameniev declared that a coalition ministry of all parties was acceptable, but protested at Dan’s proposals. The Socialist Revolutionaries were divided; but the Executive Committee of the Peasants’s Soviets and the Populist Socialists flatly refused to admit the Bolsheviki…. After bitter quarrelling a commission was elected to draw up a workable plan….

All that night the commission wrangled, and all the next day, and the next night. Once before, on the 9th of November, there had been a similar effort at conciliation, led by Martov and Gorky; but at the approach of Kerensky and the activity of the Committee for Salvation, the right wing of the Mensheviki, Socialist Revolutionaries and Populist Socialists suddenly withdrew. Now they were awed by the crushing of the yunker rebellion—

Monday the 12th was a day of suspense. The eyes of all Russia were fixed on the grey plain beyond the gates of Petrograd, where all the available strength of the old order faced the unorganised power of the new, the unknown. In Moscow a truce had been declared; both sides parleyed, awaiting the result in the capital. Now the delegates to the Congress of Soviets, hurrying on speeding trains to the farthest reaches of Asia, were coming to their homes, carrying the fiery cross. In wide-spreading ripples news of the miracle spread over the face of the land, and in its wake towns, cities and far villages stirred and broke, Soviets and Military Revolutionary Committees against Dumas, Zemstvos and Government Commissars—Red Guards against White—street fighting and passionate speech…. The result waited on the word from Petrograd….

Smolny was almost empty, but the Duma was thronged and noisy. The old Mayor, in his dignified way, was protesting against the Appeal of the Bolshevik Councillors.

“The Duma is not a centre of counter-revolution,” he said, warmly. “The Duma takes no part in the present struggle between the parties. But at a time when there is no legal power in the land, the only centre of order is the Municipal Self-Government. The peaceful population recognises this fact; the foreign Embassies recognise only such documents as are signed by the Mayor of the town. The mind of a European does not admit of any other situation, as the Municipal self-government is the only organ which is capable of protecting the interests of the citizens. The City is bound to show hospitality, to all organisations which desire to profit by such hospitality, and therefore the Duma cannot prevent the distribution of any newspapers whatever within the Duma building. The sphere of our work is increasing, and we must be given full liberty of action, and our rights must be respected by both parties….

“We are perfectly neutral. When the Telephone Exchange was occupied by the yunkers Colonel Polkovnikov ordered the telephones to Smolny disconnected, but I protested, and the telephones were kept going….”

At this there was ironic laughter from the Bolshevik benches, and imprecations from the right.

“And yet,” went on Schreider, “they look upon us as counter-revolutionaries and report us to the population. They deprive us of our means of transport by taking away our last motor-cars. It will not be our fault if there is famine in the town. Protests are of no use….”

Kobozev, Bolshevik member of the Town Board, was doubtful whether the Military Revolutionary Committee had requisitioned the Municipal automobiles. Even granting the fact, it was probably done by some unauthorised individual, in the emergency.

“The Mayor,” he continued, “tells us that we must not make political meetings out of the Duma. But every Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary here talks nothing but party propaganda, and at the door they distribute their illegal newspapers, Iskri (Sparks), Soldatski Golos and Rabotchaya Gazeta, inciting to insurrection. What if we Bolsheviki should also begin to distribute our papers here? But this shall not be, for we respect the Duma. We have not attacked the Municipal Self-Government, and we shall not do so. But you have addressed an Appeal to the population, and we are entitled also to do so….

Followed him Shingariov, Cadet, who said that there could be no common language with those who were liable to be brought before the Attorney General for indictment, and who must be tried on the charge of treason…. He proposed again that all Bolshevik members should be expelled from the Duma. This was tabled, however, for there were no personal charges against the members, and they were active in the Municipal administration.

Then two Mensheviki Internationalists, declaring that the Appeal of the Bolshevik Councillors was a direct incitement to massacre. “If everything that is against the Bolsheviki is counter-revolutionary,” said Pinkevitch, “then I do not know the difference between revolution and anarchy…. The Bolsheviki are depending upon the passions of the unbridled masses; we have nothing but moral force. We will protest against massacres and violence from both sides, as our task is to find a peaceful issue.”

“The notice posted in the streets under the heading ‘To the Pillory,’ which calls upon the people to destroy the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries,” said Nazariev, “is a crime which you, Bolsheviki, will not be able to wash away. Yesterday’s horrors are but a preface to what you are preparing by such a proclamation…. I have always tried to reconcile you with the other parties, but at present I feel for you nothing but contempt!”

The Bolshevik Councillors were on their feet, shouting angrily, assailed by hoarse, hateful voices and waving arms….

Outside the hall I ran into the City Engineer, the Menshevik Gomberg and three or four reporters. They were all in high spirits.

“See!” they said. “The cowards are afraid of us. They don’t dare arrest the Duma! Their Military Revolutionary Committee doesn’t dare to send a Commissar into this building. Why, on the corner of the Sadovaya to-day, I saw a Red Guard try to stop a boy selling Soldatski Golos…. The boy just laughed at him, and a crowd of people wanted to lynch the bandit. It’s only a few hours more, now. Even if Kerensky wouldn’t come they haven’t the men to run a Government. Absurd! I understand they’re even fighting among themselves at Smolny!”

A Socialist Revolutionary friend of mine drew me aside. “I know where the Committee for Salvation is hiding,” he said. “Do you want to go and talk with them?”


1. Kerensky’s Advance On November 9th Kerensky and his Cossacks arrived at Gatchina, where the garrison, hopelessly split into two factions, immediately surrendered. The members of the Gatchina Soviet were arrested, and at first threatened with death; later they were released on good behaviour.

The Cossack advance-guards, practically unopposed, occupied Pavlovsk, Alexandrovsk and other stations, and reached the outskirts of Tsarskoye Selo next morning—November 10th. At once the garrison divided into three groups—the officers, loyal to Kerenskly; part of the soldiers and non-commissioned officers, who declared themselves “neutral”; and most of the rank and file, who were for the Bolsheviki. The Bolshevik soldiers, who were without leaders or organisation, fell back toward the capital. The local Soviet also withdrew to the village of Pulkovo.

From Pulkovo six members of the Tsarskoye Selo Soviet went with an automobile-load of proclamations to Gatchina, to propagandise the Cossacks. They spent most of the day going around Gatchina from one Cossack barracks to another, pleading, arguing and explaining. Toward evening some officers discovered their presence and they were arrested and brought before General Krasnov, who said, “You fought against Kornilov; now you are opposing Kerensky. I’ll have you all shot!”

After reading aloud to them the order appointing him commander-in-chief of the Petrograd District, Krasnov asked if they were Bolsheviki. They replied in the affirmative—upon which Krasnov went away; a short time later an officer came and set them free, saying that it was by order of General Krasnov….

In the meanwhile delegations continued to arrive from Petrograd; from the Duma, the Committee for Salvation, and, last of all, from the Vikzhel. The Union of Railway Workers insisted that some agreement be reached to halt the civil war, and demanded that Kerensky treat with the Bolsheviki, and that he stop the advance on Petrograd. In case of refusal, the Vikzhel threatened a general strike at midnight of November 11th.

Kerensky asked to be allowed to discuss the matter with the Socialist Ministers and with the Committee for Salvation. He was plainly undecided.

On the 11th Cossack outposts reached Krasnoye Selo, from which the local Soviet and the heterogeneous forces of the Military Revolutionary Committee precipitately retired, some of them surrendering…. That night they also touched Pulkovo, where the first real resistance was encountered….

Cossacks deserters began to dribble into Petrograd, declaring that Kerensky had lied to them, that he had spread broadcast over the front proclamations which said that Petrograd was burning, that the Bolsheviki had invited the Germans to come in, and that they were murdering women and children and looting indiscriminately….

The Military Revolutionary Committee immediately sent out some dozens of “agitators,” with thousands of printed appeals, to inform the Cossacks of the real situation….

2. Proclamations Of The Military Revolutionary Committee

“To All Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies.

“The All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies charges the local Soviets immediately to take the most energetic measures to oppose all counter-revolutionary anti-Semitic disturbances, and all pogroms of whatever nature. The honour of the workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ Revolution cannot tolerate any disorders….

“The Red Guard of Petrograd, the revolutionary garrison and the sailors have maintained complete order in the capital.

“Workers, soldiers, and peasants, everywhere you should follow the example of the workers and soldiers of Petrograd.

“Comrades soldiers and Cossacks, on us falls the duty of keeping real revolutionary order.

“All revolutionary Russia and the whole world have their eyes on you….”

“The All-Russian Congress of Soviets decrees:

“To abolish capital punishment at the Front, which was reintroduced by Kerensky.

“Complete freedom of propaganda is to be re-established in the country. All soldiers and revolutionary officers now under arrest for so-called political ‘crimes’ are at once to be set free.”

“The ex-Premier Kerensky, overthrown by the people, refuses to submit to the Congress of Soviets and attempts to struggle against the legal Government elected by the All-Russian Congress—the Council of People’s Commissars. The Front has refused to aid Kerensky. Moscow has rallied to the new Government. In many cities (Minsk, Moghilev, Kharkov) the power is in the hands of the Soviets. No infantry detachment consents to march against the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government, which, in accord with the firm will of the Army and the people, has begun peace negotiations and has given the land to the peasants….

“We give public warning that if the Cossacks do not halt Kerensky, who has deceived them and is leading them against Petrograd, the revolutionary forces will rise with all their might for the defence of the precious conquests of the Revolution—Peace and Land.

“Citizens of Petrograd! Kerensky fled from the city, abandoning the authority to Kishkin, who wanted to surrender the capital to the Germans; Rutenburg, of the Black Band, who sabotaged the Municipal Food Supply; and Paltchinsky, hated by the whole democracy. Kerensky has fled, abandoning you to the Germans, to famine, to bloody massacres. The revolting people have arrested Kerensky’s Ministers, and you have seen how the order and supplying of Petrograd at once improved. Kerensky, at the demand of the aristocrat proprietors, the capitalists, speculators, marches against you for the purpose of giving back the land to the land-owners, and continuing the hated and ruinous war.

“Citizens of Petrograd! We know that the great majority of you are in favour of the people’s revolutionary authority, against the Kornilovtsi led by Kerensky. Do not be deceived by the lying declarations of the impotent bourgeois conspirators, who will be pitilessly crushed.

“Workers, soldiers, peasants! We call upon you for revolutionary devotion and discipline.

“Millions of peasants and soldiers are with us.

“The victory of the people’s Revolution is assured!”

3. Acts Of The Council Of People’S Commissars In this book I am giving only such decrees as are in my opinion pertinent to the Bolshevik conquest of power. The rest belong to a detailed account of the Structure of the Soviet State, for which I have no place in this work. This will be dealt with very fully in the second volume, now in preparation, “Kornilov to Brest-Litovsk.”

Concerning Dwelling-Places

1. The independent Municipal Self-Governments have the right to sequestrate all unoccupied or uninhabited dwelling-places.

2. The Municipalities may, according to laws and arrangements established by them, install in all available lodgings citizens who have no place to live, or who live in congested or unhealthy lodgings.

3. The Municipalities may establish a service of inspection of dwelling-places, organise it and define its powers.

4. The Municipalities may issue orders on the institution of House Committees, define their organisation, their powers and give them juridical authority.

5. The Municipalities may create Housing Tribunals, define their powers and their authority.

6. This decree is promulgated by telegraph.

People’s Commissar of the Interior,

On Social Insurance

The Russian proletariat has inscribed on its banners the promise of complete Social Insurance of wage-workers, as well as of the town and village poor. The Government of the Tsar, the proprietors and the capitalists, as well as the Government of coalition and conciliation, failed to realise the desires of the workers with regard to Social Insurance.

The Workers’ and Peasants’ Government, relying upon the support of the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, announces to the working-class of Russia and to the town and village poor, that it will immediately prepare laws on Social Insurance based on the formulas proposed by the Labour organisations:

1. Insurance for all wage-workers without exception, as well as for all urban and rural poor.

2. Insurance to cover all categories of loss of working capacity, such as illness, infirmities, old age, childbirth, widowhood, orphanage, and unemployment.

3. All the costs of insurance to be charged to employers.

4. Compensation of at least full wages in all loss of working capacity and unemployment.

5. Complete workers’ self-government of all Insurance institutions.

In the name of the Government of the Russian Republic,

The People’s Commissar of Labour,
Alexander Shliapnikov

On Popular Education

Citizens of Russia!

With the insurrection of November 7th the working masses have won for the first time the real power.

The All-Russian Congress of Soviets has temporarily transferred this power both to its Executive Committee and to the Council of People’s Commissars.

By the will of the revolutionary people, I have been appointed People’s Commissar of Education.

The work of guiding in general the people’s education, inasmuch as it remains with the central government, is, until the Constituent Assembly meets, entrusted to a Commission on the People’s Education, whose chairman and executive is the People’s Commissar.

Upon what fundamental propositions will rest this State Commission? How is its sphere of competence determined?

The General Line of Educational Activity: Every genuinely democratic power must, in the domain of education, in a country where illiteracy and ignorance reign supreme, make its first aim the struggle against this darkness. It must acquire in the shortest time universal literacy, by organising a network of schools answering to the demands of modern pedagogics; it must introduce universal, obligatory and free tuition for all, and establish at the same time a series of such teachers’ institutes and seminaries as will in the shortest time furnish a powerful army of people’s teachers so necessary for the universal instruction of the population of our boundless Russia.

Decentralisation: The State Commission on People’s Education is by no means a central power governing the institutions of instruction and education. On the contrary, the entire school work ought to be transferred to the organs of local self-government. The independent work of the workers, soldiers and peasants, establishing on their own initiative cultural educational organisations, must be given full autonomy, both by the State centre and the Municipal centres.

The work of the State Commission serves as a link and helpmate to organise resources of material and moral support to the Municipal and private institutions, particularly to those with a class-character established by the workers.

The State Committee on People’s Education: A whole series of invaluable law projects was elaborated from the beginning of the Revolution by the State Committee for People’s Education, a tolerably democratic body as to its composition, and rich in experts. The State Commission sincerely desires the collaboration of this Committee.

It has addressed itself to the bureau of the Committee, with the request at once to convoke an extraordinary session of the Committee for the fulfilment of the following programme:

1. The revision of rules of representation in the Committee, in the sense of greater democratisation.

2. The revision of the Committee’s rights in the sense of widening them, and of converting the Committee into a fundamental State institute for the elaboration of law projects calculated to reorganise public instruction and education in Russia upon democratic principles.

3. The revision, jointly with the new State Commission, of the laws already created by the Committee, a revision required by the fact that in editing them the Committee had to take into account the bourgeois spirit of previous Ministries, which obstructed it even in this its narrowed form.

After this revision these laws will be put into effect without any bureau-cratic red tape, in the revolutionary order.

The Pedagogues and the Societists: The State Commission welcomes the pedagogues to the bright and honourable work of educating the people—the masters of the country.

No one measure in the domain of the people’s education ought to be adopted by any power without the attentive deliberation of those who represent the pedagogues.

On the other hand, a decision cannot by any means be reached exclusively through the cooperation of specialists. This refers as well to reforms of the institutes of general education.

The cooperation of the pedagogues with the social forces—this is how the Commission will work both in its own constitution, in the State Committee, and in all its activities.

As its first task the Commission considers the improvement of the teachers’ status, and first of all of those very poor though almost most important contributors to the work of culture—the elementary school teachers. Their just demands ought to be satisfied at once and at any cost. The proletariat of the schools has in vain demanded an increase of salary to one hundred rubles per month. It would be a disgrace any longer to keep in poverty the teachers of the overwhelming majority of the Russian people.

But a real democracy cannot stop at mere literacy, at universal elementary instruction. It must endeavour to organise a uniform secular school of several grades. The ideal is, equal and if possible higher education for all the citizens. So long as this idea has not been realised for all, the natural transition through all the schooling grades up to the university—a transition to a higher stage—must depend entirely upon the pupil’s aptitude, and not upon the resources of his family.

The problem of a genuinely democratic organisation of instruction is particularly difficult in a country impoverished by a long, criminal, imperialistic war; but the workers who have taken the power must remember that education will serve them as the greatest instrument in their struggle for a better lot and for a spiritual growth. However needful it may be to curtail other articles of the people’s budget, the expenses on education must stand high. A large educational budget is the pride and glory of a nation. The free and enfranchised peoples of Russia will not forget this.

The fight against illiteracy and ignorance cannot be confined to a thorough establishment of school education for children and youths. Adults, too, will be anxious to save themselves from the debasing position of a man who cannot read and write. The school for adults must occupy a conspicuous place in the general plan of popular instruction.

Instruction and Education: One must emphasise the difference between instruction and education.

Instruction is the transmission of ready knowledge by the teacher to his pupil. Education is a creative process. The personality of the individual is being “educated” throughout life, is being formed, grows richer in content, stronger and more perfect.

The toiling masses of the people—the workmen, the peasants, the soldiers—are thirsting for elementary and advanced instruction. But they are also thirsting for education. Neither the government nor the intellectuals nor any other power outside of themselves can give it to them. The school, the book, the theatre, the museum, etc., may here by only aids. They have their own ideas, formed by their social position, so different from the position of those ruling classes and intellectuals who have hitherto created culture. They have their own ideas, their own emotions, their own ways of approaching the problems of personality and society. The city labourer, according to his own fashion, the rural toiler according to his, will each build his clear world-conception permeated with the class-idea of the workers. There is no more superb or beautiful phenomenon than the one of which our nearest descendants will be both witnesses and participants: The building by collective Labour of its own general, rich and free soul.

Instruction will surely be an important but not a decisive element. What is more important here is the criticism, the creativeness of the masses themselves; for science and art have only in some of their parts a general human importance. They suffer radical changes with every far-reaching class upheaval.

Throughout Russia, particularly among the city labourers, but also among the peasants, a powerful wave of cultural educational movement has arisen; workers’ and soldiers’ organisations of this kind are multiplying rapidly. To meet them, to lend them support, to clear the road before them is the first task of a revolutionary and popular government in the domain of democratic education.

The Constituent Assembly will doubtless soon begin its work. It alone can permanently establish the order of national and social life in our country, and at the same time the general character of the organisation of popular education.

Now, however, with the passage of power to the Soviets, the really democratic character of the Constituent Assembly is assured. The line which the State Commission, relying upon the State Committee, will follow, will hardly suffer any modification under the influence of the Constituent Assembly. Without pre-determining it, the new People’s Government considers itself within its rights in enacting in this domain a series of measures which aim at enriching and enlightening as soon as possible the spiritual life of the country.

The Ministry: The present work must in the interim proceed through the Ministry of the People’s Education. Of all the necessary alterations in its composition and construction the State Commission will have charge, elected by the Executive Committee of the Soviets and the State Committee. Of course the order of State authority in the domain of the people’s education will be established by the Constituent Assembly. Until then, the Ministry must play the part of the executive apparatus for both the State Committee and the State Commission for People’s Education.

The pledge of the country’s safety lies in the cooperation of all its vital and genuinely democratic forces.

We believe that the energetic effort of the working people and of the honest enlightened intellectuals will lead the country out of its painful crisis, and through complete democracy to the reign of Socialism and the brotherhood of nations.

People’s Commissar on Education,
A. V. Lunacharsky

On the Order in Which the Laws Are to be Ratified and Published.

1. Until the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, the enacting and publishing of laws shall be carried out in the order decreed by the present Provisional Workmen’s and Peasants’ Government, elected by the All-Russian Congress of Workers’, Peasants’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.

2. Every bill is presented for consideration of the Government by the respective Ministry, signed by the duly authorised People’s Commissar; or it is presented by the legislative section attached to the Government, signed by the chief of the section.

3. After its ratification by the Government, the decree in its final edition, in the name of the Russian Republic, is signed by the president of the Council of People’s Commissars, or for him by the People’s Commissar who presented it for the consideration of the Government, and is then published.

4. The date of publishing it in the official “Gazette of the Provisional Workmen’s and Peasants’ Government,” is the date of its becoming law.

5. In the decree there may be appointed a date, other than the date of publication, on which it shall become law, or it may be promulgated by telegraph; in which case it is to be regarded in every locality as becoming law upon the publication of the telegram.

6. The promulgation of legislative acts of the government by the State Senate is abolished. The Legislative Section attached to the Council of People’s Commissars issues periodically a collection of regulations and orders of the government which possess the force of law.

7. The Central Executive Committee of the Soviets of Workers’, Peasants’, and Soldiers’ Deputies (Tsay-ee-kah) has at all times the right to cancel, alter or annul any of the Government decrees.

In the name of the Russian Republic, the President of the Council of People’s Commissars,
V. Ulianov-Lenin

5. Order No. 2

From the Committee of the Finland Guard Reserve Regiment to all House Committees and to the citizens of Vasili Ostrov.

The bourgeoisie has chosen a very sinister method of fighting against the proletariat; it has established in various parts of the city huge wine depots, and distributes liquor among the soldiers, in this manner attempting to sow dissatisfaction in the ranks of the Revolutionary army.

It is herewith ordered to all house committees, that at 3 o’clock, the time set for posting this order, they shall in person and secretly notify the President of the Committee of the Finland Guard Regiment, concerning the amount of wine in their premises.

Those who violate this order will be arrested and given trial before a merciless court, and their property will be confiscated, and the stock of wine discovered will be BLOWN UP WITH DYNAMITE 2 hours after this warning, because more lenient measures, as experience has shown, do not bring the desired results.


Regimental Committee of the Finland Guard Regiment

Counter Revolution
Communism Is How We Forcibly Break Apart the Organized Power of the Capitalist Class
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