en
Gratis
John Reed

Ten Days That Shook the World

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    IT was on November 18th that the snow came. In the morning we woke to window-ledges heaped white, and snowflakes falling so whirling thick that it was impossible to see ten feet ahead. The mud was gone; in a twinkling the gloomy city became white, dazzling. The droshki with their padded coachmen turned into sleights, bounding along the uneven street at headlong speed, their drivers' beards stiff and frozen…. In spite of Revolution, all Russia plunging dizzily into the unknown and terrible future, joy swept the city with the coming of the snow. Everybody was smiling; people ran into the streets, holding out their arms to the soft, falling flakes, laughing. Hidden was all the greyness; only the gold and coloured spires and cupolas, with heightened barbaric splendour, gleamed through the white snow.
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    With the decree on the Nationalisation of Banks, the formation of the Supreme Council of People's Economy, the putting into practical operation of the Land decree in the villages, the democratic reorganisation of the Army, and the sweeping changes in all branches of the Government and of life,-with all these, effective only by the will of the masses of workers, soldiers and peasants, slowly began, with many mistakes and hitches, the moulding of proletarian Russia.
    Not by compromise with the propertied classes, or with the other political leaders; not by conciliating the old Government mechanism, did the Bolsheviki conquer the power. Nor by the organized violence of a small clique. If the masses all over Russia had not been ready for insurrection it must have failed. The only reason for Bolshevik success lay in their accomplishing the vast and simple desires of the most profound strata of the people, calling them to the work of tearing down and destroying the old, and afterward, in the smoke of falling ruins, cooperating with them to erect the frame-work of the new….
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    On November 27th a committee of Cossacks came to Smolny to see Trotzky and Lenin. They demanded if it were true that the Soviet Government did not intend to divide the Cossack lands among the peasants of Great Russia? "No," answered Trotzky. The Cossacks deliberated for a while. "Well," they asked, "does the Soviet Government intend to confiscate the estates of our great Cossack land-owners and divide them among the working Cossacks?" To this Lenin replied. "That," he said, "is for you to do. We shall support the working Cossacks in all their actions…. The best way to begin is to form Cossacks Soviets; you will be given representation in the Tsay-ee-kah, and then it will be your Government, too….
    The Cossacks departed, thinking hard. Two weeks later General Kaledin received a deputation from his troops. "Will you," they asked, "promise to divide the great estates of the Cossack landlords among the working Cossacks?"
    "Only over my dead body," responded Kaledin. A month later, seeing his army melt away before his eyes, Kaledin blew out his brains. And the Cossack movement was no more….
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    Kaledin being in possession of the coal-mines of the Don, the fuel question became urgent. Smolny shut off all electric lights in theatres, shops and restaurants, cut down the number of street cars, and confiscated the private stores of fire-wood held by the fuel-dealers…. And when the factories of Petrograd were about to close down for lack of coal, the sailors of the Baltic Fleet turned over to the workers two hundred thousand poods from the bunkers of battle-ships….
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    One by one the five hundred coffins were laid in the pits. Dusk fell, and still the banners came drooping and fluttering, the band played the Funeral March, and the huge assemblage chanted. In the leafless branches of the trees above the grave the wreaths were hung, like strange, multi-coloured blossoms. Two hundred men began to shovel in the dirt. It rained dully down upon the coffins with a thudding sound, audible beneath the singing….
    The lights came out. The last banners passed, and the last moaning women, looking back with awful intensity as they went. Slowly from the great Square ebbed the proletarian tide….
    I suddenly realised that the devout Russian people no longer needed priests to pray them into heaven. On earth they were building a kingdom more bright than any heaven had to offer, and for which it was a glory to die….
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    Mountains of dirt and rock were piled high near the base of the wall. Climbing these we looked down into two massive pits, ten or fifteen feet deep and fifty yards long, where hundreds of soldiers and workers were digging in the light of huge fires.
    A young student spoke to us in German. "The Brotherhood Grave," he explained. "To-morrow we shall bury here five hundred proletarians who died for the Revolution."
    He took us down into the pit. In frantic haste swung the picks and shovels, and the earth-mountains grew. No one spoke. Overhead the night was thick with stars, and the ancient Imperial Kremlin wall towered up immeasurably.
    "Here in this holy place," said the student, "holiest of all Russia, we shall bury our most holy. Here where are the tombs of the Tsars, our Tsar-the People-shall sleep…." His arm was in a sling, from a bullet-wound gained in the fighting. He looked at it. "You foreigners look down on us Russians because so long we tolerated a mediæval monarchy," said he. "But we saw that the Tsar was not the only tyrant in the world; capitalism was worse, and in all the countries of the world capitalism was Emperor…. Russian revolutionary tactics are best…."
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    Petrograd, after all, in spite of being for a century the seat of Government, is still an artificial city. Moscow is real Russia, Russia as it was and will be; in Moscow we would get the true feeling of the Russian people about the Revolution. Life was more intense there.
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    Early in the morning I went out to Smolny. Going up the long wooden sidewalk from the outer gate I saw the first thin, hesitating snow-flakes fluttering down from the grey, windless sky. "Snow!" cried the soldier at the door, grinning with delight. "Good for the health!" Inside, the long, gloomy halls and bleak rooms seemed deserted. No one moved in all the enormous pile. A deep, uneasy sound came to my ears, and looking around, I noticed that everywhere on the floor, along the walls, men were sleeping. Rough, dirty men, workers and soldiers, spattered and caked with mud, sprawled alone or in heaps, in the careless attitudes of death. Some wore ragged bandages marked with blood. Guns and cartridge-belts were scattered about…. The victorious proletarian army!
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    Driving home across Znamensky Square, we made out an unusual crowd in front of the Nicolai Railway Station. Several thousand sailors were massed there, bristling with rifles.
    Standing on the steps, a member of the Vikzhel was pleading with them.
    "Comrades, we cannot carry you to Moscow. We are neutral. We do not carry troops for either side. We cannot take you to Moscow, where already there is terrible civil war…."
    All the seething Square roared at him; the sailors began to surge forward. Suddenly another door was flung wide; in it stood two or three brakeman, a fireman or so.
    "This way, comrades!" cried one. "We will take you to Moscow-or
    Vladivostok, if you like! Long live the Revolution!"
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    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.
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    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….
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    Khanjunov tried to speak again, but "Vote! Vote! Vote!" they cried. At length, giving in, he read the resolution: that the brunnoviki withdraw their representative from the Military Revolutionary Committee, and declare their neutrality in the present civil war. All those in favour should go to the right; those opposed, to the left. There was a moment of hesitation, a still expectancy, and then the crowd began to surge faster and faster, stumbling over one another, to the left, hundreds of big soldiers in a solid mass rushing across the dirt floor in the faint light…. Near us about fifty men were left stranded, stubbornly in favour, and even as the high roof shook under the shock of victorious roaring, they turned and rapidly walked out of the building-and, some of them, out of the Revolution….
    Imagine this struggle being repeated in every barracks of the city, the district, the whole front, all Russia. Imagine the sleepless Krylenkos, watching the regiments, hurrying from place to place, arguing, threatening, entreating. And then imaging the same in all the locals of every labour union, in the factories, the villages, on the battle-ships of the far-flung Russian fleets; think of the hundreds of thousands of Russian men staring up at speakers all over the vast country, workmen, peasants, soldiers, sailors, trying so hard to understand and to choose, thinking so intensely-and deciding so unanimously at the end. So was the Russian Revolution….
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    Now a Bolshevik was speaking, one of their own men, violently, full of hate. They liked him no more than the other. It was not their mood. For the moment they were lifted out of the ordinary run of common thoughts, thinking in terms of Russia, of Socialism, the world, as if it depended on them whether the Revolution were to live or die….
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    "You here?" I asked him.
    His eyes flashed fire. "Yes!" he cried. "I left the Congress with my party Wednesday night. I have not risked my life for twenty years and more to submit now to the tyranny of the Dark People. Their methods are intolerable. But they have not counted on the peasants…. When the peasants begin to act, then it is a question of minutes before they are done for."
    "But the peasants-will they act? Doesn't the Land decree settle the peasants? What more do they want?"
    "Ah, the Land decree!" he said furiously. "Yes, do you know what that Land decree is? It is our decree-it is the Socialist Revolutionary programme, intact! My party framed that policy, after the most careful compilation of the wishes of the peasants themselves. It is an outrage…."
    "But if it is your own policy, why do you object? If it is the peasants' wishes, why will they oppose it?"
    "You don't understand! Don't you see that the peasants will immediately realise that it is all a trick-that these usurpers have stolen the Socialist Revolutionary programme?"
    I asked if it were true that Kaledin was marching north.
    He nodded, and rubbed his hands with a sort of bitter satisfaction.
    "Yes. Now you see what these Bolsheviki have done. They have raised
    the counter-revolution against us. The Revolution is lost. The
    Revolution is lost."
    "But won't you defend the Revolution?"
    "Of course we will defend it-to the last drop of our blood. But we won't cooperate with the Bolsheviki in any way…."
    "But if Kaledin comes to Petrograd, and the Bolsheviki defend the city. Won't you join with them?"
    "Of course not. We will defend the city also, but we won't support the Bolsheviki. Kaledin is the enemy of the Revolution, but the Bolsheviki are equally enemies of the Revolution."
    "Which do you prefer-Kaledin or the Bolsheviki?"
    "It is not a question to be discussed!" he burst out impatiently. "I tell you, the Revolution is lost. And it is the Bolsheviki who are to blame. But listen-why should we talk of such things? Kerensky is comming…. Day after tomorrow we shall pass to the offensive…. Already Smolny has sent delegates inviting us to form a new Government. But we have them now-they are absolutely impotent…. We shall not cooperate…."
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    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.
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    All the livelong afternoon Lenin and Trotzky had fought against compromise. A considerable part of the Bolsheviki were in favour of giving way so far as to create a joint all-Socialist government. "We can't hold on!" they cried.
    "Too much is against us. We haven't got the men. We will be isolated, and the whole thing will fall." So Kameniev, Riazanov and others.
    But Lenin, with Trotzky beside him, stood firm as a rock. "Let the compromisers accept our programme and they can come in! We won't give way an inch. If there are comrades here who haven't the courage and the will to dare what we dare, let them leave with the rest of the cowards and conciliators! Backed by the workers and soldiers we shall go on."
    At five minutes past seven came word from the left Socialist
    Revolutionaries to say that they would remain in the Military
    Revolutionary Committee.
    "See!" said Lenin. "They are following!"
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    It is interesting to reproduce here a passage from that same paper-the organ of those Bolsheviki so well known to the world as German agents:
    The German kaiser, covered with the blood of millions of dead people, wants to push his army against Petrograd. Let us call to the German workmen, soldiers and peasants, who want peace not less than we do, to… stand up against this damned war!
    This can be done only by a revolutionary Government, which would speak really for the workmen, soldiers and peasants of Russia, and would appeal over the heads of the diplomats directly to the German troops, fill the German trenches with proclamations in the German language…. Our airmen would spread these proclamations all over Germany….
    In the Council of the Republic the gulf between the two sides of the chamber deepened day by day.
    "The propertied classes," cried Karelin, for the Left Socialist
    Revolutionaries, "want to exploit the revolutionary machine of the
    State to bind Russia to the war-chariot of the Allies! The
    revolutionary parties are absolutely against this policy…."
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    And so, while the oborontsi Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries involved themselves in compromise with the bourgeoisie, the Bolsheviki rapidly captured the Russian masses. In July they were hunted and despised; by September the metropolitan workmen, the sailors of the Baltic Fleet, and the soldiers, had been won almost entirely to their cause.
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    A soldier was speaking-from the Five Hundred and Forty-eight Division, wherever and whatever that was:
    "Comrades," he cried, and there was real anguish in his drawn face and despairing gestures. "The people at the top are always calling upon us to sacrifice more, sacrifice more, while those who have everything are left unmolested.
    "We are at war with Germany. Would we invite German generals to serve on our Staff? Well we're at war with the capitalists too, and yet we invite them into our Government….
    "The soldier says, 'Show me what I am fighting for. Is it Constantinople, or is it free Russia? Is it the democracy, or is it the capitalist plunderers? If you can prove to me that I am defending the Revolution then I'll go out and fight without capital punishment to force me.'
    "When the land belongs to the peasants, and the factories to the workers, and the power to the Soviets, then we'll know we have something to fight for, and we'll fight for it!"
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    On the 23rd of October occurred the naval battle with a German squadron in the Gulf of Riga. On the pretext that Petrograd was in danger, the Provisional Government drew up plans for evacuating the capital. First the great munitions works were to go, distributed widely throughout Russia; and then the Government itself was to move to Moscow. Instantly the Bolsheviki began to cry out that the Government was abandoning the Red Capital in order to weaken the Revolution. Riga had been sold to the Germans; now Petrograd was being betrayed!
    The bourgeois press was joyful. "At Moscow," said the Cadet paper Ryetch (Speech), "the Government can pursue its work in a tranquil atmosphere, without being interfered with by anarchists." Rodzianko, leader of the right wing of the Cadet party, declared in Utro Rossii (The Morning of Russia) that the taking of Petrograd by the Germans would be a blessing, because it would destroy the Soviets and get rid of the revolutionary Baltic Fleet
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