Red Web - Blair Coan

The Base in Moscow

The overthrow of Czar Nicholas II, of Russia, occurred on the 15th of March, 1917. Upon the abdication of Nicholas, authority was vested in a provisional government constituted by the Duma. The overthrow of Nicholas was not the result of a red revolution. It was rather pink than red. It came about very largely because of the failure of Russia, under the Czar, to meet its responsibilities in carrying on the war "to make the world safe for democracy." The Russian armies had been driven out of Poland and Galicia in 1915, for want of ammunition. The apostles and disciples of "democracy" were stirred by these disasters. General Brusilov's drive in 1916, eased the situation somewhat. But the premier, Boris V. Sturmer, a hater of "democracy" and a pro-German, began negotiations for a separate peace with Germany, which again stirred the elements of revolt, and the "pink" revolution of March, 1917, was the result

Prince Lyov became premier, and the Cabinet was composed of Constitutional Democrats, with the exception of Kerensky, the minister of justice, who was a Moderate Socialist. The new government set out at once to bring about the recovery of Russia's position as a force in support of the allied cause against the Central Powers, but in doing so it also endeavored to put into practice such democratic policies as free speech, the right to strike, universal suffrage, general amnesty for all political prisoners and exiles, and various other reforms on the program of the pink revolutionaries. The bolsheviki, whose leaders were not for reform but for complete socialist revolution, at once were at war with the new government and took full advantage of the privileges and liberties extended by the pinks.

Instead of meeting the machinations of the bolshevik leaders with a firm stand, the pinks entered upon a policy of compromises which weakened their government and made its fall inevitable. Kerensky became minister of war, in the progressive deepening of pink toward red; the exiled bolshevik leader, Lenin, returned from exile, by way of Berlin; disgust, despair and disloyalty became prevalent in the army. Kerensky sought to handle the army with persuasion, but the bolsheviks had beaten him to it, and he realized too late that soft words do not tame tigers and that caresses on the flat head of a poisonous reptile do not make the fangs of the snake less poisonous.

With the Duma abolished by the All-Russian Congress of Workmen's and Soldiers' Delegates, meeting in Petrograd, Kerensky found himself virtually abandoned by his fellow pinks, and as premier he sought to meet the chaotic situation by showing a firmer hand. The realization of his and his colleagues' mistakes, however, was too late.

President Wilson, meanwhile, had sent his special mission to Russia, headed by Elihu Root. The mission reported back to Washington August 12th, and George Creel's Committee on Public Information informed the public that the mission "was able to announce firm hopes of a speedy restoration of internal harmony and military efficiency" on the part of Russia. It is to be noted that the Root mission included a galaxy of American reds and pinks, chosen by President Wilson at the suggestion of other reds and pinks.

The "firm hopes" had begun to fade within three weeks. Kerensky and the military leadership were at odds early in September. Another three weeks, and a democratic congress, called by the Central Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Delegates, met in Moscow, demanded a "Temporary Council of the Russian Republic" to act until the constituent assembly should meet in December and made other demands which Kerensky felt himself obliged to reject. As the weeks passed, the Russian army continued to meet defeat after defeat in the field, while the following of Lenin grew stronger and stronger in its influence. Kerensky's fall and flight occurred on November 7th, less than three months following the "firm hopes" report from the Root mission. Lenin, who had been in Berlin, and Trotzky, who had been sojourning in the United States, carrying on a revolutionary propaganda campaign with headquarters in New York City, were now in control as leaders of the bolshevik, or red, revolution.

There appeared in the New York Times, November 18, 1917, a summary of Lenin's views on government, based on a pamphlet by him written in the form of a catechism.

"We represent the class-conscious proletaries, hired laborers and the poorer portion of the rural population," said Lenin. "We stand for socialism. The workmen's councils must at once take the necessary practical steps for the realization of the socialistic program. They must immediately take over the control of the banks and capitalistic syndicates, with a view to nationalizing them; that is, making them the property of the whole people . . ."

"We advocate a republic of councils of workmen, soldiers, peasants, etc. All the power must belong to them. . . . Should the peasants immediately take possession of the private lands? Yes; the land must be seized immediately . . . What color is our flag? Red, for the red flag is the flag of the universal proletarian revolution."

It has been noted that Lenin had been in Berlin during the latter part of his exile from Russia. But to say that, upon his return to Russia, he acted as a German agent in behalf of victory for the Central Powers over the Allies is to state the case inaccurately. Lenin was not interested in the defeat of Germany. Unquestionably he spoke truly when he said: "We took German money to make a Russian revolution. Then we will take Russian money to make a German revolution." The attempt to make good on this prediction subsequently took place, and to deny that the bolsheviks had an important part in the fall of the Central Powers before the Allies is to deny them the credit—ii you want to call it that—that is their due.

The treaty of Brest-Litovsk was made between Germany and the bolshevik government of Russia March 3, 1918. The German revolution began early in November. It did not run the full course Lenin had expected or hoped, to be sure, but that was no fault of his, nor of Karl Leibknecht, nor of Rosa Luxemberg. And Zinoviev, president of the Communist Internationale, says now:

"Turn now to Germany. Take the years of 1918-23. The German proletariat in that period fought for revolution. The fight went on, not in a steady, rising line, but with interruptions, severe losses and so on. Taking the European labor movement as a whole, the severest losses were suffered by the German proletariat during this time. But what do we observe today in Germany, a country passing through the zone of a certain stabilization of capitalism? . . . Considerable sections of the working class of Germany have retained their courage, have not lost stamina and under most difficult conditions unhesitatingly are following the Communist party."

The German revolution of November, 1918, opened a series of rapidly-moving events of vast importance. The German kaiser abdicated and fled the country. The Germans agreed to an armistice, and this began on the 11th of November. The subsequent course of events, so far as Germany and the peace negotiations are concerned, bears no special importance to this volume, and so I pass from it to other matters. But not without making note that what happened in Germany, with the part played therein by the bolsheviks, also happened in Austria and Hungary, and in Bulgaria; and that the part the bolsheviks played was in conformity to well-laid plans for the promotion of the "world revolution,"—plans that have since been greatly extended and have not, in purpose, been altered, no matter what changes in method have taken place.

Exiled like Lenin from Russia, Trotzky went first to Berlin, then to Switzerland, then to France, then to Spain, coming thence, by way of Cuba, to the United States. January, 1917, finds him in New York City. The revolution in Russia was then in the making. While in New York Trotzky published a socialist newspaper and engaged, otherwise, in socialist propaganda and in activities in furtherance of the international "working class revolution." Associated with him were the left wing socialists of the United States.

The United States entered the war against the Central Powers April 6, 1917. That month witnesses an especial impetus in the activities of the left wing socialists. The right wing socialists, the chief difference between which and the left wing is that they are of the parlor type who hate the inside of jails, determined to "stand by the government." By that they meant not to oppose the government, openly at any rate, in the war against the Central Powers. In cooperation with Trotzky, then unquestionably working in complete harmony and understanding with Lenin and the bolshevik organization and program, the left wing functioned during the early months of American participation in the war, and when Trotzky had gone back to Russia to join Lenin in carrying out the coup of November, 1917, the work he had helped to get under way in the United States continued throughout the remainder of the war. Almost simultaneous with the German revolution of 1918, which precipitated the armistice, a communist propaganda league was formed in Chicago. Subsequently there resulted, in New York City, February, 1919, a definite organization of the left wing section of the socialist party, with an ultra radical platform, which was adopted by many of the locals of the socialist party and all of the Slavic federations in the country.

In March, 1919, the Communist party of Russia had issued a call for an international congress to organize a new Internationale—now known as the Third Internationale. The left wing socialists of the United States sent S.J. Rutgers as their delegate. A Russian convention, designated, "the Convention of the Russian Socialist Federations in America, or the Fifth Regular Convention of Federations of Russian Branches of the Communist Party of America," was held in Detroit, Mich., in August, 1919. The convention adopted resolutions of greeting to the communist convention, called to convene in Chicago in September, that year. Simultaneously, then, there were organized in Chicago the Communist Labor party and the Communist party of America, subsequently merged and now the illegal, underground foundation of the Workers' party and sundry related organizations whose operations and connections will be explained further on in the pages of this volume.

"In the period prior to 1917," said Zinoviev, addressing the 1925 meeting of the enlarged executive committee of the Comintern in Moscow, "the working class in each country fought isolately. Not in a single country during that period was a single more or less decisive victory of the proletariat recorded. What is the position today? Today, the international proletariat has achieved more or less conclusive victory in one country. I mean the Union of soviet socialist republics, representing a sixth part of the globe."

Whereupon he goes on to explain that in every other country the bolshevik organization has been extended, and that the operation of the international organization are achieving conspicuous results.

The quotation is from a translation of the address of Zinoviev, printed in the June, 1925, issue of the Workers' Monthly, official organ of the communists in the United States, published in Chicago.

So, while "the working class in each country fought isolately" in the period "prior to 1917," subsequent to that time, and even before the red revolution in Russia under Lenin although to far greater extent since, the "class war" evolved into definite international proportions, with a clearly defined system of coordination.

"It is of extreme importance," quoting again from Zinoviev's address, above referred to, "that the international working class fighting against the world bourgeoisie, have a base, have a sort of revolutionary rear."

This base, as Zinoviev somewhat superfluously explains, is Russian, with staff headquarters in Moscow. The battlefronts are many,—notably the Far East and the Near East, the Balkans, Mexico, but also Germany, France, England, other continental countries, not excluding the United States.

How this "class war," this international socialist revolution, is being waged we shall see. How it has been waged in the United States since the establishment of the base, with general staff headquarters in Moscow; how it has succeeded and wherein it has failed, the readers of this book want to know. Their curiosity shall be fully satisfied.