"Foul slander against political opponents will help the workers to realise all the sooner where the counter-revolution is, and to sweep it away in the name of freedom, peace, bread for the hungry and land for the peasants."
On July 22 the newspapers printed a report “from the Public Prosecutor of the Petrograd City Court” about the inquiry into the events of July 3-5, and about the prosecution of a group of Bolsheviks, including myself, who are charged with treason and the organisation of an armed uprising.
The government had to publish the report because this dirty business had already created too much of a scandal, having clearly been rigged, as every intelligent person realises, with the aid of the slanderer Alexinsky to meet a long-standing wish and demand of the counter-revolutionary Cadet Party.
But by publishing the report, the government of Tsereteli and Co. will disgrace itself even more, for now the crudeness of the fabrication just hits one in the eye.
I left Petrograd on Thursday, June 29, on account of illness and did not return until Tuesday morning, July 4. But of course I assume full and unqualified responsibility for every single move or measure of our Party Central Committee, as well as of our Party as a whole. I call attention to my absence to account for my ignorance of certain details and for my allusion mainly to documents that have appeared in the press.
Obviously, it is documents of this nature, particularly if published in the anti-Bolshevik press, that the Public Prosecutor should have carefully collected, set in order and examined before anything else. But the “republican” Prosecutor, who is carrying out the policies of the “socialist” Minister Tsereteli, failed to perform his principal duty!
Shortly after July 4, the ministerial newspaper Dyelo Naroda admitted that it was a fact that on July 2 the Bolsheviks had taken action in the Grenadier Regiment by campaigning against a demonstration.
Had the Prosecutor a right to keep quiet about this document? Had he any grounds for discounting the testimony of such a witness?
As it so happens, this testimony establishes the highly important fact that the movement developed spontaneously and that the Bolsheviks tried to put off rather than hasten the demonstration.
Furthermore, the same paper printed a still more important document, namely, the text of an appeal signed by our Party Central Committee and written on the night of July 3–4. The appeal was written and sent to print after the movement, despite our efforts to check or rather control it, had “spilled over”, after the demonstration had become a fact.
The utter baseness and unscrupulousness of the Tseretelian Prosecutor, and his boundless treachery, show in his evasion of the question of exactly when, on what day and hour, whether before the Bolshevik appeal or after it, the demonstration began.
As a matter of fact, the appeal stressed the need to give the movement a peaceable and organised character!
Can you imagine a charge more laughable than that of “organising an armed uprising”, made against an organisation which on the night of July 3–4, i.e., the night before the fateful day, issued an appeal for a “peaceful and organised demonstration”? Or take another question: what difference is there between the Prosecutor of Dreyfus or Beilis and the “republican” Prosecutor of the “socialist” Minister Tsereteli, a Prosecutor who keeps completely quiet about the appeal?
Further, the Prosecutor does not say that on the night of July 3–4 our Party Central Committee wrote an appeal to stop the demonstration and printed it in Pravda, whose offices were wrecked by counter-revolutionary troops that very night.
Further, the Prosecutor does not say that on July 4 Trotsky and Zinoviev, in several speeches delivered before the workers and soldiers marching towards the Taurida Palace, called on them to disperse once they had made known their will.
Those speeches were heard by hundreds and thousands of people. Then, let every fair-minded citizen who does not want his country to be disgraced by another rigged “Beilis case” see to it that irrespective of party affiliation, those who heard the speeches make written declarations to the Prosecutor (keeping copies for themselves), stating whether Trotsky’s and Zinoviev’s speeches contained an appeal to disperse. A decent Prosecutor would himself have made such an appeal to the population. But how on earth can there be decent Prosecutors in the Cabinet of Kerensky, Yefremov, Tsereteli and Co.? And isn’t it high time Russian citizens themselves took care to make “Beilis cases” impossible in their country?
By the way, owing to illness, I personally made only one speech on July 4, from the balcony of Kshesinskaya’s Palace. The Prosecutor mentions it, and tries to set out what I said, but far from naming any witnesses, he is again reticent about eyewitness reports given in the press. I have by no means been able to secure a complete set of the papers, but still I have seen two testimonies: (1) in the Bolshevik Proletarskoye Dyelo (Kronstadt) and (2) in the Menshevik ministerial Rabochaya Gazeta. Why not verify the contents of my speech by these documents and by a public appeal?
The speech contained the following points: (1) an apology for confining myself to just a few words on account of illness; (2) greetings to the revolutionary people of Kronstadt on behalf of the Petrograd workers; (3) an expression of confidence that our slogan “All Power to the Soviets” must and will win despite all the zigzags of history; (4) an appeal for “firmness, steadfastness and vigilance”.
I bring out these particulars in order not to pass by the scant but truly factual evidence which the Prosecutor touched upon—barely touched upon—in such a cursory, indifferent and careless fashion.
However, the important thing is not the particulars, of course, but the overall picture, the overall significance of July 4. The Prosecutor proved completely incapable of so much as even thinking about this.
On this question, we first of all have the highly valuable testimony given in the press by a rabid anti-Bolshevik, who turns upon us a veritable spate of invective and spiteful phrases. I refer to the ministerial Rabochaya Gazeta correspondent. He contributed his personal observations shortly after July 4. The facts fully established by him show that his observations and experiences fall into two sharply differentiated parts. He contrasts the second with the first, saying that things had taken a “favourable turn” for him.
The first part of the author’s experiences is the attempt he made to defend the ministers amid a raging crowd. He was insulted, pummelled, and eventually detained. He heard extremely violent outcries and slogans, of which he recalls in particular “Death to Kerensky” (because he ordered an offensive, “sent forty thousand men to death”, etc.).
The second part of the author’s experiences, the one that brought a “favourable” turn for him, as he puts it, began when the raging crowd led him “before the tribunal” at the Kshesinskaya Palace. There he was released at once.
Those are the facts which prompted the author to turn a torrent of abuse upon the Bolsheviks. Abuse coming from a political opponent is natural, particularly if the opponent is a Menshevik who senses that the people, crushed by capital and the imperialist war, are against instead of for him. Yet abuse cannot alter the facts, which even as stated by a most rabid anti-Bolshevik testify that the aroused crowd went as far as to shout “Death to Kerensky”, that by and large the Bolshevik organisation gave the movement the slogan “All Power to the Soviets”, and that this organisation was the only one that carried any moral weight with the people and urged them to forgo violence.
Those are the facts. Let the willing and unwilling lackeys of the bourgeoisie shout and curse about the facts, accusing the Bolsheviks of “conniving with the mob”, etc., etc. We of the party of the revolutionary proletariat reply that our Party has always been and will always be with the oppressed whenever they voice their absolutely justified and legitimate indignation at the high cost of living, at the inaction and treachery of the “socialist” Ministers, at the imperialist war and its prolongation. Our Party did its bounden duty by marching together with the justly indignant people on July 4 and by trying to make their movement, their demonstration, as peaceful and organised as possible. For on July 4 a peaceful transfer of power to the Soviets, a peaceful development of the Russian revolution, was still possible.
The crass stupidity of the Prosecutor’s fairy-tale about the “organisation of an armed uprising” can be seen from the following: no one will deny that the vast majority of the armed soldiers and sailors who crowded the Petrograd streets on July 4 were on our Party’s side. Our Party had every opportunity to set about removing and arresting hundreds of high officials, taking over dozens of public and government buildings and institutions, and so on. We did nothing of the kind. Only people so mixed up that they repeat all sorts of tall stories spread by the counter-revolutionary Cadets do not see the laughable absurdity of the assertion that on July 3 or 4 an “armed uprising” was “organised”.
The first question the investigation should have put, if it had at all been worthy of that name, was “who started the shooting?” The next question should have been, “How many killed and wounded were there on each side? In what circumstances did each killing and wounding take place?” Had the investigation been anything like a real investigation (and not like a trouble-making article in the papers of the Dans, the Alexinskys, etc.), it would have been the investigators’ duty to hold an open, public cross-examination of the witnesses and then immediately publish the record of the interrogation.
That is what courts of inquiry always did in Britain when Britain was a free country. That, or roughly that, is what the Executive Committee of the Soviet felt it had to do at first, when fear of the Cadets had not yet completely numbed its conscience. We know the Executive Committee then promised in the press to issue two bulletins daily on the work of its investigating commission. We also know the Executive Committee (i.e., the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks) deceived the people by not keeping its promise. But the text of that promise has gone down in history as an admission from our enemies, an admission of what any fair investigator should have done.
It is instructive, at any rate, to note that one of the first bourgeois, rabidly anti-Bolshevik papers to carry a report about the shooting on July 4 was the evening Birzhevka of the same date. And it is this report that suggests that the shooting was not started by the demonstrators, and that the first shots were fired against them!! Of course, the “republican” Prosecutor of the “socialist” Cabinet preferred to say nothing about this testimony from Birzhevka!! And yet this testimony of the utterly anti-Bolshevik Birzhevka fully accords with the general picture of what happened as our Party sees it. Had it been an armed uprising, then, of course, the insurgents would not have fired on the counter-demonstrators but would have surrounded certain barracks and certain buildings; they would have wiped out certain army units, etc. On the other hand, if it was a demonstration against the government, with a counter-demonstration by government defenders, it was perfectly natural that the counter-revolutionaries should be the first to shoot, partly because they were enraged by the enormous number of demonstrators, and partly with provocative in tent. And it was just as natural the demonstrators should counter shots with shots.
Lists of the dead, though probably incomplete, were published, nevertheless, in a few papers (I think in Rech and Dyelo Naroda). The prime and immediate duty of the investigation was to verify, complete, and officially publish these lists. To evade this means concealing proof that the counter-revolutionaries started the shooting.
Indeed, even a cursory examination of the published lists shows that the two main and prominent groups, the Cossacks and the sailors, had each about the same number killed. Could this have been so if the ten thousand armed sailors who arrived in Petrograd on July 4 to join the workers and soldiers, particularly the machine-gunners who had many machine-guns, had been intent on an armed up rising?
Obviously, the number of dead among the Cossacks and other opponents of the insurrection would in that case have been ten times greater, for no one will deny that the predominance of the Bolsheviks among the armed people in the Petrograd streets on July 4 was enormous. There is a long list of relevant testimonies in the press from our Party opponents, and any fair investigating body would undoubtedly have collected and published all this evidence.
If the number of dead is approximately the same on both sides, this proves that the shooting was started by the counter-revolutionaries and that the demonstrators merely returned the fire. Otherwise there could not have been an equal number of dead.
Finally, the following piece of press information is exceedingly important: Cossacks are known to have been killed on July 4 during an open skirmish between the demonstrators and counter-demonstrators. Such skirmishes take place even in non-revolutionary times, if the population is at all aroused; for instance, they are not infrequent in the Latin countries, particularly in the South. Bolsheviks are also known to have been killed after July 4, when there was no clash between excited demonstrators and counter-demonstrators, and hence when the murder of an unarmed by an armed person was really an act of butchery. Such was the murder of the Bolshevik Voinov in Shpalernaya Street on July 6.
What kind of an investigating commission is it that does not fully collect even the evidence which has appeared in the press concerning the number of dead on both sides, and the time and circumstances of each killing? This is just a mockery of an investigation.
It is clearly futile to expect as much as an attempt at a historical evaluation of July 4 from such an “investigating” commission. Yet this evaluation is indispensable to anyone wanting to maintain an intelligent attitude towards politics.
Whoever attempts a historical estimate of July 3 and 4 cannot shut his eyes to the exact identity of this movement and that of April 20 and 21.
In both cases there was a spontaneous outburst of popular indignation.
In both cases armed people came on to the streets.
In both cases there was a skirmish between the demonstrators and counter-demonstrators, resulting in a certain (approximately equal) number of victims on both sides.
In both cases there was an extremely sharp outburst in the struggle between the revolutionary masses and the counter-revolutionaries, the bourgeoisie, while the neutral, intermediate elements which inclined towards compromise were temporarily inactive.
In both cases the special kind of anti-government demonstration (its special features have been listed above) was due to a deep and protracted crisis of power.
The difference between the two movements is that the latter was much more intense than the former and that the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties, neutral on April 20 and 21, have since got themselves into a tangle by their dependence on the counter-revolutionary Cadets (through the coalition Cabinet and the policy of taking offensive action), and so, on July 3 and 4, found themselves on the side of the counter-revolution.
The counter-revolutionary Cadet Party brazenly lied even after the events of April 20 and 21, shouting, “The shooting on Nevsky was done by Lenin’s men”, and, clown-like, they demanded an investigation. The Cadets and their friends then constituted the majority in the government and so the investigation was wholly in their hands. It was begun and abandoned, and nothing was published.
Why? Evidently because the facts in no way confirmed what the Cadets wanted. In other words, the investigation concerning April 20 and 21 was “smothered” because the facts proved t.hat the firing had been started by the counter revolutionaries, the Cadets and their friends. This is clear.
The same thing apparently happened on July 3 and 4 and that explains the crude and glaring falsification used by the Prosecutor, who affronts all standards of reasonably conscientious investigation to please Tsereteli and Co.
The movement on July 3 and 4 was the last attempt by means of a demonstration to induce the Soviets to take power. That was when the Soviets, i.e., the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks controlling them, virtually handed over power to the counter-revolution by summoning counter-revolutionary troops to Petrograd, disarming and disbanding revolutionary regiments and the workers, approving and tolerating acts of tyranny and violence against the Bolsheviks, the introduction of the death penalty at the front, etc.
Military, and consequently political, power has now virtually passed into the hands of the counter-revolution represented by the Cadets and backed by the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. Now, a peaceful development of the Russian revolution is no longer possible and the historical alternative is either complete victory for the counter-revolution, or a new revolution.