The October Revolution in the American Press

42. Rose Pastor Stokes Defends Revolution

A left-wing Socialist who was tried by the government for writing a letter to a newspaper charging that “the government is for the profiteers” and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment, Rose Pastor Stokes frequently defended the Bolshevik revolution.

Ninety-one thousand and forty-five working men and women were represented at the opening of the conference of the Liberty Defense Union at Webster Hall. . . .

The following organizations were represented: The Consumers’ League of Greater New York; the Amalgamated Ladies’ Garment Cutters’ Union, Local 10; the Hebrew Butchers’ Workers’ Union; the Trade Union League of Greater New York, and numerous branches of the Workmen’s Circle. . . .

Rose Pastor Stokes, in her speech, declared:

“There is no nation in the world today striving more passionately for the ideal of the brotherhood of man than Russia in revolt against privilege and exploitation. The press of the plutocracy points to the violence accompanying the great Russian revolution as an excuse for interfering with the divine outcome, as if any fundamental justice was ever established except through sacrifice accompanied by some measure of violence.

“As if Russia could have been expected to wave a fairy wand over the heads of the self-interested and greedy elements, who must first lose their power to do harm, in order that the people might win the victory for justice and humanity. Any great war, civil or otherwise, is worth waging if the issue is greater human freedom and greater equality. And such measure of human liberty is being fought for in that glorious Russian Revolution, as makes every struggle for liberty waged in the past pale into insignificance.

“That is why, indeed, the American and allied imperialists are for intervention. And that is why, too, they would stop our mouths with their legal dust, so that they may have their way with Russia also, without effective protest.

“They know that the liberty arising in Russia will spread the light of her torch over the whole world, and the dark night of the capitalist regime will be dispelled. They know that a new order must result if Russia is permitted to stand: Land for all, industry for all, security and equality of opportunity for all— an end to exploitation and an end of the wars between nations, that is why those who have battened on the blood and tears and miseries of the people from time immemorial, itch to destroy Socialist Russia - the hope of the world - the despair of capitalism.”

- New York Evening Call, 1 August 1918.

43. Action in Siberia

On August 2, 1918, British troops landed at Archangel. That same day, Major General William S. Graves of. the U.S. Army was summoned to a conference with Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker. General Graves was informed that the War Department had selected him to take command of an expedition of American troops, which was to leave immediately for Siberia. The decision, General Graves learned, had been reached on 5 July 1918, and the purpose of the military action in Russia was ostensibly "only to help the Czecho-Slovaks consolidate their forces and get into successful co-operation with their Slavic kinsmen." (See William S. Graves, American Siberian Adventure, 1918-1920.)

At first the Allied governments explained that they had landed troops in Murmansk and Archangel in the spring and summer of 1918 because it was necessary to prevent supplies from falling into the hands of the Germans. Later they used the excuse that their troops were in Siberia to help Czechoslovakian forces withdraw from Russia. There were in Russia about 50,000 Czechoslovakian soldiers who had deserted from the Austro-Hungarian Army to the Russian lines before the revolution. They had fought with the Russians against the Austro-German forces, and after the fall of Kerensky, the Soviet government had agreed, at the request of the Allies, to transport them from Kiev to Vladivostok with the intention of their sailing for France. The Czechoslovakian troops, however, involved themselves in hostilities against the Soviets, and became the center of counter-revolutionary organization. The Czechs refused to surrender their arms to the Soviet authorities and, under reactionary commanders, began to seize a number of towns, overthrew the local Soviets and established anti-Soviet administrations. Encouraged by American agents and even more by the French and British, the Czechs fought side by side with the Whites against the Bolsheviks, staged a coup in Vladivostok and set up an anti-Soviet government in that city.

With the excuse that the Allied troops were coming to save the Czechs from unprovoked attack by Red Army troops and by German war prisoners armed by the Bolsheviks, the Allied governments intervened in Russia. (George F. Kennan maintains that Wilson’s decision to send troops to Siberia was based on a misunderstanding of the role being played by the Czechs.) British, French, Japanese and American troops landed in Vladivostok. The action caused wide protests in the United States.

The State Department announced on 3 August the plan for joint American-Japanese military intervention in Siberia and for armed allied intervention by way of the Murmansk coast. The Call has withheld comment on this announcement, in the hope that a clearer statement of the purpose of these expeditions would be made. Apparently none is forthcoming. Meanwhile the capitalist newspapers that have been shouting for months for an invasion of Russia and the overthrow of the government of the Russian people by the allies by force have acclaimed the intervention plan with enthusiasm...

In the note of the State Department there is no mention of the Soviet government of Russia. It is as if that government had never existed, and the story of the past 10 months of the risen people of Russia, a story that will thrill the heart of humanity for generations to come, had been completely wiped out. Yet the Soviet power is not only an inspiration for the future. It is the great vital present-day fact in Russia. According to reputable newspaper correspondents who came through Siberia from Moscow in May with the Red Cross mission, that power was firmly established everywhere. The mission traveled on a note of safe conduct signed by Premier Lenin, and that paper was respected by each local authority in Siberia as thoroughly as a note from President Wilson would be respected in this country.

The Call does not believe that an uninvited invasion of any country by foreign powers, however small its forces and however unavowedly benevolent its purpose, will be welcomed by the invaded inhabitants. We should not welcome an invasion of the United States by a foreign army led by the Angel Gabriel, and we have no suspicion that the masses of the Russian people are greatly different in psychology from any other people in this respect. We believe that an invading foreign force, even led by angels, could not avoid interference in the domestic affairs of the invaded nation. We do not see how intervention in Russia that disregards the government of the Russian people can be productive of anything but strife and turmoil, and inevitable armed dashes with the population that will lead to a real sympathetic invasion. That prospect, which surely cannot serve any military purpose in the war against Germany, we do not contemplate with enthusiasm.

For many months the kept capitalist press in America, in common with similar organs in the allied countries and the central powers, has been filled with a mass of lies about Russia. The groups of reactionary Russian emigres in every great capital have been clamoring their scandalous recriminations against free Russia. Apparently all the tremendous forces of reaction in the world have been in conspiracy to overthrow the newly won democracy in Russia which they so hate and dread. We have tried not to be dismayed by this persistent chorus of lies, and through it all we have kept in mind the one great word about Russia, a word uttered by the responsible spokesmen of the American democracy.

“The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come,” said Woodrow Wilson in his solemn message to Congress on 8 January [on the “Fourteen Points”] “will be the acid test of their good will, of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.”

It has been our deep and heartfelt prayer that the United States might stand this acid test.

- Editorial, New York Evening Call, 9 August 1918.

44. Proclamation on Russia

Since the French Revolution established a new high mark of political liberty in the world, there has been no other advance in democratic progress and social justice comparable to the Russian Revolution. The Russian people have cast behind them three centuries of Tsarist oppression. They have established an advanced form of democracy—a Socialist government—based on co-operative effort for the common good. They have cast aside the false idols of secret diplomacy and imperialism and are abolishing exploitation of every kind. Economically and socially, as well as politically, the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic is a government of the workers, by the workers and for the workers.

The French people, a century and a quarter ago, found all nations turned against them because of their ideals of political liberty. The Russian people are facing a similar experience because of their ideals of economic freedom. The forces of capitalism and reaction throughout the world are determined to crush the newly won freedom of the Russian workers. They are working with the remnants of the old regime and the wealthy bourgeois exiles for the overthrow of the Soviet government, and for the restoration of the rule of feudalism and imperialism in Russia.

German imperialism, recognizing democratic Russia as its worst enemy, has attempted to crush Russia from the West. It has wrested from Russia by brute force, under the legal form of a brigand’s peace, the Russian border provinces, and the great territory of the Ukraine, against the will of their peoples.

Imperialists in the countries at war with Germany have adopted an attitude toward Russia similar to that of the Prussian junkers. They have been demanding an invasion of Russia from the east and north and the crushing of the Soviet Republic by Allied armies.

We denounce the schemes of these imperialists to use the Czecho-Slovaks as a counter-revolutionary force, used against the declared will of the Czecho-Slovaks themselves.

We denounce as utterly incompatible with any principle of democracy or international decency any and all plans of invasion. Such action can only result in throwing Russia into a bloody struggle of which German imperialism will be quick to take advantage. We believe that such an invasion would outrage every principle of justice and international law and make a re-arrangement of friendly international relations very difficult.

The representatives of Russian junkerdom in the Allied capitals are now fomenting plots for counter-revolution in Russia. They know that a reactionary government in Russia, such as they desire, could maintain itself only with the aid of German bayonets, as do now the reactionary governments in Finland and Ukraine. We urge the United States government not to assist these enemies of democracy and freedom.

We protest against the continued isolation of the Soviet Government of Russia, which is being held incommunicado by the governments of the world.

We call upon the workers throughout the world to aid the Russian people in their struggle for freedom.

We call upon all true believers in democracy in the United States to join with us in urging our government to recognize the Russian Soviet Republic. In spite of the hostility of the most powerful forces, it has endured for ten months, successfully performing the great task of reconstructing the social and economic life of Russia. The Socialist Party of America declares itself in accord with Revolutionary Russia and urges our government and our people to co-operate with it and to assist it to the end that democratic forces of the world may be victorious and autocracy and imperialism banished forever.

- Adopted by Conference of State Secretaries and Socialist Party Officials, 10-12 August 1918. Published in the Special Official Bulletin, 17 September 1918, copy in Duke University Library. See also New York Call, 14 August 1918.

45. Russia and The Intervention

From the beginning The Nation, as its readers know, has been opposed to military intervention of any sort in Russia. That opposition has not been based upon any extravagant notions regarding the aims or accomplishments of the Russian revolution, nor upon an overweening fondness for the principles or methods of the Bolsheviki, nor yet upon the imputation to the United States or the allies of selfish or ignoble motives. We have realized to the full the gravity of the German menace and the desirability of enlisting Russia on the side of the Allies if Russia is to fight at all. Our opposition to armed intervention, regardless of whether the force be large or small, has had quite different grounds. We have from the first believed, and still believe, that the whole truth about Russia has not been told, that important facts unfavorable to the allied view have been deliberately with- held, and that both the nature and work of the Soviet government have been in important respects systematically misrepresented and discredited. More than that, we have felt that the appearance of an armed force in Russia, no matter with what professions of high purpose it might be heralded, was not only likely to help rather than hinder the German designs, but was almost certain to arouse, in large sections of the Russian people, feelings of deep and lasting resentment at the coercion to which the country was henceforth to be subjected.

The resort to military intervention is all the more regrettable because,as it seems to us, an opportunity for helping Russia in other more useful and sounder ways has in the meantime been lost. What Russia has needed for months past is the sympathy and forbearance of the governments which were once its friends. Its effort to reconstruct its society upon a democratic basis, novel and groping as some of those attempts apparently have been, have merited some better form of recognition than cold and critical neglect. The humiliating peace of Brest-Litovsk need never have been made had not the allies and the United States, with amazing blindness, turned a deaf ear to the Russian appeal to be represented in the conference. The rehabilitation of Russian industry, agriculture and commerce, without which Russia could not hope to regain a place among the nations, might at any time have been begun, and with small likelihood of thereby replenishing Germany’s exhausted stores to any appreciable extent, if only the allies had permitted foreign trade to be resumed. And even if the economic revival had been small, the supplies of food and clothing needed to cope with widespread hunger and nakedness, and the medical resources necessary to combat epidemic disease, might still have been introduced with beneficent results had not the American Red Cross folded its arms. This much at least a Christian civilization might have done without calling to its aid a single soldier.

If the Czecho-Slovaks turn out to be more concerned to win some political advantage for themselves or appropriate some portion of Russian territory than to fight the central powers on the Eastern or Western fronts, their spectacular career as a distinct force should be terminated without delay. There ought certainly to be no time lost in repairing and equipping the railways, reopening factories, restoring foreign and domestic commerce, distributing food and other necessaries, checking typhus and cholera, and opening the schools and the universities.

There are powerful influences ready to restore Kerensky and others equally ready to keep him from power at any cost. A cunningly contrived division of Russia into several states is a very real danger. All this, with international intrigues and secret schemes of every sort, the allied powers must resist if through their efforts Russia is to be free. The world waits for the first example in history of a great nation upon which the fortunes of war have brought evil days, restored to liberty, health and power without force or fraud, by the unselfish help of a group of sister states. And while this good work goes on, let us have the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about Russia.

- The Nation, 24 August 1918.