The October Revolution in the American Press

 14. Proclamation On Russia

On 4 February 1918, the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party adopted two resolutions supporting the Bolsheviks and the program of the Soviet government, the first of which is reproduced below.

The revolution of the Russian Socialists threatens the thrones of Europe and makes the whole capitalist structure tremble. With hunger stalking in their midst, without financial credit, without international recognition and with a ruling caste intriguing to regain control, the Russian Socialists have yet accomplished their evolution, and they inspired the working-class of the world with the ideal of humanity’s supremacy over class rule.

They come with a message of proletarian revolution. We glory in their achievement and inevitable triumph.

The Socialist Party of the United States offers its encouragement and pledges its support to the fundamental revolutionary aims and purposes of the enlightened workers of every country.

- Archives of the Socialist Party of the United States, Manuscript Department, Duke University Library.

15. Russian Peace Plan Endorsed

The second resolution adopted by the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party in support of the Bolsheviks and the program of the Soviet government.

The war frenzy, which has gripped many nations, including our own, is waning. The Socialist party, therefore, through its national executive committee, deems it to be its duty to state its views as to the best methods of obtaining a speedy, general and democratic peace.

We endorse unreservedly the peace program of the Russian Socialist government, based upon the demand for the evacuation of all territory occupied by hostile forces and its restoration from an international fund, the right to all nations and inhabitants of disputed territories to determine their own destinies; the unrestricted freedom of travel and transportation over land and sea; full equality of trade conditions among all nations; universal disarmament; open diplomacy, and an effective international organization to preserve peace, to protect the rights of the weaker peoples (including the natives in the colonies) and to ensure the stability of international relations.

We are unalterably opposed to all annexationist and imperialistic designs, all plans of enforced geographical or political readjustments, and all punitive measures included in the war aims of the contending ruling circles and their governments.

We emphatically deny that it is necessary for the people of United States to spill their blood and waste their treasure in order to rearrange the map of Europe. If rearrangement is necessary, it can be more speedily and more effectively accomplished by the peace conference.

The present situation demands more than the mere statement of war aims or peace terms. An agreement to enter into peace negotiations is now imperative. To agree upon the details of peace is impossible until the representatives of the belligerent nations meet one another in conference.

The statement of detailed conditions is futile. Such details are quite as likely to multiply the causes of disagreement, magnify the difficulties and delay peace as they are to bring peace.

We earnestly urge you to recognize officially the present Russian government, and to accept immediately its invitation take part in the peace conference of the Russians and the central powers. We also urge you to make every effort to secure the participation of the allies in the conference.

A decision by our country and the allies to join in the conference will electrify the peoples of the world. It will take the ground from under the crowned robbers of the central powers. It will deprive the autocrats of all arguments now used to deceive the people and maintain themselves in power.

This is the road to peace.

- New York Call, 5 February 1918.

16. Small Nations’ Citizens Greet Russians

The League of Small and Subject Nationalities was organized in 1917 to help secure a democratic peace treaty in which the rights of small nations and the colonial possessions would be recognized. At its second annual dinner, the subject of the Russian Revolution dominated all procedings.

The League of Small and Subject Nationalities was addressed by a distinguished number of speakers at its second annual dinner, held in the Grand hotel, 31st street and Broadway. Among those heard were Dr. Frederic C. Howe, president of the League; Joseph D. Cannon, Socialist candidate for Congress; Dr. Patrick McCartan, Ireland; Rev. E. S. Noll, Albania; Lajpat Rai, Asia; Lincoln Steffens, Russia; Ivan Konigsberg, Slesvig, and Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, Africa.

The principal address of the evening was made by Steffens, who, while scheduled to speak on Russia, spoke on behalf of the workers of the world.

A notable message was unanimously adopted at the gathering, heartening Russia in the present crisis the proletarian republic faces. The telegram which was sent to the Russian government follows:

“The League of Small and Subject Nationalities meeting in New York tonight voted a message of sympathy for new Russia in this crisis of the revolution; sorrow that the German people permitted the German invasion, and a prayer that the Russian people shall not forget that they are struggling, not for themselves alone, but for all the subject people in this subject world.”

The evil in the world, Steffens said, is not moral, but it is physical; it is economic.

He assured his audience that though there is much sorrow in Petrograd and Moscow, the revolutionists do not believe that their theories have failed. “They believe you have failed,” he said.

“In Russia they do not call it the Russian Revolution,” he said, “but the revolution, because it is not only for themselves they want freedom, but for all peoples. Last May Day I was in Petrograd and the workers marched through the streets in celebration, not of the day of their own deliverance, for they do not celebrate that day, but have adopted the day the other workers have chosen. In the streets I heard them say, ‘The workers of France, England, Germany, America, Japan and the whole world are out today.’”

Dr. Howe said that “we are here to contemplate the progress we are making.” He said that for the first time subject and small nations were being recognized as having the same rights as great nations, and that the peoples of the world, also for the first time are formulating terms to end the war.

Patrick McCartan, speaking for Ireland, said that “we of the small nations are more or less skeptical of fine talk.” He denounced the British rule of his country, and denied the truth of press reports stating that American sailors have been wantonly attacked in Ireland. “We ask England to withdraw from Ireland,” he declared.

- New York Evening Call, 28 February 1918.

17. Radicals Here Offer Lives to Russia

Although Lenin believed, that it was essential for the future of the revolution that Russia sign a peace with Germany at Brest-Litovsk, Trotsky, who headed the Soviet delegation, rejected this position. Instead, he favoured a policy of passive resistance: “neither peace nor war” . The peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk collapsed, and on 18 February 1918, ten days after the breaking off of peace negotiations, the German high command launched a great offensive along the entire Eastern front. As news reached the United States, support for the now embattled revolutionary Russia was expressed by various groups. The message to the Bolsheviks are printed below as they appeared in the press.

Radicals throughout the nation, stirred by the invasion of revolutionary Russia by the Germans, pledge their moral support, money and life to the great cause—the preservation of the Russian democracy.

Cablegrams have been sent to the Council of People’s Commissars and the revolutionary committee, promising not only sympathy but immediate aid.

Algernon Lee, educational director of the Rand school and Alexander Trachtenberg, Russian Socialist, both felt that the situation was by no means hopeless.

“I cannot doubt that the part which the Kaiser’s govemment is playing is a desperate one, and that it must fail. For the present the effective leadership has passed into the hands of the British labor movement,” said Lee.

Alexander Trachtenberg felt that it was the duty of every Socialist to spread the doctrine of optimism throughout tit country in regard to the Russian Revolution.

“I shall lend all my powers to interpret the true version of the revolution to the workers of this country,” he said.

Asked if he felt that the governments of the allies and the United States were not quick enough to grasp the situation Trachtenberg said:

“These governments are doing the greatest possible injury to true democracy by not aiding Russia in her bitter struggle.”

Some of the telegrams sent to the Bolshevik government follow:

“Council of People’s Commissars, Smolny Institute, Petrograd - Bolshevik information bureau organized here two months ago to intrepret actions of commissaries and to arouse solidarity of American workers with Russian proletariat. Widespread sympathy of American workers with Russian proletariat. Widespread sympathy of American workers with you. Have taken steps to organize a Red Guard here. Louis Fraina, Bolshevik Information Bureau.”

"Council of People’s Commissars, Petrograd—The first united Russian convention in America held in New York 1-4 February sends greetings to revolutionary Russia as represented by the people’s commissaries. We are heart and soul with you. Are ready to organize revolutionary legions for Russia. Reply. Weinstein, Executive Committee of the Convention. 175 East Broadway."

“Smolny Institute, Petrograd—You have our unqualified faith and support. The whole colony is with you. Are ready to organize Red Guard for Russia. Americans will help. Novy Mir, A.Menshoy.”

“Ferrer Association is with you to the death. Are forming Red Guard to help defend the revolution. Leonard Abbot, Ferrer Association.”

“Boris Rheinstein, Commissar of International Propaganda Russian Foreign Office, Petrograd—All American revolutionists aroused by German advance. Offer their services and their lives to the saving of Russian revolution and world freedom. Are organizing revolutionary army. Mass meetings, tremendous sentiment. Beg Russians to hold out for original peace formula. Louise Bryant.”

“Maria Spiradonova, Chairman, Executive Committee, All Russian Peasants Soviets, Smolny Institute—All American revolutionists offer their sympathy and their lives to the Russian revolutionists in this hour of peril. In your fight against the invaders we are with you to the end. I will come back and fight with many American Socialists. Louise Bryant.”

“Hail to the workers of Russia. We stand by you in your fight. The committee of 1,000 women.”

“The Socialists of Greater New York view the German invasion with deep indignation as a blow to labor and democracy in all lands. We wish you success in revolutionary resistance to Russian as well as German imperialism. Help transmit our appeal to German and Austrian-Hungarian working-classes to stop this outrage. We hold that on them now rests the greatest responsibility for success or failure of the world in the efforts for people’s peace. Algernon Lee, acting secretary for city committee of Socialist Party.”

A message was sent by Lee to the Social Democratic party, Berne, Switzerland, the International Socialist Bureau, the Hague, Holland, and the Social Democratic Party at Dietz, Copenhagen, Denmark.

The message reads:

“Socialists of Greater New York ask you to help convey the message to working-classes of Germany and Austria-Hungary as follows: we beg you vigorously to oppose your rulers’ efforts to crush the Russian Revolution. On you at this moment rests the responsibility for the success or failure of the world-wide efforts for a people’s peace. The German invasion of Russia is a blow against labor and democracy in all lands.”

The Women’s Peace Party of New York state, headed by Crystal Eastman, writes this:

“Please express to the Bolshevik government our firm belief in their courage, wisdom and ultimate triumph, and our horror at the brutal demands of German autocracy. Be assured that we will use all our strength toward bringing about official recognition of the Bolshevik government by our own. Crystal Eastman."

“The People’s Council of America for Democratic Peace representing 300 radical groups in 42 states has consistently stood for the Russian formula of ‘no annexations, no indemnities and self-determination.’ We urge you to make no other terms. Scott Nearing, James Maurer and Louis P. Lochner.”

“National conference of members and representatives of labor, Socialists and radical movements in meeting in New York reaffirm Russian program and calls on the proletariat of the world to stand firm to the end for its realization. Louis P. Lochner, Secretary.”

“Appreciating the courageous idealism of the Russian people the officers of the Fellowship of Reconciliation of the United States of America send greeting in this hour of darkness. Believing that the brotherhood as revealed by Jesus is the essential basis of true human society, we join with you in the confident expectation of its final triumph in political and social democracy among all peoples. Gilbert Beaves, 118 East 28th street.”

“Revolutionary committee. With our lives and our last breath the Mother Earth groups are with you in your fight. M. E. Fitzgerald.”

“Socialist Propaganda League has unqualified faith in you. Have started Red Guard, for service in Russia. Great enthusiasm among American workers. Your cause is ours. Cable instructions. Can League help any other way? Fraina, Rutgers and Mrs. Rovitch. 1572 Madison avenue.”

“You have our wholehearted faith and support. Ready to organize and send you international revolutionary army from America. Rose Baron, International Social Revolutionary Group, 219 Second Avenue.”

- New York Evening Call, 28 February 1918.

18. The Promise of Great Russia

In the article below, Meyer London, socialist congressman from New York, attempted to shed light on various aspects of the Bolshevik revolution. Although London played down the revolutionary character of the movement in Russia, he did explain several aspects of the revolution.

There is a distressing lack of information about Russia. Not only is there an absence of knowledge of present events, which is bad enough, but there is a failure to grasp the meaning of those forces the working of which has resulted in the greatest change in modern history...

One should not fear a return of the old regime.

The country is essentially democratic. There is alarm here over the demand for the redistribution of land. To the uninitiated it looks like old-fashioned agrarian rebellions. It is nothing of the sort. The principle of collective ownership of land is strong in the community life of the people. The village community owns the land in common today. The efforts made since 1905 to introduce private ownership in the village community have proven abortive.

While the theory of collective ownership of land is firmly embedded in the thought of the people, only 12 per cent of the land is owned collectively by the people, while 88 per cent is under individual ownership. Of this 88 per cent, one million square miles (640 million acres) was the property of the Tsar and his family. All this of course will go to the people. The problem of endowing the farmer with sufficient land to live on is a practical problem, not a dream of dreamers, but a mere application and extension of a principle strong in the lives of those who live by the work of their hands and in the sweat of their brows. Those who still reap the benefits of the old feudal system and who own millions of acres of land may not grasp the importance of it. To them the demands of the Russian peasant may mean bloodshed, violence and all sorts of horrors, but to the student of Russia it means only the next step to be taken in building Russia’s future.

The program of the peasantry consists of two words, “land” and “liberty.” This was the slogan of the Russian people for more than 60 years.

Russia’s peasantry wants access to the land. Their demand is no more revolutionary than the American Homestead Law was revolutionary. The platform will now become a reality. It is only a question of method, of tactics. Russia’s sacrifices will have been in vain unless the great masses of the people will gain access to the land.

Take the subject of woman suffrage. A smile goes over the face of the American who reads about the enfranchisement of women in Russia. He cannot get himself to understand how the Slav democracy, only a day old, seeks to outdo him, to outstrip republican France, to excel old England. How presumptuous, indeed.

But there is nothing peculiar about it. The emancipation of woman has been for more than two generations an accomplished fact in that strange land. The Russian woman was probably the first woman in the world to obtain the privilege of attending universities. She was the first to rebel against stifling conventionality. And then her part in the revolutionary movement.

The martyrology of that sad people abounds with the names of women. Out of a batch of 770 political prisoners during three months in one year, 158 were women.

The chief of the secret service reported to Alexander II in 1874 that in the most aristocratic families the women were the most dangerous revolutionists. Three of the women mentioned in that report are alive today and are shaping the course of the revolution, Vera Zasulich, Catherine Breshkovskaya and Vera Figner, who has survived 20 years of solitary confinement.

Women marched under convoy to Siberia and ascended the scaffold alongside of men. She did not claim superiority and no one dared to question her equality. The extension of the suffrage is but recognition of her share in the rejuvenation of a people.

The problem is not so simple when one approaches the industrial situation. Russia’s industries are still underdeveloped. The efficiency which comes from the organization and concentration of capital is unknown. While there is plenty of striving for industrial democracy, the necessary preliminary for democracy in industry is absent. There is no foundation upon which to build. The prerequisite of a highly organized capitalistic state is missing, and it will be up to Russia to show whether democracy in industry can be attained by the mere strong desire to be democratic. In any event, the barbarity which accompanied the growth of industry in other countries will be avoided. There will be no exploitation of women, no crushing of children, no suppressing of labor organizations, no class legislation by the money bag.

And if anybody had any doubt as to the genuineness of Russian democracy that doubt should be dispelled by Russia’s attitude in the war. Hungry, exhausted and bleeding at every pore, Russia announced her readiness to support her allies. All she asked was the elimination of selfish designs and the proclamation of a higher code of international morality. What a pity that the Allies have not grasped the full import of her plea.

- The Ladies’ Garment Worker, February 1918, 11-12.

19. Battle Hymn of The Russian Republic

Louis Untermeyer, the American Socialist poet, expressed in his litterature the widespread feeling that all progressives throughout the world should rally against the forces trying to crush the young Russian Socialist Republic.

God, give us strength these days -

Burn us with one desire;

To smother this murderous blaze,

Beat back these flames with fire.

Let us not weaken and fail Or spend ourselves in a shout;

Let our white passion prevail Till the terror is driven out.

Give us the power to fling

Ourselves and our fury, employed

To blast and destroy this thing

Lest Life itself be destroyed.

Friends in all lands, arise -

Turn all these fires to shake

Against their refuge of lies;

Force it to crumble and break.

Rise, ere it grows too late

And we have not strength enough.

Sweep it down with our hate!

Trample it with our love!

- The Ladies’ Garment Worker, February 1918, 12.