The Russian Revolution of 1917 had a massive impact throughout the world. Bolshevik ideas inspired workers all over Europe and across the Atlantic in the Unites States. The events of October 1917 were the spark that ignited American communism, while also setting the stage for decades of oppressive anti-communist propaganda and 'witch-hunts' by the ruling class.
Below we publish a collection of articles written in the US socialist press in the year following the revolution. Many of the articles were originally published in the only daily American socialist paper at the time, The New York Call, a front runner of American socialism. The articles are written by a series of authors (names provided where possible) working for The New York Call or affiliated publishers. Amongst these were Eugene Debs and John Reed. All the articles were written between November 1917 and November 1918 and are in chronological order sorted by month.
First Proletarian Republic Greets American Workers
John Reed travelled from New York to Russia in August 1917, representing The Masses, the New York Call, and Seven Arts. Reed arrived in Petrograd in September, and began attending committee-meetings of the Petrograd Soviet and of shop committee delegates at Smolny Institute. During his time in Russia, John Reed interviewed Kerensky, heard Lenin speak, and was present at the All-Russian Congress of Soviets on November 7 when the workers, peasants and soldiers in the Congress hailed the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks. He witnessed the capture of the Winter Palace by soldiers, sailors and the Red Guard, and on November 8 heard Lenin announce at Smolny, “We shall now proceed to construct the Socialist order.” On the morning of November 13, when news reached Smolny of Kerensky’s defeat, Lenin gave Reed a short statement for American Socialists. On November 15, Reed received permission to cable this message, together with an account of Kerensky’s downfall, to the New York Call, the socialist daily newspaper. The dispatch was held up by the censor in the United States, and was released on November 21. On the following day, the Call published it under a seven-column banner.
The Petrograd garrison, the Kronstadt sailors and the Red Guard, comprising as a whole the Bolsheviki army, last night defeated Kerensky’s army of 7,000 Cossacks, junkers (students in military schools) and artillery, who were attacking the capital.
The attempted ‘junker’ insurrection on Sunday, directed by the Committee of Salvation, comprising Mensheviki (moderate Socialists and Cadets (Constitutional emocrats), was put down by the Kronstadt sailors, who took an armored car and telephone station by assault, and also the “junior” school.
Hundreds of delegates arrived at Smolny Institute, the headquarters of the revolutionary government and of the councils, to report the solidarity of the army at the front with the Bolsheviki.
This is the revolution, the class struggle, with the proletariat, the workmen, the soldiers and the peasants lined up against the bourgeoisie. Last February was only the preliminary revolution. At the present moment the proletariat are triumphant.
The rank and file of the Workmen’s, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Councils are in control, with Lenin and Trotsky leading. Their program is to give the land to the peasants, to socialize natural resources and industry and for an armistice and democratic peace conference. The extraordinary and immense power of the Bolsheviki lies in the fact that the Kerensky government absolutely ignored the desires of the masses as expressed in the Bolsheviki program of peace, land and workers’ control of industry...
No one is with the Bolsheviki except the proletariat, but that is solidly for them. All the bourgeoisie and appendages are relentlessly hostile....
The news from the front and from all over the country shows that although some fighting is still going on in various cities the masses are pretty solid for the Bolsheviki, except in the Don region where General Kaledin and the Cossacks have proclaimed a military dictatorship.
The Workmen’s, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ councils through The Call send to the American International Socialists a greeting from the first proletarian republic of the world.
- New York Call, 22 November 1917.
Cleveland Socialists Greet Bolshevik Revolution
The resolution below was distributed throughout Cleveland in leaflet form and produced by the Cleveland local of the Socialist party. The resolution reflected the excitement caused by the news that the first act of the Russian Councils of Workers and Soldiers, after taking of power, was to call for an end to the war.
The effort of the Bolsheviks to establish peace through the action of the workers of all countries, a peace not based upon the interests of the ruling classes of the nations involved nor attained through the trading of diplomats, but based upon the interests of the workers and established through the aggressive action of the workers, a peace without annexations and without indemnities, offers the only hope of saving our civilization from destruction. In this effort we pledge to the workers of Russia our earnest support. We hail the policy of their present government as the true expression of proletarian action, and pledge ourselves to do all in our power to assist in wiping out capitalist imperialism and in establishing the civilization of the future, the commonwealth of the workers united irrespective of nationality.
- Cleveland Socialist News, 25 November 1917.
"Thank God For The Russian Revolution"
One of the first statements issued in the United States hailing the Bolshevik revolution was in this sermon delivered by Dr. John Haynes Holmes, the Socialist pastor of the Church of the Messiah in New York City.
“Thank God for the Russian revolution,” Dr. John Haynes Holmes, pastor of the Church of the Messiah, raised this prayer of thanksgiving yesterday morning during his sermon on “Thanksgiving or Penitence: which?”
Holmes said his spirit “is swinging between penitence and thanksgiving,” that his “mind and heart are confused,” but later declared that his hope in a better world, seconded by such events as the Russian Revolution, was triumphing in his spirit.
His voice registered exultation when he declared. “This is the day of Revolution. They are going to do away with Kaisers and Tsars everywhere,” and he made it clear that he included with the political Kaisers and Tsars the industrial Kaisers and Tsars of democracies....
Speaking of the Russian Revolution, he said:
“The spirit of Tolstoy today is ruling Russia. This is a thing for which we cannot offer too much thanksgiving. The peasants of Russia have overthrown the Tsar, and with him the spirit of autocracy, war, Siberia and oppression.”
- New York Call, 26 November 1917
Bolsheviks’ Peace Plan Urged on Senate
One of the first American organizations to support the Bolshevik revolution was the Friends of the Russian Revolution. It was organized less than a month after the revolution and focused on supporting the Soviet demand for an immediate peace without annexations or indemnities.
A mass meeting to urge support of the peace move of the Bolsheviki, and recognition of the strategic value of Lord Lansdowne’s suggestion that the Allies restate their terms of peace with a view to winning the confidence of the German people, is the first move in what its sponsors describe as a “political offensive for the settlement of the war.”
The announcement of the meeting is signed by a committee calling itself the “Friends of the Russian Revolution,” consisting of Roger Baldwin, Mary Ware Dennett, Crystal Eastman, Vida Milholland, Lou Rogers, Rebecca Shelly, Alexander Trachtenberg, James P. Warbasse, Margaret Sanger, Dr. A. Goldwater, Pauline K. Angell, Merrill Rogers, and others.
In a statement issued today it is said that the purpose of the meeting is to urge upon Congress “that the friendly relations between America and the Russian democracy be continuously maintained, and that food supplies, money, and such assistance as can be given by America to the builders of the New Russia be offered without reserve. There is every evidence that the leaders in Russia today are prompted in everything they are doing by the will of the Russian people, and it is believed that such democratic action should be vigorously encouraged by nations fighting for the ideals of democracy.”
Congress will also be urged “to support the demand of the Russian democracy for a peace parley and to immediately cooperate with new Russia in arranging a time and place where representatives of the people of all belligerent nations can undertake a sane solution of this world problem.” And Colonel House is to be instructed by Congress “to press this point of view upon the envoys of the allied powers now assembled in Paris and to demand from them a clear statement of war aims.”
It is said further that the publication of the secret treaties by the Russian foreign office disclosing “the bargain made by the allies to fight for Italy’s territorial ambitions” has emphasized the need for such a restatement of terms.
“The American people have a right to know how far the motives of the allies are consistent with our own avowed ideals in the war. Moreover, as Lord Lansdowne has pointed out, an unequivocal statement by the allies that they do not intend to crush the German people will put courage into the forces now in revolt in Germany, and will thus do more than a military drive to overthrow the power of the military autocracy.”
Miss Rebecca Shelly, well known for her connection with various peace organizations, is in charge of the meeting.
“There is a growing discontent among the people of all nations,” she said, “because one opportunity after another for the opening of peace negotiations is cast aside by those in power without serious consideration, or any earnest effort to utilize the opportunity. The platitude that the time is not yet ripe for peace negotiations no longer satisfies. When will the time be ripe? We can see no reason for continuing the war one single hour until it has been positively demonstrated that Germany will not yield to an agreement which will insure a just and lasting peace, and this can only be discovered when envoys of all belligerents have gathered to discuss the issues.”
- New York Evening Call, 3 December 1917.
Hourwich Tells Of Bolshevik Revolt
“Peace, peace, we want peace,” cried 3,000 people at New Star Casino, 107th street and Park avenue, last night when Dr. Isaac Hourwich, speaking on the Russian revolution, said:
“We were told it was a bloodless revolution started by the liberals. It was started by the workers marching through Petrograd crying for bread, as the women of this city marched to the city hall last year, but the Russian workers also cried for peace.”
The meeting was held under the direction of the Friends of Russian Freedom to support the Bolsheviki peace terms. Mary Ware Dennett, formerly National Secretary of the Women’s Bureau of the National Democratic Committee, acted as chairman.
Dr. Isaac Hourwich was the first speaker. He explained the internal situation in Russia, the meaning of the names of the different parties, and described the growth of the Bolsheviki since the revolution.
“The Constituent Assembly of the Milyukov party met and formulated plans for conquest, they wanted territory, they wanted Constantinople, but the Russian people did not want Constantinople or any other nation’s territory and so they were forced to resign.
“Then came Kerensky, and the peace without annexations or indemnities. Kerensky thought that in order to secure peace he must start an offensive, so he ordered the soldiers to go west, but they went east. In their ignorance they did not want to fight.
“The people were promised an early peace, but eight months passed and no peace came. So the Bolsheviki leapt into power and within three weeks plans for an armistice and a general peace were already formulated.”
He predicted that the Bolsheviki would remain in power till the Constituent Assembly meets in a few weeks, and that the new government of Russia would be a Socialist government.
Miss Vida Milholland, who was introduced as one of the women fighters for democracy in this country, sang the song Russian Freedom, a song inspired by the revolution, the audience rising while she sang. Wild encores recalled her when she finished, and when she sang for the second time, the audience, catching the spirit she put into the song, sang with her…
“To me,” said Art Young of the Masses, “it seems that the lesson of the Russian revolution is that you can’t kill an idea by either prosecution or persecution. The Tsar thought by banishing scholars and thinkers and censoring the press that he could put an end to the spirit of liberty…
“What are we thinking of?” asked Rebecca Shelly. “What do we want? We want peace!” Here the audience again rose to its feet and awoke the echoes with cries for peace. When the applause died down she continued.
“When do we want it and how? We want it now, and by the Bolsheviki plan, for the Bolsheviki plan means that the people rule supreme.”
A resolution endorsing the Bolsheviki peace terms, and calling on the government to support the demand for an immediate armistice on all battle fronts, was passed unanimously and a delegation will present it to congress.
- New York Call, 5 December 1917.
The Red Dawn by Harrison George
The first pamphlet published in America explaining and supporting the October Revolution was Harrison George’s The Red Dawn: The Bolsheviki and the IWW. It was written early in December 1917 and published in Chicago that same month by the IWW Publishing Bureau. George was in prison awaiting trial along with other IWW members when he decided to write about the background of the Bolshevik Revolution. He obtained much of his information from a fellow Wobbly and prisoner, Leo Laukki, who had participated in the Russian revolutionary movement before leaving for the United States. He ended his pamphlet with an appeal to American workers to join the IWW if they wanted to show their support for the Bolsheviks. Later George wrote regularly for the Communist and Socialist press. The following is the introductory section of George’s pamphlet.
Today, locked behind several sets of steel bars in one of those dungeons Capitalism has prepared for workers who challenge its rule, the writer watches the play of social forces in the greatest of crises ever yet facing this stage of civilization. Someone has said that the people of any given period do not grasp the significance of events transpiring under their eyes; that events are only historically understood as they move into the past and afford perspective. It may be that my interested isolation, my severance from active participation in the great drama affords such perspective. But, be that as it may, the writer feels constrained to point out what, in his opinion, is the lesson to the workers contained in recent and current history—what means that inspiring light that penetrates even the prison windows and floods my cell with the glory of the Red Dawn?
For, out of the bloody mist that rises off the quagmires of mangled men that have fought each other like wild beasts and have ended by mixing their blood and bones in Death’s Democracy, there marches, upright and unafraid, rebellious Labor, and the hope of the ages, the Industrial State, approaches realization as at this hour the fighting proletariat of Russia, the herald of a new world, presses its victory to completion and binds and consolidates its 175,000,000 people into a cohesive unit of Industrial Democracy.
And if it can be, as if it is possible, that by outer intrigue and inner treachery, the brave workers of Russia now under the Bolsheviki, valiantly fighting these dark forces are betrayed, beaten and go down heroically in seas of blood as did Ennus, Spartacus and the Communards, yet the world of Labor will have profited and—success or failure—their brave attempt, their magnificent spirit and bold deeds will live forever and their story shall be told “in lands remote and accents yet unknown.”
…To clarify the Russian situation in the minds of the workers of other lands is a duty. To explain to those who read the lies of the capitalist press and who believe that the Bolsheviki rule is a mushroom growth to be lightly swept aside by shooting Lenin and Trotsky who are pictured as the long-haired stage anarchist and “East Side vendor of collar buttons” is a service to the working-class.
- The Red Dawn: The Bolsheviki and the IWW, 1-4.
Lenin, Master Statesman
So little was known about Lenin in the United States after the revolution that his name was most often incorrectly spelled in the American press. The article below attempted to dispel the notion that Lenin seized leadership of the Russian revolution by sheer accident, and traced his long career in the revolutionary movement. Although it appeared originally in Truth, a British publication, it was widely reprinted in the United States.
At last the world witnesses the ascendancy of a real statesman —Nicolai Ilyich Ulyanov, known to the world as Nicolai Lenin, premier of the world’s first industrial democracy—mighty Russia!
A meteor across the political sky as Lenin appears to the uninformed, this doughty champion of real democracy has long been known in the Socialist movement as orator, organizer, author and Maximalist economist.
As early as 1897, Lenin, then a resident of St. Petersburg, was at the very front of the Socialist movement, being honored by the exploiters with the appellation “dangerous nihilist.” The appearance of a radical article in a Russian journal, treating boldly of the economic development of Russia, served as an excuse for the Tsar’s agents to arrest its author, and he was sent on a long and bitter journey to Siberia... Despite the hardships of prison camp, Lenin wrote his scholarly work on The Development of Capitalism in Russia.
After four years of suffering, the astute Lenin managed to outwit his keepers and escaped from Siberia, making his way to western Europe, where he remained in exile, part of the time in France and some of the time in Switzerland. In the latter republic Lenin gained fame as one of the editors of the Iskra [Spark] central organ of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor party. In 1912, a split took place in the party, Lenin resigning from the editorial staff of the paper... Lenin was strongly opposed to any compromise tactics, or dallying with governmental officials. He was openly and above board in opposition to the government and against any and all who were willing to support the government. He was not a ’patriot,’ judging him from ruling class standards. He despised the Russian autocracy.
Heading a radical group known as “Porashenzi” who were anti-patriots, hoping for the defeat of the ’little Father’s’ army in the great conflict. Only after such a defeat, he declared, could the democratization of Russia be effected. It was in this sense only that Lenin could be called pro-German. He was pro-anything that would lead to the overthrow of the Russian autocracy. Now that the insane Tsar and his soothsayers are relegated to the farm, Lenin is a patriot to the limit, as well as an internationalist, ready to fight for the world as the workers’ country and defend their homes from capitalist aggressions.
In 1905, when the first revolutionary outbreak occurred, bringing with it some measure of freedom and amnesty to political exiles, Lenin promptly returned to St. Petersburg, and was made editor of the Socialist daily, the New Life. Later came the reaction, and Lenin was obliged to flee the country.
Lenin is well known to European Socialists as a member of the International Socialist Bureau, and as a permanent delegate to the International Socialist congresses.
Among his published works is an excellent Russian translation of Webb’s The History of Trade Unionism.
From the foregoing brief sketch, it may be seen that the premier of free Russia is no upstart demagogue or politician, but a tried and true soldier in the fight for world-wide industrial Democracy.
- Truth, 12 December 1917.
Call On The U.S. To Recognize Bolsheviks
The Friends of the Russian Revolution changed its name to the Friends of New Russia and sponsored a mass meeting in Carnegie Hall to ask for recognition of the Soviet government. Despite the efforts of the Police marshal to intimidate the people gathered at the meeting, they refused to be swerved from expressing their opinion that the United States should recognize the Bolshevik government.
Marshal Thomas D. McCarthy was present ... at a mass meeting of the Friends of New Russia, held in Carnegie Hall, at which it was resolved to ask the government of the United States to recognize the Bolshevik government of Russia, and to back up their attempt at an armistice and general peace.
The speakers of the evening were Rebecca Shelly, Dr. A. Goldwater, chairman; Joseph D. Cannon, organizer for the International Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers’ union; Ludwig Lore, associate editor of the Volkszeitung, and Patrick Quinlan.
The marshal did not interfere with the meeting in any way, but his own particular form caused a thrill as he marched down the aisle during the proceedings and took a seat in the front row. It is not known if he became converted as a result of the arguments he heard advanced, but when Vida Milholland sang the new Russian national hymn and the audience arose, the marshal retained his seat. After a while he must have become bored, because he left before the meeting was over.
“We are going to ask the government to recognize the Bolshevik government as the authentic spokesman of the Russian people,” Rebecca Shelly declared to applause in explaining the purpose of the meeting, “and ask that the government back up the Bolsheviki in their demand for an immediate armistice and general peace.”
Ludwig Lore referred to Kerensky as “the Russian Scheidemann.” Narrating the events which led to Kerensky’s fall, he said that the Russian people had been driven to the conclusion that the only way to get peace “is to force peace.” The mention of Lenin and Trotsky was wildly cheered by the audience.
“Revolutionary Socialists in Germany are very active,” he said, and he declared that that radical group, in common with the Socialists of the world, will force peace eventually.
Joseph D. Cannon declared that the world will never go back to antebellum conditions. “No nation can withdraw from the war,” he continued, “but we can devise ways and means by which it may be brought to an end.” He declared that “the hope of an early peace” lies in the familiar Russian formula of no annexations, etc.
“I won’t quote the Declaration of Independence,” he said, “they’re throwing men into jail in Philadelphia for that.” He read the audience a portion of the President’s last war message, in which it was said that if the purposes of the allies in the war had been made clear, the sympathy and aid of the Russian people would not have been lost.
“President Wilson conceded that if we had taken the position in the earlier part of the war in favor of Russia’s terms, Russia might not have been lost to us. Why don’t we take that stand now and win Russia back?”
He declared that Congress should be made publicly to resolve that the United States wanted no territory either for herself or for her allies. Such a stand would unite the German Socialists on our side, Cannon said, and the result would be that “the German people would stand with the Bolsheviki of Russia and the radicals of the world.” He made a plea for Ireland at the peace conference, declaring that she must be included with the other small nations which are entitled to choose their own government.
Resolutions were passed favoring the recognition of the Bolsheviki and the support of their peace aims by the government A resolution was also passed which will be sent to Russia and given to the people there through Maxim Gorky’s paper, in which it was said that “we pledge our cooperation with your efforts to defeat all imperialist aims and to secure a people’s peace which will abolish the cause of international war.”
Patrick Quinlan introduced a resolution from the Irish Progressive League favoring the granting of a place to Ireland at the peace conference. All the resolutions were passed unanimously.
- New York Evening Call, 22 December 1917.
Seattle Labor Council Sends Greetings To Workers Of Russia
The Russia transport Shilka, sailed into Elliot Bay, Seattle, around Christmas of 1917, carrying a cargo of liquorice root, peas and beans. Rumors were widespread that it also carried gold and munitions to aid in starting a Bolshevik revolution in the United States. “All of us are Bolsheviki,” the committee of the crew told a group of representatives from the Seattle Central Labor Council. Through the aid of a Russian interpreter, the Central Labor Council learned of conditions in what the Seattle Union Record called “the world’s newest and most advanced democracy” (2 February 1918). When the Shilka left harbor on January 8 1918, it carried a letter from the Central Labor Council to the workers of Russia.
To the Workers of All Russia, Who Are Sincerely Endeavouring to Establish Democracy, In Care of the Crew of the Russian Steamship Shilka.
Brothers and Sisters: The Central Labor Council of Seattle, representing upwards of 40,000 organized workers of this city, an integral part of the American Federation of Labor, whose membership is composed of 2,000,000 men and women, welcomes the opportunity presented by the visit of the Russian steamship Shilka to this port to send you our fraternal greetings and express to you our sincere hope for the success of your efforts to make of Russia a free republic conditioned upon both political and industrial democracy.
Having no direct means of communication with you, and compelled to rely upon other sources for our information, including perverted news through a capitalist controlled press, and consequently misled as to Russian internal conditions, we make no effort nor have we any desire to address ourselves exclusively to any one faction, but we extend to all factions of workers alike our hearty good will, firm in the belief that in the end (which we trust is not far off) the rule of the workers will be absolute, and the affairs of your great country, the first of any in modern history, placed to remain in the hands of the only necessary and responsible class in society—the working-class.
Again expressing to you our profound sympathy with you in your efforts to establish true democracy and pledging you our hearty support in hastening that end, we are, yours fraternally.
- Central Labor Council of Seattle, A. E. Miller, G.M. Welty, Leon Glasser, Committee; James A. Duncan, Secretary, 2 January 1918. Seattle Union Record, 2 February 1918.
10. Tacoma IWW Greets Revolutionists
During their stay in the United States, the crew of the Shilka visited the halls of the IWW in Seattle and Tacoma. When the ship left it also carried a message from the IWW local of Tacoma.
To the Revolutionary Movement of All Russia, and Especially the Crew of the Transport Shilka, Now in the American Port of Tacoma, Washington:
Fellow Workers: We, the members of the Tacoma Branch of the IWW, wish to extend to you our heartiest greetings and best wishes, and wish to compliment all the revolutionists who took part in the successful crushing of the autocrats of your part of the world. But we wish above all to commend you for your wonderful example in building the New Society and raising the Proletariat to its rightful place as rulers of its own destiny, in which we recognize you as co-workers with the Industrial Workers of the World in our attempt to establish the worldwide Indus trial Commonwealth and the great idea of the Brotherhood of Man, to the end that the human race may be able to continue to progress higher and greater, unhampered by parasites of any kind.
You no doubt realize that we, the revolutionists of America being still in the minority, are unable as yet to follow your example in freeing ourselves from the terrible slave system in which we are enthralled, but confidently look forward to the time when we can reach across the Pacific Ocean and grasp the hands of our Progressive Fellow Workers in Russia and say WE ARE WITH YOU!
The prosecution of the members of the Industrial Workers of the World becomes more severe each day, and our organization grows accordingly. We have nothing but great hopes for the future Freedom of ALL MANKIND. LONG LIVE THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION!
Yours for the Freedom of the Workers,
- A. R. Tucker, W. H. Harrington, K. McClennon, Committee, 5 January 1918. Industrial Worker, Seattle, 12 January 1918.
11. NY Socialists Greet Revolution
Here, another greeting to the revolutionaries from The Socialist Party of New York.
The convention of the Socialist party of Greater New York extends its heartiest greetings to the Russian Revolution and its de facto Socialist government, who so valiantly uphold the principles of international Socialism and are therefore the living refutation of the capitalistic hope that revolutionary working-class solidarity is dead.
We are highly gratified over the fact that the first Socialist government ever established has brought about the beginning of peace negotiations and was instrumental in forcing the imperialistic world powers and their capitalistic governments to pay homage, in words if not in deeds, to the Socialist peace formula of: no annexations, no punitive indemnities and the self-determination of nationalities.
The convention takes great pride in the courageous and consistently international attitude that the revolutionary government of Russia has taken in the peace negotiations with the central powers and expresses its special satisfaction over the decided refusal to sanction annexation in any form.
- New York Evening Call, 7 January 1918.
12. Boston Socialists Greet Revolution
Another greeting to the revolutionaries, here from The Workmen's Council in Boston.
The members and friends of the Socialist Party and of the Workmen’s Council of Greater Boston, assembled in mass meeting this 13th day of January, hail the Russian revolution as the greatest achievement for humanity in this century. We send greetings of working-class fellowship and solidarity to the revolutionary government of Russia and endorse the struggle of Russian revolutionists against the imperialists of all countries. We greet the Russian Revolution as the dawn of a new era for the workers of the world. The heroic struggle of our Russian comrades against the lying press of the imperialists of other nations, their success in thwarting the counter-revolution of the reactionaries and their service in publishing the secret treaties of the capitalist governments with the old Tsarism are additional proofs of their proletarian statesmanship in this hour of world travail.
We commemorate the martyrs and the heroic dead of our class who fell victims of the hated regime of the Romanovs. We member with reverence the grim lines of revolutionists that walked their weary way in exile to frozen Siberia; the comrades who rotted away in the vile dungeons of the autocracy, and the brave fighters who went to the scaffold with songs on their lips.
We also send heartfelt greetings to the revolutionaries in all countries who have gone to prison, some to their death, in the glorious struggle against the imperialists and international exploiters. We send special greetings to Karl Liebknecht and the increasing numbers associated with him in the struggle against Prussian domination of Europe. Their fight is an inspiration to the workers of all nations who oppose the rise of autocracy at home.
We further welcome with joy the increasing signs of the decay of capitalism in all advanced countries and the increasing power of the working-class. The peace of the world will not be dictated by the professional diplomats and imperialists, but by the workers through the international that grows stronger every day. The old order of capitalism is passing, and the commonwealth of useful labor will yet be established on its ruins.
- New York Evening Call, 15 January 1918.
13. Banker Praises Bolshevik Leaders
Upon his return from Russia, Colonel William Boyce Thompson was interviewed by Charles W. Wood. The report Thompson gave of conditions in Russia differed sharply from that found in most commercial newspapers.
“Russia is not anarchistic. Russia is not lawless. The despised Bolsheviki are not and never have been pro-German, and the attitude of the American press in failing to understand them has tended to aid the Kaiser’s cause. The fact is that Russia has been under the leadership for several months of the most radical socialist group, but this fact is neither unnatural nor a thing to provoke despair. It simply means that Russia is pointing the way toward a new order of society throughout the world, a larger freedom, a more complete equality and what I believe to be a purer democracy than the world has ever known before. The Russian people have made tremendous sacrifices for this ideal, but they have been happy in their suffering and would not exchange their new found freedom for the conditions that obtain anywhere else on earth.”
It was not a socialist who spoke. It was a Wall Street millionaire, a banker, a captain of industry, a 'mining king,' Col William Boyce Thompson, who had just returned from a six months’ trip to Russia as one of the heads of the American Red Cross mission. Unlike most Americans of wealth, he had made it a point while there to get acquainted with the Russian people, not merely with that 10 per cent who have made up the so-called respectable element. When he spoke of Russia, he spoke of the 90 per cent. They were the happy ones, that 90 per cent of no-accounts who are most decisively counting now.
“And the real pro-German element in Russia,” said Col. Thompson, “is not found among the mass of workers and peasants who were supposed to be conspiring for a separate peace. It is found among the very respectable capitalists and landlords, who have been the loudest in their cries that Lenin and Trotsky were German spies. The price of real estate jumped in Petrograd when Riga was captured by the Germans…
“I must say for the Bolsheviki that they have maintained a most surprising degree of order in Russia. The impression must prevail here that they sprang like a mob upon Petrograd, terrorizing the order-loving people, looted the homes and indulged in a general melee of riot and bloodshed. As a matter of fact, the change of government was announced officially in every section of Petrograd. The city was divided into regional head-quarters and every person in Petrograd knew the headquarters of the region in which he lived. Instructions were issued in case assistance were needed to send word to these headquarters. An appeal always, within a few minutes brought a motor car filled with soldiers to the spot. Looting was absolutely prohibited and during the first month of the November revolution, I can say from my personal observations, there was better order than at any other time during my four months’ stay.
“This is the situation which in the American has so generally been called ‘anarchy’. There has been the greatest opportunity for the reigning of the anarchy in Russia that has ever existed since men began to wear boots, and yet, considering the temptations to lawlessness and to indulgence in license rather than liberty, the order and good behavior which prevailed are astounding. At no time since the Tsar was overthrown has there been anything for a single moment comparable to the excesses of the French Revolution.
“Yet the Russian Revolution must be looked upon as an equally great transition. Consider the wrongs that had been endured from time immemorial, the complete negation of liberty and human rights. A workingman in Russia was considered no better than a dog. In many respects he was treated worse. Then suddenly these 180,000,000 downtrodden human beings found themselves in possession of absolute liberty, and there were 10,000,000 of them under arms. In the face of this situation the intelligent classes were talking of placing a grand duke on the throne, or in some way preserving a measure of the old regime. But, notwithstanding this additional incentive to violent revenge, Russia was practically free of massacres of the upper-classes. This is all the more wonderful when we remember that the country had just passed through three years of brutalizing rule...
“I sincerely believe that Russia is pointing the way to general peace, just as she is pointing the way to great and sweeping world changes. It is not in Russia alone that the old order is passing. There is a lot of the old order in America and that is going, too. We may just as well open our eyes to it—all of us. The time has come everywhere when affairs must be handled for the benefit of the many—never again for the comparatively few, and what I call legislation by proxy must cease.
“I’m glad it is so. When I sat and watched those democratic conclaves in Russia, I felt that I would welcome a similar scene in the United States. Some cultured professor or some great captain of industry now in Congress might be answered by some locomotive fireman in hobnail boots; and often hobnails would have a shade the better of the oratory. I’d like to see a lot of workingmen in the United States Senate; not merely attorneys for workingmen, but men whose rough hands or rough and ready ways show that they are actually doing the world’s work. Then I’d like to see real employers side by side with them instead of their paid attorneys. I believe we’d all come to a better understanding then.”
Colonel Thompson blamed natural conservatism, not German propaganda, for our misunderstanding of Russia. But he insisted that this misunderstanding had been giving aid and comfort to the Kaiser.
“President Wilson,” he said jubilantly, “has shown that he appreciates the full situation. His message to Congress is one upon which the common people of all nations can come to a common understanding. It should be received by the world of Germany with the same enthusiasm that it was received in Petrograd; and it is not beyond my expectations that it may prove a death blow to German imperialism.”
- San Francisco Examiner, 19 January 1918.
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.
20. Red Guard Gets 500 Recruits
An article published by the New York Call about members of the American Red Guards' plans to go to Russia in support of the newly founded Socialist state.
As soon as permission is forthcoming from Washington, an American Red Guard is expected to leave for revolutionary Russia, to help preserve the first Socialist revolution in the world.
Word is anxiously awaited today from President Wilson by about 500 “guards for the revolution” who have enlisted thus far, and by radicals of all shades throughout the city who, it is believed, will rally to the call to arms on revolutionary soil.
The organization of this army began last night at a most enthusiastic meeting held in Parkview Palace, 110th street and fifth avenue, under the direction of the Socialist Propaganda League.
More than 3,000 Socialists packed the hall to the doors, and an equal number held an overflow meeting outside. Both meetings pledged “moral, spiritual and physical” support to the cause of the Russian revolution against German autocracy.
In answer to the call for volunteers at the close of the meeting, the Socialists surged toward the platform in cheering mass. At the call for funds there came a shower of bills, women throwing jewelry on the stage—rings, pins and earrings. The enthusiasm reached its height when a baby’s ring was picked up from the platform. A handkerchief with a roll of bills was then thrown on the stage from the gallery, followed by a voice that said “all I keep is my subway ticket to get home.” One worker pledged his wages from the moment of his enlistment to the time of going abroad with the American Red Guard.
The following telegram was sent to President Wilson, asking his permission to recruit a Red Guard for service including a cable to be sent to Russia:
“Two thousand workers and Socialists, in mass meetings assembled, request that you allow recruiting of an American Red Guard of men not subject to service under selective draft act, for military service in Russia against German imperialism. We also request that you allow transmission of the following cable to Council of People’s Commissaries, Smolny Institute, Petrograd:
“Two thousand Socialists and workers in mass meeting assembled, send fraternal greetings and encouragement to revolutionary workers and peasants in heroic struggle against German imperialism. We have approved recruiting of an American Red Guard for active service in Russia. Long live the revolution!’”
The meeting was called to discuss the advisability of enlisting an American Red Guard for active military service in Russia, and was addressed by Louis C. Fraina, who presided; Arturo Giovannitti, Andre Tridon, Henry Jager, Gregory Weinstein of the Novy mir, the Russian Socialist daily in the this city and A.Schwarzenfeld.
Tridon told the audience that a man who spoke to President Wilson two weeks ago told him that the President said he would be willing to recognize the Bolsheviki, but “I must be forced to do so by public opinion.” Cheers, with cries of ‘‘we are public opinion,” greeted this announcement.
All of the speakers insisted that what Russia suffers the workers of the world will suffer, but it remained for Giovannitti, the last speaker, to sound the keynote of the meeting by declaring that “a state of war now exists between the German empire and the proletariat of the world.”
The speakers were unanimous in declaring that the Socialists and radicals in Germany, if they do not refuse to fight against the revolutionary workers and peasants of Russia, whose cause is their cause, should be branded as “outlaws” and “traitors” to the international Socialist movement.
Fraina, in a stirring address, declared that this demonstration is a tribute to solidarity of the workers for international brotherhood and a rebuke to the charges of “cowardice” and “traitor- ism” heaped upon the very men who are now offering their lives for their principle.
The American Red Guard and the thousands of sympathizers with it called upon the workers of Germany “to refuse to fight against the revolutionary workers and peasants of Russia, whose cause is their cause, and to sweep aside the infamous, imperialistic ‘socialism’ of Scheidemann and all the social patriots, and to rally around the standard of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg for the social revolution.”
About 500 enlisted in the guard, and many others added their names after the meeting. The rings, it was said, will be auctioned off at a meeting in Madison Square Garden shortly.
- New York Evening Call, 1 March 1918.
21. Congressman London Scores Japan’s Plan to Invade Siberia
Reports that the Japanese, with approval from its allies, were planning to seize Vladivostok and invade Siberia, reached the US in early March 1918, and produced protests across many cities. Meyer London, Socialist congressman from New York, introduced a resolution in The American Congress asking that Russia be left alone and that all intervention cease. Although London was critical of the Bolsheviks for trying to achieve a social revolution “overnight,” he pleaded for recognition of the Soviet government by the United States: “Why should we recognize the Tsar and then refuse to recognize a workingmen’s government, mistaken though it may be in many ways.” (New York Call, March 4, 1918.) Congressman London’s resolution was endorsed by many Socialist branches in New York City. Shortly afterwards, on 9 April 1918, the Japanese landed two companies of marines in Vladivostok.
Washington, March 5.—Saying that the invasion of Russian territory by Japanese troops would be just as criminal as the invasion of Belgium by the Germans, Socialist Congressman Meyer London of the 12th Congressional district of New York, which takes in a large part of the East Side, introduced a resolution calling upon Congress to use its influence with the foreign friendly powers to stop the sending of troops into Siberia.
The congressman in his resolution asks that Russia be left alone to work out its own destinies. The resolution reads:
“Whereas an insidious effort is being made by various unclean interests to suggest to the Japanese government that it take possession of Russian territory in the Orient; and, “whereas such a step would be looked upon, not only by the people of agonized Russia, but by all liberal and liberty-loving elements throughout the world as an invasion of the rights of the Russian people; and, "whereas the Russian people who have suffered the horrors of a long war under an inefficient and autocratic form of government, must, by all the principles of right conduct among nations, be left unmolested to work out their own destiny; therefore be it resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that the Congress solemnly protest against any attempt to interfere with the management by the Russian people of their own affairs; and be it further resolved, that the Congress further protests against all attempts to encourage any foreign power to take possession of Russian territory, whereas such an invasion would be on a par with the infamous attacks on Belgium and Serbia and the supposed peace inflicted upon the Russian people by brutal physical force."
- New York Evening Call, 5 March 1918.
22. Pennsylvania Socialists Greet Soviet
Reading, Pa., March 5.—The state convention of the Socialist party of Pennsylvania cabled the Russian Soviet at Petrograd and the International Socialist Bureau, the Hague. The message read: "The Socialist party of Pennsylvania sends fraternal greetings to the Russian Republic. Your achievement is our inspiration. Long live the workers’ government and the international. Birch Wilson. Secretary.”
The cablegram to the International Socialist Bureau read:
"The Socialist party of Pennsylvania asks you to convey this message to working-classes of Germany and Austria. We beg you to vigorously oppose your rulers’ efforts to crush the Russian revolution. The German invasion of Russia is a blow against labor and democracy in all lands. Join hands with the workers of Russia for a separate peace and international solidarity."
- New York Call, 6 March 1918.
23. NY Socialists Protest Invasion
To Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States:
The executive committee of the Socialist party of New York views with alarm the threatened invasion of Russian territory by autocratic Japan, considering it as an attempt to destroy the achievements of the Russian Revolution and to subjugate a free people. The counter-revolutionary character of the Japanese invasion can only be compared with the military campaign against free Russia of Imperial Germany—both aiming to accomplish the same end. We endorse the resolution of Congressman Meyer London, and join him in the demand that the United States government protest against the imperialistic and reactionary designs of the Japanese government.
- Executive Committee, Socialist Party, New York County, Julius Gerber, Executive Secretary. New York Evening Call, 8 March 1918.
24. Japan's Invasion of Russia
An article by the paper Advance about the Japanese invasion of Russian territory
Reports come now that Japan is at last going to take an active part in the great world war outside of annexing new territory and selling munitions. Japan is to send an army to invade—Germany? Austria? Turkey? Perish the thought. To invade - Siberia, Russia’s territory!...
The puzzle of Japan’s invasion of Siberia remains unsolved, except as it may be solved by the inference every intelligent person may draw for himself.
In this connection an article in the Wall Street Journal assumes special significance.
The article appeared in the issue of April 28, 1917, shortly after the emancipation of Russia from Tsardom. The article, entitled “The Russian Peril Still Faces Germany,” discusses the possibility of a separate peace between Russia and Germany. The Wall Street Journal is no yellow and sensational paper catering to the pennies of the great masses, but the organ of Big Business, as its title clearly shows, and whose special mission is to keep Big Business properly informed. Great weight must, therefore, be given to the following words in the above named article: “We understand from good sources that if the pledges of the Russian people to remain faithful to the war for democracy and freedom are broken, there is a power on the East of Russia ready to rise and transfer the war peril from the West side of Russia to the East.”
The article continues: “If Russia yields to Germany she will be quickly sliced up. The Teutons will take her Western part and the Allies, headed by the Japanese, will invade from the Pacific and carve Russia on the East as far as they desire.”
The article concludes with the following geographical prediction: “Instead of Russia from the Baltic and the North Sea to the Pacific and from the Arctic to Constantinople and the Bosporus, Great Russia will be a contracted territory, regulated on all sides by the Teutons, the Turks and the Japanese.”
Russia fought bravely against a separate peace with Germany and for a general and democratic peace. It was the Ukraine, playing into the hands of Germany and betraying Russia, who sought and made a separate peace. Forced by Ukraine’s treason, her own physical exhaustion, and the abandonment by the other powers, Russia, renewing her pledge of allegiance to the great cause of true people’s democracy, had no choice but to accept the terms of the ruthless conqueror. It was no separate peace that Russia made with Germany. The submission of an unarmed and hungry man—whose cries for help are a call in the wilderness, and whose sufferings and agonies are objects of mockery by those who should come to his rescue—to a powerful highway man holding a pistol at his temple, cannot be called a “separate peace” with the criminal. Brutal Germany had refused to grant helpless Russia even that “peace” which conquerors usually give to the vanquished. Surrender was not enough for Germany. She aimed at crushing Russia.
And now that Russia has signed Germany’s “scrap of paper,” her fate is still uncertain. The reason for it is clear. While Germany was anxiously seeking a separate peace with the Tsar’s Russia she is in deathly fear of peace, separate or general, with democratic Russia, leaving the Revolution intact. Her commander has openly declared that Russia’s “sickness” (revolution) if not “cured” (crushed) will infect other countries. Germany is more interested in defeating the revolution than in winning the war. With the war won, and the Russian Revolution alive and active, the fruits of the victory will be lost to the rulers. The Teutonic peoples would follow the example of their great Slavic neighbor and send the Hohenzollerns and the Hapsburgs to join the Romanovs. But with the Russian Revolution defeated, the rule of the autocrats receives a new lease of life. That is the meaning of the present German onslaught on Russia, which, though “peace” has been signed, may not yet be considered at an end.
In view of all the circumstances, we can draw but one conclusion from Japan’s military expedition into Russia: to assist Germany in assassinating the Russian Revolution.
- Advance, official organ of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, 8 March 1918.
25. Wilson Asked For Russian Relief Ship
Support for the Bolshevik revolution also took the form of mobilizing relief for the Russian people. The appeal to President Wilson presented below was rejected, and the Administration refused to permit a Russian relief ship to leave the United States.
Louise Bryant, talking on the Russian situation before a meeting of the 3d, 5th and 18th Assembly district branches of the Socialist party, brought home the suffering which revolutionary Russia is enduring in such a direct and forcible manner that a committee of Bolshevik relief was immediately formed for the purpose of sending food and clothing to Russia.
It was decided that a telegram be sent to President Wilson, asking that a ship be set aside for this purpose and it is the intention of the committee to raise a fund to provide the cargo for such a ship.
The committee has its headquarters at 43 West 29th street. Here is an opportunity for the Socialists of America to demonstrate that they are with the people of Russia, with them not only in wordy sympathy but in an eminently practical fashion.
The following telegram was sent to President Wilson at the termination of the meeting:
“At a meeting of New York Socialists, addressed by an eye witness of the Russian situation, a committee of Bolshevik relief was created and instructed to request that you set aside a ship for the purpose of carrying supplies of food and clothing to the Bolsheviks.
“An organization is being formed for the purpose of raising the necessary funds. May we count on the cooperation of the administration to carry out the plan?”
Louis P. Lochner, chairman, F. C. Nixon, secretary.
- New York Call, 21 March 1918.
26. Won’t Let Red Guard Sail for Russia
A second Soviet peace delegation, this time without Leon Trotsky, met with Germany at Brest-Litovsk in March 1918. The Germans now demanded control of the Ukraine, Finland, Poland, the Caucasus and great indemnities of Russian gold, wheat, oil, coal and minerals. This meant that one third of Russia's crop land, over half of her industrial strength, and 62,000,000 people would pass into German hands. Lenin informed Bruce Lockhart, British agent in Russia, that the newly founded Soviet government was ready to resist the Germans if the Allies would render it the necessary aid. He warned Lockhart, however, that the Bolsheviks would “not be made a cat’s paw for the Allies.” Lenin sent a note through Colonel Raymond Robins, Assistant Chief of the American Red Cross Mission, to the U.S. government asking if the Soviet government could rely on the support of the United States, Great Britain and France in its struggle against Germany.
These inquiries brought no response from either the United States or Great Britain. On March 24, 1918, the All-Russian Soviet Congress ratified the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty. The Congress declared: “Under present conditions, the Soviet Goverment eminent of the Russian Republic, being left to its own forces, is unable to withstand the armed onrush of German imperialism, and is compelled for the sake of saving revolutionary Russia, to accept the conditions put before it." Despite the news of the signing and ratification of the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty, Socialists who were organized in the American Red Guard were still anxious to leave for Russia, believing that it was only a temporary peace and that war would soon break out again between Germany and Russia. (For evidence that Robins’ dispatch containing Lenin’s note never reached Washington until the crisis was over, see George E. Rennan, Russia and the West: Under Lenin and Stalin, Boston, 1960, 56-57.)
The war department has refused permission for the organization of an American Red Guard for service in Russia in defense of the revolution. In a letter to the chairman of the Red Guard meeting Henry Jarney, Brigadier-General and Acting Assistant Chief-of-Staff, says:
"It is not the policy of the United States to encourage or permit the formation of distinctive brigades, regiments, battalions or other organizations composed exclusively or primarily of the members of any race, creed or political group. This policy will be adhered to whether the proposed unit is intended for service within the American army or with the armies of our allies.
"The natural ambition of American Socialists to assist in the cause of crushing German militarism is most praiseworthy. It can find adequate outlet through enlistment, in the regular army, by all men over the draft age who are otherwise eligible. Non-naturalized Socialists of draft age, who are regularly registered and called, can gain the same end by waiving their claims to exemption.”
Commenting upon this answer, Louis C. Fraina, the chairman of the meeting, said yesterday:
"The answer to our request would be adequate, were it not for the fact that Socialists of revolutionary convictions are willing to fight only in the army of a Socialist republic. It may be pointed out that a Jewish battalion has been organized here for service in Palestine, and a Polish legion for service in France, apparently with the sanction of the government. Why not an American Red Guard for Russia? The Soviets, while accepting a temporary peace as a truce, are actively preparing for a revolutionary war. Imperialistic Germany and Socialist Russia cannot exist together in peace and the Bolsheviki are aware of this fact. Either Germany or Russia will break the peace. America has offered its aid in the event of war. This aid can be given in three ways—full and complete recognition of the Soviets as the only actual and legitimate government of Russia; the active and steady shipment of supplies for the new army now being organized, and allowing the formation and transportation of American Red Guards to Russia.”
- New York Call, 27 March 1918.
27. The Soul of The Russian Revolution
Eugene V. Debs, the leading American socialist and frequent socialist presidential candidate, wrote “The Soul of the Russian Revolution” especially for The Call magazine.
The world stands amazed, astounded, awe-inspired, in the presence of Russia’s stupendous historic achievement.
The Russian Revolution is without precedent or parallel in history. Monumental in its glory, it stands alone. Behold its sublime majesty, catch its holy spirit and join in its thrilling inspiring appeal to the oppressed of every land to rise in their might, shake off their fetters and proclaim their freedom to the world!
Russia! Russia! Thy very name thrills in our veins, throbs in our hearts and surges in our souls! Thou art, indeed, the land of miracles, and thy humble peasants and toilers stand forth the world’s triumphant liberators!
Russia, domain of darkness, impenetrable, transformed in a flash into a land of living light!
Russia, the goddess of freedom incarnate, issuing her defiant challenge to the despotisms of all the world!
Think of the Ages Russia groaned in the agony of her travail, the deluge of blood and tears poured out in the long night of peace and love upon the world.
The heart of Russia in this hour of her glorious resurrection is the heart of humanity disenthralled; the soul of her people, the real people, the only people—glows with altruistic fervor, throbs with international solidarity and appeals with infinite compassion to the spirit of worldwide brotherhood.
Not a trace of national selfishness has stained Russia's revolutionary regeneration. The Bolsheviki demanded nothing for themselves they did not demand in the same resolute spirit for the proletariat of all the world, and if history records the failure of their cause it will be to the eternal shame of those for whom these heroes offered up their lives and who suffered them to perish for the lack of sympathy and support.
But the revolution will not, cannot, fail. It may not completely fulfill itself without reaction, but the mighty change that has been wrought is here to stay, and because of it every throne is tottering, every bourgeois sees the handwriting, and the old order throughout the world is being shaken to its foundations.
All the forces of the world's reaction, all its dynasties and despotisms, all its kingdoms and principalities, all its ruling, exploiting classes and their politicians, priests, professors and parasites of every breed—all these are pitted openly or covertly against the Russian Revolution and conspiring together for the overthrow of the victorious Russian proletariat and the destruction of the new-born democracy.
But, whatever may be the fate of the revolution, its flaming soul is immortal and will flood the world with light and liberty and love.
- New York Call, 21 April 1918.
28. Greetings to Russian Artists
In April 1918, the National Institute of Arts and Letters, composed of American authors, artists and composers, sent their greetings to fellow artists in Russia.
We rejoice with you in the success of the recent revolution by which, once for all, a death-blow has been given to Russian autocracy by this courage, this devotedness and the wise moderation of the leaders of the people, ensuring to your great country the blessings of representative government.
We congratulate you on this result, the more particularly because, like you, we are not merely practitioners of our several arts but citizens of the great world of idealism, which through the long and desperate contest for a free Russia, you have so nobly represented by your loyalty to the spirit of liberty.
With you we honor the names of those great writers and other artists no longer living who have contributed so largely to the result by their vision and their courage, and whose fame will forever be a cherished possession, not only of Russia, but of America and of all the rest of civilized mankind.
America welcomes your country to the family of the world's democracies. With one master stroke the leaders of the Russian people have made the greatest reinforcement of half a century to the cause of popular government. Your own contributions to this in sacrifice and wisdom are fortunate omens for the future of your country, and reassures us that only by the vigilance of the people can their rights be safeguarded against the intrigues of a reigning caste long entrenched in power and secrecy. We look forward to the time when your example in throwing off the yoke of tyranny shall inspire other nations with a like resolve.
At this moment, when America is enlisted with Russia and her intrepid allies in combating the last effort of autocracy to maintain its foothold against the tide of democratic aspiration, we extend to you the open hand of fellowship and pledge to you in the cause of human freedom and brotherhood, our sympathy, our faith and our utmost and unremitting cooperation.
- The Art World, May 1918.
29. Conference Endorses Soviets
The following report is important in illustrating support for the Bolshevik revolution by labour, radical and socialist groups. The resolution protesting armed intervention in Siberia by the United States is significant in revealing that although it was not until 16 August 1918 that the first American detachments landed in Siberia, reactionary forces were already at work in early May to destroy the revolution. Wilson was under great pressure from Britain and France to support the Japanese invasion of Siberia and to send in an American force. Although he resisted this pressure for several months, Wilson did eventually consent to send American troops.
The three-day conference of labor, radical and Socialist groups adjourned last night after having passed resolutions endorsing “the revolutionary spirit of the labor and reconstruction program of the Russian Soviets and the British Labour party. The 216 delegates present represented 29 states, 16 trade unions, 20 locals of the People’s Council, 17 Socialist Party branches and central or local organizations of the Socialist Consumers’ League, the Young People’s Socialist League, the Fabian Society, the Women’s Peace party, the National Civil Liberties Bureau (represented by its entire executive board), the American Union Against Militarism, the Collegiate Anti-Militarist League, the League of Small Nations, the American Liberties Defense Union, the Workmen’s Circle, the James Connolly Socialist Club, the League for Democratic Control, the Professional League and the New Thought Society.
The text of the resolutions on the work of Russian Soviets and the British Labour party is as follows:
“The second conference of labor, Socialist and radical movements declares that we are in full accord with the revolutionary spirit of the labor and reconstruction program of the Russian Soviets and the British Labour party. This conference feels it incumbent upon American labor to adopt a plan embodying the same revolutionary spirit in a form adapted to American conditions...”
The resolution protesting against intervention in Siberia, as presented by Mrs. Rose Pastor Stokes, and which was unanimously adopted, read:
“Whereas, daily efforts are being made by reactionary forces in the United States in favor of armed intervention in Siberia by the United States, and whereas in Finland and Ukraine and in other parts of Russia it has been shown that the Bolshevik forces are the only organized opposition in Russia to German imperialism; and whereas, the forces which have cooperated with German militarism to crush the revolutionary democracy of Russia appear to be the same forces which are working for Siberian intervention, therefore, be it resolved, that this assembly emphatically condemns such policy of armed intervention in Siberia.”
- New York Evening Call, 6 May 1918.
30. A Dream No Longer
Abraham Cahan, editor of the Jewish Daily Forward, the most widely read Yiddish language newspaper in the United States, had been among the few socialists who had refused to endorse the party’s otherwise enthusiastic support of the Bolshevik revolution. But when Cahan learned that the Bolshevik government was erecting a statue of Karl Marx in Moscow, he urged that every socialist critic of the Bolsheviks, “should forget his former feelings and become inspired with affection and enthusiasm for them." Cahan’s “affection and enthusiasm’’ lasted until 1922 when he began to feature anti-Soviet articles.
Some days have passed since we published the special telegram from our Petrograd correspondent, telling us, among other things, that the Bolshevik government had erected a monument to Karl Marx in Moscow. Some days have passed and that statement won’t leave my mind.
Whatever I say, whatever I do, the picture is continually thrusting itself upon my imagination: a statue of Karl Marx in the very heart of the Kremlin, in the very heart of that section of Moscow 'sacred' to the palaces and temples of the Tsars.
A statue of Karl Marx in the Kremlin! A monument to the father of the Socialist movement in the “holy of holies” of Russian darkness and Russian despotism! It sounds incredible, but it is true nevertheless. It is a gorgeous piece of historical reality.
Those who are not familiar with Russia and her history will scarcely realize to the full what it means. The Kremlin was the most important, the most inviolable, the most awe-inspiring spot in the Russia of the Tsars. There it was where the despotic rulers were crowned ever since Moscow became Moscow. Every inch of the ground in the Kremlin was sacred ground. The remains of the old Tsars lie there. The throne of the Tsars stands there. The oldest and greatest churches and the most gigantic church bells are there. And now behold—a statue of Karl Marx stands there.
What has been one of our golden dreams has become an inspiring actuality.
It seems to me that in view of that glorious monument to Marx which now stands in the Kremlin the most bitter opponent of the Bolsheviki among our comrades should forget his former feelings and become inspired with affection and enthusiasm for them.
The First of May festival was combined in Moscow with the celebration of Karl Marx’s hundredth birthday. It was the Socialist government of Russia that celebrated the two events. A national holiday was made of it. Workingmen marched through the streets, and with them the ministers and all other officials now residing in Moscow.
Ah; what a joy it would have been for us comrades of New York to participate in that pageant!
Truly, it reads like a story of the coming of the Messiah.
How, then, can one bear the Bolsheviki a grudge? How can one experience anything like a hostile feeling against them?
We have criticized them; some of their utterances often irritate us; but who can help rejoicing in the triumph? Who can help going into ecstasy over the Socialist spirit which they have enthroned in the country, which they now rule.
The antagonists of the Bolsheviki are continually endeavoring to show that it will be impossible for them to retain their power. The present writer has remarked on more occasions than one that there is nothing in the program and aspirations of the Bolsheviki; that nothing, in fact, is impossible these days. And now, as one visualizes that monument to Karl Marx, as it rears its venerable head in the Kremlin, one’s heart swells with an ardent wish, with a prayer, that their victory should prove to be a lasting victory and that the exalted figure of Marx should forever remain standing in the Kremlin.
Try to picture the Bolsheviki driven from power and the monument to Karl Marx dashed to the ground—can a real Socialist afford to wish for such a day?
Our cherished dream has come true.
If 15 years ago, some one had depicted Tsar Nicholas as an inmate of a Siberian prison, while a Socialist government is erecting a monument to Karl Marx, he would have been set down for a madman, yet this is exactly what has taken place; and with this vision for a hard tangible fact, the hope of seeing Socialism established all over the world is no longer a piece of remote idealism but something on the threshold of realization.
When the Bolsheviki had brought about their revolution, the present writer was one of those who criticized them adversely. He acclaimed as well as criticized them, in fact. But since then there have been so many changes; so many great events have taken place. We are living at a time so eventful that a single day is often more pregnant with epoch-making occurrences than is a quarter of a century in ordinary times. Circumstances are altering cases so rapidly that what was white yesterday may be black today and what is black today may become white in 24 hours. Where is the sense then in assailing the Bolsheviki with the same arguments which were advanced against them seven months ago? Indeed, such arguments sound like the words of an old calendar.
At the end of seven months we see the Bolsheviki not weaker as has been predicted, but much stronger than they were, stronger in their grip upon the country and stronger as a moral force. Many of their sworn enemies, even among capitalists, have since been fascinated by them. How, then, are we Socialists to tell?
Is it not about time for all of us to cast off our former bitterness and venom? Is it not about time to clear our hearts of all factional pique, fix our mind’s eye upon the monument to Karl Marx as it stands in Moscow and wish our victorious comrades in Russia further success and happiness?
- Jewish Daily Forward, 17 May 1918. (An English translation was published in the New York Evening Call, 30 May 1918.)
31. A New Page in History
... I am safe in saying that for the historian of the future, the revolution in Russia will be of greater importance than the entire war. The war will pass some day; it cannot last forever. Conditions in the world will be readjusted. But the fact that one of the greatest countries in the world has broken away from the old capitalistic moorings, has once and for all turned a new page in history, a page of the domination, of the control, of the rule of the people, instead of ruler, the fact that this country has broken all past traditions, all past prejudices, the fact that it has created a living idea for the workers of all countries to follow— that cannot pass without the most vital effect upon the whole world.
- Morris Hillquit, Address to Convention, Report and Proceedings, Fourteenth Convention of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, Boston, Mass., 20 May to 1 June 1918, 142.
32. ACW and ILGWU support revolution
While the top officials of the American Federation of Labor, led by President Samuel Gompers, opposed the Bolshevik revolution, important trade unions hailed the Soviet government and rushed to its defense. Taking the lead in this activity were the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, many of whose members were socialists.
"The sentiment among our people is all one way,” declared Joseph Schlossberg, general secretary of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers. “They are opposed to any interference in Russia’s internal affairs and believe intervention in Siberia or Russia I would spell disaster.
“They are heartily in favor of recognition of the Soviet republic on the part of our government. The interest in Russian affairs among our members is intense. Many of them have been citizens of Russia in the past, and they are familiar with conditions there and know what the revolution means to the great mass of the Russian people.”
Other officers of the Amalgamated, in referring to the enthusiasm for recognition among the membership, cited a resolution for recognition that was passed at the recent convention of the union amidst tremendous enthusiasm. The great demonstration in favor of this resolution on the part of the delegates made it plain that it reflected the sentiment of the 100,000 workers in the organization.
The resolution reads:
“Whereas the Russian people have emancipated themselves from the tyranny of Tsardom and established a free people’s republic, be it resolved, That we hail with joy free Russia and send to her our most fraternal greetings. We realize the tremendous difficulties that are now in the way of the Russian people in the working out of order and national prosperity. Those difficulties are but natural for a great nation just freed from autocracy, freed at a time when the world is in such a state of universal upheaval as the present. We do not wish to enter into a consideration of the merits of the several parties in Russia, but we rejoice in the fact that the Russian nation is free, and are confident that it will successfully work out its own salvation. It is our fervent hope that our own country and all other civilized nations will come to the assistance of free Russia by recognizing the Russian people’s Soviet government, and giving the Russian people all aid in working out their own destinies.”
It was pointed out today that the recent International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union convention also reflected this enthusiasm for the Russian revolution and the formation of a workers’ republic in Russia. An official report unanimously passed at the convention hailed the revolution as “a great event which has had a vital and far-reaching effect upon the fate of human civilization and the progress of the labor movement.” In summing up the progress of the revolution from a bourgeois overturn, “a program of substituting one Romanov for another,” to a real workers’ republic, the report greeted the present regime in Russia as “the first truly democratic Socialist republic.” The report concluded:
“The members of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union will follow the struggles of their brothers in Russia with immense interest and sympathy, not only because many are linked to them by ties of kinship and sentiments, but also because the fate of the first great working-class republic in the world cannot but be a matter of prime concern to organized and progressive workers of all countries.”
- New York Evening Call, 6 June 1918. (The text of the resolution adopted by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers appears in the union’s Documentary History, 1916-1918, 259, and that of the resolution adopted by the ILGWU in Report and Proceedings, Fourteenth Convention of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, Boston, Mass., 20 May to 1 June 1918, 42-43.)
33. The Soviet
The Messenger, a socialist Negro monthly edited by A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen and described as “the only Radical Negro magazine in the world” consistently defended the Bolshevik revolution. The following editorials are typical of its position.
The Soviet is, doubtless, the most hated, the most loved and most misunderstood political institution in the world today. The Russian people love it; the capitalists of all countries hate it. Most people don’t understand it because the channels through which they get their information are controlled by its enemies, the capitalists.
The Soviet government resembles the elements in our American democracy which are the most stable and strong. The Soviet organization rests upon local self-governing bodies, like the famous New England town meetings. These local self-governing bodies are comprised of the peasants and working men of local communities. These local bodies send delegates to the All Russian Assembly of Soviet Delegates, which must meet every three months, sometimes more frequently. This All Russian Assembly of Soviet Delegates, in turn, elects a central executive committee of about 250 members. This executive committee is the legislative body of the Russian people.
This central committee elects what are called “Commissioners of the People,” who are similar to cabinet officers in England, France and Italy and the President and Cabinet officers in the United States. These “Commissioners of the People” are always responsible to the legislative body which has chosen them.
Where, then, is the ground for the cry of disorder and anarchy in Russia? Nothing can be more orderly or more stable in a democracy than this!
Here the representatives of the Russian people are both selected and elected by them. Whereas in all capitalists’ countries the representatives are selected by the capitalists and elected by the people.
Of course, the capitalists maintain that anarchy exists in Russia, because the discarded and discredited Romanovs and their ilk no longer rob, exploit, pillage and plunder 180 millions of Russian peasants.
The ruling class in Germany, England, France and America are in a state of consternation and despair, lest the clock of democracy be striking the high noon of the reign of the ruling class in their countries, too.
Order! Who calls for order in Russia? “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” By order, do we mean a state in which life, property, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are safe? If so, have we order in America, where over 280 Negroes have been lynched since the war began; where free speech, free press and free assemblage no longer exist; where 1,200 IWW miners were torn from their families in Bisbee, Arizona, packed in cattle cars, and deported away into an hapless desert by capitalist thugs and gunmen; where men are being imprisoned because they dare to quote the Declaration of Independence or a passage from the New Freedom by President Woodrow Wilson; where the Supreme Court, by a decision of 5 to 4, declared the child labor law unconstitutional? Can England make a motion in “the Parliament of the world” for order, who has held her heel of oppression upon the neck of Ireland for over 800 years, and whose hand is red and reeking with blood of India and other underdeveloped peoples?
After the revolution of 1789, France was chaotic for years and changed governments constantly and rapidly, swinging from a republic to a monarchy.
Germany only became an organized nation in 1871. The North German Confederacy welded with the sword, the recalcitant duchies, monarchies and principalities into a stable affair. And yet the “Zabern affair” is a fact of common knowledge to every student of world politics.
As for the Negro, neither property, life, liberty nor the pursuit of happiness, which by the way, is only possible by the possession of the former, is secure in the Southern section of these United States.
The Messenger denies the right to every capitalist hypocrite in Christendom to speak to the motion of order on the Soviet of Russia. Long Live the Soviet!
- The Messenger, May-June 1918.
34 Bolshevism and World Democracy
Bolshevism is the Banquo’s ghost to the Macbeth capitalists of the world, whether they inhabit Germany, England, America or Japan. It is a foreword of a true world democracy. The Soviets represent the needs and aims of the masses.
Bolshevism has already defied the imperialist vultures to lay their cards of secret diplomacy on the table of justice before the high court of world opinion. It has led the world in making a concrete application of the principle of self-determination of smaller nationalities.
A sound and just economic, political and social program of reconstruction is gradually being adopted.
Bolshevism is not yet one year old in Russia. Russia is still at war with a great nation, and is virtually without help from her former allies. One hundred and eighty-seven millions of people have been delivered from the autocracy of the Tsar—a people 85 percent of whom are illiterate.
Bolshevism has given these people a new hope, a new promise, anew ideal—economic and political freedom!
Will Bolshevism succeed? The tories of England and America asked same question about the American people after the revolution of 1776. The Bourbons of France doubted the power of the French people to exist without the rule of the aristocracy— after the revolution of 1789. Governments are living organisms which have structure and function and are governed by the laws of growth. Hence, the Russian people must be helped, not hindered; they are still young.
- The Messenger, May-June 1918.
35. New Body Demands Justice for Russia
Announcement is made of the formation of the Russian Soviet Recognition League, an organization formed of individuals and societies interested in securing justice for Russia and aiding in the rehabilitation of that country under the Soviets.
The League will work for the recognition of the Soviet govern ment. It holds that recognition by the United States would speedily result in the establishment of a working understanding between America and the Soviet republic and be the most effective way of combating German penetration in Russia...
Alexander Trachtenberg, editor of the American Labor Year Book, has been chosen temporary chairman... “The idea of the League grew up almost spontaneously," declared Trachtenberg today. “A great demand has arisen, particularly among the Amer icans of Russian blood, and those of Slavic descent generally that an organization be formed to present the case for the Soviets counteract counter-revolutionary propaganda which serves only the interests of Germany, and show the logical reasons for recognition. Virtually all Russian factions in this country, except the reactionaries and Germanophiles, are now united on realizing the need for recognition.”
The League was formed as the result of a number of conferences in which members of various Russian groups in this city took part. Conferences were also held with officers of some of the Russian commissions, now in this country, who were sent here at the beginning of the Kerensky regime. Most of these Russians have refused to follow “Ambassador” Bakhmetev in his counter revolutionary activities, are firmly opposed to the idea of allied intervention in Russia’s internal affairs, and are entirely sympathetic to the idea of recognition of the Soviet government as the only power supported by the Russian people today.
Many well-known Americans interested in the welfare of Russia are interested in the formation of the League. A list of names will be published later.
The big drive engineered by Russian counter-revolutionists and other reactionary forces here to attempt to involve the United States in schemes for intervention in Siberia and the recognition of a “Siberian Republic” to be declared by the Cossack Colonel [Gregori] Semyonev and his handful of yellow battalions, roused Russian sympathizers here to the necessity of forming an organization to present the case of the Russian people. The intervention schemes apparently have collapsed and the friends of democracy in Russia are convinced that the time is ripe to press the case for the recognition of the Soviet Republic.
36. League For Recognition Of Soviets
No impartial student of the Russian conditions can deny the following facts:
The Russian Soviets have the support of the vast majority people. This support is not passive only, as has been asserted by those favoring an allied intervention. The Russian peasants, who constitute an overwhelming majority of the Russian people, are fully conscious of the fact that any force that could overthrow the Soviets would at once proceed to deprive them of the lands which they have expropriated during the revolution. For this reason they are ardently supporting the Soviets. Whether we like it or not, the fact remains that the peasants are bent upon keeping the nationalized land they have Expropriation is an accomplished fact, and the readjustment of the financial disruption caused by the invalidation of land investments must be done on some other basis than the return to the “status quo ante" in Russia.
The Russian Soviet Government earnestly and with apparent success is establishing order and stabilized conditions in Russia.
If assured that the Allies, for the time being at least, will not try at any cost to unmake the social revolution in Russia, the Soviet Government obviously is willing and anxious to enter into friendly relations with the Allies and willing to readjust its foreign relations and its policy in general, in as far as it can be done without destroying the fundamental principle of the Russian revolution, in harmony without the most vital interests of the Allies.
The Soviet Government is wide awake to the necessity of forcible resistance to the German penetration into Russia. However skeptically many persons may seem to regard the efforts of Trotsky to raise a revolutionary army against Germany, the fact remains that such an army is being raised. If the effort is encouraged by sincere support on the part of the Allies, Russia will become a formidable factor in the struggle against German imperialism- even granting that the re-entrance of Russia in the war will take place only in the interest of the revolution.
A great part of the Russian middle class and intellectuals realize that the Soviet Government has come to stay. They are re-entering the service of the Government in ever increasing numbers. The same thing is taking place among Russians in the United States who have been opposed to the Soviets. Only a small number of irreconcilables, mostly those financially affected by the expropriation of land, or their agents, have not yet resigned to their fate, and would be willing to risk hundreds of Allied and Russian lives, as well as the whole future of democracy, if only that they could get back their former possessions.
No close observer of the Russian conditions can deny these facts. They are supported by testimony of most of the Americans who have recently returned from Russia. The Russian and the Scandinavian press bear strong witness to our contentions.
Yet the American press seems to publish reports, which eliminate all bright sides of the Russian situation and do not stop at misrepresentations in order to paint a picture of complete chaos in Russia.
Every friend of Russia, every person interested in justice and truth, everyone who desires the downfall of German imperialism and understands the great role which Russia may play in this, should be interested in bringing the true facts about Russia to the American public. Until the present time sinister interests have flooded the American press with distortions and lies. A bogus “Russian Information Bureau,” run under the auspices of “Ambassador” Bakhmetev in the interests of counter-revolution has been instrumental in spreading this campaign.
The Russian Soviet Recognition League has been organized to conduct meetings, to furnish the press with true reports about the doings of the Soviet Government of Russia, and to urge official recognition of the Soviet Government.
We invite you, members of the Amalgamated, if you are interested in our undertaking and are willing to do your share toward bringing about a better understanding with Russia, to support us in our work, morally and materially. We need your cooperation in every way.
- Advance, 11 June 1918.
37. “Recognize Soviets!” 15,000 Cry
Although the secret plans for Allied intervention in Russia did not come out into the open until August 1918, friends of Soviet Russia worked hard to stave off the planned intervention through mass protest meetings.
"Recognize the Soviet Government of Russia.”
These were the two demands cheered and urged by 15,000 Russian and American Bolshevist sympathizers in Madison Square Garden. The demands were voiced in diverse languages, but all languages are alike when it comes to the words "proletariat" and "revolution." ...
Promptly at 8 o'clock Alexander Trachtenberg, who was exiled from Russia by the Tsar for his part in the revolution of 1905-06, opened the meeting, and after a short address introduced Norman Thomas, who was warmly received. The first big moment in the meeting was reached when Thomas, after reviewing the Russian situation, declared:
“There is only one thing this government can do—recognize the Soviets."
The audience rose as one man, cheering and waving flags, hats and handkerchiefs..."Recognize the Soviets! Recognize the Soveits!" they cried, and that was the keynote of the meeting. Every subsequent speaker made it the “burden of his song,” and even now the cry has reached Washington, and tomorrow it will be heard in every capital in the world. ... So fervid were the appeals and demands made by the speakers and echoed by the cheering mass, that the resolutions urging the recognition of the Soviet government in Russia and the blocking of intervention read by Alexander Trachtenberg, chairman, were almost drowned in a roar of unanimous approval. . . .
The resolutions follow:
"Whereas, the federated republic of Russia and its government of the workers and peasants' Soviets is the only organ of actual governmental authority in Russia in accordance with the will of the millions of Russian toiling masses, and resolutely supported by them;
"Whereas this republic, the guardian and the hope of the loftiest ideals of the toiling masses, is in grave danger of destruction at the hands of German junkers in the West and Japanese and other interventionists in the East;
"Whereas plans of invasion in Siberia, originated with and nursed by reactionary tendencies all over the world, and by representatives of former privileged classes of Russia, can bring nothing but internal confusion in Russia;
“Whereas such an intervention will, by its very logic, lead to further annexations of Russian territory on the part of the German oppressors;
"Whereas intervention will undoubtedly evoke bitter resistance on the part of the Russian people and thus hamper the work of reconstruction and rehabilitation energetically carried on by the Soviet government;
“Whereas intervention would create a gulf of hatred and bitterness between the Russian people and the United States;
“Whereas an invasion would hamper the organized resistance to German militarism, which is being successfully planned and organized by the Soviet government; be it
"Resolved, that we, 15,000 men and women, Americans, Russians, Finns, Lithuanians, Letts, Ukranians, Poles and Esthonians, in a meeting assembled in Madison Square garden in New York urge the government of the United States to recognize the government of the Russian Soviets as the government reflecting the will and the ideals of the Russian people; be it further
“Resolved, that we most emphatically protest against the treacherous campaign in the interest of armed intervention in Russian affairs carried on in the United States by various imperialistic elements of several deposed Tsaristic regimes, and other discredited reactionary elements of Russia. This campaign only plays in the hands of German imperialism, and is supported by enemies of democracy, justice and freedom.”
- New York Evening Call, 12 June 1918.
38. Recognize Russia
John Reed’s defense of the Soviet signing of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty came at a time when even radicals and liberals in the United States were upset with Russia’s capitulation, believing that the defeat of Germany was a revolutionary duty. Reed fully supported Lenin’s decision to sign the harsh treaty, explained why it was necessary, and urged recognition of the Soviet government by the Allies as the best way to defeat Germany.
The capitalist press of the Allied countries is loud in its indignation against the so-called "Russian betrayal” at Brest-Litovsk.
At the same time, however, it is full of excuses for the peace treaty signed by Rumania with the Central Powers on 5 March 1918; and even justifies the action of the bourgeoisie of Finland and Ukraine in calling upon German troops to fight their own countrymen.
Yet the Russo-German peace treaty was as much a matter of military necessity as the Rumanian treaty. The Russian army was demoralized and exhausted; Russian economic life had broken down. For all this the Bolsheviki are not to blame. Have we forgotten how the Government of the Tsar deliberately disorganized the economic machinery of the country, allowed the transportation system to go to smash, and deprived the army not only of arms but even of food—in order to force a separate peace with the Germans? The newspapers were full of these things at the time.
Then came the Provisional Government, which was an unworkable compromise between the Socialists and the party of the bourgeoisie. This regime was unable, at first, to accomplish any reorganization of the national life. Even the breadlines instituted under the Imperial Government were never done away with. The soldiers themselves, if they could have received proper support from the country, would have remained in the trenches to defend the country; it was their voice and the voice of the Russian masses which had proclaimed, “No annexation, no indemnities, and the right of self-determination of peoples,” and they would have defended those terms. But under the pressure of the Allied Governments, an offensive was commenced in Galicia, and in that act the majority of the Russian troops refused to participate.
After this the bourgeois wing of the government bent all its efforts to the destruction of the revolution, continuing the process begun by the Tsar, and even conniving, it is generally believed, at the fall of Riga, in order to strengthen discipline in the ranks of the Army. Under their systematic campaign to starve the workers by closing the factories, to break down the Soviets by wrecking the transportation and supply system, and to crush the soldiers’ committees by diverting food and arms from the front, Russia was brought into a complete disintegration. The saving of Russia was the Bolshevik revolution. If that had not happened, the German army would now be garrisoning Moscow and Petrograd.
At Brest the Russians were not supported by the Allies, and for that reason were forced to accept the German terms. Not only that, but they, are wholly abandoned now, and by the pressure of Japan in Siberia, greatly weakened in the heroic struggle they are carrying on against the armed might of the Central Powers.
For the Russian Soviet Government is at war with Germany— has been at war with Germany since last summer. It stands to reason that this is so. The Soviet ruling powers are Socialists, and as such, enemies of capitalism, and most of all, enemies of the German Imperial system, the arch-exponent of militant capitalism. They have been fighting Germany with the strongest weapon in the world—propaganda—the only weapon against which the sword is ultimately powerless. This propaganda, not only among the German troops, but also in the interior of the country, is remarkably successful. Austria is ready to crack open because of it, and during the Brest-Litovsk negotiations the entire eastern front of the German troops was permeated with it to such an extent that the invading force into Russia had to be made up largely of volunteers from the western front. As for the war-prisoners in Russia, they are deeply infected by Bolshevism, and many thousands of them are enrolled in the ranks of the Russian Red Army against their own peoples.
The Red Army is rapidly being organized—as Lenin says, “not for defense of nationalistic interests, or Allied aims ... but to defend the world’s Socialism.” It is a compact little well-drilled force, composed of volunteers, not from the old Russian army, but from the untouched reserves of young revolutionary workers and peasants.
According to figures in possession of the United States Government, there are at present more than eight hundred and fifty thousand German and Austrian troops now engaged in pacifying Ukraine—a country not half as revolutionary as Great Russia, and without any Red Army. The latest moves of German diplomacy indicate that the Imperial Government is not at all anxious to attempt the military invasion of Soviet Russia.
But just as the Soviet Government considers the German Imperial Government its worst enemy, so Germany well knows that Soviet Russia on her flank is mortal to her military autocracy. By every means, by commercial and financial pressure, by capturing the food-supplying countries of the South, Germany is attempting to destroy the Soviets. At the time of the advance into Russia, Prince Leopold of Bavaria, in an army order, said, “our aim is not annexation...but the restoration of order and suppression of anarchy threatening to infect Europe.” And if this "restoration of order and suppression of anarchy” can be accomplished by Japanese intervention, so much the better for Germany. For Germany fears not military force; she fears not a Japanese army in Siberia, nor a bourgeois republic in Russia— whose power of propaganda among German troops would be as limited as that of the French Republic. Soviet propaganda, incredibly contagious, is the only thing that Germany fears. Allied recognition of the value of Soviet propaganda would be a blow at Germany.
At the present moment, however, most of the Allied Governments seem to be acting on their theory that it is more important to defeat the Russian Soviets than to defeat Germany. In the Brooklyn Eagle the American Consul at Helsingfors, Mr. Hayes, is quoted as praising the Germans for having restored order in Finland...And the movement for Japanese intervention in Siberia is actuated as much by the motive of restoring “law and order” in Russia, as by the rather farfetched excuse of combating “German influence.”
The Soviet Government of Russia is there to stay; it is based on the almost universal will of the Russian masses. At the present moment it is being attacked on one side by the Germans, and on the other side by all sorts of bourgeois and reactionary movements based on the Japanese in Siberia. The threat of active, serious Japanese intervention, besides, hangs over it like a stormcloud. When Central Russia was famine-stricken in the past, food could be got either in Ukraine or in Siberia. Now the Germans have the Ukraine, and counter-revolutionary hordes are over-running Siberia. Russia is being starved from both sides. Its ability to make war on Germany is crippled by this and by the possible necessity of making war upon Japan.
Recognition of the Soviet Government by the Allies will immediately put an end to the menace of counter-revolution in Siberia, and strengthen immeasurably the Soviet power against Germany.
Make no mistake, however. Soviet Russia will not re-enter the war as an ally of the Allies; it will defend itself against the capitalist world. But Germany is the nearest, worst, and most active capitalist menace. The time has come for the Allied governments to decide whether their hatred is greater for German militarism or Russian Bolshevism.
- The Liberator, July 1918.
39. NY State SP Endorses Soviets
The following resolution was passed by the convention of the Socialist Party of New York State.
The Russian Revolution since last November has assumed the form of a Soviet government, the natural and inevitable form in Russia, which expresses the will and aspirations of the masses of the people. In spite of counter-revolutionary plots, the hostility of all foreign governments and the general economic disorganization inherited from the old regime and accentuated by the war, the Soviet government has lasted for nearly eight months and progressed in the colossal task of social and economic reconstruction.
We greet with joy and confidence the Russian Soviet Socialist Federated Republic, the first Socialist republic in the world.
We denounce the treacherous attitude of the German and Austrian majority Socialists, who did not tear from the hands of their imperialist masters the brutal treaty of Brest-Litovsk, imposed on the Russian workers and peasants by military force. We call upon the workers throughout the world to insist that the people of Ukraine, Finland and the Russian border provinces, now under the heel of junkerdom, must receive freedom and self-determination.
We denounce equally all attempts on the part of any government to invade Russia by force and overthrow the government of the Russian people. We denounce the counter-revolutionary plots being conducted by reactionary Russian emigres in every capital in the world, which are being supported and stimulated by predatory capitalist interests, greedy to loot Russia.
We protest against the continued isolation of Socialist Russia. 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, and to cooperate with and assist it and the Russian people disinterestedly, to the end that the democratic forces in the world may be strengthened and heartened, and autocracy, junkerism and imperialism be banished from the world forever.
We call upon our representative in Congress, Meyer London, to introduce a resolution in Congress urging the speedy recognition of the Soviet government by the government of the United States.
Resolved, that a copy of this resolution be sent to the President of the United States, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of the Senate, and Meyer London.
- New York Evening Call, 1 July 1918.
40. America’s Course in Russia’s Crisis
President Wilson is about to make the greatest decision of his whole career. He is about to place his hand on the pivot of the whole world’s future. He is about to enter Russia. Let us, therefore, get clearly into our heads the one prime fact about Russia. The fact is not Lenin. That fact is not the Bolsheviki. The prime fact about Russia is the Soviets.
Most of us in America do not believe in Lenin; most of us do not believe in the Bolsheviki. Very well. But it is absolutely necessary for us to believe in the Soviets. The strength of our belief in the Soviet is the strength of our chance of success in Russia.
The Soviet is the soul of Russia—and more. From each village in Russia we see delegations going to the provincial Soviet. From each provincial Soviet we see delegates going to the all-Russian congress of Soviets. Starting with being the dreaming soul of Russia, the Soviet has become its communicating nervous system and its deciding brain.
True, the Soviets are not completely democratic. They exclude the capitalists. This exclusion is wrong. But let us be practical. The capitalists of Russia are very few. They and all their friends and associates are not 5 per cent of the population. Even if they were admitted to the Soviets, they would be overwhelmingly outvoted. The Soviets, in action, would remain what they are. They are Russia....
Let us saturate ourselves with one prime fact. The Russian Republic is precisely what it says it is. It is a republic of Soviets, and in the mouth of every American the word Soviet must become a word of friendship, a word of comradeship, a word of great hope for a great, irresistible alliance against Berlin.
What the president must offer Russia to win Russia is a loyal America. We are that America. Let us be loyal.
- Editorial, Chicago Daily News, 2 July 1918.
41. On Behalf of Russia
In his “Open Letter to America", published in The New Republic and reprinted as a pamphlet, Arthur Ransome, correspondent in Soviet Russia for the London Daily News, described the true character of the February revolution, the nature of the Provisional Government and the Soviets, the Constituent Assembly, peace negotiations between Russia and Germany, and the Soviet government and the Allies. In his preface and conclusion, selections from which are published below, Ransome explained why he made this appeal to America.
Every day brings a ship,
Every ship brings a word;
Well for those who have no fear,
Looking seaward well assured
That the word the vessel brings
Is the word they wish to hear.
Emerson wrote the poem I have stolen for a headpiece for this letter, and Emerson wrote the best commentary on that poem: “If there is any period one would desire to be born in—is it not the age of Revolution; when the old and the new stand side by side, and admit of being compared; when the energies of all men are searched by fear and by hope; when the historic glories of the old can be compensated by the rich possibilities of the new era? This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” Revolution divides men by character far more sharply than they are divided by war. Those whom the Gods love take youth of their hearts and throw themselves gladly on that side, even if, clear sighted, they perceive that the fires of revolution will burn up perhaps the very things that, for themselves, they hold most dear. Those others, wise, circumspect, foolish with the folly of wisdom, refrain, and are burned up none the less. It is the same with nations, and I send this pamphlet to America because America supported the French Revolution when England condemned it, and because now also America seems to me to look toward Russia with better will to understand, with less suspicion, without the easy cynicism that prepares the disaster at which it is afterwards ready to smile.
Not that I think all this is due to some special virtue in America. I have no doubt it is due to geographical and economic conditions. America is further from this bloody cockpit of Europe, for one thing. For another, even rich Americans dependent for their full pockets on the continuance of the present capitalist system, can wholeheartedly admire the story of the Bolshevik adventure, and even wish for its success, without fearing any serious damage to the edifice in which they live. Or it may be, that, knowing so little about America, I let myself think too well of it. Perhaps there too men go about repeating easy lies, poisoning the wells of truth from simple lack of attention to the hygiene of the mind....
No one contends that the Bolsheviks are angels. I ask only that men shall look through the fog of libel that surrounds them and see that the ideal for which they are struggling, in the only way in which they can struggle, is among those lights which every man of young and honest heart sees before him somewhere on the road, and not among those other lights from which he resolutely turns away. These men who have made the Soviet government in Russia, if they must fail, will fail with clean shields and clean hearts, having striven for an ideal which will live beyond them. Even if they fail, they will nonetheless have written a page of history more daring than any other which I can remember in the story of the human race. They are writing it amid showers of mud from all the meaner spirits in their country, in yours and in my own. But, when the thing is over, and their enemies have triumphed, the mud will vanish like black magic at noon, and that page will be as white as the snows of Russia, and the writing on it as bright as the gold domes that I used to see glittering in the sun when I looked from my windows in Petrograd.
And when in after years men read that page they will judge your country and mine, your race and mine, by the help or hindrance they gave to the writing of it.
- The New Republic, 27 July 1918.
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.
46. “I Plead Guilty to The Charge”
On June 29, 1918, Eugene V. Debs was indicted for violating the Espionage Act during an anti-war speech he delivered in Canton, Ohio, on 16 June. In his speech to the jury, Debs defended the Bolshevik revolution. He was found guilty, sentenced to ten years in prison, and remained imprisoned from April 1919 to December 1921. In 1920, while still in prison, he received 901,000 votes for President of the United States, running on the Socialist ticket.
I have been accused of expressing sympathy for the Bolsheviks of Russia. I plead guilty to the charge. I have read a great deal about the Bolsheviks of Russia that is not true. I happen to know of my own knowledge that they have been grossly misrepresented by the press of this country. Who are these much-maligned revolutionists of Russia? For years they had been the victims of a brutal Tsar. They and their antecedents were sent to Siberia, lashed with a knout, if they even dreamed of freedom. At last the hour struck for a great change. The revolution came. The Tsar was overthrown and his infamous regime ended. What followed? The common people of Russia came into power, the peasants, the toilers, the soldiers, and they proceeded as best they could to establish a government of the people.
It may be that the much-despised Bolsheviks may fail at last, but let me say to you that they have written a chapter of glorious history. It will stand to their eternal credit. Their leaders are now denounced as criminals and outlaws. Let me remind you that there was a time when George Washington, who is now I revered as the father of his country, was denounced as a disloyalist, when Sam Adams, who is known to us as the father of the American Revolution, was condemned as an incendiary, and Patrick Henry, who delivered that inspired and inspiring oration that aroused the colonists, was condemned as a traitor.
They were misunderstood at the time. They stood true to themselves, and they won an immortality of gratitude and glory.
- New York Call, 12 September 1918.
47. Russian Policy
On 1 September 1918, General Graves arrived in Vladivostok to take over command of the American Expeditionary Force in Siberia which consisted of approximately 8,000 soldiers. Although General Graves tried to adhere to the policy of “non-interference with the internal affairs of Russia,” Americans did engage in battle with Red Army detachments.
There was one disappointing feature in President Wilson’s great speech—he told us nothing about his Russian policy. So far as the country as a whole is concerned, it is entirely in the dark as to what is going on. Only one thing is clear, and that is that The Nation was well within the truth a few weeks ago when we wrote that our war with Russia had begun. Thus we read of American troops occupying Shoushough, Tulgoisk, and Seltzo in the advance toward Kotlas, The dispatches have all the familiar phraseology. They tell, of course, of “enemy atrocities,” of “undoubtedly large enemy casualties,” of sinking “enemy gunboats,” etc., etc. Thus the “friendly intervention” takes on all the marks of ordinary hostilities. How can the plain Russian be expected to differentiate? May he not say to us, that is all very well to dissemble our love, but why do we kick him downstairs—to say nothing of our artillery and machine guns? Those who object to any criticism of our policy aver that if the critics only knew the facts they would write and speak differently. They may well be true. But if it is so why should we not be told the facts? The President is opposed to secret diplomacy; why should we be kept ignorance as to his reasons for proceeding into Russia? It does not help to give out documents of doubtful authenticity alleging that Trotsky and Lenin are in German pay; particularly as some of the European correspondents declare that, despite the atrocities committed by the Reds which our government has so eloquently portrayed, the Bolsheviki are stronger than ever.
- The Nation, 29 September 1918.
48. The Truth
The truth is that Russia is now in process of working out the most significant social experiment since the French Revolution. In the Soviet form of government she has made a unique contribution to the organization of the political state. But that is the smaller part of the story. Her great task is that she is striving to secure economic democracy as a basis for the development of mankind. If her revolutionary emphasis has been over much on economic changes we must remember how desperately the great masses of the dispossessed have suffered not only in body but in mind and soul at the hands of the owners of the earth. Surely that unique spiritual quality of Russia which found noble expression in Tolstoy and Dostoevsky is not dead, and on the basis of economic liberation, it will yet build a new and glorious structure of humanity.
- Norman Thomas, The World Tomorrow, September 1918.
49. Policing Russia
As we predicted, the war correspondents are now putting out feelers suggesting that, even if Germany withdraws from Russia, the allied forces will have to increase their forces there, in order to maintain “law and order.” It is even expressly stated that the withdrawal of the Teutons will be the signal for uprisings and unrest, which we must be ready to “police.”
Perhaps our armies should also “police” Belgium, because its people might want to arise and take the power when their oppressors are driven out. Strange that no one suggests it. Why is it only in Russia that the rule of the Teutons is considered a beneficent protection of the people against disorder?
Certainly Russia will revolt when the iron heel is withdrawn. Certainly her people will rise to power, even over the heads of those business men of hers who have incorporated in Germany in order to protect their property by international law from the demands of their workers. But why is it our job to handle this revolt—we who declare for self-determination of peoples?
- Seattle Union Record, 5 November 1918.
50. Greetings to Russian Comrades
Comrades of the Russian Soviet and the Bolshevik Republic: We salute and honor you on this first anniversary of your great revolutionary triumph, the greatest in point of historic significance and far-reaching influence in the annals of the race. You have set the star of hope for all the world in the eastern skies. You have suffered untold persecution, exile and misery and you have shed your blood freely all these years in the great struggle for emancipation, not only of your own oppressed people, but the oppressed of all the earth. On this historic anniversary we extend our proletarian hand to you from all directions and across the spaces and assure you of our loyalty and our love.
The chief glory of your revolutionary triumph is that you have preserved inviolate the fundamental principles of international Socialism and refused to compromise. It will be to your everlasting honor that you would rather have seen the Revolution perish and the Soviet with it than to prostitute either one by betraying the workers to alleged progressive reforms which would mean to them an extension of their servitude under a fresh aggregation of exploiters and parasites.
You, Russian Comrades of the Soviets and of the Bolsheviks you represent, are resolved that for once in history the working-class which fights the battles, sheds its blood and makes all other sacrifices to achieve a revolution, shall itself receive and enjoy the full fruitage of such a revolution; that it shall not allow itself to be used, as dumb driven cattle, to install some intermediate class into power and perpetuate its own slavery and degradation.
On this anniversary-day we pledge you, brave and unflinching comrades of the Soviet Republic, not only to protest against our government meddling with your affairs and interfering with your plans, but to summon to your aid all the progressive forces of our proletariat and render you freely all assistance in our power.
We pledge you, moreover, as we grasp your hands in comradely congratulations on this eventful day, to strive with all our energy to emulate your inspiring example by abolishing our imperialistic capitalism, driving our plutocratic exploiters and oppressors from power and establishing the working-class republic, the Commonwealth of Comrades.
- Eugene V. Debs, One Year of Revolution, a Socialist Party pamphlet, 7 November 1918.
51. The Bolshevik Birthday
One year ago, today a giant was bom. On 7 November 1917, the Soviet Republic was established in Russia.
Solomon said: “There is nothing new under the sun.” Solomon did not live to see an industrial democracy. The Soviet government is something really new under the sun. For the first time in the history of this poor old world the working people took the reins in their hands. The new Russian government is the first real democracy.
Around the giant’s cradle storms beat and tempests howled. Kerensky’s government had left everything in confusion. More than that, generations of Tsarism has impoverished and ruined Russia. Bolsheviki quickly got things into running order. The Kaiser thought he saw an opportunity to snatch a slice of Russian territory from the weak young government and crush the rising tide of Bolshevism. But the young government was not so weak as he thought. He has been obliged to withdraw his troops from Russia. The allied governments also sent troops to “help” Russia. They imagined that the Russians would seize the opportunity to throw off the hated Bolsheviki rule and flock to their standard. The Russians did not flock. Evidently they did not hate the Bolsheviki.
No, the Russian people love the Soviets. They are the Soviets. Here is a government of the people, by the people, for the people in actual fact. Here is a political and industrial democracy. How long the Soviet republic can survive against the opposition of a capitalist world nobody can guess. But the fact remains that it has lived one year in spite of the hatred of every other government in the world. That it has survived in fact in the face of all attacks proved it has satisfied its own people. It has fitted their immediate needs. It has maintained their interests, and they are with it.
Whatever may happen later on, an industrial democracy, under the most adverse circumstances, has survived for one whole year. That mighty fact alone is enough to terrify all the autocrats. That is the reason why 7 November is a great day in the list of our unhappy planet.
- Victor Berger, Milwaukee Leader, 7 November 1918.
52. Many Cheer Anniversary of Revolution
7 November 1918, the first anniversary of the Bolshevik triumph, was celebrated at a series of meetings, and in editorials and articles. These celebrations were heightened by startling events in Europe. Mass peace demonstrations swept Germany. German sailors mutinied at Kiel, killed their officers and hoisted the Red Flag. On 9 November, the Kaiser abdicated and the Social-Democrats took over the government. On 11 November, the armistice was signed, and fighting ceased. The First World War was over.
Thousands of clamoring New Yorkers were turned away from the doors at the chain of great mass meetings held in Manhattan, Bronx and Brooklyn to celebrate the first anniversary of the Russian Soviet republic.
To cheering crowds in Hunts Point Palace, Bronx; New Star Casino, Harlem; Brooklyn Labor Lyceum, Williamsburg, and Brownsville Labor Lyceum, Albert Rhys Williams, John Reed, Scott Nearing, Max Eastman, Santeri Nuorteva and others recounted the achievements of the Bolsheviki and urged the American workers to redouble their efforts for industrial freedom.
From the New Star Casino audience the following message was adopted to be forwarded by cable to the Russian government: “We, working men and women of New York City, in mass meetings assembled, send hearty greetings to the Russian Soviet republic. We congratulate our Russian Comrades on their wonderful achievements, and pledge our hearts and lives to follow their noble example and establish in our own country a free working-class.”
All the speakers affirmed that the revolution in Germany, of which the news had just reached the city, was directly the outcome of the pioneer working-class revolution of the Bolsheviki. Scott Nearing roused his hearers to the highest enthusiasm of evening when, after picturing the control which the industrial masters of America are to gain during the next few years under the domination of the Republican party, he said: “When the American working-class comes face to face with that condition, it will send to the citizens of the Russian republic the only message they care to hear from us, and that is that we have made the same answer to our tories that they have made to the tories of Russia.
“President Wilson has gone as far as he can with his program because of a system that is absolutely opposed to a working-class control. He will now be brushed aside. That is what the Republican victory means. It means a Republican president in 1920. It means that Weeks, Penrose, Lodge, Roosevelt and their kind will be in control. Lodge will be chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, possibly before the peace treaty is ready to be signed, and his committee will have power to accept or reject it. The Republican party will control the policy of reconstruction.
“That is exactly as it should be. The political structure of a nation should reflect its industrial organization. Under the domination of a set of despots, bourbons and tories, such as no other country possessed, our political structure will exactly reflect our industrial structure. We’ll have no more camouflage."
Nuorteva at the close of a brilliant speech outlining the influence of the revolutionary Russian Soviet government on the working-class of Bulgaria, Austria and Germany, said: “In that sign the world will be won. In that sign only will the world receive real peace and happiness.”
Nuorteva, referring to the widespread talk as to the foreign flags that would make their way to Berlin, said:
“The first flag of the real enemies of German imperialism to reach Berlin was the flag of the Russian Soviet government. Around that flag, flying at the Russian embassy, the forces of German revolutionists flocked. To that flag Karl Liebknecht came when he was let out of prison. There the plans were laid that led to what we are reading of today.”
John Reed, complaining that he had been attacked by a bourgeois neutral disease, the Spanish influenza, thrilled the crowds with reports of the first days of the triumph of the Bolsheviki and branded as lies the reports of massacres and disorders in Russia.
Ella Reeve Bloor was chairman of the New Star Casino meeting, and told of being in Budapest during a great working-class demonstration some years ago. Hearing hoarse cries, she asked the meaning and was told it was the workers demanding the votes. She said her informant could not believe her when she said that the American working-class had the vote, but used it to elect their economic masters to power.
Williams did not arrive at the Casino till nearly midnight.
Other speakers to address the audiences in the various halls were Louis C. Fraina, Benjamin Gitlow, N. I. Hourwich, Sen. Katayama, Ludwig Lore, A. Philip Randolph, A. I. Shiplacoff, Joseph A. Whitehorn and Gregory Weinstein.
- New York Call, 8 November 1918.
53. One Year of Red Russia
One year ago 7 November the Bolsheviki came into power in Russia. They gained their power by the votes of the people (not all the people, but according to competent observers, 90 per cent of the people voting through the Soviets). They have retained their power for a year in spite of minor armed revolts, in spite of German invasion, in spite of allied invasion.
They have given the people a government which has proved successful enough to make the workers vote for them again and again. For in Russia political representation is not something which happens once a year, or once in four years. The delegates to the governing body are constantly subject to recall, as informally as a union meeting often can recall its delegates to the Central Labor Council. And no news has yet come which points to the lessening of Bolshevik popularity among the workers.
On the contrary, after the allied forces had been in military possession of Vladivostok for a month, a municipal election in that city showed a big majority for the Bolsheviki over the moderate Socialists and the Cadets combined. In the face of a "government” in Archangel, approved by the allied forces, containing only one Socialist, the population gave a big majority to the Socialists.
The Bolsheviki have given Russia a government attractive enough to excite the desires of the workers in all the countries nearest to them. We see little nations of Austria breaking into a flame of Bolshevism which, in spite of our ignorant newspapers, is not anarchism, but a very rigid Marxian Socialism. We see even China called to account by the allies because she refused to put down governors “sympathetic to the Bolsheviki.”
The Bolsheviki have given Russia a government so stable that competent observers of all kinds say it never can be overthrown, except by foreign occupation and force of arms, a government so orderly that, even in the midst of a revolution, Professor Albert Ross traveled 20,000 miles in Russia and “never saw a blow struck,” but, “instead of agitation and tumult, found habit still the lord of life.”
The Bolsheviki have been accused of every crime under the sun. They have been accused primarily of selling out their people to the Germans. And yet report after report comes from Russia to the effect that it was the Tsar’s regime which betrayed 7,000,000 Russians to death in pre-arranged slaughter; that even now it is the business group, the capitalists of Russia, who hope and plot for a German invasion to introduce "law and order” with an iron hand; that peace was inevitable when the allies would give the starving Russians no help, although the Bolsheviki offered their strength to fight, if the allies would supply help and munitions.
The Soviet government of Russia, lied about and opposed, set out, even without help, to overthrow the autocracy of the central empires by the only weapon left them—propaganda. And how successful they have been in this the many revolutions in Austria, following one year after Lenin became premier, are the best evidence.
- Seattle Union Record, 12 November 1918.
54. The First and Second Revolutions
The important thing to remember about Russia is that there have been two revolutions there since March 1917, and that these two revolutions are absolutely different in character, and are fighting for control.
The first revolution was a revolution against the Tsar. The Tsar and his blood stained government was overthrown. A new government was established—a republican government, a bourgeois republic, in which the capitalists and the employers of labor governed instead of the nobility.
The government was changed but that was all. The peasants didn't get control over the land. The workers didn’t get control didn’t get control over the factories. It was simply a political revolution, not an economic revolution; rights of the Tsars and the nobles had been destroyed, and in their place was established the rights of the capitalists. The workers had no industrial rights; they were still wage-slaves, still an oppressed class.
Then started a new revolution—an economic revolution against the capitalists and the employers of labor. The workers and the peasants had organized into Soviets, Councils of Workers and Peasants, in which no capitalist or owner of property could be a member. These Soviets decided on 7 November 1917, that they would become the government of workers and peasants; and that the capitalists, the owners of industry, should have absolutely no share in the government. All men and women should become useful workers; if any person was not a useful worker, he was a parasite, and as such should have no share in the government. The capitalist republic became a republic of the workers.
The capitalist republic, such as Russia under Kerensky, gives the people political democracy—that is, you have a right to vote in politics; but you have no right to vote in the shops where you work, you have no industrial democracy... Political fraud...
The Soviet government is the real democracy. The peasants get together in the villages, the workers in their factories, and elect delegates to the local Soviet. Every three months these local Soviets elect delegates to the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, which meets in Moscow. It elects the members of the Council of People’s Commissars, the executive organ of the government, and a Central Committee which sits permanently in Moscow during the period elapsing between sessions of the All-Russian Congress. Lenin and Trotsky and others, including the Central Commission, make a report; if their work has been satisfactory, they are reelected, if not, they are thrown out and new persons elected in thier place.
Is this despotism? It is the real democracy, it is the workers themselves making the government. By means of such a government the workers are able to realize freedom, industrial democracy and the control of their own lives in their own way...The soviet government is the government of workers; everything that is done is done in the interests of the workers. It is a worker's republic, not a republic of landlords and capitalists and the sweaters of labor. And that is the kind of society that must be established in every nation, by means of Socialism—the world for the workers.
- John Reed, Revolutionary Age, 18 November 1918.
55. November Seventh, 1918
In the following address celebrating the first anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution, Max Eastman, editor of The Liberator, denounced the so-called 'Sisson documents', claiming to prove that Lenin and other Soviet leaders were in the pay of the German high command and that the Bolsheviks were in fact German agents. The documents consisted of supposed letters from the German general staff, correspondence between Bolshevik leaders, orders on banks and reports of telephone conversations, all said to reveal a direct connection between the Germans and the Bolsheviks. They had been originally offered for sale by White Russians to the British Secret Service, but had been rejected as crude forgeries. They were purchased for $29,000 in Petrograd by Edgar Sisson: a State Department official and President Wilson’s special representative in Russia, who brought them to Washington. The State Department would not accept the documents as proof of the allegation that the Bolsheviks were German agents, but President Wilson personally authorized an official publication of the documents. They were distributed by George Creel, chairman of the Committee of Public Information, a U.S. government agency, who claimed that they were genuine.
The documents were immediately denounced as fraudulent not only by Socialists like Santeri Nuorteva, John Reed and Max Eastman, but also by liberal newspapers and magazines such as the New York Evening Post and The Nation. The Post observed: “The plain fact is that some of the most important charges and documents brought forward by Mr. Sisson were published in Paris months ago and have, on the whole, been discredited." (17 September 1918.)
Comrades and friends, this meeting is called to celebrate of the greatest events in all the history of mankind. It is anniversary of the achievement of social revolution in the Empire of Russia, and it is the date of the dawn of social revolution in the Empire of Germany. Today the German fleet is in the hands of the revolutionary working-class, and the red flag flies at Kiel. Tomorrow the army. Then Berlin and the old empire! And we are not only met to celebrate the establishment of the Socialist republics, but we are met to demand that the capitalist republic of the United States keep its hands off these republics. The war is over now, and there is no excuse left. We want our soliders who are invading the territory of the Russian Soviets under the command of a Japanese general, in order to make the world safe for English, French, American and Japanese capital, called off.
And we want our army of libellers and scandalmongers, who are vilifying the name of the Russian Soviets throughout the width of the world, under the command of an unreliable yellow journalist, George Creel, called off.
George Creel boasts that he has the full backing of the United States Government in sending out documents purporting to prove that the leaders of the Russian Soviets are pro-German agents and traitors to democracy. But what is there in the behavior of the United States Government since this war began to show that it knows how to estimate the character and motives of revolutionary Socialists?
George Creel had also the full backing of the United States Government in sending out documents purporting to prove that the leaders of the Socialist party and the IWW in this country were pro-German agents and traitors to democracy. I read one of these documents, and I know that it was the deliberate lie of the man who wrote it. What reason is there for Socialists to believe better of the Sisson documents? They prove that the United States Government has the same opinion of Lenin and Trotsky that it has of Eugene V. Debs and Bill Haywood, and that is all they prove, and the opinion rests upon the same basis of fact, namely, that these men were loyal in the utmost extremity to the interests of the international working-class.
When the Sisson documents fell rather flat, a more plausible scheme was devised for discrediting the government of Russia. A bloody and indiscriminate “Reign of Terror” was devised, and Lenin and Trotsky were denounced throughout the nations of the world as outlaws and wholesale murderers. This scheme is more plausible because it rests upon a certain basis of fact. It is no doubt true that a number of people have been officially put to death for conspiracy to overthrow the Soviet Government and assassinate its leaders. A report through Amsterdam, giving the official organ of the Bolshevik Government as its authority, says that the exact number since August is 68.
It is also no doubt true that a number of people have been unofficially put to death by mobs of the Russian people for the same crime, although we are assured by the British envoy, Lockhart, that Lenin is using every effort to bring such things to an end.
Sometimes when I read the New York papers I am almost convinced that they may be taking as many lives over there in this way as one in every four days. And one in every four days is the number of people that are lynched, burned, tortured or strangled to death by mobs in the United States as a regular routine part of our civilization in times of peace.
Whatever reign of terror exists in Russia today, and whatever extreme measures may have been taken by the Russian Government to protect itself against conspiracies, are the direct inevitable result of the invasion of Russia by foreign armies—an invasion whose commonly expressed purpose is to stir up among the Russian classes conspiracies to overthrow that Government.
I want you to imagine what would happen in this country if an imperial Kaiserdom was invading our territory from the south, and five imperial republics were sending expeditionary forces down through Canada, all of them opposed to our form of government, all with the open purpose of overthrowing it, and if at the same time thousands of seditious Americans were plotting to assassinate the President and dynamite the Houses of Congress. Would not Woodrow Wilson declare martial law all over this land in a hurry, and would not its execution be more prompt than discriminate? And martial law is the respectable name for a reign of terror.
If they give Eugene Debs ten years in the penitentiary for intellectually disagreeing with the policies of President Wilson on a public platform, what would they give Theodore Roosevelt if they caught him in a back cellar in Washington with a bomb in his pocket for the assassination of the President, and a knife to stick in the bowels of the Postmaster General? That is exactly the situation in Russia. I venture to say that considering the comparative seriousness of the crimes being committed, there is a more unscrupulous reign of terror in this country at this moment than there is in Russia.
Withdraw the invading armies and leave the Russian people free to develop their own destiny as they must, and not one-millionth part of the blood will be shed by them in the cause of liberty that these armies are shedding now in the cause of capitalism.
I understand that they maintain in the District Attorney’s office and the courts that it is unlawful to denounce the invasion of Russia by Woodrow Wilson. I maintain that it is unlawful for Woodrow Wilson to invade Russia. Just before I came here I was regaling myself with that delightful old romance, the Constitution of the United States. And I notice that the constitution locates the power to declare war in the representatives of the people. And it nowhere delegates to the executive branch of the Government the right to ship citizens out of the country, and half way round the earth, to wage war on a foreign power without a declaration of war by the representatives of the people. I am told by a distinguished lawyer in this community that President Wilson is waging his own private and personal war on the Government of Russia, in direct violation of the spirit, and even of the letter, of the United States Constitution.
There is one thing that this war has done in this country—it has killed the Constitution. It has deeply destroyed the force and honor of its provisions which guaranteed liberty and the rights of man. And what are we going to do about this? Are we going to try to pump new life and new blood and meaning of liberty into that old document? We are going to leave it lying among the honorable dead, and go forward to the day of power when we will establish a new constitution with new life and a new meaning of liberty. And the essential principle of that constitution, as of the constitution of Russia, will be this, that no man or woman is a citizen entitled to vote, who does not live upon the income of his own labor.
A hundred years ago throughout the countries that were called democratic there was a property qualification for the franchise. Only those men could vote who lived, in part at least, upon the profits of capital. With the growth of the conditions of democracy that system was broken down, and by the end of the last century almost all men, and even women, were entitled to vote, both those who lived upon the wages of labor and those who lived upon the profits of capital. And now the next step— the twentieth century—there has been established in Russia a labor qualification for the franchise, and only those men and women are entitled to vote who do not live upon the profits of capital, but live by the actual service of their hands and brains, In that change of sovereignty is expressed and ensured the death of all caste and privilege and the birth of industrial democracy—the greatest revolution and creative political act in the history of mankind...
- The Liberator, December 1918.
56. The Sisson Documents
Although George Creel accused the New York Evening Post of having given “aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States” for daring to question the authenticity of the Sisson documents (New York Evening Post, 12 October 1918), he was forced to agree to have them examined by impartial scholars. Creel asked the National Board for Historical Research to appoint a committee of experts to investigate the documents. When it was revealed that Professor Samuel Harper of the University of Chicago was one of the committee of three selected (the other two were J. Franklin Jameson and Archibold Cary Coolidge) there was considerable doubt expressed that a neutral investigation would take place. Harper was widely known as a supporter of the Administration’s interventionist Russian policy. When Harper and Jameson, after only a week’s study of the documents (Coolidge took no part in the investigation) reported that most of them were clearly genuine and that there was nothing in the others “that positively excludes the notion of their being genuine," there was an outcry that the report had been written to order in response to Administration pressure.
The report on the authenticity of the so-called Sisson documents, signed by Dr. J. Franklin Jameson and Professor Samuel N. Harper, and scattered broadcast by the committee on public information through the press and in a pamphlet edition of documents themselves, not only calls for stem rebuke from every American historical scholar who values the good name of his profession, but fairly justify a congressional investigation of conduct of Mr. Creel and his committee in the whole affairs. Mr Creel refused to submit his documents to Dr. Jameson and Professor Harper, or even rejected their report after it was prepared, he would have been blameless and would have scored a point for his committee; but, having accepted the report and included it in his official edition of the documents, he must share the odium which the transaction casts upon the good name of the government and the integrity of American historical scholarship.
Mr. Creel’s first step was altogether creditable. Having in mind the attacks which have been made, particularly by the New York Evening Post, upon the creditability of the Sisson documents, he requested the national board of historical service, a self-constituted body of historical students formed early in the war to assist the government in such ways as might offer, to appoint a committee to pass upon the authenticity of the papers. The board appointed as such committee Dr. Jameson and Professor Harper. Dr. Jameson is a historical scholar of international reputation, director of the department of historical research in the Carnegie Institution at Washington, and editor of the American Historical Review. A higher authority in the treatment of historical documents could hardly have been chosen, and there was every reason to anticipate a judicial decision in any report to which he affixed his name.
The selection of Professor Harper, on the other hand, was amazing. Professor Harper, is, indeed professor of the Russian language and institutions in the University of Chicago, and presumably is able to read the Sisson documents in the original and to pass upon the accuracy of the English translations. A more unfit person in other respects, however, could hardly have been found in academic circles. Professor Harper is an open opponent of the Bolshevik government. He is on record in print as accepting the authenticity of the Sisson documents. He is, or was, a member of the Russian information bureau at New York, a propagandist agency established and maintained by Mr. Bakhmetev, the so-called Russian ambassador; and a member also of the American-Russian League, an organization believed to be very friendly to Mr. Bakhmetev and to intervention in Russia. Had a paid attorney for the anti-Soviet forces in this country been employed to pass judgment upon the authenticity of the documents purporting to show a corrupt connection between Lenin and Trotsky and the German government, the choice could not have been worse.
The report is such as the followers of Mr. Bakhmetev and the enemies of Soviet Russia might have desired. Mr. Creel submitted the documents to the committee. Mr. Sisson “detailed...with all apparent candor” his connection with them, and “several officials” at Washington kindly contributed "other pertinent and valuable information.” If any one outside of official and prejudiced circles was invited to testify, the fact does not appear from the report. On the basis of this sham investigation the committee “have no hesitation in declaring that we see no reason to doubt the genuineness or authenticity” of the first 53 documents; that two others are perhaps derived, at one or two removes, from actual documents, and that of the remainder, while their genuineness cannot be positively affirmed, there is “little in any of them that makes it doubtful.” Of the many criticisms of the documents, only those of the Evening Post, and a part only of them, are dealt with, and “most of them fall away,” we are told, when it is remembered that the more important documents are written in Russian (not an entirely unknown language, it may be observed), and when the difference between the old style and new style Russian calendar is regarded. A number of the strongest substantive criticisms voiced in the editorial columns of the Evening Post and in letters of various correspondents are passed over altogether; no attempt is made to meet the weighty objections brought against the credibility of some of the documents by the Petit Parisien and the New Europe months ago, and more recently by the New York Call; the source of the documents, if it was ever traced by the committee beyond Mr. Sisson’s story, is not revealed, and the statements of the alleged fact in the documents themselves are passed over with only one or two unimportant allusions.
If two German historians had made a report of this flimsy and superficial sort on a highly controversial matter in which the reputation of the German government for truthfulness and fair dealing was involved, would Dr. Jameson and Professor Harper have accepted it as a scholarly performance? Must the reputation of American scholars go by the board as a part of the wreckage of war?
- The Nation, 23 November 1918.