Maxim Gorky 1918

January 9, 1905, and January 5, 1918

Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher, The Bolshevik revolution, 1917-1918: Documents and materials, Stanford University Press; London: H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1934, pp. 387-388;
First Published: Novaia Zhizn, No. 6, January 9 [22], 1918, p. 1;
Transcription\Markup: Zdravko Saveski 2017

When on January 9 [22], 1905, the .... soldiers, in obedience to the orders of the Tsar's government, fired on the defenseless and peaceful crowd of workers .... members of the intelligentsia and laborers rushed up to the soldiers shouting: "What are you doing .... ? Whom are you killing? They are your brothers; they are without arms; they bear you no malice; they are on the way to ask the Tsar to look into their needs. They are not demanding but merely petitioning ...... Think what you are doing, you idiots!" .... But the reply of the soldiers was: "We have orders. We don't know anything. We have orders." And like machines they fired ...., perhaps unwillingly, but they fired nevertheless.

On January 5 [18], 1918, the unarmed Petersburg democracy, workers and employees, came out to celebrate in honor of the Constituent Assembly. For nearly a century the best of the Russians have dreamed of this day. They visualized the Constituent Assembly as a political organ capable of giving the Russian democracy an opportunity of freely expressing its will. Thousands of the intelligentsia, tens of thousands of workers and peasants have died in prison and in exile, have been hanged and shot for this dream. Rivers of blood have been shed for this sacred idea. And now that this goal has been reached and the democracy has come out to rejoice, the "People's Commissars" have given orders to shoot. It should not be forgotten that in the course of their lives some of these "People's Commissars" have impressed upon the toiling masses the necessity of fighting for the Constituent Assembly.

Pravda lies when it says that the demonstration of January 5 [18] was organized by the bourgeoisie, by the bankers .... and that those who marched to the Taurida Palace were "burzhui" and "Kaledins." Pravda lied, for it knows that the "burzhui" have no reason for celebrating the opening of the Constituent Assembly. What is there for them to do among 246 Socialists [-Revolutionists] and 140 Bolsheviks? Pravda knows that those in line were workers of .... factories and that these workers were shot. No matter how much Pravda lies, the disgraceful facts remain.

It is possible that the "burzhui" rejoiced to see the soldiers and Red Guards snatch the revolutionary banners from the hands of workers, and drag them through the mud and burn them. But it is also possible that this picture made the "burzhui" sad, for among them are honest men who truly love their country and the people. One of these was Andrei Ivanovich Shingarev,[1] foully murdered by some kind of savages .....

Just as on January 9 [22], 1905, so on January 5 [18], 1918, there are people who .... ask those who fired: "Idiots, what are you doing? These are your own brothers. Can't you see the red banners? There is not a single banner hostile to the working class, or to you!" Now, just as then, the soldiers reply: "We have orders to shoot." ....

I ask the "People's Commissars," among whom there should be honest and sensible men, if they understand that in putting the halter on their necks they are crushing the Russian democracy, destroying the conquests of the revolution?

Do they understand this? Or do they think: Ourselves or no one, even if it leads to destruction?



Transcriber’s Note

[1] Andrei Ivanovich Shingarev or Shingaryov (1869 – 1918) was a Russian doctor, Duma deputy and one of the leaders of the Kadets. On November 28, 1917, Shingarev was arrested by the Bolsheviks. He was imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress. On January 19, 1918, he was transferred, along with the fellow Kadet Fyodor Kokoshkin, to the Mariinskaya Hospital after becoming seriously ill. Allegedly, both were murdered there on the following night by a group of Baltic sailors, who broke into the hospital.