Leon Trotsky

The History of the Russian Revolution

Volume Two: The Attempted Counter-Revolution

Chapter 35
The Rising Tide

The strong weapon of slander proved a two-edged one. If the Bolsheviks are German spies, why does the news come chiefly from sources most hateful to the people? Why is it the Kadet press, which has always attributed to the workers and soldiers the lowest possible motives, that is loudest and clearest of all in accusing the Bolsheviks? Why does that reactionary overseer or engineer who has been crouching in a corner since the insurrection, now suddenly jump out and begin to curse the Bolsheviks? Why have the most reactionary officers begun to swagger in their regiments? And why in accusing “Lenin & Co.” do they shake their fists in the very faces of the soldiers, as though they were the traitors?

Every factory had its Bolsheviks. “Do I look like a German spy, boys, eh?” a fitter would ask, or a cabinet-maker, whose whole life history was known to the workers. At times even the Compromisers, in their struggle against the assault of the counterrevolution, would go farther than they planned and unintentionally smooth the path for the Bolsheviks. The soldier Pireiko tells how at a soldiers’ meeting an army physician Markovich, a follower of Plekhanov, refuted the accusation of espionage against Lenin, in order the more effectively to attack his political views as inconsistent and ruinous. In vain! “If Lenin is intelligent and not a spy, not a traitor, and wants to make peace, then we are for him,” said the soldiers after the meeting.

After the temporary halt in its growth Bolshevism again began confidently spreading its wings. “The compensation is coming fast,” wrote Trotsky in the middle of August. “Driven, persecuted, slandered, our party has never grown so swiftly as in recent days. And this process will not be long in running from the capital into the provinces, from the cities into the villages and the army ... All the toiling masses of the country will have learned, when new trials come, to unite their fate with the fate of our party.”

As before, Petrograd took the lead. It seemed as though an almighty broom was busy in the factories, sweeping the influence of the Compromisers out of every last nook and cranny. “The last fortresses of defensism are falling ...” said the Bolshevik paper. “Was it so long ago that the defensist gentlemen were the sole bosses in the giant Obukhovsky factory? ... Now they don’t dare show their faces in that factory.” About 550,000 votes were cast in the elections for the Petrograd city duma on August 20, considerably less than in the July elections for the district dumas. After losing upwards of 375,000, the Social Revolutionaries still got over 200,000 votes, or 37 per cent of the whole number. The Kadets got a fifth of the whole number. “A pitiful 23,000 votes,” writes Sukhanov, “were cast for our Menshevik ballot.” Unexpectedly to everybody, the Bolsheviks got almost 200,000 votes or about one third of the whole number.

At a regional conference of trade unions which took place in the Urals in the middle of August, uniting 150,000 workers, resolutions of a Bolshevik character were carried upon all questions. In Kiev at a conference of the factory and shop committees on the 20th of August, the Bolshevik resolution was carried by a majority of 161 votes against 35, with 13 abstaining. At the democratic elections for the city duma of Ivonovo-Voznesensk which coincided exactly with the Kornilov revolt, the Bolsheviks got 58 seats out of 102, the Social Revolutionaries 24, the Mensheviks 4. In Kronstadt a Bolshevik, Brekman, was elected president of the soviet, and a Bolshevik, Pokrovsky, burgomaster. It was far from being so obvious everywhere, and in some places there was a decline. But during August Bolshevism was growing almost throughout the whole breadth of the land.

The revolt of Kornilov gave a powerful impetus to the radicalization of the masses. Slutsky has recalled upon this theme a word of Marx: a revolution needs from time to time the whip of the counter-revolution. The danger had awakened not only energy, but penetration. The collective thought was working at a higher tension. There was no lack of data from which to draw conclusions. A Coalition had been declared necessary for the defense of the revolution, and meanwhile the ally in the Coalition had turned up on the side of the counter-revolution. The Moscow Conference had been declared a review of the national unity. Only the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks had given warning: “The Conference ... will inevitably turn into the instrument of a counter-revolutionary conspiracy.” Events had verified this. And now Kerensky was declaring: “The Moscow Conference ... this was a prologue to the 27th of August ... Here was carried out an estimate of forces ... Here the future dictator, Kornilov, was first introduced to Russia ...” As though Kerensky had not been the initiator, organizer and president of this conference, and as though it were not he who had introduced Kornilov as “the first soldier” of the revolution. As though it had not been the Provisional Government which armed Kornilov with the death penalty against the soldier, and as though the warnings of the Bolsheviks had not been denounced as demagoguism.

The Petrograd garrison remembered, moreover, that two days before the uprising of Kornilov, the Bolsheviks had voiced the suspicion at a meeting of the soldiers’ section that the progressive regiments were being removed from the capital with counterrevolutionary aims. To this the representatives of the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries had replied with a threatening demand: Do not venture upon a discussion of the military orders of General Kornilov. A resolution had been introduced and carried in that spirit. “The Bolsheviks, it seems, were not talking through their hats!” That is what the non-party worker and soldier must be saying to himself now.

If the conspiring generals were guilty, according to the belated accusation of the Compromisers themselves, not only of surrendering Riga but also of the July breach, then why bait the Bolsheviks and execute the soldiers? If military provocateurs attempted to bring the workers and soldiers into the streets on the 27th of August, did they not play their rôle also in the bloody encounters of July 4? Moreover, what is the position of Kerensky in all this history? Against whom did he summon the Third Cavalry Corps? Why did he name Savinkov Governor-general, and Filonenko his assistant? And who is this Filonenko, this candidate for the directory? An unexpected answer came from the armored-car division: Filonenko, who had served with them as a lieutenant, had inflicted the worst kinds of taunts and humiliations upon the soldiers. Where did this shady performer, Zavoiko, come from? What, in general, does this selection of swindlers for the highest positions signify?

The facts were simple, remembered by many, accessible to all, irrefutable and deadly. The echelons of the Savage Division, the torn-up rails, the mutual accusations between the Winter Palace and headquarters, the testimonies of Savinkov and Kerensky – all spoke for themselves. What an irrefutable indictment of the Compromisers and their régime! The meaning of the baiting of Bolsheviks had become utterly clear: it had been an indispensable element in the preparation for a coup d’état. The workers and soldiers, as they began to see all this, were seized with a sharp feeling of shame. Lenin is in hiding, then, merely because they have vilely slandered him. The others are in jail, then, to please the Kadets, the generals, the bankers, the diplomats of the Entente. The Bolsheviks, then, are not office-seekers, and they are hated up above exactly because they do not want to join that stock company which they call a Coalition! This was the understanding arrived at by the hard workers, by the simple people, by the oppressed. And out of these moods, together with a feeling of guilt before the Bolsheviks, grew an unconquerable loyalty to the party and confidence in its leaders.

The old soldiers, the standing elements of the army, the artillery men, the staff of non-commissioned officers, resisted up to the very last days, with all their power. They did not want to set a cross against all their fighting labors, their sacrifices, their deeds of heroism: can it be that all that was squandered for nothing? But when the last prop was knocked out from under them, they turned sharply – left about face! – to the Bolsheviks. Now they had utterly come over to the revolution, their non commissioned officer chevrons, their soldier wills tempered in battle, their bulging jaw muscles, and all. They had got fooled on the war, but this time they would carry the thing through to the end.

In the reports of local authorities, both military and civil, Bolshevism had become in these days a synonym for every kind of mass activity, every decisive demand, every resistance against exploitation, every forward motion – in a word, it had become another name for revolution. Does that mean that all these things are Bolshevism? the strikers would ask themselves – and the protesting sailors, and the dissatisfied soldiers’ wives, and the muzhiks in revolt. The masses were, so to speak, compelled from above to identify their intimate thoughts and demands with the slogans of Bolshevism. Thus the revolution turned to its own uses a weapon directed against it. In history not only does the reasonable become nonsensical, but also, when the course of evolution requires it, the nonsensical becomes reasonable.

The change in the political atmosphere revealed itself very clearly in the joint session of the Executive Committees of August 30, when delegates from Kronstadt demanded that they receive seats in that high body. Could it be possible that, where these unbridled Kronstadters had been subjected only to condemnations and excommunications, their representatives were now to take seats? But how refuse them? Only yesterday the Kronstadt sailors and soldiers had come to the defense of Petrograd. Sailors from the Aurora were even now guarding the Winter Palace. After whispering among themselves, the leaders offered the Kronstadters four seats with a voice but not a vote. The concession was accepted dryly, without expressions of gratitude.

“After the attempt of Kornilov,” relates Chinenov, a soldier of the Moscow garrison, “all the troops acquired a Bolshevik color ... All were struck by the way in which the statement (of the Bolsheviks) came true ... that General Kornilov would soon be at the gates of Petrograd.” Mitrevich, a soldier of the armored-car division, recalls the heroic legends which passed from mouth to mouth after the victory over the rebellious generals: “They were nothing but stories of bravery and of great deeds, and of how – well, if there is such bravery, we can fight the whole world. Here the Bolsheviks came into their own.”

Antonov-Ovseenko, liberated from prison on the day of the Kornilov campaign, went immediately to Helsingfors. “An immense change had occurred in the masses,” he says. At the regional congress of the Finland soviets the Right Social Revolutionaries were in a tiny minority; the Bolsheviks, in coalition with the Left Social Revolutionaries, had taken the lead. As president of the regional committee of the soviet they elected Smilga, who in spite of his extreme youth was a member of the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks – a man with a strong urge leftward, and who had already in the April Days revealed an inclination to shake down the Provisional Government. As president of the Helsingfors soviet, which rested upon the garrison and the Russian workers, they elected Scheineman, a Bolshevik, the future director of the Soviet State Bank – a man of cautious and bureaucratic mould, but who at that time was marching abreast with the other leaders. The Provisional Government had forbidden the Finlanders to convoke the Seim, dissolved by it. The regional committee suggested that the Seim assemble, and volunteered to defend it. The committee refused to fulfil the orders of the Provisional Government withdrawing various military units from Finland. Essentially the Bolsheviks had here already established a dictatorship of the soviets in Finland.

At the beginning of September a Bolshevik paper wrote: “From a whole series of Russian cities, the news comes that the organizations of our party have grown immensely in the recent period, but still more significant is the growth of our influence in the broadest democratic masses of the workers and soldiers.” “Even in those plants where at first they had refused to listen to us,” writes the Bolshevik, Averin, from Ekaterinoslav, “the workers were on our side in the Kornilov days.” “When the rumor came that Kaledin was mobilizing the Cossacks against Tzaritzyn and Saratov,” writes Antonov, one of the leaders of the Saratov Bolsheviks, “when this rumor was confirmed and reinforced by the insurrection of General Kornilov, the masses got over their former prejudices in a few days.”

The Bolshevik paper in Kiev stated on the 19th of September: “In the election for the soviets twelve comrades were elected from the arsenal – all Bolsheviks. All the Menshevik candidates were defeated. The same thing is happening in a whole series of other plants.” Similar despatches are to be found from now on every day in the pages of the workers’ press. The hostile press tried in vain to minimize or hush up the growth of Bolshevism. The masses, leaping forward, seemed to be trying to make up for the time lost in their former waverings, hesitations, and temporary retreats. There was a universal, obstinate and unrestrainable flood tide.

A member of the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks, Barbara Yakovleva, from whom we learned in July and August about the extreme weakening of the Bolsheviks in the whole Moscow region, now testifies to an abrupt change. “During the second half of September,” she reports to the conference, “the workers of the regional bureau made the rounds of the region ... Their impressions were absolutely identical: everywhere, in all the provinces, the process was under way of general Bolshevization of the masses, and everyone observed likewise that the villages were demanding Bolsheviks In those localities where after the July Days the organizations of the party had disintegrated they were now reborn and were growing rapidly. In the districts into which Bolsheviks had not been admitted, party nuclei were now spontaneously arising. Even in the backward provinces of Tambovsk and Riazan – in those bulwarks of the Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, which formerly in making their rounds the Bolsheviks had passed by through sheer hopelessness – a veritable revolution was now occurring: the influence of the Bolsheviks was growing by leaps and bounds, and the compromisist organizations were dissolving.

The reports of the delegates to the Bolshevik conference of the Moscow region, a month after the Kornilov uprising and a month before the insurrection of the Bolsheviks, are filled with confidence and enthusiasm. In Nizhni-Novgorod, after a two months’ decline, the party is again living a full life. Social Revolutionary workers are coming over to the Bolsheviks by the hundreds. In Tver a broad party work has developed only since the Kornilov days. The Compromisers are going to pieces; nobody listens to them; they are being chased out. In Vladimir province the Bolsheviks have grown so strong that at a provincial congress of the soviets only five Mensheviks are to be found and only three Social Revolutionaries. In Ivanovo-Voznesensk, the Russian Manchester, the whole work in the soviets, the duma, and the zemstvo has been turned over to the Bolsheviks as the semi-sovereign masters.

The organizations of the party are growing, but its force of attraction is growing incomparably faster. The lack of correspondence between the technical resources of the Bolsheviks and their relative political weight finds its expression in the small number of members of the party compared to the colossal growth of its influence. Events are sweeping the masses so powerfully and swiftly into their whirlpool, that the workers and soldiers have no time to organize themselves in a party. They have no time even to understand the necessity of any special party organization. They drink up the Bolshevik slogans just as naturally as they breathe the air. That the party is a complicated laboratory in which these slogans have been worked out on the basis of collective experience, is still not clear to their minds. There are over twenty million people represented in the soviets. The party, which had on the very eve of the October revolution only 240,000 members, was more and more confidently leading these millions, through the medium of the trade unions, the factory and shop committees, and the soviets.

Throughout this vast country, shaken to its depths and with an inexhaustible variety of local conditions and political levels of development, some sort of elections were going on every day – to the dumas, the zemstvos, the soviets, the factory and shop committees, the trade unions, the army or land committees. And throughout all these elections there appears like a red thread one unchanging fact: the growth of the Bolsheviks. The elections to the district dumas of Moscow astonished the country especially with the sharp change they indicated in the mood of the masses. The “great” party of the Social Revolutionaries retained at the end of September only 54,000 of the 375,000 votes it had counted in June. The Mensheviks had fallen from 76,000 to 16,000. The Kadets kept 101,000, having lost only 8,000. The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, had risen from 75,000 to 198,000. Whereas in June the Social Revolutionaries had 58 per cent of the votes, in September the Bolsheviks had approximately 52 per cent. The garrison voted 90 per cent for the Bolsheviks; in some detachments over 95 per cent. In the shops of the heavy artillery, the Bolsheviks got 2,286 out of 2,347 votes. A considerable lowering of the number of voters was due to the fact that many small town people, who in the vapor of their first illusions had joined the Compromisers, fell back soon after into political non-existence. The Mensheviks were melting away completely; the Social Revolutionaries received half as many votes as the Kadets; the Kadets received half as many as the Bolsheviks. Those September votes for the Bolsheviks were won in a bitter struggle with all the other parties. They were strong votes. They were to be relied on. The wiping out of intermediate groups, the significant stability of the bourgeois camp, the gigantic growth of the most hated and persecuted proletarian party – these were unmistakable symptoms of a revolutionary crisis. “Yes, the Bolsheviks worked zealously and unceasingly,” writes Sukhanov, who himself belonged to the shattered party of the Mensheviks. “They were among the masses, in the factories, every day and all the time ... They became the party of the masses because they were always there, guiding both in great things and small the whole life of the factories and barracks. The masses lived and breathed together with the Bolsheviks. They were wholly in the hands of the party of Lenin and Trotsky.”

On the front the political picture was more variegated. There were regiments and divisions which had never yet heard or seen a Bolshevik. Many of them were sincerely astounded when they were themselves accused of Bolshevism. On the other hand, divisions were to be found which took their own anarchistic moods, mingled with a dash of Black Hundredism, for pure Bolshevism. The mood of the front was levelling out in one direction, but in that colossal political flood which took the trenches for its channels there occurred many whirlpools and backwashes, and there was no little turbidity.

In September the Bolsheviks broke through the cordon and got access to the front, from which they had been cut off in dead earnest for the last two months. Even now the official veto was not removed. The compromisist committees did everything to keep the Bolsheviks out of their units; but all efforts were vain. The soldiers had heard so much about their own “Bolshevism” that they were all, without exception, dying to see and hear a live Bolshevik. The formal obstacles, delays, and complications thought up by the committee men were wiped away by the insistence of the soldiers as soon as the news came that a Bolshevik had arrived. The old revolutionist, Efgenia Bosh, who did a great work in the Ukraine, has left brilliant memoirs of her bold excursions into the primitive soldier jungle. The frightened warnings of her friends, both sincere and insincere, were everywhere refuted. In those divisions which had been described as bitterly hostile to the Bolsheviks, the orator, approaching her theme very cautiously, would soon find out that the listeners were with her. “There was no coughing, or hawking, or nose-blowing – those first indications of boredom in a soldier audience; the silence and order were complete.” The meetings would end in stormy ovations in honor of that bold agitator. In general, the whole journey of Efgenia Bosh along the front was a kind of triumphal procession. Less heroic, less effective, but essentially the same, was the experience of agitators of less distinguished caliber.

New ideas, or ideas convincing in a new way, new slogans, new generalizations, were bursting into the stagnant life of the trenches. The millions of soldier brains were grinding over the events, casting the balance of their political experience. “Dear comrade-workers and soldiers,” writes a soldier at the front to the editor of the party paper, “do not give free rein to that bad letter K which has sold the whole world into bloody slaughter. That includes the first murderer, Kolka (Nicholas II), Kerensky, Kornilov, Kaledin, the Kadets, all of them on one letter K. The Kossacks are also dangerous for us ... Sidor Nikolaiev.” Do not look for superstition here: this is merely a method of political mnemonics.

The insurrection, starting at headquarters, could not but shock every fiber of the soldiers’ being. That external discipline, the effort to restore which had cost so many victims, was again going to pieces on all sides. The military commissar of the western front, Zhdanov, reported: “The general mood is nervous, suspicious of officers, waiting; refusal to obey orders is explained on the ground that they are Kornilov orders, and should not be obeyed.” Stankevich, who replaced Filonenko in the position of head commissar, writes to the same effect: “The soldier masses ... felt themselves surrounded on all sides by treason ... Anyone who tried to dissuade them from this seemed also a traitor.”

For the ranking officers the collapse of Kornilov’s adventure meant the collapse of their last hope. Even before that, the self-confidence of the commanding staff had been none too brilliant. We observed during the last days of August the military conspirators in Petrograd, drunk, boastful and weak-willed. The officers now felt utterly despised and rejected. “That hatred, that baiting,” writes one of them, “that complete inactivity, and eternal expecting of arrest and shameful death, drove the officers into the roadhouses, the private dining rooms, the hotels ... In this drunken vapor the officers were drowned.” In contrast to this, the soldiers and sailors were more sober than ever before. They were caught up by a new hope.

“The Bolsheviks,” according to Stankevich, “lifted up their heads, and felt themselves to be complete masters in the army. The lower committees began to turn into Bolshevik nuclei. Every election in the army showed an amazing Bolshevik growth. And moreover it is impossible to ignore the fact that the best and most tightly disciplined army, not only on the Northern front but perhaps on the whole Russian front, the Fifth Army, was the first to elect a Bolshevik army committee.”

The fleet was still more clearly, concisely and colorfully going Bolshevik. On September 8, the Baltic sailors raised the battle-flags on all ships as an expression of their readiness to fight for the transfer of power to the proletariat and peasantry. The fleet demanded an immediate armistice on all fronts, the transfer of land to the peasant committees, and the establishment of workers’ control of production. Three days later the central committee of the Black Sea Fleet, less advanced and more moderate, supported the Baltic sailors, adopting the slogan of Power to the Soviets. The same slogan was adopted in the middle of September by 23 Siberian and Lettish infantry regiments of the Twelfth Army. Other divisions followed steadily. The demand for Power to the Soviets never again disappeared from the order of the day in the army or the fleet.

“The sailors’ meetings,” says Stankevich, “nine-tenths of them, consisted of Bolsheviks only.” The new head commissar happened to be defending the Provisional Government before the sailors at Reval. He felt the futility of the attempt from the very first words. At the mere word “government” the audience drew together with hostility: “A wave of indignation, hatred and distrust instantly seized the whole crowd. It was clear, strong, passionate, irresistible, and poured out in one unanimous shout: ‘Down with it!’” We cannot withhold a word of praise from this story-teller who does not forget to see beauty in the attack of a crowd mortally hostile to him.

The question of peace, driven underground for these two months, now emerges with tenfold strength. At a meeting of the Petersburg Soviet, the officer Dubassov, arriving from the front, declares: “Whatever you may say here, the soldiers will not fight any more.” Voices reply: “Even the Bolsheviks don’t say that!” But the officer, not a Bolshevik, comes back: “I tell you what I know, and what the soldiers directed me to tell you.” Another man from the front, a gloomy soldier in a long coat soaked with the filth and stink of the trenches, declared to the Petrograd Soviet in those same September days that the soldiers needed peace, any kind of peace, even “some sort of an indecent peace.” Those harsh soldier words gave the soviet a fright. That is how far things had gone then! The soldiers at the front were not little children. They excellently understood that with the present war map, the peace could only be an oppressor’s peace. And for this understanding of his, the trench delegate purposely chose the crudest words possible, expressing the whole force of his disgust for a Hohenzollern peace. But with this very nakedness of his mind the soldier compelled his hearers to understand that there was no other road, that the war had unwound the spirit of the army, that an immediate peace was necessary no matter what it cost. The bourgeois press seized the words of the trench orator with malicious joy, attributing them to the Bolsheviks. That phrase about an indecent peace was henceforward continually to the fore as an extreme expression of the savagery and depravity of the people!

As a general rule the Compromisers were not at all inclined, like the political dilettant Stankevich, to admire the beauties of that rising tide which threatened to wash them off the revolutionary arena. They learned from day to day with amazement and horror that they no longer possessed any power of resistance. As a matter of fact, under the confidence of the masses in the Compromisers there had lain concealed from the first hours of the revolution a misunderstanding – historically inevitable but not long-lasting. Only a few months had been required to clear it up. The Compromisers had been compelled to talk with the workers and soldiers in a wholly different language from that which they employed in the Executive Committee, and still more in the Winter Palace. The responsible leaders of the Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, were more and more afraid as weeks passed, to come out into the open square. Agitators of the second and third rank would go out, and they would accommodate themselves to the social radicalism of the people with the help of equivocal phrases. Or else they would become sincerely infected with the mood of the factories, mines and barracks, would begin to speak their language, and soon break away from their own parties.

The sailor Khovrin tells in his memoirs how the seamen who considered themselves Social Revolutionaries would in reality defend the Bolshevik platform. This was to be observed everywhere. The people knew what they wanted, but they did not know how to call it by name. That “misunderstanding” which belonged to the inner essence of the February revolution had a universal popular mass character – especially in the villages, where it lasted longer than in the cities. Only experience could introduce order into this chaos. Events, little and great, were tirelessly shaking up the mass parties, bringing their membership into correspondence with their policy and not their signboards.

An excellent example of this qui pro quo between the Compromisers and the masses, is to be seen in an oath taken at the beginning of July by 2,000 Donetz miners, kneeling with uncovered heads in the presence of a crowd of 5,000 people and with its participation. “We swear by our children, by God, by the heaven and earth, and by all things that we hold sacred in the world, that we will never relinquish the freedom bought with blood on the 28th of February, 1917; believing in the Social Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks, we swear we will never listen to the Leninists, for they, the Bolshevik-Leninists, are leading Russia to ruin with their agitation, whereas the Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks united in a single union, say: The land to the people, land without indemnities; the capitalist structure must fall after the war and in place of capitalism there must be a socialist structure ... We give our oath to march forward under the lead of these parties, not stopping even at death.” This oath of the miners directed against the Bolsheviks in reality led straight to the Bolshevik revolution. The February shell and the October kernel appear in this naïve and fervent picture so clearly as in a way to exhaust the whole problem of the Permanent Revolution.

By September the Donetz miners, without betraying either themselves or their oath, had already turned their backs on the Compromisers. The most backward ranks of the Ural miners had done the same thing. A member of the Executive Committee, the Social Revolutionary Ozhegov, a representative of the Urals, paid a visit early in August to his Izhevsky factory. “I was dreadfully shocked,” he writes in his sorrowful report, “by the sharp changes which had taken place in my absence. That organization of the Social Revolutionary Party which, both for its numbers (8,000 members), and its activities, was known throughout the whole Ural region ... had been disintegrated and reduced to 500 people, thanks to irresponsible agitators.”

The report of Ozhegov did not bring any unexpected news to the Executive Committee: the same picture was to be seen in Petrograd. If after the July raids the Social Revolutionaries temporarily leapt to the front in the factories, and even in some places increased their influence, their subsequent decline was only the more headlong. “To be sure, Kerensky’s government conquered at the time,” wrote the Social Revolutionary V. Zenzinov later, “the Bolshevik demonstrators were scattered, and the chiefs of the Bolsheviks arrested, but that was a Pyrrhic victory.” That is quite true: like King Pyrrhus the Compromisers won a victory at the price of their army. “Whereas earlier, before July 3-5,” writes the Petrograd worker, Skorinko, “the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries had been able in some places to appear before the workers without the risk of being whistled down, at present they had no such guarantee.” In general they had no guarantees left.

The Social Revolutionary Party had not only lost its influence, but had also changed its social constituency. The revolutionary workers had already either gone over to the Bolsheviks or, in taking flight, were going through an inner crisis. On the other hand, the sons of shopkeepers, kulaks and petty officials who had been hiding in the factories during the war, had had time to find out that the perfect place for them was the Social Revolutionary party. In September, however, even they were afraid to call themselves Social Revolutionaries any longer – at least in Petrograd. The workers, the soldiers, and in some provinces already even the peasants, had abandoned that party. There remained in it only the conservative, bureaucratic and philistine strata.

When the masses, awakened by the revolution, gave their confidence to the Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, both these parties were tireless in praising the lofty intelligence of the people. When those same masses, having passed through the school of events, began to turn sharply toward the Bolsheviks, the Compromisers laid the blame for their own collapse upon the ignorance of the people. But the masses would not agree that they had become more ignorant. On the contrary it seemed to them that they now understood what they had not understood before.

The Social Revolutionary party, as it withered and weakened, also began to split along a social seam, in this process throwing its members over into hostile camps. In the fields and villages there remained those Social Revolutionaries who, side by side with the Bolsheviks and usually under their leadership, had defended themselves against the blows dealt out by Social Revolutionaries in the government. The sharpening struggle between the two wings brought to life an intermediate group. Under the leadership of Chernov, this group tried to preserve a unity between the persecutors and the persecuted, became tangled up, arrived in hopeless and often ludicrous contradictions, and still further compromised the party. In order to make it possible for them to appear at mass meetings, the Social Revolutionary orators were compelled insistently to recommend themselves as “Lefts,” as internationalists, having nothing in common with the clique of “March Social Revolutionaries.” After the July Days the Left Social Revolutionaries came out in open opposition – still not breaking formally with the party, but belatedly catching up the arguments and slogans of the Bolsheviks. On the 21st of September, Trotsky, not without a hidden pedagogical intention, declared at a session of the Petrograd Soviet that it was becoming “easier and easier for the Bolsheviks to come to an understanding with the Left Social Revolutionaries.” In the end these people split off in the form of an independent party, to inscribe in the book of revolution one of its most fantastic pages. This was the last flare-up of self-sufficient intellectual radicalism, and a few months after October there remained nothing of it but a small heap of ashes.

There was a deep differentiation also among the Mensheviks. Their Petrograd organization came into sharp conflict with their central committee. Their central nucleus, led by Tseretelli, having no peasant reserve such as the Social Revolutionaries possessed, melted even more rapidly than they did. Intermediate social democratic groups, who adhered to neither of the two principal camps, were still trying to unite the Bolsheviks with the Mensheviks: they were still nourishing the illusions of March, when even Stalin had thought desirable a union with Tseretelli, and had believed that “we will live down petty disagreements within the party.” In the latter part of August there occurred a fusion of the Mensheviks with these advocates of union. At their joint session the right wing had a decided preponderance, and the resolution of Tseretelli favoring war and a coalition with the bourgeoisie got 117 votes against 79. Tseretelli’s victory in the party hastened the defeat of the party in the working class. The Petrograd organization of worker-Mensheviks, extremely few in number, followed Martov, pushing him along, irritated by his indecisiveness and getting ready to go over to the Bolsheviks. In the middle of September the organization of the Vassilie Island district joined the Bolshevik party almost as a unit. That hastened the agitation in other districts and in the provinces. The leaders of the different trends of Menshevism furiously accused each other in joint sessions of destroying the party. Gorky’s paper, belonging to the left flank of the Mensheviks, stated at the end of September that the Petrograd organization of the party, which had a little while ago numbered about 10,000 members, “had practically ceased to exist ... The last all-city conference was unable to meet for lack of a quorum.”

Plekhanov was attacking the Mensheviks from the right. “Tseretelli and his friends,” he said, “without themselves knowing or desiring it, have been preparing the road for Lenin.” The political condition of Tseretelli himself in the days of the September tide, is clearly depicted in the memoirs of the Kadet, Nabokov: “The most characteristic quality of his mood at that time was fright at the rising tide of Bolshevism. I remember how he spoke to me in a heart to heart conversation about the possibility of a seizure of power by the Bolsheviks. ‘Of course,’ he said, ‘they will not hold out more than two or three weeks, but only think what destruction that will mean. This we must avoid at any cost.’ In his voice was a note of genuine, panic-stricken alarm.” Tseretelli was experiencing before October those same moods which had been familiar to Nabokov in the February days.

The soviets were the arena in which the Bolsheviks functioned side by side with the Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, although in continual conflict with them. The change in the relative power of the soviet parties did not, to be sure, immediately, but only with unavoidable laggings and artificial postponements, find its expression in the make-up of the soviets and their social functioning.

Many of the provincial soviets had already, before the July Days, become organs of power. It was so in Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Lugansk, Tzaritzyn, Kherson, Tomsk, Vladivostok – if not formally, at least in fact, and if not continually at least sporadically. The Krasnoyarsk Soviet quite independently introduced a system of cards for the purchase of objects of personal consumption. The compromisist soviet in Saratov was compelled to interfere in economic conflicts, to arrest manufacturers, confiscate the tramway belonging to Belgians, introduce workers’ control, and organize production in the abandoned factories. In the Urals, where ever since 1905 the Bolsheviks had enjoyed a predominant political influence, the soviets frequently instituted courts of justice for the trial of citizens, created their own militia in several factories, paying for its equipment out of the factory cash-box, organized a workers’ inspection which assembled raw materials and fuel for the factories, superintended the sale of manufactured goods and established a wage scale. In certain districts of the Urals the soviets took the land from the landlords and put it under social cultivation. At the Simsk metal works, the soviets organized a regional factory administration which took charge of the whole administration, the cash-box, the bookkeeping, and the sales department. By this act the nationalization of the Simsk metal district was roughly accomplished. “As early as July,” writes V. Eltsin, from whom we borrow these data, “not only was everything in the Ural factories in the hands of the Bolsheviks, but the Bolsheviks were already giving object lessons in the solution of political, economic and agrarian problems.” These lessons were primitive – they were not reduced to a system, not illumined by a theory – but in many respects they anticipated the future roads to be travelled.

The July Days hit the soviets far harder than the party or the trade unions, for the struggle then was primarily for the life and death of the soviets. The party and the trade unions would retain their significance both in a “peaceful” period and during the difficult times of reaction. Their tasks and methods would change, but not their basic functions. The soviets, however, could survive only on the basis of a revolutionary situation, and would disappear along with it. Uniting the majority of the working class, they brought it face to face with a problem which rises above the needs of all private persons, groups and guilds, above the wage problem, the problem of reforms and improvements in general – the problem, that is, of a conquest of power. But the slogan “All Power to the Soviets” seemed shattered along with the July demonstration of the workers and soldiers. That defeat which weakened the Bolsheviks in the soviets, weakened the soviets in the state incomparably more. “The government of salvation” meant the resurrection of an independent bureaucracy. The renunciation of power by the soviets meant their humiliation before the commissars, their enfeeblement, their fading away.

The decline in the significance of the Executive Committee found a vivid external expression: the government suggested to the Compromisers that they evacuate the Tauride Palace on the ground that it required repairs in preparation for the Constituent Assembly. During the first half of July the building of Smolny, where formerly the daughters of the nobility had been educated, was set apart for the soviets. The bourgeois press now wrote about the giving over to the soviets of the house of the “white doves,” in the same tone in which they had formerly talked of the seizure of the Palace of Kshesinskaia by the Bolsheviks. Various revolutionary organizations, among them the trade unions which were occupying requisitioned buildings, were subjected to attack at the same time on the ground of the housing problem. It was no other but a question of crowding the workers’ revolution out of the too extensive quarters seized by it within bourgeois society. The Kadet press knew no limit to its indignation – somewhat belated to be sure – over the vandalism of the people, their trampling upon the rights of private and state property. But toward the end of July an unexpected fact was laid bare through the medium of the typographical workers. The parties grouped around the notorious Committee of the State Duma had long ago, it appeared, appropriated to their needs the opulent state printing plant, its despatching facilities and its franking privileges. The agitational brochures of the Kadet party were not only being printed free, but freely distributed by the ton, and moreover with preferential rights, throughout the whole country. The Executive Committee, placed under the necessity of examining this charge, was obliged to confirm it. The Kadet party, to be sure, only found a new theme for indignation: Could you, indeed, for a moment place in the same category the seizure of government buildings for destructive purposes, and the use of the properties of the state for the defense of its greatest treasures? In a word, if we gentlemen have somewhat light-fingeredly robbed the state, it is only in its own interest. But this argument did not seem convincing to all. The building trades stubbornly believed that they had more right to a building for their union than the Kadets had to the government printing office. This disagreement was not accidental: it was leading straight to the second revolution. The Kadets were compelled, in any case, to bite their tongues a little.

One of the instructors sent out during the second half of August by the Executive Committee, having made the rounds of the soviets in the south of Russia, where the Bolsheviks were considerably weaker than in the north, made this report of his disturbing observations: “The political moods are noticeably changing ... In the upper circles of the masses a revolutionary mood is growing, as a result of the shift in the policy of the Provisional Government ... In the masses a weariness and indifference to the revolution is to be felt. There is a noticeable coolness toward the soviets ... The functions of the soviets are decreasing little by little.” That the masses were getting tired of the vacillations of their democratic intermediaries is beyond a doubt, but it was not to the revolution, but to the Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, that they were growing cold. This situation was especially unbearable in those localities where the power was, in spite of all programs, actually concentrated in the hands of the compromisist soviets. Utterly entangled in the capitulation of the Executive Committee before the bureaucracy, the leaders no longer dared make any use of their power, and merely compromised the soviets in the eyes of the masses. A considerable part of the ordinary everyday work, moreover, had passed over from the soviets to the democratic municipalities – a still greater part to the trade unions and factory and shop committees. Less and less clear became the answer to the question: Will the soviets survive? And what will their future be?

During the first months of their existence, the soviets, far outstripping all other organizations, had taken upon themselves the task of creating trade unions, factory committees, clubs, and played a leading part in their work. But once they got on their own feet, these workers’ organizations came more and more under the leadership of the Bolsheviks. “The factory and shop committees,” wrote Trotsky in August, “are not created out of temporary meetings. The masses elect to these committees those who at home in the everyday life of the factory have demonstrated their firmness, their business-like character, and their devotion to the interests of the workers. And these same factory committees ... in their overwhelming majority consist of Bolsheviks.” There could no longer be any talk of a guardianship over the factory committees and trade unions exercised by the compromisist soviets. On the contrary, there was a bitter struggle between them. In those problems which touched the masses to the quick, the soviets were proving less and less capable of standing up against the trade unions and factory committees. Thus, for instance, the Moscow unions carried out a general strike in opposition to the decision of the soviets. In a less clear form similar conflicts were taking place everywhere, and it was not the soviets which usually came off victorious.

Driven up a blind alley by their own policy, the Compromisers found themselves obliged to “think up” incidental occupations for the soviets, to switch them over into the cultural field – in the essence of the matter, to entertain them. In vain. The soviets were created to conduct a struggle for power; for other tasks, other more appropriate organizations existed. “The entire work of our soviet, running in the Menshevik and Social Revolutionary channel,” writes the Saratov Bolshevik, Antonov, “lost all meaning ... At a meeting of the Executive Committee we would yawn from boredom till it became indecent. The Social Revolutionary-Menshevik talking-mill was empty and trivial.”

The sickly soviets were becoming less and less able to serve as a support to their Petrograd center. The correspondence between Smolny and the localities was going into a decline: there was nothing to write about, nothing to propose; no prospects remained, and no tasks. This isolation from the masses took the very palpable form of a financial crisis. The compromisist soviets in the provinces were themselves without means, and therefore could not offer support to their staff in Smolny; and the left soviets demonstratively refused financial support to an Executive Committee which had dishonored itself by participating in the work of the counterrevolution.

This process of fading out of the soviets was crossed, however, by processes of another and partly opposite character. Far-off frontiers, backward counties, and inaccessible corners were waking up and creating their own soviets, and these would manifest a revolutionary freshness until they fell under the demoralizing influence of the center, or under the repressions of the government. The total number of soviets was growing rapidly. At the end of August, the secretariat of the Executive Committee counted as many as 600 soviets, behind which stood 23 million electors. The official soviet system had been raised up over a human ocean which was billowing powerfully and driving its waves leftward.

The political revival of the soviets, which coincided with their Bolshevization, began from the bottom. In Petrograd the first voice to be lifted was that of the district locals. On July 21, a delegation from an inter-district conference of the soviets presented to the Executive Committee a list of demands: dissolve the State Duma, confirm the inviolability of the army organizations by a decree of the government, restore the left press, stop the disarming of workers, put an end to mass arrests, bridle the right press, bring to an end the disbandment of regiments and the death penalty at the front. A lowering of the political demands here, in comparison with the July demonstration, is quite obvious; but this was only a first step toward convalescence. In cutting down the slogans, the districts were trying to broaden their base. The leaders of the Executive Committee diplomatically welcomed the “sensitiveness” of the district soviets, but confined their response to the assertion that all misfortunes had resulted from the July insurrection. The two sides parted politely but coolly.

Upon this program of the district soviets a significant campaign was opened. Izvestia printed from day to day resolutions of soviets, trade unions, factories, battleships, army units, demanding the dissolution of the State Duma, an end of repressions against the Bolsheviks and indulgences to the counter-revolution. Upon this general background, certain more radical voices were heard. On the 22nd of July the soviet of Moscow Province, considerably in advance of the soviet of Moscow itself, passed a resolution in favor of the transfer of power to the soviets. On July 26 the Ivanovo-Voznesensk soviet “branded with contempt” the method of struggle employed against the party of the Bolsheviks, and sent a greeting to Lenin, “the glorious leader of the revolutionary proletariat.” Elections held at the end of July and during the first half of August at many points in the country brought about as a general rule a strengthening of the Bolshevik factions in the soviets. In Kronstadt, raided and made notorious throughout Russia, the new soviet contained 100 Bolsheviks, 75 Left Social Revolutionaries, 12 Menshevik-Internationalists, 7 anarchists, and over 90 non-party men of whom not one dared openly acknowledge his sympathy for the Compromisers. At a regional congress of the soviets of the Urals, opening on August 18, there were 86 Bolsheviks, 40 Social Revolutionaries, 23 Mensheviks. Tzaritzyn became an object of special hatred to the bourgeois press, for here not only had the soviet become Bolshevik, but the leader of the local Bolsheviks, Minin, was elected burgomaster. Kerensky sent a punitive expedition against Tzaritzyn, a city which was a red rag to the Don Cossack ataman Kaledin – without any serious pretext and with the sole aim of destroying a revolutionary nest. In Petrograd, Moscow, and all the industrial districts, more and more hands were being raised every day for the Bolshevik proposals.

The events at the end of August subjected the soviets to a test. Under the shadow of danger an inner regrouping took place very swiftly; it took place everywhere, and with comparatively little debate. In the provinces as in Petrograd, the Bolsheviks – step-children of the official soviet system – were advanced to the front rank. But also in the staff of the Compromise party, the “March” socialists, the politicians of ministerial and official waiting-rooms, were temporarily crowded back by more militant elements tempered in the underground movement. For this new grouping of forces a new organizational form was needed. The leadership of the revolutionary defense was nowhere concentrated in the hands of the executive committees. They were of little use in the form in which Kornilov’s insurrection found them for fighting action. Everywhere there were formed special committees of defense, revolutionary committees, staffs. They relied upon the soviets, made reports to them, but represented a new selection of elements, a new method of action corresponding to the revolutionary nature of the task.

The Moscow soviet created – as in the days of the State Conference – a fighting group of six, which alone should have the right to deploy armed forces and make arrests. The regional congress of Kiev, which met at the end of August, advised its local soviets not to hesitate to replace unreliable representatives of the power, both military and civil, and take measures for the immediate arrest of counter-revolutionists and the arming of the workers. In Vyatka the soviet committee assumed extraordinary rights, including the disposition of the armed forces. In Tzaritzyn the whole power went over to the soviet staff. In Nizhni-Novgorod the revolutionary committee established its sentries at the post and telegraph offices. The Krasnoyarsk soviet concentrated both the civil and military power in its hands.

With various qualifications – at times substantial – this same picture was reproduced almost everywhere. And it was by no means a mere imitation of Petrograd. The mass constitution of the soviets gave the character of a general law to their inner evolution, making them all react in like manner to any great event. While the two parts of the coalition were divided by a civil war front, the soviets had actually gathered around themselves all the living forces of the nation. Running into this wall the offensive of the generals had crumbled into dust. A more instructive lesson could not possibly be demanded. “In spite of all efforts of the authorities to crowd out the soviets and deprive them of power,” says the declaration of the Bolsheviks on this theme, “the soviets manifested during the putting down of the Kornilov revolt the irrepressible ... might and initiative of the popular mass ... After this new experience, which nothing will ever drive out of the consciousness of the workers, soldiers and peasants, the cry raised at the very beginning of the revolution by our party – ‘All Power to the Soviets!’ – has become the voice of the whole revolutionary country.”

The city dumas, which had made an effort to compete with the soviets, died down in the days of danger and vanished. The Petrograd duma humbly sent its delegation to the Soviet “for an explanation of the general situation and the establishment of contact.” It would seem as though the soviets, elected by a part of the city’s population, should have had less power and influence than the dumas, elected by the whole population. But the dialectic of the revolutionary process has demonstrated that in certain historic conditions the part is incomparably greater than the whole. As in the government, so in the duma, the Compromisers formed a bloc with the Kadets against the Bolsheviks, and that bloc paralyzed the duma as it had the government. The soviet, on the other hand, proved the natural form of defensive cooperation between the Compromisers and the Bolsheviks against the attack of the bourgeoisie.

After the Kornilov days a new chapter opened for the soviets. Although the Compromisers still retained a considerable number of bad spots, especially in the garrison, the Petrograd soviet showed such a sharp careen in the direction of the Bolsheviks as to astonish both camps-both Right and Left. On the night of September 1, while still under the presidency of Cheidze, the Soviet voted for a government of workers and peasants. The rank-and-file members of the compromisist factions almost solidly supported the resolution of the Bolsheviks. The rival proposal of Tseretelli got only about 15 votes. The compromisist praesidium could not believe their eyes. The Right demanded a roll call, and this dragged on until three o’clock in the morning. To avoid openly voting against their parties, many of the delegates went home. But even so, and in spite of all methods of pressure, the resolution of the Bolsheviks received in the final vote 279 votes against 115. That was a big fact. That was the beginning of the end. The praesidium, stunned, announced that they would resign.

On September 2nd at a joint session of the Russian soviet institutions of Finland, a resolution was adopted by 700 votes against 13, with 36 abstaining, favoring a government of soviets. On the 5th, the Moscow soviet followed in the steps of the Petrograd. By 355 votes against 254, it not only expressed its want of confidence in the Provisional Government, declaring it a weapon of counter-revolution, but also condemned the coalition policy of the Executive Committee. The praesidium, headed by Khinchuk, announced they would resign. A congress of the soviets of central Siberia, meeting at Krasnoyarsk on September 5, followed the Bolshevik leadership throughout. On the 8th, the Bolshevik resolution was adopted in the Kiev soviet of workers’ deputies by a majority of 130 against 66 – although there were only 95 deputies in the official Bolshevik faction. At the Finland congress of the soviets which met on the 10th, 150,000 sailors, soldiers and Russian workers were represented by 69 Bolsheviks, 48 Left Social Revolutionaries, and a few non-party men. The soviet of peasants’ deputies of Petrograd Province elected the Bolshevik, Sergeiev, as delegate to the Democratic Conference. Here again it was revealed that in those cases where the party is able through the mediation of workers or soldiers to get into immediate contact with the villages, the peasantry eagerly flock to its banner.

The dominance of the Bolshevik party in the Petrograd Soviet was dramatically certified at the historic session of September 9. All the factions had diligently rounded up their members: “It is a question of the fate of the soviets.” About 1,000 workers’ and soldiers’ deputies assembled. Had the vote of September 1st been a mere episode caused by the accidental constitution of the session, or did it mean a complete change in the policy of the Soviet? Thus the question was posed. Fearing lest they could not assemble a majority against the praesidium, of which all the compromise leaders were members – Cheidze, Tseretelli, Chernov, Gotz, Dan, Skobelev – the Bolshevik faction made a motion that the praesidium be elected on a proportional basis. This proposal, which would obscure to a certain degree the sharpness of the conflict about principles, and was on this account roundly condemned by Lenin, had this tactical advantage, that it made sure of the support of the wavering elements. But Tseretelli rejected the compromise. The praesidium wants to know, he said, whether the Soviet has actually changed its direction: “We cannot carry out the tactics of the Bolsheviks.” The resolution introduced by the Right declared that the vote of September 1st did not correspond to the political line of the Soviet, and that the Soviet had confidence, as before, in its praesidium. There was nothing left for the Bolsheviks to do but accept the challenge, and that they did with great willingness. Trotsky, appearing for the first time after his liberation from prison and warmly welcomed by a considerable part of the assembly – both sides were inwardly measuring the applause: is it a majority or not? – demanded an explanation before the vote: Is Kerensky, as before, a member of the praesidium? The praesidium, after hesitating a moment, answered in the affirmative – thus, although already weighed down with sins, tying another millstone around its neck. “We had firmly believed,” said Trotsky, “... that Kerensky would not be allowed to sit in the praesidium. We were mistaken. The ghost of Kerensky now sits between Dan and Cheidze ... When they propose to you to sanction the political line of the praesidium, do not forget that you will be sanctioning the policies of Kerensky.” The meeting proceeded in the utmost imaginable tension. Order was preserved by the desire of each and every person there not to permit an explosion. They all wanted to count as soon as possible the numbers of their friends and enemies. All understood that they were deciding the question of power – of the war – of the fate of the revolution. It was decided to vote by the method of withdrawing from the room. Those should go out who accepted the resignation of the praesidium: it is easier for a minority to go out than a majority. In every corner of the hall an impassioned although whispered agitation now began. The old praesidium or the new? The Coalition or the Soviet Power? A large crowd of people seemed to be drifting towards the door – too large, in the opinion of the praesidium. The Bolshevik leaders, on their part, estimated that they would lack about 100 votes of the majority. “And that will be doing excellently well,” they comforted themselves in advance. But the workers and soldiers kept on drifting and drifting toward the door. There was a hushed rumble of voices – brief explosions of loud argument. From one side a voice shouted out: “Kornilovists!” From the other: “July heroes!” The procedure lasted about an hour. The arms of an unseen scale were oscillating. The praesidium, hardly able to contain its excitement, remained throughout the whole hour upon the platform. At last the result was counted and weighed: For the praesidium and the Coalition, 414 votes; against, 519; abstaining, 67! The new majority applauded like a storm, ecstatically, furiously. It had a right to. The victory had been well paid for. A good part of the road lay behind.

Still bewildered by the blow, with long faces, the overthrown leaders withdraw from the platform. Tseretelli cannot refrain from one last dreadful prophecy. “We withdraw from this tribune,” he cries, turning halfway round as he moves, “in the consciousness that for half a year we have held worthily and held high the banner of the revolution. This banner has now passed into your hands. We can only express the wish that you may be able to hold it in the same way for half as long!” Tseretelli was cruelly mistaken about his dates as about everything.

The Petrograd Soviet, the parent of all the other soviets, henceforth stood under the leadership of the Bolsheviks, who had been only yesterday “an insignificant little bunch of demagogues.” Trotsky, from the tribune, reminded the praesidium that the charge against the Bolsheviks of being in the service of the German staff had not been withdrawn. “Let the Miliukovs and Guchkovs tell the story of their lives day by day. They dare not do it. But we are ready any day to give an account of our activities. We have nothing to hide from the Russian people ...” The Petrograd soviet in a special resolution “branded with contempt the authors, distributors and promoters of the slander.”

The Bolsheviks now entered upon their inheritance. It proved at once colossal and extraordinarily slender. The Executive Committee had in good season taken away from the Petrograd Soviet the two newspapers established by it, all the administrative offices, all funds and all technical equipment, including the typewriters and inkwells. The innumerable automobiles which had been at the disposal of the Soviet since the February days had every last one of them been transferred into the keeping of the compromisist Olympus. The new leaders had nothing – no treasury, no newspapers, no secretarial apparatus, no means of locomotion, no pen and no pencil. Nothing but the blank walls and – the burning confidence of the workers and soldiers. That, however, proved sufficient.

After this fundamental break in the policy of the Soviet, the ranks of the Compromisers began to melt even more rapidly. On the 11th of September, when Dan defended the Coalition before the Petrograd Soviet and Trotsky spoke for a soviet government, the Coalition was rejected by all votes against 10, with 7 abstaining! On the same day the Moscow soviet by a unanimous vote condemned the repressions against the Bolsheviks. The Compromisers soon found themselves pushed away into a narrow sector on the right, such as that which the Bolsheviks had occupied on the left at the beginning of the revolution. But with what a difference! The Bolsheviks had always been stronger among the masses than in the soviets. The Compromisers, on the contrary, still had a larger place in the soviets than among the masses. The Bolsheviks in their period of weakness had a future. The Compromisers had nothing left but a past – and one of which they had no reason to be proud.

Together with its change of course the Petrograd Soviet changed its external aspect. The compromise leaders completely disappeared from the horizon, digging themselves in in the Executive Committee. In the Soviet they were displaced by stars of the second and third magnitude. With the disappearance of Tseretelli, Chernov, Avksteniev, Skobelev, the friends and admirers of these democratic ministers also ceased to appear – the radical-minded officers and ladies, the semi-socialistic writers, the people of culture and celebrity. The Soviet became more homogeneous – grayer, darker, more serious.

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Last updated on: 1 February 2018