The Unknown Revolution, Book One : Part 02, Chapter 03

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(1882 - 1945) ~ Bolshevik-Aligned Leader of the Russian Nabat Anarchists : March of 1920 saw him taken to Moscow, where he would remain prisoner until October, when he and many other anarchists were released by virtue of a treaty between the Soviet Union and Makhno's army. Voline then returned to Kharkov, resuming his old activities... (From : Rudolph Rocker Bio.)
• "Socialism, so mighty in Germany, Austria and Italy, has proved powerless. 'Communism', itself very strong, especially in Germany, has proved powerless. The trade unions have proved powerless. How are we to account for this?" (From : "The Unknown Revolution," by Voline.)
• "Yet there is consolation to be had. The masses learn through all too palpable first hand experience. And the experience is there." (From : "The Unknown Revolution," by Voline.)
• "As we know, there it was an authoritarian state communism (Bolshevism) that scored a stunning and rather easy victory in the events of 1917. Now, these days, nearly seventeen years on from that victory, not only is communism proving powerless to resist fascism abroad, but, where the regime within the USSR itself is concerned, the latter is more and more often being described more and more deliberately as 'red fascism'." (From : "The Unknown Revolution," by Voline.)


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Part 02, Chapter 03

Chapter 3. The Disastrous War; Victory of a Revolutionary Strike

The waves raised by the events of January 1905 were not to be calmed right away. This time the entire country had been jolted.

From Spring, 1905 on, the general situation of the Czarist regime became increasingly untenable. The main reason was the bitter defeat experienced by Czarist Russia in its war against Japan.

This war, which began in February, 1904, accompanied by a great deal of arrogance and carried out largely with the aim of stimulating nationalistic, patriotic, and monarchist feelings, was hopelessly lost. The Russian army and fleet were totally defeated.

Public opinion openly blamed the incompetence of the authorities and the degeneration of the regime for the failure. Not only masses of workers, but other strata as well, were rapidly seized by a growing anger and spirit of revolt. The effect of the defeats — which followed one another in rapid succession — was overwhelming. People could no longer contain their feelings: indignation knew no limits, and agitation became widespread.

The government, aware of its defeat, was silent.

Taking advantage of the situation, liberal and revolutionary circles began a violent campaign against the regime. Without asking for authorization, people practiced freedom of speech and of the press. It was a veritable conquest of “political freedoms.” Journals of all tendencies, even revolutionary ones, appeared and were freely sold, without censorship or control. The government and the entire system were vigorously criticized.

Even timid liberals turned to action: they founded numerous professional unions: the “Union of Unions” (a type of Central Committee directing the activity of all the unions), the secret “Union of Liberation” (a political organization). They also rushed to formally organize a political party called the “Constitutional-Democratic Party.” The government was constrained to tolerate all this, as it had already tolerated the January strike and the meetings of the Soviet.

Political assassinations followed each other at an accelerating rate.

Violent demonstrations, even serious uprisings, broke out in various cities. In some places people set up barricades.

In various provinces peasants rebelled, unleashing actual “jacqueries” (peasant revolts), burning castles, appropriating the land, chasing out or even assassinating the landowners. A Union of Peasants with a socialist program was formed. The enemies of the regime were becoming too numerous and too audacious. And, above all, they were right.

The military defeat of the government and its distressing “moral” situation do not explain everything. But they do explain the fact that it lacked the most important means for opposing the movement: money. Negotiations taking place abroad, mainly in France, for the purpose of securing a loan, dragged on endlessly because of lack of confidence in the Czarist regime.

During the summer of 1905 serious troubles developed in the army and the navy. The well known revolt and epic of the battleship Prince Potemkin, one of the major units of the navy in the Black Sea, was the outstanding episode. The last rampart of falling regimes — the armed forces — began to break.

This time the entire country began to turn more and more resolutely against Czarism.

In August 1905, giving way to various pressures, the emperor finally decided to recognize, post factum — and, needless to say, hypocritically — certain “freedoms.” He also promised to convene a representative National Assembly (“Duma”) with very restricted rights and on the basis of extremely narrow electoral procedures. Bulygin, Minister of the Interior, was charged with preparing and carrying out this election. But this highly timid step, belated and manifestly hypocritical, satisfied no one. Agitation and rebellion continued and this “Duma,” called “Bulygin’s Duma,” was never formed. Bulygin was forced to “resign” (at the end of August), and was replaced by Witte, who had succeeded in convincing Nicholas II to accept more meaningful concessions.

Meanwhile, the inactivity and avowed impotence of the government encouraged the forces of opposition and the Revolution. From the beginning of October, people spoke of a general strike encompassing the entire country as the prelude to the final revolution.

This strike, which encompassed the entire country — an immense strike, unique in modern history — took place in mid-October. It was less spontaneous than the January strike. Long anticipated, prepared ahead of time, it was organized by the Soviet, the “Union of Unions,” and mainly by numerous strike committees. Factories, yards, workshops, warehouses, banks, administrative offices, railroads and all other means of transportation, post offices and telegraph stations — everything, absolutely everything, stopped completely. The life of the country was suspended.

The government lost its footing and gave in. On October 17 (1905) the Czar issued a manifesto-the well-known “Manifesto of October 17” — where he declared that he had solemnly decided to bestow on his “dear and faithful subjects” all political freedoms and to convene, as soon as possible, a type of representative council: the “State Duma.” (The term Duma was borrowed from an earlier century when a Council of State or Chamber of Nobles [Boyars] was known as a Dumaboyarskaya: an institution called on to help the Czar carry out his functions. Later, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the term Zemskaya Duma was used for assemblies of representatives from different classes, assemblies comparable to the Etats Generaux of the ancient French monarchy. Finally, in the period we’re dealing with, “Gorodskaya Duma” meant “City Council,” “gorod” meaning “city.” The word “duma” means “thought.”) According to the Manifesto, this Duma was being summoned to help the government.

It was, in short, a nebulous promise of a vague constitutional regime. Some circles took it seriously. An “Octobrist” Party appeared almost right away, and declared that it would accept, apply and defend the reforms announced by the Manifesto.

In actual fact, this act of the Czar’s government had two aims which had nothing to do with a “constitution”:

  1. To produce an effect abroad; to give the impression that the Revolution was over, that the government had regained mastery over the situation, and thus to influence public opinion, particularly the opinion of French financial circles, so as to revive the loan negotiations;

  2. To deceive the masses, calm them, and bar the path toward Revolution.

These two goals were realized. The strike ended, the revolutionary elan was broken. The impression created abroad was completely favorable. It was seen that, in spite of everything, the government of the Czar was still strong enough to quell the revolution. The loan was granted.

It should be obvious that the revolutionary parties were not duped by the venture. They saw the Manifesto as a simple political maneuver and immediately began to explain it to the working masses. The workers, moreover, were more than a little suspicious. They had ended the strike, to be sure, as if they had obtained satisfaction, as if they had confidence. But the fact that the strike ended was simply a sign that the Revolution lacked impetus and could not yet go further. There was no expression of real satisfaction. The population did not hasten to use its “new rights,” being intuitively aware of their fraudulent character. This was quickly proved. In some cities, peaceful public demonstrations organized to celebrate “the victory” and the “new regime” promised by the Czar were dispersed by the police and followed by Jewish pogroms — while the walls announced the Czar’s “Manifesto.”

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November 30, 1946 :
Part 02, Chapter 03 -- Publication.

February 22, 2017 19:10:25 :
Part 02, Chapter 03 -- Added to

May 28, 2017 15:36:11 :
Part 02, Chapter 03 -- Last Updated on


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