The Unknown Revolution, Book One : Part 02, Chapter 04

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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 04

Chapter 4. Defeat of the Revolution; Evaluation of the Jolt

Toward the end of 1905, the French bourgeoisie decided in favor of the loan, and high finance granted it. This “blood transfusion” saved the moribund Czarist regime.

In addition, the government succeeded in ending the war with a peace treaty which was not overly humiliating.

From that point on, reaction took up where it had left off. Dangling a beautiful future before the eyes of the people, it fought and encircled the revolution.

The Revolution would in any case have died on its own. The October strike was its supreme effort and its highest point. What it needed now was to take a “breath,” to “pause.” Furthermore, it could count on rebounding later on, perhaps under the stimulus given to it by a left-wing Duma.

In the meantime, the freedoms which had been taken by the people and then promised post factum by the Czar in his Manifesto, were thoroughly suppressed. The government again made the revolutionary press illegal, reestablished censorship, proceeded to make mass arrests, liquidated all workers’ or revolutionary organizations within its reach, suppressed the Soviet, jailed Nossar and Trotsky, and dispatched troops for the purpose of purging regions where major uprisings had taken place and to inflict exemplary punishments. The military and the police were reinforced throughout.

But one thing remained which the government did not dare to touch: the Duma, which was about to convene.

Nevertheless, the Revolution made two more jumps, in response to the intractability of the reaction.

The first was a new revolt in the Black Sea fleet, under the leadership of Lieutenant Schmidt. The sedition was repressed and Schmidt was shot by a firing squad.

The second episode was an armed insurrection of Moscow workers in December, 1905. It held out against the government’s forces for several days.

To put an end to it, the government brought in troops from St. Petersburg and even called in artillery units.

While this insurrection was taking place, attempts were made to provoke a new general strike throughout the country. If this strike had taken place the insurrection could have been victorious. But this time, even though the preliminary organization was similar to that of October, the necessary impetus was missing. The strike was not general. The postal service functioned, as well as the railways. The government was able to transport its troops and retained control over the situation everywhere. There was no doubt that the Revolution was out of breath.

Thus at the end of 1905 the tempest “died down without having overthrown the obstacle.

But it did carry out an important, indispensable task’ it swept and prepared the terrain. It left permanent marks in the life of the country and in the mentality of the population. We can now examine the final “balance-sheet” of the jolt. What do we find on the “credit side?” Concretely there was, first of all, the Duma. For the time being, the government was obliged to elaborate, for the Duma, an electoral law which was sufficiently broad to prevent excessively bitter or rapid disappointments It did not yet feel completely secure; it, too, had to ‘breathe,” to have a “pause.”

The entire population expected a great deal from the Duma. The elections, set for the spring of 1906, called forth a feverish activity throughout the country. All the political parties took part in it.

The situation created by this state of affairs was paradoxical enough. While the parties of the left now spread their electoral propaganda openly and legally (the government could intervene only by making new regulations and by setting cunning traps), the prisons were crowded with members of the same parties, arrested at the time of the liquidation of the movement; speech and the press remained muzzled; workers’ organizations were still prohibited.

This is only superficially a paradox. It can easily be explained. This explanation will also help us understand how the government foresaw the functioning of the Duma.

In spite of the fact that it had to grant its subjects a certain amount of freedom because of the elections, the government obviously did not interpret the Duma as an institution summoned to turn against absolutism. In the government’s view, the Duma was to be no more than an auxiliary organ, purely consultative and subordinate, good for helping the authorities in some of their tasks. Although it was obliged to tolerate a certain amount of electoral agitation by the left-wing parties, the government had decided earlier that it would only allow a certain amount and that it would react against any attempt by the parties, the voters or the Duma itself to take a defiant attitude. Since in the government’s view the Duma had nothing to do with the Revolution, the government was perfectly logical when it kept the revolutionaries in prison.

Another concrete fact, completely new in Russian life, was precisely the formation and the legality-even if only up to a certain point-of different political parties.

Until the events of 1905, there were in Russia only two political parties, both clandestine and more revolutionary than literally “political.” These were the Social-Democratic Party and the Socialist-Revolutionary Party.

The Manifesto of October 17, the few freedoms which followed it with a view to the electoral campaign, and, above all, the campaign itself, suddenly gave rise to a whole brood of legal and semi-legal parties.

Inveterate monarchists created the “Union of Russian People”: an ultra-reactionary and “pogromist” party whose “program” called for the suppression of all the “favors promised under the pressure of criminal uprisings,” including the Duma; and the total elimination of the last traces of the events of 1905.

Less fiercely reactionary elements: the majority of higher functionaries, large industrialists, bankers, nobles, businessmen, landowners, gathered around the “Octobrist Party’ (called the “Union of October 17”) which we have already mentioned.

The political weight of these two right wing parties was insignificant. They were the butt of jokes.

The majority of the rich and the middle classes, as well as intellectuals “of distinction,” installed themselves in a large political party of the center, whose right wing was close to the “Octobrists,” and whose left wing went so far as to express republican leanings. The program of the majority of the party called for a constitutional system putting an end to absolutism: the monarch would be retained, but his power would be seriously restricted. The party took the name “Constitutional Democratic Party” (abbreviated “Ca-Det Party.”) It was also called the “People’s Freedom Party.” Its leaders were recruited mainly from among municipal big wigs, lawyers, doctors, people who practiced liberal professions, academics. Very influential and well placed, with access to considerable funds, this party engaged in extensive and energetic activity from the moment of its creation.

At the extreme left there were: the “Social-Democratic Party” (whose electoral activity, as we’ve already mentioned, was more or less open and legal, in spite of its bluntly republican program and its revolutionary tactics) and, finally, the “Socialist-Revolutionary Party” (except for its treatment of the agrarian problem, its program and tactics did not differ from those of the Social-Democratic Party) who, at the time of the Duma, and in order to be able to move freely, carried on electoral campaigns and presented candidates under the name of “Labor Party” (which subsequently became a separate party). It goes without saying that the last two parties represented mainly the masses of workers and peasants as well as the vast stratum of intellectual workers.

At this point we should furnish some details about the programs and ideologies of these parties.

Except for the political question, the most important point of the programs of all the parties was undoubtedly the agrarian problem. It urgently demanded an effective solution. The fact is that the peasant population had grown so rapidly that the plots of land granted to the emancipated peasants in 1861, inadequate already then, had been reduced, during a quarter of a century, as a result of continual division, to plots of famine. “We don’t even know where to let a chicken run any more,” the peasants said. The immense population of the countryside waited with increasing impatience for a fair and effective solution to this problem. All the parties were aware of its importance.

For the time being, three solutions were presented, namely:

  1. The Constitutional Democratic Party proposed an enlargement of the plots by a transfer of some of the lands of large private owners and of the State to the peasants; the peasants were to pay gradually for the transferred land, with State aid, on terms set by an official and “fair” evaluation.

  2. The Social-Democratic Party proposed a transfer pure and simple, without payment, of the land needed by the peasants. The land would constitute a national fund and could be distributed according to needs (“nationalization” or “municipalization” of the land).

  3. The Socialist-Revolutionary Party presented the most radical solution: immediate and complete confiscation of all land in the hands of private owners; immediate suppression of all landed property (private or state); placement of all the land at the disposal of peasant collectives, under the control of the State (“socialization” of the land).

Before doing anything else, the Duma had to deal with this urgent and complicated problem.

We would like to deal briefly with the general ideology of the two parties of the extreme left in this period (the Social-Democrats and the Socialist Revolutionaries).

Already around 1900 a major divergence of views manifested itself at the heart of the Russian Social-Democratic Party. Some of its members, clutching its “minimum program,” held that the coming Russian revolution would be a bourgeois revolution, relatively moderate in its results. These socialists did not believe it possible to jump, in one leap, from a “feudal” monarchy to a socialist regime. A bourgeois democratic republic, paving the way for rapid capitalist development which would lay the foundations for a future socialism — this was their basic idea. A “social revolution” in Russia, was, in their opinion, impossible for the time being-

Many members of the party, however, had a different opinion. In their view, the next Revolution already had every chance of becoming a “Social Revolution,” with all logical consequences. These socialists dropped the “minimum program” and prepared themselves for the conquest of power by the party and for the immediate and decisive struggle against capitalism.

The leaders of the first current were: Plekhanov, Martov, and others. The great creator of the second was Lenin.

The final split between these two camps took place in 1903, at the London Congress. The Social-Democrats with Leninist leanings had a majority. “Majority,” in Russian, is “Bolshinstvo,” and the partizans of this tendency were called bolsheviki (in English one would say “majoritarians”). Since “minority” is “menshinstvo,” the others were called “men-sheviki” (in English, “minoritarians”). As for the two tendencies themselves, the first acquired the name of Bolshevism (tendency of the majority), the other the name of Menshevism (tendency of the minority).

After their victory in 1917, the “Bolsheviks” called themselves the “Communist Party,” whereas the “Mensheviks” alone retained the title “Social-Democratic Party.” The Communist Party in power declared “Menshevism” counter-revolutionary and wiped it out.

As for the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, it also split into two distinct parties: a party of Socialist-Revolutionaries “of the right” who, like the “Mensheviks,” insisted on the need to pass through a bourgeois democratic republic, and a party of Socialist-Revolutionaries “of the left” who claimed, like the Bolsheviks, that the Revolution should be pushed as far as possible, ultimately to the immediate suppression of the capitalist regime and the establishment of socialism (a type of social Republic).

(In 1917 the Bolsheviks in power wiped out the right-wing Socialist-Revolutionaries as counter-revolutionaries. As for the left-wing Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Bolshevik government at first collaborated with them. Later, when major disagreements arose between the two parties, the Bolsheviks broke with their former allies. Finally they outlawed and annihilated them.)

At the time of the 1905 revolution, the practical influence of these two dissident currents (Bolshevism and left-wing Revolutionary Socialism) was insignificant.

To complete our presentation of the diverse currents of ideas that made their appearance at the time of this revolution, we should point out that the Socialist-Revolutionary Party gave birth to a third tendency which, detaching itself from the Party, called for the suppression, during the revolution, not only of the bourgeois State, but of the State in general (as a political institution). This current of ideas was known in Russia by the name of Maximalism, because its partizans, having rejected the minimum program, broke with the left-wing Socialist-Revolutionaries and proclaimed the necessity of struggling immediately for the complete realization of the maximum program, namely for complete socialism, built on an apolitical foundation.

Thus the “Maximalists” did not form a political party. They created the “Union of Socialist Revolutionary Maximalists.” This “union” published some pamphlets communicating its viewpoint. It also published a few periodicals, but these did not last long. It did not have many members, and its influence was negligible. It carried out mainly terrorist activities. But it did take part in all the revolutionary struggles, and many of its members died as real heroes.

By the totality of their ideas, the Maximalists were very close to anarchism. Maximalism did not in fact blindly follow the “Marxists;” it denied the usefulness of political parties; it vigorously criticized the State and political authority. Nevertheless, it did not dare to renounce political authority immediately and totally. It did not consider it possible to pass directly to a completely “anarchist” society. (Thus it made a distinction between “complete socialism” and anarchism.) For the intervening period it offered a “Workers’ Republic” where elements of the State and of authority would be “reduced to a minimum” which, according to Maximalism, would assure their rapid extinction. This “provisional’ retention of the State and of authority separated Maximalism from anarchism.

(Like all the currents of ideas which disagreed with Bolshevism, Maximalism was crushed by the Bolsheviks at the time of the 1917 revolution.)

As for anarchist and syndicalist conceptions (we will examine these thoroughly at a later point in our study), in this period they were nearly unknown in Russia.

Outside of Russia many people believe that, since Bakunin and Kropotkin — these “fathers” of anarchism — were Russian, then Russia must for a long time have been a country with anarchist ideas and movements. This is a serious misconception. Both Bakunin (1814–1876) and Kropotkin (1842–1921) had become anarchists abroad. Neither of them had ever agitated in Russia as an anarchist. Their works had also appeared only abroad until the 1917 revolution, often in a foreign language. Only a few excerpts from their works, translated, adapted or published especially for Russia, were imported clandestinely to Russia, with great risk and in very small quantities. Furthermore, the distribution of these few publications in the interior of the country was nearly impossible. Finally, the entire social, socialist and revolutionary education of Russians had absolutely nothing anarchist about it, and but for a few exceptions, no one was interested in anarchist ideas.

Syndicalism was altogether unknown (a few erudite intellectuals excepted), since no workers’ movement existed in Russia before the 1917 revolution. It can even be assumed that the Russian form of workers’ organization, the “Soviet,” was hurriedly discovered in 1905 and taken up again in 1917 precisely because of the absence of a syndicalist conception and movement. There is no doubt that if a union apparatus had existed, it would have led the workers’ movement.

We have already mentioned that some small anarchist groups existed in St. Petersburg, in Moscow, in the West and the South. That was all. The Moscow anarchists did take an active part in the events of 1905 and attracted attention during the armed insurrection in December.

(After 1917 the Bolsheviks crushed the anarchist movement as they crushed all other movements that did not agree with theirs. But they did not crush it with ease. The struggle between Bolshevism and Anarchism during the course of the 1917 revolution — a tough, bitter struggle which is nevertheless almost completely unknown abroad, a struggle which lasted more than three years and in which the “Makhnovist” movement was the outstanding episode — will be described in the last part of this work.)

Let us turn to the moral consequences, the psychological effects, of 1905. Their importance for the future was far greater than that of the few immediate concrete achievements.

First of all, as we’ve already pointed out, the “legend of the Czar” disappeared. The vast masses became aware of the real nature of the regime and of the urgency of doing away with it. Absolutism and Czarism were morally dethroned.

This is not all. The popular masses at last joined forces with all those who had for so long opposed this regime: the avant-garde intellectual circles, the left wing political parties, and revolutionaries in general. Solid and extensive contact was thus established between the progressive circles and the mass of the population. From now on this contact was going to spread, to deepen, to tighten. The “Russian paradox” had died.

Thus two capital achievements had been realized. On the one hand, there existed a material element on which an eventual revolution could “lean”: this was the Duma. On the other hand, the moral obstacle which had barred the way to all extensive revolt, had broken down: the masses finally understood the malady and at last joined those in the front lines of the liberation struggle.

The ground was prepared for the next decisive revolution. This was on the “credit” side of the jolt of 1905.

Alas! The “liabilities” were just as heavy with consequences.

Unfortunately, the 1905 movement was not able to create a working class organization: neither a syndicalist organization or even a trade union. The right to organize was not won by the working masses. They remained without contact or organization.

The psychological consequence of this state of affairs was that it predisposed the working masses to become, in the next revolution, the unconscious prize of political parties, of their baneful rivalries, of their abominable struggle for power in which the workers had nothing to gain, or rather, had everything to lose.

Thus the absence, on the eve of the Revolution, of a workers’ movement and a real workers’ organization opened all doors to the predominance — what am I saying? — the future domination of one or another political party, at the expense of the real action and the real cause of the workers.

The reader will in fact see later that the enormous weight of this “liability” was going to be fatal for the revolution of 1917: in the end it was going to crush the revolution.

We should still say something about the personal fate of Nossar-Khrustalev, first president of the first Workers’ Soviet of St. Petersburg.

Arrested during the “liquidation” of the movement (at the end of 1905), Nossar was tried, convicted, and exiled to Siberia. He escaped and sought refuge abroad. But like Gapon, he was not able to adapt to a new life, and even less able to undertake regular work. He did not, to be sure, lead a life of debauchery; and he did not commit any act of treason. But he dragged out his life abroad in disorder, poverty and unhappiness.

This went on until the 1917 revolution. As soon as it broke out, he, like so many others, rushed back to his country and took part in revolutionary struggles. He did not, however, play an important role.

We do not know what happened to him after that. According to a source that we consider to be above suspicion, he ultimately turned against the Bolsheviks and was shot by them.

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November 30, 1946 :
Part 02, Chapter 04 -- Publication.

February 22, 2017 19:10:51 :
Part 02, Chapter 04 -- Added to

May 28, 2017 15:36:11 :
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