The Unknown Revolution, Book One : Part 02, Chapter 05

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1947

People

(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 05

Chapter 5. The “Pause” (1905–1917)

The twelve years — exactly — which separate the real revolution from its first attempt, the “explosion” from the “jolt,” did not add anything salient from a revolutionary point of view. On the contrary, reaction flourished all along the line. We should nevertheless take note of some major strikes and of a rebellion in the Baltic Fleet at Kronstadt which was savagely repressed.

The fate of the Duma was the outstanding event of this period.

The Duma began its sessions in May, 1906, in St. Petersburg. Immense popular enthusiasm accompanied these first sessions. In spite of all of the government’s machinations, the Duma came out against the government. The Constitutional Democratic Party dominated it by the number of its members and the quality of its representatives. S. Muromtsev, professor at Moscow University and one of the party’s most distinguished members, was elected president of the Assembly. Left-wing deputies — Social-Democrats and Socialist-Revolutionaries (“Laborites”) — also formed an imposing bloc. The entire population followed the deliberations of the Duma with passionate interest. All hopes turned toward the Duma. People expected at least significant, effective and just reforms.

But from the very first contact, hostility-silent at first, but growing increasingly overt — developed between the “Parliament” and the government. The government treated the Duma patronizingly, with undisguised contempt. It hardly tolerated the Duma. It refused to accept the Duma, even as a purely consultative body. On the other hand, the Duma itself tried to impose itself as a legislative, constitutional body. Relations between them grew increasingly strained.

The people obviously sided with the Duma. The government’s position became unfavorable, ridiculous, and even dangerous. Nevertheless it did not have to fear an imminent revolution. The government knew this. Furthermore, it could count on the army and the police. So the government undertook a decisive measure. The new energetic minister, Stoly-pin, was put in charge. He used a projected “Appeal to the People,” prepared by the Duma and having to do mainly with the agrarian project, as his pretext.

One morning the “deputies” found the doors of the Duma closed and guarded by troops. Army and police paraded in the streets. The Duma — known as the “First Duma” — was dissolved. An official decree announced and “explained” this action to the population. This happened in the summer of 1906.

Except for a long series of assassinations and a few isolated revolts, the most important being those of Sveaborg and Kronstadt (the second in a short period of time, the first having taken place in October, 1905), the country remained calm.

The deputies themselves did not dare to resist effectively. This fact can easily be explained. Resisting would mean turning to revolutionary action. But everywhere it was felt that, for the present, the revolution was powerless. (Furthermore, if this had not been the situation the government would not have dared to dissolve the Duma, particularly in this insolent manner. The government felt genuinely powerful and, at least for the time being, it was not mistaken.) The bourgeoisie was far too weak to dream of a revolution favorable to its interests. As for the working masses and their parties, at this point they did not feel ready to undertake a revolution.

Consequently the deputies submitted to the dissolution. The decree, furthermore, did not suppress the Duma, but announced new elections in the near future, based on somewhat modified rules. The “representatives of the people” limited themselves to launching a note of protest against this arbitrary act. To prepare this note in complete freedom, the ex-deputies — mainly the members of the Constitutional Democratic Party-met in Finland (where they were protected by a certain independence of legislation in this part of the Russian empire), in the city of Vyborg, which is why the note was baptized the “Vyborg Appeal.” Afterwards they calmly returned home.

In spite of the innocuous character of their “revolt,” they were nevertheless tried and convicted some time later by a special court and given light sentences. (They did, nevertheless, lose the right to be reelected to the Duma.)

Only one deputy, a young peasant from the Department of Stavropol, the “Laborite” Onipko, did not resign. It was he who stimulated the uprising in Kronstadt. Seized on the spot, he was almost shot by a firing squad. Certain interventions and fears saved him. He was finally tried and sentenced to exile in Siberia. He succeeded in escaping and found refuge abroad. He returned to Russia in 1917. What happened to him later is unknown. According to some very reliable sources, he continued to struggle as a member of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party of the right, turned against the Bolsheviks and was shot by them.

Immediately after the dissolution of the “first Duma,” the government revamped the electoral law, unscrupulously had recourse to other preventive measures and maneuvers, and summoned the “second Duma.” Much more moderate in its gestures and significantly more mediocre than the first, this Duma was still “too revolutionary” for the government. It is true that, despite all the machinations, it still had numerous left-wing deputies. This Duma was in turn dissolved. This time the electoral law was significantly modified. Furthermore, the population soon lost all interest in the activity -or rather the inactivity — of the Duma, except for rare moments when an exciting event or a stirring debate briefly attracted their attention.

The dissolution of the second Duma led to a third and finally a fourth Duma. This last Duma — a completely docile instrument in the hands of the reactionary government-was able to drag out its bleak and sterile existence until the revolution of 1917.

As for reforms or useful laws, the Duma accomplished nothing at all. But its presence was not completely useless. The critical speeches of some opposition deputies, the position of Czarism in the face of the burning problems of the hour, the very impotence of the “Parliament” to deal with these problems so long as the absolutist regime remained intact, all these facts continued to enlighten the vast masses of the population about the real nature of the regime, about the role of the bourgeoisie, about the tasks to be accomplished, about the programs of the political parties. For the Russian population this period was, in short, a long and fertile “experimental lesson,” the only one possible in the absence of other means of political and social education.

Two parallel processes were the main characteristics of the period in question: on one side, the accelerated and definitive degeneration — “decay” would be a better word-of the absolutist regime; on the other, the rapid growth of the consciousness of the masses.

The unquestionable signs of the degeneration of Czarism were known abroad. The attitude and life-style of the Imperial Court were typical of those which generally preceded the fall of monarchies. The incompetence and indifference of Nicholas II, the cretinism and corruption of his ministers and functionaries, the vulgar mysticism which took hold of the “monarch” and his family (the well known episode of the priest Rasputin) this ensemble of elements was not a secret to anyone abroad.

What was not as well known were the profound changes taking place in the psychology of the popular masses. Nevertheless, the spiritual condition of a man of the people in 1912, for example, no longer had anything in common with the primitive outlook of the same man before 1905. Increasingly vast layers of the population were becoming straightforwardly anti-Czarist. Only the savage reaction, which prohibited all organization of workers and all political or social propaganda, kept the masses from giving a final shape to their ideas.

Thus the absence of striking revolutionary events does not in any way mean that the revolutionary process had stopped. It continued with undiminished intensity, under the surface, especially in people’s thoughts and feelings.

In the meantime, all the vital problems remained suspended. The country had reached an impasse. A violent and decisive revolution became inevitable. Only the impetus and the weapons were missing.

It was in these conditions that the war of 1914 broke out. This war gave the masses the necessary impetus as well as the indispensable weapons.

From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org

Chronology

November 30, 1946 :
Part 02, Chapter 05 -- Publication.

February 22, 2017 19:11:23 :
Part 02, Chapter 05 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

May 28, 2017 15:36:11 :
Part 02, Chapter 05 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.

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