As we expected, the megaphones of the bourgeoisie have not remained quiet on the centenary of the 1917 October revolution. As in every decade, lies and contempt have animated newspaper articles, documentaries and televised speeches which have followed one after the other for several weeks. Without any great originality, intellectuals have rehashed the story of a coup d'état made by a handful of men in the service of a neurotic boss greedy for power and motivated by personal vengeance[i]. Thus, in this view, the struggle for a society without social classes and without the exploitation of man by man is just a fig-leaf for an expressly totalitarian undertaking which has its origins in the thoughts of Marx himself[ii].
It would be useless to look for any semblance of honesty among these guard dogs of democracy and the capitalist mode of production. But if this event is so well classified in the archives of history, why the desperation to deform it every ten years with so much arrogance? Why does the bourgeoisie denigrate one of the most precious episodes in the history of the struggle of the proletariat? Contrary to the words that it spreads through its media, the bourgeoisie knows very well that the class that failed to overturn its world a hundred years ago still exists today. It is also aware that its world is still more ailing than it was in 1917. And its survival depends on its capacity to intelligently and unfailingly use the weapons at its disposal so as to avoid a new October which could, this time, see a result for the historic aim of the working class. Very quickly the bourgeoisie understood the weight that the revolution in Russia could have on the world's social order. Thus, after tearing themselves apart for four years, the principal powers of the time made common cause in order to stem the proletarian wave which threatened to submerge a society which had nothing more to offer, except war.
Against official history, according to which the October 17 revolution contained in embryo the traces of its degeneration, this article aims to show that the isolation of the Russian proletariat is first of all due to the coordination of bourgeois governments ready to take up this class war whose outcome would turn out to be decisive for the course of history. It will also show that from 1917 to today, different factions of the dominant class have used all the weapons at their disposal to block and repress the revolution, then mislead and denigrate its memory and its lessons.
The provocation of the July days
In June 1917, faced with continuing war and the imperialist programme of the Provisional Government, the proletariat reacted with animation. During the enormous demonstrations of June 18 in Petrograd the internationalist slogans of the Bolsheviks became the majority for the first time. At the same time, the Russian military offensive ended in a fiasco when the German army pierced the front in several places. The news of the setback for the offensive arrived in the capital and stoked the revolutionary flames. In order to confront this very tense situation, the idea appeared of provoking a premature revolt in Petrograd: crush the workers and the Bolsheviks by putting the responsibility for the military offensive's setback on the proletariat of the capital who had "stabbed in the back" those at the front. For this the bourgeoisie came up with several machinations aimed at pushing the workers in the capital into a revolt. The resignation of four members of the Cadet Party from the government and pressure from the Entente on the Provisional Government led the Mensheviks and the Social-Revolutionaries to rally to the bourgeois government[iii]; which only re-launched the clamour for the immediate taking of power by the soviets. Further, the threat of sending the regiments of the capital to the front only increased the soldier's discontent, which then moved in the direction of an armed uprising against the Provisional Government. The July 3 demonstration would have turned out to be catastrophic for the continuation of the revolution if the Bolshevik Party hadn't succeeded in calming the ardour of the masses and preventing them from a premature confrontation with troops under the command of the government. In these crucial days the party remained faithful to the proletariat by turning it away from the trap laid by the bourgeoisie. But these provocations were small-scale compared to the repression and the campaigns of lies that confronted the Bolsheviks in the days following. As today, the Bolsheviks were charged with the worst accusations: German agents paid by the Kaiser, snipers who fired isolated shots at the troops entering Petrograd. All means were used in order to discredit the party in the eyes of the workers in the capital. It was the deployment of enormous energy and thanks to a great political discernment that the Bolsheviks were able to defend their honour. If the July Days revealed the indispensable role of the party, they also revealed the real nature of the Mensheviks and S-Rs. In fact their support for the bourgeois government in these crucial days [iv] was the cause of their discrediting among the masses. Thus, as Lenin wrote: “A new period is coming in. The victory of the counter revolutionaries is making the people disappointed with the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties and is paving the way for the masses to adopt a policy of support for the revolutionary proletariat. "[v].
The bourgeoisie tries to prevent the proletarian revolution
In an interview given to the journalist and militant socialist John Reed some time before the taking of the Winter Palace, Rodzianko, the Russian "Rockefeller" stated: "the revolution is a sickness. Sooner or later, the foreign powers will have to intervene, as one must care for a sick child and teach him how to walk".[vi]
This intervention wasn't long in coming. Very quickly, diplomats of the big powers were in agreement with the Russian bourgeoisie in order to settle this question with some urgency. For the chief of British intelligence in Russia, Sir Samuel Hoare, the best solution was the installation of a military dictatorship. The Officer's Union of the army and the fleet proposed the same solution. This was also expressed by the Culture Minister, Kartachev, a member of the Cadet Party: "whoever is not afraid of being cruel and brutal will take the power in their hands".[vii]
The attempted Kornilov[viii] coup d'état in August 1917 was supported by London and Paris and the setback for this first counter-revolutionary attempt was far from discouraging for the world bourgeoisie. Henceforth for the Allies, it was a question of stopping the growing influence of the Bolsheviks among the ranks of the proletariat of Russia. On November 3, a secret conference took place of military allies in Russia in the office of the chief of the Red Cross, Colonel Thompson. Faced with the "Bolshevik peril", the American, General Knox quite simply proposed picking up the Bolsheviks and shooting them[ix]. But on November 7, the Military Revolutionary Committee took the Winter Palace and power was in the hands of the Petrograd Soviet. For the world bourgeoisie, military intervention now remained the sole option; much more so as the echo of the revolution was being felt throughout Europe.
Straightaway, the 2nd Congress of Soviets adopted the decree on peace which proposed to the belligerents an immediate peace without annexations. But this appeal found no response among the allied powers who wanted to draw the conflict out while waiting for American help. For the Central Powers, the liberation of the Eastern front allowed them to reorganise before the United States entered the war. A truce of three weeks was thus signed at Brest-Litovsk November 22, with the General Staff of Austria and Germany. Negotiations opened on December 9 between the two parties, but the same day, the battle of Rostov-on-Don between the Red Guards and the White armies, heralded the opening of the civil war.[x] After seizing power, the hardest test now stood in front of the proletariat of Russia. While waiting for an extension of the revolution to the rest of Europe, it was necessary to prepare for a confrontation with the counter-revolutionary forces of the interior that were well supported by the major powers.
Beginning of the civil war and of the encirclement
The counter-revolution was really organised in the days following the elections to the Constituent Assembly which was marked by a majority hostile to the Soviet government. At the end of November, generals Alexiev, Kornilov and Denikin, and the Cossak Kaledin, set up the army of volunteers in the south of Russia. At the beginning it was composed of about 300 officers. This army was the first military reaction of the Russian bourgeoisie. Its financing was provided by: "the plutocracy of Rostov-on-the-Don which raised six-and-a-half million roubles, that of Novocherkassk about two million". Made up of officers favourable to a restoration of the monarchy, it held, "the embryo of a class character" according to the Russian general Denikin[xi].
The Soviet government couldn't allow this army to be set up without reacting and the revolution had to strengthen itself on the military level. On January 28, 1918, the Council of People's Commissars adopted a decree aimed at transforming the Red Guard into a workers’ and peasants’ Red Army made up "of the most conscious and best organised elements of the labouring classes"[xii]. But the organisation of this army remained a difficult task. In fact, due to the lack of competent communist leaders, Trotsky recruited from the officer corps of the Tsarist army. By the beginning of 1918, the balance of force was hardly in favour of the Russia of the Soviets. Germany and Austro-Hungary profited from the breakdown of the army and then from its demobilisation on January 30 in order to put an end to the armistice signed some weeks before. In a radio programme reported in Pravda, the Council of People's Commissars protested: "regarding the offensive launched by the German government against the Soviet Republic of Russia which proclaimed the end of the state of war and begun to demobilise the army on all fronts. The workers and peasants government of Russia could expect a less similar attitude; the armistice had not been denounced by any of the contracting parties neither directly nor indirectly, neither February 10, nor any other moment as both parties were bound by the agreement of December 2,[xiii] 1917."
In fact Germany used the pretext of the independence of Ukraine to go onto the offensive with the consent of the Rada, the bourgeois government of Ukraine. A rout of the Red Guard followed, recalled by the Bolshevik Primakov:
"The retreat of the Red Guard resembles a great exodus. More than a hundred thousand, accompanied by their families, fled Ukraine. Tens of thousands of others dispersed into the villages, the hamlets, the forests and the ravines of Ukraine (...) The heavy burden of war, the violence of the occupying troops, the arrogance of the German lieutenants, the impudence of the haidamaks (Cossack paramilitaries), the bloody vengeance of the big owners, the betrayal of the Rada central, the open pillage of the country only inflamed popular hatred. The government of the central Rada was known as the Government of Betrayal."[xiv]
It is in this very difficult situation that the first mass levies of the Red Army took place while the question of peace was more and more pressing for the survival of the revolution.
The peace of Brest-Litovsk and the military offensive of the bourgeoisie
If, in order to gain time in the first place, the Republic of Soviets adopted a strategy of "neither war, nor peace", the delayed European revolution made the signing of the peace inevitable despite the shameful conditions imposed by the Central Empire which amputated a huge part of Russian territory. We know that afterwards the question of the peace gave rise to debates within the Bolshevik Party and the left S-R's. It's not the place here to dwell on these. But with this setback the position defended by Lenin, accepted by the Seventh Party Congress, turned out to be the best adapted to the situation.[xv]
In the weeks and months that followed, the Republic of Soviets was encircled on all fronts and the White Armies were set up in several parts of the country. In Samara, the Czechoslovakian legion was set up by the Entente powers[xvi] sowing terror along the Trans-Siberian railway line in important conurbations, thus facilitating the uprisings. Subsequently, the Anglo-Americans landed at Murmansk, the Whites occupied the south of western Russia, the Germans and Austrians came into the Don region and Japanese troops landed at Vladivostok...
At the beginning of summer 1918, the situation of the Republic of Soviets was becoming very alarming. On July 29 Lenin wrote: "Murmansk to the north, the Czechoslovak front in the east, Turkestan, Baku and Astrakhan in the south-east, we are seeing that all the chains forged by imperialism are in place." We can see that the engagement of the powers of the Entente was decisive for the organisation of the counter-revolution - a detail that our good democrats prefer to avoid. At the beginning of 1919, about 25,000 British, French, Italian, American and Serb soldiers were mobilised between Archangel and Murmansk[xvii] in a fight to the death against "the Bolshevik peril", which would continue to spread "if it wasn't stopped", according to Clemenceau.
The testimony of a member of the Expeditionary Force, Ralph Albertson, bears eloquent witness to the determination and barbarity used by this anti-communist coalition: "We used all the exploding gas shells possible against the Bolsheviks... We laid all the booby-traps possible when we evacuated the villages. Once we shot more than twenty prisoners... And when we took the commissar at Borok, a sergeant told me that his body had been left in the street, wounded by more than sixteen bayonet cuts. We took Borok by surprise and the commissar, a civilian, had no time to take up arms... I heard an officer tell his men that they weren't to take prisoners, that they had to kill them even if they were unarmed... I saw unarmed Bolshevik prisoners, causing no trouble, slaughtered in cold blood... Every night a battalion of incendiaries caused masses of victims."[xviii]
The peace of Brest-Litovsk only stirred up the hatred of the different counter-revolutionary factions but also of the left S-R's against the Bolsheviks. From this time on, the Russia of the Soviets appeared like a besieged fortress where hunger "is at the door of many towns, villages, factories and mills", as Trotsky related. The alliance of the Whites and the western powers plunged the revolution into a situation of a permanent struggle for survival. Moreover, from March 15, 1918, the different governments of the Entente decided to reject the peace of Brest-Litovsk and organised an armed intervention. But while the Entente powers were intervening directly in Russia, they also counted on the betrayal of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party in order to advance the counter-revolution. In June 1918, the ex-assistant of Kerensky, the S-R Boris Savinkov, forecast the assassination of Lenin and Trotsky and started up an insurrection in Rybinsk and Yaroslav so as to facilitate landings by the Allies. In other words, in view of the extreme weakness of the Red Army, a great offensive was put into action in order to finish with the revolution once and for all.
As Savinkov relates, the Whites hoped to "encircle the capital with uprisings in the towns and, using the support of the Allies and Czechoslovaks to the north, who had just taken Samara on the Volga, putting the Bolsheviks in a difficult situation". We now know, thanks to the memoires published by several foreign secret agents and to investigations appearing in Pravda some years later, as well as diplomatic sources, that Britain and France were at the heart of this plot. The plans for insurrections in the towns around Moscow, the foreign landings, the Czechoslovak offensive were part of one and the same scheme orchestrated by the foreign military and diplomats and executed by leading S-R's who were ferociously opposed to peace with Germany and to the extension of the revolution.[xix]
The Czechoslovak regiments, guided by the Allies, took Samara on June 8 and then laid siege to Omsk. A month later they took Zlatoust in the Urals then, a few days later, they approached Yekaterinburg where the Imperial family was interned. The liberation of this family would have allowed the unification of the counter-revolutionary forces that were having a difficult time settling their own arguments and divergences. The Bolsheviks didn't want to run this risk and decided to execute the whole family. This decision was motivated by the necessity to intimidate the enemy and to show it, as Trotsky wrote some years later, "that there was no retreat possible, that the issue was total victory or total defeat". Despite everything, this decision was turned back against the Bolsheviks. The execution of the Tsar's children was utilised by the international bourgeoisie in its propaganda campaigns so as to present the Bolsheviks as barbarians thirsty for blood.
In July and August the offensive continued with the French and British landing in Murmansk in the north where they installed an “autonomous” government. The Turks and the British occupied Azerbaijan. The Germans went into Georgia with the consent of the Mensheviks while the Czech legions continued their advance towards the west. These weeks turned out to be decisive for the defence of the revolution, whose survival was hanging by a thread. At Sviajsk, close to Kazan, after several days of fighting, the extremely weakened high-command of the 5th Army could have all been captured with its main military chiefs beginning with Trotsky. A lack of information and strategic errors by the White generals allowed Trotsky and his men to escape. Given the extreme weakness of the Soviet power, the capture of its main leaders would have dealt a fatal blow to the morale and determination of the troops.
In the north, the British took command of all the armies of the region. Outside of four or five British battalions, the force was composed of four or five American battalions, one French, one Polish and one Italian plus some mixed formations[xx]. A Russian army was also organised but remained under the command and supervision of the British. At the beginning of August, this northern army took Archangel, overthrew the soviet and set up a provisional government composed of S-R cadets and controlled by British general Pool.
At the same time, the Commune of Baku fell in mid-August faced with an offensive by the Turkish army, some moussavatists (Azerbaijan nationalists) and some British regiments. Twenty-six people's commissars were gunned down on September 18 by the British[xxi].
Different factions of the Russian bourgeoisie profited from this difficult context in order to destabilise the power of the Soviets by fomenting plots which could have turned out to be disastrous for the revolution.
The time of plots
A counter-revolutionary bloc was formed from May and June 1918, going from monarchists to some Mensheviks and S-R's. All these rallied around a "National Centre" that was originally created by the Cadets. The main leaders of the movement worked to collect political and military information which they transmitted to different White armies and maintained close relations with British, French and American secret agents. Moreover, a special conference was held in October 1918, composed of representatives of the Entente countries and the National Centre. The Cheka reacted rapidly, taking account of the existence of this single centre of the counter-revolution.
But that didn't prevent attempts aiming to destabilise the Soviet Republic. August 30, the chief of the Cheka, Ouritsky, was assassinated by an S-R. Some hours later an attempt was made on the life of Lenin when he came out of the Michaelson factory. But these two attempts were part of a much wider enterprise aimed at liquidating all of the leading Bolsheviks: "On August 15, Bruce Lockhart (a British secret agent) received a visit from an officer who presented himself as Colonel Berzine, the commander of the Latvian Guard of the Kremlin. He handed over a letter of recommendation written by Cromey, the British naval attaché to Petrograd. Berzine declared that, although they had initially supported the Bolsheviks, the Latvians didn't want to fight against the British who had landed at Archangel. After discussing with Groener, the French General Counsel, Lockhart put Berzine in touch with Railey. At the end of August, Groener presided over a secret meeting of certain Allied representatives. It was held at the General Consulate of the United States. Railey and another spy, George Hill, as well as Moscow's Figaro correspondent, René Marchand, were in attendance. Raily recounts in his memoires that he made it known that he had bought Berzine for two million roubles. It was a question of a single blow seizing the leading Bolsheviks who were due at a meeting of their Central Committee. The British were in touch with General Yudenitch and were preparing to supply him with arms and material. (...) After the assassination of Ouritski, the Cheka, who were on the plotters’ scent, had penetrated the British embassy in Petrograd. Cromey fired on the police, killing a commissar and several agents. He was shot and so was the naval attaché who was about to burn some compromising papers. But there was still enough left to enlighten the investigators; Raily managed to escape. After several months he got back to London where he accused Marchand of having betrayed him... As to Berzine, the Soviet press subsequently revealed that he had indicated to his chiefs that Bruce Lockhart and Raily had offered him two million roubles to participate in the assassination of the leading Bolsheviks."[xxii]
The arrest of Bruce Lockhart concluded an enquiry that fully demonstrated the foreign participation in the plot and the scheming of the Whites[xxiii].
This failed plot was nonetheless one of the culminating points of the counter-revolution. At this stage the fall of the Soviet Republic seemed imminent. Faced with such a situation, the Red Terror was decreed on September 6. But if this measure was a major error[xxiv] we must admit that it was imposed by the force of events, that's to say by the terrorist practices of the foreign powers and the White armies.
"Without the help of the Allies, it is impossible to liberate Russia"
Officially, the bourgeois governments intervened in Russia in defence of democracy and against the "Bolshevik Peril". But in reality, the installation of a democracy was the last thing on the minds of the powers of the Entente who, before everything, were determined to avoid the extension of the revolutionary wave which was gaining ground in Germany by the end of 1918. The French, British and American bourgeoisies were prepared to do anything in order to defend their interests. Thus, from the beginning of the civil war, the invading armies acted like bloody hordes, supporting or installing military dictatorships in the territories re-taken from the Red Army. This is what happened for example at the beginning of January 1919, when General Miller landed at Archangel and proclaimed himself Governor General of the town and Minister of War. Leading an army of 20,000 men, made up of peasants and monarchist fishermen who hated the communists, he unleashed a reign of terror on the region. The old prosecutor of the province, Dobrovolsky, recalls that "the partisans of Pinet were so ferocious that the commander of the 8th regiment, a Colonel B., decided to produce a pamphlet on the human attitude to have towards prisoners".[xxv]
Moreover, the Allies didn't hesitate in directly supporting the armies of the main White army chiefs, partisans of a very authoritarian power such as Denikin and Kolchak. The offensive of the latter, undertaken from Siberia to the outskirts of Moscow at the end of 1918, was in great part made with a military arsenal supplied by the foreign powers: "The United States delivered 600,000 rifles and hundreds of cannons, many thousands of machine-guns, munitions, tools, uniforms, Britain 200,000 tools, 2000 machine-guns, 500 million bullets. France 30 planes and more than 200 automobiles. Japan 70,000 rifles, 30 cannons, 100 machine-guns, the necessary munitions and 120,000 tools. In order to pay for these deliveries which allowed him to furnish an army of more than 400,000 men, Kolchak sent from Hong-Kong 184 tonnes of gold, treasure which had been given to him"[xxvi].
It was this military division of labour between the Allies and the White Armies which the proletariat in Russia had to face up to throughout the year 1919. Lenin was well aware of the extreme fragility of the Soviet power and this is why he saw the need to denounce the role of the Tsarist generals in collaborating with the foreign armies:
“Kolchak and Denikin are the chief, and the only serious, enemies of the Soviet Republic. If it were not for the help they are getting from the Entente (Britain, France, America) they would have collapsed long ago. It is only the help of the Entente which makes them strong. Nevertheless, they are still forced to deceive the people, to pretend from time to time that they support ‘democracy’, a ‘constituent assembly’, ‘government by the people’, etc. The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries are only too willing to be duped.
The truth about Kolchak (and his double, Denikin) has now been revealed in full. The shooting of tens of thousands of workers. The shooting even of Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries. The flogging of peasants of entire districts. The public flogging of women. The absolutely unbridled power of the officers, the sons of landowners. Endless looting. Such is the truth about Kolchak and Denikin”.[xxvii]
This great counter-revolutionary alliance was even more vital when the revolution broke out in Germany in 1918. As the American historians, M. Sayers and A. Khan relate in The Great Conspiracy against Russia:
"The reason why the Allies didn't march on Berlin, and definitively disarm German militarism, resides in their fear of Bolshevism. The Allied Commander-in-Chief, Marshall Foch, revealed in his memoirs that, from the opening of peace negotiations, the German spokesmen constantly evoked the threat of the ‘Bolshevik invasion of Germany'... General Wilson of the British High Command recalled in his 'War Diary' that, November 9, 1918, two days before the signature on the Armistice, 'the cabinet met this night, from 6:30 to 8 o'clock, Lloyd George read two telegrams from 'Tiger' (Clemenceau) in which he told of an interview of Foch with the Germans: Tiger dreads the fall of Germany and the victory of Bolshevism in this country: 'Lloyd George asked me if I wanted that to happen or if I preferred an armistice. I replied without hesitation 'Armistice'. The whole cabinet agreed with me. For us, the real danger from now on wasn't the Germans, but Bolshevism'".
The fear of the extension of the revolution to the whole of Europe sharpened the determination of the bourgeois powers to definitively break the power of the Soviets. At the Peace Conference, Clemenceau was the most ferocious defender of this policy: "The Bolshevik danger is very great at this present hour; it is spreading. It has won over the Baltic Provinces and Poland; and, this morning, we have received very bad news, because it has spread to Budapest and Vienna. Italy is also in danger. The danger is probably greater there than in France. If Bolshevism, after spreading to Germany, crossed Austria and Hungary, taking in Italy, Europe would have to face a very great danger. That is why it is necessary to do something against Bolshevism."
Affirming loud and clear at this conference, "the right of peoples to self-determination", the bourgeoisie would not leave the world proletariat to make up its own mind at the risk of putting bourgeois society in peril. For both camps, the key to victory resided in the extension or isolation of the revolution. Also the fear of the bourgeoisie can be measured against the degree of violence and the atrocities which they carried out in Russia, Germany, Hungary and Italy. Because behind the veil of "the rights of man" hides the interests of a ruling class which always uses the worst measures when it's a question of its own survival.
The striking speeches of Clemenceau (above) allow us to understand his insistence on decreeing a total blockade of Russia and working for the neighbouring states to remain hostile to the Soviet Republic[xxviii].
And also arising from this, his determination to combat the revolutionary wave. The delay in making the revolution by the European and world proletariat plunged the Russian bastion into complete isolation. The Soviet Republic henceforth became a "besieged fortress" trying to resist immense difficulties. In 1919-1920, the effects of rationing and the subjugation of production to the needs of war applied during the course of the war, was making itself felt still more in this country. To this could be added the devastation of the civil war and the economic blockade imposed by the democratic powers between March 1918 and the beginning of 1920. All imports were blocked, including solidarity parcels sent by the proletariat of other countries. The White armies and those of the Entente had the coal of the Ukraine and the oil of Baku and the Caucasus in their grip, engendering a shortage of combustible material. The combustibles which reached the towns were down to 10% of that consumed before World War I. Famine in the towns was terrible where everything was in short supply. Heavy industry workers received first category rations which didn't go beyond 900 calories.
Evidently, this situation also had repercussions on the state of the soldiers of the Red Army who were prey to hunger, cold and sickness. In October 1919, the White troops of Yudenitch threatened Petrograd and the brigade commander, Kotovsky from the Ukraine, appealed for reinforcements. On November 4 Kotovsky sent an edifying report: "A generalised epidemic of typhus, scabies, eczema and sickness due to the cold following a lack of laundry, uniforms and baths. All this puts out of action 75 to 85% of our old fighting force who are, on the way to, or remaining in clinics and hospitals". Faced with the protests of some regiments, the brigade was rested. It could have been worse: "we were confronted with other difficulties, wrote a soldier. A typhoid epidemic has broken out and sicknesses due to the frost have ravaged the brigade. Soldiers and officers live in unheated barracks and receive starvation rations: 200 grams of 'soukhari' (a sort of grilled bread) and 300 grams of cabbage. It makes my heart ache to see our horses dying for lack of forage"[xxix]. Trotsky depicted in sombre terms the appearance of these same troops who were supposed to defend the main bastion of the Russian proletariat: "The workers of Petrograd do not look good: pasty-faced because of their hunger and lack of food, ragged clothed, boots with holes in, mismatched clothes."
After 1921, shortages continued and rationing became yet more drastic: "the ration of black bread was still on 800 grams for the workers of refineries and 600 grams for the model workers. The ration was decreased to 200 grams for holder of a ‘B card’ (unemployed). Herring stocks, which in other circumstances had saved the day, were completely lacking. Potatoes arrived frozen in the towns because of the lamentable state of the railways (running at hardly 20% of their pre-war potential). At the beginning of spring, 1921, an atrocious famine ravaged the western provinces of the Volga region. According to statistics recognised by the Congress of Soviets, between 2 and 2.7 millions suffered from hunger, cold, typhoid, diphtheria, influenza, etc."[xxx]
In the factories, the super-exploitation of workers didn't prevent the fall in production. The lack of food and the chaos of the economy pushed some to migrate to the countryside and others to leave the big firms for small workshops making barter easier. In these conditions, it was decided to enact the New Economic Policy (NEP) which put a brake on the statification of production.
The civil war left behind it a country bled white. Close to 980,000 deaths in the ranks of the Red Army and 3 million in the civil population. The already existing famine was amplified in the summer of 1921 with a terrible drought spreading throughout the Volga basin.
Even if, faced with the development of mutinies and the revolutionary "danger" on their own territory, the foreign powers withdrew their own troops during 1920, and if the counter-revolutionary armies had never really been up to re-taking power, gangrened as they were by internal quarrels, the lack of discipline and the absence of coordination, the world bourgeoisie nevertheless succeeded in stopping the revolutionary wave which had burst out after four years of imperialist war. The total isolation of Soviet Russia signalled the kiss of death for the revolution and plunged it into degeneration[xxxi].
As we will see in the second part of this article, it is in this context that Social Democracy and then Stalinism delivered the coup de grace to the October revolution and to its heritage.
Narek, April 8 2018.
[i] These are more or less the terms that Stephane Courtois used in a radio programme to describe the personality and motivations of Lenin.
[ii] A view expressed by Thierry Wolton at the start of the programme 28 minutes on the Arte channel of October 17, 2017.
[iii] The article by Lenin, "What can the Cadets have counted on when they withdrew from the cabinet”, written July 3, shows the clarity of the Bolsheviks on this issue.
[iv] Particularly in the repression of the demonstration of July 3rd.
[vi] Quoted in Pierre Durant, Les sans-culottes du bout du monde. 1917 - 1921, Editions du Progres, 1977.
[vii] Jean-Jaques Marie, La guerre civile russe. 1917 - 1922. Armees paysannes rouges, blanches et vertes. Editions autrement, 2005.
[ix] Pierre Durant Op. cit.
[x] Jean-Jaques Marie, Op. cit.
[xi] Quoted by Jean-Jaques Marie, Op. cit.
[xii] While we think that in such circumstances the formation of a Red Army was indeed necessary, we consider that the dissolution of the Red Guard, the specific organ of the arming of the workers, was a mistake that amounted to the disarming of the revolutionary class.
[xiii] "Planned radio programme to the government of the German Reich" drawn up by Trotsky in Lenin, Oeuvres choises, Editions du Progres, Moscow, 1968.
[xiv] Quoted by Jean-Jaques Marie, Op. cit.
[xv] For more detail on this question see: "Brest-Litovsk: gaining time for the world revolution", Revolution Internationale, no. 48 (Brest-Litovsk : gagner du temps pour la Révolution mondiale).
[xvi] See Jean-Jaques Marie, La Guerre des Russes Blancs, 1917 - 1920, Tallandier, 2017.
[xvii] Pierre Durant, Op. cit. p. 191.
[xviii] Quoted by Pierre Durant, Op. cit. p. 190.
[xix] Pierre Durant, Op. cit. p. 89.
[xx] Jean-Jaques Marie, Op. cit, p. 79.
[xxi] Ibid, p. 81.
[xxii] Ibid, pages 116-117.
[xxiii] Pierre Durand, Op. cit.
[xxiv] Along with Rosa Luxemburg, the ICC rejects the idea of Red Terror: "Even if it was necessary to respond firmly to the counter-revolutionary plots of the old dominant class and create a special organ with the aim of repressing them, the Cheka, this organ rapidly escaped the control of the Soviets and had the tendency to become infected with the moral and material corruption of the old social order". Manifesto on the October revolution
[xxv] Quoted in Jean-Jaques Marie, La guerre civile russe, Op. cit. P. 94.
[xxvi] Quoted in Jean-Jaques Marie, Op. cit., p. 99.
[xxviii] Jean-Jaques Marie, La guerre des Russes blancs, Op, cit., p. 436.
[xxix] Quoted in Jean-Jaques Marie, La guerre civile, op. cit., p. 164.