July 1918

Dear Comrades:

News of what is really happening in Russia reaches Western Europe with great difficulty. This news is often incomplete and even distorted. The Bolshevik authorities have monopolized all means of communication and do everything they can to present to Western Europe, especially the international proletariat, the “Soviet Republic” as a flourishing socialist oasis amid the desert of the World War, a country in which socialism has been half-realized and in which the working class has won political hegemony. That is why the European socialist parties have seriously misjudged the situation in Russia. They perceive Bolshevik rule in a way that has nothing to do with how this rule manifests itself in Russia.

Under these circumstances we consider it our debt of honor, dictated to us by our socialist conscience, to bring the attention of our Western European comrades and brothers the true picture of what is happening in Russia. It is our duty to show how this supposedly socialist government brings disgrace on the very word socialism and discredits the proletariat in whose name it performs its outrages and whose will it ostensibly fulfills. The international proletariat must be familiar with the true state of affairs in Russia both in the interests of its own struggle and in the interests of the Russian revolution and Russian working class.

This memorandum has as its goal familiarizing the world with the current situation in Bolshevik Russia not on the basis of theoretical reasoning and subjective judgments, but on the basis of verified facts. The material we offer has been drawn almost exclusively from the trustworthy socialist press. Our key sources were the main newspapers of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party (Mensheviks): Luch (Novyi Luch, Nasha Gazeta)[1] in Petrograd and Vpered and Iskra in Moscow, edited by F. Dan and L. Martov, members of the Central Committee; the Petrograd and Moscow editions of the Social Democratic newspaper of Maxim Gorky; and Novaia Zaria, the weekly journal of the Central Committee of the Moscow organization. To a limited extent we have also used a socialist paper of cooperatives, Vlast’ Naroda (Rodina), published in Moscow, and one of the most reliable and respectable dailies of Russian liberalism, Russkie Vedomosti (Svoboda Rossii).

The material we present for the judgment of European socialist public opinion is not all-embracing. The first reason is that to collect all the cases of Bolshevik repressive policy would require a thick volume that would have delayed publication for a long time. Second, difficulties in communications between the cities, a total break of communications in some areas, repressions against the press, and the slowness of reliability of the postal service and railroad transportation, all these conditions prevailing in Russia have made it impossible to collect all the material. That is why we narrowed our task. We excluded all data in our possession concerning persecution of and violence against civil servants or the bourgeoisie, its political parties, and press. We have set ourselves a more modest task: to present the measures of Soviet power against socialist parties and the working class (and also against the peasantry and institutions of local self-government). But even with these limits, our survey will be far from complete. We have hardly any data on entire regions of what used to be Russia – the Ukraine, Caucasia Crimea, and Siberia – where the Bolshevik authorities were just as ferocious as in central Russia. Our data on central Russia are somewhat better, particularly on the central region and the Volga basin area. But it is important to keep in mind that far from all the facts were reported in the press in this area. Even if they were, provincial newspapers do not reach the capitals regularly. And finally, at certain periods, particularly, the independent press has been shut down everywhere and the majority of facts have no become public knowledge. Nevertheless, we believe that or report, although incomplete, presents enough of a picture to enable our Western Europe comrades to get an idea about the nature of the Bolshevik regime and the methods of its rule. And this is exactly what our immediate goal is.

Our survey covers the period up to July 1, 1918 in a more or less systematic manner. After this date, we have only incorporated the most important and vivid facts, omitting the secondary ones.

Introduction

From the very first days of its rule, the Bolshevik party, which had seized power relying on army units stationed in the rear, began resorting to repressions against those who resisted or refused to recognize the new government. Initially, the Lenin-Trotsky government directed its main blows against the civil servants of the provisional government, that is, against the democratic intelligentsia (numbering in the thousands) who conscientiously and diligently served the political authority established by the February revolution. Refusing to recognize the Bolshevik government, they went on a strike that lasted several months. (For this, the Bolsheviks labeled them “saboteurs.”) In the course of its struggle with the civil servants, the Soviet government departed from democratic principles for the first time. It resorted to the arrest of strike leaders, depriving them of their rights, dissolving their organizations and trade unions, and forbidding them to assemble and convene congresses.

The Bolsheviks’ other opponents at that time were the so-called White Guards, who tried to render armed resistance to the usurpers of power. The White Guards consisted of officers, cadets of military schools, students, and some not as yet demoralized detachments of the Russian army. These groups were mercilessly suppressed and executed by the Bolshevik party. At first, repressions were directed almost exclusively against these two groups of Russian society. On one hand, the Soviet government consolidated its position by breaking the resistance of “saboteurs”; on the other, it developed sharp opposition of various segments of Russian society, civil organizations, and political parties.

As the Soviet government proceeded to engage itself in “normal” state activity, it increasingly adopted the approach of no compromise. Instead of responding favorably to the demands of democratic circles[2], it went farther along the path of political adventurism and confronted the democratic circles with a dilemma. Either they recognize Soviet power and submit unconditionally to its directives or they would be considered “counterrevolutionaries” for whom no laws apply and for whom no political rights or guarantees of security exist in the “Socialist Soviet Republic.” Since Democracy[3] for the most part did not want to and could not accept the first choice, which would have signified a break with all its revolutionary traditions[4], the Bolsheviks declared that the entire Democracy, other than their own party, was “counterrevolutionary” and began to struggle with it.

Step by step, they began to liquidate all the social and political achievements of the February Revolution, in the process setting themselves against all classes and groups of the population, one after another. Because local self-government was in many cases the main center of organized resistance, the Bolsheviks started with an attack on the city dumas and zemstvos [provincial cuncils], which had all been elected by general, equal, direct, and secret ballot by both sexes on the basis of proportional representative according to the law passed by the provisional government. Destruction of local self-government was slow but sure and ended only in the spring of 1918. The Soviet government only did away with it when it found sufficient forces to replace, at least visibly, the abolishing self-government. The Bolshevik municipal departments in the soviets were absolutely incapable of coping with the tasks of the local economy, which fell into total decay, as did much of the entire economic and social life in Russia as a result of Soviet government actions.

Having embarked on the destruction of local self-government, the Lenin-Trotsky regime reached a point where disbanding the Constituent Assembly was unavoidable even though it had been elected on the most democratic electoral law and even though nine-tenths of its deputies were members of socialist parties. This institution was incompatible with the dictatorship of the Bolshevik party, and on January 5, 1918, the Constituent Assembly was impudently disbanded by a detachment of armed sailors. Everything has its logic, however. A war on Democracy and on its institutions forced Soviet power to open fire on those political parties and social organizations that embodied the will of Democracy. That, in turn, signified struggle with the press and violation of personal inviolability, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association. This struggle gradually acquired proportions that Russia did not experience even under the Czarist autocracy. Tyranny and arbitrary rule in the Soviet republic exceeds by far the tyranny and violence of the government of Nicholas Romanov.

The workers reacted passively to the Bolsheviks seizure of power and even favored it because they expected the realization of demagogical promises: immediate conclusion of peace, solution to the food supply crisis, and liquidation of exploitation. At that time the Bolshevik party could still assert with a certain validity that the socialist parties struggle against Soviet power did not have support among the broad masses. And the Bolsheviks could justify repressions against them. But the picture changed drastically over several months. In the minds of the deceived masses, Bolshevik rule revealed itself as a dictatorship over the entire country against the will of the majority of the population. The Brest Treaty destroyed the independence of Russia. The “socialization” of factories of nationalization of banks and trade, instead of leading to a planned socialist economy and the liberation of the working class, have led to the total destruction of Russian industry, to cessation of trade, and to unheard-of unemployment. As a result, the workers have stopped regarding the Bolshevik government as their government and little by little are beginning to get disillusioned with Bolshevik “socialist” experiments.

As time goes on, the working class is turning its back on the new regime and demanding that civil liberties and institutions of local self-government be restored and that the disbanded Constituent Assembly be reconvened. As the working class frees itself from the tutelage of the Bolsheviks, they [the Bolsheviks] label it [the working class] counterrevolutionary and begin struggling with it. They employ the same methods as the autocracy and the Lenin-Trotsky government itself did in the beginning against socialist intelligentsia and some groups of workers who supposedly sided with the “bourgeoisie.” Masses of workers are being arrested, their organizations, both professional cultural, are being disbanded and persecuted because they do not recognize “Soviet power” and openly come out against it. Workers’ demonstration and workers conferences are being shot at. Workers’ meetings are being disbanded by armed force.

The Bolsheviks respond to the workers’ economic struggle in the same fashion. Because private enterprise has been abolished and because the “socialist” government now acts as sole entrepreneur, it employs the same means against the workers that were at the disposal of the capitalists and the bourgeois governments, including lockouts, dismissal en masse, and strike-breaking. During the last few months (beginning in the spring of 1918), the working class has been the main opponent of Soviet power. All means at the Bolsheviks’ disposal are directed against it. The Soviet authorities do not balk at disbanding the soviets of workers’ deputies if these organizations come out against the Bolsheviks, even though, formally, the soviets are the basis on which the Lenin-Trotsky government rests.

The position of the peasantry is analogous. Bolshevik agrarian policy has caused civil war in the countryside between various strata of peasants. By taking the side of one or another strata, the Soviet authorities generate hatred toward themselves on the part of all others. The extent to which the majority of the peasantry hates the new regime is demonstrated by recurrent cases of savage carnage and lynchings of authorities, as well as by outbreaks, evermore frequent, of real peasant uprisings, now an everyday occurrence. The Bolsheviks respond to this by sending punitive expeditions into the countryside to pacify rebellious peasants.

The Bolshevik food supply policy, combined with their foreign policy, doomed all of northern and central Russia, including the capitals, to famine. This gave the Bolsheviks the idea of organizing a crusade against the countryside. Detachments of armed workers would requisition grain from peasants. This measure caused a new outburst of hatred in the countryside of the cities and of Soviet power in particular. Peasant uprisings have blazed up more and more frequently, and the number of Soviet officials annihilated by peasants is increasing.

We see, therefore, that the so-called dictatorship of the proletariat and of the poorest peasantry is in fact, at the present time, directed against the will of the majority of the population in Russia and against the workers and peasants. Furthermore, the punitive measures fall hardest on those classes. The dictatorship of the Lenin-Trotsky government is turning more and more into a dictatorship of like-minded party functionaries who rely on a well-paid bureaucracy and on bayonets, machine guns, and artillery of the “Red Socialist Army,” specifically created for struggle with the “internal enemy.” In fact, the Red Army recruits come not so much from the ranks of the proletariat as from its scum and from other vagabond elements replenished with déclassé elements of the demoralized old army. These recruits do their job for the sake of good pay and a full stomach at a time of general unemployment and famine. The more acutely the Soviet officials feel that their position is shaky and that the end of their rule is inevitable, the harder they will try to hold onto power, at least for awhile, resorting to unheard-of repressions, employing methods of terror that make the terror of the great French revolution and the terror of the Czarist regime pale in comparison. The slightest manifestation of opposition, in particular workers’ independent action, causes a reaction in both central and local authorities the likes of which Russia has not experienced in the darkest epochs of its history.

Struggle with the Socialist and Workers’ Press

A free and independent press is the main enemy of any despotic government that does not enjoy the support of the majority of the population. Criticism in the press further undermines confidence in, and the authority of, such a government and contributes to the rise of opposition movements. This is why all autocratic governments have always directed their repressions against the press. As long as the Soviet government enjoyed the support of the not-yet-demobilized soldiers and the passive support of workers and who believed demagogic promises, it was quite liberal in dealing with the press. The press remained free, and the government resorted to repression only in exceptional cases. The situation changed drastically in December 1917 when the composition of the Constituent Assembly[5] was becoming clear and when the struggle around its convocation[6] began to unite the forces of Democracy, shattered as they were.[7] From this point onward, persecution of the press began. This persecution has been more or less systematic, but not always consistent. The struggle between the government and the press is going on, with ups and down in intensity, up to the present time. And now the Soviet government can proudly say that it has surpassed the record of the Czarist autocracy, which never succeeded in terminating the entire nongovernment press to the extent the Lenin-Trotsky government has done. In the beginning the Soviet authorities showed sign of vacillating in their treatment of the press. They fined the newspapers, they introduced censorship and then abolished it, they closed newspapers and then allowed them to resume publication, sometimes under the same or a slightly altered name. They summoned the newspaper editors to court hearings or simply arrested them by government order. Sometimes they confiscated issues of a paper. They also confiscated supplies of paper. The nationalization of large publishing houses made it impossible for some newspapers to come out. They prohibited salesmen and street vendors from selling opposition newspapers. They undermined the retail trade on which most papers depended.

The appetite grows with eating, and little by little the Soviet government began to systematic its measures against the “subversive” press, surpassing in its ardor even the autocracy. Now they demand that the newspapers be registered and have a permit for publication. If in the beginning the Soviet authorities attempted to weaken the influence of the non-Bolshevik press, now [by July 1918] they do everything in their power to destroy it. In this, they are successful. No we turn to materials from the Russian socialist press from November 1917 to July 1918.

The first cases of persecution were registered in November. In Saint Petersburg, several socialist papers of diverse political views – Novaia Zhizn’, Voila Naroda, Den’, and Delo Naroda – were closed for a short time. During the fighting in Moscow[8] all Socialist papers were temporarily closed. A much greater number of newspapers were closed in December. On December 10, in Moscow, censorship of the press was introduced (later abolished). For not complying with it, some bourgeois and all Socialist papers were temporarily closed. Many Socialist papers were subjected to systematic confiscation of separate issues, which wee burnt in makeshift fires right in front of the printing shops by the Red Guards. The same was done with leaflets of various Socialist parties and groups. Those who tried to disseminate them were subjected to arrests, beatings, threats of execution, and so on. In Yaroslav one boy was shot for selling an SR [Socialist Revolutionary] paper.

In January, the number of closed newspapers was particularly high. This was the month of the disbanding of the Constituent Assembly. On the eve of its opening, all Socialist newspapers were closed in Petrograd and Moscow, some temporarily, some forever. On January 2, an SR paper, Voila Naroda, was closed. It had been published with the close involvement of Breshkov-Breshkovskaia, the famous “Grandmother of the Russian Revolution.”[9] The premises were searched, and many members of the editorial staff were arrested, among them Argunov, the editor and one of the founders of the SR party and a member of the SR Central Committee, P. Sorokin, and E. Stalinskii. The latter two spent over a month in prison. Zaslavskii and Klivanskii, the editors of the newspaper Den’, were also confined for a month. During the wrangling with the Red Guards who were conducting the search, Klivanski was wounded in the arm and another editor, Gulis, in his side by a bayonet. The authorities requisitioned a printing shop owned by the People’s Socialist Party. Almost simultaneously with the assault on the Petrograd press, the rout took place in Moscow and in many provincial cities. And finally, during January, the entire army press at the front, which did not share Bolshevik views, was liquidated.

In February, the repressions subsided somewhat, especially at the end of the month. The Socialist press in the capitals continued to exist, except for short intervals. In the beginning of the month, however, we witnessed a new fit of Bolshevik administrative zeal. On February 2, the “provisional rules for the press” were published. These rules were just as reactionary as the rules of the Czarist government were. The rules penalized editors and owners of newspapers for published materials and prescribed that a copy of every paper be sent to the Commissariat of the Press. One by one, seven dailies were closed in Petrograd. Some of them could not resume publication later. In Moscow, the Menshevik Vpered was banned but continued to come out, as in the old days, underground, despite the ban. In Kiev, the printing shop of a Socialist paper with the largest circulation, Kievskaia Mysl’, was requisitioned, and the paper ceased to come out for some time. As a matter of fact, under the Czarist regime, Trotsky and Lunacharskii, now commissars, were permanent correspondents of this paper abroad. In Yaroslav, all local Socialist papers were closed and the sale of Socialist papers in the capitals prohibited.

According to Ponedel’nik, a Moscow weekly, during March, the Soviet authorities closed 47 newspapers, imposed fines on 17 periodicals for a total of 278,000 rubles, requisitioned 22 printing shops, confiscated printing presses, typesetting, and paper supplies in 19 printing shops, put the editors and staff of 14 dailies on trial, and arrested the editors of six newspapers. Socialist papers were closed in Saratov, Samara, Rostov-na-Donu, Novonikolaevsk, Ekaterinoslav, Irkutsk, and Odessa. In Saratov, they also destroyed the lists and addresses of all the subscribers to non-Bolshevik papers in the capitals. In Odessa, they put the editorial board of Iuzhnyi Rabochii on trial for appeals to overthrow Soviet power. Because the paper was published by the Odessa Menshevik party committee, all of its 15 members were put on trial. All of them were long-time members and revolutionaries, and some of them were workers.

In April, repressions against the press continued and even intensified as the opposition movement against the Bolsheviks and Soviet power grew. In Moscow, Soviet authorities closed Vlast’ Naroda and its sequel, Rodina. They also started court proceedings against Vpered, which had become the main paper of the RSDLP.[10] These proceedings, however, never culminated in a trial because the Bolsheviks feared it would end in a scandalous fiasco. At first, one of the editors of Vpered, L. Martov, was accused of making a disrespectful comment about People’s Commissar Stalin.[11] Then they brought up charges against F. Dan, S. Kats, and staff member Kaplan. At that point the party CC, the Moscow regional bureau, and the Moscow city committee declared that they bore collective responsibility for the material in the paper. The authorities issued an order to the effect that these three party organizations were liable to be put on trial. In response, quite a number of provincial party organizations expressed their solidarity with the accused and requested that they be put on trial as well. At the time the workers at numerous factories in Moscow expressed their solidarity with them.

In Petrograd, several dailies were closed. In Kostroma, Kalga, and Yaroslav, the local authorities levied a special tax on the sale of all non-Bolshevik newspapers (from three to five rubles for each copy). In Sormovo (a suburb of Nizhnii Novgorod), a paper of the local soviet (mostly Mensheviks and SRs) is published clandestinely despite the ban. All Socialist papers in Nazhnii Novgorod were closed. In Kineshma (Kostroma province) the authorities prohibited the sale of all bourgeois and “pseudo-Socialist papers.” In Kolomna (Moscow province), the authorities made it obligatory for all owners of taverns, canteens, and other establishments as well as home owners to subscribe to official Soviet periodicals. Socialist newspapers were closed in Tula, Tomsk, Smolensk, Ryazan, Armavir, Orenburg, Samara, Voronezh, and Tver.

In May and June, repressions may appear to be diminishing, but this can be explained by the fact that almost the entire socialist press in the provinces and a part of it in the capitals has been irrevocably liquidated. There is nothing left that could be closed. In Petrograd, the authorities closed the Menshevik Novyi Luch and Novyi Den’ and an SR paper, Delo Naroda, for publishing the resolution of the SR press in Petrograd came to an end. Of all the socialist papers, only Novaia Zhizn’ remained and not for long. In Moscow, the case of Vpered was reopened, but the newspaper was closed forever. In Orel, a 10,000-ruble fine was levied on the only remaining non-Bolshevik paper, Slovo Naroda. Socialist dailies were also closed in Arkhangel’sk, Tambov, Tomsk, Kazan, Voronezh, Kronstadt, and Astrakhan.

At present, as we write this report (end of June), not a single socialist paper comes out in Moscow. Only the government-controlled press is permitted. In Petrograd, too, all socialist papers have been closed. It goes without saying that in the provinces the situation is not any better. The working class and Democracy do not have a single periodical of their own, whereas before the Bolshevik coup, their number reached several hundred. Under these conditions, party organizations began to resort to an old method (well tried under Czarism), publishing underground. But the authorities immediately confiscated declarations and appeals published underground and made short shrift of those who disseminated them. In this fashion, the Soviet authorities have destroyed the cornerstone of democracy and liberty, freedom of the press. At present, not more than two or three socialist papers come out (and in small towns at that) in all of Soviet Russia. (After the assassination of Count Mirbach,[12] a great majority of Left SR papers were closed as well.)

Persecution of the Leaders of the Socialist Parties and Labor Movement: Arrests and Exiles

Once the Soviet government embarked on the course of repressions, it started to persecute individual political leaders, those “dangerous” to the “existing order.” Like any despotic government, it preferred to rely on summary reprisals by executive order rather than on judicial procedure. It retained the “Revolutionary Tribunal”[13] primarily to deal with cases of real and imaginary “conspiracies” against Soviet power, speculation, violation of countless Bolshevik decrees, and other abuses such as theft by government bonus whose number is incomparably higher now than under the Czarist regime.

It is simply impossible to count and list all the individuals who have suffered from persecution, both judicial and summary. Suffice it to say that their number is in the tens of thousands.  Just as before the revolution of 1917, the prisons in the capitals and even more so in the provinces are overflowing with members of socialist parties. At present, in the Butyrki jail in Moscow alone, more than 1,000 workers and peasants are imprisoned. Most of them have been arrested, just as in the last days of Robespierre’s dictatorship, on charges of counterrevolution. Moreover, the number of those arrested from among the “bourgeoisie” is many times smaller than the number of arrested socialists. This is because the monarchists or even the Kadets are by far less dangerous at present than the socialists, who are gaining influence and popularity among the workers and broad democratic circles with every passing day.

We have deliberately omitted from our survey all data on persecution during the first month and a half of Communist Party rule because it was directly primarily against civil servants of the overthrowing provisional government. Their number would probably be several thousands. Among them were, for example, socialist ministers in the provisional government Maliantovich, and Lierovskii—seized by the Bolsheviks on the night of October 25—Nikitin, Gvozdev, Salazkin, Maslov, and a commissar of the provisional government, Voitinskii, a Social Democrats [SD] who had been sentenced to four years of  hard labor under the old regime. Similarly, we omit here data on the mass arrests among officers, the clergy, students, and monarchists and members of bourgeois parties. We have limited out survey to Bolshevik reprisals against the socialists only. But here again our survey is not complete.

Arrests of socialists began more or less systematically in December 1917. As early as November, however, Ravich (an editor of an SD paper) and Dishen (a member of the city duma), Menshevik candidates for the Constituent Assembly, were arrested in Yaroslavl for refusing to obey the orders of Soviet power. On December 16, they arrested in Petrograd the entire council of supervisors [starotsy] at the tube plant because the workers there adopted a resolution against the Bolsheviks. They also searched the office of the Committee in Defense of the Constituent Assembly[14] and the committee of the Democratic Parties and Organizations. Everyone who happened to be there, about 40 people, was detained. Of those, 16 were imprisoned in Peter and Paul Fortress and kept there without any formal charges for five weeks (Vainshtein, Ermolaev, Bogdanow, Bramson). The prisoners sent an open letter in protest against their unlawful detention. At many factories and plants, resolutions in support of the prisoners were adopted. During December, members of the Union in Defense of the Constituent Assembly (mostly workers) were repeatedly subjected to temporary detention for disseminating declarations of that union and for organizing rallies. The number of arrests in December was so high that prisoners in the basement of Smolny protested in an open letter against unbearable overcrowding and unsanitary conditions.

The number of arrests in January was even higher than in December. In connection with the disbanding of the Constituent Assembly, an order was issued to arrest the entire CC of the SR party. CC members went into hiding. At the same time, members of the Peasant Unon[15] I. Sorokin and Shmelev, were arrested. On January 12, the CC of the People’s Socialist Party was searched and a secretary arrested. A worker at the Maxwell factory, Shchekunov, was arrested for collecting signatures on a declaration of protest against the shooting during the demonstration in defense of the Constituent Assembly. On January 23, sailors searched the Nevsky shipbuilding plant to find and arrest Aveed, a local SR worker, but the workers at the plant did not give him away and he was able to escape. A great many workers were arrested in January as they were distributing proclamations at the rallies. According to the chairman of the investigative commission, out of 1,200 persons under arrest in Petrograd by January 20, at least 25% had been arrested for political offenses.

In Moscow on January 5, a group of SDs headed by Teitel’baum were arrested at a rally in defense of the Constituent Assembly. They were beaten in the commissariat, subjected to all kinds of derision, and threatened with a revolver. An SD paper, Vpered, received a letter from the Butyrki jail from one of those arrested, a woman printer, Ulanova. She wrote:

We are in a dungeon where in the old days the autocracy made short work of us workers and socialists. And now we are thrown behind bars by the Bolsheviks. And they do it in the name of a workers’ organization—the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies … Comrade workers! A crime is being committed. In our name they perpetuate violence upon us. Just as in the last days of Czarism, they shoot with bullets at a demonstration in honor of the Constituent Assembly. … Demand from the Bolsheviks, who have deceived the workers,[16] demand from them the freedom that they have stolen from the people.

NOVGOROD: After the rally in defense of the Constituent Assembly, more than 70 people were arrested.

SIMBIRSK: Social Democrats Cheboksarov and Krasnov (the chairman of the city duma) were arrested.

SORMOVO (Nizhnii Novgorod province): Bykhovskii, the secretary of the Mutual Aid Fund and a member of the SD committee, was searched and put on trial by the Revolutionary Tribunal.

BOGORODSK (Nizhnii Novgorod province): At a workers’ rally, SD workers Surikov and Gladkov were arrested.

EKATERINBURG: On January 15, the SR party committee premises were searched, and two members, Zhelezkov and Kashcheev, arrested.

During February there were considerably fewer arrests than in January and December. This is partly because of a relative “pacification” in the wake of the disbanding of the Constituent Assembly and partly a result of the circular sent throughout Russia by the commissar of justice, Steinberg,[17] who recommended resorting to arrests and other repressive measures only in cases of “extreme necessity” because “suppression of counterrevolutionary activity must be conducted within the bounds of revolutionary legal order.”

NIZHNII NOVGOROD: Naletov, Zakhoder, and Gofman, the leaders of the SD party committee and members of the city duma, were arrested and sentences to exile from Nazhnii Novgorod. They went on hunger strike in prison.

BOGORODSK (Nizhnii Novgorod province): Eight leaders of the local SR, SD, and Bund organizations are arrested.

MINSK: Persecution of socialists reached such proportions that they had to go underground, just like under Tsarism.

PETROGRAD: In early March, the Red Guards arrested Kuz’min, an SD worker, for a disrespectful comment about them at the cartridge plant. They beat him up with rifle butts, wounded him in his side with a bayonet, and threatened to finish him off. Thanks only to the intervention of Riazanaov, an influential Bolshevik and member of the CEC, was Kuz’min saved and released.

MOSCOW: Chirkin, a railway worker, was arrested when he arrived to give a lecture.

BOGORODSK: Mass arrests among the SRs and SDs took place for “agitation against Soviet power.”

KHARKOV: SDs Tkahenko, Kaloshin, and Bondarenko, workers of the locomotive plant, were arrested.

ZLATOUST: After the Bolsheviks lost elections to the local soviet, 13 workers, Mensheviks, and SRs were arrested.

SARATOV: The authorities issued an order to arrest SRs Altovskii and Betlin.

IVANOVO VOZNESENSK: For publishing a proclamation in defense of the Constituent Assembly, SR party committee members were arrested.

PERM: An order was issued to conduct a search and to arrest influential SD party members and workers Emel’ianov, Zhandarmov, Iakubov, Iakimov, and others.

SULIN (the Don Cossacks area): Among those arrested were a distinguished figure in the local trade union movement, Tuliakov, a Menshevik formerly a member of the Fourth State Duma, and Mesluev, a student. They were put on trial, but Mesluev was executed before the trial. At the trial, the prosecutor demanded the death penalty for Tuliakov. The workers from the local plant had always elected Tuliakov to numerous offices, including that of the state duma. Under their pressure, the defendants were acquitted. Tuliakov, however, did not escape a bloody end; several months later he was treacherously killed (see below).

KOVROV (Vladimir province): After the shooting at a workers’ demonstration, up to 40 Social Democrats were arrested.

KINESHMA (Kostroma province): The local soviet declared a state of siege and imposed a tax of 1,000-3,000 rubles on the Mensheviks and SRs for permits to hold public lectures.

KALUGA: The Kaluga SD committee telegraphed to Moscow: “A trial of the Menshevik leaders of trade unions and Menshevik members of the soviet is going on. They took them all to prison even before the verdict was determined. We appeal to political parties, trade unions, and social organizations to defend the accused, signed THE MENSHEVIK FACTION OF THE SOVIET.”

For April we have very meager data. By that time Russia had broken into pieces, and all communications were coming to an end. [By April 1918, the Bolsheviks had been overthrown or prevented from coming to power in the Ukraine, Caucasia, and parts of Siberia.] Moreover, in parts of Russia still under Soviet rule, a considerable part of the independent press had been liquidated. News from the provinces was reaching the capital in ever-diminishing volume.

MOSCOW: On April 20 a Menshevik, Ioffe, was arrested at a workers’ rally. For speeches in the Moscow soviet, Kipen and Alekseev were put on trial by a Revolutionary Tribunal.

YAROSLAVL: Members of the SD party committee, Schleifer and Bogdanov, an SR, Loktov, were arrested. On April 18, they were put on trial.[18]

RYBINSK (Yaroslavl province): Members of the city duma—Mikhailov, Vitalin, Levin, and Karasnikov, Social Democrats—were arrested.

KURSK: The chairman of the city duma, Vasil’ev, an SR, was arrested.

SMOLENSK: At the Congress of Soviets of Western Provinces, a Bolshevik, was arrested for suggesting that freedom of speech be granted to the Mensheviks.

ROSLAVL (Smolensk province): In connection with disorders at the end of the month caused by food supply problems, mass arrests of workers (several dozen) took place.[19]

TAMBOV:On the eve of May 1, the chairman of the local Menshevik organization, Orlov, was arrested. This caused a protest of railway workers.

YEGORYEVSK (Ryaan province): For speeches at a peasant congress, Social Democrats Belov and Lezhneva were sentenced to a three-months’ imprisonment by administrative order.

LOSVENSKII PLANT (the Urals): For distributing a leaflet on the occasion of the centenary of Karl Marx’s birth, the secretary of the SD committee was arrested on May 24.

The magnitude of repressions during June exceeded any other. Threatened on all sides, Soviet authorities lost all restraint and virtually declared war on the working class.

PETROGRAD: In connection with the assassination of Commissar Volodarskii[20] (who committed it is unknown), mass searches and arrests were made among the workers of the Neskii district. Among others, they arrested an SR worker from Obukhov plant, Eremeev, as a duspect. In response, the Obukhov plant workers (about 5,000) went on strike and demanded that he be released immediately. The sailors of the mine squadron, stationed near the plan, supported the strikes. Under the sailors’ pressure and threats,[21] Eremeev was set free. After this, though, the sailors were disarmed and all Obukhov workers dismissed.[22] In fact, the plant is still not in operation.

MOSCOW: The extent of the repressions here is particularly high. After the rally at Shrader’s factory, SDs Rashkovskii and Senderovich, as well as the deleate of the Petrograd workers’ assembly, Krakovskii, were arrested.[23]

Almost at the same time [June 13, 2918], all the Moscow factory and plant representatives (“Workers Conference”)[24] were arrested (45 people).

Among them are Menshevik CC members Kuchin and Troianovskii. The latter two are still in jail; the majority were released.

On June 14, the Bolsheviks expelled members of the Social Democratic and Socialist Revolutionary parties from the CEC. As they were leaving the session, Disler. an SR, was arrested. When his family inquired about his status, they were told that he was going to be held “as a hostage.”[25] This was the first case of the Bolsheviks’ taking hostage a member of the legislative institution. On June 17, a 16-year-old youth, Ratatovskii, was arrested for posting declarations of the workers’ assembly in the streets. During a search at the Riabushinskii printing shops, proclamations were discovered on the person of a typesetter, Ruzhkov. He was arrested. On June 10, a member of the Petrograd delegation of the Workers’ Assembly, Kuemin, was arrested at a workers’ meeting preparing a convocation of the Moscow Workers’ Assembly.

PETROGRAD: On June 11, the offices of the SR Central Committee and the SR publishing house were closed and sealed. The same was repeated in Moscow in July. Several party members were arrested.

KOLONINA (Moscow province): SD committee members Moskvin, Elenin, and Rozen were arrested. In response, workers of the Kolomna machine-building plant went on strike, and all those arrested were released.

SARATOV: 15 Social Democrats (the entire SD committee) were put on trial by the Revolutionary Tribunal. Many of them are workers. They were charged with criticizing Soviet power. At the session of the tribunal, the audience greeted them with an ovation. The tribunal found the defendants guilty and resolved to expel them from the workers’ milieu.

TULA: An SD worker, Upovalov, was arrested. Several days later five more workers were arrested at the cartridge plant. Then several members of the strike committee at the armament plant were arrested in connection with the political strike protesting worker repression,[26] On June 13, the chairman of the Tula Workers’ Assembly, Aleksandrov, and the secretary of the SD committee, Kogan, were arrested on the street.

ARKHANGEL’SK: Members of the SD and SR factions in the city duma were arrested and brought to Moscow. In response, the Arkhangersk SD party committee issued a declaration in protest. As a result, all of its members were also arrested on June 25 and brought to Moscow.

MOTOVILIKHA[27] AND IZHEVSK (the Urals): After the new elections to the local soviet ended unfavorably for the Bolsheviks, they made mass arrests among the workers of these plants (up to 70 people). Crowds of people assembled to protest these arrests. They were disbanded by the Red Guards, who beat the workers with rifle butts and shot into the air to disperse them.

TYUMEN: On June 2, 19 SDs and SRs (all members of the city duma, 16 of them workers) were arrested. Local workers went on strike in protest, Red Guards opened fire on workers’ crowds.

OREL: The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies was disbanded, and workers Glukhov (SD) and Volobuev[28] (SR) were arrested.

VIAZNIKI (Vladimir province): The local SD organization was completely decimated by arrests, made in response to the success of the SDs in the elections to the soviet.

RYEZIHTSA (Orel province): Local authorities issued a decree[29] that read “Persons of anti-Soviet power[30] (monarchists, bureaucrats, underlings of the old regime, officers, the bourgeoisie, speculators, marauders, Right Socialist Revolutionaries, Mensheviks. People’s Socialists, and Kadets) will be persecuted.”[31]

During the month of July, repressions continued without interruption both in the capitals and in the provinces. The absence of opposition party press or, for that matter, any other press independent of the authorities means that we cannot provide much factual data. We shall point out, therefore, only the most well-known cases.

PETROGRAD: The entire board of the Printers’ Union was arrested for taking part in preparations for the general strike on July 2.

MOSCOW: On July 17, the premises of the Central Committee of the SD party were searched, and CC member Iugov and Moscow committee members A. and B. Ma’kirks and a typist, Vera Gronshkevich, were arrested. On July 23, all the participants in the Congress of Workers’ Assemblies were arrested in Moscow. These delegates from Petrograd, Moscow, Kolomna, Sormovou Nizhni Novgorod, Tula, Bryansk, Kulebaki, Tver, Vologda, and Orel were elected by many thousands of workers at factories and plants. They assembled to prepare an All-Russian Workers’ Congress.

The Bolshevik government denounced this attempt, labeled it a “counter-revolutionary conspiracy,” and decreed that those arrested would be tried by the Supreme Tribunal, well-known for its death penalties. Among those arrested are well-known leaders of the workers’ movement, such as members of the Central Committee of the SD party; R. Abramovich, whom many leaders of European Social Democracy know personally (particularly in Austria and Switzerland); Al’ter, a member of the Bund CC; V. Chirkin, a former chairman of the Metalists’ Union; union leaders Ia. Smirnovi Y. Volimy, and D. Zakharov; a well-known worker metalist, N, Glebov[32]; as well as Borisenko, Berg,[33] and others.

We have already pointed out that in many cities, Socialist party organizations had to go underground because of repression. We have left out the repressions against cooperatives. although these have intensified in the last two to three months. All this information is on the pages of the periodicals of the cooperatives. Likewise we have not listed all the data in our possession on cases of persecution of trade unions that do not support Soviet power. Finally, we are singling out under a separate heading the Bolshevik government’s struggle with its favorite form of workers’ organization—the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies—because these are getting out of control and are increasingly against the Communist government. What we have said so far, however, is enough to ascertain that the government referring to itself as “Socialist” and “Communist” has managed to destroy, in a short time, freedom of association, freedom of the press, and inviolability of person. Below we shall show how it did away with freedom of assembly. With all these measures, the Soviet government has returned Russia to pre-revolutionary times, having surpassed the record of the Romanov’s autocracy.

—CENTRAL COMMITTEE OF THE RSDLP

[The manuscript ends here. Unfortunately, no section dealing with Bolshevik reprisals against the Soviets has been found. For a discussion of the soviet elections in the spring of 1918, see Vladimir Brovkin, The Mensheviks after October: Socialist Opposition and the Rise of the Bolshevik Dictatorship (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987), chap. 5.]

 

Murray Brovkin writes: This handwritten document, prepared by the Menshevik Central Committee, is a report to the Second International and to Western socialist parties based on information from local organizations. It attempts to present a systematic summary of at least the major acts of violence and persecution of political opponents by the Bolshevik government during what now appears to be the most peaceful period, from October 1917 to July 1918. Because few provincial newspapers were available in the West and because most non-Bolshevik press was shut down during the first few months, this report is one of the few testimonies on local political and local opposition politicians in Bolshevik Russia in 1918.  

[PW: This document appeared in Brovkin’s book, Dear Comrades: Menshevik Reports on the Bolshevik Revolution and the Civil War as document 15. Throughout the footnotes there are references to numbered documents; these are documents published in Brovkin’s compilation.]

Endnotes

[1] The titles in parentheses are the titles under which these periodicals resumed publication, usually after they had been shut down by the Bolshevik authorities.

[2] In the Russian political context of late 1917, the term “democratic circles” identified those political  organizations, groups, and parties – the Kadets, the SRs, and the Mensheviks – that had as a platform universal suffrage.

[3] Democratic parties and organizations.

[4] All Russian revolutionary parties, including the Bolsheviks, for decades advocated the introduction of universal suffrage and the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, which were accomplished by the leaders of the February revolution. Only after the Bolsheviks saw that they would not have a majority in the Constituent Assembly did they publicly reverse their political stance. Other political parties (and, as indicated in Dan’s letter, document 3, a third of the Bolshevik faction in the Constituent Assembly) remained loyal to the principle of universal suffrage. For these political parties the disbanding to a “break with all revolutionary traditions.”

[5] The elections to the Constituent Assembly started on 12 November 1917, three weeks after the Bolsheviks seized power, and went on for ever weeks. The returns from the provinces came in slowly.

[6] Even the Bolshevik party was divided on the legitimacy of disbanding the Constituent Assembly; thus Lenin had to overcome the opposition of all political parties and part of his own party. For a detailed description of the Bolsheviks’ thorough preparations for disbanding the Constituent Assembly, see Peter Scheibert, Lenin an der Macht: Das Russische Volk in der Revolution, 1918-1922 (Lenin in Power: The Russian People in the Revolution, 1918-1922.)

[7] This refers to the internal crises of the Menshevik and SR parties that were rooted in deep divisions over policy. In the Menshevik central committee the two factions came to a stalemate—10 to 11—and no binding policy could be adopted until the party congress in December 1917. On the formal breakup of the SR party, see Oliver Radkey, The Sickle under the Hammer: The Russian Socialist Revolutionaries in the Early Months of Soviet Rule (New York: Columbia University Press), pp. 95—163, and on the Mensheviks, Vladimir Brovkin, The Mensheviks after October: Socialist Opposition and the Rise of the Bolshevik Dictatorship (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1987), prologue.

[8] In Moscow, the Bolsheviks encountered serious resistance when they tried to seize power. The fighting between supporters of the city duma and the Bolsheviks went on for several days in early November 1917. The Russian original uses the words “civil war” here. I have avoided this term because it connotes a larger historical period than the first few days of fighting in November 1917.

[9] E. K. Breshko-Breshkovskaia (1844-1934) was a Socialist Revolutionary who, during her long career I the party, took part in major campaigns and activities of the Populists and later Socialist Revolutionaries. She knew Petr Lavrov and Mikhail Bakunin and was among those who went to the people in 1874. Tried in the famous trial of 193 in 1878, she was also one of the founders of the party of Socialist Revolutionaries at the turn of the century making her the oldest and most experienced revolutionary and a link between the generations, hence, “the grandmother of the Russian Revolution.”

[10] Vpered (Forward) was the newspaper of the Moscow Mensheviks in 1917. After Moscow became the Soviet capital in March 1918, Vpered became the paper of the Menshevik Central Committee.

[11] People’s Commissar replaced the term minister in Lenin’s government, which was officially called Council of People’s Commissars (CPC).

[12] Count Wilhelm Mirbach (1878-1918) was the German ambassador to Soviet Russia in 1918. On July 6, 1918, Mirbach was assassinated by two terrorists who arrived in the German embassy with valid Cheka documents. Until recently it was accepted that Count Mirbach was killed by Left SRs to invalidate the Brest-Litovsky treaty. Yurii Felshtinsky, however, argues that because of their political commitments the Left SRs had no choice but to accept the responsibility for an assassination they did not engineer. (Felshtinsky, Bol’sheviki I Levye Esery: oktiabr’ 1917-ilul’ 1918. Na puti k odnopartiinoi diktature [The Bolsheviks and the Left SRs: October 1917-July 1918. On the Way to a One-Party Dictatorship] (Paris: YMCA, 1985). Who sent the assassins to kill Mirbach? What was the role of Lenin’s secret police? These questions have been reopened.

[13] For a discussion of revolutionary tribunals see Peter Kenez, “Lenin and the Freedom of the Press” in Abbot Gleason, Peter Kenez, and Richard Stites, eds, Bolshevik Culture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985) pp. 131-10.

[14] A forerunner of the Workers’ Assemblies, independent workers’ organizations opposing the Bolshevik dictatorship.

[15] A powerful organization led by the Socialist Revolutionaries. During December 1917 and January 1918 intense political struggle for control of the Peasant Union was going on between the Bolsheviks, the Socialist Revolutionaries, and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries. See Scheiberg, Lenin an der Marcht, pp. 117-122.

[16] The Bolsheviks, before they seized power, had pledged to convene the Constituent Assembly.

[17] Isaac Steinberg was people’s commissar of justice from mid-December 1917 to March 6, 1918. On that day, the Left Socialist Revolutionaries resigned from the coalition government to protest the Brest-Litovsk treaty.

[18] This trial took place after the Menshevik and Social Revolutionary bloc had won elections to the city soviet and after Schleifer had been elected chairman of the new soviet. See document 8.

[19] For details, see document 11. In this report on the events in Roslavl, only arrests, not executions, are mentioned.

[20] V. Volodarskii was assassinated on June 20, 1918 in Petrograd most likely by a Social Revolutionary terrorist group acting independently of its central committee.

[21] They pointed guns at the local soviet and presented their demands.

[22] For details of this incident, see “Zakrytie Obukhovskogo zavoda,” Novaia Zhinzn’, no. 122 (June 24, 1918 Petrograd).

[23] This was on June 9 in Moscow. At the end of May, the Petrograd Workers’ Assembly sent a delegation to Moscow to establish contact with the Moscow workers and to promote the workers’ assembly there. Krakovskii was killed by the Cheka later in the summer (see document 16).

[24] This meeting also included delegates from Tula, Sormovo, and other industrial cities. It assembled to prepare a convocation of the All-Russian Workers’ Congress.

[25] A similar action was considered in regard to Martov (see document 14).

[26] On 17 June 1918, lbla went on a general strike, partly in response to the arrest of Tula representatives at the intercity conference of workers’ assemblies.

[27] An important industrial town not far from Perm in the Urals; see document 71.

[28] Other sources spell the name Volubaev.

[29] It was not uncommon in 1918 for local authorities to issue decrees on their own, in imitation of Lenin’s people’s commissars.

[30] Iitsa witisoverskoi viasti, illiterate formulation; what is meant is persons of anti-Soviet convictions.

[31] Ibuilut presiedovaesial.

[32] Leader of the workers’ opposition at the Putilov plant.

[33] E. Berg, Socialist Revolutionary and chairman of the Petrograd Workers’ Assembly.

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