Part II: The jolt (1905-1906)

CHAPTER 1: The Gaponist Epic; First General Strike

In Moscow Zubatov was fairly quickly unmasked. He was not able to accomplish a great deal. But in St. Petersburg the affair went much better. Gapon, very crafty, working in the shadows, knew how to win the confidence and even the affection of groups of workers. Genuinely talented as an agitator and organizer, he succeeded in setting up so-called "Workers' Sections" which he personally led and which he stimulated with his energetic activity. Toward the end of 1904 there were eleven of these sections, located in different areas of the capital, with a membership of several thousands.
Workers voluntarily attended these "Sections" in the evening to discuss their problems, listen to lectures, look at the newspapers. Since the entrance was rigorously guarded by the Gaponist workers themselves, the militants of the political parties could not easily get in. And even if they got in, they were quickly spotted and thrown out.
The St. Petersburg workers took their sections very seriously. Having complete confidence in Gapon, they told him about their misfortunes and their aspirations, and discussed ways to improve their situation, examining various methods of struggling against the bosses. Himself the son of poor peasants and having spent his life among workers, Gapon perfectly understood the psychology of the workers who confided in him. He was extremely good at pretending approval and genuine empathy for the workers' movement. Such was also his official mission, at least at the beginning.
The proposition which the government wanted to impose on the workers in their sections was the following: "Workers, you can improve your situation by applying yourselves to this task meticulously, within legal limits, in the context of your sections. To succeed you don't need to engage in politics. Concern yourselves with your concrete personal and immediate interests, and you'll soon be leading a happier life. Parties and political struggles, recipes proposed by bad shepherds -- the socialists and the revolutionaries -- won't lead you to anything worth having. Concern yourselves with your immediate economic interests. This is permitted, and it's only in this way that you'll really improve your situation. The government is very concerned about you and will help you." Such was the thesis that Gapon and his helpers, recruited from among the workers themselves, preached and elaborated in the sections.
The workers did not wait to respond to the invitation. They prepared an action. They developed and formulated their demands, with Gapon's agreement. In his extremely delicate situation, Gapon had to take part. If he failed to do so, he would immediately provoke discontent among the workers; he would certainly even be accused of betraying their interests and supporting the boss's side. He would lose his popularity. Even more serious suspicions would arise. If this happened, his work would be ruined. In his double game Gapon had above all else and at all costs to retain the sympathies he had known how to win. He understood this well and he acted as if he completely supported the workers' cause, hoping to .be able to retain mastery of the movement, manipulate the masses at will, direct, shape and channel their action.
But the opposite took place. The movement quickly went beyond the limits that had been assigned to it. It rapidly acquired unforeseen amplitude, vigor and momentum, burning all the calculations, overturning all the expectations of its authors. It soon became a veritable flood which carried Gapon with it.
In December, 1904, the workers of the Putilov factory, one of the largest in St. Petersburg, and one where Gapon had numerous followers and friends, decided to begin the action. With Gapon's agreement, they drew up and gave the managers a list of economic demands which were very moderate. At the end of the month they learned that the managers "did not believe it possible to consider these demands" and that the government was powerless to do anything about it. Furthermore, the managers of the factory fired some workers who were considered leaders. It was demanded that they be reinstated. The management refused.
The indignation and anger of the workers was immense, first of all, their long and laborious efforts had led to nothing. Secondly, and more importantly, they had been led to believe that their efforts would be crowned with success. Ga-pon himself had encouraged them, had filled them with hope. And here their first step along the good legal road had brought them nothing but a bitter failure which could in no way be justified. They felt tricked and morally they felt obliged to intervene in favor of their fired comrades.
Naturally their eyes turned toward Gapon. To save his prestige and his role, Gapon acted more indignant than anyone else and urged the workers to go to the Putilov factory to react vigorously. They did not hesitate. Feeling themselves safe, continuing to limit themselves to purely economic demands, protected by the sections and by Gapon, they decided, after several turbulent meetings, to support their cause with a strike. The government, trusting Gapon, did not intervene. It is thus that the strike at the Putilov factories, the first major strike in Russia, broke out in December, 1904.
But the movement did not stop there. All the Workers' Sections stirred and moved to defend the action of the Putilov workers. They very rightly understood the failure of the Putilov workers as a general failure. Gapon naturally had to side with the sections. In the evening he visited all of them, giving speeches everywhere in favor of the Putilov strikers and urg;ng workers to support them with decisive actions.
Some days passed. Extraordinary agitation shook the masses of workers of the capital. Factories emptied spontaneously. Without signal or sign, without preparation or leadership, the Putilov strike became a nearly general strike of the workers of St. Petersburg.
And it was a tempest. The strikers rushed en masse toward the sections, disregarding all formalities and rules, calling for immediate and impressive action.
In short, the strike alone was not enough. It was necessary to act, to do something: something large, impressive, decisive. This was the general feeling.
It was then that a fantastic idea was formulated, no one knows exactly how or where -- the idea of preparing a "petition" to the Tsar in the name of unhappy workers and peasants of all the Russias; the idea of a massive demonstration in front of the Winter Palace to support the petition; the idea of giving the petition to the Tsar himself through a delegation headed by Gapon, asking the Tsar to listen to the miseries of his people. However naive and paradoxical it might have been, this idea spread like wildfire among the workers of St. Petersburg. It unified them, inspired them, made them enthusiastic. It gave a meaning and a precise goal to their movement.
The sections, joining together with the masses, decided to organize the action. Gapon was charged with drafting the petition. Once again he agreed. Thus by force of circumstances he became the leader of a major, historical movement of the masses.
The petition was ready during the first days of January, 1905. Simple and moving, it exuded devotion and confidence. The sufferings of the people were elaborated with a great deal of feeling and sincerity. The Tsar was asked to turn to these sufferings, to agree to effective reforms and to see them carried through.
It is strange, but unquestionable, that Gapon's petition was an inspired and genuinely moving work.
The next step was to have the petition adopted by all the sections, to communicate it to the mass of the population and to organize the march toward the Winter Palace.
In the meantime a new factor came into play. Some revolutionaries belonging to the political parties (until this moment the parties had stayed away from "Gaponism") met with Gapon. Their main aim was to influence him to give his attitude, his petition and his action a style which was less "submissive," more dignified, more firm -- in short, more revolutionary. Circles of progressive workers also drove him in this direction. Gapon gracefully gave in. Some Socialist Revolutionaries established relations with him. In agreement with them, he changed his original petition, enlarging it considerably, and playing down its loyal devotion to the Tsar.
In its final form, the "petition" was the greatest historical paradox that ever existed. It was loyally addressed to the Tsar and it asked the Tsar to authorize, and even carry out, neither more nor less than a thoroughgoing revolution which would, in the last analysis, eliminate his power. In fact, the entire minimum program of the revolutionary parties was included in it. Among the urgent measures demanded were: complete freedom of the press, of speech, of thought; absolute freedom for all associations and organizations; the right of workers to join unions, the right to strike; some agrarian laws leading to the expropriation of the large landowners in favor of peasant communities; and finally the immediate convocation of a Constituent Assembly elected ofi the basis of a democratic electoral law. It was a blunt invitation to suicide. Here is the complete and final text of the "petition":

We, the workers of St. Petersburg, our wives, our children and our parents, old people with no resources, have come to You, Oh Tsar, to ask you for justice and protection.
We are reduced to beggars. We are oppressed, crushed under the weight of exhausting labor, drenched in insults. We are not considered human beings but are treated as slaves who must suffer their sad fate in silence. We have suffered all this patiently. But we are now being thrown to the very bottom of the abyss where only ignorance and despotism will be our lot. We are being smothered by despotism and by a treatment contrary to all human laws.
We can endure no more, Oh Tsar! The terrible moment has come when we would really rather die thati continue our unbearable sufferings. This is why we have stopped working and why we told our bosses that we will not return until they have granted our just demands.
We have asked for very little, yet without the little we have asked for our life is not a life, but a hell, an eternal torture.
Our first request asks our bosses to take full account of our needs, in agreement with us. And they have refused! We have been denied the very right to discuss our needs, under the pretext that the law does not recognize such a right.
Our demand for an eight hour day has also been rejected as illegal.
We have asked for participation in the determination of our wages; for arbitration in case of disagreement between us and the internal administration of the factory; for a minimum wage of a rouble a day for unskilled workers, men and women; for the suppression of overtime; for safety in the workplaces so that those who work there will not die of wind, rain or snow . . . We have also asked for care for the sick; we have also asked that orders given to us not be accompanied by insults.
All these demands have been rejected as contrary to the law. The very act of formulating demands has been interpreted as a crime. The desire to improve our situation is considered by our bosses as insolence toward them.
Oh Emperor! Those of us here number more than 300,000 human beings. And yet we are human beings only in appearance. In reality we have no human rights. We are not allowed to speak, to think, to meet for the purpose of discussing our needs, to take measures to improve our situation. Whoever among us dares to raise his voice in favor of the working class is thrown into prison or exile. To have a generous heart and a sensitive soul are considered crimes. To express feelings of fraternity toward the unfortunate, the homeless, the victimized, the fallen, is an abominable crime.
Oh Tsar! Is all this consistent with the commandments of God, through whose power you govern? Is life worth living under such laws? Would it not be preferable for all of us, Russian workers, to die, leaving the capitalists and the functionaries to live alone and enjoy their lives?
Lord, such is the future that awaits us. And this is why we are assembled in front of Your palace. You are our last hope; Do not refuse to help bring Your people out of the pit of outlaws where there is only misery and ignorance. Give Your people a chance, a means to realize their real destiny. Deliver them from the intolerable oppression of the bureaucrats. Demolish the wall that separates You from the people and call them to rule the country jointly with You.
You have been sent down here to lead the people to happiness. Yet bit by bit, happiness is taken from us by your functionaries, who give us only pain and humiliation.
Look over our demands with attention and without anger. They have been formulated, not for evil, but for good, for our good, Lord, and for Yours. It is not insolence that speaks in us, but awareness of the general need to put an end to the insupportable situation of today.
Russia is too enormous, its needs are too varied for her to be led by a government composed solely of bureaucrats. It is absolutely necessary for the people to participate in the government, because only the people know their needs.
Do not, therefore, refuse to help Your people. Tell the representatives of all the classes in the country to assemble without delay. Let the capitalists and the workers be represented. Let the functionaries, the priests, the doctors and the professors choose their delegates as well. Let each be free to elect whoever pleases him. To this end, allow the election of a Constituent Assembly under a system of universal suffrage.
This is our central demand; everything else depends on it. This would be the best and the only real balm for our open wounds. If it is not applied, our wounds will remain open and we will bleed to death.
There is no panacea for all our ills. Various cures are needed. We are going to list them now. We speak to you with sincerity, with open hearts, Lord, as to a father.
The following measures are indispensable.
The first group consists of measures against the absence of all rights and against the ignorance which marks the Russian people. These measures include:
Personal freedom and integrity; freedom of speech, of the press, of association, of thought in religious matters; separation of Church and State.
State-supported universal and compulsory education.
Ministers who are responsible before the nation; guarantees for the legality of administrative measures.
Equality of all individuals before the law, without exception.
Immediate release of all those imprisoned for their beliefs.
The second group consists of measures against poverty:
Abolition of all indirect taxation. Direct and progressive taxation of incomes.
Repeal of the fees for the purchase of lands. Low interest credit, gradual remission of the land to the people.
The third group consists of measures against the crushing of labor by capital:
Legal protection of labor.
The freedom of workers to establish unions for the purpose of cooperation and to regulate professional problems.
An eight-hour working day; restriction of overtime.
The freedom of labor to struggle against capital.
Participation of representatives of the working class in the preparation of a law on State insurance for the workers.
Minimum wages.
These, Lord, are our principal needs. Command their fulfillment. Swear to us that this shall be done, and You will make Russia happy and glorious, and Your name will forever be inscribed in our hearts, in the hearts of our children and of our children's children.
But if You do not give Your promise, if You do not accept our petition, we have decided to die here, on this square, in front of Your palace, because we have nowhere to go, nor any reason to be elsewhere. For us, only two paths are open: one leads to freedom and happiness, the other, to the grave. Point to one of these paths, oh Tsar, and we will follow it, even if it leads us to death.
If our lives become a holocaust for suffering Russia, we will not regret the sacrifice. We offer it with joy.

It is noteworthy that despite all the paradoxical elements of the situation that was created, the action which was being prepared was no more, for an informed observer, than the logical outcome of the combined pressure of various real factors; it was a natural "synthesis" of the various elements at play.
On the one hand, the idea of a collective demonstration before the Tsar was in essence nothing more than a manifestation of the naive faith of the popular masses in the Tsar's good will. (We have already described the hold which the "legend of the Tsar" exerted on the people). Russian workers, who had never broken their bond with the countryside, momentarily returned to the ancient peasant tradition by going to ask the "little father" for help and protection. Taking advantage of the unusual situation which was offered to them, roused by a spontaneous and irresistible outburst, they undoubtedly tried to point to the sore spot, to obtain a concrete and definitive solution. While expecting, from the bottom of their hearts, at least a partial success, they wanted most of all to know where they stood.
On the other hand, the influence of the revolutionary parties -- who could do nothing but stand aside, too powerless to stop the movement, not to speak of substituting for it a more revolutionary movement -- was nevertheless strong enough to exert some pressure on Gapon, obliging him to "revolutionize" his act.
In short the act was a bastard, but natural, product of the forces in play.
As for intellectual and liberal circles, they could do no more than passively observe the events as they unfolded.
The behavior and psychology of Gapon himself, paradoxical as they may seem, can nevertheless be easily explained. Originally no more than a clown, an agent in the pay of the police, he was swept along by the tremendous wave of the popular movement which drove him irresistibly forward. The movement ultimately carried him with it. Events placed him, despite himself, at the head of crowds who idolized him. Adventurous and romantic in spirit, he must have let himself be nursed by an illusion. Instinctively aware of the historical importance of the events, he probably drew himself an exaggerated picture. He could already see the entire country undergoing a revolution, the throne in danger, and himself, Gapon, supreme leader of the movement, idol of the people, carried to the summit of glory. Fascinated by this dream that reality seemed to justify, he finally gave himself body and soul to the movement he had started. His role as police agent ceased to interest him. He no longer even thought of it during the course of these feverish days, completely dazzled by the lightning of the enormous storm, completely absorbed by his new role, which must have seemed to him almost a divine mission. Such was probably the outlook of Gapon at the beginning of January, 1905. It is reasonable to assume that at this moment, and in this sense, he was sincere. At least that's the personal impression of the author of these lines, who met Gapon a few days before the events and saw him in action.
Even the strangest factor of all -- the silence of the government and the complete absence of all police intervention during the days of feverish preparation -- can easily be explained. The police could not read the thoughts of the new Gapon. They trusted him to the very end, interpreting his action as a clever move. And when the police finally did become aware of the change and the imminent danger, they could no longer stop or master the events that broke out. Somewhat disconcerted at first, the government finally decided to wait for the opportunity to wipe out the movement in a single blow. For a moment, having received no orders, the police didn't budge. We should add that this incomprehensible and mysterious fact encouraged the masses and raised their hopes. "The government doesn't dare oppose the movement; it'll give in," people commented.
The march toward the Winter Palace was set for Sunday morning, January 9 (old calendar). The last days were devoted mainly to public readings of the "petition" at the "sections." The same sequence was repeated almost everywhere. During the course of the day, Gapon himself or one of his friends read and commented on the petition to masses of workers who took turns filling the meeting places. As soon as the place filled, the door was closed and the petition was read; those present signed their names on a separate sheet and left the room. Another crowd of people who had patiently waited for their turn in the street filled the room, and the ceremony was repeated. This continued to take place in all the sections until after midnight.
What gave a tragic note to these last preparations was the supreme appeal of the orator and the crowd's solemn, grim oath in response to the appeal. "Comrade workers, peasants and others!" said the orator, "Brothers in misery! Be loyal to the cause and to the demonstration, all of you. Come to the square in front of the Winter Palace on Sunday morning. Your failure to do so will be treason to our cause. But come quietly and peacefully, living up to the solemn hour that strikes. Father Gapon has already warned the Tsar and has personally assured him that he will be safe among you. If you allow yourselves a misplaced act, Father Gapon will have to answer for it. You have heard the petition. Our demands are just. We can no longer continue this miserable life. That's why we're going to the Tsar with open arms, our hearts full of love and hope. All he has to do is receive us and listen to our request. Gapon himself will give him the petition. Let us hope, comrades, let us hope, brothers, that the Tsar receives us, that he listens to us and that he takes steps to satisfy our just demands. But, brothers, if instead of receiving us, the Tsar turns on us with guns and swords, then, my brothers, pity for him! Then we no longer have a Tsar. Then let him be damned forever, together with his entire dynasty! Swear, all of you, comrades, brothers, plain citizens, swear that then you will never forget his betrayal. Swear that then you will try to destroy the traitor in every way possible . . ." And the entire assembly, completely carried away, raised their hands and answered: "We swear!"
Where Gapon himself read the petition -- and he read it at least once at every section -- he added: "I, the priest George Gapon, through the will of God, free you in that case from the oath given to the Tsar, and I bless in advance whosoever shall destroy him. Because in that case we will no longer have a Tsar!" Pale with emotion, he repeated this phrase two or three times to the silent and trembling audience.
"Swear that you'll follow me, swear on the heads of your dear ones, your children!" "Yes, father, yes! We swear on the heads of our children!" was invariably the response.
On January 8, in the evening, everything was ready for the march. Certain intellectual and literary circles learned that the decision of the government had been taken: under no circumstances was the crowd to approach the Palace; if the crowd insisted, shoot without pity. In all haste, a delegation was dispatched to the authorities to try to prevent the shedding of blood. But in vain. All the orders had already been given. The capital was in the hands of troops armed to the teeth.
The rest is known. On Sunday, January 9, in the morning, an immense crowd composed mainly of workers (often with their families) as well as various other elements, began to move in the direction of the Winter Palace. Tens of thousands of people, men, women and children, starting out from all parts of the capital and its suburbs, marched toward the meeting place.
Everywhere they ran into curtains of troops and police who fired continuously at this human sea. But the pressure of this compact mass of people -- a pressure which continued to increase from one minute to the next -- was such that the crowd continued to move toward the palace anyway, and without pause, filling and congesting the streets around it. Thousands of people, dispersed by the shots, obstinately moved toward the goal, taking side streets and detours, moved by the impetus of the action, by curiosity, by anger, by the pressing need to cry out their indignation and their horror. There were many who continued, in spite of everything, to retain a spark of hope, believing that if only they could succeed in reaching the square in front of the Tsar's palace, the Tsar would come to them, would receive them and would mend everything. Others thought that, faced with a fait accompli, the Tsar could no longer resist and would be obliged to give in. Still others, the most naive, imagined that the Tsar was not aware of what was happening, that he knew nothing of the butchery, and that the police, after concealing the facts from the very beginning, were now trying to keep the people from coming into contact with the "Little Father." So they had to reach the Tsar at all costs . . . Furthermore, they had sworn to be there . . . And finally, Gapon was there; perhaps he had succeeded in reaching the Tsar . . .
In any case, waves of human beings broke through from every direction and finally invaded the immediate surroundings of the Winter Palace and entered the square itself. The government found nothing better to do than to shoot, to sweep away the disarmed, distressed and despairing crowd with rounds of fire.
It was a terrifying spectacle, a vision which could hardly be imagined, unique in history. Machine-gunned point blank, screaming with fear, pain and rage, this immense crowd, unable either to advance or retreat because its own size prevented all movement, received what was later called a "blood bath." Driven back slightly by each round, as if by a strong gust of wind, partly trampled, suffocated, crushed, the crowd formed again, over dead bodies, over the dying, over the injured, pushed by new masses who arrived, and continued to arrive, from behind. And new rounds of fire periodically sent a shudder of death through this living mass. This went on for a long time: until the adjacent streets finally emptied, and the crowd was able to escape.
Hundreds of men, women and children perished on this day in the capital. The authorities intoxicated the soldiers so as to dull their consciences and remove all their scruples. Some soldiers, completely mindless, installed in a garden near the palace, amused themselves by "shooting down" children who had climbed trees "to see better."
Towards evening, "order was reestablished." The number of victims was never known, even approximately. But what is known is that, during that night, long trains filled with corpses transported all these poor bodies outside the city; they were buried haphazardly in fields and forests.
It was also known that the Tsar was not even in the capital on that day. After having given a free hand to the military authorities, he had taken refuge in one of his summer residences: at Tsarskoye Selo near St. Petersburg.
Gapon, surrounded by carriers of icons and pictures of the Tsar, led a large crowd which moved toward the palace by way of the Narva Gate. As elsewhere, this crowd was dispersed by troops stationed at the very approaches to the Gate. He barely escaped. As soon as the first shots were fired, he lay flat on his stomach and did not budge. For a few instants people thought he had been injured or killed. But he was quickly carried off to safety by friends. His long hair was cut, and he was dressed as a civilian.
Some time later he was abroad, completely out of reach. Before he left Russia, he launched the following short appeal to the workers:

I, the pastor, curse all those, officers and soldiers, who in this hour massacred their innocent brothers, women, and children. I curse all the oppressors of the people. My blessing goes to the soldiers who give assistance to the people in their struggle for freedom. I release them from their oath of loyalty to the Tsar -- the traitor Tsar whose orders caused the people's blood to flow.

In addition, he prepared another proclamation which said:

. . . Comrade workers, there is no longer a Tsar! Today torrents of blood flowed between him and the Russian people. The time has come for the Russian workers to undertake the struggle for the liberation of the people without him. You have my blessing in this struggle. Tomorrow I will be in your midst. Today I am working for the cause.

These appeals were distributed in great numbers throughout the country.
This might be the best place for a few words about the fate of Gapon.
Saved by his friends, the ex-priest settled abroad. Certain Socialist-Revolutionaries took care of him. From now on his future depended only on him. He was given everything he needed to break with his past, to complete his education and to formulate his ideological position, in short to really become a man of action.
But Gapon was not made of such stuff. The sacred fire which once accidentally burned in his dark soul was in him nothing more than the fire of ambition and personal indulgence; the spark went out quickly. Instead of devoting himself to the work of self-education and preparation for serious activity, Gapon was content with inactivity, mother of boredom. Slow, patient work meant nothing to him. He dreamed of an immediate and glorious repetition of his ephemeral adventure. But in Russia events dragged on. The great Revolution did not come. His boredom grew. He finally turned to debauchery to try to forget. He passed most of his time in shady cabarets where, half drunk, in the company of prostitutes, he wept bitterly about his broken illusions. His life abroad disgusted him. The situation of his country tortured him. He wanted to return to Russia at any price.
So he conceived of the idea of writing to his government, asking for pardon and for permission to return in order to render his services again. He wrote to the secret police. He resumed his relations with it.
His former chiefs received his offer rather favorably. But before consenting they asked him for material proof of his repentance and his good will. Aware of his acquaintance with influential members of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, they asked him to furnish precise information which would help them deal the decisive blow against this party. Gapon accepted the offer.
In the meantime, one of the influential members of the party, the engineer Rutemberg, Gapon's intimate friend, heard about the new relations between Gapon and the police. He mentioned the matter to the Central Committee of the party. The committee charged him (Rutemberg himself told about this in his memoirs) with the task of doing everything within his power to unmask Gapon.
Rutemberg had to play a role. He did this successfully and won the confidence of Gapon, who assumed that the engineer would voluntarily betray his party for a large sum of money. This was precisely what Gapon proposed to him. Rutemberg acted as if he accepted. It was agreed that, through Gapon, he would deliver to the police some very important party secrets.
They bargained about the price. This bargaining -- which Rutemberg feigned and purposely dragged out, while Gapon carried it out with the agreement of the police -- finally ended in Russia when Gapon as well as Rutemberg were able to return.
The last act of the play took place in St. Petersburg. As soon as he arrived, Rutemberg forewarned some workers who were Gapon's loyal friends; they refused to believe that he was a traitor; Rutemberg told them he could supply incontestable proof. It was agreed that the Gaponist workers be hidden at the last meeting between Gapon and Rutemberg, a meeting where the price to be paid for Rutemberg's "betray-al" was to be settled once and for all.
The meeting took place at a deserted villa not far from the capital. The workers, hidden in a room adjacent to the room where the meeting was taking place, were to remain in this room, without being seen, so as to be convinced of the real role of Gapon and to be able to unmask him publicly.
But the workers couldn't contain themselves. As soon as they were convinced of Gapon's treason, they burst into the room where the two men were talking. They threw themselves on Gapon, grabbed him and, despite his pleading (which was pathetic; he got down on his knees and begged for their pardon in the name of his past) killed him brutally. Then they put a rope around his neck and hung him from the ceiling. It was in this position that his body was accidentally found some time later.
Thus ended the personal epic of Gapon.
In his memoirs, which are largely sincere, Gapon tried-very awkwardly -- to justify in his own way his relations with the police before January 9, 1905. On this point he seems not to have told the whole truth.
As for the movement, it followed on its course.
The events of January 9 had enormous repercussions throughout the country. In the darkest corners of the land, the population learned with indignant stupefaction that instead of listening to the people who had come peacefully to the Palace to tell their miseries to the Tsar, the ruler had coldly given the order to shoot. Over a long period of time, peasants delegated by their villages went secretly to St. Petersburg with the mission of learning the truth.
Soon everyone knew the truth. It was only then that the "legend of the Tsar" disappeared. [i]
Another historical paradox! In 1881 some revolutionaries had assassinated the Tsar in order to kill the legend. It survived. Twenty-four years later it was the Tsar himself who killed it.
At St. Petersburg, the events of January 9 had the effect of enlarging the strike. It became a total general strike. On Monday, January 10, not a single factory or shipyard moved. A movement of muted revolt rumbled everywhere. The first great revolutionary strike of the Russian workers -- the strike of the St. Petersburg workers -- became an accomplished fact.
An important conclusion can be drawn from everything that precedes:
[i] Before the population could begin to understand the real nature of Tsarism, the totality of the situation and the real tasks of the struggle, they needed to live through a tangible and extensive historical experience. Neither propaganda nor the sacrifices of enthusiasts could have led to this result by themselves.

CHAPTER 2: The Birth of the \"Soviets\"

We now arrive at one of the most important aspects of the Russian Revolution: the origin and the initial activity of the "Soviets."
Another paradoxical fact: this is one of the least understood and most frequently distorted aspects of the Revolution.
In all that has been written to this day on the origin of the "Soviets" -- I do not only speak of foreign studies, but also of Russian documents -- there is a gap which the interested reader cannot fail to notice: no one has yet been able to determine precisely when, where or how the first workers' "Soviet" was formed.
Until today, almost all writers and historians, bourgeois as well as socialist ("Menshevik," "Bolshevik" or other) dated the origin of the first "Workers' Soviet" at the end of 1905, at the time of the October general strike, of the well known Tsarist manifesto of October 17 and the events which followed. 1 By reading the following pages the reader will understand the reason for this gap.
Some authors -- notably P. Miliukov in his memoirs-vaguely allude to a forerunner of the future "Soviets" at the beginning of 1905. But they fail to give any precise details. And when they try to give details, they are wrong. Thus Miliukov believes that he found the origin of the Soviets in the "Chidlovsky Commission." This was an official enterprise -- half governmental and half liberal -- which tried in vain to resolve certain social problems on the eve of January, 1905, with the collaboration of official delegates representing workers. According to Miliukov, one of the delegates, an intellectual by the name of Nossar, together with other delegates, formed a "Soviet" on the fringes of the Commission -- the first Workers' Soviet -- and Nossar became the moving spirit as well as president of this Soviet. This is vague. And more importantly, it is inaccurate. When Nossar appeared at the "Chidlovsky Commission," as we will show, he was already a member -- and also president -- of the first Workers' Soviet, which was formed before this "Commission" and had no connections with it. Similar errors have been made by other authors.
The Social-Democrats sometimes present themselves as the real instigators of the first Soviet.
The Bolsheviks often do their utmost to steal this honor from them.
All of them are wrong, being ignorant of the truth, which is very simple: not one party, not one permanent organization, not one "leader" gave birth to the idea of the first Soviet. The Soviet rose spontaneously, as the result of a collective agreement, in the context of a small, casual, and completely private gathering.1
The material the reader will find here has not been published before and constitutes one of the least expected chapters of the "Unknown Revolution." It is time to reconstitute the historical truth. This is made even more urgent by the fact that this truth is quite suggestive.
I hope the reader will excuse me for having to speak about myself. I was involuntarily involved in the birth of the first "Soviet of Workers' Delegates" which was formed in St. Petersburg, not at the end of 1905, but in January-February of that year.
Today I am probably the only person who can relate and date this historical episode, unless one of the workers who took part in the action at the time is still alive and able to tell the story.
I've wanted to narrate these facts on several previous occasions. Whenever I studied the newspapers -- Russian as well as foreign -- I always found the same gap: not one writer was able to tell exactly where, when and how the first workers' Soviet appeared in Russia. All that was known, all that has been known until today, is that this Soviet was born in St. Petersburg in 1905, and that its first president was a St. Petersburg legal clerk, Nossar, better known in the Soviet by the name of Khrustalev. But where and how did the idea of this Soviet originate? Why was it launched? In what circumstances was it adopted and put into practice? How and why did Nossar become the president? Where did he come from, what party did he belong to? Who were the people in the first Soviet? What function did it serve? All of these historically important questions remain unanswered.
We should emphasize that this gap is understandable. The birth of the first Soviet was a completely private event. It took place in a very intimate atmosphere, beyond the reach of all publicity, outside of any far-reaching campaign or action.
The reader can indirectly verify what I am saying. In the writings that treat this aspect of the Russian Revolution, the reader will find the name of Nossar-Khrustalev, mentioned almost incidentally. But he will also find something puzzling: no one ever says how or when this man appeared on the scene, why and in what circumstances he became president of the first Soviet. Socialist writers are visibly annoyed to have to speak of Nossar. They seem not to want to mention his name. Unable to be silent about this historical fact (which they would prefer), they mumble a few incomprehensible and imprecise words about Nossar and his role and then hasten to deal with the activity of the Soviets at the end of 1905, when Leon Trotsky became president of the St. Petersburg Soviet.
This discretion, this annoyance, and this haste can easily be understood. First of all, neither the historians nor the socialists (including Trotsky) nor the political parties in general have ever known anything about the real origin of the Soviets, and it is undoubtedly annoying to admit this. Secondly, even if the socialists learned the facts and wanted to take them into account, they would have to admit that they had absolutely nothing to do with this event and that all they did was to take advantage of it much later. This is why, whether or not they know the truth, they will try in every way possible to glide over this fact and to paint a picture favorable to themselves.
What has kept me from narrating these facts until now2 is above all a feeling of annoyance caused by the need to speak about myself. On the other hand, I have never had the occasion to write about the Soviets for the "general press," for which, furthermore, I don't write. As time passed I did not decide to end my silence about the origin of the Soviets, to fight against the errors and the legends, to unveil the truth.
However, one time, several years ago, disturbed by the pretentious allusions and lies in certain articles and journals, I| visited M. Melgunov, publisher of a Russian historical journal in Paris. I offered him, purely for the purpose of documentation, a detailed account of the birth of the first Workers' Soviet. My offer led to nothing: first of all because the publisher refused to accept, a priori, my condition that nothing be changed in my text; secondly because I learned that his journal was far from being an impartial historical publication.
Obliged to speak of the Soviets, I narrate the facts as they unfolded. And if the press -- historical or other -- is interested, it can find the truth here.
In 1904 I was engaged in cultural and educational work among St. Petersburg workers. I carried out my project alone, following my own method. I did not belong to any political party, although I was intuitively revolutionary. I was only 22 years old, and I had just left the University.
Towards the end of the year, I was instructing more than a hundred workers.
Among my students there was a young woman who, together with her husband, belonged to one of Gapon's Work-
11 should mention one exception I mentioned these tacts in a brief study of the Russian Revolution, published by Sebastien Faure in the Encyclopedic Anarchiste, under the word "Revolution." Afterwards Faure published a book with the title La veritable Revolution sociale, where he reprinted some of the studies that had appeared in the encyclopedia, including mine. But since the "general public" does not read libertarian literature. tnfj facts which were cited remained almost unknown. ers' Sections." Until then I had heard almost nothing about Gapon or his "sections." One evening, my student took me along to our neighborhood "section," eager to interest me in this work and in its founder. That evening Gapon himself was to attend the meeting.
At that time the real role of Gapon had not yet been determined. Progressive workers did not have complete confidence in his project -- because it was legal and emanated from the government -- but they had their own interpretation of it. The somewhat mysterious behavior of the priest seemed to confirm their interpretation. They believed that under the protective shield of legality, Gapon was actually preparing a vast revolutionary movement. (This is one of the reasons why many workers later refused to believe that the man had been a police agent. Once this role was definitely exposed, some of the workers who had been Gapon's intimate friends committed suicide.)
At the end of December, I met Gapon.
His personality fascinated me. On his part, he seemed-or wanted to seem -- interested in my educational work.
We agreed to see each other again and to talk at greater length, and for this purpose Gapon gave me his visiting card with his address.
A few days later the famous strike of the Putilov factory began. Soon after that, precisely on the evening of January 6, (1905) my student, filled with emotion, came to tell me that events were taking an extremely serious turn; that Gapon had set in motion an immense movement of the working masses of the capital; that he was visiting all the sections, haranguing the crowd and calling on them to gather on Sunday, January 9 in front of the Winter Palace to give a "petition" to the Tsar; that he had already written this petition and would read it and comment on it in our Section the following evening, January 7.
The news seemed highly unlikely to me. I decided to attend the Section the following evening,-wanting to evaluate the situation on my own.
The following day I went to the Section. A large crowd gathered, filling the room and the street, in spite of the intense cold. The people were serious and silent. In addition to the workers, there were people from various walks of life: intellectuals, students, soldiers, police agents, small neighborhood merchants. There were also many women. There were no guards ("service d'ordre").
1 went into the room. People were waiting for "Father" Gapon to come any minute.
It was not long before he came. He quickly made his way to the platform, through a compact mass of people, all standing and pressed tightly against each other. There might have been a thousand people in the room.
The silence was impressive. Suddenly, without even taking off his enormous fur coat which he only unbuttoned, making his cassock and his priest's silver cross visible, removing his large winter hat with a brusque and determined gesture, and letting his long hair fall, Gapon read and explained the petition to this large crowd who, from the first words, listened attentively and trembled.
In spite of his extremely hoarse voice -- he had been wearing himself out without pause for several days -- his slow speech, almost solemn but at the same time warm and visibly sincere, went right to the heart of all these people who responded deliriously to all his pleadings and appeals.
The impression he made was unforgettable. One felt that something immense and decisive was going to happen. 1 remember that I trembled with extraordinary emotion during the entire harangue.
When he had barely finished, Gapon stepped down from the platform and left in a hurry, surrounded by a few loyal followers, inviting the crowd outside to listen while the petition was read again by one of his collaborators.
Separated from him by all these people, seeing that he was in a hurry, absorbed and worn out by a superhuman effort and also surrounded by friends, I did not try to approach him. Furthermore, this would have been pointless. I had understood that what my student had told me was true: an enormous movement of the masses, a movement of exceptional importance, was being launched.
I went to the Section once again on the following evening, January 8. I wanted to see what was happening. And mainly I wanted to come into contact with the masses, to take part in their action, to give shape to my own conduct. Several of my students accompanied me.
What I found at the Section told me what I had to do.
First of all, I once again saw a crowd gathered in the street. I was told that inside a member of the Section was reading the "petition." I waited.
A few minutes later the door opened briskly. About a thousand people left the room. Another thousand rushed in. I went in with them.
As soon as the door was closed, a Gaponist worker sitting on the platform began to read the petition.
Alas! It was abominable. With a weak and monotonous voice, completely spiritless, without giving the slightest explanation or conclusion, the man mumbled the text in front of an attentive and anxious crowd. He finished his boring lecture in ten minutes. Then the room was emptied to receive another thousand people.
I had a brief consultation with my friends. We decided. I rushed toward the stage. Until that day I had never spoken in front of the masses. But I did not hesitate. It was absolutely necessary to change the manner of informing and educating the people.
I went up to the worker who was getting ready to do his duty once again. "You must really be tired," I told him. "Let me replace you ..." He looked at me with surprise; he was disconcerted. It was the first time he had seen me. "Don't be afraid," I continued. "I'm Gapon's friend. Here's proof." And I showed him Gapon's visiting card. My friends supported my offer.
The man finally gave in. He got up, gave me the petition, and left the platform.
I began reading immediately, then continued by interpreting the document, emphasizing particularly the essential passages, the protests and demands, being particularly insistent about the certainty that the Tsar would refuse.
I read the petition several times, until very late into the night. I slept at the Section together with some friends, on top of tables pushed against each other.
The following morning-the famous January 9 -- 1 had to read the petition one or two more times. Then we went out to the street. An enormous crowd waited for us there, ready to start out at the first sign. At 9 o'clock my friends and 1 lined up, arm in arm, in the first three rows, and, inviting the crowd to follow us, we set out toward the Palace. The crowd stirred and followed us in tight rows.
We obviously didn't reach either the square or the palace. Forced to cross the Neva, we ran into a wall of troops at the approaches to the so-called "Troisky" bridge. After a few ineffective warnings, the troops started to shoot. The second round was particularly murderous; the crowd stopped and dispersed, leaving about thirty dead and twice as many injured. It should be mentioned that many soldiers fired into the air; a number of windows in the upper stories of the houses facing the troops were shattered by the bullets.
A few days passed. The strike remained almost complete in St. Petersburg.
It should be emphasized that this enormous strike had broken out spontaneously. It was not launched by any political party, by any union apparatus (at that time there were none in Russia), or by any strike committee. On their own initiative and with a completely free impetus, the working masses left factories and yards. The political parties were not even able to take advantage of the movement by taking it over, as is their habit. They were completely bypassed.
Nevertheless, the workers soon confronted the question:
What to do now?
Poverty knocked on the door of the strikers. It had to be confronted without delay. On the other hand, workers everywhere asked how they should and could continue the struggle. The "Sections," deprived of their leader, found themselves crippled and nearly powerless. The political parties gave no sign of life. Nevertheless an organ which would coordinate and lead the action was urgently needed.
I don't know how this problem was posed and solved in other parts of the capital. Perhaps some of the "Sections,' were able to provide at least material aid to the strikers in their regions. As for the quarter where I lived, events took a specific turn. And as the reader will see, they later led to a generalized action.
Meetings of about forty workers of my neighborhood took place in my house every day. The police left us alone for the time being. After the recent events the police maintained a mysterious neutrality. We took advantage of this neutrality. We looked for ways to act. We were on the verge of making some decisions. My students and I decided to put an end to our study group and individually join the political parties so as to be active. All of us considered the events to be the beginning of a revolution.
One evening, about eight days after January 9, someone knocked at the door of my room. I was alone. A young man came in: tall, with an open and sympathetic manner.
"You're so-and-so?" he asked. When I nodded, he continued:
"I've been looking for you for a long time. Finally yesterday I learned your address. I'm George Nossar, a legal clerk. I'll get to the reason for my visit. On January 8 I listened to your reading of the petition. I could see that you had many friends, many relations with workers' circles. And it seems that you don't belong to any political party."
"That's right."
"Well, I don't belong to a political party either; I don't trust them. But personally I'm a revolutionary, and I sympathize with the workers' movement. But I don't have any acquaintances among workers. On the other hand I have extensive contacts with circles of bourgeois liberals who oppose the regime. So I have an idea. I know that thousands of workers, their wives and children are suffering terribly because of the strike. On the other hand, I know some rich businessmen who would like nothing better than to help these miserable people. In short, I could collect fairly large sums for the strikers. But the problem is how to distribute them in an organized, fair and useful manner. I thought of you. Could you and some of the workers you know take charge of receiving the sums I can bring, and could you distribute them among the strikers and the families of the victims of January 9?"
I accepted right away. Among my friends there was a worker who had access to his boss's cart, which he could use to visit workers and distribute relief.
I got together with my friends the following evening. Nossar was there. He had already brought several thousand roubles. Our action began right away.
After a while our days were completely taken up by this task. In the evening I accepted the necessary funds from Nos-sar, and prepared my schedule of visits. And the following morning, helped by my friends, I distributed the money to strikers. Nossar thus got acquainted with the workers who came to see me.
But the strike was ending. Every day some workers returned to work. At the same time, the funds were running out.
Then the serious question came up again: What to do? How to continue the action? And what form could it take now?
The prospect of separating for good, without trying to continue a common activity, seemed painful and senseless. The decision we had taken to individually join the party of our choice no longer satisfied us. We wanted something else.
Nossar regularly took part in our discussion.
One evening when there were several workers at my house, as usual -- Nossar was there too -- we had the idea of forming a permanent workers' organization: something like a committee, or a council, which would keep track of the sequence of events, would serve as a link amongall the workers, would inform them about the situation and could, if necessary, be a rallying point for revolutionary workers.
I don't remember exactly how this idea came to us. But I think I remember that it was the workers themselves who suggested it.
The word Soviet which, in Russian, means precisely council, was pronounced for the first time with this specific meaning.
In short, this first council represented something like a permanent social assembly of workers.
The idea was adopted. Then and there it was decided how the "Soviet" was to be organized and how it was to function.
The project grew rapidly.
The decision was made to tell workers in all large factories about the new creation and to proceed, still informally, to the election of officers of the organization which was named, for the first time, a council (Soviet) of Workers' Delegates.
Yet another question was asked: Who would direct the work of the Soviet? Who would head it and guide it?
The workers who were there unhesitatingly offered me this post.
Moved by the trust the workers expressed in me, I nevertheless turned down their offer. I told my friends: "You're workers. You want to create an organism that will deal with your interests as workers. Learn, then, from the very beginning, to deal with your problems yourselves. Don't commit your destiny to someone who is not one of you. Don't set new masters over yourselves; they'll end up by dominating and betraying you. I am convinced that in everything that has to do with your struggles and your liberation, only you yourselves will ever be able to reach real results. For you, above you, in place of you yourselves, no one will ever do anything. You should find your president, your secretary and the members of your administrative commission from among yourselves. If you need information or clarification on certain specific questions, in short if you need intellectual or moral advice which presupposes a certain amount of education, then you can turn to intellectuals, to educated people who should be happy, not to lead you as masters, but to give you their help without interfering in your organizations. They're obliged to give you this help because it's not your fault that you've been deprived of the necessary education. These intellectual friends could even attend your meetings -- but only as consultants."
I added another objection: "How could I be a member of your organization, not being a worker? In what way could I get in?"
In answer to this last question, I was told that nothing was easier. A worker's card would be found for me, and I would take part in the organization under another name.
I protested vigorously against such a procedure. I considered it not only unworthy of me and of the workers, but also dangerous and ill-fated. "In a workers' movement everything should be straightforward, honest, sincere."
But in spite of my suggestions, my friends did not feel strong enough to do without a "guide." So they offered the crat Trotsky, future Bolshevik Commissar, entered the Soviet and had himself nominated secretary. Afterwards, when Khrustalev-Nossar was arrested, Trotsky became president.
The example given by the workers of the capital in January, 1905, was followed by workers of several other cities. Workers' Soviets were formed here and there. Nevertheless, at that time their existence was temporary: they were quickly spotted and suppressed by local authorities.
On the other hand, as we have seen, the St. Petersburg Soviet continued to function over a long period. The central government, discredited after the events of January 9, and particularly after the major setbacks it underwent in its war against Japan, did not dare to touch it. For the time being it limited itself to the arrest of Nossar.
Furthermore, the January strike had come to an end because of its own lack of momentum. In the absence of a more extensive movement, the activity of the first Soviet was soon reduced to insignificant tasks.
The St. Petersburg Soviet was finally suppressed at the end of 1905. The Tsarist government got back on its feet, "liquidated" the last vestiges of the revolutionary movement of 1905, arrested Trotsky as well as hundreds of revolutionaries, and destroyed all the political organizations of the left.
The Soviet of St. Petersburg (which became Petrograd) reappeared at the time of the decisive revolution of February-March, 1917, when Soviets were formed in all the cities and major regions of the country.

NoteLenin, in his Works, and Bukharin, in his ABC of Communism, are perfectly right when they mention in passing that the "Soviets" were spontaneously formed by workers in 1905, but they fail to give details, and they give the impression that these workers were Bolsheviks, or at least "sympathizers."

CHAPTER 3: The Disastrous War; Victory of a Revolutionary Strike

The waves raised by the events of January 1905 were not to be calmed right away. This time the entire country had been jolted.
From Spring, 1905 on, the general situation of the Tsarist regime became increasingly untenable. The main reason was the bitter defeat experienced by Tsarist Russia in its war against Japan.
This war, which began in February, 1904, accompanied by a great deal of arrogance and carried out largely with the aim of stimulating nationalistic, patriotic, and monarchist feelings, was hopelessly lost. The Russian army and fleet were totally defeated.
Public opinion openly blamed the incompetence of the authorities and the degeneration of the regime for the failure. Not only masses of workers, but other strata as well, were rapidly seized by a growing anger and spirit of revolt. The effect of the defeats -- which followed one another in rapid succession -- was overwhelming. People could no longer contain their feelings: indignation knew no limits, and agitation became widespread.
The government, aware of its defeat, was silent.
Taking advantage of the situation, liberal and revolutionary circles began a violent campaign against the regime. Without asking for authorization, people practiced freedom of speech and of the press. It was a veritable conquest of "political freedoms." Journals of all tendencies, even revolutionary ones, appeared and were freely sold, without censorship or control. The government and the entire system were vigorously criticized.
Even timid liberals turned to action: they founded numerous professional unions: the "Union of Unions" (a type of Central Committee directing the activity of all the unions), the secret "Union of Liberation" (a political organization). They also rushed to formally organize a political party called the "Constitutional-Democratic Party." The government was constrained to tolerate all this, as it had already tolerated the January strike and the meetings of the Soviet.
Political assassinations followed each other at an accelerating rate.
Violent demonstrations, even serious uprisings, broke out in various cities. In some places people set up barricades.
In various provinces peasants rebelled, unleashing actual "jacqueries" (peasant revolts), burning castles, appropriating the land, chasing out or even assassinating the landowners. A Union of Peasants with a socialist program was formed. The enemies of the regime were becoming too numerous and too audacious. And, above all, they were right.
The military defeat of the government and its distressing "moral" situation do not explain everything. But they do explain the fact that it lacked the most important means for opposing the movement: money. Negotiations taking place abroad, mainly in France, for the purpose of securing a loan, dragged on endlessly because of lack of confidence in the Tsarist regime.
During the summer of 1905 serious troubles developed in the army and the navy. The well known revolt and epic of the battleship Prince Potemkin, one of the major units of the navy in the Black Sea, was the outstanding episode. The last rampart of falling regimes -- the armed forces -- began to break.
This time the entire country began to turn more and more resolutely against Tsarism.
In August 1905, giving way to various pressures, the emperor finally decided to recognize, post factum -- and, needless to say, hypocritically -- certain "freedoms." He also promised to convene a representative National Assembly ("Duma") with very restricted rights and on the basis of extremely narrow electoral procedures. Bulygin, Minister of the Interior, was charged with preparing and carrying out this election. But this highly timid step, belated and manifestly hypocritical, satisfied no one. Agitation and rebellion continued and this "Duma," called "Bulygin's Duma," was never formed. Bulygin was forced to "resign" (at the end of August), and was replaced by Witte, who had succeeded in convincing Nicholas II to accept more meaningful concessions.
Meanwhile, the inactivity and avowed impotence of the government encouraged the forces of opposition and the Revolution. From the beginning of October, people spoke of a general strike encompassing the entire country as the prelude to the final revolution.
This strike, which encompassed the entire country -- an immense strike, unique in modern history -- took place in mid-October. It was less spontaneous than the January strike. Long anticipated, prepared ahead of time, it was organized by the Soviet, the "Union of Unions," and mainly by numerous strike committees. Factories, yards, workshops, warehouses, banks, administrative offices, railroads and all other means of transportation, post offices and telegraph stations -- everything, absolutely everything, stopped completely. The life of the country was suspended.
The government lost its footing and gave in. On October 17 (1905) the Tsar issued a manifesto-the well-known "Manifesto of October 17" -- where he declared that he had solemnly decided to bestow on his "dear and faithful subjects" all political freedoms and to convene, as soon as possible, a type of representative council: the "State Duma." (The term Duma was borrowed from an earlier century when a Council of State or Chamber of Nobles [Boyars] was known as a Dumaboyarskaya: an institution called on to help the Tsar carry out his functions. Later, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the term Zemskaya Duma was used for assemblies of representatives from different classes, assemblies comparable to the Etats Generaux of the ancient French monarchy. Finally, in the period we're dealing with, "Gorodskaya Duma" meant "City Council," "gorod" meaning "city." The word "duma" means "thought.") According to the Manifesto, this Duma was being summoned to help the government.
It was, in short, a nebulous promise of a vague constitutional regime. Some circles took it seriously. An "Octobrist" Party appeared almost right away, and declared that it would accept, apply and defend the reforms announced by the Manifesto.
In actual fact, this act of the Tsar's government had two aims which had nothing to do with a "constitution":
1. To produce an effect abroad; to give the impression that the Revolution was over, that the government had regained mastery over the situation, and thus to influence public opinion, particularly the opinion of French financial circles, so as to revive the loan negotiations;
2. To deceive the masses, calm them, and bar the path toward Revolution.
These two goals were realized. The strike ended, the revolutionary elan was broken. The impression created abroad was completely favorable. It was seen that, in spite of everything, the government of the Tsar was still strong enough to quell the revolution. The loan was granted.
It should be obvious that the revolutionary parties were not duped by the venture. They saw the Manifesto as a simple political maneuver and immediately began to explain it to the working masses. The workers, moreover, were more than a little suspicious. They had ended the strike, to be sure, as if they had obtained satisfaction, as if they had confidence. But the fact that the strike ended was simply a sign that the Revolution lacked impetus and could not yet go further. There was no expression of real satisfaction. The population did not hasten to use its "new rights," being intuitively aware of their fraudulent character. This was quickly proved. In some cities, peaceful public demonstrations organized to celebrate "the victory" and the "new regime" promised by the Tsar were dispersed by the police and followed by Jewish pogroms -- while the walls announced the Tsar's "Manifesto."

CHAPTER 4: Defeat of the Revolution; Evaluation of the Jolt

Toward the end of 1905, the French bourgeoisie decided in favor of the loan, and high finance granted it. This "blood transfusion" saved the moribund Tsarist regime.
In addition, the government succeeded in ending the war with a peace treaty which was not overly humiliating.
From that point on, reaction took up where it had left off. Dangling a beautiful future before the eyes of the people, it fought and encircled the revolution.
The Revolution would in any case have died on its own. The October strike was its supreme effort and its highest point. What it needed now was to take a "breath," to "pause." Furthermore, it could count on rebounding later on, perhaps under the stimulus given to it by a left-wing Duma.
In the meantime, the freedoms which had been taken by the people and then promised post factum by the Tsar in his Manifesto, were thoroughly suppressed. The government again made the revolutionary press illegal, re-established censorship, proceeded to make mass arrests, liquidated all workers' or revolutionary organizations within its reach, suppressed the Soviet, jailed Nossar and Trotsky, and dispatched troops for the purpose of purging regions where major uprisings had taken place and to inflict exemplary punishments. The military and the police were reinforced throughout.
But one thing remained which the government did not dare to touch: the Duma, which was about to convene.
Nevertheless, the Revolution made two more jumps, in response to the intractability of the reaction.
The first was a new revolt in the Black Sea fleet, under the leadership of Lieutenant Schmidt. The sedition was repressed and Schmidt was shot by a firing squad.
The second episode was an armed insurrection of Moscow workers in December, 1905. It held out against the government's forces for several days.
To put an end to it, the government brought in troops from St. Petersburg and even called in artillery units.
While this insurrection was taking place, attempts were made to provoke a new general strike throughout the country. If this strike had taken place the insurrection could have been victorious. But this time, even though the preliminary organization was similar to that of October, the necessary impetus was missing. The strike was not general. The postal service functioned, as well as the railways. The government was able to transport its troops and retained control over the situation everywhere. There was no doubt that the Revolution was out of breath.
Thus at the end of 1905 the tempest "died down without having overthrown the obstacle.
But it did carry out an important, indispensable task' it swept and prepared the terrain. It left permanent marks in the life of the country and in the mentality of the population. We can now examine the final "balance-sheet" of the jolt. What do we find on the "credit side?" Concretely there was, first of all, the Duma. For the time being, the government was obliged to elaborate, for the Duma, an electoral law which was sufficiently broad to prevent excessively bitter or rapid disappointments It did not yet feel completely secure; it, too, had to 'breathe," to have a "pause."
The entire population expected a great deal from the Duma. The elections, set for the spring of 1906, called forth a feverish activity throughout the country. All the political parties took part in it.
The situation created by this state of affairs was paradoxical enough. While the parties of the left now spread their electoral propaganda openly and legally (the government could intervene only by making new regulations and by setting cunning traps), the prisons were crowded with members of the same parties, arrested at the time of the liquidation of the movement; speech and the press remained muzzled; workers' organizations were still prohibited.
This is only superficially a paradox. It can easily be explained. This explanation will also help us understand how the government foresaw the functioning of the Duma.
In spite of the fact that it had to grant its subjects a certain amount of freedom because of the elections, the government obviously did not interpret the Duma as an institution summoned to turn against absolutism. In the government's view, the Duma was to be no more than an auxiliary organ, purely consultative and subordinate, good for helping the authorities in some of their tasks. Although it was obliged to tolerate a certain amount of electoral agitation by the left-wing parties, the government had decided earlier that it would only allow a certain amount and that it would react against any attempt by the parties, the voters or the Duma itself to take a defiant attitude. Since in the government's view the Duma had nothing to do with the Revolution, the government was perfectly logical when it kept the revolutionaries in prison.
Another concrete fact, completely new in Russian life, was precisely the formation and the legality-even if only up to a certain point-of different political parties.
Until the events of 1905, there were in Russia only two political parties, both clandestine and more revolutionary than literally "political." These were the Social-Democratic Party and the Socialist-Revolutionary Party.
The Manifesto of October 17, the few freedoms which followed it with a view to the electoral campaign, and, above all, the campaign itself, suddenly gave rise to a whole brood of legal and semi-legal parties.
Inveterate monarchists created the "Union of Russian People": an ultra-reactionary and "pogromist" party whose "program" called for the suppression of all the "favors promised under the pressure of criminal uprisings," including the Duma; and the total elimination of the last traces of the events of 1905.
Less fiercely reactionary elements: the majority of higher functionaries, large industrialists, bankers, nobles, businessmen, landowners, gathered around the "Octobrist Party' (called the "Union of October 17") which we have already mentioned.
The political weight of these two right wing parties was insignificant. They were the butt of jokes.
The majority of the rich and the middle classes, as well as intellectuals "of distinction," installed themselves in a large political party of the center, whose right wing was close to the "Octobrists," and whose left wing went so far as to express republican leanings. The program of the majority of the party called for a constitutional system putting an end to absolutism: the monarch would be retained, but his power would be seriously restricted. The party took the name "Constitutional Democratic Party" (abbreviated "Ca-Det Party.") It was also called the "People's Freedom Party." Its leaders were recruited mainly from among municipal big wigs, lawyers, doctors, people who practiced liberal professions, academics. Very influential and well placed, with access to considerable funds, this party engaged in extensive and energetic activity from the moment of its creation.
At the extreme left there were: the "Social-Democratic Party" (whose electoral activity, as we've already mentioned, was more or less open and legal, in spite of its bluntly republican program and its revolutionary tactics) and, finally, the "Socialist-Revolutionary Party" (except for its treatment of the agrarian problem, its program and tactics did not differ from those of the Social-Democratic Party) who, at the time of the Duma, and in order to be able to move freely, carried on electoral campaigns and presented candidates under the name of "Labor Party" (which subsequently became a separate party). It goes without saying that the last two parties represented mainly the masses of workers and peasants as well as the vast stratum of intellectual workers.
At this point we should furnish some details about the programs and ideologies of these parties.
Except for the political question, the most important point of the programs of all the parties was undoubtedly the agrarian problem. It urgently demanded an effective solution. The fact is that the peasant population had grown so rapidly that the plots of land granted to the emancipated peasants in 1861, inadequate already then, had been reduced, during a quarter of a century, as a result of continual division, to plots of famine. "We don't even know where to let a chicken run any more," the peasants said. The immense population of the countryside waited with increasing impatience for a fair and effective solution to this problem. All the parties were aware of its importance.
For the time being, three solutions were presented, namely:
1. The Constitutional Democratic Party proposed an enlargement of the plots by a transfer of some of the lands of large private owners and of the State to the peasants; the peasants were to pay gradually for the transferred land, with State aid, on terms set by an official and "fair" evaluation.
2. The Social-Democratic Party proposed a transfer pure and simple, without payment, of the land needed by the peasants. The land would constitute a national fund and could be distributed according to needs ("nationalization" or "municipalization" of the land).
3. The Socialist-Revolutionary Party presented the most radical solution: immediate and complete confiscation of all land in the hands of private owners; immediate suppression of all landed property (private or state); placement of all the land at the disposal of peasant collectives, under the control of the State ("socialization" of the land).
Before doing anything else, the Duma had to deal with this urgent and complicated problem.
We would like to deal briefly with the general ideology of the two parties of the extreme left in this period (the Social-Democrats and the Socialist Revolutionaries).
Already around 1900 a major divergence of views manifested itself at the heart of the Russian Social-Democratic Party. Some of its members, clutching its "minimum program," held that the coming Russian revolution would be a bourgeois revolution, relatively moderate in its results. These socialists did not believe it possible to jump, in one leap, from a "feudal" monarchy to a socialist regime. A bourgeois democratic republic, paving the way for rapid capitalist development which would lay the foundations for a future socialism -- this was their basic idea. A "social revolution" in Russia, was, in their opinion, impossible for the time being-
Many members of the party, however, had a different opinion. In their view, the next Revolution already had every chance of becoming a "Social Revolution," with all logical consequences. These socialists dropped the "minimum program" and prepared themselves for the conquest of power by the party and for the immediate and decisive struggle against capitalism.
The leaders of the first current were: Plekhanov, Martov, and others. The great creator of the second was Lenin.
The final split between these two camps took place in 1903, at the London Congress. The Social-Democrats with Leninist leanings had a majority. "Majority," in Russian, is "Bolshinstvo," and the partisans of this tendency were called bolsheviki (in English one would say "majoritarians"). Since "minority" is "menshinstvo," the others were called "men-sheviki" (in English, "minoritarians"). As for the two tendencies themselves, the first acquired the name of Bolshevism (tendency of the majority), the other the name of Menshevism (tendency of the minority).
After their victory in 1917, the "Bolsheviks" called themselves the "Communist Party," whereas the "Mensheviks" alone retained the title "Social-Democratic Party." The Communist Party in power declared "Menshevism" counter-revolutionary and wiped it out.
As for the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, it also split into two distinct parties: a party of Socialist-Revolutionaries "of the right" who, like the "Mensheviks," insisted on the need to pass through a bourgeois democratic republic, and a party of Socialist-Revolutionaries "of the left" who claimed, like the Bolsheviks, that the Revolution should be pushed as far as possible, ultimately to the immediate suppression of the capitalist regime and the establishment of socialism (a type of social Republic).
(In 1917 the Bolsheviks in power wiped out the right-wing Socialist-Revolutionaries as counter-revolutionaries. As for the left-wing Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Bolshevik government at first collaborated with them. Later, when major disagreements arose between the two parties, the Bolsheviks broke with their former allies. Finally they outlawed and annihilated them.)
At the time of the 1905 revolution, the practical influence of these two dissident currents (Bolshevism and left-wing Revolutionary Socialism) was insignificant.
To complete our presentation of the diverse currents of ideas that made their appearance at the time of this revolution, we should point out that the Socialist-Revolutionary Party gave birth to a third tendency which, detaching itself from the Party, called for the suppression, during the revolution, not only of the bourgeois State, but of the State in general (as a political institution). This current of ideas was known in Russia by the name of Maximalism, because its partisans, having rejected the minimum program, broke with the left-wing Socialist-Revolutionaries and proclaimed the necessity of struggling immediately for the complete realization of the maximum program, namely for complete socialism, built on an apolitical foundation.
Thus the "Maximalists" did not form a political party. They created the "Union of Socialist Revolutionary Maximalists." This "union" published some pamphlets communicating its viewpoint. It also published a few periodicals, but these did not last long. It did not have many members, and its influence was negligible. It carried out mainly terrorist activities. But it did take part in all the revolutionary struggles, and many of its members died as real heroes.
By the totality of their ideas, the Maximalists were very close to anarchism. Maximalism did not in fact blindly follow the "Marxists;" it denied the usefulness of political parties; it vigorously criticized the State and political authority. Nevertheless, it did not dare to renounce political authority immediately and totally. It did not consider it possible to pass directly to a completely "anarchist" society. (Thus it made a distinction between "complete socialism" and anarchism.) For the intervening period it offered a "Workers' Republic" where elements of the State and of authority would be "reduced to a minimum" which, according to Maximalism, would assure their rapid extinction. This "provisional' retention of the State and of authority separated Maximalism from anarchism.
(Like all the currents of ideas which disagreed with Bolshevism, Maximalism was crushed by the Bolsheviks at the time of the 1917 revolution.)
As for anarchist and syndicalist conceptions (we will examine these thoroughly at a later point in our study), in this period they were nearly unknown in Russia.
Outside of Russia many people believe that, since Bakunin and Kropotkin -- these "fathers" of anarchism -- were Russian, then Russia must for a long time have been a country with anarchist ideas and movements. This is a serious misconception. Both Bakunin (1814-1876) and Kropotkin (1842-1921) had become anarchists abroad. Neither of them had ever agitated in Russia as an anarchist. Their works had also appeared only abroad until the 1917 revolution, often in a foreign language. Only a few excerpts from their works, translated, adapted or published especially for Russia, were imported clandestinely to Russia, with great risk and in very small quantities. Furthermore, the distribution of these few publications in the interior of the country was nearly impossible. Finally, the entire social, socialist and revolutionary education of Russians had absolutely nothing anarchist about it, and but for a few exceptions, no one was interested in anarchist ideas.
Syndicalism was altogether unknown (a few erudite intellectuals excepted), since no workers' movement existed in Russia before the 1917 revolution. It can even be assumed that the Russian form of workers' organization, the "Soviet," was hurriedly discovered in 1905 and taken up again in 1917 precisely because of the absence of a syndicalist conception and movement. There is no doubt that if a union apparatus had existed, it would have led the workers' movement.
We have already mentioned that some small anarchist groups existed in St. Petersburg, in Moscow, in the West and the South. That was all. The Moscow anarchists did take an active part in the events of 1905 and attracted attention during the armed insurrection in December.
(After 1917 the Bolsheviks crushed the anarchist movement as they crushed all other movements that did not agree with theirs. But they did not crush it with ease. The struggle between Bolshevism and Anarchism during the course of the 1917 revolution -- a tough, bitter struggle which is nevertheless almost completely unknown abroad, a struggle which lasted more than three years and in which the "Makhnovist" movement was the outstanding episode -- will be described in the last part of this work.)
Let us turn to the moral consequences, the psychological effects, of 1905. Their importance for the future was far greater than that of the few immediate concrete achievements.
First of all, as we've already pointed out, the "legend of the Tsar" disappeared. The vast masses became aware of the real nature of the regime and of the urgency of doing away with it. Absolutism and Tsarism were morally dethroned.
This is not all. The popular masses at last joined forces with all those who had for so long opposed this regime: the avant-garde intellectual circles, the left wing political parties, and revolutionaries in general. Solid and extensive contact was thus established between the progressive circles and the mass of the population. From now on this contact was going to spread, to deepen, to tighten. The "Russian paradox" had died.
Thus two capital achievements had been realized. On the one hand, there existed a material element on which an eventual revolution could "lean": this was the Duma. On the other hand, the moral obstacle which had barred the way to all extensive revolt, had broken down: the masses finally understood the malady and at last joined those in the front lines of the liberation struggle.
The ground was prepared for the next decisive revolution. This was on the "credit" side of the jolt of 1905.
Alas! The "liabilities" were just as heavy with consequences.
Unfortunately, the 1905 movement was not able to create a working class organization: neither a syndicalist organization or even a trade union. The right to organize was not won by the working masses. They remained without contact or organization.
The psychological consequence of this state of affairs was that it predisposed the working masses to become, in the next revolution, the unconscious prize of political parties, of their baneful rivalries, of their abominable struggle for power in which the workers had nothing to gain, or rather, had everything to lose.
Thus the absence, on the eve of the Revolution, of a workers' movement and a real workers' organization opened all doors to the predominance -- what am I saying? -- the future domination of one or another political party, at the expense of the real action and the real cause of the workers.
The reader will in fact see later that the enormous weight of this "liability" was going to be fatal for the revolution of 1917: in the end it was going to crush the revolution.
We should still say something about the personal fate of Nossar-Khrustalev, first president of the first Workers' Soviet of St. Petersburg.
Arrested during the "liquidation" of the movement (at the end of 1905), Nossar was tried, convicted, and exiled to Siberia. He escaped and sought refuge abroad. But like Gapon, he was not able to adapt to a new life, and even less able to undertake regular work. He did not, to be sure, lead a life of debauchery; and he did not commit any act of treason. But he dragged out his life abroad in disorder, poverty and unhappiness.
This went on until the 1917 revolution. As soon as it broke out, he, like so many others, rushed back to his country and took part in revolutionary struggles. He did not, however, play an important role.
We do not know what happened to him after that. According to a source that we consider to be above suspicion, he ultimately turned against the Bolsheviks and was shot by them.

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." Afterward 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 re-elected 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 Tsarism 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 Tsarism 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-Tsarist. 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.

  • 1. Lenin, in his Works, and Bukharin, in his ABC of Communism, are perfectly right when they mention in passing that the "Soviets" were spontaneously formed by workers in 1905, but they fail to give details, and they give the impression that these workers were Bolsheviks, or at least "sympathizers."