History of the Russian Revolution

At the first sound of the drum, the revolutionary movement died down. The more active layers of the workers were mobilized. The revolutionary elements were thrown from the factories to the front. Severe penalties were imposed for striking. The workers’ press was swept away. Trade unions were strangled. Hundreds of thousands of women, boys, peasants, poured into the workshops. The war—combined with the wreck of the International—greatly disoriented the workers politically, and made it possible for the factory administration, then just lifting its head, to speak patriotically in the name of the factories, carrying with it a considerable part of the workers, and compelling the more bold and resolute to keep still and wait. The revolutionary ideas were barely kept glowing in small and hushed circles. In the factories in those days, nobody dared to call himself “Bolshevik” for fear, not only of arrest, but of a beating from the backward workers.

Between his consciousness and events stood always that impenetrable medium — indifference.

For the first time in world history the peasant was destined to find a leader in the person of the worker. In that lies the fundamental, and you may say the whole, difference between the Russian Revolution and all those preceding it. In

For the information of these “friends” who consider themselves called to defend against us the role of the Bolsheviks in the October Revolution, we give warning that our book teaches not how to love a victorious revolution after the event, in the person of the bureaucracy it has brought forward, but only how a revolution is prepared,
how it develops, and how it conquers. A party is not for us a machine whose
sinlessness is to be defended by state measures of repression, but a complicated organism that like all living things develops in contradictions.

Generally speaking, by the way, that is the moral of the opponents of violence in politics: they renounce violence when it comes to introducing changes in what already exists, but in defense of the existing order they will not stop at the most ruthless acts.

Let us not forget that revolutions are accomplished through people, although they be nameless. Materialism does not ignore the feeling, thinking, and acting man, but explains him.

Nicholas is sometimes compared with his half-crazy great-great-grandfather Paul, who was strangled by a camarilla acting in agreement with his own son, Alexander “the Blessed.” These two Romanovs were actually alike in their distrust of everybody due to a distrust of themselves, their touchiness as of omnipotent nobodies, their feeling of abnegation, their consciousness, as you might say, of being crowned pariahs. But Paul was incomparably more colorful; there was an element of fancy in his rantings, however irresponsible. In his descendant everything was dim; there was not one sharp trait. Nicholas

On December 13, the tsarina suggests to the tsar: “Anything but this responsible ministry about which everybody has gone crazy. Everything is getting quiet and better, but people want to feel your hand. How long they have been saying to me, for whole years, the same thing: ‘Russia loves to feel the whip.’ That is their nature!” This orthodox Hessian, with a Windsor upbringing and a Byzantine crown on her head, not only “incarnates” the Russian soul, but also organically despises it. Their nature demands the whip—writes the Russian tsarina to the Russian tsar about the Russian people, just two months and a half before the monarchy tips over into the abyss. In

Similar (of course, far from identical) irritations in similar conditions call out similar reflexes; the more powerful the irritation, the sooner it overcomes personal peculiarities. To a tickle, people react differently, but to a red-hot iron, alike. As a steam-hammer converts a sphere and a cube alike into sheet metal, so under the blow of too great and inexorable events resistances are smashed and the boundaries of “individuality” lost.

Slavophilism, the messianism of backwardness, has based its philosophy upon the assumption that the Russian people and their church are democratic through and through, whereas official Russia is a German bureaucracy imposed upon them by Peter the Great.

The boycott of parliamentary institutions on the part of anarchists and semianarchists is dictated by a desire not to submit their weakness to a test on the part of the masses, thus preserving their right to an inactive hauteur which makes no difference to anybody. A revolutionary party can turn its back to a parliament only if it has set itself the immediate task of overthrowing the existing regime.

The comparison of Rasputin and Christ was customary in that circle, and by no means accidental. The alarm of the royal couple before the menacing forces of history was too sharp to be satisfied with an impersonal God and the futile shadow of a Biblical Christ. They needed a second coming of “the Son of Man.” In Rasputin the rejected and agonizing monarchy found a Christ in its own image. “If there had been no Rasputin,” said Senator Tagantsev, a man of the old regime, “it would have been necessary to invent one.” There is a good deal more in these words than their author imagined.

The first days of war were the first days of disgrace. After a series of partial catastrophes, in the spring of 1915 came the general retreat. The generals took out their own criminal incapacity on the peaceful population. Enormous tracts of land were violently laid waste. Clouds of human locusts were driven to the rear with whips. The external rout was completed with an internal one.

The more isolated the dynasty became, and the more unsheltered the autocrat felt, the more he needed some help from the other world. Certain savages, in order to bring good weather, wave in the air a shingle on a string. The tsar and tsarina used shingles for the greatest variety of purposes. In the tsar’s train, there was a whole chapel full of large and small images, and all sorts of fetishes, which were brought to bear, first against the Japanese, then against the German artillery. The

The principles of liberalism can have a real existence only in conjunction with a police system. Anarchism is an attempt to cleanse liberalism of the police. But just as pure oxygen is impossible to breathe, so liberalism without the police principle means the death of society. Being a shadow-caricature of liberalism, anarchism as a whole has shared its fate. Having killed liberalism, the development of class contradictions has also killed anarchism. Like every sect which founds its teaching not upon the actual development of human society, but upon the reduction to absurdity of one of its features, anarchism explodes like a soap bubble at that moment when the social contradictions arrive at the point of war or revolution.

The Russian proletariat found its revolutionary audacity not only in itself. Its very position as minority of the nation suggests that it could not have given its struggle a sufficient scope—certainly not enough to take its place at the head of the state—if it had not found a mighty support in the thick of the people. Such a support was guaranteed to it by the agrarian problem.

The serious and critical reader will not want a treacherous impartiality, which offers him a cup of conciliation with a well-settled poison of reactionary hate at the bottom, but a scientific conscientiousness, which for its sympathies and antipathies—open and undisguised—seeks support in an honest study of the facts, a determination of their real connections, an exposure of the causal laws of their movement.

The so-called “breeding” of the tsar, his ability to control himself in the most extraordinary circumstances, cannot be explained by a mere external training; its essence was an inner indifference, a poverty of spiritual forces, a weakness of the impulses of the will. That mask of indifference which was called breeding in certain circles, was a natural part of Nicholas at birth. The

The war produced a dreadful desolation in the underground movement. After the arrest of the Duma faction, the Bolsheviks had no centralized party organization at all. The local committees had an episodic existence, and often had no connections with the workers’ districts.

Thousands and thousands of books are thrown on the market every year
presenting some new variant of the personal romance, some tale of the vacillations
of the melancholic or the career of the ambitious. The heroine of Proust requires
several finely-wrought pages in order to feel that she does not feel anything. It
would seem that one might, at least with equal justice, demand attention to a
series of collective historic dramas which lifted hundreds of millions of human
beings out of nonexistence, transforming the character of nations and intruding
forever into the life of all mankind.

Transcending class distinctions, the speaker [Stalin] portrays the relation between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat as a mere division of labor. The workers and soldiers achieve the revolution, Guchkov and Miliukov “fortify” it.[…] This superintendent’s approach to the historical process is exactly characteristic of the leaders of Menshevism, this handing out of instructions to various classes and then patronizingly criticizing their fulfillment.

We seek to uncover
behind the events changes in the collective consciousness. We reject wholesale references to the “spontaneity” of the movement, references which in most cases
explain nothing and teach nobody. Revolutions take place according to certain laws. This does not mean that the masses in action are aware of the laws of revolution, but it does mean that the changes in mass consciousness are not accidental, but are subject to an objective necessity which is capable of theoretic explanation, and thus makes both prophecy and leadership possible.

Without a guiding organization, the energy of the masses would dissipate like steam not enclosed in a piston box. But nevertheless what moves things is not the piston or the box, but the steam.

...you must remember that the political development of the masses proceeds not in a direct line, but in a complicated curve. And is not this, after all, the essential movement of every material process? Objective conditions were powerfully impelling the workers, soldiers and peasants toward the banners of the Bolsheviks, but the masses were entering upon this path in a state of struggle with their own past, with their yesterday’s beliefs, and partly also with their beliefs of today. At a difficult turn, at a moment of failure and disappointment, the old prejudices not yet burnt out would flare up, and the enemy would naturally seize upon these as upon an anchor of