Continuing to review and work through this post by Dmitry Lyskov, concerning Russian history of 100 years ago. Lyskov has done a good job in countering historical revisionism, often of the hysterical brand, e.g., “Lenin hated Russia and Russians, Lenin wanted to destroy Russia, etc.” People who emote those kind of views frequently equate “Russia” with the ruling Romanov dynasty and lament the untimely end of little Alexei and Olga and Tatiana and Maria, and the others. I am guessing these are the same kind of people who send their small daughters to “Princess School” at Disney World and follow the marriages and spawnings of the ruling English monarchy in the tabloids. Such people are hopeless sycophants to anybody calling him- or herself of “royal blood”, and simply cannot understand the concept of Democracy. Nor the idea that ordinary people can actually be political actors; elect their own government; and even have some say in the decisions made by that government. Through a process of vanity combined with projection, these innate anti-democrats identify their own inner selves with royalty, and somehow believe that they are internally a member of the elite, except that they are not! They are just ordinary hicks. Such people are born to be slaves and servants, and so they shall be. Just probably not to anybody with actual royal blood! Instead, they will serve the needs of corporate bullies.
There are, however, some bourgeois democrats of the Westie variety, who believe the Romanov dynasty had it coming, but that the Rusian people should have then thrown their broad-shouldered support to the “democratic” Provisional Government. A government which would then continue the Entente’s war against the enemy of mankind, Germany. This point of view contains a not-so hidden assumption, that the Germans were the bad guys in all of this. I’m not saying the Germans were any great shakes, but look at the alternative, from the point of view of the oppressed colonial serf: Who was the most brutal colonialist beast when it came to Africa? Probably the French and Belgiums, I reckon. Compared to them, the Germans were practically benign.
First Attempts To End The Bloodshed
Speaking of the bourgeois democrats, we saw in our previous episode, that the new government which took over in February, did actually experience a burst of anti-war conscience. The Socialists in that government remembered their past pledges, made in 1907 and 1912, to prevent/oppose imperialist wars. Hence, one month later, in March 1917 they issued the very popular manifesto “To the peoples’s of the world”, calling for the proletarians of the world to step up to the plate, and end the slaughter.
After the Bolsheviks assumed governmental authority in October/November, they issued the first official governmental decree; as mentioned before, this was the famous “Decree Of Peace”. The Decree was penned mainly by Lenin himself and shows his vigorous and crystal-clear no-B.S. writing style. The Decree was presented to the Second Congress of Soviets of Workers, Soldiers and Peasants Deputies on 26 October (old style dates); was passed by the Congress; and published in Izvestiya the following day.
Lyskov debunks the popular notion that this decree ended the war immediately. It wasn’t quite that simple.
The first paragraph of the Decree contained a shout-out to all warring sides and their governments to sit down at the bargaining table and hammer out a “just” peace that left all sides intact, with no annexations. All sides (not just the defeated) were to pay into a reparations fund to help rebuild the nations after the war.
In essence, this was a call to return to the status-quo, without declarations of victory or defeat. At the same time, the Bolshevik government expressed itself willing to consider any other reasonable propositions on the table; and in the meantime, there should be a ceasefire. No more killing! The Bolsheviks encouraged all warring soldiers to put aside their weapons and fraternize with each other. “Fraternization” consisted of singing, dancing, drinking beer, having sleepovers in the trenches, and telling old army jokes.
The Decree was a complex document. In essence it set the tone for Soviet foreign policy, and even post-Soviet foreign policy, for decades to come. In essence, it called for complete transparency in the conduct of foreign relations — i.e., no secret deals. To prove their bona fides in this matter, the Bolsheviks went so far as to publish the secret treaties signed by the Tsarist regime.
There was one piquant twist in the Bolshevik attitude towards international diplomacy: As Communist revolutionaries, they maintained the right to speak directly to the peoples of the world, over the heads of their governments and bypassing the usual diplomatic channels. This was a “revolutionary” idea, no pun intended. For example, this paragraph:
“The workers and peasants government of Russia appeals, in particular, to the conscious workers of the three most advanced nations of mankind, as well as the 16 most important participating governments in the war.” The appeal to the “conscious workers” [as opposed ot the “unconscious workers”] over the heads of their governments, called upon them to step up to the plate and “assume their responsibilities, such as the liberation of mankind from the horrors of war and its consequences”. It was the duty of these workers to help the new Soviet government bring peace to Europe.
Such phraseology came directly from the Stuttgart and Basel resolutions, proving that all that Socialist Congress verbiage was not just for naught. The Bolshevik assertion that the war was purely imperialist and had no value whatsoever for the toiling masses, achieved a huge resonance in Russian society. The “dark masses” chided by General Denikin for their “lack of patriotism” were reaffirmed, by the Bolsheviks, that their instincts had been correct all along. This war did not belong to them, nor were they to blame for any defeats! The guilt-tripping of the war-mongers now fell on deaf ears.
Lyskov: “The Decree of Peace was indeed a fulfillment of a commitment made by the Bolsheviks. But not to the German General Staff. It was a commitment made to the Second International. And this is why it found such resonance among the Russian people.”
Next: Lyskov addressed the meme of the “Stolen Victory”… an ever-popular propaganda device of the Russian Nationalists and Great Russian Chauvinists.
[to be continued]