Today we finish reviewing this post by Dmitry Lyskov. Where we left off, we saw that the new Bolshevik-led government, with its official Decree of Peace, hastened to fulfill a decade-old promise it had made … NOT to the German General Staff, as some anti-Communist ideologues still claim (without any facts to back up this assertion), but to the Second International, and to the world’s “conscious proletariat” represented by that organization. The Bolshevik delegations to the Congresses of the Second International, especially those meetings of 1907 and 1912, had voted for the peace resolutions and hence obligated themselves to carry them out to the best of their abilities. Which abilities had improved significantly since taking over the actual government of Russia (one of the warring parties) in October of 1917.
Next Lyskov deals with still another myth perpetuated by those same Great Russian chauvinist forces, amongst whom one can count such anti-Soviet dissidents as Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It was the bug-eyed Jew-hating fanatic Solzhenitsyn who popularized to the West, not only the “Gulag” meme (which is not exactly a myth, Stalinism was a real thing, but was greatly exaggerated in his telling of it), but also the myth of Russia’s “Stolen Victory” in World War I.
According to this myth: Russia was perched on the threshhold of victory against Germany. Tsar Nicholas II was prepared to fight to the bitter end. But then the Revolution happened, and prevented Russia from marching triumphantly into Berlin at the head of the Victors Parade. In which case, according to everybody’s What-If Machines, Russia would have shared the spoils of war with the other Entente victors; Russia would have snagged herself some juicy pieces when the planet was subsequently carved up like a Christmas goose.
What this theory has going for it, is the actual fact that Germany did lose the war, in the end. And was forced to pay reparations to the victors. Hence, it might actually be logical to assume that Russia could have taken her rightful share of the pirates booty.
Aside from that one point, the facts do not support this theory. One should always remind oneself, that the Tsar abdicated before the Revolution broke out in Petrograd. Nicky simply quit the game, because he couldn’t deal with the disarray his policies had caused. The revolution was sparked by the collapse in transport, the lack of food coming into the cities, actual hunger. The war was lost, not at the front, but at the rear. No revolutionary agitators, however skilled their oratory, even were they born with a hundred of Cicero’s golden tongues, could not have produced such an effect.
More to the point, the Tsar was forced to abdicate, not by revolutionary firebrands, but by his own General Staff. I suppose one could say that even Tsarist Russia had something like a Deep State!
Another fact: Decree #1 of the Petrograd Soviet, which is often cited as a defeatist document, since it ordered the troops to disperse, was technically directed just to the Petrograd garrison, not to the Russian army as a whole. As it so happened, the decree then got passed from hand to hand over the entire front line, almost at the speed of light. The men went “yay, we can go home!” and took off for home. The officers had simply lost control over the soldiers. There was no command left. There was no military discipline. The solid flesh of the Russian army had melted, thawed, and resolved itself into a dew.
Under such conditions, could Russia have possibly continued fighting the war unto the eventual victory? Lyskov answers his own question.
Building A New Army
At the start of 1918 the Bolshevik government started to build a new army for the nation: the Red Army. On the surface this would not seem like a promising project, given that the entirety of Russian manhood had just voted en masse with their feet that they didn’t want to be in the army any more.
And now we see the paradoxical situation which even General Denikin had commented on: That the same soldiers who kept whining for years that didn’t want to fight, suddenly wanted to fight. What, oh what, could have changed their minds, what could possibly turn these army sad-sacks and deadbeats into Spartan warriors? (Maybe the fact that they had just finished partitioning up the landlords estates and then come to find, that they have to take up the gun again, to keep their newly acquired land?)
Having something valuable to fight for, understanding precisely what one is fighting for, does make a difference, oddly enough. Motivation is an important thing, psychologically speaking. Still, it was an amazing feat for the Bolshevik government to reunite literally millions of soldiers with their weapons and send them back out there into the fray! Only this time, not to fight against Germans, but to fight against their former masters and bosses!
How did the Bolsheviks do this? With threats and cajolings? Maybe that too. But primary via the hackneyed and old-fashioned tactic of education. In the year 1919 alone, the Red Army newspapers reached a circulation of almost 150 million. In Soviet Russia, 68 million books and brochures were published. In 1918, the Red Army became the Well-Read Army: building 3033 libraries for the troops; by 1919 this number had increased to 7500 stationary libraries, and 2400 mobile libraries. The Army also set up around 6000 “Literacy Schools” for the troops, along with theaters and other forms of education and entertainment. The written word was, of course, supplemented by the speeches of the professional orators who accompanied the army and engaged the soldiers in political agitation.
All of these means of education served an important function: They transformed the “dark masses” into enlightened masses; patriots of the new Soviet Republic, who were able to discuss, in a halfway-intelligent fashion, the political needs and interests of their brand-new country. In this way, a new nation was formed from the lowliest members of the former Russian Empire.