File No. 861.00/477
The Consul at Petrograd ( Winship ) to the Secretary of State
[Received August 28.]
Sir: I have the honor to report, following despatch No. 342 dated July 10, 1917,1 that the resignation of the four Ministers belonging to [Page 165] the Cadet Party, Constitutional Democratic Party or Party of the People’s Freedom, was not the cause of the recent mutinous uprising of the more violent elements in the Maximalist wing of the Social Democratic Party (Bolsheviks). This uprising was originally planned to occur on the 10th/23d of June, and after the failure of the plan then it was not dropped but merely postponed. As a first step it was planned to gain control of the Workmen’s Section of the Petrograd Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies in which the Maximalists already had one third of the votes. Under the excuse of organizing a “fight against the counter-revolution” a special meeting of the Workmen’s Section was called for Saturday, July 14, and all Maximalist deputies were ordered to be present under penalty of at once having their places filled by others. This meeting was postponed until Monday night and by keeping the meeting posted as each body of troops issued into the street under arms and exaggerating their numbers the Maximalists strove to carry their resolution demanding that the All-Russian Convention of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies and the Convention of Peasants’ Deputies take all government authority into their own hands, and choosing a committee of twenty-five to act in the name of the Workmen’s Section in contact with the Executive Committees of the two All-Russian Conventions. The Socialist Revolutionists and the Social Democratic Minimalists had left the meeting in a body and after their departure the resolution was carried.
This was the parliamentary political maneuver, based on the street meeting of the Maximalist soldiers. Both were intended to force the hands of the Soldiers’ Section of the Petrograd Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies.
It was a fortunate coincidence for the Maximalists that the Cadet Ministers unconsciously played into the hands of the Leninites by their resignation, which became known only late Monday afternoon as there are no newspapers either Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. This gave the Maximalist conspirators a clear twenty-four hours in which to work, unhindered by publicity and without being forced to take published facts into account. The Monday afternoon papers containing the news of the Cadets’ resignation did not appear until 5 o’clock, while trucks filled with armed civilians and soldiers with rifles and machine guns were on the streets before 6 o’clock. The banners carried bore old legends, “Down with the ten capitalist Ministers!” “All power to the Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies!” together with new legends, “Down with Kerensky!” “Immediate peace!” and “War against war!” Not until late that night did the Maximalist leaders call for the overthrow of the six (ten minus four) capitalist Ministers. Whereas the [Page 166] “fight against the counter-revolution” was the excuse for the meeting of the Workmen’s Section, the Maximalist troops were aroused by the protest of the Guard Grenadier Regiment’s reserve battalion here against the disbandment of the regiment itself at the front, for its open opposition to Minister Kerensky and the advance now under way on the southern front. By 8 o’clock the streets were being traversed by armed trucks, and armed soldiers and workmen of the Maximalist Red Guard were walking through the city in groups and singly. During this night there was bloodshed. During Tuesday large bodies of troops and sailors from Kronstadt and near-by garrison towns arrived in Petrograd, and bloodshed was frequent. Not until Tuesday night did the authorities undertake to disarm the automobiles and armed parties or to suppress the robbing and wrecking of stores on the Nevski. By Wednesday morning, however, the armed automobiles had all been captured. By Thursday the last nests of the mutineers were taken, namely the Peter and Paul Fortress and the near-by palace belonging to the ballerina Kshesinskaya, which was the headquarters of the “Organization for Propaganda among the Soldiers” of the Maximalists.
The first and most significant point regarding the events of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday is that since the revolution the Temporary Government has not had the police power in its own capital as has been several times pointed out in these despatches.
The second is that the Temporary Government did not know what armed support among the troops quartered in the city it could rely on.
Thirdly, the organization actually wielding the police power, namely the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies, was paralyzed at first both because it itself did not know what actual armed support among the troops it could rely on and because of its doctrinaire policy of moral suasion. The position of the Minister of Justice on this question, to be mentioned later, is profoundly significant.
The Maximalist meeting was essentially an uprising against the majority in the All-Russian Convention of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies, and against its policy of using active, aggressive, military force against Germany. And on Tuesday a crowd of mutineers attempted to wreck the counter-reconnaissance (anti-spy, military secret service) bureau of the General Staff. “Down with Kerensky!” and “Immediate peace!” were the chief motives actuating the soldier mutineers from the disaffected regiments of Petrograd and the Kronstadters. Firing was early opened on the staff buildings opposite the Winter Palace. The Maximalist street orators agitated openly in favor of extreme internationalism, declaring that workmen [Page 167] have no home country and that the advance was a crime against the German “comrades.”
This mutiny might have occurred at any time since the advance began and if it results in teaching the thousands of the rank and file of the moderate socialists whose representatives form the majority in the All-Russian Convention that Lenin and the Maximalists are pursuing a line of action welcome to and partially organized and financially supported by Germany, it will have been wholly beneficial. Heretofore the moderate socialists, while of late more and more disagreeing with the Maximalists, have nevertheless admitted them to all their deliberations and have defended them against the accusations of being pro-German hurled at them by the middle-class and patriotic socialist press.
The seizure of the Kshesinskaya Palace; the seizure of the editorial rooms of the newspaper Truth; the arrests of the Maximalists, Badaev, Simensohn, Kozlovski, who has been a prominent member of the commission to call the Constitutional Convention; the arrests of the Maximalist leaders, Trotsky and Kamenev; the order to arrest Lenin and Zinoviev and the seizure of documents in Lenin’s apartments; the transfer of seized documents to the counter-reconnaissance bureau, and the formation of a socialist investigation committee to probe the charges of being a German agent now openly made against Lenin; and the Government’s decision to inflict punishment up to three years penitentiary on all persons publicly inciting to violence or refusing to obey the legal commands of the authorities and to bring insubordinate troops to trial for treachery are very favorable signs. On the other hand the summons addressed to the populace by the Executive Committees of the All-Russian Conventions not to repeat the statement that Lenin et al. are German agents until the Socialist Party committee has ended its investigation; the fact that the investigation was intended to be a narrow party affair rather than a matter for the prosecuting attorney; and before the arrest orders were issued the actual release of the immense majority of the mutineers, all point to an insufficient realization on the part of the Socialist Party leaders outside the Ministry that such half measures in this wholesale mutiny as were taken in the previous cases of several mutinies, will only lead to repetitions.
The events of the 16th, 17th and 18th of July are the third time the Maximalists have attempted to overthrow the Temporary Government. The first was on the 4th and 5th of May when the Temporary Government was supported by the Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies. The second was the fiasco armed parade planned for the 23d of June, when the Temporary Government contained representatives of the Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies. Each time the mutiny against the bourgeoisie and the moderate socialist [Page 168] majority has been stronger and stronger until this time the Executive Committees were for a time imprisoned in the Duma buildings by the mutinous mob and the Minister of Agriculture, the socialist Chernov, was actually captured and roughly handled.
That Kerensky, now Prime Minister in the cabinet that is socialist in all but name, has officially branded the Maximalists as German agents, in orders to the army and the fleet, is an entirely hopeful sign. Even more encouraging is his decision to bring to justice all members of the Maximalist ship crews who were active in the recent mutiny as well as the Kronstadt leaders.
Results of the Mutiny
The immediate result of the mutiny has been to bring about two of those things for which it was planned.
One of these was the transfer of “all power to the Councils of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies.” This transfer is due to the mutiny in the sense that the mutiny in Petrograd, and its results at the front, such as the insubordination of the 607th Mlynovski Regiment and others, make an almost dictatorial government necessary. Such dictatorial power can only be wielded by a socialist government. As has been indicated many times in these despatches, at no time since the revolution has the Temporary Government, as such, ever been wholly in power, and it could never be in power, and exercise police military power, as such, as long as it contained bourgeois elements.
The reconstruction of a government without bourgeois elements, or only with such elements as have entirely surrendered to the socialist trend (such as Tereshchenko), is dictated by the necessity for a powerful government. The bourgeois Minister of Ways of Communication, Mr. Nekrasov, although extremely radical, was forced to introduce the “recall” principle for railroad officials, since he could not wield strong authority. But the socialist Minister of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Tseretelli, by virtue of being a socialist chosen by the Ail-Russian Convention of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Deputies, was able to absolutely forbid any introduction of the “elective” or “recall” system in regard to post-office and telegraph management. Similarly only a socialist government can exercise repressive power without precipitating civil war.
In this sense the mutiny has been entirely beneficial in that it would seem that henceforth there will be a strong government, not afraid to use force.
The introduction into Petrograd of healthy elements from the army at the front is a result the ringleaders of the mutiny did not plan. The preponderance of a democratic military spirit in Petrograd, to control and overrule the doctrinaire socialist-pacifist fanatics in the committees of the various socialist councils and conventions [Page 169] will probably introduce an element of stability that has heretofore been lacking.
Although the bodies of Cossacks and other troops from the front were fired on several times on the 20th, and the affrays took on serious proportions, their presence is welcomed by the overwhelming majority of the population, and will exercise an immensely steadying influence.
The second result of the mutiny, and a result that was undoubtedly planned and desired by its instigators, has been to create disorder, doubt and dissension in the rear of the army, and to hinder the progress of the “Loan of Liberty.” The 16th, 17th and 18th had been set for an energetic advertising campaign for the loan and the booths erected throughout the city are still standing vacant and unfinished. The mutiny has successfully undone much of the internal economic and financial rehabilitation that has been under way since the All-Russian Convention closed.
A further evil result of the mutiny lies in the excuse it gave the Social Democratic majority in the Finnish Seim to pass its law declaring Finland’s independence of Russia in all respects except as to foreign affairs and the military necessities of the war.
The Minister of Justice has resigned, but it is impossible to ascertain from the contradictory statements made by him and by the other Ministers why Mr. Perevertsev claims he is resigning because he was not allowed to use the force he wished to use against the Maximalists who deliberately flouted the court decrees evicting them from the Kshesinskaya Palace, and the anarchists who seized the Villa Durnovo and who made the raid on the printing office of the Russian Will. The other Ministers state his resignation is due to his lack of initiative in conducting the eviction and in repressing the anarchists. These conflicting declarations show the internal chaos that has lately prevailed among the members of the Ministry.
Part of the controversy turns on Mr. Perevertsev’s publication of part of the documents incriminating the Maximalists of acting for the German General Staff.
Mr. Perevertsev claims he informed the soldiers who were “strangely neutral” during the mutiny, in order to arouse them to save the Temporary Government from overthrow. At the moment the socialist Ministers were imprisoned at the Duma Palace by mutineers and Messrs. Tereshchenko and Nekrasov were absent, so that he felt he must get the hesitating soldiers to act against the mutineers immediately.
It is undoubtedly true that much of the garrison was “neutral” until the exposure, but it is also true, as Messrs. Tereshchenko and Nekrasov state, that after the exposé of secret documents, the incriminated persons should have been immediately arrested.
I have [etc.]
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