The Jewish Question from February to October 1917
In the first month of its existence the Provisional Government abolished on March 21, 1917, all laws and orders restricting the Jews. They were treated equal in all respect with the rest of the citizens of Russia. Wide possibilities were opened to them for the most active participation in all branches of public and cultural life of the country, without exception, and to occupy any position in the government apparatus.
The Jews did not keep themselves waiting and rushed in to occupy ruling positions, inaccessible to them previously, in all sectors of the social and political life of Russia, as well as administrative posts.
Four Jews became senators: M. Vinaver, G. Blumenfeld, O. Gruzenberg and I. Gurevich. The Jew G. Shreider, became the mayor of St. Petersburg and the Jew O. Minor, that of Moscow. In Kiev in 1917 we see as deputy mayor, the Jew, Ginsburg.
In the year 1917 in the responsible post, managing the affairs of the Provisional Government, was the Jew, A. Galperi. High posts in the ministry were occupies by Jews: S. M. Schwartz, D. U. Dalin — (Levin), I. M. Liakhovsky — (Maisky), Y. S. Novakovsky — all Social-Democrats, Mensheviks and “Bundists”.
Besides the above listed persons, many Jews (up to October period) occupied high posts in institutions of local government in the "February period" of revolution.
But the senators' chairs and high positions in the government services did not attract the Jews. The instability of the Provisional Government, determined from the first days of its existence, and its dependence on arbitrarily arisen or created organizations of a purely political-revolutionary character, predetermined the unreliability and instability of posts and positions in the government services.
Revolutionary careers were made not in ministries, but at meetings and conferences of Soviet Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants' Deputies, quickly appropriating to themselves legislative and executive powers. It is there that the Russian Jewry rushed with the energy, persistence and conviction, peculiar to them that they "know everything and can do anything".
At that time — in the first months of the Provisional Government — the following revolutionary parties have pursued the occupation of these political areas, competing with one another on the proscenium of political life:
- The Party of "Socialist-Revolutionaries" from which its left wing soon detached itself, calling themselves the "Left Socialist-Revolutionaries".
- The Party of "Socialist-Democrats — of Mensheviks", which stood on "defensive position".
- "Bund" — exclusively Jewish Mensheviks — the Marxists, who did not admit non-Jews in their environment, but themselves quite actively participated in activities of All-Russian Social-Democratic Party — of Mensheviks.
- “Anarchists” — followers of the teachings of Kropotkin and Bakunin — demanded the abolition of any power in general.
All the mentioned parties were considered "revolutionary", in contrast to a few "bourgeois" parties which acted timidly during the revolutionary events. Here may also be included the "Constitutional-Democratic Party" which changed its name to the "Party of National Freedom".
The middle position between the "revolutionary" and "bourgeois" parties had been occupied by the "National Socialists", a large party with little influence. For some, this party was not "revolutionary" enough, for others, who judged it by its name, it was deemed "socialist".
Patriotic groupings, parties and "rightist" currents were stunned by the revolution and remained in virtual non-existence.
It is not out of place to mention here how Russian Jewry as a whole regarded the parties. At the congress of all the Jewish organizations, a decision was reached that in the forthcoming elections (general, direct, just and secret) no votes would be cast for the parties that were further to the right than the "National Socialists". The congress was held in the first months of the revolution. In such a way the organized Russian Jewry refused to support the party of "National Freedom", which as well as the central party organs was composed of many Jews. These Jews were well-educated and cultured, but they did not share revolutionary ideas and did not support revolutionary methods in internal and external politics.
Jews made up the overwhelming majority (from 60 to 80% of the central committees of all the six revolutionary parties enumerated above, while in the "Bund" there was not a single non-Jew.
Lists of names of the members of the central committees of these six parties, given in the Part II of this work, show the nationality of each individual member.
Owing to numerous pseudonyms and to changes from one faction of a party to another (for instance, Bronstein-Trotsky and Nakhamkes-Steklov – Mensheviks turned Bolsheviks), and also to the impossibility of drawing a distinction between "Bundists" and Mensheviks, these listings cannot claim to be 100% exact; therefore, some mistakes are possible in them.
But they give a quite convincing general picture of the racial composition of leaders in the revolutionary parties of Russia in 1917.
Besides their Central Committees, all these parties had a wide network in the provinces and regions, in the army and among workers, and they participated most actively in the political life of the country. These parties deliberately participated in diverse "Soviet Deputies": of workers, of soldiers, of peasants and especially in the State Deputies of Soviet Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' which, from the first weeks of the revolution, became the second government, more authoritative than the Provisional Government which had in its composition during the first month only one socialist, Kerensky. And the Jews in this second government played a leading rôle, occupying key positions.
In the first weeks and months of the revolution, all the revolutionaries that were in exile or who had emigrated returned to Russia and began to "deepen and widen" the revolution. Among those who returned from abroad were an overwhelming majority of Jews; this can be seen from the listings' published in the spring of 1917 in Russian newspapers.
Up to the moment of the fall of the Czarist regime, the emigrant-revolutionaries were concentrated in United States of America and Switzerland.
In the USA, in New York, there were such well-known Jewish revolutionaries as Bronstein-Trotsky, Kohan-Volodarsky, Radomyslsky-Uritsky and many others. They successfully conducted propaganda against the Russian Government, watched war events closely and were getting ready to participate in the imminent revolution in Russia. Still one year before the revolution, on the fourteenth of February, 1916, a conference of emigrant-revolutionaries took place in New York. Sixty-two persons participated in this conference, fifty of whom were "veterans of the 1905 revolution", and the remainders of them were newly-admitted members. Participants of the conference were people of intellectual professions or "professional revolutionaries". Among the delegates was an enormous percentage of Jews. The material support for this group was provided by the banker Jacob Schiff, as was repeatedly said to those who were present at the conference.
During a little more than a year, two ships with emigrants departed from USA. The emigrants were returning to Russia after the February overthrow. An overwhelming majority of the passengers on these ships consisted of Jews, who in their time run away from Russia. This was not difficult to establish, as the passenger lists showed at a glance. All were returning as "political emigrants", although many of them were simply deserters, who had run away from Russia, in order to escape conscription. The circumstances now made these deserters "victims of Czarism", and they, as victors, were returning to Russia to take part in the revolution.
Upon their arrival in Russia they spread throughout the country, from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok, and at once took a most active part in its events.
Among those returning from the USA there were 265 Jews who settled in Petrograd (some of whom were real political emigrants, and some who were simply deserters, accompanying their fellow tribesmen). This was reported to the USA Senate Commission by a Methodist priest, Dr. George A. Simons, who had been the Dean of the Methodist church in Petrograd for many years. In memorandums (protocols. of Testimonies ) 439 and 469 of the sixty-fifth session of the US senate, the following is mentioned: "among the agitators were hundreds of Jews from downtown New York, and in 1918 the governing apparatus in Petrograd consisted of 16 true Russians and 371 Jews, of whom, moreover, 265 arrived from New York".
The return of emigrants from the second centre – Switzerland – happened as follows: traveling to Russia from Switzerland the usual way – through Austria or Germany – was impossible, because these countries were at war with Russia, and any Russians finding themselves on these territories were at once interned. The route through France, and then by sea, was dangerous due to the activity of German submarines and warships. Besides that, France, knowing the attitude of those who wanted to go to Russia, did not wish to help these emigrants. France also knew that a considerable number of these emigrants were active "defeatists", who without a doubt would develop their propaganda in Russia, which was France's ally in this war.
The Germans came to the rescue. They transported 224 emigrant-revolutionaries through German territory in sealed railway cars to Sweden, whence they went through Finland to Russia. Of the passengers in the “sealed” cars, 170 were Jews, almost all of whom were "defeatists".
They were met in Petrograd with a grand welcome, although the Provincial Government was well informed as to their political aims and their method of entering Russia. Newspapers were full of welcoming articles. Lists were printed of those who arrived, from which it was easy to establish the national identity of the passengers in the sealed railway cars. There is no need to enumerate them here; this would only trouble the reader. Those, however, wishing to verify this, can do so by reading Petrograd newspapers of April, 1917. Moreover, possibly they would also be surprised to find included the names both of those who soon upon their arrival took part in creating the power of the Soviets, and of those emigrants who had for several decades been enemies of “Stalinism”, e. g. the well-known Menshevik — R. Abramovich.
Having concentrated, as shown above, all their active forces, these Jewish revolutionaries very quickly occupied key positions in all the parties that were claiming and competing for power at that time in Russia. But they did not rush into the apparatus of the executive power. They preferred to play a rôle in influencing the destiny of Russia by staying outside of the government, in the positions of deputies, delegates and leaders in various soviets and committees, which, as was said above, at that time embodied the "second government" in Russia.
The only exception had been made was in the militia, which had replaced the police. Jews readily went there from the first days of the revolution; of course, not in leadership of the militia or its management, but more humbly, not aspiring leadership beyond their own quarter or town. They felt themselves to be, if not "power", then at least organs of power and guardians of the "revolutionary order". With a band on an arm and with a saber on the side, and frequently with a revolver on a belt, they fussed around, rushing about the city and, in a solemn manner, investigated petty occurrences and conflicts on streets and markets, being guided by the "revolutionary conscience and revolutionary justice". Of course, they were not on the beat, as were previous policemen, but preferred to do what police officers and district officers did. This with the exception that the officers and district officers used to give "good scolding" and "reprimands" before, upholding order without much success, whereas the new replacements rather "persuaded", appealing to the "consciousness" of citizens. The result was quick demoralization of the country and extinction of that patriotic spirit with which Russia had been seized at the beginning of the war, spirit which always used to save Russia in its time of peril.
Calles to continue the war until victory did not find any response from the masses. All dreamed about termination of the war and returning home.
There was no one to appeal to the patriotism of the Russian people: neither the Provisional Government, consisting of people for whom the word "patriotism" was synonymous with reactionary and "counter-revolutionary" against what they feared most, nor – and here much less – the Soviet of
Deputies, which was composed of people to whom the word "Russian patriotism" was itself alien, incomprehensible and even hostile. Russia was not their motherland, but only a temporary place of sojourn and the territory on which they had an opportunity to conduct their international-socialist experiments, without any resistance from the native population: the same population whose forefathers had created and defended their country with heavy sacrifices in the past and whose future was inseparably linked with the future of their country, Russia.
Since they did not meet any rebuffs, the leaders of the various former political and revolutionary parties (a majority of whom were Jews) felt themselves to be masters of the situation and started to act accordingly, without consideration of anyone or anything.
At that time (in the summer of 1917) Bronstein-Trotsky and Nakhamkes-Steklov started to influence everything. Taking up leading positions in the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies of Petrograd, these two Marxist-Mensheviks, who by this time had already turned Bolsheviks, with their peculiar tribal energy, temperament and purposefulness got busy destroying law and order and even a minimum lawfulness which the Provisional Government wanted to, but could not, preserve with all its efforts.
Trotsky had a reputation as the former vice-president of the Soviet Workers' Deputies in 1905. He was able then to implement the decision about an armed uprising, contrary to the wished of the president, Khrustalev-Nosar, who "suffered" for freedom. (He "suffered" by being in jail in New York right up to the revolution.)
Nakhamkes did not have any reputation and was unknown outside of the revolutionary circles. He was of great stature, heavy, bearded, with a thunder-like bassy voice, unpleasant, and untidy in appearance. From the very first days of the revolution Nakhamkes advanced to the front ranks of revolutionary figures and manifested exceptional impetuosity and impudence in his political activity.
The following episode expressively testifies how powerful Trotsky's reputation was and how powerless the Provisional Government was. In July, 1917, after the suppression of the Bolshevik uprising, Trotsky, along with other leaders of the uprising, was charged by the prosecutor of the Petrograd Chamber of Justice under Articles 51, 100 and 108 of the Criminal Code for the organization of an armed uprising and treason. The accusation was valid, legally irreproachable, and punishable in war time with death penalty.
Other leaders who were charged for the uprising disappeared in hideouts. But Trotsky did not run away and did not hide. Instead, he circulated ironical letters, asking when he would be arrested.
In the Soviet Deputies he knocked on the rostrum and shouted to them: "You accuse Bolsheviks of treason and of an uprising? Put them in jail? And I was with them, yet I am here! Why don't you arrest me?" Members of the Soviet Deputies kept quite. (They were opponents of the uprising, and the Bolsheviks at that time were still in the minority.)
News about the order to arrest Trotsky so agitated the Soviet Deputies that after a few hours, when the order was signed, several members of the military section of the Soviet met in the headquarters of the Petrograd Military District, where the following conversation took place between them and the Quartermaster-General:
“What? You wanted to arrest Trotsky?”, the members of the Soviet asked the Quartermaster-General this question, in which there was no reproach, yet a bit of compassion could be sensed, having the innuendo that he was not in his right mind.
“Yes! And I am still demanding!”
“You obviously forgot what happened three days ago, yet I well remember your pale faces and trembling chins, when we served our time together on the fourth of July.”
“Yes, but this is Trotsky: Do you understand – Trotsky!”
“They tried to explain their worship of him and as a visual demonstration raised their arms to the sky.” (The quotation is from the book by B. Nikitin, "The Fatal Years".)
(The representatives of Military Section of the Soviet were members of Socialist parties of the Soviet, but they were not Bolsheviks. The Provisional Government did not dare to arrest Trotsky. Judging from numerous memoirs written by participants of the events: Kerensky prevented them from arresting him.)
The episode above gives a clear picture of what sort of fellow Trotsky was at that time. He openly conducted propaganda, calling soldiers and seamen to disobedience, thereby undermining the fighting efficiency of the army.
Steklov-Nakhamkes went still further than Trotsky. He made a call to have those who supported the continuation of the war murdered. After the July uprising, he was, in the same way as Trotsky, charged under the same articles, and, also like Trotsky, was neither prosecuted nor even arrested. He was detained for a short period of time, consenting to the decision of the prosecutor's office, but, like Trotsky, he was released by the Provisional Government.
Ovshy Moiseevich Nakhamkes (Steklov), a Russian subject of military age was detained at the beginning of the war by the Germans, but was released soon and arrived in Russia. From the first days of the revolution he joined the Soviet Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies and became an important figure there. On his initiative and with his direct participation the police organization was destroyed. He also decided not to withdraw the brainwashed and demoralized garrison, where there was a large percentage of mobilized workers, from Petrograd.
In the first days of the revolution, the Soviet Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies was created. It at once occupied the position of a "second government". A commission was chosen from it; this commission consisted of five members whose task was to maintain contacts with the Provisional Government. It was named "Contacting Commission".
Nakhamkes took part in this commission and at once became one of its leaders. The task of this commission, by the definition of Nakhamkes himself, was ''by means of constant organized pressure to force the Provisional Government to fulfill the demands of the Soviet".
From the first days of the Provisional Government's existence this pressure was permanent. The pressure was carried out by Nakhamkes roughly, directly and unceremoniously. He behaved as the strict master. This led to a situation where the Provisional Government could not and dared not undertake responsible decision without the consent and approval of the “Contact Commission”. Nakhamkes spoke in the name of the commission and was not opposed by the other members.
Nakhamkes' activity was not limited to the committee. Almost every day he made speeches in the Soviet and to numerous meetings. He pounded on all those who wanted to continue the war, including the Provisional Government and the General Staff of the army.
At the beginning of June 1917, a joint conference of Bolsheviks and Anarchists was held behind closed doors in Lessner's factory. They discussed questions about co-ordination of their actions. The Bolsheviks suggested to the Anarchists to take upon themselves the task of terrorizing persons who supported the continuation of the war. They argued that to them it was improper now to commit themselves to extreme excesses, while excesses are part of the program of individual anarchist groups. However, the Anarchists were not too enthusiastic about the suggestion. The question was about to fail, if the situation had not been saved by Nakhamkes, who was present at the conference. He so passionately and resolutely called to terror, so inspired those who were present, eloquently rousing them to start murders at once, that after his speech the Bolsheviks passed their resolution without difficulty and on the spot made up a list of designated victims, at the head of which was Kerensky.
This resolution soon became known in the Petrograd Military District and in the War Ministry. The Minister of War at that time was Kerensky, and his assistants: Colonels Yakubovsky, Tumanov and Baranovsky. The Deputy of the Commander-in-Chief (on political matters) of the Petrograd Military
District, the lawyer Kuzmin, was called from reserve. He was a socialist-revolutionary, blindly carrying out all directives of the central committee of his party, one of the parties actively participating in the Soviet.
When the Quartermaster-General informed Kuzmin of all that took place in Lessner's factory, adding that there was no doubt about the information because it came from quite reliable persons, Kuzmin answered: "This cannot be! What? Nakhamkes gone to the Bolsheviks? This will never happen!" No move was made in connection with this matter.
Then the Quartermaster-General went to the War Ministry, where together with the three assistants of Kerensky above mentioned, they reviewed the situation created by Nakhamkes' speech. They looked at the situation quite differently from Kuzmin, who simply would not believe that the
Menshevik Nakhamkes could betray his party.
Indeed, was that not enough to charge Nakhamkes of working for the Germans? The order to immediately murder the persons willing to continue the war did not enter into the program of the social-democratic party or even of its defeatist wing. On what instruction then did Nakhamkes proceed? At the German Headquarters, a better conclusion could not be reached. What would have happened in France with those who began to urge the murder of Clemenceau and the corps commanders?
Thus the speech of Nakhamkes was appraised by the military people, who were far from being "black hundreders" (who could not have occupied responsible positions under Kerensky), but who were not bound by the iron discipline of socialist parties, as was the case with Kuzmin.
After a comprehensive discussion it was decided to organize special personal protection for Kerensky. It was further decided to take measures against the uncontrolled manufacture of hand grenades in factories; grenades that could be used in the activities recommended by Nakhamkes. Enlisted to organize preventive measures, the Chief of the General Artillery Administration, General Lekhachev, attempted to set up strict control of explosives. The manufacture of hand grenades was organized in such a way that percussion cups were kept separately and could be put into grenades only outside of the Capital. At this the matter rested.
No one dared to arrest and try Nakhamkes or even to question or request an explanation from him. Neither the whole provisional Government nor the military authorities took action, although Nakhamkes' speeches and recommendations were known to all. The question, however, was "ticklish"; it was quietly decided not to raise the question at all.
The heralded terrorist Nakhamkes provoked lots of trouble and much attention at that time. A guard was appointed, a commission was composed, and other preventive measures were worked out. But he thundered from a platform right up to the July uprising, continuing to exert "organized pressure on the Government".
After the failure of the Bolshevik uprising in July 1917, an order was issued to arrest leaders of this uprising, including Trotsky and Nakhamkes. (As is known, the majority of the leaders had gone into hiding and did not appear before October). However Trotsky and Nakhamkes did not hide. They did not even run away, but continued their activity, ignoring the law and the very existence of the Provisional Government, which ought to have suppressed their activity but did not dare.
The episode of Trotsky's arrest, given above, was identical with that of Nakhamkes. An attempt by lawful authorities to arrest Nakhamkes ended in failure.
On July 9, Nakhamkes was found in a cottage in Mustomiac and on the order of the Headquarters of the Petrograd Military District was, in spite of his protests" brought in to the premises of the Headquarters. Here he constantly shouted and protested, asking how they dared to arrest him, who was, in his words “a member of the Executive Committee of All-Russia” and demanded that the Chief of the Headquarters should come to him.
Upon entering, the Chief of the Headquarters found Nakhamkes sitting at the table in a sprawling position, with his back to the table and his elbows on the table. To the question of the Chief: “Do you wish to ask me something?” – Nakhamkes, without getting up from the chair, answered: “but I asked you to come almost two hours ago!”
In the room were soldiers and officers. The Chief stands, but Nakhamkes sits, sprawling, his legs crossed. Unable to contain himself, the Chief of the Headquarters said, emphatically and loud: “If you wish to speak to me, take some pain to get up!” Nakhamkes jumped up, as if a spring. “Why did you arrest me, in spite of the government’s prohibition?”, he asked. The Chief replied: “I knew that under the old régime exceptions were made only for ministers and members of State Council; but under the new conditions, as it seems, all are equal. Why should I make an exception for you?”
“What? It means you are arresting also the member of the Constituent Assembly?”, Nakhamkes asked. “I do not understand what this has to do with the Constituent Assembly?”, the Chief of the Headquarters replied. “Yes, but I am a member of the Executive Committee of the Soviet Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies of All-Russia, a member of the Legislative Chamber. At least this is how we look at ourselves.”
This interesting dispute was interrupted by an urgent telephone call to the Chief, who was informed that on orders from the government, Nakhamkes must not be detained in the District Headquarters any longer.
At the same time, the chairman of the Soviet Department himself, Chkheidze, appeared with two members to rescue Nakhamkes. The chief of the Headquarters could do nothing but let Nakhamkes go peacefully, in spite of the latter's guilt that had been established beyond a doubt.
But this was Nakhamkes-Steklov, who then, like Bronstein-Trotsky, felt himself master of the situation and behaved as such, without consideration towards anyone or anything.
But to make up for it, they were held in high esteem by the Provisional Government, and even by the Soviet Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, in which the Bolsheviks at that time did not have a majority. In fact, however, the Soviet was led by these two bully characters, daring not to take measures against its defeatist propaganda, and at the same time making resolutions about the continuation of the war to a victorious end. The absurdity of such a situation was felt by many, but no one dared to say anything. Behind Nakhamkes and Bronstein stood not only the central Committee of their party, but also the Central Committees of all “revolutionary” parties, which offered indirect support in the form of non-resistance. This was because parties that was on the political proscenium at that time consisted mainly of their fellow tribesmen for whom feeling of the Russian patriotism was alien, incomprehensible and hostile.
There was a "struggle" with the defeatist propaganda. But the struggle was conducted in such a way as not to be victorious. With outmost exactness this "struggle" was explained by one of the Menshevik leaders – the Georgian, Tsereteli – stating that the "struggle should be conducted in such a way as to give them the possibility of an honorable retreat. Otherwise a counter-revolution can triumph."
Thus it was in Petrograd, as in all Russian cities, in that short period of time when the power was held by the Provisional Government.
In Kiev, Rafes set the trend and "deepened the revolution". He was a Menshevik – a "Bundist" who afterwards joined the Bolsheviks. At the front, the whole legion of small provincial Nakhamkes and Bronsteins conducted anti-patriotic propaganda in countless Soviet Soldiers' Deputies. And they did not encounter any due hindrance from the side of their colleagues Mensheviks and socialist-revolutionaries, of whom the Soviets were composed at that time. But if there was a counteraction, then according to the methods of Tsereteli, it was equal to connivance, indulgence, assistance and promotion.
Of course, far from all "deepeners" of the revolution and orators of meetings, and even not in a majority but a relative minority, were Jews. Non-Jews who only imitated the Jewish methods of Nakhamkes and Bronstein predominated in number. They simply did this by observation of demagogic and total impunity for expressions and activities, generally intolerable, especially in war time.
What is characteristic is that in the stormy political life of the first days of the Russian Revolution Jews – members of the "Bund" – were taking a most active part. It was this very same "Bund" which not too long ago, in 1903, had stated that "generally, it would be a big delusion to think that whatever the socialist party may be, it can direct a liberation struggle of an alien nationality to which it does not itself belong".
For guidance of a political party of any nation, in the opinion of the "Bund", it is necessary to be of the origin of the given nation, to be linked with it by a thousand strings, to be inspired by its ideas and to understand its psychology. For a party of an alien nation this is impossible – The Jews from "Bund" stated this categorically in 1903.
However, already during the first revolution, in 1905, numerous Jewish revolutionaries quite actively interfered in the "affairs" of an alien nation. They were not only participants but also instigators and leaders of revolutionary actions, as for instance, Ratner, Shlikhter and Sheftel in Kiev.
And the "Bundists" as well as those who were not members of the "Bund" — in equal measure and equal energy rushed into the revolutionary movement. They considered that it was possible and accessible to them not only to participate in political life and All-Russian parties ("alien" – for them) but also to penetrate into the leadership of the non-Jewish parties, while jealously barring non-Jews from their Jewish parties. Characteristically, even those people were unacceptable to the “Bund” who were of Jewish origin and race, whose mother tongue was Yiddish, and who were convinced Marxists, but who had changed their religion.
The penetration into the political organizations and parties went on in two lines at the same time. They “delegated” or “co-opted” themselves as representatives of the parties and organizations which were purely Jewish in composition, and as representatives of All-Russian revolutionary parties and organizations. In the latter, as already stated above, if not a majority, then at least a considerable part of the Central Committees consisted of Jews. Besides this, a considerable number of Jews penetrated into the forefront of parties and organizations in a "personal" way. They were chosen and elected by the broad masses (embraced by the revolutionary feelings); the halo of "oppression" under the old regime, and an inborn Jewish energy and bullishness contributed to this.
As a result, even after several months following the February Revolution, we see not only many Jews but also "Bundists" occupying responsible positions. They were chairmen of Soviet Deputies in provinces: and at the front they quite actively and authoritatively deciding questions of a purely military nature, as well as matters concerned with approval or disapproval of these or those measures of the Provisional Government.
The Chairman of the Soviet Deputies, a "Bundist", relates in his memoirs how far-reaching were the power and possibilities of Jews who found themselves as chairmen of some kind of Soviet Deputy, and how even the Supreme command of the Russian army had to take into consideration the opinions of youth who were "Bundists".
"During the day on 31 August, the news came about the personal assumption of command by A. F. Kerensky as the Supreme Commander and about the appointment of General M. V. Alexseev as his Chief of Staff.
We, the provincial public figures, leaders of Workers’ and Soldiers' of Soviets, were completely stunned, (this was in Vitebsk) because previously we were informed that Alexseev belonged to the group having identical ideas as Kornilov. Hence, the invitation for him meant "compromising" politics, reconciliation with Kornilov. But it may have been that personally
Alexseev stood aloof from the political struggle and, being in need of a "military specialist" and an authoritative general under Kerensky, who was a civilian man, they were forced to invite him.
Just the same, this step by the Provisional Government cannot be acknowledged as the right one. It may turn out to be fatal. Our duty is to state our opinion and to pressure the government and the Central Committee of Soviets.
In the evening, at the sitting of the Military Bureau of Workers' and Soldiers' of Soviets the text of the telegram was drafted protesting the appointment of Alexseev and the tendency of reconciliation with the Kornilov movement. After this decision the Bureau got absorbed in its local work. An aviation fleet strained for action and decided to choose a detachment with machine guns to be sent to Orsha, where, according to our reports, a "force had been concentrated", for the last assault on Mogilev. We discussed the question of who of the members of the Bureau would go with this detachment: everyone wanted to participate directly in this "affair", but no one could be released for the task.
At this time we received news that General Alexseev would shortly be passing through Vitebsk, and a whole range of new questions about tactics arose before the Military Bureau. We saw the situation as quite complicated. We have just sent the protest against Alexseev's appointment; but now upon his arrival Alexseev remains for us the representative of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, the highest military power in the country. Consequently, in all the questions of troop movements, his decision is final. But Alexseev would reconcile with Kornilov — this is obvious; yet we consider the politics of reconciliation a mistake, treason. Meanwhile Alexseev is acting in the name of the Provisional Government, which we have decided to support. Moreover, Alexseev can argue in the interest of the front, operational considerations which are shrouded by secrecy for us, the uninformed.
Such was the train of thought which worried the members of the Military Bureau of local Soviets. In the resulting exchange of views we decided:
- To state to General Alexseev the views of the Vitebsk Soviets: that the conversation with Kornilov must be such as with a state criminal, that he must be arrested;
- To report all mobilizations and troop movements carried out by us and to follow his instructions given in the capacity of Commander-in-Chief.
Afterwards the Military Bureau authorized A. Tarle and myself, as the chairman of Workers' and Soldiers' Soviets, to meet General Alexseev.
At one o'clock in the morning, standing near the direct wire at the station, we received a telegraph tape which again brought sudden changes. This tape had an order from Kerensky to Colonel Korotkov in Orsha. In this order Kerensky demanded the immediate organization of an offensive on Mogilev and to arrest Kornilov and other conspirators. For us, after reading the order, it became clear that our position justified itself, that the initially hesitating "factions" suddenly reconsidered and rejected the plan which not long before this was entrusted to Alexseev. It became clear to us further that Alexseev's mission not only was getting complicated but perhaps falling away as undesirable. What shall we, the members of the Military Bureau, do? Of course, it is necessary to acquaint Alexseev with the order from Kerensky. Maybe this will give us a chance to ruin the plan of a "rotten compromise". With deep emotion we began to await the arrival of
General Alexseev, having a presentiment, that the order of Kerensky must strongly reinforce the point of view of the Military Bureau on liquidation of the Kornilov mutiny.
At two o'clock in the morning we were informed that the train of General Alexseev had arrived. He was asleep in a saloon-car, and we were introduced to the escorts of the General, Vyrubov and Filonenko. Vyrubov wanted to know what the matter was, but we, of course, wanted to talk with the general himself and requested them to take us to him. We were taken to the saloon-car, where we were met by the sleepy general. Alexseev was about 65 years of age, of medium height, his face was well shaven and deeply wrinkled, his moustache was gray and long, and he had an attentive and sharp-sighted look. He received us standing and probably somewhat puzzled concerning such a late visit. We explained some details of military activities carried on by us in the district; we explained the attitude of the Vitebsk Soviet and the necessity of arresting Kornilov. We also added that in Orsha an offensive was organized on Mogilev and that the troops were gathered there. Alexseev got upset and said:
All these, gentlemen, are the results of deep misunderstanding, a complicated matter of mutual incomprehension. Before departing from Petrograd we fully agreed with Alexander Fedorovich. We chose a peaceful way to reconcile the question. I am convinced that the conflict has been artificially exaggerated, and that it will resolve itself. What you are doing is not required by the situation because it demoralizes our army and undermines the authority of commanders. I accepted the appointment in full agreement with the Provisional Government and I hope to succeed in reaching an agreement with General Kornilov in a peaceful way'.
Then I handed the rolled tape to Alexseev: “Here is the order by Kerensky to advance on Mogilev!”
I remember General Alexseev unrolling the telegraph tape completely and reading for a long time what Kerensky had ordered Colonel Korotkov to do.
“Ah, Alexander Fedorovich!” he exclaimed several times, as he would have considered it impossible to tell his deep thoughts with regard to Kerensky's inconstancy.”Ah, Alexander Fedorovich! It seems in Petrograd we agreed about everything. I knew that only under the conditions of a peaceful arrangement of the conflict could I accept this mission. I can go to the General Headquarters.”
Very upset, Alexseev wanted to get a direct wire to Kerensky at once, but the wire at the station was constantly busy. We recalled that at the headquarters of the Dvinsk Military District there was a wire and went there by automobile. There, in a separate room, after preliminary checking and ascertaining to whom he was talking, Alexseev had a conversation with General Lukomsky, clarifying the situation at the Headquarters and persuading Kornilov to give up.
We were sitting in the next room. With us was a third person. He was the Soviet Commissar of the district, Iakovlev, who was getting acquainted with the situation.
It was already five o'clock in the morning, when a disturbed Chief of the Military District, General Baiov, his aide-de-camp, Baron Kekhli and General Golubovsky ran into the headquarters and reproachfully turned to us: — “Why did you not inform us about the arrival of General Alexseev?” “We had enough trouble of our own”, we answered.
Alexseev spoke with the Headquarters for more than an hour and when he came out to us, he had a tired and senile look. After greetings with the representatives of the district, he requested them to excuse him for a private conversation with us. On our question of what to do with the troop movements in the area, he answered that he did not see the need of this. “However, do as you please — it's hopeless”, he added. On the question about the situation he said: “I am going to Orsha, and then we shall see. I will try my best to settle the conflict peacefully”. And at this point unexpectedly he uttered a passionate word:
“You and I, gentlemen, are different people and we will hardly understand one another. But, as an old man, I will tell you that Russia is ill and its army is deadly ill. Arbitrary organizations breed strife inside the army and it is decaying alive. We, the old people, dreamed that a powerful army would be created in free Russia; what we see is that a formidable enemy is bringing destruction upon the Motherland.
All the disturbances in the country, the separatism of the outlying districts – all this business is the work of a cunning and powerful enemy. German Headquarters has been allocating large sums since 1879 in a secret fund subsidizing the Ukrainian separatist movement. And here we still have Soldiers’ Soviets, this felonious fraternization at the front.”
If at the beginning of the speech we had sensed a politician in this general taking to heart — in his own way — the interests of Russia, then his last words, said with bitterness, stirred us up to our response:
“The only things that organize the Russian army and save it from disintegration are Soldiers' Soviets and the committees. It is time to understand and to appreciate this”.
In front of us was an already weary old man, who waved with his hand and said: “You, gentlemen, are young. Listen to the opinions of old people who love Russia and the army.”
We drove Alexseev to the train in an automobile and saw him off. The rest is known". (From the book, written by Gregory Aronson, "Russia in Its Epoch of Revolution", New York, 1966.)
* * *
The didactically instructive words, "that it is time to understand and to appreciate the rôle of savior of the Soldiers' Soviets and the committees", were said by the twenty year-old Jew, the chairman of the Soviet Deputies, to the gray-haired general. Such occurrences were characteristic for that time.
It was scarcely possible, in the late summer of 1917, to find even one "Soviet", "committee", "bureau" or a meeting where there were no Jews in a capacity, if not of "leaders", than of influential members or orators. In all spheres of life, starting with purely military affairs, they took a most lively part and with rare self-confidence used to decide how military and civilian authorities of Russia ought to behave in these stormy war years. In such a way they dominated the governing bodies of the country, within the borders of which they had appeared only a hundred years previously as alien born – a fact they themselves emphasized in every possible way with their self-isolationist strivings, on the one hand, and the rapid growth of Zionist, that is, emigrationist, feelings on the other. The natural and warranted question of how to co-ordinate the activities of Russian Jewry in political matters without ambiguous expression, yet still wanting to emigrate from Russia, was raised neither by Jews nor by All-Russian parties and organizations of that time.
Russia's insignificant Jewish minority began to exert organized and constant pressure on the whole course of government life in Russia from the first days of the Provisional Government. The minority exerted this pressure through various revolutionary organizations, without yet entering into the Provisional Government or in the highest commanding staff of the Russian army of many millions.
At the same time Russian Jewry as a whole, without preliminary permission, carried out the so-called "personal-national autonomy". In doing this it emphasized its isolation from the native population of the country in which they lived and from which they received full citizen's rights from the first days of the Provisional Government.
Splintered into many parties and groupings, purely Jewish ones, the Russian Jewry nonetheless acted in this question as a whole with rare unanimity. And not only in the question of status for Jewry living in Russia but also in the question of which of the All-Russian parties Jews were advised to vote for, "for the parties not further right than socialists". So an All-Jewish congress decided in the spring of 1917 (in Finland).
A separate examination of numerous Jewish parties and organizations that existed on the territory of Russia among the Russian Jewry of six million does not enter into our task. The Jewry examined here is as one whole, as they examine themselves in respect to the whole population of Russia previously and in the USSR now.
Nevertheless, it is appropriate here to say a few words about three main directions of Jewish ideological-theoretical thought existing at the beginning of this century throughout the Jewry of Diaspora in general, and in the Russian Jewry in particular.
- The point of view of the "World Jewish Union” was formulated by its founder Adolphe Cremieux, the former minister of the French Republic. Cremieux maintained that there cannot be Germans, Frenchmen or Englishmen of "Judaic faith", but that there was and is always only the Jew, with all the consequences attached to this. For a Jew, interests of the Jewry as a whole must always be in first place; regardless of what country he is subject. (The full text of Cremieux’s appeal is given in Part II, as a separate supplement).
- The point of view of "Zionist-Socialists", uniting the ideas of Zionism, socialism and internationalism on the basis of racial and tribal unity, but by no means religious. They are making an attempt to co-ordinate all social contradictions and differences under the banner of "Zionism, socialism and internationalism". (The full text of the appeal to the Jewish youth of these ”Z-S” men is given in Part II, in the supplement).
- Third point of view — the view of Russia as their native land, their motherland, whose fate and future are inseparably linked with the fate and future of Russian Jewry. The "Patriotic Union of Russian Jews in Foreign Countries", created abroad at the beginning of the Twenties, formulated this point of view in its appeal, “To Jews of All Countries!”, published in the collection of first issue "Russia and the Jews". (It was issued by the publishing house "Osnova" in Berlin, in 1924.) This was the first and the last issue, because the very thought of presenting objectively the rôle and the degree, of participation of the Russian Jews in the revolution, was given a hostile reception by all Jewry in general, and particularly by the Jewish emigrants from Russia, as a statement directed against Jewry.
The above appeal ended with the following words: “For Russia and against its destroyers! For Jewish people and against profaners of its name!” (The full text of the appeal is given in Part II, in the supplement.)
This last point of view did not have many advocates in pre-revolutionary Russia, and still fewer in the years of the revolution, and an entirely insignificant number among the Jewish emigrants. Traditional Jewish hushing-up of shortcomings and mistakes of their tribe turned out to be stronger than facts and objectivity. It is this traditional hushing-up that put a seal on the lips of those Jews who attempted to tell the truth in the collection "Russia and the Jews" and at numerous meetings of Jewish emigrants at the beginning of the Twenties in Berlin.
Nevertheless, Russian Jewry, numbering in the millions, gravitated either towards the first point of view, or the second. They took part in revolutionary events, but did not combine in their thoughts the future of Russian Jewry with the fate of Russia.
The Jewish bourgeoisie strove to consolidate the "February gains", bringing themselves unlimited possibilities for spreading their economic, political and cultural activities throughout Russia. The party of "People's Freedom" (the former "Constitutional-Democrats") was that party where the Jewish bourgeoisie rushed in after the February overthrow. Even before the revolution there were many Jews in this party, not only as ordinary members but also in its leadership, while the party organ "Speech", was generally in the hands of Jewish journalists and publicists.
The Jewish intelligentsia did not identify itself with the bourgeoisie. And the Jewish workers (who were politically active) carried their political activities either in the ranks of the purely Jewish "Bund" or in All-Russian revolutionary parties: social-revolutionaries, social-democrats, Mensheviks, Bolsheviks and Anarchists.
On the other hand, however, considering the interests of all Jewry as a whole, all groups of Russian Jews started with increased speed to implement the "personal-national autonomy" in life. The essence of this autonomy was that any ethnic group, regardless of its historical national territory (or absence of it) could demand from the state not only permission for but also all conceivable moral and material support of all forms towards their national-cultural activity.
Theoretically the idea of "personal-national autonomy" was applicable to any ethnic group, but its practical significance was only for the Jews who, unlike the rest of Soviet nationalities and tribes, did not have their own national territory. Jews were dispersed in large and small groups throughout Russia, especially so at the beginning of the revolution, when, in connection with the war events, the Jewish Pale practically ceased to exist. Mainly, it was at that time that the Jewish refugees evicted from the front dispersed throughout Russia.
And when afterwards hundreds thousands of Jews moved to Moscow, schools, theatres and newspapers in the Yiddish language on the basis of the "personal-national autonomy" were opened for them at the expense of the state, rather than their own. No other ethnic group enjoyed such a privilege, although there were very many Ukrainians, Georgians and Armenians in that very same city of Moscow. But no newspapers in their own language, nor theatres, or schools were opened in Moscow at the expense of the state.
Within the former Jewish Pale, especially in the Ukraine, preceding from the very same "personal-national autonomy" numerous national-cultural establishments were created at once at the expense of the state. It is true that such establishments existed before the revolution, but not as many, and they existed at the Jews' own expense, or as private enterprises.
* * *
Parallel with this, Jews, as already mentioned above, used to take a most active part in the All-Russian national cultural activity, and in the newly-created bodies of self-rule of separate provinces and national territories. Some of these provinces and territories proclaimed their secession from Russia. So, for example, from the very beginning of activity of the Ukrainian Central Rada, which soon turned into the Government of Independent Ukraine, Jews invariably participated in its work. They appeared in rôles either as representatives of the Jewish minority, or as members of the All-Russian parties.
But primarily and basically, it was the "Soviet Deputies" and the "revolutionary committees" which created prerequisites for the influence on overall politics and for pressure on the anemic Provisional Government. In the latter, Jews played leading rôles, personally participating in the work of these organizations at the time of the revolution. It was possible for them to do this also because the central committees of all revolutionary parties consisted mainly of Jews, and the central committees of all parties' directed the works of all "Soviet Deputies" and "revolutionary committees" in accordance with party discipline.
At that time, in the summer and autumn of 1917, in line and parallel with officially existing state departments, which successfully assumed the power from Czarist Government (with some personnel replacement), a far-flung network of power which arbitrarily created various "Soviet Deputies" and "Committees" also existed. These organizations were subordinate to no one, except to the Central All-Russian Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, whose headquarters was in Petrograd. It was in this organization that Nakhamkes and Bronstein-Trotsky, whose activity was mentioned above, pursued their occupation.
And even this submission was far from absolute and unconditional. The character of the activity of various small "Soviet Deputies" and "revolutionary committees" still depended on which of the revolutionary parties had majority in them because discipline purely on the party line was firmer and stronger in the "overall-revolutionary" discipline.
The only thing in which all "Soviet Deputies" and "revolutionary committees", from Petrograd to the regional "Soviet Deputies" and "revolutionary committees" down to a regiment and company, were in unanimous harmony was their attitude to legal power, both in the central (Provisional Government) and in its local representatives. All of them supported it or carried out its orders only to the extent that it was in correspondence with opinions, feelings and the "political line" of a Soviet Deputy or revolutionary committee.
This "to the extent that" literally paralyzed any activity of the whole state administrative apparatus of Russia, from the first day of the Provisional Government right to its inglorious end.
Ministers, Diplomatic Corps, generals and "governing commissars", who replaced governors by the order of Provisional Government, and militia, replacing previous police, and directors of factories and enterprises in formality still existed. But they could undertake nothing without the consent and approval of those who filled the Soviet Deputies and revolutionary committees which considered it their prerogative to interfere in all activities of legitimate authorities. They were allowed to carry out only those measures "to the extent that" these did not differ in view and opinions from the "revolutionary public"; that is, with all its far-flung network of Soviet Deputies and revolutionary committees.
The Soviet Deputies and revolutionary committees, as shown earlier, consisted exclusively of representatives of the revolutionary parties: social-democrats (Mensheviks and Bolsheviks) and socialist-revolutionaries. In the central committees of these parties, however, Jews were in the overwhelming majority, as is seen from the lists, given in Part II of this work.
By having a predominant influence on the Soviet Deputies and revolutionary committees, the Jews restricted themselves only so far as to render "constant pressure" on the government and its policies, without trying to occupy or secure important posts.
This was the situation right up to the October overthrow, when everything radically changed and the Jews formally came to power, which up to now they exercised only in an indirect way — "by means of pressure on the government".