1919 - The Socialist-Revolutionaries denounce the Bolshevik government
Appeal of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party Central Committee
Citizens of Russia!
The bony hand of hunger is knocking relentlessly on every door. From Ekaterinburg to Minsk, from Arkhangel'sk to Khar'kov, and from Narva to the Galician frontier the roar of cannon still resounds. In these terrible days, in front of the whole people, the Socialist-Revolutionary Party issues this final warning and appeal to the government of People's Commissars.
Two years ago you staged a coup and power came into your hands. Blood has been spilt like water for your cause, it has been spilt courageously and in a spirit of sacrifice, because you promised that you would immediately grant our tortured country the two things it needed most of all, because you pronounced the two magic words: bread and peace.
Since then you have ruled without interruption for two years. And what has happened? In the name of an immediate peace you gambled with Russia's entire future, you accepted the humiliation of Brest, and the dismemberment and division of Russia. You let the victor shamelessly tear lumps of flesh from the living body of our motherland. Do not tell us that the Brest peace is no longer in force - that is not to your credit. It was destroyed by the victories of our former allies, and they achieved these victories in spite of your defection - you had done everything to try to ensure they did not happen. You could not stay the course. But where is this peace, this immediate peace, this rapid peace? The world war is already over; all countries and nations have at last got their long-awaited chance to heal their wounds and rest from this bloody nightmare. They can look forward to the hope of restoring normal life and prosperity. Without Brest and the October coup, Russia could already being enjoying the first fruits of peace. But what do we have now? Everywhere else the cannons have fallen silent; only our unhappy Russia is still gripped by fratricidal war's unbreakable ring of fire. Only Russia is surrounded on all sides by front lines. You promised to bring peace closer, but have only made it more distant.
Now, you are going to demand more exertions of the people. You will promise that this will be one last push, to be followed by total victory and the end of the civil war. Do you really believe that promise yourselves? In front of the whole people, the Socialist-Revolutionary Party says to you:
No, you do not believe it. You can see yourselves that your victories have no future. Each of your triumphs creates new enemies for you. You defeat Kaledin, and Kornilov springs up in his place. You defeat Kornilov, and Krasnov appears. You defeat the Ukrainian Rada, and Skoropadsky, Petlyura and Denikin arise. You defeat Denikin, and Kolchak attacks you. You defeat Petlyura, and Makhno and Grigor'ev appear. You defeat Kolchak, only to be faced with Yudenich and Rodzianko, and the reemergence of Denikin. Maybe tomorrow you will defeat Denikin again, but there will be no shortage of successors. Having plugged one gap in the front, you bang your drums and celebrate victory without realising that you are simply patching Trishka's kaftan. (1) That is how it has been, and that is how it will be. For even where you are greeted as liberators today, tomorrow discontent and calls for insurrection will emerge. This is why you have nothing to promise the Russian people except civil war without end. You cannot defeat reaction: your policies are preparing the ground for it. Your struggle against reaction brings to mind the legend about the hopeless struggle with the monster that grew two new heads every time one was cut off. And you do not know the secret of how to prevent this, although the secret is very simple. Reaction will not be defeated by those who fight against its power only to substitute their own, no less violent power. It will only be defeated by those who fight to restore power to the people, letting them express themselves freely through universal suffrage.
You promised immediate peace. To give you the power to achieve this, the blood of our people flowed freely. You did not keep your promise, and now the blood that was shed for you cries out in reproach. A high price was paid for your power. Does it not burn your hands?
As well as peace, you promised bread, and instead of bread you have delivered famine. You say this is not your fault. But is that the point?
We do not claim that you do not want to give bread to the starving. You want to, but you cannot. That does not make it any easier for the starving. You cannot give bread, you cannot provide transport, you cannot bring in coal, you cannot reopen closed factories - all you can do is feed people with little bits of coloured paper, which soon nobody will accept. You yourselves know that in a month's time, and a month later, and one month after that the situation with regard to transport, and consequently with supply, will be no better. It is getting worse day by day. You yourselves know that we are threatened with a complete cessation of rail transport and work at factories and plants. What are you waiting for? What are you hoping for? Or are you like storks, hiding your heads under your wings to try not to see the approaching danger?
"Yes, our position is hopeless, the only thing that can save us is the world revolution..."
What does that mean? It means you have lost faith in your own strength, you expect salvation only from without. "Here comes the master, he'll sort it out." (2) But will he come? And if he is coming, is he not rather late? And even if he is not late, will not he - that is, the world revolution, have enough problems of his own to deal with, without having to worry about helpless Russia? You have not thought about this - you have nothing to think about it. All your hopes for world revolution are just words, which you clutch at like a drowning man clutches at a straw.
You have nothing to wait for. You have nothing to hope for. You have nothing to promise the people. And you yourselves are beginning to see that, you are beginning to realise it, to feel it in your bones. Therefore if you hang on to power any longer, you are not only committing a crime against the people, but also against your own consciences. If you carry on like this, you are simply bringing storm clouds down both upon Russian, and upon your own heads.
In front of the whole people, the Socialist-Revolutionary Party addresses this final warning and appeal to you.
You say that you are a people's government of workers and peasants. Let the workers and peasants themselves freely decide how to get out of this blind alley.
We are not going to tell you what you ought to do to redeem your mistakes and guilt in front of the people. We are not going to tell you what the conscience of democracy demands of you. We are going to tell you what you should do to assuage your own consciences, what you should do immediately if you wish to retain the right to call yourselves honest people.
You talk about Soviet power. If you do not want these words to remain a vile deceit, a sick joke at the expense of the workers, then have the honesty and courage to arrange new elections to all the Soviets, currently filled with dead souls and placemen. Put an end to the system of terror and party dictatorship which perpetuates this fratricidal war within the democracy. Announce genuine elections, free from all pressure and intimidation, without chicanery and the placemen's practice of forcing things through by hook or by crook. Let these elections take place with complete freedom of assembly, meetings, speech and the press. There can be no doubt as to the outcome of those elections. We believe in the good sense of the people, which has learned through bitter experience. In this belief, we solemnly declare that if free general elections are called in which the whole working population can take part, if there are new elections to the Soviets on the basis of a general, direct, equal and secret ballot, we agree to entrust the new Soviets with the resolution of all disputes within the democracy. If the will of the masses is expressed freely, it will express itself for us. It will decide such long-standing vital questions for the country as the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, an armistice on all fronts, and the ending of the civil war by returning power to the whole people. We, who have remained true to the principles of popular power and cannot betray them under any circumstances, will also be able to implement them through the Soviets.
Without this, the only possibility is an endless, intractable war between various dictatorships, various violent groups, alongside growing fatigue and revulsion among the entire people. Your duty is to put an end to this mockery of good sense and violence against the people. Your time is up. Do the only thing that remains to you to do, and do it today, as tomorrow, quite possibly, will already be too late.
Look at the growing hatred in the country towards you and everything connected with you. Look at the endless anarchy, the chaos in which any adventurer can so easily rise up and become a petty dictator. Look at the street demonstrations of the hungry, which are growing just as quickly as before the February revolution.
Look at the alarming ferment in the ranks of the Red Army, look at the mass desertion, at the development of an entire "green army" from these deserters, which your harsh repressions are pushing into the camp of counterrevolution. Look at the pogromist attitudes, growing with alarming rapidity. Look at all this spontaneous rebelliousness, which itself has nothing in common with reaction, but which you are driving into reaction's embrace. Who can doubt that sooner or later all these little spontaneous outbreaks will all come together into one massive torrent which will carry away all before it. And do not gloat that this torrent will sweep all the gains of the revolution away with you. With your stubbornness you have done everything to ensure that this is what happens. But this means that you are prepared to sacrifice all the people's gains to your party pride. If your power is doomed, then let everything else perish with it - that is how you think. It will be some kind of sick consolation for you if the whole revolution perishes in your name. You are not looking for salvation for Russia, but for an honourable end for yourselves. But the people have no interest in your consolation, and are not prepared to make any more sacrifices in its name. The people will neither forget, not forgive you for your stubbornness in clinging to party pride at the expense of the people's gains.
Bear this in mind as you make your choice, while you still have the chance to choose. Then - "that thou doest, do quickly". (3)
1. Trishka's kaftan. From the fable by Ivan Krylov: Trishka tried to repair a hole in his kaftan by cutting off material from elsewhere on the garment to patch it. He then had to repair the places he had cut, and so on until the entire kaftan was useless.
2. The reference here is to a poem by N A Nekrasov, The Forgotten Village, in which the peasants imagine that all their problems will be sorted out when the master arrives. In fact, when the master eventually arrives he is already in a coffin. The new master mourns him briefly, and then immediately decamps back to St Petersburg.
3. Jesus to Judas Iscariot, John 13:27