Reactions to the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly, January 1918
1. The Socialist-Revolutionary Party
To the whole working peasantry
Appeal of the Central Committee of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party
More and more evil deeds are being committed in our country.
The Russian people, only just freed from the yoke of the Tsars, has fallen under another yoke - under the yoke of the rule of the Bolsheviks, who have started to avenge themselves upon the workers in the same way as the Tsar's oprichniki.
The whole people elected its deputies to the Constituent Assembly, to achieve peace and finally to guarantee the people land and freedom. The people hoped and expected that the Constituent Assembly would put an end to the fratricidal slaughter which has now, at the Bolsheviks' instigation, engulfed our whole country. The people thought that there could be no power in the country higher than its elected representatives.
However, the Bolsheviks have dispersed the Constituent Assembly the very day after its opening. They dispersed it at the very time that our deputies had started to consider the agrarian law, and had already decided that all the land should be transferred to the people without compensation, that only the people who work the land should have the use of it.
But this did not matter. The Bolsheviks dispersed the Constituent Assembly, declaring that all power should belong to the Soviets of Workers' Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies. But when representatives of most of our Peasant Soviets came together in Petrograd, the Bolsheviks dispersed them too.*
This new act of force against peasant representatives was taken because they also said that peace should reign in the country, the people's blood should no longer be shed. The Constituent Assembly, elected by the whole people, should be the undisputed master of the Russian land.
It turns out that the Bolsheviks demand Soviet power only on condition that those Soviets submit without question to those who have seized power by force... And if the Soviets, defending the interests of the workers, dare to contradict them, if the representatives of the land say "enough bloodshed and destruction", the Bolsheviks will use their dungeons and bayonets against them all.
Yes, peasants, the Third Congress of Soviets of Peasant Deputies was dispersed at its first sitting. Some of your peasant deputies were sent by the Bolsheviks to the very same prisons where the Tsarist government sent its opponents to rot, others were thrown out into the street. Without food or shelter, in a strange city, your deputies were obliged to find a place to stay in doss-houses.
That is how the Bolsheviks treat the representatives of the peasants if they dare to open their mouths and say what they think.
We, the Socialist-Revolutionaries, have always said, and say now, that the people should rule itself through its elected representatives; nobody has the right to impose his will on it by force. Through blood and suffering the people will win the right freely to decide its own needs, defend its own interests. We cannot get the land, or finish the war, which has been tearing Russia apart for three years already, by unquestioning submission to bosses not chosen by the people.
And the Bolsheviks, who have been ruling for three months, have given us neither peace, nor land, nor order. Instead, they have only made the famine worse by increasing the general disorder. Those who want to and those who can have begun to carve Russia up.
The Central Committee of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, which has always struggled for the rights and interests of the working people, cannot pass by all this horror and violence in silence. It protests most decisively against the dispersal of the Third All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Peasant Deputies, against the unprecedented violence employed against the peasants' representatives.
Shame on those who impose their will through bayonets and prisons upon a liberated, tortured people.
You, peasants, are the foundation of the Russian state. The entire life of our country rests upon your shoulders. Raise your voices and insist to the new oppressors that they have no right to call themselves a "peasants' government". Say firmly and menacingly that the many millions of working people in the countryside demand the immediate convocation of the Constituent Assembly, tell them that you do not want bloodshed and destruction, but land, freedom, and peace.
Central Committee of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party
Partiynye izvestiya No. 6, 1918, pp. 47 - 49.
Source: N D Erofeev, compiler, Partiya sotsialistov-revolyutsionerov, dokumenty i materialy Oktyabr' 1917 g. - 1925 g., ROSSPEN, Moscow, 2000, pp. 318 - 319
*This refers to the Third All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Peasant Deputies, which stood for the defence of the Constituent Assembly, which took place from 10 - 18 January 1918 in Petrograd. 300 delegates were present at the congress, mainly right S-Rs. Before it began its work on 10 January 1918 the congress was dispersed in the orders of the Cheka, and continued its work illegally.
2. The Constitutional-Democratic Party (Kadets)
Resolution of the CC of the Constitutional-Democratic Party, February 1918
1. In order to convoke the Constituent Assembly to restore normal conditions, and strengthen the new order on the basis of legality, it would be necessary to carry out new elections. The Central Committee recognises that the Constituent Assembly elected on 28 November 1917 would not be in a position to carry out the functions entrusted to it and thereby effect the restoration of order in Russia. Consequently, the resumption of its activity should be considered inexpedient and unnecessary.
2. The Germans are advancing rapidly and are now threatening the vital centres of the country. All order within the country has disintegrated completely; torn apart by civil conflicts it has already become a state of anarchy. In view of all this, it is vitally urgent to establish strong individual authority in one form or another, capable of restoring national unity and ensuring the independence of the state.
3. This authority must base itself on those organised forces in the country which are striving for state order, defence of the motherland from the advance of the enemy and the preservation of the unity of the state. It must immediately gather around itself everyone capable of defending the country, in agreement with and with the help of our allies. Once a general peace has been concluded and normal conditions of life have been restored, this authority should convoke a freely elected Constituent Assembly to establish a new state order.
Source: D B Pavlov (compiler), Protokoly Tsentral’nogo Komiteta i zagranichnykh grupp konstitutsionno-demokraticheskoy partii, vol. 3, ROSSPEN, Moscow, 1998, pp. 414-415.
3. The Left Socialist-Revolutionaries
Resolution of a joint session of the Central Committee of the Party of Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Left Socialist-Revolutionary faction of the Constituent Assembly
From the Central Committee of the Party of Left Socialist-Revolutionaries
The CC of the Party of Left Socialist-Revolutionaries considers the resolution of the Soviet CEC of 6 January on the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly to be expedient and in accordance with the interests of the revolution and socialism.
The CC considers it necessary that the Left Socialist-Revolutionary members of the Const. Assembly join the Soviet CEC.
The CC and the Party of Left Socialist-Revolutionaries Const. Assembly faction protest most sharply against the barbaric act of mob law carried out against the political enemies of the revolution Shingarev and Kokoshkin.*
They regard this repugnant crime as a blow against the cause of revolution and denounce those who took part as conscious or unconscious enemies of the revoultion.
Let those who serve the cause of socialism devote their efforts to the struggle against the disorganisers of the revolution, who are undermining the moral greatness of the social overturn through which we are living.
CC of the Party of Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Const. Assembly faction of Party of Left Socialist-Revolutionaries
Znamya truda No. 114, 9/22 January 1918.
* A I Shingarev and F F Kokoshkin were two leading members of the Kadet party who had been imprisoned, and were murdered in their prison hospital beds by the Red Guard S I Basov and the revolutionary sailors O Kreys and Ya I Matveev on the night of 5-6 January 1918.
Source: Ya V Leont'ev (compiler), Partiya levykh sotsialistov-revolyutsionerov, dokumenty i materialy, vol. 1. ROSSPEN, Moscow, 2000, pp. 178 - 179
4. The Bolshevik-dominated Soviet Central Executive Committee
On the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly
Decree of the Central Executive Committee, 6 January 1918
From its very outset, the Russian revolution brought forth the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies as the mass organisation of all the working and exploited classes. They alone are capable of leading the struggle of these classes for their complete political and economic emancipation.
Throughout the first period of the Russian revolution the Soviets multiplied, grew and became stronger. Through their own experience they overcame the illusion of conciliation with the bourgeoisie and the deceptiveness of bourgeois-democratic parliamentary forms. They came through practice to the conclusion that it is impossible to liberate the oppressed classes without breaking with these forms and with all conciliation. That break was the October revolution, the transfer of all power to the Soviets.
The Constituent Assembly, elected on lists compiled before the October revolution, was a reflection of the old balance of political forces, when the conciliators and the Kadets were in power.
At that time the people who voted for the candidates of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party could not make a choice between the right SRs, supporters of the bourgeoisie, and the left, supporters of socialism. Thus this Constituent Assembly, which was to have been the crown of the bourgeois-parliamentary republic, could not fail to cut across the path of the October revolution and Soviet power. The October revolution, which gave power to the Soviets and through the Soviets to the working and exploited classes, has led to the desperate resistance of the exploiters, and in suppressing that resistance it has revealed itself to be the start of the socialist revolution.
The toiling classes have had to learn by experience that old bourgeois parliamentarism has outlived itself, that it is completely incompatible with the tasks of creating socialism, and that only class organisations (like the Soviets), rather than national ones, are able to defeat the resistance of the propertied classes and lay the foundations of a socialist society.
Source: T E Novitskaya (compiler), Uchreditel'noe sobranie, Rossiya 1918, Nedra, Moscow, 1991, pp. 66-67