A. F. Kerensky

The Catastrophe


Source: The Catastrophe
Published: 1927
Transcriber: Jonas Holmgren
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.


WITH Gatchina ended the history of the Provisional Government's struggle against Russia's foreign foes and her enemies within.

The natural center of the people's will and national consciousness, created by the Revolution itself, was finally destroyed by the combined efforts of the irresponsible extremists on the Right and on the Left.

Under the social, political and international conditions of that period as described in this book, it was inevitable that of the two extremes seeking dictatorship over Russia the victory should go to the dictators on the Left.

But on capturing the machinery of government, the Bolsheviki had by no means become the government of the country. On the contrary, the day of the official victory of Leninite reaction became only the first day of a long, most cruel and extremely bloody armed struggle of the Bolsheviki for power over the Russian people and the Russian state, which continues to this day.

The transfer of supreme power by the entire country into the hands of the Provisional Government in March, 1917, amidst the sudden outburst of anarchy in the first days of the Revolution, signified the prevention of civil war. The forcible seizure of the machinery of government by the Bolsheviki in November opened for Russia the period of civil war and terrorism, the period which has not yet found the conclusion.

"It is imperative to transform the exterior war of peoples into an interior war of classes," wrote Lenin in 1915. In November, 1917, this product of the madman's delirium became a reality for Russia.

I repeat: there is nothing more ridiculous than the opinion widely prevalent abroad that the Bolsheviki seized power in Russia without any serious resistance on the part of the "passive" nation. In reality, there was not a city of importance in Russia where street fighting was not in progress in the autumn of 1917 In the summer of 1918 the democratic forces of Russia created in the Volga region a government and an army for the defense of a free, republican order. The constant and stubborn resistance of the peasantry more than once provoked open rebellions.

The struggle of the organized forces of democracy ended in complete failure, under the pressure of the supporters of dictatorship on the Right and the Left. The centrifugal political forces of Russian democracy were temporarily wiped off the stage of history, while the representatives of two dictatorships—Red and White (Kolchak, Denikin, Wrangel)—contended for supremacy on the battlefields of civil war.

It is a common failure of people to fail to comprehend events occurring before them or to perceive the causation and connection of these events. It is because of this that the Bolsheviki have been able to deceive public opinion abroad into the belief that the civil war and the reign of terror had been forced upon them by the White generals and the other "bourgeois counter-revolutionists."

I have always been an uncompromising opponent of the activities of the so-called White dictators. I was and I remain an opponent of the blockade of Russia and of foreign military intervention in her struggle against the Bolsheviki. Nevertheless, one must not forget that all the evil done to Russia by the heirs of General Korniloff and by foreign intervention was only the inevitable consequence of the unpardonable crime committed by Lenin: the violent coup d'état carried out in the name of a minority dictatorship, on the eve of the convocation of the Constituent Assembly.

Even after their reactionary coup d'état of November seventh, the Bolsheviki still had an opportunity to extinguish the growing flames of civil war and to halt the destruction and dissolution of Russia. This they could have done by submitting to the authority of the Constitutent Assembly.

Under the Provisional Government the Bolsheviki passed as the most devoted supporters of democracy. "The speediest possible convocation of the Constituent Assembly" was one of their most insistent demands. One of the outstanding accusations which had been hurled daily against the Provisional Government by Lenin and his followers was that we had sought to postpone unduly the convocation of the Constituent Assembly. But all this democratic enthusiasm on the part of Lenin and his lieutenants was mere demagogic play on the sentiments of the people, who had faith in the Constituent Assembly and wished for its convocation.

In reality, as Lenin himself put it quite bluntly at the meeting of the Central Committee of the Bolshevist party, October 23, 1917, the Bolshevist knew quite well that the Constituent Assembly would be against them. It was precisely for this reason that two weeks before the opening of the campaign for the election to the Constituent Assembly, the Bolsheviki executed their reactionary coup d'état, made necessary to prevent Russia's success in her negotiations with Austria following's Vienna's plea for a separate peace. A separate peace with Austria, followed soon thereafter by peace with Bulgaria and Turkey and by the isolation of Germany would have meant the end of the War, the triumph of the Provisional Government, the victory of democracy and the end of all efforts at the establishment of dictatorship. It was the last chance the Bolsheviki had and Lenin was determined not to lose it.

The coup of November seventh sealed the fate of the Constituent Assembly. But neither the people nor even the leaders of the democratic anti-Bolshevist parties understood this at the beginning. They could not conceive the possibility of a Bolshevist attack on the sovereign will of the people, expressed by the Constituent Assembly.

However, the Bolsheviki themselves hoped at first that with the overthrow of the "bourgeois" Provisional Government and with the machinery of power in their hands the elections to the Constituent Assembly would bring a Bolshevist majority. This, of course, failed to develop.

The peasant majority of the first Russian Constituent Assembly, headed by the Social-Revolutionary party, did not betray the principles of democracy and the fundamental traditions of the liberation movement. It refused to give its approval to the coup d'état of November seventh.

On the very first day of its convocation (January 5, 1918), the Constituent Assembly was dispersed by the bayonets of drunken Bolshevist sailors. Over the telephone from Smolny Institute Lenin demanded the shooting of the chosen representatives of the people. The demand failed to reach in time the proper destination.

On the morning of the convocation of the Constituent Assembly a peaceful demonstration of unarmed thousands in favor of the Constituent Assembly was dispersed by the rifles of Lettish Sharpshooters, brought into Petrograd for the defense of the Bolsheviki against the people. On the same day A. I. Shingarioff and F. F. Kokoshkin, former members of the Provisional Government and duly elected members of the Constituent Assembly were foully murdered in their beds in a hospital by their own Bolshevik guards.

In defending their reactionary policy before the workers of the West, the Bolsheviki justify their dissolution of the Constituent Assembly by asserting that the assembly was composed of the "class enemies of the workers and peasants." This is, of course, a palpable falsehood. Even were we to accept for the sake of argument the demagogic and deeply erroneous viewpoint according to which every nonsocialist is a "class enemy" of the workers and peasants, the number of such enemies in the Constituent Assembly did not exceed fifteen.[1*] And even those were not admitted to the Constituent Assembly by the Bolsheviki. Thus, the Assembly dispersed by the Bolsheviki consisted solely of representatives of democratic and socialist parties.

Ten years have passed since the fall of the Provisional Government and the forcible dissolution of the Constituent Assembly created by that government, but the aims of the Bolshevist dictatorship remain as irreconcilable as ever with the fundamental life interests of Russia.

Leninism represents the most complete political, social and economic reaction, unprecedented in the history of Europe. And like all reaction, the dictatorship of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Bolshevist party is utterly incapable of any gradual, evolutionary and peaceful readjustment of its substance.

To be sure, Russia has during the ten years returned from the complete economic paralysis of the period of integral Leninism (1918-20), styled shamefacedly by the Bolsheviki as "military communism," through the "Nep" to purely capitalist forms.[2*] But this capitalism represents a most backward, primitive, avaricious and poorly productive order, based upon the most cruel exploitation of the workers and peasants.

The experiment of the Bolshevist reaction has proved once more that no social or political progress is possible without recognition and affirmation of the rights of the individual to complete liberty of thought, of conscience and of expression.

Social welfare, popular enlightenment, domestic order and international security will not be assured to the Russian people as long as the Bolsheviki continue to hold Russia in the grip of their party dictatorship. For no social order capable of guaranteeing to the people the blessings of work and freedom is possible in a country the people of which are deprived of fundamental human rights and civil liberties, of economic initiative and of the protection of law based and administered on the principle of equality. Where "party expediency" gives way to social and national interest there can be no civilization and no real progress.

To-day, after ten years of Bolshevist domination, Russia stands at the starting point of the circle of Leninism: terrorism and severe economic crisis. These are the results of acute, unnatural, artificial economic and political causes, collectively expressed in the nature and substance of dictatorship, which stifles the independent, creative life and activity of the people.

In the struggle for liberation Russia must inevitably return to the road of popular, national, democratic construction, the road upon which the Russian people embarked—hesitatingly and with uncertain step—in March, 1917!



[1*] Two-thirds of the Constituent Assembly consisted of Social-Revolutionaries. There were less than a score Mensheviki and less than fifteen Constitutional-Democrats. The Bolsheviki, therefore, controlled less than one-third of the membership.

[2*] The "Nep"—new economic policy—was proclaimed by Lenin in the spring of 1921, after the celebrated revolt of the Kronstadt sailors, a series of peasant uprisings and the terrible famine of that year, a famine such as had not been experienced by Russia since 1613. The "Nep" restored internal economic freedom to the villages and freedom of trade in the cities—A. K.


Last updated on: 2.17.2008