UTOPIA MUST WAIT
It was her second outbound trip over the
But this time Louise was not alone. Jack was along to share her excitement, and the certainty that they would be witnessing tremendously-significant events, and she would, at last, achieve her goal of becoming an important journalist, while Jack would perhaps be able to regain his lost prestige as a great writer.
As accredited journalists they had a
first class cabin, but as soon as they learned that the boat's steerage section
was full of people who had once left
They spent all their time with these people who had come abroad with all their possessions in gunnysacks and parcels. These were some of "the huddled masses yearning to breathe free," of Emma Lazarus's moving prose engraved on the Statue of Liberty, Jack told her. They had fled Czarist Russia only a decade or two earlier to avoid compulsory military service, to avoid being sent to Siberia for raising their voices in protest, or to avoid perishing in police-encouraged pogroms against Jews.
A Utopian America had beckoned them then,
and now that the despot Nicholas II was gone,
Hunted, beaten, mistreated before they fled to
(Louise and Jack appear to have agreed
to completely separate their personal lives from the material intended for
publication. Thus Reed’s name appears
only once in her “Six Red Months in
The first thing Jack told her when they came aboard, wrote Louise in her notes, was that he had no intention of honoring his promise to the State Department, and that he would, in fact, attend the conference of socialists from all over the world when they met in Stockholm. Not only that, but he was carrying greetings and other material from American comrades to the meeting. He did not feel, said Louise, that a government, which could not exist without constantly practicing deception at home and intrigue abroad, had a right to exact any such pledge from one who was able to trace his ancestry to Patrick Henry.
When the British soldiers came to their
cabin to double check their passports and perhaps search their room. Jack was ready for them. He had carefully hidden the material under
the carpet, and, said Louise, two bottles of scotch and some glasses were
sitting out invitingly. "They
toasted King George, President Wilson and President Poincare of
Counting the week the ship was delayed
On the train she had her first encounter with a lesbian. The train was crowded, as were all trains in those hectic, feverish days of war and revolution. They had become friendly with a Czarist courier returning home to an uncertain fate. "The only way we could get some rest was to take turns and sleep a little while on a bench in a compartment," said she. "Jack and the courier would stand outside while I shared a bench with a woman passenger. Then they would take their turn and we would stay in the corridor." Louise stretched out on the long bench in the compartment, her feet touching those of the Norwegian girl sharing the bench with her.
She awakened with a start, and it was a moment before she realized she was not dreaming - someone was fondling her face, and a hand was pressing her thigh. It was a woman - the Norwegian girl. "What are you doing," screamed Louise. Then she kicked at her and ran outside, shouting to Jack and the courier. "What is that woman in there trying to do to me?" When she told them what had happened, both of them - to her great amazement - roared with laughter. Then Reed looked at her in the dim light of the corridor and said: "Honey, that girl is a lesbian. Have you never heard of a lesbian?"
"Yes, of course I have, but I
thought, I thought. . . Oh, my God. . ."
The next day, said Louise, traveling through
Louise caught her first glimpse of the
soldiers of the new Russian revolutionary army at Tornio, a tiny town in
Thus she described her first impression
of the new
"A tall, white-bearded patriarch,
returning after a thirty-six year exile, was beside himself with
excitement. He rushed from one soldier
to another. 'How are you my dears? What town are you from? Ah, I am so happy to be here again. . Do you
There was more, a good deal more. One woman was hustled back across the border
Tornio reflected the confusion that
prevailed all over
But here, in a wartime atmosphere, they
sounded ominous and dangerously near.
There were rumors that women had been mass-raped; rumors that at one
place in Russian Asia, unmarried women had been nationalized the way everything
else had been by the Bolsheviki; rumors that Kerensky had been assassinated;
and rumors that Lenin had left his hiding place in
Because it was near the Swedish border,
from where messages could be sent in code,
"But this is unbelievable. You're not planning to take HER into that bloody country?"
"Why, of course," Reed told him, "Why not? She's my wife and she wants to see for herself what is happening in that bloody country."
Louise gave the Briton one of her most radiant smiles: "Yes, why not? You know I may never again get a chance to see a real revolution."
The Briton muttered a godspeed, shook his head and Left them.
At Tornio Louise also got her first taste of the disorder and chaos that is an inevitable part of a revolution. Before they were allowed to board the train for the capital, they had their passports and correspondent credentials examined again and again by men who appeared to be uncertain about what they were supposed to do. Their baggage was also examined over and over again and most personal items like Louise's few cosmetics and even more personal things were confiscated. Then, guarded by six bayonet-wielding soldiers, she was marched off to a shack where she found herself before a chunky Russian girl with bobbed hair and wearing soldier’s boots, who ordered her to undress. It was dreadfully cold and Louise reluctantly took her clothes off - then the girl, without glancing at her - told her to put her clothes on again. Naked, her teeth chattering, her clothes about her on the floor, Louise demanded to know why, she,an American citizen, was required to dress and undress without being searched. The Russian girl Looked at Louise and said: "Chortznayet (the devil knows); all women have to do it when they come in here."
Outside the shack, Louise found Reed talking with a soldier. His face was clouded. "I want to show you something," he said, "It has just been posted." On the railroad station wall was an announcement in both Russian and French. It was dated two days earlier, September 3, and announced the declaration of martial law by Premier Kerensky:
General Kornilov dispatched to me. . .a demand to give him supreme military and
civil power, saying that he will form a new government to rule the country..
the Provisional Government considered it necessary, for the salvation of the
country, to take all measures to secure order and suppress all efforts to usurp
the supreme power won by our citizens in the Revolution. . .The city of
is the picture Alexander Kerensky gave Louise when she and Reed interviewed
him. He was still head of the revolutionary
government but not too long after the interview he barely escaped to
was an unusual interview, to say the least, details of which Greene found in Louise’s
notes. Kerensky was lying on his side on
a couch in great pain because of a severe kidney ailment, and apologized for
greeting them in that condition. Reed,
of course, knew all about kidney ailments.
Indeed, it was while he was in
So there they were, reveals Louise, comparing notes on the respective kidney ailments, before turning to discussing Kerensky’s rapidly vanishing hopes for continuing the against Germany with the Allies and bring Socialism to Russia by democratic means, in the face of Lenin’s irresistible appeal to soldiers, workers and peasants with the cry: “End the war, take the factories and the land, we will make legal in due time.”
At the many stations where their Petrograd-bound train stopped, they heard more and more fantastic rumors and reports. "The scraps of conversation we caught sent shivers over us," wrote Louise. "On one station platform, a pale, slight young man, standing beside me, suddenly blurted out: 'It was terrible ...I heard them screaming.' Heard whom? Heard whom? I asked anxiously. 'The officers! The bright, pretty officers,' replied the young man in a whisper. 'They stamped on their faces with heavy boots, dragged them through the mud and threw them in the canal.... They killed fifty and I heard their screams.'"
In her first by-line dispatch from
They stood on the sidewalk in front of
(Neither Louise nor Jack were
linguists. Louise had studied French at
As they whirled away from the noisy station, they were startled by the stillness of the city, the absence of anyone anywhere except sentries. "We were prepared for anything cut this," wrote Louise. The "aftomobil" crossed a curving bridge into the main part of the city and here too, nothing seemed to move. The young soldier, bubbling with enthusiasm, explained the stillness. The Kornilov counter-revolution was over and the city was back to normal, which was anything but the way Reed recalled it during the early morning czarist hours of 1915.
They were challenged by sentries now and then, but the soldier
yelled something and without slowing roared on.
As the car stopped and they started for the hotel entrance, a strange
thing suddenly happened - one of the many that never failed to surprise her when
she was in
At the Angleterre, the porter, annoyed at being awakened when it was not yet four in the morning, showed them their room on the third floor. It was a huge, vaulted room all gold and mahogany, with old, blue draperies. Most of the furniture was shrouded in white coverings. In one corner was a huge bed and beyond that was an enormous bathtub cut out of solid granite. Light was provided by a dazzling old-fashioned crystal candelabra. "Only twenty-five rubles," said the porter. It was bitterly cold in the room, and when Louise pulled back the drapes, she saw why. The windows had been smashed by gunfire during the riots and hadn't been replaced. Above the huge bed was a sign which declared that the speaking of German was strictly forbidden.
Clinging to Reed for warmth, it seemed to Louise that she had only just shut her eyes when there was a loud pounding on the door and, before either of them could answer, the door opened violently and a burly blond Russian entered and demanded to know what they wanted done about their baggage. It was a while before they realized he was talking German. Reed pointed to the sign above the bed. The Russian looked puzzled, and then said in German: "We are not at war with the German language, only the Germans." Russians, Louise soon learned, paid little attention to the signs, not even the ones on each table in restaurants: "Just because a man must make his living by being a waiter, do not insult him by offering him tips."
"Why is he so blond?" Louise
asked when the Russian porter was out of the room. Reed grinned, and Louise knew the answer
would be amusing but not very informative. "Because," said Reed,
"He is a White Russian, and not the kind that live on the East Side in
In the morning she yawned and said: "Let's not get up today, it's so terribly cold." Reed pushed her gently away from him. "There's a revolution outside, Mrs. R," and getting out of bed, Reed began to dress. Louise sighed and followed him, her teeth chattering and her breath turning to vapor.
Louise could hardly contain her excitement
at her first daylight sight of the magnificent city then called
Louise wrote in her first dispatch from the Russian capital:
Built by the cruel willfulness of an autocrat, who had named it
INGREDIENTS FOR A REVOLUTION
It has fantastic mountains, mighty
rivers, every imaginable natural resource to sustain life, and is so vast that
as late as the 1930's Russian scientists were finding tribes in some of
World revulsion against what was happening inside
The troops of a panicky Czar Nicholas replied by opening fire and more than one thousand men, women and children were killed.
This was followed by such world-wide
revulsion and chaos and revolution inside
The czar's concession ended, at least temporarily, internal Russian turmoil and violence. But the restiveness triggered by the humiliating Russian defeat in the Russo-Japanese war continued to smolder. It was, indeed, an element in creating the conditions that, among other things, brought on the strikes and the march on the winter Palace and the czar's panicky reaction.
By "bloody Sunday", also,
Lenin, whose real name was
Louise found her background and the prior
events in her life helped her while trying to sort out the chaos that was
Russia in 1917 - Wadsworth and Eu
Moreover, the Russian capital was full of
Americans who had fled
There were a good many others there, some
of whom Louise had met in
All of them, recently returned Americans and Russians alike, found pleasure in talking with Louise. She listened intently, even though a great deal of what she heard was not new to her.
They were drinking tea from cups in which floated almost razor-thin slices of lemon. Louise gave up trying to' drink hers as she had seen an elderly man on the train do - straining the tea through a small lump of sugar gripped between the teeth. Bill Shatov was explaining that what had happened in March which brought on the abdication of Czar Nicholas was not really a revolution. "You might say it was a revolution by default," he said. "There was no planning or plotting. Everything fell apart and there it was. The czar quit and the power to run the country was anybody's for the asking." And to Louise: "Here, let me show you how to drink that. What you do is you take a sip of tea and then a small bite of sugar."
Of all the czars and emperors the
Russians ever had, none was as inept arid as autocratic, said Shatov, as was
the last of the Romanovs, Nicholas II. He had a deep feeling of inferiority,
which he attempted to overcome by bluster and decisions without thought of
consequences. The need to cover
indecisiveness with a mask of self-confident resolution caused him, among other
things, to depend oh advisors who, like himself, lacked the ability to grasp
the deep significance of the many problems that
The lives of Nicholas and Alexandra were complicated by the many attempts made on his life and the tragedy of their son, young Alexis, a victim of hemophilia, a rare disease in which the blood has difficulty coagulating. This caused both of them, in their desperate attempts to save the boy, to depend on quacks and scoundrels who called themselves mystics. And of these, none was a greater charlatan than one Siberian mystic who played a significant part in bringing about their downfall. His name was Gregor Efimovich Rasputin, a name that suited him like a glove. The Russian word "rasput'nyik" means one who is dissolute, lewd, vicious and shameless.
Born in the Siberian town of
In 1907 he turned up in what was at that time still called
Nicholas and Alexandra were overjoyed and
vowed eternal gratitude to Rasputin for the miracle he had performed on the
heir to the Russian throne. Rasputin
soon became a powerful element in the decision making process which affected
the lives of
Ultimately not only workers and peasants and merchants throughout the land, but also the nobility began to consider him a symbol of everything that was evil.
On the last day of December in 1916, he
was lured to the
It was the straw that broke the camel's back.
PRELUDE TO UPHEAVAL
By March of 1917, the Russians were in
their fourth year of the war. Victories
had been few and the suffering great. On the 22nd of March, food riots in
With the Czar's abdication, the Fourth Duma asked one of its members, Prince Georgi Lvov, to organize Provisional Government. He did, and named Kerensky his Minister of Justice. In July of 1917, because nothing much had happened to alleviate the suffering of the Russian masses, a new crisis developed. Prince Lvov then resigned, and Kerensky became the Prime Minister of the Provisional Government.
By this time,
(NOTE: Much of the background of the 1917
Revolution presented here does not come from traditional sources. It is based on information that developed
during the author's conversations with an older brother, who was himself
involved in some of the events that proceeded the Revolution, while the family
was still living in
Abhorring violence, the brother became an
underground Social Democrat while still in his early teen years, and joined the
ranks of those who believed - as did Karl Marx himself at one time - that socialism,
under certain circumstances, might possibly be achieved by parliamentary
means. He retained that belief until his
Troops began deserting the trenches by the
hundreds and then thousands. Peasants started looting the great estates,
killing the wealthy owners and taking over the land. Above all the turmoil was the great cry of
Lenin and his fellow insurrectionists who had returned from exile in
His full name was General Lvar Georgievich Kornilov. Son of a Cossack father, he had by 1917, established a distinguished record that dated back to the Russo-Japanese war. Shortly after the abortive July 18 insurrection and the jailing of the Bolsheviki leaders, Kerensky named Kornilov commander-in-chief of all Russian armed forces. Be medalled, a passionate disciplinarian, a long sword dangling at his left side and a tall Cossack hat on his head, Kornilov decided the first thing he must do was restore the death penalty to stop the headlong rush of deserters from the trenches. The feuding civilian Provisional Government refused him permission.
He decided that if
The Kornilov counter-revolution
collapsed, but it was at this point, wrote Louise, that Kerensky made his great
mistake in assuming that the real threat to his democratic form of socialism
With all leading Kerensky opponents out
of prison and Lenin's mighty cry. . ."PEACE...LAND...BREAD" on every
available wall, said Louise, events began snowballing everywhere in Russia. In
The desertion of soldiers increased at a
terrifying rate. Most of the deserters
wandered aimlessly about
Trotsky was at the head of the most
powerful of the soviets, the Soviet of Petrograd Workers. Rank and file soldiers of the huge 20,000-man
While Trotsky was publicly denying
planning an insurrection to take over the Provisional Government's power to
The crisis kept deepening and finally
came to a head with a call by Lenin's followers for a Petrograd convocation of
an All-Russian Congress of Soviets for "the purpose of taking over the
power to rule
(The Russian word “soviet” means
“council,” a group of people formed to act in the interest of others. In
Following the call by the Lenin people to meet in Petrograd, a tremendous campaign got under way to influence elections of delegates throughout the country, with threats and predictions of disastrous consequences if Lenin's Bolsheviki took control, and, of course, promises of putting the revolution back on the track to achieve genuine socialism for Russia and a better life for all.
by the way, used the old Julian calendar dates - then still in effect in
Who were all these men and women, many of whom Louise came to know and write about, and whose words and actions have so affected today's world? What did they want? What did they stand for? What did they achieve?
LENNIN: "RADISHES ARE RED ONLY OUTSIDE"
“We don't want people," said Lenin, "who are revolutionists in their spare time. We want people who are willing to give all of their lives to revolution, We don't want people who suddenly find it convenient to become Reds. They are like radishes, red on the outside but always white inside."
Two years before "Bloody Sunday"
of 1905, underground revolutionary leaders from inside
All of them called themselves Social
Democrats. They were, however, divided into two groups with radically divergent
views on how best to achieve the goal of replacing capitalism in
Lenin had one plan for achieving the goal, and had not the slightest intention of reconciling it or moderating it or qualifying his readiness to give his life in order to achieve it. Julius Martov and Grigori Plekhanov, who represented the other view, were equally adamant. The conflict was irreconcilable, but not hard to understand.
MARTOV-PLSKJLAKOV: The revolution we're talking about has no precedent in history. It is not a political revolution in which only the people who govern are replaced. It is the world's first social revolution in which the factories, the mines, the forests, the railroads - the facilities for the production and distribution of everything necessary for the survival of a people, will be taken away from their private owners and become socially-owned. Our millions of landless peasants and most of our workers, with a rate of illiteracy unequalled in any civilized land, their minds drugged by ignorant, superstitious priests, are utterly unequipped to participate in a revolution aimed at replacing capitalism with socialism. They know nothing of socialism. The dream of every landless peasant is to change his status from being landless to landowner. . .the dream of every serf, freed only four decades ago, and now the owner of several tiny scattered strips of Land, is to become owner of a few more strips of land. . .the dream of most workers is to become bosses. We cannot expect the support of these people unless they know what they are supporting. The process must be slow and gradual and by education and not through violence. All must participate, even the bourgeoisie. Only thus will the people be ready to govern and operate the economy when the inevitable day comes - the many conflicts and contradictions that are built into the very makeup of capitalism will bring about its collapse.
You are living in a dream world that is utterly unrelated to life in
The split dividing the Social Democrats was wider than ever by the time the conferences ended. Both sides continued calling themselves Social Democrats, but the Lenin followers soon became known as Bolshevik! (the plural for bolshevik) from the Russian word, "bolshinstvo" for majority. This was despite the fact that there were far fewer Lenin people at the conference than Martov-Plekhanov followers. The latter became known as Menshiviki from the word "menshinstvo" for minority.
None at the conferences could anticipate that a disastrous war would play a more important part in the collapse of Russian capitalism than its built-in conflicts and contradictions. Neither could Lenin anticipate that a dozen and a half years later he would be talking to a pretty American brunette and saying for publication in American newspapers: "We must admit that we are now a bourgeois state," while explaining why he had been forced to make concessions to Capitalism.
The delegates to the All-Russian Congress
of Soviets began trickling into
Lenin himself had, by that time, returned
from his hiding place in
He knew that on November 5, the delegates
would still be drifting into Petrograd from the far corners of
Arrival of the first delegates to the
The skirmishes had grown more and more
deadly, and by November 5th centered about control of the many bridges over the
Louise and Reed, brandishing their passes from both sides, rushed
from one scene of action to another.
They buttonholed everyone in sight, demanding: "Chto delayetsah? Chto delayetsah?" (What’s happening? What’s going on here?)
They rushed from the Smolny institute to the
They returned to the Smolny Institute where there was incredible confusion. To their question, "What's happening?" they received the same reply: "Chort znayet." (The devil knows.) It was late when, completely exhausted, they returned to their hotel room and stumbled into bed.
During the night, while they were asleep, a detachment of soldiers and Red Guards occupied the Telegraph Agency. Half an hour later, the Red Guards took control of the Post Office. At five in the morning, they took over the Telephone Exchange, then the State Bank, and by on November 6th, the Red Guards and revolutionary soldiers had the winter Palace surrounded.
Louise and Jack awakened late and
returned to the Smolny Institute. Then, unaware that Kerensky was by that time
on his way to the Front to plead with soldiers to stand by him, they caught a
ride on a truck loaded with soldiers on their way to the
Before Kerensky's door they found a young officer pacing restlessly and biting the end of his waxed mustache. He shook his head when Reed said they wanted to see Kerensky. "It is absolutely forbidden," said the officer. And then he added: "In fact, he is not here. He is gone to the Front. And, you know, an odd thing happened. His motorcar ran out of fuel and he had to go through the enemy lines to get some."
They spent three hours in the Palace wandering from one once-magnificent room to another and talking with the Junkers who were most friendly and very unhappy. "Once," wrote Louise, "While we were quietly chatting, a shot rang out, and in a moment there was the wildest confusion; Junkers hurried in every direction. Through the front windows we could see people running and falling flat on their faces. We waited but no troops appeared and there was no more firing, while the Junkers were still standing with their guns in their hands, a solitary figure emerged, a little man dressed in ordinary citizen's clothes, carrying a huge camera. He proceeded across the Square until he reached a point where he would be a good target for both sides and there, with great deliberation, he began to adjust his tripod and take pictures of the women soldiers who were busy turning the winter supply of wood into a flimsy barricade before the main entrance."
Back at the Smolny Institute, the
All-Russian Congress of Soviets was now busy.
Above the tumult in the huge auditorium the sound of a cannon could be
heard, as the revolutionary Cronstadt sailors from the battleship
At night, Louise and Jack decided to
leave the Smolny Institute to see again what was happening at the
"The mission was to distribute leaflets all over town, especially along the Nevsky Prospekt. The leaflets were piled high on the floor of the truck along with guns and ammunition. As we rattled along the wide, dim-lit streets, we scattered the leaflets to the eager crowds. People scrambled and fought for copies. The leaflets said;
“‘Citizens! The Provisional Government has been deposed. State Power has passed into the organ of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies.'"
At a point where the
They were a short distance from the Palace when they heard a shout: "The Junkers want to surrender." They heard some commands, and silence again. A dark mass began to move forward, the only sounds, the shuffling of feet and clanking of arms. A few bullets whistled by them as they joined the moving mass of Red Guards, but it was not possible to tell from which direction they came. In another few minutes they were out of the shadows and in the light streaming from the windows and open doors of the Palace. "Every window was lit up as if for a fete," said Louise, "and we could see people moving about inside." Then with a great shout, the Red Guards, with Louise and Reed crushed among them, leaped over the firewood barricade and into a great vaulted room, and they were stumbling over the piles of rifles that had been thrown down by the Junkers.
Their closest brush with death came shortly after they had left the main body of Red Guards and began wandering through the many rooms of the Palace. When they reached the room where they had talked with the Junkers they suddenly saw that they were being followed by a group of Red Guards. In another minute or two they were stopped and were surrounded, with the leader, a huge factory worker, demanding to know what they were doing there. They produced their passes. Louise's read:
Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd of Workers and Soldiers Deputies gives Tovarishcha Louise Bryant free passage through the city.
The huge soldier, unable to read, brushed these aside contemptuously and said, "Bah, bumagi (Papers)," and the group began to crowd around them muttering "Provocateurs, looters, Kornilovisti." Then, as the muttering grew more and more ominous and the Red Guards pressed closer, they saw an officer shouldering his way toward them. There followed the longest ten minutes of Louise's life, as the officer, arguing with the Red Guards that he was a commissar of the Military Revolutionary Committee, managed to get them to move off, still muttering ugly threats. When they were gone, the officer, shaky and wiping his sweating face, led them by a side door out of the Palace. "You are foreigners. . .this is very dangerous. . . you nave narrowly escaped being shot."
November 7th. The All-Russian Congress of Soviets was fully organized and waiting for Lenin's appearance and the official opening of the session. It had been scheduled to start at one in the afternoon, but it was almost nine at night when the packed auditorium was shaken by a great roar as the Presidium - the body made up of representatives of all groups taking part in a congress or convention - entered the huge auditorium. With them was Lenin, whom many of the delegates had never seen before in person. "Lenin," wrote Louise, "is not easy to describe. He is sheer intellect - absorbed, cold, unattractive, impatient. In appearance, he is short with a snub nose, little eyes and a wide mouth. He wore pants much too big for him. His power lay in his ability to explain complicated problems in the most simple terms. . ."
Lenin waited patiently until the wild ovation was over and then said in a matter-of-fact voice: "Comrades, let us proceed with the construction of the Socialist Order." Wild with excitement, Louise joined in the great roar that greeted his words.
There was absolute pandemonium. A giant standing beside her, caked mud from the trenches on his tunic, was sobbing, women, with their arms around strangers, were screaming the words of revolutionary songs - the huge hall was a bedlam of noise and motion, while an unsmiling Lenin continued waiting and watching.
Finally it subsided sufficiently for Lenin to say: "The first thing is the adoption of practical measures to realize peace. . .we shall offer peace to the belligerent countries. . .no annexations, no indemnities, and the right of self-determination for all nations."
It lasted for hours; Lenin spoke on and on, referring to notes he had taken from his coat pocket. ". . .all private ownership of land is abolished immediately without compensation. . . until the meeting of the Constituent Assembly, a provisional Workers and Peasants Government is formed, which shall be named the Council of the People's Commissars. . ."
And then the Commissars: President of the Council: Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin). . . Interior: A. I. Rykov. . . Foreign Affairs: L. D. Bronstein (Trotsky). . . and so on, until, finally: Chairman for Nationalities, Y. J. Djugashvili (Stalin).
(“djugashvili” is the word for steel
in the Soviet Republic of
Louise described what happened that night as "something tremendous," . . . "for some the beginning of chaos and darkness . . . for others the dawn of a new day. . ."
Contrary to rumors that Kerensky had been killed, he was very much
alive, and before a month had passed, had organized a large army of Cossacks
and other loyal to the Provisional Government and was marching toward
British, French, Japanese and American
troops were in
REPORTER AT LARGE
A Brush with Death: There were few places in
the world worse to be in the winter of 1917 than
"You having fun. Princess?" asked Reed one night.
"Please! No bourgeois titles," warned Louise.
"We're alone; why not?" demanded Reed.
"All right," said Louise. "I don't call what happened today much fun."
It wasn't. In a dispatch to the Philadelphia Public Ledger she described it:
As we turned the corner of
As soon as it became clear there would be no more sniper fire, we came out. We could hear gunfire in the distance. It came from where we were going, the telephone exchange building. The Junkers had retaken it from the Red Guards, but now we were across the street, where we were soon joined by a crowd of civilians. Nobody seemed to know what to do next.
Suddenly we saw an armored car in the distance, clattering down the street in our direction. We found ourselves crammed against a huge archway with securely locked iron gates. We hoped the car would go by, but directly in front of the crowd, it stopped with a jerk. Its destination was obviously the telephone building, but we had no way of knowing if they were enemies or friends until it stopped in front of us and its guns began spouting bullets at us. The first to drop was a shabbily dressed worker. He sank silently, a pool of blood quickly spreading all around him. The thing I remember is that no one in the crowd screamed although more than a dozen died.
I remember two little street urchins. One whimpered pitifully when he was shot and then died. The other died instantly, dropping at our feet, an inanimate bundle of rags, his pinched little face covered with his own warm blood. I remember an old peasant woman who kept crossing herself as she whispered prayer after prayer. A man in a shabby fur coat kept saying over and over again: "I am so tired of the revolution."
The hopelessness of our position was just beginning to sink in on me when six giant sailors with the Red Guards, with a great shout, ran right into the fire. They reached the armored car and thrust their bayonets inside again and again. The terrible cries of the victims rose above the shouting and then suddenly everything was sickeningly quiet. They dragged the dead men out of the car and laid them face up on the cobbles. Only the driver of the armored car was still alive. He was begging for mercy and our interpreter screamed: "For the love of God, let him go!" They did.
The Americans: The only place in
Few in the
Louise described the Ambassador as ".
. .without much doubt, one of the crudest and stupidest ambassadors that was
ever sent abroad. He never knew anything
(Actually, until the
Louise came to know two other important
Americans who were officially in
To William Boyce Thompson, Robbins'
associate, however, she developed an antipathy, even though, like Robbins, he
was with the Red Cross mission sent to alleviate the wide distress among the
victims of war and revolution. A
multi-millionaire known as the Montana Copper King, Thompson was convinced that
Kerensky was the man best equipped to rule
Leon Trotsky: Louise was with Louis Browne, the correspondent for the Chicago Daily News and New York Globe, when they interviewed Trotsky.
"He seemed far less relaxed than when I first saw him in
He was slight of build, wore thick glasses, had a high forehead, a thick black mustache and a tiny goat-like beard. He impressed her tremendously.
Trotsky, said Louise, was an
internationalist. He did not make
nationality or economic or social status a condition for salvation. Along with Lenin, he insisted that Marxism
was the way to salvation for the property less and exploited, whether they
He believed with equal fervor that a socialist nation could not exist as an island surrounded by capitalist countries, because capitalism, by its very nature, must keep expanding in order to survive. This was in sharp conflict with Stalin's view of "one state socialism."
It was a vision, however, that began to
fade as the workers of
Kerensky: She talked with him only three days before he
fled from the Czar's
In the newspaper-published version, Louise wrote:
He was a sick man and in great pain. He had to take morphine and brandy constantly to stay alive. We entered the beautiful little library of Nicholas II. Kerensky lay on a couch with his face buried in his arms, as if he had suddenly been taken ill and was completely exhausted. I had time to note some of the Czar's favorite books. . .various classics and a whole set of Jack London in English.
"I had a tremendous respect for Kerensky," she said.
"He tried so passionately to hold
- at that hour?. . .He attempted to carry the whole weight of the nation on his frail shoulders, keep up a front against the Germans, keep down the warring factions at home. Faster and faster grew the whirlwind. Kerensky lost his balance and fell headlong. . ."
It was perhaps Kerensky’s key role, in the great Russian drama which she was attempting to portray for the readers of her articles in American papers, that kept her from reporting lighter aspects of the interview. In any event, in the unpublished version she reported that when they introduced themselves to Kerensky he apologized for not getting up from the couch, saying that he was in great pain because of a kidney infection. Jack Reed was sympathetic, informing Kerensky of his own kidney problem. "There they were," wrote Louise in her notes, "talking about their aches and pains their kidneys created for them, like a couple of old women, while outside events were developing that would change the world."
"Maria Spiridonova looks as though she came from
Thus Louise described one of the great women martyrs of the Russian revolution. There were others, and talking with them of their achievements, bolstered her determination to fight harder than ever for women's political rights in her own country.
"Her early history as a
revolutionist," said Louise, "is exceptional even to the Russians who
have grown used to great martyrs. She
was nineteen when she killed Lupjenovsky, the governor of
"Marie Spiridonova decided to kill him. One afternoon she saw him in the railway station. The first shot she fired over his head to clear the crowd, the next she aimed straight at his heart. Lupjenovsky dropped dead."
"First the Cossacks beat her; then threw her naked into a
cold cell. They came back and demanded names of her comrades. She refused to
speak, so bunches of her long, beautiful hair were pulled out, and then she was
burned with cigarettes. For two nights
she was passed around among the Cossacks like a bottle of vodka. They sentenced her to death and then changed
the sentence to life imprisonment. She
was sent to
"I asked her how she managed to keep
from losing her mind during the eleven years in
"I wanted to know why more women did
not hold public office since
Alexandra Kollontay: "Before she was appointed the first Minister of Welfare by the Bolshevik regime, she had written a dozen books on sociology, with special emphasis on mothers and children. (She also became the world’s first woman ambassador in 1927 when she was named the Soviet Union’s ambassador to Mexico.) I saw her often, first as a correspondent, and then as a friend. One day she confided to me that there were many things Lenin did with which she disagreed - some even distressed her. But in the struggle for freedom against the reactionaries she would never desert the proletariat and its champions, even if they made every mistake on the calendar."
"One day when I came to see her, a long line of old people were outside her door waiting to see her. They had come as a delegation from an old people's home to thank her for having removed those who had been supervising them so that they could now make their own decisions. 'They now elect their own officers and have their own political fights. . .they even decide what should be on the menus,'" said Alexandra Kollontay proudly. I said, but what can the menus consist of in these days when so little is available? She laughed: 'Surely, you must understand that there is a great deal of satisfaction in deciding for yourself whether you want think cabbage soup or thin cabbage soup.'
Tamara Karsavina: (She was the brilliant Russian dancer, successor to Anna Pavlova as premiere danseuse at the Imperial Opera House in 1910.) "She was the most beautiful dancer in the world. I saw her dance in those meager days for an amazing audience - an audience in rags, an audience that had gone without food to buy the cheap little tickets."
"When she came on, it was as hushed as death. And how she danced! And how they followed her! Russians know dancing as the. Italians know their opera. 'Bravo! Bravo!' came from several hundred throats. And when she finished, they would not let her go - again and again and again she had to come back until she was wilted like a tired butterfly. Twenty, thirty times she returned, bowing, smiling, pirouetting, until we lost count. . .when it was over at last, the people filed out into the damp winter night, pulling their thin overcoats about them."
He seemed particularly interested in Reed's background, his parents and grandparents, and his conversion to radicalism, and asked if it was true that Reed was not only collecting material for a book about the revolution, but that he had also become active in the Bolsheviki propaganda division. Reed said he was, that he planned to write not only an account of the revolution itself, but a series of books about it.
"An odd thing about Mr.
Maugham," wrote Louise in her notes about the meeting, "was that he
was fond of playing pranks and said the most preposterous things. Every now and them, through-out lunch, he
would turn to me, glance about mysteriously and in a low voice say: 'You won't
of course, reveal that you had lunch with a British Secret Agent, will
you?' I laughed. Of course not, I said. It was so ridiculous. It couldn't have been funnier if he'd said he
was an ambassador of the Pope and was in
"For a long time after Mr. Maugham's marvelous book came out in which he revealed that he really was a Secret Agent, I continued to wonder if he was not still enjoying himself by trying to convince his hundreds of thousands of readers that the world's unlikeliest secret agent really was a secret agent. But why did he question Jack so closely about what the men with whom he was working were saying, and about Jack's views on socialism?" (She did not know at the time that Maugham’s novels were often based on his personal experiences, in the way O”Neill’s plays were – twenty-seven years later he would publish “The Razor’s Edge” based on their own lives.)
Anna Shub: She was a pretty 18-year-old member of the Women's Death Battalion. Women soldiers were not an unusual feature of Russian military life - What was unusual was the reason women were given when urged to join the army. Too late they discovered that they were not there to fight. They were there to shame the men into fighting when their enthusiasm flagged.
"Look at you," the officers would say, "Bozhe moi! Why even a woman can do better than you slovenly hulks. . . a woman who knows nothing but how to sweep the floor and cook borsch can march better than you can."
When Anna learned the truth, wrote Louise,
she was bitterly disappointed and disillusioned. In the end, however, when conditions became
desperate for the Kerensky forces, it was Anna Shub and her companions, along
with the young Junkers and Cossacks, who were left to defend the Czar's
"I am a Jew," said Anna,
"I come from within the Pale."
(The Pale was a wide strip of land along the western border of
"I left home,I left everything because I thought the poor soldiers of Russia were tired after fighting for so many years, but when I arrived in Petrograd I began to see the truth - we were supposed to be shaming the soldiers."
She gave Louise a photograph of herself
in uniform on which was written: "To friends in
THE 'LIGHTER' SIDE
I make haste to laugh at everything, for fear of being obliged to weep.
in "The Barber of
The Kornilov counter-revolution, with its
significant impact on the outcome of the Revolution, ended, said Louise, almost
like a scene from a comic opera. But not before she had confirmed the report of
the slaughter of officers by the distraught young man, while they were en route
As the danger of attack on
How did it all end? Well, first, there was great confusion. All were for the Revolution. Everyone wanted to save it. But from whom? Except for the Cossacks, who cared little whom they were fighting, so long as they were allowed to fight, Kornilov had convinced his rank and file troops that they were saving he Revolution from Lenin, who was a tool of the Germans; the Women's Death Battalion, with many of whose members Louise had talked, were on Kerensky's side or more or less the same reason. And the Bolsheviki, of course, wanted to make certain that the Revolution would not be used by Kerensky to help factory owners and big land owners retain their power and go on exploiting them.
So with Kornilov forces at the gates of
"Come Into the city with us," said the propagandists, "and we will prove to you that you have been deceived, and that what you are doing will bring back the czar." Thus was the Kornilov counter-revolution crushed without a shot being fired.
Bessie Beatty, a reporter for the San
Francisco Bulletin, told Louise of a harrowing experience at the Hotel Astoria
He stared at her for a few seconds, took a green sash from his pocket and began to approach her. She recognized it as her own, which she must have dropped at dinner. It was not a good time to start looking up Russian words in her dictionary. It occurred to her, however, that many Russians spoke French. “Merci-pou-cette," she murmured, pointing to her waist.
The Cossack continued his slow walk toward her. She stepped back in alarm, with the Cossack following. Then he reached out for her, and she closed her eyes. She felt his fingers circling her waist, and the sash tightening. She opened her eyes. He was smiling and said in English: "Ah, then it is true. American women do not wear corsets. I will tell my comrades they were wrong." He continued smiling as he backed toward the door.
"Russians," said Louise, "have trouble being secretive. Some in the diplomatic field can be subtle, but even these were amazingly naive and uncomplicated in these hectic days of the Revolution. I came one afternoon to the Hotel Europe with a close associate of Trotsky and to my great surprise, saw standing in the Lobby, an officer who was an aide of Kerensky's. It was a time when Kerensky was organizing troops to march against the Bolsheviki and this officer had absolutely no business there."
"I first met him at the
"But now he was a changed man. He wore a coat too small and trousers too large, and his waxed, pointed mustache was grayed at the ends. He had on the most amazing, tattered cap. It was with difficulty that I stared right through him and passed on, fearing that I might give him away if I addressed him."
"My Bolshevik friend and I climbed the wide stairs and walked along the corridor. Near the end of the corridor, my young Georgian officer friend caught up with us. He was all out of breath. 'Mademoiselle,’ he exclaimed, taking both my hands, 'did you not recognize me? I am in disguise.'"
"In vain I tried to silence him by winks and cold stares. He was lonesome and glad to see a friend. He blurted out startling information. 'Kerensky will be here tomorrow with eighty thousand Cossacks. He will take all the Bolsheviki leaders and string them up along the streets.'"
"I felt dreadfully responsible for the trouble he was getting himself into in front of an associate of Trotsky's. Oh, please don't talk about it", I said.
"We could not get rid of him until he had unburdened himself of everything he knew about Kerensky. When we were out on the street again, I asked my Bolshevik friend: What are you going to do? And he said: 'Have him arrested, of course.' I sighed with relief; the practice in those very early days of the revolution was to put dissidents in the Peter and Paul Fortress, and then release them on a promise they would never again voice opposition to the Bolsheviki and would go out and find a job."
"Vladimir Antonov, the first Bolshevik Minister of War, looks like a poet. His face is delicate, his hair is long and bushy, and he usually wears a bow tie, but to military men he is an extraordinarily clever strategist."
"Some of the most ridiculous things
happened to Antonov just after the Bolsheviki came into power. One day, shortly after the Bolsheviki took
power, I went to the Smolny Institute with Alexander Gomberg, a Russian from
"'You can't have this car,' said the soldier. 'I am on my way to get supplies for the First Machine Gun Regiment. They don't need any more men, they need bullets.'"
"Antonov looked severe and said: 'But I am the Minister of War. '"
"The soldier swore joyfully. 'Why you're the very man I need. Here, sign this order for supplies.'"
"Antonov had no pencil and borrowed one from Gomberg. 'And now,' said he to the soldier, 'I'll take the car.' The soldier grinned and the car was off toward Smolny before they could catch their breath."
"They finally got a car from a
frightened wealthy speculator. Then, as
they passed a little store, the War Minister discovered that he hadn't eaten
anything for thirty hours, but none of the Russians had money. Gomberg made the purchases two salt herring
and half a loaf of black bread.
Alexander Gomberg, despite his services to the new Proletarian
government of Mother Russia, was abandoned along a muddy front. A farmer heading for
DOSVIDA'NYA (Till We Meet Again)
Early In 1918, Lenin decided to move the
Russian capital back to
All this occurred about the time Jack
received a cable from Max Eastman in
In the meantime, word came that
In what is perhaps her most moving article, she describes the dramatic burial of five hundred men killed in the fighting in one huge grave:
We went to
It was twenty-five
degrees below zero so we continued our search. After about two hours we found a
room at the national Hotel. The cracked
window looked out over the Kremlin and the
As we came closer" a strange sight unfolded before us. A huge trench, many hundreds of feet in length, was being carved out of the frozen ground. The tall figures of soldiers, the smaller and more gaunt figures of factory workers, cast distorted silhouettes across the snow as they bent over their gruesome task.
A young student who read over our passes explained what they were doing. "They are digging the brotherhood grave," he said, "for the last martyrs of the revolution."
We stayed there nearly all night. It was terrifyingly still and lonesome. There was no sound but the clatter of spades and the sputter of torches; there were no stars and the darkness hung down heavily.
About we went with the student to the Soviet, which had headquarters in a large building only a few blocks away. It hummed with preparations for the funeral on the morrow. All night Long women and girls were sewing miles and miles of red cloth, cutting and trimming and fashioning it into banners for the procession. They sewed with stern, set faces. Perhaps women knitting under the guillotine wore some such expressions. . .
We went back to
We drank our tea and ate
our black bread at the hotel and got back to the Soviet at seven-thirty. The procession began at eight. From early morning we stood on a mound of
newly turned earth watching an immense sea of people pouring through the white,
arched gateway of the old
In the gateway, out by the house of the Romanovs, the crowd passed endlessly in one huge, interminable funeral procession. Slowly, rhythmically, they moved along like a great operatic pageant symbolizing the long, bitter struggle of the masses throughout the vast, intricate fabric of history.
Fine looking young giants of soldiers, wearing towering grey shapkas (fur hats), bore the rough, wooden coffins, stained red as if in blood. After them came girls with shawls over their heads and round peasant faces, holding large wreaths of artificial flowers. Then there were bent old men and bent old women and little children. There were cavalry regiments and military bands and people carrying enormous banners that floated out in long, red waves over the heads of the crowd.
Great banners had been
suspended from the top of the wall and reached down to the earth. On all the banners were inscriptions about
the revolution and the hopes of the workers.
Above the high red wall the golden domes of the four old churches inside
the Kremlin shone out dizzily against the pale sky. The dark
Women all around began to sob and one near me tried to hurl herself after a coffin as it was being lowered. Her thin coat of civilization dropping from her in a moment. She forgot the revolution, forgot the future of mankind, remembered only her lost one. With all her frenzied strength she fought the friends who tried to restrain her. Crying out the name of the man in the coffin, she screamed, bit and scratched like a wounded animal until she was finally carried away moaning and half unconscious. Tears rolled down the faces of the big soldiers.
Twilight began to settle, softening everything. The sky grew warmer and the snow took on a rosy tint. All the wreaths had been hung in the trees and they swayed back and forth like strange multi-colored fruit. It was when the last coffin was lowered and the dirt began to be shoveled in.
Even before the cable from Max Eastman
and the decision that both should return home, Louise had begun trying to
develop a plan for a trip to the
But that was not the real reason for her
eagerness to return to
It was a blow she was not prepared for,
and it left her depressed, angry, frustrated and miserable. She had frequently thought about poor Gene,
since she left him in
When she got the news and found he had not been yearning for her. . . in fact he was making love to someone else who lay beside him nightly in bed. How could they! How dared they?
She soon convinced herself that she still loved O'Neill, and that his new "infatuation" was merely a poor attempt to console himself in her absence. She was sure once she could talk to him and explain that she really did love him that Agnes Bolton would quickly be dispatched.
She was quite pleased and relieved when Reed agreed that since the conspiracy trial was not due to start until April or May and since he had to finish collecting material for his book, it would be best if she left as soon as possible, and he would follow in a few weeks. This would give her the necessary time to straighten things out with Gene. It was perfect.
As time drew near for her departure,
Reed worried more and more about the hazards involved in her traveling alone,
particularly across Finland which had by then become a hotbed of White Guard
and German intrigue and violence. Louise
lightly dismissed his fears. Her chief worry was mostly making certain she did
not again go through the experience on the way into Russia when nearly every
one of her personal, even intimate, items were confiscated. This time she had
precious souvenirs, including a silver Caucasian dagger a young Junker in the
Czar's winter Palace had given her; also a ring with the Czar's inscription;
"God, King and Lady," whom another of the young officers had begged
her to accept. There was also a
provocative, feminine Cossack costume a Madame Yudeshavski had given her in
A friend of Reed's, Dr. Zaikind, the
assistant to Foreign Minister Trotsky, solved the problem of getting her
personal belongings through
Raymond Robbins of the Red Cross tried to
talk them out of returning to the
"One morning," wrote Louise,
"we were still in bed, reluctant to leave a warm bed for a very cold room,
when there was a knock on the door and Raymond Robbins entered. Again he talked about the danger we faced if
we returned to the
"When we got up, we found a large number of bills on the small table where Robbins had been sitting. Jack was furious. He could see complications in taking money from an American official. 'Take this back to him at once,' he shouted. 'Sure he meant well, but doesn't he realize what this can do to us?' - When I saw Robbins and handed him back the: money, he looked at me sadly and said: 'I have so much more than I need and I know how badly you will need it when you get back to America.'"
"Then he offered to do everything
possible to smooth the many difficulties involved in leaving
On January 20, l9l8, Raymond Robbins wrote a letter on American Red Cross
Major Breckenridge, U.S.M.C.
Naval Attaché, American Legation
Dear Major Breckenridge:
This letter will introduce to your consideration, Mrs. John Reed -
She and her husband have been helpful in the work we have been
With kindest regards and best wishes
Commanding the American Red Cross in
When she came to say goodbye to Assistant Foreign Minister
Zaikind, he gave her a letter to the Bolshevik minister in
She returned to
At Tornio, on the Finnish border with
Only when she found the American legation did she get the information she needed. She was told that the Bolshevik office was only a block away. The Bolshevik Consul, who proved to be a musician, greeted her warmly. He had heard about Reed and Louise and their sympathetic feeling toward the Bolshsviki. His assistant was a doctor of philosophy.
"You must be very tired after your long journey," said the assistant Consul. "Just down the street is a quiet little tea shop and the most delicious Swedish pastries, 'We will go there and talk.’”
Louise was indeed tired and shaken.
Seated at a table in the little teashop, she said, "I looked out and saw
the slow-moving barges going up and down the canals. Yes, I was homesick for