Around the Decree on Peace, in which the workers 'and peasants' government that came to power the day before, expressed their readiness to “immediately sign the terms of peace”, serious passions still boil. Some believe it is nothing more than a humanitarian foreign policy initiative, others - the fulfillment of the obligations of revolutionaries to the German General Staff, the betrayal of the Allies in the Entente and the first step towards a separate Brest peace. Reality, as usual, is much more complicated.
“We overlooked the lack of patriotism”
In Russia at the beginning of the 20th century there was a very special attitude to the war, which was very different from both the Soviet and the modern. This is clearly seen from the sentences and orders of the peasants of European Russia to the State Duma: the anti-war theme (in this case, the Russian-Japanese war) leitmotif passes through most of the correspondence from the field.
So, the peasants of the village of Gariali of the Sujansk district of the Kursk province affect the economic part of the problem: “We only breathe with that landowners' land we rent out for rent ... And now we don’t have a rent, but we don’t know. We were supported by earnings, and now because of the war, and earnings have disappeared, and everything has become more expensive, and the taxes have increased. ”
The peasants of the village of Kazakov of the Arzamas district of the Nizhny Novgorod province are outraged: “We wrote out a newspaper (we have literacy), began to read about the war, what is done there and what kind of people the Japanese are. It turned out that they ... so thrashed us ... And for all this we will have to pay, the peasant and the working people, in the form of various taxes. ”
Residents of the village of Veshki in Novotorzhsky district of the Tver province declare: "The ill-fated, destructive and devastating war should become a people's question, for which it is necessary to immediately gather representatives from the people and inform those of all information relating to the war, then continue or end it in peace."
Recall that we are talking only about the Russian-Japanese war. With the start of the First World War, Russian patriotic demonstrations rolled through, the first regiments went to the front under the thunder of orchestras and with massive solemn wires. “Alas,” Anton Denikin later wrote, “clouded with thunder and the noise of familiar patriotic phrases ... we overlooked the internal organic weakness of the Russian people: the lack of patriotism.”
“They didn’t want war,” the general develops his thought, “with the exception of perhaps ardent military youth who were eager for heroism; believed that the authorities would take all possible measures to prevent a collision. " In general, “the idea of national self-defense” was not understood by the “dark people”, who “rose to the war dutifully, but without any enthusiasm and without a clear awareness of the need for a great sacrifice.”
One of the most comprehensive definitions of a political nation is this: a collection of people who have a common Fatherland and perceive its objective interests as their own. For a significant mass of Russian peasants at the beginning of the 20th century, not the whole country was the Fatherland, but only their own village, and they were primarily concerned not with geopolitical problems, but economic ones. As Denikin wrote all the same, we are supposedly Tambov, the German will not reach us.
People simply did not understand why they were sitting in trenches and were dying under the shells of enemy artillery. The demand for the termination of the war by the will of the masses was clearly expressed during the first Russian revolution of 1905, and during the February revolution of 1917, when the “dark people” took to the streets, including with banners “Down with the war!”.
"A terrible slaughter, defaming humanity"
The socialist parties regarded the First World War as imperialistic, that is, unleashed by the ruling circles and the big capital of the member states for the expansion of markets and the redistribution of colonies. Moreover, all socialist parties, and not only the Russian, considered the war.
The question of the impending world war became central at the congress of the 2 International in Stuttgart in 1907, where representatives of 25 nations from all continents gathered. In the final resolution, the immediate tasks were divided into two parts: the prevention of war and the actions of the socialists in the event of a war. On the second question, it was said: “In the event that a war does break out, they (the working classes of the respective countries and their representatives - approx. VIEW) should actively advocate for its early end and strive by all means to use the economic and political a crisis to stir up the masses and hasten the fall of capitalist class domination. ”
That is, use the crisis caused by the war to carry out a socialist revolution.
All representatives unanimously voted for the Stuttgart manifesto from Russia: from the social democrats Lenin and Martov through the national socialist parties to the party of the Social Revolutionaries, the socialist revolutionaries, the “peasant party”.
In the 1912 year, in conditions when the world war was becoming more and more real, at the congress of the 2 International in Basel, the provisions of the Stuttgart Manifesto were once again confirmed.
“In all advanced countries, war puts the slogan of a socialist revolution on the line, which becomes all the more urgent the more the burden of war falls on the shoulders of the proletariat,” Lenin wrote two years later. “The transformation of the modern imperialist war into a civil war is the only correct proletarian slogan ... arising from all the conditions of an imperialist war between highly developed bourgeois countries."
Already from this quote it is clear that Lenin called for workers in all the belligerent "highly developed bourgeois countries" to turn the imperialist war into a civil war. At the same time, by “civil war” he understood not a civil war that actually occurred in Russia in 1918 – 1922, but a revolution. A revolution is an internal war of the oppressed with its oppressors, it is a war for power between citizens of different social situations, and therefore a civil war.
Yes, with reference to Russia, Lenin further wrote about the defeat of his own government, but still a government, and not a country: “For us, the Russian Social-Democrats. (Social Democrats - approx. LOOK), there can be no doubt that from the point of view of the working class and the toiling masses of all the peoples of Russia, the least evil would be the defeat of the royal monarchy. "
But what kind of defeat? Lenin also specified this question: “In Russia, the tasks of the Social-Democrats. in view of the greatest backwardness of this country, which has not yet completed its bourgeois revolution, there must still be three basic conditions for a consistent democratic transformation: a democratic republic (with full equality and self-determination of all nations), the confiscation of landowner lands and the 8 hour-hour working day. ”
That is, directly following the provisions of the Basel and Stuttgart manifestos and putting forward for "all advanced countries" the slogan of the socialist revolution, before Russia, where bourgeois transformations have not yet happened, the Bolshevik leader set the objectives of the fall of the monarchy (and not the country's military defeat) and the formation of the republic. These are the tasks of the bourgeois revolution.
This was precisely the concept of "defeating one's government" and "turning an imperialist war into a civil one." All these are euphemisms of the word “revolution”, which is a twist of fate! - then it sounded much worse than the "civil war". Now, on the contrary: the word “revolution” is emotionally much less saturated than “civil war”.
The discrepancies between the “defencists” and the “defeatists” after the 1914 year went on the question of the continuation of revolutionary activities in a real war. But even the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks who became “defencists”, having received the reins of power following the February Revolution, were quick to recall the provisions of the Basel and Stuttgart congresses, launching the manifesto “To the Nations of the World” in March 1917. It called for the proletariat of the countries participating in the war to throw off the yoke of the ruling classes, that is, to make a revolution, and to stop the “terrible slaughter that dishonors humanity” by “united joint efforts”.
The manifesto, according to the memoirs of contemporaries, found broad support in society. Folk aspirations merged with the positions of the socialist parties, even if they had completely different origins.
Decree of Peace
Contrary to popular belief, the Bolshevik Decree on Peace did not stop the war immediately and unilaterally. The first paragraph of the document on behalf of the workers 'and peasants' government contained a proposal "to all the warring peoples and their governments to begin immediately" peace negotiations. A real platform for such negotiations and, therefore, for ending the war, the Soviets considered a “just democratic peace” concluded without annexations (that is, without seizures) and indemnities (that is, without the economic burden of the vanquished).
In fact, the Bolsheviks proposed a return to the pre-war status quo. Such (and precisely such, and not any!) Conditions of peace they expressed their readiness to sign immediately. At the same time, they stated that these requirements are not at all ultimatum, and their government “agrees to consider all other conditions of the world, insisting only on the quickest possible offer to any belligerent country and to the fullest clarity, to the unconditional exclusion of any ambiguity and every mystery in proposing the conditions of peace. "
In the meantime, such proposals are being prepared, the workers 'and peasants' government proposed that all governments of the belligerent countries conclude a truce. That is, it came out with a peace initiative, calling on all countries to stop, think again and sit down at the negotiating table.
This was the first semantic layer of the decree. The document was multifaceted. In addition to the actual peace initiatives, it was a declaration on the principles of the Soviet foreign policy and formulated the basic foundations of the new Soviet diplomacy. Of these, the key ones are full openness in international relations: secret diplomacy was canceled, all secret treaties of the tsarist regime were subject to publication. In matters of peace negotiations, the revolutionary government also, we recall, demanded complete openness.
At the same time, it reserved the right to directly address the peoples of the world, bypassing the governments of these countries and the traditional channels of diplomacy. The first such appeal was part of the decree: "The Provisional Workers 'and Peasants' Government of Russia also appeals especially to the class-conscious workers of the three most advanced nations of humanity and the 16 of the largest states participating in this war." The document expressed the hope that “the workers of these countries will now understand the tasks of liberating humanity from the horrors of war and its consequences” and “that these workers with their full, determined and selfless energetic activity will help us successfully accomplish the cause of peace”.
Thus, the Bolsheviks repeated the provisions of the Basel and Stuttgart manifestos: in the event of war, the working classes of the belligerent countries and their representatives should actively advocate for its early completion. Because war is an imperialist one, being waged in the interests of the ruling classes, and not in the interests of the working people. The working people only suffer from the world slaughter - at the front and in the rear, bearing on their shoulders all the war time.
In this, the position of the revolutionary government, which had as its basis the manifestos of the pre-war congresses of the 2 International, again met with popular aspirations. These aspirations were never expressed in a high syllable: “a dark people,” “lacking patriotism,” armed at the front and unarmed in the rear, simply demanded an end to the war.
The decree on peace really became the fulfillment of certain obligations on the part of the Bolsheviks. But not before the German General Staff, but before the 2 International. Moreover, his position was not alien to the Russian reality.
And was there another way out at that moment - given the state of the army and the rear?
There is a theory that Russia was on the verge of victory: Nicholas II was ready to fight to the end, but the revolution did not allow the country to triumphantly enter Berlin and join the post-war division of the world together with its allies in the Entente.
But it is worth remembering that Nicholas II abdicated the throne against the background of the revolutionary events in Petrograd, and the revolutionary events were triggered by the collapse of the transport communication, the lack of food, and sometimes famine in the cities, that is, the collapse of the rear during world war. Moreover, the emperor renounced under pressure from the generals. The command of the army of the belligerent state was openly engaged in politics, General Alekseev circularly interviewed the front commanders about the position in relation to the sovereign’s abdication, and General Ruzsky in Pskov directly pressured the king, demanding renunciation.
At the same time, the “Order No. 1” of the Petrograd Soviet, which decomposed the troops, was intended only for the Petrograd garrison, should not have been in the active army at all and certainly did not act in it. But how to explain its avalanche-like spread among soldiers and the introduction of its positions across the front? There is only one answer: the officer corps has lost control of the soldiers' mass. There was no more command, there was no more discipline. In fact, this means that there was no longer an army.
There was no solid rear in the country, the previous regime collapsed, anti-war sentiments coming from below did not disappear, and the army, according to Denikin’s apt expression, was armed people. At the same time, the new government proclaimed peace initiatives with one hand (Petrosoviet), and the other with a course for war to the bitter end and loyalty to the allies in the Entente (Provisional Government).
Knowing this, it is much easier to answer the question whether Russia could continue the war in its state at that time.
At the very beginning of 1918, the Bolsheviks had to create a new army in the country - the Red Army. But how did the revolutionary authorities succeed in putting millions of soldiers into battle, who until recently refused to fight on the fronts of the First World War without understanding the goals and objectives of the war?
In just one 1919 year, the total circulation of newspapers for the Red Army was almost 150 million copies. In the same year, 68 of millions of books and brochures were published in Soviet Russia. Back in 1918, 3033 libraries were created in the army, by the year 1919 their number reached 7500 stationary and 2400 mobile. During the Civil War, almost 6,000 Red Army literacy schools and a thousand Red Army theaters operated in the Red Army. And that's not counting the mass of oral agitators.
All these bodies performed a very important function - they day after day enlightened the "dark people", explained what the young Republic of Soviets is for it and what its objective problems and interests are. They formed a political nation.