Saturday, November 04, 2017

From The Gals And Guys Who Know The Face Of War Up Close And Personal-The Iraq And Afghan War Veterans Against The War (IVAW)

From The Gals And Guys Who Know The Face Of War Up Close And Personal-The Iraq And Afghan War Veterans Against The War (IVAW)

From The Gals And Guys Who Know The Face Of War Up Close And Personal-The Iraq And Afghan War Veterans Against The War (IVAW)

Frank Jackman comment:

On more than one occasion I have noted there is an overweening respect for the military, for military officers mainly, the guys and gals who have led and lead the bloody endless wars of this century. (Although the most recent example is more than fifty years old with General Eisenhower this has been at certain points reflected in elevating such personages to the American presidency starting with General Washington. The decline in military service among the political and social elites and their offspring over the past couple of generations leaving it to marginal lower middle class and working class cadre probably signals the demise of the that trend. That and the indecisive nature of the endless wars which produce no certifiably mass leader-heroes.) Nevertheless these specimens look good on camera, all austere and all business as they lead the general population by the nose into the next ambush with the acquiescence of civil authority including non-veteran “chicken-hawk” presidents and their associated.

But starting back in Vietnam, starting back in the war of my generation soldiers, sailors, air personnel, regular rank and file guys (almost all guys then) started balking at their fate in a very public manner out on the streets. (All wars, all military service produces a certain among of grousing, a very definite questioning of command decisions down in the trenches even in popular wars like World War II but that is far removed from opposition in the streets, sometimes in uniform, that became somewhat epidemic in Vietnam times when the Army at least was half in mutiny and in any case unreliable as a military force against a determined foe). Like I say these guys (and later when the female military population increased gals) started to talk back, to say stop the madness. And if they could not do so when they were service-bound for obvious and mainly understandable reasons concerning hard time in stockades and prisons they certainly did so in their thousands after they got out of the service. (Many Army recruits during basic training probably had “do this, do that unless you want to wind up in Fort Leavenworth”-the bad ass Army facility thrown at them by worrisome drill sergeants which surely caused to pause over that possibility.)

That “could not do when they were service-bound” no mean hurtle since a lot of the constitutional rights we take for granted out in the civilian world wind up in the latrine once you take the oath. Even more so then than now since there have been some court decisions reining in the military brass as they try to trash a soldier’s will. Let me tell you though many a soldier who couldn’t speak out because he was in Vietnam and under fire or stateside trying to keep out of the line of fire spent many a tortuous night trying to figure out whether to just say “fuck it,” to refuse to go along, to fight. (The more I investigate this issue among the remaining male brethren from the “Generation of ’68 I find that even among those who served without question, who volunteered in order to get a trade or profession rather than be left in that same latrine as the infantrymen almost all draftees the question of what to do hung over their heads just as much as Boston college guys who refused induction, who burned their draft cards, who hit the road for Canada and other foreign shores, or who tried every diversion from physically harming themselves to claiming mental disorders to declaring themselves, falsely declaring themselves let’s be clear homosexuals. Yes, it was that kind of time-another time to try men’s souls.]     

Those irate and lied to military personnel formed an organization Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) that did a hell of a lot to bring the anti-war message home. See they had “street cred”,’ they had been in the hellholes and beyond, had come back to the “real world” a lot wiser than the kids they were who went in with dreams of glory and fistfuls of medals. The guys and gals who fought, and continue to fight don’t forget, the damn Iraq and Afghan wars, the latter in it endless sixteen years ready to turn seventeen come next frost  have that same “street cred.” They our sons and daughters have been through as much hell as those guys from my time, from me in my own experience. Have many mental and physical problems. Have a horrendous daily suicide rate. Are living proof that there are no “walk-over” wars-not in this century. So when they with their well-deserved street “cred” say stop the madness that for this generation means something. Listen up, please.   

As The 100th Anniversary Of World War I Continues -The Anti-War Resistance Builds –The Russian Revolution Breaks The Logjam

As The 100th Anniversary Of World War I Continues -The Anti-War Resistance Builds –The Russian Revolution Breaks The Logjam    

The events leading up to World War I (known as the Great War before the world got clogged up with expansive wars in need of other numbers and names and reflecting too in that period before World War II a certain sense of “pride” in having participated in such an epic adventure even if it did mow down the flower of European and in some cases colonial youth from all classes) from the massive military armament of almost all the capitalist and imperialist parties in Europe and elsewhere in order to stake their claims to their unimpeded share of the world’s resources had all the earmarks of a bloodbath early on once the industrial-sized carnage set in with the stalemated fronts (as foretold by the blood-letting in the American Civil War and the various “small” wars in Asia, Africa, and, uh, Europe in the mid to late 19th century once war production on a mass scale followed in the train of other less lethal forms of  industrial production).

Also trampled underfoot in the opposing trenches, or rather thrown in the nearest trash bin of the their respective parliamentary buildings were the supposedly eternal pledges against war in defense of one’s own capitalist-imperialist  nation-state against the working masses and their allies of other countries by most of the Social-Democrats and other militant leftist formations (Anarchists, Syndicalists and their various off-shoots)representing the historic interest of the international working-class to stop those imperialist capitalist powers and their hangers-on in their tracks at the approach of war were decisive for 20th century history. All those beautifully written statements and resolutions that clogged up the international conferences with feelings of solidarity were some much ill-fated wind once bullet one came out of gun one.

Other than isolated groups and individuals, mostly like Lenin and Trotsky in exile or jail, and mostly in the weaker lesser capitalistically developed countries of Europe the blood lust got the better of most of the working class and its allies as young men rushed to the recruiting stations to “do their duty” and prove their manhood. (When the first international conference of anti-war socialists occurred in Switzerland in 1915, the famous Zimmerwald conference, one wag pointed out that they could all fit in one tram [bus].) Almost all parties assuming that the damn thing would be over by Christmas and everyone could go back to the eternal expressions of international working-class solidarity after the smoke had settled (and the simple white-crossed graves dug in the vast bone-crushed cemeteries that marked the nearby battle fields too numerous to mention). You see, and the logic is beautiful on this one, that big mail-drop of a Socialist International, was built for peace-time but once the cannons roared then the “big tent” needed to be folded for the duration. Jesus.  

Decisive as well as we head down the slope to the first months of the second year of the war although shrouded in obscurity early in the war in exile was the soon to be towering figure of one Vladimir Lenin (a necessary nom de guerre in the hell broth days of the Czar’s Okhrana ready to send one and all to the Siberian frosts and that moniker business, that nom de guerre not a bad idea in today’s NSA-driven frenzy to know all, to peep at all), leader of the small Russian Bolshevik Party ( a Social-Democratic Party in name anyway adhering to the Second International under the sway of the powerful German party although not for long because “Long Live The Communist International,”  a new revolutionary international, would become the slogan and later order of the day in the not distant future), architect of the theory of the “vanguard party” building off of many revolutionary experiences in Russia and Europe in the 19th century (including forbears Marx and Engels), and author of an important, important to the future communist world perspective, study on the monopolizing tendencies of world imperialism, the ending of the age of “progressive” capitalism (in the Marxist sense of the term progressive in a historical materialist sense that capitalism was progressive against feudalism and other older economic models which turned into its opposite at this dividing point in history), and the hard fact that it was a drag on the possibilities of human progress and needed to be replaced by the establishment of the socialist order. But that is the wave of the future as 1914 turned to 1915 in the sinkhole trenches of Europe that are already a death trap for the flower of the European youth.  

Lenin also has a "peace" plan, a peace plan of sorts, a way out of the stinking trench warfare stalemate eating up the youth of the Eurasian landmass. Do what should have been done from the beginning, do what all the proclamations from all the beautifully-worded socialist manifestos called on the international working-class to do. Not a simple task by any means especially in that first year when almost everybody on all sides thought a little blood-letting would be good for the soul, the individual national soul, and in any case the damn thing would be over by Christmas and everybody could start producing those beautifully worded-manifestos against war again. (That by Christmas peace “scare” turned out to be a minute “truce” from below by English and German soldiers hungry for the old certainties banning the barbed wire and stinking trenches for a short reprieve in the trench fronts in France and played soccer before returning to drawn guns-a story made into song and which is today used as an example of what the lower ranks could do-if they would only turn the guns around. Damn those English and German soldiers never did turn the damn things around until too late and with not enough resolve and the whole world has suffered from that lack of resolve ever since.)

Lenin’s hard-headed proposition: turn the bloody world war among nations into a class war to drive out the war-mongers and bring some peace to the blood-soaked lands. But that advanced thinking is merely the wave of the future as the rat and rain-infested sinkhole trenches of Europe were already churning away in the first year as a death trap for the flower of the European youth.   

The ability to inflict industrial-sized slaughter and mayhem on a massive scale first portended toward the end of the American Civil War once the Northern industrial might tipped the scales their way as did the various German-induced wars attempting to create one nation-state out of various satraps almost could not be avoided in the early 20th century once the armaments race got serious, and the technology seemed to grow exponentially with each new turn in the war machine. The land war, the war carried out by the “grunts,” by the “cannon fodder” of many nations was only the tip of the iceberg and probably except for the increased cannon-power and range and the increased rapidity of the machine-guns would be carried out by the norms of the last wars. However the race for naval supremacy, or the race to take a big kink out of British supremacy, went on unimpeded as Germany tried to break-out into the Atlantic world and even Japan, Jesus, Japan tried to gain a big hold in the Asia seas.

The deeply disturbing submarine warfare wreaking havoc on commerce on the seas, the use of armed aircraft and other such technological innovations of war only added to the frenzy. We can hundred years ahead, look back and see where talk of “stabs in the back” by the losers and ultimately an armistice rather than decisive victory on the blood-drenched fields of Europe would lead to more blood-letting but it was not clear, or nobody was talking about it much, or, better, doing much about calling a halt before they began the damn thing among all those “civilized” nations who went into the abyss in July of 1914. Sadly the list of those who would not do anything, anything concrete, besides paper manifestos issued at international conferences, included the great bulk of the official European labor movement which in theory was committed to stopping the madness.

A few voices, voices like Karl Liebknecht (who against the party majority bloc voting scheme finally voted against the Kaiser’s war budget, went to the streets to get rousing anti-war speeches listened to in the workers’ districts, lost his parliamentary immunity and wound up honorably in the Kaiser’s  prisons) and Rosa Luxemburg ( the rose of the revolution also honorably prison bound) in Germany, Lenin and Trotsky in Russia (both exiled at the outbreak of war and just in time as being on “the planet without a passport” was then as now, dangerous to the lives of left-wing revolutionaries and not just them), some anti-war anarchists like Monette in France and here in America “Big Bill” Haywood (who eventually would controversially flee to Russia to avoid jail for his opposition to American entry into war), many of his IWW (Industrial Workers Of the World) comrades and the stalwart Eugene V. Debs (who also went to jail, “Club Fed” for speaking the truth about American war aims in a famous Cleveland speech and, fittingly, ran for president in 1920 out of his Atlanta Penitentiary jail cell),  were raised and one hundred years later those voices have a place of honor in this space.

Those voices, many of them in exile, or in the deportations centers, were being clamped down as well when the various imperialist governments began closing their doors to political refugees when they were committed to clapping down on their own anti-war citizens. As we have seen in our own times, most recently in America in the period before the “shock and awe” of the decimation of Iraq in 2002 and early 2003 the government, most governments, are able to build a war frenzy out of whole cloth. Even my old anti-war amigo from my hometown who after I got out of the American Army during the Vietnam War marched with me in countless rallies and parades trying to stop the madness got caught in the bogus information madness and supported Bush’s “paper war” although not paper for the benighted Iraqi masses ever since (and plenty of other “wise” heads from our generation of ’68 made that sea-change turn with him).

At those times, and in my lifetime the period after 9/11 when we tried in vain to stop the Afghan war in its tracks is illustrative, to be a vocal anti-warrior is a dicey business. A time to keep your head down a little, to speak softly and wait for the fever to subside and to be ready to begin the anti-war fight another day. “Be ready to fight” the operative words.

So imagine in the hot summer of 1914 when every nationality in Europe felt its prerogatives threatened how the fevered masses, including the beguiled working-classes bred on peace talk without substance, would not listen to the calls against the slaughter. Yes, one hundred years later is not too long or too late to honor those ardent anti-war voices as the mass mobilizations began in the countdown to war, began four years of bloody trenches and death.                  

Over the next period as we continue the long night of the 100th anniversary of World War I and beyond I will under this headline post various documents, manifestos and cultural expressions from that time in order to give a sense of what the lead up to that war looked like, the struggle against its outbreak before the first frenzied shots were fired, the forlorn struggle during and the massive struggles after it in places like Russia, Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, and the hodge-podge colonies all over the world map, in order to create a newer world out of the shambles of the battlefields.     

Leon Trotsky

History of the Russian Revolution to Brest-Litovsk

Part II


The Democratic Conference, called together by Tsereteli and his coadjutors towards the end of September, was of an entirely artificial character, consisting, as it did, of a combination of representatives of Soviets with those of the organs of local self-government in such a proportion as to give a preponderance to the Coalitionist parties. The offspring of helplessness and confusion, the Conference ended in a pitiful fiasco. The propertied bourgeoisie regarded it with the greatest animosity, seeing in it an attempt to drive it from the position to which it had advanced at the Moscow gathering, On the other hand, the revolutionary working class and the masses of the peasantry and soldiers had condemned in advance the methods of adulteration used in calling the Conference together. The immediate task of the Coalitionists was to form a “responsible” Ministry. But even this was not attained. Kerensky did not want and would not allow any principle of responsibility, because the bourgeoisie at his back would not allow it. Non-responsibility before the organs of the so-called democracy meant, in effect, responsibility before the Cadets and the Allied Embassies. For the present this was sufficient for the bourgeoisie. On the question of coalition, the Conference revealed its complete insolvency. The number of votes cast for the principle of a coalition with the bourgeoisie was only little more than that cast against all Coalitions, and a majority of votes was cast against a coalition with the Cadets. But With the exception of the latter, there were no parties among the bourgeoisie worth mentioning with whom a Coalition could be entered into. Tsereteli fully explained this to the assembly. If the assembly did not understand this, so much the worse for it! And so behind the back of the Conference pourparlers were carried on unabashed with the very Cadets whom it had rejected, it having been decided that the Cadets should be treated not as Cadets, but as public men Pressed from the right and from the left, the lower middle-class democrats submitted to all this mockery of themselves and thereby demonstrated their complete political impotence.
A Council was elected from the Democratic Conference, which it was decided should be completed by the addition of some representatives of the propertied classes ; and this Provisional “Parliament” was to fill the gap until the meeting of the Constituent Assembly. The new Coalition Ministry, contrary to Tsereteli’s original plan, but in entire accordance with the plans of the bourgeoisie, was to maintain its formal independence as against the Provisional Parliament. The whole proceeding gave the impression of a pitiful and impotent product of a mind divorced from life, behind which could clearly be seen the complete capitulation of the lower middle-class democrats to that same propertied Liberal bourgeoisie which only a month before had openly supported Korniloff’s attempt against the Revolution. The whole thing, then, amounted practically to the re-establishment and the perpetuation of the coalition with the Liberal bourgeoisie. There could no longer be any doubt that, quite independent of the composition of the future Constituent Assembly, the Government power would be in the hands of the bourgeoisie, since the Coalitionist parties, in spite of all the preponderance Secured to them by the popular masses, were unalterably bent on a coalition with the Cadets, considering it impossible to form any Government without the aid of the bourgeoisie. The popular masses regarded Miliukoff’s party with the greatest hostility. At all elections in the course of the Revolution the Cadets invariably suffered severe defeats; yet the very same parties, the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, who smote the Cadet party at the elections hip and thigh, would, after the elections, invariably reserve for them a place of honour in the Coalition Cabinet. It was natural in these circumstances that the masses began to perceive more and more clearly that the Coalitionist parties were in reality playing the r8le of bailiffs and office-holders for the Liberal bourgeoisie.


Meanwhile the internal situation was deteriorating and becoming more and more complicated. The war was dragging along without aim, without sense, without any perspective. The Government was taking no steps to extricate itself from the vicious circle. The ridiculous plan was put forward of sending Skobeleff to Paris in order to influence the Allied Imperialists, but no sensible person attached to it any serious importance. Korniloff surrendered Riga to the Germans in order to terrorize public opinion and so to gain a favourable opportunity for establishing an iron discipline in the army. Petrograd was threatened, and the middle-class elements were Welcoming the danger with evident malignancy. Rodzianko, the former President of the Duma, openly said that the surrender of demoralized Petrograd to the Germans would constitute no great misfortune. He referred to the case of Riga, where, following upon the entry of the Germans, the Soviets were dissolved and strict order was established with the help of the old police. True, the Baltic Fleet would be lost; but the fleet had been demoralized by revolutionary propaganda, and the loss would, therefore, not be so very great. This cynicism of the garrulous grand seigneur expressed the secret thoughts of wide circles of the bourgeoisie. The handing over of Petrograd to the Germans would not really mean its final loss. By the peace treaty Petrograd would be returned, but it would in the interval have been disciplined by German militarism. The Revolution in the meantime would be decapitated, and could therefore be more easily grappled with. Kerensky’s Government had, in fact, no serious intention of defending the capital, and public opinion was being prepared for its possible surrender. Government offices were being transferred from Petrograd to Moscow and other towns.
It was in such circumstances that the Soldiers’ Section of the Petrograd Soviet met at a full session. The general feeling was tense and agitated. If the Government was unable to defend Petrograd, let it conclude peace. And if it was incapable of concluding peace, let it clear out. This was how the Soldiers’ Section expressed their views of the condition of affairs. This was the first signal of the coming November Revolution.
At the front the position of affairs was going from bad to worse. A cold autumn, wet and muddy, was drawing near. There was the prospect of a fourth winter campaign. The food Supply was becoming worse every day. In the rear they had forgotten about the front. There were no reliefs, no reinforcements, and no warm clothing. The number of deserters was increasing daily. The old army committees, elected at the beginning of the Revolution, still remained in their places and supported Kerensky’s policy Re-elections were prohibited. An abyss was formed between the army committees and the masses of the army, and finally the soldiers began to detest the committees. Again and again delegates from the trenches would arrive at Petrograd and ask point-blank, at the sittings of the Soviet “What are we to do now? Who will end the war, and how shall it be done? Why is the Petrograd Soviet silent?”


The Petrograd Soviet was not silent. It demanded the immediate assumption of authority by the central and local Soviets, the immediate transference of the land to the peasants, the establishment of control by the workers over industry, and the immediate initiation of peace negotiations. So long as we had been in opposition, the cry “All power to the Soviets!” was a battle-cry of propaganda, but since we became a majority on all the chief Soviets it imposed upon us the duty of taking up an immediate and direct struggle for power.
In the villages the position of affairs had become complicated and confused to the last degree. The Revolution had promised the land to the peasants, but had forbidden the latter to touch the land till the meeting of the Constituent Assembly. The peasants at first waited patiently, but when they began to lose patience the Coalition Government resorted to measures of repression. In the meantime the prospect of the meeting of the Constituent Assembly was becoming dimmer and dimmer. The bourgeoisie was insisting that the Constituent Assembly should not be summoned until after the conclusion of peace. The peasant masses, on the other hand, were becoming more and more impatient, and what we had predicted at the beginning of the Revolution was now Coming true. The peasant masses began to grab the land on their own authority. Reprisals became more frequent and severe, and the revolutionary land committees began to be arrested – here and there. In some districts Kerensky even proclaimed martial law. Delegates from the villages began to stream to Petrograd, and complained to the Soviet that they were being arrested while trying to carry out the programme of the Soviets and handing over the estates of the private landowners to the peasants’ committees. The peasants demanded our protection. We replied that we could only help them if the government power were in our hands. Hence it followed that if the Soviets did not want to become mere talking-shops they were bound to make an effort to get the power into their own hands.
It was absurd to fight for the authority of the Soviets six or eight weeks before the, meeting of the Constituent Assembly – so we were told by the friends on the Right. But we were not in the least infected by this fetichism of the Constituent Assembly. In the first place, there were no guarantees that it would really be summoned. The break-up of the army, the wholesale desertions, the disorganization of the food supply, the agrarian revolution – all went to create an atmosphere but little favourable to the holding of elections to the Assembly. Moreover, the possible surrender of Petrograd to the Germans threatened to make such elections altogether impossible. In the second place, even if the Constituent Assembly were to be summoned under the direction of the old parties, on the old party lists, it could only become a protection for, and a confirmation of, the coalition principle of government. Neither the Socialist Revolutionaries nor the Mensheviks were capable of assuming authority without the help of the bourgeoisie. Only a revolutionary class Could break the vicious circle in which the Revolution was floundering and disintegrating. It was essential that the authority should be snatched from the hands of those elements which directly or indirectly were serving the interests of the bourgeoisie and used the Government machinery for obstructing the revolutionary demands of the people.


All power to the Soviets: such was the demand of our party. In the preceding period this meant, in terms of party divisions, complete authority for the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks as against the coalition with the Liberal bourgeoisie. Now, however, in November 1917, this demand meant the complete supremacy of the revolutionary proletariat, headed now by the Bolshevik party. The question at issue was the dictatorship of the working class, which was leading, or, to be more correct, was capable of leading, the millions of the poorest peasantry. This was the historical meaning of the November rising.
Everything conspired to lead the party along this path. From the very first days of the Revolution we had insisted on the need and the inevitability of the assumption of the entire government authority by the Soviets. The majority of the Soviets, after an intense internal struggle, adopted our standpoint and took up this demand. We were getting ready for the second All-Russian Congress of the Soviets, at which we expected a complete victory for our party. The Central Executive Committee, on the other hand, under the direction of Dan (the cautious Tshkheidze left for the Caucasus in good time) did everything possible to hinder the meeting of the Soviet Congress. After great efforts, supported by the Soviet group at the Democratic Conference, we at last obtained the fixing of a definite date for the Congress November 7th. This date has now become the greatest date in Russian history. As a preliminary, we called together in Petrograd a conference of the Soviets of the Northern Provinces, including also the Baltic Fleet and the Moscow Soviet. We had a definite majority at this conference. We also obtained some protection on the right flank from the left wing of the Socialist Revolutionaries, and laid the foundation for the business-like organization of the November rising.


But even before that, before the conference of the Northern Soviets, something happened which was destined to play a most important part in the corning political struggle.
In the middle of October there appeared at a sitting of the Executive Committee the Soviet representative attached to the staff of the Petrograd military district, who informed us that the Main Headquarters were demanding the despatch of two-thirds of the Petrograd garrison to the front. What for? For the defence of Petrograd! The despatch was not to take place immediately, but it was necessary to get ready for it at once. The Staff asked the Petrograd Soviet to approve of this plan. We pricked up our ears. Already at the end of August five revolutionary regiments had been, wholly or in part, removed from Petrograd. This had been done on the demand of the then Commander-in-Chief, Korniloff, who at that very time was preparing to throw the Caucasian “Savage” Division against Petrograd with the object of settling with the revolutionary capital once and for all. We had thus already had the experience of a purely political redistribution of troops, carried out on the pretext of military operations. It may be noted here, by way of anticipation, that documents which fell into our hands after the November Revolution showed, without any p05sibility of doubt, that the proposed evacuation of the Petrograd garrison in reality had absolutely nothing to do with military operations, and was forced on the Commander-in-Chief, Dukhonin, against his will by no other than Kerensky himself, who was anxious to clear Petrograd of the most revolutionary soldiers, that is, of those most hostile to himself.
But this was not known in the middle of October, and our suspicions were met by a storm of patriotic indignation. The military Staff tried to hurry us on, and Kerensky was impatient, as the ground beneath his feet was fast becoming too hot for him. We, however, did not hurry to answer. Certainly, Petrograd was in danger, and the terrible question of the defence of the capital exercised us greatly. But after the experience of the Korniloff days, after Rodzianko’s words regarding salvation by a German occupation of Petrograd, how could we be assured that Petrograd would not be wilfully surrendered to the Germans as a punishment for its rebellious spirit? The Executive Committee refused to give its signature to the demand for the removal of two-thirds of the Petrograd garrison without examination. We declared that we must have proof of the reality of the military need which dictated the demand, and for that purpose some organization to examine the question must be created. Thus arose the idea of establishing, side by side with the Soldiers’ Section of the Soviets, that is, with the political representation of the garrison, a purely operative organ in the form of the Military Revolutionary Committee which ultimately acquired enormous power and became practically the instrument of the November Revolution.
Undoubtedly, already at that time, when we were proposing the Creation of an organ to concentrate in its hands all the threads of the purely military direction of the Petrograd garrison, we were clearly realizing that this organ might become an invaluable revolutionary weapon. We were already at that time deliberately and openly steering for a rising and organizing ourselves for it. The opening of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets was fixed, as we said before, for November 7th, and there could be no longer any doubt that it would declare in favour of the assumption of supreme authority by the Soviets. But such a decision would have to be carried out at once, otherwise it would simply become a worthless platonic demonstration. It would have been in accord with the logic of the situation if we had fixed our rising for November 7th. The bourgeois Press, indeed, took this for granted. But the fate of the Congress depended, in the first instance, on the Petrograd garrison. Would it allow Kerensky to surround the Congress and to break it up with the help of a few hundreds or thousands of ensigns, cadets, and members of shock battalions? The very attempt to get the garrison out of Petrograd – did it not signify that the Government was preparing to break up the Congress of the Soviets? It would have been strange indeed if it were not, seeing that we were mobilizing quite openly, in face of the whole country, all the strength of the Soviets for the purpose of dealing the Coalition Government a mortal blow.
And so the whole conflict in Petrograd was coming to an issue over the question of the fate of its garrison. In the first place, of course, it affected the soldiers, but the workers, too, evinced the liveliest interest in it, as they feared that on the removal of the troops they might be crushed by the military cadets and Cossacks. The conflict was thus assuming a very acute character, and the question over which it was tending to an issue was very unfavourable to the Kerensky Government.
Parallel with this struggle over the garrison was also going on the previously mentioned struggle for the summoning of the Soviet Congress, in connection with which we were proclaiming openly, in the name of the Petrograd Soviet and the conference of the Soviets of the Northern District, that the second Soviet Congress must dismiss the Kerensky Government and become the real master of Russia. Practically the rising was already proceeding, and was developing in the face of the whole country.
During October the question of the rising played also an important part in the internal life of our party. Lenin, who was in hiding in Finland, wrote numerous letters insisting on more energetic tactics. Amongst the rank and file there was great fermentation and growing discontent, because the Bolshevik Party, now in a majority in the Soviets, was not putting its own battle-cries into practice. On October 28th a secret meeting of the Central Committee of our party took place, at which Lenin was present. On the order of the day was the question of the rising. With only two dissentients it was unanimously decided that the only means of saving the Revolution and the country from complete destruction was an armed rising, which must have for its object the conquest of supreme government authority by the Soviets.


The Democratic Council which arose out of the Democratic Conference inherited all the impotence of the latter. The old Soviet parties, the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks, had secured for themselves an artificial majority on the Council, apparently for the purpose of exposing still more thoroughly their entire political prostration. Behind the scenes Tsereteli was carrying on intricate negotiations with Kerensky and the representatives of the “propertied elements,” as they began terming them in the Council in order to avoid the “insulting” term “bourgeoisie.” Tsereteli’s report on the progress and results of these negotiations sounded very much like a funeral oration over the grave of a whole revolutionary period. It turned out that neither Kerensky nor the propertied elements would agree to the principle of Ministerial responsibility to the new semi-representative body. On the other hand, it was impossible to find “business-like” public men outside the Cadet Party. The organizers of the business had to give in on both points, which capitulation was so much the more delightful as the Democratic Conference had been called together specially for the purpose of putting an end to the irresponsible regime, the Conference, moreover, explicitly rejecting all Coalition with the Cadets. At the last few meetings of the Democratic Council before the new Revolution there was a general atmosphere of great tension and practical impotence. The Council reflected not the progress of the Revolution, but the dissolution of parties whom the Revolution had left far behind.
Already during the session of the Democratic Conference I had raised the question in our party of making a demonstrative exit from the Conference and of boycotting the Democratic Council. It was necessary to demonstrate to the masses by our action that the Coalitionists had brought the Revolution into an impasse. The struggle for the formation of a Soviet Government could only be carried on by revolutionary an methods. It was imperative to wrest the authority from the hands of those who had proved themselves incapable for good and who were fast losing all capability even for active harm. It was necessary to oppose our political method through the mobilization of all forces around the Soviets, through the All-Russian Congress of the Soviets, through a rising, to their method of action through an artificially selected “Provisional Parliament” and a problematic Constituent Assembly. This could only be accomplished by an open and public break with the body created by Tsereteli and his friends, and by concentrating all the attention and strength of the working class on the Soviet organizations. It was for these reasons that I proposed a demonstrative exit from the Democratic Conference and a revolutionary agitation in the factories and among the troops against the attempt to adulterate the will of the Revolution and again to direct its further course into the groove of co-operation with the bourgeoisie. Lenin expressed himself in the same sense in a letter which we received a few days later. But among the leaders of the party there was still considerable hesitation. The July Days had left a very deep impression on the party. The masses of workers and soldiers had shaken off the impression made by the July reprisals much more rapidly than many of our leading comrades who feared the break-up of the Revolution by another premature attempt on the part of the masses. In our group at the Democratic Conference I obtained fifty votes for my proposal against seventy cast in favour of participating in the Democratic Council. But our experience on that Council very soon strengthened the left wing of the party. It became only too evident that the method of compromises bordering on mere swindles, which had for its aim to secure the leadership of the Revolution for the propertied classes assisted by the Coalitionists who had lost all footing amongst the wide masses, was not the way out of the impasse into which the flabby middle-class democrats had brought the Revolution. By the time when the Democratic Council, supplemented by representatives of the propertied classes, became transformed into a “Provisional Parliament,” the psychological readiness of our party to break away from this body was already ripe.


The question before us at the time was whether the Socialist Revolutionaries of the Left would follow us along this path. This group was then in the process of formation, which from our party point of view was much too slow and hesitating. At the beginning of the Revolution, the Socialist Revolutionary Party became by far the strongest in the whole political field. The peasants, soldiers, and even the masses of the workers voted for the Socialist Revolutionaries. They themselves had not expected anything of the kind, and more than once it had seemed as though there was a danger that the party might choke in the waves of its own success. With the exception of the purely capitalist and landowning classes and the well-to-do intellectuals, all and everybody flocked to the banners of the Socialist Revolutionaries. And this entirely corresponded to the first stage in the Revolution, when the class boundaries had not yet had time to make themselves visible, when the yearning after a united revolutionary front found expression in the nebulous programme of a party which was ready to shelter alike the workers afraid of losing contact with the peasantry, the peasants seeking land and freedom, the intellectuals anxious to guide both these classes, and the official trying to adapt himself to the new order of things. When Kerensky, who, under the Tsarist Government, had belonged to the “Group of Toil,” joined the Socialist Revolutionaries after the victory of the Revolution, the popularity of this party began to grow in correspondence with the advance of Kerensky himself along the road of power. Many colonels and generals, out of respect – not always platonic – for the War Minister, hastened to inscribe their names in the rolls of the party of the erstwhile terrorists. The old Socialist Revolutionaries, belonging to the old revolutionary school, were already at that time regarding somewhat uneasily the ever-growing number of “March” Socialist Revolutionaries, that is to say, those members who had only found their revolutionary souls in March, after the Revolution had overthrown the old regime and had raised the Socialist Revolutionaries to power. In this way the party contained in its amorphousness not only the internal contradictions of the developing Revolution, but also all the prejudices of the backward peasant masses and all the sentimentalism, instability, and ambitions of the intellectual sections of the population. It was quite evident that the party could not exist long in such a form. In point of ideas it proved to be impotent from the very beginning. It was the Mensheviks who played the leading political role in the first stages of the Revolution. They had passed through the Marxian school, and had derived from it certain methods and habits which had helped them to find their way sufficiently in the political situation to adulterate “scientificaily” the real meaning of the present class struggle and to secure, in the highest degree possible under the given conditions, the supremacy of the Liberal bourgeoisie. This is the reason why the Mensheviks, who were the direct advocates of the right of the bourgeoisie to power, so quickly spent themselves and were, by the time of the November Revolution, finally reduced almost to a cipher.
The Socialist Revolutionaries were also losing their influence more and more, first among the workers, then in the army, and finally also in the villages. Nevertheless, at the time of the November Revolution they were still numerically a very powerful party. But class antagonisms were undermining it from within. As against its right wing, which in the persons of its most chauvinist elements, such as Avksentieff, Breshko-Breshkovskaya, Savinkoff and others, finally went over to the counter-revolutionaries, a left wing was in process of formation, which tried to maintain a contact with the labouring masses. If we bear in mind the fact that the Socialist Revolutionary Avksentieff, in his capacity as Minister of the Interior, was arresting the peasant land committees consisting almost entirely of Socialist Revolutionaries, for their grappling with the agrarian question on their own authority, the amplitude of disagreements within this party will become sufficiently clear.
In the centre stood the traditional leader of the party, Tchernoff, an experienced writer, well read in Socialist literature, an old hand in party struggles, he was the invariable leader of the party at the time when the party’s life concentrated in refugees’ circles abroad. The Revolution, which, in its first indiscriminate onward rush, had raised the Socialist Revolutionaries to a tremendous height, automatically also raised Tchernoff, but only to show his complete incapability even among the leading political personages of the first period. Those minor qualifications which secured for Tchernoff a preponderance in the foreign circles of the party proved to be far too light in the scales of the Revolution. He confined himself to abstaining from all responsible decisions, to avoiding and evading all critical issues, to waiting upon events, and to refraining from all positive activity. Such tactics secured to him, for the time being, the position of a centre between the two flanks of the party, the distance between which was growing ever wider and wider. But the unity of the party could no longer be maintained. Savinkoff, the erstwhile terrorist, had taken part in the Korniloff plot, was on most cordial terms with the counterrevolutionary circles of the Cossack officers, and was preparing a crushing blow for the Petrograd workers and soldiers, amongst whom were not a few Socialist Revolutionaries of the Left. As a sop to this left wing, the Centre expelled Savinkoff from the party, but it dared not raise its hand against Kerensky.
In the Provisional Parliament the party showed itself to be hopelessly divided. The three groups acted independently of one another, although all were marching under the same party banner. At the same time none of these groups had any clear idea as to what it wanted. The formal predominance of this party in the Constituent Assembly would only have meant the continuation of the same political sterility and impotence.


Before leaving the Provisional Parliament, where, according to the political statistics of Kerensky and Tsereteli, we only had about fifty seats, we organized a meeting with the Left Socialist Revolutionary group. They, however, refused to follow us, on the ground that it was necessary for them to prove to the peasantry by a practical experiment the hopelessness of that Parliament. “We think it our duty to warn you,” said one of their leaders, “that if you mean to leave the Provisional Parliament with the object of immediately descending into the street for an open struggle, we shall not follow you.” The bourgeois and Coalitionist Press accused us of aiming at a break-up of the Provisional Parliament for the sole purpose of creating a revolutionary situation. Our group in the Provisional Parliament decided not to wait for the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, but to act independently. The declaration of our party, read from the rostrum of the Provisional Parliament and explaining our reason for breaking away from this institution, was met with a howl of execration and impotent rage from the majority groups. In the Petrograd Soviet, where our action was approved by an overwhelming majority, the leader of the small group of “Internationalist” Mensheviks, Martoff, argued with us that our exit from the Provisional Council of the Republic (such was the official designation of this disreputable institution) would only then have any sense if we intended to pass immediately to an open offensive against the present Government. But that was just what we did intend doing. The agents of the Liberal bourgeoisie were quite right when they accused us of desiring to create a revolutionary situation. We saw that the only way out of the hopeless state of affairs was by means of an open rising and a direct seizure of power.
Again, as during the July days, the Press and all other organs of so-called public opinion were set in motion against us. The most poisonous weapons were once more got out of the arsenals of the July days, where they had been deposited after the Korniloff rising. Vain efforts! The masses flocked to us irresistibly, and their spirit rose hourly higher and higher. Delegates would arrive from the trenches and ask us, at the sittings of the Petrograd Soviet: “How long will this unbearable situation last? The soldiers have authorized us to tell you that if by the 15th of November no decisive steps are taken towards peace, the trenches will be evacuated, and the whole army will march back to the rear!” Such a resolve had really spread all along the front. The soldiers were distributing from one sector to the other proclamations drawn up by themselves, Calling on all soldiers not to remain in the trenches after the first snow. “You have forgotten all about us,” the trench delegates would exclaim at the sittings of the Soviet “if you do not find some way out, we shall come here ourselves and scatter our enemies with our bayonets, but you, too, together with them.” Within a few weeks the Petrograd Soviet became the centre of attraction for the whole army. After the change of its policy and the new election of its Presidential Bureau, its resolutions had been infusing into the exhausted and despairing troops new hopes that a way out of the impossible situation might at length be found on the lines laid down by the Bolsheviks, namely, by the publication of the secret treaties and the immediate proposal of an armistice on all fronts. “You say that full authority should pass into the hands of the Soviets? Then take it. Are you afraid that the front may not support you? Cast aside all doubt; the overwhelming mass of the soldiers are entirely on your side.”
In the meantime the conflict regarding the evacuation of the Petrograd garrison was proceeding apace. There were almost daily meetings of the garrison, consisting of company, regimental, and other committees. The influence of our party in the garrison became absolute and quite undivided. The Staff of the Petrograd military district was in a state of extreme confusion. At one time they would try to enter into regular relations with us; at other times, urged on by the leaders of the Central Executive Committee, they would threaten us with repression.


We have already mentioned the formation of a special Military Revolutionary Committee attached to the Petrograd Soviet, which was intended by us as a sort of Soviet Staff of the Petrograd garrison, by way of a counter-weight to Kereusky’s Staff. “But the existence of two Staffs cannot be tolerated,” urged the doctrinaire representatives of the Coalitionist parties. “Is, however,” we replied, “a state of things tolerable in which the garrison has no confidence in the official Staff and fears that the removal of troops from Petrograd may be dictated by some new counter-revolutionary design?” “But the creation of a new Staff means an insurrection,” argued the Right; “your Military Revolutionary Committee will have for its aim not so much the examination of the military intentions and orders of the military authorities, as the preparation and execution of a revolt against the present Government.” This argument was perfectly just, but for this very reason it did not frighten any of us. The necessity of overthrowing the Coalition Government was recognized by the overwhelming majority of the Soviet. The more convincingly the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries were demonstrating that the Military Revolutionary Committee would inevitably become an instrument of revolt, the more readily did the Petrograd Soviet support this new militant organ.
The first business of the Military Revolutionary Committee was to appoint Commissioners to all sections of the Petrograd garrison and to all the most important institutions of the capital and suburbs. We received intelligence from various quarters that the Government, or, rather, the Government parties, were busily organizing and arming their forces. From different stores, Government and private, they were removing rifles, revolvers, machine guns and cartridges for the purpose of arming the cadets, students, and, generally, the young bourgeoisie. It was essential to take some preventive measures at once. Commissioners were appointed to all stores and depots of arms, and they became masters of the situation practically without opposition. True, the commandants and proprietors of the stores tried to refuse them recognition, but it was sufficient for the Commissioners to appeal to the soldiers’ committee or to the employees of the particular store in order to break down the opposition almost immediately. Henceforth arms were only issued under direct orders from our Commissioners.
The regiments of the Petrograd garrison, indeed, had had their Commissioners before this, but they used to be appointed by the Central Executive Committee. We have already mentioned that after the June Congress of the Soviets, and particularly after the demonstration of July 1st, which showed the growing strength of the Bolsheviks, the Coalitionist parties had almost entirely shut out the Petrograd Soviet from all practical influence on the course of events m the revolutionary capital. The direction of the affairs of the Petrograd garrison was concentrated in the hands of the Central Executive Committee. Now the question was how to install Soviet Commissioners everywhere. This was only accomplished thanks to the energetic co-operation of the masses of the soldiers. Regiment after regiment would declare, at the end of meetings addressed by speakers from various parties, that they would only recognize the Commissioners appointed by the Petrograd Soviet, and would do nothing without their sanction.
In the appointment of these Commissioners the military organization of the Bolsheviks played a very important part. Already before the July days this organization had done a great deal of propaganda work. On July 18th the cycling battalion, brought into Petrograd by Kerensky, had sacked the villa of Mlle. Krzeszinska, where the military organization of our party was located. The majority of its leaders and many of the rank and file were arrested, the papers were suppressed, and the printing machinery was destroyed. Only very slowly did the party again set up its press, but this time underground. Its military organization embraced only a few hundred men of the Petrograd garrison, but they included many determined and absolutely devoted revolutionary soldiers, young officers, and, principally, ensigns who had been imprisoned by Kerensky during July and August. All these now placed themselves at the disposal of the Military Revolutionary Committee and were appointed to the most responsible militant posts.
It will not be out of place, however, to note here that it was exactly the members of the military organization of our party who, in November, adopted an attitude of extreme caution and even of some scepticism towards the idea of an immediate rising. The exclusive character of the organization and its avowedly military character involuntarily inclined its leaders to overestimate the importance of the purely technical means of an insurrection, and from this point of view we were undoubtedly very weak. Our strength lay in the revolutionary spirit of the masses and in their readiness to fight under our banner.


Side by side with the work of organization a raging and tearing agitation was being carried on. It was a period of incessant meetings at factories, in the Modern and Ciniselli Circuses, in the clubs and barracks. The atmosphere at all these meetings was decidedly electric. Every mention of an insurrection was met with a storm of applause and cries of approval. The bourgeois Press only intensified the general state of alarm. My order to the Sestroretski Small Arms Factory about the issue of 5,000 rifles to the Red Guard called forth an indescribable panic in bourgeois circles. They talked and wrote constantly about a general massacre that was being prepared. This, of course, did not in the least prevent the workers of the Sestroretski Factory from issuing arms to the Red Guards. The more furiously the bourgeois Press slandered and execrated us, the more ardently did the masses respond to our call. It became more and more evident to both sides that the crisis was bound to come to a head in the course of the next few days. The Socialist Revolutionary and Menshevik Press were frantically agitated: “The Revolution is in the greatest danger! A repetition of the July days is being prepared on an immensely greater scale and will therefore be bound to have still more ruinous results.”
Gorki, in his paper Novaya Zhizn (New Life), daily prophesied the coming collapse of the whole cultural life of the country. In general, the Socialist red paint was vanishing with astonishing rapidly from the bourgeois intellectuals as the stern reign of the working-class dictatorship drew nearer. On the other hand, the soldiers, even of the more backward regiments, were greeting the Commissioners of the Military Revolutionary Committee with enthusiasm. Delegates were arriving from Cossack troops and from the Socialist minority amongst the cadets, promising, in case of an open collision, to secure, at least, the neutrality of their men. It was evident that Kerensky’s Government was simply hanging in the air, without any firm ground under its feet.
The Military Staff of the district entered into negotiations with us and proposed a compromise. In order to get an idea of the strength of resistance of our foe we entered into pourparlers. But the nerves of the Staff were all on edge. Now they would admonish, then they would threaten us, and even declared that our Commissioners were illegal – which ban, of course, did not in the least interfere with their work. The Central Executive Committee, in agreement with the Military Staff, appointed Staff Captain Malevsky to be Chief Commissioner for the Petrograd military district, and generously consented to recognize our Commissioners, provided they were subordinated to their Chief Commissioner. This proposal was rejected and the negotiations were broken off.
Prominent Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries would come to us as mediators, reason with and threaten us, foretelling our doom and the doom of the Revolution.


The building of the Smolny Institute was at that time already in the hands of the Petrograd Soviet and of our party. The Mensheviks and the Right Socialist Revolutionaries had moved to Marie Palace, where the scarcely born Provisional Parliament was almost breathing its last. Kerensky made a great speech in the Provisional Parliament, in which, accompanied by the stormy applause of the bourgeois section, he attempted to conceal his impotence behind hysterical threats. The Military Staff made a last attempt at resistance. It sent an invitation to various units of the garrison, asking them to appoint two delegates from each unit to discuss the question of the evacuation of troops from the capital. The conference was fixed for one o’clock, November 4th. The regiments immediately informed us of this invitation, and we at once called a meeting of the garrison over the telephone for eleven o’clock in the morning. Some of the delegates, however, found their way to the Staff, but only to declare that without the permission of the Petrograd Soviet they would not go an inch anywhere. The garrison meeting almost unanimously reaffirmed its loyalty to the Military Revolutionary Committee. Opposition came only from the official representatives of the former Soviet parties, but it found no support whatever among the delegates of the regiments. The attempt of the Military Staff only showed the more clearly that the ground beneath our feet was firm. In the front ranks stood the Volhynian Regiment – the same one which, on the night of July 16th-17th, had marched to the strains of its band into the Taurida Palace for the purpose of putting down the Bolsheviks.
The Central Executive Committee, as was stated above, held possession of the funds and the Press of the Petrograd Soviet. All efforts to obtain possession even of one of these papers had proved of no avail. Hence about the middle of October steps had been taken to establish an independent paper for the Petrograd Soviet. But all the printing establishments were occupied, and their owners boycotted us, with the connivance of the Central Executive Committee. It was, therefore, decided to organize a Petrograd Soviet Day for the purpose of promoting an extended propaganda and collecting money for the establishment of a paper. This day had been fixed a fortnight previously for November 4th, and thus coincided with the date when the insurrection was publicly coming to view. The hostile Press was announcing it as an established fact that in November there would be an armed rising of the Bolsheviks in the streets of Petrograd. No one doubted that there would be a revolt. The only question was when. Efforts were made to guess and to predict, in order to elicit from us either a denial or an admission. All in vain. The Soviet calmly and confidently was forging ahead, paying no heed to the howl of bourgeois public opinion.
November 4th became the day of the review of the forces of the proletarian army. It went off splendidly in all respects. In spite of the warnings emanating from the Right that rivers of blood would flow in the streets of Petrograd on that day, the masses of the people poured out into the streets in huge waves to take part in the meetings of the Soviet. All our oratorical strength was made full use of; all public places were packed; meetings went on continuously for hours. These were addressed by speakers from our party; by delegates who had come from different parts of the country to take part in the Congress of Soviets; by speakers from the front, from the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, and from the Anarchists. The halls were simply overwhelmed by the masses of workers and soldiers. There had been few such meetings in Petrograd even during the Revolution.
A considerable section of the lower middle class was greatly disturbed – not so much actually frightened as made uneasy by the warnings and slanders of the bourgeois Press. Tens of thousands of people beat in huge waves against the walls of the People’s Palace, overflowed into the corridors, and filled the halls. From the columns enormous garlands of human heads, hands, and feet were hanging down like bunches of grapes. The air seemed impregnated with an electric current, such as is fclt at the most critical moments of a revolution. “Down with Kerensky’s Government!” “Down with the war!” “All authority to the Soviets!” Not one of the representatives of the former Soviet parties dared step forward before this colossal gathering with a word of opposition. The triumph of the Petrograd Soviet was unique and undivided. The campaign was in reality already won. All that remained was to deal the phantom Government a final military blow.


The more cautious elements in our own midst, however, warned us that there were still some units of troops which were not with us – the Cossacks, the Cavalry Regiment, the Semenoff Guards, and the Cyclist Regiment. Propagandists and Commissioners were appointed to these units. Their reports seemed perfectly satisfactory. The heated atmosphere was affecting every one and everything, and even the most conservative elements of the army were unable to withstand the general tendency of the Petrograd garrison.
I went to an open-air meeting of the Semenoff regiment which was considered to be the chief support of the Kerensky Government. The best-known speakers of the Right wing were there. They clung to the conservative regiment of the Guards as to the last prop of the Coalition Ministry. But it was of no avail. The regiment declared in our favour by an overwhelming majority, and did not even allow the former Ministers to finish their speeches. Those groups which still opposed the demands of the Soviet consisted mainly of officers, volunteers, and, generally, of the middle-class intellectuals and semi-intellectuals. The workers and peasant masses were wholly on our side. The cleavage was pretty well along a straight social line.
The central military basis of Petrograd is the Peter and Paul Fortress. We appointed as its commandant a young ensign who soon proved himself to be almost born for the place and in a few hours became complete master of the situation. The “lawful” military authorities stepped aside to wait and see what might happen.
For reasons given above, the Cyclist Regiment was considered by us a very unreliable unit. On November 5th I went to the fortress at about two o’clock in the afternoon. In the courtyard a meeting was being held. The speakers of the Right wing were most cautious and evasive, carefully avoiding any question about Kerensky, whose name, even in soldiers’ circles, always gave rise to cries of protest and indignation. They, however, listened to us and adhered to us. At four o’clock the cyclists held a battalion meeting in a neighbouring place, in the Modern Circus. Amongst the speakers was the Quartermaster-General Paradeloff. He, too, spoke very, very cautiously. Far gone were the days when the official and semi-official orators never spoke of the workers’ party otherwise than as a band of traitors and hirelings of the German Kaiser. The Assistant-Chief of the Staff came up to me and said: “Let us, for goodness’ sake, come to some understanding.” But it was now too late. Against only thirty votes, the battalion declared itself, after a debate, in favour of the assumption of authority by the Soviets.


The Kerensky Government was casting about for help from’ one quarter to another. It recalled two new cyclist battalions from the front and a mortar battery, and tried to call out some cavalry. The cyclists, when on their way, sent a telegram to the Petrograd Soviet: “We are being taken to Petrograd. We do not know for what purpose. Kindly explain.” We asked them to stop and to send a delegation to us. When the latter arrived, they declared at the meeting of the Soviet that the battalion was entirely on our side. This aroused a new storm of enthusiasm. The battalion was ordered to enter the town immediately.
The number of delegates from the front increased day by day. They came for information on the position of affairs. They took our literature and went back to the front in order to: spread the news that the Petrograd Soviet was carrying on a struggle for the assumption of authority by the workers, soldiers, and peasants. “The trenches will support you,” they told us. The old army committees, on the other hand, which had not been re-elected for the last four or five months, were sending us threatening telegrams. But these frightened no one. We knew perfectly well that the committees were quite out of touch with the masses of the soldiers, as was the Central Executive Committee in regard to the local Soviets.
The Military Revolutionary Committee appointed Commissioners to all the railway stations. They kept all in-coming and out-going trains under close observation, and particularly watched all movements of troops. A continuous telephonic and motor connection was set up with all neighbouring towns and their garrisons. It was the duty of all the Soviets in agreement with the Petrograd Soviet to see to it that no counterrevolutionary troops, or rather troops deceived by the Government, entered Petrograd. The lower ranks of the railway servants at the stations and railway workers gave ready recognition to our Commissioners.
On November 6th a difficulty arose at the Telephone Exchange. We were refused connection. The cadets had entrenched themselves at the Central Telephone Exchange, and under their protection the telephone girls came out in opposition to the Soviet. This was the first manifestation of the future sabotage of the officials and civil servants. The Military Revolutionary Committee sent a detachment to the Telephone Exchange and put two small guns at the entrance. So began thc seizure of the administrative offices. Sailors and Red Guards were stationed in small detachments at the Telegraph Office, at the Post Office, and other public offices, and measures were taken to gain possession of the State Bank. The Soviet Centre, the Smolny Institute, was converted into a fortress. In the attic there we still had, as a legacy from the Central Executive Committee, a score or so of machine guns, but they had been neglected, and the men in charge of them had lost all discipline. We summoned to the Smolny an additional machine-gun detachment, and early in the morning the soldiers were loudly wheeling their machine guns along the long stone Corridors of the Smolny Institute. Some Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, who, were still at the Institute, would now and then put their heads out of the doors with astonished or frightened faces. The Soviet and also the garrison held daily meetings at the Institute.
On the third floor, in a small corner room, the Military Revolutionary Committee was in permanent session. Hither flowed all information regarding the movements of troops, the frame of mind of soldiers and workers, the progress of propaganda in the barracks, the doings of the hooligans, the conferences held by the bourgeois politicians, life in the Winter Palace, and the intentions of the former Soviet parties. Our informants came from every quarter, and included workers, officers, house porters, Socialist cadets, servants, and fashionable ladies. Many brought only ridiculous nonsense; others, however, gave us very valuable information. The decisive moment was drawing near. It was clear that there could be no turning back.
On November 6th, in the evening, Kerensky came to the Provisional Parliament and demanded its approval of repressive measures against the Bolsheviks – but the Provisional Parliament was in a pitiful state of confusion and well-nigh dissolution. The Cadets were urging the Right Socialist Revolutionaries to accept a vote of confidence; the Right Socialist Revolutionaries were exerting pressure on the Centre; the Centre wavered; and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries were carrying on a policy of Parliamentary opposition. After a number of conferences, discussions and hesitations, the resolution of the Left wing was adopted, condemning the seditious movement of the Soviet, but placing the responsibility for this on the anti-democratic policy of the Government. At the same time, we were daily receiving by post letters informing us of the numberless death sentences passed on us, of infernal machines, of the imminent blowing up of the Smolny Institute, etc. The bourgeois Press was savage with hatred and fear. Gorki, completely forgetting his own Song of the Falcon, continued to prophesy in his paper, the Novaya Zhizn, the coming end of the world.
The members of the Military Revolutionary Committee had not left the Smolny Institute for the last week. They slept in snatches on sofas, constantly wakened by couriers, scouts, cyclists, telegraphists, and telephone bells. The most anxious night was that of November 6th-7th. We were informed from Pavlovsk by telephone that the Government was summoning the artillerists from there and the ensigns from the Peterhoff School. Kerensky had collected in the Winter Palace cadets, officers, and “shockers.” We ordered, by telephone, detachments of trustworthy military guards to bar all entrances to Petrograd and to send agitators to meet the detachments summoned by the Government. If they could not be kept back by reason, then arms were to be employed. All our conversations were carried on perfectly openly over the telephone, and were, therefore, accessible to the Government’s agents.
Our Commissioners informed us that our friends were keeping watch over all entrances to Petrograd. A portion of the Oranienbaum cadets did, however, get past our barriers in the night, and we followed up their further movements by telephone. We strengthened the outside guards of the Smolny by summoning another company. We maintained a continuous connection with all parts of the garrison. Squads on duty kept watch in all regiments. Delegates from every unit were constantly, day and night, at the disposal of the Military Revolutionary Committee. An order was issued to put down ruthlessly every Black Hundred agitation, to use arms at the first attempts at street pogroms, and to act, if necessary, without mercy. During this decisive night all the most important points in the city passed into our hands almost without resistance, without fighting, without victims. The State Bank was guarded by Government sentries and an armoured car. The building was surrounded from all sides by our detachments, the armoured car was seized unawares, and the Bank passed into the hands of the Military Revolutionary Committee without a single shot.
On the Neva, below the Franco-Russian Works, stood the cruiser Aurora undergoing repair. Her crew consisted entirely of sailors wholeheartedly devoted to the Revolution. When, at the end of August, Korniloff was threatening Petrograd, the sailors of the Aurora were summoned to protect the Winter Palace. And although they were already extremely hostile to Kerensky’s Government, they knew that their duty was to repel the attempt of the counterrevolutionaries, and they took up their positions without a word. When the danger passed, they were again pushed aside. Now, in these days of the November insurrection, they were too dangerous. The Ministry of the Marine gave orders to the Aurora to get under way and leave Petrograd waters. The crew immediately informed us of this fact. We countermanded the order, and the cruiser remained ready, at any moment, to use all her forces on behalf of the Soviet authority.


At the dawn of November 7th the men and women employed at the party’s printing works came to the Smolny and informed us that the Government had stopped our chief party paper and also the new organ of the Petrograd Soviet. The printing works had had their doors sealed up by some Government agents. The Military Revolutionary Committee at once countermanded the order, took both papers under its protection, and placed the high honour of protecting the freedom of the Socialist Press from counter-revolutionary attempts on the valiant Volhynian Regiment. After this, work was resumed and went on continuously at the printing office, and both papers came out at the appointed hour.
The Government was still in session in the Winter Palace, but it had already become a mere shadow of its former self. It had ceased to exist politically. In the course of November 7th the Winter Palace was gradually surrounded from all sides by our troops. At one o’clock in the afternoon, in the name of the Military Revolutionary Committee, I announced at the sitting of the Petrograd Soviet that Kerensky’s Government no longer existed, and that, pending the decision of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, the Government authority would be assumed by the Military Revolutionary Committee.
Lenin had left Finland some days previously and was living in hiding in a working-class quarter in a suburb. On November 7th he came secretly to the Smolny. Judging by the newspapers, he had gained the impression that we were coming to a compromise with the Kerensky Government. The bourgeois Press had shrieked so much about the coming revolt, the march of armed soldiers in the streets, the pillage, and the inevitable rivers of blood, that it did not perceive the insurrection which, in reality, was now taking place, and accepted the negotiations between ourselves and the Military Staff at their face value. All this time, quietly, without any street fighting, without firing or bloodshed, one Government institution after another was being seized by highly disciplined detachments of soldiers, sailors, and Red Guards, in accordance with the exact telephone instructions emanating from the little room on the third floor of the Smolny Institute.
In the evening, the second All-Russian Congress of the Soviets held a preliminary meeting.
The report of the Central Executive Committee was submitted by Dan. He delivered an indictment against the rebels, the usurpers, and sedition-mongers, and tried to frighten the meeting by predicting the inevitable collapse of the insurrection, which in a day or two, he said, would be suppressed by troops from the front. His speech sounded exceedingly unconvincing and very much out of place in a hall in which the overwhelming majority of delegates were following with the greatest enthusiasm the victorious march of the Petrograd rising.
By this time the Winter Palace was surrounded, though not yet taken. From time to time shots were fired from the windows at the besiegers who were slowly and very carefully closing in upon the building. From the Peter and Paul Fortress a few shells were fired at the Palace, their distant sounds reaching the Smolny. Martoff, with impotent indignation, was speaking from the rostrum of civil war, and particularly of the siege of the Winter Palace where, among the other Ministers, there were – oh, horror of horrors! – members of the Menshevik Party. Two sailors, who had come to give news from the scenes of struggle, took the platform against him. They reminded our accusers of the July offensive, of the whole perfidious policy of the old Government, of the re-establishment of the death penalty for soldiers, of the arrests, of the sacking of revolutionary organizations, and vowed that they would either conquer or die. They it was who brought us the news of the first victims on our side on the Palace Square.
Every one rose as though moved by some invisible signal, and with a unanimity which is only provoked by a deep moral intensity of feeling sung a Funeral March. He who lived through this moment will never forget it. The meeting came to an abrupt end. It was impossible to sit there, calmly discussing the theoretical question as to the method of constructing the Government, with the echo reaching our ears of the fighting and firing at the walls of the Winter Palace, where, as a matter of fact, the fate of this very Government was already being decided.
The taking of the Palace, however, was a protracted business, and this caused some wavering amongst the less determined elements of the Congress. The Right wing, through its spokesmen, prophesied our early doom. All were waiting anxiously for news from the Winter Palace. After some time, Antonoff, who, had been directing the operations, arrived. At once there was dead silence in the hail. The Winter Palace had been taken. Kerensky had taken flight. The other Ministers had been arrested and conveyed to the Peter and Paul Fortress. The first chapter of the November Revolution was at an end.
The Right Socialist Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks, numbering altogether about sixty persons, that is, about one-tenth of the Congress, left the meeting under protest. As they could do nothing else, they “threw the whole responsibility” for whatever might now happen on the Bolsheviks and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries. The latter were still wavering. Their past bound them closely to Tchernoff’s party. The Right wing of this party had now shifted entirely towards the lower middle class and their intellectuals, to the well-to-do peasants in the villages; in all, decisive questions it was marching hand in hand with the Liberal bourgeoisie against us. The more revolutionary elements of the party, reflecting the Radicalism of the social aspirations of the poorest peasantry, gravitated to the proletariat and its party. They were afraid, however, to cut the umbilical cord which bound them with the old party. When we were about to leave the Provisional Parliament, they refused to follow us and warned us against “adventures.” But the insurrection forced them to choose either for or against the Soviet. Not without hesitation, they were concentrating their forces on the same side of the barricade where we stood.
History of the Russian Revolution to Brest-Litovsk Index

***Stop The Killer-Drone Madness…Stop It Now

***Stop The Killer-Drone Madness…Stop It Now

Late one night in 2014 Ralph Morris and Sam Eaton had been sitting at a bar in Boston, Jack Higgin’s Grille, down a few streets from the financial district toward Quincy Market talking about various experiences, political experiences in their lives as they were wont to do these days since they were both mostly retired. Ralph having turned over the day to day operation of his specialty electronics shop in Troy, New York to his youngest son as he in his turn had taken over from his father Ralph, Sr. when he had retired in 1991 (the eldest son, Ralph III, had opted for a career as a software engineer for General Electric still a force in the local economy although not nearly as powerful as when Ralph was young and it had been the largest private employer in the Tri-City area) and Sam had sold off his small print shop business in Carver down about thirty miles south of Boston to a large copying company when he had finally seen a few years before the writing on the wall that the day of the small specialty print shop specializing in silk-screening and other odd job methods of reproduction was done for in the computerized color world. 

So they had time for remembrances back to the days in the early 1970s when they had first met and had caught the tail-end of the big splash 1960s political and social explosion that stirred significant elements of their generation, “the generation of ’68” so-called by Sam’s friend from New York City Fritz Jasper although neither of them had been involved in any of the cataclysmic events that had occurred in America (and the world) that year. Sam had that year fitfully been trying to start his own small printing business after working for a few years for Mr. Snyder the premier printer in town and he was knee-deep in trying to mop up on the silk-screen craze for posters and tee shirts and had even hired his old friend from high school Jack Callahan who had gone to the Massachusetts School of Art as his chief silk-screen designer, and later when he moved off the dime politically his acting manager as well. Ralph’s excuse was simpler, simplicity itself for he was knee-deep in the big muddy in the Central Highlands of Vietnam trying to keep body and soul together against that damn Charlie who wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Occasionally over the years Ralph would come to Boston on trips at Sam’s invitation and they almost always would go have a few at Jack Higgin’s during his stay talking mainly family matters before Ralph would head back to Troy and his family but more frequently of late they would go back over the ground of their youth, would go over more that ground more than one time to see if something they could have done, or something they did not do, would have made a difference when the “counter-revolution,” when the conservative push-back reared its head, when the cultural wars began in earnest with the ebbing of that big good night 1960s explosion. Sam would return the favor by going out to Albany, or more frequently to Saratoga Springs where he, they could see who from the old days, Utah Phillips before he passed away, Rosalie Sorrels before she left the road, Ronnie Gilbert and Pete Seeger before they passed but you get the picture, the old folk minute of the early 1960s that Sam had been very interested in when he started to hang around Cambridge later in that decade, were still alive enough to be playing at the famous coffeehouse still going from the 1960s, the Café Lena, although minus founder Lena for quite a while now. Sam had never lost the bug, never lost that longing for the lost folk minute that in his mind connected in with him hanging around the Hayes-Bickford in Harvard Square on lonesome weekends nights seeing what was to be seen. Sam had dragged Ralph, who despite living on about less than an hour away had never heard of the Café Lena since he had been tuned to the AM stations playing the awful stuff that got air time after the classic period of rock went into decline and before rock became acid-tinged, along with him and he had developed a pretty fair appreciation for the music as well.          

The conversation that night in 2014 got going after the usual few whiskey and sodas used to fortify them for the night talkfest had begun to take effect had been pushed in the direction of what ever happened to that socialist vision that had driven some of their early radical political work together (in the old days both of them in these midnight gabfest would have fortified themselves with in succession grass, cocaine, speed and watch the sun come up and still be talking. These days about midnight would be the end point, maybe earlier.). The specific reason for that question coming up that night had been that Sam had asked Ralph a few weeks before to write up a little remembrance of when he had first heard the socialist-anarchist-communist-radical labor militant   international working class anthem, the Internationale, for Fritz Jasper’s blog, American Protest Music

Sam had noted that Ralph had with a certain sorrow stated that he no longer had occasion to sing the song. Moreover one of the reasons for that absence was that  despite his and Sam’s continued “good old cause” left-wing political activism socialism as a solution to humankind’s impasses was deeply out of favor (that activism as Ralph mentioned to Sam on more than one occasion these days considerably shortened from the old frenzied 24/7 desperate struggles around trying unsuccessfully end the Vietnam War from the American side by getting the government to stop the damn thing although the Vietnamese liberation forces in the end and at great cost had had no trouble doing so). 

People, intellectuals and working stiffs alike, no longer for the most part had that socialist vision goal that had driven several generations, or the best parts of those generations, since the mid-19th century to put their efforts into, did not have that goal on their radar, didn’t see a way out of the malaise through that route. Had moreover backed off considerably from that prospective since the demise of the Soviet Union and its satellites in the early 1990s if not before despite the obvious failure of capitalism to any longer put a dent in the vast inequalities and injustices, their suffered inequalities and injustices, in the world. Sam had had to agree to that sad statement, had had to agree that they, in effect, too had abandoned that goal in their own lives for all practical purposes even though they had been driven by that vision for a while once they got “religion” in the old days in the early 1970s, once they saw that the anti-war struggle that animated their first efforts was not going to get the war-makers to stop making war. 

Maybe it was the booze, maybe it was growing older and more reflective, maybe it was that Ralph’s comments had stirred up some sense of guilt for losing the hard edge of their youthful dreams but that night Sam wanted to press the issue of what that socialist prospective meant, what they thought it was all about (both agreed in passing, almost as an afterthought that what had happened, what passed for socialism in the Soviet Union and elsewhere was NOT what they were dreaming of although they gave third world liberation struggles against imperialism like in Vietnam dependent on Soviet aid plenty of wiggle room to make mistakes and still retain their support).        

Both men during the course of their conversation commented on the fact that no way, no way in hell, if it had not been for the explosive events of the 1960s, of the war and later a bunch of social issue questions, mainly third world liberation struggles internationally and the black liberation question at home they would not even be having the conversation they were having (both also chuckling a little at using the old time terms, especially the use of “struggle” and “question,” for example the  black, gay, woman question since lately they had noticed that younger activists no longer spoke in such terms but used more ephemeral “white privilege,” “patriarchy,”  “gender” terms reflecting the identity politics that have been in fashion for a long time, since the ebb flow of the 1960s).  

No, nothing in the sweet young lives of Samuel Eaton to the Carver cranberry bog capital of world in Carver (then) working-class born (his father a “bogger” himself when they needed extra help) and Ralph Morris, Junior to the Troy General Electric plants-dominated working- class born would have in say 1967, maybe later, projected that almost fifty years later they would be fitfully and regretfully speaking about the their visions of socialism and it demise as a world driving force for social change.  

Ralph and Sam had imbibed all the standard identifiable working-class prejudices against reds, some of those prejudices more widespread among the general population of the times, you know, like the big red scare Cold War “your mommy is a commie, turn her in,” “the Russians are coming get under the desk and hold onto your head,” anybody to the left of Grandpa Ike, maybe even him, communist dupes of Joe Stalin and his progeny who pulled the strings from Moscow and made everybody jumpy; against blacks (Ralph had stood there right next to his father, Ralph, Sr., when he led the physical opposition to blacks moving into the Tappan Street section of town and had nothing, along with his corner boys at Van Patten’s Drugstore, but the “n” word to call black people, sometimes to their faces and Sam’s father was not much better, a southerner from hillbilly country down in Appalachia who had been stationed in Hingham at the end of World War II and stayed, who never could until his dying breathe call blacks anything but the “n” word); against gays and lesbians (Ralph and his boys mercilessly fag and dyke baiting them whenever the guys and he went to Saratoga Springs where those creeps spent their summers doing whatever nasty things they did to each other and Sam likewise down in Provincetown with his boys, he helping, beating up some poor guy in a back alley after one of them had made a fake pass at the guy, Jesus; against uppity woman, servile, domestic child-producing women like their good old mothers and sisters and wanna-bes were okay as were “easy” girls ready to toot their whistles, attitudes which they had only gotten beaten out of them when they ran into their respective future wives who had both been influenced by the women’s liberation movement although truth to tell they were not especially political, but rather artistic.  Native Americans didn’t even rate a nod since they were not on the radar, were written off in any case as fodder for cowboys and soldiers in blue. But mainly they had been red, white and blue American patriotic guys who really did have ice picks in their eyes for anybody who thought they would like to tread on old Uncle Sam (who had been “invented” around Ralph’s hometown way).       

See Ralph, Sam too for that matter, had joined the anti-war movement for personal reasons at first which had to do a lot with ending the war in Vietnam and not a lot about “changing the whole freaking world” (Ralph’s term). Certainly not creeping around the fringes of socialism before the 1960s ebbed and they had to look to the long haul to pursue their political dreams. Ralph’s story was a little bit amazing that way, see, he had served in the military, served in the Army, in Vietnam, had been drafted in early 1967 while he was working in his father’s electrical shop and to avoid being “cannon fodder” as anybody could see what was happening to every “drafted as infantry guy” he had enlisted (three years against the draft’s two) with the expectation of getting something in the electrical field as a job, something useful. But in 1967, 1968 what Uncle needed, desperately needed as General Westmoreland called for more troops, was more “grunts” to flush out Charlie and so Ralph wound up with a unit in the Central Highlands, up in the bush trying to kill every commie he could get his hands on just like the General wanted. He had extended his tour to eighteen months to get out a little early from his enlistment not so much that he was gung-ho but because he had become fed up with what the war had done to him, what he had had to do to survive, what his buddies had had to do to survive and what the American government had turned them all into, nothing but animals, nothing more, as he told everybody who would listen. When he was discharged in late 1969 he wound up joining the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), the main anti-war veterans group at the time. Such a move by Ralph and thousands of other soldiers who had served in ‘Nam a real indication even today of how unpopular that war was when the guys who had fought the damn thing arms in hand, mostly guys then, rose up against the slaughter, taking part in a lot of their actions around Albany and New York City mainly.

Here is the way Ralph told Sam in 1971 about how he came in contact with VVAW while they had plenty of time to talk when they were being detained in RFK Stadium after being arrested in a May Day demonstration. One day in 1970 Ralph was taking a high compression motor to Albany to a customer and had parked the shop truck on Van Dyke Street near Russell Sage College. Coming down the line, silent, silent as the grave he thought later, were a ragtag bunch of guys in mismatched (on purpose he found out later) military uniforms carrying individual signs but with a big banner in front calling for immediate withdrawal from Vietnam and signing the banner with the name of the organization-Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). That was all, and all that was needed. Nobody on those still patriotic, mostly government worker, streets called them commies or anything like that but you could tell some guys in white collars who never came close to a gun, except maybe to kill animals or something defenseless really wanted to. One veteran as they came nearer to Ralph shouted out for any veterans to join them, to tell the world what they knew first-hand about what was going on in Vietnam. Yeah, that shout-out was all Ralph needed he said, all he needed to join his “band of brothers.”                               

Sam as he recalled how he and Ralph had met in Washington had remembered that Ralph had first noticed that he was wearing a VVAW supporter button and Ralph had asked if he had been in ‘Nam. Sam, a little sheepishly, explained that he had been exempted from military duty since he was the sole support for his mother and four younger sisters after his father had passed away of a massive heart attack in 1965. (He had gone to work in Mister Snyder’s print shop where he had learned enough about the printing business to later open his own shop which he kept afloat somehow during the late 1960s with Jack Callahan’s help and which became his career after he settled down when the 1960s ebbed and people started heading back to “normal.”) He then told Ralph the reason that he had joined the anti-war movement after years of relative indifference since he was not involved in the war effort had been that his closest high school friend, Jeff Mullins, had been blown away in the Central Highlands and that had made him question what was going on. Jeff, like them had been as red, white and blue as any guy, had written him when he was in Vietnam that he thought that the place, the situation that he found himself in was more than he bargained for, and that if he didn’t make it back for Sam to tell people, everybody he could what was really going on. Then with just a few months to go Jeff was blown away near some village that Sam could not spell or pronounce correctly even all these many years later. Jeff had not only been Sam’s best friend but was as straight a guy as you could meet, and had gotten Sam out of more than a few scrapes, a few illegal scrapes that could have got him before some judge. So that was how Sam got “religion,” not through some intellectual or rational argument about the theories of war, just wars or “your country right or wrong wars,” but because his friend had been blown away, blown away for no good reason as far as that went.  

At first Sam had worked with Quakers and other pacifist types because he knew they were in Cambridge where he found himself hanging out more and more trying to connect with the happenings that were splitting his generation to hell and back. They got him doing acts of civil disobedience at draft boards, including the Carver Draft Board on Allan Road the place where Jeff had been drafted from (and which created no little turmoil and threats among the Eaton’s neighbors who were still plenty patriotic at that point, his mother and sisters took some of the fire as well), military bases and recruiting stations to try to get the word out to kids who might get hoodwinked in joining up in the slaughter. As the war dragged on though he started going to Cambridge meetings where more radical elements were trying to figure out actions that might stop the damn war cold and that appealed to him more than the “assuming the government was rational and would listen to reason” protest actions of those “gentile little old ladies in tennis sneakers.”

1971 though, May Day 1971 to be exact is, where these two stories, two very different stories with the same theme joined together. Sam at that point in 1971 was like Ralph just trying to get the war ended, maybe help out the Panthers a little but before May Day had no grandiose ideas about changing the “whole freaking world.” Sam had gone down to Washington with a group of Cambridge radicals and “reds” to do what he could to shut down the war under the slogan-“if the government does not shut down the war, we will shut down the government.” Ralph had come down with a contingent of ex-veterans and supporters from Albany for that same purpose. Sam and Ralph had as a result met on the bizarre football field at RFK Stadium which was the main holding area for the thousands of people arrested that day (and throughout the week)

So May Day was a watershed for both men, both men having before May Day sensed that more drastic action was necessary to “tame the American imperial monster” (Sam’s term picked up from The Real Paper, an alternative newspaper he had picked up at a street newsstand in Cambridge) and had come away from that experience, that disaster, with the understanding that even to end the war would take much more, and many more people, than they had previously expected. Ralph, in particular, had been carried away with the notion that what he and his fellow veterans who were going to try to symbolically close down the Pentagon were doing as veterans would cause the government pause, would make them think twice about any retaliation to guys who had served and seen it all. Ralph got “smart” on that one fast when the National Guard which was defending the Pentagon, or part of it that day, treated them like any Chicago cops at the Democratic Party Convention in 1968, treated them like cops did to any SDS-ers anywhere, and like anybody else who raised their voices against governmental policy in the streets.

Ralph told Sam while in captivity that he still worked in his father’s shop for a while but their relationship was icy (and would be for a long time after that although in 1991 when Ralph, Senior retired Ralph took over the business). He would take part in whatever actions he could around the area (and down in New York City a couple of times when they called for re-enforcements to make a big splash).

Ralph has like he said joined with a group of VVAW-ers and supporters for an action down in Washington, D.C. The idea, which would sound kind of strange today in a different time when there is very little overt anti-war activity against the current crop of endless wars but also shows how desperate they were to end that damn war, was to on May Day shut down the government if it did not shut down the war. Their task, as part of the bigger scheme, since they were to form up as a total veterans and supporters contingent was to symbolically shut down the Pentagon. Wild right, but see the figuring was that they, the government, would not dare to arrest vets and they figured (“they” meaning all those who planned the events and went along with the plan) the government would treat it somewhat like the big civilian action at the Pentagon in 1967 which Norman Mailer won a literary prize writing a book about, Armies of the Night. Silly them. 

They after the fall-out from that event were thus searching for a better way to handle things, a better way to make an impact because those few days of detention in D.C. that they had jointly suffered not only started what would be a lifelong personal friendship but an on-going conversation between them over the next several years about how to bring about the greater social change they sensed was needed before one could even think about stopping wars and stuff like that. (The story in short of how they got out of RFK after a few days was pretty straight forward. Since law enforcement was so strapped that week somebody had noticed and passed the word along that some of the side exits in the stadium were not guarded and so they had just walked out and got out of town fast, very fast, hitchhiking back north to Carver, and Ralph later to Troy). Hence the push by Sam toward the study groups led by “red collectives” that were sprouting up then peopled by others who had the same kind of questions which they would join, unjoin and work with, or not work with over the next few years before both men sensed the tide of the rolling 1960s had ebbed. 

Old time high school thoughts even with the cross-fire hells of burned down Vietnam villages melted into the back of his brain crossed his mind when Ralph thought of Marx, Lenin (he, they, were not familiar with Trotsky except he had “bought it” down in Mexico with an icepick from some assassin), Joe Stalin, Red Square, Moscow and commie dupes. Sam had not been far behind in his own youthful prejudices as he told Ralph one night after a class and they were tossing down a few at Jack’s in Cambridge before heading home to the commune where Sam was staying.

Ralph had gone out of his way to note in that blog entry for Fritz that before he got “religion” on the anti-war and later social justice issues he held as many anti-communist prejudices as anybody else in Troy, New York where he hailed from, not excluding his rabidly right-wing father who never really believed until his dying days in 2005 that the United States had lost the war in Vietnam. Ralph had realized that all the propaganda he had been fed was like the wind and his realization of that had made him  a very angry young man when he got out of the Army in late 1969. He tried to talk to his father about it but Ralph, Senior was hung up in a combination “good war, World War II, his war where America saved international civilization from the Nazis and Nips (his father’s term since he fought in the Pacific with the Marines) and “my country, right or wrong.” All Ralph, Senior really wanted Ralph to do was get back to the shop and help him fill those goddam GE defense contract orders. And he did it, for a while.

Ralph had also expressed his feelings of trepidation when after a lot of things went south on the social justice front with damn little to show for all the arrests, deaths, and social cataclysm he and Sam had gotten into a study group in Cambridge run by a “Red October Collective” which focused on studying “Che” Guevara and the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky after an introduction to the Marxist classics. Sam who was living in that commune in Cambridge at the time, the summer of 1972, had invited Ralph to come over from Troy to spent the summer in the study group trying to find out what had gone wrong (and what they had gotten right too, as Sam told him not to forget), why they were spinning their wheels trying to change the world for the better just then and to think about new strategies and tactics for the next big break-out of social activism. At the end of each meeting they would sing the Internationale before the group broke up. At first Ralph had a hard time with the idea of singing a “commie” song (he didn’t put it that way but he might as well have according to Sam) unlike something like John Lennon’s Give Peace A Chance, songs like that. As he, they got immersed in the group Ralph lightened up and would sing along if not with gusto then without a snicker.

That same apprehensive attitude had prevailed when after about three meetings they began to study what the group leader, Jeremy, called classic Marxism, the line from Marx and Engels to Lenin and the Bolsheviks. A couple of the early classes dealt with the American Civil War and its relationship to the class struggle in America, and Marx’s views on what was happening, why it was necessary for all progressives to side with the North and the end of slavery, and why despite his personal flaws and attitudes toward blacks Abraham Lincoln was a figure to admire all of which both men knew little about except the battles and military leaders in American History classes. What caused the most fears and consternation was the need for revolution worked out in practice during the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917. They could see that it was necessary in Russia during those times but America in the 1970s was a different question, not to speak of the beating that they had taken for being “uppity” in the streets in Washington, D.C. in 1971 when they didn’t think about revolution (maybe others had such ideas but if so they kept them to themselves) and the state came crashing down on them.    

The biggest problem though was trying to decipher all the various tendencies in the socialist movement. Ralph, maybe Sam more so, though if everybody wanted the same thing, wanted a better and more peaceful system to live under then they should all get together in one organization, or some such form. The split between the Social Democrats and the Communists, later the split between Stalinists and Trotskyists, and still later the split between Stalinists and Maoists had their heads spinning, had then thankful that they did not have to fight those fights out.

All in all though they had the greatest respect for Trotsky, Trotsky the serious smart intellectual with a revolver in his hand. Had maybe a little sympathy for the doomed revolutionary tilling against the windmills and not bitching about it. Maybe feeling a little like that was the rolling the rock up the hill that they would be facing. That admiration of Trotsky did not extend to the twelve million sects, maybe that number is too low, who have endlessly split from a stillborn organization he started when he felt the Communist International had stopped being a revolutionary force, the Fourth International. Sam brought up a Catholic would make Ralph laugh when he compared those disputes to the old time religious disputes back in the Middle Ages about how many angels would fit on the tip of a needle. They, after spending the summer in study decided that for a while they would work with whoever still needed help but that as far as committing to joining an ongoing organization forget it. 

At the beginning in any case, and that might have affected his ultimate decision, some of Ralph’s old habits kind of held him back, you know the anti-red stuff, Cold War enemy stuff, just like at first he had had trouble despite all he knew about calling for victory to the Viet Cong (who in-country they called “Charlie” in derision although after  Tet 1968 with much more respect when Charlie came at them and kept coming despite high losses). But Ralph got over it, got in the swing. 

The Marxism did not come easy, the theory part, maybe for Ralph a little more than Sam who had taken junior college night classes to bolster the small print shop he had built from nothing after Mister Snyder moved his operation to Quincy to be nearer his main client, State Street Bank and Trust (although for long periods his old Carver friend, Jack Callahan, managed the place when Sam was off on his campaigns). They got that the working-class, their class, should rule and be done with inequalities of all kinds but the idea of a revolution, or more importantly, a working class party which was on everybody’s mind in those days to lead that revolution seemed, well, utopian. The economic theory behind Marxism, that impossible to read Das Capital and historical materialism as a philosophy were books sealed with seven seals for them both. Nevertheless for a few years, say until 1975, 1976 when the tide really had ebbed for anybody who wanted to see they hung around with the local “reds,” mostly those interested in third world liberation struggles and political prisoner defense work. Those were really the earnest “socialist years” although if you had asked them for a model of what their socialism looked like they probably would have pointed to Cuba which seemed fresher than the stodgy old Soviet Union with their Brezhnev bureaucrats.

After that time while they would periodically read the left press and participate any time somebody, some group needed bodies for a rally, demonstration, some street action they would be there in their respective hometowns that they both eventually filtered back to. Then 2002 came and the endless wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and seemingly a million other places drove them to drop their “armed truce” (Sam’s term picked up by Ralph) with society and return to the streets , return with an almost youthful vengeance. They would see young people at the rallies hocking their little Marxist papers, maybe buy one to read a home but that flame that had caused them to join study groups, to work with Marxist-oriented “red collectives,” to read books that were hard to fathom had passed, had passed just as socialism as a way to end humankind’s impasses had fallen out of favor once the Soviet Union and its satellites had gone up in a puff of smoke. Sam thought one time that maybe those earnest kids with their wafer-thin newspapers will study the classics and make more sense out of them than Sam and Ralph could. As for Sam and Ralph they would now just keep showing up to support the “good old cause.”              
 And here is what Ralph, an ex-Vietnam veteran and no stranger to war up close and personal  had to say about the damn drones:   

If one takes a quick look at military history not at the pre-conditions that set any particular war up but, you know, what was decisive in the victory of one side over the other you will, except those times when desperate valor saved the day, actually an unusual occurrence in the great scheme of warfare, notice that the side with the technological advantage, the latest gadget usually will prevail. Or at least that is what the average run of military historians will highlight. Taking an example from American internal war history, the Civil War of the 1860s, the decisive edge had been given to the industrial power of the North to produce as many cannon, guns, wagons, etc. as needed whereas the South, especially after Billy Sherman and his “bummers” marched through Georgia and its environs squeezing whatever industrial capacity that region did have, was starved for such materials. Thereafter the massing of high caliber accurate firepower weaponry became the standard on the battlefield.

All of this simple-simon history is presented to make a point about what military strategists are up to these days with the incessant use of killer-drones, those gadgets that now, whether recognized as such or not are seen as the solution to reducing the need for boots on the ground which in turn means that those like the American military and its civilian administrators need to worry less about outraged citizens when the body count gets too high. That has not deterred every administration, including the current Obama one from anteing up the boots on the ground when the deal goes down and land needs to be secured. So needless to say this military “new age” thinking is hogwash since while drones had more than occasionally hit their targets they have more than occasionally created what is euphemistically termed “collateral damage” to anybody in the area of the strike.

That fact alone, that fact of innocent civilian causalities, is why I along with others, hopefully a growing number of others, are out in the streets at anti-war rallies and elsewhere telling presidents and generals to stop their killer-drone programs. Join us on this one just like you would when the American government throws boot on the ground in some ill-conceived plan to make the world “safe for democracy.”