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   Chapter 11 BOLSHEVISM

The Inside Story of the Peace Conference By Emile Joseph Dillon Characters: 42461

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

What is Bolshevism? A generic term that stands for a number of things which have little in common. It varies with the countries where it appears. In Russia it is the despotism of an organized and unscrupulous group of men in a disorganized community. It might also be termed the frenzy of a few epileptics running amuck among a multitude of paralytics. It is not so much a political doctrine or a socialist theory as a psychic disease of a section of the community which cannot be cured without leaving permanent traces and perhaps modifying certain organic functions of the society affected. For some students at a distance who make abstraction from its methods-as a critic appreciating the performance of "Hamlet" might make abstraction from the part of the Prince of Denmark-it is a modification of the theory of Karl Marx, the newest contribution to latter-day social science. In Russia, at any rate, the general condition of society from which it sprang was characterized not by the advance of social science, but by a psychic disorder the germs of which, after a century of incubation, were brought to the final phase of development by the war. In its origins it is a pathological phenomenon.

Four and a half years of an unprecedented campaign which drained to exhaustion the financial and economic resources of the European belligerents upset the psychical equilibrium of large sections of their populations. Goaded by hunger and disease to lawless action, and no longer held back by legal deterrents or moral checks, they followed the instinct of self-preservation to the extent of criminal lawlessness. Familiarity with death and suffering dispelled the fear of human punishment, while numbness of the moral sense made them insensible to the less immediate restraints of a religious character. These phenomena are not unusual concomitants of protracted wars. History records numerous examples of the homecoming soldiery turning the weapons destined for the foreign foe against political parties or social classes in their own country. In other European communities for some time previously a tendency toward root-reaching and violent change was perceptible, but as the state retained its hold on the army it remained a tendency. In the case of Russia-the country where the state, more than ordinarily artificial and ill-balanced, was correspondingly weak-Fate had interpolated a blood-stained page of red and white terror in the years 1906-08. Although fitful, unorganized, and abortive, that wild splutter was one of the foretokens of the impending cataclysm, and was recognized as such by the writer of these pages. During the foregoing quarter of a century he had watched with interest the sowing of the dragon's teeth from which was one day to spring up a race of armed and frenzied men. Few observers, however, even in the Tsardom, gaged the strength or foresaw the effects of the anarchist propaganda which was being carried on suasively and perseveringly, oftentimes unwittingly, in the nursery, the school, the church, the university, and with eminent success in the army and the navy. Hence the widespread error that the Russian revolution was preceded by no such era of preparation as that of the encylopedists in France.

Recently, however, publicists have gone to the other extreme and asserted that Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Gorky, and a host of other Russian writers were apostles of the tenets which have since received the name of Bolshevism, and that it was they who prepared the Russian upheaval just as it was the authors of the "Encyclopedia" who prepared the French Revolution. In this sweeping form the statement is misleading. Russian literature during the reigns of the last three Tsars-with few exceptions, like the writings of Leskoff-was unquestionably a vehicle for the spread of revolutionary ideas. But it would be a gross exaggeration to assert that the end deliberately pursued was that form of anarchy which is known to-day as Bolshevism, or, indeed, genuine anarchy in any form. Tolstoy and Gorky may be counted among the forerunners of Bolshevism, but Dostoyevsky, whom I was privileged to know, was one of its keenest antagonists. Nor was it only anarchism that he combated. Like Leskoff, he was an inveterate enemy of political radicalism, and we university students bore him a grudge in consequence. In his masterly delineation[273] of a group of "reformers," in particular of Verkhovensky-whom psychic tendency, intellectual anarchy, and political crime bring under the category of Bolshevists-he foreshadowed the logical conclusion, and likewise the political consummation, of the corrosive doctrines which in those days were associated with the name of Bakunin. In the year 1905-06, when the upshot of the conflict between Tsarism and the revolution was still doubtful, Count Witte and I often admired the marvelous intuition of the great novelist, whose gallery of portraits in the "Devils" seemed to have become suddenly endowed with life, and to be conspiring, shooting, and bomb-throwing in the streets of Moscow, Petersburg, Odessa, and Tiflis. The seeds of social revolution sown by the novelists, essayists, and professional guides of the nation were forced by the wars of 1904 and 1914 into rapid germination.

As far back as the year 1892, in a work published over a pseudonym, the present writer described the rotten condition of the Tsardom, and ventured to foretell its speedy collapse.[274] The French historian Michelet wrote with intuition marred by exaggeration and acerbity: "A barbarous force, a law-hating world, Russia sucks and absorbs all the poison of Europe and then gives it off in greater quantity and deadlier intensity. When we admit Russia, we admit the cholera, dissolution, death. That is the meaning of Russian propaganda. Yesterday she said to us, 'I am Christianity.' To-morrow she will say, 'I am socialism.' It is the revolting idea of a demagogy without an idea, a principle, a sentiment, of a people which would march toward the west with the gait of a blind man, having lost its soul and its will and killing at random, of a terrible automaton like a dead body which can still reach and slay.

"It might commove Europe and bespatter it with blood, but that would not hinder it from plunging itself into nothingness in the abysmal ooze of definite dissolution."

Russia, then, led by domiciled aliens without a fatherland, may be truly said to have been wending steadily toward the revolutionary vortex long before the outbreak of hostilities. Her progress was continuous and perceptible. As far back as the year 1906 the late Count Witte and myself made a guess at the time-distance which the nation still had to traverse, assuming the rate of progress to be constant, before reaching the abyss. This, however, was mere guesswork, which one of the many possibilities-and in especial change in the speed-rate-might belie. In effect, events moved somewhat more quickly than we anticipated, and it was the World War and its appalling concomitants that precipitated the catastrophe.

As circumstances willed it, certain layers of the people of central Europe were also possessed by the revolutionary spirit at the close of the World War. In their case hunger, hardship, disease, and moral shock were the avenues along which it moved and reached them. This coincidence was fraught with results more impressive than serious. The governments of both these great peoples had long been the mainstays of monarchic tradition, military discipline, and the principle of authority. The Teutons, steadily pursuing an ideal which lay at the opposite pole to anarchy, had risked every worldly and well-nigh every spiritual possession to realize it. It was the hegemony of the world. This aspiration transfigured, possessed, fanaticized them. Teutondom became to them what Islam is to Mohammedans of every race, even when they shake off religion. They eschewed no means, however iniquitous, that seemed to lead to the goal. They ceased to be human in order to force Europe to become German. Offering up the elementary principles of morality on the altar of patriotism, they staked their all upon the single venture of the war. It was as the throw of a gambler playing for his soul with the Evil One. Yet the faith of these materialists waxed heroic withal, like their self-sacrifice. And in the fiery ardor of their enthusiasm, hard concrete facts were dissolved and set floating as illusions in the ambient mist. Their wishes became thoughts and their fears were dispelled as fancies. They beheld only what they yearned for, and when at last they dropped from the dizzy height of their castles in cloudland their whole world, era, and ideal was shattered. Unavailing remorse, impotent rage, spiritual and intense physical exhaustion completed their demoralization. The more harried and reckless among them became frenzied. Turning first against their rulers, then against one another, they finally started upon a work of wanton destruction relieved by no creative idea. It was at this time-point that they endeavored to join hands with their tumultuous Eastern neighbors, and that the one word "Bolshevism" connoted the revolutionary wave that swept over some of the Slav and German lands. But only for a moment. One may safely assert, as a general proposition, that the same undertaking, if the Germans and the Russians set their hands to it, becomes forthwith two separate enterprises, so different are the conceptions and methods of these two peoples. Bolshevism was almost emptied of its contents by the Germans, and little left of it but the empty shell.

Comparisons between the orgasms of collective madness which accompanied the Russian welter, on the one hand, and the French Revolution, on the other, are unfruitful and often misleading. It is true that at the outset those spasms of delirium were in both cases violent reactions against abuses grown well-nigh unbearable. It is also a fact that the revolutionists derived their preterhuman force from historic events which had either denuded those abuses of their secular protection or inspired their victims with wonder-working faith in their power to sweep them away. But after this initial stage the likeness vanishes. The French Revolution, which extinguished feudalism as a system and the nobility as a privileged class, speedily ceased to be a mere dissolvent. In its latter phases it assumed a constructive character. Incidentally it created much that was helpful in substance if not beautiful in form, and from the beginning it adopted a positive doctrine as old as Christianity, but new in its application to the political sphere. Thus, although it uprooted quantities of wheat together with the tares, its general effect was to prepare the ground for a new harvest. It had a distinctly social purpose, which it partially realized. Nor should it be forgotten that in the psychological sphere it kindled a transient outburst of quasi-religious enthusiasm among its partizans, imbued them with apostolic zeal, inspired them with a marvelous spirit of self-abnegation, and nerved their arms to far-resonant exploits. And the forces which the revolution thus set free changed many of the forms of the European world, but without reshaping it after the image of the ideal.

Has the withering blight known as Bolshevism any such redeeming traits to its credit account? The consensus of opinion down to the present moment gives an emphatic, if summary, answer in the negative. Every region over which it swept is blocked with heaps of unsightly ruins, It has depreciated all moral values. It passed like a tornado, spending its energies in demolition. Of construction hardly a trace has been discerned, even by indulgent explorers.[275] One might liken it to a so-called possession by the spirit of evil, wont of yore to use the human organs as his own for words of folly and deeds of iniquity. Bolshevism has operated uniformly as a quick solvent of the social organism. Doubtless European society in 1917 sorely needed purging by drastic means, but only a fanatic would say that it deserved annihilation.

It has been variously affirmed that the political leaven of these destructive ferments in eastern and central Europe was wholesome. Slavs and Germans, it is argued, stung by the bankruptcy of their political systems, resolved to alter them on the lines of universal suffrage and its corollaries, but were carried farther than they meant to go. This mild judgment is based on a very partial survey of the phenomena. The improvement in question was the work, not of the Bolshevists, but of their adversaries, the moderate reformers. And the political strivings of these had no organic nexus with the doctrine which emanated from the nethermost depths in which vengeful pariahs, outlaws, and benighted nihilists were floundering before suffocating in the ooze of anarchism. Neither can one discern any degree of kinship between Spartacists like Eichhorn or Lenin and moderate reformers as represented, say, by Theodor Wolff and Boris Savinkoff. The two pairs are sundered from each other by the distance that separates the social and the anti-social instinct. Those are vulgar iconoclasts, these are would-be world-builders. That the Russian, or, indeed, the German constitutional reformers should have hugged the delusion that while thrones were being hurled to the ground, and an epoch was passing away in violent convulsions, a few alterations in the electoral law would restore order and bring back normal conditions to the agonizing nations, is an instructive illustration of the blurred vision which characterizes contemporary statesmen. The Anglo-Saxon delegates at the Conference were under a similar delusion when they undertook to regenerate the world by a series of merely political changes.

No one who has followed attentively the work of the constitution-makers in Weimar can have overlooked their readiness to adopt and assimilate the positive elements of a movement which was essentially destructive. In this respect they displayed a remarkable degree of open-mindedness and receptivity. They showed themselves avid of every contribution which they could glean from any source to the work of national reorganization, and even in Teutonized Bolshevism they apparently found helpful hints of timely innovations. One may safely hazard the prediction that these adaptations, however little they may be relished, are certain to spread to the Western peoples, who will be constrained to accept them in the long run, and Germany may end by becoming the economic leader of democratic Europe. The law of politico-social interchange and assimilation underlying this phenomenon, had it been understood by the statesmen of the Entente, might have rendered them less desirous of seeing the German organism tainted with the germs of dissolution. For what Germany borrows from Bolshevism to-day western Europe will borrow from Germany to-morrow. And foremost among the new institutions which the revolution will impose upon Europe is that of the Soviets, considerably modified in form and limited in functions.

"In the conception of the Soviet system," writes the most influential Jewish-German organ in Europe, "there is assuredly something serviceable, and it behooves us to familiarize ourselves therewith. Psychologically, it rests upon the need felt by the working-man to be something more than a mere cog in the industrial mechanism. The first step would consist in conferring upon labor committees juridical functions consonant with latter-day requirements. These functions would extend beyond those exercised by the labor committees hitherto. How far they could go without rendering the industrial enterprise impossible is a matter for investigation.... This is not merely a wish of the extremists; it is a psychological requirement, and therefore it necessitates the establishment of a closer nexus between legislation and practical life which unhappily is become so complicated. And this need is not confined to the laboring class. It is universal. Therefore, what is good for the one is meet for the other."[276]

The Soviet system adapted to modern existence is one-and probably the sole-legacy of Bolshevism to the new age.

During the Peace Conference Bolshevism played a large part in the world's affairs. By some of the eminent lawgivers there it was feared as a scourge; by others it was wielded as a weapon, and by a third set it was employed as a threat. Whenever a delegate of one of the lesser states felt that he was losing ground at the Peace Table, and that his country's demands were about to be whittled down as extravagant, he would point significantly to certain "foretokens" of an outbreak of Bolshevism in his country and class them as an inevitable consequence of the nation's disappointment. Thus the representative of nearly every state which had a territorial program declared that that program must be carried out if Bolshevism was to be averted there. "This or else Bolshevism" was the peroration of many a delegate's exposé. More redoubtable than political discontent was the proselytizing activity of the leaders of the movement in Russia.

Of the two pillars of Bolshevism one is a Russian, the other a Jew, the former, Ulianoff (better known as Lenin), the brain; the other, Braunstein (called Trotzky), the arm of the sect. Trotzky is an unscrupulous despot, in whose veins flows the poison of malignity. His element is cruelty, his special gift is organizing capacity. Lenin is a Utopian, whose fanaticism, although extensive, has well-defined limits. In certain things he disagrees profoundly with Trotzky. He resembles a religious preacher in this, that he created a body of veritable disciples around himself. He might be likened to a pope with a college of international cardinals. Thus he has French, British, German, Austrian, Czech, Italian, Danish, Swedish, Japanese, Hindu, Chinese, Buryat, and many other followers, who are chiefs of proselytizing sections charged with the work of spreading the Bolshevik evangel throughout the globe, and are working hard to discharge their duties. Lenin, however, dissatisfied with the measures of success already attained, is constantly stimulating his disciples to more strenuous exertions. He shares with other sectarian chiefs who have played a prominent part in the world's history that indefinable quality which stirs emotional susceptibility and renders those who approach him more easily accessible to ideas toward which they began by manifesting repugnance. Lenin is credibly reported to have made several converts among his Western opponents.

The plenipotentiaries, during the first four months, approached Bolshevism from a single direction, unvaried by the events which it generated or the modifications which it underwent. They tested it solely by its accidental bearings on the one aim which they were intent on securing-a formal and provisional resettlement of Europe capable of being presented to their respective parliaments as a fair achievement. With its real character, its manifold corollaries, its innovating tendencies over the social, political, and ethnical domain, they were for the time being unconcerned. Without the slightest reference to any of these considerations they were ready to find a place for it in the new state system with which they hoped to endow the world. More than once they were on the point of giving it official recognition. There was no preliminary testing, sifting, or examining by these empiricists, who, finding Bolshevism on their way, and discerning no facile means of dislodging or transforming it, signified their willingness under easy conditions to hallmark and incorporate it as one of the elements of the new ordering. From the crimes laid to its charge they were prepared to make abstraction. The barbarous methods to which it owed its very existence they were willing to consign to oblivion. And it was only a freak of circumstance that hindered this embodiment of despotism from beginning one of their accepted means of rendering the world safe for democracy.

Political students outside the Conference, going farther into the matter, inquired whether there was any kernel of truth in the doctrines of Lenin, any social or political advantage in the practices of Braunstein (Trotzky), and the conclusions which they reached were negative.[277] But inquiries of this theoretical nature awakened no interest among the empiricists of the Supreme Council. For them Bolshevism meant nothing more than a group of politicians, who directed, or misdirected, but certainly represented the bulk of the Russian people, and who, if won over and gathered under the cloak of the Conference, would facilitate its task and bear witness to its triumph. This inference, drawn by keen observers from many countries and parties, is borne out by the curious admissions and abortive acts of the principal plenipotentiaries themselves.

In its milder manifestations on the social side Russian Bolshevism resembles communism, and may be described as a social revolution effected by depriving one set of people-the ruling and int

elligent class-of power, property, and civil rights, putting another and less qualified section in their place, and maintaining the top-heavy structure by force ruthlessly employed. Far-reaching though this change undoubtedly is, it has no nexus with Marxism or kindred theories. Its proximate causes were many: such, for example, as the breakdown of a tyrannical system of government, state indebtedness so vast that it swallowed up private capital, the depreciation of money, and the corresponding appreciation of labor. It is fair, therefore, to say that a rise in the cost of production and the temporary substitution of one class for another mark the extent to which political forces revolutionized the social fabric. Beyond these limits they did not go. The notion had been widespread in most countries, and deep-rooted in Russia, that a political upheaval would effect a root-reaching and lasting alteration in the forces of social development. It was adopted by Lenin, a fanatic of the Robespierre type, but far superior to Robespierre in will-power, insight, resourcefulness, and sincerity, who, having seized the reins of power, made the experiment.

It is no easy matter to analyze Lenin's economic policy, because of the veil of mist that conceals so much of Russian contemporary history. Our sources are confined to the untrustworthy statements of a censored press and travelers' tales.

But it is common knowledge that the Bolshevist dictator requisitioned and "nationalized" the banks, took factories, workshops, and plants from their owners and handed them over to the workmen, deprived landed proprietors of their estates, and allowed peasants to appropriate them. It is in the matter of industry, however, that his experiment is most interesting as showing the practical value of Marxism as a policy and the ability of the Bolsheviki to deal with delicate social problems. The historic decree issued by the Moscow government on the nationalization of industry after the opening experiment had broken down contains data enough to enable one to affirm that Lenin himself judged Marxism inapplicable even to Russia, and left it where he had found it-among the ideals of a millennial future. That ukase ordered the gradual nationalization of all private industries with a capital of not less than one million rubles, but allowed the owners to enjoy the gratuitous usufruct of the concern, provided that they financed and carried it on as before. Consequently, although in theory the business was transferred to the state, in reality the capitalist retained his place and his profits as under the old system. Consequently, the principal aims of socialism, which are the distribution of the proceeds of industry among the community and the retention of a certain surplus by the state, were missed. In the Bolshevist procedure the state is wholly eliminated except for the purpose of upholding a fiction. It receives nothing from the capitalist, not even a royalty.

The Slav is a dreamer whose sense of the real is often defective. He loses himself in vague generalities and pithless abstractions. Thus, before opening a school he will spin out a theory of universal education, and then bemoan his lack of resources to realize it. True, many of the chiefs of the sect-for it is undoubtedly a sect when it is not a criminal conspiracy, and very often it is both-were not Slavs, but Jews, who, for the behoof of their kindred, dropped their Semitic names and adopted sonorous Slav substitutes. But they were most unscrupulous peculators, incapable of taking an interest in the scientific aspect of such matters, and hypnotized by the dreams of lucre which the opportunity evoked. One has only to call to mind some of the shabby transactions in which the Semitic Dictator of Hungary, Kuhn, or Cohen, and Braunstein (Trotzky) of Petrograd, took an active part. The former is said to have offered for sale the historic crown of St. Stephen of Hungary-which to him was but a plain gold headgear adorned with precious stones and a jeweled cross-to an old curiosity dealer of Munich,[278] and when solemnly protesting that he was living only for the Soviet Republic and was ready to die for it, he was actively engaged in smuggling out of Hungary into Switzerland fifty million kronen bonds, thirty-five kilograms of gold, and thirty chests filled with objects of value.[279] His colleague Szamuelly's plunder is a matter of history.

To such adventurers as those science is a drug. They are primitive beings impressible mainly to concrete motives of the barest kind. The dupes of Lenin were people of a different type. Many of them fancied that the great political clash must inevitably result in an equally great and salutary social upheaval. This assumption has not been borne out by events.

Those fanatics fell into another error; they were in a hurry, and would fain have effected their great transformation as by the waving of a magician's wand. Impatient of gradation, they scorned to traverse the distance between the point of departure and that of the goal, and by way of setting up the new social structure without delay, they rolled away all hindrances regardless of consequences. In this spirit of absolutism they abolished the services of the national debt, struck out the claims of Russia's creditors to their capital or interest, and turned the shops and factories over to labor boards. That was the initial blunder which the ukase alluded to was subsequently issued to rectify. But it was too late. The equilibrium of the forces of production had been definitely upset and could no longer be righted.

One of the basic postulates of profitable production is the equilibrium of all its essential factors-such as the laborer's wages, the cost of the machinery and the material, the administration. Bring discord into the harmony and the entire mechanism is out of gear.

The Russian workman, who is at bottom an illiterate peasant with the old roots of serfdom still clinging to him, has seldom any bowels for his neighbor and none at all for his employer. "God Himself commands us to despoil such gentry," is one of his sayings. He is in a hurry to enrich himself, and he cares about nothing else. Nor can he realize that to beggar his neighbors is to impoverish himself. Hence he always takes and never gives; as a peasant he destroys the forests, hewing trees and planting none, and robs the soil of its fertility. On analogous lines he would fain deal with the factories, exacting exorbitant wages that eat up all profit, and na?vely expecting the owner to go on paying them as though he were the trustee of a fund for enriching the greedy. The only people to profit by the system, and even they only transiently, were the manual laborers. The bulk of the skilled, intelligent, and educated artisans were held up to contempt and ostracized, or killed as an odious aristocracy. That, it has been aptly pointed out,[280] is far removed from Marxism. The Marxist doctrine postulates the adhesion of intelligent workers to the social revolution, whereas the Russian experimenters placed them in the same category as the capitalists, the aristocrats, and treated them accordingly. Another Marxist postulate not realized in Russia was that before the state could profitably proceed to nationalization the country must have been in possession of a well-organized, smooth-running industrial mechanism. And this was possible only in those lands in which capitalism had had a long and successful innings, not in the great Slav country of husbandmen.

By way of glozing over these incongruities Lenin's ukase proclaimed that the measures enacted were only provisional, and aimed at enabling Russia to realize the great transformation by degrees. But the impression conveyed by the history of the social side of Lenin's activity is that Marxism, whether as understood by its author or as interpreted and twisted by its Russian adherents, has been tried and found impracticable. One is further warranted in saying that neither the visionary workers who are moved by misdirected zeal for social improvement nor the theorists who are constantly on the lookout for new and stimulating ideas are likely to discover in Russian Bolshevism any aspect but the one alluded to above worthy of their serious consideration.

A much deeper mark was made on the history of the century by its methods.

Compared with the soul-searing horrors let loose during the Bolshevist fit of frenzy, the worst atrocities recorded of Deputy Carrier and his noyades during the French Revolution were but the freaks of compassionate human beings. In Bolshevist Russia brutality assumed forms so monstrous that the modern man of the West shrinks from conjuring up a faint picture of them in imagination. Tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands were done to death in hellish ways by the orders of men and of women. Eyes were gouged out, ears hacked off, arms and legs torn from the body in presence of the victims' children or wives, whose agony was thus begun before their own turn came. Men and women and infants were burned alive. Chinese executioners were specially hired to inflict the awful torture of the "thousand slices."[281] Officers had their limbs broken and were left for hours in agonies. Many victims are credibly reported to have been buried alive. History, from its earliest dawn down to the present day, has recorded nothing so profoundly revolting as the nameless cruelties in which these human fiends reveled. One gruesome picture of the less loathsome scenes enacted will live in history on a level with the noyades of Nantes. I have seen several moving descriptions of it in Russian journals. The following account is from the pen of a French marine officer:

"We have two armed cruisers outside Odessa. A few weeks ago one of them, having an investigation to make, sent a diver down to the bottom. A few minutes passed and the alarm signal was heard. He was hauled up and quickly relieved of his accoutrements. He had fainted away. When he came to, his teeth were chattering and the only articulate sounds that could be got from him were the words: 'It is horrible! It is awful!' A second diver was then lowered, with the same procedure and a like result. Finally a third was chosen, this time a sturdy lad of iron nerves, and sent down to the bottom of the sea. After the lapse of a few minutes the same thing happened as before, and the man was brought up. This time, however, there was no fainting fit to record. On the contrary, although pale with terror, he was able to state that he had beheld the sea-bed peopled with human bodies standing upright, which the swaying of the water, still sensible at this shallow depth, softly rocked as though they were monstrous alg?, their hair on end bristling vertically, and their arms raised toward the surface.... All these corpses, anchored to the bottom by the weight of stones, took on an appearance of eerie life resembling, one might say, a forest of trees moved from side to side by the wind and eager to welcome the diver come down among them.... There were, he added, old men, children numerous beyond count, so that one could but compare them to the trees of a forest."[282]

From published records it is known that the Bolshevist thugs, when tired of using the rifle, the machine-gun, the cord, and the bayonet, expedited matters by drowning their victims by hundreds in the Black Sea, in the Gulf of Finland, and in the great rivers. Submarine cemeteries was the name given to these last resting-places of some of Russia's most high-minded sons and daughters.[283] It is not in the French Revolution that those deeds of wanton destruction and revolting cruelty which are indissolubly associated with Bolshevism find a parallel, but in Chinese history, which offers a striking and curious prefiguration of the Leninist structure.[284] Toward the middle of the tenth century, when the empire was plunged in dire confusion, a mystical sect was formed there for the purpose of destroying by force every vestige of the traditional social fabric, and establishing a system of complete equality without any state organization whatever, after the manner advocated by Leo Tolstoy. Some of the dicta of these sectarians have a decidedly Bolshevist flavor. This, for example: "Society rests upon law, property, religion, and force. But law is injustice and chicane; property is robbery and extortion; religion is untruth, and force is iniquity." In those days Chinese political parties were at strife with each other, and none of them scorned any means, however brutal, to worst its adversaries, but for a long while they were divided among themselves and without a capable chief.

At last the Socialist party unexpectedly produced a leader, Wang Ngan Shen, a man of parts, who possessed the gift of drawing and swaying the multitude. Of agreeable presence, he was resourceful and unscrupulous, soon became popular, and even captivated the Emperor, Shen Tsung, who appointed him Minister. He then set about applying his tenets and realizing his dreams. Wang Ngan Shen began by making commerce and trade a state monopoly, just as Lenin had done, "in order," he explained, "to keep the poor from being devoured by the rich." The state was proclaimed the sole owner of all the wealth of the soil; agricultural overseers were despatched to each district to distribute the land among the peasants, each of these receiving as much as he and his family could cultivate. The peasant obtained also the seed, but this he was obliged to return to the state after the ingathering of the harvest. The power of the overseer went farther; it was he who determined what crops the husbandman might sow and who fixed day by day the price of every salable commodity in the district. As the state reserved to itself the right to buy all agricultural produce, it was bound in return to save up a part of the profits to be used for the benefit of the people in years of scarcity, and also at other times to be employed in works needed by the community. Wang Ngan Shen also ordained that only the wealthy should pay taxes, the proceeds of which were to be employed in relieving the wants of the poor, the old, and the unemployed. The theory was smooth and attractive.

For over thirty years those laws are said to have remained in force, at any rate on paper. To what extent they were carried out is problematical. Probably a beginning was actually made, for during Wang's tenure of office confusion was worse confounded than before, and misery more intense and widespread. The opposition to his régime increased, spread, and finally got the upper hand. Wang Ngan Shen was banished, together with those of his partizans who refused to accept the return to the old system. Such would appear to have been the first appearance of Bolshevism recorded in history.

Another less complete parallel, not to the Bolshevist theory, but to the plight of the country which it ruined, may be found in the Chinese rebellion organized in the year 1850 by a peasant[285] who, having become a Christian, fancied himself called by God to regenerate his people. He accordingly got together a band of stout-hearted fellows whom he fanaticized, disciplined, and transformed into the nucleus of a strong army to which brigands, outlaws, and malcontents of every social layer afterward flocked. They overran the Yangtse Valley, invaded twelve of the richest provinces, seized six hundred cities and towns, and put an end to twenty million people in the space of twelve years by fire, sword, and famine.[286] To this bloody expedition Hung Sew Tseuen, a master of modern euphemism, gave the name of Crusade of the Great Peace. For twelve years this "Crusade" lasted, and it might have endured much longer had it not been for the help given by outsiders. It was there that "Chinese" Gordon won his laurels and accomplished a beneficent work.

There were politicians at the Conference who argued that Russia, being in a position analogous to that of China in 1854, ought, like her, to be helped by the Great Powers. It was, they held, quite as much in the interests of Europe as in hers. But however forcible their arguments, they encountered an insurmountable obstacle in the fear entertained by the chiefs of the leading governments lest the extreme oppositional parties in their respective countries should make capital out of the move and turn them out of office. They invoked the interests of the cause of which they were the champions for declining to expose themselves to any such risk. It has been contended with warmth, and possibly with truth, that if at the outset the Great Powers had intervened they might with a comparatively small army have crushed Bolshevism and re-established order in Russia. On the other hand, it was objected that even heavy guns will not destroy ideas, and that the main ideas which supplied the revolutionary movement with vital force were too deeply rooted to have been extirpated by the most formidable foreign army. That is true. But these ideas were not especially characteristic of Bolshevism. Far from that, they were incompatible with it: the bestowal of land on the peasants, an equitable reform of the relations between workmen and employers, and the abolition of the hereditary principle in the distribution of everything that confers an unfair advantage on the individual or the class are certainly not postulates of Lenin's party. It is a tenable proposition that timely military assistance would have enabled the constructive elements of Russia to restore conditions of normal life, but the worth of timeliness was never realized by the heads of the governments who undertook to make laws for the world. They ignored the maxim that a statesman, when applying measures, must keep his eye on the clock, inasmuch as the remedy which would save a nation at one moment may hasten its ruin at another.

The expedients and counter-expedients to which the Conference had recourse in their fitful struggles with Bolshevism were so many surprises to every one concerned, and were at times redolent of comedy. But what was levity and ignorance on the part of the delegates meant death, and worse than death, to tens of thousands of their protégées. In Russia their agents zealously egged on the order-loving population to rise up against the Bolsheviki and attack their strong positions, promising them immediate military help if they succeeded. But when, these exploits having been duly achieved, the agents were asked how soon the foreign reinforcements might be expected, they replied, calling for patience. After a time the Bolsheviki assailed the temporary victors, generally defeated them, and then put a multitude of defenseless people to the sword. Deplorable incidents of this nature, which are said to have occurred several times during the spring of 1919, shook the credit of the Allies, and kindled a feeling of just resentment among all classes of Russians.


[273] In the Biessy (Devils).

[274] Russian Characteristics, by E.B. Lanin (Eblanin, a Russian word which means native of Dublin, Eblana).

[275] Educational reforms have been mentioned among its achievements and attributed to Lunatcharsky. That he exerted himself to spread elementary instruction must be admitted. But this progress and the effective protection and encouragement which he has undoubtedly extended to arts and sciences would seem to exhaust the list of items in the credit account of the Bolshevist régime.

[276] Frankfurter Zeitung, February 28, 1919.

[277] A succinct but interesting study of this question appeared in the Handels-Zeitung of the Berliner Tageblatt, over the signature of Dr. Felix Pinner, July 20, 1918.

[278] Cf. Bonsoir, July 29, 1919. The price was not fixed, but the minimum was specified. It was one hundred thousand kronen.

[279] Cf. Der Tag, Vienna, August 13, 1919. L'Echo de Paris, August 15, 1919.

[280] By Dr. F. Pinner, H. Vorst, and others.

[281] The condemned man is tied to a post or a cross, his mouth gagged, and the execution is made to last several hours. It usually begins with a slit on the forehead and the pulling down of the skin toward the chin. After the lapse of a certain time the nose is severed from the face. An interval follows, then an ear is lopped off, and so the devilish work goes on with long pauses. The skill of the executioner is displayed in the length of time during which the victim remains conscious.

[282] Cf. Le Figaro, February 18, 1919.

[283] I do not suggest that these crimes were ordered by Lenin. But it will not be gainsaid that neither he nor his colleagues punished the mass murderers or even protested against their crimes. Neither can it be maintained that massacres were confined to any one party.

[284] This pre-Bolshevist movement is described in an interesting study on the socialist movement and systems, down to the year 1848, by El. Luzatto. Cf. Der Bund, August 16, 1918.

[285] Hung Sew Tseuen. The rebellion lasted from 1850 to 1864.

[286] The superb city of Nankin, with its temples and porcelain towers, was destroyed.

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