We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

“Perhaps the advent of Bolshevik Government is a necessary evil.”

This quotation comes from an article entitled “Russia To-day”; not words one normally associates with accuracy:

Perhaps the advent of Bolshevik Government is a necessary evil. It may be an indipensable ordeal through which Russia must pass before the bulk of the people realize the fact that the Bolsheviks are the real counter-revolutionaries, who are doing their best utterly to ruin the country, and are working hand-in-glove with the enemies of Russia and the secret agents of the old regime. But we know enough about the Bolsheviks to realise that methods of peaceful suasion will never rid the country of ther evil sway. There is only one remedy against them. M. Kerensky indicated it when he asked General Korniloff to send a cavalry division to Petrograd “to subdue the Maximalists.” The proverbial “whiff of grape-shot” is the only medicine, and until it is administered in the proper dose the present situation will continue.

But of course it wasn’t.

There is a lot to get ones teeth into here. I mean there’s the obvious point that the Bolsheviks really did “ruin the country”. So, there’s at least one person out there in 1917 who could see the dangers of communism.

And then there’s Korniloff. At school I was taught that he was attempting a coup and that he had the “brains of a sheep”. I am beginning to think that in reality he was one of the good guys – or at least one of the less bad guys.

The Korniloff affair remains murky – see the Wikipedia page – but the consequence was clear enough: the army was no longer willing – and probably not able – to support the Provisional government. The correspondent here gets this.

I am not an expert on the ins and outs of the Russian Revolution. So whether the Bolsheviks and Okhrana were working hand-in-hand I have no idea.

I wonder what the “M” in “M. Kerensky” stands for?

The Times 28 September 1917

11 comments to “Perhaps the advent of Bolshevik Government is a necessary evil.”

  • AGN

    M is for Monsieur – here used as a general honorific for a male foreigner, the correct form of which (gospodin, I guess) is unknown to you and certainly to the newspaper readership…

  • Mr Ed

    Hmmm. The term ‘Russia Today’ was in use 100 years ago, albeit thinly disguised by a hyphen. So Putin’s propaganda was in operation then, this all adds weight to the theory that Putin is in fact immortal, or at least, considerably longer-lived than Stalin wanted the World to believe that Georgians were, what with all that yoghurt.

  • the other rob

    It has been reported that Stalin started out working as an agent provocateur for the Okhrhana. So some degree of collusion is not inconceivable.

  • Robert Conquest argues that Lenin owed his victory in no small part to his being opposed by leaders like Kerensky and Korniloff – that he would have found it a good deal harder against even Ebert and Noske (the equivalent German left-leaning leaders catapulted into power after a WWI revolution). When the March revolution put him in power, Kerensky’s government acted like the unrealistic ‘idealistic’ idiots they were: “In place of the army, they substituted an incompetent militia. In place of the police, they substituted nothing.” (Conquest). IIRC, Kerensky and Korniloff had a falling out and the cavalry division was not sent; seizing power in St Petersburg had been hard in March but was easy by November.

    So, as regards whether Korniloff was “one of the good guys”, well, like Kerensky, he sort-of opposed the communists, and, like Kerensky, he did so in a way that helped them win, so not much of a good guy, and/or a case of “with friends like these, you hardly need enemies”.

    The quoted British observer may have hoped that experiencing the communists would teach unrealists like Kerensky that such things as police and regular soldiers are needed, or replace them with those who already knew. However disciplined formations are easier to lose in high-minded indignation that to find again when communists tread on your coat-tails. Early in the French revolution, Burke sadly explained to a French correspondent who asked him about general Monk, “If you could find a general Monk in France today, I very much doubt whether he could find an army.”

  • whether the Bolsheviks and Okhrana were working hand-in-hand I have no idea.

    Enough Okhrana were killed by the communists that one would not say the two were working literally hand-in-hand. See for example Lenin’s famous joke about its being a bloodless revolution – because the communists killed the St Petersburg secret policemen by pushing them into holes in the ice of the frozen-over Baltic and ‘no blood was spilled in this process’.

    Double-agents (and higher-multiples than that 🙂 ) were common enough in Russia in the early 20th century. As Hannah Arendt explains, the double-agent frequently had a double ambition: with the help of the secret police, he could hope to eliminate any rivals in the revolutionary ranks, and with the help of the revolutionaries, he could hope to eliminate any secret police superiors he disliked.

    The most famous public-domain example is Yevno Azev, who used the Okhrana to eliminate his rivals in the terror brigade and then (having thus risen to command the terror brigade) used it to assassinate the head of the Okhrana. (Von Plehve had decided to “drown the revolution in the blood of the Jews” – i.e. to use the Okhrana to instigate programs – without perhaps reflecting sufficiently on the fact that Azev, his key agent in the terror brigade, was Jewish. For this reason amongst others, Azev therefore carefully remembered to forget to inform his superior von Plehve of the plot to assassinate him.)

    The communists certainly contained such figures. At least one pre-war Okhrana raid was convenient to Stalin and rumours he used such methods pre-date his rise to power. Dzerzhinsky appears to have faked his entire pre-revolutionary background. In these and other cases, the full truth is hard to ascertain: one is left wondering if a disreputable truth is “out there”. Lenin was aware of such effects and very accepting, justifying his slowness in acting against one such agent by explaining: “While he was betraying some comrades, he was having to work hard to recruit others.” Acts by Okhrana agents provocateur did much to maintain the public impression of revolutionary fervour during quiet times.

  • RRS

    “I am not an expert on the ins and outs of the Russian Revolution. So whether the Bolsheviks and Okhrana were working hand-in-hand I have no idea.”

    May I suggest the extensive scholarship of Richard Pipes.

  • Patrick Crozier

    Odd you should say that. I have Pipes’s Russian Revolution 1899-1919 on my bookshelf all queued up for reading.

  • Julie near Chicago

    For our viewing pleasure, Dr. Pipes on his The Unknown Lenin, a collection of Lenin’s writings from 1917-1924. 45 minutes.

    you+tube .com/watch?v=EZ0Sqk4bSeU

    Also quite interesting: Brian Lamb interviews Dr. Pipes on his memoir Vixi, ~ an hour.

    you+tube .com/watch?v=3vuQusVywYM

  • Chester Draws

    Pipes is good reading, but be aware that he is very much acting as the case for the prosecution.

    Figes “A People’s Tragedy” is a good accompaniment, being less stern in his assessments of the reasoning of the revolutionaries, without falling for any Utopian Leftist rot.

    You’ll find plenty of people prepared to slag off either, of course, but that’s true of all historians of 20th Century Russia.

  • Julie near Chicago

    And as lagniappe (unless I stay up late to hear more of his talks), this 2014 discussion by Dr. Pipes on “The Impact of World War I and the Russian Revolution on the World of Russian and East European Jewry” is absolutely fascinating. Especially, as is so often the case, the gems in the Q&A. For instance, hear what he has to say about FDR (Roosevelt). Also a good deal on how the Jews got the widespread reputation of being Bolshies.

    51 minutes at you+tube .com/watch?v=ua7whC_Maf0

  • Paul Marks

    Agreed Patrick.

    Kerensky was a socialist – but he was a Russian patriot, not a German backed traitor like “Lenin”

    Also Kerensky clung to the idea (the false idea actually) that socialism was compatible with Civil Liberties – whereas “Lenin” was a totalitarian who was prepared to murder millions of people to follow the fantasy of Marxism.

    Were some of the Bolsheviks “working with” the old secret police?

    Some of the Bolsheviks were informers – and logically so, because it is in the interests of an extreme movement to UNDERMINE relatively moderate opposition to the old system. When the old Imperial secret police were abolished the Bolsheviks insisted that its files be destroyed (not openly examined) this was to cover up their own role as informers.

    Some Bolsheviks had worked as informers back in Imperial times – and, a thousand times worse, they all sold out Russia to the Germans. The Bolsheviks were scum – total and absolute scum. Especially “Lenin” – whose skull should be on a spike.