Goldman, Emma. “The Truth About the Boylsheviki.” Mother Earth Publishing Association, 1918.

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The term Bolshevik is derived from the Russian word bol’she, meaning “bigger, more,” the comparative form of bol’sho, “big.” The plural form, Bolsheviki, was the name given to the majority faction at the Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in 1903.

EG is referring to the Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP), which took place from July to August 1903. It was here that the group split into two sections: the Bolsheviks (majority men) and the Mensheviks (minority men). The Bolsheviks, under the leadership of V.I. Lenin, are generally seen as more centralized, interested in building a party of “professional” revolutionaries, while the Mensheviks favored a more broadly organized party. The Mensheviks were interested in a traditional Marxist interpretation of a bourgeois revolution followed by a proletarian revolution, while Lenin theorized that these two revolutions might be simultaneous. Leon Trotsky sided with the Mensheviks over the Bolsheviks in the 1903 split. He broke with the Mensheviks in 1904 and formally joined the Bolsheviks a few months before the October Revolution in 1917.

The February Revolution (23-27 February 1917) ended with the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and the establishment of the Provisional Government on 2 March. The cabinet of the Provisional Government was made up mostly by the bourgeoisie and official class and led by Alexander Kerensky, a socialist, hence EG’s description of the new government as “liberal or quasi-Socialist.” With the Provisional Government’s policy for amnesty of political prisoners, legal equality for all, and extensive civil liberties, it received the formal, although not the unanimous, support of the Soviet (Workers’ Council). Soviet outrage over annexationist statements made by Paul Miliukov, the Provisional Government’s Foreign Minister, in April 1917, led to a resolution that called for the transfer of state power to Soviets of workers or constituent assemblies at the all-Russian party conference during the same month. The Provisional Government was overthrown by the Bolsheviks during October Revolution of 1917.

Marx’s theory of historical materialism argues that there is an ordered progression of economic development. In the Communist Manifesto he states that after the fall of feudalism, the foundation of capitalism, and therefore the creation of the proletariat, is essential in the establishment of a socialist society. Marx wrote,

The essential conditions for the existence and for the sway of the bourgeois class is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage labor. Wage labor rests exclusively on competition between the laborers. The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the laborers, due to competition, by the revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.”

Many anarchists, including Peter Kropotkin, also argued that revolution was inevitable, but however did believe that there was a predestined ordered path or that a revolutionary government was needed in the transition to a free society. In Revolutionary Government Kropotkin states,

We know that revolution and government are incompatible. One must destroy the other no matter that name is given to government, whether dictatorship, royalty, or parliament. We know that what makes the strength and the truth of our party is contained in this formula- ‘Nothing good or durable can be done except by the free initiative of the people, and every government tends to destroy it’” (London: The Socialist League, 1892). 

Following the February 1917 Revolution, Kropotkin returned to Russia after living forty years in exile. Although he refused positions offered to him within the Provisional government, Kropotkin agreed to attend the Moscow National Conference called by Alexander Kerensky for the purpose of rallying various groups behind the Provisional Government. At the conference, on 28 August (10 September) 1917, Kropotkin delivered a speech where he called for Russia to become a republic modeled after the American system and urged the bourgeoisie to reform their organizations to benefit the masses. Varlaam N. Cherkesov was a Georgian anarchist and one of Kropotkin’s closest collaborators. He went to Georgia after February Revolution. Nikolai Chaikovski was in fact by this time a member of the central committee of the Socialist Revolutionaries and, in addition, part of the anti-Bolshevik All-Russian Provisional Government. All three men supported the Allies against German and Prussian militarism during World War I.

In Statism and Anarchy (1873) Russian anarchist Michael Bakunin writes,

Misery, even joined to despair, is not sufficient to provoke the social revolution…For that, an ideal is needed, which always arises historically from the depths of the instinct of the people, developed, broadened, and clarified by a series of marked events, difficult and bitter experiences. There must be, I say, a general idea of the people’s rights and a profound, ardent, one might even say religious, faith in those rights. When that ideal and that faith are together in the people, side by side with the misery that pushes them to despair, then the social revolution is near, inevitable, and there is no force that can stop it.”

On 28 April 1917 an article entitled “Assail Lenine as German Agent” the New York Times implied that V.I. Lenin was funded by Germany because he wanted to pull Russia out of the war. The New York Times reported on 20 January 1918 that an investigation of Leon Trotsky’s activities during his brief stay in the US was instigated by the Department of Justice at the end of December 1917 out of suspicion that Trotsky had received German money while in New York. The paper reported that no evidence was obtained to support the charge. This charge came months after Trotsky’s return to Russia in March 1917.

EG is referring to the legal and physical suppression aimed at radical groups such as the anarchists, socialists, and Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). On 9 November 1917, vigilantes kidnaped and tarred and feathered seventeen IWW members in Tulsa, Oklahoma. On 1 August 1917 vigilantes kidnaped and hanged IWW organizer Frank Little in Butte, Montana. By this time those arrested included Kate Ricards O’Hare, Fred Widmer (editor of the anarchist paper L’Era Nuova), and Luigi Galleani. Hundreds of IWW members were also indicted in Chicago, Illinois and Sacramento, California.

Trotsky lived in the United States in 1917 from January 14 to March 27. He contributed to multiple radical newspapers, including the Russian émigré Novy Mir and the Jewish Socialist Forverts. Lenin repudiated Forverts after it came out in favor of US involvement in the war

Alexander Ulyanov, Lenin’s eldest brother, set out with a group of peers to kill Tsar Alexander III on 1 March (13 March) 1887, the anniversary of the assassination of Tsar Alexander II (1 March 1881). The police were alerted to the group’s existence by accident when they intercepted a letter. Ulyanov took full responsibility for the planned assassination even though he neither primarily organized nor initiated it. Ulyanov and three other members of the group considered themselves adherents of People’s Will, while three others called themselves Social Democrats. In his courtroom speech, Ulyanov said, “The weak intelligentsia, very weakly imbued with the interests of the masses…can defend its right to think only with terrorism.” In May 1887, at the age of eighteen, Alexander Ulyanov was executed by order of the Tsar.

Paul Miliukov was the leader of the Constitutional Democratic (Kadet) Party, the main liberal political organization in Russia, and was appointed to Foreign Minister of the Provisional Government in March 1917. Prince G.E. Lvov was the president of the Union of Zemstvos (county council based on property qualifications) and was appointed to Premier of the Provisional Government. Alexander Kerensky was a member of the right wing of the Socialist Revolutionary Party. After holding a position in the fourth Duma, Kerensky served as Minister of Justice, Minister of War and Navy, and Prime Minister in the successive provisional governments that ruled Russia from March to October 1917. The Bolsheviks overthrew his government in October 1917 at which time he fled to France and later in 1940 came to live in the United States.

Russian nickname for the Russian peasant.

On 17 July 1914, Tsar Nicholas II called on reservists to report to their local police stations and be placed on war footing. Russian deaths in World War I totaled in the number of 1,700,000 people of the twelve million Russians mobilized.

In November 1917 Germany and Russia called a temporary cease fire so that they could begin peace negotiations. Trotsky notified the Allies of Russia’s actions and asked them if they would want participate in the conference scheduled in December, an offer that was refused. The treaty was later signed by the Soviet government and the Central Powers on 3 March 1918. The conditions included that Russia recognize the independence of Ukraine and Georgia; confirm the independence of Finland; forgo Poland, the Baltic states, and part of what is now Belarus to Germany and Austria-Hungary; and cede Kars, Ardahan, and Batum to the Ottomans. Germany later demanded indemnities. As a result of the general armistice of 11 November 1918, Germany renounced the treaty. Russia also declared the treaty null and void.

The letter was sent to the Persian Minister in Petrograd and this excerpt was reprinted in the 30 January 1918 edition of the New York Times. Signed on 31 August 1907, the agreement divided Persia into three zones for commercial development, one area under Russia, another area under Great Britain, and the last area was declared neutral. The Bolshevik Revolution relieved Persia for a time from the traditional pressure of Russia. In February 1921, the Soviet government formalized the stance of Trotsky and the Bolsheviks in a treaty that guaranteed nonintervention in Persian affairs in exchange for Persia’s friendship.

The exact figures are unknown, but estimates of around 30,000 are standard.

Peter Kropotkin and Social Revolutionary Party member Catherine Breshkovskaya were supporters of the Provisional Government after the February Revolution. They also advocated Russian involvement in World War I. Kropotkin deemed the destruction of German militarism as necessary to the development of free, autonomous states where anarchism could be developed. He also admired France for their modern revolutionary tradition and viewed Germany as the epitome of dictatorial militarism. After the Bolshevik Revolution in October 1917, Breshkovskaya went underground to avoid arrest. Breshkovskaya visited the US in January 1919 and stayed through the summer of 1919 during which time she solicited funds for Russian war orphans and went on a lecture tour speaking against the Bolsheviks.

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