The Finnish Communist Revolution (1918) PART 5: THE WHITE GUARD

suojeluskuntalaisia.jpg

ORIGINS OF THE WHITE GUARD:

The Finnish white guard had 3 or 4 different roots, which eventually merged.

1) The activist committee, a secret nationalist organization. The activist committee organized for thousands of Finns to travel to Germany and train in the German military for a future war with Russia. They would later play a large part and the alliance with Imperial Germany would be crucial for the Whites. The pro-german fanaticism of some capitalists went so far as to support Finland becoming a German protectorate with a German king as the Finnish ruler. Since early 1917 the activist committee was the white guard central command until the creation of the white army.

2) The military committee, an organization created from Finnish officers in the Russian Tsarist military. This would function as the core of the Finnish white army and the leader of the Finnish white army, Mannerheim was also an ex-Tsarist officer.

3) White guards were formed locally to protect the property of the capitalists and landowners from the poor population. The capitalists hoarded large amounts of food while the population starved. The white guards would prevent the food from being taken by the hungry masses. The white guards would attack workers on strike, and also protect strike breakers. Workers would often demonstrate for better conditions and more rights, surrounding government buildings etc. and the capitalist politicians would bring the white guards to break up the demonstrations.

4) The only “legitimate” use for the white guards was to prevent criminality. However in practice they were almost always targeting the working class for political reasons. There was one famous incident of unruly Russian soldiers murdering a Finnish citizen, and this was used as a justification for keeping and strengthening the white guard. However, this too had a political element since the Russian soldiers largely sided with the working class. They were from worker and peasant backgrounds and in most cases had killed their Tsarist officers during the February revolution. The remaining Tsarist officers looked to the white guards for protection.

In reality there was no need for a white guard police force since there already existed a militia specifically for this purpose. The problem with the militia was that it had a large working class presence and the capitalists couldn’t use it to break strikes, attack innocent workers and demonstrations. The militia itself would sometimes go on strike to demand bread and political rights.

“In the cities the police was dismantled in early April [1917] and replaced by a worker militia or in other ways brought under working class control. In different parts of the country mass meetings of workers demanded unpopular officials to step down. The power structure was flipped on its head…” (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p.188)

“The influence of the organized workers was also demonstrated by the fact that… the [tsarist] police was replaced by a newly formed militia, the man power and leadership of which was formed primarily by organized workers” (Hyvönen, pp. 42-43)

The militia was perfectly suited for preventing crime but was not sufficient for the capitalists to maintain their repression of the organized workers. The capitalists needed to create a fully anti-worker military force, which would in every situation side with the rich elites against the people. This is why the white guard was created.

“During the strikes of Spring and Summer the workers had already gotten a taste of what… strong [bourgeois] rule of law meant; white guards had shot and beaten unarmed strikers. It was known that the bourgeoisie was training and arming their class guards against the working class movement. With these armed forces the bourgeoisie planned to crush the working class organizations, to strip workers of the right to assemble etc…” (Hyvönen, p.84)

Another example was also the demonstration of August 1917 in Malmi, a municipality near Helsinki:

“In Malmi, near Helsinki, workers surrounded the municipal building on 13. of August [1917] to get their demands passed. About thirty white guard soldiers arrived from Helsinki to save the surrounded officials… the white guards together with ex-members of the tsarist police beat the workers with their batons.* …In Spring and early Summer the class struggle had not yet resulted in any deaths, although some were wounded, but in August there were the first casualties.

The food question was still to be solved. On the night of 14. of August the municipal workers of Helsinki began a strike demanding action to save especially the elder, sick and children from famine and starvation.** The Senate did not take any action.” (Holodkovski, p.39)

* source: I.I. Syukiyainen. The revolutionary events of 1917-1918, p. 77
** source: Proceedings of the Helsingfors Council of Deputies of the Army and Workers, 6 (19). Viii. 1917, No 119.

“In the Spring and Summer of 1917 the Finnish working masses mobilized to improve their poor living conditions and to carry out those necessary reforms which the bourgeoisie, allying itself with the Tsar attempted to prevent at all cost, especially the 8-hour working day and to gain at least some working class representation in the municipal organs. Now the bourgeoisie no longer had the tsarist police as their protection; it had been dismantled in the February revolution and in its place had been formed a militia, where the workers in all population centers had a significant influence. The bourgeoisie did not yet have large amounts of armed class organizations with the exception of the few secret activist [committee] organizations. For this reason the bourgeoisie had to give itself to the merciful protection of the Russian provisional government… to prevent the working class movement from carrying out its democratic reforms. This attempt to gain protection from the provisional government didn’t stop at advocating the provisional government’s right to interfere in Finnish affairs, the bourgeoisie also wanted the armed forces of the provisional government to attack the working class movement. This happened in connection with several strikes.

The newspaper “The worker” reported on 24. of April 1917 that the director of Lehtoniemi machine workshop owned by baron Wrede had sent a message to the Soviet of Russian soldiers in Helsinki mostly humbly asking to send soldiers to protect the “state property” held by the workshop “from possible damage”. A similar attempt to provoke Russian soldiers to attack striking workers happened e.g. during the shipbuilders’ strike in Helsinki; the bourgeoisie accused the workers of supposedly being armed and preventing work. Also during the municipal strike of Rauma the bourgeoisie encouraged Russian soldiers to attack peaceful striking workers. As late as August [1917] when the bourgeoisie also had their white guard projects well under way, and had thousands of rifles from Germany the bourgeoisie in Oulu attempted to provoke Russian soldiers to attack the workers holding a meeting at the workers’ club.

In all these cases the soviets of Russian soldiers investigated the situation and recognized them as attempts to end the workers’ struggles for rights by drowning them in blood.

When the bourgeoisie saw its own powerlessness before the masses and when the Russian soldiers even sided with the democratic rights of the workers, it began organizing its armed forces to stifle the workers’ struggle. It wasn’t satisfied with only secretly arming itself, but began using armed forces against unarmed workers. Terror attacks against workers’ meetings and strikers became the order of the day.

The worst attacks were faced by agricultural workers and tenant-farmers who had begun demanding improvements in their conditions, an 8-hour working day and in some cases wage increases. The large mansion owners showed their true character by trying to crush the justified demands of the workers. The newspaper “The Worker” reported at the beginning of May that during the strike of the Latokartano Manor owned by Westermarck, the owner… threatened to slaughter the 700 head cattle in its entirety as revenge of the workers’ demands…

Armed strike breaker forces were recruited from old Tsarist police officers, criminal thugs and in general the most reactionary elements of society. In addition reactionary university students, property owners, businessmen and officials were recruited. These strike breaker groups patrolled armed with guns in different villages, terrorizing striking farm-workers.

One of the most heinous attacks against peaceful farm-workers happened in Huittiset on July 13. A group of striking workers was headed to the Huittiset dairy building where the landowners had gathered. When the loose group of workers approached the dairy building, white guard soldires hidden behind piles of logs opened fire on the unarmed workers. Seven strikers were wounded. This information given by the Finnish information bureau was supplemented by a worker newspaper “The Social-Democrat” appearing in Pori at the time, which reported that the strikers had already agreed before hand to not use arms under any circumstances, nor had they been prepared to use arms.

Few days after the massacre in Huittiset another attack against striking workers happened in Suodenniemi. Strikers had peacefully stood on the road and told strike breakers working on the field, who had been gathered from different villages, that they were breaking a strike. At that moment armed strike breakers had attacked the strikers at the instructions of the local constable.” (Hyvönen, pp. 43-46)

Peltola and Suodenjoki refer in their book to another bourgeois historian Viljo Rasila, and verify that “Near the end of the large strike in Suodenniemi, there was a conflict… fought using staffs, cudgels and scythes… Strike breakers got the upper hand and two farm-workers suffered serious injuries.**” (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p.205)

* Viljo Rasila, “Vuoden 1917 maantyöntekijäin lakot” (“Farm-workers’ strikes of 1917”)
** Juhani Piilonen, Sastamalan historia 3. 1860-1920 (History of Sastamala 3. 1860-1920)

Peltola and Suodenjoki also state that for example in the municipality Satakunta “…strikes were the main reason for the creation of the white guard.” (p.211)

“In the cities the bourgeoisie began already in the Spring to create their armed class guards. The bourgeoisie had threatened to use these guards already… but didn’t have the courage yet. On 17. of August at the Helsinki stock exchange building, white guards disguised as militia men attacked workers demonstrating against the city council, and beat them with batons. Soon the bourgeoisie had organized a nationwide class army to smash the working class movement. The working class press took notice of the bourgeoisie arming itself. The newspaper “The Worker” wrote on 23. of August 1917 stating that due to the [February] revolution, the bourgeoisie had lost their foreign protector [the Russian Tsar] and also the [Tsarist] police… It had begun creating an armed class military.” (Hyvönen, p. 46)

“…[T]o counter food confiscation agricultural producers and other bourgeois citizens began independently creating their own police forces, whose mission was defined as protection of property. This angered the workers… The workers considered the food storages [of the capitalists] to be against the food-supply law and thus considered the “white guards” created to protect them as illegal” [Marja-Leena Salkola, Työväenkaartien synty ja kehitys punakaartiksi 1917-18 ennen kansalaissotaa] (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p. 219)

“After the Tsarist gendarmerie had been dismantled and the police replaced by a militia, where the workers held significant influence, and after the Russian troops had gone to the side of revolution, the bourgeoisie realized that it didn’t have any organized armed force to protect itself against the numerically superior and quite well organized working class. This is why already in the Spring of 1917 the bourgeoisie began creating its own fighting forces, whose purpose was supposedly protecting the safety of civilizens and protection of property from vandalism and criminality. Their creation seemed timely and for this reason, even some workers initially joined these organizations (chapters were formed under the name of sport societies and volunteer fire departments and only later they began everywhere to be called white guards)… The bourgeoisie did not admit that the white guards were its class organizations. The white guards were the bourgeoisie’s military force, with which it believed to create the order it desired.

In Southern Finland where the rural workers’ strike movement began to spread already in April and May, white guards were created especially to fight strikes. In Northern Finland they were being created to oppose Russian soldiers [who sided with the workers]. Soon control of the nationwide organization and action of the white guard was given to the secret Activist Committee.

The Activists had already since before WWI kept connections to Germany and organized the sending of couple thousand young Finnish men to Germany for military training. They were preparing a war to separate Finland from Russia with German help, even if that meant Finland would become reliant on Germany. In June 1917 the Activist Committee divided Finland into regions for better coordination of the white guards. In July a central office for the white guards was created. It was located in Helsinki under the harmless sounding false name of “The new forest office”. The central office held secret communication with local organizations as well as Sweden, Germany and the Finnish Jäger battalion… [i.e. the Finnish soldiers serving and being trained in the German army]

For this new army, weapons for 100,000 men were collected in Danzig. In October 1917 explosives were shipped from Umeå [in Sweden] to Vaasa [the secret white Capital in Finland], from where white guard members transported them in fish barrels and their luggage to local organizations. At the end of October the ship “Equity” left from Germany. To camoflage it, the Russian name “Mir” was painted on the ship’s side and a red flag was waving in its mast. This ship brought the white guards large amounts of rifles (some sources say 4500, others 7000), machine guns (according to some sources 30, according to others 100), 2,800,000 bullets, 1500 hand grenades, 2000 pistols and explosives Weapons were secretly bought from Russia through the [white guard] Vyborg regional organization founded in July and in the Autumn through the harmless sounding [white guard organization] Karelian citizen’s league (this league was funded by a banker, a factory owner and four wholesalers) and through the Finland committee founded in Petrograd…

By creating white guards the bourgeoisie started a process which would develop due to its inherent laws logically towards civil war. The workers could not interpret it as anything else then preparation for an armed attack against them. Despite bourgeois propaganda and press saying otherwise, realities spoke a clear message: white guards were being used to break strikes. Workers reacted to the founding of white guards with determination: to avoid being at the mercy of an armed opponent, workers began creating their own peace-keeping forces… for self-defency purposes.”
(Holodkovski, pp. 29-31)

The Activist Committee had wormed itself to the highest levels of the government:

“…[M]ember of the nationalist Activist Committee…[senator] Åkerman… agreed to handle [the bourgeois senate’s] food issues if he was given authority to gather necessary food supplies to suitable locations. [Source: “Suomen vapaussota vuonna 1918” I, pp. 294-295]

Food, transportation vehicles and other supplies for a white army were stored in Southern Ostrobothnia in preparation for civil war. The Activist Committee had played an important part in creating the white guards and was now recognized as an official organ of the state, and given responsibility to draft the new conscription law and develop the bourgeois military forces. Ignatius, chairman of the committee that drafted the new conscription law proposed in a meeting of investors and industrialists on 3. of October [1917] that they would provide 3 million marks to fund the white guards. In this meeting 9 million marks worth of checks and bonds were collected.
[Source: Ibid. pp. 295-296]
” (Holodkovski pp. 35-36)

“…alongside the Activist Committee founded in 1915, a Military Committee consisting of ex-Tsarist officers was created and recognized as an official state organ by the Svinhufvud senate on 7. of January [1918]. Gustaf Mannerheim was appointed the committee’s chairman on 15. of January.”
(Pekka Myllyniemi: Ajautuminen sisällissotaan, Länsi-Uusimaa, 17.1.2018) https://www.lansi-uusimaa.fi/blogi/598630-pekka-myllyniemi-ajautuminen-sisallissotaan

THE WHITE ARMY:

Between late 1917 and early 1918 the white guards were organized into an army. The capitalists had collected millions of marks, tens of thousands of weapons, created a secret capital for the future white guard dictatorship, made connections with their foreign allies and assembled a large armed force. The white guard was recognized as the official state military of Finland by the Svinhufvud government. Mannerheim was appointed its commander. Lets examine the composition of this army:

“In the 20 Southern Ostrobothnian white guard detachments 59% of the soldiers were wealthy farmers and their sons, 8% tenant-farmers, 6% farm workers, 21% workers and 6% officials, students etc.” (Holodkovski, p.307)

“On the other hand for example in the Jyväskylä white guard military district the around one third of those who fell in battle were officials, shop-keepers, students and teachers, foremen, doctors and other wealthier people, even a bank director. Another third were landowning farmers and a third tenant-farmers, workers and farm hands. Capitalists, investors and bankers constituted only a tiny minority of the population. While officials, doctors, military men, police officers and other somewhat wealthier people often sided with the whites, the real bulk of the white army consisted of independent farmers, especially wealthy farmers, and their relatives. This army was then enlarged by forced conscription of the poorer classes. ” (Holodkovski, pp.307-308)

“…regarding armed struggle the bourgeoisie could rely on the officials, who spread accross the whole country and thus could form a nationwide organizational network. The city enterpreneurs and intellectuals, as well as technical experts in industry were largely active supporters of bourgeois policy. The nobility and other large landowners were passionate enemies of the working class movement. The influence of the bourgeoisie also spread itself strongly to independent farmers who had been frightened with the notion that the workers wanted to steal the peasantry’s land.

In military matters the bourgeoisie was in an enormously better position, in the amount of trained and experienced officers it had. The so-called “white army” had 11 people with the rank of general… 480 graduates from the old Finnish cadet school. There were 403 officers and 724 NCOs among jägers. The whites received 118 NCOs from the Vöyri military academy. 27 active officers arrived from Sweden. In total the white officer core was 1700 persons. Initially the whites threw 10,000 men at the front. But in February they had to resort to forced conscription, through which they increased the number to 32,000 men.

According to the whites themselves their army was already 10,000 by the end of 1917, 36,000 by April and 70,000 by the end of the war…

The whites also had better weaponry. Already in October of 1917 they received 7000 rifles, large amounts of machine guns, hand-grenades, bullets etc. from Germany. At the end of January the whites also managed to steal 7880 rifles, 1 ,143,000 bullets, 10 machine guns and 12 cannons from the demoralized Russian troops in Northern Finland. Two more weapon shipments arrived from Germany containing 140,000 rifles and more then 83 million bullets, 250 machine guns, 500,000 hand-grenades and 32 cannons with ammunition. On top of all this they received other weapons and equipment of all kinds, such as pistols, radios and field telephones etc.

The whites also had confirmed knowledge about Germany’s intervention since February; at the beginning of March there was already an exact agreement. Furthermore the whites got a Swedish brigade on their side. Individual officers and volunteers arrived from other nordic countries. Russian counter-revolutionary officers also aided the white war effort.” (Hyvönen, pp. 91-92)

SOURCES:

Suodenjoki & Peltola, Köyhä Suomen kansa katkoo kahleitansa: Luokka, liike ja yhteiskunta 1880-1918 (Vasemmistolainen työväenliike Pirkanmaalla osa 1)

Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-1918

Holodkovski, Suomen Työväenvallankumous 1918

I.I. Syukiyainen. The revolutionary events of 1917-1918

Известия Гельсингфорсского совета депутатов армии и рабочих, 6 (19). VIII. 1917, No 119. (Proceedings of the Helsingfors Council of Deputies of the Army and Workers, 6 (19). Viii. 1917, No 119.)

Viljo Rasila, “Vuoden 1917 maantyöntekijäin lakot” (“Farm-workers’ strikes of 1917”)

Juhani Piilonen, Sastamalan historia 3. 1860-1920 (History of Sastamala 3. 1860-1920)

Marja-Leena Salkola, Työväenkaartien synty ja kehitys punakaartiksi 1917-18 ennen kansalaissotaa<

H. Soikkanen, kansalaissota dokumentteina

J. Paasivirta, Suomen itsenäisyyskysymys 1917

“Suomen vapaussota vuonna 1918”

“Пролетарская революция”, No 2

Luokkasodan muisto, ed. Juho Mäkelä
https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/157351

Pekka Myllyniemi: Ajautuminen sisällissotaan, Länsi-Uusimaa, 17.1.2018
https://www.lansi-uusimaa.fi/blogi/598630-pekka-myllyniemi-ajautuminen-sisallissotaan

“Ilkan ja Poutun pojat. Etelä-pohjalaisten sota-albumi”, ed. A. Leinonen

“Keskisuomalaiset sotapolulla. Kappale Suomen vapaussodan historiaa”, ed. S. Kuusi

Erinnerungen, G. Mannerheim

Sosialistit pyrkivät itsenäistämään Suomea jo heinäkuussa 1917 – porvarit harasivat vastaan (https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-9710204)

O. W. Kuusinen on Tito’s opportunism

Part of a larger article by O. W. Kuusinen titled “Oletteko Neuvostoliiton puolella vai sitä vastaan?” [“Are you on the Soviet side or against it?”] published in 1948. Translated by ML-theory:

“At present, in the countries of People’s Democracy, only a few desperate and bankrupt agents of foreign imperialism make hateful remarks against the Soviet Union. All the parties, groups and leaders who seriously base their calculations on popular support defend cooperation and friendship with the Soviet Union. This is an extremely important fact which, in most cases, reflects a sincere political endeavor. And in the countries of People’s Democracy there is no reason, except in the case of Yugoslavia, to doubt the sincerity of friendly statements from responsible political leaders towards the Soviet Union.

In Yugoslavia, as was stated in the June meeting of the Information Bureau of Communist Parties, the leadership of the Communist Party has abandoned the party’s international traditions and has gone on the path of nationalism.

The leaders of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia have departed from the Marxist-Leninist path to a profoundly opportunistic line under the conditions of People’s Democracy. We must not forget that People’s Democracy is a transition step from the bourgeois state to the socialist state, from capitalism to socialism. No country can stay there for an extended period of time without moving forward or backward. If it does not follow the path to socialism, then development will go backwards, to capitalism. But the evolution to socialism does not go by itself, spontaneously. Whether or not the country will really move forward to socialism depends on the continued development of the proletariat’s class struggle and the right direction of state policy under the determined leadership of the Communist Party.

The Yugoslav leaders, on the other hand, focused on suppressing the class struggle. They began to spread the notion that class contradictions in Yugoslavia were no longer serious. Especially in rural areas, they did not take into account the different class strata and the vitality of the deep roots of capitalism in the private peasant economy. Like the old ideologues of “Christian Socialism,” they apparently believed that the roots of capitalism could easily be eradicated if the “whole peasantry”, with the big exploiter landowners at the head, were called for that purpose, and a decree was made to that effect. Lenin’s teaching regarding proletarian hegemony turned out to be a burden for the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, which they quietly freed themselves of.

From the standpoint of suppressing the class struggle, they also led to a mediation tactic within the Yugoslav Popular Front, which includes not only workers and working peasants, but also large-scale, merchants, small manufacturers and bourgeois intelligentsia, and various political groups, including some bourgeois parties. In this varied company, leaders try to avoid, at any cost, the causes of disagreement: to prevent the development of the workers’ class struggle, because some of the members of a large alliance opposed it; to give up the Communist Party’s leading role, even to hide its face, so that none of the non-Communist participants in the alliance could feel offended; to restrict and reduce cooperation with the Soviet Union, because one or the other of the bourgeois participants of the alliance are reluctant to cooperate with it. . .

When the leaders of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia let loose such a current, a dangerous shift emerged in the political line: instead of leading the cause of the workers by basing themselves in the majority of the Popular Front, the alliance of the working class with the poor and the middle peasantry, they considered it better to orient themselves towards the politically more backward petit-bourgeois elements of the Popular Front. In other words, a bloc policy based on bourgeois nationalism was born.

He who has surrendered to bourgeois nationalism, of course, he is bothered by the voluntary cooperation of his country with a socialist state, no matter how much the country benefits from such cooperation. Of course, such a person can, when the opportunity arises, make public statements about the desirability of the closest ties between Soviet citizens and citizens of his own country, but in practice he strives to minimize those ties. Thus, he is also persuaded by imperialist states, who, for their own purposes, are constantly intimidating small sovereign nations with blackmailing threats. In an effort to relieve this pressure through an opportunistic maneuver, the petty bourgeois nationalist makes concessions to imperialist governments to win their favor. The first concession imperialists demand from the leaders of People’s Democracy is that they must not behave better towards the Soviet Union than they do towards the bourgeois states.

The leaders of Yugoslavia began to act in accordance with that. They adopted a policy that was unfriendly to the Soviet Union: the defamation of Soviet military experts and the humiliation of the Soviet army, a special system of oversight and shadowing of Soviet civilian experts and several Soviet officials in Yugoslavia. In public, Yugoslav leaders make declarations of their special friendship with the Soviet Union, while at the same time their real attitude towards the Soviet state, which defends the independence and security of the People’s Democracy, is the same as towards the imperialist states that threaten their independence and security.

This anti-Soviet attitude of the Tito group represents a very great concession to the imperialist states. And when one remembers the old proverb that he who gives the devil his little finger will lose his whole hand, it is difficult to assess the dangerous consequences that Yugoslavia faces because of its leaders’ current policies. But it is also difficult to assume that such a detrimental policy could continue for a long time without arousing serious opposition from the Communist Party of Yugoslavia and the workers.

After all, Yugoslav workers know from their own experience that fraternal help from the Soviet people is indispensable and essential for their well-being, for freedom, democracy and socialism, for the rapid and diversified development of their nation’s economy, culture and defense. Therefore, it is not difficult for them, the working masses, to understand that any measure that weakens or restricts cooperation with the Soviet Union, regardless of its more or less right-wing justification, is in fact aimed at undermining the very foundations of People’s Democracy. To whom it would not be clear that only by belonging to a united democratic anti-imperialist camp led by the mighty land of socialism, the democracies can secure their independence and security, their entire future, against the pressures and aspirations of the imperialists.

Thus, for those who work in these countries, solidarity with the Soviet Union is not a matter of debate but a deep conviction. As a result, every anti-Soviet politician is doomed to failure when workers – if not today, tomorrow – ask him: – Are you on the Soviet side or against it? It is inconceivable that the working masses who hold loyalty to friendship with the Soviet people as a rule of life would be content with a response that would only contain empty words contrary to fact.” ~O. W. Kuusinen

 

4560a93bc3c84f57aa0632c4fd2aa9cd

The Finnish Communist Revolution (1918) PART 4: CAPITALIST DICTATORSHIP AND WAR PREPARATIONS

The Capitalist government of Svinhufvud prepares for a war against the working masses and builds their dictatorship (1917-18).

400px-Jaakaripataljooa_libaussa

Finnish jägers trained in Germany

The Regency: First Attempt at Capitalist dictatorship

A regent is a person who rules temporarily in place of a monarch because the monarch is dead or absent. Essentially he is a dictator. The preferred choice of the capitalist class was to create a three member regency (three member dictatorship) to rule Finland. They did not want democracy.

A white guard author writes:
“On December 8. chairman of the parliament Johannes Lundson presented for the parliament the secretariat’s proposal that the power previously held by the Tsar grand-duke be given to a regency created for this purpose” (Erkki Räikkönen, Svinhufvud ja itsenäisyyssenaatti, p. 10)

“The next day after Soviet power had been established in Russia, the bourgeoisie raised the question of power in the parliament. The presidium of the parliament proposed the creation of a three member regency. The social-democrats proposed… calling a constitutional assembly… [which] was defeated with 106 against and 90 in favor… Therefore the parliament decided to create the three member regency which in actuality held dictatorial power. Originally its members were to be Svinhufvud [bourgeois], Alkio [agrarian league] and Tokoi [social-democrat]. But since social-democrats and the agrarian league had opposed creating the regency, they were to be replaced [with bourgeois politicians]…”
[source: E. W. Juva, Suomen kansan historia, V. Tie itsenäisyyteen ja itsenäisyyden aika (1899-1956), p. 146]
(Holodkovski, Suomen työväen vallankumous 1918, pp. 45-46)


In the internal power struggles the regency project was still eventually defeated, largely because the capitalists were forced to capitulate during the December 1917 general strike. The capitalists held power in the Senate, which was a remnant from the time of Tsarism. They only had a slight majority in the parliament, so they always saw preserving the Tsarist senate as their best bet. The petit-bourgeois Agrarian league supported parliamentarism and opposed the regency idea, while the social-democrats preferred the parliament to dictatorship or to the Tsarist senate, but really wanted a constitutional assembly which would overhall the entire Finnish state, dismantle the Tsarist senate etc.

A white guard propaganda work “Svinhufvud and the independence senate” published in 1935, laments the failure of the regency. The author wants to point out that Finland had a Tsarist monarchist constitution and for this reason, making the parliament the ruling body was wrong:

“Since the regency… couldn’t be created yet the parliament decided for now, to use the power previously held by the Tsar Grand-duke… Until the last moment the right-wing parliament members had tried to prevent the passing of this law, but the parliament desired to take this power into its own hands even though it was against the spirit and purpose of our constitution. Right-wing representative Antti Mikkola gave his opposition to the law in strong terms. “The parliament has been made into the ruling body, which history has demonstrated to be the worst of all government systems and particularly prone to oppress the people and individual liberty.”
(E. Räikkönen, Svinhufvud ja itsenäisyyssenaatti, pp. 20-21)

The same white guard author quotes the capitalist leader Svinhufvud as saying:

“”In my opinion, the parliament shouldn’t have become the wielder of the highest power, and instead since the monarch is absent [the Tsar was overthrown] it should have chosen a regent for the country,” said Svinhufvud.” (Räikkönen, pp. 36-37)

The capitalists went back and forth about the idea of establishing a monarchy. Finland had been under Swedish and Russian monarchist rule for centuries, so this seemed fitting to some capitalists. There were pro-Swedish, pro-Russian and pro-German factions within the capitalist class, as well as supporters of monarchy and supporters of military dictatorship. They did not have a consistent plan on what kind of dictatorship they wanted or how to establish it, but the one thing they did consistently was oppose democracy. At minimum they would hold on to the Tsarist era senate and not give full power to the parliament. At most they would establish full monarchy or dictatorship if they could get away with it. (About bourgeois monarchism see Talas, Suomen itsenäistyminen ja Mannerheimin muistelmat p. 61)


“Strong rule of Law”
: Second Attempt at Capitalist dictatorship


At the beginning of 1918 the capitalist government of Svinhufvud adopted the slogan of “Strong rule of law” which meant giving the right-wing senate special powers, crushing the red guards and establishing white guards as the official state military of Finland. The capitalist class was tired of the power vacuum and no longer tolerated any challenge to its power. The capitalist class had been caught off guard by the December 1917 general strike and realized that if the workers decided to rise up, the capitalists needed to be armed and prepared to crush the workers. The capitalists wanted to disarm the workers and establish the class army of the capitalists, the white guard, as the only armed power. The workers and poor peasants would no longer have any ability to demand change. No solution to the food crisis, no solution to unemployment, no land reform. The capitalists were not willing to grant the demands of the people, instead they would cling to their privileged position through force of arms.

“The bourgeoisie attempted… to pass a bill for the creation of a standing army. The issue was discussed in the parliament on 9. of January 1918. In the vote almost half (91 against 94) of parliament members opposed handing the bill to a committee, i.e. opposed passing the bill. The bourgeoisie chose to pursue the matter a different way: it was proposed to give senate special powers to create a strong policing force solely under the senate’s control, which supposedly was needed to smash the spreading “anarchy”. According to senator Castren, the parliament should give the senate the authority for all those actions it sees necessary for creating strong rule of law.” (Holodkovski, pp. 140-141)

“After Finland was granted independence by Soviet-Russia at the beginning of January, the internal situation of the country had developed to an explosive point… The armed forces of the bourgeoisie had been mobilized and were being gathered especially in Southern Ostrobothnia. In mid January all over the country white guards began systematic attacks on workers’ organizations and individual small red guard organizations.

In the parliament the working class leadership attempted to impeach the [capitalist] government of Svinhufvud, but in vain, because that government had turned into an outright dictatorial organ, not accountable to the parliament after the agrarian league party had abandoned the struggle for the Power Act [which made the Finnish parliament the highest governing organ, as opposed to the senate that had been established by the Tsar] and began to support the government of “strong rule of law”. The slogan of “strong rule of law” proclaimed by the Svinhufvud government, together with the bourgeois class militias, the white guard, being declared the only legal armed forces clearly signified a declaration of war against the working class.” (Hyvönen, p. 95)
In order to establish its full power and dictatorship, the capitalist class prepared for civil war, a military attack against the working class. The capitalists began to secretly build a network of white guard organizations throughout the country, and a white army in Southern Ostrobothnia, a kulak region in the middle of Finland. The working class was not preparing for war, the capitalists were. The capitalist government of Svinhufvud decided to establish their secret capital in the city of Vaasa, where they would lead their attack. They needed weapons and funding. For money they turned to the bankers and capitalists. For weapons they turned to the governments of Germany and Sweden. Finnish officers from the old Tsarist army would serve as their commanders.

“A former Tsarist general G. Mannerheim was appointed supreme commander of the whites on 16. of January. Two days later he travelled to Vaasa in Southern Ostrobothnia, which the whites had already beforehand chosen as the base area of their war effort. The bourgeoisie’s war preparations had advanced the furthest in Southern Ostrobothnia. 60 jägers [i.e. soldiers trained in Germany] and others had already worked there for quite some time training white troops. A white military academy was functioning in Vöyri [in Southern Ostrobothnia]. Large amounts of food supplies had also been stored in Southern Ostrobothnia for the war.

Southern Ostrobothnia was suitable as a white base area also because there were no large working class centers, instead the majority of the population were independent landowning peasants, who e.g. didn’t share the oppression of the tenant-farmers. In selecting Southern Ostrobothnia as their base, the bourgeoisie also split the country in half and calculated that they could defeat the red guards near the coast of Southern Lapland soon after the beginning of the war. This would get them in immediate connection with Sweden, whose military aid the whites put great hopes in.”
(Hyvönen, pp. 95-96)

“[Later] on 26. of January the senate [would] relocate… itself to Vaasa where the white guards had already began their attack… Agreeing to the demand that the red guards be dismantled, would have meant surrendering to the mercy of the armed bourgeoisie. Among the party leadership and working class population this was clearly understood and opposed… The party committee… declared on 15. of January… “The senate plans to attack the working class with its white guards – The workers’ guards are absolutely necessary for the self-defense of the workers… Due to the bourgeoisie’s blatant policy of coup’de’tat class struggle in the country may greatly escalate…”
(Hyvönen, pp. 96-97)
The social-democrat minority in the parliament attempted to stop the capitalists from establishing their dictatorship. The effort was unsuccesseful. The social-democrats still hoped the conflict could be avoided.

“Working class [parliamentary] representatives warned the bourgeoisie to not embark on this road. They showed that the white guards had been created as the fighting force of the bourgeois class and they had been used in many provocational attacks against the working class. Recognizing them as the official state army of Finland would mean an outright declaration of class war.

The bourgeoisie had already chosen the path of attacking the workers and poor peasants. It did not want to heed any warnings” (Hyvönen, p.84)

“Social-democrats warned that granting the senate the special powers it requested would mean a declaration of war against the working class. The warning did not work however. After a tremendously stormy debate… the parliament granted the senate special powers on 12. of January. The decision sparked a storm of denounciations by the social-democrats… Social-democrat Pärssinen said that as he looks upon the gloating bourgeoisie he is reminded of the words of the Bible: “Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.” Parliament member Kujala warned the bourgeoisie to remember: he who sows wind, reaps poison. [source: minutes of the 2. Finnish diet 1917, I p. 944]
The decision by the bourgeoisie in the parliament to give senate special powers was seen as a preparation for civil war by the working class press. Later the swedish newspaper “Dagens Nyheter” [daily news] compared the decision to a coup’de’tat. [source: Dagens nyheter, 26.III.1918] On January 13. large worker demonstrations took place against the parliament’s decision…

The same day a youth demonstration of 15,000 participants took place in Helsinki with slogans: “Down with the bloodthirsty bourgeois representatives!”, “Down with militarism!”, “No military of any kind!”” [source: P. Notko, Katsauksia Suomen työtätekevän nuorison luokkataisteluliikkeen historiaan, I osa, p. 159, Известия Гедьсингфорсского совета (Proceedings of the Hedsingfors Soviet) 14(1).I.1918] (Holodkovski, pp. 142-143)

“Immediately after receiving the special powers from the parliament, the senate created two new police organizations and began hurriedly to look for weapons. Svinhufvud sent a coded message to Gripenberg the Finnish representative in Stockholm: “I ask that you immediately authorize Thesleff… [who was in Germany] to begin purchasing weapons. Advise him to make an arrangement for sending those citizens of free and neutral Finland back home, who are currently in the German military [the jägers], arrange their travel to Finland without delay on the first ship and the purchased weapons to be brought with them.” [source: “Kommunisti”, 1933, no.1, p. 42] Another telegram to Gripenberg said: “Hurry with sending the weapons bought from Sweden to Vaasa [the future white capital].” [source: “Vapaus”, 1918, no. 1, p. 7] The Finnish delegates in Germany Hjelt, Erich and Sario turned to Ludendorff on 19. of January and requested the Finnish jäger battalion as well as weapons and military supplies to be sent to Finland soon.” [source: Y. Nurmio, Suomen itsenäistyminen ja Saksa, p. 59] (Holodkovski, pp. 143-144)

“The government had already been preparing for civil war. The counter-revolution chose as its base the middle and northern regions of the country, where the population mainly consisted of landowning peasants. Stores of food and military supplies had been collected in Southern Ostrobothnia and the white guard nucleous gathered there, funds from the Finnish national bank were secretly shipped to Kuopio [in Northern Savonia, in the middle of Finland]. [source: Erinnerungen, G. Mannerheim, p. 167] Ex-members of the Tsarist military were given secret orders on 6. and 7. of January to immediately take leave on “personal reasons” and travel to Southern Ostrobothnia… [source: “Työ”, 29.I.1918] Svinhufvud secretly appointed general Mannerheim as the supreme leader of the Finnish armed forces on 16. of January.” (Holodkovski, p. 144)

The capitalist class had a skillful conspiracy under way. They were collecting millions of marks, thousands and tens of thousands of riffles, millions of bullets, food supplies for an entire army. They were gathering officers trained in Germany or in the Tsarist military, requesting aid from the governments of Sweden and Germany. They had a network of conspiratorial white guard groups all throughout the country. The capitalists were armed to the teeth and prepared to attack the working class, to install a dictatorship and strip the workers of any power to demand rights.

 

“The bourgeoisie in the parliament were building police forces and a military… The bourgeoisie’s talk about building up strong law and order caused uneasiness in workers around the country… The fears of the working population were intensified when on 12. of January the parliament authorized the senate to create a government organ for this purpose. The social-democrats opposed this as they feared it would turn into a class-police, aiming at subjugating the workers.

“The working class movement leadership’s relationship with violence varied. A minority supported embarking on the path of violent revolution, but the majority of the parliamentary group and trade union leaders as well as party leaders were clearly against revolution. [Source: Aimo Klemettilä, Tampereen punakaarti ja sen jäsenistö, p. 60, Hannu Soikkanen, Kohti kansan valtaa I. 1899-1937. Suomen sosiaalidemokraattinen puolue 75 vuotta, p. 270]

However the parliament’s decision to create a strong police force played a part in influencing leading party figures… to slide towards the supporters of an armed solution. As the party council met in Helsinki on 19. of January news began to come from Vyborg about white guard mobilization. The news sharpened the opinions of several members of the council… Grip of the working class movement began to shift to the radical elements, and revolutionary activity ended up being only a matter of time. In the end only very few of even the moderate socialist leaders refused to join or support armed struggle.” [sources: Turo Manninen, “Tie sotaan” Teoksessa itsenäistymisen vuodet 1917-1920. 1. Irti Venäjästä, pp. 407-409, Jaakko Paavolainen, Poliittiset väkivaltaisuudet Suomessa 1918 I. “Punainen terrori”, p. 80, Mikko Uola, “Seinää vasten vain!” Poliittisen väkivallan motiivit Suomessa 1917-18, p. 206
(Suodenjoki & Peltola, Köyhä Suomen kansa katkoo kahleitansa: Luokka, liike ja yhteiskunta 1880-1918 (Vasemmistolainen työväenliike Pirkanmaalla osa 1). pp. 253-254)

“The attempt to create this strong police authority made civil war inevitable, because under the conditions of Finland at that time it could only mean the violent disarming and dismantling of the workers’ guards, which could only be done through armed battles. At the same time the bourgeoisie couldn’t avoid taking this step, because it considered that not taking decisive action against the growing workers’ guards would mean to surrender to the mercy of their class enemy and to be a policy of suicide, which would inevitably lead to the destruction of the bourgeois system.”  (Holodkovski, p. 142)

 

WHO WAS MANNERHEIM – “THE WHITE GENERAL”?

Mannerheim_rakuuna

 

“Earlier Baron Kustaa Mannerheim had achieved fame… through his loyalty to the Tsar who oppressed Finland. This guard officer who had achieved success in his career (In the coronation ceremony of Nicholas II he had the honor of standing next to the throne) didn’t have any second thoughts about the violence the Tsar was carrying out against his homeland Finland. The illegal [nationalist newspaper] “Fria Ord”… had included Mannerheim’s name among those shameful Finnish officers in the Russian army who had not resigned due to the Tsar’s Russification policy. Even Mannerheim’s own family was not safe from the Russification policy: his older brother bank director Carl Mannerheim was deported from Finland to Sweden where his youngest brother Johan also saw best to move. When Kustaa Mannerheim decided to participate in the Russo-Japanese war his family expressed their surprise that he could join a war on behalf of the Tsar that oppressed his homeland. [source: Historiallinen aikakauskirja, no. 1, pp. 40, 41.]

However Mannerheim participated both in the Russo-Japanese war and the First World War. After the February Revolution he resigned from the military with his rank of general and returned to Finland. Then he realized that the Finnish bourgeoisie needed a “strong hand”… and since then it became as favorable for him to disguise himself as a patriot as it had previously been to reject patriotism. The bourgeoisie turned the old loyal servant of the Tsar, to a leader of a patriotic movement, even though the general had to talk with Finnish people using some other language, because his Finnish was poor. While talking to his subordinates during the war he had to rely on an interpreter. [source: E. Heinrichs, Mannerheim Suomen kohtaloissa, I. Valkoinen kenraali 1918-1919, p.101; M. Rintala, Four Finns. Political Profiles, p.20.]

Many Finnish bourgeois were unhappy about this, and about the fact that Mannerheim still had a Russian soldier [Ignat Kondratjevitš Karpatšev] who only spoke Russian as his soldier-servant.” [source: S. Jägerskiöld, Gustaf Mannerheim 1918, p.34]
(Holodkovski, p. 145)

“Soon after returning to Finland, Mannerheim who at the beginning of January 1918 had been made chairman of the Military Committee [white guard organization consisting of ex-Tsarist soldiers] explained to the Committee that revolutionaries could arrest them at any time in Helsinki, and therefore it was necessary without delay to travel North and create an army and central command there. [source: Jägerskiöld, pp. 27-29]

“According to senator Arajärvi Mannerheim had already been appointed head of all armed forces by the senate. During war conditions all officials and citizens had to obey his orders and instructions at once… [cf. A. Beranek, Mannerheim, p. 120]The bourgeoisie voluntarily handed power to a military dictator, who was to crush the revolutionary working class with an iron fist and create “order”. Mannerheim being appointed supreme commander was kept secret for some time, it was announced only on 27. of January.

On 18. of January 1918 Mannerheim traveled to Southern Ostrobothnia under a false name, to finalize war preparations… At the same time the so-called Military Committee [organization of ex-Tsarist officers], which became the White central command also traveled to Southern Ostrobothnia…

Mannerheim called Axel Ehrnrooth the head of Privatbanken in Helsinki on 19. of January, and said he needs 3 million marks in Vaasa immediately. A special fund had already been created in Privatbanken on 9. of October 1917 where big capitalists donated money for the suppression of “anarchy” i.e. to protect against revolution. By 19. of January the fund had 5,676,239 marks.

Ehrnrooth… considered it necessary to receive guarantees from the senate that after “order” had been established the state would refund the money of the bank and the “donors”… Ehrnrooth waited over two and a half hours to speak to Svinhufvud and only gave instructions to send the money after Svinhufvud had said “of course everything will be paid back to you”… (After the revolution had been crushed, literally few hours after Mannerheim had arrived to Helsinki Ehrnrooth came to hand him a bill of 9,019,330 marks. Mannerheim had received this sum from Privatbanken during the civil war. Already on 27. of May the bank was repaid the money to the last penny. [source: Jägerskiöld, p. 405] The victorious bourgeoisie paid the war expenses from the state treasury.)” (Holodkovski, pp. 145-148)

SOURCES:

Erkki Räikkönen, Svinhufvud ja itsenäisyyssenaatti

Holodkovski, Suomen Työväenvallankumous 1918

E. W. Juva, Suomen kansan historia, V. Tie itsenäisyyteen ja itsenäisyyden aika (1899-1956)

Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-1918

Minutes of the 2. Finnish diet 1917
Dagens nyheter, 26.III.1918

P. Notko, Katsauksia Suomen työtätekevän nuorison luokkataisteluliikkeen historiaan, I osa

Известия Гедьсингфорсского совета (Proceedings of the Hedsingfors Soviet) 14(1).I.1918

“Kommunisti”, 1933, no.1

“Vapaus”, 1918, no. 1

Y. Nurmio, Suomen itsenäistyminen ja Saksa

Erinnerungen, G. Mannerheim

“Työ”, 29.I.1918

Aimo Klemettilä, Tampereen punakaarti ja sen jäsenistö

Hannu Soikkanen, Kohti kansan valtaa I. 1899-1937. Suomen sosiaalidemokraattinen puolue 75 vuotta

Turo Manninen, “Tie sotaan” Teoksessa itsenäistymisen vuodet 1917-1920. 1. Irti Venäjästä

Jaakko Paavolainen, Poliittiset väkivaltaisuudet Suomessa 1918 I. “Punainen terrori”

Mikko Uola, “Seinää vasten vain!” Poliittisen väkivallan motiivit Suomessa 1917-18

Suodenjoki & Peltola, Köyhä Suomen kansa katkoo kahleitansa: Luokka, liike ja yhteiskunta 1880-1918 (Vasemmistolainen työväenliike Pirkanmaalla osa 1)
Historiallinen aikakauskirja, no. 1

E. Heinrichs, Mannerheim Suomen kohtaloissa, I. Valkoinen kenraali 1918-1919

M. Rintala, Four Finns. Political Profiles

S. Jägerskiöld, Gustaf Mannerheim 1918

A. Beranek, Mannerheim

The Finnish Communist Revolution (1918) PART 3: FAILURE OF REFORMISM

2550 -1809 8106 . N26809,137519

In the years immediately prior to the revolution, the Finnish socialists were heavily reformist. The party had always wanted to act legally and win concessions from the capitalist class. Eventually all attempts at reformism would end up in failure and in late 1917-early 1918 the party would find itself pushed to a revolutionary situation against its will by the objective conditions, the masses and the actions of the capitalist class. But before that in the period of 1916 to 1917 the social-democrats exhausted every avenue of legal reformism before ever seriously considering revolutionary action: parliamentarism, trade-unionism, demanding of concessions. Each attempt ended in failure, in the end making a violent class conflict unavoidable.

 

THE 1916 ELECTION VICTORY: Attempt at parliamentary reformism

The first grand moment for reformism was the historic election victory of 1916 where the socialists emerged as the largest party and held a parliamentary majority.

“…in the elections of 1916 the social-democratic party of Finland won (as the first workers’ party in the world) an absolute majority of parliamentary seats (103 seats out of 200). This was an enormous victory and persuaded the social-democrats to believe that under normal political conditions, when the parliament would function, laws favorable to the workers could be implemented peacefully.

Indeed, Finland unexpectedly gained such favorable conditions without any struggle from its part. In Petrograd [Russia], workers and soldiers overthrow czarism. In Finland, state of war ended and bourgeois democratic liberties were returned… Finns received the opportunity to create their own government, the senate. Governor-general Seyn and chairman of the senate Borovitinov were imprisoned and taken to Petrograd (where they were released). Stakhovich, a liberal more favorable to Finland, was appointed governor-general. It is doubtful that Finland could have expected conditions any more favorable under the Russian bourgeois republic.

Immediately after the overthrow of czardom, Finnish workers began creating first in the capital and then also in rural areas their own representative bodies, workers’ “representative assemblies” modeled after the Russian soviets… Representative assemblies (called soviets in some localities) functioned alongside local governing bodies (which had previously not been open to lower classes) and took part in administration. “(Holodkovski, The Finnish Workers’ Revolution 1918, pp.8-9)

“The party’s membership began to increase once again in 1916. One reason was the success that social-democrats got in the parliament elections… Among the important questions in the victorious elections of 1916, were the worsening food situation, and attitude towards the increasingly russified Finnish senate [the socialists wanted to give power from the senate to the Parliament, while the bourgeoisie supported the senate]. However the most important theme of the elections was the tenant-farmer question. Every party had their tenant-farmer program but the social-democrats put special emphasis on this question.”
(Suodenjoki & Peltola, Köyhä Suomen kansa katkoo kahleitansa: Luokka, liike ja yhteiskunta 1880-1918 (Vasemmistolainen työväenliike Pirkanmaalla osa 1), pp.181-182)

Due to obstructionism from the capitalist class and from Tsarist Russia, the social-democrats were forced into a coalition government, hindering their work:

“The social-democratic party, which had won the majority now possessed the unquestionable right to form a government. However the matter was made more difficult by the fact that the social-democratic party would have had to collaborate with bourgeois parties, which in socialist circles would have been considered betrayal of working class interests. For this reason the social-democrats announced on 23. of march their refusal to form a government, and to leave it up to bourgeois parties. Bourgeois parties were also afraid to take responsibility to form a senate. At that point the governor-general’s assistant Korff announced that unless a new senate is formed, the old Russian senate “loyal to the czar” would remain in power. This would have been intolerable. The social-democrats had to change their position on forming the senate… In their opinion, it was acceptable to form a government with representatives from the social-democratic party and the [petty-bourgeois] agrarian league, i.e. representatives from the workers’ and peasants’ parties. Again disagreements arose. The agrarian league demanded that representatives of bourgeois parties also be invited to join in the government. In this way, the social-democrats failed to avoid a coalition government.” (Holodkovski, p.9)

“Soon it became even more evident that social-democrats would not achieve much through parliamentary methods, despite their strong position in the highest government organs of Finland (half the senate seats and majority in the parliament). Bourgeois senators could rely on the chairman of the senate, the governor-general if the need arose, and his vote could at any moment grant them majority. Later [revolutionary leader and founder of the Finnish communist party] Kuusinen compared the coalition senate to a stubborn bull which was being pulled forward by its horns by the social-democrats and back by its tail by the bourgeoisie, the bull never moving at all. Additionally the Russian provisional government intervened in Finnish affairs and Finland could not resist its actions… Objective conditions did not allow social-democratic senators the opportunity to improve the position of the workers. The role of the social-democratic senators was limited to collaborating with the bourgeoisie, attempting to minimize the dissatisfaction of the population and in reality to strengthen the type of government which did not fulfill the interests of the population… The senate was stripped of its reputation before it could even do anything. But even when it did act, it didn’t win respect in the eyes of the workers but instead began receiving their scorn.”(Holodkovski, p.10)

“The social-democrats’ participation in the highest executive organ only put them in a bad light in the eyes of the workers, because the workers didn’t benefit from it.

The activity of social-democrats in the parliament proved much the same. Social-democrats only had little over half the seats. But passing changes to important laws (e.g. the constitution or reforms to taxation laws) required a two thirds majority.

The senate and parliament were the typical arena of the social-democrats’ legal activity. Legal activism is possible also in non-revolutionary situations, and therefore it was not characteristic to that time period. What was characteristic to the situation, was the ever larger non-parliamentary action by the working population. The large size of the popular movement is explained by the increased dissatisfaction of the workers, removel of the threat of repression by the authorities and the inspiring effect of the revolutionary activities of the Russian soldiers and sailors. Non-parliamentary methods corresponded to the needs of the active struggle by the people.” (Holodkovski, p.11)

The social-democrat government came to an end when the Russian Provisional Government dismantled the Finnish parliament after the social-democrats together with the agrarian league passed the Power Act, a bill for Finnish independence, making the Finnish parliament independent from Russia. The capitalists worked together with Russia to destroy the social-democrat government and to prevent this bill from being implemented. (See episode 1 of this series about the independence struggle of Finland.)

Thus due to obstructionism the social-democrats’ parliamentary hopes were frustrated. Nothing was achieved but they lost credibility in the eyes of their supporters. At the same time the capitalists were motivated to unite and campaign harder in order to combat the social-democrats in the parliament. The social-democrats no longer could inspire the same level of confidence in their voters as before. They also had a confused policy of opposing the illegal dismantling of the Finnish government by Russia, but still not boycotting the elections to create a new government. This did not help them gain support. The people thought: “what was the point of voting for them, if they would achieve nothing and the parliament would be dismantled again?”

“Social-democrats suffered a defeat in the elections of october 1-2 [1917], which surprised them. Although, the amount of social-democrat votes increased, it was 444,608 when it had been 376,030 in previous elections. [source: J. Paasivirta, Suomen itsenäisyyskysymys 1917 [Finnish independence question 1917], II, pp. 41-44]
The increase in votes of other parties was larger, e.g. the agrarian league grew by 71,6%.
[source: H. Soikkanen, kansalaissota dokumentteina, [civil war as documents] pp. 186-188]
The development of events in the summer and fall of 1917 lead to parliamentarism being seen more and more as a dissappointment by the workers. The social-democrats joining in the government (senate), any more then their parliamentary majority, did not bring significant improvements to the workers. “The people’s paper” made the following summary about the 10 year history of the single chamber parliament:

“Now ten years later we have returned to our starting point and can see that we are just as far from our goals as we were ten years ago… The task of the single chamber, most democratic parliament in the world, has been in these ten years, to sink into sand the foaming stream of progress and change, which then was unleashed by revolution.”
[source:
H. Soikkanen, p.153]

The paper explained that the workers had gone through a hard schooling. They began to understand that the strength of the working class was not in the amount of votes, but in the power and fighting capacity of their fighting class organizations. The paper emphasized that it was possible to mention achievements during this period of ten years, but all of them had been achived through non-parliamentary means. [source: H. Soikkanen, p.154]

These things were written about 2 months before the dismantling of the [Finnish] parliament [by the Russian provisional government to stifle Finnish independence]. The dismantling of the parliament destroyed the last parliamentary illusions and demonstrated the complete unreliability of bourgeois promises.” (Holodkovski, p.38)

 

“WE DEMAND”: Still hoping for peaceful reforms

Reformism suffered a severe blow after the social-democrats inability to pass any reforms during the time when they had parliamentary majority. The capitalist parties together with Russia destroyed the social-democrat majority and defeated them in elections. The social-democrats could no longer hope to pass laws and instead chose to rely on the support of the masses and directly demand concessions from the bourgeoisie:

“On December 1. when the new parliament was in session, the social-democratic leadership published their programmatic declaration “We demand”, which presented the basic demands of the workers. To combat the food shortages it urged to confiscate all food stores, to put production and trade of goods under strict control and distribute goods equally and with reasonable prices. The declaration demanded that the unemployed be given work at adequate wages. New municipal elections had to be carried out according to the newly passed law. [These would be the first municipal elections where workers had equal votes with capitalists. In the previous system, people with more property were entitled to more votes.] Officialdom is to be purged of reactionaries and made democratic. The white guard must be dismantled. The 8-hour working day must immediately be implemented. Tenant farmers and farm workers are to be made rightful owners of their homes and land… An insurence system for the elderly must be created and the tax system reformed. In questions dealing with the sovereign rights of Finland it was urged that the Power Act, accepted by the parliament on 18th of February be published and insisted on guaranteeing the internal autonomy of Finland until the question of Finnish independence has been solved in full. It was also demanded that a constitutional assembly be created and given unlimited authority in solving the country’s affairs and to accept a new constitution. Elections to the constitutional assembly were to be carried out equally among all citizens 20 years or older and decisions must be passed in the assembly with a simple majority. [source: И. И. Сюкияйнен Революционные события 1917-1918, [revolutionary events 1917-1918] pp. 286-289] (cf. Suodenjoki & Peltola, pp. 245-246)

These were the demands of Finnish social-democrats at that time. They didn’t attack the base of the capitalist system, but demanded a substantial limiting of the selfish interests of the ruling classes as well as the weakening of these classes in the government alongside a strengthening of the workers.

The bourgeois majority in the parliament refused these demands as entirely unacceptable. A week after the “We demand” declaration, it was already clear where revolutionary and non-revolutionary methods lead under similar conditions: Lenin’s tactics lead to the world historic victory of socialist revolution in Russia, but the tactics of Finnish social-democrats lead to the bourgeoisie ignoring all the demands of the Finnish working class and the electoral achievements of the social-democrats ended up being worth nothing.” (Holodkovski, pp. 41-42)

The “We Demand” document was naturally limited to simple reforms, but even those could not be achieved. The capitalist class was simply not willing to make compromises. Concessions could not be gained by begging but only by forcing the capitalists to give them!

 

THE DECEMBER 1917 GENERAL STRIKE: Workers take matters into their own hands

After attempts to pass reforms through the parliament had failed, and capitalists had refused to give them, the masses were ready to take them by force, to make life tolerable for the Finnish people. A minority of the social-democrat leaders suggested beginning a working class revolution, but majority still wanted to only pressure the capitalists to force them into concessions.

“Because the bourgeois majority in the parliament paid no heed to the workers’ demands, they began a general strike on the night of December 14. [The leading social-democratic body] The revolutionary central committee presented the strikers’ demands in a declaration titled “Working people to battle for bread and rights! Stop the presses!” (Hyvönen, p.53)

“On December 12. part of the Revolutionary Central Committee and representatives of the trade-unions held a joint meeting… Kuusinen proposed that if the parliament doesn’t satisfy the workers’ demands about the rationing of food, helping the unemployed, extending the municipal voting rights to workers etc. then the workers must take power into their own hands. Some others shared this opinion… Gylling, Pietikäinen, Visa, Väisänen and Saarikivi – opposed beginning a revolution. In their opinion the workers would not be able to keep power for long. Many thought it unlikely that the workers could handle massive nationwide problems. Majority opposed taking power. The decision to pressure the bourgeoisie and attempt to win the reforms of the “We demand”-proclamation, was passed with 18 votes against 8. To help these reforms pass even partially the social-democrats divided them into 6 separate propositions and the demands which offended the bourgeoisie the most – the demand for calling a constitutional assembly and dismantling the white guard – were dropped entirely.” (Holodkovski, pp.50-51) (Cf. E. Räikkönen, Svinhufvud ja itsenäisyyssenaatti, p. 17)

This demonstrates that the leadership in late 1917 was divided into revolutionaries and reformists. The reformists constituted a solid majority of 18 against 8. The social-democrat party did everything it could, to appease the workers and begged the capitalists to grant reforms which were denied, nearly every single time. And when ever a reform was granted, it was not due to the action of the social-democrats but because the workers took matters into their own hands.

“The 4th Congress of the Finnish Trade-Union Federation met on December 12. [1917]. It pointed out that the conditions of the workers were so hopeless and unbearable, that unless the congress is ready to make radical decisions, the workers will take matters into their own hands. The food question was top most in importance… Many… deputees saw revolution as the only thing that could save the workers from starvation. Deputee Hakkinen said that unless the working class rises up to fight they will all starve to death… Deputee Pyttynen said that in Ostrobothnia the workers were eagerly waiting for the decisions of the congress and were willing to die in order to put them into effect… The deputee from Tampere said that workers of the city have decided to either win or die. Deputee Lampinen said that in many localities the workers have already began to take action, because it is better to die in battle then to do nothing and die of hunger. Some delegates said that they had been told by the workers, that unless the congress accepted radical decisions the delegates would not be welcomed back. The workers were not worried about the shortage of weapons. The delegate from Tornio said the Russian soldiers had promised they would have weapons. The delegate from Oulu also said the soldiers sided with the revolution.
[source: H. Soikkainen, pp.353-356]

The attitude of the workers was generally so firm, that there could never be a better time for revolution. However the attitude of the popular masses inspired uneasiness among some working class leaders. These leaders did not aim to overthrow the capitalists but to only pressure them and force them to accept the most important demands, in order to dissolve the revolutionary energy that had built up.

The congress of trade-union organizations published a declaration on December 13. which stated that nothing had been done in order to satisfy the demands which the trade-union delegation had made to the senate on October 20. The trade-union congress demanded that the parliament order the senate already that same day, to implement the Power Act [of Finnish sovereignty], the 8-hour working day and give parliament the right to control all of government. If this was not done, the workers would begin a general strike, the responsibility of which would fall to the bourgeoisie.”
(Holodkovski, pp.51-52)

“The general strike put forward the same demands that had been presented in the “We demand”-programme, demanded solving of the food crisis and unemployment, implementation of the power act [which guaranteed Finnish independence from capitalist Russia], fair municipal elections as well as the 8-hour working day, freeing the tenant farmers from the landlords, extending electoral rights to all citizens age 20 or older, taxing the rich and calling a constitutional assembly. The social-democratic deputies presented these demands in the parliament on behalf of the Finnish Trade-Union Federation on December 13th. The demands were read aloud by deputy Vuoristo who further appealed to the [capitalist] deputies with these words: “After the great masses have seen these demands, —it is no longer in our power to control or lead the situation—history and the minutes of the meeting will demonstrate that from our side we have attempted a peaceful solution. You have every single time refused—I wonder if you still refuse—these modest demands, which you yourselves have claimed to support, and yet have not implemented. Will you plunge our nation into catastrophe because you refuse such modest demands?” (Hyvönen, pp.60-61)

“Social-democrat Vuoristo read the declaration in parliament and emphasized it was supported by 170,000 trade-union workers, as well as all the politically organized workers, i.e. 250,000 citizens.” [source: minutes of the 2. Finnish diet 1917, I pp.98-99] (Holodkovski, p.52, )

“The general strike of 1905 had involved also the bourgeois officials and no bourgeois party had dared to oppose it. The 1917 general strike on the other hand was of a different character. It began from the atmosphere created by the October Revolution, as a revolutionary struggle of the working class and poor rural population against the bourgeoisie. In 1905 the workers had already fought against their own national bourgeoisie when it had allied with the Russian Czar to minimize the democratic parliamentary reform. But in the general strike of 1917 the workers targeted primarily the bourgeoisie of their own country and fundamentally it was nothing else then a struggle for power. The strike spread accross the country and gained right away the character of a sharp class conflict. At this stage the bourgeoisie didn’t yet feel themselves strong enough to enter into open conflict with the workers. The bourgeoisie did have a fairly extensive network of white guard organizations and it had received more then 7000 rifles from Germany along with other weapons. But the initiative was with the workers, and the strike could paralyze the entire country’s transportation, even administration. In the largest working class population centers power was in the hands of worker militias, workers’ “delegate assemblies” [soviets] or councils of working class organizations. Tens of thousands of workers and peasants joined the militias which began to declare themselves red guards. In many localities workers occupied police stations and regional government buildings, and confiscated food and weapons hidden away by the bourgeoisie. The development of the strike in this way lead to a sharpening of class antagonisms.” (Hyvönen, pp.61-62)

Revolutionary leader Yrjö Sirola described the situation in this way:

“The strike spread quickly all over the country and acquired a revolutionary character. The working class was no longer satisfied in asking for the reforms presented in the “We demand”-programme and the disarming of white guard organizations, but began demanding conquest of power. In reality, in large parts of the country (especially in cities and rural working class centers) power was already uncontestedly in the hands of revolutionary working class organizations.” (Sirola, Suomen luokkasota)
The workers take control of cities all over the country.

“…the Revolutionary central committee received messages through the telegraph and telephone from all parts of the country, demonstrating that the tide of revolution was rising ever higher and that everywhere, the workers were masters of the situation and full of fighting spirit. In Kajaani the strike committee informed that the town administration was under its control and everything was peaceful. The revolutionary committee of Tornion informed that power was in the hands of the workers and steps are being taken to solve the food crisis. In Mikkeli workers occupied the police building as well as telegraph and telephone station and forced the governor to obey the people’s demands. The mood of the workers was fierce. The workers’ revolutionary committee in Vaasa informed that the workers have occupied the regional government, sealed the rooms and posted guards, and that everything was peaceful. The workers’ soviet of Oulu telegraphed that the workers have occupied the police station, railway station, telegraph and telephone stations and regional government. Factories, shops and schools have been closed, without conflicts. Messages came from Heinola informing about the eager fighting will of the workers. Information coming from Joensuu and Jyväskylä stated that power was in the hands of the workers. Telegraphs came from Turku, Pori, Riihimäki and Ruotsinpyhtää stating that worker militias are keeping revolutionary order, confiscating weapons from the bourgeoisie and arresting the most active counter-revolutionaries. Worker organizations of Lappeenranta were carrying out inspections to discover the bourgeoisies’ hidden food stores and had already confiscated 16 tons of grain. The working people of Oulunkylä confiscated food and alcoholic beweriges from the bourgeoisie (under the law, the production and sale of alcohol was prohibited, so the bourgeoisie was breaking the law).

Here and there, worker militias had to face the white guards but gained the upper hand. The white guard of Tammisaari managed to drive the workers away from the telephone station for a while but soon the red guards took it over again. In Jyväskylä, Sortavala and Oitti the bourgeois broke the phone lines but almost everywhere the workers managed to repair them.” (Holodkovski, pp. 64-65)

“The strike spread to encompass the whole country. The industries of every city and every countryside municipality stopped work. A total of 832 enterprises participated in the strike, partial strikes were held in 112 enterprises. 10 enterprises stayed out of the strike. None of the newspapers could appear, except “The information bulletin of the workers’ revolutionary central committee” and local revolutionary committee and strike committee bulletins.

The workers saw the general strike as the beginning of a proletarian revolution and not simply a stoppage of work. All over the country they created red guard chapters. Russian troops partially helped to solve the weapon question of the red guards and worker militias. In Helsinki the workers acquired 3000 rifles from the arsenal of Vyborg shipyard (which were returned after the strike) [source: A. Taimi, Sivuja Eletystä, pp. 228-229, 231]. In Tampere the workers had 300 rifles, in Kotka 600, in Vyborg 300 etc. [source: Lehen, p.86] Workers occupied all the most important locations in the cities, took control of the media and transportation, conducted house searches in the houses of the bourgeoisie, confiscated any weapons they found and arrested the most hated counter-revolutionaries. The white guards did not dare to resist the worker’s highly unified and organized actions, apart from a few exceptions. The bourgeois authority was crippled. The bourgeois police academy… was shut down. From all municipalities, messages came announcing that power was in the hands of the workers. The working class had the opportunity to fully conquer state power, and besides, possibly without any serious resistance or bloodshed, as the events had caught the bourgeoisie off guard and it was unprepared for civil war. A revolutionary situation had arisen in the country.” (Holodkovski, pp.54-55)

The December 1917 general-strike would have been the perfect opportunity for a revolution. The capitalists were caught off-guard, they were not armed or prepared sufficiently to oppose the workers, who easily took control with very little resistance. But a revolution was not what the majority of social-democrat leaders were hoping for. They were frightened by the turn of events. The masses had simply organized without the reformist leaders and taken more bold action then their supposed leaders had wanted. The social-democratic party was now forced to consider whether to support an outright workers’ revolution or to oppose it.

 

FACTIONS INSIDE THE PARTY: Reformists, Centrists, Revolutionaries and Counter-revolutionaries.

White propaganda written in the 30s also admits that instead of advocating for revolution “The social-democrats didn’t have the courage to order a rebellion, but instead warned against individual actions and told the workers to keep united.”
(Erkki Räikkönen, Svinhufvud ja itsenäisyyssenaatti, p. 15)

“At the same time as the working class was ready for revolution and rising for battle, [source: “Финляндия революция”, стр. 26.] the majority in the Revolutionary Central Committee considered revolution to be dangerous in that situation. Why did an attitude of compromise triumph in the working class leaders, while a few months later [in january 1918] a revolutionary attitude gained the upper hand despite the situation no longer being favorable? [source: Lehen, p.107]

In December 1917 the social-democratic party functioned under the prevailing understanding of class struggle. The theoretical level of the party was low, it interpreted principles of revolution and class struggle in a backward way.* According to [revolutionary leader] Yrjö Sirola, a left-wing faction, centrist faction and a right-wing faction all lived harmoniously in the party and the centrists were the leading group, with their left-kautskyite theories.** Sirola considered himself to have belonged to this group…” (Holodkovski, p. 55)

*[source: “40 лет рабочей революции в Финляндии.” “Новая и новейшая история”, 1958, No 2, стр. 125. (“40 years of the workers’ revolution in Finland.” “New and Newest History”, 1958, No 2, p. 125.)]
**[source: Предисловие Ю. Сирола к тезисам ЦК КПФ. “Пролетарская революция”, 1928, No 8 (78), стр. 168. (Y.Sirola’s preface to the theses of the Central Committee of the Finnish Communist Party. “The Proletarian Revolution”, 1928, No 8 (78), p. 168.)]

“Sirola explained that this left-wing consisted of instinctively revolutionary workers without conscious Bolshevik leadership. The left-wing faction became stronger and more active after the October Revolution. [source: “40 лет рабочей революции в Финляндии.” “Новая и новейшая история”, 1958, No 2, стр. 125. (“40 years of the workers’ revolution in Finland.” “New and Newest History”, 1958, No 2, p. 125.)]

The working class leaders of that time had no familiarity with Lenin’s theoretical works, partially due to the fact that they didn’t speak Russian, but more because they were not very interested in the Bolshevik’s struggle against opportunism or issues of the international working class movement. Here is an illustrative example. In June of 1917 at the 9th congress of the Finnish social-democratic party Bolshevik representatives Alexandra Kollontai and Jukka Rahja [a Finnish bolshevik] encouraged Finnish social-democrats to join the Zimmerwald current [which opposed the imperialist world war one]. Valpas replied that the party majority was not on the Zimmerwald side.

“The extreme right-wing of the majority is more right-wing then the famous Branting, it is almost petit-bourgeois and in the party executive committee that has been the leading tendency” and in questions of class struggle it is of the same opinion as Branting and Scheidemann [social-chauvinists and reformists] [source: Soikkanen, I, p. 94].

Kuusinen who spoke later, said: “It is true that Zimmerwalds, Scheidemanns, Thomases etc. are very vague concepts to us. If Rahja is going to question us about international politics, starting with the question of which groups are now Zimmerwaldian, then we are going to make a great many mistakes.” Rahja interjected: “You have been together with the bourgeoisie and for that reason can’t even recognize social-democrats.”

Kuusinen replied: “Yes, it is partially because of that, but also because we are so far away from those international politics… but I think its not so dangerous if we here make a decision somewhat with our ‘eyes closed’ to follow the decision of our Russian comrades and join with the Zimmerwald… We trust you. Valpas says that it would be incorrect since we are more bourgeois then the Zimmerwaldians. That is true. From what I personally know about the Zimmerwaldians I do think that they take a more extreme stance then us here in Finland.”[source: Soikkanen, I, pp. 96-97] (Holodkovski, pp.56-57)
“Before the October revolution in Russia and in the early weeks of the revolution, the stance of Finnish social-democrats was that a socialist revolution could only succeed in large western industrial countries. Three days after the Bolshevik revolution, Kuusinen said in a speech to the parliament that the question of proletarian revolution would not be solved in Finland but

“it would be settled in Europe. It also won’t be settled in Russia but in Russia, Germany, England, all of them together and possibly nearly at the same time. Unless a proletarian revolution comes from there, it won’t happen in Finland either…”
(Minutes of the 2. Finnish diet 1917, I pp.56-57)

From the above statement it follows logically that the Finnish socialists didn’t feel the need to urgently prepare for a socialist revolution, until it happened in the Western countries. Because otherwise the Finnish revolution would suffer defeat, and therefore the working classes had to be prevented from taking this premature and ill-advised step. There was the danger that the revolutionary working class would turn its back on the leaders [as it later did] and would start to follow the firm supporters of revolution without delay. For this reason the more radical of the leaders had to keep up appearances and act thus, to not cause disappointment amont revolutionary workers and to not let them out of their influence, even if they didn’t truly support revolution. They had to pretend to be much more left-wing then they really were, and emphasize that they supported uncompromising class struggle and won’t collaborate with the bourgeosie. That way they kept their authority among the left-wing working class. The siltasaari [center-left] faction founded its policy on this basis. In the party congress in 1917 Kuusinen described the policy of the times in the following way:

“Personally, I would now take quite a revisionist stance. In normal circumstances I would try to support class struggle. But it probably won’t hurt to take a [public] stand that is more radical then the actual practice. That is how this party has always been. We have always given an image of ourselves to the outside, which is slightly more radical then we really are. We have had class struggle as such a dogma right from the beginning, that if someone were to speak against it, they would have been condemned by the party.”
(Minutes of the 9. congress of the Finnish social-democratic party)

To have understood the falsity of the deeply rooted dogmas of Western social-democracy would have required serious reconsideration and becoming accustomed with Lenin’s works. Those who trusted in [German revisionist leader] Kautsky’s authority had only realized the falseness of some of Kautsky’s claims after looking into that theoretical work that some Bolsheviks had given to developing the theory and practice of Marxism. Lenin’s recommendations for Finnish social-democrats to take power, and his short letter of December 11. could not contain full argumentation and therefore didn’t have a significant enough impact on the Finns.” (Holodkovski, p. 57-58)

The factions in the social-democratic party altered over time. Initially there was a struggle between the counter-revolutionary revisionist right-wing faction and the left-wing “siltasaari” faction. However in 1917 a further split emerged:

1) the firm revolutionaries, armed masses, elements of trade-unions etc. formed a revolutionary left-wing tendency but as Sirola said, without Bolshevik leadership.

2) the “siltasaari” group which consisted of many social-democrat party leaders became a center-faction. They represented a left-menshevik, left-kautskyite tendency which supported revolution in theory but not in reality, believed Finland as a small peasant country wasn’t ready for revolution.

3) the counter-revolutionaries, open revisionists and reformists formed the right-wing. The leaders of this group such as Väinö Tanner would consistently oppose working class revolution throughout the civil war, would eventually denounce socialism and form the basis of modern Finnish social-democracy.

The social-democrat leaders saw the december general-strike would lead to a working class revolution which they saw as premature and inadvisable. Therefore they began aiming to end the strike and still wanted pushthe capitalists to grant concessions and appease the workers to prevent a revolution.

“The Revolutionary Central Committee [i.e social-democrat leadership] was being pressured from the right and the left. The majority of the social-democratic parliamentary group was nervous about the revolutionary character of the December general strike, and after receiving information that the strike had in some locations lead to bloodshed, it called its members away from Revolutionary Central Committee leaving only three members who it authorized to act in favor of ending the strike.
[source: “Explanation of the minutes of the 10. (extraordinary) congress of the Finnish social-democratic party held in Helsinki 25-27. December 1917”, by Anton Huotari as secretary, p.10]
The view of the workers’ militias was the opposite. On the evening of 15. December their representatives arrived at the meeting demanding firmer actions: disarming the white guards and taking power. If the meeting refused to do this, the workers would do it themselves. The Revolutionary Central Committee promised to give its answer by 8 o’clock the next morning. The meeting did not have time to discuss the matter because many of its members had to be in session of the parliament.

In the parliament the social-democrats tried for the last time to persuade the bourgeosie to realize that it was essential to grant at least some of the workers’ demands… In his speech to the parliament Kuusinen said:

“I am of the view that there could be unrest tomorrow, unless we who seek to calm down the workers, can finally demonstrate some real results from this parliament… We at least see it as beneficial if we could peacefully get over this critical period.”
(Minutes of the 2. Finnish diet 1917, I pp.56-57)

“Valpas said in his speech that “The revolutionary movement has until now only taken the form of a strike movement” [source: Minutes of the 2. Finnish diet 1917, I pp.56-57] and let it be understood that the situation could change as early as tomorrow, unless the parliament give the workers real results. The leadership of the strike did not consider itself capable of controlling the forces who demanded firm action…

After finally realizing the seriousness of the situation the bourgeosie agreed to some concessions. Alkio [from the petit-bourgeois Agrarian league] made the proposition that

“…the parliament would at least temporarily begin wielding that authority which had previously belonged to the Czar and grand duke.” [i.e. the Power Act would partially be implemented at least temporarily, making Finland a sovereign republic]
(Minutes of the 2. Finnish diet 1917, I p. 220)

The social-democrats proposed that the parliament be made permanently and not temporarily the highest authority. The secretariat of the parliament proposed in the name of the bourgeos parliamentary group that the highest authority be given to the senate. Alkio’s proposal was accepted with 127 votes in favor, 68 against. Afterwards the parliament accepted the 8-hour working day and the municipal election reform.” (Holodkovski, p. 58-59)

The white guard propaganda book Svinhufvud and the independence senate also admits these facts. The author quotes from the same speech by Kuusinen on page 23.
“After the parliament session on night of December 16. the Revolutionary Central Committee continued its meeting, where the proposition of the workers’ militias “to take power” was discussed. The previous night the council of worker organizations had also joined in with this proposition. Finally at 5 o’clock in the morning it was decided with 14 votes against 11 to take power in the hands of the workers… Sirola was tasked with drafting the call to revolution. But soon some who had sided with revolution changed their minds and the whole vote was dropped.” (Holodkovski, p. 60)

White guard propaganda also confirms this saying:

“After a heated discussion the meeting decided with 14 votes against 11 to begin a revolution the next day… The fateful hour for our fatherland had not struck yet however. Before dawn some members of the central committee who had supported revolution changed their mind and the decision was dropped.” (Räikkönen, p. 24)

“On the morning of 16. December there appeared a declaration of the Revolutionary Central Committee which had been written before the call to revolution had been cancelled. It descibed the 8-hour working day and municipal reform by the parliament as entirely insufficient.” (Holodkovski, p. 60)

The declaration read:

“That is all! And even that, after many twists and turns. But it cannot satisfy the workers. It cannot. It will not be allowed. Not even a word has been spoken about solving the food crisis, not to even mention actions being taken. No action has been taken to combat unemployment. The lords of the parliament naturally don’t want to free the tenant-farmers. They oppose democratization of the state machine. They firmly close their pocket books from effective taxation. They do not wish to remove obstacles from voting rights, they abhore calling a constitutional assembly. They don’t plan to give up their butcher [white] guards. But they must be forced. Power has so far been wielded only by the bourgeoisie. It must now be taken into the hands of the workers. The strike must be continued, the bourgeois state machine must be taken under working class supervision, railroads etc. transportation and communication must be taken under the control of the workers, the bourgeoisie must be disarmed, its sabotage activity and armed resistance must be crushed, the worker guards must enforce revolutionary order, in the regions power belongs to local soviets and committees. The highest ruling body is the workers’ Revolutionary Central Committee. May everyone know their task. May everyone fulfill their duty. This way the revolutionary workers fight for their rights, to win bread.” (H. Soikkanen, kansalaissota dokumentteina p. 245)

“The declaration which emphasized that the demands which lead to the general strike were not even close to being satisfied, and therefore it was necessary to take even firmer actions, proved to be in stark contrast with the Revolutionary Central Committee’s actual policy. The majority of the central committee actually took the opinion that it was best to be satisfied with the concessions they had won, and to end the strike…

Later Sirola said about those days that setting up a proletarian dictatorship corresponded to such a degree with the hopes and wishes of the workers that if one of the leaders had had the courage to step up as the head of a workers’ government, the workers would have supported them, followed them and the revolution would have been carried out.” (Holodkovski, p. 61)

 

“RED SENATE”: The Final Reformist Utopia

The social-democrats had been lead to believe that a compromise with the capitalists could be reached. If the general-strike was ended and society returned to normal conditions, the capitalists would allow the social-democrats control of the senate. The social-democrats were not stupid enough to fully trust this proposition but still agreed to go along, as the other alternative would have been revolution.

“The leaders of the strike began negotiations with a few bourgeois representatives of the parliament about the creation of a socialist government “the legal way”, i.e. by a parliamentary decision. The bourgeois representatives implied that such a government could be formed if the strike was ended. The parliament couldn’t be pressured any further because its chairman had dissolved it for the duration of the strike. The social-democrats had opposed dissolving the parliament without success. Therefore, in order to create a social-democratic government through the parliament, the strike had to be ended. But were there any guarantees that the bourgeoisie would not betray its promise? It would have been childish to believe the promises of the bourgeoisie. The leaders of the strike understood this but still supported ending the strike. In their opinion the continuation of the strike and its escalation to a revolution could have disastrous consequences which had to be prevented. The policy of forming a socialist government through a parliamentary road was accepted, and it instantly reduced the revolutionary sentiment. Was there any need to use violence, if a red government could be created with the agreement of parliament? In light of these facts it is easy to understand the actions of the majority of Finnish working class leaders in December 1917.”
(Holodkovski, p.62)

“The Revolutionary Central Committee discussed the question of a red government and the strike on December 17. The minutes of the meeting speak of disunity… votes were divided evenly. Six members… supported social-democrat participation in government (…minutes don’t specify what this meant)… six members supported ending the strike without any further demands. No decision was reached.

A decision was accepted in the next meeting of the Revolutionary Central Committee which began at 2am December 18. and had a crucial significance. The participants of the meeting were told that the council of workers’ organizations of Helsinki unanimously support forming a workers’ government. The railway workers agree. On the other hand the majority of the social-democratic parliamentary group supports forming a red government through legal, i.e. parliamentary means… three proposals were presented: 1. forming a red government through parliamentary means, 2. forming a red government through non-parliamentary means and 3. to end the general strike without any further demands. Forming a red government through parliamentary means received 8 votes in favor… 8 members also opposed it. The vote of the chairman decided the question in favor of accepting the proposal. In the final vote the decision was accepted with 7 votes in favor, 5 against and 2 abstaining that the strike will be ended and the social-democratic parliamentary group is tasked with forming a red government through the parliament…” (Holodkovski, pp.62-63)
White guard propaganda also admits this saying:
“In the final vote it was decided at last with 7 votes in favor and 5 against – with 2 abstaining from voting –, that the strike will be ended and “the parliamentary group will be given the task to form a red government through the parliament”. By promising the frenzied masses a “red senate” it was possible to calm things down.” (Räikkönen, p. 27)

Meanwhile the proletarian and rural masses waited for developments.

“The local committees and soviets awaited at their telephones around the clock for revolutionary orders from the central leadership. They anxiously waited for instructions.

In such a situation, news began to spread that the Revolutionary Central Committee had decided to end the strike. To the workers this seemed at first to be unbelievable and monstrous. They didn’t believe it. In some places the telegraph which called for ending the strike, was seen as a provocation. [source: L. Letonmäki, Den finska socialdemokratin och revolutionen, p.7]

In Tampere the workers thought the members of their committee who announced the ending of the strike, were traitors who had been bribed by the bourgeoisie. When the members of the committee tried to defend themselves in a mass meeting, they were prevented from speaking with shouts of “down!”, “out!”, “traitors!”” (Holodkovski, p.65)

“Even after the news turned out to be true, hundreds of workers refused at first to obey the order to end the strike. From all corners of the country came confused and angry questions about why the strike should end… In Kotka, Lahti and Loviisa the workers rose up almost unanimously to oppose ending the strike. Those supporting the order of the Revolutionary Central Committee were pulled down from podiums. The workers of Kotka and Kymenlaakso voiced the slogan “Power to the workers”, “We must declare a proletarian dictatorship” and promised to mobilize and thousand men.[source: Punakaarti rintamalla. Luokkasodan muistoja, p.106]

The workers of Karjaa declared in their meeting that they don’t accept ending the strike because the results achived are insufficient, and said the measures outlined in the “We demand” proclamation absolutely had to be fulfilled. The workers of Karkkila unanimously accepted the following statement: “We don’t accept the decision of the Revolutionary Central Commitee. We must uncompromisingly hold on to the demands we put forward at the beginning of the strike; for that reason such a government must be created that will implement the Power Act, bring the tenant-farmer question to an acceptable conclusion etc. Also the regional and municipal governments must be taken in the workers’ hands. Forces must remain mobilized until working conditions and the food situation have been organized according to the new regime.”
[source: “Suurlakkotiedonantoja” [“general strike information bulletins”] n:o 1, 19.XI.1917.]

Similar decision was made by the workers of Lohja. News arrived in Helsinki that the decision to end the strike had caused unrest among the workers and meetings were held in several places. Those who supported ending the strike were accused of being traitors.” [source: И. И. Сюкияйнен, p. 129] (Holodkovski, p.66)

The masses had been ready for revolution. All they lacked as Sirola and Kuusinen later said, was Bolshevik leadership, which did not exist in Finland at the time.

The Revolutionary Central Committee published a declaration on 18. December titled “Class struggle without the general strike” which stated that:
“The bourgeosie’s black powergrab [attempt to build military dictatorship] has been defeated… power will be given to the hands of the parliament, and laws about municical democracy and 8-hour working day have been passed… Part of the parliament bourgeoisie have made emergency promises. They’ve promised improvements to the food policy. They have also promised to recognize and implement the ‘power act’ as a basis for democracy… They have also promised their support for freeing the tenant-farmers and other important demands… Their promises are not worth much however, unless the workers standby as a firm observing guardian, ready to attack if betrayal of the promises is discovered…” (H. Soikkanen, pp. 248-250)
The capitalists’ attempt to build a dictatorship will be discussed in a later episode.

“The [social-democrat] declaration [to end the strike] clearly demonstrates that they set as goals of the working class movement only those types of reforms and demands which did not directly attack the foundations of the capitalist system.” (Holodkovski, p. 67)

“The workers’ executive committee of Helsinki declared on 19. of December that: “Because a red senate has been formed and the general organized workers’ meetings… have today decided to end the strike, the workers’ executive committee of Helsinki informs that the strike is considered to be over by 2 p.m.” …words about the formation of a red senate do not reflect any reality: the senate was only being planned. However, for a few days this illusion was seen as a realistic possibility. The newspaper “The Worker” published advice from the workers to the red senate. The planned members of the red senate… held a meeting to plan the government’s program… The senate question ended exactly as Sirola had thought. It was childish to imagine in that situation that the bourgeois majority would have handed over the reigns of power to the social-democrats… the proposal for a red senate received only 80 votes. A 100 votes supported the bourgeois senate, Svinhufvud as its leader.” (Holodkovski, pp. 70-71)
A white guard author writes:
“On December 19. the workers’ executive committee finally declared the strike to be over, because a red senate had been formed. However this did not happen…” (Räikkönen, p. 27)

In this way all the attempts at peaceful reform failed. The capitalists did not grant any meaningful concessions or share power with the workers. The conditions still remained absolutely miserable in the country: long working days despite some industries officially accepting 8-hour working days on paper, and this obviously did not extend to farm workers, rural house servants or tenant-farmers, there was still no land reform, no ruling single chamber parliament, wages were too low to compete with inflation and black market prices of necessities and according to government estimates one quarter of the population was threatened by famine. See episode 2 of this series about the conditions of the people before the revolution.

The absolute failure of reformism to change the miserable conditions kept pushing the masses towards real revolutionary struggle. At the same time, now frightened by the unrest of the december general-strike and the strength of the masses, the capitalists began to rapidly arm themselves, to build a dictatorship and to prepare to crush the workers if they attempted to rise up and improve their lives.

SOURCES:

Holodkovski, Suomen Työväenvallankumous 1918

Suodenjoki & Peltola, Köyhä Suomen kansa katkoo kahleitansa: Luokka, liike ja yhteiskunta 1880-1918 (Vasemmistolainen työväenliike Pirkanmaalla osa 1)

J. Paasivirta, Suomen itsenäisyyskysymys 1917

H. Soikkanen, kansalaissota dokumentteina
И. И. Сюкияйнен Революционные события 1917-1918

Me vaadimme https://mltheory.files.wordpress.com/2019/05/me-vaadimme-julistus.pdf
E. Räikkönen, Svinhufvud ja itsenäisyyssenaatti

Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-1918

Minutes of the 2. Finnish diet 1917

Sirola, Suomen luokkasota

A. Taimi, Sivuja Eletystä

“Финляндия революция”

Tuure Lehen, Punaisten ja Valkoisten Sota

“40 лет рабочей революции в Финляндии.” “Новая и новейшая история”, 1958, No 2, стр. 125.

Предисловие Ю. Сирола к тезисам ЦК КПФ. “Пролетарская революция”, 1928, No 8 (78), стр. 168.
Minutes of the 9. congress of the Finnish social-democratic party

Explanation of the minutes of the 10. (extraordinary) congress of the Finnish social-democratic party held in Helsinki 25-27. December 1917

L. Letonmäki, Den finska socialdemokratin och revolutionen

“Suurlakkotiedonantoja”

Punakaarti rintamalla: Luokkasodan muistoja, ed. J. Lehtosaari

 

Was Lenin a State-capitalist? (The NEP explained)

Every now and then one hears the claim that “Lenin was a state-capitalist, Lenin didn’t support socialism, but state-capitalism.” What is this based on? Let’s get to the bottom of this.

This confusion stems from an incorrect understanding of Lenin’s writings, the early soviet policies of “war-communism” and the so-called NEP or “New Economic Policy”.

Lenin of course, was a communist. He wanted Socialism and communism.

In the early 1920s Lenin argued strongly in favor of building socialism and said it was no longer a matter of the distant future, but something viable that could be built during the immediately following years:

Socialism is no longer a matter of the distant futureno matter how many difficulties it may entail, we shall all―not in one day, but in the course of several years―all of us together fulfil it whatever happens so that NEP Russia will become socialist Russia
~Lenin, “Speech At A Plenary Session Of The Moscow Soviet Nov. 20, 1922”

But what about the NEP? What was it? Lenin even mentions the NEP in the quote above.

The NEP, or “New Economy Policy” was a transition policy from capitalism to socialism. During the NEP the proletariat had conquered state power, and large industry was mostly nationalized into the hands of the state. However, it wasn’t socialism yet particularly because the agricultural sector was still mostly in private hands, hence why Lenin calls it “state-capitalism”. It would have been inaccurate to call it socialism, it was the preparation for socialism.

This is what Lenin said in 1923:

Infinitely stereotyped, for instance, is the argument they learned by rote during the development of West-European Social-Democracy, namely, that we are not yet ripe for socialism, but as certain “learned” gentleman among them put it, the objective economic premises for socialism do not exist in our country… “The development of the productive forces of Russia has not yet attained the level that makes socialism possible.” All the heroes of the Second International, including, of course, Sukhanov, beat the drums about this proposition. They keep harping on this incontrovertible proposition in a thousand different keys, and think that it is decisive criterion of our revolution… You say that civilization is necessary for the building of socialism. Very good. But why could we not first create such prerequisites of civilization in our country by the expulsion of the landowners and the Russian capitalists, and then start moving toward socialism? Where, in what books, have you read that such variations of the customary historical sequence of events are impermissible or impossible?”
~Lenin, “Our Revolution” (1923)

Once again Lenin reiterates that it is feasable and necessary to implement measures of proletarian state-control, which is not socialism, but a step towards it:

“Under no circumstances can the party of the proletariat set itself the aim of “introducing” socialism in a country of small peasants so long as the overwhelming majority of the population has not come to realise the need for a socialist revolution.

But only bourgeois sophists, hiding behind “near-Marxist” catchwords, can deduce from this truth a justification of the policy of post poning immediate revolutionary measures, the time for which is fully ripe; measures which have been frequently resorted to during the war by a number of bourgeois states… the nationalisation of the land, of all the banks and capitalist syndicates, or, at least, the immediate establishment of the control of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, etc., over them… which are only steps towards socialism, and which are perfectly feasible economically.”
~Lenin, The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution (1917)

Lenin also realized that in order to transition to socialism it was necessary to create a collective agriculture sector. He said in 1923, talking about agricultural co-operatives:

As a matter of fact, the political power of the Soviet over all large-scale means of production, the power in the state in the hands of the proletariat, the alliance of this proletariat with the many millions of small and very small peasants, the assured leadership of the peasantry by the proletariat, etc, …is not this all that is necessary in order from the co-operatives – from the co-operatives alone, which we formerly treated as huckstering, and which, from a certain aspect, we have the right to treat as such now, under the new economic policy – is not this all that is necessary in order to build a complete socialist society? This is not yet the building of socialist society but it is all that is necessary and sufficient for this building.”
~Lenin, “On Cooperation” (1923)

Lenin’s opponents claimed that Lenin was going backwards and betraying socialism by advocating development on state-capitalist lines. Lenin reminded them of what he said already in 1917:

“[S]ocialism is merely the next step forward from state-capitalist monopoly… no revolt can bring about socialism unless the economic conditions for socialism are ripe… state-monopoly capitalism is a complete material preparation for socialism, the threshold of socialism, a rung on the ladder of history between which and the rung called socialism there are no intermediate rungs.”
~Lenin, “The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat it” (1917)

Now it should be clear that he says state-capitalism is a material preparation for socialism i.e. the means of production have been highly centralized so it is relatively easy for a dictatorship of the proletariat to take them over. Of course Lenin is also talking about the context of his own time. Russia was a semi-feudal country, meaning that they had some industry in the cities, while most of the country was under developed countryside, dominated by small scale peasant production. This is why Lenin said, that it would be preferable and useful, if the country wasn’t semi-feudal, but state-capitalist. That would allow for faster development, building up of industry, electricity etc.

He points to the example of Germany which transitioned from feudalism to state-capitalism. He argued, this would be useful for Russia, if it was under the dictatorship of the proletariat.

“In the first place economically state capitalism is immeasurably superior to our present economic system.

In the second place there is nothing terrible in it for the Soviet power, for the Soviet state is a state in which the power of the workers and the poor is assured. . . .

To make things even clearer, let us first of all take the most concrete example of state capitalism. Everybody knows what this example is. It is Germany. Here we have “the last word” in modern large-scale capitalist engineering and planned organisation, subordinated to Junker-bourgeois imperialism. Cross out the words in italics, and in place of the militarist, Junker, bourgeois, imperialist state put also a state, but of a different social type, of a different class content—a Soviet state, that is, a proletarian state, and you will have the sum total of the conditions necessary for socialism.

Socialism is inconceivable without large-scale capitalist engineering based on the latest discoveries of modern science. It is inconceivable without planned state organisation which keeps tens of millions of people to the strictest observance of a unified standard in production and distribution. We Marxists have always spoken of this, and it is not worth while wasting two seconds talking to people who do not understand even this (anarchists and a good half of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries).”
~Lenin, The Tax in Kind (The Significance Of The New Policy And Its Conditions)

Marx and Engels supported the idea that a socialist revolution should be carried out as soon as possible without waiting for capitalism to develop “on its own” and destroy the peasantry. Lenin’s policy of worker-peasant alliance, developing of agricultural co-operatives and using state-capitalism as a transition from semi-feudalism and undeveloped capitalism to socialism is in accordance with Marx and Engels.

“We, of course, are decidedly on the side of the small peasant; we shall do everything at all permissible to make his lot more bearable, to facilitate his transition to the co-operative should he decide to do so, and even to make it possible for him to remain on his small holding for a protracted length of time to think the matter over, should he still be unable to bring himself to this decision. We do this not only because we consider the small peasant living by his own labor as virtually belonging to us, but also in the direct interest of the Party. The greater the number of peasants whom we can save from being actually hurled down into the proletariat, whom we can win to our side while they are still peasants, the more quickly and easily the social transformation will be accomplished. It will serve us nought to wait with this transformation until capitalist production has developed everywhere to its utmost consequences, until the last small handicraftsman and the last small peasant have fallen victim to capitalist large-scale production.” ~Engels, The Peasant Question in France and Germany

Marx and Engels said that all means of productions should be nationalized. But the soviets quickly realized, that it is impossible to nationalize all the small means of productions, especially the thousands and thousands of small peasant farms. In our modern day, this is not necessarily a problem, but for countries in those days it was a serious problem. So Lenin proposed setting up of agricultural co-operatives, which would help transition the small peasant farms to socialism.

So Lenin did not support state-capitalism ruled by the bourgeois. He didn’t support bourgeois rule at all, but he realized that it would be inaccurate to call the NEP socialism, so he called it state-capitalism, ruled by the proletariat.

But why did Lenin’s opponents accuse him of retreating backwards (they never had socialism before)? That is because the left-opposition wanted to continue their previous war time policy of “war-communism”. It has communism in the name, but that doesn’t mean it was actually socialist or communist. War-communism was a system of direct grain confiscation, meaning that all the surplus food produced by the peasantry, would be taken at a fixed price, and given to the cities and the army. This was a necessary war time policy, but it wasn’t socialism and it was unpopular among the peasants. Therefore, when the civil war ended, war-communism was also ended.

Unlike war-communism, the NEP allowed a limited grain market, with price controls. Lenin admitted, that in some ways this was a retreat, but a necessary one.

So lets recap. The NEP meant:

  • ending of war communism
  • rebuilding after the war
  • large trade in the hands of the state, but allowing a limited grain market to stimulate grain production
  • developing industry in the hands of the proletarian state
  • developing a collective agricultural sector

=setting up the necessary economic foundations for building socialism

 

SOURCES:
Lenin, The Tax in Kind (The Significance Of The New Policy And Its Conditions) (1921)
Lenin, The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat it (1917)
Lenin, “On Cooperation” (1923)
Lenin, The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution (1917)
Lenin, “Our Revolution” (1923)
Lenin, “Speech At A Plenary Session Of The Moscow Soviet Nov. 20, 1922”
Engels, “The Peasant Question in France and Germany“

 

vladimir_lenin_and_the_people_by_vladimirseyer-d78uy0c.jpg

The Khrushchev Coup (Death of Stalin & Khrushchev’s Rise to Power)

nikita-khrushchev-9364384-1-402

After the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev became the new head of the Soviet Union. He embarked on an extensive campaign of lies and attacks against the Stalin government which was immediately cheered by the capitalist world. Many of his lies still persist to this day. Khrushchev’s government launched de-stalinization, a wave of propaganda and censorship against Stalin era policies. In their place the Khrushchevites implemented profit oriented market reforms and other erroneous policies which put Soviet socialism as well as all other countries in the soviet camp on the wrong track.

Why didn’t anybody stop him? How did he manage to avoid being voted out? Khruschchev rose to power via an undemocratic military takeover, a coup de tat, and used the military to kill, imprison, intimidate and marginalize his enemies.

But how did Khrushchev succeed in doing this? And why did he do it? These are some of the questions that will be discussed in this article. Firstly we should talk about Stalin’s death, which in itself happened under very suspicious circumstances and has caused a lot of speculation.


REMOVAL OF STALIN’S BODYGUARDS

Shortly before Stalin’s death, his personal security was drastically reduced. The head of his personal secretariat Poskrebyshev and the head of his personal bodyguard General Vlasik were both removed under accusations of leaking documents and unreliability. This left Stalin vulnerable.

Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva said:

“Shortly before my father died even some of his intimates were disgraced: the perenniel Vlasik was sent to prison in the winter of 1952 and my father’s personal secretary Poskrebyshev, who had been with him for twenty years, was removed”.
(S. Alliluyeva: ‘Twenty Letters to a Friend’, p. 216).

Peter Deriabin believed this to have been a deliberate conspiracy and states in his book:

“A commission [was set up] to investigate… the entire state security apparatus [which then] proceeded… to cut Stalin’s bodyguards to the bone”
(P. Deriabin: Watchdogs of Terror: Russian Bodyguards from the Tsars to the Commissars, pp. 317-18)

“About seven thousand men were dropped… [Leaving Stalin] guarded by… only a small group of officers… that had little security experience, especially as bodyguards.” (p. 319).

“That completed the process of stripping Stalin of all personal security… This had been a studied and very ably handled business: the framing of Abakumov, the dismissal of Vlasik, the discrediting of Poskrebyshev, the emasculation of the Okhrana and its enforced subservience to the [Khrushchevite-controlled] MGB, Kosynkin’s ‘heart attack’, the replacement of Shtemenko and the removal of the general staff from the last vestiges of Okhrana control. And certainly not to be forgotten at this juncture was the MGB control of the Kremlin medical office. . . With state security and the armed forces under their command, the connivers were finally in the driver’s seat”.
(pp. 325-26).

STALIN DIES

“There are a number of circumstances connected with the death of Stalin which make it, in forensic terms, ‘a suspicious death’:

Firstly, Stalin appeared to be in excellent health immediately prior to the beginning of March as was testified by an American journalist.

“And what of Stalin himself? In the pink of, condition. In the best of spirits. That was the word of three foreigners who saw him in February – Bravo, the Argentine Amassador; Menon, the Indian, and Dr. Kitchlu, an Indian active in the peace movement”.
(H. Salisbury: ‘Stalin’s Russia and After’; London; 1952; p. 157).

Secondly, on the night of 1-2 March there was a long delay in obtaining medical help for Stalin:

“Khrushchev does not mention specific times, but his narrative makes it incredible that the doctors arrived much before 5 a.m. on 2 March. This is many hours, perhaps twelve, after the seizure. . . .
It is not true that he was under medical care soon after the seizure”.
(R. H. McNeal, Stalin: Man and Ruler, p. 304).

“There is a mystery about what had happened to Stalin, His guards had become alarmed when he had not asked for his evening snack at 11 p.m. . . . The security men picked him up and put him on a sofa, but doctors were not summoned until the morning.
Stalin lay helpess and untreated for the better part of a day, making recuperative treatment much harder… 
Why did the Party leaders prolong the delay? Some historians see evidence of premeditated murder.”
(J. Lewis & P. Whitehead: ‘Stalin: A Time for Judgement’; London; 1990; p. 179).

“Only on the next morning . . . did the first physicians arrive”.
(W. Laqueur: ‘Stalin: The Glasnost Revelations, p. 151).

“Physicians were finally brought in to the comatose leader after a twelve- or fourteen hour interval”.
(D. Volkogonov, Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy, p. 513).

Thirdly, there was a deliberate lie in the announcement of his death, which was stated to have taken place ‘in his Moscow apartment’, whereas it actually occurred in his dacha at Kuntsevo. Historian Adam Ulam asserts that a: ” . . . conspiratorial air coloured the circumstances of Stalin’s death. The belated communique announcing his stroke was emphatic that it had occurred in his quarters in the Kremlin. Yet it was to his country villa . . . that his daughter Svetlana was summoned on March 2 to be by his deathbed. . . . He was stricken away from Moscow. . . .
The official communique’ lied about the place where Stalin had suffered the fatal stroke and died. . . .
There was an obvious reason behind the falsehood; his successors feared that a true statement about where he was at the time of the seizure would lead to rumours . . . that the stroke had occurred while he was being kidnapped or incarcerated by the oligarchs. Crowds might surge on the Kremlin, demanding an accounting of what had been done to their father and protector”.
(A. B. Ulam, Stalin: The Man and His Era, p. 4, 700, 739).

Fourthly, the revisionist conspirators had an ample and urgent motive — that of self-preservation — for eliminating Stalin:

“For many leading Soviet statesmen and officials, Stalin’s demise . . . came in the nick of time. Whether or not it was due to natural causes is another matter”
(D. M. Lang, p. 262).

“While murder cannot be proved, there was no question that motive for murder existed. . . . For . . . if Stalin were dying a natural death. it was the luckiest thing that had ever happened to the men who stood closest to him”.
(H. Salisbury, p. 160-61).

(From Bill Bland’s THE ‘DOCTORS’ CASE’, AND, THE DEATH OF STALIN)

What was this motive? We need to take a little detour to explore this question. Older theories have suggested that Stalin was attempting to purge the party and state of careerists and bureaucrats. However, newer research suggests a more systemic change. According to historian Aleksandr Pyzhikov (who is very much an anti-communist and anti-Stalin historian) in 1947 there was a proposition to update the party’s program. This 1947 party program has never been made available.

“According to Pyzhikov this program described “a progressive narrowing of the political functions of the state, and to the conversion of the state into, in the main, an organ of the management of the economic life of society.” [It was clearly a plan for transitioning from Socialism to Communism as described by Marx and Engels.]

Pyzhikov explains that the draft “concerned the development of the democratization of the Soviet order. This plan recognized as essential a universal process of drawing workers into the running of the state, into daily active state and social activity on the basis of a steady development of the cultural level of the masses and a maximal simplification of the functions of state management. It proposed in practice to proceed to the unification of productive work with participation in the management of state affairs, with the transition to the successive carrying out of the functions of management by all working people. It also expatiated upon the idea of the introduction of direct legislative activity by the people, for which the following were considered essential:

a) to implement universal voting and decision-making on the majority of the most important questions of governmental life in both the social and economic spheres, as well as in questions of living conditions and cultural development;

b) to widely develop legislative initiative from below, by means of granting to social organizations the rights to submit to the Supreme Soviet proposals for new legislation;

c) to confirm the right of citizens and social organizations to directly submit proposals to the Supreme Soviet on the most important questions of international and internal policy.””

(Pyzhikov, A. “N.A. Voznesenskii o perspektivakh poselvoennogo obnovleniia obshchestva.” in Furr, Stalin and the Struggle for Democratic Reform)

In short, this would have shifted power away from the mid-level managers and politicians, directly to the workers who were now literate and educated enough to run all of society.

“According to Pyzhikov, [Leningrad party chief] Zhdanov… proposed convening the 19th Party Congress at the end of 1947 or 1948. He also set forth a plan for a simplified order of convocations of party conferences once a year, with “compulsory renewal” of not less than one-sixth of the membership of the Central Committee per year. If put into effect, and if “renewal” actually resulted in more turnover of C.C. members, this would have meant that First Secretaries and other Party leaders in the C.C. would have been less entrenched in their positions, making room for new blood in the Party’s leading body, facilitating rank-and-file criticism of Party leaders (Pyzhikov 96)… with at least the possibility of replacement — of no less than 1/6 of the Central Committee every year through a Party Conference, this Party plan envisaged the development of democracy from below in both the state and in the Party itself.” (Furr, Ibid.)

We do not know how this plan was rejected. Zhdanov, who was a close ally of Stalin’s died seemingly of a heart-attack the same year he made the proposition, which in hindsight is quite a coincidence. Zhdanov’s death would later be used in the so-called “Doctor’s Case” where a number of doctors were accused of trying to murder soviet politicians. There is no clear evidence about the truth regarding the Doctor’s Plot, some of the cases were clearly frauds orchestrated by Khrushchev which he then blamed on his enemies, but its possible some of the cases were genuine. Stalin was personally skeptical about the guilt of the doctors. He himself, would of course die under suspicious circumstances seemingly after being deliberately denied adequate medical care.

The 1947 draft plan was rejected, how – we do not know. Zhdanov had proposed a party congress in 1948 which would have been according to the normal custom, but for unknown reasons the 19th Party Congress was postponed until 1952.

All of this suggests that which the liberal historian Arch Getty had argued, that the true power in the Soviet Union was in many ways not held by the central leadership around Stalin, and especially not by Stalin personally. This was merely a cold-war myth, a caricature partially facilitated by Stalin’s fame and the hero-worship around him. He seemed like a larger then life figure. But in reality, the mid-level management and the first secretaries in the party had substantial power and Stalin was in the minority.

This group, the first secretaries, technocrats etc. were also the most susceptible to corruption and Stalin and Zhdanov’s new program would have attacked precisely this privileged group, removed management of the State offices, ministries, factories etc. from the Party’s hands putting it into the hands of the non-party masses.

From an ideological and practical stand point this seems a necessary course of action. What is the purpose of a vanguard party? To serve as the proletarian ideological guide and leader, a small group of the most class conscious industrial workers, not as a gigantic party of managers.

In 1929, Molotov had outlined the Stalin politburo’s plan to proletarianize the party, so that by 1930 at least 50% of the party were industrial workers. This goal was achieved. In 1930 the party had consisted of 65% manual workers, 20% peasants and only 14% white collar officials. The party was more proletarian in composition in 1930 then in Lenin’s time. However in the Khruschchev period, the number of industrial proletarians in the party had reduced to 30% while HALF of the party consisted of white collar officials.

This makes it clear why it was possible for Khrushchev to rally the bureaucracy around him, and defeat all the egalitarian, democratic and proletarinization efforts. This also makes the Trotskyist accusation that Stalin was the leader of a bureaucratic caste ridiculous, as his efforsts in 1930 created a party even less bureaucratic then Lenin’s. To explore how the bureucratization in the party occurred during the 1940s and early 50s is beyond the scope of this video, but the popular explanations are the material conditions of Russia, where the state was forced to rely on a minority of experts while the masses were largely uneducated, as well as the massive death toll of the best communist cadres and proletarians in the second World War, forcing the party and state to admit vast amounts of less suitable people within its ranks in the late 40s to replace the losses.

 

“Due to the circumstantial evidence of the series of measures undertaken by the conspirators in the months prior to Stalin’s death to remove the securities around him, it is not surprising, that within weeks of Stalin’s death, rumours would begin to circulate that he had been murdered:

“There were rumours, above all in Georgia, that Stalin had been poisoned.”
(W. Laqueur, p, 151).

Stalin’s son Vasily is reported to have cried out:

“‘They are going to kill him! They are going to kill him!'”
(P. Deriabin, p. 321).

“Stalin’s son Vasily kept coming in and shouting ‘They’ve killed my father, the bastards!”‘.
(D. Volkogonov, p. 774).

Vasily was arrested in April 1953 in order, as his sister Svetlana puts it, ‘to isolate him’:

“After my father’s death, [Vasily] . . . was arrested. This happened because he had threatened the government, he talked that ‘my father was killed by his rivals’ and all things like that, and always many people around him — so they decided to isolate him. He stayed in jail till 1961 . . . and soon he died”
(S. Alliluyeva, Only One Year, p. 202).

“[Vasily] was convinced that our father had been ‘poisoned’ or ‘killed’.
Throughout the period before the funeral . . . he accused the government, the doctors and everybody in sight of using the wrong treatment on my father.. . .
He was arrested on April 18th, 1953. . . .
A military collegium sentenced him to eight years in jail.
He died on March 19th, 1962”.
(S. Alliluyeva, p. 222-23, 224, 228).

Georges Bortoli comments:

“Vasily Stalin had said aloud what the others were thinking to themselves. In less than a month, all sorts of rumours would begin to circulate in Moscow, and people would begin speaking of a crime. . . Some people said that several members of Stalin’s entourage were threatened by the coming purge. Had they taken steps to forestall it?”
(G. Bortoli, The Death of Stalin, p. 151)”

(From Bill Bland’s THE ‘DOCTORS’ CASE’, AND, THE DEATH OF STALIN)

Indeed, many other leaders known to have been firm supporters of Stalin also died mysteriously almost immediately after.

“The Czechoslovak Marxist-Leninist leader Klement Gottwald died shortly after visiting Moscow to attend Stalin’s funeral.” (Bland, Ibid)

The Polish Marxist-Leninist leader Boleslaw Beirut died shortly after Khrushchev’s power grab on 12 March 1957

The Albanian leader Enver Hoxha, explicitly accused the Khrushchevites of murdering Stalin claiming that one of them, Anastas Mikoyan outright admitted it to him.

“All this villainy emerged soon after the death, or to be more precise after the murder, of Stalin. I say after the murder of Stalin, because Mikoyan himself told me . . . that they, together with Khrushchev and their associates, had decided . . . to make an attempt on Stalin’s life”.
(E. Hoxha, With Stalin: Memoirs, p. 31).

In his book Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR Stalin argued against the types of market oriented reforms the revisionists would later make. The same Anastas Mikoyan then described Stalin’s views in the book as “an incredibly leftist deviation” (“Neveroiatno levatskii zagib.” Mikoian, Tak Bylo, Ch. 46: “On the Eve of and During the 19th Party Congress: Stalin’s Last Days.”)


Professor Grover Furr concludes:

“[T]here is a long recognized mystery of why medical care was not summoned for the gravely ill Stalin until a day or more after it had been discovered that he had had a stroke. Whatever the details of this affair Khrushchev was involved in it.” (Furr, Khruschchev Lied, p.208)

FIRST ATTEMPT AT A COUP

Stalin died 9. 50 p.m. on 5 March. The revisionists immediately used their control of the security forces to prepare for a coup. The American journalist Harrison Salisbury was an eye-witness of how, shortly before 6 a.m. the next morning:

” . . . smooth and quiet convoys of trucks were slipping into the city. Sitting cross-legged on wooden benches in the green-painted trucks were detachments of blue-and-red-capped MVD troops — twenty-two to a truck — the special troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. . . . The fleeting thought entered my mind that, perhaps, a coup d’etat might be in the making.

By nine o’clock… the Internal Affairs troops were everywhere in the centre of the city… In upper Gorky Street columns of tanks made their appearance… All the troops and all the trucks and all the tanks belonged to the special detachments of the MVD. Not a single detachment of regular Army forces was to be seen.
Later I discovered that the MVD had, in fact, isolated almost the whole city of Moscow…
By ten or eleven o’clock of the morning of March 6, 1953 no one could enter or leave the heart of Moscow except by leave of the MVD…
MVD forces had taken over the city…
Could any other troops enter the city? Not unless they had the permission of the MVD or were prepared to fight their way through, street by street, barricade by barricade”
(H. Salisbury, p. 163-64, 166, 171, 173)

“Even before Stalin’s body was cold, . . . MGB troops . . . not only set up controls and halted traffic, including pedestrians, on every principal capital thoroughfare, but had also ringed the Kremlin”.
(Deriabin, p. 328).

The Marxist-Leninists succeeded, for the moment, in foiling the planned coup by mobilising sufficient support to call for the following day, 7 March, a joint emergency meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the Council of Ministers and the USSR Supreme Soviet. In these circumstances the revisionist conspirators lost their nerve and judged it expedient to postpone their planned coup and refrain from opposing the election of Beria as the Minister in charge of state security, an appointment which obviously had majority support among the leadership:

Khrushchev wrote in his memoirs:

“Beria immediately proposed Malenkov for Chairman of the Council of Ministers [prime minister]. On the spot, Malenkov proposed that Beria be appointed first deputy. He also proposed the merger of the Ministries of State Security and Internal Affairs into a single Ministry of Internal Affairs, with Beria as Minister. . . . I was silent. . . . Bulganin was silent too. I could see what the attitude of the others was. If Bulganin and I objected . . ., we would have been accused of starting a fight in the Party before the corpse was cold”. (p. 324)

(From Bill Bland’s THE ‘DOCTORS’ CASE’, AND, THE DEATH OF STALIN)

THE MILITARY COUP IN MOSCOW (1953)

Khruschchev’s coup went into action when the military arrested Beria, then vice president and minister of interior. In July 1953, Beria was accused of corruption. At the end of June 1953, the revisionist conspirators claimed that Beria was a nationalist agent of foreign imperialist powers and had been plotting against the Party leadership. However, later Khruschev surprisingly admitted they had no evidence of Beria’s supposed nationalism.

“I could easily believe that [Beria] had been an agent of the Mussavatists, as Kaminsky had said, but Kaminsky’s charges had never been verified. . . . We had only our intuition to go on”.
(Khrushchev, p. 333)

To finally carry out his coup, Khruschchev had to gain the support of the military. Khruschchev said: “The Presidium bodyguard was obedient to [Beria]. Therefore we decided to enlist the help of the military” (Khrushchev, pp. 335-36)

“In late June 1953 Beria was repressed, either by arrest and imprisonment or by outright murder.”
(Furr, Khruschchev Lied, p. 194)

According to historian Iuri Zhukov, Khrushchev managed to win some of the party bureaucracy on his side by opposing Stalin’s proposed democratic and egalitarian reforms which were supported by Malenkov and Beria. Malenkov was pushed out, Beria was killed.

Stalin had proposed economic policies which aimed at total abolition of the small commodity production that still existed, abolition of money trade and replacing it with exchange of goods of equal labor value, abolition of differences between mental physical labor and other egalitarian policies and policies which would have meant a radical transition closer to full communism.

According to Zhukov, Stalin also advocated for contested elections and democratic reform. We also know Stalin had proposed removing the party from leadership of managing the state as a necessary transition in the next stage in socialist construction towards communism. It would make sense that some rightist bureaucrats would be very much opposed to this, and consider these methods too radical and too left.

According to Iuri Zhukov, there was a decision to decrease the salaries of politicians which was supported by Malenkov. Khruschchev managed to win some people over by reversing this policy and returning higher salaries to bureaucrats.

“It is my firm conviction that the true meaning of the 20th Congress lies precisely in this return of the Party apparatus to power. It was the necessity to hide this fact . . . that necessitated distracting attention from contemporary events and concentrating them on the past with the aid of the “secret report” [better known as the Secret Speech, where Khrushchev launched an ideological attack against Stalin]”~I. Zhukov, “Krutoi povorot … nazad” (“A sharp turn . . . backwards”) http://www.gorby.ru/activity/conference/show_S53/view_24755/

It was necessary for Khruschchev to attack Beria, who was at the same time head of the security forces and vice president of the USSR. After the death of Stalin he was one of the most powerful men in the country. Malenkov was head of the council of ministers, or prime minister while Molotov perhaps the third most powerful man in the country was Foreign Affairs Minister.


It is unclear how exactly Khruschchev was able to get away with Beria’s murder. Khruschchev himself claims he was able to convince or intimidate Molotov and Malenkov to stand idly as he did it, but this has to be taken with a large grain of salt. Beria’s removal was a conspiracy full of deception, fraud and a palace coup.

“On the night of June 26 1953, Red Army tanks of the Kantemirovskaya Division rolled into Moscow and took up much the same positions as . . . in March. And the tanks were supported by infantry from the Byelorussian military district”
(Deriabin, p. 332)

Beria’s removal was made public the following month. A coup was also carried out within the Georgian party organisation. Opponents of Khruschchev were labeled as Georgian nationalists, removed and largely replaced with Zhukov’s military men.

In 1956 Khruschchev launched his attack on Stalin, the so-called “Secret Speech”. Virtually all the contents of this infamous and extremely significant speech have proven to be falsifications. There is a book length refutation and analysis of the fact claims in Khruschchev’s speech called Khruschchev Lied which I recommend to anyone interested in this topic.

Why did Khruschchev give this speech? As the Chinese communists theorized, Khruschchev wanted to pursue policies drastically different from the Marxist-Leninist line of Stalin and his supporters and therefore it was necessary to attack Stalin’s legitimacy. Historian Iuri Zhukov stressed that it was necessary for Khruschchev to combat Stalin’s democratic reforms and egalitarian programs and restore power into the hands of the party bureaucracy headed by Khruschchev himself. The Chinese said something very similar, saying that the Soviet party had become corrupt and revisionist.

To me it is clear that Khruschchev also had to attack all of his opponents politically. Khruschchev did not only attack Stalin, he also attacked all his other opponents: Molotov, Kaganovich, Malenkov, Beria by labeling them “Stalinists”. The evidence of Malenkov and Beria being loyal to Stalin is up for debate. Khruschchev himself turned out to be an extremely disloyal member of Stalin’s administration. Malenkov only joined the politburo as a candidate in 1941. Therefore we shouldn’t automatically conclude that Malenkov and Beria were not suspicious characters, opportunists or revisionists just because they were rivals of Khruschchev, that is an entirely different question. But it was important for Khruschchev to label them “Stalinists” to marginalize them.

Why did Molotov and Kaganovich once again stand by without adequately defending themselves? Only Khrushchev’s people had access to the archival documents which proved the secret speech to be full of lies. Molotov and Kaganovich must have known to a degree that Khrushchev was lying, but were relatively defenseless against the accusations. For all they knew, they might have been partially true. The same applies to the rest of the communist movement. The movement was shocked, but even Mao Tse-Tung and Enver Hoxha did not publicly oppose the secret speech until 4 years later, when it had become clear to them what had happened and it was far too late.

The next year in June 1957 Malenkov joined by the old Marxist-Leninists Kaganovich and Molotov finally attempted to oust Khruschchev from power. They won the vote in the presidium 7 to 4. However Khrushchev argued that only the plenum of the Central Committee could remove him from office. An extraordinary session of the Central Committee was held where Khrushchev was backed by military leader Georgy Zhukov, who gave a speech in Khruschchev’s favor even threatening to use the military to support him. Thus the military coup continued and party democracy was torpedoed by Khruschchev.

Why did the General support Khruschchev, even though he later admitted that Stalin was a great leader and Khruschchev a dishonest and vain-glorious opportunist? Because Khruschchev had promoted Zhukov to defense minister, while Stalin had demoted him due to corruption charges.

This network of scheming and corruption is what we generally know as the Khruschchev Coup. The murder or possible criminal neglect of the dying Stalin, the assassination many of Khruschchev’s political enemies, the marginalization of countless others, the lies, bribery and outright military take over and total rejection of party democracy. Khruschchev did what he falsely accused Stalin and others of doing.

SOURCES:

Pioneering article by W. B. Bland on Stalin’s death and the Khrushchev Coup. This article is very good, however it is seriously out of date and I only use that evidence which I quoted from the article. It sometimes quotes Robert Conquest, whose work in this case is almost entirely worthless and unreliable. Conquests’ writings cannot be taken as sufficient evidence. The article also quotes Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech” which is much the same way, it can’t be taken as evidence except when analysing it as a piece of propaganda. The article also puts forward the position that the Doctor’s Case was genuine, which in the light of more modern research is debatable. http://ml-review.ca/aml/BLAND/DOCTORS_CASE_FINAL.htm

Alliluyeva, Twenty Letters to a Friend

Alliluyeva, Only One Year

P. Deriabin, Watchdogs of Terror: Russian Bodyguards from the Tsars to the Commissars

H. Salisbury, Stalin’s Russia and After

R. H. McNeal, Stalin: Man and Ruler

J. Lewis & P. Whitehead, Stalin: A Time for Judgement

W. Laqueur, Stalin: The Glasnost Revelations

D. Volkogonov, Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy

A. B. Ulam, Stalin: The Man and His Era

Hoxha, With Stalin: Memoirs

G. Bortoli, The Death of Stalin

Furr, Stalin and the Struggle for Democratic Reform http://marxism.halkcephesi.net/Grover%20Furr/index.htm

Pyzhikov, A. “N.A. Voznesenskii o perspektivakh poselvoennogo obnovleniia obshchestva.”

Mikoyan, And it was (Mikoian, Tak Bylo) Ch. 46: “On the Eve of and During the 19th Party Congress: Stalin’s Last Days.”

Iuri Zhukov, “Krutoi povorot … nazad” (“A sharp turn . . . backwards”) http://www.gorby.ru/activity/conference/show_S53/view_24755/

Refutation of Khruschchev’s “Secret Speech” https://ia802707.us.archive.org/5/items/pdfy-nmIGAXUrq0OJ87zK/Khrushchev%20Lied.pdf

Stalin’s proletarization of the party in Molotov’s Pamphlet https://mltheory.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/molotov_1929_the_communist_party_of_the_soviet_union.pdf

Grover Furr on the “Doctors’ Plot”
https://mltheory.files.wordpress.com/2019/05/the-doctors-plot-furr.pdf

Analysis of Khruschchev era economic policy. I don’t agree with all the conclusions, and sometimes the book emphasises evidence which maybe doesn’t have a crucial importance, but in general the evidence presented is valuable and shows the Kosygin reform’s shift to a profit-oriented model as opposed to the model that Stalin proposed.
http://www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/archive/BlandRestoration.pdf

The Finnish Communist Revolution (1918) PART 2: The Eve of Revolution

taisto_huuskonen.jpg

“That flammable substance, which in January 1918 burst into full flame of armed conflict between the basic classes of Finnish society – workers and capitalists, had been accumulating for decades in the depths of this system. With the rise of capitalistic production, here too the struggle between labour and capital, between worker and capitalist, became the basic contradiction of the whole society. Unjust relations of landownership and the utterly vulnerable status of the vast masses of landless rural people, had created a situation where the capitalists had plenty of very cheap labour at their disposal. Finnish capitalists took full advantage of the situation and wasted no time in setting up a system just as ruthless and unequal as that of the older capitalist countries. The situation was even more favorable for the capitalist class because the workers were at this time timid, scared and did not attempt any kind of organized resistance. Instead they suffered the oppression and injusticy quietly, and this way the bitterness and anger slowly built up among them.” (Tuure Lehen, Punaisten ja Valkoisten Sota p. 9)

 
Different social classes before the outbreak of the revolution:

The Industrial Workers:

“In the old system workers had needed to submit to the ‘legal guardianship’ of their employer, which often meant police levels of surveillance and control by the capitalist. This was officially abolished in 1868 but employers still for a long time considered it justified to continue their old ways. The strict work discipline regulations allowed the employers in many ways to blackmail their workers, punish them for the slightest disobedience, or carelessness, impose heavy fines and thus push down the already meager wages. The employers were especially worried about worker’s organizing, unless they were joining organizations and associations created and controlled by the employers themselves. It was common for capitalists to threaten to fire all workers who joined unions or worker organizations. This happened for example in Pinjaiset, Fiskars and Högfors factories. In November 1903 in Varkaus nearly 200 workers were evicted from their homes for joining the workers’ association. Often buying or subscribing to working class newspapers was enough of a reason to be fired and evicted.” (Lehen, pp. 9-10)

“Despite rapid industrial development having begun in the 1860s it was as late as the 1890s when the country saw the breakout of the first big strike movements. Out of these the strikes of construction workers in Helsinki in 1896 and the baker strike of 1899 have to be mentioned. In both cases the Finnish capitalists shamelessly colluded with the Russian authorities to break the strike: by sending in strike breakers from Russia. In these initial strikes, alongside the struggle for higher wages, the demands centered around shortening the working day which was either unbearable long, or not limited at all in its length, as well as demands for the most basic work safety regulations. During this struggle based on the most vitally necessary demands, the class consciousness of the workers began to awaken. This caused worry among the capitalists, who saw the mass mobilization of the workers as a sign that the workers were turning to revolutionary socialism…

A sign of this worry was the capitalists’ attempt to push the workers towards wrightism, a reformist tendency lead by the bourgeoisie, which told the workers to remain calm and “not demand too much”. Eventually the workers got tired of wrightism, as the experience of their every day lives quickly taught them that improvements in their lives, were never gained by begging and surrendering, but only by forcing the capitalists into granting the workers’ demands.

For this reason the workers turned their backs on wrightism and began more boldly to support the Socialists who expressed the will to directly tackle social inequality, and put forward concrete demands instead of pious wishes. Strenghtening of these sentiments led in 1899 to the creation of the Finnish Workers’ Party… which declared a “split from the bourgeoisie”. (Lehen, pp. 10-11)

“The founding of an independent workers’ party had a crucial significance to the working class and it proved to be a powerful catalyst in favor of developing mass mobilization. An increasing determination and steadfastness was becoming evident in the workers’ struggle.

The struggle took fairly intense forms in 1904 in Voikkaa where the conduct of a foreman sparked the anger of the workers and caused a strike. The employers called in the Finnish-Russian authorities who sent a gang of police to crush the strike. The police arrested the labour leaders and evicted from company apartments the workers who had been fired for participating in the strike.

In 1905 and 1906 there were several strikes that lasted for several weeks, even months. The metal workers’ strike, which consisted of 3000 workers lasted for 19 weeks. The construction workers were able through their disciplined struggle to win a 9-hour working day.

The strike that proved most significant was the logger strike of the Kemi-company in North, which began on logging sites in Kuolajärvi and Sodankylä and spread to Kemi, and which lasted consecutively almost the entire year 1906. The great single-minded determination and discipline of the workers was demonstrated by the fact that out of the 3000 strikers, during the entire year only couple dozen became strike breakers. The most immediate cause of the strike was that the Kemi-company had taken for itself a monopoly on selling food to the workers, had forced the workers to only purchase food from the company store at very high prices, or risk being fired. The food also proved to be dangerously rotten and unfit for human consumption but the employers had arrogantly ignored the workers’ complaints. The workers demanded that the company must sell them only clean and edible foodstuffs. Along with this the workers demanded a shortening of the work day to 10 hours per day, an increase in wages, and the abolition of the blacklist system.
Not agreeing to the workers’ demands the Kemi-company together with the authorities took action to stop the “rebellion”. It closed down the food shops trying to starve the workers into submission. As the company owned all the food stores, the workers had no other option to avoid starvation then to break open the doors of the food shops and organize food distribution to the starving, which was done according to proper payment and under strict observation. The employers asked for help from the authorities… a gang of 35 lead by police liutenant Bruno Jalander was sent to “pacify” the workers of the North. Tens of workers were arrested, around twenty involved in opening the food shops were sentenced for robbery and blasphemy[sic] to varying prison sentences.”
(Lehen, pp. 11-12)

 
The Workers’ Party

“The success that the workers’ party gained already in its first parliament elections showed clearly that the party had not only gained the uninamous support of the industrial workers, but it had also won a large amount of votes from among the rural population. A contributing factor was that the workers themselves had close contacts to the countryside and the rural poor. Members of the working class were generally speaking young people, only recently left from the countryside to the cities. The poor position of the rural population also naturally brought it close to the working class movement to seek support from it.” (Lehen, p.15)

“The experiences gained in these labour struggles explain at least in part the often pointed out fact that the Finnish working class movement was already early on very interested in struggle for state power, while trade union organizing lagged behind the political struggle for many years. The independent Finnish workers’ party founded in 1899 had to for several years also perform the duties of a central trade union organization, especially during large strikes because the Finnish Trade Union Federation was founded only in 1907.

The active involvement of the state authorities, the police, court system and state church into the disputes between workers and capitalists always on the side of the capitalists, gave rise to anger by the workers towards the reactionary state authority. The close connection of the Finnish representatives of that state apparatus to the Russian tsarist ruling class, whose repressive actions always first and foremost targeted the workers and their organizations, makes it easy to understand why workers had such an exemplary role to play in the indipendence struggle…” (Lehen, p 13)

“The rapid rise of the independent Finnish political workers’ movement culminated in the December 1905 general strike, a mass action of unprecendented size for equal municipal suffrage and to destroy the old feudal system that had resisted all social progress.” (Lehen, pp. 13-14)

 

The Tenant Farmers

“The most important social grouping were the tenant farmers, who cultivated the land they rented from the nobles, large landowners and capitalist corporations. In the relations between tenant farmers and landowners the essential question was that of terms of rent. In individual cases, such as when tenants would rent land from relatives, the terms could be quite tolerable… The general picture however was something different: a relationship of extreme exploitation and oppression where the position of the tenant was similar to that of a medieval serf. The rent payment in the form of a work-tax i.e. working on the landowner’s land weighed heavily on the tenants. The payment was not merely a reasonable or justifiable compensation for the use of land, but ruthless exploitation…” (Lehen, p.16)

The landlords would often cheat the peasants in rent terms. Most of the time there were no actual written contracts but rent was decided simply in verbal agreement. And of course most of the peasantry were illiterate.
“Another important grievance in the life of the tenants was the uncertainty of their situation. The terms of the rent were usually decided in oral agreement between the two parties. In the cases where written contracts were made, they were always vague and up for interpretation, and it didn’t benefit the tenant to appeal to the legal authorities since it was obvious that “law and justice” were on the side of the aristocrats, corporations and landowners. The violent and ruthless mass eviction of the tenant farmers of the Laukko manor house by the armed force of the “legal authorities” in May 1907 is an illustrative example of how the society of that time saw it as the noble lord’s sacred right, to treat his subjects how ever inhumanly as he saw fit.” (Lehen, p.16)

“The broken down doors and hearths of the cottages of the manors’ tenants, served as a metaphor for the dead end that the oppressed classes found themselves in: they had to do something to improve their lives, yet their attempts were met with even worse suffering.”
(Y. Kallinen, Hälinää ja hiljaisuutta, p. 26)

A common practice by the landlords was to let a tenant family move to an area where the land was of poor quality (this could be e.g. a bog, a swamp or forest) then let the peasant family improve the land (drain the swamp, chop down the trees etc.) so they could turn it into a farm. Then after the rent contract ran out, the landlord would evict the peasant and thus acquire the newly created good quality farm land for themselves. The peasant family would then be forced to move to another bad piece of land and repeat the process.

“For the tenant farmers the threat of eviction was always there, and it was an effective method of blackmail. It was used especially when the landowner wished to acquire a piece of land which the tenant had through their productive labour turned from a wasteland to fertile farmland.” (Lehen, p.17)

“…I met several tenant farmers who had been evicted, often even multiple times and each time had had to once again clear a new farming plot into a thicket or a bog on the property of the same landowner… I met an old man who had sat years in jail for resisting the crown’s police when they came to evict him for the third time… It was clear that people in this position were eager to hear and accept the socialist teachings, as it gave them an explanation about their own societal position and a path to follow towards liberation”
(M. Ampuja, Pajasta parlamenttiin, Turku 1947, p.73)

“… the pitiless violence the landowners had to use against their tenants was a sign of the rising class consciousness of the tenant farmers, who due to circumstance could only see the socialist movement as the strongest defender of their rights.” (Lehen, p.17)

“In those days, the tenant farmers of Finland had begun to follow the example of the industrial proletarians and had started mass organizing for their rights. In various parts of the country there were mass meetings, also strikes, the demands of which were mainly protections against evictions and against the arbitrary and absolute power of the landowners. The Workers’ Party gave its immediate support to the demands of the tenant farmers and other rural poor. It also helped them to organize their struggle. The Party leadership played an importan part in helping to organize the first nationwide congress of tenant farmers’ deputees in Tampere in 1906. The fact that 50.000-60.000 tenants out of a total of hundred thousand had representatives in this meeting was a clear sign of the desire of the farmers to fight side by side with the workers.” (Lehen, p.18)

 
Servants and Farm Workers: The Rural Proletariat

“The societal situation of [the house servants and farmhands] was even more oppressed and precarious then that of the tenant farmers.” (Lehen, p.18)

“Servants, who lived in spare rooms of houses [of their employer] or in cottages under severe surveillance… were not allowed to leave the house without the permission of their master, or to talk to outsiders. As the status of tenant farmers has often been compared to that of serfs or semi-slaves, that of the servants could rightly be compared to full blown slavery… An 1865 servant law which was only taken off the law books in 1920… gave the master of the servant the right to the most petty kind of spying, ruthless exploitation, inhuman treatment and even physical violence. The servant was not allowed to own a locked chest or a bag, all their belongings had to be visible for inspection by their master. The length of the working day was unlimited. Unlike the old slave owners, the master was not allowed to kill their servant, but he was allowed to hit them. According to the 3. article of the servant law, the master was allowed to physically punish female servants under 13 and male servants under 18 if they didn’t adequately fulfill the tasks their master thought “reasonable”, which according to Miina Sillanpää [a servant] meant 24 hour working days. In the case of the servants, the slavery was not lifelong, but instead was decided in year long contracts on the so-called “hiring markets.” However that year would in most cases turn out to be unbearably hard.” (Lehen, p.20)

“…Often the servant, when deciding upon the terms of the contract, is given entirely false information about the type and amount of the work. The servant is often promised more pay then he ends up getting. And as the contracts are usually made without any wittnesses, how is the servant to prove that he was promised more? The wage is entirely vague and arbitrary, and the servant lives with his master so he has to devote all of his time to working. Speaking about overtime pay is entirely out of the question. The servant can’t say he is working overtime, even if he works 24 hours per day, since the length of his work day is not limited in any way.”  (Minutes of the 6th congress of Finnish servants)


“Servants depended on their master for food. Even in the best cases nutrition was very basic… It was very common that even in those cases where the servants were allowed to eat in the same table as the master’s family, they sat in that part of the table prepared for the house staff and ate worse food.” (Lehen, p.21)

“Living conditions of the servants were below any reasonable standards” (Lehen, p.22)

“The condition of the rural servants is pathetic. The biggest outrage being the living conditions of the house staffs. This is most evident in Southern Ostrobothnia… part of the population lives in the most unhealthy conditions. It seems incredibly that even in winter people are forced to live in rooms which don’t protect from the cold, and contain no heating, not to even speak about the lack of all basic comforts. Therefore it is not uncommon that after a night of wind and snowfall the servent wakes up to find snow on his bed. However these living quarters are not all uplighting to the human soul during the summer either. Typically they have no windows, only a trap-door. Often they are built next to the manure storage, on top of store rooms were all sorts of gargage is held, and where dust and bad smelling air seeps through the loose floor boards… Living in these poor conditions brought an inevitable co-inhabitant – pneumonia, that horror of the poor, which rages among the servant class” (Minutes of the 5th congress of Finnish servants)


The Working Class Movement Before the Revolution

“…[I]n the summer of 1917 Finland was met with another hardship, unprecendented unemployment… the unemployed constituted the most restless element of the population: after losing their livelyhoods they began demanding work and aid. The workers understood that no improvement could be gained without an active struggle. Success depended on unity and organization… the Social-Democratic Party had 70,000 members in 1916, but in the third quarter of 1917 it exceeded 100,000 members. The membership of the finnish trade union federation increased four times over from 41,800 to 160,695. The tenant farmers’ union had 2000 members in May 1917 but at the end of the year membership had risen to 9000 and by February 1918 it was 12,000. The farm laborers who previously had been very badly organized… began to create their own unions and in mid August of 1917 there were already 70 of these organizations. The finnish farm laborers’ union was founded at the end of August in a meeting in Tampere.”
(Holodkovski, pp.18-19)

“…on 26. of March [1917] a strike broke out in Helsinki demanding an 8-hour working day. The same demand was presented as their primary goal by the strikes in April. The 8-hour work day was first implemented in the senate printing press, state railways and fortification construction works. Metal workers won the 8-hour working day on the 18. of April through a one day strike of 30,000 workers accross the country. The strikers’ demands were supported in Helsinki by Russian soldiers, sailors and workers who joined the Finnish workers. The demonstrators surrounded the building where the representatives of the workers were negotiating with the capitalists… The farm laborers continued to fight for the 8-hour working day and the struggle against the landowners’ resistance was often fierce… the farm laborer strikes broke out typically without agreement with the trade union federation… Most often the strikes occurred during the busiest farming seasons – during sowing and harvesting. Tensions tan the highest precisely during farm laborer’s strikes… the workers stopped working and prevented the landowners from bringing their relatives to work on the field… There were times when the large landowners refused to make any kinds of concessions. The owners of the large Westermarck farm declared before the beginning of the farm laborers’ strike, that they will sell or butcher every single one of their 700 cows. In the vicinity of Pori, one landowner left the grain unharvested and appointed White Guard soldiers to guard the field so nobody could harvest it. The workers of the nearby village turned to the Russian soldiers for help. The soldiers fired a few shots with a cannon towards the direction of the farm and the opponent was forced to surrender. Though the information is incomplete, we know that in 1917 there were at least 78 farm laborer strikes on 1949 farms, and they included 16 167 persons. Eleven of the strikes also included tenant farmers, though they were bound by their rent contracts, according to which they could be punished for participating in a strike. Altogether there was a total of 478 strikes in 1917, involving 150 000 workers… Other extraparliamentary activity by the workers also increased. Some declarations or actions by the workers, without the approval of the Social-Democratic Party, demonstrated a spontaneous shift towards revolutionary tactics, already before the Bolsheviks had taken power in Russia…” (Holodkovski, pp.23-24)

“The primary targets of these extraparliamentary actions, were the local government organs, which were in the hands of the rich… Getting working class representation in the municipal organs was not a matter of principle for the workers, it had a purely practical meaning, especially in those hard times. Destitution forced the workers to hasten the solving of this question. Typically the workers presented a demand to the municipal council that the council needed to also include working class representatives. Then they surrounded the building and refused to let the council leave until the demand was satisfied.” (Holodkovski, p.24)

“Municipal elections still used the ancient system, according to which the poor had no right to vote, but the rich depending on their wealth and property could have several votes.” (Holodkovski, p.16)

“The social-democratic municipal organization of Rauma demanded on the 5. of May that half of the seats in the munical council had to be given to the workers. In support of this demand a general strike broke out in the city on the 7. of May. It lasted for 15 days and ended in the victory of the workers. In Turku, a general strike broke out in 29. of May, demonstrators surrounding the city council building and demanding 25 seats for the workers. The newspaper The Worker wrote that if the shock troops the bourgeoisie had assembled tried to rescue the council then the Russian soldiers on the side of the demonstrators would open fire. Later it was told in the communist press that the shock troopers had been captured by the demonstrators… Members of the council were released on June 1. The demand of the workers was fulfilled. Similar incidents took place in Pori as well as other towns and villages.

The parliament also became a target for mass action. On 14. of July when the parliament was discussing the 8-hour working day as well as the municipal election reform, a crowd of several thousands surrounded the parliament… A committee of the demonstrators presented a statement to the parliament in support of accepting the reforms. The parliament was forced to agree… The bourgeois deputees in the parliament were afraid that unless the reforms were signed, there would be serious confrontations because the population was at a boiling point… However the reforms were never implemented because the Russian Provisional Government disbanded the Finnish parliament.” (Holodkovski, pp. 25-26)

 

The Peasantry’s Demand For Land Reform

“Out of all households with one or more hectares of land, 41.4% were renting, and most of them were tenant farmers… Most tenants had only a small piece of land… out of 96 167 tenant farms… only 1.4% had more then 25 hectares. At the same time 60 000 tenants farmed plots smaller then half a hectare. Poor tenant farmers paid their rent to the landowner in money and work done on the landowner’s land… Because the tenant also had to take care of his own farm, his work day during the summer was an average of 15-17 hours… Only 7% of tenants got enough income from their own farm and the rest [93%] had to seek additional income from employment… The status of a tenant farmer was extremely precarious: the tenant had no security about their future, since at the end of their rent contract, they might be evicted and find themselves and their family, homeless with no income…” (Holodkovski, p.13)
The ruling class refused to grant any meaningful land reform, as that would have gone against the interests of the landowners. They saw the situation was disastrous and peasant revolt inevitable, but in order to not go against the landowners the government opted for a compromise and tried to post-pone the land reform issue as far into the future as possible.

“When in 1908 the time approached when the tenant contracts would run out, the question of new contracts was not raised, instead the parliament signed a bill which prolonged the old contracts… The Czar approved this bill on the 12. of March 1909. The question was not solved in the five years prior to the first world war. In 1916 62 000 contracts were running out despite being extended in 1909. Huge masses of tenants were under the threat of eviction. To avoid massive internal destabilization that Germany could have benefited from in the war, the Czar issued a decree that the contracts would remain effective for the time being. Thousands of tenants escaped imminent eviction but only for a time. [A conservative politician] emphasized in a speech a few weeks before the Czar’s overthrow that the peasantry is rising up against the landlords, that this desperate group of people is dangerous and if the fire now kindling among them bursts into full flame the results will be terrifying.” (Holodkovski, p.13-14)

“Immediately after the fall of Czardom… the social-democrats suggested that in the Provisional Government’s manifesto be included that poor tenants won’t be evicted and are given control of the land they farm. This way the tenants could have been appeased. But the Russian Provisional Government pointed out the negative attitude towards land-reform, of the Finnish bourgeois parties and therefore declined the social-democrat’s proposal.” (Holodkovski, p.14)

“The short sighted and selfish policy of the bourgeoisie had prevented the tenant farmer question being solved by any legal means. Now the tenants had joined with the farm workers in strikes, and became like them targets of retaliatory actions… The finnish working class movement fought on the side of the rural poor, landless, tenant farmers and farm workers and guided these forces to action. The demands of these groups had been stated countless times and the bourgeoisie had not solved the issue. These problems absolutely had to be dealt with. From this foundation, the working class movement developed its demand for the liberation of the tenant farmers and raised them up to join the struggle.” (Hyvönen, pp.89-90)
The bourgeoisie could have solved the tenant question at any time, but when ever anyone tried to fix this crying social crisis, the capitalists prevented it. This way, they made peasant rebellion absolutely inevitable. They made the lives of the tenant farmers, poor peasants and farm workers so unbearable that they were bound to rise up in rebellion.

“The social-democratic parliamentary group proposed on 27. of March a bill for the liberation of the tenant farmers and farm workers…Some social-democratic speakers emphasized the extreme urgency … of this bill because in many localities tenant strikes were already breaking out, and unless the matter was solved the tenants would be pushed to the path of revolution… The bill was defeated with 98 bourgeois votes against 95 socialists.” (Holodkovski, p.136)

“Tenant farmers held rallies all throughout the country and declared that unless they were liberated by the parliament, they would liberate themselves. The tenants’ meetings accepted proposals to cease paying any more rent. For instance on 16. of march 1917 in Sankajärvi the tenants decided to not pay rent unless the bill was passed by the parliament. The tenant farmers of Lapusala demanded on the 3. of December that the social-democratic parliamentary group must take urgent action to liberate the tenants from the centuries old yoke… The final decision of the meeting proclaimed that unless the parliament freed them they would take revolutionary action, general strike and stop of all rent payments. Tenant farmers and farm workers of Kodisjoki demanded on january 6. of 1918 that they must be liberated and all land nationalized. They proposed that each peasant could thus rent on fair terms from the state…” (Holodkovski, pp.136-137)

Count Von Der Goltz, German General who later invaded Finland to crush the socialist revolution, said:

“The ground was fertile for revolution, and not just in the industrial centers but also in the countryside where the peasants were mainly tenants and not owners. As in ancient Rome the rent system caused great dissatisfaction in the countryside and caused even the hard-working and loyal… finnish peasants to be possessed by the … teachings of Russian communism… to become Bolsheviks.” (Graf von der Goltz, Als politischer General im Osten (Finnland und Baltikum) 1918 und 1919)
The reasons that led to the revolution can be summed up as follows: decades and centuries old forms of oppression, horrible working conditions, working days as long as 10-17 hours or even sometimes 24 hours, merciless exploitation and since there were no effective legal ways of making change and solving these problems, the masses were inevitably pushed towards revolution. The municipal elections were entirely undemocratic and in the parliament the capitalist politicians prevented any reforms from being passed. However, there was one even more immediate factor contributing to the revolutionary sentiments: starvation.

The Food Crisis

“At the end of 1917 it can be said that hunger had arrived in Finland… sugar rationing had already been implemented in December 1916 and at the beginning of 1917 rationing was introduced in larger population centers for butter, milk and meat” (Koskinen, p.16)

“Because no strong measures were taken to prevent black market speculation, prices increased to the degree that workers could no longer afford them…” (Holodkovski, p.134)

“…[F]ood was distributed with ration cards, but the food rationing system couldn’t work adequately unless the large food stores of rich persons and capitalist corporations were confiscated. However the government did not heed the demands of the workers as it would have contradicted the interests of propertied classes…” (Holodkovski, p.133)

“The economic situation of the working class had become intolerable. Since the earliest years of the world war, wages had fallen behind the ever increasing prices of foodstuffs… The people could not be given even reduced food rations and the workers and employees could not afford the black market prices. In autumn unemployment also began to increase threateningly. The working class suffered from widespread hunger. The rural poor also fell victim to it.” (Hyvönen, p.87)

“How widespread the hunger was can be seen for example in the notices posted in newspapers by the government food distribution body. A notice for December 1917 states the following:

“As is well known, in all cities, including their suburbs and rural regions whose populations are largely industrial workers or farming is not developed, have already since september been on the brink of famine. There have been two or three week periods when it hasn’t been possible to distribute grain. Thus the continuing and spread of famine threaten the entire country… 800,000 Finnish citizens already suffer from shortage of grain…”

A notice published on the 17. of January 1918 states:
“The number of regions, not only in towns but also in the countryside, suffering from shortage of bread only increases and in some areas it has gotten so bad that, according to the information given by food distribution committees, hunger has caused weakness and deaths.”” (Hyvönen, p.88)
“The food distribution board published in December 1917 that 800.000 Finnish citizens (one quarter of the population!) suffered from a shortage of bread, despite the fact that bread was already being made with flour that had flax, potato skins, lichen or tree bark etc. mixed in with the grain… sometimes people would lose consciousness due to malnutrition… six hungry students of a girl school had fainted during the morning prayer. The food board stated on January 17. 1918 that hunger had caused deaths in towns as well as rural areas. The food board received desperate letters and telegrams from various municipalities begging for help…

From Veteli: Bread grain for one week only, after that even the rye seeds have been eaten…
From Lapland: At the end of the week our stores will be empty, we request urgent action.
From Haukiputaa: People relying on rations have been without food for a week, will die soon unless we get flour.
From Raivola: We ask that you send us any type of food grain so we can distribute something to consumers.
From Pyhäjärvi: We request most humbly, that we could get even a small amount of food grain

The position of the food board became intolerable and on 24. of January its chairman… and [several] members resigned…” (Holodkovski, pp.134-135)

“The lack of food forced the working class to take determined action. On 19. of January the Red Guard of Vyborg began house searches of the bourgeois for food and weapons. The discoveries were bigger then expected. While the working class suffered from hunger, even died from hunger it turned out that the bourgeoisie had large flour, sugar, rice and meat stores as well as basements full of alcoholic drinks, despite the fact that liquor was illegal in Finland. Some bourgeois didn’t even know what ration cards were. The committees created by the workers acted in a revolutionary manner: they confiscated the excess food they found and distributed it to the starving.” (Holodkovski, p.135)

“[T]he so-called butter riots… began when the government temporarily stopped the distribution of butter rations. In Turku on 9. of August a crowd inspected food storages and after finding both butter and cheese (which was already starting to go bad) began to distribute the food in return for ration cards. The next day a mass meeting in Turku demanded that the parliament has to confiscate all food storages, ban the exporting of food (food was being exported to be sold in Petrograd where prices were even higher)… The population demanded that all food storages be taken under the control of the municipal government organs. Also in Helsinki the butter storages were inspected by demonstrators and the distribution of butter according to price controls was begun.”(Holodkovski, p.26)

“At night on the 14. of August the municipal employees of Helsinki began a general strike. They demanded the safeguarding of people, especially children and the elderly from hunger and starvation. The senate did not take any action. On 21. of October a delegation of the Finnish Trade-Union Federation issued a statement regarding the food question. It demanded making a careful inventory of all food stores, confiscation of illegal food storages, the handing over to the control of the state and municipal authorities of the most essential food items, giving full authority to the food distribution bodies in distribution and regulation of price controls, the handing of unused farm land to the state and municipalities and increasing of wages due to increased food prices… the declaration didn’t lead to any action [by the government].” (Holodkovski, p.39)

“The 4th Congress of the Finnish Trade-Union Federation met on December 12 [1917]. It pointed out that the conditions of the workers were so hopeless and unbearable, that unless the congress is ready to make radical decisions, the workers will take matters into their own hands. The food question was top most in importance… Many… deputees saw revolution as the only thing that could save the workers from starvation. Deputee Hakkinen said that unless the working class rises up to fight they will all starve to death… Deputee Pyttynen said that in Ostrobothnia the workers were eagerly waiting for the decisions of the congress and were willing to die in order to put them into effect… The deputee from Tampere said that workers of the city have decided to either win or die. Deputee Lampinen said that in many localities the workers have already began to take action, because it is better to die in battle then to do nothing and die of hunger…” (Holodkovski, p.51)

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Tuure Lehen, Punaisten ja Valkoisten Sota
Esa Koskinen, Veljiksi kaikki ihmiset tulkaa: Lohja 1917-18
Viktor Holodkovski, Suomen työväen vallankumous 1918
Graf von der Goltz, As political general in the east (Finland and the Baltics) 1918-1919
Y. Kallinen, Hälinää ja Hiljaisuutta
M. Ampuja, Pajasta Parlamenttiin
Antti Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-18
Antti Hyvönen, Suomen Kommunistinen Puolue 1918-24
Antti Hyvönen, Suomen vanhan työväenpuolueen historia
Otto Kuusinen, “The Finnish Revolution: A Self-Criticism”

(*1910 figures which were not much different from 1917. Holodkovski, p.13)

Finnish sources have been translated to English by MLT

The Finnish Communist Revolution (1918) PART 1: Finnish Independence

independence

In 1917 Finland was part of the Russian empire. Finland was a protectorate of Russia, meaning it didn’t have a military of its own, had no independent foreign policy or economic policy and was ruled by a Russian governor general.

However in the 1905-06 revolution Finland had gained itself some limited democratic rights and some nominal autonomy, its own parliament and senate although they were still under the power of Russia.

It had been recognized by progressive elements for at least a century that Finland had developed into a nation of its own and deserved independence. The Finnish people had their own language, culture and history. There was also the push for more democratic rights and the struggle against monarchist absolutism. The 1905-06 uprisings and demonstrations were a prime example of this.

Although some Finnish capitalists and especially small owners supported independence, as time went on it was more and more the working class movement that led the independence struggle. The capitalist class and nobility of Finland were happy to work with the Russian Tsar and relied on the Tsarist state to crack down on striking workers and poor peasants wanting better working conditions, higher wages and more democratic rights.

The very early Finnish independence movement had been pioneered by bourgeois and petit-bourgeois intellectuals, but in the early 1900s the Finnish capitalist class became more and more opposed to Finnish independence. Leading the independence struggle fell almost exclusively to the proletarians and semi-proletarians.

The February Revolution

After the Tsar was overthrown in February 1917 the Finnish Capitalists allied themselves closely with the Russian provisional government led by Kerensky.

“None of the ruling bourgeois groupings took a pro-independence stance. The Russian provisional government took upon itself the role of the inheritor and continuer of the Tsar-grand duke’s power. It was able to do this with the favorable help of the finnish bourgeoisie.” (Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-18, p.14)
“The legal government… the bourgeois considered to mean the Russian Provisional Government whose legitimacy the Socialists did not recognize.” (Hyvönen, p.19)

 

The Bolshevik Attitude Towards Finnish Independence

“The Russian Bolsheviks completely supported Finland’s demands for self-determination.” (Hyvönen, s.22)

“I must declare most categorically that we would not be democrats (I say nothing of socialism!) if we did not recognize the right of the peoples of Russia to free self-determination. I declare that we would be betraying socialism if we did not do everything to restore fraternal confidence between the workers of Finland and Russia. But everyone knows that the restoration of this confidence is inconceivable unless the right of the Finnish people to free self-determination is firmly recognized. And it is not merely the verbal, even if official, recognition of this right that is important here. What is important is that this verbal recognition will be confirmed by the act of the Council of People’s Commissars, that it will be put into effect without hesitation. For the time for words has passed. The time has come when the old slogan “Workers of all countries, unite!” must be put into effect.

Complete freedom for the Finnish people, and for the other peoples of Russia, to arrange their own life! A voluntary and honest alliance of the Finnish people with the Russian people! No tutelage, no supervision from above, over the Finnish people! These are the guiding principles of the policy of the Council of People’s Commissars.”
~STALIN (Speech delivered at the Congress of the Finnish Social-Democratic Labour Party, Helsingfors Nov. 14, 1917)

 

The Power Act

“In the elections of 1916 socialists gained a majority in the parliament, 103 seats”(Koskinen, Veljiksi kaikki ihmiset tulkaa: Lohja 1917-18 pp. 14-15)

After the socialists achieved an electoral victory and a majority in the parliament in the 1916 elections they managed to pass the so-called “Power Act” (Valtalaki). This was a bill that declared the finnish parliament independent and sovereign from Russian involvement. That the finnish parliament was the highest authority of Finland. Effectively, this was a declaration of Finnish independence. Before, Finland had been a protectorate of Russia meaning that it had its own parliament and government but these were totally subservient to Russia and all their decisions would have to be approved by Russia. The Power Act declared that Russia no longer had power over Finland and therefore would have made Finland independent.

The capitalist class of Finland instantly opposed this bill. The bill was passed because the socialists had a majority in the parliament but it was never implemented because of’obstructionism by the right-wing bourgeoisie.

“Bourgeois parties refused all struggles in favor of implementing the Power Act – and therefore also any struggles in favor of Finnish self-determination. Afraid of being left alone, without outside help to face the Finnish working class and rural poor the Finnish bourgeoisie threw themselves into the arms of the Russian Provisional Government and abandoned the Power Act, which represented the wishes of the Finnish people for independence and democracy, and which the parliament had accepted.”
(Hyvönen, pp.32-33)


The congress of the social-democratic party stated:
“Finnish social-democracy therefore demands… the independence of the Finnish people and state. The Finnish working class can only pursue unhindered class struggle inside a sovereign country.” (Hyvönen, p.33)

“Bolshevik representative Aleksandra Kollontai who was present at the congress stated:
“And we support the granting of independence to Finland, all the way to the right of secession from Russia.”

At that time the bolsheviks were not among the ruling parties in Russia. The bolsheviks could put forward their demands only in their own press and the congress of the soviets.” (Hyvönen, p.33)

“In Russia the bolshevik party was the only political grouping that supported the self-determination of Finland as well as other nationalities. Starting from the marxist principle of national self-determination and developing it to the policy of recognizing the independence of national states and applying it to practice Lenin and Stalin made it clear they defended Finland’s right to independence and opposed the imperialist policy of the Provisional Government as it opposed Finnish independence. The April conference of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks) accepted Lenin’s proposal regarding the National Question which states:

“The right of all the nations forming part of Russia freely to secede and form independent states must be recognised. To deny them this right, or to fail to take measures guaranteeing its practical realisation, is equivalent to supporting a policy of seizure or annexation. Only the recognition by the proletariat of the right of nations to secede can ensure complete solidarity among the workers of the various nations and help to bring the nations closer together on truly democratic lines.”” (Hyvönen, s.20) (7th bolshevik conference, Resolution on the National Question)

“The declaration also concretely put emphasis on the Finnish question in the following way:

“The conflict which has arisen at the present time between Finland and the Russian Provisional Government strikingly demonstrates that denial of the right to free secession leads to a direct continuation of the policy of tsarism.”” (Hyvönen, s.21) (Ibid.)


The Finnish Parliament Elections of 1917

The Russian Provisional government was not happy with the Socialists having a majority in the Finnish parliament and pushing for independence and therefore ordered new elections in October 1. 1917.

The Finnish capitalist class supported the Russian Provisional Government and opposed independence. Bolsheviks and Finnish Socialists supported independence

The Russian provisional government took upon itself the role of the inheritor and continuer of the Tsar-grand duke’s power. It was able to do this with the favorable help of the finnish bourgeoisie.” (Hyvönen, s.14)

The Finnish capitalists were not opposed to independence in principle but they still saw the Russian capitalist government as an ally just as they had seen the Tsarist government as an ally. They needed the oppressive state apparatus of Russia in order to keep the Finnish workers under control. The Finnish capitalists wanted to insure that none of the demands of the workers would be accepted. Demands like work safety regulations, the 8 hour work day, better pay, equal municipal elections, land reform and better rights for agricultural workers who were at the mercy of the aristocracy and lived in practical feudalism. For this reason the Finnish capitalists were willing to ally with Kerensky and the Russian government instead of supporting Finnish independence.

The Capitalists still wanted to increase their own power compared to Russia. They wanted Finland to keep its nominal autonomy and perhaps expand it. Finland as a Russian protectorate could decide some local questions via its own parliament and senate while Russia still controlled foreign policy, the military, economic policy, trade etc.

If Finland became truly independent the capitalists would have to face the Finnish workers and poor peasants on their own. This is something that they definitely did not want to happen.

One of the Finnish socialist leaders, Otto Wille Kuusinen elaborated the Finnish working class movement’s stance on independence in the following way:
“We cannot grant the Russian government the right to verify Finnish laws, because that way even the most vital reforms that have been decided by our parliament could simply be rejected in Petrograd, to the help and satisfaction of the reactionary bourgeoisie of Finland, as has happened many times before.
We cannot grant the Russian government the right to dissolve the Finnish parliament or decide the duration of the Diet. And it is not right that the Russian government could prevent the expansion of the rights of the Finnish parliament or the further democratization of our state which the interests of the working class demand.
The Russian Government does not have the right in any way to be considered the highest state authority of Finland, instead Finland has its own parliament, its own government, responsible to its parliament and people.
Therefore opposed to the demand of national subjugation put forth by the Russian bourgeosie, Finnish social-democracy puts forth the demand of the independence of the Finnish people. For only in a sovereign land can the Finnish working class without hindrance pursue its class struggle, protect its gains and successfully do its part in the movement for international emancipation of labor.

We want freedom, so that a road would be opened for the people to choose their own destiny and a freedom for the working class to engage in class struggle with a chance to achieve victories without interference from a foreign power.”” (Hyvönen, s.24)
“Kuusinen continued:

“The Finnish poor do not hate our brother nation Russia, it hates the agitators of national hatred. Finland’s rightful role is to be an independent republic, free next to a free Russia. In economic relations the Finnish people would not attempt to isolate themselves from Russia or to disrupt the interests of Russia. The economic relations of Finland with Russia as with all other countries should be organized based on voluntary agreement, no longer only based on the wishes of the Russian bourgeoisie with the force of subjugation. Otherwise the conflict between Finland and Russia will not end. And Finnish social-democracy wishes this conflict to end, and the formation of mutually beneficial relations for our peoples.” (Minutes of the 9. Congress of the Finnish Social-Democratic Party p.101)” (Hyvönen, s.25)

“The view advocated by Kuusinen represented that proletarian view which had matured during the fight for suffrage according to which the proletariat had to fight against the oppressors both at home and abroad and that those struggles supported one another, and that all questions including the status of the Finnish nation could only be solved through the demands necessitated by class struggle. Kuusinen’s proposal got the absolute majority in the party Congress. While the Congresses of the bourgeois parties refused to accept the demand for independence the Finnish working class made it their concrete goal. While the bourgeois parties strived for collaboration with the Russian Provisional Government and the capitalists in it, the independence struggle of the Finnish working class ended up being pushed closer to the Bolsheviks who advocated National Self-Determination.” (Hyvönen, s.25)

“Apart from the social-democrats few representatives of the Young Finnish Party and the Agrarian League also voted in favor of the Power Act. Therefore the passing of the Power Act meant that the most principled supporters of independence were brought closer together. However on the 31. of July the Provisional Government dissolved the Finnish Parliament and called for new elections as punishment for the passing of the Power Act, which would have meant complete independence for Finland in internal affairs. The dissolving of the parliament served to further alienate the social-democrats and bourgeois from each other in parliamentary politics.”
(Holodkovski s.35)
“After the Finnish Parliament was dissolved by the Provisional Government with the help of the bourgeois senators new elections were arranged for October 1. and 2. The bourgeois parties absolutely refused to join with the socialists in their attempt to defend Finnish sovereignty, to continue the work of the parliament that had illegally been dissolved and instead declared that this attempt [to protect the parliament] was illegal. The bourgeois instead put all their forces into the new elections. The social-democratic party decided to participate in the elections but at the same time explained that the new elections were illegitimate and defended the legitimacy of the dissolved parliament. The election struggle became fierce. Bourgeois parties allied with each other in a coalition “against the red danger”. The bourgeois coalition achieved 108 seats against the 92 working class representatives. This was despite the fact that the amount of votes for the social-democrats increased from 370,000 to 450,000. The votes for the bourgeois also increased and since they were now all in one coalition none of their votes were wasted as had happened previously.” (Hyvönen, s.49)
The last bourgeois plot against independence

“After the elections, before the meeting of the new government, the bourgeoisie still continued to negotiate with the Russian governor general who represented the already almost dead Provisional Government. As a result of these negotiations the governor general left for Petrograd to deliver a joint manifesto of the Finnish bourgeois parties that they wanted the Provisional Government to present at the meeting of the new Finnish government. In the manifesto the Provisional Government was supposed to “give up its power over the Finnish state with the exception that foreign affairs would still be handled through Russia like they have been up to now and that Finland will not make any changes to its military policy or laws relating to the Russian state or Russian citizens inside Finland without the consent of the Russian government” . . .
This example of bourgeois politics ended up not being implemented because the life of the Russian Provisional Government came to an end before the emissary of the Finnish bourgeosie arrived in Petrograd. A Soviet Government had emerged in Russia as a result of a working class revolution. This maneuver of the Finnish bourgeoisie meant denying that basic principle of the Power Act which had declared the Finnish parliament to be the highest legal authority in Finland. The bourgeosie wanted to create an executive power outside the authority of the parliament elected by the people. At the same time, with its own manifesto, it wanted to nullify the Power Act despite the fact that when passing the Power Act the Finnish parliament had precisely decided to refuse the Russian Government any right to verify or block Finnish laws. This was a matter concerning the highest legal authority of the country. The Finnish bourgeoisie wanted to change the form of government of Finland. From a legal standpoint this maneuver was a coup. The kind of change in form of government that was described in the bourgeos manifesto could of course only have been carried out by changing the constitution through a decision of the parliament. However in its current composition the parliament would never have accepted such a decision, afterall half of the seats belonged to the socialists.” (Hyvönen, s.52-53)

The bourgeoisie could not have achieved this plan legally or democratically. Hence they attempted to scheme together with the Russian Provisional Government. To insure that Finland does not become independent but retains its status as a protectorate of capitalist Russia and that the Russian capitalist state insures the rule of the Finnish capitalists over the Finnish workers.

“The Great October Revolution in Russia ruined the plans of the bourgeoisie. The attempt to create an executive power entirely separate from the parliement failed. A soviet government had been formed in Russia whose representatives would never have supported the Finnish bourgeoisie’s dictatorship.” (Hyvönen, s.56)

 

Why did the Finnish capitalists finally accept independence?


So why did the Finnish capitalists accept independence after resisting it for so long? They did so because after the October Revolution Russia was no longer their ally. Instead Russia was now the ally of the Finnish working class. And therefore the Finnish capitalists requested independence from Russia which the Bolsheviks granted. The Socialists who had always advocated independence also supported Finland’s secession from Russia. The only difference being that the Socialists still wanted to maintain friendly relations to Russia while the capitalists tightened their collaboration with Russia’s enemy, Germany.

 

Finland is granted independence by the Bolsheviks

“The other day representatives of Finland applied to us with a demand for immediate recognition of Finland’s complete independence and endorsement of its secession from Russia. The Council of People’s Commissars resolved to give its consent and to issue a decree, which has already been published in the newspapers, proclaiming Finland’s complete independence.

Here is the text of the decision of the Council of People’s Commissars:

“In response to the application of the Finnish Government for recognition of the independence of the Finnish Republic, the Council of People’s Commissars, in full conformity with the principle of the right of nations to self-determination, resolves to recommend to the Central Executive Committee: a) to recognize the state independence of the Finnish Republic, and b) to set up, in agreement with the Finnish Government, a special commission (composed of representatives of both sides) to elaborate the practical measures necessitated by the secession of Finland from Russia.”
Naturally, the Council of People’s Commissars could not act otherwise, for if a nation, through its representatives, demands recognition of its independence, a proletarian government, acting on the principle of granting the peoples the right to self-determination, must give its consent…

The Council of People’s Commissars may be abused, may be criticized, but no one can assert that it does not carry out its promises; for there is no force on earth that can compel the Council of People’s Commissars to break its promises. This we have demonstrated by the absolute impartiality with which we accepted the demand of the Finnish bourgeoisie that Finland be granted independence, and by proceeding at once to issue a decree proclaiming the independence of Finland.

May the independence of Finland help the emancipation of the Finnish workers and peasants and create a firm basis for friendship between our peoples.”

~STALIN (The Independence of Finland: Speech to the Russian Central Executive Committee Dec. 22, 1917)
SOURCES:

Tuure Lehen, Punaisten ja Valkoisten Sota

Esa Koskinen, Veljiksi kaikki ihmiset tulkaa: Lohja 1917-18

Antti Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-18

Viktor Holodkovski, Suomen työväen vallankumous 1918

Antti Hyvönen, Suomen Kommunistinen Puolue 1918-24

Antti Hyvönen, Suomen vanhan työväenpuolueen historia

Otto Kuusinen, “The Finnish Revolution: A Self-Criticism”

Otto Kuusinen, Suomen Työväenliikkeen Opetuksia

Brief History of the October Revolution

The October Revolution is an extremely important event in world history. It was the first successful workers revolution. But how did it all happen? This is a brief overview of the complicated history of the October Revolution.

The Russian Empire was a totalitarian police state ruled by an absolute monarchy. The country was very backward economically and culturally. Average life expectancy in Russia was about 35 years. Only about 20% of the population knew how to read. The workers and peasants lived horrible lives, without the 8 hour working day, minimum wage laws or basic work safety regulations. There were many large strikes and protests but it was not uncommon that the police would shoot at the demonstrations and kill the strikers.

Despite how big the country was, there was a constant shortage of farm land and also constant famine. This is because most land belonged to the wealthy landlords and rich peasants. Because of technological backwardness, only the softest and most fertile soil could be used, this severely limited the amount of available farm land.
In 1898 the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party is created. Among its founders are people like Vladimir Lenin and Julius Martov. This was a marxist party, that wanted to overthrow the monarchy and bring about socialism. However during the course of the struggle there is a lot of disagreement about when this goal is to be implemented and how. In 1903 there emerges a split in the party: two factions emerge: the Mensheviks led by Martov and the Bolsheviks led by Lenin.

During the years, although Lenin and many others first anticipated the two groups could merge again, the split ends up worsening and the two factions become separate parties: Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Mensheviks) and Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks).

The main differences between the groups were the following:

1. The Bolsheviks wanted an organizationally united party of serious revolutionaries while the Mensheviks wanted a more loose reformist type party.

2. Both parties agreed that the next course of action was to overthrow the monarchy and carry out the so-called “bourgeois-democratic revolution”. This would make Russia a capitalist parliamentary democracy. However the Mensheviks argued that the class to lead the revolution was the bourgeoisie, the capitalist class. The bourgeois class served this function in the French Revolution. The Bolsheviks disagreed, they thought the capitalists couldn’t be trusted to carry out the democratic revolution, they were weaker then in France, they allied with the monarchy and feared the workers and peasants. In fact, the Bolshevik leader Lenin argued that the Russian proletariat was much stronger and more developed then the French proletariat of the late 1700s and therefore should lead the democratic revolution, and not merely support it.

3. Lastly, the Mensheviks didn’t think Russia was ready for Socialism, in their opinion the workers could never take power in Russia until after a long time of capitalist and parliamentary development. Even though the debate about workers revolution and socialism would only come about fully later, this attitude relates to the Menshevik position that the workers shouldn’t lead the democratic revolution, but only support the capitalist class against the monarchy.

In 1905 there is an attempt at the democratic revolution. There are massive protests all over the country, mutinies in the army and the people organize public meetings called “soviets” or councils, which would get together and discuss what to do. The revolution eventually fails. It won some democratic liberties from the Tsar, but those liberties would be constantly under attack by the monarchy afterwards. This revolution is seen as a dress-rehearsal for the later revolution.

In 1914 World War 1 begins, and launches Russia into chaos. The economy is ruined by the war, there is a shortage of food and large amounts of the population are drafted to fight in the war. The war is seen by many people, especially the socialist, as an unjust imperialist conquest, where millions of poor and working class people from different countries had to die for the profits and wealth of the capitalist and monarchist governments of their countries.

The attitude towards the war ends up splitting the international socialist movement. The so-called “2nd international working men’s association”. Many parties initially opposed the war, but then chose to support their own government in it, to protect their country from the other imperialist powers. Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg and other revolutionaries saw this as treachery. Surely, if everyone only supports their own imperialist government in an imperialist war, it doesn’t do anything to stop the war. They called for “turning the imperialist war to a class war”, friendship between the workers of the various countries, and unity against the capitalist governments of all warring countries. This led to the splitting of the international.

In February 1917 the Russian monarchy is overthrown. This leads to the creation of the Russian Provisional Government, consisting of the capitalist Cadet party, the Socialist-Revolutionary party or SR and the Mensheviks.

The Bolsheviks initially gave “conditional support” for the Provisional Government, meaning they supported it to the degree that it carried out the democratic reforms and other policies demanded by the population. However it soon became very evident the Provisional Government was a failure.

The Provisional government refused to carry out land-reform. It was necessary to prevent famine and reduce the land shortage, but it would have meant going against the power of the landlords.

The Provisional government also refused to impose stricter regulations on trading and the economy. This would have been necessary to prevent economic disaster, but it would have meant going against the capitalists who greatly profited from the war and the chaos.

Lastly, the Provisional government supported the war. They advocated a “war to a finish”, meaning until they won. It became evident that Russia was losing the war, however the Provisional government was still committed to fulfill the treaties and agreements with their allies in World War 1.

Clearly, supposed democratic government, with a quite a few self-proclaimed socialists in it should act in this way. The Bolsheviks were quick to point out that the Provisional government acts exactly like the Tsarist government, which also sided with the landlords, capitalists and started the imperialist war. The Provisional government was continuing Tsarist policy.

In April 1917, Vladimir Lenin returns to Russia from exile and puts forward his “april theses”, political proposals which call for the overthrow of the Provisional government.

The Bolsheviks put forward their slogans:

“Down with the provisional government”

“Down with the capitalist ministers”

“Factories for the workers, land to the peasants, end to the imperialist war,”

“Peace, Bread & Land”


In June the capital city, Petrograd (now called St. Petersburg) has municipal elections. Bolsheviks achieve a massive victory, growing from essentially nothing to one of the biggest parties. The so-called “defencist bloc” still gets the majority. This bloc consisted of the SR-party and mensheviks. Defencism, meant that they supported the war effort. Biggest loser of the election was the Cadet party, which achieved only 15% of the vote and lost its power as the biggest party.


On July 1
, Russia launches an offensive on the front, this is known as the “kerensky offensive” or the “July offensive.” The war was going badly and casualties were mounting for Russia, the blood-thirstyness of the imperialists and the Provisional government were very evident.

On July 3-4, there is a massive demonstration in Petrograd, of hundreds of thousands of people. Among the demonstrators are armed soldiers who have come from the front to demand change and revolution. The Bolsheviks urge caution and say that the demonstration should be peaceful and organized. They oppose bringing weapons to the demonstration and say that they are not yet strong enough for a revolution. The workers and soldiers decide to bring weapons despite the advice of the Bolsheviks but the Bolsheviks still take part in the demonstrations to lend support to the workers.

The workers and soldiers carry Bolshevik slogans “end the war”, “peace, bread and land”. There is a government crack down against the demonstrators. Machine guns shoot in the crowd, leaving countless dead. The Bolsheviks are now seen as a serious threat by the government. A warrant is issued for Lenin’s arrest, he is forced into hiding. Bolshevik newspaper Pravda is banned, their printing plant and party offices are destroyed. This period of reppression is known as the “July Days”. The Provisional government restores the death penalty on the front, against soldiers who disobey orders.

The Bolsheviks lose a lot of their forces, and many of their important resources. They begin publishing their newspapers under new names to avoid censorship. Despite all their difficulties the workers now support them more then ever, the Provisional government is exposed as a supporter of the capitalist elite and the imperialists. The Provisional government starts forming stronger ties with the old capitalist party, the Cadets to make up for the support they’ve lost from the workers.

In August, there is an attempted coup against the Provisional government, called the “Kornilov Affair”. Kornilov was a Whige Guard general in the Russian army, who wanted to institute military dictatorship and strong rule of law, to stop the chaos in Russia. In other words, complete counter-revolution, end to the demonstrations, end to democracy, end to the working class movement.

The railway workers strike and don’t transport his troops, and the workers and soldiers of Petrograd form armed Red Guard units and take up the defense of Petrograd against Kornilov. Kornilov’s coup ends in failure.
After the overthrow of the monarchy formation of soviets had begun again in all large cities, but for the time being their leadership would be predominantly menshevik.

In September the Bolsheviks gain the majority in the Petrograd Soviet and soon after in the soviets of Moscow and other large cities. The Soviets already carry out many important functions in the cities as the Russian government is incapable of doing so. The Soviets even organized the defense of Petrograd. As the economy is in ruins and the war effort is failing more people turn towards the Soviets.

The 6th Bolshevik party congress had agreed that they should carry out an armed revolution. In October the Petrograd Soviet creates a Military Revolutionary Committee. These special bodies are formed all over the country connected with each soviet in each city. The Menshevik and SR minorities in the soviets opposed revolution, but the SR party splits. The “left-SR” group sides with the Bolsheviks.

The Bolshevik soldiers organization takes over the garrison. On October 24 the Military Revolutionary Committee occupies the telegraph, the telephone and other important buildings. The cruiser Aurora, which is controlled by Bolshevik sailors, fires a shot to signal the beginning of the revolution. The workers and soldiers storm the winter palace. The same evening there is a congress of Soviets, where delegates arrive from all over the country. This congress elects the new Russian government, elected by the soviets of workers and soldiers, the Soviet Government. The October Revolution has taken power.

This would lead to a civil war where the Capitalists try to rescue their power. Where 14 capitalist governments including the USA, Great Britain, France, Japan, Poland and many others invaded Soviet Russia to destroy the Soviet government. But they failed, and the soviet union was created.

The significance of the October Revolution cannot be overstated. It showed that a revolution by the ordinary people is possible. It showed that capitalism in the end, is incapable of solving its internal contradictions. Despite getting moderate leftists into the government, the policy was as imperialist, profit driven and anti-popular as before. The moderate leftists didn’t improve capitalism, they were used by capitalism. Only revolution stopped Russia’s involvement in the World War, carried out land reform and dealt with the crisis of unregulated capitalism, and began the process of building a new economic model which would serve the needs and interests of the people, not profits.

russian-revolution-1917-granger1-840x472

Moscow Trials (Part 3 – THE GREAT PURGE)

The so-called Great Purge is best defined as a period of intense political turmoil inside the Soviet Party & State Apparatus, although it did also spread outside it to the military and other segments of the population.


The Military Purge & Vlasovites

The purge of the military involved hunting down anti-government elements, nazi-sympathisers, trotskyists, bourgeois nationalists & corrupt careerists inside the Soviet Red Army. In previous parts I already discussed the Tukhachevsky Trial, however the military purge extended beyond merely removing Marshall Tukhachevsky and some other Red Army leaders connected with him. Many lower officers were also demoted or removed, even arrested.

However the numbers of the people removed or arrested are wildly exaggerated in Western cold-war propaganda. One often hears ridiculous speculations about half, or even 75% of the Red Army leadership being removed, and in effect this greatly damaging the defensive capability of the USSR. This is baseless.

In reality the number of military leaders kept constantly increase during the course of war preparations. The number increased from approximately 140,000 to almost 300,000 within the years 1937-1939. The purge reached its height in 1937 when 7.7% of the army leaders were removed. (Let us also note that 30% of all those removed were re-instated in the military before the Second World War.)

This 7.7% is nothing close to the claimed 50-75% and would not have crippled the army. In reality, as there were fifth columnists and unreliable elements in the army, it was crucial they be removed. There were attempted Nazi or Pro-Nazi military coups and conspiracies in many other countries such as Finland, USA, Brazil, Denmark, Romania, Brazil and elsewhere. There were pro-nazi elements and collaborators in all the allied countries but this is often forgotten by anti-communist propagandists who accuse the USSR of paranoia and pointlessly purging the army & state.

Year 1937 1938 1939
Total number of military leader 144300 179000 282300
Number of leaders removed 11043 6742 205
Leaders removed (%) 7.7% 3.7% 0.08%

(Source: Getty, Stalinist Terror)


Even despite this purge there were notable cases of Soviet generals or officers defecting to the fascist side, most famously
general Vlasov, Bunyachenko and Meandrov. There were Brits, French and Americans also fighting on the Nazi side. In the case of the British and French they formed entire battalions: British Free Corps, Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism and individual Americans served in the Luftwaffe, Wehrmacht and SS-Standarte Kurt Eggers. Nazi collaboration and plots were a real threat.


The Purge of the Bureaucracy

Anti-Communists claim the purge was something ordered by Stalin to crush dissent. In actuality this is a major misconception. The purge was many different contradictory things. On the one hand it was the state removing enemies, nazi-sympathisers, trotskyists and bourgeois elements. However this didn’t happen with the State crushing popular dissent, instead it mostly targeted the state and bureaucracy itself.

Not only that but together with the NKVD hunt for enemies there was a wave of populist anti-bureaucratism and denouncing of corrupt careerists and right-wing elements by the lower ranks and non-party members.

“The two radical currents of the 1930s had converged in July 1937, and the resulting turbulence destroyed the bureaucracy …. Antibureaucratic populism and police terror destroyed the offices as well as the officeholders. Radicalism had turned the political machine inside out and destroyed the party bureaucracy.” (Getty)

“(T)he center was trying to unleash criticism of the middle-level apparat by the rank-and-file activists. Without official sanction and pressure from above, it would have been impossible for the rank and file, on their own, to organize and sustain such a movement against their immediate superiors.”
(Ibid.)

“The evidence suggests that the … ‘Great Purges’ should be redefined. It was not the result of a petrified bureaucracy’s stamping out dissent and annihilating old radical revolutionaries. In fact, it may have been just the opposite … a radical, even hysterical, reaction to bureaucracy. The entrenched officeholders were destroyed from above and below in a chaotic wave of voluntarism and revolutionary puritanism.” (Ibid.)

Yagoda’s Right-Wing plot

“Kirov in Leningrad must be removed… Brothers, fascists, if you can’t get to Stalin, kill Gorky, kill the poet Demiyan Bieni, kill Kaganovich.”
~ Za Rossiyu, Nov. 1, 1934 (Organ of the fascist Russian National League of New Regeneration)

Kulaks, ex-capitalists & nationalists would have served as the popular base for an anti-soviet coup’de’tat. But there were anti-soviet forces at every level of Soviet society, including among the military men, officials and police men.

The NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda was part of the Right-Wing conspiracy led by the Bukharin-Tomsky-Rykov triumphirate. He was complicit in the Leningrad Zinovievite-Trotskyite group’s assassination of party secretary Sergei Kirov.

“In 1934, before the murder of Kirov, the terrorist Leonid Nikolayev was picked up by OGPU agents in Leningrad. In his possession they found a gun. and a chart showing the route which Kirov traveled daily. When Yagoda was notified of Nikolayev’s arrest, he instructed Zaporozhetz, assistant chief of the Leningrad OGPU, to release the terrorist without further examination. Zaporozhetz was one of Yagoda’s men. He did what he was told. A few weeks later, Nikolayev murdered Kirov.”
(Kahn & Sayers, The Great Conspiracy)

“Yenukidze informed Maximov that “whereas formerly the Rights calculated that the Soviet Government could be overthrown by organizing certain of the more anti-Soviet minded strata of the population, and in particular the kulaks, now the situation had changed… and it is necessary to proceed to more active methods of seizing power.” Yenukidze described the new tactics of the conspiracy. In agreement with the Trotskyites, he said, the Rights had adopted a decision to eliminate a number of their political opponents by terrorist means.”

“Preparations for it have already begun,” Yenukidze added. He told Maximov that Yagoda was behind all this, and the conspirators had his protection.”
(Ibid.)

The forces of the conspiracy were: the forces of Yenukidze plus Yagoda, their organizations in the Kremlin and in the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs
~Bukharin, court proceedings

“Not all the details are yet known of the strange struggle which Stalin carried on for years against his own secret police…. The leading members of the secret police, which had become a separate caste, were bound neither to any ideology nor to any party policy. What they wanted–in the name, of course, and for the benefit of, the party–was far-reaching powers and also certain material advantages… They therefore kept up a continual struggle against any limitation of their authority. When Stalin sought to impose certain restrictions on their right to pronounce death sentences, they simply secured that the new courts which were to hear certain cases with the public excluded, should be formed from their own members, that is to say members of the police caste. Stalin’s continual pressure for more rigid supervision by organs of the party was just what drove Yagoda and his colleagues into opposition and later into conspiracy.”
(Nikolaus Basseches, Stalin p. 236)

The Right-Wing conspirator Grigory Tokaev, member of the Red Army who defected to the British in 1948 was part of a group which had connections to the Zinovievite-Trotskyite conspirators but also to Yenukidze & Yagoda. He wrote in his 1956 book:

“Not that our movement was completely at one with the Sheboldayev-Yenukidze group, but we knew what they were doing and… considered it our revolutionary duty to help them at a critical moment …. We disagreed on details, but these were nevertheless brave and honorable men, who had many a time saved members of our group, and who had a considerable chance of success.”
(Tokaev, Comrade X)

“The NKVD… took another step forward. The Little Politbureau had penetrated the Yenukidze-Sheboldayev and the Yagoda-Zelinsky conspiracies, and broken through the opposition’s links within the central institutions of the political police… Yagoda was removed from the NKVD, and we lost a strong link in our opposition intelligence service.”
(Tokaev, Comrade X)

 

The Ezhovshchina – “Ezhov-terror”

How can anyone now allow himself the stupidity of criticizing Stalin for repression and crimes? This was a psychosis that was cleverly instituted by Yezhov and other enemies of the State… this psychosis took over the minds of millions of people. Practically all were involved in looking for “enemies” … the resolution to do these things which were undertaken by the REAL ENEMIES of the Soviet people. No directives either of Stalin, Molotov, or Voroshilov were to be found in all of these documents.”
(Aleksei Rybin, Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard)

Another complication in the Purge was the so-called Ezhovshchina, the terror initiated by NKVD chief Nikolai Ezhov. While the NKDV cracked down on real enemies, real conspirators and counter-revolutionaries the leader of the NKVD itself, Ezhov was himself an anti-soviet conspirator. He protected the real conspirators to the best of his ability, while also arresting and even executing many innocent people to create popular distrust and hatred toward the government:

“Ezhov interrogation 04.30.39

“All this was done in order to cause widespread dissatisfaction in the population with the leadership of the Party and the Soviet government and in that way to create the most favorable base for carrying out our conspiratorial plans.””
(Pavliukov 525-6)

Enemies hiding in the party also expelled many members to create distrust and hatred towards the party and the government. One of them said:

“We endeavored to expel as many people from the party as possible. We expelled people when there were no grounds for expulsion. We had one aim in view – to increase the number of embittered people and thus increase the number of our allies.” (Getty)

Stalin responded by urging caution and trying to limit the amount of expulsions.

“It was necessary to hunt down active Trotskyites but not everyone who had been casually involved with them, Stalin announced. In fact, such a crude approach could “only harm the cause of the struggle with the active Trotskyist wreckers and spies.” … Each case of expulsion from the party for connections with the former oppositions should be dealt with carefully”
(Thurston, Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia p. 47-48)

“…the specific remedies he [Stalin] proposed for the remaining “problems” were in the benign areas of party education and propaganda rather than repression.”
(Getty & Naumov, p. 129)

In the end many expulsions were discovered to be unjustified and many members were allowed back in their posts:

“In the majority of cases the commission examined from 40 to 60 percent of those thrown out of the party had been reinstated. ”
(Thurston, p. 107)

In 1938 Ezhov’s actions were exposed and he was removed from power and sentenced as a traitor. Journalist Edgar Snow wrote about the Purge, or more accurately the Ezhovshchina:

“The sadistic Yagoda and Yezhov, who for a time ruled a state within a state–the GPU, were chiefly responsible for these outrages. By Yagoda’s own account his hirelings faked thousands of documents and so mixed up the records that it was impossible to tell a genuine dossier from a bogus one. Curiously the public does not seem to blame Stalin for having permitted such a Frankenstein to develop, but instead gives him credit for having cleaned up the Yagoda gang and brought the secret police back under full control of the Politburo–which he did when the GPU was crushed.”
(Edgar Snow, The Pattern of Soviet Power p. 148)

When Stalin still thought the NKVD under Ezhov’s command was carrying out wrongful actions only mistakenly, not deliberately, he said that:

“Wholesale expulsions based on this “heartless attitude” alienated party members and therefore served the needs of the party’s enemies. According to Stalin, such embittered comrades could provide addittional reserves for the Trotskyists “because the incorrect policy of some of our comrades on the question of expulsion from the party… creates these reserves… It is high time to put a stop to this outrageous practice, comrades.””
(Getty, Origins of the Great Purges p. 147)

Stalin and the Politburo tried to stop the NKVD from committing excesses. Eventually he would become suspicious and realize Yezhov and Yagoda had been carrying out these anti-people activities deliberately to create de-stabilization, popular resentment and distrust in the government.

The Communist Party Central Committee issued a decree to limit the NKVD’s power. They were worried that the NKVD’s wrong actions could cause mass resentment among the population. It would take some time until they learned this was precisely what Ezhov attempted to do:

“I. ON DISCONTINUING THE MASS EXPULSIONS OF PEASANTS
All mass expulsions of peasants are to cease at once… Only persons accused of counterrevolution, terroristic acts, sabotage… [and other serious crimes] may be taken into preventive custody.”

“The organs of the OGPU are to obtain the prior consent of the directorate of the procuracy in making arrests, except in cases involving terroristic acts, explosions, arson, espionage, defection, political gangsterism, and counter-revolutionary, antiparty groups…” (Getty & Naumov)

“In 1937 and 1938, Stalin and company tried to contain radicalism through press articles, speeches, revised electoral plans, and deglorifying the police. That they had to take such measures shows their lack of tight control over events.” (Getty, Origins of the Great Purges)

In June 1936, Stalin interrupted Yezhov at a Central Committee Plenum to complain about so many party members being expelled: 
YEZHOV: Comrades, as a result of the verification of party documents, we expelled more than 200,000 members of the party. 
STALIN: [interrupts] Very many. 
YEZHOV: Yes, very many. I will speak about this…. 
STALIN: [interrupts] If we expelled 30,000… and 600 former Trotskyists and Zinovievists, it would be a bigger victory. 
YEZHOV: More than 200,000 members were expelled. Part of this number of party members, as you know, have been arrested. 
At about this time, Stalin wrote a letter to regional party secretaries complaining about their excessive “repression” of the rank-and-file. This led to a national movement to reinstate expelled party members,… 
[Later in this plenum, Stalin spoke specifically on this question. Circumstantial evidence suggests that he was genuinely concerned that too many of the rank-and-file had been expelled because such large numbers of disaffected former members could become an embittered opposition.”
(
Getty and Manning, Stalinist Terror)

In 1938 Stalin and the Politbureau finally became so suspicious of Ezhov they appointed Beria as the NKVD second-in-command to keep an eye on Ezhov. Within the year Ezhov was removed:

“By the fall of 1938 Yezhov’s leadership of the NKVD was under steady fire from various directions. The regime responded officially on Nov. 17, in a joint resolution of the Sovnarkom and the party Central Committee. This document went to thousands of officials across the USSR in the NKVD, the Procuracy, and the party, down to the raion level. Thus, the acknowledgement that grotesque mistakes and injustice had occurred … Enemies of the people and foreign spies had penetrated the security police and the judicial system and had “consciously…carried out massive and groundless arrests.”
(
Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, p. 114)

 

Ezhov the Traitor

“Beria … at a closed joint session of the Central Committee and the Central Control Committee of the Party, held in the autumn of 1938 … declared that if Yezhov were not a deliberate Nazi agent, he was certainly an involuntary one. He had turned the central offices of the NKVD into a breeding ground for fascist agents.” Tokaev

“Yezhov bears great personal responsibility for the destruction of legality, for the falsification of investigative cases.” (Getty and Manning, Stalinist Terror, p. 29)

“The airplane designer Yakovlev recalls the following in his memoirs:
In the summer of 1940 Stalin said these precise words in a conversation with me:
Yezhov is a rat; in 1938 he killed many innocent people. We shot him for that.””
(Roy Medvedev, Let History Judge p. 529)

Ezhov as a member of the right-wing conspiracy was involved with foreign powers, with the Bukharin-tomsky-Rykov trio and Yagoda-Yenukidze plot:

“Later, in 1939, during interrogation, Ezhov confirmed that in 1935 he had indeed gone again to Vienna to be treated for pneumonia by Dr. Noorden … he confessed to having used the visit for contacting the German intelligence service.” (Jansen & Petrov, Yezhov p. 36)

As Stalin and Beria were on his trail Ezhov and his group hastily began thinking of ways to save themselves:

“After his arrest, Ezhov was accused of having schemed against the Party leadership. He testified himself that after arrests began within the NKVD he, together with Frinovskii, Dagin, and Evdokimov, made plans to commit a “putsch” on 7 November 1937… Dagin, who was chief of the NKVD guard department, was to execute the plan, but on 5 November he was arrested, followed a few days later by Evdokimov. Ezhov alone could not prevent Beria’s initiative. “This way all our plans collapsed.”
(Ibid.) 

“Evdokimov gave similar evidence. According to him, in September he discussed the threatening situation after Beria’s appointment with Ezhov, Frinovskii, and Bel’skii. Allegedly, they agreed to prepare an attempt on Stalin and Molotov. Ezhov was also said to have had plans to murder Beria.”
(Ibid.)

“After arrest he [Yezhov] himself confessed to having conspired against Stalin and having planned an attempt on him; this was confirmed by a number of accomplices and witnesses.”
(Ibid.)

 

Putting an end to Ezhovshchina

On November 17, 1938, Stalin and Molotov issued a decision, putting an end to Ezhov’s excesses:

“The general operations — to crush and destroy enemy elements — conducted by the NKVD in 1937-1938, during which investigation and hearing procedures were simplified, showed numerous and grave defects in the work of the NKVD and prosecutor. Furthermore, enemies of the people and foreign secret service spies penetrated the NKVD, both at the local and central level. They tried by all means to disrupt investigations. Agents consciously deformed Soviet laws, conducted massive and unjustified arrests and, at the same time, protected their acolytes, particularly those who had infiltrated the NKVD.

“The completely unacceptable defects observed in the work of the NKVD and prosecutors were only possible because enemies of the people had infiltrated themselves in the NKVD and prosecutor offices, used every possible method to separate the work of the NKVD and prosecutors from the Party organs, to avoid Party control and leadership and to facilitate for themselves and for their acolytes the continuation of their anti-Soviet activities.

“The Council of People’s Commissars and the Central Committee of the CPSU(b) resolves:

“1. To prohibit the NKVD and prosecutors from conducting any massive arrest or deportation operation ….

“The CPC and the CC of the CPSU(b) warn all NKVD and prosecutor office employees that the slightest deviation from Soviet laws and from Party and Government directives by any employee, whoever that person might be, will result in severe legal proceedings.

-V. Molotov, J. Stalin.”
(Nouvelles de Moscou p. 15)

“Other opposition to Yezhov manifested itself at the beginning of 1938. At that time, a large group of NKVD employees complained to the Central Committee about Yezhov. They accused him of illegal use of government funds and also of the secret execution of a number of prominent party members without investigation or a court examination. In January 1938, the Central Committee Plenum produced a resolution criticizing excessive vigilance. Prominent in the movement to criticize Yezhov’s actions was Zhdanov, who played an important role in drafting the January 1938 resolution.”
(Getty and Manning p. 36)

“…at the end of 1938 Stalin removed Yezhov, disavowed the latter’s excesses, ordered the arrest of the purgers, and released a number of those “falsely arrested.””
(Getty & Naumov, p. 419)

“In December 1938, the campaign came to a complete halt. Most pending investigations for counter-revolutionary activities were dropped and the suspects released. Yezhov was dismissed as head of the NKVD and replaced by Beria. A number of leading NKVD officers were arrested and some executed for having extracted false confessions. Most regional heads of the security police were purged, and many were subject to criminal actions. Past abuses were widely criticized. Both Yagoda and Yezhov were denounced as enemies of the people. Numerous cases were reinvestigated and quite a few of the sentenced released”
(Szymanski, Human Rights in the Soviet Union p. 239)

 

Lack of oversight. This allowed Ezhov to function.

When interviewed by Feliks Chuev for his memoirs, Molotov gave the following explanation:

CHUEV: Didn’t the security agencies place themselves above the party?
MOLOTOV: No, that’s not so…. There was not enough time. We lacked resources. I did not say that the Politburo was overly trusting, but I did say that insufficient oversight was exercised. I disagree that we were overly trusting. The oversight was inadequate.”
(Feliks Chuev, Molotov Remembers, p. 262)

“I believe there were deficiencies and mistakes. It couldn’t have been otherwise with our enemies operating within the security agencies in charge of investigations…. The major deficiencies were that the security agencies had been left without due oversight by the party during certain periods. The negligence was not purposeful. The resources for adequate oversight were insufficient.”
(Ibid p. 287)

“…These errors were largely caused by the fact that at certain stages the investigations fell into the hands of people who were later exposed as traitors guilty of heinous, hostile, antiparty acts. ”
(p. 288)

 

Ezhovshchina’s role compared to the Purging of real enemies

Despite dwelling on the Ezhovshchina, the majority of enemies arrested & executed were not innocents. The purge was a period of extreme political turmoil but it still only affected a minority of the soviet population. Its impact has been exaggerated.

“To the rest of the world it seemed at the time that Russia was enveloped in a smothering atmosphere of plots, murders, and purges. Actually this was a superficial view since, although the rest of the world was morbidly interested in the trials to the exclusion of anything else about Russia, only a tiny percentage of the population was involved and the same years which saw the treason trials saw some of the greatest triumphs of Soviet planning. While the screws tightened on a tiny minority the majority of Soviet people were enjoying greater prosperity and greater freedom.”
(Jerome Davis, Behind Soviet Power , p. 30)

“In the so called Moscow trials 55 people got capital punishment and 7 imprisonment. Most of those prosecuted were persons in high positions in the party, the state apparatus and the army”
(Mario Sousa, The Class Struggle During the Thirties in the Soviet Union)

Propagandists like Robert Conquest, Solzhenitsyn and Snyder claim that tens of millions perished in the purge, they even ignore the very real nazi-collaboration and trotskyite-bukharinite opposition inside the country. Despite Solzhenitsyn claiming that Stalin had killed 60 million people, nearly half of the Soviet population, the real facts say something very different:

“The true number of those falsely accused of counter-revolutionary activities who were executed in the 1936-38 period, is probably between 20,000 and 100,000… the popular conception of the bloodiness of the Great Purge is a gross exaggeration cultivated by those concerned to discredit developments in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and since, as well as the contemporary or revolutionary process in other countries.”
(Albert Szymanski, Human Rights in the Soviet Union)

“…(t)he archival evidence from the secret police rejects the astronomically high estimates often given for the number of terror victims.”
(Getty & Naumov, p. xiv)

“(t)he data available at this point make it clear that the number shot in the two worst purge years [1937-38] was more likely in the hundreds of thousands than in the millions… there are good reasons for assuming that they are not wildly wrong because of the consistent way numbers from different sources compare with one another.”
(Getty & Naumov, p. 591-93)

Despite the hysterical anti-communist propaganda, most of those sentenced were guilty, not innocent. The destruction of the anti-soviet Fifth Column was necessary.

“…To say that all the repressions were unwarranted is, I consider, incorrect. There was a sufficiently high number of enemies in the country after the revolution, dissatisfied people–political criminals as well as ordinary criminals. There was also a good deal of banditry going on in the country; on the collective farms they had to put up with murders of activists and people taking up arms. There were victims, of course. The repressions about which so much is written and talked about today were not at all on the scale that is stated now. “Hundreds of millions of repressed”, they say. Nonsense!”
(Rosamond Richardson, Stalin’s Shadow)

“For 10 years I have worked alongside some of the many recently shot, imprisoned, or exiled in Russia as wreckers. Some of my friends have asked me whether or not I believe these men and women are guilty as charged. I have not hesitated a moment in replying that I believe most of them are guilty.”
–Bruce Franklin (in The Essential Stalin p. 26)

The Fifth Column was at our doorstep. Without destroying them we could not have won the war.”
–Kaganovich (
Feliks Chuyev, Thus Spake Kaganovich)

If the fifth column had not been dealt with the USSR would probably have faced the same fate as Norway, Czechoslovakia and France:

“… the Fascists had their own way in the country at large and in the Army. The anti-Communist agitation was a smoke screen behind which was being prepared the great political conspiracy that was to paralyze France and facilitate Hitler’s work… The most efficient instruments of the Fifth Column… were Weygand, Petain and Laval… as they had seized power amid the confusion of the collapse, Petain and Weygand, with the help of Laval and Darlan, hastened to suppress all political liberties, gag the people, and set up a Fascist regime.”
–French Minister of Aviation Pierre Cot, Triumph of Treason

“Hitler’s march into Prague in 1939 was accompanied by the active military support of Henlein’s organizations in Czechoslovakia. The same thing was true of his invasion of Norway. There were no Sudeten Henleins, no Slovakian Tisos, no Belgian De Grelles, no Norwegian Quislings in the Russian picture…

The story had been told in the so-called treason or purge trials of 1937 and 1938 which I attended and listened to. In re examining the record of these tasks and also what I had written at the time… I found that practically every device of German Fifth Columnist activity, as we now know it, was disclosed and laid bare by the confessions and testimony elicited at these trials of self-confessed “Quislings” in Russia…

All of these trials, purges, and liquidations, which seemed so violent at the time and shocked the world, are now quite clearly a part of a vigorous and determined effort of the Stalin government to protect itself from not only revolution from within but from attack from without. They went to work thoroughly to clean up and clean out all treasonable elements within the country. All doubts were resolved in favor of the government.

There were no Fifth Columnists in Russia in 1941 – they had shot them. The purge had cleansed the country and rid it of treason.”
~Joseph E. Davies

Unfortunately, many foreigners left the Soviet Union during 1937 and 1938 for one reason or another, carrying away with them the impression that the purge ended everything, or at least ended something; an epoch, let us say. Everyone worthwhile had been arrested or shot, it seemed. This impression was basically incorrect. The purge caused many arrests, but the Soviet Union was large, and millions of Russians who had not been involved personally in the purge took it more or less as it came without allowing it permanently to influence their attitude toward the Soviet power. So that in the end of 1938 when the purge ended, when hundreds of arrested people were released with terse apologies for ‘mistakes’ of the investigators, when new arrests stopped or almost stopped, most of the workers in Magnitogorsk had an essentially cheerful and optimistic view of things.” 
(
Scott, John. Behind the Urals)

 

Conclusion

The notion that the Purge was the action of an omnipotent state machine to crack down on dissent has proven incorrect. The purge most of all targeted the bureacy itself and not so much the general public.

The idea that all those accused of treason were innocent victims of frame-ups has also been proven false. The axis fifth column in Soviet Russia was destroyed but individual members of it still lived to escape to the West and tell of their treason. However these individuals are ignored by anti-communist propagandists. They don’t fit the narrative.

The purge was a somewhat hysterical and paranoid reaction, but to very real threats and very real enemies.

There is good evidence to believe most of those punished were really guilty. The number of victims is blown out of all proportion by cold-war propagandists like Robert Conquest, Solzhenitsyn and their modern followers. The fact that archival evidence and other kinds of reliable evidence were not available to western researchers in the cold-war, allowed them to speculate wildly and invent such insane death tolls as 10 million, 20 million or even 60 million.

When the Soviet Union collapsed anti-communist propagandists refused to believe Soviet population was as high as it was, it should have been half of that, if we were to believe tens of millions had been killed and another 27 million had died in WWII.

Many modern western researchers give the real number of deaths as around 700,000 (less then 0.5% of the population) and this includes those wrongfully killed by Ezhov which cannot be blamed on the Soviet Communist Party, while there are those who also propose even lower figures.

The purge was an expression of vicious class struggle and the aftermath of the Revolution & Civil war.

In its method, motive or scale it doesn’t compare to capitalist genocides like:

The Congolese genocide: Belgian Leopold II’s killing 10 million congolese causing the population of the Congo to fall by 25%. The Congo was Leopold’s “private property” which he could exploit as he saw fit.

The Haitian genocide: European colonialists killed off most of the indigineous population (about a million people)

Spanish conquest of the Americas wiped out most of the indigineous population causing it to fall from estimated 22 million to around mere 2 million.

The slave trade killed an approximate 100 million African slaves.

The Nazi holocaust systematically exterminated millions and their wars of aggression killed tens of millions more.

The CIA orchestrated the mass killing of from 500,000 to up a million suspected communists in Indonesia and carried out similar atrocities in other countries.

The United States has killed countless millions around the world in wars of aggression in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan etc. and consciously wiped out most of it’s own native populations.

Some will argue that those things happened a long time ago. But so did the Great Purge. While the purge happened in the late 30s, at the same time capitalist Great Britain still advocated bloody colonialism and knowingly starved millions of Bengalese. At the same time France still considered Vietnam as its own property and pursued a similar policy of shipping rice out from Vietnam starving millions. Supported by German banks and industrial capitalists, Hitler was killing millions of jews, slavs, communists & democratic forces.

In 1953 the CIA overthrows the democratically elected president of Iran and institutes a dictatorship. A year later the CIA overthrows the Guatemalan president and sets up a puppet dictator. The same year the CIA begins to attack independence forces in Vietnam.

The USA which still followed a policy of racial segregation, initiates CIA operation MOCKINGBIRD and recruits hundreds of journalists in various media outlets to become operatives. Shortly 25 biggest media outlets have CIA operatives controlling them.

Atrocities, even genocides, murderous wars of profit, toppling democratic governments, racist policies, outright colonialism & slavery by the capitalist powers are largely ignored by capitalist anti-communist propaganda. Communist wrong doings are invented, or exaggerated and all context is removed. Those targeted are described as innocent victims, whether they be fascists, supporters of monarchist absolutism, colonialism or simply criminals. Anything the communists do is declared to be bad.

History has been turned on its head by the anti-communists. Nazi collaborators & colonialists are treated as respectable figures. To hide their own wrong doings they blame others. Facts are not on their side, but they control distribution. They have a louder voice. The consensus by the corporate and right-wing media and academia to cover up capitalist crimes and slander socialism, can be called nothing else but a modern OPERATION MOCKINGBIRD.

 

SOURCES & BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Getty, Stalinist Terror https://books.google.fi/books?redir_esc=y&id=NWYvGYcxCjYC&q=officer#v=snippet&q=officer&f=false

Kahn & Sayers, The Great Conspiracy
http://www.shunpiking.org/books/GC/

Nikolaus Basseches, Stalin quoted here:
https://espressostalinist.com/the-real-stalin-series/yezhovshchina/

Bruce Franklin (The Essential Stalin) available at:
http://marxism.halkcephesi.net/trotskyism/the%20essential%20Stalin.htm

Rosamond Richardson, Stalin’s Shadow

Albert Szymanski, Human Rights in the Soviet Union
https://ia800300.us.archive.org/6/items/HumanRightsInTheSovietUnion/Human%20Rights%20in%20the%20Soviet%20Union.pdf

Jerome Davis, Behind Soviet Power
https://books.google.fi/books/about/Behind_Soviet_power.html?id=DV0fAQAAMAAJ&redir_esc=y

Feliks Chuev, Molotov Remembers

Jansen & Petrov, Yezhov
https://books.google.fi/books/about/Stalin_s_Loyal_Executioner.html?id=KqojAQAAIAAJ&redir_esc=y

Roy Medvedev, Let History Judge (try to find original source)

Getty, Origins of the Great Purges
https://books.google.fi/books/about/Origins_of_the_Great_Purges.html?id=R5zx54LB-A4C&redir_esc=y

Edgar Snow, The Pattern of Soviet Power
https://ia800203.us.archive.org/6/items/ThePatternOfSovietPower/The%20Pattern%20of%20Soviet%20Power.pdf

Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror
https://books.google.fi/books/about/The_Road_to_Terror.html?id=wZ-v1Gj7UhIC&redir_esc=y

Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia
https://books.google.fi/books/about/Life_and_Terror_in_Stalin_s_Russia_1934.html?id=BgQpfVi8Z-wC&redir_esc=y

Pavliukov, Aleksei. Ezhov. Biografiia

Tokaev, Comrade X
http://epizodsspace.airbase.ru/bibl/inostr-yazyki/Tokaev_Comrade_X_1956.pdf


Feliks Chuyev, Thus Spake Kaganovich

Scott, John. Behind the Urals
https://books.google.fi/books?redir_esc=y&id=JvH63H0s0agC&q=bandits#v=snippet&q=These%20agents%20bred%20purges&f=false


Joseph Davies, Mission to Moscow
https://archive.org/details/missiontomoscow035156mbp

Genocide of Congo
http://www.walkingbutterfly.com/2010/12/22/when-you-kill-ten-million-africans-you-arent-called-hitler/

The death toll of transatlantic slave-trade is controversial. 105 million death toll is the absolute max. This article places it at an approximate 60 million.
http://www.worldfuturefund.org/Reports/Slavedeathtoll/slaverydeathtoll.html

CIA & Suharto mass killing in Indonesia
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/aug/01/indonesia.comment

The Haitian native population fell by 85%
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/what-became-of-the-taino-73824867/

Aztec & Inca population
http://dopeaztec.weebly.com/graph-charttable.html