Maksim Gorky, To the Democracy. November 20, 1917
Gorky, a longtime friend and supporter of Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders, found himself repulsed by their frequent recourse to violence in dealings with their opponent. He used his “New Life,” one of the few independent newspapers to remain open, to flail the revolutionaries for their tactics. Few opponents were more dangerous, because Gorky spoke from Bolshevik principles, and with the authority of a great writer and revolutionary. The Bolsheviks closed his paper in 1918, and Gorky spent most of the 1920s abroad.
Original Source: Novaia zhizn, No. 174, 20 November 1917.
The socialist ministers released by Lenin and Trotsky from the Peter and Paul Fortress went home, leaving their colleagues … and others in the hands of people who have no conception of the freedom of the individual or of the rights of man.
Lenin, Trotsky, and their companions have already become poisoned with the filthy venom of power, and this is evidenced by their shameful attitude toward freedom of speech, the individual, and the sum total of those rights for the triumph of which democracy struggled.
Blind fanatics and dishonest adventurers are rushing madly, supposedly along the road to the “social revolution”; in reality this is the road to anarchy, to the destruction of the proletariat and of the revolution.
On this road Lenin and his associates consider it possible to commit all kinds of crimes, such as … the abolition of freedom of speech, and senseless arrests -all the abominations which Pleve and Stolypin once perpetrated.
Of course, Stolypin and Pleve went against democracy, against all that was live and decent in Russia. Lenin, however, is followed by a rather sizeable–for the time being–portion of the workers; but I believe that the good sense of the working class and its awareness of its historical tasks will soon open the eyes of the proletariat to the utter impossibility of realizing Lenin’s promises, to all the depth of his madness, and to his Nechaev and Bakunin brand of anarchism.
The working class cannot fail to understand that Lenin is only performing a certain experiment on their skin and on their blood, that he is striving to push the revolutionary mood of the proletariat to its furthest extreme and seewhat will come of this?
Of course, he does not believe in the possibility of the victory of the proletariat in Russia under the present conditions, but perhaps he is hoping for a miracle.
The working class should know that miracles do not occur in real life, that they are to expect hunger, complete disorder in industry, disruption of transportation, and protracted bloody anarchy followed by a no less bloody and gloomy reaction.
This is where the proletariat is being led by its present leader, and it must be understood that Lenin is not an omnipotent magician but a cold-blooded trickster who spares neither the honor nor the life of the proletariat.
The workers must not allow adventurers and madmen to heap shameful, senseless, and bloody crimes on the head of the proletariat, for which not Lenin but the proletariat itself will pay.
- Does the Russian democracy remember the ideas for the triumph of which it struggled against the despotism of the monarchy?
- Does it consider itself capable of continuing this struggle now?
- Does it remember that when the Romanov gendarmes threw its ideological leaders into prisons and hardlabor camps, it called this method of struggle base?
- In what way does Lenin’s attitude toward freedom of speech differ from the same attitude of a Stolypin, a Pleve, and other half-humans?
- Does not Lenin’s government, as the Romanov government did, seize and drag off to prison all those who think differently?
- Why are Bernatsky, Konovalov, and other members of the coalition government sitting in the fortress? Are they in any way more criminal than their socialist colleagues freed by Lenin?
The only honest answer to these questions must be an immediate demand to free the ministers and other innocent people who were arrested, and also to restore freedom of speech in its entirety.
Then the sensible elements of the democracy must draw further conclusions, they must decide: is the road of conspirators and anarchists of Nechaev’s type also their road?
Source: Maksim Gorky, Untimely Thoughts: essays on revolution, culture, and the Bolsheviks, 1917-1918 (New York: P. S Eriksson, 1968), 85-87.