The Secrets of the Bolsheviki
[The Independent, October 5, 1918]
The Bolsheviki have been hoist by their own petard. The Germans; by whose aid they were established, tricked and foiled them at Brest-Litovsk. The weapon of assassination which they employed against their opponents is now turned against them. They tried to discredit the cause of the Entente Allies by publishing their secret documents, and now the Bolsheviki have lost their own reputation thru the publication of their secret documents.
With, a calm and deliberate gesture, Uncle Sam unbuttons the inside pocket of his star-spangled vest—that same capacious pocket from which he drew the Zimmermann message, the spurlos versenkt note, and other private papers of the Kaiser's—and takes from it a package of seventy documents from the archives of the Bolsheviki. Some of them are originals or photographs of originals, initialed by Lenine and Trotzky and marked "'Confidential," "private," "secret" and "Very secret." These documents Uncle Sam has had laid away in his pocket for the last six months, waiting for a suitable time to bring them out.
In importance these Bolsheviki papers rank, with the Lichnowsky memoir and the "secret treaties" of Petrograd. And like them, these are not so much "revelations" as confirmations of what has been more or less confidently surmized by those who had followed the course of events. It was, for instance, well known that Lenine and Trotzky and other leaders of the Bolsheviki were, when the revolution broke out, brought by the German Government from Switzerland in a special train to Berlin, and so sent on into Russia by way of Stockholm, and that they were abundantly supplied with funds, which of course could only have come from German sources and could only be intended to serve German ends, namely, the demoralization of Russia and her elimination from the war. This also was the aim of the Bolsheviki, for they hoped by demolishing the old regime to set up on its ruins a socialistic state. So the unholy alliance was consummated with the result that the Germans got what they wanted while, the Bolsheviki failed to get what they wanted. It is only in fairy stories that one can make a bargain with the devil and get ahead of him.
The documents published show that the German Government, from the start of the war if not before, wag intriguing with the revolutionists to subvert the discipline of the Russian army. A German bank circular, dated November 2, 1914, says: "We are ready to support agitation and propaganda on the absolute condition that they will touch the active armies at the front." On June 18, 19I7, Mr. Lenine's account in Kronstadt was enriched by 315,000 marks and on September 8 by 207,000 marks. We are using numbers in parenthesis to identify the documents referred to. While the German Government was paying out 32,000 francs in Geneva for the publication of Bolsheviki socialist pamphlets, it was in Finland providing funds and arms "for the undertaking of Comrade Trotzky." The German socialists were implicated in the plot and Herr Scheidemann is as anxious as the German High Command "regarding the destruction of the traces of the business relations of the party with the Imperial Government," for the German Socialists "saw in the said communications a danger to the cause, of world socialism." No wonder! Herr Scheidemann on August 25, 1917, sends to Maxim Gorky 150,000 kronen for the support of his paper, New Life. Gorky, who was for a while at variance with the Bolsheviki, is now again supporting them. The version of this letter given out from Washington is apparently not so accurate as that previously published in the Ukrainian paper, Priasofski Krai. Germany is supposed to "be hard up for ready money, yet the Reichsbank turns over to Lenine and Trotzky the sum of $25,000,000 in gold to increase their propaganda in the south of Russia and Siberia. The investment paid.
Not only are Lenine and Trotzky guilty of imposing shameful peace conditions upon their own country, but they also are responsible for forcing upon Rumania an equally onerous treaty. This they did, knowing that the purpose of it was to permit the Germans to begin in the spring the great offensive in France. All this is proved by the photographed copy of a letter from Joffre, the head of the Bolshevik delegation at the Brest-Litovsk conference, in which he says that General Hoffmann, the German military representative at the conference, "in the course of a conversation with Comrade Trotzky twice hinted at the necessity of immediately beginning these war operations." If peace could soon be made with Russia and Rumania—this was December 29, 1917—then, as General Hoffmann said, the German and Austrian chief command "will be in a position to take up their operative actions on the western front on a very large scale." The Bolsheviki signed the peace treaty at Brest-Litovsk on March 3 and on March 21 Hindenburg began his operations in France on, so large a scale that he nearly brought disaster on the Allied cause. In accordance with the "confidential demand" of General Hoffmann, certain members of the Red Guard were charged with "the task of taking all measures for the deposing of the Rumanian King and the removal of counter-revolutionary Rumanian officers." Trotzky arrested the Rumanian minister Diamandi and, seized the Rumanian gold reserve in the Moscow Kremlin. Ambassador Francis and the other diplomats protested against this outrage on the law of nations, so Trotzky consented to allow Diamandi to leave the country by way of Finland, accompanied by an officer with secret orders to have him shot at the frontier. But Torneo, the frontier station, had been captured by the Finnish White Guards, so the Bolshevik officer bearing the letter was shot instead of the Rumanian minister.
Orders for assassination are frequent among these documents, altho the Bolsheviki had not then begun the wholesale massacres against which President Wilson has just urged the united action of the world. In one the Bolshevik counter-espionage staff in connection with the German Intelligence Bureau resolves "to take the most decisive measures, up to shooting en masse, against the Polish troops which have submitted to the counter-revolutionary and imperialistic propaganda." We also see the Bolsheviki offering "twelve rubles a day with an increased food ration"—expenses paid by Germany, of course—for men to form "two companies, one from the best shots for the shooting of officers of regiments; the other of Letts and Lithuanians for the theft of food reserves in the places where the Polish troops are situated." Various local peasants have also agreed to attack the regiments and exterminate them." This ought to encourage recruiting in our newly formed Polish legion.
But the German plans for murder and theft often went wrong thru Russian inefficiency or perchance soft heartedness. Thus we find Major von Boelke , alias Schott, registering a complaint with Lenine because "the talentless activity of scout Tulak paralyzed" his plans and because "the agents sent by order from Petrograd to kill Generals Kaledine, Bogaevsky and Alexieff were cowardly and, unenterprizing people."
The Bolshevik documents reveal the reasons for various acts of our Government and others which have been criticized by those who did not understand the circumstances. For instance, they abundantly justify the occupation of Vladivostok. On January 14, 1918, the German High Sea Command applies to the People's Commissars, that is, the Bolshevik leaders, to arrange to ship three German submarines, disassembled, by rail to the Pacific as soon as peace was concluded between Germany and Russia. It seems strange that the Germans should have conceived this scheme possible, for on that same date the Petrograd papers reported that three Japanese cruisers had arrived at Vladivostok and landed 4000 men. The German General Staff also proposed to get together all the "commercial boats, auxiliary cruisers and transports" that may be sent to the Pacific Ocean in order "to form a powerful commercial fleet flying the Russian flag" "for the purpose of opposing the American-Japanese trade."
According to another "very secret" document, orders were sent by wireless from Kiel for the 'German agents at Vladivostok to load several steamships with goods -and persons designated by them and despatch "as directed to ports of the United States, Japan, and the British colonies in eastern Asia. The object in sending the ships is to carry to enemy countries agents, agitators and agents-destructors." San Francisco and Portland please copy, so the people there may be prepared to give a proper reception to any of these agents of destruction on their arrival from Vladivostok. Our officers who have just been sent there will also be interested to learn that on March 9 last nine German agents were appointed "for watching and if necessary attacking the Japanese, American and Russian officers who may command the expeditionary forces in eastern Siberia." They will, for instance, find one Staufacher lying in wait for them in Panoff's house, Vladivostok. When they get to Harbin they will find Herr Kuzberg in the very office of the Chinese Eastern Railroad by which they cross Manchuria. And when they reach Irkutsk they should be wary of passing Zhinzheroff's drug store, for Herr Deze is posted there for the purpose of "watching and if necessary attacking" them. This man Deze, by the way, is one of the persons designated in Document 9 from the Reichsbank of Berlin on January 12, 1918, "to think out a plan for carrying off the Japanese and American war materials from Vladivostok to the west."
These are only a few. of the amazing and appalling revelations of these documents. To appreciate them they must be studied in their entirety. Edgar Sisson deserves great credit for having obtained and annotated them. The first that the western world knew of the existence of such evidence was thru the publication of some of the papers abstracted from the Bolshevik archives in the Petit Parisien of February 5 and 6, a better version in places than Mr. Sisson's. At that time they met with considerable incredulity and some criticism on the ground of discrepancies and inherent improbabilities. We did not find in the points raised sufficient reason to question their genuineness, and our belief in them is confirmed by this more extensive and better authenticated collection.
But to say that they are authentic is not to say that they are true. There are numerous inaccuracies and incoherencies, possibly due in part to imperfect translation. They are written by liars to liars, and naturally are not free from falsehood. We do not, for instance, believe the statement twice repeated as "undoubted" and based on "exact information" that the American Government financed General Kaledin in his attempt to restore the monarchy. But such, lies contribute to the truthfulness of the picture, and we do not believe that Lenine and Trotzky have any grounds for a libel suit, however black they are painted. John Reed says that they sent, on the eve of signing the Brest-Litovsk treaty, a telegram to President Wilson asking him to help them save Russia from Germany, and they complain that they received no answer. If that is true, we need not "be surprized at the lack of response to their appeal, for the President already had in his hands the proof of their duplicity. The wonder is that he could bring himself-a month later to send to the Bolshevik congress at Moscow such a cordial and sympathetic message to the Russian people. But the President is able in the case of Russia as well as Germany to make a distinction between tyrannical government and victimized people.
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013
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THE HEADLONG FURY
A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald