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NOVEMBER 7 of this year marks the fortieth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, and for a long time past the Soviet Government has been making vast preparations to celebrate the event. No expense has been spared, and poets, dramatists and authors have been exhorted to create new and inspiring masterpieces for the occasion. Known universally as the October Revolution, because the old Russian calendar, 13 days behind our own, was then in force, the Bolshevik triumph has eclipsed the memory of the February Revolution of the same year which brought to an end the rule of the Tsars and was almost bloodless. Spontaneous in its outburst and achieved in the authentic spirit of freedom, it was called the "unanimous revolution" by Walter Mallory, an American who was in Russia at the time. It is an admirable title which should pass into history. Nevertheless, the men who made the February Revolution are buried in the dust of forgotten books. Even Kerensky is little more than a name which crops up occasionally in a general knowledge quiz. In Great Britain, at least, the younger generation is scarcely aware that in 1917 there were two Russian revolutions, that the hopes of the world were with the first and that very few foreigners and even fewer Russians believed that the second could last more than a month or two.
How could the virtual unanimity which attended the overthrow of Tsardom degenerate so quickly into endless verbiage and a creeping paralysis of inaction?
It is the purpose of this article to answer this question. I had exceptional opportunities of observing the February Revolution. As a young vice-consul I had experienced and enjoyed two and a half years of the prewar Tsarist Russia. I had acquired a knowledge of the Russian language and had made the acquaintance of many Russian Liberals and Socialists. By May 1915, I was left in charge of the British Consulate General in Moscow until September 1917. In a dispatch to the Foreign Office, Sir George Buchanan, the British Ambassador in St. Petersburg, wrote: "There is scarcely any consular post of the same importance as Moscow at the present moment. It is the industrial and, in a certain broad sense, the political capital of Russia."
To this correct estimate should be added the fact that Moscow and St. Petersburg had always been rivals and that during the war Moscow regarded itself as the democratic and patriotic capital and St. Petersburg as the reactionary capital and the seat of a government, all of whose members could not be regarded as patriotic.
The answer to the question raised above must inevitably be influenced by the temperament of the Russian people in wartime. Without dwelling on the history of the revolution it is nevertheless necessary to note the psychological effect of victory and defeat on a people like the Great Russians, volatile in character, then largely illiterate, and highly susceptible to the wildest rumors.
In Moscow great enthusiasm marked the opening of the war. The ukase of the Tsar prohibiting the sale of vodka and, indeed, of all alcoholic beverages, made impossible any repetition of the drunken orgies which had been a feature of previous Russian mobilizations, and the fine marching and rousing singing of the soldiers going off to the front remain the pleasantest of nostalgic memories. Few, if any, of the men who were to lead the October Revolution were in Russia at the time. Lenin and Trotsky were in voluntary exile abroad. Stalin was serving a long sentence in Siberia. Moreover, military fortune favored the Russians at the start, and, while the French and British armies were in retreat, the journalists of the West lavished the highest praise on what they called the invincible Russian steamroller.
It was heady wine for the Russians, whose strategic skill was not equal to their bravery and whose equipment and transport were greatly inferior to those of the Germans. When reverses came, it was soon clear that the exuberance of the Russian temperament in victory was heavily counterbalanced by its gloom in defeat. It had no golden mean. It was either up in the heights or down in the depths of despair, although it must be admitted that almost to the end morale at the front was far higher than in the great cities like St. Petersburg and Moscow. By and large, however, the Russian character in war seemed to conform with Kluchevsky's famous dictum: "There is no people in Europe more capable of a tremendous effort for a short space of time than the Great Russian; there is also no people less accustomed to regular, sustained, unceasing labor than this same Great Russian."
Neither in St. Petersburg nor in Moscow was there any standard of public opinion. Brave men of good family went to the front. Others shirked military service without blame or personal sense of shame. Night life was never gayer than during the war years, and money was squandered recklessly as if the spender felt that tomorrow it would be valueless. Many men and women worked heroically and tirelessly for the war effort, and, when the supply of shells and arms broke down hopelessly, the Union of Zemstvos and the Union of Cities began to produce munitions with far greater efficiency than the Imperial War Ministry had ever shown. These two democratic institutions combined and were known as "Zemgor." The leader of the Zemstvo Union was Prince Lvov, and M. Michael Chelnokov, Mayor of Moscow, was head of the Cities Union. Both men were intimate friends of mine and supplied me throughout the war with invaluable information. Both men were sturdy patriots who were determined to continue the war to a victorious end. Nevertheless, by the middle of 1915 I had lost what little faith I had in the Russian steamroller and had become increasingly preoccupied by the possibility, and even probability, of revolution, not after the war as most people expected, but during it.
As in most wars, fortune swayed. Even with inferior weapons the Russians could always beat the Austrians, whose armies contained many Slav elements. But the victories grew smaller and the defeats heavier. There were, too, black days for the rear, and the blackest day of all perhaps was September 7, 1915, when the people of Russia were informed that the Grand Duke Nicholas had been relieved of the Supreme Command and that the Emperor himself was determined to assume the leadership of the armies. This decision followed hard on a mass of resolutions, passed by the leading town councils of Russia, declaring that in order to win the war a ministry enjoying the confidence of the people and the country must be formed immediately. On his assumption of the Supreme Command the Emperor dissolved the Duma. On this occasion my diary contains this entry: "It is difficult to see how any good is to result from this move. The Emperor will lose greatly in popularity from it. . . . At the final sitting of the Duma there were scenes. The Progressives and the Social Democrats left the Chamber. During the reading of the Emperor's ukase Kerensky, the Trudovik deputy, is said to have cried 'Down with the Government' and even to have raised his voice against the Emperor."
September 1915 was, in my opinion, the turning-point in the war for Russia. From then onwards there was to be a progressive pessimism which took the form of an ever-widening belief that under the Emperor Nicholas II and the existing form of government the war could not be won. With the conviction of defeat the war became more and more unpopular. The workers expressed their discontent by spasmodic strikes. The intelligentsia and the middle classes passed more and more resolutions demanding a government which enjoyed the confidence of the people. Another trouble center was created by the older classes of reservists who not only disliked being called up, but had nothing to do on account of the breakdown of the railways. The complete failure of transport not only crippled the armies in the field but created a famine of meat and fuel in the great cities. Rumor ran rife throughout the country. Inevitably it was concentrated on Rasputin and the Empress, who became known even in the remotest villages as "the German." As the Emperor seemed always to dismiss the good ministers and to retain the worst, he helped to create the legend that the throne and the reactionaries had sold the country to the Germans.
In the not very serious strikes and demonstrations which took place from time to time the people shouted for the recall of the Duma, but the feeling against the Emperor himself among the ordinary people was far more dangerous to the régime than the speeches of a hundred Dumas and a thousand progressive members of Parliament. Indeed, one of the most ardent advocates of the recall of the Duma was General Klimovitch, the reactionary Prefect of Moscow, who informed me that "the members of the progressive bloc were not serious at all and that, if the Duma were recalled, it would allow them to talk and, as soon as they began to talk, they would quarrel among themselves." I felt that there was all too much truth in his remarks.
Just how far the Emperor was aware of the growing discontent has never been satisfactorily shown. He was greatly under the influence of the Empress who herself was dominated by Rasputin. But alone in his military headquarters at Moghilev he made a good impression on Chelnokov, the Moscow Mayor, who was no courtier of kings. In reply to Chelnokov, who had brought with him to Moghilev a patriotic resolution from the City of Moscow, the Emperor said: "I agree with everything in this resolution. Peace will not be made until complete victory is achieved, and achieved it will be. You are right, too, in expressing your gratitude to the army. We all should go down on our knees before it." He then asked the Mayor about the situation in Moscow, and Chelnokov told him that there was neither fuel nor sufficient food because the railways were run so badly. The Emperor replied: "If people are cold and have no food one must not be too severe with them. Everything that I can possibly do will be done."
Alas, the good intentions were never put into action, and discontent grew apace. As early as March 1916, a man called Rievski was arrested on the charge of plotting against the life of Rasputin. In cross-examination he declared that he was acting on the orders of the Ministry of the Interior, and more ministers were dismissed. The only reaction of the Russian people was regret that Rievski had not succeeded.
By the end of 1916 resolutions demanding the removal of Rasputin and the nomination of a government enjoying the confidence of the nation were being passed by the maréchaux de noblesse in all the provinces of Russia. Discontent had gone full circle. On December 29, 1916, Rasputin was assassinated by Prince Yusopov, supported and aided by the young Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovitch and M. Purishkevitch, a deputy of the Right. The Empress, for she was now the real ruler of Russia, reacted to this coup against the throne by persuading the Tsar to install an ultra-reactionary government and to prorogue the Duma which had been recalled on November 14. It was now clear that all was propitious for the "unanimous revolution."
Before it came, an immense inter-Allied delegation, composed of high-ranking ministers and senior generals, arrived in Russia. It brought to the Russian people the hope that by some last-minute action the fallen fortunes of Russia might be repaired. The delegation visited both St. Petersburg and Moscow. It suffered endless entertainment. Patiently it took reams of evidence. It listened to all, but mainly to the "high-ups" in St. Petersburg. In the end it decided that there would be no revolution. Before the ink was dry on the delegates' reports, the "unanimous revolution" had begun.
In its early days the revolution, which arose haphazard from bread-riots in St. Petersburg, seemed truly unanimous. There was a little bloodshed in the capital, none at all in Moscow, and in both cities the crowds in the streets were friendly and good-tempered. In spite of the bitterly cold weather it was a revolution made in a holiday spirit. The big day in St. Petersburg was Monday, March 12, although the new Provisional Government was not announced until the night of March 14. It was headed by Prince Lvov, the head of the Zemstvo Union whom I knew well.
Moscow was a little slower in accepting the revolution. On Monday the news of the dissolution of the Duma aroused storms of disgust, and a meeting of the municipal authorities appointed a committee to deal with the situation. There was, however, no general celebration. This took place on the Tuesday, most of which I spent in the streets. The weather was bitterly cold, but the sun was shining from the bluest of skies. On my way to the Town Duma, the home of the Moscow Municipality, I passed through the square which houses the famous Bolshoi Theatre. It was crowded with troops and citizens radiant with enthusiasm and hobnobbing together. As I made my way through the vast crowd, someone recognized me. A great cheer was raised for Britain, sending up with it a cloud of hot breath like smoke into the icy air.
It was an orderly and good-humored crowd, and it generously helped me to the entrance of the red-bricked Duma where I hoped to find my friend Michael Chelnokov, the Moscow Mayor. At first I was bewildered by the chaos inside the building. In the once splendid reception rooms men who had doubtless not been to bed for two nights were sleeping on sofas and on coats on the floor. Soon I realized what had happened. The Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionaries had won the upper hand. Chelnokov told me that he was fighting for his life as Mayor. The next day the Provisional Government appointed him Commissioner for Moscow, but I felt even then that his reign was nearly over. Ironically enough, he introduced me to his eventual successor, a pleasant Social-Revolutionary called Rudniev.
All the Socialists whom I met were pleasant and friendly. They wanted big reforms, including all the freedoms, but there was none of the defeatist spirit which had been noticeable for months in St. Petersburg. On the evening of Thursday, March 15, I wrote in my diary: "In Moscow things are gradually straightening out, but Chelnokov's position, although improved, is still very difficult. He is a strong man, but not tactful enough with the workmen. The first stage of the revolution has been a wonderful success. I fear, however, the subsequent settling down."
On Saturday together with the other Allied Consular representatives I was present at an impressive review on the Red Square where General Gruzinov, President of the Moscow Zemstvo, took the march past of over 30,000 troops. The police had wisely made themselves scarce. The people themselves kept order. Strangers embraced in the streets and shouted "Long Live Liberty!"
Many educated Russians who saw these scenes hoped and believed that something spiritual and almost saintly, something inspiringly great, had happened in those days of March 1917. From the defeat of despotism a better and stronger Russia would arise. Apart from the unhappy reactionaries who had been imprisoned, there were in this early period few Russians who realized that the peaceful revolution marked the collapse of all discipline and that defeat--and something worse than defeat--now stared a sorely tried people in the face.
In the first 24 hours two things had happened which were soon to destroy the initial unanimity of the revolutionaries. First, the revolution had been made in the streets, for the people had forestalled the cautious Duma composed of landowners, intellectuals and professional men. The revolution had therefore two heads: the Duma and the Soviets. The people had been led mainly by the Socialists. Yet in the new Provisional Government there was only one Socialist, Alexander Kerensky, who was then only Minister of Justice. Secondly, in a country of which 80 percent of the people were totally illiterate and which had been ruled autocratically for centuries, all the freedoms were released at once. Among those freed from the jails were not only political prisoners but also the worst criminals.
At the same time the political exiles began to hurry back like homing pigeons. Stalin, the first to arrive, was in Petrograd before the end of March. In April came Lenin, who arrived with the connivance of the German authorities, and in May appeared an irate Trotsky who had come from Canada and had received a British visa after his fingerprints had been taken! Within ten days of the revolution three Socialist newspapers had appeared in Moscow: Vperiod, the organ of the Mensheviks; Trud, the socio-revolutionary organ; and Sotsial-Demokrat, the organ of the Bolsheviks. The last-named was anti-war, and its earliest number contained a bitter attack on England. The Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionaries would also have liked to stop the war, but realized that it could not be brought to an end without a complete rupture with the Allies. They therefore satisfied their conscience by admitting the necessity of a defensive war.
On Sunday, March 25, I watched an immense Socialist demonstration. Again the order was exemplary. My diary entry for that evening ran as follows: "Finished a long analysis of the revolutionary movement for the Embassy. Tried to give a fair view, but the situation is so unclear that any attempt to prophesy is difficult. It seems impossible that the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the Socialist elements can end without bloodshed. When this will come, no one can say. The outlook for the war is not good."
In point of fact, the outlook for the war had been gravely darkened by Prikaz No. 1, an order issued by the Petrograd Soviet which encouraged the soldiers not to salute their officers and to report on their reliability.
There is no need to describe again in detail the tragedy of the various Provisional Governments which held office during the eight months from March to November 1917. As Lenin was to say later, the period between the two revolutions was characterized by something quite original, and that was the duality of power. "In what," he said, "did this duality consist? In the fact that side by side with a provisional government of the bourgeois there existed another government, as yet weak and embryonic, but existing undeniably in a reality and possessing the ability to grow. This other government was the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies." The analysis is accurate but oversimplified. The reality of the embryonic government to which Lenin referred was his own ability to profit by the delays and indecisions of his well-intentioned but inexperienced opponents and his skill in exploiting the war-weariness of the Russian people.
Between the first Provisional Government of Prince Lvov and the first Petrograd Soviet there was, at first, no great division over policy. It is true that the Provisional Government was composed almost entirely of Liberals, whereas the Soviet consisted entirely of Socialists. On the other hand, the Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionaries were predominant in the Soviet. For the first two months and more the Bolsheviks seemed and were on paper an insignificant minority. Alexander Kerensky, in addition to his work as Minister of Justice, was the chief link between the Government and the Soviet.
Having been forestalled by the street in the actual making of the revolution, the first Provisional Government was perhaps too conservative and, above all, too academic to face a country in which--temporarily at least--everyone seemed to have become his own master. It gave freedoms, but it also made promises to its Allies in the war. The international obligations contracted by the Tsarist Government would be strictly observed. The peasants would get the land, but they must wait until all the necessary plans had been formed. There was no time for plans. The ministries in Petrograd were crowded from morning till late evening by supplicants, little political busybodies from the provinces, and prattlers of all kinds who wished to make themselves important. After all, the ministries were no longer the Tsar's: they were the people's. So were the Ministers.
I remember vividly my first meeting with Alexander Kerensky. I had to come now more frequently to Petrograd because several of the new Ministers and most of the deputies of the Soviet could speak no language but Russian. I had been invited to lunch with Kerensky at the Ministry of Justice. On the stairs and in the hall before the Minister's room there was a milling crowd of sailors, soldiers, students, workers and peasants of both sexes. The doorkeeper stated that the chances of seeing Kerensky were nonexistent. Nevertheless, the luncheon date was kept, for just as I was about to depart in despair, Kerensky came striding up the stairs. He looked desperately tired. His slightly Mongolian face was sallow and there were great lines under his eyes. But his mouth was firm and his handshake strong. His hair, worn en brosse, and his quick, jerky manner of speaking gave an impression of energy. He was then only 36. We lunched in the private apartments of the Minister, and places were laid for about 20 or 30 people of his entourage who came and went as they pleased. I sat next to him and opposite to Madame Breshko-Breshkovzkaia, the Mother of the Revolution. There was wine for me, but only milk for Kerensky who had had serious kidney-trouble. Throughout luncheon he exuded good nature and asked questions which he answered himself. His pride in the revolution was unbounded. "You want of course to know what we are doing? Well, we are doing what you did years ago, but we are trying to do it better--without the Cromwell or the Napoleon." Already he appeared to resent a little the pressure being put on Russia by the Allies. "How would Lloyd George like it if a Russian were to come to tell him how to manage the English people?"
Since that luncheon I have maintained a long friendship with Alexander Kerensky and have admired his constancy and courage in the long years of exile. I helped him to escape from Russia in 1918, and I have interpreted for him on various occasions when he has been engaged in talk with English statesmen like Lloyd George.
I also interpreted for him at his first meeting with Sir George Buchanan, the British Ambassador. Inevitably, the British Government was interested in Russia's remaining in the war. Inevitably, too, Sir George had to carry out the instructions of his Government. But never did I hear him as much as mention the word pressure in relation to Alexander Kerensky. He was far too polite and experienced a diplomatist to leave any Foreign Minister with the impression that he had been subjected to pressure. High policy during the Kerensky period was concerned mainly with the war, and the best proof of Sir George's tact is the tribute which Kerensky pays to him in his memoirs. He exonerates the British Ambassador from all blame, nor did Kerensky himself protest against Russia's continuation of the war until the Allies forced him to undertake a costly offensive.
In my opinion Sir George understood the February Revolution much better than most of his staff, especially the military staff. Not so brilliant as Paléologue, the French Ambassador, he had infinitely more understanding. After his death in 1924, he was accused by various Russian aristocrats of having encouraged the revolution. This criticism was malicious and ill-informed.
Much the same chaos and crowded anterooms that I had found in Kerensky's Ministry of Justice existed in all the other ministries, and, while the Ministers of the Provisional Government were trying to prepare vast reforms in a studious and orderly fashion, the Bolsheviks were promising bread, inciting the peasants to seize the land and urging the soldiers to desert or, as Lenin said, "to make peace with their legs."
Early in May 1917, there were anti-war manifestations in Petrograd, and the two strongest pro-war Ministers, Guehkov and Miliukov, had to go. Two well-intentioned Mensheviks entered the Government, and Kerensky, who could move crowds by his oratory, became Minister of War. For a short period he seemed to stem the disorder at the front, but all the cards were against him, and he himself became the victim of the false hopes which his short-lived success had aroused.
Towards the end of July the Bolsheviks made a disorderly and uncontrolled attack on the Government in Petrograd, and Prince Lvov gave way as Prime Minister to Kerensky. Lenin was then in hiding, but many of the Bolshevik leaders including Trotsky could have been arrested and tried for treason. This, however, was not the way of political life in 1917. After centuries of enforced silence every man was allowed to say what he liked.
As the summer passed into autumn, the voice of Bolshevism became more strident, and the power of the Provisional Government weakened. Kerensky was harassed on all sides. The Allies, interested only in the continuation of the war, urged him to start offensives which merely hastened his ruin. Anglo-French Socialists, who knew nothing of Russia, were sent out from Paris and London to encourage him, while the Anglo-French representatives at the front tacitly or actively encouraged Russian generals to restore order. Their efforts merely created more followers of Lenin whose cry of Bread, Peace and Land was making thousands of new disciples daily.
The crowning disaster of the "unanimous revolution" was the attempted coup d'état of General Kornilov. It was a catastrophic example of the Russian genius for destruction. Kornilov had been a most successful commander in the field, and his so-called "Savage Division" had won many successes. The General had sound but not easily applicable measures for restoring discipline and had recently superseded Brusilov as Commander-in-Chief. Kerensky had a high opinion of his military qualities and was prepared to give him military control of the Petrograd military district, but not of the city itself. By September the frightened bourgeoisie had begun to look on him as the savior of Russia, and Kornilov's ambition swelled. Described by Brusilov as a man with the heart of a lion and the head of an ass, he understood nothing of politics and seemed to suffer from the same hesitations which characterized the period. Instead of marching on Petrograd himself, he sent his cavalry under General Krymov to seize the city and arrest the Government.
The attempt failed dismally. There was not even a fight, for Kornilov's troops at once began to fraternize with the emissaries and soldiers sent out by the Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviet. General Krymov committed suicide.
This fiasco, perhaps the stupidest folly in all history, opened the gates to Bolshevism. The masses wanted a Bolshevik Government because it promised immediate peace. The Right wanted it because it was cocksure that the Bolsheviks could not survive more than a few weeks. The unfortunate Liberal Center, which had been the hope of a democratic Russia, had lost all its friends.
The Tsar committed suicide by too much reaction. The Russian Liberals and Right-Wing Socialists committed suicide by too much freedom. Although Lenin turned society upside down, he restored to Russia the iron discipline, the secret police, the terror and the silent tongue to which she had been accustomed ever since there was a Russia.
On November 10, 1917, three days after the Bolshevik Revolution, the Soviet Government published a decree suppressing the anti-Bolshevik press. The decree also stated that these measures were only temporary and would be lifted "as soon as the new régime took root." Apparently the régime has never taken root, for today, 40 years after, the ban has not been lifted.
How was it that a revolution, which in its initial stages commanded the support and enthusiasm of the vast majority of the Russian people, collapsed almost without resistance before the onslaught of a few hundred determined fanatics? The "ifs" of history are more attractive in retrospect than at the moment when history is being made, and the one explanation of the Russian failure that no one can deny is that wartime is a difficult period in which to set up and maintain a democratic régime.
Several of the factors which made for the democratic collapse have already been mentioned in this article: the fact that the street forestalled the Duma in making the revolution; the fatal dual power which existed from the start; the leniency of too much liberty after the severity of too much reaction; the failure to deal with what was high treason on the part of the Bolsheviks; and the weakness of the Russian character marked by an amazing predilection, noticeable even under Communism, for an endless spate of words in preference to the simplest deed. (Stalin was not a Russian!) To these factors of failure must be added the limited knowledge of the embassies of the Great Powers, whose ambassadors and staff were restricted in their acquaintanceship to the very narrow circle of society prescribed by the Imperial Court.
At various times since 1917 historians and eyewitnesses of the two revolutions of that year have speculated on what might have happened if the Dardenelles had been forced and Russia had been amply furnished with the sorely needed armaments, transport and food which were supplied to her in such bounteous measure during the Second World War or, again, if the United States had entered the war a year sooner.
It is possible that both or either of these hypotheses might have checked the war-weariness of the Russians and, by ending the war a year earlier, might have postponed the "unanimous revolution" to a postwar period in which it might have survived. These speculations, however, are fanciful, because the attempt to force the Dardanelles ended in failure and there was never any great probability of the United States entering the war at any earlier date.
There remains the argument: What might have happened if the Provisional Government of Prince Lvov or of Alexander Kerensky had been able to get out of the war on terms acceptable to its Allies? This is by far the most attractive and interesting "if" of the Russian revolutions, if only because several people realized at the time that probably the only way of saving the democratic régime would be to let it slide out of the war on the best terms possible.
The terms might not have been unendurable by Russia or by her Allies. At the time, Germany was nearer defeat than the outside world suspected and Kühlmann was already feeling his way towards a peace of compromise. Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey were nearing their last gasp. Peace would certainly have helped the democratic régime in Russia, for loyalty to the Allies and failure to end the war quickly did more than anything else to bring down the Provisional Government of 1917.
Today hindsight may tempt the historian to advance this theory. But the spirit of the times did not permit such foresight or, indeed, such leniency. In wartime the strong men are renowned more for stubborn unreason and dogged resistance than for sagacity, and the urgent crisis of the day leaves little time for thought of the morrow. After the February Revolution of 1917 the diplomatic endeavors of both France and Great Britain were directed to keeping Russia in the war at almost any cost. Although both France and Britain owed much to the Russian military effort in the early days of the war, the French were bitter almost from the start of the February Revolution. British diplomacy, exercised by the gentle and sympathetic Sir George Buchanan, was more suave in manner, but its purpose was the same: to cajole or bully Russia into continuing the war.
Not only Miliukov but also Kerensky respected the Tsarist treaties pledging no separate peace until after victory. Miliukov was forced to resign by the Soviets for insisting too much on the prosecution of the war, and the failure of the Brusilov offensive, ordered by Kerensky at the instigation of the Allies, was the beginning of the end.
Just how far French and British officialdom was implicated in the fatal Kornilov coup de force is difficult to say; the sympathy was indirect, and actual support was withheld. But there is little doubt that French and British officers at the Russian front did nothing to discourage an exploit which they felt might restore discipline in the Russian armies, and Winston Churchill had high hopes that the venture would succeed.
I am not able to state with certainty whether Kerensky ever raised the question of peace in 1917. He must have thought of it, as he thinks and writes of it to this day. In June 1931 I introduced Kerensky to Lord Beaverbrook.
"Would you have mastered the Bolsheviks if you had made a separate peace?" asked Lord Beaverbrook.
"Of course," said Kerensky. "We should be in Moscow now."
"Then why," said Lord Beaverbrook, "didn't you do it?"
"We were too naïve," was the reply. But the real answer should have been: "We were too decent." And as A. J. P. Taylor, the Oxford historian, wrote of the late Jan Masaryk: "Decency is not enough against Communism."