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March 1917 in June 2020

3,515 words

A recurring theme in Book 1 of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s March 1917 — or Node III of his vast Red Wheel opus — is “this could have been prevented.” Of course, this refers to the first successful socialist revolution in Russia, which took place in March 1917 (or in February, according to the Julian Calendar). In March 1917, Solzhenitsyn offers a wealth of perspective on the fateful events in Petrograd which led to the abdication of the Tsar and the monarchy’s ultimate replacement with the Provisional Government. Months later, the Bolshevik Revolution took place, which installed Lenin in power and initiated historical changes that culminated in tens of millions killed in the Holodomor, the Great Terror, and the Gulag system. Solzhenitsyn himself had been unjustly incarcerated in the Gulag for eight years in the 1940s and 1950s; hence his keen interest in the seminal events that made such a travesty possible.

An eeriness emerges, however, when we realize that the events leading to the March revolution closely resemble the events taking place in the United States 123 years later in the days following the death of black felon George Floyd. The Left, with its Black Lives Matter allies, is mobilizing in a violent swirl of revolutionary fervor. They are well-organized and funded. They are also engaging in the kind of violence, ruthless intimidation, and hateful rhetoric that Solzhenitsyn documents in March 1917. It seems that Solzhenitsyn was writing more for twenty-first-century America than for post-Soviet Russia, as absurd as that may have sounded when the book was first published in 1986.

In either case, the United States at this moment appears on the brink of a communist-inspired revolution, with race replacing class, non-whites replacing the proletariat, whites replacing the aristocracy, and Jews more or less performing the same roles then and now. March 1917 not only offers insight on events and the words and actions of the central players but also crucial guidance (often in the form of Solzhenitsyn’s authorial asides) on how such a catastrophe could have been avoided.

Extremist Rhetoric From the Left

They’d lashed, scourged, reviled, spat, and used the harshest words possible to their hearts’ content with the kind of energy that rages from irresponsibility. All that remained, as Maklakov correctly said, was to beat the government with their fists.

— Chapter 51, Book 1, March 1917

First, there is the uncompromising, totalitarian rhetoric of the Left, which has changed little in a century. This appears most strikingly in the pages and pages of Duma transcripts which Solzhenitsyn interpolates into the narrative. The Duma (an influential part of the Russian legislature at the time) was largely controlled by the Left, which had nothing less than the destruction of the monarchy on its mind. Its Right-wing counterparts were more interested in the war effort, or procuring grain for the cities, or determining the efficacy of price-fixing, than they were in opposing the Left. Like many on the Right today, they assumed their Leftist opponents were acting in good faith when they clearly weren’t. And the Duma President Rodzyanko didn’t have the nerve to rein in the Leftists when they were behaving in a shamefully mutinous fashion, which was often.

Sukhanov: This government is conducting a policy of traitors and fools.

Rodzyanko: I beg you to be more circumspect.

Sukhanov: These are the words of Deputy Milyukov.

Rodzyanko: I most humbly beg you not to repeat such unfortunate words.

Rodichev (from his seat): Why unfortunate? (Noise, laughter.)

Note the similarities in language between anti-Tsarist Duma politicians in 1917 and anti-Trump American politicians in 2020:

Georgi Lvov (Kadet politician): “The regime, which is ruining and disgracing Russia. . . Irresponsible criminals, driven by superstitious fear, are readying its defeat, disgrace and enslavement!”

Rep. Ilhan Omar [1]: “This president has failed in really understanding the kind of pain and anguish many of his citizens are feeling. When you have a president who really is glorifying violence, who’s talking about the kind of vicious dogs and weapons that could be unleashed on citizens, it’s quite appalling and disturbing.”

Nikolai Chkheidze (Menshevik): It’s a government of hangmen, a government of field courts-martial, a government of White terror, arch-reactionary through and through. . . . Any collaboration with this government is a betrayal of the people’s interests.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez [2]: “You’re right, Mr. President — You don’t have a racist bone in your body. You have a racist mind in your head, and a racist heart in your chest.”

Pavel Milyukov (Kadet politician): “The country is in the clutches of madmen, traitors, and renegades.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib [3]: “Because we’re gonna go in there and we’re going to impeach the motherfucker!”

The cries for defunding and dismantling the police, which appear often in the news in 2020, also have a precedent in March 1917. The aforementioned Milyukov calls to “[r]id this nation of superfluous watchmen and police. The people’s desire is to send the police off to the front!”

With people outside the realm of official politics, the rhetoric gets even worse:

Solzhenitsyn, Chapter 38 (emphasis in the original): “At this, Samodurov, a worker from the Lessner Works, a Bolshevik from the hospital fund, spoke, saying that the modern state apparatus could not be fixed in any way, shape, or form; it could only be razed to the ground! Tranquility would come to Russia only when the present government system had been ripped out at the root!”

Noam Chomsky [4]: “Trump is the worst criminal in human history, undeniably.”

Rob Reiner [5]: “A vote for Trump is a vote for death.”

Note how unhinged and reckless this language is. There is no insult too vile or hateful. There is no evil to which Tsar Nicholas or Donald Trump won’t stoop. These two leaders become like cartoon villains in the minds of the masses who are being misled by ruthless demagogues intent on seizing power. Not only this, but the implication is clear: if you support such an evil leader or evil regime, then you yourself are evil. If one believes this, then it is hard to argue that such evil people deserve human rights. This explains why the Soviets were so quick to murder, starve, and incarcerate millions of their own people in the 1920s and 1930s. Many of the victims were merely suspected of Tsarist loyalties or anti-revolutionary sentiments, which basically amounted to the same thing. Solzhenitsyn covers this phenomenon at length in his Gulag Archipelago, so most readers should be aware of what is at stake when Duma politicians eviscerate the Tsar’s reputation in public and get away with it. They meant what they said — not just about the Tsar but about all the millions of people who dared support him.

Given the parallels of rhetoric between yesterday’s Left and today’s, the Right cannot afford to tolerate this kind of language. Thanks to Solzhenitsyn, we should know by now the dire price we will have to pay if we do.

Weakness and Complacency on the Right

Besides, the main question wasn’t the street itself, of course, but the State Duma. That was the center of provocation for the upheavals. It supported the disturbances in spirit, but it could also be the key to calming things down if they could figure out how to turn it, right? Tomorrow, Sunday, there would be no Duma, and that was good. But on Monday strident speeches were anticipated — and how could they be stopped?

Barely stirring on his sofa, Pokrovsky responded in his melancholy way that they had to get along with the Duma, they had to know how to work with the Duma, and there was no living without the Duma.

— Chapter 42, Book 1, March 1917

March 1917, if anything, indicts the weak. Where Solzhenitsyn’s Two Hundred Years Together chronicles the prominent Jewish role in the rise of the Soviet Union, his Red Wheel, and March 1917 in particular, exposes the complacency, the laziness, the stupidity, the demoralization, and the timidity of the Russian authorities who could have stopped the Soviet disaster but didn’t.

This, in terms of the politics of the day, constitutes what can be called “the Right.” These were men whose charge it was to enforce law and order and maintain the status quo. In the eyes of the Left, this was all that counted, largely because these men and their police were what stood between the ravenous Left and the base of the Tsar’s support: the millions of monarchist, patriotic, Christian, and traditionalist Russians who identified as subjects of the Tsar.

We get a whiff of the lassitude plaguing the Right in chapter 1 when Tsar Nicholas admits to himself that he could not “summon the will and decisiveness of his father.” Some of the Tsar’s men could see the threat from the Duma and other places well enough, but the Tsar himself, plagued by doubts, prefers to do nothing. He even forbids the arrest of prominent revolutionary conspirators in the naïve belief (or hope) that matters will run their course peacefully. “No Russian would agree to a coup in time of war, not even the State Duma. Deep down, everyone loved Russia.”

In any event, Minister of the Interior Aleksandr Protopopov assured him days before the revolution that Petrograd was calm and under control.

In chapter 2, Petrograd’s governor, the aptly named Aleksandr Balk, orders a group of mounted Cossacks to disperse the violent and hostile crowds, “but without the use of weapons.” The Cossacks do as they are told, listlessly, until they stop doing it altogether. The crowd cheers them on.

In chapter 7, Solzhenitsyn reveals that after the first day of unrest, neither the Okhrana (the Tsar’s secret police) nor the Petrograd police expected any further disturbances. Although some officers and workers had been injured, they had no intention of arresting anyone. They were confident they could restore order the following day.

As the violence progresses, we witness police officers being shot and killed. Later, crowds drive through the police en masse. Emboldened crowds mock them, goad them to shoot, and raise red flags all across the city. Still, after two days of uprising, not a single shot was fired by the authorities, not a single arrest.

Are we depressed yet?

In the current spate of riots in the summer of 2020, how many times have we seen police stand down, or kneel to the rioters? How many times have we seen police actively take the side of the rioters or refuse to protect innocent people from them? How many times have we seen police abused, attacked, and killed? Again, the parallels are there. In 1917, the revolution gained steam at the beginning due to, in large part, a failure of police. And blame for this failure goes straight to the top, to the Tsar, who chose the timidest path possible.

Some criminal. Some hangman.

What’s particularly painful about March 1917 was that the authorities knew what should be done, but were simply too afraid to do it. After two days of disturbances, Petrograd’s military and police leaders met to discuss how to deal with the situation, and decided that they couldn’t:

What could be undertaken in general against the jostling popular crowd? The only thing more decisive would be to cut them down with swords or to shoot. But the memory alone of 22 January 1905 hung heavily over them all. Columns in the liberal newspapers alone made the governors pale and attempt to justify their measures. All the more so now, at the war’s height. How could they shed their own people’s blood?

By chapter 42, after the third straight day of strife, the Petrograd authorities were so disheartened, they willing to make concessions to the Duma, even to the point of their own resignations. Things are not so dissimilar now. In 2020 America, police [6] are [7] resigning [8]. We know that white Democrat politicians are either stepping down [9] or curtailing their own ambitions [10] to further the interests of non-whites. What’s next?

Widespread Violence and Looting

A policeman and two assistant street cleaners were walking down Kosaya Line on Vasilievsky Island. A crowd of workers had decided he was leading prisoners and rushed him, took away his sword, christened him with his own blood, and knocked out his teeth.

— Chapter 24, Book 1, March 1917

In several places in March 1917, Solzhenitsyn interpolates street scenes into the narrative. Often these take screenplay form, and result in a montage of unrest at various places across Petrograd on the days leading up to the revolution. We see crowds:

In the vast majority of cases, the police either do nothing or are entirely absent. Several of Solzhenitsyn’s fictional characters comment on this as tensions mount in the city.

The parallel with the unrest of 2020 is obvious, but with the modern incarnation including much more vandalism, arson, looting, toppling statues, and paramilitary activity. Further, the American police in 2020 have not completely capitulated as the Petrograd authorities had done. There still are many places in which they resist or push back the rioters. President Trump has also shown a less cowardly, less laissez-faire attitude than the Tsar. Unlike the Tsar, however, he must face reelection, and so must show at least some backbone in the face of anarchy.

Regardless, against this onslaught of violence in 2020 America, the Right is on the defensive as it was in 1917 Russia. We should remember that inciting unrest is a Leftist tactic that is designed to shake the average person’s confidence in the status quo and make him more open to change, or, in each of these cases, revolution. It is a cruel and ruthless tactic — yet it works, often because the victims don’t even realize the tactic is being used against them.

Fake News

Yes, grain disappeared because of fixed prices, but in December it appeared, as if the spell had been broken.

The Progressive Bloc was silent: If truth is not on our side, then away with the truth.

— Chapter 3, Book 1, March 1917

Early on in the novel, the Duma politicians wrangle over what would seem like an obscure topic: price-fixing. A reader can infer that, due to grain shortages caused by the war effort, grain has become difficult to provide for the cities. The dearth of supply is making the price dear, and in response, the Duma’s Progressive Bloc attempted to fix the price significantly lower. This caused many farmers to either deal on the black market or simply not transport grain since they would be parting with it at a loss.

Members of the Duma Left, however, show little interest in debating the topic, preferring to one-up each other in denouncing the Tsar rather than admit fault in any way. Despite this, we learn from conservative members that paying for transportation, as well as levies and appeals to patriotism, have worked and caused ample grain supplies to be sent into the city by March. This is one reason why the authorities were so perplexed that the marchers were clamoring for bread. There was bread. Solzhenitsyn makes this clear in numerous places. People could buy pretty much anything aside from sugar without ration cards. The problem, which Solzhenitsyn relays clearly enough to the reader — but which was completely lost on the authorities at the time — was that rumors were being spread throughout the city that there was no bread. Further, agents of the Left were either buying up bread from shop to shop to keep it away from the people or they were instigating strikes in warehouses at crucial moments to halt the transport of grain. This caused panic and hoarding, both of which further strengthened the impression that the rumor was true.

But it wasn’t. It was fake news.  By the time the marchers had the upper hand over the police, they weren’t shouting about bread anymore.

Another striking instance of fake news occurs during the third day of unrest when someone interrupts the Duma to inform them that the police had fired on a crowd, killing and injuring marchers. Later three dead bodies are delivered as proof. Of course, the Duma is incensed and proceeds declare its everlasting enmity for the Tsar. However, several pages later, we learn that the crowd had fired on the police first and wounded an officer in the head. The police then returned fire and dispersed the crowd, as they should have done. Of course, the revolutionaries kept this crucial information to themselves.

This kind of mendacity should come as no surprise to modern readers. What today’s rioters clamor for, such as justice for this or that black felon who resisted arrest, attacked an officer, and died as a result, is not what they really want. What they really want is black supremacy [11]. What they really want is communism [12]. What they really want is to terrorize the American public until they can achieve a violent overthrow [13] of America. This is no different than the early communists’ phony cries for bread or their crocodile tears over three dead bodies. It’s a pretext. It’s a lie. Like everything the mainstream media tells us [14] today about these riots — a lie [15]. It serves only to perplex the innocent and persuade the gullible. And, sadly, it works.

The Role of the Jews

Someone started talking about a certain Grisha:

“You know, that mama’s boy, the Zionist? He told me, ‘The revolution here doesn’t affect us Jews. The Russians can deal with this.’ There’s a scoundrel, or would you say no?”

— Chapter 47, Book 1, March 1917

Jews receive only peripheral notice in Book 1 of March 1917. The topic of equal rights for Jews comes up in conversation from time to time. A smattering of historical characters are Jewish, and even fewer of the recurring fictional ones are. Some of these people are sympathetic, and some are not. Despite how disproportionately Jewish the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks were during this time, this volume of Solzhenitsyn’s Red Wheel simply does not address the Jewish Question very often.

But it does exactly that in a chapter about Maksim Vinaver, a leader of the Kadets, which was a liberal political party of the day. On the eve of the uprising, two worried members of the Duma approach Vinaver and ask him if he thinks a revolution will occur. Vinaver says he didn’t think so. And that about sums up their encounter. Had Solzhenitsyn left it at that, no one would have questioned it. These three are historical figures and brief chapters like this abound in The Red Wheel. However, prior to their meeting, Solzhenitsyn dedicates two-and-a-half small-type pages on Vinaver’s life history, which amounts to a brief thesis on why the Jews were bad for Russia.

Essentially, this Vinaver was an ethnocentric Jew who renounced ethnocentrism. As a lawyer and writer in the nineteenth century, he joined or formed Jewish groups that aggressively pursued equal rights for Jews. He pushed for cohesiveness among Jews in their politics. He helped make the press into their central weapon to achieve this end, which included manipulating international opinion regarding Russia. He fought anti-Semitism in the courts, held demonstrations, gave speeches, and by 1905 was the unofficial leader of Russian Jewry.

But he rejected Zionism, which was popular among the Jews back then. This curtailed his influence with Jews and perhaps inspired him to focus more on Russian politics. It did not take long for Vinaver to decide that “Jews must do everything in their power to support the Russians in their war against the government.”

Solzhenitsyn demonstrates quite clearly that by diving into Russian politics with such a destructive goal in mind, this passionate and talented Jew was causing far more trouble than he knew. And today, little has changed. Liberal Diaspora Jews still aggressively pursue their tribal interests. They still weaponize the press. They still refuse to move to Israel. And they still have a revolutionary attitude about gentile politics. Only now, they support non-whites in their war against whites. And where before they were fighting for Jewish equality, now their end goal is nothing less than Jewish Supremacy.

Conclusion

I’d hate to think that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote March 1917 for nothing. After years of research, he achieved clarity about the violent origins of the Soviet Union, and depicted them comprehensively in his documentary fiction. He did this for a reason, and that was not so much to entertain or enthrall but to take us back in time and demonstrate that Progress is not inevitable. It can be halted.

The Left does not have to win.

But for the Right of the present to check the Left and achieve victory of its own, it will need leaders who possess the nerves and confidence that the Russian leaders Solzhenitsyn depicts entirely lacked. Without them, the Right of 2020 will truly be lost, just as it was lost in March 1917.

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