THE PLAN OF THE ST. PETERSBURG BATTLE
It seems strange, at first glance, to refer to the peaceful march of unarmed workers to present a petition as a battle. It was a massacre. But the government had looked forward to a battle, and it doubtlessly acted according to a well-laid plan. It considered the defence of St. Petersburg and of the Winter Palace from the military standpoint. It took all necessary military measures. It removed all the civil authorities, and placed the capital with its million and a half population under the complete control of the generals (headed by Grand Duke Vladimir), who were thirsting for the blood of the people.
The government deliberately drove the proletariat to revolt, provoked it, by the massacre of unarmed people, to erect barricades, in order to drown the uprising in a sea of blood. The proletariat will learn from these military lessons afforded by the government. For one thing, it will learn the art of civil war, now that it has started the revolution. Revolution is war. Of all the wars known in history it is the only lawful, rightful, just, and truly great war. This war is not waged in the selfish interests of a handful of rulers and exploiters, like any and all other wars, but in the interests of the masses of the people against the tyrants, in the interests of the toiling and exploited millions upon millions against despotism and violence.
All detached observers now are of one accord in admitting that in Russia this war has been declared and begun. The proletariat will rise again in still greater masses. What is left of the childish faith in the tsar will now vanish as quickly as the St. Petersburg workers changed from
petitioning to barricade fighting. The workers everywhere will arm. What matters it that the police will keep a tenfold greater watch over the arsenals and arms stores and shops? No stringencies, no prohibitions will stop the masses in the cities, once they have come to realise that without arms they can always be shot down by the government on the slightest pretext. Everyone will try his hardest to get himself a gun or at least a revolver, to conceal his fire-arms from the police and be ready to repel any attack of the blood-thirsty servitors of tsarism. Every beginning is difficult, as the saying goes. It was very difficult for the workers to go over to the armed combat. The government has now forced them to it. The first and most difficult step has been taken.
An English correspondent reports a typical conversation among workers in a Moscow street. A group of workers was openly discussing the lessons of the day. "Hatchets?" said one. "No, you can't do anything with a hatchet against a sabre. You can't get at him with a hatchet any more than you can with a knife. No, what we need is revolvers, revolvers at the very least, and better still, guns." Such conversations can be heard now all over Russia. And these conversations after "Vladimir's Day" in St. Petersburg will not remain mere talk.
The military plan of the tsar's uncle, Vladimir, who directed the massacre, was to keep the people from the suburbs, the workers' suburbs, away from the centre of the city. No pains were spared to make the soldiers believe that the workers wanted to demolish the Winter Palace (by means of icons, crosses, and petitions!) and kill the tsar. The strategic task was simply to guard the bridges and the main streets leading to the Palace Square. And the principal scenes of "military operations" were the squares near the bridges (the Troitsky, Samsonievsky, Nikolayevsky, and Palace bridges), as well as the streets leading from the working-class districts to the centre (the Narvskaya Zastava, Schlüsselburg Highway, and Nevsky Prospekt), and, lastly, the Palace Square itself, to which thousands upon thousands of workers penetrated in spite of the massed troops and the resistance they met with. Military operations were, of course, rendered much easier by the fact that everybody
knew perfectly well where the workers were going, that there was but one rallying point and one objective. The valiant generals attacked "successfully" an enemy who had come unarmed and made his destination and purpose known in advance. . . . It was a dastardly, cold-blooded massacre of defenceless and peaceful people. For a long time to come now the masses will think over and relive in memory and in story all that took place. The sole and inevitable conclusion drawn from these reflections, from the assimilation of "Vladimir's lesson" in the minds of the masses, will be à la guerre comme à la guerre. The working-class masses, and, following their lead, the masses of the rural poor, will realise that they are combatants in a war, and then . . . then the next battles of our civil war will be fought according to plan, but no longer according to the "plan" of grand dukes and the tsars. The call "To arms!" which sounded among a crowd of workers in Nevsky Prospekt on January 9 cannot die away now without reverberation.
SUPPLEMENT TO THE ARTICLE
"THE PLAN OF THE ST. PETERSBURG BATTLE"
The plan of the St. Petersburg battle was described by us in Vperyod, No. 4.[*] The English newspapers now give us some details of this plan which are not without interest. The Grand Duke Vladimir appointed General Prince Vasilchikov Commander of the Army in the Field. The entire capital was split up into areas among the officers. The tsar played at war quite seriously, as though confronted by the invasion of an armed foe. During the military operations the General Staff sat round a green-topped table on Vasilyevsky Island, receiving reports from every area commander at half hour intervals.
For the information of the St. Petersburg workers.