Victor Serge

Year One of the Russian Revolution

VII – The Revolution in Finland

Written: 1925–1928, Vienna, Leningrad, Dietskoye Seloe.
First Published: L’An 1 de la révolution russe, 1930.
This Version: New International, Vol. XIV No. 9, November 1948, pp. 282–286.
Translation: Dan Eastman.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

This installment is the first part of Chapter 6, “The Truce and the Great Shift” – Ed.


Events in the Ukraine took a peculiar turn.

The Rada [Ukrainian bourgeois parliament] solicited the aid of both the Allies and the Central Powers at the same time for its struggle against the revolution. France sent funds to the Ukrainians. These patriots and defenders of law and order and private property sold their country to the highest bidder. But the Allied press, which denounced Bolshevik “treason” with endless rage at the very moment that the Bolsheviks were engaged in a desperate struggle against the Germans, completely ignored the real treason of the Ukrainian nationalist bourgeoisie which was instrumental in prolonging the World War for several months.

How true it is that statesmen and the molders of public opinion never concern themselves with truth or historical reality! The interests of the ruling class are their only concern. This interest demanded that they discredit the Bolsheviks at any price, in order later to slaughter them. Let the facts speak for themselves.

On February 9, the Red Guard entered Kiev. The Ukrainian Rada no longer controlled more than a few towns in the vicinity of Vinnitsa.

It was then that the Germans offered their armies to impose recognition of the Rada on the Soviets. This they accomplished by the terms of the treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The sly cutthroat adventurer Petlura was already the real leader of the Rada. On the same day the Reds entered Kiev, he signed a peace treaty with Germany in which he contracted, in return for German military support, to furnish one million tons of grain (this figure was later to rise to 2,160,000 tons), 180,000 tons of meat, 30,000 sheep, 40,000 tons of sugar, etc.

He also agreed to supply the needs of the German army of occupation.

From the Rumanian front to the borders of the Caucasus the workers’ Red Guard had just won a series of brilliant victories. The revolution was everywhere successful.

The Soviet Republic of Odessa and the Soviet Executive of the Rumanian front forced the Rumanian government to declare a cessation of hostilities on February 8. Then with the support of Muraviev’s little Red Army of less than 4,000 men, which traveled from Kiev to the front in one night, they launched an offensive in the direction of Jassy, inflicting the severe defeat of Rybnitsa on the Rumanian conquerors of Bessarabia. The Rumanians lost twenty cannon.

The diplomatic corps at Jassy became alarmed, and through its intervention Rumania signed a treaty ending the Russo-Rumanian conflict on March 8. The Rumanians formally renounced all claims to Bessarabia and engaged to evacuate the country. In the Don region, the Crimea and the Kuban, the Whites were beaten. The victories of the Reds in spite of the numerical weakness of their troops were won with the spontaneous support of the poor peasants and the working class.

Ukrainian Tug-of-War

This was the situation as the Germans entered the Ukraine with twenty-nine infantry and four and a half cavalry divisions, between 200,000 and 250,000 soldiers altogether. Antonov Avseyenko and his courageous lieutenants, Piatakov, Eugenie Bosch, Muraviev, Sivers, Sablin, and Kikvidze [1] were able to rally in opposition only 15,000 poorly organized men scattered over an immense territory. The German troops easily broke the desperate resistance of the handfuls of revolutionists who opposed them here and there.

In actuality neither men nor arms were lacking. The peasants were more than willing to resist the invasion. What was lacking was organization. There was no central – and very little, if any, local authority, no army, no officers, no cohesion, no coordination. All the old institutions had disappeared. The new were barely born with the greatest difficulty, and amid chaos.

Armed bands were formed nearly everywhere. The Ukraine with its cheap white bread attracted adventurers from all over Russia. Its country villages offered a marvelous experimental ground for the most fantastic “realists,” more or less nationalist, Ukrainian socialists, Left Social-Revolutionaries, Anarchists and the anarchistic. Little local armies were formed under the banners of the various parties. It often happened that the flags and insignia of a revolutionary party served to justify the existence of a feudal armed band.

The influence and organization of even the Bolshevik Party left much to be desired. There were fights in the party between the Ukrainians and the Russians, between the central committees and the local committees. The national question was far from settled in the minds of the Bolsheviks.

The Anarchists and the Left S-Rs, who were frequently united, carried on tremendous activity. The Anarchist Baron exercised a dictatorship in Ekaterinoslav for a time. The. Anarchists at Nikolaev revolted but evacuated the town at the approach of the Germans. Nikolaev held out for four days without them. Marussya Nikiforova’s detachment, fighting under the black flag of anarchism, carried on a two-week street battle with the counter-revolutionary population of Elizavetgrad; Bands of White officers from the Rumanian front crossed the Ukraine to reach the Kuban. Czechoslovakian troops retired before the German advance under orders from the Allies to take up a position along the Volga. German troops revolted. Petlura’s nationalist sharpshooters, called Haidamaks, roamed about the country. Villages, bristling with machine guns, defended themselves ferociously against everyone. Local republics such as the Donetz Workers’ Republic sprang up.

Red detachments completely undisciplined, often drunk, and sometimes commanded by adventurers who later had to be shot, discredited the Soviet government with the local population. They plundered and assassinated almost everywhere. At times the strongest units retreated before the invaders without firing a shot; at other times a handful held out magnificently, like the thirty- five Reds who held back two German, regiments at Putivlei. At Lozovaya a whole battalion, called the Lenin battalion, sacrificed itself to cover the retreat of a Red army.

German Terror

It required uncommon strength of character to carry on revolutionary struggle amid this terrible chaos. A woman distinguished herself in the Ukraine, an old Bolshevik whose name, by an unjust fate, is too little known to history – Eugenie Bosch. [2] One of the conquerors of the Winter Palace, G. Chudnovsky, met bis death in the Ukraine.

Most of the battles were fought along the railways; armored trains played a large part in the campaign. Let us mark the stages of the German advance 1 March 14, they were in Chernigov; March 16, Kiev; March 30, Poltava; April 10, Kherson; April 20, the Crimea; May 6, Rostov-on-Don.

The Germans had come in search of grain. They stopped at nothing to wrest it from the peasants. There were stories of peasants whipped en masse, executed, and buried alive. The occupation, which was received with joy by the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie, became a rule of terror.

The Ukraine peasants replied with a secret war, scattered, but implacable and harassing. Blood ran in the smallest villages.

* * *

The Revolution in Finland

The treaty of Brest-Litovsk consummated the sacrifice of the Finnish workers, in whom the Russian revolutionists had rightly placed the greatest hopes. [3]

If Russia was, as Lenin often remarked it to be, one of the most backward countries of Europe, Finland was one of the most advanced in the world. Her customs, her advanced political education, the victories of her socialist movement, even her industrial structure, seemed to ensure the easy victory of socialism.

The Finnish people had never known either serfdom or despotism. A part of Sweden since the twelfth century, Finland, a country of small proprietors whom feudalism had never overcome, passed to Russia in 1809 through the alliance between Napoleon and Alexander I. Constituted a grand duchy, she enjoyed a large degree of autonomy under the empire, all the larger since the Finns were able to defend their autonomy against the attacks of her grand dukes, the czars of Russia. Finland kept her diet [parliament], her own money, her postal system, her schools, her own army, and her own internal administration. She grew up, like the other Scandinavian countries, as a part of Western Europe. Nicholas II’s brutal attempts at Russification only succeeded in estranging the entire Finnish people.

Two years after the Revolution of 1905, which forced the czar to grant her a constitution, Finland instituted universal suffrage. In the first election in 1907, the Social-Democrats obtained eighty seats out of two hundred in the Sejm (parliament). The 1916 elections gave them an absolute majority, 103 out of 200. This majority voted the eight-hour day and an intelligent program of public legislation.

Then parliamentary socialism found itself on the point of dying. Was it possible to continue peacefully marching toward socialism with ballot in hand? The Finnish bourgeoisie allied itself with Kerensky against the Red Social-Democratic diet, which the provisional government in Petrograd, carrying out the line of the autocracy, declared dissolved. Russian soldiers guarded the closed doors of the Helsingfors parliament. In the following elections the Social-Democrats gained (from 375,000 votes the year before, to 444,000 votes) but lost some of their seats (from 103 to 92). This result was obtained by cynical fraud on the part of the bourgeois parties.

But no more than the Finnish proletariat could resign itself to this electoral defeat could the bourgeoisie content itself with so precarious a victory. An extra-parliamentary settlement was on the order of the day.

The bourgeoisie had foreseen it for long, and prepared conscientiously for civil war. The Social-Democracy, twenty years in the school of the “powerful” German Social-Democracy and dominated by reformist illusions, hoped to avoid the conflict.

Since 1914 the Finnish bourgeoisie had been preparing to conquer its national independence by force of arms, under cover of the imperialist war. Three thousand young Finns of the wealthier classes in the 27th Jägers Battalion of the German army fought against their hereditary enemy, Russia. Clandestine military schools existed in various places throughout the country.

After the fall of the autocracy, a volunteer rifle corps was formed in the North to maintain law and order. This was General Herrich’s Schutzcorps, the first White Guard unit formed in the open. Its headquarters were at Vasa on the Gulf of Bothnia; it received arms from Sweden and Germany. The bourgeoisie demanded the withdrawal of the Russian troops who had been assigned, since the beginning of the war, to protect the country from the Germans.

The October Revolution provoked an echo in Finland: the great general strike of mid-November, brought on by a serious famine which affected only the poorer classes and by the reactionary policies of the Senate, which seemed inclined to place the reactionary, Svinhufvud, at the head of a dictatorial directorate.

The workers quit work everywhere. The railways stopped. Workers’ Red Guards, supported by Russian troops in places, occupied all public buildings. Bloody encounters occurred between the Whites and the Reds. The deputies argued. The frightened bourgeoisie consented to the application of the eight- hour law and to the enactment of a new program of social legislation, as well as to the democratization of power, which passed from the Senate to the Sejm.

And the victorious general strike of the workers ended in the constitution of a bourgeois cabinet, headed by the same reactionary Svinhufvud! It was the abortion of a revolution. Finnish revolutionists are of the opinion that the seizure of power was possible at that time; it would even have been easy; the support of the Bolsheviks would have been decisive.

Comrade Kuusinen [4], then one of the leaders of the center of Finnish Social-Democracy, later wrote:

“Not wishing to risk our democratic conquests, and hoping to skip that great historical turning point by clever parliamentary maneuvers, we decided to elude the revolution ... We did not believe in the revolution; we had no hope in the revolution; we did not want it at all.”

With leaders of such mind, the cause of the Finnish proletariat was certain to lose.

Social-Democrats Take Power

But the general strike revealed their own strength to the workers, and to the bourgeoisie their peril. The Finnish bourgeoisie understood that it was lost without reinforcements.

Svinhufvud asked the Swedes to intervene. The Whites armed feverishly in the North, where they collected large stocks of food. The government cleverly extended the famine in working-class centers by holding back reserve food supplies. The proclamation of Finnish independence changed nothing. The possibility of Swedish or German intervention alarmed the workers more and more.

To cap matters, the Sejm voted (by 97 to 87) a motion containing unmistakable allusions to the necessity for a bourgeois dictatorship. The problem of power was posed once more, even more seriously than on the eve of the November general strike.

This time the Social-Democrats realized that all chances of a parliamentary solution were exhausted. It was necessary to fight.

The red flag was hoisted over the Workers’ House in Helsingfors during the night of January 27. The rest of the city was rapidly captured, and the Senate and the government took refuge at Vasa. In a few days the Reds mastered the larger cities of Esbo, Vyborg and Tammerfors, and the whole southern section of the country, without meeting any serious resistance. This too-easily-won victory was disquieting.

The Social-Democratic leaders (Manner, Sirola, Kuusinen, etc.) formed a workers’ government, the Council of People’s Delegates, under the control of a supreme Workers’ Council of thirty-five delegates (ten from the party, ten from the Red Guard, five from the Helsingfors workers’ organizations).

What were they to do? “To march day by day toward the socialist revolution,” declared the People’s Delegates. They instituted workers’ control of production, made easy by the high degree of concentration of the main industries, lumber, paper and textiles; they put a stop to the sabotage of the banks. Public life and industrial production soon returned to an almost normal state.

Reformism at Work

Was the dictatorship of the proletariat possible? Was it necessary? The leaders of the movement did not think so, although five hundred thousand, out of a total population of three million, were engaged in industry. The workers and agricultural laborers together numbered half a million men. The small and middle farmer, the rural majority, could be won over or neutralized by the revolution.

Unfortunately, “Until they were defeated, the majority of the leaders were not at all clear as to the goals of the revolution.” (O.W. Kuusinen.) Without either the expropriation of the wealthy classes or the dictatorship of the laboring masses, they tried to establish a parliamentary democracy in which the proletariat was the leading class.

The principal measures taken by the Council of People’s Delegates were: the institution of the eight-hour day; the payment of wages for time out during the revolutionary strike; the emancipation of servants and bondsmen from the farms (they were hired by the year by the farmers and subject to very severe laws); the abolition of the old method of allocating land, which was based on a system of corvée and tribute; the abolition of rents for small tenants; the institution of judicial reform; abolition of the death penalty (very rarely applied, in any case); tax exemption for the poor (the minimum taxable income was set at 2,400 marks in the cities and 1,400 marks in the country, instead of 800 and 400 marks, a special tax was laid on incomes of more than 20,000 marks); a tax on apartments of more than one room; liberation of the press from ancient regulations; workers’ control of the factories.

Other measures became necessary later, in the course of the civil war, such as the requisition of grain and potatoes, the suspension of bourgeois newspapers, laws against the exportation of securities, the obligation to work for able-bodied adults from eighteen to fifty-five years of age.

This workers’ revolution was fought under the banner of an ideal democracy, which received concrete expression in a constitutional project drawn up toward the end of February for a referendum in the spring. This beautiful scheme is worthy of consideration:

An Assembly of people’s representatives elected every three years by universal, direct and secret suffrage (women had the vote and the age limit was twenty years) according to the system of proportional representation, was to be the supreme authority of the “People’s Republic of Finland.” Besides the usual democratic liberties, the constitution provided for personal inviolability, the right to strike, the right of strikers to guard industry against strikebreakers, and the neutrality of the armed forces in labor disputes. Any amendments to the constitution were to be submitted to a referendum vote. A minority in the Assembly which could muster one-third or more of the votes had the right to veto all but tax legislation. Any legislation instituting indirect taxes or customs, which fell heavily on the poor, had to have a two-thirds majority to pass. The import of prime commodities was exempted from all taxation. In case of war, the government was empowered to take extraordinary measures against “enemies of the constitution.” The right of the people to revolt in case the majority of its representatives attacked the constitution was recognized. The people enjoyed the right of initiating laws. Any project presented by ten thousand citizens was to be immediately discussed. Officials and magistrates were to be elected every five years and subject to recall by one-fifth of the electors at any time. The Council of People’s Delegates, the executive power of the Finnish state, was to be elected for three years by the Assembly, which also appointed its president and vice-president, who were not eligible for immediate re-election and who enjoyed no special powers. The government was to be checked by a “Control Commission for the Administration and Application of Laws.” Two members of this commission could veto any new legislation. The election of judges, who were under government control, local autonomy, and workers’ representation in all administrations, completed the project.

Contrary to the usage of bourgeois democracies, this constitution would to a certain extent have united the legislative, executive, and judicial powers in the hands of one body, the Assembly of People’s Representatives. The government itself was reduced to purely executive functions.

A Finnish revolutionist has remarked of this constitution:

“In theory, it attained the widest development of bourgeois democracy, a development actually impossible under a capitalist system. This bourgeois democracy could only go forward to the dictatorship of the proletariat if the workers were victorious, or backward to a bourgeois dictatorship if they were defeated.”

It was a beautiful and completely utopian project.

“The weakness of the bourgeoisie,” Kuusinen says, “led us into democratic illusions, and we decided to march toward socialism by parliamentary debate and the democratization of the government.”

Such was the terrible effect of reformism on the Finnish socialists. Such was their fatal misunderstanding of the laws of the class struggle.

The White Counter-Revolution

The bourgeoisie displayed much greater realism.

It immediately set on foot a small White army, of which the Schutzcorps, the 27th Jägers Battalion of the German army (composed of young Finns, as we have remarked), a brigade of Swedish volunteers, and numerous other volunteers recruited among the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois youth, were the backbone; about five thousand men altogether.

A former general of the Russian army, a Swede by birth, Mannerheim, took command of these troops and promised to “re-establish law and order in fifteen days.” The booty of several fortunate expeditions against Russian garrisons in the North, expeditions carried out with the complicity of the Russian garrison commanders, provided the Whites with arms.

At the beginning of the hostilities, the Red Guard was composed of only fifteen hundred poorly armed men. The Whites, who were masters of the Bothnian Gulf cities, Uleaborg, Vasa and Kupio, in addition to the agrarian provinces, took the offensive along a front that stretched from the Gulf of Bothnia to Lake Ladoga.

There were Russian garrisons in the cities of Sveaborg, Vyborg and Tammerfors. A section of the Baltic fleet was anchored in Helsingfors. Antonov-Ovseyenko, Smilga and Dybenko had formed Bolshevik organizations among these troops and sailors. The Russian garrison at Tammerfors, commanded by the revolutionary officer Svechnikov, repulsed Mannerheim’s first attacks.

Thus protected by the Russians, the Finnish Red Guard could have armed and organized. But at this moment the Brest-Litovsk treaty forced the Soviet Republic to withdraw its troops. There remained only a thousand or so volunteers incorporated in the Red Guard, who mostly wanted nothing better than to return to Russia. Svechnikov, together with a Finnish socialist Ero Happolainen, directed the operations.

A general Red offensive launched in the beginning of March failed, but convinced the Reds that victory was in their grasp. The government’s efforts at organization, from January 15 until April 1, resulted in a workers’ army of about 60,000 men (30,000 of them in reserve), and in numerous partially successful battles.

The leader of the White government, Svinhufvud, obtained the help of the kaiser. Twenty thousand German soldiers under the command of Von der Goltz disembarked at Hagoe, Helsingfors and Loviza, taking the Reds from the rear. The capture of Helsingfors, after a stubborn street battle in which the Germans and the Whites used workers’ wives and children as a cover (100 of them were killed), was followed by ferocious reprisals.

Artillery bombarded the Workers’ House. A Swedish newspaper published the following information: “Forty Red women, who were said to be carrying arms, were led out on the ice and shot without trial.” There were more than 300 dead picked up in the streets.

Government Wavers

The moderate tendency in the workers’ government represented by Tanner was so strong that rigorous measures against the Whites in the interior were not adopted until it was too late. The revolutionary courts frequently condemned counter-revolutionists to nothing more than a fine or to the mild pains of imprisonment. If there were any summary executions, they were entirely on the initiative of the Red Guard.

The indecision of the government, differences among the leaders, refusal to push forward with the revolution, the half-heartedness of the agrarian reforms, and the effect of the Brest-Litovsk treaty weakened the Reds. The arrival of the Germans demoralized them; at this moment Germany was at the height of her power.

Mannerheim surrounded Tammerfors, where 10,000 Reds under Russian officers resisted furiously.. The city was taken house by house, after several days’ battle. Two hundred Russians, among them two valuable leaders, Colonel Bulatsel and Lieutenant Mukhanov, were shot. Several thousand of the besieged got away; 2,000 were shot or massacred; 5,000 were made prisoners.

At Tavastehus, between Tammersfors and Helsingfors, the decisive battle was fought. Twenty to twenty-five thousand Reds concentrated on this point, driven back from the North by Mannerheim and from the South by Von der Goltz. Their retreat to the east was cut off. In defiance of orders they had brought their families and often all their meager possessions with them. It was more a migration than an army. These masses, who easily became a rout, could hardly maneuver. The Whites raked them with shrapnel. Although surrounded, they fought heroically for two days before they surrendered. Several thousand of the men managed to open a retreat toward the east.

The surrender was followed by a massacre. The killing of the wounded was the rule. There remained 10,000 prisoners, who were interned at Rikhimyaki. Vyborg fell on May 12. Several thousand of the Red Guard took refuge in Russia.

White Terror

The victors massacred the vanquished. Since ancient times class wars have always been the most frightful. There are no more bloody and atrocious victories than the victories of the reactionary classes. Since the bloodbath inflicted on the Paris Commune by the French bourgeoisie, the world had not seen anything comparable to the horrors of Finland.

From the first shot of the civil war:

“... belonging to a workers’ organization in White territory meant arrest; to have been an official in such organization meant execution. The massacre of socialists reached such proportions that it ended by interesting no one.” [5]

At Kummen, where forty-three Red Guards fell in battle, nearly 500 persons were executed. There were “hundreds” executed at Kotka, a town of 13,000 inhabitants. “They didn’t even ask their names; they just led them away in groups.” At Raumo, according to a bourgeois newspaper:

“500 prisoners captured on May 15 got the punishment they deserved the same day.”

“April 14, in Toeloe, a suburb of Helsingfors, 200 Red Guards were killed with machine guns ... The Reds were hunted from house to house. Many women perished.”

At Sveaborg the public executions were set for Trinity Sunday. In the neighborhood of Lakhtis, where the Whites took thousands of prisoners, “the machine guns worked several hours a day.”

“On one day alone 200 women were killed with dumdum bullets; pieces of flesh flew in every direction.”

At Vyborg 600 Red Guards were lined up three deep in front of the fortress moat and coldly picked off with machine guns. Among the intellectuals who were murdered we mention the editor of the Social-Democrat, Jukho Raino, and the writer Irmani Rantmalla, who while being led to his execution by boat “threw himself overboard hoping to drown, but his coat prevented him from sinking. The Whites killed him in the water with gunfire.”

There are no figures on the total number massacred. Current estimates run between ten and twenty thousand.

The official figure for the number of Red prisoners interned in concentration camps was 70,000. Famine, vermin and epidemic ravaged the prisons.

A report signed by the well-known Finnish doctor, Professor R. Tigerchtet, stated that:

“From July 6 to July 31, 1918, the number of prisoners in the Tammerfors concentration camp and the neighboring prison varied between 6,027 and 8,597. Of the prisoners, 2,347 died in these 26 days, and the average mortality among the prisoners reached as high as 407 per thousand per week.”

On July 25 there were still 50,818 revolutionists in Finnish prisons. In September of the same year 25,800 were still waiting trials.

For a time the bourgeoisie thought of exporting the “labor power” of its prisoners. A law was passed authorizing the shipment of those condemned to hard labor to foreign countries. Germany, depopulated by the war, was ready to exchange chemical and mineral products for this penal labor force. The German revolution forestalled the project.

This social purge continued for months in every section of the country. On May 16 warrants were sworn out for the former Social-Democratic deputies who had remained in the country. (The revolutionists had already perished or fled.) Three of the deputies “committed suicide” in prison during the night of July 2. A dozen more were condemned to death. The supreme court upset this decision in January 1919 and passed one death sentence, six sentences of life imprisonment, four twelve-year sentences, one eleven-year, five ten-year, five nine-year, fifteen eight-year and two seven- year sentences.

“Many of those condemned,” Kataya wrote, “were Social-Democratic traitors to socialism, who had spent all their lives serving the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie revenged itself blindly.”

As usual the White terror made no distinctions between the reformists – whom the victorious bourgeoisie no longer needed – and the revolutionists.

With law and order re-established, the Finnish bourgeoisie began to consider a monarch, to be chosen from the Hohenzollern family. The more and more precarious situation in Germany, however, put an end to this plan.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that more than 100,000 Finnish workers were struck down by the White terror, either shot or given long sentences – altogether about one quarter of the working class. [6]

“Every organized worker has either been shot or imprisoned,” wrote the Finnish Communists in the early part of 1919.

This information permits us to make an important observation on the White Terror, which has since been confirmed in Hungary, Bulgaria, Italy, etc. The White Terror is not to be explained by the frenzy of battle, by the violence of class hatred, or by any other psychological factor. The war psychosis only plays a secondary role. In reality it is the result of a plan and of historical necessity. The victorious owning classes realize clearly that they can only assure their domination on the morrow of a great social battle by inflicting a bloodbath on the proletariat that will cripple it for years to come. And as the working class is much more numerous than the owning class, the number of victims must be very large.

The total extermination of all the advanced and intelligent elements of the proletariat is the objective of the White Terror. Thus a defeated revolution – regardless of the circumstances – will always cost the proletariat infinitely more than a victorious revolution, no matter what hardships and sacrifices the latter may require.

One more observation:

The slaughter in Finland took place in April 1918. Until this time the Russian Revolution had shown magnanimity toward its enemies almost everywhere. It did not turn to the Red Terror. We have mentioned bloody episodes during the vile war in the South, but they were exceptional. The victorious bourgeoisie of a tiny country, that was counted among the most advanced in Europe, reminded the Russian workers that Death to the Vanquished! is the law of social war.

* * *


1. A Maximalist S-R who had been released from prison by the February Revolution, Kikvidze at the age of 23 was one of the organizers of the October Revolution on the Western front. A partisan leader, then leader of a Red Army division, he became one of the most talented generals of the revolution. He fought against Krasnov, was wounded thirteen times, and killed at the age of 25 in the Don country on January 11, 1919. – V.S.

2. Ceaselessly active as a Bolshevik from the earliest days, exiled to Siberia, then an émigré, Eugenie Bosch played a very important role in the Ukrainian revolution, where she directed the resistance of the Soviets to the German invasion. Exhausted, sick and condemned to inaction, she committed suicide early in 1924. She was a great but little known figure of the revolution. – V.S.

3. Lenin wrote from Zurich on March 11 (24, new style), 1917: ‘Do not forget that bordering on Petrograd we have one of the most advanced and truly republican countries, Finland, which under the protection of the revolutionary battles in Russia has developed its democracy in relative peace from 1905 to 1917 and conquered the majority of the people for socialism ... better organizers than we, the Finnish workers can aid us in that respect; they will go forward in their own way toward the establishment of the socialist republic.” (Third of the Letters from Afar, written before Lenin’s return to Russia.) – V.S.

4. Kuusinen rallied to communism during the Finnish revolution. The quotation is borrowed from his remarkable pamphlet entitled The Finnish Revolution, an Essay in Self-Criticism, published in 1919. Kuusinen today is a member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International. – V.S. [At the time Serge wrote, Kuusinen was already, one of Stalin’s leading hatchetmen in the Comintern. Today he is the head of the Russian province bordering Finland, director of Stalinist operations in Finland; during the Russo-Finnish war he became the head of the short-lived fake “People’s Republic” of Finland, sitting on Russian bayonets. – Ed.]

5. Most of these facts are well known ... and the description given is certainly an understatement if anything. – V.S.

6. Although it maintained silence about these facts, the bourgeois press of all countries raised a great noise about the “crimes of the Reds.” It might be instructive therefore to give the number of victims of the Reds as calculated by a White Guard author, Henning Soederhjelm, in a book translated from Swedish into English for the purpose of propaganda in other countries (The Red Insurrection in Finland in 1918, London 1919). Soederhjelm estimates that “more than a thousand” persons fell behind the lines from the fire of Red rifles: but his statistics never mention more than 624 persons. – V.S.

Last updated on: 2 August 2018