Socialist Worker

Our terrified rulers spread lies to undermine revolution

Fearing that they would also be toppled, ruling classes across the world organised to crush the Russian Revolution of 1917

Issue No. 2567

US troops invaded Russia in 1918

US troops invaded Russia in 1918


The Russian Revolution of 1917 terrified ruling classes across the world—and with good reason.

The conditions that led to revolution in Russia existed elsewhere, and it inspired struggles across the globe.

Those at the top threw resources at trying to crush it. Some 14 armies invaded Russia to support the counter?revolutionary White Army.

Winston Churchill, who was to become Tory prime minister during the Second World War, declared that Britain wanted to “strangle at birth” the revolutionary regime.

The Times newspaper said, “The remedy for Bolshevism is bullets.”

Our rulers also churned out propaganda to try and undermine support for the revolution.

Churchill claimed that the Bolsheviks were reducing Russia “to an animal form of barbarism”.

In the US, newspapers claimed the Bolsheviks had set up an electric guillotine in Petrograd that could cut off 500 heads an hour.

Horrors

In February and March 1919, hearings at a US senate subcommittee heard of alleged Bolshevik horrors.

Historian Frederick Lewis Schuman said the hearings depicted revolutionary Russia “as a kind of bedlam inhabited by abject slaves at the mercy of homicidal maniacs”.

Complaints that the Bolsheviks promoted “free love” and that women had been “nationalised” conjured up images of debauchery and the denigration of women.

One particularly antisemitic pamphlet, A Sea of Blood—the Truth about Bolshevik Russia, included lurid claims of Bolshevik torture.

“The Bolsheviks drove nails into empty wooden barrels, then jammed human beings inside, rolling the barrels around merrily,” it said.

Once the Bolsheviks had been maligned, those at the top used every opportunity to link the revolution abroad to struggles at home .

During a general strike in Seattle in 1919, papers ran headlines such as, “Reds directing Seattle strike—to test for chance of revolution”.

They asked if the strike was “the stepping stone to a Bolshevised America”.

Immigration officials stepped up investigations of socialists and trade unionists across the US in response to a strike wave. Thousands of other workers were arrested and jailed, often beaten and kept in dire conditions.

Some 5,000 US workers were jailed in the anti?Communist Palmer raids in 1919.

Author Dave Sherry wrote, “More US citizens were jailed in the eight-week period of red baiting than the Soviet regime managed to incarcerate in the entire eight years of its New Economic Policy.”

Claimed

In 1924 the Daily Mail newspaper in Britain published the “Zinoviev letter”.

The paper claimed it had a note written by then Soviet leader Grigori Zinoviev to the Communist Party in Britain.

Published four days before a general election, the point was to undermine the Labour Party by association.

It spoke of plans for “revolutionising the international and British proletariat” and spreading the “ideas of Leninism in England and the colonies”.

Some 75 years later the authorities admitted the letter was forged.

The ruling class panic over the Russian Revolution shows how scared they are of workers when they take matters in their own hands.

Our rulers organised to crush the revolution because they knew it threatened their system.

This is part of a series of weekly articles on the Russian Revolution tinyurl.com/sw1917

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