Saturday, November 4, 2017

Russia's October Revolution

Samizdatback Saturday returns yet again to the year 1917 and one of the pivotal events of the 20th Century. (Have you realized that the beginning and end of Daylight Savings Time this year line up neatly with the centennials of Russia's February and October revolutions?)
"Set 'Em Up Again!" by Ted Brown in Chicago Daily News, November 10, 1917
News that the Bolshevik forces of Nikolai Lenin (commonly spelled in the U.S. at the time with an extra "e" at the end) were overthrowing Alexander Kerensky's coalition government was greeted abroad with amusement by those who fancied it a momentary development and alarm from those who foresaw it as a lasting one. To the world socialist movement, it was a welcome step on the road to global revolution.
"Was die Sozialisten Wollen" by John Lenz in Vorbote, Chicago, November 14, 1917
But as a Dr. Frank Billings assured his fellow Americans after returning from a Red Cross mission to Russia in August and September, "Those who know Russia believe that socialism cannot last. Why? Because the seat of socialism is confined to a narrow part of the country, of which Petrograd is the center. That is the seat of all of the anarchy."
"Enthroned?" by John H. Cassel in New York Evening World,  November, 1917
"The Prussian Eagle Swallows the Russian Leaders" by Robt. Satterfield in Cleveland News, November, 1917
Nearer to the situation, cartoonist L. Barski sounded the alarm in the Polish satirical magazine Mucha, at the time published in Moscow due to German occupation of Warsaw. "Wolność" is Polish for "freedom."
"The Child and the Matches" by L. Barski in Mucha, Moscow, by November 25, 1917
"With His Head in the Clouds" by William Hanny in St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press, November 26, 1917
Of more immediate concern to the Entente powers was the Bolsheviks' need to consolidate their power, from which continued participation in the Great War was a great distraction. The restraints on Russia's feet in the Italian cartoon below refer to Leninists, Maximalists (a violent socialist faction), and Tsarists; the German helmet of the fellow in the rear reads "Lenin & Co." The cartoonist clearly had no clue what Lenin looked like.
"Russia Might Be Victorious, But--" by Tonv (?) in Il 420, Florence, Italy, before November 18, 1917
Working from Moscow, Polish cartoonist L. Barski knew very well what Lenin looked like, and produced this scathing cartoon of him:
"All Russia Is At Your Knees" by L. Barski in Mucha, Moscow, November, 1917
In case you're wondering how a cartoon this critical of Vladimir Lenin could be published in Moscow, that is where the Kerensky government had retreated when the Bolsheviks took over St. Petersburg. Mucha continued publication essentially uninterrupted until World War II, although its conservative politics were presumably unwelcome once the Bolsheviks gained control of Moscow on November 12 (October 31 Old Style).

How Mucha survived, I do not know (even its Polish Wikipedia page is very cursory and makes no mention of its exile to Moscow), and I know even less about the cartoonist L. Barski. Internet sources I've found do not list him as a contributor to the magazine, and one hopes for his sake that "L. Barski" was an alias.

Kerensky still appears in charge in this Russian cartoon, occasioned by Ukrainians' attempt to take advantage of Russia's revolution to declare their independence.
"Delirious with Freedom" in Novy Satirikon, St. Petersburg/Petrograd, before November 11, 1917
The Ukrainian assembly had declared autonomy in June. By the time the country declared its independence in November, it had become a Soviet Socialist People's Republic.
"Russland" by Theodor Thomas Heine in Simplicissimus, Munich, Novembeer 13, 1917
The view from Germany was that Russia would remain beholden to American moneyed interests, and indeed the U.S. had pledged considerable funds to support the Kerensky government. The signature on the next of these German cartoons is difficult to make out through the benday dots; my best guess is that it reads "W. Geróm." Whereas American cartoonists had forsaken the character of "Brother Jonathan" in favor of "Uncle Sam" a generation earlier, the name was apparently still in use in Berlin.
"Ein Sklave Ist Sie" by W. Geróm (?) in Kladderadatsch, Berlin, before November 18, 1917 
As we've noted before, all sides of the Great War promoted the propaganda that the other side of the conflict was bound to succumb to starvation. As Dr. Billings reported,
"The food question and the question of destitution is one, perhaps, that is borne out somewhat by fact. In our investigation of the food supply, we found that the grain crop of 1917, together with the surplus of other years, is quite sufficient to sustain the people until another crop shall have been grown. There were more cattle in Russia today, more sheep and more swine, than there were in 1914. There is food enough in Russia, but the fault lies in its distribution." 
It was true that Russia's railways were not up to the task of getting food from the peasant farms to the rapidly growing urban centers even before the war began. The war only exacerbated the problem; the railroads were no better at getting food (or any other supplies) to the troops, leading many soldiers to desert, defect, or mutiny.
"Der Hunger in Russland" by Wilhelm Schulz in Simplicissimus, Munich, November 27, 1917
Sympathetic to German interests, the Swiss satirical magazine Nebelspalter was encouraged by the Russian people's war-weariness. Surely enough, the Bolshevik government would sign a separate peace with the Central Powers in March.
"In the Cafe of Nations" in Nebelspalter, Zurich, before November 11, 1917

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