How the German Kaiser Wilhelm II ordered General Helmuth von Moltke to hatch plans for a ‘World Revolution” with the aim of destroying both Russia and the British Empire from the inside, has been detailed in the 774 p. book by Helmut Roewer “Skrupellos” (2003) and more recently in John C. G. Röhl's Wilhelm II.: Der Weg in den Abgrund 1900 - 1941: Bd.3, 2008. Evidence does not only consist of handwritten notes by Kaiser Wilhelm II on June 30, 1914, to his Ambassador in Leningrad Friedrich Count Pourtales (Roewer, 2003, p.182.) and is detailed, by the 400 Million Mark the Kaiser spend on his “Revolution.”
For example: Early 1916 saw a major one hundred day labor strike of ten thousand workers at the naval factory in Nikolajew/S. Russia, each worker received the counter value of 1.6 Reichmark per day courtesy the German Kaiser via Alexander Helfand alias Parvus. (Roemer, 2003, p.242.)
Lenin was then an exile in Switzerland and Helfand/Parvus had travelled to meet him there in May 1915. The two men could not agree since their strategies were fundamentally irreconcilable. Lenin saw the road to revolution being created by a hard core of professional revolutionaries, the point over which the Russian Social Democrat Party had split into Bolsheviks (Maximalists, or the majority) and Mensheviks (the minority), with the latter advocating a slower, more broadly based transition to a socialist state, if necessary in alliance with bourgeois liberal parties. Parvus broadly favoured the Menshevik approach and sought in vain to heal the rift between the two.
The Revolution of February 1917 then transformed the theatre in which the subversive campaign would be fought. There were in reality two governments in Russia following it. The Temporary Committee of the State Duma rapidly evolved into the Provisional Government, a body that hoped to control the unstable situation and lead Russia on to a path of essentially bourgeois reform. The Petrograd Soviet (Council) was an alternative power base and the aims of the two bodies sometimes conflicted. One of the most serious problems the Provisional Government faced was that it had little ability to enforce its will. The police force had effectively disappeared, many of its members in Petrograd having been killed by the enraged mob after they came under fire from policemen trying to stamp on the excesses of the mob, while the rest had fled.
Worse still, on 1 March, the Petro grad Soviet published Order No.1 that effectively undermined military discipline, reducting the Russian Army to little more than a mob of dangerous armed men. The order subordinated military authority to the Soviet and ruled that the orders of the Military Commission of the State Duma should be executed only in such cases as did not conflict with the orders and resolution of the Soviet. The order meant that the Provisional Government had no prospect of enforcing its laws unless it secured the prior agreement of the Soviet. As criticism of the order grew from both officers and members of the government, the Soviet tried to absolve itself by pointing out that the order was addressed exclusively to the Petrograd garrison. However, it was unrealistic to expect that its influence would be restricted to such a body when the events in Petro grad were followed throughout Russia.
The Executive Committee of the Soviet also argued that the order had been issued in agreement with the Temporary Committee of the State Duma and thus could not be considered as an order competing with the authority of the government. This version was disputed by Mikhail Rodzianko, the chairman of the State Duma, and it is true that there is no reference to the agreement of the Duma in the document, which was issued in the name of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers, and Soldiers' Deputies alone.
Many have claimed that the worst error the Provisional Government made was to decide to continue the war against the Central Powers: with a peace in 1917 that was not too onerous, they would have won time to consolidate their position and drawn the sting from the propaganda of their worst internal enemies. However, it was not that simple. Russia would undoubtedly have forfeited the goodwill of her Western Allies, who provided the financial backing for the state. More important, perhaps, was the fear that Imperial Germany would crush the Western Allies and then, flushed with victory, turn her full might against a Russia still in the process of reconstruction. While much of the anger was directed against the Tsarist regime for its obvious mishandling of the war effort, that was an entirely different matter to wanting peace at any price. There were still many Russians who were prepared to fight on.
After winning Brockdorff-Rantzau's support for the Bolsheviks, by the expedient of assuring him that they would unfailingly increase anarchy in Russia and exploit the revolution so that the Russian war effort would be crippled, Parvus began preparing the way for the. Bolshevik leaders to cross Germany and return to Russia. In concert with the German General Staff, he arranged for Lenin and Zinoviev alone to travel through Germany. Using one of his revolutionary contacts, Hanecki (who used the pseudonym Furstenberg), who was also a friend of Lenin, he let Lenin know that transit through Germany had been arranged. Another contact, Georg Sklarz, hastened to Zurich to accompany the two revolutionaries across Germany.
Lenin was suspicious. He demanded that Hanecki should provide more details about the arrangements and bluntly told him on 24 March, 'Official transit for individuals unacceptable.' When Sklarz arrived and sought to overcome the difficulties by offering to pay the two revolutionaries' fares, Lenin immediately broke off negotiations. He had good reasons for doing so. If anyone thought that Lenin was the tool of the Germans, he would inevitably have been discredited in the eyes of both the Russians and his fellow Bolsheviks. When the German Foreign Ministry pressed the German Ambassador to Switzerland to hasten the move of Lenin and his party, he replied that nothing had been heard from the Bolsheviks as yet, since they were anxious to avoid compromising themselves by association with the Germans.
Parvus hastened to make amends via Diego von Bergen, an official in the Foreign Ministry, who agreed to transport not only Lenin but the majority of his Bolshevik associates. They traveled across Germany in the infamous sealed train, granted extraterritorial rights in order to invalidate any claims that they had been open to German influence.
The Emperor Karl of Austria-Hungary knew of the German intention to grant passage across Germany to the Bolshevik leadership. That indicates that it was a policy that had been decided at the highest levels; it was certainly a policy with which the young Emperor profoundly disagreed. He pleaded with both the Kaiser and his chancellor to abort the project on the grounds that Lenin was a threat to all empires, not merely the Russian Empire. Moreover, he promptly dismissed the German proposal that the sealed train carrying the Bolshevik leadership should go to Russia via Austrian territory.
When Lenin reached Russia, there occurred one of those ironies of history that demonstrate how much depends on the actions of men rather than on impersonal movements. The Allies had established a counterespionage system in Russia whereby British Military Control Officers, many of them young and inexperienced, endeavored to prevent the movement of hostile individuals into the country. The system mirrored that used to control entry and exit from France, which had generally operated with success. Lenin and most of his party were permitted to enter Russia from Sweden, but a British officer stopped Fritz Platten, who was known to have links with the Germans, and Karl Radek, who was both an Austrian subject and a member of the German Social Democratic Party, at the frontier and cancelled their entry visas.9 Thus were small minnows caught and a large shark allowed to escape.
William Gerhardie, then on the staff of the British Embassy in Petrograd, left a rather petty account of the incident in his autobiography. Although Gerhardie concedes that the officer acted on instructions 'from the liberalminded Kerensky' when he let the rest through, it did not save him from childish ragging at the hands of his countrymen in Russia:
The same young officer served with me later, on the British Military Mission in Siberia, and we, the intelligentsia of the mission, twitted him for ever after: 'You're a bright lad, locking the stable door when the horse was out, or, rather, in.' He felt the responsibility of having caused the Soviet revolution acutely. Were he a Japanese he would have committed hari-kiri.
The episode underlines one of the weaknesses that dogged the Provisional Government. Essentially a bourgeois liberal authority, it was utterly dependent on the support of a variety of leftwing parties, notably the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries. In the euphoria that followed the Revolution one totem that all were united in clinging to was the doctrine that there were no enemies' on the left. Thus it mattered little what radical, unreasonable or treacherous policies a party might pursue, as long as it belonged to the left of the political spectrum it could do no wrong. Some members of the Provisional Government awaited Lenin's arrival with trepidation, or so we may judge from Kerensky's exclamation when, faced with the dithering of his colleagues, he yelled in frustration, 'Just you wait, Lenin himself is coming, and then the real thing will begin'. Lenin and his followers were allowed into Russia, and Trotsky, then, Menshevik, was released from British custody in Canada as a result of pressure that Kerensky and Miliukov brought to bear.
Lenin enjoyed a rapturous reception on his return to Petrograd, but once he began work there is little doubt that his links with the Germans grew stronger. For his stirring words to reach the masses, money had to be spent. As the German State Secretary told the Foreign Ministry Liaison Officer at General Headquarters on 29 September 1917: We have now been engaged in these activities for some time, and in complete agreement with the Political Section of the General Staff in Berlin (Capt. Von Hulsen). Our work together has shown tangible results. The Bolshevik movement could never have attained the scale or the influence which it has today without our continual support. (The State Secretary to the Foreign Ministry Liaison Officer at General Headquarters, Tel. No. 1610,29 September 1917, AS 3640, in Z.A.B. Zeman ed.,Germany and the Revolution in Russia 1915-1924, London, 1965 , p. 70.)
This is what enabled the widespread distribution of the Bolshevik newspapers Pravda and Izvestia, both of which criticized the Provisional Government and spread every type of story that would undermine any inclination to fight the war. On its own, propaganda of this sort could never have destroyed either the Provisional Government or the Russian war effort. What the propaganda, skilfully arguing the case for a swift peace and for dispossessing the landlords and capitalists in favour of the toiling masses, did do was draw more people to the Bolsheviks. This was especially the case in the major cities of Moscow and Petrograd, the political hearts of the country. There, reflecting the truth of Thucydides' words, it was becoming increasingly difficult for many among the cities' poorer inhabitants to satisfy their daily needs. After the entry of moderate socialists into the government, the discontented turned to the only political party that refused to join this 'bourgeois' government, the Bolsheviks. After April, the party's strength grew and it gained victories in elections held for factory, soldiers' and neighborhood soviets.
On 3 and 4 July [OS] 1917, mobs poured on to the streets of Petro grad at the Bolsheviks' behest. The mob, led by a machine-gun regiment that was part of the Petrograd garrison, demanded the overthrow of the Provisional Government and that all state power should pass to the Soviets. Over 400 people were killed. There was destruction and looting of flats and shops. Fortunately for the Provisional Government, the behaviour of the Bolshevik leadership was indecisive and enough troops remained loyal, so the unrest was speedily quelled.
It was decided to arrest Lenin and Zinoviev, who had gone into hiding after the Provisional Government regained control. Lenin, in fact, had cautioned his followers not to move too soon at a Conference of the Bolshevik Military Organizations on 20 June [OS]. However, he lost control of the situation when he fell ill on 29 June [OS] and more radical lieutenants cast caution to the winds. They were tipped off about their impending arrest by N.S. Karinskii, who worked on the staff of the Minister of Justice, EN. Perevertzev, and fled.
On 9 July [OS] Lenin slipped away in disguise to Finland, where he had the opportunity to write The State and Revolution. Ironically November 1918, General Ludendorff would do the same, in this case to write his WWI memoirs. Apparently still a loyal subject, Ludendorff would ad his own version of Wilhelm II announcement to the German people ultimately leading to its radicalization, by the Nazi’s. The very day Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated the throne, a newspaper announced that "the war of 1914 was begun by international Jewry, international Freemasonry, and international plutocracy, then carried through for a distinct aim: to annihilate the German empire. (Munchener Beobachter, 9 Nov. 1918.)
Ludendorff hence called it “the stab in the back” (but left no doubt that similar to the Kaiser he was referring to what elsewhere he called the ‘Jewish Hydra’),” Im Nachwort dieser Memoiren vertrat er nachdruecklich die These, die Heimat sei mit ihrem Kriegsunwilleund den Streiks dem ungeschlagenen Heer in den Ruecken gefallen. Das war eine dreiste Liige, doch die Dolchstosslegende war damit unausrottbar in die Welt gesetzt. Sie traf den Nerv der Zeit, und Hunderttausende von deklassierten Funktionstragern des ehemaligen Regimes plapperten sie nach.” (Roewer, p. 376.)
At the behest of the Bolsheviks, the mob had tried to seize the Counter Espionage Bureau where all the information on German espionage was kept. A reason for this can be found in the events that followed. In the course of the 'July Days', as these events became known, two Russians, G. Alexinsky and V Pankratov, published a letter accusing Lenin and the Bolsheviks of treason, maintaining they were German agents. This was the last thing the Bolsheviks wanted or needed and we have seen that they had been to some trouble to avoid any sort of visible link to the Germans. There was a strong and immediate reaction. Many who had backed the Bolsheviks or flirted with them now abandoned them and where mud is thrown, it sticks. In spite of frequent strong denials, the accusation clung to them for years.
Alexinsky and Pankratov cited the
testimony of one Ensign Yermolenko of the 16th
Siberian Infantry Regiment, who had been arrested and told the Investigating
Division of the General Staff that he had been a prisoner-of-war of the
Germans, who had sent him behind Russian lines to spread anti-war propaganda.
He had been told by two officers of the German General Staff that similar
propaganda was being carried on in Russia by the chairman of the Union for the
Liberty of the Ukraine, A. Skoropis- Yoltukhovsky, and by Lenin. The latter had been
commissioned 'to use every means in his power to undermine the confidence of
the Russian people in the Provisional Government'. Yermolenko
also stated that money for the propaganda was passed through the German Embassy
in Stockholm and forwarded to Russia by 'trusted persons': Jacob Furstenberg (Hanecki) and Parvus. The money
was initially transferred to Sweden from the·· German DiskontoGesellschaft
Bank, to a Swedish bank that Yermolenko identified as
the 'Via Bank'. It has since emerged that the Swedish Nya Banken
under Olof Aschberg was the bank that was, without
question, involved in these transactions and Aschberg
was, by his own admission, the 'Bolshevik Banker'. Yermolenko's
term 'Via Bank' is quite obviously a corruption of what he was told or what he
The Provisional Government saw its chance, but instead of striking immediately and capitalizing on the opportunity it ran true to character and established a commission to investigate the charges. The commission's hearings meandered on until, typically, its conclusions had lost any force. Yet the preliminary views expressed by the government ministers most intimately associated with the hearings Tereschenko, Nekrasov and Kerensky - stated plainly: The data of the preliminary investigation point directly to Lenin as a German agent and indicate that, after entering into an agreement with Germany on action designed to aid Germany in her war with Russia, he arrived in Petrograd. Here, with financial assistance from Germany, he began to act to achieve this aim.
Although links were discovered that pointed to cooperation between the Bolsheviks and the Germans, there was not a shred of reliable evidence for any agreement between the two. The Minister of Justice gave an interview to the newspaper Vechernee Vremia that was reported in Novae Vremia on 7 July 1917, when he resigned from the Provisional Government. He told the reporter:
Personally, I have been convinced for a long time that Lenin has been working for German money. I am just as deeply convinced - and I have expressed it openlythat I consider him incapable of taking the money for himself personally. I still hold this conviction, but Lenin is an almost mad fanatic who has never been and is not now interested in knowing from what sources he receives offers of funds for the struggle on behalf of his ideals.
It inevitably raises the question of whether or not Lenin was indeed a German agent, as many in the Provisional Government, the British and French Governments and, later, all of the White 'movement' believed or wanted to believe. The proposition has been denied vociferously down the years. First off the mark was Listock Pravdy, a two-page paper that appeared on 6 July in place of the Bolshevik's own organ, Pravda, the offices of which had been ransacked by a large body of military cadets acting on the orders of the Minister of Justice himself. Listock Pravdy denounced Alexinsky as 'a notorious slanderer' and described the charge that Lenin had been receiving money from the Germans as 'this monstrous slander'. It is open to debate whether the author of this diatribe wrote out of ignorance or was lying, for there is no doubt that Lenin was receiving money from the Germans.
Orlando Figes describes Yermolenko's statement as 'dubious testimony' , since he claimed to have been told about Lenin's involvement with the Germans by the Germans. So he had, but Figes' view omits the fact that Yermolenko had been sent behind Russian lines to do the same job himself and had not simply been told this as a matter of idle gossip. Moreover, he also revealed the Germans' use of Ukrainian nationalism, as well as the information about the involvement of Furstenberg, Parvus and the use of the Swedish bank. This much suggests that his evidence should not be so readily dismissed.
outside the Russian Counter-Espionage Bureau knew this supporting evidence at
the time. The head of that service was Colonel Boris Vladimirovich Nikitine, an officer from the front who was on a short
leave in Petrograd when the Revolution broke out. Much against his wishes he
was pressed to stay and lead the new Counter-Espionage Bureau, and in later
years wrote his memoirs of the months he spent in that service. Largely
forgotten now, they shed vital light on the conditions in Russia in 1917 as
well as the thinking that informed the activities of his service. Significantly
it was not the Counter-Espionage Bureau that gave Alexinsky
and Pankratov Yermolenko's
Incidentally the Petrograd Counter-Espionage Bureau had no knowledge whatever ofYermolenko. More than that, we did not even possess a Yermolenko dossier. I only heard his name once before the July Rising, from Perevertzev, and only learned the details of the statement he made at the Headquarters of the Sixth Army from Yermolenko himself after the Rising, when he was sent to me by Grand Headquarters on the 21 st. July. I was never told why his-statement was not communicated to us earlier or of what use they made of it there.
On their own, Yermolenko's claims might reasonably have been regarded with a degree of scepticism, but Nikitine's officers were able to intercept a courier named Lourier at the frontier post of Beloostrov and discovered letters from Lenin to Parvus, requesting him to despatch as much 'material' - that is, money - as possible. Nor did the incriminating evidence stop there. Captain Pierre Laurent of the French Military Mission handed Nikitine copies of a series of intercepted telegrams exchanged between Lenin and four individuals including Hanecki, alias Furstenberg, and a Madame Ev'genia Mavrikievna Sumenson. Hanecki was Lenin's go-between with Parvus, who in turn was the go-between with the Germans, thus avoiding any direct contact between Lenin and the Germans.
The telegrams were worth more than their face value. They revealed the identities of several of the plotters, the most important of whom was Madame Sumenson. Described by Nikitine as a demi-mondaine, the telegrams revealed she was a customer of the Siberian Bank. Nikitine sent Alexandrov, one of his top agents, to the bank accompanied by a financial expert. They discovered that in the few months before July, Sumenson had withdrawn about 800,000 roubles and there were still 180,000 in her account. The money had come from Hanecki by way of the Nya Banken and was used by the Bolsheviks to destabilize Russia.
Sumenson was arrested during the 'July Days' and, according to Nikitine, 'made a full and frank confession to the officials of the Bureau who questioned her in my presence' . There was enough evidence here without Yermolenko's testimony to show why the Bolsheviks attacked the offices of the Counter-Espionage Bureau and confirm that Lenin and some of his closest associates we-re in closer touch with the Germans than Soviet apologists would have us believe. Under wartime conditions, it was more than enough to have the leading Bolsheviks hanged for treason. Lenin himself had fled and was in hiding, but other members of the Bolshevik hierarchy were seized. Among them was Trotsky, who had switched his allegiance from the Mensheviks to the Bolsheviks that month. However, the doctrine of 'no enemies on the left' prevailed and most of them were released without trial as the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries fell over themselves to mend fences with the Bolsheviks.
The Germans were using - exploiting might be a better word - Lenin and the Bolsheviks for their own ends. Equally, Lenin and the Bolsheviks were using the Germans for their own. The aims of the two parties to this alliance coincided in the short term, but both were basing that alliance on pure expediency and neither had any intention of maintaining their collaboration for a moment longer than they had to. From September 1915 the Germans been fully aware of the Bolshevik agenda, created without any input from themselves. The German Intelligence Service in Switzerland, under its chief agent Steinwachs, had formed links with Aleksander Keskula, a member of the Estonian Nationalist Committee, a body working for independence from Russia. Keskula had links with the Russian revolutionaries in Switzerland and was able to report on Lenin's programme for peace with Germany: the establishment of a republic, the confiscation of large land-holdings, an eighthour working day, full autonomy for all nationalities and an offer of peace to Germany without consideration for France, provided Germany would renounce all annexations and indemnities. Further prospects to entice the Germans were a withdrawal of Russian troops from Turkey and renunciation of Imperial Russia's claim to the Dardanelles and Constantinople, and the advance of Russian troops into India.
The great Prussian military theorist, Carl von Clausewitz, made the point that war builds up a momentum of its own, by which he meant that irrespective of what plans had been made, or what aims initially governed the conflict, the course of the war would carry the opposing governments along courses they had not envisaged. In short, it would add fuel to the blaze. This is what happened with every European state in the First World War. The history of the clandestine war in Russia emphasizes the point. We will see that the contacts between the Germans and the Bolsheviks went deeper than either party had envisaged and mutual expediency forced both to deepen them as events swept them both along like corks in a millstream.
But also the Bolsheviks had made several approaches to the Allies including the United States, towards the end of 1918. In a note to President Wilson of 24 October 1918, they had asked precisely how they could buy off the attacks on them by the Entente Powers. Using the good offices of the neutral representatives in Moscow, on 3 November they proposed opening peace negotiations with the Allies. On 23 December Litvinov, who was in Sweden, sent a circular note to the Allied representatives there proposing preliminary negotiations to remove all the causes of conflict. Finally, on 12 January, after hearing the Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee speaking on the causes of intervention in Russia, the Bolsheviks sent a wireless message to the American Government stating that all the motives he had mentioned, regardless of any validity they might "once have had, were no longer applicable and requesting that a place and date be set for the opening of negotiations.
However given that at the beginning of 1918, the United States was the only state in the Western world with the manpower and the money to make a difference, the stance taken by Woodrow Wilson towards Russia gave no comfort at all to America's increasingly desperate associated Powers. So an imaginative campaign was born. The Intelligence Services were sent to pluck if not victory then a new Eastern front out of defeat. The Allies might have thought there was every good reason for at least some chance of success in this strategy. They had before them the towering success of the German subversive campaign in Russia, run in conjunction with the Bolsheviks. That had knocked Russia out of the war, so delivering to Germany her dream of a war on one front. The British created a new organization, MIO, to try and effect this in Russia. No study of the intervention or Russian Civil War appears to refer to this body, probably because it was never openly in the front line, but also because its documentary history has largely disappeared. Nevertheless, it exerted a profound influence, bearing a considerable part of the responsibility for the unsettled state of Russia in the first six months of 1918. One of the main methods employed to achieve its ends was money. It was money that appeared persistently to pave the road to the attainment of the goals of all the Great Powers. This study has shown the influence of money, but also its limitations. There is no doubt that in the Russia of 1918 many Russians would promise the world in return for healthy subsidy, but would then do nothing. Therefore careful choices had to be made. The various existing national and cultural groups within the Russian Empire were the first targets. Hence Armenians, Georgians, Cossacks, Czechoslovaks, Poles and Ukrainians were offered blandishments to help them secure what were perceived to be their particular ends.
This was not a novel policy; money, subsidy, has long been a strategic weapon, as have the employment of spies, agents provocateurs, the disbursement of bribes, blackmail and the encouragement of treason. There exists a diplomatic underworld where these transactions are carried out. Formal diplomacy helps to conceal this underworld, indeed it may be said to be part of its purpose to so do. However, shafts of light occasionally penetrate and there are increasing numbers of them from the middle of 1918, when the Allies began to turn their attention increasingly towards forming covert alliances with the anti-Bolshevik political parties in Russia.
Foreign ambassadors and missions usually took the decisions to act, but then turned the action over to political officers, Intelligence officers, Secret Service officers and special representatives. They then averted their eyes from what these operatives did, so the operations remained deniable, and the diplomatic underworld remained an underworld with little of its activities ever coming to light.
The strategy was simple enough: identify those parties or political groupings that have a grievance against the existing government or state of society, and are ready to use every means to overthrow the government or society. The political parties involved were then promised every assistance and support to achieve their goals; yet that inevitably entailed the Allies becoming bound to those goals. In that context the parties with which the Allies made common cause were no different from the Bolsheviks when they collaborated with the Germans. There was one significant difference that contains no small amount of irony - whereas the Bolsheviks sought to overthrow the existing social structure, their opponents were to a considerable extent intent upon restoring it.
It might be argued that the Bolsheviks could claim no legitimacy, having seized power in a coup d'etat, and thus were justifiable targets for any and every attempt to overthrow them. Such an argument neglects the fact that many of the Russian people, as embodied in the army, had already voted with their feet to end the war and it cannot be legitimate for foreign governments to contradict that will. It is equally valid to ask whether a government supported by the money and bayonets of the Allies would have had any more legitimacy. The Allies initially sought to install a dictatorship with Alexeyev at its head. Later they toyed with the idea of imposing a monarchy. Only after the war with Germany was over did they address the issue of restoring the Constituent Assembly, and that was only in response to the need to reassure their own peoples and the requirement to retain the United States as party to the intervention.
The histories of British agents such as Sydney Reilly, Frederick Bailey and Paul Dukes are well known, even if their real or alleged deeds have been subjected to much exaggeration and mythmaking over the years. Since their identities have been disclosed they have been very handy decoys for the British authorities. While attention has been focused on these men, others like Bell, Cromie, Hall, Keyes, Litch, McGrath, Steveni and Teague-Jones have been able to remain in the background. The same could be said of French and American operatives. It is vital also to realize that operatives such as Dukes and Reilly were simply cogs in a much larger machine. In the statement Reilly wrote for his OGPU captors in 1925, he reputedly said of his operations in 1918: The money was allocated from the funds I had received; I had in my possession considerable amounts of money, which, in view of my special status (total financial independence and exclusive confidence due to my ties with highly placed persons) were provided me unaccountably. These very funds I spent on my fight against Soviet power.
While this needs to be read with caution, for it must be remembered that Reilly is not a reliable witness and was telling his captors what he thought they wanted to hear, it does indicate that he was not the famed lone swordsman of myth. It also raises the issues of from whom the money came and who the 'highly placed persons' were that placed such confidence in him. Despite all the claims of 'accountability' made on behalf of Western democracies, both remain unaccountable.
It has been seen that the Allied stores at the Russian ports were used as a pretext to justify intervention to the British, French and American peoples. Poole and Lockhart both described the reason given for intervening in Russia as a pretext. They were intimately involved with the intervention and thus were in a position to know. Two officers - the Director of Military Intelligence and Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Steel- were also in a position to know. As the war with Germany drew to its close, Steel wrote a paper on future Allied policy in Russia. It opened with the words:
the anticipated disappearance of the German menace, our original' pretext for
intervention in Russia, i. e., the encouragement of
continued military resistance to the Central Powers, vanishes. From the purely
military point of view, there is no longer any immediate object to be gained by
the retention of forces in Russia.4
The paper developed its theme by maintaining that if intervention was to continue, it had to be directed either against Bolshevism or towards eliminating every trace of German influence in Russia. Steel went on to argue that no great help could be expected from effective action in the north, since communications were 'too exiguous' and the population was both scanty, and had shown no marked response to the Allied call to them to rise against Bolshevik oppression. Not only that, 'It is in the North that Bolshevism has its stronghold, and where, according to Mr Lockhart, it is growing stronger every day.'
Steel proceeded to torpedo his case with his next point, which tried to present a case for continuing the intervention in the north: 'One factor stands out - we cannot desert and hand over to the vengeance of the Bolshevists the population which we have taken under our protection.' Here was a fine contradiction. The population of the region was on the one hand largely hostile, but it was still worthy of British protection against the vengeance of the very people it supported.
The reason for Steel's confusion is apparent. He wanted the Allies to stay in Russia; the whole policy of intervention had owed a lot to him over the preceding year, but now he was fishing for justification for it. The real reason behind his support for intervention is found in the third paragraph of his paper: 'From the military point of view we have to consider this point in connection with the defence of India and our position in the East.'
problems posed by British rule in India and by her position in the Middle East
have been touched. upon several times. At their roots lay two factors: the
possession of a global empire and the real reason for the war, which was the
struggle for world supremacy between Britain and Germany. The British Empire
lent considerable prestige to the country, and while in many respects it was a
source of strength, the World War had also shown it to be a potential weakness.
The latter point was driven home most strongly in the Second World War. It was
the danger to the Empire in the East that conditioned much of British thinking
towards Russia, Bolshevism and intervention.
Certainly the Bolsheviks had not made themselves any friends among the higher British political echelons with their attempts to foment risings in the East against the colonial overlords. In turn, this meant not just the Bolsheviks, but Bolshevism and then Communism were enemies to be destroyed in the eyes of those echelons. The great struggle between the capitalist powers of the West and the Soviet Union was initially drawn in great part from this perspective. Western propaganda endeavoured to portray the Bolsheviks as allies of the Germans, and all sorts of nonsense about German troops fighting alongside the Bolsheviks in Siberia was pedalled to the publics of the capitalist world.
in 1920, Keyes had this to say about the accusations that Denikin's
White Army was no better than the Bolsheviks in humanitarian terms: Over three
hundred British officers have been in South Russia during Denikin's
campaign, and, though many may have been disillusioned by the corruption and
incompetence which nullified the gallantry and devotion of the original
volunteer army, most have been able to see beneath this and to realise, that, with all their failings, these people have
been fighting in defence of Christian civilisation against the most damnable evil the world has
ever seen, and, incidentally, have been acting as an outpost of the British
Empire in the East.7
That the Bolsheviks were regarded as a threat to Western civilization, as the British elite understood 'civilisation', is beyond doubt. This theme was harped upon with increasing frequency throughout 1918. This served as an additional justification for intervening in Russia. It was pressed by Poole as early as 13 February in a letter to Colonel Byrne and more strongly in his Report on Visit if British Military Mission to the Volunteer Army: 'The successful movement in South Russia is the . .only spontaneous Russian effort to maintain the principles of order and civilisation against the menace of Bolshevism.'
It was a view shared across Intelligence circles. When the Director of Naval Intelligence retired in November 1918, he addressed a short farewell speech to the members of Room 40. According to his biographer, its last words were: Above all we must thank God for our victory over the German natiol'l; and now I want to give you all a word of warning. Hard and bitter as the battle has been, we have now to face a far, far more ruthless foe, a foe that is hydra-headed, and whose evil power will spread over the whole world, and that foe is Russia.
These facts did not incline the British authorities to regard the new regime in Russia with any degree of friendliness. The destruction of the Eastern front, regarded as essential for victory in the war with Germany, occasioned understandable feelings of betrayal.
Restoring the Eastern front and defending the British Empire in India might be considered compelling reasons for intervention in Russia at this point, although Steel has been seen to have dismissed restoring the Eastern front as a pretext. Yet did intervention offer any realistic prospect of renewing the war in the east when many of the Russian people had no will to fight the Germans? Did the intervention draw a single German division from the Western front? Germany continued to maintain thirty-five-and-a-half divisions in the east irrespective of the Allied intervention, and they never required a single company of reinforcements from the Western front. To argue that the Eastern front was a necessity when the Allies could look forward to the prospect of millions of fresh American troops on the Western front simply neglects the conditions faced by the Central Powers in 1918. In these terms the intervention can be seen as an enormous gamble; it was one that failed.
Alternatively they could have gently encouraged the Bolsheviks in their passive resistance to Germany, a form of resistance that led ,in part to the German divisions being tied down in the east, as Lenin had informed them would happen. However, they would have been able to exert little control over this and to do nothing if the strategy misfired. Moreover, the Allied military experts looked askance at the idea, conditioned as they were to dealing with formed armies of massed divisions and artillery. The military experts were part of the problem, as much as the politicians. The soldiers required political leadership, but the political leadership of the Allies, and notably the British, was divided and uncertain. After the decision of 3 December 1917 the military experts, especially the Intelligence officers, had been given their head and they committed their countries to a greater extent than the political leadership calculated.
The Allies founded their hopes on the domestic opposition to the Bolsheviks uniting to overthrow Lenin and his colleagues, but for that they found that the opposition parties demanded direct Allied support, military support, not merely advisers and money. It was expected that the Russian opposition parties would join the intervention with a large-scale rising against the Bolsheviks, and it would be an understatement to describe the prospect as beguiling. Civil war was an inevitable part of this scheme, though it is more than probable that the Allies did not consider that it would last long, descend to the depths it did, or cost so many lives. Allied to this was the poor performance of the then embryonic Red Army against the Germans when the Brest-Litovsk negotiations had broken down. This helped to create the illusion that military success in Russia would be swift and easy, and would not require large forces that the Allies could not spare.
In this the Allies and the Russian opponents of Bolshevism made a mistake. They thought it a perfectly safe course of action, underestimating as they did both the resilience of the Bolsheviks, the expertise of the Cheka and the strength of the Red Army. Their judgement was based on wishful thinking rather than a sound and reasoned calculation of probabilities. As with most people, when they set their hearts on a goal they will trust to hope, believing it will happen because they want it to. Reason only features when its full force is deployed to reject ideas that are unpalatable to the hope.
Yet if the restoration of the Eastern front and the removal of Allied stores are called into question, we must ask what was the hidden agenda behind the intervention? This is answered, at least in part, by the history of the Banking Scheme. This was repeatedly reborn throughout the period and there can be little doubt that its economic and political goals were to reduce the former Russian Empire to the position of a satellite of the British Empire. The economic fruits of the success of this strategy would have meant any Russian government would have been rendered open to British influence at every turn. It would have been indirect empire on a grand scale. The fact that this outcome was ever present in each of the reincarnations of the Scheme leaves little room for denying it.
What we are left with on the eve of armed intervention are politicians, senior civil servants and officers of the armed services pursuing an' essentially Imperialist policy. The restoration of the Eastern front might be deemed a legitimate aim, but there seems to have been little inclination to explore other options. The Allied stores at the Russian ports, supposedly in danger of falling into German hands, had but a small basis in reality. The true value of the stores to the Allied Governments lay in the fact that they could be used as a gigantic bluff to justify intervention to their citizens. One further theme that has evolved during the writing of this book has been the ambiguous nature of loyalty. Many, particularly those in positions of power, seem inclined to regard unconditional loyalty as a given fact. In fact loyalty is far more complicated, frequently conditional and is invariably founded upon mutuality. The First World War shows this repeatedly. When loyalty is put under the greatest stress - by imminent danger, starvation, cold or disease it frays in many people.
By making' class enemies' of many Russian specialists, the Bolsheviks lost any loyalty they might have won from them. Equally, the Allies and Whites sometimes found themselves having to trust people who had something to gain from the Bolsheviks, or were ideologically committed to them. Questions of time and scale inhibited either party from thoroughly vetting all who presented themselves, which meant both were frequently obliged to build upon foundations of sand. The Bolsheviks were almost defeated by the officers and specialists who turned to the Allies, while the Letts who presented themselves as erstwhile allies and kingmakers crippled the Allied Intelligence Services. The Cheka had been a formidable opponent. To an extend they had been assisted by the amateurish conduct of some of their opponents. The Bolsheviks were in many respects poachers turned gamekeeper. They had long experience of an underground, conspiratorial existence and they could turn that experience to account when faced with similar opposition.
The clandestine war reveals significant changes in the role of the Intelligence Services of all the Great Powers. From being accessories to military operations in 1914, they had become major players in the survival and destruction of states. While this had always been true to some extent in the case of secret services, the whole Intelligence apparatus of every major state was now involved and on a much greater scale than ever before. What is also apparent is the paradox of deeply Imperialist states turning to the spread of revolution and subversion to achieve their aims. It became the task of the Intelligence Services to foment and nourish this in hostile states. Since the end of the First World War this has been the common practice of every Great Power and both the Super Powers.
The British Intelligence Services can be seen to have influenced and sometimes even led the government. That reflects a dubious development in the modern state: the influence of the expert and specialist on leaders who are often well out of their depth when facing foreign policy and military problems.
Intelligence was the spearhead of the Allied attempt to restore the situation in Russia in their favor. Ultimately it failed. The cost in human terms was born by the peoples of what had been the Russian Empire. Millions perished by war, starvation and disease brought about by the machinations of these services. The basic fact that the Russians were not interested in fighting the Germans anymore seems to have been disastrously not acknowledged in the Western capitals, thus heaping the odds against the aims of the Allies from the beginning. The Whites were impotent without the support of the Allies. Had the Allies refrained from taking counsel of their fears and interfering in Russia, the suspicion is that local opposition, much of it inspired by the Bolsheviks, would have kept many German troops in the east, as would Germany's dreams of imperial expansion in south Russia and Central Asia. The Allies were frightened to the point of desperation through viewing the situation in narrowly military terms. That made the difference in what was to be a shabby and inglorious venture that was paid for in the lives of millions of Russians.