Bloody Sunday and its evaluation in the press
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If Lord Widgery was aware of the significance of the earlier statements by the soldiers, this judgement must be regarded as at best inherently unsound and at worst a wilful act of partiality and bias. On that basis, his judgement must be set aside. Equally, if he was unaware of the significance of the statements, then he simply was not in a position to make that judgment and it must accordingly be set aside.
There are two sources for this conclusion — a record of a meeting between the Prime Minister and Lord Chief Justice Widgery and a number of documents which reveal the important role played by the Secretary to the Tribunal. While it was to be expected that W. Smith as Secretary to the Tribunal would provide valuable assistance to Lord Widgery throughout the Tribunal, recently published material has provided evidence of the disproportionate and apparently prejudicial influence exerted by him.
The Secretary noted that later Lord Widgery accepted this point. He also made suggestions for strengthening the conclusions. Firstly, that this influence by the Secretary was not evident to those involved in the Tribunal other than those working directly with Lord Widgery. On this basis, the Tribunal failed to deliver on its obligation to be totally impartial in ascertaining and presenting the full truth of what happened.
As it is based on archival documents, this is new material only in the sense that it is new to the public. However, it does shed new light on the establishment and operation of the Inquiry. In that it was private, available only to the Tribunal and not to Counsel for the next of kin, it could in that sense also be considered new.
It cannot be ruled out that further archival material may emerge which would throw further light on the circumstances and conduct of the Tribunal and, indeed, on the events of Bloody Sunday itself. The archival material on the circumstances of the establishment of the Tribunal and its operation supports suggestions of a bias in favour of exonerating the Army. This interpretation is clearly borne out by the Report itself as emerges later in this assessment. Portions of two transcripts of statements by Para AA name supplied , purporting to be his account of service with the anti-tank platoon of 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment in Northern Ireland in [and giving his service no.
Tom McGurk, to the Government on 26 February The contents of the transcripts are grim and, at points, grisly. In the course of the programme, a reporter outlined a sequence of events in Glenfada Park which bears similarities with the account given in the Para AA document. The similarities between the account given by Para AA and the albeit less explicit account by the paratrooper to Channel Four are striking.
It is not unlikely that the author of the transcript and the paratrooper who appeared on the Channel Four programme are one and the same, though this has not yet been established. Authenticity If Para AA does come forward and claim authorship, then the authenticity of the document can be conclusively established. Additional information may come to light, such as to whom the interviews, accounts or transcripts were given if anyone , who transcribed the document, who has been in possession of copies and who passed a copy to Mr.
Obviously that would not establish that the contents are factually accurate. However, given the volume of verifiable facts within the document, this question can presumably be answered at least in part through either research or official confirmation by the British authorities. It should also be noted that incidents described in the Para AA document reflect the contents of the civilian eyewitness statements published by Don Mullan and those contained in Irish Government files.
One claim in the document appears to have been verified: Para AA claimed in it that he was given the number for the purpose of giving statements to the Widgery Tribunal. The account provided by appears to correspond closely to that described in the Para AA document. If the transcript is authenticated, then it represents the most significant new evidence yet to come to light regarding the actions of soldiers on the ground during Bloody Sunday, particularly what happened in Glenfada Park, and the nature of the Widgery Tribunal.
In the transcript, Para AA states that an original statement was torn up by the staff of the Tribunal and another statement taken. I cannot say who fired and neither can I say what target they engaged. However, as I reached the corner of the building I saw a crowd of about 40 civilians at the far end of the park. They appeared to be leaving through an exit in the NW corner of the area.
Then I saw a male civilian in his early twenties wearing blue clothing and with long hair lighting something in his hand. I then heard someone say drop it but I do not know who said that or whether it was directed at the youth holding the petrol bomb. I saw the youth fall to the ground as the petrol bomb exploded near by. This is in startling contrast to the version presented in the transcript.
If the Para AA document is authentic, then it appears that another British Army witness was available and potentially willing to state what he saw if encouraged to do so by the Widgery Tribunal rather than be presented with a fabricated exculpatory account as claimed in the Para AA document. The use of dum-dum bullets was and is contrary to the Geneva Convention. The claim that dum-dums were fired appears to accord with the nature of the wound inflicted on at least one of the victims in Rossville Street, Bernard McGuigan.
There are other disturbing indications in the Para AA transcript which suggest that the level of excessive — not to say lethal — force was sanctioned by the British Army i. It has long been suggested that the presence on the day in Derry of the officer commanding land forces in Northern Ireland, General Ford, indicated that the British Army had planned a more significant operation than mere containment and arrest.
If true, the Para AA account would clearly suggest that elements of 1 Para were intent on more than arrest and containment. He notes that Dr. John Press, who carried out all the post mortem examinations on 31 January, recorded that the trajectory of the wounds of all three victims were 45 degrees to the horizontal plane.
Appendix 3 to the book contains a statement from Dr. The post mortem results are not new and were available to the Tribunal. It is the combination of eyewitness evidence, recent statements by witnesses believed to be soldiers and medical evidence such as that indicated by Dr. McClean, that opens again the question of who shot and killed a number of the victims and from where.
This material is significant in that it directly contradicts the findings of the Widgery Report relating to a number of deaths. It highlights the failure of the Tribunal to consider the medical evidence in and of itself. The Tribunal determined that all the Army shots were fired by the soldiers advancing up Rossville Street toward the barricade and at targets facing them rather than fleeing. Evidence which suggested that the shots were fired from any other direction was therefore discounted, irrespective of its merits.
In that respect, Lord Widgery either disregarded or failed to explore fully the medical evidence given by Dr. John Press Assistant State Pathologist on the trajectory of the wounds of the three fatalities at the Rossville Street barricade. Furthermore, Lord Widgery failed to call Dr. McClean to testify despite the obvious and possibly critical contribution he could have made regarding the medical evidence.
If shots were fired from the Walls, then the medical evidence from the bodies of Nash, McDaid and Young would appear to correlate with such shots. The Tribunal failed, therefore, to provide a full or credible account for the deaths of a number of the victims. If the Mullan thesis is correct that shots were indeed fired from the Walls and hit and possibly killed a number of the victims of Bloody Sunday, then on this point alone the Widgery Report must be characterised as incomplete and inherently flawed.
Furthermore, since it would conflict with the professed intention of the British Army to mount an arrest operation, firing from the Walls would profoundly alter perceptions about what happened on Bloody Sunday. The full disclosure of all relevant medical records regarding the victims dead and wounded would undoubtedly help clarify many of the outstanding questions regarding the direction from which shots were fired. Having reviewed photographs, statements and inquest reports, Mr. Having undertaken further field research, Mr.
Breglio published his conclusions in March He arrived at the following conclusion: That impact marks on the gable at the entrance to Glenfada Park and Rossville Street were made by being struck by high velocity projectiles that were fired from a high powered weapon. The trajectory of these projectiles is incoming from east to west and probably a north west direction.
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I will conclude that in my professional opinion these projectiles were fired from a position located up in the area of Derry Walls. The Breglio Report also contains a medical report by Dr. Raymond McClean which states that: The conclusion to be drawn from the forensic evidence, allied to theeyewitness accounts, suggests the likelihood that William Nash was killed by a bullet fired from the vicinity of Derry Walls.
There is also the possibility that Michael McDaid and John Young may have been shot from a similar firing position. The evidence as established would indicate that these men were shot from a location above them, and possibly by a marksman or marksmen, firing from the same position. These shots could only have come from a higher level. It would be almost impossible for those three men in the few seconds available to them to bend to exactly the same angle and face exactly the same way and be shot in exactly the same fashion.
'Bloody Sunday' and its evaluation in the press
It would be extraordinary and almost unheard of. So, I would say definitely not. This clearly constitutes new evidence from three eminent and independent expert sources. It suggests that other relevant evidence exists within official British archives which could help resolve the questions raised about shooting from elevated positions. The significance of this material can be judged by the fact that new ballistics evidence would be regarded as sufficient to warrant an appeal in a criminal conviction. In terms of the Widgery Report, it would mean that a significant portion of it would have to be dismissed e.
In confirming the value and veracity of the civilian eyewitness accounts, this material reinforces the concerns regarding the balance of treatment afforded to eyewitnesses as between civilian and military. Had Lord Widgery been so minded, he could have explored the full potential of the ballistics, medical and forensic evidence to help him decide between the veracity of the various contending eyewitness accounts. That he failed to do so — even to the point of not calling medical expert witnesses, such as Dr.
McClean, or of ignoring their testimony, such as Dr. Press, both of whom were present at the post mortem examinations — allowed him to avoid drawing what is now the obvious conclusion, that the ballistics, medical and forensic evidence corroborated the version of events presented by the civilian eyewitnesses rather than that offered by the implicated soldiers and other military witnesses.
James A. Despite their obvious relevance, they were ruled inadmissible as evidence by Lord Widgery on the grounds that they had been obtained illicitly. Porter has made copies of these tapes and transcripts available to the Government. As Don Mullan points out, these messages indicate that the British Army was in fact firing from the Walls. This is not new material in that its existence was known to the Tribunal. The significance of these intercepts is problematic. In conjunction with other new material, it would appear to provide additional evidence not considered by Lord Widgery though clearly available to him at the time.
Yet the messages were relayed openly and were known therefore to be liable to interception and recording. This raises the possibility that they may have been used to convey misinformation e. Furthermore, the messages in themselves do not reflect in a convincing or complete way the events as they unfolded. This is partially explained by the fact that operational messages had been switched to the secure link.
If the radio messages were used to convey misinformation on fire at the security forces, then it is difficult to invoke them as proof that fire was actually returned from the Army on the Walls. The significance of the radio intercepts may rest therefore in being an example of deliberate misinformation about coming under fire rather than in what they purport to relate about actual events.
They clearly had some relevance, for example in raising for further consideration the possibility of British Army fire from the vicinity of the Walls or in demonstrating the possible significance of other radio messages such as those on the secure link. The failure to consider the intercepts underlines the significance of the absence of any consideration by Lord Widgery of the actions and intent of British Army units on duty at and around the Walls and believed responsible for shots, some of which may have been fatal to a number of innocent civilians.
They further underline his failure to convincingly account for the intentions and actions of British Army units not involved in the arrest operation but evidently involved in the events of Bloody Sunday. On 17 January , Channel Four News broadcast a major investigative report, drawing on eyewitness statements, the Porter intercepts and the opinion of a medical expert, Dr.
Thomas, in which it was asserted that the British Army fired from the Walls and from that position a marksman hit and killed Young, Nash and McDaid. This is clearly new material. Whether it will constitute new evidence will turn on whether those making the statements to Channel Four are prepared to come forward. This material, if and when its source were to come forward and confirm this account, would be highly significant evidence that British Army snipers fired from around the Walls and claimed hits. It would considerably boost the argument that the Widgery Report failed to account for a significant aspect of the killings and the possibility that some deaths were as a result of fire from soldiers other than the paratroopers.
He examines claims in these statements that shots were fired at the Walls and concludes that these are not credible. Soldier claimed that two bullets struck the Walls at 4. Had a gunman, he argues, been operating, the mood would have been very different. Mullan asks whether the three sniper shots fired from the derelict houses near the Walls, as related by soldier , might have hit Young, Nash and McDaid.
While this material was available to the Tribunal, it was not available to the Counsel for the next of kin or to the public. Its significance lies in the fact that it may help to confirm from British Army sources that shots were in fact fired from the vicinity of the Walls.
However, the testimonies of the soldiers were completely unreliable in numerous instances and any faith in them as accurate source material is highly suspect. Given their unreliability, clear corroboration is required. At least in terms of these testimonies and what they say of fire returned from the vicinity of the Walls by the British Army, there now exists corroboration from other sources of evidence as already described here. The following is a deconstruction of the Widgery Report, drawing on the different sources of new material already outlined. Its purpose is to assess, on the basis of a prima facie examination, the significance of the new material for the credibility of the Widgery Report extracts of which are reproduced in italics.
Terms of Reference Para 2. The terms of reference of the Inquiry were as stated in the Parliamentary Resolutions and the Warrants of Appointment. At a preliminary hearing on 14 February I explained that my interpretation of those terms of reference was that the Inquiry was essentially a fact finding exercise, by which I meant that its purpose was to reconstruct, with as much detail as was necessary, the events which led to the shooting of a number of people in the streets of Londonderry on the afternoon of Sunday 30 January.
The Tribunal was not concerned with making moral judgements; its task was to try to form an objective view of the events and the sequence in which they occurred. The Tribunal would therefore listen to witnesses who were present on the occasion and who could assist in reconstructing the events from the evidence of what they saw with their own eyes or heard with their own ears. I wished to hear evidence from people who supported each of the versions of the events of 30 January which had been given currency.
In light of the new material, virtually all of the main points of this paragraph are open to contradiction. Not all of the relevant facts available to the Tribunal were taken into account. Nor were the facts which were dealt with by the Tribunal considered adequately or in a balanced way. The determination of what was and was not a fact was highly questionable. A precise reconstruction with necessary and germane detail was not attempted and in the case of Glenfada Park avoided. The Tribunal did not visit the scene of any of the shootings.
Lord Widgery failed to adhere to his stricture not to make moral judgements. Where there were conflicts in the evidence, the Report persistently supported the version offered by the soldiers involved in firing and whose interests in concealment were obvious rather than those with greater claims to objectivity e. In failing to reveal the inconsistencies and alterations in the earlier statements of the soldiers, the Tribunal prejudicially sustained the credibility of the testimony offered by the soldiers at the Inquiry and thereby actively aided the presentation of a misleading version of events.
Nor did he call many witnesses who were demonstrably relevant to his Inquiry and who could have assisted in a reconstruction of what happened, most notably six of those wounded and prepared to testify. Para 3. I emphasised the narrowness of the confines of the Inquiry, the value of which would largely depend on its being conducted and concluded expeditiously.
The limits of the Inquiry in space were the streets of Londonderry in which the disturbances and the shooting took place; in time the period beginning with the moment when the march first became involved in violence and ending with the deaths of the deceased and the conclusion of the affair. Para 4. At the first substantive hearing I explained that the emphasis on the importance of eye witnesses did not exclude evidence such as that of pathologists.
Nor did it exclude consideration of the orders given to the Army before the march. The officers who conceived the orders and made the plans, including those for the employment of the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, would appear before me. The salient points of these paragraphs are all open to question. The value placed by Lord Widgery on an expeditious Inquiry is simply not explained. It is impossible to accept any argument that eyewitness statements, including by those wounded, were not directly and indeed crucially relevant to the matters under review.
As Prof. Walsh points out, the Scarman Tribunal of Inquiry took ten times longer than the Widgery Inquiry, despite the fact that Lord Widgery was investigating far more serious incidents. In light of the new material, setting the limits in space as those streets in which the disturbances and the shooting took place, now emerges as a fundamental error. The Report, by its own unduly restricted interpretation of the terms of reference of the Inquiry, failed to account for a major and directly relevant aspect of the events of that day. It should also be noted that many of the eyewitness statements at the time attested to shots having been fired from the vicinity of Derry Walls.
It was breached when Lord Widgery set an extensive and partisan context to the situation in which the march occurred but which failed to mention internment, the very reason for the march and a major factor which had contributed to the deterioration in relations between the nationalist community and the security forces.
Yet Lord Widgery observed the limit when he failed to thoroughly examine the role the civil and military authorities played in planning and organising the response of the security forces to the march. Choice of Location Para 5. My original intention was to hold the Inquiry in Londonderry…..
For reasons of security and convenience I reluctantly concluded that other possibilities would have to be considered….. I decided on Coleraine. The emergence of archival material relating to the establishment of the Widgery Inquiry has now given rise to important questions regarding the political influence which may have been brought to bear on the nature of the Inquiry itself and thus by implication on the Report. The release from archival sources of a record of the meeting between Prime Minister Heath, Lord Hailsham and Lord Widgery raises important questions about the degree of political direction of the Inquiry from its outset.
It followed that the recommendations on procedure made by Lord Salmon might not necessarily be relevant in this case. This failure appears to have originated, at least to some extent, from a suggestion by the Prime Minister. As such, it suggests that a central feature of the Inquiry arose in a political rather than legal context; and that the independence of the Inquiry was compromised by political considerations from its outset.
The Prime Minister placed heavy and repeated emphasis on a speedy outcome. Lord Widgery by his own account similarly emphasised the need for expedition. Thus the speed with which the Inquiry was concluded, ultimately so corrosive to a proper examination of all relevant evidence, again appears to have arisen from political considerations offered at the highest levels. The sentiment appears to suggest that the possible outcome of the Inquiry, whatever it might be, had to be viewed in the context of a propaganda war and the public debate which that entailed.
If one was fighting a propaganda war, as suggested by the Prime Minister, a finding that the British Army was culpable for the deaths of innocent civilians would clearly be unhelpful. Thus just as Lord Widgery accepted the task allotted to him, he appears to have been explicitly warned about the implications of a finding against the British Army.
In fact, Widgery referred repeatedly to motives throughout his Report, though without seeking to establish a rational basis for his views. His judgements on motives invariably reflected well on the intentions of the soldiers despite the evidence against them. He referred, for example, to the sincerity of the motives behind using 1 Para as an arrest force. He not only accepted the good intentions of the soldiers in opening fire but used that assumption as a rationale to discount independent evidence to the contrary.
On the other hand, Lord Widgery assumed the most nefarious of motives on the part of the civilians involved without establishing any basis for such assumptions. Had Lord Widgery made an investigation of motives a clear objective as it properly was and not taken such a pre-emptory stand, he might have approached the Inquiry with greater consistency and balance on this critical point. That enabled him later to more readily dismiss crucial corroborative evidence of a technical kind, most notably ballistics and medical evidence.
These were extraordinarily pre-emptory decisions. It probably ought to be somewhere near Londonderry; but the Guildhall, which was the obvious place, might be thought to be on the wrong side of the River Foyle. One possibility would be to fix a suitable meeting place a little distance away from Londonderry. This rationale was hardly appropriate or convincing on either count. If there were doubts about the degree to which relevant eyewitnesses would cooperate, it would seem more appropriate to attempt to allay those concerns and ensure that the Tribunal was supplied with all the relevant evidence to properly carry out its remit.
The result of setting aside the previous practice of collating evidence in advance was that a whole field of information was ignored — information that would eventually challenge the statements put forward by the implicated members of the British Army. One is simply left with the fact that without recorded reasons, Lord Widgery complied with the view of the Prime Minister on this critical point virtually immediately.
Until those archives are released, that context can only be guessed at. However, the record of this meeting and its self-evident influence on the nature and operation of the Widgery Inquiry raises important and disturbing questions about untoward political influence and the ostensible independence of that Inquiry in terms of its remit, purpose, procedure and location. Sessions of the Tribunal Para 6. The witnesses…fell into six main groups: priests; other people from Londonderry; press and television reporters, photographers, cameramen and sound recordists; soldiers, including relevant officers; police officers; doctors, forensic experts and pathologists.
The new material which has emerged clearly demonstrates that the sessions of the Tribunal would have been immeasurably enhanced had the list of witnesses called been as comprehensive as paragraph 6 sought to suggest. In the event, this need was met by my granting legal representation to the relatives of the deceased and to those injured in the shooting…. The significance of this failure is set out in Prof. The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association collected a large number of statements from people in Londonderry said to be willing to give evidence.
The publication of the eyewitness statements in Eyewitness Bloody Sunday and the report by Prof. Walsh bear directly on this claim and, together, completely undermine it as both spurious and misleading. In the course of the Report, Lord Widgery made general references to accusations about the actions of soldiers and cited six civilian sources on who fired first in the Rossville Street courtyard. But even here, he did not subject them to any examination or detailed comparison with the statements which ultimately he chose to accept i. Lord Widgery made no reference to the fact that hundreds of civilian eyewitnesses, in forwarding their statements to the Tribunal, overcame their considerable reservations, not to say profound scepticism, about the Inquiry as a proper and fair investigation into Bloody Sunday.
However, recently released archival material, published and treated by both Mullan and Walsh, reveal more disturbing questions. To take one example, the following points can be made based on an examination of a memorandum by the Secretary to the Tribunal, W. Smith, dated 10 March on the eyewitness statements: — The statements were received on March and Lord Widgery saw some of the statements on 9 March: 15 had been brought to his attention. Furthermore, sessions of the Inquiry continued in Coleraine until 14 March and further sessions were held in London up to and including 20 March.
In other words, the Inquiry was actively involved in public hearings during and well after the statements had been received. Moreover, by 9 March, the statements had been sifted and 15 deemed worthy for consideration by Lord Widgery. Lord Widgery comments that he had no choice but to take evidence from all or none. In and of itself, the failure to give substantive consideration to these statements and the failure to call a reasonable number of witnesses In and of itself, the failure to give substantive consideration to these statements and the failure to call a reasonable number of witnesses from those who made them to give evidence and thus make their own critical contribution by any measure essential but particularly so given the clear conflict of evidence before the Inquiry to establishing the facts and reconstructing what happened constitutes a sufficient basis on which to discount the Widgery Report as incomplete and unbalanced.
Walsh analyses in detail the significance of this and other memoranda released by the British Public Record Office which illustrate the substantive and guiding role of the Secretary to the Tribunal in the drafting and direction of the Widgery Report. In Prof. Even more disturbing, Prof. There is by any measure a sinister overtone to the notion of piling up the case against the deceased with the express intention of imputing guilt but avoiding the direct accusation. It is difficult to arrive at any other reasonable interpretation of these remarks.
Given the ostensible and essential public function of an Inquiry, Prof. This is not to contest the legitimate role of officials to advise and assist. However, the weight of the archival material released thus far strongly suggests that the role assumed by the Secretary was, on the face of it, prejudicial to a fair and objective outcome. The failure to give substantive consideration to the eyewitness statements rendered the Widgery Report incomplete and unbalanced. The manner in which they were approached and the role played by the Secretary to the Tribunal as detailed by Prof.
Walsh support the allegation that the Report lacked impartiality and transparency. That was widely suspected at the time. The emergence of this new material now effectively confirms that suspicion. I did not think it necessary to take evidence from those of the wounded who were still in hospital…..
Even on a prima facie basis, there can be little confidence in this audacious judgement.
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It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he simply did not want to know what they witnessed. Londonderry: The Physical Background Para 9. The events with which the Tribunal was primarily concerned took place on the west bank, and indeed wholly within an area about a quarter of a mile square, bounded on the north by Great James Street, on the east by Strand Road, Waterloo Place and the City Wall, on the south by Free Derry Corner and Westland Street and on the west by Fahan Street West and the Little Diamond.
This area…. The area thus defined by Lord Widgery is now revealed as inadequate by the emerging evidence that the British Army hit and killed a number of civilians with shots fired from the vicinity of the Walls. The actions by the British Army in the vicinity of Derry Walls are simply not dealt with by Lord Widgery despite evidence from a number of different sources, as detailed by Mullan, available at the time that firing by the British Army from the vicinity of the Walls into the Bogside had in fact occurred.
Furthermore, in setting such a tight geographical constraint, Lord Widgery effectively ruled out a search for decisions and actions on the part of the authorities which materially contributed to Bloody Sunday, either directly or indirectly, but which were beyond his self-imposed and restrictive horizons. At the beginning of July, however, gunmen appeared and the IRA campaign began.
Widespread violence ensued with the inevitable military counter-action…the IRA tightened its grip on the district…. So the law was not effectively enforced in the area…. At the end of October, 8 Infantry Brigade…was given instructions progressively to regain the initiative from the terrorists and reimpose the rule of law….. These operations hardened the attitude of the community….. Many nail and petrol bombs were thrown during these attacks.
Gunmen made full use of the cover offered to them by the gangs of youths, which made it more and more difficult to engage the youths at close quarters and make arrests. The Creggan became almost a fortress…. The terrorists were still firmly in control. Army incursions, according to Lord Widgery, were likely to be met with rioting hooligans giving cover for IRA attacks.
As such, the context offered by him was essentially that promoted by the British Army at the time. It was, therefore, the view of only one side, that of the British Army, whose actions the Inquiry had been established to investigate. As a description, it did not seek to portray the situation as it was seen from the nationalist side, i. Astonishingly, as one legal commentator has pointed out, there is not a single mention of internment, nor for that matter of any political dimension to the disturbances.
Yet it was the imposition of internment on 9 August which precipitated the escalation of tension, which was a direct cause of the serious deterioration in relations with the security forces and which was the reason why there was a march on 30 January. Lord Widgery, in casting a moral judgement on the organisers of the march by claiming that they were directly culpable for the deaths, made a consideration of their motives and intentions a relevant one.
Yet that consideration was patently absent and as such was indicative of the partiality of the context offered by Lord Widgery. The context offered by Lord Widgery, rather than being studiously neutral or balanced, becomes in effect an apologia for the decisions and actions of the authorities in dealing with the march with such fatal consequences. Lord Widgery did not seek to establish the intentions of the march organisers and whether they had made bona fide efforts to ensure that there would be no serious i. IRA violence accompanying it.
He did not investigate whether their approach had been tempered by the actions of members of the Parachute Regiment in the violent clashes on Magilligan beach the previous week, nor whether their anticipation that the Parachute Regiment would be on duty at the internment march had encouraged them to ensure that the march pass off peacefully. Yet these considerations were all germane factors in any assessment of what actions by the British Army could have been deemed to have been objectively reasonable.
As is again made now clear by Don Mullan, the march was organised and stewarded as a peaceful event and steps had been made to ensure that paramilitary violence would not precipitate military action and endanger civilians. This interpretation, known at the time, has never been challenged. Indeed the very absence of any gunmen among the casualties or those arrested was in itself a testament to the success of the march organisers in removing the threat posed by the IRA to the security forces. Without IRA gunmen posing a significant and active threat, the actions of the British Army became subsequently difficult to explain, much less excuse.
Para Early in the security authorities were concerned that the violence was now spreading northwards from William Street, which was the line on the northern fringe of the Bogside on which the troops had for some considerable time taken their stand….. The local traders feared that the whole of this shopping area would be extinguished within the next few months….. In the last two weeks of January the IRA was particularly active.
In 80 separate incidents in Londonderry shots were fired at the security forces and 84 nail bombs were thrown at them; two men of the security forces were killed and two wounded. This paragraph is inherently partisan in that it again omits any reference to the march in question and whether it was or was not the intention of the marchers to attempt to breach the line established by the security forces at William Street but it implies that that was in fact the case. And it suggests implicitly that the march was not concerned with demonstration as a political act but was instead an event staged to precipitate disorder and destruction.
At the beginning of Army foot patrols were not able to operate south of William Street by day because of sniper fire….. The hooligan gangs in Londonderry constituted a special threat to security. Their tactics were to engineer daily breaches of law and order in the face of the security forces, particularly in the William Street area, during which the lives of the soldiers were at risk from attendant snipers and nail bombers.
The hooligans could be contained but not dispersed without serious risk to the troops. The reference to sniper fire south of William Street during the day appears to function as a rationale for a belief that IRA snipers might be present on 30 January, that this expectation was a logical one for the Army and a contributory factor in explaining the actions of individual soldiers on the ground.
However, Lord Widgery at no point attempted to establish whether this was in fact the case on 30 January and did not examine whether it was a reasonable or well-founded assumption. Without establishing on an objective factual basis their role in IRA tactics either generally or on 30 January , Lord Widgery suggested that anyone throwing a stone or bottle appeared reasonably to the soldiers to be de facto a hooligan and therefore acting in support of the IRA.
The apparent licence granted post hoc by this rationale to the security forces in dealing with even modest disturbances was, in those terms, obvious. It was the opinion of the Army commanders that if the march took place, whatever the intentions of NICRA might be, the hooligans backed up by the gunmen would take control.
In the light of this view the security forces made their plans to block the march. The new material and the version of events suggested by it is diametrically at odds with this ill-defined but portentous threat of the hooligans and gunmen taking control as defined by the Army and presented without challenge by Lord Widgery in his Report. The eyewitness accounts of the circumstances in which lethal force was used against civilians completely undermine the relevance of his description of the role of hooligans, if such a role ever actually existed, to the events of 30 January.
Moreover, it was clearly not relevant to the events of the day since what disturbances occurred were minor and there was no evidence to suggest that the role assigned to hooligans by Lord Widgery existed in fact. This lack of relevance raises further questions about the presumptions inherent in the context offered by him and why they formed a part of the Report.
It might well be asked why this context was included in a Report whose remit in time Lord Widgery himself limited to the moment when the march first became involved in violence. In short, the context offered by Lord Widgery appears to function less as necessary background and more as post hoc rationale for the acts of the British Army. The proposed march placed the security forces in a dilemma.
An attempt to stop by force a crowd of 5, or more, perhaps as many as 20 or 25,, might result in heavy casualties or even in the overrunning of the troops by sheer weight of numbers. To allow such a well publicised march to take place without opposition however would bring the law into disrepute and make control of future marches impossible.
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Points The failure to provide an explanation to support his claim that allowing the march against internment to proceed would make control of future marches impossible was particularly cavalier not to say otiose in the circumstances of the widespread civil unrest being experienced in Northern Ireland at the time. From the nationalist perspective, the rule of law i.
His facile reasoning was all the more egregious since it was offered as justification for the ultimately lethal approach adopted by the authorities toward the march. If a significant degree of prior political direction can be fully established, then Lord Widgery failed to account for the actions and decisions of directly relevant and arguably responsible agencies. The final decision, which was taken by higher authority after General Ford and the Chief Constable had been consulted, was to allow the march to begin but to contain it within the general area of the Bogside and Creggan Estate….
On 25 January General Ford put the Commander 8 Infantry Brigade in charge of the operation and ordered him to prepare a detailed plan. It also went to the General Officer Commanding, who discussed it with the Chief Constable; and it was known to Ministers. That is what I meant by saying that it was known to higher authority. On this basis, there was clearly political sanction for the operation.
Maintain a Brigade Arrest Force to conduct a scoop-up operation of as many hooligans and rioters as possible. A secondary role of the force will be to act as the second Brigade mobile reserve. If they were not following this plan, what plan, it can be legitimately asked, had they in mind? Under cross-examination, however, the senior Army officers, and particularly General Ford, were severely attacked on the grounds that they did not genuinely intend to use 1 Para in this way.
It was suggested that 1 Para had been specially brought to Londonderry because they were known to be the roughest and toughest unit in Northern Ireland and it was intended to use them in one of two ways: either to flush out any IRA gunmen in the Bogside and destroy them by superior training and fire power; or to send a punitive force into the Bogside to give the residents a rough handling and discourage them from making or supporting further attacks on the troops. There is not a shred of evidence to support these suggestions and they have been denied by all the officers concerned.
The suspicions that either of these scenarios in one form or another more accurately reflected the intention of those who deployed 1 Para have never been quite dispelled and were certainly not put to rest by the Widgery Report at the time. In fact, the emergence of the new material has reawakened in very forceful terms suspicions about what was the actual intent of the authorities and the British Army. The new material repeatedly begs the questions which have yet to be answered. Why were demonstrably unarmed and innocent civilians shot dead?
Why was there fire from the Walls? Why did the soldiers act with such brutality generally, even to uniformed members of the Order of Malta trying to render assistance? The suggestions put forward and dismissed by Lord Widgery appear to supply a more credible answer to these questions than the findings he presented in his Report. The argument that 1 Para was the only experienced uncommitted battalion in Northern Ireland for the arrest operation was hardly a convincing one.
His judgement that the Operation Order accurately expressed the intention of the officer ostensibly in command, Brigadier McLellan, vis-a-vis the role of 1 Para did not properly address the concern that McLellan may not have been party to all of the decisions made regarding 1 Para, e.
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Col Wilford and very possibly Brigadier Kitson. Based on their accounts, there appears to have been a willingness to employ lethal force on unarmed civilians — many of whom were fleeing and some of whom were attempting to assist those already hit by fire. Overwhelmingly, these accounts agree that the groups amongst whom the victims were shot were not hostile and that the arrival of 1 Para provoked a sense of panic and a desire to flee the area or seek shelter from the live ammunition being fired at them.
Given the degree of force used by the soldiers, their area of activity i. Possible explanations suggest themselves: members of 1 Para directly and wilfully ignored their orders to mount an arrest operation and simply ran amok; they believed their behaviour was in some way sanctioned or deemed acceptable by the authorities; or their actions formed part of a planned military operation which has yet to be revealed.
It may be, in fact, that all of these factors were at play in determining the behaviour of the soldiers and their officers. The Para AA statement is treated more fully later but it is relevant to note at this stage that it does not contain any reference to an arrest operation but tends, in its description of the actions of members of 1 Para, to support the charges laid against General Ford and others which Lord Widgery had seen fit to dismiss. Another unjustified criticism of General Ford was persisted in throughout the Tribunal hearing. It was said that when heavy firing began and it became apparent that the operation had taken an unexpected course, the General made no attempt to discover the cause of the shooting but instead washed his hands of the affair and walked away.
This criticism is based on a failure to understand the structure of command in the Army. The officer commanding the operation was the Commander 8 Brigade, who was in his Operations Room and was the only senior officer who had any general picture of what was going on. General Ford was present on the streets of Londonderry as an observer only. Although he had wireless equipment in his vehicle he was not accompanied by a wireless operator when on foot. When the serious shooting began the General was on foot in the neighbourhood of Chamberlain Street and had no means of knowing what was going on.
Nothing would have been more likely to create chaos than for him to assume command or even to interfere with radio traffic by asking for information. Instead he did the only possible thing by going at once to an observation post from which he could observe the scene for himself.
Since Lord Widgery failed to address this question, it has been left open to many suspicions and speculations. Undoubtedly, some clarification of precisely what political involvement there may or may not have been in the formation of the operational plans prior to Bloody Sunday may lie in the archives of the British Government and, one can assume, the memory of those who might have been involved. This asserts that a British Army officer was debriefed by a more senior officer on the Widgery Report and implies that the latter was deeply unhappy with the treatment of Brigadier McLellan in it.
Broadly speaking, this claim alleges that General Ford was the true commander of the key British Army units and actions on the ground which resulted in Bloody Sunday. As with any claims about the chain of command and responsibility, this particular claim could be checked against official records. The March as it Happened Para The marchers assembled on the Creggan Estate on a fine sunny afternoon and in carnival mood….
When in due course they appeared at the west end of William Street it was obvious that their direct route to the Guildhall Square lay along William Street itself and that the march would come face to face with the Army at barrier 14 in that street. At this stage it became noticeable that a large number of youths, of what was described throughout the Inquiry as the hooligan type, had placed themselves at the head of the march; indeed some of them were in front of the lorry itself….
When the leaders of the march reached the junction of William Street and Rossville Street the lorry turned to its right to go along Rossville Street and the stewards made strenuous efforts to persuade the marchers to follow the lorry. It is quite evident now that the leaders of the march had decided before setting off from the Creggan Estate that they would take this course and thus avoid a head-on confrontation with the Army at the William Street barrier. Lord Widgery did not attempt to establish that either of these presumptions were true on the day in question or to address the question as to whether the security forces might have had prior information on this.
Rather, the fact that the march began in carnival mood strongly suggests that those participating in it did not anticipate attacks of the type described earlier by Lord Widgery; had gunmen been operating in the area ready to take advantage of rioting, this would have been very clear to the marchers and the atmosphere could not have been as relaxed as indeed it was. This suggests that the decision by the march organisers to avoid confrontation was not available to the security forces at the time.
Yet Chief Superintendent Lagan had informed the military authorities of this intention and had confirmed it on the morning of the march; Lagan gave his account of this in testimony to the Tribunal. Despite this, Lord Widgery made no reference to these assurances and made no effort to address in his Report the intentions and plans of the march organisers to avoid confrontation and ensure that the march passed off peacefully.
Nor did he refer to the impact on the population of the Bogside of the violent behaviour of the Paras toward anti-internment demonstrators on the beach outside Magilligan Prison a week beforehand and which had alerted the march organisers to the danger of disturbances when the Paras were deployed. The films show at least one middle-aged man making some attempt to move the barrier aside. Had other members of the crowd followed his example, the results might have been disastrous….. After a time the movement of the crowd at the rear reduced the pressure on those at the front in William Street and the crowd in front of the barrier began to thin out somewhat.
The hooligans at once took advantage of the opportunity to start stone-throwing on a very violent scale. Not only stones, but objects such as fire grates and metal rods used as lances were thrown violently at the troops in a most dangerous way…. Some witnesses have sought to play down this part of the incident and to suggest that it was nothing more than a little light stoning of the kind which occurs on most afternoons in this district and is accepted as customary. All I can say is that if this in any way represents normality the degree of violence to which the troops are normally subjected is very much greater than I suspect most people in Britain have appreciated…..
At about It was at this point that the decision to go ahead with the arrest operation, for which 1 Para was earmarked, was made. Again, Lord Widgery failed even to refer to the presence or likely presence of IRA gunmen at this barricade much less invoke evidence to prove that the paramilitary tactics so carefully described in his introduction represented a genuine threat to the British soldiers on the day.
This was an important point in view of the reaction the stoning is supposed to have triggered. This was despite the fact that Chief Superintendent Lagan fully expected that bottles and stones would be thrown and that it was almost an everyday event, a view communicated at the time to the military authorities and attested to in the course of the Inquiry. The Launching of the Arrest Operation Para Since the tactics of the arrest operation were to be determined by the location and strength of the rioters at the time when it was launched, the Brigade Order left them to be decided by Lieutenant Colonel Wilford, Commanding Officer of 1 Para.
The Mensheviks had more resources, but were thinner on the ground in the interior, with the exception of certain areas such as the South and the Caucasus, but there too, they were in a relatively weak position. Given the nature of underground work, it is very difficult to estimate the exact strength of the Bolsheviks at this time. The St. Petersburg Party organisation did not formally split until December , when the Mensheviks broke away. This is reflected in the number of Bolshevik leaflets issued in Petersburg in only 11 for the whole year, as against 55 in and in See D.
Lane, The Roots of Communism , p. In general, the Bolshevik organisation in Russia in the second half of was in a poor condition. Many of the full-timers, as we have seen, did not really understand the split and were badly shaken by the defection of the conciliationist Central Committee. Despite encouragement and insistence from Lenin, they tended to lag behind the Mensheviks, who were now on the offensive, sending large numbers of agents and money into Russia.
In St. Petersburg, they soon gained the upper hand over the Bolshevik-dominated committee. The mistakes and general inertia of the committee caused increasing discontent among the St. Petersburg workers, who were gradually turning to the Mensheviks. By December, they had set up a separate committee. Two rival committees continued to exist in St. Petersburg right up to the Stockholm Congress of The loss of a number of key areas of St.
Petersburg was a body blow to Lenin. It deprived the Bolsheviks of key points of influence and allowed the Mensheviks to get a head start in the stormy events of the following months. To make matters worse, it was clear that the losses were mainly the result of the deficiencies of the local Bolshevik leadership, the quality of which was shown by the stream of complaining letters sent to Lenin.
He must have torn his hair out when he read the tearful reports of his principal agent in St. Petersburg, Rosalia Zemlyachka:. No end of Mensheviks have flocked into Russia. The Central Committee has managed to turn many people against us. There are not enough forces to carry on the fight and consolidate positions. Demands for people are coming in from all over. It is imperative to make a tour of the committees immediately.
There is no one who can go. I am neglecting the Bureau and am absorbed in local work. We need people. Everybody is asking. There is no one to work with…. We are running the risk of losing one city after another for the lack of people. Every day, I get heaps of letters from various places, imploring [us] to send people. Just now I got a confused letter from Yekaterinoslav. They write that unless we send people and money at once, we shall lose Yekaterinoslav. But there are no people: one after another are retiring and no new ones arrive.
Meanwhile the Mensheviks have consolidated their positions everywhere. They would be easy as can be to drive out if only we had people. And these lines were written on 7 January, , two days before Bloody Sunday. Instead of bringing new blood onto the committees, co-opting the best elements of the workers and the youth, they sought easy solutions, demanding more full-timers from abroad. In every line of these letters, one sees a complete inability to relate the work of the leading circle with the living forces of the working-class movement.
Commenting on the situation, Litvinov wrote to Lenin:. The trouble is that she [Zemlyachka] does not in the least realise in what a critical and sorry state we are. The periphery, if not everywhere against us, is hardly anywhere for us. The bulk of the party workers still think that we are a bunch of disorganisers without any kind of backing, that since the reconciliation [of the Central Committee and the Mensheviks] the attitude of the committee has changed, that all our efforts are but the death throes of the Bolsheviks.
No conferences least of all secret ones , no agitation will change this widespread view. I repeat, our situation is utterly shaky and precarious. We can get out of it only by 1 immediately calling a congress not later than February and 2 immediately starting a paper. Without the speediest fulfilment of these two conditions, we are going to certain ruin, and with giant steps, too… Petersburg we shall probably have to lose. Swarms of Mensheviks have arrived there… We ought to mobilise our forces for Petersburg, but who do we get there?
The Bolsheviks were in a mess, but in fact the position of the Mensheviks was not much better. Neither of the two factions had the support of the workers. The Social Democratic organisation in St. Petersburg prior to January , by almost any criteria, was weak. In December , the joint Social Democratic organisation had about 18 circles in the factories, and membership of circles was from seven to ten, which would give a total worker membership of not more than If the students and intelligentsia had about the same, as seems likely, total membership would have been In his memoirs, the leading Menshevik P.
Garvi describes the position in Kiev on the eve of A strange dearth of people in the organisation. A remoteness from the working masses and their daily interests. A meagre organisational life in comparison with the recent past — that is what struck me in Kiev, suggesting melancholy comparisons with the past, with the ebullient life of the Odessa organisation of the and period.
There was the Kiev committee; there were sector committees; in the sections, there were propagandists conducting propaganda circles, usually leaflets were distributed through the circles, that was about all. Getting ahead of myself I will say that during all of in Kiev, in Rostov and in Moscow daily we came up against one and the same phenomenon: in the party organisations were gathered mostly callow youths, hotheaded and resolute but weakly linked to the working masses and uninfluential in the factories.
The old social democrats among the workers — the real vanguard of the advanced workers formed in the period of propaganda and of the so-called Economism — these old workers, for the most part, stood aside. We arranged special meetings and evening parties with them, we reasoned with them, but they went into party work reluctantly and looked upon our organisation and our working methods with mistrust. Quoted in S. In —2, the head of the Moscow Okhrana secret police , S.
Zubatov, hit on the idea of setting up legal unions, under the control of the police, which were allowed to function, and even elect committees, subject to police vetting, and carry out activities, provided they were of a strictly economic, non-political character. He would visit them in prison, showing a fatherly interest in their welfare, brought them tea and biscuits and even Marxist literature to read.
Once entangled, it became virtually impossible to escape. Known provocateurs were not treated very gently by the revolutionaries. Zubatov was far more intelligent than the average tsarist police chief and his methods were quite successful for a time — too successful, in fact! In a climate of general labour unrest and in the absence of genuine mass legal organisations the workers entered the police unions in large numbers. These unions contained thousands of workers — far more than the relatively small numbers active in the Social Democratic committees.
With their customary resourcefulness, the workers turned the table on the police, and used the opportunity to press home their demands and organise legally in the workplaces. The question arose of what attitude the Social Democrats should take towards these reactionary police unions. Lenin did not confine his remarks to the particular conditions of tsarist Russia, but laid down a general rule which governs the approach of Marxists to the mass organisations of the proletariat. In order to build a real revolutionary party, it is not sufficient to proclaim it from the street corner.
It is necessary to find a road to the masses, regardless of all obstacles. It is necessary to go to the masses wherever they are:. You must be capable of any sacrifice, of overcoming the greatest obstacles, in order to carry on agitation and propaganda systematically, perseveringly, persistently, and patiently in those institutions, societies and associations — even the most reactionary — in which proletarian or semi-proletarian masses are to be found.
LCW , vol. The authorities attempted to construct a wall between the Marxists and the masses. The Social Democratic workers, by patient and careful work and flexible tactics, succeeded in breaking down the barriers, penetrating the unions, and fertilising them with the ideas of Marxism. Under the irresistible pressure of the shop floor, the Zubatov unions became partially transformed into organs of struggle. After the strike wave of , the unfortunate Zubatov was unceremoniously sacked. Even then this movement continued to play a role. Typical of these Zubatov unions was the St.
They were repelled by its reactionary features. Not for the first or last time, revolutionaries failed to understand the way in which the real movement of the working class unfolds. Was this union not organised by the police in order to control the working class? How could Marxists participate in such an abomination?
Yet the attempts of the tiny Social Democratic circles to win the masses directly by means of propaganda and agitation alone proved futile. The Menshevik S. Somov I. Pushkin described the situation in their St. Petersburg organisation at the start of the year:. A very sad picture emerged. Well-functioning organisations were to be found only in the Narva sector, with its 30, workers for example, the whole social democratic organisation consisted of six or seven circles of workers of the Putilov and the Railway Car Construction plants five to six workers in each circle and the work was conducted according to old-fashioned methods, with long courses in political economy and primitive culture.
True, there was also a sector organisation of representatives of the circles, but what it did is hard to determine. Factory life found no echo at all in the circles. The diffuse unrest… that was finding an expression in the powerfully developing Gapon movement in which the yearning of the working masses for broad organisation and class unity was so clearly displayed was ignored as Zubatovism.
Moreover, most of the workers belonging to our circle were very young men, just out of apprenticeship and with no influence whatsoever in their factory milieu. Those active in the circles were generally the more skilled and literate among the workers, good at their work and with a strong sense of pride in it, not just in politics but in the workplace as well. It was a hard milieu to penetrate. Surh, in St. Petersburg: Labour, Society and Revolution , p. It was intended as a safety valve where workers, to some extent, could give voice to their grievances, but where all mention of politics was rigorously prohibited.
The rising tide of discontent which affected all layers of society in the course of the Russo-Japanese War began to affect even the most backward strata of the working class. Up to this moment, the opposition to tsarism had mainly come from the liberal intelligentsia and the students. The big battalions of the working class seemed to have stood aside from the struggle. All that was required was some focal point which would enable this subterranean process to find a voice and a conscious, organised expression.
After the assassination of Plehve, the hated interior minister, in July , the regime, hopelessly compromised by military defeats and feeling the ground tremble beneath its feet, tried to forestall revolution from below by making concessions from the top. The relative softening of the regime in the autumn gave the workers more room to breathe. Fresh layers of workers, with no experience of struggle, were becoming organised. This was a far larger number of workers than had ever participated in the Social Democratic organisations, which numbered at most or members.
It was no accident that the union was headed by a priest. The Marxists had no real influence inside the Assembly, although there was a significant layer of workers who had passed through the Social Democratic organisations in the previous decade, had dropped out, and now resurfaced in this new milieu. Of course, the element of spontaneity was present. The figure of Gapon himself is shrouded in an enigma. The prevailing opinion in Marxist circles at the time was that he was a simple police agent, who in all probability had deliberately planned the massacre of 9 January with the authorities.
The notorious Stalinist Short Course states baldly that:. Gapon was undoubtedly mixed up with the police when the union was set up, and even had contacts with leading members of the government. But his was a very contradictory character. On 9 January, when he narrowly escaped death at the hands of the tsarist troops, he marched side by side with the Social Revolutionary Pinhas Rutenberg.
Later he was sheltered by Maxim Gorky, held discussions with Lenin in Geneva and came close to the Bolsheviks. Lenin was convinced of his childlike sincerity. Exile destroyed him, as it destroyed many others. He became demoralised, took to gambling and finally returned to Russia where, it seems, he attempted to resume his contacts with the police, writing a letter to the Minister of the Interior, Durnovo. Finally, in March , he was assassinated. Ironically, by the same SR who had marched at his side on that fateful Sunday in January.
The idea that Gapon consciously led the workers to be slaughtered is clearly false. An able organiser, a fine orator, and a natural leader, he spoke a language which the workers could understand. With its curious mixture of militancy and religion, class struggle and monarchism, it corresponded to the first, confused gropings towards consciousness of millions of the most downtrodden layers of society.
The son of a peasant himself, who was touched in his youth by revolutionary ideas, Gapon faithfully expressed the confused strivings of this layer in which the desire to fight for a better life in this world is still entangled with hopes in the afterlife and belief in the Little Father.
No one expressed the feelings of the masses better than Gapon. For that reason, the masses worshipped him. Kochan, Russia in Revolution , p. While the revolutionaries branded him an agent provocateur, the authorities cursed him as a dangerous agent of the revolution. Irrespective of his subjective intentions, the latter description was far nearer the truth. But Gapon was ill-equipped to deal with the forces he had helped to conjure up. All along he gives the impression of being carried along by events beyond his control or understanding.
Who can make head or tail of all this? The accumulated rage and bitterness of the factory workers finally exploded in a strike at the Putilov arms works — a strategic centre of the St. Petersburg proletariat — in December. The employers became alarmed and decided to crack down.
Bloody Sunday: What happened on Sunday 30 January 1972?
The increasingly radicalised mood of the workers was slowly pushing even the Gaponite leaders to more militant positions. An indication of the sea change was the fact that representatives of the Social Democrats and Social Revolutionaries were invited to attend. At this meeting it was decided to send a delegation with a petition to the management, the factory inspectors, and the authorities in St.
By 3 January, all 13, workers were on strike. The only people still inside the plant were two police agents. The strikers demanded an eight-hour day, a ban on overtime working, improved working conditions, free medical aid, higher wages for women workers, permission to organise a representative committee and payment of wages for the period of the strike.
The idea of a petition was probably conceived by Gapon as a way of diverting the movement into safe channels. But once put forward, in a situation of ferment among the masses, even this apparently innocuous idea had a logic of its own. The idea of an appeal to the Tsar and a petition of demands immediately caught the imagination of the masses. Mass meetings were held all over the capital. Gapon dashed from one meeting to another, delivering increasingly radical speeches under the impact of the mood of the masses, who revered him. An eyewitness account gives a vivid impression of the electric atmosphere at these meetings, with their quasi-evangelical character, Gapon calling upon the Almighty to lead the workers in struggle, urging the workers to stand together and, if necessary, die together:.
All those present were in a state of rapture — many were weeping, stamping their feet, banging chairs, beating with their fists against the walls and raising their hands on high, they swore to remain firm to the end. The movement was rapidly turning into a general strike. By 5 January, 26, workers were out; by 7 January, ,; and the next day, , It was also acquiring a political character. A mass meeting on 5 January voted for the immediate convening of a Constituent Assembly, political liberty, an end to the war, and the freeing of political prisoners.
In all probability, the initiative for these resolutions came from workers who had been influenced by the Social Democrats. Over a long period of Social Democratic agitation, propaganda, and organisation, a considerable number of advanced workers had been in contact, to a greater or lesser extent, with the Social Democratic propaganda circles.
A far larger number had been affected by the mass agitation carried out systematically by the Social Democrats for at least ten years prior to 9 January. But although Social Democratic slogans were getting an echo, the Party itself was still completely isolated and without influence. Martov, in his history of the Russian Social Democracy, written only a few years later, confirms that:.
This is confirmed from the Bolshevik side by the minutes of the Third Congress which state that:. Its links with the working masses had been utterly disorganised by the Mensheviks. Only with great difficulty did they manage to maintain themselves in the city, Vasily Island and the Vyborg district. They saw the Social Democrats as alien elements coming from without, and not part of their movement. By contrast, the revolutionary Social Democrats were regarded with suspicion by the workers.
The report of the St. Petersburg Bolsheviks to the Third Congress in April admits that they had been very slow to intervene in what they saw as a reactionary police union, only beginning to pay it serious attention when the strike was well underway. In some parts of the city, notably the Vyborg district, they got a sympathetic hearing.
But elsewhere in the city, they were given a rough ride. Often the chairman would not even allow them to speak. Our agitators were beaten up, leaflets were destroyed, and the first roubles sent to the Putilov workers by the students were accepted grudgingly. A Menshevik writer bears this out:. The numerical weakness and isolation of the Social Democracy at the beginning of the revolution was revealed in the words of Livshits, giving voice to the frustration of the Party activists in Petersburg at their inability to exercise a decisive influence before 9 January:.
We Party workers knew very well that the forthcoming peaceful procession would not lead to anything worthwhile and would involve the masses in terrible bloodshed. But where was the force that could have forestalled this terrible misdeed, for which tsarism and clericalism was responsible? Such a force did not exist. The Tsar has nothing to fear. I, as the representative of the Assembly of Russian Workers, my colleagues, and the worker comrades — and even the so-called revolutionary groups of different trends — guarantee the inviolability of his person.
Let him come forth like a true Tsar, with courage in his heart, to meet his People and take unto his hands our petition. Petersburg, 8 January. In an attempt to underline their peaceful intentions, the organisers banned the display of red flags. The Social Democrats, despite their grave misgivings about the demonstration, decided, correctly, to participate alongside the rest of their class. This the organisers agreed to only on condition that they marched at the rear of the demonstration, a measure which, in the event, saved the lives of many of them.
While the leaders of the union were straining every nerve to convince the government of their peaceful intentions, the latter, in a state of near panic, was preparing to teach the masses a bloody lesson. The square was soon packed with a huge multitude not only of workers but students, socialist groups, women, children, and old people — in all about , people.
As agreed, the march to the palace was a peaceful one, without songs, banners or speeches. People wore their Sunday clothes. In some parts of the city they carried icons and church banners. Everywhere the petitioners encountered troops. They begged to be allowed to pass. They wept, they tried to go around the barrier, they tried to break through it. The soldiers fired all day long, the dead were counted in by the hundreds, the wounded in the thousands.
An exact count was impossible since the police carted away and secretly buried the bodies of the dead at night. Trotsky, , p. The shots fired on the 9 January, , woke echoes all over Russia. Even the most backward workers understood that much. Broido, Memoirs of a Revolutionary , p. After the massacre, Gapon recoiled in horror, denouncing the Tsar and appealing for an armed uprising. Crowds of workers roamed the streets, angry and desperate but without leadership. And suddenly, the same revolutionaries who had been rejected, shouted down and even beaten up became the focal point of intense interest.
The Petersburg delegate at the Third Congress related how on the evening of the 9 th the Bolshevik agitators took to the streets looking for groups of workers to address, but found that things had already gone beyond that stage. The workers had learned in a matter of hours more than decades of agitation and propaganda could ever teach them. On Vasily Island a scrap iron shop was broken into and the crowd armed themselves with old swords. This created a pathetic impression. Our agitators were listened to with enthusiasm. The organisers could go wherever they pleased.
On each of the successive days the same mood could be observed. Marx once wrote that the revolution at times needs the whip of counter-revolution to drive it forward. Despite the hypnotic effect exercised by Gapon on the workers at the time, he was merely an accidental figure thrown up by the movement of the masses, like a fleck of foam on the crest of a mighty wave, which flashes brightly for a moment before vanishing forever. His very success consisted in the fact that he was the personification of the first inchoate, spontaneous, instinctive movement of the working class, the first stirrings of consciousness of the masses.
Inevitably, such a movement tends to seek out the line of least resistance, the well-worn paths, familiar sounding phrases, and famous leaders. It took the massacre of Bloody Sunday to knock out of the heads of the masses the century-old illusions in the Tsar. Indeed, sudden and sharp shifts in the mood of the masses constitutes the essential element of a revolutionary or pre-revolutionary period. By the end of the year, the revolutionary Social Democracy had definitely established itself as the hegemonic force within the working class, striving to place itself at the head of the revolutionary nation.
From exile in Switzerland, Lenin immediately hailed the January events as the beginning of the revolution in Russia:. The working class has received a momentous lesson in civil war: the revolutionary education of the proletariat made more progress in one day than it could have made in months and years of drab, humdrum, wretched existence. The slogan of the heroic St. As we have seen, prior to 9 January the workers were not willing to read Social Democratic leaflets, and often tore them up and even beat the leafletters. But now the consciousness of the masses was transformed. One Social Democrat described the situation:.
Now tens of thousands of revolutionary pamphlets were swallowed up without remainder; nine-tenths were not only read but read until they fell apart. There was no political prejudice in which they did not believe. Our belief in the proletariat was the only thing they regarded as prejudice. The magnificent movement of the proletariat was the final answer to all the sceptics. On 10 January, barricades appeared in St. By 17 January, , workers were on strike in factories in the capital. The spontaneous mass movement in solidarity with the Petersburg workers swept across the whole country.
The events of Bloody Sunday caused an immediate reaction on the part of the working class. In January alone more than , workers participated in strikes throughout Russia. From 14 to 20 January the Polish capital was in the grip of a revolutionary general strike involving factories, trams, coach drivers, and even doctors.
The city, occupied by Russian troops, resembled an armed camp. On 16 January socialist groups called a demonstration in which , workers took part. Troops called in to disperse the crowd fired up to 60, rounds. In three days, according to official figures, there were 64 dead and 69 wounded of whom 29 died later. A state of siege was declared. The Baltic area was also swept by the revolutionary current. Riga, Revel, and all the other cities were involved in mass revolutionary movements. The centre was Riga where on 13 January, 60, workers staged a political general strike and 15, workers staged a protest march.
The Russian governor general, A. Neller-Zakomelsky, ordered the troops to fire on the crowd, killing 70 and injuring In the teeth of ferocious repression, the strike movement continued to sweep like wildfire through Poland and the Baltic states. A similar situation existed in the Caucasus where a political general strike broke out. The movement cut across all national lines: Polish, Armenian, Georgian, Lithuanian, and Jewish workers expressed their solidarity with their Russian class brothers in the most practical way — by fighting against the hated Russian autocracy.
The movement of the workers had an electrifying effect on all classes in society. The public retreat of the regime encouraged not only the workers, but also the middle class, the bourgeois liberals, and the students. This movement provoked panic in government circles. After Bloody Sunday, the ruling clique intended to move quickly towards reaction, as indicated by the dismissal of the liberal Sviatopolk-Mirskii in favour of the conservative bureaucrat Bulygin, and the granting of almost unlimited dictatorial powers to General Trepov.
Now all its calculations were thrown into disarray. Under the pressure of the growing strike movement, on 18 February, The Tsar issued his first Manifesto in which he hinted at a constitution and popular representation. By its united action, the working class had achieved more in one week than all the years of speechifying and petitions and banquets by the liberal bourgeois. The shock waves that flowed from 9 January pushed the whole movement to the left.
The tide began to flow strongly in favour of revolutionary action, and the revolutionary Social Democracy. Bolshevik and Menshevik workers, yesterday shunned and mistrusted by their workmates, now came to the fore in every factory. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of the role of these conscious worker agitators in the unfolding strike wave, despite its apparently spontaneous character. Petersburg to the provinces where they acted as a necessary leaven to the revolutionary movement.
After Bloody Sunday, this situation experienced a complete turn-about. The possibilities which now unfolded before the Russian Marxists were now immense. But the Party, still reeling from the effects of the split, was in very poor shape to take advantage of the opportunities. A nice business: we talk of organisation, of centralism, while actually there is such disunity, such amateurism among even the closest comrades in the centre, that one feels like chucking it all in disgust. Just look at the Bundists: they do not prate about centralism, but every one of them writes to the centre weekly and contacts are thus actually maintained… Really, I sometimes think that nine-tenths of the Bolsheviks are actually formalists.
Either we shall rally all who are out to fight into a really iron-strong organisation and with this small but strong party quash that sprawling monster, the new- Iskra [i. It would be unpardonable childishness not to see that. Gusev, 11 February, , vol. Starting out from a position of clear superiority among the Party activists in Russia, the Bolshevik committeemen, when unexpectedly confronted with the explosive movement of the masses failed to react with the necessary flexibility, and consequently made mistakes and frequently lost the initiative.
In a situation where hundreds of thousands of workers and youth were entering the arena of politics, seeking the revolutionary road, the most pressing need was to open up the Party, and let in at least the best elements among the masses. But the committeemen, steeped in the habit of clandestine, small circle work, proved reluctant to move over and make way for the new, fresh layers. They found a hundred and one excuses for not opening up — the workers were not ready to join, the need to safeguard security, and so on and so forth.
We must not dilute the membership! Yet that very Lenin who argued in favour of restricting Party membership in now argued even more vehemently in favour of opening the doors and windows and letting in the largest possible number of workers and youth:. We need young forces. I am for shooting on the spot anyone who presumes to say that there are no people to be had. The people in Russia are legion: all we have to do is to recruit young people more widely and boldly, more boldly and widely, and again more widely and again more boldly, without fearing them.
This is a time of war. The youth — the students, and still more the young workers — will decide the issue of the whole struggle. Get rid of all the old habits of immobility, of respect for rank, and so on. Form hundreds of circles of Vperyod -ists [i. We must, with desperate speed, unite all people with revolutionary initiative and set them to work. Do not fear their lack of training, do not tremble at their inexperience and lack of development… [because] events themselves will teach them in our spirit. Events are already teaching everyone precisely in the Vperyod spirit.
Only you must be sure to organise, organise, and organise hundreds of circles, completely pushing into the background the customary, well-meant committee hierarchic stupidities. A professional revolutionary must build up dozens of new connections in each locality, put all the work into their hands while he is with them, teach them and bring them up to the mark not by lecturing them but by work. Then he should go to another place and after a month or two return to check up on the young people who have replaced him.
I assure you that there is a sort of idiotic, philistine, Oblomov-like fear of the youth among us. I implore you: fight this fear with all your might. LCW , To S. Gusev, 15 February, , vol. This caricature, which has been maliciously repeated and exaggerated by bourgeois historians, is the opposite of the truth, as the above passage — very typical of the period with which we are dealing — irrefutably demonstrates.
Conscious of the danger facing it from all sides, the regime acted with a mixture of ruthlessness and cunning. While attempting to crush the movement by new arrests, deportations, martial law and pogroms, the government simultaneously attempted to woo the liberal bourgeoisie with the Manifesto of 18 February and set in motion a manoeuvre designed to split and disorient the working class.
The aim of this stratagem was clearly an attempt to defuse the situation, diverting the workers away from revolutionary action and preventing them from moving in the direction of Marxism. In an unprecedented move, the government announced that the workers would be represented on the commission by means of elected delegates. This manoeuvre presented the Marxists with a tactical problem. On the one hand, the reactionary aims of the government were quite clear. On the other hand, to refuse to participate would be to renounce a splendid opportunity to carry the ideas of revolutionary socialism to the mass of workers.
For the Menshevik leaders, with their opportunistic leanings, there was no particular problem. Among the Bolsheviks in Petersburg, however, the prevailing mood was initially in favour of a boycott. Similar moods existed also among the Menshevik workers who were far to the left of the leaders in exile.
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However, the general mood of the workers was overwhelmingly in favour of participation, and the Bolsheviks soon modified their position in favour of participating, at least in the election of delegates, taking full advantage of the legal opportunities for agitation among a wider layer of workers than would normally be possible. The strike movement continued and intensified. The demands put forward by the workers ranged from the demand for hot water for tea and wash-up facilities, to the demand for the eight-hour day and a constituent assembly.
The last-named demands showed the influence of Social Democratic ideas. This already anticipated the formation of the Soviets in the coming months. If the authorities thought that the setting up of a commission would halt the mass movement, they were in for a rude awakening. Through the collective struggle the workers began to realise their strength as a class and their worth and dignity as human beings. Demands for the removal of unpopular foremen were frequently backed up by direct action.
Workers would seize the offender, put him in a sack, and cast him out of the factory. After two sackings at the Putilov Works, the foremen apparently learned good manners and became extremely polite to the workers. The newly found mood of confidence of an awakened working class was fertile ground for revolutionary agitation. Taking advantage of the legal opportunities presented by Shidlovsky, Bolshevik and Menshevik agitators flooded the workplaces with their leaflets, and spoke at many mass meetings.
The tactic of both factions was to participate in the elections, to use them as a platform to reach a large number of workers, but to refuse to participate in the commission itself until certain demands were met. The correctness of the decision to participate in the campaign around the Shidlovsky commission was shown by subsequent events. But despite being in a minority, the Bolshevik delegates managed to set the tone of the meeting. The arrest of a number of delegates created a mood of angry militancy in which the Bolsheviks succeeded in delivering what amounted to an ultimatum to Senator Shidlovsky, demanding freedom of speech and assembly, the right of delegates to conduct their activities without let or hindrance, the right to meet and discuss freely with their electorate, and the freeing of their arrested comrades.
Having been through the experience of the commission, shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the class, it was now relatively easy to expose the fraudulent nature of the entire manoeuvre, while simultaneously agitating for the eight-hour working day, a state insurance policy, democratic elections, and an end to the war. Three days later the authorities hastened to put an end to the one and only attempt to solve the labour problem by legal means.
Lenin understood clearly that all the manifestos, commissions, and promises of reform were only a smokescreen to deceive the masses, behind which the reaction was playing for time and preparing its revenge. Time was therefore of the essence. In an uninterrupted stream of articles, he poured scorn on the liberals with their illusions in peaceful constitutional reform, and flayed the Mensheviks for their illusions in the liberals. The time for playing games was past. Either the working class, under a conscious revolutionary leadership, would succeed in gathering together all the oppressed masses under its leadership, above all the poor peasants and the oppressed nationalities, and smash the power of tsarism by an armed uprising, or, inevitably, the forces of black reaction would destroy the revolution, exacting a bloody revenge on the working class.
There was no middle way. There was no time to lose. People can change. In a revolution, they can change very swiftly. Early in February, Gapon himself, having been pushed temporarily to the left by his experiences, issued an Open Letter to the Socialist Parties of All Russia , which included an appeal for an armed uprising:. I call upon all the socialist parties of Russia to enter immediately into an agreement among themselves and to proceed to the armed uprising against tsarism. All the forces of every party should be mobilised. All should have a single plan of action… The immediate aim is the overthrow of the autocracy, a provisional revolutionary government which will at once amnesty all fighters for political and religious liberties, at once arm the people, and at once convoke a Constituent Assembly on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot.
Quoted in F. Dan, The Origins of Bolshevism , p. However, here, and in all his other articles, Lenin is emphatic on the absolute necessity of maintaining the complete political independence of the working class and its party:. We shall never, therefore, not even at the most revolutionary moments, forego the complete independence of the Social Democratic Party or the complete intransigence of our ideology. Under the pressure of the mass movement, the Mensheviks, particularly the ones on the ground in Russia, began to move left.
Not only the Bolshevik Vperyod , but also the Menshevik Iskra published articles and diagrams on street fighting. The question of arming the workers, which Lenin persistently raised, flowed from the needs of the moment. While making conciliatory noises, the government was systematically preparing the forces of reaction. Shaken by the show of solidarity between the workers of different nationalities, the authorities set about trying to break this unity by organising bloody pogroms. As early as February, the agents of the regime incited the Tartars in Baku to launch a murderous assault on the Armenians in that city.
Throughout the year , all over Russia, mobs were bribed with money and vodka by the police to beat up and murder Jews, socialists, and students. For practical purposes, agreements were arrived at involving Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Bundists, the socialists from other nationalities, and even petty bourgeois organisations like the nationalist Polish Socialist Party, and the SRs. In theory, there would have been nothing wrong, under these conditions, with arriving at practical, episodic agreements even with the bourgeois liberals, for example, for joint defence against the pogromists, while maintaining complete organisational and political independence.
But in reality, such agreements with the liberals were virtually non-existent. The latter were striving, not for an armed insurrection, but for a deal with tsarism, leaning for a time on the mass movement in order to frighten the regime into granting a constitution. Actually, the organisational methods of Bolshevism, impregnated through and through with the spirit of democracy, have nothing in common with that monstrous bureaucratic caricature. A measure of centralism is necessary in any serious organisation, whether a railway or a revolutionary party.
Every political party, every stable organisation, necessarily has a conservative side. The need to provide the material means to pass from the realms of theory to that of practice demands the creation of an apparatus. The living principle of an apparatus is routine: the thousand and one organisational tasks of collecting money, organising distribution and sales of literature and so on, require a meticulous attention to detail. Without this, the construction of the party would be unthinkable. From the outset, a number of people must be dedicated to these tasks. As the party grows, their numbers increase.
Unless special measures are undertaken to constantly raise the theoretical level of these comrades and enlarge their horizons, a certain organisational narrowness tends to creep in, which can play a harmful role under certain circumstances. Unconsciously or semi-consciously, the impression can be created of the primacy of organisation, whereas ideas, principles, and theory are regarded as of secondary importance.
The opinions, initiative, and criticism of the workers, the rank and file, are regarded as an unnecessary encumbrance, at variance with the principle of centralism, or control from above. That there were elements of this in the Bolshevik Party as in any other party is undeniable. Unfortunately, a layer of Bolshevik organisers inside Russia, the so-called committeemen, on occasion acted like the very caricature invented by the Mensheviks. Even the most correct idea, when carried beyond a certain limit, becomes transformed into its opposite. By making a fetish of organisational forms, and overlooking the dialectical method of applying these ideas in a rapidly changing situation, despite their undoubted capacity for self-sacrifice and hard work, the committeemen frequently played a negative role in the development of the Party, until corrected by the intervention of Lenin.
Lenin understood better than anyone else the need for a centralised organisation: but he saw in it, above all, a lever for enhancing the activity of the advanced working men. The idea of making a fetish of the political machine was not only alien but repugnant to his nature… The habits peculiar to a political machine were already forming in the underground. The young revolutionary bureaucrat was already emerging as a type.
The conditions of conspiracy, true enough, offered rather meagre scope for such of the formalities of democracy as electiveness, accountability and control. Yes, undoubtedly the committeemen narrowed these limitations considerably more than necessity demanded and were far more intransigent and severe with the revolutionary working-men than with themselves, preferring to domineer even on occasions that called imperatively for lending an authentic ear to the voice of the masses.
Trotsky, Stalin , p. A tendency towards routinism and conservatism can be seen in any apparatus, as any trade unionist knows from bitter experience. These elements, as we have said, were also present in the Bolshevik Party, but were far less important in the Bolshevik Party than in any other political party in history — and certainly less than in those Social Democratic parties and reformist trade unions which are entirely dominated by the worst sort of bureaucratic machines and parliamentary cliques, who have long ago sold their soul to the possessing classes.
This centralism reflects, on the one hand, the interests, salaries, and privileges of the apparatus, on the other the pressure of big business which wishes to make the labour movement subject to its discipline. That these people should point an accusing finger at Lenin is hypocrisy of a highly advanced type. In this connection, it is rather tempting to draw the inference that future Stalinism was already rooted in Bolshevik centralism or, more sweepingly, in the underground hierarchy of professional revolutionists.
But upon analysis that inference crumbles to dust, disclosing an astounding paucity of historical content. Of course, there are dangers of one kind or another in the very process of stringently picking and choosing persons of advanced views and welding them into a tightly centralised organisation. The key to the dynamic of leadership is in the actual interrelationship between the political machine and its party, between the vanguard and its class, between centralism and democracy.
Those interrelationships cannot, of their very nature, be established a priori and remain immutable. They are dependent on concrete historical conditions, their mobile balance is regulated by the vital struggle of tendencies, which, as represented by their extreme wings, oscillate between despotism of the political machine and the impotence of phrase-mongering. He tries to paint Lenin as a defender of the bureaucratic intelligentsia against the workers, by quoting from the minutes of the Third Congress, when the quotes he uses prove precisely the opposite.
The same author is compelled to admit that similar problems existed in the Menshevik organisation. In March , Gusev, secretary of the Petersburg committee and of the Bureau of Majority Committees, wrote to the centre abroad the following:. A circular on organisational questions is needed, particularly on the issue of drawing workers into the committees. It is necessary to stress the importance of the conditions in which this can be done. The criteria for bringing in workers should not be how well read they are, but how revolutionary, how devoted, energetic, and influential.
Nowadays there are many such [people], and mainly among unorganised workers, most of them very young and lacking the qualities of political leaders, although they are well read in social democratic literature. Concretely, this means that a part of our best illegal forces must become outwardly proletarianised. The essence of the problem facing the Party was: how to establish firm links between the relatively small forces of the revolutionary vanguard and the mass of the workers and youth who were moving into struggle?
It is a living play of forces, an equation even more complex than war between nations. The events of Bloody Sunday and afterwards, to pursue the military analogy, represented a general mobilisation of the working class. Even the most courageous army never won a war without good generals. But the best of generals without an army do not count for much. At this time, none of the main leaders of either the Bolsheviks or Mensheviks had yet returned to Russia.
Martov only returned to Russia after 17 October; Lenin slightly later, on 4 November. The sole exception was Trotsky, who arrived in Kiev in February. There he established close contact with the key Bolshevik figure in Russia at that time, Leonid Krassin. Krassin was in charge of a large and well-equipped secret printing press somewhere in the Caucasus. But his role went far beyond that. A highly capable young engineer, Krassin was in many ways the prototype of a Bolshevik organiser. He proved to be an outstanding organiser and technician. The party, like the revolution, was still young at that time, and one was struck by the inexperience and lack of finish revealed both by the members and their actions in general.
Krassin likewise was not wholly free from this fault. He was an engineer of some experience, he held a paying job and filled it well; he was valued by his employers, and had a circle of acquaintances that was much larger and more varied than that of any of the young revolutionaries of the day. He managed them all with great skill and, consequently, practical possibilities that were quite closed to the others were opened to him.
In , in addition to participating in the general work of the party, Krassin had charge of the most dangerous fields of the work, such as armed units, the purchase of arms, the preparing of stocks of explosives, and the like. In spite of his broad outlook, he was primarily a man of immediate achievement, in politics as well as in life. That was his strength but it was also his heel of Achilles. Trotsky, My Life , pp. Lenin greatly appreciated people like Krassin who got on with the work quietly, efficiently, and without fuss. Politically, Krassin was a conciliator.
But conciliationist moods were common among Party activists in Russia, and still more among the workers, as was clearly reflected in the report of the Petersburg delegation to the party congress:. In the recent period, the demand for an end to the split is becoming widespread.
Worker-Bolsheviks and Mensheviks are holding joint meetings, either with or without the intellectuals, and everywhere the demand for unification is pushed to the fore. The obvious solution was the convening of a party congress. The Bolsheviks had been agitating for the convening of the Third Congress for months, but the Mensheviks, fearing they would be in a minority, continually stonewalled. Early in February, a police raid on the Moscow apartment of the writer Leonid Andreyev led to the arrest of all the members of the Central Committee mainly Mensheviks and conciliators.
Though formally this was the responsibility of the Party Council, a majority of the Party organisations inside Russia were clearly in favour. If two-thirds of the committees requested a congress, the Council was obliged by the rules to call one. By the beginning of April, the Bolsheviks were able to prove conclusively that a total of 21 organisations inside Russia, including the CC, were in favour of a congress. Yet the Council, openly flouting the rules and in contempt of democratic procedure, refused to call the congress.
Given the irresponsible and illegal behaviour of the Council, the Bolsheviks had no alternative but to convene a congress themselves, in the name of the Central Committee and the majority of Party organisations in Russia. The Mensheviks, although invited to attend, stayed away and organised their own conference in Geneva.
On 12 April, , delegates assembled in London for over two weeks of intense discussions on the fundamental problems of the revolution. Present at the Congress were 24 delegates with full voting rights representing 21 committees, as well as a number of other party groups, including the Vperyod editorial board and the Bolshevik Organisation Abroad, which had a consultative vote.
Lenin was present, nominally as a delegate from Odessa. The Congress took place in the white heat of revolutionary upswing. But the question which dominated all others was the armed insurrection. Lenin was particularly emphatic about this:. The entire history of the past year proved that we underestimated the significance and inevitability of the uprising.