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What the papers think about Lenin’s revolution in Russia
Vladimir Lenin, c 1915 - 1920 Photo: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

What the papers think about Lenin’s revolution in Russia

Petrograd, 20 November 1917 - The events of recent days and weeks in Russia have not only ended the short life of the Provisional Government, they have also brought to prominence the Soviets, with whom ‘all power now rests’.

It has similarly shot to prominence the revolutionary leader, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Unsurprisingly, considering his strong anti-war stance, he has received less than flattering profiles in the British press.

The Daily Express says: ‘Lenin is the popular idol, and he is a creature of Berlin. It is natural he should place an immediate peace in the front of his programme. An immediate peace must be a German peace, and that cannot be forced on the world either by Russian anarchists or Prussian Junkers.’

The Daily Mail says: ‘At the head of the Revolution is apparently Lenin (alias Zederblum), who not long since was wanted by the Russian police as a German paid agent. His right hand man, is Trotsky (alias Braunstein), an anarchist, who has made most countries too hot for him. It is very suggestive that the news of the upheaval is accompanied by reports that the German fleet is off Helsingfors. It would be an excellent stroke of Potsdam policy for the seamen of the Russian fleet to be fighting the Government in Petrograd when the German pincers closed north and south of Petrograd.’

A four-panel cartoon, originally from the satirical Novy Satirikon. The caption reads: ‘1. Till March, 1917: Rule on the Throne - none in the Government. 2. In March, 1917: Rule in the Government - none on the Throne. 3. April till October: No rule on Throne or in Government. 4. October onwards: ?’ (Image: Manchester Guardian History of the War, 1917)

In the Irish newspapers, accounts of the Russian revolution have been no more complimentary. The Irish Independent, did not mention Lenin by name in its editorial of 9 November but it did accuse Maximalists of pandering to the ‘worst passions of the mob. It is against the war because it wants immediately to realise the Social Revolution. Ownership of the land and of all the means of production is the promise dangled before the eyes of the people...Instead of economic reconstruction, theirs will be the hands to destroy utterly the already shattered fabric of the State’.

The Freeman’s Journal has expressed scepticism at the prospects of Lenin, who it describes as the ‘spokesman of the new regime’, settling quickly either the land question or the economic crisis: ‘With regard to the first of these questions he proposes to hand over the land to the peasants, but a change of ownership as we in Ireland known from our own experience, is not a matter which can be settled by a scrape of the pen. The economic crisis is a still more formidable problem. Russia is suffering from a complete disorganisation of its social system.’

Though the consensus is that Lenin’s Bolsheviks are currently in the ascendancy, the situation is not stable, and commentators are predicting that the country is sliding towards civil war.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.