While the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks wrestled with each other for control of a revolution in Russian society, events intervened. In February 1904, just six months after the Brussels/London RSDLP conference ended in the infamous Bolshevik v Menshevik split, Russia was inveigled into a disastrous war with Japan in the Far East. Its roots are to be found in the Machiavellian machinations of the British foreign office, the Secret Elite, including King Edward VII, Sir Ernest Cassel, and Jacob Schiff of Kuhn, Loeb bank on Wall Street. [1] Outraged by the horrendous anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia, Schiff made it a point of honour to help finance Japan in its war against Russia.

Depiction of the Japanese fleet at battle of Tshushima. The fleet was led by the British-built pre-dreadnought Mikasa.

To the surprise and delight of the Imperial Japanese government, he volunteered to underwrite half of the ten million pound loan they raised in New York and London. He knew that the Japanese fleet had been built in British shipyards and their latest naval technology outgunned and outpaced the antiquated Czarist navy. Victory was not in doubt. This first of five major Kuhn, Loeb loans to Japan was approved by the Secret Elite’s main agent, King Edward VII at a luncheon with Schiff and Sir Ernest Cassel. In Germany, under-secretary of State Arthur Zimmermann endorsed the move and authorised Max Warburg to negotiate with Japan. [2] The Rothschilds had to tread carefully. While an international consortium of largely British-owned banking houses ensured that around half of Japan’s war debt was financed through bonds sold in London and New York, the Rothschild held massive investments in Russia, not lest in the Baku oilfields. Manipulators at the heart of the Secret Elite, like Lord Esher, facilitated meetings held on the Rothschild premises to enable the Japanese financial envoy, Takahashi Korekiyo, raise their war chest. [3]

As the Russo-Japanese War lurched from one disaster to another, political unrest in Russia deepened. In the infamous ‘Bloody Sunday’ atrocity of 22 January 1905, troops fired on a huge, but orderly, crowd of workers marching to the Winter Palace behind the charismatic Russian priest Father Georgii Gapon. Their intention was to present a petition to the Czar calling for universal suffrage. Around 1,000 peaceful marchers and onlookers were killed. Nicholas II had left the city the night before and did not give the order to fire personally, but he lost the respect of many Russians. 1905 was disrupted with direct action from workers’ demonstrations, strikes and rebellion by sections of the army and navy. The crew of the battleship Potemkin mutinied, killing the captain and several officers.

Striking workers formed ‘Soviets’, councils of delegates from workers committees, who could coordinate action. They sprang up in major towns and cities, including St Petersburg, where Trotsky, then twenty-three-years-old, played a major role. He had returned illegally from the safety of Finland under a false name and in the guise of a successful entrepreneur. Trotsky immediately wrote proclamations for distribution in factories and posted these throughout the city. In October 1905 a local strike by print workers flared into a national protest. Gangs of armed right-wing extremists were encouraged by the police to hold counter-demonstrations under the banners of ‘Holy Russia’ and ‘God save the Czar’. In response to the violence, the factory workers armed themselves. A showdown was inevitable.

A painting of the Bloody Sunday massacre by Ivan Vladimirov

In December, the Izmailovsky Regiment in St Petersburg was ordered to arrest the entire executive committee of the Soviet in the capital. In sympathy, the Moscow Soviet declared a strike and thousands of Muscovites took to the streets in protest. Cossacks sent to break up the Moscow demonstrations, twice refused orders to charge, and sympathised with the strikers. The crack Semenovsky Guards were less sympathetic, cornering protestors in Presnya, a workers’ district in the city, before shelling the area for three days. Many hundreds were killed including eighty-six children. [4] 1905 had started with the Bloody Sunday massacre and ended with the Presnya massacre. Czarist forces, including the secret and much feared Okhrana secret police, prevailed. Later that year, Trotsky and 13 other members of the St Petersburg Soviet were arrested for political scheming and spent thirteen months as prisoners in the city gaol awaiting trial. In January 1907 each was given a life sentence of exile in a small Siberian village above the Arctic Circle, 600 miles from the nearest railway station. Trotsky escaped on his journey into exile and trekked for hundreds of miles through the Urals before making his way to Finland from where, after an extremely frosty meeting with Lenin, he went on to Stockholm and then Vienna.

Nicholas II ruthlessly persecuted the insurrectionists yet introduced measures of reform, including some basic civil liberties and the creation of a State Assembly, the Duma. It was similar to a parliamentary-type elected body but, much like the British parliament in the early nineteenth century, only male property owners and taxpayers were represented. The Czar retained power over State Ministers, who answered to him, not the Duma. If he was dissatisfied with the representative body not could be dissolved at will and fresh elections held.

Unrest continued. Prime Minister and committed monarchist, Pytor Stolypin, survived an attempt on his life in August 1906 when a bomb ripped his dacha (villa) apart while he was hosting a party. Twenty-eight of his guests were killed and many injured, including his two children. In June 1907, Stolypin dissolved the Second Duma, and restricted the franchise by sacking a number of liberals and replacing them with more conservatives and monarchists. In a further attempt to counter the revolutionaries, he enforced a police crackdown on public demonstrations. On a more liberal note, Stolypin introduced agrarian reforms which helped provide opportunities for many peasants desperate for land. Once noticeable consequence was a huge year-on-year increases in food production. Sir George Buchanan, British Ambassador at St Petersburg, noted that though he failed to destroy the seeds of unrest which continued to germinate underground, Stolypin rescued Russia from anarchy and chaos. His agrarian policy surpassed all expectations, and at the time of his death nearly 19,000,000 acres of farmland had been allotted to individual peasant proprietors, by the land committees. [5]

Peasant emancipation and the consequent increase in food production were abhorrent to the Bolsheviks. They intended to bring all land under state control and implement cooperative food production. Trotsky had called the peasantry ‘a vast reservoir of potential revolutionaries’, and ‘accepted the indispensable importance of a peasant rising as an auxiliary to the main task of the proletariat’. [6] The goal was revolution and government controlled by the proletariat, that is, the working class who sold their labour for a wage, but did not own the means of production.

Depiction of Stolypin's assassination

Peasant farmers had to be brought on-board if the revolution was to succeed, but that prospect receded as ever greater numbers were enabled to own their farms. It was clear to both the Czarist regime and the Bolsheviks that the peasantry would not support a political system that would deny them ownership of their land. Stolypin’s success threatened the revolution; his agrarian reforms had to be terminated. On 14 September 1911, while attending a performance at the Kiev Opera House in the presence of Czar Nicholas II, the prime minister was shot dead by a Jewish revolutionary, Mordekhai Gershkovich. Trotsky later commented: ‘Stolypin’s constitution … had every chance of surviving’. [7] Exactly so. Stolypin was assassinated by the revolutionaries not because he failed to improve the lot of the peasant, but because he was so successful in winning them over.

Nine months later, in April 1912, miners in the Lena goldfields in north-east Siberia went on strike. The mines produced large profits for their London registered company, but workers were paid a pittance for 16 hours per day under atrocious conditions. The strike was savagely crushed. In what proved to be the worst massacre since Bloody Sunday, troops fired on striking workers leaving more than 500 casualties. [8] The slaughter heralded a further wave of industrial unrest, agitation and mounting tension throughout the country. Two weeks after the massacre, the Bolsheviks founded a new newspaper, Pravda.

Despite these tragic events, preparations for the First World War gathered pace. After the humbling defeat to Japan in 1905, Russian industry recovered spectacularly thanks to the Rothschilds and other international bankers who continued to pour massive loans into the country. The Russian economy grew at an average rate of 8.8 per cent and by 1914 there were almost a thousand factories in Petrograd alone, many devoted to producing armaments. The expansion of Russia’s war industry, along with her rail network into Poland, deeply worried war planners in Berlin. But it came at a cost. ‘The pre-war Russian boom was thus highly leveraged, [and] dependent on a constant influx of foreign capital, which if it ever dried up, would leave Russia’s entire economy vulnerable.’ [9]

Workers outside the vast Putilov factories in St Petersburg.

Shipbuilding, railroad construction and armaments and munitions production significantly expanded. The international bankers earned large profits from substantial interest rates on their loans, and at the same time, enabled Russia to conduct a major rearmament programme in readiness for the Secret Elite’s coming war with Germany. Given that Britain had no land army on European soil, Russian manpower was absolutely critical to an attack on Germany. Bullets and artillery shells were produced by the millions. A powerful new fleet of battleships, cruisers, destroyers and submarines began rising on the stocks in shipyards across the empire. Conditions attached to large railway loans insisted that these had to be used purely for the construction of new railroads which ran towards Germany’s borders. Why was this particular stipulation given priority? Mobilising an army of millions had never been easy. It required efficient planning and careful logistical organisation. A capable railway network was a prerequisite for the mobilisation of the huge Russian armies which would be critical when war with Germany was declared. [10] Look again at the men who laid down the stipulation. International bankers. How odd, unless of course it was they who were planning the war.

In late July 1914, Czar Nicholas II, urged on in his recklessness by the French president, Poincare, and secret understandings with the British government, used the pretext of protecting Serbia against Austrian retribution to force Germany to declare war. He ordered the general mobilisation of Russia’s armies through a massive build-up of troops along Germany’s Eastern border. General mobilisation was recognised by all nations as an act of war. Faced with invasion by millions of Russian troops, and despite repeated requests from Kaiser Wilhelm directly to Czar Nicholas that he should stop the troop movements, Germany was left with no choice but to mobilise her own forces and go to war with Russia. [11]

Czar Nicholas II with his army before the revolution.

To repay the Czar for his ‘loyalty’, the Secret Elite dangled before him the golden carrot of Russia’s ultimate dream. A solemn promise was given that Russia would be given Constantinople and the Straits once Germany had been defeated, the holy grail of Russian leaders for centuries. That was why Russia went to war in July 1914, not, as she claimed, to defend Serbia. As the years dragged on and the Russian losses on the Eastern Front approached six million dead or seriously wounded, even the Czar began to suspect that Perfidious Albion had tricked them into war with an empty promise. [12] It had. Their ownership of Constantinople remained as illusionary as it always had.

In a sense it was as though Russia went to war in 1914 despite the revolutionary undercurrent. Victory on the field of battle, the glittering reward of a warm-water port at Constantinople, the spoils from a broken and defeated Germany would surely have renewed popular faith in the Russian monarchy. In fact the deeply wounded Russian people suffered defeat, disgrace and ultimate disintegration. The socialist forces that had been growing steadily between 1904 and 1914 found direct backing from foreign quarters few ever understood. This has to be fully examined.

1. Gerry Docherty and Jim Macgregor, Hidden History, The Secret Origins of the First World War, pp. 86-87.
2. Ron Chernow, The Warburgs, p. 110.
3. Takahashi Korekiyo, The Rothschilds and the Russo-Japanese War,1904-6, pp. 20-21.
4. Pearson, The Sealed Train, p. 34.
5. George Buchanan, My Mission to Russia and Other Diplomatic Memories, vol. 1, p. 77.
6. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, p. 60.
7. Trotsky, My Life, p. 208.
8. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution. p. 65.
9. McMeekin, History’s Greatest Heist, p. xvii.
10. Docherty and Macgregor, Hidden History, p. 297.
11. Ibid, p. 239.
12. Guido Preparata, Conjuring Hitler, p. 27.