23 JANUARY 1909, Page 8


EVERY one remembers the story of Father Gapon, the Russian priest who led the fatal demonstrations of the populace in St. Petersburg. The shooting down of the unarmed crowd, with the priest in the robes of his peaceful calling at its head, affected all men's minds. The portraits of this Father Gapon appeared in English papers, and one had the impression of a romantic visionary driven by high impulses to secure that the wrongs of the people for whom he was spiritually responsible should be righted. And we dare say that the impression made by these acts and pictures was true enough at the time. But before long we had to admit that the truth about him was very different indeed. He turned out to be a police spy and agent-provocateur, and when his duplicity was proved to his comrades among the revo- lutionaries he was executed secretly by them. Thus ended a career which will not easily be forgotten in the history of the Russian Revolution. We prefer to believe that Gapon was a sincere champion of the people's cause to begin with, but that the want of disciplined thought, which made him at once an unpractical leader, was a symptom of the mental and moral weakness which was his undoing. Perhaps be became terrified at the gigantic forces he was helping to let loose in- Russia, and wished to save his life before it was too late, or else avarice made him an easy prey to bribery, and he was bought without difficulty by the police. This familiar episode prepared us to believe almost incredible things about the transference of services from one side to the other in that subterraneous conflict of cunning which continually goes on between revolutionary agents and the secret police • but we were not prepared to learn anything quite so bewildering as the narrative given by the Paris correspondent of the Times on Wednesday. This is one of the most extra- ordinary statements we ever read, and an examination of it leaves one with a more heightened sense than any detective story could give of the intricacies and complexities of a Secret Service.

" It would appear," says the Times correspondent, "that Azeff, the leading member of the Russian Revolutionary Socialists, who has just been condemned by the specially constituted secret tribunal of the party in Paris as an agent provocateur, must have held the threads of the whole Terrorist organization in his hands. He is represented as having arranged most of the outrages and assassinations which have been attempted or carried out in Russia during recent years, and, indeed, at the moment when his real character was exposed he is understood to have been engaged in a plot against the life of the Tsar. The theory is that he had instructions to let these terrorist machina- tions succeed or fail as it suited the purpose of his immediate employers iu their police campaign against the revolutionary organizations. He was likewise engaged in the organization of those demonstrations of the masses and of those insurrections the failure of which was fatal to the revolutionary movement in Russia." We are then told that Azeff appears to have regarded Gapon as a serious rival, envying him the higher position and pay he enjoyed in the Secret Service. He also feared that Gapon knew of the double role he himself was playing. We must remark here that if Gapon did not know of it, Azeff was a better spy than Gapon, for Azeff evidently knew all that was worth knowing about Gapon, otherwise he could not have coveted his better pay. Azeff resolved to get rid of Gapon, and. it seems that it was he who supplied the information on which he was condemned as a traitor, and he who gave the order for his execution. Thus one police spy procured the death of another, and thereby established himself at the same moment in a better position iu the Secret Service and in higher repute with the Anarchists he appeared to lead ! We say "appeared to lead," but as a matter of fact he did actually help them to commit crimes, though of course his excuse would have been that the encouragement of some crime was necessary to the suppression of worse crime. The wicked business of the agent provocateur cannot often have been pursued in a more thoroughgoing manner than by Azeff. Revolutions were made in order that revolution might be prevented, crimes were committed in order that crime might be controlled, and blood ran at his dictation in Moscow and Kronstadt in order, we must suppose, that the land might have peace. The Times correspondent says :-- " One of the terrorist crimes which Azeff had arranged with a view to the arrest of the conspirators before the plot was carried out was the assassination of the Prefect of St. Petersburg, General von der Launitz, who was shot at the ceremony of opening a hospital. The deed was accomplished before the date at which Azeff had arranged for the arrest of the conspirators. Other cases were an attempt to wreck a train in which the Grand Duke Nicholas Nicolaievitch was travelling, the attempt upon the life of General Trepoff, and an attempt to blow up the premises of the Siiret41. He also appears to have been involved in the two great attempts at armed insurrection at Moscow and at Kronstadt, and to have betrayed the cause of his confederates." Things like these, of course, mean an inevitable loss of innocent lives. Even when the object is not to stir up ineffectual, though bloody, street-fighting, but only to conduct a conspiracy against a particular person up to a certain point and then throw the whole train of events off the line,—even than the scheme may "gang agley," as is proved by the assassination of General Von der Launitz. The " half-cock" revolutions and crimes kind agents provocateurs only too often turn into the worst aind of reality. We do not understand the state of mind of Governments which believe that it pays in the long run to resort to these methods.

The Times correspondent goes on to quote a letter about Azeff which M. Lopukhin, ex-Chief of the Police Depart- ment, lately sent to M. Stolypin, the Russian Prime Minister ; and here we come to the most astonishing part of the whole business. " On the evening of Novetn- .1)er 11th," says M. Lopukhin, " there came to my residence in the Tavistcherkaya, St. Petersburg, Eugene Azeff, with whom, as Chief of the Police Department, I was acquainted from May, 1902, to January, 1905, in his capacity of a special emissary of the police in Paris. Azeff, who entered without being announced, told me that several members of Fie Revolutionary Socialist Party, to which he himself belonged, had learned that lie was an agent of the secret Political police, and that the revolutionary tribunal was about to sit in judgment upon his case. He was aware that this tribunal was going to ask me to give information on this subject, and that his life was, therefore, in my hands!, It would be difficult to beat this for bewilder- 111°11t. Notice, first, that the spy is able to slip into the house of an ex-Chief of Police without being announced, and secondly and chiefly, that the revolutionary tribunal aotually approaches an ex-Chief of Police and asks him to Pe evidence! To get a parallel to this, one would have to think of a band of dynamiters in London applying to, say, Sir Charles Warren for information a out one of their own number. And to complete the Picture we should have to think of Sir Charles Warren 118 alluding to the incident as quite in the ordinary course of nature. M. Lopukhin goes on :—" To-day there came to me, also without having been announced, the Chef de la SfirettS in St. Petersburg, General Gerasimoff, who stated that Azeff had asked him to question me as to what I should reply if the members of the tribunal dealing with the Azeff case asked me for the information which they required. General Gerasimoff added that all that took place before that tribunal, all the names of witnesses, and their testimony would come to his knowledge in full detail." In other words, the secrets of the tribunal are no secrete, and yet the tribunal, which has thus become for all practical purposes a band of assassins working in the light of day, is allowed to continue in existence while Government officials gravely discuss what kind of evidence they shall lay before it, just as though it were a Royal Commission. M. Lopukhin finishes his letter by saying that Azeff's demand, together with the assertion of the Chef de la &trete that all is known about the affairs of the tribunal, " imply a direct menace " to himself, and he therefore appeals for protection. The logic of this is far from clear. Why should the facts in the letter suggest that M. Lopukhin's life was threatened P One does not see the drift of it till one has read the letter several times. The so-called revolutionary tribunal is evidently composed to a certain extent of spies who have succeeded in duping their brother-revolutionaries. Now this tribunal wanted evidence as to Azeff, who had for some time been the trusted leader of the revolutionaries, but had at last brought himself under suspicion, and M. Lopukhin was sounded as to what kind of evidence he would give. When he had been approached by two persons who came to hind separately and " unannounced on the same errand, he realised that he was simply being used as a pawn for a particular purpose,—to prove the innocence (from the revolutionaries' point of view) of Azeff. The Secret Service people wanted to keep Azeff where he was. But M. Lopukhin, in any case, eatposed himself to danger because he would displease one section of men, who would not hesitate to remove him if he stood in their way. The Secret Police would be no sort of protection to him if lie angered the revolutionaries. They might even employ the revolutionaries to get rid of him, as Azeff caused the tribunal to rid themselves of Gapon ! That is perhaps the worst fact in all these wheels within wheels, that the spies think nothing of using the tribunal of revolutionaries as executioners. When Secret Service agents become their own masters there is no saying what they will not do. And M. Lopukhin plainly assumes that the Prime Minister knows little of the doings of his Secret Police, because he says, " I regard it as my duty to inform you," and so on.

Only last week, in writing of the Secret Service Bureau in the United States, we explained how necessary such a service is under the proper conditions, even in the most civilised countries. But in Russia apparently all the proper conditions are still disregarded ; and if the Secret Police were allowed to go on indefinitely uncontrolled in this way, they would end by being the masters of the country, and that in a very sinister sense. It is no more right to encourage politicians to commit crime than it is to incite thieves to steal. Our readers, with the exercise of a little imagination, will be able to conjure up the most grotesque and alarming possibilities from the present system. The Secret Police could divest themselves of all responsibility. If they became convinced that certain prominent officials were unworthy of their office, or even if they found them personally disagreeable, they might employ the revolutionaries to assassinate them. The guilt could probably never be brought home. It would only be a case of crime which, as the phrase is, had "eluded the vigilance of the police." All that the Secret Police would have to do would be to withdraw their protection for twenty-four hours, nay, for half-an-hour, from the man they wished to have removed. Thus there might be a body of men receiving pay from both sides, and outraging or aiding the law as it suited their momentary convenience ; and all the time the Government would be ignorant of the source of its weakness and discomfort. Such agents would be like the spy employed by the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsula, who in the Duke's belief was always in the pay of the French army as well as in his own, and who moved freely between the two armies. If we remember rightly, however, the Duke considered

that he dealt honestly by both employers according to his lights. He betrayed them, that is, impartially and .without malice.