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Additional resources for John Reed and the Russian Revolution: Uncollected Articles, Letters and Speeches on Russia, 1917–1920
It is primarily the organ by which the soldiers of the Twelfth Army take part in the furious new political life of the country; but in the chaos left by the break-down of the old regime, it has been forced to assume extraordinary functions. For example: The Iskosol fulfills the duties of commissariat department; it attempts to reconcile differences between officers and men; conducts primary and secondary schools among all bodies of troops in repose or reserve; and in certain cases, like the retreat from Riga, where the commanding staff was utterly demoralized, takes actual command of the troops.
The city was darkened against hostile aeroplanes; only chinks of light gleamed from shutters, and blinds glowed dull red. The narrow street made unexpected turns. In the dark we hurtled incessant passing soldiers, spangled with cigarette-lights. Close by passed a series of great trucks, some army-transport, rushing down in the black gloom with a noise like thunder, and a fan-like spray of ooze. Right before me someone scratched a match, and I saw a soldier pasting a white paper on a wall. Our guide, one of the Iskosol, gave an exclamation and ran up, flashing an electric torch.
His eyes were filled with tears. He said nothing. ' I asked him curiously. 'It was worthy of Russia,' he answered, seriously. 'If it had been done in another way I should be ashamed. I am not Socialist, I despise all those swarming, methodical democracies, like your country, where the mediocre comes to the top and beauty is always destroyed. But the Russian people, they have the art instinct. They have done it grandly, magnificently. They have made what the French call the grand geste - the grand gesture.