On the February Revolution 1917
Lenin on the February Revolution 1917
- On the Eve of the Octoberrevolution -
Collection of Texts and Quotations
on occasion of the Centenary of the February Revolution
February 23, 1917 - February 23, 2017
(respectively 8th of March according to the current calendar)
arranged by Wolfgang Eggers
First Part = Collection of Quotations
Second Part = Collection of Texts
V. I. LENIN
Collection of Quotations
March 15, 1917
We here in Zurich are in a state of agitation today: there is a telegram in Zürcher Post and in Neue Zürcher Zeitung of March 15 that in Russia the revolution was victorious in Petrograd on March 14 after three days of struggle, that 12 members of the Duma are in power and the ministers have all been arrested.
That Russia has for the last few days been on the eve of revolution is beyond doubt.
I am beside myself that I cannot go to Scandinavia!! I will not forgive myself for not risking the journey in 1915!
( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 35, page 294. )
March 16, 1917
On no account a repetition of something like the Second International! On no account with Kautsky! Definitely a more revolutionary programme and tactics (there are elements of it in K. Liebknecht ...)
Republican propaganda, the struggle against imperialism, as before revolutionary propaganda, agitation and struggle with the aim of an international proletarian revolution and the conquest of power by the “Soviets of Workers’ Deputies” (and not the Cadet swindlers).
. . . After the “great rebellion” of 1905—the “glorious revolution” of 1917!... ...
( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 35, pages 295-296. )
The following German text is not included in the English edition
27. März 1917
Es lebe die russische Revolution, es lebe die beginnende proletarische
(Lenin, Band 36, Seite 412)
Either allow the destruction of more millions of Jives and utterly ruin European civilisation, or band over power in all the civilised countries to the revolutionary proletariat, carry through the socialist revolution.
To the Russian proletariat has fallen the great honour of beginning the series of revolutions which the imperialist war has made an objective inevitability. But the idea that the Russian proletariat is the chosen revolutionary proletariat among the workers of the world is absolutely alien to us. We know perfectly well that the proletariat of Russia is less organised, less prepared and less class-conscious than the proletariat, of other countries. It is not its special qualities, but rather the special conjuncture of historical circumstances that for a certain, perhaps vert short, time has made the proletariat of Russia the vanguard of the revolutionary proletariat of the whole world. ( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 23, pages 367-374. )
Lenin surveyed the historical conditions which could, and did, produce such a “miracle” as the collapse of the tsarist monarchy in a matter of eight days. The most important of these was the “great rebellion” of 1905–07, so vilely denounced by the Guchkovs and Milyukovs, the present masters of the situation, who are moved to admiration by the “glorious revolution” of 1917. But had the really profound Revolution of 1905 not “ploughed up the ground”, had it not exposed to view all the parties and classes in action, had it not exposed the tsarist clique in all its barbarism and savagery, the swift victory of 1917 would not have been possible.
From the standpoint of world politics and international finance capital, the Guchkov-Milyukov government is no more than an agent of the banking firm “England and France”, an instrument for continuing the imperialist slaughter. Second, as a result of the military defeats sustained by tsarism, the old officer corps was replaced by new, young, predominantly bourgeois, officers. Third, the entire Russian bourgeoisie, which between 1905 and 1914, and particularly between 1914 and 1917, had intensively organised its forces, joined with the land lords in a common struggle against the decadent tsarist regime in the hope of enriching itself by seizing Armenia. Constantinople, Galicia, etc. Fourth, to these imperialist forces was added the deep-going and rapidly unfolding proletarian movement. The proletariat, which performed the revolution, demanded peace, bread and freedom. It had nothing in common with the imperialist bourgeoisie, and it gave leadership to the majority of the army, composed of workers and peasants. The conversion of the imperialist war into civil war has begun.
Hence, the basic contradiction of the present revolution—one that reveals it merely as the first stage of the first revolution brought about by the imperialist war. The Guchkov-Milyukov landlord and capitalist government can give the people neither peace, bread, nor freedom. It is a government for continuing the predatory war. It has openly declared that it will abide by the tsar’s international treaties, and these are all predatory treaties. At best, it might postpone the crisis, but it cannot ward off famine. Nor can it give the country freedom, no matter how many “promises” it makes (promises are cheap), because it is bound by the interests of landlordism and capital. From the very start it tried to arrange a deal with the dynasty, the object being to restore the monarchy.
That is why it would be the height of folly to adopt tactics of “supporting” the new government in the interests, supposedly, of “combating reaction”. That struggle requires the arming of the proletariat—the only serious, effective guarantee both against tsarism and attempts by the Guchkovs and Milyukovs to restore the monarchy.
( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 23, pages 355-356. )
The new government cannot give the people bread. And no freedom can satisfy the masses suffering from hunger due to shortages and inefficient distribution of available stocks, and, most important, to the seizure of these stocks by the landlords and capitalists. It requires revolutionary measures against the landlords and capitalists to give the people bread, and such measures can be carried out only by a workers’ government.
Lastly, the new government is not, in a position to give the people full freedom, though in its March 17 manifesto it speaks of nothing but political freedom and is silent on other, no less important, issues. The new government has already endeavoured to reach agreement with the Romanov dynasty, for it has suggested recognising the Romanovs, in defiance of the people’s will, on the understanding that Nicholas II would abdicate in favour of his son, with a member of the Romanov family appointed regent. In its manifesto, the new government promises every kind of freedom, but has failed in its direct and unconditional duty immediately to implement such freedoms as election of officers, etc., by the soldiers, elections to the St. Petersburg, Moscow and other City Councils on a basis of genuinely universal, and not merely male, suffrage, make all government and public buildings available for public meetings, appoint elections to all local institutions and Zemstvos, likewise on the basis of genuinely universal suffrage, repeal all restrictions on the rights of local government bodies, dismiss all officials appointed to supervise local government bodies, introduce not only freedom of religion, but also freedom from religion, immediately separate the school from the church and free it of control by government officials, etc.
The new government’s March 17 manifesto arouses the deepest distrust, for it consists entirely of promises and does not provide for the immediate carrying out of a single one of the vital measures that can and should be carried out right now.
The new government’s programme does not contain a single word on the eight-hour day or on any other economic measure to improve the worker’s position. It contains not a single word about land for the peasants, about the uncompensated transfer to the peasants of all the estates. By its silence on these vital issues the new government reveals its capitalist and landlord nature.
Only a workers’ government that relies, first, on the overwhelming majority of the peasant population, the farm labourers and poor peasants, and, second, on an alliance with the revolutionary workers of all countries in the war, can give the people peace, bread and full freedom.
The revolutionary proletariat can therefore only regard the revolution of March 1 (14) as its initial, and by no means complete, victory on its momentous path. It cannot but set itself the task of continuing the fight for a democratic republic and socialism.
( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 23, pages 287-291.)
... the factual conclusion I drew in my first letter, namely: that the February-March Revolution was merely the first stage of the revolution. Russia is passing through a peculiar historical moment of transition to the next stage of the revolution, or, to use Skobelev’s expression, to a “second revolution”.
If we want to be Marxists and learn from the experience of revolution in the whole world, we must strive to under stand in what, precisely, lies the peculiarity of this transitional moment, and what tactics follow from its objective specific features.
The Guchkov government is held in a vise: bound by the interests of capital, it is compelled to strive to continue the predatory, robber war, to protect the monstrous profits of capital and the landlords, to restore the monarchy. Bound by its revolutionary origin and by the need for an abrupt change from tsarism to democracy, pressed by the bread-hungry and peace-hungry masses, the government is compelled to lie, to wriggle, to play for time, to “proclaim” and promise (promises are the only things that are very cheap even at a time of madly rocketing prices) as much as possible and do as little as possible, to make concessions with one hand and to withdraw them with the other.
Under certain circumstances, the new government can at best postpone its collapse somewhat by leaning on all the organising ability of the entire Russian bourgeoisie and bourgeois intelligentsia. But even in that case it is unable to avoid collapse, because it is impossible to escape from the claws of the terrible monster of imperialist war and famine nurtured by world capitalism unless one renounces bourgeois relationships, passes to revolutionary measures, appeals to the supreme historic heroism of both the Russian and world proletariat.
Hence the conclusion: we cannot overthrow the new government at one stroke, or, if we can (in revolutionary times the limits of what is possible expand a thousandfold), we will not be able to maintain power unless we counter the magnificent organisation of the entire Russian bourgeoisie and the entire bourgeois intelligentsia with an equally magnificent organisation of the proletariat, which must lead the entire vast mass of urban and rural poor, the semi-proletariat and small proprietors.
Irrespective of whether the “second revolution” has already broken out in St. Petersburg (I have said that it would be absolutely absurd to think that it is possible from abroad to assess the actual tempo at which it is maturing), whether it has been postponed for some time, or whether it has already begun in individual areas (of which some signs are evident)—in any case, the slogan of the moment on the eve of the new revolution, during it, and on the morrow of it, must be proletarian organisation.
(Lenin, Volume 23, Third Letter "From afar":Concerning a Proletarian Militia
Events, however, have created an entirely new situation. The chief mistake made by revolutionaries is that they look backward at the old revolutions, whereas life gives us too many new things that have to be fitted into the general pattern of events.
The motive forces of the [February] revolution were defined by us quite correctly. Events have justified our old Bolshevik premises, but the trouble with us is that comrades have wished to remain “old” Bolsheviks. Mass movement had been confined to the proletariat and the peasantry. The West-European bourgeoisie had always been opposed to revolution. Such was the situation to which we had been accustomed. But things turned out differently. The imperialist war split the European bourgeoisie, and this created a situation where the Anglo-French capitalists, for imperialist reasons, became supporters of a Russian revolution.
( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 24, page 139-140. )
The general definition of the government as counter-revolutionary is, in my opinion, incorrect. If we speak in general terms, we must specify which revolution we mean. As far as the bourgeois revolution is concerned, this cannot be said, because that revolution is already completed. As far as the proletarian and peasant revolution is concerned, such a statement is premature, for we cannot be sure that the peasants will necessarily go farther than the bourgeoisie. To express our confidence in the peasants, particularly now that they have turned to imperialism and defencism, i. e., to supporting the war, is, in my opinion, unsound. at the present moment the peasants have entered into a number of agreements with the Cadets. That is why I regard this clause in the Moscow resolution as politically incorrect. We want the peasants to go farther than the bourgeoisie, we want them to take the land from the landowners, but so far we can say nothing definite about their future conduct.
We studiously avoid the words “revolutionary democracy”. We may use them when there is a question of an attack by the government, but at the present moment they are highly deceptive, for it is very difficult to distinguish the classes which have mingled in this chaos. Our task is to free those who are trailing behind. The Soviets are important to us not as a form; to us it is important what classes they represent. We must, therefore, do a great deal of work to develop the class-consciousness of the proletariat....
( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 24, pages 225-313. ,(2) Report on the Current Situation April 24 (May 7)
We are for a strong revolutionary government. Whatever the capitalists and their flunkeys may shout about us to the contrary, their lies will remain lies.
The thing is not to let phrases obscure one’s consciousness, disorient one’s mind. When people speak about “revolution”, “the revolutionary people”, “revolutionary democracy”, and so on, nine times out of ten this is a lie or self-deception. The question is—what class is making this revolution? A revolution against whom?
Against tsarism? In that sense most of Russia’s landowners and capitalists today are revolutionaries. When the revolution is an accomplished fact, even reactionaries come into line with it. There is no deception of the masses at present more frequent, more detestable, and more harmful than that which lauds the revolution against tsarism.
Against the landowners? In this sense most of the peasants, even most of the well-to-do peasants, that is, probably nine-tenths of the population in Russia, are revolutionaries. Very likely, some of the capitalists, too, are prepared to become revolutionaries on the grounds that the landowners cannot be saved anyway, so let us better side with the revolution and try to make things safe for capitalism.
Against the capitalists? Now that is the real issue. That is the crux of the matter, because without a revolution against the capitalists, all that prattle about “peace without annexations” and the speedy termination of the war by such a peace is either naïveté and ignorance, or stupidity and deception. But for the war, Russia could have gone on living for years and decades without a revolution against the capitalists. The war has made that objectively impossible. The alternatives are either utter ruin or a revolution against the capitalists. That is how the question stands. That is how the very trend of events poses it.
Instinctively, emotionally, and by attraction, the bulk of Russia’s population, namely, the proletarians and semi proletarians, i.e., the workers and poor peasants, are in sympathy with a revolution against the capitalists. So far, however, there is no clear consciousness of this, and, as a result, no determination. To develop these is our chief task.
( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 24, page 360. )
By “revolutionary defencism” we mean vindication of the war on the plea that, after all, we have made the revolution, after all, we are a revolutionary people, a revolutionary democracy. But what answer do we give to that? What revolution did we make? We overthrew Nicholas. The revolution was not so very difficult compared with one that would have overthrown the whole class of landowners and capitalists. Who did the revolution put in power? The landowners and capitalists the very same classes who have long been in power in Europe. Revolutions like this occurred there a hundred years ago.
The new “revolutionary defencism” uses the great concept of revolution merely as a cloak to cover up the dirty and bloody war waged for the sake of dirty and outrageous treaties.
The Russian revolution has not altered the war, but it has created organisations which exist in no other country and were seldom found in revolutions in the West. Most of the revolutions were confined to the emergence of governments of our Tereshchenko and Konovalov type, while the country remained passive and disorganised. The Russian revolution has gone further than that. In this we have the germ of hope that it may overcome the war. Besides the government of “near-socialist” ministers, the government of imperialist war, the government of offensive, a government tied up with Anglo-French capital besides this government and independent of it we have all over Russia a network of Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies. Here is a revolution which has not said its last word yet. Here is a revolution which Western Europe, under similar conditions, has not known.
Here are organisations of those classes which really have no need for annexations, which have not put millions in the banks, and which are probably not interested in whether the Russian Colonel Lyakhov and the British Liberal ambassador divided Persia properly or not. Here is the pledge of this revolution being carried further, i.e., that the classes which have no interest in annexations, and despite the fact that they put too much trust in the capitalist government, despite the appalling muddle and appalling deception contained in the very concept “revolutionary defencism”, despite the fact that they support the war loan, support the government of imperialist war despite all this have succeeded in creating organisations in which the mass of the oppressed classes are represented. These are the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies, which, in very many local areas in Russia, have gone much further than the Petrograd Soviet in their revolutionary work. It is only natural, because in Petrograd we have the central authority of the capitalists. ( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 24, pages 398-421.)
First, the revolution of February 27 was also a social revolution. Every political upheaval, if it is not a mere change of cliques, is a social revolution. The thing is—what class makes that social revolution. The revolution of February 27, 1917 took the power from the feudal landowners headed by Nicholas II and gave it to the bourgeoisie. It was a social revolution of the bourgeoisie.
By the use of clumsy unscientific terminology which confuses “social” with “socialist” revolution, Finansovaya Gazeta tries to conceal from the people the obvious fact that the workers and peasants cannot content themselves with seizure of power by the bourgeoisie.
By trying to ignore this clear and simple fact the capitalists are deceiving themselves and the people.
Secondly, “without precedent anywhere” is also applicable to the great imperialist war of 1914–17. Such a debacle, such bloody horrors, such a disaster, and such a break-down of our entire civilisation are “without precedent anywhere”. It is not anybody’s impatience, not anybody’s propaganda, but objective conditions and this unprecedented break-down of civilisation that necessitate this control over production and distribution, over the banks, factories, etc.
Failing this, tens of millions of people can be said without exaggeration to face inevitable ruin and death.
In view of the freedom created by the “political upheaval” of February 27, in view of the existence of the Soviets, such control is impossible unless the workers and peasants unite, unless the minority of the population bows to the majority. Nothing can alter this, protest as you may.
Third, and most important of all—even for the purpose of a socialist revolution there is no need at all for “tens of millions of citizens to abdicate their property rights”. Not even socialism (and control over the banks and factories does not yet mean socialism) requires anything of the kind.
This is an infamous defamation on socialism. No socialist has ever proposed that the “tens of millions”, i.e., the small and middle peasants, should be deprived of their property (=“made to abdicate their property rights”).
Nothing of the kind!
Socialists everywhere have always denied such nonsense.
Socialists are out to make only the landowners and capitalists “abdicate”. To deal a decisive blow at those who are defying the people the way the colliery owners are doing when they disrupt and ruin production, it is sufficient to make a few hundred, at the most one or two thousand, millionaires, bank and industrial and commercial bosses, “abdicate” their property rights.
This would be quite enough to break the resistance of capital. Even this tiny group of wealthy people need not have all their property rights taken away from them; they could be allowed to keep many possessions in the way of consumption articles and ownership of a certain modest income.
The question at issue is merely that of breaking down the resistance of a few hundred millionaires. Only in this way can disaster be averted.
( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 24, pages 439-440.)
The theory of the class struggle is thrown overboard; it is much more profitable to spout phrases about “democracy” In the abstract, while trampling underfoot the elementary truth of Marxism, namely, that it is precisely within a “democracy” that the gulf between the capitalists and the proletarians is widest.
The same old story: agreement with the capitalists, which, in fact, signifies deception of the workers by playing at negotiations with their class foes.
Obviously, if you write the words Revolution and Uprising with capital letters it makes the thing look “awfully” frightening, just like the Jacobins. Plenty of effect at small expense. For the people who write this are virtually helping to crush the revolution and impede the uprising of the working people by supporting the Russian government of the imperialists, by supporting their methods of concealing from the people the secret treaties, their tactics of putting off the immediate abolition of the landed estates, by supporting their war policy of “offensive”, their high-handed insulting behaviour towards the local representative bodies, their presumption to appoint or endorse the local officers elected by the local population, and so on ad infinitum.
Gentlemen, heroes of the phrase, knights of revolutionary bombast! Socialism demands that we distinguish between capitalist democracy and proletarian democracy, between bourgeois revolution and proletarian revolution, between a rising of the rich against the tsar and a rising of the working people against the rich. Socialism demands that we distinguish our bourgeois revolution, which has ended (the bourgeoisie now is counter-revolutionary),from the mounting revolution of the proletarians and poor peasants. The former revolution is for war, for preserving the landed estates, for “subordinating” the local organs of self-government to the central government, for secret treaties. The latter revolution has begun to throttle the war by revolutionary fraternisation, by abolishing the power of the landowners in the local areas, by increasing the number and the power of the Soviets, and by introducing everywhere the elective principle.
The Narodnik and Menshevik ministerialists are spouting phrases about “democracy” in the abstract, about “Revolution” in the abstract in order to cover up their agreement with the imperialist, now definitely counter-revolutionary, bourgeoisie of their own country—an agreement which, in effect, is turning into a struggle against the revolution of the proletarians and semi-proletarians. ( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 24, pages 546-548.)
The Russian ministeriable Narodniks and Mensheviks are in a hopeless muddle; every passing day adds to their self-exposure.
Their “final” stock argument is that we are having a revolution. But that argument is false from beginning to end. For our revolution so far has only brought the bourgeoisie to power, as in France and Britain, with a “harmless minority” of “tamed socialists”, as in France and Britain. What our revolution will produce tomorrow—whether a return to the monarchy, the strengthening of the bourgeoisie, or the transfer of power to more advanced classes—neither we nor anyone else knows. Consequently, the plea of “revolution” in general is a gross deception of the people and of oneself.
The annexation issue is a good touchstone for the Narodniks and Mensheviks, who are entangled in a web of lies. They are just as muddled as Plekhanov, Henderson, Schieidemann and Co.; they are distinguishable from each other only in words, for as far as deeds are concerned they are all alike—dead to socialism.
( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 24, page 567.)
Pravda is barred from the front. The Kiev “agents” have decided not to distribute Pravda. The Zemstvo Union is not selling Pravda in its newspaper stands. And now we are promised a “systematic fight against the preaching of Leninism” (Izvestia). On the other hand, every spontaneous protest, every excess, wherever it comes from, is blamed on us.
This, too, is a method for combating Bolshevism.
A well-tried method.
Unable as they are to get clear guidelines, aware instinctively how false and unsatisfactory is the position of the official leaders of democracy, the masses are compelled to grope a way out for themselves.
The result is that every dissatisfied, class-conscious revolutionary, every angered fighter who yearns for his village home and sees no end to the war, and sometimes simply men who are out to save their own skins, rally to the banner of Bolshevism.
Where Bolshevism has a chance to air its views openly, there we find no disorganisation.
Where there are no Bolsheviks or where they are not allowed to speak, there we find excesses, demoralisation, and pseudo-Bolsheviks.
And that is just what our enemies need.
They need a pretext for saying: “The Bolsheviks are demoralising the army” and then shutting the Bolsheviks’ mouths.
To dispose once for all of “enemy” slander and the ridiculous distortions of Bolshevism, we quote the concluding part of a leaflet distributed in the army by one of our delegates on the eve of the All-Russia Congress.
Here it is:
“Comrades, you must have your say.
“Do not let us have any agreements with the bourgeoisie?
“All power to the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies!
“This does not mean that we must immediately overthrow the present government or disobey it. So long as the majority of the peoples support it and believe that five socialists can cope with all the rest, we cannot afford to fritter away our forces in desultory uprisings.
“Husband your strength! Get together at meetings! Pass resolutions! Demand that all power be handed over to the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies! Convince those who disagree with us! Send your resolution to me at the Congress in Petrograd in the name of your regiment, so that I can quote your voice there!
“But beware of those who, posing as Bolsheviks, will try to provoke you to riots and disturbances as a screen for their own cowardice! Know that though they are with you now, they will sell you out to the old regime at the first hint of danger.
“The real Bolsheviks call you to conscious revolutionary struggle, and not to riots.
“Comrades! The All-Russia Congress will elect representatives, to whom, pending the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, the Provisional Government will be accountable.
“Comrades! At that Congress I shall demand:
“First,that all power be handed over to the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.
“Second, that a proposal for peace without annexations or indemnities be made Immediately in the name of our people to the peoples and governments of all the belligerent nations, both our Allies and our enemies. If any government tries to turn it down it will be overthrown by its own people.
“Comrades! Only by the transfer of power to the democracy in Russia, Germany, and France, only by the overthrow of the bourgeois governments in all countries, can the war be ended.
“Our revolution lies started this, and it is our task now to give a further impetus to the world revolution by having a fully authorised popular Russian government make an order of peace to all the governments of Europe and by strengthening our alliance with the revolutionary democrats of Western Europe.
“Woe betide the bourgeois government that will persist in continuing the war after this.
“Together with Its people we shall make revolutionary war upon that government.
“It is to say all this to our government In Petrograd in your name that I have been elected to the Congress in Petrograd.
“Member of the Army Committee of the 11th Army, Delegate of the Central Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks) to the Congress of the South-Western Front, Ensign Krylenko.”
The Bolsheviks are calling the proletariat, the poor peasants and all the toiling and exploited people to a conscious revolutionary struggle, and not to riots and disturbances.
Only a genuine government of the people, a government belonging to the majority of the nation, is capable of following the right path leading mankind to the overthrow of the capitalist yoke, to deliverance from the horrors and misery of the imperialist war, and to a just and lasting peace.
( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 24, pages 570-572. )
The struggle against the imperialist war is impossible unless it is a struggle waged by the revolutionary classes against the ruling classes on a world scale.
War is a continuation of bourgeois politics, nothing else. The ruling class shapes the country’s policy in war-time as well.
Imperialism is the final stage of capitalism’s development, a stage at which it has gone as far as to divide the whole world, and two gigantic groups are locked in a life-and-death struggle. You must serve one group or the other, or overthrow both groups. There is no other way.
Imperialism’s victory is the beginning of an inevitable, unavoidable split of the socialists of all countries into two camps. Anyone who keeps on talking about the socialists as an integral body, as something that can be integral, is deceiving himself and others.
What is the practical way out of this war as we see it? We say: the way out of this war lies only through revolution. Support the revolution of the classes oppressed by the capitalists, overthrow the capitalist class in your country and thereby set an example to other countries. That alone is socialism. That alone means fighting the war. Everything else is empty promises, phrase-mongering or pious wishes. Socialism has been split all over the world. You continue to confuse things by associating with socialists who back their governments. You forget that in Britain and Germany, the true socialists, who express the socialism of the masses, are isolated and have been thrown into gaol. Yet they alone express the interests of the proletarian movement. But what if in Russia the oppressed class found itself in power? When asked how we shall break out of the war by ourselves, we answer: you cannot break out of it by yourself. All our Party resolutions and all speakers at our public meetings call it absurd to say you can break out of this war by yourself. This war involves hundreds of millions of people and hundreds of thousands of millions in capital. The only way out is the transfer of power to the revolutionary class which must really break imperialism, its financial, banking and annexationist threads. Until this happens nothing will have been done. The revolution was limited to your getting, in place of tsarism and imperialism, a near-republic which is imperialist through and through and which cannot treat Finland and the Ukraine democratically, i.e., without being afraid of division, even through revolutionary worker and peasant representatives.
No revolutionary class can rule out revolutionary war, or it will doom itself to ridiculous pacifism.
( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 15-42. [excerpts])
To What State Have the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks Brought the Revolution?
They have brought it to a state of subjection to the imperialists.
The offensive is a renewal of the imperialist war. Nothing essential has changed in the relations between the two gigantic capitalist blocs waging war on one another. Even after the revolution of February 27, Russia remains under the complete sway of the capitalists, who are bound to Anglo- French imperialist capital by alliance and by the old, tsarist, secret treaties. Both ·the economics and politics of the continuing war are the same as before: the same old imperialist banking capital dominating economic life, and the same old secret treaties, the same old foreign policy of alliances of one group of imperialists against another.
The petty-bourgeois masses cannot help vacillating between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. This has been the case in all countries, especially between 1789 and 1871. And it is also the case in Russia. The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries have induced the masses to submit to the policy of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie.
That is the heart of the matter. That is the meaning of the offensive. That is the peculiarity of the situation: it was not violence, but trust in the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks that led the people astray.
Will it be for long?
No, not long. The masses will learn from their own experience. The sad experience of the new stage of the war (a stage already begun), of further ruin accentuated by the offensive, will inevitably lead to the political downfall of the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties.
The task of the workers’ party is, first of all, to help the masses realise and take proper account of this experience, to prepare properly for this great downfall, which will show the masses their true leader—the organised urban proletariat.
(Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 118-120.)
“The Bolsheviks are to blame for everything”—this is agreed on both by the Cadets, who are leading the counter revolution, and by the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, who call themselves “revolutionary democrats”, probably because of their pretty little bloc’s daily departures from the principles of democracy and revolution.
The “revolutionary democrats” no longer believe in the revolution. They are afraid of democracy. They fear a break with the Anglo-French capitalists more than anything else and they fear the displeasure of the Russian capitalists.
The revolution has posed problems of unusual difficulty, of colossal importance, of world-wide scope. It is impossible either to cope with economic dislocation or to break free from the terrible grip of the imperialist war without taking the most drastic revolutionary measures that will be backed by the unbounded heroism of the oppressed and exploited and without them trusting and supporting their organised vanguard, the proletariat.
(Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 128-130.)
In times of revolution, procrastination is often equivalent to a complete betrayal of the revolution. Responsibility for the delay in the transfer of power to the workers, soldiers and peasants, for the delay in carrying through revolutionary measures to enlighten the ignorant peasants, rests wholly on the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks.
They have betrayed the revolution on this matter. They bear the blame for the fact that the workers and soldiers are forced to limit themselves to primitive means in the fight against the counter-revolutionary bourgeois press and agitation, whereas they could and should have had nation-wide means for the purpose.
( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 151-152.)
Either you suppress this class by force, as the Cadets have been preaching for some time, since May 6 in fact, or you entrust your self to its leadership. Either you are in alliance with imperialist capital, then you must take the offensive, you must be an obedient servant of capital, you must sell yourself to it, you must throw overboard the utopian ideas of abolishing landed property without compensation (see Birzhevka for Lvov’s speeches against Chernov’s programme); or you are against imperialist capital, then you must immediately propose precise peace terms to all nations, because they have all been exhausted by the war, you must dare to raise, and be able to raise, the banner of world proletarian revolution against capital, and to do so not in words but in deeds, to further the revolution with the greatest determination in Russia herself.
Reforms will not help. There is no way out of the crisis, the war and economic disruption, through reforms.
( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 153-154. )
Democracy is the rule of the majority. As long as the will of the majority was not clear, as long as it was possible to make it out to be unclear, at least with a grain of plausibility, the people were offered a counter-revolutionary bourgeois government disguised as "democratic." But this delay could not last long. During the several months that have passed since February 27 the will of the majority of the workers and peasants, of the overwhelming majority of the country’s population, has become clear in more than a general sense. Their will has found expression in mass organisations—the Soviet’s of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies.
To tolerate the Cadet Ministers or the Cadet government or Cadet policies means challenging democrats and democracy. This is the source of the political crises since February 27, and this also the source of the shakiness and vacillation of our government system. At every turn, daily and even hourly, appeals are being made to the people’s revolutionary spirit and to their democracy on behalf of the most authoritative government institutions and congresses. Yet the government’s policies in particular, are all departures from revolutionary principles, and breaches in democracy.
This sort of thing will not do.
It is inevitable that a situation like the present should show elements of instability now for one reason, now for another. And it is not exactly a clever policy of jib. Things are moving by fits and starts towards a point where power will be transferred to the Soviets, which is what our Party called for long ago.
(Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 155-156.)
Yesterday’s political crisis, like most types of crises, which tear down everything conventional and shatter all illusions, left in its wake the ruins of the illusions expressed in the usual answers—cited above—to the basic questions of any revolution.
 Lenin is referring to the massive demonstrations that took place in Petrograd on July 3 and 4 (16 and 17), 1917. The soldiers, sailors and workers took to the streets, being angered by the Provisional Government sending troops into an offensive that ended in defeat, as might have been expected. The movement began on July 3 (16) in the Vyborg district with the action of the First Machine-Gun Regiment. It threatened to develop into an insurrection against the Provisional Government.
Just then the Bolshevik Party was against all armed action, for it considered that there was no revolutionary crisis in the country as yet. The Central Committee meeting held at 4 p.m., on July 3 (16), resolved to refrain from action. A similar resolution was adopted by the Bolsheviks’ Second Petrograd City Conference, which took place at the same time. Conference delegates went to the city’s factories and districts to restrain the masses from action. But action had already begun and there was no stopping it.
In view of the mood of the masses, the Central Committee, meeting in a joint session with the Petrograd Committee and the Military Organisation, resolved late on the evening of July 3 (16) to join in the demonstration in order to lend it a peaceful and organised character. Lenin was not in Petrograd at the time—being ill as a result of sustained overwork, he had gone to the country for a few day’s rest. Getting word of the events, he returned to Petrograd on the morning of July 4 (17) and assumed political leadership. During the day of July 4 (17) he addressed the Kronstadt sailors from the balcony of Kshesinskaya’s Palace (see this volume, p. 213). His speech played an important part; it called on the sailors to exercise restraint and be staunch and vigilant.
Over 500,000 people took part in the July 4 (17) demonstration. They carried Bolshevik slogans—“All Power to the Soviets!”, etc. They insisted that the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets take power into its hands. But the S.R. and Menshevik leaders refused to take power.
With the knowledge and consent of (lie Menshevik and S.R. Central Executive Committee, the Provisional Government sent military cadets and Cossacks against the peaceful demonstration. The troops opened fire. In addition to them the Provisional Government called in counter-revolutionary units from the front line to smash the demonstration.
A meeting of the Central and Petrograd Committees held on the night of July 4–5 under Lenin’s leadership resolved to discontinue the demonstration in an organised fashion. It was a judicious measure by the Party, which knew how to retreat in time and stave off the defeat of the main revolutionary forces. The Mensheviks and S.R.s virtually took part in and abetted the counter– revolutionary butchery. They joined the bourgeoisie in bearing down on the Bolshevik Party. Pravda, Soldatskaya Pravda and other Bolshevik papers were closed down by the Provisional Government, and the printing plant of Trud, acquired with money collected by the workers, was wrecked. The workers were disarmed, and arrests, house searches and riots took place. The revolutionary-minded units in the Petrograd garrison were sent off to the front line.
After the July events power in the country was fully taken over by the counter-revolutionary Provisional Government. The Soviets became a mere appendage to it. Dual power was at an end. So was the peaceful period of the revolution. The Bolsheviks were faced with the task of preparing for an armed uprising to overthrow the Provisional Government.
(Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 157-161.)
An immense torrent of abuse and slander is being poured on the Bolsheviks for the demonstration of July 3 and 4.
They go so far as to accuse the Bolsheviks of “trying to seize the city”, of wanting to “violate” the will of the Soviets, of “encroaching on the authority of the Soviets”, and so on, and so forth.
The facts, however, show that the Bolsheviks did not seize a single building, a single institution, let alone a section of the city (although they could have), nor tried to do so even though the people were armed.
The facts show that the only political act of violence against an institution occurred on the night of July 4-5, when the military cadets and Cossacks wrecked Pravda on Polovtsev’s orders, without the knowledge and against the will of the Soviet.
This is a fact.
Is it really so difficult to appreciate that if the demonstrators had planned or wished to use force, they would have sent people against a definite institution, as Polovtsev sent military cadets and Cossacks against Pravda? Since sailors were killed, and since the witness from the bourgeois paper says that the shooting was started “from the right side of Sadovaya” “when the armed demonstrators were passing”, isn’t this obvious enough proof that it was the Black Hundreds, the opponents of democracy, the quarters close to the Cadets, that wanted and were bent on violence?
(Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 163-164.)
It is impossible to participate in the imperialist war without “participating” in the capitalist business of subjugating the people with loans from the capitalist gentlemen.
In order to really oppose the imperialist war, we must sever all ties that fetter people and bind them to capital. The workers and peasants must fearlessly take over the supervision of the banks and production and the regulation of production.
(Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, page 165.)
What have the three political crises proved — April 20 and 21, June 10 and 18, July 3 and 4?
They have proved, in the first place, that the masses are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the bourgeois policy of the Provisional Government’s bourgeois majority.
The common cause, the common origin, the deep common root of the three above-mentioned political crises is clear, especially if we look at them in their interrelation, as science demands that politics be looked at. It is absurd even to think that three such crises could be produced artificially.
In the second place, it is instructive to grasp what each one of them had in common with the others, and what was its specific features.
What is common to all three is a mass dissatisfaction overflowing all bounds, a mass resentment with the bourgeoisie and their government. Whoever forgets, ignores or underestimates this essence of the matter, renounces the ABC of socialism concerning the class struggle.
Let those who call themselves socialists, who know something about the character of the class struggle in European revolutions, think about the class struggle in the Russian revolution.
These crises are peculiar in the ways they manifested themselves. The first (April 20–21) was stormy and spontaneous, and completely unorganised. It led to Black Hundreds firing on the demonstrators and to unprecedentedly savage and lying accusations against the Bolsheviks. After the outburst came a political crisis.
In the second case, the demonstration was called by the Bolsheviks, and was canceled after a stern ultimatum and direct ban by the Congress of Soviets; then, on June 18, came a general demonstration in which the Bolshevik slogans clearly predominated. As the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks themselves admitted on the evening of June 18, a political crisis would certainly have broken out had it not been for the offensive at the front.
The third crisis broke out spontaneously on July 3 despite the Bolsheviks’ efforts on July 2 to check it. Reaching its climax on July 4, it led to a furious outburst of counter-revolution on July 5 and 6. The vacillation of the S.R.s and Mensheviks expressed itself in Spiridonova and a number of other S.R.s declaring for the transfer of power to the Soviets, and in the Menshevik internationalists, previously opposed to it, voicing the same idea.
The last, and perhaps the most instructive, conclusion to be drawn from considering the events in their interconnection is that all three crises manifested some form of demonstration that is new in the history of our revolution, a demonstration of a more complicated type in which the movement proceeds in waves, a sudden drop following a rapid rise, revolution and counter-revolution becoming more acute, and the middle elements being eliminated for a more or less extensive period.
In all three crises, the movement took the form of a demonstration. An anti-government demonstration — that would be the most exact, formal description of events. But the fact of the matter is that it was not an ordinary demonstration; it was something considerably more than a demonstration, but less than a revolution. It was an outburst of revolution and counter-revolution together, a sharp, sometimes almost sudden elimination of the middle elements, while the proletarian and bourgeois elements made a stormy appearance.
In this respect it is extremely typical that, for each of these movements, the middle elements blame both of the specific class forces — the proletariat as well as the bourgeoisie.
The middle elements blame the Cadets for making the Bolsheviks’ work easier, and the Bolsheviks for making the Cadets’ work easier! Is it so hard to guess that if we substitute class names for political ones we have before us the dreams of the petty bourgeoisie about the disappearance of the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie? Isn’t the petty bourgeoisie complaining about the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie? Is it really so hard to guess that no Bolsheviks in the world could have “created” even a single "popular movement", let alone three movements, if the deepest economic and political causes had not set the proletariat into action? Is it so difficult to guess that no Cadets and monarchists combined could have called forth any movement "from the Right" if it had not been for the equally deep causes that make the bourgeoisie as a class counter-revolutionary?
Both we and the Cadets were blamed for the April 20-21 movement — for intransigence, extremes, and for aggravating the situation. The Bolsheviks were even accused (absurd as it may be) of the firing on Nevsky. When the movement was over, however, those same S.R.s and Mensheviks, in their joint, official organ, Izvestia, wrote that the "popular movement" had "swept away the imperialists, Milyukov, etc.", i.e., they praised the movement!! Isn’t that typical? Doesn’t it show very clearly that the petty bourgeoisie do not understand the workings, the meaning, of the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie?
The objective situation is this. The vast majority of the country’s population is petty-bourgeois by its living conditions and more so by its ideas. But big capital rules the country, primarily through banks and syndicates. There is an urban proletariat in this country, mature enough to go its own way, but not yet able to draw at once the majority of the semi-proletarians to its side. From this fundamental, class fact follows the inevitability of such crises as the three we are now examining, as well as their forms.
In future the forms of crises may, of course, change, but the substance of the issue will remain the same even if, for instance, the S.R. Constituent Assembly meets in October. The S.R.s have promised the peasants: (1) to abolish private landownership; (2) to transfer the land to the working people; (3) to confiscate the landed estates and transfer them to the peasants without compensation. These great reforms can never be realised without the most decisive revolutionary measures against the bourgeoisie, measures that can only be taken when the poor peasants join the proletariat, only when the banks and the syndicates are nationalised.
The credulous peasants, believing for a time that these beautiful things can be achieved by compromising with the bourgeoisie, will inevitably be disappointed and . . . “dissatisfied” (mildly speaking) with the sharp class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie for the implementation of the promises of the S.R.s. So it was, and so it will be.
(Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 171-175.
The authorities need not a trial but a persecution campaign against the internationalists. What Kerensky and Co. need is to put them in gaol and keep them there. So it was (in Britain and France), and so it will be (in Russia).
Let the internationalists work illegally as much as they can, but let them not commit the folly of appearing in court of their own free will!
(Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 176-177.)
All hopes for a peaceful development of the Russian revolution have vanished for good. This is the objective situation: either complete victory for the military dictatorship, or victory for the workers’ armed uprising; the latter victory is only possible when the insurrection coincides with a deep, mass upheaval against the government and the bourgeoisie caused by economic disruption and the prolongation of the war.
The slogan “All Power to the Soviets!” was a slogan for peaceful development of the revolution which was possible in April, May, June, and up to July 5-9, i. e., up to the time when actual power passed into the hands of the military dictatorship. This slogan is no longer correct, for it does not take into account that power has changed hands and that the revolution has in fact been completely betrayed by the S.R.s and Mensheviks. Reckless actions, revolts, partial resistance, or hopeless hit-and-run attempts to oppose reaction will not help. What will help is a clear understanding of t.he situation, endurance and determination of the workers’ vanguard, preparation of forces for the armed uprising, for the victory of which conditions at present are extremely difficult, but still possible if the facts and trends mentioned above coincide. Let us have no constitutional or republican illusions of any kind, no more illusions about a peaceful path, no sporadic actions, no yielding now to provocation from the Black Hundreds and Cossacks. Let us gather forces, reorganise them, and resolutely prepare for the armed uprising, if the course of the crisis permits it on a really mass, country-wide scale. The transfer of land to the peasants is impossible at present without armed uprising, since the counter-revolutionaries, having taken power, have completely united with the landowners as a class.
The aim of the insurrection can only be to transfer power to the proletariat, supported by the poor peasants, with a view to putting our Party programme into effect.
The party of the working class, without abandoning legal activity, but never for a moment overrating it, must combine legal with illegal work, as it did in 1912-14.
Don’t let slip a single hour of legal work. But don’t cherish any constitutional or “peaceful” illusions. Form illegal organisations or cells everywhere and at once for the publication of leaflets, etc. Reorganise immediately, consistently, resolutely, all along the line.
(Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 178-180.)
A revolution differs from a “normal” situation in the state precisely because controversial issues of state life are decided by the direct class and popular struggle to the point of armed struggle. It cannot be otherwise when the masses are free and armed. This fundamental fact implies that in time of revolution it is not enough to ascertain the “will of the majority”—you must prove to be stronger at the decisive moment and in the decisive place; you must win. Beginning with the Peasant War in the Middle Ages in Germany, and throughout all the big revolutionary movements and epochs, including 1848, 1871 and 1905, we have seen innumerable examples of the better organised, more politically-conscious and better armed minority forcing its will upon the majority and defeating it.
Frederick Engels particularly stressed the lesson to be drawn from experience, a lesson which to some degree is common to the peasant revolt of the sixteenth century and to the Revolution of 1848 in Germany, namely, disunity of action and lack of centralisation on the part of the oppressed owing to their petty-bourgeois status in life. Examining the matter from this point of view, we come to the same conclusion, namely, that a simple majority of the petty-bourgeois masses does not and cannot decide anything, for the disunited millions of rural petty proprietors can only acquire organisation, political consciousness in action and centralisation of action (which is indispensable for victory) when they are led either by the bourgeoisie or by the proletariat.
In the long run we know that the problems of social life are resolved by the class struggle in its bitterest and fiercest form—civil war. In this war, as in any other war—a fact also well known and in principle not disputed by anyone—it is economics that decide.
It is quite typical and significant that the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, while not denying this “in principle” and while realising perfectly the capitalist character of Russia today, dare not face the truth soberly. They are afraid to admit the truth that every capitalist country, including Russia, is basically divided into three main forces: the bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
The cycle of party development is complete. The Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks have slid steadily downwards—from their expression of “confidence” in Kerensky on February 28 to May 6, which bound them to the counter revolutionaries, and then to July 5, when they touched rock bottom.
A new period Is coming in. The victory of the counter revolutionaries is making the people disappointed with the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties and is paving the way for the masses to adopt a policy of support for the revolutionary proletariat.
(Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 196-210.)
I left Petrograd on Thursday, June 29, on account of illness and did not return until Tuesday morning, July 4. But of course I assume full and unqualified responsibility for every single move or measure of our Party Central Committee, as well as of our Party as a whole. I call attention to my absence to account for my ignorance of certain details and for my allusion mainly to documents that have appeared in the press.
The difference between the two movements is that the latter was much more intense than the former and that the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties, neutral on April 20 and 21, have since got themselves into a tangle by their dependence on the counter-revolutionary Cadets (through the coalition Cabinet and the policy of taking offensive action), and so, on July 3 and 4, found themselves on the side of the counter-revolution.
The movement on July 3 and 4 was the last attempt by means of a demonstration to induce the Soviets to take power. That was when the Soviets, i.e., the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks controlling them, virtually handed over power to the counter-revolution by summoning counter-revolutionary troops to Petrograd, disarming and disbanding revolutionary regiments and the workers, approving and tolerating acts of tyranny and violence against the Bolsheviks, the introduction of the death penalty at the front, etc.
Military, and consequently political, power has now virtually passed into the hands of the counter-revolution represented by the Cadets and backed by the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. Now, a peaceful development of the Russian revolution is no longer possible and the historical alternative is either complete victory for the counter-revolution, or a new revolution.
(Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 211-222.)
Kerensky and the counter-revolutionary Cadets who use him as a pawn can neither convoke the Constituent Assembly on the appointed date, nor postpone it, without in both cases promoting the revolution. And the catastrophe engendered by the prolongation of the imperialist war keeps on approaching with even greater force and speed than ever.
The advance contingents of the Russian proletariat succeeded in emerging from our June and July days without losing too much blood. The proletarian party has every opportunity to choose the tactics and form, or forms, of organisation that will in any circumstances prevent unexpected (seemingly unexpected) Bonapartist persecutions from cutting short its existence and its regular messages to the people.
Let the Party loudly and clearly tell the people the whole truth that Bonapartism is beginning; that the “new” government of Kerensky, Avksentyev and Co. is merely a screen for the counter-revolutionary Cadets and the military clique which is in power at present; that the people can get no peace, the peasants no land, the workers no eight-hour day, and the hungry no bread unless the counter-revolution is completely stamped out. Let the Party say so, and every step in the march of events will bear it out.
With remarkable speed Russia has gone through a whole epoch in which the majority of the people put their faith in the petty-bourgeois Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties. And now the majority of the working people are beginning to pay heavily for their credulity.
All indications are that the march of events is continuing at a very fast pace and that the country is approaching the next epoch, when the majority of the working people will have to entrust their fate to the revolutionary proletariat. The revolutionary proletariat will take power and begin a socialist revolution; despite all the difficulties and possible zigzags of development, it will draw the workers of all the advanced countries into the revolution, and will defeat both war and capitalism.
(Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 223-226.)
Every revolution means a sharp turn in the lives of a vast number of people. Unless the time is ripe for such a turn, no real revolution can take place. And just as any turn in the life of an individual teaches him a great deal and brings rich experience and great emotional stress, so a revolution teaches an entire people very rich and valuable lessons in a short space of time.
During a revolution, millions and tens of millions of people learn in a week more than they do in a year of ordinary, somnolent life. For at the time of a sharp turn in the life of an entire people it becomes particularly clear what aims the various classes of the people are pursuing, what strength they possess, and what methods they use.
Every class-conscious worker, soldier and peasant should ponder thoroughly over the lessons of the Russian revolution, especially now, at the end of July, when it is clear that the first phase of our revolution has failed. Let us see, in fact, what the workers and peasants were striving for when they made the revolution. What did they expect of the revolution? As we know, they expected liberty, peace, bread and land.
But what do we see now?
Instead of liberty, the old tyranny is coming back. The death penalty is being introduced for the soldiers at the front. Peasants are prosecuted for the unauthorised seizure of landed estates. Printing presses of workers’ newspapers are wrecked. Workers’ newspapers are closed down without trial. Bolsheviks are arrested, often without any charge or upon blatantly trumped-up charges.
The experience of the Russian revolution from February to July 1917, when events developed with unusual rapidity, particularly under the influence of the imperialist war and the deep-going crisis brought about by it, has most strikingly and palpably confirmed the old Marxist truth that the position of the petty bourgeoisie is unstable.
The lesson of the Russian revolution is that there can be no escape for the working people from the iron grip of war, famine, and enslavement by the landowners and capitalists unless they completely break with the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties and clearly understand the latter’s treacherous role, unless they renounce all compromises with the bourgeoisie and resolutely side with the revolutionary workers. Only the revolutionary workers, if supported by the peasant poor, are capable of smashing the resistance of the capitalists and leading the people in gaining land with out compensation, complete liberty, victory over famine and the war, and a just and lasting peace.
( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 227-228 and 243)
The speech made by Comrade Kamenev on August 6 in the Central Executive Committee on the Stockholm Conference cannot but meet with reproof from all Bolsheviks who are faithful to their Party and principles.
Kamenev’s arguments, which actually favour a “change” in our view on the Stockholm Conference, are ludicrously feeble.
“It became clear to us,” Kamenev said, “that from that [??] moment the Stockholm Conference ceased [??] to be a blind instrument of the imperialist countries.”
That is not true. There is not a single fact to support it, and Kamenev could advance no serious argument in its favour. If the Anglo-French social-imperialists refuse to attend, while the German do attend, can that be regarded as a change in principle?? Is it a change at all from an internationalist point of view? Can Kamenev really have “forgotten” the decision of our Party conference (April 29) on the perfectly analogous case of the Danish social-imperialist?
According to newspaper reports, Kamenev further said, “The broad revolutionary banner under which the forces of the world proletariat are mustering is beginning to wave over Stockholm.”
This is a meaningless declamation in the spirit of Chernov and Tsereteli. It is a blatant untruth. In actual fact, it is not the revolutionary banner that is beginning to wave over Stockholm, but the banner of deals, agreements, amnesty for the social-imperialists, and negotiations among bankers for dividing up annexed territory.
We cannot tolerate a situation where the party of the internationalists, which is responsible to the whole world for revolutionary internationalism, compromises itself by winking at the dirty tricks of the Russian and German social-imperialists, of the ministers of the bourgeois imperialist government of the Chernovs, Skobelevs and Co.
We have decided to build a Third International, and we must do so in face of all difficulties. Not a single step backward to deals with the social-imperialists and deserters from socialism!
(Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 244-246.)
“We shall fight, of course, but we refuse to enter into any political alliance whatever with you, refuse to express the least confidence in you. We shall fight in the very same way as the Social-Democrats fought tsarism in February 1917, together with the Cadets, without entering into any alliance with the Cadets or trusting them for one second. The slightest confidence in the Mensheviks would be as much of a betrayal of the revolution now as confidence in the Cadets would have been between 1905 and 1917.”
A Bolshevik would tell the workers and soldiers: “Let us fight, but not one iota of trust in the Mensheviks if you don’t want to rob yourselves of the fruits of victory.”
The Moscow strike on August 12 proved that the active workers support the Bolsheviks, even though the Duma elections yielded a majority to the S.R.s. This is very similar to the situation in Petrograd before July 3–5, 1917. But there is a vast difference between the situation then and now, for at that time Petrograd could not even have taken power physically, and had it done so, it could not have retained power politically, for Tsereteli and Co. had not yet sunk as low as to support butchery. This is why at that time, on July 3–5, 1917, in Petrograd, the slogan of taking power would have been incorrect. At that time, even the Bolsheviks were not, and could not have been, consciously determined to treat Tsereteli and Co. as counter-revolutionaries. At that time, neither the soldiers nor the workers could have had the experience brought by the month of July.
The situation now is entirely different. Should a spontaneous movement break out in Moscow today, the slogan should be precisely to seize power. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that the movement in Moscow be led by people fit for the task, who have fully grasped and considered this slogan.
(Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 247-254.)
In analysing Martov’s arguments, we shall analyse what is at present most reasonable in the ideas of the petty bourgeoisie.
First of all, Martov’s vacillation over the transfer of power to the Soviets is quite typical. Prior to July 4 Martov was against this slogan. After July 4, he was for it. Early in August, he was once more against it, and note his monstrously illogical and amusing, from a Marxist point of view, argumentation. He is against it because, he says, “the actual balance of forces does not at present warrant the demand for power to be transferred to the Soviets. This could come only in the course of a civil war, which at the moment is impermissible”.
What a muddle. It implies, first, that before July 4 the. transfer of power was possible without civil war (true enough!), but it was just then that Martov was against the transfer. It implies, secondly, that after July 4, when Martov was for the transfer of power to the Soviets, it was possible without civil war—an obvious, glaring distortion of the facts, for it was on the night of July 4–5 that the Bonapartists, supported by the Cadets and attended on by lackeys like Chernov and Tsereteli, brought -the counter-revolutionary troops to Petrograd. To take power peacefully under these circumstances would have been absolutely impossible.
Thirdly and lastly, Martov implies that a Marxist or even just a revolutionary democrat had the right to reject a slogan correctly expressing the interests of the people and those of the revolution on the grounds that the slogan could be realised “only in the course of a civil war”. But this is an obvious absurdity, an obvious renunciation of the whole class struggle, the whole revolution. For everyone knows that the history of all revolutions the world over reveals an Inevitable rather than an accidental transformation of the class struggle into civil war. Everyone knows that it was after July 4 that we in Russia saw the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie starting civil war, the disarming of regiments, executions at the front, and assassination of Bolsheviks. Civil war is “impermissible” for revolutionary democrats, if you please, just when the course of events has inexorably brought about a situation in which the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie have started civil war.
Martov has entangled himself in the most unbelievable, amusing, and helpless fashion..
In disentangling the confusion created by him, we must say:
It was before July 4 that to transfer full power to the then existing Soviets was the only correct slogan, At that time, it could have been done peacefully, without civil war, because there had been no systematic acts of violence against the masses, against the people, such as began after July 4. At that time, the transfer of power guaranteed the peaceful progress of the whole revolution and, in particular, made it possible to peacefully eliminate the struggle between classes and parties within the Soviets.
After July 4, the transfer of power to the Soviets became impossible without civil war, since, on July 4 and 5, power had passed to a military Bonapartist clique backed by the Cadets and the Black Hundreds. Hence, all Marxists, all those on the side of the revolutionary proletariat, all honest revolutionary democrats, must now explain to the workers and peasants the radical change in the situation which necessitates a new path for the transfer of power to the proletarians and semi-proletarians.
Martov has advanced no arguments in defence of his “idea” that civil war is impermissible “at the moment”, in defence of his statement that it is not his intention “to overthrow the present government”. Because his opinion is unsubstantiated, and particularly because he voiced it at a meeting of defencists, it inevitably smacks of the defencist argument that civil war is impermissible while the enemy threatens from without.
We wonder whether Martov could have brought himself to advance such an argument openly. Among the mass of the petty bourgeoisie, this argument is very popular. And, of course, it is one of the most commonplace. The bourgeoisie were unafraid of revolution and civil war at times when the enemy threatened from without—either in September 1870 in France or in February 1917 in Russia. The bourgeoisie were unafraid of seizing power at the price of civil war at times when the enemy threatened from without. The revolutionary proletariat will reckon just as little with this “argument” from liars and lackeys of the bourgeoisie.
One of the most glaring theoretical mistakes which Martov makes and which is also very typical of the whole range of political ideas of the petty bourgeoisie, is to confound tsarist counter-revolution, and monarchist counter-revolution in general, with bourgeois counter-revolution. It is due to the particular narrow-mindedness, or particular stupidity, of the petty-bourgeois democrat who cannot break free from economic, political and ideological dependence on the bourgeoisie, who cedes them priority, sees them as an “ideal”, and believes their cries about the danger of “counter-revolution from the right”.
Martov expressed this range of ideas, or rather this petty-bourgeois stupidity, by saying in his speech: “To counterbalance the pressure exerted upon it [the government I from the right, we must create a counter-pressure.”
Here is a sample of the philistine credulity-and disregard of the class struggle. It implies that the government is something above classes and above parties, the only trouble being that it is under too strong pressure from the right, so that there is need of stronger pressure from the left. What wisdom worthy of Louis Blanc, Chernov, Tsereteli, and all that despicable crew! How infinitely useful this philistine wisdom is for the Bonapartists! How they long to make “the foolish yokels” believe that the present government is fighting both the Right and the Left, the extremes only, as it builds up true statehood and exercises true democracy! Yet, in practice, it is this Bonapartist government that constitutes a government of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie.
It is to the advantage of the bourgeoisie (and necessary for the perpetuation of their domination) to deceive the people by making believe that they represent “the revolution in general, while counter-revolution threatens from the right, from the tsar.” It is only through the infinite stupidity of the Dans and Tseretelis, through the infinite conceit of the Chernovs and Avksentyevs, that this idea, nurtured by the conditions of Life of the petty bourgeoisie, still survives among “revolutionary democrats” in general.
Anyone who has learned anything from history or from Marxism will have to admit that a political analysis must focus on the class issue: what class represents the revolution and what class the counter-revolution?
The Cadet Party is the major political force of the bourgeois counter-revolution in Russia. This force has splendidly rallied around it all Black Hundred elements, both at the elections and (more important still) in the apparatus of military and civil administration and in the press campaign of Lies, slander and baiting directed primarily at the Bolsheviks, i.e., the party of the revolutionary proletariat, and then against the Soviets.
Gradually but relentlessly, the present government is pursuing the very policy which the Cadet Party has been systematically advocating and preparing for ever since March 1917. It has resumed and is prolonging the imperialist war; it has stopped chattering about peace; it first gave ministers the right to close down newspapers, then to disperse conferences, then to arrest and exile people; it has restored capital punishment and executions at the front; it is disarming the workers and the revolutionary regiments; it has flooded the capital with counter-revolutionary troops; it has begun to arrest and persecute the peasants for unauthorised “seizures”; it is shutting down factories and organising lock-outs. This is a far from complete list of measures which present an excellent picture of the bourgeois counterrevolution of Bonapartism.
And what about the postponed convocation of the Constituent Assembly and the crowning of a Bonapartist policy with a Zemsky Sobor in Moscow—a step leading to the postponement of the Constituent Assembly until after the war? Isn’t this a gem of Bonapartist politics? Yet Martov does not see where the general headquarters of the bourgeois counterrevolution is. Really some do not see the wood for the trees.
Whoever has not stooped to complete infamy must rally to the party of the revolutionary proletariat. Without the victory of the revolutionary proletariat there can be no peace for the people, land for the peasants nor bread for the workers and all working people.
(Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 255-260.)
Everywhere the workers are showing, in a more or less clear and sharp form, that they realise the social-chauvinists are betraying socialism, that they hate and despise the more prominent social-chauvinists such as Plekhanov in Russia, Scheidemann in Germany, Guesde, Renaudel and Co. in France, Hyndman and others in Britain, etc.,etc.
A revolutionary internationalist trend has arisen in all countries during the war, despite the gagging and ruthless persecution by the bourgeoisie. This trend has remained loyal to socialism. It has not yielded to chauvinism, has not allowed chauvinism to be covered up by lying phrases about defence of the fatherland. It has exposed the utterly fraudulent nature of these phrases and the absolutely criminal nature of the war, which the bourgeoisie of both coalitions pursue for purposes of plunder. This trend includes, for example, MacLean in Britain, who has been sentenced to eighteen months’ hard labour for opposing the predatory British bourgeoisie, and Karl Liebknecht in Germany, who has been sentenced to penal servitude by the German imperialist robbers for the “crime” of calling for a revolution in Germany and exposing the predatory character of the war waged by Germany. The Bolsheviks in Russia also belong to this trend and are persecuted by the agents of Russian republican-democratic imperialism for a “crime” similar to the one for which MacLean and Karl Liebknecht are being persecuted.
This is the only trend loyal to socialism. It is the only trend that has not failed the solemn declaration of convictions, the solemn pledge made in November 1912 in the Basle Manifesto which was unanimously signed by the socialists of the world, of every country without exception. The Manifesto speaks not of war in general—there are wars and wars—but of the war which everyone in 1912 clearly saw was being prepared, and which broke out in 1914, the war between Germany and Britain and their allies for world domination. With this war in the offing, the Basle Manifesto does not say a word about the duty or right of socialists to “defend their fatherland” (i.e., to justify their participation in the war). What it does say, very explicitly, is that this war must lead to the “proletarian revolution”. The betrayal of socialism by the social-chauvinists of all countries is perfectly evident from the cowardly manner in which all of them now avoid, like thieves avoiding the scene of their crime, the passage in the Basle Manifesto which speaks of the connection between this particular war and the proletarian revolution.
The impassable gulf that separates the socialists, who remained loyal to the Basle Manifesto and “responded” to the war by advocating and preparing for the proletarian revolution, from the social-chauvinists, who responded to the war by supporting “their” national bourgeoisie, is obvious. It is also obvious how helpless, naive and hypocritical are the attempts to “reconcile” or “unite” the two trends.
It is this kind of attempt that is evident in all its wretchedness on the part of the third trend in world socialism, the so-called “Centre” or “Kautskian” trend (named after the most prominent “Centrist”, Karl Kautsky). Throughout the three years of the war this trend has shown its complete lack of principle and its helplessness in all countries. In Germany, for example, events compelled the Kautskyites to break away from the German Plekhanovs and form a separate, so-called Independent Social-Democratic Party. All the same, this party is afraid of drawing the necessary conclusions, it preaches “unity” with the social-chauvinists on an international scale, continues to deceive the mass of workers with the hope of restoring this unity in Germany, and hinders the only correct proletarian tactics of revolutionary struggle against “one’s own” government, a struggle to be waged in war-time as well, a struggle which may and must vary in form but which cannot be put off.
This is the state of affairs in international socialism. Without making a clear appraisal of this situation, without having a principled opinion about all the trends in international socialism, it is impossible so much as to approach practical questions like that of the Stockholm Conference. Yet the Bolshevik Party was the only party that gave a principled appraisal of all trends in international socialism in the detailed resolution which it adopted at its conference held between April 24 and 29, 1917, and which was endorsed by our Sixth Party Congress in August. To ignore this principled appraisal and discuss Stockholm without reference to it means taking an entirely unprincipled stand.
(Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 269-277.)
A mass Social-Democratic workers’ movement has existed in Russia for more than twenty years (if we begin with the great strikes of 1896). Throughout this long span of time, through two great revolutions, through the entire political history of Russia, runs the issue of whether the working class is to lead the peasants forward, to socialism, or whether the liberal bourgeoisie are to drag them back, to conciliation with capitalism.
The revolutionary Social-Democrats, who have never renounced criticism of the petty-bourgeois illusions of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, and never entered into any bloc with them except against the Cadets, work unremittingly to wrest the peasants away from Cadet influence, and in opposition to the philistine’s utopian view of socialism, put forward the revolutionary proletarian road to socialism instead of liberal conciliation with capitalism.
Now that the war has speeded up developments fantastically, aggravated the crisis of capitalism to the utmost, and confronted the peoples with making an immediate choice between destruction and immediate determined strides towards socialism, the full depth of the gulf between semi-liberal Menshevism and revolutionary proletarian Bolshevism is clearly revealed over the practical issue of what action the tens of millions of peasants should take.
That was on the eve of the bourgeois revolution, or before the bourgeois revolution’s completion, and the task was primarily to carry it through to overthrow the monarchy.
Now the monarchy has been overthrown. The bourgeois revolution has been completed in so far as Russia has become a democratic republic with a government of Cadets, Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries. And the war in the past three years has pushed us a good thirty years ahead. It has forced on Europe universal labour service and the compulsory syndication of undertakings, caused hunger and unprecedented ravages in the leading countries, and imposed steps towards socialism.
The fundamental premise of our class policy at that time was that only the workers and peasants can overthrow the monarchy. And this premise was correct. February and March 1917 reaffirmed this.
The premise of our class policy today is that only the proletariat, leading the poorest peasants (the semi-proletarians, as our programme puts it), can end the war with a democratic peace, heal the war wounds, and initiate steps towards socialism which have become absolutely necessary and urgent.
It follows that the emphasis in our propaganda and agitation against the Socialist-Revolutionaries must be shifted to the fact that they have betrayed the peasants. They represent a minority of well-to-do farmers rather than the mass of the peasant poor. They are leading the peasants to an alliance with the capitalists, i.e., to subordination to them, rather than to an alliance with the workers. They have bartered the interests of the working and exploited people for ministerial posts and a bloc with the Mensheviks and Cadets.
History, accelerated by the war, has forged so far ahead that the old formulas have acquired a new meaning. “A ban on wage-labour” was formerly only an empty phrase bandied about by the petty-bourgeois intellectual. In the light of today, it means something different: the millions of peasant poor say in their 242 mandates that they want hired labour abolished but do not know how to do it. We know how. We know that this can be done only in alliance with the workers, under their leadership, against the capitalists, not through a compromise with them.
These are the changes that the basic line of our propaganda and agitation against the Socialist-Revolutionaries, the basic line we pursue in addressing the peasants, must now undergo.
The Socialist-Revolutionary Party has betrayed you, comrade peasants. It has betrayed the hovels and deserted to the palaces, if not the royal palaces, then those where the Cadets, those bitter enemies of the revolution, and particularly the peasant revolution, sit in the same government as the Chernovs, Peshekhonovs, and Avksentyevs.
Only the revolutionary proletariat, only the vanguard that unites it, the Bolshevik Party, can actually carry out the programme of the peasant poor which is put forward in the 242 mandates. For the revolutionary proletariat is really advancing to the abolition of wage-labour along the only correct path, through the overthrow of capital and not by prohibiting the hiring of labourers, not through a “ban” on wage-labour. The revolutionary proletariat is really advancing to confiscation of land, implements, and agricultural technical establishments, to what the peasants want and what the Socialist-Revolutionaries cannot give them.
This is how the basic line pursued by the worker in addressing the peasant must now change. We workers can and will give you what the peasant poor want and are searching for without always knowing where and how to find it. We workers are upholding our own interests and at the same time the interests of the vast majority of the peasants against the capitalists, while the Socialist-Revolutionaries, allying themselves with the capitalists, are betraying these interests.
Trust the workers, comrade peasants, and break with the capitalists!
(Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 278-286.)
Six months of revolution have elapsed. The catastrophe is even closer. Unemployment has assumed a mass scale. To think that there is a shortage of goods in the country, the country is perishing from a shortage of food and labour, although there is a sufficient quantity of grain and raw materials, and yet in such a country, at so critical a moment, there is mass unnemployment! What better evidence is needed to show that after six months of revolution (which some call a great revolution, but which so far it would perhaps be fairer to call a rotten revolution), in a democratic republic, with an abundance of unions, organs and institutions which proudly call themselves "revolutionary democratic", absolutely nothing of any importance has actually been done to avert catastrophe, to avert famine? We are nearing ruin with increasing speed. The war will not wait and is causing increasing dislocation in every sphere of national life.
Yet the slightest attention and thought will suffice to satisfy anyone that the ways of combating catastrophe and famine are available, that the measures required to combat them are quite clear, simple, perfectly feasible, and fully within reach of the people’s forces, and that these measures are not being adopted only because, exclusively because, their realisation would affect the fabulous profits of a handful of landowners and capitalists.
And, indeed, it is safe to say that every single speech, every single article in a newspaper of any trend, every single resolution passed by any meeting or institution quite clearly and explicitly recognises the chief and principal measure of combating, of averting, catastrophe and famine. This measure is control, supervision, accounting, regulation by the state, introduction of a proper distribution of labour-power in the production and distribution of goods, husbanding of the people’s forces, the elimination of all wasteful effort, economy of effort. Control, supervision and accounting are the prime requisites for combating catastrophe and famine. This is indisputable and universally recognised. And it is just what is not being done from fear of encroaching on the supremacy of the landowners and capitalists, on their immense, fantastic and scandalous profits, profits derived from high prices and war contracts (and, directly or indirectly, nearly everybody is now “working” for the war), profits about which everybody knows and which everybody sees, and over which everybody is sighing and groaning.
And absolutely nothing is being done to introduce such control, accounting and supervision by the state as would be in the least effective.
( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 323-369. )
A reactionary capitalist state which fears to undermine the pillars of capitalism, of wage slavery, of the economic supremacy of the rich, which fears to encourage the initiative of the workers and the working people generally, which fears to provoke them to a more exacting attitude—such a state will be quite content with bread cards. Such a state does not for a moment, in any measure it adopts, lose sight of the reactionary aim of strengthening capitalism, preventing its being undermined, and confining the "regulation of economic life" in general, and the regulation of consumption in particular, to such measures as are absolutely essential to feed the people, and makes no attempt whatsoever at real regulation of consumption by exercising control over the rich and laying the greater part of the burden in war-time on those who are better off, who are privileged, well fed and overfed in peace-time.
The reactionary-bureaucratic solution to the problem with which the war has confronted the peoples confines itself to bread cards, to the equal distribution of “popular” foodstuffs, of those absolutely essential to feed the people, without retreating one little bit from bureaucratic and reactionary ideas, that is, from the aim of not encouraging the initiative of the poor, the proletariat, the mass of the people (“demos”), of not allowing them to exercise control over the rich, and of leaving as many loopholes as possible for the rich to compensate themselves with articles of luxury. And a great number of loopholes are left in all countries, we repeat, even in Germany—not to speak of Russia; the "common people" starve while the rich visit health resorts, supplement the meagre official ration by all sorts of “extras” obtained on the side, and do not allow themselves to be controlled.
In Russia, which has only just made a revolution against the tsarist regime in the name of liberty and equality, in Russia, which, as far as its actual political institutions are concerned, has at once become a democratic republic, what particularly strikes the people, what particularly arouses popular discontent, irritation, anger and indignation is that everybody sees the easy way in which the wealthy get around the bread cards. They do it very easily indeed. "From under the counter", and for a very high price, especially if one has “pull” (which only the rich have), one can obtain anything, and in large quantities, too. It is the people who are starving. The regulation of consumption is confined within the narrowest bureaucratic-reactionary limits. The government has not the slightest intention of putting regulation on a really revolutionary-democratic footing, is not in the least concerned about doing so.
“Everybody” is suffering from the queues but—but the rich send their servants to stand in the queues, and even engage special servants for the purpose! And that is “democracy”!
At a time when the country is suffering untold calamities, a revolutionary-democratic policy would not confine itself to bread cards to combat the impending catastrophe but would add, firstly, the compulsory organisation of the whole population in consumers’ societies, for otherwise control over consumption cannot be fully exercised; secondly, labour service for the rich, making them perform without pay secretarial and similar duties for these consumers’ societies; thirdly, the equal distribution among the population of absolutely all consumer goods, so as really to distribute the burdens of the war equitably; fourthly, the organisation of control in such a way as to have the poorer classes of the population exercise control over the consumption of the rich.
The establishment of real democracy in this sphere and the display of a real revolutionary spirit in the organisation of control by the most needy classes of the people would be a-very great stimulus to the employment of all available intellectual forces and to the development of the truly revolutionary energies of the entire people. Yet now the ministers of republican and revolutionary-democratic Russia, exactly like their colleagues in all other imperialist countries, make pompous speeches about "working in common for the good of the people" and about "exerting every effort", but the people see, feel and sense the hypocrisy of this talk.
The result is that no progress is being made, chaos is spreading irresistibly, and a catastrophe is approaching, for our government cannot introduce war-time penal servitude for the workers in the Kornilov, Hindenburg, general imperialist way—the traditions, memories, vestiges, habits and institutions of the revolution" are still too much alive among the people; our government does not want to take any really serious steps in a revolutionary-democratic direction, for it is thoroughly infected and thoroughly enmeshed by its dependence on the bourgeoisie, its “coalition” with the bourgeoisie, and its fear to encroach on their real privileges.
( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 323-369.Chapter: Regulation of Consumption)
And what is the state? It is an organisation of the ruling class — in Germany, for instance, of the Junkers and capitalists. And therefore what the German Plekhanovs (Scheidemann, Lensch, and others) call "war-time socialism" is in fact war-time state-monopoly capitalism, or, to put it more simply and clearly, war-time penal servitude for the workers and war-time protection for capitalist profits.
Now try to substitute for the Junker-capitalist state, for the landowner-capitalist state, a revolutionary-democratic state, i.e., a state which in a revolutionary way abolishes all privileges and does not fear to introduce the fullest democracy in a revolutionary way. You will find that, given a really revolutionary-democratic state, state- monopoly capitalism inevitably and unavoidably implies a step, and more than one step, towards socialism!
For if a huge capitalist undertaking becomes a monopoly, it means that it serves the whole nation. If it has become a state monopoly, it means that the state (i.e., the armed organisation of the population, the workers and peasants above all, provided there is revolutionary democracy) directs the whole undertaking. In whose interest?
Either in the interest of the landowners and capitalists, in which case we have not a revolutionary-democratic, but a reactionary-bureaucratic state, an imperialist republic.
Or in the interest of revolutionary democracy—and then it is a step towards socialism.
For socialism is merely the next step forward from state-capitalist monopoly. Or, in other words, socialism is merely state-capitalist monopoly which is made to serve the interests of the whole people and has to that extent ceased to be capitalist monopoly.
There is no middle course here. The objective process of development is such that it is impossible to advance from monopolies (and the war has magnified their number, role and importance tenfold) without advancing towards socialism.
Either we have to be revolutionary democrats in fact, in which case we must not fear to take steps towards socialism. Or we fear to take steps towards socialism, condemn them in the Plekhanov, Dan or Chernov way, by arguing that our revolution is a bourgeois revolution, that socialism cannot be “introduced”, etc., in which case we inevitably sink to the level of Kerensky, Milyukov and Kornilov, i.e., we in a reactionary-bureaucratic way suppress the “revolutionary-democratic” aspirations of the workers and peasants.
There is no middle course.
And therein lies the fundamental contradiction of our revolution.
It is impossible to stand still in history in general, and in war-time in particular. We must either advance or retreat. It is impossible in twentieth-century Russia, which has won a republic and democracy in a revolutionary way, to go forward without advancing towards socialism, without taking steps towards it (steps conditioned and determined by the level of technology and culture: large-scale machine production cannot be “introduced” in peasant agriculture nor abolished in the sugar industry).
But to fear to advance means retreating—which the Kerenskys, to the delight of the Milyukovs and Plekhanovs, and with the foolish assistance of the Tseretelis and Chernovs, are actually doing.
The dialectics of history is such that the war, by extraordinarily expediting the transformation of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism, has thereby extraordinarily advanced mankind towards socialism.
Imperialist war is the eve of socialist revolution. And this not only because the horrors of the war give rise to proletarian revolt—no revolt can bring about socialism unless the economic conditions for socialism are ripe—but because state-monopoly capitalism is a complete material preparation for socialism, the threshold of socialism, a rung on the ladder of history between which and the rung called socialism there are no intermediate rungs.
Our Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks approach the question of socialism in a doctrinaire way, from the standpoint of a doctrine learnt by heart but poorly understood. They picture socialism as some remote, unknown and dim future.
But socialism is now gazing at us from all the windows of modern capitalism; socialism is outlined directly, practically, by every important measure that constitutes a forward step on the basis of this modern capitalism.
( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 323-369.Chapter: Can We Go Forward If We Fear To Advance Towards Socialism?)
To be really revolutionary, the democrats of Russia today must march in very close alliance with the proletariat, supporting it in its struggle as the only thoroughly revolutionary class.
Such is the conclusion prompted by an analysis of the means of combating an impending catastrophe of unparalleled dimensions.
The war has created such an immense crisis, has so strained the material and moral forces of the people, has dealt such blows at the entire modern social organisation that humanity must now choose between perishing or entrusting its fate to the most revolutionary class for the swiftest and most radical transition to a superior mode of production.
Owing to a number of historical causes—the greater backwardness of Russia, the unusual hardships brought upon her by the war, the utter rottenness of tsarism and the extreme tenacity of the traditions of 1905—the revolution broke out in Russia earlier than in other countries. The revolution has resulted in Russia catching up with the advanced countries in a few months, as far as her political system is concerned.
But that is not enough. The war is inexorable; it puts the alternative with ruthless severity: either perish or overtake and outstrip the advanced countries economically as well.
That is possible, for we have before us the experience of a large number of advanced countries, the fruits of their technology and culture. We are receiving moral support from the war protest that is growing in Europe, from the atmosphere of the mounting world-wide workers’ revolution. We are being inspired and encouraged by a revolutionary-democratic freedom which is extremely rare in time of imperialist war.
Perish or forge full steam ahead. That is the alternative put by history.
And the attitude of the proletariat to the peasants in such a situation confirms the old Bolshevik concept, correspondingly modifying it, that the peasants must be wrested from the influence of the bourgeoisie. That is the sole guarantee of salvation for the revolution.
And the peasants are the most numerous section of the entire petty-bourgeois mass.
Our Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks have assumed the reactionary function of keeping the peasants under the influence of the bourgeoisie and leading them to a coalition with the bourgeoisie, and not with the proletariat.
The masses are learning rapidly from the experience of the revolution. And the reactionary policy of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks is meeting with failure: they have been beaten in the Soviets of both Petrograd and Moscow. A “Left” opposition is growing in both petty-bourgeois-democratic parties. On September 10, 1917, a city conference of the Socialist-Revolutionaries held in Petrograd gave a two-thirds majority to the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who incline towards an alliance with the proletariat and reject an alliance (coalition) with the bourgeoisie.
The Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks repeat a favourite bourgeois comparison—bourgeoisie and democracy. But, in essence, such a comparison is as meaningless as comparing pounds with yards.
There is such a thing as a democratic bourgeoisie, and there is such a thing as bourgeois democracy; one would have to be completely ignorant of both history and political economy to deny this.
The Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks needed a false comparison to conceal the indisputable fact that between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat stand the petty bourgeoisie. By virtue of their economic class status, the latter inevitably vacillate between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
The Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks are trying to draw the petty bourgeoisie into an alliance with the bourgeoisie. That is the whole meaning of their “coalition”, of the coalition cabinet, and of the whole policy of Kerensky, a typical semi-Cadet. In the six months of the revolution this policy has suffered a complete fiasco.
The Cadets are full of malicious glee. The revolution, they say, has suffered a fiasco; the revolution has been unable to cope either with the war or with economic dislocation.
That is not true. It is the Cadets, and the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks who have suffered a fiasco, for this alliance has ruled Russia for six months, only to increase economic dislocation and confuse and aggravate the military situation.
The more complete the fiasco of the alliance of the bourgeoisie and the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, the sooner the people will learn their lesson and the more easily they will find the correct way out, namely, the alliance of the peasant poor, i.e., the majority of the peas ants, and the proletariat.
September 10–14, 1917
( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 323-369.Chapter:The Revolutionary Democrats and the Revolutionary Proletariat)
The key question of every revolution is undoubtedly the question of state power. Which class holds power decides everything.
The question of power cannot be evaded or brushed aside, because it is the key question determining everything in a revolution’s development, and in its foreign and domestic policies. It is an undisputed fact that our revolution has “wasted” six months in wavering over the system of power; it is a fact resulting from the wavering policy of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. In the long run, these parties’ wavering policy was determined by the class position of the petty bourgeoisie, by their economic instability in the struggle between capital and labour.
In early June 1917 1 told the All-Russia Congress of Soviets that either the Soviets would be dispersed and die an inglorious death, or all power must be transferred to them. The events of July and August very convincingly bore out these words. No matter what lies the lackeys of the bourgeoisie—Potresov, Plekhanov and others, who designate as “broadening the base” of power its virtual transfer to a tiny minority of the people, to the bourgeoisie, the exploiters—may resort to, only the power of the Soviets can be stable, obviously based on a majority of the people.
Only Soviet power could be stable and not be overthrown even in the stormiest moments of the stormiest revolution. Only this power could assure a continuous and broad development of the revolution, a peaceful struggle of parties within the Soviets. Until this power is created, there will inevitably be indecision, instability, vacillation, endless “crises of power”, a constant farce of ministerial leapfrog, outbreaks on the Right and on the Left.
The slogan, “Power to the Soviets”, however, is very often, if not in most cases, taken quite incorrectly to mean a “Cabinet of the parties of the Soviet majority”. We would like to go into more detail on this very false notion.
A “Cabinet of the parties of the Soviet majority” means a change of individual ministers, with the entire old government apparatus left intact—a thoroughly bureaucratic and thoroughly undemocratic apparatus incapable of carrying out serious reforms, such as are contained even in the S.R. and Menshevik programmes.
“Power to the Soviets” means radically reshaping the entire old state apparatus, that bureaucratic apparatus which hampers everything democratic. It means removing this apparatus and substituting for it a new, popular one, i.e., a truly democratic apparatus of Soviets, i.e., the organised and armed majority of the people—the workers, soldiers and peasants. It means allowing the majority of the people initiative and independence not only in the election of deputies, but also in state administration, in effecting reforms and various other changes.
To make this difference clearer and more comprehensible, it is worth recalling a valuable admission made some time ago by the paper of the governing party of the S.R.s, Dyelo Naroda. It wrote that even in those ministries which were in the hands of socialist Ministers (this was written during the notorious coalition with the Cadets, when some Mensheviks and S.R.s were ministers), the entire administrative apparatus had remained unchanged, and hampered work.
This is quite understandable. The entire history of the bourgeois-parliamentary, and also, to a considerable extent, of the bourgeois-constitutional, countries shows that a change of ministers means very little, for the real work of administration is in the hands of an enormous army of officials. This army, however, is undemocratic through and through, it is connected by thousands and millions of threads with the landowners and the bourgeoisie and is completely dependent on them. This army is surrounded by an atmosphere of bourgeois relations, and breathes nothing but this atmosphere. It is set in its ways, petrified, stagnant, and is powerless to break free of this atmosphere. It can only think, feel, or act in the old way. This army is bound by servility to rank, by certain privileges of “Civil” Service; the upper ranks of this army are, through the medium of shares and banks, entirely enslaved by finance capital, being to a certain extent its agent and a vehicle of its interests and influence.
It is the greatest delusion, the greatest self-deception, and a deception of the people, to attempt, by means of this state apparatus, to carry out such reforms as the abolition of landed estates without compensation, or the grain monopoly, etc. This apparatus can serve a republican bourgeoisie, creating a republic in the shape of a “monarchy without a monarch”, like the French Third Republic, but it is absolutely incapable of carrying out reforms which would even seriously curtail or limit the rights of capital, the rights of “sacred private property”, much less abolish those rights. That is why it always happens, under all sorts of “coalition” Cabinets that include “socialists”, that these socialists, even when individuals among them are perfectly honest, in reality turn out to be either a useless ornament of or a screen for the bourgeois government, a sort of lightning conductor to divert the people’s indignation from the government, a tool for the government to deceive the people. This was the case with Louis Blanc in 1848, and dozens of times in Britain and France, when socialists participated in Cabinets. This is also the case with the Chernovs and Tseretelis in 1917. So it has been and so it will be as long as the bourgeois system exists and as long as the old bourgeois, bureaucratic state apparatus remains intact.
The Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies are particularly valuable because they represent a new type of state apparatus, which is immeasurably higher, incomparably more democratic. The S.R.s and Mensheviks have done everything, the possible and the impossible, to turn the Soviets (particularly the Petrograd Soviet and the All-Russia Soviet, i.e., the Central Executive Committee) into useless talking shops which, under the guise of “control”, merely adopted useless resolutions and suggestions which the government shelved with the most polite and kindly smile. The “fresh breeze” of the Kornilov affair, however, which promised a real storm, was enough for all that was musty in the Soviet to blow away for a while, and for the initiative of the revolutionary people to begin expressing itself as something majestic, powerful and invincible.
Let all sceptics learn from this example from history. Let those who say: “We have no apparatus to replace the old one, which inevitably gravitates towards the defence of the bourgeoisie,” be ashamed of themselves. For this apparatus exists. It is the Soviets. Don’t be afraid of the people’s initiative and independence. Put your faith in their revolutionary organisations, and you will see in all realms of state affairs the same strength, majesty and invincibility of the workers and peasants as were displayed in their unity and their fury against Kornilov.
Lack of faith in the people, fear of their initiative and independence, trepidation before their revolutionary energy instead of all-round and unqualified support for it—this is where the S.R. and Menshevik leaders have sinned most of all. This is where we find one of the deepest roots of their indecision, their vacillation, their infinite and infinitely fruitless attempts to pour new wine into the old bottles of the old, bureaucratic state apparatus.
Take the history of the democratisation of the army in the 1917 Russian revolution, the history of the Chernov Ministry, of Palchinsky’s “reign”, and of Peshekhonov’s resignation—you will find what we have said above strikingly borne out at every step. Because there was no full confidence in the elected, soldiers’ organisations and no absolute observance of the principle of soldiers electing their commanding officers, the Kornilovs, Kaledins and counter-revolutionary officers came to be at the head of the army. This is a fact. Without deliberately closing one’s eyes, one cannot fail to see that after the Kornilov affair Kerensky’s government is leaving everything as before, that in fact it is bringing back the Kornilov affair. The appointment of Alexeyev, the “peace” with the Klembovskys, Gagarins, Bagrations and other Kornilov men, and leniency in the treatment of Kornilov and Kaledin all very clearly prove that Kerensky is in fact bringing back the Kornilov affair.
There is no middle course. This has been shown by experience. Either all power goes to the Soviets and the army is made fully democratic, or another Kornilov affair occurs.
And what about the history of the Chernov Ministry? Didn’t it prove that every more or less serious step towards actually satisfying the peasants’ needs, every step showing confidence in the peasants and in their mass organisations and actions, evoked very great enthusiasm among them? Chernov, however, had to spend almost four months “haggling” with the Cadets and bureaucrats, who by endless delays and intrigues finally forced him to resign without having accomplished anything. For and during these four months the landowners and capitalists “won the game”—they saved the landed estates, delayed the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, and even started a number of repressions against the land committees.
There is no middle course. This has been shown by experience. Either all power goes to the Soviets both centrally and locally, and all land is given to the peasants immediately, pending the Constituent Assembly’s decision, or the landowners and capitalists obstruct every step, restore the landowners’ power, drive the peasants into a rage and carry things to an exceedingly violent peasant revolt.
Only the dictatorship of the proletariat and the poor peasants is capable of smashing the resistance of the capitalists, of displaying truly supreme courage and determination in the exercise of power, and of securing the enthusiastic, selfless and truly heroic support of the masses both ‘in the army and among the peasants.
Power to the Soviets—this is the only way to make further progress gradual, peaceful and smooth, keeping perfect pace with the political awareness and resolve of the majority of the people and with their own experience. Power to the Soviets means the complete transfer of the country’s administration and economic control into the hands of the workers and peasants, to whom nobody would dare offer resistance and who, through practice, through their own experience, would soon learn how to distribute the land, products and grain properly.
(Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 370-377.)
While boastfully calling our revolution great and shouting to the right and left high-sounding, bombastic phrases about “revolutionary democracy”, the Mensheviks and S.R.s in effect leave Russia in.the conditions of a most ordinary, most petty-bourgeois revolution which, having overthrown the tsar, leaves everything else unchanged and does nothing, absolutely nothing, effective to enlighten the peasants politically and to end the peasants’ ignorance, that last (and strongest) bulwark, the bulwark of the exploiters and oppressors of the people. ( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 378-383.)
Lastly, we sum up the main results of the experience of the Russian revolutions of 1905 and particularly of 1917. Apparently, the latter is now (early August 1917) completing the first stage of its development; but this revolution as a whole can only be understood as a link in a chain of socialist proletarian revolutions being caused by the imperialist war. The question of the relation of the socialist proletarian revolution to the state, therefore, is acquiring not only practical political importance, but also the significance of a most urgent problem of the day, the problem of explaining to the masses what they will have to do before long to free themselves from capitalist tyranny.
( Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, page 381 f.)
We have always condemned, and as Marxists we must condemn, the tactics of those who live "from hand to mouth". Momentary success is not enough for us. In general, plans calculated for a minute or a day are not enough for us. We must constantly test ourselves by a study of the chain of political events in their entirety, in their causal connection, in their results. By analysing the errors of yesterday, we learn to avoid errors today and tomorrow.
A new revolution is obviously maturing in the country, a revolution of other classes (other than those that carried out the revolution against tsarism). At that time it was a revolution of the proletariat, the peasantry and the bourgeoisie in alliance with Anglo-French finance capital against tsarism.
The revolution now maturing is one of the proletariat and the majority of the peasants, more specifically, of the poor peasants, against the bourgeoisie, against its ally, Anglo-French finance capital and against its government apparatus headed by the Bonapartist Kerensky.
The relation of the proletariat and the poor peasantry, i.e., the majority of the people, in respect of the bourgeoisie and Allied (and world) imperialism is such that it is impossible for them to "carry " the bourgeoisie with them. Moreover, the upper strata of the petty bourgeoisie and the more well-to-do strata of the democratic petty bourgeoisie are patently against a new revolution. This fact is so obvious that there is no need to dwell on it here. The Lieberdans, Tseretelis and Chernovs illustrate this most clearly.
The class relations have changed. This is the crux of the matter.
Different classes now stand "on the one and the other side of the barricade".
That is the main thing.
That, and that alone, is the scientific reason for speaking of a new revolution which—arguing purely theoretically, taking the question in the abstract—could be accomplished legally if, for instance, the Constituent Assembly, convoked by the bourgeoisie, produced a majority opposed to the bourgeoisie, if the majority belonged to the parties of the workers and poor peasants.
The objective relations of the classes, their role (economic and political) outside and inside representative institutions of the given type; the rise or decline of the revolution; the relation of extra-parliamentary to parliamentary means of struggle—these are the chief, the basic objective facts which must be considered if the tactics of boycott or participation are to be deduced in a Marxist way and not arbitrarily, according to our "sympathies".
The experience of our revolution clearly demonstrates how to approach the boycott question in a Marxist way.
( Lenin’s Collected Works, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 52-58 )
The Crisis Has Matured
Sections I-III and V published on October 20(7), 1917 in the newspaper Rabochy Put No 20; section VI Lenin’s Collected Works, Volume 26, 1972, page 74
The end of September undoubtedly marked a great turning-point in the history of the Russian revolution and, to all appearances, of the world revolution as well.
The world working-class revolution began with the action of individuals, whose boundless courage represented everything honest that remained of that decayed official "socialism" which is in reality social-chauvinism. Liebknecht in Germany, Adler in Austria, MacLean in Britain—these are the best-known names of the isolated heroes who have taken upon themselves the arduous role of forerunners of the world revolution.
The second stage in the historical preparation for this revolution was a widespread mass discontent, expressing itself in the split of the official parties, in illegal publications and in street demonstrations. The protest against the war became stronger, and the number of victims of government persecution increased. The prisons of countries famed for their observance of law and even for their freedom—Germany, France, Italy and Britain—became filled with tens and hundreds of internationalists, opponents of the war and advocates of a working-class revolution.
The third stage has now begun. This stage may be called the eve of revolution. Mass arrests of party leaders in free Italy, and particularly the beginning of mutinies in the German army, are indisputable symptoms that a great turning-point is at hand, that we are on the eve of a world wide revolution.
On February 27, 1917, the Russian proletariat, jointly with part of the peasantry who had been aroused by the course the war was taking, and also with the bourgeoisie, overthrew the monarchy. On April 21, 1917, the proletariat overthrew the absolute rule of the imperialist bourgeoisie and shifted power into the hands of the petty-bourgeoisie advocates of compromise with the bourgeoisie, On July 3, the urban proletariat gave the compromisers’ government a severe shock by its spontaneous demonstration. On October 25, it overthrew that government and established the dictatorship of the proletariat and the poor peasantry.
This victory had to be defended in civil war.
(Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 27, 1972, page 62)
Comrades, we are celebrating the anniversary of the Russian revolution at a time when the revolution is passing through difficult days, when many are ready to give way to despondency and disillusionment. But if we look around us, if we recall what the revolution has achieved during this past year and how the international situation is shaping, then not one of us, I am sure, will find room for despair or despondency. There should be no room for doubt that the world socialist revolution, begun in October, will triumph over all difficulties and obstacles, over all the efforts of its enemies.
Comrades, remember how the Russian revolution developed.... Remember how, in a few days in February, thanks to the joint action of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, who saw that under tsarism even a bourgeois society could not exist, thanks to the co-operation between the workers and the more enlightened section of the peasants, namely, the soldiers, who had lived through all the horrors of war—remember how in a few days they succeeded in overthrowing the monarchy, which in 1905, 1906 and 1907 had resisted incomparably heavier blows and drowned revolutionary Russia in blood. And when, after the February victory, the bourgeoisie found themselves in power, the revolution went forward with incredible speed.
The Russian revolution produced results which sharply distinguish it from the revolutions in Western Europe. It produced revolutionary people prepared by the events of 1905 to take independent action; it produced the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, bodies incomparably more democratic than all those preceding them, able to educate, elevate and lead the oppressed mass of workers, soldiers and peasants. Thanks to these circumstances the Russian revolution within a few months passed through that period of compromise with the bourgeoisie which in Western Europe took entire decades.
(Lenin’s Collected Works, Volume 27, pp. 164-65.)
If we examine the development of our revolution from that point of view we see clearly that it has so far passed through a period of relative and largely imaginary self-dependence, and of being temporarily independent of international relations. The path travelled by our revolution from the end of February 1917 to February 11 of this year, when the German offensive began, was, by and large, a path of easy and rapid successes. If we study the development of that revolution on an international scale, from the standpoint of the Russian revolution alone, we shall see that we have passed through three periods in the past year. The first period is that in which the working class of Russia, together with all advanced, class-conscious and active peasants, supported not only by the petty bourgeoisie but also by the big bourgeoisie, swept away the monarchy in a few days. This astounding success is to be explained by the fact that on the one hand, the Russian people had acquired a big reserve of revolutionary fighting potential from the experience of 1905, while on the other hand, Russia, an extremely backward country, had suffered more than any other from the war and had, at an especially early date, reached a stage when it was absolutely impossible to continue the war under the old regime.
This short tempestuous success when a new organisation was created—the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies—was followed by the long months of the period of transition of our revolution, the period in which the government of the bourgeoisie, immediately undermined by the Soviets, was kept going and strengthened by the petty bourgeois compromising parties, the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, who supported it. It was a government that supported the imperialist war and the imperialist secret treaties, fed the working class on promises, did literally nothing, and preserved the state of economic ruin. The Soviets mustered their forces in this period, a period that for us, for the Russian revolution, was a long one; it was a long period for the Russian revolution but it was a short one from the international point of view, because in most of the leading countries the period of overcoming petty-bourgeois illusions, of compromise by various parties, groups and trends had been taking not months but long decades. The span of time, from April 20 to the moment Kerensky renewed the imperialist war in June (he had the secret imperialist treaty in his pocket), was decisive. This second period included our July defeat and the Kornilov revolt, and only through the experience of the mass struggle, only when the working-class and peasant masses had realised from their own experience and not from sermons that petty-bourgeois compromise was all in vain—only then, after long political development, after long preparations and changes in the moods and views of party groups, was the ground made ready for the October Revolution; only then did the Russian revolution enter the third period of its initial stage, a stage of isolation, or temporary separation, from the world revolution.
( Lenin’s Collected Works, Volume 27, pp. 169-201.)
Our revolution succeeded in rousing a great revolutionary movement during wartime in an enemy country merely by the fact that we denounced the secret treaties, by the fact that we said: “We will not be deterred by any danger.”If we know, if we say, and not merely say, but mean it, that international revolution is the only salvation from world war, from the imperialist massacre of the people, then we in our revolution must pursue that aim, notwithstanding all difficulties and all dangers. And when we took this path, for the first time in history, in Germany, in the most imperialistic and most disciplined country, in the midst of war, a mass strike broke out and flared up in January. Of course, there are people who believe that revolution can break out in a foreign country to order, by agreement. These people are either mad or they are provocateurs. We have experienced two revolutions during the past twelve years.We know that revolutions cannot be made to order, or by agreement; they break out when tens of millions of people come to the conclusion that it is impossible to live in the old way any longer. We know what difficulties accompanied the birth of the revolution in 1905 and in 1917, and we never expected revolution to break out in other countries at one stroke, as a result of a single appeal. The revolution now beginning to grow in Germany and in Austria is a tribute to the great service rendered by the Russian October Revolution. (Applause.) We read in the newspapers today that in Vienna, where the bread ration is smaller than ours, where the plunder of the Ukraine can bring no relief, where the population says that it has never before experienced such horrors of starvation, an Arbelterrat has sprung up. In Vienna general strikes are breaking out again.
And we say to ourselves: This is the second step, this is the second proof that when the Russian workers denounced the imperialist secret treaties, when they expelled their bourgeoisie, they acted as consistent class-conscious worker internationalists, they facilitated the growth of the revolution in Germany and in Austria in a way that no other revolution in the world has ever done in a hostile country which was in a state of war, and in which bitter feeling ran high.
To forecast when a revolution will mature, to promise that it will come tomorrow, would be deceiving you. You remember, particularly those of you who experienced both Russian revolutions, that no one in November 1904 could guarantee that within two months a hundred thousand St. Petersburg workers would march to the Winter Palace and start a great revolution.
Recall December 1916. How could we guarantee that two months later the tsarist monarchy would be overthrown in the course of a few days? We in this country, which has experienced two revolutions, know and realise that the progress of the revolution cannot be foretold, and that revolution cannot be called forth. We can only work for the revolution. If you work consistently, if you work devotedly, if this work is linked up with the interests of the oppressed masses, who make up the majority, revolution will come; but where, how, at what moment, from what immediate cause, cannot be foretold. That is why we shall never take the liberty of deceiving the masses by saying: “The German workers will help us tomorrow, they will blow up their Kaiser the day after tomorrow.” We have no right to say such things.
Our position is made more difficult by the fact that the Russian revolution proved to be ahead of other revolutions; but the fact that we are not alone is proved by the news that reaches us nearly every day that the best German Social-Democrats are expressing themselves in favour of the Bolsheviks, that the Bolsheviks are being supported in the open German press by Clara Zetkin and also by Franz Mehring, who in a series of articles has been showing the German workers that the Bolsheviks alone have properly understood what socialism is. Recently a Social-Democrat named Hoschka definitely stated in the Wiirttemberg Landtag that he regarded the Bolsheviks alone as models of consistency in the pursuit of a correct revolutionary policy. Do you think that such statements do not find an echo among scores, hundreds and thousands of German workers who associate themselves with these statements almost before they are uttered? When affairs in Germany and Austria have reached the stage of the formation of Arbelterrdte and of a second mass strike, we can say without the least exaggeration, without the least self-deception, that this marks the beginning of a revolution. We say very definitely: Our policy and our path have been a correct policy and a correct path; we have helped the Austrian and the German workers to regard themselves, not as enemies strangling the Russian workers in the interests of the Kaiser, in the interests of the German capitalists, but as brothers of the Russian workers, who are performing the same revolutionary work as they are. (Applause.)
(Lenin’s Collected Works, Volume 27, pages 457-491 )
The question which Kautsky has so tangled up was fully explained by the Bolsheviks as far back as 1905. Yes, our revolution is a bourgeois revolution as long as we march with the peasants as a whole. This has been as clear as clear can be to us; we have said it hundreds and thousands of times since 1905, and we have never attempted to skip this necessary stage of the historical process or abolish it by decrees. Kautsky’s efforts to “expose” us on this point merely expose his own confusion of mind and his fear to recall what he wrote in 1905, when he was not yet a renegade.
Beginning with April 1917, however, long before the October Revolution, that is, long before we assumed power, we publicly declared and explained to the people: the revolution cannot now stop at this stage, for the country has marched forward, capitalism has advanced, ruin has reached fantastic dimensions, which (whether one likes it or not) will demand steps forward, to socialism. For there is no other way of advancing, of saving the war-weary country and of alleviating the sufferings of the working and exploited people.
Things have turned out just as we said they would. The course taken by the revolution has confirmed the correctness of our reasoning. First, with the “whole” of the peasants against the monarchy, against the landowners, against medievalism (and to that extent the revolution remains bourgeois, bourgeois-democratic). Then, with the poor peasants, with the semi-proletarians, with all the exploited, against capitalism, including the rural rich, the kulaks, the profiteers, and to that extent the revolution becomes a socialist one. To attempt to raise an artificial Chinese Wall between the first and second, to separate them by anything else than the degree of preparedness of the proletariat and the degree of its unity with the poor peasants, means to distort Marxism dreadfully, to vulgarise it, to substitute liberalism in its place. It means smuggling in a reactionary defence of the bourgeoisie against the socialist proletariat by means of quasi-scientific references to the progressive character of the bourgeoisie in comparison with medievalism.
Incidentally, the Soviets represent an immensely higher form and type of democracy just because, by uniting and drawing the mass of workers and peasants into political life, they serve as a most sensitive barometer, the one closest to the “people” (in the sense in which Marx, in 1871, spoke of a real people’s revolution), of the growth and development of the political, class maturity of the people. The Soviet Constitution was not drawn up according to some “plan”; it was not drawn up in a study, and was not foisted on the working people by bourgeois lawyers. No, this Constitution grew up in the course of the development of the class struggle in proportion as class antagonisms matured. The very facts which Kautsky himself has to admit prove this.
At first, the Soviets embraced the peasants as a whole. It was owing to the immaturity, the backwardness, the ignorance of the poor peasants that the leadership passed into the hands of the kulaks, the rich, the capitalists and the petty-bourgeois intellectuals. That was the period of the domination of the petty bourgeoisie, of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries (only fools or renegades like Kautsky can regard either of these as socialists). The petty bourgeoisie inevitably and unavoidably vacillated between the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (Kerensky, Kornilov, Savinkov) and the dictatorship of the proletariat; for owing to the basic features of its economic position, the petty bourgeoisie is incapable of doing anything independently. Kautsky, by the way, completely renounces Marxism by confining himself in his analysis of the Russian revolution to the legal and formal concept of “democracy”, which serves the bourgeoisie as a screen to conceal their domination and as a means of deceiving the people, and by forgetting that in practice “democracy” sometimes stands for the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, sometimes for the impotent reformism of the petty bourgeoisie who submit to that dictatorship, and so on. According to Kautsky, in a capitalist country there were bourgeois parties and there was a proletarian party (the Bolsheviks), which led the majority, the mass of the proletariat, but there were no petty-bourgeois parties! The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries had no class roots, no petty-bourgeois roots!
The vacillations of the petty bourgeoisie, of the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries, helped to enlighten the people and to repel the overwhelming majority of them, all the “lower sections”, all the proletarians and semi-proletarians, from such “leaders”. The Bolsheviks won predominance in the Soviets (in Petrograd and Moscow by October 1917); the split among the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks became more pronounced.
The victorious Bolshevik revolution meant the end of vacillation, meant the complete destruction of the monarchy and of the landlord system (which had not been destroyed before the October Revolution). We carried the bourgeois revolution to its conclusion. The peasants supported us as a whole. Their antagonism to the socialist proletariat could not reveal itself all at once. The Soviets united the peasants in general. The class divisions among the peasants had not yet matured, had not yet come into the open.
The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, Chapter:
Subservience To The Bourgeoisie In The Guise of “Economic Analysis”
( Lenin’s Collected Works, Volume 28, 1974, pages 227-325)
In point of fact, however, already the 1905 Revolution revealed that the vast majority of the peasants in Russia, members of village communes as well as homestead peasants, were in favour of nationalisation of all the land. The 1917 Revolution confirmed this, and after the assumption of power by the proletariat this was done. The Bolsheviks remained loyal to Marxism and never tried (in spite of Kautsky, who, without a scrap of evidence, accuses us of doing so) to “skip” the bourgeois-democratic revolution. The Bolsheviks, first of all, helped the most radical, most revolutionary of the bourgeois-democratic ideologists of the peasants, those who stood closest to the proletariat, namely, the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, to carry out what was in effect nationalisation of the land. On October 20, 1917, i.e., on the very first day of the proletarian, socialist revolution, private ownership of land was abolished in Russia.
This laid the foundation, the most perfect from the point of view of the development of capitalism (Kautsky cannot deny this without breaking with Marx), and at the same time created an agrarian system which is the most flexible from the point of view of the transition to socialism. From the bourgeois-democratic point of view, the revolutionary peasants in Russia could go no farther: there can be nothing “more ideal” from this point of view, nothing “more radical” (from this same point of view) than nationalisation of the land and equal land tenure. It was the Bolsheviks, and only the Bolsheviks, who, thanks only to the victory of the proletarian revolution, helped the peasants to carry the bourgeois-democratic revolution really to its conclusion. And only in this way did they do the utmost to facilitate and accelerate the transition to the socialist revolution.
The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, Chapter:
Subservience To The Bourgeoisie In The Guise of “Economic Analysis”
( Lenin’s Collected Works, Volume 28, 1974, pages 227-325)
Comrades, you are all very well aware that even the February Revolution-the revolution of the bourgeoisie, the revolution of the compromisers-promised the peasants victory over the landowners, and that this promise was not fulfilled. Only the October Revolution, only the victory of the urban working class, only the Soviet government could relieve the whole of Russia, from end to end, of the ulcer of the old feudal heritage, the old feudal exploitation, landed estates and the landowners’ oppression of the peasants as a whole, of all peasants without distinction.
This fight against the landowners was one in which all the peasants were bound to participate, and participate they did. The fight united the poor peasants, who do not live by exploiting the labour of others. But it also united the most prosperous and even wealthy peasants, who cannot get along without hired labour.
As long as our revolution was occupied with this task, as long as we had to exert every effort for the independent movement of the peasants, aided by the urban workers’ movement, to sweep away and completely destroy the power of the landowners, the revolution remained a general peasant revolution and could therefore not go beyond bourgeois limits.
(Lenin’s Collected Works, Volume 28, pages 338-348)
The differences among the German Communists boil down, so far as I can judge, to the question of “utilising the legal possibilities” (as the Bolsheviks used to say in the 1910-13 period), of utilising the bourgeois parliament, the reactionary trade unions, the law on works’ councils (Bet riebsratge setz), bodies that have been hamstrung by the Scheidemanns and Kautskys; it is a question of whether to participate in such bodies or boycott them.
We Russian Bolsheviks experienced quite similar differences in 1906 and in the 1910-12 period. And for us it is clear that with many of the young German Communists it is simply a case of a lack of revolutionary experience. Had they experienced a couple of bourgeois revolutions (1905 and 1917), they would not he advocating the boycott so unconditional nor fall from time to time into the mistakes of syndicalism.
This is a matter of growing pains; the movement is developing in fine style and as it grows they will pass. And these obvious mistakes must be combated openly; the differences Must not be exaggerated since it must be clear to everyone that in the near future the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat, for Soviet power, will wipe out the greater part of them.
Both from the standpoint of Marxist theory and the experience of three revolutions (1905, February 1917 and October 1917) I regard refusal to participate in a bourgeois parliament, in a reactionary (Legien, Gompers, etc..) trade union, in an ultra-reactionary workers’ council hamstrung by the Scheidemanns, etc., as an undoubted mistake.
At times, in individual eases, in individual countries, the boycott is correct, as, for example, was the Bolshevik boycott of the tsarist Duma in 1905. But the selfsame Bolsheviks took part in the much more reactionary and downright counter-revolutionary Duma of 1907. The Bolsheviks contested the elections to the bourgeois Constituent Assembly in 1917, and in 1918 we dispersed it, to the horror of the philistine democrats, the Kautskys and other such renegades from socialism. We worked in the ultra-reactionary, purely Menshevik, trade unions which (in their counter-revolutionary nature) yielded nothing to the Legien unions—the foulest and most reactionary trade unions in Germany. Even now, two years after the conquest of state power, we have not yet finished fighting the remnants of the Menslievik (i.e., the Scheidemann, Kautsky, G ompers, etc.) trade unions—so long is the process! So strong in some places and in some trades is the influence of petty-bourgeois ideas!
At one time we were in a minority in the Soviets, the trade unions and the co-operatives. By persistent effort and long struggle—both before and after the conquest of political power—we won a majority, first in all workers’ organisations, then in non-worker and, finally, even in small-peasant organisations.
Only scoundrels or simpletons can think that the proletariat must first win a majority in elections carried out under the yoke of the bourgeoisie, under the yoke of wage-slavery, and must then win power. This is the height of stupidity or hypocrisy; it is substituting elections, under the old system and with the old power, for class struggle and revolution.
The proletariat wages its class struggle and does not wait for elections to begin a strike, although for the complete success of a strike it is necessary to have the sympathy of the majority of the working people (and, it follows, of the majority of the population); the proletariat wages its class struggle and overthrows the bourgeoisie without waiting for any preliminary elections (supervised by the bourgeoisie and carried out under its yoke); and the proletariat is perfectly well aware that for the success of its revolution, for the successful overthrow of the bourgeoisie, it is absolutely necessary to have the sympathy of the majority of the working people (and, it follows, of the majority of the population).
(Lenin’s Collected Works, Volume 30, pages 52-62)
The second revolution in Russia (February to October 1917).
Tsarism’s senility and obsoleteness had (with the aid of the blows and hardships of a most agonising war) created an incredibly destructive force directed against it. Within a few days Russia was transformed into a democratic bourgeois republic, freer—in war conditions—than any other country in the world. The leaders of the opposition and revolutionary parties began to set up a government, just as is done in the most “strictly parliamentary” republics; the fact that a man had been a leader of an opposition party in parliament—even in a most reactionary parliament—facilitated his subsequent role in the revolution.
In a few weeks the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries thoroughly assimilated all the methods and manners, the arguments and sophistries of the European heroes of the Second International, of the ministerialists and other opportunist riff-raff. Everything we now read about the Scheidemanns and Noskes, about Kautsky and Hilferding, Renner and Austerlitz, Otto Bauer and Fritz Adler, Turati and Longuet, about the Fabians and the leaders of the Independent Labour Party of Britain—all this seems to us (and indeed is) a dreary repetition, a reiteration, of an old and familiar refrain. We have already witnessed all this in the instance of the Mensheviks. As history would have it, the opportunists of a backward country became the forerunners of the opportunists in a number of advanced countries.
If the heroes of the Second International have all gone bankrupt and have disgraced themselves over the question of the significance and role of the Soviets and Soviet rule; if the leaders of the three very important parties which have now left the Second International (namely, the German Independent Social-Democratic Party, the French Longuetists and the British Independent Labour Party) have disgraced themselves and become entangled in this question in a most “telling” fashion; if they have all shown themselves slaves to the prejudices of petty-bourgeois democracy (fully in the spirit of the petty-bourgeois of 1848 who called themselves “Social-Democrats”)—then we can only say that we have already witnessed all this in the instance of the Mensheviks. As history would have it, the Soviets came into being in Russia in 1905; from February to October 1917 they were turned to a false use by the Mensheviks, who went bankrupt because of their inability to understand the role and significance of the Soviets; today the idea of Soviet power has emerged throughout the world and is spreading among the proletariat of all countries with extraordinary speed. Like our Mensheviks, the old heroes of the Second International are everywhere going bankrupt, because they are incapable of understanding the role and significance of the Soviets. Experience has proved that, on certain very important questions of the proletarian revolution, all countries will inevitably have to do what Russia has done.
Despite views that are today often to be met with in Europe and America, the Bolsheviks began their victorious struggle against the parliamentary and (in fact) bourgeois republic and against the Mensheviks in a very cautious manner, and the preparations they made for it were by no means simple. At the beginning of the period mentioned, we did not call for the overthrow of the government but explained that it was impossible to overthrow it without first changing the composition and the temper of the Soviets. We did not proclaim a boycott of the bourgeois parliament, the Constituent Assembly, but said—and following the April (1917) Conference of our Party began to state officially in the name of the Party—that a bourgeois republic with a Constituent Assembly would be better than a bourgeois republic without a Constituent Assembly, but that a “workers’ and peasants’ ” republic, a Soviet republic, would be better than any bourgeois-democratic, parliamentary republic. Without such thorough, circumspect and long preparations, we could not have achieved victory in October 1917, or have consolidated that victory.
“Left-Wing” Communism: an Infantile Disorder
The Principal Stages in the History of Bolshevism
(Lenin; Collected Works, Volume 31, pp. 17–118 )
The revolution that overthrew tsarism and established a democratic republic put this party to a new and tremendous test—it did not enter into any agreements with its “own” imperialists, but prepared and brought about their overthrow. When it had assumed political power, this party did not leave a vestige of either landed or capitalist ownership. After making public and repudiating the imperialists’ secret treaties, this party proposed peace to all nations, and yielded to the violence of the Brest-Litovsk robbers only after the Anglo-French imperialists had torpedoed the conclusion of a peace, and after the Bolsheviks had done everything humanly possible to hasten the revolution in Germany and other countries. The absolute correctness of this compromise, entered into by such a party in such a situation, is becoming ever clearer and more obvious with every day.
The Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries in Russia (like all the leaders of the Second International throughout the world, in 1914–20) began with treachery—by directly or indirectly justifying “defence of country”, i.e., the defence of their own predatory bourgeoisie. They continued their treachery by entering into a coalition with the bourgeoisie of their own country, and fighting, together with their own bourgeoisie, against the revolutionary proletariat of their own country. Their bloc, first with Kerensky and the Cadets, and then with Kolchak and Denikin in Russia—like the bloc of their confrères abroad with the bourgeoisie of their respective countries—was in fact desertion to the side of the bourgeoisie, against the proletariat. From beginning to end, their compromise with the bandits of imperialism meant their becoming accomplices in imperialist banditry.
“Left-Wing” Communism: an Infantile Disorder
The Struggle Against Which Enemies Within the Working-Class Movement
Helped Bolshevism Develop, Gain Strength, and Become Steeled
(Lenin; Collected Works, Volume 31, pp. 17–118 )
Collectio of Texts
LENIN FROM FINLAND TO PETROGRAD
ON THE FEBRUARY REVOLUTION
August 1916 - March 1917
April - June 1917
June - September 1917
[Lenin's Train through Germany - Travel to the Russian Revolution]
March 4 (17), 1917
Telegram to the Bolsheviks Leaving for Russia
March 6 (19), 1917
The telegram was sent to Stockholm, addressed to Lundström, a Swedish Social-Democrat, for communication to the Bolsheviks returning to Russia from Stockholm and Oslo. It reached Petrograd on March 13 (26) and was read out by Y. B. Bosh at a meeting of the C. C. Bureau in Russia and, on the same day, at a meeting of the Executive Commission of the Petrograd Party Committee.
Our tactics: no trust in and no support of the new government; Kerensky is especially suspect; arming of the proletariat is the only guarantee; immediate elections to the Petrograd City Council; no rapprochement with other parties. Telegraph this to Petrograd.
Second Letter „From Afar“, written on March 22 [ 9 ] 1917
March 12 (25), 1917
Report of a Lecture
Zurich, March 31, 1917
March 26 (April 8), 1917
April 4 (17), 1917
New York - 1932
Pravda No. 28, April 9, 1917.
Written between April 8 and 13 (21 and 26), 1917
written in the middle of April 1917
May 6, 9 and 10 (April 23, 26 and 27), 1917
April 10 (23), 1917
Written April 11 (24), 1917
Pravda No. 31, April 13, 1917.
Pravda No. 31, April 13, 1917.
Written April 13 (26), 1917
Pravda No. 32, April 14, 1917.
Written April 13 (26), 1917
Written between April 11 and 14 (24 and 27), 1917
TO THE WORKERS, SOLDIERS, AND THE WHOLE POPULATION OF PETROGRAD
Written before April 14 (27), 1917
Written April 14 (27), 1917
Written April 14 (27), 1917
Written April 15, 1917 in Pravda No. 33
Soldatskaya Pravda No. 1, April 15, 1917.
APRIL 14–22 (APRIL 27–MAY 5), 1917
A LECTURE DELIVERED MAY 14 (27), 1917
"Pravda" No 80.
26 (13) June 1917
Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 82-83.
At the first stage of its development the Russian revolution transferred power to the imperialist bourgeoisie, and created, alongside of that power, the Soviets of Deputies, with the petty-bourgeois democrats in the majority. The second stage of the revolution (May 6) formally removed from power the cynically frank spokesmen of imperialism, Milyukov and Guchkov, and virtually transformed the majority parties in the Soviets into governing parties. Our Party remained, before and after May 6, a minority opposition. This was inevitable, for we are the party of the socialist proletariat, a party holding an internationalist position. A socialist proletariat whose outlook during an imperialist war is internationalist cannot but be in opposition to any power waging that war, regardless of whether that power is a monarchy or republic, or is held by defencist “socialists”. And the party of the socialist proletariat is bound to attract an increasingly large mass of people who are being ruined by the protracted war and are growing distrustful of “socialists” committed to the service of imperialism, in the same way as they previously grew distrustful of imperialists themselves.
The struggle against our Party, therefore, began in the very first days of the revolution. And however infamous and abominable the forms of struggle carried on by the Cadets and the Plekhanov people against the party of the proletariat, the meaning of the struggle is quite clear. It is the same struggle as the imperialists and the Scheidemann people waged against Liebknecht and Adler (both of whom were, in fact, declared “mad” by the central organ of the German “socialists”, to say nothing of the bourgeois press, which described these comrades simply as “traitors” working for Britain). This is a struggle of the whole of bourgeois society, including the petty-bourgeois democrats, however r-r-revolutionary they may be, against the socialist, internationalist proletariat.
In Russia, this struggle has reached a stage where the imperialists are trying, through the petty-bourgeois-democratic leaders, the Tseretelis, Chernovs, etc., to destroy the growing power of the workers’ party at a single hard and decisive blow. As a pretext for this decisive blow, Minister Tsereteli has struck upon a method repeatedly used by counter-revolutionaries: the charge of conspiracy. This charge is a mere pretext. The point is that the petty-bourgeois democrats, who take their cue from the Russian and the Allied imperialists, need to do away with the internationalist socialists once and for all. They think that the moment is ripe for the blow. They are agitated and frightened, and under the whip of their masters they have made up their minds: now or never.
The socialist proletariat and our Party must be as cool and collected as possible, must show the greatest staunchness and vigilance. Let the future Cavaignacs begin first. Our Party conference has already given warning of their arrival. The workers of Petrograd will give them no opportunity to disclaim responsibility. They will bide their time, gathering their forces and preparing for resistance when those gentlemen decide to turn from words to action.
The Eighteenth of June
Pravda No. 86, July 3 (June 20), 1917
In one way or another, June 18 will go down as a turning-point in the history of the Russian revolution.
The mutual position of the classes, their correlation in the struggle against each other, their strength, particularly in comparison with the strength of the parties, were all revealed so distinctly, so strikingly, so impressively by last Sunday’s demonstration that, whatever the course and pace of further development, the gain in political awareness and clarity has been tremendous.
The demonstration in a few hours scattered to the winds, like a handful of dust, the empty talk about Bolshevik conspirators and showed with the utmost clarity that the vanguard of the working people of Russia, the industrial proletariat of the capital, and the overwhelming majority of the troops support slogans that our Party has always advocated.
The measured step of the battalions of workers and soldiers. Nearly half a million demonstrators. A concerted onslaught. Unity around the slogans, among which overwhelmingly predominated: “All power to the Soviets”, “Down with the ten capitalist Ministers”, “Neither a separate peace treaty with the Germans nor secret treaties with the Anglo-French capitalists”, etc. No one who saw the demonstration has any doubt left about the victory of these slogans among the organised vanguard of Russia’s workers and soldiers.
The demonstration of June 18 was a demonstration of the strength and policy of the revolutionary proletariat, which is showing the direction for the revolution and indicating the way out of the impasse. This is the tremendous historical significance of last Sunday’s demonstration, and its essential difference from the demonstrations during the funeral of the victims of the revolution and on May Day. Then it was a universal tribute to the revolution’s first victory and to its heroes. The people looked back over the first stage of the road to freedom, which they had passed very rapidly and very successfully. May Day was a holiday of hopes and aspirations linked with the history of the world labour movement and with its ideal of peace and socialism.
Neither of the two demonstrations was intended to point the direction for the revolution’s further development, nor could it do so. Neither demonstration put before the people, or raised in the name of the people, specific, definite and urgent questions as to how and in what direction the revolution should proceed.
In this sense, June 18 was the first political demonstration of action, an explanation of how the various classes act, how they want to and will act, in order to further the revolution—an explanation not given in a book or newspaper, but on the streets, not through leaders, but through the people.
The bourgeoisie kept out of the way. They refused to participate in that peaceful demonstration of a dear majority of the people, in which there was freedom of party slogans, and the chief aim of which was to protest against counter revolution. That is natural. The bourgeoisie are the counter-revolution. They hide from the people. They organise real counter-revolutionary conspiracies against the people. The parties now ruling Russia, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, clearly showed themselves on that historic day, June 18, as waverers. Their slogans spoke of wavering, and it was obvious to all that the supporters of their slogans were in a minority. By their slogans and wavering they advised the people to remain where they were, to leave everything unchanged for the time being. And the people felt, and they themselves felt, that that was impossible.
Enough of wavering, said the vanguard of the proletariat, the vanguard of Russia’s workers and soldiers. Enough of wavering. The policy of trust in the capitalists, in their government, in their vain attempts at reform, in their war, in their policy of an offensive, is a hopeless policy. Its collapse is imminent. Its collapse is inevitable. And that collapse will also be the collapse of the ruling parties, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks. Economic disruption is coming nearer. There is no escaping it except by the revolutionary measures of the revolutionary class which has taken power.
Let the people break with the policy of trust in the capitalists. Let them put their trust in the revolutionary class—the proletariat. The source of power lies in it and only in it, It alone is the pledge that the interests of the majority will be served, the interests of the working and exploited people, who, though held down by war an capital, are capable of defeating war and capital!
A crisis of unprecedented scale has descended upon Russia and the whole of humanity. The only way out is to put trust in the most organised and advanced contingent of the working and exploited people, and support its policy.
We do not know whether the people will grasp this lesson soon or how they will put it into effect. But we do know for certain that apart from this lesson there is no way out of the impasse, that possible waverings or brutalities on the part of the counter-revolutionaries will lead nowhere.
There is no way out unless the masses put complete confidence in their leader, the proletariat.
A Class Shift
Pravda No. 92, July 10 (June 27), 1917.
Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, pages 131-133.
Every revolution, if it is a real revolution, amounts to a class shift. Therefore, the best way of enlightening the people, and of fighting those who deceive the people by invoking the revolution, is to analyse the class shift that has taken or is taking place in the present revolution.
From 1904 to 1916, in the last years of tsarism, the relative positions of the classes in Russia became particularly clear. A handful of semi-feudal landowners, headed by Nicholas II, was in power and maintained the closest alliance with the financial magnates who were reaping profits unheard of in Europe and for whose benefit predatory treaties were concluded with foreign countries.
The liberal bourgeoisie, led by the Cadets, were in opposition. They were more afraid of the people than of reaction and were moving closer and closer to power by compromising with the monarchy.
The people, i.e., the workers and peasants, whose leaders had been driven underground, were revolutionary. They constituted the “revolutionary democrats”—proletarian and petty-bourgeois.
The revolution of February 27, 1917, swept away the monarchy and put the liberal bourgeoisie in power, who, operating in direct concord with the Anglo-French imperialists, had wanted a minor court revolution. Under no circumstances were they willing to go beyond a constitutional monarchy with an electoral system conditioned by various qualifications. And when the revolution actually went further, completely abolishing the monarchy and establishing Soviets (of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies), the entire liberal bourgeoisie became counter-revolutionary.
Now, four months after the revolution, the counter-revolutionary character of the Cadets, the main party of the liberal bourgeoisie, is as clear as day. Everyone sees that. And everyone is compelled to admit it. But not nearly everyone is willing to face up to it and think about what it implies.
Russia today is a democratic republic governed by a free agreement between political parties which are freely advocating their views among the people. The four months since February 27 have fully consolidated and given final shape to all parties of any importance, showed them up during the elections (to the Soviets and to local bodies), and revealed their links with the various classes.
In Russia, the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie are in power today, while the petty-bourgeois democrats, namely, the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties, have be come “His Majesty’s opposition”. The policy of these parties is essentially one of compromise with the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie. The petty-bourgeois democrats are rising to power by filling local bodies to begin with (just as the liberals did under tsarism—by first winning places in the zemstvos). These petty-bourgeois democrats want to share power with the bourgeoisie but not overthrow them, in exactly the same way as the Cadets wanted to share power with the monarchy but not overthrow it. The petty-bourgeois democrats (the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks) compromise with the Cadets because of the close class kinship between the petty and the big bourgeoisie, just as the class kinship between the capitalist and the landowner, living in the twentieth century, made them embrace each other at the feet of their “adored” monarch.
It is the form of compromise that has changed. Under the monarchy it was crude, and the tsar allowed a Cadet no further than the Duma backyard. In a democratic republic, compromise has become as refined as in Europe, the petty bourgeoisie being permitted, in a harmless minority, to occupy harmless (for capital) posts in the Ministry.
The Cadets have taken the place of the monarchy. The Tseretelis and Chernovs have taken the place of the Cadets. Proletarian democracy has taken the place of a truly revolutionary democracy.
The imperialist war has hastened developments fantastically. Had it not been for this war, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks might have sighed for decades for ministerial posts. The same war, however, is hastening further developments. For it poses problems in a revolutionary rather than a reformist manner.
The Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties could have given Russia many a reform by agreement with the bourgeoisie. But the objective situation in world politics is revolutionary and it cannot be dealt with by reforms.
The imperialist war is crushing the peoples and threatens to crush them completely. The petty-bourgeois democrats can perhaps stave off disaster for a while. But It is only the revolutionary proletariat that can prevent a tragic end.
 The expression “His Majesty’s Opposition” was used by P. N. Milyukov, the Cadet leader. Speaking at a luncheon given by the Lord Mayor of London on June 19 (July 2), 1909, Milyukov said: “So long as Russia has a legislative chamber controlling the budget, the Russian opposition will remain an opposition of, and not to, His Majesty.”
 Zemstvos—rural self-government bodies set up in the central gubernias of tsarist Russia in 1864. They were dominated by the nobility, and their jurisdiction was limited to purely local economic and welfare matters—hospital and road building, statistics, insurance, etc. They functioned under the control of the governors of the gubernias and the Minister of the Interior, who could block any decisions the government found undesirable.
Written in mid-July 1917
The article was written at the end of July, the Afterword on September 6 (19), 1917
Written not later than September 3 (16), 1917
Rabochy No. 2, September 8 (August 26), 1917.
10th - 14th of September 1917
Rabochy Put No. 10, September 27 (14), 1917.