Category Archives: How Will Communism Work

The Soviet Industrial Revolution: the Results of the First and Second Five-Year-Plans

The following are economic statistics from the Soviet Union’s First and Second Five-Year Plans with my commentary giving some context and helping you better interpret the numbers.

The four periods depicted in these statistics are the following:

1) The last Czarist census of 1913. This represents the height of the economic development of the Russian Empire. The economy of the Russian Empire declined during WWI (1914-1917).

2) The NEP figures of 1929. These figures depict the state of the economy before planned economy was fully implemented. During the NEP industry was largely nationalized but farming was mostly done by private producers and there existed a private sector of capitalist manufacturers. The goal of the NEP was to rebuild the country after the devastating Civil War (1918-1922). At the beginning of the NEP the Soviet Economy was in shambles and production at a worse state then in 1913.

3) The First Five-Year Plan (1928-1932). The implementation of Planned Economy, Industrialization and the Collectivization of Agriculture. All sectors of the economy grew during this time especially industry but also food production, consumer goods production and military spending.

4) The Second Five Year Plan (1933-1938) Consolidation of Collective Farming, the completion of the vast industrial projects of the first plan, massive increase in military spending. The 1937 constitution: implementation of free healthcare, free compulsory schooling. Massive improvements in education: construction of thousands of schools, academies and institutions of higher learning, cinemas, theaters and cultural institutions for the common people.

AGRICULTURE:

Co-operative farming and use of modern technology allowed the cultivation of previously unused land. Area under crops increased both compared to the last Czarist census of 1913 and the NEP figures. The bad weather of 1932-33 caused a temporary decrease:

The trend of fast growth continued and intensified during the Second Five-Year Plan:

Most of the land was cultivated by Collective Farmers while the remaining land was cultivated by private farmers and the State Sector:

The Collective Farm Movement that had existed in Russia since at least 1905 gained new energy after the October Revolution and fastened it’s pace even more during the NEP. In 1928 it became an official government campaign and reached a tremendous speed. The rate of collectivization in 1930-32 was blindingly fast, even too fast. Stalin said the Collective Farm Activists were being “Dizzy With Success”. In 1933-38 the speed was reduced to a more manageable rate:

The amount of food crops produced increased tremendously during both Five-Year Plans as did the production of industrial crops. Notice the fluctuation in the level of sugar-beet farming: The 1929 figure represents the aftermath of the devastating Civil War that destroyed the economy, production increased massively in 1930. In 1931-32 the sugar-beet sector was reorganized which also caused a temporary reduction. In 1933 production began to increase yet again:

During the Second Five-Year Plan the growth continued at a more consistent rate. At first glance you might think the production of grain actually didn’t increase much however this is not true: the production of grain increased from 1929 and from 1933 figures which were lower then the 1913 pre-War numbers. Secondly although grain production was only 118,6% of the pre-War figures it was achieved with a vastly smaller proportional work force. During the 1930s the USSR had gone from an agrarian country to an industrial country. Millions of people had moved from the countryside to the cities and an increasing amount of farmland had been harnessed for farming industrial crops. Despite all of this food production was greater then ever before!

“A peasant population rising from 120.7 to 132 million people between 1926 and 1940 was able to feed an urban population that increased from 26.3 to 61 million in the same period.” ~Ludo Martens (Another View of Stalin)

The amount of livestock decreased during the First Five-Year Plan. The reasons were twofold:

1) The sabotage by Kulaks and the Middle Peasants under Kulak influence. Almost all draft animals used to be owned by Kulaks. This allowed them to kill such a high number of them. (The idea that killing of animals was widespread among poor peasants is a myth, since the poor peasants typically owned no animals at all.) This caused serious economic damage to the USSR.

2) The breeding of animals was done almost exclusively by the Kulaks. It took several years for the Kulak animal breeding to be replaced by Collective Farm animal breeding since during the First Five-Year Plan most Collectives focused on crop production:

During the Second Five-Year Plan the number of livestock increased as animal breeding was taken over by Collective Farmers. The number of horses increased less then other animals because draft horses were being replaced by tractors more and more:

The development of industry, construction of machine building plants greatly benefited agriculture. The number of tractors used by peasants went from basically nothing to tens and hundreds of thousands. The Soviet State setup Machine and Tractor Stations (MTS) which supplied the Collective Farmers with machinery:

As new tractor plants were built the amount of tractors also increased in State Sector Farms:

MTSs:

Amount of tractors used doubled during the Second Five-Year Plan:

During the Second Five-Year Plan the amount of combines grew by 600%. Amount of lorries by more then 700%, cars by 240% and other vehicles by around 150%:

INDUSTRY:

The 1930s Great Depression devastated the economies of the Capitalist countries but had little impact on the economically blockaded Socialist Soviet Union. On the contrary the USSR was developing at a staggering rate due to it’s policy of industrialization. Soviet GDP growth at the time was fastest in the world:

The growth was biggest in the industrial sector. While the Capitalist economies stagnated and collapsed the USSR’s output more then tripled that of the Russian Empire, UK, USA, Germany and France:

The USSR’s industrial output doubled between 1929-1933!

During the First and Second Five-Year Plans (1928-1938) the industrial output of the USSR more then quadrupled! During this time Capitalist countries had only negligible growth:

Industrial output by sectors. The bulk was State Industry but a substantial chunk belonged to worker Co-ops and a small amount to remaining private producers and foreign corporations with trade deals with the Soviet government:

By the end of the First Five-Year Plan big industry had become 70% of the GDP. The USSR had become an industrial nation!

Machine and Factory Building compared to Consumer Goods production at the end of the First Five-Year Plan. Construction of machines doubled while production of consumer goods increased by 60%:

While in the Russian Empire most industry was involved in raw materials (mining and especially cotton) in the USSR Machine Building became the leading branch of industry:

TRADE & FREIGHT:

National trade. Steady increase in the sale of  consumer goods, commercial products, trade among collectives, co-ops and State enterprises:

Freight traffic increased together with increased trade and as a result of the building of new roads, railways and channels:

EDUCATION & CULTURAL LEVEL:

According to the last Czarist census of 1897 literate people made up 28,4% of the population while only 13% of women were literate. Among the rural population the number was only 19%. It is estimated that in 1917 around 30% of the population was literate but during the civil war the number decreased.

In 1919 the Bolsheviks began the literacy campaign Likbez. In 1926 51% of the population were literate. By the end of the Second Five-Year Plan male literacy was 90.8% and female literacy 72.5%.

Amount of elementary schools increased by four thousand between 1933-1939. Amount of secondary schools doubled. The number of public libraries, worker clubs and cinemas also increased. Before the industrialization & electrification campaign most people had never seen movies or had access to a library. In fact most people couldn’t even read.

The number of schools quadrupled as 16,000 were built between 1933-38!

The amount of people graduating from the new Soviet Higher Educational Institutions doubled between 1933-1938:

HEALTHCARE & LIFE EXPECTANCY:

In the 1937 Soviet Constitution healthcare was guaranteed as a human right.

According to the 1913 Czarist census life expectancy among the population was 32.3 years. By 1958 the life expectancy had doubled to 68.6 years.

After 1937 life expectancy increased rapidly:

Its quite dramatic that the Russian life expectancy has not really increased after the dissolution of the USSR! In the mid-late 90s it actually decreased. In 2012 Russian life expectancy was 69 years:

SOURCES:

Literacy
Russian imperial census (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Empire_Census)
Russia U.S.S.R.: A Complete Handbook New York: William Farquhar Payson. 1933. p. 665.
Stalin’s peasants New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 225-6 & fn. 78 p. 363. 

GDP
The Russian Federation Before and After the Soviet Union, Alexey Shumkov

http://eng.globalaffairs.ru/number/The-Russian-Federation-Before-and-After-the-Soviet-Union-15077
http://www.ggdc.net/maddison/Historical_Statistics/horizontal-file_02-2010.xls

Official data of soviet statistical bureau available here
https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1934/01/26.htm
https://www.marxists.org/archive/strauss/part5.htm
https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1939/03/10.htm

Life expectancy
http://www.gks.ru/free_doc/2008/demo/osn/05-08.htm
http://en.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/15750
https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB5054/index1.html

Source

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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia on the Great October Socialist Revolution

Great October Socialist Revolution

the first victorious socialist revolution in history, accomplished in 1917 by the Russian working class in alliance with the poor peasantry under the leadership of the Communist Party (formerly, the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party [Bolshevik]), headed by Lenin. The name “October” comes from the date October 25 (November 7, new style), when the Russian Provisional Government was overthrown and state power passed into the hands of the soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ Deputies. As a result of the October Revolution the power of the bourgeoisie and landlords in Russia was abolished, the dictatorship of the proletariat was established, and the Soviet socialist state was founded. The Great October Socialist Revolution represented the triumph of Marxism-Leninism and opened a new era in the history of humanity—that of the transition from capitalism to socialism and communism.

The socialist revolution in Russia as a product of historical laws. On the basis of a profound study of world history and of the conditions under which capitalist society arose and developed, its laws of development, and the antagonistic contradictions it contained, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the founders of scientific communism, discovered the objective laws of social development. They also proved the inevitability of socialist revolution, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the transition of society from the capitalist socioeconomic system to that of communism. V. I. Lenin further developed all aspects of the Marxist theory of socialist revolution in the age of imperialism, the period when revolution came onto the agenda as an immediate practical task of the proletarian class struggle. Lenin scientifically proved that the world capitalist system had fully ripened for the socialist revolution by the beginning of the 20th century and that the imperialist stage is the eve of the socialist revolution. On the basis of the law of uneven economic and political development of the capitalist countries in the age of imperialism, Lenin concluded in 1915 that a proletarian revolution could first be victorious in several countries or even a single country. He developed the well-founded theory of the transformation of a bourgeois democratic revolution into a socialist one. He elaborated a strategy and tactics for the working class and its party and worked out the problem of the allies of the proletariat in the revolution. The Bolshevik Party set a classic example of the way to lead a victorious socialist revolution.

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, Russia entered the imperialist stage of capitalist development, almost simultaneously with the most advanced capitalist countries. Monopolistic conglomerates such as Prodamet, Truboprodazha, Produgol’, and Prodvagon held the dominant positions in industry. At the beginning of World War I there were more than 150 monopolies in operation in Russia, and they controlled all the basic branches of industry. Prodamet, a merger of 30 major metalworking enterprises and joint-stock companies, owned more than 70 percent of all the share capital invested in the country’s metalworking industry and was responsible for more than 80 percent of all metal production. The Railwaymen’s Union, which had been formed as early as the 1880’s, was responsible for as much as 75 percent of all rail production. The Prodvagon syndicate had concentrated into its hands virtually all production of railroad cars in the country. The Produgol’ syndicate controlled 70 percent of all coal selling. As much as 80 percent of all kerosene sales in Russia were the domain of the Nobel’-Mazut Company. The sugar manufacturers’ syndicate controlled 90 percent of sugar production, and that of the match manufacturers controlled 95 percent of match production. During World War I about 900 new joint-stock companies came into existence, with capital assets of more than 1.6 billion rubles. Monopolistic associations of the trust type and financial groups whose working capital figured in the billions of rubles appeared—for example, the concerns of I. I. Stakheev and N. A. Vtorov. Lenin wrote that “the number of large stockholders is insignificant; but the role they play, like the wealth they possess, is tremendous” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 32, p. 109). Major banking associations arose alongside the industrial monopolies. These included the Russo-Asiatic Bank, the St. Petersburg International Commercial Bank, and the Azov-Don Bank. As much as 80 percent of all banking capital was concentrated in the hands of the 12 largest banks. Russia stood at the head of the major capitalist countries in the extent to which its banks had concentrated capital. Banking capital was intertwined with industrial capital, and finance capital appeared and attained an increasingly important position in the Russian economy. Similarly, the state apparatus and the capitalist monopolies became increasingly involved with each other. At the same time, monopoly capitalism was undergoing a process of transformation into state monopoly capitalism, a process that was accelerated during the war by the need to mobilize and regulate the economy for military purposes. State regulatory agencies came into existence, seeking to centralize the administration of many different branches of industry.

Thus, the extent to which industry had become monopolized and banking capital concentrated and the high level to which state monopoly capitalism had developed testified to the fact that the material prerequisites for the socialist revolution in Russia had matured sufficiently. The objective conditions for the transition to socialism had come together, and the transition to socialism, according to Lenin, was “merely the next step forward from state-capitalist monopoly” (ibid., vol. 34, p. 192).

Imperialism in Russia, not essentially different from that of the advanced capitalist countries, did have a number of special features. A highly advanced industrial and financial capitalism existed alongside the general backwardness of the country. Besides the monopolistic forms of capitalism, there were vast stretches of the country where capitalist relations were only beginning to take shape. The specific features of economic development and its social structure in Russia were the interconnection between the most highly developed forms of capitalism and premonopolistic forms and the fact that capitalist relations were permeated with the very powerful elements surviving from feudal serfdom. Russia’s economy was dependent on foreign finance capital to a considerable degree. In spite of important successes in industry, transport, and banking, Russia remained a technologically and economically backward agrarian country in comparison with the United States, Britain, Germany, and France. It held fifth place among the great powers.

Large landholdings belonging to lords continued to exist in Russian agriculture. At the beginning of the 20th century the nobility alone still owned 61.9 percent of all private landholdings in the country. The Russian village suffered from land hunger and high rents. Lenin characterized the situation in the country at the beginning of the 20th century thus: “The most backward system of landownership, the most ignorant peasantry on the one hand, and the most advanced industrial and finance capitalism on the other” (ibid., vol. 16, p. 417).

Capitalism developed under specific conditions in Russia and found itself entangled in a mesh of elements surviving from feudalism and serfdom. Lenin’s profound understanding of the dialectics of this intertwining of socioeconomic relationships in the country led him to conclude that revolution was inevitable. “Russia’s backwardness,” he wrote, “merged in a peculiar way the proletarian revolution against the bourgeoisie with the peasant revolution against the landowners” (ibid., vol. 38, p. 306).

Besides the existence and development of the economic prerequisites, the social forces for a revolution headed by the working class grew and became strong in Russia. In 1917 the total number of urban and rural proletarians reached 15 million persons, among whom factory workers were about 3.5 million. Although the proletariat constituted only about 10 percent of the total population (in 1913, 159.2 million), its strength did not lie in its size relative to the rest of the population, but as Lenin put it, “in the fact that the proletariat economically dominates the center and nerve of the entire economic system of capitalism, and also because the proletariat expresses economically and politically the real interests of the overwhelming majority of the working people under capitalism” (ibid., vol. 40, p. 23).

A highly concentrated working class was typical of Russia. In 1915 about 60 percent of all industrial workers were employed at major enterprises which had work forces greater than 500; in the United States the corresponding figure was only 33 percent. More than 35 percent were employed in factories where the work force exceeded 1,000 persons; in the United States, the figure was 17 percent. As much as 64 percent of the industrial proletariat was employed in the Petrograd and Central industrial regions. Other major proletarian centers were the Urals, the Donbas, the Krivorozh’e, and Baku. This concentration of large masses of workers in major enterprises in the most important centers of the country, their savage exploitation by the capitalists, their total lack of political rights, and the crude, arbitrary way in which the ruling classes dealt with them resulted in a high level of political maturity and revolutionary spirit among the Russian proletariat. The special features of their situation promoted the wide circulation and acceptance of socialist ideas among the Russian proletariat, the heightening of their consciousness and level of organization, and the formation of a revolutionary vanguard—the working-class party. Such a party, a Marxist party of a new type, was created at the beginning of the 20th century, under Lenin’s leadership, by the Russian proletariat. Surging forward to make the revolution, the working class of Russia had at its head the heroic party of the Bolsheviks. By 1917 the Party had gained vast experience in political struggle and had a scientifically based program for the socialist transformation of society. The Russian working class, led by the Marxist party of the Bolsheviks, became a mighty social force in the country and the dominant organization in the revolution.

The Russian proletariat had wide support among the semiproletarian masses of the town and village. The millions of poor peasants, who had an interest in the eradication of vestiges, of feudalism and above all in the liquidation of the large landlords, allied themselves with the working class in the approaching socialist revolution. In 1905, 30,000 of the largest landlords in Russia owned 70 million desiatinas (1 desiatina = 1.09 hectares), and 10.5 million peasant households (more than 109 million people in 1913) owned only 75 million desiatinas. If a large landlord estate had on the average 2,300 desiatinas, the peasant household had on the average only seven to 15. Half the peasant households had only one or two desiatinas. The peasants were forced to rent land from the large landowners on extremely unfavorable terms. By 1917, 30 percent of the peasantry had no horses, 34 percent had no farm equipment, and 15 percent raised no crops of their own. Because of mobilizations for the army, only 38.7 percent of the able-bodied male population remained on the peasant farms. The village poor suffered especially severely at the hands of the large landlords, the kulaks, and the tsarist authorities. The poor constituted 65 percent of the rural population and were the most reliable allies of the working class. There was also broad support for the working class among the nonproletarian urban working people. In 1917 a significant proportion of the population in Russia’s cities (a total of over 22 million inhabitants) were craftsmen, peddlers, and lower-echelon office workers, all of whom were exploited and lacked political rights.

One of the peculiarities of Russia’s historical development was its multinational character. The numerous nationalities (more than 100) that were part of the Russian empire were cruelly exploited by tsarism, the Russian and local national bourgeoisie, and the feudal lords. Tsarism transformed Russia into a prison for all the peoples by following a policy of cruel oppression of the non-Russian nationalities—one of forced Russification, suppression of national cultures, and encouragement of prejudices and chauvinist disputes between nationalities. The most severe national contradictions were typical of Russia. Thus, the entire course of objective social development drew the oppressed peoples of Russia (of whom the absolute majority were poor peasants) into a joint revolutionary struggle with the Russian working class against social and national oppression.

The combination of feudal, capitalist, and national oppression with the political despotism of the autocracy made the situation unbearable for the masses of people and lent special sharpness to the class contradictions in Russia.

At the beginning of the 20th century Russia became the focal point of the contradictions of world imperialism, the weakest link in the imperialist chain. Here the economic and social prerequisites for the coming revolution had matured. During this time the center of the revolutionary movement shifted from Western Europe to Russia. A revolutionary situation developed in the country and resulted in the first Russian bourgeois democratic revolution of 1905-07. This was the prologue and dress rehearsal of the October Socialist Revolution.

Lenin wrote: “The first revolution and the succeeding period of counterrevolution (1907-14) laid bare the very essence of the tsarist monarchy, brought it to the “utmost limit,” exposed all the rottenness and infamy, the cynicism and corruption of the tsar’s clique, dominated by that monster Rasputin. It exposed all the bestiality of the Romanov family—those pogrom-makers who drenched Russia in the blood of Jews, workers, and revolutionaries” (ibid., vol. 31, p. 12).

The Russian proletariat approached the decisive political battles of 1917 with a great revolutionary tradition. It already had behind it the experience of the people’s revolution of 1905-07 and the subsequent class battles. The ripening of a new revolutionary situation was sharply accelerated by World War I (1914-18), which laid bare the sharp socioeconomic and political contradictions in Russia and the rottenness of the tsarist regime and revealed that, to all appearances, the further existence of the bourgeois-feudal order meant disaster for the country. The war resulted in tremendous destruction of the productive forces. There was a general breakdown in industry, transport, and agriculture. During the war, 3,884 major enterprises shut down, or 37.8 percent of a total of 9,750. The railroads were unable to handle the freight load because of the shortage of locomotives and railroad cars. Industry suffered from a severe shortage of fuel and raw materials. The grain harvest in 1916 was reduced from that of 1913 by 1.6 billion poods (a pood = 16.38 kg). The sown area was also greatly reduced. Russia’s financial dependence on foreign governments grew tremendously. Only decisive revolutionary measures directed against the autocracy and capitalism could save the country from imminent economic disaster. In the fall of 1916 a pre-revolutionary situation developed and a new popular revolution grew inexorably closer. Lenin wrote: “The war has created such an immense crisis, so strained the material and moral forces of the people, has dealt such blows at the entire modern social organization, 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” (ibid., vol. 34, pp. 197-98). The war and the resulting militarization of industry led to a further concentration of production and sales in the hands of monopoly finance capital. “The dialectic of history is such,” wrote Lenin, “that the war, by extraordinarily expediting the transformation of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism, has thereby extraordinarily advanced mankind toward socialism” (ibid., p. 193). The conditions for a victorious revolution had ripened in Russia.

The course toward socialist revolution. A step of utmost importance on the road to the socialist revolution in Russia was the February bourgeois democratic revolution of 1917, which overthrew the autocracy. During and after the February Revolution, as a result of the creative initiative of the broadest revolutionary masses throughout the country, soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies were created, as well as soviets of peasants’ deputies and soldiers’ committees in the active-duty army and the rear garrisons. At the same time, trade unions and factory committees became widespread and units of workers’ militia and the Red Guard were formed. The victory over tsarism set all classes of the society into motion. A power struggle for control of the country began. The two major social forces, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, stood in opposition to each other. Based on the armed power of the people, the soviets had the opportunity to take all power in the country into their own hands. But this opportunity was not realized because the leadership of the soviets had been seized by the petit-bourgeois parties of the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries (SR’s), who followed a policy of collaboration with the bourgeoisie and its main party, the Cadets.

The SR-Menshevik leadership of the soviets considered Russia not to be prepared for the socialist revolution and assumed that in the process of the bourgeois democratic revolution power could go to the bourgeoisie. Therefore, this leadership came to an agreement with the capitalist-landlord parties of the Constitutional Democrats (Cadets) and Octobrists and created conditions allowing them to take power. On March 2 (15) the bourgeois Provisional Government was established, headed by Prince G. E. L’vov. The Provisional Government was able to retain power only because of the cooperation of the soviets. In fact, dual power had been established in the country: it consisted of the Provisional Government, the organ of the bourgeois dictatorship, on the one hand, and the soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies, the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants, on the other. Lenin regarded the lack of sufficient political maturity and organizational effectiveness of the proletariat as the social cause of this dual power situation. Roughly 40 percent of the cadre, the most well-tempered in class attitude and revolutionary mood, had been mobilized for the front. Another social source of the situation was the unparalleled activization of petit-bourgeois layers of the population, who constituted an absolute majority in the country. Lenin wrote: “A gigantic petit-bourgeois wave has swept over everything and overwhelmed the class-conscious proletariat, not only by force of numbers but also ideologically; that is, it has infected and imbued very wide circles of workers with the petit-bourgeois political outlook” (ibid., vol. 31, p. 156).

The February Revolution did not resolve the fundamental questions on the minds of the people, questions concerning an end to the imperialist war and the conclusion of peace, the elimination of the system of large land-ownership, labor questions, and the abolition of national oppression. The bourgeois Provisional Government, supported by the collaborationist parties of the Mensheviks and SR’s, pursued an imperialist policy against the popular interests. The revolutionary Russian proletariat could not stop at the bourgeois democratic revolution, and as Lenin foresaw, its transformation into a socialist revolution was inevitable. Only a socialist revolution could resolve the pressing problems of social progress—the need to eliminate the bourgeois-landlord system in Russia, put an end to all forms of social and national oppression, and establish a dictatorship of the proletariat with the aim of building a socialist society.

A concrete and theoretically well-grounded program of struggle for the transition from the bourgeois democratic revolution to the socialist one was worked out by Lenin. In his Letters from Afar in March and in his April Theses he defined a course for the Communist Party to take toward the victory of the socialist revolution. He also delineated the driving forces of the revolution and the Party’s strategy and tactics. According to Lenin’s strategy, the power of the bourgeoisie and landlords would be overthrown by the forces of the revolutionary alliance between the working class and the poorest peasantry. The task was presented to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat in the form of a Soviet Republic—the best form of political organization for society, given the conditions in Russia, during the period of transition from capitalism to socialism. Lenin did not call for the immediate overthrow of the Provisional Government at this time, since it had the support of the soviets. Considering the peculiarities of the historical moment, Lenin warned against ultra-left adventuristic attempts to make a frontal assault upon the Provisional Government, as well as a right-opportunist attitude of confidence in it. He put forward the demand of “no support to the Provisional Government.”

Basing his policies on his estimation of the class forces in the country, Lenin directed the Party toward winning over the masses by broad and patient educational work to expose the counterrevolutionary nature of the Provisional Government and the betrayal of popular interests by the petit bourgeois parties that called themselves socialists, the Mensheviks and SR’s. In fact these parties represented the left wing of bourgeois democracy and were the main base of support of the state power of the imperialist bourgeoisie. The basic political line of the Bolsheviks, worked out by Lenin, was to transfer power to the soviets. But the SR-Menshevik leadership did not want that. The Bolsheviks strove to dislodge the Mensheviks and SR’s from their positions in the leadership of the soviets, win the majority in the soviets over to the Bolshevik side, and change the policies of the soviets. This was an orientation toward a peaceful development of the revolution. The transfer of power to the soviets would mean an end to dual power. “Humanity has not yet evolved and we do not as yet know of a type of government superior to and better than the soviets of workers’, agricultural laborers’, peasants’, and soldiers’ deputies,” wrote Lenin (ibid., p. 147).

In the April Theses an economic program for the transformation of Russia was also formulated. It provided for workers’ control over national production and distribution of goods, the amalgamation of all the banks in the country into a single national bank and the establishment of control over it by the soviets, confiscation of all landlords’ estates, nationalization of all the land in the country, and so forth. In the theses, Lenin also proposed that the Party’s program be revised and the Party be renamed, and that it was necessary to take the initiative in creating a Communist International.

The Bolshevik Party that emerged from the underground after the February Revolution had about 24,000 members. The Petrograd organization had 2,000, Moscow 600, and Kiev 200. The Party rallied around the platform developed by Lenin in the April Theses. It developed broad open political and organizational work among the masses and won to its ranks primarily the most active members of the working class. By the end of April it had a membership of more than 100,000 and was the mass political party of the Russian proletariat.

The Seventh (April) All-Russian Conference of the RSDLP (Bolshevik), which was held April 24-29 (May 7-12), played a large role in preparing for the socialist revolution. This conference, which was equal in importance to a Party congress, fully supported Lenin’s line on making a transition to the socialist revolution and elaborated the policies of the Party on all the fundamental questions of the revolution: war, the Provisional Government, the soviets, and agrarian and national questions. A new Central Committee of the Party was elected at the conference, with Lenin at its head.

Armed with Lenin’s April Theses and the resolutions of the conference, and above all with the slogan “All power to the soviets,” the Bolsheviks put all their energy into the work of winning the support of the popular masses and mobilizing them for the socialist revolution. They did an enormous amount of work in the soviets, trade unions, factory committees, the army, and cities and villages, exposing the collaborationist line of the Mensheviks and SR’s and winning the toiling masses over to their side, educating them, and establishing an alliance of the working class and the poor peasantry as the decisive force in the struggle for the victory of the socialist revolution. At countless meetings, assemblies, rallies, conferences, and congresses the best orators of the Bolshevik Party spoke out. The head of the Party, Lenin, spoke himself at many meetings, rallies, and congresses. The Bolsheviks organized the publication of many newspapers (in October there were as many as 80), leaflets, magazines, and pamphlets. Pravda did tremendous organizational, political, and ideological work. From March 5 (18) to July 5 (18), 1917, 99 issues were published, with a combined total of about 8 million copies. The daily printing run was 85,000-100,000 copies. On the pages of Pravda, issue after issue, the leading articles by Lenin and the appeals and resolutions of the Central Committee of the Party were published, as well as such items as the resolutions of meetings and rallies. As the class struggle continued, the Party’s aim was to convince millions of workers, soldiers, and peasants through their own experience that the Party’s policies were correct and should be defended in open struggle against the forces of counterrevolution.

One of the most crucial questions was that of war and peace. In a diplomatic note of April 18 (May 1) the minister of foreign affairs, P. N. Miliukov, expressing the Provisional Government’s desire to carry the war through “to a victorious conclusion,” aroused broad indignation and brought the revolutionary masses out in open antigovernment demonstrations. On April 20-21 (May 3—4) about 100,000 workers and soldiers of Petrograd, and after them the workers and soldiers of other cities, led by the Bolsheviks, demonstrated under banners reading “Down with the war!” and “All power to the soviets!” The mass demonstrations resulted in a crisis for the Provisional Government. Under pressure from the revolutionary forces, two ministers were removed from the Provisional Government, Miliukov and A. I. Guchkov, the minister of the navy. The SR-Menshevik leaders decided to created a coalition cabinet. Thus the first coalition government was formed on May 5 (18), with Prince G. E. L’vov as chairman. Joining the government along with representatives of the bourgeois-landlord parties (the Cadets and Octobrists) were the two Mensheviks I. G. Tsereteli and M. I. Skobelev and the two SR’s A. F. Kerensky and V. M. Chernov. The creation of the coalition government did not change the class nature of the government or the antipopular policies that it pursued.

The First All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies convened on June 3 (16), 1917, in Petrograd. At the congress the Bolshevik Party had 105 delegates, the Mensheviks 248, and the SR’s 285. The congress majority adopted SR-Menshevik resolutions—in particular, one of support for the Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks, headed by Lenin, exposed the policies of the conciliators at the congress. Bolshevik influence among the masses grew stronger. Mass worker dissatisfaction with the policies of the government was growing all over the country.

On June 18 (July 1) about 500,000 workers and soldiers in the capital demonstrated for the demands “All power to the soviets,” “Down with the war,” and “Down with the ten capitalist ministers.” Carrying out the wishes of American, British, and French imperialists, as well as Russian imperialists, and with the support of the Congress of Soviets assured, the Provisional Government opened an offensive against the Germans on June 18 (July 1), but it soon collapsed. The news of the offensive and its collapse intensified the struggle of the proletariat and the soldiers. A new crisis for the Provisional Government began on July 2 (15). On July 3 (16) spontaneous demonstrations of workers and soldiers began in Petrograd, demanding that power be turned over to the soviets. The Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) provided leadership to the spontaneous movement of the masses in order to keep it peaceful and well-organized. On July 4 (17) a peaceful demonstration was held in Petrograd with more than 500,000 participants. By order of the Provisional Government, and with the knowledge of the SR-Menshevik leaders of the All-Russian Executive Committee of the Soviets, there was an armed attack by military officers and cadets against the demonstrators. Fifty-six people were killed and 650 wounded.

The July events represented the last attempt by the revolutionary masses to solve the problem of power by peaceful means. On July 4(17) demonstrations took place in Moscow and other cities. The SR-Menshevik Central Executive Committee published an appeal in which it declared: “We have recognized the Provisional Government as the government of revolutionary salvation. We have recognized that it should have unlimited powers and unlimited authority.” A period of repression began. On July 5-6 (18-19) attacks were made on the editorial offices and printing presses of Pravda and on the Palace of Kshesinskaia, where the Central Committee and the Petrograd Committee of the Bolsheviks were located. On July 7 (20) a government decree ordering the arrest and trial of Lenin was published. He was forced to go underground, just as he had been under the tsarist regime. Bolsheviks began to be arrested, workers were disarmed, and revolutionary military units in Petrograd were disbanded or sent off to the front. On July 12 (25) the Provisional Government published a law introducing the death penalty at the front. The formation of a second coalition government, with Kerensky as chairman, was completed on July 24 (August 6). It was composed of Cadets, Mensheviks, and SR’s. Dual power came to an end. The possibility of a peaceful road of revolutionary development disappeared for the moment. Power passed completely into the hands of the counterrevolutionary Provisional Government. Lenin wrote: “The counterrevolution has become organized and consolidated and has actually taken state power into its hands” (ibid., vol. 34, p. 1). The betrayal of the SR’s and Mensheviks had resulted in a situation in which the soviets, under SR-Menshevik leadership, had already ceased to be organs of power. They had been transformed into mere appendages of the counterrevolutionary Provisional Government. Because of this, Lenin posed the question of temporarily dropping the slogan of “All power to the soviets.”

With the elimination of dual power, the development of the revolution entered a new phase. After analyzing every side of the situation that had developed in the country, Lenin concluded that the Party had to make a transition to a new tactic of struggle. He worked out this tactic in July in his theses entitled The Political Situation and in the articles “Three Crises,” “On Slogans,” “Constitutional Illusions,” and others like them. Lenin directed the Party toward armed insurrection as the only way of winning a victory for the revolution in the situation that had developed. In proposing that the Party drop the slogan “All power to the soviets,” which had formerly expressed an orientation toward a peaceful development of the revolution, Lenin explained that this would not mean an abandonment of the struggle for a republic of soviets. He was convinced that the soviets, once freed of domination by the petit-bourgeois parties, would become genuine organs of struggle for the proletarian dictatorship.

Lenin’s arguments were the basis of the resolutions adopted by the Sixth Congress of the RSDLP (Bolshevik), which was held semi-legally in Petrograd from July 26 to August 3 (August 8-16) and which represented a party that already had 240,000 members. Lenin guided the congress from underground through the Central Committee (he was then in Razliv). Those reporting at the congress included Ia. M. Sverdlov and J. V. Stalin. The congress approved the new tactics worked out for the Party by Lenin and oriented the Party toward preparations for an armed insurrection to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. The congress also approved the economic platform that Lenin had earlier proposed in the April Theses. It especially stressed the importance of the alliance between the proletariat and the poor peasantry as the main prerequisite for the victory of the socialist revolution. The new Central Committee elected by the congress and headed by Lenin appealed to the people with a manifesto calling for preparations for a decisive confrontation with the counterrevolution.

“In 1917 the Leninist Party presented a great example of historic initiative and of a correct assessment of the balance of class forces and the specific features of the moment. At the different stages of the revolution the Party applied flexible and diverse tactics, utilizing peaceful and nonpeaceful, as well as legal and illegal, means of struggle, and demonstrating its ability to combine these means to move from one form or method of struggle to another. This is one of the fundamental aspects of the strategy and tactics of Leninism that distinguishes it from both Social Democratic reformism and petit-bourgeois adventurism” (“Fiftieth Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution,” in Theses of the Central Committee of the CPSU, 1967, p. 8).

The struggle of classes and parties for power grew sharper every day. The distinctions between the conflicting sides became greater, the political isolation of the bourgeoisie and the petit-bourgeois parties grew deeper, and the influence of the Bolshevik Party increased. The bourgeoisie, headed by the Cadets, set out to unleash civil war and attempted to establish an open military dictatorship in the country. A conspiracy of the imperialist bourgeoisie against the revolution was begun, headed by General L. G. Kornilov, who had been supreme commander in chief since July 18 (31). This conspiracy was actively supported by the reactionary forces of Britain, France, and the United States. The Provisional Government convened the so-called State Conference in Moscow on August 12-15 (25-28). Its aim was to organize and mobilize all the forces of the Russian counterrevolution headed by Kornilov, Kaledin, Kerensky, Miliukov, Purish-kevich, Rodzianko, Riabushinskii, and others. In response to a Bolshevik appeal, Moscow’s working class greeted this congress of reactionaries and conspirators with a protest strike of 400,000 workers. The Moscow workers were supported by strikes and protest rallies by workers in Kiev, Kharkov, Nizhny Novgorod (now Gorky), Ekaterinburg (now Sverdlovsk), and other cities. After the Moscow conference, the counterrevolution, headed by the Cadet Party, moved toward the practical realization of its aims. The military-political center for preparations for the coup was set up at the supreme headquarters of the commander in chief in Mogilev. On August 25 (September 7), General Kornilov began a military revolt and started troops moving toward Petrograd (General A. M. Krymov’s III Cavalry Corps). The conspirators also planned offensives against Moscow, Kiev, and other major cities.

The Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) appealed on August 27 (September 9) to the workers, soldiers, and sailors of Petrograd to come to the defense of the revolution. The Bolshevik Party mobilized and organized the masses to defeat the Kornilov revolt. The Red Guard in the capital, which by then numbered about 25,000 fighters, was supported by the garrison of the city, the Baltic sailors, the railroad workers, the workers of Moscow, the Donbas, the Urals, and other proletarian centers, and the soldiers at the front and in the rear. The revolt was suppressed. The defeat of Kornilov’s revolt disorganized and weakened the counterrevolutionary camp, demonstrated the strength of the revolutionary forces, increased the authority of the Bolsheviks, and proved to be one of the decisive stages in the struggle for the victory of the socialist revolution. It signified the unswerving determination of the workers, soldiers, and poor peasants to deal a mighty blow to the forces of counterrevolution and indicated the tremendous growth of influence of the Bolshevik Party among broad segments of the working people of Russia.

A nationwide crisis had matured in the country, embracing all spheres of social, economic, and political relations. The policies of the bourgeois Provisional Government, opposed to popular interests, had brought the country to the brink of a national catastrophe. Disorder in industry and transport had intensified, and difficulties in obtaining provisions had increased. Gross industrial production in 1917 had decreased by 36.4 percent from what it had been in 1916. From March to October 1917 more than 800 enterprises had been closed down in the country. The production of cast iron, steel, coal, and petroleum had declined sharply. In the autumn, as much as 50 percent of all enterprises were closed down in the Urals, the Donbas, and other industrial centers. Mass unemployment had begun. At the same time, the cost of living increased sharply. The real wages of the workers fell about 40 to 50 percent from what they had been in 1913. The government resorted to issuing more paper money and contracting new loans. From the beginning of the war until February 1917 more than 8.2 billion rubles in paper money had been put into circulation, but in the following eight months a total of 9.5 billion was released. In 1917 new paper money was used to cover some 65.5 percent of budget expenditures. Russia’s national debt in October 1917 had risen to 50 billion rubles. Of this, debts to foreign governments constituted more than 11.2 billion rubles. The country faced the threat of financial bankruptcy.

The class consciousness of the proletariat in the fall of 1917 was indicated by the increased activity of the factory committees, which had been organized at plants and factories everywhere, the growing number of trade unions, and the strengthening of Bolshevik influence in these unions. In October 1917 there were more than 2 million factory and office workers in trade unions. The strike movement at that time was remarkable for its exceptional stubbornness, high level of organization, and political determination. In September and October there were strikes by the Moscow and Petrograd proletariat, the miners of the Donbas, the metalworkers of the Urals, the oil workers of Baku, the textile workers of the Central Industrial Region, and the railroad workers on 44 different railway lines. In these two months alone more than a million workers took part in mass strikes. Workers’ control over production and distribution was established in many factories and plants. This was an indication that the workers’ movement had risen to the highest stage of development. As a result of the political and economic struggle, the working class had to take power into its own hands.

The working-class movement, which was socialist in character, pulled the democratic movement of the peasants along behind it. Until October 1917 there were about 4,250 peasant uprisings against the landlords. In August, 690 peasant actions were recorded, and in September and October more than 1,300. When the Provisional Government sent out punitive detachments it only enraged the peasants. They would burn, seize, or destroy the landlords’ estates and take personal reprisals against the most hated landlords. Millions of soldiers came over to the side of the revolution, especially the garrisons in Petrograd, Moscow, and other cities, the Northern and Western fronts, and the sailors of the Baltic Fleet, who in September openly declared through their elected representative body, the Tsentrobalt, that they did not recognize the authority of the Provisional Government and would not carry out any of its commands.

The national liberation movement of the oppressed peoples in the outlying areas also grew stronger. The Provisional Government did not and could not resolve the national question. In local areas the old apparatus of oppression, hostile to the native population, was left in charge with almost no change. This great power chauvinist policy stirred deep discontent among the oppressed peoples in the outlying regions of the country. Bourgeois nationalist organizations were created in the following national areas: the Central Rada in the Ukraine, the Byelorussian Rada, the National Soviets in the Baltic region and Transcaucasia, and Shura-i-Islam in Turkestan. The national bourgeoisie tried to make use of the national liberation struggle of the oppressed peoples for its own narrow class interests. The nationalists tried to distract the workers from the all-Russian revolutionary struggle. They organized national military units (Ukrainian, Muslim, Moldavian, and Estonian) in order to seize power. The national liberation movement was not and could not be homogeneous in its class composition and political aims. Two sharply counterposed tendencies became apparent—the bourgeois nationalist and the revolutionary democratic. The Bolsheviks exposed the counterrevolutionary essence of bourgeois nationalism and encouraged the delineation of class distinctions within the national liberation movement, striving to provide leadership to its revolutionary democratic tendency. The latter, which combined workers, class-conscious toiling peasants, and the revolutionary democratic layer of the local intelligentsia, became more and more massive. Revolutionary democratic national organizations were created to counterbalance the organs of the bourgeois nationalists.

Only the Leninist Party had a program that could really solve the national question. The Bolsheviks linked the resolution of that question with the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat and for the republic of soviets. At the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets, Lenin declared: “Let Russia be a union of free republics” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 32, p. 286). The energetic activities of the Bolshevik organizations in the Baltic region, the Ukraine, Byelorussia, Moldavia, the Caucasus region, the Volga region, Central Asia, and Siberia guaranteed the unity of the struggle for soviet power being waged by the Russian working class and the proletarian and semiproletarian masses of the oppressed peoples.

With the defeat of Kornilov’s revolt, a new stage in the Bolshevization of the soviets began. Before that, the soviets of Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Riga, Kronstadt, Orekhovo-Zuevo, and Krasnoiarsk had supported Bolshevik positions, and after August, the soviets of Ekaterinoslav, Lugansk, and some other cities had as well. During and after the defeat of Kornilov a mass turn of the soviets toward the Bolsheviks began, both in the central and local areas. On August 31 (September 13) the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and on September 5 (18) the Moscow Soviet of Workers’ Deputies adopted Bolshevik resolutions on the question of power. The Bolsheviks won a majority in the soviets of Briansk, Samara, Saratov, Tsaritsyn, Minsk, Kiev, Tashkent, and other cities. In one day alone, September 1 (14), the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of Soviets received demands from 126 local soviets urging it to take power into its own hands. On instructions from the Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik), local Party organizations began a campaign for new elections to the soviets. The new elections gave the Bolsheviks a chance to win a majority in the soviets. In many cities prominent Party figures were elected as presidents of local soviets—for example, in Moscow, V. P. Nogin; in Baku, S. G. Shaumian; in Samara, V. V. Kuibyshev; in Cheliabinsk, S. M. Tsvilling; and in Shuia, M. V. Frunze. The Bolshevization of the soviets of peasants’ deputies proceeded more slowly. The slogan “All power to the soviets” was once again placed on the agenda, since the majority of them were now under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party. But the slogan now indicated the need to wage a struggle to transform the revolutionary Bolshevik soviets into insurrectionary organs aimed against the Provisional Government, organs of struggle for the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The Provisional Government, in a state of chronic crisis but still trying to retain power, proclaimed Russia a republic on September 1 (14) and created a directorate (a so-called Council of Five headed by A. F. Kerensky) to rule the country, proclaiming this to be a ruling body independent of the Cadets, who had organized the Kornilov revolt. In their effort to save the rule of the bourgeoisie, the Socialist Revolutionary-Menshevik Central Executive Committee convened the Democratic Conference of September 14-22 (September 27 to October 5), which selected from its own membership the Provisional Council of the Republic (the so-called Preparliament). The Bolsheviks boycotted the Preparliament, exposing its antidemocratic nature and calling for the convening of a Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, and at the same time preparing the masses to wage a battle against capitalism. At the same time the ideological and organizational disintegration of the petit-bourgeois conciliationist parties began. A left wing took shape in the SR Party and at the end of November declared itself the independent party of the Left SR’s. Opposition from the left within the Menshevik Party and the division within the organization grew stronger. There was a massive flow of members out of the Menshevik and Right Socialist Revolutionary parties. By October their influence within the working class had been reduced to nothing.

The creation of a new coalition government on September 25 (October 8), consisting of six capitalist ministers and ten “socialist” ministers, met with resolute protests on the part of the Bolshevik soviets. The political mood of the broad revolutionary masses was expressed especially strongly at provincial and regional congresses of soviets and at citywide conferences of soviets which were held on the eve of the October Revolution.

During the course of the revolutionary process the strength and solidarity of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) had grown. Between March and October the Party membership increased 15 times. The Party numbered about 350,000 members, of which as many as 60 percent were progressive workers. The forces of the Party were distributed throughout the regions as follows: Moscow and the Central Industrial Region, 70,000 (20 percent); Petrograd and its province, 60,000 (17 percent); the Ukraine, Moldavia, the Southwestern and Rumanian fronts, and the Black Sea Fleet, 60,000 (17 percent); the Baltic region and the Northern Fleet, 30,000 (8.5 percent); Byelorussia and the Western Front, 30,000 (8.5 percent); the Volga Region, 20,000 (5.5 percent); the Caucasus region, the Caucasian Front, and the Don region, 20,000 (5.5 percent); Siberia and the Far East, 15,000 (4.5 percent); and the rest of the country, 10,000 (3.5 percent).
The Party, inseparably linked to the masses, was in a state of combat readiness for the approaching class battles. Lenin wrote: “At the decisive moment, at the moment of taking power and establishing the Soviet Republic, Bolshevism was united; it attracted all the best of the trends of socialist thought akin to it and rallied around itself the entire vanguard of the proletariat and the overwhelming majority of the working people” (ibid., vol. 39, p. 216).

In September, Lenin gave a general analysis of the nationwide crisis. This crisis was expressed by the mighty revolutionary movement of the working class, led by Lenin’s Party and moving directly toward the conquest of power and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the form of the soviet; the broad sweep of the peasant movement, which assumed the character of a peasant war for the land; the adherence of the mass of soldiers to the revolutionary side and their willingness to support the workers’ and poor peasants’ struggle with arms; the upsurge of the national liberation movement and the nationwide peace movement against the imperialist war; and the Bolshevization of the Soviets. On the other hand, there was a chronic crisis in the Provisional Government and disorder and disintegration in the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois parties.

In Lenin’s writings, “The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It” (September), “The Crisis Has Matured” (end of September), and “Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power?” (end of September to October 1), and in his letters to the Central Committee, the Petrograd Committee, and the Moscow Committee of the Party (September and October), he indicated that the crisis had matured. Those at the bottom no longer wished to live in the old ways, and those at the top could no longer rule in the old way.

Lenin’s deep analysis of the new political situation in the country led him to the conclusion that “we have the following of the majority of the class, the vanguard of the revolution, the vanguard of the people, which is capable of carrying the masses with it. We have the following of the majority of the people … our victory is assured” (ibid., vol. 34, p. 244).

The victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution. By the autumn of 1917 the conditions for a victorious socialist revolution had matured in Russia. Its success depended on the political and organizational activity and the correct tactics of the Bolshevik Party. In September 1917, Lenin sent a letter to the Central Committee and the Petrograd and Moscow Committees of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) entitled “The Bolsheviks Must Assume Power” and another one to the Central Committee of the Party entitled “Marxism and Insurrection.” In these letters he posed the idea of preparations for an armed insurrection as a practical task for immediate action by the Party. He warned the Central Committee against adventurism and conspiratorial plots aimed at the “seizure” of power. “To be successful, insurrection must rely not upon conspiracy, not upon a Party, but upon the advanced class.… Insurrection must rely upon a revolutionary upsurge of the people. … Insurrection must rely upon that turning point in the history of the growing revolution when the activity of the advanced ranks of the people is at its height, and when the vacillations in the ranks of the enemy and in the ranks of the weak, half-hearted, and irresolute friends of the revolution are strongest” (ibid., pp. 242-43). All of these conditions existed. He recommended that the Party regard insurrection as an art, and he called upon it to concentrate its entire attention upon the military-technical preparations for the insurrection, create an overwhelming superiority of class forces, and ensure that a crushing blow would be struck at the decisive moment and the decisive place, first in Petrograd and Moscow. Lenin outlined a concrete plan for carrying out the insurrection which involved organizing a headquarters for the insurgent units; deploying forces; sending the main forces (Red Guard units, revolutionary regiments, and the fleet) to the key points—the telephone and telegraph centers, railroad stations, and bridges; arresting the General Staff and the Provisional Government; and ensuring the decisive defeat of any attempts at armed action by the counterrevolution.

On October 10 (23) the question of armed insurrection was discussed at a session of the Central Committee of the Party. Lenin, who had illegally returned to Petrograd from Finland, gave his report. By a vote of ten to two (L. B. Kamenev and G. E. Zinoviev), the Central Committee adopted Lenin’s resolution recognizing that the time was ripe for insurrection and that it was inevitable. The Central Committee advised all Party organizations to be guided by this resolution in their practical everyday work. At this Central Committee session a new Political Bureau, headed by Lenin, was elected. On October 12 (25) the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet adopted a statute creating the Military Revolutionary Committee (MRC), which became the legal staff for preparing the armed insurrection. The Central Committee resolution on insurrection was unanimously approved by the Moscow regional bureau of the Party on October 14 (27) and by the Petrograd Committee on October 15 (28), and both committees adopted specific plans of action. On October 16 (29) the Central Committee held an expanded session, with leading Party workers of Petrograd and representatives from trade unions and military organizations present. This session approved the Central Committee resolution of October 10 (23) on armed insurrection, Kamenev and Zinoviey again spoke emphatically against the armed insurrection. They argued that there were “no grounds for insurrection” and urged that “defensive tactics of watchful waiting” should be adopted. On the same day, at a closed session of the Central Committee a Party Military Revolutionary Center was elected to provide leadership for the insurrection, consisting of A. S. Bubnov, F. E. Dzerzhinskii, Ia. M. Sverdlov, J. V. Stalin, and M. S. Uritskii. This Party center joined the MRC and became its main nucleus. Among those active in the work of the MRC were V. A. Antonov-Ovseenko, G. I. Bokii, P. E. Dybenko, K. S. Eremeev, S. I. Gusev, N. V. Krylenko, S. V. Kosior, M. Ia. Latsis, K. A. Mekhonoshin, V. I. Nevskii, N. I. Podvoiskii, A. D. Sadovskii, N. A. Skrypnik, and G. I. Chudnovskii, as well as the Left SR’s P. E. Lazimir and G. N. Sukhar’kov. All the work in preparation for the insurrection was directly guided by V. I. Lenin.

In the October armed insurrection the Bolshevik Party relied on strong armed forces. The Petrograd Red Guard was in the vanguard of these; in the course of the struggle it had grown to nearly 40,000 fighters. This armed vanguard of the revolution had the support of 200,000 Red Guards in other cities in Russia. At the beginning of the insurrection the revolutionary soldiers in the Petrograd garrison numbered more than 150,000, according to the statistics of the MRC; the Baltic Fleet, which was on the side of the Bolsheviks, had more than 80,000 sailors and about 700 combat and auxiliary ships. These mighty armed forces of the revolution had the support of millions of revolutionary soldiers at the front (especially the Northern and Western) and in the rear-echelon garrisons. In turn, these armed forces rested upon the support of the revolutionary workers and poor peasants of the entire country, who were ready to wage war against capitalism.

A very important step in the preparations for the insurrection took place October 20-24 (November 2-6), when the MRC assigned its own commissars to the Peter and Paul Fortress, the military units, the naval vessels, the munitions depots, and a number of factories and other key points in the capital.

The Provisional Government, relying on the Cadets, Mensheviks, and SR’s, gathered together on its side the armed forces of counterrevolution. The military command staff brought forces loyal to it close to Petrograd and carried out a mobilization of counterrevolutionary forces in the capital and the suburbs. The cadets from Peterhof and Oranienbaum were called to Petrograd, the special alert order was given to the three Cossack regiments quartered in Petrograd, and all the cadet academies were placed on military alert. The garrison of the Winter Palace was increased to 2,700. Orders were sent to the supreme headquarters in Mogilev and the command headquarters of the Northern Front in Pskov to expedite the movement of troops toward the capital.

However, the Bolsheviks had created an overwhelming superiority of revolutionary forces over those of the counterrevolution. The position of the Provisional Government was hopeless.

The armed insurrection began on October 24 (November 6). On that day, by order of the Provisional Government, an attack was made by cadets on the print shop of the Bolshevik newspaper Rabochii put’ (as Pravda was called at that time), and an order was issued for the arrest and trial of members of the MRC. An attack was being prepared against the headquarters of the revolution—Smol’nyi, where the Central Committee of the Party and the MRC were located. On instructions from the Central Committee, the MRC sent soldiers of the Lithuanian regiment and a sapper battalion to the print shop. These forces repulsed the cadets and the printing of the paper was resumed. Central Committee members decided not to leave Smol’nyi and deployed their forces to lead the insurrection in its most important areas. The delegates to the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets were gathering at Smoi’nyi. Red Guard units of about 1.300 fighiera, detachments of revolutionary soldiers and sailors, and communications personnel from military units and factories in various parts of the city were called out. Cannon, machine guns, and armored cars were placed around the building. Over the radio station of the cruiser Aurora an appeal was issued by the MRC of Petrograd to the garrisons to defend the approaches to the city, urging them “to act firmly and with discretion, but where necessary, ruthlessly” to prevent even a single counterrevolutionary unit from entering Petrograd.

In the afternoon of October 24 (November 6) the cadets tried to raise the drawbridges across the Neva River in order to cut the workers’ districts off from the center of the capital. The MRC sent Red Guard units and soldiers to the bridges and placed almost all of them under guard. Toward evening soldiers of the Keksgol’m regiment occupied the central telegraph offices, a unit of sailors took over the Petrograd telegraph agency, and soldiers of the Izmailovskii regiment took the Baltic railroad station. Revolutionary units blocked off the Pavel, Nikolai, Vladimir, and Konstantin cadet academies. Telegrams were sent from the Central Committee and the MRC to Kronstadt and the Tsentrobalt calling on naval vessels of the Baltic Fleet to bring an expeditionary force. The order was carried out.

The situation called for decisive and offensive action by the revolutionary forces. However, some members of the MRC were still sluggish about moving ahead to attack the main centers of the counterrevolution—the headquarters of the Petrograd military district, the Winter Palace, and so forth. Some of them wanted to postpone the seizure of power until the Second Congress of Soviets had convened (the evening of October 25). The influence of the chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, L. D. Trotsky (who favored postponing the insurrection, which was equivalent to breaking it off), was felt, as was that of Kamenev and Zinoviev, who on the very eve of the insurrection argued that it was doomed to defeat.
Lenin, who still continued to function conspiratorially and feared for the fate of the insurrection, wrote to the Central Committee members on the evening of October 24 (November 6): “With all my might I urge comrades to realize that everything now hangs by a thread; that we are confronted by problems which are not to be solved by conferences or congresses (even congresses of soviets), but exclusively by peoples, by the masses, the struggle of the armed people… . We must at all costs, this very evening, this very night, arrest the government, having first disarmed the officer cadets (defeating them if they resist), and so on.”

“We must not wait! We may lose everything!”

And further: “The government is tottering. It must be given the death blow at all costs.

“To delay action is fatal” (ibid., vol. 34, pp. 435, 436).

On the evening of October 24, Lenin arrived at Smol’nyi and took direct leadership of the armed struggle. The Central Committee made his arrival known to all the districts, factories, and military units. With Lenin at their head, the revolutionary forces decisively went on the offensive. The planned seizure of strategic points in Petrograd continued. At 1:25 A.M. on October 25 (November 7), Red Guards from the Vyborg district, soldiers of the Keksgol’m regiment, and revolutionary sailors occupied the main post office building. At 2:00 A.M. the first squad of the 6th Reserve Sapper Battalion took Nikolai Railroad Station (now Moscow Station). At the same time, a Red Guard unit occupied the central power plant. At about 6:00 A.M. sailors of the naval guards seized the State Bank. At 7:00 A.M. soldiers of the Keksgol’m regiment occupied the central telephone station. At 8:00 A.M., Red Guards of the Moscow and Narva districts seized Warsaw Station. During the night, the cruiser Aurora had anchored off the Nikolai Bridge (now the Lieutenant Schmidt Bridge) and the naval vessel Amur anchored off the Admiralty Embankment. By morning the capital was in the hands of the insurgent people. On the morning of October 25 (November 7) the MRC adopted Lenin’s appeal “To the Citizens of Russia.” This stated: “The Provisional Government has been deposed. State power has passed into the hands of the organ of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies—the Revolutionary Military Committee, which is leading the Petrograd proletariat and the garrison.

“The cause for which the people have fought—namely, the immediate offer of a democratic peace, the abolition of landed property, workers’ control over production, and the establishment of Soviet power—this cause has been secured.

“Long live the revolution of workers, soldiers, and peasants!” (ibid., vol. 35, p. 1).

On the afternoon of October 25 (November 7) the revolutionary forces took the Mariinskii Palace, where the Preparliament was in session, and dispersed it. Sailors occupied the military port and the main admiralty building, where the naval high command was arrested.

At 2:35 P.M. a special session of the Petrograd Soviet began. An announcement was made on the deposition of the Provisional Government, followed by a report by Lenin on the existing situation. At 6:00 P.M. revolutionary units began to move toward the Winter Palace. At 9:40 P.M., at a signal from the Peter and Paul Fortress, a round of artillery from the cruiser Aurora thundered, and the storming of the Winter Palace began.

At 10:40 P.M. on October 25 (November 7), the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies began in Smol’nyi. At the opening of the congress, 390 of the 649 delegates who had arrived were Bolsheviks. The congress proclaimed the transfer of all power to the soviets. At 2:00 A.M. on October 26 (November 8) the Winter Palace was seized and the Provisional Government was arrested. On October 26 (November 8) the Congress of Soviets adopted the Decree on Peace and the Decree on Land, based on a report by Lenin. In the Decree on Peace, the Soviet power proposed to all the belligerent countries that negotiations begin immediately for a just and democratic peace without annexations or indemnifications. By the terms of the Decree on Land, landlord ownership was abolished; landlord estates and crown, monastery, and church lands, with all livestock, implements, and buildings, and everything pertaining thereto, were given to the peasants without any compensation. The right of private ownership of land was abolished and replaced by all-national ownership of the land. As a result of the implementation of this decree, the peasants received more than 150 million hectares of land and were freed from annual rent payments to landlords amounting to 700 million gold rubles. The congress elected an All-Russian Central Executive Committee and formed the first Soviet government—the Council of People’s Commissars (or Sovnarkom), headed by Lenin. With the establishment of the Soviet government began the building of the Soviet state—a state of a new type, a dictatorship of the proletariat.

The counterrevolutionary forces, headed by the former prime minister Kerensky, who had fled to the Northern Front area on October 25 (November 7), General P. N. Krasnov, commander of the III Cavalry Corps, and N. N. Dukhonin, the chief of staff to the supreme commander in chief, rebelled and began a civil war with the aim of overthrowing Soviet power. The enemy began an offensive, occupied Gatchina and Tsarskoe Selo, and went to the heights of Pulkovo, thus creating a direct threat to revolutionary Petrograd. In the capital the counterrevolutionaries formed a Committee for the Salvation of the Homeland and the Revolution, and on October 29 (November 11) they started a mutiny of the cadets, which was suppressed on the same day. On October 31 (November 13) revolutionary troops drove the forces of Kerensky and Krasnov back from Pulkovo, and on November 1 (14) they forced them to capitulate. Krasnov was arrested and Kerensky fled.

Following the victory of the insurrection in Petrograd, which was almost bloodless, the armed struggle began in Moscow on October 25 (November 7). A Party Center whose members included M. F. Vladimirskii, V. N. Podbel’skii, O. A. Piatnitskii, V. N. Iakovleva, and Em. Iaroslavskii, and an MRC whose members included V. P. Nogin, P. G. Smidovich, G. A. Usievich, A. Lomov, and A. S. Vedernikov were established to lead the insurrection. In Moscow the revolutionary forces encountered extremely bitter opposition from the organized counterrevolution. From October 25 (November 7) there was stubborn fighting. Red Guards from Petrograd, Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Shuia, Podol’sk, and other cities and sailors from the Baltic Fleet arrived to support the Moscow proletariat. The Moscow workers and revolutionary soldiers of the garrison disrupted the counterrevolutionaries’ plans to create a so-called all-Russian center of struggle against Soviet power in Moscow. On November 2 (15), Soviet rule was established in Moscow. The victory was won at the cost of great sacrifices; about 1,000 people had been killed during the insurrection.

The victory of the socialist revolution in Petrograd and Moscow laid the basis for the triumphal march of Soviet power throughout the country. The Party Central Committee, headed by Lenin, along with all the local Party organizations, led the struggle to establish Soviet rule in local areas. In most of the country this was done quickly and peacefully.

Two factors played a decisive role in the immediate victory of the revolution all over the country. The first was the existence of finished forms of proletarian power, such as the soviets, the decrees on land and peace, and the Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia; these expressed the spirit and aspirations of the toiling people and had an enormously revolutionizing effect. The second factor was the departure of the masses from the influence of the petit-bourgeois parties, the Mensheviks and SR’s, who were openly allied with the counterrevolution; this raised the authority of the Leninist Party of the Bolsheviks and its political and organizational activity in the eyes of the workers.

Soviet power was established in Central Russia at the same time as the armed insurrections in Petrograd and Moscow and immediately after them. On October 25 (November 7) it was established in Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Vladimir, Briansk, and the industrial cities of the Moscow region; on October 27 (November 9) in Yaroslavl; on October 28 (November 10) in Nizhnyi Novgorod, Kaluga, and Tver’; and on October 30 (November 12) in Voronezh. As a result of active resistance by the petit bourgeois parties, the establishment of Soviet power was somewhat delayed in the following cities: in Orel, until November 25 (December 8); in Kursk, until November 26 (December 9); in Tula, until December 7 (20), 1917; and in Tambov, until January 31 (February 13), 1918.

During November and December, Soviet power was established in most of the cities and factory settlements of the Urals. On October 26 (November 8) the Ekaterinburg and Cheliabinsk soviets and the Ufa Province MRC took power, and on October 27 (November 9) the Izhevsk Soviet did also. The SR’s and Mensheviks offered stubborn resistance to the establishment of Soviet power in Perm’, the administrative center of the Urals. There the struggle for power lasted right up until the convening of the provincial Congress of Soviets on December 16 (29).

A very difficult armed struggle for Soviet power developed in Orenburg Province, where one of the most dangerous centers of the Russian counterrevolution developed, headed by the cossack Hetman A. I. Dutov. Basing himself on cossack units, he seized Orenburg, Cheliabinsk, and a number of other cities of the Southern Urals and set up the so-called Cossack Army Government. As a result of decisive steps taken by the Soviet government, the Dutov antisoviet rebellion was crushed, and on November 20 (December 3), Soviet power was restored in Cheliabinsk. On January 18 (31), 1918, Orenburg was liberated from Dutov’s forces. In the industrial cities of the Volga Region, Soviet power was established immediately after it was established in Petrograd and Moscow. On October 26 (November 8), after overcoming two days of resistance by the counterrevolutionary forces, there was a Soviet victory in Kazan, and on October 27 (November 9) in Samara and Saratov. The workers and soldiers in Saratov were forced to fight for two days thereafter to suppress a counterrevolutionary rebellion, which surrendered on October 29 (November 11). In Tsaritsyn, Soviet power was established by peaceful means over the period from October 28 (November 10) to November 4 (17). The struggle in Astrakhan took a more complicated course. Combat between the revolutionary forces and the Astrakhan cossacks lasted from January 12 (25) until January 25 (February 7), 1918, and ended with the victory of the workers and soldiers.

Having become Soviet, Central Russia served as the base for the socialist revolution throughout the country. The news of the revolutionary victory in the capitals and other cities spread rapidly to the active-duty army. The military fronts nearest Petrograd and Moscow, the Northern and Western fronts, and the Baltic Fleet held an important place in Lenin’s plan for armed insurrection. The Bolshevik Party organizations in the army and the fleet made timely preparations to support the armed insurrections in Petrograd and Moscow and to take action on the fronts themselves. This was of the greatest importance, for as Lenin noted, without winning the army to the Bolshevik side, the socialist revolution could not succeed. The soldiers of the Northern and Western fronts and the sailors of the Baltic Fleet welcomed the socialist revolution and Soviet power. At the end of October and November, MRC’s were created everywhere at the fronts in the army. These took power within the army and introduced control over the command staffs of the Northern Front and Baltic Fleet. The commander of the Western Front was removed. The fleet and army units at the fronts placed their power at the disposal of the Soviet government. The victory of the revolution on the Northern and Western fronts made it possible to eliminate the main center of the counterrevolution, the headquarters of the supreme commander in chief at Mogilev, on November 18-20 (December 1-3). This headquarters had prepared the conspiracy against the socialist revolution.

The victory of the socialist revolution at the military fronts closest to the capital and in the Baltic Fleet were a major success for the Bolsheviks and had tremendous importance for the further development of the revolution. As Lenin wrote: “Resistance on the part of the armed forces against the October Revolution of the proletariat or against the winning of political power by the proletariat was entirely out of the question, considering that the Bolsheviks had an enormous majority on the Northern and Western fronts, while on the other fronts, far removed from the center, the Bolsheviks had the time and opportunity to win the peasants away from the SR party” (ibid., vol. 40, p. 10).

At the end of October and beginning of November, Soviet power was established throughout the part of the Baltic region that was not occupied by German troops. On the side of the revolution were 40,000 Latvian riflemen, who played a major role in establishing Soviet power in Latvia. The Minsk Soviet took power on October 25 (November 7). On October 27 (November 9), the Northern and Western Regional Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) passed a resolution creating a Revolutionary Committee, later called the MRC of the Northwestern Region and Western Front, which assumed authority for the Western Front and all of Byelorussia. The working people of the Ukraine had to overcome serious resistance on the part of the Central Rada (rada = council) in their struggle for the victory of the socialist revolution. The armed insurrection in Kiev against the Provisional Government began on October 29 (November 11) and was victorious on October 31 (November 13). However, power was usurped by the bourgeois nationalist Central Rada, which had powerful armed forces at its disposal. On November 7 (20) it proclaimed itself the supreme governing body of the so-called Ukrainian People’s Republic. The Central Rada began to fight against Soviet Russia, launched a campaign of terror against the revolutionary forces, and became one of the main centers of the all-Russian counterrevolution. The Bolsheviks everywhere in the Ukraine took up the struggle against the Central Rada for the establishment of Soviet power. The workers of the Donbas established Soviet power in Lugansk, Makeevka, Gorlovka, Kramatorsk, and other cities immediately after the victory of the armed insurrection in Petrograd. A major historical event occurred for the Ukrainian people with the convening of the All-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets, held December 11-12 (24-25) in Kharkov, where Soviet power had been established on November 10 (23). The Congress of Soviets on December 12 (25) proclaimed the Ukraine a Soviet republic and elected a Central Executive Committee of the Soviets of the Ukraine. This body organized the first Soviet Ukrainian government, the People’s Secretariat, composed of F. A. Artem, E. B. Bosh, V. P. Zatonskii, and N. A. Skrypnik. In December 1917 and January 1918 the armed struggle for Soviet power spread and developed throughout the Ukraine. The rebellions against the Central Rada established Soviet power in Ekaterinoslav on December 29 (January 11, 1918), in Odessa on January 17 (30), and in Poltava, Kremenchug, Nikolaev, Kherson, and Vinnitsa in January. On January 5 (18), 1918, Soviet Ukrainian troops began an offensive against Kiev. On January 16 (29) the workers of Kiev, led by those of the Arsenal Plant, began an armed insurrection against the Central Rada. On January 22 (February 4), Soviet troops entered Kiev. By January 26 (February 8), after bitter street fighting, these troops, along with armed workers’ detachments, had swept the city clean of the Central Rada’s forces. During those days in January the insurgent people of Kiev suffered the loss of more than 1,500 lives. During February, Soviet power was consolidated throughout the Ukraine. It was victorious in the Crimea in January 1918, and in Moldavia at the beginning of January.

In the Don region (the Donskoe Voisko Oblast) the Hetman of the Don cossacks, A. M. Kaledin, began an anti-Soviet rebellion in October. After seven days of fighting, on December 2 (15), the cossacks took Rostov, where Soviet power had been established earlier, on October 26 (November 8). The cossacks then launched an offensive against the Donbas. However, a considerable number of cossacks did not support Kaledin. On January 10 (23) a congress of front-line cossack units, meeting in Kamenskaia stanitsa (large cossack village), declared Kaledin’s Cossack army government deposed and proclaimed Soviet power in the Don region, setting up the Don MRC with F. G. Podtelkov as chairman. Soviet troops commanded by V. A. Antonov-Ovseenko liquidated Kaledin’s revolt; Rostov was liberated on February 24, and Novocherkassk on February 25.

The struggle for Soviet power in the Northern Caucasus was waged under very complex conditions. On October 28 (November 10) the soviet of Vladikavkaz voted for the Soviet power, and on November 4 (17) it adopted a resolution, based on a report by S. M. Kirov, declaring support for the Sovnarkom headed by Lenin. In November, Soviet power was established in Petrovsk-Port (Makhachkala) and Groznyi. But the counterrevolution, finding support among the cossacks and Caucasus Mountain tribes, founded the so-called Terek-Dagestan government on December 1 (14) and crushed the soviets of Vladikavkaz, Groznyi, and other cities. Under conditions in which terror and clashes between nationalities prevailed, the Bolsheviks of the Terek Oblast carried out preparations for a congress of the peoples of Terek. The first congress was convened in January 1918 in Mozdok, and the second in March in Piatigorsk. The second congress established the Terek People’s Soviet Republic as part of the RSFSR. Soviet power was established throughout the Terek region and a significant section of Dagestan. In the Kuban region and along the Black Sea coast, furious resistance on the part of the Kuban cossacks had to be overcome in the process of establishing Soviet power. On December 1 (14), Soviet power was victorious in Novorossiisk, and in January in Armavir. On March 14 revolutionary troops fought their way into Ekaterinodar (Krasnodar) and took control of it.

The socialist revolution in Transcaucasia was not immediately victorious. On October 31 (November 13), Soviet power was established in the proletarian city of Baku but only in the spring of 1918 was it extended to several raions in Azerbaijan. On April 25 the Baku Soviet set up the Baku Council of People’s Commissars, with S. G. Shaumian as chairman. In Georgia and Armenia the revolutionary forces were unable to take power. In Georgia the Mensheviks seized control, and in Armenia the Dashnaks.

In Middle Asia the revolution was opposed by the bourgeois nationalists, the bais (wealthy stock raisers, merchants, or landowners), the clergy, the Russian officers, and the kulaks. The center of the socialist revolution in this vast region was Tashkent, where a strong Bolshevik organization was functioning, based on the railroad workers, the soldiers of the city garrison, and the “men of the rear” (workers from the local nationalities, recruited as rear-echelon workers during the war). Soviet power was established in Tashkent on November 1 (14) as a result of an armed insurrection and fighting that had lasted from October 28 to 31 (November 10-13). On November 15 (28) the Regional Congress of Soviets elected the Council of People’s Commissars for the Turkestan krai, with F. I. Kolesov as chairman. During the period from November 1917 to February 1918, Soviet power was established in Samarkand, Ashkhabad, Krasnovodsk, Chardzhou, Merv, and other cities. By the spring of 1918 the Soviets held power throughout Middle Asia, with the exception of the Khiva khanate and the emirate of Bokhara, where the old order maintained its rule until 1920. At the end of April 1918 the Turkestan ASSR was founded as part of the RSFSR. In Kazakhstan, the Syr-Dar’ia Oblast became Soviet in November, the Akmolinsk Oblast between November 1917 and January 1918, and the Bukeev Horde in December 1917. Soviet power was established in the Turgai and Semipalatinsk oblasts in January and February 1918 and in the Semirech’e Oblast in March and April, after the suppression of armed resistance on the part of the nationalists of the Alash Horde and the cossacks of Semirech’e, Orenburg, and the Urals. On January 1 (14), 1918, Soviet power was victorious in Pishpek (now Frunze), and on March 3 in Vernyi (now Alma-Ata).

In Siberia and the Far East the establishment of Soviet power was accompanied by serious resistance from the Siberian counterrevolution. Krasnoiarsk became Soviet on October 28 (November 10), Omsk on November 30 (December 13), after the suppression of a counterrevolutionary mutiny, Tomsk on December 6 (19), Novonikolaevsk (now Novosibirsk) on December 13 (26), and Irkutsk on December 22 (January 4, 1918), after nine days of fighting between the revolutionary forces and the mutineers. Soviet power was victorious in Vladivostok on November 18 (December 1), in Khabarovsk on December 6 (19), and throughout the Far East by March 1918.

The Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia, adopted by the Sovnarkom on November 2(15), was of great importance for the victory of Soviet power in the border lands and outlying regions of the country. This historic enactment of the Soviet government brought national oppression to an end and proclaimed the equality and sovereignty of all the nationalities in the country and their right to unrestricted self-determination, including the right to separate and form an independent state. The government removed all national and religious privileges and restrictions and guaranteed the freedom of all the peoples, nationalities, and ethnic groups inhabiting Russia. On November 20 (December 3) the Sovnarkom issued an appeal “To All Muslim Toilers of Russia and the East,” which informed the formerly oppressed peoples that the unequal treaties had been rescinded and political oppression ended. It called on them to support the gains of the socialist revolution and to establish Soviet power.

Summing up the results of the triumphal march of Soviet power, Lenin wrote in March 1918: “In the course of a few weeks, having overthrown the bourgeoisie, we crushed its open resistance in civil war. We passed in a victorious triumphal march of Bolshevism from one end of a vast country to the other. We raised the lowest strata of the working people, oppressed by tsarism and the bourgeoisie, to liberty and independent life. We established and consolidated the Soviet Republic” (ibid., vol. 36, p. 79).

The establishment of the Soviet socialist state. As a result of the victory of the October Revolution, the Communist Party became the ruling party. The working class, hitherto oppressed and exploited, became the dominant class, and a new state was established—the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The first task of the socialist revolution was to smash the old state machinery and construct a new one, the Soviet state. After destroying the bourgeois-landlord state, with its army, procurator’s office, courts, police, and bureaucratic-official apparatus, the revolution deprived the exploiting classes and their parties of their most powerful means of struggle to restore the old system.

The new Soviet state was the primary weapon for the defense of the conquests of the revolution against domestic and external counterrevolution and an instrument in the struggle for the construction of a socialist society. The Soviet government relied in its activity on the support of the soviets, which had become the governmental form of the dictatorship of the proletariat; on soldiers’, military-revolutionary, and factory committees; and on trade unions, detachments of the Red Guard, and revolutionary regiments. It also depended on the exceptional creative energy of workers, revolutionary soldiers, and peasants, and on the revolutionary intelligentsia. The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission (Chekha) for the struggle against counterrevolution and sabotage was organized under the auspices of the Sovnarkom on December 7 (20), 1917. A decree on justice was signed on November 22 (December 5). On the basis of the Sovnarkom decree of December 16 (29), the old army was democratized: all power in the army was transferred to the soldiers’ committees and soviets, commandership was made an elective post, and old titles and orders were abolished. On January 15 (28), 1918, a decree was adopted on the formation of the Worker-Peasant Red Army, and on January 29 (February 11), another on the formation of the Worker-Peasant Red Fleet. Establishment of the armed forces of the socialist state expanded, initially on a volunteer basis.

The Soviet regime instituted socialist reforms in the area of the economy. Following the nationalization of the land and its transformation into all-national property and the transfer of the State Bank to the control of the Soviet regime, a decree introducing workers’ control over production and distribution was adopted on November 14 (27), 1917. The nationalization of the so-called state enterprises (the Obukhov, Baltic, and Izhorsk plants, and others), the railroads, and many private enterprises began in November. Experienced Party figures and vanguard workers were assigned to state and economic work. The Supreme Council of the Economy (Sovnarkhoz) was created on December 2(15) for the direction of the national economy.

The Soviet regime liquidated the vestiges of feudal relations, the estate system, and inequality of rights in all areas of social life. Simultaneously with the liquidation of landlord ownership of land as the basis of feudal vestiges, decrees were issued abolishing the estates and civil ranks; establishing uniform citizenship (November 10 [23]), equal rights for women, and civil marriage (December 18 [31]); and separating the church from the state and schools from the church (January 20 [February 2, 1918]).

Responding to the popularity of the slogan for a Constituent Assembly, the Soviet government held elections for the assembly in November and convoked it on January 5 (18), 1918. Since the elections were conducted on the basis of lists of parties prepared by organs of the Provisional Government, and since they were held in the period when the Soviet regime was still just becoming established and a sizable portion of the population was not acquainted with its decrees, the majority of deputies to the Constituent Assembly turned out to be representatives of parties which had been overthrown by the October Revolution (Mensheviks, SR’s, Cadets, and the nationalist parties and organizations). The composition of the Constituent Assembly did not reflect the new correlation of class forces in the country. The mood of the majority of the Constituent Assembly was counterrevolutionary; they refused to recognize the Soviet regime and to confirm the Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited People. For this reason, the Constituent Assembly was dissolved on January 6 (19) by the resolution of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. This action was given general support by the workers, soldiers, peasants, and their soviets.

The Third All-Russian Congress of Soviets assembled on January 10 (23), 1918. The Third All-Russian Congress of Peasants’ Deputies was assembled at the same time, and on January 13 (26) the two congresses were merged. This accelerated the amalgamation of the soviets of peasants’ deputies and the soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies everywhere, a process that strengthened the political foundation of the Soviet state. The congress adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited People, which set forth the main tasks of the Soviet regime—the elimination of exploitation of any kind, the merciless suppression of exploiters, the establishment of the socialist organization of society, and the construction of socialism. The congress’s legislation made the creation of the RSFSR official.

In instituting socialist reforms, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and the Sovnarkom adopted a number of important decrees. In order to liberate the country from financial bondage, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee issued a decree on January 21 (February 3), 1918, anulling the foreign and domestic loans contracted by the tsarist government and the bourgeois Provisional Government. The merchant fleet was nationalized (January 23), as were foreign trade (April 22) and private railroads (September 4). A decree nationalizing all large-scale industry was issued on June 28.

The most creative initiative and revolutionary energy of the working class and all toilers were displayed in the socialist reconstruction of the national economy. The means of production in industry were collectivized and turned into public property; this signified a revolutionary upheaval that marked the destruction of the foundations of the old, capitalist mode of production and the establishment of a socialist sector of the economy. In industry, bourgeois productive relations were liquidated and new, socialist relations established. Collectivization of the means of production in agriculture, which entailed 15 to 16 million peasant farms, could not be carried out immediately. Nationalization of the land and collectivization of the means of production in industry created the conditions for the millions of toiling peasants to be shifted gradually in the direction of socialism.

Fundamental transformations in the sphere of culture began with the victory of the October Revolution. Elementary and secondary schools and higher educational institutions, libraries, theaters, and museums became the property of the working people. Work was done to eliminate illiteracy among the adult population. A cultural revolution began. The services of literature, art, and the press were enlisted for the communist training and education of the working people. The achievements of science and culture were put to use in the service of the working people. The Marxist-Leninist ideology became dominant in the country.

The very first revolutionary act of the Soviet regime fundamentally undermined the forces of the bourgeoisie, landlords, reactionary bureaucracy, and counterrevolutionary parties; it broke the economic power of the overthrown exploiting classes, ensured the concentration of commanding posts in the hands of the Soviet regime, and persuasively demonstrated the genuinely popular nature of the Soviet regime, which has only the interests of the working people at heart.

During its very first days, the Soviet government initiated action in the struggle for peace. A policy of peace became the unshakable basis of its entire subsequent foreign policy. Negotiations for the conclusion of a peace treaty with Germany and its allies were begun in Brest on December 9 (22), 1917. The far-reaching expansionist aspirations of German imperialism were exposed during the course of these negotiations. However, the Soviet government was forced to accede to the onerous conditions of the peace treaty in order to obtain a breathing space to strengthen the Soviet regime and establish the armed forces. There was a sharp struggle in the Central Committee of the Party and the Sovnarkom over the question of signing the peace treaty. The group of “left communists,” headed by N. I. Bukharin, opposed the Leninist line for the conclusion of the treaty; they conducted propaganda for a “revolutionary war” against German imperialism. Trotsky adhered to an equally adventuristic position, presenting the formula “neither peace nor war.” He headed the Soviet delegation in Brest and refused to sign the terms of the peace treaty. On February 10 (23), 1918, negotiations were broken off. Taking advantage of this circumstance, the German command violated the armistice and on February 18 began an offensive all along the front. The old army retreated, and the new army was still only being established. German troops occupied the Baltic region and a considerable portion of Byelorussia, invaded the Ukraine, and threatened Petrograd. The Soviet Republic was in terrible danger.

The Communist Party and the Soviet government called on the people to repulse the invaders. The Sovnarkom’s appeal, “The Socialist Homeland in Danger!” was published on February 21. The workers and toiling peasants arose in arms against the German imperialists. February 23, 1918, became the birthday of the Red Army. The enemy’s offensive against Petrograd was halted by the heroic resistance of detachments of the Red Guard and the first units of the new Red Army. The German government agreed to resume peace negotiations. On March 3, the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty of 1918 was signed. Soviet Russia left the war and obtained a peaceful respite.

Lenin proposed a program for the initiation of socialist construction in his work The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Power (April 1918). He considered the following to be urgent common tasks for the entire nation: organizing a nationwide system of accounting and control; implementing operations on a self-supporting financial basis; struggling to increase labor productivity; organizing socialist competition; and inculcating the people with the new, proletarian discipline.

In the countryside, the policy of the Soviet regime was primarily directed toward implementing the agrarian reforms of the October Revolution—the Decree on Land. Lands held by landlords were confiscated and distributed. As the socialist revolution unfolded further in the villages, the class struggle between the poor peasants and the kulaks intensified. In the spring and especially in the summer and fall of 1918 the kulaks embarked on an open struggle against Soviet power. The middle peasantry showed signs of great vacillation. With the economy in a state of general decline, the anti-Soviet sabotage of the kulaks, who hid grain and hampered state grain purchases, caused hunger in the industrial centers. Workers and their families abandoned the cities; the factory proletariat decreased by half from what it had been in 1914.

The struggle for bread became a fight for the salvation of the Soviet Republic. Lenin said that the struggle for bread was ultimately the struggle for socialism. On May 13, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and Sovnarkom adopted the decree “On Granting the Commissar of Food Emergency Powers in the Struggle Against the Village Bourgeoisie, Which Is Concealing and Speculating in Grain Supplies.” Lenin called on workers to declare a “crusade” against the kulaks and unite with the village poor in the name of the salvation of the Soviet State. The creation of special food detachments composed of the most class-conscious workers began at the end of May 1918. They were sent to the grain-producing provinces. A decree on the organization of Committees of the Poor in the villages was adopted on June 11. The organization of these committees signified a further deepening of the socialist revolution in the countryside. With the arrival of the workers’ food detachments in the countryside and the organization of the Committees of the Poor, the struggle against the kulak class entered a new phase. The socialist revolution reached the most remote villages. With the aid of the food detachments, the Committees of the Poor not only provided enormous assistance in the resolution of the food problem but also began to redistribute kulak land and stock. The socioeconomic face of the countryside changed; by the end of 1918, the proportion of poor peasants—65 percent of the population in 1917—had declined to 35 percent; the middle peasantry, which had been 20 percent, was now 60 percent; and the kulaks, who had composed 15 percent were now 5 percent. At the end of 1918 the middle peasant became the leading figure in the village. The political and economic positions of the kulak class were greatly undermined. The alliance of the working class and the poorest peasantry was cemented, and the dictatorship of the proletariat strengthened.

The Fifth All-Russian Congress of Soviets, meeting July 4-10, 1918, adopted the first Soviet constitution (July 10)—the Constitution of the RSFSR, which legislatively consolidated the soviet socialist social and governmental system born of the Great October Socialist Revolution.

The overthrown exploiting classes unleashed a civil war to restore capitalism. In essence, this war began immediately after the victory of the October armed uprising in Petrograd. The united forces of the domestic bourgeois landlord counterrevolution and foreign imperialism stood in opposition to Soviet power and socialist reforms. Relying on the financial, military, and political aid of the Entente, the forces of counterrevolution succeeded in creating a massive army of White Guards. In 1918 and 1919 they managed to seize the Northern Caucasus, the Don, Siberia, the Far East, the Urals, northern European Russia, and part of the Volga Region, and then the Crimea, Ukraine, and Transcaucasia. Soviet power was overthrown throughout these vast territories, the old regime was reestablished, and White terror was installed. The Russian working class and toiling peasantry, under the leadership of the Communist Party headed by Lenin, put an enormous strain on their military, material, and spiritual resources and thus routed the troops of the interventionists and domestic counterrevolutionaries, driving them from the country’s territory. Soviet power was reestablished in all regions except for the Baltic, where the national bourgeoisie, aided by German troops, was able to maintain the capitalist order and create bourgeois republics. Bessarabia, which was occupied by Rumania, was not liberated.

As a result of the Civil War, the Russian proletariat and toiling peasantry and the Soviet armed forces—the Red Army and the navy—defended the conquests of the Great October Socialist Revolution, preserving and strengthening the first worker-peasant state in the world.

The worldwide historical significance of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The October Revolution was fundamentally different from all preceding revolutions. It overthrew the rule of the capitalists and landlords, established the dictatorship of the proletariat, liquidated capitalism in Russia, eliminated the exploitation of one man by another, abolished social and national oppression, and opened the way to the construction of socialism and communism. The inspirer and organizer of the revolution was the Communist Party headed by Lenin, which based its activity on knowledge of the laws of social development and skillfully united into one revolutionary movement such diverse revolutionary currents as the pandemocratic movement for peace, the peasant democratic movement for land, the national liberation movement of oppressed peoples for national equality, and the socialist movement of the proletariat for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The Russian proletariat was the basic moving force in the revolution. The Party organized an alliance of the working class and the poor peasantry, which became decisive in the victory of the socialist revolution. The powerful workers’ and pandemocratic movements that had begun in the West and the East and the profound sympathy and active support of the workers and toilers of all countries toward the October Revolution were extremely important for the victorious development of the October Revolution.

The following assessment of the October Revolution was made by the Central Committee of the CPSU:

“The October Revolution opened the way for resolving the fundamental problems presented by the entire preceding course of development of world history: the problems of a future society, of the nature of social progress, of war and peace, and of the fate of world civilization.

“The victory of October confirmed the Leninist theory of socialist revolution. The Marxist-Leninist doctrines passed the test of history:

“on the inevitable downfall of capitalism and the consolidation of socialism;

“on the vanguard role of the working class, led by the Communist Party, in the revolution and in the construction of a new society;

“on the dictatorship of the proletariat and its role in the struggle for the victory of socialism;

“on the soviets as the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the organs of genuine popular sovereignty and socialist democracy;

“on the alliance of the working class, peasantry, and other strata of toiling people—under the leadership of the working class—as the decisive force in the struggle for social liberation;

“on the industrialization of the country and the socialist transformation of agriculture;

“on the roads to the resolution of the national question; and

“on raising the standard of living of the toiling people and carrying out a cultural revolution” (“On the Preparation for the 50th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution.” Resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU of Jan. 4, 1967, pp. 4-5).

The October Revolution broke the front of world imperialism and opened a new era in the history of humanity—the era of the downfall of capitalism and the triumph of socialism and communism. As a result of the October Socialist Revolution, the world split into two opposing systems—the system of socialism and the system of capitalism.

The Great October Socialist Revolution “accelerated the course of historical events in the world. The ideas of Marxism-Leninism and of October spread all over the earth; they lifted peoples up to struggle for their freedom and independence against oppressors. The achievements of the October Revolution became a mighty base for revolutionary transformations in all parts of the world.… The creation of a worldwide socialist system is the continuation of the revolutionary renewal of the world that was begun by October.

“The October Revolution revealed the worldwide historical role of the working class as the standard-bearer and main fighter for socialism, the most progressive and militant class force of the present era. It gave powerful impetus to the revolutionary movement of the international working class, placing this class in the center of the current epoch” (ibid., p. 17).

The October Revolution was a watershed in the development of the national liberation movement. It initiated the crisis of the colonial system and opened the epoch of national liberation revolutions in the colonial and dependent countries. It merged into a single current the struggle of the proletariat and other revolutionary forces and the struggle of oppressed peoples against national colonial oppression.

The October Revolution had an enormous revolutionizing influence on all the peoples of the world; it awakened the oppressed peoples, raised the broadest strata of the toiling masses to active political life, and helped strengthen the organization of the international proletariat. It was the cradle of the contemporary worldwide communist movement, which has become the greatest political force of modern times.

By its existence and its worldwide historical and social transformations, the Soviet socialist state born of the October Revolution inspires people all over the earth in the struggle for peace, democracy, and socialism.

As a result of the victory of the October Revolution and the construction of the Soviet socialist state, humanity found a trusty bulwark in its struggle against wars of aggression and for peace and security. The October Revolution outlined the high road to socialism for all humanity.

REFERENCES

Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed. (See “Reference Volume,” part 1.)
50 let Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii: Dokumenty i materialy. Moscow, 1967.
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia: Dokumenty i materialy, vols. 1-10. Moscow, 1957-63.
Velikaia Oktiabr’ skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia: Khronika sobytii, vols. 1-4. Moscow, 1957-61.
Velikii Oktiabr’: Sb. dokumentov. Moscow, 1962.
Kommunisticheskaia partiia Sovetskogo Soiuza v rezoliutsiiakh i resheniiakh s“ezdov, konferentsii i plenumov TsK, 7thed., part 1, 1898-1924. Moscow, 1954.
Shestoi s“ezd RSDRP (bol’shevikov): Avgust 1917 g., Protokoly. Moscow, 1958.
Protokoly TsK RSDRP (b): Avgust 1917—fevral’ 1918. Moscow, 1958.
Sed’maia (Aprel’skaia Vserossiiskaia konferentsiia RSDRP (bol’shevikov). Protokoly. Moscow, 1958.
Baltiiskie moriaki v podgotovke i provedenii Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1957.
Revoliutsionnoe dvizhenie v russkoi armii: 27 fevralia—24 oktiabria, 1917 Sbornik dokumentov. Moscow, 1968.
Vtoroi Vserossiiskii s“ezd Sovetov rabochikh i soldatskikh deputatov trudiashchikhsia: Sbornik dokumentov. Moscow, 1957.
Dekrety Sovetskoi vlasti, vols. 1-4. Moscow, 1957-68.
Proletarskaia solidarnost’ trudiashchikhsia v bor’be za mir (1917-1924). Moscow, 1958. (Documents and materials.)
Ekonomicheskoe polozhenie Rossii nakanune Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii: Mart-oktiabr’, 1917 g. Dokumenty i materialy, parts 1-2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1957.
Petrogradskii Voenno-revoliutsionnyi komitet, vol. 1-3. Moscow, 1966-67.
Podgotovka i pobeda Oktiabr’skoi revoliutsii v Moskve: Dokumenty i materialy. Moscow, 1957.
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia na Ukraine: Fevral’ 1917—aprel’ 1918 g. Sbornik dokumentov i materialov, vols. 1-3. Kiev, 1957.
Bor’ba za vlast’ Sovetov v Moldavii. (Mart 1917-mart 1918 gg.): Sbornik dokumentov i materialov. Kishinev, 1957.
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia v Belorussii: Dokumenty i materialy, vols. 1-2. Minsk, 1957.
Bor’ba za pobedu Sovetskoi vlasti v Azerbaidzhane, 1918-1920: Dokumenty i materialy. Baku, 1967.
Bor’ba za pobedu Sovetskoi vlasti v Gruzii: Dokumenty i materialy (1917-1921 gg.). Tbilisi, 1958.
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia i pobeda Sovetskoi vlasti v Armenii. Yerevan, 1957. (Collection of documents.)
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia v Estonii: Sb. dokumentov i materialov. Tallin, 1958.
Oktiabr’skaia revoliutsiia v Latvii: Dokumenty i materialy. Riga, 1957.
Bor’ba za Sovetskuiu vlast’ v Litve v 1918-1920 gg. Sbornik dokumentov. Vilnius, 1967.
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia i grazhdanskaia voina v Kirgizii (1917-1920 gg.): Dokumenty i materialy. Frunze, 1957.
Pobeda Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii v Kazakh-stane: 1917-1918 gg. Sb. dokumentov i materialov. Alma-Ata, 1957.
Pobeda Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii v Turkestane: Sb. dokumentov. Tashkent, 1947.
Podgotovka i provedenie Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii v Turkmenistane: Sbornik dokumentov. Ashkhabad, 1954.
Podgotovka i provedenie Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii v Uzbekistane: Sb. dokumentov. Tashkent, 1947.

WORKS OF PARTY FIGURES

Bubnov, A. S. O Krasnoi Armii. Moscow, 1958.
Dzerzhinskii, F. E. Izbr. proizv., vol. 1, 1897-1923. Moscow, 1957.
Kalinin, M. I. Izbr. proizv., vol. 1. Moscow, 1960.
Kirov, S. M. Izbr, stat’i i rechi (1912-1934). Moscow, 1957.
Krupskaia, N. K. O Lenine: Sb. st. [Moscow, 1960.]
Kuibyshev, V. V. Izbr. proizv. Moscow, 1958.
Sverdlov, la. M. Izbr. proizv., vol. 2. Moscow, 1959.
Ordzhonikidze, Sergo. Stat’i i rechi, vol. 1 (1910-26). Moscow, 1956.
Stalin, J. V. Soch., vols. 3-4. Moscow, 1953-54.
Stuchka, P. I. V bor’be za Oktiabr’: Sb. st. Riga, 1960.
Shaumian, S. G. Izbr. proizv., vol. 2, 1917-18. Moscow, 1958.

MEMOIRS OF PARTICIPANTS IN THE REVOLUTION

Antonov-Ovseenko, V. A. V revoliutsii. Moscow, 1957.
Bonch-Bruevich, V. D. Na boeivykh postakh FevraVskoi i Oktiabr’skoi revoliutsii, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1931. (Reminiscences of V. I. Lenin.)
Bonch-Bruevich, M. D. Vsia vlast’ Sovetam. Moscow, 1964.
Podvoiskii, N. P. God 1917. Moscow, 1958.
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia: Sb. vospominanii uchastnikov revoliutsii v Petrograde i Moskve. Moscow, 1957.
Istoriia KPSS, vols. 2-3. Moscow, 1966-68.
Vsemirnaia istoriia, vols. 7, 8. Moscow, 1958-61.
Istoriia grazhdanskoi voiny v SSSR: 1917-1922, vols. 1-3. Moscow, 1939-57.
Mints, I. I. Istoriia Velikogo Oktiabria, vols. 1-2. Moscow, 1967-68.
Istoriia Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii. Moscow, 1967.
Oktiabr’skoe vooruzhennoe vosstanie: Semnadtsatyi god v Petrograde, books 1-2. Leningrad, 1967.
Oktiabr’ v Moskve. [Moscow], 1967.
Golikov, G. N. Revoliutsiia, otkryvshaia novuiu eru. [Moscow, 1967.]
Istoriia SSSR s drevneishikh vremen do nashikh dnei, 2nd series, vol. 7. Moscow, 1967.
Velikii Oktiabr’ i mirovoi revoliutsionnyi protsess. Moscow, 1967.
Volobuev, P. V. Proletariat i burzhuaziia Rossii v 1917 g. Moscow, 1964.
Gaponenko, L. S. Rabochii klass Rossii v 1917 godu. Moscow, 1970.
Golub, P. A. Partiia, armiia i revoliutsiia: Otvoevanie partiei bol’shevikov armii na storonu revoliutsii. Mart 1917—fevral’ 1918. [Moscow, 1967.]
Gorodetskii, E. N. Rozhdenie Sovetskogo gosudarstva, 1917-1918. [Moscow, 1965.]
Geroi Oktaibria: Biografii aktivnykh uchastnikov podgotovki i provedeniia Oktiabr’skogo vooruzhennogo vosstaniia v Petrograde, vols. 1-2. Leningrad, 1967.
Geroi Oktiabria (Kniga ob uchastnikakh Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii v Moskve). Moscow, 1967.
Zetkin, K. Oktiabr’skaia revoliutsiia. [Khar’kov], 1924.
Williams, A. R. O Lenine i Oktiabr’skoi revoliutsii. Moscow, 1960. (Translated from English.)
Reed, J. 10 dnei, kotorye potriasli mir. Moscow, 1958. (Translated from English.)
Uchastie trudiashchikhsia zarubezhnykh stran v Oktiabr’skoi revoliutsii. Moscow, 1967. (Collection of articles.)
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia: Sb. vospominanii uchastnikov revoliutsii v Petrograde i Moskve.

G. N. GOLIKOV and M. I. KUZNETSOV

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

J.V. Stalin on the Final Victory of Socialism in the U.S.S.R.


Ivan Philipovich Ivanov, staff propagandist of the Manturovsk District of the Young Communist League in the Kursk Region of the U.S.S.R., addressed a letter to Comrade Stalin requesting his opinion on the question of the final victory of Socialism in the Soviet Union.

IVANOV TO STALIN

Dear Comrade Stalin,

I earnestly request you to explain the following question : In the local districts here and even in the Regional Committee of the Young Communist League, a two-fold conception prevails about the final victory of socialism in our country, i.e., the first group of contradictions is confused with the second.

In your works on the destiny of Socialism in the U.S.S.R. you speak of two groups of contradictions – internal and external.

As for the first group of contradictions, we have, of course, solved them – within the country Socialism is victorious.

I would like to have your answer about the second group of contradictions, i.e., those between the land of Socialism and capitalism.

You point out that the final victory of Socialism implies the solution of the external contradictions, that we must be fully guaranteed against intervention and, consequently, against the restoration of capitalism.

But this group of contradictions can only be solved by the efforts of the workers of all countries.

Besides, Comrade Lenin taught us that “we can achieve final victory only on a world scale, only by the joint efforts of the workers of all countries.”

While attending the class for staff propagandists at the Regional Committee of the Y.C.L., I, basing myself on your works, said that the final victory of Socialism is possible only on a world scale. But the leading regional committee workers – Urozhenko, First Secretary of the Regional Committee, and Kazelkov, propaganda instructor – described my statement as a Trotskyist sortie.

I began to read to them passages from your works on this question, but Urozhenko ordered me to close the book and said : “Comrade Stalin said this in 1926, but we are now in 1938. At that time we did not have the final victory, but now we have it and there is no need for us at all to worry about intervention and restoration.”

Then he went on to say : “We have now the final victory of Socialism and a full guarantee against intervention and the restoration of capitalism.”

And so I was counted as an abettor of Trotskyism and removed from propaganda work and the question was raised as to whether I was fit to remain in the Y.C.L.

Please, Comrade Stalin, will you explain whether we have the final victory of Socialism yet or not, Perhaps there is additional contemporary material on this question connected with recent changes that I have not come across yet. Also I think that Urozhenko’s statement that Comrade Stalin’s works on this question are somewhat out of date is an anti-Bolshevik one.

Are the leading workers of the Regional Committee right in counting me as a Trotskyist? I feel very much hurt and offended over this.

I hope, Comrade Stalin, that you will grant my request and reply to the Manturovsk District, Kursk Region, First Zasemsky Village Soviet, Ivan Philipovich Ivanov.

(Signed) I. Ivanov.
January 18, 1938.

STALIN TO IVANOV

Stalin

Of course you are right, Comrade Ivanov, and your ideological opponents, i.e., Comrades Urozhenko and Kazelkov, are wrong. And for the following reasons :

Undoubtedly the question of the victory of Socialism in one country, in this case our country, has two different sides.

The first side of the question of the victory of Socialism in our country embraces the problem of the mutual relations between classes in our country. This concerns the sphere of internal relations.

Can the working class of our country overcome the contradictions with our peasantry and establish an alliance, collaboration with them?

Can the working class of our country, in alliance – with our peasantry, smash the bourgeoisie of our country, deprive it of the land, factories, mines, etc., and by its own efforts build a new, classless society, complete Socialist society?

Such are the problems that are connected with the first side of the question of the victory of Socialism in our country.

Leninism answers these problems in the affirmative.

Lenin teaches us that “we have all that is necessary for the building of a complete Socialist society.”

Hence we can and must, by our own efforts, overcome our bourgeoisie and build Socialist society.

Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and those other gentlemen who later became spies and agents of fascism, denied that it was possible to build Socialism in our country unless the victory of the Socialist revolution was first achieved in other countries, in capitalist countries. As a matter of fact, these gentlemen wanted to turn our country back to the path of bourgeois development and they concealed their apostasy by hypocritically talking about the “victory of the revolution” in other countries.

This was precisely the point of controversy between our Party and these gentlemen.

Our country’s subsequent course of development proved that the Party was right and that Trotsky and company were wrong.

For, during this period, we succeeded in liquidating our bourgeoisie, in establishing fraternal collaboration with our peasantry and in building, in the main, Socialist society, notwithstanding the fact that the Socialist revolution has not yet been victorious in other countries.

This is the position in regard to the first side of the question of the victory of Socialism in our country.

I think, Comrade Ivanov, that this is not the side of the question that is the point of controversy between you and Comrades Urozhenko and Kazelkov.

The second side of the question of the victory of Socialism in our country embraces the problem of the mutual relations between our country and other countries, capitalist countries; the problem of the mutual relations between the working class of our country and the bourgeoisie of other countries. This concerns the sphere of external, international relations.

Can the victorious Socialism of one country, which is encircled by many strong capitalist countries, regard itself as being fully guaranteed against the danger of military invasion, and hence, against attempts to restore capitalism in our country?

Can our working class and our peasantry, by their own efforts, without the serious assistance of the working class in capitalist countries, overcome the bourgeoisie of other countries in the same way as we overcame our own bourgeoisie? In other words :

Can we regard the victory of Socialism in our country as final, i.e., as being free from the dangers of military attack and of attempts to restore capitalism, assuming that Socialism is victorious only in one country and that the capitalist encirclement continues to exist?

Such are the problems that are connected with the second side of the question of the victory of Socialism in our country.

Leninism answers these problems in the negative.

Leninism teaches that “the final victory of Socialism, in the sense of full guarantee against the restoration of bourgeois relations, is possible only on an international scale” (c.f. resolution of the Fourteenth Conference of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union).

This means that the serious assistance of the international proletariat is a force without which the problem of thefinal victory of Socialism in one country cannot be solved.

This, of course, does not mean that we must sit with folded arms and wait for assistance from outside.

On the contrary, this assistance of the international proletariat must be combined with our work to strengthen the defence of our country, to strengthen the Red Army and the Red Navy, to mobilise the whole country for the purpose of resisting military attack and attempts to restore bourgeois relations.

This is what Lenin says on this score :

“We are living not merely in a State but in a system of States, and it is inconceivable that the Soviet Republic should continue to coexist for a long period side by side with imperialist States. Ultimately one or other must conquer. Meanwhile, a number of terrible clashes between the Soviet Republic and the bourgeois States is inevitable. This means that if the proletariat, as the ruling class, wants to and will rule, it must prove this also by military organization.” (Collected Works, Vol. 24. P. 122.)

And further :

“We are surrounded by people, classes and governments which openly express their hatred for us. We must remember that we are at all times but a hair’s breadth from invasion.” (Collected Works, Vol. 27. P. 117.)

This is said sharply and strongly but honestly and truthfully without embellishment as Lenin was able to speak.

On the basis of these premises Stalin stated in “Problems of Leninism” that :

“The final victory of Socialism is the full guarantee against attempts at intervention, and that means against restoration, for any serious attempt at restoration can take place only with serious support from outside, only with the support of international capital.

“Hence the support of our revolution by the workers of all countries, and still more, the victory of the workers in at least several countries, is a necessary condition for fully guaranteeing the first victorious country against attempts at intervention and restoration, a necessary condition for the final victory of Socialism,” (Problems of Leninism, 1937. P. 134.)

Indeed, it would be ridiculous and stupid to close our eyes to the capitalist encirclement and to think that our external enemies, the fascists, for example, will not, if the opportunity arises, make an attempt at a military attack upon the U.S.S.R. Only blind braggarts or masked enemies who desire to lull the vigilance of our people can think like that.

No less ridiculous would it be to deny that in the event of the slightest success of military intervention, the interventionists would try to destroy the Soviet system in the districts they occupied and restore the bourgeois system.

Did not Denikin and Kolchak restore the bourgeois system in the districts they occupied? Are the fascists any better than Denikin or Kolchak?

Only blockheads or masked enemies who with their boastfulness want to conceal their hostility and are striving to demobilise the people, can deny the danger of military intervention and attempts at restoration as long as the capitalist encirclement exists.

Can the victory of Socialism in one country be regarded as final if this country is encircled by capitalism, and if it is not fully guaranteed against the danger of intervention and restoration?

Clearly, it cannot, This is the position in regard to the question of the victory of Socialism in one country.

It follows that this question contains two different problems :

1. The problem of the internal relations in our country, i.e., the problem of overcoming our own bourgeoisie and building complete Socialism; and

2. The problem of the external relations of our country, i.e., the problem of completely ensuring our country against the dangers of military intervention and restoration.

We have already solved the first problem, for our bourgeoisie has already been liquidated and Socialism has already been built in the main. This is what we call the victory of Socialism, or, to be more exact, the victory of Socialist Construction in one country.

We could say that this victory is final if our country were situated on an island and if it were not surrounded by numerous capitalist countries.

But as we are not living on an island but “in a system of States,” a considerable number of which are hostile to the land of Socialism and create the danger of intervention and restoration, we say openly and honestly that the victory of Socialism in our country is not yet final.

But from this it follows that the second problem is not yet solved and that it has yet to be solved.

More than that : the second problem cannot be solved in the way that we solved the first problem, i.e., solely by the efforts of our country.

The second problem can be solved only by combining the serious efforts of the international proletariat with the still more serious efforts of the whole of our Soviet people.

The international proletarian ties between the working class of the U.S.S.R. and the working class in bourgeois countries must be increased and strengthened; the political assistance of the working class in the bourgeois countries for the working class of our country must be organized in the event of a military attack on our country; and also every assistance of the working class of our country for the working class in bourgeois countries must be organized; our Red Army, Red Navy, Red Air Fleet, and the Chemical and Air Defence Society must be increased and strengthened to the utmost.

The whole of our people must be kept in a state of mobilisation and preparedness in the face of the danger of a military attack, so that no “accident” and no tricks on the part of our external enemies may take us by surprise . . .

From your letter it is evident that Comrade Urozhenko adheres to different and not quite Leninist opinions. He, it appears, asserts that “we now have the final victory of Socialism and full guarantee against intervention and the restoration of capitalism.”

There cannot be the slightest doubt that Comrade Urozhenko is fundamentally wrong.

Comrade Urozhenko’s assertion can be explained only by his failure to understand the surrounding reality and his ignorance of the elementary propositions of Leninism, or by empty boastfulness of a conceited young bureaucrat.

If it is true that “we have full guarantee against intervention and restoration of capitalism,” then why do we need a strong Red Army, Red Navy, Red Air Fleet, a strong Chemical and Air Defence Society, more and stronger ties with the international proletariat?

Would it not be better to spend the milliards that now go for the purpose of strengthening the Red Army on other needs and to reduce the Red Army to the utmost, or even to dissolve it altogether?

People like Comrade Urozhenko, even if subjectively they are loyal to our cause, are objectively dangerous to it because by their boastfulness they – willingly or unwillingly (it makes no difference!) – lull the vigilance of our people, demobilise the workers and peasants and help the enemies to take us by surprise in the event of international complications.

As for the fact that, as it appears, you, Comrade Ivanov, have been “removed from propaganda work and the question has been raised of your fitness to remain in the Y.C.L.,” you have nothing to fear.

If the people in the Regional Committee of the Y.C.L. really want to imitate Chekov’s Sergeant Prishibeyev, you can be quite sure that they will lose on this game.

Prishibeyevs are not liked in our country.

Now you can judge whether the passage from the book “Problems of Leninism” on the victory of Socialism in one country is out of date or not.

I myself would very much like it to be out of date.

I would like unpleasant things like capitalist encirclement, the danger of military attack, the danger of the restoration of capitalism, etc., to be things of the past. Unfortunately, however, these unpleasant things still exist.

(Signed) J. Stalin.
February 12, 1938.

Pravda
14 February 1938

Source

Communist Party Alliance: Bourgeois Democracy and Proletarian Democracy

A talk given to the Stalin Society on 24th July 2005

By Wilf Dixon

This title embraces far more than I realised when I first thought to suggest making it the subject of a talk here at the Stalin Society. As communists we have a responsibility to explain to workers, class conscious youth and all those who instinctively and consciously reject the trappings of life in western bourgeois society and its political life, which they say is democratic and therefore the will of the majority, that even the most democratically elected Parliament cannot change the nature of the bourgeois state. I can only scratch the surface here but the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tse-tung all carry articles on the nature of the state and class society which are the corner-stone of any revolutionary understanding of democracy. To help give some form to this talk, I have listed the following headings:-

1)      Democracy as a form of State rule.

2)      Universal Suffrage.

3)      Parliament and Elections.

4)      Opportunism and Parliamentarism.

5)      Successful participation in Parliament for revolutionary objectives.

6)      Proletarian democracy with reference to the Soviet Union and China.

7)      Bourgeois democracy and modern imperialism.

8)      Some points on elections and the current political climate.

Democracy as a form of state rule

The bourgeoisie have surrounded the word democracy with a halo as if it is the holiest of holy words. The social-democratic ‘tradition’ prevailing in Britain hardly ever subjects the meaning of the word to the scrutiny it needs. Although this may be changing since we hear it every day fall off the lips of George Bush and Tony Blair. But I don’t think this questioning is going very deep because the social-democrats satisfy themselves with merely describing Bush and Blair as hypocrites or inconsistent on this question. Which, of course, they are. However, what U.S. imperialism seems to have discovered is that it has enough wealth and power that it can in many situations at the present time promote individuals, buy a bandwagon of raz-ma-taz and build a movement for optimistic change which can persuade enough people to vote for whoever. This has worked particularly in Poland, Eastern Europe generally and parts of the old Soviet Union.

‘Democracy’ needs to be stripped of the humbug that surrounds the word. Before the emergence of classes and the consequent emergence of the state which comes into being as a product of the irreconcilable nature of class contradictions in class society, that is in order that the ruling class can hold down the subject class, there would undoubtedly have been contradictions among the people of the gens and tribes. Contradictions that may have lead to violence. Almost certainly between contending tribes. There would also have been discussion and consultation to handle disputes within the tribes and families of whatever form with the elders holding particular authority. Engels’ brilliant work on the ‘Origin of the family Private Property and the State’, needs to be read and re-read to get an adequate grasp of this subject. ‘Democracy’, is not “allowing people to have their say” as it is commonly understood to mean. Democracy is a form of state. The word emerged to describe a form of slave state in Greece and Rome. The franchise did not extend to the slaves. Nor would any thinking person reasonably expect slaves, who are merely the property of their owners, to have a vote. I make this point to paint a more vivid picture of ‘democracy’ being a class question. A class question which is obscured under the rule of the bourgeoisie which came to power waving the banner of general freedom and democracy. However, my knowledge of Greece and Rome is scanty and not a subject of detailed discussion here. But I have no doubt that there are people here who can speak in depth on this subject. Democracy is a class question and always has been. It can be nothing else.

Universal Suffrage

It seems that there were democratic forms of the state in Rome and Greece based on the number of slaves owned. Serfdom and feudalism under which land ownership is the basis of wealth of the ruling class of feudal lords, replaced slavery and the land tillers were no longer owned directly by their masters. However, by virtue of his landlessness the serf and later the peasant was inextricably tied to his master having to work increasingly longer on his lord’s land as payment for living and tilling for himself on the Lords land. There was no vote or representative body for the peasants except in as much as they could petition their lord or even the King or his ministers against grievances. Certainly, they had no representatives in Parliaments that may be called by the King in order to raise money or taxes. Here I am not attempting a detailed study of life in the shires, which in some respects may have allowed more freedom to influence the decisions of local dignitaries. I don’t know. It is worth thinking about. However, it occurs to me that in the era of the rule of finance capital the mass of the population are more powerless today under conditions of fully consummated and decaying bourgeois rule than they have ever been. Powerlessness manifests in many forms. I recently read an article drawing attention to the fact that it is common for people in modern bourgeois Britain to be attacked and relieved of their possessions while people stand-by and say or do nothing. Two aspects of powerlessness are suggested here. The attacked individual may on the one hand meekly give up his possessions having no trust that others would help him if he or she resisted. People nearby, on the other hand, reveal their own sense of powerlessness and fear in failing to intervene. I have the feeling that this kind of thing is a product of individualist atomised western bourgeois society which, of course, could not be tolerated in socialist society but it is also unlikely to have existed in medieval society except where the attacker was the local lord or one of his flunkies. It is common for individuals to be attacked in full view of others without anybody intervening. The proletariat is certainly alienated from the final product of its labour more so under capitalism than ever before or in former stages of development of human economic activity. But this alienation alone does not explain the very real sense of powerlessness that prevails in modern imperialist Britain.

However, I must not digress too much from the subject before us today. The distinguishing feature of the present day parliamentary democracies of the developed capitalist west is that suffrage has been extended to the whole adult population. Universal Suffrage is comparatively recent. In Britain even the Levellers and also the Diggers although I am not completely sure on the latter; who were the most revolutionary wing of Cromwell’s army, called for universal male suffrage. In Britain, women were ‘granted’ the vote in 1929. Before that, only women of certain property and independent means were ‘given’ the vote. The idea was that in order to have the right to vote, one had to have a stake in the system. The propertyless have always been despised and mistrusted. I would be interested to have a class breakdown of the near 40% of the population who didn’t vote at the last election.

So what do we say about universal suffrage? Does it change the character of elections in a bourgeois republic? In the sense that universal suffrage cannot change the nature of the state in a bourgeois republic, no. Parliaments elected by universal suffrage are acceptable to the ruling bourgeoisie. But in the sense that at certain times it is possible for the working class to utilise and gather strength through participation in parliamentary elections, it does. In State and Revolution, Lenin said that Engels regarded universal suffrage as a measure of the maturity of the proletariat. In an introduction to Marx’s Class Struggle in France, Engels speaks at length regarding the successes of participation in Parliament in Germany as against street fighting at a time when the proletariat couldn’t hope to match the weapons technology of the army and or when the loyalty of the troops to their commanders could be guaranteed. I’ll quote from pages 659 to 667 of my volume of selected works:-

 “Thanks to the intelligent use which the German workers made of the universal suffrage introduced in 1866, the astonishing growth of the party is made plain to all the world by incontestable figures….Then came recognition of this advance by high authority in the shape of the Anti-Socialist Law…..

 “…the German workers rendered a second great service to their cause in addition to the first, a service performed by their mere existence as the strongest, best disciplined and most rapidly growing  Socialist Party, They supplied their comrades in all countries with a new weapon, and one of the sharpest, when they showed them  how to make use of universal suffrage.

 “With this successful utilisation of universal suffrage, however, an  entirely new method of proletarian struggle came into operation, and this method quickly developed further. It was found that the state  institutions, in which the rule of the bourgeoisie is organised, offer the working class still further opportunities to fight these very state institutions. The workers took part in elections to particular Diets, to municipal councils and to trades courts; they contested with the bourgeoisie every post in the occupation of which a sufficient part of the proletariat had a say. And so it happened that the bourgeoisie and the government came to be much more afraid of the legal than of the  illegal action of the worker’ party, of the results of elections than of those of rebellion.

 “For here, too, the conditions of the struggle had essentially changed. rebellion in the old style, street fighting with barricades which decided the issue everywhere up to 1848, was to a considerable extent obsolete.

 It is important to remember that this introduction was written in 1894 and published in 1895. But there is also an interesting remark referring to France and Spain on page 659 which I will read now:-

 ‘There had long been universal suffrage in France, but it had fallen into disrepute through the misuse to which the Bonapartist government had put it. After the Commune there was no workers’ party to make use of it. It had also existed in Spain since the republic, but in Spain boycott of elections was ever the rule of all serious opposition parties. The experience of the Swiss with universal suffrage was also anything but encouraging for workers’ party. The revolutionary workers of the Latin countries had been wont to regard the suffrage as a snare, as an instrument of Government trickery.

Engels is not saying that boycott is incorrect in the case of Spain, although in the context of his points regarding participation in parliament giving the opportunity for the working class to accumulate strength as in the case of Germany, he may be advising the Spanish or indeed the revolutionary workers of the Latin countries in general to learn from the German example. Be that as it may, the quote indicates to me that Engels regards intelligent boycott of elections as well as intelligent participation as both valid. Let us also note from here, though, that this period in which the German social-democrats utilised the Bundestag and came to be regarded as the leading Party of the 2nd International continued until the outbreak of the First World War. It was the period of peaceful development of the working class movement in the imperialist countries which had blunted its revolutionary will and fostered opportunism such that the majority of the Parties of the 2nd International supported their own imperialist bourgeoisie in a predatory imperialist war.

Parliament and Elections

As I pointed out earlier, Engels in an introduction to Marx’s Class Struggle in France speaks at length on the importance of utilising Parliament in order to assist the working class in gaining strength. He even says that at a time when confronting the bourgeoisie at the barricades brings defeat, it is preferable or that participation in Parliament has brought more success than erecting the barricades. So what is the point at issue here? The point at issue is the question what is to be gained from participation in parliamentary elections. By participation we are, of course, talking about putting up candidates. I am going to come back to this question because it is an important practical one about which we cannot allow ourselves to be satisfied with the general view alone. A general view which seems to have reduced the question of participation in bourgeoise elections and Parliaments to one of ‘it is a good thing’, therefore, we must do it. I blame opportunism and social-democratic prejudices for such shallowness. It is absolutely essential for communists, in imperialist Britain especially, where opportunism prevails in the workers’ and revolutionary workers’ organisations and legality and legalism prevails, to expose Parliament as an instrument of bourgeois class rule.

In ‘State and Revolution’, page 53 of the Chinese edition, under the heading ‘Abolition of Parliamentarism’, Lenin first quotes Marx writing of the Paris Commune:-

‘The Commune,’ Marx wrote, ‘was to be a working not a parliamentary, body, executive and legislative at the same time….’

‘….instead of deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to represent and repress (ver- und zertreten) the people in Parliament, universal suffrage was to serve the people,constituted in Communes, as individual suffrage serves every other employer in the search for the workers, foremen and bookkeepers for his business’.

Revisionism in Britain gave us the British Road to Socialism and the main argument against the so-called peaceful road to socialism centres around the nature of the state. And so it should. But what about the kind of democracy the proletariat itself needs in order to exercise its power. The commune, and of course later the soviet, must be executive and legislative at the same time. It must be a practical body and to be a practical body it must be close to the masses in the factories and workplaces. This is a new form of political power. In fact it is not political power in the sense we have come to know it. That is the bourgeois sense of being in or out of ‘office’

It is worth noting here that the adoption of the British Road to Socialism also meant the CPGB switching from factory to constituency organisation. The two forms of organisation quite starkly outline the difference between bourgeois and proletarian democracy.

The bourgeois Parliament is part of the state apparatus of a bourgeois democratic republic or monarchy. I will try and make some points on why the proletariat does not need a Parliament. I am of course talking about a proletariat that holds power. The main aspect of this is connected with some important questions of Marxism on the nature of the state.

The state came into being with the emergence of classes and class contradictions. As such it is not a neutral body but an organ of repression. What distinguishes the bourgeois democratic republic from the feudal or slave states is the existence of a parliament elected by universal adult suffrage with the power to legislate Government policy and create laws and statutes. As the argument goes, because the Parliament is elected, it therefore expresses the will of the majority or the popular will. Hence, Parliament is said to be not an expression of class rule but a prize which parties expressing the interests of the classes they represent should seek to win. Unfortunately, there are two things which prevent the bourgeois parliament from becoming the expression of the will of the oppressed masses. One is that the Parliament once elected, with the ruling party having the majority of seats, it is immovable until the next election and its members can be bought by the high salary that goes with being an M.P and the thousands of threads that tie the most freely elected Parliament to the economic power of the bourgeoisie. The other is that real power resides in the executive authority of the bureaucracy, civil service, police and standing army. Parliaments come and go, but this powerful body, handpicked for its loyalty to the existing social order, cannot be removed by the legislative assembly. Should a Party of the working class and oppressed masses gain power and begin to meddle with the sacred property rights of the ruling class never mind begin to dispossess them of their wealth and privileges, there is always the standing army to disperse the Parliament and murder the peoples’ leaders.

In the absence of such a standing army, Marx and Engels were prepared to consider the theoretical possibility of the proletariat winning a majority of Parliamentary seats and using this power to buy out, rest by degrees from the bourgeoisie their power and thus gain power for the proletariat. England apparently, was such a country in the mid nineteenth century. Be that as it may, there is no example in history where a class holding power has given up that power without a fierce and violent struggle. Marx and Engels admitted of this theoretical possibility but only a charlatan and a bourgeois trickster would attempt to make such a consideration the main plank of a Marxist understanding on the proletariat’s struggle for socialism.

Based on the experience of the Paris Commune Marx and Engels introduced one amendment to the Communist Manifesto:-

‘‘One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that ‘the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.’’ (quoted by Lenin page 43 of State and Revolution Chinese edition).

The point is not to lay hold of the ready made state machine of the bourgeoise,

But to smash it and replace it with the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat organised in communes or soviets. The bureaucratic state must be smashed. That is the power of the bourgeoisie in the military bureaucratic state apparatus of repression and coercion, replaced by the armed proletariat or a peoples’ militia. The right of the proletariat to bear arms in order to exercise its power as a class is the most important expression of peoples’ democracy. Lenin quoting, Marx at length, explains in detail, contrasting anarchism with Marxism on the question of the state, that the bureaucracy will not disappear immediately. However, the communes and later the soviets will be working bodies expressing the needs in production and life of the working masses and therefore not requiring the bureaucratic apparatus of repression of the bourgeois state machine. These communes will have their authority centralised through a national body made up of representatives of the communes with the commune having right of recall of its representatives and criticism of their activities. This is democracy and centralism in a new kind of proletarian state, which is not a state in the strictest sense. It is a state in transition expressing the power and will of the formerly oppressed masses. With the securing of that power, and the creation of a new society and new morality and relations between people in that nation and internationally, the state begins to whither away and the day will come as stated in the Communist Manifesto when the state is a thing of the past consigned to the museum of history along with other antiquities like the spinning wheel and the bronze axe

Opportunism and Parliamentarism

The Oxford dictionary definition of opportunism is the ‘adaptation of policy to circumstances regardless of principle’. I have always understand it to mean and preferred the more precise definition from a Marxist-Leninist perspective of it meaning the sacrifice of long term aims for short term gains. Opportunism can be expressed in terms of any ideology but with regard to the subject we are dealing with today, Marxist Leninists or even those who call themselves Marxists and are reluctant to also call themselves Leninists, pride themselves that their participation is revolutionary, while that of the reformist parties is not. It is not good enough to make such assumptions because opportunism is a slippery animal and all practical experience of participation in parliamentary election campaigns must be carefully assessed and summed up as to its successes and failings in furthering the long term interests of educating and organising the revolutionary proletariat.

Of course, we are not here to lecture the Labour Party on how to utilise Parliament. The New Labour Party signalled to the bourgeoisie that it is a fully consummated bourgeois party of the American ‘democrat’ type when it abandoned clause four. Its only fig leaf making it possible for some ‘left’ representatives of the working class to justify their membership of the Labour Party. Tony Blair has done the working class movement a favour by removing this fig leaf. By becoming the preferred ruling Party for the British ruling class, New Labour can be perceived as stronger. But it is in fact weaker and the fact that it is becoming increasingly exposed as a Party of imperialism makes it of less use to the British ruling class. The more intelligent representatives of British imperialism understand only too well the roll that reformism and illusions among the working class in its reformist representatives plays in bolstering the rule of the bourgeoisie.

Hence the emergence of new reformist parties and coalitions. The formation of the SLP was an important development which I welcomed along with Arthur Scargill leaving the Labour Party and becoming a potential focus for rallying class conscious workers with a base in the working class of this country. Unfortunately, Arthur Scargill is only one man. A man of tremendous courage and ability to lead the working class in struggle and stand up to the class enemy. But one man none-the-less who, it has to be said, must have illusions in social democracy and Parliament. Or, he sacrifices the long term aim of expropriation of the bourgeoisie in favour of winning reforms through Parliament. None of this can I speak confidently about because when dealing with a man of Arthur Scargill’s stature in the history of working class struggle in Britain, I think it is essential to be concrete. The work needs to be done in summing up the practice of the SLP and there are people in this room better able to do it than me. However, the SLP did not develop as I hoped. The Party was from the outset torn to pieces by the Trotskyites who worked in their usual way in its various committees. Something that Arthur Scargill showed his political maturity in fighting. But for all this the SLP remained trapped within the social-democratic perspectives that are peculiar to the British working class movement. That is why it is fair to say that the SLP was trying to recapture or restore the Old Labour Party. I believe that Scargill wanted to build a Party which was internationalist and rooted in the everyday struggle of working people in this country. But he remains a prisoner of his own social-democratic illusions and prejudices. Naming the SLP committees Constituency SLP’s shows clearly the Parliamentary perspective that the SLP had and has.

I believe that the failure of the SLP is bound up with the fact that the masses of this country are becoming increasingly disillusioned with Parliament and instinctively mistrust those who say vote for my Party and we will do whatever. Scargill losing to Mandelson in County Durham upset me at the time and I believe that of all election campaigns it should be subject to searching analysis. That a crook and spinner like Mandelson can win without the working class movement having gained anything such as a stronger local organisation cannot be just passed over as ‘we did it so it must have had some positive effects’.

Successful Participation in Parliament for Revolutionary Objectives

It is necessary to grasp that participation or non-participation in Parliamentary elections and Parliament must not be made, or seen to be made an objective in itself, that it is a question that needs to be studied anew at every juncture and judged from the standpoint of the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat. We have examples of stands taken by revolutionary parties towards elections and Parliament. The Bolsheviks had a policy of boycott of elections to a Duma hastily convened by the Tsar when the 1905-7 revolution was still on the ascendancy. Lenin commended those deputies who were prepared to go to prison rather than vote for war credits at the beginning of the lst World War. Such a picture would do a great deal to raise the consciousness of the proletariat and rally its vanguard behind the leadership of the communists.

I have spoken of the period after the Paris Commune when the German social-democrats utilised participation in Parliament in a comparatively peaceful period to help the German working class gather strength at a time of anti-socialist laws. As I have suggested this whole period between 1871 and the outbreak of World War 1 is a time when the working class of Europe with the exception of Russia was able to wring concessions and reforms. It was a period which nurtured opportunism, a more powerful weapon, used to tame the working class movement, than banning orders and repression. The super-profits looted from the colonies allowed the monopoly capitalist class to set aside funds for the purpose of buying off key sections of the working class whose reformist illusions came to dominate the legal and ‘respectable’ social democratic organisations of the working class.

I am hoping the discussion will throw up examples where revolutionary parties have utilised Parliament to promote and strengthen a mass movement. In Britain, I think the best examples lie not with the communists, although I am aware of the speeches made by Willie Gallagher and Saklatvala before him. In Britain, Revolutionary politics are seldom far from the issue of Ireland and I am thinking of the use made by Sinn Fein of Parliament while refusing to take the oath and therefore their seats. But the best example is the slogan of the ballot box and the gun and Bobby Sands’ brilliant victory while on hunger strike in prison. Sinn Fein and the IRA were able to arrive at these tactics from the point of view of non-participation in terms of not taking your seat in a Parliament of the colonial master that required all MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the Queen. Surely communist representatives of a Party firmly rooted and based on the struggle of the workers and oppressed peoples can devise tactics to expose the fraud of bourgeois democracy and the bourgeois parliament based on non-participation as well as participation.

For Marxist-Leninists, the crux of the issue is the utilising of Parliament to promote and strengthen the struggle of the working class and oppressed people. For the reformists and opportunists, obtaining seats in Parliament is the prize itself. I can’t speak for anybody else here, but when George Galloway was elected in Bethnal Green and Bow on a strong platform of opposition to the war in Iraq I was pleased. This punctured the arrogance of the Blairites and it was a measure of the political maturity of the people of that area. It was also heart-warming to see him show courage and challenge the lies of the British and American imperialists which are spewed out from the bourgeois media, at that so-called American senatorial enquiry. A modern day house of un-American activities. A lot of people were delighted to see and hear Galloway turn the tables. The Americans will be a bit more careful before they try and do Blair another favour that helps him deal with his domestic politics. We are yet to see if Galloway has the intelligence courage and will to use his seat in Parliament to strengthen the movement against British and American expansionism. This is a double-edged thing. If he does then it must be judged concretely. Is he working to strengthen the popular movement or just to make a name for himself and become just another tail demanding that he wag the dog? In other words promoting new illusions that returning more Respect MP’s is the answer. He is not a communist and I doubt that he will submit himself to criticism and censure by his ‘party’, if indeed we can call his rag-bag of followers a Party at all. ‘Respect’ has no definite program and it is making a virtue of being all things to all men. The real test of whether Galloway is a true representative of the masses is whether he considers his position more important than the popular movement and is he prepared to submit himself to the interests of the peoples’ struggle against imperialism and imperialist war.

Proletarian democracy with particular reference to the Soviet Union and China

Before dealing with this question it is important to re-cap on the main distinctions between bourgeois and proletarian democracy. All bourgeois parliaments, if indeed they are not merely a talking shop, are separated from the executive authority, the bureaucracy, the army of civil servants charged with the responsibility of carrying out the legislation passed by Parliament. This bureaucracy is part of the bourgeois state machine and is a bulwark of bourgeois power. The cornerstone of proletarian power, the commune or the soviet, is both legislative and executive at the same time. Before the October revolution decided the issue of the ascendancy of the workers and peasants, there existed what Lenin described as a form of duel power. Kerensky’s provisional government was issuing orders and laws. But as is described in John Read’s ‘Ten Days that Shook the World’, if you wanted to know something or have something done you had to go to the Soviets or workers and soldiers committees. Exactly so, the power of the workers and peasants in the Soviets was executive and legislative at the same time.

This had to be legally formalised in Soviet law. However, there was the issue of the Constituent Assembly. The demand for a Constituent Assembly in conditions of the Tsarist autocracy was a progressive and democratic demand. However, the Provisional Government of Kerensky and supported by the Socialist Revolutionaries had repeatedly postponed elections for a Constituent Assembly because they wished to continue participation in the predatory imperialist war. It is not surprising, however, that the classes and Parties that had been overthrown by the November 7th revolution should become as zealous in their demands for elections to a constituent assembly as they were in post-poning it previously.

I am going to quote extensively on this question of the Constituent Assembly from Andrew Rothstein’s excellent book ‘A History of the U.S.S.R’, pages 56-57.

‘The intention of the Bolsheviks – with which the Left Socialist revolutionaries agreed – was to induce the Constituent Assembly peacefully to accept the basic decrees of the November revolution, and to regard its own principal function as ‘the general elaboration of the fundamental principles of the socialist transformation of society’. For this purpose a ‘Declaration of Rights of the Working and exploited People’, embodying the decrees in question, was drawn up and adopted by the C.E.C. on January 16th. In order to give the bourgeois parties an opportunity to bring the composition of the assembly into greater conformity with the feeling of the masses, the C.E.C. had earlier (December, 4th) unanimously adopted a decree providing for the right to recall deputies and to hold new elections, where the local Soviets judged this expedient. But this procedure was not put into effect, in view of the turn of events when the time for opening the Constituent Assembly arrived.

‘This was on January 18th. By a large majority (roughly 60% to 40%) the Assembly rejected the Bolshevik proposal to elect the Left Socialist – Revolutionary leader, Maria Spiridinova, as President, and chose one of the principal anti-Soviet Politicians, Victor Chernov (leader of the Right S.R.s) instead. It refused even to discuss the Declaration of rights. First the Bolsheviks and then the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries retired from the Assembly in the course of the night (January 19th), after making it clear that the Assembly by its actions was taking the path of counter-revolution. At 4 am on January 19th the commander of the sailors guarding the Assembly told Chernov ‘it was time to go home, as the sailors were tired’: and twenty-four hours later the C.E.C. decreed the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, as having ‘ruptured every link between itself and the Soviet Republic of Russia’ ‘It must be added that the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly attracted much more attention abroad than it did in Russia.‘On January 23rd the third All-Russian Congress of Soviets met in Petrograd and itself adopted the Declaration of Rights of the labouring and Exploited Masses. This document was embodied in all the subsequent Soviet Constitutions up to July 1936. With a second resolution, ‘On the Federal Institutions of the Russian Republic’, it represented the germ of the future Soviet constitutional structure.

Forgive me for extending this quote, but I think what follows reveals the essence of proletarian democracy which is important to grasp if we are not to fall victim to bourgeois democratic prejudices and cretinism.          

‘The Declaration proclaimed Russia to be a ‘Republic of Soviets of Workers, Soldiers and Peasants’ Deputies’, in which all authority was vested; and a ‘free union of free nations’. With the aim of suppressing all exploitation of man by man, the Declaration nationalised all land, forests, and mineral wealth without compensation, transferred all banks to the State, enacted that ‘work useful to the community shall be obligatory upon all’, and ratified the Soviet Government’s decrees establishing workmen’s control of industry and a Supreme Economic council, as a ‘first step’ towards nationalisation of industry and transport. It repudiated Tsarist debts, Tsarist secret treaties and the colonial policy of capitalism. It decreed the arming of the workers, the disarming of the propertied classes and their exclusion from the machinery of government. It proclaimed that Russia’s aim was a democratic peace, based on free self-determination of the nations. ‘……..Relations with Soviet Republics as they were formed, or with regions distinguished by national priorities, were to be regulated by the C.E.C. and the appropriate bodies in the territories concerned. The central authority was responsible only for measures applying to State as a whole. ‘All local affairs are decided solely by the local Soviets.’

I hope this has helped me draw out the essence of proletarian democracy. That is the real power to decide and act at grass roots or local level. The right of recall and criticism of representatives to the higher bodes. These rights were enshrined in the Soviet constitution. They were the essence of workers’ and peasants’ power, and what made the dictatorship of the proletariat strong and the soviet people able to defeat the class enemy within in order to consolidate the Soviet State. The movements to purge the party and state could not have been carried out just by orders from above. I must add that I mean movements to purge the Party and state of backward and counter-revolutionary elements. These movements required the active participation of the people and low-ranking Party members. Purges directed only from above must at least be ratified by the lower bodies and full explanations given. It is a matter of historical fact that the Kruschevite revisionists were able to seize power and transform the state and Party from being socialist and proletarian in character to one which gave free reign to a bourgeoisified strata of technocrats and state-functionaries. We have discussed in other talks, particularly on the question of Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR that it is probable that Stalin was preparing the ground for launching a new campaign of criticism and self-criticism which would have immediately had its echo at the lower levels and maybe would have transformed the fortunes of the revisionists from success into failure. It is certain that many Party leaders and state functionaries breathed a sigh of relief when they learned that they did not have to face investigation of their activities or justify their decisions and actions.

The fact that the combined military might of the 14 intervening powers nor the massive military machine assembled by Nazi Germany could overthrow the dictatorship of the proletariat in the USSR; yet a comparative handful of revisionist conspirators can succeed, is a matter for deep reflection. It was this that troubled Mao Tse-tung and led the Chinese Communists Party to launch its campaign to criticise modern revisionism and launch the Cultural Revolution. To my mind this movement failed in its objectives but there are some successes, if not just the operas and films that came out at this time. I believe this failure is rooted in the weak socialist economic base i.e. industrial base and consequently a weaker proletariat in relation to the peasantry. This may not have been so critical had Kruschev not stopped the aid so important to kick-start Chinese socialist construction.

Bourgeois democracy and modern imperialism

Even the most democratically elected Parliament is tied by a thousand threads to the interests of the bourgeoisie. Modern capitalism is not the economic system of the bourgeoisie on the rise i.e. when it was deemed historically to be a progressive class destroying the economic power of the feudal lords and liberating the productive forces from the shackles of feudalism. Modern capitalism is monopoly capitalism, which if one is to define imperialism, is the essence of imperialism. Monopoly capitalism is moribund capitalism, i.e. decaying capitalism. This is not to say that monopoly capitalism cannot make innovations or expand its economic power. This is clearly not the case.

The point is that monopoly capitalism strives for control and domination and not economic freedom. To this end particular monopolies may at one time advocate free trade in order to use market forces to oust their competitors and invade the markets of weaker economies with cheap goods in order to destroy indigenous industry, whilst at another or at the same time, erect trade barriers to exclude competitors.

Monopoly capitalism is in the business of destroying productive forces and propping up feudalism in order to keep oppressed nations dependent. Monopoly capitalism is in the business of destroying economic independence and the ability of nations and peoples to feed themselves in order to extract raw materials and enforce cash crops. The banks exact huge burdens of debt on the peoples and nations, which stifle any ability to rise above pauper and dependency status. Clearly this is a system of economic backwardness not progress. The striving for monopoly and the interests of imperialism cannot but characterise, i.e. be the main aspect of how we regard the Parliaments of the major capitalist countries. More than ever, do the politicians of all the bourgeois parties become the mouthpieces and tools of the interests of particular monopoly capitalist concerns not just the general interests of the monopoly capitalist class. Corruption is rife. In the thirties it was possible for there to be strong communist parties in the parliaments of France and Germany. Of course, in the case of the latter before the Nazis burnt down the Reichstag and unleashed the reign of terror. Also, it was possible in France for the popular front to gain huge success. But what of today? Money and wealth decide the competition between two overtly bourgeois parties in both Britain and America. In America, it seems impossible to even stand as a candidate without being or having the backing of multi-millionaires. It is this firmly entrenched system of tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee, which effectively disenfranchises the masses of the lowest strata of workers and oppressed peoples. It is also the economic power and wealth of imperialism which leads it to confidently advocate bourgeois democracy in areas where it seeks to expand. Eastern Europe, Africa and certain other selected areas for example.

All this being the case, it is essential that communists must base themselves on the struggle for the class and political interests of the workers and oppressed peoples and not use precious resources in election campaigns we cannot win or advance the interests of the working class. This has to be judged concretely but putting up candidates when the deposit is certain to be lost is a waist of time. That money can be used in exposing the fraud of bourgeois elections and trying to reach those who instinctively reject the whole rotten system.

Some points on and the current political climate

The title of this talk may seem somewhat academic and divorced from the conditions currently facing us in Britain today. But I think not. While the state is becoming more repressive and bourgeois democratic rights are being removed and undermined, ostensibly to give the police powers to deal with acts of terrorism, it is being made more difficult for communists who stay loyal to the principles of Marxism Leninism to agitate and propagandise among workers and oppressed peoples. This is the bigger prize for modern imperialist Britain allied to the most aggressive and bellicose imperialist power of today, U.S. imperialism. In this situation, it is essential for communists and all progressive people to strike deep roots among the masses. This is one point, perhaps the main point if we are to survive.

The second point, is that if it is made illegal to make communist propaganda on the grounds that it is indirectly aiding ‘terrorism’, communists are going to be compelled to combine or find legal and illegal ways of agitating and organising among the masses. While deep roots among the masses would be primary in this situation, election campaigns would take on a new significance allowing communists a legal platform for challenging the ruling monopoly capitalist class and its lackeys. Parliamentary privilege allows MP’s to speak without censure to a certain extent. So it would be essential to demand that any successful candidate claiming to represent the workers or oppressed peoples use that privilege to speak out against British imperialism and support the just struggles against imperialism and imperialist war throughout the world. I will stop here and I hope this introduction will stimulate discussion and help deepen our understanding on the questions raised. But to Sum up I would like to draw attention to the following:-

  • The imperialists have made it essential that we deal with the question of the class nature of democracy and expose the fraud of bourgeois democracy.
  • Proletarian democracy empowers the masses
  • Participation or non-participation in parliamentary elections must be judged concretely. I favour non-participation and campaigns to boycott or spoil ballot papers at the present time in order to give full reign to revolutionary agitation and propaganda and aid reaching the most revolutionary and class conscious. Except where there is a possibility of success or the masses demand that we stand.
  • Successful candidates should be under the strict control of the organisation they represent and give up a proportion of their income as an MP to the party they represent, retaining what is needed for a modest life style. Their income should be comparable to the income gained by unionised workers in the basic industries of the country.
  • Failure to live up to the people’s hopes must be openly criticised. This will educate the people that communist representatives strive to be tribunes of the people or they lose the right to speak in their name.
  • Above everything, communists must be like fish in water with the masses and strike deep roots among the masses, because that is where our power and strength lies.  

Soviet Democracy and Bourgeois Democracy

This pamphlet is a translation of an essay published in the symposium Soviet Socialist Society prepared by the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. and published by the Gospolitizdat, Moscow 1949.

The question of democracy, of how it is to be correctly understood, of the fundamental distinction between Soviet socialist democracy and bourgeois democracy is a highly important question of our time.

Since the Great October Socialist Revolution there have been revealed to the full the great advantages possessed by Soviet socialist democracy, and the decay, crisis and utter decline of bourgeois democracy.

The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union against Hitler Germany showed the invincible strength of the Soviet social and state system. The war showed that “…the Soviet social system is a better form of organization of society than any non-Soviet social system.”[*] The war showed that the Soviet system of state is the best state system ever known to history.

The Soviet State, Soviet socialist democracy emerged from the war stronger than ever. And now, after the close of the war, Soviet democracy is blossoming forth anew, is achieving new successes.

In a number of European countries – Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Albania, Rumania, and Hungary – the system of People’s Democracy has been established. The peoples of these countries displayed self-sacrifice and heroism in the struggle against the fascist oppressors. Having, with the aid of the Soviet Army, secured their liberation from the Nazi yoke, they set about building a democratic order in their countries, but in a new fashion, in a way that rejected the old models of bourgeois-parliamentary democracy. The democracy that arose in these countries assumed new forms, of a higher type than those of the old bourgeois-parliamentary democracy. In these countries democracy is being extended and developed on a scale that indicates that the workers and peasants are really being involved in the administration of the State and that is making the blessings of democracy actually available to the wide masses of the people. New forms of organization of the State have thus arisen which constitute a big advance on the bourgeois democratic states and are opening up the possibility for further progress by these countries on the road to Socialism.

The war also revealed tremendous defects in the old bourgeois-parliamentary forms of democracy. The course of historical development had proved irrefutably that the bourgeois-democratic states, as a result of their flirting with fascism, and their concessions to fascism during the period that preceded the second world war, were in fact – at the beginning of the war – helpless to meet the danger that threatened all the achievements of civilization and democracy, and the free national existence of these countries. The war showed that it was only thanks to the Soviet Union and to the decisive part it played in routing the Nazi aggressors that European civilization was saved from destruction.

* * *

The basic feature of bourgeois democracy, as has been repeatedly noted in the works of the classics of Marxism-Leninism is the fact that it is democracy for the exploiting minority and is directed against the majority. Speaking of bourgeois democracy, Lenin and Stalin pointed out that it undoubtedly constituted progress as compared with feudalism and mediaevalism. The working class has used and endeavours to use the framework of bourgeois democracy so as to develop the class struggle, to set up and consolidate its class organizations. But while Lenin and Stalin pointed to this significance of bourgeois democracy for the working class, they also constantly indicated that bourgeois democracy, based as it is on the dominance of private ownership of the means of production, is formal, false and truncated democracy. “Bourgeois democracy,” wrote Lenin, “although a great historical advance in comparison with mediaevalism, always remains – and under capitalism cannot but remain – restricted, truncated, false and hypocritical, a paradise for the rich and a snare and a delusion for the exploited, for the poor.”[†]

Those who uphold bourgeois democracy use fine phrases about “equality,” “liberty” and “fraternity” in an endeavour to hide the actual domination of the exploiters over the exploited, which is based on the private ownership of the means of production.

Lenin pointed out that general phrases about liberty, equality, democracy are in fact nothing more than the blind repetition of concepts copied from the relations of commodity production. “From the point of view of the proletariat,” wrote Lenin, “the question can be put only in the following way: freedom from being oppressed by which class? equality between which classes? democracy based on private property, or on the struggle for the abolition of private property? – and so forth.”[‡]

Employing all the rigour of Marxist analysis, Lenin and Stalin unmasked bourgeois democracy and placed the issue on the only correct and scientific basis.

Comrade Stalin, in his report on the Draft Constitution of the U.S-S.R. said the following: “They speak of the equality of citizens, but forget that there cannot be real equality between employer and workman, between landlord and peasant, if the former possess wealth and political weight in society while the latter are deprived of both – if the former are exploiters while the latter are exploited. Or again: they speak of freedom of speech, assembly, and the press, but forget that all these liberties may be merely a hollow sound for the working class, if the latter cannot have access to suitable premises for meetings, good printing shops, a sufficient quantity of printing paper, etc.”[§]

When elucidating the specific features of the history and traditions of bourgeois democracy in each country, the classics of Marxism-Leninism pointed out at the same time that “… the most democratic bourgeois republic is a machine for the oppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie.”[**]

What distinguishes the epoch of imperialism from the preceding period, the epoch of free competition, is the fact that under imperialism state activity is marked by a turn, all along the line, to political reaction. In both foreign and home policy imperialism strives to violate democracy and establish reaction. These reactionary strivings of imperialism are being displayed more and more glaringly in the political life of present-day England and the U.S.A. This, however, does not prevent those who defend imperialism from talking without end about all the different “freedoms” that are supposed to be part of bourgeois democracy.

Let us, for example, take the question of the so-called “freedom of the press” in bourgeois countries. The fact that a multitude of newspapers of various trends is published in foreign countries, that arguments ensue among these papers on various secondary problems, that different viewpoints are expressed, that criticism is occasionally levelled in these newspapers at those who captain the bourgeois ship of state – all this is lauded to the skies by the advocates of bourgeois democracy. They bring these points forward as evidence of the freedom of the press that is supposed to exist in the bourgeois countries.

Actually, however, the so-called “freedom of the press” in bourgeois society means nothing more than freedom for the capitalists to control the press and to “shape” public opinion to suit their own interests. “Freedom of the press in capitalist society,” said Lenin, “means freedom to trade in the press and in influencing the masses of the people. Freedom of the press means maintaining the press, a most powerful instrument for influencing the masses of the people, at the expense of capital.”[††] Such is the real worth of bourgeois freedom of the press.

The false character of the so-called freedoms, particularly freedom of the press, has even had to be admitted by many publicists and sociologists who defend bourgeois democracy.

Or let us take the so-called “freedom of elections” which is lauded in every way by the apologists of present-day bourgeois democracy. The fact that different parties participate in elections, that a struggle takes place among them, and that these parties advance different programs is extolled by the apologists of bourgeois democracy as evidence of the existence of a supposedly genuine democratic system in these countries. Yet if we delve into the essence of bourgeois “freedom of elections,” so-called, we will see that this boasted “freedom of elections” is as much a fraud as is “freedom of the press.”

Marx, in his work The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, already characterized bourgeois constitutions as follows: “…each paragraph of the Constitution contains its own antithesis, its own Upper and Lower House, namely, liberty in the general phrase, abrogation of liberty in the marginal note.”[‡‡]

Basing himself on later historical experience, Lenin continued this characterization of bourgeois liberties as follows: “… under bourgeois democracy the capitalists, by a thousand and one tricks – which are the more artful and effective the more “pure” democracy is developed – – debar the masses from a share in the work of administration, from freedom of the press, the right of assembly, etc… . For the toiling masses, participation in bourgeois parliaments (which never decide important questions under bourgeois democracy; they are decided by the stock exchange and the banks) is hindered by a thousand and one obstacles, and the workers know and feel, see and realize perfectly well that the bourgeois parliaments are institutions alien to them, instruments for the oppression of the proletarians by the bourgeoisie, institutions of a hostile class, of an exploiting minority.”[§§]

Numerous restrictions exist, both in Great Britain and the United States, that prevent the suffrage being universal. There are restrictions of various kinds on the suffrage, in the shape of literacy qualifications, a poll tax and so on and so forth. In the U.S.A. Negroes possess the formal right to vote and be elected, but in actual practice on only one occasion in fifty years was a Negro elected to Congress. When elections are about to take place in the U.S.A., Negroes have to undergo quite a meticulous examination to establish their ability to read and write, and frequently their “political knowledge.” This is done so as to deprive the overwhelming majority of the Negro population of the suffrage.

Facts of this kind – proof that the freedom of elections is in fact restricted – are quite well known. A wealth of material exposing the sham of “freedom of elections” in bourgeois countries is to be found in the publications and statements of many, even loyal, upholders of bourgeois democracy.

In 1944, a book appeared in the U.S.A. entitled Democracy Begins at Home by Jennings Perry. The author, editor of the newspaper Tennessean, devotes this work to the problem of the poll tax in the State of Tennessee and in the Southern States in general. The book discloses a highly interesting picture of the morals characteristic of present-day American democracy. It turns out that in the U.S.A. the years 1889 to 1908 saw the gradual introduction in all the states of something in the nature of a tax on the right to vote. It became the rule that citizens could not participate in the elections unless they paid this tax.

What effect did this tax have on the elections? In 1936 there took place the election of the Governor of the State of Tennessee. Of a total of 1,200,000 electors only 352,000 voted. A certain adventurer and racketeer by the name of Crump controlled a solid block of between 60,000 and 70,000 votes and so had the entire State of Tennessee in his grip. Here is an eloquent description of him, given in 1939 by the United Press correspondent, John Parris: “Edward Hull Crump can lift the telephone in his insurance and real estate company office and with one command send 60,000 sovereign Democrats to the secret polls to do his bidding.”

The author of the above-mentioned book cites facts to show how democracy has gradually disappeared in Tennessee. “We,” he writes, “have retrogressed toward government by a chosen few at a rapid rate,” democracy has turned into oligarchy.

An idea of the system and character of general elections in Great Britain is given in the book of the Liberal Party leader, Ramsay Muir, entitled How Britain Is Governed. In this book the British election system is called outright “in the highest degree unjust, unsatisfactory and dangerous.” This system, wrote Muir, “actually disfranchises a large majority of the electors. If we could estimate the total of those whose votes are of no avail because they have voted for unsuccessful candidates; of those who have refused to use their votes because there was no candidate with whom they agreed; and of those who have voted reluctantly for somebody who did not represent their views merely because he was less objectionable than the available alternatives: we should probably find that something like 70 per cent of the total (electorate had either been unable to exercise any influence upon the course of events by the use of their votes, or had been compelled to give their support to some doctrine or policy with which they disagreed.”[***]

In the British General Election of 1945, over 8 million electors, or 25 per cent of the total, did not vote. In the 1946 Congressional elections in the U.S.A., only 39 per cent of the electors voted, a fact that was considered by the entire American press to be indicative of very great activity on the part of the electors.

That is how matters stand as regards the so- called “General Elections” in Great Britain and the U.S.A. All these data provide the clearest and most convincing proof that the elections in bourgeois-democratic countries are not general at all and that bourgeois democracy is a hypocritical, truncated, and false affair.

What bourgeois democracy really is and how the bourgeoisie of today understand political liberty was shown by the elections to the legislature held in Italy in April 1948. In order to ensure that the forces of bourgeois reaction should achieve victory over the People’s Front parties in Italy, international imperialist reaction, headed by the U.S.A., openly threatened to resort to armed intervention, should the People’s Front parties be the victors.

The U.S. State Department declared that if the People’s Front were victorious all aid to Italy in the shape of food and manufactured products would be stopped. Atom bombs, wrote the American press, would be dropped on those towns where People’s Front candidates were elected. American warships carrying troops were anchored in Italian ports. French troops were brought up to the Italian frontier. In violation of the peace treaty with Italy, the De Gasperi government set up powerful police forces, equipped with American tanks, armoured cars, and artillery. Terror was employed openly and on a mass scale against people, against the progressive forces; so too were intimidation, threats, blackmail and plain deception, in a word, all possible means were brought into action in order to ensure victory for Italian reaction. The Vatican, too, with its black army of a million and a half priests, monks and nuns – in violation of all the laws forbidding the Vatican to interfere in political life – joined in the election campaign on the side of Italian reaction.

Reaction, lay and spiritual, threatened to withhold absolution, to bring down all the torments of Hades on the heads of those who refused to vote for the parties of bourgeois reaction. But, neither open terror, violence, deception, increased ideological pressure, nor the blatant and impudent intervention of the American Government in Italy’s internal affairs succeeded in bringing victory to reaction. Whereupon the De Gasperi government and its minister Scelba proceeded to falsify the election results by every possible means.

The Italian elections of April 1948 will go down in the history of bourgeois democracy as a most abominable and disgusting mockery of democracy and freedom.

* * *

The war of 1914-18, Lenin pointed out, made clear even to backward workers the real character of bourgeois democracy as being the dictatorship of the imperialist bourgeoisie. The war tore the false trimmings from bourgeois democracy, and showed that it was the thirst of the imperialist powers for conquest that was responsible for millions of people being killed. During the post-war period the real countenance of bourgeois democracy was still more clearly revealed. In a number of European countries, and first and foremost in Germany and Italy, bourgeois democracy actually paved the way there for the victory of fascism. The fascists began to kindle a new world war. As to the ruling circles of the “‘democratic” countries, particularly the ruling Conservative circles of Great Britain, they pursued a policy of “appeasing” the fascists, of pleading with the fascist “führers,” a policy of concessions to the fascists, of inciting the fascist aggressors to attack the U.S.S.R. The ruling circles of the U.S.A., on their part, financed the re-armament and further armament of imperialist Germany. As a result, the fascist aggressors let loose a new world war, which cost tens of millions of lives and threatened the freedom and independence of the nations of Europe and the whole world, and the democratic gains of the working people.

However, even the second world war taught little to the ruling circles of the present- day bourgeois-“democratic” countries, who still continue to connive with fascist elements. The reactionary groups in the U.S.A. are conducting an anti-popular domestic policy, one directed against the workers’ organizations, against progressive social ideas and progressive public figures. The governments of the imperialist states are pursuing a policy of supporting the reactionary elements all over the world, a policy of suppressing the movement for national liberation in the colonial countries. Militarization on an enormous scale is taking place in the countries of old, bourgeois democracy which at one time, in the epoch of pre-monopolist capitalism, were distinguished, among other things, by the fact that militarism and military cliques were little developed there.

In January 1947, the American liberal weekly The New Republic published an article by Henry Wallace, former Vice-President of the U.S.A. This article, in which he disclosed the growth of militarist tendencies in the U.S.A., caused a tremendous uproar in that country. Army and militarist circles, declared Wallace, dominate in the sphere of scientific research, and control scientists. The military buy science and scientists. Many American universities derive more funds from the War Department than from all other sources put together.

Wallace wrote that prior to the war the U.S.A. expended almost 50 million dollars annually on research work. In 1946 they expended almost one billion dollars, 90 per cent of which was for war purposes. Science – he said – was degenerating to the brute level of Nazism, when it expended the greater part of its time working out methods of destroying human life.

The military outlook, continued Wallace, must not be permitted to dominate over science in peacetime. If we permitted the present situation to continue, things would finally reach a point where a semi-military police state would be established in the U.S.A.

Similar reproaches were levelled at bourgeois democracy by Stafford Cripps, in a book published in England comparatively recently and entitled Democracy Up-to-Date. The author speaks of the decline of democracy in Great Britain. Proof of this, he states, is to be found in the apathy of the electors, in the lack of interest in the House of Commons and its work. Cripps admits that the system of British democracy suffers from grave defects “arising out of the advantages which wealth can give to one or other side in an electoral contest.”

Now that Cripps has become one of the leading figures in the British Labour Government, he is exerting no little effort to ensure that the profits of the capitalists go up, and that the standard of living of the workers goes down.

Such are the fundamental defects of present-day bourgeois democracy, as admitted even by supporters and upholders of the bourgeois system.

The real rulers of American “democracy” are the oil, chemical, steel and other magnates, the bosses of the huge monopolies and trusts; they include Herbert Hoover, ex-president of the U.S.A., Du Pont, member of the board of the chemicals and explosives company that is playing a leading part in the production of atom bombs, the Rockefeller-Morgan group, the banker Eugene Meyer, the owners of the majority of the shares of General Motors and General Electric, the Fords and Whitneys, the Mellons, Harknesses and others.

In 1946 there was republished in the U.S.A. Lundherg’s America’s 60 Families, a book that describes the financial oligarchy of present-day America which is made up of approximately 60 of the wealthiest families and is the unofficial, invisible, behind-the-scenes but actual government, the “money government.” “The outstanding American proprietors of today,” writes Lundberg, “tower historically over the proud aristocracy that surrounded Louis XIV, Czar Nicholas, Kaiser Wilhelm, and the Emperor Franz Joseph, and wield vastly greater power. The might of cardinal Richelieu, Metternich, Bismarck, or Disraeli was no greater than that of private citizens, undistinguished by titles, like J. P. Morgan, Andrew W. Mellon, John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford and the Du Ponts.” They it is who are the uncrowned kings of America. They it is who exert enormous influence over the line of government policy, they it is who pursue the policy of fighting the workers and the trade unions within the country. They, the uncrowned kings, are the power behind the scenes, and the official organs of government pay careful heed to their instructions, to their desires.

Present-day American democracy is in fact “democracy” for suppressing the working-class movement within the country, “democracy” for supporting the most reactionary elements throughout the world, “democracy” for unbridled imperialist expansion. The anti-labour Truman- Case and Taft-Hartley Acts, the effort of reaction to destroy the workers’ organizations and deprive the workers of their rights, the campaigns of mass terror directed against the Negroes, the incitement of anti-Semitism, and the persecution of Communists – all these are glaring illustrations of the organic defects of present-day American “democracy.”

With ever growing frequency the demand is being raised in the columns of the reactionary press and on the floor of Congress that the activities of the Communist Party be banned. Thus, at the Congress session of January 23, 1947, the Republican Dirksen raised the demand that the government take measures against Communist Party activity in the U.S.A.; McCormack went still further and demanded not only that the Communist Party be banned but also that a crusade be conducted against Communism in Europe. He called on the U.S. Government to render more energetic and active support to the reactionary elements in France, Italy, Spain and other countries. In March 1947, the Secretary of Labour of the United States, Schwellenbach, speaking before the House Committee on Labour and Education, declared in favour of the Communist Party being outlawed. Schwellenbach demanded that Communists be dismissed from public bodies of every kind, and that they be deprived of the right to hold office in the trade unions. The whole of this campaign was crowned by the arch-reactionary Mundt Bill, directed against the elementary civil rights of the industrial workers and working people in general.

The ultra-reactionaries in the U.S.A. are openly driving the country to fascism. Numerous government bodies resort to unconstitutional practices in conducting an organized ideological and political campaign against the Communists and the entire labour movement. Many reactionary newspapers call for the summary liquidation “here and now,” of the Communist Party, trade union and other progressive organizations; they demand that active members of the labour movement be ruthlessly dealt with. This “crusade” of the reactionary press in the U.S.A. brings back to mind the “famous” campaigns conducted by the German fascists in the years preceding their advent to power.

Thomas, then chairman of the notorious Committee to Investigate Un-American Activities made the statement in Congress that: “Our job for the next two years shall be to rout them [the Communists] out.” (The New York Times, Nov. 27, 1946.)

On the insistence of Thomas and Hoover a special committee was appointed at the end of November 1946 to investigate “officials under suspicion” and to purge government institutions of the “reds.”

The New York P. M. in an item dealing with the commencement of the operations of this Committee wrote that the attempt to replace the Civil Service Commission by the Federal Bureau of Investigation constituted a great danger. Should such a replacement take place it would be one more step, and a very disastrous one, towards transforming the Federal Bureau of Investigation into a political police force, and the United States into a police state. This would be a “disruptive” act of far greater dimensions than anything any official could commit.

In March 1947 Truman issued an order, that went into immediate effect, for all civil servants to undergo investigation and for the dismissal of all “subversive” persons, i.e., of those suspected of adherence to or sympathy with the Communist and other democratic organizations. With a view to covering up the fact that the drive was aimed at democratic organizations, Truman’s order placed the Communist and other democratic organizations on a level with fascist organizations. The order required 2,300,000 U.S.A. civil servants to undergo examination by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Needless to say, this order will least of all affect the fascist and semi-fascist elements, who often occupy quite important posts in the U.S.A. It will be directed and wholly operated against the progressive and democratic elements in the country.

Such are the facts that supply us with a picture of the state of present-day American “dollar democracy.” Formally the democratic freedoms are exalted and propagated. Actually they exist merely for those who have the dollars. Formally the praises are sung, in a hundred and one different ways, of “freedom of speech,” “freedom of the press,” and “freedom of assembly.” Actually these freedoms are enjoyed, and enjoyed without limit, by the reactionary circles and organizations that are supported by the magnates of finance capital. As to the progressive organizations, personalities, and press, every possible obstacle is raised to prevent them developing their activity.

And what can be said of the reactionary and expansionist policy that is being conducted by American imperialism behind a smoke screen of talk about democracy? The American imperialists are giving every possible support to the reactionary elements in Japan; the imperialists of the U.S.A. and Great Britain are lending their aid to all the reactionary elements in Europe, the Near and Middle East, Greece and Turkey. The American imperialists are actively assisting Chiang Kai-shek’s fascist clique in their war on the Chinese people. The troops of “democratic” Holland, supported by the British and Americans, are suppressing the struggle for national liberation in Indonesia.

In November 1918, Lenin pointed out, in an article entitled “Valuable Admissions of Pitirim Sorokin,” that “… Anglo-American imperialism, which is reinstating reaction all over the world and has perfectly learned how to use the form of the democratic republic”[†††] is stifling the small and weak nations.

This characterization, as given by Lenin, is fully applicable today to the policy of the reactionary circles of the U.S.A. and Great Britain.

With the connivance of the Labour Government the fascist organizations in England are freely extending their disruptive activities. Mosley, one of the leaders of British fascism, has his own publishing establishment. In 1946 he published his book My Answer, which even the Conservative Lord Elibank compared to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. A number of fascist organizations, like the Duchess of Atholl’s British League for European Freedom, have been established and are operating in England. This latter organization gathers together the fascist and Whiteguard dregs from the People’s Democracies. Other fascist organizations, like the British People’s Party, the League of Christian Reformers, and the Imperial Fascist League openly and systematically propagate racial theories of the wildest type. All these organizations have combined in a fascist “congress.” At a meeting held in London on December 10, 1946, and convened by the fascist “congress,” John Beckett cynically and brazenly extolled the Nazi Party and its bandit policy.

And such statements are being made openly now, after all freedom-loving mankind has seen that fascism means the enslavement and extermination of nations, the destruction of the world’s culture!

The fascist elements are openly renewing their activity in South Africa, where the machinery of state is being fascised, racial discrimination is practised, raids are made on workers’ organizations, and their leaders are arrested. All these things are being done by the South African Government, which is headed by fascist, racialist politicians.

The fascist party has been legalized in Canada. The leader of this party, Adrien Arcand, recently declared that fascism in Canada was stronger now than ever before. He maintains contact with the fascists in Great Britain, the Union of South Africa, New Zealand, and elsewhere.

The historical experience of the bourgeois-democratic countries teaches us that to give the fascists a free hand means to doom the working people to oppression of the worst kind, to threaten the very existence of the peoples. To give the enemies of democracy a free hand is not democracy but the negation of it. To give a free hand to the enemies of democracy is to create favourable conditions for the growth of fascism.

The time has passed when the doors of Great Britain were open to revolutionary refugees from various countries, when such men as Marx, Engels, Herzen, Kossuth, and Mazzini could conduct their activities relatively unhindered. On the contrary, England – the very England where the Labour Party, which considers itself to be a veritable buttress of democracy, is in power – gives sanctuary to the most reactionary fascist and pro-fascist elements, who have been flung out of their countries by the regimes of People’s Democracy.

The Chetniks of Yugoslavia, and the Rumanian, Polish and Bulgarian Whiteguards have found a haven and a “pleasant reception” in Great Britain. This fascist scum, these worst enemies of the people are given facilities in England to hold meetings, to publish their filthy newssheets, to engage in provocative machinations, to stir up trouble and to conduct disruptive work. And all this is done supposedly in pursuance of the principles of democracy, in the name of “freedom of speech,” “freedom of the press,” etc. Is any more obvious proof required of the deep deficiencies and cankers of present-day bourgeois democracy?

The defeat of the Conservatives and the advent to power of the Labour Government were a reflection of the fact that the working masses of England had moved considerably to the left. In voting down the policy of Churchill and the Tories, the British working class hoped that with the Labour Party in power a considerable change in government policy would result. Such change, however, did not ensue. The actual fact is that Great Britain, where the Labour Party is in power, is engaged in suppressing the movements for national liberation in India, Egypt, Indonesia, Palestine and other countries, in supporting the forces of reaction in Europe – in Greece, Spain, the western zone of Germany, Austria and other countries.

The Labour Party leaders consider theirs to be a socialist government, but they have kept intact the old, bourgeois machinery of state which is unable to conduct anything other than an imperialist policy. They have kept intact the economic system of capitalism. The nationalization of the mining and certain other industries in England does not abolish the domination of British monopoly capital, while the imperialist policy of the British Government is a sufficiently clear indication of the character of present-day bourgeois democracy in Great Britain.

* * *

Soviet democracy differs fundamentally from bourgeois democracy.

Born in October 1917, Soviet socialist democracy has proved to be a great, vital and transforming force. The victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution meant that the epoch of the parliamentarism of the capitalists had been replaced by an epoch of Soviet institutions of state.

What are the specific features of Soviet democracy?

Firstly, its economic basis is the predominance of the social ownership of the means of production. The victory of Socialism in our country, the absence of exploiting classes – such is the basis on which socialist democracy is flourishing. It is a democracy that differs in principle from bourgeois democracy. Socialist democracy is democracy of a higher type.

For the first time in history there has grown up and acquired strength a Socialist State in which the entire population has been drawn into active participation in the country’s political life; for the first time a political system has developed and become firmly established under which the widest masses of the people really, and not in words alone, take part in administering the State.

Secondly, Soviet democracy is not ordinary democracy, but socialist democracy. The specific feature of the Constitution of the U.S.S.R. is that it does not limit itself to registering the formal rights of citizens, but places the main emphasis on the question of guaranteeing these rights. In the U.S.S.R. not only is the equality of the rights of citizens proclaimed – this equality of rights is guaranteed by the fact of the abolition of the exploitation of man by man. In the U.S.S.R. not only has the right to work been proclaimed – this right is guaranteed in fact. Socialist democracy has put an end, once and for all, to formal bourgeois democracy.

Thirdly, Soviet democracy is now based on the complete moral and political unity that has been achieved in Soviet society. The moral and political unity of the Soviet people – the result of the elimination of the exploiting classes in our country and of the enormous amount of educational work done by the Bolshevik Party – is a supreme achievement of our time. Under capitalism, where society is split into warring classes, the unity of society is unthinkable. The moral and political unity of the people, which came into being as a result of the victory of Socialism in our country, is a motive force of the development of Soviet society, an expression of genuine socialist democracy and a condition of its further vigorous growth.

Fourthly, a specific feature of Soviet socialist democracy is that the leading force in our country, the vanguard of the people, is the Bolshevik Party, the Party of Lenin and Stalin. The fact that a single, united Party exists which is leading forward the peoples of the Soviet Union and giving best expression to their interests is a subject of countless attacks on Soviet democracy by bourgeois publicists. In the view of the apologists of bourgeois democracy, the existence in a given country of a number of parties and the struggle that goes on between them constitute one of the fundamental features of democracy, whereas the absence of such a struggle in the Soviet Union and the existence of only one party prove, so they aver, that our democracy is defective. But these upholders of bourgeois democracy deliberately gloss over the fact that in bourgeois society, split, as it is, into classes with their antagonistic class interests, and torn by the struggle between various social groups, the existence of a number of warring parties is inevitable. These individuals, moreover, maintain silence about the fact that there is no difference in principle between the Republican and the Democratic parties in the U.S.A. They are actually one party. They are two factions of the bourgeoisie, which take turns in oppressing the people.

In Soviet society, which is free of class antagonisms, there is no basis for a number of ‘ parties; there is one party and it best reflects the interests of the people. The Bolshevik Party is a party that deservedly enjoys the undivided confidence of the people, for it has proved in practice its self-sacrificing devotion to the people and its ability to lead them in their great historical enterprise.

As far back as the year 1936, Comrade Stalin said: “As to freedom for various political parties, we adhere to somewhat different views. A party is a part of a class, its most advanced part. Several parties, and, consequently, freedom for parties, can exist only in a society in which there are antagonistic classes whose interests are mutually hostile and irreconcilable – in which there are, say, capitalists and workers, landlords and peasants, kulaks and poor peasants, etc. But in the U.S.S.R. there are no longer such classes as the capitalists, the landlords, the kulaks, etc. In the U.S.S.R. there are only two classes, workers and peasants, whose interests – far from being mutually hostile – are, on the contrary, friendly. Hence, there is no ground in the U.S.S.R. for the existence of several parties and, consequently, for freedom for these parties. In the U.S.S.R. there is ground only for one Party, the Communist Party. In the U.S.S.R. only one party can exist, the Communist Party, which courageously defends the interests of the workers and peasants to the very end. And that it defends the interests of these classes not at all badly, of that there can hardly be any doubt.”[‡‡‡]

In the shape of the Soviet State we have a political organization of society that is millions of times more democratic than the most democratic bourgeois republic. “Only Soviet Russia” – wrote Lenin – “has given the proletariat, and all working folk – the overwhelming majority of the people of Russia – a freedom and democracy unparalleled, impossible and unthinkable in any bourgeois-democratic republic; it has done so by, for example, depriving the bourgeoisie of palaces and mansions (without this, freedom of assembly is hypocrisy), by depriving the capitalists of the printing presses and newsprint (without this freedom of the press for the working majority of the nation is a fraud) and by replacing bourgeois parliamentarism by the democratic organization of the Soviets, which are a thousand times closer to the ‘people,’ more ‘democratic’ than the most democratic bourgeois parliament.”[§§§]

Already on the eve of the October Revolution, when elaborating the theoretical principles of the Soviet State, Lenin pointed out that the Soviets, as the state form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, constitute a new type of state machinery, an apparatus providing an indissoluble, close, easily tested and renewed link with the popular masses such as the former state apparatus never possessed in the remotest degree. “Compared with bourgeois parliamentarism,” said Lenin, “this represents an advance in the development of democracy which is of historical and world-wide significance.”[****]

The Soviet state system best serves to defend and guarantee the interests of the peoples of the U.S.S.R. That is why the masses of the people have so great a love for the Soviet system, why they are so devoted to their Socialist Motherland, which inspires them to perform deeds of heroism. Soviet patriotism is one of the great motive forces of the development of Soviet society. During the Great Patriotic War, the patriotism of the workers, peasants and intelligentsia was displayed in all its titanic might.

In his report on the occasion of the 27th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, Comrade Stalin gave the following classic definition of the essence and the strength of Soviet patriotism:

“The strength of Soviet patriotism lies in the fact that it is based not on racial or nationalistic prejudices, but upon the profound devotion and loyalty of the people to their Soviet Motherland, on the fraternal cooperation of the working people of all the nations inhabiting our country. Soviet patriotism is a harmonious blend of the national traditions of the peoples and the common vital interests of all the working people of the Soviet Union.”[††††]

The proposition advanced here by Comrade Stalin, which generalizes the very rich experience of the friendly cooperation among the nations of the Soviet Union, and of the development of their statehood and culture, is one of the outstanding discoveries made in the development of Leninist theory and is of the greatest importance as regards the political education of the people, as regards their education in the spirit of Soviet patriotism.

Soviet patriotism has grown and blossomed forth under Soviet democracy. Just as Soviet socialist democracy is a higher type of democracy differing fundamentally from the old forms of bourgeois democracy, so Soviet patriotism is a new and higher type of patriotism. Its source is the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution, the construction of Socialism in our country. Soviet patriotism develops on a new social and economic foundation, on the basis of new social relations.

The Soviet State has shown, and continues to show, itself to be a tremendous transforming force. The transformations that have been effected in the U.S.S.R. and that have, in a brief historical period, turned our native land into a mighty industrial and kolkhoz power, show how great are the forces that Soviet socialist democracy can rouse, mobilize and direct for creative endeavour. Soviet democracy showed itself to be a great force in the building of socialist society, in the defence of the Socialist Homeland against the fascist invaders, and is a powerful factor facilitating the further onward march of Soviet society, towards Communism.

The entire system of organization of the Soviet State is adapted to raising the creative energy of the popular masses to the maximum degree for the solution of the tasks of socialist construction. In the U.S.S.R., for the first time in human history, millions upon millions of the common people have been drawn into conscious political activity, into the building of the new, Communist society, and the mighty energy of the people has been aroused. “The living creative work of the masses,” Lenin said, “is what constitutes the main factor of the new social order.”[‡‡‡‡]

Gorky, in his novel Mother, makes one of his characters say the following words: “Russia will be the finest democracy in the world.” This dream of the great proletarian writer has found its living embodiment in our country.

One of the basic illustrations of the genuinely popular character of Soviet democracy is the fact that the masses of the people play a real part in administering the State, that no barrier exists in our country between the machinery of state and the people. The creative initiative of the masses, the pulsating activity of public organizations, the ever new forms of participation by the working people in economic and cultural development, the political activity of the people – all these are remarkable indexes of the great Soviet democracy existing in the U.S.S.R. It is the popular masses – those who in the most democratic bourgeois republics formally possess equal rights but actually are prevented from participating in the administration of the State – who under the Soviet system are drawn “unfailingly into constant and, moreover, decisive participation in the democratic administration of the state.”[§§§§] The main process taking place in our country in the upbuilding of the Soviet State is that of the constantly growing political activity of the popular masses, of the continuous promotion from the very midst of the people of new individuals possessed of organizing capacity, new men of talent, outstanding statesmen.

Since the adoption in 1936 of the Stalin Constitution, elections in the U.S.S.R. to the organs of supreme power have taken place on four occasions, viz.: twice to the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., and twice to the Supreme Soviets of the Union Republics.

In 1937, in the elections to the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., 96.8 per cent of the electors recorded their votes, and the candidates put forward by the bloc of Communists and non-Party people received 98.6 per cent of the total votes cast. Almost 90 million people voted solidly at that time for the bloc of Communists and non-Party people.

In 1938, in the elections to the Supreme Soviets of the Union Republics, the bloc of Communists and non-Party people received the votes of 99.4 per cent of electors who voted.

In 1946, in the elections to the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., 99.7 per cent of the electors recorded their votes, and the candidates put forward by the bloc of Communists and non-party people received 99.18 per cent of the total votes cast. Over 100 million electors voted as one man for the Bolshevik Party, and for the further consolidation of the Soviet State.

In the early part of 1947 there took place the elections to the Supreme Soviets of the Union Republics. The results constitute a further splendid victory for Soviet democracy, as the following figures will show:

What do these figures show?

Firstly, that in the Soviet Union practically all the electors, with absolutely insignificant exceptions, exercise their voting rights. This is testimony to the high level of civic consciousness, to the tremendous political activity of the masses of the people. The working folk of the Soviet Union take part in the elections as in some great festive event. Such a state of affairs is absolutely unthinkable in bourgeois society; it is the product of the victory of Socialism, and of that alone.

The entire system of organization of the elections – from the consistent, thoroughly democratic method by which our public organizations nominate candidates, and the method by which candidatures are discussed, to the provision of all the conditions necessary to enable each elector to fulfil his civic duty, wherever he may be when the elections take place – this entire system of organization of the elections is marked from beginning to end by genuine Stalinist love for the working people, by concern for their interests and requirements, by the striving to ensure that the masses are drawn to the maximum degree into the actual administration of the State.

Secondly, that with absolutely insignificant exceptions, all the electors who record their votes cast them for the bloc of Communists and non-Party people. This complete unanimity displayed in the voting is an expression of the complete moral and political unity of the people, a unity of the people such as is created and consolidated by the socialist system of society. The people stand forth as a single whole, in the real sense of the term.

In the Stalin constituency of Moscow where on February 9, 1947, the candidate in the election of the Deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic was J. V. Stalin, 100 per cent of the electors recorded their votes. Not a single one of the ballot papers was invalid, neither did a single one of them register rejection of the candidate. J. V. Stalin was unanimously elected Deputy. The working people of all the Union and Autonomous Republics unanimously nominated Comrade Stalin as their No. 1 candidate in the elections of Deputies to their Supreme Soviets. Comrade Stalin is the elected representative of the entire Soviet people, a fact that splendidly reflects the unity of will and purpose of the Soviet people.

The name of Comrade Stalin is the symbol and banner of this unity. All our victories are bound up indissolubly with the name of Comrade Stalin. It is characteristic that as Soviet electors voted for Comrade Stalin, they wrote on the ballot papers messages full of ardent love for their leader and teacher. They voted for the man who is leading the Soviet people on to Communism, who is the embodiment of the hopes and strivings of all the nations of the U.S.S.R.

During the elections the Soviet people showed with renewed vigour that they stand solid behind the Party of Lenin and Stalin, that they are supremely devoted to the interests of the Socialist Motherland.

Only in the Land of Socialism, where socialist democracy prevails, where the gains we have achieved are inscribed in letters of gold in the Stalin Constitution is there such a manifestation of civic consciousness and patriotism. Such unity in voting, such a manifestation of organization and unanimity in the election of candidates are possible only in Soviet society, where the people are free from all forms of exploitation whatsoever. Only the complete moral and political unity of the people renders possible such unanimity as is displayed in the voting during the elections to the supreme organs of the Soviet Union.

The Communist Party – the force that inspires, guides and directs the Soviet State – comes to the masses with a clear program for the development of the country, and in clear-cut terms defines the tasks facing the people. This program best expresses the interests of the people, their hopes and strivings. The Communist Party does all it can to ensure that every elector acquires a better and more profound understanding of its policy, which is the living basis of the Soviet system, that every elector takes an active part in discussing problems of State, and votes with full understanding for the bloc of Communists and non-Party people. As Lenin said: “In our view a state is strong in so far as the masses are conscious. It is strong when the masses know everything, can form an opinion of everything, and do everything consciously.”[*****]

In his historic speech delivered on February 9, 1946, Comrade Stalin said: “I regard the election campaign as the voters’ judgment of the Communist Party as the ruling party. The result of the election will be the voters’ verdict.”[†††††] The elections in the Soviet Union are a repeated indication of the love felt by the masses for the Bolshevik Party. The masses of the people in the Soviet Union, to whom the Bolshevik Party is near and dear, voluntarily entrust their destinies to it, for practical experience has convinced them that the Party of Lenin and Stalin has no interests other than those of the people, and has no tasks other than those of leading the people onward, towards an ever better life, to Communism. The Bolshevik Party gives scientific expression to the fundamental, vital interests of the masses of the people, and this is the necessary condition that ensures it the leading role it plays in the Soviet State. Comrade Stalin has spoken of the “subtle moral threads” that bind the Party to those outside its ranks, of the profound trust in the Party and its leadership felt by the popular masses of the Soviet Union. This, it is, that finds expression in the bloc of Communists and non-Party people at the elections to the organs of the Soviet State. Comrade Stalin has said: “There is not, nor has there ever been in the world such a powerful and authoritative government as our Soviet government. There is not, nor has there ever been in the world such a powerful and authoritative Party as our Communist Party.”[‡‡‡‡‡]

The elections in the Soviet Union are a great schooling in political activity, a manifestation of supreme political activity on the part of the people. Hundreds of thousands of active workers, agitators and propagandists, many tens of thousands of members of Ward and Constituency Electoral Commissions, and of electors’ representatives take part in the election campaigns. The elections are the occasion for a countrywide review by the people of achievements and successes and also for a criticism of the defects of the work of the various parts of the machinery of state. Countless meetings take place at which affairs of state, and candidatures, are discussed. In the political work it conducts in preparation for the elections the Communist Party reaches every single elector. As a result we can say that there has developed a new form of political life, unthinkable in bourgeois countries, a form of participation by the entire people in the discussion of affairs of state, in the solution of most important problems of state. Socialism has elaborated such forms as enable all the working people easily to be drawn into the administration of the State.

Such facts as the solid vote of over 99 per cent of the electors for the candidates of the bloc of Communists and non-Party people, for the policy of the Party of Lenin and Stalin, are events of the greatest historical importance. In events and facts such as these we see the remarkable results of the work done by the Bolshevik Party.

Much energy has been expended by bourgeois students of law and statecraft to prove the thesis that “real government by the people” is altogether impossible, that it is inevitable for representative bodies to lose touch with the people, that even the very best representative bodies in the last analysis degenerate. It has been asserted that it is impossible to give effect to democracy in a large country. Rousseau, as is well known, upheld in his Contrat Social the thesis that real democracy is only possible in a small country where all citizens can take a personal part in discussing affairs of state.

Under the bourgeois system, where a struggle takes place between antagonistic classes, real government by the people is impossible. But that which is unthinkable and impossible under capitalism, is thinkable, possible and actually effected under Socialism.

In his works preliminary to The State and Revolution Lenin, even before the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution, wrote that under Socialism there would be complete, universal and unlimited democracy. This, he said, would be “the sort of new type of ‘direct popular legislation’ that Engels rejected under capitalism.”[§§§§§]

These views of Lenin about a new type of democracy based on the predominance of the social ownership of the means of production, have been fully implemented in the actual life of our country.

One of the striking indexes of the majesty of Soviet democracy is the complete equality of rights exercised by women in the Soviet State. Lenin said that woman’s position in society shows particularly clearly the difference between bourgeois and socialist democracy.

There is not a single bourgeois-democratic country in the world where women enjoy full equality of rights. In bourgeois countries women either play no part at all, or participate to a limited degree, in public and political life; female labour there is exploited and counted as the very cheapest. The proportion of female labour employed in the more important branches of industry, in the leading professions and in the different branches of culture, is negligible. Not a single bourgeois republic has given women equality with man, either formally or in fact.

The picture is absolutely different in the U.S.S.R. In the Soviet State women enjoy all rights to the full, on a par with men. They take a most active part in the economic, political and cultural life of the country, and fully and comprehensively display their creative abilities in the most diverse spheres of socialist construction. The history of the development of the Soviet State has shown what an enormous number of talented people, and of individuals with a capacity for organization are to be found among the masses of working women. Women occupy a place of honour everywhere in our country – in the kolkhozes and in industry, in all spheres of culture and science, in political and public organizations – and side by side with the menfolk are fulfilling the tasks facing the Soviet Land. “The unprecedented labour heroism,” said Comrade Stalin on November 6, 1944, in characterizing the part played by the women during the war, “displayed by our Soviet women and our valiant youth, who have borne the brunt of the burden in our factories and mills and in our collective and state farms, will go down in history for ever.”[******]

An index of the genuinely socialist character of our democracy is the fact that the national question has been successfully solved in the U.S.S.R. For the first time in the history of multinational states, the national question and the problem of cooperation among nations have been solved in the Soviet Union – the Land of Socialism. As is well known, the national question is an exceptionally complicated one. Under capitalism it is impossible to solve the national question. The existence of capitalism without the suppression of nationalities, without national oppression is just as impossible as is the existence of Socialism without the abolition of national oppression, without national freedom. The experience of Austria-Hungary, and of Turkey, and the instability of the present British Empire are the most palpable evidence of how unstable are bourgeois multinational states.

The solution of the national question in the U.S.S.R. is one of the supreme achievements of our age. The results of the October Socialist Revolution have shown themselves not only in the abolition of national oppression in our country, but also in the fact that there have been elaborated the forms of state which solve the national question, forms which unite the various nationalities into a single multinational Soviet State, distinguished by its stability and invincibility.

The beneficent influence of the October Socialist Revolution and of Soviet democracy has also been expressed in the fact that they have awakened to life and brought into the historical arena a number of formerly backward nations and nationalities, given them new life and new development. Formerly nations arose and became consolidated under the supremacy of the bourgeoisie. This resulted in two national cultures existing within each nation, and lent the dominant national culture an exploiting, nationalistic character.

The inexhaustible strength of the Soviet system and of Soviet democracy is expressed in the fact that many nationalities in our country are being consolidated as nations not under the aegis of the bourgeois order, as was formerly the case, but under the aegis of Soviet rule. Comrade Stalin has described this as a fact unexampled in history, but a fact nonetheless. It is a new process, never known before to history, and one that it could not know. It is a new phenomenon, one that has developed under the Soviet order, on the basis of the Soviet system, in the new social and political conditions where there is no exploitation or oppression. These are nations that have been revived by the conditions of the Soviet system. The culture being developed by these nations is – as is the case with all the nations of the Soviet Union – a culture national in form and socialist in content.

The experience of the construction of Soviet socialist society shows, therefore, that Socialism does not at all imply the immediate dying-off of nations, as many vulgarizers of Marxism would have had us believe, but the development to the full of the inner potentialities of nations on a basis quite different from that of the conditions of the bourgeois system.

The majesty of Soviet democracy is mirrored in the fact that previously-backward nationalities are being raised economically and culturally to the level of the more advanced ones. For the first time in the history of multinational states the central authority has resolutely and consistently carried through a system of measures aimed at achieving real equality among nations, thereby doing away with the previous economic, political and cultural backwardness of the formerly oppressed nations and nationalities, and raising them to the level of the advanced nations. In this regard, too, is there manifested the fundamental difference between Soviet democracy and bourgeois democracy.

Under capitalism the line is systematically pursued of keeping the oppressed nations backward, of artificially holding up their industrial and cultural development, of ruthlessly exploiting them. Under Soviet democracy a planned system of measures is operated, aimed at raising the formerly oppressed and backward peoples to the level of the advanced ones. It is hard to appraise fully the world-historic significance of this fact. The formerly oppressed nationalities have seen the practical application of the great emancipatory principles of Bolshevik policy in the sphere of the national question. Soviet democracy means that the national oppression that has existed for centuries has been replaced by the great amity among the peoples of the U.S.S.R., an amity that marks a new era in the development of inter-national relations.

The Russian people, said Comrade Stalin, “is the most outstanding of all the nations that constitute the Soviet Union.” As a consequence of the great part played by the Russian people in October 1917, and then during the war against the foreign interventionists and Whiteguards, and during the years of peaceful construction; as a consequence of the epoch-making role played by the Russian nation during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, it earned general recognition among all the other nations of our country as the leading force of the Soviet Union.

Characterizing the bourgeois federations and diverse states that exist under capitalism, Comrade Stalin has pointed out that in the main they took shape as a result of violence and oppression, that the course of their development was marked by repeated acts of violence and oppression. Even the revolutionary French bourgeoisie of the end of the XVIII century, who in their Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen proclaimed that all men are born equal and hence should enjoy equal rights – even they considered it necessary to record the point in the Constitution of 1791 that “the present Constitution does not apply to French colonies and possessions in Asia, Africa, and America, although they constitute part of the French Empire.” And such a federal state as the United States of America, which boasts of the freedom possessed by its states, took final shape not as a result of voluntary union at all, but of the application of numerous measures for the forcible consolidation of the Union, for the forcible incorporation of many states.

In 1803 the United States of America purchased Louisiana from France, in 1819 it purchased Florida from Spain, and in 1845, as a result of war with Mexico, forcibly incorporated Texas, and so on. All this has little in common with the voluntary union of states to which such loud references are made by the apologists of American democracy. James Bryce, the well-known authority on the American republic, once wrote that while the victory won by the North in the war of 1861-1865 was progressive in the sense that it did away with slavery, it was at the same time a warning against any attempt by the states to secede from the Union, so that it was not even considered necessary to introduce in the U.S.A. constitution clauses denying the right of the states to secede from the Union.

A fundamentally different principle on which a federal state is based – that of genuinely voluntary federation – is expressed in the Stalin Constitution. To enable the reader to understand the essence of socialist democracy, the great importance of the principles followed by the Bolshevik Party in the building of our multinational Soviet State, it is important to indicate the thesis developed by Comrade Stalin concerning the reservation of the right of the Union Republics freely to secede from the U.S.S.R. In his speech on the Constitution, where he rejected amendments the purpose of which was to delete from the Constitution the article dealing with this point, Comrade Stalin stated: “The U.S.S.R. is a voluntary union of Union Republics with equal rights. To delete from the Constitution the article providing for the right of free secession from the U.S.S.R. would be to violate the voluntary character of this union.”[††††††] As Comrade Stalin pointed out, there is not a single republic in our country that would want to secede from the U.S.S.R., but inasmuch as the U.S.S.R. is based on a voluntary union of the peoples, a clause is recorded in the Constitution stressing this voluntary character of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Comrade Stalin pointed out further that not only should formal proclamation be made of the right to secede from the Union, but matters should be so arranged that this right is not turned into an empty, meaningless scrap of paper. That is why one of the three qualifications for an Autonomous Republic to be transferred to the category of Union Republic is that it is situated along the country’s borders. Comrade Stalin said that “…the Republic concerned must be a border republic, not surrounded on all sides by U.S.S.R. territory. Why? Because since the Union Republics have the right to secede from the U.S.S.R., a republic, on becoming a Union Republic, must be in a position logically and actually to raise the question of secession from the U.S.S.R. And this question can be raised only by a republic which, say, borders on some foreign state, and, consequently, is not surrounded on all sides by U.S.S.R. territory.”[‡‡‡‡‡‡]

There is no republic in our country desirous of seceding from the U.S.S.R. Only as component parts of the U.S.S.R. have our national republics secured the conditions requisite for their development on an unparalleled scale. Only with the aid of the entire Union have the different republics risen to enormous heights and secured the most extensive facilities for their prosperous growth. The principles proclaimed in the Constitution regarding the voluntary character of the union and the equality of the rights possessed by the Union Republics are guaranteed by the conditions that actually exist for this voluntary union and enjoyment of equal rights.

Is a clearer expression required of the principles of socialist democracy embodied in the Stalin Constitution?

Only socialist democracy fully and thoroughly solves the problem of fraternal collaboration among nations in a single multinational Soviet State. It is only such a solution of the problem that has created the stability and steadfastness, the firmness and might which distinguish the Soviet multinational State.

The Tenth Session of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., which took place from January 28 to February 1, 1944 – when the Patriotic War was at its height – adopted decisions of exceptionally great importance, which constituted a new advance in the development of our multinational Soviet Socialist State. The Session adopted laws for the establishment of military formations of the Union Republics, and in this connection for the transformation of the People’s Commissariat of Defence from an all-Union into a Union-Republican People’s Commissariat (now Ministry); and for the endowment of the Union Republics with the right to enter into direct relations with foreign powers and to conclude treaties with them; and in this connection for the transformation of the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs from an all-Union into a Union-Republican People’s Commissariat (now Ministry). All this became possible and necessary as a result of the political, economic and cultural development of the Union Republics. These new achievements in the development of the Soviet State were, by decision of the Third Session of the Second Convocation of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. held in 1947, embodied in the Stalin Constitution.

* * *

Such are the most important and characteristic features of Soviet socialist democracy. The strength and vitality of Soviet democracy have been tested by experience. A great and leading role has been played by Soviet democracy in the struggle against fascism. Now, in the post-war period, Soviet socialist democracy is in the van of all the progressive forces in the world waging the struggle against the reactionary elements, against the new warmongers, against those who wish to maintain and revive fascism. That is why Soviet socialist democracy meets with such sympathy, endorsement and admiration among all the progressive forces of the world.

Having emerged with honour from all the difficulties and trials of the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet people are now engaged in a self-sacrificing struggle to rehabilitate and further develop the economy of the U.S.S.R., to fulfill and overfulfill the new Stalin Five-Year Plan. One of the clearest indexes of the strength and vitality of Soviet socialist democracy is the fact that Soviet people, led by the Bolshevik Party, are making a reality of the task set by Stalin, namely, that of bringing about a rapid rise of the national economy.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

This pamphlet is a translation of an essay published in the symposium Soviet Socialist Society prepared by the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. and published by the Gospolitizdat, Moscow 1949.

 

[*] J. V. Stalin, Speech Delivered at an Election Meeting in the Stalin Election District, Moscow, February 9, 1946. Moscow 1946, p. 10.

[†] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 3rd Russ. ed., Vol. XXIII, p. 346.

[‡] V. I. Lenin, Selected Works, Two-Vol. ed., Vol. II, Moscow 1947, p. 535.

[§] J. V. Stalin, Problems of Leninism, Moscow 1947, p. 551.

[**] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 3rd Russ. od., Vol. XXIII, p. 220.

[††] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 3rd Russ. ed., Vol. XXVI, p. 423.

[‡‡] K. Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Moscow 1948, p. 34.

[§§] V. I. Lenin, Selected Works, Two-Vol. ed., Vol. II, Moscow 1947, p. 374.

[***] Ramsay Muir, How Britain Is Governed, p. 168.

[†††] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 3rd Russ. ed., Vol. XXIII, p. 293.

[‡‡‡] J. V. Stalin, Problems of Leninism, Moscow 1947, p. 557.

[§§§] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 3rd Russ. ed., Vol. XXIII, p. 221.

[****] V. I. Lenin, Selected Works, Twelve-Vol. ed., Vol. VI, Moscow-Leningrad, p. 264.

[††††] J. V. Stalin, On the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union, Moscow 1940, p. 165.

[‡‡‡‡] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 3rd Russ. ed., Vol. XXII, p. 45.

[§§§§] V. I. Lenin, Selected Works, Twelve-Vol. ed., Vol. VII, Moscow-Leningrad, p. 231.

[*****] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 3rd Russ. ed., Vol. XXII, pp. 18-19.

[†††††] J. V. Stalin, Speech Delivered at an Election Meeting in the Stalin Election District, Moscow, February 9, 1946.Moscow 1946, p. 10.

[‡‡‡‡‡] J. V. Stalin, Problems of Leninism, Moscow 1947, p. 438.

[§§§§§] V. I. Lenin, Marxism About the State, Russ. ed., Moscow 1934, p. 77.

[******] J. V. Stalin, On the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union, Moscow 1946, pp. 164-65.

[††††††] J. V. Stalin, Problems of Leninism, Moscow 1947, p. 561.

[‡‡‡‡‡‡] J. V. Stalin, Problems of Leninism, Moscow 1947, p. 562.

Source

J.V. Stalin: The Prospects of the Revolution in China

Speech Delivered in the Chinese Commission of the E.C.C.I.

November 30, 1926

Comrades, before passing to the subject under discussion, I think it necessary to say that I am not in possession of the exhaustive material on the Chinese question necessary for giving a full picture of the revolution in China. Hence I am compelled to confine myself to some general remarks of a fundamental character that have a direct bearing on the basic trend of the Chinese revolution.

I have the theses of Petrov, the theses of Mif, two reports by Tan Ping-shan and the observations of Rafes on the Chinese question. In my opinion, all these documents, in spite of their merits, suffer from the grave defect that they ignore a number of cardinal questions of the revolution in China. I think it is necessary above all to draw attention to these shortcomings. For this reason my remarks will at the same time be of a critical nature.

I

CHARACTER OF THE REVOLUTION
IN CHINA

Lenin said that the Chinese would soon be having their 1905. Some comrades understood this to mean that there would have to be a repetition among the Chinese of exactly the same thing that took place here in Russia in 1905. That is not true, comrades. Lenin by no means said that the Chinese revolution would be a replica of the 1905 Revolution in Russia. All he said was that the Chinese would have their 1905. This means that, besides the general features of the 1905 Revolution, the Chinese revolution would have its own specific features, which would be bound to lay its special impress on the revolution in China.

What are these specific features?

The first specific feature is that, while the Chinese revolution is a bourgeois-democratic revolution, it is at the same time a revolution of national liberation spearheaded against the domination of foreign imperialism in China. It is in this, above all, that it differs from the 1905 Revolution in Russia. The point is that the rule of imperialism in China is manifested not only in its military might, but primarily in the fact that the main threads of industry in China, the railways, mills and factories, mines, banks, etc., are owned or controlled by foreign imperialists. But it follows from this that the questions of the fight against foreign imperialism and its Chinese agents cannot but play an important role in the Chinese revolution. This fact directly links the Chinese revolution with the revolutions of the proletarians of all countries against imperialism.

The second specific feature of the Chinese revolution is that the national big bourgeoisie in China is weak in the extreme, incomparably weaker than the Russian bourgeoisie was in the period of 1905. That is understandable. Since the main threads of industry are concentrated in the hands of foreign imperialists, the national big bourgeoisie in China cannot but be weak and backward. In this respect Mif is quite right in his remark about the weakness of the national bourgeoisie in China as one of the characteristic facts of the Chinese revolution. But it follows from this that the role of initiator and guide of the Chinese revolution, the role of leader of the Chinese peasantry, must inevitably fall to the Chinese proletariat and its party.

Nor should a third specific feature of the Chinese revolution be overlooked, namely, that side by side with China the Soviet Union exists and is developing, and its revolutionary experience and aid cannot but facilitate the struggle of the Chinese proletariat against imperialism and against medieval and feudal survivals in China.

Such are the principal specific features of the Chinese revolution, which determine its character and trend.

II

IMPERIALISM AND IMPERIALIST
INTERVENTION IN CHINA

The first defect of the theses submitted is that they ignore or underestimate the question of imperialist intervention in China. A study of the theses might lead one to think that the present moment there is, properly speaking, no imperialist intervention in China, that there is only a struggle between Northerners and Southerners, or between one group of generals and another group of generals. Furthermore, there is a tendency to understand by intervention a state of affairs marked by the incursion of foreign troops into Chinese territory, and that if that is not the case, then there is no intervention.

That is a profound mistake, comrades. Intervention is by no means confined to the incursion of troops and the incursion of troops by no means constitutes the principal feature of intervention. In the present-day conditions of the revolutionary movement in the capitalist countries, when the direct incursion of foreign troops may give rise to protests and conflicts, intervention assumes more flexible and more camouflaged forms. In the conditions prevailing today, imperialism prefers to intervene in a dependent country by organising civil war there, by financing counter-revolutionary forces against the revolution, by giving moral and financial support to its Chinese agents against the revolution. The imperialists were inclined to depict the struggle of Denikin and Kolchak, Yudenich and Wrangel against the revolution in Russia as an exclusively internal struggle. But we all knew — and not only we, but the whole world — that behind these counter-revolutionary Russian generals stood the imperialists of Britain and America, France and Japan, without whose support a serious civil war in Russia would have been quite impossible. The same must be said of China. The struggle of Wu Pei-fu, Sun Chuan-fang, Chang Tso-lin and Chang Tsung-chang against the revolution in China would be simply impossible if these counter-revolutionary generals were not instigated by the imperialists of all countries, if the latter did not supply them with money, arms, instructors, “advisers,” etc.

Wherein lies the strength of the Canton troops? In the fact that they are inspired by an ideal, by enthusiasm, in the struggle for liberation from imperialism; in the fact that they are bringing China liberation. Wherein lies the strength of the counter-revolutionary generals in China? In the fact that they are backed by the imperialists of all countries, by the owners of all the railways, concessions, mills and factories, banks and commercial houses in China.

Hence, it is not only, or even not so much, a matter of the incursion of foreign troops, as of the support which the imperialists of all countries are rendering the counter revolutionaries in China. Intervention through the hands of others — that is where the root of imperialist intervention now lies.

Therefore, imperialist intervention in China is an indubitable fact, and it is against this that the Chinese revolution is spearheaded.

Therefore, whoever ignores or underestimates the fact of imperialist intervention in China, ignores or underestimates the chief and most fundamental thing in China.

It is said that the Japanese imperialists are showing certain symptoms of “good will” towards the Cantonese and the Chinese revolution in general. It is said that the American imperialists are not lagging behind the Japanese in this respect. That is self-deception, comrades. One must know how to distinguish between the essence of the policy of the imperialists, including that of the Japanese and American imperialists, and its disguises. Lenin often said that it is hard to impose upon revolutionaries with the club or the fist, but that it is sometimes very easy to take them in with blandishments. That truth of Lenin’s should never be forgotten, comrades. At all events, it is clear that the Japanese and American imperialists have pretty well realised its value. It is therefore necessary to draw a strict distinction between blandishments and praise bestowed on the Cantonese and the fact that the imperialists who are most generous with blandishments are those who cling most tightly to “their” concessions and railways in China, and that they will not consent to relinquish them at any price.

III

THE REVOLUTIONARY ARMY IN CHINA

My second remark in connection with the theses submitted concerns the question of the revolutionary army in China. The fact of the matter is that the question of the army is ignored or underestimated in the theses. (A voice from the audience : “Quite right!”) That is their second defect. The northward advance of the Cantonese is usually regarded not as an expansion of the Chinese revolution, but as a struggle of the Canton generals against Wu Pei-fu and Sun Chuan fang, as a struggle for supremacy of some generals against others. That is a profound mistake, comrades. The revolutionary armies in China are a most important factor in the struggle of the Chinese workers and peasants for their emancipation. Is it accidental that until May or June of this year the situation in China was regarded as the rule of reaction, which set in after the defeat of Feng Yu-hsiang’s armies, but that later on, in the summer of this year, the victorious Canton troops had only to advance northward and occupy Hupeh for the whole picture to change radically in favour of the revolution? No, it is not accidental. For the advance of the Cantonese means a blow at imperialism, a blow at its agents in China; it means freedom of assembly, freedom to strike, freedom of the press, and freedom to organise for all the revolutionary elements in China in general, and for the workers in particular. That is what constitutes the specific feature and supreme importance of the revolutionary army in China.

Formerly, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, revolutions usually began with an uprising of the people for the most part unarmed or poorly armed, who came into collision with the army of the old regime, which they tried to demoralise or at least to win in part to their own side. That was the typical form of the revolutionary outbreaks in the past. That is what happened here in Russia in 1905. In China things have taken a different course. In China, the troops of the old government are confronted not by an unarmed people, but by an armed people, in the shape of its revolutionary army. In China the armed revolution is fighting the armed counter-revolution. That is one of the specific features and one of the advantages of the Chinese revolution. And therein lies the special significance of the revolutionary army in China.

That is why it is an impermissible shortcoming of the theses submitted that they underestimate the revolutionary army.

But it follows from this that the Communists in China must devote special attention to work in the army.

In the first place, the Communists in China must in every way intensify political work in the army, and ensure that the army becomes a real and exemplary vehicle of the ideas of the Chinese revolution. That is particularly necessary because all kinds of generals who have nothing in common with the Kuomintang are now attaching themselves to the Cantonese, as a force which is routing the enemies of the Chinese people; and in attaching themselves to the Cantonese they are introducing demoralisation into the army. The only way to neutralise such “allies” or to make them genuine Kuomintangists is to intensify political work and to establish revolutionary control over them. Unless this is done, the army may find itself in a very difficult situation.

In the second place, the Chinese revolutionaries, including the Communists, must undertake a thorough study of the art of war. They must not regard it as something secondary, because nowadays it is a cardinal factor in the Chinese revolution. The Chinese revolutionaries, and hence the Communists also, must study the art of war, in order gradually to come to the fore and occupy various leading posts in the revolutionary army. That is the guarantee that the revolutionary army in China will advance along the right road, straight to its goal. Unless this is done, wavering and vacillation may become inevitable in the army.

IV

CHARACTER OF THE FUTURE
GOVERNMENT IN CHINA

My third remark concerns the fact that the theses say nothing, or do not say enough, about the character of the future revolutionary government in China. Mif, in his theses comes close to the subject, and that is to his credit. But having come close to it, he for some reason became frightened and did not venture to bring matters to a conclusion. Mif thinks that the future revolutionary government in China will be a government of the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie under the leadership of the proletariat. What does that mean? At the time of the February Revolution in 1917, the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries were also petty-bourgeois parties and to a certain extent revolutionary. Does this mean that the future revolutionary government in China will be a Socialist-Revolutionary-Menshevik government? No, it does not. Why? Because the Socialist-Revolutionary Menshevik government was in actual fact an imperialist government, while the future revolutionary government in China cannot but be an anti-imperialist government. The difference here is fundamental.

The MacDonald government was even a “labour” government, but it was an imperialist government all the same, because it based itself on the preservation of British imperialist rule, in India and Egypt, for example. As compared with the MacDonald government, the future revolutionary government in China will have the advantage of being an anti-imperialist government.

The point lies not only in the bourgeois-democratic character of the Canton government, which is the embryo of the future all-China revolutionary government; the point is above all that this government is, and cannot but be, an anti-imperialist government, that every advance it makes is a blow at world imperialism — and, consequently, a blow which benefits the world revolutionary movement.

Lenin was right when he said that, whereas formerly, before the advent of the era of world revolution, the national liberation movement was part of the general democratic movement, now, after the victory of the Soviet revolution in Russia and the advent of the era of world revolution, the national-liberation movement is part of the world proletarian revolution.

This specific feature Mif did not take into account.

I think that the future revolutionary government in China will in general resemble in character the government we used to talk about in our country in 1905, that is, something in the nature of a democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, with the difference, however, that it will be first and foremost an anti-imperialist government.

It will be a government transitional to a non-capitalist, or, more exactly, a socialist development of China.

That is the direction that the revolution in China should take.

This course of development of the revolution is facilitated by three circumstances:

firstly, by the fact that the revolution in China, being a revolution of national liberation, will be spearheaded against imperialism and its agents in China;

secondly, by the fact that the national big bourgeoisie in China is weak, weaker than the national bourgeoisie was in Russia in the period of 1905, which facilitates the hegemony of the proletariat and the leadership of the Chinese peasantry by the proletarian party;

thirdly, by the fact that the revolution in China will develop in circumstances that will make it possible to draw upon the experience and assistance of the victorious revolution in the Soviet Union.

Whether this course will end in absolute and certain victory will depend upon many circumstances. But one thing at any rate is clear, and that is that the struggle for precisely this course of the Chinese revolution is the basic task of the Chinese Communists.

From this follows the task of the Chinese Communists as regards their attitude to the Kuomintang and to the future revolutionary government in China. It is said that the Chinese Communists should withdraw from the Kuomintang. That would be wrong, comrades. The withdrawal of the Chinese Communists from the Kuomintang at the present time would be a profound mistake. The whole course, character and prospects of the Chinese revolution undoubtedly testify in favour of the Chinese Communists remaining in the Kuomintang and intensifying their work in it.

But can the Chinese Communist Party participate in the future revolutionary government? It not only can, but must do so. The course, character and prospects of the revolution in China are eloquent testimony in favour of the Chinese Communist Party taking part in the future revolutionary government of China.

Therein lies one of the essential guarantees of the establishment in fact of the hegemony of the Chinese proletariat.

V

THE PEASANT QUESTION IN CHINA

My fourth remark concerns the question of the peasantry in China. Mif thinks that the slogan for forming Soviets — namely, peasant Soviets in the Chinese countryside — should be issued immediately. In my opinion, that would be a mistake. Mif is running too far ahead. One cannot build Soviets in the countryside and avoid the industrial centres of China. But the establishment of Soviets in the industrial centres of China is not at present on the order of the day. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that Soviets cannot be considered out of connection with the surrounding situation. Soviets — in this case peasant Soviets — could only be organised if China were at the peak period of a peasant movement which was smashing the old order of things and building a new power, on the calculation that the industrial centres of China had already burst the dam and had entered the phase of establishing the power of the Soviets. Can it be said that the Chinese peasantry and the Chinese revolution in general have already entered this phase? No, it cannot. Consequently, to speak of Soviets now would be running too far ahead. Consequently, the question that should be raised now is not that of Soviets, but of the formation of peasant committees. I have in mind peasant committees elected by the peasants, committees capable of formulating the basic demands of the peasantry and which would take all measures to secure the realisation of these demands in a revolutionary way. These peasant committees should serve as the axis around which the revolution in the countryside develops.

I know that there are Kuomintangists and even Chinese Communists who do not consider it possible to unleash revolution in the countryside, since they fear that if the peasantry were drawn into the revolution it would disrupt the united anti-imperialist front. That is a profound error, comrades. The more quickly and thoroughly the Chinese peasantry is drawn into the revolution, the stronger and more powerful the anti-imperialist front in China will be. The authors of the theses, especially Tan Ping-shan and Rafes, are quite right in maintaining that the immediate satisfaction of a number of the most urgent demands of the peasants is an essential condition for the victory of the Chinese revolution. I think it is high time to break down that inertness and that “neutrality” towards the peasantry which are to be observed in the actions of certain Kuomintang elements. I think that both the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang, and hence the Canton government, should pass from words to deeds without delay and raise the question of satisfying at once the most vital demands of the peasantry.

What the perspectives should be in this regard, and how far it is possible and necessary to go, depends on the course of the revolution. I think that in the long run matters should go as far as the nationalisation of the land. At all events, we cannot repudiate such a slogan as that of nationalisation of the land.

What are the ways and means that the Chinese revolutionaries must adopt to rouse the vast peasant masses of China to revolution?

I think that in the given conditions one can only speak of three ways.

The first way is by the formation of peasant committees and by the Chinese revolutionaries entering these committees in order to influence the peasantry. (A voice from the audience : “What about the peasant associations?”) I think that the peasant associations will group themselves around the peasant committees, or will be converted into peasant committees, vested with the necessary measure of authority for the realisation of the peasants’ demands. I have already spoken about this way. But this way is not enough. It would be ridiculous to think that there are sufficient revolutionaries in China for this task. China has roughly 400 million in habitants. Of them, about 350 million are Han people. And of them, more than nine-tenths are peasants. Anyone who thinks that some tens of thousands of Chinese revolutionaries can cover this ocean of peasants is making a mistake. Consequently, additional ways are needed.

The second way is by influencing the peasantry through the apparatus of the new people’s revolutionary government. There is no doubt that in the newly liberated provinces a new government will be set up of the type of the Canton government. There is no doubt that this authority and its apparatus will have to set about satisfying the most urgent demands of the peasantry if it really wants to advance the revolution.

Well then, the task of the Communists and of the Chinese revolutionaries in general is to penetrate the apparatus of the new government, to bring this apparatus closer to the peasant masses, and by means of it to help the peasant masses to secure the satisfaction of their urgent demands, either by expropriating the landlords’ land, or by reducing taxation and rents — according to circumstances.

The third way is by influencing the peasantry through the revolutionary army. I have already spoken of the great importance of the revolutionary army in the Chinese revolution. The revolutionary army of China is the force which first penetrates new provinces, which first passes through densely populated peasant areas, and by which above all the peasant forms his judgment of the new government, of its good or bad qualities. It depends primarily on the behaviour of the revolutionary army, on its attitude towards the peasantry and towards the landlords, on its readiness to aid the peasants, what the attitude of the peasantry will be towards the new government, the Kuomintang and the Chinese revolution generally. If it is borne in mind that quite a number of dubious elements have attached themselves to the revolutionary army of China, and that they may change the complexion of the army for the worse, it will be understood how great is the importance of the political complexion of the army and its, so to speak, peasant policy in the eyes of the peasantry. The Chinese Communists and the Chinese revolutionaries generally must therefore take every measure to neutralise the anti-peasant elements in the army, to preserve the army’s revolutionary spirit, and to ensure that the army assists the peasants and rouses them to revolution.

We are told that the revolutionary army is welcomed in China with open arms, but that later, when it installs itself, a certain disillusionment sets in. The same thing happened here in the Soviet Union during the Civil War. The explanation is that when the army liberates new provinces and instals itself in them, it has in some way or other to feed itself at the expense of the local population. We, Soviet revolutionaries, usually succeeded in counter-balancing these disadvantages by endeavouring through the army to assist the peasants against the landlord elements. The Chinese revolutionaries must also learn how to counter-balance these disadvantages by conducting a correct peasant policy through the army.

VI

THE PROLETARIAT AND THE HEGEMONY
OF THE PROLETARIAT IN CHINA

My fifth remark concerns the question of the Chinese proletariat. In my opinion, the theses do not sufficiently stress the role and significance of the working class in China. Rafes asks, on whom should the Chinese Communists orientate themselves — on the Lefts or the Kuomintang centre? That is a strange question. I think that the Chinese Communists should orientate themselves first and foremost on the proletariat, and should orientate the leaders of the Chinese liberation movement on the revolution. That is the only correct way to put the question. I know that among the Chinese Communists there are comrades who do not approve of workers going on strike for an improvement of their material conditions and legal status, and who try to dissuade the workers from striking. (A voice : “That happened in Canton and Shanghai.”) That is a great mistake, comrades. It is a very serious underestimation of the role and importance of the Chinese proletariat. This fact should be noted in the theses as something decidedly objectionable. It would be a great mistake if the Chinese Communists failed to take advantage of the present favourable situation to assist the workers to improve their material conditions and legal status, even through strikes. Otherwise, what purpose does the revolution in China serve? The proletariat cannot be a leading force if during strikes its sons are flogged and tortured by agents of imperialism. These medieval outrages must be stopped at all costs, in order to heighten the sense of power and dignity among the Chinese proletarians, and to make them capable of leading the revolutionary movement. Without this, the victory of the revolution in China is in conceivable. Therefore, a due place must be given in the theses to the economic and legal demands of the Chinese working class aimed at substantially improving its conditions. (Mif: “It is mentioned in the theses.”) Yes, it is mentioned in the theses, but, unfortunately, these demands are not given sufficient prominence.

VII

THE QUESTION OF THE YOUTH
IN CHINA

My sixth remark concerns the question of the youth in China. It is strange that this question has not been taken into account in the theses. Yet it is now of the utmost importance in China. Tan Ping-shan’s reports touch upon this question, but, unfortunately, do not give it sufficient prominence. The question of the youth is one of primary importance in China today. The student youth (the revolutionary students), the working-class youth, the peasant youth — all this constitutes a force that could advance the revolution with giant strides, if it was subordinated to the ideological and political influence of the Kuomintang.[*] It should be borne in mind that no one suffers from imperialist oppression so deeply and keenly, or is so acutely and painfully aware of the necessity to fight against it, as the Chinese youth. The Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese revolutionaries should take this circumstance fully into account and intensify their work among the youth to the utmost. The youth must be given its place in the theses on the Chinese question.

VIII

SOME CONCLUSIONS

I should like to mention certain conclusions — with regard to the struggle against imperialism in China, and with regard to the peasant question.

There is no doubt that the Chinese Communist Party cannot now confine itself to demanding the abolition of the unequal treaties. That is a demand which is upheld now by even such a counter-revolutionary as Chang Hsueh-liang. Obviously, the Chinese Communist Party must go farther than that.

It is necessary, further, to consider — as a perspective — the nationalisation of the railways. This is necessary, and should be worked for.

It is necessary, further, to have in mind the perspective of nationalising the most important mills and factories. In this connection, the question arises first of all of nationalising those enterprises the owners of which display particular hostility and particular aggressiveness towards the Chinese people. It is necessary also to give prominence to the peasant question, linking it with the prospects of the revolution in China. I think that what has to be worked for in the long run is the confiscation of the landlords’ land for the benefit of the peasants and the nationalisation of the land.

The rest is self-evident.

Those, comrades, are all the remarks that I desired to make.

Note: Such a policy was correct in the conditions prevailing at the time, since the Kuomintang then represented a bloc of the Communists and more or less Left-wing Kuomintangists, which conducted an anti-imperialist revolutionary policy. Later on this policy was abandoned as no longer in conformity with the interests of the Chinese revolution, since the Kuomintang had deserted the revolution and later became the centre of the struggle against it, while the Communists withdrew from the Kuomintang and broke off relations with it.

Revisionism in Russia: Trotsky Against the Bolsheviks – Part Two: 1914-1917

This is the second part of a study of the development of revisionism in Russia, and covers the period from the outbreak of World War I in 1914 to the victory of the socialist revolution in November 1917.

Read part one here.

The First Imperialist War

In August 1914, the First Imperialist War began.

Almost from the outset, three trends manifested themselves in the labour movements of the belligerent countries:

“In the course of the two and half years of war the international Socialist and labour movement in every country has evolved three tendencies.

The three tendencies are:

1) The social-chauvinists, i.e., Socialists in words and chauvinists in action, people who are in favour of ‘national defence’ in an imperialist war. . .These people are our class enemies. They have gone over to the bourgeoisie…

2) The second tendency is what is known as the ‘Centre’, consisting of people who vacillate between the social-chauvinists and the true internationalists.
All those who belong to the ‘Centre’ swear that they are Marxists and internationalists, that they are in favour of peace, of bringing every kind of ‘pressure’ to bear upon the governments, of ‘demanding’ that their own governments should ‘ascertain’ the will of the people for peace’, that they favour all sorts of peace campaigns, that they are for a peace without annexations, etc., etc. — and for peace with the social-chauvinists.
The ‘Centre’ is for ‘unity’, the ‘Centre’ is opposed to a split.
The ‘Centre’ is a realm of honeyed petty-bourgeois phrases of internationalism in word and cowardly opportunism and fawning on the social-chauvinists in deed.
The fact of the matter is that the ‘Centre’ does not preach revolution; it does not carry on a wholehearted revolutionary struggle; and in order to evade such a struggle it resorts to the tritest ultra-‘Marxist’ excuses….

3) The third tendency, the true internationalists, is most closely represented by the ‘Zimmerwald Left’….

It is characterised mainly by its complete break with both social-chauvinism and ‘Centrism’, and by its relentless war against its own imperialist government and against its own imperialist bourgeoisie.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution” in: “Selected Works’, Volume 6; London; l946; p. 63, 64, 65-66).

Trotsky’s “The War and the International”

On the outbreak of war, Trotsky was forced to leave Vienna and for two months he settled in Zurich, where he wrote “The War and the International,” which was published in November in “Golos” (The Voice), a Menshevik paper published in Paris.

In this work Trotsky put forward the view that “the main obstacle to economic development’ was the existence the national state”:

“The old national state .. has outlived itself, and is now an intolerable hindrance to economic development. . . .The outlived and antiquated national ‘fatherland’ has become the main obstacle to economic development . . . .The national states have become a hindrance to the development of the forces of production.”

(L. Trotsky: Preface to “The War and the International”; London; 1971; p. vii, x, xii).

Thus, declared Trotsky, the aim of the working class should be the creation of a ‘republican United States of Europe”:

“The task of the proletariat is to create a far more powerful fatherland, with far greater power of resistance – the republican United States of Europe.”

Lenin at first (in one document only) accepted the slogan of a “United States of Europe”:

“The immediate political slogan of the Social-Democrats of Europe must be the formation of a republican United States of Europe.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The War and Russian Social-Democracy’ in: “Selected Works;’ Volume 5; Moscow; 1935; p. 129).

By August 1915, however, the Bolsheviks, on Lenin’s initiative had decisively rejected this slogan, firstly, because it could, under capitalist society, only be reactionary:

“From the point of view of the economic conditions of imperialism, . . the United States of Europe is either impossible or reactionary under capitalism. A United States of Europe under capitalism is equivalent to an agreement to divide up the colonies. Under capitalism, however, . . no other principle of division . . . . is possible except force. . . Division cannot take place except ‘in proportion to strength’, And strength changes in the course of economic development.
Of course, temporary agreements between capitalists and between the powers are possible. In this sense, the United States of Europe is possible as an agreement between the European capitalists. . but what for? Only for the purpose of jointly suppressing socialism in Europe, of jointly protecting colonial booty against Japan and America. . . Under capitalism, the United States of Europe would mean the organisation of reaction to retard the more rapid development of America.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The United States of Europe Slogan’, in: “Selected Works,” Volume 5; London 1935; p. 139, 140, 141).

and secondly because if regarded as a socialist slogan, it suggests that the victory of socialism was possible only on an all European scale:

“Uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism. Hence, the victory of socialism is possible, first in a few or even in one single capitalist country.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p.141).

Lenin concludes:

“It is for those reasons and after repeated debates that the editors of the central organ have come to the conclusion that the United States of Europe slogan is incorrect.'”

(V.I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 141).

That Trotsky did, in fact, link the Slogan of “a United States of Europe” with the concept, inherent in his “theory of permanent revolution,” that proletarian revolution could only be successful an an international scale, is shown by his reply to Lenin’s article:

“The only more or less concrete historical argument advanced against the slogan of a United States of Europe was formulated in the Swiss ‘Sotsial-Demokrat’ in the following sentence:

‘Uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism’.

From this the ‘Sotsial-Domokrat’ draws the conclusion that the victory of socialism is possible in one country, and that therefore there is no reason to make the dictatorship of the proletariat in each separate country contingent upon the establishment of a United States of Europe. That capitalist development in different countries is uneven is an absolutely incontrovertible argument. But this unevenness is itself extremely uneven. The capitalist level of Britain, Austria, Germany or France is not identical. But in comparison with Africa and Asia all these countries represent capitalist ‘Europe’, which has grown ripe for the social revolution. That no country in its struggle must ‘wait’ for others, is an elementary thought which it is useful and necessary to reiterate in order that he idea of concurrent international action may not be replaced by the idea of temporising international inaction.

Without waiting for the others, we begin and continue the struggle nationally, in the full confidence that our initiative will give an impetus to the struggle in other countries; but if this should not occur, it would be hopeless to think — as historical experience and theoretical considerations testify — that, for example, a revolutionary Russia could hold out in the face of a conservative Europe.”

(L. Trotsky: Article in “Nashe Slovo” (Our Word), No. 87; April 12th., 1916, cited in: J. V. Stalin: “The October Revolution and the Tactics of the Russian Communists,” in: ‘Works”, Volume 6; Moscow; 1953; p. 390-1).

In the autumn of 1916 Lenin reiterated his opposition to Trotsky’s slogan of a United States of Europe:

“As early as 1902, he (i.e., the British economist John Hobson — Ed.) had an excellent insight into the meaning and significance of a ‘United States of Europe” (be it said for the benefit of Trotsky the Kautskyian!) and of all that is now being glossed over by the hypocritical Kautskyians of various countries, namely, that the opportunists (social-chauvinists) are working hand in hand with the imperialist bourgeoisie precisely towards creating an imperialist Europe on the backs of Asia and Africa.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 11; London; 1943; p. 752).

Trotsky, however, continued — even after the Russian October Revolution of 1917 — to hold that the construction of socialism in Europe was possible only on an all-European basis. In the postscript to a collection of articles published in 1922 under the title of “A Peace Programme,” he wrote:

“The assertion reiterated several times in the ‘Peace Programme’ that a proletarian revolution cannot culminate victoriously within national bounds may perhaps seem to some readers to have been refuted by the nearly five years’ experience of our Soviet Republic. But such a conclusion would be unwarranted. . . We have not arrived, or even begun to arrive, at tho creation of a socialist society. . . Real progress of a socialist economy in Russia will become possible only after the victory of the proletariat in the major European countries.”

(L. Trotsky: Postscript to ‘A Peace Programme , cited by: J. V. Stalin: “The Social-Democratic Deviation in our Party; in: “Works”, Volume 8; Moscow; 1954; p. 271-2).

“Our Word”

In November 1914, Trotsky left Switzerland for Paris to take up the post of war correspondent of the newspaper “Kievskaya Mysl” (Kievan Thought), which supported the war effort of the tsarist government.

Settled in Paris, he joined the editorial staff of “Golos” (The Voice) , a newspaper published by a group of Mensheviks headed by Yuli Martov who, unlike the official Menshevik leadership which supported the war effort of the tsarist government, had adopted an attitude of verbal opposition to the war without seeking to organise active revolutionary struggle against the tsarist regime. “Golos” had commenced publication in September l914, and, when it was suppressed by the French government in January l9l5, it was replaced by “Nashe Slovo” (Our Word), on the editorial staff of which Trotsky continued to serve.

The chief organiser of the paper was Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko (a former tsarist officer who after the October Revolution became Director of the Political Administration of the Red Army) . Its Paris staff included, in addition to Trotsky, Anatoly Lunacharsky (who later became Commissar for Education), David Ryazanov (later director of the Marx-Engels Institute), Solomon Lozovsky (later head of the Red International of Labour Unions), Dmitri Manuilsky (later head of the Communist International) Grigori Sokolnikov (later Commissar for Finance), and the historian Mikhail Pokrovsky (later director of the Soviet State Archives). Its foreign correspondents included Grigori Chicherin (later Commissar for Foreign Affairs), Aleksandra Kollontai (later Commissar of Social Welfare), Karl Radek (later to hold a leading position in the Communist International), Moissei Uritsky, Khristian Rakovsky (the son of a Bulgarian landlord, later to become Prime Minister of the Soviet Ukraine), Ivan Maisky (later Soviet Ambassador to Britain), and the Anglo-Russian historian Theodore Rothstein (later Soviet Ambassador to Persia).

1915 – 1916: The Three Trends in the Russian Labour Movement

The three trends described in an earlier section were represented in the Russian labour movement as follows:

1) The social-chauvinist trend was represented by:

a) a group of Mensheviks headed by Aleksandr Potresov, around the journal “Nasha Zarya” (Our Dawn), published in St. Petersburg. “Nasha Zaraya” was suppressed by the tsarist government in October 1914, and its place was taken in January 1915 by “Nashe Dyolo” (Our Cause).

“In Russia the fundamental nucleus of opportunism, the Liquidationist ‘Nasha Zarya’, became the fundamental nucleus of chauvinism.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Collapse of the Second International,” in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 18; London; n.d.; p. 308).

b) a group of Mensheviks headed by Grigori Plekhanov and Grigori Alexinsky around the journal “Prizyv” (The Call) published in Paris.

“The main theories of the social-chauvinists. . . are represented by Plekhanov.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 282).

“Plekhanov has sunk into-nationalism, hiding his Russian chauvinism under Francophilism; so has Alexinsky.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Position and Tasks of the Socialist International”, in: ibid.; p. 85-86).

2) The “Centrist” trend was represented by:

a) The Menshevik “Organisation Committee” (O.C), headed by Pavel Axelrod, which in February 1915 began publication of “Izvestia” (News) of the Foreign Secretariat of the Organisation Committee.

“This Centrist tendency includes . . the party of the Organisation Committee . . and others in Russia.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution,” in: “Selected Works,” Volume 6; London; 1935; p. 65).

“Take . .the . manifesto of the 0.C (Organisation Committee-Alliance Editor). . . .
1) The manifesto does not contain a single statement which in principle repudiates national defence in the present war;
2) there is absolutely nothing in the manifesto which in principle would be inacceptible to the ‘defencists’ or social chauvinists;
3) there are a number of statements in the manifesto which are completely’identical’ with ‘defencism’: ‘The proletariat cannot remain indifferent to the impending defeat’; . . ‘the proletariat is vitally interested in the self-preservation of the country.'”

(V. I. Lenin: “Have the O.C. and the Chkheidze Fraction a Policy of Their Own?”, in “Collected Works,” Viume 19; London; l942; p. 36, 37).

“To cover up this political reality (i.e., social-chauvinism — Ed.) by Left phrases and quasi-Social-Democratic-ideology, is the actual political meaning of the . . activities of the Organisation-Committee. In the realm of ideology — the ‘Neither- victory nor defeat’ slogan; in the realm of practice — an anti-‘split’ struggle — this is the business-like . . programme of ‘peace’, with the ‘Nashe Dyelo’ and Plekhanov.”

(V. I. Lenin: State of Affairs within Russian Social Democracy’, in: Collected Works”, Volume 18; London; n.d.; p. 204.)

b) the Menshevik Duma fraction, headed by Nikolai Chkheidze.

“This Centrist tendency includes . . Chkheidze and others in Russia.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution,” in: “Selected Works’, Volume 6; London; 1946; p. 65).

“Chkheidze’s group confined itself to the parliamentary field. It did not vote appropriations, since it would have roused a storm of indignation among the workers. . . Neither did it protest against social-chauvinism.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Socialism and War,” in: ibid.; p. 240).

“Chkheidze uses the same chauvinist phrases about the ‘danger of defeat’, stands for . . ‘the struggle for peace’, etc., etc.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Have the 0.C. and the Chkheidze Fraction a Policy of Their Own?”, in ‘Collected Works”, Volume 19; London; 19~2; p. 39).

“(1) The ‘save the country” formula employed by Chkhejdze differs in no material respect from defencism;
2) the Chkheidze fraction never opposed Nr. Potresov and Co. .
3) the decisive fact: the fraction has never opposed participation in the War Industries Committees’.

(V. I. Lenin: “The Chkheidze Fraction and its Role’, in: ibid.; p. 325).

“To cover up this political reality (i.e., social-chauvinism — Ed.) by ‘Left ‘phrases and quasi-Social-Democratic ideology, is the actual political meaning of the legal activities of Chkheidze’s fraction.”

(V. I. Lenin: “State of affairs within Russian Social-Democracy, in: “Collected “Works”, Volume 18; London; n.d.; p. 204).

c) the group, headed by Trotsky, around “Nashe Slovo,” the policy of which will be discussed in the next sections.

3) The revolutionary, international trend was represented by the Central Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, headed by Lenin.

The theses which Lenin put forward in September 1914 from Berne (Switzerland), on the other hand, called on the work in classes of all belligerent countries actively to oppose the war and to seek to transform it into a civil war against ” their own” imperialists.

“Transform the present imperialist war into civil war — is the only correct proletarian slogan.”‘

(V. I. Lenin: “The War and Russian Social Democracy,”‘ in: “Selected Works,” Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 130).

The “Peace” Slogan-The First of Trotsky’s Two Slogans

The policy put forward by Trotsky in the pages of “Nashe Slovo” in relation to the imperialist war may be summarised in two slogans:

firstly, that of “revolutionary struggle for peace” (or “revolutionary struggle against the war,” called by Lenin the “peace slogan”:

“Phrase-mongers like Trotsky (See No. 105 of the ‘Nashe Slovo’) defend, in opposition to us, the peace slogan.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The ‘Peace’ Slogan Appraised,” in: “Collected Works,'” Volume 18; London; n.d.; p. 262).

‘Revolutionary struggle against the war ‘ . . is an example of the high-flown phraseology with which Trotsky always justifies opportunism.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Defeat of One’s Own Government in the Imperialist War”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 5; London 1935; p. 3142).

Lenin opposed the “peace” slogan throughout the war:

“The peace slogan is in my judgment incorrect at the present moment. This is a philistine’s, a preacher’s, slogan. The proletarian slogan must be civil war.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to A. G. Shlyapnikov, October 17th., 1914, in: “Collected Works’, Volume 18; n.d.; p. 75).

“Propaganda of peace at the present time, if not accompanied by a call for revolutionary mass action, is only capable of spreading illusions, of demoralising the proletariat by imbuing it with belief in the humanitarianism of the bourgeoisie, and of making it a plaything in the hands of the secret diplomacy of the belligerent countries. In particular, the ilea that a so-called democratic peace is possible without a series of revolutions is profoundly mistaken.”

(V. I. Lenin: Conference of the Sections of the RSDLP Abroad,” in: “Selected Works”, Volume 5; London 1935; p. 135).

“To accept the peace slogan per Se, and to repeat it, would be encouraging the ‘pompous air of powerless (what is worse hypocritical) phrasemongers’; that would mean deceiving the people with the illusion that the present governments, the present ruling ‘classes, are capable before they are . . eliminated by a number of revolutions of granting a peace even half way satisfactory to democracy and the working class. Nothing is more harmful than such a deception.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The Peace Question’, in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 18; London; n.d.; p. 266).

In September 1915 Trotsky carried forward his opposition to the Leninist policy towards the war at the International Socialist Conference at Zimmerwald (Switzerland). The Bolshevik resolution was rejected by a majority of the delegates, including Trotsky. As he expresses it himself:

“Lenin was on the extreme left at the Conference. In many questions he was in a minority of one, even within the Zimmerwald left wing, to which I did not formally belong.”

(L. Trotsky: “My Life”; New York; 1970; p. 250).

In these circumstances, the Bolsheviks agreed to sign a compromise manifesto drafted by Trotsky:

“The revolutionary wing, led by Lenin, and the pacifist wing, which comprised the majority of the delegates, agreed with difficulty on a conmon manifesto of which I had prpared the draft”.

(L. Trotsky: ibid p. 250).

The central point of this manifesto was “the struggle for peace”:

“It is necessary to take up this struggle for peace, for a peace without annexations or war indemnities. . . .It is the task and the duty of the Socialists of the belligerent countries to take up this struggle with full force.”

Manifesto Of the International Specialist Conference, Zimmerwald, cited in: V. I Lenin: Collected Works’, Vo1ume 18; London; Ibid.; p. 475).

Lenin commented on this manifests after the conference:

“Passing to ‘the struggle for peace’…here also we find inconsistency, timidity, failure to say everything that ought to be said. . . It does not name directly, openly and clearly the revolutionary methods of struggle.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The First Step’, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 18; London; n.d.; p. 343).

“Neither Victory nor Defeat”- Trotsky’s Second Slogan

Secondly, in opposition to Lenin’s declaration that a revolutionary struggle against “one’s own imperialists in wartime was facilitated by, and facilitated, the military defeat of “one’s own” imperialists in the war, Trotsky put forward the slogan of “Neither victory nor defeat!”:

“‘Bukvoyed (i.e., Ryazonov — Ed.) and Trotsky defend the slogan ‘Neither victery nor defeat!”

(V. I. Lenin: “Defeat Of One’s Own Governrnent in the Imperialist War”, in: Selected Works’, Volume 5; London 1935; p. 145-6).

In an Open Letter addressed to the Bolsheviks in “Nashe Slovo” in the summer of l9l5, Trotsky denounced Lenin’s policy of “revolutionary defeatism” as:

“An uncalled-for and unjustifiable concession to the political methodology of social-patriotism which substitutes for the revolutionary struggle against the war and the conditions that cause it, what, under present conditions, is an extremely arbitrary orientation towards the lesser evil.”

(L. Trotsky: in: “Nashe Slovo”, No. 105, cited in V. I. Lenin: “Defeat of One’s Own Government in the Imperialist War”, in: ‘Selected Works”, Volume 5; London; l935; p. 142).

Lenin replied to Trotsky’s Open Letter in August l9l5, in his article “Defeat of One’s Government in the Imperialist War”:

“This is an example of the high-flown phraseology with which Trotsky always justifies opportunism.

Making shift with phrases, Trotsky has lost his way amidst three pine trees. It seems to him that to desire Russia’s defeat means desiring Germany’s victory. . .
To help people who are unable to think, the Berne resolution made it clear that in all imperialist ceuntries the proletariat must now desire the defeat of its own government. Bukvoyed and Trotsky preferred to evade this truth. . Had Bukvoyed and Trotsky thought a little, they would have realised that they adopt the point ‘of view of a war of governments and the bourgeoisie, i.e., that they cringe before the ‘political methodology of ‘social-patriotism’, to use Trotsky’s affected language.

Revolution in wartime is civil war; and the transformation of war between governments into civil war is, on the one hand, facilitated by military reverses (‘defeats’) of governments; on the other hand, it is impossible really to strive for such a transformation without thereby facilitating defeat.

The very reason the chauvinists. . .repudiate the ‘slogan’ of defeat is that this slogan alone implies a consistent appeal for revolutionary action against one’s own government in wartime. Without such action, millions of the r-r-revolutionary phrases like war against ‘war and the conditions, and so forth’ are not worth a penny. . . .

To repudiate the ‘defeat’ slogan means reducing one’s revolutionary actions to an empty phrase or to mere hypocrisy. .. .

The slogan “Neither victory nor defeat” . . is nothing but a paraphrase of the ‘defence of the fatherland’ slogan. . . . .

On closer examination, this slogan will be found to mean ‘civil peace’, renunciation of the class struggle by the oppressed classes in all belligerent ‘countries, since class struggle is impossible without . . facilitating the defeat of one’s own country. Those who accept the slogan ‘Neither victory nor defeat’, can only hypocritically be in favour of the class struggle, of ‘breaking civil peace’; those in practice, renounce an independent proletarian policy because they subordinate the proletariat of all belligerent countries to the absolutely bourgeois task of safeguarding imperialist governments against defeat. .

Those who are in favour of the slogan ‘Neither victory nor defeat’ are consciously or unconsciusly chauvinists, at best they are conciliatory petty bourgeois; at all events they are enemies of proletarian policy, partisans of the present governments, of the present ruling classes. . . .

Those who stand for the slogan ‘Neither victory nor defeat’ are in fact on the side of the bourgeoisie and the opportunists, for they ‘do not believe’ in the possibility of international revolutionary action of the working class against its own governments, and they do not wish to help the development of such action which, though no easy task, it is true, is the only task worthy of a proletarian, the only socialist task.'”

(V. I. Lenin: “Defeat of One’s Own Government in the Imperialist War”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 142-3, 145, 146-7).

In April 1915 Rosa Luxemburg, in prison, wrote, under the pseudonym “Junius”, a pamphlet entitled ‘The Crisis of German Social Democracy.” It was published a year later, in April 1916. Rosa Luxemburg, like Trotsky opposed Lenin’s policy of “revolutionary defeatism“:

“What shall be the practical attitude of social democracy in the present war? Shall it declare: since this is an imperialist war, since we do not enjoy in our country any socialist self-determination, its existence or non-existence is of no consequence to us, and we will surrender it to the enemy? Passive fatalism can never be the role of a revolutionary party like social democracy. . . .
Yes, socialists should defend their country in great historical crises.”

(R. Luxemburg: “The Crisis of German Social Democracy”, in: “Rosa Luxemburg Speaks’; Now York; 1970; p. 311, 314,).

and like Trotsky, she put forward the slogan of “Neither victory nor defeat”:

“Here lies the great fault of German social democracy….. . . It was their duty . to proclaim to the people of Germany that in this war victory and defeat would be equally fatal.”

(R. Luxemburg: ibid.; p. 314).

suggesting that the defence of the country “against defeat” should be carried on under the slogan she had consistently opposed as a leader of the Social-Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, the Slogan of “national self-determination”:

“Instead of covering this imperialist war with a lying mantle of national self-defence, social democracy should have demanded the right of national self-determination seriously,”

(R. Luxemburg: ibid.; p. 311-12).

Lenin replied to Rosa Luxemburg’s pamphlet in his article “The Pamphlet by Junius”, published in August 1916:

“We find the same error in Junius’ arguments about which is better, victory or defeat? His conclusion is that both are equally bad. . . This is the point of view not of the revolutionary proletariat, but of the pacifist petty bourgeois.. . . Another fallacious argument advanced by Junius is in connection with the question of defence of the fatherland. Junius . . falls into the very strange error of trying to drag a national programme into the present non-national war. It sounds almost incredible, but it is true.

He proposes to ‘oppose’ the imperialist war with a national programme.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Pamphlet by Junius”; in: “Collected ‘Works’, Volume 19; London; 1942; p. 212, 207, 209).

True, Rosa Luxemburg, unlike the open social-chauvinists, supported the concept of class struggle against one’s own government during the war, not, however, in relation to the slogan of “turn the imperialist war into civil war”, but as “the best defence against a foreign enemy”:

“The centuries have proven that not the state of siege, but relentless class struggle . . is the best protection and the best defence against a foreign enemy.”

(R. Luxemburg: ibid.; p. 304).

Lenin commented:

“In saying that class struggle is the best means of defence against invasian, Junius applied Marxian dialectics only half way, taking one step on the right road and immediately deviating from it. . . Civil war against the bourgeoisie is also a form of class struggle, and only this form of class struggle would have saved Europe (the whole of Europe, not only one country) from the peril of invasion.

Junius came very close to the correct solution of the problem and to the correct slogan: civil war against the bourgeoisi for socialism; but, as if afraid to speak the whole truth, he turned back to the phantasy of a ‘national war’ in 1914, 1915 and 1916. . ..

Junius has not completely rid himself of the ‘environment’ of the German Social-Democrats, even the Lefts, who are afraid to follow revolutionary slogans to their logical conclusion.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 210, 212).

The Struggle against National Self-Determination

The manifesto drafted by Trotsky which was adopted by the International Socialist Conference at Zimmerwald (Switzerland) in September 1915, recognised the right of self-determination of nations as an “indestructible principle”:

“The right of self-determination of nations must be the indestructible principle in the system of national relationships of peoples.”

(Manifesto of the International Socialist Conference at Zimmerwald, September 1915, in: V. I. Lenin: “Collective Works” , Volume 18, London; n .d.; p. 475)

The Polish delegation at the conference (consisting of Karl Radek, Adolf Warski and Jacob Ganetsky) opposed recognition of the right of self determination of nations, but submitted a declaration on the national question which, in fact, recognised the right of self-determination of Poland, since it declared that the international working class:

“Will break the fetters of national oppression and abolish all forms of foreign domination, and secure for the Polish people the possibility of all-sided, free development as an equal member in a League of Nations.”

(Bulletin of the International Socialist Committee in Berne, No. 2; September 27th., 1915; p. 15).

Lenin commented on this declaration:

“There is no material difference between these postulates and the recognition of the right of nations to self-determination, except that their political formulation is still more diffuse and vague than the majority of the programmes and resolutions of the Second International. Any attempt to express these ideas in precise political formulae . . will prove still more strikingly the error committed by the Polish Social-Democrats in repudiating the self-determination of nations”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”; in: “Selected Works’, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 279-80).

In October 1915 Karl Radek (under the pseudonym “Parabellum” wrote an article in the “Berner Tagwacht” (Berne Morning Watch entitled “Annexations and Social-Democracy,” in which, on behalf of the leadership of the Social-Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, he declared that:

“We are opposed to annexations.”

(K. Radek: “Annexations and Social-Democracy; cited in: V. I. Lenin: “The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 282).

but denounced the:

“Struggle for the non-existent right to self-determination.”

(K. Radek: ibid; p. 282).

Lenin replied to Radek in November 1915 in his article “The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”:

“Our ‘struggle against annexations’ will be meaningless and not at all terrifying to the social-patriots if we do not declare that the Socialist of an oppressing nation who does not conduct propaganda, both in peace time and war time, in favour of the freedom of secession for the oppressed nations is not a Socialist and not an internationalist, but a chauvinist.”‘

(V. I. Lenin: “The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, in: ‘Selected Works, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 287).

In November 1915 Nikolai Bukharin and Grigori Pyatakov sent to the Central Committee of the RSDLP the theses, “The Slogan of the Right of Nations to Self-Determination,” written by Bukharin. The theses concluded:

“We do not under any circumstances support the government of the Great Power that suppresses the rebellion or the outburst of indignatien of an oppressed nation; but at the same time, we ourselves do not mobilise the proletarian forces under the slogan ‘right of nations to self-determination’. In such a case, our task is to mobilise the forces of the proletariat of both nations (jointly with others) under the slogan ‘civil class war for socialism’, and conduct propaganda against the mobilisation of the forces under the slogan ‘right of nations to self-determination.'”

(N. Bukharin: “The slogan of the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, cited in: V.I. Lenin: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 379-80).

Lenin replied to Bukharin’s theses in March 1916 with theses of his own, entitled “The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”;

“Victorious socialism must achieve complete democracy and, consequently, not only bring about the complete equality of nations, but also give effect to the right of oppressed nations to self-determination, i.e. the right to free political secession. Socialist Parties which fail to prove by all their activities now, as well as during the revolution and after its victory, that they will free the enslaved nations and establish relations with them on the basis of free union — a free union is a lying phrase without right to secession — such parties are committing treachery to socialism”.

(V. I. Lenin: “The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 5; London; 1935 p. 267).

Rosa Luxemburg, writing under the psedonym “Junius” in the pamphlet, “The Crisis of German Social-Democracy,” published in April 1916, declared that wars of national liberation were impossible under imperialism:

“In the present imperialistic milieu there can be no wars of national self-defence.”

(R. Luxemburg: ‘The Crisis of German Social-Democracy,” in: “Rosa Luxemburg Speaks”; New York; 1970; p. 305).

Lenin commented in “The Pamphlet by Junius,” published in August 1916:

“National wars waged by colonial and semi-eolonial countries are not only possible but inevitable in the epoch of imperialism.

National wars must not be regarded as impossible in the epoch of imperialism even in Europe.

The postulate that ‘there can be no more national wars’ is obviously fallacious in theory. . . But this fallacy is also very harmful in a practical political sense; it gives rise to the stupid propaganda for ‘disarmament’, as if no other war but reactionary wars are possible; it is the cause of the still more stupid and downright reactionary indifference towards national movements. Such indifference becomes chauvinism when members of ‘Great’ European nations, i.e., nations which oppress a mass of small and colonial peoples, declare with a learned air that ‘there can be no more national wars.”’

(V. I. Lenin: “The Pamphlet by Junius”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 19; London 1942; p. 204, 205, 206).

In August 1916 Grigori Pyatakov wrote, under the pseudonyn “P. Kievsky,” an article entitled: “The Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination.” In this article, which was not published, Pyatakov denounced the slogan of the right of nations to self-determination on the grounds that:

“This demand leads directly to social-patriotism.”

(G. Pyatakov: “The Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self Determination, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “A Caricature of Marxism and ‘Imperialist Economism’” in Ibid; “Collected Works”, Volume 19; London 1942; p. 216).

Lenin replied to Pyatakov’s argument in a long article “A Caricature of Marxism and ‘lmperialist Economics,’” written in October 1916 but not published until 1924:

“In the present imperialist war, . . phrases about defence of the fatherland are deception of the people, for this war is not a national war. In a truly national war the words ‘defence of the fatherland’ are deception, and we are not opposed to such a war.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Caricature of Marxism and ‘Imperialist Economism”, in ibid.; p. 217).

Pyatakov insisted:

“With regard to the colonies, we confine ourselves to a negative slogan, i.e., . . “Get out of the colonies.'”

(G. Pyatakov: ibid.; p. 251)

And Lenin replied:

“Both the political and the economic content of the slogan ‘Get out of the colonies!” amounts to one thing. . Only: freedom of secession for the colonial nations; freedom to establish a separate state.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid; p. 252).

The theoretical basis of Pyatakov’s opposition to national self-determination is summarised in his declaration that:

“. . dualistic propaganda is substituted for the monistic action of the International.”

(G. Pyatakov: ibid.; p. 241).

To which Lenin replied:

“Is the actual condition of the workers in the oppressing nations the same as that of the workers in the oppressed nations from the standpoint of the national problem? No, they are not the same. . .That being the case, what is to be said about P. Kievsky’s phrase: the ‘monistic’ action of the International?

It is an empty, sonorous phrase, and nothing more.

In order that the action of the International, which in real life consists of workers who are divided into those belonging to oppressing nations and those belonging to oppressing nations, may be monistic action, propaganda must be carried on differently in each case.”

(V. I. Lenin: Ibid; p. 242-3)

This “dualistic propaganda” had already been described by Lenin:

“The Social-Democrats of the oppressing notions must demand the freedom of secession for the oppressed notions,. . The Social-Democrats of the oppressed nations, however, must put in the forefront the unity and the fusion of the workers of the oppressed nations with the workers of the oppressing nations.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Revolutionary Proletariat And the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 5; London 1935; p. 284)

Lenin’s summary of Pyatakov’s article was devastating:

“P. Kievsky. . totally fails to understand Marxism.
Kievsky does not advance a single correct argument. The only thing that is correct in his article, that is, if there are no mistakes in the figures, is the footnote in which he quotes some statistics about banks.”

(V. I. Lenin: A Caricature of Marxism and ‘Imperialist Economism'”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 19; London; 1942; p. 218, 262).

In this struggle between the advocates of the right of self-determination of nations and its opponents, Trotsky adopted a characteristically centrist position: hypocritical support for the slogan but without support for its essential content, the right of secession:

“Trotsky . . is body and soul for self-determination, but in his case too it is an idle phrase, for he does not demand freedom of secession for nations oppressed by the “fatherland” of the socialist of the given nationality.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The ‘Peace Programme”, in “Collected Works”, Volume 19 London 1942; p. 66).

“The Kautskyists hypocritically recognise self-determination – -in Russia this is the road taken by Trotsky and Martov. In words, both declare that they are in favour of self-determination, as Kautsky does. But in practice? Trotsky engages in his customary eclecticism. . . The prevailing hypocrisy remains unexposed, . .. namely, the attitude to be adopted towards the nation that is oppressed by ‘my’ nation. . . .

A Russian Social-Democrat who ‘recognises’ self-determination of nations . . without fighting for freedom of Secession for the notions oppressed by tsarism is really an imperialist and a lackey of tsarism.

Whatever the subjective ‘well-meaning’ intentions of Trotsky and Martov may be, they, by their evasions, objectively support Russian social-imperialism.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up’, in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 19; London; 1942; p. 305)

Trotsky’s Conciliationism

Lenin stood firmly for the organisational separation of revolutionary internationalism from both open and concealed (ie. Centrist) social-chauvinism:

“To keep united with opportunism at the present time means precisely to subjugate the working class to ‘its’ bourgeoisie, to make an alliance with it for the oppression of other nations and for the struggle for the privileges of a great nation; at the same time it means splitting the revolutionary proletariat of all countries.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘Socialism and War’, in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 18; London; n.d.; p. 230-1).

“We must declare the idea of unity with the Organisation Committee an illusion detrimental to the workers’ cause.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘And Now What?”, in: ibid.; p. 109).

“We shall not be for unity with Chkheidze’s fraction (as desired both by Trotsky, by the 0rgansation Committee, and by Plekhanov and Co.; . for this would mean to cover up and defend the ‘Nashe Dyelo.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to Aleksendro Kollontai, summer 1915, in: ibid.; p. 208).

In contrast to Lenin, Trotsky stood consistently for the unity of what he termed the “internationalist” groups, a category which included the concealed social-chauvinists of the Centre (the Organisation Committee, the Menshevik Duma fraction and the group around Trotsky).

At the beginning of 1915, “Nashe Slovo” addressed an appeal to the Bolshevik Central Committee and to the Menshevik Organisation Committee proposing a conference of all the groups which took a “negative attitude’ towards social-chauvinism. In its reply, dated March 1915, the Organisation Committee said:

‘To the conference must be invited the foreign representatives of all those party centres and groups which were . . present at the Brussels Conference of the International Socialist Bureau before the war.’

(Letter of Organisation Committee, March 12th., 1915, cited in: V. I. Lenin: The Question of the Unity of Internationalists”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 18; London; n.d.; p. 177).

Lenin commented:

“Thus, the Organisation Committee declines on principle to confer with the internationalists, since it wishes to confer also with the social-patriots (it is known that Plekhanov’s and Alexinsky’s policies were represented at Brussels).

We must not confer, it says, without the social-patriots, we must confer with them!”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 177, 178).

Nevertheless, Trotsky continued his efforts to bring about organisational unity between the Bolsheviks end the concealed social-chauvinists of the Centre. In June 1915 Trotsky wrote an Open Letter to the editors of the Bolshevik magazine “Kommunist”: published in No. 105 of “Nashe Slovo” in which he said:

“I am proud of the conduct of our Duma members (the Chkheidze group); I regard them as the most important agency of internationalist education of the proletariat in Russia, and for that very reason I deem it the task of every revolutionary Social-Democrat to extend to them every support and to raise their authority in the International.”

(L. Trotsky: Open Letter to the Editors of “Kommunist”, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 18; London; n.d., p. 435)

Lenin commented on Trotsky’s unprincipled conciliationism in various articles:

“The elements that are grouped around the ‘Nashe Slovo’ are vacillating between platonic sympathy for internationalism and a tendency for unity at any price with the “Nasha Zarya” and the Organisation Committee.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Conference of the Foreign Sections of the RSDLP”, in: Collected Works, Volume 18; London; n .d.; p.150).

“‘Nashe Slovo’ . . raises a revolt against social-nationalism while standing on its knees before it, since it fails to unmask the most dangerous defenders of the bourgeois current (like Kautsky); it does not declare war against opportunism but, on the contrary, passes it over in silence; it does not undertake, and does not point out, any real steps towards liberating socialism from its shameful patriotic captivity. By saying that neither unity nor a split with those who joined the bourgeoisie is imperative, the ‘Nashe Slovo’ practically surrenders to the opportunists.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Collapse of Platonic Internationalism”, in: ibid.; p.183).

“Trotsky always, entirely disagrees with the social-chauvinists in principle, but agrees with them in everything in practice.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘State of Affairs within Russian Social-Democracy”, in: Ibid.; p. 205-6).

“We shall not be for unity with Chkheidze’s fraction (As desired . .by Trotsky . .) for this would mean to cover up and defend the ‘Nashe Dyelo’…
Roland-Holst, as well as Rakovsky . .and Trotsky too, are in my judgment all most harmful ‘Kautskyists’, inasmuch as they are all, in one form or another, for unity with the opportunists, . . are embellishing opportunism, they all (each in his way) advance eclecticism instead of revolutionary Marxism.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letters to Aleksandra Kollontai, summer 1915, in: ibid.; p. 208, 209).

“In Russia Trotsky . . fights for unity with the opportunist and chauvinist group “Nashe Zarya.'”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘Socialism and War”, in: ibid.; p.232).

“Martov and Trotsky in Russia are causing the greatest harm to the labour movement by their insistence upon a fictitious unity, thus hindering, the now ripened imminent unification of the opposition in all countries and the creation of the Third International.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The Tasks of the Opposition in France”, in: ‘Collected Works”, Volume 19; London; 1942; p. 32).

“What are our differences with Trotsky?. . In brief — he is a Kautskyite, that is, he stands for unity with the Kautskyites in the International and with Chkheidze’s parliamentary group in Russia. We are absolutely against such unity.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to Henrietta Roland-Holst, Morch 8th., 1916, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 43; Moscow; 1969; p. 515-16).

“What a swine this Trotsky is — Left phrases and a bloc with the Right. . . He ought to be exposed.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to Aleksendra Kollontai, February 17th., 1917, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 35; Moscow, 1966; p. 285).

Kamenev’s Defence

In November 1915 eleven leading members of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, including five deputies, were arrested at a conference near Petrograd and charged with being members of an organisation aiming at the overthrow of the existing political order.

At their trial Lev Kamenev and two of the deputies declared in their defence that they did not accept the policy of the Party in so for as it enjoined members to work for the defeat of Russia in the war.

Lenin commented:

“The trial of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Fraction . . has proven first, that this advanced detachment of revolutionary Social-Democracy in Russia did not show sufficient firmness at the trial. . To attempt to show solidarity with the social-patriot, Mr. Yordansky, as did Comrade Rosenfeld (i.e., Kamenev –Ed.) or to point out one’s disagreement with the Central Committee, is an incorrect method; this is impermissible from the standpoint of revolutionary Social-Democracy.”

(V. I. Lenin: “What has the Trial of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Fraction Proven?”, in: “Works”, Volume 18; Moscow; n.d.; p. 151)

1916: The Attempt to Introduce Anarchist Ideas into the Party

In 1916 Nikolai Bukharin wrote, under the pseudonym “Nota Bene,” an article entitled ‘The Imperialist Predatory State” in the magazine “The Youth International” (organ of the Bureau of the International League of Socialist Youth Organisations) , in which he said:

“It is quite a mistake to seek the difference between Socialists and anarchists in the fact that the former are in favour of the state while the latter are against it. The real difference is that revolutionary Social-Democracy desires to organise social production on new lines, centralised, . . whereas decentralised, anarchist production would mean retrogression. . . .Social-Democracy. . must now more than ever emphasise its hostility to the state in principle.”

(N. Bukharin: “The Imperialist Predatory State”, cited in: V. I. Lenin; ‘The Youth International”, in: Selected Works”, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 243, 244).

To which Lenin replied:

“This is wrong. The author raises the question of the difference in the attitude of Socialists and anarchists towards the state, But he does not answer this question, but another, namely the difference in the attitude of Socialists and anarchists towards the economic foundation of future society. . . The Socialists are in favour of utilising the present state and its institutions in the struggle for the emancipation of the working class, and they also urge the necessity of utilising the State for the peculiar form of transition from capitalism to socialism. This transitional form is the dictatorship of the proletariat, which is also a state.
The anarchists want to ‘abolish’ the state, to ‘blow it up’.

The Socialists . . hold that the state will die out.
Comrade Nota-Bene’s . . remark about the ‘state idea’ is entirely muddled. It is un-Marxian and un-socialistic.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Youth International’, in: ibid.; p. 243, 244).

In April 1929 Stalin commented:

“The well-known theoretical controversy which flared up in 1916 between Lenin and Bukharin on the question of the state . . is important in order to reveal Bukharin’s inordinate pretensions to teach Lenin, as well as the roots of his theoretical unsoundness on such important questions as the dictatorship of the proletariat. . . .Bukharin landed in a semi-Anarchist puddle.

In Bukharin’s opinion the working class should be hostile in principle to the state as such, including the working-class state.”

(J.V. Stalin: “The Right Deviation in the CPSU (B.)”, in: “Leninism”; London; 1942; p. 276, 277).

1916-1917: Trotsky Goes to America

In September 1916 the French authorities, at the request of the tsarist government, banned “Nashe Slovo” and deported Trotsky to Spain. Although he did not participate in any political activity in Spain, after a few days he was arrested by the Spanish police and, in December, deported to the United States. He arrived in New York in January 1917.

The Assassination of Rasputin

During the war great influence was exercised over the tsar and tsarina by the monk Grigori Rasputin. In December 1916 a group of nobles, headed by the Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich, organised the assassination of Rasputin, believing that his influence was being used against the war effort.

1917: Trotsky in America

In January 1917 Trotsky landed in New York, and joined the staff of a Russian magazine published there under the editorship of Nikolai Bukharin and Aleksandra Kollontai, -“Novy Nir” (New World). Typically, he formed a bloc with the right-wing members of the staff against the Left:

“Trotsky arrived, and this scoundrel at once ganged up with the Right wing of ‘Novy Mir’ against the Left Zimmerwaldists!! That’s it!! That’s Trotsky for you!! Always true to himself – twists, swindles, poses as a Left, helps the Right, so long as he can.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to Inessa Armand, February 19th., 1917, in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 35; Moscow; 1966; p.288)

In “Navy Mir,” Trotsky continued to put forward his theory of “permanent revolution,” arguing that if the German working class failed to rise along with the Russian working class, the workers’ government of a revolutionary Russia must wage war against the German ruling class:

“If the conservative social-patriotic organisation should prevent the German working class from rising against its ruling classes in the coming epoch, then of course the Russian working class would defend its revolution with arms in its hands. The revolutionary workers’ government would wage war against the Hohenzollerns, summoning the brother proletariat of Germany to rise against the common enemy.”

(L. Trotsky: Article in “Novy Mir”, March 21st., 1917, cited in: L. Trotsky: “History of the Russian Revolution”; Volume 1; London; 1967; p. 438).

The “February Revolution”

From the first days of 1917 strikes spread throughout the main cities of tsarist Russia. By March 10th; these had developed in Petrograd into a political general strike, with the demonstrating workers carrying Bolshevik slogans: “‘Down with the tsar!,” “Down with the war!” and “Bread!”

The practical work of the Bolshevik Party in Russia at this time was directed by the Bureau of the Central Committee, headed by Vyacheslav Molotov. On March 11th. the Bureau issued a manifesto calling for an armed uprising against tsarism and the formation of a Provisional-Government.

On March 12th; an elected Soviet of Workers’ Deputies came into being in Petrograd as an action committee to carry out the uprising and in the following days Soviets were established in Moscow and other cities. On March 13th, the Petrograd Soviet revived its “Izvestia” (“News”).

When the tsar ordered troops to suppress the rising by force, the soldiers — mostly peasant in uniform — refused to obey the orders of their officers and joined the revolutionary workers, thus bringing into being a revolutionary alliance of workers and peasants. The workers and soldiers now began to disarm the police and to arm themselves with their weapons. On March 14th, the Petrograd Soviet was expanded into a “Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.”

On March 15th. the tsar, Nicholas II, abdicated.

The revolution of March 1917 (known as the “February Revolution” under the old-style calendar) had been accomplished by the workers and peasants. Its character was that of a bourgeois-democratic revolution directed against the tsarist autocracy.

The Formation of the Provisional Government

As soon as the capitalist class realised that the bourgeois-democratic revolution was unavoidable, they proceeded to manoeuvre in an effort to minimise its scope — and above all to prevent its development into a socialist revolution.

On March 12th., the day after the tsar had dissolved the Fourth State Duma, its liberal capitalist members set up an “Executive Committee of the Imperial Duma,” headed by the President of the Duma, the monarchist landlord Mikhail Rodzyanko.

On March 15th, this Executive Committee set up a “Provisional-Government,” headed by Prince Georgi Lvov as Prime Minister and including among its Ministers Pavel Miliukov (leader of the Constitutional Democrats) as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aleksendr Guchkov (leader of the Octobrists) as Minister of War, and Aleksandr Karensky (a prominent Socialist-Revolutionary) as Minister of Justice.

The capitalist class endeavoured for a few days to save the monarchy, by persuading the tsar to abdicate in favour of his brother Mikhail. But this proved untenable in view of popular feeling against the monarchy, and Mikhail abdicated on the following day, March 16th.

The capitalists then turned their efforts to attempting to turn Russia into a capitalist parliamentary republic.

On March 17th. the new government issued a manifesto “To the Citizens”; setting out its programme:

“1. Complete and immediate amnesty for all political and religious offences, including terrorist acts, military revolts, agrarian insurrections, etc.

2.Freedom of speech, press, assembly, union, strikes, and the extension of all political liberties to persons in the military service within the limits required by considerations of technical military necessity.

3. Abolition of all feudal estate and national restrictions.

4. Immediate preparation for the convocation of a Constituent Assembly on the basis of universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage. This Constituent Assembly shall determine the form of State and the constitution of the country.

5. Formation of a people’s militia with elected officers subordinated to the organs of local self-government and taking the place of the police.

6. Elections to the local organs of self-government on the basis of universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage.

7. The troops who participated in the revolutionary movement are not to be disarmed and are to remain in Petrograd.

8. While maintaining a rigid military discipline in the service, all obstacles are to be eliminated preventing soldiers from exercising the public rights enjoyed by other citizens.”

(Manifesto of Provisional Government, May 17th., 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: Collected Works, Volume 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 348)

Lenin commented:

“In its first proclamation to the people (March 17), the government uttered not a word about the main and basic question of the present moment, peace. It keeps secret the predatory treaties made by tsarism with England, France, Italy, Japan, etc. It wishes to conceal from the people the truth about its war programme, and the fact that it is for war, for victory over Germany. . . . The new government cannot give the people bread. And no amount of freedom will satisfy masses suffering hunger…

The entire Manifesto of the new government . . .inspires me with the greatest distrust, for it consists only of promises, and does not carry into life any of the most essential measures that could and should be fully realised right now”

(V. I. Lenin: Theses of March 17th, 1917; in ibid; p.24, 25).

The Role of the Petrograd Soviet

Although there was a large spontaneous element in the “February Revolution,” the Bolsheviks, played a leading role in the uprising itself. Despite this, in the majority of cases a majority of the members of the Soviets and of their Executive Committees were Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries; the Bolsheviks were, in the period following the “February Revolution” in a small minority in most of the Soviets, including those of Petrograd and Moscow.

A number of factors were responsible for this position: the industrial working class had been diluted during the war by large numbers of peasants from the villages, while Bolshevik leaders such as Lenin and Stalin were in exile.

As a result of this, on March 18th. the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet issued a proclamation calling upon the workers to support the capitalist Provisional Government. Lenin commented:

“The proclamation issued by the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies … is a most remarkable document. It proves that the Petrograd proletariat, at the time it issued its proclamation, at any rate, was under the preponderant influence of the petty-bourgeois politicians.

The proclamation declares that every democrat must ‘support’ the new government and that the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies requests and authorises Kerensky to participate in the Provisional Government. . .These steps are a classic example of betrayal of the cause of the revolution and the cause of the proletariat.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Letters from Afar”‘, in: ibid.; p. 41, 42).

At the same time the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet set up a “Contact Commission,” headed by Aleksandr Skobolev, the official aim of which was to maintain contact with, and “control”, the Provisional Government.

Lenin summed up the political situation resulting from the February Revolution in the following words:

“The first stage of the revolution . . , owing to the insufficient class consciousness and organisation of the proletariat, led to the assumption of power by the bourgeoisie.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Tasks of the Proletariat in the Present Revolution”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 6; London; 1946; p. 22).

The Political Line Of the Party in March 1917

The victory of the “February Revolution” created a new political situation in Russia which called for a new political line on the part of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party.

As Stalin expressed it in November 1924:

“This was the greatest turning point in the history of Russia and an unprecedented turning point in the history Of our Party. The old, pre-revolutionary platform Of direct overthrow of the government was clear and definite, but it was no longer suitable for the new conditions of struggle . . Under the now conditions of the struggle, the Party hod to adopt a new orientation. The Party (its majority) groped its way towards this new orientation.”

(J. V. Stalin “Trotskyism or Leninism?”; in Works Volume 6; Moscow; 1953); p. 347, 348).

At the time of the “February Revolution” the Bureau of the Control Committee of the RSDLP, centred in Petrograd, was led by Vyacheslav Molotov.

On March 18th., 1917 the Bureau issued, in the name of the Central Committee, a manifesto to “All Citizens of Russia,” calling for the formation of a Provisional Revolutionary Government.

“Citizens! The fortresses of Russian tsarism have.. fallen. . . . It is the task of the working class and the revolutionary army to create a Provisional Revolutionary Government which is to head the new republican order now in the process of birth.

The Provisional Revolutionary Government must take it upon itself to create temporary laws defending all the rights and liberties of the people, to confiscate the lands of the monasteries and the landowners, the crown lands and the appanages, to introduce the 8-hour working day and to convoke a Constituent Assembly on the basis a universal, direct and equal suffrage, with no discrimination as to sex, nationality or religion, and with the secret ballot.
The Provisional Revolutionary Government must take it upon itself to secure provisions for the population and the army; for this purpose it must confiscate all the stores prepared by the former government and the municipalities…..
It is the task of the people and its revolutionary government to suppress all counter-revolutionary plots against the people.

It is the immediate and urgent task of the Provisional Revolutionary Government to establish relations with the proletariat of the belligerent countries for the purpose 0f . . terminating the bloody war carnage imposed upon the enslaved peoples against their will.

The workers of shops and factories, also the rising troops, must immediately elect their representatives to the Provisional Revolutionary Government. . .
Forward under the red banner of the revolution!

Long live the Democratic Republic!
Long live the revolutionary working class!
Long live the revolutionary people and the insurgent army!”

(Manifesto of CC, RSDLP, March 18th., 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”; Volume 20, Book 2; London; 1929; p. 378-79).

The manifesto was published in the first issue of “Pravda,” which reappeared on the same day.

Among the Bolsheviks liberated from exile in Siberia by the “February Revolution” were Josef Stalin and Lev Kamenev, both of whom returned to Petrograd. Kamenev joined the editorial board of “Pravda” on March 23rd., Stalin two days later on March 28th.

Kamenev immediately upheld a chauvinist line on the war, contending like the Menshevik leaders that with the victory of the “February Revolution” the working class should adopt a position of “revolutionary defencism.” He wrote in “Pravda” of March 28th:

“The soldiers, the peasants and the workers of Russia who went to war obeying the pull of the now overthrown Tsar. . have freed themselves; the Tsar’s banners have been replaced by the red banners of the revolution!. . .

When an army faces an army, it would be the most absurd policy to propose to one of them to lay down arms and go home. This . .would be a policy of slavery which a free people would repudiate with scorn. No, we will firmly hold our posts, we will answer a bullet by a bullet and a shell with a shell. . . .

A revolutionary soldier or officer, having overthrown the yoke of tsarism, will not vacate a trench to leave it to a German soldier or officer who has not mustered up courage to overthrow the yoke of his own government. We must not allow any disorganisation of the military forces of the revolution! ….

Russia is bound by alliances to England, France and other countries. It cannot act on the questions of peace without them.”

(L. Kamenev: “Without Secret Diplomacy”; cited in “Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 2; London; 1929, p. 379; 380).

Stalin rejected this policy of chauvinist “revolutionary defencism.” He wrote in “Pravda” on the following day, March 29th :

“The present war is an imperialist war. Its principal aim is the seizure (annexation) of foreign, chiefly agrarian, territories by capitalistically developed states.. . .

It would be deplorable if the Russian revolutionary democracy, which was able to overthrow the detested tsarist regime, were to succumb to the false alarm raised by the imperialist bourgeoisie”.

(J. V. Stalin: “The War”, in: “Works”; Volume 3; Moscow; 1953; p.5; 7).

The majority of the Bureau, headed by Stalin and Molotov, correctly saw the Provisional Government as an organ of the capitalist class, and the Soviets as the embryo of a Provisional Government. A resolution of the Bureau published in “Pravda” on April 8th declared:

“The Provisional Government set up by the moderate bourgeois classes of society and associated in interests with Anglo-French capital is incapable of solving the problems raised by the revolution. Its resistance to the further extension and deepening of the revolution is being paralysed only by the growth of the revolutionary forces themselves and by their organisation. Their rallying centre must be the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies in the cities and the Soviets of Peasants’ and Agricultural Workers’ Deputies in the countryside as the embryo of a revolutionary government, prepared in the further process of development, at a definite moment of the revolution, to establish the full power of the proletariat in alliance with the revolutionary democracy.”

(Resolution of Bureau of CC, RSDLP; cited in: N. Popov: “Outline History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union”‘, Part 1; London; n .d.; p. 353-54).

However, in “groping” towards a correct political line in the new situation, the majority of the Bureau made a tactical error. Instead of putting forward the clear slogan of “All power to the Soviets!’, they adopted a policy of “putting pressure on the Provisional Government” to perform actions which, as an organ of the capital class, it was incapable of doing:

“The solution is to bring pressure on the Provisional Government to make it declare its consent to start peace negotiations irnmediately.

The workers, soldiers and peasants must arrange meetings and demonstrations and demand that the Provisional Government shall come out openly and publicly in an effort to induce all the belligerent powers to start peace negotiations immediately, on the basis of recognition of the right of nations to self-determination.”

(J. V. Stalin: ibid.; p. 8).

On which Lenin commented forthrightly the day after his return to Russia:

“The “Pravda” demands that the government renounce annexations. To demand that a government of capitalists renounce annexations is balderdash.”

(V. I. Lenin Speech at a Caucus of the Bolshevik Members of the All-Russian Conference of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, April 17, 1917, in Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 98).

This incorrect tactical line corresponded closely with the tactical line of Kamenev, who said:

“Our slogan is — pressure on the Provisional Government with the aim of forcing it openly, before world democracy, and immediately to come forth with an attempt to induce all the belligerent countries forthwith to start negotiations concerning the means of stopping the World War.”

(L. Kamenev: “Without Secret Diplomacy”, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”; Volume 20, Book 2; London; 1929; p. 380).

Stalin himself analysed this mistaken tactical policy in November 1924:

“The Party (its majority) groped its way towards this new orientation. It adopted the policy of pressure on the Provisional Government through the Soviets on the question of peace and did not venture to step forward at once from the old slogan of the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry to the new slogan of power to the Soviets. The aim of this halfway policy was to enable the Soviets to discern the actual imperialist nature of the Provisional Government on the basis of the concrete questions of peace and in this way to wrest the Soviets from the Provisional Government. But this was a profoundly mistaken position, for it gave rise to pacifist illusions, brought grist to the mill of defencism, and hindered the revolutionary education of the masses. At that time I shared this mistaken position with the Party comrades and fully abandoned it only in the middle of April, when I associated myself with Lenin’s theses.”

(J. V. Stalin: “Trotskyism or Leninism” , in: Works”, Volume 3; Moscow; 1953; p. 348).

Lenin Returns to Russia

As soon as the “February Revolution” broke out, Lenin began attempts to return to Russia. The governments of the Allied powers refused him permission to travel through their countries but eventually, as a result of negotiations between Fritz Platten, Secretary of the Swiss Socialist Party, and the German government, 32 Russian political emigres (19 of which were Bolsheviks, among them Lenin) were permitted to travel through Germany in a sealed railway carriage accorded extra-territorial rights. The German government, of course, calculated that the return of these revolutionaries to Russia would be detrimental to the Russian war effort.

Lenin arrived in Petrograd on the evening of April 16th; and was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of workers and soldiers.

On the following day he reported to the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet on the circumstances of his journey through Germany.

Lenin’s “April Theses”

Later on April 17th., Lenin spoke at a meeting of the Bolshevik delegates to the First Congress of Soviets, presenting his theses on the new situation in Russia following the “February Revolution” — the “April Theses.” The main points of these theses were as follows:

1. The “February Revolution” has brought into being the democratic dictatorship of the working class and peasantry in the shape of the Soviets of Workers’and Soldiers’ Deputies.

“The Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies’ — here you have ‘revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry’ already realised in life.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Letters on Tactics”; in ‘Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 120).

2. But alongside the Soviets there came into being out of the “February Revolution” the Provisional Government, representing the interests of the capitalist class.

‘The Provisional Government of Lvov and Co. is a dictatorship . . based . . on seizure by force accomplished by a definite class, namely, the bourgeoisie.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution”., in: ibid.; p. 133).

3. Thus, out of the “February Revolution” has arisen a temporary condition of dual power, of two rival governments.

“What has made our revolution so strikingly unique is that it has established dual power . . . What constitutes dual power? The fact that by the side of the Provisional Government, the government of the bourgeoisie, there has developed another, as yet weak; embryonic, but undoubtedly real and growing government — the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On Dual Power”, in: ibid.; p. 115).

“There is not the slightest doubt but that such a combination cannot last long. There can be no two powers in a state. One of them is bound to dwindle to nothing, and the entire Russian bourgeoisie is already straining all its energies everywhere and in every possible way in an endeavour to weaken, to set aside, to reduce to nothing the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, to create one single power for the bourgeoisie.'”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution”; in: ibid.;p. 133)

4. Despite its weakness, it is the democratic dictatorship of the working class and peasantry (the Soviet embryonic government) which alone at present possesses effective machinery of force (in the shape of the armed workers and revolutionary soldiers).

“In Petrograd the power is actually in the hands of the workers and soldiers; the new government does not use violence against them, and cannot do so because there is no police, there is no army seperated from the people, there is no all-powerful officialdom placed above the people.”

(V. I. Lenin “‘Letters on Tactics”, in ibid.; p. 121).

5. Nevertheless, the leaders of the Soviets are placing this machinery of force at the disposal of the Provisional Government, and seeking to liquidate the democratic dictatorship of the working-class and peasantry.

“By direct agreements with the bourgeois Provisional Government and by a series of actual concessions to the latter, the Soviet power has surrendered and is surrendering its position to the bourgeoisie.”

(V. I. Lenin “On Dual Power, in ibid.; p. 116).

6. This has been possible because of the inadequate class consciousness and organisation of the workers and peasants, which has been influenced by petty-bourgeois ideological pressure:

“The reason (i.e., for the surrender of power to the capitalist class — Ed.) is in the lack of organisation and class consciousness among the workers and peasants.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 116).

“Russia is now in a state of ebullition. Millions of people, politically asleep for ten years, politically crushed by the terrible pressure of tsarism and slave labour for landowners and manufacturers, have awakened and thrown themselves into politics. Who are these millions of people? Mostly small proprietors, petty bourgeois. . . .A gigantic petty-bourgeois wave has swept over everything, has overwhelmed the class-conscious proletariat not only numerically but also ideologically.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution”, in: ibid.; p. 1321).

7. After the “February Revolution” the war remains an imperialist war, and the effort of the Provisional Government remains a reactionary one which the Party must continue to oppose.

“Under the new government of Lvov and Co., owing to the capitalist nature of this government, the war on Russia’s part remains a predatory imperialist war.”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech at a Caucus of the Bolshevik Members of the All-Russian Conference of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, April 17, 1917, in Ibid; p. 95).

8. The Party must not, therefore, make the slightest concession to “revolutionary defencism” and must dissociate itself from all who foster revolutionary defencism.”

“In our attitude towards the war not the slightest concession must be made to ‘revolutionary defencism.'”

(V. I. Lenin; ibid.; p. 95).

9. The capitalist Provisional Government is incapable of solving the fundamental social problems of the workers and poor peasantry.

‘The government of the Octobrists and Cadets, of the Guchkovs and Miliukovs, could give neither peace nor bread, nor freedom, even if it were sincere in its desire to do so.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Letters from Afar”, in: ibid., p. 34)

10. Therefore the revolution must be carried forward to a new stage by the working class in alliance with, and leading, the poor peasantry.

“The present situation in Russia . . represents transition from the first stage of the revolution . . to its second stage which is to place power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest strata of the peasantry.”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech at a Caucus of the Bolshevik Members of the All-Russian Conference of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies,.April 17, 1917, in Ibid.; p. 97).

11. The Provisional Government needs to be overthrown, but it cannot be overthrown at present.

“The Provisional Government . . should be overthrown, for it is an oligarchical, bourgeois, and not a people’s government. . it cannot be overthrown now; . . generally speaking, it cannot be ‘overthrown’ by any ordinary method, for it rests on the ‘support’ given to the bourgeoisie by the second government — the Soviet of ‘Workers ‘ Deputies, which is the only possible revolutionary government directly expressing the mind and the will of the majority of workers and peasants.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On Dual Power”, in: ibid; p. 116-17).

12. The next step in the revolution is, therefore, to convince the working class and poor peasantry to throw off the domination of the Soviets by the compromising petty bourgeois elements and to transform them into their organs of power.

“Any one who, right now, immediately and irrevocably, separates the proletarian elements of the Soviets . . from the petty bourgeois elements, provides a correct expression of the interests of the movement.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Letters on Tactics’, in: ibid.; p. 126).

“It must be explained to the masses that the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies is the only possible form of revolutionary government and that, therefore, our task is, while this government is submitting to the influence of the bourgeoisie, to present a patient, systematic, and persistent analysis of its errors and tactics, an analysis especially adapted to the practical needs of the masses.

While we are in the minority, we carry on the work of criticism and of exposing errors, advocating all along the necessity of transferring the entire power of state to the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies.”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech at a Caucus of the Bolshevik Members of the All-Russian Conference of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, April 17, 1917, in: ibid; p. 99).

13. So long as the Soviets control an effective machinery of force and the Proviosional Government does not, this process of transferring all power to the Soviets may be accomplished peacefully.

“The essence of the situation (i.e., from March 12th. to July 17th., 1917 — Ed.) was that the arms were in the hands of the people, and that no coercion was exercised over the people from without. That is what opened up and ensured a peaceful path for the development of the revolution. The slogan ‘All power to the Soviets’ was a slogan for a peaceful development of the revolution, which was possible between March 12 and July 17.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On Slogans”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 6; London; 19216; p. 167-68).

14. Thus, the former slogan ‘Turn the imperialist war into civil war” is now for the time being incorrect:

“We advocated the transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war — are we not going back on ourselves? But the first civil war in Russia has ended.
. . In this transitional period, as long as the armed force is in the hands of the soldiers, as long as Miliukov and Guchkov have not resorted to violence, this civil war, as far as we are concerned, turns into peaceful, prolonged and patient class propaganda. We discard this slogan for the time being, but only for the time being.”

(V. I. Lenin: Report on the Current Situation”, in: ibid.; p. 95, 96).

15. The aim of transferring all power to the Soviets is to set up a Russian Soviet Republic, a state of the working class and peasantry.

“Not a parliamentary republic – a return to it from the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies would be a step backward – but a republic of Soviets of Workers’, Agricultural Labourers’ and Peasants’ Deputies througout the land, from top to bottom.”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech at a Caucus of the Bolshevik Members of the All-Russian Conference of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, April 17th., 1917, in: “Collected Works”, Volume. 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 99).

16. The formation of this Soviet Republic will be a major step in the direction of socialism: however, its immediate programme will not be the introduction of socialism, but the establishment of control by the Soviets over production and distribution:

“The Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies must seize power not for the purpose of building an ordinary bourgeois republic, nor for the purpose of introducing Socialism immediately. The letter could not be accomplished.
. . They must seize power in order to take the first concrete steps towards introducing Socialism.”

(V. I. Lenin: Report On the Political Situation, 7th. Conference of RSDLP, in: ibid.; p. 283)

“Not the ‘introduction’ of Socialism as an immediate task, but the immediate placing of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies in control of social production and distribution of goods.”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech at a Caucus of Bolshevik Members of the All-Russian Conference of the Soviets of Workers’ end Soldiers’ Deputies, April 17th., 1917,in: ibid.; p. 101).

together with:

“Abolition of the police, the army, the bureaucracy.
All officers to be elected and to be subject to recall at any time, their salaries not to exceed the average wage of a competent worker. .
Confiscation of all private lands.
Nationalisation of all lands in the country, and management of such lands by local Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ and Peasants’ Deputies. A separate organisation of Soviets of Deputies of the poorest peasants. Creation of model agricultural establishments out of large estates. . . . . .
Immediate merger of all the banks in the country into one general national bank, over which the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies should have control.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On the Tasks of the Proletariat in the Present Revolution”, in: ibid.; p. 108).

17. The term “social-democratic” has been so brought into disrepute by the social-chauvinists that the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party should change its name to the Russian Communist Party.

“We must call ourselves the Communist Party — just as Marx and Engels called themselves Communists….
The majority . . of the Social-Democratic leaders are betraying Socialism…..
The masses are distracted, baffled, deceived by their leaders…..
Should we aid and abet that deception by retaining the old and worn-out party name, which is as decayed as the Second International? . .
It is high time to cast off the soiled shirt, it is high time to put on clean linen.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution”, in: ibid.; p. 154, 156, 157).

18. The “Zimmerwald International”‘ has already broken down as a result of its persistent centrism; the Party must withdraw from it (except for purposes of information) and found a new revolutionary Third International.

‘The chief fault of the Zimmerwald International, the cause of its breakdown (for from a political and ideological viewpoint it has already broken down), was its vacillation, its indecision, when it came to the most important practical end all-determining question of breaking completely with the social-chauvinists and the old social-chauvinist International. . .

We must break with this International immediately. We ought to remain in Zimmerwald only to gather information.

It is precisely we who must found, right now, without delay, a new, revolutionary proletarian International.”

(V. I. Lenin ibid.; p. 151, 152).

To sum up, Lenin held that, politically, the “February Revolution” was a bourgeois-democratic revolution which transferred power from the tsarist autocracy to the dual power of the democratic dictatorship of the working class and peasantry (in the shape of the Soviets) and of the capitalist class (in the shape of the Provisional Government). Politically, therefore, the ‘February Revolution” represented the completion of the bourgeois-democratic revolution:

“Before the March revolution of 1917, state power in Russia was in the hands of one old class, namely, the feudal noble landlord class, headed by Nicholas Romanov.
After that revolution, state power is in the hands of another class, a new one, namely, the bourgeoisie….
The passing of state power from one class to another is the first, the main, the basic principle of a revolution, both in the strictly scientific and in the practical meaning of that term.
To that extent, the bourgeois or the bourgeois democratic, revolution in Russia is completed.
But at this point we hear the noise of objectors, who readily call themselves ‘old Bolsheviks’ : Haven’t we always maintained, they say, that a bourgeois-democratic revolution is culminated only in a ‘revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’? . . . .
The Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies’ –here you have ‘revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry’ already realised in life.”

(V. I Lenin: ‘Letters on Tactics’ in: ibid.; p. 119, 120)

Economically and socially, however, particularly in so far as the agrarian revolution (the transfer of the land to the working peasantry) is concerned, the “February Revolution” did not complete the bourgeois-democratic revolution, Economically and socially, the bourgeois-democratic revolution was not completed until the “October Revolution”, the political content of which was proletarian-socialist.

“Is the agrarian revolution, which is a phase of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, completed? On the contrary, is it not a fact that it has not yet been?”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 119-120).

“The bourgeois-democratic content of the revolution means purging the social relations (systems and institutions) of the country of mediavalism, serfdom, feudalism. . . .
‘We solved the problems (i.e., economic and social problems — Ed.) of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in passing, as a ‘by-product’ of the main and real proletarian-revolutionary socialist work.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Fourth Anniversary of the October Revolution”; in: “Selected Works”; Volume 6; London; 1946; p. 501; 503.

Lenin thus maintained that the Bolshevik strategy and tactics relating to the first, bourgeois-democratic stage of the revolutionary process in Russia had been confirmed by the “February Revolution”, but in a “more multicoloured” Way than could have been anticipated:

“The Bolsheviks’ slogans and ideas have been generally confirmed by history; but as to the concrete situation, things have turned out to be different, more original, more unique, more multicoloured than could have been anticipated by any one.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Letters on Tactics”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 120).

Trotsky and the “Ideological Rearmament” of the Bolshevik Party

After the “October Revolution” the question naturally arose among Trotsky’s disciples as to how it had come about that the socialist revolution in Russia had been brought about in accordance with a political line advanced by Lenin, who had consistently opposed Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution.”

Trotsky’s answer was simple, if completely mythical: in May 1917 the Bolshevik Party, on Lenin’s initiative, had “rearmed itself” ideologically by accepting Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution”; thus history had “confirmed” the correctness of Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution”:

“Bolshevism under the leadership of Lenin (though not without internal struggle) accomplished its ideological rearmanent on this most important question in the spring of 1917, that is, before the seizure of power.”

(L. Trotsky: Note in “The Year 1905;”(January 1922), cited in: L. Trotsky: ‘The Permanent Revolution”; New York; 1970; p. 236).

“Precisely in the period between January 9 and the October strike (in 1905 — Ed.) the author formed those opinions, which later received the name: ‘theory of the permanent revolution’ . . . . .
This appraisal was confirmed as completely correct, though after a lapse of twelve years.”

(L. Trotsky: Forward to “The Year 1905” (January 1922), cited in: L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 235).

“I by no means consider that in my disagreements with the Bolsheviks I was wrong on all points.. . .
I consider that my assessment of the motive forces of the revolution was absolutely right.. . .
My polemical articles against the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks . . devoted to an analysis of the internal forces of the revolution and its prospects . . I could republish even now without amendment, since they fully and completely coincide with the position of our Party, beginning with 1917.”

(L. Trotsky: Letter to N.S. Olminsky, December 1921 cited in: N. S. Olminsky: Foreword to “Lenin on Trotsky” (1925), cited in: J. V. Stalin: Reply to the Discussion on the Report an “The Social–Democratic Deviation in Our Party’, l5th Conference of CPSU (B.), November 3rd., 1926; in “Works”;, Volume 3; Moscow; 1954;p. 349-50).

In fact, of course, Lenin took pains to dissociate himself from Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution” after his return to Russia in April 1917:

“Trotskyism: ‘No Tsar but a workers’ government’. This, surely is wrong.”

(V. I. Lenin: Report on the Political Situation, Petrograd City Conference of the RSDLP, April 27th, 1917, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 1; London;
1929, p. 207).

“Had we said: ‘No Tsar, but a Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ — it would have meant a leap over the petty bourgeoisie.”

(V.I. Lenin: Concluding Remarks in Connection with the Report on the Political Situation, 7th. Conference of the RSDLP, May 7th., 1917, in: ibid.; p. 287).

Lenin did not put forward in April 1917 the strategy of direct advance to the dictatorship of the working class (in alliance with the poor peasantry) as a corrected strategy for the realisation of the bourgeois-democratic revolution.

On the contrary, the bourgeois-democratic revolution, as the first stage of the revolutionary process in Russia, had already been realised, politically, in the “February Revolution.” The strategy of direct advance to the dictatorship of the working class (in alliance with the poor peasantry) was put forward as a new strategy for the new situation following the “February Revolution,” a new strategy for the second stage of the revolutionary process.

As Lenin expressed it in his “April Theses”:

“The present situation in Russia. . .represents a transition from the first stage of the revolution to its second stage which is to place power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest strata of the peasantry.”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech at a Caucus of the Bolshevik Members of the All-Russian Conference of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, April 17th., 1917, in: ibid.; p. 97).

Trotsky’s myth — that Lenin put forward in April 1917 a “corrected” strategy for the realisation of the bourgeois–democratic revolution similar to that embodied in Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution” — is based on a denial of the fact that the ‘February Revolution” constituted, politically, a bourgeois-democratic revolution.

In his “History of the Russian Revolution,” Trotsky admits this fact:

‘The insurrection triumphed. But to whom did it hand over the power snatched from the monarchy? We come here to the central problem of the February revolution. Why and how did the power turn up in the hands of the liberal bourgeoisie?”

(L. Trotsky: “History of the Russian Revolution”, Volume 1; London; 1967; p. 155).

But in his “The Permanent Revolution,” Trotsky deliberately confuses the political bourgeois-democratic revolution of March with the bourgeois-democratic revolutionary economic and social changes that followed the revolution of November in order to present the latter as a “bourgeois-democratic revolution” which resulted in the dictatorship of the proletariat:

‘The bourgeois-democratic revolution was realised during the first period after October. . But, as we know, it was not realised in the form of a democratic dictator-ship (i.e., of the working class and peasantry –but in the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat.. . . .The two lines, the ‘permanent’ and Lenin’s . . were completely fused by the October Revolution.”

(L. Trotsky: “The Permanent Revolution”; New York; 1970; p. 229, 234).

In November 1926 Stalin was justifiably sarcastic about Trotsky’s claim that in May 1917 the Party had “rearmed itself” with Trotsky’s theory of ‘permanent revolution”:

‘Trotsky cannot but know that Lenin fought against the theory of permanent revolution to the end of his life. But that does not worry Trotsky.
It turns out . . that the theory of permanent revolution ‘fully and completely coincided with the position of our Party, beginning with 1917’. . ..
But …how could Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution have coincided with the position of our Party when it is known that our Party, in the person of Lenin, combated this theory all the time? . .
Either our Party did not have a theory of its own, and was later compelled by the course of events to accept Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution; or it did have a theory of its own, but that theory was imperceptibly ousted by Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, ‘beginning with 1917’. . . .
Surely the Bolsheviks had some theory, some estimate of the revolution, some estimate of its motive forces. etc?. . . .
What happened to Leninism, to the theory of Bolshevism, to the Bolshevik estimate of our revolution and its motive forces, etc.?…….
And so, once upon a time there were people known as the Bolsheviks who somehow managed, ‘beginning’ with 1903, to ‘weld’ together a party, but who had no revolutionary theory. So they drifted and drifted, ‘beginning’ with 1903, until somehow they managed to reach the year 1917. Then, having espied Trotsky with his theory of permanent revolution,’ they decided to ‘rearm themselves’ and ‘having rearmed themselves’, they lost the last remnants of Leninism, of Lenin’s theory of revolution, thus bringing about the ‘full coincidence’ of the theory of permanent revolution with the ‘position’ of our Party.
That is a very interesting fairy-tale, comrades. It, if you like, is one of the splendid conjuring tricks you may see at the circus. But this is not a circus; it is a conference of our Party. Nor, after all, have we hired Trotsky as a circus artist.”

(J. V. Stalin: Reply to the Discussion on the Report “The Social-Democratic Deviation in our Party”, l5th. Conference of CPSU (B.), November 3rd., 1926, in:
“Works”, Volume 3; Moscow; 1954; p. 350, 351, 353-54).

The Opposition to Lenin’s Theses

Within the Party the principal opposition to Lenin’s “April Theses” was led by Trotsky’s brother-in-law Lev Kamenev.

On April 21st, 1917, Kamenev published in “Pravda” an article– entitled “Our Differences” in which he denounced Lenin’s “personal opinion” as “unacceptable” on the grounds that he was advocating an immediate socialist revolution before the bourgeois-democratic revolution had been completed.

“In yesterday’s issue of the ‘Pravda’ Comrade Lenin published his ‘theses’. They represent the personal opinion of Comrade Lenin. . . The policy of the “Pravda” was clearly formulated in the resolutions prepared by the Bureau of the Central Committee. . . .
Pending new decisions of the Central Committee and of the All-Russian Conference of our Party, those resolutions remain our platform which we will defend . . against Comrade Lenin’s criticism.. .
As regards Comrade Lenin’s general line, it appears to us unacceptable inasmuch, as it proceeds from the assumption that the bourgeois-democratic revolution has been completed and it builds on the immediate transformation of this revolution into a socialist revolution. . . .
In a broad discussion we hope to carry our point of view as the only possible one for revolutionary Social-Democracy in so far as it wishes to be and must remain to the very end the one and only party of the revolutionary masses of the proletariat without turning into a group of Communist propagandists.”

(L. Kamenev: “Our Differences”; cited in: V. I. Lenin: Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 380-81)

Lenin replied:

“There are two major errors in this.
1. The question of a ‘completed bourgeois-democratic revolution is stated wrongly. . . . .
Reality shows us both the passing of the power into the hands of the bourgeoisie (a ‘completed’ bourgeois-democratic revolution of the ordinary type) and, by the side of the actual government, the existence of a parallel government which represents the ‘revolutionary- democratic-dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’. . .
Is this reality embraced in the old Bolshevik formula of Comrade Kamenev which says that ‘the bourgeois democratic revolution is not completed’?
No, the formula . . is dead. . . .
Anyone who is guided in his activities by the simple formula ‘the bourgeois-democratic revolution is not completed’ vouchsafes, as it were, the certainty of the petty bourgeoisie being independent of the bourgeoisie….
In doing so, he at once helplessly surrenders to the-petty bourgeoisie. . . .
The mistake made by Comrade Kamenev is that in 1917 he only sees the past of the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. In reality, however, its future has already begun, for the interests and the policy of the wage earners and the petty proprietors have already taken different lines.. . . .
This brings me to the second mistake in the remarks of Comrade Kamenev quoted above: He reproaches me, saying that my line ‘builds’ on the immediate transformation of this bourgeois-democratic revolution into a socialist revolution.
This is not true. . . .
I declared in plain language that in this respect I only build on ‘patient’ explaining (is it necessary to be patient to bring about a change which can be realised ‘immediately’).”

(V. I. Lenin: “Letters on Tactics”; in: “Collected Works”, Volume 20 , Book 1 London; 1929; p. 125, 126, 127).

An opposition group in the Moscow City Committee, headed Aleksei Rykov and Viktor Nogin, opposed the basis of Lenin’s theses on the grounds that Russia was too industrially undeveloped for socialist construction:

Lenin replied:

“Comrade Rykov says that Socialism must first come from other countries with greater industrial development. But this is not so. It is hard to tell who will begin and who will end. This is not Marxism, but a parody on Marxism.”

(V. I. Lenin: Concluding Remarks in Connection with the Report on the Political Situation, May 7th. Conference of RSDLP, May 7th., 1917, in: ibid.; p. 287).

Another group of members of the Party – including I. P. Goldenberg, V. Bazarov, B. V. Avilov and Y N. Steklov, — left the Bolshevik Party altogether in protest against Lenin’s theses and founded the paper “Novaya Zhizn” (New Life), which supported the unification of Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and “Novaya Zhizn”-ists into a single party based on the openly Menshevik view that the Socialist revolution “Must be preceded by a more or less prolonged period of capitalism.”

At the Petrograd City Conference of the Party, held from April 27th; to May 5th; 1917, a resolution in support of the political line laid down in Lenin’s “April Theses” was carried.

The “April Days”

On May 1st., 1917 (April 18th ; under the old style calendar) Foreign Minister Pavel Miliukov sent a note to the Allied Governments emphasising the determination of the Provisional Government to carry the war to a victorious conclusion and to remain loyal to the tsarist government’s treaties with the Allies.

‘The declarations of the Provisional Government naturally cannot offer the slightest cause to assume that the accomplished upheaval will result in a weakening of Russia’s role in the common struggle of the Allies. Quite the contrary. The effort of the whole people to carry the World War through to a decisive victory has only been strengthened. . Naturally, the Provisional Government. . . in protecting the rights of our fatherland, will hold faithfully to the obligations which we have assumed towards our allies. . The government is now, as before, firmly convinced, that the present war will be victoriously concluded in complete accord with the Allies.”

(Provisional Government, Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Note to Allied Governments of May 1st., 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 371).

The publication of the note within Russia gave rise to mass demonstrations in Petrograd over the next four days, in which armed soldiers took a prominent part — attempting at times to occupy public buildings. Among the demonstrators the slogans “Down with Miliukov” and “Down with Guchkov” were raised everywhere.

The Central Committee of the Party was concerned that this spontaneous movement might develop along insurrectionary lines which, in the existing situation, could only harm the revolutionary movement; on May 4th., therefore, it adopted a resolution drafted by Lenin calling upon all Party members to exert every effort to keep the demonstrations peaceful:

“Party agitators and speakers must refute the despicable lies that we threaten with civil war. . . At the present moment, when the capitalists and their government cannot and dare not use violence against the masses . . any thought of civil war is naive, senseless, monstrous. . . .
All Party agitators, in factories, in regiments, in the streets, etc. must advocate these views and this proposition (i.e., withdrawal of support by the Soviets from the Provisional Government — Ed.) by means of peaceful discussions and peaceful demonstrations, as well as meetings everywhere.”

(V. I. Lenin: Resolution of CC, RSDLP, May 4th., 1917, in: ibid.; p. 245, 246).

These demonstrations proved sufficient to force the resignation of Guchkov as Minister of War May 13th; and of Miliukov as Minister of Foreign Affairs on May 15th.

On May 14th the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet voted in favour of a coalition Provisional Government, in which the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary parties would be formally represented.

The First Coalition Provisional Government came into being on May 18th with Prince Georgi Lvov continuing as Prime Minister. Aleksandr Tereshchenko replaced Miliukov as Minister of Foreign Affairs; Aleksandr Kerensky and Viktor Chernov (of the Socialist Revolutionaries) became Minister of War and Minister of Agriculture respectively; Aleksandr Skobelev and Iraklii Tseretelli (of the Mensheviks) became Minister of Labour and Minister of Posts and Telegraphs respectively.

In the following month Lenin commented on the formal entry of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries into the Provisional Government:

‘The entrance of Tseretelli, Chernov and Co. into the cabinet has changed to an insignificant degree only the form of the compact between the Petrograd Soviet and the government of the capitalists. ..
Day by day it becomes ever clearer that Tseretelli, Chernov and Co. are simply hostages of the capitalists, have become the sides of the capitalists who are actually stifling the revolution; Kerensky has sunk to the point where he uses violence against the masses. . .The Coalition Cabinet represents only a transition period in the development of the basic class contradictions in our revolution. . . This cannot last very long.”

(V. I. Lenin: Postcript to Pamphlet ‘The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution”, in: ibid.; p. 159, 160).

The Seventh Conference of the RSDLP

The Seventh Conference of the Russian Social-Democrotic Labour Party (the “April Conference”) was held in Petrograd from May 7th. to 12th., 1917, attended by 133 voting delegates representing 80,000 Party members.

The Report on the Political Situation was given by Lenin, and the opposition to Lenin’s political line was led by Lev Kamenev and Aleksei Rykov.

Kamenev directed his main attack against the slogan ‘Down with the Provisional Government!'”, implying that this was a Leninist slogan whereas it had been put forward during the “April Days” by the Petrograd Committee of the Party in violation of the line of the Central Committee. In place of this (for the moment) incorrect slogan, Kamenev urged that the Party should put forward the completely unrealistic demand for control of the Provisional Government by the Soviets.

Lenin replied:

“We say that the slogan ‘Down with the Provisional Government’ is an adventurer’s slogan. That is why we have advocated peaceful demonstrations. . . The Petrograd Committee, however, turned a trifle to the Left. In a case of this sort, such a step was a grave crime.

Now about control. . . . . .Comrade Kamenev . . views control as a political act. . . We do not accept control… The Provisional Government must be overthrown, but not now, and not in the ordinary way.”

(V. I. Lenin: Concluding Remarks in connection with the Report on the Political Situation, 7th. Conference RSDLP, May 7th., 1917, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 285-86, 287).

Rykov opposed Lenin’s political line on the grounds that Russia was too industrially undeveloped to move towards a socialist revolution.
Lenin replied:

“Comrade Rykov. . . . says that Socialism must come first from other countries with greater industrial development. But this is not so. It is hard to tell who will begin and who will end. This is not Marxism, but a parody on Marxism.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 287).

By a majority the congress approved a series of resolutions endorsing the Leninist line.

The Leninist political line on the national question in particular, that the Party must advocate the right of oppressed nations to self-determination to the point of secession — was presented in the Report on the National Question given by Stalin. This slogan was opposed by Felix Dzherzhinsky and Yuri Piatakov, the latter demanding:

“The only effective method of solving it (i.e., the national question — Ed.) is the method of a socialist revolution under the slogan ‘Down with boundaries.’ for only thus can one do away with imperialism –this new factor leading to a sharpening of national oppression.
Whereas (1) ‘the right of nations to self-determination’ . . is a mere phrase without any definite meaning; ….
and whereas (2) this phrase is interpreted as meaning much more than is thought of in the ranks of revolutionary Social-Democracy,. . . .
the Conference . . assumes that paragraph 9 of our programme (i.e., support for the right of nations to self-determination — Ed.) should be eliminated.”

(Y. Piatakov: Resolution on National Question submitted to 7th. Conference, RSDLF; cited in: V. I.Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 2; London; 1929; p.411, 412).

Lenin replied:

“Ever since 1903, when our Party adopted its programme, we have been encountering the desperate opposition of the Poles. . . And the position of the Polish Social-Democracy is as strange and monstrous an error now as it was then. These people wish to reduce the stand of our Party to that of the chauvinists.. . .

In Russia we must stress the right of separation for the subject nations, while in Poland we must stress the right of such nations to unite. The right to unite implies the right to separate. . . .

Comrade Piatakov’s standpoint is a repetition of Rosa Luxemburg’s standpoint . . Theoretically he is against the right of separation. . What Comrade Piatakov says is incredible confusion.. . .When one says that the national question has been settled, one speaks of Western Europe. Comrade Piatakov applies this where it does not belong, to Eastern Europe, and we find ourselves in a ridiculous position. . . .

Comrade Piatakov simply rejects our slogan. The method of accomplishing a socialist revolution under the slogan ‘Down with the boundaries’ is an utter absurdity. . . We maintain that the state is necessary, and the existence of a state presupposes boundaries. Even the Soviets are confronted with the question of boundaries . . .What does it mean, ‘Down with the boundaries’? This is the beginning of anarchy . . .
He who does not accept this point of view is an annexationist, a chauvinist.”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech on the National Question, 7th. Conference RSDLP, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 310, 312, 313, 314).

The conference discussed the question of the Party’s participation in the Third (and last) “Zimmerwald Conference,” due to be held in Stockholm (Sweden) in May 1917 (but later postponed until September).

In his “April Theses” Lenin had already demanded a break with the “Zimmerwald International”, proposing that the Party should remain within it only for purposes of information. At the conference, however, this policy was opposed by a considerable body of delegates headed by Grigori Zinoviev, who proposed:

“Our party remains in the Zimmerwald bloc with the aim of defending the tactics of the Zimmerwald Left Wing there. . . .The conference decides to take part in the international conference of the Zimmerwaldists scheduled for May 31 and authorises the Central Committee to organise a delegation to that conference.”

(Resolution on “The Situation within the International and the Tasks of the RSDLP”, 7th. Conference RSDLP, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 2; London; 1929; p. 407).

Zinoviev’s resolution was carried by the conference against the opposition of Lenin, who described Zinoviev’s tactics as:

“..arch-opportunist and pernicious.”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech at 7th. Conference, RSDLP, cited in: “History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks)”; Moscow; 1941; p. 189)

The conference also discussed the question of the Party’s participation in an “international socialist conference” to discuss “peace terms”, also scheduled for Stockholm in May. On May 6th, the Danish Social-Democrat Frederik Bergjberg had personally addressed the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet on the “Stockholm Conference”. The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries had accepted the invitation to participate in the conference; the Bolsheviks had rejected the invitation.

The question was placed on the agenda of the conference at the request of Viktor Nogin, who proposed that a Bolshevik delegation should attend the “Stockholm Conference.”

Lenin replied:

“I cannot agree with Comrade Nogin . . Back of this whole comedy of a would-be Socialist congress there are actually the political maneuvers of German imperialism. The German capitalists use the German social-chauvinists for the purpose of inviting the social-chauvinists of all countries to the conference. because they want to fool the working masses. . . . .Borgjberg is an agent of the German government.. . .We must expose this whole comedy of the Socialist conference, expose all these congresses as comedies intended to cover up the deals made by the diplomats behind the backs of the masses.”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech on the Proposed Calling of an International Socialist Conference, 7th. Conference RSDLP, May 8 1917, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 287, 288, 290).

The conference adopted a resolution along these lines.

The conference adopted a series of resolutions in accordance with Lenin’s political line:

  • “On the War”,
  • ”On the Attitude towards the Provisional Government”;
  • “On the Agrarian Question”;
  • “’On a Coalition Cabinet”,
  • “’On Uniting the Internationalists against the Petty-bourgeois Defencist Bloc’”,
  • “On the Present Political Situation” ;
  • and “On the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.”

The Conference elected a new Central Committee, consisting of Lenin, Stalin, Kamenev, Zinoviev, Nilyutin, Nogin, Sverdlov, Smilga and Fedorov, and instructed it to bring up to date the programme of the Party adopted in 1903.

The First Congress of Soviets

The First All-Russian Congress of Soviets was held in Petrograd from June l6th to July 6th., 1917. Of the 790 delegates, only 103 (13%) were Bolsheviks, and the congress was dominated by the Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionaries. The congress, against Bolshevik opposition, adopted resolutions in favour of:

  • participation in the Provisional Government,
  • “defence of the fatherland” in the imperialist war;
  • the military offensive at the front demanded by the Allied powers;
  • and the war loan (“Liberty Loan”).

On June 21st; the Central Committee of the RSDLP decided to call a peaceful demonstration for June 23rd; under the slogans: ‘Down with the Capitalist Ministers!'” and “All Power to the Soviets!”. The Congress of Soviets, on the initiative of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, immediately adopted a resolution prohibiting the demonstration on the pretext that:

“We know that the hidden counter-revolutionaries are making ready to take advantage of your demonstration.”

(Resolution of First Congress of Soviets, June 21st., 1917, cited by V. I, Lenin: ‘Disquieting Rumours”, in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 20, Book 2 London; 1929; p. 41).

In the early hours of the morning of June 22nd; the Central Committee, on Lenin’s initiative, called off the planned demonstration.

On June 24th, Lenin explained the reasons for this decision to a meeting of the Petrograd Committee of The Party:

“The dissatisfaction of the majority of the comrades with the calling off of the demonstration is quite legitimate, but the Central Committee could not act otherwise for two reasons: First, we received a formal prohibition of all demonstrations from our semi-official government : second, a plausible reason was given for this prohibition. . . . .
Even in simple warfare it sometimes happens that for strategic reasons it is necessary to postpone an offensive fixed for a certain date.. . . .
It was absolutely necessary for us to cancel our arrangements. This has been proved by subsequent events.'”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech at the Session of the Petrograd Committee of the RSDLP, June 24th., 1917, in: ibid.: p.245).

The “subsequent events,” referred to by Lenin were the holding, earlier on the same day, of a united session of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, the Presidium of the Congress of Soviets and the Fraction Committees of the parties represented at the Congress.

Iraklii Tseretelli, Menshevik Minister of Posts and Telegraphs in the Provisional Government, denounced the Bolshevik demonstration that had been planned for June 23rd. as “a plot to overthrow the Provisional Government by force”; he demanded that the Bolsheviks be expelled from the Soviets and that the arms in the hands of the workers be taken from them.

The Bolshevik delegates walked out of the congress in protest at Tseretelli’s speech, and issued a declaration in which they declared:

“We have not renounced for a single moment in favour of a hostile majority of the Soviet our right, independently and freely, to utilise all liberties for the purpose of mobilising the working masses under the banner of our proletarian class party. . .
What is planned is the disarming of the revolutionary vanguard — a measure that has always been resorted to by the bourgeois counter-revolution. . . .
Citizen Tseretelli and those who direct him are hardly ignorant of the fact that never in history have the working masses given up without struggle the arms they had received at the hand of the revolution. Consequently, the ruling bourgeoisie and its ‘Socialist’ Ministers are provoking civil war. . and they are aware of what they are doing. . . .
We expose before the All-Russian Congress and the masses of the people . . this attack on the revolution that is now being prepared. . . .
The revolution is passing through a moment of supreme danger. We call upon the workers to be firm and watchful.”

(Declaration of Bolshevik Fraction to All-Russian Congress of Soviets, June 24th., 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: ibid.: p. 416).

However, rank-and-file pressure compelled the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary leaders of the Soviet on June 25th. to call a demonstration for July 1st. in the name of the Congress of Soviets. About 400,000 workers and soldiers took part in the demonstration in Petrograd on this day, and, to the horror of the compromising leaders of the Soviets, 90% of the banners bore the slogans put forward by the Bolsheviks: “Down with the Ten Capitalist Ministers!, and “All Power to the Soviets!’

The Congress elected a Central Executive Committee and instructed it to convene a new congress within three months.

Trotsky Returns to Russia

When news of the “February Revolution” reached America, Trotsky made inmediate arrangements to return to Russia. Sailing from New York in a Norwegian ship at the end of March, he was taken off the ship at Halifax (Canada) by British naval police and confined for a month in an internment camp for German prisoners of war at Amherst.

At the end of April he was released from internment, and resumed his journey. Landing in Norway, he crossed Scandinavia to reach Petrograd on May 17th., 1917.

He went almost immediately to the Smolny Institute, a former private school for girls which was now the head-quarters of the Petrograd Soviet. In view of his leading role in the Soviet of 1905, he was made an associate member of the Executive of the Soviet, without the right to vote.

He joined a group called the “Inter-Regional Organisation” (Mezhrayontsi), which had been founded in 1913 and to the publications of which he had contributed from abroad. The Inter-Regional Organisation was a centrist group, which prided itself on being neither Bolshevik nor Menshevik, and its influence was confined to a few working-class districts of Petrograd. In the early summer of 1917 its leading members included Anatoly Lunacharsky, David Riazanov, Dmitri Manuilsky, Mikhail Pokrovsky, Adolphe Joffe and Lev Karahkhan.

Now Trotsky took a leading role in the organisation, and in founding its organ ‘Vperyod’ (Forward).

According to Trotsky,

“Whoever lived through the year 1917 as a member of the central kernel of the Bolsheviks knows that there was never a hint of any disagreement between Lenin and me from the very first day. . . .

From the earliest days of my arrival, I stated . . . . . that I was ready to join the Bolshevik organisation immediately in view of the absence of any disagreements whatever but that it was necessary to decide the question of the quickest possible way of attracting the ‘Mezhrayontsi’ organisation into the party. . . .

Among the membership of the “Mezhrayontsi” organisation there were elements which tried to impede the fusion, advancing this or that condition, etc.”

(L. Trotsky: “The Stalin School of Falsification”; New York; 1972; p. 5, 6).

According to Lenin, however, Trotsky himself was precisely one of the ‘elements which tried to impede fusion.’

On May 23rd., a meeting took place between representatives of the Bolsheviks (including Lenin) and representatives of the Inter-Regional Organisation (including Trotsky) to explore the possibility of fusion.

As Trotsky’s biographer puts it:

“At the meeting of 23 May he (i.e., Lenin — Ed.) asked Trotsky and Trotsky’s friends to join the Bolshevik party immediately. He offered them positions on the leading bodies and on the editorial staff of ‘Pravda’. He put no conditions to them. He did not ask Trotsky to renounce anything of his past; he did not even mention past controversies. . . .

Trotsky would have had to be much more free from pride than he was to accept Lenin’s proposals immediately. He and his friends should not be asked to call themselves Bolsheviks. . . They ought to join hands in a new party, with a new name, at a joint congress of their organisations.”

(I. Deutscher: “The Prophet Armed: Trotsky; 1879-1921”; London; 1970; p. 257-8).

Lenin’s own notes of the meeting say:

“Trotsky (who took the floor out of turn immediately after me) . . . .
I cannot call myself a Bolshevik. . . .
We cannot be asked to recognise Bolshevism. . .
The old factional name is undesirable.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Leniniskii Sbornik” (Lenin Miscellany) Volume 4; Moscow; 1925; p. 303).

The meeting, therefore, broke up without reaching any agreement.

Not until August, three months before the October Revolution, did the Inter-Regional Organisaion join the Bolshevik Party, while Trotsky was in prison!

The Resignation of the Cadet Ministers

On July 16th, 1917, the Ministers belonging to the Constitutional-Democratic Party (the ‘Cadets”) resigned from the Government.

Lenin pointed out that:

“. . by leaving, they say, we present an ultimatum. . . . To be without the Cadets, they aver, means to be without the ‘aid’ of world-wide Anglo-American capital.”

(V. I. Lenin: “What could the Cadets Count on when leaving the Cabinet?”, in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 16).

The effect of this ultimatum was to face the Menshevik Ministers in the Provisional Government with the choice of either participating in the attempted suppression of the working class and poor peasantry or of allying themselves with the revolutionary working class and peasantry – which their whole political outlook would make them fear to do:

“Either suppress such a class by force — as the Cadets have been preaching since May 19 — or entrust yourself to its leadership. . . The Tsteretellis and Chernovs, they think would not do that, they would not dare.’ They will yield to us.’ . . .
The calculation is correct.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 15, 16).

The “July Days”

The resignation of the Cadet Ministers from the government on July 16th. stimulated on the following day mass demonstrations of armed workers and soldiers outside the headquarters of the Petrograd Soviet, under the slogans “All Power to the Soviets.”

In the evening of July 17th a Bolshevik revolution in the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets calling for the transfer of all power to the Soviets was rejected.

On the next day, July 18th., “Pravda” published an appeal from the Bolsheviks calling for an end to the demonstrations:

“For the present political crisis, our aim has been accomplished. We have therefore decided to end the demonstration. Let each and every one peacefully and in an organised manner bring the strike and the demonstration to a close.”

(Proclamation of the CC of the RSDLP July 18th.,. 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 2; London; n.d., p. 300).

Later, in September 1917, Lenin analysed the reasons why it would have been incorrect to have attempted to turn the armed demonstration of the ‘July Days’ into an insurrection:

“On July 16-17 . . there were still lacking the objective conditions for a victorious uprising.

1. ‘We did not yet have behind us the class that is the vanguard of the revolution. We did not yet have a majority among the workers and soldiers of the capitals. . . 

2. At that time there was no general revolutionary upsurge of the people . . .

3. At that time there were no vacillations on a serious, general, political scale among our enemies and among the undecided petty bourgeoisie. . . ..

4. This is why an uprising on July 16-17 would have been an error; we would not have retained power either physically or politically.. . . .

Before the Kornilov affair, the army and the provinces could and would have marched against Petrograd.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Marxism and Uprising”, in: “Collected Works “, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 225-226).

The Order for the Arrest of Lenin

On July 18th., 1917 the newspaper “‘Zhivoye Slovo” (Living Word) published a statement from Grigori Alexnsky asserting that he had documentary evidence that Lenin was “a spy in the pay of German imperialism.” On the same day military cadets wrecked the printing plant and editorial offices of “Pravda,” preventing the publication of Lenin’s reply to the slander.

On July 19th government troops occupied the headquarters of the Central Committee of the Party, and the government issued an order for the arrest of Lenin, Zinoviev and Kameonev.

A movement demanding that Lenin surrender to the arrest order was led by Trotsky.

As Trotsky’s sympathetic biographer Isaac Deutscher expresses it:

“Lenin . . made up his mind that he would not allow himself to be imprisoned but would go into hiding… Trotsky took a less grave view and Lenin’s decision seemed to him unfortunate. . . he thought that Lenin had every interest in laying his record before the public, and that in this way he could serve his cause better than by flight, which would merely add to any adverse appearances by which people might judge him.”

(I. Deutscher: “The Prophet Armed: Trotsky: 1879-1921”; London; 1970; p. 274).

To this demand Lenin replied:

“Comrades yielding to the ‘Soviet atmosphere’ are, often inclined towards appearing before the courts.
Those who are closer to the working masses apparently incline towards not appearing.. .
The court is an organ of power. . . .
The power that is active is the military dictatorship. Under such conditions it is ridiculous even to speak of ‘the courts’. It is not a question of ‘courts’, but of an episode in the civil war. This is what those in favour of appearing before the courts unfortunately do not want to understand. . . .
Not a trial but a campaign of persecution against the internationalists, this is what the authorities need. . Let the internationalists work underground as far as it is in their power, but let them not commit the folly of voluntarily appearing before the courts’.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Question of the Bolshevik Leaders appearing before the Courts”, in ibid.; p. 34, 35).

The Bolshevik viewpoint on the question of the attitude to be adopted towards the warrant of arrest issued for the Bolshevik leaders was put at the Sixth Congress of the Party in August by Stalin:

“There is no guarantee that if they do appear they will not be subjected to brutal violence. If the court were democratically organised and if a guarantee were given that violence would not be committed it would be a different matter.”

(J. V. Stalin: Speech in Reply to the Discussion on the Report of the Central Cornittee, 6th. Congress RSDLP, in: “Works”, Volume 3; Moscow; 193; p. 182).

Feeling that his political reputation was suffering because no warrant had been issued for his own arrest, Trotsky wrote an Open Letter to the Provisional Government pleading that he too should be made liable to arrest:

“On 23 July, four days after Lenin had gone into hiding, Trotsky therefore addressed the following Open Letter to the Provisional Government:
‘Citizen Ministers —
You can have no logical grounds for exempting me from the effect of the decree by dint of which Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev are subject to arrest. . . You can have no reason to doubt that I am just as irreconcilable an opponent of the general policy of the Provisional Government as the above-mentioned Comrades’.”

(I. Deutscher: ibid.; p. 276-77).

The Provisional Government obliged Trotsky by arresting him on August 5th, and incarcerating him in the Kresty prison from which he was released on bail on September 17th.

The New Political Situation following the “July Days”

On July 20th, 1917 Prince Lvov resigned as Prime Minister of the Provisional Government, and on the following day his place was taken by Aleksandr Kerensky (Socialist-Revolutionary).

On July 22nd, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets, against Bolshevik opposition, adopted a resolution of confidence in the Provisional Government as a government of defence of the revolution.

At this time Lenin analysed the new political situation following the “July Days” as follows:

1. As a result of the treachery of the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary leaders, dual power had ceased to exist; effective state power passed into the hands of a military dictatorship of the counter-revolutionary capitalist class:

“‘The counter-revolution has become organised and consolidated, and has actually taken state power into its hands. . . .The leaders of the Soviets as well as of the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik Parties, with Tseretelli and Chernov at their head, have definitely betrayed the cause of the revolution by placing it in the hands of the counter-revolutionists and transforming themselves, their parties end the Soviets into fig-leaves of the counter-revolution. . . . .Having sanctioned the disarming of the workers and the revolutionary regiments, they have deprived themselves of all real power.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Political Situation”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 36-37).

“The turning point of July 17 consisted in just this, that after it the objective situation changed abruptly. Thc fluctuating state of power ceased, the power having passed at a decisive point into the hands of the counter-revolution. . . After July 17, the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie, hand in hand with the monarchists and the Black Hundreds,, has attached to itself the petty-bourgeois Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, partly by intimidating them, and has given over actual state power . . into the hands of a military clique.”

(V. I. Lenin: “‘On Slogans”, in: ibid.; p. 44-45.)

2. Thus, the possibility of the peaceful development of the revolution by the winning of a majority for revolutionary socialism in the Soviets no longer exists:

“The struggle for the passing of power to the Soviets in due time, is finished. The peaceful course of development has been rendered impossible.. . . . .
At present power can no longer be seized peacefully. It can be obtained only after a victory in a decisive struggle against the real holders of power at the present moment, namely, the military clique.. . . .This power must be overthrown.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On Slogans”, in: ibid.; p. 44, 45-46, 47).

3. Thus, the slogan of “All Power to the Soviets”, which was correct in the period when the peaceful development of the revolution, is no longer correct and should be abandoned:

“The slogan of all power passing to the Soviets was a slogan of a peaceful development of the revolution, possible in April, May, June and up to July 18-22, i.e., up to the time when actual power passed into, the hands of the military dictatorship. Now this slogan is no longer correct.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Political Situation, in: ibid.; p. 37).

“This slogan would be a deception of the people. It would spread among it the illusion that to seize power, the Soviets even now have only to wish or to decree it.”

(V. I Lenin: “On Slogans”, in: ibid.; p. 45)

4. Even if slogans were given a clear revolutionary content, it would be an incorrect call for “All Power To the Soviets!” – because after the overthrow of the capitalist military dictatorship power, power will not pass to the present impotent and treacherous Soviets, but to revolutionary Soviets, which do not as yet exist:

“Soviets can and must appear in this now revolution, but not the present Soviets, not organs of compromise with the bourgeoisie, but organs of a revolutionary struggle against it. . . .

The present Soviets . . resemble a flock of sheep brought to the slaughter-house, pitifully bleating when placed under the knife. . . The slogan of the power passing to the Soviets might be construed as a ‘simple’ call to let power pass into the hands of the present Soviets, and to say so, to appeal for this, would at present mean to deccive the people. Nothing is more dangerous than deception.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On Slogans”, in: ibid.; p. 49).

The Second Coalition Provisional Government

On July 25th, 1917 Kerensky issued a decree reintroducing capital punishment at the front, and three days later ordered the suppression of ‘Pravda” and other Bolshevik papers.

On July 29th, General Lavr Kornilov was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the army, replacing General Aleksel Brusilov.

On July 31st, Kerensky issued a decree dissolving the Finnish Sejm (Parliament), which had on July 19th, passed a bill for the autonomy of Finland.

On August 6th., the second coalition Provisional Government was formed, with Aleksandr Kerensky as Prime Minister and Minister of War and including Ministers from the Cadets, the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries.

Lenin commented on the formation of the new government as follows:

“Let the Party loudly and clearly proclaim to the people the whole truth: that we are experiencing the beginnings of Bonapartism; that the ‘new’ government is merely a screen to conceal the counter-revolutionary Cadets and military clique which have power in their hands; that the people will not get peace, the peasants will not get the land, the workers will not get the eight-hour day, the hungry will not get bread, without complete liquidation of the counter-revolution.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Beginning of Bonapartism”, in “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d; p. 78-79).

The Sixth Congress of the Party

The Sixth Congress of the RSDLP took place secretly in Petrograd from August 8th – 16th, 1917, attended by 157 voting delegates representing 40,000 members.

In Lenin’s absence, both the Report of the Central Committee and the Report on the Political Situation were given by Stalin. In the latter, Stalin said:

“Some comrades say that since capitalism is poorly developed in our country, it would be utopian to raise the question of a socialist revolution.. . It would be rank pedantry to demand that Russia should ‘wait’ with socialist changes until Europe ‘begins’. That country “begins” which has the greater opportunities. . . .Overthrow of the dictatorship of the imperialist bourgeoisie — that is what the immediate slogan of the Party must be.

The peaceful period of the revolution has ended. A period of clashes and explosions has begun.. . .

The characteristic feature of the moment is that the counter-revolutionary measures are being implemented through the agency of ‘Socialists’. It is only because it has created such a screen that the counter-revolution may continue to exist for another month or two. But since the forces of revolution are developing, explosions are bound to occur, and the moment will come when the workers will raise and rally around them the poorer strata of the peasantry, will raise the standard of workers’ revolution and usher in an era of socialist revolution in Europe.”

(J. V. Stalin: Report on the Political Situation, Sixth Congress RSDLP, in: ‘Works”, Volume 3; Moscow; 1953; p. 185, 186, 189, 190).

Nikolai Bukharin put forward in the discussion on the Report on the Political Situation a theory of the further development of the revolution based on Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution.” Bukharin held that the revolution in its further development, would consist of two phases, the first phase being essentially a peasant revolution, the second phase that of a revolution of the working class in which the peasant would not be the ally of the working class, in which the only ally of the Russian working class would be the working classes of Western Europe, that is:

“The first phase, with the participation of thc peasantry anxious to obtain land; the second phase, after the satiated peasantry has fallen away, the phase of the proletarian revolution, when the Russian proletariat will be supported only by proletarian elements and by the proletariat of Western Europe.'”

(N. Bukharin: Speech at 6th. Congress, RSDLP, cited in: N. Popov: “Outline History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Part 1; London; n.d.; p. 383).

Stalin opposed Bukharin’s theory as “not properly thought out” and “fundamentally wrong”:

“What is the prospect Bukharin held out? His analysis is fundamentally wrong. In his opinion, in the first stage we are moving towards a peasant revolution. But it is bound to concur, to coincide with a workers’ revolution. It cannot be that the working class, which constitutes the vanguard of the revolution, will not at the same time fight for its own demands. I therefore consider that Bukharin’s scheme has not been properly thought out.

The second stage, according to Bukharin, will be a proletarian revolution supported by Western Europe, without the peasants, who will have received land and will be satisfied. But against whom would this revolution be directed? Bukharin’s gimcrack scheme furnishes no reply to this question”.

(J. V. Stalin: Reply to the Discussion on the Report on the Political Situation, 6th. Congress, RSDLP; in ibid.; p. 196).

Evgenii Preobrazhensky moved an amendment to the congress resolution on the political situation, an amendment also based on an aspect of Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution.” He proposed that the seizure of power should be undertaken:

“For the purpose of directing it towards peace and, in the event of a proletarian revolution in the West, towards socialism.”

(E. Preobrazhensky: Amendment to Resolution on the Political Situation, 6th. Congress RSDLP, cited in H. Popov: ibid.; p. 381).

Stalin strongly opposed this amendment:

“I am against such an amendment. The possibility is not excluded that Russia will be the country that will lay the road to socialism. . . We must discard the antiquated idea that only Europe can show us the way.”

(J. V. Stalin: Reply to Preobrazhensky on Clause 9 of the Resolution “On the Political Situation”, 6th. Congress RSDLP, in: ibid.; p. 199, 200).

Preobrazhensky’s amendment was rejected, and the resolution adopted by the congress declared:

“The correct slogan at the present time can be only complete liquidation of the dictatorship of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie. Only the revolutionary proletariat, provided it is supported by the poorest peasantry, is strong enough to carry out this task. . . .

The task of those revolutionary classes will then be to strain every effort to take state power into their own hands and direct it, in alliance with the revolutionary proletariat of the advanced countries, towards peace and the Socialist reconstruction of society.”

(Resolution on the Political Situation, 6th. Congress RSDLP, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 2; London; n.d.; p. 304).

The congress approved a resolution on the economic situation, the main points of which were the confiscation of the landed estates, the nationalisation of the land, the nationalisation of the banks and large-scale industrial enterprises, and workers’ control over production and distribution.

It also approved resolutions on the trade union movement and on youth leagues, setting out the aim that the Party should win the leading influence in all these bodies. It also endorsed Lenin’s decision not to appear for trial:

“Considering that the present methods of persecution by the police and secret service and the activities of the public prosecutor are re-establishing the practices of the Shcheglovitov regime, . . and feeling that under such conditions there is absolutely no guarantee either of the impartiality of the court procedure, or even of the elementary safety of those summoned before the court.”

(Resolution on the Failure of Lenin to Appear in Court, 6th. Congress RSDLP, cited in: V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 312).

The congress also adopted new Party Rules, based on the principles of democratic centralism, and admitted the Mezhrayontsi (the Inter-Regional Organisation) into the Party. In this way Trotsky, as a member of the Inter-Regional Organisation, became a member of the Bolshevik Party while himself in prison, less than three months before the “October Revolution.”

Finally, the congress issued a Manifesto to all the workers, soldiers and peasants of Russia, which ended:

“Firmly, courageously and calmly, without giving in to provocations, gather strength and form fighting columns! Under the banner of the Party, proletarians and soldiers! Under our banner, oppressed of the villages!

“Long live the revolutionary proletariat!”

“Long live the alliance of the workers and Down with the counter-revolution and its ‘Moscow Conference’ !”

“Long live the workers’ world revolution!”

“Long live Socialism!”

“Long Live the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks)!””

(Manifesto of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, Sixth Congress, cited in ibid.; p. 316-317).

The “Stockholm Conference”

As has been said, the 7th Conference of the Party in May had resolved that the Party should not participate in the “international socialist conference in Stockholm (scheduled originally for May but postponed till the autumn) but should expose it as a manoeuvre of the German social-chauvinists.

On August 19th , however, Lev Kamenev said in the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets:

“Now when our revolution has retreated to the second line of trenches, it is fitting to support this conference. Now, when the Stockholm Conference has become the banner of the struggle of the proletariat against imperialism, . . we naturally must support it.”

L. Kamenev: Speech to CEC, August 19th., 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1; London; nd; p. 290).

Lenin denounced Kamenev’s statement with indignation:

“What right had Comrade Kamenev to forget that there is a decision of the Central Committee of the Party against participating at Stockholm? If this decision has not been abrogated by a congress or by a new decision of the Central Committee, it is law for the Party. . . .

Not only had Kamenev no right to make this speech, but . . he directly violated the decision of the Party; he spoke directly against the Party. . . . Kamenev . . did not mention that the Stockholm Conference will include social-imperialists, that it is shameful for a revolutionary-Social-Democrat to have anything to do with such people. . . .To go to confer with social-imperialists, with Ministers, with hangmen’s sides in Russia — this is a shame and a betrayal. . . . .

Not a revolutionary banner, but a banner of deals, compromises, forgiveness for social-imperialism, bankers’ negotiations concerning the division of annexations — this is the banner which is really beginning to wave over Stockholm. . . .

We have decided to build the Third International. We must accomplish this in spite of all difficulties, Not a step backward to deals with social-imperialists and renegades from Socialism.'”

(V. I. Lenin: “On Kamenev’s Speech in the Central Executive Committee concerning the Stockholm Conference”, in: ibid.; p94; 95, 96).

The following month, Lenin returned to his attack upon the Stockholm Conference:

“The Stockholm Conference . . failed. Its failure was caused by the fact that the Anglo-French imperialists at present are unwilling to conduct peace negotiations, while the German imperialists are willing.. . .

The Stockholm Conference is known to have been called and to be supported by persons who support their governments. . ..

The ‘Novaya Zhizn’ deceives the workers when it imbues them with confidence ~ the social-chauvinists. . .

We, on the other hand, turn away from the comedy enacted at Stockholm by the social-chauvinists and among the social-chauvinists, in order to open the eyes of the masses, in order to express their interests, to call them to revolution, . . for a struggle on the basis of principles and for a complete brook with social-chauvinism. . . .

The Stockholm Conference, even if it takes place, which is very unlikely, will be an attempt on the part of the German imperialists to sound out the ground as to the feasibility of a certain exchange of annexations.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On the Stockholm Conference”, in: ibid; p. 121, 123, 124, 125).

In fact, the “Stockholm Conference” never took place, owing to the refusal of the British and French Governments to allow their social-chauvinists to attend.

The Moscow State Conference

On the initiative of Aleksandr Kerensky, a “State Conference” was held in the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, from August 25th to 28th, 1917. The conference was dominated by representatives of the landlords and bourgeoisie, including a number of prominent generals, with a minority of Soviet representatives in the shape of Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries. The Petrograd Soviet and provincial Soviets were not invited to send delegates.

The conference was opened by Kerensky, who declared that the fundamental tasks of the Provisional Government were the continuation of the war, the restoration of order in the army and the country, and the organisation of a stable power.

The principal speech was made by General Lavr Kornilov, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, while General Aleksei Kaledin, speaking in the name of the Don Cossacks, put forward the following programme:

1) politics to be forbidden in the army;
2) all Soviets and army committees to be abolished;
3) the Declaration of the Rights of the soldiers to be abolished;
4) full authority to be restored to the officers.

Prior to the opening of the conference, Stalin had characterised it as follows:

“The counter-revolution needs a parliament of its own, a centre of its own; and it is creating it.. . .
The conference to be convened in Moscow on August 25 will inevitably be transformed into an organ of counter-revolutionary conspiracy against the workers, . . against the peasants, . . and against the soldiers . .. into an organ of conspiracy camouflaged by the ‘socialist talk’ of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, who are supporting the conference.”

(J. V. Stalin: “Against the Moscow Conference”, in: “Works”, Volume 3; Moscow; 1953, p. 208, 209).

A resolution of the Central Committee of the RSDLP, published on August 21st called on all Party organisations:

“First, to expose the conference convening in Moscow as an organ of the conspiracy of the counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie against the revolution; second, to expose the counter-revolutionary policy of the S-R’s, and Mensheviks who are supporting this conference; third, to organise mass protests of workers, peasants and soldiers against the conference.”

(Resolution of CC of RSDLP on the Moscow Conference, cited in V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 2; London; n.d.; p. 318).

The Moscow Trade Union Council, under Bolshevik leadership, called a successful one-day general strike in the city in protest at the convening of the conference.

The Kornilov Revolt

On September 3rd , the Latvian capital Riga was surrendered to the German armies.

A powerful campaign was then launched in all the media controlled by the counter-revolutionary capitalist class blaming the fall of Riga on the demoralisation of the soldiers brought about by Bolshevik propaganda and agitation.

The Bolsheviks replied that this was not the reason for the fall of Riga, but that the city had been deliberately surrendered to the German armies in order to provide a pretext for a counter-revolutionary conspiracy:

“After the Moscow Conference came the surrender of Riga and the demand for repressive measures….The counter-revolution needed a ‘Bolshevik plot’ in order to clear the way for Kornilov. . . .The counter-revolutionary higher army officers surrendered . . Riga in August in order to exploit the ‘defeats’ at the front for the purpose of achieving the ‘complete’ triumph of counter-revolution.”

(J. V. Stalin: “We Demand!”, in: “Works”, Volume 3; Moscow; 1953; p. 277, 278).

On September 5th negotiations took place at army headquarters at the front between Commander-in-Chief General Lavr Kornilov and Boris Savinkoy, Deputy Minister of War in the Provisional Government, at which, on Kerensky’s instructions, Savinkov requested Kornilov to despatch army units to Petrograd:

“On the instructions of the Prime Minister, I requested you (Kornilov) to send the Cavalry Corps to ensure the establishment of martial law in Petrograd and the suppression of any attempt at revolt.”

(B. Savinkov: Statement cited in J. V. Stalin: “The Plot against the Revolution”, in: ibid.; p. 367).

On September 7th. General Kornilov ordered an army corps, some Cossack detachments and the so-called ‘savage Division’ to move on Petrograd. The orders given to the commander of this force, General Krymov, were to occupy the city, disarm the units of the Petrograd garrison which joined the Bolshevik movement, disarm the population of Petrograd and disperse the Soviets.

“Occupy the city, disarm the units of the Petrograd garrison which joined the Bolshevik movement, disarm the population of Petrograd and disperse the Soviets.. . . . On the execution of this mission General Krymov was to send a brigade reinforced with artillery to Oranienbaum, which on its arrival was to call upon the Kronstadt garrison to dismantle the fortress and to cross to the mainland.”

(L. Kornilov: Explanatory Memorandum, cited in: J. V. Stalin: ibid.;p. 367).

The aim of the military coup was to set up a dictatorial government headed by Kornilov, with the participation of Aleksandr Kerensky (as Vice-Chairman), Boris Savinkov, Generel Mikhail Alekseev, and Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak. (Ibid.; p. 370)

As Stalin commented later:

“A compact was concluded (i.e., between the Provisional Government and General Kornilov — Ed.) to organise a conspiracy against the Bolsheviks, that is, against the working class, against the revolutionary army and the peasantry. It was a compact for conspiracy against the revolution!

That is what we have been saying from the very first day of the Kornilov revolt”.

(J. V. Stalin: “Comments”, in: ibid.; p. 350).

“The Kerensky Government not only knew of this diabolical plan, but itself took part in elaborating it and, together with Kornilov, was preparing to carry it out. .  The ‘Kornilov affair’ was not a ‘revolt’ against the Provisional Government, . . but a regular conspiracy against the revolution, an organised and thoroughly planned conspiracy. . . .

Its organisers and instigators were the counter-revolutionary elements among the generals, representatives of the Cadet Party, representatives of the ‘public men’ in Moscow, the more ‘initiated’ members of the Provisional Government, and — last but not least! — certain representatives of certain embassies. . . .Kornilov had the support of the Russian and the British and French imperialist bourgeoisie.”

(J. V. Stalin: ‘The Plot against the Revolution”, in: ibid.; p. 367, 373, 379).

On September 8th, “demand” was sent to Kerensky in the name of Kornilov demanding that the former hand over dictatorial powers to the General. On the same day the “Cadet” Ministers resigned from the Provisional Government.

On the following day Kerensky — compelled for political reasons to keep his participation in the plot secret –issued an “appeal” to the population for “resistance” to Kornilov, and appointed Savinkov as Governor-General of Petrograd under a state of siege.

On September 10th , on the initiative of the Bolsheviks a broad Committee for Struggle against Counter-Revolution was set up in the capital. Detachments of armed workers (“Red Guards”) were formed for the defence of the city, and agitators (mostly Bolshevik soldiers) were sent to meet the advancing troops. The work of these agitators, in the existing circumstances, proved so successful that by September 12th, virtually all the rank-and-file soldiers had deserted Kornilov.

The political line put forward by Lenin in connection with the Kornilov “revolt” was to organise active struggle against the main enemy, the Kornilov forces, while on a campaign of exposure of the Kerensky government:

“We will fight, we are fighting against Kornilov, even as Kerensky’s troops do, but we do not support Kerensky. On the contrary, we expose his weakness. There is the difference. . . .

We are changing the form of our struggle against Kerensky. . . We shall not overthrow Kerensky right now; we shall approach the task of struggling against him in a different way, namely, we shall point out to the people (which struggles against Kornilov) the weakness and vacillation of Kerensky.”

(V. I. Lenin “Letter to the Central Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, September 12th., 1917 in “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n .d., p. 137, 138).

On September l4th, General Krymov committed suicide, and, on the initiative of Kerensky, a five-man government called a “Directory” was set up as a new Provisional Government.

As Stalin commented:

“A Directory was the political form the Kornilov-Kerensky ‘collective dictatorship’ was to have been clothed in.

It should now be clear to everyone that in creating a Directory after the failure of the Kornilov ‘revolt’ Kerensky was establishing this same Kornilov dictatorship by other means.”

(J. V. Stalin: ‘The Plot against the Revolution”, in: ibid.; p. 370).

The Kornilov revolt, together with the completely successful struggle led by the Bolsheviks against it, gave a great stimulus to the development of the socialist revolutionary forces.

“The Kornilov revolt was an attempt on the very life of the revolution. That is unquestionable. But in attempting to kill the revolution and stirring all the forces of society into motion, it thereby, on the one hand, gave a spur to the revolution, stimulated it to greater activity and organisation, and, on the other hand, revealed the true nature of the classes and parties, tore the mask from their faces and gave us a glimpse of their true countenances.

We owe it to the Kornilov revolt that the almost defunct Soviets in the rear and the Committees at the front instantaneously sprang to life and became active.

It is a fact that even the five-man ‘Directory’ set up by Kerensky had to dispense with official representatives of the Cadets.”

(J. V. Stalin: “The Break with the Cadets, in: ibid.; p. 296, 297)

The Political Situation Following the Kornilov “Revolt”

As a result of the collapse of the Kornilov “revolt”, the Provisional Government found itself for the moment virtually without any state machinery of force at its disposal. In those circumstances Lenin declared on September 4th , that for a short time — perhaps only for a few days– the revolution could advance peacefully by the formation (under the revived slogan of “All Power to the Soviets”) of a Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary Soviet Government.

“There has now arrived such a sharp and original turn in the Russian revolution that we, as a party, can offer a voluntary compromise — true, not to the bourgeoisie, our direct and main class enemy, but to our nearest adversaries, the ‘ruling’ petty-bourgeois democratic parties, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. . . . . .

The compromise on our part is our return to the pre-July demand of all power to the Soviets, a government of S-Rs and Mensheviks responsible to the Soviets.

Now, and only now, perhaps only for a few days or for a week or two, such a government could be created and established in a perfectly peaceful way. In all probability it could secure a peaceful forward march of the whole Russian Revolution, and unusually good chances for big strides forward by the world movement towards peace and towards the victory of Socialism.

Only for the sake of this peaceful development of the revolution — a possibility that is extremely rare in history and extremely valuable . . — can and must the Bolsheviks, partisans of a world revolution, partisans of revolutionary methods, agree to such a compromise, in my opinion.

The compromise would consist in this that the Bolsheviks .. . would refrain from immediately advancing the demand for the passing, of power to the proletariat and the poorest peasants, from revolutionary methods of struggle for the realisation of this demand. The condition which is self-evident . . would be full freedom of propaganda and the convocation of the Constituent Assembly without any new procrastination.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On Compromises”. in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 153-4).

Two days later, on September 16th Lenin concluded that the time in which a peaceful development of the revolution might occur had probably already passed:

“Perhaps those few days during which a peaceful development was still possible, have already passed. Yes, to all appearances they have already passed.”

(V. I. Lenin; ibid.; p. 157).

With the defeat of the Kornilov “revolt,” the political situation changed rapidly, as has been said.

The incident had exposed completely the counter-revolutionary character of the Provisional Government and of the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary leaders. The masses of workers and peasants swung overwhelmingly behind the Bolsheviks. A section of the Mensheviks (the so-called “Internationalists”) and a section of the Socialist-Revolutionaries (the so-called ‘Left-Socialist-Revolutionaries”) departed the open counter-revolutionary leaders and forged a practical bloc with the Bolsheviks.

The incident also brought a great revival to the Soviets, and their bolshevisation. On September 13th the Petrograd Soviet adopted a revolutionary resolution moved by the Moscow Soviet followed suit on September 18th. In these circumstances, the Party revived the slogan of “All Power to the Soviets!”

“‘All Power to the Soviets!’ – such is the slogan of the new movement.”

(J. V. Stalin “All Power to the Soviets!'” ; in: “Works”, Volume 2 Moscow; 1953; p. 320).

On September 22nd, the Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionary Presidium of the Petrograd Soviet, headed by Nicholas Chkheidze, resigned, and on September 24th, Trotsky was elected chairman of the Petrograd Soviet.

Trotsky’s “Proportional Representation’

In his presidential address to the Petrograd Soviet on September 24th, Trotsky said:

“We shall conduct the work of the Petrograd Soviet in a spirit of lawfulness and of full freedom for all parties. The hand of the Presidium will never lend itself to the suppression of a minority.”

(L. Trotsky: Presidential Address to Petrograd Soviet, September 24th , 1917, cited in: I. Deutscher: “The Prophet Armed: Trotsky: 1879-1921”; London; 1970; p. 287).

Thus, in the name of “protecting the rights of the minorities” under ‘proportional representation’, on the initiative of Trotsky the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, now in a minority in the Soviet, were voted back on to the Presidium,

“Despite Lenin’s objections, all parties were represented in the new Presidium of the Soviet in proportion to their strength.”

(I. Deutscher: ibid.; p. 287).

Lenin denounced with indignation:

“such glaring errors of the Bolsheviks as giving seats to the Mensheviks in the Presidium of the Soviets, etc.”

(V. I. Lenin “The Crisis Has Matured”, in ‘Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d. ; p. 278) .

Lenin Calls for Insurrection

At the end of September Lenin wrote to the Central Committee, the Petrograd Committee and the Moscow Committee of the Party demanding the immediate preparation of a revolutionary insurrection:

“Having obtained a majority in the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies of both capitals, the Bolsheviks can and must take power into their hands. … The majority of the people is with us. . .. Why must the Bolsheviks assume power right now? Because the impending surrender of Petrograd will make our chances a hundred times worse. . . What we are concerned with is not the ‘day’ of the uprising….

What matters is that we must make the task clear to the Party, place on the order of the day the armed uprising in Petrograd and Moscow (including their regions) . . .

No apparatus? There is an apparatus: the Soviets and democratic organisations. . . It is precisely now that to offer peace to the people means to win.
Assume power at once in Moscow and in Petrograd. . we will win absolutely and unquestionably”.

(V. I. Lenin: “The Bolsheviks Must Assume Power”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 221, 222, 223).

A day or so later Lenin followed the above letter with a further letter to the Central Committee:

“We have back of us the majority of a class that is the vanguard of the revolution, the vanguard of the people, and is capable of drawing the masses along.
We have back of us a majority of the people.. . . .
We have the advantageous position of a party which knows its road perfectly well. . . . . .

Victory is assured to us, for the people are now very close to desperation, and we are showing the whole people a sure way out. . .

We have before us all, the objective prerequisites for a successful uprising. .

Delay is impossible. The revolution is perishing.
Having put the question this way, having concentrated our entire fraction in the factories and barracks, we shall correctly estimate the best moment to begin the uprising.

And in order to treat uprising in that Marxist way, i.e., as an art, we must at the same time, without losing a single moment, organise the staff of the insurrectionary detachment; designate the forces; move the loyal regiments to the most important points; surround the Aleksandrinsky Theatre; occupy Peter and Paul Fortress; arrest the general staff and the government; move against the military cadets, the Savage Division, etc., such detachments as will die rather than allow the enemy to move to the centre of the city; we must mobilise the armed workers, call them to a last desperate bottle, occupy at once the telegraph and telephone stations, place our staff of the uprising at the central telephone station, connect it by wire with all the factories, the regiments, the points of armed fighting, etc,”

(V. I. Lenin: “Marxism and Uprising”, in: ibid.; p. 226, 227, 228-9).

The Central Committee Meeting of October 28th

The two letters of Lenin discussed in the last section were debated at a meeting of the Central Committee of the Party on October 28th.

The Committee took a hesitant attitude towards Lenin’s demand that an insurrection be placed on the immediate order of the day. Stalin’s motion that the letters should be sent to the most important organisations for discussion by them was held over until the next meeting. Kamenev’s motion that:

“The Central Committee, having considered the letters of Lenin, rejects the practical propositions contained in them.”

(Minutes of CC, RSDLP, September 28th., 1917, cited in V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 300).

Was, however, rejected.

The Question of the Zimmerwald Conference

The Seventh Conference of the RSDLP, in May 1917, had decided in favour of the representation of the Party at the Third Zimmerwald Conference in Stockholm planned for the end of May but postponed until September.

In September Lenin pressed the view that the decision to continue further participation in “rotten Zimmerwald” had been a mistake and urged that the Party’s delegation should not take part in the conference but should call a conference of the left Zimmerwaldists, without the Centrists:

“It is now perfectly clear that it was a mistake not to leave it (i.e., Zimmerwald — Ed.) . . .We must leave Zimmerwald immediately. . ..When we leave rotten Zimmerwald, we must decide immediately, at the plenary session of September 16, 1917, to call a conference of the Lefts.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On The Zimmerwald Question”; in: “Collected Works”, Volume 2, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 150).

The “Democratic Conference”‘

From September 27th to October 5th , 1917 the Provisional Government convoked a “Democratic Conference” in the Aleksandrinsky Theatre, Petrograd. Its aim was to try to provide a basis of support for the government in the new situation following the defeat of the Kornilov “revolt.”

It was, of course, completely unrepresentative. As Lenin pointed out:

“The Democratic Conference does not represent the majority of the revolutionary people, but only the conciliatory petty-bourgeois top layer.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Bolsheviks Must Assume Power”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 221).

The Bolsheviks were represented at the conference, and on October lst, submitted a long declaration calling for the formation of a revolutionary Soviet government with the following programme:

“1. The abolition of private property in landowners’ land without compensation and its transfer to the management of peasant committees….

2. The introduction of workers’ control over both production and distribution on a state-wide scale, the centralisation of banking, control over the banks and the nationalisation of the most important industries, such as oil, coal, and metals; universal labour duty; immediate measures to demobilise industry; and organisation of supplying the village with industrial products at fixed prices. The merciless taxation of large capital accumulations and properties and the confiscation of war profits for the purpose of saving the country from economic ruin.

3. Declaring secret agreements to be void, and the immediate offer of a universal democratic peace to all the peoples of the belligerent nations.

4. Safeguarding the rights of all nationalities inhabiting Russia to self-determination. The immediate abolition of all repressive measures against Finland and the Ukraine.”

(Declaration of Bolshevik Fraction at Democratic Conference, cited in V. I. Lenin “Collected Works”;, Volume 21, Book 2;London; n.d.; p. 321-22).

and demanding the following immediate measures:

“1. Stopping all repressions directed against the working class and its organisations. Abolition of capital punishment at the front and the re-establishment of full freedom of agitation and of all democratic organisations within the army. Cleansing the army of counter-revolutionary elements.

2. Commissars and other officials to be elected by local organisations.

3. General arming of the workers and the organisation of a Red Guard.

4. Dissolution of the State Council and the State Duma. The immediate convening of the Constituent Assembly.

5. Abolition of all the privileges of the estates (of the nobility, etc.), c)mplete equa1~ty of rights for all citizens.

6. Introduction of the eight-hour day and of a comprehensive system of social insurance.”

(Ibid; p. 322).

After repeated inconclusive votes, the conference declared in favour of a coalition government but without participation of the Cadets. Kerensky, however, declined to abide by the decision of the conference he had himself organised, and on October 8th, formed a new coalition government which included several individual members of the Cadet Party.

The most important act of the conference was to set up a “Provisional Council of the Republic,” known as the “Pre-Parliament,” by which the capitalist class aimed to divert the less politically developed workers and poor peasants from the path of revolution to the path of parliamentary democracy.” The Pre-parliament was intended to substitute itself for the Soviets.

In an article published on October 7th, two days after the conference ended, Lenin summed it up as follows:

“In the Soviets, the S-Rs and Mensheviks have lost their majority. They therefore have had to resort to a fraud: to violate their pledge to call a new congress of the Soviets after three months; . . to fix up a ‘Democratic’ Conference. . . .The leaders are basing themselves on a minority, in defiance of the principles of democracy. Hence the inevitability of their frauds.”

(V.I. Lenin: “Heroes or Frauds”; in: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 244, 245).

The Boycott of the Pro-parliament

Already by the last day of the “Democratic Conference”, October 5th , Lenin had become convinced that, in view of the development of the revolution, it had been a mistake for the Bolsheviks to participate in this “hideous fraud”:

“The more one reflects on the meaning of the so-called Democratic Conference,…the more firmly convinced one becomes that our Party has committed a mistake by participating in it. . . .A new revolution is obviously growing in the country, a revolution . . of the proletariat and the majority of the peasants, the poorest peasantry, against the bourgeoisie, against its ally, Anglo-French finance capital, against its governmental apparatus headed by the Bonapartist Kerensky. We should have boycotted the Democratic Conference; we all erred by not doing so.”

(V. I. Lenin: “From a Publicist’s Diary”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1;. London; n.d. p. 249, 253).

On this basis, Lenin proceeded to fight for a policy of boycotting the new fraud, the Pre-parliament:

“This pre-parliament . . is in substance a Bonapartist fraud. . . . The tactics of participating in the pre-parliament., are incorrect. They do not correspond to the objective interrelation of classes, to the objective conditions of the moment.. We must boycott the pre-parliament. We must leave it and go to the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, to the trade unions, to the masses in general . . .We must give them a correct and clear slogan to disperse the Bonapartist gang of Kerensky with his forged pre-parliament.”

(V.I. Lenin ibid.; p. 252–253).

However, before Lenin’s letter had been received, on October 3rd the Central Committee of the Party had convened a meeting of the Central Committee extended to include members of the Petrograd Committee and the Bolshevik delegates to the Democratic Conference. Stalin and Trotsky reported in favour of boycotting the Pre-parliament, while Lev Kamenev and Viktor Nogin reported in favour of participation, and were supported by David Riazanov and Aleksei Rykov. The conference adopted a resolution in favour of participation by 77 votes to 50.

On October 6th , Lenin demanded a reversal of this decision:

“Trotsky was for the boycott. Bravo, Comrade Trotsky!
Boycottism was defeated in the fraction of the Bolsheviks who came to the Democratic Conference.
Long live the boycott!
We cannot and must not reconcile ourselves to participation under any condition.
We must at all costs strive to have the boycott question solved in the plenum of the Central Committee and at an extraordinary party congress. .
There is not the slightest doubt that in the ‘top’ of our Party we note vacillations that may become ruinous, because the struggle is developing.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 254).

The Central Committee of the Party did, in fact, convene a Party Congress for October 30th., 1917. In his theses intended for this congress, Lenin wrote:

“The participation of our Party in the ‘preparliament’ . . is an obvious error and a deviation from the proletarian-revolutionary road. . . .
When the revolution is thus rising, to go to a make-believe parliament, concocted to deceive the people, means to facilitate this deception, to make the cause of preparing the revolution more difficult. . . .
The Party congress, therefore, must recall, the members of our Party from the pre-parliament, declare a boycott against it.”‘

(V. I. Lenin: ‘Theses . . for a Resolution and Instructions to Those Elected to the Party Congress”, in: ‘Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 2; London; nd.; p. 61).

However, the convocation of the congress proved unnecessary, and was cancelled by the Central Committee. On October 18th, the Central Committee adopted a resolution to boycott the pre-parliament, against only one dissentient vote. The dissentient, Lev Kamenev, asked that a statement by him be attached to the minutes of the meeting:

“I think that your decision to withdraw from the very first session of the ‘Soviet of the Russian Republic’ predetermines the tactics of the Party during the next period in a direction which I personally consider quite dangerous for the Party.”

(L. Kamenev: Statement to CC, RSDLP, October 18th., 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: in: “Collected Works”; Volume 21; Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 302).

On the opening day of the Pre-parliament, October 20th., Trotsky read a declaration on behalf of the Bolsheviks:

“We, the fraction of Social-Democrats-Bolsheviks, declare: with this government of traitors to the people and with this council of counter-revolutionary connivance we have-nothing in common. We do not wish to cover up, directly or indirectly, not even for a single day, that work which is being carried out behind the official screen and which is fatal to the people. . .
In withdrawing from the Provisional Council we appeal to the vigilance and courage of the workers, soldiers and peasants of all Russia.
We appeal to the people.
All power to the Soviets!
All the land to the people!
Long live the immediate, honourable, democratic peace!
Long live the Constituent Assembly! “

(Declaration of the Bolshevik Fraction Read in the Pre-parliament, October 20th 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 2; London n.d.; p. 324).

The Bolsheviks then walked out of the Pre-parliament.

The Central Committee Meeting of October 23rd

Two days after the Bolsheviks walked out of the Pre-parliament, there took place, on October 23rd, the famous session of the Central Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Party at which the decision to launch the insurrection was taken.

Twelve of the twenty-one members of the CC were present, including Lenin disguised in wig and spectacles.

The minutes of the meeting recorded the main points only of Lenin’s statement:

“Lenin states that since the beginning of September a certain indifference towards the question has been noted. He says that this is inadmissible, if we earnestly raise the slogan of seizure of power by the Soviets. It is, therefore, high time to turn attention to the technical side of the question. Much time has obviously been lost.

Nevertheless, the question is very urgent and the decisive moment is near. . . .
The absenteeism and the indifference of the masses can be explained by the fact that the masses are tired of words and resolutions.

The majority is now with us. Politically, the situation has become entirely ripe for the transfer of power.”

(Minutes of the Central Committee of the RSDLP, October 23, 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, B k 2; London; n.d.; p. 106).

Lenin then moved a resolution which ended:

“Recognising thus that an armed uprising is inevitable and the time perfectly ripe, the Central Committee proposes to all the organisations of the Party to act accordingly and to discuss and decide from this point of view all the practical questions.”

(Resolution of Central Committee, RSDLP, October 23rd 1917, cited in: ibid; p; 107).

The resolution was carried by ten votes to two – the dissentients being Grigori Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev.

The Campaign of Kamenev and Zinoviev against the Central Committee’s Decision on the Insurrection

On October 24th, Lev Kamenev and Grigori Zinoviev sent a joint memorandum to the principal organisations of the Party attacking the Central Committee’s decision of the previous day to launch an insurrection:

“The Congress of Soviets has been called for November 2. . . It must become the centre of the consolidation around the Soviets of all proletarian and demi-proletarian organisations. . . As yet there is no firm organisational connection between these organisations and the Soviets. . . But such a connection is in any case a preliminary condition for the actual carrying out of the slogan “All power to the Soviets?. . . .

Under these conditions it would be a serious historical untruth to formulate the question of the transfer of power into the hands of the proletarian party in the terms: either now or never.

No. The party of the proletariat will grow.. . . And there is only one way in which the proletarian party can interrupt its successes, and that is if under present conditions it takes upon itself to initiate an uprising and thus expose the proletarians to the blows of the entire consolidated counter-revolution, supported by the petty-bourgeois democracy.

Against this pernicious policy we raise our voices in warning.”

(G. Zinoviev & L. Kamenev Statement to Party Organisations October 24th, 1917, cited in V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 2; London; nd.; p. 332).

A few days later the statement was distributed in leaflet form in Petrograd.

Trotsky’s “Soviet Constitutionalism”

Trotsky’s opposition to Lenin’s call to insurrection was more subtle than that of Kamenev and Zinoviev.

Whereas the latter openly opposed Lenin’s demands for immediate preparations for insurrection, Trotsky supported these demands in words. He insisted however, in the name of “Soviet constitutionalism” that the actual call to insurrection should be issued not by the Petrograd Soviet, and certainly not by the Party, but by the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets.

As Trotsky’s sympathetic biographer Isaac Deutscher expresses it:

“Trotsky was approaching the problem from his new point of vantage as President of the Petrograd Soviet. He agreed with Lenin on the chances and the urgency of insurrection. But he disagreed with him over method, especially over the idea that the party should stage the insurrection in its own name and on its own responsibility. He took less seriously than Lenin the threat of an immediate counter-revolution. Unlike Lenin, he was confident that the pressure of the Bolshevik majority in the Soviets would not allow the old Central Executive to delay much longer the All-Russian Congress. . . . . .

Lenin . . refused to let insurrection wait until the Congress convened, because he was convinced that the Menshevik Executive would delay the Congress to the Greek Calends, and that the insurrection would never take place as it would be forestalled by a successful counter-revolution.. . .

The difference between Lenin and Trotsky centred on whether the rising itself ought to be conceived in terms of Soviet constitutionalism. The tactical risk inherent in Trotsky’s attitude was that it imposed certain delays upon the whole plan of action…

Lenin . . viewed Trotsky’s attitude in the matter of insurrection with uneasiness, and even suspicion. He wondered whether, by insisting that the rising should be linked with the Congress of the Soviets, Trotsky was not biding his time and delaying action until it would be too late. If this had been the case, then Trotsky would have been, from Lenin’s viewpoint, an even more dangerous opponent than Kamenev and Zinoviev, whose attitude had at least the negative merit that it was unequivocal and that it flatly contradicted the whole trend of Bolshevik policy. Trotsky’s attitude, on the contrary, seemed to follow from the party’s policy and therefore carried more conviction with the Bolsheviks; the Central Committee was in fact inclined to adopt it. In his letters, Lenin therefore sometimes controverted Trotsky’s view almost as strongly as Zinoviev’s and Kamencv’s, without, however, mentioning Trotsky by name. To wait for the rising until the Congress of Soviets, he wrote, was just as treasonable as to wait for Kerensky to convoke the Constituent Assembly, as Zinoviev and Kamenev wanted to do.”

(I. Deutscher: “The Prophet Armed Trotsky: 1879-1921”; London; 1970; pp. 290-291, 294-95).

Lenin’s objections to Trotsky’s line on this question were twofold:

Firstly: it would mean dangerous delay in calling the insurrection;

Secondly: since the calling of the Second Congress of Soviets was constitutionally in the hands of the Central Executive Committee (C.E.C) – elected at the First Congress of Soviets in June and dominated by Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries — it would mean permitting counterrevolutionaries, and not the revolutionary vanguard Party, to “fix the date of the insurrection,” or even to postpone it indefinitely.

In this connection, it must be remembered that the First Congress of Soviets had instructed the C.E.C. to summon a new congress “within three months”, i.e. not later than September. The C.E.C however, justifiably fearing that the Bolsheviks would have a majority at the congress, violated this instruction. Only under the extreme pressure of the Bolsheviks at the time of the Democratic Conference did the C.E.C. reluctantly agree to convoke the congress for November 2nd . On October 31st, however, it postponed the congress to November 7th.

Lenin saw Trotsky’s line as either — and he left the question open – “absolute idiocy” or “complete betrayal”, and he attacked it continuously up to the moment of the insurrection itself:

On October 10th:

“The general political situation causes me great anxiety . . The government has an army, and is preparing itself systematically.

And what do we do? We only pass resolutions. We lose time. We set ‘dates’ (November 2, the Soviet Congress – is it not ridiculous to put it off so long? Is it not ridiculous to rely on that?”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to I.T. Smilga, October 10th., 1917; in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 265).

On October 12th:

“Yes, the leaders of the Central Executive Committee are pursuing tactics whose sole logic is the defence of the bourgeoisie and the landowners. And there is not the slightest doubt that the Bolsheviks, were they to allow themselves to be caught in the trap of constitutional illusions, of ‘faith’ in the Congress of Soviets. . . . of waiting’ for the Congress of Soviets, etc. — that such Bolsheviks would prove miserable traitors to the proletarian cause. . . .

The crisis has matured. The whole future of the Russian Revolution is at stake. The whole honour of the Bolshevik Party is in question…We must . . admit the truth, that in our Central Committee and at the top of our Party there is a tendency in favour of awaiting the Congress of Soviets, against the immediate seizure of power, against an immediate uprising. We must overcome this tendency or opinion.

Otherwise the Bolsheviks would cover themselves with shame forever; they would be reduced to nothing as a party. For to miss such a moment and to ‘await’ the Congress of Soviets is either absolute idiocy or complete betrayal.. . . To ‘await’ the Congress of Soviets is absolute idiocy, for this means losing weeks, whereas weeks and even days now decide everything. . . To ‘await’ the Congress of Soviets is idiocy, for the Congress will give nothing, it can give nothing!. . .
First vanquish Kerensky, then call the Congress.

The victory of the uprising is now secure for the Bolsheviks . . if we do not ‘await’ the Soviet Congress. . . . To refrain from seizing power at present, to ‘wait’, to ‘chatter’ in the Centra1 Committee, to confine ourselves . . to ‘fighting for the Congress’ means to ruin the revolution.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The Crisis has Matured”, in: ibid.; p. 275, 276, 277, 278).

Only when Lenin took the extreme step of resigning from the Central Committee in order to fight for his line in the lower organs of the Party (on October 12th) did a majority accept Lenin’s line on this question:

“I am compelled to tender my resignation from the Central Committee which I hereby do, leaving myself the freedom of propaganda in the lower ranks of the Party and at the Party Congress.

For it is my deepest conviction that if we ‘await’ the Congress of Soviets and let the present moment pass, we ruin the revolution.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 278).

Although Lenin withdrew his resignation when the Central Committee voted for a boycott of the Pre-parliament, Trotsky continued to fight for his line and Lenin continued to fight against it:

On October 16-20:

“Events indicate our task so clearly to us that hesitation actually becomes a crime.. . . To ‘wait’ under such conditions is a crime.

The Bolsheviks have no right to wait for the Congress of Soviets; they must take power immediately.

To wait for the Congress of Soviets means to play a childish game of formality, a shameful game of formality; it means to betray the revolution.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to the Central Committee, Moscow Committee, Petrograd Committee, and the Bolshevik Members of the Petrograd and Moscow Soviets, October 16-20, 1917; in: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 2; London; n.d.; p. 69).

On October 21st:

“We must not wait for the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, which the Central Executive Committee may postpone till November; we must not tarry.. . .
Near Petrograd and in Petrograd — this is where this uprising can and must be decided upon and carried out . . as quickly as possible….Delay means death.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to Bolshevik Comrades Participating in the Regional Congress of the Soviets of the Northern Region, October 21st., 1917,in: ibid.; p. 91).

On November 6th.; (i.e, on the eve of the insurrection):

“The situation is extremely critical. It is as clear as can be that delaying the uprising now really means death.

With all my power I wish to persuade the comrades that now everything hangs on a hair, that on the order of the day are questions that are not solved by conferences, by congresses (even by Congresses of Soviets), but only . . by the struggle of armed masses.

The bourgeois onslaught of the Kornilovists, the removal of Verkhovsky, show that we must not wait. We must at any price, this evening, tonight, arrest the Minister, having disarmed (defeated if they offer resistance) the military cadets, etc.

We must not wait! We may lose everything!. . . History will not forgive delay by revolutionists who could be victorious today (and will surely be victorious today!), while they risk losing much tomorrow, they risk losing all.

If we seize power today, we seize it not against the Soviets but for them.

It would be a disaster or formalism to wait for the uncertain voting of November 7. The people have a right and a duty to decide such questions not by voting but by force.. . . .

The government is tottering. We must deal it the death blow at any cost. To delay action is the same as death.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to the Members of the Central Committee, November 6th., 1917, in: ibid.; p. 144-145).

Trotsky later felt it expedient to deny the charge that he had sought to accommodate the insurrection to the Second Congress of Soviets:

“We should search in vain among the minutes or among any memoirs whatever, for any indication of a proposal of Trotsky to ‘accommodate the insurrection necessarily to the Second Congress of Soviets.'”

(L. Trotsky: “History of the Russian Revolution”, Volume 3; London; 1967; p. 332).

Elsewhere in the same work, however, Trotsky makes his own position at the time quite clear. He reports his declaration ‘In the name of the Petrograd Soviet” on November 1st:

“I declare in the name of the Soviet that no armed actions have been settled upon by us….The Petrograd Soviet is going to propose to the Congress of Soviets that they seize the power.”

(L. Trotsky: Speech to Petrograd Soviet, November 1st., 1917; cited in: L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 102, 103).

and comments:

“The Soviet was sufficiently powerful to announce openly its programme of state revolution and even set the date.”

(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 103).

Trotsky also reports his speech at an emergency session of the Petrograd Soviet on November 6th., 1917 (the day before the insurrection began):

“An armed conflict today or tomorrow is not included in our plan — on the threshold of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets. We think that the Congress will carry out our slogan with greater power and authority'”

(L. Trotsky: Speech in Petrograd Soviet, November 6th., 1917, cited in: L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 331-2).

Stalin later referred to:

“the mistake made by the Petrograd Soviet in openly fixing and announcing the date of the uprising. (November 7).”

(J.V. Stalin: “Trotskyism or Leninism? , in: “Works”, Volume 6; Moscow, 1953; p. 362).

To which Trotsky replied:

“Where, and when, and from which side, did the Soviet publish abroad the date of the insurrection?”

(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 333).

and answers himself:

“It was not the insurrection, but the opening of the Congress of Soviets, which was publicly and in advance set for the 7th. . . ‘It flowed from the logic of things’, we wrote subsequently, ‘that we appointed the insurrection for November 7th.’ ..On the second anniversary of the revolution the author of this book, referring, in the sense just explained, to the fact that: ‘the October insurrection was, so to speak, appointed in advance for a definite date, for November 7th., and was accomplished upon exactly that date’, added: “We should seek in vain in history for another example of an insurrection which was accommodated in advance by the course of things to a definite date.”

(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 333-34).

Thus Trotsky, here was admitting the justice of Lenin’s comment:

“To ‘call’ the Congress of Soviets for November 2, in order to decide upon the seizure of power — is there any difference between this and a foolishly “appointed” uprising?”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Crisis has Matured”, in: ‘Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book l, London; n.d.; p. 277).

According to Trotsky, Lenin’s original plan for the insurrection (to which he adhered up to November 6th.) was that it should be called “‘in the name of the Party,” and endorsed by the Congress of Soviets when this met:

Lenin’s plan, he says:

“presupposed that the preparation and completion of the revolution were to be carried out through party channels and in the name of the party, and afterwards the seal of sanction was to be placed on the victory by the Congress of Soviets.”

(L. Trotsky: “Lessons of October”; London; 1971; p. 45).

“In the first weeks he (i.e. Lenin — Ed.) was decidedly in favour of the independent initiative of the Party.”

(L. Trotsky: “History of the Russian Revolution”;, Volume 3; London; 1967; p.265-6).

And Trotsky complains, for example, of the resolution drafted by Lenin which was also approved by the Central Committee at its meeting on October 23rd:

“The task of insurrection he presented directly as the task of the party. The difficult task of bringing its preparation into accord with the Soviets is as yet not touched upon. The All-Russian Congress of Soviets does not get a word.”

(L. Trotsky: ibid; p. 143).

Trotsky “kindly” attributes Lenin’s “wrong estimates” to his absence from Petrograd”:

“Lenin, who was not in Petrograd, could not appraise the full significance of this fact (i.e., the invalidation by the Petrograd Soviet of Kerensky’s order transferring two-thirds of the garrison to the front –Ed.) . . . . Lenin’s counsel . . flowed precisely from the fact that in his underground refuge he had no opportunity to estimate the radical turn.”

(L. Trotsky: “Lessons of October” London; 1971; p. 47-48).

“Lenin’s isolation . . deprived him of the possibility of making timely estimates of episodic factors and temporary changes.. . . If Lenin had been in Petrograd and had carried through at the beginning of October his decision in favour of an immediate insurrection without reference to the Congress of Soviets, he could undoubtedly have given the carrying out of his own plan a political setting which would have reduced its disadvantageous features to a minimum. But it is at least equally probable that he would himself in that case have come round to the plan actually carried out.”

(L. Trotsky: “History of the Russian Revolution”, Volume 3; London; 1967; p. 327-8).

In fact, Lenin’s basic plan was that the insurrection should be planned, timed and led by the Party, through either the Petrograd or the Moscow Soviet — both of which were now led by the Party — but not through the Second Congess of Soviets, the calling of which was dependent upon the Central Executive Committee led by Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries. As Stalin comments:

“According to Trotsky, it appears that Lenin’s view was that the Party should take power in October ‘independently’ of and behind the back of the Soviet’.
Later in, criticising this nonsense, which he ascribes to Lenin, Trotsky ‘cuts capers’ and finally delivers the following condescending utterance:
“That would have been a mistake”.
Trotsky is here uttering a falsehood about Lenin, he is misrepresenting Lenin’s views on the role of the Soviets in the uprising. A pile of documents can be cited showing that Lenin proposed that power be taken through the Soviets, either the Petrograd or the Moscow Soviets, and not behind the back of the Soviets.”

(J.V. Stalin: “Trotskyism or Leninism?”, in: ‘Works’, Volume 6; Moscow; 1953; p. 359-60).

Trotsky’s myth goes on to say that the Central Committee “rejected Lenin’s plan for the insurrection” and “adopted Trotsky’s plan that the insurrection should be called by the Second Congress of Soviets. Only on the evening of November 6th , according to Trotsky was Lenin convinced of the “incorrectness” of his “conspiratorial plan”;

“The Central Committee did not adopt this (i.e., Lenin’s — Ed.) proposal the insurrection was led into Soviet channels.”

(L. Trotsky: ‘Lessons October; London 1971; p. 45).

“When he (i.e., Lenin — Ed ) arrived in Smolny (i.e., on the evening November 6th , the day before the insurrection — Ed.) . . I understood that only at that moment had he finally become reconciled to the fact that we had refused the seizure of power by way of a conspirative plan.”

(L. Trotsky: “History of the Russian Revolution”, Volume 3; London,.1967; P. 345)

As Stalin points out, however, the Central Committee of the Party did not adopt Trotsky’s plan that the insurrection should be called by the Second Congress of Soviets. In fact, the insurrection had been carried through before the Congress met.

“Lenin proposed that power be taken before November 7th, for two reasons.

Firstly, because the counter-revolutionaries might have surrendered Petrograd (i.e., to the German armies — Ed ) at any moment, which would have drained the blood of the developing uprising.

Secondly, because the mistake made by the Petrograd Soviet in openly fixing and announcing the day of the uprising (November 7) could not be rectified in any other way than by actually launching the uprising before the legal date set for it. The fact of the matter is that Lenin regarded insurrection as an art, and he could not help knowing that the enemy, informed about the date of the uprising (owing to the carelessness of the Petrograd Soviet) would certainly try to prepare for that day.

Consequently, it was necessary to forestall the enemy, i.e., without fail to launch the uprising before the legal date. This is the chief explanation for the passion with which Lenin in his letters scourged those who made a fetish of the date — November 7. Events show that Lenin was absolutely right. It is well known that the uprising was launched prior to the All Russian Congress of Soviets. It is well known that power was actually taken before the opening of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, and it was taken not by the Congress of Soviets, but by the Petrograd Soviet, by the Revolutionary Military Committee. The Congress of Soviets merely took over power from the Petrograd Soviet. That is why Trotsky’s lengthy arguments about the importance of Soviet legality are quite beside the point.”

(J. V. Stalin: ibid; p. 362).

The Extended Central Committee Meeting of October 29th

On October 29th., 1917 an extended session of the Central Committee of the RSDLP was held, in which participated representatives of the Petrograd Committee, the Petrograd Regional Committee, the Military Organisation, the Bolshevik Fraction of the Petrograd Soviet, trade unions and factory committees.

Lenin reported on the Central Committee meeting of October 23rd, and read the resolution on insurrection adapted by that meeting.

Representatives then reported on the situation existing, in their particular sectors.

In the discussion on the present situation, the resolution was strongly opposed by Lev Kamenev and Grigori Zinoviev.

Kamenev said:

“This resolution . . shows how not to carry out an uprising: during this week nothing has been done.. . .

The results for the week indicate that there are no factors favouring a rising. . We have no apparatus for an uprising; our enemies have a much stronger apparatus, and it has probably further increased during this week. . . In preparing for the Constituent Assembly we do not at all embrace the road of parliamentarism. . . Two tactics are fighting here: the tactic of conspiracy and the tactic of faith in the moving forces of the Russian Revolution.”

(L. Kamenev: Speech at Extended Meeting of CC, RSDLP, October 29th., 1917; in: Minutes, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 2: London; n.d.; p. 337).

Zinoviev said:

“The Constituent Assembly will take place in an atmosphere that is revolutionary to the highest degree. Meanwhile, we shall strengthen our forces. The possibility is not eliminated that we, together with the Left S-Rs, shall be in the majority there. ….We have no right to risk, to stake everything on one card.. . . .

If the congress takes place on the 2nd, we must propose that it should not disband until the constituent assembly convenes. There must be a defensive, waiting tactic. . . It is necessary to reconsider, if possible, the resolution of the CC. . We must definitely tell ourselves that we do not plan an uprising within the next five years.”

(G. Zinoviev: Speech at Extended Meeting of CC, RSDLP, October 29th., 1917, in Ibid; p. 36, 337).

Stalin spoke strongly in favour of confirmation of the Central Committee resolution of October 23rd., and this was finally done by 19 votes against 2 — the dissentients again being Kamenev and Zinoviev.

The Central Committee then continued in session alone, and set up a Military Centre of the Central Committee consisting of Stalin, Sverdlov, Bubnov, Dzerzhinsky and Uritsky.

After the meeting had concluded, Kamenev sent a letter to the Central Committee tendering his resignation from it:

“Not being able to support the point of view expressed in the latest decisions of the CC which define the character of its work, and considering that this position is leading the party of the proletariat to defeat, I ask the CC to recognise that I am no longer a member of the CC.”

(L. Kamenev: Letter to CC, RSDLP, October 29th., 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: Ibid. ; p. 260).

The Congress of Soviets of the Northern Region

From October 24-26th , 1917 the Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies of the Northern Region took place in Petrograd. Since the overwhelming majority of the delegates were Bolsheviks and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets — still dominated by Mensheviks and Right Socialist-Revolutionaries — declared the congress unofficial, and the small Menshevik fraction declared themselves present “for purposes of information only.”

The congress declared itself in favour of the immediate transfer of power to the Soviets, the immediate transfer of land to the peasants, an immediate offer of peace and the convening of the Constituent Assembly at the appointed time.

On October 29-30th Lenin – wrote a long, “Letter to Comrades” in which he refuted point by point the arguments of Kamenev and Zinoviev against the immediate launching of an insurrection.

On October 31st, Kamenev, on behalf of Zinoviev and himself, published a statement in the newspaper “Novaya Zhizn” (New Life) in which he declared that they felt themselves obliged:

“To declare themselves against any attempt to take the initiative of an armed uprising which would be doomed to defeat and which would have the most dangerous effect on the party, the proletariat, the fate of the revolution. To stake everything on the card of an uprising within the next few days would be tantamount to making a step of desperation”;

(L. Kamenev: “L. Kamenev About the Uprising”, in “Novaya Zhizn”, October 31st., 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 261).

Lenin thundered immediately at the treachery of the “strikebreakers of the Revolution”:

“On the eve of the critical day . . two ‘outstanding Bolsheviks’ attack an unpublished decision of the Party centre in the non-Party press, in a paper which as far as this given problem is concerned goes hand in hand with the bourgeoisie against the workers’ party. . . .

I will fight with all my power both in the Central Committee and at the congress to expel them both from the Party.

I cannot judge from afar how much damage was done to the cause by the strike-breaking action in the non-Party press. Very great practical damage has undoubtedly been caused. To remedy the situation, it is first of all necessary to re-establish the unity of the Bolshevik front by excluding the strike-breakers.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to the Members of the Bolshevik Party, October 31st., 1917, in: ibid.; p. 129-30, 131).

On the following day he wrote to the Central Committee of the Party:

“A self-respecting Party cannot tolerate strike-breaking and strike-breakers in its midst. This is obvious. The more we think about Zinoviev’s and Kamenev’s appearance in the non-Party press, the more obvious it becomes that their action has all the elements of strike-breaking in it.

We cannot refute the gossipy lie of Zinoviev and Kamenev without doing the cause still more harm. Therein lies the boundless meanness, the absolute treacherousness of these two persons, that in the face of the capitalists they have betrayed the strikers’ plans. For once we keep silent in the press, everybody will guess how things stand. . . . .

There can be and must be only one answer to this: an immediate decision of the Central Committee saying that:

‘Recognising in Zinoviev’s and Kamenev’s appearance in the non-Party press all the elements of strikebreaking, the Central Committee expels both from the Party’. . . .

The more ‘outstanding’ the strike-breakers, the more imperative it is to punish them immediately with expulsion.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to the Central Committee of the RSDLP, November 1st, 1917; in ibid. p. 133, 135, 136).

The Central Committee Meeting of November 2nd. At its meeting on November 2nd., the Central Committee accepted Kamenev’s resignation from the CC. It adopted a resolution to the effect:

“that no member of the CC shall have the right to speak against the adopted decisions of the CC,”

(Minutes of Meeting of CC, RSDLP, November 2nd., 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 2; London; n.d.; p. 261).

and a more specific resolution imposing:

“Upon Kamenev and Zinoviev the obligation not to make any statements against the decisions of the CC and the line of work laid out by it.”

(Ibid.; p. 261).

The Insurrection

On November 5th , the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet appointed commissars for all the military detachments under its command. On the same day the Peter and Paul fortress, the last important obstacle to insurrection, declared for the Petrograd Soviet.

In the early morning of November 6th, the Provisional Government attempted to launch a counter-offensive against the revolutionary forces by issuing orders for the arrest of the members of the Revolutionary Military Committee and for the suppression of the central organ of the Bolsheviks, “Rabochy Put” (Workers Path).

By 10 a.m. detachments of Red Guards had placed a guard on the printing plant and editorial offices of the newspaper, and at 11 a.m. the paper came out with a call for the immediate overthrow of the Provisional Government.

In the late evening of November 6th, Lenin arrived at the Smolny which, as the headquarters both of the Petrograd Soviet and of the Bolshevik Party, had become the directing centre of the insurrection. Throughout the night, revolutionary soldiers and workers came to the Smolny and were armed with weapons supplied by the army units from the city’s arsenals.

From dawn on November 7th revolutionary troops and Red Guards occupied the Petrograd railway stations, post offices, telegraph offices, telephone exchanges, government offices and the state bank The Pre-Parliament was dispersed. The cruiser “Aurora,” controlled by revolutionary sailors, trained its guns on the Winter Palace, the only territory remaining to the Provisional Government.

During the day the Revolutionary Military Committee issued a manifesto: “To the Citizens of Russia” drafted by Lenin:

“The Provisional Government has been overthrown. The power of state has passed into the hands of the organ of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, the Revolutionary Military Committee, which stands at the head of the Petrograd Proletariat and garrison.

The cause for which the people have fought – the immediate proposal of a democratic peace, the abolition of landed proprietorship, workers’ control over production and the creation of a Soviet government — is assured.

Long live the revolution of the workers, soldiers, and peasants!”

(V. I. Lenin: “Manifesto of Revolutionary Military Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, November 7th , 1917, in: V. I. Lenin & J. V. Stalin: “‘1917: Selected Writings and Speeches”; Moscow; 1938; p. 613).

In one respect the manifesto was slightly premature, for it was not until the evening of November 7th. that revolutionary workers, soldiers and sailors took the Winter Palace by storm and arrested those members of the Provisional Government who had not fled (Kerensky had escaped earlier in the day by car, accompanied by a U.S. Embassy car flying the Stars and Stripes).

At 11 p.m. on November 7th the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets opened in the Smolny.

As Stalin points out:

“It is well known that the uprising was launched prior to the All-Russian Congress of Soviets. It is well known that power was actually taken before the opening of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, and it was taken not by the Congress of Soviets, but by the Petrograd Soviet, by the Revolutionary Military Committee. The Congress of Soviets merely took over power from the Petrograd Soviet.”

(J. V. Stalin: “Trotskyism Or Leninism?”, in: “Works”, Volume 6; Moscow; 1953; p. 362).

The Role of Trotsky in the October Revolution

As Stalin points out, Trotsky, as President of the Petrograd Soviet and of its Revolutionary Military Committee, played an important role in thc”October Revolution”:

“I am far from denying Trotsky’s undoubtedly important role in the uprising.. . . .It cannot be denied that Trotsky fought well in the period of October . . But Trotsky was not the only one who fought well in the period of October. Even people like the Left Socialist revolutionaries, who then stood side by side with the Bolsheviks, also fought well.”

(J. V. Stalin: “Trotskyism or Leninism?”, in: “Works’, Volume 6; Moscow; 1933; p. 342, 344).

In his myth about the “October Revolution,” however, Trotsky was concerned to underestimate the leading role of the Party in the revolution, to underestimate the role of Lenin (whose tactics for the insurrection were, he alleges, incorrect), and to overestimate the role of the Military Revolutionary Committee Of the Petrograd Soviet and of himself as Chairman of that Committee.

Thus, Trotsky quotes with obvious approval one of the earlier editions of Lenin’s “Collected Works,” in which the editors say in a note on Trotsky:

“After the Petrograd Soviet went Bolshevik he was elected its President and in that capacity organised and led the insurrection of November 7th.”

(Cited by: L. Trotsky “History of the Russian Revolution”, Volume 3; London; 1967; p. 344).

The amendment of this estimation is, alleges Trotsky, due to the fact that:

“The bureaucratic revision of history of the party and the revolution is taking place under Stalin’s direct supervision.”

(L. Trotsky. Ibid.; p. 343).

Stalin certainly denied the “special role” of Trotsky in the “October Revolution” claimed by Trotsky and his supporters:

“The Trotskyites are vigorously spreading rumours that Trotsky inspired and was the sole leader of the October uprising. . Trotsky himself, by consistently avoiding mention of the Party, the Central Committee and the Petrograd Committee of the Party, by saying nothing about the leading role of these organisations in the uprising and vigorously pushing himself forward as the central figure in the October uprising, voluntarily or involuntarily helps to spread the rumours about the special role he is supposed to have played in the uprising….

…I must say, however, that Trotsky did not play any special role in the October uprising, nor could he do so; being chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, he merely carried out the will of the approrpiate Party bodies, which directed every step that Trotsky took.

On October 29 (at a meeting of the Central Committee of the Party — Ed.) a practical centre was elected for the organisational leadership of the uprising. Who was elected to this centre?

The following five: Sverdlov, Stalin, Dzerzhinzky, Bubnov, Uritsky.

The functions of this practica1 centre: to direct all the practical organs of the uprising in conformity with the directives of the Central Committee. Thus, as you see, something ‘terrible’ happened at the meeting of the Central Committee, i.e , ‘strange to relate’ the ‘inspirer’, the ‘chief figure’, the ‘sole 1eader’ of the uprising, Trotsky, was not elected to the practica1 centre, which was called upon to direct the uprising. . . And yet, strictly speaking, there is nothing strange about it, for neither in the party, nor in the October uprising, did Trotsky play any special role, nor could he do so, for he was a relatively new man in our Party in the period of October… He, like all the responsible workers, merely carried out the will of the Central Committee and of its organs. . . This talk about Trotsky’s special role is a legend that is being spread by obliging ‘Party’ gossips.

This of course, does not mean that the October uprising did not have its inspirer. It did have its inspirer and leader, but his was Lenin, and none other than Lenin, that same Lenin whose resolutions the Central Committee adopted when deciding the question of the uprising, that same Lenin who, in spite of what Trotsky says, was not prevented by being in hiding from being the actual inspirer of the uprising. . . .

What sort of a ‘history’ of October is it that begins and ends with attempts to discredit the chief leader of the October uprising, to discredit the Party, which organised and carried out the uprising? Trotsky by his literary pronouncements is making another (yet another!) attempt to create the conditions for substituting Trotskyism for Leninism.”

(J. V. Stalin: ‘Trotskyism or Leninism?”, in: “Works,” Volume 6; Moscow; 1953; p. 341-3, 363, 364).

Trotsky, in his reply, confirms Stalin’s charge that he is concerned to underestimate the leading role of the Party in the insurrection. He admits that “the practical centre” of the Central Committee was set up:

“at Lenin’s suggestion”

(L. Trotsky: ‘History of the Russian Revo1ution;”, Volume 3; London; 1967 p. 339).

But he denies that it or any other party organ guided the insurrection. The insurrection, he declares, was guided by the Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, with Trotsky as its chairman, alone:

“The Military Revolutionary Committee from the moment of its birth had the direct leadership not only of the garrison, but of the Red Guard. . .. No place remained for any other directing centre….There was but one revolutionary centre, that affiliated with the Soviet — that is, the Military Revolutionary Committee.”

(L. Trotsky: ibid.) p. 340, 341).

The Character of the “October Revolution”

Lenin characterised the “October Revolution” as a proletarian-socialist revolution in its main, political content — since by it the working class in alliance with, and leading, the peasantry seized political poor from the capitalist class. But he characterised it as a bourgeois-democratic revolution in its’ economic content — since it completed the bourgeois-democratic revolutionary tasks which the “February Revolution” did not carry out.

“The immediate and direct aim of the revolution in Russia was a bourgeois-democratic aim, namely to destroy the relics of medievalism and abolish them completely….We brought the bourgeois-democratic revolution to completion has done before.

We are progressing towards the socialist revolution, consciously, deliberately and undeviatingly, knowing that no Chinese wall separates it from the bourgeois-democratic revolution….

But…we solved the problems of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in passing, as a “by-product” of the main and real proletarian-revolutionary socialist work.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Fourth Anniversary of the October Revolution”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 6; London; 1946; p. 500; 501; 503.)

“The October Revolution overthrew the bourgeoisie and transferred power to the proletariat but did not immediately lead to:
the completion of the bourgeois revolution, in general and: the isolation of the kulaks in the countryside, in particular –
these were spread over a certain period of time but this does not mean that our fundamenta1 slogan at the second stage of the revolution – “together with the poor peasantry, against capitalism in town and country, while neutralising the middle peasantry, for the power of the proletariat” –
— was wrong . . . .
The strategic slogans of the Party can be appraised only from the point of view of a Marxist analysis of the class forces and of the correct disposition of the revolutionary forces. . . . .
Is it possible for the overthrow of the power of the bourgoisie and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat to be effected within the framework of the bourgeois revolution? . . .
How can it be asserted that the kulaks (who, of course, are also peasants) could support the overthrow of the bourgoisie and the transfer of power to the proletariat’? . .. . .
One of the main tasks of the October Revolution was to complete the bourgeois revolution. . . .and since the October Revolution did complete the bourgeois revolution it was bound to meet with the sympathy of all the peasants . . But can it be asserted on these grounds that the completion of the bourgeois revolution was not a derivative phenomenon in the course of the October Revolution but its essence or its principal aim? . . .
And if the main theme of a strategic slogan is the question of the transfer of power from one class to another, is it not clear from this that the question of the completion of the bourgeois revolution by the proletarian power must not be confused with the question of overthrowing the bourgeoisie and achieving this proletarian power, i.e., with the question that is the main theme at the second stage of the revolution? .
In order to complete the bourgeois revolution it was necessary in October:
first to overthrow the power of the bourgeoisie and to set up the power of the proletariat, for only such a power is capable of completing the bourgeois revolution. But in order to set up the power of the proletariat in October it was essential to prepare and organise for October the appropriate political army, an army capable of overthrowing the bourgeoisie and of establishing the power of the proletariat, and there is no need to prove that such a political army could be prepared and organised by us only under the slogan:
Alliance of the proletariat with the poor peasantry against the bourgeoisie, for the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

(J. V. Stalin: “The Party’s Three Fundamental Slogans on the Peasant Question”, in “Works”; Volume 9; Moscow; 1954; p. 208-09; 210, 211-12).

For the autumn of 1913, however, the continuing revolution developed uninterruptedly into a proletarian-socialist revolution in its economic content.

“Until the organisation of the Committees of Poor Peasants, i.e., down to the summer and even the autumn of 1918, our revolution was to a large extent a bourgeois revolution . . . But from the moment the Committees of Poor Peasants began to be organised, our revolution became a proletarian revolution. . It was only when the October revolution in the countryside began and was accomplished in the summer of 1913 that we found our real proletarian base; it was only then that our revolution became a proletarian revolution in fact, and not merely by virtue of proclamations, promises and declarations.”

(V. I. Lenin: Report of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist (Bolsheviks) at the Eighth Party Congress, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; 1943; 10. 37, 33).

“In November 1917 we seized power together with the peasantry as a whole. This was a bourgeois revolution in as much as the class war in the rural districts had not yet developed.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Work in the Rural Districts”, in: ibid.; p. 171).

CONCLUSION

From the foundation of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party to November 1917, the efforts of the revisionists in Russia were directed towards preventing the socialist revolution from taking place, making use in the main of open political opposition, couched in pseudo-Marxist phraseology, either to the revolution itself or to the policies necessary to bring the revolution about. These efforts of the revisionists, dealt with in this report, met with failure. The socialist revolution took place in November 1917.

From the socialist revolution in November 1917 to the summer of 1932, the efforts of the revisionists in Soviet Russia were directed towards preventing the construction of socialism from being brought about, making use in the main of open political opposition, couched in pseudo-Marxist-Leninist phraseology, either to the construction of socialism itself or to the policies necessary to bring about the construction of socialism. These efforts of the revisionists, to be dealt with in a later report, met with failure.

A socialist society was completely — though not completely securely for all time – constructed in the Soviet Union.

In the period from the summer of 1932 to the mid-1960s, the efforts of the revisionists in the Soviet Union were directed towards restoring a capitalist society, making use in the main of conspiratorial methods of political opposition. These efforts of the revisionists, to be dealt with in a later report, met with success. Today in the Soviet Union the dictatorship of the working class has been liquidated and all the essentials of a state capitalist economic system, based on profit as the motive of production and on the exploitation of the Soviet working class by the new class of state capitalists, have been brought into being.

The Soviet Union has become a neo–imperialist state, pursuing essentially similar aims to those of the older imperialist states, and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union has been transformed by its revisionist leaders from the vanguard party of the Soviet working class to a fascist-type political instrument of the Soviet neo- imperialists.

An analysis of the way in which the revisionists succeeded in dominating, and bringing about the degeneration of, the international communist movement is essential to the task of building a Marxist-Leninist International free of all revisionist trends. The series of reports on “The Origins of Revisionism”, of which the preceding report forms one, is an attempt to make such an analysis.

THE END

Andy Beckett: The Forgotten Story of Chile’s ‘Socialist Internet’

The Operations Room (or Opsroom): a physical location where economic information was to be received, stored, and made available for speedy decision-making. It was designed in accordance with Gestalt principles in order to give users a platform that would enable them to absorb information in a simple but comprehensive way.

When Pinochet’s military overthrew the Chilean government 30 years ago, they discovered a revolutionary communication system, a ‘socialist internet’ connecting the whole country. Its creator? An eccentric scientist from Surrey. Andy Beckett on the forgotten story of Stafford Beer

During the early 70s, in the wealthy commuter backwater of West Byfleet in Surrey, a small but rather remarkable experiment took place. In the potting shed of a house called Firkins, a teenager named Simon Beer, using bits of radios and pieces of pink and green cardboard, built a series of electrical meters for measuring public opinion. His concept – users of his meters would turn a dial to indicate how happy or unhappy they were with any political proposal – was strange and ambitious enough. And it worked. Yet what was even more jolting was his intended market: not Britain, but Chile.

Unlike West Byfleet, Chile was in revolutionary ferment. In the capital Santiago, the beleaguered but radical marxist government of Salvador Allende, hungry for innovations of all kinds, was employing Simon Beer’s father, Stafford, to conduct a much larger technological experiment of which the meters were only a part. This was known as Project Cybersyn, and nothing like it had been tried before, or has been tried since.

Stafford Beer attempted, in his words, to “implant” an electronic “nervous system” in Chilean society. Voters, workplaces and the government were to be linked together by a new, interactive national communications network, which would transform their relationship into something profoundly more equal and responsive than before – a sort of socialist internet, decades ahead of its time.

When the Allende administration was deposed in a military coup, the 30th anniversary of which falls this Thursday, exactly how far Beer and his British and Chilean collaborators had got in constructing their hi-tech utopia was soon forgotten. In the many histories of the endlessly debated, frequently mythologised Allende period, Project Cybersyn hardly gets a footnote. Yet the personalities involved, the amount they achieved, the scheme’s optimism and ambition and perhaps, in the end, its impracticality, contain important truths about the most tantalising leftwing government of the late 20th century.

Stafford Beer, who died last year, was a restless and idealistic British adventurer who had long been drawn to Chile. Part scientist, part management guru, part social and political theorist, he had grown rich but increasingly frustrated in Britain during the 50s and 60s. His ideas about the similarities between biological and man-made systems, most famously expressed in his later book, The Brain of the Firm, made him an in-demand consultant with British businesses and politicians. Yet these clients did not adopt the solutions he recommended as often as he would have liked, so Beer began taking more contracts abroad.

In the early 60s, his company did some work for the Chilean railways. Beer did not go there himself, but one of the Chileans involved, an engineering student called Fernando Flores, began reading Beer’s books and was captivated by their originality and energy. By the time the Allende government was elected in 1970, a group of Beer disciples had formed in Chile. Flores became a minister in the new administration, with responsibility for nationalising great swathes of industry. As in many areas, the Allende government wanted to do things differently from traditional marxist regimes. “I was very much against the Soviet model of centralisation,” says Raul Espejo, one of Flores’s senior advisers and another Beer disciple. “My gut feeling was that it was unviable.”

But how should the Chilean economy be run instead? By 1971, the initial euphoria of Allende’s democratic, non-authoritarian revolution was beginning to fade; Flores and Espejo realised that their ministry had acquired a disorganised empire of mines and factories, some occupied by their employees, others still controlled by their original managers, few of them operating with complete efficiency. In July, they wrote to Beer for help.

They knew that he had leftwing sympathies, but also that he was very busy. “Our expectation was to hire someone from his team,” says Espejo. But after getting the letter, Beer quickly grew fascinated by the Chilean situation. He decided to drop his other contracts and fly there. In West Byfleet, the reaction was mixed: “We thought, ‘Stafford’s going mad again,’ ” says Simon Beer.

When Stafford arrived in Santiago, the Chileans were more impressed. “He was huge,” Espejo remembers, “and extraordinarily exuberant. From every pore of his skin you knew he was thinking big.” Beer asked for a daily fee of $500 – less than he usually charged, but an enormous sum for a government being starved of US dollars by its enemies in Washington – and a constant supply of chocolate, wine and cigars.

For the next two years, as subordinates searched for these amid the food shortages, and the local press compared him to Orson Welles and Socrates, Beer worked in Chile in frenetic bursts, returning every few months to England, where a British team was also labouring over Cybersyn. What this collaboration produced was startling: a new communications system reaching the whole spindly length of Chile, from the deserts of the north to the icy grasslands of the south, carrying daily information about the output of individual factories, about the flow of important raw materials, about rates of absenteeism and other economic problems.

Until now, obtaining and processing such valuable information – even in richer, more stable countries – had taken governments at least six months. But Project Cybersyn found ways round the technical obstacles. In a forgotten warehouse, 500 telex machines were discovered which had been bought by the previous Chilean government but left unused because nobody knew what to do with them. These were distributed to factories, and linked to two control rooms in Santiago. There a small staff gathered the economic statistics as they arrived, officially at five o’clock every afternoon, and boiled them down using a single precious computer into a briefing that was dropped off daily at La Moneda, the presidential palace.

Allende himself was enthusiastic about the scheme. Beer explained it to him on scraps of paper. Allende had once been a doctor and, Beer felt, instinctively understood his notions about the biological characteristics of networks and institutions. Just as significantly, the two men shared a belief that Cybersyn was not about the government spying on and controlling people. On the contrary, it was hoped that the system would allow workers to manage, or at least take part in the management of their workplaces, and that the daily exchange of information between the shop floor and Santiago would create trust and genuine cooperation – and the combination of individual freedom and collective achievement that had always been the political holy grail for many leftwing thinkers.

It did not always work out like that. “Some people I’ve talked to,” says Eden Miller, an American who is writing a PhD thesis partly about Cybersyn, “said it was like pulling teeth getting the factories to send these statistics.” In the feverish Chile of 1972 and 1973, with its shortages and strikes and jostling government initiatives, there were often other priorities. And often the workers were not willing or able to run their plants: “The people Beer’s scientists dealt with,” says Miller, “were primarily management.”

But there were successes. In many factories, Espejo says, “Workers started to allocate a space on their own shop floor to have the same kind of graphics that we had in Santiago.” Factories used their telexes to send requests and complaints back to the government, as well as vice versa. And in October 1972, when Allende faced his biggest crisis so far, Beer’s invention became vital.

Across Chile, with secret support from the CIA, conservative small businessmen went on strike. Food and fuel supplies threatened to run out. Then the government realised that Cybersyn offered a way of outflanking the strikers. The telexes could be used to obtain intelligence about where scarcities were worst, and where people were still working who could alleviate them. The control rooms in Santiago were staffed day and night. People slept in them – even government ministers. “The rooms came alive in the most extraordinary way,” says Espejo. “We felt that we were in the centre of the universe.” The strike failed to bring down Allende.

In some ways, this was the high point for Cybersyn. The following year, like the government in general, it began to encounter insoluble problems. By 1973, the sheer size of the project, involving somewhere between a quarter and half of the entire nationalised economy, meant that Beer’s original band of disciples had been diluted by other, less idealistic scientists. There was constant friction between the two groups. Meanwhile, Beer himself started to focus on other schemes: using painters and folk singers to publicise the principles of high-tech socialism; testing his son’s electrical public-opinion meters, which never actually saw service; and even organising anchovy-fishing expeditions to earn the government some desperately needed foreign currency.

All the while, the rightwing plotting against Allende grew more blatant and the economy began to suffocate as other countries, encouraged by the Americans, cut off aid and investment. Beer was accused in parts of the international press of creating a Big Brother-style system of administration in South America. “There was plenty of stress in Chile,” he wrote afterwards. “I could have pulled out at any time, and often considered doing so.”

In June 1973, after being advised to leave Santiago, he rented an anonymous house on the coast from a relative of Espejo. For a few weeks, he wrote and stared at the sea and travelled to government meetings under cover of darkness. On September 10, a room was measured in La Moneda for the installation of an updated Cybersyn control centre, complete with futuristic control panels in the arms of chairs and walls of winking screens. The next day, the palace was bombed by the coup’s plotters. Beer was in London, lobbying for the Chilean government, when he left his final meeting before intending to fly back to Santiago and saw a newspaper billboard that read, “Allende assassinated.”

The Chilean military found the Cybersyn network intact, and called in Espejo and others to explain it to them. But they found the open, egalitarian aspects of the system unattractive and destroyed it. Espejo fled. Some of his colleagues were not so lucky. Soon after the coup, Beer left West Byfleet, his wife, and most of his possessions to live in a cottage in Wales. “He had survivor guilt, unquestionably,” says Simon.

Cybersyn and Stafford’s subsequent, more esoteric inventions live on in obscure socialist websites and, more surprisingly, modern business school teachings about the importance of economic information and informal working practices. David Bowie, Brian Eno and Tony Blair’s new head of policy, Geoff Mulgan, have all cited Beer as an influence.

But perhaps more importantly, his work in Chile affected those who participated. Espejo has made a good career since as an inter- national management consultant. He has been settled in Britain for decades. He chuckles urbanely at the mention of Pinochet’s arrest in London five years ago. Yet when, after a long lunch in a pub near his home in Lincoln, I ask whether Cybersyn changed him, his playful, slightly professorial gaze turns quite serious. “Oh yes,” he says. “Completely.”

· Andy Beckett’s book Pinochet in Piccadilly is published by Faber.

Source

Communist League: On Terrorism

REPRINT FROM COMBAT – Journal of the Communist League – March 1975.

TERRORISM OR REVOLUTION?

The last decade has witnessed the emergence of a number of terrorist groups in various countries, together with the adoption of terrorist tactics by a number of national liberation groups. Britain for example, has experienced the bombing campaigns of the “Angry Brigade,” purporting to be a protest against corporatist and racist legislation and of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, purporting to form part of the Irish struggle for national liberation. In some countries, such as India, even groups claiming to be “Marxist-Leninist” pursue terrorist tactics.

IT IS THEREFORE IMPORTANT THAT WE SHOULD BE CLEAR ON THE MARXIST-LENINIST ATTITUDE TOWARDS TERRORISM.

A “Punishment for Opportunism”

The victory of revisionism in the international communist movement has transformed the Communist Parties of most countries into parties which objectively serve the interests of monopoly capital by preaching the illusion of “peaceful, parliamentary transition to socialism.” These parties are seen ever more clearly by those who have become rebels against the evils of modern capitalist society to have become “left-wing” opportunist parties, drawn more and more into the political machinery of the capitalist state as instruments of deception of the working people.

In the absence of scientific parties of socialist revolution, it is inevitable that rebelliousness should manifest itself to a certain extent in the form of unscientific “leftist” activity such as terrorism.

In speaking of anarchism of which terrorism is one of the two fundamental concepts (the other being repudiation of the state in all its forms), Lenin made precisely this point when he described it as “a sort of punishment for opportunism” in the working class movement:

“Anarchism was often a sort of punishment for the opportunist sins of the working class movement. Both monstrosities mutually supplemented each other.”

(V. I. Lenin: “’Left-wing Communism’, An Infantile Disorder”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 10; London; 1946; p. 71).

Petty-bourgeois Rebelliousness

The rebelliousness which manifests itself in the form of terrorism is essentially that of persons drawn from, or with the outlook of, the petty-bourgeoisie:

“Petty-bourgeois revolutionariness, which smacks of, or borrows something from anarchism . . in all essentials falls short of the conditions and requirements of sustained proletarian class struggle. . . The small proprietor, the small master, (a social type that is represented in many European countries on a wide mass scale) . . easily becomes extremely revolutionary, but is incapable of displaying perseverance, discipline and staunchness. The petty bourgeois in a ‘frenzy’ over the horrors of capitalism is a social phenomenon which, like anarchism, is characteristics of all capitalist countries. The instability of such revolutionariness, its barrenness, its liability to become swiftly transformed into submission, apathy, something fantastic, and even into a ‘mad’ infatuation with one or another bourgeois ‘fad’ — all this is a matter of common knowledge.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid; p. 70-71).

The petty bourgeoisie is a class which is in process of rapid destruction by monopoly capital – so that, anarchism must be seen as a political reflection of the desperate and futile striving of the petty bourgeois to retain his individual freedom:

“The philosophy of the anarchists is bourgeois philosophy turned inside out. Their individualistic theories and their individualistic ideal are the very opposite of socialism. Their views express, not the future of bourgeois society, which is striding with irresistible force towards the socialisation of labour, but the present and even the past of that society, the domination of blind chance over the scattered and isolated small producer.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Socialism and Anarchism”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 10; Moscow; 1962; p. 73).

“The point is that Marxism and anarchism are built up on entirely different principles in spite of the fact that both come into the arena of struggle under the flag of socialism. The cornerstone of anarchism is the individual, whose emancipation, according to its tenets, is the principal condition for the emancipation of the masses, the collective body. According to the tenets of anarchism, the emancipation of the masses is impossible until the individual is emancipated. Accordingly, its slogan is: ‘Everything for the individual’. The cornerstone of Marxism, however, is the masses, whose emancipation, according to its tenets, is the principal condition for the emancipation of the individual. That is to say, according to the tenets of Marxism, the emancipation of the individual is impossible until the masses are emancipated. Accordingly, its slogan is: “Everything for the masses!”

(J. V. Stalin: “Anarchism or Socialism?”, in: “Works”,’ Volume 1; Moscow; 1952; p. 299).

Terrorism and economism (the theory that the working class can be expected to engage only in economic, and not political, struggles) have common, roots in the “theory of spontaneity” — which rejects the possibility of elevating the working class to socialist consciousness through the propaganda and day-to-day leadership of a vanguard party:

“The Economists and the modern terrorists spring from a common root, namely, subservience to spontaneity… At first sight, our assertion may appear paradoxical, for the difference between these two appears to be so enormous: one stresses the ‘drab everyday struggle’ and the other calls for the most self-sacrificing struggle of individuals. But this is not a paradox. The Economists and terrorists merely bow to different poles of spontaneity: the Economists bow to the spontaneity of the ‘pure and simple’ labour movements while the terrorists bow to the spontaneity of the passionate indignation of the intellectuals, who are either incapable of linking up the revolutionary struggle with the labour movement, or lack the opportunity to do so. It is very difficult indeed for those who have lost their belief, or who have never believed that this is possible, to find some other outlet for their indignation and revolutionary energy than terror.”

(V. I. Lenin: “What Is to be Done?”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 2; London; 1944; p. 94).

“The present-day terrorists are really ‘economists’ turned inside out, going to the equally foolish but opposite extreme.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Revolutionary Adventurism in Collected Works”, Volume 6 Moscow; 1961; p. 192.

Thus terrorism — like economism — reflects the lack of faith of the petty bourgeoisie in the masses of the working people. Reviewing a leaflet issued by the Socialist-Revolutionaries in 1902, Lenin remarks:

“The April 3 leaflet follows the pattern of the terrorists’ latest arguments with remarkable accuracy. The first thing that strike’s the eye is the words: ‘we advocate terrorism, not in place of work among the masses, but precisely for and simultaneously with that work’. They strike the eye particularly because these words are printed in letters three times as large as the rest of the text. But just read the whole leaflet and you will see that the protestation in bold type takes the name of the masses in vain. The day “when the working people will emerge from the shadows’ and ‘the mighty popular wave will shatter the iron gates to smithereens’ ‘alas’ (literally, ‘alas!’) ‘is still a long way off, and it is frightful to think of the future toll of victims!’ Do not these words ‘alas, still a long way off’ – reflect an utter failure to understand the mass movement and a lack of faith in it?”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p.190-91).

“Individual” Terrorism

In repudiating terrorism, Marxist-Leninists are speaking, of course, of what is generally termed “individual terrorism”, such acts as the assassination of a reactionary judge or the planting of a car-bomb outside the office of a government department.

In the sense of “attempting to strike terror into an enemy” Marxist-Leninists by no means reject the use of terrorism.

The socialist revolution can be brought about only against the armed men who form the core of the machinery of force of the capitalist state, and one of the aims of armed struggle is to strike terror into the enemy and so facilitate his defeat.

Again, one of the functions of a state is to strike terror into those who might attempt to overthrow it. Thus, the dictatorship of the working class which must be installed on the victory of the socialist revolution has as one of its aims to strike terror into the overthrown capitalist class, and its active supporters, so as to restrain their desire to overthrow the power of the working class.

Marxist-Leninists, therefore, repudiate individual terrorism not on the grounds that terrorism — in the sense of striking terror into the enemy – is unethical, but because acts of individual terrorism harm the cause they purport to serve:

“In principle we have never rejected, and cannot reject terror. Terror is one of the forms of military action that may ..be perfectly suitable and even essential at a definite juncture in the battle, given a definite state of the troops and the existence of definite conditions. But the important point is that terror, at the present time, is by no means suggested as an operation for the army in the field, an operation closely connected with and integrated into the entire system of struggle. Without a central body and with weakness of local revolutionary organsations, this in fact, is all that terror can be. We, therefore, declare emphatically that under the present conditions such a means of struggle is inopportune and unsuitable; that it diverts the most active fighters from their real task, the task which is most important from the standpoint of the interests of the. movement as a whole, it disorganises the forces not of the government, but of the revolution.”

(V. I.,Lenin: “Where to Begin”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 5;
Moscow; 1961; p. 19).

“Of course, we reject individual terrorism only out of considerations of expediency; upon those who ‘on principle’ were capable of condemning the terror of the Great French Revolution, or the terror in general employed by a victorious revolutionary party which is besieged by the bourgeoisie of the whole-world – upon such people even Plekhanov in 1900-0, when he was a Marxist, and a revolutionary, heaped ridicule and scorn.”

(V. I. Lenin: “‘Left-wing’ Communism, an Infantile Disorder”, in: ‘Selected Works”, Volume 10; London; 1946;.p.72).

While no one individual is generally capable of planning and carrying out a series of terrorist acts, such acts constitute “individual terrorism” in so far as the organisations involved in them are extremely small, composed of a few skilled persons (usually petty bourgeois intellectuals), and secret (to the working class if not to the police).

The Spurious Arguments for Terrorism

The advocates of terrorism argue that terrorist acts weaken the capitalist state machine and so assist the revolutionary process.

But if a judge is assassinated, there are a dozen reactionary barristers waiting to step into his shoes; if a courthouse is destroyed, it can be rebuilt at the cost of the working people. The strength of the state relative to that of a small terrorist group, and the protective measures which the state has the power to take when a threat of terrorist acts becomes apparent, causes terrorism to be directed increasingly against the less well defended — because less important — aspects of the state. Indeed, this process often results in the activity of terrorist groups, in an effort to evade the defences erected by the state degenerating into mere indiscriminate acts of destruction in which working people are killed and maimed.

Reviewing the leaflet of the Socialist-Revolutionaries already mentioned, Lenin poured scorn on the illusion that the state, could be significantly weakened by acts of terrorism:

“Just listen to what follows: ‘every terrorist blow, as it were, takes away part of the strength of the autocracy and transfers (!) all this strength (!) to the side of the fighters for freedom’ . ‘And if terrorism is practised systematically (!) it is obvious that the scales of the balance will finally weigh down on our side’. Yes, indeed, it is obvious to all that we have here in its grossest form one of the greatest prejudices of the terrorists: political assassination of itself ‘transfers strength.”

(V.I.Lenin “Revolutionary Adventurism”, In: “Collected Works”, Volume 6, Moscow; 1961; p. 191).

The advocates of terrorism also argue that terrorist acts “excite” the masses to greater revolutionary enthusiasm.

This theory too was discussed by Lenin:

“It would be interesting to note here the specific arguments that ‘Svoboda’ (a terrorist group– Ed.) advanced in defence of terrorism. It . . . stresses its excitative significance. . . . .It is difficult to imagine an argument that disproves itself more than this one does! Are there not enough outrages committed in Russian life that a special ‘stimulant’ has to be invented? On the other hand, is it not obvious that those who are not, and cannot be aroused to excitement even by Russian tyranny will stand by ‘twiddling their thumbs’ –even while a handful of terrorists are engaged in a single combat with the government? The fact is, however, that that the masses of the workers are roused to a high pitch of excitement by the outrages committed in Russian life, but we are unable to collect, if one may put it that way, and concentrate all these drops and streamlets of popular excitement, which are called forth by the conditions of Russian life to a far larger extent than we imagine, but which it is precisely necessary to combine into a single gigantic-flood.. . Calls for terror . . are merely forms of evading the most pressing duty that now rests upon Russian revolutionaries, namely, to organise all-sided political agitation. ‘Svoboda’ desires to substitute terror for agitation, openly admitting that ‘as soon as intensified and strenuous agitation is commenced among the masses its excitative function will be finished”‘

(V I Lenin: “What Is. to be Done?.”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 2. London; 1944; p. 96-97).

“Nor does the leaflet eschew the theory of excitative terrorism. ‘Each time a hero engages in single combat, this arouses in us all a spirit of struggle and courage’, we are told. But . . . single combat has the immediate effect of simply creating a short-lived sensation, while indirectly it even leads to apathy and passive waiting for the next bout, We are further assured that ‘every flash of terrorism lights up the mind’ which unfortunately, we have not noticed to be the case with the terrorism preaching party of the Socialist-Revolutionaries.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Revolutionary Adventurism” in: “Collected Works”; Volume 6; Moscow; 1961; p. 193).

A Pretext for Repression

The Marxist-Leninist case against terrorism is not merely that it amounts
to a repudiation of the need for the political mobilisation of the masses
of the working class — the force which alone is capable of smashing the
state machinery of force of monopoly capital:

‘Their tactics (i.e., of the anarchists — Ed.) . . . amount to a repudiation of the political struggle, disunite the proletarians and convert them in fact into passive participators in one bourgeois policy, or another.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Socialism and Anarchism”; “Collected Works”; ‘Volume 10, Moscow; 1963; p. 73).

In fact, far from weakening the state, acts of terrorism provide the pretext for the strengthening of the state machinery of force and for the imposition of repressive measures against the genuine progressive movement — measures which, without that pretext, would arouse much more vigorous opposition from the working people. In this respect, terrorist groups, whatever their intentions, objectively assist monopoly capital.

Thus, the counter-productive hi-jacking of civilian airliners by Arab terrorists was, used by King Hussein of Jordan as the pretext for a war of extermination in September 1970 against the Palestine liberation forces in Jordan, an act necessary to the new policy of US imperialism in the Middle East.

And in Britain terrorist acts have provided the pretext for the strengthening of Special Branch., for police raids on the homes of-anti-fascists and the offices of anti-fascist organisations, for pressure to reduce the rights of defendants in political trials, for the repeated army/police manoeuvres at London Airport, and for the “draconic” powers given to the police by the Labour government.

Agents Provocateurs

An agent of the class enemy who succeeds in entering a revolutionary, or pseudo-revolutionary, organisation is generally an agent of the state intelligence service. His aim, in doing so may simply be to collect information about the members, leaders, strength, etc.; of the organisation for the benefit of the state (that is, to act as a spy), or it may also be to seek to incite the members of the Organisation to commit a terrorist act which would provide a pretext- — a pretext that would seem a reasonable one to wide sections of working people — for some repressive measure or measures on the part of the state (that is, to act as an agent provocateur).

Where it is not possible to incite a terrorist group to commit a terrorist act desired by the state, this may be performed directly by the intelligence service itself. And where one or more terrorist groups exist, it is difficult or impossible for an outsider to know whether a particular act of terrorism has been carried out by such a group or by the intelligence service. In either case, however, the act may provide the pretext for some repressive measure or measures on the part of the state directed at the genuine progressive movement.

The most notorious example of such a terrorist act carried but by the state itself is, of course, the burning of the Reichstag in 1933 to provide the pretext for the repression of the Communist Party of Germany, even though that party was completely opposed to the carrying out of such acts of terrorism.

Within a genuine revolutionary organisation, it, is difficult to distinguish an agent provocateur from an honest, but misguided, exponent of “left” adventurism; indeed this distinction can be made, not on the basis of political analysis, but only by means of counter-intelligence activity which reveals the agent’s connection with the state.

But an agent provocateur is powerless to incite an act of terrorism on the part of a genuine revolutionary organisation unless there is support for such acts on the part of a majority of the members. The cardinal task, therefore, is to expose terrorism politically to its honest, but misguided, supporters, thus isolating the agent provocateur and opening the way to his exposure to the members and supporters of the organisation and his expulsion from it:

“We must get the workers to understand that while the killing of spies, agents provocateurs and traitors may sometimes of course, be absolutely unavoidable, it is highly undesirable and mistaken to make a system of it, and that we must strive to create an organisation which will be able to render spies innocuous by exposing them and tracking them down. It is impossible to do away with all spies, but to create an organisation which will ferret them out and educate the working class masses is both possible and necessary.

(V. I. Lenin. Footnote to: ‘ Letter to a Comrade on Our Organisational Tasks”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 6; Moscow; 1961; p. 245).

And, of course, given a partially clandestine organisation with adequate security measures and tight discipline, the harm which agents may do to a Marxist-Leninist Party may be limited, and they can even be compelled to do positive Party work – as Lenin pointed out in the case of the tsarist police agent Roman Malinovsky:

“In 1912 … an agent provacateur, Malinovsy got into the Central Committee, of the Bolsheviks. He betrayed scores and scores of the best and msot loyal comrades, caused them to be sent to penal servitude and hastened the death of many of them. If he did not cause even more harm than he did, it was because we had established proper coordination between our legal and illegal work. As a member of the Central Committee of the Party and a deputy in the Duma, Malinovsky was forced, in order to gain our confidence, to aid us in establishing legal daily paper. While with one hand Malinovsky sent scores and scores of the best Bolsheviks to penal servitude, and to death, with the other he was compelled to assist in the education of scores and scores of thousands of new Bolsheviks through the medium of the legal press.”

(V.I. Lenin: ‘Left-wing’ Communism, an Infantile Disorder”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 10; London; 1946; p. 85).

Guerrilla Warfare

Socialist revolution involves armed struggle — that is civil war – between, on the one hand, the machinery of force under the leadership of it’s Marxist-Leninist vanguard party, and on the other hand – the machinery of force of the capitalist state.

Guerrilla warfare is a form of armed struggle waged by relatively small
units of armed men against a considerably stronger armed force – in the
case of revolutionary guerrilla warfare against the armed force of a
reactionary state. The essence of guerrilla military tactics is to make
localised “hit-and-run” attacks on the weakest and most exposed sectors of the enemy’s forces, so nibbling away at his strength without the losses to one’s own forces that would result from a direct confrontation with his main forces.
Thus, revolutionary guerrilla warfare must be seen as a development of the struggle for socialist revolution — when this has reached the stage of armed struggle:

Firstly, before this armed struggle has reached the stage of a country-wide armed uprising, and

Secondly, when it has reached the stage of a country-wide armed uprising in the intervals between major engagements:

“The phenomenon in which we are interested (i.e., guerrilla warfare – Ed.) – is the armed struggle. It is conducted by individuals and by small groups […] Guerrilla warfare is an inevitable form of` struggle at a time when the mass movement has actually reached the point of an uprising and when fairly large intervals occur between the ‘big engagements’ in the civil war [….] An uprising cannot assume the old form of individual acts restricted to a very short time and to a very small area. It is absolutely natural and inevitable that the uprising should assume the higher and more complex form of a prolonged civil war embracing the whole country […] Such a war cannot be conceived otherwise than as a series of a few big engagements at comparatively long intervals and a large number of small encounters during these intervals. That being so — and it is undoubtedly so – the Social-Democrats (i.e., Marxist Leninists – Ed.) must absolutely make it their duty to create organisations best adapted to lead, the masses in these big engagements and, as far as possible, in these small encounters as well.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Guerrilla Warfare”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 11; Moscow; 1962; p. 216, 219, 222-23).

Revolutionary guerrilla warfare has three principal aims:

Firstlyto weaken the military and para-military armed forces of the capitalist state (and of fascist militia) by killing their officers and men:

“The Party must regard the fighting guerrilla operations of the squads affiliated or associated with it as being, in principle, permissible and advisable in the present period; [….] the paramount immediate object of these operations is to destroy the government, police and military machinery, and to wage a relentless struggle against the active Black Hundred Organisations (i.e. rural fascist-type organisations — Ed.) which are using violence against the population and intimidating it.”

(V. I. Lenin: Draft Resolution for Unity Congress of RSDLP, 1906, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 10; Moscow; 1962; p. 154).

“In the first place, this (guerrilla – Ed.) struggle aims at assassinating individuals, chiefs or subordinates, in the army and police.”

(V.I. Lenin: “Guerrilla Warfare”,- in: “Collected Works”, Volume 11; Moscow; 1962; p. 216).

Secondlyto give practical military training to working class leaders:

“The character of these fighting guerrilla operations must be adjusted to the task of training leaders of the masses of the workers at a time of insurrection, and of acquiring experience in conducting offensive and surprise military operations.”

(V. I. Lenin: Draft Resolution for Unity Congress of RSDLP, 1906, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 10; Moscow; 1962; p.154).

Thirdly, to confiscate funds in the possession of the capitalist
class for the use of the revolutionary movement:

“In the second place, it (i.e., guerrilla warfare — Ed.) aims at the confiscation of monetary funds both from the government and from private persons. The confiscated funds go into the treasury of the Party, partly for the special purpose of arming and preparing for an uprising, and partly for the maintenance of the persons engaged in the struggle we are describing.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Guerrilla Warfare”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 11; Moscow; 1962; p. 216).

“Fighting operations are also permissible for the purpose of seizing funds belonging to the enemies, i.e., the autocratic government, to meet the needs of insurrection, particular care being taken so that the interests of the people are infringed as little as possible.”

(V. I. Lenin: Draft Resolution for Unity Congress of RSDLP, l906, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 10; Moscow; 1962; p.154).

(So deep was the respect for private property inculcated in the minds of a majority of the delegates to the 1906 Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, that the congress approved guerrilla warfare for the purpose of killing soldiers and police, but rejected Lenin’s clause approving it for the purpose of confiscating funds from the ruling class for the financing of the revolutionary movement).

At first glance, the distinction between terrorism (which Marxist-Leninists oppose), and revolutionary guerrilla warfare (which Marxist-Leninists support) seems blurred. In fact, however, the distinction is quite clear.

In the first place, guerrilla warfare becomes a correct revolutionary tactic only when it has the support of the mass of the working people in the locality in which it is carried out:

“Fighting guerrilla organisations must be conducted ….. such a way as . .to ensure that the state of the working class movement and the mood of the broad masses of the given locality are taken into account.”

(V. I.. Lenin: Draft Resolution to Unity Congress of RSDLP 1906, In “Collected Works”; Volume l0; Moscow; 1961; p. 154).

In the second place, and following from the above, guerrilla war becomes a
revolutionary tactic only when the class struggle has been elevated, as a result of correct day-to-day leadership by the Marxist-Leninist Party, to the stage where the mass of the working people have come to see the armed-forces of the capitalist state and the fascist bands as their irreconcilable enemies who must be fought — for only then will this guerrilla warfare have the support of the mass of the working people in the locality in which it is carried out. Terrorist acts, on the other hand, are carried out before this stage has been reached and in isolation from the class struggle of the working people:

“This act (i.e., the assassination of Sipyagin –Ed) was in no way connected with the masses, and moreover could, not have been by reason of the very way in which it was carried out –that the persons who committed this terrorist act neither counted on nor hoped for any definitive action nor support on the part of the masses. In their naivete, the Socialist-Revolutionaries do not realise that their predilection for terrorism is most intimately linked with the fact that, from the very outset, they have always kept, and still keep, aloof from the working class movement, without even attempting to become a party of the revolutionary class which is waging the class struggle.”

(Lenin: “Revolutionary Adventurism”; In “Collected Works” Volume 6; Moscow; 1961; p. 189).

In the third place, guerrilla warfare becomes a correct revolutionary tactic in the special circumstance that it is conducted under the control of the Marxist-Leninist Party:

“Fighting guerrilla organisations must be conducted under the control of the Party.”

(V. I. Lenin: Draft Resolution for the Unity Congress of RSDLP, l906, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 10; Moscow, 1961; p. 154).

The principles of guerrilla warfare advocated by “Che” Guevara are,thus completely opposed to the principles of Marxism-Leninism:

“The revolutionary guerrilla force is clandestine. It is born and develops secretly […] The guerrilla force is independent of the civilian population in action as well as in military organisation; consequently it need not assume the direct defence of the peasant population […] Eventually the future People’s Army will beget the party […] The people’s army will be the nucleus of the party, not vice versa. The guerrilla force is the political vanguard in nuce, and from its development a real party can arise […] That is why, at the present juncture, the principal stress must be laid on the development of guerrilla warfare and not on the strengthening of existing parties or the creation of new parties’,”

(R. Debray: “Revolution in the Revolution?”; London; 1968; p.41, 105, 115).

The castroite principles of guerrilla warfare form part of an anti-Marxist
Leninist revolutionary strategy which serves the interests of the national
bourgeoisie of a colonial-type country with a weak state machinery of
force. (This question is analysed in more detail in “The Theory of the
in: RED VANGUARD,. No. l; p.83f).

Contemporary Lessons

The Provisional Irish Republican Army is an armed force of the Irish national-liberation movement. It is, however, not led by a Marxist-Leninist Party of the working class, which does not at present exist in Ireland, but by representatives of the Irish national bourgeoisie, who wish for independence from Britain in order to develop the country as an independent capitalist state.

As long as the Provisional IRA was seen by the people of the Catholic areas of Northern Ireland as their defence against the armed forces and police of the colonial regime, and the fascist bands which had the “open support of the police, it had their enthusiastic support. To the extent however, that the IRA has turned to tactics of terrorism, often of an indiscriminate character in which working people have been killed and maimed, this support has been whittled away — and this has tended to make terrorism, increasingly the only form of activity which it is physically able to undertake.

In Britain, too, the effect of indiscriminate bombing by the Provisional IRA has been to alienate sympathy from the Irish national-liberation struggle among the British working class, which is, objectively, the ally of the Irish people in the struggle against their common enemy British imperialism.

The use that British imperialism can make of a movement whose activity is predominantly of a terrorist character was pointed out in a recent issue of CLASS AGAINST CLASS on the plan under consideration by the British imperialists for the creation of a united neo-colonial Ireland by creating the pretext for the military intervention in Northern Ireland of the army of the Republic of Ireland:

“The aim is, under the slogan of ‘allowing the people of Northern Ireland to settle their own problems’, to permit the restoration of a fascist-type of state machine in Northern Ireland dominated by the right-wing Protestant leaders. These leaders are already pledging themselves to the pogroms against the ‘Catholic population which will inevitably follow — that, is, they are pledging themselves not to carry out such pogroms unless the Provisional IRA renews its campaign.”

(“Ireland: New Tactics of British Imperialism”; in: CLASS AGAINST CLASS, No. 6; June 1974; p. 8).

The British imperialists calculate that the Provisional IRA, as a result of its turn to tactics of terrorism, has lost too much strength and support to be capable of defending the Catholic population, so that the call for the “protective” intervention of the armed forces of the Republic will come from the Catholic working people of Northern Ireland themselves.

Again, one of the most important tasks facing the British working class is the organisation of an anti-fascist united front, properly organised and with a correct tactical programme. Even at this early stage of the anti-fascist movement, certain maoist groups (such as the “Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) and trotskyite groups (such as the International Marxist Group) have begun to launch assaults upon the police during anti-National Front demonstrations. But an assault upon the armed forces of the state becomes a correct tactic of revolutionary guerrilla warfare in a developed capitalist country only when the class struggle has reached a much higher level of development and when it is directed by a Marxist-Leninist Party, which does not yet exist in Britain.

Such assaults on the police as that which took place in Red Lion Square
in 1974, being completely premature, constitute mere terrorism, which tends to disorganise the embryo anti-fascist movement and provide the pretext for police violence and repressive measures on the part of the state against genuine anti-fascists “Leftist” groups which carry out such actions at the present time are objectively assisting fascism.

Conclusion

Terrorism, whatever the motives of the terrorists, objectively serves the interests of the forces opposed to social and national liberation. It is necessary for Marxist-Leninists, therefore, to expose terrorism for what it is, and to wage a principled and consistent struggle against this ideology, in line with Lenin’s formula:

“Bolshevism grew, took shape and became hardened, in long years of struggle against petty-bourgeois revolutionariness, which smacks of, or borrows something from, anarchism, and which in all essentials falls short, of the conditions and, requirements of the sustained proletarian class struggle.”

(V. I. Lenin.: ‘”Left-wing’ Communism”, an Infantile Disorder”, in: “Selected Works Volume .10; London; 1946; p.70).

Source

Misunderstandings Regarding Proletarian Leadership and the Peasant Question in Marxism

“Present-day thinking on Marx and Engels’s strategy is often muddled by a curious misunderstanding. We tend to visualise a contrast between ‘developed’ countries like Germany, France and England on the one hand and ‘backward’ ones like Russia on the other. But how ‘developed’ were countries like Germany, France and England in 1848 or 1871? Only in England did the working class, if defined in an extremely loose sense, form a majority of the population. In France, and even more so in Germany, it formed a small minority. As soon as one realises that in Marx’s lifetime France and Germany were overwhelmingly peasant countries, his comments on revolutionary strategy in such states acquire a different significance from the one usually attributed to them.

In the Manifesto, the German communists were advised to join with the bourgeoisie against the absolute monarchy and its feudal hangers-on. But after the democratic revolution the workers should *immediately* begin the struggle against the bourgeoisie. The overthrow of the monarchy was the ‘immediate prologue of a proletarian revolution.’ Two years later, Marx and Engels expected a revolution of the petit bourgeois democrats. Subsequently, the proletarians should again *immediately* form ‘revolutionary workers’ governments’ in order to ‘make the revolution permanent, until all more or less propertied classes are removed from power, [and] state power has been conquered by the proletariat.’ Although the completion of this process would take a ‘rather long’ period, there was no hint of waiting with the second, proletarian, revolution until the workers formed a majority of the population. A few months later, Marx ridiculed those communists who aimed for an immediate proletarian revolution in Germany. He warned the workers that they might perhaps be fit to rule only after fifty years of civil war. But in 1856 he regained his optimism. The victory of the ‘proletarian revolution’ in Germany depended on the possibility of backing it up by a ‘second edition of the Peasant War.’ Under such conditions, its chances of success looked excellent.

As we saw in the previous chapter, Marx called for a ‘dictatorship of the working class’ in the predominantly peasant France of 1850. He expected the peasants to accept the urban proletariat as their natural leader, because only an ‘anti-capitalist, proletarian government’ could stop their social degradation. And once the French peasants understood where their true interests lay, then, Marx said, ‘*the proletarian revolution will obtain that chorus without which its solo song becomes a swan song in all peasant countries*.’ And Marx and Engels did not hesitate to call the Commune a workers’ government. Had Paris been triumphant, the peasant majority would have recognised the ‘spiritual leadership’ of the cities, and the workers as their ‘leaders and educators’, their ‘natural representatives.’ Hunt quotes a particularly interesting comment by Marx in his 1874-75 notebooks on Bakunin, which summarises Marx’s view on the matter very well:

A radical social revolution depends on particular historical conditions of economic development; they are its prerequisites. Thus a revolution is possible only where, together with capitalist production, the industrial proletariat occupies at least an important place within the population. And to have any chance of success it must mutatis mutandis be able immediately to do at least as much for the peasants as the French bourgeoisie during its revolution did for the French peasants of the time.

‘An important place within the population’–no more. In summary, in the predominantly peasant countries of the continental Western Europe of his day, Marx hoped for the establishment of democratic republics under proletarian minority governments supported by the peasantry.”

– Erik van Ree, “The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin”

V.I. Lenin on the Fourth Anniversary of the October Revolution

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The fourth anniversary of October 25 (November 7) is approaching.

The farther that great day recedes from us, the more clearly we see the significance of the proletarian revolution in Russia, and the more deeply we reflect upon the practical experience of our work as a whole.

Very briefly and, of course, in very incomplete and rough outline, this significance and experience may be summed up as follows.

The direct and immediate object of the revolution in Russia was a bourgeois-democratic one, namely, to destroy the survivals of medievalism and sweep them away completely, to purge Russia of this barbarism, of this shame, and to remove this immense obstacle to all culture and progress in our country.

And we can justifiably pride ourselves on having carried out that purge with greater determination and much more rapidly, boldly and successfully, and, from the point of view of its effect on the masses, much more widely and deeply, than the great French Revolution over one hundred and twenty-five years ago.

Both the anarchists and the petty-bourgeois democrats (i.e., the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries, who are the Russian counterparts of that international social type) have talked and are still talking an incredible lot of nonsense about the relation between the bourgeois-democratic revolution and the socialist (that is, proletarian) revolution. The last four years have proved to the hilt that our interpretation of Marxism on this point, and our estimate of the experience of former revolutions were correct. We have consummated the bourgeois-democratic revolution as nobody had done before. We are advancing towards the socialist revolution consciously, firmly and unswervingly, knowing that it is not separated from the bourgeois-democratic revolution by a Chinese Wall, and knowing too that (in the last analysis) struggle alone will determine how far we shall advance, what part of this immense and lofty task we shall accomplish, and to what extent we shall succeed in consolidating our victories. Time will show. But we see even now that a tremendous amount — tremendous for this ruined, exhausted and backward country — has already been done towards the socialist transformation of society.

Let us, however, finish what we have to say about the bourgeois-democratic content of our revolution. Marxists must understand what that means. To explain, let us take a few striking examples.

The bourgeois-democratic content of the revolution means that the social relations (system, institutions) of the country are purged of medievalism, serfdom, feudalism.

What were the chief manifestations, survivals, remnants of serfdom in Russia up to 1917? The monarchy, the system of social estates, landed proprietorship and land tenure, the status of women, religion, and national oppression. Take any one of these Augean stables, which, incidentally, were left largely uncleansed by all the more advanced states when they accomplished their bourgeois-democratic revolutions one hundred and twenty-five, two hundred and fifty and more years ago (1649 in England); take any of these Augean stables, and you will see that we have cleansed them thoroughly. In a matter of ten weeks, from October 25 (November 7), 1917 to January 5, 1918, when the Constituent Assembly was dissolved, we accomplished a thousand times more in this respect than was accomplished by the bourgeois democrats and liberals (the Cadets) and by the petty-bourgeois democrats (the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries) during the eight months they were in power.

Those poltroons, gas-bags, vainglorious Narcissuses and petty Hamlets brandished their wooden swords — but did not even destroy the monarchy! We cleansed out all that monarchist muck as nobody had ever done before. We left not a stone, not a brick of that ancient edifice, the social-estate system even the most advanced countries, such as Britain, France and Germany, have not completely eliminated the survivals of that system to this day!), standing. We tore out the deep-seated roots of the social-estate system, namely, the remnants of feudalism and serfdom in the system of landownership, to the last. “One may argue” (there are plenty of quill-drivers, Cadets, Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries abroad to indulge in such arguments) as to what “in the long run” will be the outcome of the agrarian reform effected by the Great October Revolution. We have no desire at the moment to waste time on such controversies, for we are deciding this, as well as the mass of accompanying controversies, by struggle. But the fact cannot be denied that the petty-bourgeois democrats “compromised” with the landowners, the custodians of the traditions of serfdom, for eight months, while we completely swept the landowners and all their traditions from Russian soil in a few weeks.

Take religion, or the denial of rights to women, or the oppression and inequality of the non-Russian nationalities. These are all problems of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. The vulgar petty-bourgeois democrats talked about them for eight months. In not a single one of the most advanced countries in the world have these questions been completely settled on bourgeois-democratic lines. In our country they have been settled completely by the legislation of the October Revolution. We have fought and are fighting religion in earnest. We have granted all the non-Russian nationalities their own republics or autonomous regions. We in Russia no longer have the base, mean and infamous denial of rights to women or inequality of the sexes, that disgusting survival of feudalism and medievalism, which is being renovated by the avaricious bourgeoisie and the dull-witted and frightened petty bourgeoisie in every other country in the world without exception.

All this goes to make up the content of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. A hundred and fifty and two hundred and fifty years ago the progressive leaders of that revolution (or of those revolutions, if we consider each national variety of the one general type) promised to rid mankind of medieval privileges, of sex inequality, of state privileges for one religion or another (or “religious ideas “,
“the church” in general), and of national inequality. They promised, but did not keep their promises. They could not keep them, for they were hindered by their “respect” — for the “sacred right of private property”. Our proletarian revolution was not afflicted with this accursed “respect” for this thrice-accursed medievalism and for the “sacred right of private property”.

But in order to consolidate the achievements of the bourgeois-democratic revolution for the peoples of Russia, we were obliged to go farther; and we did go farther. We solved the problems of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in passing, as a “by-product” of our main and genuinely proletarian -revolutionary, socialist activities. We have always said that reforms are a by-product of the revolutionary class struggle. We said — and proved it by deeds — that bourgeois-democratic reforms are a by-product of the proletarian, i.e., of the socialist revolution. Incidentally, the Kautskys, Hilferdings, Martovs, Chernovs, Hillquits, Longuets, MacDonalds, Turatis and other heroes of “Two and-a-Half” Marxism were incapable of understanding this relation between the bourgeois-democratic and the proletarian-socialist revolutions. The first develops into the second. The second, in passing, solves the problems of the first. The second consolidates the work of the first. Struggle, and struggle alone, decides how far the second succeeds in outgrowing the first.

The Soviet system is one of the most vivid proofs, or manifestations, of how the one revolution develops into the other. The Soviet system provides the maximum of democracy for the workers and peasants; at the same time, it marks a break with bourgeois democracy and the rise of a new, epoch-making type of democracy, namely, proletarian democracy, or the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Let the curs and swine of the moribund bourgeoisie and of the petty-bourgeois democrats who trail behind them heap imprecations, abuse and derision upon our heads for our reverses and mistakes in the work of building up our Soviet system. We do not forget for a moment that we have committed and are committing numerous mistakes and are suffering numerous reverses. How can reverses and mistakes be avoided in a matter so new in the history of the world as the building of an unprecedented type of state edifice! We shall work steadfastly to set our reverses and mistakes right and to improve our practical application of Soviet principles, which is still very, very far from being perfect. But we have a right to be and are proud that to us has fallen the good fortune to begin the building of a Soviet state, and thereby to usher in a new era in world history, the era of the rule of a new class, a class which is oppressed in every capitalist country, but which everywhere is marching forward towards a new life, towards victory over the bourgeoisie, towards the dictatorship of the proletariat, towards the emancipation of mankind from the yoke of capital and from imperialist wars.

The question of imperialist wars, of the international policy of finance capital which now dominates the whole world, a policy that must inevitably engender new imperialist wars, that must inevitably cause an extreme intensification of national oppression, pillage, brigandry and the strangulation of weak, backward and small nationalities by a handful of “advanced” powers — that question has been the keystone of all policy in all the countries of the globe since 1914. It is a question of life and death for millions upon millions of people. It is a question of whether 20,000,000 people (as compared with the 10,000,000 who were killed in the war of 1914-18 and in the supplementary “minor” wars that are still going on) are to be slaughtered in the next imperialist war, which the bourgeoisie are preparing, and which is growing out of capitalism before our very eyes. It is a question of whether in that future war, which is inevitable (if capitalism continues to exist), 60,000,000 people are to be maimed (compared with the 30,000,000 maimed in 1914-18). In this question, too, our October Revolution marked the beginning of a new era in world history. The lackeys of the bourgeoisie and its yes-men — the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks, and the petty-bourgeois, allegedly “socialist”, democrats all over the world — derided our slogan “convert the imperialist war into a civil war”. But that slogan proved to be the truth — it was the only truth, unpleasant, blunt, naked and brutal, but nevertheless the truth, as against the host of most refined jingoist and pacifist lies.

Those lies are being dispelled. The Brest peace has been exposed. And with every passing day the significance and consequences of a peace that is even worse than the Brest peace — the peace of Versailles — are being more relentlessly exposed. And the millions who are thinking about the causes of the recent war and of the approaching future war are more and more clearly realising the grim and inexorable truth that it is impossible to escape imperialist war, and imperialist peace (if the old orthography were still in use, I would have written the word mir in two ways, to give it both its meanings)[*] which inevitably engenders imperialist war, that it is impossible to escape that inferno, except by a Bolshevik struggle and a Bolshevik revolution.

Let the bourgeoisie and the pacifists, the generals and the petty bourgeoisie, the capitalists and the philistines, the pious Christians and the knights of the Second and the Two-and-a-Half Internationals vent their fury against that revolution. No torrents of abuse, calumnies and lies can enable them to conceal the historic fact that for the first time in hundreds and thousands of years the slaves have replied to a war between slave-owners by openly proclaiming the slogan: “Convert this war between slave-owners for the division of their loot into a war of the slaves of all nations against the slave-owners of all nations.”

For the first time in hundreds and thousands of years that slogan has grown from a vague and helpless waiting into a clear and definite political programme, into an effective struggle waged by millions of oppressed people under the leadership of the proletariat; it has grown into the first victory of the proletariat, the first victory in the struggle to abolish war and to unite the workers of all countries against the united bourgeoisie of different nations, against the bourgeoisie that makes peace and war at the expense of the slaves of capital, the wage-workers, the peasants, the working people.

This first victory is not yet the final victory, and it was achieved by our October Revolution at the price of incredible difficulties and hardships, at the price of unprece dented suffering, accompanied by a series of serious reverses

* In Russian, the word mir has two meanings (world and peace) and had two different spellings in the old orthography. –Tr. and mistakes on our part. How could a single backward people be expected to frustrate the imperialist wars of the most powerful and most developed countries of the world without sustaining reverses and without committing mistakes! We are not afraid to admit our mistakes and shall examine them dispassionately in order to learn how to correct them. But the fact remains that for the first time in hundreds and thousands of years the promise “to reply” to war between the slave-owners by a revolution of the slaves directed against all the slave-owners has been completely fulfilled — and is being fulfilled despite all difficulties.

We have made the start. When, at what date and time, and the proletarians of which nation will complete this process is not important. The important thing is that the ice has been broken; the road is open, the way has been shown.

Gentlemen, capitalists of all countries, keep up your hypocritical pretence of “defending the fatherland” — the Japanese fatherland against the American, the American against the Japanese, the French against the British, and so forth! Gentlemen, knights of the Second and Two-and a-Half Internationals, pacifist petty bourgeoisie and philistines of the entire world, go on “evading” the question of how to combat imperialist wars by issuing new “Basle Manifestos” (on the model of the Basle Manifesto of 1912[21]). The first Bolshevik revolution has wrested the first hundred million people of this earth from the clutches of imperialist war and the imperialist world. Subsequent revolutions will deliver the rest of mankind from such wars and from such a world.

Our last, but most important and most difficult task, the one we have done least about, is economic development, the laying of economic foundations for the new, socialist edifice on the site of the demolished feudal edifice and the semi-demolished capitalist edifice. It is in this most important and most difficult task that we have sustained the greatest number of reverses and have made most mistakes. How could anyone expect that a task so new to the world could be begun without reverses and without mistakes! But we have begun it. We shall continue it. At this very moment we are, by our New Economic Policy, correcting a number of our mistakes. We are learning how to continue erecting the socialist edifice in a small-peasant country without committing such mistakes.

The difficulties are immense. But we are accustomed to grappling with immense difficulties. Not for nothing do our enemies call us “stone-hard” and exponents of a “firm line policy”. But we have also learned, at least to some extent, another art that is essential in revolution, namely, flexibility, the ability to effect swift and sudden changes of tactics if changes in objective conditions demand them, and to choose another path for the achievement of our goal if the former path proves to be inexpedient or impossible at the given moment.

Borne along on the crest of the wave of enthusiasm, rousing first the political enthusiasm and then the military enthusiasm of the people, we expected to accomplish economic tasks just as great as the political and military tasks we had accomplished by relying directly on this enthusiasm. We expected — or perhaps it would be truer to say that we presumed without having given it adequate consideration — to be able to organise the state production and the state distribution of products on communist lines in a small-peasant country directly as ordered by the proletarian state. Experience has proved that we were wrong. It appears that a number of transitional stages were necessary — state capitalism and socialism — in order to prepare — to prepare by many years of effort — for the transition to communism. Not directly relying on enthusiasm, but aided by the enthusiasm engendered by the great revolution, and on the basis of personal interest, personal incentive and business principles, we must first set to work in this small peasant country to build solid gangways to socialism by way of state capitalism. Otherwise we shall never get to communism, we shall never bring scores of millions of people to communism. That is what experience, the objective course of the development of the revolution, has taught us.

And we, who during these three or four years have learned a little to make abrupt changes of front (when abrupt changes of front are needed), have begun zealously, attentively and sedulously (although still not zealously, attentively and sedulously enough) to learn to make a new change of front, namely, the New Economic Policy. The proletarian state must become a cautious, assiduous and shrewd “businessman”, a punctilious wholesale merchant — otherwise it will never succeed in putting this small-peasant country economically on its feet. Under existing conditions, living as we are side by side with the capitalist (for the time being capitalist) West, there is no other way of progressing to communism. A wholesale merchant seems to be an economic type as remote from communism as heaven from earth. But that is one of the contradictions which, in actual life, lead from a small-peasant economy via state capitalism to socialism. Personal incentive will step up production; we must increase production first and foremost and at all costs. Wholesale trade economically unites millions of small peasants: it gives them a personal incentive, links them up and leads them to the next step, namely, to various forms of association and alliance in the process of production itself. We have already started the necessary changes in our economic policy and already have some successes to our credit; true, they are small and partial, but nonetheless they are successes. In this new field of “tuition” we are already finishing our preparatory class. By persistent and assiduous study, by making practical experience the test of every step we take, by not fearing to alter over and over again what we have already begun, by correcting our mistakes and most carefully analysing their significance, we shall pass to the higher classes. We shall go through the whole “course”, although the present state of world economics and world politics has made that course much longer and much more difficult than we would have liked. No matter at what cost, no matter how severe the hardships of the transition period may be — despite disaster, famine and ruin — we shall not flinch; we shall triumphantly carry our cause to its goal.

October 14, 1921

Source

The CPSU(B), Gosplan and the Question of the Transition to Communist Society in the Soviet Union 1939-1953

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by Vijay Singh

Marxism recognises the primary role of the industrial working class in the democratic and socialist revolutions and in the transition to communist society. In the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels indicated that of ‘all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. The other classes decay and finally disappear in the face of modern industry: the proletariat is its special and essential product.’ V.I. Lenin in A Great Beginning expressed the Marxist position that only the urban workers and the industrial workers were able to lead the whole mass of the working and exploited people to overthrow capitalism and create the new socialist system. Socialism required the abolition of classes which necessitated the abolition of all private ownership of the means of production, the abolition of the distinction between town and country as well as the distinction between manual workers and brain workers. Lenin explicitly rejected the proposition that all the ‘working people’ were equally capable of performing these historical tasks. He considered that the assumption that all ‘working people’ were able to carry out the tasks of the socialist revolution was an empty phrase or the illusion of a pre-Marxist socialist. The ability to abolish classes grew only out of the material conditions of large scale capitalist production and was possessed by the workers alone. Marxism excludes from the definition of the working class the urban and rural petty-bourgeoisie, the office staff, the mental workers as well as the toiling masses. The attempts of Russian neo-Brezhnevism to broaden and extend the definition of the working class must be rejected just as historically the attempts of the Narodniks to include the petty-bourgeoisie in this category were fought by the Bolshevists. Confusion on this question carries grave implications for the character and composition of the Communist Party, for the very existence of the dictatorship of the proletariat, for the abolition of classes and the commodity system under socialism and for the transition to Communism.

The logic of Marxism did not permit the ‘working people’ as opposed to the proletariat to direct the construction of a socialist society. In The Agrarian Question in Russia Towards The Close of The Nineteenth Century, Lenin unequivocally considered that Socialism ‘means the abolition of commodity economy’ and that so long as exchange remains ‘it is ridiculous to talk of socialism’. The dictatorship of the proletariat must remain until such time as classes disappeared, Lenin argued in his article Economics and Politics In The Era of the Dictatorship of The Proletariat. The abolition of classes under socialism entailed the end of the difference between factory worker and peasant so that all became workers. It follows from this that the proletarian party cannot be a ‘party of the whole people’ or the dictatorship of the proletariat a ‘state of the whole people’. These positions were defended in the Stalin period. In the period after collectivisation in his Speech on the Draft Constitution Stalin held that the Soviet Union had already in the main succeeded in building the foundation of a socialist society; he nevertheless in these years argued, as in his Report to the 17th Congress of the CPSU(b), that the project of building a classless socialist society remained a task for the future.

The perspective of completing the building of a classless socialist society and the gradual transition from socialism to communism was the dominating leitmotif at the 18th Congress of the CPSU(b) held in March 1939. This emerges clearly from the speeches of the Soviet leadership at the Congress. In his opening remarks to the Congress Molotov asserted that Socialism had basically been constructed in the Soviet Union and that the forthcoming period was one of the transition to Communism. Stalin in his Report to the Congress, while noting that the USSR had outstripped the principal capitalist countries with regard to the rate of industrial development and the technique of production, indicated it had yet to economically outstrip the principal capitalist states in terms of industrial consumption per head of the population, which was the pre-condition of that abundance of goods which was necessary for the transition from the first to the second phase of Communism. He anticipated that the continued existence of the Soviet state was necessary during the period that Soviet Communism was being established. Until such time as capitalist encirclement was not superceded by socialist encirclement and the danger of foreign military attack did not recede, the military, penal and intelligence organs were necessary for the survival of the USSR. The Soviet state was not to wither away in the near future, it would, however, undergo changes in conformity with domestic and international requirements. Engels’ proposition that the state would wither away in Communism, Stalin opined, assumed that the victory of communism had taken place in the major countries which was not the case in the contemporary world situation.

In his Report on the Third Five Year Plan for the Development of the National Economy of the USSR Molotov linked the new plan specifically to the task of the completion of a classless socialist society and the gradual transition from socialism to communism. Collectivisation, during the course of the Second Five Year Plan, had economically destroyed the kulaks which had been the last exploiting class existing in Soviet society. It had thus ended the private ownership of the means of production and formed the cooperative form of property relations through the establishment of the collective farms which now co-existed with the state property which had been created in the October revolution. The first phase of Communism had already been built in the USSR. The Third Five Year Plan was to be considered as a major step towards the formation of full communism. Molotov then examined the social classes which existed in the Soviet Union. Social differences persisted between the working class, the collective farm peasantry (as well as with the newly formed stratum of socialist intellectuals) corresponding to the nature of the differences in property relations between the state enterprises and the collective farms. In the transition to communist society the working class would play the leading role and the collective farm peasantry would exert an active role. Noting the distinctions between the advanced and backward strata of these classes Molotov argued that, while the majority of the populace placed the general interests of society and the state over private interests in the course of building the new society, there were sections which tried to snatch advantages from the state, just as sections of the peasantry were more worried about the welfare of their own collective farms and their own individual interests. It was the Stakhanovite movement in the factories which had established technical norms and raised labour productivity in the Second Five Year Plan period which guaranteed further successes for the Soviet Union.

In his speech to the 18th Congress the Chairman of the State Planning Commission, N.A. Voznesensky, fleshed out some basic five tasks which were required for the programme of communist construction to be brought into effect: first, the productive forces needed to be developed to that extent that the USSR economically surpassed the foremost capitalist states; second, labour productivity had to be raised to a level which would allow the Soviet Union to produce an abundance of products which would lay the basis for distribution founded upon need; third, the survivals of the contradiction between town and country had to be wiped away; fourth, the cultural and technical level of the working class had to be raised to the level of the workers who were engaged in engineering and technical work with the objective of eliminating the differences between mental and physical labour; and finally, the Socialist state had to develop new forms while building communism in the conditions of capitalist encirclement. It is significant that Voznesensky, while presenting an outline of the changes required in the society and state in the transition period to communism did not broach the question of the necessary radical reconstruction of productive relations in agriculture. In the 17th Congress of the CPSU(b) of 1934 Stalin had touched upon the necessity of effecting the transition of the collective farms based upon group property to the communes founded upon social property and the most developed technique which would lay the ground for the production of an abundance of products in society. In a pregnant remark Voznesensky suggested that the task of completing the construction of socialist society, the transition to communism and catching up and overtaking the leading capitalist countries would extend beyond the period of the Third Five Year Plan; whereas two decades had been needed for the Soviet Union to establish socialism an historically shorter span of time would be necessary for the transition to communism.

Molotov struck a note of sobriety in his concluding remarks at the Congress. While the perspective had been established of overtaking the leading countries of capitalism it was important to be aware of the shortcomings of the USSR in the economic field. Whereas the position of the working masses had improved in Soviet Russia and would further so do during the course of the Third Five Year Plan, and while the country surpassed the West in terms of production technique, it was important to recall that it lagged behind in terms of the industrial output per head of the population.

The perspectives outlined at the 18th Congress had wide-ranging ramifications. They implied that a re-writing of the programme of the party was imperative. The existing programme which was still operative formally had been adopted by the 8th party Congress in March, 1919 just a year and a half after the revolution. A new programme would of necessity have to take into account the path traversed under War Communism, the New Economic Policy, collectivisation and industrialisation in addition to the anticipated path to be followed on the way to ‘complete socialism’ and ‘full communism’. The 1919 programme had correctly called for the conversion of the means of production into the social property of the working class of the Soviet Republic. In the realm of agriculture it had enjoined the establishment of Communes for conducting large-scale socialised agriculture. The demand for the abolition of classes clearly pointed to the end of the peasantry as a class. A new programme would have to squarely face the delicate question of the conversion of the group property of the collective farms into the full social property of the whole of society. The 18th Congress constituted a 27 man Commission which was charged with the responsibility of drafting the changes in the projected Third Programme of the party. The members included Stalin, Molotov, Kaganovich, Zhdanov, Beria, Voznesensky, Vyshinsky, Kalinin, Malenkov, Manuilsky, Khrushchev, Mikoyan and Pospelov.

The transition to Communist construction implied also the long-range reorientation of Soviet planning to the goal of the laying of the material and technical basis for the new society. After consultations with members of the Academy of Social Sciences of the USSR and with members of Gosplan, Voznesensky held an extended sitting of the State Planning Commission in July 1939 which took up the question of the elaboration of the development of the Soviet economy, particularly of the expansion of the energy base of the economy. Gosplan resolved to elaborate its perspectives in terms of construction of the Angarsk hydro-electrical complex, the raising of the level of the Caspian Sea and linking the Volga with the northern rivers. These developments immediately bring to mind Lenin’s understanding that electrification would open the door to Communist society. Communism was, he said, Soviet power plus electrification of the entire country. In the context of GOELRO he had spoken of the necessity of elaborating a perspective plan for Soviet Russia which would extend over a period of 10-15 years. With the goal of strengthening the pool of scientific talent available to Gosplan for the construction of the long-term economic plan a number of Academicians, including members from the USSR Academy of Sciences were involved in the activities of the Council of Scientific-Technical Experts under Gosplan for preparing the conspectus plan. Within a year and half Gosplan prepared a perspective of the long-term plan which raised questions which went beyond the limits of the Third Five Year Plan. Arising from this Voznesensky drafted a note for Stalin and Molotov which was read at a Gosplan meeting in September 1940. The central questions for a long run economic plan designed to build a classless socialist society and communism at the level of building the productive forces were the building of the ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgical industries; the complete reconstruction of railway transport; the construction of the Kuibyshev, Solikamsk and Angarsk hydro-electrical complexes; the realisation of the Baikal-Amur mainline railway; the creation of oil and metallurgical bases in the northern part of the USSR and the development of the individual regions of the country. In his note Voznesensky requested permission for Gosplan to elaborate a general economic plan for a 15 year period to be presented to the Central Committee of the Party by the end of 1941.

Tightly integrated into the projected long term perspective plan was a new approach to regional planning involving the better utilising of productive forces by basing the new industrial complexes close to the sources of energy and raw materials, thereby economising in labour in the course of the various stages of manufacture and preparation of the final product. Voznesensky secured the creation of an Institute of Commissioners of Gosplan in all of the economic regions of the country which had the responsibility of verifying the fulfilment of the state plan and securing the development of the industrial complexes of the economic regions. The Gosplan Commissioners were charged to pay special attention to the fulfilment of the Third Five Year Plan with respect to the creation of industrial fuel bases in each economic region, securing electricity sources in each region, eliminating irrational transport hauls, mobilising local food supplies in each region and bringing economic resources to light in the economy. Special departments were created in the Gosplan apparatus to deal with the development of the economy in the different regions of the country.

On February 7th, 1941 Gosplan received a reply to its proposal to be granted permission to elaborate a 15 year economic plan which had been sent by Voznesensky to Stalin and Molotov some five months earlier. The Central Committee of the CPSU(b) and Sovnarkom now formally sanctioned the preparation of a perspective plan by Gosplan to surpass the per capita production of the capitalist countries in pig iron, steel, oil, electricity, machinery and other means of production and articles of necessity. This necessitated the independent development of science and technology in the USSR so that the natural wealth of the country could be utilised by the most developed methods to advance the organisation of production. It required, moreover, the pre-determination of the development of the basic branches of the national economy, the economic regions and the tempo and scale of production. The general plan had to determine the changes in social and political relations, the social tasks, the methods of raising the level of the workers and collective farm workers to that of workers in the technical and engineering sectors (this would have facilitated the process of the abolition of classes and the obliteration of the distinctions between the industrial working class the intelligentsia and the collective farm peasantry which followed from Lenin’s injunctions in Economic and Politics in The Era of the Dictatorship of The Proletariat).

Work on the perspective plan was allocated over two stages between January and March 1941, and April to June of the same year. As instructed the Gosplan apparatus prepared the prototype of the general plan for the period 1943-1957 in 2 volumes. This project represented the first major attempt to tackle the problems arising from the perspective of developing the Socialist economy and its growing over to a Communist economy over a period of 15 years. On the 20th anniversary of Lenin’s decree which led to the creation of the State Planning Commission Pravda on the 22nd February, 1941 began a series of articles which widely publicised the new 15 year plan.

The Nazi invasion put paid to the projects for providing the economic basis for the transition to Communism. Yet amazingly the close of hostilities witnessed a resumption of pre-war plans and projects. The Report on the Five-Year Plan for 1946-1950 and the Law on the Five-Year Planpresented by Voznesensky to the Supreme Soviet in March 1946 marked the resumption of the path of development adumbrated at the 18th Congress of the CPSU(b) for the building of the classless socialist society and the gradual transition to communism. The plan was considered a continuation of the pre-war steps designed to catch up with and surpass the main capitalist countries economically as regards the volume of industrial production per bead of the population. Stalin in September, 1946 reiterated the possibility of the construction of Communism in One Country in the USSR. A year later at the foundation of the Cominform in 1947 at Shklyarska Poremba, Malenkov added that the Central Committee of the CPSU(b) was working on the preparation of a new programme for the party as the existing one was out of date and had to be substituted by a new one.

Running parallel to these developments was the renewed attempt to formulate a long range economic plan to lay the economic and social basis for communism. In mid-1947 Voznesensky posed this question before the Central Committee. He argued that such a plan was imperative for a number of reasons. First, it was directly connected to the preparations for the new programme of the CPSU(b) as well as for the carrying out of the concrete plans which would be drawn up on the basis of the programme; second, as the tasks of expanding the productive forces and the construction of the new and large construction works (railway lines, hydro-electrical stations, metallurgical factories) did not fit into the constraints of the current 5 year plan. While reiterating the pre-war objectives of the general plan as being to overtake the advanced capitalist countries in terms of the per capita industrial production, Voznesensky now proposed a 20 year plan for the construction of Communist society in the USSR. Stalin was requested to support a draft resolution of the Central Committee of the party and the Council of Ministers giving Gosplan the responsibility to produce a 20 year general plan for submission by 15th January, 1948. This authorisation was granted on the 6th August, 1947.

The scale of activity for the drafting of the general economic plan may be judged from the fact that 80 sub-commissions were established under the Chairman of Gosplan to elaborate different aspects of the plan having the participation of economic directors, ministerial experts and academic specialists. In the autumn of 1947 Gosplan re-examined the structure of the Institute of Economics of the Academy of Sciences and modified its working by re-orientating it towards the problems facing the Soviet economy. In 1948 Gosplan, the Academy of Sciences, local party and Soviet organs held conferences to study the productive strength of the economic regions of the country; especial attention was paid to the regions of the North-West, the Central Black Earth regions, the Kuzbass, Kazakhstan, eastern Siberia and the Far East. On the basis of these preparations the framework of the perspective plan was formulated for the different branches of the national economy and the different economic regions of the Soviet Union. A draft report on the general plan for the period 1951-1970 was prepared with necessary balance calculations and other materials for presentation to the Central Committee of the CPSU(b) and the Soviet government. The Special Commission directed by Voznesensky examined the preliminary theses on the general plan in September, 1948.

Despite these energetic beginnings the 20 year General Plan was not to be completed though the theme of the transition to Communism remained a central question for the CPSU(b). The reason for this would appear to be the involvement of Voznesensky as Chairman of Gosplan in attempts to utilise commodity-money relations in the Soviet economy at an inordinate level to the extent that the very survival of the socialist economy was endangered which led to his being removed from responsible positions. Nevertheless the views of Voznesensky on the transition to communism which have come down to us through the efforts of his biographer, V.V. Kolotov have a certain interest. The elaboration of the 20 year plan was inextricably linked in the thinking of Voznesensky with laying the basis of communist society. He considered it his task to work out the laws for the establishment of communism and how the productive forces and productive relations would be connected. In his last discussions with Gosplan workers he argued that each social formation had economic laws, some which operated over different social formations, and some which were operative specifically to a particular social formation. Each social formation had its basic economic law. It was important to uncover the economic laws of Communist construction, that is the paths by which the productive relations of socialism were transformed into the relations of production of Communist society. It was necessary to elucidate the possible contradictions between the forces of production and the relations of production under the Communist mode of production, and the manner in which these might be resolved. These were the very questions which were taken up for discussion by Stalin in his comments on the November 1951 economic discussion.

While the general plan for Communist construction did not see the light of day, a number of projects designed to expand the productive forces of the Soviet Union, which had originated in the pre-war work of Gosplan, and which pertained to electrification, mechanisation, automation, and the chemification of industry did get underway. Electrification of all branches of the national economy was envisaged by the development of electro-chemistry, electro-metallurgy in ferrous and non-ferrous metals, as well as in aluminium, magnesium and their alloys. The electrification of railway transport was considered desirable for economy on fuel and rolling stock. In agriculture electricity was to be extensively used in the mechanisation of livestock farming, threshing and irrigation. In accordance with this general understanding the directives of the 19th congress of the CPSU provided for an increase of electricity by some 80% for the period 1951-55. Electrification of the economy was a central feature of the literature of the period. The grandiose construction works for communist construction included the construction of the Kuibyshev and Stalingrad hydro-electrical stations which were designed to generate about 20,000 million Kwh of electricity annually which was more than half of the total power generated in the USSR before the second world war.

The question of the changes necessary in the relations of production for the impending transition to Communism were chalked out in Stalin’s last major work. After arguing that a continuous expansion of social production was necessary in which a relatively higher rate of expansion of the production of the means of production was necessary so that reproduction on an extended scale could take place, Stalin argued that productive relations also required to be adapted to the growth of the productive forces. Already factors such as the group property of the collective-farms and commodity circulation were beginning to hamper the powerful development of the productive forces as they created obstacles to the full extension of government planning to the whole of the national economy, particularly in the field of agriculture. To eliminate contradictions it was necessary to gradually convert collective farm property into public property and to gradually introduce products-exchange in place of commodity circulation.

Needless to say the programme for developing the productive forces and restructuring the relations of production in line with the transition to communism was demolished after the death of Stalin. Under Khrushchev the question of a relatively higher rate of expansion of the means of production was not considered decisive. The perspective of the replacing of commodity circulation by the exchange of products was terminated. The new programme for ‘communist construction’ explicitly called for the utmost development of commodity-money relations: Group property, the collective farms and commodity circulation were to be preserved and not eliminated. The CPSU(b) now distanced itself from the Leninist understanding that under socialism classes needed to the abolished and that the distinctions between the factory worker and the peasant, between town and country and between mental and physical workers had to be eliminated.

The history of the CPSU(b) confirms that clarity on the question of the class approach and the necessity of defending the Marxist-Leninist approach to the definition of the proletariat is an imperative if a true Communist Party is to be constructed in the former Soviet Union. Only on this basis is it possible for the dictatorship of the proletariat to be constructed which is the decisive pre-condition for the abolition of classes, commodity production and exchange under socialism on the path to the construction of communist society.

References

  • XVIII S’ezd Vsesoyuznoi Kommunisticheskoi partii (b), Stenograficheskii otchet, Moscow, 1939.
  • V.V. Kolotov, Nikolai Alekseevich Voznesensky, Moscow, 1974.
  • V. Kolotov and G. Petrovichev, N.A. Voznesensky, Moscow, 1963.
  • G. Kozyachenko, ‘Krupnyi deyatel sotsialisticheskogo planirovaniya’, Planovoe Khozyaistvo, No. 10-12, 1973.
  • G. Perov, ‘Na perdenem krae ekonomicheskoi nauki i praktiki sotsialisticheskogo planirovaniya’, Planovoe Khozyaistvo No. 7-9, 1971.
  • Programma i ustav VKP(b), Moscow, 1936.
  • M. Rubinstein, O sozdannii material’no-tekhnichesko bazy Kommunizma, Moscow, 1952.
  • I. Stalin, Economicheskie problemy sotsializma V SSSR, Moscow, 1952.
  • N.A. Voznesensky, Izbrannye proizvedeniya 1931-1947, Moscow, 1979.

Paper presented to the International Scientific-Practical Conference with the Theme ‘Class Analysis in The Modern Communist Movement’ organised by the International Centre for the Formation of the Modern Communist Doctrine in Moscow on the 8-10th November, 1996.

V.I. Lenin on the Revolution, Democracy, and Democratic Demands

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“The proletariat cannot be victorious except through democracy, i.e., by giving full effect to democracy and by linking with each step of its struggle democratic demands formulated in the most resolute terms. It is absurd to contrapose the socialist revolution and the revolutionary struggle against capitalism to a single problem of democracy, in this case, the national question. We must combine the revolutionary struggle against capitalism with a revolutionary programme and tactics on all democratic demands: a republic, a militia, the popular election of officials, equal rights  for women, the self-determination of nations, etc. While capitalism exists, these demands—all of them—can only be accomplished as an exception, and even then in an incomplete and distorted form. Basing ourselves on the democracy already achieved, and exposing its incompleteness under capitalism, we demand the overthrow of capitalism, the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, as a necessary basis both for the abolition of the poverty of the masses and for the complete and all-round institution of all democratic reforms. Some of these reforms will be started before the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, others in the course of that overthrow, and still others after it. The social revolution is not a single battle, but a period covering a series of battles over all sorts of problems of economic and democratic reform, which are consummated only by the expropriation of the bourgeoisie. It is for the sake of this final aim that we must formulate every one of our democratic demands in a consistently revolutionary way. It is quite conceivable that the workers of some particular country will overthrow the bourgeoisie before even a single fundamental democratic reform has been fully achieved. It is, however, quite inconceivable that the proletariat, as a historical class, will be able to defeat the bourgeoisie, unless it is prepared for that by being educated in the spirit of the most consistent and resolutely revolutionary democracy.”

 — V.I. Lenin, “The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination.”

Lin Biaoism and the Third World: How Idealism Distorts Class

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by Espresso Stalinist

An odd phenomenon is haunting the halls of Maoism – a chauvinist set of ideas loosely forged from the writings of Chinese military officer and politician Lin Biao. These ideas, to the extent to which they form coherent ideology at all, can roughly be termed “Lin Biaoism.” To be perfectly clear, I am under no impression that “Lin Biaoism” is an entirely new ideology. Lin Biao’s works are not significant enough to constitute a new stage of revolutionary science. What does exist is a wing of Maoism, usually associated with the “third-worldist” variety, that upholds the works of Lin Biao in theory and practice. The ideology, such as it is, is not worth refuting. However, its underlying assumptions about proletarian internationalism, imperialism, revolutionary theory and practice are.

I fully expect upon publication these thoughts will have piles of ashes heaped upon them as “first worldism,” as “a total misrepresentation” of the ideas I criticize, and overall rejection of this piece as a reactionary and revisionist writing dedicated to attacking Lin Biao’s theories. But this is par for the course with “third-worldists” of all kinds, who much like anarchists dismiss all criticisms by claiming the author knows not what they criticize. In this essay, I am not concerned with what I allegedly do not know – I am only concerned with what we do know. In this case, what we know about the problems in Lin Biao’s theories.

Lin Biao (1907-1971) was a Chinese revisionist military officer and politician. Born in December 5th, 1907, he graduated from the famous Whampoa Military Academy, then under the command of Chiang Kai-shek. After graduation he joined the armed forces of the Kuomintang (KMT) or Nationalists. During the Northern Expedition he joined the Communist Party. Following the 1927 Shanghai massacre of thousands of workers, trade unionists and Communist Party members, which began the Chinese Civil War, Lin defected to the Red Army. He participated in the Long March and became known as one of the CPC’s most brilliant military commanders and an authority on guerrilla warfare. During the Japanese invasion of China, Lin commanded troops in the Battle of Pingxingguan, one of the few battlefield successes for the Chinese during the first period of the Second Sino-Japanese War. He was forced to retire from active service in 1937 after a serious battlefield injury complicated by tuberculosis and left for Moscow, where from 1937 to 1942 he acted as the representative of the CPC to the Executive Committee of the Communist International, or Comintern.

After the end of World War II and the Soviet liberation of Manchuria from the Japanese, fighting resumed between the Communists and Nationalists. Lin led victorious campaigns of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Manchuria and throughout Northern China against the KMT forces, including the famous Pingjin Campaign, which led to the liberation of Beijing in 1949. His forces then resumed attacks on the KMT in the southeast, which led to securing the major cities of Wuhan and Guangzhou. He was named one of the “Ten Marshals” after the Communist victory and the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Lin mostly abstained from participating politics in the 1950s. In 1962 Lin succeeded Peng Dehuai as commander of the PLA, starting a rectification program among officers and soldiers stressing political education, eventually culminating in the abolition of ranks in the PLA. Lin would rise to political prominence again during the Cultural Revolution.

Lin Biao was the most prominent supporter of the cult of personality around Mao, working to develop it within the PLA in particular. In 1964 it was he who compiled some of Mao’s writings into a handbook, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, also known as the Little Red Book, and ensured it was mass-produced and distributed, first within the PLA, and then throughout the entire People’s Republic.

In September 1965, Lin Biao’s most famous work, “Long Live the Victory of People’s War!” was published, which contains the vast majority of his political theories. It heavily promoted Mao Tse-tung’s theory of people’s war:

“Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of people’s war has been proved by the long practice of the Chinese revolution to be in accord with the objective laws of such wars and to be invincible. It has not only been valid for China, it is a great contribution to the revolutionary struggles of the oppressed nations and peoples throughout the world. [….] Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of people’s war is not only a product of the Chinese revolution, but has also the characteristics of our epoch.”

And even proclaimed it to be universal:

“It must be emphasized that Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of the establishment of rural revolutionary base areas and the encirclement of the cities from the countryside is of outstanding and universal practical importance for the present revolutionary struggles of all the oppressed nations and peoples, and particularly for the revolutionary struggles of the oppressed nations and peoples in Asia, Africa and Latin America against imperialism and its lackeys.”

It heavily supported the Maoist theory of the revolutionary movement spreading from the countryside to the cities:

“The countryside, and the countryside alone, can provide the broad areas in which the revolutionaries can manoeuvre freely. The countryside, and the countryside alone, can provide the revolutionary bases from which the revolutionaries can go forward to final victory.”

Lin Biao believed this even to the point of arguing against the modernization of the PLA in favor of people’s war. More significantly, in perhaps the most influential part of his pamphlet to modern-day “Lin Biaoists,” Lin Biao applies the Maoist concept of people’s war to the international situation:

“Taking the entire globe, if North America and Western Europe can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world’. Since World War II, the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been growing vigorously. In a sense, the contemporary world revolution also presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population.”

At the 11th Plenum of the 8th CC in August 1966, a meeting presided over by Mao and guarded by Lin’s troops, the famous big-character poster reading, “Bombard the Headquarters!” was unveiled, written by Mao himself. This was a declaration of war against the “right” elements Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping and other leaders of the party apparatus, and the practical launching of what would come to be called the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” During the Cultural Revolution, after initial control by the Red Guards proved too tenuous the PLA under Lin Biao’s command effectively took over the role of controlling the country previously held by the Communist Party. The GPCR had virtually destroyed the Communist Party and liquidated its organizations, but had greatly strengthened the political role of the army, which largely controlled the provincial Revolutionary Committees and many Ministries and economic enterprises.

The Ninth Congress of the Communist Party of China was held in 1969, during which former President Liu Shaoqi was removed from all posts and expelled from the party. During this Congress Lin built up the cult of Mao more than ever, declaring Mao’s though to be a “higher and completely new stage” of Marxism. He summed up the ideology of Maoism, then called “Mao Tse-tung Thought,” thusly:

“The Communist Party of China owes all its achievements to the wise leadership of Chairman Mao and these achievements constitute victories for Mao Tsetung Thought. For half a century now, in leading the great struggle of the people of all the nationalities of China for accomplishing the new-democratic revolution, in leading China’s great struggle for socialist revolution and socialist construction and in the great struggle of the contemporary international communist movement against imperialism, modern revisionism and the reactionaries of various countries, Chairman Mao has integrated the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of revolution, has inherited, defended and developed Marxism-Leninism in the political, military, economic, cultural, philosophical and other spheres, and has brought Marxism-Leninism to a higher and completely new stage. Mao Tsetung Thought is Marxism-Leninism of the era in which imperialism is heading for total collapse and socialism is advancing to world-wide victory. The entire history of our Party has borne out this truth: Departing from the leadership of Chairman Mao and Mao Tsetung Thought, our Party will suffer setbacks and defeats; following Chairman Mao closely and acting on Mao Tsetung Thought, our Party will advance and triumph. We must forever remember this lesson. Whoever opposes Chairman Mao, whoever opposes Mao Tsetung Thought, at any time or under any circumstances, will be condemned and punished by the whole Party and the whole country.”

During his report to the Ninth Congress, Lin went so far as to proclaim that according to Marxist theory, the main component of the state is the military:

“The People’s Liberation Army is the mighty pillar of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Chairman Mao has pointed out many times: From the Marxist point of view the main component of the state is the army.”

Lin Biao was built up as Mao’s successor to such an extent that during the Ninth Congress, one of the very few congresses held in Chinese history, the idea of Lin as successor in the event of Mao’s resignation or death was literally written into the Constitution of the CPC. It was passed on April 14th, 1969. It stated:

“Comrade Lin Piao has consistently held high the great red banner of Mao Tse-tung’s Thought and he has most loyally and resolutely carried out the defended Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s proletarian revolutionary line. Comrade Lin Piao is Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s closest comrade-in-arms and successor.”

This favored position would not last. A mere four years later, on August 1973, the Tenth Party Congress stated:

“The Congress indignantly denounced the Lin Piao anti-Party clique for its crimes. All the delegates firmly supported this resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China: Expel Lin Piao, the bourgeois careerist, conspirator, counter-revolutionary double-dealer, renegade and traitor from the Party once and for all.”

The events leading up to this posthumous denunciation are highly controversial. Lin Biao, along with several members of his family, died mysteriously in a plane crash over Mongolia in September 1971 in circumstances that are still heavily in dispute. It is generally accepted he was trying to flee to the Soviet Union. According to the official Chinese version of events, Lin Biao had attempted to initiate a pro-Soviet coup d’etat that would topple Mao Tse-tung and Zhou En-lai from power to establish a military dictatorship in China, and when he failed in this endeavor, he attempted to flee and sought refuge in the U.S.S.R. As the plane approached the Mongolian border, a gun fight broke out, causing it to crash. Whatever the case, Lin Biao and all on board died in the crash.

In his political diary, Albanian Marxist-Leninist leader Enver Hoxha characterized the Lin Biao affair as more frivolous than a James Bond thriller:

“The question arises: Why should Lin Piao murder Mao and why take his place, when he himself occupied precisely the main position after Mao, was his deputy appointed by the Constitution and by Mao himself? Lin Piao had great renown in China. The Cultural Revolution, ‘the work of Comrade Mao’, had built up his prestige. Then, what occurred for this ‘mutual political trust and the same ideological conviction’ between Mao and Lin Piao to suddenly disappear to the point that the latter organized an attempt on Mao’s life? And this act looks like an episode from ‘James Bond’”

(Hoxha, Reflections on China Vol. I, p. 465).

The rift between Mao and Lin needs to be expressed in solid political terms and not personal terms such as “lust for power” or “jealously” as bourgeois historians are so fond to do. Hard evidence on this matter seems to be scarce due to a lack of surviving evidence, but a few things are undeniable.

For example, Lin was on his way to the Soviet Union because of a split with Mao and his supporters over domestic and foreign policy. In September 1970, the grouping around Mao Tse-tung pressed for a Fourth Five-Year-Plan, which involved a massive program for mechanization of agriculture to be financed by reducing expenditure on the armed forces. This reduction was to be made possible by bringing about a détente with the United States. Lin Biao’s pro-Soviet faction opposed détente with the U.S. This was denounced by Mao and Zhou’s group as “ultra-leftism.” In December 1970, a movement began for a revival of the provincial Communist Party committees, which had been shattered by the Cultural Revolution. This was strongly opposed by Lin and the army leadership, since it would threaten the military’s ascendancy.

I see only two possibilities to this story, and both are somewhat related:

1) Lin Biao did plan and attempt to carry out a military coup against Mao because he wanted to “save” the country and the party from what he saw as a wrong course, or;

2) It was a conspiracy of the more pro-American elements of the CPC, including Mao and Zhou Enlai, to eliminate the most prominent opponent to their domestic and foreign policy.

In either case, clearly there was a huge rift with Mao’s policies, including regarding military control following the GPCR, and the controversial Chinese foreign policy of the late 1960s and 70s.

It is clear that the contradiction between Mao Tse-tung and Zhou Enlai’s group and Lin Biao’s group was a conflict between the wings of the CPC supporting reconciliation and alignment with U.S. imperialism and modernization of society, and supporting rapprochement with Soviet social-imperialism and the continuation of Lin’s “people’s war’ policies, respectively. In December 1970, Mao Tse-tung said American journalist Edgar Snow that he would like to meet President Nixon, and in July 1971, U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger made a secret visit to China. People’s Daily announced soon after that Zhou Enlai had extended an invitation to Nixon to visit China. This no doubt further inflamed conflicts, and it was obvious there were rifts in the Party from 1970-71.

Declassified transcripts of Mao’s conversations with Nixon record him making an unmistakable reference to the “Lin Biao Affair” in 1972:

President Nixon: When the Chairman says he voted for me, he voted for the lesser of two evils.

Chairman Mao: I like rightists. People say you are rightists, that the Republican Party is to the right, that Prime Minister Heath is also to the right.

President Nixon: And General DeGaulle.

Chairman Mao: DeGaulle is a different question. They also say the Christian Democratic Party of West Germany is also to the right. I am comparatively happy when these people on the right come into power.

President Nixon: I think the important thing to note is that in America, at least at this time, those on the right can do what those on the left talk about.

Dr. Kissinger: There is another point, Mr. President. Those on the left are pro-Soviet and would not encourage a move towards the People’s Republic, and in fact criticize you on those grounds.

Chairman Mao: Exactly that. Some are opposing you. In our country also there is a reactionary group which is opposed to our contact with you. The result was they got on an airplane and fled abroad.

Prime Minister Chou: Maybe you know this.

Chairman Mao: Throughout the whole world, the U.S. intelligence reports are comparatively accurate. The next was Japan. As for the Soviet Union, they finally went to dig out the corpses, but they didn’t say anything about it.

Prime Minister Chou: In Outer Mongolia.”

Before long, China threw off its former policy of anti-imperialism, arguing for a strengthening of NATO, support for German reunification and West European integration, support for U.S.-Japanese Security Treaty, declining support for national liberation movements in South Asia, its support for reactionary “liberation” movements supported by imperialist powers (such as UNITA in Angola), and its support of the semi-colonies of imperialist powers, such as Iran, Pakistan, Zaire, fascist Chile and the Philippines.

So, now that I’ve finished this grand history lesson, how does this relate back to modern Maoism? More than you might think after reading, actually. Maoist supporters of the “new-democratic” theory of the Chinese Revolution, as well as the peasant-based theory of “people’s war” largely seek their justifications in Lin’s pamphlet. We have already examined Lin’s representation of the international situation in his 1965 pamphlet. Lin Biao, in an attempt to apply the Maoist concept of people’s war to the international struggle, pioneered an early version of Mao’s later “theory of three worlds” which perceives the world as being a global countryside surrounding a global city. His line as expressed in “Long Live The Victory of People’s War!” represents the absolutizing of the contradiction between imperialism and oppressed nations – and that, more than anything else, is what is key. Lin Biao’s ideas do not speak of the contradiction (at the time) between two opposing systems, socialism and capitalism, or of the contradiction between capital and labor in the capitalist countries, or of the contradiction between the imperialist powers. He misunderstands the entire foundation for the modern revolutionary movement, and raises his vision of the “global countryside” surrounding the “global city” out of dialectical context, treating it as the principal contradiction in the world.

Modern third-worldism is largely based on Lin Biaoism, though it has perhaps its earliest roots in the theories of Mirza Sultan-Galiyev. Sultan-Galiyev was a Tatar pan-Islamic nationalist opposed by Lenin and Stalin. He later began conspiratorial activity, including tried to ally with Trotsky but was rejected, and had ties to the anti-Soviet counterrevolutionary Bashmachi movement. Among other beliefs, Sultan-Galiyev thought that the Muslim peoples were “proletarian peoples” and thus national movements among them were socialist revolutions, that in places inhabited by Muslims, the Communist Party should “integrate” with Islam, which should be brought about by a special Muslim party, and that geographically large territorial units should be formed embracing as many Muslims as possible. He had dreams of creating a pan-Turanian Turkish-Tatar state stretching across Central Asia. He was eventually arrested for his conspiratorial activity and died in prison. Like Sultan-Galiyev, Lin Biao’s analysis is not class-based, and in fact Lin’s pamphlet contains theses very similar to that of “Sultan-Galiyevism”:

“If North American and western Europe can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world’…the contemporary world revolution…presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples.”

Obviously, no Marxist can deny the contradiction between the imperialist powers and the colonial and semi-colonial countries, which is a major contradiction in the world we live in. Independence and national liberation struggles for independence and national sovereignty led against imperialism is a just struggle which deserves the support of Marxist-Leninists and the world proletariat. But that’s not all Lin Biao does. Here, while recognizing the existence of revolutionary situations and movement in countries in the “third world,” he treats the “third world” as an undifferentiated whole, exaggerating this situation into one in which the entire “third world” is ripe everywhere for revolution. What is also striking about his “countryside versus city” division of the world is his non-class view of the “third world,” its omission of the basic contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and its disregarding of classes and class struggle within those countries, and an utter lack of analysis of the class nature of the regimes which rule there. This way the contradiction between the oppressed peoples and the reactionary and pro-imperialist powers is absolutized.

But the modern preachers of Lin Biaoism go further than to label the “third world” as leader of the liberation movement or the main force in the struggle against imperialism – frequently they proclaim it the only revolutionary force in the world. But to speak about the “third world” as the main force against imperialism and as the main force of the revolution such as the followers of Lin Biaoism, of third-worldism and other theories do ignores (or in some cases intentionally glosses over) the objective fact that the majority of the countries of the “third world” are ruled by agents of imperialism and neo-colonialism. The international view of Lin Biaoism belittles the size and importance of the comprador bourgeoisie and other pro-imperialist forces of the “third world.” To speak of the “third world” as a undifferentiated whole without making any distinction between genuine anti-imperialist revolutionary forces and pro-imperialist, reactionary and fascist ruling classes is to abandon the class struggle and the teachings of Marxism-Leninism openly. It means nothing less than to preach opportunism which cause confusion and disorder among the revolutionary proletariat.

Further, Lin Biaoism says that these countries are the “main anti-imperialist force” in the world. It logically stands to reason that it is not the business of revolutionaries to topple this “main force.” By now, it becomes increasingly apparent that Lin Biaoism is not a scientific approach to Marxism and is in opposition to proletarian internationalism. Lin Biao’s theories deny the role of the vanguard party in both the “third world” and the “first world” nations. Lin Biao’s concepts obscure the character of class struggle, creates illusions and misleads the people. Lin Biaoism is claimed by its followers to be the strategy for revolution today, and yet this strategy has no place for the proletariat or the Marxist-Leninist party. It claims to be a valuable contribution towards a proper analysis of the forces of the world, and yet classes are not mentioned.

Lin Biao’s theoretical understanding is eerily similar to that put forward by Karl Kautsky at the beginning of the century. Kautsky, on the eve of the First World War, postulated that in the field of international relations, a new age was approaching “in which the competition among states will be disabled by their cartel relationship.” He argued “there is nothing further to prevent […] finally replacing imperialism by a holy alliance of the imperialists.” This state of affairs is what he referred to as “Ultra Imperialism.” Kautsky falsely predicted the onset of a new phase of the elimination of contradictions between imperialist and capitalist states. This gave way to reformism, since it remained purely focused on combating “hegemonism” and sees imperialism as a policy, which could be adopted or rescinded at the whim of the ruling class, instead of the latest stage in the development of capitalism. Lenin in contrast, viewed imperialism as the highest and last stage of capitalism – monopoly capitalism that needs the domination of other countries and war. Lenin strongly criticized this theory of Kautsky’s, pointing out his denial of the connection between the rule of monopolies and imperialism, as well as his attempts to portray the rule of finance capital as somehow “lessening” the contradictions inherent in the world economy, when in reality it increases and aggravates them. Lenin summed up thusly:

“The question is: what means other than war could there be under capitalism to overcome the disparity between the development of productive forces and the accumulation of capital on the one side, and the division of colonies and spheres of influence for finance capital on the other?”

(V.I. Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism).

Uneven development among nations means that capitalists internationally frequently have radically different interests and not all of these interests can be met by full integration of their economic activity within the global marketplace. Any alliance, any “unity” within the capitalist camp is subject to how it benefits the profits of the individual capitalists within such an alliance. Unlike workers, who are able to reap benefits from the struggles of workers all over the world, a capitalist isn’t necessarily benefited by the success of other capitalists. As capitalists are forced to compete for what they perceive to be a limited number of material and market resources, the bonds which have formerly bound them begin to deteriorate.

Lin Biaoist formulations of the world proclaim no actual, concrete program for anti-imperialist struggle, or even for support of national liberation movements of oppressed peoples. What they do, quite in the style of the idealists of the past, is to cloak the question of revolution in bombastic-sounding phrases. Lin Biaoism implicitly capitulates to imperialism by including the reactionaries and comprador bourgeoisie in the same ranks as the people and the revolutionaries of the “third world.” This can only lead to obscuring the radical contradictions characteristic of the monopoly stage of capitalism. Interestingly, Lin Biao portrays imperialism as the main enemy of the world’s people, and yet the same set of theories were used by Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping to ally themselves with imperialism. This is not just a lesson for those in the “first,” “second” or “third” worlds, but the entire world. While some of the supporters of the theory may disagree with specific tactics in the examples I have cited, the overall logic is inescapable.

Of course, there are a never-ending stream of national-chauvinist Marxists who stand ready and willing to assure us that this position of Lin’s conforms more closely to reality than, say, those of Trotsky, who in this case acts as a stand-in for anyone opposed to Lin Biao’s theories, or J. Sakai’s, or Sultan-Galiyev’s, or whoever they happen to be cheering on. These chauvinists are usually quick to conjure demons from oblivion at the sign of the slightest opposition to their theories, such as “Trotskyism” or “Eurocentric” Marxism. Sometimes they are even brave enough to challenge traditional Marxism, which they characterize as ‘Eurocentric” or “mechanical.” As we all know, Marxism consists of choosing between envisioning a dramatic repetition of the events of the Chinese Revolution on a global scale with isolated urban areas in a sea of peasant revolution, or being accused of Euro-chauvinism ourselves. The endless need of revisionists to figure out which demonstrably incorrect line is “closer” to reality never ceases to amaze me, and the debate between Trotskyism, a stand-in for supposedly “Eurocentric” traditional Marxism and Lin Biaoism and its proclamation that the the entire so-called “third world” or “global south” is ready and ripe for revolution is no exception to that.

Today there is much talk about the “first,” “second” or “third” world, a world of “colonized” countries versus “colonizer” countries, of the “global south versus the global north,” etc. All of these terms, of course, conceal the real class nature of these countries. But this is not all, oh no dear reader, not quite all indeed! For recently, these ideas have further paved the way for its modern adherents to apply class labels to entire nations, saying that the “first world” represents a global bourgeoisie and making such claims as the first world populations not representing the true proletariat. Some go even further, and take Lin Biaoist views to outright denying the first world proletariat’s revolutionary potential, dismissing it as inherently reactionary as a class. At first glance, nothing would appear stranger than a group of so-called Marxists in the first world decrying the revolutionary potential of its people. But in fact, it’s no secret that this odd trend of Maoism has emerged as one of the most outwardly vocal, if not particularly politically effective, voices on the American left in recent years.

Whether they claim there are no significant exploited groups in the first world, or that internally colonized peoples are the only real proletariat, or some other variation thereof, modern third-worldism attempts to peddle the same Lin Biaoist theories, despite what differences they may have. Some confuse class as income, while others do not. Some claim that class is one’s personal ideology, i.e. reactionary workers are bourgeois or labor aristocrat, while others do not. Some, like author J. Sakai, claim that every person of European descent in the United States is a net exploiter from the American colonies onwards, and that the U.S. has no proletariat of its own but exists parasitically on colonial peoples, oppressed nations and national minorities, whom he labels the “true proletariat.” Therefore, the entire white working class is reactionary rather than revolutionary and this has always been the case, and therefore working class solidarity between whites, blacks, Hispanics, Natives, Asians and other peoples is impossible. He recognizes white privilege in the form of Euro-American workers being a privileged labor aristocracy which possesses a petty-bourgeois reformist ideology rather than a revolutionary proletarian one. Sakai’s solution is to call for a kind of Bundist separatism, with each racial group creating its own independent organization.

Before I continue, it must be made clear that the labor aristocracy, that is, the stratum of highly-paid and privileged workers bribed by the imperialist bourgeoisie by means of superprofits extracted from colonies and neo-colonies, certainly exists. This has been recognized by all the Marxist classics ever since the strata of the labor aristocracy emerged in Britain in the mid-19th century. This tendency was recognized by Marx and Engels, and they traced this opportunism within the working class movement directly back to British imperialism:

“[T]he English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that the ultimate aim of this most bourgeois of all nations would appear to be the possession, alongside the bourgeoisie, of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat. In the case of a nation which exploits the entire world this is, of course, justified to some extent”

(F. Engels, “Engels to Marx in London,” 7 October 1858).

These views remained consistent over the course of several decades, as seen in this letter from Engels to Kautsky dated twenty-four years later:

“You ask me what the English workers think about colonial policy. Well, exactly the same as they think about politics in general: the same as what the bourgeois think. There is no workers’ party here, there are only Conservatives and Liberal-Radicals, and the workers gaily share the feast of England’s monopoly of the world market and the colonies”

(F. Engels, “Engels to Karl Kautsky in Vienna,” 12 September 1882).

V.I. Lenin also identified the source of bribery for the labor aristocracy as the commercial and industrial monopoly of the imperialist countries and their export of capital to the colonial countries:

“Before the war [World War I – E.S.], it was calculated that the three richest countries—Britain, France and Germany—got between eight and ten thousand million francs a year from the export of capital alone, apart from other sources.

It goes without saying that, out of this tidy sum, at least five hundred millions can be spent as a sop to the labour leaders and the labour aristocracy, i.e., on all sorts of bribes. The whole thing boils down to nothing but bribery. It is done in a thousand different ways: by increasing cultural facilities in the largest centres, by creating educational institutions, and by providing co-operative, trade union and parliamentary leaders with thousands of cushy jobs. This is done wherever present-day civilised capitalist relations exist. It is these thousands of millions in super-profits that form the economic basis of opportunism in the working-class movement. In America, Britain and France we see a far greater persistence of the opportunist leaders, of the upper crust of the working class, the labour aristocracy; they offer stronger resistance to the Communist movement. That is why we must be prepared to find it harder for the European and American workers’ parties to get rid of this disease than was the case in our country. We know that enormous successes have been achieved in the treatment of this disease since the Third International was formed, but we have not yet finished the job; the purging of the workers’ parties, the revolutionary parties of the proletariat all over the world, of bourgeois influences, of the opportunists in their ranks, is very far from complete.”

(V.I. Lenin, “The Second Congress of the Communist International”)

“They [Social-Democrats] are just as much traitors to socialism… They represent that top section of workers who have been bribed by the bourgeoisie… for in all the civilised, advanced countries the bourgeoisie rob—either by colonial oppression or by financially extracting ‘gain’ from formally independent weak countries—they rob a population many times larger than that of ‘their own’ country. This is the economic factor that enables the imperialist bourgeoisie to obtain superprofits, part of which is used to bribe the top section of the proletariat and convert it into a reformist, opportunist petty bourgeoisie that fears revolution.”

(V.I. Lenin., “Letter to the Workers of Europe and America,” Pravda; No. 16, January 24, 1919)

Exploitation of the world by imperialist countries and their monopoly position on the global market, as well as their colonial possessions, allowed sections of their proletariat to become bourgeois, and allowed a section of their proletariat to allow themselves to be bribed by the bourgeoisie. Unlike modern third-worldists however, who dismiss the whole of the population of imperialist countries as unexploited and bourgeois, while recognizing the social and economic basis for opportunism and revisionism in the more developed countries, Lenin spoke of the labor aristocracy as a minority of the workers, and that it was the task of the revolutionaries to expose them:

“Neither we nor anyone else can calculate precisely what portion of the proletariat is following and will follow the social-chauvinists and opportunists. This will be revealed only by the struggle, it will be definitely decided only by the socialist revolution. But we know for certain that the ‘defenders of the fatherland’ in the imperialist war represent only a minority. And it is therefore our duty, if we wish to remain socialists to go down lower and deeper, to the real masses; this is the whole meaning and the whole purport of the struggle against opportunism. By exposing the fact that the opportunists and social-chauvinists are in reality betraying and selling the interests of the masses, that they are defending the temporary privileges of a minority of the workers, that they are the vehicles of bourgeois ideas and influences, that they are really allies and agents of the bourgeoisie, we teach the masses to appreciate their true political interests, to fight for socialism and for the revolution…”

(V.I. Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”).

He continued:

“The only Marxist line in the world labour movement is to explain to the masses the inevitability and necessity of breaking with opportunism, to educate them for revolution by waging a relentless struggle against opportunism […]”

(V.I. Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”).

Enver Hoxha analyzed the origins and class nature of the labor aristocracy, and noted its role in the advent of revisionism and reformism in the Communist Parties as well, particularly in Europe:

“The development of the economy in the West after the war [World War II – E.S.] also exerted a great influence on the spread of opportunist and revisionist ideas in the communist parties. True, Western Europe was devastated by the war but its recovery was carried out relatively quickly. The American capital which poured into Europe through the ‘Marshall Plan’ made it possible to reconstruct the factories, plants, transport and agriculture so that their production extended rapidly. This development opened up many jobs and for a long period, not only absorbed all the free labour force but even created a certain shortage of labour.

This situation, which brought the bourgeoisie great superprofits, allowed it to loosen its purse-strings a little and soften the labour conflicts to some degree. In the social field, in such matters as social insurance, health, education, labour legislation etc., it took some measures for which the working class had fought hard. The obvious improvement of the standard of living of the working people in comparison with that of the time of the war and even before the war, the rapid growth of production, which came as a result of the reconstruction of industry and agriculture and the beginning of the technical and scientific revolution, and the full employment of the work force, opened the way to the flowering amongst the unformed opportunist element of views about the development of capitalism without class conflicts, about its ability to avoid crises, the elimination of the phenomenon of unemployment etc. That major teaching of Marxism-Leninism, that the periods of peaceful development of capitalism becomes a source for the spread of opportunism, was confirmed once again. The new stratum of the worker aristocracy, which increased considerably during this period, began to exert an ever more negative influence in the ranks of the parties and their leaderships by introducing reformist and opportunist views and ideas.

Under pressure of these circumstances, the programs of these communist parties were reduced more and more to democratic and reformist minimum programs, while the idea of the revolution and socialism became ever more remote. The major strategy of the revolutionary transformation of society gave way to the minor strategy about current problems of the day which was absolutized and became the general political and ideological line.”

(Enver Hoxha. Eurocommunism is Anti-Communism. Tirana: 8 Nëntori Publishing House. 1980. pp. 82-83.)

So as we can see, the correct Marxist-Leninist analysis of the labor aristocracy was upheld by all the classics. However, none of this says that a proletariat ceases to exist in those countries. In contrast, modern “third-worldism,” sometimes called “Maoism Third-Worldism” and sometimes not, is the belief that first world workers are non-revolutionary and have the status of a global labor aristocracy lacking a proletarian revolutionary consciousness or revolutionary potential at all, since supposedly imperial capital has tamed them with flashy electronics and consumer products, thus bribing them into passivity. Thus, according to this mode of thought, first world leftists must place their hopes for a revolution on the peoples of the third world. This set of ideas was a common theme in the Maoist-inspired student movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Others since then, particularly since the 1980s, have taken this further and claimed that first world workers actually aren’t exploited at all, and are paid more than the value of their labor, thus making them part of the bourgeoisie complicit in exploiting the third world. In this version of the formulation, the first world is outright reactionary altogether. The only debate between the two types is whether there are any significantly exploited groups in the first world at all, such as prisoners, lumpenproletarians, blacks, Chicanos, etc., or if these people also share in the exploitation of the third world along with their white counterparts.

One of the most common characteristics of modern third-worldism is the tendency to blame the “first world” masses for not rising against capital, and to uphold this as evidence that they posses no revolutionary potential at all. This is especially curious as third-worldists exist almost exclusively within the “first world” themselves, and then mostly in the United States. To explain how they arrived at their revolutionary consciousness, such as it is, they are obliged to make metaphors to individuals like John Brown, and claim that the real reason socialism is not victorious in “first world” countries is that the people there recognize their material interests in following the imperialist bourgeoisie. Some even negate class as an economic classification by saying having a reactionary ideology also makes them labor aristocrats. Of course, if one blames “first world” workers for following and identifying with the dominant ideology of the bourgeoisie, the logical conclusion is to use that same standard for the large amounts of reactionary ideology in the “third world,” too, which tellingly, none of them dare to do. As Marx famously wrote:

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it”

(Karl Marx, “The German Ideology”).

What third-worldists fail to realize is that part and parcel of the material conditions in the U.S. is being subjected to the most powerful, most all pervasive, most advanced apparatus of ideological hegemony the world has ever known. In essence they are asking why socialist ideas are not more widely accepted in the country with the most powerful, advanced, developed and pervasive capitalist media. Most chauvinist of all their justification in relying on the “third world” workers to make the revolution there is that in contrast to the workers in developed countries, who apparently enjoy too many benefits in their minds, the “third world” workers are truly the only one who “have nothing to lose but their chains.” Words cannot describe how incredibly ignorant, and more than that patronizing it is for someone living in the “first world” to point their finger at the entire working class of various nations and declare that they have “nothing to lose” and thus should rise up and potentially face maiming, torture and death so that the third-worldist can sit in his comfortable air-conditioned domicile and post photos expressing “solidarity” on social media. It is strictly up to the parties, organizations and workers themselves in those countries to determine if the time and conditions are ripe for a revolution. Until then, it is arrogant, and dare I say racist, to declare that the entire working population of vast nations have “nothing to lose.” If these renegades actually visited a developing country, they might find that everywhere they went they could find people who would strongly disagree they have “nothing to lose.”

The absolutizing of the phrase which famously ends the Manifesto, namely that the workers “have nothing to lose but their chains,” is just one more example of a recent trend of making political stances out of simple slogans, and increased sloganeering to disguise political dishonesty or even reaction. It’s obvious to any ready that the original phrase was meant by Marx and Engels as a rallying call, instead of an excuse to only classify those people who “have nothing to lose” as revolutionaries or workers. Everyone on the planet, even those living in the most miserable conditions, have “something to lose,” if only their lives and their families. 

It is accurate to say that the roots of modern third-worldism are based in Maoism itself, in the peasant-based theories of Mao and especially Lin Biao. The three worlds theory, or the “theory of the three-part world” developed by Mao Tse-tung in 1974 was based entirely on China’s strategic interests. It was part of Chinese foreign policy in the 1970s as I have mentioned, and part of it was claiming U.S. imperialism was weak, citing for example its defeat in Vietnam, whereas Soviet social-imperialism was a rising and more dangerous imperialist power and a growing threat to humanity, akin to Nazi Germany. This position was supported dogmatically under Hua Guofeng but quietly dropped in the 1980s after the rise of Deng Xiaoping to the leadership of China when Sino-Soviet ties improved. But, as reactionary and mistaken as Mao’s three worlds theory might have been, and opportunist and anti-communist as was the Chinese foreign policy during that era, one cannot say Mao Tse-tung was a third-worldist in the modern sense by any stretch of the imagination. As perverse as the “theory of the three worlds” might be, present-day third-worldists are a perversion even of that shaky theoretical basis.

Modern “third-worldism” – which is an ideological variety of Lin Biaoism – existing outside of the internet has always been negligible. While some early third-worldist movements did exist as activists, none of them have been particularly large and were soon reduced almost exclusively to an internet presence. This has been the case since then. It can therefore be (rightly) inferred that third-worldists almost never have first-hand experience of life and material conditions or conditions of struggle in “third world” countries. It’s always struck me as curious that third-worldism has little to no following in the “third world” itself.

Indeed, the most commonly heard statement comrades from the “third world” made to American Marxist-Leninists is that our struggle here, in the very heart of imperialism, will be decisive. Mao Tse-tung himself made many such statements, such as this one from 1970:

“While massacring the people in other countries, U.S. imperialism is slaughtering the white and black people in its own country. Nixon’s fascist atrocities have kindled the raging flames of the revolutionary mass movement in the United States. The Chinese people firmly support the revolutionary struggle of the American people. I am convinced that the American people who are fighting valiantly will ultimately win victory and that the fascist rule in the United States will inevitably be defeated”

(Mao Tse-tung, “People of the World, Unit and Defeat the U.S. Aggressors and All Their Running Dogs”).

As far back as 1949, Mao spoke of the class struggles within the United States between the people and the ruling class:

“To start a war, the U.S. reactionaries must first attack the American people. They are already attacking the American people – oppressing the workers and democratic circles in the United States politically and economically and preparing to impose fascism there. The people of the United States should stand up and resist the attacks of the U.S. reactionaries. I believe they will”

(Mao Tse-tung, “Talk with American Correspondent Anna Louise Strong”).

As well, in a telegram to William Z. Foster in 1945, Mao wrote regarding the defeat of of Earl Browder’s revisionist and liquidationist line:

“Beyond all doubt the victory of the U.S. working class and its vanguard, the Communist Party of the United States, over Browder’s revisionist-capitulationist line will contribute signally to the great cause in which the Chinese and American peoples are engaged the cause of carrying on the war against Japan and of building a peaceful and democratic world after the war”

(Mao Tse-tung, “Telegram to Comrade William Z. Foster”).

In 1963, Mao also issued a statement supporting working class solidarity in the United States against systematic racism:

“I call upon the workers, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals, enlightened elements of the bourgeoisie, and other enlightened personages of all colours in the world, white, black, yellow, brown, etc., to unite to oppose the racial discrimination practiced by U.S. imperialism and to support the American Negroes in their struggle against racial discrimination. In the final analysis, a national struggle is a question of class struggle. In the United States, it is only the reactionary ruling clique among the whites which is oppressing the Negro people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals, and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people. At present, it is the handful of imperialists, headed by the United States, and their supporters, the reactionaries in different countries, who are carrying out oppression, aggression and intimidation against the overwhelming majority of the nations and peoples of the world. They are the minority, and we are the majority. At most they make up less than ten percent of the 3,000 million people of the world”

(Mao Tse-tung, “Statement Supporting the Afro-Americans in their Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism”).

And again in 1968:

“Racial discrimination in the United States is a product of the colonialist and imperialist system. The contradiction between the Black masses in the United States and the U.S. ruling circles is a class contradiction. Only by overthrowing the reactionary rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class and destroying the colonialist and imperialist system can the Black people in the United States win complete emancipation. The Black masses and the masses of white working people in the United States have common interests and common objectives to struggle for. Therefore, the Afro-American struggle is winning sympathy and support from increasing numbers of white working people and progressives in the United States. The struggle of the Black people in the United States is bound to merge with the American workers’ movement, and this will eventually end the criminal rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class”

(Mao Tse-tung, “A New Storm Against Imperialism”).

As I’ve already shown, Lin Biao’s line, which is much more closely followed by modern third-worldists, saw the primary contradiction in the world as between the global city and global countryside, or the exploited poor countries versus the wealthy imperialist countries, imagining people’s war on a global scale. Some even go as far to say that the waging of people’s war is the true test if a movement is truly communist or not. Third-worldists today uphold the theories of Lin Biao and largely reject the Chinese policies during this period, accusing the Chinese leadership, and even Mao Tse-tung himself, of “first-worldism” for supporting the class struggles of the workers in the “first world.” Of course, revolutionaries in the “third world” saying the working class in the “first world” also wage a decisive struggle are not limited to Mao himself.

Cuban poet and revolutionary José Martí once spoke a phrase which was popularized by Ernesto “Che” Guevara: “I envy you. You North Americans are very lucky. You are fighting the most important fight of all – you live in the heart of the beast.”

During the anti-colonial wars in Vietnam against the French, Ho Chi Minh spoke of the French working class as an ally against the French imperialists:

“If the French imperialists think that they can suppress the Vietnamese revolution by means of terror, they are grossly mistaken. For one thing, the Vietnamese revolution is not isolated but enjoys the assistance of the world proletariat in general and that of the French working class in particular.”

(Ho Chi Minh, “Appeal made on the Occasion of the Founding of the Indochinese Communist Party”).

Ho Chi Minh further said he considered the French and Vietnamese proletariat as two forces which ought to unite together in a common struggle against the French ruling class:

“The mutual ignorance of the two proletariats [French and Vietnamese] gives rise to prejudices. The French workers look upon the native as an inferior and negligible human being, incapable of understanding and still less of taking action. The natives regard all the French as wicked exploiters. Imperialism and capitalism do not fail to take advantage of this mutual suspicion and this artificial racial hierarchy to frustrate propaganda and divide forces which ought to unite”

(Ho Chi Minh, “Some Considerations of the Colonial Question”).

He even spoke of the line, notably from the Second International, that people in developed countries and people in colonial and semi-colonial countries should not unite, supporting the line of Lenin and Stalin in calling it reactionary:

“I will explain myself more clearly. In his speech on Lenin and the national question Comrade Stalin said that the reformists and leaders of the Second International dared not align the white people of the colonies with their coloured counterparts. Lenin also refused to recognize this division and pushed aside the obstacle separating the civilized slaves of imperialism from the uncivilized slaves.

According to Lenin, the victory of the revolution in Western Europe depended on its close contact with the liberation movement against imperialism in enslaved colonies and with the national question, both of which form a part of the common problem of the proletarian revolution and dictatorship.

Later, Comrade Stalin spoke of the viewpoint which held that the European proletarians can achieve success without a direct alliance with the liberation movement in the colonies. And he considered this a counter-revolutionary viewpoint”

(Ho Chi Minh, “Report on the National and Colonial Questions at the Fifth Congress of the Communist International”).

In 1926, J.V. Stalin wrote the following in regards to the workers of Western Europe in supporting the Bolshevik revolution:

“Without the support of the workers of the West we could scarcely have held out against the enemies surrounding us. If this support should later develop into a victorious revolution in the West, well and good. Then the victory of socialism in our country will be final”

(J.V. Stalin, “The Possibility of Building Socialism in our Country”).

Modern third-worldists, whether they base themselves on Lin Biao, Franz Fanon, Sultan-Galiyev, J. Sakai or any number of other theoreticians, claim there is a divergence between “European” socialism and oppressed nations, the countries of the “third world.” These ideas are responsible for the strengthening of the notions of “African socialism,” “Arab socialism” and various other incarnations which claim that Marxism and Leninism are only for Europeans, only for white people. It must be asked: what then, separates the Lin Biaoists from bourgeois nationalists? Indeed, what separates them at all from anti-communists? As we can see, to disparage “first world” workers as an overall counterrevolutionary class and proclaim that “third world” workers are the only ones with truly nothing to lose, and to reject solidarity between them is anti-Marxist, liquidates proletarian internationalism and ignores any idea of revolutionary connectivity between the “third” and “first” worlds. The American left has had to put up with constant subversion of revisionist, counterrevolutionary and bourgeois politics which derail the worker’s movement, and that includes those embracing the Lin Biaoist or third-worldist line.

Lin Biao, like Mao Tse-tung during his “three worlds” period, like Karl Kautsky during his opportunist period, and like the sorry assortment of modern Lin Biaoists, rely on empty and bombastic phrase-mongering, petty-bourgeois pipe dreams represented as the highest r-r-revolutionary Utopianism coupled with a lack of analysis of the real functioning and foundations of the modern economic system.

For some of these pseudo-Marxists, they do not qualify either as Lin Biaoists or third-worldists because of some various trivial minutiae, such as not outwardly calling themselves such labels, such complexity does their ideology have, you see, that it defies categorization except that which is convenient for its defenders. I do not seek to say that all the differing theories I use as examples of this tendency are precisely the same; what I’d like to point out is the common failing between Lin Biaoism, the theories of Sultan-Galiyev, Kautsky’s “ultra-imperialism,” Mao’s “theory of the three worlds,” and modern third-worldists.

What these theories demonstrate is that there are problems when one is too quick to apply phenomenon which can be empirically understood at the national level to phenomena occurring internationally. Many theorists have made such non-class-based arguments in which the old notions of class struggle and imperialism are replaced by more “global” perspectives which perceive the main contradictions within capitalism taking place globally. Inevitably, these ideas later lead those theorists and their adherents to anti-Marxist, anti-scientific conclusions which would render their theories less useful for a concrete understanding of capitalism on the world stage. There are problems which arise in trying to mechanically and haphazardly apply these contradictions in a global way.

The triumph and realization of the proletarian revolution is the main aim of our historical epoch. It must and will necessarily permeate all countries without exception, among them the ones in both the “third” and “first” worlds, regardless of their level of development, and regardless at which stages the revolution will be accomplished. Disregarding this universal law and theorizing about whole nations being labor aristocrats, forgetting the fight against the comprador bourgeoisie, evaluating “third world” countries in a chauvinist way and opposing proletarian internationalism can only mean being neither for national liberation or for proletarian revolution. The proletarian revolution must and will triumph in Africa, Asia, the Americas and in Europe, too. Whoever forgets or distorts this perspective and doesn’t actively fight towards this aim, but instead preaches that the revolution has shifted and that the proletariat of certain countries has to either acknowledge itself as inherently reactionary, or ally itself with its “third world” bourgeoisie, is someone who takes a revisionist and reactionary stance.

While Lin Biao deserves credit for his distinguished career as a military officer in the Chinese Civil War, his theories are not a suitable replacement for the Leninist understanding of imperialism and revolution. Given the profound theoretical problems in Lin Biao’s conceptions of a “global countryside” and “global city,” and the evolution of his supporter’s chauvinist theories, I argue based on the evidence I have presented that the Leninist model is still the best framework for understanding the machinations of the capitalist and imperialist system internationally, even in this moment where ephemeral fashionable words like “third world” and “global south” are on everyone’s lips.

In conclusion, perhaps Lenin said it best:

“The flight of some people from the underground could have been the result of their fatigue and dispiritedness. Such individuals may only be pitied; they should be helped because their dispiritedness will pass and there will again appear an urge to get away from philistinism, away from the liberals and the liberal-labour policy, to the working-class underground. But when the fatigued and dispirited use journalism as their platform and announce that their flight is not a manifestation of fatigue, or weakness, or intellectual woolliness, but that it is to their credit, and then put the blame on the ‘ineffective,’ ‘worthless,’ ‘moribund,’ etc., underground, these runaways then become disgusting renegades, apostates. These runaways then become the worst of advisers for the working-class movement and therefore its dangerous enemies”

(V.I. Lenin, “How Vera Zasulich Demolishes Liquidationism”).

Video: Stalin’s Last Speech, 1952 [Subtitled]