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).
“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).
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).
“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).
“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)
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).
“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).
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.
“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)
“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).
“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)
“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:
“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.
“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.
“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).
“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.”
“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).
“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.
“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).
“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).
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).
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.