An Unfortunate Document
|Written||3 May 1917|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 24, pages 343-345.
The appeal of the Petrograd Soviet to the army published in yesterday’s papers is a further defection of the Soviet’s leaders, the Narodniks and Mensheviks, to the side of the Russian Imperialist bourgeoisie.
The incoherency of thought revealed by this appeal is astonishing. Only people whose heads are hopelessly stuffed with “revolutionary” phrases can fail to see this.
“The working people had no need for the war. They did not start it. It was started by the tsars and the capitalists of all countries.”
Quite right. So far so good. And when the appeal “calls upon the workers and peasants of Germany and Austria-Hungary to rise, and make a revolution”, we approve whole heartedly, for this is a correct slogan.
But how, with this indubitable truth, can one utter in the same breath the following flagrant untruth:
“You [Russian soldiers] are staunchly defending not the tsar, not the Protopopovs and the Rasputins, not the rich landowners and capitalists...”
The words we have italicised are a patent and flagrant untruth.
If the working masses “have no need” for the war, if the war was started not only by the tsars, but by “the capitalists of all countries” (as was definitely stated in the appeal issued by the Soviet), then, obviously, any nation involved in this war who tolerates a government of the capitalists is actually “defending” the capitalists.
One or the other: either the Austrian and German capitalists alone are to “blame” for this war; if this is what the Narodnik and Menshevik leaders of the Petrograd Soviet think, then they are sinking to the level of Plekhanov, the Russian Scheidemann—in that case, the words saying that the war was “started by the capitalists of all countries” should be erased as being untrue; in that case, the slogan “peace without annexations” should be thrown overboard as being untrue, because the appropriate slogan for such a policy would be: take the annexed territories away from the Germans, but keep (and extend) the territories annexed by the British and the Russians.
Or this war was really started by “the capitalists of all countries”; if the Narodnik and Menshevik leaders of the Soviet do not deny this unquestionable truth, then all the more revolting is the lie that the Russian soldiers, so long as they put up with their capitalist government, are “not” defending the capitalists.
In that case the Russian soldiers too (and not only the Austrian and the German) should be told the truth. Comrade soldiers, we should say to them, so long as we put up with our capitalist government, so long as the tsar’s secret treaties are considered a holy of holies, we are carrying on an imperialist war of conquest, we are defending predatory treaties concluded by ex-Tsar Nicholas with the Anglo-French capitalists.
That is a bitter truth. But it is the truth. The people should be told the truth. Only then will their eyes be opened and they will learn to fight against untruth.
Look at this matter from another angle, and you will convince yourselves once more of the utter untruthfulness of the Soviet’s appeal. It calls upon the German workers and peasants to “rise”. Very well. But to rise against whom? Is it only against Wilhelm?
Imagine Wilhelm replaced by the German Guchkovs and Milyukovs, i.e., by the representatives of the German capitalist class—would this alter the predatory character of the war as far as Germany is concerned? Obviously, it would not. Everyone knows—and the Soviet’s appeal admits it—that the war was “started by the tsars and the capitalists of all countries”. Consequently, the overthrow of tsars, with power passing to the capitalists, alters nothing whatever as far as the nature of the war is concerned. The annexation of Belgium, Serbia, etc., will not cease being annexation if the German Cadets take the place of Wilhelm, just as the annexation of Khiva, Bokhara, Armenia, Finland, Ukraine, etc., has not ceased being annexation because the Russian Cadets, the Russian capitalists, have taken the place of Nicholas.
And finally, let us assume that the Soviet’s appeal calls upon the German workers and peasants to rise not only against Wilhelm but also against the German capitalists. We should then say that the appeal is correct and sound. We fully support it. But then we should ask our esteemed fellow citizens, Chernov, Chkheidze, and Tsereteli: Is it right, is it reasonable, is it seemly to call upon the Germans to rise against their capitalists, while you yourselves are supporting the capitalist government at home?
Aren’t you afraid, my dear fellow-citizens, that the German workers will accuse you of mendacity or even (God forbid) of hypocrisy?
Aren’t you afraid that the German workers will turn round and say: Our revolution has not broken out yet, we have not yet reached the point where our Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies can openly make arrangements with the capitalists in the matter of power. If you, our Russian brothers, have already come to this, then why do you preach “revolt” to us (a thing that is painful, bloody, and difficult), while you yourselves refuse to take over power peacefully from Lvov and Co., who have expressed their willingness to relinquish it? You speak about the revolution in Russia, but, Citizens Chernov, Chkheidze, and Tsereteli, you have all studied socialism, and you realise only too well that so jar your revolution has only put the capitalists in power. Is it not trebly insincere, when, in the name of the Russian revolution, which has given power to the Russian imperialist capitalists, you demand of us, Germans, a revolution against the German imperialist capitalists? Does It not look as if your “internationalism”, your “revolutionism” are for foreign consumption only; as if revolution against the capitalists is only for the Germans, while for the Russians (despite the seething revolution in Russia) it is agreement with the capitalists?
Chernov, Chkheidze, and Tsereteli have sunk completely to the level of defending Russian imperialism.
It is a deplorable fact, but a fact nevertheless.