Class Collaboration With Capital, or Class Struggle Against Capital?
|Written||6 May 1917|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 24, pages 357-359.
That is how history puts the issue—and not history in general, but the economic and political history of the Russia of today.
The Narodniks and Mensheviks, Chernov and Tsereteli, have transferred the Contact Commission from the room adjacent to the one the ministers used to meet in to the ministerial chamber itself. This, and this alone, is the purely political significance of the “new” cabinet.
Its economic and class significance is that, at the best (from the point of view of the stability of the cabinet and the preservation of capitalist domination), the leadership of the peasant bourgeoisie, headed since 1906 by Peshekhonov, and the petty-bourgeois “leaders” of the Menshevist workers have promised the capitalists their class collaboration. (At the worst—for the capitalists—the whole change has a purely personal or clique significance, but no class significance at all.)
Let us assume that the more favourable eventuality is the case. Even so, there is not a shadow of doubt that the promisers will be unable to fulfil their promises. “We shall—in co-operation with the capitalists—help the country out of Its crisis, save it from ruin and get it out of the war”—that is what the action of the petty-bourgeois leaders, the Chernovs and Tseretelis, in joining the cabinet really amounts to. Our answer is: Your help is not enough. The crisis has advanced infinitely farther than you imagine only the revolutionary class, by taking revolutionary measures against capital, can save the country—and not our country alone.
The crisis is so profound, so widespread, of such vast world-wide scope, and so closely bound up with Capital itself, that the class struggle against Capital must inevitably assume the form of political supremacy by the proletariat and semi-proletariat. There is no other way out.
You want to have revolutionary enthusiasm in the army, Citizens Chernov and Tsereteli? But you cannot create it, because the revolutionary enthusiasm of the masses is not begotten by a change of “leaders” in cabinets, by florid declarations, or by promises to take steps to revise the treaty with the British capitalists; it can be aroused only by acts of revolutionary policy patent to all and undertaken daily and everywhere against almighty Capital and against its making profits out of the war, a policy that will make for a radical improvement in the standard of living of the mass of the poor.
Even if you were to hand over all the land to the people immediately, this would not end the crisis unless revolutionary measures were taken against Capital.
You want an offensive, Citizens Chernov and Tsereteli? But you cannot rouse the army to an offensive, because you cannot use force against the people today. And unless force is used against them the people would undertake an offensive only in the great interests of the great revolution against Capital in all countries; and not merely a revolution promised and proclaimed, but a revolution actually in process of realisation, a revolution which is being carried out in actual fact, and is tangible to all.
You want to organise supply, Citizens Peshekhonovs and Skobelevs, the supply of goods for the peasants, of bread and meat for the army, of raw material for industry, and so forth? You want control over, and partly even the, organisation of, production?
You cannot do this without the revolutionary enthusiasm of the proletarian and semi-proletarian mass. This enthusiasm can be aroused only by taking revolutionary measures against the privileges and profits of Capital. Failing this, your promised control will remain a dead, capitalist, bureaucratic palliative.
The experiment at class collaboration with Capital is now being made by the Chernovs and Tseretelis, and by certain sections of the petty bourgeoisie, on a new, gigantic, all-Russia scale.
All the more valuable will be its lessons for the people, when the latter become convinced—and that apparently will be soon—of the futility and hopelessness of such collaboration.