Counter-Revolution Takes the Offensive
|Written||28 May 1917|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 24, pages 533-535.
“JACOBINS WITHOUT THE PEOPLE”[edit source]
The counter-revolution has mustered strength enough to assume the offensive. With the aid of the Narodnik and Menshevik ministers the capitalists are organising an assault on liberty.
The decision to disband the “45th, 46th, 47th and 52nd regiments” of the 12th and 13th divisions, the decision to “prosecute” the “instigators” (what an odd word! Are “instigators” more important than “perpetrators” in war?), and side by side with this, the news of the arrest of Ensign Krusser for a speech made at a meeting in Skuliany, and finally, the Provisional Government’s extremely insulting tone in regard to Kronstadt (for example, that orders “must be obeyed without question”—is that the way to talk to citizens who, so far, have not been accused of anything, not of a single act of disobedience?)—all this, taken together, and highlighted by that gloating defender of the counter-revolutionary capitalists, Rech (“the government at last has spoken up in the language of authority”)—all this clearly points to the fact that the counter-revolution is taking the offensive.
This “offensive” creates a strange impression. At the front the instigators, those guilty of “inciting to insubordination”, are arraigned before the court, and four regiments are “disbanded” (four out of the two divisions’ eight regiments mentioned in the telegram, although, according to the same telegram reported in Izvestia of the Petrograd Soviet No. 76, only one regiment out of the eight “came out in full force” and another one “almost in full force”). If you gentlemen of the government inform the people that you are disbanding certain regiments, if you find this useful, if you allow a telegram about it to go through, then why don’t you tell us, clearly and plainly, in at least a few lines, what the reasons for insubordination were on the part of those you are prosecuting?
One of two things, gentlemen: either you work in silence—you have a military censorship—and do not bother about informing the public, or bothering it with your reports; or, if you do decide to keep the public informed, then tell it what it’s all about, give it the why and the wherefore of the case, let it know whether the people you are prosecuting are guilty of insubordination on a particular or general point.
Vagueness is a bad thing.
In the case of Krusser’s arrest, everything is quite clear. To hustle a man off to prison for a speech he has made at a meeting is hardly reasonable. Does it not signify that you have simply lost your heads? Why, you Cadets and Rights who share the cabinet with the Narodniks and Mensheviks have ten if not a hundred times more newspaper circulation than your opponents! And with such superiority in chief propaganda weapons, you hustle a man off to prison for “a speech at a meeting”! Have you gone berserk with fear, gentlemen?
We are not opposed to the use of revolutionary force in the interests of the nation’s majority.
When Plekhanov the other day mentioned the Jacobins of 1793 and their forthright statement that “such-and-such persons are enemies of the people”, we thought in this connection: No party should draw the line at imitating the Jacobins of 1793 on this point cited by Plekhanov.
The trouble is that there are Jacobins and Jacobins. A witty French saying, which Plekhanov was fond of quoting twenty years ago, when he was still a socialist, pokes fun at the “Jacobins without the people” (jacobins moins le peuple).
The historical greatness of the true Jacobins, the Jacobins of 1793, is that they were “Jacobins with the people”, with the revolutionary majority of the nation, with the revolutionary advanced classes of their time.
They are ridiculous and pitiful, the “Jacobins without the people”, they who merely pose as Jacobins, who are afraid to declare clearly, openly and for all to hear that the exploiters, the oppressors of the people, the servants of the monarchy in all countries, the defenders of the landowners in all countries, are enemies of the people.
You have studied history, Messrs. Milyukovs and Plekhanovs—can you deny that the great Jacobins of 1793 were not afraid to denounce precisely the members of the reactionary exploiting minority of their time as enemies of the people? Precisely the members of the reactionary classes of their time?
You, the present government, its backers, Its defenders, its servants—can you say openly, clearly, and officially which classes you consider “enemies of the people” all over the world?
But how can you! You are Jacobins without the people. You are merely posing as Jacobins. You look more like ordinary representatives of ordinary landowner and capitalist reaction.
Workers and soldiers! All toiling people! The counter revolution of the landowners and capitalists is assuming the offensive. Not a single vote for a single government party, for any parties participating in the government!
Vote for the Bolsheviks!
- The reference is to two decrees of the Provisional Government published May 24 and 27 (June 6 and 9), 1917. The first stated that “the Provisional Government considers the situation in Kronstadt to be threatening and absolutely intolerable”. The second made it known “to all the citizens of Kronstadt that the orders of the Provisional Government are to be obeyed without question”.
The sailors, soldiers and workers of the military workshops in Kronstadt—a fortress protecting Petrograd from the sea and the chief rear base of the Baltic fleet—played a very important part in preparing the victory of the October armed uprising in Petrograd. The Kronstadt Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies followed the lead of the Bolsheviks from the very first day of its existence. This was due to the revolutionary traditions of Kronstadt (the mutinies of 1905 and 1906, the uprising on the battle-ship Gangut in 1915) and to the existence of a strong Bolshevik organisation there which carried on revolutionary work all through the war.
Owing to the conflict between the Kronstadt Soviet and the Commissar of the Provisional Government, Pepelyaev, a resolution moved by the non-party section of the Soviet and supported by the Bolsheviks was passed on May 17(30), 1917 abolishing the office of Government Commissar and vesting all power in the Kronstadt Soviet. This resolution stated that the sole authority in the town of Kronstadt was the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, which, on affairs of state concern, entered into direct contact with the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.
The bourgeois, S.R. and Menshevik press raised a hue and cry against the men of Kronstadt and the Bolsheviks, declaring that Russia was on the verge of collapse and anarchy, that Kronstadt was seceding, and so on.
A delegation from the Petrograd Soviet (Chkheidze, Gotz and others) followed by one from the Provisional Government (Ministers Skobelev and Tsereteli) went out to settle the Kronstadt incident. The latter succeeded in getting a decision passed through the Kronstadt Soviet arranging a compromise settlement, under which the Commissar was to be elected by the Soviet and endorsed by the Provisional Government. In addition, a general political resolution was adopted in which the Kronstadt Soviet declared that it recognised the authority of the Provisional Government, but that this “recognition does not, of course, exclude criticism and the desire that revolutionary democracy should create a new organisation of central authority by vesting all power in the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.” The resolution also expressed the hope that the Bolsheviks would succeed in achieving this by means of ideological influence. It ended with a strong protest against attempts to ascribe to the Kronstadt Bolsheviks “the intention of separating Kronstadt from the rest of Russia.”
Lenin considered the revolutionary action in Kronstadt to have been premature. The negotiations by the Bolshevik group of the Kronstadt Soviet to settle the conflict and the further work of the Kronstadt Party organisation were directed by Lenin.