Heroes of Fraud and the Mistakes of the Bolsheviks
|Written||22 September 1917|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 43-51
An abridged version of the article was first published in No. 19 of Rabochy Put of October 7 (September 24),1917, under the title "Heroes of Fraud". It did not contain the part of Lenin's article which criticised the mistakes of the Bolsheviks in respect of the Democratic Conference, and also those of Zinoviev and Kamenev. It may have been this Lenin had in mind when in Chapter VI of the article "The Crisis Has Matured", which was circulated among members of the Central Committee, the Petrograd and Moscow Committees and the Soviets, he wrote with indignation that the Central Organ was deleting his statements about "the glaring errors on the part of the Bolsheviks. . ." .
The first, second and third editions of Lenin's Collected Works contained the text of the article as it had appeared in Rabochy Put, but in the fourth edition it was published in full, according to the manuscript; this translation follows the manuscript.
The so-called Democratic Conference is over. Thank God, one more farce is behind us and still we are advancing, provided fate has no more than a certain number of farces in store for our revolution.
In order correctly to judge the political results of the Conference, we must attempt to ascertain its precise class significance as indicated by objective facts.
Further break-up of the government parties, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks; their obvious loss of the majority among the revolutionary democrats; one more step towards linking up Mr. Kerensky and Messrs. Tsereteli, Chernov and Co. and exposing the Bonapartism they share—such is the class significance of the Conference.
In the Soviets, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks have lost their majority. They therefore have had to resort to a fraud—they have violated their pledge to call a new congress of the Soviets in three months. They have evaded reporting back to those who elected the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets; and they have rigged the "Democratic" Conference. The Bolsheviks spoke of this fraud prior to the Conference, and the results fully confirmed their correctness. The Lieberdans and the Tseretelis, Chernovs and Co. saw that their majority in the Soviets was dwindling, therefore they resorted to a fraud.
Arguments like that which says that co-operatives and also "properly" elected city and Zemstvo representatives "are already of great significance among the democratic organisations", are so flimsy that it is nothing but crass hypocrisy to advance them seriously. First of all, the Central Executive Committee was elected by the Soviets, and its refusal to deliver a report and relinquish office to the Soviets, is a Bonapartist fraud. Secondly, the Soviets represent revolutionary democracy insofar as they are joined by those who wish to fight in a revolutionary way. Their doors are not closed to members of the co-operatives and city dwellers. Those same Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks ran the Soviets.
Those who remained only in the co-operatives, who confined themselves only to municipal (city and Zemstvo) work, voluntarily separated themselves from the ranks of revolutionary democracy, thereby attaching themselves to a democracy that was either reactionary or neutral. Everybody knows that co-operative and municipal work is done not only by revolutionaries, but also by reactionaries; everybody knows that people are elected to co-operatives and municipalities primarily for work that is not of general political scope and importance.
The aim of the Lieberdans, Tsereteli, Chernov and Co. when they rigged the Conference was to bring up reserves secretly from among the adherents of Yedinstvo and "non-partisan" reactionaries. That was the fraud they perpetrated. That was their Bonapartism, which allies them with the Bonapartist Kerensky. They robbed democracy while hypocritically keeping up democratic appearances—this is the essence of the matter.
Nicholas II stole, figuratively, large sums from democracy. He convened representative institutions but gave the landowners a hundredfold greater representation than the peasants. The Lieberdans, Tseretelis, and Chernovs steal petty sums from democracy; they convoke a Democratic Conference where both workers and peasants point with full justice to the curtailment of their representation, to lack of proportionality, to discrimination in favour of members of the co-operatives and municipal councils closest to the bourgeoisie (and reactionary democracy).
The Lieberdans, Tseretelis and Chernovs have parted ways with the masses of poor workers and peasants. They saved themselves by the fraud that keeps their Kerensky going.
The demarcation of classes is progressing. A protest is growing in the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties, a direct split is maturing because the "leaders" have betrayed the interests of the majority of the population. The leaders are relying on the support of a minority, in defiance of the principles of democracy. Fraud is inevitable as far as they are concerned.
Kerensky is revealing himself more and more as a Bonapartist. He was considered a Socialist-Revolutionary. Now we know that he is not merely a "March" Socialist-Revolutionary who ran over to them from the Trudoviks "for advertising purposes". He is an adherent of Breshko-Breshkovskaya, the Socialist-Revolutionary Mrs. Plekhanov, or Mrs. Potresov in their Dyen. The so-called Right wing of the so-called socialist parties, the Plekhanovs, Breshkovskayas, Potresovs, is where Kerensky belongs ; this wing, however, does not differ substantially from the Cadets in anything.
The Cadets have good reason to praise Kerensky. He pursues their policies and confers with them and with Rodzyanko behind the back of the people ; he has been exposed by Chernov and others as conniving with Savinkov, a friend of Kornilov's. Kerensky is a Kornilovite ; by sheer accident he has had a quarrel with Kornilov himself, but he remains in the most intimate alliance with other Kornilovites. This is a fact, proved by the revelations about Savinkov, by Dyelo Naroda and by the continuation of the political game, Kerensky's "ministerial leapfrog" with the Kornilovites disguised under the name of the "commercial and industrial class".
Secret pacts with the Kornilov gang, secret hobnobbing (through Tereshchenko and Co.) with the imperialist "Allies"; secret obstruction and sabotage of the Constituent Assembly; secret deception of the peasants by way of service to Rodzyanko, i.e., the landowners (by doubling the price of bread)—this is what Kerensky is really doing. This is his class policy. This is his Bonapartism.
To conceal this from the Conference, the Lieberdans, Tseretelis and Chernovs had to resort to a fraud.
The Bolshevik participation in this hideous fraud, in this farce, had the same justification as their participation in the Third Duma; even in a "pigsty" we must uphold our line, even from a "pigsty" we must send out material exposing the enemy for the instruction of the people.
The difference, however, is this, that the Third Duma was convened when the revolution was obviously ebbing, while at present there is an obvious upsurge of a new revolution ; of the scope and the pace of this upsurge, however, we unfortunately know very little.
* * *
The most characteristic episode of the Conference was, in my opinion, Zarudny's speech. He tells us that as soon as Kerensky "as much as hinted" at reorganising the government, all the ministers began to hand in their resignations. "The following day," continues the naïve, childishly naÃ¯ve (a good thing if he is only naïve), Zarudny, "the following day, notwithstanding our resignation, we were called, we were consulted, and finally we were prevailed upon to stay."
"General laughter in the hall," remarks at this point the official Izvestia.
Gay folk, those participants in the Bonapartist deception of the people by the republicans. We are all revolutionary democrats—no joking!
"From the very beginning," says Zarudny, "we heard two things; we were to strive to make the army capable of fighting, and to hasten peace on a democratic basis. Well, as far as peace is concerned, I do not know whether, during the six weeks I have been a member of the Provisional Government, the Provisional Government has done anything about it. I did not notice it. (Applause and a voice from the audience : "It did nothing", Izvestia remarks.) When I, as a member of the Provisional Government, inquired about it, I received no reply. . . ."
Thus speaks Zarudny, according to the report of the official Izvestia. And the Conference listen in silence, tolerate such things, do not stop the orator, do not interrupt the session, do not jump to their feet and chase out Kerensky and the government! How could they? These "revolutionary democrats" are for Kerensky to a man!
Very well, gentlemen, but then, wherein does the term "revolutionary democrat" differ from the terms "lackey" and "scoundrel"?
It is natural that these lackeys are capable of roaring with laughter when "their" Minister, noted for his rare naÃ¯vety or rare stupidity, tells them how Kerensky keeps removing and replacing ministers (in order to come to terms with the Kornilov gang behind the hack of the people and "in full privacy"). It is not surprising that the lackeys keep silent when "their" Minister, who seems to have taken general phrases about peace seriously without seeing their hypocrisy, admits that he did not even receive a reply to his question about real steps towards peace. Such is the fate of lackeys, to allow themselves to be fooled by the government. But what has this to do with revolution, what has it to do with democracy?
Would it be surprising if revolutionary soldiers and workers were to get the idea that it would be good if the ceiling of the Alexandrinsky Theatre were to fall and crush all that gang of pitiful scoundrels who can sit there in silence when it is being demonstrated to them that Kerensky and Co. are fooling them with their talk about peace, who can roar with laughter when they are told as clearly as can be by their own ministers that ministerial leapfrog is a farce (concealing Kerensky's dealings with the Kornilovites). God save us from our friends, we can cope with our enemies ourselves! God save us from these claimants to revolutionary democratic leadership, we can cope with the Kerenskys, Cadets and Kornilovites ourselves!
* * *
And now I come to the errors of the Bolsheviks. To have confined themselves to ironic applause and exclamations at such a moment was an error.
The people are weary of vacillations and delays. Dissatisfaction is obviously growing. A new revolution is approaching. The reactionary democrats, the Lieberdans, Tseretelis and others, wish only to distract the attention of the people with their farce of a "conference", keep them busy with it, cut the Bolsheviks off from the masses, and provide the Bolshevik delegates with the unworthy occupation of sitting and listening to the Zarudnys! And the Zarudnys are not the least sincere of them!
The Bolsheviks should have walked out of the meeting in protest and not allowed themselves to be caught by the conference trap set to divert the people's attention from serious questions. The Bolsheviks should have left two or three of their 136 delegates for "liaison work", that is, to report by telephone the moment the idiotic babbling came to an end and the voting began. They should not have allowed themselves to be kept busy with obvious nonsense for the obvious purpose of deceiving the people with the obvious aim of extinguishing the growing revolution by wasting time on trivial matters.
Ninety-nine per cent of the Bolshevik delegation ought to have gone to the factories and barracks; that was the proper place for delegates who had come from all ends of Russia and who, after Zarudny's speech, could see the full depth of the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik rottenness. There, closer to the masses, at hundreds and thousands of meetings and talks, they ought to have discussed the lessons of this farcical conference whose obvious purpose was only to give a respite to the Kornilovite Kerensky and make it easier for him to try new variations of the "ministerial leapfrog" game.
The Bolsheviks, it turned out, had a wrong attitude to parliamentarism in moments of revolutionary (and not constitutional) crises, an incorrect attitude to the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks.
How it happened can be understood—history made a very sharp turn at the time of the Kornilov revolt. The Party failed to keep pace with the incredibly fast tempo of history at this turning-point. The Party allowed itself to be diverted, for the time being, into the trap of a despicable talking-shop.
They should have left one hundredth of their forces for that talking-shop and devoted ninety-nine hundredths to the masses.
If the turn taken by history called for a compromise with the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks (personally I believe it did) the Bolsheviks should have proposed it clearly, openly and speedily, so that they could immediately turn to account the possible and probable refusal of the Bonapartist Kerensky's friends to agree to a compromise with them.
The refusal was already indicated by articles in Dyelo Naroda and Rabochaya Gazeta on the eve of the Conference. The masses should have been told as officially, openly and clearly as possible, they should have been told without the loss of a minute, that the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks had rejected our offer of a compromise—Down with the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks! The Conference could have afforded "to laugh" at the naïveté of Zarudny to the accompaniment of this slogan in the factories and barracks!
The atmosphere of a certain enthusiasm for the Conference and the situation surrounding it seems to have been built up from various sides. Comrade Zinoviev made a mistake in writing about the Commune so ambiguously (ambiguously, to say the least) that it appeared that the Commune, although victorious in Petrograd, might be defeated as in France in 1871. This is absolutely untrue. If the Commune were victorious in Petrograd it would be victorious throughout Russia. It was a mistake on his part to write that the Bolsheviks did right in proposing a proportional composition for the Presidium of the Petrograd Soviet. The revolutionary proletariat would never do anything worth while in the Soviet as long as the Tseretelis were allowed proportional participation; to let them in meant depriving ourselves of the opportunity to work, it meant the ruin of Soviet work. Comrade Kamenev was wrong in delivering the first speech at the Conference in a purely "constitutional" spirit when he raised the foolish question of confidence or non-confidence in the government. If, at such a meeting, it was not possible to tell the truth about the Kornilovite Kerensky that had already been told both in Rabochy Put and the Moscow Sotsial-Demokrat,why not refer to those papers and make it well known to the masses that the Conference did not want to listen to the truth about the Kornilovite Kerensky?
It was a mistake on the part of the Petrograd workers' delegations to send speakers to such a conference after Zarudny had spoken and the situation had been made clear. Why cast pearls before Kerensky's friends? Why divert the attention of proletarian forces to a farcical conference? Why did those delegations not go quite peacefully and legally to the barracks and the more backward factories? That would have been a million times more useful, essential, serious and to the point than the journey to the Alexandrinsky Theatre and chats with co-operators who sympathise with Yedinstvo and Kerensky.
Ten soldiers or ten workers from a backward factory who have become politically enlightened are worth a thousand times more than a hundred delegates hand-picked from various delegations by the Lieberdans. Parliamentarism should be used, especially in revolutionary times, not to waste valuable time over representatives of what is rotten, but to use the example of what is rotten to teach the masses.
Why should those same proletarian delegations not "use" the Conference to publish, say, two posters explaining that the Conference is a farce and to display them in barracks and factories? One of the posters could depict Zarudny in a fool's cap, dancing on the stage and singing the song "Kerensky sacked us, Kerensky took us back". Around him stand Tsereteli, Chernov, Skobelev and a co-operator arm-in-arm with Lieber and Dan, all rolling with laughter. Caption—They are Happy.
Poster number two. Zarudny again in front of the same audience saying "I asked about peace for six weeks. I got no answer". The audience is silent, their faces express "statesmanlike importance". Tsereteli looks particularly important as he writes in his notebook "What a fool that Zarudny is! The imbecile should be carting dung instead of being a minister. He is an advocate of the coalition and undermines it worse than a hundred Bolsheviks! He was a minister but he never learned to speak like one, he should have said, 'I continuously followed the campaign for peace for six weeks and I am fully convinced of its final success precisely under the coalition government in accordance with the great idea of Stockholm, etc., etc.' Then even Russkaya Volya would have praised Zarudny as the knight of the Russian revolution."
Caption: "Revolutionary-democratic" conference of male prostitutes.
Written before the end of the Conference; change the first phrase to something like "In all essentials the so-called Democratic. . . ."
- An ironical nickname which stuck to the Mensheviks Lieber and Dan and their followers, after Demyan Bedny's feuilleton in Sotsial-Demokrat [No. 141 of August 25 (September 7), 1917] under that title.
- On June 3 (16), 1907, the tsar issued a manifesto dissolving the Second State Duma and amending the electoral law. The landowners, industrialists and merchants were given many more seats in the Duma, and the workers and peasants many less. This was a gross violation of the Manifesto of October 17, 1905, and the Fundamental Law of 1906, which made all Government decrees subject to Duma approval. The Third Duma, which was elected under the new law and met on November 1 (14), 1907, was out-and-out reactionary.