Letter to the Central Committee of the RSDLP, August 30, 1917
|Written||12 September 1917|
Published: First published in Pravda No. 250, November 7, 1920. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 25, pages 289-293.
It is possible that these lines will come too late, for events are developing with a rapidity that sometimes makes one’s head spin. I am writing this on Wednesday, August 30, and the recipients will read it no earlier than Friday, September 2. Still, on chance, I consider it my duty to write the following.
The Kornilov revolt is a most unexpected (unexpected at such a moment and in such a form) and downright unbelievably sharp turn in events.
Like every sharp turn, it calls for a revision and change of tactics. And as with every revision, we must be extra-cautious not to become unprincipled.
It is my conviction that those who become unprincipled are people who (like Volodarsky) slide into defencism or (like other Bolsheviks) into a bloc with the S.R.s, into supporting the Provisional Government. Their attitude is absolutely wrong and unprincipled. We shall become defencists only after the transfer of power to the proletariat, after a peace offer, after the secret treaties and ties with the banks have been broken—only afterwards. Neither the capture of Riga nor the capture of Petrograd will make us defencists. (I should very much like Volodarsky to read this.) Until then we stand for a proletarian revolution, we are against the war, and we are no defencists.
Even now we must not support Kerensky’s government. This is unprincipled. We may be asked: aren’t we going to fight against Kornilov? Of course we must! But this is not the same thing; there is a dividing Line here, which is being stepped over by some Bolsheviks who fall into compromise and allow themselves to be carried away by the course of events.
We shall fight, we are fighting against Kornilov, just as Kerensky’s troops do, but we do not support Kerensky. On the contrary, we expose his weakness. There is the difference. It is rather a subtle difference, but it is highly essential.and must not be forgotten.
What, then, constitutes our change of tactics after the Kornilov revolt?
We are changing the form of our struggle against Kerensky. Without in the least relaxing our hostility towards him, without taking back a single word said against him, without renouncing the task of overthrowing him, we say that we must take into account the present situation. We shall not overthrow Kerensky right now. We shall approach the task of fighting against him in a different way, namely, we shall point out to the people (who are fighting against Kornilov) Kerensky’s weakness and vacillation. That has been done in the past as well. Now, however, it has become the all-important thing and this constitutes the change.
The change, further, is that the all-important thing now has become the intensification of our campaign for some kind of “partial demands” to be presented to Kerensky: arrest Milyukov, arm the Petrograd workers, summon the Kronstadt, Vyborg and Helsingfors troops to Petrograd, dissolve the Duma, arrest Rodzyanko, legalise the transfer of the landed estates to the peasants, introduce workers’ control over grain and factories, etc., etc. We must present these demands not only to Kerensky, and not so much to Kerensky, as to the workers, soldiers and peasants who have been carried away by the course of the struggle against Kornilov. We must keep up their enthusiasm, encourage them to deal with the generals and officers who have declared for Kornilov, urge them to demand the immediate transfer of land to the peasants, suggest to them that it is necessary to arrest Rodzyanko and Milyukov, dissolve the Duma, close down Rech and other bourgeois papers, and institute investigations against them. The “Left” S.R.s must be especially urged on in this direction.
It would be wrong to think that we have moved farther away from the task of the proletariat winning power. No. We have come very close to it, not directly, but from the side. At the moment we must campaign not so much directly against Kerensky, as indirectly against him, namely, by demanding a more and more active, truly revolutionary war against Kornilov. The development of this war alone can lead us to power, but we must speak of this its little as possible in our propaganda (remembering very well that even tomorrow events may put power into our hands, and then we shall not relinquish it). It seems to me that this should be passed on in a letter (not in the papers) to the propagandists, to groups of agitators and propagandists, and to Party members in general. We must relentlessly fight against phrases about the defence of the country, about a united front of revolutionary democrats, about supporting the provisional Government, etc., etc., since they are just empty phrases. We must say: now is the time for action; you S.R. and Menshevik gentlemen have long since worn those phrases threadbare. Now is the time for action; the war against Kornilov must be conducted in a revolutionary way, by drawing the masses in, by arousing them, by inflaming them (Kerensky is afraid of the masses, afraid of the people). In the war against the Germans, action is required right now; immediate and unconditional peace must be offered on precise terms. If this is done, either a speedy peace can be attained or the war can be turned into a revolutionary war; if not, all the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries remain lackeys of imperialism.
P.S. Having read six issues of Rabochy, after this was written, I must say that our views fully coincide. I heartily welcome the splendid editorials, press review and articles by V. M—n and Vol—y. As to Volodarsky’s speech, I have read his letter to the editors, which likewise “eliminates” my reproaches. Once more, best wishes and greetings!
- Rabochy (The Worker)—Central Organ of the Bolshevik Party published daily from August 25 (September 7) to September 2 (15), 1917, instead of Pravda, closed down by the Provisional Government. Twelve issues were published in all (including extras).