The Dissolution of the Duma and the Tasks of the Proletariat
Published in pamphlet form in August 1906 by the Novaya Volna Publishers, Moscow. Published according to the pamphlet text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 109-131.
The pamphlet The Dissolution of the Duma and the Tasks of the Proletariat, written by Lenin before the start of the Sveaborg uprising, was published only after the uprising. On August 12 (25), 1906 in Moscow an order for confiscation of the pamphlet was issued and court proceedings were taken against the author. Nevertheless, the pamphlet had a wide distribution not only in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but also in the provinces.
The dissolution of the Duma confronts the workers’ party with a number of questions of very great importance. Let us note the foremost of these: (1) the general estimate of this political event in the course of our revolution; (2) the definition of the content of the further struggle and of the slogans under which it must be carried on; (3) the definition of the form of this future struggle; (4) the choice of the moment for the struggle, or, more correctly, an appraisal of the conditions that could help in the correct choice of the moment.
We shall deal briefly with these questions.
The dissolution of the Duma has most strikingly and clearly confirmed the views of those who warned against being obsessed with the external “constitutional” aspect of the Duma and, if one may so express it, with the constitutional surface of Russian politics during the second quarter of 1906. Experience has now exposed the hollowness of the “mighty words” so volubly uttered by our Cadets (and Cadetophiles) before the Duma, about the Duma and in connection with the Duma.
Note this interesting fact: the Duma has been dissolved on strictly constitutional grounds. It has not been “dispersed”. There has been no infringement of the law. On the contrary, it has been done strictly in accordance with the law, as under any “constitutional monarchy”. The supreme power has dissolved the Chamber on the basis of the “constitution”. On the basis of such-and-such an article, the present “Chamber” has been dissolved, and by the same ukase (rejoice, you legalists!) new elections, or the date of convening a new Duma, have been authorised.
But this is the very thing that has at once exposed the illusory character of the Russian constitution, the fictitious nature of our native parliamentarism, which the Left-wing Social-Democrats so persistently pointed out throughout the first half of 1906. And now this special character of the Russian constitution has been admitted, not by “narrow-minded and fanatical” “Bolsheviks”, but by the most peaceful liberal legalists, and they have admitted it by their conduct. The Cadets have admitted it by replying to the dissolution of the Duma by a mass “flight abroad”, to Vyborg, and by a manifesto which violates the law; they have admitted it by replying through articles in the very moderate Rech, which is forced to admit that in fact it is a matter of the restoration of the autocracy, and that Suvorin inadvertently blurted out the truth when he wrote that it was hardly likely he would live to see another Duma. All the hopes of the Cadets have suddenly switched from “constitution” to revolution, and all this happened as the result of a single, strictly constitutional act of the supreme power. And only yesterday the Cadets boasted in the Duma that they were the “shield of the dynasty” and supporters of strict constitutionalism.
The logic of life is stronger than the logic of textbooks on constitutional law. Revolution teaches.
Everything the “Bolshevik” Social-Democrats have writ ten about the Cadet victories has been brilliantly confirmed. (Cf. the pamphlet, The Victory of the Cadets and the Tasks of the Workers’ Party, by N. Lenin. ) All the bias and short-sightedness of the Cadets have become obvious. Constitutional illusions—that “bogey” the raising of which was the mark of the die-hard Bolsheviks—are now seen by all to be nothing but illusions, a phantom, a mirage.
“There is no Duma!” Moskovskiye Vedomosti and Grazhdanin cry out in a wild frenzy of delight. “There is no constitution!” sadly repeat the Cadets, those subtle connoisseurs of our constitution, who used to quote it so cleverly, to gloat so much over its clauses. The Social-Democrats will neither exult (we made some use even of the Duma) nor lose heart. The people has gained—they will say—by’ losing one of its illusions.
Yes, in the person of the Cadet Party, the whole of the Russian people is being taught a lesson, learning it not from books, but from its own revolution, one which it itself is making. We said on one occasion that in the person of the Cadets the people is ridding itself of its first illusions of bourgeois emancipation, and that in the person of the Trudoviks it is freeing itself of its last illusions of bourgeois emancipation. The Cadets dreamed of emancipation from serfdom, tyranny, arrogance, Asiatic despotism, autocracy, without the overthrow of the old regime. The limited aspirations of the Cadets have already suffered bankruptcy. The Trudoviks dream of freeing the masses from poverty, from the exploitation of man by man, without destroying the commodity economy; they will yet suffer bankruptcy, and in the very near future too, if our revolution leads to the complete victory of our revolutionary peasants.
The rapid rise of the Cadet Party, their intoxicating victories at the elections, their triumph in the Cadet Duma, their sudden collapse from a single stroke of the pen of the “beloved monarch” (who, one might say, spat in Rodichev’s face while the latter was assuring him of his love)—all these are events of serious political significance; they all mark stages in the revolutionary development of the people. In 1906, the people, i.e., the broad mass of the population, had not yet, as a mass, grown up so far as to be consciously revolutionary. The consciousness that the autocracy was intolerable had become general, and so too had the consciousness of the worthlessness of the government of bureaucrats and of the need for a representative assembly of the people. But the people could not yet realise and appreciate that a representative assembly of the people with power was incompatible with the continued existence of the old regime. For this, it turned out, a special experience was still needed, the experience of the Cadet Duma.
During its short span of life, the Cadet Duma vividly demonstrated to the people the difference between a representative assembly of the people without power and one with power. Our slogan, a constituent assembly (i.e., a representative assembly of the people with full power), has been proved to be a thousand times right, but life, i.e., the revolution, has brought us towards it by a longer and more complex road than we were able to foresee.
Cast a general glance at the main stages of the great Russian revolution and you will see how, through experience, the people, step by step, approached the slogan of a constituent assembly. First we have the period of “confidence” at the end of 1904. The liberals are in raptures. They occupy the entire foreground. Some not very steadfast Social-Democrats even speak of the two main forces of the moment: the liberals and the government. But the people become imbued with the idea of “confidence”. On January 9 the people “confidently” go to the Winter Palace. The period of “confidence” brings to the front a third force, the proletariat, and lays the basis for the people’s utter lack of confidence in the autocratic government. The period of “confidence” ends by the people refusing to believe the government’s talk about “confidence”.
The next stage. The Bulygin Duma is promised. Confidence is confirmed by action. Representatives of the people are being convened. The liberals are in raptures and call for participation in the elections. The liberal professors, as befits these “ideological” lackeys of the bourgeoisie, call upon the students to go on with their studies and not to meddle with revolution. Some not very steadfast Social-Democrats succumb to the arguments of the liberals. The people appear on the scene. By the October strike the proletariat sweeps away the Bulygin Duma and seizes liberty, gaining the Manifesto, which is quite constitutional in form and content. The people learn by experience that it is not enough to obtain a promise of liberty, one must also have the strength to seize liberty.
Next. In December the government annuls the liberties. The proletariat rises. The first uprising is defeated. But the stubborn and desperate armed fighting in the streets of Moscow makes the summoning of the Duma unavoidable. The boycott organised by the proletariat fails. The proletariat proves to be too weak to overthrow the Witte Duma. The Cadets fill its benches. The representative assembly of the people is an accomplished fact. The Cadets are in raptures. There is no limit to their cries of delight. The proletariat waits sceptically.
The Duma begins its work. The people make ten times more use of the slight extension of liberties than the Cadets. In spirit and determination the Cadet Duma is at once found to be lagging behind the people. The period of the Cadet Duma (May and June 1906) proves to be a period of the greatest successes for the parties to the Left of the Cadets: the Trudoviks outstrip the Cadets in the Duma; at public meetings the Cadets are censured for their timidity; the Social-Democratic and Socialist-Revolutionary press gains ground; the revolutionary peasant movement grows stronger; there is unrest in the army; the proletariat, which had been exhausted by the December events, recovers. The period of Cadet constitutionalism proves to be the period, not of a Cadet and not of a constitutional movement, but of a revolutionary movement.
This movement compels the government to dissolve the Duma. Experience proves that the Cadets are merely “froth”. Their strength is derived from the strength of the revolution. And to the revolution the government retaliates by the essentially revolutionary (though in form constitutional) act of dissolving the Duma.
The people are becoming convinced by experience that a representative assembly of the people is naught if it does not have full power, if it is convened by the old regime, if the old regime remains intact side by side with it. The objective course of events is now bringing to the fore, not the question of how laws, or the constitution, are to be worded, but the question of power, of real power. All laws and all deputies are naught if they possess no power. That is what the Cadet Duma has taught the people. Let us then sing praises to the eternal memory of the deceased, and take full advantage of the lesson it has taught.
We are thus brought face to face with the second question, viz., the objective, historically dictated content of the impending struggle, and the slogans which we must provide for it.
Here, too, the not very steadfast Social-Democrats, the Mensheviks, have vacillated. Their first slogan was: fight for the resumption of the Duma sessions for the purpose of convening a constituent assembly. The St. Petersburg Committee protested against this. The absurdity of this slogan is too obvious. It is not even opportunism, it is sheer non sense. The Central Committee made a step forward with the slogan: fight against the government in defence of the Duma for the purpose of convening a constituent assembly. This, of course, is better. It is not far removed from the slogan: fight for the overthrow of the autocratic government in order to convene a constituent assembly in a revolutionary way. The dissolution of the Duma undoubtedly provides the grounds for a nation-wide struggle for a representative assembly of the people with power; in this sense the slogan “in defence of the Duma” is not entirely unacceptable. But the whole point is that in this sense this slogan is already implied by our acceptance of the dissolution of the Duma as the grounds for a struggle. Without the special interpretation of it in this sense (i. e., in the sense just mentioned) the formula “in defence of the Duma” remains obscure and is liable to create misunderstanding and to bring us back to the somewhat obsolete past, to the Cadet Duma. In short, this formula gives rise to a number of incorrect and harmful “retrograde” ideas. What is correct in it is wholly and entirely embodied in the reasons for our decision to fight, in the explanation of why the dissolution of the Duma is considered a sufficiently important ground for fighting.
Under no circumstances should a Marxist forget that the slogan of the immediately impending struggle cannot be deduced simply and directly from the general slogan of a certain programme. It is not sufficient to refer to our programme (see last part: The Overthrow of the Autocracy and the Constituent Assembly, etc.) in order to determine the slogan of the struggle that is immediately impending now, in the summer or autumn of 1906. For this we must take into account the concrete historical situation, we must trace the whole development and the whole consecutive progress of the revolution; our tasks must be deduced not only from the principles of the programme, but also from the preceding steps and stages of the movement. Only such an analysis will be a truly historical analysis,, obligatory for a dialectical materialist.
And precisely such an analysis shows us that the objective political situation has now brought to the fore the question, not whether a representative assembly of the people exists, but whether this representative assembly ·has power.
The objective cause of the downfall of the Cadet Duma was not that it was unable to express the needs of the people, but that it was unable to cope with the revolutionary task of the struggle for power. The Cadet Duma imagined that it was a constitutional organ, but it was in fact a revolutionary organ (the Cadets abused us for regarding the Duma as a stage or an instrument of the revolution, but experience has fully confirmed our view). The Cadet Duma imagined that it was an organ of struggle against the Cabinet, but it was in fact an organ of struggle for the overthrow of the entire old regime. That is what happened in fact, because that is what the actual economic situation demanded. And for this struggle an organ like the Cadet Duma proved “useless”.
The thought that is now being hammered into the head of even the most ignorant muzhik is: the Duma is of no use; no Duma is of any use if the people do not have power. But how to get power? By overthrowing the old regime and establishing a new one, popular, free and elected. Either overthrow the old regime, or admit that the aims of the revolution in the scope set by the peasantry and the proletariat cannot be realised.
That is how life itself has put the question. That is how 1906 has put it. And that is how it has been put by the dissolution of the Cadet Duma.
We cannot, of course, guarantee that the revolution will solve this problem at one stroke, that the struggle will be an easy and simple one, that victory is completely and absolutely assured. No one can ever give any such guarantees on the eve of the struggle. A slogan is not a guarantee of simple and easy victory. A slogan is an indication of the aim that must be achieved in order to fulfil certain tasks. In the past, such an immediate task was the creation (or convocation) in general of a representative assembly of the people. Now the task is to secure power for such a representative assembly. This means removing, destroying, over throwing the old regime, overthrowing the autocratic government.
Unless this task is fully carried out, the popular representative assembly cannot have full power; hence, too, there cannot be adequate guarantees that the new popular representative assembly will not share the fate of the Cadet Duma.
The objective state of affairs at the present time is bringing to the fore a fight, not for a popular representative assembly, but for the creation of conditions under which it will be impossible to disperse or dissolve it, impossible to reduce it to a farce, as Trepov & Co. did the Cadet Duma.
The form which the coming struggle will probably take is determined partly by its content and partly by the preceding forms of the revolutionary struggle of the people and of the counter-revolutionary struggle of the autocracy.
As regards the content of the struggle, we have already shown that after two years of revolution it now centres on the overthrow of the old regime. The complete achievement of this aim is possible only by means of an armed uprising of the whole people.
As regards the preceding forms of the struggle, the “last word” of the mass popular movement in Russia is a general strike and an uprising. The last quarter of 1905 could not but leave ineradicable traces in the mind and mood of the proletariat, the peasantry, the politically-conscious sections of the army, and the democratic sections of the various professional associations of intellectuals. It is quite natural, therefore, that after the dissolution of the Duma, the first thought to enter the minds of the broad mass of those capable of fighting was: the general strike. No one seemed to entertain any doubt that the reply to the dissolution of the Duma must inevitably be an all-Russian strike.
The universal acceptance of this opinion was of definite value. Nearly everywhere the revolutionary organisations deliberately and systematically restrained the workers from spontaneous and limited outbreaks. Reports to this effect are coming in from all parts of Russia. The experience of October-December has undoubtedly helped to concentrate everyone’s attention to a much greater degree than before on general and simultaneous action. Furthermore, another very characteristic fact must be noted: judging from the reports from some of the big centres of the working-class movement, e. g., St. Petersburg, the workers have not only quickly and easily appreciated the need for general and simultaneous action, but have firmly insisted on militant and determined action. The ill-advised idea of a demonstration (one-day or three-day) strike against the dissolution of the Duma suggested by several St. Petersburg Mensheviks met with the most determined opposition of the workers. The true class instinct and experience of those who had more than once waged a serious struggle at once suggested to them that the issue now required far more than a demonstration. We shall not demonstrate, said the workers. We shall start a desperate, determined fight when the moment for general action arrives. Judging from the available information, this was the general opinion of the St. Petersburg workers. They understood that partial actions, and demonstrations in particular, would be ridiculous after all that Russia has gone through since 1901 (the year in which the widespread demonstration movement began); that the intensification of the political crisis makes it impossible to “start from the beginning” again; that organising peaceful demonstrations would merely play into the hands of the government, which had “tasted blood” with great satisfaction in December. Peaceful demonstrations would exhaust the proletariat to no purpose and would merely provide exercise for the police and soldiers in seizing and shooting unarmed people. They would merely somewhat confirm Stolypin’s boast that he had achieved victory over the revolution, for he had dissolved the Duma without thereby intensifying the anti-government movement. Now everyone regards this as an empty boast, for everyone knows and feels that the fight is still ahead. At that time a “demonstration” would have been construed as a struggle, it would have been converted into a (hopeless) struggle, and the cessation of the demonstration would have been proclaimed throughout the world as another defeat.
The idea of a demonstration strike was only worthy of our Ledru-Rollins of the Cadet Party, who overrated parliamentarism as short-sightedly as Ledru-Rollin did in 1849. The proletariat rejected this idea at once, and it did well to reject it. The workers, who have always stood face to face with the revolutionary struggle, appreciated more correctly than certain intellectuals both the enemy’s readiness to fight and the need for resolute militant action.
Unfortunately, in our Party, owing to the predominance of the Right wing among Russian Social-Democrats at the present time, the question of militant action has been neglected. The Unity Congress of the Russian Social-Democrats was carried away by the Cadet victories; it was unable to appreciate the revolutionary significance of the present situation and shirked the task of drawing all the conclusions from the experience of October-December. But the necessity of using this experience confronted the Party much sooner and much more sharply than many devotees of parliamentarism had expected. The confusion displayed by the central institutions of our Party at the critical moment was the inevitable outcome of this state of affairs.
The combination of a mass political strike with an armed uprising is again dictated by the whole situation. At the same time, the weak aspects of a strike as an independent means of struggle stand out in bold relief. Everyone is convinced that an extremely important condition for the success of a political strike is suddenness, the possibility of catching the government unawares. This is now impossible. The government learned in December how to combat strikes, and at the present moment it is very well prepared for such a fight. Everyone points out the extreme importance of the railways during a general strike. If the railways stop running—the strike has every chance of becoming general. If the railways are not brought to a complete standstill— the strike will almost certainly not be general. But it is particularly difficult for the railwaymen to strike: punitive trains stand in full readiness and armed troop detachments are scattered all along the line, at the stations, sometimes even in the trains. A strike under such conditions may mean— in the majority of cases it must mean—a direct and immediate collision with the armed forces. The engine-driver, the telegraphist, the switchman, will instantly be faced with the dilemma: either to be shot on the spot (Golutvino, Lubertsy and other stations on the Russian railway system have not won revolutionary fame all over Russia for nothing) or to remain at work and break the strike.
Of course, we have a right to expect great heroism from very many railway workers and employees, who have proved their devotion to the cause of liberty by deeds. Of course, we are far from denying the possibility of a railway strike and its chances of success. But we have no right to hide from ourselves the real difficulties of the task; to remain silent about such difficulties would be the very worst policy. If we face realities, if we do not bury our heads in the sand, it will be clear that a strike must inevitably and immediately develop into an armed uprising. A railway strike is an uprising; this cannot be disputed after what happened in December. And without a railway strike, the railway telegraph will not stop working, the conveyance of letters by rail will not be interrupted, and, consequently, a post and telegraph strike of serious dimensions will also be impossible.
Thus, the inexorable logic of the situation that has developed since December 1905 proves the subordinate significance of a strike in relation to an uprising. Whether we like it or not, and in spite of all “directives”, the acute revolutionary situation is bound to convert a demonstration into a strike, a protest into a fight, a strike into an uprising. Of course, an uprising, an armed mass struggle, can flare up only if it is actively supported by one or another section of the army. Therefore, a strike of the troops, their refusal to shoot at the people, can undoubtedly, in certain cases, lead to the victory of a merely peaceful strike. But it is scarcely necessary to prove that such cases would be but single episodes in an exceptionally successful uprising, and that there is only one way of making such episodes more frequent and likely: successful preparation for an uprising, energy and strength in the first insurgent actions, demoralisation of the troops by extremely daring attacks or by the desertion of a large section of the army, etc.
In short, in the situation now created by the dissolution of the Duma, there can be no doubt that an active fight must lead directly and immediately to an uprising. Perhaps the situation will change; in that case this conclusion will have to be revised; but for the time being it is absolutely indisputable. Therefore, to call for an all-Russian strike without calling for an uprising, without explaining its in separable connection with an uprising, would be folly bordering on crime. Therefore, in our work of agitation, all efforts must be concentrated on explaining the connection between the two forms of the struggle, on preparing the conditions that will enable three streams of the struggle—a workers’ outbreak, a peasant uprising and an army “revolt”— to merge into a single torrent. These three forms of a really popular, i.e., mass, active movement, infinitely remote from a mere conspiracy, of an uprising, overthrowing the autocracy, were quite definitely seen long ago, last summer at the time of the famous mutiny of the Potemkin. The success of an all-Russian uprising probably depends most of all on the fusion of these three streams. No doubt such grounds for a struggle as the dissolution of the Duma will greatly assist this fusion, because the most backward section of the peasants (and, consequently, of our army, which mainly consists of peasants) had set great hopes on the Duma.
Hence the conclusion: to take the greatest possible advantage of the dissolution of the Duma as the grounds for concentrated agitation and for a call for a national uprising; to explain the connection between a political strike and an uprising; to direct all efforts towards achieving unity and joint action on the part of the workers, peasants, soldiers and sailors in an active, armed struggle.
Finally, when speaking of the form of the movement, special mention must be made of the peasant struggle. Here the connection between a strike and an uprising is particularly clear.’ It is also clear that here the purpose of an uprising must be, not only the complete destruction, or removal, of all local authorities and their replacement by new authorities elected by the people (the common aim of every uprising, whether in the towns, in the countryside, in the army, etc.), but also the expulsion of the landlords and the seizure of their lands. The peasants must undoubtedly aim at the actual abolition of landlordism even before the question is decided by a national constituent assembly. There is no need to say much about this, because no one, probably, could imagine a peasant uprising without the peasants settling accounts with the landlords and seizing their lands. Obviously, the more conscious and organised such an uprising is, the fewer will be the instances of destruction of buildings, property, livestock, etc. From a military point of view, for the achievement of certain military aims, destruction—e. g., the burning of buildings and sometimes of property—is quite legitimate and essential in certain cases. Only pedants (or traitors to the people) can bewail the fact that the peasants always resort to such methods. Nevertheless, we need not conceal from ourselves that the destruction of property is sometimes only the result of lack of organisation, of inability to take and retain the property of the enemy instead of destroying it—or the result of weakness, when one of the belligerent sides wreaks vengeance on the enemy because it is not strong enough to destroy or crush him. Of course, in our work of agitation we must, on the one hand, do all we can to explain to the peasants that it is absolutely legitimate and necessary to wage a pitiless struggle against the enemy, even to the extent of destroying his property; on the other hand, we must show that on the degree of organisation depends the possibility of a much more rational and advantageous outcome of the struggle: destroying the enemy (the landlords and bureaucrats, especially the police) and transferring all property to the people, or to the peasants, intact (or with the least possible damage).
The question of the form of the struggle is closely bound up with the question of organisation for the struggle.
In this respect, too, the great historical experience of October-December 1905 has left indelible traces on the revolutionary movement of today. The Soviets of Workers’ Deputies and similar bodies (Peasants’ Committees, Railwaymen’s Committees, Soviets of Soldiers’ Deputies, etc.) enjoy tremendous and fully deserved prestige. It would not be easy at present to find a Social-Democrat, or a revolutionary belonging to some other party or trend, who would not be in favour of such organisations in general, or who would not recommend their formation at the present moment in particular.
It seems to me there is no difference of opinion, or at least no serious difference of opinion, on this point. Hence there is no need to dwell on this particular question.
But there is one aspect to which we must devote particular attention, because it is most often ignored. I refer to the fact that the role played by the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies (for the sake of brevity we shall speak of them as the type of all organisations of this kind) in the great October and December days surrounded them with something like a halo, so that sometimes they are treated almost as a fetish. People imagine that those organs are “necessary and sufficient” for a mass revolutionary movement at all times and in all circumstances. Hence the uncritical attitude towards the choice of the moment for the creation of such bodies, towards the question of what the real conditions are for the success of their activities.
The experience of October-December has provided very instructive guidance on this point. Soviets of Workers’ Deputies are organs of direct mass struggle. They originated as organs of the strike struggle. By force of circumstances they very quickly became the organs of the general revolutionary struggle against the government. The course of events and the transition from a strike to an uprising irresistibly transformed them into organs of an up rising. That this was precisely the role that quite a number of “soviets” and “committees” played in December, is an absolutely indisputable fact. Events have proved in the most striking and convincing manner that the strength and importance of such organs in time of militant action depend entirely upon the strength and success of the uprising.
It was not some theory, not appeals on the part of some one, or tactics invented by someone, not party doctrine, but the force of circumstances that led these non-party mass organs to realise the need for an uprising and transformed them into organs of an uprising.
At the present time, too, to establish such organs means creating organs of an uprising; to call for their establishment means calling for an uprising. To forget this, or to veil it from the eyes of the broad mass of the people, would be the most unpardonable short-sightedness and the worst of policies.
If that is so—and undoubtedly it is—the conclusion to be drawn is also clear: “soviets” and similar mass institutions are in themselves insufficient for organising an uprising. They are necessary for welding the masses together, for creating unity in the struggle, for handing on the party slogans (or slogans advanced by agreement between parties) of political leadership, for awakening the interest of the masses, for rousing and attracting them. But they are not sufficient for organising the immediate fighting forces, for organising an uprising in the narrowest sense of the word.
A slight illustration. The Soviets of Workers’ Deputies have often been called parliaments of the working class. But no worker would agree to his parliament being convened only for it to be handed over to the police. All workers would admit the need immediately to organise forces, to set up a military organisation composed of detachments of armed workers to protect their “parliament”.
Now that the government has thoroughly learned by experience what “soviets” lead to and what sort of institutions they are, now that it has armed itself from head to foot and is waiting for such institutions to be formed so as to attack the enemy before he has time to reflect and develop his activities, it is especially necessary for us to explain in our work of agitation the need for a sober view of things, the need for a military organisation alongside the organisation of soviets, for defending the latter, for carrying out an uprising, without which the soviets or any elected representatives of the masses will remain power less.
These “military organisations”, if one may call them so, must strive to rally the masses not through the medium of elected persons, but directly by rallying the masses that are immediately taking part in street fighting and civil war. The nuclei of such organisations should be very small, voluntary units of ten, five, perhaps even three persons. We must with the utmost vigour make it known that a battle is approaching in which it will be the duty of every honest citizen to be ready to sacrifice himself and fight against the oppressors of the people. Less formality, less red tape, more simplicity in organisation, which must be as mobile and as flexible as possible. All those who wish to take the side of liberty must at once unite by forming fighting groups of five—voluntary units of persons working in the same trade or the same factory, or of people connected by ties of comrade ship, or by Party ties, or, finally, simply by residence (those living in the same village, or in the same house or flat in a town). There must be both party and non-party units of this kind, bound together by the single, immediate revolutionary task: an uprising against the government. Such units must be formed without fail on the widest possible scale even before arms are obtained, irrespective of whether arms can be obtained or not.
No Party organisation will “arm” the masses. On the contrary, the organisation of the masses into light, mobile, small fighting units will, when things begin to move, render a very great service in regard to procuring arms.
Volunteer fighting units, composed of “druzhinniki”, if we adopt the name made so honourable by the great December days in Moscow, will be of tremendous value at the moment of the outbreak. A “druzhina”, or volunteer squad, that can shoot will be able to disarm a policeman, or suddenly attack a patrol and thus procure arms. A volunteer squad which cannot shoot, or which has not procured arms, will assist in building barricades, reconnoitring, organising liaisons, setting ambushes for the enemy, setting fire to houses occupied by the enemy, occupying rooms to serve as bases for the insurgents—in short, thousands of the most diverse functions can be performed by voluntary units of persons who are determined to fight to the last gasp, who know the locality well, who are most closely connected with the population.
Let an appeal be made at every factory, in every trade union and in every village for the formation of such volunteer fighting squads. People who are well known to each other will form them in advance. People who do not know each other will form squads of five and ten on the day of the fight, or on the eve of the fight, on the spot where fighting takes place, if the idea of forming such units is spread widely among the masses and actually adopted by them.
At the present time, when the dissolution of the Duma has stirred up many new sections of the population, one frequently hears the most revolutionary responses and declarations from ordinary representatives of the least organised sections of the common people in the towns, even of those who on the surface appear to be most “Black-Hundred” in character. Let us then make sure that they are all informed of the decision of the vanguard of the workers and peasants to begin the fight for land and liberty in the very near future, that they are all made aware of the necessity of forming volunteer fighting squads, that they are all convinced of the inevitability of an uprising and of its popular character. If we achieve this—and it is not at all utopian—we shall have in every large town, not hundreds of druzhinniki, as in Moscow in December, but thousands upon thousands of them. And then no machine-guns will be able to stand up to us, as people used to say in Moscow when arguing that the fighting squads there were not sufficiently of a mass character and were not sufficiently close to the people in type and composition.
Thus: organisation of Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, of Peasants’ Committees and of similar bodies everywhere, together with the most widespread propaganda and agitation for the necessity of a simultaneous uprising, for the immediate preparation of forces for this, and for organising volunteer squads of “druzhinniki” on a mass scale.
P. S. This chapter was already written when we learned of a new “turn” in the slogans of our Central Committee: for the Duma as an organ for convening the constituent assembly.
The question of organisation, therefore, includes the additional question of organising a provisional revolutionary government, for that in point of fact is what a body really capable of convening a constituent assembly would be. But we must not forget, as our Cadetophiles are fond of doing, that a provisional government is primarily the organ of an uprising. Does the late Duma wish to become the organ of an uprising? Do the Cadets wish to be the organ of an uprising? By all means, gentlemen! In the struggle we welcome all allies among the bourgeois democrats. Even if your alliance—excuse me for saying so—were the same thing for us as the alliance with France is for Russia (i.e., a source of funds), even then we should be very pleased; we are practical politicians, gentlemen. But if your Cadet participation in an uprising is merely an empty dream of the Mensheviks, we shall merely say: How petty and trifling your dreams are, Menshevik comrades! But take care you do not die of “unrequited love” for the Cadets, who will be unable to return your passion....
The theoretical aspect of the question of a provisional government has been discussed more than once. The possibility of Social-Democrats taking part in a provisional government has been proved. Of greater interest now, however, is the practical aspect provided by the events of October-December. The Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, etc., were in fact the embryos of a provisional government; power would inevitably have passed to them had the uprising been victorious. The centre of attention must now be shifted to studying these embryonic organs of a new government that history has brought into being, to studying the conditions for their work and their success. This is of more vital importance and more interesting at the present time than speculation “in general” about a provisional revolutionary government.
It remains for us to consider the question of the moment to be chosen for an uprising. The tender affection of the Right-wing Social-Democrats for the Cadet Duma caused them to demand immediate action. This idea ended in a complete fiasco. The attitude adopted by the mass of the working class and of the urban population in general has shown that the gravity of the situation is appreciated or apprehended. A real fight is expected, not for the Duma, of course, but for the overthrow of the old regime. The delay is due to the general mood prevailing, to the desire to prepare for a really decisive and desperate struggle, the desire to achieve co-ordinated action.
It is possible, and perhaps most probable, that the new struggle will break out just as spontaneously and unexpectedly as the previous ones did, as a result of a rise in temper and of one of the inevitable explosions. If things take that turn, if such a course of development proves inevitable, we shall not have to decide the question of the time for action; our task then will consist in greatly intensifying our work of agitation and organisation on the lines already indicated.
It is possible, however, that events may require that we, the leaders, appoint the time for action. In that case, we should advise that an all-Russian action, strike and uprising, be timed for the end of summer or the beginning of autumn, towards the middle or end of August. The important thing would be to take advantage of the building season in the towns and the end of summer work in the fields. If we could secure agreement among all the influential revolutionary organisations and unions as to the time for action, there would be a real possibility of carrying it out at the time fixed. The simultaneous beginning of the struggle over the whole of Russia would be a great advantage. Even if the government got wind of the time fixed for the strike, that would in all probability not be fatal; a strike is not a plot, or a military attack that depends upon surprise. The troops all over Russia would probably be most of all demoralised if they were kept week after week with the thought of the inevitable outbreak of the struggle preying on their minds, if they were kept under arms, and if agitation were carried on with increasing vigour by all organisations side by side with the mass of “non-party” revolutionaries. Influential members of the Duma among the Social-Democrats and Trudoviks could also help to make simultaneous action successful.
Isolated and absolutely useless outbreaks, like “revolts” of soldiers and hopeless peasant risings could, perhaps, be restrained if the whole of revolutionary Russia were convinced that this great universal fight is inevitable.
We repeat, however, that this is possible only if complete agreement is reached among all the influential organisations. Otherwise, only the old way of the spontaneous rise of temper will be left open.
To sum up briefly.
The dissolution of the Duma marks a complete turn to wards autocracy. The possibility of simultaneous action all over Russia is increasing. The probability of all partial uprisings merging into one is increasing. The inevitability of a political strike and of an uprising as a fight for power is felt as never before by large sections of the population.
What we have to do is to develop the widest possible agitation in favour of an all-Russian uprising, to explain its political and organisational tasks, to exert every effort to make everyone realise that it is inevitable, to make all the people see the possibility of a general onslaught so that they undertake not a “riot” or a “demonstration”, not mere strikes and wrecking of property, but a fight for power, a fight with the aim of overthrowing the government.
The whole situation favours the fulfilment of this task. The proletariat is preparing to put itself at the head of the struggle. A responsible and difficult, but a great and thankful task confronts the revolutionary Social-Democrats: to assist the working class as the advanced detachment of an all-Russian uprising.
This uprising will overthrow the autocracy and will create a representative assembly of the people with real power, i.e., a constituent assembly.
P.S. This article was written before the Sveaborg mutiny began.
- Lenin is referring to the appeal of members of the First State Duma known as the “Vyborg Manifesto”. The appeal was adopted on July 9-10 (22-23), 1906, at a meeting in Vyborg attended by about 200 deputies, mostly Cadets, after the dissolution of the First Duma. The appeal called on the people to offer “passive resistance” to the government, to refuse to pay taxes or provide recruits until the tsar had ordered new elections to the Duma. In September 1906 the Congress of the Cadet Party openly declared the use of “passive resistance” to be “virtually unrealisable”.
- Suvorin, A. S.—editor of the reactionary newspaper Novoye Vremya from 1876 to 1912.
- See present edition, Vol. 10, pp. 199-276.—Ed.
- Moskovskiye Vedomsosti (Moscow Recorder)—a newspaper founded in 1756; beginning with the 1560s, it expressed the views of the most reactionary sections of the landlords and clergy; from 1905 onwards it was one of the chief organs of the Black Hundreds. It was closed down shortly after the October Revolution of 1917.
- Grazhdanin (Citizen)—a reactionary magazine published in St. Petersburg from 1872 to 1914. From the eighties of the last century it was the organ of the extreme monarchists and was edit ed by Prince Meshchersky and financed by the government. It had a small circulation, but it was influential in bureaucratic circles.
- See present edition, Vol. 10, p. 459.—Ed.
- Ledru-Rollin (1807-74)—French politician, representative of the petty-bourgeois democrats.
- The mutiny on the armoured cruiser Potemkin broke out on June 14 (27), 1905. The crew brought the warship to the port of Odessa, where a general strike was in progress. However, the favourable conditions that had arisen for joint action by the Odessa workers and the sailors of the Potemkin were not utilised. Numerous arrests of its members had weakened the Odessa Bolshevik organisation and it lacked unity. The Mensheviks were against an armed uprising and held the workers and sailors back trem action. The tsar ist government ordered the entire Black Sea Fleet to crush the rising on the Potemkin, but the crews refused to open fire on the cruiser and the commanders were compelled to withdraw the squad ron. After eleven days of cruising in the Black Sea the crew of the Potemkin were forced by shortage of food and coal to take their vessel to a Rumanian port and surrender to the authorities there. Most of the sailors remained abroad. Those who returned to Russia were arrested and court-martialled.
The Potemkin mutiny was unsuccessful, but the fact that the crew of a big naval vessel had joined the revolution marked an im portant stage in the development of the struggle against the autocracy. In his appraisal of its significance, Lenin called it “the attempt to form the nucleus of a revolutionary army” (see present edition, Vol. 5, p. 562).
- The uprising in the Sveoborg fortress (near Helsingfors), which began during the night of July 17-18 (30-31), 1906, broke out spontaneously and prematurely, being to a large extent provoked by the Socialist-Revolutionaries. On receiving information about the situation in Sveaborg and the possibility of an armed uprising, the St. Petersburg Committee of the RSDLP decided on the urgent dispatch of a delegation to Sveaborg with instructions to secure a postponement of the action or, if this could not be achieved, to take the most active part in leading the uprising. The text of the decision was written by V. I. Lenin (see p. 132 of this volume). Finding it impossible to prevent spontaneous action, the Bolsheviks headed the uprising. Its leaders were members of the military organisation of the B.S.D.L.P.— Lieutenants A. P. Yemelyanov and Y. L. Kokhansky. Seven out of 10 artillery companies took an active part in the uprising. The insurgents put forward the slogans of overthrow of the autocracy, freedom or he people, the transfer of land to the peasants. The working class in Finland took action in support; a general strike began on July 18 (31) in Helsingfors and subsequently spread to other towns. The uprising continued for three days, but the general lack of preparation for action had its effect and on July 20 (August 2), after the fortress had been subjected to a naval bombardment, the Sveaborg uprising was crushed. Its participants were handed over for court-martial; forty-three men were executed and some hundreds sent to penal servitude or imprisoned.