The Question of the Bolshevik Leaders Appearing in Court
|Written||21 July 1917|
Published: First Published in the magazine Proletarskaya Revolyutsiya No. 1 (36), 1925. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 25, pages 176-177.
Reference is to the summons for Lenin to appear before the court of the bourgeois Provisional Government to answer the slanderous charge of espionage in favour of Germany.
The Bolsheviks, who were fighting to transform the imperialist war into a civil war and advocating the tsarist government s defeat in the war, were first charged with high treason in favour of Germany by the tsar’s secret police in the early days of the war.
After the February bourgeois-democratic revolution of 1917, when the Party set course for a socialist revolution in Russia, the bourgeois, Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik press carried slanderous reports in view of the passage through Germany of a Bolshevik group led by Lenin. The Seventh (April) Conference exposed that lie in its resolution “On the War”.
Judging by private conversations, there are two opinions on this question.
Comrades succumbing to the “Soviet atmosphere” often incline towards appearing in court.
Those closer to the workers apparently incline towards not appearing.
In principle, the question chiefly boils down to an estimation of what is usually called constitutional illusions.
Anyone who thinks that a regular government and a regular court exist or can exist in Russia, that a Constituent Assembly is likely to be called, may arrive at a conclusion in favour of appearing.
That idea is completely erroneous, however. It is the latest events, after July 4, that have most vividly shown that a Constituent Assembly is unlikely to be called (with out a new revolution), that neither a regular government nor a regular court exists or can exist in Russia (at present).
The court is an organ of power. The liberals sometimes forget this, but it is a sin for a Marxist to do so.
Where, then, is the power? Who constitutes the power?
There is no government. it changes daily. It is inactive.
The power that is active is the military dictatorship. Under these conditions, it is ridiculous even to speak of “the courts”. It is not a question of “courts”, but of an episode in the civil war. This is what those in favour of appearing in court unfortunately do not want to understand.
Pereverzev and Alexinsky as initiators of the “case"!! Isn’t it ridiculous to speak of courts in such circumstances? Isn’t it naive to think that, in such conditions, any court can examine, investigate and establish anything??
Power is in the hands of a military dictatorship. Without a new revolution, this power can only become stronger for a certain time, primarily for the duration of the war.
“I’ve done nothing against the law. The courts are just. They will sort things out. The trial will be public. The people will understand. I shall appear.”
This reasoning is childishly naïve. The authorities need not a trial but a persecution campaign against the internationalists. What Kerensky and Co. need is to put them in gaol and keep them there. So it was (in Britain and France), and so it will be (in Russia).
Let the internationalists work illegally as much as they can, but let them not commit the folly of appearing in court of their own free will!