The Seventh (April) All-Russia Conference of the RSDLP(b) (1)
|Written||24 April 1917|
Published: [See end of each document.].
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 24, pages 225-313.
APRIL 24–29, 1917
- 1 1. Speech Delivered at the Opening of the Conference April 24 (May 7)
- 2 2. Report on the Current Situation April 24 (May 7)
- 3 3. Speech Winding Up The Debate on the Report on the Current Situation April 24 (May 7)
- 4 4. Speech on the Proposal to Call an International Socialist Conference April 25 (May 8)
- 5 5. Resolution On Borgbjerg’s Proposal
- 6 6. Speech on the Attitude Towards the Soviets April 25 (May 8)
- 7 7. Draft Theses to the Resolution on the Soviets
- 8 8. Speech in Favour of the Resolution on the War April 27 (May 10)
- 9 9. Resolution on the War
- 10 10. Resolution on the Attitude Towards the Provisional Government
- 11 11. Report on the Question of Revising the Party Programme April 28 (May 11)
- 12 12. Resolution on the Question of Revising the Party Programme
- 13 13. Report on the Agrarian Question April 28 (May 11)
- 14 14. Rejoinder to N. S. Angarsky During the Debate on the Agrarian Question April 28 (May 11)
- 15 15. Resolution on the Agrarian Question
- 16 16. Resolution on Uniting the Internationalists Against the Petty-Bourgeois Defencist Bloc
- 17 17. Resolution on the Soviets of Workers’ And Soldiers’ Deputies
- 18 18. Speech on the National Question April 29 (May 12)
- 19 19. Resolution on the National Question
- 20 20. Speech on the Situation within the International and the Tasks of the RSDLP(b) April 29 (May 12)
- 21 21. Speech in Favour of the Resolution on the Current Situation April 29 (May 12)
- 22 22. Resolution on the Current Situation
- 23 23. Concluding Speech at the Closing of the Conference April 29 (May 12)
1. Speech Delivered at the Opening of the Conference April 24 (May 7)[edit source]
A brief report published May 12 (April 29), 1917 in Sotsial-Demokrat No. 43
First published in full in 1921 in N. Lenin (V. Ulyanov), Works, Vol. XIV, Part 2
Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes
Comrades, we are assembled here as the first conference of the proletarian party, in conditions of the Russian revolution and a developing world revolution as well. The time is approaching when the assertion of the founders of scientific socialism, and the unanimous forecast of the socialists who gathered at the Basle Congress, that world war would inevitably lead to revolution, is being everywhere proved correct.
In the nineteenth century Marx and Engels, following the proletarian movements in various countries and analysing the possible prospects for a social revolution, repeatedly stated that the roles would, in general, be distributed among these countries in proportion to, and in accordance with, their historically conditioned national features. They expressed their idea briefly as: The French worker will begin, the German will finish it.
The great honour of beginning the revolution has fallen to the Russian proletariat. But the Russian proletariat must not forget that its movement and revolution are only part of a world revolutionary proletarian movement, which in Germany, for example, is gaining momentum with every passing day. Only from this angle can we define our tasks.
I declare the All-Russia Conference open. Please nominate your candidates for election to the Presiding Committee.
2. Report on the Current Situation April 24 (May 7)[edit source]
A brief report published May 8 (April 25), 1917 in Pravda No. 40
First published in full in 1921 in N. Lenin (V. Ulyanov), Works, Vol. XIV, Part 2
Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes
Comrades, in evaluating the current situation I have to deal with an exceedingly broad subject, which, to my mind, falls into three parts. First, the estimate of the political situation proper here in Russia, our attitude towards the government and the dual power that has come into existence; second, our attitude towards the war; third, the international background to the working-class movement, a situation which has brought the workers of the world face to face with a socialist revolution.
I think, I shall have to deal only in brief with some of the points. Furthermore, I am going to submit to you a draft resolution on all these questions with this reservation, however, that, owing to the extreme lack of facilities and to the political crisis that has been created here in Petrograd, we were unable to have discussions of the resolution, or to communicate it in good time to the local comrades. I repeat, then, that these are only preliminary drafts, designed to make work easier in the committee and concentrate it on a few of the most essential questions.
I begin with the first question. If I am not mistaken, the Moscow Conference adopted the same resolution as the Petrograd City Conference. [Interruption: “With amendments.”] I have not seen the amendments, and I cannot pass an opinion. But since the Petrograd resolution was published in Pravda, I shall take it for granted, if no one objects, that it is known to everybody here. I submit this as a draft resolution to the present All-Russia Conference.
Most of the parties in the petty-bourgeois bloc controlling the Petrograd Soviet represent our policy, in contrast to their own, as a rash policy. What distinguishes our policy is our demand above all for a precise class analysis of current events. The chief sin of the petty-bourgeois bloc is that it resorts to empty phrases to conceal from the people the truth about the government’s class character.
If the Moscow comrades have any amendments, they may present them now.
(Reads the resolution of the Petrograd City Conference on the attitude towards the Provisional Government.)
“(1) that the Provisional Government, by its class character, is the organ of the landowner and bourgeois domination;
“(2) that the Provisional Government and the classes it represents are bound with indissoluble economic and political ties to Russian and Anglo-French imperialism;
“(3) that the Provisional Government is carrying out its proclaimed programme only partially, and only under pressure of the revolutionary proletariat and, to some extent, of the petty bourgeoisie;
“(4) that the forces of bourgeois and landowner counter revolution, now being organised, have already, under cover of the Provisional Government and with the latter’s obvious connivance, launched an attack on revolutionary democracy;
“(5) that the Provisional Government is avoiding fixing the date for the elections to the Constituent Assembly, preventing the arming of the people as a whole, opposing the transfer of all the land to the people, foisting upon it the landowners’ way of settling the agrarian question, obstructing the introduction of an eight-hour workday, condoning counter-revolutionary propaganda in the army (by Guchkov and Co.), rallying the high-ranking officers against the soldiers, etc....”
I have read the first part of the resolution giving a class definition of the Provisional Government. There are scarcely any essential differences between this resolution and that of the Moscow comrades, as far as it is possible to judge from the latter’s text alone. But the general definition of the government as counter-revolutionary is, in my opinion, incorrect. If we speak in general terms, we must specify which revolution we mean. As far as the bourgeois revolution is concerned, this cannot be said, because that revolution is already completed. As far as the proletarian and peasant revolution is concerned, such a statement is premature, for we cannot be sure that the peasants will necessarily go farther than the bourgeoisie. To express our confidence in the peasants, particularly now that they have turned to imperialism and defencism, i. e., to supporting the war, is, in my opinion, unsound. at the present moment the peasants have entered into a number of agreements with the Cadets. That is why I regard this clause in the Moscow resolution as politically incorrect. We want the peasants to go farther than the bourgeoisie, we want them to take the land from the landowners, but so far we can say nothing definite about their future conduct.
We studiously avoid the words “revolutionary democracy”. We may use them when there is a question of an attack by the government, but at the present moment they are highly deceptive, for it is very difficult to distinguish the classes which have mingled in this chaos. Our task is to free those who are trailing behind. The Soviets are important to us not as a form; to us it is important what classes they represent. We must, therefore, do a great deal of work to develop the class-consciousness of the proletariat....
(Resumes reading the resolution.)
“(6) that this government, at the same time, is relying at present on the confidence of, and, to a certain extent, on an actual agreement with, the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, which now unites an obvious majority of workers and soldiers, i. e., peasants;
“(7) that every step of the Provisional Government, in both its domestic and foreign policies, is bound to open the eyes, not only of the proletarians in town and country and the semi-proletarians, but also of the broad sections of the petty bourgeoisie, to the real nature of this government,
“the Conference resolves that:
“(1) in order to ensure all the state power passing into the hands of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies or other bodies directly expressing the will of the people, prolonged work is necessary to develop proletarian class-consciousness and to unite the urban and rural proletarians against the vacillations of the petty bourgeoisie, for only work of this nature can guarantee real advance on the part of the whole revolutionary people;
“(2) this calls for many-sided activity within the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, for work aimed at in creasing the number of these Soviets, consolidating their power, and welding together our Party’s proletarian internationalist groups in the Soviets;
“(3) we must organise our Social-Democratic forces more effectively, so as to be able to direct the new wave of the revolutionary movement under the banner of revolutionary Social-Democracy.”
This is the sum and substance of our policy. The whole petty bourgeoisie is now wavering and trying to conceal this wavering behind the empty phrase about revolutionary democracy. We must contrapose these waverings with a proletarian line. The counter-revolutionaries wish to frustrate it by premature action. Our task is to increase the number of Soviets, to reinforce them and to consolidate the unity of our Party.
The Moscow comrades have added to Point 3 the demand for control. This control is represented by Chkheidze, Steklov, Tsereteli, and other leaders of the petty-bourgeois bloc. Control without power is an empty phrase. How can I control Britain? To control her, you would have to seize her fleet. I can understand the uneducated mass of workers and soldiers naïvely and unconsciously believing in control. You only have to think about the fundamental aspects of control, however, to realise that such a belief is a departure from the basic principles of the class struggle. What is control? If I write a paper, or a resolution, they will write a counter-resolution. To control, you must have power. If the broad mass of the petty-bourgeois bloc do not understand this, we must have the patience to explain it to them, but under no circumstances must we tell them a lie. If, however, I obscure this fundamental condition by speaking of control, then I am guilty of telling a lie and am playing into the hands of the capitalists and the imperialists. “You’re welcome to your control, but we’ll have the guns. Enjoy your control,” they say. They know that at the moment the people cannot be denied their demand. Control without power is an empty petty-bourgeois phrase that hampers the progress of the Russian revolution. That is why I object to the Moscow comrades’ third point.
As for this peculiar interlocking of two powers, in which the Provisional Government, lacking power, guns, soldiers, and the armed mass of people, leans on the Soviets that are relying so far on promises and are carrying out a policy of upholding those promises, if you want to play this game, you are doomed to failure. Our task is to keep out of this game. We shall carry on our work of explaining to the proletariat the unsoundness of this policy, and events, at every turn, will prove the correctness of our position. So far we are in the minority; the masses still do not believe us. We can wait; they will side with us when the government shows its face. The government’s vacillations may repel them and they will swing over to our side; and then, taking into consideration the balance of forces, we shall say: Our time has come.
I now pass on to the question of the war. This question actually united us when we came out against the loan, the attitude towards which showed immediately and clearly the alignment of political forces. As Rech has stated, everybody, except Yedinstvo, is wavering; the entire petty bourgeoisie is for the loan—with reservations. The capitalists make a wry face and pocket the resolution with a smile, saying: “You may do the talking, but we shall do the acting.” All those now voting for the loan are known as social-chauvinists the world over.
I shall now proceed to read the resolution on the war. It is in three parts: (1) a characterisation of the war from the point of view of its class significance; (2) the revolutionary defencism of the masses, something that cannot be found in any other country; (3) how to end the war.
Many of us, myself included, have had occasion to address the people, particularly the soldiers, and it seems to me that when everything is explained to them from the class point of view, there is one thing in our stand on which they are most unclear, namely, in what way we intend to end the war, in what way we think it possible to stop it. The masses are in a maze of misunderstanding, there is complete ignorance about our stand; that is why we must express ourselves most clearly on this.
(Reads the draft resolution on the war.)
“The present war is, on the part of both groups of the belligerent powers, an imperialist war, i. e., one waged by the capitalists for world domination, for division of the capitalists’ spoils, for profitable markets for finance and banking capital, and for the subjugation of the weaker nationalities.
“The transfer of state power in Russia from Nicholas II to the government of Guchkov, Lvov, and others, to the government of the landowners and capitalists, did not and could not alter the class character and meaning of the war as far as Russia is concerned.
“The fact that the new government is carrying on the same imperialist war, i. e., an aggressive war of conquest, became glaringly apparent when the government not only failed to publish the secret treaties between ex-Tsar Nicholas II and the capitalist governments of Britain, France, etc., but even formally confirmed these treaties. This was done without consulting the will of the people and with the express purpose of deceiving them, for it is well known that the secret treaties concluded by the ex-tsar are outrageously predatory treaties that give the Russian capitalists a free hand to rob China, Persia, Turkey, Austria, etc.
“For this reason no proletarian party that does not wish to break completely with internationalism, i. e., with the fraternal solidarity of the workers of all countries in their struggle against the yoke of Capital, can support the present war, or the present government, or its loans, no matter in what glowing terms these loans may be described.
“Nor can any trust be placed in the present government’s promise to renounce annexations, i. e., the conquest of foreign countries or the forcible retention of any nationality within the confines of Russia. For, in the first place, the capitalists, bound together by the thousand threads of Russian and Anglo-French banking capital, and intent on protecting the interests of capital, cannot renounce annexations in this war without at the same time ceasing to be capitalists, without renouncing the profits from the thousands of millions invested in loans, concessions, war industries, etc. And secondly, the new-government, after renouncing annexations to mislead the people, declared through Milyukov (Moscow, April 9, 1917) that it had no intention of renouncing them. Finally, as revealed by Dyelo Naroda, a newspaper in which Minister Kerensky co-operates, Milyukov has not even sent his statement on the renunciation of annexations to other countries.
“Therefore, in warning the people against the capitalists’ empty promises, the Conference declares that it is necessary to make a clear distinction between a renunciation of annexations in word and a renunciation of annexations in deed, i. e., the immediate publication of all the secret predatory treaties, of all acts of foreign policy, and the taking of immediate steps to fully liberate all peoples who are being oppressed, kept bound to Russia by force or kept in a state of subjection by the capitalist class, which is continuing the policy of ex-Tsar Nicholas II, a policy that is a disgrace to our nation.”
The second half of this part of the resolution deals with the promises made by the government. For a Marxist, perhaps, this part is superfluous; for the people, however, it is important. That is why we must add the reasons why we do not believe those promises, why we must not trust the government. The present government’s promises to abandon its imperialist policy are not to be trusted. Our policy in this respect should not be in saying that we demand that the government publish the treaties. This would be a vain hope. To demand this of a capitalist government would be like demanding an exposure of commercial swindling. When we say that it is necessary to renounce annexations and indemnities, we should indicate how this can be done; and if we are asked who can do it, our answer will be that this step is by its very nature a revolutionary one, a step which only the revolutionary proletariat can make. Otherwise these promises will remain empty pledges and wishes used by the capitalists to keep the people in leading-strings.
(Continues reading the draft resolution.)
“The ’revolutionary defencism’, which in Russia has now permeated almost all the Narodnik parties (the Popular Socialists, Trudoviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries), the opportunist party of the Menshevik Social-Democrats (the Organising Committee, Chkheidze, Tsereteli, etc.), and the majority of the non-party revolutionaries, reflects, in point of class significance, the interests and point of view of the petty bourgeoisie, the small proprietors, and the well-to-do peasants, who, like the capitalists, profit by oppressing weak peoples. on the other hand, it is a result of the deception of the masses by the capitalists, who instead of publishing the secret treaties confine themselves to promises and glib talk.
“It must be admitted that the great mass of ’revolutionary defencists’ are honest, i. e., they are really opposed to annexations, to conquests, to oppressing weak peoples; they are really working for a democratic, non-coercive peace among all the belligerents. This must be admitted for the reason that the class position of the urban and rural proletarians and semi-proletarians (i. e., of the people who earn their living, wholly or partly, by selling their labour-power to the capitalists) makes these classes uninterested in capitalist profits.
“Therefore, while recognising that any concessions to ’revolutionary defencism’ are absolutely impermissible and virtually signify a complete break with internationalism and socialism, the Conference declares that our Party will preach abstention from violence as long as the Russian capitalists and their Provisional Government confine themselves to threats of violence against the people (for example, Guchkov’s unhappily notorious decree threatening the soldiers with punishment for arbitrary displacement of superiors), as long as the capitalists have not started using violence against the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, Peasants’, Agricultural Labourers’, and other Deputies, which organise themselves freely, and freely elect and dismiss all public officers. Our Party will fight against the profound and fatal error of ’revolutionary defencism’ solely by means of comradely persuasion, bringing home the truth that the attitude of unreasoning trust of the broad masses in the government of the capitalists, who are the worst enemies of peace and socialism, is, in present-day Russia, the chief obstacle to a speedy termination of the war.”
Some of the petty bourgeoisie have an interest in this policy of the capitalists—of that there can be no doubt. That is why it would be wrong for the proletarian party at present to place any hopes in the community of interests of the proletariat and the peasantry. We are fighting to win the peasants over to our side, but they are, to a certain extent, consciously on the side of the capitalists.
There is not the slightest doubt that, as a class, the proletariat and semi-proletariat are not interested in the war. They are influenced by tradition and deception. They still lack political experience. Therefore, our task is one of patient explanation. We make no concessions to them on matters of principle; yet we cannot look upon them as social-chauvinists. This section of the population has never been socialist, nor has it the slightest idea about socialism, it is only just awakening to political life. Nevertheless, its class-consciousness is growing and broadening with extraordinary rapidity. We must be able to bring our views home to it, and this is now the most difficult task of all, particularly for a party that only yesterday worked underground.
Some may ask: Have we not gone back on our own principles? We were advocating the conversion of the imperialist war into a civil war, and now we are contradicting ourselves. But the first civil war in Russia has come to an end; we are now advancing towards the second war—the war between imperialism and the armed people. In this transitional period, as long as the armed force is in the hands of the soldiers, as long as Milyukov and Guchkov have not yet resorted to violence, this civil war, so far as we are concerned, turns into peaceful, prolonged, and patient class propaganda. To speak of civil war before people have come to realise the need for it is undoubtedly to lapse into Blanquism. We are for civil war, but only for civil war waged by a politically conscious class. He can be overthrown who is known to the people as an oppressor. There are no oppressors in Russia at present; it is the soldiers and not the capitalists who now have the guns and rifles; the capitalists are getting what they want now not by force but by deception, and to shout about violence now is senseless. One must be able to uphold the Marxist point of view, which says that this conversion of imperialist war into a civil war should be based on objective, and not subjective, conditions. For the time being we withdraw that slogan, but only for the time being. It is the soldiers and the workers who possess the arms now, not the capitalists. So long as the government has not started war, our propaganda remains peaceful.
The government would like to see us make the first imprudent move towards revolutionary action, as this would be to its advantage. It is exasperated because our Party has put forward the slogan of peaceful demonstrations. We must not cede one iota of our principles to the petty bourgeoisie, which is now marking time. The proletarian party would be making a dangerous mistake if it based its tactics on subjective desires where organisation is required. We cannot say that the majority is with us; what we need in the present situation is caution, caution, caution. To base proletarian tactics on subjective desires means to condemn it to failure.
The third point deals with the question of how to end the war. The Marxist point of view is well known, but the difficulty is how to bring it home to the masses in the clearest form possible. We are not pacifists, and we cannot repudiate a revolutionary war. In what way does a revolutionary war differ from a capitalist war? The difference is, above all, a class difference: which class is interested in the war? What policy does the interested class pursue in that war? ...In addressing the people we must give concrete answers to their questions. And so the first question is how to distinguish a revolutionary war from a capitalist war. The ordinary man in the street does not grasp the distinction, he does not understand that it is a matter of class distinction. We must not confine ourselves to theory alone, we must demonstrate in practice that we shall wage a really revolutionary war only when the proletariat is in power. I think that by presenting the question this way we are giving the clearest possible answer to the question as to what this war is about and who is waging it.
Pravda has published the draft of an appeal to the soldiers of all the belligerent countries. We have received information that fraternisation is taking place at the front, but this fraternisation is as yet politically semi-conscious. What it lacks is a clear political idea. The soldiers have come to feel instinctively that action must come from below. The class instinct of these revolutionary-minded people has suggested this path to them as being the only correct path. For a revolution, however, this is insufficient. We want to give a clear-cut political answer. In order to put an end to this war, state power must pass to the revolutionary class. I suggest that an appeal to the soldiers of all the belligerent countries be drawn up in the name of the Conference and published in all the appropriate languages. If, instead of all these hard-worked phrases about peace conferences, half of whose members are secret or open agents of the imperialist governments, we send out this appeal, we shall achieve our purpose a thousand times quicker than we would by all those peace conferences. We refuse to have any dealings with the German Plekhanovs. When we were passing through Germany, those gentlemen, the social-chauvinists, the German Plekhanovs, tried to get into our carriage, but we told them that we would not allow a single one of them in and that if any of them did get in they would not get out again without our having a big row. Had a man like Karl Liebknecht been permitted to come to see us, we would certainly have talked matters over with him. When we issue our appeal to the working people of all countries, giving an answer to the question of how to end the war, and when the soldiers read our answer showing a political way out of the war, then fraternisation will make tremendous strides. This must be done in order to raise fraternisation from the level of an instinctive revulsion against war to a clear political understanding of how to get out of it.
I now pass on to the third question, namely, the analysis of the current situation with reference to the position of the international working-class movement and that of international capitalism. From the point of view of Marxism, in discussing imperialism it is absurd to restrict oneself to conditions in one country alone, since all capitalist countries are closely bound together. Now, in time of war, this bond has grown immeasurably stronger. All humanity is thrown into a tangled bloody heap from which no nation can extricate itself on its own. Though there are more and less advanced countries, this war has bound them all together by so many threads that escape from this tangle for any single country acting on its own is inconceivable.
We are all agreed that power must be wielded by the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. But what can and should they do if power passes to them, i. e., if power is in the hands of the proletarians and semi-proletarians? This is an involved and difficult situation. Speaking of the transfer of power, there is a danger—one that played a big part in previous revolutions, too—namely, the danger that the revolutionary class will not know what to do with state power when it has won it. The history of revolutions gives us examples of revolutions that failed for this very reason. The Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, which cover the whole of Russia with their network, now stand at the centre of the revolution; it seems to me, however, that we have not sufficiently studied or understood them. Should they take over the power, it will no longer be a state in the ordinary sense of the word. The world has seen no such state power functioning for any considerable length of time, but the whole world’s labour movement has been approaching it. This would be a state of the Paris Commune type. Such power is a dictatorship, i. e., it rests not on law, not on the formal will of the majority, but on direct, open force. Force is the instrument of power. How, then, will the Soviets apply this power? Will they return to the old way of governing by means of the police? Will they govern by means of the old organs of power? In my opinion they cannot do this. At any rate, they will be faced with the immediate task of creating a state that is not bourgeois. Among Bolsheviks, I have compared this state to the Paris Commune in the sense that the latter destroyed the old administrative organs and replaced them by absolutely new ones that were the direct organs of the workers. I am accused of having now used a word which the capitalists fear most of all, as they have begun to interpret it as a desire for the immediate introduction of socialism. I have used it, however, only in the sense of replacing the old organs by new, proletarian ones. Marx saw in this the greatest advance of the entire world proletarian movement. The question of the social tasks of the proletariat is of the greatest practical significance to us, first, because we are now tied up with all the other countries, and are unable to disentangle ourselves—the proletariat will either break free as a whole or it will be crushed; secondly, the existence of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies is a fact. No one doubts that they cover the whole of Russia, that they are a state power and that there can be no other power. If that is so, we should form a clear idea as to what use they can make of that power. Some people say that it is the same type of power as in France or America, but they have nothing of the kind there; such a direct power does not exist there.
The resolution on the current situation is in three parts. The first defines the objective situation created by the imperialist war, the position in which world capitalism finds itself; the second deals with the state of the international proletarian movement; the third deals with the tasks of the Russian working class when power passes into its hands. In the first part I formulate the conclusion that during the war capitalism has developed even more than before the war. It has already taken over entire fields of production. Twenty seven years ago, in 1891, when the Germans adopted their Erfurt Programme, Engels said that one could not continue to define capitalism as a system of production lacking planning. This is now out of date; once there are trusts there can no longer be lack of planning. Capitalism has made gigantic strides, particularly in the twentieth century, and the war has done more than was done for twenty-five years. State control of industry has made progress in Britain as well as in Germany. Monopoly, in general, has evolved into state monopoly. The objective state of affairs has shown that the war has stepped up capitalist development, which has moved forward from capitalism to imperialism, from monopoly to state control. All this has brought the socialist revolution nearer and has created the objective conditions for it. Thus the socialist revolution has been brought closer as a result of the war.
Before the war Britain enjoyed a greater degree of freedom than any other country in the world, a point which politicians of the Cadet type have always stressed. There was freedom there because there was no revolutionary movement there. The war wrought an instant change. In a country where for decades no attempt was ever made to encroach upon the freedom of the socialist press, a typically tsarist censorship was immediately established, and all the prisons were filled with socialists. For centuries the capitalists there had learned to rule the people without the use of force, and if they have resorted to force, it means that they feel that the revolutionary movement is growing, that they cannot act otherwise. When we said that Liebknecht represented the masses, although he was one against a hundred German Plekhanovs, we were told that that was a utopian idea, an illusion. Yet, anyone who has, if only once, attended workers’ meetings abroad knows that the sympathy of the masses for Liebknecht is an undeniable fact. His bitterest opponents had to manoeuvre when facing the public, and if they did not pretend to be his supporters, neither did they dare to come out against him. Now things have gone still farther. We now have mass strikes, we have fraternisation at the front. To attempt prophecy in this respect would be a great mistake, but we cannot get away from the fact that sympathy for the International is growing, that revolutionary unrest is beginning in the German army. This is a fact which shows that the revolution in Germany is mounting.
What, then, are the tasks of the revolutionary proletariat? The main flaw, the main error, in all the socialists’ arguments is that this question is put in too general a form, as the question of the transition to socialism. What we should talk about, however, are concrete steps and measures. Some of them are ripe, and some are not. We are now at a transition stage. Clearly, we have brought to the fore new forms, unlike those in bourgeois states. The Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies are a form of state which does not exist and never did exist in any country. This form represents the first steps towards socialism and is inevitable at the beginning of a socialist society. This is a fact of decisive importance. The Russian revolution has created the Soviets. No bourgeois country in the world has or can have such state institutions. No socialist revolution can be operative with any other state power than this. The Soviets must take power not for the purpose of building an ordinary bourgeois republic, nor for the purpose of making a direct transition to socialism. This cannot be. What, then, is the purpose? The Soviets must take power in order to make the first concrete steps towards this transition, steps that can and should be made . In this respect fear is the worst enemy. The masses must be urged to take these steps immediately, otherwise the power of the Soviets will have no meaning and will give the people nothing.
I shall now attempt to answer the question as to what concrete measures we can suggest to the people without running counter to our Marxist convictions.
Why do we want the power to pass to the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies?
The first measure the Soviets must carry out is the nationalisation of the land. All the peoples are talking about nationalisation. Some say it is a most utopian measure; nevertheless, everybody comes to accept it, because landownership in Russia is so complicated that the only way out is to remove all boundary lines dividing the land and make it the property of the state. Private ownership of land must be abolished. That is the task confronting us, because the majority of the people are in favour of it. To accomplish it we need the Soviets. This measure cannot be carried out with the help of the old government officials.
The second measure. We cannot be for “introducing” socialism—this would be the height of absurdity. We must preach socialism. The majority of the population in Russia are peasants, small farmers who can have no idea of socialism. But what objections can they have to a bank being set up in each village to enable them to improve their farming? They can say nothing against it. We must put over these practical measures to the peasants in our propaganda, and make the peasants realise that they are necessary.
Quite another thing is the Sugar Syndicate. This is a clear fact. Here our proposal must be direct and practical: these already fully developed syndicates must be taken over by the state. If the Soviets intend to assume power, it is only for such ends. There is no other reason why they should do so. The alternative is: either the Soviets develop further, or they die an ignominious death as in the case of the Paris Commune. If it is a bourgeois republic that is needed, this can very well be left to the Cadets.
I shall conclude by referring to a speech which impressed me most. I heard a coal miner deliver a remarkable speech. Without using a single bookish word, he told us how they had made the revolution. Those miners were not concerned with the question as to whether or not they should have a president. They seized the mine, and the important question to them was how to keep the cables intact so that production might not be interrupted. Then came the question of bread, which was scarce, and the miners also agreed on the method of obtaining it. Now that is a real programme of the revolution, not derived from books. That is what I call really winning power locally.
Nowhere is the bourgeoisie so well established as in Petrograd. Here the capitalists have the power in their hands. But throughout the country, the peasants, without pursuing any socialist tasks, are carrying out purely practical measures. I think that only this programme of the revolutionary movement indicates the true path of the revolution. We are for these measures being started on with the greatest caution and circumspection. But it is only these measures that must be carried out; we should go ahead in this direction only. There is no other way out. Unless this is done the Soviets will be broken up and will die an ignominious death. But if the revolutionary proletariat should actually win power, it will only be for the sake of going forward. And to go forward means to take definite steps to get us out of the war—words alone won’t do it. The complete success of these steps is only possible by world revolution, if the revolution kills the war, if the workers of the whole world support the revolution. Taking power is, therefore, the only practical measure and the only way out.
3. Speech Winding Up The Debate on the Report on the Current Situation April 24 (May 7)[edit source]
First published in 1921 in N. Lenin (V. Ulyanov), Works, Volume. XIV, Part 2
Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes
Comrade Kamenev was quick to seize on the talk of adventurism. I shall have to dwell on this. Comrade Kamenev is convinced and asserts that in opposing the slogan “Down with the Provisional Government”, we showed vacillation. I agree with him; there certainly has been vacillation away from revolutionary policy, and this vacillation must be avoided. I think that our differences with Comrade Kamenev are not very great, because by agreeing with us he has changed his position. In what did our adventurism consist? It was the attempt to resort to forcible measures. We did not know to what extent the masses had swung to our side during that anxious moment. If it had been a strong swing things would have been different. We advanced the slogan for peaceful demonstrations, but several comrades from the Petrograd Committee issued a different slogan. We cancelled it, but were too late to prevent the masses from following the slogan of the Petrograd Committee. We say that the slogan “Down with the Provisional Government” is an adventurist slogan, that the government cannot be overthrown now. That is why we have advanced the slogan for peaceful demonstrations. All we wanted was a peaceful reconnoitring of the enemy’s forces; we did not want to give battle. But the Petrograd Committee turned a trifle more to the left, which in this case is certainly a very grave crime. Our organisational apparatus proved weak—our decisions are not being carried out by everyone. Together with the correct slogan “Long Live the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies!” stood the incorrect slogan “Down with the Provisional Government”. At the time of action, to go a “trifle more to the left” was wrong. We regard this as a very serious crime, as disorganisation. Had we deliberately allowed such an act, we would not have remained in the Central Committee for one moment. It happened because of the weakness of our organisational apparatus. Yes, there were shortcomings in our organisation. We have raised the question of improving our organisation.
The Mensheviks and Co. are working the word “adventurism” as hard as they can. But it is they, of all people, who had neither an organisation nor a policy. We have both an organisation and a policy.
At that moment the bourgeoisie mobilised all its forces; the centre hid itself, and we organised a peaceful demonstration. We were the only ones who had a political line. Did we make mistakes? We did. Only he who does nothing never errs. Perfect organisation is a difficult thing.
Now about control.
We are at one with Comrade Kamenev, except on the question of control. He views control as a political act. Subjectively, however, he understands this word better than Chkheidze and others. We will not accept control. People tell us that we have isolated ourselves, that, by uttering a lot of terrible words about communism, we have frightened the bourgeoisie into fits....Maybe! But it was not this that isolated us. It was the question of the loan that caused our isolation. It was on this question that we found ourselves in the minority. Yes, we are in the minority. Well, what of it? To be a socialist while chauvinism is the craze means to be in the minority. To be in the majority means to be a chauvinist. at the moment the peasant, together with Milyukov, is hitting socialism by means of the loan. The peasant follows Milyukov and Guchkov. This is a fact. The bourgeois-democratic dictatorship of the peasantry is an old formula.
If we want to draw the peasantry into the revolution we must keep the proletariat apart from it in a separate proletarian party, because the peasantry is chauvinistic. To attract the peasant now means to surrender to the mercies of Milyukov.
The Provisional Government must be overthrown, but not now, and not in the usual way. We agree with Comrade Kamenev. But we must explain. It is this word that Comrade Kamenev has been harping on. Nevertheless, this is the only thing we can do.
Comrade Rykov says that socialism must come from other countries with a more developed industry. But that is not so. Nobody can say who will begin it and who will end it. That is not Marxism; it is a parody of Marxism.
Marx said that France would begin it and Germany would finish it. But the Russian proletariat has achieved more than anybody else.
If we had said, “No tsar, but a dictatorship of the proletariat”, well, this would have meant skipping over the petty bourgeoisie. But what we are saying is—help the revolution through the Soviets. We must not lapse into reformism. We are fighting to win, not to lose. At the worst we count on partial success. Even if we suffer defeat we shall achieve partial success. We shall get reforms. Reforms are an auxiliary instrument of the class struggle.
Further, Comrade Rykov says that there is no period of transition from capitalism to socialism. That is not so. It is a break with Marxism.
The line we have marked out is correct, and in future we shall make every effort to achieve an organisation in which there will be no Petrograd Committee-men to disobey the Central Committee. We are growing, and that is as it should be with a real party.
4. Speech on the Proposal to Call an International Socialist Conference April 25 (May 8)[edit source]
A brief report published May 9 (April 26), 1917 in Pravda No. 41
First published in full in 1921 in N. Lenin (V. Ulyanov), Works, Volume XIV, Part 2
Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes
I cannot agree with Comrade Nogin. We have here what I believe to be a fact of paramount political importance, and we are in duty bound to launch a vigorous campaign against the Russian and Anglo-French chauvinists who have turned down Borgbjerg’s invitation to attend the conference. We must not forget the real issue, the motives underlying this whole affair. I am going to read to you Borgbjerg’s proposal exactly as reported by Rabochaya Gazeta. I shall show you that behind this comedy of a so-called socialist congress we shall find the very real political manoeuvres of German imperialism. The German capitalists, through the medium of the German social-chauvinists, are inviting the social-chauvinists of all countries to the conference. That is why we must launch a big campaign.
Why do they do it through the socialists? Because they want to fool the working masses. These diplomats are subtle men; to say this thing openly would not do, so they send a Danish Plekhanov to do it for them. We have seen German social-chauvinists abroad hundreds of times; they must be exposed.
(Reads an excerpt from “Rabochaya Gazeta” No. 39, for May 8 (April 25), 1917.)
“On behalf of the joint committee of the three Scandinavian labour parties (the Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish), Borgbjerg, editor of Social-Demokraten, the Central Organ of the Danish Social-Democratic Party, has passed on to the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies a message inviting all the socialist parties in Russia to attend an international socialist conference. Owing to Denmark’s proximity to Germany, Borgbjerg was able to communicate with the German Social-Democrats, mainly with the ’majority’ faction, and the committee learned from him the peace terms which the official Social-Democratic Party of Germany would consider acceptable, and which its representatives would propose to the conference.
“These terms are:
“First of all they subscribe to the principles laid down by the Scandinavian and Dutch socialists at the 1915 conference, namely, the self-determination of nations, an obligatory international court of arbitration, and the demand for gradual disarmament. To this they add that the German Social-Democrats will urge that:
“1. All territories seized by Germany and her allies be restored;
“2. Russian Poland be granted full freedom to declare its independence or to remain a part of Russia;
“3. Belgium be restored as a fully independent state;
“4. Similarly, Serbia, Montenegro and Rumania be restored to the status of independent states;
“5. Bulgaria be given the Bulgarian districts of Macedonia, and Serbia be given access to the Adriatic.
“As regards Alsace-Lorraine, a peaceful agreement could be envisaged to rectify Lorraine’s frontiers; as far as the Poles of Poznan are concerned, the Germans will insist on their obtaining autonomy of national culture.”
There is not a shadow of doubt that this proposal comes from the German Government, who does not act directly, but resorts to the services of the Danish Plekhanovs, since German agents are obviously no good for this purpose. That is what social-chauvinists are for—to carry out such commissions. Our job is, on behalf of the seventy thousand workers of the proletarian party represented at this conference, to show them up to the whole world and reveal the motives they are trying to conceal. We must publish a detailed resolution, have it translated into foreign languages, and thus give these gentlemen the rebuff they deserve for daring to approach a socialist party. (Reads the draft resolution.)
The socialist papers this morning are silent. They know what they are about. They know that silence is golden. Only Rabochaya Gazeta publishes an article, which manages to say nothing in many words.
The Russian Government, more than anyone else, May rest assured that we are dealing here with an agent of the German Government.
What with all this shouting about the liberation of Alsace-Lorraine, we should remind those gentlemen that the whole question is simply one of lucre, since there is immense wealth in Alsace-Lorraine, and the German capitalists are fighting the French capitalists for the division of the booty. It is good for them to have the Plekhanovs say that the liberation of Alsace-Lorraine is a sacred cause. When the German social-chauvinists therefore talk about a peaceful rectification of the frontiers of Alsace-Lorraine, they mean a peaceful division of the spoil between the French and the German imperialists.
One thing more I must add. I forgot to mention that the German representatives of the “Centre”—Kautsky, Haase, and Ledebour—have agreed to this conference. This is a most shameful thing. The British and French socialists have refused to attend the conference. This shows that the Anglo-French chauvinists, who call themselves socialists, are really agents of the bourgeoisie, because they are instrumental in continuing the imperialist war despite the tremendous efforts made by the German socialist majority through Borgbjerg; for, without a doubt, the German Government is saying through Borgbjerg: the situation is such that I am forced to return your booty to you (the German colonies in Africa). This is confirmed by the fact that the situation in Germany is desperate; the country is on the brink of ruin; to carry on the war now is a hopeless task. That is why they say they are ready to give up almost all the booty, for they still hope to be able to carve something out for themselves. The diplomats communicate freely with each other, and the bourgeois papers, when writing of foreign affairs, fool the people with phrase-mongering.
There is no doubt that when the British and French social-chauvinists said they were not going to the conference, they already knew all about it. They must have gone to their Foreign Offices where they were told: Such and such is the state of affairs, we don’t want you to go there. That, I am sure, is how matters stood.
If the Russian soldiers receive this resolution—and that, I think, should be done in the name of the seventy thousand members of our Party—they will really begin to see through the whole shady affair which has been concealed from them. They will see then that Germany is unable to carry on her war of conquest, and that the Allies only aim at utterly crushing and robbing Germany. It cannot be denied that Borgbjerg is an agent of the German Government.
This, comrades, is the reason why I think we must expose this socialist congress comedy. All these congresses are nothing but comedies designed to cover up the deals made by the diplomats behind the backs of the masses. Once and for all we must tell the truth for all the soldiers at the front and all the workers of the world to hear. Our campaign with regard to such proposals will serve, on the one hand, to explain our proletarian policy, and, on the other, it will be mass action on a scale never heard of before. I ask you, therefore, to adopt this declaration, forward it to the Executive Committee, translate it into foreign languages, and publish it in tomorrow’s Pravda.
5. Resolution On Borgbjerg’s Proposal[edit source]
Pravda No. 41, May 9 (April 26), 1917
Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes
In connection with the arrival of the Danish “socialist” Borgbjerg and his invitation to attend a congress of socialists in support of peace, which the German socialists of the Scheidemann and Plekhanov orientation propose on the basis of Germany renouncing most of her annexed territories, the Conference resolves:
Borgbjerg speaks on behalf of three Scandinavian parties—the Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian. He received his mandate from the Swedish party headed by Branting, a socialist who has gone over to the side of “his own” bourgeoisie and betrayed the revolutionary union of the world’s workers. We cannot recognise this Swedish party as a socialist party. The only socialist party in Sweden we recognise is the youth party headed by Hoglund, Lindhagen, Strom, Carleson, and others.
Neither do we consider the Danish party, from which Borgbjerg has his mandate, a socialist party, because it is headed by Stauning, a member of the bourgeois cabinet. Stauning’s joining the bourgeois cabinet evoked a protest on the part of a group headed by Comrade Trier, which left the party, declaring that the Danish Socialist Party had become a bourgeois party.
Borgbjerg, on his own admission, is acting in accord with Scheidemann and other German socialists who have defected to the German Government and the German bourgeoisie.
There can be no doubt, therefore, that Borgbjerg, directly or indirectly, is really an agent of the German imperialist government.
In view of this, the Conference considers the idea of our Party’s attendance at a conference which includes Borgbjerg and Scheidemann to be unacceptable in principle, since our task is to unite, not direct or indirect agents of the various imperialist governments, but the workers of all countries, who, already during the war, have begun a revolutionary fight against their own imperialist governments.
Only a meeting and closer contact with these parties and groups are capable of effectively promoting the cause of peace.
We warn the workers against placing their trust in the conference which is being organised by Borgbjerg, because this conference of pseudo-socialists will merely be a comedy to cover up the deals the diplomats are clinching behind its back, deals which involve an interchange of annexations by which Armenia, for example, will be “given” to the Russian capitalists, and Britain will be “given” the colonies she has robbed Germany of, while probably “ceding” to the German capitalists by way of compensation part of the Lorraine ore-bearing territories containing immense wealth in excellent iron ores, etc.
The socialists cannot, without betraying the proletarian cause, take part directly or indirectly in this dirty huckstering and haggling among the capitalists of various countries over the division of the loot.
at the same time the Conference considers that the German capitalists have not, even through the mouth of Borgbjerg, renounced all their annexations, not to mention the immediate withdrawal of their troops from the territories which they have seized. Germany’s Danish regions, her Polish territories, and her French part of Alsace are as much annexations of the German capitalists as Kurland, Finland, Poland, Ukraine, etc., are of the Russian tsars and the Russian capitalists.
As to restoring Poland’s independence, this is deception on the part of the German and Austrian capitalists as well as the Russian Provisional Government, which speaks of a so-called “free” military alliance between Poland and Russia. To ascertain the real will of the people in all the annexed territories it is necessary that all troops should be withdrawn and the opinion of the population be given free expression. Only such a measure applied to the whole of Poland (that is, not only to the part the Russians have seized, but also the part the Germans and Austrians have seized) and to the whole of Armenia, etc., would be a step towards translating the governments’ promises into deeds.
The Conference, further, takes note of the fact that the British and French socialists, who have gone over to the side of their capitalist governments, have refused to attend the conference sponsored by Borgbjerg. This fact clearly demonstrates that the Anglo-French imperialist bourgeoisie, whose agents these pseudo-socialists are, wish to continue, wish to drag out this imperialist war without even desiring to discuss the concessions which the German imperialist bourgeoisie, under pressure of growing exhaustion, hunger, economic ruin, and—most important of all—the impending workers’ revolution in Germany, are compelled to promise through the medium of Borgbjerg.
The Conference resolves to give all these facts the widest possible publicity, and, in particular, to bring them to the notice of the Russian soldiers at the front in the fullest possible detail. The Russian soldiers must learn that the Anglo-French capitalists, followed by the Russian, are dragging out the war, ruling out even such a conference to discuss peace terms.
The Russian soldiers must learn that the watchword “War to a victorious finish” now serves as a screen for Britain’s bid to strengthen her domination in Baghdad and in Germany’s African colonies, for the striving of the Russian capitalists to plunder and subdue Armenia and Persia, etc., for the striving to bring about Germany’s complete defeat.
The Russian soldiers at the front must arrange voting in every military unit, in every regiment, in every company, on the question whether they want the war to be dragged out like this by the capitalists, or whether they want it to be speedily terminated by having all power in the state pass wholly and exclusively into the hands of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.
The party of the proletariat in Russia will attend a conference and enter into a fraternal union with only such workers’ parties of other countries as are waging a revolutionary struggle in their own countries for all state power passing to the proletariat.
6. Speech on the Attitude Towards the Soviets April 25 (May 8)[edit source]
BRIEF PRESS REPORT
Pravda No. 42, April 27 (May 10), 1917
Published according to the the text in Pravda
Comrade Lenin pointed out that the French revolution passed through a phase of municipal revolution, that it drew its strength from the local organs of self-government, which became its mainstay. In the Russian revolution we observe a certain bureaucratism in the centres, and a greater exercise of power wielded by the Soviets locally, in the provinces. In the capital cities the Soviets are politically more dependent upon the bourgeois central authorities than those in the provinces. In the centres it is not so easy to take control of production; in the provinces this has already been carried out to some extent. The inference is—to strengthen the local Soviets. Progress in this respect is possible, coming primarily from the provinces.
7. Draft Theses to the Resolution on the Soviets[edit source]
Written April 25–26 (May 8-9), 1917
First published in 1925 Lenin Miscellany IV
Published according to the manuscript
In a number of local, especially working-class, centres the role of the Soviets has proved to be a particularly important one. They hold undivided power. The bourgeoisie has been disarmed and reduced to complete submission; wages have been raised, and the hours of work reduced without lowering production; food supplies are ensured; control over production and distribution has been initiated; all the old authorities have been displaced; the revolutionary initiative of the peasants is encouraged both on the question of power (the dismissal of the old and setting up of new authorities) and on the question of the land.
In the capital and certain large centres a reverse tendency is to be observed. The Soviets are less proletarian in their make-up, the influence of the petty-bourgeois elements in the executive committees is incomparably wider, and there is—especially in the commissions—“co-operation with the bourgeoisie”, who curbs the revolutionary initiative of the masses, bureaucratises the revolutionary movement of the masses and their revolutionary aims, and blocks all revolutionary measures that are liable to affect the capitalists.
It is quite natural and inevitable that after the fullest development of revolutionary energy in the capital, where the people and especially the workers had borne the greatest sacrifices in overthrowing tsarism—in the capital, where the central state power had been overthrown and the most centralised power of capital had given maximum power to the capitalists—the power of the Soviets (and the power of the proletariat) proved to be weak, the problem of developing the revolution very difficult, the transition to a new stage of the revolution extremely hard, and the resistance of the bourgeoisie stronger than anywhere else.
Hence: so long as the main effort in the capital cities and the large centres still has to be directed towards building up forces for completing the second stage of the revolution, in the local areas the revolution can and should be advanced by direct action, by the exercise of undivided power by the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, by developing the revolutionary energy of the worker and peasant mass, by establishing control over the production and distribution of products, and so on.
The following trend of the revolution can be traced: (1) removal of the old government in the centre; (2) seizure of power by the bourgeoisie in view of the proletariat’s unpreparedness for tackling colossal tasks of nation-wide importance; (3) development of the revolution locally; (4) in local areas and particularly in the proletarian centres—communes and development of revolutionary energy of the masses; (5) the land—seizure of it, etc.; (6) factories; control over them; (7) undivided power; (8) local, municipal revolution going forward; (9) bureaucratisation, submission to the bourgeoisie in the centre.
Conclusions: (α) 1: build-up in the centre (build-up of forces for a new revolution);
(β) 2: advance the revolution (power? land? factories?) in the local areas;
(γ) 3: communes locally, i.e.
(α α) complete local autonomy; self-established;
(β β) without police, without government officials, full power by armed worker and peasant masses;
(δ) 4: combat bureaucratising and bourgeois-placating influence of the petty-bourgeois elements;
(ε) 5: gather local experience for prodding the centre: local areas become a model.
(σ) 6: bring home to the mass of workers, peasants, and soldiers that the reason for the revolution’s success locally is undivided power and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
(η) 7: in the centre, of course, it is more difficult, takes more time.
+ (ι) 8: development of the revolution by way of communes formed out of suburbs and blocks in the large cities....
(χ) 9: transformation (in the capital cities, etc.) into “servants of the bourgeoisie”.
8. Speech in Favour of the Resolution on the War April 27 (May 10)[edit source]
A brief report published May 12 (April 29), 1917 in Pravda No. 44
First published in full in 1921 in N. Lenin (V. Ulyanov), Works, Volume XIV, Part 2
Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes
Comrades, the original draft resolution on the war was read by me at the City Conference. Because of the crisis that absorbed the attention and energy of all our comrades in Petrograd, we were unable to amend the draft. Since yesterday, however, the committee working on it has made satisfactory progress: the draft has been changed, considerably shortened and, in our opinion, improved.
I wish to say a few words about the construction of this resolution. It consists of three parts. The first is devoted to a class analysis of the war; it also contains our statement of principles explaining why our Party warns against placing any trust in promises made by the Provisional Government, as well as against any support for that government. The second part of the resolution deals with the question of revolutionary defencism as an extremely broad mass movement which has now united against us the overwhelming majority of the nation. Our task is to define the class significance of this revolutionary defencism, its essence, and the real balance of forces, and find a way to fight this trend. The third part of the resolution deals with the question of how to end the war. This practical question, which is of supreme importance to our Party, required a detailed answer. We think that we have succeeded in meeting this requirement satistactorily. The articles in Pravda and numerous articles on the war published in provincial newspapers (the latter reach us very irregularly) because the postal service is disorganised, and we have to take every convenient opportunity of getting them for the Central Committee) reveal a negative attitude towards the war and the loan. I think that the vote against the loan settled the question as to our opposition to revolutionary defencism. I do not think it is possible to go into greater detail on this.
“The present war is, on the part of both groups of the belligerent powers, an imperialist war, i. e., one waged by the capitalists for the division of the profits obtained from world domination; for markets for finance (banking) capital, for the subjugation of the weaker nationalities, etc.”
The primary and basic issue is the meaning of the war, a question of a general and political character, a moot question which the capitalists and the social-chauvinists carefully evade. This is why we must put this question first, with this addition to it:
“Each day of war enriches the financial and industrial bourgeoisie and impoverishes and saps the strength of the proletariat and the peasantry of all the belligerents, as well as of the neutral countries. In Russia, moreover, prolongation of the war involves a grave danger to the revolution’s gains and its further development.
“The passing of state power in Russia to the Provisional Government, a government of the landowners and capitalists, did not and could not alter the character and meaning of the war as far as Russia is concerned.”
The words I have just read to you are of great importance in all our propaganda and agitation. Has the class character of the war changed now? Can it change? Our reply is based on the fact that power has passed to the landowners and capitalists, the same government that had engineered this war. We then pass on to one of the facts that reveal most clearly the character of the war. Class character as expressed by the entire policy carried on for decades by definite classes is one thing, the obvious class character of the war is another.
“This fact was most strikingly demonstrated when the new government not only failed to publish the secret treaties between Tsar Nicholas II and the capitalist governments of Britain, France, etc., but even formally and without consulting the nation confirmed these secret treaties, which promise the Russian capitalists a free hand to rob China, Persia, Turkey, Austria, etc. By concealing these treaties from the people of Russia the latter are being deceived as to the true character of the war.”
And so, I emphasise again, we are pointing out one particularly striking confirmation of the character of the war. Even if there were no treaties at all, the character of the war would be the same because groups of capitalists can very often come to an agreement without any treaties. But the treaties exist and their implications are apparent. For the purpose of co-ordinating the work of our agitators and propagandists, we think this fact should be especially emphasised, and so we have made a special point of it. The people’s attention is and should be called to this fact, all the more so as the treaties were concluded by the tsar, who has been overthrown. The people ought to be made aware that the present governments are carrying on the war on the basis of treaties concluded between the old governments. This, I feel, makes the contradictions between the capitalist interests and the will of the people stand out most strikingly, and it is for the propagandists to expose these contradictions, to draw the people’s attention to them, to strive to explain them to the masses by appealing to their class-consciousness. The contents of these treaties leave no room for doubt that they promise enormous profits to the capitalists to be derived from robbing other countries. That is why they are always kept secret. There is not a republic in the world whose foreign policy is conducted in the open. It is fatuous, while the capitalist system exists, to expect the capitalists to open up their ledgers. While there is private ownership of the means of production, there is bound to be private ownership of shares and financial operations. The corner-stone of contemporary diplomacy is financial operations, which amount to robbing and strangling the weak nationalities. These, we believe, are the fundamental premises upon which the evaluation of the war rests. Proceeding from these premises we conclude that: “For this reason, no proletarian party that does not wish to break completely. with internationalism, i. e., with the fraternal solidarity of the workers of all countries in their struggle against the yoke of capital, can support the present war, or the present government, or its loans.”
This is our chief and basic conclusion. It determines our whole tactics and sets us apart from all the other parties, no matter how socialistic they claim to be. This proposition, which is irrefutable to all of us, predetermines our attitude towards all the other political parties.
The next point concerns the wide use which our government is making of promises. These promises are the object of a prolonged campaign by the Soviets, which have become muddled by these promises, and which are trying the people’s patience. We, therefore, consider it necessary to add to our purely objective analysis of the class relations an analysis of those promises, promises which in themselves have, of course, no significance to a Marxist, but which mean a great deal to the people, and mean even more in politics. The Petrograd Soviet has become muddled by these promises, has given weight to them by promising its support. This is the reason why we add the following statement to this point:
“No trust can be placed in the present government’s promises to renounce annexations, i. e., conquests of foreign countries or retention by force of any nationality within the confines of Russia.”
“Annexation” being a foreign word, we give it an exact political definition, such as neither the Cadets nor the petty-bourgeois democratic parties (the Narodniks and Mensheviks) can give. Few words have been used so meaninglessly and slovenly.
“For, in the first place, the capitalists, bound together by the thousand threads of banking capital, cannot renounce annexations in this war without renouncing the profits from the thousands of millions invested in loans, concessions, war industries, etc. And secondly, the new government, after renouncing annexations to mislead the people, declared through Milyukov (Moscow, April 9, 1917) that it had no intention of renouncing them, and, in the Note of April 18 and its elucidation of April 22, confirmed the expansionist character of its policy.
“Therefore, in warning the people against the capitalists’ empty promises, the Conference declares that it is necessary to make a clear distinction between a renunciation of annexations in word and a renunciation of annexations in deed, i. e., the immediate publication and abrogation of all the secret, predatory treaties and the immediate granting to all nationalities of the right to determine by free voting whether they wish to be independent states or to be part of another state.”
We have found it necessary to mention this, because the question of peace without annexations is the basic issue in all these discussions of peace terms. All parties recognise that peace will become the alternative, and that peace with annexations will be an unheard-of catastrophe for all countries. In a country where there is political liberty, the question of peace cannot be placed before the people otherwise than in terms of peace without annexations. It is therefore necessary to declare for peace without annexations, and so the only thing to do is to lie by wrapping up the meaning of annexations or evading the question altogether. Rech, for instance, cries that the return of Kurland means renunciation of annexations. When I was addressing the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, a soldier handed me a slip of paper with the following question: “We have to fight to win back Kurland. Does winning back Kurland mean that you stand for annexations?” I had to reply in the affirmative. We are against Germany annexing Kurland, but we are also against Russia holding Kurland by force. For example, our government has issued a manifesto proclaiming the independence of Poland. This manifesto, chock-full of meaningless phrases, states that Poland must form a free military alliance with Russia. These three words contain the whole truth. A free military alliance of little Poland with huge Russia is, in point of fact, complete military subjection of Poland. Poland May be granted political freedom but her boundaries will be determined by the military alliance.
If we fight for the Russian capitalists keeping possession of the former annexed territories of Kurland and Poland, then the German capitalists have the right to rob Kurland. They May argue this way: we looted Poland together. at the end of the eighteenth century, when we began to tear Poland to pieces, Prussia was a very small and weak country while Russia was a giant, and therefore she grabbed more. Now we have grown and it is our intention, if you please, to snatch a larger share. You can say nothing against this capitalist logic. In 1863 Japan was a mere nothing in comparison with Russia, but in 1905 Japan thrashed Russia. From 1863 to 1873 Germany was a mere nothing in comparison with Britain, but now Germany is stronger than Britain. The Germans May argue: we were weak when Kurland was taken from us, but we have now grown stronger than you, and we wish to take it back. Not to renounce annexations means to justify endless wars over the conquest of weaker nationalities. To renounce annexations means to let each nation determine freely whether it wants to live separately or together with others. Of course, for this purpose, armies must be with drawn. To show the slightest hesitation on the question of annexations means to justify endless wars. It follows that we could allow no hesitation on this question. With regard to annexations, our answer is that nations must be free to make their own decisions. How can we secure economic freedom alongside this political freedom? To accomplish this, power must pass into the hands of the proletariat and the yoke of capital must be overthrown.
I now pass on to the second part of the resolution.
“The ’revolutionary defencism”, which in Russia has now permeated all the Narodnik parties (the Popular Socialists, Trudoviks, and Socialist-Revolutionaries), the opportunist party of the Menshevik Social-Democrats (the Organising Committee, Chkheidze, Tsereteli, etc.), and the majority of the non-party revolutionaries, reflects, in point of class significance, the interests and point of view of the well-to-do peasants and a part of the small proprietors, who, like the capitalists, profit by oppressing weak peoples. on the other hand, revolutionary defencism is a result of the deception by the capitalists of a part of the urban and rural proletariat and semi-proletariat, who, by their class position, have no interest in the profits of the capitalists and in the imperialist war.”
Consequently, our task here is to determine from what sections of society this defencist tendency could emerge. Russia is the most petty-bourgeois country in the world, and the upper sections of the petty bourgeoisie are directly interested in continuing the war. The well-to-do peasants, like the capitalists, are profiting by the war. on the other hand, the mass of proletarians and semi-proletarians have no interest in annexations because they make no profit on banking capital. How, then, have these classes come to adopt the position of revolutionary defencism? Their attitude towards revolutionary defencism is due to the influence of capitalist ideology, which the resolution designates by the word “deception”. They are unable to differentiate between the interests of the capitalists and the interests of the country. Hence we conclude:
“The Conference recognises that any concessions to revolutionary defencism are absolutely impermissible and virtually signify a complete break with internationalism and socialism. As for the defencist tendencies among the broad masses, our Party will fight against these tendencies by ceaselessly explaining the truth that the attitude of unreasoning trust in the government of the capitalists, at the moment, is one of the chief obstacles to a speedy termination of the war.”
The last words express the specific feature that sharply distinguishes Russia from the other Western capitalist countries and from all capitalist democratic republics. For it cannot be said of those countries that the trustfulness of the unenlightened masses there is the chief cause of the prolongation of the war. The masses there are now in the iron grip of military discipline. The more democratic the republic, the stronger discipline is, since law in a republic rests on “the will of the people”. Owing to the revolution there is no such discipline in Russia. The masses freely elect representatives to the Soviets, which is something that does not exist now anywhere else in the world. But the masses have unreasoning trust, and are therefore used for the purposes of the struggle. So far we can do nothing but explain. Our explanations must deal with the immediate revolutionary tasks and methods of action. When the masses are free, any attempts to act in the name of a minority, without explaining things to the masses, would be senseless Blanquism, mere adventurism. Only by winning over the masses, if they can be won, can we lay a solid foundation for the victory of the proletarian class struggle.
I now pass on to the third part of the resolution:
“In regard to the most important question of all, namely, how to end the present capitalist war as soon as possible, not by a coercive peace, but by a truly democratic peace, the Conference recognises and declares the following:
“This war cannot be ended by a refusal of the soldiers of one side only to continue the war, by a simple cessation of hostilities by one of the belligerents.”
The idea of terminating the war in this way has been attributed to us over and over again by persons who wish to win an easy victory over their opponents by distorting the latter’s views—a typical method used by the capitalists, who ascribe to us the absurd idea of wishing to end the war by a one-sided refusal to fight. They say “the war cannot be ended by sticking your bayonet in the ground”, to quote a soldier, a typical revolutionary defencist. This is no argument, I say. The idea that the war can be terminated without changing the classes in power is an anarchist idea. Either this idea is anarchistic, in which case it has no meaning, no state significance, or it is a hazy pacifist idea that fails completely to appreciate the connection between politics and the oppressing class. War is an evil, peace is a blessing....Certainly this idea must be made clear to the people, must be popularised. Incidentally, all our resolutions are being written for leading Party members, for Marxists, and do not make reading matter for the masses. But they must serve as unifying and guiding political principles for every propagandist and agitator. To meet this requirement, one more paragraph was added to the resolution:
“The Conference reiterates its protest against the base slander spread by the capitalists against our Party to the effect that we are in favour of a separate peace with Germany. We consider the German capitalists to be as predatory as the Russian, British, French, and other capitalists, and Emperor Wilhelm as bad a crowned brigand as Nicholas II or the British, Italian, Rumanian, and all other monarchs.”
On this point there was some disagreement in the committee, some maintaining that in this passage our language became too popular, others, that the British, Italian. and Rumanian monarchs did not deserve the honour of being mentioned. After a detailed discussion, however, we all agreed that, since our present aim is to refute all the slanders which Birzhevka has tried to spread against us rather crudely, Rech more subtly, Yedinstvo by direct implication, we must, on a question of this nature, come out with a most sharp and trenchant criticism of these ideas, having in mind the broadest masses of the people. Asked why we do not help to over throw Wilhelm if we consider him a brigand, we can say that the others, too, are brigands, that we ought to fight against them as well, that one must not forget the kings of Italy and Rumania, that brigands can also be found among our Allies. These two paragraphs are intended to combat the slander, which is meant to lead to riot-mongering and squabbling. This is the reason why we must now pass on to the serious practical question of how to terminate the war.
“Our Party will patiently but persistently explain to the people the truth that wars are waged by governments, that wars are always indissolubly bound up with the policies of definite classes, that this war can be terminated by a democratic peace only if the entire state power, in at least several of the belligerent countries, has passed to the class of the proletarians and semi-proletarians which is really capable of putting an end to the oppressive rule of capital.”
To a Marxist these truths—that wars are waged by the capitalists and are bound up with the capitalists’ class interests—are absolute truths. A Marxist need not dwell on that. But as far as the masses are concerned, skilful agitators and propagandists should be able to explain this truth simply, without using foreign words, for with us discussions usually degenerate into empty and futile squabbling. The explaining of this truth is what we have been trying to do in every part of the resolution. We say that in order to understand what the war is about, you must ask who gains by it; in order to understand how to put an end to the war, you must ask which classes do not gain by it. The connection here is clear, hence we conclude:
“In Russia, the revolutionary class, having taken state power, would adopt a series of measures that would lead to the destruction of the economic rule of the capitalists, as well as measures that would render them completely harmless politically, and would immediately and frankly offer to all nations a democratic peace on the basis of a complete renunciation of every possible form of annexation.”
Once we speak in the name of the revolutionary class, the people have the right to ask: and what about you, what would you do in their place to end the war? This is an inevitable question. The people are electing us now as their representatives, and we must give a very precise answer. The revolutionary class, having taken power, would set out to undermine the rule of the capitalists, and would then offer to all nations well-defined peace terms, because, unless the economic rule of the capitalists is undermined, all we can have are scraps of paper. Only a victorious class can accomplish this, can bring about a change in policy.
I repeat: to bring this truth home to the uneducated mass, we need intermediate links that would help to introduce this question to them. The mistake and falsehood of popular literature on the war is the evasion of this question; it ignores this question and presents the matter as if there had been no class struggle, as if two countries had lived amicably until one attacked the other, and the attacked has been defending itself. This is vulgar reasoning in which there is not a shadow of objective truth, and which is a deliberate deception of the people by educated persons. If we approach this question properly, anyone would be able to grasp the essential point; for the interests of the ruling classes are one thing, and the interests of the oppressed classes are another.
What would happen if the revolutionary class took power?
“Such measures and such a frank offer of peace would bring about complete confidence of the workers of the belligerent countries in each other....”
Such confidence is impossible now, and the words of manifestos will not create it. Where the philosopher once said that speech has been given to man to enable him to conceal his thoughts, the diplomats always say: “Conferences are held to deceive the people.” Not only the capitalists, but the socialists too reason this way. This particularly applies to the conference which Borgbjerg is calling.
“...and would inevitably lead to uprisings of the proletariat against those imperialist governments as might resist the offered peace.”
Nobody now believes the capitalist government when it says: “We are for peace without annexations.” The masses have the instinct of oppressed classes which tells them that nothing has changed. Only if the policy were actually changed in one country, confidence would appear and attempts at uprisings would be made. We speak of “uprisings” because we are now discussing all countries. To say “a revolution has taken place in one country, so now it must take place in Germany”—is false reasoning. There is a tendency to form an order of sequence, but this cannot be done. We all went through the revolution of 1905. We all heard or witnessed how that revolution gave birth to revolutionary ideas throughout the world, a fact which Marx constantly referred to. Revolutions cannot be made, they cannot be taken in turns. A revolution cannot be made to order—it develops. This form of charlatanism is now frequently being practised in Russia. The people are told: You in Russia have made a revolution, now it is the Germans’ turn. If the objective conditions change, then an uprising is inevitable, but we do not know whose turn it will be, when it will take place, and with what degree of success. We are asked: If the revolutionary class takes power in Russia, and if no uprisings break out in other countries, what will the revolutionary party do? What will happen then? This question is answered in the last paragraph of our resolution.
“Until the revolutionary class in Russia takes the entire state power, our Party will do all it can to support those proletarian parties and groups abroad that are in fact, already during the war, conducting a revolutionary struggle against their imperialist governments and their bourgeoisie.”
This is all that we can promise and must do now. The revolution is mounting in every country, but no one knows to what extent it is mounting and when it will break out. In every country there are people who are carrying on a revolutionary struggle against their governments. They are the people, the only people, we must support. This is the real thing—all else is falsehood. And so we add:
“Our Party will particularly support the mass fraternisation of the soldiers of all the belligerent countries that has already begun at the front....”
This is to meet Plekhanov’s argument: “What will come of it? Suppose you do fraternise, then what? Does this not suggest the possibility of a separate peace at the front?” This is jiggery-pokery, not a serious argument. We want fraternisation on all fronts, and we are taking pains to encourage it. When we worked in Switzerland, we published an appeal in two languages, with French on one side and German on the other, urging those soldiers to do the same thing we are now urging the Russian soldiers to do. We do not confine ourselves to fraternisation between German and Russian soldiers, we call upon all to fraternise. This, then, is what we mean by fraternisation:
“...endeavouring to turn this instinctive expression of solidarity of the oppressed into a politically-conscious movement as well organised as possible for the transfer of all state power in all the belligerent countries to the revolutionary proletariat.”
Fraternisation, so far, is instinctive, and we must not deceive ourselves on this score. We must admit this in order not to delude the people. The fraternising soldiers are actuated not by a clear-cut political idea but by the instinct of oppressed people, who are tired, exhausted and begin to lose confidence in capitalist promises. They say: “While you keep on talking about peace—we have been hearing it now for two and a half years—we shall start things moving ourselves.” This is a true class instinct. Without this instinct the cause of the revolution would be hopeless. As you know, nobody would free the workers if they did not free themselves. But is instinct alone sufficient? You would not get far if you rely on instinct alone. This instinct must be transformed into political awareness.
In our “Appeal to the Soldiers of All the Belligerent Countries” we explain into what this fraternisation should develop—into the passing of political power to the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. Naturally, the German workers will call their Soviets by a different name, but this does not matter. The point is that we undoubtedly recognise as correct that fraternisation is instinctive, that we do not simply confine ourselves to encouraging fraternisation, but set ourselves the task of turning this instinctive fraternisation of workers and peasants in soldiers’ uniforms into a politically-conscious movement, whose aim is the transfer of power in all the belligerent countries into the hands of the revolutionary proletariat. This is a very difficult task, but the position in which humanity finds itself under capitalist rule is tremendously difficult, too, and leads to destruction. This is why it will call forth that explosion of discontent which is the guarantee of proletarian revolution.
This is our resolution, which we submit for consideration to the Conference.
9. Resolution on the War[edit source]
Pravda No. 44, April 29 (May 12), 1917
Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes verified with the text in Pravda
The present war is, on the part of both groups of the belligerent powers, an imperialist war, i. e., one waged by the capitalists for the division of the profits obtained from world domination, for markets for finance (banking) capital, for the subjugation of the weaker nationalities, etc. Each day of war enriches the financial and industrial bourgeoisie and impoverishes and saps the strength of the proletariat and the peasantry of all the belligerents, as well as of the neutral countries. In Russia, moreover, prolongation of the war involves a grave danger to the revolution’s gains and its further development.
The passing of state power in Russia to the Provisional Government, a government of the landowners and capitalists, did not and could not alter the character and meaning of the war as far as Russia is concerned.
This fact was most strikingly demonstrated when the new government not only failed to publish the secret treaties between Tsar Nicholas II and the capitalist governments of Britain, France, etc., but even formally and without consulting the nation confirmed these secret treaties, which promise the Russian capitalists a free hand to rob China, Persia, Turkey, Austria, etc. By concealing these treaties from the people of Russia the latter are being deceived as to the true character of the war.
For this reason, no proletarian party that does not wish to break completely with internationalism, i. e., with the fraternal solidarity of the workers of all countries in their struggle against the yoke of capital, can support the present war, or the present government, or its loans.
No trust can be placed in the present government’s promises to renounce annexations, i. e., conquests of foreign countries or retention by force of any nationality within the confines of Russia. For, in the first place, the capitalists, bound together by the thousand threads of banking capital, cannot renounce annexations in this war without renouncing the profits from the thousands of millions invested in loans, concessions, war industries, etc. And secondly, the new government, after renouncing annexations to mislead the people, declared through Milyukov (Moscow, April 9, 1917) that it had no intention of renouncing them, and, in the Note of April 18 and its elucidation of April 22, confirmed the expansionist character of its policy. Therefore, in warning the people against the capitalists’ empty promises, the Conference declares that it is necessary to make a clear distinction between a renunciation of annexations in word and a renunciation of annexations in deed, i. e., the immediate publication and abrogation of all the secret, predatory treaties and the immediate granting to all nationalities of the right to determine by free voting whether they wish to be independent states or to be part of another state.
The “revolutionary defencism”, which in Russia has now permeated all the Narodnik parties (the Popular Socialists, Trudoviks, and Socialist-Revolutionaries), the opportunist party of the Menshevik Social-Democrats (the Organising Committee, Chkheidze, Tsereteli, etc.), and the majority of the non-party revolutionaries, reflects, in point of class significance, the interests and point of view of the well-to-do peasants and a part of the small proprietors, who, like the capitalists, profit by oppressing weak peoples. on the other hand, “revolutionary defencism” is a result of the deception by the capitalists of a part of the urban and rural proletariat and semi-proletariat, who, by their class position, have no interest in the profits of the capitalists and in the imperialist war.
The Conference recognises that any concessions to “revolutionary defencism” are absolutely impermissible and virtually signify a complete break with internationalism and socialism. As for the defencist tendencies among the broad masses, our Party will fight against these tendencies by ceaselessly explaining the truth that the attitude of unreasoning trust in the government of the capitalists, at the moment, is one of the chief obstacles to a speedy termination of the war.
In regard to the most important question of all, namely, how to end the present capitalist war as soon as possible, not by a coercive peace, but by a truly democratic peace, the Conference recognises and declares the following:
This war cannot be ended by a refusal of the soldiers of one side only to continue the war, by a simple cessation of hostilities by one of the belligerents.
The Conference reiterates its protest against the base slander spread by the capitalists against our Party to the effect that we are in favour of a separate peace with Germany. We consider the German capitalists to be as predatory as the Russian, British, French, and other capitalists, and Emperor Wilhelm as bad a crowned brigand as Nicholas II or the British, Italian, Rumanian, and all other monarchs.
Our Party will patiently but persistently explain to the people the truth that wars are waged by governments, that wars are always indissolubly bound up with the policies of definite classes, that this war can be terminated by a democratic peace only if the entire state power, in at least several of the belligerent countries, has passed to the class of the proletarians and semi-proletarians which is really capable of putting an end to the oppressive rule of capital.
In Russia, the revolutionary class, having taken state power, would adopt a series of measures that would undermine the economic rule of the capitalists, as well as measures that would render them completely harmless politically, and would immediately and frankly offer to all nations a democratic peace on the basis of a complete renunciation of every possible form of annexation and indemnity. Such measures and such a frank offer of peace would bring about complete confidence of the workers of the belligerent countries in each other and would inevitably lead to uprisings of the proletariat against those imperialist governments as might resist the offered peace.
Until the revolutionary class in Russia takes the entire state power, our Party will do all it can to support those proletarian parties and groups abroad that are in fact, already during the war, conducting a revolutionary struggle against their imperialist governments and their bourgeoisie. Our Party will particularly support the mass fraternisation of the soldiers of all the belligerent countries that has already begun at the front, endeavouring to turn this instinctive expression of solidarity of the oppressed into a politically conscious movement as well organised as possible for the transfer of all state power in all the belligerent countries to the revolutionary proletariat.
10. Resolution on the Attitude Towards the Provisional Government[edit source]
Pravda No. 42, May 10 (April 27), 1917
Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes
The All-Russia Conference of the RSDLP recognises that:
1. The Provisional Government, by its class character, is the organ of landowner and bourgeois domination;
2. The Provisional Government and the classes it represents are bound with indissoluble economic and political ties to Russian and Anglo-French imperialism;
3. The Provisional Government is carrying out its proclaimed programme only partially, and only under pressure of the revolutionary proletariat and, to some extent, of the petty bourgeoisie;
4. The forces of bourgeois and landowner counter-revolution, now being organised, have already, under cover of the Provisional Government and with the latter’s obvious connivance, launched an attack on revolutionary democracy: thus the Provisional Government is avoiding fixing the date for the elections to the Constituent Assembly, preventing the arming of the people as a whole, opposing the transfer of all the land to the people, foisting upon it the landowners’ way of settling the agrarian question, obstructing the introduction of an eight-hour workday, condoning counter-revolutionary propaganda in the army (by Guchkov and Co.), rallying the high-ranking officers against the soldiers, etc.;
5. The Provisional Government, protecting the profits of the capitalists and landowners, is incapable of taking a number of revolutionary economic measures (food supply, etc.) which are absolutely and urgently necessary in view of the impending economic catastrophe;
6. This government, at the same time, is relying at present on the confidence of, and on an actual agreement with, the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, which is still the leading organisation for the majority of workers and soldiers, i. e., peasants;
7. Every step of the Provisional Government, in both its domestic and foreign policies, is bound to open the eyes of the urban and rural proletarians and semi-proletarians and force various sections of the petty bourgeoisie to choose between one and the other political line.
Considering the above, the Conference resolves that:
1. Extensive work has to be done to develop proletarian class-consciousness and to unite the urban and rural proletarians against the vacillations of the petty bourgeoisie, for only work of this nature can serve as a sure guarantee of the successful transfer of the entire state power into the hands of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies or other organs directly expressing the will of the majority of the people (organs of local self-government, the Constituent Assembly, etc.);
2. This calls for many-sided activity within the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, for work aimed at increasing the number of these Soviets, consolidating their power, and welding together our Party’s proletarian internationalist groups in the Soviets;
3. In order immediately to consolidate and widen the gains of the revolution in the local areas, it is necessary, with the backing of a solid majority of the local population, in every way to develop, organise, and strengthen its independent actions aimed at implementing liberties, dismissing the counter-revolutionary authorities, introducing economic measures, such as control over production and distribution, etc.;
4. The political crisis of April 19–21 precipitated by the Note of the Provisional Government has shown that the government party of the Constitutional-Democrats, which is organising counter-revolutionary elements both in the army and in the streets, is now making attempts to shoot down the workers. In view of the unstable situation arising from the dual power, the repetition of such attempts is inevitable, and it is the duty of the party of the proletariat to tell the people as forcibly as possible that, in order to avert the seriously threatening danger of such mass shootings of the proletariat as took place in Paris in the June days of 1848, it is necessary to organise and arm the proletariat, to establish the closest alliance between the proletariat and the revolutionary army, to break with the policy of confidence in the Provisional Government.
11. Report on the Question of Revising the Party Programme April 28 (May 11)[edit source]
A brief report published May 13 (April 30), 1917 in Pravda No. 45
First published in full in 1921 in N. Lenin (V. Ulyanov), Works, Volume XIV, Part 2
Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes
Comrades, this is how the question of revising the Party Programme now stands. The first draft of proposed changes in the doctrinal part of our programme and in a number of basic points in its political part was submitted to the committee. The whole programme must be revised as being utterly obsolete—a fact that was pointed out in Party circles long before the war. It appears, however, that there is not the slightest hope for discussing the proposed changes of the programme as a whole. On the other hand, the committee has come to the unanimous conclusion that a revision of the programme is absolutely essential, and that in a number of questions it is possible and necessary to indicate the direction in which such revision should be made. We have therefore agreed on the following draft resolution which I am going to read to you now, making brief comments as I go along. We have decided not to put forward precisely formulated theses at the present time, but merely to indicate along what lines this revision should be carried out.
(Reads the resolution.)
“The Conference considers it necessary to revise the Party Programme along the following lines:
“1. Evaluating imperialism and the epoch of imperialist wars in connection with the approaching socialist revolution; fighting against the distortion of Marxism by the ‘defencists’, who have forgotten Marx’s slogan—‘The working men have no country’.”
This is so clear that it requires no explanation. As a matter of fact our Party’s policy has advanced considerably and, practically speaking, has already taken the stand proposed in this formulation.
“2. Amending the theses and clauses dealing with the state; such amendment is to be in the nature of a demand for a democratic proletarian-peasant republic (i. e., a type of state functioning without police, without a standing army, and without a privileged bureaucracy), and not for a bourgeois parliamentary republic.”
Other formulations of this point had been proposed. One of them mentioned the experience of the Paris Commune and the experience of the period between the seventies and the eighties, but such a formulation is unsatisfactory and too general; another spoke about a republic of Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies, but this formulation, too, was considered unsatisfactory by most of the comrades. A formulation, however, is needed; the point is not what an institution is called, but what its political character and structure is. By saying “proletarian-peasant republic”, we indicate its social content and political character.
“3. Eliminating or amending what is out of date in the political programme.”
Practically speaking, our general political activities in the Soviets have gone along these lines; therefore, there can hardly be room for doubt that the change in this particular point of the programme and the precise formulation of our estimate of the moment in which the revolution found our Party, is not likely to provoke any disagreements.
“4. Altering a number of points in the political minimum programme, so as to state more consistent democratic demands with greater precision.
“5. Completely changing the economic part of the minimum programme, which in very many places is out of date, and points relating to public education.”
The main thing here is that these points have become out of date; the trade union movement has outstripped them.
“6. Revising the agrarian programme in accordance with the adopted resolution on the agrarian question.
“7. Inserting a demand for nationalisation of a number of syndicates, etc., now ripe for such a step.”
A careful formulation has been chosen here, which can be narrowed or widened, depending upon what drafts will appear in print.
“8. Adding an analysis of the main trends in modern socialism.”
An addendum like this was made to the Communist Manifesto.
“The Conference instructs the Central Committee to work out, within two months, on the basis of the above suggestions, a draft for the Party Programme which is to be submitted for approval to the Party congress. The Conference calls upon all organisations and all Party members to consider drafts of the programme, to correct them, and to work out counter-drafts.”
It has been pointed out that it would be desirable to set up a scientific body and create a literature dealing with this subject, but we have neither the men nor the means for this. This is the resolution that should help in the speedy revision of our programme. This resolution will be forwarded abroad to enable our internationalist comrades to take part in revising the programme, which our Party has undertaken on the basis of the experience of the world war.
The new Party programme draft was completed after the October Revolution. The programme was adopted at the Eighth Congress of the RCP(b) in March 1919.
12. Resolution on the Question of Revising the Party Programme[edit source]
Supplement to Soldatskaya Pravda No. 13 May 16 (3), 1917
Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes
The Conference considers it necessary to revise the Party Programme along the following lines:
1. Evaluating imperialism and the epoch of imperialist wars in connection with the approaching socialist revolution; fighting against the distortion of Marxism by the “defencists”, who have forgotten Marx’s slogan—“The working men have no country”;
2. Amending the theses and clauses dealing with the state; such amendment is to be in the nature of a demand for a democratic proletarian-peasant republic (i. e., a type of state functioning without police, without a standing army, and without a privileged bureaucracy), and not for a bourgeois parliamentary republic;
3. Eliminating or amending what is out of date in the political programme;
4. Altering a number of points in the political minimum programme, so as to state more consistent democratic demands with greater precision;
5. Completely changing the economic part of the minimum programme, which in very many places is out of date, and points relating to public education;
6. Revising the agrarian programme in accordance with the adopted resolution on the agrarian question;
7. Inserting a demand for nationalisation of a number of syndicates, etc., now ripe for such a step;
8. Adding an analysis of the main trends in modern socialism.
The Conference instructs the Central Committee to work out, within two months, on the basis of the above suggestions, a draft for the Party Programme which is to be submitted for approval to the Party congress. The Conference calls upon all organisations and all Party members to consider drafts of the programme, to correct them, and to work out counter-drafts.
13. Report on the Agrarian Question April 28 (May 11)[edit source]
A brief report published May 13 (April 30), 1917 in Pravda No. 45
First published in full in 1921 in N. Lenin (V. Ulyanov), Works, Volume XIV, Part 2
Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes
Comrades, the agrarian question was threshed out so thoroughly by our Party during the first revolution that by this time, I think, our ideas on the subject are pretty well defined. Indirect proof of this is to be found in the fact that the committee of the Conference composed of comrades interested and fully versed in this subject have agreed on the proposed draft resolution without making any substantial corrections. I shall therefore confine myself to very brief remarks. And since all members have proof-sheets of the draft, there is no need to read it in full.
The present growth of the agrarian movement throughout Russia is perfectly obvious and undeniable. Our Party Programme, proposed by the Mensheviks and adopted by the Stockholm Congress in 1906, was refuted even in the course of the first Russian revolution. At that Congress the Mensheviks succeeded in getting their programme of municipalisation adopted. The essence of their programme was as follows: the peasant lands, communal and homestead, were to remain the property of the peasants while the landed estates were to be taken over by local self-government bodies. One of the Mensheviks’ chief arguments in favour of such a programme was that the peasants would never understand the transfer of peasant land to anyone but themselves. Anyone acquainted with the Minutes of the Stockholm Congress will recollect that this argument was particularly stressed both by Maslov, who made the report, and by Kostrov. We should not forget, as is often done nowadays, that this happened before the First Duma, when there was no objective information about the character of the peasant movement and its strength. Everyone knew that Russia was aflame with the agrarian revolution, but no one knew how the agrarian movement would be organised, or in what direction the peasant revolution would develop. It was impossible to check whether the opinions expressed by the Congress were the real and practical views held by the peasants themselves. This was why the Mensheviks’ argument had carried such weight. Soon after the Stockholm Congress, we received the first serious indication of how the peasants viewed this question.In both the First and the Second Dumas, the peasants themselves put forward the Trudovik “Bill of the 104”. I made a special study of the signatures to this bill, carefully studied the views of the various deputies, their class affiliations, and the extent to which they may be called peasants. I stated categorically in my book, which was burned by the tsarist censor but which I will republish, that the overwhelming majority of these 104 signatories were peasants. That bill called for the nationalisation of the land. The peasants said that the entire land would become the property of the state.
How, then, are we to account for the fact that in both Dumas the deputies representing the peasants of all Russia preferred nationalisation to the measure proposed in both Dumas by the Mensheviks from the point of view of the peasants’ interests? The Mensheviks proposed that the peasants retain the ownership of their own lands, and that only the landed estates should be given to the people; the peasants, however, maintained that the entire land should be given to the people. How are we to account for this? The Socialist-Revolutionaries say that owing to their commune organisation the Russian peasants favour socialisation, the labour principle. All this phraseology is absolutely devoid of common sense, it is nothing but words. But how are we to account for this? I think the peasants came to this conclusion because all landownership in Russia, both peasants’ and landowners’, communal and homestead, is permeated with old, semi-feudal relationships, and the peasants, considering market conditions, had to demand the transfer of the land to all the people. The peasants say that the tangle of old agrarian life can only be unravelled by nationalisation. Their point of view is bourgeois; by equalitarian land tenure they mean the confiscation of the landed estates, but not the equalisation of individual proprietors. By nationalisation they mean an actual reallotment of all the land among the peasants. This is a grand bourgeois project. No peasant spoke about equalisation or socialisation; but they all said it was impossible to wait any longer, that all the land had to be cleared,in other words, that farming could not be carried on in the old way under twentieth-century conditions. The Stolypin Reform has since then confused the land question still more. That is what the peasants have in mind when they demand nationalisation. It means a reallotment of all the land. There are to be no varied forms of landownership. There is not the slightest suggestion of socialisation. This demand by the peasants is called equalitarian because, as a brief summary of the statistics relating to land holdings in 1905 shows, 300 peasant families held as much land (2,000 dessiatines) as one landowner’s family. In this sense it is, of course, equalitarian, but it does not imply that all small farms are to be equalised. The Bill of the 104 shows the opposite.
These are the essential points that have to be made in order to give scientific support to the view that nationalisation in Russia, as far as bourgeois democracy is concerned, is necessary. But it is also necessary for another reason—it deals a mighty blow at private ownership of the means of production. It is simply absurd to imagine that after the abolition of private property in land everything in Russia will remain as before.
Then follow some practical conclusions and demands. of the minor amendments in the draft I shall call attention to the following. The first point reads: “The party of the proletariat will support with all its might the immediate and complete confiscation of all landed estates....” Instead of “will support” we ought to say “will fight for”....Our point of view is not that the peasants have not enough land and that they need more. That is the current opinion. We say that the landed estates are the basis of oppression that crushes the peasants and keeps them backward. The question is not whether the peasants have or have not enough land. Down with serfdom!—this is the way the issue should be stated from the point of view of the revolutionary class struggle, and not from the point of view of those officials who try to figure out how much land they have and by what norms it should be allotted. I suggest that the order of points 2 and 3 should be reversed, because, to us, the thing that matters is revolutionary initiative, and the law must be the result of it. If you wait until the law is written, and yourselves do not develop revolutionary initiative, you will have neither the law nor the land.
People very often object to nationalisation because, they say, it requires a colossal bureaucratic apparatus. That is true, but state landownership implies that every peasant is leasing the land from the state. The subletting of leaseholds is prohibited. But the question of how much and what kind of land the peasant shall lease must be entirely settled by the proper democratic, not bureaucratic, organ of authority.
For “farm-hands” we substitute “agricultural labourers”. Several comrades declared that the word “farm-hand” was offensive; objections were raised to this word. It should be deleted.
We should not speak now of proletarian-peasant committees or Soviets in connection with the settlement of the land question, for, as we see, the peasants have set up Soviets of Soldiers’ Deputies, thus creating a division between the proletariat and the peasantry.
The petty-bourgeois defencist parties, as we know, stand for the land question being put off until the Constituent Assembly meets. We are for the immediate transfer of the land to the peasants in a highly organised manner. We are emphatically against anarchic seizing of land. You propose that the peasants enter into agreements with the landowners. We say that the land should be taken over and cultivated right now if we wish to avert famine, to save the country from the debacle which is advancing upon it with incredible speed. One cannot now accept the prescriptions offered by Shingaryov and the Cadets, who suggest waiting for the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, the date of which has not been fixed yet, or making arrangements with the landowners for renting land. The peasants are already seizing the land without paying for it, or paying only a quarter of the rent.
One comrade has brought a local resolution, from Penza Gubernia, saying that the peasants are seizing the landowners’ agricultural implements, which however they do not divide among the households, but convert into common property. They are establishing a definite order of sequence, a rule, for using these implements to cultivate all the land. In resorting to such measures, they are guided by the desire to increase agricultural production. This is a matter of principle of tremendous significance, for all that the landowners and capitalists shout about it being anarchy. But if you are going to chatter and shout about this being anarchy, while the peasants sit back and wait, then you will indeed have anarchy. The peasants have shown that they understand farming conditions and social control better than the government officials, and apply such control a hundred times more efficiently. Such a measure, which is doubtless quite practicable in a small village, inevitably leads to more sweeping measures. When the peasant comes to learn this—and he has already begun to learn it—the knowledge of bourgeois professors will not be needed; he will himself come to the conclusion that it is essential to utilise the agricultural implements, not only in the small farms, but for the cultivation of all the land. How they do this is unimportant. We do not know whether they combine their individual plots for common ploughing and sowing or not, and it does not matter if they do it differently. What does matter is that the peasants are fortunate in not having to face a large number of petty-bourgeois intellectuals, who style themselves Marxists and Social-Democrats, and with a grave mien lecture the people about the time not yet being ripe for a socialist revolution and that therefore the peasants must not take the land immediately. Fortunately there are few such gentlemen in the Russian countryside. If the peasants contented themselves merely with taking the land by arrangement with the landowners, and failed to apply their experience collectively, failure would be inevitable, and the peasant committees would become a mere toy, a meaningless game. This is why we propose to add Point 8 to the draft resolution.
Once we know that the local peasants have themselves taken this initiative, it is our duty to say that we approve and recommend this initiative. Only this can serve as a guarantee that the revolution will not be limited to formal measures, that the struggle against the crisis will not remain a mere subject for departmental discussion and Shingaryov’s epistles, but that the peasants will actually go ahead in an organised way to combat famine and to increase production.
14. Rejoinder to N. S. Angarsky During the Debate on the Agrarian Question April 28 (May 11)[edit source]
First published in 1921 in N. Lenin (V. Ulyanov), Works, Volume XIV, Part 2
Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes
Comrades, it seems to me that Comrade Angarsky is indulging in several contradictions. I speak about the material foundation of the urge towards nationalisation. The peasants have no idea of nationalisation. I say that the conditions of an all-Russia and international market exist, and this is expressed in the high prices of grain. Every peasant sees, knows, and feels the fluctuations of these prices, and farming has to conform to these conditions, to these prices. I say that the old landownership and the new farming system have absolutely diverged and this divergence explains why the peasants are pressing onward. The peasant is a proprietor, Comrade Angarsky says. Quite right. Stolypin wanted to use this as a basis for changing agrarian relations, he tried his hardest, but he failed, because such changes cannot be brought about without a revolutionary break-up. This, then, is the material foundation of the peasants’ urge towards the nationalisation of the land, although they are completely ignorant as to the real meaning of nationalisation. The peasant proprietor is instinctively inclined to maintain that the land is God’s, because it has become impossible to live under the old conditions of landownership. What Comrade Angarsky is proposing is a sheer misunderstanding. The second paragraph says that peasant landownership is fettered all round, from top to bottom, by old semi-feudal ties and relationships. But does it say anything about the landed estates? It does not. Comrade Angarsky’s amendment is based on a misapprehension. He has ascribed to me things I never said, things the peasants have no idea about. The peasants know the world situation by the prices of grain and consumer goods, and if a railway runs through his village, the peasant feels its effect through his own farm. To live the old way is impossible—that’s what the peasant feels, and he expresses this feeling in a radical demand for the abolition of the old system of landownership. The peasant wants to be a proprietor, but he wants to be one on reallocated land; he wants to farm land the ownership of which is conditioned by his present requirements, and not by those which were prescribed for him by officials. The peasant knows this perfectly well, but expresses it differently, of course, and it is this that forms the material foundation of his urge towards the nationalisation of the land.
15. Resolution on the Agrarian Question[edit source]
Pravda No. 45, May 13 (April 30), 1917
Published according to the text of the proof-sheets with Lenin’s corrections
The existence of landed estates in Russia is the material mainstay of the power of the feudalist landowners and a guarantee of the possible restoration of the monarchy. This system of landownership necessarily condemns the great mass of Russia’s population, the peasantry, to pauperism, bondage, and a downtrodden existence, and the entire country to backwardness in every sphere of life.
Peasant landownership in Russia, both of allotment land (communal and homestead) and private land (leased or purchased), is fettered all round, from top to bottom, by old semi-feudal ties and relationships, by the division of the peasants into categories inherited from the time of serfdom, by the open field system, and so on, and so forth. The need for breaking down all these antiquated and harmful restrictions, for “clearing” the land; and reconstructing and readjusting all the relations of landownership and agriculture to the new conditions of Russian and world economy, forms the material foundation of the peasants’ urge towards the nationalisation of all the land in the state.
Whatever the petty-bourgeois utopias in which all Narodnik parties and groups array the struggle of the peasant masses against feudalist big landownership and all the feudal fetters of the entire system of landownership and land tenure in Russia, that struggle is itself an expression of a thoroughly bourgeois-democratic, undoubtedly progressive, and economically essential striving resolutely to break all those fetters.
Nationalisation of the land, though being a bourgeois measure, implies freedom for the class struggle and freedom of land tenure from all non-bourgeois adjuncts to the greatest possible degree conceivable in a capitalist society. Moreover, nationalisation of the land, representing as it does the abolition of private ownership of land, would, in effect, deal such a powerful blow to private ownership of all the means of production in general that the party of the proletariat must facilitate such a reform in every possible way.
On the other hand, the well-to-do peasants of Russia long ago evolved the elements of a peasant bourgeoisie, and the Stolypin agrarian reform has undoubtedly strengthened, augmented, and reinforced these elements. At the other pole of the rural population, the agricultural wage workers, the proletarians, and the mass of semi-proletarian peasantry, who stand close to the proletarians, have likewise gained in strength and numbers.
The more determined and consistent the break-up and elimination of the landed estates and the more determined and consistent the bourgeois-democratic agrarian reform in Russia in general, the more vigorous and speedy will be the development of the class struggle of the agricultural proletariat against the well-to-do peasants (the peasant bourgeoisie) [kulaks].
The fate and the outcome of the [February] Russian revolution—unless the incipient proletarian revolution in Europe exercises a direct and powerful influence on our country—will depend on whether the urban proletariat succeeds in rallying the rural proletariat together with the mass of rural semi-proletarians behind it, or whether this mass follows the lead of the peasant bourgeoisie, which is gravitating towards an alliance with Guchkov and Milyukov, with the capitalists and landowners, and towards the counter-revolution in general.
In view of this class situation and balance of forces the Conference resolves that:
1) The party of the proletariat will fight with all its might for the immediate and complete confiscation of all landed estates in Russia (and also crown lands, church lands, etc., etc.);
2) The party will vigorously advocate the immediate transfer of all lands to the peasantry organised in Soviets of Peasants Deputies, or in other organs of local self-government elected in a really democratic way and entirely independent of the landowners and officials;
3) The party of the proletariat demands the nationalisation of all the land in the country; nationalisation, which signifies the transfer of the right of ownership of all land to the state, vests the right of administering the land in local democratic institutions;
4) The party must wage a determined struggle, on the one hand, against the Provisional Government, which, both through the mouth of Shingaryov and by its collective utterances, is trying to force the peasants to come to a “voluntary agreement with the landowners”, i. e., is trying virtually to impose upon them a reform which suits the interests of the landowners, and is threatening the peasants with punishment for “arbitrary action”, that is, with the use of violence by a minority of the population (the landowners and capitalists) against the majority; on the other hand, against the petty-bourgeois vacillations of the majority of the Narodniks and the Menshevik Social-Democrats, who are advising the peasants not to take all the land pending the convocation of the Constituent Assembly;
5) The party advises the peasants to take the land in an organised way, not allowing the slightest damage to property, and taking measures to increase production;
6) Agrarian reforms, by and large, can be successful and durable only provided the whole state is democratised, i. e., provided, on the one hand, the police, the standing army, and the privileged bureaucracy are abolished, and provided, on the other, there exists a system of broad local self-government completely free from supervision and tutelage from above;
7) The separate and independent organisation of the agricultural proletariat must be undertaken immediately and everywhere, both in the form of Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies (as well as of separate Soviets of deputies of the semi-proletarian peasantry) and in the form of proletarian groups or factions within the general Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies, in all local and municipal government bodies, etc.,
8) The party must support the initiative of those peasant committees which in a number of localities in Russia are handing over the livestock and agricultural implements of the landowners to the peasants organised in those committees, to be used in a socially regulated manner for the cultivation of all the land;
9) The party of the proletariat must advise the rural proletarians and semi-proletarians to strive to convert every landed estate into a fair-sized model farm to be run on public lines by the Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies under the direction of agricultural experts and with the application of the best technique.
16. Resolution on Uniting the Internationalists Against the Petty-Bourgeois Defencist Bloc[edit source]
Pravda No. 46, May 2 (15), 1917
Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes
Taking into consideration:
(1) that the parties of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, Menshevik Social-Democrats, etc., have, in the great majority of cases, adopted the stand of “revolutionary defencism”, that is, support of the imperialist war (voting in favour of the loan and supporting the Provisional Government which represents the interests of Capital);
(2) that these parties in all their policies defend the interests and point of view of the petty bourgeoisie and corrupt the proletariat with bourgeois influence by trying to persuade it that it is possible, by means of agreements, “control”, participation in the cabinet, etc., to change the government’s imperialist policy and divert it from the path of counter-revolutionary encroachments on liberty;
(3) that this policy encourages and enhances the attitude of unreasoning trust on the part of the masses towards the capitalists, an attitude which constitutes the chief obstacle to the further development of the revolution, and a possible source of the revolution’s defeat by the landowner and bourgeois counter-revolution,
the Conference resolves that:
(1) unity with parties and groups which are pursuing such a policy is absolutely impossible;
(2) closer relations and unity with groups and trends that have adopted a real internationalist stand are necessary on the basis of a definite break with the policy of petty-bourgeois betrayal of socialism.
17. Resolution on the Soviets of Workers’ And Soldiers’ Deputies[edit source]
Pravda No. 46, May 15 (2), 1917
Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes
The Conference has discussed the reports and communications of comrades working in the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies in different parts of Russia and states that:
In many provincial areas the revolution is progressing in the following way: the proletariat and the peasantry, on their own initiative, are organising Soviets and dismissing the old authorities; a proletarian and peasant militia is being set up; all lands are being transferred to the peasants; workers’ control over the factories and the eight-hour day have been introduced and wages have been increased; production is being maintained, and workers control the distribution of food, etc.
This growth of the revolution in the provinces in depth and scope is, on the one hand, the growth of a movement for transferring all power to the Soviets and putting the workers and peasants themselves in control of production. on the other hand, it serves as a guarantee for the build-up of forces, on a national scale, for the second stage of the revolution, which must transfer all state power to the Soviets or to other organs directly expressing the will of the majority of the nation (organs of local self-government, the Constituent Assembly, etc.).
In the capitals and in a few other large cities the task of transferring state power to the Soviets is particularly difficult and requires an especially long period of preparation of the proletariat’s forces. This is where the largest forces of the bourgeoisie are concentrated, where a policy of compromise with the bourgeoisie is most strongly in evidence, a policy which often holds back the revolutionary initiative of the masses and weakens their independence; this is particularly dangerous in view of the leading role of these Soviets for the provinces.
It is, therefore, the task of the proletarian party, on the one hand, to support in every possible way the indicated development of the revolution locally, and, on the other to conduct a systematic struggle within the Soviets (by means of propaganda and new elections) for the triumph of the proletarian line. The party must concentrate all its efforts and all its attention on winning over the mass of workers and soldiers, and must draw a line between the policy of the proletariat and that of the petty bourgeoisie, between the internationalist policy and the defencist policy, between the revolutionary and the opportunist policy. The party must organise and arm the workers and build up their forces for the next stage of the revolution.
The Conference repeats that it is necessary to carry out many-sided activity within the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, to increase the number of Soviets, to consolidate their power, and to weld together our Party’s proletarian internationalist groups within the Soviets.
18. Speech on the National Question April 29 (May 12)[edit source]
A brief report published May 15 (2), 1917 in Pravda No. 46
First published in full in 1921 in N. Lenin (V. Ulyanov), Works, Volume XIV, Part 2
Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes
Beginning from 1903, when our Party adopted its programme, we have been encountering violent opposition on the part of the Polish comrades. If you study the Minutes of the Second Congress you will see that they were using the same arguments then that they are using now, and that the Polish Social-Democrats walked out from that Congress because they held that recognition of the right of nations to self-determination was unacceptable to them. Ever since then we have been coming up against the same question. Though imperialism already existed in 1903, the Polish Social-Democrats made no mention of it in their arguments. They are making the same strange and monstrous error now as they were then. These people want to put our Party’s stand on a par with that of the chauvinists.
Owing to long oppression by Russia, Poland’s policy is a wholly nationalist one, and the whole Polish nation is obsessed with one idea—revenge on the Muscovites. No one has oppressed the Poles more than the Russian people, who served in the hands of the tsars as the executioner of Polish freedom. In no nation does hatred of Russia sit so deep as with the Poles; no nation dislikes Russia so intensely as the Poles. As a result we have a strange thing. Because of the Polish bourgeoisie, Poland has become an obstacle to the socialist movement. The whole world could go to the devil so long as Poland was free. Of course, this way of putting the question is a mockery of internationalism. Of course, Poland is now a victim of violence, but for the Polish nationalists to count on Russia liberating Poland—that would be treason to the International. The Polish nationalists have so imbued the Polish people with their views that this is how the situation is regarded in Poland.
The Polish Social-Democratic comrades have rendered a great historic service by advancing the slogan of internationalism and declaring that the fraternal union of the proletariat of all countries is of supreme importance to them and that they will never go to war for the liberation of Poland. This is to their credit, and this is why we have always regarded only these Polish Social-Democrats as socialists. The others are patriots, Polish Plekhanovs. But this peculiar position, when, in order to safeguard socialism, people were forced to struggle against a rabid and morbid nationalism, has produced a strange state of affairs: comrades come to us saying that we must give up the idea of Poland’s freedom, her right to secession.
Why should we Great Russians, who have been oppressing more nations than any other people, deny the right to secession for Poland, Ukraine, or Finland? We are asked to become chauvinists, because by doing so we would make the position of Social-Democrats in Poland less difficult. We do not pretend to seek to liberate Poland, because the Polish people live between two states that are capable of fighting. Instead of telling the Polish workers that only those Social-Democrats are real democrats who maintain that the Polish people ought to be free, since there is no place for chauvinists in a socialist party, the Polish Social-Democrats argue that, just because they find the union with Russian workers advantageous, they are opposed to Poland’s secession. They have a perfect right to do so. But people don’t want to understand that to strengthen internationalism you do not have to repeat the same words. What you have to do is to stress, in Russia, the freedom of secession for oppressed nations and, in Poland, their freedom to unite. Freedom to unite implies freedom to secede. We Russians must emphasise freedom to secede, while the Poles must emphasise freedom to unite.
We notice here a number of sophisms involving a complete renunciation of Marxism. Comrade Pyatakov’s stand repeats that of Rosa Luxemburg.... (Holland is an example.) This is how Comrade Pyatakov reasons, and this is how he refutes himself, for in theory he denies freedom of secession, but to the people he says that anyone opposing freedom of secession is not a socialist. Comrade Pyatakov has been saying things here that are hopelessly muddled. In Western Europe most countries settled their national questions long ago. It is Western Europe that is referred to when it is said that the national question has been settled. Comrade Pyatakov, however, puts this where it does not belong—to Eastern Europe, and we find ourselves in a ridiculous position.
Just think of the dreadful mess that results! Finland is right next door to us. Comrade Pyatakov has no definite answer for Finland and gets all mixed up. In yesterday’s Rabochaya Gazeta you read that the movement for separation is growing in Finland. Finns arriving here tell us that separatism is growing there because the Cadets refuse to grant the country complete autonomy. A crisis is approaching there, dissatisfaction with Governor-General Rodichev is rife, but Rabochaya Gazeta writes that the Finns should wait for the Constituent Assembly, because an agreement will there be reached between Finland and Russia. What do they mean by agreement? The Finns must declare that they are entitled to decide their destiny in their own way, and any Great Russian who denies this right is a chauvinist. It would be another thing if we said to the Finnish worker: Decide what is best for yourself....
Comrade Pyatakov simply rejects our slogan, saying that it means giving no slogan for the socialist revolution, but he himself gives no appropriate slogan. The method of socialist revolution under the slogan “Down with frontiers” is all muddled up. We have not succeeded in publishing the article in which I called this view “Imperialist Economism”. What does the “method” of socialist revolution under the slogan “Down with frontiers” mean? We maintain that the state is necessary, and a state presupposes frontiers. The state, of course, may hold a bourgeois government, but we need the Soviets. But even Soviets are confronted with the question of frontiers. What does “Down with frontiers” mean? It is the beginning of anarchy....The “method” of socialist revolution under the slogan “Down with frontiers” is simply a mess. When the time is ripe for socialist revolution, when it finally occurs, it will spread to other countries. We shall help it along, but in what manner, we do not know. “The method of socialist revolution” is just a meaningless phrase. We stand for the settlement of problems which the bourgeois revolution has left unsolved. Our attitude to the separatist movement is indifferent, neutral. If Finland, Poland or Ukraine secede from Russia, there is nothing bad in that. What is wrong with it? Anyone who says that is a chauvinist. One must be mad to continue Tsar Nicholas’s policy. Didn’t Norway secede from Sweden? Alexander I and Napoleon once bartered nations, the tsars once traded Poland. Are we to continue this policy of the tsars? This is repudiation of the tactics of internationalism, this is chauvinism at its worst. What is wrong with Finland seceding? After the secession of Norway from Sweden mutual trust increased between the two peoples, between the proletariat of these countries. The Swedish landowners wanted to start a war, but the Swedish workers refused to be drawn into such a war.
All the Finns want now is autonomy. We are for Finland receiving complete freedom, because then there will be greater trust in Russian democracy and the Finns will not separate. While Mr. Rodichev goes to Finland to haggle over autonomy, our Finnish comrades come here and say, “We want autonomy.” But what they get is a broadside, and the answer: “Wait for the Constituent Assembly.” But we say: “Any Russian socialist who denies Finland freedom is a chauvinist.”
We say that frontiers are determined by the will of the [local] population. Russia, don’t you dare fight over Kurland! Germany, get your armies out of Kurland! That is how we solve the secession problem. The proletariat cannot use force, because it must not prevent the peoples from obtaining their freedom. Only when the socialist revolution has become a reality, and not a method, will the slogan “Down with frontiers” be a correct slogan. Then we shall say: Comrades, come to us....
War is a different matter entirely. If need be, we shall not draw the line at a revolutionary war. We are not pacifists.... When we have Milyukov sitting here and sending Rodichev to Finland to shamefully haggle with the Finnish people,we say to the Russian people: Don’t you dare coerce Finland; no nation can be free that oppresses other nations. In the resolution concerning Borgbjerg we say: Withdraw your troops and let the nation settle the question itself. But, if the Soviet takes over power tomorrow, that will not be a “method of socialist revolution”, and we shall then say: Germany, get your troops out of Poland, and Russia, get your troops out of Armenia. If we did otherwise we should be deceiving people.
Comrade Dzerzhinsky tells us that in his oppressed Poland everybody is a chauvinist. But not a single Pole has said a word about Finland or Ukraine. We have been arguing over this so much since 1903 that it is becoming difficult to talk about it. Do as you please....Anyone who does not accept this point of view is an annexationist and a chauvinist. We are for a fraternal union of all nations. If there is a Ukrainian republic and a Russian republic, there will be closer contact and greater trust between the two. If the Ukrainians see that we have a Soviet republic, they will not secede, but if we have a Milyukov republic, they will. When Comrade Pyatakov said in self-contradiction that he is against the forcible retention of nations within the frontiers, he actually recognised the right of nations to self-determination. We certainly do not want the peasant in Khiva to live under the Khan of Khiva. By developing our revolution we shall influence the oppressed people. Propaganda among the oppressed mass must follow only this line.
Any Russian socialist who does not recognise Finland’s and Ukraine’s right to freedom will degenerate into a chauvinist. And no sophisms or references to his “method” will ever help him to justify himself.
19. Resolution on the National Question[edit source]
Supplement to Soldatskaya Pravda No. 13, May 16 (3), 1917
Published according to the manuscript
The policy of national oppression, inherited from the autocracy and monarchy; is maintained by the landowners, capitalists, and petty bourgeoisie in order to protect their class privileges and to cause disunity among the workers of the various nationalities. Modern imperialism, which increases the tendency to subjugate weaker nations, is a new factor intensifying national oppression.
The elimination of national oppression, if at all achievable in capitalist society, is possible only under a consistently democratic republican system and state administration that guarantee complete equality for all nations and languages.
The right of all the nations forming part of Russia freely to secede and form independent states must be recognised. To deny them this right, or to fail to take measures guaranteeing its practical realisation, is equivalent to supporting a policy of seizure or annexation. Only the recognition by the proletariat of the right of nations to secede can ensure complete solidarity among the workers of the various nations and help to bring the nations closer together on truly democratic lines.
The conflict which has arisen at the present time between Finland and the Russian Provisional Government strikingly demonstrates that denial of the right to free secession leads to a direct continuation of the policy of tsarism.
The right of nations freely to secede must not be confused with the advisability of secession by a given nation at a given moment. The party of the proletariat must decide the latter question quite independently in each particular case, having regard to the interests of social development as a whole and the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat for socialism.
The Party demands broad regional autonomy, the abolition of supervision from above, the abolition of a compulsory official language, and the fixing of the boundaries of the self-governing and autonomous regions in accordance with the economic and social conditions, the national composition of the population, and so forth, as assessed by the local population itself.
The party of the proletariat emphatically rejects what is known as “national cultural autonomy”, under which education, etc., is removed from the control of the state and put in the control of some kind of national diets. National cultural autonomy artificially divides the workers living in one locality, and even working in the same industrial enterprise, according to their various “national cultures”; in other words, it strengthens the ties between the workers and the bourgeois culture of their nations, whereas the aim of the Social-Democrats is to develop the international culture of the world proletariat.
The party demands that a fundamental law be embodied in the constitution annulling all privileges enjoyed by any one nation and all infringements of the rights of national minorities.
The interests of the working class demand that the workers of all nationalities in Russia should have common proletarian organisations: political, trade union, co-operative educational institutions, and so forth. Only the merging of the workers of the various nationalities into such common organisations will make it possible for the proletariat to wage a successful struggle against international Capital and bourgeois nationalism.
20. Speech on the Situation within the International and the Tasks of the RSDLP(b) April 29 (May 12)[edit source]
A brief report published May 13 (2), 1917 in Pravda No. 46
First published in full in 1925 in the book The Petrograd City and the All-Russia Conferences of the RSDLP(b), April 1917
Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes
When Grimm invited us to the conference, I refused to go, because I realised that it would be useless to talk to people who stood for social-chauvinism. We say: “No participation with social-chauvinists.” We come and address ourselves to the Zimmerwald Left. Grimm had a moral and formal right to draw up today’s resolution. His right was based on Kautsky in Germany, on Longuet in France. This is how the matter stands officially: Grimm has announced, “We will disband our bureau, as soon as Huysmans organises a bureau.” When we said that such a solution was not acceptable to Zimmerwald, he agreed, but said “this is the opinion of the majority”—and that was true.
As to our visit. “We shall get information, we shall get in touch with the Zimmerwald Left,” it is claimed. There is very little hope of our winning over anybody else. Let us have no illusions; first, the visit will not take place; second, if it does, it will be our last; third, we cannot, for technical reasons, win over the elements that wish to break with the social-chauvinists. But let Comrade Nogin make the first and Comrade Zinoviev the last visit to Stockholm. As for me, I express the very legitimate wish that this “last-visit” attempt should be made as quickly and successfully as possible.
21. Speech in Favour of the Resolution on the Current Situation April 29 (May 12)[edit source]
First published in 1925 in the book The Petrograd City and the All-Russia Conferences of the RSDLP(B), April 1917
Published according to the manuscript copy of the Minutes
In the resolution on the current situation it would be wrong to speak only of Russian conditions. The war has bound us together so inseparably that it would be a great mistake on our part to ignore the sum total of international relations.
The main question dealt with in the resolution is this: what tasks will confront the Russian proletariat in the event of the world movement raising the issue of a social revolution?
“The objective conditions for a socialist revolution, which undoubtedly existed even before the war in the more developed and advanced countries, have been ripening with tremendous rapidity as a result of the war. Small and middle enterprises are being squeezed out and ruined at a faster rate than ever. The concentration and internationalisation of capital are making gigantic strides; monopoly capitalism is developing into state monopoly capitalism. In a number of countries regulation of production and distribution by society is being introduced by force of circumstances. Some countries are introducing universal labour conscription.”
Before the war we had the monopoly of trusts and syndicates; since the war we have had a state monopoly. Universal labour conscription is something new, something that constitutes part of a socialist whole—this is often over looked by those who fear to examine the concrete situation.
The first part of the resolution concentrates on an analysis of the conditions of capitalist economy throughout the world. It is noteworthy that twenty-seven years ago Engels pointed out that to describe capitalism as something that “is distinguished by its planlessness” and to overlook the role played by the trusts was unsatisfactory. Engels remarked that “when we come to the trust, then planlessness disappears”, though there is capitalism. This remark is all the more pertinent today, when we have a military state, when we have state monopoly capitalism. Planning does not make the worker less of a slave, but it enables the capitalist to make his profits “according to plan”. Capitalism is now evolving directly into its higher, regulated, form.
The second part of the resolution needs no explanations.
The third part requires more detailed comment. (Reads the resolution.)
“Operating as it does in one of the most backward countries of Europe amidst a vast population of small peasants, the proletariat of Russia cannot aim at immediately putting into effect socialist changes.
“But it would be a grave error, and in effect even a complete desertion to the bourgeoisie, to infer from this that the working class must support the bourgeoisie, or that it must keep its activities within limits acceptable to the petty bourgeoisie, or that the proletariat must renounce its leading role in the matter of explaining to the people the urgency of taking a number of practical steps towards socialism for which the time is now ripe.”
From the first premise it is customary to make the conclusion that “Russia is a backward country, a peasant, petty-bourgeois country, therefore there can be no question of a social revolution”. People forget, however, that the war has placed us in extraordinary circumstances, and that side by side with the petty bourgeoisie we have Big Capital. But what are the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies to do when they assume power? Should they go over to the bourgeoisie? Our answer is—the working class will continue its class struggle.
What is possible and what is necessary under the power of the Soviets?
First of all, the nationalisation of the land. Nationalisation of the land is a bourgeois measure, it does not exclude capitalism, nor does capitalism exclude it, but the blow it will deal to private property will be a heavy one. Further (reads on):
“the establishment of state control over all banks, and their amalgamation into a single central bank; also control over the insurance agencies and big capitalist syndicates (for example, the Sugar Syndicate, the Coal Syndicate, the Metal Syndicate, etc.), and the gradual introduction of a more just progressive tax on incomes and properties. Economically, these measures are timely; technically, they can be carried out immediately; politically they are likely to receive the support of the overwhelming majority of the peasants, who have everything to gain by these reforms.”
This point evoked discussion. I already had occasion to speak of this in Pravda in connection with Plekhanov’s articles. “When they talk about socialism being impossible,” I wrote, “they try to speak of the latter in a way most advantageous to themselves, they represent it vaguely, indefinitely, as some sort of a jump.” Kautsky himself wrote: “No socialist speaks of the abolition of private property in the case of the peasants.” But does that mean that existing large-scale capital must make it unnecessary for the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies to control production, to control the sugar and other syndicates? This measure is not socialism—it is a transitional measure, but the carrying out of such measures together with the existence of the Soviets will bring about a situation in which Russia will have one foot in socialism—we say one foot because the peasant majority controls the other part of the country’s economy. It cannot be denied that economically we are ripe for a change. To effect that change politically, we must have a majority, and the majority are peasants who are naturally interested in such changes. Whether they will prove sufficiently organised is another matter; we cannot speak for them.
An old and often repeated objection to socialism is that socialism means “barracks for the masses” and “mass bureaucracy”. We must now put the issue of socialism differently; we must raise it from the level of the abstract to the level of the concrete, namely, the nationalisation of the land, control over the syndicates, etc. (reads the resolution).
“All these and other similar measures can and should be not only discussed and prepared for enforcement on a national scale in the event of all power passing to the proletarians and semi-proletarians, but also implemented by the local revolutionary organs of power of the whole people when the opportunity arises.
“Great care and discretion should be exercised in carrying out the above measures; a solid majority of the population must be won over and this majority must be clearly convinced of the country’s practical preparedness for any particular measure. This is the direction in which the class-conscious vanguard of the workers must focus its attention and efforts, because it is the bounden duty of these workers to help the peasants find a way out of the present debacle.”
These last words are the crux of the whole resolution; we put the issue of socialism not as a jump, but as a practical way out of the present debacle.
“This is a bourgeois revolution, it is therefore useless to speak of socialism,” say our opponents. But we say just the opposite: “Since the bourgeoisie cannot find a way out of the present situation, the revolution is bound to go on.” We must not confine ourselves to democratic phrases; we must make the situation clear to the masses, and indicate a number of practical measures to them, namely, they must take over the syndicates—control them through the Soviets, etc. When all such measures are carried out, Russia will be standing with one foot in socialism. Our economic programme must show a way out of the debacle—this is what should guide our actions.
22. Resolution on the Current Situation[edit source]
Supplement to Soldatskaya Pravda No. 13, May 16 (3), 1917
Published according to the Supplement text verified with the typewritten copy of the Minutes corrected by Lenin
The world war, brought about by the struggle of world trusts and banking capital for domination over the world market, has already led to the mass destruction of material values, to exhaustion of productive forces, and to such a growth in the war industry that it is impossible to produce even the absolutely necessary minimum of consumer goods and means of production.
The present war, therefore, has brought humanity to an impasse and placed it on the brink of ruin.
The objective conditions for a socialist revolution, which undoubtedly existed even before the war in the more developed and advanced countries, have been ripening with tremendous rapidity as a result of the war. Small and middle enterprises are being squeezed out and ruined at a faster rate than ever. The concentration and internationalisation of capital are making gigantic strides; monopoly capitalism is developing into state monopoly capitalism. In a number of countries regulation of production and distribution by society is being introduced by force of circumstances. Some countries are introducing universal labour conscription.
Under private ownership of the means of production, all these steps towards greater monopolisation and control of production by the state are inevitably accompanied by intensified exploitation of the working people, by an increase in oppression; it becomes more difficult to resist the exploiters, and reaction and military despotism grow. at the same time these steps inevitably lead to a tremendous growth in the profits of the big capitalists at the expense of all other sections of the population. The working people for decades to come are forced to pay tribute to the capitalists in the form of interest payments on war loans running into thousands of millions. But with private ownership of the means of production abolished and state power passing completely to the proletariat, these very conditions are a pledge of success for society’s transformation that will do away with the exploitation of man by man and ensure the well-being of everyone.
On the other hand, the course of events is clearly confirming the forecast of the socialists of the whole world who, precisely in connection with the imperialist war, then impending and now raging unanimously declared in the 1912 Basle Manifesto that a proletarian revolution was inevitable.
The Russian revolution is only the first stage of the first of the proletarian revolutions which are the inevitable result of war.
In all countries a spirit of rebellion against the capitalist class is growing among the masses, and the proletariat is becoming aware that only the transfer of power to the proletariat and the abolition of private ownership of the means of production can save humanity from ruin.
In all countries, especially in the most advanced, Britain and Germany, hundreds of socialists who have not gone over to the side of “their own” national bourgeoisie have been thrown into prison by the capitalist governments. By this action the latter have clearly demonstrated their fear of the mounting proletarian revolution. In Germany the impending revolution is apparent both in the mass strikes, which have assumed particularly large proportions in recent weeks, and in the growth of fraternisation between the German and Russian soldiers at the front.
Fraternal trust and unity are gradually being restored among the workers of different countries, the very workers who are now killing each other in the interests of the capitalists. This, in turn, will create conditions for united revolutionary action by the workers of different countries. Only such action can guarantee the most systematic development and the most likely success of the world socialist revolution.
Operating as it does in one of the most backward countries of Europe amidst a vast population of small peasants, the proletariat of Russia cannot aim at immediately putting into effect socialist changes.
But it would be a grave error, and in effect even a complete desertion to the bourgeoisie, to infer from this that the working class must support the bourgeoisie, or that it must keep its activities within limits acceptable to the petty bourgeoisie, or that the proletariat must renounce its leading role in the matter of explaining to the people the urgency of taking a number of practical steps towards socialism for which the time is now ripe.
These steps are: first, nationalisation of the land. This measure, which does not directly go beyond the framework of the bourgeois system, would, at the same time, be a heavy blow at private ownership of the means of production, and as such would strengthen the influence of the socialist proletariat over the semi-proletariat in the countryside.
The next steps are the establishment of state control over all banks, and their amalgamation into a single central bank; also control over the insurance agencies and big capitalist syndicates (for example, the Sugar Syndicate, the Coal Syndicate, the Metal Syndicate, etc.), and the gradual introduction of a more just progressive tax on incomes and properties. Economically, these measures are timely; technically, they can be carried out immediately; politically they are likely to receive the support of the overwhelming majority of the peasants, who have everything to gain by these reforms.
The Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, Peasants’, and other Deputies, which now cover Russia with a dense and growing network, could also introduce, parallel with the above measures, universal labour conscription, for on the one hand the character of the Soviets guarantees that all these new reforms will be introduced only when an overwhelming majority of the people has clearly and firmly realised the practical need for them; on the other hand their character guarantees that the reforms will not be sponsored by the police and officials, but will be carried out by way of voluntary participation of the organised and armed masses of the proletariat and peasantry in the management of their own affairs.
All these and other similar measures can and should be not only discussed and prepared for enforcement on a national scale in the event of all power passing to the proletarians and semi-proletarians, but also implemented by the local revolutionary organs of power of the whole people when the opportunity arises.
Great care and discretion should be exercised in carrying out the above measures; a solid majority of the population must be won over and this majority must be clearly convinced of the country’s practical preparedness for any particular measure. This is the direction in which the class-conscious vanguard of the workers must focus its attention and efforts, because it is the bounden duty of these workers to help the peasants find a way out of the present debacle.
23. Concluding Speech at the Closing of the Conference April 29 (May 12)[edit source]
First published in 1925 in the book The Petrograd City and the All-Russia Conferences of the RSDLP(B), April 1917
Published according to the manuscript copy of the Minutes
Owing to lack of time Lenin made no speech in favour of changing the name of the Party, but referred the delegates to his newly written pamphlet The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution, which will serve as material for discussion in the local Party organisations.
A word about the Conference.
We have had little time and a lot of work. The conditions in which our Party finds itself are difficult. The defencist parties are strong, but the proletarian masses look with disfavour upon defencism and the imperialist war. Our resolutions are not written with a view to the broad masses, but they will serve to unify the activities of our agitators and propagandists, and the reader will find in them guidance in his work. We have to speak to the millions; we must draw fresh forces from among the masses, we must call for more developed class-conscious workers who would popularise our theses in a way the masses would understand. We shall endeavour in our pamphlets to present our resolutions in a more popular form, and hope that our comrades will do the same thing locally. The proletariat will find in our resolutions material to guide it in its movement towards the second stage of our revolution.
- [PLACEHOLDER.] —Lenin
- See Marx’s letter to Dr. Kugelmann, dated April 17, 1871. Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, 1962, p. 464.
- The question of calling an international conference of socialists of the belligerent and neutral countries was repeatedly discussed in the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet in April 1917, the Executive Committee offering to take upon itself the initiative in convening such a conference. During the latter half of April the Danish Social-Democrat Borgbjerg, who was associated with the German social-chauvinists, arrived in Petrograd, and, on behalf of the joint committee of the Danish, Norwegian and Swedish labour parties (the social-patriot majorities of these parties), invited the socialist parties of Russia to attend a conference on the question of concluding peace, due to be held in Stockholm in May 1917.
On April 23 (May 6) Borgbjerg made a report to the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet in which he frankly declared that the German Government would “agree” to the peace terms which the German Social-Democrats would propose at the conference. On April 25 (May 8) the Executive Committee heard the declarations of the Party groups on this question. The Bolsheviks announced the “Resolution on Borgbjerg’s Proposal” adopted that day by the April Conference. They were supported by the representatives of the Polish and Leftish Social-Democrats. Lenin considered participation in this conference a complete betrayal of internationalism. The April Conference was emphatically opposed to participation, and denounced Borgbjerg as an agent of German imperialism. The Trudoviks, Bundists and Mensheviks were in favour of attending the conference. A Menshevik resolution was adopted in which the Executive Committee announced that it took upon itself the initiative in calling the conference and was setting up a special committee for that purpose. The plenary meeting of the Soviet endorsed this decision.
The majority of the British, French and Belgian socialists refused to take part in the conference, since the British and French governments were out for complete victory over Germany. The Centrists agreed to attend: they were the Longuet group in France and the Independent Social-Democratic Party of Germany headed by Kautsky, Haase and Ledebour.
The Spartacus group affiliated to the Independents refused to attend the conference with the social-imperialists. A declaration to this effect in his own name and on behalf of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, who were in prison, was made by Franz Mehring. The Stockholm conference did not take place, since some of the delegates did not receive passports from their governments, and others refused to sit with the representatives of the enemy countries.
- [PLACEHOLDER.] —Lenin
- [PLACEHOLDER.] —Lenin
- See Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1962, p. 51.
- The reference is to The Agrarian Programme of Social-Democracy in the First Russian Revolution, 1905–1907, written towards the end of 1907. The book was printed in St. Petersburg in 1908, but the police seized it while still at the printers and destroyed it. Only one copy was saved. The book was first published in 1917.
- [PLACEHOLDER.] —Lenin
- A gap in the minutes.—Ed.
- A gap in the minutes.—Ed.
- See present edition, Vol. 23, pp. 28–76.—Ed.
- See Engels, “Flüchtlings-Literatur. 1. Eine polnische Proklamation”. Der Volksstaat, Nr. 69, 17. VI. 1874.
- This refers to participation in the proposed third conference of the internationalist socialists due to beheld in Stockholm on May 18, 1917. It was held in August 1917. By decision of the April Conference, the Bolsheviks attended it. Lenin disagreed with this decision and voted against the resolution on the situation in the International and the tasks of the RSDLP(b). Lenin considered attendance of the Bolsheviks at this conference possible only for purposes of information. He wrote about this in his pamphlet The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution (see p. 82 of this volume). In the postscript to the pamphlet, written in May 1917, Lenin calls this decision of the conference a mistake (see pp. 89–90 of this volume).
- [PLACEHOLDER.] —Lenin