Supplement: Two excerpts from VN Zalezhskii’s ‘First legal PK’ published in Proletarskaia revoliutsiia, 1923, No1 (13)

Part of the special supplement

pp145-46: The issue of our attitude toward the Provisional government came before the PK [Petrograd committee] on March 2 or 3 in connection with the position taken by the Ispolkom [central committee] of the soviet, which, as we know, adopted on the advice of that ‘prudent Ulysses’, Chkheidze, the famous formula of support: “insofar as” [postolku-poskolku]. The PK, as the directive organisation of the mass of the Petersburg proletariat, of course had to respond immediately to this formula. I well remember the debates in the PK about this issue.

In the discussions on this issue about our attitude toward the Provisional government, it was pointed out that at this particular moment in time, given the decision of the soviet, this issue was one of practical action: do we call the masses to an immediate armed overthrow of the government to whom the soviet promised support, even if conditional: that is, should the PK in response [to the soviet] announce a slogan of direct, active struggle of the masses on the street? Or, in the evolving situation, was it politically more expedient to adopt a position that would give our revolutionary activity sufficient room to manoeuvre and to accumulate strength, while at the same time avoiding bringing the PK into sharp conflict with the soviet?

As a result of discussions it was decided not to call for an overthrow of the Provisional government, and thereby at the same time to call for struggle with the soviet, but rather to take the soviet’s formula, “insofar as”, while giving it a completely new content and thus defanging it internally. Our resolution announced: “The PK of the RSDWP, in connection with the resolution concerning the Provisional government adopted by the Soviet of Worker and Soldier Deputies, announces that it will not contest the vlast [protivodeistvuet vlasti] of the Provisional government insofar as its actions correspond to the interests of the proletariat and the wide masses of the democracy and the narod. It also states its decision to carry out the most merciless struggle against any attempt by the Provisional government to establish a monarchical form of government of any kind.” As can be seen, this formula broadly untied our hands: all it said was that at the given moment the PK was not summoning the masses to overthrow the Provisional government.

p156, final page: The day of com Lenin’s arrival, in my view, ends the first period in the life of activity of the Petersburg committee and its first cohort during the legal existence of our party. New times arrived, and to the ideological and tactical position of the party came clarity and definition.

I would still like to point out that the PK not only greeted Ilich [Lenin] to its residence with warm feelings, but also that it was precisely among the members of the PK that his famous theses - the ones set forth in the report that com Lenin made on April 4, the day of his arrival, before a meeting of the Bolshevik delegates to the All-Russian Conference of Soviets, and also repeated at a meeting of Bolshevik and Menshevik delegates at the invitation of the Menshevik leaders - found the greatest sympathy and the swiftest recognition.

As I recall, the Menshevik leaders put forward the possibility of an agreement with us and proposed that Lenin set forth his views. Com Lenin’s theses produced the effect of an exploding bomb [among the Mensheviks]. In the debates that then unfolded, the Menshevik Goldenberg characterised the theses in this way: “For many years the place of Bakunin in the Russian Revolution remained unoccupied, but now it is occupied by Lenin.” On that day, com Lenin did not find open advocates even in our ranks. At that meeting, the only one to support him was com Kollontai.

In the discussions that started within our ranks about the theses, a series of members of the PK spoke out in its defence. District after district showed their solidarity with them and, at the All-Russian party conference that began on April 22, the Petersburg organisation as a whole spoke in favour of the theses.

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