Lenin in his own words
Introduction to April conference resolutions, May 3 1917
The All-Russia conference of the Russian Social Democratic Worker Party, united by the central committee - known commonly as the party of the ‘Bolsheviks’ - has concluded.
The conference has adopted very important resolutions on all the fundamental issues of the revolution and the full text of them is published below.
The revolution is passing through a crisis. This could be seen in the streets of Petrograd and Moscow between April 19 and April 21. This has been acknowledged by the Provisional Government. It has been acknowledged by the executive committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Worker and Soldier Deputies. Still further confirmation of it has been given, as I pen these lines, by the resignation of Guchkov.
This crisis of the vlast, this crisis of the revolution, is no accident. The Provisional Government is a government of gentry landowners and capitalists who are tied up with Russian and Anglo-French capital and compelled to continue the imperialist war. But the soldiers are worn out by the war, they are becoming more and more aware that the war is being fought in the interests of the capitalists; the soldiers do not want war. Furthermore, the grim spectre of an appalling debacle, of famine and complete economic breakdown [razrukha] is advancing upon Russia and other countries.
The Petrograd Soviet of Worker and Soldier Deputies has also got into a blind alley by concluding an agreement [soglashenie] with the Provisional Government, by supporting it, by supporting the war loan, and, consequently, supporting the war. The soviet made itself responsible for the Provisional Government, and, seeing no way out of the situation, has also got itself into a muddle through this agreement with the capitalist government.
At this great historic moment, when the future of the revolution is at stake, when the capitalists are torn between despair and the thought of shooting down workers, our party comes out before the narod and, through the resolutions of its conference, says to it:
We must understand which classes are the motive force of the revolution. Their various aspirations must be soberly assessed. The capitalist cannot travel the same road as the worker. Petty proprietors are unable either to fully trust the capitalists or right away to make a decisive move toward a close fraternal alliance [bratski-tesnyi soiuz] with the workers. Only when we understand the distinctions between these classes shall we be able to find the correct road for the revolution.
The decisions of our conference on all the basic issues of the life of the narod draw a clear distinction between the interests of the different classes and show that it is absolutely impossible to find a way out of the blind alley, given the policy of trust [doverie] in the government of the capitalists or support for it.
The situation is one of unparalleled difficulty. There is one way out and only one - the transfer of all state vlast to the Soviets of Worker, Soldier, Peasant and other Deputies throughout Russia, from bottom to top. Only if the vlast passes to the working class, supported by the majority of the peasantry, will it be possible to count on speedily regaining the confidence of the workers of other countries, to count on a mighty European revolution that will throw off the yoke of capital and put an end to the criminal bloodshed in which the peoples are embroiled. Only if the vlast passes to the working class - if a majority of the peasants support it - shall we be able to cherish the firm hope that all the toiling masses will show complete confidence in that vlast and that all, without exception, work selflessly to bring about a transformation of the entire way of life of the people in the interests of those who labour and not in the interests of the capitalists and gentry landowners. Without such selfless work, without a gigantic effort on the part of each and every individual, without firmness and the determination to rebuild life in a new way, without the strict organisation and comradely discipline of all workers and all poor peasants - without all this there is no way out.
The war has brought all mankind to the brink of destruction. The capitalists have become deeply involved in the war and are unable to extricate themselves. The whole world faces disaster.
Comrade workers! The time is drawing near when events will demand new and still greater heroism - the heroism of millions and tens of millions - than you displayed in the glorious days of the revolution of February and March. Be ready!
Prepare yourselves and remember that if, together with the capitalists, you were able to achieve victory in a few days [in February] by a simple outburst of the indignation of the narod, that will not be enough for victory against the capitalists, for victory over the capitalists. To achieve such a victory, to have the workers and poor peasants take the vlast, keep that vlast and make proper use of it, you will need organisation, organisation and organisation.
Our party is helping you as much as it can - in the first place by clarifying the awareness of the distinctive positions of distinct classes and their distinct strengths. The decisions of our conference are devoted to this. Without this clear awareness, organisation does not mean anything. And without organisation, action by the millions is impossible, success is impossible.
Don’t put your trust in words. Don’t be misled by promises. Don’t overestimate your strength. Organise at every factory, in every regiment and every company, in every residential block. Work at organising every day, every hour; do that work yourselves, for this is something you cannot entrust to anybody else. Work to steadily, soundly and indestructibly build up full confidence in the advanced workers on the part of the masses. Such is the main content of all the decisions of our conference. Such is the main lesson taught by the entire development of the revolution. Such is the one guarantee of success.
Comrade workers! We call upon you to carry out the hard, serious, untiring work of consolidating a purposive, revolutionary proletariat of all countries. This is the one and only way out, the only way to save mankind from the horrors of war and the yoke of capital.
Unsigned front-page editorial in Pravda May 7 1917
Draft of a mandate, for use in electing delegates to the Soviet of Worker and Soldier Deputies
As we elect our representative to the Soviet of Worker and Soldier Deputies, we give him the job of defending the following views:
I. The war
The present war was begun by tsars, crowned kings and uncrowned robber-capitalists; it is a predatory war, bringing only death and destruction to all the narody [peoples] of the world, but millions in profits to a handful of capitalists. The secret treaties that Nicholas the Bloody signed with the English and French capitalists have to this day not been published. Yet blood is flowing because of these dark and foul treaties up to the present moment.
Unless the vlast goes into the hands of the workers, soldiers and the poorest peasantry - those who genuinely do not want to be predators - we will continue to spill our blood only to serve the interests of a handful of capitalists and landowners.
Ending the present predatory war with a just peace is only possible against the will of the present governments, only by tossing out the capitalists and landowners in all countries. Socialists of all countries must follow the example of Karl Liebknecht, who is sentenced to hard labour because he fought the good fight against ‘his’ Wilhelm and ‘his’ capitalists.
II. The land
All land - not just tsarist, state and monastery lands, but also those belonging to the landowners - must be transferred without compensation to the peasants.
The peasants must take these lands immediately and sow crops right away. We must not wait for the Constituent Assembly, which has not yet even been summoned. Any delay will put the whole enterprise under threat. To wait would be disastrous! The plan of the landowners is to stretch things out and, if that succeeds, disrupt the whole transfer of the land to the peasant.
The land, along with live and dead stock of landowner estates, must be taken over in organised fashion, under the supervision [kontrol] of the Soviets of Peasant Deputies and the Deputies from Agricultural Workers. No disorders should be permitted. Revolutionary discipline is necessary. Soldiers from the front should send their delegates to the soviets and committees, that will have the kontrol over the seizure of the land.
The eight-hour day must be introduced for all men and women workers in the towns and villages, with an increase in working wages that will at least keep pace with the cost of living. We must establish the kontrol of the Soviets of Worker and Soldier Deputies over the production and distribution of products. Without this, the country is threatened by famine. Not the ‘kontrol’ of the capitalists, but only the kontrol of the Soviet and Worker and Soldier Deputies can give bread to the cities, and cheaper industrial items to the villages.
IV. The vlast
All of the vlast [vsia vlast] in the country must belong solely to the soviets of worker, soldier, peasant and other deputies (we must include the soviets of the railroad workers and other civil servants). Agreement [soglashenie] with the capitalists, leaving the capitalist gentlemen with the vlast, prolongs the war and worsens the situation within the country.
No confidence in the ‘new’ government [the recently formed coalition of socialists and liberals], for it remains a government of capitalists - no support for it, not a penny of money. No confidence to the ‘defencist’ parties that preach agreement with the capitalists and participation in a government of capitalists!
V. The police
Under no circumstances should we permit the restoration of the police. Instead of the police, instead of a standing army, we need a militia, universal arming of all citizens of both sexes.
VI. The economic breakdown [razrukha] and the cost of living
A successful struggle with the economic breakdown and the lack of bread requires: (1) ending the war as soon as possible; (2) transferring as soon as possible the entire vlast into the hands of the Soviets of Worker and Soldier Deputies. A Provisional Government that still consists of a majority of capitalists cannot successfully struggle against economic breakdown. It preserves the profits of the capitalists and the advantages of the landowners. It does not want to permit the workers to have supervision [kontrol] over production and distribution of products - the kontrol that alone can lessen the breakdown. The Provisional Government is incapable of the revolutionary measures that alone can save the country from famine.
All of the vlast to the Soviets of Worker and Soldier Deputies! [Vsia vlast Sovetam Rabochikh i Soldatskikh Deputatov!] The whole world will believe in it. Only then can we end the war and bring Russia to happiness.
* * *
Our delegate is obliged to act in the soviet on the basis of this mandate. Anyone who deviates from this path will be recalled by us, and in his place we will elect another delegate who supports our views.
The tasks of revolution
Published in Pravda September 26 and 27 1917
Russia is a country of the petty bourgeoisie. A gigantic majority of the population belongs to this class. Its wavering between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat is inevitable. Only when it joins the proletariat is the victory of the revolution, of the cause of peace, freedom and land for the working people assured easily, peacefully, quickly and smoothly.
The course of our revolution is showing us this wavering in practice. Let us then not harbour any illusions about the Socialist Revolutionary and Menshevik parties; let us stick firmly to our proletarian class path. The poverty of the poor peasants, the horrors of the war, the horrors of hunger - all these are showing the masses more and more clearly the correctness of the proletarian path, the need to support the proletarian revolution.
‘Peaceful’ petty-bourgeois hopes about a ‘coalition’ with the bourgeoisie or agreementism with them, that it will be possible to wait ‘calmly’ for the ‘speedy’ convocation of the Constituent Assembly, etc, have been mercilessly, cruelly, implacably destroyed by the course of the revolution. The Kornilov revolt was the last cruel lesson, a lesson on a grand scale, supplementing thousands upon thousands of small lessons in which workers and peasants were defrauded by local capitalists and landowners, in which soldiers were defrauded by officers etc, etc.
Discontent, indignation and wrath are growing in the army, among the peasantry and among the workers. The ‘coalition’ of the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks with the bourgeoisie - promising everything and fulfilling nothing - is irritating the masses, is opening their eyes, is pushing them towards an uprising.
The opposition from the left is growing among the Socialist Revolutionaries (Spiridonova and others) and among the Mensheviks (Martov and others), and has already reached up to 40% of the council and congress of those parties. And down below, among the proletariat and the peasantry, particularly the poorest sections, the majority of the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks belong to the ‘lefts’.
The Kornilov business [kornilovshchina] is teaching us. The Kornilov business has taught people a good deal.
It is impossible to know whether the soviets will be able to go farther than the leaders of the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, and thus ensure a peaceful development of the revolution, or whether they will continue to mark time, thus making a proletarian uprising inevitable.
We cannot know this.
Our business is to help get everything possible done to make sure the ‘last’ chance for a peaceful development of the revolution, to help by the presentation of our programme, by making clear that it is based on the narod as a whole [obshchenarodnoe], making clear its absolute accord with the interests and demands of a vast majority of the population.
The following lines are an attempt to set out this programme.
Let us take it more to those down below [nizy], to the masses, to the office employees, to the workers, to the peasants - not only to our supporters, but particularly to those who follow the Socialist Revolutionaries, to the non-party elements, to the ill-informed [tëmnye]. Let us lift them up to the level of independent judgment, to making their own decisions, to sending their delegations to the [Democratic] Conference, to the soviets, to the government and our work will not have been in vain, no matter what the outcome of the conference. This will then prove useful for the conference, for the elections to the Constituent Assembly and for all other political activity in general.
Experience teaches the correctness of the Bolshevik programme and Bolshevik tactics. From April 20 [the ‘April days’, the first major post-February political crisis] to the Kornilov revolt - so little time, so much lived through.
The experience of the masses, the experience of oppressed classes taught them a huge amount in that time; the leaders of the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks have completely cut themselves off from the masses. Our extremely concrete programme - insofar as we succeed in bringing it to the masses - will reveal this better than anything.
1. To leave the representatives of the bourgeoisie, even a small number of them, with the vlast - to leave with the vlast such notorious Kornilovites as generals Alexeyev, Klembovsky, Bagration, Gagarin and others, or such as have proved their complete lack of strength in face of the bourgeoisie, or their ability of acting Bonaparte-fashion like Kerensky, with the vlast - is, on the one hand, merely opening the door wide to famine and to the inevitable economic catastrophe which the capitalists are purposely accelerating and intensifying; on the other hand, it will lead to a military catastrophe, since the troops hate the general staff and cannot enthusiastically participate in the imperialist war. Besides, there is no doubt that Kornilovite generals and officers remaining in power will deliberately open the front to the Germans, as they have done in Galicia and Riga.
All this can be prevented only by the formation of a new government on a new basis, as expounded below. To continue agreementism of any kind whatsoever with the bourgeoisie after all that we have gone through since April 20 would be, on the part of the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, not only an error, but a direct betrayal of the narod and of the revolution.
Vlast to the soviets
2. The whole vlast in the state must pass exclusively to representatives of the Soviets of Worker, Soldier and Peasant Deputies, on the basis of a definite programme and under the condition of the vlast being fully responsible to the soviets. New elections to the soviets must be held immediately, both to register what the narod has experienced during the recent weeks of the revolution - weeks particularly rich in content - and to eliminate some crying injustices (lack of proportional representation, unequal elections, etc), which here and there remain uncorrected.
All the vlast in the localities, wherever there are not yet any democratically elected institutions, and also in the army, must be transferred exclusively to the local soviets and to commissars elected by them, and other institutions, if elective.
Everywhere and without exceptions, with the full support of the state, must be carried out the arming of the workers and also of those troops who have shown their revolutionary nature by their ability in practice to suppress the Kornilovites.
Peace to the narody
3. A soviet government must straightaway offer to all the belligerent narody (ie, simultaneously both to their governments and to the worker and peasant masses) to conclude an immediate general peace on democratic terms, and also to immediately conclude an armistice (even if only for three months).
The main condition for a democratic peace is the renunciation of annexations (seizures) - not in the incorrect sense that all the great powers get back what they have lost, but in the only correct sense that every nationality without any exception, both in Europe and in the colonies, shall obtain its freedom and the possibility to decide for itself whether it is to form a separate state or whether it is to be a component part of some other state.
In offering the peace terms, the soviet government must itself immediately take steps towards their fulfilment: ie, it must publish and repudiate the secret treaties by which we have been tied to the present time, those which were concluded by the tsar and which give Russian capitalists the promise of the pillaging of Turkey, Austria, etc. Then we must immediately satisfy the demands of the Ukrainians and the Finns, ensure them, as well as all other non-Russian nationalities in Russia, full freedom, including freedom of secession, applying the same to all Armenia, undertaking to evacuate that country, as well as the Turkish lands occupied by us, etc.
Such peace terms will not meet with the approval of the capitalists, but they will meet with such tremendous sympathy on the part of all the narody and will cause such a great worldwide outburst of enthusiasm and of general indignation against the continuation of the predatory war that it is extremely probable that we shall at once obtain a truce and consent to open peace negotiations. For the worker revolution against the war is irresistibly growing everywhere, and it can be spurred on, not by phrases about peace (with which the workers and peasants have been deceived by all the imperialist governments, including our own Kerensky government), but by a break with the capitalists and by the offer of peace.
If the least probable thing happens - ie, if not a single belligerent state accepts even a truce - then, as far as we are concerned, the war becomes truly forced upon us, it becomes a truly just war of defence. Just the awareness of this fact by the proletariat and the poor peasantry will make Russia many times stronger even in the military sense, especially after a complete break with capitalists who are robbing the narod; furthermore, under such conditions it would, as far as we are concerned, be a war in alliance with the oppressed classes of all countries, a war in alliance with the oppressed narody of the whole world, not in word, but in deed.
The narod must be particularly cautioned against the capitalists’ assertion, which sometimes influences the petty bourgeoisie and others who are frightened: namely, that the British and other capitalists are capable of doing serious damage to the Russian Revolution if we break the present predatory alliance with them. Such an assertion is false through and through, for ‘Allied financial aid’ enriches the bankers and ‘supports’ the Russian workers and peasants in exactly the same way as a rope supports a man who has been hanged. There is plenty of bread, coal, oil and iron in Russia; for these products to be properly distributed it is only necessary for us to rid ourselves of the landowners and capitalists who are robbing the narod. As to the possibility of the Russian narod being threatened with war by their present Allies, it is obviously absurd to assume that the French and Italians could unite their armies with those of the Germans and move them against a Russia offering a just peace. As to Britain, America and Japan, even if they were to declare war against Russia (which for them is extremely difficult, both because of the extreme unpopularity of such a war among the masses and because of the divergence of material interests of the capitalists of those countries over the partitioning of Asia, especially over the plunder of China), they could not cause Russia one-hundredth part of the damage and misery which the war with Germany, Austria and Turkey is causing her.
Land to the toilers
4. The soviet government must immediately declare the abolition of private property on gentry-landowner land [na pomeshchichi zemli] without compensation, and transfer all land over to management by peasant committees, pending the solution of the problem by the Constituent Assembly. Gentry-landowner equipment must also be transferred to the management of these same peasant committees, with the proviso that they be placed first of all at the disposal of the poorest peasants for their use free of charge.
Such measures, which have long been demanded by an immense majority of the peasantry, both in the resolutions of its congresses and in hundreds of mandates from the localities (as may be seen, for instance, from the summary of 242 mandates published by Izvestia of the Soviet of Peasant Deputies), are absolutely and urgently necessary. The procrastination from which the peasantry suffered so much during the time of the ‘coalition’ government is no longer tolerable.
Any government that is slow to introduce these measures should be regarded as a government hostile to the narod - one worthy of being overthrown and crushed by an uprising of the workers and peasants. On the other hand, only a government that realises these measures will be a government of the narod as a whole [vsenarodnoe].
Struggle against famine and breakdown [razrukha]
5. A soviet government must immediately introduce worker kontrol of production and distribution on a countrywide scale. Experience since May 6 [when the first coalition government took office] has shown that in the absence of such kontrol all the promises of reforms and attempts to introduce them are powerless, and famine, accompanied by unprecedented catastrophe, is becoming a greater menace to the whole country week by week.
It is necessary to nationalise the banks and the insurance business immediately, and also the most important branches of industry (oil, coal, metallurgy, sugar, etc) and, at the same time, to abolish commercial secrets and to establish unrelaxing supervision by the workers and peasants over the negligible minority of capitalists who wax rich on government contracts and evade transparency and the just taxation of their profits and property.
Such measures, which do not deprive either the middle peasants, the Cossacks or the small handicraftsmen of a single kopek, are urgently needed for the struggle against famine and are absolutely just, because they distribute the burdens of the war equitably. Only after capitalist plunder has been curbed and the deliberate sabotage of production has been stopped will it be possible to work for an improvement in labour productivity, introduce universal labour conscription and the proper exchange of grain for manufactured goods, and return to the treasury thousands of millions in paper money now being hoarded by the rich.
Without such measures, the abolition of property in gentry-landowner land without compensation is also impossible, for the major part of the estates is mortgaged to the banks, so that the interests of the landowners and capitalists are inseparably linked.
The latest resolution of the economic section of the All-Russian TsIk [national governing body] of the Soviets of Worker and Soldier Deputies (Rabochaya Gazeta No152 [Menshevik Party newspaper]) recognises not only the “harm” caused by the government’s measures (like the raising of grain prices [government fixed prices had been doubled in August] for the enrichment of the gentry landowners and kulaks), not only ‘the fact of the complete inactivity on the part of the central organs set up by the government for the regulation of economic life’, but even the ‘contravention of the laws’ by this government. This admission on the part of the ruling parties - the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks - proves once more the criminal nature of the policy of agreementism with the bourgeoisie.
Struggle against the counterrevolution of the gentry landowners and capitalists
6. The Kornilov and Kaledin revolt was supported by the entire class of the gentry landowners and capitalists, with the party of the Kadets (a party that puts ‘freedom of the narod’ into their official title) at their head. This has already been fully proved by the facts published in Izvestia.
However, nothing has been done for the full suppression of the counterrevolution - not even to carry out a full investigation - and nothing serious can be done without the transfer of the vlast to the soviets. No commission without the back-up of the state vlast can conduct a full investigation, or arrest the guilty, etc. Only a soviet government can do this, and must do it. Only a soviet government can make Russia secure against the otherwise inevitable repetition of ‘Kornilovite’ attempts by arresting the Kornilovite generals and the ringleaders of the bourgeois counterrevolution (Guchkov, Miliukov, Riabushinsky, Maklakov and co), by disbanding the counterrevolutionary associations (the state duma, the officers’ unions, etc), by placing their members under the surveillance of the local soviets and by disbanding counterrevolutionary armed units.
This government alone can set up a commission to make a full and public investigation of the Kornilov case and all the other cases - yes, including those started by the bourgeoisie. Only to such a commission could the party of the Bolsheviks, in its turn, call on the workers to give their full cooperation and to take its orders.
Only a soviet government could successfully combat such a flagrant injustice as the seizure by the capitalists of the largest printing presses and most of the newspapers with the aid of millions squeezed out of the people. It is necessary to suppress the bourgeois counterrevolutionary newspapers (Rech, Russkoye Slovo), to confiscate their presses, to declare private advertisements in the papers a state monopoly and to transfer them to the government newspaper to be published by the soviets - a newspaper that will tell the peasants the truth. Only in this way can we knock out of the hands of the bourgeoisie a powerful weapon for lying and slandering, defrauding the narod, leading the peasantry into illusions, and preparing a counterrevolution - and so we must do it.
Peaceful development of the revolution
7. A possibility very seldom to be met with in the history of revolutions now presents itself to the democracy of Russia [that is, to the soviet constituency of workers and peasants], the soviets and the Socialist Revolutionary and Menshevik parties - the possibility of convening the Constituent Assembly at the appointed date without further delays, of making the country secure against a military and economic catastrophe, and of ensuring the peaceful development of the revolution.
If the soviets now take the full state vlast exclusively into their own hands for the purpose of carrying out the programme set forth above, they will not only obtain the support of nine-tenths of the population of Russia - the working class and an overwhelming majority of the peasantry; they will also be assured of the greatest revolutionary enthusiasm on the part of the army and the majority of the narod - an enthusiasm without which victory over famine and war is impossible.
There could be no question of any resistance to the soviets if the soviets themselves do not waver. No class will dare start an uprising against the soviets, and the gentry landowners and capitalists, taught a lesson by the experience of the Kornilov revolt, will concede the vlast peacefully and yield to the demands and ultimatum of the soviets. To overcome the resistance of the capitalists to the soviet programme, supervision over the exploiters by workers and peasants and such measures of punishing the recalcitrants as confiscation of their entire property, coupled with a short term of arrest, will be sufficient.
By seizing the full vlast, the soviets could still today - and this is probably their last chance - ensure the peaceful development of the revolution, peaceful elections of deputies by the people and a peaceful struggle of parties inside the soviets; they could test the programmes of the various parties in practice and the vlast could pass peacefully from one party to another.
If this opportunity is missed, the entire course of development of the revolution, from the street demonstrations of April 20 to the Kornilov revolt, shows that there is bound to be the bitterest civil war between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Inevitable catastrophe [caused by agreementist coalitions] will bring this civil war nearer. It must end, as all the facts and considerations accessible to human reason go to prove, in the full victory of the working class, in full support given to the workers by the poor peasantry, in order that the programme we have set out is implemented. It may, however, prove very difficult and bloody, and may cost the lives of tens of thousands of gentry landowners, capitalists and officers who sympathise with them.
The proletariat will not stop before any sacrifice for the salvation of the revolution - a salvation which is impossible without implementation of the programme set forth above. On the other hand, the proletariat will support the soviets in every way - if they make use of their last chance to secure a peaceful development of the revolution.