In defence of the Bolsheviks

From ‘The Call’, paper of the British Socialist Party, February 28 1918

Camille Huysmans, secretary of the International Socialist Bureau, recently circulated an attack upon the Russian Council of Workmen’s, Peasants’ and Soldiers’ Delegates, In the form of an ‘Appeal to the International’, signed by the “Central Committee of the United Labour Party of Russian Social Democrats (Mensheviks) ... Below we print Maxim Litvinov’s reply (Litvinov was a former Russian member of the BSP who had just been appointed Russian ambassador in London)

The general accusations made in this appeal, unsubstantiated by any facts, have often been refuted in the press by myself and others. Therefore I propose only to deal with certain facts referred to in a distorted manner by the writers.

“The Bolshevik Party had tried as early as July 3 and 5 ... to seize the reins of government.”

The Bolsheviks ... constantly as­serted, at meetings and in their press, that they had no notion of aiming at power as long as the majority of the soviets were not with them. Countless quotations to that effect could be cited if space permitted. In his Letters on tactics, addressed to his follow­ers last summer, ... Lenin writes:

“We must accept the fact that in most of the soviets our party is in the minority ... We must make it clear to the masses that the soviet is the only possible form of revo­lutionary government and that therefore, as long as this govern­ment is amenable to the influence of the bourgeoisie, our task must consist only in the persistent ex­posure - patient, systematic and adapted to the practical needs of the masses - of their blunders.”

There were other statements, made again and again by other Bolshevik leaders, to the effect that the attempt to gain power for a minority would be an inexcus­able adventure.

The authors of the appeal have to admit that the feeling of the working masses gradually under­went a radical change in favour of the Bolsheviks. This was shown by all the elections to municipal bodies and to the soviets after the exploding of the Kornilov-Keren­sky conspiracy ...

It may be true that “the mass of the workers played no direct part in the revolt”. This was unneces­sary: the government was in so weak a position that the small de­tachment of soviet soldiers was sufficient to dislodge it. In any case, the 2nd All-Russia Congress of Soviets, which opened the day after the outbreak of the second revolution, entirely approved of the overthrow of the provisional government and resumed full state power. It is untrue to say that “all the socialist parties protested and left the congress”. The most powerful parties at that time, with the majority behind them, the Bolshe­viks and the leftwing Social Revo­lutionaries, remained, while it was the small socialist groups, barely represented in the soviet, in a most anarchical way refusing to abide by the decisions of the majority, who left ...

Next comes the accusation of wholesale arrest of socialist lead­ers and suppression of anti-Bol­shevik papers. As a matter of fact only those socialists found plot­ting the overthrow of the people’s government were arrested; in this connection it must be remembered that the Kerensky party and the Mensheviks, when in power, had thousands of Bolsheviks imprisoned, including Trotsky and Kamenev, and compelled Lenin and Zinoviev to keep in hiding ... As to the press, all the socialist parties opposed to us have their daily or­gans - even Rech, the official or­gan of the Constitutional Democrats, is still in existence, and constantly quoted by the corre­spondents of the London pa­pers ...

But the authors of this appeal show their most striking audacity when they say in conclusion, “We for our part regard the unification of all social democratic elements in the working class as our task, and, further, the unification of the whole democracy ...” That is exactly what was required and what they them­selves opposed. Unification is im­possible unless the contracting parties abide by the decision of the majority. The Bolsheviks never broke the unity, never undermined the authority of the soviets, but demanded full power for the sovi­ets at a time when they themselves were in a minority.

Power to the soviets means power to a coalition of all the so­cialist parties and democratic organisations represented therein. It was one of the outstanding blun­ders of the first revolution that the Mensheviks and adherents of Ke­rensky preferred a coalition with the anti-revolutionary imperialist Constitutional Democrats to a coa­lition with the Bolsheviks ...

The unification of democracy was near its realisation again when the Bolsheviks, when in an over­whelming majority, offered to the other socialist groups a coalition government on the basis of pro­portional representation. Unifica­tion was made impossible when these minority groups in their po­litical stupidity and blindness met the proposal with a counter-pro­posal for the exclusion of the Bol­sheviks (the majority party!) from the coalition.

Maxim Lltvlnov