July 30, 2019

THE LESSONS OF THE REVOLUTION

Lenin

A revolution marks a critical transition in the life of great popular masses. Of course, only a fully matured crisis renders a real revolution possible and necessary. Moreover, even as a transition period in the life of a single individual teaches him much, leads him through an emotional stage suffused with new rich content, so also does a revolution teach a whole nation in a relatively short ti.me highly instructive and valuable lessons. 

During a revolution millions and tens of millions of peo­ple learn in a single week incomparably more than in a whole year of every-day sluggish life. For at such critical moments in the life of a nation it becomes markedly evident which classes pursue certain aims, what are their relative forces, and the means at their command. 

Every conscious workman, soldier and peasant should attentively ponder the lessons taught by the Russian Revolution; the more so now, at the end of July, when it is manifest that the first phase of our revolution has ended in failure.

I. 
Indeed, let us see what the masses of workmen and peasants have been :fighting for in carrying the revolution into life. What have they been expecting .from the revolution? We all know that all along they hoped for freedom, peace, bread, land. 

Now what are the actual facts? 

Instead of freedom the arbitrary rule of the past is being restored. Capital punishment is being introduced at the front, peasants are brought to trial for "willfully" seizing the landlord's lands. The printing establishments of the Labor press are raided. The Bolsheviks are arrested, not infrequently without accusation, or on the pretext of charges which arc simply calumnious.

It may be argued that the persecution of the Bolsheviks is by no means a violation of freedom, since only certain persons on specific charges are thus persecuted. But such arguments bear the earmarks of premeditated untruth. For why should printing offices be raided, newspapers suppressed for the crimes of individuals, even if these crimes are proven and sustained by law? It would be altogether different if the government declared criminal the entire Bolshevik party, its ideas and views. But every one knows that the government or free Russia never could, and indeed never attempted to do anything of the kind. 

And look at the venomous slanders launched against the Bolsheviks! The newspapers of both landlords and capitalists have been furiously attacking the Bolsheviks for their campaign. against the war, against the landlords and against the capitalists. These newspapers openly demanded the arrest and prosecution of the Bolsheviks even be.fore there was a single charge against a single Bolshevik.
The people desire peace. But the revolutionary government of free Russia has resumed the war of annexations, on the basis of those very secret treaties which'. the former Tsar Nicholas II concluded with the English and French capitalists, aimed at the spoliation of foreign nations by the Russian financial magnates. These secret treaties have never yet been made public. The government of free Russia has entrenched itself behind wiles and tricks, but it has not yet proposed a just peace to all nations. 

Bread there is none. The menace of famine is imminent. It is an open secret how the capitalists and the rich loot the treasury on war orders ( the war costs the people 50,- 000,000 roubles a day!) They reap enormous profits from the high cost of living, and absolutely nothing is being done toward improving the production and distribution of goods by and for the working class. The capitalists are more and more daring in locking out the workmen, throwing them on the street at a time when the people suffer from under production.

The overwhelming majority of the peasants throughout a long series of conferences have loudly and unequivocally announced their decision to proclaim as a crying injustice -nay more, as direct plunder-the ownership of the soil by the powerful landlords. And the government which calls itself revolutionary and democratic persists in foiling the peasants' desires, in deceiving them with promises and delays. The capitalists for months harassed Minister of Agriculture 'Tchernov 's measures for enacting laws prohibiting the sale and purchase of land; and when a law of this type was finally promulgated, the capitalists began a despicable campaign o.f calumny against Tchernov, which continues unabated. In its defense of the landlords the government has not recoiled from knavery; it has determined to proceed by law against the peasants for the "wil­ful'' seizure of land!

Yes, the peasants are deceived, they are persuaded to await the convocation of the Constituent Assembly; but the capitalists keep on postponing· it. Now that the date for convocation has been, under pressure by the Bolsheviks set for the 30th of September, the capitalists openly resent such an "impossibly" short interval, and again insist upon postponing the Constituent Assembly. The most influential members of the party of capitalists and land, lords-the "Cadet" party, or the "Party of People's,- such as (Countess) Panina, openly preach the postponement of the Constituent Assembly until the end of the war. 

Have patience with the land question until the Constituent Assembly! With the Constituent Assembly wait un­til the end of the war! With the end of the war wait until complete victory is won! This is the program. So do the capitalists and landlords, holding as they do the majority in the government, laugh and scoff at the poor peasants. 

II. 

But how did all this come to pass in a land where the rule of Tsardom has been overthrown ! İn a country that is not free the people are governed by a 'Tsar and a handful of capitalists, landlords, and bureaucrats elected by no one. 

In a free country the people are governed by those whom they themselves have chosen for this very purpose. At the elections the people divide themselves into parties, and as a rule every class of the population forms its own party thus the landlords, the capitalists, the peasants, the workmen have each their own parties. So, in free countries the government of a nation is shaped and influenced by the open struggle between parties and by their final agreements among themselves. 

After the overthrow of the Trsar's regime, February 27, 1917, Russia for about four months was governed like a free country, namely by means of an open struggle between freely organized parties and of free agreements among themselves. In order therefore to understand the development of the Russian revolution, it is most important to scrutinize the nature of the various parties ' the interests they have been defending, and finally, the relations of these parties  to one another.

III

After the the hands of overthrow the of the Provisional Tsar 's rule the power passed into the hands of the Provisional  Government. The provisional Government consisted of representatives of  bourgeoisie--that is to say the capitalists with whom the landlords too joined hands. The party of the Cadets the leading capitalist party, occupied first place as the ruling and state party of the bourgeoisie. 

It was not by sheer accident that the power came into the hands of this party, though of course it was not the capitalists who fought the Tsar's troops, who shed blood for freedom's sake, but the workmen, peasants, sailors and soldiers. The ruling power nevertheless fell into the hands of the capitalistic party, because the capitalist class had at its command the power of wealth, of organization, and of education.Since 1905, and particularly during the war the capitalist class together with its joint partner, the landlord class,· won. great success in its work of organization. 

The Cadet party has al ways been monarchistic, in 1905 as well as all the years until 1917. After the people's victory over the tyranny of Tsardom, this party proclaimed itself republican. Historic experience teaches that when­ever the people vanquishes its ruling dynasty, the capitalist class is ready to be converted to republicanism, in order to preserve the privileges of capitalism and to assert its hegemony over the people. 

The Cadet party in words stands for the ''People's Freedom.'' In deeds this party stands for all that is capitalistic. No wonder all the landlords, the monarchists, the Black Hundreds were quick to join it. Proof ! The press and the elections. Immediately after the revolution all the bourgeois press and all the Black Hundred press sang in complete unison with the Cadets. All the monarchist parties, fearful of overt acts, supported the Cadets in the elections-at least in Petrograd. 

Having thus seized the power, the Cadets spared no ef­fort to continue the war of annexation and spoliation begun· by Nicholas II, who had concluded secret treaties of alli­ance with the English and French capitalists. According to these agreements the Russian capitalists are promised, in case of victory, the occupation of Constantinople, Gali­cia, Armenia, etc.. As to the people, the Cadet government fed it profusely on promises, postponing the solution of questions most important to the workmen and peasants un­til the Constituent Assembly, without however setting a date for its convocation. 

Making use of their liberty the people began to organize the chief organizations of the workmen and peasants, representing the overwhelming majority of Russia's population, were the Soviets of Workmen's, Soldiers' and Peas­ants' Delegates. These Soviets sprang into existence during the days of the February revolution, and after a few weeks, in most of the large cities of Russia, as well as in many of the townships, all the conscious leading elements


It goes without saying that the Soviets could and should have taken over state power in full. Pending the convocation of the Constituent Assembly there should have been no other power in the state but the Soviets. Only then would our revolution have become a truly popular and truly democratic revolution. Only then could the working people, who are really striving for peace, and who really have no interest in a war of conquest, have begun firmly and resolutely to carry out a policy which would have ended the war of conquest and led to peace. Only then could the workers and peasants have curbed the capitalists, who are making fabulous profits “from the war" and who have reduced the country to a state of ruin and starvation. But in the Soviets only a minority of the deputies were on the side of the revolutionary workers’ party, the Bolshevik Social Democrats, who demanded that all state power should be transferred to the Soviets. The majority of the deputies to the Soviets were on the side of the parties of the Menshevik Social-Democrats and the Socialist-Revolutionaries, who were opposed to the transfer of power to the Soviets. Instead of removing the bourgeois government and replacing it by a government of the Soviets, these parties insisted on supporting the bourgeois government, compromising with it and forming a coalition government with it. This policy of compromise with the bourgeoisie pursued by the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties, who enjoyed the confidence of the majority of the people, is the main content of the entire course of development of the revolution during the five months since it began.
IV

Let us first see how this compromising of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks with the bourgeoisie proceeded, and then let us try to explain why the majority of the people trusted them.

V

The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries have compromised with the capitalists in one way or another at every stage of the Russian revolution.

At the very close of February 1917, as soon as the people had triumphed and the tsarist regime had been overthrown, the capitalist Provisional Government admitted Kerensky as a “socialist”. As a matter of fact, Kerensky has never been a socialist; he was only a Trudovik, and he enlisted himself with the “Socialist-Revolutionaries” only in March 1917, when it was already safe and quite profitable to do so. Through Kerensky, as Deputy Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, the capitalist Provisional Government immediately set about gaining control of and taming the Soviet. The Soviet, i.e., the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks who predominated in it, allowed itself to be tamed, agreeing immediately after the formation of the capitalist Provisional Government to "support it" – "to the extent" that it carried out its promises.

The Soviet regarded itself as a body verifying and exercising control over the activities of the Provisional Government. The leaders of the Soviet established what was known as a Contact Commission to keep in touch with the government. Within that Contact Commission, the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik leaders of the Soviet held continuous negotiations with the capitalist government, holding, properly speaking, the status of Ministers without portfolio or unofficial Ministers.

This state of affairs lasted throughout March and almost the whole of April. Seeking to gain time, the capitalists resorted to delays and subterfuges. Not a single step of any importance to further the revolution was taken by the capitalist government during this period. It did absolutely nothing even to further its direct and immediate task, the convocation of the Constituent Assembly; it did not submit the question to the localities or even set up a central commission to handle the preparations. The government was concerned with only one thing, namely, surreptitiously renewing the predatory international treaties concluded by the tsar with the capitalists of Britain and France, thwarting the revolution as cautiously and quietly as possible, and promising everything without fulfilling any of its promises. The Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks in the Contact Commission acted like simpletons who were fed on fancy phrases, promises, and more promises. Like the crow in the fable, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks succumbed to flattery and listened with pleasure to the assurances of the capitalists that they valued the Soviets highly and did not take a single step without them.

But time passed and the capitalist government did absolutely nothing for the revolution. On the contrary, during this period it managed, to the detriment of the revolution, to renew the secret predatory treaties, or, rather, to reaffirm them and “vitalise” them by supplementary and no less secret negotiations with Anglo-French imperialist diplomats. During this period it managed, to the detriment of the revolution, to lay the foundations of a counter-revolutionary organisation of (or at least of a rapprochement among) the generals and officers in the army in the field. To the detriment of the revolution it managed to start the organisation of industrialists, of factory-owners, who, under the onslaught of the workers, were compelled to make concession after concession, but who at the same time began to sabotage (damage) production and prepare to bring it to a standstill when the opportunity came.

However, the organisation of the advanced workers and peasants in the Soviets made steady progress. The foremost representatives of the oppressed classes felt that, in spite of the agreement between the government and the Petrograd Soviet, in spite of Kerensky’s pompous talk, in spite of the "Contact Commission", the government remained an enemy of the people, an enemy of the revolution. The people felt that unless the resistance of the capitalists was broken, the cause of peace, liberty and the revolution, would inevitably be lost. The impatience and bitterness of the people kept on growing.
VI

It burst out on April 20–21. The movement flared up spontaneously; nobody had cleared the ground for it. The movement was so markedly directed against the government that one regiment even appeared fully armed at the Marinsky Palace to arrest the ministers. It became perfectly obvious to everybody that the government could not retain power. The Soviets could (and should) have taken over power with out meeting the least resistance from any quarter. Instead, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks supported the collapsing capitalist government, entangled themselves even further in compromises with it and took steps that were even more fatal to the revolution, that tended to lead to its doom.

Revolution enlightens all classes with a rapidity and thoroughness unknown in normal, peaceful times. The capitalists, better organised and more experienced than anybody else in matters of class struggle and politics, learnt their lesson quicker than the others. Realising that the government’s position was hopeless, they resorted to a method which for many decades, ever since 1848, has been practised by the capitalists of other countries in order to fool, divide and weaken the workers. This method is known as a “coalition” government, i.e., a joint cabinet formed of members of the bourgeoisie and turncoats from socialism.

In countries where freedom and democracy have long existed side by side with a revolutionary labour movement, in Britain and France, the capitalists have repeatedly and very successfully resorted to this method. When the “socialist” leaders entered a bourgeois cabinet, they invariably proved to be figureheads, puppets, screens for the capitalists, instruments for deceiving the workers. The "democratic and republican" capitalists of Russia resorted to this very method. The Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks let themselves be fooled at once, and the “coalition” cabinet, joined by Chernov, Tsereteli and Co., became a fact on May 6.

The simpletons of the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties were jubilant and fatuously bathed in the rays of the ministerial glory of their leaders. The capitalists gleefully rubbed their hands at having found helpers against the people in the persons of the "leaders of the Soviets" and at having secured their promise to support "offensive operations at the front", i.e., a resumption of the imperialist predatory war, which had come to a standstill for a while. The capitalists were well aware of the puffed-up impotence of these leaders, they knew that the promises of the bourgeoisie – regarding control over production, and even the organisation of production, regarding a peace policy, and so forth – would never be fulfilled.

And so it turned out. The second phase in the development of the revolution, May 6 to June 9, or June 18, fully corroborated the expectations of the capitalists as to the ease with which the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks could be fooled.

While Peshekhonov and Skobelev were deceiving themselves and the people with florid speeches to the effect that one hundred per cent of the profits of the capitalists would be taken away from them, that their "resistance was broken", and so forth, the capitalists continued to consolidate their position. Nothing, absolutely nothing, was undertaken during this period to curb the capitalists. The ministerial turncoats from socialism proved to be mere talking machines for distracting the attention of the oppressed classes, while the entire apparatus of state administration actually remained in the hands of the bureaucracy (the officialdom) and the bourgeoisie. The notorious Palchinsky, Deputy Minister for Industry, was a typical representative of that apparatus, blocking every measure against the capitalists. While the ministers prated everything remained as of old.

The bourgeoisie used Minister Tsereteli in particular to fight the revolution. He was sent to “pacify” Kronstadt when the local revolutionaries had the audacity to remove an appointed commissar. The bourgeoisie launched in their newspapers an incredibly vociferous, violent and vicious campaign of lies, slander and vituperation against Kronstadt, accusing it of the desire "to secede from Russia", and repeating this and similar absurdities in a thousand ways to intimidate the petty bourgeoisie and the philistines. A most typically stupid and frightened philistine, Tsereteli, was the most “conscientious” of all in swallowing the bait of bourgeois slander; he was the most zealous of all in "smashing up and subduing" Kronstadt, without realising that he was playing the role of a lackey of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie. He turned out to be the instrument of the “compromise” arrived at with revolutionary Kronstadt, whereby the commissar for Kronstadt was not simply appointed by the government, but was elected locally and was confirmed by the government. It was on such miserable compromises that the ministers who had deserted socialism for the bourgeoisie wasted their time.

Wherever a bourgeois minister could not appear in defence of the government, before the revolutionary workers or in the Soviets, Skobelev, Tsereteli, Chernov or some other “socialist” Minister appeared (or, to be precise, was sent by the bourgeoisie) and faithfully performed their assignment; he would do his level best to defend the Cabinet, whitewash the capitalists and fool the people by making promise after promise and by advising people to wait, wait and wait.

Minister Chernov particularly was engaged in bargaining with his bourgeois colleagues; down to July, to the new "crisis of power" which began after the movement of July 3-4, to the resignation of the Cadets from the Cabinet, Minister Chernov was continuously engaged in the useful and interesting work, so beneficial to the people, of “persuading” his bourgeois colleagues, exhorting them to agree at least to prohibition of the purchase and sale of land. This prohibition had been most solemnly promised to the peasants at the All-Russia Congress of Peasant Deputies in Petrograd. But the promise remained only a promise. Chernov proved unable to fulfil it either in May or in June, until the revolutionary tide, the spontaneous outbreak of July 3-4, which coincided with the resignation of the Cadets from the Cabinet, made it possible to enact this measure. Even then, however, it proved to be an isolated measure, incapable of promoting to any palpable extent the struggle of the peasants against the landowners for land.

Meanwhile, at the front, the counter-revolutionary, imperialist task of resuming the imperialist, predatory war, a task which Guchkov, so hated by the people, had been unable to accomplish, was being accomplished successfully and brilliantly by the "revolutionary democrat" Kerensky, that new-baked member of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. He revelled in his own eloquence, incense was burned to him by the imperialists, who were using him as a pawn, he was flattered and worshipped – all because he served the capitalists faithfully, trying to talk the "revolutionary troops" into agreeing to resume the war being waged in pursuance of the treaties concluded by Tsar Nicholas II with the capitalists of Britain and France, a war waged so that Russian capitalists might secure Constantinople and Lvov, Erzurum and Trebizond.

So passed the second phase of the Russian revolution – May 6 to June 9. Shielded and defended by the “socialist” Ministers, the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie grew in strength, consolidated their position and prepared an offensive both against the external enemy and against the internal enemy, i.e., the revolutionary workers.

VII

On June 9, the revolutionary workers’ party, the Bolsheviks, was preparing for a demonstration in Petrograd to give organised expression to the irresistibly growing popular discontent and indignation. The Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik leaders, entangled in compromises with the bourgeoisie and bound by the imperialist policy of an offensive, were horrified, feeling that they were losing their influence among the masses. A general howl went up against the demonstration, and the counter-revolutionary Cadets joined in this howl, this time together with the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. Under their direction, and as a result of their policy of compromise with the capitalists, the swing of the petty-bourgeois masses to an alliance with the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie became quite definite and strikingly obvious. This is the historical significance and class meaning of the crisis of June 9.

The Bolsheviks called off the demonstration, having no wish to lead the workers at that moment into a losing fight against the united Cadets, Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. The latter, however, so as to retain at least a vestige of the people’s confidence, were compelled to call a general demonstration for June 48. The bourgeoisie were beside themselves with rage, rightly discerning in this a swing of the petty-bourgeois democrats towards the proletariat, and they decided to paralyse the action of the democrats by an offensive at the front.

In fact, June 18 was marked by an impressive victory for the slogans of the revolutionary proletariat, the slogans of Bolshevism, among the people of Petrograd. And on June 19 the bourgeoisie and the Bonapartist Kerensky solemnly announced that the offensive at the front had begun on June 18.

The offensive meant in effect the resumption of the predatory war in the interests of the capitalists and against the will of the vast majority of the working people. That is why the offensive was inevitably accompanied, on the one hand, by a gigantic growth of chauvinism and the transfer of military power (and consequently of state power) to the military gang of Bonapartists, and, on the other, by the use of violence against the masses, the persecution of the inter nationalists, the abolition of freedom of agitation, and the arrest and 9hooting of those who were against the war.

Whereas May 6 bound the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks to the triumphal chariot of the bourgeoisie with a rope, June 19 shackled them, as servants of the capitalists, with a chain.

VIII

Owing to the resumption of the predatory war, the bitterness of the people naturally grew even more rapidly and intensely. July 3–4 witnessed an outburst of their anger which the Bolsheviks attempted to restrain and which, of course, they had to endeavour to make as organised as possible.

The Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, being slaves of the bourgeoisie, shackled by their master, agreed to everything: dispatching reactionary troops to Petrograd, bringing back the death penalty, disarming the workers and revolutionary troops, arresting and hounding, and closing down newspapers without trial. The power which the bourgeoisie in the government were unable to take entirely, and which the Soviets did not want to take, fell into the hands of the military clique, the Bonapartists, who, of course, were wholly backed by the Cadets and the Black Hundreds, by the landowners and capitalists.

Down the ladder, step by step. Having once set foot on the ladder of compromise with the bourgeoisie, the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks slid irresistibly downwards, to rock bottom. On February 28, in the Petrograd Soviet, they promised conditional support to the bourgeois government. On May 6 they saved it from collapse and allowed themselves to be made its servants and defenders by agreeing to an offensive. On June 9 they united with the counter revolutionary bourgeoisie in a campaign of furious rage, lies and slander against the revolutionary proletariat. On June 19 they approved the resumption of the predatory war. On July 3 they consented to the summoning of reactionary troops, which was the beginning of their complete surrender of power to the Bonapartists. Down the ladder, step by step.

This shameful finale of the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties was not fortuitous but a consequence of the economic status of the small owners, the petty bourgeoisie, as has been repeatedly borne out by experience in Europe.

IX

Everybody, of course, has seen the small owner bend every effort and strain every nerve to "get on in the world", to become a real master, to rise to the position of a “strong” employer, to the position of a bourgeois. As long as capitalism rules the roost, there is no alternative for the small owner other than becoming a capitalist (and that is possible at best in the case of one small owner out of a hundred), or becoming a ruined man, a semi-proletarian, and ultimately a proletarian. The same is true in politics: the petty-bourgeois democrats, especially their leaders, tend to trail after the bourgeoisie. The leaders of the petty-bourgeois democrats console their people with promises and assurances about the possibility of reaching agreement with the big capitalists; at best, and for a very brief period, they obtain certain minor concessions from the capitalists for a small upper section of the working people; but on every decisive issue, on every important matter, the petty-bourgeois democrats have always tailed after the bourgeoisie as a feeble appendage to them, as an obedient tool in the hands of he financial mangates. The experience of Britain and France has proved this over and over again.

The experience of the Russian revolution from February to July 1917, when events developed with unusual rapidity, particularly under the influence of the imperialist war and the deep-going crisis brought about by it, has most strikingly and palpably confirmed the old Marxist truth that the position of the petty bourgeoisie is unstable.

The lesson of the Russian revolution is that there can be no escape for the working people from the iron grip of war, famine, and enslavement by the landowners and capitalists unless they completely break with the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties and clearly understand the latter’s treacherous role, unless they renounce all compromises with the bourgeoisie and resolutely side with the revolutionary workers. Only the revolutionary workers, if supported by the peasant poor, are capable of smashing the resistance of the capitalists and leading the people in gaining land with out compensation, complete liberty, victory over famine and the war, and a just and lasting peace.
Afterword

This article was written at the end of July, as is apparent from the text.

The history of the revolution during August has fully corroborated what is said in this article. Then, at the end of August, the Kornilov revolt caused a new turn in the revolution by clearly demonstrating to the whole people that the Cadets, in alliance with the counter-revolutionary generals, were striving to disband the Soviets and restore the monarchy. The near future will show how strong this new turn of the revolution is, and whether it will succeed in putting an end to the fatal policy of compromise with the bourgeoisie.

N. Lenin

September 6, 1917