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V. I. Lenin
ON THE PRESENT POLITICAL SITUATION
Written not later than
September 3 (16), 1917
First published in 1925
in Lenin Miscellany IV
Published according to
From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1974
First printing 1964
Second printing 1974
Vol. 25, pp. 315-21.
Translated from the Russian
Edited by Stephan Apresyan
and Jim Riordan
Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, email@example.com (January 1998)
ON THE PRESENT POLITICAL SITUATION
The Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P., on the basis of the resolution on the political situation adopted by the Sixth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. (Bolsheviks), and applying that resolution to the present situation, at its plenary meeting states:
1. In the two months from July 3 to September 3, due to the unparalleled speed of the revolution, the course of the class struggle and the development of political events have carried the whole country as far forward as it would have been impossible for the country to advance over many years in peace-time, without revolution and war.
2. It becomes more and more apparent that the events of July 3-5 were the turning-point of the whole revolution. Without a correct estimate of these events, it is impossible to correctly estimate either the proletariat's tasks, or the speed of development of revolutionary events, which is beyond our control.
3. The slander against the Bolsheviks, which the bourgeoisie spread with tremendous zeal and which they put about very widely among the people with the aid of the millions invested in capitalist papers and publishing houses, is being exposed more and more rapidly and widely. First it was the workers in the capital and in the large cities, and then the peasants, who realised more and more that the slander against the Bolsheviks is one of the main weapons used by the landowners and capitalists in the struggle against the defenders of the interests of the workers and poor peasants, i.e., against the Bolsheviks.
4. An outright attempt was made to camouflage the Kornilov revolt, i.e., a revolt of generals and officers behind whom stand the landowners and the capitalists headed by the Cadet Party (the "people's freedom" party), by bringing up again the old slander against the Bolsheviks. It was this that helped finally to open the eyes of the broadest sections of the people to the true meaning of the bourgeois slander against the Bolshevik workers' party, the party of the true defenders of the poor.
5. Had our Party refused to' support the July 3-4 mass movement, which burst out spontaneously despite our attempts to prevent it, we should have actually and completely betrayed the proletariat, since the people were moved to action by their well-founded and just anger at the protraction of the imperialist war, which is a predatory war conducted in the interests of the capitalists, and at the inaction of the government and the Soviets in regard to the bourgeoisie, who are intensifying and aggravating economic disruption and famine.
6. In spite of all the efforts of the bourgeoisie and the government, in spite of the arrest of hundreds of Bolsheviks, the seizure of their papers and documents, the search of their editorial offices, etc. -- in spite of all this nobody has succeeded, and nobody will ever succeed, in proving the slander that our Party's aim in the July 3-4 movement was anything other than a "peaceful and organised" demonstration with the slogan of transfer of all state power to the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies.
7. It would have been wrong if the Bolsheviks had aimed to seize power on July 3-4, since neither the majority of the people nor even the majority of the workers at that time had yet actually experienced the counter-revolutionary policies of generals in the army, of the landowners in the countryside, and of the capitalists in the town. These policies were only revealed to the masses after July 5, and stemmed from a compromise between the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, on the one hand, and the bourgeoisie, on the other. None of our Party organisations, either central or local, advocated, either in writing or by word of mouth, the slogan of seizing power on July 3-4; none of them even discussed this question.
8. The real mistake of our Party on July 3-4, as events now reveal, was merely that the Party considered the general situation in the country less revolutionary than it proved to be, that the Party still considered a peaceful development of political changes possible through an alteration in the Soviets' policies, whereas in reality the Mensheviks and S.R.s had become so much entangled and bound by compromising with the bourgeoisie, and the bourgeoisie had become so counter-revolutionary, that peaceful development was no longer possible. This erroneous view, however, which was sustained only by the hope that events would not develop too fast, our Party could not have got over other than by participating in the popular movement of July 3-4 with the slogan "All power to the Soviets" and with the aim of making the movement peaceful and organised.
9. The historic significance of the Kornilov revolt is that with extraordinary force, it opened the people's eyes to a fact which the S.R.s and Mensheviks had concealed and still are concealing under conciliatory phrases. The fact is that the landowners and the bourgeoisie, headed by the Cadet Party, and the generals and officers who are on their side, have organised themselves; they are ready to commit, or are committing, tho most outrageous crimes, such as surrendering Riga (followed by Petrograd) to the Germans, laying the war front open, putting the Bolshevik regiments under fire,<"p317"> starting a mutiny, leading troops against the capital with the "Savage Division" at their head, etc. The purpose of all this is to seize power completely and put it in the hands of the bourgeoisie, to consolidate the power of the landowners in the countryside, and to drench the country in the blood of workers and peasants.
The Kornilov revolt has proved for Russia what has been proved throughout history for all countries, namely, that the bourgeoisie will betray their country and commit any crime to retain both their power over the people and their profits.
10. The workers and peasants of Russia have no other alternative than the most determined struggle against, and victory over, the landowners and the bourgeoisie, over the Cadet Party and the generals and officers sympathising with it. Only the urban working class can lead the people, i.e., all working people, into such a stuggle and to such a
victory, provided all state power passes into its hands and provided it is supported by the peasant poor.
11. Events in the Russian revolution, particularly since May 6, and even more so since July 3, have been developing with such incredible, storm- or hurricane-like velocity, that it can by no means be the task of the Party to speed them up. All efforts, in fact, must be directed towards keeping up with events and doing on time our work of explaining to the workers, and to the working people in general, as much as we can, the changes in the situation and in the course of the class struggle. This is still the main task of our Party; we must explain to the peop]e that the situation is extremely critical, that every action may end in an explosion, and that therefore a premature uprising may cause the greatest harm. At the same time, the critical situation is inevitably leading the working class -- perhaps with catastrophic speed -- to a situation in which, due to a change in events beyond its control, it will find itself compelled to wage a determined battle with the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie and to gain power.
12. The Kornilov revolt fully revealed that the entire army hates the General Staff. This had to be admitted even by those Mensheviks and S.R.s who through months of effort had proved their hatred for the Bolsheviks and their defence of the policy of agreement between the workers and peasants, on the one hand, and the landowners and the bourgeoisie, on the other. The hatred of the army for the General Staff will not die down but will become stronger now that Kerensky's government has confined itself to substituting Alexeyev for Kornilov, leaving Klembovsky and other Kornilov generals, and has done absolutely nothing substantial to democratise the armed forces and remove the counter-revolutionary commanders. Soviets, which tolerate and support this weak, wavering, unprincipled policy of Kerensky and missed another opportunity to take all power peacefully when the Kornilov revolt was being liquidated, become guilty not only of conciliation but even of criminal conciliation.
The army, which hates the General Staff and does not want to fight a war it now knows to be a war of conquest, is inevitably doomed to new catastrophes.
13. Only the working class, when it has gained power, will be able to pursue a peace policy, not merely in words, like the Mensheviks and S.R.s, who in practice support the bourgeoisie and their secret treaties, but in deeds. Specifically, the working class will immediately offer all peoples open, precise, clear and just peace terms. This will be done irrespective of the military situation, even if Kornilov's generals follow up the surrender of Riga by that of Petrograd. The working class can do this in the name of the entire people, since the overwhelming majority of Russia's workers and peasants oppose the present war of annexation and support a peace on just terms, without annexations and indemnities.
The S.R.s and Mensheviks are deceiving themselves and the people when they spend months talking about this peace. The working class, on gaining power, will offer this peace to all without losing a single day.
The capitalists of all countries have so much difficulty in stemming the workers' revolution against war -- a revolution which is growing everywhere -- that if the Russian revolution were to pass from impotent and pitiful yearning for peace to a forthright peace offer coupled with the publication and annulment of secret treaties, etc., there are ninety-nine chances in a hundred that peace would quickly follow, that the capitalists would be unable to stand in the way of peace.
If, however, the highly improbable were to happen and the capitalists were to reject the peace terms of the Russian workers' government, against the will of their peoples, a revolution in Europe would come a hundred times nearer, and our workers' and peasants' army would elect for itself not hated but respected commanders and military leaders. The army would see the justice of the war once peace had been offered, the secret treaties torn up, the alliance with the landowners and the bourgeoisie severed, and all land given to the peasants. Only then would the war become a just war for Russia, only this war would the workers and peasants fight of their own free will, without being bludgeoned into fighting; and this war would bring even nearer the inevitable workers' revolution in the advanced countries.
14. Only the working class, when it has gained power, will be able to guarantee the immediate transfer of all landed estates to the peasants without compensation. This must not be put off. The Constituent Assembly will legalise the transfer, but it is not the peasants' fault that the Constituent Assembly is being delayed. The peasants daily become more convinced that it is impossible to get the land by agreement with the landowners and the capitalists. The land can only be obtained through a very close, brotherly alliance of the poor peasants and the workers.
Chernov's resignation from the government after he had for months tried to uphold the interests of the peasants through concessions, big and small, to the Cadet landowners, and after all these attempts had failed, revealed with particular clarity the hopelessness of the policy of conciliation. The peasants see, know and feel that since July 5 the landowners have become arrogant in the villages and that it is necessary to curb them and render them harmless.
15. Only the working class, when it has gained power, will be able to put an end to economic disruption and the impending famine. Since May 6 the government has kept on promising control, but it has done and could do nothing because the capitalists and landowners obstructed all work. Unemployment is growing, famine is approaching, currency is losing value. Peshekhonov's resignation after the fixed prices have doubled will aggravate the crisis, and it again shows the utter feebleness and impotence of the government. Only workers' control over production and distribution can save the situation. Only a workers' government will curb the capitalists, will bring heroic support from all working people for the efforts of state power, and will establish order and a fair exchange of grain for manufactured goods.
16. The confidence of the peasant poor in the urban working class, temporarily undermined by the slander of the bourgeoisie and by hopes put in the policy of conciliation, has been returning, particularly after the arrests in the countryside and the various kinds of persecution of working people after July 5 and then the Kornilov revolt opened the people's eyes. One of the signs that the people are losing faith in conciliation with the capitalists is that among the S.R.s. and Mensheviks, the two main parties responsible for
introducing this policy of conciliation and bringing it to a culmination, there have been growing, especially since July 5, a discontent within these parties and a struggle against conciliation. This opposition at the last Socialist-Revolutionary "Council" and at the Menshevik congress involved about two-fifths (40 per cent) of the members.
17. The whole course of events, all economic and political conditions, everything that is happening in the armed forces, are increasingly paving the way for the successful winning of power by the working class, which will bring peace, bread and freedom and will hasten the victory of the proletarian revolution in other countries.
<"en114"> The "Draft Resolution on the Present Political Situation " was written by Lenin for the plenary meeting of the Party's Central Committee set for September 3 (16). What took place on that date was not a plenum but a regular meeting of the C.C., which did not discuss the political situation. In the available records of the C.C. R.S.D.L.P.(B.) for 1917 there is no indication of the draft having been discussed by the Central Committee. [p.315]
<"en115"> Savage Division -- nickname of a division recruited during the First World War from volunteers among the mountain tribes of the North Caucasus. General Kornilov used it as a striking force of the troops he led against revolutionary Petrograd. [p.317]