#OctoberRevolutionSeries: How Lenin Schooled His Dilly-Dallying Comrades
An excerpt from Lenin in 1917 by V I Lenin
December 7, 2017
This is our eighth story for our #OctoberRevolutionSeries, a series we began in October to remember the centenary of the Russia Revolution. The first is an excerpt from Cecilia Bobrovskaya's memoirs; the second is from an essay by Prabir Purkayastha; the third is our inaugral bookend by Githa Hariharan on Sevtlana Alexievich's novel Second Hand Time; and the fourth is a conversation with Professor Sobhanlal Datta Gupta, who talks of his research on autobiographical texts by György Lukács, Rosa Luxemburg and Nikolai Bukharin; the fifth is Parvathi Menon's foreword to Kollontai's book with a excerpt from Kollontai's essays in The Soviet Woman (LeftWord Books, 2017); the sixth an essay by Kollontai; the seventh is an excert from Prakash Karat's Introduction to Lenin in 1917 by V I Lenin.
We are living in a time that is so critical, events are moving at such incredible speed that a publicist, placed by the will of fate somewhat aside from the mainstream of history, constantly runs the risk either of being late or proving uninformed, especially if some time elapses before his writings appear in print. Although I fully realise this, I must nevertheless address this letter to the Bolsheviks, even at the risk of its not being published at all, for the vacillations against which I deem it my duty to warn in the most decisive manner are of an unprecedented nature and may have a disastrous effect on the Party, the movement of the international proletariat, and the revolution. As for the danger of being too late, I will prevent it by indicating the nature and date of the information I possess.
It was not until Monday morning, October 16, [1917,] that I saw a comrade who had on the previous day participated in a very important Bolshevik gathering in Petrograd, and who informed me in detail of the discussion1. The subject of discussion was that same question of the uprising discussed by the Sunday papers of all political trends. The gathering represented all that is most influential in all branches of Bolshevik work in the capital. Only a most insignificant minority of the gathering, namely, all in all two comrades, took a negative stand. The arguments which those comrades advanced are so weak, they are a manifestation of such an astounding confusion, timidity, and collapse of all the fundamental ideas of Bolshevism and proletarian revolutionary internationalism that it is not easy to discover an explanation for such shameful vacillations. The fact, however, remains, and since the revolutionary party has no right to tolerate vacillations on such a serious question, and since this pair of comrades, who have scattered their principles to the winds, might cause some confusion, it is necessary to analyse their arguments, to expose their vacillations, and to show how shameful they are. The following lines are an attempt to do this.
* * *
“We have no majority among the people, and without this condition the uprising is hopeless . . . .”
People who can say this are either distorters of the truth or pedants who want an advance guarantee that throughout the whole country the Bolshevik Party has received exactly one-half of the votes plus one, this they want at all events, without taking the least account of the real circumstances of the revolution. History has never given such a guarantee, and is quite unable to give it in any revolution. To make such a demand is jeering at the audience, and is nothing but a cover to hide one’s own flight from reality.
For reality shows us clearly that it was after the July days that the majority of the people began quickly to go over to the side of the Bolsheviks. This was demonstrated first by the August 20 elections in Petrograd, even before the Kornilov revolt, when the Bolshevik vote rose from 20 to 33 per cent in the city not including the suburbs, and then by the district council elections in Moscow in September, when the Bolshevik vote rose from 11 to 49.3 per cent (one Moscow comrade, whom I saw recently, told me that the correct figure is 51 per cent). This was proved by the new elections to the Soviets. It was proved by the fact that a majority of the peasant Soviets, their “Avksentyev” central Soviet notwithstanding, has expressed itself against the coalition. To be against the coalition means in practice to follow the Bolsheviks. Furthermore, reports from the front prove more frequently and more definitely that the soldiers are passing en masse over to the side or the Bolsheviks with ever greater determination, in spite of the malicious slanders and attacks by the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik leaders, officers, deputies, etc., etc.
Last, but not least, the most outstanding fact of present-day Russian life is the revolt of the peasantry. This shows objectively, not by words but by deeds, that the people are going over to the side of the Bolsheviks. But the fact remains, notwithstanding the lies of the bourgeois press and its miserable yes-men of the “vacillating” Novaya Zhizn crowd, who shout about riots and anarchy. The peasant movement in Tambov Gubernia2 was an uprising both in the physical and political sense, an uprising that has yielded such splendid political results as, in the first place, agreement to transfer the land to the peasants. It is not for nothing that the Socialist-Revolutionary rabble, including Dyelo Naroda, who are frightened by the uprising, now scream about the need to transfer the land to the peasants. Here is a practical demonstration of the correctness of Bolshevism and of its success. It proved to be impossible to “teach” the Bonapartists and their lackeys in the Pre-parliament otherwise than by an uprising.
This is a fact and facts are stubborn things. And such a factual “argument” in favour of an uprising is stronger than thousands of “pessimistic” evasions on the part of confused and frightened politicians.
If the peasant uprising were not an event of nation-wide political import, the Socialist-Revolutionary lackeys from the Pre-parliament would not be shouting about the need to hand over the land to the peasants.
Another splendid political and revolutionary consequence of the peasant uprising, as already noted in Rabochy Put, is the delivery of grain to the railway stations in Tambov Gubernia. Here is another “argument” for you, confused gentlemen, an argument in favour of the uprising as the only means to save the country from the famine that is knocking at our door and from a crisis of unheard-of dimensions. While the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik betrayers of the people are grumbling, threatening, writing resolutions, promising to feed the hungry by convening the Constituent Assembly, the people are beginning to solve the bread problem Bolshevik-fashion, by rebelling against the landowners, capitalists, and speculators.
Even the bourgeois press, even Russkaya Volya, was compelled to admit the wonderful results of such a solution (the only real solution) of the bread problem, by publishing information to the effect that the railway stations in Tambov Gubernia were swamped with grain . . . . And this after the peasants had revolted!
To doubt now that the majority of the people are following and will follow the Bolsheviks is shameful vacillation and in practice is the abandoning of all the principles of proletarian revolutionism, the complete renunciation of Bolshevism.
1. A reference to the enlarged Central Committee meeting on October 16 (29), 1917. Lenin remained in hiding in Petrograd and changed the date of the meeting to October 15 (28) in order to conceal his presence at the meeting; for reasons of secrecy he referred to a comrade who had allegedly informed him of the meeting.
2. The peasant movement in Tambov Gubernia in September 1917 assumed great proportions: the peasants seized tracts of landed estates, destroyed and burned landowners’ mansions and confiscated grain stocks. In September, 82 landowners’ estates were destroyed in 68 gubernias and regions, including 32 in Tambov Gubernia. Altogether there is a record of 166 peasant manifestations in the gubernia, especially in Kozlov Uyezd. The frightened landowners took their grain to the railway stations in an effort to sell it, so that the railway junctures were literally swamped with grain. The commanding officer of the Moscow Military District sent military units to Tambov Gubernia to crush the peasant uprising, and imposed martial law, but the peasants’ revolutionary struggle for land continued to grow in scope.
V I Lenin (1870-1924) was the preeminent leader of the Russian Revolution, and a Marxist theoretician. His important books include, among many others, What is to be Done, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism and The State and Revolution.
This is an excerpt from Lenin in 1917 by V I Lenin (New Delhi: LeftWord Books, 2017), edited by Prakash Karat, republished with permission from the publisher.
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