In Defence of October

Study the lessons of the Russian Revolution

About us 1917 Live

The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It


Financial Collapse and Measures To Combat It

There is another side to the problem of raising the fixed grain prices. This raising of prices involves a new chaotic increase in the issuing of paper money, a further increase in the cost of living, increased financial disorganisation and the approach of financial collapse. Everybody admits that the issuing of paper money constitutes the worst form of compulsory loan, that it most of all affects the conditions of the workers, of the poorest section of the population, and that it is the chief evil engendered by financial disorder.

And it is to this measure that the Kerensky government, supported by the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, is resorting!

There is no way of effectively combating financial disorganisation and inevitable financial collapse except that of revolutionary rupture with the interests of capital and that of the organisation of really democratic control, i.e., control from "below", control by the workers and the poor peasants over the capitalists, a way to which we referred throughout the earlier part of this exposition.

Large issues of paper money encourage profiteering, enable the capitalists to make millions of rubles, and place tremendous difficulties in the way of a very necessary expansion of production, for the already high cost of materials, machinery, etc., is rising further by leaps and bounds. What can be done about it when the wealth acquired by the rich through profiteering is being concealed?

An income tax with progressive and very high rates for larger and very large incomes might be introduced. Our government has introduced one, following the example of other imperialist governments. But it is largely a fiction, a dead letter, for, firstly, the value of money is falling faster and faster, and, secondly, the more incomes are derived from profiteering and the more securely commercial secrecy is maintained, the greater their concealment.

Real and not nominal control is required to make the tax real and not fictitious. But control over the capitalists is impossible if it remains bureaucratic, for the bureaucracy is itself bound to and interwoven with the bourgeoisie by thousands of threads. That is why in the West-European imperialist states, monarchies and republics alike, financial order is obtained solely by the introduction of "labour service", which creates war-time penal servitude or war-time slavery for the workers.

Reactionary-bureaucratic control is the only method known to imperialist states—not excluding the democratic republics of France and America—of foisting the burdens of the war on to the proletariat and the working people.

The basic contradiction in the policy of our government is that, in order not to quarrel with the bourgeoisie, not to destroy the “coalition” with them, the government has to introduce reactionary-bureaucratic control, which it calls “revolutionary-democratic” control, deceiving the people at every step and irritating and angering the masses who have just overthrown tsarism.

Yet only revolutionary-democratic measures, only the organisation of the oppressed classes, the workers and peasants, the masses, into unions would make it possible to establish a most effective control over the rich and wage a most successful fight against the concealment of incomes.

An attempt is being made to encourage the use of cheques as a means of avoiding excessive issue of paper money. This measure is of no significance as far as the poor arc concerned, for anyway they live from hand to mouth, complete their "economic cycle" in one week and return to the capitalists the few meagre coppers they manage to earn. The use of cheques might have great significance as far as the rich are concerned. It would enable the state, especially in conjunction with such measures as nationalisation of the banks and abolition of commercial secrecy, really to control the incomes of the capitalists, really to impose taxation on them, and really to “democratise” (and at the same time bring order into) the financial system.

But this is hampered by the fear of infringing the privileges of the bourgeoisie and destroying the “coalition” with them. For unless truly revolutionary measures are adopted and compulsion is very seriously resorted to, the capitalists will not submit to any control, will not make known their budgets, and will not surrender their stocks of paper money for the democratic state to "keep account" of.

The workers and peasants, organised in unions, by nationalising the banks, making the use of cheques legally compulsory for all rich persons, abolishing commercial secrecy, imposing confiscation of property as a penalty for concealment of incomes, etc., might with extreme ease make control both effective and universal—control, that is, over the rich, and such control as would secure the return of paper money from those who have it, from those who conceal it, to the treasury, which issues it.

This requires a revolutionary dictatorship of the democracy, headed by the revolutionary proletariat; that is, it requires that the democracy should become revolutionary in fact. That is the crux of the matter. But that is just what is not wanted by our Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, who are deceiving the people by displaying the flag of "revolutionary democracy" while they are in fact supporting the reactionary-bureaucratic policy of the bourgeoisie, who, as always, are guided by the rule: "Après nous le déluge"—after us the deluge!

We usually do not even notice how thoroughly we are permeated by anti-democratic habits and prejudices regarding the “sanctity” of bourgeois property. When an engineer or banker publishes the income and expenditure of a worker, information about his wages and the productivity of his labour, this is regarded as absolutely legitimate and fair. Nobody thinks of seeing it as an intrusion into the "private life" of the worker, as "spying or informing" on the part of the engineer. Bourgeois society regards the labour and earnings of a wage-worker as its open book, any bourgeois being entitled to peer into it at any moment, and at any moment to expose the "luxurious living" of the worker, his supposed “laziness”, etc.

Well, and what about reverse control? What if the unions of employees, clerks and domestic servants were invited by a democratic state to verify the income and expenditure of capitalists, to publish information on the subject and to assist the government in combating concealment of incomes?

What a furious howl against “spying” and “informing” would be raised by the bourgeoisie! When “masters” control servants, or when capitalists control workers, this is considered to be in the nature of things; the private life of the working and exploited people is not considered inviolable. The bourgeoisie are entitled to call to account any "wage slave" and at any time to make public his income and expenditure. But if the oppressed attempt to control the oppressor, to show up his income and expenditure, to expose his luxurious living even in war-time, when his luxurious living is directly responsible for armies at the front starving and perishing—oh, no, the bourgeoisie will not tolerate “spying” and “informing”!

It all boils down to the same thing: the rule of the bourgeoisie is irreconcilable with truly-revolutionary true democracy. We cannot be revolutionary democrats in the twentieth century and in a capitalist country if we fear to advance towards socialism.


The February Revolution
Strikes and protests erupt on women's day in Petrograd and develop into a mass movement involving hundreds of thousands of workers; within 5 days the workers win over the army and bring down the hated and seemingly omnipotent Tsarist Monarchy.
Lenin Returns
Lenin returns to Russia and presents his ‘April Theses’ denouncing the Bourgeois Provisional Government and calling for “All Power to the Soviets!”
The June Days
Following the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets, the reformist leaders called a demonstration to show the strength of "democracy". 400,000 people attended, the vast majority carried banners with Bolshevik slogans.
The July Days
Spontaneous, armed demonstrations against the Provisional Government erupt in Petrograd. The workers and soldiers are suppressed by force, introducing a period of reaction and making the peaceful development of the revolution impossible.
The Kornilov Affair
Following the July days, the Bolsheviks were driven underground and the forces of reaction were emboldened. This process culminated in the reactionary forces coalescing around General Kornilov, who attempt to march on Petrograd and crush the revolutionary movement in its entirety.
The October Revolution
The Provisional Government is overthrown. State power passes to the Soviets on the morningm of 26th October, after the Bolsheviks’ Military Revolutionary Committee seize the city and the cabinet surrenders.
  • V. I. Lenin

    V. I. Lenin

    "The dominating trait of his character, the feature which constituted half his make-up, was his will..."
  • L. Trotsky

    L. Trotsky

    “Astounding speeches, fanfares of orders, the unceasing electrifier of a weakening army.”
  • G. Plekhanov

    G. Plekhanov

    "In the final analysis the brilliant aspects of Plekhanov’s character will endure forever."
  • G. O. Zinoviev

    G. O. Zinoviev

    "Zinoviev has won the reputation of being one of the most remarkable orators – a difficult feat."
  • Y. M. Sverdlov

    Y. M. Sverdlov

    “He did not die on the field of battle, but we are right to see him as a man who gave his life for the cause.”
  • V. Volodarsky

    V. Volodarsky

    “He was always to be seen in the front row, the on-the-spot leader. So, they killed him.”
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Reading Guides

  • The 1917 February Revolution

    The 1917 February Revolution

    The February Revolution saw a mass strike develop from below at a furious pace which posed the question of state power within a week of its inception. Workers in Petrograd took to the streets against intolerable bread shortages, the slaughter
  • Lenin Returns in April

    Lenin Returns in April

    This reading guide contains some of Lenin’s most important writings and speeches made in the April period, accompanied by works which provide further details of events at that stage of the Revolution.
  • The June Days 1917

    The June Days 1917

    This reading guide informs the May-June period of the Revolution with analysis, accounts of those who were involved and important speeches and writings of the time.
  • The July Days 1917

    The July Days 1917

    This selection of texts covers the background, events and consequences of the July Days. Next, we will turn our attention to one of those consequences – the Kornilov putsch in late August.
  • The Kornilov affair

    The Kornilov affair

    Kornilov’s failed coup brought the direct action of the masses into play again, and proved to them once and for all that they were the only force in society capable of transforming their own living conditions. For the first time,
  • The October Insurrection 1917

    The October Insurrection 1917

    The following series of articles provides in-depth analyses and first-hand accounts of the events immediately preceding, during and after the greatest event in human history: the October Revolution, in addition to reflections on its aftermath.
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