The Petrograd City Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. (Bolsheviks)

Concluding Remarks In The Debate Concerning The Report On The Present Situation (April 14 (27))

The discussion has shown that opinion is divided. I cannot answer all the questions.

The question of old Bolshevism. Kalinin defended old Bolshevism. But he also came to the conclusion that our present tactics were correct. Another opinion is that there is a marked tendency towards the tactics of the petty bourgeoisie.

There is a time-honoured expression: to go through with the revolution. But which revolution? The objective situation in 1905 was this: the proletariat and the peasantry were the only revolutionary element, while the Cadets stood for the monarchy. Now defencism represents the adoption by the peasants of petty-bourgeois tactics. Going through with the revolution under these circumstances has no meaning. The revolution has united the petty bourgeoisie with other revolutionary elements upon the ground of defencism.

The future of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. A petty-bourgeois peasantry holding defencist views may even be in favour of a monarchy.

A new line follows from the policy of Bolshevism. The petty bourgeoisie and the big bourgeoisie have united. We take as our point of departure conflicting class interests. The labourer peasants ought to be against the imperialist war. The proprietor peasants are for defencism.

Defencism has shown that the petty bourgeoisie has moved away from the working class and gone over to the big bourgeoisie. The poor peasant who earns a part of his living in the city has no need for this war. This class ought to be opposed to the war.

Old Bolshevism should be discarded. The line of the petty bourgeoisie must be separated from that of the wage-earning proletariat. Fine phrases about the revolutionary people are suitable to a man like Kerensky, but not to the revolutionary proletariat. To be revolutionaries, even democrats, with Nicholas removed, is no great merit. Revolutionary democracy is no good at all; it is a mere phrase. It covers up rather than lays bare the antagonisms of class interests. A Bolshevik must open the eyes of the workers and peasants to the existence of these antagonisms, not gloss them over. If the imperialist war hits the proletariat and the peasants economically, these classes will have to rise against it.

To create a network of Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies—that is our task today. The whole of Russia is already being covered with a network of organs of local self-government. A commune may exist also in the form of organs of self-government. The abolition of the police and the standing army, and the arming of the whole people—all this can be accomplished through the organs of local self-government. I have taken the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies simply because it already exists.

It is said, we must “interest” the proletariat. This is what Chkheidze, the Provisional Government and others are doing when they use high-sounding words about revolutionary democracy. A Bolshevik must differentiate between the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie, and leave such words as “revolutionary democracy” and “revolutionary people” to Kerensky. Democracy in Russia is imperialistic. It is argued that we are reducing our activities to cultural work. That is not true. Passing resolutions about the Constituent Assembly, etc., would mean “interesting” the proletariat.

The real work is to bring about the abolition of the standing army, the bureaucracy, and the police, and to arm the whole people.

The Constituent Assembly will not kill the revolution, for nothing is heard of it now, and no one is planning to convene it. We leave it to the Socialist-Revolutionaries to “demand” its convocation.

This war is a world war. It is waged by definite classes, and was brought on by banking capital. It can be stopped by transferring power to another class. So long as the power remains in the hands of the ruling classes, peace can alter nothing.

The proletariat must be shown how the revolution can be carried forward by concrete measures. To carry the revolution forward means to achieve self-government by independent action. The growth of democracy does not stand in the way of self-government, it helps us to realise our aims, The war can be terminated only by the transfer of power to another class—and Russia has come closest of all to that—but never by a truce among the capitalists of all countries on the basis of an exchange of subjugated nationalities. A commune is quite suitable to the peasantry. A commune means complete self-government, the absence of any supervision from above. Nine-tenths of the peasantry should be for it.

The bourgeoisie may reconcile itself to the nationalisation of the land, should the peasants take over the land. As a proletarian party, we must declare that the land alone will not feed people. To cultivate it one will therefore have to set up the commune. We must be for centralisation, but there are times when things can best be done locally; we should allow a maximum of initiative in the local areas. The Cadets are already acting like officials. They tell the peasants: “Wait for the Constituent Assembly.” Our Party alone provides slogans that really carry the revolution forward. The Soviets of Workers’ Deputies are fully capable of establishing communes in the local areas. The question is whether the proletariat will be well enough organised for the task, but this is a thing we cannot estimate in advance, we must learn by doing.

Trotskyism: “No tsar, but a workers’ government.” This is wrong. A petty bourgeoisie exists, and it cannot be dismissed. But it is in two parts. The poorer of the two is with the working class.

War. To end the war by pacifist means is utopia. It may be terminated by an imperialist peace. But the masses do not want such a peace. War is a continuation of the policies of a class; to change the character of the war one must change the class in power.

The name Communist Party is theoretically sound. The Left socialists of other countries are too weak. We must take the initiative.

First published in 1925 in the book The Petrograd City and the All-Russia Conferences of the R.S.D.L.P. (Bolsheviks), April 1917  
Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes