The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution (Draft Platform for the Proletarian Party)

A document by Lenin on the tasks of the working class in the 1917 Revolution. First published September 1917 as a pamphlet.

The moment of history through which Russia is now passing is marked by the following main characteristics:


1. The old tsarist power, which represented only a handful of feudalist landowners who commanded the entire state machinery (the army, the police, and the bureaucracy), has been overthrown and removed, but not completely destroyed. The monarchy has not been formally abolished; the Romanov gang continues to hatch monarchist intrigues. The vast landed possessions of the feudalist squirearchy have not been abolished.

2. State power in Russia has passed into the hands of a new class, namely, the bourgeoisie and landowners who had become bourgeois. To this extent the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia is completed.

Having come to power, the bourgeoisie has formed a bloc (an alliance) with the overt monarchists, who are notorious for their exceptionally ardent support of Nicholas the Bloody and Stolypin the Hangman in 1906-14 (Guchkov and other politicians to the right of the Cadets). The new bourgeois government of Lvov and Co. has attempted and has begun to negotiate with the Romanovs for the restoration of the monarchy in Russia. Behind a screen of revolutionary phrases, this government is appointing partisans of the old regime to key positions. It is striving to reform the whole machinery of state (the army, the police, and the bureaucracy) as little as possible, and has turned it over to the bourgeoisie. The new government has already begun to hinder in every way the revolutionary initiative of mass action and the seizure of power by the people from below, which is the soleguarantee of the real success of the revolution.

Up to now this government has not even fixed a date for the convocation of the Constituent Assembly. It is not laying a finger on the landed estates, which form the material foundation of feudal tsarism. This government does not even contemplate starting an investigation into, and making public, the activities of the monopolist financial organisations, the big banks, the syndicates and cartels of the capitalists, etc., or instituting control over them.

The key positions, the decisive ministerial posts in the new government (the Ministry of the Interior and the War Ministry, i.e., the command over the army, the police, the bureaucracy – the entire apparatus for oppressing the people) are held by outright monarchists and supporters of the system of big landed estates. The Cadets, those day-old republicans, republicans against their own will, have been assigned minor posts, having no direct relation to the commandover the people or to the apparatus of state power. A. Kerensky, a Trudovik and “would-be socialist”, has no function whatsoever, except to lull the vigilance and attention of the people with sonorous phrases.

For all these reasons, the new bourgeois government does not deserve the confidence of the proletariat even in the sphere of internal policy, and no support of this government by the proletariat is admissible.


3. In the field of foreign policy, which has now been brought to the forefront by objective circumstances, the new government is a government for the continuation of the imperialist war, a war that is being waged in alliance with the imperialist powers—Britain, France, and others—for division of the capitalist spoils and for subjugating small and weak nations.

Subordinated to the interests of Russian capitalism and its powerful protector and master—Anglo-French imperialist capitalism, the wealthiest in the world, the new government, notwithstanding the wishes expressed in no uncertain fashion on behalf of the obvious majority of the peoples of Russia through the Soviet of Soldiers’ and Workers’ Deputies, has taken no real steps to put an end to the slaughter of peoples for the interests of the capitalists. It has not even published the secret treaties of an obviously predatory character (for the partition of Persia, the plunder of China, the plunder of Turkey, the partition of Austria, the annexation of Eastern Prussia, the annexation of the German colonies, etc.), which, as everybody knows, bind Russia to Anglo-French predatory imperialist capital. It has confirmed these treaties concluded by tsarism, which for centuries robbed and oppressed more nations than other tyrants and despots, and which not only oppressed, but also disgraced and demoralised the Great-Russian nation by making it an executioner of other nations.

The new government has confirmed these shameful depredatory treaties and has not proposed an immediate armistice to all the belligerent nations, in spite of the clearly expressed demand of the majority of the peoples of Russia, voiced through the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. It has evaded the issue with the help of solemn, sonorous, bombastic, but absolutely empty declarations and phrases, which, in the mouths of bourgeois diplomats, have always served, and still serve, to deceive the trustful and naïve masses of the oppressed people.

4. Not only, therefore, is the new government unworthy of the slightest confidence in the field of foreign policy, but to go on demanding that it should proclaim the will of the peoples of Russia for peace, that it should renounce annexations, and so on and so forth, is in practice merely to deceive the people, to inspire them with false hopes and to retard the clarification of their minds. It is indirectly to reconcile them to the continuation of a war the true social character of which is determined not by pious wishes, but by the class character of the government that wages the war, by the connection between the class represented by this government and the imperialist finance capital of Russia, Britain, France, etc., by the real and actual policywhich that class is pursuing.


5. The main feature of our revolution, a feature that most imperatively demands thoughtful consideration, is the dual power which arose in the very first days after the triumph of the revolution.

This dual power is evident in the existence of twogovernments: one is the main, the real, the actual government of the bourgeoisie, the “Provisional Government” of Lvov and Co., which holds in its hands all the organs of power; the other is a supplementary and parallel government, a “controlling” government in the shape of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, which holds no organs of state power, but directly rests on the support of an obvious and indisputable majority of the people, on the armed workers and soldiers.

The class origin and the class significance of this dual power is the following: the Russian revolution of March 1917 not only swept away the whole tsarist monarchy, not only transferred the entire power to the bourgeoisie, but also moved close towards a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. The Petrograd and the other, the local, Soviets constitute precisely such a dictatorship (that is, a power resting not on the law but directly on the force of armed masses of the population), a dictatorship precisely of the above-mentioned classes.

6. The second highly important feature of the Russian revolution is the fact that the Petrograd Soviet of Soldiers’ and Workers’ Deputies, which, as everything goes to show, enjoys the confidence of most of the local Soviets, is voluntarilytransferring state power to the bourgeoisie and itsProvisional Government, is voluntarily cedingsupremacy to the latter, having entered into an agreement to support it, and is limiting its own role to that of an observer, a supervisor of the convocation of the Constituent Assembly (the date for which has not even been announced as yet by the Provisional Government).

This remarkable feature, unparalleled in history in such a form, has led to the interlocking of twodictatorships: the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (for the government of Lvov and Co. is a dictatorship, i.e., a power based not on the law, not on the previously expressed will of the people, but on seizure by force, accomplished by a definite class, namely, the bourgeoisie) and the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry (the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies).

There is not the slightest doubt that such an “interlocking” cannot last long. Two powers cannot existin a state. One of them is bound to pass away; and the entire Russian bourgeoisie is already trying its hardest everywhere and in every way to keep out and weaken the Soviets, to reduce them to nought, and to establish the undivided power of the bourgeoisie.

The dual power merely expresses a transitionalphase in the revolution’s development, when it has gone farther than the ordinary bourgeois-democratic revolution, but has not yet reacheda “pure” dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.

The class significance (and the class explanation) of this transitional and unstable situation is this: like all revolutions, our revolution required the greatest heroism and self-sacrifice on the part of the people for the struggle against tsarism; it also immediately drewunprecedentedly vast numbers of ordinary citizens into the movement.

From the point of view of science and practical politics, one of the chief symptoms of everyreal revolution is the unusually rapid, sudden, and abrupt increase in the number of “ordinary citizens” who begin to participate actively, independently and effectively in political life and in the organisation of the state.

Such is the case in Russia. Russia at present is seething. Millions and tens of millions of people, who had been politically dormant for ten years and politically crushed by the terrible oppression of tsarism and by inhuman toil for the landowners and capitalists, have awakened and taken eagerlyto politics. And who are these millions and tens of millions? For the most part small proprietors, petty bourgeois, people standing midway between the capitalists and the wage-workers Russia is the most petty-bourgeois of all European countries.

A gigantic petty-bourgeois wave has swept over everything and overwhelmed the class-conscious proletariat, not only by force of numbers but also ideologically; that is, it has infected and imbued very wide circles of workers with the petty-bourgeois political outlook.

The petty bourgeoisie are in real life dependent upon the bourgeoisie, for they live like masters and not like proletarians (from the point of view of their placein social production ) and follow the bourgeoisie in their outlook.

An attitude of unreasoning trust in the capitalists—the worst foes of peace and socialism—characterises the politics of the popular massesin Russia at the present moment; this is the fruit that has grownwith revolutionary rapidity on the social and economic soil of the most petty-bourgeois of all European countries. This is the classbasis for the “agreement” between the Provisional Government and the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies (I emphasise that I am referring not so much to the formal agreement as to actual support, a tacit agreement, the surrender of power inspired by unreasoning trust), an agreement which has given the Guchkovs a fat piece—real power—and the Soviet merely promises and honours (for the time being), flattery, phrases, assurances, and the bowings and scrapings of the Kerenskys.

On the other side we have the inadequate numerical strength of the proletariat in Russia and its insufficient class-consciousness and organisation.

All the Narodnik parties, including the Socialist-Revolutionaries, have always been petty-bourgeois. This is also true of the party of the Organising Committee (Chkheidze, Tsereteli, etc.). The non-party revolutionaries (Steklov and others) have similarly yielded to the tide, or have not been able to stand up to it, have not had the time to do it.


7. For the Marxist, who must reckon with objective facts, with the masses and classes, and not with individuals and so on, the peculiar nature of the actual situation as described above must determine the peculiar nature of the tactics for the present moment.

This peculiarity of the situation calls, in the first place, for the “pouring of vinegar and bile into the sweet water of revolutionary-democratic phraseology” (as my fellow member on the Central Committee of our Party, Teodorovich, so aptly put it at yesterday’s session of the All-Russia Congress of Railwaymen in Petrograd). Our work must be one of criticism, of explainingthe mistakes of the petty-bourgeois Socialist-Revolutionary and Social-Democratic parties, of preparing and welding the elements of a consciouslyproletarian, Communist Party, and of curingthe proletariat of the “general” petty-bourgeois intoxication.

This seemsto be “nothing more” than propaganda work, but in reality it is most practical revolutionarywork; for there is no advancing a revolution that has come to a standstill, that has choked itself with phrases, and that keeps “marking time”, not because of external obstacles, not because of the violence of the bourgeoisie (Guchkov is still only threatening to employ violence against the soldier mass), but becauseof the unreasoning trust of the people.

Only by overcoming this unreasoning trust (and we can and should overcome it only ideologically, by comradely persuasion, by pointing to the lessons of experience ) can we set ourselves free from the prevailing orgy of revolutionary phrase-mongeringand really stimulate the consciousness both of the proletariat and of the mass in general, as well as their bold and determined initiative in the localities– the independent realisation, development and consolidation of liberties, democracy, and the principle of people’s ownership of all the land.

8. The world-wide experience of bourgeois and landowner governments has evolved twomethods of keeping the people in subjection. The first is violence. Nicholas Romanov I, nicknamed Nicholas of the Big Stick, and Nicholas II, the Bloody, demonstrated to the Russian people the maximum of what can and cannot he done in the way of these hangmen’s practices. But there is another method, best developed by the British and French bourgeoisie, who “learned their lesson” in a series of great revolutions and revolutionary movements of the masses. It is the method of deception, flattery, fine phrases, promises by the million, petty sops, and concessions of the unessential while retaining the essential.

The peculiar feature of the present situation in Russia is the transition at a dizzy speed from the first method to the second, from violent oppression of the people to flatteringand deceiving the people by promises. Vaska the Cat listens, but goes on eating. Milyukov and Guchkov are holding power, they are protecting the profits of the capitalists, conducting an imperialist war in the interests of Russian and Anglo-French capital, and trying to get away with promises, declamation and bombastic statements in reply to the speeches of “cooks” like Chkheidze, Tsereteli and Steklov, who threaten, exhort, conjure, beseech, demand and proclaim. . . . Vaska the Cat listens, but goes on eating.

But from day to day trustful lack of reasoning and unreasoning trust will be falling away, especially among the proletarians and poorpeasants, who are being taught by experience (by their social and economic position) to distrust the capitalists.

The leaders of the petty bourgeoisie “must” teach the people to trust the bourgeoisie. The proletarians must teach the people to distrust the bourgeoisie.


9. Revolutionary defencismmust be regarded as the most important, the most striking manifestation of the petty-bourgeois wave that has swept over “nearly everything”. It is the worst enemy of the further progress and success of the Russian revolution.

Those who have yielded on this point and have been unable to extricate themselves are lost to the revolution. But the masses yield in a different way from the leaders, and they extricate themselves differently, by a different course of development, by different means.

Revolutionary defencism is, on the one hand, a result of the deception of the masses by the bourgeoisie, a result of the trustful lack of reasoning on the part of the peasants and a section of the workers; it is, on the other, an expression of the interests and point of view of the small proprietor, who is to some extent interested in annexations and bank profits, and who “sacredly” guards the traditions of tsarism, which demoralised the Great Russians by making them do a hangman’s work against the other peoples.

The bourgeoisie deceives the people by working on their noble pride in the revolution and by pretending that the social and politicalcharacter of the war, as far as Russia is concerned, underwent a change because of this stage of the revolution, because of the substitution of the near republic of Guchkov and Milyukov for the tsarist monarchy. And the people believed it—for a time—largely owing to age-old prejudices, which made them look upon the other peoples of Russia, i.e., the non-Great Russians, as something in the nature of a property and private estate of the Great Russians. This vile demoralisation of the Great Russian people by tsarism which taught them to regard the other peoples as something inferior, something belonging “by right” to Great Russia, could not disappear instantly.

What is required of us is the abilityto explain to the masses that the social and political character of the war is determined not by the “good will” of individuals or groups, or even of nations, but by the position of the classwhich conducts the war, by the class policyof which the war is a continuation, by the tiesof capital, which is the dominant economic force in modern society, by the imperialist characterof international capital, by Russia’s dependence in finance, banking and diplomacy upon Britain, France, and so on. To explain this skilfully in a way the people would understand is not easy ; none of us would be able to do it at once without committing errors.

But this, and only this, must be the aim or, rather, the message of our propaganda. The slightest concession to revolutionary defencism is a betrayal of socialism, a complete renunciation of internationalism, no matter by what fine phrases and “practical” considerations it may be justified.

The slogan “Down with the War!” is, of course, correct. But it fails to take into account the specific nature of the tasks of the present moment and the necessity of approaching the broad mass of the people in a different way. It reminds me of the slogan “Down with the Tsar!” with which the inexperienced agitator of the “good old days” went simply and directly to the countryside—and got a beating for his pains. The mass believers in revolutionary defencism are honest, not in the personal, but in the class sense, i.e., they belong to classes(workers and the peasant poor) which in actual facthave nothing to gain from annexations and the subjugation of other peoples. This is nothing like the bourgeois and the “intellectual” fraternity, who know very well that you cannotrenounce annexations without renouncing the rule of capital, and who unscrupulously deceive the people with fine phrases, with unlimited promises and endless assurances.

The rank-and-file believer in defencism regards the matter in the simple way of the man in the street: “I don’t want annexations, but the Germans are ’going for’ me, therefore I’m defending a just cause and not any kind of imperialist interests at all.” To a man like this it must be explained again and again that it is not a question of his personal wishes, but of mass, class, political relations and conditions, of the connection between the war and the interests of capital and the international network of banks, and so forth. Only such a struggle against defencism will be serious and will promise success—perhaps not a very rapid success, but one that will be real and enduring.


10. The war cannot be ended “at will”. It cannot be ended by the decision of one of the belligerents. It cannot be ended by “sticking your bayonet into the ground”, as one soldier, a defencist, expressed it.

The war cannot be ended by an “agreement” among the socialists of the various countries, by the “action” of the proletarians of all countries, by the “will” of the peoples, and so forth. All the phrases of this kind, which fill the articles of the defencist, semi-defencist, and semi-internationalist papers as well as innumerable resolutions, appeals, manifestos, and the resolutions of the Soviet of Soldiers’ and Workers’ Deputies – all such phrases are nothing but idle, innocent and pious wishes of the petty bourgeois. There is nothing more harmful than phrases like “ascertaining the will of the peoples for peace”, like the sequenceof revolutionary actions of the proletariat (after the Russian proletariat comes the turn of the German), etc. All this is Blancism, fond dreams, a playing at “political campaigning”, and in reality just a repetition of the fable of Vaska the Cat.

The war is not a product of the evil will of rapacious capitalists, although it is undoubtedly being fought onlyin their interests and they alone are being enriched by it. The war is a product of half a century of development of world capitalism and of its billions of threads and connections. It is impossibleto slip out of the imperialist war and achieve a democratic, non-coercive peace without overthrowing the power of capital and transferring state power to anotherclass, the proletariat.

The Russian revolution of February-March 1917 was the beginning of the transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war. This revolution took the firststep towards ending the war; but it requires a secondstep, namely, the transfer of state power to the proletariat, to make the end of the war a certainty. This will be the beginning of a “break-through” on a world-wide scale, a break-through in the front of capitalist interests; and only by breaking through thisfront canthe proletariat save mankind from the horrors of war and endow it with the blessings of peace.

It is directly to such a “break-through” in the front of capitalism that the Russian revolution has alreadybrought the Russian proletariat by creating the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies.


11. The Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, Peasants’ and other Deputies are not understood, not only in the sense that their class significance, their role in the Russianrevolution, is not clear to the majority. They are not understood also in the sense that they constitute a new form or rather a new type of state.

The most perfect, the most advanced type of bourgeois state is the parliamentary democratic republic: power is vested in parliament; the state machine, the apparatus and organ of administration, is of the customary kind: the standing army, the police, and the bureaucracy—which in practice is undisplaceable, is privileged and stands abovethe people.

Since the end of the nineteenth century, however, revolutionary epochs have advanced a highertype of democratic state, a state which in certain respects, as Engels put it, ceases to be a state, is “no longer a state in the proper sense of the word”. This is a state of the Paris Commune type, one in which a standing army and police divorced from the people are replacedby the direct arming of the people themselves. It is this featurethat constitutes the very essence of the Commune, which has been so misrepresented and slandered by the bourgeois writers, and to which has been erroneously ascribed, among other things, the intention of immediately “introducing” socialism.

This is the type of state which the Russian revolution beganto create in 1905 and in 1917. A Republic of Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, Peasants’, and other Deputies, united in an All-Russia Constituent Assembly of people’s representatives or in a Council of Soviets, etc., is what is already being realisedin our country now, at this juncture. It is being realised by the initiative of the nation’s millions, who are creating a democracy on their own, in their own waywithout waiting until the Cadet professors draft their legislative bills for a parliamentary bourgeois republic, or until the pedants and routine-worshippers of petty-bourgeois “Social-Democracy”, like Mr. Plekhanov or Kautsky, stop distorting the Marxist teaching on the state.

Marxism differs from anarchism in that it recognises the needfor a state and for state power in the period of revolution in general, and in the period of transition from capitalism to socialism in particular.

Marxism differs from the petty-bourgeois, opportunist “Social-Democratism” of Plekhanov, Kautsky and Co. in that it recognises that what is required during these two periods is nota state of the usual parliamentary bourgeois republican type, but a state of the Paris Commune type.

The main distinctions between a state of the latter type and the old state are as follows.

It is quite easy (as history proves) to revert from a parliamentary bourgeois republic to a monarchy, for all the machinery of oppression—the army, the police, and the bureaucracy—is left intact. The Commune and the Soviet smashthat machinery and do away with it.

The parliamentary bourgeois republic hampers and stifles the independent political life of the massestheir direct participation in the democraticorganisation of the life of the state from the bottom up. The opposite is the case with the Soviets.

The latter reproduce the type of state which was being evolved by the Paris Commune and which Marx described as “the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labour”.

We are usually told that the Russian people are not yet prepared for the “introduction” of the Commune. This was the argument of the serf-owners when they claimed that the peasants were not prepared for emancipation. The Commune, i.e., the Soviets, does not “introduce”, does not intend to “introduce”, and must not introduce anyreforms which have not absolutely matured both in economic reality and in the minds of the overwhelming majority of the people. The deeper the economic collapse and the crisis produced by the war, the more urgent becomes the need for the most perfect political form, which will facilitatethe healing of the terrible wounds inflicted on mankind by the war. The less the organisational experience of the Russian people, the more resolutely must we proceedto organisational development by the people themselvesand not merely by the bourgeois politicians and “well-placed” bureaucrats.

The sooner we shed the old prejudices of pseudo-Marxism, a Marxism falsified by Plekhanov, Kautsky and Co., the more actively we set about helping the people to organise Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies everywhere and immediately, and helping the latter to take life in its entiretyunder their control, and the longer Lvov and Co. delay the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, the easier will it be for the people (through the medium of the Constituent Assembly, or independently of it, if Lvov delays its convocation too long) to cast their decision in favour of a republic of Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies. Errors in the new work of organisational development by the people themselves are at first inevitable; but it is better to make mistakes and go forward than to waituntil the professors of law summoned by Mr. Lvov draft their laws for the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, for the perpetuation of the parliamentary bourgeois republic and for the strangling of the Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies.

If we organise ourselves and conduct our propaganda skilfully, not only the proletarians, but nine-tenths of the peasants will be opposed to the restoration of the police, will be opposed to an undisplaceable and privileged bureaucracy and to an army divorced from the people. And that is all the new type of state stands for.

12. The substitution of a people’s militia for the police is a reform that follows from the entire course of the revolution and that is now being introduced in most parts of Russia. We must explain to the people that in most of the bourgeois revolutions of the usual type, this reform was always extremely short-lived, and that the bourgeoisie—even the most democratic and republican—restored the police of the old, tsarist type, a police divorced from the people, commanded by the bourgeoisie and capable of oppressing the people in every way.

There is only one way to preventthe restoration of the police, and that is to create a people’s militia and to fuse it with the army (the standing army to be replaced by the arming of the entire people). Service in this militia should extend to all citizens of both sexes between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five without exception, if these tentatively suggested age limits may be taken as indicating the participation of adolescents and old people. Capitalists must pay their workers, servants, etc., for days devoted to public service in the militia. Unless women are brought to take an independent part not only in political life generally, but also in daily and universal public service, it is no use talking about full and stable democracy, let alone socialism. And such “police” functions as care of the sick and of homeless children, food inspection, etc., will never be satisfactorily discharged until women are on an equal footing with men, not merely nominally but in reality.

The tasks which the proletariat must put before the people in order to safeguard, consolidate and develop the revolution are prevention of the restoration of the police and enlistment of the organisational forces of the entire people in forming a people’s militia.


13. At the present moment we cannot say for certain whether a mighty agrarian revolution will develop in the Russian countryside in the near future. We cannot say exactly how profound the class cleavage is among the peasants, which has undoubtedly grown more profound of late as a division into agricultural labourers, wage-workers and poor peasants (“semi-proletarians”), on the one hand, and wealthy and middle peasants (capitalists and petty capitalists), on the other. Such questions will be, and can be, decided only by experience.

Being the party of the proletariat, however, we are unquestionably in duty bound not only immediately to advance an agrarian (land) programme but also to advocate practical measures which can be immediately realised in the interestsof the peasant agrarian revolution in Russia.

We must demand the nationalisation of allthe land, i.e., that all the land in the state should become the property of the central state power. This power must fix the size, etc., of the resettlement land fund, pass legislation for the conservation of forests, for land improvement, etc., and absolutely prohibit any middlemen to interpose themselves between the owner of the land, i.e., the state, and the tenant, i.e., the tiller (prohibit all subletting of land). However, the disposalof the land, the determination of the local regulationsgoverning ownership and tenure of land, must in no case be placed in the hands of bureaucrats and officials, but wholly and exclusively in the hands of the regional and local Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies.

In order to improve grain production techniques and increase output, and in order to develop rational cultivation on a large scale under public control, we must strive within the peasants’ committees to secure the transformation of every confiscated landed estate into a large model farm controlled by the Soviet of Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies.

In order to counteract the petty-bourgeois phrase-mongering and the policy prevailing among the Socialist-Revolutionaries, particularly the idle talk about “subsistence” standards or “labour” standards, “socialisation of the land”, etc., the party of the proletariat must make it clear that small-scale farming under commodity production cannot save mankind from poverty and oppression.

Without necessarily splitting the Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies at once, the party of the proletariat must explain the need for organising separate Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies and separate Soviets of deputies from the poor (semi-proletarian) peasants, or, at least, for holding regular separate conferences of deputies of this class statusin the shape of separate groups or parties within the general Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies. Otherwise all the honeyed petty-bourgeois talk of the Narodniks[1] regarding the peasants in general will serve as a shield for the deception of the propertyless mass by the wealthy peasants, who are merely a variety of capitalists.

To counteract the bourgeois-liberal or purely bureaucratic sermons preached by many Socialist-Revolutionaries and Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, who advise the peasants not to seize the landed estates and not to start the agrarian reform pending the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, the party of the proletariat must urge the peasants to carry out the agrarian reform at once on their own, and to confiscate the landed estates immediately, upon the decisions of the peasants’ deputies in the localities.

At the same time, it is most important to insist on the necessity of increasingfood production for the soldiers at the front and for the towns, and on the absolute inadmissibility of causing any damage or injury to livestock, implements, machinery, buildings, etc.

14. As regards the national question, the proletarian party first of all must advocate the proclamation and immediate realisation of complete freedom of secession from Russia for all the nations and peoples who were oppressed by tsarism, or who were forcibly joined to, or forcibly kept within the boundaries of, the state, i.e., annexed.

All statements, declarations and manifestos concerning renunciation of annexations that are not accompanied by the realisation of the right of secession in practice, are nothing but bourgeois deception of the people, or else pious petty-bourgeois wishes.

The proletarian party strives to create as large a state as possible, for this is to the advantage of the working people; it strives to drawnations closer together, and bring about their further fusion; but it desires to achieve this aim not by violence, but exclusively through a free fraternal union of the workers and the working people of all nations.

The more democratic the Russian republic, and the more successfully it organises itself into a Republic of Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, the more powerful will be the force of voluntaryattraction to such a republic on the part of the working people of allnations.

Complete freedom of secession, the broadest local (and national) autonomy, and elaborate guarantees of the rights of national minorities—this is the programme of the revolutionary proletariat.


[1] The term Narodniks is here used to denote the three petty-bourgeois parties of the Narodnik trend, namely, the Trudoviks, the Socialist-Revolutionaries, and the Popular Socialists.


15. Under no circumstances can the party of the proletariat set itself the aim of “introducing” socialism in a country of small peasants so long as the overwhelming majority of the population has not come to realise the need for a socialist revolution.

But only bourgeois sophists, hiding behind “near-Marxist” catchwords, can deduce from this truth a justification of the policy of postponing immediate revolutionary measures, the time for which is fully ripe; measures which   have beenfrequently resorted to during the war by a number of bourgeois states, and which are absolutely indispensable in order to combat impending total economic disorganisation and famine.

Such measures as the nationalisation of the land, of all the banks and capitalist syndicates, or, at least, the immediateestablishment of the control of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, etc., over them—measures which do not in any way constitute the “introduction” of socialism—must be absolutely insisted on, and, whenever possible, carried out in a revolutionary way. Without such measures, which are only steps towards socialism, and which are perfectly feasible economically, it will be impossible to heal the wounds caused by the war and to avert the impending collapse; and the party of the revolutionary proletariat will never hesitate to lay hands on the fabulous profits of the capitalists and bankers, who are enriching themselves on the war in a particularly scandalous manner.


16. The international obligations of the working class of Russia are precisely now coming to the forefront with particular force.

Only lazy people do not swear by internationalism these days. Even the chauvinist defencists, even Plekhanov and Potresov, even Kerensky, call themselves internationalists. It becomes the duty of the proletarian party all the more urgently, therefore, to clearly, precisely and definitely counterpoise internationalism in deed to internationalism in word.

Mere appeals to the workers of all countries, empty assurances of devotion to internationalism, direct or indirect attempts to fix a “sequence” of action by the revolutionary proletariat in the various belligerent countries, laborious efforts to conclude “agreements” between the socialists of the belligerent countries on the questionof the revolutionary struggle, all the fuss over the summoning of socialist congresses for the purposeof a peace campaign, etc., etc.—no matter how sincere the authors of such ideas, attempts, and plans may be – amount, as far as their objectivesignificance is concerned, to mere phrase-mongering, and at bestare innocent and pious wishes, fit only to conceal the deceptionof the people by the chauvinists. The Frenchsocial-chauvinists, who are the most adroit and accomplished in methods of parliamentary hocus-pocus, have long since broken the record for ranting and resonant pacifist and internationalist phrases coupled withthe incredibly brazen betrayal of socialism and the International, the acceptance of posts in governments which conduct the imperialist war, the voting of credits or loans(as Chkheidze, Skobelev, Tsereteli and Steklov have been doing recently in Russia), opposition to the revolutionary struggle in their own country, etc., etc.

Good people often forget the brutal and savage setting of the imperialist world war. This setting does not tolerate phrases, and mocks at innocent and pious wishes.

There is one, and only one, kind of real internationalism, and that is—working whole-heartedly for the development of the revolutionary movement and the revolutionary struggle in one’s owncountry, and supporting (by propaganda, sympathy, and material aid) this struggle, this, and only this, line, in everycountry without exception.

Everything else is deception and Manilovism.

During the two odd years of the war the international socialist and working-class movement in everycountry has evolved three trends. Whoever ignores realityand refuses to recognise the existence of these three trends, to analyse them, to fight consistently for the trend that is really internationalist, is doomed to impotence, helplessness and errors.

The three trends are:

1). The social-chauvinists, i.e., socialists in word and chauvinists in deed. People who support “defence of the fatherland” in an imperialist war (and above all in the present imperialist war).

These people are our class enemies. They have gone over to the bourgeoisie.

They are the majority of the official leaders of the official Social-Democratic parties in all countries—Plekhanov and Co. in Russia, the Scheidemanns in Germany, Renaudel, Guesde and Sembat in France, Bissolati and Co. in Italy, Hyndman, the Fabians and the Labourites (the leaders of the “Labour Party”) in Britain, Branting and Co. in Sweden, Troelstra and his party in Holland, Stauning and his party in Denmark, Victor Berger and the other “defenders of the fatherland” in America, and so forth.

2) The second trend, known as the “Centre”, consists of people who vacillate between the social-chauvinists and the true internationalists.

The “Centre” all vow and declare that they are Marxists and internationalists, that they are for peace, for bringing every kind of “pressure” to bear upon the governments, for “demanding” in every way that their own government should “ascertain the will of the people for peace”, that they are for all sorts of peace campaigns, for peace without annexations, etc., etc. – and for peace with the social-chauvinists. The “Centre” is for “unity”, the Centre is opposed to a split.

The “Centre” is a realm of honeyed petty-bourgeois phrases, of internationalism in word and cowardly opportunism and fawning on the social-chauvinists in deed.

The crux of the matter is that the “Centre” is not convinced of the necessity for a revolution against one’s own government; it does not preach revolution; it does not carry on a whole-hearted revolutionary struggle; and in order to evade such a struggle it resorts to the tritest ultra-“Marxist”-sounding excuses.

The social-chauvinists are our class enemies, they are bourgeois within the working-class movement. They represent a stratum, or groups, or sections of the working class which objectively have been bribed by the bourgeoisie (by better wages, positions of honour, etc.), and which help their own bourgeoisie to plunder and oppress small and weak peoples and to fight for the division of the capitalist spoils.

The “Centre” consists of routine-worshippers, eroded by the canker of legality, corrupted by the parliamentary atmosphere, etc., bureaucrats accustomed to snug positions and soft jobs. Historically and economically speaking, they are not a separate stratum but represent only a transition from a past phase of the working-class movement—the phase between 1871 and 1914, which gave much that is valuable to the proletariat, particularly in the indispensable art of slow, sustained and systematic organisational work on a large and very large scale—to a new phase that became objectively essential with the outbreak of the first imperialist world war, which inaugurated the era of social revolution.

The chief leader and spokesman of the “Centre” is Karl Kautsky, the most outstanding authority in the Second International (1889–1914), since August 1914 a model of utter bankruptcy as a Marxist, the embodiment of unheard-of spinelessness, and the most wretched vacillations and betrayals. This “Centrist” trend includes Kautsky, Haase, Ledebour and the so-called workers’ or labour group in the Reichstag; in France it includes Longuet, Pressemane and the so-called minorities (Mensheviks) in general; in Britain, Philip Snowden, Ramsay MacDonald and many other leaders of the Independent Labour Party, and some leaders of the British Socialist Party; Morris Hillquit and many others in the United States; Turati, Tréves, Modigliani and others in Italy; Robert Grimm and others in Switzerland; Victor Adler and Co. in Austria; the party of the Organising Committee, Axelrod, Martov, Chkheidze, Tsereteli and others in Russia, and so forth.

Naturally, at times individuals unconsciously drift from the social-chauvinist to the “Centrist” position, and vice versa. Every Marxist knows that classes are distinct, even though individuals may move freely from one class to another; similarly, trends in political life are distinct in spite of the fact that individuals may change freely from one trend to another, and in spite of all attempts and efforts to amalgamate trends.

3) The third trend, that of the true internationalists, is best represented by the “Zimmerwald Left”. (We reprint as a supplement its manifesto of September 1915, to enable the reader to learn of the inception of this trend at first hand.)

Its distinctive feature is its complete break with both social-chauvinism and “Centrism”, and its gallant revolutionary struggle against its own imperialist government and its own imperialist bourgeoisie. Its principle is: “Our chief enemy is at home.” It wages a ruthless struggle against honeyed social-pacifist phrases (a social-pacifist is a socialist in word and a bourgeois pacifist in deed; bourgeois pacifists dream of an everlasting peace without the overthrow of the yoke and domination of capital) and against all subterfuges employed to deny the possibility, or the appropriateness, or the timeliness of a proletarian revolutionary struggle and of a proletarian socialist revolution in connection with the present war.

The most outstanding representative of this trend in Germany is the Spartacus group or the Internationale group, to which Karl Liebknecht belongs. Karl Liebknecht is a most celebrated representative of this trend and of the new, and genuine, proletarian International.

Karl Liebknecht called upon the workers and soldiers of Germany to turn their guns against their own government. Karl Liebknecht did that openly from the rostrum of parliament (the Reichstag). He then went to a demonstration in Potsdamer Platz, one of the largest public squares in Berlin, with illegally printed leaflets proclaiming the slogan “Down with the Government!” He was arrested and sentenced to hard labour . He is now serving his term in a German convict prison, like hundreds, if not thousands, of other true German socialists who have been imprisoned for their anti-war activities.

Karl Liebknecht in his speeches and letters mercilessly attacked not only his own Plekhanovs and Potresovs (Scheidemanns, Legiens, Davids and Co.), but also his own Centrists, his own Chkheidzes and Tseretelis (Kautsky, Haase, Ledebour and Co.).

Karl Liebknecht and his friend Otto Rühle, two out of one hundred and ten deputies, violated discipline, destroyed the “unity” with the “Centre” and the chauvinists, and went against all of them . Liebknecht alone represents socialism, the proletarian cause, the proletarian revolution. All the rest of German Social-Democracy, to quote the apt words of Rosa Luxemburg (also a member and one of the leaders of the Spartacus group), is a “stinking corpse”.

Another group of true internationalists in Germany is that of the Bremen paper Arbeiterpolitik.

Closest to the internationalists in deed are: in France, Loriot and his friends (Bourderon and Merrheim have slid down to social-pacifism), as well as the Frenchman Henri Guilbeaux, who publishes in Geneva the journal Demain ; in Britain, the newspaper The Trade Unionist, and some of the members of the British Socialist Party and of the Independent Labour Party (for instance, Russel Williams, who openly called for a break with the leaders who have betrayed socialism), the Scottish socialist school teacher MacLean, who was sentenced to hard labour by the bourgeois government of Britain for his revolutionary fight against the war, and hundreds of British socialists who are in jail for the same offence. They, and they alone, are internationalists in deed. In the United States, the Socialist Labour Party and those within the opportunist Socialist Party who in January 1917 began publication of the paper, The Internationalist ; in Holland, the Party of the “Tribunists” which publishes the paper De Tribune (Pannekoek, Herman Gorter, Wijnkoop, and Henriette Roland-Holst, who, although Centrist at Zimmerwald, has now joined our ranks); in Sweden, the Party of the Young, or the Left[Swedish Social Democrats], led by Lindhagen, Ture Nerman, Carleson, Strölm and Z. Hömlglund, who at Zimmerwald was personally active in the organisation of the “Zimmerwald Left”, and who is now in prison for his revolutionary fight against the war; in Denmark, Trier and his friends who have left the now purely bourgeois “Social-Democratic” Party of Denmark, headed by the Minister Stauning; in Bulgaria, the “Tesnyaki”; in Italy, the nearest are Constantino Lazzari, secretary of the party, and Serrati, editor of the central organ, Avanti!; in Poland, Radek, Hanecki and other leaders of the Social-Democrats united under the “Regional Executive”, and Rosa Luxemburg, Tyszka and other leaders of the Social-Democrats united under the “Chief Executive”[executive bodies of the Social democrats in the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuana]; in Switzerland, those of the Left who drew up the argument for the “referendum” (January 1917) in order to fight the social-chauvinists and the “Centre” in their own country and who at the Zurich Cantonal Socialist Convention, held at Töss on February 11, 1917, moved a consistently revolutionary resolution against the war; in Austria, the young Left-wing friends of Friedrich Adler, who acted partly through the Karl Marx Club in Vienna, now closed by the arch-reactionary Austrian Government, which is ruining Adler’s life for his heroic though ill-considered shooting at a minister, and so on.

It is not a question of shades of opinion, which certainly exist even among the Lefts. It is a question of trend . The thing is that it is not easy to be an internationalist in deed during a terrible imperialist war. Such people are few; but it is on such people alone that the future of socialism depends; they alone are the leaders of the people, and not their corrupters.

The distinction between the reformists and the revolutionaries, among the Social-Democrats, and socialists generally, was objectively bound to undergo a change under the conditions of the imperialist war. Those who confine themselves to “demanding” that the bourgeois governments should conclude peace or “ascertain the will of the peoples for peace”, etc., are actually slipping into reforms. For, objectively, the problem of the war can be solved only in a revolutionary way.

There is no possibility of this war ending in a democratic, non-coercive peace or of the people being relieved of the burden of billions paid in interest to the capitalists, who have made fortunes out of the war, except through a revolution of the proletariat.

The most varied reforms can and must be demanded of the bourgeois governments, but one cannot, without sinking to Manilovism and reformism, demand that people and classes entangled by the thousands of threads of imperialist capital should tear those threads. And unless they are torn, all talk of a war against war is idle and deceitful prattle.

The “Kautskyites”, the “Centre”, are revolutionaries in word and reformists in deed, they are internationalists in word and accomplices of the social-chauvinists in deed.


17. From the very outset, the Zimmerwald International adopted a vacillating, “Kautskyite”, “Centrist” position, which immediately compelled the Zimmerwald Left to dissociate itself, to separate itself from the rest, and to issue its own manifesto (published in Switzerland in Russian, German and French).

The chief shortcoming of the Zimmerwald International, and the cause of its collapse (for politically and ideologically it has already collapsed), was its vacillation and indecision on such a momentous issue of crucial practical significance as that of breaking completely with social-chauvinism and the old social-chauvinist International, headed by Vandervelde and Huysmans at The Hague (Holland), etc.

It is not as yet known in Russia that the Zinmerwald majority are nothing but Kautskyites . Yet this is the fun damental fact, one which cannot be ignored, and which is now generally known in Western Europe. Even that chauvinist, that extreme German chauvinist, Heilmann,editor of the ultra-chauvinistic Chemnitzer Volksstimme and contributor to Parvus’s ultra-chauvinistic Glocke (a “Social-Democrat”, of course, and an ardent partisan of Social-Democratic “unity”), was compelled to acknowledge in the press that the Centre, or “Kautkyism”, and the Zimmerwald majority were one and the same thing.

This fact was definitely established at the end of 1916 and the beginning of 1917. Although social-pacifism was condemned by the Kienthal Manifesto,[2] the whole Zimmerwald Right, the entire Zimmerwald majority, sank to social-pacifism: Kautsky and Co. in a series of utterances in January and February 1917; Bourderon and Merrheim in France, who cast their votes in unanimity with the social-chauvinists for the pacifist resolutions of the Socialist Party (December 1916) and of the Confédération Générale du Travail (the national organisation of the French trade unions, also in December 1916); Turati and Co. in Italy, where the entire party took up a social-pacifist position, while Turati himself, in a speech delivered on December 17, 1916, “slipped” (not by accident, of course) into nationalist phrases whitewashing the imperialist war.

In January 1917, the chairman of the Zimmerwald and Kienthal conferences, Robert Grimm, joined the social-chauvinists in his own party (Greulich, Pflüger, Gustav Mümller and others) against the internationalists in deed.

At two conferences of Zimmerwaldists from various countries in January and February 1917, this equivocal, double-faced behaviour of the Zimmerwald majority was formally stigmatised by the Left internationalists of several countries: by Munzenberg,secretary of the international youth organisation and editor of the excellent internationalist publication Die Jugendinternationale; by Zinoviev, representative of the Central Committee of our Party; by K. Radek of the Polish Social-Democratic Party (the “Regional Executive”), and by Hartstein, a German Social-Democrat and member of the Spartacus group.

Much is given to the Russian proletariat; nowhere in the world has the working class yet succeeded in developing so much revolutionary energy as in Russia. But to whom much is given, of him much is required.

The Zimmerwald bog can no longer be tolerated. We must not, for the sake of the Zimmerwald “Kautskyites”, continue the semi-alliance with the chauvinist International of the Plekhanovs and Scheidemanns. We must break with this International immediately. We must remain in Zimmerwald only for purposes of information.

It is we who must found, and right now, without delay, a new, revolutionary, proletarian International, or rather, we must not fear to acknowledge publicly that this new International is already established and operating.

This is the International of those “internationalists in deed” whom I precisely listed above. They and they alone are representatives of the revolutionary, internationalist mass, and not their corrupters.

And if socialists of that type are few, let every Russian worker ask himself whether there were many really class-conscious revolutionaries in Russia on the eve of the February-March revolution of 1917.

It is not a question of numbers, but of giving correct expression to the ideas and policies of the truly revolutionary proletariat. The thing is not to “proclaim” internationalism, but to be able to be an internationalist in deed, even when times are most trying.

Let us not deceive ourselves with hopes of agreements and international congresses. As long as the imperialist war is on, international intercourse is held in the iron vise of the military dictatorship of the imperialist bourgeoisie. If even the “republican” Milyukov, who is obliged to tolerate the parallel government of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, did not allow Fritz Platten, the Swiss socialist, secretary of the party, an internationalist and participant in the Zimmerwald and Kienthal conferences, to enter Russia in April 1917, in spite of the fact that Platten has a Russian wife and was on his way to visit his wife’s relatives, and in spite of the fact that he had taken part in the revolution of 1905 in Riga, for which he had been confined in a Russian prison, had given bail to the tsarist government for his release and wished to recover that bail—if the “republican” Milyukov could do such a thing in April 1917 in Russia, one can judge what value can be put on the promises and assurances, the phrases and declarations of the bourgeoisie on the subject of peace without annexations, and soon.

And the arrest of Trotsky by the British Government? And the refusal to allow Martov to leave Switzerland, and the attempt to lure him to Britain, where Trotsky’s fate awaits him?

Let us harbour no illusions. We must not deceive ourselves.

To “wait” for international congresses or conferences is simply to betray internationalism, since it has been shown that even from Stockholm neither socialists loyal to internationalism nor even their letters are allowed to come here, although this is quite possible and although a ferocious military censorship exists.

Our Party must not “wait”, but must immediately found a Third International. Hundreds of socialists imprisoned in Germany and Britain will then heave a sigh of relief, thousands and thousands of German workers who are now holding strikes and demonstrations that are frightening that scoundrel and brigand, Wilhelm, will learn from illegal leaflets of our decision, of our fraternal confidence in Karl Liebknecht, and in him alone, of our decision to fight “revolutionary defencism” even now ; they will read this and be strengthened in their revolutionary internationalism.

To whom much is given, of him much is required. No other country in the world is as free as Russia is now . Let us make use of this freedom, not to advocate support for the bourgeoisie, or bourgeois “revolutionary defencism”, but in a bold, honest, proletarian, Liebknecht way to found the Third International, an International uncompromisingly hostile both to the social-chauvinlst traitors and to the vacillating “Centrists”.

18. After what has been said, there is no need to waste many words explaining that the amalgamation of Social-Democrats in Russia is out of the question.

It is better to remain with one friend only, like Liebknecht, and that means remaining with the revolutionary proletariat, than to entertain even for a moment any thought of amalgamation with the party of the Organising Committee, with Chkheidze and Tsereteli, who can tolerate a bloc with Potresov in Rabochaya Gazeta, who voted for the loan in the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies,[4] and who have sunk to “defencism”.

Let the dead bury their dead.

Whoever wants to help the waverers must first stop wavering himself.


[2] This refers to the appeal “To the Peoples Suffering Ruination and Death” adopted at the Second International Conference of the Zimmerwaldists held on April 24-30, 1916 in Kienthal (Switzerland).

[4] On April 7(20), 1917, the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, by a majority of 21 votes against 14, adopted a resolution in favour of supporting the so-called “Liberty Loan” issued by the Provisional Government to finance the continuing imperialist war. The Bolshevik members of the Executive Committee opposed this loan, declaring that support of it was “the worst form of ‘civil truce’\thinspace” and moved a resolution containing a detailed statement of their position. Several members of the E.C. not belonging to the Bolshevik group voted with the Bolsheviks. The question was put before the plenary meeting of the Soviet after a preliminary discussion in the groups.


19. I now come to the final point, the name of our Party. We must call ourselves the Communist Party—just as Marx and Engels called themselves.

We must repeat that we are Marxists and that we take as our basis the Communist Manifesto, which has been distorted and betrayed by the Social-Democrats on its two main points:

--> (1) the working men have no country: “defence of the fatherland” in an imperialist war is a betrayal of socialism; and (2) the Marxist doctrine of the state has been distorted by the Second International.

The name “Social-Democracy” is scientifically incorrect, as Marx frequently pointed out, in particular, in the Critique of the Gotha Programme in 1875, and as Engels re-affirmed in a more popular form in 1894[Engels, Preface to Internationales aus dem Velkstaat (1871-1875)]. From capitalism mankind can pass directly only to socialism, i.e., to the social ownership of the means of production and the distribution of products according to the amount of work performed by each individual. Our Party looks farther ahead: socialism must inevitably evolve gradually into communism, upon the banner of which is inscribed the motto, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”.

That is my first argument.

Here is the second: the second part of the name of our Party (Social-Democrats) is also scientifically incorrect. Democracy is a form of state, whereas we Marxists are opposed to every kind of state.

The leaders of the Second International (1889-1914), Plekhanov, Kautsky and their like, have vulgarised and distorted Marxism.

Marxism differs from anarchism in that it recognises the need for a state for the purpose of the transition to socialism; but (and here is where we differ from Kautsky and Co.) not a state of the type of the usual parliamentary bourgeois-democratic republic, but a state like the Paris Commune of 1871 and the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies of 1905 and 1917.

My third argument: living reality, the revolution, has already actually established in our colmtry, albeit in a weak and embryonic form, precisely this new type of “state”, which is not a state in the proper sense of the word.

This is already a matter of the practical action of the people, and not merely a theory of the leaders.

The state in the proper sense of the term is domination over the people by contingents of armed men divorced from the people.

Our emergent, new state is also a state, for we too need contingents of armed men, we too need the strictest order, and must ruthlessly crush by force all attempts at either a tsarist or a Guchkov-bourgeois counter-revolution.

But our emergent, new state is no longer a state in the proper sense of the term, for in some parts of Russia these contingents of armed men are the masses themselves, the entire people, and not certain privileged persons placed over the people, and divorced from the people, and for all practical purposes undisplaceable.

We must look forward, and not backward to the usual bourgeois type of democracy, which consolidated the rule of the bourgeoisie with the aid of tho old, monarchist organs of administration, the police, the army and the bureaucracy.

We must look forward to the emergent new democracy, which is already ceasing to be a democracy, for democracy means the domination of the people, and the armed people cannot dominate themselves.

The term democracy is not only scientifically incorrect when applied to a Communist Party; it has now, since March 1917, simply become blinders put on the eyes of the revolutionary people and preventing them from boldly and freely, on their own initiative, building up the new: the Soviets of Workers’, Peasants’, and all other Deputies, as the sole power in the “state” and as the harbinger of the “withering away” of the state in every form.

My fourth argument: we must reckon with the actual situation in which socialism finds itself internationally.

It is not what it was during the years 1871 to 1914, when Marx and Engels knowingly put up with the inaccurate, opportunist term “Social-Democracy”. For in those days, after the defeat of the Paris Commune, history made slow organisational and educational work the task of the day. Nothing else was possible. The anarchists were then (as they are now) fundamentally wrong not only theoretically, but also economically and politically. The anarchists misjudged the character of the times, for they failed to understand the world situation: the worker of Britain corrupted by imperialist profits, the Commune defeated in Paris, the recent (1871) triumph of the bourgeois national movement in Germany, the age-long sleep of semi-feudal Russia.

Marx and Engels gauged the times accurately; they understood the international situation; they understood that the approach to the beginning of the social revolution must be slow.

We, in our turn, must also understand the specific features and tasks of the new era. Let us not imitate those sorry Marxists of whom Marx said: “I have sown dragon’s teeth and harvested fleas.”

The objective inevitability of capitalism which grew into imperialism brought about the imperialist war. The war has brought mankind to the brink of a precipice, to the brink of the destruction of civilisation, of the brutalisation and destruction of more millions, countless millions, of human beings.

Theonly way out is through a proletarian revolution.

At the very moment when such a revolution is beginning, when it is taking its first hesitant, groping steps, steps betraying too great a confidence in the bourgeoisie, at such a moment the majority (that is the truth, that is a fact) of the “Social-Democratic” leaders, of the “Social-Democratic” parliamentarians, of the “Social-Democratic” newspapers—and these are precisely the organs that influence the people—have deserted socialism, have betrayed socialism and have gone over to the side of “their own” national bourgeoisie.

The people have been confused, led astray and deceived by these leaders.

And we shall aid and abet that deception if we retain the old and out-of-date Party name, which is as decayed as the Second International!

Granted that “many” workers understand Social-Democracy in an honest way; but it is time to learn how to distinguish the subjective from the objective.

Subjectively, such Social-Democratic workers are most loyal leaders of the proletarians.

Objectively, however, the world situation is such that the old name of our Party makes it easier to fool the people and impedes the onward march; for at every step, in every paper, in every parliamentary group, the masses see leaders, i.e., people whose voices carry farthest and whose actions are most conspicuous; yet they are all “would-be Social-Democrats”, they are all “for unity” with the betrayers of socialism, with the social-chauvinists; and they are all presenting for payment the old bills issued by “Social-Democracy”. . . .

And what are the arguments against? . . . We’ll be confused with the Anarchist-Communists, they say. . . .

Why are we not afraid of being confused with the Social-Nationalists, the Social-Liberals, or the Radical-Socialists, the foremost bourgeois party in the French Republic and the most adroit in the bourgeois deception of the people? . . . We are told: The people are used to it, the workers have come to “love” their Social-Democratic Party.

That is the only argument. But it is an argument that dismisses the science of Marxism, the tasks of the morrow in the revolution, the objective position of world socialism, the shameful collapse of the Second International, and the harm done to the practical cause by the packs of “would-be Social-Democrats” who surround the proletarians.

It is an argument of routinism, an argument of inertia, an argument of stagnation.

But we are out to rebuild the world. We are out to put an end to the imperialist world war into which hundreds of millions of people have been drawn and in which the interests of billions and billions of capital are involved, a war which cannot end in a truly democratic peace without the greatest proletarian revolution in the history of mankind.

Yet we are afraid of our own selves. We are loth to cast off the “dear old” soiled shirt. . . .

But it is time to cast off the soiled shirt and to put on clean linen.

Petrograd, April 10, 1917


My pamphlet has become out of date owing to the general economic disorganisation and the inefficiency of the St. Petersburg presses. The pamphlet was written on April 10, 1917, today is May 28, and it has not come out yet!

It was written as a draft platform to propagandise my views before the All-Russia Conference of our Party, the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party of Bolsheviks. The pamphlet was typed in several copies and handed out to Party members before and during the Conference so that it did its job in part. But the Conference took place from April 24 to April 29,1917, its resolutions have long since been published (see supplement to Soldatskaya Pravda No. 13) and the attentive reader will have noticed that my pamphlet often served as the original draft of those resolutions.

It is left for me to express the hope that the pamphlet will still be of some value because of its connection with those resolutions and because it explains them, and to deal here with two points.

I suggested on page 27 that we remain in Zimmerwald only for purposes of information. The Conference did not agree with me on this point, and I had to vote against the resolution on the International. It is now becoming obvious that the Conference made a mistake and that the course taken by events will soon correct it. By remaining in Zimmerwald we (even against our will) are helping delay the creation of the Third International; we are indirectly hampering its foundation, being burdened with the dead ballast of the ideologically and politically dead Zimmerwald.

In the eyes of the working-class parties of the whole world, our Party’s position is now such that it is our duty to found a Third International without delay. Today there is nobody but us to do it, and procrastination can only do harm. If we remain in Zimmerwald for information only, we shall have our hands freed to establish the new International (and at the same time be able to use Zimmerwald should circumstances make it possible).

Because of the mistake made by the Conference, we must now wait passively, at least until July 5, 1917 (the date set for the Zimmerwald Conference, provided it is not postponed again! It has already been postponed once. . .).

The decision unanimously adopted by the Central Committee of our Party after the Conference and published in Pravda No. 55, on May 12, has, however, gone half-way towards correcting the mistake; it has been resolved that we shall walk out of Zimmerwald if they decide to confer with ministers. I express the hope that the other half of the mistake will be speedily remedied, as soon as we convene the first international conference of Lefts (the “third trend”, the “internationalists in deed”, see above, pp. 23–25 ).

The second point I must deal with is the formation of the “coalition cabinet” on May 6, 1917. On this point the pamphlet may seem to be particularly out of date.

But actually on this of all points it is not out of date at all. It is based wholly on the class analysis, a thing that the Mensheviks and Narodniks, who have provided six ministers as hostages to the ten capitalist ministers, stand in deadly fear of. And it is because the pamphlet is based wholly on a class analysis that it is not out of date—the only change made by Tsereteli, Chernov and Co . joining the cabinet was an insignificant one in the form of the agreement between the Petrograd Soviet and the capitalist government, and I deliberately stressed in my pamphlet (on page 8) that “I am referring not so much to the formal agreement as to actual support”

With each passing day it is becoming clearer that Tsereteli, Chernov and Co. are nothing more than hostages to the capitalists, that the “renewed” government is neither willing nor able to carry out any of its abundant promises either in foreign or domestic policies. Chernov, Tsereteli and Co. have committed political suicide by turning into assistants of the capitalists, into people who are actually strangling the revolution; Kerensky has come so low as to use force against the masses (cf.p. 9 of the pamphlet: “Guchkov is still only threatening to employ violence against the mass” but Kerensky had to carry out those threats[8]). Chernov, Tsereteli and Co. have killed themselves and their parties—the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries—politically. The people will realise this more and more clearly as the days go by.

The coalition cabinet is only a passing moment in the development of the fundamental class contradictions of our revolution briefly analysed in the pamphlet. This situation cannot last long—we must either go backward to counter-revolution all along the line or forward to the transfer of state power to other classes. At a time of revolution, when the imperialist world war is in progress, we cannot stand still.

N. Lenin

St. Petersburg, May 28, 1917


[8] Lenin is referring to the order by War Minister Kerensky published on May 11 (24), 1917, containing a “Declaration of the Rights of the Soldier”, in which there was a point allowing a superior officer to use military force in cases of insubordination in the field. This point was aimed against soldiers and officers who refused to go into the attack. Simultaneously with the promulgation of this order Kerensky started to disband regiments and prosecute officers and soldiers guilty of ’inciting to insubordination’.


Source: Marxist Internet Archive