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, 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 discussion. 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 Zhizncrowd, who shout about riots and anarchy. The peasant movement in Tambov Gubernia 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.
“We are not strong enough to seize power, and the bourgeoisie is not strong enough to hinder the convening of the Constituent Assembly.”
The first part of this argument is a simple paraphrase of the preceding one. It does not gain in strength or power of conviction, when the confusion of its authors and their fear of the bourgeoisie are expressed in terms of pessimism in respect of the workers and optimism in respect of the bourgeoisie. If the officer cadets and the Cossacks say that they will fight against the Bolsheviks to the last drop of blood, this deserves full credence; if, however, the workers and soldiers at hundreds of meetings express full confidence in the Bolsheviks and affirm their readiness to defend the transfer of power to the Soviets, then it is “timely” to recall that voting is one thing and fighting another!
If you argue like that, of course, you “refute” the possibility of an uprising. But, we may ask, in what way does this peculiarly orientated “pessimism” with its peculiar urge differ from a political shift to the side of the bourgeoisie?
Look at the facts. Remember the Bolshevik declarations, repeated thousands of times and now “forgotten” by our pessimists. We have said thousands of times that the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies are a force, that they are the vanguard of the revolution, that they can take power. Thousands of times have we upbraided the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries for phrase-mongering about the “plenipotentiary organs of democracy” accompanied by fear to transfer power to the Soviets.
And what has the Kornilov revolt proved? It has proved that the Soviets are a real force.
And, now, after this has been proved by experience, by facts, we are expected to repudiate Bolshevism, deny ourselves, and say that we are not strong enough (although the Soviets of Petrograd and Moscow and a majority of the provincial Soviets are on the side of the Bolsheviks)! Are these not shameful vacillations? As a matter of fact, our “pessimists” are abandoning the slogan of “All Power to the Soviets”, though they are afraid to admit it.
How can it be proved that the bourgeoisie are not strong enough to hinder the calling of the Constituent Assembly?
If the Soviets have not the strength to overthrow the bourgeoisie, this means the latter are strong enough to prevent the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, for there is nobody else to stop them. To trust the promises of Kerensky and Co., to trust the resolutions of the servile Pre-parliament—is this worthy of a member of a proletarian party and a revolutionary?
Not only has the bourgeoisie strength enough to hinder the convocation of the Constituent Assembly if the present government is not overthrown, but it can also achieve this result indirectly by surrendering Petragrad to the Germans, laying open the front, increasing lockouts, and sabotaging deliveries of foodstuffs. It has been proved by factsthat the bourgeoisie have already been partly doing this, which means that they are capable of doing it to the full extent, if the workers and soldiers do not overthrow them.
“The Soviets must be a revolver pointed at the head of the government with the demand to convene the Constituent Assembly and stop all Kornilovite plots.”
This is how far one of the two sad pessimists has gone.
He had to go that far, for to reject the uprising is the same as rejecting the slogan “All Power to the Soviets”.
Of course, a slogan is “not sacred”; we all agree to that. But then why has no one raised the question of changing this slogan (in the same way as I raised the question after the July days[See present edition, Vol. 25,”On Slogans”, pp. 185-193.—Ed.])? Why be afraid to say it openly, when the Party, since September, has been discussing the question of the uprising, which is now the only way to realise the slogan “All Power to the Soviets”.
There is no way for our sad pessimists to turn. A renunciation of the uprising is a renunciation of the transfer of power to the Soviets and implies a “transfer” of all hopes and expectations to the kind bourgeoisie, which has “promised” to convoke the Constituent Assembly.
Is it so difficult to understand that once power is in the hands of the Soviets, the Constituent Assembly and its success are guaranteed? The Bolsheviks have said so thousands of times and no one has ever attempted to refute it. Everybody has recognised this “combined type”, but to smuggle in a renunciation of the transfer of power to the Soviets under cover of the words “combined type”, to smuggle it in secretly while fearing to renounce our slogan openly is a matter for wonder. Is there any parliamentary term to describe it?
Someone has very pointedly retorted to our pessimist: “Is it a revolver with no cartridges?” If so, it means going over directly to the Lieberdans, who have declared the Soviets a “revolver” thousands of times and have deceived the people thousands of times. For while they were in control the Soviets proved to be worthless.
If, however, it is to be a revolver “with cartridges”, this cannot mean anything but technical preparation for an uprising; the cartridges have to be procured, the revolver has to be loaded—and cartridges alone will not be enough.
Either go over to the side of the Lieberdans and openly renounce the slogan “All Power to the Soviets”, or start the uprising.
There is no middle course.
“The bourgeoisie cannot surrender Petrograd to the Germans, although Rodzyanko wants to, for the fighting is done not by the bourgeoisie, but by our heroic sailors.”
This argument again reduces itself to the same “optimism” in respect of the bourgeoisie which is fatally manifested at every step by those who are pessimistic about the revolutionary forces and capabilities of the proletariat.
The fighting is done by the heroic sailors, but this did not prevent two admirals from disappearing before the capture of Esel!
That is a fact and facts are stubborn things. The facts prove that admirals are capable of treachery no less than Kornilov. It is an undisputed fact that Field Headquarters has not been reformed, and that the commanding staff is Kornilovite in composition.
If the Kornilovites (with Kerensky at their head, for he is also a Kornilovite) want to surrender Petrograd, they can do it in two or even in three ways.
First, they can, through an act of treachery on the part of the Kornilovite officers, open the northern land front.
Second, they can “agree” on freedom of action for the entire German navy, which is stronger than we are; they can agree both with the German and the British imperialists. Moreover, the admirals who have disappeared may have delivered the plans to the Germans as well.
Third, they can, by means of lockouts, and by sabotaging the delivery of food, bring our troops to complete desperation and impotence.
Not a single one of these three ways can be denied. The facts have proved that the bourgeois-Cossack party of Russia has already knocked at all three doors and has tried to force open each of them.
What follows? It follows that we have no right to wait until the bourgeoisie strangle the revolution.
Experience has proved that Rodzyanko’s wishes are no trifle. Rodzyanko is a man of affairs. Rodzyanko is backed by capital. This is beyond dispute. Capital is tremendous strength as long as the proletariat do not have power. For decades, Rodzyanko has faithfully and truly carried out the policies of capital.
What follows? It follows that to vacillate on the question of an uprising as the only means to save the revolution means to sink into that cowardly credulity in the bourgeoisie which is half-Lieberdan, Socialist-Revolutionary-Menshevik and half “peasant-like” unquestioning credulity, against which the Bolsheviks have been battling most of all.
Either fold your idle arms on your empty chest, wait and swear “faith” in the Constituent Assembly until Rodzyanko and Co. have surrendered Petrograd and strangled the revolution or start an uprising. There is no middle course.
Even the convocation of the Constituent Assembly does not, in itself, change anything, for no “constituting”, no voting by any arch-sovereign assembly will have any effect on the famine, or on Wilhelm. Both the convocation and the success of the Constituent Assembly depend upon the transfer of power to the Soviets. This old Bolshevik truth is being proved by reality ever more strikingly and ever more cruelly.
“We are becoming stronger every day. We can enter the Constituent Assembly as a strong opposition; why should we stake everything?. . .”
This is the argument of a philistine who has “read” that the Constituent Assembly is being called, and who trustingly acquiesces in the most legal, most loyal, most constitutional course.
It is a pity, however, that waiting for the Constituent Assembly does not solve either the question of famine or the question of surrendering Petrograd . This “trifle” is forgotten by the naïve or the confused or those who have allowed themselves to be frightened.
The famine will not wait. The peasant uprising did not wait. The war will not wait. The admirals who have disappeared did not wait.
Will the famine agree to wait, because we Bolsheviks proclaim faith in the convocation of the Constituent Assembly? Will the admirals who have disappeared agree to wait? Will the Maklakovs and Rodzyankos agree to stop the lockouts and the sabotaging of grain deliveries, or to denounce the secret treaties with the British and the German imperialists?
This is what the arguments of the heroes of “constitutional illusions” and parliamentary cretinism amount to. The living reality disappears, and what remains is only apaper dealing with the convocation of the Constituent Assembly; there is nothing left-but to hold elections.
And blind people are still wondering why hungry people and soldiers betrayed by generals and admirals are indifferent to the elections! Oh, wiseacres!
“Were the Kornilovites to start again, we would show them! But why should we take risks and start?”
This is extraordinarily convincing and revolutionary. History does not repeat itself, but if we turn our backs on it, contemplate the first Kornilov revolt and repeat: “If only the Kornilovites would start”—if we do that, what excellent revolutionary strategy it would be. How much like a waiting game it is! Maybe the Kornilovites will start again at an inopportune time. Isn’t this a “weighty” argument? What kind of an earnest foundation for a proletarian policy is this?
And what if the Kornilovites of the second draft will have learned a thing or two? What if they wait for the hunger riots to begin, for the front to be broken through, for Petrograd to be surrendered, before they begin? What then?
It is proposed that we build the tactics of the proletarian party on the possibility of the Kornilovites’ repeating one of their old errors!
Let us forget all that was being and has been demonstrated by the Bolsheviks a hundred times, all that the six months’ history of our revolution has proved, namely, that there is no way out, that there is no objective way out and can be none except a dictatorship of the Kornilovites or a dictatorship of the proletariat. Let us forget this, let us renounce all this and wait! Wait for what? Wait for a miracle, for the tempestuous and catastrophic course of events from April 20 to August 29 to be succeeded (due to the prolongation of the war and the spread of famine) by a peaceful, quiet, smooth, legal convocation of the Constituent Assembly and by a fulfilment of its most lawful decisions. Here you have the “Marxist” tactics! Wait, ye hungry! Kerensky has promised to convene the Constituent Assembly.
“There is really nothing in the international situation that makes it obligatory for us to act immediately, we would be more likely to damage the cause of a socialist revolution in the West, if we were to allow ourselves to be shot. . . .”
This argument is truly magnificent: Scheidemann “himself”, Renaudel “himself” would not be able to “manipulate” more cleverly the workers’ sympathies for the international socialist revolution!
Just think of it: under devilishly difficult conditions, having but one Liebknecht (and he in prison) with no newspapers, with no freedom of assembly, with no Soviets, withall classes of the population, including every well-to-do peasant, incredibly hostile to the idea of internationalism, with the imperialist big, middle, and petty bourgeoisie splendidly organised—the Germans, i.e., the German revolutionary internationalists, the German workers dressed in sailors’ jackets, started a mutiny in the navy with one chance in a hundred of winning.
But we, with dozens of papers at our disposal, freedom of assembly, a majority in the Soviets, we, the best situated proletarian internationalists in the world, should refuse to support the German revolutionaries by our uprising. We ought to reason like the Scheidemanns and Renaudels, that it is most prudent not to revolt, for if we are shot, then the world will lose such excellent, reasonable, ideal internationalists!
Let us prove how reasonable we are. Let us pass a resolution of sympathy with the German insurrectionists, and let us renounce the insurrection in Russia. This would be genuine, reasonable internationalism. Imagine how fast world internationalism would blossom forth, if the same wise policy were to triumph everywhere!
The war has fatigued and tormented the workers of all countries to the utmost. Outbursts are becoming frequent in Italy, Germany and Austria. We alone have Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. Let us then keep on waiting. Let us betray the German internationalists as we are betraying the Russian peasants, who, not by words but by deeds, by their uprising against the landowners, appeal to us to rise against Kerensky’s government. . . .
Let the clouds of the imperialist conspiracy of the capitalists of all countries who are ready to strangle the Russian revolution gather—we shall wait patiently until we are strangled by the ruble! Instead of attacking the conspirators and breaking their ranks by a victory of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, let us wait for the Constituent Assembly, where all international plots will be vanquished by voting, provided Kerensky and Rodzyanko conscientiously convene the Constituent Assembly. Have we any right to doubt the honesty of Kerensky and Rodzyanko?
“But ‘everyone’ is against us! We are isolated; the Central Executive Committee, the Menshevik internationalists, the Novaya Zhizn people, and the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries have been issuing and will continue to issue appeals against us!”
A crushing argument. Up to now we have been mercilessly scourging the vacillators for their vacillations. By so doing, we have won the sympathies of the people. By so doing, we have won over the Soviets, without which the uprising could not be safe, quick, and sure. Now let us use the Soviets which we have won over in order to move into the camp of the vacillators. What a splendid career for Bolshevism!
The whole essence of the policy of the Lieberdans and Chernovs, and also of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, consists in vacillations. The Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and Menshevik internationalists have tremendous political importance as an indication of the fact that the masses are moving to the left. Two such facts as the passing of some 40 per cent of both Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries into the camp of the Left, on the one hand, and the peasant uprising, on the other, are clearly and obviously interconnected.
But it is the very character of this connection that reveals the abysmal spinelessness of those who have now under taken to whimper over the fact that the Central Executive Committee, which has rotted away, or the vacillating Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and Co., have come out against us. For these vacillations of the petty-bourgeois leaders—the Martovs, Kamkovs, Sukhanovs and Co.—have to be compared to the uprising of the peasants. Here is a realistic political comparison. With whom shall we go? Should it be with the vacillating handfuls of Petrograd leaders, who have expressed indirectly the leftward swing of the masses, but who, at every political turn, have sbamefully whimpered, vacillated, run to ask forgiveness of the Lieberdans, Avksentyevs and Co., or with those masses that have moved to the left?
Thus, and only thus, can the question be presented.
Because the peasant uprising has been betrayed by the Martovs, Kamkovs, and Sukhanovs, we, the workers’ party of revolutionary internationalists, are asked to betray it, too. This is what the policy of blaming the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and Menshevik internationalists reduces itself to.
But we have said that to help the vacillating, we must stop vacillating ourselves. Have those “nice” Left petty-bourgeois democrats not “vacillated” in favour of the coalition? In the long run we succeeded in making them follow us because we ourselves did not vacillate. Events have shown we are right.
These gentlemen by their vacillations have always held back the revolution; We alone have saved it. Shall we now give up, when the famine is knocking at the gates of Petrograd and Rodzyanko and Co. are preparing to surrender the city?!
“But we have not even firm connections with the railwaymen and the postal employees. Their official representatives are the Plansons. And can we win without the post office and without railways?”
Yes, yes, the Plansons here, the Lieberdans there. What confidence have the masses shown them? Have we not always shown that those leaders betrayed the masses? Did the masses not turn away from those leaders towards us, both at the elections in Moscow and at the elections to the Soviets? Or perhaps the mass of railway and postal employees are not starving! Or do not strike against Kerensky and Co.?
“Did we have connections with these unions before February 28?” one comrade asked a pessimist. The latter replied by pointing out that the two revolutions could not be compared. But this reply only strengthens the position of the one who asked the question. For it is the Bolsheviks who have spoken thousands of times about prolonged preparation for the proletarian revolution against the bourgeoisie (and they have not spoken about it in order to forget their words when the decisive moment is at hand). The political and economic life of the unions of postal and telegraph employees and railwaymen is characterised by the very separation of the proletarian elements of the masses from the petty-bourgeois and bourgeois upper layer. It is not absolutely necessary to secure “connections” with one or the other union before hand; what matters is that only a victory of a proletarian and peasant uprising can satisfy the masses both of the army of railwaymen and of postal and telegraph employees.
“There is only enough bread in Petrograd for two or three days. Can we give bread to the insurrestionists?”
This is one of a thousand sceptical remarks (the sceptics can always “doubt” and cannot be refuted by anything but experience), one of those remarks that put the blame on the wrong shoulders.
It is Rodzyanko and Co., it is the bourgeoisie that are preparing the famine and speculating on strangling the revolution by famine. There is no escaping the famine andthere can be none except by an uprising of the peasants against the landowners in the countryside and by a victory of the workers over the capitalists in the cities and Petrograd and Moscow. There is no other way to get grain from the rich, or to transport it despite their sabotage, or to break the resistance of the corrupt employees and the capitalist profiteers, or to establish strict accounting. The history of the supply organisations and of the food difficulties of the “democracy” with its millions of complaintsagainst the sabotage of the capitalists, with its whimpering and supplication is proof of this.
There is no power on earth apart from the power of a victorious proletarian revolution that would advance from complaints and begging and tears to revolutionary action. And the longer the proletarian revolution is delayed, the longer it is put off by events or by the vacillations of the wavering and confused, the more victims it will claim and the more difficult it will be to organise the transportation and distribution of food.
“In insurrection delay is fatal” this is our answer to those having the sad “courage” to look at the growing economic ruin, at the approaching famine, and still dissuade the workers from the uprising (that is, persuade them to wait and place confidence in the bourgeoisie for some further time).
“There is not yet any danger at the front either. Even if the soldiers conclude an armistice themselves, it is still not a calamity.”
But the soldiers will not conclude an armistice. For this state power is necessary and that cannot be obtained without an uprising. The soldiers will simply desert. Reports from the front tell that. We must not wait because of the risk of aiding collusion between Rodzyanko and Wilhelm and the risk of complete economic ruin, with the soldiers deserting in masses, once they (being already close to desperation) sink into absolute despair and leave everything to the mercy of fate.
“But if we take power, and obtain neither an armistice nor a democratic peace, the soldiers may not be willing to fight a revolutionary war. What then?”
An argument which brings to mind the saying: one fool can ask ten times more questions than ten wise men can answer.
We have never denied the difficulties of those in power during an imperialist war. Nevertheless, we have always preached the dictatorship of the proletariat and the poor peasantry. Shall we renounce this, when the moment to act has arrived?
We have always said that the dictatorship of the proletariat in one country creates gigantic changes in the international situation, in the economic life of the country, in the condition of the army and in its mood—shall we now “forget” all this, and allow ourselves to be frightened by the “difficulties” of the revolution?
“As everybody reports, the masses are not in a mood that would drive them into the streets. Among the signs justifying pessimism may be mentioned the greatly increasing circulation of the pogromist and Black-Hundred press.”
When people allow themselves to be frightened by the bourgeoisie, all objects and phenomena naturally appear yellow to them. First, they substitute an impressionist, intellectualist criterion for the Marxist criterion of the movement; they substitute subjective impressions of moods for a political analysis of the development of the class struggle and of the course of events in the entire country against the entire international background. They “conveniently” forget, of course, that a firm party line, its unyielding resolve, is also a mood-creating factor, particularly at the sharpest revolutionary moments. It is sometimes very “convenient” for people to forget that the responsible leaders, by their vacillations and by their readiness to burn their yesterday’s idols, cause the most unbecoming vacillations in the mood of certain strata of the masses.
Secondly—and this is at present the main thing—in speaking about the mood of the masses, the spineless people forget to add:
that “everybody” reports it as a tense and expectant mood;
that “everybody” agrees that, called upon by the Soviets for the defence of the Soviets, the workers will rise to a man;
that “everybody” agrees that the workers are greatly dissatisfied with the indecision of the centres concerning the “last decisive struggle”, the inevitability of which they clearly recognise;
that “everybody” unanimously characterises the mood of the broadest masses as close to desperation and points to the anarchy developing therefrom;
that “everybody” also recognises that there is among the class-conscious workers a definite unwillingness to go out into the streets only for demonstrations, only for partial struggles, since a general and not a partial struggle is in the air, while the hopelessness of individual strikes, demonstra tions and acts to influence the authorities has been seen and is fully realised.
And so forth.
If we approach this characterisation of the mass mood from the point of view of the entire development of the class and political struggle and of the entire course of events during the six months of our revolution, it will become clear to us how people frightened by the bourgeoisie are distorting the question. Things are not as they were before April 20-21, June 9, July 3, for then it was a matter of spontaneous excitement which we, as a party, either failed to comprehend (April 20) or held back and shaped into a peaceful demonstration (June 9 and July 3), for we knew very well at that time that the Soviets were not yet ours, that the peasants still trusted the Lieberdan-Chernov and not the Bolshevik course (uprising), that consequently we could not have the majority of the people behind us, and that consequently the uprising would be premature.
At that time the majority of the class-conscious workers did not raise the question of the last decisive struggle at all; not one of all our Party units would have raised it at that time. As for the unenlightened and very broad masses, there was neither a concerted effort nor the resolve born out of despair; there was only a spontaneous excitementwith the naïve hope of “influencing” Kerensky and the bourgeoisie by “action”, by a demonstration pure and simple.
What is needed for an uprising is not this, but, on the one hand, a conscious, firm and unswerving resolve on the part of the class-conscious elements to fight to the end; and on the other, a mood of despair among the broad masses who feel that nothing can now be saved by half-measures; that you cannot “influence” anybody; that the hungry will “smash everything, destroy everything, even anarchically”, if the Bolsheviks are not able to lead them in a decisive battle.
The development of the revolution has in practice brought both the workers and the peasantry to precisely this combination of a tense mood resulting from experience among the class-conscious and a mood of hatred towards those using the lockout weapon and the capitalists that is close to despair among the broadest masses.
We can also understand the “success” on this very soil of the scoundrels of the reactionary press who imitate Bolshevism. The malicious glee of the reactionaries at the approach of a decisive battle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat has been observed in all revolutions without exception; it has always been so, and it is absolutely unavoidable. And if you allow yourselves to be frightened by this circumstance, then you have to renounce not only the uprising but the proletarian revolution in general. For in a capitalist society this revolution cannot mature without being accompanied by malicious glee on the part of the reaction arises and by hopes that they would be able to feather their nest in this way.
The class-conscious workers know perfectly well that the Black Hundreds work hand in hand with the bourgeoisie, and that a decisive victory of the workers (in which the petty bourgeoisie do not believe, which the capitalists are afraid of, which the Black Hundreds sometimes wish for out of sheer malice, convinced as they are that the Bolsheviks cannot retain power)—that this victory will completely crush the Black Hundreds, that the Bolsheviks will be able to retain power firmly and to the greatest advantage of all humanity tortured and tormented by the war.
Indeed, is there anybody in his senses who can doubt that the Rodzyankos and Suvorins are acting in concert, that the roles have been distributed among them?
Has it not been proved by facts that Kerensky acts on Rodzyanko’s orders, while the State Printing Press of the Russian Republic (don’t laugh!) prints the Black-Hundred speeches of reactionaries in the “Duma” at the expense of the state. Has not this fact been exposed even by the lackeys from Dyelo Naroda, who serve “their own mannikin”? Has not the experience of all elections proved that the Cadet lists were fully supported by Novoye Vremya, which is a venal paper controlled by the “interests” of the tsarist landowners?
Did we not read yesterday that commercial and industrial capitalists (non-partisan capitalists, of course; oh, non-partisan capitalists, to be sure, for the Vikhlayevs and Rakitnikovs, the Gvozdyovs and Nikitins are not in coalition with the Cadets—God forbid—but with non-partisan commercial and industrial circles!) have donated the goodly sum of 300,000 rubles to the Cadets?
The whole Black-Hundred press, if we look at things from a class and not a sentimental point of view, is a branch of the firm “Ryabushinsky, Milyukov, and Co.”. Capitalists buy, on the one hand, the Milyukovs, Zaslavskys, Potresovs, and so on; on the other, the Black Hundreds.
The victory of the proletariat is the only means of putting an end to this most hideous poisoning of the people by the cheap Black-Hundred venom.
Is it any wonder that the crowd, tired out and made wretched by hunger and the prolongation of the war, clutches at the Black-Hundred poison? Can one imagine a capitalist society on the eve of collapse in which the oppressed masses are not desperate? Is there any doubt that the desperation of the masses, a large part of whom are still ignorant, will express itself in the increased consumption of all sorts of poison?
Those who, in arguing about the mood of the masses, blame the masses for their own personal spinelessness, are in a hopeless position. The masses are divided into those who are consciously biding their time and those who unconsciously are ready to sink into despair; but the masses of the oppressed and the hungry are not spineless.
“On the other hand, the Marxist party cannot reduce the question of an uprising to that of a military conspiracy. . . .”
Marxism is an extremely profound and many-sided doctrine. It is, therefore, no wonder that scraps of quotations from Marx—especially when the quotations are made inappropriately—can always be found among the “arguments” of those who break with Marxism. Military conspiracy is Blanquism, if it is organised not by a party of a definite class, if its organisers have not analysed the political moment in general and the international situation in particular, if the party has not on its side the sympathy of the majority of the people, as proved by objective facts, if the development of revolutionary events has not brought about a practical refutation of the conciliatory illusions of the petty bourgeoisie, if the majority of the Soviet-type organs of revolutionary struggle that have been recognised as authoritative or have shown themselves to be such in practice have not been won over, if there has not matured a sentiment in the army (if in war-time) against the government that protracts the unjust war against the will of the whole people, if the slogans of the uprising (like “All power to the Soviets” “Land to the peasants”, or “Immediate offer of a democratic peace to all the belligerent nations, with an immediate abrogation of all secret treaties and secret diplomacy”, etc.) have not become widely known and popular, if the advanced workers are not sure of the desperate situation of the masses and of the support of the countryside, a support proved by a serious peasant movement or by an uprising against the landowners and the government that defends the landowners, if the country’s economic situation inspires earnest hopes for a favourable solution of the crisis by peaceable and parliannentary means.
This is probably enough.
In my pamphlet entitled: Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power? (I hope it will appear in a day or two), there is a quotation from Marx which really bears upon the question of insurrection and which enumerates the features of insurrection as an “art”.
I am ready to wager that if we were to propose to all those chatterers in Russia who are now shouting against a military conspiracy, to open their mouths and explain the difference between the “art” of an insurrection and a military conspiracy that deserves condemnation, they would either repeat what was quoted above or would cover themselves, with shame and would call forth the general ridicule of the workers. Why not try, my dear would-be Marxists! Sing us a song against “military conspiracy”!
The above lines had been written when I received, at eight o’clock Tuesday evening, the morning Petrograd papers; there was an article by Mr. V. Bazarov in Novaya Zhizn. Mr. V. Bazarov asserts that “a handwritten manifesto was distributed in the city, in which arguments were presented in the name of two eminent Bolsheviks, against immediate action”.
If this is true, I beg the comrades, whom this letter cannot reach earlier than Wednesday noon, to publish it as quickly as possible.
I did not write it for the press; I wanted to talk to the members of our Party by letter. But we cannot remain silent when the heroes of Novaya Zhizn, who do not belong to the Party and who have been ridiculed by it a thousand times for their contemptible spinelessness (they voted for the Bolsheviks the day before yesterday, for the Mensheviks yesterday, and who almost united them at the world-famous unity congress)—when such individuals receive a manifesto from members of our Party in which they carry on propaganda against an uprising. We must agitate also in favour of an uprising. Let the anonymous individuals come right out into the light of day, and let them bear the punishment they deserve for their shameful vacillations, even if it be only the ridicule of all class-conscious workers. I have at my disposal only one hour before I send the present letter to Petrograd, and I therefore can say only a word or two about one of the “methods” of the sad heroes of the brainless Novaya Zhizn trend. Mr. V. Bazarov attempts to polemise against Comrade Ryazanov, who has said, and who is a thousand times correct in saying, that “all those who create in the masses a mood of despair and indifference are preparing an uprising”.
The sad hero of a sad cause “rejoins” as follows:
“Have despair and indifference ever conquered?”
O contemptible fools from Novaya Zhizn! Do they know such examples of uprising in history, in which the masses of the oppressed classes were victorious in a desperate battle without having been reduced to despair by long sufferings and by an extreme sharpening of all sorts of crises, in which those masses had not been seized by indifference towards various lackey-like pre-parliaments, towards idle playing at revolution, towards the Lieberdans’ reduction of the Soviets from organs of power and uprising to empty talking shops?
Or have the contemptible little fools from Novaya Zhizn perhaps discovered among the masses an indifference—to the question of bread, to the prolongation of the war, to and for the peasants?
 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.
 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’ estatas 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.