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

Conference held April 14–22 (April 27–MAY 5), 1917.

Report on the Present Situation And the Attitude Towards the Provisional Government April 14 (27)

Our political line, embodied in resolutions, was worked out in advance with far greater precision than that of any other party. Events, however, have created an entirely new situation. The chief mistake made by revolutionaries is that they look backward at the old revolutions, whereas life gives us too many new things that have to be fitted into the general pattern of events.

The motive forces of the [February] revolution were defined by us quite correctly. Events have justified our old Bolshevik premises, but the trouble with us is that comrades have wished to remain “old” Bolsheviks. Mass movement had been confined to the proletariat and the peasantry. The West-European bourgeoisie had always been opposed to revolution. Such was the situation to which we had been accustomed. But things turned out differently. The imperialist war split the European bourgeoisie, and this created a situation where the Anglo-French capitalists, for imperialist reasons, became supporters of a Russian revolution. The British capitalists actually entered into a conspiracy with Guchkov, Milyukov, and the high commanding officers of the army. The Anglo-French capitalists sided with the revolution. The European newspapers report many instances of British and French emissaries making trips to have talks with “revolutionaries” like Guchkov. The revolution has thus gained an unexpected ally. As a result, the revolution has turned out to be different from what anyone expected. We have found allies not only in the Russian bourgeoisie but also among the Anglo-French capitalists. When I mentioned this in a lecture delivered abroad,[1] I was told by a Menshevik that we had been wrong, for events had proved that the bourgeoisie was necessary for the success of the revolution. I replied that it was “necessary” only insofar as it helped the revolution triumph in eight days. Did not Milyukov declare before the revolution that if victory lay through revolution, then he was against victory? We must not forget these words of Milyukov.

And so, the revolution in its first stage developed in a way that no one had expected. The Bolsheviks’ reply to the question as to the possibility of “defending the fatherland” was this: if a bourgeois-chauvinist revolution triumphed (Sotsial-Demokrat[3] No. 47), then defence of the fatherland would be impossible.[2] The situation is unique in that we now have a dual power [the Contact Commission]. Abroad, where no paper more Left than Rech ever penetrates, and where the English and French bourgeois papers speak of an all-powerful Provisional Government and the “chaos” represented by the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, nobody has any clear idea of this dual power. Only here on the spot did we learn that the Soviet had surrendered power to the Provisional Government. The Soviet is the implementation of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the soldiers; among the latter the majority are peasants. It is therefore a dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. But this “dictatorship” has entered into an agreement with the bourgeoisie. And this is where the “old” Bolshevism needs revising. The situation that has arisen shows that the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry is interlocked with the power of the bourgeoisie. An amazingly unique situation. The past contains no instances of a revolution where the representatives of the revolutionary proletariat and peasantry, though fully armed, concluded an alliance with the bourgeoisie, and though having the power, ceded it to the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie wields the power of capital and the power of organisation. It is a wonder the workers have shown themselves to be as well organised as they are. The bourgeois revolution in Russia is completed insofar as power has come into the hands of the bourgeoisie. Here the “old Bolsheviks” argue: “It is not completed–for there is no dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.” But the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies is that very dictatorship.

The agrarian movement can go two ways. The peasants may take the land, but no struggle may develop between the rural proletariat and the prosperous peasants. This is unlikely, however, for the class struggle does not wait. To repeat now what we said in 1905, and omit mention of the class struggle in the countryside, is a betrayal of the proletarian cause.

Already we can discern in the decisions of a number of peasant congresses a tendency to wait with the solution of the agrarian question until the convocation of the Constituent Assembly. This is a victory for the well-to-do peasants who lean towards the Cadets. The peasants are already taking possession of the land. The Socialist-Revolutionaries are trying to hold them back, suggesting that they wait until the Constituent Assembly meets. We must combine the demand for the immediate seizure of the land with propaganda for the setting up of Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies. The bourgeois-democratic revolution is completed. The agrarian programme must be carried out in a new way. The same struggle for power that is going on here between the large and small proprietors will take place in the village too. The peasants will not be content with !and alone. The number of horseless peasants has increased greatly. We alone are at present developing the agrarian revolution, when we tell the peasants to take the land immediately. The land must be taken in an organised manner. Property must not be damaged. The agrarian movement, consequently, is only a prevision, and not a fact. It is the task of Marxists to make the question of an agrarian programme clear to the peasants; the weight of emphasis on this issue must be shifted to the Soviet of Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies. We must be prepared, however, for the peasantry uniting with the bourgeoisie, just as the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies has done. It follows that the agrarian movement still has to be developed. The well-to-do peasantry will, naturally, gravitate towards the bourgeoisie, towards the Provisional Government. It may prove even more Right than Guchkov.

For the time being, the victory of bourgeois power is an accomplished fact. The economic position of the peasants separates them from the landowners. What the peasants need is not a legal right to the land. They need Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies. Those who advise the peasants to wait until the Constituent Assembly meets are deceiving them.

Our task is to separate the class line from this petty-bourgeois bog. The bourgeoisie does its job splendidly; it makes all sorts of promises, but in effect pursues only its class policy.

In the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies the alignment of forces is such that power is passed to the Provisional Government, while the socialists content themselves with “contact commissions”. True, this government is composed of the most trusted and best people of their class, but still of a definite class. The petty bourgeoisie has surrendered to them completely. Unless we mark out a proletarian line, we shall be betraying the cause of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie rules either by deception or by violence. Just now flattery and deception prevail, and this lulls the revolution. The bourgeoisie makes concessions on minor issues, but in matters of primary importance (the agrarian revolution, for example) they make none. One must be blind to the facts not to see that in Russia, apart from the Bolsheviks, there is nothing but revolutionary defencism, and that it has triumphed everywhere. Revolutionary defencism means the surrender of all socialist principles in the predatory interests of capitalism, interests which are screened behind the phrase “defence of the fatherland”; it means surrendering one’s positions to the petty bourgeoisie. When I spoke of the “honest” mass of revolutionary defencists, I had in mind not a moral category, but a class definition. The classes represented in the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies have no interest in the predatory war, in Europe it is different. There the people are oppressed, and the most opportunistic pacifists are often hounded worse than we Pravdists are. In our country the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies pursues its policy of revolutionary defencism, not by violence, but because the masses trust it. Europe is one vast military prison. Capitalism rules cruelly there. All over Europe the bourgeoisie should be overthrown, and not argued with. In Russia the soldiers are armed; by agreeing only to “defend themselves” against Wilhelm they allowed them selves to be peacefully deceived. In Europe, there is no “honest” revolutionary defencism like we have in Russia, where the people have handed over the power to the bourgeoisie through ignorance, inertia, tradition, and the habit of suffering the rod. Steklov and Chkheidze are leaders in word, but tailpieces of the bourgeoisie in deed; for all their virtues, their knowledge of Marxism, etc., they are politically dead. Here in Russia the power is in the hands of the soldiers, who are defencist-minded. The objective class position of the capitalists is one thing. They are conducting the war in their own interests. The soldiers are proletarians and peasants. This is another thing. Are they interested in seizing Constantinople? No, their class interests are opposed to war! That is why they can be made to see light, made to change their minds. The crux of the political situation at this moment is to be able to make the masses see the truth. We cannot talk about having the “backing” of the revolutionary mass, etc., until we have brought home to the soldiers or to the uneducated masses the meaning of the slogan “Down with war”.

What is the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies? Its class meaning is direct power. We do not have complete political liberty, of course. But nowhere else is there such freedom as exists in Russia today. “Down with war” does not mean flinging the bayonet away. It means the transfer of power to another class. Everything must now be focused on making that clear. Blanquism was a striving to seize power with the backing of a minority. With us it is quite different. We are still a minority and realise the need for winning a majority. Unlike the anarchists, we need the state for the transition to socialism. The Paris Commune furnished an example of a state of the Soviet type, an example of direct power wielded by the organised and armed workers, an example of the dictatorship of workers and peasants. The role of the Soviets, the significance of such a dictatorship, is that they apply organised force against the counter-revolution, safeguard the gains of the revolution for the benefit of the majority and with the support of the majority. There can be no dual power in a state. The Soviets are a type of state where the existence of a police is impossible. Here the people are their own rulers, and there can be no return to the monarchy. The army and the people must merge into one_ therein lies the triumph of liberty! Everyone must learn to use arms. To safeguard freedom, all the people to a man must be armed. This is the essence of the commune. We are not anarchists who deny the need for an organised state, i.e., for force in general, particularly a state maintained by the organised and armed workers themselves through the Soviets. Events have led to the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry being interlocked with the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. The next stage is the dictatorship of the proletariat, but the proletariat is not yet sufficiently organised and enlightened; it must be enlightened. Such Soviets of Workers’ and other Deputies should be organised all over the country life itself demands it. There is no other way. This is the Paris Commune! The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies is not an organisation of the trade union type, as the bourgeoisie would like it to be. The people see it differently and more correctly they see it as a government power. They see that the way out of the war lies through the victory of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies. This is the type of state under which it is possible to advance towards socialism. Should a group seize power, it would not mean much. The Russian revolution has risen higher: any government other than the Soviet is impossible, and this is what the bourgeoisie fears. So long as the Soviets have not seized power, we shall not take it. A living force, however, must impel the Soviets to seize power. Otherwise we shall never get out of the war which the capitalists are carrying on by deceiving the people. All countries are on the brink of ruin; people must realise this; there is no way out except through a socialist revolution. The government must be overthrown, but not everybody understands this correctly. So long as the Provisional Government has the backing of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, you cannot “simply” overthrow it. The only way it can and must be overthrown is by winning over the majority in the Soviets. It is either forward towards the undivided power of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, or back to the imperialist war–there is no other alternative. Kautsky denied that a revolution was possible in time of war. Events have shown him to be wrong.

As regards nationalisation of the banks and control over them–economically this is feasible, economically nothing can interfere with it, once the power is in the hands of the workers. Obviously, in viewing the tasks of the proletariat as we do, there can be no question of any alliance with the “defencists”.

Concerning a new name for the Party: the word “Social-Democracy” is incorrect; it is scientifically wrong. Marx and Engels said as much on many occasions. If they “put up with” the word, it was because after the year 1871 a special situation was created: a slow preparation of the masses was needed, revolution was not on the order of the day. Democracy, too, means a form of state, but the Paris Commune had risen above it. Now the whole world is faced with the practical issue–that of the transition to socialism. The Social-Democrat Plekhanov and the rest of the social-chauvinists throughout the world have betrayed socialism. We should call ourselves the “Communist Party”.

A brief report published May 8 (April 25), 1917 in Pravda No. 40  
First published in full in 1925 in the book The Petrograd City and the All-Russia Conferences of the R.S.D.L.P. (Bolsheviks), April 1917  
Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes  


[1] See present edition, Volume 23, p. 355.—Ed.

[2] See present edition Vol. 21, p. 403.—Ed.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Two Remarks During the Debate On the Resolution Concerning the Attitude Towards the Provisional Government April 15 (28)


After yesterday’s debate I can confine myself to brief remarks. The resolution shows a way out. The situation is determined not only by the fact that definite classes are represented in the Provisional Government, but also by the fact that the latter leans upon the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies. The inference is not that we must yield to this petty bourgeoisie, but that we must form independent groups, not in order to separate ourselves from the petty bourgeoisie, but in order to impel it to go forward. The seizure of all the land is a step forward on the part of the revolutionary people. The replacement of the standing army by a militia is a step forward.


Comrade Kamenev is shifting to the policy of Chkheidze and Steklov. Of course, no one will say that the Provisional Government is putting off the Constituent Assembly, if we do not say it. Everybody wants to carry on the war. The point at issue is the organisation of counter-revolution. In revolutionary times control means deception. The date for the elections could be arranged in three days. By listing “sins”, we provide ammunition for propaganda. To seek the truth in the Contact Commission is impossible. There can be no control without power. To control by means of resolutions, etc., is sheer nonsense. Control means dispelling the petty-bourgeois illusions, fog.

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

Resolution on the Attitude Towards the Provisional Government


(1) that the Provisional Government, by its class character, is the organ of landowner and bourgeois domination;

(2) that the Provisional Government and the classes it represents are bound with indissoluble economic and political ties to Russian and Anglo-French imperialism;

(3) that the Provisional Government is carrying out its proclaimed programme only partially, and only under pressure of the revolutionary proletariat and, to some extent, of the petty bourgeoisie;

(4) that the forces of bourgeois and landowner counter revolution, now being organised, have already, under cover of the Provisional Government and with the latter’s obvious connivance, launched an attack on revolutionary democracy;

(5) that the Provisional Government is avoiding fixing the date for the elections to the Constituent Assembly, preventing the arming of the people as a whole, opposing the transfer of all the land to the people, foisting upon it the landowners’ way of settling the agrarian question, obstructing the introduction of an eight-hour workday, condoning counter-revolutionary propaganda in the army (by Guchkov and Co.), rallying the high-ranking officers against the soldiers, etc.;

(6) that this government, at the same time, is relying at present on the confidence of, and, to a certain extent, on an actual agreement with, the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, which now unites an obvious majority of workers and soldiers, i.e., peasants;

(7) that every step of the Provisional Government, in both its domestic and foreign policies, is bound to open the eyes, not only of the proletarians in town and country and semi-proletarians, but also of the broad sections of the petty bourgeoisie, to the real nature of this government,

the Conference resolves that:

(1) in order to ensure all the state power passing into the hands of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies or other bodies directly expressing the will of the people, prolonged work is necessary to develop proletarian class- consciousness and to unite the urban and rural proletarians against the vacillations of the petty bourgeoisie, for only work of this nature can guarantee real advance on the part of the whole revolutionary people;

(2) this calls for many-sided activity within the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, for work aimed at increasing the number of these Soviets, consolidating their power, and welding together our Party’s proletarian internationalist groups in the Soviets;

(3) we must organise our Social-Democratic forces more effectively, so as to be able to direct the new wave of the revolutionary movement under the banner of revolutionary Social-Democracy.

Pravda No. 35, May 1 (April 18), 1917  
Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes verified with the text in Pravda  

Two Remarks During the Debate On the Question of the Municipal Elections


Since we have proportional representation, there is no need for a bloc; the minority is protected. I emphatically disagree with Comrade Kalinin, because a bloc with the petty bourgeoisie, with the chauvinists, is unthinkable. The very idea of a bloc with the petty bourgeoisie, who are supported by the capitalists, is a betrayal of socialism. With whom are we to form blocs, with the editors of Internatsional[1]? But this paper has not been published yet, and therefore we do not know them. Chkheidze is defencism’s worst mask. Trotsky, when editing his paper in Paris, never made it clear whether he was for or against Chkheidze. We have always spoken against Chkheidze, because he is a subtle mask for chauvinism. Trotsky has never made himself clear. How do we know that Larin, the editor of Internatsional, does not follow the same tactics?

We must come forward with a definite programme. A struggle is now on among three parties: the first is the party of robbers and killers; the second is the party that shields these robbers with fine words, and finally, the third party, the party that refuses to support the robbers and stands for exposing the mistakes made by everybody, the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies included.

The fault of the Soviet is not that it didn’t assume power, but that it teaches the people the wrong things, it shouts about its victory over the government.


I am decidedly in favour of placing on our tickets the names of the Menshevik candidates who are breaking with chauvinism. This is no bloc. As far as parties are concerned, Russia is remarkably well organised. About a programme: the question of a paid militia, the question of food supply, the question of taxes—all these are important.

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


[1] An advance announcement of the publication of the weekly journal Intertsational was published in Rabochaya Gazeta on April 16 (29), 1917. The first issue appeared on April 18(31), and on April 22 (May 5) Lenin had apparently had not yet seen it. The title page held a notice to the effect that pending the arrival of L. Martov the journal was edited by Y. Larin. The list of contributors included L. Martov, Y. Larin, P. B. Axelrod and G. 0. Binshtok. In the first issue the editors proclaimed the conciliatory slogan of bringing pressure to bear on the Provisional Government to meet the demands of the proletariat in domestic and foreign policies. The third issue of the journal (for June 1917) was its last. In August 1917 some of the journal’s contributors headed by Y. Larin broke with the Mensheviks and joined the ranks of the Bolshevik Party.

Resolution on the Municipal Question

Under no circumstances can the municipal platform, particularly at the present revolutionary time, be reduced only to communal questions.

It must also contain a definite answer to all present-day key issues, especially those concerning the war and the tasks of the proletariat in regard to the central power.

Even in municipal questions, such as that of the militia, food supply, housing, and taxes, we cannot expect the petty-bourgeois parties to agree to revolutionary measures necessary to combat war and its consequences.

For all these reasons we must go to the elections without blocs, upon a straight issue of principles announced in the programme of the proletarian party, and explain to the people the fundamental differences between the three main party divisions, namely,(1) the Cadets and those to the right of them; (2) the parties of the petty bourgeoisie (Narodniks) and a section of workers who have fallen under the influence of the bourgeoisie (the Menshevik defencists); (3) the party of the revolutionary proletariat (the Bolsheviks).

The technical arrangements for the elections based on the system of proportional representation make blocs technically unnecessary.

It is advisable in every way to encourage closer relations and mutual exchange of opinions, on the basis of practical work, with those Mensheviks who are really breaking with revolutionary defencism and with support of the Provisional Government. With such comrades it is permissible to run a joint ticket, on condition that there be sufficient agreement on fundamentals. A concrete municipal programme should be worked out, particularly on the question of a proletarian militia to be laid for by the capitalists.

Pravda No. 46, May 15 (2), 1917  
Published according to the text of the typewritten copy of the Minutes verified with the text in Pravda  

Draft Resolution on the Attitude Towards the Parties of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Menshevik Social-Democrats, the “Non-Faction” Social-Democrats and other Kindred Political Trends

Taking into consideration:

(1) that the parties of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, Menshevik Social-Democrats, etc., have, in the great majority of cases, adopted the stand of “revolutionary defencism” and voted for the loan, that is, in support of the imperialist war waged by the imperialist government of the capitalists—Guchkov, Lvov and Co.;

(2) that these parties are supporting the Provisional Government, which represents the interests of Capital and which has taken a counter-revolutionary stand in domestic as well as foreign policy;

(3) that these parties have allowed themselves to be deceived by the capitalists, and, in their turn, are deceiving the people with false hopes of being able, by means of “demands” and “control” of the Provisional Government, and without wielding state power, to change the class nature of the government of the capitalists and wean it away from the imperialist policy now needed by the capitalists and from counter-revolutionary attempts against liberty;

(4) that the resultant attempt to obscure the class consciousness of the proletarians and semi-proletarians, which these parties are encouraging, is, in view of the general attitude of unreasoning trust on the part of the masses to wards the capitalists, who are now acting chiefly by deception and flatterys the principal reason for the revolution hanging fire and for its possible defeat by the forces of the landowner and bourgeois counter-revolution,

the Conference resolves that:

(1) the voting in favour of the loan and advocacy of revolutionary defencism ill general be considered a gross betrayal of socialism, of the proletarian class struggle and of the principles of internationalism, i.e., the fraternal union of the workers of all countries against the capitalists of all countries;

(2) the above-named parties be considered as acting in the interests and upholding the point of view of the petty bourgeoisie and corrupting the proletariat with bourgeois influence;

(3) unity with parties, as a whole, which are pursuing a policy of support for the Provisional Government, are advocating revolutionary defencism, etc., be considered absolutely impossible in view of the fact that these parties have abandoned the proletarian class position for a petty-bourgeois position;

(4) in regard to certain local groups of workers who are aligned with the Mensheviks, etc., but who strive to uphold the position of internationalism against “revolutionary defencism” and against voting for the loan, etc., the policy of our Party should be to support such workers and groups, to seek closer relations with them, and support unity with them on the basis of a definite break with the petty-bourgeois betrayal of socialism.

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

Draft Resolution on the War


The present war is, on the part of both groups of the belligerent powers, an imperialist war, i.e., one waged by the capitalists for world domination, for division of the capitalists’ spoils, for profitable markets for finance and banking capital, and for the subjugation of the weaker nationalities.

The transfer of state power in Russia from Nicholas II to the [provisional] government of Guchkov, Lvov, and others, to the government of the landowners and capitalists, did not and could not alter the class character and meaning of the war as far as Russia is concerned.

The fact that the new government is carrying on the same imperialist war, i.e., an aggressive war of conquest, became glaringly apparent when the government not only failed to publish the secret treaties between ex-Tsar Nicholas II and the capitalist governments of Britain, France, etc., but even formally confirmed these treaties. This was done without consulting the will of the people and with the express purpose of deceiving them, for it is well known that the secret treaties concluded by the ex-tsar are outrageously predatory treaties that give the Russian capitalists a free hand to rob China, Persia, Turkey, Austria, etc.

For this reason no proletarian party that does not wish to break completely with internationalism, i.e., with the fraternal solidarity of the workers of all countries in their struggle against the yoke of Capital, can support the present war, or the present government, or its loans, no matter in what glowing terms these loans may be described.

Nor can any trust be placed in the present government’s promise to renounce annexations, i.e., the conquest of foreign countries or the forcible retention of any nationality within the confines of Russia. For, in the first place, the capitalists, bound together by the thousand threads of Russian and Anglo-French banking capital, and intent on protecting the interests of capital, cannot renounce annexations in this war without at the same time ceasing to be capitalists, without renouncing the profits from the thou sands of millions invested in loans, concessions, war industries, etc. And secondly, the new government, after renouncing annexations to mislead the people, declared through Milyukov (Moscow, April 9, 1917) that it had no intention of renouncing them. Finally, as revealed by Dyelo Naroda, a newspaper in which Minister Kerensky co-operates, Milyukov has not even sent his statement on the renunciation of annexations to other countries.

Therefore, in warning the people against the capitalists’ empty promises, the Conference declares that it is necessary to make a clear distinction between a renunciation of annexations in word and a renunciation of annexations in deed, i.e., the immediate publication of all the secret predatory treaties, of all acts of foreign policy, and the taking of immediate steps to fully liberate all peoples who are being oppressed, kept bound to Russia by force or kept in a state of subjection by the capitalist class, which is continuing the policy of ex-Tsar Nicholas II, a policy that is a disgrace to our nation.


The “revolutionary defencism”, which in Russia has now permeated almost all the Narodnik parties (the Popular Socialists, Trudoviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries), the opportunist party of the Menshevik Social-Democrats (the Organising Committee, Chkheidze, Tsereteli, etc.), and the majority of the non-party revolutionaries, reflects, in point of class significance, the interests and point of view of the petty bourgeoisie, the small proprietors, and the well-to-do peasants, who, like the capitalists, profit by oppressing weak peoples. On the other hand, it is a result of the deception of the masses by the capitalists, who instead of publishing the secret treaties confine themselves to promises and glib talk.

It must be admitted that the great mass of “revolutionary defencists” are honest, i.e., they are really opposed to annexations, to conquests, to oppressing weak peoples; they are really working for a democratic non-coercive peace among all the belligerents. This must be admitted for the reason that the class position of the urban and rural proletarians and semi-proletarians (i.e., of the people who earn their living, wholly or partly, by selling their labour-power to the capitalists) makes these classes uninterested in capitalist profits.

Therefore, while recognising that any concessions to “revolutionary defencism” are absolutely impermissible and virtually signify a complete break with internationalism and socialism, the Conference declares that our Party will preach abstention from violence as long as the Russian capitalists and their Provisional Government confine themselves to threats of violence against the people (for example, Guchkov’s unhappily notorious decree threatening the soldiers with punishment for arbitrary displacement of superiors), as long as the capitalists have not started using violence against the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, Peasants’, Agricultural Labourers’, and other Deputies, which organise themselves freely, and freely elect and dismiss all public officers. Our Party will fight against the profound and fatal error of “revolutionary defencism” solely by means of comradely persuasion, bringing home the truth that the attitude of unreasoning trust of the broad masses in the government of the capitalists, who are the worst enemies of peace and socialism, is, in present-day Russia, the chief obstacle to a speedy termination of the war.


As for that most important issue of all, namely, how to end the war—a criminal, predatory capitalist war that has brought mankind to the brink of ruin, famine and destruction—as quickly as possible, by a truly democratic, non-coercive peace, the Conference recognises and declares the following:

It is utterly senseless to suppose that this war can be ended by a unilateral refusal of the soldiers of any one country to continue the war, by a unilateral cessation, of military operations, by the mere act of “sticking the bayonet into the ground”.

Our Party will patiently but persistently explain to the people the truth that wars are waged by governments, that wars are always indissolubly bound up with the policies of definite classes, and, therefore, this war, started by crowned brigands, by monarchs like Nicholas II, and by uncrowned brigands—the capitalists, can be terminated by a truly democratic, non-coercive peace only when the entire state power passes to a class that is really not interested in safe guarding capitalist profits, to the class of the proletarians and semi-proletarians, which is really capable of putting an end to the oppressive rule of Capital.

This class alone is capable of really renouncing annexations, of breaking free from the meshes of finance and banking capital, and, under certain circumstances, not merely in word but In deed, converting this predatory war into a revolutionary proletarian war, a war aimed, not at crushing weak peoples, but to free the workers and peasants of the whole world from the yoke of Capital.

The Conference reiterates its protests against the base slander spread by the capitalists against our Party to the effect that we are in favour of a separate peace with Germany. We consider the German capitalists to be as predatory as the Russian, British, French, and other capitalists, and Emperor Wilhelm II to be as bad a crowned brigand as Nicholas II or the British, Italian, Rumanian, and all other monarchs. We have proclaimed this view of our Party not only in Russian but also in German, in the translation of Zinoviev’s and Lenin’s pamphlet Socialism and War.[1]

Moreover, as editors of the Central Organ of our Party, and in the name of the Party, the above-named comrades had declared (Sotsial-Demokrat, Geneva, October 13, 1915 No. 47) that if the revolution placed our Party in power while the war was still on, we would forthwith propose openly to Germany, together with all the other nations, a non-coercive, i.e., democratic, peace, and that in the event of the German, British, French and other capitalists declining such a peace, we would ourselves start a revolutionary war, and call upon the workers of all countries to join us.[2]

The Conference fully endorses this declaration.

The Conference takes cognisance of the fact that in no other belligerent country in the world is there such freedom as there now is in Russia, or such revolutionary mass organisations as the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, Peasants’, and other Deputies; and that nowhere else in the world, therefore, can the transfer of the entire state power to the actual majority of the people, i.e., to the workers and poor peasants, be achieved so easily and so peacefully.

The Conference declares that the money for the soldiers’ upkeep should be raised not by loans, which only enrich the capitalists, but by imposing high income and property taxes on the capitalists.

The Conference declares that so long as the majority of the people, though enjoying complete freedom of agitation and propaganda, have not yet come to realise how closely this war is bound up with capitalist interests, there is only one practical means of bringing this butchery of peoples to a speedy end.

This means is fraternisation at the front.

The Conference calls attention to the fact that even Novaye Vremya, that servile mouthpiece of the capitalist interests, admits in a telegram from Kiev dated April 12 that fraternisation has started at the front. Numerous reports from soldier delegates to the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies in Petrograd confirm this.

By starting to fraternise, the Russian and German soldiers, the proletarians and peasants of both countries dressed in soldiers’ uniforms, have proved to the whole world that intuitively the classes oppressed by the capitalists have discovered the right road to the cessation of the butchery of peoples.

By fraternisation we understand, first, the publication of proclamations in the Russian and the German languages for distribution at the front; second, the holding of meetings between the Russian and the German soldiers at the front with the aid of interpreters, these to be arranged in such a way that the capitalists, and the generals and officers of both countries, who for the most part are of the capitalist class, will not dare to interfere with these meetings, will not dare even to attend them without the direct and special permission of the soldiers,

These proclamations and meetings must make clear the above-stated views on war and peace, must bring home the fact that if the state power in the two countries, Germany and Russia, were to pass wholly and exclusively into the hands of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, the whole of humanity would heave a sigh of relief, for then we would really be assured of a speedy termination of the war, of a really lasting, truly democratic peace among all the nations, and, at the same time, the transition of all countries to socialism.

Written between April 15 and 22 (April 28 and May 5), 1917  
First published in 1927 in the second and third editions of Lenin’s Collected Works, Vol. XX  
Published according to the typewritten copy with Lenin’s corrections  


[1] See present edition, Vol. 21, pp. 301-06.—Ed.

[2] See present edition, Vol. 21, p. 404.—Ed.


Source: Marxist Internet Archive