Three Crises

"There is an urban proletariat in this country, mature enough to go its own way, but not yet able to draw at once the majority of the semi-proletarians to its side. From this fundamental, class fact follows the inevitability of such crises as the three we are now examining, as well as their forms."

The more violent the slander and lies against the Bolsheviks these days, the more calmly must we, while refuting the lies and slander, reflect upon the historical interrelation of events and the political, i.e., class, significance of the revolution’s present course.

To refute the lies and slander, we only have to refer again to Listok “Pravdy” of July 6, and to call the reader’s attention especially to the article printed below which gives documentary evidence that on July 2 the Bolsheviks campaigned against the demonstration (as admitted by the Socialist-Revolutionaries’ paper). The article indicates that on July 3 the popular mood exploded into action and the demonstration started against our advice. It shows that on July 4, in a leaflet (reprinted by the Socialist-Revolutionary paper Dyelo Naroda), we called for a peaceful and organised demonstration, that on the night of July 4 we passed a decision to call off the demonstration. Slanderers, continue your slander! You can never refute these facts and their decisive significance in every connection!

Let us turn to the question of the historical interrelation of the events. When, as early as the beginning of April, we opposed support for the Provisional Government, we were attacked by both the S.R.s and the Mensheviks. But what has reality proved?

What have the three political crises proved — April 20 and 21, June 10 and 18, July 3 and 4?

They have proved, in the first place, that the masses are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the bourgeois policy of the Provisional Government’s bourgeois majority.

It is rather interesting to note that the ruling Socialist-Revolutionaries’ newspaper, Dyelo Naroda, despite its marked hostility to the Bolsheviks, is compelled to admit, in its July 6 issue, the deep economic and political causes of the action of July 3 and 4. The stupid, crude, infamous lie that this action was artificially created, that the Bolsheviks campaigned in favour of action, will daily be more and more exposed.

The common cause, the common origin, the deep common root of the three above-mentioned political crises is clear, especially if we look at them in their interrelation, as science demands that politics be looked at. It is absurd even to think that three such crises could be produced artificially.

In the second place, it is instructive to grasp what each one of them had in common with the others, and what was its specific features.

What is common to all three is a mass dissatisfaction overflowing all bounds, a mass resentment with the bourgeoisie and their government. Whoever forgets, ignores or underestimates this essence of the matter, renounces the ABC of socialism concerning the class struggle.

Let those who call themselves socialists, who know something about the character of the class struggle in European revolutions, think about the class struggle in the Russian revolution.

These crises are peculiar in the ways they manifested themselves. The first (April 20–21) was stormy and spontaneous, and completely unorganised. It led to Black Hundreds firing on the demonstrators and to unprecedentedly savage and lying accusations against the Bolsheviks. After the outburst came a political crisis.

In the second case, the demonstration was called by the Bolsheviks, and was canceled after a stern ultimatum and direct ban by the Congress of Soviets; then, on June 18, came a general demonstration in which the Bolshevik slogans clearly predominated. As the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks themselves admitted on the evening of June 18, a political crisis would certainly have broken out had it not been for the offensive at the front.

The third crisis broke out spontaneously on July 3 despite the Bolsheviks’ efforts on July 2 to check it. Reaching its climax on July 4, it led to a furious outburst of counter-revolution on July 5 and 6. The vacillation of the S.R.s and Mensheviks expressed itself in Spiridonova and a number of other S.R.s declaring for the transfer of power to the Soviets, and in the Menshevik internationalists, previously opposed to it, voicing the same idea.

The last, and perhaps the most instructive, conclusion to be drawn from considering the events in their interconnection is that all three crises manifested some form of demonstration that is new in the history of our revolution, a demonstration of a more complicated type in which the movement proceeds in waves, a sudden drop following a rapid rise, revolution and counter-revolution becoming more acute, and the middle elements being eliminated for a more or less extensive period.

In all three crises, the movement took the form of a demonstration. An anti-government demonstration — that would be the most exact, formal description of events. But the fact of the matter is that it was not an ordinary demonstration; it was something considerably more than a demonstration, but less than a revolution. It was an outburst of revolution and counter-revolution together, a sharp, sometimes almost sudden elimination of the middle elements, while the proletarian and bourgeois elements made a stormy appearance.

In this respect it is extremely typical that, for each of these movements, the middle elements blame both of the specific class forces — the proletariat as well as the bourgeoisie. Look at the S.R.s and Mensheviks. They lean over backwards to frantically shout that, by their extremes, the Bolsheviks are helping the counter-revolution. At the same time, however, they admit again and again that the Cadets (with whom they form a bloc in the government) are counter-revolutionary. "Our urgent task is to draw a line," wrote Dyelo Naroda yesterday, "to dig a deep moat between ourselves and all the Right elements, including Yedinstvo, which has gone militant" (with which, we may add, the S.R.s formed a bloc during the elections).

Compare that with today’s (July 7) issue of Yedinstvo, in which Plekhanov’s editorial is compelled to state the indisputable fact that the Soviets (i.e., the S.R.s and Mensheviks) will "think over the matter for a fortnight" and that, if power were to pass to the Soviets, "it would be tantamount to victory for Lenin’s supporters". "If the Cadets don’t stick to the rule—the worse, the better...," says Plekhanov, "they themselves will have to admit that they have made a big mistake [by withdrawing from the Cabinet], making the work of Lenin’s supporters easier.”

Isn’t that typical? The middle elements blame the Cadets for making the Bolsheviks’ work easier, and the Bolsheviks for making the Cadets’ work easier! Is it so hard to guess that if we substitute class names for political ones we have before us the dreams of the petty bourgeoisie about the disappearance of the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie? Isn’t the petty bourgeoisie complaining about the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie? Is it really so hard to guess that no Bolsheviks in the world could have “created” even a single "popular movement", let alone three movements, if the deepest economic and political causes had not set the proletariat into action? Is it so difficult to guess that no Cadets and monarchists combined could have called forth any movement "from the Right" if it had not been for the equally deep causes that make the bourgeoisie as a class counter-revolutionary?

Both we and the Cadets were blamed for the April 20-21 movement — for intransigence, extremes, and for aggravating the situation. The Bolsheviks were even accused (absurd as it may be) of the firing on Nevsky. When the movement was over, however, those same S.R.s and Mensheviks, in their joint, official organ, Izvestia, wrote that the "popular movement" had "swept away the imperialists, Milyukov, etc.", i.e., they praised the movement!! Isn’t that typical? Doesn’t it show very clearly that the petty bourgeoisie do not understand the workings, the meaning, of the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie?

The objective situation is this. The vast majority of the country’s population is petty-bourgeois by its living conditions and more so by its ideas. But big capital rules the country, primarily through banks and syndicates. There is an urban proletariat in this country, mature enough to go its own way, but not yet able to draw at once the majority of the semi-proletarians to its side. From this fundamental, class fact follows the inevitability of such crises as the three we are now examining, as well as their forms.

In future the forms of crises may, of course, change, but the substance of the issue will remain the same even if, for instance, the S.R. Constituent Assembly meets in October. The S.R.s have promised the peasants: (1) to abolish private landownership; (2) to transfer the land to the working people; (3) to confiscate the landed estates and transfer them to the peasants without compensation. These great reforms can never be realised without the most decisive revolutionary measures against the bourgeoisie, measures that can only be taken when the poor peasants join the proletariat, only when the banks and the syndicates are nationalised.

The credulous peasants, believing for a time that these beautiful things can be achieved by compromising with the bourgeoisie, will inevitably be disappointed and . . . “dissatisfied” (mildly speaking) with the sharp class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie for the implementation of the promises of the S.R.s. So it was, and so it will be.


[1] The offices of Pravda having been wrecked on July 5 (18), 1917, by the Provisional Government, the article “Three Crises” appeared in Rabotnitsa No. 7 on July 19 (August 1). The editors of the journal wanted that particular issue to be circulated as widely as possible and therefore published on the cover an appeal to all workers, trade unions, factory committees, and R.S.D.L.P.(B.) cells and district organisations earnestly asking them to take energetic steps for the widest possible dissemination of the issue.

Rabotnitsa (Woman Worker)—a legal periodical published by the C.C. R.S.D.L.P.(B.) on Lenin’s initiative in St. Petersburg, with money collected by women workers. It appeared from February 23 (March 8) to June 1914. Seven issues were brought out, of which the police confiscated three. Among the members of its editorial board were I. F. Armand, A. I. Yelizarova, N. K. Krupskaya, P. F. Kudelli, L. R. Menzhinskaya, Y. F. Rozmirovich, K. N. Samoilova and L. N. Stal.

The periodical resumed publication on May 10 (23), 1917, and continued till January 1918.

Rabotnitsa played an important part in the political education of women workers during the Bolshevik Party s preparations for the socialist revolution in Russia.


Source: Marxist Internet Archive.