What next? After the July Days

Leon Trotsky’s pamphlet What Next? published in Petrograd in September 1917.


Since the July 1st offensive [1] on the external front there begins a retreat of the Revolution on the internal front. This retreat, led by the official democracy, assumed, after the events of July 16-17, the character of a panic. At this moment it presents a somewhat more orderly appearance, without, however, ceasing its flight. The war is devouring the Revolution before our eyes. And as the generals control the war, they attempt to take all actual power into their own hands.

At what point is this to stop? The making of a prognosis requires that we ask ourselves what is the nature of the forces that are engaged in a struggle on the political stage, or are – surrendering without a struggle. That is the object of this study.

The first two chapters were written before the Moscow Conference. We have not altered them in any way. In our attempt to prognosticate the function and consequences of the Moscow solemnity, we proceeded, not from the statements of leaders and the declarations of newspapers (never, it seems, have leaders and newspapers lied as they lie now), but from class interests and political activities: the latter method, which has the recommendation of Marx, is infinitely more reliable.

Even after the Provisional Government had disarmed revolutionary Petrograd [2], and set up the Cossack ’Landes’ over the red banners, it did not dare enrage the workers by the sight of a Conference which was stigmatized as of Government, not to say ’anti-popular’. The ’Live wires’ were invited to pious and peaceful Moscow. But the Moscow proletariat received the uninvited guests with a strike or protest and contempt . And, thus vindicated, the proletariat of Petrograd breathed freely on that day.

With the permission of the Moscow Worker-Comrades, I am dedicating this brochure to them.

Leon Trotsky
August-September 1917