Lenin Summons to Insurrection
Besides the factories, barracks, villages, the front and, the soviets, the revolution had another laboratory: the brain of Lenin. Driven underground, Lenin was obliged for a hundred and eleven days – from July 6 to October 25 – to cut down his meetings even with members of the Central Committee. Without any immediate intercourse with the masses, and deprived of contacts with any organisations, he concentrated his thought the more resolutely upon the fundamental problems of the revolution, reducing them – as was both his rule and the necessity of his nature – to the key problems of Marxism.
The chief arguments of the democrats, even the most leftward, against seizing the power, was that the toilers were Incapable of mastering the machinery of state. Opportunist elements even within the Bolshevik Party cherished the same fears. “The machinery of state!” Every petty bourgeois is brought up in adoration of this mystic principle elevated above people and above classes. And the educated philistine carries in his marrow the same awe that his father did, or his uncle, the shopkeeper or well-off peasant, before these all-powerful institutions where questions of war and peace are decided, where commercial patents are given out, whence issue the whips of the taxes, where they punish and once in a while also pardon, where they legitimise marriages and births, where death itself has to stand in line respectfully awaiting recognition. The machinery of state! Removing in imagination not only his hat but his shoes too, the petty bourgeois comes tip-toeing into the temple of the idol on stockinged feet – it matters not what his name is, Kerensky, Laval, MacDonald or Hilferding – that is the way he comes when personal good-luck or the force of circumstances makes him a minister. Such gracious condescension he can answer with a humble submission before the “machinery of state.” The Russian radical intelligentsia who had never dared crawl into the seats of power even during the revolution except behind backs of titled landlords and big business men, gazed with fright and indignation upon the Bolsheviks. Those street agitators, those demagogues, think that they can master the machinery of state!
After the Soviet, confronted by the spineless impotence of the official democracy, had saved the revolution in the struggle against Kornilov, Lenin wrote: “Let those of little faith learn from this example. Shame on those who say, ‘We have no machine with which to replace that old one which gravitates inexorably to the defence of the bourgeoisie.’ For we have a machine. And that is the soviets. Do not fear the initiative and independence of the masses. Trust the revolutionary organisations of the masses, and you will see in all spheres of the state life that same power, majesty and unconquerable will of the workers and peasants, which they have shown in their solidarity and enthusiasm against Kornilovism.”
During the first months of his underground life Lenin wrote a book The State and Revolution, the principal material for which he had collected abroad during the war. With the same painstaking care which he dedicated to thinking out the practical problems of the day, he here examines the theoretic problems of the state. He cannot do otherwise: for him theory is in actual fact a guide to action. In this work Lenin has not for a minute proposed to introduce any new word into political theory. On the contrary, he gives his work an extraordinarily modest aspect, emphasising his position as a disciple. His task, he says, is to revive the genuine “teaching of Marxism about the state.”
With its meticulous selection of quotations, its detailed polemical interpretations, the book might seem pedantic – to actual pedants, incapable of feeling under the analysis of texts the mighty pulsation of the mind and will. By a mere re-establishment of the class theory of the state on a new and higher historical foundation, Lenin gives to the ideas of Marx a new concreteness and therewith a new significance. But this work on the state derives its immeasurable importance above all from the fact that it constituted the scientific introduction to the greatest revolution in history. This “commentator” of Marx was preparing his party for the revolutionary conquest of a sixth part of the habitable surface of the earth.
If the state could simply re-accommodate itself to the demands of a new historic régime, revolutions would never have arisen. As a fact, however, the bourgeoisie itself has never yet come to power except by way of revolution. Now it is the workers’ turn. Upon this question, too, Lenin restored to Marxism its significance as the theoretic weapon of the proletarian revolution.
You say the workers cannot master the machinery of state? But it is not a question – Lenin teaches – of getting possession of the old machine and using it for new aims: that is a reactionary Utopia. The selection of personages in the old machine, their education, their mutual relations, are all in conflict with the historic task of the proletariat. After seizing the power our task is not to re-educate the old machine, but to shatter it to fragments. And with what replace it? With the soviets. From being leaders of the revolutionary masses, instruments of education, the soviets will become organs of the new state order.
In the whirlpool of the revolution this work will find few readers; it will be published, indeed, only after the seizure of power. Lenin is working over the problem of the state primarily for the sake of his own inner confidence and for the future. One of his continual concerns was to preserve the succession of ideas. In July he writes to Kamenev: “EnTre nous. If they bump me off I ask you to publish my little notebook Marxism on the State (stranded in Stockholm). Bound in a blue cover. All the quotations are collected from Marx and Engels, likewise from Kautsky against Pannekoek. There is a whole series of notes and comments. Formulate it. I think you could publish it with a week’s work. I think it important, for it is not only Plekhanov and Kautsky who got off the track. My conditions: all this to be absolutely entre nous.” The revolutionary leader, persecuted as the agent of a hostile state and figuring on the possibility of attempted assassination by his enemies, concerns himself with the publication of a “blue” notebook with quotations from Marx and Engels. That was to be his secret last will and testament. The phrase “bump me off”  was to serve as an antidote against that pathos which he hated, for the commission is pathetic in its very essence.
But while awaiting this blow in the back, Lenin himself was getting ready to deliver a frontal blow. While he was putting in order, between reading the papers and writing letters of instruction, his precious notebook, procured at last from Stockholm, life did not stand still. The hour was approaching when the question of the state was to be decided in practical action.
While still in Switzerland immediately after the overthrow of the monarchy, Lenin wrote: “We are not Blanquists, not advocates of the seizure of power by a minority ...” This same thought he developed on his arrival in Russia: “We are now in a minority – the masses do not trust us yet. We know how to wait ... They will swing to our side, and after explaining the correlation of forces we will then say to them: Our day is come.” The question of the conquest of power was presented during those first months as a question of winning a majority in the soviets.
After the July raids Lenin declared: “The power can be seized henceforth only by an armed insurrection; we must obviously rely in this operation not upon the soviets, demoralised by the Compromisers, but on the factory committees; the soviets as organs of power will have to be created anew after the victory.” As a matter of fact, only two months after that the Bolsheviks had won over the soviets from the Compromisers. The nature of Lenin’s mistake on this question is highly characteristic of his strategic genius: for the boldest designs he based his calculations upon the least favourable premises. Thus in coming to Russia through Germany in April he counted on going straight to prison from the station. Thus on July 5 he was saying: “They will probably shoot us all.” And thus now he was figuring: the Compromisers will not let us get a majority in the soviets.
“There is no man more faint-hearted than I am, when I am working out a military plan,” wrote Napoleon to General Herthier. “I exaggerate all dangers and all possible misfortunes ... When my decision is taken everything is forgotten except what can assure its success.” Except for the pose involved in the inappropriate word faint-hearted, the essence of this thought applies perfectly to Lenin. In deciding a problem of strategy he began by clothing the enemy with his own resolution and farsightedness. The tactical mistakes of Lenin were for the most part by-products of his strategic power. In the present instance, indeed, it is hardly appropriate to use the word mistake. When a diagnostician arrives at the definition of a disease by a method of successive eliminations, his hypothetical assumptions, beginning with the worst possible, are not mistakes but methods of analysis. As soon as the Bolsheviks had got control of the soviets of the two capitals, Lenin said: “Our day is come.” In April and July he had applied the brakes; in August he was preparing theoretically the new step; from the middle of September he was hurrying and urging on with all his power. The danger now lay not in acting too soon, but in lagging. “In this matter it is now impossible to be premature.”
In his articles and letters addressed to the Central Committee, Lenin analyses the situation, always emphasising first of all the international conditions. The symptoms and the facts of an awakening European proletariat are for him, on the background of the war, irrefutable proof that the direct threat against the Russian revolution from the side of foreign imperialism will steadily diminish. The arrest of the socialists in Italy, and still more the insurrections in the German fleet, made him announce a supreme change in the whole world situation: “We stand in the vestibule of the world-wide proletarian revolution.”
The epigone historians have preferred to hush up this starting point of Lenin’s thought – both because Lenin’s calculation has been refuted by events, and because according to the most recent theories the Russian Revolution ought to be sufficient unto itself in all circumstances. As a matter of fact Lenin’s appraisal of the international situation was anything but illusory. The symptoms which he observed through the screen of the military censorship of all countries did actually portend the approach of a revolutionary storm. Within a year it shook the old building of the Central Empires to its very foundation. But also in the victor countries, England and France – to say nothing of Italy – it long deprived the ruling classes of their freedom of action. Against a strong, conservative, self-confident capitalistic Europe, the proletarian revolution in Russia, isolated and not yet fortified, could not have held out even for a few months. But that Europe no longer existed. The revolution in the west did not, to be sure, put the proletariat into power – the reformists succeeded in saving the bourgeois régime – but nevertheless it proved powerful enough to defend the Soviet Republic in the first and most dangerous period of its life.
Lenin’s deep internationalism was not expressed solely in the fact that he always gave first place to his appraisal of the international situation. He regarded the very conquest of power in Russia primarily as the impetus for a European revolution, a thing which, as he often repeated, was to have incomparably more importance for the fate of humanity than the revolution In backward Russia. With what sarcasm he lashed those Bolsheviks who did not understand their international duty. “Let us adopt a resolution of sympathy for the German insurrectionists,” he mocks, “and reject the insurrection in Russia. That will be a genuinely reasonable internationalism!”
In the days of the Democratic Conference, Lenin wrote to the Central Committee: “Having got a majority in the soviets of both capitals ... the Bolsheviks can and should seize the state power in their hands ...” The fact that a majority of the peasant delegates of the stacked Democratic Conference voted against a coalition with the Kadets, had for him decisive significance: The muzhik who does not want a union with the bourgeoisie has nothing left but to support the Bolsheviks. “The people are tired of the wavering of the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries. Only our victory in the capitals will bring the peasants over to us.” The task of the party is: “To place upon the order of the day armed insurrection in Petersburg and Moscow, conquest of power, overthrow of the government ...” Up to that time nobody had so imperiously and nakedly set the task of insurrection.
Lenin very studiously followed all the elections and votings in the country, carefully assembling those figures which would throw light on the actual correlation of forces. The semi-anarchistic indifference to electoral statistics got nothing but contempt from him. At the same time Lenin never identified the indexes of parliamentarism with the actual correlation of forces. He always introduced a correction in favour of direct action. “The strength of a revolutionary proletariat,” he explained, “from the point of view of its action upon the masses and drawing them into the struggle, is infinitely greater in an extra-parliamentary than a parliamentary struggle. This is a very important observation when it comes to the question of civil war.”
Lenin with his sharp eye was the first to notice that the agrarian movement had gone into a decisive phase, and he immediately drew all the conclusions from this. The muzhik, like the soldier, will wait no longer. “In the face of such a fact as the peasant insurrection,” writes Lenin at the end of September, “all other political symptoms, even if they were in conflict with this ripening of an all-national crisis, would have absolutely no significance at all.” The agrarian question is the foundation of the revolution. A victory of the government over the peasant revolt would be the “funeral of the revolution We cannot hope for more favourable conditions. The hour of action is at hand. “The crisis is ripe. The whole future of the international workers’ revolution for socialism is at stake. The crisis is ripe.”
Lenin summons to insurrection. In each simple, prosaic, sometimes angular line, you feel the highest tensity of passion. “The revolution is done for,” he writes early in October to the Petrograd party conference, “if the government of Kerensky is not overthrown by proletarians and soldiers in the near future ... We must mobilise all forces in order to impress upon the workers and soldiers the unconditional necessity of a desperate, last, resolute struggle to overthrow the government of Kerensky.”
Lenin had said more than once that the masses are to the left of the party. He knew that the party was to the left of its own upper layer of “old Bolsheviks.” He was too well acquainted with the inner groupings and moods in the Central Committee to expect from it any hazardous steps whatever. On the other hand he greatly feared excessive caution, Fabianism, a letting slip of one of those historic situations which are decades in preparation. Lenin did not trust the Central Committee – without Lenin. In that lies the key to his letters from underground. And Lenin was not so wrong in his mistrust.
Being compelled in a majority of cases to express himself after a decision had already been reached in Petrograd, Lenin was continually criticising the policy of the Central Committee from the left. His opposition developed with the question of insurrection as a background. But it was not limited to that. Lenin thought that the Central Committee was giving too much attention to the compromisist Executive Committee, the Democratic Conference, parliamentary doings in the upper soviet circles in general. He sharply opposed the proposal of the Bolsheviks for a coalition præsidium in the Petrograd Soviet. He branded as “shameful” the decision to participate in the Pre-Parliament. He was indignant at the list of Bolshevik candidates for the Constituent Assembly published at the end of September. Too many intellectuals, not enough workers. “To jam up the Constituent Assembly with orators and littérateurs will mean to travel the worn-out road of opportunism and chauvinism. This is unworthy of the Third International.” Moreover there are too many new names among the candidates, members of the party not tried out in the struggle! Here Lenin considers it necessary to make an exception: “It goes without saying that ... nobody would quarrel with such a candidacy, for example, as that of L.D. Trotsky, for in the first place Trotsky took an internationalist position immediately upon his arrival; in the second place, he fought for amalgamation among the Mezhrayontsi; in the third place, in the difficult July Days he stood at the height of the task and proved a devoted champion of the party of the revolutionary proletariat. It is clear that this cannot be said of a majority of the yesterday’s party members who have been introduced into this list ...”
It might seem as though the April Days had returned – Lenin again in opposition to the Central Committee. The questions stand differently, but the general spirit of his opposition is the same: the Central Committee is too passive, too responsive to social opinion among the intellectual circles, too compromisist in its attitude to the Compromisers. And above all, too indifferent, fatalistic, not attacking à la Bolshevik the problem of the armed insurrection.
It is time to pass from words to deeds: “Our party has now at the Democratic Conference practically its own congress, and this congress has got to decide (whether it wants to or not) the fate of the revolution.” Only one decision is thinkable: Armed overthrow. In this first letter on insurrection Lenin makes another exception: “It is not a question of ‘the day’ of the insurrection, nor ‘the moment’ in a narrow sense. This can be decided only by the general voice of those who are in contact with the workers and soldiers, with the masses.” But only two or three days later (letters in those days were commonly not dated – for conspirative reasons, not through forgetfulness) Lenin, obviously impressed by the decomposition of the Democratic Conference, insists upon immediate action and forthwith advances a practical plan.
“We ought at once to solidify the Bolshevik faction at the Conference, not striving after numbers ... We ought to draw up a short declaration of the Bolsheviks ... We ought to move our whole faction to the factories and barracks. At the same time without losing a minute we ought to organise a staff of Insurrectionary detachments, deploy our forces, move the loyal regiments into the most important positions, surround the Alexandrinka (the theatre where the Democratic Conference was sitting) occupy Peter and Paul, arrest the General Staff and the government, send against the junkers and the Savage Division those detachments which are ready to die fighting, but not let the enemy advance to the centre of the city; we ought to mobilise the armed workers, summon them to a desperate, final battle, occupy the telegraph and telephone stations at once, install our insurrectionary staff at the central telephone station, placing in contact with it by telephone all the factories, all the regiments, all the chief points of armed struggle, etc.” The question of date is no longer placed in dependence upon the “general voice of those who are in contact with the masses.” Lenin proposed an immediate act: To leave the Alexandrinsky theatre with an ultimatum and return there at the head of the armed masses. A crushing blow is to be struck not only against the government, but also, simultaneously, against the highest organ of the Compromisers.
“Lenin, who in private letters was demanding the arrest of the Democratic Conference,” – such is the accusation of Sukhanov – ’in the press, as we know, proposed a ’compromise’: Let the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries take over the whole power and then see what the Soviet Congress says ... The same idea was insistently defended by Trotsky at the Democratic Conference and around it.” Sukhanov sees a double game where there was not the slightest hint of it. Lenin proposed an agreement to the Compromisers immediately after the victory over Kornilov – during the first days of September. The Compromisers passed it up with a shrug of their shoulders. They were engaged in converting the Democratic Conference into a screen for a new coalition with the Kadets against the Bolsheviks. With that the possibility of an agreement fell away absolutely. The question of power could henceforth be decided only in open struggle. Sukhanov mixes up two stages one of which preceded the other by two weeks and politically conditioned it.
But although the insurrection flowed inexorably from the new coalition, nevertheless the sharpness of Lenin’s change of front took even the heads of his own party by surprise. To unite the Bolshevik faction at the Conference on the basis of his letter, even without “striving after numbers” was clearly impossible. The mood of the faction was such that it rejected by seventy votes against fifty the proposal to boycott the Pre-Parliament – the first step, that is, on the road to insurrection. In the Central Committee itself Lenin’s plan found no support whatever. Four years later at an evening of reminiscences, Bukharin with characteristic exaggerations and witticisms, gave a true account of that episode. “The letter (of Lenin) was written with extraordinary force and threatened us with all sorts of punishments. We all gasped. Nobody had yet posed the question so abruptly ... At first all were bewildered. Afterwards, having talked it over, we made a decision. Perhaps that was the sole case in the history of our party when the Central Committee unanimously decided to burn a letter of Lenin ... Although we believed unconditionally that in Petersburg and Moscow we should succeed in seizing the power, we assumed that in the provinces we could not yet hold out, that having seized the power and dispersed the Democratic Conference we could not fortify ourselves in the rest of Russia.”
The burning of several copies of this dangerous letter, owing to conspirative considerations, was as a matter of fact not unanimously resolved upon, but by six votes against four with six abstaining. One copy, luckily for history, was preserved. But it is true, as Bukharin relates, that all the members of the Central Committee, although for different motives, rejected the proposal. Some opposed an insurrection in general; others thought that the moment of the conference was the least advantageous of all; others simply vacillated and adopted a waiting attitude.
Having run into this direct resistance, Lenin entered into a sort of conspiracy with Smilga, who was also in Finland and as President of the Regional Committee of the Soviets held a tolerable amount of real power in his hands. Smilga stood in 1917 on the extreme left wing of the party and already in July had been inclined to carry the struggle through to the end. At turning points in his policy Lenin always found somebody to rely on. On September 27 Lenin wrote Smilga a voluminous letter: “What are we doing? Only passing resolutions? We are losing time, we are setting ‘dates’ (October 20 – Congress of Soviets – Isn’t it ridiculous to postpone this way? Isn’t it ridiculous to rely on that?) The Bolsheviks are not carrying on a systematic work of preparing their armed forces for the overthrow of Kerensky ... We must agitate in the party for a serious attitude toward armed insurrection ... And further, as to your rôle ...; To create a secret committee of the most loyal military men, talk the thing over on all sides with them, collect (and yourself verify) the most accurate information about the make-up and position of the troops in and around Petrograd, about the transportation of Finland troops to Petrograd, about the movements of the fleet, etc.” Lenin demanded “a systematic propaganda among the Cossacks located here in Finland ... We must study all information about the attitude of the Cossacks and organise a sending of agitatorial detachments from our best forces of sailors and soldiers of Finland.” And finally: “For a correct preparation of minds we must immediately put into circulation a slogan of this kind: The power must immediately pass to the Petrograd Soviet which will hand it over to the Congress of Soviets. For why endure three more weeks of war and of Kornilovist preparations by Kerensky?” In this letter we have a new plan of insurrection: A secret committee of the more important military men in Helsingfors as a fighting staff, the Russian troops quartered in Finland as fighting forces. “It seems that the only ones we can fully control and who will play a serious military rôle are the Finland troops and the Baltic Fleet.” Thus we see that Lenin counted on dealing the chief blow against the government from outside Petrograd. At the same time a “correct preparation of minds” is necessary, so that an overthrow of the government by military forces from Finland shall not fall unexpectedly upon the Petrograd Soviet, which until the Congress of Soviets was to be the inheritor of power.
This new draft of a plan, like the preceding one, was not realised. But it did not go by without effect. The agitation among the Cossack Divisions soon gave results: we have heard about this from Dybenko. The participation of Baltic sailors in the chief blow against the government, also entered into the plan later adopted. But that was not the chief thing: With his extremely sharp posing of the question Lenin permitted nobody to evade or manoeuvre. What seemed untimely as a direct tactical proposal became expedient as a test of attitudes in the Central Committee, a support to the resolute against the wavering, a supplementary push to the left.
With all the means at his disposal in his underground isolation Lenin was trying to make the cadres of the party feel the acuteness of the situation and the strength of the mass pressure. He summoned individual Bolsheviks to his hiding-place, put them through partisan cross-questionings, tested out the words and deeds of the leaders, used indirect ways to get his slogans into the party – deep down in it – in order to compel the Central Committee to act in the face of necessity and carry the thing through.
A day after his letter to Smilga, Lenin wrote the above quoted document The Crisis is Ripe, concluding it with something in the nature of a declaration of war against the Central Committee. “We must ... acknowledge the truth that there is in the Central Committee and the upper circles of the party a tendency or an opinion in favour of waiting for the Congress of Soviets, against the immediate seizure of power, against immediate insurrection.” This tendency we must overcome at any cost. “Conquer Kerensky first and then summon the Congress.” To lose time waiting for the Congress of Soviets is “complete idiocy or else complete treachery There remain more than twelve days until the Congress designated for the 20th: “Weeks and even days are now deciding everything.” To postpone the show-down means a cowardly renunciation of insurrection, since during the Congress a seizure of power will become impossible: “They will get together the Cossacks for the day of that stupidly ‘appointed’ insurrection.”
The mere tone of the letter shows how ruinous the Fabianism of the Petrograd leadership seemed to Lenin. But this time he is not satisfied with furious criticism; by way of protest he resigns from the Central Committee. He gives his reasons: the Central Committee has made no response since the beginning of the Conference to his insistence in regard to the seizure of power; the editorial board of the party organ (Stalin) is printing his articles with intentional delays, omitting from them his indication of such “flagrant mistakes of the Bolsheviks as their shameful decision to participate in the Pre-Parliament,” etc. This procedure Lenin does not consider it possible to conceal from the party: “I am compelled to request permission to withdraw from the Central Committee, which I hereby do, and leave myself freedom of agitation in the lower ranks of the party and at the party congress.”
The documents do not show what further formal action was taken in this matter. Lenin in any case did not withdraw from the Central Committee. By announcing his resignation, an act which could not possibly be with him the fruit of momentary irritation, Lenin obviously wanted to make it possible to free himself in case of need from the internal discipline of the Central Committee. He could be quite sure that as in April a direct appeal to the lower ranks would assure him the victory. But the road of open mutiny against the Central Committee required the preparation of a special session; it required time; and time was just what was lacking. Keeping this announcement of his resignation in reserve, but not withdrawing completely beyond the limits of party legality, Lenin now continued with greater freedom to develop his offensive along internal lines. His letter to the Central Committee he not only sent to the Petrograd and Moscow committees, but he also saw to it that copies fell into the hands of the more reliable party workers of the district locals. Early in October – and now over the heads of the Central Committee – Lenin wrote directly to the Petrograd and the Moscow committees: “The Bolsheviks have no right to await the Congress of Soviets. They ought to seize the power right now ... Delay is a crime. Waiting for the Congress of Soviets is a childish toying with formalities, a shameful toying with formalities, betrayal of the revolution.” From the standpoint of hierarchical attitudes towards action, Lenin was by no means beyond reproach, but the question here was of something bigger than considerations of formal discipline.
One of the members of the Vyborg District Committee, Sveshnikov, remembers: “Ilych from underground was writing and writing untiringly, and Nadyezhda Constantinovna (Krupskaia) often read these manuscripts to us in the district committee ... The burning words of the leader would redouble our strength ... I remember as though it were yesterday the bending figure of Nadyezhda Constantinovna in one of the rooms of the district administration, where the typists were working, carefully comparing the copy with the original, and right alongside stood Uncle and Gene demanding a copy each.” “Uncle” and “Gene” were old conspirative pseudonyms for two leaders of the district. “Not long ago,” relates the district worker, Naumov, “we got a letter from Ilych for delivery to the Central Committee ... We read the letter and gasped. It seems that Lenin had long ago put before the Central Committee the question of insurrection. We raised a row. We began to bring pressure on them.” It was just this that was needed.
In the first days of October, Lenin appealed to a Petrograd party conference to speak a firm word in favour of insurrection. Upon his initiative the conference “insistently requests the Central Committee to take all measures for the leadership of the inevitable insurrection of the workers, soldiers and peasants.” In this phrase alone there are two kinds of camouflage: juridical and diplomatic: It speaks of the leadership of an “inevitable insurrection” instead of the direct preparation of insurrection, in order not to place trump cards in the hands of the district attorney; and it “requests the Central Committee” – it does not demand, and it does not protest – this in obvious deference to the prestige of the highest institution of the party. But in another resolution, also written by Lenin, the speech is more frank: “In the upper circles of the party a wavering is to be observed, a sort of dread of the struggle for power, an inclination to replace this struggle with resolutions, protests, and conferences.” This is already almost a direct pitting of the party against the Central Committee. Lenin did not decide lightly upon such steps. But it was a question of the fate of the revolution, and all other considerations fell away.
On October 8, Lenin addressed the Bolshevik delegates of the forthcoming Northern Regional Congress: “We must not await the All-Russian Congress of Soviets which the Central Executive Committee is able to postpone even to November. We must not delay and let Kerensky bring in more Kornilov troops.” That Regional Conference, at which Finland, the fleet and Reval were represented, should take the initiative in “an immediate move on Petrograd.” The direct summons to immediate insurrection was this time addressed to the representatives of scores of soviets. The summons came from Lenin personally. There was no party decision; the higher institutions of the party had not yet expressed themselves.
It required a mighty confidence in the proletariat, in the party, but also a very serious mistrust of the Central Committee, in order over its head, upon his own personal responsibility, from underground, and by means of a few small sheets of notepaper minutely inscribed, to raise an agitation for an armed revolution, for an armed overthrow of the government. How could it happen that Lenin, whom we have seen at the beginning of April isolated among the leaders of his own party, found himself again solitary in the same group in September and early October? This cannot be understood if you believe the unintelligent legend which portrays the history of Bolshevism as an emanation of the pure revolutionary idea. In reality Bolshevism developed in a definite social milieu undergoing its heterogeneous influences and among them the influence of a petty bourgeois environment and of cultural backwardness. To each new situation the party adapted itself only by way of an inner crisis.
In order that the sharp pre-October struggle in the Bolshevik upper circles may come before us in a true light, it is necessary again to look back at those processes in the party of which we spoke in the first volume. This is the more necessary since exactly at this present time the faction of Stalin is making unheard-of efforts, and that, too, on an international scale, to wipe out of historic memory every recollection of how the October revolution was in reality prepared and achieved.
In the years before the war the Bolsheviks had described themselves in the legal press as “consistent democrats.” This pseudonym was not accidentally chosen. The slogans of revolutionary democracy, Bolshevism and Bolshevism alone carried through to its logical conclusion. But in its prognosis of the revolution it did not go beyond this. The war, however, inseparably binding up the bourgeois democrats with imperialism, proved conclusively that the programme of “consistent democracy” could be no otherwise enacted than through a proletarian revolution. Every Bolshevik to whom the war did not make this clear was inevitably destined to be caught unaware by the revolution, and converted into a left fellow-traveller of the bourgeois democracy.
However, a careful study of the materials characterising the party life during the war and the beginning of the revolution, notwithstanding the extreme and unprecedented scantiness of these materials – and then beginning with 1923 their increasing disingenuousness – reveals more clearly every day the immense intellectual backsliding of the upper stratum of the Bolsheviks during the war when the proper life of the party practically came to an end. The cause of this backsliding is twofold: isolation from the masses and isolation from those abroad – that is primarily from Lenin. The result was a drowning in isolation and provincialism.
Not one of the old Bolsheviks in Russia, left each to himself, formulated throughout the whole war one document which might be looked upon as even the tiniest beacon-light on the road from the Second International to the Third. “The problems of peace, the character of the coming revolution, the r6le of the party in a future Provisional Government, etc.” – thus wrote one of the old members of the party, Antonov-Saratovsky, some years ago – “were conceived by us vaguely enough or did not enter into our field of reflection at all.” Up to this time there has not been published one article, not one page of a diary, not one letter in which Stalin, Molotov, or any other of the leaders formulated even indirectly, even very hastily, his views upon the perspectives of the war and the revolution. This does not mean, of course, that the “old Bolsheviks” wrote nothing on these questions during the years of the war, of the collapse of the social democracy and the preparation of the Russian revolution. These historic events too insistently demanded an answer; jail and exile, moreover, gave plenty of leisure for meditation and correspondence. But among all that was written on these themes, not one thing has turned up which might even with stretching be interpreted as an approach to the ideas of the October revolution. It is sufficient to remember that the Institute of Party History has been forbidden to print one line from the pen of Stalin during the years 1914-1917, and has been compelled to hide carefully the most important documents of March 1917. In the official political biographies of a majority of the ruling stratum, the years of the war present a vacant space. That is the unadorned truth.
One of the most recent young historians, Bayevsky, specially delegated to demonstrate how the upper circles of the party developed during the war in the direction of proletarian revolution, was unable, in spite of his manifest flexibility of scientific conscience, to squeeze out of the materials anything more than the following meagre statement: “It is impossible to follow the course of this process, but certain documents and memoirs indubitably prove that there were subterranean searchings of the party mind in the direction of the April theses of Lenin ...” As though it were a question of subterranean searchings, and not of scientific appraisals and political prognoses!
It was possible to arrive a priori at the ideas of the October revolution, not in Siberia, not in Moscow, not even in Petrograd, but only at the crossing of the roads of world history. The tasks of a belated bourgeois revolution had to be seen inter-crossing with the perspectives of a world proletarian movement, before it could seem possible to advance a programme of proletarian dictatorship for Russia. A higher point of observation was necessary – not a national but an international horizon – to say nothing of a more serious armament than was possessed by the so-called Russian “practicals” of the party.
In their eyes the overthrow of the monarchy was to open the era of a “free” republican Russia, in which they intended, following the example of the western countries, to begin a struggle for socialism. Three old Bolsheviks, Rykov, Skvortzov, and Vegman, “at the direction of the social democrats of the Narym district liberated by the revolution,” sent a telegram in March from Tomsk: “We send a greeting to the resurrected Pravda which has so successfully prepared the revolutionary cadres for the conquest of political liberty. We express our profound confidence that it will succeed in uniting all around its banner for the further struggle in the name of the national revolution.” A whole world-philosophy emerges from this collective telegram. It is separated by an abyss from the April theses of Lenin. The February revolution immediately converted the leading layer of the party, with Kamenev, Rykov and Stalin at their head, into democratic defensists – in motion, moreover, toward the right, in the direction of a rapprochement with the Mensheviks. The future historian of the party, Yaroslavsky, the future head of the Central Control Commission, Ordzhonikidze, and the future president of the Ukrainian Central Executive Committee, Petrovsky, published during March in Yakutsk, in close union with the Mensheviks, a paper called the Social Democrat, which stood on the borderland of patriotic reform and liberalism. In recent years the issues of this publication have been carefully collected and destroyed.
The Petersburg Pravda tried at the beginning of the revolution to occupy an internationalist position – to be sure, a very contradictory one for it did not transcend the framework of bourgeois democracy. The authoritative Bolsheviks arriving from exile immediately imparted to the central organ a democratical-patriotic policy. Kalinin, in defending himself on the 30th of May against a charge of opportunism, recalled this fact: “Take Pravda for example. At the beginning Pravda had one policy. Came Stalin, Muranov, Kamenev, and turned the helm of Pravda to the other side.”
“We must frankly acknowledge,” wrote Angarsky, a member of this stratum, when it was still permissible to write such things, “that an enormous number of the old Bolsheviks held fast up to the April party conference to the old Bolshevik views of 1905 as to the character of the revolution of 1917, and that the renunciation of these views, the outgrowing of them, was not so easily accomplished.” It would be well to add that those ideas of 1905, having outlived themselves, had ceased in 1917 to be “old Bolshevik views” and had become the ideas of patriotic reform.
“The April theses of Lenin,” says an official historic publication, “just simply had no luck in the Petrograd committee. Only two against thirteen voted for these theses, which created an epoch, and one abstained from the vote.” “Lenin’s argument seemed too bold even for his most rapturous followers,” writes Podvoisky. Lenin’s speeches – in the opinion of the Petrograd committee and the Military Organisation – “isolated the party of the Bolsheviks, and thus, it goes without saying, damaged the position of the proletariat and the party in the extreme.”
“We must say frankly,” wrote Molotov some years ago, “the party lacked that clarity and resolution which the revolutionary movement demanded ... The agitation and the whole revolutionary party work in general had no firm foundation, since our thoughts had not yet arrived at bold conclusions in regard to the necessity of an immediate struggle for socialism and the socialist revolution.” The break began only in the second month of the revolution. “From the time of Lenin’s arrival in Russia in April 1917” – so testifies Molotov – “our party felt firm ground under its feet ... Up to that moment the party was only weakly and diffidently groping its way.”
Stalin at the end of March had spoken in favour of military defence, of conditional support to the Provisional government and the pacifist manifesto of Sukhanov, and of merging with the party of Tseretelli. “This mistaken position,” Stalin himself retrospectively acknowledged in 1924, “I then shared with other party comrades, and I renounced it fully only in the middle of April when I adhered to the theses of Lenin. A new orientation was necessary. Lenin gave the party that new orientation in his celebrated April theses.”
Kalinin even at the end of April was still standing for a voting bloc with the Mensheviks. At the Petrograd city conference of the party Lenin said: “I am sharply opposed to Kalinin, because a bloc with ... chauvinists is unthinkable ... That is treason to socialism.” Kalinin’s attitude was not exceptional even in Petrograd. It was said at the conference: “Under the influence of Lenin the amalgamation fumes are dissipating.”
In the provinces the resistance to Lenin’s theses lasted considerably longer – in a number of provinces almost to October. According to a Kiev worker, Sivtzov, “The ideas set forth in the theses (of Lenin) were not immediately accepted by the whole Kiev Bolshevik organisation. A number of comrades, including G. Piatakov, disagreed with the theses ...” A railroad worker of Kharkov, Morgunov, says: “The old Bolsheviks enjoyed a great influence among all the roalroad workers ... Many of the old Bolsheviks remained outside of our faction. After the February revolution a number of them registered as Mensheviks by mistake, a thing at which they themselves afterwards laughed, wondering how it could have happened.” There is no lack of this and similar testimony.
In spite of all this, the mere mention of a rearming of the party carried out by Lenin in April, is regarded by the present official historians as blasphemy. These most recent historians have substituted for the historic criterion the criterion of honour to the party uniform. On this theme they are deprived of the right to quote even Stalin himself, who was obliged to acknowledge the great depth of the April change. “The famous April theses of Lenin were necessary,” he wrote, “in order that the party should come out with one bold step on a new road.” “A new orientation,” “a new road” – that means the rearming of the party. Six years later, however, Yaroslovsky, who ventured in his capacity of historian to recall the fact that Stalin had occupied at the beginning of the revolution “a mistaken position upon fundamental questions” was furiously denounced from all sides. The idol of prestige is the most gluttonous of all monsters.
The revolutionary tradition of the party, the pressure of the workers from below, and Lenin’s criticism from above, compelled the upper stratum during the months of April and May – employing the words of Stalin – “to come out on a new road.” But one would have to be completely ignorant of political psychology to imagine that a mere voting for the theses of Lenin meant an actual and complete renunciation of the “mistaken position on fundamental questions.” In reality those crass democratic views organically fortified during the war, merely accommodated themselves to the new programme, remaining in silent opposition to it.
On the 6th of August Kamenev, contrary to the decision of the April conference of the Bolsheviks, spoke in the Executive Committee in favour of participating in the Stockholm conference of the Social Patriots then in preparation. Kamenev’s speech met no opposition in the central organ of the party. Lenin wrote a formidable article, which appeared, however, only ten days after Kamenev’s speech. The resolute insistence of Lenin himself and other members of the Central Committee was required to induce the editorial staff, headed by Stalin, to publish the protesting article.
A convulsion of doubt went through the party after the July Days. The isolation of the proletarian vanguard frightened many leaders, especially in the provinces. During the Kornilov days these frightened ones tried to get in contact with the Compromisers, which again evoked a warning cry from Lenin.
On August 20, Stalin, as editor of Pravda, printed without dissenting comment an article of Zinoviev, entitled What Not to Do, an article directed against the preparation of an insurrection. “We must look the truth in the face: In Petrograd there are now many conditions favourable to the outbreak of an insurrection of the type of the Paris Commune of 1871 ...” On September 3, Lenin – in another connection and without naming Zinoviev but striking him an indirect blow – wrote: “The reference to the Commune is very superficial and even stupid. For in the first place the Bolsheviks after all have learned some thing since 1871. They would not fail to seize the banks, they would not renounce the offensive against Versailles, and in these conditions even the Commune might have succeeded. Moreover the Commune could not immediately offer the people what the Bolsheviks can if they come to power, namely, land to the peasants and an immediate proposal of peace ...” This was a nameless but unequivocal warning not only to Zinoviev, but also to the editor of Pravda, Stalin.
The question of the Pre-Parliament split the Central Committee in half. The decision of the Bolshevik faction of the Conference in favour of participating in the Pre-Parliament was ratified by many local committees, if not a majority of them. It was so for instance in Kiev. “On the question of ... entering the Pre-Parliament,” says E. Bosh in her memoirs, “the majority of the committee voted for participation and elected Piatakov as its delegate.” In many cases – as for example Kamenev, Rykov, Piatakov and others – it is possible to trace a succession of waverings: against the theses of Lenin in April, against the boycott of the Pre-Parliament in September, against the insurrection in October. On the other hand, the next lower stratum of the Bolsheviks, standing nearer to the masses and being more fresh politically, easily accepted the slogan of boycott and compelled the committees, including the Central Committee itself, to make an about-face. Under the influence of letters from Lenin, the city conference of Kiev voted with an overwhelming majority against their committee. Similarly at almost all sharp political turning-points Lenin relied upon the lower strata of the party machine against the higher, or on the party mass against the machine as a whole.
In these circumstances the pre-October waverings could least of all catch Lenin unawares. He was armed in advance with a sharp-eyed suspicion, was watching for alarming symptoms, was making the worst possible assumptions; and he considered it more expedient to bring excess pressure than to be indulgent.
It was at the suggestion of Lenin beyond a doubt that the Moscow Regional Bureau adopted at the end of September a bitter resolution against the Central Committee, accusing it of irresolution, wavering and introducing confusion into the ranks of the party, and demanding that it “take a clear and definite course toward insurrection.” In the name of the Moscow Bureau, Lomov on the 3rd of October reported this decision to the Central Committee. The minutes remark: “It was decided not to debate the question.” The Central Committee was still continuing to dodge the question what to do. But Lenin’s pressure, brought to bear through Moscow, had its result: After two days the Central Committee decided to withdraw from the Pre-Parliament.
That this step meant entering the road of insurrection was clear to the enemies and opponents. “Trotsky in leading his army out of the Pre-Parliament,” writes Sukhanov, “was definitely steering a course towards violent revolution.” The report of the Petrograd Soviet on withdrawal from the Pre-Parliament ended with the cry: “Long live the direct and open struggle for revolutionary power in the country!” That was October 9th.
On the following day, upon the demand of Lenin, occurred the famous session of the Central Committee where the question of insurrection was flatly posed. From the beginning of that session Lenin placed his further policy in dependence upon its outcome: either through the Central Committee or against it. “O new jest of the merry muse of history!” writes Sukhanov. “That high-up and decisive session was held in my apartment, still on the same Karpovka (32, Apartment 31). But all this was without my knowledge.” The wife of the Menshevik, Sukhanov, was a Bolshevik. “That time special measures were taken to assure my sleeping outside the house: at least my wife made carefully sure of my intention, and gave me friendly and impartial advice – not to tire myself out after my work with the long journey home. In any case the lofty assemblage was completely safe from any invasion from me.” What was more important, it proved safe from invasions from Kerensky’s police.
Twelve of the twenty-one members of the Central Committee were present. Lenin came in wig and spectacles without a beard. The session lasted about ten hours – deep into the night. In the intervals there were tea with bread and sausage for reinforcement. And reinforcement was needed: it was a question of seizing the power in the former empire of the czars. The session began, as always, with an organisational report from Sverdlov. This time his communication was devoted to the front – and evidently by previous agreement with Lenin, in order to give him support for the necessary inferences. This was quite in accord with Lenin’s methods. Representatives of the army of the northern front gave warning through Sverdlov of preparations by the counter-revolutionary command for some sort of “shady plot involving a withdrawal of troops inland”; from Minsk, the headquarters of the western front, it was reported that a new Kornilov insurrection was in preparation; in view of the revolutionary character of the local garrison, headquarters had surrounded the city with Cossack troops. “Some sort of negotiations of a suspicious character are in progress between headquarters and the general staff”; it is quite possible to seize the headquarters in Minsk: the local garrison is ready to disarm the Cossack ring; they are also in a position to send a revolutionary corps from Minsk to Petrograd; the mood on the front is for the Bolsheviks; they will go against Kerensky. – Such was Sverdlov’s report. It was not in every part sufficiently definite, but it was entirely encouraging in character.
Lenin immediately took the offensive: “From the beginning of September there has been a kind of indifference to the question of insurrection.” References are made to the cooling off and disappointment of the masses. No wonder. “The masses are tired of words and resolutions.” We must take the situation as a whole. Events in the city are now taking place against the background of a gigantic peasant movement. The government would require colossal forces in order to quell the agrarian insurrection. “The political situation is thus ready. We must talk of the technical side. That is the whole thing. Meanwhile in the manner of the defensists we are inclined to regard the systematic preparation of insurrection as something in the nature of a political sin.” The speaker was obviously restraining himself: He had too much feeling piled up in him. “We must make use of the northern regional congress and the proposal from Minsk in order to start a decisive action.”
The northern congress opened exactly on the day of this session of the Central Committee, and was to close in two or three days. The beginning of “decisive action” Lenin presented as the task of the next days. We must not wait. We must not postpone. On the front – as we have heard from Sverdlov – they are preparing an overturn. Will the Congress of Soviets ever be held? We do not know. We must seize the power immediately and not wait for any congresses. “Never to be communicated or reproduced,” wrote Trotsky several years later, “was the general spirit of those tense and passionate impromptu speeches, saturated with a desire to instil into the objecting, the wavering, the doubtful, his thought, his will, his confidence, his courage ...”
Lenin expected strong resistance, but his fears were soon dispelled. The unanimity with which the Central Committee had rejected the proposal of immediate insurrection in September had been episodic: The left wing had been against the “surrounding of the Alexandrinka” for temporary reasons; the right for reasons of general strategy, although these were not as yet thoroughly thought out. During the three weeks following there had been a considerable shift to the left in the Central Committee. Ten against two voted for the insurrection. That was a big victory!
Soon after the revolution, at a new stage in the inner party struggle, Lenin recalled during a debate in the Petrograd committee how up to that session of the Central Committee, he “had fears of opportunism from the side of the internationalist fusionists, but these were dissipated. In our party, however, certain members (of the Central Committee) did not agree. This grieved me deeply.” Aside from Trotsky, whom Lenin could hardly have had in mind, the only “internationalists” in the Central Committee were Joffé, the future ambassador in Berlin, Uritzky the future head of the Cheka in Petrograd, and Sokolnikov, the future inventor of the Chervonetz. All three took the side of Lenin. His opponents were two old Bolsheviks, closest of all to Lenin in their past work: Zinoviev and Kamenev. It is to them he referred when he said “this grieved me very much.” That session of the 10th reduced itself almost entirely to a passionate polemic against Zinoviev and Kamenev. Lenin led the attack, and the rest joined in one after the other.
The resolution, written hastily by Lenin with the gnawed end of a pencil on a sheet of paper from a child’s notebook ruled in squares, was very unsymmetrical in architecture, but nevertheless gave firm support to the course towards insurrection. “The Central Committee recognises that both the international situation of the Russian revolution (the insurrection in the German fleet, as the extreme manifestation of the growth throughout Europe of a world-wide socialist revolution, and also the threat of a peace between the imperialists with the aim of strangling the revolution in Russia) – and the military situation (the indubitable decision of the Russian bourgeoisie and Kerensky and Co. to surrender Petersburg to the Germans) – all this in connection with the peasant insurrection and the swing of popular confidence to our party (the elections in Moscow), and finally the obvious preparation of a second Kornilov attack (the withdrawal of troops from Petersburg, the importation of Cossacks into Petersburg, the surrounding of Minsk with Cossacks, etc.) – all this places armed insurrection on the order of the day. Thus recognising that the armed insurrection is inevitable and fully ripe, the Central Committee recommends to all organisations of the party that they be guided by this, and from this point of view consider and decide all practical questions (the Congress of Soviets of the Northern Region, the withdrawal of troops from Petersburg, the coming-out of Moscow and Minsk).”
A remarkable thing here as characterising both the moment and the author is the very order in which the conditions of the insurrection are enumerated. First comes the ripening of the world revolution; the insurrection in Russia is regarded only as the link in a general chain. That was Lenin’s invariable starting-point, his major premise: he could not reason otherwise. The task of insurrection he presented directly as the task of the party. The difficult question of bringing its preparation Into accord with the soviets is as yet not touched upon. The All-Russian Congress of Soviets does not get a word. To the northern regional congress and the “coming-out of Moscow and Minsk” as points of support for the insurrection was added, upon the insistence of Trotsky, “the withdrawal of troops from Petersburg.” This was the sole hint of that plan of insurrection which was subsequently dictated by the course of events in the capital. Nobody proposed any tactical amendments to the resolution, which defined only the strategical starting-point of the insurrection, as against Zinoviev and Kamenev who rejected the very necessity of insurrection.
The very recent attempt of official historians to present this matter as though the whole guiding stratum of the party except Zinoviev and Kamenev stood for the insurrection, goes to pieces when confronted by facts and documents. Aside from the fact that those voting for insurrection were much of the time inclined to push it off into an indefinite future, the open enemies of the insurrection, Zinoviev and Kamenev, were not alone even in the Central Committee. Rykov and Nogin who were absent at the session of the 10th stood wholly upon their point of view, and Miliutin was close to them. “In the upper circles of the party a wavering is to be observed, a sort of dread of the struggle for power” – such is the testimony of Lenin himself. According to Antonov-Saratovsky Miliutin, arriving in Saratov after the 10th, “told about the letter of Ilych demanding that we ‘begin,’ about the waverings in the Central Committee, the preliminary ‘failure’ of Lenin’s proposal, about his indignation, and finally about how the course was taken towards insurrection.” The Bolshevik, Sadovsky, wrote later about “a certain vagueness and lack of confidence which prevailed at that time. Even among our Central Committee of those days, as is well known, there were debates and conflicts about how to begin and whether to begin at all.”
Sadovsky himself was during that period one of the leaders of the military section of the Soviet and Military Organisation of the Bolsheviks. But it was exactly these members of the Military Organisation – as appears from numerous memoirs – who were most exceptionally prejudiced in October against the idea of insurrection. The specific character of the organisation inclined its leaders to underestimate the political conditions and overestimate the technical. On the 16th of October, Krylenko reported: “The larger part of the bureau (the Military Organisation) think that we should not force the issue practically, but the minority think that we can take the initiative.” On the 18th another prominent member of the Military Organisation, Lashevich, said: “Ought we not to seize the power immediately? I think that we ought not to speed up the course of events ... There is no guarantee that we will succeed in holding the power ... The strategic plan proposed by Lenin limps on all four legs.” Antonov-Ovseönko tells about a meeting of the chief military workers with Lenin: “Podvoisky expressed doubt; Nevsky at first seconded him, but then fell into the confident tone of Ilych; I described the situation in Finland ... Lenin’s confidence and firmness had a fortifying effect upon me and cheered up Nevsky, but Podvoisky remained stubbornly dubious.” We must not forget that in all recollections of this kind, the doubts are painted in with water colours and the confidence in heavy oil.
Chudnovsky spoke decisively against the insurrection. The sceptical Manuilsky warningly asserted that “the front is not with us.” Tomsky was against the insurrection. Volodarsky supported Zinoviev and Kamenev. Moreover by no means all the opponents of the insurrection spoke openly. At a session of the Petrograd Committee on the 15th, Kalinin said: “The resolution of the Central Committee was one of the best resolutions ever adopted by the Central Committee ... We are practically approaching the armed insurrection. But when it will be possible – perhaps a year from now – is unknown.” This kind of “agreement” with the Central Committee, although perfectly characteristic of Kalinin, was not peculiar to him. Many adhered to the resolution in order in that way to insure their struggle against the insurrection.
In Moscow least of all was there unanimity among the leaders. The regional bureau supported Lenin. In the Moscow committee there were very considerable hesitations; the prevailing mood was in favour of delay. The provincial committee occupied an indefinite position, but in the regional bureau, according to Yakovleva, they thought that at the decisive moment the provincial committee would swing over to the opponents of insurrection.
Lebedev from Saratov tells how in visiting Moscow not long before the revolution, he took a walk with Rykov, and how the latte, pointing to the stone houses, the rich stores, the business-like excitement about them, complained of the difficulty of the coming task. “Here in the very centre of bourgeois Moscow we really seem to be pygmies thinking of moving a mountain.”
In every organisation of the party, in every one of its provincial committees, there were people of the same mood as Zinoviev and Kamenev. In many committees they were the majority. Even in proletarian Ivanovo-Voznesensk, where the Bolsheviks ruled alone, the disagreement among the ruling circles took an extraordinarily sharp form. In 1925, when memoirs had already accommodated themselves to the demands of the new course, Kisselev, an old worker Bolshevik, wrote: “The workers’ part of the party, with the exception of certain individuals, went with Lenin. Against Lenin, however, was a small group of party intellectuals and solitary workers.” In public discussion the opponents of insurrection repeated the same arguments as those of Zinoviev and Kamenev. “But in private arguments,” writes Kisselev, “the polemic took a more acute and candid form, and here they went so far as to say that ‘Lenin is a crazy man; he is pushing the working-class to certain ruin. From this armed insurrection we will get nothing; they will shatter us, exterminate the party and the working-class, and that will postpone the revolution for years and years, etc.’” Such was the attitude of Frunze in particular, a man of great personal courage but not distinguished by a wide outlook.
Even the victory of the insurrection in Petrograd was far from breaking everywhere the inertia of the waiting policy and the direct resistance of the right wing. The wavering of the leaders subsequently almost shipwrecked the insurrection in Moscow. In Kiev, the committee headed by Piatakov, which had been conducting a purely defensive policy, turned over the initiative in the long run – and afterward the power also – to the Rada. “The organisation of our party in Voronezh,” says Vrachev, “wavered very considerably. The actual overturn in Voronezh ... was carried out not by a committee of the party, but by its active minority with Moiseiev at the head.” In a whole series of provincial cities the Bolsheviks formed in October a bloc with the Compromisers “against the counter-revolution.” As though the Compromisers were not at that moment one of its chief supports Almost everywhere a push was required both from above and below to shatter the last indecisiveness of the local committee, compel it to break with the Compromisers and lead the movement. ‘The end of October and the beginning of November were verily days of ‘the great turmoil’ in our party circles. Many quickly surrendered to moods.” Thus reports Shliapnikov, who himself made no small contribution to these waverings.
All those elements which, like the Kharkov Bolsheviks, had found themselves in the Menshevik camp in the beginning of the revolution and afterwards themselves wondered “just how that could have happened,” found no place for themselves at all as a general rule in the October Days but merely wavered and waited. These people have now all the more confidently advanced their claims as “old Bolsheviks” in the period of intellectual reaction. In spite of the vast work that has been done in recent years towards concealing these facts, and even without the secret archives which are now inaccessible to the investigator, plenty of testimony has been preserved in the newspapers, memoirs and historic journals of that time, to prove that on the eve of the overturn the official machine even of this most revolutionary party put up a big resistance. Conservatism inevitably finds its seat in a bureaucracy. The machine can fulfil a revolutionary function only so long as it remains an instrument in the service of the party, so long as it remains subordinate to an idea and is controlled by the mass.
The resolution of October 10th became immensely important. It promptly put the genuine advocates of insurrection on the firm ground of party right. In all the party organisations, in all its nuclei, the most resolute elements began to be advanced to the responsible posts. The party organisations, beginning with Petrograd, pulled themselves together, made an inventory of their forces and material resources, strengthened their communications, and gave a more concentrated character to the campaign for an overturn.
But the resolution did not put an end to disagreements in the Central Committee. On the contrary, it only formulated them and brought them to the surface. Zinoviev and Kamenev, who but yesterday had felt surrounded in a certain section of the leading circles by an atmosphere of sympathy, observed with fright how swiftly things were shifting to the left. They decided to lose no more time, and on the very next day distributed a voluminous address to the members of the party. “Before history, before the international proletariat, before the Russian revolution and the Russian working-class,” they wrote, “we have no right to stake the whole future at the present moment upon the card of armed insurrection.”
Their plan was to enter as a strong opposition party into the Constituent Assembly, which “in its revolutionary work can rely only upon the soviets.” Hence their formula: “Constituent Assembly and soviets – that, is, the combined type of state institution toward which we are travelling.” The Constituent Assembly where the Bolsheviks, it was assured, would be a minority, and the soviets where the Bolsheviks were a majority – that is, the organ of the bourgeoisie and the organ of the proletariat – were to be “combined” in a peaceful system of dual power. That had not succeeded even under the leadership of the Compromisers. How could it succeed when the soviets were Bolshevik?
“It is a profound historic error,” concluded Zinoviev and Kamenev, “to pose the question of the transfer of power to the proletarian party – either now or at any time. No, the party of the proletariat will grow, its programme will become clear to broader and broader masses.”
This hope for a further unbroken growth of Bolshevism regardless of the actual course of class conflicts, crashed head on against Lenin’s leitmotif in those days: “The success of the Russian and world revolution depends upon a two or three days’ struggle.”
It is hardly necessary to explain that the truth in this dramatic dialogue was wholly on Lenin’s side. A revolutionary situation cannot be preserved at will. If the Bolsheviks had not seized the power in October and November, in all probability they would not have seized it at all. Instead of firm leadership the masses would have found among the Bolsheviks that same disparity between word and deed which they were already sick of, and they would have ebbed away in the course of two or three months from this party which had deceived their hopes, just as they had recently ebbed away from the Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. A part of the workers would have fallen into indifferentism. another part would have burned up their force in convulsive movements in anarchistic flare-ups, in guerrilla skirmishes, in a Terror dictated by revenge and despair. The breathing-spell thus offered would have been used by the bourgeoisie to conclude a separate peace with the Hohenzollern, and stamp out the revolutionary organisations. Russia would again have been included in the circle of capitalist states as a semi-imperialist, semi-colonial country. The proletarian revolution would have been deferred to an indefinite future. It was his keen understanding of this prospect that inspired Lenin to that cry of alarm: “The success of the Russian and world revolution depends upon a two or three days’ struggle.”
But now, since the 10th of the month, the situation in the party had radically changed. Lenin was no longer an isolated “oppositionist” whose proposals were set aside by the Central Committee. It was the right wing that was isolated. Lenin no longer had to gain the right of free agitation at the price of resigning from the Central Committee. The party legality was on his side. Zinoviev and Kamenev, on the other hand, circulating their document attacking a decision adopted by the majority of the Central Committee, were now the violators of discipline. And Lenin in a struggle never left unpunished the oversights of his enemy – even far slighter ones than that!
At the session of the 10th, upon the proposal of Dzerzhinsky, a political bureau of seven men was elected: Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Stalin, Solkolnikov, Bubnov. This new institution, however, turned out completely impracticable. Lenin and Zinoviev were still in hiding; Zinoviev, moreover, continued to wage a struggle against the insurrection, and so did Kamenev. The political bureau in its October membership never once assembled, and it was soon suddenly forgotten – as were other organisations created ad hoc in the whirlpool of events.
No practical plan of insurrection, even tentative, was sketched out in the session of the 10th. But without introducing the fact into the resolution, it was agreed that the insurrection should precede the Congress of Soviets and begin, if possible, not later than October 15th. Not all eagerly agreed to that date. It was obviously too short for the take-off planned in Petrograd. But to insist on a delay would have been to support the right wing and mix the cards. Besides, it is never too late to postpone!
The fact of this preliminary setting of the date at the 15th was first made public in Trotsky’s recollections of Lenin in 1924, seven years after the event. The statement was soon disputed by Stalin, and the question has become an acute one in Russian historic literature. As is known, the insurrection actually occurred only on the 25th, and consequently the date originally set was not held to, The epigone historians consider it impossible that there should be a mistake in the policy of the Central Committee, or even a delay in the matter of a date. “It would follow,” writes Stalin upon this theme, “that the Central Committee set the date of the insurrection for October 15th and afterwards itself violated (!) this resolution, delaying the date of the insurrection to October 25th. Is this true? No, it is not true.” Stalin comes to the conclusion that “Trotsky’s memory has betrayed him.” In proof of this he cites the resolution of October 10th which did not set any date.
This debated question of the chronology of the insurrection is very important to an understanding of the rhythm of events and demands clarification. That the resolution of the 10th contained no date is quite true. But this general resolution had to do with an insurrection throughout the whole country, and was destined for hundreds and thousands of leading party workers. To include in it the conspirative date of an insurrection to be carried out in the next few days in Petrograd, would have been unreasonable in the extreme. We must remember that out of caution Lenin did not in those days even put a date on his letters. In the given case it was a question of so important, and withal so simple, a decision that none of the participants could have any difficulty in remembering it – especially seeing that it was a question only of a few days. Stalin’s reference to the text of the resolution shows thus a complete failure to understand.
We are prepared to concede, however, that the reference of one of the participants to his own memory, especially when his statement is disputed by another participant, is not sufficient for the historic investigator. Luckily the question is decided beyond possible doubt upon another level – that of an analysis of conditions and documents.
The Congress of Soviets was to open on the 20th of October. Between the session of the Central Committee and the date of the Congress, there remained an interval of ten days. The Congress was not to agitate in favour of power to the soviets but seize it. A few hundred delegates all by themselves, however, were powerless to conquer the power; it was necessary to seize it for the Congress and before the Congress. “First conquer Kerensky and then summon the Congress” – that thought had stood in the centre of Lenin’s whole agitation since the middle of September. All those agreed with it in principle who stood for the seizure of power in general. Consequently the Central Committee could not help setting itself the task of attempting to carry an insurrection between the 10th and 20th of October. And since it was impossible to foresee how many days the struggle would last, the beginning of the insurrection was set for the 15th. “About the actual date,” wrote Trotsky in his recollections of Lenin, “there was, as I remember, almost no dispute. All understood that the date was approximate, and set, as you might say merely for purposes of orientation, and that it might be advanced or retarded at the dictation of events. But this could be a question of days only, and not more. The necessity of a date, and that, too, a near one, was completely obvious.”
This testimony of political logic essentially exhausts the question. But there is no lack of supplementary proof. Lenin insistently and frequently proposed that the party avail itself of the Northern Regional Congress of the Soviets for the beginning of military activities. The resolution of the Central Committee adopted this idea. But the Regional Congress, which had opened on the 10th, was to close just before the 15th.
At the conference on the 16th, Zinoviev, while insisting upon the revocation of the resolution adopted six days before, made this demand: “We must say to ourselves frankly that in the next five days we will not make an insurrection.” He was referring to the five days still remaining before the Congress of Soviets. Kamenev, arguing at the same conference that “the appointing of an insurrection is adventurism,” reminded the conference that “it was said before that the action ought to come before the 20th.” Nobody objected to this statement and nobody could object. It was the very delay of the insurrection which Kamenev was interpreting as a failure of Lenin’s resolution. According to his words, “nothing has been done during this week” towards an insurrection. That is obviously an exaggeration. The setting of the date had compelled all to make their plans more strict and hasten the tempo of their work. But it is indubitable that the five-day interval indicated at the session of the 10th had turned out too short. The postponement was already a fact. It was only on the 17th that the Central Executive Committee transferred the opening of the Soviet Congress to the 25th. That postponement was as opportune as anything could be.
Lenin, to whom in his isolation all these inner hindrances and frictions, inevitably presented themselves in an exaggerated form, was alarmed by the delay, and insisted upon the calling of a new meeting of the Central Committee with representatives from the more important branches of the party work in the capital. It was at this conference, held on the 16th in the outskirts of the city, in Lesnoi, that Zinoviev and Kamenev advanced the arguments quoted above for revoking the old date and against naming a new.
The dispute was reopened with redoubled vigour. Miliutin’s opinion was: “We are not ready to strike the first blow ... Another prospect arises: Armed conflict ... It is growing, its possibility is drawing near. And we ought to be ready for this conflict. But this prospect is a different thing from insurrection.” Miliutin occupied that defensive position which was more concisely defended by Zinoviev and Kamenev. Shotman, an old Petrograd worker who lived through the whole history of the party, has asserted that at this city conference, both in the party committee and in the Military Revolutionary Committee, the mood was far less militant than in the Central Committee. “We cannot come out but we ought to get ready.” Lenin attacked Miliutin and Shotman for their pessimistic appraisal of the correlation of forces: “It is not a question of a struggle with the army, but a struggle of one part of the army with another ... The facts prove that we have the advantage over the enemy. Why cannot the Central Committee begin?”
Trotsky was not present at this meeting. During those same hours he was carrying through the Soviet the resolution on the Military Revolutionary Committee. But the point of view which had firmly crystallised in Smolny during the past days was defended by Krylenko, who had just been conducting hand in hand with Trotsky and Antonov-Ovse’nko the Northern Regional Congress of Soviets. Krylenko had no doubt that “the water is boiling hard enough.” To take back the resolution in favour of insurrection “would be the greatest possible mistake.” He disagreed with Lenin, however, “on the question who shall begin it and how it shall begin?” To set the date of the insurrection definitely now is still inexpedient. “But the question of the removal of the troops is just that fighting issue upon which the struggle is taking place ... The attack upon us is thus already a fact, and this we can make use of ... It is not necessary to worry about who shall begin, for the thing is already begun.” Krylenko was expounding and defending the policy laid down by the Military Revolutionary Committee and the Garrison Conference. It was along this road that the insurrection continued to develop.
Lenin did not respond to the words of Krylenko. The living picture of the last six days in Petrograd had not passed before his eyes. Lenin feared delay. His attention was fixed upon the outright opponents of insurrection. All by-remarks, conditional formula, inadequately categorical answers, he was inclined to interpret as an indirect support to Zinoviev and Kamenev, who were opposing him with the determination of people who have burned their bridges behind them. “The week’s results,” argued Kamenev, “testify that the data for an insurrection are now lacking. We have no machine of insurrection. The enemy’s machine is far stronger and has probably grown still greater during this week ... Two tactics are in conflict here: the tactic of conspiracy and the tactic of faith in the motive forces of the Russian revolution.” Opportunists always believe in those motive forces whenever it becomes necessary to fight.
Lenin replied: “If you consider that an insurrection is right, it is not necessary to argue about conspiracy. If an insurrection is politically inevitable, then we must relate ourselves to insurrection as to an art.” It was along this line that the fundamental and really principled dispute in the party took place – the dispute upon whose decision, upon whose resolution one way or the other, depended the fate of the revolution. However, within the general frame of Lenin’s formula, which united the majority of the Central Committee, there arose subordinate, but very important, questions: How on the basis of the ripened political situation are we to approach the insurrection? How find a bridge from the politics to the technique of revoution? And how lead the masses along that bridge?
Joffé, who belonged to the left wing, had supported the resolution of the 10th. But he opposed Lenin in one point: “It is not true that the question is now purely technical. Now, too, the moment of insurrection must be considered from the political point of view.” This very last week has shown that for the party, for the Soviet, for the masses, the insurrection has not yet become a mere question of technique. For that very reason we failed to keep to the date set on the 10th.
Lenin’s new resolution summoning “all organisations and all workers and soldiers to an all-sided and most vigorous preparation of armed insurrection,” was adopted by 20 voices against 2, Zinoviev and Kamenev, with 3 abstaining. The official historians cite these figures as proof of the complete insignificance of the opposition. But they simplify the matter. The shift to the left in the depths of the party was already so strong that the opponents of insurrection, not daring to come out openly, felt it to their interest to remove any barrier of principle between the two camps. If the overthrow, in spite of the date set before, has not been realised by the 16th, can we not bring it about that in the future, too, the thing will be limited to a platonic “course toward insurrection”? That Kalinin was not so utterly alone was very clearly revealed in that same session. The resolution of Zinoviev to the effect that “any action before a conference with the Bolshevik section of the Congress of Soviets is inadmissible,” was rejected by 15 votes against 6, with 3 abstaining. This is where you find the real test of opinions. Some of the “defenders” of the resolution of the Central Committee really wanted to delay the decision until the Congress of Soviets, and until a new conference with the Bolsheviks of the provinces who were in their majority more moderate. Of these “defenders,” counting also those abstaining, there were 9 men out of 24 – more, that is, than a third. That, of course, is still a minority, but as a headquarters rather an important one. The hopeless weakness of this headquarters lay in the fact that it had no support in the lower ranks of the party or the working class.
On the next day Kamenev, in agreement with Zinoviev, gave to Gorky’s paper a declaration attacking the decision adopted the night before. “Not only Zinoviev and I, but also a number of practical comrades,” – thus wrote Kamenev – “think that to take the initiative in an armed insurrection at the present moment, with the given correlation of social forces, independently of and several days before the Congress of Soviets, is an inadmissible step ruinous to the proletariat and the revolution ... To stake everything ... on the card of insurrection in the coming days would be an act of despair. And our party is too strong, it has too great a future before it, to take such a step ...” Opportunists always feel “too strong” to go into a fight.
Kamenev’s letter was a direct declaration of war against the Central Committee, and that, too, upon a question upon which nobody was joking. The situation immediately became extraordinarily acute. It was complicated by several other personal episodes having a common political source. At a session of the Petrograd Soviet on the 18th, Trotsky, in answer to a question raised by the enemy, declared that the Soviet had not set the date for an insurrection in the coming days, but that if it became necessary to set one, the workers and soldiers would come out as one man. Kamenev, sitting next to Trotsky in the præsidium, immediately arose for a short statement: He wanted to sign his name to Trotsky’s every word. That was a cunning ruse. Whereas Trotsky was juridically screening a policy of attack with a speciously defensive formula, Kamenev tried to make use of Trotsky’s formula – with which he was in radical disagreement – in order to screen a directly opposite policy.
In order to annul the effect of Kamenev’s manoeuvre, Trotsky said on the same day in a speech to the All-Russian Conference of Factory and Shop Committees: “A civil war is inevitable. We have only to organise it as painlessly as possible. We can achieve this not by wavering and vacillation, but only by a stubborn and courageous struggle for power.” All understood that those words about waverings were directed against Zinoviev, Kamenev and their colleagues.
Besides that, Trotsky referred the question of Kamenev’s speech in the Soviet to investigation by the next session of the Central Committee. In the interval Kamenev, desiring to free his hands for agitation against the insurrection, resigned from the Central Committee. The question was taken up in his absence. Trotsky insisted that “the situation created is absolutely intolerable,” and moved that Kamenev’s resignation be accepted. 
Sverdlov, supporting Trotsky’s motion, read a letter of Lenin branding Zinoviev and Kamenev as strikebreakers for their declaration in Gorky’s paper, and demanding their expulsion from the party. “Kamenev’s trick at the session of the Petrograd Soviet,” writes Lenin, “was something positively vile. He is in complete accord, says he, with Trotsky! But is it hard to understand that Trotsky could not, had no right, to say before the enemy any more than he did say? Is it hard to understand that ... a decision as to the necessity of an armed insurrection, as to the fact that it is fully ripe, as to its all-sided preparation, etc. ... makes it necessary in public speeches to shoulder off not only the blame, but also the initiative, upon the enemy ... Kamenev’s trick was plain petty cheating ...”
When sending his indignant protest through Sverdlov, Lenin could not yet know that Zinoviev, in a letter to the editors of the central organ, had announced that his views “are very far from those which Lenin combats,” and that he “subscribes to yesterday’s declaration of Trotsky in the Petrograd Soviet.” Lunacharsky. a third opponent of insurrection, came out in the press to the same effect. To complete the malicious confusion, a letter of Zinoviev’s printed in the central organ on the very day of the session of the Central Committee, the 20th, was accompanied by a sympathetic remark from the editors: “We an our turn express the hope that with the declaration made by Zinoviev (and also the declaration of Kamenev in the Soviet) the question may be considered settled. The sharpness of tone of Lenin’s article does not alter the fact that in fundamentals we remain of one opinion.” That was a new blow in the back, and moreover from a direction from which no one was expecting it. At the time when Zinoviev and Kamenev were coming out in a hostile press with open agitation against the decision of the Central Committee in favour of insurrection, the central organ of the party condemns the “sharpness” of Lenin’s tone and registers its solidarity with Zinoviev and Kamenev “in fundamentals.” As though at that moment there could be a more fundamental question than the question of insurrection According to the brief minutes, Trotsky declared at the session of the Central Committee: “The letters of Zinoviev and Lunncharsky to the central organ, and also the remark of the editors are intolerable.” Sverdlov supported the protest.
The editors at that time were Stalin and Solkolnikov. The minutes read: “Solkolnikov states that he had no part in the declaration of the editors on the subject of Zinoviev’s letter, and considers this declaration an error.” It thus became known that Stalin personally and alone – against the other member of the editorial board and a majority of the Central Committee – supported Kamenev and Zinoviev at the most critical moment, four days before the beginning of the insurrection, with a sympathetic declaration. The indignation at this was great.
Stalin spoke against the acceptance of Kamenev’s resignation, arguing that “our whole situation is self-contradictory.” That is, he took upon himself the defence of that confusion which the members of the Central Committee coming out against the insurrection had introduced into people’s minds. Kamenev’s resignation was accepted by 5 votes against 3. By 6 votes, again with Stalin opposing, a decision was adopted forbidding Kamenev and Zinoviev to carry on a struggle against the policy of the Central Committee. The minutes read: “Stalin announces that he withdraws from the editorial board.” In order not to complicate an already difficult situation, the Central Committee refused to accept Stalin’s resignation.
This conduct on the part of Stalin might seem inexplicable in the light of the legend which has been created around him. In reality it fully corresponds to his spiritual mould and his political methods. When faced by great problems, Stalin always retreats – not through lack of character as in the case of Kamenev, but through narrowness of horizon and lack of creative imagination. His suspicious caution almost organically compels him at moments of great decision and deep difference of opinion to retire into the shadow, to wait, and if possible to insure himself against both outcomes. Stalin voted with Lenin for the insurrection; Zinoviev and Kamenev were openly fighting against the insurrection. But nevertheless – aside from the “sharpness of tone” of Lenin’s criticism – “in fundamentals we remain of one opinion.” Stalin made this editorial comment by no means through light-mindedness. On the contrary he was carefully weighing the circumstances and the words. But on the 20th of October he did not think it advisable to burn irrevocably his bridge to the camp of the enemies of the uprising.
The testimony of these minutes, which we are compelled to quote, not from the original, but from the official text as worked up by Stalin’s secretariat, not only demonstrates the actual position of the figures in the Bolshevik Central Committee, but also, in spite of its brevity and dryness, unfolds before us an authentic panorama of the party leadership as it existed in reality, with all its inner contradictions and inevitable personal waverings. Not only history as a whole, but even its very boldest turns, are accomplished by people to whom nothing human is alien. But does this after all lessen the importance of what is accomplished?
If we were to unfold on a screen the most brilliant of Napoleon’s victories, the film would show us, side by side with genius, scope, ingenuity, heroism, also the irresolution of individual marshals, the confusion of generals unable to read the map, the stupidity of officers, and the panic of whole detachments, even down to the bowels relaxed with fright. This realistic document would only testify that the army of Napoleon consisted not of the automatons of legend, but of living Frenchmen born and brought up during the break between two epochs. And the picture of human weaknesses would only the more plainly emphasise the grandeur of the whole.
It is easier to theorise about a revolution afterward than absorb it into your flesh and blood before it takes place. The approach of an insurrection has inevitably produced, and always will produce, crisis in the insurrectionary parties. This is demonstrated by the experience of the most tempered and revolutionary party that history has up to this time known. It is enough that, a few days before the battle, Lenin found himself obliged to demand the expulsion from the party of his two closest and most prominent disciples. The recent attempts to reduce this conflict to “accidents” of a personal character have been dictated by a purely churchly idealisation of the party’s past. Just as Lenin more fully and resolutely than others expressed in the autumn months of 1917 the objective necessity of an insurrection, and the will of the masses of revolution, so Zinoviev and Kamenev more frankly than others incarnated the blocking tendencies of the party, the moods of irresolution, the influence of petty bourgeois connections, and the pressure of the ruling classes.
If all the conferences, debates, personal quarrels, which took place in the upper layer of the Bolshevik party during October alone had been taken down by a stenographer, posterity might convince itself with what intense inner struggle the determination necessary for the overthrow was crystallized among the heads of the party. The stenographic report would show at the same time how much a revolutionary party has need of internal democracy. The will to struggle is not stored up in advance, and is not dictated from above – it has on every occasion to be independently renewed and tempered.
Citing the assertion of the author of this book that “the party is the fundamental instrument of proletarian revolution,” Stalin asked in 1924: “How could our revolution conquer if its ‘fundamental instrument’ was no good?” His irony did not conceal the primitive falsity of this objection. Between the saints as the church paints them and the devils as the candidates for sainthood portray them, there are to be found living people. And it is they who make history. The high temper of the Bolshevik party expressed itself not in an absence of disagreements, waverings, and even quakings, but in the fact that in the most difficult circumstances it gathered itself in good season by means of inner crises, and made good its opportunity to interfere decisivejy in the course of events. That means that the party as a whole was a quite adequate instrument of revolution.
In practice a reformist party considers unshakable the foundations of that which it intends to reform. It thus inevitably submits to the ideas and morals of the ruling class. Having risen on the backs of the proletariat, the social democrats became merely a bourgeois party of the second order. Bolshevism created the type of the authentic revolutionist, who subordinates to historic goals irreconcilable with contemporary society the conditions of his personal existence, his ideas, and his moral judgments. The necessary distance from bourgeois ideology was kept up in the party by a vigilant irreconcilability, whose inspirer was Lenin. Lenin never tired of working with his Iancet, cutting off those bonds which a petty bourgeois environment creates between the party and official social opinion. At the same time Lenin taught the party to create its own social opinion, resting upon the thoughts and feelings of the rising class. Thus by a process of selection and education – and in continual struggle, the Bolshevik party created not only a political but a moral medium of its own, independent of bourgeois social opinion and implacably opposed to it. Only this permitted the Bolsheviks to overcome the waverings in their own ranks and reveal in action that courageous determination without which the October victory would have been impossible.
2. In the minutes of the Central Committee for 19l7, published in l929, it says that Trotsky explained his declaration to the Soviet on the ground that “it was forced by Kamenev.” Here there is obviously aa erroneous record, or the record was subsequently incorrectly edited. The declaration of Trotsky needed no special explanation; it flowed from tbe circumstances. By a curious accident the Moscow Regional Comittee, which wholly supported Lenin, found itself obliged to publish in the Moscow party paper on the same day, the 18th, a declaration almost verbally identical with the formula of Trotsky “We are not a conspirative party and we do not set the date for our actions secretly ... When we decide to come out, we will say so in our printed organ ...” It was impossible to reply otherwise to the direct queries of the enemy. But although, the declaration of Trotsky was not, and could not have been, forced by Kamenev, it was consciously compromised by Kameney’s false solidarity and that moreover under circumstances which deprived Trotsky of the possibility of putting the missing dots on the i’s.
Source: Marxist Internet Archive