Letter To I. T. Smilga

"The Petrograd Soviet and the Bolsheviks have declared war on the government. But the government has an army, and is preparing systematically." Written to Smilga, Chairman Of The Regional Committee Of The Army, Navy And Workers Of Finland. 

Comrade Smilga,

I am taking advantage of a favourable opportunity to talk with you in greater detail.

The general political situation causes me great anxiety. The Petrograd Soviet and the Bolsheviks have declared war on the government. But the government has an army, and is preparing systematically. (Kerensky at General Headquarters is obviously entering into an understanding— a business-like understanding with the Kornilovites to use troops to put down the Bolsheviks.)

And what are we doing? We are only passing resolutions. We are losing time. We set "dates"(October 20, the Congress of Soviets—is it not ridiculous to put it off so long? Is it not ridiculous to rely on that?). The Bolsheviks are not conducting regular work to prepare their own military forces for the overthrow of Kerensky.

Events have fully proved the correctness of the proposal I made at the time of the Democratic Conference, namely, that the Party must put the armed uprising on the order of the day.[See The Bolsheviks Must Assume Power] Events compel us to do this. History has made the military question now the fundamental political question. I am afraid that the Bolsheviks forget this, being busy with "day-to-day events," petty current questions, and "hoping" that "the wave will sweep Kerensky away". Such hope is naïve; it is the same as relying on chance, and may prove criminal on the part of the party of the revolutionary proletariat.

It is my opinion that inside the Party we must agitate for an earnest attitude towards the armed uprising, for which reason this letter should be typed and delivered to the Petrograd and Moscow comrades.


Now about your role. It seems to me we can have completely at our disposal only the troops in Finland and the Baltic fleet and only they can play a serious military role. I think you must make most of your high position, shift all the petty routine work to assistants and secretaries and not waste time on "resolutions"; give all your attention to the military preparation of the troops in Finland plus the fleet for the impending overthrow of Kerensky. Create a secret committee of absolutely trustworthy military men, discuss matters thoroughly with them, collect (and personally verify) the most precise data on the composition and the location of troops near and in Petrograd, the transfer of the troops from Finland to Petrograd, the movement of the fleet, etc.

If we fail to do this, we may turn out to be consummate idiots, the owners of beautiful resolutions and of Soviets, but no power! I think it is possible for you to select really reliable and competent military men, to make a trip to Ino40 and other most important points, to weigh and study the matter earnestly, not relying on the boastful general phrases all too common with us.

It is obvious that we can under no circumstances allow the troops to be moved from Finland. Better do anything, better decide on an uprising, on the seizure of power, later to be transferred to the Congress of Soviets. I read in the papers today that in two weeks the danger of a landing will be nil. Obviously, you have very little time left for preparation.


To continue. We must utilise our "power" in Finland to conduct systematic propaganda among the Cossacks now stationed in Finland. From Vyborg, for instance, Kerensky and Co. purposely removed some of them, fearing "Bolshevisation", and stationed them in Uusikirkko and Perkjärvi, between Vyborg and Terijoki, in Bolshevik-proof isolation. We must study all the information about the location of the Cossacks, and must organise the dispatch of propaganda groups to them from among the best forces of the sailors and soldiers in Finland. This is imperative. Do the same thing about literature.


To continue. Of course, both sailors and soldiers go home on furloughs. Out of these men we must form groups of propagandists to travel over the provinces systematically and to carry on both general propaganda and propaganda in favour of the Constituent Assembly in the villages. Your situation is exceptionally good because you are in a position to begin immediately to form that bloc with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries which alone can give us stable power in Russia and a majority in the Constituent Assembly. While things are being settled, organise such a bloc immediately in your place, organise the publication of leaflets (find out what you can do about them technically as well as in the matter of transporting them into Russia). Then each propaganda group for work in the rural areas should consist of not less than two persons—one from the Bolsheviks and one from the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries. The Socialist-Revolutionary "trade mark"is still popular among village folk and you must make the most of your good fortune (you have some Left Socialist-Revolutionaries) to effect a bloc of the Bolsheviks and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries under this "trade mark" in the countryside, a bloc of peasants and workers and not of peasants and capitalists.


It seems to me that in order to prepare people's minds properly we must immediately circulate the following slogan: transfer power now to the Petrograd Soviet which will transfer it to the Congress of Soviets. Why should we tolerate three more weeks of war and Kerensky's "Kornilovite preparations"?

Propaganda in favour of this slogan by the Bolsheviks and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries in Finland can do nothing but good.


Since you are vested with "power" in Finland, you have to do one more very important, though in itself modest job—organise the illegal transport of literature from Sweden. Without this all talk of an "International" is an empty phrase. This can be done, first, by creating our own organisation of soldiers at the frontier; secondly, if this is impossible, by organising regular trips of at least one reliable man to a certain place where I began to organise the transport with the aid of the person in whose house I lived for one day before moving to Helsingfors (Rovio knows him).[1] Perhaps we must help with some money. Get this done by all means!


I think we should meet to talk all these things over. You could come here; it would take you less than a day; if you come only to see me, have Rovio phone Huttunen and ask him whether Rovio's "sister-in-law"(meaning you) may see Huttunen's "sister"(meaning myself). I may have to leave suddenly.

Do not fail to acknowledge the receipt of this letter (burn it) through the comrade who will bring it to Rovio and who will soon go back.

In case I stay here longer, we must organise postal connections. You could help by sending envelopes through railway workers to the Vyborg Soviet (inside envelope: "for Huttunen").


Send me by the same comrade identification papers (as formal as possible, either typewritten, or in very clear handwriting on the stationery of the Regional Committee, stamped and with the signature of the chairman), in the name of Konstantin Petrovich Ivanov, to the effect that the chairman of the Regional Committee vouches for comrade so-and-so, and requests all Soviets, the Vyborg Soviet of Soldiers' Deputies as well as others, to give him full confidence, aid and support.

I need it in case of some emergency, since a "conflict" and a "meeting" are equally possible.


Have you a copy of the Moscow collection of articles On the Revision of the Programme? Try to find one among the comrades in Helsingfors and send it to me by the same comrade.


Bear in mind that Rovio is a fine fellow, but lazy. He must be looked after and reminded of things twice a day. Otherwise he won't do them.

Greetings, K. Ivanov


[1] The reference is to Deputy of the Finnish Diet K. Vijk, in whose coutnry-house at Mälm station Lenin stayed for a day when on his way to Helsingros.


Source: Marxist Internet Archive.