In Defence of October

Study the lessons of the Russian Revolution

About us 1917 Live

The Seventh (April) All-Russia Conference of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.)

 3) Speech Winding Up The Debate on the Report on the Current Situation May 7 (April 24)

Comrade Kamenev was quick to seize on the talk of adventurism. I shall have to dwell on this. Comrade Kamenev is convinced and asserts that in opposing the slogan “Down with the Provisional Government”, we showed vacillation. I agree with him; there certainly has been vacillation away from revolutionary policy, and this vacillation must be avoided. I think that our differences with Comrade Kamenev are not very great, because by agreeing with us he has changed his position. In what did our adventurism consist? It was the attempt to resort to forcible measures. We did not know to what extent the masses had swung to our side during that anxious moment. If it had been a strong swing things would have been different. We advanced the slogan for peaceful demonstrations, but several comrades from the Petrograd Committee issued a different slogan. We cancelled it, but were too late to prevent the masses from following the slogan of the Petrograd Committee. We say that the slogan “Down with the Provisional Government” is an adventurist slogan, that the government cannot be overthrown now. That is why we have advanced the slogan for peaceful demonstrations. All we wanted was a peaceful reconnoitring of the enemy’s forces; we did not want to give battle. But the Petrograd Committee turned a trifle more to the left, which in this case is certainly a very grave crime. Our organisational apparatus proved weak—our decisions are not being carried out by everyone. Together with the correct slogan “Long Live the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies!” stood the incorrect slogan “Down with the Provisional Government”. At the time of action, to go a “trifle more to the left” was wrong. We regard this as a very serious crime, as disorganisation. Had we deliberately allowed such an act, we would not have remained in the Central Committee for one moment. It happened because of the weakness of our organisational apparatus. Yes, there were shortcomings in our organisation. We have raised the question of improving our organisation.

TheMensheviks and Co. are working the word “adventurism” as hard as they can. But it is they, of all people, who had neither an organisation nor a policy. We have both an organisation and a policy.

At that moment the bourgeoisie mobilised all its forces; the centre hid itself, and we organised a peaceful demonstration. We were the only ones who had a political line. Did we make mistakes? We did. Only he who does nothing never errs. Perfect organisation is a difficult thing.

Now about control.

We are at one with Comrade Kamenev, except on the question of control. He views control as a political act. Subjectively, however, he understands this word better than Chkheidze and others. We will not accept control. People tell us that we have isolated ourselves, that, by uttering a lot of terrible words about communism, we have frightened the bourgeoisie into fits....Maybe! But it was not this that isolated us. It was the question of the loan that caused our isolation. It was on this question that we found ourselves in the minority. Yes, we are in the minority. Well, what of it? To be a socialist while chauvinism is the craze means to be in the minority. To be in the majority means to be a chauvinist. at the moment the peasant, together with Milyukov, is hitting socialism by means of the loan. The peasant follows Milyukov and Guchkov. This is a fact. The bourgeois-democratic dictatorship of the peasantry is an old formula.

If we want to draw the peasantry into the revolution we must keep the proletariat apart from it in a separate proletarian party, because the peasantry is chauvinistic. To attract the peasant now means to surrender to the mercies of Milyukov.

The Provisional Government must be overthrown, but not now, and not in the usual way. We agree with Comrade Kamenev. But we must explain. It is this word that Comrade Kamenev has been harping on. Nevertheless, this is the only thing we can do.

Comrade Rykov says that socialism must come from other countries with a more developed industry. But that is not so. Nobody can say who will begin it and who will end it. That is not Marxism; it is a parody of Marxism.

Marx said that France would begin it and Germany would finish it. But the Russian proletariat has achieved more than anybody else.

If we had said, “No tsar, but a dictatorship of the proletariat”, well, this would have meant skipping over the petty bourgeoisie. But what we are saying is—help the revolution through the Soviets. We must not lapse into reformism. We are fighting to win, not to lose. At the worst we count on partial success. Even if we suffer defeat we shall achieve partial success. We shall get reforms. Reforms are an auxiliary instrument of the class struggle.

Further, Comrade Rykov says that there is no period of transition from capitalism to socialism. That is not so. It is a break with Marxism.

The line we have marked out is correct, and in future we shall make every effort to achieve an organisation in which there will be no Petrograd Committee-men to disobey the Central Committee. We are growing, and that is as it should be with a real party.

First published in 1921 in N. Lenin (V. Ulyanov), Works, Volume. XIV, Part 2 Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes


The February Revolution
Strikes and protests erupt on women's day in Petrograd and develop into a mass movement involving hundreds of thousands of workers; within 5 days the workers win over the army and bring down the hated and seemingly omnipotent Tsarist Monarchy.
Lenin Returns
Lenin returns to Russia and presents his ‘April Theses’ denouncing the Bourgeois Provisional Government and calling for “All Power to the Soviets!”
The June Days
Following the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets, the reformist leaders called a demonstration to show the strength of "democracy". 400,000 people attended, the vast majority carried banners with Bolshevik slogans.
The July Days
Spontaneous, armed demonstrations against the Provisional Government erupt in Petrograd. The workers and soldiers are suppressed by force, introducing a period of reaction and making the peaceful development of the revolution impossible.
The Kornilov Affair
Following the July days, the Bolsheviks were driven underground and the forces of reaction were emboldened. This process culminated in the reactionary forces coalescing around General Kornilov, who attempt to march on Petrograd and crush the revolutionary movement in its entirety.
The October Revolution
The Provisional Government is overthrown. State power passes to the Soviets on the morningm of 26th October, after the Bolsheviks’ Military Revolutionary Committee seize the city and the cabinet surrenders.
  • V. I. Lenin

    V. I. Lenin

    "The dominating trait of his character, the feature which constituted half his make-up, was his will..."
  • L. Trotsky

    L. Trotsky

    “Astounding speeches, fanfares of orders, the unceasing electrifier of a weakening army.”
  • G. Plekhanov

    G. Plekhanov

    "In the final analysis the brilliant aspects of Plekhanov’s character will endure forever."
  • G. O. Zinoviev

    G. O. Zinoviev

    "Zinoviev has won the reputation of being one of the most remarkable orators – a difficult feat."
  • Y. M. Sverdlov

    Y. M. Sverdlov

    “He did not die on the field of battle, but we are right to see him as a man who gave his life for the cause.”
  • V. Volodarsky

    V. Volodarsky

    “He was always to be seen in the front row, the on-the-spot leader. So, they killed him.”
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Reading Guides

  • The 1917 February Revolution

    The 1917 February Revolution

    The February Revolution saw a mass strike develop from below at a furious pace which posed the question of state power within a week of its inception. Workers in Petrograd took to the streets against intolerable bread shortages, the slaughter
  • Lenin Returns in April

    Lenin Returns in April

    This reading guide contains some of Lenin’s most important writings and speeches made in the April period, accompanied by works which provide further details of events at that stage of the Revolution.
  • The June Days 1917

    The June Days 1917

    This reading guide informs the May-June period of the Revolution with analysis, accounts of those who were involved and important speeches and writings of the time.
  • The July Days 1917

    The July Days 1917

    This selection of texts covers the background, events and consequences of the July Days. Next, we will turn our attention to one of those consequences – the Kornilov putsch in late August.
  • The Kornilov affair

    The Kornilov affair

    Kornilov’s failed coup brought the direct action of the masses into play again, and proved to them once and for all that they were the only force in society capable of transforming their own living conditions. For the first time,
  • The October Insurrection 1917

    The October Insurrection 1917

    The following series of articles provides in-depth analyses and first-hand accounts of the events immediately preceding, during and after the greatest event in human history: the October Revolution, in addition to reflections on its aftermath.
  • 1