Essays on Working–Class and International Revolution, 1904–1917
Collected and Translated, with Biography and Explanatory Notes
By Moissaye J. Olgin
Author of “The Soul of the Russian Revolution”
First published by New York Henry Holt and Company, March, 1918
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The world has not known us Russian revolutionists. The world has sympathized with us; the world abroad has given aid and comfort to our refugees; the world, at times, even admired us; yet the world has not known us. Friends of freedom in Europe and America were keenly anxious to see the victory of our cause; they watched our successes and our defeats with breathless interest; yet they were concerned with material results. Our views, our party affiliations, our factional divisions, our theoretical gropings, our ideological constructions, to us the leading lights in our revolutionary struggles, were foreign to the world. All this was supposed to be an internal Russian affair.
The Revolution has now ceased to be an internal Russian affair. It has become of world-wide import. It has started to influence governments and peoples. What was not long ago a theoretical dispute between two “underground” revolutionary circles, has grown into a concrete historical power determining the fate of nations. What was the individual conception of individual revolutionary leaders is now ruling millions.
The world is now vitally interested in understanding Russia, in learning the history of our Revolution which is the history of the great Russian nation for the last fifty years. This involves, however, knowing not only events, but also the development of thoughts, of aims, of ideas that underlie and direct events; gaining an insight into the immense volume of intellectual work which recent decades have accumulated in revolutionary Russia.
We have selected Leon Trotzky’s contribution to revolutionary thought, not because he is now in the limelight of history, but because his conceptions represent a very definite, a clear-cut and intrinsically consistent trend of revolutionary thought, quite apart from that of other leaders. We do not agree with many of Trotzky’s ideas and policies, yet we cannot overlook the fact that these ideas have become predominant in the present phase of the Russian Revolution and that they are bound to give their stamp to Russian democracy in the years to come, whether the present government remains in power or not.
The reader will see that Trotzky’s views as applied in Bolsheviki ruled Russia are not of recent origin. They were formed in the course of the First Russian Revolution of 1905, in which Trotzky was one of the leaders. They were developed and strengthened in the following years of reaction, when many a progressive group went to seek compromises with the absolutist forces. They became particularly firm through the world war and the circumstances that led to the establishment of a republican order in Russia. Perhaps many a grievous misunderstanding and misinterpretation would have been avoided had thinking America known that those conceptions of Trotzky were not created on the spur of the moment, but were the result of a life-long work in the service of the Revolution.
Trotzky’s writings, besides their theoretical and political value, represent a vigor of style and a clarity of expression unique in Russian revolutionary literature.
New York, February 16th, 1918.
Trotzky is a man of about forty. He is tall, strong, angular; his appearance as well as his speech give the impression of boldness and vigor. His voice is a high tenor ringing with metal. And even in his quiet moments he resembles a compressed spring.
He is always aggressive. He is full of passion — that white-hot, vibrating mental passion that characterizes the intellectual Jew. On the platform, as well as in private life, he bears an air of peculiar importance, an indefinable something that says very distinctly: “Here is a man who knows his value and feels himself chosen for superior aims.” Yet Trotzky is not imposing. He is almost modest. He is detached. In the depths of his eyes there is a lingering sadness.
It was only natural that he, a gifted college youth with a strong avidity for theoretical thinking, should have exchanged, some twenty years ago, the somber class-rooms of the University of Odessa for the fresh breezes of revolutionary activity. That was the way of most gifted Russian youths. That especially was the way of educated young Jews whose people were being crushed under the steam-roller of the Russian bureaucracy.
In the last years of the nineteenth century there was hardly enough opportunity to display unusual energy in revolutionary work. Small circles of picked workingmen, assembling weekly under great secrecy somewhere in a backyard cabin in a suburb, to take a course in sociology or history or economics; now and then a “mass” meeting of a few score laborers gathered in the woods; revolutionary appeals and pamphlets printed on a secret press and circulated both among the educated classes and among the people; on rare occasions, an open manifestation of revolutionary intellectuals, such as a meeting of students within the walls of the University — this was practically all that could be done in those early days of Russian revolution. Into this work of preparation, Trotzky threw himself with all his energy. Here he came into the closest contact with the masses of labor. Here he acquainted himself with the psychology and aspirations of working and suffering Russia. This was the rich soil of practical experience that ever since has fed his revolutionary ardor.
His first period of work was short. In 1900 we find him already in solitary confinement in the prisons of Odessa, devouring book after book to satisfy his mental hunger. No true revolutionist was ever made downhearted by prison, least of all Trotzky, who knew it was a brief interval of enforced idleness between periods of activity. After two and a half years of prison “vacation” (as the confinement was called in revolutionary jargon) Trotzky was exiled to Eastern Siberia, to Ust–Kut, on the Lena River, where he arrived early in 1902, only to seize the first opportunity to escape.
Again he resumed his work, dividing his time between the revolutionary committees in Russia and the revolutionary colonies abroad. 1902 and 1903 were years of growth for the labor movement and of Social–Democratic influence over the working masses. Trotzky, an uncompromising Marxist, an outspoken adherent of the theory that only the revolutionary workingmen would be able to establish democracy in Russia, devoted much of his energy to the task of uniting the various Social–Democratic circles and groups in the various cities of Russia into one strong Social–Democratic Party, with a clear program and well-defined tactics. This required a series of activities both among the local committees and in the Social–Democratic literature which was conveniently published abroad.
It was in connection with this work that Trotzky’s first pamphlet was published and widely read. It was entitled: The Second Convention of The Russian Social–Democratic Labor Party (Geneva, 1903), and dealt with the controversies between the two factions of Russian Social–Democracy which later became known as the Bolsheviki and the Mensheviki. Trotzky’s contribution was an attempt at reconciliation between the two warring camps which professed the same Marxian theory and pursued the same revolutionary aim. The attempt failed, as did many others, yet Trotzky never gave up hope of uniting the alienated brothers.
On the eve of the Revolution of 1905, Trotzky was already a revolutionary journalist of high repute. We admired the vigor of his style, the lucidity of his thought and the straightness of his expression. Articles bearing the pseudonym “N. Trotzky” were an intellectual treat, and invariably aroused heated discussions. It may not be out of place to say a few words about this pseudonym. Many an amazing comment has been made in the American press on the Jew Bronstein “camouflaging” under a Russian name, Trotzky. It seems to be little known in this country that to assume a pen name is a practice widely followed in Russia, not only among revolutionary writers. Thus “Gorki” is a pseudonym; “Shchedrin” (Saltykov) is a pseudonym. “Fyodor Sologub” is a pseudonym. As to revolutionary writers, the very character of their work has compelled them to hide their names to escape the secret police. Ulyanov, therefore, became “Lenin,” and Bronstein became “Trotzky.” As to his “camouflaging” as a Russian, this assertion is based on sheer ignorance. Trotzky is not a genuine Russian name — no more so than Ostrovski or Levine. True, there was a Russian playwright Ostrovski, and Tolstoi gave his main figure in Anna Karenin the name of Levine. Yet Ostrovski and Levine are well known in Russia as Jewish names, and so is Trotzky. I have never heard of a Gentile bearing the name Trotzky. Trotzky has never concealed his Jewish nationality. He was too proud to dissimulate. Pride is, perhaps, one of the dominant traits of his powerful personality.
Revolutionary Russia did not question the race or nationality of a writer or leader. One admired Trotzky’s power over emotion, the depth of his convictions, the vehemence of his attacks on the opponents of the Revolution. As early as 1904, one line of his revolutionary conceptions became quite conspicuous: his opposition to the liberal movement in Russia. In a series of essays in the Social–Democratic Iskra (Spark), in a collection of his essays published in Geneva under the title Before January Ninth, he unremittingly branded the Liberals for lack of revolutionary spirit, for cowardice in face of a hateful autocracy, for failure to frame and to defend a thoroughly democratic program, for readiness to compromise with the rulers on minor concessions and thus to betray the cause of the Revolution. No one else was as eloquent, as incisive in pointing out the timidity and meekness of the Zemstvo opposition (Zemstvo were the local representative bodies for the care of local affairs, and the Liberal land owners constituted the leading party in those bodies) as the young revolutionary agitator, Trotzky. Trotzky’s fury against the wavering policy of the well-to-do Liberals was only a manifestation of another trait of his character: his desire for clarity in political affairs. Trotzky could not conceive of half-way measures, of “diplomatic” silence over vital topics, of cunning moves and concealed designs in political struggles. The attitude of a Milukov, criticizing the government and yet willing to acquiesce in a monarchy of a Prussian brand, criticizing the revolutionists and yet secretly pleased with the horror they inflicted upon Romanoff and his satellites, was simply incompatible with Trotzky’s very nature and aroused his impassioned contempt. To him, black was always black, and white was white, and political conceptions ought to be so clear as to find adequate expression in a few simple phrases.
Trotzky’s own political line was the Revolution — a violent uprising of the masses, headed by organized labor, forcibly to overthrow bureaucracy and establish democratic freedom. With what an outburst of blazing joy he greeted the upheaval of January 9, 1905 — the first great mass-movement in Russia with clear political aims: “The Revolution has come!” he shouted in an ecstatic essay completed on January 20th. “The Revolution has come. One move of hers has lifted the people over scores of steps, up which in times of peace we would have had to drag ourselves with hardships and fatigue. The Revolution has come and destroyed the plans of so many politicians who had dared to make their little political calculations with no regard for the master, the revolutionary people. The Revolution has come and destroyed scores of superstitions, and has manifested the power of the program which is founded on the revolutionary logic of the development of the masses. . . . The Revolution has come and the period of our infancy has passed.”
The Revolution filled the entire year of 1905 with the battle cries of ever-increasing revolutionary masses. The political strike became a powerful weapon. The village revolts spread like wild-fire. The government became frightened. It was under the sign of this great conflagration that Trotzky framed his theory of immediate transition from absolutism to a Socialist order. His line of argument was very simple. The working class, he wrote, was the only real revolutionary power. The bourgeoisie was weak and incapable of adroit resistance. The intellectual groups were of no account. The peasantry was politically primitive, yet it had an overwhelming desire for land. “Once the Revolution is victorious, political power necessarily passes into the hands of the class that has played a leading rôle in the struggle, and that is the working class.” To secure permanent power, the working class would have to win over the millions of peasants. This would be possible by recognizing all the agrarian changes completed by the peasants in time of the revolution and by a radical agrarian legislation. “Once in power, the proletariat will appear before the peasantry as its liberator.” On the other hand, having secured its class rule over Russia, why should the proletariat help to establish parliamentary rule, which is the rule of the bourgeois classes over the people? “To imagine that Social–Democracy participates in the Provisional Government, playing a leading rôle in the period of revolutionary democratic reconstruction, insisting on the most radical reforms and all the time enjoying the aid and support of the organized proletariat — only to step aside when the democratic program is put into operation, to leave the completed building at the disposal of the bourgeois parties and thus to open an era of parliamentary politics where Social–Democracy forms only a party of opposition — to imagine this would mean to compromise the very idea of a labor government.” Moreover, “once the representatives of the proletariat enter the government, not as powerless hostages, but as a leading force, the divide between the minimum-program and the maximum-program automatically disappears, collectivism becomes the order of the day,” since “political supremacy of the proletariat is incompatible with its economic slavery.” It was precisely the same program which Trotzky is at present attempting to put into operation. This program has been his guiding star for the last twelve years.
In the fall of 1905 it looked as if Trotzky’s hope was near its realization. The October strike brought autocracy to its knees. A Constitution was promised. A Soviet (Council of Workmen’s Deputies) was formed in Petersburg to conduct the Revolution. Trotzky became one of the strongest leaders of the Council. It was in those months that we became fully aware of two qualities of Trotzky’s which helped him to master men: his power as a speaker, and his ability to write short, stirring articles comprehensible to the masses. In the latter ability nobody equals him among Russian Socialists. The leaders of Russian Social–Democracy were wont to address themselves to the intellectual readers. Socialist writers of the early period of the Revolution were seldom confronted with the necessity of writing for plain people. Trotzky was the best among the few who, in the stormy months of the 1905 revolution, were able to appeal to the masses in brief, strong, yet dignified articles full of thought, vision, and emotion.
The Soviet was struggling in a desperate situation. Autocracy had promised freedom, yet military rule was becoming ever more atrocious. The sluices of popular revolutionary movement were open, yet revolutionary energy was being gradually exhausted. The Soviet acted as a true revolutionary government, ignoring the government of the Romanoffs, giving orders to the workingmen of the country, keeping a watchful eye on political events; yet the government of the old régime was regaining its self-confidence and preparing for a final blow. The air was full of bad omens.
It required an unusual degree of revolutionary faith and vigor to conduct the affairs of the Soviet. Trotzky was the man of the hour. First a member of the Executive Committee, then the chairman of the Soviet, he was practically in the very vortex of the Revolution. He addressed meetings, he ordered strikes, he provided the vanguard of the workingmen with firearms; he held conferences with representatives of labor unions throughout the country, and — the irony of history — he repeatedly appeared before the Ministers of the old régime as a representative of labor democracy to demand from them the release of a prisoner or the abolition of some measures obnoxious to labor. It was in this school of the Soviet that Trotzky learned to see events in a national aspect, and it was the very existence of the Soviet which confirmed his belief in the possibility of a revolutionary proletarian dictatorship. Looking backward at the activities of the Soviet, he thus characterized that prototype of the present revolutionary government in Russia. “The Soviet,” he wrote, “was the organized authority of the masses themselves over their separate members. This was a true, unadulterated democracy, without a two-chamber system, without a professional bureaucracy, with the right of the voters to recall their representative at will and to substitute another.” In short, it was the same type of democracy Trotzky and Lenin are trying to make permanent in present-day Russia.
The black storm soon broke loose. Trotzky was arrested with the other members of the “revolutionary government,” after the Soviet had existed for about a month and a half. Trotzky went to prison, not in despair, but as a leader of an invincible army which though it had suffered temporary defeat, was bound to win. Trotzky had to wait twelve years for the moment of triumph, yet the moment came.
In prison Trotzky was very active, reading, writing, trying to sum up his experience of the revolutionary year. After twelve months of solitary confinement he was tried and sentenced to life exile in Siberia: the government of the enemies of the people was wreaking vengeance on the first true representatives of the people. On January 3, 1907, Trotzky started his trip for Obdorsk, in Northern Siberia on the Arctic Ocean.
He was under unusual rigid surveillance even for Russian prisons. Each movement of his and of his comrades was carefully guarded. No communication with the outer world was permitted. The very journey was surrounded by great secrecy. Yet such was the fame of the Soviet, that crowds gathered at every station to greet the prisoners’ train, and even the soldiers showed extraordinary respect for the imprisoned “workingmen’s deputies” as they called them. “We are surrounded by friends on every side,” Trotzky wrote in his note book.
In Tiumen the prisoners had to leave the railway train for sleighs drawn by horses. The journey became very tedious and slow. The monotony was broken only by little villages, where revolutionary exiles were detained. Here and there the exiles would gather to welcome the leaders of the revolution. Red flags gave touches of color to the blinding white of the Siberian snow. “Long live the Revolution!” was printed with huge letters on the surface of the northern snow, along the road. This was beautiful, but it gave little consolation. The country became ever more desolate. “Every day we move down one step into the kingdom of cold and wilderness,” Trotzky remarked in his notes.
It was a gloomy prospect, to spend years and years in this God forsaken country. Trotzky was not the man to submit. In defiance of difficulties, he managed to escape before he reached the town of his destination. As there was only one road along which travelers could move, and as there was danger that authorities, notified by wire of his escape, could stop him at any moment, he left the road and on a sleigh drawn by reindeer he crossed an unbroken wilderness of 800 versts, over 500 miles. This required great courage and physical endurance. The picturesque journey is described by Trotzky in a beautiful little book, My Round Trip.
It was in this Ostiak sleigh, in the midst of a bleak desert, that he celebrated the 20th of February, the day of the opening of the Second Duma. It was a mockery at Russia: here, the representatives of the people, assembled in the quasi-Parliament of Russia; there, a representative of the Revolution that created the Duma, hiding like a criminal in a bleak wilderness. Did he dream in those long hours of his journey, that some day the wave of the Revolution would bring him to the very top?
Early in spring he arrived abroad. He established his home in Vienna where he lived till the outbreak of the great war. His time and energy were devoted to the internal affairs of the Social–Democratic Party and to editing a popular revolutionary magazine which was being smuggled into Russia. He earned a meager living by contributing to Russian “legal” magazines and dailies.
I met him first in 1907, in Stuttgart. He seemed to be deeply steeped in the revolutionary factional squabbles. Again I met him in Copenhagen in 1910. He was the target of bitter criticism for his press-comment on one of the Social–Democratic factions. He seemed to be dead to anything but the problem of reconciling the Bolsheviki with the Mensheviki and the other minor divisions. Yet that air of importance which distinguished him even from the famous old leaders had, in 1910, become more apparent. By this time he was already a well-known and respected figure in the ranks of International Socialism.
In the fall of 1912 he went into the Balkans as a war correspondent. There he learned to know the Balkan situation from authentic sources. His revelations of the atrocities committed on both sides attracted wide attention. When he came back to Vienna in 1913 he was a stronger internationalist and a stronger anti-militarist than ever.
His house in Vienna was a poor man’s house, poorer than that of an ordinary American workingman earning eighteen dollars a week. Trotzky has been poor all his life. His three rooms in a Vienna working-class suburb contained less furniture than was necessary for comfort. His clothes were too cheap to make him appear “decent” in the eyes of a middle-class Viennese. When I visited his house I found Mrs. Trotzky engaged in housework, while the two light-haired lovely boys were lending not inconsiderable assistance. The only thing that cheered the house were loads of books in every corner, and, perhaps, great though hidden hopes.
On August 3, 1914, the Trotzkys, as enemy aliens, had to leave Vienna for Zurich, Switzerland. Trotzky’s attitude towards the war was a very definite one from the very beginning. He accused German Social–Democracy for having voted the war credits and thus endorsed the war. He accused the Socialist parties of all the belligerent countries for having concluded a truce with their governments which in his opinion was equivalent to supporting militarism. He bitterly deplored the collapse of Internationalism as a great calamity for the emancipation of the world. Yet, even in those times of distress, he did not remain inactive. He wrote a pamphlet to the German workingmen entitled The War and Internationalism (recently translated into English and published in this country under the title The Bolsheviki and World Peace) which was illegally transported into Germany and Austria by aid of Swiss Socialists. For this attempt to enlighten the workingmen, one of the German courts tried him in a state of contumacy and sentenced him to imprisonment. He also contributed to a Russian Socialist daily of Internationalist aspirations which was being published by Russian exiles in Paris. Later he moved to Paris to be in closer contact with that paper. Due to his radical views on the war, however, he was compelled to leave France. He went to Spain, but the Spanish government, though not at war, did not allow him to stay in that country. He was himself convinced that the hand of the Russian Foreign Ministry was in all his hardships.
So it happened that in the winter 1916–1917, he came to the United States. When I met him here, he looked haggard; he had grown older, and there was fatigue in his expression. His conversation hinged around the collapse of International Socialism. He thought it shameful and humiliating that the Socialist majorities of the belligerent countries had turned “Social–Patriots.” “If not for the minorities of the Socialist parties, the true Socialists, it would not be worth while living,” he said once with deep sadness. Still, he strongly believed in the internationalizing spirit of the war itself, and expected humanity to become more democratic and more sound after cessation of hostilities. His belief in an impending Russian Revolution was unshaken. Similarly unshaken was his mistrust of the Russian non-Socialist parties. On January 20, 1917, less than two months before the overthrow of the Romanoffs, he wrote in a local Russian paper: “Whoever thinks critically over the experience of 1905, whoever draws a line from that year to the present day, must conceive how utterly lifeless and ridiculous are the hopes of our Social–Patriots for a revolutionary coöperation between the proletariat and the Liberal bourgeoisie in Russia.”
His demand for clarity in political affairs had become more pronounced during the war and through the distressing experiences of the war. “There are times,” he wrote on February 7, 1917, “when diplomatic evasiveness, casting glances with one eye to the right, with the other to the left, is considered wisdom. Such times are now vanishing before our eyes, and their heroes are losing credit. War, as revolution, puts problems in their clearest form. For war or against war? For national defense or for revolutionary struggle? The fierce times we are living now demand in equal measure both fearlessness of thought and bravery of character.”
When the Russian Revolution broke out, it was no surprise for Trotzky. He had anticipated it. He had scented it over the thousands of miles that separated him from his country. He did not allow his joy to overmaster him. The March revolution in his opinion was only a beginning. It was only an introduction to a long drawn fight which would end in the establishment of Socialism.
History seemed to him to have fulfilled what he had predicted in 1905 and 1906. The working class was the leading power in the Revolution. The Soviets became even more powerful than the Provisional Government. Trotzky preached that it was the task of the Soviets to become the government of Russia. It was his task to go to Russia and fight for a labor government, for Internationalism, for world peace, for a world revolution. “If the first Russian revolution of 1905,” he wrote on March 20th, “brought about revolutions in Asia — in Persia, Turkey, China — the second Russian revolution will be the beginning of a momentous Social-revolutionary struggle in Europe. Only this struggle will bring real peace to the blood-drenched world.”
With these hopes he went to Russia — to forge a Socialist Russia in the fire of the Revolution.
Whatever may be our opinion of the merits of his policies, the man has remained true to himself. His line has been straight.
The essay The Proletariat and the Revolution was published at the close of 1904, nearly one year after the beginning of the war with Japan. This was a crucial year for the autocratic rulers of Russia. It started with patriotic demonstrations, it ended with a series of humiliating defeats on the battlefields and with an unprecedented revival of political activities on the part of the well-to-do classes. The Zemstvos (local elective bodies for the care of local affairs) headed by liberal landowners, conducted a vigorous political campaign in favor of a constitutional order. Other liberal groups, organizations of professionals (referred to in Trotzky’s essay as “democrats” and “democratic elements”) joined in the movement. The Zemstvo leaders called an open convention in Petersburg (November 6th), which demanded civic freedom and a Constitution. The “democratic elements” organized public gatherings of a political character under the disguise of private banquets. The liberal press became bolder in its attack on the administration. The government tolerated the movement. Prince Svyatopolk–Mirski, who had succeeded Von Plehve, the reactionary dictator assassinated in July, 1904, by a revolutionist, had promised “cordial relations” between government and society. In the political jargon, this period of tolerance, lasting from August to the end of the year, was known as the era of “Spring.”
It was a thrilling time, full of political hopes and expectation. Yet, strange enough, the working class was silent. The working class had shown great dissatisfaction in 1902 and especially in summer, 1903, when scores of thousands in the southwest and in the South went on a political strike. During the whole of 1904, however, there were almost no mass-manifestations on the part of the workingmen. This gave an occasion to many a liberal to scoff at the representatives of the revolutionary parties who built all their tactics on the expectation of a national revolution.
To answer those skeptics and to encourage the active members of the Social–Democratic party, Trotzky wrote his essay. Its main value, which lends it historic significance, is the clear diagnosis of the political situation. Though living abroad, Trotzky keenly felt the pulse of the masses, the “pent up revolutionary energy” which was seeking for an outlet. His description of the course of a national revolution, the rôle he attributes to the workingmen, the non-proletarian population of the cities, the educated groups, and the army; his estimation of the influence of the war on the minds of the raw masses; finally, the slogans he puts before the revolution — all this corresponds exactly to what happened during the stormy year of 1905. Reading The Proletariat and the Revolution, the student of Russian political life has a feeling as if the essay had been written after the Revolution, so closely it follows the course of events. Yet, it appeared before January 9th, 1905, i.e., before the first great onslaught of the Petersburg proletariat.
Trotzky’s belief in the revolutionary initiative of the working class could not be expressed in a more lucid manner.
The proletariat must not only conduct a revolutionary propaganda. The proletariat itself must move towards a revolution.
To move towards a revolution does not necessarily mean to fix a date for an insurrection and to prepare for that day. You never can fix a day and an hour for a revolution. The people have never made a revolution by command.
What can be done is, in view of the fatally impending catastrophe, to choose the most appropriate positions, to arm and inspire the masses with a revolutionary slogan, to lead simultaneously all the reserves into the field of battle, to make them practice in the art of fighting, to keep them ready under arms — and to send an alarm all over the lines when the time has arrived.
Would that mean a series of exercises only, and not a decisive combat with the enemy forces? Would that be mere manoeuvers, and not a street revolution?
Yes, that would be mere manoeuvers. There is a difference, however, between revolutionary and military manoeuvers. Our preparations can turn, at any time and independent of our will, into a real battle which would decide the long drawn revolutionary war. Not only can it be so, it must be. This is vouched for by the acuteness of the present political situation which holds in its depths a tremendous amount of revolutionary explosives.
At what time mere manoeuvers would turn into a real battle, depends upon the volume and the revolutionary compactness of the masses, upon the atmosphere of popular sympathy which surrounds them and upon the attitude of the troops which the government moves against the people.
Those three elements of success must determine our work of preparation. Revolutionary proletarian masses are in existence. We ought to be able to call them into the streets, at a given time, all over the country; we ought to be able to unite them by a general slogan.
All classes and groups of the people are permeated with hatred towards absolutism, and that means with sympathy for the struggle for freedom. We ought to be able to concentrate this sympathy on the proletariat as a revolutionary power which alone can be the vanguard of the people in their fight to save the future of Russia. As to the mood of the army, it hardly kindles the heart of the government with great hopes. There has been many an alarming symptom for the last few years; the army is morose, the army grumbles, there are ferments of dissatisfaction in the army. We ought to do all at our command to make the army detach itself from absolutism at the time of a decisive onslaught of the masses.
Let us first survey the last two conditions, which determine the course and the outcome of the campaign.
We have just gone through the period of “political renovation” opened under the blare of trumpets and closed under the hiss of knouts — the era of Svyatopolk–Mirski — the result of which is hatred towards absolutism aroused among all the thinking elements of society to an unusual pitch. The coming days will reap the fruit of stirred popular hopes and unfulfilled government’s pledges. Political interest has lately taken more definite shape; dissatisfaction has grown deeper and is founded on a more outspoken theoretical basis. Popular thinking, yesterday utterly primitive, now greedily takes to the work of political analysis. All manifestations of evil and arbitrary power are being speedily traced back to the principal cause. Revolutionary slogans no more frighten the people; on the contrary, they arouse a thousandfold echo, they pass into proverbs. The popular consciousness absorbs each word of negation, condemnation or curse addressed towards absolutism, as a sponge absorbs fluid substance. No step of the administration remains unpunished. Each of its blunders is carefully taken account of. Its advances are met with ridicule, its threats breed hatred. The vast apparatus of the liberal press circulates daily thousands of facts, stirring, exciting, inflaming popular emotion.
The pent up feelings are seeking an outlet. Thought strives to turn into action. The vociferous liberal press, however, while feeding popular unrest, tends to divert its current into a small channel; it spreads superstitious reverence for “public opinion,” helpless, unorganized “public opinion,” which does not discharge itself into action; it brands the revolutionary method of national emancipation; it upholds the illusion of legality; it centers all the attention and all the hopes of the embittered groups around the Zemstvo campaign, thus systematically preparing a great debacle for the popular movement. Acute dissatisfaction, finding no outlet, discouraged by the inevitable failure of the legal Zemstvo campaign which has no traditions of revolutionary struggle in the past and no clear prospects in the future, must necessarily manifest itself in an outbreak of desperate terrorism, leaving radical intellectuals in the rôle of helpless, passive, though sympathetic onlookers, leaving liberals to choke in a fit of platonic enthusiasm while lending doubtful assistance.
This ought not to take place. We ought to take hold of the current of popular excitement; we ought to turn the attention of numerous dissatisfied social groups to one colossal undertaking headed by the proletariat — to the National Revolution.
The vanguard of the Revolution ought to wake from indolence all other elements of the people; to appear here and there and everywhere; to put the questions of political struggle in the boldest possible fashion; to call, to castigate, to unmask hypocritical democracy; to make democrats and Zemstvo liberals clash against each other; to wake again and again, to call, to castigate, to demand a clear answer to the question, What are you going to do? to allow no retreat; to compel the legal liberals to admit their own weakness; to alienate from them the democratic elements and help the latter along the way of the revolution. To do this work means to draw the threads of sympathy of all the democratic opposition towards the revolutionary campaign of the proletariat.
We ought to do all in our power to draw the attention and gain the sympathy of the poor non-proletarian city population. During the last mass actions of the proletariat, as in the general strikes of 1903 in the South, nothing was done in this respect, and this was the weakest point of the preparatory work. According to press correspondents, the queerest rumors often circulated among the population as to the intentions of the strikers. The city inhabitants expected attacks on their houses, the store keepers were afraid of being looted, the Jews were in a dread of pogroms. This ought to be avoided. A political strike, as a single combat of the city proletariat with the police and the army, the remaining population being hostile or even indifferent, is doomed to failure.
The indifference of the population would tell primarily on the morale of the proletariat itself, and then on the attitude of the soldiers. Under such conditions, the stand of the administration must necessarily be more determined. The generals would remind the officers, and the officers would pass to the soldiers the words of Dragomirov: “Rifles are given for sharp shooting, and nobody is permitted to squander cartridges for nothing.”
A political strike of the proletariat ought to turn into a political demonstration of the population, this is the first prerequisite of success.
The second important prerequisite is the mood of the army. A dissatisfaction among the soldiers, a vague sympathy for the “revoluters,” is an established fact. Only part of this sympathy may rightly be attributed to our direct propaganda among the soldiers. The major part is done by the practical clashes between army units and protesting masses. Only hopeless idiots or avowed scoundrels dare to shoot at a living target. An overwhelming majority of the soldiers are loathe to serve as executioners; this is unanimously admitted by all correspondents describing the battles of the army with unarmed people. The average soldier aims above the heads of the crowd. It would be unnatural if the reverse were the case. When the Bessarabian regiment received orders to quell the Kiev general strike, the commander declared he could not vouch for the attitude of his soldiers. The order, then, was sent to the Cherson regiment, but there was not one half-company in the entire regiment which would live up to the expectations of their superiors.
Kiev was no exception. The conditions of the army must now be more favorable for the revolution than they were in 1903. We have gone through a year of war. It is hardly possible to measure the influence of the past year on the minds of the army. The influence, however, must be enormous. War draws not only the attention of the people, it arouses also the professional interest of the army. Our ships are slow, our guns have a short range, our soldiers are uneducated, our sergeants have neither compass nor map, our soldiers are bare-footed, hungry, and freezing, our Red Cross is stealing, our commissariat is stealing — rumors and facts of this kind leak down to the army and are being eagerly absorbed. Each rumor, as strong acid, dissolves the rust of mental drill. Years of peaceful propaganda could hardly equal in their results one day of warfare. The mere mechanism of discipline remains, the faith, however, the conviction that it is right to carry out orders, the belief that the present conditions can be continued, are rapidly dwindling. The less faith the army has in absolutism, the more faith it has in its foes.
We ought to make use of this situation. We ought to explain to the soldiers the meaning of the workingmen’s action which is being prepared by the Party. We ought to make profuse use of the slogan which is bound to unite the army with the revolutionary people, Away with the War! We ought to create a situation where the officers would not be able to trust their soldiers at the crucial moment. This would reflect on the attitude of the officers themselves.
The rest will be done by the street. It will dissolve the remnants of the barrack-hypnosis in the revolutionary enthusiasm of the people.
The main factor, however, remain the revolutionary masses. True it is that during the war the most advanced elements of the masses, the thinking proletariat, have not stepped openly to the front with that degree of determination which was required by the critical historic moment. Yet it would manifest a lack of political backbone and a deplorable superficiality, should one draw from this fact any kind of pessimistic conclusions.
The war has fallen upon our public life with all its colossal weight. The dreadful monster, breathing blood and fire, loomed up on the political horizon, shutting out everything, sinking its steel clutches into the body of the people, inflicting wound upon wound, causing mortal pain, which for a moment makes it even impossible to ask for the causes of the pain. The war, as every great disaster, accompanied by crisis, unemployment, mobilization, hunger and death, stunned the people, caused despair, but not protest. This is, however, only a beginning. Raw masses of the people, silent social strata, which yesterday had no connection with the revolutionary elements, were knocked by sheer mechanical power of facts to face the central event of present-day Russia, the war. They were horrified, they could not catch their breaths. The revolutionary elements, who prior to the war had ignored the passive masses, were affected by the atmosphere of despair and concentrated horror. This atmosphere enveloped them, it pressed with a leaden weight on their minds. The voice of determined protest could hardly be raised in the midst of elemental suffering. The revolutionary proletariat which had not yet recovered from the wounds received in July, 1903, was powerless to oppose the “call of the primitive.”
The year of war, however, passed not without results. Masses, yesterday primitive, to-day are confronted with the most tremendous events. They must seek to understand them. The very duration of the war has produced a desire for reasoning, for questioning as to the meaning of it all. Thus the war, while hampering for a period of time the revolutionary initiative of thousands, has awakened to life the political thought of millions.
The year of war passed not without results, not a single day passed without results. In the lower strata of the people, in the very depths of the masses, a work was going on, a movement of molecules, imperceptible, yet irresistible, incessant, a work of accumulating indignation, bitterness, revolutionary energy. The atmosphere our streets are breathing now is no longer an atmosphere of blank despair, it is an atmosphere of concentrated indignation which seeks for means and ways for revolutionary action. Each expedient action of the vanguard of our working masses would now carry away with it not only all our revolutionary reserves, but also thousands and hundreds of thousands of revolutionary recruits. This mobilization, unlike the mobilization of the government, would be carried out in the presence of general sympathy and active assistance of an overwhelming majority of the population.
In the presence of strong sympathies of the masses, in the presence of active assistance on the part of the democratic elements of the people; facing a government commonly hated, unsuccessful both in big and in small undertakings, a government defeated on the seas, defeated in the fields of battle, despised, discouraged, with no faith in the coming day, a government vainly struggling, currying favor, provoking and retreating, lying and suffering exposure, insolent and frightened; facing an army whose morale has been shattered by the entire course of the war, whose valor, energy, enthusiasm and heroism have met an insurmountable wall in the form of administrative anarchy, an army which has lost faith in the unshakable security of a régime it is called to serve, a dissatisfied, grumbling army which more than once has torn itself free from the clutches of discipline during the last year and which is eagerly listening to the roar of revolutionary voices — such will be the conditions under which the revolutionary proletariat will walk out into the streets. It seems to us that no better conditions could have been created by history for a final attack. History has done everything it was allowed by elemental wisdom. The thinking revolutionary forces of the country have to do the rest.
A tremendous amount of revolutionary energy has been accumulated. It should not vanish with no avail, it should not be dissipated in scattered engagements and clashes, with no coherence and no definite plan. All efforts ought to be made to concentrate the bitterness, the anger, the protest, the rage, the hatred of the masses, to give those emotions a common language, a common goal, to unite, to solidify all the particles of the masses, to make them feel and understand that they are not isolated, that simultaneously, with the same slogan on the banner, with the same goal in mind, innumerable particles are rising everywhere. If this understanding is achieved, half of the revolution is done.
We have got to summon all revolutionary forces to simultaneous action. How can we do it?
First of all we ought to remember that the main scene of revolutionary events is bound to be the city. Nobody is likely to deny this. It is evident, further, that street demonstrations can turn into a popular revolution only when they are a manifestation of masses, i.e., when they embrace, in the first place, the workers of factories and plants. To make the workers quit their machines and stands; to make them walk out of the factory premises into the street; to lead them to the neighboring plant; to proclaim there a cessation of work; to make new masses walk out into the street; to go thus from factory to factory, from plant to plant, incessantly growing in numbers, sweeping police barriers, absorbing new masses that happened to come across, crowding the streets, taking possession of buildings suitable for popular meetings, fortifying those buildings, holding continuous revolutionary meetings with audiences coming and going, bringing order into the movements of the masses, arousing their spirit, explaining to them the aim and the meaning of what is going on; to turn, finally, the entire city into one revolutionary camp, this is, broadly speaking, the plan of action.
The starting point ought to be the factories and plants. That means that street manifestations of a serious character, fraught with decisive events, ought to begin with political strikes of the masses.
It is easier to fix a date for a strike, than for a demonstration of the people, just as it is easier to move masses ready for action than to organize new masses.
A political strike, however, not a local, but a general political strike all over Russia — ought to have a general political slogan. This slogan is: to stop the war and to call a National Constituent Assembly.
This demand ought to become nation-wide, and herein lies the task for our propaganda preceding the all-Russian general strike. We ought to use all possible occasions to make the idea of a National Constituent Assembly popular among the people. Without losing one moment, we ought to put into operation all the technical means and all the powers of propaganda at our disposal. Proclamations and speeches, educational circles and mass-meetings ought to carry broadcast, to propound and to explain the demand of a Constituent Assembly. There ought to be not one man in a city who should not know that his demand is: a National Constituent Assembly.
The peasants ought to be called to assemble on the day of the political strike and to pass resolutions demanding the calling of a Constituent Assembly. The suburban peasants ought to be called into the cities to participate in the street movements of the masses gathered under the banner of a Constituent Assembly. All societies and organizations, professional and learned bodies, organs of self-government and organs of the opposition press ought to be notified in advance by the workingmen that they are preparing for an all-Russian political strike, fixed for a certain date, to bring about the calling of a Constituent Assembly. The workingmen ought to demand from all societies and corporations that, on the day appointed for the mass-manifestation, they should join in the demand of a National Constituent Assembly. The workingmen ought to demand from the opposition press that it should popularize their slogan and that on the eve of the demonstration it should print an appeal to the population to join the proletarian manifestation under the banner of a National Constituent Assembly.
We ought to carry on the most intensive propaganda in the army in order that on the day of the strike each soldier, sent to curb the “rebels,” should know that he is facing the people who are demanding a National Constituent Assembly.
“The hiss of the knout” which ended the era of “cordial relations” was a statement issued by the government on December 12, 1904, declaring that “all disturbances of peace and order and all gatherings of an anti-governmental character must and will be stopped by all legal means in command of the authorities.” The Zemstvo and municipal bodies were advised to keep from political utterings. As to the Socialist parties, and to labor movement in general, they were prosecuted under Svyatopolk–Mirski as severely as under Von Plehve.
“The vast apparatus of the liberal press” was the only way to reach millions. The revolutionary “underground” press, which assumed towards 1905 unusual proportions, could, after all, reach only a limited number of readers. In times of political unrest, the public became used to read between the lines of the legal press all it needed to feed its hatred of oppression.
By “legal” press, “legal” liberals are meant the open public press and those liberals who were trying to comply with the legal requirements of absolutism even in their work of condemning the absolutist order. The term “legal” is opposed by the term “revolutionary” which is applied to political actions in defiance of law.
Dragomirov was for many years Commander of the Kiev Military region and known by his epigrammatic style.
This is an essay of triumph. Written on January 20, 1905, eleven days after the “bloody Sunday,” it gave vent to the enthusiastic feelings of every true revolutionist aroused by unmistakable signs of an approaching storm. The march of tens of thousands of workingmen to the Winter Palace to submit to the “Little Father” a petition asking for “bread and freedom,” was on the surface a peaceful and loyal undertaking. Yet it breathed indignation and revolt. The slaughter of peaceful marchers (of whom over 5,000 were killed or wounded) and the following wave of hatred and revolutionary determination among the masses, marked the beginning of broad revolutionary uprisings.
For Trotzky, the awakening of the masses to political activity was not only a good revolutionary omen, but also a defeat of liberal ideology and liberal tactics. Those tactics had been planned under the assumption that the Russian people were not ripe for a revolution. Trotzky, a thorough revolutionist, saw in the liberal movement a manifestation of political superstitions. To him, the only way to overthrow absolutism was the way of a violent revolution. Yet, when the liberals proudly asserted that the revolutionary masses of Russia were only a creation of the overheated phantasy of the revolutionists, while the movement of the well-to-do intelligent elements was a flagrant fact, the Social–Democrats had no material proofs to the contrary, except sporadic outbursts of unrest among the workingmen and, of course, the conviction of those revolutionists who were in touch with the masses. It is, therefore, easy to understand the triumph of a Trotzky or any other Socialist after January 9th. In Trotzky’s opinion, the 9th of January had put liberalism into the archives. “We are done with it for the entire period of the revolution,” he exclaims. The most remarkable part of this essay, as far as political vision is concerned, is Trotzky’s prediction that the left wing of the “Osvoboshdenie” liberals (later organized as the Constitutional Democratic Party) would attempt to become leaders of the revolutionary masses and to “tame” them. The Liberals did not fail to make the attempt in 1905 and 1906, but with no success whatever. Neither did Social–Democracy, however, completely succeed in leading the masses all through the revolution, in the manner outlined by Trotzky in this essay. True, the Social–Democrats were the party that gained the greatest influence over the workingmen in the stormy year of 1905; their slogans were universally accepted by the masses; their members were everywhere among the first ranks of revolutionary forces; yet events developed too rapidly and spontaneously to make the leadership of a political organization possible.
How invincibly eloquent are facts! How utterly powerless are words!
The masses have made themselves heard! They have kindled revolutionary flames on Caucasian hill-tops; they have clashed, breast against breast, with the guards’ regiments and the cossacks on that unforgettable day of January Ninth; they have filled the streets and squares of industrial cities with the noise and clatter of their fights. . . .
The revolutionary masses are no more a theory, they are a fact. For the Social–Democratic Party there is nothing new in this fact. We had predicted it long ago. We had seen its coming at a time when the noisy liberal banquets seemed to form a striking contrast with the political silence of the people. The revolutionary masses are a fact, was our assertion. The clever liberals shrugged their shoulders in contempt. Those gentlemen think themselves sober realists solely because they are unable to grasp the consequences of great causes, because they make it their business to be humble servants of each ephemeral political fact. They think themselves sober statesmen in spite of the fact that history mocks at their wisdom, tearing to pieces their school books, making to naught their designs, and magnificently laughing at their pompous predictions.
“There are no revolutionary people in Russia as yet.” “The Russian workingman is backward in culture, in self-respect, and (we refer primarily to the workingmen of Petersburg and Moscow) he is not yet prepared for organized social and political struggle.”
Thus Mr. Struve wrote in his Osvoboshdenie. He wrote it on January 7th, 1905. Two days later the proletariat of Petersburg arose.
“There are no revolutionary people in Russia as yet.” These words ought to have been engraved on the forehead of Mr. Struve were it not that Mr. Struve’s forehead already resembles a tombstone under which so many plans, slogans, and ideas have been buried — Socialist, liberal, “patriotic,” revolutionary, monarchic, democratic and other ideas, all of them calculated not to run too far ahead and all of them hopelessly dragging behind.
“There are no revolutionary people in Russia as yet,” so it was declared through the mouth of Osvoboshdenie by Russian liberalism which in the course of three months had succeeded in convincing itself that liberalism was the main figure on the political stage and that its program and tactics would determine the future of Russia. Before this declaration had reached its readers, the wires carried into the remotest corners of the world the great message of the beginning of a National Revolution in Russia.
Yes, the Revolution has begun. We had hoped for it, we had had no doubt about it. For long years, however, it had been to us a mere deduction from our “doctrine,” which all nonentities of all political denominations had mocked at. They never believed in the revolutionary rôle of the proletariat, yet they believed in the power of Zemstvo petitions, in Witte, in “blocs” combining naughts with naughts, in Svyatopolk–Mirski, in a stick of dynamite. . . . There was no political superstition they did not believe in. Only the belief in the proletariat to them was a superstition.
History, however, does not question political oracles, and the revolutionary people do not need a passport from political eunuchs.
The Revolution has come. One move of hers has lifted the people over scores of steps, up which in times of peace we would have had to drag ourselves with hardships and fatigue. The Revolution has come and destroyed the plans of so many politicians who had dared to make their little political calculations with no regard for the master, the revolutionary people. The Revolution has come and destroyed scores of superstitions, and has manifested the power of the program which is founded on the revolutionary logic of the development of the masses.
The Revolution has come, and the period of our political infancy has passed. Down to the archives went our traditional liberalism whose only resource was the belief in a lucky change of administrative figures. Its period of bloom was the stupid reign of Svyatopolk–Mirski. Its ripest fruit was the Ukase of December 12th. But now, January Ninth has come and effaced the “Spring,” and has put military dictatorship in its place, and has promoted to the rank of Governor–General of Petersburg the same Trepov, who just before had been pulled down from the post of Moscow Chief of Police by the same liberal opposition.
That liberalism which did not care to know about the revolution, which hatched plots behind the scenes, which ignored the masses, which counted only on its diplomatic genius, has been swept away. We are done with it for the entire period of the revolution.
The liberals of the left wing will now follow the people. They will soon attempt to take the people into their own hands. The people are a power. One must master them. But they are, too, a revolutionary power. One, therefore, must tame them. This is, evidently, the future tactics of the Osvoboshdenie group. Our fight for a revolution, our preparatory work for the revolution must also be our merciless fight against liberalism for influence over the masses, for a leading rôle in the revolution. In this fight we shall be supported by a great power, the very logic of the revolution!
The Revolution has come.
The forms taken by the uprising of January 9th could not have been foreseen. A revolutionary priest, in perplexing manner placed by history at the head of the working masses for several days, lent the events the stamp of his personality, his conceptions, his rank. This form may mislead many an observer as to the real substance of the events. The actual meaning of the events, however, is just that which Social–Democracy foresaw. The central figure is the Proletariat. The workingmen start a strike, they unite, they formulate political demands, they walk out into the streets, they win the enthusiastic sympathy of the entire population, they engage in battles with the army. . . . The hero, Gapon, has not created the revolutionary energy of the Petersburg workingmen, he only unloosed it. He found thousands of thinking workingmen and tens of thousands of others in a state of political agitation. He formed a plan which united all those masses — for the period of one day. The masses went to speak to the Tzar. They were faced by Ulans, cossacks, guards. Gapon’s plan had not prepared the workingmen for that. What was the result? They seized arms wherever they could, they built barricades. . . . They fought, though, apparently, they went to beg for mercy. This shows that they went not to beg, but to demand.
The proletariat of Petersburg manifested a degree of political alertness and revolutionary energy far exceeding the limits of the plan laid out by a casual leader. Gapon’s plan contained many elements of revolutionary romanticism. On January 9th, the plan collapsed. Yet the revolutionary proletariat of Petersburg is no romanticism, it is a living reality. So is the proletariat of other cities. An enormous wave is rolling over Russia. It has not yet quieted down. One shock, and the proletarian crater will begin to erupt torrents of revolutionary lava.
The proletariat has arisen. It has chosen an incidental pretext and a casual leader — a self-sacrificing priest. That seemed enough to start with. It was not enough to win.
Victory demands not a romantic method based on an illusory plan, but revolutionary tactics. A simultaneous action of the proletariat of all Russia must be prepared. This is the first condition. No local demonstration has a serious political significance any longer. After the Petersburg uprising, only an all-Russian uprising should take place. Scattered outbursts would only consume the precious revolutionary energy with no results. Wherever spontaneous outbursts occur, as a late echo of the Petersburg uprising, they must be made use of to revolutionize and to solidify the masses, to popularize among them the idea of an all-Russian uprising as a task of the approaching months, perhaps only weeks.
This is not the place to discuss the technique of a popular uprising. The questions of revolutionary technique can be solved only in a practical way, under the live pressure of struggle and under constant communication with the active members of the Party. There is no doubt, however, that the technical problems of organizing a popular uprising assume at present tremendous importance. Those problems demand the collective attention of the Party.
[Trotzky then proceeds to discuss the question of armament, arsenals, clashes with army units, barricades, etc. Then he continues:]
As stated before, these questions ought to be solved by local organizations. Of course, this is only a minor task as compared with the political leadership of the masses. Yet, this task is most essential for the political leadership itself. The organization of the revolution becomes at present the axis of the political leadership of revolting masses.
What are the requirements for this leadership? A few very simple things: freedom from routine in matters of organization; freedom from miserable traditions of underground conspiracy; a broad view; courageous initiative; ability to gauge situations; courageous initiative once more.
The events of January 9th have given us a revolutionary beginning. We must never fall below this. We must make this our starting point in moving the revolution forward. We must imbue our work of propaganda and organization with the political ideas and revolutionary aspirations of the uprising of the Petersburg workers.
The Russian revolution has approached its climax — a national uprising. The organization of this uprising, which would determine the fate of the entire revolution, becomes the day’s task for our Party.
No one can accomplish it, but we. Priest Gapon could appear only once. He cherished extraordinary illusions, that is why he could do what he has done. Yet he could remain at the head of the masses for a brief period only. The memory of George Gapon will always be dear to the revolutionary proletariat. Yet his memory will be that of a hero who opened the sluices of the revolutionary torrent. Should a new figure step to the front now, equal to Gapon in energy, revolutionary enthusiasm and power of political illusions, his arrival would be too late. What was great in George Gapon may now look ridiculous. There is no room for a second George Gapon, as the thing now needed is not an illusion, but clear revolutionary thinking, a decisive plan of action, a flexible revolutionary organization which would be able to give the masses a slogan, to lead them into the field of battle, to launch an attack all along the line and bring the revolution to a victorious conclusion.
Such an organization can be the work of Social–Democracy only. No other party is able to create it. No other party can give the masses a revolutionary slogan, as no one outside our Party has freed himself from all considerations not pertaining to the interests of the revolution. No other party, but Social–Democracy, is able to organize the action of the masses, as no one but our Party is closely connected with the masses.
Our Party has committed many errors, blunders, almost crimes. It wavered, evaded, hesitated, it showed inertia and lack of pluck. At times it hampered the revolutionary movement.
However, there is no revolutionary party but the Social–Democratic Party!
Our organizations are imperfect. Our connections with the masses are insufficient. Our technique is primitive.
Yet, there is no party connected with the masses but the Social–Democratic Party!
At the head of the Revolution is the Proletariat. At the head of the Proletariat is Social–Democracy!
Let us exert all our power, comrades! Let us put all our energy and all our passion into this. Let us not forget for a moment the great responsibility vested in our Party: a responsibility before the Russian Revolution and in the sight of International Socialism.
The proletariat of the entire world looks to us with expectation. Broad vistas are being opened for humanity by a victorious Russian revolution. Comrades, let us do our duty!
Let us close our ranks, comrades! Let us unite, and unite the masses! Let us prepare, and prepare the masses for the day of decisive actions! Let us overlook nothing. Let us leave no power unused for the Cause.
Brave, honest, harmoniously united, we shall march forward, linked by unbreakable bonds, brothers in the Revolution!
Osvoboshdenie (Emancipation) was the name of a liberal magazine published in Stuttgart, Germany, and smuggled into Russia to be distributed among the Zemstvo-liberals and other progressive elements grouped about the Zemstvo-organization. The Osvoboshdenie advocated a constitutional monarchy; it was, however, opposed to revolutionary methods.
Peter Struve, first a Socialist, then a Liberal, was the editor of the Osvoboshdenie. Struve is an economist and one of the leading liberal journalists in Russia.
Zemstvo-petitions, accepted in form of resolutions at the meetings of the liberal Zemstvo bodies and forwarded to the central government, were one of the means the liberals used in their struggle for a Constitution. The petitions, worded in a very moderate language, demanded the abolition of “lawlessness” on the part of the administration and the introduction of a “legal order,” i.e., a Constitution.
Sergius Witte, Minister of Finance in the closing years of the 19th Century and up to the revolution of 1905, was known as a bureaucrat of a liberal brand.
The Ukase of December 12th, 1905, was an answer of the government to the persistent political demands of the “Spring” time. The Ukase promised a number of insignificant bureaucratic reforms, not even mentioning a popular representation and threatening increased punishments for “disturbances of peace and order.”
Trepov was one of the most hated bureaucrats, a devoted pupil of Von Plehve’s in the work of drowning revolutionary movements in blood.
George Gapon was the priest who organized the march of January 9th. Trotzky’s admiration for the heroism of Gapon was originally shared by many revolutionists. Later it became known that Gapon played a dubious rôle as a friend of labor, and an agent of the government.
The “Political illusions” of George Gapon, referred to in this essay, was his assumption that the Tzar was a loving father to his people. Gapon hoped to reach the Emperor of all the Russias and to make him “receive the workingmen’s petition from hand to hand.”
This is, perhaps, the most remarkable piece of political writing the Revolution has produced. Written early in 1906, after the great upheavals of the fall of 1905, at a time when the Russian revolution was obviously going down hill, and autocracy, after a moment of relaxation, was increasing its deadly grip over the country, the essays under the name Sum Total and Prospectives (which we have here changed into a more comprehensible name, Prospects of Labor Dictatorship) aroused more amazement than admiration. They seemed so entirely out of place. They ignored the liberal parties as quite negligible quantities. They ignored the creation of the Duma to which the Constitutional Democrats attached so much importance as a place where democracy would fight the battles of the people and win. They ignored the very fact that the vanguard of the revolution, the industrial proletariat, was beaten, disorganized, downhearted, tired out.
The essays met with opposition on the part of leading Social–Democratic thinkers of both the Bolsheviki and Mensheviki factions. The essays seemed to be more an expression of Trotzky’s revolutionary ardor, of his unshakable faith in the future of the Russian revolution, than a reflection of political realities. It was known that he wrote them within prison walls. Should not the very fact of his imprisonment have convinced him that in drawing a picture of labor dictatorship he was only dreaming?
History has shown that it was not a dream. Whatever our attitude towards the course of events in the 1917 revolution may be, we must admit that, in the main, this course has taken the direction predicted in Trotzky’s essays. There is a labor dictatorship now in Russia. It is a labor dictatorship, not a “dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasants.” The liberal and radical parties have lost influence. The labor government has put collective ownership and collective management of industries on the order of the day. The labor government has not hesitated in declaring Russia to be ready for a Socialist revolution. It was compelled to do so under the pressure of revolutionary proletarian masses. The Russian army has been dissolved in the armed people. The Russian revolution has called the workingmen of the world to make a social revolution.
All this had been outlined by Trotzky twelve years ago. When one reads this series of essays, one has the feeling that they were written not in the course of the first Russian upheaval (the essays appeared in 1906 as part of a book by Trotzky, entitled Our Revolution, Petersburg, N. Glagoleff, publisher) but as if they were discussing problems of the present situation. This, more than anything else, shows the continuity of the revolution. The great overthrow of 1917 was completed by the same political and social forces that had met and learned to know each other in the storms of 1905 and 1906. The ideology of the various groups and parties had hardly changed. Even the leaders of the major parties were, in the main, the same persons. Of course, the international situation was different. But even the possibility of a European war and its consequences had been foreseen by Trotzky in his essays.
Twelve years ago those essays seemed to picture an imaginary world. To-day they seem to tell the history of the Russian revolution. We may agree or disagree with Trotzky, the leader, nobody can deny the power and clarity of his political vision.
In the first chapter, entitled “Peculiarities of Our Historic Development,” the author gives a broad outline of the growth of absolutism in Russia. Development of social forms in Russia, he says, was slow and primitive. Our social life was constructed on an archaic and meager economic foundation. Yet, Russia did not lead an isolated life. Russia was under constant pressure of higher politico-economical organisms — the neighboring Western states. The Russian state, in its struggle for existence, outgrew its economic basis. Historic development in Russia, therefore, was taking place under a terrific straining of national economic forces. The state absorbed the major part of the national economic surplus and also part of the product necessary for the maintenance of the people. The state thus undermined its own foundation. On the other hand, to secure the means indispensable for its growth, the state forced economic development by bureaucratic measures. Ever since the end of the seventeenth century, the state was most anxious to develop industries in Russia. “New trades, machines, factories, production on a large scale, capital, appear from a certain angle to be an artificial graft on the original economic trunk of the people. Similarly, Russian science may appear from the same angle to be an artificial graft on the natural trunk of national ignorance.” This, however, is a wrong conception. The Russian state could not have created something out of nothing. State action only accelerated the processes of natural evolution of economic life. State measures that were in contradiction to those processes were doomed to failure. Still, the rôle of the state in economic life was enormous. When social development reached the stage where the bourgeoisie classes began to experience a desire for political institutions of a Western type, Russian autocracy was fully equipped with all the material power of a modern European state. It had at its command a centralized bureaucratic machinery, incapable of regulating modern relations, yet strong enough to do the work of oppression. It was in a position to overcome distance by means of the telegraph and railroads — a thing unknown to the pre-revolutionary autocracies in Europe. It had a colossal army, incompetent in wars with foreign enemies, yet strong enough to maintain the authority of the state in internal affairs.
Based on its military and fiscal apparatus, absorbing the major part of the country’s resources, the government increased its annual budget to an enormous amount of two billions of rubles, it made the stock-exchange of Europe its treasury and the Russian tax-payer a slave to European high finance. Gradually, the Russian state became an end in itself. It evolved into a power independent of society. It left unsatisfied the most elementary wants of the people. It was unable even to defend the safety of the country against foreign foes. Yet, it seemed strong, powerful, invincible. It inspired awe.
It became evident that the Russian state would never grant reforms of its own free will. As years passed, the conflict between absolutism and the requirements of economic and cultural progress became ever more acute. There was only one way to solve the problem: “to accumulate enough steam inside the iron kettle of absolutism to burst the kettle.” This was the way outlined by the Marxists long ago. Marxism was the only doctrine that had correctly predicted the course of development in Russia.
In the second chapter, “City and Capital,” Trotzky attempts a theoretical explanation to the weakness of the middle-class in Russia. Russia of the eighteenth, and even of the major part of the nineteenth, century, he writes, was marked by an absence of cities as industrial centers. Our big cities were administrative rather than industrial centers. Our primitive industries were scattered in the villages, auxiliary occupations of the peasant farmers. Even the population of our so called “cities,” in former generations maintained itself largely by agriculture. Russian cities never contained a prosperous, efficient and self-assured class of artisans — that real foundation of the European middle class which in the course of revolutions against absolutism identified itself with the “people.” When modern capitalism, aided by absolutism, appeared on the scene of Russia and turned large villages into modern industrial centers almost over night, it had no middle-class to build on. In Russian cities, therefore, the influence of the bourgeoisie is far less than in western Europe. Russian cities practically contain great numbers of workingmen and small groups of capitalists. Moreover, the specific political weight of the Russian proletariat is larger than that of the capital employed in Russia, because the latter is to a great extent imported capital. Thus, while a large proportion of the capital operating in Russia exerts its political influence in the parliaments of Belgium or France, the working class employed by the same capital exert their entire influence in the political life of Russia. As a result of these peculiar historic developments, the Russian proletariat, recruited from the pauperized peasant and ruined rural artisans, has accumulated in the new cities in very great numbers, “and nothing stood between the workingmen and absolutism but a small class of capitalists, separated from the ‘people’ (i.e., the middle-class in the European sense of the word), half foreign in its derivation, devoid of historic traditions, animated solely by a hunger for profits.”
History does not repeat itself. You are free to compare the Russian revolution with the Great French Revolution, yet this would not make the former resemble the latter. The nineteenth century passed not in vain.
Already the year of 1848 is widely different from 1789. As compared with the Great Revolution, the revolutions in Prussia or Austria appear amazingly small. From one viewpoint, the revolutions of 1848 came too early; from another, too late. That gigantic exertion of power which is necessary for the bourgeois society to get completely square with the masters of the past, can be achieved either through powerful unity of an entire nation arousing against feudal despotism, or through a powerful development of class struggle within a nation striving for freedom. In the first case — of which a classic example are the years 1789–1793 — the national energy, compressed by the terrific resistance of the old régime, was spent entirely in the struggle against reaction. In the second case — which has never appeared in history as yet, and which is treated here as hypothetical — the actual energy necessary for a victory over the black forces of history is being developed within the bourgeois nation through “civil war” between classes. Fierce internal friction characterizes the latter case. It absorbs enormous quantities of energy, prevents the bourgeoisie from playing a leading rôle, pushes its antagonist, the proletariat, to the front, gives the workingman decades’ experience in a month, makes them the central figures in political struggles, and puts very tight reins into their hands. Strong, determined, knowing no doubts, the proletariat gives events a powerful twist.
Thus, it is either — or. Either a nation gathered into one compact whole, as a lion ready to leap; or a nation completely divided in the process of internal struggles, a nation that has released her best part for a task which the whole was unable to complete. Such are the two polar types, whose purest forms, however, can be found only in logical contraposition.
Here, as in many other cases, the middle road is the worst. This was the case in 1848.
In the French Revolution we see an active, enlightened bourgeoisie, not yet aware of the contradictions of its situation; entrusted by history with the task of leadership in the struggle for a new order; fighting not only against the archaic institutions of France, but also against the forces of reaction throughout Europe. The bourgeoisie consciously, in the person of its various factions, assumes the leadership of the nation, it lures the masses into struggle, it coins slogans, it dictates revolutionary tactics. Democracy unites the nation in one political ideology. The people — small artisans, petty merchants, peasants, and workingmen — elect bourgeois as their representatives; the mandates of the communities are framed in the language of the bourgeoisie which becomes aware of its Messianic rôle. Antagonisms do not fail to reveal themselves in the course of the revolution, yet the powerful momentum of the revolution removes one by one the most unresponsive elements of the bourgeoisie. Each stratum is torn off, but not before it has given over all its energy to the following one. The nation as a whole continues to fight with ever increasing persistence and determination. When the upper stratum of the bourgeoisie tears itself away from the main body of the nation to form an alliance with Louis XVI, the democratic demands of the nation turn against this part of the bourgeoisie, leading to universal suffrage and a republican government as logically consequent forms of democracy.
The Great French Revolution is a true national revolution. It is more than that. It is a classic manifestation, on a national scale, of the world-wide struggle of the bourgeois order for supremacy, for power, for unmitigated triumph. In 1848, the bourgeoisie was no more capable of a similar rôle. It did not want, it did not dare take the responsibility for a revolutionary liquidation of a political order that stood in its way. The reason is clear. The task of the bourgeoisie — of which it was fully aware — was not to secure its own political supremacy, but to secure for itself a share in the political power of the old régime. The bourgeoisie of 1848, niggardly wise with the experience of the French bourgeoisie, was vitiated by its treachery, frightened by its failures. It did not lead the masses to storm the citadels of the absolutist order. On the contrary, with its back against the absolutist order, it resisted the onslaught of the masses that were pushing it forward.
The French bourgeoisie made its revolution great. Its consciousness was the consciousness of the people, and no idea found its expression in institutions without having gone through its consciousness as an end, as a task of political construction. It often resorted to theatrical poses to conceal from itself the limitations of its bourgeois world — yet it marched forward.
The German bourgeoisie, on the contrary, was not doing the revolutionary work; it was “doing away” with the revolution from the very start. Its consciousness revolted against the objective conditions of its supremacy. The revolution could be completed not by the bourgeoisie, but against it. Democratic institutions seemed to the mind of the German bourgeois not an aim for his struggle, but a menace to his security.
Another class was required in 1848, a class capable of conducting the revolution beside the bourgeoisie and in spite of it, a class not only ready and able to push the bourgeoisie forward, but also to step over its political corpse, should events so demand. None of the other classes, however, was ready for the job.
The petty middle class were hostile not only to the past, but also to the future. They were still entangled in the meshes of medieval relations, and they were unable to withstand the oncoming “free” industry; they were still giving the cities their stamp, and they were already giving way to the influences of big capital. Steeped in prejudices, stunned by the clatter of events, exploiting and being exploited, greedy and helpless in their greed, they could not become leaders in matters of world-wide importance. Still less were the peasants capable of political initiative. Scattered over the country, far from the nervous centers of politics and culture, limited in their views, the peasants could have no great part in the struggles for a new order. The democratic intellectuals possessed no social weight; they either dragged along behind their elder sister, the liberal bourgeoisie, as its political tail, or they separated themselves from the bourgeoisie in critical moments only to show their weakness.
The industrial workingmen were too weak, unorganized, devoid of experience and knowledge. The capitalist development had gone far enough to make the abolition of old feudal relations imperative, yet it had not gone far enough to make the working class, the product of new economic relations, a decisive political factor. Antagonism between bourgeoisie and proletariat, even within the national boundaries of Germany, was sharp enough to prevent the bourgeoisie from stepping to the front to assume national hegemony in the revolution, yet it was not sharp enough to allow the proletariat to become a national leader. True, the internal frictions of the revolution had prepared the workingmen for political independence, yet they weakened the energy and the unity of the revolution and they caused a great waste of power. The result was that, after the first successes, the revolution began to plod about in painful uncertainty, and under the first blows of the reaction it started backwards. Austria gave the clearest and most tragic example of unfinished and unsettled relations in a revolutionary period. It was this situation that gave Lassalle occasion to assert that henceforward revolutions could find their support only in the class struggle of the proletariat. In a letter to Marx, dated October 24, 1849 he writes: “The experiences of Austria, Hungary and Germany in 1848 and 1849 have led me to the firm conclusion that no struggle in Europe can be successful unless it is proclaimed from the very beginning as purely Socialistic. No struggle can succeed in which social problems appear as nebulous elements kept in the background, while on the surface the fight is being conducted under the slogan of national revival of bourgeois republicanism.”
We shall not attempt to criticize this bold conclusion. One thing is evident, namely that already at the middle of the nineteenth century the national task of political emancipation could not be completed by a unanimous concerted onslaught of the entire nation. Only the independent tactics of the proletariat deriving its strength from no other source but its class position, could have secured a victory of the revolution.
The Russian working class of 1906 differs entirely from the Vienna working class of 1848. The best proof of it is the all-Russian practice of the Councils of Workmen’s Deputies (Soviets). Those are no organizations of conspirators prepared beforehand to step forward in times of unrest and to seize command over the working class. They are organs consciously created by the masses themselves to coördinate their revolutionary struggle. The Soviets, elected by and responsible to the masses, are thoroughly democratic institutions following the most determined class policy in the spirit of revolutionary Socialism.
The differences in the social composition of the Russian revolution are clearly shown in the question of arming the people.
Militia (national guard) was the first slogan and the first achievement of the revolutions of 1789 and 1848 in Paris, in all the Italian states and in Vienna and Berlin. In 1846, the demand for a national guard (i.e., the armament of the propertied classes and the “intellectuals”) was put forth by the entire bourgeois opposition, including the most moderate factions. In Russia, the demand for a national guard finds no favor with the bourgeois parties. This is not because the liberals do not understand the importance of arming the people: absolutism has given them in this respect more than one object lesson. The reason why liberals do not like the idea of a national guard is because they fully realize the impossibility of creating in Russia an armed revolutionary force outside of the proletariat and against the proletariat. They are ready to give up this demand, as they give up many others, just as the French bourgeoisie headed by Thiers preferred to give up Paris and France to Bismarck rather than to arm the working class.
The problem of an armed revolution in Russia becomes essentially a problem of the proletariat. National militia, this classic demand of the bourgeoisie of 1848, appears in Russia from the very beginning as a demand for arming the people, primarily the working class. Herein the fate of the Russian revolution manifests itself most clearly.
A revolution is an open contest of social forces in their struggle for political power.
The state is not an end in itself. It is only a working machine in the hands of the social force in power. As every machine, the state has its motor, transmission, and its operator. Its motive power is the class interest; its motor are propaganda, the press, influences of school and church, political parties, open air meetings, petitions, insurrections; its transmission is made up of legislative bodies actuated by the interest of a caste, a dynasty, a guild or a class appearing under the guise of Divine or national will (absolutism or parliamentarism); its operator is the administration, with its police, judiciary, jails, and the army.
The state is not an end in itself. It is, however, the greatest means for organizing, disorganizing and reorganizing social relations.
According to who is directing the machinery of the State, it can be an instrument of profoundest transformations, or a means of organized stagnation.
Each political party worthy of its name strives to get hold of political power and thus to make the state serve the interests of the class represented by the party. Social–Democracy, as the party of the proletariat, naturally strives at political supremacy of the working class.
The proletariat grows and gains strength with the growth of capitalism. From this viewpoint, the development of capitalism is the development of the proletariat for dictatorship. The day and the hour, however, when political power should pass into the hands of the working class, is determined not directly by the degree of capitalistic development of economic forces, but by the relations of class struggle, by the international situation, by a number of subjective elements, such as tradition, initiative, readiness to fight. . . .
It is, therefore, not excluded that in a backward country with a lesser degree of capitalistic development, the proletariat should sooner reach political supremacy than in a highly developed capitalist state. Thus, in middle-class Paris, the proletariat consciously took into its hands the administration of public affairs in 1871. True it is, that the reign of the proletariat lasted only for two months, it is remarkable, however, that in far more advanced capitalist centers of England and the United States, the proletariat never was in power even for the duration of one day. To imagine that there is an automatic dependence between a dictatorship of the proletariat and the technical and productive resources of a country, is to understand economic determinism in a very primitive way. Such a conception would have nothing to do with Marxism.
It is our opinion that the Russian revolution creates conditions whereby political power can (and, in case of a victorious revolution, must) pass into the hands of the proletariat before the politicians of the liberal bourgeoisie would have occasion to give their political genius full swing.
Summing up the results of the revolution and counter-revolution in 1848 and 1849, Marx wrote in his correspondences to the New York Tribune: “The working class in Germany is, in its social and political development, as far behind that of England and France as the German bourgeoisie is behind the bourgeoisie of those countries. Like master, like man. The evolution of the conditions of existence for a numerous, strong, concentrated, and intelligent proletariat goes hand in hand with the development of the conditions of existence for a numerous, wealthy, concentrated and powerful middle class. The working class movement itself never is independent, never is of an exclusively proletarian character until all the different factions of the middle class, and particularly its most progressive faction, the large manufacturers, have conquered political power, and remodeled the State according to their wants. It is then that the inevitable conflict between employer and the employed becomes imminent, and cannot be adjourned any longer.”1 This quotation must be familiar to the reader, as it has lately been very much abused by scholastic Marxists. It has been used as an iron-clad argument against the idea of a labor government in Russia. If the Russian capitalistic bourgeoisie is not strong enough to take governmental power into its hands, how is it possible to think of an industrial democracy, i.e., a political supremacy of the proletariat, was the question.
1 Karl Marx, Germany in 1848. (English edition, pp. 22–23.)
Let us give this objection closer consideration.
Marxism is primarily a method of analysis — not the analysis of texts, but the analysis of social relations. Applied to Russia, is it true that the weakness of capitalistic liberalism means the weakness of the working class? Is it true, not in the abstract, but in relation to Russia, that an independent proletarian movement is impossible before the bourgeoisie assume political power? It is enough to formulate these questions in order to understand what hopeless logical formalism there is hidden behind the attempt to turn Marx’s historically relative remark into a super-historic maxim.
Our industrial development, though marked in times of prosperity by leaps and bounds of an “American” character, is in reality miserably small in comparison with the industry of the United States. Five million persons, forming 16.6 per cent. of the population engaged in economic pursuits, are employed in the industries of Russia; six millions and 22.2 per cent. are the corresponding figures for the United States. To have a clear idea as to the real dimensions of industry in both countries, we must remember that the population of Russia is twice as large as the population of the United States, and that the output of American industries in 1900 amounted to 25 billions of rubles whereas the output of Russian industries for the same year hardly reached 2.5 billions.
There is no doubt that the number of the proletariat, the degree of its concentration, its cultural level, and its political importance depend upon the degree of industrial development in each country.
This dependence, however, is not a direct one. Between the productive forces of a country on one side and the political strength of its social classes on the other, there is at any given moment a current and cross current of various socio-political factors of a national and international character which modify and sometimes completely reverse the political expression of economic relations. The industry of the United States is far more advanced than the industry of Russia, while the political rôle of the Russian workingmen, their influence on the political life of their country, the possibilities of their influence on world politics in the near future, are incomparably greater than those of the American proletariat.
In his recent work on the American workingman, Kautsky arrives at the conclusion that there is no immediate and direct dependence between the political strength of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat of a country on one hand and its industrial development on the other. “Here are two countries,” he writes, “diametrically opposed to each other: in one of them, one of the elements of modern industry is developed out of proportion, i.e., out of keeping with the stage of capitalistic development; in the other, another; in America it is the class of capitalists; in Russia, the class of labor. In America there is more ground than elsewhere to speak of the dictatorship of capital, while nowhere has labor gained as much influence as in Russia, and this influence is bound to grow, as Russia has only recently entered the period of modern class struggle.” Kautsky then proceeds to state that Germany can, to a certain degree, study her future from the present conditions in Russia, then he continues: “It is strange to think that it is the Russian proletariat which shows us our future as far as, not the organization of capital, but the protest of the working class is concerned. Russia is the most backward of all the great states of the capitalist world. This may seem to be in contradiction with the economic interpretation of history which considers economic strength the basis of political development. This is, however, not true. It contradicts only that kind of economic interpretation of history which is being painted by our opponents and critics who see in it not a method of analysis, but a ready pattern.”2 These lines ought to be recommended to those of our native Marxians who substitute for an independent analysis of social relations a deduction from texts selected for all emergencies of life. No one can compromise Marxism as shamefully as these bureaucrats of Marxism do.
2 K. Kautsky, The American and the Russian Workingman.
In Kautsky’s estimation, Russia is characterized, economically, by a comparatively low level of capitalistic development; politically, by a weakness of the capitalistic bourgeoisie and by a great strength of the working class. This results in the fact, that “the struggle for the interests of Russia as a whole has become the task of the only powerful class in Russia, industrial labor. This is the reason why labor has gained such a tremendous political importance. This is the reason why the struggle of Russia against the polyp of absolutism which is strangling the country, turned out to be a single combat of absolutism against industrial labor, a combat where the peasantry can lend considerable assistance without, however, being able to play a leading rôle.3
3 D. Mendeleyer, Russian Realities, 1906, p. 10.
Are we not warranted in our conclusion that the “man” will sooner gain political supremacy in Russia than his “master”?
There are two sorts of political optimism. One overestimates the advantages and the strength of the revolution and strives towards ends unattainable under given conditions. The other consciously limits the task of the revolution, drawing a line which the very logic of the situation will compel him to overstep.
You can draw limits to all the problems of the revolution by asserting that this is a bourgeois revolution in its objective aims and inevitable results, and you can close your eyes to the fact that the main figure in this revolution is the working class which is being moved towards political supremacy by the very course of events.
You can reassure yourself by saying that in the course of a bourgeois revolution the political supremacy of the working class can be only a passing episode, and you can forget that, once in power, the working class will offer desperate resistance, refusing to yield unless compelled to do so by armed force.
You can reassure yourself by saying that social conditions in Russia are not yet ripe for a Socialist order, and you can overlook the fact that, once master of the situation, the working class would be compelled by the very logic of its situation to organize national economy under the management of the state.
The term bourgeois revolution, a general sociological definition, gives no solution to the numerous political and tactical problems, contradictions and difficulties which are being created by the mechanism of a given bourgeois revolution.
Within the limits of a bourgeois revolution at the end of the eighteenth century, whose objective was the political supremacy of capital, the dictatorship of the Sans–Culottes turned out to be a fact. This dictatorship was not a passing episode, it gave its stamp to a whole century that followed the revolution, though it was soon crushed by the limitations of the revolution.
Within the limits of a revolution at the beginning of the twentieth century, which is also a bourgeois revolution in its immediate objective aims, there looms up a prospect of an inevitable, or at least possible, supremacy of the working class in the near future. That this supremacy should not turn out to be a passing episode, as many a realistic Philistine may hope, is a task which the working class will have at heart. It is, then, legitimate to ask: is it inevitable that the dictatorship of the proletariat should clash against the limitations of a bourgeois revolution and collapse, or is it not possible that under given international conditions it may open a way for an ultimate victory by crushing those very limitations? Hence a tactical problem: should we consciously strive toward a labor government as the development of the revolution will bring us nearer to that stage, or should we look upon political power as upon a calamity which the bourgeois revolution is ready to inflict upon the workingmen, and which it is best to avoid?
In case of a victorious revolution, political power passes into the hands of the class that has played in it a dominant rôle, in other words, it passes into the hands of the working class. Of course, revolutionary representatives of non-proletarian social groups may not be excluded from the government; sound politics demands that the proletariat should call into the government influential leaders of the lower middle class, the intelligentzia and the peasants. The problem is, Who will give substance to the politics of the government, who will form in it a homogeneous majority? It is one thing when the government contains a labor majority, which representatives of other democratic groups of the people are allowed to join; it is another, when the government has an outspoken bourgeois-democratic character where labor representatives are allowed to participate in the capacity of more or less honorable hostages.
The policies of the liberal capitalist bourgeoisie, notwithstanding all their vacillations, retreats and treacheries, are of a definite character. The policies of the proletariat are of a still more definite, outspoken character. The policies of the intelligentzia, however, a result of intermediate social position and political flexibility of this group; the politics of the peasants, a result of the social heterogeneity, intermediate position, and primitiveness of this class; the politics of the lower middle class, a result of muddle-headedness, intermediate position and complete want of political traditions — can never be clear, determined, and firm. It must necessarily be subject to unexpected turns, to uncertainties and surprises.
To imagine a revolutionary democratic government without representatives of labor is to see the absurdity of such a situation. A refusal of labor to participate in a revolutionary government would make the very existence of that government impossible, and would be tantamount to a betrayal of the cause of the revolution. A participation of labor in a revolutionary government, however, is admissible, both from the viewpoint of objective probability and subjective desirability, only in the rôle of a leading dominant power. Of course, you can call such a government “dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry,” “dictatorship of the proletariat, the peasantry, and the intelligentzia,” or “a revolutionary government of the workingmen and the lower middle class.” This question will still remain: Who has the hegemony in the government and through it in the country? When we speak of a labor government we mean that the hegemony belongs to the working class.
The proletariat will be able to hold this position under one condition: if it broadens the basis of the revolution.
Many elements of the working masses, especially among the rural population, will be drawn into the revolution and receive their political organization only after the first victories of the revolution, when the revolutionary vanguard, the city proletariat, shall have seized governmental power. Under such conditions, the work of propaganda and organization will be conducted through state agencies. Legislative work itself will become a powerful means of revolutionizing the masses. The burden thrust upon the shoulders of the working class by the peculiarities of our social and historical development, the burden of completing a bourgeois revolution by means of labor struggle, will thus confront the proletariat with difficulties of enormous magnitude; on the other hand, however, it will offer the working class, at least in the first period, unusual opportunities. This will be seen in the relations between the proletariat and the peasants.
In the revolutions of 1789–93, and 1848, governmental power passed from absolutism into the hands of the moderate bourgeois elements which emancipated the peasants before revolutionary democracy succeeded or even attempted to get into power. The emancipated peasantry then lost interest in the political ventures of the “city-gentlemen,” i.e., in the further course of the revolution; it formed the dead ballast of “order,” the foundation of all social “stability,” betraying the revolution, supporting a Cesarian or ultra-absolutist reaction.
The Russian revolution is opposed to a bourgeois constitutional order which would be able to solve the most primitive problems of democracy. The Russian revolution will be against it for a long period to come. Reformers of a bureaucratic brand, such as Witte and Stolypin, can do nothing for the peasants, as their “enlightened” efforts are continually nullified by their own struggle for existence. The fate of the most elementary interests of the peasantry — the entire peasantry as a class — is, therefore, closely connected with the fate of the revolution, i.e., with the fate of the proletariat.
Once in power, the proletariat will appear before the peasantry as its liberator.
Proletarian rule will mean not only democratic equality, free self-government, shifting the burden of taxation on the propertied classes, dissolution of the army among the revolutionary people, abolition of compulsory payments for the Church, but also recognition of all revolutionary changes made by the peasants in agrarian relations (seizures of land). These changes will be taken by the proletariat as a starting point for further legislative measures in agriculture. Under such conditions, the Russian peasantry will be interested in upholding the proletarian rule (“labor democracy”), at least in the first, most difficult period, not less so than were the French peasants interested in upholding the military rule of Napoleon Bonaparte who by force guaranteed to the new owners the integrity of their land shares.
But is it not possible that the peasants will remove the workingmen from their positions and take their place? No, this can never happen. This would be in contradiction to all historical experiences. History has convincingly shown that the peasantry is incapable of an independent political rôle.
The history of capitalism is the history of subordination of the village by the city. Industrial development had made the continuation of feudal relations in agriculture impossible. Yet the peasantry had not produced a class which could live up to the revolutionary task of destroying feudalism. It was the city which made rural population dependent on capital, and which produced revolutionary forces to assume political hegemony over the village, there to complete revolutionary changes in civic and political relations. In the course of further development, the village becomes completely enslaved by capital, and the villagers by capitalistic political parties, which revive feudalism in parliamentary politics, making the peasantry their political domain, the ground for their preëlection huntings. Modern peasantry is driven by the fiscal and militaristic system of the state into the clutches of usurers’ capital, while state-clergy, state-schools and barrack depravity drive it into the clutches of usurers’ politics.
The Russian bourgeoisie yielded all revolutionary positions to the Russian proletariat. It will have to yield also the revolutionary hegemony over the peasants. Once the proletariat becomes master of the situation, conditions will impel the peasants to uphold the policies of a labor democracy. They may do it with no more political understanding than they uphold a bourgeois régime. The difference is that while each bourgeois party in possession of the peasants’ vote uses its power to rob the peasants, to betray their confidence and to leave their expectations unfulfilled, in the worst case to give way to another capitalist party, the working class, backed by the peasantry, will put all forces into operation to raise the cultural level of the village and to broaden the political understanding of the peasants.
Our attitude towards the idea of a “dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” is now quite clear. It is not a question whether we think it “admissible” or not, whether we “wish” or we “do not wish” this form of political coöperation. In our opinion, it simply cannot be realized, at least in its direct meaning. Such a coöperation presupposes that either the peasantry has identified itself with one of the existing bourgeois parties, or it has formed a powerful party of its own. Neither is possible, as we have tried to point out.
The proletariat can get into power only at a moment of national upheaval, of sweeping national enthusiasm. The proletariat assumes power as a revolutionary representative of the people, as a recognized leader in the fight against absolutism and barbaric feudalism. Having assumed power, however, the proletariat will open a new era, an era of positive legislation, of revolutionary politics, and this is the point where its political supremacy as an avowed spokesman of the nation may become endangered.
The first measures of the proletariat — the cleansing of the Augean stables of the old régime and the driving away of their inhabitants — will find active support of the entire nation whatever the liberal castraters may tell us of the power of some prejudices among the masses. The work of political cleansing will be accompanied by democratic reorganization of all social and political relations. The labor government, impelled by immediate needs and requirements, will have to look into all kinds of relations and activities among the people. It will have to throw out of the army and the administration all those who had stained their hands with the blood of the people; it will have to disband all the regiments that had polluted themselves with crimes against the people. This work will have to be done immediately, long before the establishment of an elective responsible administration and before the organization of a popular militia. This, however, will be only a beginning. Labor democracy will soon be confronted by the problems of a normal workday, the agrarian relations and unemployment. The legislative solution of those problems will show the class character of the labor government. It will tend to weaken the revolutionary bond between the proletariat and the nation; it will give the economic differentiation among the peasants a political expression. Antagonism between the component parts of the nation will grow step by step as the policies of the labor government become more outspoken, lose their general democratic character and become class policies.
The lack of individualistic bourgeois traditions and anti-proletarian prejudices among the peasants and the intelligentzia will help the proletariat assume power. It must not be forgotten, however, that this lack of prejudices is based not on political understanding, but on political barbarism, on social shapelessness, primitiveness, and lack of character. These are all qualities which can hardly guarantee support for an active, consistent proletarian rule.
The abolition of the remnants of feudalism in agrarian relations will be supported by all the peasants who are now oppressed by the landlords. A progressive income tax will be supported by an overwhelming majority of the peasants. Yet, legislative measures in defense of the rural proletariat (farm hands) will find no active support among the majority, and will meet with active opposition on the part of a minority of the peasants.
The proletariat will be compelled to introduce class struggle into the village and thus to destroy that slight community of interests which undoubtedly unites the peasants as a whole. In its next steps, the proletariat will have to seek for support by helping the poor villagers against the rich, the rural proletariat against the agrarian bourgeoisie. This will alienate the majority of the peasants from labor democracy. Relations between village and city will become strained. The peasantry as a whole will become politically indifferent. The peasant minority will actively oppose proletarian rule. This will influence part of the intellectuals and the lower middle class of the cities.
Two features of proletarian politics are bound particularly to meet with the opposition of labor’s allies: Collectivism and Internationalism. The strong adherence of the peasants to private ownership, the primitiveness of their political conceptions, the limitations of the village horizon, its distance from world-wide political connections and interdependences, are terrific obstacles in the way of revolutionary proletarian rule.
To imagine that Social–Democracy participates in the provisional government, playing a leading rôle in the period of revolutionary democratic reconstruction, insisting on the most radical reforms and all the time enjoying the aid and support of the organized proletariat — only to step aside when the democratic program is put into operation, to leave the completed building at the disposal of the bourgeois parties and thus to open an era of parliamentary politics where Social–Democracy forms only a party of opposition — to imagine this would mean to compromise the very idea of a labor government. It is impossible to imagine anything of the kind, not because it is “against principles”— such abstract reasoning is devoid of any substance — but because it is not real, it is the worst kind of Utopianism, it is the revolutionary Utopianism of Philistines.
Our distinction between a minimum and maximum program has a great and profound meaning only under bourgeois rule. The very fact of bourgeois rule eliminates from our minimum program all demands incompatible with private ownership of the means of production. Those demands form the substance of a Socialist revolution, and they presuppose a dictatorship of the proletariat. The moment, however, a revolutionary government is dominated by a Socialist majority, the distinction between minimum and maximum programs loses its meaning both as a question of principle and as a practical policy. Under no condition will a proletarian government be able to keep within the limits of this distinction.
Let us take the case of an eight hour workday. It is a well established fact that an eight hour workday does not contradict the capitalist order; it is, therefore, well within the limits of the Social–Democratic minimum program. Imagine, however, its realization in a revolutionary period, when all social passions are at the boiling point. An eight hour workday law would necessarily meet with stubborn and organized opposition on the part of the capitalists — let us say in the form of a lock-out and closing down of factories and plants. Hundreds of thousands of workingmen would be thrown into the streets. What ought the revolutionary government to do? A bourgeois government, however radical, would never allow matters to go as far as that. It would be powerless against the closing of factories and plants. It would be compelled to make concessions. The eight hour workday would not be put into operation; the revolts of the workingmen would be put down by force of arms. . . .
Under the political domination of the proletariat, the introduction of an eight hour workday must have totally different consequences. The closing down of factories and plants cannot be the reason for increasing labor hours by a government which represents not capital, but labor, and which refuses to act as an “impartial” mediator, the way bourgeois democracy does. A labor government would have only one way out — to expropriate the closed factories and plants and to organize their work on a public basis.
Or let us take another example. A proletarian government must necessarily take decisive steps to solve the problem of unemployment. Representatives of labor in a revolutionary government can by no means meet the demands of the unemployed by saying that this is a bourgeois revolution. Once, however, the state ventures to eliminate unemployment — no matter how — a tremendous gain in the economic power of the proletariat is accomplished. The capitalists whose pressure on the working class was based on the existence of a reserve army of labor, will soon realize that they are powerless economically. It will be the task of the government to doom them also to political oblivion.
Measures against unemployment mean also measures to secure means of subsistence for strikers. The government will have to undertake them, if it is anxious not to undermine the very foundation of its existence. Nothing will remain for the capitalists but to declare a lock-out, to close down factories and plants. Since capitalists can wait longer than labor in case of interrupted production, nothing will remain for a labor government but to meet a general lock-out by expropriating the factories and plants and by introducing in the biggest of them state or communal production.
In agriculture, similar problems will present themselves through the very fact of land-expropriation. We cannot imagine a proletarian government expropriating large private estates with agricultural production on a large scale, cutting them into pieces and selling them to small owners. For it the only open way is to organize in such estates coöperative production under communal or state management. This, however, is the way of Socialism.
Social–Democracy can never assume power under a double obligation: to put the entire minimum program into operation for the sake of the proletariat, and to keep strictly within the limits of this program, for the sake of the bourgeoisie. Such a double obligation could never be fulfilled. Participating in the government, not as powerless hostages, but as a leading force, the representatives of labor eo ipso break the line between the minimum and maximum program. Collectivism becomes the order of the day. At which point the proletariat will be stopped on its march in this direction, depends upon the constellation of forces, not upon the original purpose of the proletarian Party.
It is, therefore, absurd to speak of a specific character of proletarian dictatorship (or a dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry) within a bourgeois revolution, viz., a purely democratic dictatorship. The working class can never secure the democratic character of its dictatorship without overstepping the limits of its democratic program. Illusions to the contrary may become a handicap. They would compromise Social–Democracy from the start.
Once the proletariat assumes power, it will fight for it to the end. One of the means to secure and solidify its power will be propaganda and organization, particularly in the village; another means will be a policy of Collectivism. Collectivism is not only dictated by the very position of the Social–Democratic Party as the party in power, but it becomes imperative as a means to secure this position through the active support of the working class.
When our Socialist press first formulated the idea of a Permanent Revolution which should lead from the liquidation of absolutism and civic bondage to a Socialist order through a series of ever growing social conflicts, uprisings of ever new masses, unremitting attacks of the proletariat on the political and economic privileges of the governing classes, our “progressive” press started a unanimous indignant uproar. Oh, they had suffered enough, those gentlemen of the “progressive” press; this nuisance, however, was too much. Revolution, they said, is not a thing that can be made “legal!” Extraordinary measures are allowable only on extraordinary occasions. The aim of the revolutionary movement, they asserted, was not to make the revolution go on forever, but to bring it as soon as possible into the channels of law, etc., etc. The more radical representatives of the same democratic bourgeoisie do not attempt to oppose the revolution from the standpoint of completed constitutional “achievements”: tame as they are, they understand how hopeless it is to fight the proletariat revolution with the weapon of parliamentary cretinism in advance of the establishment of parliamentarism itself. They, therefore, choose another way. They forsake the standpoint of law, but take the standpoint of what they deem to be facts — the standpoint of historic “possibilities,” the standpoint of political “realism,”— even . . . even the standpoint of “Marxism.” It was Antonio, the pious Venetian bourgeois, who made the striking observation:
Mark you this, Bassanio,
The devil can cite scriptures for his purpose.
Those gentlemen not only consider the idea of labor government in Russia fantastic, but they repudiate the very probability of a Social revolution in Europe in the near historic epoch. The necessary “prerequisites” are not yet in existence, is their assertion.
Is it so? It is, of course, not our purpose to set a time for a Social revolution. What we attempt here is to put the Social revolution into a proper historic perspective.
Marxism turned Socialism into a science. This does not prevent some “Marxians” from turning Marxism into a Utopia.
[Trotzky then proceeds to find logical flaws in the arguments of N. Roshkov, a Russian Marxist, who had made the assertion that Russia was not yet ripe for Socialism, as her level of industrial technique and the class-consciousness of her working masses were not yet high enough to make Socialist production and distribution possible. Then he goes back to what he calls “prerequisites to Socialism,” which in his opinion are: (1) development of industrial technique; (2) concentration of production; (3) social consciousness of the masses. In order that Socialism become possible, he says, it is not necessary that each of these prerequisites be developed to its logically conceivable limit.]
All those processes (development of technique, concentration of production, growth of mass-consciousness) go on simultaneously, and not only do they help and stimulate each other, but they also hamper and limit each other’s development. Each of the processes of a higher order presupposes the development of another process of a lower order, yet the full development of any of them is incompatible with the full development of the others.
The logical limit of technical development is undoubtedly a perfect automatic mechanism which takes in raw materials from natural resources and lays them down at the feet of men as ready objects of consumption. Were not capitalism limited by relations between classes and by the consequences of those relations, the class struggle, one would be warranted in his assumption that industrial technique, having approached the ideal of one great automatic mechanism within the limits of capitalistic economy, eo ipso dismisses capitalism.
The concentration of production which is an outgrowth of economic competition has an inherent tendency to throw the entire population into the working class. Taking this tendency apart from all the others, one would be warranted in his assumption that capitalism would ultimately turn the majority of the people into a reserve army of paupers, lodged in prisons. This process, however, is being checked by revolutionary changes which are inevitable under a certain relationship between social forces. It will be checked long before it has reached its logical limit.
And the same thing is true in relation to social mass-consciousness. This consciousness undoubtedly grows with the experiences of every day struggle and through the conscious efforts of Socialist parties. Isolating this process from all others, we can imagine it reaching a stage where the overwhelming majority of the people are encompassed by professional and political organizations, united in a feeling of solidarity and in identity of purpose. Were this process allowed to grow quantitatively without changing in quality, Socialism might be established peacefully, through a unanimous compact of the citizens of the twenty-first or twenty-second Century. The historic prerequisites to Socialism, however, do not develop in isolation from each other; they limit each other; reaching a certain stage, which is determined by many circumstances, but which is very far from their mathematical limits, they undergo a qualitative change, and in their complex combination they produce what we call a Social revolution.
Let us take the last mentioned process, the growth of social mass-consciousness. This growth takes place not in academies, but in the very life of modern capitalistic society, on the basis of incessant class struggle. The growth of proletarian class consciousness makes class struggles undergo a transformation; it deepens them; it puts a foundation of principle under them, thus provoking a corresponding reaction on the part of the governing classes. The struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie has its own logic; it must become more and more acute and bring things to a climax long before the time when concentration of production has become predominant in economic life. It is evident, further, that the growth of the political consciousness of the proletariat is closely related with its numerical strength; proletarian dictatorship presupposes great numbers of workingmen, strong enough to overcome the resistance of the bourgeois counter-revolution. This, however, does not imply that the overwhelming majority of the people must consist of proletarians, or that the overwhelming majority of proletarians must consist of convinced Socialists. Of course, the fighting revolutionary army of the proletariat must by all means be stronger than the fighting counter-revolutionary army of capital; yet between those two camps there may be a great number of doubtful or indifferent elements who are not actively helping the revolution, but are rather inclined to desire its ultimate victory. The proletarian policy must take all this into account.
This is possible only where there is a hegemony of industry over agriculture, and a hegemony of the city over the village.
Let us review the prerequisites to Socialism in the order of their diminishing generality and increasing complexity.
1. Socialism is not only a problem of equal distribution, but also a problem of well organized production. Socialistic, i.e., coöperative production on a large scale is possible only where economic progress has gone so far as to make a large undertaking more productive than a small one. The greater the advantages of a large undertaking over a small one, i.e., the higher the industrial technique, the greater must be the economic advantages of socialized production, the higher, consequently, must be the cultural level of the people to enable them to enjoy equal distribution based on well organized production.
This first prerequisite of Socialism has been in existence for many years. Ever since division of labor has been established in manufactories; ever since manufactories have been superseded by factories employing a system of machines — large undertakings become more and more profitable, and consequently their socialization would make the people more prosperous. There would have been no gain in making all the artisans’ shops common property of the artisans; whereas the seizure of a manufactory by its workers, or the seizure of a factory by its hired employees, or the seizure of all means of modern production by the people must necessarily improve their economic conditions — the more so, the further the process of economic concentration has advanced.
At present, social division of labor on one hand, machine production on the other have reached a stage where the only coöperative organization that can make adequate use of the advantages of collectivist economy, is the State. It is hardly conceivable that Socialist production would content itself with the area of the state. Economic and political motives would necessarily impel it to overstep the boundaries of individual states.
The world has been in possession of technical equipment for collective production — in one or another form — for the last hundred or two hundred years. Technically, Socialism is profitable not only on a national, but also to a large extent on an international scale. Why then have all attempts at organizing Socialist communities failed? Why has concentration of production manifested its advantages all through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries not in Socialistic, but in capitalistic forms? The reason is that there was no social force ready and able to introduce Socialism.
2. Here we pass from the prerequisite of industrial technique to the socio-economic prerequisite, which is less general, but more complex. Were our society not an antagonistic society composed of classes, but a homogeneous partnership of men consciously selecting the best economic system, a mere calculation as to the advantages of Socialism would suffice to make people start Socialistic reconstruction. Our society, however, harbors in itself opposing interests. What is good for one class, is bad for another. Class selfishness clashes against class selfishness; class selfishness impairs the interests of the whole. To make Socialism possible, a social power has to arise in the midst of the antagonistic classes of capitalist society, a power objectively placed in a position to be interested in the establishment of Socialism, at the same time strong enough to overcome all opposing interests and hostile resistance. It is one of the principal merits of scientific Socialism to have discovered such a social power in the person of the proletariat, and to have shown that this class, growing with the growth of capitalism, can find its salvation only in Socialism; that it is being moved towards Socialism by its very position, and that the doctrine of Socialism in the presence of a capitalist society must necessarily become the ideology of the proletariat.
How far, then, must the social differentiation have gone to warrant the assertion that the second prerequisite is an accomplished fact? In other words, what must be the numerical strength of the proletariat? Must it be one-half, two-thirds, or nine-tenths of the people? It is utterly futile to try and formulate this second prerequisite of Socialism arithmetically. An attempt to express the strength of the proletariat in mere numbers, besides being schematic, would imply a series of difficulties. Whom should we consider a proletarian? Is the half-paupered peasant a proletarian? Should we count with the proletariat those hosts of the city reserve who, on one hand, fall into the ranks of the parasitic proletariat of beggars and thieves, and, on the other hand, fill the streets in the capacity of peddlers, i.e., of parasites on the economic body as a whole? It is not easy to answer these questions.
The importance of the proletariat is based not only on its numbers, but primarily on its rôle in industry. The political supremacy of the bourgeoisie is founded on economic power. Before it manages to take over the authority of the state, it concentrates in its hands the national means of production; hence its specific weight. The proletariat will possess no means of production of its own before the Social revolution. Its social power depends upon the circumstance that the means of production in possession of the bourgeoisie can be put into motion only by the hands of the proletariat. From the bourgeois viewpoint, the proletariat is also one of the means of production, forming, in combination with the others, a unified mechanism. Yet the proletariat is the only non-automatic part of this mechanism, and can never be made automatic, notwithstanding all efforts. This puts the proletariat into a position to be able to stop the functioning of the national economic body, partially or wholly — through the medium of partial or general strikes.
Hence it is evident that, the numerical strength of the proletariat being equal, its importance is proportional to the mass of the means of production it puts into motion: the proletarian of a big industrial concern represents — other conditions being equal — a greater social unit than an artisan’s employee; a city workingman represents a greater unit than a proletarian of the village. In other words, the political rôle of the proletariat is greater in proportion as large industries predominate over small industries, industry predominates over agriculture, and the city over the village.
At a period in the history of Germany or England when the proletariats of those countries formed the same percentage to the total population as the proletariat in present day Russia, they did not possess the same social weight as the Russian proletariat of to-day. They could not possess it, because their objective importance in economic life was comparatively smaller. The social weight of the cities represents the same phenomenon. At a time when the city population of Germany formed only 15 per cent. of the total nation, as is the case in present-day Russia, the German cities were far from equaling our cities in economic and political importance. The concentration of big industries and commercial enterprises in the cities, and the establishment of closer relations between city and country through a system of railways, has given the modern cities an importance far exceeding the mere volume of their population. Moreover, the growth of their importance runs ahead of the growth of their population, and the growth of the latter runs ahead of the natural increase of the entire population of the country. In 1848, the number of artisans, masters and their employees, in Italy was 15 per cent. of the population, the same as the percentage of the proletariat, including artisans, in Russia of to-day. Their importance, however, was far less than that of the Russian industrial proletariat.
The question is not, how strong the proletariat is numerically, but what is its position in the general economy of a country.
[The author then quotes figures showing the numbers of wage-earners and industrial proletarians in Germany, Belgium and England: in Germany, in 1895, 12.5 millions proletarians; in Belgium 1.8 millions, or 60 per cent. of all the persons who make a living independently; in England 12.5 millions.]
In the leading European countries, city population numerically predominates over the rural population. Infinitely greater is its predominance through the aggregate of means of production represented by it, and through the qualities of its human material. The city attracts the most energetic, able and intelligent elements of the country.
Thus we arrive at the conclusion that economic evolution — the growth of industry, the growth of large enterprises, the growth of cities, the growth of the proletariat, especially the growth of the industrial proletariat — have already prepared the arena not only for the struggle of the proletariat for political power, but also for the conquest of that power.
3. Here we approach the third prerequisite to Socialism, the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Politics is the plane where objective prerequisites intersect with subjective. On the basis of certain technical and socio-economic conditions, a class puts before itself a definite task — to seize power. In pursuing this task, it unites its forces, it gauges the forces of the enemy, it weighs the circumstances. Yet, not even here is the proletariat absolutely free: besides subjective moments, such as understanding, readiness, initiative which have a logic of their own, there are a number of objective moments interfering with the policies of the proletariat, such are the policies of the governing classes, state institutions (the army, the class-school, the state-church), international relations, etc.
Let us first turn our attention to the subjective moment; let us ask, Is the proletariat ready for a Socialist change? It is not enough that development of technique should make Socialist economy profitable from the viewpoint of the productivity of national labor; it is not enough that social differentiation, based on technical progress, should create the proletariat, as a class objectively interested in Socialism. It is of prime importance that this class should understand its objective interests. It is necessary that this class should see in Socialism the only way of its emancipation. It is necessary that it should unite into an army powerful enough to seize governmental power in open combat.
It would be a folly to deny the necessity for the preparation of the proletariat. Only the old Blanquists could stake their hopes in the salutary initiative of an organization of conspirators formed independently of the masses. Only their antipodes, the anarchists, could build their system on a spontaneous elemental outburst of the masses whose results nobody can foresee. When Social–Democracy speaks of seizing power, it thinks of a deliberate action of a revolutionary class.
There are Socialists-ideologists (ideologists in the wrong sense of the word, those who turn all things upside down) who speak of preparing the proletariat for Socialism as a problem of moral regeneration. The proletariat, they say, and even “humanity” in general, must first free itself from its old selfish nature; altruistic motives must first become predominant in social life. As we are still very far from this ideal, they contend, and as human nature changes very slowly, Socialism appears to be a problem of remote centuries. This view seems to be very realistic, evolutionistic, etc. It is in reality a conglomeration of hackneyed moralistic considerations.
Those “ideologists” imagine that a Socialist psychology can be acquired before the establishment of Socialism; that in a world ruled by capitalism the masses can be imbued with a Socialist psychology. Socialist psychology as here conceived should not be identified with Socialist aspirations. The former presupposes the absence of selfish motives in economic relations, while the latter are an outcome of the class psychology of the proletariat. Class psychology, and Socialist psychology in a society not split into classes, may have many common features, yet they differ widely.
Coöperation in the struggle of the proletariat against exploitation has developed in the soul of the workingmen beautiful sprouts of idealism, brotherly solidarity, a spirit of self-sacrifice. Yet those sprouts cannot grow and blossom freely within capitalist society: individual struggle for existence, the yawning abyss of poverty, differentiations among the workingmen themselves, the corrupting influence of the bourgeois parties — all this interferes with the growth of idealism among the masses.
However, it is a fact that, while remaining selfish as any of the lower middle class, while not exceeding the average representative of the bourgeois classes by the “human” value of his personality, the average workingman learns in the school of life’s experience that his most primitive desires and most natural wants can be satisfied only on the debris of the capitalist order.
If Socialism should attempt to create a new human nature within the limits of the old world, it would be only a new edition of the old moralistic Utopias. The task of Socialism is not to create a Socialist psychology as a prerequisite to Socialism, but to create Socialist conditions of human life as a prerequisite to a Socialist psychology.
The objective prerequisites of a Social revolution, as we have shown above, have been already created by the economic progress of advanced capitalist countries. But how about Russia? Is it possible to think that the seizure of power by the Russian proletariat would be the beginning of a Socialist reconstruction of our national economy?
A year ago we thus answered this question in an article which was mercilessly bombarded by the organs of both our factions. We wrote:
“The workingmen of Paris, says Marx, had not expected miracles from the Commune. We cannot expect miracles from a proletarian dictatorship now. Governmental power is not almighty. It is folly to think that once the proletariat has seized power, it would abolish capitalism and introduce socialism by a number of decrees. The economic system is not a product of state activity. What the proletariat will be able to do is to shorten economic evolution towards Collectivism through a series of energetic state measures.
“The starting point will be the reforms enumerated in our so-called minimum program. The very situation of the proletariat, however, will compel it to move along the way of collectivist practice.
“It will be comparatively easy to introduce the eight hour workday and progressive taxation, though even here the center of gravity is not the issuance of a ‘decree,’ but the organization of its practical application. It will be difficult, however — and here we pass to Collectivism — to organize production under state management in such factories and plants as would be closed down by their owners in protest against the new law.
“It will be comparatively simple to issue a law abolishing the right of inheritance, and to put it into operation. Inheritances in the form of money capital will not embarrass the proletariat and not interfere with its economy. To be, however, the inheritor of capital invested in land and industry, would mean for a labor government to organize economic life on a public basis.
“The same phenomenon, on a vastly larger scale, is represented by the question of expropriation (of land), with or without compensation. Expropriation with compensation has political advantages, but it is financially difficult; expropriation without compensation has financial advantages, but it is difficult politically. Greater than all the other difficulties, however, will be those of an economic nature, the difficulties of organization.
“To repeat: a labor government does not mean a government of miracles.
“Public management will begin in those branches where the difficulties are smallest. Publicly managed enterprises will originally represent kind of oases linked with private enterprises by the laws of exchange of commodities. The wider the field of publicly managed economy will grow, the more flagrant its advantages will become, the firmer will become the position of the new political régime, and the more determined will be the further economic measures of the proletariat. Its measures it will base not only on the national productive forces, but also on international technique, in the same way as it bases its revolutionary policies not only on the experience of national class relations but also on the entire historic experience of the international proletariat.”
Political supremacy of the proletariat is incompatible with its economic slavery. Whatever may be the banner under which the proletariat will find itself in possession of power, it will be compelled to enter the road of Socialism. It is the greatest Utopia to think that the proletariat, brought to the top by the mechanics of a bourgeois revolution, would be able, even if it wanted, to limit its mission by creating a republican democratic environment for the social supremacy of the bourgeoisie. Political dominance of the proletariat, even if it were temporary, would extremely weaken the resistance of capital which is always in need of state aid, and would give momentous opportunities to the economic struggle of the proletariat.
A proletarian régime will immediately take up the agrarian question with which the fate of vast millions of the Russian people is connected. In solving this, as many another question, the proletariat will have in mind the main tendency of its economic policy: to get hold of a widest possible field for the organization of a Socialist economy. The forms and the tempo of this policy in the agrarian question will be determined both by the material resources that the proletariat will be able to get hold of, and by the necessity to coördinate its actions so as not to drive possible allies into the ranks of the counter-revolution.
It is evident that the agrarian question, i.e., the question of rural economy and its social relations, is not covered by the land question which is the question of the forms of land ownership. It is perfectly clear, however, that the solution of the land question, even if it does not determine the future of the agrarian evolution, would undoubtedly determine the future agrarian policy of the proletariat. In other words, the use the proletariat will make of the land must be in accord with its general attitude towards the course and requirements of the agrarian evolution. The land question will, therefore, be one of the first to interest the labor government.
One of the solutions, made popular by the Socialist–Revolutionists, is the socialization of the land. Freed from its European make-up, it means simply “equal distribution” of land. This program demands an expropriation of all the land, whether it is in possession of landlords, of peasants on the basis of private property, or it is owned by village communities. It is evident that such expropriation, being one of the first measures of the new government and being started at a time when capitalist exchange is still in full swing, would lead the peasants to believe that they are “victims of the reform.” One must not forget that the peasants have for decades made redemption payments in order to turn their land into private property; many prosperous peasants have made great sacrifices to secure a large portion of land as their private possession. Should all this land become state property, the most bitter resistance would be offered by the members of the communities and by private owners. Starting out with a reform of this kind, the government would make itself most unpopular among the peasants.
And why should one confiscate the land of the communities and the land of small private owners? According to the Socialist–Revolutionary program, the only use to be made of the land by the state is to turn it over to all the peasants and agricultural laborers on the basis of equal distribution. This would mean that the confiscated land of the communities and small owners would anyway return to individuals for private cultivation. Consequently, there would be no economic gain in such a confiscation and redistribution. Politically, it would be a great blunder on the part of the labor government as it would make the masses of peasants hostile to the proletarian leadership of the revolution.
Closely connected with this program is the question of hired agricultural labor. Equal distribution presupposes the prohibition of using hired labor on farms. This, however, can be only a consequence of economic reforms, it cannot be decreed by a law. It is not enough to forbid an agricultural capitalist to hire laborers; one must first secure agricultural laborers a fair existence; furthermore, this existence must be profitable from the viewpoint of social economy. To declare equal distribution of land and to forbid hired labor, would mean to compel agricultural proletarians to settle on small lots, and to put the state under obligation to provide them with implements for their socially unprofitable production.
It is clear that the intervention of the proletariat in the organization of agriculture ought to express itself not in settling individual laborers on individual lots, but in organizing state or communal management of large estates. Later, when socialized production will have established itself firmly, a further step will be made towards socialization by forbidding hired labor. This will eliminate small capitalistic enterprises in agriculture; it will, however, leave unmolested those private owners who work their land wholly or to a great extent by the labor of their families. To expropriate such owners can by no means be a desire of the Socialistic proletariat.
The proletariat can never indorse a program of “equal distribution” which on one hand demands a useless, purely formal expropriation of small owners, and on the other hand it demands a very real parceling of large estates into small lots. This would be a wasteful undertaking, a pursuance of a reactionary and Utopian plan, and a political harm for the revolutionary party.
How far, however, can the Socialist policy of the working class advance in the economic environment of Russia? One thing we can say with perfect assurance: it will meet political obstacles long before it will be checked by the technical backwardness of the country. Without direct political aid from the European proletariat the working class of Russia will not be able to retain its power and to turn its temporary supremacy into a permanent Socialist dictatorship. We cannot doubt this for a moment. On the other hand, there is no doubt that a Socialist revolution in the West would allow us to turn the temporary supremacy of the working class directly into a Socialist dictatorship.
In June, 1905, we wrote:
“More than half a century passed since 1848. Half a century of unprecedented victories of capitalism all over the world. Half a century of “organic” mutual adaptation of the forces of the bourgeois and the forces of feudal reaction. Half a century in which the bourgeoisie has manifested its mad appetite for power and its readiness to fight for it madly!
“As a self-taught mechanic, in his search for perpetual motion, meets ever new obstacles and piles mechanism over mechanism to overcome them, so the bourgeoisie has changed and reconstructed the apparatus of its supremacy avoiding ‘supra-legal’ conflicts with hostile powers. And as the self-taught mechanic finally clashes against the ultimate insurmountable obstacle — the law of conservation of energy — so the bourgeoisie had to clash against the ultimate implacable barrier — class antagonism, fraught with inevitable conflict.
“Capitalism, forcing its economic system and social relations on each and every country, has turned the entire world into one economic and political organism. As the effect of the modern credit system, with the invisible bonds it draws between thousands of enterprises, with the amazing mobility it lends to capital, has been to eliminate local and partial crises, but to give unusual momentum to general economic convulsions, so the entire economic and political work of capitalism, with its world commerce, with its system of monstrous foreign debts, with its political groupings of states, which have drawn all reactionary forces into one world-wide co-partnership, has prevented local political crises, but it has prepared a basis for a social crisis of unheard of magnitude. Driving unhealthy processes inside, evading difficulties, staving off the deep problems of national and international politics, glossing over all contradictions, the bourgeoisie has postponed the climax, yet it has prepared a radical world-wide liquidation of its power. It has clung to all reactionary forces no matter what their origin. It has made the Sultan not the last of its friends. It has not tied itself on the Chinese ruler only because he had no power: it was more profitable to rob his possessions than to keep him in the office of a world gendarme and to pay him from the treasury of the bourgeoisie. Thus the bourgeoisie made the stability of its political system wholly dependent upon the stability of the pre-capitalistic pillars of reaction.
“This gives events an international character and opens a magnificent perspective; political emancipation, headed by the working class of Russia, will elevate its leader to a height unparalleled in history, it will give Russian proletariat colossal power and make it the initiator of world-wide liquidation of capitalism, to which the objective prerequisites have been created by history.”
It is futile to guess how the Russian revolution will find its way to old capitalistic Europe. This way may be a total surprise. To illustrate our thought rather than to predict events, we shall mention Poland as the possible connecting link between the revolutionary East and the revolutionary West.
[The author pictures the consequences of a revolution in Poland. A revolution in Poland would necessarily follow the victory of the revolution in Russia. This, however, would throw revolutionary sparks into the Polish provinces of Germany and Austria. A revolution in Posen and Galicia would move the Hohenzollerns and Hapsburgs to invade Poland. This would be a sign for the proletariat of Germany to get into a sharp conflict with their governments. A revolution becomes inevitable.]
A revolutionary Poland, however, is not the only possible starting point for a European revolution. The system of armed peace which became predominant in Europe after the Franco–Prussian war, was based on a system of European equilibrium. This equilibrium took for granted not only the integrity of Turkey, the dismemberment of Poland, the preservation of Austria, that ethnographic harlequin’s robe, but also the existence of Russian despotism in the rôle of a gendarme of the European reaction, armed to his teeth. The Russo–Japanese war has given a mortal blow to this artificial system in which absolutism was the dominant figure. For an indefinite period Russia is out of the race as a first-class power. The equilibrium has been destroyed. On the other hand, the successes of Japan have incensed the conquest instincts of the capitalistic bourgeoisie, especially the Stock Exchange, which plays a colossal rôle in modern politics. The possibilities of a war on European territory have grown enormously. Conflicts are ripening here and there; so far they have been settled in a diplomatic way, but nothing can guarantee the near future. A European war, however, means a European revolution.
Even without the pressure of such events as war or bankruptcy, a revolution may take place in the near future in one of the European countries as a result of acute class struggles. We shall not make computations as to which country would be first to take the path of revolution; it is obvious, however, that class antagonisms have for the last years reached a high degree of intensity in all the European countries.
The influence of the Russian revolution on the proletariat of Europe is immense. Not only does it destroy the Petersburg absolutism, that main power of European reaction; it also imbues the minds and the souls of the European proletariat with revolutionary daring.
It is the purpose of every Socialist party to revolutionize the minds of the working class in the same way as development of capitalism has revolutionized social relations. The work of propaganda and organization among the proletariat, however, has its own intrinsic inertia. The Socialist parties of Europe — in the first place the most powerful of them, the German Socialist party — have developed a conservatism of their own, which grows in proportion as Socialism embraces ever larger masses and organization and discipline increase. Social–Democracy, personifying the political experience of the proletariat, can, therefore, at a certain juncture, become an immediate obstacle on the way of an open proletarian conflict with the bourgeois reaction. In other words, the propaganda-conservatism of a proletarian party can, at a certain moment, impede the direct struggle of the proletariat for power. The colossal influence of the Russian revolution manifests itself in killing party routine, in destroying Socialist conservatism, in making a clean contest of proletarian forces against capitalist reaction a question of the day. The struggle for universal suffrage in Austria, Saxony and Prussia has become more determined under the direct influence of the October strike in Russia. An Eastern revolution imbues the Western proletariat with revolutionary idealism and stimulates its desire to speak “Russian” to its foes.
The Russian proletariat in power, even if this were only the result of a passing combination of forces in the Russian bourgeois revolution, would meet organized opposition on the part of the world’s reaction, and readiness for organized support on the part of the world’s proletariat. Left to its own resources, the Russian working class must necessarily be crushed the moment it loses the aid of the peasants. Nothing remains for it but to link the fate of its political supremacy and the fate of the Russian revolution with the fate of a Socialist revolution in Europe. All that momentous authority and political power which is given to the proletariat by a combination of forces in the Russian bourgeois revolution, it will thrust on the scale of class struggle in the entire capitalistic world. Equipped with governmental power, having a counter-revolution behind his back, having the European reaction in front of him, the Russian workingman will issue to all his brothers the world over his old battle-cry which will now become the call for the last attack: Proletarians of all the world, unite!
The first Council of Workmen’s Deputies was formed in Petersburg, on October 13th, 1905, in the course of the great general October strike that compelled Nicholas Romanoff to promise a Constitution. It represented individual factories, labor unions, and included also delegates from the Socialist parties. It looked upon itself as the center of the revolution and a nucleus of a revolutionary labor government. Similar Councils sprung up in many other industrial centers. It was arrested on December 3d, having existed for fifty days. Its members were tried and sent to Siberia.
Intelligentzia is a term applied in Russia to an indefinite, heterogeneous group of “intellectuals,” who are not actively and directly involved in the industrial machinery of capitalism, and at the same time are not members of the working class. It is customary to count among the Intelligentzia students, teachers, writers, lawyers, physicians, college professors, etc. However, the term Intelligentzia implies also a certain degree of idealism and radical aspirations.
Witte was the first prime-minister under the quasi-constitution granted on October 17th, 1905. Stolypin was appointed prime minister after the dissolution of the first Duma in July, 1906.
Under the minimum program the Social–Democrats understand all that range of reforms which can be obtained under the existing capitalist system of “private ownership of the means of production,” such as an eight hour workday, social insurance, universal suffrage, a republican order. The maximum program demands the abolition of private property and public management of industries, i.e., Socialism.
“Some prejudices among the masses” referred to in this essay is the alleged love of the primitive masses for their Tzar. This was an argument usually put forth by the liberals against republican aspirations.
Lower–Middle-Class is the only term half-way covering the Russian “Mieshchanstvo” used by Trotzky. “Mieshchanstvo” has a socio-economic meaning, and a flavor of moral disapproval. Socially and economically it means those numerous inhabitants of modern cities who are engaged in independent economic pursuits, as artisans (masters), shopkeepers, small manufacturers, petty merchants, etc., who have not capital enough to rank with the bourgeoisie. Morally “Mieshchanstvo” presupposes a limited horizon, lack of definite revolutionary or political ideas, and lack of political courage.
The Village community is a remnant of old times in Russia. Up to 1906 the members of the village were not allowed to divide the land of the community among the individual peasants on the basis of private property. The land legally belonged to the entire community which allotted it to its members. Since 1906 the compulsory character of communal land-ownership was abandoned, yet in very great areas of Russia it still remained the prevailing system of land-ownership.
Besides having a share in the community-land, the individual peasant could acquire a piece of land out of his private means (the seller being usually the landlord) and thus become a small private owner.
About two years after the arrest of the Soviet of 1905, a number of former leaders of that organization, among them Chrustalyov Nossar, the first chairman, and Trotzky, the second chairman, met abroad after having escaped from Siberian exile. They decided to sum up their Soviet experiences in a book which they called The History of the Council of Workingmen’s Deputies. The book appeared in 1908 in Petersburg, and was immediately suppressed. One of the essays of this book is here reprinted.
In his estimation of the rôle of the Soviet Trotzky undoubtedly exaggerates. Only by a flight of imagination can one see in the activities of the Soviet regarding the postal, telegraph and railroad strikers the beginnings of a Soviet control over post-office, telegraph and railroads. It is also a serious question whether the Soviet was really a leading body, or whether it was led by the current of revolutionary events which it was unable to control. What makes this essay interesting and significant is Trotzky’s assertion that “the first new wave of the revolution will lead to the creation of Soviets all over the country.” This has actually happened. His predictions of the formation of an all-Russian Soviet, and of the program the Soviets would follow, have also been realized in the course of the present revolution.
The history of the Soviet is a history of fifty days. The Soviet was constituted on October 13th; its session was interrupted by a military detachment of the government on December 3rd. Between those two dates the Soviet lived and struggled.
What was the substance of this institution? What enabled it in this short period to take an honorable place in the history of the Russian proletariat, in the history of the Russian Revolution?
The Soviet organized the masses, conducted political strikes, led political demonstrations, tried to arm the workingmen. But other revolutionary organizations did the same things. The substance of the Soviet was its effort to become an organ of public authority. The proletariat on one hand, the reactionary press on the other, have called the Soviet “a labor government”; this only reflects the fact that the Soviet was in reality an embryo of a revolutionary government. In so far as the Soviet was in actual possession of authoritative power, it made use of it; in so far as the power was in the hands of the military and bureaucratic monarchy, the Soviet fought to obtain it. Prior to the Soviet, there had been revolutionary organizations among the industrial workingmen, mostly of a Social–Democratic nature. But those were organizations among the proletariat; their immediate aim was to influence the masses. The Soviet is an organization of the proletariat; its aim is to fight for revolutionary power.
At the same time, the Soviet was an organized expression of the will of the proletariat as a class. In its fight for power the Soviet applied such methods as were naturally determined by the character of the proletariat as a class: its part in production; its numerical strength; its social homogeneity. In its fight for power the Soviet has combined the direction of all the social activities of the working class, including decisions as to conflicts between individual representatives of capital and labor. This combination was by no means an artificial tactical attempt: it was a natural consequence of the situation of a class which, consciously developing and broadening its fight for its immediate interests, had been compelled by the logic of events to assume a leading position in the revolutionary struggle for power.
The main weapon of the Soviet was a political strike of the masses. The power of the strike lies in disorganizing the power of the government. The greater the “anarchy” created by a strike, the nearer its victory. This is true only where “anarchy” is not being created by anarchic actions. The class that puts into motion, day in and day out, the industrial apparatus and the governmental apparatus; the class that is able, by a sudden stoppage of work, to paralyze both industry and government, must be organized enough not to fall the first victim of the very “anarchy” it has created. The more effective the disorganization of government caused by a strike, the more the strike organization is compelled to assume governmental functions.
The Council of Workmen’s Delegates introduces a free press. It organizes street patrols to secure the safety of the citizens. It takes over, to a greater or less extent, the post office, the telegraph, and the railroads. It makes an effort to introduce the eight hour workday. Paralyzing the autocratic government by a strike, it brings its own democratic order into the life of the working city population.
After January 9th the revolution had shown its power over the minds of the working masses. On June 14th, through the revolt of the Potyomkin Tavritchesky it had shown that it was able to become a material force. In the October strike it had shown that it could disorganize the enemy, paralyze his will and utterly humiliate him. By organizing Councils of Workmen’s Deputies all over the country, it showed that it was able to create authoritative power. Revolutionary authority can be based only on active revolutionary force. Whatever our view on the further development of the Russian revolution, it is a fact that so far no social class besides the proletariat has manifested readiness to uphold a revolutionary authoritative power. The first act of the revolution was an encounter in the streets of the proletariat with the monarchy; the first serious victory of the revolution was achieved through the class-weapon of the proletariat, the political strike; the first nucleus of a revolutionary government was a proletarian representation. The Soviet is the first democratic power in modern Russian history. The Soviet is the organized power of the masses themselves over their component parts. This is a true, unadulterated democracy, without a two-chamber system, without a professional bureaucracy, with the right of the voters to recall their deputy any moment and to substitute another for him. Through its members, through deputies elected by the workingmen, the Soviet directs all the social activities of the proletariat as a whole and of its various parts; it outlines the steps to be taken by the proletariat, it gives them a slogan and a banner. This art of directing the activities of the masses on the basis of organized self-government, is here applied for the first time on Russian soil. Absolutism ruled the masses, but it did not direct them. It put mechanical barriers against the living creative forces of the masses, and within those barriers it kept the restless elements of the nation in an iron bond of oppression. The only mass absolutism ever directed was the army. But that was not directing, it was merely commanding. In recent years, even the directing of this atomized and hypnotized military mass has been slipping out of the hands of absolutism. Liberalism never had power enough to command the masses, or initiative enough to direct them. Its attitude towards mass-movements, even if they helped liberalism directly, was the same as towards awe-inspiring natural phenomena — earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. The proletariat appeared on the battlefield of the revolution as a self-reliant aggregate, totally independent from bourgeois liberalism.
The Soviet was a class-organization, this was the source of its fighting power. It was crushed in the first period of its existence not by lack of confidence on the part of the masses in the cities, but by the limitations of a purely urban revolution, by the relatively passive attitude of the village, by the backwardness of the peasant element of the army. The Soviet’s position among the city population was as strong as could be.
The Soviet was not an official representative of the entire half million of the working population in the capital; its organization embraced about two hundred thousand, chiefly industrial workers; and though its direct and indirect political influence was of a much wider range, there were thousands and thousands of proletarians (in the building trade, among domestic servants, day laborers, drivers) who were hardly, if at all, influenced by the Soviet. There is no doubt, however, that the Soviet represented the interests of all these proletarian masses. There were but few adherents of the Black Hundred in the factories, and their number dwindled hour by hour. The proletarian masses of Petersburg were solidly behind the Soviet. Among the numerous intellectuals of Petersburg the Soviet had more friends than enemies. Thousands of students recognized the political leadership of the Soviet and ardently supported it in its decisions. Professional Petersburg was entirely on the side of the Soviet. The support by the Soviet of the postal and telegraph strike won it the sympathy of the lower governmental officials. All the oppressed, all the unfortunate, all honest elements of the city, all those who were striving towards a better life, were instinctively or consciously on the side of the Soviet. The Soviet was actually or potentially a representative of an overwhelming majority of the population. Its enemies in the capital would not have been dangerous had they not been protected by absolutism, which based its power on the most backward elements of an army recruited from peasants. The weakness of the Soviet was not its own weakness, it was the weakness of a purely urban revolution.
The fifty day period was the period of the greatest power of the revolution. The Soviet was its organ in the fight for public authority. The class character of the Soviet was determined by the class differentiation of the city population and by the political antagonism between the proletariat and the capitalistic bourgeoisie. This antagonism manifested itself even in the historically limited field of a struggle against absolutism. After the October strike, the capitalistic bourgeoisie consciously blocked the progress of the revolution, the petty middle class turned out to be a nonentity, incapable of playing an independent rôle. The real leader of the urban revolution was the proletariat. Its class-organization was the organ of the revolution in its struggle for power.
The struggle for power, for public authority — this is the central aim of the revolution. The fifty days of the Soviet’s life and its bloody finale have shown that urban Russia is too narrow a basis for such a struggle, and that even within the limits of the urban revolution, a local organization cannot be the central leading body. For a national task the proletariat required an organization on a national scale. The Petersburg Soviet was a local organization, yet the need of a central organization was so great that it had to assume leadership on a national scale. It did what it could, still it remained primarily the Petersburg Council of Workmen’s Deputies. The urgency of an all-Russian labor congress which undoubtedly would have had authority to form a central leading organ, was emphasized even at the time of the first Soviet. The December collapse made its realization impossible. The idea remained, an inheritance of the Fifty Days.
The idea of a Soviet has become ingrained in the consciousness of the workingmen as the first prerequisite to revolutionary action of the masses. Experience has shown that a Soviet is not possible or desirable under all circumstances. The objective meaning of the Soviet organization is to create conditions for disorganizing the government, for “anarchy,” in other words for a revolutionary conflict. The present lull in the revolutionary movement, the mad triumph of reaction, make the existence of an open, elective, authoritative organization of the masses impossible. There is no doubt, however, that the first new wave of the revolution will lead to the creation of Soviets all over the country. An All–Russian Soviet, organized by an All–Russian Labor Congress, will assume leadership of the local elective organizations of the proletariat. Names, of course, are of no importance; so are details of organization; the main thing is: a centralized democratic leadership in the struggle of the proletariat for a popular government. History does not repeat itself, and the new Soviet will not have again to go through the experience of the Fifty Days. These, however, will furnish it a complete program of action.
This program is perfectly clear.
To establish revolutionary coöperation with the army, the peasantry, and the plebeian lower strata of the urban bourgeoisie. To abolish absolutism. To destroy the material organization of absolutism by reconstructing and partly dismissing the army. To break up the entire bureaucratic apparatus. To introduce an eight hour workday. To arm the population, starting with the proletariat. To turn the Soviets into organs of revolutionary self-government in the cities. To create Councils of Peasants’ Delegates (Peasants’ Committees) as local organs of the agrarian revolution. To organize elections to the Constituent Assembly and to conduct a preëlection campaign for a definite program on the part of the representatives of the people.
It is easier to formulate such a program than to carry it through. If, however, the revolution will ever win, the proletariat cannot choose another. The proletariat will unfold revolutionary accomplishment such as the world has never seen. The history of Fifty Days will be only a poor page in the great book of the proletariat’s struggle and ultimate triumph.
Trotzky was never personal. The emotional side of life seldom appears in his writings. His is the realm of social activities, social and political struggles. His writings breathe logic, not sentiment, facts, not poetry. The following preface to his Round Trip is, perhaps, the only exception. It speaks of the man Trotzky and his beliefs. Note his confession of faith: “History is a tremendous mechanism serving our ideals.” . . .
At the Stockholm Convention of the Social–Democratic Party, some curious statistical data was circulated, showing the conditions under which the party of the proletariat was working:
The Convention as a whole, in the person of its 140 members, had spent in prison one hundred and thirty-eight years and three and a half months.
The Convention had been in exile one hundred and forty-eight years and six and a half months.
Escaped from prison: Once, eighteen members of the Convention; twice, four members.
Escaped from exile: Once, twenty-three; twice, five; three times, one member.
The length of time the Convention as a whole had been active in Social–Democratic work, was 942 years. It follows that the time spent in prison and exile is about one-third of the time a Social–Democrat is active. But these figures are too optimistic. “The Convention has been active in Social–Democratic work for 942 years”— this means merely that the activities of those persons had been spread over so many years. Their actual period of work must have been much shorter. Possibly all these persons had worked, actually and directly, only one-sixth or one-tenth of the above time. Such are conditions of underground activity. On the other hand, the time spent in prison and exile is real time: the Convention had spent over fifty thousand days and nights behind iron bars, and more than that in barbarous corners of the country.
Perhaps I may give, in addition to these figures, some facts about myself. The author of these lines was arrested for the first time in January, 1898, after working for ten months in the workmen’s circles of Nikolayev. He spent two and a half years in prison, and escaped from Siberia after living there two years of his four years’ exile. He was arrested the second time on December 3rd, 1905, as a member of the Petersburg Council of Workmen’s Deputies. The Council had existed for fifty days. The arrested members of the Soviet each spent 400 days in prison, then they were sent to Obdorsk “forever.” . . . Each Russian Social–Democrat who has worked in his Party for ten years could give similar statistics about himself.
The political helter-skelter which exists in Russia since October 17th and which the Gotha Almanach has characterized with unconscious humor as “A Constitutional Monarchy under an absolute Tzar,” has changed nothing in our situation. This political order cannot reconcile itself with us, not even temporarily, as it is organically incapable of admitting any free activity of the masses. The simpletons and hypocrites who urge us to “keep within legal limits” remind one of Marie Antoinette who recommended the starving peasants to eat cake! One would think we suffer from an organic aversion for cake, a kind of incurable disease! One would think our lungs infected with an irresistible desire to breathe the atmosphere of the solitary dungeons in the Fortress of Peter and Paul! One would think we have no other use for those endless hours pulled out of our lives by the jailers.
We love our underground just as little as a drowning person loves the bottom of the sea. Yet, we have as little choice, as, let us say directly, the absolutist order. Being fully aware of this we can afford to be optimists even at a time when the underground tightens its grip around our necks with unrelenting grimness. It will not choke us, we know it! We shall survive! When the bones of all the great deeds which are being performed now by the princes of the earth, their servants and the servants of their servants will have turned to dust, when nobody will know the graves of many present parties with all their exploits — the Cause we are serving will rule the world, and our Party, now choking underground, will dissolve itself into humanity, for the first time its own master.
History is a tremendous mechanism serving our ideals. Its work is slow, barbarously slow, implacably cruel, yet the work goes on. We believe in it. Only at moments, when this voracious monster drinks the living blood of our hearts to serve it as food, we wish to shout with all our might:
What thou dost, do quickly!
Paris, April 8/21, 1907.
This essay was published in a New York Russian newspaper on January 20th, 1917, less than two months before the Second Russian Revolution. Trotzky then lived in New York. The essay shows how his contempt, even hatred, for the liberal parties in Russia had grown since 1905–6.
Revolutionary anniversaries are not only days for reminiscence, they are days for summing up revolutionary experiences, especially for us Russians. Our history has not been rich. Our so-called “national originality” consisted in being poor, ignorant, uncouth. It was the revolution of 1905 that first opened before us the great highway of political progress. On January 9th the workingman of Petersburg knocked at the gate of the Winter Palace. On January 9th the entire Russian people knocked at the gate of history.
The crowned janitor did not respond to the knock. Nine months later, however, on October 17th, he was compelled to open the heavy gate of absolutism. Notwithstanding all the efforts of bureaucracy, a little slit stayed open — forever.
The revolution was defeated. The same old forces and almost the same figures now rule Russia that ruled her twelve years ago. Yet the revolution has changed Russia beyond recognition. The kingdom of stagnation, servitude, vodka and humbleness has become a kingdom of fermentation, criticism, fight. Where once there was a shapeless dough — the impersonal, formless people, “Holy Russia,”— now social classes consciously oppose each other, political parties have sprung into existence, each with its program and methods of struggle.
January 9th opens a new Russian history. It is a line marked by the blood of the people. There is no way back from this line to Asiatic Russia, to the cursed practices of former generations. There is no way back. There will never be.
Not the liberal bourgeoisie, not the democratic groups of the lower bourgeoisie, not the radical intellectuals, not the millions of Russian peasants, but the Russian proletariat has by its struggle started the new era in Russian history. This is basic. On the foundation of this fact we, Social–Democrats, have built our conceptions and our tactics.
On January 9th it was the priest Gapon who happened to be at the head of the Petersburg workers — a fantastic figure, a combination of adventurer, hysterical enthusiast and impostor. His priest’s robe was the last link that then connected the workingmen with the past, with “Holy Russia.” Nine months later, in the course of the October strike, the greatest political strike history has ever seen, there was at the head of the Petersburg workingmen their own elective self-governing organization — the Council of Workmen’s Deputies. It contained many a workingman who had been on Gapon’s staff — nine months of revolution had made those men grow, as they made grow the entire working class which the Soviet represented.
In the first period of the revolution, the activities of the proletariat were met with sympathy, even with support from liberal society. The Milukovs hoped the proletariat would punch absolutism and make it more inclined to compromise with the bourgeoisie. Yet absolutism, for centuries the only ruler of the people, was in no haste to share its power with the liberal parties. In October, 1905, the bourgeoisie learned that it could not obtain power before the back-bone of Tzarism was broken. This blessed thing could, evidently, be accomplished only by a victorious revolution. But the revolution put the working class in the foreground, it united it and solidified it not only in its struggle against Tzarism, but also in its struggle against capital. The result was that each new revolutionary step of the proletariat in October, November and December, the time of the Soviet, moved the liberals more and more in the direction of the monarchy. The hopes for revolutionary coöperation between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat turned out a hopeless Utopia. Those who had not seen it then and had not understood it later, those who still dream of a “national” uprising against Tzarism, do not understand the revolution. For them class struggle is a sealed book.
At the end of 1905 the question became acute. The monarchy had learned by experience that the bourgeoisie would not support the proletariat in a decisive battle. The monarchy then decided to move against the proletariat with all its forces. The bloody days of December followed. The Council of Workmen’s Deputies was arrested by the Ismailovski regiment which remained loyal to Tzarism. The answer of the proletariat was momentous: the strike in Petersburg, the insurrection in Moscow, the storm of revolutionary movements in all industrial centers, the insurrection on the Caucasus and in the Lettish provinces.
The revolutionary movement was crushed. Many a poor “Socialist” readily concluded from our December defeats that a revolution in Russia was impossible without the support of the bourgeoisie. If this be true, it would only mean that a revolution in Russia is impossible.
Our upper industrial bourgeoisie, the only class possessing actual power, is separated from the proletariat by an insurmountable barrier of class hatred, and it needs the monarchy as a pillar of order. The Gutchkovs, Krestovnikovs and Ryabushinskys cannot fail to see in the proletariat their mortal foe.
Our middle and lower industrial and commercial bourgeoisie occupies a very insignificant place in the economic life of the country, and is all entangled in the net of capital. The Milukovs, the leaders of the lower middle class, are successful only in so far as they represent the interests of the upper bourgeoisie. This is why the Cadet leader called the revolutionary banner a “red rag”; this is why he declared, after the beginning of the war, that if a revolution were necessary to secure victory over Germany, he would prefer no victory at all.
Our peasantry occupies a tremendous place in Russian life. In 1905 it was shaken to its deepest foundations. The peasants were driving out their masters, setting estates on fire, seizing the land from the landlords. Yes, the curse of the peasantry is that it is scattered, disjointed, backward. Moreover, the interests of the various peasant groups do not coincide. The peasants arose and fought adroitly against their local slave-holders, yet they stopped in reverence before the all-Russian slave-holder. The sons of the peasants in the army did not understand that the workingmen were shedding their blood not only for their own sake, but also for the sake of the peasants. The army was an obedient tool in the hands of Tzarism. It crushed the labor revolution in December, 1905.
Whoever thinks about the experiences of 1905, whoever draws a line from that year to the present time, must see how utterly lifeless and pitiful are the hopes of our Social–Patriots for revolutionary coöperation between the proletariat and the liberal bourgeoisie.
During the last twelve years big capital has made great conquests in Russia. The middle and lower bourgeoisie has become still more dependent upon the banks and trusts. The working class, which had grown in numbers since 1905, is now separated from the bourgeoisie by a deeper abyss than before. If a “national” revolution was a failure twelve years ago, there is still less hope for it at present.
It is true in the last years that the cultural and political level of the peasantry has become higher. However, there is less hope now for a revolutionary uprising of the peasantry as a whole than there was twelve years ago. The only ally of the urban proletariat may be the proletarian and half-proletarian strata of the village.
But, a skeptic may ask, is there then any hope for a victorious revolution in Russia under these circumstances?
One thing is clear — if a revolution comes, it will not be a result of coöperation between capital and labor. The experiences of 1905 show that this is a miserable Utopia. To acquaint himself with those experiences, to study them is the duty of every thinking workingman who is anxious to avoid tragic mistakes. It is in this sense that we have said that revolutionary anniversaries are not only days for reminiscences, but also days for summing up revolutionary experiences.
Gutchkov, Ryabushinsky and Krestovnikov are representatives of big capital in Russia. Gutchkov is the leader of the moderately liberal party of Octobrists. He was War Minister in the first Cabinet after the overthrow of the Romanoffs.
This essay was written on March 13th, 1917, when the first news of unrest in Petrograd had reached New York.
The streets of Petrograd again speak the language of 1905. As in the time of the Russo–Japanese war, the masses demand bread, peace, and freedom. As in 1905, street cars are not running and newspapers do not appear. The workingmen let the steam out of the boilers, they quit their benches and walk out into the streets. The government mobilizes its Cossacks. And as was in 1905, only those two powers are facing each other in the streets — the revolutionary workingmen and the army of the Tzar.
The movement was provoked by lack of bread. This, of course, is not an accidental cause. In all the belligerent countries the lack of bread is the most immediate, the most acute reason for dissatisfaction and indignation among the masses. All the insanity of the war is revealed to them from this angle: it is impossible to produce necessities of life because one has to produce instruments of death.
However, the attempts of the Anglo–Russian semi-official news agencies to explain the movement by a temporary shortage in food, or to snow storms that have delayed transportation, are one of the most ludicrous applications of the policy of the ostrich. The workingmen would not stop the factories, the street cars, the print shops and walk into the streets to meet Tzarism face to face on account of snow storms which temporarily hamper the arrival of foodstuffs.
People have a short memory. Many of our own ranks have forgotten that the war found Russia in a state of potent revolutionary ferment. After the heavy stupor of 1908–1911, the proletariat gradually healed its wounds in the following years of industrial prosperity; the slaughter of strikers on the Lena River in April, 1912, awakened the revolutionary energy of the proletarian masses. A series of strikes followed. In the year preceding the world war, the wave of economic and political strikes resembled that of 1905. When Poincaré, the President of the French Republic, came to Petersburg in the summer of 1904 (evidently to talk over with the Tzar how to free the small and weak nations) the Russian proletariat was in a stage of extraordinary revolutionary tension, and the President of the French Republic could see with his own eyes in the capital of his friend, the Tzar, how the first barricades of the Second Russian Revolution were being constructed.
The war checked the rising revolutionary tide. We have witnessed a repetition of what happened ten years before, in the Russo–Japanese war. After the stormy strikes of 1903, there had followed a year of almost unbroken political silence — 1904 — the first year of the war. It took the workingmen of Petersburg twelve months to orientate themselves in the war and to walk out into the streets with their demands and protests. January 9th, 1905, was, so to speak, the official beginning of our First Revolution.
The present war is vaster than was the Russo–Japanese war. Millions of soldiers have been mobilized by the government for the “defense of the Fatherland.” The ranks of the proletariat have thus been disorganized. On the other hand, the more advanced elements of the proletariat had to face and weigh in their minds a number of questions of unheard of magnitude. What is the cause of the war? Shall the proletariat agree with the conception of “the defense of the Fatherland”? What ought to be the tactics of the working-class in war time?
In the meantime, the Tzarism and its allies, the upper groups of the nobility and the bourgeoisie, had during the war completely exposed their true nature — the nature of criminal plunderers, blinded by limitless greed and paralyzed by want of talent. The appetites for conquest of the governing clique grew in proportion as the people began to realize its complete inability to cope with the most elementary problems of warfare, of industry and supplies in war time. Simultaneously, the misery of the people grew, deepened, became more and more acute — a natural result of the war multiplied by the criminal anarchy of the Rasputin Tzarism.
In the depths of the great masses, among people who may have never been reached by a word of propaganda, a profound bitterness accumulated under the stress of events. Meantime the foremost ranks of the proletariat were finishing digesting the new events. The Socialist proletariat of Russia came to after the shock of the nationalist fall of the most influential part of the International, and decided that new times call us not to let up, but to increase our revolutionary struggle.
The present events in Petrograd and Moscow are a result of this internal preparatory work.
A disorganized, compromised, disjointed government on top. An utterly demoralized army. Dissatisfaction, uncertainty and fear among the propertied classes. At the bottom, among the masses, a deep bitterness. A proletariat numerically stronger than ever, hardened in the fire of events. All this warrants the statement that we are witnessing the beginning of the Second Russian Revolution. Let us hope that many of us will be its participants.
Let us examine more closely what is going on.
Nicholas has been dethroned, and according to some information, is under arrest. The most conspicuous Black Hundred leaders have been arrested. Some of the most hated have been killed. A new Ministry has been formed consisting of Octobrists, Liberals and the Radical Kerensky. A general amnesty has been proclaimed.
All these are facts, big facts. These are the facts that strike the outer world most. Changes in the higher government give the bourgeoisie of Europe and America an occasion to say that the revolution has won and is now completed.
The Tzar and his Black Hundred fought for their power, for this alone. The war, the imperialistic plans of the Russian bourgeoisie, the interests of the Allies, were of minor importance to the Tzar and his clique. They were ready at any moment to conclude peace with the Hohenzollerns and Hapsburgs, to free their most loyal regiment for war against their own people.
The Progressive Bloc of the Duma mistrusted the Tzar and his Ministers. This Bloc consisted of various parties of the Russian bourgeoisie. The Bloc had two aims: one, to conduct the war to a victorious end; another, to secure internal reforms: more order, control, accounting. A victory is necessary for the Russian bourgeoisie to conquer markets, to increase their territories, to get rich. Reforms are necessary primarily to enable the Russian bourgeoisie to win the war.
The progressive imperialistic Bloc wanted peaceful reforms. The liberals intended to exert a Duma pressure on the monarchy and to keep it in check with the aid of the governments of Great Britain and France. They did not want a revolution. They knew that a revolution, bringing the working masses to the front, would be a menace to their domination, and primarily a menace to their imperialistic plans. The laboring masses, in the cities and in the villages, and even in the army itself, want peace. The liberals know it. This is why they have been enemies of the revolution all these years. A few months ago Milukov declared in the Duma: “If a revolution were necessary for victory, I would prefer no victory at all.”
Yet the liberals are now in power — through the Revolution. The bourgeois newspaper men see nothing but this fact. Milukov, already in his capacity as a Minister of Foreign Affairs, has declared that the revolution has been conducted in the name of a victory over the enemy, and that the new government has taken upon itself to continue the war to a victorious end. The New York Stock Exchange interpreted the Revolution in this specific sense. There are clever people both on the Stock Exchange and among the bourgeois newspaper men. Yet they are all amazingly stupid when they come to deal with mass-movements. They think that Milukov manages the revolution, in the same sense as they manage their banks or news offices. They see only the liberal governmental reflection of the unfolding events, they notice only the foam on the surface of the historical torrent.
The long pent-up dissatisfaction of the masses has burst forth so late, in the thirty-second month of the war, not because the masses were held by police barriers — those barriers had been badly shattered during the war — but because all liberal institutions and organs, together with their Social–Patriotic shadows, were exerting an enormous influence over the least enlightened elements of the workingmen, urging them to keep order and discipline in the name of “patriotism.” Hungry women were already walking out into the streets, and the workingmen were getting ready to uphold them by a general strike, while the liberal bourgeoisie, according to news reports, still issued proclamations and delivered speeches to check the movement — resembling that famous heroine of Dickens who tried to stem the tide of the ocean with a broom.
The movement, however, took its course, from below, from the workingmen’s quarters. After hours and days of uncertainty, of shooting, of skirmishes, the army joined in the revolution, from below, from the best of the soldier masses. The old government was powerless, paralyzed, annihilated. The Tzar fled from the capital “to the front.” The Black Hundred bureaucrats crept, like cockroaches, each into his corner.
Then, and only then, came the Duma’s turn to act. The Tzar had attempted in the last minute to dissolve it. And the Duma would have obeyed, “following the example of former years,” had it been free to adjourn. The capitals, however, were already dominated by the revolutionary people, the same people that had walked out into the streets despite the wishes of the liberal bourgeoisie. The army was with the people. Had not the bourgeoisie attempted to organize its own government, a revolutionary government would have emerged from the revolutionary working masses. The Duma of June 3rd would never have dared to seize the power from the hands of Tzarism. But it did not want to miss the chance offered by interregnum: the monarchy had disappeared, while a revolutionary government was not yet formed. Contrary to all their part, contrary to their own policies and against their will, the liberals found themselves in possession of power.
Milukov now declares Russia will continue the war “to the end.” It is not easy for him so to speak: he knows that his words are apt to arouse the indignation of the masses against the new government. Yet he had to speak to them — for the sake of the London, Paris and American Stock Exchanges. It is quite possible that he cabled his declaration for foreign consumption only, and that he concealed it from his own country.
Milukov knows very well that under given conditions he cannot continue the war, crush Germany, dismember Austria, occupy Constantinople and Poland.
The masses have revolted, demanding bread and peace. The appearance of a few liberals at the head of the government has not fed the hungry, has not healed the wounds of the people. To satisfy the most urgent, the most acute needs of the people, peace must be restored. The liberal imperialistic Bloc does not dare to speak of peace. They do not do it, first, on account of the Allies. They do not do it, further, because the liberal bourgeoisie is to a great extent responsible before the people for the present war. The Milukovs and Gutchkovs, not less than the Romanoff camarilla, have thrown the country into this monstrous imperialistic adventure. To stop the war, to return to the ante-bellum misery would mean that they have to account to the people for this undertaking. The Milukovs and Gutchkovs are afraid of the liquidation of the war not less than they were afraid of the Revolution.
This is their aspect in their new capacity, as the government of Russia. They are compelled to continue the war, and they can have no hope of victory; they are afraid of the people, and people do not trust them.
This is how Karl Marx characterized a similar situation:
“From the very beginning ready to betray the people and to compromise with the crowned representatives of the old régime, because the bourgeoisie itself belongs to the old world; . . . keeping a place at the steering wheel of the revolution not because the people were back of them, but because the people pushed them forward; . . . having no faith in themselves, no faith in the people; grumbling against those above, trembling before those below; selfish towards both fronts and aware of their selfishness; revolutionary in the face of conservatives, and conservative in the face of revolutionists, with no confidence in their own slogans and with phrases instead of ideas; frightened by the world’s storm and exploiting the world’s storm — vulgar through lack of originality, and original only in vulgarity; making profitable business out of their own desires, with no initiative, with no vocation for world-wide historic work . . . a cursed senile creature condemned to direct and abuse in his own senile interests the first youthful movements of a powerful people — a creature with no eyes, with no ears, with no teeth, with nothing whatever — this is how the Prussian bourgeoisie stood at the steering wheel of the Prussian state after the March revolution.”
These words of the great master give a perfect picture of the Russian liberal bourgeoisie, as it stands at the steering wheel of the government after our March revolution. “With no faith in themselves, with no faith in the people, with no eyes, with no teeth.” . . . This is their political face.
Luckily for Russia and Europe, there is another face to the Russian Revolution, a genuine face: the cables have brought the news that the Provisional Government is opposed by a Workmen’s Committee which has already raised a voice of protest against the liberal attempt to rob the Revolution and to deliver the people to the monarchy.
Should the Russian Revolution stop to-day as the representatives of liberalism advocate, to-morrow the reaction of the Tzar, the nobility and the bureaucracy would gather power and drive Milukov and Gutchkov from their insecure ministerial trenches, as did the Prussian reaction years ago with the representatives of Prussian liberalism. But the Russian Revolution will not stop. Time will come, and the Revolution will make a clean sweep of the bourgeois liberals blocking its way, as it is now making a clean sweep of the Tzarism reaction.
(Published in New York on March 17, 1917.)
June Third, 1907, was the day on which, after the dissolution of the First and Second Dumas, the Tzar’s government, in defiance of the Constitution, promulgated a new electoral law which eliminated from the Russian quasi-Parliament large groups of democratic voters, thus securing a “tame” majority obedient to the command of the government. To say “The Duma of June Third” is equivalent to saying: “a Duma dominated by representatives of rich land-owners and big business,” generally working hand in hand with autocracy, though pretending to be representatives of the people. In the Duma of June Third, the Octobrists and all parties to the right of them were with the government, the Constitutional Democrats (Cadets) and all parties to the left of them were in the opposition.
The Progressive Bloc was formed in the Duma in 1915. It included a number of liberal and conservative factions, together with the Cadets, and was opposed to the government. Its program was a Cabinet responsible to the Duma.
An open conflict between the forces of the Revolution, headed by the city proletariat and the anti-revolutionary liberal bourgeoisie temporarily at the head of the government, is more and more impending. It cannot be avoided. Of course, the liberal bourgeoisie and the quasi-Socialists of the vulgar type will find a collection of very touching slogans as to “national unity” against class divisions; yet no one has ever succeeded in removing social contrasts by conjuring with words or in checking the natural progress of revolutionary struggle.
The internal history of unfolding events is known to us only in fragments, through casual remarks in the official telegrams. But even now it is apparent that on two points the revolutionary proletariat is bound to oppose the liberal bourgeoisie with ever-growing determination.
The first conflict has already arisen around the question of the form of government. The Russian bourgeoisie needs a monarchy. In all the countries pursuing an imperialistic policy, we observe an unusual increase of personal power. The policy of world usurpations, secret treaties and open treachery requires independence from Parliamentary control and a guarantee against changes in policies caused by the change of Cabinets. Moreover, for the propertied classes the monarchy is the most secure ally in its struggle against the revolutionary onslaught of the proletariat.
In Russia both these causes are more effective than elsewhere. The Russian bourgeoisie finds it impossible to deny the people universal suffrage, well aware that this would arouse opposition against the Provisional Government among the masses, and give prevalence to the left, the more determined wing of the proletariat in the Revolution. Even that monarch of the reserve, Michael Alexandrovitch, understands that he cannot reach the throne without having promised “universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage.” It is the more essential for the bourgeoisie to create right now a monarchic counterbalance against the deepest social-revolutionary demands of the working masses. Formally, in words, the bourgeoisie has agreed to leave the question of a form of government to the discretion of the Constituent Assembly. Practically, however, the Octobrist–Cadet Provisional Government will turn all the preparatory work for the Constituent Assembly into a campaign in favor of a monarchy against a Republic. The character of the Constituent Assembly will largely depend upon the character of those who convoke it. It is evident, therefore, that right now the revolutionary proletariat will have to set up its own organs, the Councils of Workingmen’s Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, against the executive organs of the Provisional Government. In this struggle the proletariat ought to unite about itself the rising masses of the people, with one aim in view —to seize governmental power. Only a Revolutionary Labor Government will have the desire and ability to give the country a thorough democratic cleansing during the work preparatory to the Constituent Assembly, to reconstruct the army from top to bottom, to turn it into a revolutionary militia and to show the poorer peasants in practice that their only salvation is in a support of a revolutionary labor régime. A Constituent Assembly convoked after such preparatory work will truly reflect the revolutionary, creative forces of the country and become a powerful factor in the further development of the Revolution.
The second question that is bound to bring the internationally inclined Socialist proletariat in opposition to the imperialistic liberal bourgeoisie, is the question of war and peace.
(Published in New York, March 19, 1917.)
The question of chief interest, now, to the governments and the peoples of the world is, What will be the influence of the Russian Revolution on the War? Will it bring peace nearer? Or will the revolutionary enthusiasm of the people swing towards a more vigorous prosecution of the war?
This is a great question. On its solution depends not only the outcome of the war, but the fate of the Revolution itself.
In 1905, Milukov, the present militant Minister of Foreign Affairs, called the Russo–Japanese war an adventure and demanded its immediate cessation. This was also the spirit of the liberal and radical press. The strongest industrial organizations favored immediate peace in spite of unequaled disasters. Why was it so? Because they expected internal reforms. The establishment of a Constitutional system, a parliamentary control over the budget and the state finances, a better school system and, especially, an increase in the land possessions of the peasants, would, they hoped, increase the prosperity of the population and create a vast internal market for Russian industry. It is true that even then, twelve years ago, the Russian bourgeoisie was ready to usurp land belonging to others. It hoped, however, that abolition of feudal relations in the village would create a more powerful market than the annexation of Manchuria or Corea.
The democratization of the country and liberation of the peasants, however, turned out to be a slow process. Neither the Tzar, nor the nobility, nor the bureaucracy were willing to yield any of their prerogatives. Liberal exhortations were not enough to make them give up the machinery of the state and their land possessions. A revolutionary onslaught of the masses was required. This the bourgeoisie did not want. The agrarian revolts of the peasants, the ever growing struggle of the proletariat and the spread of insurrections in the army caused the liberal bourgeoisie to fall back into the camp of the Tzarist bureaucracy and reactionary nobility. Their alliance was sealed by the coup d’état of June 3rd, 1907. Out of this coup d’état emerged the Third and the Fourth Dumas.
The peasants received no land. The administrative system changed only in name, not in substance. The development of an internal market consisting of prosperous farmers, after the American fashion, did not take place. The capitalist classes, reconciled with the régime of June 3rd, turned their attention to the usurpation of foreign markets. A new era of Russian imperialism ensues, an imperialism accompanied by a disorderly financial and military system and by insatiable appetites. Gutchkov, the present War Minister, was formerly a member of the Committee on National Defense, helping to make the army and the navy complete. Milukov, the present Minister of Foreign Affairs, worked out a program of world conquests which he advocated on his trips to Europe. Russian imperialism and his Octobrist and Cadet representatives bear a great part of the responsibility for the present war.
By the grace of the Revolution which they had not wanted and which they had fought, Gutchkov and Milukov are now in power. For the continuation of the war, for victory? Of course! They are the same persons who had dragged the country into the war for the sake of the interests of capital. All their opposition to Tzarism had its source in their unsatisfied imperialistic appetites. So long as the clique of Nicholas II. was in power, the interests of the dynasty and of the reactionary nobility were prevailing in Russian foreign affairs. This is why Berlin and Vienna had hoped to conclude a separate peace with Russia. Now, purely imperialistic interests have superseded the Tzarism interests; pure imperialism is written on the banner of the Provisional Government. “The government of the Tzar is gone,” the Milukovs and Gutchkovs say to the people, “now you must shed your blood for the common interests of the entire nation.” Those interests the imperialists understand as the reincorporation of Poland, the conquest of Galicia, Constantinople, Armenia, Persia.
This transition from an imperialism of the dynasty and the nobility to an imperialism of a purely bourgeois character, can never reconcile the Russian proletariat to the war. An international struggle against the world slaughter and imperialism are now our task more than ever. The last despatches which tell of an anti-militaristic propaganda in the streets of Petrograd show that our comrades are bravely doing their duty.
The imperialistic boasts of Milukov to crush Germany, Austria and Turkey are the most effective and most timely aid for the Hohenzollerns and Hapsburgs. . . . Milukov will now serve as a scare-crow in their hands. The liberal imperialistic government of Russia has not yet started reform in its own army, yet it is already helping the Hohenzollerns to raise the patriotic spirit and to mend the shattered “national unity” of the German people. Should the German proletariat be given a right to think that all the Russian people and the main force of the Russian Revolution, the proletariat, are behind the bourgeois government of Russia, it would be a terrific blow to the men of our trend of mind, the revolutionary Socialists of Germany. To turn the Russian proletariat into patriotic cannon food in the service of the Russian liberal bourgeoisie would mean to throw the German working masses into the camp of the chauvinists and for a long time to halt the progress of a revolution in Germany.
The prime duty of the revolutionary proletariat in Russia is to show that there is no power behind the evil imperialistic will of the liberal bourgeoisie. The Russian Revolution has to show the entire world its real face.
The further progress of the revolutionary struggle in Russia and the creation of a Revolutionary Labor Government supported by the people will be a mortal blow to the Hohenzollerns because it will give a powerful stimulus to the revolutionary movement of the German proletariat and of the labor masses of all the other countries. If the first Russian Revolution of 1905 brought about revolutions in Asia — in Persia, Turkey, China — the Second Russian Revolution will be the beginning of a powerful social-revolutionary struggle in Europe. Only this struggle will bring real peace to the blood-drenched world.
No, the Russian proletariat will not allow itself to be harnessed to the chariot of Milukov imperialism. The banner of Russian Social–Democracy is now, more than ever before, glowing with bright slogans of inflexible Internationalism:
Away with imperialistic robbers!
Long live a Revolutionary Labor Government!
Long live Peace and the Brotherhood of Nations!
(Published in New York, March 20, 1917.)
(From a Russian paper)
Trotzky, always Trotzky.
Since I had seen him the last time, he has been advanced in rank: he has become the chairman of the Petrograd Soviet. He has succeeded Tchcheidze, the wise, sober leader who has lost the confidence of the revolutionary masses. He holds the place of Lenin, the recognized leader of the left wing of Social–Democracy, whose absence from the capital is due to external, accidental causes.
It seems to me that Trotzky has become more nervous, more gloomy, and more restrained. Something like a freezing chill emanates from his deep and restless eyes; a cool, determined, ironical smile plays around his mobile Jewish lips, and there is a chill in his well-balanced, clear-cut words which he throws into his audience with a peculiar calmness.
He seems almost lonesome on the platform. Only a small group of followers applaud. The others protest against his words or cast angry, restless glances at him. He is in a hostile gathering. He is a stranger. Is he not also a stranger to those who applaud him and in whose name he speaks from this platform?
Calm and composed he looks at his adversaries, and you feel it is a peculiar joy for him to see the rage, the fear, the excitement his words provoke. He is a Mephisto who throws words like bombs to create a war of brothers at the bedside of their sick mother.
He knows in advance which words will have the greatest effect, which would provoke the most bitter resentment. And the more extreme, the more painful his words are, the firmer and stronger is his voice, the slower his speech, the more challenging his tone. He speaks a sentence, then he stops to wait till the storm is over, then he repeats his assertion, with sharper intonation and with more disdain in his tone. Only his eyes become more nervous, and a peculiar disquieting fire is blazing in them.
This time he does not speak; he reads a written declaration. He reads it with pauses, sometimes accentuating the words, sometimes passing over them quickly, but all the time he is aware of the effect and waits for a response.
His voice is the voice of a prophet, a preacher:
“Petrograd is in danger! The Revolution is in danger! The people are in danger!” . . .
He is a stranger on the platform, and yet — electric currents flow from him to his surroundings, creating sincere though primitive enthusiasm on one side, on the other anger and spite. He opens vast perspectives before the naïve faithful masses:
“Long live an immediate, honest, democratic peace!”
“All power to the Workmen’s Councils! All the land to the people!”
Absolutism, rôle of, in outgrowing economic basis, 69;
in promoting industry and science, 69, 70;
as an end in itself, 70–71.
Agrarian question, 132–136.
Armament for the Revolution, 57–58.
Army, 35, 36, 37.
Bourgeoisie, imperialistic plans of, 189–191;
afraid of peace, 194–5;
responsible for the war, 209–211.
Capitalism, preparing its own collapse, 138–9;
and feudal reaction, 139–140.
Cities, as scene of revolutionary battles, 41;
social structure of, 71–72.
Class consciousness, of proletariat, as prerequisite to Socialism, 124–128.
Constituent Assembly, as a revolutionary slogan, 43–44.
Demonstrations, in the streets, 41–42;
to become of nation-wide magnitude, 57.
French Revolution, 73–77.
Gapon, 59, 62; 172–3.
January Ninth, 49; 59–60; 171–173.
June Third, 198.
Labor Dictatorship, 94–97;
crushing absolutism, abandoning its remnants, 103–104;
introducing class politics, 103;
introducing class struggle in the village, 104–105;
introducing Collectivism and Internationalism, 105;
abandoning distinction between minimum and maximum program, 106;
and eight hour workday, 106–108;
and unemployment, 108–9;
and agriculture, 109;
and Collectivism, 109–110;
and class consciousness, 124–128;
incompatible with economic slavery, 132;
and agrarian question, 132–136.
Liberalism, denying the existence of revolutionary masses, 52–53;
defeated by events of January 9th, 54;
trying to “tame” revolutionary people, 55;
not reliable as partner in Revolution, 173–174; 176–7.
Manoeuvers, revolutionary, 29–30.
Masses, drawn into the Revolution, 37–39;
as a political reality, 51–52;
stirred by world-war, 183–4.
Middle-class (see Bourgeoisie), weakness of, in Russia, 71, 72.
“Osvoboshdenie,” 52, 53, 62.
Peasantry, as of no significance in Revolution, 175–7.
Poland, as possible revolutionary link between Russia and Europe, 140–41.
Prerequisites to Socialism, in relation to each other, 113–117.
Proletariat, as a vanguard of the Revolution, 33–35;
rôle of, in events of January 9th, 56–57;
stronger than bourgeoisie in Russia, 72;
growing with capitalism, 84;
may sooner reach political supremacy in a backward country, 84–85; 87–91;
as liberator of peasants, 98–100;
as a class objectively opposed to capitalism, 119–124;
to revolutionize European proletariat, 142–4.
Revolution, in Europe, as aid to Socialism in Russia, 136–7;
may be result of shattered European equilibrium, 141–42;
as result of Russian Revolution, 142–4.
Revolution, in general, 83;
of bourgeois character, 92–93.
Revolution, of 1848, 77–80.
Revolution, of 1917, its causes, 181–5;
social forces in, 191–192;
to stir up revolution in Germany, 212.
Social–Democracy, foresaw revolution, 55–6;
natural leader of the Revolution, 60–61.
Soviet, distinguishing Russian Revolution from that of 1848, 80;
short history of, 145;
general survey of the rôle of, 151–4;
as class-organization, 154–156;
as organ of political authority, 158–9;
an imminent form of Russian Revolution, 160;
program of (outlined by Trotzky for the future), 160–1;
to fight against Provisional Government, 203.
“Spring,” 24–25; 32; 54.
Strike, political, as beginning of Revolution, 35–36; 42, 43.
Technique, industrial, as prerequisite to Socialism, 113; 117–119.
“Underground,” and the revolutionist, 165–8.
War, Russo–Japanese, 25;
of the world, as influencing masses, 183–4.
Witte, 62, 145.
Zemstvo, movement of, in 1904, 24–25; 33; 62.
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