Tag Archives: Bolsheviks

Lenin and the Bolsheviks’ Consistently Revolutionary Marxist Programme on the Question of War

In our last article we excoriated the New York Times’ publication of an “opinion piece” in which a hack writer regurgitated the tired old lie that the great Marxist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin was “a German agent”.  In this next series of articles we will demonstrate the tremendous theoretical consitency of the Bolsheviks’ interventions in the major international conferences of the Second International regarding the questions of militarism and war.  These articles will demonstrate that in 1917 the Bolsheviks’ determination to oppose Russia’s participation in the horrendous imperialist bloodbath of WWI was first declared to the world ten years earlier – in 1907’s Stuttgart Congress of the Second International.  The absurdity of the claim that Lenin was carrying out the orders given to him by the Kaiser in November of 1917 in exchange for “safe passage” on a “sealed train” through “wartime Europe” is fully and completely exposed as an attempt to falsify the historical record and to slander the greatest revolutionary socialist workers leader and workers party the world has ever known: Lenin and his Bolshevik Party.

— IWPCHI

*********************

V. I. Lenin
The International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart[1] (Proletary)

Written: Written at the end of August and beginning of September 1907
Published: Published in Proletary, No. 17, October 20, 1907. Published according to the newspaper text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 13, pages 75-81.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source. • README

[Large portion of article has been edited out so we can focus attention on the Bolshevik intervention at the Congress on the question of war and militarism and what should be the response of the various sections of the Second International to an outbreak of war between any number of countries – IWPCHI]

We pass now to the last, and perhaps the most important, resolution of the Congress—that on anti-militarism. The notorious Hervé, who has made such a noise in France and Europe, advocated a semi-anarchist view by naively suggesting that every war be “answered” by a strike and an uprising. He did not understand, on the one hand, that war is a necessary product of capitalism, and that the proletariat cannot renounce participation in revolutionary wars, for such wars are possible, and have indeed occurred in capitalist societies. He did not understand, on the other hand, that the possibility of “answering” a war depends on the nature of the crisis created by that war. The choice of the means of struggle depends on these conditions; moreover, the struggle must consist (and here we have the third misconception, or shallow thinking of Hervéism) not simply in replacing war by peace, but in replacing capitalism by socialism. The essential thing is not merely to prevent war, but to utilise the crisis created by war in order to has ten the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. However, underlying all these semi-anarchist absurdities of Hervéism there was one sound and practical purpose: to spur the socialist movement so that it will not be restricted to parliamentary methods of struggle alone, so that the masses will realise the need for revolutionary action in connection with the crises which war inevitably involves, so that, lastly, a more lively understanding of international labour solidarity and of the falsity of bourgeois patriotism will be spread among the masses.

Bebel’s resolution (move.d by the Germans and coinciding in all essentials with Guesde’s resolution) had one shortcoming—it failed to indicate the active tasks of the proletariat. This made it possible to read Bebel’s orthodox propositions through opportunist spectacles, and Vollmar was quick to turn this possibility into a reality.

That is why Rosa Luxemburg and the Russian Social-Democratic delegates moved their amendments to Bebel’s resolution. These amendments (1) stated that militarism is the chief weapon of class oppression; (2) pointed out the need for propaganda among the youth; (3) stressed that Social-Democrats should not only try to prevent war from breaking out or to secure the speediest termination of wars that have already begun, but should utilise the crisis created by the war to hasten the overthrow of the bourgeoisie.

The subcommission (elected by the Anti-Militarism Commission) incorporated all these amendments in Bebel’s resolution. In addition, Jaurès made this happy suggestion: instead of enumerating the methods of struggle (strikes, uprisings) the resolution should cite historical examples of proletarian action against war, from the demonstrations in Europe to the revolution in Russia. The result of all this redrafting was a resolution which, it is true, is unduly long, but is rich in thought and precisely formulates the tasks of the proletariat. It combines the stringency of orthodox—i. e., the only scientific Marxist analysis with recommendations for the most resolute and revolutionary action by the workers’ parties. This resolution cannot be interpreted à la Vollmar, nor can it be fitted into the narrow framework of naïve Hervéism.

On the whole, the Stuttgart Congress brought into sharp contrast the opportunist and revolutionary wings of the international Social-Democratic movement on a number of cardinal issues and decided these issues in the spirit of revolutionary Marxism. Its resolutions and the report of the debates should become a handbook for every propagandist. The work done at Stuttgart will greatly promote the unity of tactics and unity of revolutionary struggle of the proletarians of all countries.
Notes

[1] The International Socialist Congress In Stuttgart (the Seventh Congress of the Second International) was held from August 18 to 24 (new style), 1907. The R.S.D.L.P. was represented at it by 37 delegates. Among the Bolshevik delegates attending the Congress were Lenin, Lunacharsky, and Litvinov. The Congress considered the following questions: 1) Militarism and international conflicts; 2) Relations between the political parties and the trade unions; 3) The colonial question; 4) Immigration and emigration of workers, and 5) Women’s suffrage.

The main work of the Congress was in the committees, where resolutions were drafted for the plenary sessions. Lenin was on the “Militarism and International Conflicts” Committee.

[2] The issue of Proletary (No. 17) which published this article also contained the resolution of the International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart.

[3] See Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1, Moscow, p. 595.

[4] Voinov—A. V. Lunacharsky.

[5] Die Gleichheit (Equality)—a Social-Democratic fortnightly journal, organ of the German women’s movement (later it became the organ of international women’s movement), published in Stuttgart from 1890 to 1925 and edited by Clara Zetkin from 1892 to 1917.

NY Times Slanders Bolsheviks as “German Agents”: Bolshevik Party Was Funded By Russian Workers

The New York Times – the “newspaper of record” for the US’ east coast capitalist class – has always hated the workers movement.  As part of the US capitalist class’ bought-and-paid-for press, the editors of the Times have consistently excoriated the US workers movement from the time of its inception in the early 19th century to the present day.  They hate the working class and all it stands for and they go so far as to never credit the communist workers movement with any of its many achievements in the USA, from its creation of the modern civil rights movement to its leadership of the CIO during the major class battles of the 1930s that made the trade union movement a force that the US capitalist class had to reckon with.  The New York Times never mentions “communism” or “communists” in anything other than a bad light; even their obituaries of people whose fame was largely due to their prominent role as communsit writers, actors or artists is completely obscured by the editors of the Times.  As a “newspaper of record” it is actually busily falsifying the historical record to expunge any positive contributions attributable to communist activists.  Hey, we don’t call it “the bourgeois press” for nothing.

The New York Times even pretends that he working class – the largest class of human beings in any capitalist society – does not even exist in the USA!  And whenever a major news story occurs in which union workers are involved, the Times never interviews any trade union leader to get her or his version of what happened – even though the union’s perspective on the event is critically important insider information necessary to have in order to understand what exactly happened.

The US’ “newspaper of record” – the New York Times – hates the workers movement so much that they assert that in the USA, the working class doesn’t even exist. Source: NY Times

2017 being the 100th anniversary of the heroic Russian Revolution led by Lenin’s Bolshevik Party, the capitalist press is attempting to once again slander the revolution in order to (hopefully) dissuade the 2017 US working class from taking the time to go back and revisit the background of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.  In the US especially, the working class have been taught from the cradle that “communism is bad” and “capitalism is good”.  The fact is that the Russian Revolution of 1917 for the very first time ever created a workers state where the working class was the ruling class, and the capitalist exploiting class was abolished.  It is for this reason only that the bourgeois press of 2017 seeks to bury the memory of the great 1917 Bolshevik workers socialist revolution under a mountain of lies and slander.

This is why the New York Times has decided – as part of a new feature they dub “The Red Century” – to drag the old rotten chestnut of the myth of the passage of Lenin and a party of Bolshevik leaders across wartime Europe from Switzerland to Russia in a “sealed train” to carry out order paid for with “German gold” – out of the dustbin of history and regurgitated it in order to slander the Bolsheviks once again.

The ancient lie that Lenin’s Bolsheviks were “German agents” was never believed by anyone – including the agents of the bourgeois press – back at the time of the revolution.  The political exile Lenin accepted the Germans’  offer of safe passage of himself and his comrades from Switzerland to Russia in the midst of the carnage of WWI so that he and his comrades could take their rightful places as leaders of their parties’ factions in the new government that emerged upon the collapse of the hideous Tsarist regime had nothing at all to do with accepting a role as an agent of the Kaiser’s Germany: the Kaiser, desperate to extricate his regime from a war in which, with the impending entry of the USA into the conflict, could only end in his regime’s defeat, was grasping at straws by the spring of 1917.  Lenin’s Bolsheviks had righteously opposed WWI from its very beginning, and had called for the defeat of the Tsarist war machine and for workers revolution throughout Europe to end the war and overthrow capitalism which had created the conditions that led to the war.  The Kaiser in his vast ignorance and desperation only comprehended that the Bolsheviks had pledged that if they became the ruling power in Russia that they would immediately take steps to pull Russia out of the war; that was all that he cared about.  He saw the possibility of a Russian pullout from participation in WWI as an opportunity for his regime to reallocate his  military forces from the Eastern Front to the Western.  He eagerly lunged for what he believed was a slim chance of victory offered to him by the stupid Bolshevik party and their utopian dream of a socialist revolution in Tsarist Russia.  Never in his wildest dreams did the Kaiser believe that the Bolsheviks would actually follow through on the political program of socialist revolution which the Bolsheviks had expounded since the collapse of the Second International in August, 1914.  Wilhelm granted the Bolsheviks safe passage to Russia in the desperate hope that the Bolsheviks would take Russia out of the war; he calculated that if that happened, he could reallocate his military forces to the west where once he crushed the French and English he would have ample time to crush the Bolsheviks as well.  Lenin knew this from day one and he did not hesitate to take up the Germans’ offer.  “The capitalists will sell the rope that will be used to hang them” was one of Lenin’s basic beliefs; and the Germans’ shortsighted  offer to send Marxist revolutionaries to Russia to overthrow the Tsar in order to obtain a military benefit from a Russian socialist revolution was and is one of the most asinine moves ever made by a ruling monarch.  When Lenin arrived in Russia in April of 1917 he immediately organized his party to not only overthrow the Tsarist regime, but to take power in the name of the Russian working class and peasantry.  This was far more than the Kaiser had bargained for; and the victorious Russian Revolution of 1917 not only knocked the crowns off the heads of the Russian autocrats: it very quickly led to the collapse of the German monarchy as well.  No serious historian would state in 2017 that the Bolsheviks were nothing but “agents of the Kaiser”.  If that was true, what did the Bolsheviks do to defend their “benefactor” when he was facing his own deposition?  In fact, the Bolsheviks did all they could to hasten the collapse of Kaiserdom, organizing a revolutionary Bolshevik party in Germany with express orders to overthrow the capitalist system in Germany as soon as possible.  The Kaiser’s fate was sealed the moment he gave Lenin and his Bolshevik comrades safe passage to Russia in the vain hope that the collapse of Tsarism would lead to the building of a bulwark of support for Kaiserdom!  What a stupid ass he was!  Within a year after October 1917 the Kaiser was forced to abdicate his throne by the revolutionary workers of Germany. inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution!

The whole idea that the Bolshevik Party was funded by “German Gold” is refuted in the following article of 1914, in which Lenin lays out precisely where the financial support of the Bolshevik Party was coming from at that time.  The Bolshevik Party – like all Marxist parties around the world in 1917 – received the vast majority of its’ funding from party membership dues and from sales of the party newspaper.  In this article, Lenin breaks down the revenue his party was receiving in 1914 from the sales of the Bolshevik press and also breaks down what sections of Russian society were actively supporting the Bolshevik Party.  “German gold” was NEVER an important source of Bolshevik finances, ever in the history of the Bolsheviks.  Their money came primarily from the industrial workers of the major industrial centers of Tsarist Russia: from the trade unionists working in the big factories in Russia’s major cities.  The following article was filched from marxists.org.

We must alert our working class readers to the fact that we have been studying the works of Lenin for 30 years and that we have NEVER found even a trace of duplicity or shady deaking in the writings of this heroic leader of the workers of the world.  Lenin’s writings can be taken at face value: he dedicated his entire life to fighting for the emancipation of the workers of the world from the misery of wage-slavery.  You will search in vain for another person who dedicated his or her life more selflessly to the service of he workers of the world.  In Lenin, the workers of he world of the 21st century will find an honest and stalwart advocate.

— IWPCHI

V.I. Lenin –  “The Working Class and Its Press”


Published: Trudovaya Pravda Nos. 14 and 15, June 13 and 14, 1914.
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works.


There is nothing more important to class-conscious workers than to have an understanding of the significance of their movement and a thorough knowledge of it. The only source of strength of the working-class movement—and an invincible one at that—is the class-consciousness of the workers and the broad scope of their struggle, that is, the participation in it of the masses of the wage-workers.

The St. Petersburg Marxist press, which has been in existence for years, publishes exclusive, excellent, indispensable and easily verifiable material on the scope of the working-class movement and the various trends predominating in it. Only those who wish to conceal the truth can ignore this material, as the liberals and liquidators do.

Complete figures concerning the collections made for the Pravdist (Marxist) and liquidationist newspapers in St. Petersburg for the period between January 1 and May 13, 1914, have been compiled by Comrade V.A.T.[3] We publish his table below in full, and shall quote round figures in the body of this article as occasion arises, so as not to burden the reader with statistics.

The following is Comrade V.A.T.’s table. (See pp. 364–65.) First of all we shall deal with the figures showing the number of workers’ groups. These figures cover the whole period of existence of the Pravdist and liquidationist newspapers. Number of workers’ groups:

 
Supporting
the Pravdist
newspapers
Supporting
the liquida-
tionist
newspapers
For 1912 . . . . . . . . . . 620 89
For 1913 . . . . . . . . . . 2,181 661
1914, from Jan. 1 to May 13 . 2,873 671
  Total 5,674 1,421

 

Collections for Marxist (Pravdist) and liquidationist newspapers in St. Petersburg from January 1 to May 13, 1914
Collections
made by
St. Petersburg Moscow Provinces Total
Pravdist Liquidationist Pravdist Liquidationist Pravdist Liquidationist Pravdist Liquidationist
No.[1] rubles[2] No. Rubles No. Rubles No. Rubles No. Rubles No. Rubles No. Rubles No. Rubles
Workers’
groups . .
2,024 13,943.24 308 2,231.98 130 865.00 25 263.52 719 4,125.86 338 2,800.62 2,873 18,934.10 671 5,296.12
Total from
non-workersincluding:
325 1,256.92 165 1,799.40 46 260.51 24 1,137.30 332 1,082.79 230 2,113.90 713 2,650.01 453 6,759.77
Student and
youth groups
26 369.49 19 292.13 8 119.30 3 21.00 20 162.13 23 317.09 54 650.92 45 630.22
Groups of
“adherents”,
“friends”,
etc.
8 164.00 14 429.25 6 42.10 5 892.00 28 252.72 35 1,129.35 42 458.82 54 2,450.60
Other groups 2 8.00 6 72.60 1 2.00 30 115.29 24 113.52 33 125.29 30 186.12
Individuals 281 650.96 120 966.72 29 63.61 14 197.30 221 332.05 132 443.80 531 1,046.62 266 1,608.32
Unspecified 8 64.47 6 38.70 2 33.50 2 26.50 33 220.60 16 110.14 43 318.57 24 175.34
From abroad 10 49.79 34 1,709.17
Total . . 2,349 15,200.16 473 4,103.38 176 1,125.51 49 1,400.82 1,051 5,208.65 568 4,914.52 3,586 21,584.11 1,124 12,055.89
1 /

 

The total number of groups is 7,095. Of course, there are groups which made several collections, but separate data for these are not available.

We see that only one-fifth of the total number of workers’ groups are in sympathy with the liquidators. In two-and-a-half years, Pravdism, Pravdist decisions and Pravdist tactics have united four-fifths of Russia’s class-conscious workers. This fact of workers’ unity can well bear comparison with the phrases about “unity” uttered by the various grouplets of intellectuals, the Vperyodists, Plekhanovites, Trotskyists, etc., etc.

Let us compare the figures for 1913 and 1914 (those for 1912 are not comparable, because Pravda appeared in April, and Luch five months later). We shall find that the number of Pravdist groups has grown by 692, i. e., 31.7 per cent, whereas the liquidationist groups have gone up by 10, i. e., 1.5 per cent. Hence, the workers’ readiness to support the Pravdist newspapers has grown 20 times as last as their readiness to support the liquidationist newspapers.

Let us see how the workers in various parts of Russia are divided according to trend:

 
per cent of total workers’ groups
{
Pravdist Liquidationist
St. Petersburg . . . . . 86 14
Moscow . . . . . . . . 83 17
Provinces . . . . . . . 68 32

The inference is clear: the more politically developed the masses of the workers are, and the higher their level of class-consciousness and political activity, the higher is the number of Pravdists among them. In St. Petersburg the liquidators have been almost completely dislodged (fourteen out of a hundred); they still have a precarious hold in the provinces (32 out of 100), where the masses are politically less educated.

It is highly instructive to note that figures from an entirely different source, namely, those giving the number of workers’ delegates elected during the Insurance Board elections, tally to a remarkable degree with those of the workers’ groups. During the election of the Metropolitan Insurance Board, 37 Pravdist and 7 liquidationist delegates were   elected, i. e., 84 per cent and 16 per cent respectively. Of the total number of delegates elected, the Pravdists constituted 70 per cent (37 out of 53), and at the election of the All-Russia Insurance Board they obtained 47 out of 57, i. e., 82 per cent. The liquidators, non-party people and Narodniks form a small minority of workers, who still remain under bourgeois influence.

To proceed. The following are interesting figures on the average amounts collected by workers groups:

 
Average amounts collected by work
ers’ groups
Pravdist (rubles) Liquidationist
(rubles)
St. Petersburg . . . . . 6.88 7.24
Moscow . . . . . . . . 6.65 10.54
Provinces . . . . . . . 5.74 8.28
Whole of Russia . . . . 6.58 7.89

The Pravdist groups show a natural, understandable and, so to speak, normal tendency: the average contribution from the average workers’ group rises with the increase in the average earnings of the working masses.

In the case of the liquidators, we see, apart from the spurt in the Moscow groups (of which there are only 25 in all!), that the average contributions from the provincial groups are higher than those from the St. Petersburg groups! How are we to explain this odd phenomenon?

Only a more detailed analysis of the figures could provide a satisfactory reply to this question, but that would be a laborious task. Our conjecture is that the liquidators unite the minority of the higher-paid workers in certain sections of industry. It has been observed all over the world that such workers cling to liberal and opportunist ideas. In St. Petersburg, the longest to put up with the liquidators were the printing workers, and it was only during the last elections in their Union, on April 27, 1914, that the Pravdists won half the seats on the Executive and a majority of the seats for alternate members. In all countries the printers are most inclined towards opportunism, and some grades among them are highly paid workers.

If our conclusion about the minority of the workers, the labour aristocracy, being in sympathy with the liquidators   is merely conjectural, there can be no doubt whatever where individuals are concerned. Of the contributions made by non-workers, more than half came from individuals (531 out of 713 in our case, 266 out of 453 in the case of the liquidators). The average contribution from this source in our case is R.1.97 whereas among the liquidators it is R.6.05!

In the first case, the contributions obviously came from lower-paid office workers, civil servants, etc., and from the petty-bourgeois elements of a semi-proletarian character. In the case of the liquidators, however, we see that they have rich friends among the bourgeoisie.

These rich friends from among the bourgeoisie take still more definite shape as “groups of adherents, friends, etc.” These groups collected R.458.82 for us, i. e., two per cent of the total sum collected, the average donation per group being R.10.92, which is only half as much again as the average donation of workers’ groups. For the liquidators, however, these groups collected R.2,450.60, i. e., over 20 per cent of the total sum collected, the average donation per group being R.45.39, i. e., six times the average collected by workers’ groups!

To this we add the collections made abroad, where bourgeois students are the main contributors. We received R.49.79 from this source, i. e., less than one-fourth of one per cent; the liquidators received R.1,709.17, i. e., 14 per cent.

If we add up individuals, “adherents and friends”, and collections made abroad, the total amount collected from these sources will be as follows:

Pravdists—R.1,555.23, i. e., 7 per cent of the total collections.

Liquidators—R.5,768.09, i. e., 48 per cent of the total collections.

From this source we received less than one-tenth of what we received from the workers’ groups (R.18,934). This source gave the liquidators more than they received from the workers’ groups (R.5,296)!

The inference is clear: the liquidationist newspaper is not a workers’ but a bourgeois newspaper. It is run mainly on funds contributed by rich friends from among the bourgeoisie.

As a matter of fact, the liquidators are far more dependent upon the bourgeoisie than our figures show. The Pravdist newspapers have frequently published their financial re ports for public information. These reports have shown that our newspaper, by adding collections to its income, is paying its way. With a circulation of 40,000 (the average for May 1914), this is understandable, in spite of confiscations and a dearth of advertisements. The liquidators, however, published their report only once (Luch No. 101), showing a deficit of 4,000 rubles. After this, they adopted the usual bourgeois custom of not publishing reports. With a circulation of 15,000, their newspaper cannot avoid a deficit, and evidently this is covered again and again by their rich friends from among the bourgeoisie.

Liberal-labour politicians like to drop hints about an “open workers’ party”, but they do not like to reveal to genuine workers their actual dependence upon the bourgeoisie! It is left for us, “underground” workers, to teach the liquidator-liberals the benefit of open reports…

The overall ratio of worker and non-worker collections is as follows:

 
Collected by Out of every ruble collected for
Pravdist
newspapers
Liquidationist
newspapers
Workers . . . . . 87 kopeks 44 kopeks
Non-workers . . . 13 ” 56 ”
  Total 1.00 ruble 1.00 ruble

The Pravdists get one-seventh of their aid collections from the bourgeoisie and, as we have seen, from its most democratic and least wealthy sections. The liquidationist undertaking is largely a bourgeois undertaking, which is supported only by a minority of the workers.

The figures concerning the sources of funds also reveal to us the class status of the readers and buyers of the newspapers.

Voluntary contributions are made only by regular readers, who most intelligently sympathise with the trend of the given newspaper. In its turn, the trend of the given news paper willy-nilly “adapts itself” to the more “influential” section of its reading public.

The deductions that follow from our figures are, first, theoretical, i. e., such as will help the working class to understand the conditions of its movement, and secondly, practical deductions, which will give us direct guidance in our activities.

It is sometimes said that there is not one working-class press in Russia, but two. Even Plekhanov repeated this statement not long ago. But that is not true. Those who say this betray sheer ignorance, if not a secret desire to help the liquidators spread bourgeois influence among the workers. Long ago and repeatedly (for example, in 1908 and 1910), the Party decisions clearly, definitely, and directly pointed to the bourgeois nature of liquidationism. Articles in the Marxist press have explained this truth hundreds of times.

The experience of a daily newspaper, which openly appeals to the masses, was bound to disclose the real class character of the liquidationist trend. And that is what it did. The liquidationist newspaper has indeed proved to be a bourgeois undertaking, which is supported by a minority of the workers.

Moreover, let us not forget that almost up to the spring of 1914 the liquidationist newspaper was the mouthpiece of the August bloc. It was only lately that the Letts with drew from it, and Trotsky, Em-El, An, Buryanov and Yegorov have left, or are leaving, the liquidators. The break-up of the bloc is continuing. The near future is bound to reveal still more clearly the bourgeois character of the liquidationist trend and the sterility of the intellectualist grouplets, such as the Vperyodists, Plekhanovites, Trotskyists, etc.

The practical deductions may be summed up in the following points:

1) 5,674 workers’ groups united by the Pravdists in less than two-and-a-half years is a fairly large number, considering the harsh conditions obtaining in Russia. But this is only a beginning. We need, not thousands, but tens of thousands of workers’ groups. We must intensify our activities tenfold. Ten rubles collected in kopeks from hundreds of workers are more important and valuable, both from the ideological and organisational point of view, than a hundred rubles from rich friends among the bourgeoisie.   Even from the financial aspect, experience goes to prove that it is possible to run a well-established workers’ newspaper with the aid of workers’ kopeks, but impossible to do so with the aid of bourgeois rubles. The liquidationist under taking is a bubble, which is bound to burst.

2) We lag behind in the provinces, where 32 per cent of the workers’ groups support the liquidators! Every class-conscious worker must exert every effort to put an end to this lamentable and disgraceful state of affairs. We must bring all our weight to bear in the provinces.

3) The rural workers are apparently still almost untouched by the movement. Difficult as work in this field may be, we must press forward with it in the most vigorous manner.

4) Like a mother who carefully tends a sick child and gives it better nourishment,, the class-conscious workers must take more care of the districts and factories where the workers are sick with liquidationism. This malady, which emanates from the bourgeoisie, is inevitable in a young working-class movement, but with proper care and persistent treatment, it will pass without any serious after effects. To provide the sick workers with more plentiful nourishment in the shape of Marxist literature, to explain more carefully and in more popular form the history and tactics of the Party and the meaning of the Party decisions on the bourgeois nature of liquidationism, to explain at greater length the urgent necessity of proletarian unity, i. e., the submission of the minority of the workers to the majority, the submission of the one-fifth to the four-fifths of the class-conscious workers of Russia—such are some of the most important tasks confronting us.

Notes:

[1] Number of collections. —Lenin

[2] Sums collected (rubles) —Lenin

[3] V. A. T.—initials of V. A. Tikhomirnov, a member of the Pravda staff.

 Source: Marxists Internet Archive at https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1914/jun/14.htm

100th Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution: Trotsky on the Doomed Tsar and Tsarina

We present here the background to the great Russian Revolution of 1917 on its hundredth anniversary – as told by one of its chief organizers: Leon Trotsky.

Trotsky’s “History of the Russian Revolution” is not only a great read: it is also an almost unique first-person account of a great revolution as told by one of its chief organizers.  It is almost unique among the histories of any revolution.  Most revolutionary leaders never lived to write their own history of the revolutions they led.  So from that standpoint alone, Trotsky’s “History” is of inestimable value – especially to workers who want to know the truth about the Bolshevik Revolution.

As part of our series commemorating the 100th anniversary of the very first successful communist-led workers revolution we present to our readers this excerpt from “The History of the Russian Revolution” by Leon Trotsky.  In it we will get a glimpse of the wonderful regime that was brutally destroyed by the extremists of the Bolshevik Party, led by Lenin and Trotsky.  This chapter that describes the repulsive chaRracters of the Tsar and Tsarina are among our favorite written works in any genre of literature.  This version of the book comes from the Marxists.org website at https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1930/hrr/ch04.htm   In the US we are taught to have sympathy for the executed Tsar and his family.  The hideousness of the regime is fully explored in this essay; workers who study the history of the disgusting Romanov dynasty will come to understand after reading this essay that this Tsarist regime deserves absolutely no sympathy at all.  Enjoy!

—IWPCHI

Leon Trotsky

The History of the Russian Revolution

Volume One: The Overthrow of Tzarism


Chapter 4
The Tzar and the Tzarina

 

This book will concern itself least of all with those unrelated psychological researches which are now so often substituted for social and historical analysis. Foremost in our field of vision will stand the great, moving forces of history, which are super-personal in character. Monarchy is one of them. But all these forces operate through people. And monarchy is by its very principle bound up with the personal. This in itself justifies an interest in the personality of that monarch whom the process of social development brought face to face with a revolution. Moreover, we hope to show in what follows, partially at least, just where in a personality the strictly personal ends – often much sooner than we think – and how frequently the “distinguishing traits” of a person are merely individual scratches made by a higher law of development.

Nicholas II inherited from his ancestors not only a giant empire, but also a revolution. And they did not bequeath him one quality which would have made him capable of governing an empire or even a province or a county. To that historic flood which was rolling its billows each one closer to the gates of his palace, the last Romanov opposed only a dumb indifference. It seemed as though between his consciousness and his epoch there stood some transparent but absolutely impenetrable medium.

People surrounding the tzar often recalled after the revolution that in the most tragic moments of his reign – at the time of the surrender of Port Arthur and the sinking of the fleet at Tsushima, and ten years later at the time of the retreat of the Russian troops from Galicia, and then two years later during the days preceding his abdication when all those around him were depressed, alarmed, shaken – Nicholas alone preserved his tranquillity. He would inquire as usual how many versts he had covered in his journeys about Russia, would recall episodes of hunting expeditions in the past, anecdotes of official meetings, would interest himself generally in the little rubbish of the day’s doings, while thunders roared over him and lightnings flashed. “What is this?” asked one of his attendant generals, “a gigantic, almost unbelievable self-restraint, the product of breeding, of a belief in the divine predetermination of events? Or is it inadequate consciousness?” The answer is more than half included in the question. The so-called “breeding” of the tzar, his ability to control himself in the most extraordinary circumstances, cannot be explained by a mere external training; its essence was an inner indifference, a poverty of spiritual forces, a weakness of the impulses of the will. That mask of indifference which was called breeding in certain circles, was a natural part of Nicholas at birth.

The tzar’s diary is the best of all testimony. From day to day and from year to year drags along upon its pages the depressing record of spiritual emptiness. “Walked long and killed two crows. Drank tea by daylight.” Promenades on foot, rides in a boat. And then again crows, and again tea. All on the borderline of physiology. Recollections of church ceremonies are jotted down in the same tome as a drinking party.

In the days preceding the opening of the State Duma, when the whole country was shaking with convulsions, Nicholas wrote: “April 14. Took a walk in a thin shirt and took up paddling again. Had tea in a balcony. Stana dined and took a ride with us. Read.” Not a word as to the subject of his reading. Some sentimental English romance? Or a report from the Police Department? “April 15: Accepted Witte’s resignation. Marie and Dmitri to dinner. Drove them home to the palace.”

On the day of the decision to dissolve the Duma, when the court as well as the liberal circles were going through a paroxysm of fright, the tzar wrote in his diary: “July 7. Friday. Very busy morning. Half hour late to breakfast with the officers … A storm came up and it was very muggy. We walked together. Received Goremykin. Signed a decree dissolving the Duma! Dined with Olga and Petia. Read all evening.” An exclamation point after the coming dissolution of the Duma is the highest expression of his emotions. The deputies of the dispersed Duma summoned the people to refuse to pay taxes. A series of military uprisings followed: in Sveaborg, Kronstadt, on ships, in army units. The revolutionary terror against high officials was renewed on an unheard-of scale. The tzar writes: “July 9. Sunday. It has happened! The Duma was closed today. At breakfast after Mass long faces were noticeable among many … The weather was fine. On our walk we met Uncle Misha who came over yesterday from Gatchina. Was quietly busy until dinner and all evening. Went padding in a canoe.” It was in a canoe he went paddling – that is told. But with what he was busy all evening is not indicated. So it was always.

And further in those same fatal days: “July 14. Got dressed and rode a bicycle to the bathing beach and bathed enjoyably in the sea.” “July 15. Bathed twice. It was very hot. Only us two at dinner. A storm passed over.” “July 19. Bathed in the morning. Received at the farm. Uncle Vladimir and Chagin lunched with us.” An insurrection and explosions of dynamite are barely touched upon with a single phrase, “Pretty doings!” – astonishing in its imperturbable indifference, which never rose to conscious cynicism.

“At 9:30 in the morning we rode out to the Caspian regiment … walked for a long time. The weather was wonderful. Bathed in the sea. After tea received Lvov and Guchkov.” Not a word of the fact that this unexpected reception of the two liberals was brought about by the attempt of Stolypin to include opposition leaders in his ministry. Prince Lvov, the future head of the Provisional Government, said of that reception at the time: “I expected to see the sovereign stricken with grief, but instead of that there came out to meet me a jolly sprightly fellow in a raspberry-coloured shirt.” The tzar’s outlook was not broader than that of a minor police official – with this difference, that the latter would have a better knowledge of reality and be less burdened with superstitions. The sole paper which Nicholas read for years, and from which he derived his ideas, was a weekly published on state revenue by Prince Meshchersky, a vile, bribed journalist of the reactionary bureaucratic clique, despised even in his own circle. The tzar kept his outlook unchanged through two wars and two revolutions. Between his consciousness and events stood always that impenetrable medium – indifference. Nicholas was called, not without foundation, a fatalist. It is only necessary to add that his fatalism was the exact opposite of an active belief in his “star.” Nicholas indeed considered himself unlucky. His fatalism was only a form of passive self-defence against historic evolution, and went hand in hand with an arbitrariness, trivial in psychological motivation, but monstrous in its consequences.

“I wish it and therefore it must be —,” writes Count Witte. “That motto appeared in all the activities of this weak ruler, who only through weakness did all the things which characterised his reign – a wholesale shedding of more or less innocent blood, for the most part without aim.”

Nicholas is sometimes compared with his half-crazy great-great-grandfather Paul, who was strangled by a camarilla acting in agreement with his own son, Alexander “the Blessed.” These two Romanovs were actually alike in their distrust of everybody due to a distrust of themselves, their touchiness as of omnipotent nobodies, their feeling of abnegation, their consciousness, as you might say, of being crowned pariahs. But Paul was incomparably more colourful; there was an element of fancy in his rantings, however irresponsible. In his descendant everything was dim; there was not one sharp trait.

Nicholas was not only unstable, but treacherous. Flatterers called him a charmer, bewitcher, because of his gentle way with the courtiers. But the tzar reserved his special caresses for just those officials whom he had decided to dismiss. Charmed beyond measure at a reception, the minister would go home and find a letter requesting his resignation. That was a kind of revenge on the tzar’s part for his own nonentity.

Nicholas recoiled in hostility before everything gifted and significant. He felt at ease only among completely mediocre and brainless people, saintly fakers, holy men, to whom he did not have to look up. He had his amour propre, indeed it was rather keen. But it was not active, not possessed of a grain of initiative, enviously defensive. He selected his ministers on a principle of continual deterioration. Men of brain and character he summoned only in extreme situations when there was no other way out, just as we call in a surgeon to save our lives. It was so with Witte, and afterwards with Stolypin. The tzar treated both with ill-concealed hostility. As soon as the crisis had passed, he hastened to part with these counsellors who were too tall for him. This selection operated so systematically that the president of the last Duma, Rodzianko, on the 7th of January 1917, with the revolution already knocking at the doors, ventured to say to the tzar: “Your Majesty, there is not one reliable or honest man left around you; all the best men have been removed or have retired. There remain only those of ill repute.”

All the efforts of the liberal bourgeoisie to find a common language with the court came to nothing. The tireless and noisy Rodzianko tried to shake up the tzar with his reports, but in vain. The latter gave no answer either to argument or to impudence, but quietly made ready to dissolve the Duma. Grand Duke Dmitri, a former favourite of the tzar, and future accomplice in the murder of Rasputin, complained to his colleague, Prince Yussupov, that the tzar at headquarters was becoming every day more indifferent to everything around him. In Dmitri’s opinion the tzar was being fed some kind of dope which had a benumbing action upon his spiritual faculties. “Rumours went round,” writes the liberal historian Miliukov, “that this condition of mental and moral apathy was sustained in the tzar by an increased use of alcohol.” This was all fancy or exaggeration. The tzar had no need of narcotics: the fatal “dope” was in his blood. Its symptoms merely seemed especially striking on the background of those great events of war and domestic crisis which led up to the revolution. Rasputin, who was a psychologist, said briefly of the tzar that he “lacked insides.”

This dim, equable and “well-bred” man was cruel – not with the active cruelty of Ivan the Terrible or of Peter, in the pursuit of historic aims – What had Nicholas the Second in common with them? – but with the cowardly cruelty of the late born, frightened at his own doom. At the very dawn of his reign Nicholas praised the Phanagoritsy regiment as “fine fellows” for shooting down workers. He always “read with satisfaction” how they flogged with whips the bob-haired girl-students, or cracked the heads of defenceless people during Jewish pogroms. This crowned black sheep gravitated with all his soul to the very dregs of society, the Black Hundred hooligans. He not only paid them generously from the state treasury, but loved to chat with them about their exploits, and would pardon them when they accidentally got mixed up in the murder of an opposition deputy. Witte, who stood at the head of the government during the putting down of the first revolution, has written in his memoirs: “When news of the useless cruel antics of the chiefs of those detachments reached the sovereign, they met with his approval, or in any case his defence.” In answer to the demand of the governor-general of the Baltic States that he stop a certain lieutenant-captain, Richter, who was “executing on his own authority and without trial non-resistant persons,” the tzar wrote on the report: “Ah, what a fine fellow!” Such encouragements are innumerable. This “charmer,” without will, without aim, without imagination, was more awful than all the tyrants of ancient and modern history.

The tzar was mightily under the influence of the tzarina, an influence which increased with the years and the difficulties. Together they constituted a kind of unit – and that combination shows already to what an extent the personal, under pressure of circumstances, is supplemented by the group. But first we must speak of the tzarina herself.

Maurice Paléologue, the French ambassador at Petrograd during the war, a refined psychologist for French academicians and janitresses, offers a meticulously licked portrait of the last tzarina: “Moral restlessness, a chronic sadness, infinite longing, intermittent ups and downs of strength, anguishing thoughts of the invisible other world, superstitions – are not all these traits, so clearly apparent in the personality of the empress, the characteristic traits of the Russian people?” Strange as it may seem, there is in this saccharine lie just a grain of truth. The Russian satirist Saltykov, with some justification, called the ministers and governors from among the Baltic barons “Germans with a Russian soul.” It is indubitable that aliens, in no way connected with the people, developed the most pure culture of the “genuine Russian” administrator.

But why did the people repay with such open hatred a tzarina who, in the words of Paléologue, had so completely assimilated their soul? The answer is simple. In order to justify her new situation, this German woman adopted with a kind of cold fury all the traditions and nuances of Russian mediaevalism, the most meagre and crude of all mediaevalisms, in that very period when the people were making mighty efforts to free themselves from it. This Hessian princess was literally possessed by the demon of autocracy. Having risen from her rural corner to the heights of Byzantine despotism, she would not for anything take a step down. In the orthodox religion she found a mysticism and a magic adapted to her new lot. She believed the more inflexibly in her vocation, the more naked became the foulness of the old régime. With a strong character and a gift for dry and hard exaltations, the tzarina supplemented the weak-willed tzar, ruling over him.

On March 17, 1916, a year before the revolution, when the tortured country was already writhing in the grip of defeat and ruin, the tzarina wrote to her husband at military headquarters: “You must not give indulgences, a responsible ministry, etc. … or anything that they want. This must be your war and your peace, and the honour yours and our fatherland’s, and not by any means the Duma’s. They have not the right to say a single word in these matters.” This was at any rate a thoroughgoing programme. And it was in just this way that she always had the whip hand over the continually vacillating tzar.

After Nicholas’ departure to the army in the capacity of fictitious commander-in-chief, the tzarina began openly to take charge of internal affairs. The ministers came to her with reports as to a regent. She entered into a conspiracy with a small camarilla against the Duma, against the ministers, against the staff-generals, against the whole world – to some extent indeed against the tzar. On December 6, 1916, the tzarina wrote to the tzar: “… Once you have said that you want to keep Protopopov, how does he (Premier Trepov) go against you? Bring down your fist on the table. Don’t yield. Be the boss. Obey your firm little wife and our Friend. Believe in us.” Again three days late: “You know you are right. Carry your head high. Command Trepov to work with him … Strike your fist on the table.” Those phrases sound as though they were made up, but they are taken from authentic letters. Besides, you cannot make up things like that.

On December 13 the tzarina suggest to the tzar: “Anything but this responsible ministry about which everybody has gone crazy. Everything is getting quiet and better, but people want to feel your hand. How long they have been saying to me, for whole years, the same thing: ’Russia loves to feel the whip.’ That is their nature!” This orthodox Hessian, with a Windsor upbringing and a Byzantine crown on her head, not only “incarnates” the Russian soul, but also organically despises it. Their nature demands the whip – writes the Russian tzarina to the Russian tzar about the Russian people, just two months and a half before the monarchy tips over into the abyss.

In contrast to her force of character, the intellectual force of the tzarina is not higher, but rather lower than her husband’s. Even more than he, she craves the society of simpletons. The close and long-lasting friendship of the tzar and tzarina with their lady-in-waiting Vyrubova gives a measure of the spiritual stature of this autocratic pair. Vyrubova has described herself as a fool, and this is not modesty. Witte, to whom one cannot deny an accurate eye, characterised her as “a most commonplace, stupid, Petersburg young lady, homely as a bubble in the biscuit dough.” In the society of this person, with whom elderly officials, ambassadors and financiers obsequiously flirted, and who had just enough brains not to forget about her own pockets, the tzar and tzarina would pass many hours, consulting her about affairs, corresponding with her and about her. She was more influential than the State Duma, and even that the ministry.

But Vyrubova herself was only an instrument of “The Friend,” whose authority superseded all three. “… This is my private opinion,” writes the tzarina to the tzar, “I will find out what our Friend thinks.” The opinion of the “Friend” is not private, it decides. “… I am firm,” insists the tzarina a few weeks later, “but listen to me, i.e. this means our Friend, and trust in everything … I suffer for you as for a gentle soft-hearted child – who needs guidance, but listens to bad counsellors, while a man sent by God is telling him what he should do.”

The Friend sent by God was Gregory Rasputin.

“… The prayers and the help of our Friend – then all will be well.”

“If we did not have Him, all would have been over long ago. I am absolutely convinced of that.”

Throughout the whole reign of Nicholas and Alexandra soothsayers and hysterics were imported for the court not only from all over Russia, but from other countries. Special official purveyors arose, who would gather around the momentary oracle, forming a powerful Upper Chamber attached to the monarch. There was no lack of bigoted old women with the title of countess, nor of functionaries weary of doing nothing, nor of financiers who had entire ministries in their hire. With a jealous eye on the unchartered competition of mesmerists and sorcerers, the high priesthood of the Orthodox Church would hasten to pry their way into the holy of holies of the intrigue. Witte called this ruling circle, against which he himself twice stubbed his toe, “the leprous court camarilla.”

The more isolated the dynasty became, and the more unsheltered the autocrat felt, the more he needed some help from the other world. Certain savages, in order to bring good weather, wave in the air a shingle on a string. The tzar and tzarina used shingles for the greatest variety of purposes. In the tzar’s train there was a whole chapel full of large and small images, and all sorts of fetiches, which were brought to bear, first against the Japanese, then against the German artillery.

The level of the court circle really had not changed much from generation to generation. Under Alexander II, called the “Liberator,” the grand dukes had sincerely believed in house spirits and witches. Under Alexander III it was no better, only quieter. The “leprous camarilla” had existed always, changed only its personnel and its method. Nicholas II did not create, but inherited from his ancestors, this court atmosphere of savage mediaevalism. But the country during these same decades had been changing, its problems growing more complex, its culture rising to a higher level. The court circle was thus left far behind.

Although the monarchy did under compulsion make concessions to the new forces, nevertheless inwardly it completely failed to become modernised. On the contrary it withdrew into itself. Its spirit of mediaevalism thickened under the pressure of hostility and fear, until it acquired the character of a disgusting nightmare overhanging the country.

Towards November 1905 – that is, at the most critical moment of the first revolution – the tzar writes in his diary: “We got acquainted with a man of God, Gregory, from the Tobolsk province.” That was Rasputin – a Siberian peasant with a bald scar on his head, the result of a beating for horse-stealing. Put forward at an appropriate moment, this “Man of God” soon found official helpers – or rather they found him – and thus was formed a new ruling class which got a firm hold of the tzarina, and through her of the tzar.

From the winter of 1913-14 it was openly said in Petersburg society that all high appointments, posts and contracts depended upon the Rasputin clique. The “Elder” himself gradually turned into a state institution. He was carefully guarded, and no less carefully sought after by the competing ministers. Spies of the Police Department kept a diary of his life by hours, and did not fail to report how on a visit to his home village of Pokrovsky he got into a drunken and bloody fight with his own father on the street. On the same day that this happened – September 9, 1915 – Rasputin sent two friendly telegrams, one to Tzarskoe Selo, to the tzarina, the other to headquarters to the tzar. In epic language the police spies registered from day to day the revels of the Friend. “He returned today 5 o’clock in the morning completely drunk.” “On the night of the 25-26th the actress V. spent the night with Rasputin.” “He arrived with Princess D. (the wife of a gentleman of the bedchamber of the Tzar’s court) at the Hotel Astoria.”…And right beside this: “Came home from Tzarskoe Selo about 11 o’clock in the evening.” “Rasputin came home with Princess Sh- very drunk and together they went out immediately.” In the morning or evening of the following day a trip to Tzarskoe Selo. To a sympathetic question from the spy as to why the Elder was thoughtful, the answer came: “Can’t decide whether to convoke the Duma or not.” And then again: “He came home at 5 in the morning pretty drunk.” Thus for months and years the melody was played on three keys: “Pretty drunk,” “Very drunk,” and “Completely drunk.” These communications of state importance were brought together and countersigned by the general of gendarmes, Gorbachev.

The bloom of Raputin’s influence lasted six years, the last years of the monarchy. “His life in Petrograd,” says Prince Yussupov, who participated to some extent in that life, and afterward killed Rasputin, “became a continual revel, the durnken debauch of a galley slave who had come into an unexpected fortune.” “I had at my disposition,” wrote the president of the Duma, Rodzianko, “a whole mass of letters from mothers whose daughters had been dishonoured by this insolent rake.” Nevertheless the Petrograd metropolitan, Pitirim, owed his position to Rasputin, as also the almost illiterate Archbishop Varnava. The Procuror of the Holy Synod, Sabler, was long sustained by Rasputin; and Premier Kokovtsev was removed at his wish, having refused to receive the “Elder.” Rasputin appointed Stürmer President of the Council of Ministers, Protopopov Minister of the Interior, the new Procuror of the Synod, Raev, and many others. The ambassador of the French republic, Paléologue, sought an interview with Rasputin, embraced him and cried, “Voilà, un véritable illuminé!” hoping in this way to win the heart of the tzarina to the cause of France. The Jew Simanovich, financial agent of the “Elder,” himself under the eye of the Secret Police as a nightclub gambler and usurer – introduced into the Ministry of Justice through Rasputin the completely dishonest creature Dobrovolsky.

“Keep by you the little list,” writes the tzarina to the tzar, in regard to new appointments. “Our friend has asked that you talk all this over with Protopopov.” Two days later: “Our friend says that Stürmer may remain a few days longer as President of the Council of Ministers.” And again: “Protopopov venerates our friend and will be blessed.”

On one of those days when the police spies were counting up the number of bottles and women, the tzarina grieved in a letter to the tzar: “They accuse Rasputin of kissing women, etc. Read the apostles; they kissed everybody as a form of greeting.” This reference to the apostles would hardly convince the police spies. In another letter the tzarina goes still farther. “During vespers I thought so much about our friend,” she writes, “how the Scribes and Pharisees are persecuting Christ pretending that they are so perfect … yes, in truth no man is a prophet in his own country.”

The comparison of Rasputin and Christ was customary in that circle, and by no means accidental. The alarm of the royal couple before the menacing forces of history was too sharp to be satisfied with an impersonal God and the futile shadow of a Biblical Christ. They needed a second coming of “the Son of Man.” In Rasputin the rejected and agonising monarchy found a Christ in its own image.

“If there had been no Rasputin,” said Senator Tagantsev, a man of the old régime, “it would have been necessary to invent one.” There is a good deal more in these words than their author imagined. If by the word hooliganism we understand the extreme expression of those anti-social parasite elements at the bottom of society, we may define Rasputinism as a crowned hooliganism at its very top.

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100th Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 – As it Happened: Lenin and Trotsky Respond to News of February 1917 Revolution and Abdication of the Tzar

Wikipedia caption:  “A demonstration of workers from the Putilov plant in Petrograd (modern-day St. Petersburg), Russia, during the February Revolution. The left banner reads (misspelt*) “Feed the children of the defenders of the motherland”; the right banner, “Increase payments to the soldiers’ families – defenders of freedom and world peace”.  Both refer to the economic toll the First World War was having on civilian life.  Unknown [photographer] – State museum of political history of Russia. 1 February 1917″

Inspired by the “Disunion” series produced by the New York Times to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the US Civil War, we are going to attempt to publish a daily account of the historic events that led up to the first successful workers revolution in world history – the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia – in the words of its principal leaders and the shocked and terrified capitalist classes of the world and their respective bourgeois presses.

There were in fact not one but two revolutions that took place in Russia in 1917: the first one, in February, brought to power a bourgeois government made up chiefly of wealthy landlords and aristocrats who had prospered under Tzarism.  [When the February revolution occurred, many of those who would become the top leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution were in exile: as you will see from the documents reproduced below, Lenin was in Zurich, Switzerland and Trotsky was in New York City (they immediately made plans to return to Russia)].  The second, Bolshevik revolution of October 1917 overthrew that government and replaced it with a workers and peasants’ government based on elected workers, soldiers and peasants’ “soviets” (councils) led by that time largely by the Bolsheviks and supported by all the other revolutionary socialist, anarchist and leftist peasant-based parties and groups.

There has never been a party of honest and courageous revolutionary leaders so universally vilified and slandered as the leaders of the Bolshevik party were (and are to this day!) by the capitalists of the world and their paid liars in their bourgeois press.  Workers who have been taught to hate the Bolsheviks should carefully read these documents written by the great Bolshevik leaders and examine them for any traces of duplicity or double-dealing behind the backs of the workers and peasants of Russia.  Good luck finding any!  There has never been a political party in the history of the world more honest and transparent than Lenin’s Bolshevik Party of 1917! And you will undoubtedly be surprised to read Lenin’s repeated statements urging the immediate “arming of the workers” to defend the Revolution from those who wanted to restore the Tzar to his throne!

Led chiefly by Lenin and, later on, Leon Trotsky and a brilliant team of lifelong revolutionary socialists (almost all of whom had “graduated” from more or less lengthy terms of imprisonment in the brutal jails and Siberian prison camps of the universally despised Tzarist regime) the Bolsheviks fought against a rip tide of slander and calumny from their political opponents inside Russia and throughout the world. The trials that the Bolsheviks went through from April to November of 1917 would have utterly destroyed an organization that was not as battle-hardened and politically brilliant as were Lenin’s Bolsheviks.  Through the tumultuous spring and summer of 1917 the Bolsheviks went from being heroes to having their party members beaten to death in the streets to winning over the workers and soldiers exhausted by the brutal role they were forced to play in WWI as cannon fodder for the Germans on the Eastern Front – to victory in the October Revolution.  It is one of the most amazing stories in the history of the world and one that every revolutionary worker should take the time to study again and again to prepare herself for the many traps and subterfuges used by the various parties that pretend to fight for the workers but who ultimately prove to be the most ardent defenders of the capitalist system in the final analysis.

Workers in the USA have been taught from birth to hate the “commies” and especially the Russian communist leaders; Lenin being falsely portrayed as the founding father of loathsome Stalinism – which he most certainly was not!  In fact, Lenin was quite possibly the most honest and trustworthy leader that the working class ever had.  His mantra was the same as that of Marx, Engels and entirely within the best traditions of the workers’ movement from its earliest days: to tell the truth to the workers and peasants, no matter how unpleasant it may be.  Far from working hand-in-hand with Stalin, Lenin had decided to initiate a vigorous struggle against Stalin and his growing arrogant bureaucracy in the months before his death.  This struggle was continued by Trotsky after Lenin’s untimely death; and that struggle involved a huge section of the Communist Party of the USSR known as the “Left Opposition” and was not defeated by the Stalinists until the 1930s – after the Stalinists had murdered almost to the last man and woman everyone who had led the Bolshevik Party to victory in 1917 as well as all of the leading ‘left Oppositionists” – including the man who originated our political movement, Leon Trotsky, murdered by a Stalinist assassin in Mexico in 1940.  It is not for nothing that those of us in the Trotskyist movement call Stalin and his vicious bureaucratic clique “the gravediggers of the Revolution”.

Stalin organized the show trials and ordered the murders of most of the leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Source: Marxists Internet Archive

We’re going to start our series just before the legendary wartime rail journey made across a bleeding Europe by the Bolshevik leaders-in-exile who were given safe passage by the Germans in a “sealed train” in the desperate hopes of the German staff that these anti-Tsarist revolutionaries would pull Russia out of the war, enabling the Germans to transfer thousands of troops from the Eastern to the Western front.  They got their wish – but the victory of the Bolsheviks led not to a German victory in WWI but directly to the collapse of the German monarchy and the initiation of the first in a long series of attempts at workers revolution in Germany the very next year – the heroic Spartacist Uprising, ruthlessly suppressed by the German Social Democrats (SPD).

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 was a tremendous defeat for the working class not just in the USSR but internationally; it set the stage for the precipitous collapse of workers’ living standards inside the former Soviet Union and gave the green light to a resurgent US imperialism to launch their ill-fated wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East.  We seek to build a revolutionary socialist workers party that learns the lessons of 1917 as well as the brutal and tragic rise and collapse of Stalinism from 1927-1989 as we try to prevent WWIII through workers socialist revolution in the USA and around the world.  Long Live the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917!

We hope you enjoy this series and we welcome your comments and any supplementary material you would like to send to us to publish along with it.

— IWPCHI

[Note: Until the Bolsheviks took power in 1917, Russia and other countries where the Orthodox Church was the “official” church used an “old style” Julian calendar that was 13 days out of sync with the “new style” European calendar.  Dates given in these articles will show first the original “old style” date and then the “new style” date in parentheses.  Thus the Russian “October Revolution” of 25 October 1917 (old style) took place for most of the world on 7 November 1917 (new style). In this document, note that Lenin, writing from exile in Switzerland uses the “new style” calendar dates. – IWPCHI]

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Lenin and Trotsky respond to the news of the February 1917 Revolution and the Abdication of the Tsar:

Document 1:

V. I. Lenin
Draft Theses, March 4 (17), 1917[1]

Information reaching Zurich from Russia at this moment, March 17, 1917, is so scanty, and events in our country are developing so rapidly, that any judgement of the situation must of needs be very cautious.

Yesterday’s dispatches indicated that the tsar had already abdicated and that the new, Octobrist-Cadet government[2] had already made an agreement with other representatives of the Romanov dynasty. Today there are reports from England that the tsar has not yet abdicated, and that his whereabouts are unknown. This suggests that he is trying to put up resistance, organise a party, perhaps even an armed force, in an attempt to restore the monarchy. If he succeeds in fleeing from Russia or winning over part of the armed forces, the tsar might, to mislead the people, issue a manifesto announcing immediate conclusion of a separate peace with Germany!

That being the position, the proletariat’s task is a pretty complex one. There can be no doubt that it must organise itself in the most efficient way, rally all its forces, arm, strengthen and extend its alliance with all sections of the working masses of town and country in order to put up a stubborn resistance to tsarist reaction and crush the tsarist monarchy once and for all.

Another factor to bear in mind is that the new government that has seized power in St. Petersburg, or, more correctly, wrested it from the proletariat, which has waged a victorious, heroic and fierce struggle, consists of liberal bourgeois and landlords whose lead is being followed by Kerensky, the spokesman of the democratic peasants and, possibly, of that part of the workers who have forgotten their internationalism and have been led on to the bourgeois path. The new government is composed of avowed advocates and supporters of the imperialist war with Germany, i.e., a war in alliance with the English and French imperialist governments, a war for the plunder and conquest of foreign lands—Armenia, Galicia, Constantinople, etc. [See Note 3 at end of this first document – IWPCHI]

The new government cannot give the peoples of Russia (and the nations tied to us by the war) either peace, bread, or full freedom. The working class must therefore continue its fight for socialism and peace, utilising for this purpose the new situation and explaining it as widely as possible among the masses.

The new government cannot give the people peace, because it represents the capitalists and landlords and because it is tied to the English and French capitalists by treaties and financial commitments. Russian Social-Democracy must therefore, while remaining true to internationalism, first and foremost explain to the people who long for peace that it cannot be won under the present government. Its first appeal to the people (March 17) does not as much as mention the chief and basic issue of the time, peace. It is keeping secret the predatory treaties tsarism concluded with England, France, Italy, Japan, etc. It wants to conceal from the people the truth about its war programme, the fact that it stands for continuation of the war, for victory over Germany. It is not in a position to do what the people so vitally need: directly and frankly propose to all belligerent countries an immediate ceasefire, to be followed by peace based on complete liberation of all the colonies and dependent and unequal nations. That requires a workers’ government acting in alliance with, first, the poorest section of the rural population, and, second, the revolutionary workers of all countries in the war.

The new government cannot give the people bread. And no freedom can satisfy the masses suffering from hunger due to shortages and inefficient distribution of available stocks, and, most important, to the seizure of these stocks by the landlords and capitalists. It requires revolutionary measures against the landlords and capitalists to give the people bread, and such measures can be carried out only by a workers’ government.

Lastly, the new government is not, in a position to give the people full freedom, though in its March 17 manifesto it speaks of nothing but political freedom and is silent on other, no less important, issues. The new government has already endeavoured to reach agreement with the Romanov dynasty, for it has suggested recognising the Romanovs, in defiance of the people’s will, on the understanding that Nicholas II would abdicate in favour of his son, with a member of the Romanov family appointed regent. In its manifesto, the new government promises every kind of freedom, but has failed in its direct and unconditional duty immediately to implement such freedoms as election of officers, etc., by the soldiers, elections to the St. Petersburg, Moscow and other City Councils on a basis of genuinely universal, and not merely male, suffrage, make all government and public buildings available for public meetings, appoint elections to all local institutions and Zemstvos, likewise on the basis of genuinely universal suffrage, repeal all restrictions on the rights of local government bodies, dismiss all officials appointed to supervise local government bodies, introduce not only freedom of religion, but also freedom from religion, immediately separate the school from the church and free it of control by government officials, etc.

The new government’s March 17 manifesto arouses the deepest distrust, for it consists entirely of promises and does not provide for the immediate carrying out of a single one of the vital measures that can and should be carried out right now.

The new government’s programme does not contain a single word on the eight-hour day or on any other economic measure to improve the worker’s position. It contains not a single word about land for the peasants, about the uncompensated transfer to the peasants of all the estates. By its silence on these vital issues the new government reveals its capitalist and landlord nature.

Only a workers’ government that relies, first, on the overwhelming majority of the peasant population, the farm labourers and poor peasants, and, second, on an alliance with the revolutionary workers of all countries in the war, can give the people peace, bread and full freedom.

The revolutionary proletariat can therefore only regard the revolution of March 1 (14) as its initial, and by no means complete, victory on its momentous path. It cannot but set itself the task of continuing the fight for a democratic republic and socialism.

To do that, the proletariat and the R.S.D.L.P. must above all utilise the relative and partial freedom the new government is introducing, and which can be guaranteed and extended only by continued, persistent and persevering revolutionary struggle.

The truth about the present government and its real attitude on pressing issues must be made known to all working people in town and country, and also to the army. Soviets of Workers’ Deputies must be organised, the workers must be armed [emphasis added – IWPCHI]. Proletarian organisations must be extended to the army (which the new government has likewise promised political rights) and to the rural areas. In particular there must be a separate class organisation for farm labourers.

Only by making the truth known to the widest masses of the population, only by organising them, can we guarantee full victory in the next stage of the revolution and the winning of power by a workers’ government.

Fulfilment of this task, which in revolutionary times and under the impact of the severe lessons of the war can be brought home to the people in an immeasurably shorter time than under ordinary conditions, requires the revolutionary proletarian party to be ideologically and organisation ally independent. It must remain true to internationalism and not succumb to the false bourgeois phraseology meant to dupe the people by talk of “defending the fatherland” in the present imperialist and predatory war.

Not only this government, but even a democratic bourgeois republican government, were it to consist exclusively of Kerensky and other Narodnik and “Marxist” social-patriots, cannot lead the people out of the imperialist war and guarantee peace.

For that reason we cannot consent to any blocs, or alliances, or even agreements with the defencists among the workers, nor with the Gvozdyov-Potresov-Chkhenkeli Kerensky, etc., trend, nor with men who, like Chkheidze and others, have taken a vacillating and indefinite stand on this crucial issue. Those agreements would not only inject an element of falseness in the minds of the masses, making them dependent on the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie, but would also weaken and undermine the leading role of the proletariat in ridding the people of imperialist war and guaranteeing a genuinely durable peace between the workers’ governments of all countries.
Notes

[1] The first news of the February bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia reached Lenin on March 2 (15), 1917. Reports of the victory of the revolution and the advent to power of an Octobrist-Cadet government of capitalists and landlords appeared in the Zürcher Post and Neue Zürcher Zeitung by the evening of March 4 (17). Lenin had drawn up a rough draft of theses, not meant for publication, on the tasks of the proletariat in the revolution. The theses were immediately sent via Stockholm to Oslo for the Bolsheviks leaving for Russia.

[2] Lenin uses the appellation Octobrist-Cadet to describe the bourgeois Provisional Government formed at 3 p.m. on March 2 (15), 1917 by agreement between the Provisional Committee of the State Duma and the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik leaders of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. The government was made up of Prince G. Y. Lvov (Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior), the Cadet leader P. N. Milyukov (Minister of Foreign Affairs), the Octobrist leader A. I. Guchkov (Minister of War and Acting Minister of the Navy) and other representatives of the big bourgeoisie and landlords. It also included A. F. Kerensky, of the Trudovik group, who was appointed Minister of Justice.

The manifesto of March 4 (17) mentioned by Lenin later on was originally drawn up by Menshevik members of the Petrograd Soviet Executive Committee. It set out the terms on which the Executive was prepared to support the Provisional Government. In the course of negotiations with the Duma Committee, it was revised by P. N. Milyukov and became the basis of the Provisional Government’s first appeal to the people.

[3]  From Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Organisations https://www.marxists.org/glossary/orgs/p/r.htm#provisional-government

Provisional Committee

On February 27 (March 12), 1917, the Duma is called into session on the appeals of Councillor of State Rodzianko, who is desperately trying to save the Empire despite the extraordinary momentum of the February Revolution. At 4pm the Duma resolves to create the Provisional Committee of the State Duma. Its members are among the biggest landowners and most wealthy capitalists in Russia:

M.V. Rodzianko (Octobrist); V.V. Shulgin; V.N. Lvov; I.I. Dmitryukov (Octobrist); S.I. Shidlovsky (Octobrist); M.A. Karaulov; A.F. Kerensky (Labour Party); A.I. Konovalav (Progressive); V.A. Rzhevsky (Progressive); A.A. Bublikov (Progressive); P.N. Milyukov (Cadet); N.V. Nekrasov (Cadet); and N.S. Chkheidze (Menshevik).

The Committee discusses whether they should assume power over the country, filling up the vacuum caused by the revolution and the Tsar’s ineptitude. The Committee denies the move, and resolves that it must somehow save the Tsar. The Committee resolves that the only path towards this is to share power between Tsar and a new Prime Minister. [It was suggested to the Tzar that he should resign in favor of his son in order to give the new government a veneer of what to the new government appeared to be the necessary “legitimacy”! – IWPCHI] The despondent Tsar refused this offer. The Committee then asks his brother Mikhail to assume the throne, who also refuses.

On the following day, left without any other option, the Committee assumes power over the government. Along with the Petrograd Soviet, the Committee creates a new Provisional Government.

Provisional Government

Russian government established after the February Revolution of 1917 and lasting until the October Revolution of 1917.

The provisional government was born by decision of the Duma, which on the 27th of February, formed the Provisional Committee of Duma Members. The committee consisted of 12 members, chaired by Mikhail Rodzyanko (Octobrist), and was mostly made up of members of the Progressive Bloc, though it included two Socialists: Alexander Kerensky and Nikolai Chkheidze.

By March 1, the commandant of the Palace Guard at Tsarskoe Selo, and hundreds of high ranking officers announced their support for the provisional committee; the workers’ and soldiers’ revolution of February sent the monarchist officers a clear message: support for the Tsar would no longer be tolerated. The Provisional Committee attempted to gain legal legitimacy through the Tsar, but when Nicholas II refused, the committee assumed power.

Later in the day, the Committee asked the Ispolkom of the Petrograd Soviet for its support. The Ispolkom, without consulting the Soviet, presented an eight point programme, its conditions for support of the government:

1. Amnesty for all political prisoners
2. The right to speak, assemble, and strike
3. Equality for all nationalities, religions, and social origins.
4. Convocation of the Constituent Assembly
5. Police organs to be replaced by militia whose officers were elected
6. New elections to the soviets
7. Military units that participated in the Revolution not be sent to the front
8. Off duty-soldiers to receive temporary status as civilians

The programme was neither accepted nor declined, but ‘taken into consideration’; the Committee largely considering it consistent with their aims. A day after the Ispolkom presented it to the Provisional Committee, it asked the Petrograd Soviet to approve it, though the Soviet responded by pressing the demand that a “supervisory committee” be elected to serve as the correspondent to the Provisional Committee.

On March 2, 1917, the Provisional Committee became the Provisional Government. Pavel Milyukov picked the members of the new cabinet.

Chairman and Minister of the Interior: Prince G. E. Lvov
Minister of Foreign Affairs: P. N. Milyukov
Minister of Justice: A. F. Kerensky
Minister of Transport: N. V. Nekrasov
Minister of Posts and Telegraphs: I. G. Tsereteli
Minister of Trade: A. I. Konovalov
Minister of Public Education: A. A. Manuilov
Minister of War: A. I. Guchkov
Minister of Agriculture: A. I. Shingaryov
Minister of Treasury: M. I. Tereschenko
Minister of State Accounts: I. V. Godnev
Minister of Religion: V. N. Lvov

The Imperial family was arrested on the following day, March 3, 1917 […] The Ministers of the Provisional Government fled the country [after the Bolsheviks seized power in October], some of whom later assisted the United States, France, Britain, and Japan in the invasion of the R.S.F.S.R. during the Civil Wars of 1918-1922.

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Published: First published in 1924 in Lenin Miscellany II. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 23, pages 287-291.
Translated: M. S. Levin, The Late Joe Fineberg and Others
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive 2002 (2005). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Source: “Marxists Internet Archive” at https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/mar/04.htm#fwV23E122

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Document 2:

Leon Trotsky
OUR REVOLUTION
Two Faces
(Internal Forces of the Russian Revolution)
(March 1917)

Published in New York on March 17, 1917

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 Milyukov 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. Milyukov, 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 Milyukov 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.

Milyukov 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 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.

Milyukov 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 Milyukovs and Gutchkovs, not less than the Romanoff camarila, 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 Milyukovs 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 similar situation:

“From the very beginning ready to betray the people and to compromise with the crowned representatives of the old regime, 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 Milyukov 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.

Source: Marxists Internet Archive at https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1918/ourrevo/ch09.htm

The USA Now Has A President That Perfectly Reflects the “Soul” of It’s Demoralized, De-Unionized Heartland

“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.” – Sir Winston Churchill

“Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite.”  (Every nation gets the government it deserves.)  – Joseph de Maistre

“This whole election is being rigged. The whole thing is one big fix. One big ugly lie. It’s one big fix.” – Donald Trump

“Even a broken clock tells the correct time twice a day.” – Anonymous

The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States came as a shock to many observers around the world.  Professional political pollsters, particularly, were exposed as the charlatans they are by their wildly inaccurate predictions made through the last weeks of the campaign.  The New York Times, America’s “Newspaper of Record” dropped all pretense of “journalistic objectivity” to campaign furiously for the hideous Democratic Party candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, turning their newspaper into a de facto arm of the Clinton campaign.

The NY Times and almost all other major bourgeois press outlets railed 24/7 against the equally repulsive Republican candidate, slumlord and swindler of small businessmen and working class college hopefuls Donald Trump, piling up devastating evidence of his contempt for women, handicapped people and immigrants in particular.  In spite of the damning audio recordings and accusations of several women of his misogynist tendencies broadcast on all news media for the final weeks of the campaign, Hillary Clinton was unable to put Trump in her rear-view mirror.  Trump, just a day before the election, still trailed Clinton by just 4 percentage points in the WSJ’s polls.

The pinnacle of pro-Clinton propaganda was reached on November 3 when the magazine “The Atlantic” published an incredible puff piece on Clinton that will stand for all time as one of the most  hilariously fatuous and wildly inaccurate pieces of political journalism ever penned.  Written by Chimamanda Adichie (seemingly while curled up comfortably  in Hillary’s lap), it was entitled “What Hillary Clinton’s Fans Love About Her”:

“We do not see, often enough, the people who love Hillary Clinton, who support her because of her qualifications rather than because of her unqualified opponent, who empathize with her. Yet millions of Americans, women and men, love her intelligence, her industriousness, her grit; they feel loyal to her, they will vote with enthusiasm for her.

“Human beings change as they grow, but a person’s history speaks to who she is. There are millions who admire the tapestry of Hillary Clinton’s past: the first-ever student commencement speaker at Wellesley speaking boldly about making the impossible possible, the Yale law student interested in the rights of migrant farmworkers, the lawyer working with the Children’s Defense Fund, the first lady trying to make health care accessible for all Americans […]

“There are people who love how cleanly she slices through policy layers, how thoroughly she digests the small print […]

“They have confidence in her. There are people who rage at the media on her behalf, who see the coverage she too often receives as unfair. There are people who in a quiet, human way wish her well. There are people who, when Hillary Clinton becomes the first woman to be president of the United States, will weep from joy.

“Hillary Clinton was guilty immediately when she stepped into the view of the American public as the first lady of Arkansas. She was a lawyer full of dreams. She had made sacrifices for the man she loved, waived her plans, and moved to his state. But she also dared to think herself her husband’s equal, to assume herself competent enough to take on expanding access to healthcare and reforming the Arkansas public education system […]”.

“Because she is already considered guilty in a vague and hazy way, there is a longing for her to be demonstrably guilty of something. Other words have been repeated over and over, with no context, until they have begun to breathe and thrum with life. Especially “emails.” The press coverage of “emails” has become an unclear morass where “emails” must mean something terrible, if only because of how often it is invoked.

“The people who love Hillary Clinton know that the IT system at the State Department is old and stodgy, nothing like a Blackberry’s smooth whirl. Hillary Clinton was used to her Blackberry, and wanted to keep using it when she became secretary of state…”

It has to be read to be believed.  How much does it cost to hire someone to write sickening, fawning garbage like that?  How can an editor with any sense at all dare to present such a thing to the public?

The constant stream of evidence of Hillary Clinton’s willing servility towards the US capitalist class brought forth by the WikiLeaks organization was like a firehose of condemnation turned against Clinton for the final month of the campaign.  Hacked emails spirited from her top campaign manager John Podesta’s computers revealed how the Clinton camp’s near-total control of the primary election machinery of the Democratic Party had sabotaged the chimerical Bernie Sanders campaign from day one.  The WikiLeaks document trove also detailed how the Clintonites had conspired to use their agents in the US bourgeois press to build up the weakest of the Republican candidates so as to provide Hillary with the weakest possible opponent from the Republicans’ Augean stable of rotten, greed-driven swine.  Many commentators have awarded the laurel wreath to WikiLeaks for torpedoing the Hillary Clinton campaign with their steady drip of exposures of the criminality of Hillary Clinton and her family’s deeply corrupt Clinton Foundation, awash in barely concealed campaign donations from some of the most reactionary regimes on the planet.  But WikiLeaks’ efforts, though significant, were not responsible for the humiliation Clinton suffered at the sweaty, grasping hands of Donald Trump.

Post-election, the Clintonites desperately sought to lay the blame for their candidate’s stunning defeat at the feet of Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party and of Gary Johnson of the Libertarians – both of whom did, indeed, to their credit, succeed in taking a great many votes away from the Democrats and the Republicans.  The Democratic apologists’ shrill condemnations of the third parties for having the nerve to actually run candidates for real against their pre-selected winner of the Presidential race demonstrates better than any communist polemic the utter fraud that is the US political system.  Third party candidates, it seems, can exist, but not if they will actually participate in the final vote.  They are supposed to run during the primaries only, in order to give the completely phony US democracy a thin veneer of legitimacy, and then fold up their tents like dutiful and loyal servants of the two “major” “official” political parties of the US.

Donald Trump won a great deal of support from the mostly white, male working class that elected him by blathering about how the US election process is “rigged”.  Here Trump simply pointed out the obvious, while omitting the most important aspect of the rigged nature of the US political system: it is indeed rigged – to benefit people like him.  Wealthy white males have always been at the pinnacle of US politics since the wealthiest man in the young USA – George Washington – ran for president.  Donald Trump stands elected as US President not in spite of the fact that the US elections are rigged but because they are rigged to benefit white men of his social class: the capitalist class.

Hillary Clinton was defeated because she was a monstrous candidate obviously completely in the pockets of the Wall St. bankers and brokers who had paid her millions of dollars for speeches in which she told them exactly what they wanted to hear from a politician running for president.   Clinton lost because she’s a vicious, heartless, murderous, grasping beast who clearly would do anything – a-ny-thing – to become President of the United States.  To raise money for her election as the champion of women all over the world she openly sold herself not just to the US capitalist class but to some of the most disgusting women-hating regimes on the face of the Earth – like Saudi Arabia – for cold, hard cash.  She and her cohorts – whom she praised in her concession speech as representing “the best” the US has to offer – conspired to deny millions of Democratic Party voters the right to fully participate in the Democratic primary when her campaign deliberately and calculatedly plotted to destroy the candidacy of fellow Democrat Bernie Sanders.  The contempt of her co-conspirators for fair play in a political contest between loyal Democratic Party flacks was so boundless that she left nothing to chance in elbowing her way to the Democratic nomination, even to the extent of having her agents in the news media obtain debate questions in advance of the phony “debates” between herself and Sanders.

Hillary Rodham Clinton lost because she was a far less convincing liar than the real estate huckster Donald Trump.  The only people she told the truth to were the 1-percenters who run the USA and whose money and support she needed to obtain in order to become their anointed presidential candidate in 2016.  For a couple hundred thousand dollars a pop, she made speech after speech to the kings of Wall St., promising them in no uncertain terms that if they backed her they’d be running the tables in Washington for yet another four years.

WikiLeaks provided us with all of the damning evidence of the contents of Hillary Clinton’s highly-paid speaking tours of the halls of actual political power in the US’ phony democracy – which Clinton herself wisely refused to release to the public.  In a speech given to the Goldman Sachs AIMS Alternative Investments Symposium on 24 October 2013 Hillary told her sponsors: “It’s still happening, as you know. People are looking back and trying to, you know, get compensation for bad mortgages and all the rest of it in some of the agreements that are being reached. There’s nothing magic about regulations, too much is bad, too little is bad. How do you get to the golden key, how do we figure out what works? And the people that know the industry better than anybody are the people who work in the industry.” In other words, if anything is wrong with Wall St., it should be the Wall St. insiders who decide how to fix it, she sang to her paying audience of top capitalists.  To Clinton, the millions who make up the US working class are nothing but an ignorant herd of meddling outsiders.

The more Hillary Clinton appeared in public, the more convinced prospective voters became convinced of her vast insincerity in espousing her fake concern for the plight of working-class families in the US struggling to keep a roof over their families’ heads.  No one believed a thing she said; no one was convinced that she had any other motive for becoming President other than pure egotistical self-aggrandizement and of course to stuff her and her family’s pockets with money by doing favors for everyone who had bankrolled her campaign, from Goldman Sachs to the government of Saudi Arabia.  Hillary Clinton seemed to represent everyone EXCEPT the vast working class majority that makes up the citizenry of every capitalist nation-state including the “classless” “egalitarian” USA.

Hillary Clinton’s pretense of being the #1 champion of women’s rights simply by becoming the first female president of the United States was exposed for the fraud it was by the WikiLeaks revelations that the Clinton Foundation had received millions of dollars from reactionary woman-hating regimes throughout the Muslim world, like Saudi Arabia, whose government she made sure was showered with military supplies used to support the even more reactionary and anti-woman cretins of ISIL/ISIS when she was Secretary of State.  Hillary was never a champion of anyone other than Hillary.  Electing Hillary Rodham Clinton President would have done no more to advance the cause of women than did the election of the Afghan-mullah-loving Margaret Thatcher.  No intelligent person in the world doubts that a woman can run a major modern nation-state.  The United States lost its chance to be the first to have a female head of state decades ago.  Hillary Clinton would have been as big a disaster for the advancement of women’s rights as President as she was as Secretary of State.

Paradoxically, it seems to many, the workers of the US – primarily white males but also a surprising number of white women and a large percentage of US Hispanics and even black workers – were convinced that the bombastic, racist, neofascist huckster real estate swindler Donald Trump was the candidate that truly represented their best interests.  This may seem paradoxical but in reality there is no paradox.  In Donald Trump a large percentage of the US working class finds a mirror image of their racist, greedy, narcissistic selves.  After decades of attacks on the workers’ movement that has driven millions of workers out of the trade unions, the entire concept of the superiority of collective struggle of the working class has been subsumed under a tidal wave of capitalist propaganda and a brutal driving down of wages and benefits for the working class of the USA.  This conscious destruction of the workers’ movement by the US capitalist class and their criminal co-conspirators in the AFL-CIO hierarchy has led to a complete collapse of working class solidarity and its replacement by a “look out for #1” mentality that apes the self-aggrandizing, selfish Ayn Rand-inspired Libertarian ideology of increasing numbers of the capitalist class themselves.  The corruption of the bourgeoisie and their systematic corruption of the bribed trade union bureaucracy that has hamstrung every attempt by the working class at successful collective struggle to defend workers interests over the past 40 years has led inexorably to the corruption of the morals of the working class itself.  “Fuck the next guy – I’m going to get mine first” has become the “philosophy” of a large percentage of the US working class; and so they have ditched the idea of collective struggle through trade union organization and have raised up on their shoulders the hideous caricature of  the “self-made man”: Donald Trump, a billionaire born with a golden spoon in his mouth who never gave a shit about the working class in his entire disgusting money-grubbing life.

Donald Trump perfectly reflects the moral bankruptcy of the US ruling capitalist class in general as well as a similar degeneracy that has mushroomed among a large and growing section of the increasingly desperate and demoralized US working class that has seen its standard of living steadily hammered down year after brutal year since the late 1960s.  With trade union membership in steady decline, the working class has become imbued with the corrupt Libertarian philosophy of the capitalist class that sees poor people as “freeloaders” and unionized workers as “overpaid” and pampered privileged parasites on the national economy.  “Selfishness is the highest virtue” taught the cheap Hollywood screenwriter Ayn Rand; this vicious “philosophy” is at the root of supposedly “egalitarian” Libertarian politics, and has been embraced and proselytized by millions of desperate workers.  Unionized  nurses, teachers and city workers and poor people of every race – but particularly blacks and immigrants –  have become the enemy of the massively non- and even anti-union US working class, egged on by bought-and-paid-for pro-capitalist demagogues from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton to Donald Trump.  The US capitalist class and their news media outlets have convinced a large majority of the demoralized US working class that it is not the billionaire capitalist who is the source of the workers’ misery, but the immigrant worker crossing the Mexican border to try to make a decent living for his or her family.  It is not the swindling bankers who have robbed the workers of their income but the black workers on welfare who are doing it.  Never mind that all economic data proves that none of these racist lies are true.  This racist propaganda, spewed by Republican and Democratic politicians and by the US news media for decades has done its nefarious work.  Now we have begun to see the emergence of the fascist scum from the margins of US society starting to become emboldened by hearing their racist ideology parroted by “mainstream” politicians like Trump and seeing their racist “solutions” to the “immigrant problem” put into practice by the Democratic Obama Administration.

This 2016 US Presidential election shows to us that the US working class, in its present disorganized and demoralized state, with no revolutionary socialist leadership to speak of, with the trade union movement in free-fall and supporting the same anti-immigrant proposals as the racists, stands ready to fall victim to fascism in all its savagery.  Prepared by two decades of nearly non-stop war against Middle Eastern and Asian countries with large Muslim populations, the US working class has in large numbers become utterly intolerant of Muslims – who make up nearly a third of the world’s population.  Driven to a mad fury by the neofascist slogans “Make America Great Again” and a fulsome hatred of immigrants not seen in the USA since the days of the “Know-Nothings” the USA looks to us in 2016 like Germany circa 1938.  Millions of US workers have degenerated morally into vicious, greedy, racist and desperate thugs who don’t give a shit HOW MANY people the US military slaughters so long as the price of gasoline stays below $5 a gallon.  Trump’s election isn’t an aberration: it’s the culmination of decades of attacks on the working class and minorities by the Republicans; and even more so by the “friends of labor” Democrats like Bill and Hillary Clinton, whose racist program to “end welfare as we know it” and whose “truth in sentencing” laws fostered decades of brutalization and victimization of black and Hispanic workers.  Seeing no way out of the “hope”-less and “change”-less blind alley into which the Democrats under Barack Obama have led them, and seeing the promising futures and those of their children and grandchildren melt away as their wages and benefits decline, the white working class is embracing neofascist ideology and striking out on the road towards an American Fascism that could well lead inexorably – and rapidly – towards World War Three.  The only way to prevent this descent of the US into the very same abyss that destroyed Germany in just 12 years of unparalleled savagery is for the working class to be won over to the program of revolutionary Trotskyism which alone can overthrow the racist, exploitative capitalist system and to replace it with an egalitarian working class socialist republic.  Only a party such as this can organize the working class to effectively smash the growing fascist menace being unleashed by the US capitalist class, hell-bent on global domination.  This is the kind of political party we hope to build in the coming years right here in the belly of the U.S. imperialist beast.

If that section of the US working class that continues to fight for the rights of immigrants and minorities does not immediately stop tilting at the windmills of impotent “speaking truth to power” and begin to organize a fight to take power directly into the hands of the working class itself, fascism will soon triumph in the USA.  Only a powerful working class force like the communist movement proved capable of effectively fighting fascism in the 1920s and 1930s.  It was the communist-led Resistance movements of Europe that led the opposition to fascism during Hitler’s bloody reign of terror; it was the USSR that finally crushed the “Thousand-Year Reich” and that drove Hitler and his inner circle to suicide in their hole in the ground in Berlin.  It was the heroic communists of Asia – particularly China and Korea – who led the victory over Japanese fascism and, immediately afterward, to new victories over world capitalism and US imperialism.  Those heroic communist movements were successful in spite of the crippling effects of their Stalinist and Maoist bureaucratic leaderships which usurped political power from the working class and led their revolutions into nationalist dead ends from which they still haven’t escaped.  A new Trotskyist movement in the USA is the only hope the working class has of creating a militant and positively creative force that can unite workers of all races, creeds and ethnic backgrounds into a revolutionary force that can crush any and all fascist opposition and lead a truly egalitarian revolutionary workers movement like the one led by Lenin and his Bolsheviks after WWI.  “The capitalist system must die so that the working class may live” is our slogan.  “The capitalist system must die so that fascism can never rise again” must be the principle upon which the now decrepit US workers movement rallies itself around in a massive fight to restore the power of the communist-led US workers movement of the 1930s.  Failure to achieve these goals will lead to the triumph of fascism in the USA and ultimately to the total destruction of the US by the combined forces of the entire world, which will unite to smash US fascism just as they smashed the fascism of the German, Italian and Japanese Nazis in the ’40s.

Time is running out for the US working class to organize itself and turn the direction of the US around into the direction of workers socialist revolution.  Join with us to build a socialist future for the workers of the world through the overthrow of a capitalist system that threatens to plunge the planet into a war that will kill tens or even hundreds of millions of workers and that could damage the planet beyond repair.  The victory of Donald Trump is a clarion call to all workers in the USA to begin immediately to take up the tremendous tasks that face the US working class to build the revolutionary workers party that will lead the American Socialist Revolution in the USA , throughout the Americas and around the world.

Workers of the World, Unite!

Independent Workers Party of Chicago

We Salute the 98th Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917!

Petrograd Soviet in session, 1917

Petrograd Soviet in session, 1917

We proudly salute the 98th anniversary of the great Bolshevik Revolution of 1917!

On 7 November 1917 the revolutionary socialist workers and soldiers of Russia, led by the original Leninist vanguard Bolshevik party of Lenin, seized power out of the hands of the reactionary bourgeois-democratic Kerensky regime, which intended to continue participating in the bloodbath of WWI.

Red Guards of the workers of the "Vulcan" factory, 1917

Red Guards of the workers of the “Vulcan” factory, 1917

This revolution was not a putsch; the Bolsheviks had won to their program the industrialized workers of the major cities in Russia, as well, crucially, as the masses of Russian soldiers who refused to fight any longer for the hated Kerensky regime, and the long brutalized peasantry whose fathers and brothers had provided the bulk of the cannon fodder of the Tsarist regime.

Review of Bolshevik forces in Red Square, 1917

Review of Bolshevik forces in Red Square, 1917

Thus, for the first time since the too-brief insurrection of the Paris Commune in 1871, the working class found itself in possession of state power!  This time, however, it was led by a new type of revolutionary political formation: the Leninist vanguard party.  This party, armed with a firm dedication to revolutionary Marxist principles, and having won the hearts and minds of the industrialized working class, soldiers and leading revolutionary elements of the peasantry, was prepared to defend its possession of state power by any means necessary.

Lenin,_Trotsky_and_Voroshilov_with_Delegates_of_the_10th_Congress_of_the_Russian_Communist_Party_(Bolsheviks)

The betrayal of the revolution began before the death of Lenin, as Stalin and his acolytes started consolidating their power while Lenin lay dying.  The triumph of the Stalin clique over Trotsky’s Left Opposition led to the emergence of the Stalinist dogma of seeking reconciliation with the capitalist world while simultaneously embracing the thoroughly anti-Marxist and anti-Leninist theory that socialism could be successful in one country only.  This utter betrayal of the fundamental philosophy of Marxism/Leninism led inexorably – as Trotsky predicted – to the collapse of the USSR and the restoration of capitalism in Russia, brokered by the Stalinist bureaucracy itself, in 1989-91.

Thus the Third International collapsed in a heap.  Still, the “Communist Parties” whose Russian masters brokered the surrender of the USSR with nary a shot being fired in its defense remain, somehow, alive!  In Greece, and throughout Europe, these remnants of the utterly discredited Stalinist “Communist” parties still act as if they were somehow revolutionary, though they have refused to draw the necessary theoretical lessons from their 3rd international’s betrayal of the USSR.

Only the Trotskyists like ourselves remain as the sole representatives of the unbroken heritage of the revolutionary socialist traditions founded by Marx, Engels and Lenin.

Even the banners of the Fourth International have been sullied from time to time by the class-collaborationist programs of too many parties who claimed to be adherents of Trotsky but who proved to be anything but real Trotskyists.  We seek to reforge the revolutionary socialist traditions of the Fourth International, by seeking to recruit members of the completely discredited Third International who seek the road of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky.

We republish, in honor of the 98th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, Leon Trotsky’s essay “From July to October” as originally presented in his autobiography “My Life”.  This article describes in detail the development of the Russian revolution from July, 1917, when the Mensheviks and Kerenskyites tried to strangle the revolution in its cradle.  The essay proves conclusively the importance of the need for a revolutionary Marxist/Leninist/Trotskyist vanguard party in order to successfully outsmart the ruling class treachery that seeks to trick the naive workers into surrendering their arms in exchange for empty promises of reforms, after which the bourgeoisie will reorganise itself and drown the revolution in blood.  Lenin’s Bolsheviks, armed with a deep histroical analysis of the many ways that the ruling classes have destroyed revolutionary movements throughout history, did not succumb to the Sibyll’s song of the ruling class for a rapprochement between the workers and the capitalists.  ALL previous revolutionary movements HAD been seduced by the treacherous promises of leniency and reforms that came from the lying tongues of ruling classes in their desperate efforts to avoid overthrow.  All those who express their hatred of “Leninist vanguard parties” betray their actual support for the capitalist status quo – WITHOUT EXCEPTION!  By opposing the creation of Leninist vanguard parties, these fake-revolutionaries – chiefly anarchists and phony socialists – declare their opposition to the ONLY FORM of revolutionary Marxist paty that has EVER been successful in overthrowing the capitalist class!

We need to create new Bolshevik parties right here in the USA and all over the world in order to overthrow the capitalist classes of the world, which threaten to plunge the world into a third world war.  Time is running out, brother and sister workers!  We call upon all revolutionary socialist workers to contact us to begin the creation of the new Fourth International parties that will finally triumph over the ruthless, savage, greed-based capitalism that has kept billions of workers living in poverty, and that murders tens of thousands every day through war, assassination, and starvation.

Workers of the World, Unite!

Independent Workers Party of Chicago


Leon Trotsky
My Life
CHAPTER XXVI
FROM JULY TO OCTOBER

On June 4, a declaration that I had submitted concerning Kerensky’s preparation for an offensive at the front was read by the Bolshevik faction at the congress of the Soviets. We had pointed out that the offensive was an adventure that threatened the very existence of the army. But the Provisional government was growing intoxicated with its own speechifying. The ministers thought of the masses of soldiers, stirred to their very depths by the revolution, as so much soft clay to be moulded as they pleased. Kerensky toured the front, adjured and threatened the troops, kneeled, kissed the earth – in a word, downed it in every possible way, while he failed to answer any of the questions tormenting the soldiers. He had deceived himself by his cheap effects, and, assured of the support of the congress of the Soviets, ordered the offensive. When the calamity that the Bolsheviks had warned against came, the Bolsheviks were made the scapegoats. They were hounded furiously. The reaction, which the Kadet party was shielding, pressed in from all sides, demanding our heads.

The faith of the masses in the Provisional government was hopelessly undermined. At this second stage of the revolution, Petrograd was again too far in the van. In the July days, this vanguard came to an open clash with Kerensky’s government. It was not yet an uprising, but only a reconnaissance that went deep. But it had already become obvious in the July encounter that Kerensky had no “democratic” army behind him; that the forces supporting him against us were those of a counter-revolution.

During the session in the Taurid Palace on July 3, I learned of the demonstration of the machine-gun regiment and its appeal to other troops and to factory-workers. The news came as a surprise to me. The demonstration had been spontaneous, at the initiative of the masses, but next day it went farther, now with the participation of our party. The Taurid Palace was overrun by the people. They had only one slogan: “Power to the Soviets.”

In front of the palace, a suspicious-booking group of men who had kept aloof from the crowd seized the minister of agriculture, Chernov, and put him in an automobile. The crowd watched indifferently; at any rate, their sympathy was not with him. The news of Chernov’s seizure and of the danger that threatened him reached the palace. The Populists decided to use machine-gun armored cars to rescue their leader. The decline of their popularity was making them nervous; they wanted to show a firm hand. I decided to try to go with Chernov in the automobile away from the crowd, in order that I might release him afterward. But a Bolshevik, Raskolnikov, a lieutenant in the Baltic navy, who had brought the Kronstadt sailors to the demonstration, excitedly insisted on releasing Chernov at once, to prevent people from saying that he had been arrested by the Kronstadt men. I decided to try to carry out Raskolnikov’s wish. I will let him speak for himself.

“It is difficult to say how long the turbulence of the masses would have continued,” the impulsive lieutenant says in his memoirs, “but for the intervention of Comrade Trotsky. He jumped on the front of the automobile, and with an energetic wave of his hand, like a man who was tired of waiting, gave the signal for silence. Instantly, everything calmed down, and there was dead quiet. In a loud, clear and ringing voice, Lev Davydovich made a short speech, ending with ‘those in favor of violence to Chernov raise their hands!’ Nobody even opened his mouth,” continues Raskolnikov; “no one uttered a word of protest. ‘Citizen Chernov, you are free,’ Trotsky said, as he turned around solemnly to the minister of agriculture and with a wave of his hand, invited him to leave the automobile. Chernov was half-dead and half-alive. I helped him to get out of the automobile, and with an exhausted, expressionless look and a hesitating, unsteady walk, he went up the steps and disappeared into the vestibule of the palace. Satisfied with his victory, Lev Davydovich walked away with him.”

If one discounts the unnecessarily pathetic tone, the scene is described correctly. It did not keep the hostile press from asserting that I had Chernov seized to have him lynched. Chernov shyly kept silent; how could a “People’s” minister confess his indebtedness not to his own popularity, but to the intervention of a Bolshevik for the safety of his head?

Delegation after delegation demanded, in the name of the demonstrants, that the Executive Committee take the power. Chiedze, Tzereteli, Dan, and Gotz were sitting in the presidium like statues. They did not answer the delegations, and looked blankly off into space or exchanged perturbed and cryptic glances. Bolsheviks spoke one after another in support of the delegations of workers and soldiers. The members of the presidium were silent. They were waiting – but for what? Hours passed in this way. Then, in the middle of the night, the halls of the palace resounded suddenly with the triumphant blare of trumpets. The members of the presidium came to life as if they had been touched by an electric current. Some one solemnly reported that the Volyn regiment had arrived from the front to put itself of the disposal of the Central Executive Committee. In all of the Petrograd garrison, the “democracy” had not had a single unit that it could rely on. And so it had had to wait until an armed force could come from the front.

Now the whole setting changed immediately. The delegations were driven out; Bolsheviks were not allowed to speak. The leaders of the democracy were wreaking on us their vengeance for the fear that the masses had made them suffer. Speeches from the platform of the Executive Committee told of an armed mutiny suppressed by the loyal troops of the revolution. The Bolsheviks were declared a counter-revolutionary party. The arrival of that one Volyn regiment had done all this. Three and a half months later, the same regiment co-operated wholeheartedly in the overthrow of Kerensky’s government.

On the morning of the fifth I met Lenin. The offensive by the masses had been beaten off. “Now they will shoot us down, one by one,” said Lenin. “This is the right time for them.” But he overestimated the opponent – not his venom, but his courage and ability to act. They did not shoot us down one by one, although they were not far from it. Bolsheviks were being beaten down in the streets and killed. Military students sacked the Kseshinskaya palace and the printing-works of the Pravda. The whole street in front of the works was littered with manuscripts, and among those destroyed was my pamphlet To the Slanderers. The deep reconnaissance of July had been transformed into a one-sided battle. The enemy were easily victorious, because we did not fight. The party was paying dearly for it. Lenin and Zinoviev were in hiding. General arrests, followed by beatings, were the order of the day. Cossacks and military students confiscated the money of those arrested, on the ground that it was “German money.” Many of our sympathizers and half-friends turned their backs on us. In the Taurid Palace, we were proclaimed counter-revolutionists and were actually put outside the law.

The situation in the ruling circles of the party was bad. Lenin was away; Kamenev’s wing was raising its head. Many – and these included Stalin – simply let events take their own course, so that they might show their wisdom the day after. The Bolshevik faction in the Central Executive Committee felt orphaned in the Taurid Palace. It sent a delegation to ask me if I would speak to them about the situation, although I was not yet a member of the party; my formal joining had been delayed until the party congress, soon to meet. I agreed readily, of course. My talk with the Bolshevik faction established moral bonds of the sort that are forged only under the enemy’s heaviest blows. I said then that after this crisis we were to expect a rapid up swing; that the masses would become twice as strongly attached to us when they had verified the truth of our declaration by facts; that it was necessary to keep a strict watch on every revolutionary, for at such moments men are weighed on scales that do not err. Even now I recall with pleasure the warmth and gratitude that the members showed me when I left them. “Lenin is away,” Muralov said, “and of the others, only Trotsky has kept his head.”

If I had been writing these memoirs under different circumstances – although in other circumstances I should hardly have been writing them at all – I should have hesitated to include much of what I say in these pages. But now I cannot forget that widely organized lying about the past which is one of the chief activities of the epigones. My friends are in prison or in exile. I am obliged to speak of myself in a way that I should never have done under other conditions. For me, it is a question not merely of historical truth but also of a political struggle that is still going on.

My unbroken fighting friendship as well as my political friendship with Muralov began then. I must say at least a few words about the man. Muralov is an old Bolshevik who went through the revolution of 1905 in Moscow. In Serpukhov, in 1906, he was caught in the pogrom of the Black Hundred – carried out, as usual, under the protection of the police. Muralov is a magnificent giant, as fearless as he is kind. With a few others, he found himself in a ring of enemies who had surrounded the building of the Zemstvo administration. Muralov came out of the building with a revolver in his hand and walked evenly toward the crowd. It moved back a little. But the shock company of the Black Hundred blocked his path, and the cabmen began to howl taunts at him. “Clear a way,” ordered the giant without slackening his advance, as he raised the hand holding the revolver. Several men pounced on him. He shot one of them down and wounded another. The crowd drew back again. With the same even step, cutting his way through the crowd like an ice-breaker, Muralov walked on and on toward Moscow.

His subsequent trial lasted for two years, and, in spite of the frenzy of the reaction that swept over the country, he was acquitted. An agricultural expert by training, a soldier in an aut mobile detachment during the imperialist war, a leader of the October fighting in Moscow, Muralov became the first commander of the Moscow military region after the victory. He was a fearless marshal of the revolutionary war, always steady, simple, and unaffected. In his campaigning he was a tireless living example; he gave agricultural advice, mowed grain, and in his free moments gave medical treatment to both men and cows. In the most difficult situations he radiated calm, warmth, and confidence. After the close of the war, Muralov and I always tried to spend our free days together. We were united too by our love of hunting. We scoured North and South for bears and wolves, or for pheasants and bustards. At present, Muralov is hunting in Siberia as an exiled oppositionist.

In the July days of 1917, Muralov held his head up, as usual, and encouraged many others. In those days, we all needed a lot of self-control to stride along the corridors and halls of the Taurid Palace without bowing our heads, as we ran the gauntlet of furious glances, venomous whispers, grinding of teeth, and a demonstrative elbowing that seemed to say: “Look! Look!” There is no fury greater than that of a vain and pampered “revolutionary” philistine when he begins to perceive that the revolution which has suddenly lifted him to the top is about to threaten his temporary splendor.

The route to the canteen of the Executive Committee was a little Golgotha in those days. Tea was dispensed there, and sandwiches of black bread and cheese or red caviar; the latter was plentiful in the Smolny and later in the Kremlin. For dinner, the fare was a vegetable soup with a chunk of meat. The canteen was in charge of a soldier named Grafov. When the baiting of the Bolsheviks was at its worst, when Lenin was declared a German spy and had to hide in a hut, I noticed that Grafov would slip me a hotter glass of tea, or a sandwich better than the rest, trying meanwhile not to look at me. He obviously sympathized with the Bolsheviks but had to keep it from his superiors. I began to look about me more attentively. Grafov was not the only one: the whole lower staff of the Smolny – porters, messengers, watchmen – were unmistakably with the Bolsheviks. Then I felt that our cause was half won. But so far, only half.

The press was conducting an exceptionally venomous and dishonest campaign against the Bolsheviks, a campaign surpassed in this respect only by Stalin’s campaign against the opposition a few years later. In July, Lunacharsky made a few equivocal statements which the press naturally interpreted as a renunciation of Bolshevism. Some papers attributed similar statements to me. On July 10, I addressed a letter to the Provisional government in which I stated my complete agreement with Lenin and which I ended as follows: “You can have no grounds for exempting me from the action of the decree by virtue of which Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev are subject to arrest; you can have no grounds for doubting that I am as irreconcilably opposed to the general policy of the Provisional government as my above-mentioned comrades.” Messrs. the ministers drew the due conclusion from this letter, and arrested me as a German agent.

In May, when Tzereteli was hounding the sailors and disarming the machine-gun companies, I warned him that the day was probably not far distant when he would have to seek help from the sailors against some general who would be soaping the hangman’s rope for the revolution. In August, such a general made his appearance in the person of Kornilov. Tzereteli called for the help of the Kronstadt bluejackets; they did not refuse it. The cruiser Aurora entered the waters of the Neva. I was already in the Kresty prison when I saw this quick fulfilment of my prophecy. The sailors from the Aurora sent a special delegation to the prison to ask my advice: should they defend the Winter Palace or take it by assault? I advised them to put off the squaring of their account with Kerensky until they had finished Kornilov. “What’s ours will not escape us.”

“It won’t?”

“It will not.”

While I was in prison, my wife and boys called to see me. The boys had by that time acquired some political experience of their own. They were spending the summer in the country house of the family of a retired colonel. Visitors often came there, mostly officers, and as they helped themselves to vodka they would rail at the Bolsheviks. In the July days this railing reached its climax. (Some of these officers left soon after that for the South, where the future “White” forces were being gathered.) When, in the course of a meal, a certain young patriot called Lenin and Trotsky German spies, my older boy dashed at him with a chair and the younger one with a table-knife. The grown-ups separated them, and the boys, sobbing hysterically, locked themselves in their room. They were secretly planning to make their way on foot to Petrograd to find out what was happening to the Bolsheviks there, but fortunately their mother came, pacified them, and took them away. But in the city things seemed hardly better. The newspapers were denouncing the Bolsheviks, their father was in prison – the revolution was definitely disappointing. But that did not prevent them from delightedly watching my wife furtively slip me a pen-knife through the grating in the prison reception-room. I continued to console them by saying that the real revolution was still to come.

My daughters were being drawn more actively into political life. They attended the meetings in the Modern Circus and took part in demonstrations. During the July days, they were both shaken up in a mob, one of them lost her glasses, both lost their hats, and both were afraid that they would lose the father who had just reappeared on their horizon.

During the days of Kornilov’s advance on Petrograd, the prison regime was hanging by a thread. Everybody realized that if Kornilov entered the city he would immediately slaughter all the Bolsheviks arrested by Kerensky. The Central Executive Committee was afraid too that the prisons might be raided by the White-guard elements in the capital. A large detachment of troops was detailed to guard the Kresty. Of course it proved to be not “democratic” but Bolshevik, and ready to release us at any moment. But an act like that would have been the signal for an immediate uprising, and the time for that had not yet come. Meanwhile, the government itself began to release us, for the same reason that it had called in the Bolshevik sailors to guard the Winter Palace. I went straight from the Kresty to the newly organized committee for the defense of the revolution, where I sat with the same gentlemen who had put me in prison as an agent of the Hohenzollerns, and who had not yet withdrawn the accusation against me. I must candidly confess that the Populists and Mensheviks by their very appearance made one wish that Kornilov might grip them by the scruffs of their necks and shake them in the air. But this wish was not only irreverent, it was unpolitical. The Bolsheviks stepped into the harness, and were everywhere in the first line of the defense. The experience of Kornilov’s mutiny completed that of the July days: once more Kerensky and Co. revealed the fact that they had no forces of their own to back them. The army that rose against Kornilov was the army-to-be of the October revolution. We took advantage of the danger to arm the workers whom Tzereteli had been disarming with such restless industry.

The capital quieted down in those days. Kornilov’s entry was awaited with hope by some and with terror by others. Our boys heard some one say, “He may come to-morrow,” and in the morning, before they were dressed, they peered out of the window to see if he had arrived. But Kornilov did not arrive. The revolutionary upswing of the masses was so powerful that his mutiny simply melted away and evaporated. But not with out leaving its trace; the mutiny was all grist to the Bolshevik mill.

“Retribution is not slow in coming,” I wrote in the Kornilov days. “Hounded, persecuted, slandered, our party never grew as rapidly as it is growing now. And this process will spread from the capitals to the provinces, from the towns to the country and the army … Without ceasing for a moment to be the class organization of the proletariat, our party will be transformed in the fire of persecution into a true leader of all the oppressed, downtrodden, deceived and hounded masses.”

We were hardly able to keep pace with the rising tide. The number of Bolsheviks in the Petrograd Soviet was increasing daily. We represented almost half of the membership, and yet there was not a single Bolshevik in the presidium. We raised the question of re-electing the Soviet presidium. We offered to form a coalition presidium with the Mensheviks and the Populists. Lenin, as we afterward found out, was displeased at that, because he was afraid that it implied conciliatory tendencies on our part. But no compromise was effected. Despite our recent joint struggle against Kornilov, Tzereteli declined the coalition presidium.

We had hoped for this; nothing but a vote on the lists of candidates along party lines could solve the problem now. I asked whether the list of our opponents included Kerensky; formally, he was a member of the presidium, though he did not attend the Soviet, and showed his disregard of it in every way. The question took the presidium by surprise. Kerensky was neither liked nor respected, but it was impossible to disavow one’s prime minister. After consulting one another, the members of the presidium answered: “Of course, he is included.” We wanted nothing better. Here is an extract from the minutes: “We were convinced that Kerensky was no longer in the presidium [tumultuous applause], but we see now that we have been mistaken. The shadow of Kerensky is hovering between Chiedze and Zavadye. When you are asked to approve the political line-up of the presidium, remember that you are asked in this way to approve the policies of Kerensky. [tumultuous applause]” This threw over to our side another hundred or so of the delegates who had been vacillating.

The Soviet numbered considerably more than a thousand members. The voting was performed by going out the door. There was tremendous excitement, for the question at issue was not the presidium, but the revolution. I was walking about in the lobbies with a group of friends. We reckoned that we should be a hundred votes short of half, and were ready to consider that a success. But it happened that we received a hundred votes more than the coalition of the Socialist-Revolutionists and the Mensheviks. We were the victors. I took the chair. Tzereteli, taking his leave, expressed his wish that we might stay in the Soviet at least half as long as they had been leading the revolution. In other words, our opponents opened for us a credit account of not more than three months.

They made a gross miscalculation. We were undeviating in our march to power.
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Last updated on: 7.2.2007

International Women’s Day – Spartacist League Classic: “Early Communist Work Among Women: The Bolsheviks”

In honor of International Womens’ Day we republish a classic article from the revolutionary Trotskyist Spartacist League’s now-defunct and greatly missed journal “Women & Revolution”.— IWPCHI

Early Communist Work Among Women: The Bolsheviks

From Women and Revolution issues Nos. 10 and 11, Winter 1975-76 and Spring 1976.

The Soviet Union provides the classic illustration of Fourier’s observation that the progress of any society can be gauged by the social position of the women within it. To the extent that the Bolshevik Revolution was victorious, Soviet women were liberated from their traditional, subservient social positions; to the extent that the Revolution degenerated, the position of the women degenerated. The fact that this degeneration has been incomplete—that Soviet women continue to enjoy advantages and opportunities unknown in the West—is precisely because the degeneration of the Soviet workers state has also been incomplete, i.e., capitalism has not been restored.

The Old Order: “I Thought I Saw Two People Coming, But It Was Only a Man and His Wife”

Russian folklore testifies to the fact that women in pre-revolutionary Russian society were commonly considered generically defective to the point of being subhuman. But such attitudes had not prevailed in Russia from time immemorial. In ancient times, women had had the right to rule their own estates, choose their own husbands, speak in the community councils and compete for athletic and military honors. Epic songs are still sung in some provinces about mighty female warriors called polnitsy —a word derived from the Russian pole, meaning “field” and, in a secondary sense, “battlefield.” These women warriors, according to folk tradition, wandered alone throughout the country, fought with men whom they encountered on their way and chose their own lovers as they pleased: “Is thy heart inclined to amuse itself with me?” the so-called Beautiful Princess asks the Russian folk hero Iliia Muromets.

But the centuries which witnessed the growth of the patriarchal family, the rise of Byzantine Christianity with its doctrine of the debased nature of women, the brutal Tatar invasion and the consolidation of dynastic power, also witnessed the obliteration of these ancient privileges.

During these centuries Russian women were progressively excluded from politics, education and social life in general. Those of the lower classes became beasts of burden who might be driven with a stick if it pleased their husbands. Those of the upper classes were physically removed from society and imprisoned in the terem or “tower room”—an upper chamber of the house built expressly for the lifelong seclusion of women. Peter the Great (1672-1725), in his determination to transform Russia into a modern commercial and industrial state, holds the distinction of releasing women from the terem and compelling them to mingle with men at public social functions, as they did in the West.

The Empresses Elizabeth and Catherine the Great (1729-1796) continued to encourage more progressive attitudes toward women, and they constructed academies for their education. On the eve of the Russian Revolution, women constituted 30,000, or almost one quarter, of the 125,000 students enrolled in Russian universities.

Despite these reform measures, however, women continued to be severely oppressed in pre-revolutionary Russia. Not only was the number of educated women only a tiny fraction of the total population (the illiteracy rate for women was 92 percent in 1897), but the lack of educational opportunities had a much more stultifying effect on women than on their male counterparts, because they were far more isolated.

Peasant women grew old early from overwork and maltreatment. Even when elementary education was available to girls, it remained customary for them to stay at home to care for the younger children until they were old enough to work in the fields. Husbands were generally chosen by the fathers, who sold their daughters to the highest bidder. Tradition decreed that the father of the bride present the bridegroom with a whip, the symbol of the groom’s authority over his new wife.

Those peasant women who sought to escape to the cities found that they were paid lower wages than their male co-workers and that all skilled trades were closed to them. Outside of domestic service and the textile industry, marriage constituted grounds for immediate discharge.

Life was somewhat more comfortable, of course, for women of the middle and upper classes, but not much more fulfilling. While educational opportunities were more accessible to them, the kind of education deemed appropriate for women was limited. Husbands, as among the lower classes, were chosen by the fathers, and the law bound women to obey their husbands in all things.

Equal Rights for Women

The radical notion of equal rights for women was originally introduced into Russia by army officers who had been stationed in France after the defeat of Napoleon and who brought back to Russia many of the new liberal, republican and democratic ideas to which they had been exposed.

Male intellectuals continued to participate in this movement for the next hundred years. They championed higher education for women and entered into fictitious marriages with them in order to provide them with the passports they needed to study abroad. Well-known authors such as Belinsky, Herzen, Dobroliubov and Chernyshevsky encouraged women in their struggle for equal rights.

The active participation of men in the struggle for women’s liberation and the fact that prior to 1906 the masses of Russian men and women did possess equal political rights—that is, no rights at all—meant that at a time when women’s suffrage organizations were on the rise in the West, Russian women and men continued to engage in united political struggle.

Equality of political oppression broke down only after the Revolution of 1905. On 17 October of that year Tsar Nicholas II issued a manifesto which provided for the summoning of a state duma based on male suffrage only. A group of the newly-enfranchised men immediately appealed to the author of the manifesto, Count Witte, for female suffrage, but this was refused. Out of this defeat arose the first feminist organizations in Russia—the League of Equal Rights for Women and the Russian Union of Defenders of Women’s Rights.

Like all feminist organizations, these groups sought to achieve their goals through reforming the social system. At the first meeting of the League of Equal Rights for Women, which was held in St. Petersburg (later renamed Petrograd and presently Leningrad) in 1905, a number of working women put forward a resolution demanding measures to meet their needs and the needs of peasant women, such as equal pay for equal work and welfare for mothers and children, but the bourgeois women who constituted the majority of the membership rejected this proposal in favor of one which called only for the unity of all women in the struggle for a republican form of government and for universal suffrage.

One of the League’s first actions was the presentation to the First State Duma of a petition for female suffrage signed by 5,000 women. This petition was presented three times between 1906 and 1912 but was never accepted. Minister of Justice Shcheglovitov commented:

“Careful observation of reality shows that there is a danger of women being attracted by the ideals of the revolutionaries, and this circumstance, in my opinion, obliges us to regard with extreme care the question of encouraging women to take up political activity.

— Vera Bilshai, The Status of Women in the Soviet Union

Feminism or Bolshevism?

Side by side with the burgeoning feminist movement, the pre-revolutionary years witnessed the development of work among women by the Bolsheviks and other avowed socialists—work which was greatly accelerated by the entrance of masses of women into industrial production.

The programs and strategies of feminism and Bolshevism were counterposed from the outset. The feminists declared that women’s most pressing need was political equality with men, including participation at every level of government. Only when women were in a position to influence all governmental policies, they said, would cultural and economic equality be possible. To achieve their political goal, the feminists created multi-class organizations of women united around the struggle for equal rights.

Socialist organizations also struggled for equal rights for all women. “We hate and want to obliterate,” said V. I. Lenin, “everything that oppresses and harasses the working woman, the wife of the working man, the peasant woman, the wife of the little man, and even in many respects the women from the wealthy classes.” But socialist organizations from the beginning rejected the feminist reform strategy and insisted that full sexual equality could not be achieved short of a socialist society. Far from leading them to abandon special work among women under capitalism, however, this position encouraged them to pursue it more ardently in the knowledge that “the success of the revolution depends upon how many women take part in it” (Lenin).

As early as 1899 Lenin insisted that Clause 9 of the first draft program of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP) contain the words: “establishment of complete equality of rights between men and women.” The program adopted by the Second Congress of the RSDLP in 1903 included this demand as well as the following special provisions:

“With a view to safeguarding the working class from physical and moral degeneration, and also with the view to promoting its capacity for waging a struggle for liberation, women should not be employed in industries harmful to the female organism, they should receive four weeks’ paid pre-natal and six weeks’ post-natal leave; all enterprises employing women should have nurseries for babies and small children, nursing mothers should be allowed to leave their work for at least half an hour at intervals of not longer than three hours, and male factory inspectors should be replaced by women in industries with a female labor force.”

VKP(b) v rezoliutsiiakh, quoted in William M. Mandel, “Soviet Women and Their Self-Image”

Throughout the entire pre-revolutionary period the Bolsheviks pressed their demands for complete sexual equality as they carried out educational and organizational work among women through every possible vehicle—cultural and educational organizations, evening schools, trade unions. Centers of Bolshevik agitation and propaganda also took the form of women’s clubs. In 1907, such a club was opened in St. Petersburg under the name “The Working Women’s Mutual Aid Society,” while in Moscow a similar club was called “The Third Women’s Club.”

Through this special work the Bolsheviks were able to recruit many working women to communist politics. One of these recruits, Alexandra Artiukhina, later recalled:

“When we began to attend the Sunday and evening schools, we began to make use of books from the library and we learned of the great Russian democrat, Chernyshevsky. Secretly, we read his book, What Is to Be Done? and we found the image of the woman of the future, Vera Pavlovna, very attractive.

“The foremost democratic intelligentsia of our time played a considerable role in our enlightenment, in the growth of revolutionary attitudes and in women’s realization of their human dignity and their role in public. They acquainted us with the names of Russian revolutionary women, like Sofia Perovskaya and  Vera Figner.

“Later, in underground political circles, we read the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin. We understood that the enslavement of women occurred together with the establishment of private ownership of the means of production and the beginning of exploitation of man by man and that real equality and real freedom for women would be found only in socialism, where there would be no exploitation of man by man. Therefore, the most reliable path for the liberation of women was the path of political struggle against capitalism in the ranks of the proletariat.”

— A. Artiukhina, “Proidennyi put,” in A. Artiukhina et al. (eds.), Zhenshchina v revoliutsii

Women and the War

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 precipitated a dramatic transformation in the lives of Russian women, ripping them away from their private family roles and throwing them into entirely new social roles in factories, hospitals, at the front and in the streets.

During the very first months of the war, military mobilizations took approximately 40 percent of Russian working men out of industrial jobs, many of which had to be filled by women. Between 1913 and 1917 the percentage of women working in the metal trades in Petrograd rose from 3.2 percent to 20.3 percent. In the woodworking industries, the number of women increased sevenfold. In papermaking, printing and the preparation of animal products and foodstuffs their number doubled.

This entrance of large numbers of Russian women into industrial production was a profoundly progressive step because it laid the basis for their economic and political organization. By the time of the October Revolution, women constituted about ten percent of the membership of the Bolshevik Party and were represented at every level of the party organization.

While many female comrades took a special interest in party work among women, it was always clear that this important arena of work was the responsibility of the party as a whole and not solely of the women within it. This Bolshevik refusal to differentiate political functioning on the basis of sex is also illustrated by the fact that neither in the party nor in its youth section did women ever constitute a male exclusionist faction or caucus. There were, at times, women’s commissions and departments to oversee special work among women, but these always remained under the control of higher party bodies composed of comrades of both sexes.

The absence of women’s caucuses was not, of course, an indication that the party was entirely free of sexist attitudes; only that the struggle against such attitudes was carried out by the party as a whole on the basis of communist consciousness, which was expected to transcend sexual distinctions.

One of the foremost Bolshevik leaders in the struggle against reactionary attitudes toward women within the party was V.I. Lenin. In an interview with  Clara Zetkin of the German Social Democratic Party, he said:

“…Unfortunately it is still true to say of many of our comrades ‘scratch a Communist and find a Philistine.’ Of course you must scratch the sensitive spot, their mentality as regards women. Could there be a more damning proof of this than the calm acquiescence of men who see how women grow worn out in petty, monotonous household work, their strength and time dissipated and wasted, their minds growing narrow and stale, their hearts beating slowly, their will weakened? Of course, I am not speaking of the ladies of the bourgeoisie who shove onto servants the responsibilities for all household work, including the care of children. What I am saying applies to the overwhelming majority of women, to the wives of workers and to those who stand all day in a factory.

“So few men—even among the proletariat—realize how much effort and trouble they could save women, even quite do away with, if they were to lend a hand in ‘women’s work.’ But no, that is contrary to the ‘right and dignity of a man.’ They want their peace and comfort. The home life of the woman is a daily sacrifice to a thousand unimportant trivialities. The old master-right of the man still lives in secret. His slave takes her revenge, also secretly. The backwardness of women, their lack of understanding for the revolutionary ideals of the man, decrease his joy and determination in fighting. They are like little worms which, unseen, slowly but surely rot and corrode. I know the life of the worker and not only from books. Our Communist work among the women, our political work, embraces a great deal of educational work among men. We must root out the old ‘master’ idea to its last and smallest trace. In the Party and among the masses. That is one of our political tasks, just as it is the urgently necessary task of forming a staff of men and women well trained in theory and practice, to carry on Party activity among working women.”

— Clara Zetkin, Reminiscences of Lenin

International Women’s Day

A great deal of radical agitation and propaganda among working women centered around the observance of International Women’s Day, a proletarian women’s holiday which had originated in 1908 among the female needle trades workers in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and which was later officially adopted by the Second International.

The holiday was first celebrated in Russia on February 23, 1913, and the Bolshevik newspaper, Pravda, devoted a great deal of space to publicizing it. Beginning in January, Pravda initiated a special column entitled “Labor and the Life of the Working Woman,” which provided information about the various meetings and rallies held in preparation for the holiday and about the resolutions which were passed at them.

The first International Women’s Day in Russia drew tremendous attention in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Pravda published a special holiday edition, greeting the working women and congratulating them upon entering the ranks of the fighting proletariat. In opposition to the Mensheviks, who wanted the celebration of International Women’s Day confined to women, the Bolsheviks insisted that it was a holiday of the entire working class. Bolshevik speakers around the country took the opportunity to put forward the Marxist analysis of the oppression of women and to explain the Party’s strategy for women’s liberation through socialist revolution.

Bolshevik work among women was so successful in fact that by the winter of 1913 Pravda was receiving more correspondence than it could handle on the special problems facing working women. The solution, Lenin urged, was another journal aimed specifically at proletarian women. It was entitled  Rabotnitsa (The Working Woman). Rabotnitsa played a crucial role in organizing women and rallying them to the Bolshevik Party. (For a detailed account of its development, see  “How the Bolsheviks Organized Working Women: History of the Journal Rabotnitsa,” Women and Revolution No. 4, Fall 1973.)

The Bolsheviks’ major political competitors, the Mensheviks, attempted to counter the influence of Rabotnitsa with a women’s journal of their own called Golos Rabotnitsi (Voice of the Working Woman), but it appeared only twice and failed to win much support.

Menshevik attempts to organize women through mass meetings seem to have fared badly also. Klavdia Nikolaevna, who later became an editor of Rabotnitsa, described one such meeting as follows:

“At the meeting there were many women and frontline soldiers. Suddenly, a group of Bolshevik working women burst into the hall and pushed their way to the speakers’ platform. The first and second to reach the platform collided with it, but the third was able to gain a foothold on it, and she made such a fiery speech about the aims of the revolution, that all the women and soldiers left the meeting singing the ‘International’ and only one Menshevik was left in the auditorium.”

[LOL! Sounds like a typical Spartacist League intervention in an ORO‘s meeting – IWPCHI]

— K. Nikolaevna, “Slovo k molodim rabotnitsam,” A. Artiukhina et al. (eds.), Zhenshchina v revoliutsii

“The First Day of the Revolution—That Is the Women’s Day”

As the war dragged on, the daily life of the Russian working class grew steadily worse. By 1916, bread lines in Petrograd were often over a mile long with the women, who constituted the great majority of them, standing four abreast. In this situation of massive social unrest, the intervention of the Bolsheviks, who placed the blame for the war and the high cost of living squarely on the shoulders of the autocracy, evoked a deep response from the war-weary masses. The Bolshevik slogan, “Bring back our men!” was frequently found scrawled across factory walls, and Bolshevik proclamations, such as the following, appeared in underground newspapers and were posted on walls:

“The black scourge of war has destroyed…our workers’ organizations…. The government has dealt treacherously with our deputies—class-conscious working women and working men—and our sons, husbands and brothers are bleeding profusely on foreign fields, paying with their lives to procure new markets, new lands for triumphant capital….

“Thus is it possible not to raise our voices in protest, the voices of hundreds of thousands of unfortunate mothers, wives and sisters, is it possible that we will shed only inaudible tears, sigh only secret sighs for the pain of the men? This cannot be, comrade working women. In all countries workers are rising up against their oppression by capital; we rise up and our voices demonstrate that we are also able to defend our children, husbands and brothers….

“Enough bloodshed! Down with the war! A people’s court for the criminal autocratic government.”

— Bolshevik International Women’s Day proclamation (23 February 1915), quoted in A. P. Konstantinov and E. P. Serebrovskaia (eds.), Zhenshchiny Goroda Lenina

Pitirim Sorokin, who was an eyewitness to the February Revolution, has written:

“If future historians look for the group that began the Russian Revolution, let him [sic] not create any involved theory. The Russian Revolution was begun by hungry women and children demanding bread and herrings.”

—Pitirim Sorokin, Leaves from a Russian Diary

Sorokin is correct in pointing out the importance of the women in the streets in the series of events which led to the downfall of the autocracy, but this is only half the story.

Street demonstrations by women had been occurring in the major cities for several months, but they had generally been no more than local disturbances leading at most to the looting of one or two shops. The demonstrations of 23 February—International Women’s Day—1917 were of another order. These were massive city-wide actions involving thousands of people who struck their factories, raised political banners, turned over railroad cars and attacked the police who attempted to restrain them.

All radical parties had intended to celebrate International Women’s Day in the customary manner—that is, with rallies, speeches and the distribution of leaflets. Not a single organization had called for labor strikes. When on the eve of the holiday a group of working women met with a representative of the Bolshevik Party, V. Kayurov, to discuss the next day’s activities, he specifically cautioned them to refrain from isolated actions and to follow the instructions of the party.

Despite his advice, however, a few hundred women textile workers assembled in their factories early on the morning of the 23rd and resolved to call a one-day political strike. They elected delegates and sent them around to neighboring factories with appeals for support. Kayurov happened to be engaged in an emergency conference with four workers in the corridor of the Erikson Works when the women delegates came through that plant. It was only by this chance encounter that the Bolshevik representative learned of the forthcoming strike action. He was furious:

“I was extremely indignant about the behavior of the strikers, both because they had blatantly ignored the decision of the District Committee of the Party, and also because they had gone on strike after I had appealed to them only the night before to keep cool and disciplined. There appeared to be no reason for their action, if one discounted the ever-increasing bread queues, which had indeed touched off the strike.”

— V. Kayurov, Proletarskaia Revoliutsia No. 1, 1923, quoted in George Katkov, Russia 1917: The February Revolution

The strike was thus unauthorized by any political group. It was, as Trotsky said, “a revolution begun from below, overcoming the resistance of its own revolutionary organizations, the initiative being taken of their own accord by the most oppressed and downtrodden part of the proletariat—the women textile workers, among them no doubt, many soldiers’ wives.”

By noon of the 23rd an estimated 90,000 workers had followed the working women out on strike. “With reluctance,” writes Kayurov, “the Bolsheviks agreed to this.”

As the striking workers, who came mostly from the Viborg District on the north side of the city, began their march into the center, they were joined by thousands of women who had been standing all morning in the bread lines, only to be informed that there was to be no bread in the shops on that day. Together they made their way to the Municipal Duma to demand bread.

For the remainder of the day the streets swarmed with people. Spontaneous meetings were held everywhere, and here and there hastily improvised red banners rose above the crowd, demanding bread, peace and higher wages. Other demands were scrawled on the sides of streetcars: “Give us bread!” and “No bread, no work!” One woman streetcar conductor later recalled:

“…When we conductors turned in our money for the night, we saw soldiers with rifles standing to one side of the gate, and on the following day they were still in the conductors’ room and walking about the yard. Leonov [a Bolshevik who had been one of the leaders of a successful streetcar conductors’ strike the previous year] quietly said to us: ‘This is all for us; you see today in Petrograd 200,000 workers are on strike!’

“We began to leave the yard to embark in the municipal streetcars when suddenly we saw a crowd of workers coming at us, shouting: ‘Open the gate to the yard!’ There were 700 people. They stood on the rails and on the steps of the Gornyi Museum opposite the yard. The workers were from a pipe plant, a tannery and a paper factory. They told us that today all the plants in our city were on strike and the streetcars were not running. The strikers were taking the streetcar drivers out of the hands of management. From all sides we heard: ‘Down with the war!’ ‘Bread!’ and a woman shouted: ‘Return our husbands from the front!’

“The strikers swept over the city. A demonstration of workers from the Putilov Factory marched to the center of the city and into it, like a flood, merged again and again the crowds of workers….”

— K. Iakovlevoi in Vsegda s Vami: Sbornik posviashchennyi 50-letiiu zhurnala “Rabotnitsa”

All in all, the day passed with relatively little violence. A few troops were called out to assist the police, but it was determined that they were unnecessary, and they were returned to their barracks. In the evening the audience at the long-awaited premiere of Meyerhold’s production of “Lermontov’s Masquerade” heard some gunshots through the red and gold drapes of the Alexandrinskii Theater, but there were no casualties and no one suspected that anything especially out of the ordinary was taking place.

They were mistaken. During the days which followed, the general agitation not only continued but assumed an ever more violent character until the hollow shell of the once-powerful Romanov dynasty crumbled.

One week after the strike which had setoff this chain of events Pravda editorialized:

“The first day of the revolution—that is the women’s day, the day of the Women Workers’ International. All honour to the International! The women were the fist to tread the streets of Petrograd on their day.”

— Fanina W. Halle, Women in Soviet Russia

Toward October

“The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution: Draft Platform for the Proletarian Party, “ written immediately upon Lenin’s return to Russia in April 1917, stated:

“Unless women are brought to take an independent part not only in political life generally, but also in daily and universal public service, it is no use talking about full and stable democracy; let alone socialism. And such ‘police’ functions as care of the sick and of homeless children, food inspection, etc., will never be satisfactorily discharged until women are on an equal footing with men, not merely nominally but in reality.”

— V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 24

Throughout the spring and summer of 1917 the Bolsheviks intensified their work among women. The first working women’s conference, which took place at Lenin’s suggestion and which was attended by Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries and feminists as well as Bolsheviks, demonstrated the influence which the Bolsheviks had gained among working women.

In her address to the conference, Konkordiia Samoilova, a leading member of the Bolshevik Party, proposed that all political work among women in industry be carried out henceforth under the guidance of Bolshevik organizations. Naturally, this proposal met with the fierce resistance of the representatives of other radical organizations. A Menshevik, Bakasheva, argued that the women’s movement was independent and must not be subordinated to the influence of any political party. But although three or four women expressed solidarity with the Menshevik resolution affirming the non-partisan character of the women’s movement, it was defeated, while Samoilova’s proposal for Bolshevik leadership was accepted.

Under the mounting pressure of events in the months preceding October, animosities on the left became more intense than ever. In July an abortive uprising took place. Although the Bolsheviks had counseled against such a move at this time, when the class lines were drawn they took their places in the front ranks of the proletariat. A Russian working woman recalls:

“I remember how we went to the July demonstration. Our organized working men and working women arose under the Bolshevik signs. Loudly and mightily our voices resounded: ‘We who were nothing and have become everything shall construct a new and better world.’

“As the demonstration approached the corner of Nevsky and Sadova, machine-gun fire was heard. People ran to the sidewalks, but, since the doormen all along the Nevsky had closed the gates, there was nowhere to escape, and the shooting continued. The Nevsky was strewn with the bodies of the demonstrators. At a corner of the Nevsky, a store was located on the basement level. When the machine-gun fire began, we descended a short flight of stairs to the door of the shop, which was closed. Working women disassembled the window pane and, helping each other, got into the shop and ran out through a dark passage into a yard and from there through an alley back again to the Nevsky.

“The streets of Petrograd were running with the blood of workers and soldiers….we buried them in a communal grave.

“When on the morning of July 5, 1917 we returned to our plant, ‘Novi Promet,’ it was as if we did not know our coworkers. During the course of our two-day absence, the Mensheviks and SRs had spread the foul slander that the Bolsheviks were fully responsible for the shooting down of the workers. The atmosphere was tense. When we entered the shop, many working women jumped up and began to throw aluminum nuts with very sharp edges at us. I was taken by surprise and covered my face with my hands, and my attackers kept repeating:

“‘Take that, Bolshevik spy!’

“‘What are you doing? The Bolsheviks gave their lives for the working class and you listen to the Mensheviks and SRS, the murderers of the working class….’

“The working women, seeing my face running with blood, became frightened. Someone brought water, iodine, a towel. The girls from my brigade were in a flood of tears. They told me how the Menshevik Bakasheva and others had set them against the Bolsheviks.

“The wavering of working women became apparent not only in our plant but also in other Petrograd enterprises during the July Days, when counterrevolutionary scum together with the Mensheviks and SRs carried on their filthy persecution of the Bolsheviks. The Mensheviks and SRs had started down the path of open counterrevolution.”

— E. Tarasova, “Pod znamenem Bolshevikov,” in A. Artiukhina et al. (eds.), Zhenshchiny v revoliutsii

In the final weeks before October, the Bolshevik Party made an all-out effort to consolidate the support of the working women and enlist them in the imminent struggle. Party committees held working women’s conferences at which they explained the problems of the party, dispelled the wild rumors which abounded, attacked counterrevolutionary positions and generally tried to raise class-consciousness among the women and draw them into revolutionary activity.

Coinciding with the October Revolution itself was the First All-City Conference of Petrograd Working Women, which was organized by Rabotnitsa and attended by 500 delegates elected by 80,000 working women. A major goal of the conference was to prepare non-party women for the coming uprising and to acquaint them with the program which the new Soviet government would pursue after victory. The women discussed various questions of government and worked out plans for the welfare of mothers.

The conference was temporarily interrupted by the outbreak of the armed uprising which had been under discussion. The delegates recessed in order to participate in the revolutionary struggle along with many other women who bore arms, dug entrenchments, stood guard and nursed the wounded. Afterward Lenin was to say of them:

“In Petrograd, here in Moscow, in cities and industrial centers, and out in the country, proletarian women have stood the test magnificently in the revolution. Without them we should not have won, or just barely won. That is my view. How brave they were, how brave they still are! Just imagine all the sufferings and privations that they bear. And they hold out because they want freedom, communism. Yes, indeed, our proletarian women are magnificent class warriors. They deserve admiration and love….”

— V. I. Lenin, quoted in Fanina W. Halle, Women in Soviet Russia

Few people today, even among those who take a special interest in the history of women, have ever heard of the Russian League of Equal Rights for Women. Yet in the days following the February revolution it was this organization, a branch of  Carrie Chapman Catt’s International Suffrage Alliance, to which feminists in Russia and around the world looked for leadership in the struggle for women’s liberation.

From its headquarters at 20 Znamenskaia Street in Petrograd the League waged an ardent struggle for women’s rights—principally suffrage—through rallies, leaflets, newspaper articles and earnest petitions such as the following:

“Defending the interests of women and maintaining that the realization of peace among the people will be incomplete without the full equality of women and men, the Russian League of Equal Rights for Women appeals to all women of all professions and calls upon them to join the League in order to quickly realize in practice the great idea of complete equality of the sexes before the law.

“In Unity there is Strength.”

Den’, 9 March 1917

On 15 April 1917 the League witnessed the realization of its long-sought goal as the Provisional Government granted all women over the age of 20 the right to participate in Duma elections. Over the next four months additional legislation enabled women to practice law, elect delegates to the forthcoming Constituent Assembly, run for election themselves, hold government posts and vote in all provincial and municipal elections. Social Revolutionary leader Catherine Breshkovskaia (later to be dubbed by Trotsky the “Godmother of the Russian Counterrevolution”) wrote in exultation to the National American Woman Suffrage Association:

“I am happy to say that the ‘Women’s Journal’ can be sure we Russian women have already the rights (over all our country) belonging to all citizens, and the elections which are taking place now, over all our provinces, are performed together by men and women. Neither our government nor our people have a word to say against the woman suffrage.”

— Catherine Breshkovskaia, letter to the National American Woman Suffrage Association, 20 May 1917

It is notable, then, that the victorious Russian League has been relegated to historical near-oblivion, while the Bolshevik Party is universally acknowledged—even by staunch anti-communists—as the instrument by means of which Russian women achieved an unparalleled degree of social equality. And this is as it should be, for in fact the League’s paper victory had virtually no practical significance for the masses of Russian women. Not only did the new equal rights statutes leave untouched the most urgent problems of daily life—such as widespread starvation—but such reforms as were guaranteed were implemented, as in the West, in a purely tokenistic fashion. American newspaper reporter Bessie Beatty, who attended a Provisional Government political convention in Petrograd during this period, noted that of the 1,600 delegates in attendance only 23 were women. Not that women were absent from the proceedings; far from it. Numerous women served tea, caviar and sandwiches, ushered men to their seats, took stenographic notes and counted ballots. “It was so natural,” said Beatty, “that it almost made me homesick.”

Bolshevik Pledge: Full Social Equality for Women

Lenin had pledged that “the first dictatorship of the proletariat will be the pioneer in full social equality for women. It will radically destroy more prejudices than volumes of women’s rights.” With the Soviet seizure of state power and in the very teeth of the bitter struggle against counterrevolution and imperialist intervention the Bolsheviks proved their determination to honor this pledge.

The very first pieces of legislation enacted by the new Soviet government were directed at the emancipation of women in a way which far exceeded the reformist demands of the suffragists. The aim of this legislation was the replacement of the nuclear family as a social/economic unit through the socialization of household labor and the equalization of educational and vocational opportunities. These two goals were key to the undermining of the capitalist social order and to the construction of the new society.

In December 1917 illegitimacy was abolished in law, making fathers, whether married or not, coresponsible for their children and freeing mothers from the burden of a double standard which had punished them for the consequences of shared “mistakes.” Subsequent legislation declared marriage to be a contract between free and equal individuals which could be dissolved at the request of either partner, established hundreds of institutions devoted to the care of mothers and children, legalized abortions, assured equal pay for equal work and opened up unheard of opportunities for women in industry, the professions, the party and government. And this legislation was backed by government action. Thus when Soviet working women, like working women in other countries, began to lose their jobs to soldiers returning from the front, the Petrograd Council of Trade Unions addressed the following appeal to all workers and factory committees:

“The question of how to combat unemployment has come sharply before the unions. In many factories and shops the question is being solved very simply…fire the women and put men in their places. With the transfer of power to the Soviets, the working class is given a chance to reorganize our national economy on a new basis. Does such action correspond with this new basis?… The only effective measure against unemployment is the restoration of the productive powers of the country, reorganization on a socialist basis. During the time of crisis, with the cutting down of workers in factories and shops, we must approach the question of dismissal with the greatest care. We must decide each case individually. There can be no question of whether the worker is a man or a woman, but simply of the degree of need…. Only such an attitude will make it possible for us to retain women in our organization, and prevent a split in the army of workers….”

— Petrograd Council of Trade Unions, April 1918, quoted in Jessica Smith, Women in Soviet Russia

This petition was supported by other unions and government organizations, and mass dismissals of women from Soviet industry were in fact checked. Three years later, during another period of widespread layoffs, the government issued a decree providing that in cases where male and female workers were equally qualified they were to be given equal consideration in retaining their jobs, with the exception that single women with children under one year of age were to be given preference. In the event that such women had to be laid off, their children had the right to continue to attend the factory nursery or kindergarten. It was further stipulated that neither pregnancy nor the fact that a woman was nursing a baby could serve as cause for dismissal, nor was it permitted to dismiss a woman worker during a leave of absence for childbirth.

Surveying the Soviet government’s work among women during its first two years Lenin was able to conclude that:

“A complete Revolution in the legislation affecting women was brought about by the government of the workers in the first months of its existence. The Soviet government has not left a stone unturned of those laws which held women in complete subjection. I speak particularly of the laws which took advantage of the weaker position of woman, leaving her in an unequal and often even degrading position—that is, the laws on divorce and children born out of wedlock, and the right of women to sue the father for the support of the child…. And we may now say with pride and without any exaggeration that outside of Soviet Russia there is not a country in the world where women have been given full equal rights, where women are not in a humiliating position which is felt especially in everyday family life. This was one of our first and most important tasks….

“Certainly laws alone are not enough, and we will not for a minute be satisfied just with decrees. But in the legal field we have done everything required to put women on an equal basis with men, and we have a right to be proud of that. The legal position of women in Soviet Russia is ideal from the point of view of the foremost countries. But we tell ourselves plainly that this is only the beginning.”

— V. I. Lenin, quoted in Jessica Smith, Women in Soviet Russia

Zhenotdel

The transition was not an easy one for women (or for men), particularly in rural areas and in the Muslim East. Appreciating the difficulties which women had to overcome in breaking from reactionary traditions, the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, although it was caught up in the turmoil of civil war, gave additional impetus to its work among women by calling for an All-Russian Conference of Working Women and Peasant Women to take place in Moscow in November 1918. This conference was preceded by the establishment of a bureau of convocation which sent agitators throughout the country, including frontline regions, to inform women about the forthcoming conference and to facilitate the election of delegates. Given the desperate conditions which prevailed, it was estimated that approximately 300 delegates would attend, but at the opening of the first session on November 16, 1,147 women delegates were seated.

Conference discussions addressed a variety of questions, including the problems of working women in Soviet Russia, the family, welfare, the role of women in the international revolution, organizational problems, the struggle against prostitution in Soviet Russia, the struggle against child labor and the housing question.

While affirming in principle that the struggle for communism and women’s emancipation could succeed only through the united struggle of all sections of the working class and peasantry, and not through the building of an autonomous women’s movement, the delegates also noted that women were often the least conscious elements in these sections and the most in need of special attention. In the light of this approach to special work among women, which had been developed by the German Social Democratic Party and carried forward by the Bolsheviks in the prerevolutionary period, delegates to the conference affirmed the proposal by Bolshevik leaders Inessa Armand and Konkordiia Samoilova that the conference appeal to the party “to organize from among the most active working women of the party special groups for propaganda and agitation among women in order to put the idea of communism into practice.” The Bolsheviks’ response was the creation of a Central Committee commission headed by Armand for work among women. It was succeeded the following year by the Department of Working Women and Peasant Women— Zhenotdel.

Zhenotdel was to become a major vehicle for the recruitment of women to the Bolshevik Party; but its primary purpose was not recruitment but the instruction of non-party women in the utilization of their newly-won rights, the deepening of their political awareness and the winning of their cooperation for the construction of the proletarian state.

While special work among women was carried out by many agencies, Zhenotdel was unique in that it offered women practical political experience. In annual elections women chose their delegates—one for every ten working women or for every hundred peasant women or housewives. These delegates attended classes in reading and writing, government, women’s rights and social welfare, and they took part in the organization of conferences, meetings and interviews designed to arouse the interest of their constituents and draw them into political activity. They were entitled to representation on the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, and those who were elected to represent Zhenotdel pursued a special program of political education which included reviewing the reports of district committees, co-ops, trade unions and factory directors. Some Zhenotdel delegates became full-time paid functionaries in government institutions or trade unions where they participated directly in the administration of the government.

Zhenotdel carried out extensive propaganda campaigns through its publications. By 1921, it was publishing a special page devoted to women in 74 weekly newspapers. In addition, it published its own weekly bulletin and the monthly journal Kommunistka (The Communist Woman), which had a circulation of 30,000. In addition, Zhenotdel’s literary commission supervised the publication of leaflets and pamphlets dealing with party work among women—over 400,000 pieces of literature during the first six months of 1921 alone.

Finding themselves confronted at every step by the enormous barrier of illiteracy among women, Zhenotdel delegates threw themselves into the work of organizing over 25,000 literacy schools in which they themselves were often the majority of the students. They also set up co-operative workshops for women, organized women who had been laid off from factories and established orphanages and colonies for homeless children.

Within a few years Zhenotdel had succeeded in creating out of the most backward sector of the working class and peasantry an organized, active, politically conscious stratum of women citizens devoted to the Soviet republic. Of these astonishing women delegates the Russian poet Mayakovsky wrote:

“They come

From the machines

From the land and washtubs

Under red kerchiefs

Tucking in the strands,

Hundreds of thousands

Of women-delegates

Chosen

To build and govern.”

— Quoted in V. Lebedeva, “Zabota o materiakh i detiakh,” in A. Artiukhina et al. (eds. Zhenshchina v revoliutsii)

Women Rally to Soviet State

While the Soviet regime had its detractors, even among working women in the major cities, all evidence indicates that the great majority of working women, for whom there could be no going back to the life they had known under the old regime, remained loyal to the government through famine, epidemic and Civil War. Wearing red head bands, women marched through the streets of Petrograd, during its darkest days, singing that although typhus and counterrevolution were everywhere, the world revolution was bound to save them. One woman who spoke for many wrote:

“I am the wife of a Petrograd worker. Earlier I was in no way useful to the working class. I could not work.

“I sat at home, suffocating in the cellar and preparing dinner from garbage which the bourgeoisie had not found fit to eat.

“When working class rule began, l heard the call for us ourselves to rule and build our lives. Well, I thought, how can the generals and their daughters have yielded their places to us? I began to listen….

“They chose me for a Kalachinska District conference. I learned a great deal there. A literacy instructor was assigned to me….

“If life is difficult for us now, all of us will bear it and not one will give the bourgeoisie reason to celebrate that they can again keep all the people in chains. We may suffer for a while, but to our children we will leave an inheritance which neither moth will eat nor rust will corrode. And we shall all support strong soviet rule and the Communist Party.”

—V. Tsurik, Bednota

But the clearest indication of support for the Soviet government was the enthusiasm with which women took up arms against the counterrevolution. Soviet women were members of Red Guard units from the first days of the October Revolution, and they fought side by side with men on every front during the Civil War. Like women in bourgeois countries, they initially volunteered as nurses, with the difference—as Alexandra Kollontai points out—that they regarded the soldiers not merely as “our poor soldier boys,” but as comrades in struggle. Soon, however, they became scouts, engineers of armored trains, cavalry soldiers, communications specialists, machine-gunners and guerrillas. They also took the initiative in forming “stopping detachments,” which captured deserters and persuaded them, whenever possible, to return to their positions. Lenin praised these detachments, saying: “Smash the traitors ruthlessly and put them to shame: Eighty thousand women—this is no trifling military force. Be steadfast in the revolutionary struggle.”

When the fighting ended, an estimated 1,854 women soldiers had been killed or wounded and many more taken prisoner. Sixty-three women were awarded the Order of the Red Banner for military heroism.

The Work Goes Forward

By 1921 it appeared as if a wholly new type of woman was about to make her appearance in Soviet Russia. According to Alexandra Kollontai’s personal ideal, this woman would be self-supporting and would live alone; she would take part in social and political work and would engage freely in sexual love; her meals would be eaten in a communal restaurant; her children would be happy in a state nursery and her home would be cleaned, her laundry done and her clothes mended by state workers. Other communists cherished other visions of the fully emancipated socialist woman, but for all of them the future was full of promise—so much had been accomplished already.

It was too early to know that just ahead lay bitter defeats for Soviet women, for the Soviet working class as a whole and for the international proletarian revolution. The bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet state, which arose in the first instance out of the backwardness, isolation and poverty of post-revolutionary Russia and out of the failure of proletarian revolutions in the technologically advanced countries of Western Europe, constitutes another chapter. The privileged, conservative bureaucratic caste which emerged out of these conditions reversed at will many of the gains which women had achieved through the Revolution: abortion was illegalized; the women’s section of the party was liquidated; coeducation was abolished; divorce was made less accessible; and women were once again encouraged to assume their “natural” tasks of domestic labor and child rearing within the confines of the oppressive family:

But despite these defeats, the lessons of Bolshevik work among women have not been lost to succeeding generations of revolutionists, and the work goes forward. Just as Kollontai pointed out to Bessie Beatty during the first flush of the Soviet victory: “Even if we are conquered, we have done great things. We are breaking the way….”

The Origins of Exposing Government Secrets: The Russian Revolution Leads to Publication of Secret Treaties of “Democratic Europe”

As you can imagine, we love the Russian Revolution of 1917, which was one of the most successful and bold of all time and which initially attempted, heroically and against daunting odds, to bring the concept of a workers revolutionary government from the realm of theory into practice.

The Russian Revolution triumphed because Tsarism had completely discredited itself among the people of Russia.  The nation was exhausted by its participation in WWI, which, by late 1917, saw Russian peasants and workers being conscripted and sent to the front without weapons, or even shoes.  Alone among the opposition to the Tsarist government, the Bolsheviks promised the country that if they took power, the first act of the revolutionary socialist government would be to declare an end to the bloodbath the capitalists of the world had plunged the workers into since 1914.  And the Bolsheviks kept their word – to the horror and shock of the capitalist world, who were making quite massive profits from the bloodbath in Europe.

Another promise the Bolsheviks of Lenin and Trotsky made – and kept – was their promise upon seizing power to publish the full text of all the secret treaties that had been worked out between the “democratic” Allied powers for the redivision of the nations of the “third world” depending on which side “won” the war.  Of course, the “Great Democracies” denied that such treaties existed, but the Bolsheviks blew those lies to smithereens when they placed before the eyes of the entire world these priceless gems of bourgeois “diplomacy”, revealing its greedy, bloodthirsty and racist nature.  The damage done to human civilization by this post-WWI carve-up of the defeated countries reverberates to this day, especially in the Middle East.  The fact that the capitalist world has continued to lie to the workers for 100 additional years about its vicious secret “diplomacy” when we have known for more than a century just what a savage gang of scumbags they are is a sad commentary on the working class willingness to be led around like dogs on a leash by our capitalist “masters”.

We are pleased to present to our readers this early example of “whistleblowing” writ large, by the leaders of one of the great revolutionary movements of all time: the Bolsheviks.

The great Russian Communist leader Leon Trotsky wrote this preface to the publication of the secret treaties:

“Secret diplomacy is a necessary weapon in the hands of a propertied minority, which is compelled to deceive the majority in order to make the latter obey its interests. Imperialism, with its world-wide plans of annexation, and its rapacious alliances and arrangements, has developed to the highest extent the system of secret diplomacy. The struggle against Imperialism, which has ruined and drained of their blood the peoples of Europe, means at the same time the struggle against capitalist diplomacy, which has good reason to fear the light of day. The Russian people, as well as the peoples of Europe and of the whole world, must know the documentary truth about those plots which were hatched in secret by financiers and industrialists, together with their Parliamentary and diplomatic agents. The peoples of Europe have earned the right to know the truth about these things, owing to their innumerable sacrifices and the universal economic ruin.

“To abolish secret diplomacy is the first condition of an honourable, popular, and really democratic foreign policy. The Soviet Government makes the introduction of such a policy its object. For this reason, while openly offering to all the belligerent peoples and their Governments an immediate armistice, we publish simultaneously those treaties and agreements which have lost all their obligatory force for the Russian workmen, soldiers, and peasants, who have taken the Government into their hands….

“Bourgeois politicians and journalists of Germany and Austria-Hungary may endeavour to profit by the published documents in order to represent in a favourable light the diplomacy of the Central Empires. But every effort in this direction would be doomed to failure for two reasons. In the first place we intend shortly to put before the public secret documents which will show up clearly the diplomacy of the Central Empires. In the second place-and this is the chief point-the methods of secret diplomacy are just as international as Imperialist rapacity. When the German proletariat by revolutionary means gets access to the secrets of its Government chancelleries, it will produce from them documents of just the same nature as those which we are now publishing. It is to be hoped that this will happen as soon as possible.

“The Government of workmen and peasants abolishes secret diplomacy, with its intrigues, figures, and lies. We have nothing to conceal. Our programme formulates the passionate wishes of millions of workmen, soldiers, and peasants. We desire a speedy peace, so that the peoples may honourably live and work together. We desire a speedy deposition of the supremacy of capital. In revealing before the whole world the work of the governing classes as it is expressed in the secret documents of diplomacy, we turn to the workers with that appeal which will always form the basis of our foreign policy: ‘Proletariats of all countries, unite!’

“L. TROTSKI, People’s Commissioner for Foreign Affairs.”*

Enjoy!

IWPCHI

The Secret Treaties and Understandings

This text is courtesy of and copyrighted by the Great War Primary Document Archive at http://www.gwpda.org/