V. I.   Lenin


Published: First published on November 7, 1924 in Pravda No. 255. Printed from the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1971, Moscow, Volume 36, pages 434-443.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive.   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.
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I have put down a few theses on which I will make some comments. For lack of time I was unable to present a circumstantial and systematic report.

The basic question is the attitude to the war. The main thing that comes to the fore, when you read about Russia and see what goes on here, is the victory of defencism, the victory of the traitors to socialism, the deception of the masses by the bourgeoisie. What strikes one is that here in Russia the socialist movement is in the same state as in other countries: defencism, “defence of the fatherland”. The difference is that nowhere is there such freedom as here, and therefore we have a special responsibility to the whole international proletariat. The new government is as imperialist as the previous one; it is imperialist through and through, despite its promise of a republic.

I. In our attitude towards the war, which under the new government of Lvov and Co. unquestionably remains on Russia’s part a predatory imperialist war owing to the capitalist nature of that government, not the slightest concession to ‘revolutionary defencism’ is permissible.

The class-conscious proletariat can give its consent to a revolutionary war, which would really justify revolutionary defencism, only on condition: a) that power passes to the proletariat and the poorest sections of the peasants aligned with the proletariat; b) that all annexations are renounced in deed and not in word; c) that a complete break is effected in actual fact with all capitalist interests.

In view of the undoubted honesty of those broad sections of the mass believers in revolutionary defencism who accept the war only as a necessity, and not as a means of conquest, in view of the fact that they are being deceived by the bourgeoisie, it is necessary with particular thoroughness, persistence and patience to explain their error to them, to explain the inseparable connection existing between capital and the imperialist war, and to prove that without overthrowing capital it is impossible to end the war by a truly democratic peace, a peace not imposed by violence.

The most widespread campaign for this view must be organised in the army at the front.


We cannot allow the slightest concession to defencism in our attitude to the war even under the new government, which remains imperialist. The masses lake a practical and not a theoretical view of things. They say: “I want to defend the fatherland, not to seize other peoples’ lands.” When can a war be considered your own? When annexations are completely renounced.

The masses take a practical and not a theoretical approach to the question. We make the mistake of taking the theoretical approach. A class-conscious proletarian can agree to a revolutionary war, which really does justify revolutionary defencism. The practical approach is the only possible one with representatives of the mass of the soldiers. We are not pacifists in any sense. But the main question is: which class is carrying on the war? The class of capitalists, linked with the banks, cannot wage any kind of war except an imperialist one. The working class can. Steklov and Chkheidze have forgotten everything. When you read the resolution of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, you are amazed that people calling themselves socialists could adopt such a resolution.[6]

What is specific in Russia is the extremely rapid transition from savage violence to the most subtle deception. The main condition is renunciation of annexations not in words, but in deeds. Rech howls at Sotsial-Demokrat’s statement that the integration of Courland with Russia is annexation. But annexation is the integration of any country with distinct national peculiarities; it is any integration of a nation against its will, irrespective of whether it differs in language,   if it feels itself to be another people. This is a prejudice of the Great Russians which has been fostered for centuries.

The war can be ended only by a clean break with international capital. The war was engendered not by individuals but by international finance capital. It is no easy thing to break with international capital, but neither is it an easy thing to end the war. It is childishness and naivete to expect one side alone to end the war.... Zimmerwald, Kienthal[7].... We have a greater obligation than anyone else to safeguard the honour of international socialism. The difficulty of approach....

In view of the undoubted existence of a defencist mood among the masses, who recognise the war only of necessity and not for the sake of conquest, we must explain to them most circumstantially, persistently and patiently that the war cannot be ended in a non-rapacious peace unless capital is overthrown. This idea must be spread far and wide. The soldiers want a concrete answer: how to end the war. But it is political fraud to promise the people that we can end the war only by the goodwill of individual persons. The masses must be forewarned. A revolution is a difficult thing. It is impossible to avoid mistakes. Our mistake is that we (have not exposed?) revolutionary defencism to the full. Revolutionary defencism is betrayal of socialism. We cannot confine ourselves.... We must admit our mistake. What is to be done? To explain. How to present... who doesn’t know what socialism is.... We are not charlatans. We must base ourselves only on the political consciousness of the masses. Even if we have to remain in a minority—let it be so. It is worth while giving up our leading position for a time; we should not be afraid of remaining in a minority. When the masses say they don’t want conquest, I believe them. When Guchkov and Lvov say they don’t want conquest, they are swindlers. When the worker says that he wants to defend the country, he voices the oppressed man’s instinct.

II. The specific feature of the present situation in Russia is that the country is passing from the first stage of the revolution—which, owing to the insufficient class– consciousness and organisation of the proletariat, placed power in the hands of the bourgeoisie—to the second stage, which   must place power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest sections of the peasants.

This transition is characterised, on the one hand, by a maximum of legally recognised rights (Russia is now the freest of all the belligerent countries in the world); on the other, by the absence of violence towards the masses, and, finally, by their unreasoning trust in the government of capitalists, those worst enemies of peace and socialism.

This peculiar situation demands of us an ability to adapt ourselves to the special conditions of Party work among unprecedentedly large masses of proletarians who have just awakened to political life.”

Why didn’t they take power? Steklov says: for this reason and that. This is nonsense. The fact is that the proletariat is not organised and class-conscious enough. This must be admitted; material strength is in the hands of the proletariat, but the bourgeoisie turned out to be prepared and class-conscious. This is a monstrous fact, but it should be frankly and openly admitted, and the people should be told that they didn’t take power because they were unorganised and not conscious enough.... The ruin of millions, the death of millions. The most advanced countries are on the brink of disaster, and they will therefore be faced with the question....

The transition from the first stage to the second—the transfer of power to the proletariat and the peasantry—is characterised, on the one hand, by the maximum of legality (Russia today is the freest and most progressive country in the world) and, on the other, by an attitude of blind trust on the part of the masses in the government. Even our Bolsheviks show some trust in the government. This can be explained only by the intoxication of the revolution. It is the death of socialism. You comrades have a trusting attitude to the government. If that is so, our paths diverge. I prefer to remain in a minority. One Liebknecht is worth more than 110 defencists of the Steklov and Chkheidze type. If you sympathise with Liebknecht and stretch out even a finger (to the defencists), it will be betrayal of international socialism. If we break away from those people ... everyone who is oppressed will come to us, because the war will lead him to us; he has no other way out.

The people should be spoken to without Latin words, in clear and simple terms. They have the right ...—we must adapt ourselves ... make the change, but it is essential. Our line will prove to be the correct one.

III. No support for the Provisional Government; the utter falsity of all its promises should be made clear, particularly of those relating to the renunciation of annexations. Exposure in place of the impermissible, illusion-breeding ‘demand’ that this government, a government of capitalists, should cease to be an imperialist government. ”

Pravda demands of the government that it should renounce annexations. To demand of a government of capitalists that it should renounce annexations is nonsense, a crying mockery of....

From the scientific standpoint this is such gross deception which all the international proletariat, all.... It is time to admit our mistake. We’ve had enough of greetings and resolutions, it is time to act. We must get down to a sober, business-like....

IV. Recognition of the fact that in most of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies our Party is in a minority, so far a small minority, as against a bloc of all the petty-bourgeois opportunist elements, from the Popular Socialists[8] and the Socialist-Revolutionaries down to the Organising Committee (Chkheidze, Tsereteli, etc.), Steklov, etc., etc., who have yielded to the influence of the bourgeoisie and spread that influence among the proletariat.

The masses must be made to see that the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies are the only possible form of revolutionary government, and that therefore our task is, as long as this government yields to the influence of the bourgeoisie, to present a patient, systematic, and persistent explanation of the errors of their tactics, an explanation especially adapted to the practical needs of the masses.

As long as we are in the minority we carry on the work of criticising and exposing errors and at the same time we preach the necessity of transferring the entire state power to the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, so that the people may overcome their mistakes by experience.”

We Bolsheviks are in the habit of taking the line of   maximum revolutionism. But that is not enough. We must sort things out.

The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies is the real government. To think otherwise is to fall into anarchism. It is a recognised fact that in the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies our Party is in a minority. We must explain to the masses that the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies is the only possible government, a government without parallel in the world, except for the Commune. What if a majority of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies takes the defencist stand? That cannot be helped. It remains for us to explain, patiently, persistently, systematically, the erroneous nature of their tactics.

So long as we are in a minority, we carry on the work of criticism, in order to open the people’s eyes to the deception. We don’t want the masses to take our word for it. We are not charlatans. We want the masses to overcome their mistakes through experience.

The manifesto of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies contains not a word imbued with class-consciousness. It’s all talk! Talk, flattery of the revolutionary people, is the only thing that has ruined all revolutions. The whole of Marxism teaches us not to succumb to revolutionary phrases, particularly at a time when they have the greatest currency.

V. Not a parliamentary republic—to return to a parliamentary republic from the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies would be a retrograde step—but a republic of Soviets of Workers’, Agricultural Labourers’ and Peasants’ Deputies throughout the country, from top to bottom.

Abolition of the police, the army and the bureaucracy.[1]

The salaries of all officials, all of whom are elective and displaceable at any time, not to exceed the average wage of a competent worker.”

This is the lesson of the French Commune, which Kautsky forgot and which the workers teach us in 1905 and 1917. The experience of these years teaches us that we must not allow the police and the old army to be restored.

The programme should be changed, it is out of date. The Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies is a step to socialism. There must be no police, no army, no officialdom. The convocation of the Constituent Assembly—but by whom? Resolutions are written only to be shelved or sat on. I should be glad to have the Constituent Assembly convened tomorrow, but it is naïve to believe that Guchkov will call it. All the chatter about forcing the Provisional Government to call the Constituent Assembly is empty talk, a pack of lies. Revolutions were made, but the police stayed on, revolutions were made, but all the officials, etc., stayed on. That was why the revolutions foundered. The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies is the only government which can call that assembly. We all seized upon the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, but have failed to understand them. From this form we are dragging back to the International, which is trailing behind the bourgeoisie.

A bourgeois republic cannot solve the problem (of the war), because it can be solved only on an international scale. We don’t promise liberation ... but we say that it is possible only in this form (Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies). No government except the Soviet of Workers’ and Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies. If you talk about the Commune, they won’t understand. But if you say, there is the Soviet of Workers’ and Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies instead of the police, learn to govern— no one can interfere with us—(that they will understand).

No books will ever teach you the art of government. Learning to govern is a matter of trial and error.

VI. The weight of emphasis in the agrarian programme to be shifted to the Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies.

Confiscation of all landed estates.

Nationalisation of all lands in the country, the land to be disposed of by the local Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ and Peasants’ Deputies. The organisation of separate Soviets of Deputies of Poor Peasants. The setting up of a model farm on each of the large estates (ranging in size from 100 to 300 dessiatines, according to local and other conditions and to the decisions of the local bodies) under the control of the Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies and for the public account.”

What is the peasantry? We don’t know, there are no statistics, but we do know that it is a force.

If they take the land, you can be sure that they won’t give it back to you, they won’t ask us. The pivot, the centre of gravity of the programme has shifted, and is the Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies. If the Russian peasant doesn’t settle the revolution, the German worker will.

The Tambov muzhik....

The first dessiatine cost free, the second, for 1 ruble, the third, for 2 rubles. We shall take over the land, and the landowner will never be able to take it back.

Communal farming.

It is necessary to organise separate Soviets of Deputies from the poor peasants. There is the rich muzhik, and there is the labourer. Even if you give him land, he won’t set up a farm. The large estates should be turned into model farms run on social lines, with management by the Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies.

There are large estates.

VII. The immediate amalgamation of all banks in the country into a single national bank, and the institution of control over it by the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies.”

The bank is “a form of social book-keeping” (Marx). War teaches economy; everyone knows that the banks sap the strength of the people. The banks are the nerve, the focus of the national economy. We cannot take hold of the banks, but we advocate their amalgamation under the control of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies.

VIII. It is not our immediate task to ‘introduce’ socialism, but only to bring social production and the distribution of products at once under the control of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies.”

Practice and the revolution tend to push the Constituent Assembly into the background. The important thing about laws is not that they are put down on paper, but who carries them out. The dictatorship of the proletariat is there, but people don’t know how to work it. Capitalism has developed into state capitalism.... Marx ... only that which has matured in practice....

IX. Party tasks:

(a) Immediate convocation of a Party congress.

(b) Amendment of the Party Programme, mainly:

1) On the question of imperialism and the imperialist war;

2) On our attitude towards the state and our demand for a “commune state”[2] ;

3) Amendment of our out-of-date minimum programme.

(c) Change of the Party’s name.[3]

X. A new International.

We must take the initiative in creating a revolutionary International, an International against the social– chauvinists and against the ‘ Centre’.[4]

General conclusion.

The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies has been created, it enjoys vast influence. All instinctively sympathise with it. This institution combines far more revolutionary thought than all the revolutionary phrases. If the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies succeeds in taking government into its own hands, the cause of liberty is assured. You may write the most ideal laws, but who will put them into effect? The same officials, but they are tied up with the bourgeoisie.

It is not “introduce socialism” that we ought to tell the masses, but put it into effect (?). Capitalism has gone ahead, war capitalism is different from that which existed before the war.

On the basis of our tactical conclusions we must go on to practical steps. A Party congress must be called at once and the Programme revised. A great deal in it is out of date. The minimum programme must be changed.

I personally propose that we change the name of our Party and call it the Communist Party. The people will understand the name of “Communist”. Most of the official Social-Democrats have committed treason, they have betrayed socialism.... Liebknecht is the one Social– Democrat.... You are afraid of betraying old recollections. But if you want to change your underwear you must take off your dirty shirt and put on a clean one. Why throw out the experience of world-wide struggle? Most of the Social-Democrats throughout the world have betrayed socialism, and have sided with their governments (Scheidemann, Plekhanov, Guesde). What is to be done to make Scheidemann agree?... This point of view spells ruin for socialism. It would be deception to send a radio telegram to Scheidemann about ending the war....

The term “Social-Democracy” is inexact. Don’t cling to an old word which has become rotten through and through. If you want to build a new party ... and all the oppressed will come to you.

The Centre prevailed at Zimmerwald and Kienthal.... Rabochaya Gazeta. We shall prove to you that the whole of experience has shown.... We declare that we have formed a Left wing and have broken with the Centre. Either you speak about the International, then carry out..., or you....

The Left Zimmerwald trend exists in all the countries of the world. The masses must realise that socialism has split throughout the world. The defencists have renounced socialism. Liebknecht alone.... The future is with him.

I have heard that there is a tendency in Russia towards unification, towards unity with the defencists. This is betrayal of socialism. I think it is better to remain alone, like Liebknecht: one against 110.


[1] i.e., the standing army to be replaced by the arming of the whole people.—Lenin

[2] That is, a state of which the Paris Commune was the prototype.—Lenin

[3] We must call ourselves the Communist Party, instead of “Social-Democratic”, for the official Social-Democrat leaders throughout the world have betrayed socialism and have gone over to the bourgeoisie (the “defencists” and wavering “Kautskians”).—Lenin

[4]Centre” is the name given among international Social-Democrats to the trend which wavers between the chauvinists (=the “defencists”) and the internationalists, namely, Kautsky and Co. in Germany; Longuet and Co. in France; Chkheidze and Co. in Russia; Turati and Co. in Italy; MacDonald and Co. in Britain, etc.—Lenin

[5] All-Russia Conference of Party Workers (March Conference) was timed by the Russian Bureau of the R.S.D.L.P. C.C. for the All-Russia Conference of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and opened on March 27 (April 9), 1917. On its agenda were: attitude to the war, attitude to the Provisional Government, organisation of revolutionary forces, etc.

The meeting of April 4 (17) at which Lenin gave his report was held in the Taurida Palace. Lenin explained his April Theses and quoted them in part. The text of his speech is reproduced from secretarial notes containing lacunae indicated with dots, apart from some places of the notes which are not quite clear.

All-Russia Conference of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, called by the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, was held at Petrograd from March 29 to April 3 (April  11 to 16), 1917.

It was attended by representatives of the Petrograd Soviet and 82 local Soviets, and also of army units at the front and in the rear. It discussed the questions of the war, the attitude to the Provisional Government, the Constituent Assembly, land, food, and other problems.

The Conference, which was dominated by Mensheviks and S.R.s, took the attitude of “revolutionary defencism” (325 against 57) and adopted a decision to support the bourgeois Provisional Government and also to call an international socialist conference on the question of withdrawal from the war. G. V. Plekhanov made two speeches in a spirit of social-patriotism. There were interruptions from the defencist majority when the Bolshevik P. I. Starostin called for an end to the war.

The Conference added 16 members to the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, including six from the Army and Navy.

[6] A reference to a resolution on Tsereteli’s report on the attitude towards the war, tabled by the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, controlled by Mensheviks and S.R.s, and adopted by the All-Russia Conference of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies on March 30 (April 12), 1917. Behind a facade of general statements about freedom and defence of the revolution, the resolution urged support for the Provisional Government’s foreign policy, i.e., continuation of the imperialist war.

[7] A reference to the international socialist conferences at Zimmerwald and Kienthal.

[8] Popular Socialists—members of a petty-bourgeois Trudovik   Popular Socialist Party formed in 1906 by Right-wingers of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party (S.R.). They sided with the Cadets; Lenin called them “Social-Cadets”, “philistine opportunists”, “S.R. Mensheviks”, vacillating between the S.R.s and the Cadets. He said, the party “differs very little from the Cadets, for it deletes from its programme both republicanism and the demand for all the land” = (see present edition, Vol. 11, p. 228). Among the party’s leaders were A. V. Peshekhonov, N. F. Annensky and V. A. Myakotin.

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