Delivered: 1 December, 1917
First Published: 19 December, 1917, Pravda No. 207.
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 28, 1972, pp. 351
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov and George Hanna, Edited by George Hanna
Transcription & HTML Markup: Charles Farrell and David Walters
Online Version: Lenin Internet Archive November, 2000
Considered apart from the circumstances of the class war, which has developed into civil war, we so far do not know of a more perfect institution for determining the will of the people than the Constituent Assembly. But we must not indulge in fancies. The Constituent Assembly will have to function under civil war conditions; the Kaledinite bourgeois elements have started a civil war.
After attempting to drag out the insurrection in Moscow, after the unsuccessful attempt on the part of Kerensky to bring troops against Petrograd, after the fruitless attempt to organise the counter-revolutionary high-ranking officers of the army, these elements are now endeavouring to organise an uprising on the Don. The attempt is hopeless, since the working Cossacks are opposed to the Kaledinites.
Replying to the charge of persecuting the Cadet Party, Comrade Lenin said: “The class struggle must not be regarded separately from one’s political opponents. When it is sald that the Cadet Party is not a strong group, it is not true. The Cadet Central Committee is the political general staff of the bourgeois class. The Cadets have absorbed all propertied classes; they have been joined by elements that stood to the right of the Cadets. They all support the Cadet Party.
“We are being called upon to convene the Constituent Assembly in the form in which it was first planned. Under no circumstances. It was planned against the interests of the people. We made the revolution so as to have guarantees that the Constituent Assembly would not be used against the people, and in order that the guarantees would be in the hands of the government. Our decree states clearly and unambiguously when the Constituent Assembly will be convened.ise It contains an exact answer to that question. Do not try any thought-reading—we are concealing nothing. We said that we shall convene the Constituent Assembly as soon as four hundred deputies have arrived. We are not to blame that the elections took place later than appointed. In certain localities the Soviets themselves appointed later election dates. Since the elections were held on various dates, it was necessary to determine how many deputies are required in order to open the Constituent Assembly. An attempt to convene it irrespective of the number of deputies present has been made, taking advantage of the fact that the number is not indicated in the law. What would be the position of a government that permitted such a thing? The Soviet government did the right thing in decreeing the number of deputies necessary for the Constituent Assembly to be deemed properly constituted. That is what the Soviet government did. Those who are not in agreement should criticise the decree. But if we hear insinuations and guesses instead of criticism, we brush them aside.
“When a revolutionary class is fighting the propertied classes that offer resistance, the resistance must be crushed. And we shall crush the resistance of the propertied classes, using the same means as they used to crush the proletariat—no other means have been invented.
“You said the bourgeoisie must be isolated. But the Cadets are actually starting civil war under cover of a formally democratic demand, the demand for a Constituent Assembly. They say they want, to sit in the Constituent Assembly and organise civil war at the same time. And you reply to that by talk about isolation.
“We are not merely persecuting non-observers of formalities, we are levelling direct political accusations against a political party. The French revolutionaries acted in this way. This is our reply to those peasants who elected without realising whom they were electing. Let the people know that the Constituent Assembly is being summoned in a way somewhat different from what Kerensky intended. We have introduced the right of recall, and the Constituent Assembly will not be quite the thing the bourgeoisie planned. Although only a few days remain before the Constituent Assembly is summoned, the bourgeoisie are organising civil war, intensifying sabotage and undermining the armistice. We shall not let ourselves be deceived by formal slogans. The bourgeoisie would like to sit in the Constituent Assembly and at the same time organise civil war. Let them examine the substance of our accusation against the Cadet Party; let them prove that the Cadet Party is not the general staff of the civil war, an obviously hopeless war that is drenching the country in blood. Comrade Steinberg has not attempted to prove that. He has forgotten all that has been revealed about the contacts between the Cadets and Kornilov; it was not we, but Chernov, our political opponent, who revealed those contacts. It is proposed that we catch the little men, but we shall not hunt for particular individuals in order to hide our political accusation against the general staff of a whole class.”
Comrade Lenin then dealt with the remark that the Bolsheviks had also been proclaimed enemies of the people.
“They threatened to proclaim us enemies of the people,” he said, “but they did not do so. They did not dare. We said to them at that time, ‘Well, try it, if you can; try to tell the people that the Bolshevik Party, as a party, as a trend, is the enemy of the people’. They did not dare; they hunted down individuals, they resorted to slander. We said, ‘You cannot proclaim us enemies of the people; you have not a single objection in principle to bring against the Bolsheviks; all you can do is to spread calumnies.’ Our accusation against the Cadet Party puts an end to petty manoeuvrcs in the political struggle. We shall tell the people the truth. We shall tell the people that their interests are superior to the interests of a democratic institution. We must not return to the old prejudices, which subordinate the inter~ ests of the people to formal democracy. The Cadets cry, All Power to the Constituent Assembly. But what they mean in fact is, All Power to Kaledin. The people must be told that, and the people will approve our action.”
Having heard the explanations by spokesmen of the Council of People’s Commissars concerning the Decree declaring the Cadets a party of enemies of the people and ordering the arrest of the members of that Party’s governing bodies, and surveillance by the Soviets over the party as a whole, the Central Executive Committee reaffirms the need to press forward the most vigorous struggle against bourgeois counter-revolution, which is led by the Cadet Party, and which has started a fierce civil war against the very foundations of the workers’ and peasants’ revolution.
The Central Executive Committee assures the Council of People’s Commissars of its continued support in this matter and rejects the protests of political groups whose vacillation has been undermining the dictatorship of the proletariat and the poor peasants.