Leon Trotsky

The Lessons of October

A Brief Comment on This Book

The initial phase of the “democratic” revolution extends from the February revolution to the crisis in April, and its solution on May 6 by the formation of a coalition government with the participation of the Mensheviks and the Narodniks. Throughout this initial phase, the writer did not participate directly, arriving in Petrograd only on May 5, on the very eve of the formation of the coalition government. The first stage of the revolution and the revolutionary prospects were dealt with by me in articles written in America. In my opinion, on all fundamental points these articles are in complete harmony with the analysis of the revolution given by Lenin in his Letters from Afar.

From the very first day of my arrival in Petrograd my work was carried on in complete coordination with the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks. Lenin’s course toward the conquest of power by the proletariat I naturally supported in whole and in part. So far as the peasantry was concerned, there was not even a shade of disagreement between Lenin and myself. Lenin at that time was completing the first stage of his struggle against the right Bolsheviks and their slogan, “Democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.” Prior to my formal entry into the party, I participated in drafting a number of resolutions and documents issued in the name of the party. The sole consideration which delayed my formal entry into the party for three months was the desire to expedite the fusion of the best elements of the Mezhrayontsi organization, and of revolutionary internationalists in general, with the Bolsheviks. This policy was likewise carried out by me in complete agreement with Lenin.

The editors of this volume have drawn my attention to the fact that in one of the articles I wrote at that time in favor of unification, there is a reference to the organizational “clannishness” of the Bolsheviks. Some profound pundit like Comrade Sorin will, of course, lose no time in deducing this phrase directly and posthaste from the original differences on paragraph one of the party statutes. I see No necessity to engage in any discussion on this score, particularly in view of the fact that I have admitted both verbally and in action my real and major organizational errors. A somewhat less perverse reader will find, however, a much more simple and immediate explanation for the above’quoted phrase. It is to be accounted for by the concrete conditions at that time. Among the Mezhrayontsi workers there still survived a very strong distrust of the organizational policies of the Petrograd Committee. Arguments based on “clannishness” – bolstered as is always the case in such circumstances by references to all sorts of “injustice” – were current among the Mezhrayontsi. I refuted these arguments as follows: clannishness, as a heritage from the past, does exist, but if it is to diminish, the Mezhrayontsi must terminate their own separate existence.

My purely polemical “proposal” to the First Soviet Congress that it constitute a government of twelve Peshekhonovs has been interpreted by some people, by Sukhanov, I believe, to indicate either that I was personally inclined toward Peshekhonov, or that I was advancing a special political line, distinct from that of Lenin. This is, of course, sheer nonsense. When our party demanded that the soviets, led by the Mensheviks and the SRs, should assume power, it thereby “demanded” a ministry composed of Peshekhonovs. In the last analysis, there was no principled difference at all between Peshekhonov, Chernov, and Dan. They were all equally useful for facilitating the transfer of power from the bourgeoisie to the proletariat. It may be that Peshekhonov was better acquainted with statistics, and made a slightly better impression as a practical man than Tseretelli or Chernov. A dozen Peshekhonovs meant a government composed of a dozen stalwart representatives of petty-bourgeois democracy instead of a coalition. When the Petersburg masses, led by our party, raised the slogan: “Down with the ten capitalist ministers!” they thereby demanded that the posts of these ministers be filled by Mensheviks and Narodniks. “Messrs. bourgeois democrats, kick the Cadets out! Take power into your own hands! Put in the government twelve (or as many as you have) Peshekhonovs, and we promise you, so far as it is possible, to remove you ‘peacefully’ from your posts when the hour will strike which should be very soon!” There was no special political line here, it was the same line that Lenin formulated time and again.

I consider it necessary to underscore emphatically the warning voiced by Comrade Lentsner, the editor of this volume. As he points out, the bulk of the speeches contained in this volume were reprinted not from stenographic notes, even defective ones, but from accounts made by reporters of the conciliationist press, half ignorant and half malicious. A cursory inspection of several documents of this sort caused me to reject offhand the original plan of correcting and supplementing them to a certain extent. Let them remain as they are. They, too, in their own fashion, are documents of the epoch, although emanating “from the other side.”

The present volume would not have appeared in print had it not been for the careful and competent work of Comrade Lentsner who is also responsible for compiling the notes’and of his assistants, Comrades Heller, Kryzhanovsky, Rovensky, and I. Rumer.

I take the opportunity to express my comradely gratitude to them. I should like to take particular notice of the enormous work done in preparing this volume as well as my other books by my closest collaborator, M.S. Glazman. I conclude these lines with feelings of profoundest sorrow over the extremely tragic death of this splendid comrade, worker, and man.

The Lessons of October Index

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Last updated on: 19.1.2007