Pravda No. 70, June 14 (1), 1917.
Published according to the text in Pravda.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 24, pages 558-561.
Translated: Isaacs Bernard
Transcription\Markup: B. Baggins and D. Walters
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The International Relations Department of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet has sent a letter to Huysmans, well-known as Secretary of the bankrupt Second International, whose members went over to the side of “their” national governments.
This letter, published in issue No. 78 of Izvestia, tries to prove that the Russian Narodniks and Mensheviks, who joined the bourgeois and imperialist government, cannot be “compared” to the West-European betrayers of socialism, who joined “their” governments. The “Department’s” case is so feeble and pitiful, so ludicrously impotent that it needs to be shown up again and again in all its unsightly futility.
Argument 1. In other countries these people joined the government “under entirely different conditions”. This is not true. The difference between Britain, France, Denmark, Belgium, Italy, etc., on the one hand, and present-day Russia, on the other, is “entirely” negligible. Everyone who has not betrayed socialism knows that the question at issue is the class rule of the bourgeoisie. In this respect conditions in all the countries mentioned above are the same, and not “different”. National peculiarities do not in the least affect the basic issue of bourgeois class rule.
Argument 2. “Our” ministers have joined a “revolutionary” government. This is a disgraceful method of hoodwinking the people by means of the great word “revolution”, which the Mensheviks and Narodniks use to cover up their betrayal of it. Everyone knows that ten of the sixteen ministers in today’s “revolutionary” government belong to the parties of the landowners and capitalists, who stand for the imperialist war and non-publication of the secret treaties, and that these parties are now pursuing a counter-revolutionary policy. This was clearly demonstrated by the elections to the District Councils of Petrograd on May 27–29, when all the Black-Hundred elements rallied to support the majority in our “revolutionary” government.
Argument 3. “Our” ministers joined “with a definite man date to achieve world peace by agreement among the nations and not to drag out the imperialist war for The sake of liberating the nations by force of arms”. For one thing, this mandate is not “definite” at all, since it implies neither a definite programme nor any definite action. These are mere words. It is like the secretary of a labour union becoming an executive member of a capitalist association at a salary of 10,000 rubles “with a definite mandate” to work for the welfare of labour and not drag out the rule of capitalism. Second, all imperialists, including Wilhelm and Poincaré, are out for “an agreement among the nations”. This, too, is an empty phrase. Third, the war on Russia’s part, since May 6, 1917, is obviously being “dragged out”, among other reasons, because our imperialist government has so far failed to announce or propose clear and precise terms of peace, terms of an agreement.
Argument 4. “Our” ministers aim is not cessation of the class struggle, but its continuation by means of the instruments of political power”. Splendid! All you need to do is to cloak vileness with a good aim or a good excuse for participation in vileness—and the trick is done! Participation in a bourgeois imperialist government, which is actually waging an imperialist war, may, it appears, be called “continuation of the class struggle by means of instruments of political power”. This is a perfect gem. We suggest that at every workers’ and public meeting three cheers should be raised for Chernov, Tsereteli, Peshekhionov and Skobelev, who are waging “a class struggle” against Tereshchenko, Lvov and Co.
You will be laughed to scorn, gentlemen of the “Department”, for defending ministerialism with such arguments. You are not original, though. The famous Vandervelde, friend of Plekhanov (whom you scold, although, since you have joined the cabinet, you have no moral right to do so), said long ago that he, too, had joined the cabinet “to continue the class struggle”.
Argument 5. “Our” ministers joined the cabinet after the overthrow of tsarism and the expulsion of the enemies of the Russian proletariat [i.e., Milyukov and Guchkov] by the movement of the revolutionary mass on April 20–21”.
You can hardly blame the French for having overthrown their autocracy 122 years ago, instead of 100 days ago, or the English for having done it over 260 years ago, or the Italians for having done it decades ago. April 20 saw Milyukov ejected and replaced by Tereshchenko, i.e., absolutely nothing has changed as far as class or party relations are concerned. New promises do not imply a new policy.
You could dismiss the Metropolitan and put the Pope in his place, but that does not mean you would cease to be a clerical.
Argument 6. In Russia “there is full freedom for the proletariat and the army”. That is untrue—it is not full. It is fuller than in other countries, and all the more shameful therefore is it to soil this young unsullied freedom with the dirt of participation in a bourgeois imperialist government.
The Russian betrayers of socialism differ from their European namesakes no more than the rapist differs from the ravisher.
Argument 7. “Moreover the Russian proletariat has the means of exercising complete control over those it elects.”
That is untrue. Partyism in Russia is so young and disintegration among the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries is so evident (Martov’s semi-breakaway, Kamkov’s protests and his forming a bloc with us at the elections against his own party, the Menshevik-S.R. bloc with Yedinstvo, which they themselves call imperialist, etc.) that there can be no question of any serious, not to say “complete”, control of the ministers on the part of the proletariat.
Besides, proletariat is a class concept, which the Mensheviks and Narodniks have no right to use, because they rely mostly on the support of the petty bourgeoisie. Once you speak of classes, be precise!
Argument 8. “The fact that representatives of the Russian socialist [?] proletariat [?] have joined the government does not imply any weakening of its bonds with the socialists of all countries who are fighting against imperialism. On the contrary, it signifies a strengthening of those bonds in the joint struggle for world peace.”
That is untrue. A mere phrase.
Everyone knows that their joining the government in Russia has strengthened the bonds that unite the adherents of imperialism, the social-chauvinists, the social-imperialists of all countries—Henderson and Co., Thomas and Co., Scheidemann and Co.
Yes, Scheidemann, too! For he realises that German social-imperialism will be safe to continue exercising its baneful influence on the world’s labour movement, since even the Russians, their great measure of freedom and their revolution notwithstanding, have entered into a shameful alliance with their imperialist bourgeoisie.