The July Days

I shall not dwell here in detail on the part which Lenin has played here at Petrograd from the beginning of our revolution. You have seen his work, you have watched it as closely as I. You know the part played by Lenin in the July days of 1917. For him the question of the necessity of the seizure of power by the proletariat had been settled from the first moment of our revolution, and the question was only about the choice of a suitable opportunity. In the July days our entire Central Committee was opposed to the immediate seizure of power, Lenin was of the same opinion. But when on July 16 the wave of popular revolt rose high, Lenin became alert, and here, upstairs in the refreshment room of the Tauride Palace, a small conference took place at which Trotsky, Lenin, and myself were present. Lenin laughingly asked us, ‘Shall we not attempt now?’ and added: ‘No, it would not do to take power now, as nothing will come out of it, the soldiers at the front being largely on the other side would come as the dupes of the Lieber-Dans to massacre the Petrograd workers.’ As a matter of fact, you will remember in those July days Kerensky did succeed in bringing over soldiers from the front against us. What was to become ripe two or three months later is still immature in July, and a premature seizure of power at ,that time might have been fatal. Lenin realised this before everybody else. At any rate, Lenin never hesitated for a moment on the question as to whether the proletariat, in our revolution, ought to seize the reins of power, or not. All his hesitations turned round ,the question as to whether it could not be done earlier.

You know how things developed subsequently. We passed through a time when it seemed that everything was lost. Comrade Lenin for a moment even doubted whether the Soviets, corrupted by the conciliationists, could play a decisive part, and he gave the warning that. We might perhaps have to seize power without the Soviets. But he never for a moment doubted that sooner or later the power would be in our hands, and that it was necessary to hurl the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionists into the abyss.

At first, during the July days, we could not realise what was occurring. One night, on July 16, Comrade Lenin alone came into the editorial offices of Pravda to hand over a manuscript. Half an hour afterwards, the junkers were already sacking those offices. On the morning of July 18 Lieber (Menshevik leader) took me to the military staff of the district to obtain redress in the matter of the sacking of the offices of Pravda. General Polovtsev, the head of the Staff, received me with great respect. At that time he also did not know what to do with us. But an hour later the Bolsheviks were being arrested and killed.

Then the persecutions started. Lenin and I went into hiding. We had firmly decided to be arrested — such was still our faith in the Mensheviks and the Right Social Revolutionists. But the party did not permit us to do so. We, therefore, decided to go on hiding ourselves. A week later Comrade Lenin told me: ‘How could we have been so silly as to think for one moment of trusting this gang and getting ourselves arrested? There is no other way but to fight this gang ruthlessly.’ (Applause.)

In the same way as Comrade Lenin in July 1917, wisely declared that it was impermissible to seize power, so after the Kornilov days- especially by the end of September 1917, Lenin began urging the workers to seize power, or else it would be too late.

When, following the Kornilov days, the so-called Democratic Conference assembled at Petrograd, Lenin at first came out with an article on ‘Compromises’. He invited for the last time the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionists to break with the bourgeoisie, to renounce their policy of treason, and to make a compromise with the working class against the Kornilovists But these two parties were rotten to the core. They had already sold their souls to the devil and could not accept Lenin’s invitation. Thereupon Lenin sent a letter from his Finnish exile to, the Central Committee of our party saying that the time had come to drop all procrastination, that it was necessary to surround the Alexandra Theatre (where the Democratic Conference was holding its sessions), to disperse all this scum, and to seize power.

Our Central Committee at that time did not agree with Comrade Lenin. Almost everybody thought that it was still too early, and that the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionists still had a large following. Lenin then, without hesitating long, left his hide-out, and without consulting anybody, without considering the fears of his friends, came to Petrograd in order to preach an immediate rising. Kerensky and Avxentyev were at that time issuing writs for the arrest of Lenin, while Lenin, from his underground hiding place, was preparing the insurrection, arguing with those who hesitated, castigating those who vacillated and writing and agitating for an early rising. And he got it.

At present everybody sees that Lenin was right. It was all a matter of touch and go. If we had not taken power into our hands in October, Savinkov and Palchinsky would have crushed us in November. The question was posed by history in no ambiguous manner. Either we or they. Either the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, mad with fear and hatred towards the workers, or the dictatorship of the proletariat, pitilessly sweeping away the bourgeoisie.

Now, of course, it is all clear, but at that time, amidst the whirlpool of events it required the exact eye of a Lenin, his genius and intuition, in order to declare: ‘Not a week later, now or never.’ And it also required the unbending, strength of will of a Lenin to surmount all the obstacles and to stark at the appointed time the greatest revolution ever known in history. It is not that Comrade Lenin did not realise the tremendous difficulties with which the working class would be confronted after the conquest of power. Lenin knew al1 this to perfection. From the very first days of his arrival at Petrograd he had been carefully watching the progressive economic ruin. He valued the acquaintance of every bank clerk, trying to penetrate into the details of the bank business. He knew well the food and other difficulties. In one of his most remarkable books, ‘Will the Bolsheviks Retain State Power?’ Comrade Lenin dwelt in detail on these difficulties. It is true that the latter proved more formidable than even Lenin had anticipated. But no other way was open to the working class than the one trodden in October.

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