Tony Cliff

Lenin 2

Chapter 15
Reaction on the Move

On July 4, the provisional government, with the consent of the Soviet Executive Committee, authorized General Polovtsev, commander of the Petrograd Military District, to rid Petrograd of armed mobs, to disarm the First Machine Gun regiment and to occupy the Ksheshinskaia Mansion.

At dawn on July 5, a detachment of soldiers went to Pravda’s printing works. They arrived too late to catch Lenin, who had just left the premises for his first pre-October hideout. The army detachment wrecked the Pravda plant and arrested the workers and soldiers on duty there.

During the day, patrols of officers, soldiers, and Cossacks began mopping-up operations. They confiscated armed trucks and disarmed suspicious-looking workers, soldiers and sailors, who were prevented from escaping behind barricades in the workers’ districts because the bridges on the Neva either remained raised or were under heavy guard.

At a late-night meeting of cabinet ministers on July 6, it was resolved that

[a]nyone guilty of inciting officers, soldiers, and other military ranks during wartime to disobey the laws in effect under the new democratic system in the army and the orders of the military authorities consistent with them is to be punished as for state treason. [1]

This decree was followed by orders for the arrest of such leading Bolsheviks as Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev, and a few days later the leaders of the Mezhraiontsy, Trotsky and Lunacharsky.

On July 7, the provisional government ordered the military units that had participated in the July Days to be disbanded, and their personnel distributed at the discretion of the war and navy minister.

Extreme Measures by the Right

The Bolsheviks were persecuted. The entire Bolshevik press was closed down. Hundreds of Bolsheviks were arrested, and a number of workers were killed. The intensity of the reaction was such that even non-Bolsheviks were alarmed. Thus the Menshevik Voytinsky remembers:

The pendulum swung to the right. Reactionary forces that had taken no part in quelling the riots now tried to capitalize on the failure of the revolt. “Vigilantes” roamed the city, breaking into private apartments in search of suspects. Public opinion demanded drastic measures. [2]

First of all the new government energetically continued the searches, arrests, disarmings, and persecutions of all kinds that had already been begun. Self-appointed groups of officers, military cadets, and I think the gilded youth too, rushed to the “help” of the new regime, which was obviously trying to present itself as a “strong government.” It was not only the mutinous regiments and battalions that were disarmed; almost more attention was devoted to the working-class districts, where the workers’ Red Guard was disarmed. Enormous quantities of arms were collected.

Every Bolshevik that could be found was seized and imprisoned. Kerensky and his military friends were definitely trying to wipe them off the face of the earth. [3]

After destroying the Bolshevik organizations the counter-revolutionaries went on the offensive against other working-class groups. As Stalin described the situation at the time:

From attacking the Bolsheviks they are now proceeding to attack all the Soviet parties and the Soviets themselves. They smash the Menshevik district organizations in Petradskaia Storona and Okhta. They smash the metal-workers’ union branch in Nevskaia Zastava. They invade a meeting of the Petrograd Soviet and arrest its members (Deputy Sakharov). They organize special groups on the Nevskii Prospect to track down members of the Executive Committee. [4]

Plundering, violence, and in some cases shooting went on in various parts of the city. Only in the workers’ districts could the Bolsheviks move safely and freely.

In the provinces, land committees were arrested en masse. On July 17, Tsereteli, minister of the interior, sent out instructions for the taking of “quick and energetic measures to put a stop to all arbitrary actions in the field of land relations.” [5]

On July 8, General Kornilov, commander in chief of the southwestern front, gave orders to open fire on retreating soldiers with machine guns and artillery. [6] On July 12, the death penalty was restored at the front. [7]

As we have already described (see chapter 10), on July 16 Kerensky called a conference of top army commanders at headquarters, at which a general attack on army committees, on the Soviets, and on Order No.1 was launched by all present, and where Kerensky declared that he differed from the generals only in believing that the attack should be carried out in stages and not at one fell swoop (see chapter 10). On July 18, Kornilov became commander in chief of the whole Russian army. Chauvinistic Great Russian attacks on Ukrainians and Finns received a new stimulus (see chapter 13). Factory managers started a massive campaign of suppression of factory committees and lockouts of workers (see chapter 12). The Congress of Trade and Industry, the central organization of capitalists in Russia, declared on July 19:

The government, during the past months, has permitted the poisoning of the Russian people and the Russian army and the disruption of all discipline, thereby following the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, who must bear the responsibility for the disgrace and humiliation of Russia and the Russian army. Only by a radical break by the government with the dictatorship of the Soviet, which leads to disintegration ... can Russia be saved ... If a dictatorial power is needed to save the motherland, such a power can only be a genuinely national power which is above parties and above classes, born of national enthusiasm. [8]

V.M. Purishkevich, the old leader of the Black Hundreds, dared to come out of his hole and, after introducing himself by saying, “I am a thoroughly convinced monarchist, and I will not alter my convictions,” went on to declare, “It is necessary that the government be a government; it is necessary to put in its place and to dissolve the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.” [9]

The Conciliators Plumb New Depths

The Mensheviks and SR leaders became even more cringing after the July Days than they had been since February. As Lenin graphically put it:

Down the ladder, step by step. Having once set foot on the ladder of compromise with the bourgeoisie, the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks slid irresistibly downwards, to rock bottom. On 28 February, in the Petrograd Soviet, they promised conditional support to the bourgeois government. On 6 May, they saved it from collapse and allowed themselves to be made its servants and defenders by agreeing to an offensive. On 9 June, they united with the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie in a campaign of furious rage, lies and slander against the revolutionary proletariat. On 19 June, they approved the resumption of the predatory war. On 3 July, they consented to the summoning of reactionary troops, which was the beginning of their complete surrender of power to the Bonapartists. Down the ladder, step by step.

This groveling of the compromisers before the capitalists and the army chiefs was not coincidental. After all, the attitude is inherent in the nature of the petty bourgeoisie.

Everybody, of course [Lenin wrote], has seen the small owner bend every effort and strain every nerve to “get on in the world,” to become a real master, to rise to the position of a “strong” employer, to the position of a bourgeois. As long as capitalism rules the roost, there is no alternative for the small owner other than becoming a capitalist (and that is possible at best in the case of one small owner out of a hundred), or becoming a ruined man, a semi-proletarian, and ultimately a proletarian. The same is true in politics: the petty-bourgeois democrats, especially their leaders, tend to trail after the bourgeoisie. The leaders of the petty-bourgeois democrats console their people with promises and assurances about the possibility of reaching agreement with the big capitalists; at best, and for a very brief period, they obtain certain minor concessions from the capitalists for a small upper section of the working people; but on every decisive issue, on every important matter, the petty-bourgeois democrats have always tailed after the bourgeoisie as a feeble appendage to them, as an obedient tool in the hands of the financial magnates. [10]

However, although the compromisers were doing their best to ingratiate themselves with the right, they were also extremely afraid of it. The Menshevik and SR leaders would have been ready to permit the complete annihilation of the Bolshevik Party, if only they had not feared that after dealing with the Bolsheviks, the officers, Cossack and Black Hundred heroes, would turn on the compromisers themselves. The Cadets, as well as the generals, made it increasingly clear that they wanted to sweep away not only the Bolsheviks, but also the Soviets. One has only to recall the words spoken at the conference at Stavka on July 16 (see above). Again, Rech, the Cadet paper, after the July Days viciously attacked Chernov and Tsereteli as “Zimmerwaldists” and “traitors.” The SR and Menshevik press warned repeatedly of the danger of “counter-revolution.”

On July 17, while forbidding all demonstrations in the streets, a move against the left, Tsereteli also warned the right against excesses: “The government cannot tolerate any further demonstrations of anarchy such as the treacherous blow dealt the revolution during the days of July 3-5.”

Nevertheless, the provisional government is well aware of the danger with which the country is threatened by the counter-revolution which is rearing its head in an attempt to take advantage of the internal discord and of misfortunes at the front in order to turn the country back, to deprive the people of the fruits of their revolutionary struggle, and to restore the system under which, in the interests of a few, the most basic interests of the country, and the wide popular masses were betrayed and sold.

Rigorous suppression of both anarchical and counter-revolutionary undertakings constitutes one of the most important tasks of the government. [11]

The result of the hesitation, the vacillation of the compromisers between Miliukov and Lenin, was that the job of suppressing Bolshevism was botched. “At the beginning of July,” the liberal Nabokov wrote later, “there was one short moment when the authority of the government seemed again to lift its head; that was after the putting down of the first Bolshevik uprising. But the provisional government was unable to make use of this opportunity, and let slip the favorable conditions of the moment. It was never repeated.” [12]

The bark of the provisional government against the revolutionary left was much worse than its bite. Vacillation is not an effective way to achieve a successful counter-revolution.

Let us consider the disbanding of the military units that had participated in the armed demonstrations of July. General C.D. Romanovsky, chief of the general staff, suggested the following plan: regiments of the Petrograd garrison should be divided into three categories depending on the extent of their involvement in the July movement. To the first category were assigned units having participated in the demonstrations in full or close to full strength. Included in this group were the Grenadier regiment; the First, Third, 176th, and 180th Reserve Infantry regiments; and the First Machine Gun regiment, together constituting the core of Military Organization strength in the garrison. These units were to be completely and permanently disbanded, their personnel (with the exception of those in jail) to be transferred to duty at the front. The second category included the units in which only individual companies had taken part in the demonstration. The Moskovsky, Pavlovsky, Third Rifle, and Second Machine Gun regiments and the South Engineer battalion were assigned to this group. Only guilty elements in these units were scheduled to be dissolved. Finally, the third category was composed of units that had not been actively involved in the demonstrations, but contained guilty individuals. This group, which was ordered to conduct a thorough purge of subversive elements, accounted for all the remaining regiments in the garrison. By this plan, Romanovsky proposed to reduce the garrison by one hundred thousand of its most unreliable elements. [13]

The government’s implementation of this plan was only very half-hearted.

The policy of dissolving unreliable regiments was apparently limited to the transfer to the front of reinforcement companies presumably composed of the most subversive elements. This seems to have been at least partly because allocating one hundred thousand particularly unruly soldiers was more easily said than done – quite naturally most field commanders were not at all interested in receiving such replacements. In any event, troops belonging to the Grenadier regiment and the First and 180th Reserve Infantry regiments, classed as “category one,” were still in the capital at the time of the October revolution. Similarly, except for the First Machine Gun regiment, the 180th Reserve Infantry regiment and the Grenadier regiment, it appears that the proposed disarmament of insurgent troops was never carried out. Moreover, no significant punitive measures were taken against either participating Kronstadt units or the vessels of the Baltic fleet.

Also unfulfilled were the government’s plans for disarming civilians. Most factories evidently followed a suggestion of the Bolshevik Central Committee issued on 7 July and hid their weapons instead of turning them over to government troops. In addition, some stores of arms passed into the hands of the workers from garrison regiments threatened with disarmament. [14]

In France, according to Engels, the workers had emerged armed from every revolution: “[T]herefore, the disarming of the workers was the first commandment for the bourgeoisie, who were at the helm of the state.” [15] Unfortunately for the Russian bourgeoisie, the Russian proletariat was far too well organized and led to let its arms be taken away!

Almost on the same day as Tsereteli issued instructions for energetic measures to be taken against the anarchistic activities of land committees, the government promulgated a decree limiting the sale of land. [16] This belated half-measure made the right grind their teeth.

The Bolsheviks After the July Days

The main propaganda weapon used against the Bolsheviks after July 5 was the accusation that Lenin was a German agent. Documents to “prove” this were produced: the testimony of a certain Ermolenko (former agent of the intelligence service) and of a merchant, Z. Burshtein, that the Polish revolutionaries Ganetsky and Kozlovsky had financial transactions with Parvus, the former revolutionary, who was now an ardent defensist.

Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev repudiated the accusations in a letter published in Gorky’s paper, Novaia Zhizn (Pravda had been closed down) on July 11. They pointed out that as early as 1915 the Bolshevik paper Sotsial-Demokrat had denounced Parvus as a “renegade, licking the boots of Hindenburg.” The authors of the letter asserted that they had “never received a kopek from Kozlovsky or Ganetsky, either personally or for the party.” Lenin also repudiated Ganetsky as a party comrade in a special leaflet issued on July 6, in which he asserted: “Ganetsky and Kozlovsky are not Bolsheviks, but members of the Polish Social Democratic Party. The Bolsheviks received no money either from Ganetsky or Kozlovsky.”

One of the first decisions Lenin had to make was whether to appear in court to defend himself.

”Now they will shoot us all ...” he said to Trotsky. “[F]or them it is the best moment.” [17] After some hesitation he made up his mind that he would not allow himself to be imprisoned, but would go into hiding, together with Zinoviev.

From the letter of Pereverzev, the former Minister of Justice, published on Sunday in Novoe Vremia, it became perfectly clear that the “espionage” “case” of Lenin and others was quite deliberately framed by the party of the counter-revolution.

Pereverzev has openly admitted that he took advantage of unconfirmed accusations to work up (his actual expression) the soldiers against our party. This is admitted by the former Minister of Justice, a man who only yesterday called himself a socialist! Pereverzev is gone, but whether the new Minister of Justice will hesitate to adopt Pereverzev’s and Alexinsky’s methods, nobody can venture to say.

The counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie are trying to create a new Dreyfus case. They believe in our “espionage” as much as the leaders of Russian reaction, who framed the Beilis case, believed that Jews drink children’s blood. There are no guarantees of justice in Russia at present.

At present there can be no legal basis in Russia, not even such constitutional guarantees as exist in the orderly bourgeois countries. To give ourselves up at present to the authorities would mean putting ourselves into the hands of the Miliukovs, Alexinskys, Pereverzevs, of rampant counter-revolutionaries who look upon all the charges against us as a simple civil war episode. [18]

In order to grasp the meaning of the phrase “civil war episode,” it is enough to recall the fate of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. Lenin knew how to think ahead.

Many, even among the left leaders, felt Lenin was wrong to go into hiding. Trotsky thought the decision unfortunate.

He thought that Lenin had nothing to hide, that, on the contrary, he had every interest in laying his record before the public, and that in this way he could serve his cause better than by flight, which would merely add to any adverse appearances by which people might judge him. Kamenev shared Trotsky’s feelings and decided to submit to imprisonment. [19]

At the Sixth Party Congress, July 13-14, a number of delegates expressed the view that Lenin should come out of hiding, including Volodarsky, Manuilsky and Lashevich. Manuilsky stated:

We should make another Dreyfus case from the trial of Lenin. We should go into the fight with a raised visor ... This is demanded by the interests of the revolution and the prestige of our party. [20]

However the congress adopted a resolution that Lenin should not appear in court. [21]

Lenin, in bending the stick, was ready to believe the worst about the ruthlessness of the enemy at the time. He was not about to fall into the trap of “constitutional illusions.”

His attitude was far removed from the way of thinking of such people as Sukhanov, who were convinced that Lenin was not guilty of the accusations against him, but could not understand why he avoided the court:

However biased the court, however minimal the guarantees of justice – nevertheless Lenin risked absolutely nothing but imprisonment – This was something quite special, unexampled, and incomprehensible. Any other mortal would have demanded an investigation and trial even in the most unfavorable conditions. Any other mortal would personally and publicly have done everything possible, as energetically as he could, to rehabilitate himself ... In the whole world, only he could have behaved thus. [22]

Many others have indeed made the mistake of playing up to “public opinion,” and thus would have risked their lives in this situation.

From July 6 until October 25, i.e., until the day of the October Revolution, Lenin was in hiding. He first spent a number of weeks camping with Zinoviev in the area surrounding Petrograd, and in a forest near Sestroretsk. They had to spend the nights and shelter from rain in haystacks. Disguised as a fireman, Lenin then crossed the Finnish border in a locomotive, and concealed himself in the apartment of a Helsingfors police chief, a former Petrograd worker. Afterwards he moved nearer the Russian border, to the Finnish town of Vyborg. From the end of September, he lived secretly in Petrograd, and on the day of the insurrection, appeared in the open after almost four months’ absence.

The Bolshevik Party survived the persecution relatively unscathed. It is true that some rank-and-file members were badly confused and startled by the accusation against Lenin. Thus the Executive Committee of the Bolshevik organization in the huge Vyborg district Metallist factory passed a resolution pledging full support to the soviet and placed the local party organization under its control. It demanded that the Bolshevik Central and Petersburg Committees divest themselves of authority and turn themselves over to the courts in order to demonstrate that “one hundred thousand Bolshevik workers are not German agents.” Finally, the measure pronounced the factory committee independent of higher party organizations until a conference could be convened to elect new Central and Petersburg Committees. This resolution was passed by a vote of sixteen to four with four abstentions. [23]

The Tiflis Bolsheviks also expressed confidence in the Central Executive Committee of the soviet on July 7, and joined the compromising parties in protesting against “any unsanctioned demonstrations, armed or unarmed.” [24]

The influx of new recruits into the party was severely checked and the mood of the workers in all districts was very depressed, as is clearly shown in the minutes of the meeting of the Petersburg Committee of July 10. [25] The slander against Lenin was quite effective among workers not in the party. At the meeting, one delegate after another also said that workers were leaving the party, but on a very small scale. A delegate from Vyborg said: “No mass flight from the party.” The same words were repeated by a delegate from the Second Gorodsky district. A delegate from Nerva district reported: “The exit from the party can be characterized as one of solitary cases.” [26]

The representative for the Nevsky district complained that the majority of workers in his area were relying on rumors and the “boulevard press,” while a delegate from the Kolpinsky district declared that from the moment the demonstrations were crushed, “the mood of the workers turned against us.” The Porokhovsky district representative (he was one of six Bolsheviks thrown out of his factory in the aftermath of the July Days) complained of “slander” against the Bolsheviks and of their being “watched,” and characterized the workers of his district as a “stagnant swamp.” [27] The Bolsheviks did disastrously badly in the municipal elections in Nevsky district on August 13: out of more than 42,000 votes, they got only 4,822, as against the SRs’ 31,980. [28] Latsis wrote in his diary:

9 July. All our printing plants in the city are destroyed. Nobody dares print our papers and leaflets. We are compelled to set up an underground press. The Vyborg district has become an asylum for all. Here have come both the Petrograd Committee and the persecuted members of the Central Committee. In the watchman’s room of the Renaud factory, there is a conference of the committee with Lenin. The question is raised of a general strike. A division occurs in the committee. I stand for calling the strike. Lenin, after explaining the situation, moves that we abandon it ... 12 July. The counter-revolution is victorious. The Soviets are without power. The junkers, running wild, have begun to raid the Mensheviks too. In some sections of the party there is a loss of confidence. The influx of members has stopped ... But there is not as yet a flight from our ranks. [29]

From Kolomna, it was reported to the Moscow Regional Committee of the Bolsheviks that “after July 3-5 there was a disarray in the ranks of the organized comrades. Resignations from the organization took place.” In Vyselki there prevailed a “pogrom mood. The organization was in flames”; in the Latvian section “a split, few left to join the Mensheviks.” [30]

In Moscow, it was reported from one district of the city: “We had 1,500 members, of whom 560 were steadfast. The slander of Lenin did affect the workers.” [31] On July 15, it was reported at the Moscow Committee: “There were deserters from the besieged camp ... 5 percent left.” [32] In Serpukhov district, “135 left the party.” [33]

On July 16, a delegate from Vassilievsky Ostrov reported at a Bolshevik city conference that the mood in his district was “in general” hearty, with the exception of a few factories. “In the Baltic factories, the Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks are crowding us out.” Here the reaction was extreme: the factory committee decreed that the Bolsheviks should attend the funeral of the slain Cossacks, which they did. The official loss in membership of the party was admittedly insignificant. In the whole district, out of four thousand members not more than a hundred openly withdrew. But a far greater number in those first days quietly stood apart. “The July Days,” a worker, Minichev, subsequently remembered, “showed us that in our ranks too there were people who, fearing for their own skin, ‘chewed up’ their party cards, and denied all connection with the party.” “But there were not many of them,” he adds reassuringly. “The July events,” writes Shliapnikov, “and the whole accompanying campaign of violence and slander against our organization interrupted that growth of our influence which by the beginning of July had reached enormous proportions ... The very party became semi-illegal, and had to wage a defensive struggle, relying in the main upon the trade unions and the shop and factory committees.”

The charge that the Bolsheviks were in the service of Germany [explains Trotsky] could not but create an impression even upon the Petrograd workers – at least upon a considerable number of them. Those who had been wavering, drew off. Those who were about to join, wavered. Even of those who had already joined, a considerable number withdrew. [34]

The situation in Moscow was not very different. “The attacks of the bourgeois press,” remembers Piatnitsky, “produced a panic even in certain members of the Moscow committee.” The organization weakened numerically after the July Days. “I will never forget,” writes the Moscow worker, Ratekhin,

one mortally hard moment. A plenary session was assembling (of the Zamoskvoretsky district Soviet) ... I saw there were none too many of our comrade Bolsheviks ... Steklov, one of the energetic comrades, came right up close to me and, barely enunciating the words, asked: “Is it true they brought Lenin and Zinoviev in a sealed train? Is it true they are working on German money ...?” My heart sank with pain when I heard those questions. Another comrade came up – Konstantinov: “Where is Lenin? He has beat it, they say ... What will happen now?” And so it went.

This vivid picture accurately reflects the experience of the advanced workers at the time. “The appearance of the documents published by Alexinsky, [‘proving’ Lenin to be a foreign agent]” writes the Moscow gunner, Davidovsky, “produced a terrible confusion in the brigade. Even our battery, the most Bolshevik, wavered under the blow of this cowardly lie ... It seemed as though we had lost all faith.”

“After the July Days,” writes V. Yakovleva, at that time a member of the Central Committee and a leader of the work in the extensive Moscow region,

all the reports from the localities described with one voice not only a sharp decline in the mood of the masses, but even a definite hostility to our party. In a good number of cases, our speakers were beaten up. The membership fell off rapidly, and several organizations, especially in the southern provinces, even ceased to exist entirely. [35]

In the period immediately following the July Days, the influence of Bolshevism was very badly affected in some places, but hardly at all in others. In general, reaction among workers and soldiers was not deep or lasting. Let us begin by quoting some facts about areas in which the Bolsheviks did very badly:

In the Kiev municipal elections on July 26, out of 174,492 votes, the Bolsheviks got only 9,520 (or 5 percent), while the SR-Menshevik bloc gained 63,576 votes; the Ukrainian SRs 35,238 votes; and the Cadets 15,078. [36] In the Vladimir municipal elections on July 30, the SRs won 22 seats; the Mensheviks, 10; the Cadets, 15; and the Bolsheviks only 6. [37]

In Iaroslav on the same day, out of 103 seats, the SRs got 35; the Mensheviks, 34; and the Bolsheviks, 12. [38]

In Odessa on August 10, the SRs won 66 seats; the Cadets, 15; the Jewish bloc, 14; the Menshevik-Bund bloc, 8; the Ukrainian Socialists, 5; and the Internationalists and Bolsheviks, 3. [39] In Samara, on August 15, in eleven wards in which elections took place, the SRs won 13,800 votes, while the Bolsheviks got only 4,900. [40] In Tula on July 30, the Menshevik-SR bloc got 85 seats; the Cadets, 7; and the Bolsheviks, only 5. [41] Two days later, the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies in Tula banned Bolshevik agitation in the garrison. [42]

Things were very different, however, in other areas of the country. In Petrograd, on July 26, six thousand Putilov workers attended a meeting and passed a unanimous resolution supporting the Bolsheviks in their struggle against the counter-revolutionary policy of the SR and Menshevik leaders. [43] On August 8, an even larger meeting of more than eight thousand workers in Putilov passed a unanimous resolution of support for the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks in its opposition to the Moscow State Conference. [44]

In elections to the sickness funds on August 3 in Novyi Lessner and Staryi Lessner, the Bolsheviks won 80 percent of the seats; the SRs, 15; and the Mensheviks, 5. Until then, the Mensheviks had had a majority. In the Erikson telephone factory, out of 60 seats, the Bolsheviks won 38; the SRs, 14; and the Mensheviks, 7. In Treugolnik factory, the Bolsheviks won 70 out of 100 seats. Until then, the SRs had had the majority there. [45]

In the municipal elections in Petrograd on August 20, the Bolsheviks received 184,000 votes, against the SRs’ 205,000; the Cadets’ 114,000; and the Mensheviks’ 24,000. [46]

The SRs kept the first place with 37 percent of the votes [writes Sukhanov]; in comparison with the May elections, however, this was no victory but a substantial setback. The victors of July, the Cadets, had also held their ground since the district elections: they got one-fifth of all the votes. Our Menshevik list got a wretched 23,000 votes ... But who was the sole real victor? It was the Bolsheviks, so recently trampled into the mud, accused of treason and venality, utterly routed morally and materially, and filling till that very day the prisons of the capital. Why, one would have thought them annihilated forever. People had almost ceased to notice them. Then where had they sprung up from again? What sort of strange, diabolical enchantment was this? [47]

In many other centers besides Petrograd, Bolshevism held its own immediately after the July Days. On August 6, a meeting in Kronstadt of 15,000 workers, soldiers, sailors and peasants protested against the arrest of Bolshevik leaders, and against the counter-revolutionary government. [48] On the same day, a meeting of similar size in Helsingfors passed a unanimous resolution against the counter-revolutionary policy of the provisional government and in support of the transfer of power to the Soviets, workers’ control of industry, etc. [49]

In the Lugansk municipal elections on August 6, the Bolsheviks won 29 seats out of a total of 75. [50] In Reval, on August 6, out of 69,681 votes, the Bolsheviks got 21,648 (or 31 percent), the SRs 15,198 (22 percent), and the Mensheviks, 8,273 (12 percent). [51]

In Nizhni-Novgorod, at the August 3-4 session of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, there were 54 SRs, 36 Mensheviks, 10 Bundists and 28 Bolsheviks. [52]

In the municipal elections in Tver, on August 20, out of 36,355 votes the Bolsheviks got 10,661 (or 29 percent). [53]

On August 27 in Ivanovo-Voznesensk, out of 33,709 votes, they got 20,164 (or 60 percent). [54]

At the Second Congress of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies of the Urals, representing 505,780 workers and soldiers, which met on August 17-21, the Bolshevik faction was made up of 77 deputies, as against the Menshevik defensist faction, which had only 23. [55]

The Bolshevik Party continued to march ahead, despite the persecution. It was steeled by it. Lenin found in the slander against Bolshevism a badge of honor.

The Bolsheviks in particular have had the honor of experiencing these methods of persecution used by the republican imperialists. In general, the Bolshevik might apply to himself the well-known words of the poet:

He hears the voice of approbation
Not in the dulcet sounds of praise,
But in the savage cries of indignation!

... [F]or the fierce hatred of the bourgeoisie is often the best proof of faithful and honest service to the cause of the proletariat by the slandered, baited, and persecuted. [56]


After the great change in the balance of forces, and the events of the July Days, Lenin was quick to redefine the political regime. In an article called The Beginning of Bonapartism, published in Rabochii i soldat on July 29, he wrote:

Kerensky’s cabinet is undoubtedly a cabinet taking the first steps towards Bonapartism.

We see the chief historical symptom of Bonapartism: the maneuvering of state power, which leans on the military clique (on the worst elements of the army) for support, between two hostile classes and forces which more or less balance each other out. [57]

The soil in which Bonapartism grew was that of extreme social tensions verging on civil war.

The class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat has reached the limit and on 20 and 21 April, as well as on 3-5 July, the country was within a hair’s breadth of civil war. This socio-economic condition certainly forms the classical basis for Bonapartism. And then, this condition is combined with others that are quite akin to it; the bourgeoisie are ranting and raving against the Soviets, but are as yet powerless to disperse them, while the Soviets, prostituted by Tsereteli, Chernov, and Co., are now powerless to put up serious resistance to the bourgeoisie.

The landowners and peasants, too, live as on the eve of civil war: the peasants demand land and freedom, they can be kept in check, if at all, only by a Bonapartist government capable of making the most unscrupulous promises to all classes without keeping any of them.

Add to this the situation created by a foolhardy offensive and military reverses, in which fancy phrases about saving the country are particularly fashionable (concealing the desire to save the imperialist program of the bourgeoisie), and you have a perfect picture of the socio-political setting for Bonapartism. [58]

Bonapartism was not rendered impossible by the existence of democracy. On the contrary:

It would be a very big mistake to think that a democratic situation rules out Bonapartism. On the contrary, it is exactly in a situation like this (the history of France has confirmed it twice) that Bonapartism emerges, given a certain relationship between classes and their struggle. [59]

However, Kerensky’s Bonapartism was very different from that of Napoleon I or his nephew, Napoleon III; it was much less stable and enduring.

The Russian Bonapartism of 1917 differs from the beginnings of French Bonapartism in 1799 and 1849 in several respects, such as the fact that not a single important task of the revolution has been accomplished here. The struggle to settle the agrarian and the national questions is only just gathering momentum. [60]

Kerensky’s Bonapartism was a caricature.

Kerensky and the counter-revolutionary Cadets who use him as a pawn can neither convoke the constituent assembly on the appointed date, nor postpone it, without in both cases promoting the revolution. And the catastrophe engendered by the prolongation of the imperialist war keeps on approaching with even greater force and speed than ever.

The advance contingents of the Russian proletariat succeeded in emerging from our June and July Days without losing too much blood. The proletarian party has every opportunity to choose the tactics and form, or forms, of organization that will in any circumstances prevent unexpected (seemingly unexpected) Bonapartist persecutions from cutting short its existence and its regular messages to the people.

Let the party loudly and clearly tell the people the whole truth that Bonapartism is beginning; that the “new” government of Kerensky, Avksenteev, and Co. is merely a screen for the counter-revolutionary Cadets and the military clique which is in power at present; that the people can get no peace, the peasants no land, the workers no eight-hour day, and the hungry no bread unless the counter-revolution is completely stamped out. [61]

The Moscow State Conference

If Lenin’s analysis of the Kerensky regime after the July Days as a Bonapartist regime needed confirmation, this was amply given by the Moscow State Conference. A demonstration of Bonapartism in one show!

To muster public support for its policy, the provisional government assembled a State Conference in Moscow on August 12-15. This was conceived as a consultative conference, where representatives of every class and profession could express their views. Among the 2,414 delegates who took part in its sessions, the largest delegations were from members of the four Tsarist Dumas (488), from the cooperatives (313), from the trade unions (176), from commercial and industrial organizations and banks (150), from municipalities (147), from the Executive Committee of the United Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies (129), from the army and navy (117), and from the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ and of Peasants’ Deputies (each of which received 100 places). An effort was made to balance the conference carefully between the right and the left. However, it was a symptom of the post-July reaction that the organizations of the propertied classes were granted representation out of all proportion to their numerical weight in the population.

The Bolsheviks decided to boycott the conference. But to make their presence felt they called a general strike in Moscow, which was very successful indeed, as Izvestiia had to admit on August 13.

The conference opens under rather unusual conditions. Street cars are not running; coffee houses and restaurants are closed. At yesterday’s meeting of the Soviet, it was resolved to ask the Moscow proletariat not to strike; but the attitude of the Moscow proletariat toward the conference is so hostile that late at night there was a meeting of the Central Trade Union, attended by delegates of all the wards, representing about 400,000 proletarians. This delegation voted, almost unanimously, to strike. [62]

Similar stoppages took place in other towns in the Moscow province, as well as in places further afield, such as Kiev, Kostroma and Tsaritsin.

This was convincing proof, if such were needed, to the delegates at the State Conference that Bolshevism was very much alive, even if its voice was not to be heard in the opera house where the conference was held. The new Petrograd organ of the Bolsheviks, Proletari, managed before it was closed down to put a question to the conference: “From Petrograd you went to Moscow – where will you go from there?” [63]

In his opening speech, Kerensky showed clearly that he was trying to strike a balance between the right and left. Without directly naming the Bolsheviks, he began with a stab in their direction: any new attempt against the government “will be put down with blood and iron.” Both wings of the conference joined in strong applause. Then he made a supplementary threat in the direction of Kornilov, who had not yet arrived. “Whatever ultimatums no matter who may present to me, I will know how to subdue him to the will of the supreme power, and to me, its supreme head.” This evoked ecstatic applause, but only from the left half of the conference. [64]

Following Kerensky, a number of speeches were heard from the extreme right. General Kornilov, commander in chief,

ascends the rostrum and is met by a prolonged storm of applause from the whole audience, with the exception of the left section of the aisles. The whole audience, with the exception of representatives of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, rises from the seats and applauds the Supreme Commander, who has ascended the rostrum. Growing shouts of indignation are heard from different corners of the audience, addressed to those on the left who remain sitting ... Shouts ring out: “Cads!” “Get up!” No one rises from the left benches, and a shout is heard from there: “Serfs!” The noise, which has been continuous, grows even louder. [65]

Kornilov described the anarchy in the army and the disciplining measures he had taken.

The army is conducting a ruthless struggle against anarchy, and anarchy will be crushed ... By a whole series of legislative measures passed after the revolution by people whose understanding and spirit were alien to the army, this army was converted into the most reckless mob, which values nothing but its own life ... there can be no army without discipline. Only an army welded by iron discipline, only an army that is led by the single, inflexible will of its leaders, only such an army is capable of achieving victory and is worthy of victory ... The prestige of the officers must be enhanced ... There is no army without a rear ... The measures that are adopted at the front must also be adopted in the rear. [66]

General Kaledin was even more frank and brutal than Kornilov.

We have outlined the following principal measures for the salvation of the native land: (1) The army must be kept outside of politics (applause from the right; cries: “Bravo!”) (Note: According to Russkoe Slovo: strong commotion on the left; cries: “This is a counter-revolution”; the chairman rings the bell) ... both in the army and in the rear (cries from the right; “Right!” “Bravo!”; noise from the left), with the exception of regimental, company, battery, and Cossack troop (committees) whose rights and duties must be limited strictly to the sphere of internal routine (applause from the right; cries: “Right!” “Bravo!”); (3) the Declaration of Soldiers’ Rights must be revised (applause from the right; cries “Right!” noise from the left) and supplemented with a declaration of his duties (cries: “Bravo!” “True!”; applause); (4) discipline in the army must be raised and strengthened by the most resolute measures (noise; cries from the right: “Right!”); (5) the rear and the front are an indivisible whole guaranteeing the fighting efficiency of the army, and all measures necessary for strengthening the discipline at the front must likewise be implemented in the rear (cries: “Right!” “Bravo!”); (6) the disciplinary rights of the commanding personnel must be restored (cries from the right: “Bravo!” “Right!”; storm of applause, noise and whistles from the left); the leaders of the army must be given full powers (cries from the right: “Right!”; applause).

In the menacing hour of grave ordeals at the front and complete internal collapse from the political and economic disorganization, the country can be saved from ultimate ruin only by a really strong government in the capable and experienced hands (cries from the right: “Bravo, bravo!”) of persons who are not bound by narrow party or group programs (cries from the right: “Right!”; applause), who are free from the necessity of looking over their shoulders after every step they take to all kinds of committees and Soviets (applause from the right; cries: “Right!”) ... There must be one single power for the central and local levels. The usurpation of state power by central and local committees and by the Soviets must be immediately and abruptly brought to an end. (Note: In Russkoe Slovo there follows: Storm of protest from the left. Cries are heard: “Out with him!” “Counter-revolutionary!” Storm of applause from the right). [67]

Then came a speech from the left, by Chkheidze, president of the soviet,

who was met with a storm of prolonged applause from the left benches. His appearance on the rostrum was accompanied by cries of “Long live the leader of the revolution!”; applause. “Citizens: In spite of the fact that it has just been proclaimed that democratic institutions must be immediately abolished – and the Central Executive of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and the Executive Committee of the Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies are such organizations – I must begin my speech with a reference to these institutions.” [68]

At the end of his speech it is reported that there was “Loud applause. The deputies of the left and part of the center give a stormy ovation to Comrade Chkheidze.” [69]

A speech from the president of the Moscow guberniia Zemstvo Board from the right was balanced by a speech of the guberniia Zemstvo representative from the left. [70] A speech from a right-wing representative of the navy – Commander Kallistov [71] – was balanced by one from the representative of the Navy Central Committee, Abramov. [72] Abramov went out of his way to attack General Kaledin.

In contrast to General Kaledin’s declaration on behalf of the Cossacks, which contained the points demanding the immediate abolition of the Soviets of Soldiers’ and Workers’ Deputies and the immediate abolition of the military organizations in the army, we declare that this may only be accomplished when the Russian navy ceases to exist. [73]

Towards the very end of the conference, an incident occurred revealing the deep split even in that group which was considered the model of unity and loyalty to the state, the Cossacks. Nagaiev, a young Cossack officer in the Soviet delegation, declared that the working Cossacks were not with Kaledin. The Cossacks at the front, he said, do not trust the Cossack leaders. That was true, and touched the conference upon its sorest point. The newspaper accounts here report the stormiest of all the scenes at the conference. The left ecstatically applauded Nagaiev and shouts were heard: “Hurrah for the revolutionary Cossacks!” Indignant protests from the right: “You will answer for this!” A voice from the officers’ benches: “German marks!” In spite of the inevitability of these words as the last argument of patriotism, they produced an effect like an exploding bomb. The hall was filled with a perfectly hellish noise. The Soviet delegates jumped from their seats, threatening the officers’ benches with their fists. There were cries of “Provocateurs!” The president’s bell clanged continually. Another moment and it seemed as though a fight would begin. [74]

In his concluding address, Kerensky did his best to paper over the cracks.

Is it not clear to you, citizens, from what you have heard here, that it is so difficult, sometimes almost impossible, to reconcile the various points of view, the various interests, and to establish a common understanding of things? ... It is precisely this that constitutes the unbearable difficulty for the government which honestly strives only for this common will and these common aims ... I will not summarize the opinions that have been voiced here. I must only state that everything that has been expressed here will be taken into consideration by the provisional government for guidance and coordination in the name of the interests of the country and her salvation. (Loud applause) ... Every person, according to his perception and awareness, spoke only of the state, of the native land, of her ills, and appealed only for the common, united cause of saving what is so profoundly dear to us, that which is of immeasurable value to us, which has no name, because one speaks too often of the native land. [75]

At this point the dishonesty of the February regime reached its peak. Unable to stand the strain, Kerensky ended with a melodramatic wail of despair:

Let my heart turn to stone, let all the chords of my faith in men fade away, let all the flowers of my dreams for man wither and die. (Cry from above: “Don’t let this happen!”) These have been scorned and stamped upon today from this rostrum. Then I will stamp on them myself. They will cease to be. (Cry from above: “You cannot do this – your heart will not permit you this.”) I will cast away the keys to this heart that loves the people and I will think only of the state. [76]

The days immediately following the Moscow State Conference proved how right Lenin was when he said at the beginning of September that Kerensky’s Bonapartist regime was instability incarnate.

All efforts, in fact, must be directed towards keeping up with events and doing on time our work of explaining to the workers, and to the working people in general, as much as we can, the changes in the situation and in the course of the class struggle. This is still the main task of our party; we must explain to the people that the situation is extremely critical, that every action may end in an explosion, and that therefore a premature uprising may cause the greatest harm. At the same time, the critical situation is inevitably leading the working class – perhaps with catastrophic speed – to a situation in which, due to a change in events beyond its control, it will find itself compelled to wage a determined battle with the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie and to gain power. [77]




1. Browder and Kerensky, vol.3, p.1358.

2. Woytinsky, pp.306-07.

3. Sukhanov, p.486.

4. Stalin, Collected Works, vol.3, p.112.

5. Browder and Kerensky, vol.2, pp.562-63.

6. Colder, p.515.

7. Browder and Kerensky, vol.2, p.982.

8. Browder and Kerensky, vol.3, p.1404.

9. Browder and Kerensky, vol.3, p.1409.

10. Lenin, Collected Works, vol.25, pp.237-38.

11. Browder and Kerensky, vol.3, pp.1437-38.

12. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, p.625.

13. Rabinowitch, pp.221-22.

14. Rabinowitch, p.223.

15. Engels, Introduction to K. Marx’s The Civil War in France, in Marx-Engels Selected Works, Moscow 1962, vol.1, p.475.

16. Browder and Kerensky, vol.2, p.556.

17. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, p.75.

18. Lenin, Collected Works, vol.25, pp.181-82.

19. I. Deutscher, The Prophet Armed, London 1954, p.274.

20. Shestoi sezd, p.33.

21. Shestoi sezd, p.270.

22. Sukhanov, pp.471-72.

23. Izvestiia, July 16; Rabinowitch, p.220.

24. Suny, p.106.

25. Kudelli, pp.210-16.

26. Sidorov, vol.4, pp.162-63.

27. Kudelli, p.210; Rabinowitch, p.219.

28. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.182.

29. Latsis, in Proletarskaia revoliutsiia, no.5 (17), 1923.

30. Sidorov, vol.5, pp.58-59.

31. Sidorov, vol.5, p.112.

32. Sidorov, vol.5, p.187.

33. Shestoi sezd, p.330.

34. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, pp.757-58.

35. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, pp.760-61.

36. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.16.

37. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.44.

38. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.44.

39. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.155.

40. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.207.

41. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.44.

42. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.71.

43. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.29.

44. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.127.

45. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.79.

46. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.248.

47. Sukhanov, p.497.

48. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.107.

49. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.107.

50. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.112.

51. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.107.

52. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.85.

53. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.252.

54. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.309.

55. Kutuzov, vol.3, p.226.

56. Lenin, Collected Works, vol.25, pp.257-58.

57. Lenin, Collected Works, vol.25, p.220.

58. Lenin, Collected Works, vol.25, p.220.

59. Lenin, Collected Works, vol.25, p.221.

60. Lenin, Collected Works, vol.25, p.221.

61. Lenin, Collected Works, vol.25, p.222.

62. Colder, pp.489-90.

63. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, p.659.

64. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, p.670.

65. Browder and Kerensky, vol.3, p.1474.

66. Browder and Kerensky, vol.3, pp.1475-77.

67. Browder and Kerensky, vol.3, pp.1479-80.

68. Browder and Kerensky, vol.3, pp.1480-81.

69. Browder and Kerensky, vol.3, p.1488.

70. Browder and Kerensky, vol.3, p.1497.

71. Browder and Kerensky, vol.3, pp.1501-02.

72. Browder and Kerensky, vol.3, pp.1504-05.

73. Browder and Kerensky, vol.3, p.1505.

74. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, pp.690-91.

75. Browder and Kerensky, vol.3, pp.1511, 1514.

76. Browder and Kerensky, vol.3, p.1514.

77. Lenin, Collected Works, vol.25, p.314.


Last updated on 25.10.2007