Alexandra Kollontai 1917

Our Memorial to the Fighters for Freedom

Source: Alexandra Kollontai: Selected Articles and Speeches, Progress Publishers, 1984;
First Published: Pravda, 6 (23) March, 1917. Petrograd;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan for, 2000

There are memorable days in the life of mankind which run like a golden thread of popular celebration down the centuries. There are days which are equal to centuries in the history of humanity, and which proclaim that, however cruelly the people may be oppressed by violence and arbitrary rule, the hour will come when a mighty, triumphant, indestructible force, the spirit of the fraternal unity of the workers in close alliance with the revolutionary will of the deprived masses – will overthrow the old, outworn order through a powerful upsurge of popular wrath, through the onslaught of democracy stirred into heroic rebellion.

Today is the day when we are burying the heroic victims of the Russian revolution; today is a solemn day of joy and of mourning. [1] Today the eyes of the oppressed and deprived of the whole world are turned towards Russia, to this city where the heroic resolution of the workers and the downtrodden Russian peasantry has thrown off the yoke of tsarist autocracy.

Today, as we bury the heroic victims of the revolution who gave their lives to win for the people the greatest right of all-the right to freedom-we are not only singing songs of fraternal sorrow over the graves of these heroes, but also a hymn of victory over the grave of tsarist autocracy with all its crimes and bloodshed, its obscurantism, its cruel indifference to the sufferings of the working people, its serfdom, its abuse of the common soldiers, its corrupt tsarist officials, its prisons, its Siberian exile, its whips, gallows, arbitrary violence and oppression.

And therefore the spring air is filled not only with songs of mourning for those who have fallen in the struggle for freedom, but also with the millions of voices of an exultant choir proclaiming the victory of the revolution, the conquest by the people of that freedom which alone makes it possible to wage the struggle for bread, for peace, for the consolidation of the power of proletarian democracy today, and socialism tomorrow.

Historical conditions, objective external forces, prepared the way over the years for the inevitable collapse of the old power, the inevitable dawn of 1st March, the victory of the new Russia; for decades a mortal struggle had been waged between the industrial capitalists and the landowning aristocracy of tsarist Russia. The imperialist world war aggravated the contradictions between Russia old and new, but it was only thanks to the appearance of a living, active, militant force that the great Russian revolution could take place. This living force was the mass onslaught of the working class and a peasantry dressed in soldiers' greatcoats and armed with guns.

Today, as we bury the heroes of the revolution, the proletariat throughout the world is celebrating the triumph of that doctrine the doctrine of scientific socialism-which enabled the Russian socialists to predict the inevitability and imminence of the Russian revolution, and to organise the forces of the proletariat along the straight and proper road. Today, when we are burying not only those who died for freedom, but also tsarist autocracy, revolutionary socialists, those who adhered resolutely to the decisions taken by international workers' congresses, can also celebrate their victory. Their tactic, their strategy of work and struggle, has emerged triumphant. Not the slogan of'class peace' during the predatory, expansionist war among the capitalist states, but the slogan of class war, of civil war, that was defended and implemented with such heavy losses by the left wing of Russian Social-Democracy, has brought Russia to the great revolution and given Russian democracy the victory over the 'internal enemy'.

The Russian revolution is also a new triumph for that tactic, the tactic of mass action by workers' democracy in its highest form of revolutionary uprising by the organised masses, which should serve as the basis of the tactic of the new, the Third International, the International which will complete the great cause begun by those who fell during the Russian revolution.

Our comrades in other countries, those who march arm in arm with Liebknecht in Germany, MacLean in England, Haglund in Sweden, will be with us in spirit, following the funeral procession with the same feelings of grief for the fallen and the same exultation at the victory of freedom with which millions of Russian soldiers and workers will today accompany their comrades-in-arms on their last journey. Our grief is their grief, but also our victory is the victory of workers' democracy throughout the world!

In saying farewell to the heroes who fell in the name of freedom, we will depart today from their graves imbued with firm resolution: the first step, the hardest step of the revolution, has been taken. Tsarist autocracy, a decaying corpse upon a throne, has been committed to the earth.

Today sees the completion of the first stage of the revolution, the stage which consists of the destruction of the old.

Now, comrades, let us hasten back to work! We must hurry, we must create the new! We must build a new, democratic, free Russia!... Do not delay, comrades!

Today we are burying our hero-comrades, but tomorrow we must begin to build them a majestic and indestructible monument. This monument is democratic, republican Russia and, victoriously completing the task of the liberation of the working class, a strong, stalwart, well-organised revolutionary Social-Democratic Labour Party.


[1] This is a reference to the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia, which took place on 23-27 February (8-12 March) 1917. This revolution was caused by the need to resolve the major problems of national economic development (the abolition of tsarism and landed estates) and by the failure of tsarist foreign and domestic policy (military defeats, economic collapse and famine). As a result of this revolution, tsarist autocracy was abolished and a dual power emerged in the country: the Soviets of Workers and Soldiers' Deputies, and the bourgeois Provisional Government.