V. I.   Lenin

A Militant Agreement for the Uprising

Published: Vperyod, No. 7, February 21 (8), 19O5. Published according to the text In Vperyod.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 8, pages 158-166.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs and The Late Isidor Lasker
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2003). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
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Revolutsionnaya Rossiya, No. 58, says: “May the spirit of fighting unity now at long last pervade the ranks of the revolutionary socialist groups, which are torn by fratricidal animosity, and may it revive the consciousness of socialist solidarity which has been so criminally sapped.... Let us spare the revolutionary forces as much as we can and increase their effectiveness by means of a concerted attack!”

We have often had occasion to protest against the tyranny of the phrase among the Socialists-Revolutionaries, and we must do so again. Why these frightful words, gentle men, about “fratricidal animosity” and so forth? Are they worthy of a revolutionary? Now of all times, when the real fight is on, when blood is flowing—the blood of which Revolutsionnaya Rossiya speaks in such flamboyant terms, these grotesque exaggerations about “fratricidal animosity” ring falser than ever. Spare the forces, say you? But surely this is done by a united, welded organisation which is at one on questions of principle, and not by lumping together heterogeneous elements. Strength is not spared but wasted by such barren attempts at lumping. To achieve a “fighting unity” in deed and not merely in word, we must know clearly, definitely, and from experience exactly wherein and to what extent we can be united. Without this, all talk of fighting unity will be mere words, words, words; this knowledge, incidentally, comes from the very controversy, struggle, and animosity of which you speak in such “frightful” terms. Would it really be better if we hushed up the differences that divide vast sections of Russian public opinion and Russian socialist thought? Was it only the “cult of discord” that provoked the bitter struggle between Narodism,   that nebulous ideology of the democratic bourgeoisie woven of socialistic dreams, and Marxism, the ideology of the proletariat? Nonsense, gentlemen; you only make your selves ridiculous by saying such things, by continuing to regard as an “insult” the Marxist view that Narodism and your “social-revolutionism” are essentially bourgeois-democratic. We shall inevitably argue, differ, and quarrel also in the future revolutionary committees in Russia, but surely we must learn from history. We must not have unexpected, unintelligible, and muddled disputes at a time when action is called for; we must be prepared to argue on fundamental issues, to know the points of departure of each trend, to anticipate possible unity or possible antagonism. The history of revolutionary epochs provides many, all too many, instances of tremendous harm caused by hasty and half-baked experiments in “fighting unity” that sought to lump together the most heterogeneous elements in the committees of the revolutionary people, but managed thereby to achieve mutual friction and bitter disappointment.

We want to profit by this lesson of history. Marxism, which to you seems a narrow dogma, is to us the quintessence of this historical lesson and guidance. We see in the independent, uncompromisingly Marxist party of the revolutionary proletariat the sole pledge of socialism’s victory and the road to victory that is most free from vacillations. We shall never, therefore, not even at the most revolutionary moments, forego the complete independence of the Social-Democratic Party or the complete intransigence of our ideology.

You believe this rules out fighting unity? You are mistaken. You can see from the resolution of our Second Congress that we do not renounce agreements for the struggle and in the struggle. In Vperyod, No. 4, we stressed the fact that the beginning of the revolution in Russia undoubtedly brings closer the moment when such agreements can be practically implemented.[1] A joint struggle of the revolutionary Social-Democrats and the revolutionary elements of the democratic movement is inevitable and indispensable in the era of the fall of the autocracy. We think that we should serve   the cause of future militant agreements better if, instead of indulging in bitter recriminations, we sanely and coolly weighed the conditions under which they would become possible and the likely limits of their “jurisdiction”, if one may use the term. We began this work in Vperyod, No. 3, in which we undertook a study of the progress of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party from Narodism to Marxism.[2]

“The masses took to arms themselves,” Revolutsionnaya Rossiya wrote in connection with the Ninth of January. “Sooner or later, without doubt, the question of arming the masses will be decided.” “That is when the fusion between terrorism and the mass movement, to which we are striving by word and deed in accordance with the entire spirit of our Party tactics, will be manifested and realised in the most striking manner.” (We would remark parenthetically that we would gladly put a question mark after the word “deed”; but let us proceed with the quotation.) “Not so long ago, before our own eyes, these two factors of the movement were separate, and this separateness deprived them of their full force.”

What is true is true! Exactly! Intelligentsia terrorism and the mass movement of the working class were separate, and this separateness deprived them of their full force. That is precisely what the revolutionary Social-Democrats have been saying all along. For this very reason they have always been opposed to terrorism and to all the vacillations towards terrorism which members of the intellectualist wing of our Party have often displayed.[3] For this reason precisely the old Iskra took a position against terrorism when it wrote in issue No. 48: “The terrorist struggle of the old type was the riskiest form of revolutionary struggle, and those who en gaged in it had the reputation of being resolute, self-sacrificing people.... Now, however, when demonstrations develop into acts of open resistance to the government, ... the old terrorism ceases to be an exceptionally daring method of struggle.... Heroism has now come out into the open; the   true heroes of our time are now the revolutionaries who lead the popular masses, which are rising against their oppressors.... The terrorism of the great French Revolution ... began on July 14, 1789, with the storming of the Bastille. Its strength was the strength of the revolutionary movement of the people.... That terrorism was due, not to disappointment in the strength of the mass movement, but, on the contrary, to ’unshakable faith in its strength.... The history of that terrorism is exceedingly instructive for the Russian revolutionary.”[4]

Yes, a thousand times yes! The history of that terrorism is instructive in the extreme. Instructive, too, are the quoted passages from Iskra, which refer to an epoch of eighteen months ago. These quotations show us, in their full stature, the ideas which even the Socialists-Revolutionaries, under the influence of the revolutionary lessons, would like to arrive at. They remind us of the importance of faith in the mass movement; they remind us of revolutionary tenacity, which comes only from high principles and which alone can safeguard us against the “disappointments” induced by a prolonged apparent standstill of the movement. Now, after the Ninth of January, there can be no question, on the face of it, of any “disappointments” in the mass movement. But only on the face of it. We should distinguish between the momentary “attraction” evoked by a striking display of mass heroism and the steadfast, reasoned convictions that link inseparably the entire activity of the Party with the movement of the masses, owing to the paramount importance which is attached to the principle of the class struggle. We should bear in mind that the revolutionary movement, however high its level since the Ninth of January, still has many stages to pass through before our socialist and democratic parties will be reconstructed on a new basis in a free Russia. And through all these stages, through all the vicissitudes of the struggle, we must maintain the ties between Social-Democracy and the class struggle of the proletariat   unbroken, and we must see to it that they are continuously strengthened and made more secure.

It seems to us, therefore, a gross exaggeration for Revolutsionnaya Rossiya to assert that “the pioneers of the armed struggle were swallowed up in the ranks of the roused masses....” This is the desirable future rather than the reality of the moment. The assassination of Sergei in Moscow on February 17 (4),[5] which has been reported by telegraph this very day, is obviously an act of terrorism of the old type. The pioneers of the armed struggle have not yet been swallowed up in the ranks of the roused masses. Pioneers with bombs evidently lay in wait for Sergei in Moscow while the masses (in St. Petersburg), without pioneers, without arms, without revolutionary officers, and without a revolutionary staff “flung themselves in implacable fury upon bristling bayonets”, as this same Revolutsionnaya Rossiya expresses it. The separateness of which we spoke above still exists, and the individual intellectualist terror shows all the more strikingly its inadequacy in face of the growing realisation that “the masses have risen to the stature of individual heroes, that mass heroism has been awakened in them” (Revolutsionnaya Rossiya, No. 58). The pioneers should submerge among the masses in actual fact, that is, exert their selfless energies in real inseparable connection with the insurgent masses, and proceed with them in the literal, not figurative, symbolical, sense of the word. That this is essential can hardly be open to doubt now. That it is possible has been proved by the Ninth of January and by the deep unrest which is still smouldering among the working-class masses. The fact that this is a new, higher, and more difficult task in comparison with the preceding ones cannot and should not stop us from meeting it at once in a practical way.

Fighting unity between the Social-Democratic Party and the revolutionary-democratic party—the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, might be one way of facilitating the solution of this problem. Such unity will be all the more practicable, the sooner the pioneers of the armed struggle are “swallowed up” in the ranks of the insurgent masses, the more firmly the Socialists-Revolutionaries follow the path which they themselves have charted in the words, “May   these beginnings of fusion between revolutionary terrorism and the mass movement grow and strengthen, may the masses act as quickly as possible, armed cap-à-pie with terrorist methods of struggle!” With a view to bringing about speedily such a fighting unity, we take pleasure in publishing the following letter which we have received from Georgi Gapon:

“An Open Letter to the Socialist Parties of Russia.

“The bloody January days in St. Petersburg and the rest of Russia have brought the oppressed working class face to face with the autocratic regime, headed by the blood-thirsty tsar. The great Russian revolution has begun. All to whom the people’s freedom is really dear must either win or die. Realising the importance of the present historic moment, considering the present state of affairs, and being above all a revolutionary and a man of action, I call upon all the socialist parties of Russia to enter immediately into an agreement among themselves and to proceed to the armed uprising against tsarism. All the forces of every party should be mobilised. All should have a single technical plan of action. Bombs and dynamite, individual and mass terror—every thing that can help the popular uprising. The immediate aim is the over throw of the autocracy, a provisional revolutionary government which will at once amnesty all fighters for political and religious liberties, at once arm the people, and at once convoke a Constituent Assembly on the basis of universal, equal, and direct suffrage by secret ballot. To the task, comrades! Onward to the fight! Let us repeat the slogan of the St. Petersburg workers on the Ninth of January—Freedom or Death! Delay and disorder now are a crime against the people, whose interests you are defending. Having given all of myself to the service of the people, from whom I myself am sprung (the son of a peasant), and having thrown in my lot irrevocably with the struggle against the oppressors and exploiters of the working class, I shall naturally be heart and soul with those who will undertake the real business of actually liberating the proletariat and all the toiling masses from the capitalist yoke and political slavery.

“Georgi Gapon.”

On our part, we consider it necessary to state our view of this letter as clearly and as definitely as possible. We consider that the “agreement” it proposes is possible, useful, And essential. We welcome the fact that Gapon speaks explicitly of an “agreement”, since only through the preservation of complete independence by each separate party on points of principle and organisation can the efforts at a fighting unity of these parties rest on hope. We must be very careful, in making these endeavours, not to spoil things by vainly trying to lump together heterogeneous elements.   We shall inevitably have to getrennt marschieren (march separately), but we can vereint schlagen (strike together) more than once and particularly now. It would be desirable, from our point of view, to have this agreement embrace the revolutionary as well as the socialist parties, for there is nothing socialistic in the immediate aim of the struggle, and we must not confound or allow anyone ever to confound the immediate democratic aims with our ultimate aims of socialist revolution. It would be desirable, and from our point of view essential, for the agreement that, instead of a general call for “individual and mass terror”, it should be stated openly and definitely that this joint action pursues the aim of a direct and actual fusion between terrorism and the uprising of the masses. True, by adding the words “everything that can help the popular uprising”, Gapon clearly indicates his desire to make even individual terror subservient to this aim; but this desire, which suggests the idea that we noted in Revolutsionnaya Rossiya, No. 58, should be expressed more definitely and embodied in absolutely unequivocal practical decisions. We should like, finally, to point out, regardless of the realisability of the proposed agreement, that Gapon’s extra-party stand seems to us to be another negative factor. Obviously, with so rapid a conversion from faith in the tsar and petitioning of the tsar to revolutionary aims, Gapon was not able to evolve for himself immediately a clear revolutionary outlook. This is inevitable, and the faster and broader the revolution develops, the more often will this kind of thing occur. Nevertheless, complete clarity and definiteness in the relations between parties, trends, and shades are absolutely necessary if a temporary agreement among them is to be in any way successful. Clarity and definiteness will be needed at every practical step; they will be the pre-condition for definiteness and the absence of vacillation in the real, practical work. The beginning of the revolution in Russia will probably lead to the emergence upon the political arena of many people and perhaps trends representing the view that the slogan “revolution” is, for “men of action”, a quite adequate definition of their aims and their methods of operation. Nothing could be more fallacious than this opinion. The extra-party position, which seems higher, or more convenient,   or more “diplomatic”, is in actual fact more vague, more obscure, and inevitably fraught with inconsistencies and vacillations in practical activity. In the interests of the revolution our ideal should by no means be that all parties, all trends and shades of opinion fuse in a revolutionary chaos. On the contrary, the growth and spread of the revolutionary movement, its constantly deeper penetration among the various classes and strata of the people, will inevitably give rise (all to the good) to constantly newer trends and shades. Only full clarity and definiteness in their mutual relations and in their attitude towards the position of the revolutionary proletariat can guarantee maximum success for the revolutionary movement. Only full clarity in mutual relations can guarantee the success of an agreement to achieve a common immediate aim.

This immediate aim is outlined quite correctly, in our opinion, in Gapon’s letter, namely: (1) the overthrow of the autocracy; (2) a provisional revolutionary government; (3) the immediate amnesty to all fighters for political and religious liberties, including, of course, the right to strike, etc.; (4) the immediate arming of the people; and (5) the immediate convocation of an All-Russian Constituent Assembly on the basis of universal, equal, and direct suffrage by secret ballot. The immediate translation into life by the revolutionary government of complete equality for all citizens and complete political freedom during elections is, of course, taken for granted by Gapon; but this might have been stated explicitly. It would be advisable also to include in the general policy of the provisional government the establishment everywhere of revolutionary peasant committees for the purpose of supporting the democratic revolution and putting into effect its various measures. The success of the revolution depends largely on the revolutionary activity of the peasantry itself, and the various socialist and revolutionary-democratic parties would probably agree on a slogan such as we have suggested.

It is to be hoped that Gapon, whose evolution from views shared by a politically unconscious people to revolutionary views proceeds from such profound personal experiences, will achieve the clear revolutionary outlook that is essential for a man of politics. It is to be hoped that   his appeal for a militant agreement for the uprising will meet with success, and that the revolutionary proletariat, side by side with the revolutionary democrats, will strike at the autocracy and overthrow it all the more quickly and surely, and with the least sacrifices.


[1] See pp. 99-100 of this volume—Ed.

[2] See pp. 83-89 of this volume.—Ed.

[3] Krichevsky in Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 10. Martov and Zasulich concerning the shot fired by Lekert. The new-Iskrists generally in a leaflet in connection with the assassination of Plehve.[6]Lenin

[4] This article in Iskra, written by Plekhanov, dates back to the time when Iskra (Nos. 46-51) was edited by Plekhanov and Lenin. Plekhanov had at that time not begun to contemplate the new line of notorious compliance to opportunism.—Lenin

[6] On May 5 (18), 1902, the worker Hirsh Lekert made an attempt on the life of the Governor of Wilno, von Wal. Martov and Zasulich hailed this act of individual terror.

The leaflet on the assassination of Plehve mentioned by Lenin refers to leaflet No. 16 “To the Working People”, signed by the Editorial Board of the Menshevik Iskra, which openly defended the Socialist-Revolutionary tactics of individual terror.

[5] The reference is to the assassination of Grand Duke Sergei, Governor-General of Moscow, by the Socialist-Revolutionary terrorists.

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