V. I.   Lenin

Social-Democracy and the Provisional Revolutionary Government



What is Martynov’s muddle-headedness due to? To the fact that he confounds democratic revolution with socialist revolution; that he overlooks the role of the intermediate stratum of the people lying between the “bourgeoisie” and the “proletariat” (the petty-bourgeois masses of the urban and rural poor, the “semi-proletarians”, the semi-proprietors); and that he fails to understand the true meaning of our minimum programme. Martynov has heard that it is wrong for a socialist to participate in a bourgeois Cabinet (when the proletariat is struggling for the socialist revolution), and he hastens to “understand” this as meaning that we should not participate with the revolutionary bourgeois democrats in the democratic revolution and in the dictatorship that is essential for the full accomplishment of such a revolution. Martynov read our minimum programme, but he missed the fact that the strict distinction it draws between transformations that can be carried out in a bourgeois society and socialist transformations is not merely booklore but is of the most vital, practical significance; he missed the fact that in a revolutionary period this programme must be immediately tested and applied in practice. It did not occur to him that rejecting the idea of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship in the period of the autocracy’s downfall is tantamount to renouncing the fulfilment of our minimum programme. Indeed, let us but consider all the economic and political transformations formulated in that programme—the demand for the republic, for arming the people, for the separation of the Church from the State, for full democratic liberties, and for decisive economic reforms. Is it not clear that these transformations cannot possibly be brought about in a bourgeois society without the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the lower classes? Is it not clear that it is not the proletariat alone, as distinct from the “bourgeoisie”, that is referred to here, but the “lower classes”, which are the active motive force of every democratic revolution? These classes are the proletariat plus the scores of millions of urban and rural poor whose conditions of existence are petty-bourgeois. Without a doubt, very many representatives of these masses belong to the bourgeoisie. But   there is still less doubt that the complete establishment of democracy is in the interests of these masses, and that the more enlightened these masses are, the more inevitable will be their struggle for the complete establishment of democracy. Of course, a Social-Democrat will never forget the dual political and economic nature of the petty-bourgeois urban and rural masses; he will never forget the need for a separate and independent class organisation of the proletariat, which struggles for socialism. But neither will he forget that these masses have “a future as well as a past, judgement as well as prejuduces”,[1] a judgement that urges them onward towards the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship; he will not for get that enlightenment is not obtained from books alone, and not so much from books even as from the very progress of the revolution, which opens the eyes of the people and gives them a political schooling. Under such circumstances, a theory that rejects the idea of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship cannot be otherwise designated than as a philosophical justification of political backwardness.

The revolutionary Social-Democrat will reject such a theory with contempt. He will not confine himself on the eve of the revolution to pointing out what will happen “if the worst comes to the worst”. Rather, he will also show the possibility of a better outcome. He will dream—he is obliged to dream if he is not a hopeless philistine—that, after the vast experience of Europe, after the unparalleled upsurge of energy among the working class in Russia, we shall succeed in lighting a revolutionary beacon that will illumine more brightly than ever before the path of the unenlightened and downtrodden masses; that we shall succeed, standing as we do on the shoulders of a number of revolutionary gene rations of Europe, in realising all the democratic transformations, the whole of our minimum programme, with a thoroughness never equalled before. We shall succeed in ensuring that the Russian revolution is not a movement of a few months, but a movement of many years; that it leads, not merely to a few paltry concessions from the powers that be, but to the complete overthrow of those powers. And if we succeed in achieving this, then ... the revolutionary conflagration will spread to Europe; the European worker, languishing under bourgeois reaction, will rise in his turn   and show us “how it is done”; then the revolutionary upsurge in Europe will have a repercussive effect upon Russia and will convert an epoch of a few revolutionary years into an era of several revolutionary decades; then—but we shall have ample time to say what we shall do “then”, not from the cursed remoteness of Geneva, but at meetings of thousands of workers in the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg, at the free village meetings of the Russian “muzhiks”.


[1] See Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Moscow, 1958, Vol. I, p. 335.

  II | IV  

Works Index   |   Volume 8 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index
< backward   forward >