V. I.   Lenin

From the Defensive to the Offensive

Published: Proletary, No. 15, September 26 (13), 1905. Published according to the text in Proletary.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 9, pages 283-285.
Translated: The Late Abraham Fineberg and Julius Katzer
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). 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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The special correspondent of Le Temps, a highly reputable conservative paper, wired the following to that paper from St. Petersburg on September 21 (8):

"The night before last a group of 70 persons attacked the Riga Central Prison, cut the telephone wires and, using rope ladders, made their way into the prison yard, where after a stiff engagement two prison warders were killed and three seriously wounded. The demonstrators then freed two political prisoners who were to be court martialled and expected to be sentenced to death. During the pursuit of the demonstrators, who managed to escape, except for two who were arrested, one policeman was killed and several others wounded."

And so matters are moving ahead! Despite the incredible and utterly indescribable difficulties, headway is being made in the matter of getting armed. Individual terrorism, bred of intellectualist impotence, is gradually becoming a thing of the past. Instead of spending tens of thousands of rubles and a vast amount of revolutionary energy on the assassination of some Sergei[1] (who probably did more to make Moscow revolutionary-minded than many revolutionaries), on assassinations “in the name of the people”—military operations together with the people are now commencing. It is by engaging in such operations that the pioneers of armed struggle become fused with the masses not merely in word but in deed, assume leadership of the combat squads and contingents of the proletariat, train in the crucible of civil war dozens of popular leaders who, tomorrow, on the day of the workers’ uprising, will be able to help with their experience and their heroic courage thousands and tens of thousands of workers.

Hail the heroes of the Riga revolutionary contingent! May their success serve as encouragement and example to   Social-Democratic workers throughout Russia. Long live the pioneers of the people’s revolutionary army!

See how successful the venture of the Riga revolutionaries was even from a purely military standpoint. The enemy losses are three killed and probably five to ten wounded. Our loss is only two men, who were probably wounded and thus taken prisoner by the enemy. Our trophies are two revolutionary leaders rescued from prison. This is indeed a brilliant victory!! It is a real victory, scored in a battle against an enemy armed to the teeth. It is no longer a plot against some detested individual, no act of vengeance or desperation, no mere “intimidation”—no, it was a well thought-out and prepared commencement of operations by a contingent of the revolutionary army, planned with due regard for the correlation of forces. The number of such contingents of 25 to 75 men each can be increased to several dozen in every big city, and frequently in the suburbs of a big city. Workers will join them in hundreds; it is only necessary to begin extensive propaganda of this idea immediately, form such contingents, supply them with all sorts of weapons, ranging from knives and revolvers to bombs, and give these contingents military training and education.

Fortunately, the time has passed when revolution was “made” by individual revolutionary terrorists, because the people were not revolutionary. The bomb has ceased to be the weapon of the solitary “bomb thrower”, and is becoming an essential weapon of the people. With the improvements in military materiel the technique of street fighting is also changing, and necessarily so. At present time we are all (and very wisely so) making a study of how to put up barricades and defend them. Though this old work is useful, we must not overlook the newest developments in military weapons. The progress made in the use of explosives has resulted in a number of innovations in gunnery. The Japanese proved stronger than the Russians partly because they were able to make much better use of explosives. Extensive use of high explosives was one of the characteristic features of the recent war. And the Japanese, now recognised throughout the world as experts in military matters, have now adopted the hand bomb, which they used with such telling effect against Port Arthur. Let us learn from the Japanese! Let us not lose heart   because of the grave set-backs that have attended attempts to transport large quantities of arms. No failures can sap the energy of those who feel and actually see how intimately they are bound up with the revolutionary class, and realise that truly the whole people has now risen in defence of their immediate objectives. Bombs can be manufactured anywhere and everywhere. They are now being produced in Russia on a far larger scale than any of us know (and every member of the Social-Democratic organisation undoubtedly knows of more than one instance of such workshops being set up). They are manufactured on an incomparably larger scale than is known to the police (and the latter undoubtedly know more than the revolutionaries in each separate organisation). No force will be able to stand up to contingents of a revolutionary army armed with bombs, contingents that one fine night will launch simultaneously several such attacks as the one in Riga, and will be backed—and this is the last and most important condition—by the rising of hundreds of thousands of workers who have not forgotten the “peaceful” 9th of January, and who long for an armed January 9.

Matters in Russia are obviously heading towards that. Consider reports in the legal newspapers about bombs being found in the baggage of peaceful steamer passengers. Read about the hundreds of attacks on the police and the military, about the scores killed on the spot and the scores seriously injured during the last two months. Even correspondents of the treacherous bourgeois Osvobozhdeniye, which is so busy condemning the “mad” and “criminal” advocacy of insurrection, admit that never before have tragic events been so imminent as they are now.

To work, comrades! Let each stand at his post! Let every workers’ circle bear in mind that any day events may require that it take a leading part in the final and decisive battle.


[1] Sergei—the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich Romanov, the tsar’s uncle, Governor General of Moscow and one of the most reactionary representatives of the tsarist autocracy. Assassinated by the Socialist-Revolutionary Kalyaev on February 4 (17), 1905.

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