V. I.   Lenin

The Dissolution of the Duma and the Tasks of the Proletariat


The question of the form of the struggle is closely bound up with the question of organisation for the struggle.

In this respect, too, the great historical experience of October-December 1905 has left indelible traces on the revolutionary movement of today. The Soviets of Workers’ Deputies and similar bodies (Peasants’ Committees, Railwaymen’s Committees, Soviets of Soldiers’ Deputies, etc.) enjoy tremendous and fully deserved prestige. It would not be easy at present to find a Social-Democrat, or a revolutionary belonging to some other party or trend, who would not be in favour of such organisations in general, or who would not recommend their formation at the present moment in particular.

It seems to me there is no difference of opinion, or at least no serious difference of opinion, on this point. Hence there is no need to dwell on this particular question.

But there is one aspect to which we must devote particular attention, because it is most often ignored. I refer to the fact that the role played by the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies (for the sake of brevity we shall speak of them as the type of all organisations of this kind) in the great October and December days surrounded them with something like a halo, so that sometimes they are treated almost as a fetish. People imagine that those organs are “necessary and sufficient” for a mass revolutionary movement at all times and in all circumstances. Hence the uncritical attitude towards the choice of the moment for the creation of such bodies, towards the question of what the real conditions are for the success of their activities.

The experience of October-December has provided very instructive guidance on this point. Soviets of Workers’ Deputies are organs of direct mass struggle. They originated as organs of the strike struggle. By force of circumstances they very quickly became the organs of the general revolutionary struggle against the government. The course of events and the transition from a strike to an uprising irresistibly transformed them into organs of an up rising. That   this was precisely the role that quite a number of “soviets” and “committees” played in December, is an absolutely indisputable fact. Events have proved in the most striking and convincing manner that the strength and importance of such organs in time of militant action depend entirely upon the strength and success of the uprising.

It was not some theory, not appeals on the part of some one, or tactics invented by someone, not party doctrine, but the force of circumstances that led these non-party mass organs to realise the need for an uprising and transformed them into organs of an uprising.

At the present time, too, to establish such organs means creating organs of an uprising; to call for their establishment means calling for an uprising. To forget this, or to veil it from the eyes of the broad mass of the people, would be the most unpardonable short-sightedness and the worst of policies.

If that is so—and undoubtedly it is—the conclusion to be drawn is also clear: “soviets” and similar mass institutions are in themselves insufficient for organising an uprising. They are necessary for welding the masses together, for creating unity in the struggle, for handing on the party slogans (or slogans advanced by agreement between parties) of political leadership, for awakening the interest of the masses, for rousing and attracting them. But they are not sufficient for organising the immediate fighting forces, for organising an uprising in the narrowest sense of the word.

A slight illustration. The Soviets of Workers’ Deputies have often been called parliaments of the working class. But no worker would agree to his parliament being convened only for it to be handed over to the police. All workers would admit the need immediately to organise forces, to set up a military organisation composed of detachments of armed workers to protect their “parliament”.

Now that the government has thoroughly learned by experience what “soviets” lead to and what sort of institutions they are, now that it has armed itself from head to foot and is waiting for such institutions to be formed so as to attack the enemy before he has time to reflect and develop his   activities, it is especially necessary for us to explain in our work of agitation the need for a sober view of things, the need for a military organisation alongside the organisation of soviets, for defending the latter, for carrying out an uprising, without which the soviets or any elected representatives of the masses will remain power less.

These “military organisations”, if one may call them so, must strive to rally the masses not through the medium of elected persons, but directly by rallying the masses that are immediately taking part in street fighting and civil war. The nuclei of such organisations should be very small, voluntary units of ten, five, perhaps even three persons. We must with the utmost vigour make it known that a battle is approaching in which it will be the duty of every honest citizen to be ready to sacrifice himself and fight against the oppressors of the people. Less formality, less red tape, more simplicity in organisation, which must be as mobile and as flexible as possible. All those who wish to take the side of liberty must at once unite by forming fighting groups of five—voluntary units of persons working in the same trade or the same factory, or of people connected by ties of comrade ship, or by Party ties, or, finally, simply by residence (those living in the same village, or in the same house or flat in a town). There must be both party and non-party units of this kind, bound together by the single, immediate revolutionary task: an uprising against the government. Such units must be formed without fail on the widest possible scale even before arms are obtained, irrespective of whether arms can be obtained or not.

No Party organisation will “arm” the masses. On the contrary, the organisation of the masses into light, mobile, small fighting units will, when things begin to move, render a very great service in regard to procuring arms.

Volunteer fighting units, composed of “druzhinniki”, if we adopt the name made so honourable by the great December days in Moscow, will be of tremendous value at the moment of the outbreak. A “druzhina”, or volunteer squad, that can shoot will be able to disarm a policeman, or suddenly attack a patrol and thus procure arms. A volunteer squad   which cannot shoot, or which has not procured arms, will assist in building barricades, reconnoitring, organising liaisons, setting ambushes for the enemy, setting fire to houses occupied by the enemy, occupying rooms to serve as bases for the insurgents—in short, thousands of the most diverse functions can be performed by voluntary units of persons who are determined to fight to the last gasp, who know the locality well, who are most closely connected with the population.

Let an appeal be made at every factory, in every trade union and in every village for the formation of such volunteer fighting squads. People who are well known to each other will form them in advance. People who do not know each other will form squads of five and ten on the day of the fight, or on the eve of the fight, on the spot where fighting takes place, if the idea of forming such units is spread widely among the masses and actually adopted by them.

At the present time, when the dissolution of the Duma has stirred up many new sections of the population, one frequently hears the most revolutionary responses and declarations from ordinary representatives of the least organised sections of the common people in the towns, even of those who on the surface appear to be most “Black-Hundred” in character. Let us then make sure that they are all informed of the decision of the vanguard of the workers and peasants to begin the fight for land and liberty in the very near future, that they are all made aware of the necessity of forming volunteer fighting squads, that they are all convinced of the inevitability of an uprising and of its popular character. If we achieve this—and it is not at all utopian—we shall have in every large town, not hundreds of druzhinniki, as in Moscow in December, but thousands upon thousands of them. And then no machine-guns will be able to stand up to us, as people used to say in Moscow when arguing that the fighting squads there were not sufficiently of a mass character and were not sufficiently close to the people in type and composition.

Thus: organisation of Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, of Peasants’ Committees and of similar bodies everywhere, together with the most widespread propaganda and agitation   for the necessity of a simultaneous uprising, for the immediate preparation of forces for this, and for organising volunteer squads of “druzhinniki” on a mass scale.

*     *

P. S. This chapter was already written when we learned of a new “turn” in the slogans of our Central Committee: for the Duma as an organ for convening the constituent assembly.

The question of organisation, therefore, includes the additional question of organising a provisional revolutionary government, for that in point of fact is what a body really capable of convening a constituent assembly would be. But we must not forget, as our Cadetophiles are fond of doing, that a provisional government is primarily the organ of an uprising. Does the late Duma wish to become the organ of an uprising? Do the Cadets wish to be the organ of an uprising? By all means, gentlemen! In the struggle we welcome all allies among the bourgeois democrats. Even if your alliance—excuse me for saying so—were the same thing for us as the alliance with France is for Russia (i.e., a source of funds), even then we should be very pleased; we are practical politicians, gentlemen. But if your Cadet participation in an uprising is merely an empty dream of the Mensheviks, we shall merely say: How petty and trifling your dreams are, Menshevik comrades! But take care you do not die of “unrequited love” for the Cadets, who will be unable to return your passion....

The theoretical aspect of the question of a provisional government has been discussed more than once. The possibility of Social-Democrats taking part in a provisional government has been proved. Of greater interest now, however, is the practical aspect provided by the events of October-December. The Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, etc., were in fact the embryos of a provisional government; power would inevitably have passed to them had the uprising been victorious. The centre of attention must now be shifted to studying these embryonic organs of a new government that history has brought into being, to studying the conditions for their   work and their success. This is of more vital importance and more interesting at the present time than speculation “in general” about a provisional revolutionary government.


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