V. I.   Lenin

The Political Crisis and the Bankruptcy of Opportunist Tactics


The Central Committee’s practical conclusion in its famous fourth letter is as follows: “Local mass expressions of protest must be organised at once, everywhere.” Their object is described literally as follows: “To create an atmosphere of preparation for the impending decisive struggle.” ... Not to prepare for the impending decisive struggle, but to create an atmosphere of preparation!...

Our Party has already condemned and rejected this slogan of the Central Committee with rare unanimity. The ’Central Committee’s campaign for “partial mass expressions of protest” has already failed. The absurdity of demonstrating, of organising protests, in a situation in which civil war has attained unprecedented intensity, is too obvious. The resolutions adopted by a large number of Party commit tees and conferences[1] published in this issue show clearly enough what indignation has been roused by this slogan, as well as by the Central Committee’s whole policy since the dissolution of the Duma. We shall not, therefore, waste any more words on refuting a slogan that has already been refuted by facts and rejected by the Party. We need only note, firstly, the significance in principle of the Central Committee’s mistake, and, secondly, its awkward attempts in letter No. 5 to extricate itself from the impossible situation in which it found itself.

From the point of view of principle, the Central Committee’s mistake lies in its utter failure to understand the difference between a demonstration strike and a strike for an uprising. This is altogether unpardonable after the experience of December. It can only be explained if we take into account that in none of its letters has the Central Committee made any direct reference to an armed uprising. To evade any direct raising of the question of an uprising—such is the long-standing and constant striving of our opportunists,   a striving that inevitably follows from their whole position. This striving explains why the Central Committee talks so persistently only about demonstration strikes, and says nothing about strikes for an uprising.

Having taken up such a position, the Central Committee could not avoid lagging behind all the other revolutionary organisations and parties. It could be said that everyone except the opportunist Social-Democrats has realised that the question of an uprising is bound to be raised. As was to be expected, the All-Russian Railwaymen’s Union has paid special attention to this question. (See its resolution and the report of the Bureau printed in this issue.[2]) It is clearly evident from a number of manifestoes signed by several revolutionary organisations (including the afore-mentioned manifestoes “To the Army and Navy”, “To All the Russian Peasants”, etc.). Our Central Committee seems to have signed these documents against its will, contrary to its convictions!

Indeed, it is utterly impossible to sign these appeals and yet fail to see the difference between demonstration strikes and strikes for an uprising. The Central Committee’s inconsistency, its likeness to a weathercock, is glaring: in its own declarations (letters No. 4 and No. 5) it does not say a word about an uprising; but when it collaborates with other revolutionary organisations it signs manifestoes calling for an uprising! When left to itself, our Central Committee inevitably lapses into a Cadet policy and expends all its energy devising slogans that would be acceptable or would seem to be acceptable to the Cadets. When marching in line with other revolutionary organisations, it “pulls itself together”, becomes ashamed of its Cadet slogans and behaves properly.

This is the first time that the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party finds itself in such an undignified position. For the first time it is being publicly led by others. For the first time it is in the rear. Our duty, the duty of all members of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, is at all costs and as soon as possible to make sure that it is the first and last time.

The inability to understand the causes of the failure of the (last) July strike is wholly due to the above-mentioned mistake on a matter of principle. Anyone may make a mistake   in fixing the moment for the struggle. We do not at all blame the Central Committee for that. But to mistake the character of an action, despite the warnings of a number of organisations in conjunction with which the Central Committee signed the calls for an uprising, that is unpardonable.

In its letter No. 5, the Central Committee embarks on a petty and trivial polemic against the Socialist-Revolutionaries (merely trying to prove that the representative of the Trudoviks argued more consistently than the Socialist-Revolutionary. What is the use of all this? Who is interested in it?), and expresses surprise that it was the advanced, class-conscious workers who failed to respond to the July strike call. The backward workers responded to that call, but the advanced workers did not! So the Central Committee is indignant, angry, almost abusive!

And yet, if the Central Committee had not taken up a fundamentally wrong position, had not disagreed in principle with the vanguard of the proletariat, it would have understood quite easily why this happened. The backward workers might not yet have known the difference between a demonstration strike and a strike for an uprising, but the advanced workers knew the difference very well. When there was some hope of being able to support the uprising in Sveaborg and Kronstadt—and there was such a moment—the declaration of a national strike was natural. But this, of course, would have been (and was) a strike, not with the object of protesting against the dissolution of the Duma (as the Central Committee imagined), but with the object of supporting the insurgents, of extending the uprising.

In a day or two, however, it became definitely clear that the uprising in Sveaborg and Kronstadt had been sup pressed on this occasion. A strike in support of the insurgents was out of place, and the progressive workers had all the time been opposed to protest strikes and demonstration strikes. They had been saying all along in the clearest and most emphatic language (and only our Central Committee contrived not to know, or not to understand it) that they would go into a general decisive battle, but on no account take part in a strike for the sake of a demonstration.

The failure of the July strike thus knocked the bottom, as it were, out of the tactics of the opportunist Social-Democrats.   The idea of a demonstration strike fell through, utterly and entirely. The slogan of “partial mass expressions of protest” suffered the same fate.

But to anyone with the slightest knowledge of the mood of the workers in the main centres of Russia, to anyone who has watched what is now going on among the peasantry, it is quite clear that the idea of the strike for an uprising and the slogan of preparing for an uprising, far from losing their importance or clarity, are, on the contrary, everywhere maturing and gaining strength.


[1] This refers to the resolutions of the Kursk, Kaluga and Moscow district committees of the R.S.D.L.P., the Regional Bureau of the Central District and the Kostroma Party Conference held on July 25 (August 7), 1906.

[2] This refers to the railwaymen’s conference convened in August 1906 on the question of a general strike in connection with the dissolution of the First State Duma.

The conference was attended by delegates of workers and employees of 23 railways and representatives of the Central Bureau   of the All-Russian Railwaymen’s Union, the Trudovik Group, the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P., the Bund, the Central Committee of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, and others. The resolution adopted by the conference pointed out: “The impending general strike will be an offensive of the popular forces that must wrest power from the hands of the autocratic government”.

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