V. I.   Lenin

The Russian Revolution and the Tasks of the Proletariat



The question we have outlined is the fundamental question of Social-Democratic tactics as a whole. This is the first question that the coming Party congress will have to settle in the clearest and most unambiguous manner; and all members of the Party, all class-conscious workers should immediately do their utmost to collect the comprehensive material that will help to settle it, discuss it and send delegates to the congress who will be fully prepared for their important and responsible task.

The elections of delegates for the congress should take place on the basis of a clear distinction between tactical platforms. Strictly speaking, the consistent and complete reply that is given to this question, one way or the other, will settle all the minor details of Social-Democratic tactics.


Either we admit that at the present time “there can be no talk of a real revolution”, in which case we must say so openly and emphatically, in the hearing of all, so as not to mislead either ourselves, or the proletariat, or the people. In that case, we must absolutely reject the task of completing the democratic revolution as the immediate task of the proletariat. In that case, we must completely shelve the question of insurrection and cease all work of arming and organising fighting squads; for it is unbecoming for the workers’ party to play at insurrection. In that case, we must admit that the strength of revolutionary democrats is exhausted and make it our immediate business to support one or other section of the liberal democrats, as the real oppositional force under a constitutional regime. In that case, we must regard the State Duma as a parliament, even if a bad one, and not only participate in the elections, but also go into the Duma. In that case we must put the legalisation of the Party first, change the Party programme accordingly, and adjust all our work to the “legal” limits, or at any rate relegate underground work to a minor and subordinate place. In that case, we can regard the organisation of trade unions just as primary a Party task as armed up rising was in the preceding historical period. In that case, we should also shelve the revolutionary slogans of the peasant movement (such as confiscation of the landed estates), because these slogans are in practice slogans of insurrection, and to call for insurrection without previously preparing for it in military fashion, without believing in it, would be unworthy playing at insurrection. In that case, we must stop talking not only about a provisional revolutionary government, but also about so-called “revolutionary local self-government”; for experience has shown that bodies that are rightly or wrongly called by that name are actually transformed by the force of circumstances into organs of insurrection, into rudiments of a revolutionary government.

Or we admit that we can and must talk of a reel revolution at the present time; we admit that new and higher forms of the open revolutionary struggle are inevitable, or at all events, most probable. In that case, the. principal political task of the proletariat, the nerve centre of all its work, the soul of all its organised class activities, must be the task of completing the democratic revolution. In that case, all evasion of this task would merely mean degrading the concept of class struggle to Brentano’s interpretation[1] of it: it would mean converting the proletariat into a hanger-on of the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie. In that case, the Party’s urgent and central political task is to prepare the forces of the proletariat, and to organise it, for armed uprising as the highest form of struggle achieved by the movement. In that case, it is our bounden duty critically to study the whole experience of the December uprising for the most direct practical purposes. In that case, we should increase tenfold our efforts to organise and arm fighting squads. In that case, we should prepare for insurrection also by means of fighting guerrilla operations, for it would be ridiculous to “prepare” only by enrolling and registering new recruits. In that case, we should regard civil war as having been declared and in progress, and the whole of the Party’s activities should be guided by the rule: “In war as in war!”. In that case, it is absolutely essential to train the cadres of the proletariat for offensive military operations. In that case, it is logical and consistent to issue revolutionary watchwords for the masses of the peasantry. The task of concluding fighting agreements with the revolutionary, and only the revolutionary, democrats comes into the foreground: the criterion for distinguishing between the various sections of the bourgeois democrats is the question of insurrection. With those who are in favour of insurrection the proletariat “strikes together”, although it “marches separately”; those who are opposed to insurrection we ruthlessly fight, or spurn them as contemptible hypocrites and Jesuits (the Cadets). In that case, we put into the foreground of all our agitation the criticism and exposure of constitutional illusions from the standpoint of open civil war, and concentrate on circumstances and conditions that will steadily pave the way for spontaneous revolutionary outbreaks. In that case, we regard the Duma,   not as a parliament, but as a police headquarters, and reject all participation in the farcical elections because it can only corrupt and disorganise the proletariat. In that case, we take as the basis of organisation of the party of the working class (as Marx did in 1849) a “strong, secret organisation”, which must have a separate apparatus for “public activities”, and send its special feelers into all legal societies and institutions, from the workers’ trade unions to the legal press.

To put it in a nutshell: either we must admit that the democratic revolution is at an end, shelve the question of insurrection and take the “constitutional” path. Or we recognise that the democratic revolution is still in progress, make it our primary task to complete it, develop and apply in practice the slogan of insurrection, proclaim civil war and ruthlessly denounce all constitutional illusions.

It is scarcely necessary to tell the reader that we are emphatically in favour of the latter solution of the problem that now confronts the Party. The purpose of the tactical platform published in this issue is to sum up and expound in systematic form the views that we shall uphold at the congress and in the course of our work in preparing for it. This platform should be regarded not as something complete, but as an outline explanation of tactical problems, and as a preliminary draft of the resolutions and decisions we shall advocate at the Party congress. This platform has been discussed at private gatherings of like-minded ex-“Bolsheviks” (including the editors of, and contributors to, Proletary) and is a product of collective effort.


[1] Brentanoism—"a liberal-bourgeois doctrine which recognises non-revolutionary ’class’ struggle by the proletariat” (V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol. 28, p. 209), and affirms that the working-class problem can be solved within the framework of capitalism, through factory legislation and the association of workers in trade unions. So named after L. Brentano, one of the principal exponents of the Katheder-Socialist school in bourgeois political economy.

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