V. I.   Lenin

The Aim of the Proletarian Struggle in Our Revolution

In the article printed above, Comrade Martov touches upon an extremely important question or, rather, series of questions concerning the aim the proletariat and the Social-Democrats are fighting for in our revolution. He touches upon the history of the discussion of these questions in our Party, upon their relation to the principles of Marxism and to Narodism and upon all the shades of opinion that have been expressed on the subject. He touches upon all aspects of the question, but does not clear up a single one of them. To come to the nub of the matter we must make a systematic survey of the question in all its aspects.


We shall begin with the history of the discussion of this question by the Russian Social-Democrats. It was brought up by the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks at the beginning of 1905. The former answered it with the “formula”: revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry (cf. Vperyod,[4] No. 14, April 12, 1905[1] ). The latter flatly rejected this definition of the class content of a victorious bourgeois revolution. The Third (Bolshevik) Congress held in London in May 1905 and the Menshevik conference held at the same time in Geneva, officially expressed the views of the two sections of the Party. In keeping with the spirit of the times, both sections of the Party in their resolutions dealt, not with the theoretical and general   question of the aim of the struggle and the class content of a victorious revolution in general, but with the narrower question of a provisional revolutionary government. The Bolshevik resolution read: ". . .The establishment of a democratic republic in Russia will be possible only as the result of a victorious popular uprising, whose organ will be a provisional revolutionary government.... Subject to the relation of forces and other factors which cannot be determined exactly beforehand, representatives of our Party may participate in the provisional revolutionary government for the purpose of waging a relentless struggle against all attempts at counter-revolution, and of defending the independent interests of the working class.” The Menshevik resolution read: "...Social-Democracy must not set out to seize power or share it with anyone in the provisional government, but must remain the party of extreme revolutionary opposition.”

It is evident from the above that the Bolsheviks them selves, at an all-Bolshevik Congress, did not include in their official resolution any such “formula” as the dictator ship of the proletariat and the peasantry, but stated only that it was permissible to participate in the provisional government, and that it was the “mission” of the proletariat to “play the leading role” (resolution on armed uprising). The “formula”: “revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry”, given in the Bolshevik press before the Third Congress, was repeated in the pamphlet Two Tactics[2] after that Congress, and it never entered anybody’s head to accuse the Bolsheviks of saying one thing in their resolutions and another thing in their commentaries. It never entered anybody’s head to demand that the resolutions of a mass party engaged in political struggle should tally, word for word, with the formulas giving a Marxist definition of the class content of a Victorious revolution.

Another important conclusion to be drawn from our historical enquiry is this. In the spring of 1905 the key issue of the controversy for both sections of the Party was the conquest of power by the proletariat and the revolutionary classes in general, and neither section went into the question of what the relations between these classes conquering   power might or should be. As we have seen, the Mensheviks reject both the seizing and the sharing of power. The Bolsheviks speak of the “leading role of the proletariat in the revolution” (resolution on the armed uprising) and say that Social-Democrats “may” participate in a provisional government; that the “independence of the Social-Democratic Party, which aims at the complete socialist revolution should be firmly safeguarded” (resolution on the provisional revolutionary government); that the revolutionary movement, of the peasants should be “supported”, that “the revolutionary-democratic content of the peasant movement should he cleared of reactionary impurities”, that “the revolutionary consciousness of the peasants should be developed, and their democratic demands carried to their logical conclusion” (resolution on the attitude to be adopted to the peasant movement). The resolutions of the Bolshevik Congress of 1905 contain no other “formulas” on the relations between the proletariat and the peasantry.

Now let us take the draft resolutions of the two sections a year later, before the Stockholm Congress. These drafts are often forgotten or ignored in the press in general, and in our Party in particular. That is a great pity, for their significance in the history of the tactical principles of Social-Democracy is enormous. It is these draft resolutions which show what lessons the two sections of the Party drew from the experience of the struggles of October and December 1905.

The Bolsheviks in their draft resolution on the class aims of the proletariat write: “Only the proletariat can bring the democratic revolution to its consummation, the condition being that the proletariat, as the only thoroughly revolutionary class in modern society, leads the mass of the peasantry, and imparts political consciousness to its spontaneous struggle against landed proprietorship and the feudal state” (repeated in the draft resolution for the London Congress, see Proletary, No. 14, March 4, 1907[3] ).

Thus the “formula” which the Bolsheviks here chose for themselves reads: the proletariat leading the peasantry. The Bolshevik resolutions contain no other formula to express the idea of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the   proletariat and the peasantry. This fact cannot be too strongly emphasised, for it is in the hope of its being. forgotten or ignored that Comrade Martov attempts to place the resolution adopted at the December Conference of ’1908 in a totally false light.

The Mensheviks in their draft resolution (reprinted in Lenin’s “Report”, pp. 68–70, from Partiiniye Izvestia[5]) say that it is the task of the proletariat “to be the driving force of the bourgeois revolution”. Please note: not the “leader”, not the “guide”, as the Bolshevik resolution says, but the “driving force”. And among the tasks enumerated is that of “supporting by mass pressure such oppositional steps of the bourgeois democrats as do not clash with the demands in our programme, as may promote their fulfilment and be come the point of departure for the further advancement of the revolution”.

Thus, the difference between them is reduced by the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks themselves to the alternative: “leader” and “guide” of the revolution, who “leads” the peasantry, or “driving force of the revolution”, which “supports” the various steps taken by the bourgeois democrats. We would add that the Mensheviks, who were the victors at the Stockholm Congress, themselves withdrew this resolution in spite of the protests and insistence of the Bolsheviks. Why did the Mensheviks do it? The reader will find the answer to this question when he reads the following passage from the same Menshevik draft resolution: “The proletariat can properly fulfil its task as the driving force of the bourgeois revolution only by organising itself while at the same time drawing more and more new sections of the town bourgeoisie and the peasantry into the revolutionary struggle, democratising their demands, stimulating them to organise and there by paving the way for the victory of the revolution."

This is obviously a half-hearted concession to the Bolsheviks. for the proletariat is depicted not only as a driving force, but to some extent at least as a leader, since it “draws” and “stimulates” the peasantry and new sections of the town bourgeoisie.

To proceed. On the question of the provisional government, the Menshevik draft resolution reads: “In the event of a general revolutionary upsurge in the country, the   Social-Democrats must everywhere promote the formation of Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, stimulate other revolutionary-democratic elements to form similar bodies, promote the union of all these bodies into general non-party organisations of popular revolutionary struggle, putting before them those general national tasks of the revolution which from the proletarian point of view can and should be fulfilled at the given stage of the revolution” (ibid., p. 91).

This forgotten draft resolution of the Mensheviks clearly shows that the experience of October-December 1905 completely bewildered the Mensheviks, who surrendered their position to the Bolsheviks. Indeed, is the passage quoted above compatible with the following point in the same draft.: “The Social-Democrats must not set out to seize power and establish a dictatorship in the present bourgeois revolution” (p. 92)? This last proposition is quite consistent in principle, and (except where it refers to “sharing power”) is an exact repetition of the resolution of 1905. But it hopelessly contradicts the lessons of October-December 1905 which the Mensheviks themselves reduce to the union 01 all bodies of the proletariat and “other revolutionary-democratic elements” into “general non-party organisations of popular revolutionary struggle"! If the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies “unite” with similar revolutionary-democratic bodies into non-party organisations of popular revolutionary struggle, it is obvious that the proletariat does set out to “seize power and establish a dictatorship”, that it is taking part in such seizure of power. The resolution itself says that “the main object” of the revolution is to “wrest political power from the hands of the reactionary government”. Although shying at the words “seizure of power and dictatorship”, and renouncing these terrible things in the most emphatic manner, the Mensheviks were forced to admit after 1905 that the “union of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies with “similar” revolutionary-democratic bodies followed logically from the course of events, and that this union must result in the formation of “general non-party” (this is not quite correct; it should have read: non-party or inter-party) “organisations of popular revolutionary struggle”. But this general organisation is nothing else than a provisional revolutionary government! Afraid to use the exact and direct term, the   Mensheviks replaced it by a description; but that does not alter matters. “An organ of popular revolutionary struggle”, that “wrests political power” from the hands of the old government is nothing more nor less than a provisional revolutionary government.

While the Mensheviks had to take into account the lessons of October-December 1905 after much blundering and stumbling, the Bolsheviks arrived at their conclusions directly and clearly. The Bolshevik draft resolution on the provisional government declares: “In this open struggle [at the end of 1905] those elements among the local population who were capable of determined action against the old regime (almost exclusively the proletariat and the advanced sections of the petty bourgeoisie) were impelled by necessity to set up organisations which were in effect the rudiments of a new revolutionary authority—the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies in St. Petersburg, Moscow and other cities, the Soviets of Soldiers’ Deputies in Vladivostok, Krasnoyarsk, etc., the Railwaymen’s Committees in Siberia and in the south, the Peasant Committees in Saratov Gubernia, the Revolutionary City Committees in Novorossiisk and elsewhere and, lastly, the elected rural bodies in the Caucasus and the Baltic region” (p. 92). The failure of these bodies was due to their disunited and rudimentary state, we read further, while the provisional revolutionary government is defined as the “organ of victorious uprising”. The resolution goes on to say: “In order to carry the revolution through to victory, the proletariat is now faced with the urgent task of promoting, jointly with the revolutionary democrats, the unification of the insurrection and of forming a co-ordinating centre for this insurrection in the shape of a provisional revolutionary government.” Then follows an almost verbatim repetition of the resolution passed by the Third Congress in 1905.

These quotations from the draft resolutions of the two sections before the Stockholm Congress enable us to put the question of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry on a concrete historical basis. Anyone who desires to give a clear and straightforward answer to this question must take into account the experience of the end of 1905. Those who evade examining this experience   will not only be ignoring material of the utmost value to a Russian Marxist. They will furthermore inevitably doom themselves to the “pettifogging” interpretation of formulas, to “slurring over” and “pasting over” (to use Comrade Martov’s apt expression) disagreements on matters of principle and to that very unprincipled floundering on questions of the theory and practice of “dictatorship” that is expressed best of all by the formula: “The movement is everything, the ultimate aim—nothing.”[6]

The experience of the end of 1905 has undoubtedly proved that “a general revolutionary upsurge in the country” produces special “organisations of popular revolutionary struggle” (according to the Menshevik formula) or “rudimentary organs of a new revolutionary authority” (according to that of the Bolsheviks). It is equally beyond doubt that in the history of the Russian bourgeois revolution these organs were created, first, by the proletariat, and secondly “by other revolutionary-democratic elements”; and a simple reference to the composition of the population of Russia in general, and of Great Russia in particular, will show that the peasantry represent the vast majority of these other elements. Lastly, no less beyond doubt is the historical tendency of these local bodies or organisations to amalgamate. The conclusion that inevitably follows from these undoubted facts is that a victorious revolution in present-day Russia cannot be anything but the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. Nobody can get away from this inevitable conclusion, except by “pettifogging” and “pasting over” disagreements! If fragments of the question are not torn from their context, if town and country and the various localities are not artificially and arbitrarily separated, if the question of th˜ composition of this or that government is not substituted for the question of the dictatorship of classes—in short, if the question is examined as a whole, then nobody can prove by concrete examples taken from the experience of 1905 that a victorious revolution could be anything else than the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.

But before going any further, let us finish with the Party history of the “formula” we are examining. We have seen how the two sections precisely formulated their views in   1905 and in 1906. In 1907, on the eve of the London Congress, the Mensheviks first proposed one draft resolution on the attitude towards the bourgeois parties (Narodnaya Duma[7], 1907, No. 12, March 24, 1907) and at the Congress itself they proposed another. The first draft talks about “combining” the actions of the proletariat with the actions of other classes; the second talks about “utilising” the movement of other classes “for the aims” of the proletariat, and about “support” by the proletariat of certain “oppositional and revolutionary steps” made by other classes, and about Social-Democrats entering into “agreements” with the liberal and democratic classes in “certain definite cases”.

The Bolshevik draft, like the resolution adopted by the London Congress, says that the Social-Democrats should “compel them [the Narodnik or Trudovik parties “which more or less closely express the interests and the viewpoint of the broad mass of the peasants and the town petty bourgeoisie”] to side with the Social-Democrats against the Black Hundreds and the Cadets” and that the “joint actions following from this” should “serve only to promote a general onset”. The resolution as adopted by the Congress differs from the Bolsheviks’ draft in that it contains the additional words, insert ed on the initiative of a Polish delegate: “in the struggle to carry the revolution through to victory”. This, once again, most clearly reaffirmed the idea of the revolutionary- democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry; for such a dictatorship is “joint action” by these classes, which have “carried, or are carrying, the revolution through to victory”!


[1] See present edition, Vol. 8, pp. 293–303.—Ed.

[2] See present edition, Vol. 9, pp. 15–140.—Ed.

[3] See present edition, Vol. 12, p. 139.—Ed.

[4] Vperyod (Forward)—an illegal Bolshevik weekly, published in Geneva from December 22, 1904 (January 4, 1905) to May 5 (18), 1905. Eighteen issues were put out. The newspaper’s organiser, manager, and ideological guide was Lenin. Other members of the editorial board were V. V. Vorovsky, M. S. Olminsky and A. V. Lunacharsky.

The outstanding role which the newspaper played in combating Menshevism, restoring partyism, and formulating and elucidating the tactical issues posed by the rising revolution was acknowledged in a special resolution of the Third Party Congress, which recorded a vote of thanks to the editorial board.

[5] Partiiniye Izvestia (Party News)—a newspaper, the organ of the United Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P., published illegally in   St. Petersburg on the eve of the Fourth (Unity) Congress of the Party. Two issues were put out: on February 7 (20) and March 20 (April 2), 1906. The editorial board was set up on a parity basis comprising editors from the Bolshevik newspaper Proletary and from the Menshevik newspaper the new Iskra. Bolshevik members of the editorial board, among others, were Lenin and Lunacharsky. After the Fourth Congress of the Party Partiiniye Izvestia closed down.

[6]The movement is everything, the ultimate aim—nothing"—the formula advanced by E. Bernstein, leader of the extreme opportunist wing of the German Social-Democrats and the Second International, and the theoretician of revisionism and reformism.

[7] Narodnaya Duma (People’s Duma)—a Menshevik daily published in St. Petersburg in March-April 1907.

  | II  

Works Index   |   Volume 15 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index
< backward   forward >