First published in Pravda No. 88, July 5 (June 22), 1917.
Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 25, pages 118-120.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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They have brought it to a state of subjection to the imperialists.
The offensive is a renewal of the imperialist war. Nothing essential has changed in the relations between the two gigantic capitalist blocs waging war on one another. Even after the revolution of February 27, Russia remains under the complete sway of the capitalists, who are bound to Anglo- French imperialist capital by alliance and by the old, tsarist, secret treaties. Both ·the economics and politics of the continuing war are the same as before: the same old imperialist banking capital dominating economic life, and the same old secret treaties, the same old foreign policy of alliances of one group of imperialists against another.
The empty phrases of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries are still empty phrases, in practice only serving to adorn the resumption of the imperialist war, which quite naturally meets with enthusiastic howls of approval from all the counter-revolutionaries, the whole bourgeoisie, and Plekhanov, “who tails after the bourgeois press”, as the Menshevik Rabochaya Gazeta put it, which itself tails after the whole horde of social-chauvinists.
But we must not overlook the distinguishing features of this particular resumption of the imperialist war. The resumption came after three months of hesitation, during which time the mass of workers and peasants thousands of times expressed their condemnation of a war of conquest (while continuing in practice to support the government of the predatory Russian bourgeoisie bent on conquest). The masses hesitated, as though they were about to carry out at home the advice which the March 14 appeal to the peoples of the world gave to other peoples, namely, “Refuse to serve as tools of conquest and violence in the hands of the bankers!” But here at home, in “revolutionary-democratic” Russia, the masses have remained in effect an instrument of conquest and violence in “the hands of the bankers”.
A distinguishing feature of this situation is that it was created by the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik par ties at a time when the people enjoyed a comparatively large measure of freedom of organisation. It is these par ties that have gained the majority at the moment: the All- Russia Congress of Soviets and the All-Russia Peasants’ Congress have undoubtedly proved this.
It is these parties that are at present responsible for Russia’s policy.
It is these parties that are responsible for the resumption of the imperialist war, for more hundreds of thousands of lives sacrificed virtually with the aim of enabling certain capitalists to “overcome” other capitalists, and for the further aggravation of the economic dislocation inevitably resulting from the offensive.
Here we had, in the purest form, the self-deception of the petty-bourgeois masses and the deception of them by the bourgeoisie with the aid of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. These parties both claim to be “revolutionary democrats”. But in fact it was they who placed the people’s fate in the hands of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie, the Cadets; it was they who deserted the revolution to continue the imperialist war, who deserted democracy to make “concessions” to the Cadets on the issue of power (take, for instance, the “confirmation” from above of the election of authorities by the local population), on the land issue (the Mensheviks’ and Socialist-Revolutionaries’ renunciation of their own programme, namely, to support the revolutionary actions of the peasants, including confiscation of the landed estates), and on the national question (defence of the undemocratic attitude of the Cadets towards the Ukraine and Finland).
The petty-bourgeois masses cannot help vacillating between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. This has been the case in all countries, especially between 1789 and 1871. And it is also the case in Russia. The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries have induced the masses to submit to the policy of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie.
That is the heart of the matter. That is the meaning of the offensive. That is the peculiarity of the situation: it was not violence, but trust in the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks that led the people astray.
Will it be for long?
No, not long. The masses will learn from their own experience. The sad experience of the new stage of the war (a stage already begun), of further ruin accentuated by the offensive, will inevitably lead to the political downfall of the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties.
The task of the workers’ party is, first of all, to help the masses realise and take proper account of this experience, to prepare properly for this great downfall, which will show the masses their true leader—the organised urban proletariat.