V. I.   Lenin

Can “Jacobinism” Frighten the Working Class?

Published: First published in Pravda No. 90, July 7 (June 24), 1917. Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 25, pages 121-122.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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The bourgeois and chauvinistic Dyen, an organ of “socialist thought” (don’t laugh!), returns in issue No. 91 to Rech’s really interesting editorial of June 18. Dyenhas completely failed to understand that editorial, in which a historian speaks out alongside an embittered counter-revolutionary bourgeois. Dyenreads into the editorial “the Cadets’ intention—which has become a firm resolve—to with draw from the coalition government”.

That is nonsense. The Cadets threaten so as to frighten the Tseretelis and Chernovs. That is not serious.

What is serious and interesting is how the Rech editorial on June 18 posed the question of power from a historian’s standpoint.

Whereas,” he wrote, “with the previous government composition it was possible, at least to some extent, to direct the course of the Russian revolution, from now on it is apparently destined to develop in accordance with the spontaneous laws of all revolutions.... The inadvisability of the further existence of a government arrangement that has not justified itself is a question already being put not only by the Bolsheviks [note this: not only by the Bolsheviks!] ... and not only by the majority in the Soviet.... It is a question which the capitalist Ministers themselves must raise.”

The historian is correct in admitting that not only the Bolsheviks, but the entire interrelation of classes, the life of society as a whole, has brought to the fore the question of “the inadvisability of the further existence of a government arrangement that has not justified itself”. What we actually have is vacillation. The offensive is a possible road to victory for the imperialist bourgeoisie. Is there any other possible road?

The historian in Rech answers this question as follows:

Once they have got ‘all power’ the Soviets will soon see that they have very little power. And they will have to make up for lack of power by resorting to the historically tested methods of the Young Turks[1] or the Jacobins... Will they, once the whole issue has again been raised, be willing to stoop to Jacobinism and terrorism, or will they make an attempt to wash their hands of it? This is the pressing question that will be answered in a few days.”

The historian is right. In a few days or not in a few days, that is the question that will soon be answered. Either the offensive, a turn to counter-revolution, a success (for how long?) for the cause of the imperialist bourgeoisie, “a washing of hands” by the Chernovs and Tseretelis, or “Jacobinism”.

Bourgeois historians see Jacobinism as a fall ("to stoop"). Proletarian historians see Jacobinism as one of the highest peaks in the emancipation struggle of an oppressed class. The Jacobins gave France the best models of a democratic revolution and of resistance to a coalition of monarchs against a republic. The Jacobins were not destined to win complete victory, chiefly because eighteenth-century France was surrounded on the continent by much too backward countries, and because France herself lacked the material basis for socialism, there being no banks, no capitalist syndicates, no machine industry and no railways.

Jacobinism” in Europe or on the boundary line between Europe and Asia in the twentieth century would be the rule of the revolutionary class, of the proletariat, which, supported by the peasant poor and taking advantage of the existing material basis for advancing to socialism, could not only provide all the great, ineradicable, unforgettable things provided by the Jacobins in the eighteenth century, but bring about a lasting world-wide victory for the working people.

It is natural for the bourgeoisie to hate Jacobinism. It is natural for the petty bourgeoisie to dread it. The class-conscious workers and working people generally put their trust in the transfer of power to the revolutionary, oppressed class for that is the essence of Jacobinism, the only way out of the present crisis, and the only remedy for economic dislocation and the war.


[1] Young Turks—European name of the members of Unity and Progress, a Turkish bourgeois and landowner nationalist party founded in Istanbul in 1889. They strove to restrict the sultan’s absolute power, transform the feudal empire into a bourgeois constitutional monarchy and thereby enhance the role of the Turkish bourgeoisie in the country’s economic and political life. In July 1908 they took power as a result of a revolution accomplished by the top section of the bourgeoisie, with support from the armed forces. The government they formed preserved the monarchy and pursued a reactionary policy. After Turkey had been defeated in the First World War (autumn 1918) the Young Turk Party dissolved itself.

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