V. I. Lenin

The Political Situation{1}


Written: Written on July 10 (23), 1917
Published: Published on August 2 (July 20), 1917 in Proletarskoye Dyelo No. 6. Printed from the original. Signed: W..
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 41, pages 440.2-443.1.
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) © 2004 Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.  

1. The counter-revolution has become organised and consolidated, and has actually taken state power into its hands.{2}

The complete organisation and consolidation of the counter-revolution consists in a combination of its three   main forces, a combination excellently conceived and already put into practice: (1) The Constitutional-Democratic Party, i.e., the real leader of the organised bourgeoisie, has, by withdrawing from the Cabinet, confronted it with an ultimatum, thus clearing the way for the Cabinet’s overthrow by the counter-revolution; (2) The General Staff and the military leaders, with the deliberate or semi-deliberate assistance of Kerensky, whom even the most prominent Socialist-Revolutionaries now call a Cavaignac, have seized actual state power and have proceeded to shoot down revolutionary units at the front, disarm the revolutionary troops and workers in Petrograd and Moscow, suppress unrest in Nizhny Novgorod, arrest Bolsheviks and ban their papers, not only without trial, but even without a government order. At present, basic state power in Russia is virtually a military dictatorship. This fact is still obscured by a number of institutions that are revolutionary in words but powerless in deeds. Yet it is so obvious and fundamental a fact that, without understanding it, one can not understand anything about the political situation. (3) The Black-Hundred-monarchist and bourgeois press, which has switched from hounding Bolsheviks to hounding the Soviets, the “incendiary” Chernov, etc., has indicated with the utmost clarity that the true meaning of the policy of military dictatorship, which now reigns supreme and is supported by the Cadets and monarchists, is preparation for disbanding the Soviets. Many of the leaders of the S.R.s and Mensheviks, i.e., the present majority in the Soviets, have admitted and expressed this during the past few days, but true to their petty-bourgeois nature, they shrug off this formidable reality with meaningless high-sounding phrases.

2. The leaders of the Soviets and of the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties, headed by Tsereteli and Chernov, have completely betrayed the cause of the revolution by putting it in the hands of the counter-revolutionaries and by turning themselves, their parties and the Soviets into mere fig-leaves of the counter-revolution.

Proof of this is that the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks have betrayed the Bolsheviks and have tacitly agreed to close down their papers without daring to tell   the people plainly and openly that they are doing so and why. By sanctioning the disarming of the workers and the revolutionary regiments, they have deprived themselves of all real power. They have turned into the most loud-mouthed ranters who help the reaction to “divert” the people’s attention until it is finally ready to disband the Soviets. It is impossible to understand anything at all about the present political situation without realising this complete and final bankruptcy of the S.R.s and Mensheviks and the present majority in the Soviets and without realising that their “Directory” and other masquerades are an absolute sham.

3. All hopes for a peaceful development of the Russian revolution have vanished for good. This is the objective situation: either complete victory for the military dictator ship, or victory for the workers’ armed uprising; the latter victory is only possible when it coincides with a deep mass upheaval, against the government and the bourgeoisie caused by economic disruption and the prolongation of the war.

The slogan “All Power to the Soviets!” was a slogan for peaceful development of the revolution which was possible in April, May, June, and up to July 5–9, i.e., up to the time when actual power passed into the hands of the military dictatorship. This slogan is no longer correct, for it does not take into account that power has changed hands and that the revolution has in fact been completely betrayed by the S.R.s and Mensheviks. Reckless actions, revolts, partial resistance, or hopeless hit-and-run attempts to oppose reaction will not help. What will help is a clear understanding of the situation, endurance and determination of the workers’ vanguard, preparation of forces for the armed uprising, for the victory of which conditions at present are extremely difficult, but still possible if the facts and trends mentioned in the thesis coincide. Let us have no constitutional or republican illusions of any kind, no more illusions about a peaceful path, no sporadic actions, no yielding now to provocation from the Black Hundreds and Cossacks. Let us muster our forces, reorganise them and resolutely prepare for the armed uprising, if the course of the crisis permits it on a really mass, country-wide scale. The transfer of land to the peasants is impossible at present   without an armed uprising, since the counter-revolutionaries, having taken power, have completely united with the landowners as a class.

The aim of the insurrection can only be to transfer power to the proletariat, supported by the poor peasants, with a view to putting our Party programme into effect.

4. The party of the working class, without abandoning legal activity but never for a moment overrating it, must c o m b i n e legal with illegal work, as it did in 1912–14.

Don’t let a single hour of legal work slip by. But don’t cherish any constitutional or “peaceful” illusions. Form illegal organisations or cells everywhere and at once for the publication of leaflets, etc. Reorganise immediately, consistently, resolutely, all along the line.

Act as we did in 1912–14, when we could speak about overthrowing tsarism by a revolution and an armed uprising, without at the same time losing our legal base in the Duma, the insurance societies, the trade unions, etc.


{1} The theses were written by Lenin on July 10 (23), 1917, and defined the new tactical line of the Bolshevik Party in connection with   the changed political situation following the fusillade of the workers’ and soldiers’ demonstration on July 4 (17) and the transfer of all power into the hands of the counter-revolutionary Provisional Government. The theses were discussed at an Enlarged Conference of the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.) together with representatives of the St. Petersburg Committee, the Military Organisation of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.) Central Committee, the Moscow Regional Bureau, the Moscow Committee and the Moscow District Committee, held on July 13 and 14 (26–27), 1917.

The theses were published in the form of an article tinder the title “Political Mood” on August 2 (July 20), 1917, in the newspaper Proletarskoye Dyelo. It was the organ of the Bolshevik group of the Kronstadt Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, and was published in place of the Bolshevik newspaper Golos Pravdy, Hosed down in July by the Provisional Government. When the manuscript was being prepared for the press, the subtitle “Four Theses” and points 1, 2, 3, 4, the words “in the thesis” and also the end of the article (beginning with the words “Form illegal organisations...) were deleted; the words “armed uprising” were replaced by the words “resolute struggle”.

The manuscript heading also contained the word “latest” in front of the words “Political Situation”, which was also crossed out, but there is no certainty that it was done in connection with the publication of the document in the legal press since in that case the word “situation” would have been replaced by the word “mood”. It should also be borne in mind that Lenin himself later mentioned in his “Aide memoire” (see Fifth Russian edition of the Collected Works, Vol. 34, pp. 443–44) his theses on “the political situation” (and not “the latest political situation”). Finally, this document, since its first publication as belonging to Lenin (1925), has gone down in the Party history and is known to everyone precisely as “The Political Situation”. Accordingly, the word “latest” has not been restored in Vol. 34 of the Fifth Russian edition of the Collected Works. p. 440

{2} Full power passed into the hands of the counter-revolutionary Provisional Government after the events of July 3–5, which were an expression of the most profound political crisis gripping the country. The failure of the Russian offensive at the front started by Kerensky on June 18 (31), the fresh sacrifices made for the benefit of the imperialists, the growth of unemployment in view of the closure of enterprises by the capitalists, the growing cost of living and the acute shortage of the foodstuffs caused an explosion of indignation among the broad masses of workers and soldiers over the counter-revolutionary policy of the Provisional Government. On July 3 (16) spontaneous demonstrations developed and threatened to grow into an armed uprising against the Provisional Government.

At the moment, the Bolshevik Party was against any armed action, for it believed that the revolutionary crisis had not yet matured, and that the army and the provinces were not yet ready   to support the uprising in the capital. A meeting of the Central Committee held on July 3 (16) together with the St. Petersburg Committee and the Military Organisation of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.) Central Committee, decided to refrain from taking any action. A similar decision was also taken by the Second Petrograd City Conference of the Bolsheviks then in session. The delegates went to the districts to restrain the masses from taking action. But it had already begun and it proved impossible to stop it.

In view of the mood of the masses, the Central Committee, together with the St. Petersburg Committee and the Military Organisation, late at night on July 3 (16), decided to participate in the demonstration on July 4 (17) so as to lend it a peaceful and organised character. At the time, Lenin was away: he was ill due to overwork and had gone to the countryside for a few days’ rest. When he was informed of the events, he returned to Petrograd on the morning of July 4 (17) and took over direction of the events.

More than 500,000 took part in the demonstration on July 4 (17). It was staged under Bolshevik slogans: “All power to the Soviets!” and others. The demonstrators nominated 90 representatives, who handed to the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets a demand for the transfer of all the power to the Soviets. However, the S. R. and Menshevik leaders refused to take over.

With the knowledge and consent of the Menshevik-S.R. Central Executive Committee, the Provisional Government decided to suppress the demonstration by armed force. Military cadet and counter-revolutionary Cossack regiments were thrown against the peaceable demonstration of workers and soldiers. They opened fire on the demonstrators. Reactionary-minded military units were summoned from the front.

The conference of members of the C.C. and the St. Petersburg Committee, held under Lenin’s direction on the night of July 4 (17), decided to stop the demonstration in an organised manner. This was a correct step taken by the Party, which succeeded in retreating at a right time and preserving the main forces of the revolution from being routed.

After the dispersal of the demonstration, the bourgeois Provisional Government continued its reprisals. It attacked the Bolshevik Party with special ferocity. The Bolshevik newspapers Pravda, Soldatskaya Pravda and others were closed down. Workers were disarmed, and arrests, searches and pogroms followed. The revolutionary units of the Petrograd garrison which had taken part in the demonstration were disbanded and sent to the front. The Mensheviks and S.R.s were accomplices of the counter-revolutionary butchers. p. 440

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