V. I.   Lenin

“The Great Withdrawal”

Published: First published in Pravda No. 76, June 21 (8), 1917. Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 25, pages 60-62.
Transcription\Markup: D. Walters and C. Farrell
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The great withdrawal of the bourgeoisie from the government." This is what the main speaker of the Executive Committee, in a report he submitted last Sunday, called the formation of the coalition government and the entry of former socialists into the Ministry.

Only the first three words in this phrase are correct. "The great withdrawal" does indeed characterise and explain May 6 (the formation of the coalition government). It was on that day that "the great withdrawal" really began, or, to be exact, manifested itself most clearly. Only, it was not a great withdrawal of the bourgeoisie from the government but a great withdrawal of the Menshevik and Narodnik leaders fromthe revolution.

The significance of the Congress of Soviets of Soldiers’ and Workers’ Deputies now in session lies in the fact that it has made this circumstance clearer than ever.

May 6 was a triumph for the bourgeoisie. The bourgeois government was on the verge of defeat. The masses were definitely and absolutely, sharply and irreconcilably opposed to it. One word from the Narodnik and Menshevik leaders of the Soviet would have sufficed to induce the government to relinquish its power unquestioningly. Lvov had to admit that openly at the sitting in the Mariinsky Palace.

The bourgeoisie resorted to a skilful manoeuvre which was new to the Russian petty bourgeoisie and to Russia’s masses in general, which intoxicated the intellectual Menshevik and Narodnik leaders, and which took proper account of their Louis Blanc nature. The reader may recall that Louis Blanc was a renowned petty-bourgeois socialist who entered   the French Government in 1848 and became as sadly famed in 1871. Louis Blanc imagined himself to be the leaderof the "labour democrats" or ’socialist democrats" (the term “democracy” was used in the France of 1848 as frequently as in Socialist-Revolutionary[1] and Menshevik writing in 1917), but in reality he was the tail-endof the bourgeoisie, a play thing in their hands.

During the almost seventy years that have elapsed since then, that manoeuvre, which is a novelty in Russia, has been made many times by the bourgeoisie in the West. The purpose of this manoeuvre is to make the "socialist democratic" leaders who “withdraw” from socialism and from the revolution harmless appendagesof a bourgeois government, to shield this government from the people by means of near-socialist Ministers, to cover up the counter-revolutionary nature of the bourgeoisie by a glittering, spectacular faíade of “socialist” ministerialism.

This method has been developed to a veritable art in France. It has also been tested on many occasions in Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, and many of the Latin countries. It is this manoeuvre that was made in Russia on May 6, 1917.

Our” near-socialist Ministers found themselves in a situation in which the bourgeoisie began to use themas their cat’s paw, to do through themwhat the bourgeoisie could never have done without them.

Through Guchkov it would have been impossible to lure the people into continuing the imperialist,predatory war, a war for redivisionof the colonies and annexed territories in general. Through Kerensky (and Tsereteli, who was busier defending Tereshchenko than defending the post and telegraph workers), the bourgeoisie were able, as correctly admitted by Milyukov and Maklakov, to begin “organising” the continuation of this kind of war.

Through Shingaryov it would have been impossible to ensure the preservation of the landed estates system at least until the convocation of the Constituent Assembly (if an offensive were to take place, it would “enable Russia to re cover completely", said Maklakov. That means that the Constituent Assembly itself would be “healthier”). Through Chernov, this can be brought about. The peasants have been told, although they have not been very glad to hear it, that   to rent land from the landowners by agreement with each individual owner is “order”, while to abolish the landed estates at one stroke and rent from the people,pending the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, land formerly owned by the landowners is “anarchy”. This counter-revolutionary idea of the landowners could only be put into effect through Chernov.

Through Konovalov it would have been impossible to ensure the safeguarding (and the increase—seewhat the ministerial newspaper, Rabochaya Gazeta, writes about the coal industrialists) of the scandalous profits from war contracts. Through Skobelev, or with his participation, this safeguarding can be ensured by allegedly preserving the old order, by near-“Marxist” rejection of the possibility of “introducing” socialism.

Becausesocialism cannot be introduced the scandalously high profits made by the capitalists not from their purely capitalist business but from supplies to the armed forces, to thestate—these profits canbe both concealed from the people and retained!—this is the wonderful Struvean argument which has brought together Tereshchenko and Lvov, on the one hand, and the “Marxist” Skobelev, on the other.

Popular meetings and the Soviets cannot be influenced through Lvov, Milyukov, Tereshchenko, Shingaryov and the rest. But they can be influenced through Tsereteli, Chernov and Co. in the same old bourgeois direction. And one can pursue the same oldbourgeois-imperialist policy by means of particularly impressive, particularly “nice”-sounding phrases, to the point of denying the people the elementary democratic right to electlocal authorities and prevent both their appointment and confirmation from above.

By denying this right, Tsereteli, Chernov and Co. have unwittingly turned from ex-socialists into ex-democrats.

A “great withdrawal", all right!


[1] Socialist-Revolutionaries (S.R.s)—a petty-bourgeois party founded in Russia in late 1901 and early 1902 as a result of the amalgamation of various Narodnik groups and circles. Their views were an eclectic hodgepodge of Narodnik and revisionist ideas. During the First World War most of the S.R.s advocated social-chauvinist views.

After the February bourgeois-democratic revolution of 1917 the S.R.s and Mensheviks were the mainstay of the counter– revolutionary, bourgeois-landowner Provisional Government, and S.R. leaders (Kerensky, Avksentyev, Chernov) were members of the cabinet. The S.R. Party refused to support the peasants’ demand for the abolition of the landed estates, and advocated their preservation. The S.R. numbers of the Provisional Government sent punitive expeditions against peasants who had seized landed estates.

At the end of November 1917 the Left S.R.s formed an independent party. To retain their influence on the peasants, they nominally recognised Soviet power and reached agreement with the Bolsheviks. But shortly afterwards they began to fight against Soviet rule.

During the foreign military intervention and the Civil War the S.R.s engaged in counter-revolutionary subversion, actively supported the invaders and whiteguards, took part in counter– revolutionary conspiracies, and organised acts of terrorism against Soviet statesmen and Communist Party leaders. After the Civil War they continued their hostile activity inside the country and abroad, where they joined the White émigrés.

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