V. I.   Lenin

Impending Debacle

Published: Pravda No. 57, May 27 (14), 1917. Published according to the text in Pravda.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 24, pages 395-397.
Translated: Isaacs Bernard
Transcription\Markup: B. Baggins and D. Walters
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive 1999 (2005). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

News, speculation, apprehensions and rumours of an impending disaster are becoming more and more frequent. The capitalist newspapers are trying to frighten people; they are fulminating against the Bolsheviks and making play of Kutler’s cryptic allusions to “a certain” factory, to “certain” factories, to “a certain” enterprise, and so forth. Peculiar methods, strange “proofs”. Why not name a definite factory? Why not give the public and the workers a chance to verify these rumours, which are deliberately calculated to excite alarm?

It should not be difficult for the capitalists to understand that by withholding the exact facts about definite specified factories they are only making themselves ridiculous. Why, gentlemen—you capitalists are the government, you have ten out of the sixteen ministers, you bear the responsibility, you give the orders. Is it not ridiculous that people who run the government, people who have a majority in it, should confine themselves to Kutler’s anonymous references, should be afraid to come out in the open and should try to shift responsibility to other parties that are not at the helm of the state?

The newspapers of the petty-bourgeois parties, the Narodniks and Mensheviks, are also complaining, though in a somewhat different tone. They do not so much level accusations against the terrible Bolsheviks (that, of course, is all in the day’s work) as heap one good wish upon another. Most typical in this respect is Izvestia, which is run by a bloc of the two above-named parties. In its issue No. 63 for May 11 are two articles on the subject of combating economic chaos. The articles are identical in character. One of them,   to put it mildly, is injudiciously headed (altogether as “injudicious” as the very fact of the Narodniks and Mensheviks joining the imperialist cabinet): “What Does the Provisional Government Want?” It would have been more correct to say: “What the Provisional Government Does Not Want and What It Promises.”

The other article is a “resolution of the Economic Department of the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies”. Here are some quotations from it, best illustrative of its contents:

Many branches of industry are ripe for a state trade monopoly (grain, meat, salt, leather), others are ripe for the organisation of state—controlled trusts (coal, oil, metallurgy, sugar, paper); and, finally, present conditions demand in the case of nearly all branches of industry state control of the distribution of raw materials and manufactures, as well as price filing... Simultaneously, it is necessary to place all banking institutions under state and public control in order to combat speculation in goods subject to state control.... At the same time, the most energetic measures should be taken against the workshy, even if labour conscription has to be introduced for that purpose.... The country is already in a state of catastrophe, and the only thing that can save it is the creative effort of the whole nation headed by a government which has consciously shouldered [ahem! ahem!] the stupendous task of rescuing a country ruined by war and the tsarist regime.”

With the exception of the last phrase beginning with the words we have italicised, a phrase which with purely philistine credulity places on the “shoulders” of the capitalists tasks they are incapable of fulfilling, the programme is an excel lent one. ’We have here control, state-controlled trusts, the combating of speculation, labour conscription—in what way does this differ from “terrible” Bolshevism, what more could these “terrible” Bolsheviks want?

That is just the point, that is the crux of the matter, that is just what petty bourgeois and philistines of all shades and colours stubbornly refuse to see. They are forced to accept the programme of “terrible” Bolshevism, because no other programme offers a way out of the really calamitous debacle that is impending. But—there is this but—the capitalists “accept” this programme (see the famous section 3 of the declaration of the “new” Provisional Government[1]) in order not to carry it out. And the Narodniks and Mensheviks trust the capitalists, and encourage the people to share this   fatal trust. That is the sum and substance of the political situation.

Control over the trusts, with publication of their full reports, with immediate conferences of their employees, with the unqualified participation in this control of the workers themselves, with independent control on the part of representatives of every important political party—all this can be introduced by decree which can be drafted in a single day.

What is the difficulty then, Citizens Shingaryovs, Tereshchenkos, Konovalovs? What is stopping you, citizens, near-socialist ministers Chernov and Tsereteli? What is stopping you, Citizens Narodnik and Menshevik leaders of the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies?

Neither we nor anybody else could have proposed anything but the immediate establishment of such control over the trusts, banks, trade, food supply, and the workshy (a surprisingly good word to come from the pen of the Izvestia editors!). Nothing better could be devised than “the creative effort of the whole nation”.

Only we must not trust the word of the capitalists; we must not believe the naive (at best, naive) hope of the Mensheviks and Narodniks that the capitalists can establish such control.

A debacle is impending. Disaster is imminent. The capitalists are heading all countries to destruction. There is only one way out: revolutionary discipline, revolutionary measures by the revolutionary class, the proletarians and semi proletarians, the transfer of all power in the state to that class, a class that is really capable of instituting such control, that is able to cope effectively with the “workshy”.


[1] The Declaration referred to was issued on May 6 (19), 1917 by the first coalition Provisional Government. Paragraph 3 of this document read: “The Provisional Government will redouble its determined efforts to combat economic disorganisation by developing planned state and public control of production, transport, commerce and distribution of products, and where necessary will resort also to the organisation of production.”

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