V. I.   Lenin

The Petty-Bourgeois Stand on the Question of Economic Disorganisation

Written: Written May 31 (June 13), 1917
Published: Published June 14 (1), 1917 in Pravda No. 70. Published according to the newspaper text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 24, pages 562-564.
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.

Novaya Zhizn today publishes a resolution introduced by Comrade Avilov at a meeting of shop committees. Unfortunately, this resolution must be regarded as an example of a petty-bourgeois attitude that is neither Marxist nor socialist. Because this resolution accentuates in sharp focus all the weaknesses peculiar to the Menshevik and Narodnik Soviet resolutions, it is typical and worthy of attention.

The resolution begins with an excellent general statement, with a splendid indictment of the capitalists: “The present economic debacle ... is a result of the war and the predatory anarchic rule of the capitalists and the government.” Correct! That capital is oppressive, that it is a predator, that it is the original source of anarchy—in this the petty bourgeois is ready to agree with the proletariat. But there the similarity ends. The proletarian regards capitalist economy as a robber economy, and therefore wages a class struggle against it, shapes his whole policy on unconditional distrust of the capitalist class, and in dealing with the question of the state his first concern is to distinguish which class the “state” serves, whose class interests it stands for. The petty bourgeois, at times, gets “furious” with capital, but as soon as the fit of anger is over he goes back to his old faith in the capitalists, to the hopes placed in the “state”.., of the capitalists!

The same thing has happened with Comrade Avilov.

After a splendid, strongly worded, formidable introduction accusing the capitalists and even the government of the capitalists of running a “robber” economy, Comrade Aviloy, throughout his resolution, in all its concrete substance   and all its practical proposals, forgets the class stand point, and, like the Mensheviks and Narodniks, lapses into bombast about the “state” in general, about “revolutionary democracy” in the abstract.

Workers! Predatory capital is creating anarchy and economic chaos, and the government of the capitalists, too, is ruling by anarchy. Salvation lies in control on the part of “the state with the co-operation of revolutionary democracy”. This is the substance of Avilov’s resolution.

What are you talking about, Comrade Avilov! How can a Marxist forget that the state is an organ of class rule? Is it not ridiculous to appeal to a capitalist state to take action against “predatory capitalists”?

How can a Marxist forget that in the history of all countries the capitalists, too, have often been “revolutionary democrats”, as in England in 1649, in France in 1789, in 1830, 1848, and 1870, and in Russia in February 1917?

Can you have forgotten that the revolutionary democracy of the capitalists, of the petty bourgeoisie and of the proletariat must be distinguished one from the other? Does not the whole history of all the revolutions I have just mentioned show a distinction of classes within “revolutionary democracy”?

To continue in Russia to speak of “revolutionary democracy” in general after the experience of February, March, April and May 1917 is to deceive the people knowingly or unknowingly, consciously or unconsciously. The “moment” of general fusion of classes against tsarism has come and gone. The very first agreement between the first “Provisional Committee” of the Duma and the Soviet marked the end of the class fusion and the beginning of the class struggle.

The April crisis (April 20), followed by that of May 6, then May 27–29 (the elections), etc., etc., have brought about a definite cleavage of classes in the Russian revolution within the Russian “revolutionary democracy”. To ignore this is to sink to the helpless level of the petty bourgeois.

To appeal now to the “state” and to “revolutionary democracy” on the matter of predatory capitalism of all questions, is to drag the working class backward. In effect it means preaching complete stoppage of the revolution. For our “state” today, after April, after May, is a state of “predator” capitalists,   who, in the persons of Chernov, Tsereteli and Co., have tamed a fairly considerable portion of “revolutionary (petty-bourgeois) democracy”.

This state is hindering the revolution everywhere, in all fields of home and foreign policy.

To hand over to this state the job of fighting the capitalist “predators” is like throwing the pike into the river.[1]


[1] [The offending pike, in Krylov’s fable, was sentenced to be drowned by being thrown into the river.]—Ed.

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