V. I. Lenin

Meeting Of The All-Russia
Central Executive Committee

November 4 (17), 1917

Delivered: 4 November, 1917
First Published: Izvestia No. 218, 7 November 1917; Published according to Izvestia text, Resolution on the resignation, according to the text of Minutes of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee of Soviets of Workers’s, Soldier’s, Peasant’s and Cossack’s Deputies, Second Convocation, Moscow, 1918.
Source:Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 285-293
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov and George Hanna, Edited by George Hanna
Transcription & HTML Markup: Charles Farrell and David Walters
Online Version: Lenin Internet Archive November, 2000



Speech On The Press

Comrade Karelin assured us that the way he was taking led to socialism, but I am afraid this would be marching to socialism backwards. Trotsky was right: the officer cadets staged their uprising, and war was declared in Petrograd and Moscow for freedom of the press. This time the Socialist-Revolutionaries did not act at all like socialists or revolutionaries. This week all the telegraph offices were in Kerensky’s hands. The Vikzhel was on their side. But they had no troops. It turned out that the army was on our side. The civil war was started by a handful of men. It is not over. Kaledin’s troops are approaching Moscow, and the shock troops are approaching Petrograd. We do not want a civil war. Our troops have shown great restraint. They held their fire, and it all began when three of our men were killed. Krasnov was given soft treatment. He was only placed under house arrest. We are against civil war. But if it nevertheless goes on what are we to do? Trotsky was right in asking in whose behalf you spoke? We asked Krasnov whether he could sign on behalf of Kaledin that the latter would not continue the war. He naturally replied that he could not. How can we stop retaliative measures against an enemy who has not stopped his hostile operations?

We shall negotiate when peace terms are offered to us. But so far peace is being offered to us by those on whom it does not depend. These are only fine words. After all, Rech is an organ of the Kaledinites. We can well allow that the Socialist-Revolutionaries are sincere, but it is, after all, a fact that Kaledin and Milyukov are behind them.

The firmer your stand, soldiers and workers, the more we shall gain. Otherwise they will say to us: “If they’ve let out Milyukov, they can’t be strong.” Earlier on we said that if we took power, we intended to close down the bourgeois newspapers. To tolerate the existence of these papers is to cease being a socialist. Those who say: “Open the bourgeois newspapers”, fail to understand that we are moving at full speed to socialism. After all, tsarist newspapers were closed down after the overthrow of tsarism. Now we have thrown off the bourgeois yoke. We did not invent the social revolution: it was proclaimed by the Congress of the Soviets—no one protested, all adopted the decree proclaiming it. The bourgeoisie proclaimed liberty, equality and fraternity. The workers say: “We want something else”. We are told that we are retreating. No, comrades, it is the Socialist-Revolutionaries who are returning to Kerensky. We are told that there are new elements in our resolution. Of course there are, because we are advancing to socialism. When the Socialist-Revolutionaries made speeches in the First and the Second Duma, they were also ridiculed for saying something new.

There should be a monopoly of private advertisements. The members of the printers’ union look at them from the point of view of income. They will get it, but in another form. We cannot provide the bourgeoisie with an opportunity for slandering us. We must appoint a commission right away to probe the ties between the banks and the bourgeois newspapers. What kind of freedom do these newspapers want? Isn’t it freedom to buy rolls of newsprint and hire crowds of pen-pushers? We must escape from the freedom of a press dependent on capital. This is a matter of principle. If we are to advance to socialism we cannot allow Kaledin’s bombs to be reinforced by the bombs of falsehood.

Of course, our draft law is not perfect. But it will be applied everywhere by the Soviets in accordance with their local conditions. We are not bureaucrats and do not want to insist on the letter of the law everywhere, as was the practice in the old government offices. I recall the Socialist-Revolutionaries saying that people in the countryside knew so very little. They were getting their information from Russkoye Slovo. We should blame ourselves for leaving the newspapers in the hands of the bourgeoisie. We must go forward, to a new society, and take the same attitude to the bourgeois newspapers as we did to the ultra-reactionary papers in February and March.


Reply To A Question From The Left Socialist-Revolutionaries

The Left Socialist-Revolutionaries’ question was answered by Lenin.[1] He recalled that in the first days of the revolution the Bolsheviks invited the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries to join the new government, but the group of Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who refused to share responsibility in those difficult, critical days with their neighbours on the Left, declined to collaborate with the Bolsheviks.

In its activity the new regime could not afford to reckon with all the obstacles which could arise in its way if it scrupulously observed all formalities. The situation was much too grave and allowed of no procrastination. There was no time to waste on smoothing off rough corners that merely changed outward appearances without altering the essence of the new measures. After all, the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets itself, brushing aside all difficulties of a formal nature, adopted two laws of world importance at one long sitting. These laws may have formal defects from the standpoint of bourgeois society, but power is, after all, in the hands of the Soviets, which can always make the necessary amendments. The Kerensky government’s criminal failure to act brought the country and the revolution to the brink of disaster: delay may indeed prove to be fatal, and the new regime is setting up milestones in the development of new forms of life by issuing laws to meet the aspirations and hopes of the broad masses. The local Soviets, depending on time and place, can amend, enlarge and add to the basic provisions worked out by the government. Creative activity at the grass roots is the basic factor of the new public life. Let the workers set up workers’ control at their factories. Let them supply the villages with manufactures in exchange for grain. Account must be taken of every single article, every pound of grain, because what socialism implies above all is keeping account of everything. Socialism cannot be decreed from above. Its spirit rejects the mechanical bureaucratic approach; living, creative socialism is the product of the masses themselves.


Speeches Concerning The Left Socialist-Revolutionaries’ Question


Lenin examines the concrete charges made against the Council of People’s Commissars. It first learned of Muravyov’s order[2] from the press, because the Commander-in-Chief had the power to issue emergency orders on his own authority. In view of the fact that the order did not contain anything clashing with the spirit of the new power, but was so worded that it could lead to undesirable misunderstandings, the Central Executive Committee has rescinded it. Furthermore, you criticise the Decree on Land. But it meets the demands of the people. You accuse us of schematising, but where are your own drafts, amendments and resolutions? Where are the fruits of your legislative activity? You were free to produce them. But we see nothing of them. You say we are extremists, but who are you? You are apologists for the sort of parliamentary obstruction that used to be known as scandal-mongering. If you are dissatisfied, why don’t you call another congress and act, but don’t talk about the collapse of power. Power is in the hands of our Party, which enjoys the confidence of the broad masses. Some of our comrades may have adopted a platform which has nothing in common with Bolshevism. But the mass of Moscow workers will not follow Rykov and Nogin. Comrade Proshyan said that in Finland, where the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries were in touch with the mass, they believed there was need for the closest collaboration within the entire Left wing of revolutionary socialism. The fact that the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries are not with us here merely shows that they have gone the way of their predecessors, the defencists. They have lost the common touch.


Lenin and Trotsky, referring to the example of the Party congresses and the need for them to submit to Party discipline, announce that they will take part in the voting.


Speech And Resolution On The Resignation Of A Group Of People’S Commissars From The Council Of Peoples Commissars

Comrade Lenin replies to the preceding speakers. lie says no internationalist can use the expression: “The West is disgracefully silent.” Only the blind fail to see the ferment among the working masses in Germany and the West. The top sections of the German proletariat and the socialist intelligentsia there, as everywhere else, are mostly defencists. But the lower strata of the proletariat are prepared to respond to our call in defiance of the will of their leaders. The fierce discipline of the German army and navy failed to prevent action by the opposition elements. The revolutionary sailors of the German navy, fully aware that their attempt was doomed, boldly went to their death in order to waken the spirit of revolt still dormant among the people. The Spartacus group is intensifying its revolutionary propaganda. The name of Liebknecht, a tireless fighter for proletarian ideals, is daily gaining in popularity in Germany.

We believe in the revolution in the West. We know that it is inevitable, but it cannot, of course, be made to order. Did we know last December what exactly would happen in the coming February? Did we, in September, know with any certitude at all that within a month the revolutionary democrats of Russia would carry out the world’s greatest revolution? We were aware that the old power was on top of a volcano. Many signs told us of the great work going on deep down in people’s minds. We felt that the air was charged with electricity. We were sure that it would inevitably explode in a purifying thunderstorm. But we could not predict the day and hour. We now see the same picture in Germany. There, too, there is a swelling undercurrent of dissatisfaction which will inevitably take the forms of a popular movement. We cannot decree a revolution, but we can help it along. We shall conduct organised fraternisation in the trenches and help the peoples of the West to start an invincible socialist revolution. Comrade Zaks further spoke about decreeing socialism. But doesn’t the present government urge the masses to create better forms of life themselves? You have the beginnings of socialism in the exchange of manufactured goods for grain, and the strict control and accounting of production. We are sure we are going to have a republic of labour. He who will not work, will have to go without food.

But to continue: what is the sign of our Party’s.isolation? It is the breakaway of a few intellectuals. But we daily find more and more support among the peasants. Victory will belong only to those who have faith in the people, those who are immersed in the life-giving spring of popular creativity.

Comrade Lenin then proposes to the Central Executive Committee the following resolution:

The Central Executive Committee authorises the Council of People’s Commissars to nominate, by the next sitting, candidates for the People’s Commissars of the Interior, and Trade and Industry, and invites Comrade Kolegayev to fill the post of People’s Commissar of Agriculture.


[1] The question was addressed to Lenin, as the Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, at a meeting of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee on November 4 (17), 1917, in connection with the issue of several decrees by the Council of People's Commissars without the sanction of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee. Having heard Lenin's explanations, the Left Socialist-Revolutionary group declared them to be unsatisfactory. Uritsky tabled a resolution on behalf of the Bolshevik group expressing full confidence in the government. Before the vote on the resolution, the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries declared that the People's Commissars, being parties in interest, should not take part in the voting. A majority of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee passed a resolution approving the government's activity.

[2] A reference to order No. 1 of November 1 (14), 1917, issued by the officer in command of the troops defending Petrograd, Muravyov, calling on the soldiers, sailors and Red Guardsmen to deal ruthlessly with any criminal elements. Because his wording could lead to undesirable consequences, the All-Russia Central Executive Committee on November 2 (15) asked the People's Commissariat of the Interior to rescind it.