V. I. Lenin

The Bolsheviks Must Assume Power[1]

A Letter to the Central Committee and the Petrograd And Moscow Committees Of The R.S.D.L.P.(B.)

Written: September 12-14, 1917
First Published: 1921 in Proetarskyaya Revolutsia No. 2
Source:Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 19-21
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


The Bolsheviks, having obtained a majority in the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies of both capitals, can and must take state power into their own hands.

They can because the active majority of revolutionary elements in the two chief cities is large enough to carry the people with it, to overcome the opponent’s resistance, to smash him, and to gain and retain power. For the Bolsheviks, by immediately proposing a democratic peace, by immediately giving the land to the peasants and by reestablishing the democratic institutions and liberties which have been mangled and shattered by Kerensky, will form a government which nobody will be able to overthrow.

The majority of the people are on our side. This was proved by the long and painful course of events from May 6 to August 31 and to September 12.[2] The majority gained in the Soviets of the metropolitan cities resulted from the people coming over to our side. The wavering of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks and the increase in the number of internationalists within their ranks prove the same thing.

The Democratic Conference represents not a majority of the revolutionary people, but only the compromising upper strata of the petty bourgeoisie. We must not be deceived by the election figures: elections prove nothing. Compare the elections to the city councils of Petrograd and Moscow with the elections to the Soviets. Compare the elections in Moscow with the Moscow strike of August 12. Those are objective facts regarding that majority of revolutionary elements that are leading the people.

The Democratic Conference is deceiving the peasants; it is giving them neither peace nor land.

A Bolshevik government alone will satisfy the demands of the peasants.

* * *

Why must the Bolsheviks assume power at this very moment?

Because the impending surrender of Petrograd will make our chances a hundred times less favourable.

And it is not in our power to prevent the surrender of Petrograd while the army is headed by Kerensky and Co.

Nor can we "wait" for the Constituent Assembly, for by surrendering Petrograd Kerensky and Co. can always frustrate its convocation. Our Party alone, on taking power, can secure the Constituent Assembly’s convocation; it will then accuse the other parties of procrastination and will be able to substantiate its accusations.

A separate peace between the British and German imperialists must and can be prevented, but only by quick action.

The people are tired of the waverings of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries. It is only our victory in the metropolitan cities that will carry the peasants with us.

* * *

We are concerned now not with the "day", or "moment" of insurrection in the narrow sense of the word. That will be only decided by the common voice of those who are in contact with the workers and soldiers, with the masses.

The point is that now, at the Democratic Conference, our Party has virtually its own congress, and this congress (whether it wishes to or not) must decide the fate of the revolution.

The point is to make the task clear to the Party. The present task must be an armed uprising in Petrograd and Moscow (with its region), the seizing of power and the overthrow of the government. We must consider how to agitate for this without expressly saying as much in the press.

We must remember and weigh Marx’s words about insurrection, "Insurrection is an art", [6] etc.

* * *

It would be naive to wait for a "formal" majority for the Bolsheviks. No revolution ever waits for that. Kerensky and Co. are not waiting either, and are preparing to surrender Petrograd. It is the wretched waverings of the Democratic Conference that are bound to exhaust the patience of the workers of Petrograd and Moscow! History will not forgive us if we do not assume power now.

There is no apparatus? There is an apparatus—the Soviets and the democratic organisations. The international situation right now, on the eve of the conclusion of a separate peace between the British and the Germans, is in our favour. To propose peace to the nations right now means to win.

By taking power both in Moscow and in Petrograd at once (it doesn’t matter which comes first, Moscow may possibly begin), we shall win absolutely and unquestionably.

N. Lenin



[1] These letters were discussed by the Central Committee on September 15 (28), 1917, which decided to call a meeting shortly to discuss tactics. The following question was put to the vote: preservation of only one copy of Lenin’s letters. The vote was six in favour, four against and six abstentions. Kamenev, an opponent of the Party’s course towards a socialist revolution, motioned a resolution aimed against Lenin’s proposals to organise an armed uprising. Kamenev’s motion was defeated.

[2] Mar 6: announcement of the first coalition Provisional Government; August 31: the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies passed a Bolshevik resolution calling for the establishment of a Soviet Government; September 12: the date set by the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and the Executive Committee of the All-Russia Soviet of Peasants’ Deputies, both dominated by socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, for the convocation of a Democratic Conference. The Democratic Conference took place in Petrograd, September 14-22. See here for more details.