Vladimir Lenin

Speech At A Meeting

At The Former Michelson Works

August 30. 1918[1]

Brief Newspaper Report

Delivered: 30 August, 1918.
First Published: 1 September, 1918 Izvestia No. 188, ; Published according to the Izvestia text
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 28, 1965, pages 51-52
Translated (and edited): Jim Riordan
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters
Online Version: V.I.Lenin Internet Archive, 2002

(Stormy applause passing into ovation.) We Bolsheviks are constantly being accused of forsaking the slogans of equality and fraternity. Let us now put things straight.

What government replaced the tsar? The Guchkov-Milyukov government, which set about convening a Constituent Assembly in Russia. What was behind these activities supposed to be in favour of the people liberated from their millennial oppression? It was that Guchkov and other champions were backed by a gang of capitalists, pursuing their own imperialist ends. And when Kerensky, Chernov and Co. were in the saddle, this government, tottering and without any foundation, was only concerned with the vested interests of their friends, the bourgeoisie. Power in fact passed into the hands of the kulaks, and the working people got nothing. We find the same thing in other countries. Take America, the freest and most civilised country. There you have a democratic republic. But what do we find? The brazen rule of a handful, not even of millionaires, but multimillionaires, while the people are in slavery and servitude. Where is your much vaunted equality and fraternity if the mills, factories, banks, and all the country’s wealth belong to the capitalists, and side by side with the democratic republic you have feudal servitude for millions of workers and unrelieved destitution?

No, wherever “democrats” are in power, you have real, barefaced robbery. We know the true nature of the so-called democracies.

The secret treaties of the French Republic, of Britain and the other democracies have clearly revealed the underlying nature and essence of this whole business. Their aims and interests are as criminal and predatory as Germany’s. The war has opened our eyes, and we clearly see the barefaced robber and plunderer in the guise of the defender of the fatherland. This robbers’ raid must be countered by revolutionary action, by revolutionary creative effort. True, it is not easy to achieve unity at such a difficult time, especially among the revolutionary peasants; but we believe in the creative power and public-mindedness of the industrial workers, the vanguard of the revolution. The workers are now fully aware that as long as minds are swayed by the fairy-tale of a democratic republic and a Constituent Assembly, fifty million rubles will continue to be spent daily for war purposes that are disastrous to them, and they will never secure their liberation from capitalist oppression. It was because they realised this that the workers created their Soviets.

Similarly, the realities of life have taught the workers to realise that as long as the landowners are snugly installed in their mansions and magic castles, the right of assembly will not exist, and will mean, if anything, the right to assemble only in the world to come. You will agree that to promise the workers freedom while leaving the mansions, the land, the factories and all wealth in the hands of the capitalists and landowners has hardly anything to do with liberty and equality. We have only one maxim, one slogan: All who work have the right to enjoy the benefits of life. Idlers and parasites who suck the blood of the working people must be deprived of these benefits. And we proclaim: Everything for the workers, everything for the working people!

We know how hard all this is to achieve, we know the furious resistance the bourgeoisie are putting up; but we believe in the ultimate victory of the workers, for they are bound to win if they were capable of extricating themselves from the terrible hardships of the imperialist holocaust and of erecting the edifice of socialist revolution on the ruins of the edifice they destroyed.

And, in fact, forces are uniting everywhere. Now that we have abolished private ownership of land, the workers of town and country are rapidly coming together. And in the West, too, we see the workers’ class-consciousness awakening.

The British, French, Italian and other workers are making more and more appeals and demands indicating the approaching triumph of the world revolution. And our task today is to carry on our revolutionary work and to scorn the hypocrisy, the insolent outcries and lamentations of the predatory bourgeoisie. We must pit all we have on the Czech front so as to crush this whole gang who put up liberty and equality as a smokescreen to conceal the shooting down of hundreds and thousands of workers and peasants. We have only one alternative: victory or death!


[1] The meeting was held in a hand-grenade shop of the works. Lenin came straight from the rally in Basmanny District and spoke on the subject “Two Governments (the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie)”. At 7.30 p.m., as he was leaving the premises, the Socialist-Revolutionary Fanny Kaplan shot him. Two bullets found their mark.

The news of the attempt on Lenin’s life aroused a storm of indignation throughout the country. People demanded that terrorists and the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie and landowners be ruthlessly dealt with, and pledged to devote all their strength to defeating the enemy. The men at the front went into battle eager to take revenge on the enemy for the attempt on Lenin’s life. The Soviet people rallied behind the Communist Party and the Soviet Government and doubled their war efforts.

On September 4, 1918, Izvestia carried a report that Kaplan had been shot by decision of the Cheka.