Delivered: 6 January, 1918
First Published: 22 January, Pravda No. 6. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 437-441
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
Comrades, the clash between Soviet power and the Constituent Assembly results from the entire course of the Russian revolution, which was confronted by the unprecedented task of reconstructing society on socialist lines. After the events of 1905 there could be no doubt that tsarism’s day was over and that it had scrambled out of the pit only because of the backwardness and ignorance of the rural population. The Revolution of 1917 was marked on the one hand by the transformation of the bourgeois imperialist party into a republican party under the pressure of events, and on the other hand, by the emergence of democratic organisations, the Soviets, that had been formed in 1905; even then the socialists had realised that the organisation of these Soviets was creating something great, something new and unprecedented in the history of world revolution. The Soviets, created solely by the initiative of the people, are a form of democracy without parallel in any other country of the world.
The revolution produced two forces—the union of the masses for the purpose of overthrowing tsarism, and the organisations of the working people. When I hear the enemies of the October Revolution exclaim that the ideas of socialism are unfeasible and utopian, I usually put to them a plain and simple question. What in their opinion, I ask, are the Soviets? What gave rise to these organisations of the people, which have no precedent in the history of the development of world revolution? Not one of them has been able to give a precise answer to this question. Defending the bourgeois system by inertia, they oppose these powerful organisations, the formation of which has never before been witnessed in any revolution in the world. All who are fighting the landowners are joining forces with the Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies. The Soviets embrace all who do not wish to stand idle and are devoting themselves to creative work. They have spread their network over the whole country, and the denser this network of Soviets of the people, the less will it be possible to exploit the working people. For the existence of the Soviets is incompatible with a prosperous bourgeois system. That is the source of all the contradictions among the bourgeoisie, who are fighting our Soviets solely in their own interests.
The transition from capitalism to a socialist system entails a long and bitter struggle. Having overthrown tsarism, the Russian revolution was bound to go farther; it could not stop at the victory of the bourgeois revolution; for the war, and the untold sufferings it caused the exhausted peoples, created a soil favourable for the outbreak of the social revolution. Nothing, therefore, is more ludicrous than the assertion that the subsequent development of the revolution, and the revolt of the masses that followed, were caused by a party, by an individual, or, as they vociferate, by the will of a “dictator“. The fire of revolution broke out solely because of the incredible sufferings of Russia, and because of the conditions created by the war, which sternly and inexorably faced the working people with the alternative of taking a bold, desperate and fearless step, or of perishing, of dying from starvation.
And revolutionary fire was manifest in the creation of the Soviets—the mainstay of the workers’ revolution. The Russian people have made a gigantic advance, a leap from tsarism to the Soviets. That is a fact, irrefutable and unparalleled. While the bourgeois parliaments of all countries and states, confined within the bounds of capitalism and private property, have never anywhere supported a revolutionary movement, the Soviets, having lit the fire of revolution, imperatively command the people to fight, take everything into their own hands, and organise themselves. In the course of a revolution called forth by the strength of the Soviets there are certain to be all kinds of errors and blunders. But everybody knows that revolutionary movements are always and inevitably accompanied by temporary chaos, destruction and disorder. Bourgeois society is the same war, the same shambles; and it was this circumstance that gave rise to and accentuated the conflict between the Constituent Assembly and the Soviets. Those who point out that we are now “dissolving“ the Constituent Assembly although at one time we defended it are not displaying a grain of sense, but are merely uttering pompous and meaningless phrases. At one time, we considered the Constituent Assembly to be better than tsarism and the republic of Kerensky with their famous organs of power; but as the Soviets emerged, they, being revolutionary organisations of the whole people, naturally became incomparably superior to any parliament in the world, a fact that I emphasised as far back as last April. By completely smashing bourgeois and landed property and by facilitating the final upheaval which is sweeping away all traces of the bourgeois system, the Soviets impelled us on to the path that has led the people to organise their own lives. We have taken up this great work of organisation, and it is well that we have done so. Of course, the socialist revolution cannot be immediately presented to the people in a clean, neat and impeccable form; it will inevitably be accompanied by civil war, sabotage and resistance. Those who assert the contrary are either liars or cowards. (Stormy applause.) The events of April 20, when the people, without any directions from “dictators“ or parties, came out independently and solidly against the government of compromisers, showed even then that the bourgeoisie were weak and had no solid support. The masses sensed their power, and to placate them the famous game of ministerial leapfrog began, the object of which was to fool the people. But the people very soon saw through the game, particularly after Kerensky, both his pockets stuffed with predatory secret treaties with the imperialists, began to move the armies for an offensive. Gradually the activities of the compromisers became obvious to the deceived people, whose patience began to be exhausted. The result was the October Revolution. The people learned by experience, having suffered torture, executions and wholesale shootings and it is nonsense for the butchers to assert that the Bolsheviks, or certain “dictators“, are responsible for the revolt of the working people. They are given the lie by the split that is occurring among the people themselves at congresses, meetings, conferences, and so forth. The people have not yet fully under-stood the October Revolution. This revolution has shown in practice how the people must take into their own hands, the hands of the workers’ and peasants state, the land, the natural resources, and the means of transport and production. Our cry was, All power to the Soviets; it is for this we are fighting. The people wanted the Constituent Assembly summoned, and we summoned it. But they sensed immediately what this famous Constituent Assembly really was. And now we have carried out the will of the people, which is~— All power to the Soviets. As for the saboteurs, we shall crush them. When I came from Smolny, that fount of life and vigour, to the Taurida Palace, I felt as though I were in the company of corpses and lifeless mummies. They drew on all their available resources in order to fight socialism, they resorted to violence and sabotage, they even turned knowledge—the great pride of humanity—into a means of exploiting the working people. But although they managed to hinder somewhat the advance towards the socialist revolution, they could not stop it and will never be able to. Indeed the Soviets that have begun to smash the old, outworn foundations of the bourgeois system, not in gentlemanly, but in a blunt proletarian and peasant fashion, are much too strong.
To hand over power to the Constituent Assembly would again be compromising with the malignant bourgeoisie. The Russian Soviets place the interests of the working people far above the interests of a treacherous policy of compromise disguised in a new garb. The speeches of those outdated politicians, Chernov and Tsereteli, who continue whining tediously for the cessation of civil war, give off the stale and musty odour of antiquity. But as long as Kaledin exists, and as long as the slogan “All power to the Constituent Assembly“ conceals the slogan “Down with Soviet power“, civil war is inevitable. For nothing in the world will make us give up Soviet power! (Stormy applause.) And when the Constituent Assembly again revealed its readiness to post-pont’ all the painfully urgent problems and tasks that were placed before it by the Soviets, we told the Constituent Assembly that they must not be postponed for one single moment. And by the will of Soviet power the Constituent Assembly, which has refused to recognise the power of the people, is being dissolved. The Byabushinskys have lost their stakes; their attempts at resistance will only accentuate and provoke a new outbreak of civil war.
The Constituent Assembly is dissolved. The Soviet revolutionary republic will triumph, no matter what. the cost. (Stormy applause. Ovation.)