First Published: Proletarii, No.5, 31st (18th) August 1917.
Source: A Workers International League Pamphlet: Leon Trotsky, What Next? And Other Writings from 1917.
Translated: James Reid.
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters.
Proofreading: Einde O’Callaghan, December 2006.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2004. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
Any intelligent person (or any fool) knows that to save Russia a merciless struggle with anarchy on the left and counter revolution on the right is essential. This constitutes the essence of the entire programme of Izvestia, Delo Naroda, Rabochaya Gazeta ... Kerensky’s “historic” speech at the “historic” State Conference amounted to variations on just this theme. “With blood and iron against anarchy on the left, counter-revolution on the right.”
This sounds very good, in any event symmetrical. But does it make sense? When they speak of counter revolution, they have in mind not certain attitudes or random’ disorderly actions, but particular class interests, incompatible with the securing and development of the revolution. It is the landowners and imperialist capital who support the counter revolution. Which classes are supporting anarchy?
The mayor of Moscow, the SR Rudnyev, answered this very clearly. He welcomed the State conference on behalf of the “entire” population of Moscow – minus those anarchic elements who had arranged a general protest strike in Moscow. But who arranged the strike? The Moscow trades unions. Against the wishes of the, government, the Moscow military authorities, the SR-Menshevik majority in the Moscow Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Delegates, the trades unions decreed and brought about a general strike against the government’s foisting of a counter revolutionary parliament on Moscow. The trades unions are the purest, most unadulterated, organisations of the proletariat, i.e. of that class which by its unstinting toil creates Moscow’s power and wealth. And it is these trades unions who unite the flower of the working class – the fundamental driving force of the present day economy; it is these trades unions that the SR mayor of Moscow has called anarchic elements. And it is against these conscientious, disciplined workers that the iron of the government’s violence will have to he directed.
Do we not see the same thing in Petrograd? The factory committees are not political organisations. They are not created at short meetings. The mass of workers nominate those who, locally, in everyday life, have proved their determination, efficiency and devotion to the workers’ interests. And of course the factory committees, as has been shown once more at the latest conference, are in an overwhelming majority made up of Bolsheviks. In the Petrograd trades unions everyday practical work, just like the ideological leadership, lies wholly with the Bolsheviks. In the workers’ section of the Petrograd Soviet the Bolsheviks constitute an overwhelming majority. Yet – that is what “anarchy” is. On that score Kerensky is in agreement with Miliukov, Tsereteli is with the sons of Suvorin, Dan with the security service. In this. way “anarchy” is the organised representation of the Petrograd proletariat. And it is against this class organisation of advanced workers that Kerensky with his Avksentyevs, Bernatskys, Prokopoviches, Skobeievs and other Saltykovs promises henceforth to fight with blood and iron.
It would be unforgiveable, however, to believe the leaders of the petty bourgeoisie when they promise to fight the right and left with equal strength. That is not happening and cannot happen. In spite of its numerical strength, the petty bourgeoisie as a class is economically and politically weak. It is extremely unco ordinated, economically dependent, politically unstable. The petty bourgeois democracy is in no position to engage in a simultaneous struggle with two such powerful forces as the revolutionary proletariat and the counter revolutionary bourgeoisie. All the experience of history proves this. For serious political struggle the present day petty bourgeoisie in the towns and the country needs not only an ally but also a leader. As it enters the struggle with “anarchy”, in the person of the organised proletariat, the “democracy” of Kerensky and Tsereteli, whatever they may have said, inescapably falls under the leadership of the imperialist bourgeoisie. That is why attacks on the right remain only at the planning stage, and come to be replaced by bows of humility to the right.
The Provisional Government has closed Pravda and about ten other Bolshevik newspapers which were the guiding organs of the advanced proletariat. Avksentyev’s attack on the right was the closure of Narodnaya (Malenkaya) Gazeta. But was Narodnaya Gazeta the guiding organ of the counter revolutionary bourgeoisie? No, it was solely the clandestine organ of those swine the Black Hundreds. The role played by Pravda for the revolutionary working class was played among the imperialist bourgeoisie by the newspaper Rech; but is it not clear that at the mere thought of closing Rech, those most gallant power bearers are quaking with fear? The Central Committee of the Kadet party is indisputably – even in the eyes of the SRs and the Mensheviks – the headquarters of the bourgeois counter revolution. Nevertheless, the representatives of this headquarters are in office, whereas the recognised representatives of the proletarian leadership are outlawed. This is what the SR-Menshevik struggle on two fronts actually looks like.
But let us return for a minute to the Moscow strike. Rabochaya Gazeta, that most pitiful organ, which attempts to reconcile Marx with Avksentyev, emits the usual stock abuse aimed at the strikers, who are destroying the power of “revolutionary democracy”. Here we find “betrayal”, “the stab in the back”and “anarchy”. But we know already that the supreme power destroyed by the Moscow proletariat is the power of revolutionary democracy minus the organised proletariat, which means power to the petty bourgeoisie. Thus Rabochaya (!!) [Translators note) “Rabochaya” in Russian means “workers”] Gazeta regards the workers as criminals for refusing to subordinate their own class struggle in all its manifestations to the will of the non-proletarian section of the Moscow Soviet. The supremacy of the petty bourgeoisie over the proletariat is elevated to the supreme principle of social democratic principles. For a coalition with the imperialist bourgeoisie Tsereteli and his party are prepared to make monstrous concessions and humiliations, yet the coalition of the proletariat with the petty bourgeoisie for them reduces to a simple rejection on the part of the proletariat of their own class independence. In other words: the leaders of the lower middle class demand from the workers the very attitude towards the petty bourgeoisie that they themselves display towards the representatives of capital.
The independent policy of the working class, which is in fact to oppose imperialism with internationalism – that is the “anarchy” hostile to the wealthy classes throughout the world, independent of the form of state organisation beneath which the interests of capital are hidden. At the same time, Avksentyev, whose wisdom impressed no one at the Moscow conference, is nevertheless considered sufficiently wise to smash the workers’ press and to imprison Bolsheviks by “extrajudicial procedure”; at the same time Kerensky exercises his iron on the parties of the proletariat – behind them hobble the Tseretelis, Chkheidzes, Dans as they sprinkle the holy water of Menshevism on the repressions of dictators, who are out of control and who spread the disgusting slanders that the organised proletariat is sowing anarchy in the country and at the front. But political retribution is not slow in coming. At the same time Tsereteli, whom the Menshevik courtiers called the conscience of the revolution, humbly apologizes in Moscow on behalf of democracy, which, he says, on account of its youth and inexperience embarked too late on a campaign of destruction against the Bolsheviks; at the same time Tsereteli gathers the applause of the people’s inveterate enemies – in Petrograd even the worker Mensheviks are banishing Tsereteli from their list of candidates for the city Duma.
Retribution is not slow in coming. Hunted, persecuted, slandered, our party has never grown as quickly as of late. And this process will not be slow to spill over from the capital to the provinces, from the cities into the country and army. The peasants can see and hear that it is those very authorities, for the very same reasons, that are crushing the land committees and are persecuting the Bolsheviks. The soldiers can observe the wild hallooing directed at the Bolsheviks and at the same time sense the counter revolutionary noose growing ever tighter round their neck. All the working masses of the country will learn from their new experiences to tie their fate to the fate of our party. Without for one minute ceasing to be the class organisation of the proletariat, but, on the contrary, completely fulfilling this role only now, our party will in the fire of repression become the true leader, the support and hope of all oppressed, crushed, deceived and persecuted masses.
31st (18th) August 1917
Last updated on: 17.12.2006