Leon Trotsky



No one can satisfactorily explain why there is to be a Conference at Moscow. More than that: all those who are to take part in the Conference declare, truthfully or otherwise, that they do not know what can be the purpose in inviting them to Moscow. At the same time, almost all express themselves in terms of suspicion and contempt when speaking of the Conference. But just the same they are all going. What can be the reason?

If we omit the proletariat, which occupies a position of its own, the participants in the Moscow Conference may be divided into three groups: the representatives of the capitalist classes, the petty bourgeois organizations, and the government.

The propertied classes have their most complete representation in the Constitutional Democratic Party, the Cadets. Backing them are the great landholders, the organizations of trade, industrial capital, the financial cliques, the university faculties. Every one of these groups has its own interests and its own political prospects. Yet the common danger that threatens them all is from the masses of the workers, peasants, and soldiers, and this danger drives the capitalist classes into one great counter-revolutionary union. Without suspending their monarchic intrigues and conspiracies, the court, bureaucratic and general staff circles nevertheless consider it to be at present imperative that they should support the Cadets. And the bourgeois liberals with suspicious glances askance at the monarchist clique, at present place a very high value on their support against the Revolution. In this way the Cadet party is becoming a sort of general representative for all varieties of greater and lesser property interests. All the demands of the propertied classes, all the extortions of the exploiters, are at present blended in the capitalist cynicism and the imperialist insolence of Miliukov. His policy is to lie in wait for all the false steps of the revolutionary regime, all its faults and mishaps, availing himself for the present of the “collaboration” of the Menshevik Socialists and the Social Revolutionists, to compromise them by this collaboration, and to bide his time. And behind Miliukov’s back, the Czarist Gurko is biding his time.

The pseudo-democracy of the Social Revolutionist and Menshevik type rests on the peasant masses, the petty bourgeoisie of the cities and the more backward workers. In this connection it should be noted that the further events develop, the clearer it becomes that the strength of the combination is in the Social Revolutionists, while the Mensheviks are the fifth wheel on the wagon. Being led by these two parties, the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Soviets, which were elevated to tremendous heights by the cataclysmic convulsions of the masses, are rapidly losing their importance and retrograding to oblivion. And why? Marx has pointed out that when History bestows a heavy punch on the nose of the petty “big guns” of the Philistines, they never seek the cause of their undoing in their own insolvency, but invariably uncover someone’s malice or intrigue. Accordingly, Tseretelli grasps at the “conspiracy” of July 16-18, as the “straw” that explains the miserable failure of his whole policy. When the Social Revolutionary and Menshevik Liebers, Gotzes and Voitinskys preserved order from “anarchy”, which, by the way, was not being threatened, these gentlemen firmly believed that, like unto the geese that had saved the Capitol,[1] they should be given a reward. And, when they observed that the contempt the bourgeoisie showed them in-creased in direct proportion to their peace-making zeal toward the proletariat, they were dumbfounded. Tseretelli, the same Tseretelli who was such an accomplished juggler with trite commonplaces, found himself cast to the waves as too revolutionary an incumbrance. It was perfectly plain: the Machine-Gun Regiment [2] had “spoiled” the Revolution (by refusing to obey Kerensky’s order to march to the front except under certain conditions and by participating in the events of July 16-17).

And if Tseretelli and his party appeared in the ranks of the counter-investigators, of Polovtsov and the military cadets, helping them to disarm the workers in the interests of the counter-revolution, the fault cannot lie with Tseretelli’s political game, but rests on the shoulders of the Machine-Gun Regiment which the Bolsheviks had led astray. Such is the philosophy of history professed by the political bankers of the Philistines!

As a matter of fact, the days of July 16, 17 and 18 became a turning point in the development of the Revolution, for the reason that they exposed the complete inability of the leading parties of the petty bourgeois democracy to take power into its hands. After the miserable breakdown of the coalition government, there appeared to be no other alternative than an assumption of power by the Soviets. But the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionists hesitated. To assume power, they reasoned, would mean a break with the bankers and diplomats – a dangerous policy. And when, in spite of the ominous meaning of the events of July 16-18, the leaders of the Soviet continued running after the Efimovs, the propertied classes could not fail to understand that the policies of the Soviet were waiting upon them very much as a little shopkeeper waits upon a banker, namely, with hat in hand. And that is what put courage into the counter-revolution.

The whole previous history of the Revolution is in the so-called “dual power”. [3] This designation, given by the liberals, is, in truth, very superficial. The matter is not exhausted when you say that beside the government stood the Soviet, which discharged a considerable number of government functions; for the Dans and Tseretellis did all in their power to annihilate, “painlessly”, this pision of power, by handing over everything to the government. The fact really is that behind the Soviets, and behind the government, there stood two different systems, each resting upon different class interests.

Behind the Soviets stood the workers’ organizations, which were displacing, in every factory, the autocracy of the capitalists, and establishing a republican regime in industry, which was incompatible however, with the capitalist anarchy and demanded an irrevocable state control of production. In defence of their property rights the capitalists sought assistance from above, from the government, pushed it with ever-increasing energy against the Soviets, and compelled it to accept the conclusion that it did not possess an independent apparatus, i.e., instruments of repression against the working masses. Hence the lamentations over “dual power.”

Behind the Soviet stood the electoral organization in the Army; and all the rest of the administration of the soldier democracy. The Provisional Government, keeping step with Lloyd George, Ribot and Wilson, recognizing the old obligations of Czarism, and proceeding by the old methods of secret diplomacy, could not but meet with the active hostility of the new army regime. The opposition from above had pretty nearly lost its effect by the time it reached the Soviet. Hence the complaints of “dual power”, especially on the part of the General Staff.

Finally, the Peasant Soviet also, in spite of the miserable opportunism and the crude chauvinism of its leaders, was subject to an increasing pressure from below, where the confiscation of land was assuming a form that became all the more threatening, the more the government opposed them. To what extent the latter was playing the role of a representative of Big Capital is best of all illustrated by the fact that the last prohibitive police ordinance of Tseretelli differed in no respect from the ordinances of Prince Lvoe. And wherever, in the provinces, the Soviets and Peasant Committees would attempt to install a new agrarian regime, they would find themselves involved in a bitter conflict with the “revolutionary” authority of the Provisional Government, which was turning more and more into a watchdog of private property.

The further development of the Revolution resolved itself into the necessity of all power passing into the hands of the Soviet, and the use of this power in the interests of the workers against the property-owners. And the deepening of the struggle against the capitalist classes makes it absolutely necessary to assign the leading role among the toiling masses to their most resolute section, namely, to the industrial proletariat. For the introduction of control over production and distribution the proletariat could appeal to very valuable precedents in Western Europe, particularly in the so-called “War Socialism” of Germany. But as, in Russia, this labour of organization could only be accomplished on the basis of an agrarian revolution and under the supervision of an actually revolutionary power, the control over production and the gradual organization of the latter would necessarily assume a direction that was hostile to the interests of capital. At a moment when the propertied classes were striving, through the Provisional Government, to establish the rule of a “strong” capitalist republic, the full power of the Soviets, as yet by no means synonymous with “Socialism”, would in any case have broken the opposition of the bourgeoisie, and in alliance with the existing productive forces and the situation in Western Europe, would have imposed a direction and a transformation upon economic organization, that would have been in the interests of the toiling masses. Casting aside the chains of capitalist power, the Revolution would have become permanent, that’ is, continuous it would have applied its state power, not to the perpetuation of the rule of capitalist exploitation, but, on the contrary, to its undoing. Its ultimate accomplishments on this field would have depended on the successes of the proletarian revolution in Europe. On the other hand, the Russian revolution might give an all the greater impetus to the revolution in Western Europe, the more resolutely and courageously it put down the opposition of its own bourgeoisie. Such was and such remains the sole and only actual prospect for the further development of the Revolution.

To the phantasts of the philistines, however, this outlook was “Utopian”. What did they want? They have never been able to say themselves. Tseretelli talked a lot about “revolutionary democracy”, without understanding what it really is. It was not only the Social Revolutionists who formed the habit of coasting on the billows of a democratic phraseology; the Mensheviks also cast aside their class criteria as soon as these criteria too clearly exposed the petty bourgeois character of their policy. The rule of “revolutionary democracy” clears up everything and justifies everything. And when the old Black Hundreds [4] stick their dirty fingers into the pockets of the Bolsheviks, they do it in the name of no less an authority than that of the “revolutionary democracy”. But let us not anticipate.

Representing, as they did, the power of the bourgeoisie, or rather the neutralization of power by the means of coalition, the Social Revolutionary and Menshevik democracy actually beheaded the Revolution. On the other hand, by defending the Soviets as their organs, the petty bourgeois democracy actually prevented the government from creating any administrative apparatus in the provinces. The government was not only powerless to do good, but rather wreak in working evil. The Soviets, full of ambitious plans, were not able to carry out one of them. The capitalist republic, which had been planted down from above, and the workers’ democracy which has been shaped from below, paralyzed each other. Wherever they clashed, therefore, innumerable quarrels arose. The minister and the commissaries suppressed the organ of revolutionary self-government, the commanders fumed in rage at the army committees, the Soviets were kept running to and fro between the masses and the government. Crisis followed upon crisis, ministers came and went. The discontent among the masses increased as the repressive measures of authority became more and more fruitless and systemless. From above, all life must have seemed a boiling torrent of “anarchy”.

It was evident that the timid dualism of the rule of the petty bourgeois “democracy” was internally insolvent. And the more profound became the problems of the Revolution, the more painfully manifest did this insolvency become. The whole state structure was standing on its head, or rather, on its two or three heads. An unguarded move on the part of Miliukov, Kerensky or Tseretelli threatened to upset the whole business. And daily the alternatives appeared with greater and greater inevitability: either the Soviet must assume power, or the capitalist government will sweep aside the Soviet. An external shock was all that was needed to destroy the equilibrium of the whole structure. This external shock to a system that was doomed from within came in the form of the events of July 16-18. The petty bourgeois “Idyll”, constructed on an “amicable” union of two mutually exclusive systems, received its deathblow. And Tseretelli was enabled to set down in his memoirs that his plan for the salvation of Russia had been thwarted by the machine-gun Regiment.



1. Geese and the Capitol: According to Roman legend, the sacred geese in the Capitol had saved the fortress from a surprise night attack.

2. The Machine Gun Regiments: The 1st, more militant than the 2nd, had from the beginning supported the Revolution, and taken up quarters in the working class Vyborg District of Petrograd. The 1st led the July demonstrations.

3. Dual Power: From March 11th to November 1917 there were two centres of political power – the soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers, and the Provisional Government. Trotsky called this the period of “dual impotence.” (See Trotsky: The Struggle for State Power.)

4. The Black Hundred Gangs: Taking their names from various medieval guilds (“The Union of the Russian Peoples” etc.) were semi-official monarchist bands which roamed the country since the 1905 Revolution, aiding the official repression by terrorist methods. Very specialized in organising pogroms (from the Russian for devastation) and accounted for an estimated 50,000 Jewish victims.

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Last updated on: 8.12.2006