Leon Trotsky



by Louis C. Fraina

The great, the decisive problem of the Russian Revolution was the problem of state power, the problem of which class should control the State and what form the state should assume. Every phase and tendency of the Revolution is interwoven with this problem of state power, every crisis of the Revolution is a crisis of power. Within two weeks of the overthrow of Czarism and the organization of the Provisional Government and the Soviets of Workers, Soldiers and Peasants, the problem of state power appeared and swiftly became the determinant issue, of which all other issues were simply an expression.

The bourgeoisie, which at first desired a constitutional monarchy, reconciled itself under the pressure of events to a republic; its conception of state power was a bourgeois parliamentary republic retaining in its machinery all the essential features of the government of Czarism – a capitalist autocracy disguised in the mask of democratic forms. At the start, the Provisional Government was dominated by the ultra-reactionaries of the Guchkov and Miliukov type; but after the crisis of May 2-3, the government came under the control of bourgeois liberals, the Cadets and the Moderate Socialists. The Cadets were avowedly imperialist, a policy dictated by their class relations while the moderate Socialists were compelled to acquiesce in an imperialist policy because of their alliance with the bourgeoisie and their refusal to assume all power through the Soviets, by which means alone an independent, revolutionary policy could be formulated and put into practice.

On June 5, the Executive Committee of the Soviets, issued an appeal to the Socialist and Labour organizations of the world for “a determined and energetic fight against the universal slaughter”, and “an agreement for the termination of the ‘party truce’ with imperialist governments and classes, which makes nugatory the real struggle for peace”. But this appeal was itself rendered nugatory by the Soviets’ alliance with a bourgeois government, a policy fundamentally identical with the policy of the social-patriotic Socialists of France, who sent their representatives into the bourgeois ministry of Viviani and Briand, of capitalism and imperialism.

The entry of Socialist representatives of the Soviets into the ministry was a flagrant violation of revolutionary Socialist policy and a contemptuous disregard of the prevailing situation. The only actual power in the nation was the power of the revolutionary masses, organized in the Soviets; the surrender of authority to the bourgeois government could not alter the actual relations of power nor eliminate the antagonisms between the revolutionary masses and the bourgeoisie. Coalition meant a dodging of the problem of power, not its solution. In words, the Soviet leaders might relinquish all power to the government; in fact, the Soviets were compelled by the pressure of events and class antagonisms to limit the authority of the Provisional Government, often actually to repudiate it, to assume an attitude that prevented equally the development of a bourgeois power and policy or of a proletarian policy and power. The situation was intolerable: it could not promote the revolution, only chaos and reaction.

The increasing resentment against the coalition concluded on May 18, compelled the Executive Committee of the Soviets early in June to issue an explanatory declaration:

  1. Socialist Ministers were sent into the Government by the Council of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Delegates with the definite mandate to secure a general peace by agreement between the nations and not to prolong an imperialist war in the name of the liberation of nations.
  2. Socialist participation in the Government does not mean a cessation of the struggle of the classes, but, on the contrary, its prolongation by political power. It was for this reason that the entry of Socialists into the Ministry with representatives of the bourgeois parties was impossible until some of the enemies of the Russian proletariat were interned and others were removed from power by the movement of the revolutionary masses of May 2nd and 3rd.
  3. The participation of the Socialists in the Government is being carried out on conditions of the most complete liberty being enjoyed by the proletariat and the army, this liberty being entirely unaffected by martial law, political censorship or other restrictions. Organized control by the working classes of their representatives is effective enough.
  4. The entry of its representatives into the Government does not mean for the Russian proletariat the weakening of the bonds uniting it with Socialists of all countries who are struggling against imperialism, but, on the contrary, the strengthening of these bonds by a more intense common struggle for a general peace.

Truly, “Socialist participation in the Government does not mean a cessation of the struggle of the classes,”but it did mean a strengthening of the bourgeoisie as against the proletariat, it did mean a temporary confusion and weakening of the struggle, the conscious struggle, of the proletariat; a conclusion amply proven by the fact that the struggle against coalition became the centre of the revolutionary class struggle of the proletarian and peasant masses. The purpose of coalition, directly and indirectly, consciously and unconsciously, was to castrate the revolutionary struggle by transforming it from a struggle of revolutionary mass action into the wrangles and bickerings in the ministry between the Socialist representatives and the Cadets. Instead of action, words; instead of revolution, conciliation!

But conciliation breaks down miserably under the impact of violent class antagonisms, in the stress of revolutionary events. The Menshevik and Social Revolutionary policy might have prevailed in a pre-revolutionary period; it was utterly futile during a revolution. The policy of conciliation, of the cooperation of classes, is possible when the masses are apathetic, for then the masses do not act against the inevitable conversion of the cooperation of the classes into the supremacy of the capitalist class. But in a revolution, the masses are in motion; the developments of years are compressed into months and days; class relations and class antagonisms are revealed acutely, starkly, and uncompromisingly. Conciliation requires compromise; but in a revolution with its crises and upheavals, compromise must go to the root of things, must be fundamental: in other words, compromise requires a surrender by one class or the other. Now neither the proletariat nor the bourgeoisie was willing to make the necessary compromise, which would have meant abdication; and the situation necessarily resolved itself into a dual struggle against the coalition – a struggle from the right, that of the imperialist bourgeoisie, and a struggle from the left, that of the revolutionary proletariat and its ally, the impoverished peasantry.

The principle of conciliation supposedly animating the Coalition Ministry expressed itself in practice in one acute ministerial crisis after another. The coalition was agreed upon on May 18; on May 31. A. Konovalov (Cadet), Minister of Trade and Industry, resigned his portfolio owing to a complete divergence of views with Minister of Labour Skobolev (Menshevik-Socialist) concerning appropriate economic and financial measures, particularly the measures necessary to deal with the prevailing internal crisis. And this divergence was inevitable. Action to meet the internal crisis required measures limiting equally the power and the profits of the capitalist class, and the bourgeois representatives in the Ministry would never consent to these measures, even when they assumed the comparatively moderate form of measures proposed by a Menshevik. In economic policy as on war and peace, conciliation was a broken reed that could sustain nothing.

The Coalition Government was in an untenable position: it was an impossibility in operation in a revolutionary epoch. Either it honestly tried to represent both the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the revolution and the reaction, in which ease it might talk but could not act, because of the antagonisms of class interests; or else, under the pressure of events, it might act, but in the interests of one or the other class. It was no accident of history that the chief personality of this government was Kerensky (and Kerensky was its guiding spirit even before he became Premier) – an orator, a master of words, an adept in the psychology of promises. Only words, only fine phrases and glittering slogans, instruments for the deception of the masses, could be the expression of a two-class government in a revolutionary situation. And where the Coalition Government acted, it acted fatedly against the Revolution. Where revolutions do not act, they are submerged in a welter of words. If a revolutionary class shrinks before the task of assuming power and reorganizing society itself, the ruling class inevitably acts in the interest of reaction. Every day that passed in the making and acceptance of phrases as a substitute for action was a defeat for the Revolution. The policy of phrases makes for reaction. The slogans of the Revolution may be used and assimilated by the time-serving politicians of the bourgeoisie and the moderate Socialists: its action never.

Under the Coalition Government, in practice the government of the ruling class, industry was demoralized by the bourgeoisie using its ownership of industry to starve the proletariat and paralyze the Revolution by locking out the workers and sabotaging production. Agriculture was demoralized because the government dared not carry out the revolutionary task of expropriating and distributing the land, as this task antagonized the interests of the bourgeoisie represented in the government. The bourgeois representatives, aided and abetted by the bureaucratic machinery of government of the old regime retained in toto by the new, sabotaged any radical measures of the government, when pressure compelled the government to act, which was seldom. The task of internal reorganization could be undertaken either by a strictly bourgeois government, which would have meant a reorganization dominantly in the interests of the bourgeoisie; or by a strictly revolutionary Socialist government acting through the Soviets – a “dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” – which would have meant a reorganization in the interests of the proletariat and the impoverished peasantry. The Provisional Government paltered on all the vital problems of the Revolution, declaring that these problems should be settled by the Constituent Assembly, and kept postponing the meeting of the Assembly. In the meanwhile it acted in the interests of the bourgeoisie, and tried to undermine the Soviets, particularly the Soldiers’ Soviets in the army; the propaganda for an offensive was linked with propaganda to crush the Soldiers Soviets. Through the acceptance of Coalition and the policy of bourgeois parliamentary procedure, the moderates in the Soviets promoted, through inaction, the government’s policy of reaction.

The problem of power was inescapable. The revolutionary impatience of the masses increased in the measure that the Coalition Government evaded the necessity of action and adopted an international policy that allied revolutionary Russia with the reaction and Imperialism of Great Britain, France and Italy. The Government did not simply palter on the issue of peace: it actually repudiated peace and secretly conspired to continue an imperialist war – a war still imperialist, in spite of the flood of words that issued from the mouth of Kerensky about democracy and a permanent peace. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tereschenko, argued that the publication of the secret treaties and agreements concluded between the Czar and Great Britain and France would mean a rupture with the Allies: and yet the Menshevik Tseretelli argued at the All-Russian Soviet Congress in June: “We desire to hasten the conclusion of a new treaty, in which the principles proclaimed by the Russian Democracy will be recognized as the basis of the international policy of the Allies.”Not only were the secret treaties not published, but the Coalition Government itself used secret diplomacy in making arrangements of its own to continue the war: the policy of revolutionary Russia was made dependent upon the wishes of the Allies. [1]

The words of the Coalition government promised peace, but its acts constituted war. If the publication of the secret treaty agreements would have meant a rupture with the Allies, the acceptance by the Allies in words of the peace formula of revolutionary Russia would have meant – just nothing. The policy of trying to influence the imperialist governments of the allies to revise and re-state their war aims in accord with Russia’s formula was not only a futile and petty bourgeois policy, it was insincere in that the Provisional Government secretly plotted war. The Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionists, the moderates in control of the Soviets, accepted this policy: they contributed to the delusion of a war for democracy, or a war to “defend the Revolution” – but which revolution?

During the period of coalition, the Council of Soldiers and Workers, in its dominant, moderate expression, was a representative of a vague democracy. “The unity of all democratic elements!” – this was the slogan of the Coalition Government, and of the Soviet moderates. But democracy under the conditions of Imperialism is an instrument of reaction, a factor in the promotion of Imperialism, a useful and necessary means of misleading the masses. The Government and Soviet moderates tried to revive the war spirit of the people by speaking of a “democratic war,”a “war to defend the Revolution”. But under the prevailing conditions, every action toward war was counter-revolutionary: the “restoration of discipline”in the army was necessarily interpreted to mean the crushing of the Soldiers’ Soviets; and, moreover, the war was waged in alliance with Anglo-French Imperialism, strengthening the bourgeoisie of Russia and its imperialist interests. A war to defend the Revolution could be waged only after the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeois “Socialists”were excluded from the government, only after the Government had been converted into a “dictatorship of the proletariat”; only a revolutionary war, waged by a revolutionary proletarian government for revolutionary purposes could constitute a war “to defend the Revolution”. The moderate Socialist majority in the Soviets, whose Socialism was a perversion of the class struggle and essentially an expression of the democracy of the nationalist, liberal petty bourgeoisie, developed under the pressure of events into a conservative and counter-revolutionary force. The influence of the Soviet leaders was used to mislead the masses and to support the bourgeois policy of the Coalition Government. The only way out was to break the coalition by means of all power to the Soviets. [2]

The problem of power was very much on the order of the day at the All-Russian Congress of Soviets which convened in the middle of June, Lenin and Trotsky leading the revolutionary opposition to the policy of coalition. This was Trotsky’s formulation of the problem:

“I tell you that the country is approaching an outright catastrophe, because somehow we cannot understand that the whole thing lies in the creation of a homogeneous power. In two weeks the question will become more acute. The question is – power to whom and over whom? Is it power over the Revolutionary Democracy or the power of the Revolutionary Democracy? Do not forget that at the moment of demobilization we will need a still more powerful government, and therefore, I say that full power must be turned over to the Democracy.

“The policy of continual postponement and the detailed preparations for calling the Constituent Assembly is a false policy. It may destroy even the very realization of the Constituent Assembly. And these black ravens of the Fourth Imperial Duma are not at all so innocent. Their appointees in the Ministry are starving out the Russian Revolution practically in all spheres, while they themselves sit in the Tavrichevsky Palace and wait for the time when, as Deputy Kerensky thinks, the country itself will wish for the return of the old Octobrist Government. Then Rodzianko will come and tie us together in one bag, you from the right wing and us from the left.”

In answering Trotsky, Minister Tseretelli declared that

“... the concentration of all forces of the country is needed to liquidate the internal and foreign crisis. This problem can be met adequately only by a government which unites the tremendous majority of the population and which rests on all the living forces of the country. The Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Delegates undoubtedly have great influence; nonetheless, we cannot say that they unite all the forces of the country. Except the masses, which are united by Councils, there exists still tax-paying Russia and the propertied classes. Only by actual experience will it be made clear whether the representatives of the bourgeoisie are really capable of undertaking a radical programme of reforms or whether they came to sabotage this programme. If the representatives of the bourgeoisie prove incapable, they will be expelled, but until that happens nobody may discredit them in advance, because exactly such a lack of confidence would bring the disorganization which is so dangerous at the present time. The Bolshevik road can only lead to civil war.”

It was exactly the exclusion of the propertied classes that was necessary to a permanent, energetic and revolutionary government; it was exactly the necessity for excluding the bourgeoisie from the government that was a central feature of the policy of all power to the Soviets. A revolutionary Socialist would know that the bourgeoisie would prove incapable, a thing that Tseretelli was willing to learn only from experience: and when experience had proved the incapacity and treachery of the bourgeoisie beyond the shadow of a doubt, Tseretelli and other Mensheviks still opposed all power to the Soviets.

It was precisely confidence in the Coalition Government and its bourgeois policy that disorganized the country and weakened the morale of the Revolution. The problem of state power was a realistic problem: either all power to the Government or all power to the Soviets alone could cope with the situation. The duality of power simply intensified the crisis and prevented the organization of the internal forces.

The moderates desired to have the Soviets play the role of opposition, the role of the opposition party in a parliamentary government – a policy expressing neither audacity nor an understanding of the revolutionary requirements of the situation. The policy of the moderate majority in the Soviets would have, if successful, produced a permanent, strongly bourgeois government; and this would have meant the ultimate destruction of the Soviets and the potential revolutionary mission. The policy of the Bolsheviks, all power to the Soviets and the abolition of the old state and its bureaucratic machinery of government, was a realistic policy determined by the immediate practical requirements of the Revolution; and it was a policy moreover, that by the stress of events and necessity would convert itself into the policy of the proletarian revolution in Russia.

But the all-Russian Soviet Congress, still dominated by the moderates, persisted in the suicidal policy of coalition. Against the votes of the Bolsheviks and part of the Menshevik-Internationalists it adopted a resolution approving coalition: “1 . That under the conditions created as a result of the first ministerial crisis, the passing of all power to the bourgeois elements would deal a blow at the cause of the Revolution; 2. that the transfer of all power to the Councils of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Delegates at the present moment of the Russian Revolution, would greatly weaken her power by prematurely driving away from her elements which are still capable of serving the Revolution and would threaten its ruin.”After expressing “full confidence”in the “Comrade-Ministers”, the resolution proceeds:

“The Congress calls upon the Provisional Government to carry out more resolutely and consistently the democratic platform adopted by it, and, in particular: (a) to strive persistently for the speediest conclusion of a general peace without annexations or indemnities, on the basis of self-definition of nationalities; (b) to carry out the further democratization of the army and to strengthen its fighting power; (c) to undertake, with the direct participation of the toiling masses, the most energetic measures for combatting the financial-economic disruption and disorganization of the food supply produced by the war and made acute by the policy of the propertied classes; (d) to conduct a systematic and resolute fight against counter-revolutionary attempts; (e) to bring about the speediest realization of the measures affecting the questions of land and labour, in accordance with the demands of the organized toiling masses and dictated by the vital interests of the public economy, greatly sapped by the war; (f) to aid in the organization of all forces of the Revolutionary Democracy by means of rapid and radical reforms in the systems of local government and autonomy on a democratic basis, and the speediest introduction of Zemstvos and Muncipal autonomy, where there is none as yet; (g) particularly does the Congress demand the speediest convocation of the All-Russian Constituent Assembly.”

Just one demand in this resolution could be accepted sincerely and enthusiastically by the Provisional Government – the demand to strengthen the fighting power of the army. The rest of the programme was persistently and consistently sabotaged by the government: it was a programme that could be introduced only by a Soviet government. Fettered by the coalition, afraid of revolutionary audacity and power, the Soviets were directed by the moderate majority into the sterile policy of words and demands. But the reaction scored, and prepared itself for the day when it could contemptuously disregard the Soviets, even in words, and overthrow them completely.

The attitude of the All-Russian Congress solved nothing and settled nothing. The answer to the policy of hesitation was given by the revolt in Sevastopol, where the sailors deposed Admiral Kolchak, commander of the Black Sea Fleet, and by the demonstrations in Viborg, which cried, “Down with the capitalists! Long live the Social Republic!”

But the real answer to the policy of hesitation, an answer symptomatic of the widening split between the masses and the hesitating Soviet majority, was given by the masses of Petrograd. It was an answer that characterized equally the revolutionary impatience of the masses and the counter-revolutionary character of the Soviet moderates. The masses of Petrograd, aware of the counter-revolutionary trend of events, disgusted with the policy of hesitation, decided on June 18 upon a formidable demonstration. The All-Russian Congress united with the Provisional Government against the proposed demonstration. The Government posted placards calling upon the people to be calm, and declaring that any attempt at violence would be suppressed. The Congress declared against the demonstration a demonstration to voice the attitude and purposes of the masses and sent delegates to all the factory districts to counteract the agitation of the Bolsheviks and to prevent the demonstration. Tseretelli accused the Bolsheviks of intentions to overthrow the government by armed force. Tseretelli had become definitely counter-revolutionary, had constituted himself the guardian of a government that betrayed the hopes of the masses, had become a master mechanic forging fetters with which to shackle the action of the masses. Overthrow the government by armed force! Is this not a method of revolution? What an accusation, what a terrible incitement, coming from a revolutionist who had himself applauded the armed force that overthrew Czarism!

The Soviet Congress itself issued the following appeal against the proposed demonstration:

“Comrades, Soldiers and Workers! The Bolshevik Party is calling upon you to go out into the streets.

“This appeal is made without the knowledge of the Council of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Delegates, the All-Russian Congress, or all the Socialist Parties. It is sounded just at the moment of supreme danger when the All-Russian Congress has called upon our comrades, the workers in the district of Viborg, to remember that demonstrations in these days may hurt the cause of the Revolution

“At this dangerous moment you are called out into the streets to demand the overthrow of the Provisional Government, to which the All-Russian Congress has just found it necessary to give its support.

“And those who are calling you cannot but know that out of your own peaceful demonstration chaos and bloodshed may result.

“Knowing your devotion to the cause of the Revolution, we tell you: You are being called to a demonstration in favour of the Revolution, but we know that counter-revolutionists want to take advantage of your demonstration. We know that the counter-revolutionists are eagerly awaiting the moment when strife will develop in the ranks of the Revolutionary Democracy and will enable them to crush the Revolution.

“Comrades! in the name of all the Councils of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Delegates, in the name of the Council of Peasants’ Delegates, in the name of the acting Army and the Socialist Parties, we tell you: Not a single division, not a single regiment, not a group of workers must go out into the street tomorrow. Not a single demonstration should be held today<&#8221;/p>

As in the stormy days of May 2-3, the moderate majority in the Councils restrained and fettered the action of the masses. Opposed by the government, opposed by the Soviets, still unaware of its mighty strength, the Petrograd masses abandoned the proposed demonstration.

The Congress’ declaration against the demonstration says that it was called without consultation with the other parties and without the sanction of the Soviets. Precisely; and it is precisely this circumstance which is important: the revolutionary struggle was now definitely and fundamentally a struggle between the right and left wings of the Revolution, between the moderates and the radicals in the Soviets. The problem of the Revolution was not to overthrow the Provisional Government but to overthrow the domination of the moderates in the Soviets by securing the adhesion of the masses to a revolutionary programme. The Provisional Government would collapse immediately and of itself the moment the radicals secured control of the Soviets, since the Soviet moderates alone sustained the Government.

All these events of June conspired to hearten the Provisional Government, particularly as the All-Russian Congress had decided in favour of a vigorous prosecution of the war and declared that “the question of an offensive must be decided exclusively from the point of view of purely military and strategic considerations.” Kerensky as Minister of War made all the necessary preparations, and on July 1 the offensive was launched against the Austro-German lines in Gahela. The offensive was temporarily successful, but then came the counterattacks of the enemy and the offensive was smothered in its own insufficiency. The offensive was a military adventure of the most deplorable character; under the circumstances, it was sheer murder of the Russian soldiers, who were unprepared. In spite of the declaration of the All-Russian Congress, that an offensive was “purely military and strategic”, the offensive of July 1 was determined by political considerations. It was a manoeuvre to restore “discipline” in the army, to strike at the revolutionary opposition and strengthen the hands of the Provisional Government. It was, moreover, determined by diplomatic considerations: relations between Russia and the Allies were being strained by Russia’s apparent refusal to fight. The pressure of the Allies and the necessity of securing their financial assistance determined the inauguration of the offensive. The Bolshevik organ Pravda openly asserted this character of the offensive. And, to be sure, the Provisional Government was in an impasse, because of its bourgeois and imperialist policy.

The political results of the offensive were important. On July 18 the Executive Committee of the All-Russian Soviet of Workers’ Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Delegates approved the offensive. The reaction was strengthened and moderates and government became more thoroughly one and reactionary. On July 15 a ministerial crisis flared up, resulting in the resignation of five Cadet members from the Cabinet on the issue of Ukranian autonomy. This was a challenge to the Soviets and a repudiation of the government’s liberal policy.

But, simultaneously, the masses were aroused, determined upon action to defend the Revolution. The trend of events was too definitely counter-revolutionary to be accepted silently. And again the masses of Petrograd, always actively on the aggressive, determined to act. On July 15 the Government ordered the Petrograd Machine-Gun Regiment to the front; it refused to go, declaring it would not fight for Anglo-French Imperialism, and would obey only if the Government published its secret treaties. Two other regiments acted similarly. A demonstration was agreed upon and organized for July 17. All parties, including the Bolsheviks, tried to prevent the demonstration, the Bolsheviks because they knew counter-revolutionary gangs were prepared to provoke a clash, which under the conditions they considered premature. The Executive Committee of the All-Russian Soviets issued a proclamation against the demonstration, mentioning that several detachments of soldiers had demanded that it “take over all power.” But the determination of the masses and workers and soldiers was inflexible, and in spite of all opposition a demonstration was agreed upon, and an armed demonstration, moreover, symbol of their purpose to use force if a peaceful demonstration was unsuccessful. The Bolsheviks, realizing the strength of the masses’ sentiments, participated in the demonstration as the party of the revolutionary masses. As was anticipated, the peaceful demonstration was converted into an armed uprising by the armed interference and provocation of counter-revolutionary forces, and after two days of savage fighting the uprising was crushed by means of Cossacks and large numbers of reliable troops. A veritable counterrevolutionary reign of terror ensued. The Mensheviks and Social Revolutionists actively cooperated with the Government in imprisoning the Bolsheviks and disarming the masses, establishing “revolutionary order” by crushing the left wing of the Revolution. This formidable uprising, however, in spite of its defeat, went far toward preserving the Revolution and energizing the morale of the masses: its defeat paved the way for the overthrow of the moderates in the Soviets, which occurred completely a few months later.

Events had demonstrated the necessity of ministerial reconstruction, and on July 20 Prince Lvov resigned as Premier, Kerensky being appointed the new Premier, but retaining his portfolio as Minister of War and Marine. On July 20 Kerensky issued a proclamation to the army and navy, accusing the sailors of Kronstadt and the Baltic Fleet of being tools of “German agents and provocateurs,” and ordering:

“1. The Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet to be immediately disbanded, a new one to be elected in its place.

“2. To declare to all crews and vessels of the Baltic Fleet that I call upon them immediately to remove from their midst suspicious persons who are inciting disobedience to the Provisional Government and agitating against an advance, and to bring them for investigation and trial to Petrograd.

“3. To the Crews of Kronstadt and the ships of the line, Petropavlovsk, Republica and Slava, whose honour is stained by counterrevolutionary acts and resolutions: I order the arrest within 24 hours of all the ring-leaders and that they be sent for investigation and trial to Petrograd, and be ordered to give assurance of full obedience to the Provisional Government. I declare to the crews of Kronstadt and the above-mentioned ships that in case of failure to comply with my present order they will be declared traitors to the country and the Revolution and that the most resolute measures will be taken against them.”

This was the first act of the “revolutionary” Premier Kerensky, an act directed against the courageous and revolutionary sailors of Kronstadt and the Baltic Fleet, who had been most active factors in the first stage of the Revolution and throughout its subsequent course, and who were now stigmatized because they adhered to the revolutionary programme of “all power to the Soviets.” On July 25 the Executive Committee of the All-Russian Soviets adopted a resolution, 300 to 11, insinuating that Lenin and Zinoviev had received money from German sources and demanding that the Bolsheviks repudiate their leaders. An order for the arrest of Lenin was issued, who went into hiding; hundreds of Bolsheviks were imprisoned. [3]

On August 3 there was a new ministerial crisis, Minister of Agriculture Chernov resigning, and on August 7 Premier Kerensky announced the new Cabinet, including Chernov and representatives of the Cadets, who agreed to participate in the new government.

The resignation of the Cadets from the Ministry on July 15, and of Prince Lvov on July 20, was an offensive manoeuvre against the Soviets, an attempt to thrust power upon the Soviets, which the Cadets knew very well they would decline. Premier Kerensky made his peace with the Cadets by means of concessions, and the consequence of these concessions was a definite swing to the right by the new government, the adoption of a general policy making consistently for reaction. On July 22, the Executive Committee of the All-Russian Soviets, proclaimed the Kerensky Government “the government of National Safety”, and declared: “That unlimited powers be accorded the Government for re-establishing the organization and discipline of the Army for a fight to the finish against the enemies of public order and for the realization of the whole programme of the Government.” The dictatorship was used against “the enemies of public order”, enthusiastically, rigorously and systematically; but the “realization of the whole programme” still remained a thing of the future. The death penalty was restored in the army. The dictatorship was, in action, a counter-revolutionary dictatorship. But whose dictatorship? The fatal weakness of the whole regime was that it was based on compromise, that behind it was no class capable of sustaining a dictatorship; and the inevitable consequence was the creation of a situation in which either an individual would become dictator, or the whole system would collapse. Kerensky did try to become dictator; he essayed the role of Bonaparte, but he was not even a mediocre Napoleon the Great, simply a shabby, theatrical imitation of Napoleon the Little. Kerensky talked and fumed and threatened while the bourgeoisie patiently awaited for the moment when they could march in and assume all power. The internal crisis became still more acute, disintegration the order of the day. Over the mass of misery, of oppression, poured the golden flood of Kerensky’s eloquence; but the flood obliterated neither the sufferings of the masses nor the counter-revolutionary plots of the bourgeoisie.

Reaction was to have its day. The Moscow Conference, the Fall of Riga, the Kornilov-Kerensky rebellion, the reactionary “Democratic Congress” – through all these reaction was to express itself in a last, desperate, spasmodic struggle: and all the while the masses were preparing for the final action – and victory.

Louis C. Fraina.
October, 1918

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1. In the matter of publishing the secret treaty agreements, the Kerensky Government also took its cue from the Allies. Tereschenko, who was Kerensky’s Minister of Foreign Affairs as he had been Prince Lvov’s, said in a secret telegram to the Russian Charge d’Affaires in Paris, dated September 24, 1917: “A publication of a treaty which is generally known would be completely misunderstood by public opinion and would only give rise to demands for the publication of the agreements which have been concluded during the war. The publication of these, and especially of the Rumanian and Italian treaties, is regarded by our Allies as undesirable. In any case we have no intention of putting difficulties in the way of France or of placing Ribot in a still more painful position no obstacles will be placed in the way of publishing all agreements before or during the war, in the event of the other Allies who are parties to them consenting.”

2. I shall not discuss here the interesting problem in psychology, concerning the motives of the Soviet moderates. Whether they were consciously counter-revolutionary is unimportant: we may even admit that they were not. But in great social crises the motives of individuals count for little: their tendency is the determining consideration. It is not necessary to accuse veterans of the Socialist movement, such as Plekhanov, Chkheidse and Tseretelli, of conscious treason to the Revolution: the fact that their attitude and general tendency acted against the Revolution is proven. The petty bourgeois policy of these men is the great curse of International Socialism, as it was of the proletarian revolution in Russia.

3. Trotsky was not directly affiliated with the Bolsheviks, and capital was made of this fact to create dissension among the revolutionary opposition. After the order was issued for the arrest of Lenin et al., Trotsky, in an open letter to the Ministry, declared: “My principles are the same as those of Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev. and I have always publicly defended these principles in my paper Vperiod and in all my speeches. The fact that I do not belong to the Pravda and the organization of the Bolsheviks does not result from differences in politics, but is caused by circumstances which divided the parties in the past, but have lost at present every meaning What I have here stated shows clearly that there is no logical reason whatever to omit me from the warrant to arrest Zinoviev, Lenin and Kamenev, which arrest is only the result of counter-revolutionary despotism.” This letter was published in Pravda as an expression of solidarity.

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Last updated on: 17.12.2006