J. V. Stalin

The Conference in the Mariinsky Palace

April 26, 1917

Source : Works, Vol. 3, March - October, 1917
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2008
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.

A report of the conference between the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies and the Provisional Government has already appeared in the bourgeois press. This report, which in general is rather less than accurate, in places flatly distorts the facts and is misleading. This apart from the peculiar manner of handling the facts which is characteristic of the bourgeois press. It is therefore necessary to reproduce the real picture of what happened at the conference.

The purpose of the conference was to clarify the relations between the Provisional Government and the Executive Committee in connection with Minister Mi-lyukov's Note, 1 which had sharpened the conflict.

The conference was opened by Premier Lvov. His introductory speech boiled down to the following points. Until very recently the country had had confidence in the Provisional Government and things had gone satisfactorily. But now this confidence had disappeared, and there was even resistance. This had been felt particularly in the past fortnight, when certain well-known socialist circles started a campaign in the press against the Provisional Government. That could not continue.

They must have the determined support of the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies. Otherwise, they would resign.

Then came "reports" by Ministers (War, Agriculture, Transport, Finance, Foreign Affairs), the most outspoken being Guchkov, Shingaryov and Milyukov. The speeches of the other Ministers only repeated their conclusions.

Minister Guchkov's speech amounted to a justification of the imperialist view of our revolution, namely, that the revolution in Russia must be regarded as a means of "fighting the war to a finish." "It was my conviction," he said in effect, "that a revolution in Russia was needed in order to avoid defeat. I wanted the revolution to create a new factor of victory, and I hoped that it would create it. Our aim is defencism in the broad meaning of the term, defencism not only for the present, but also for the future. But in these past weeks there have been a number of adverse developments. . . . The fatherland is in danger." . . . The chief reason was the "spate of pacifist ideas" preached by certain socialist circles. The Minister transparently hinted that this preaching must be curbed, that discipline must be restored, and that in this the assistance of the Executive Committee was needed. . . .

Minister Shingaryov painted a picture of the food crisis in Russia. . . . The cardinal issue was not the Note and foreign policy, but grain: if the grain situation were not remedied, nothing could be remedied. No small factor in aggravating the food crisis was the spoiling of the roads owing to the spring thaw, and other transient causes. But the chief reason, Shingaryov considered, was the "deplorable fact" that the peasants were "taking up the land question," were arbitrarily ploughing up landed estates, removing war prisoners from the landlords' farms, and generally indulging in agrarian "illusions." This peasant movement — in Shingaryov's opinion a harmful movement — was being "fanned" by the agitation of the "Leninists" in favour of the confiscation of the land and their "fanatical partisan blindness." The "pernicious agitation" from that "poisonous nest, the Kshesinska mansion," 2 must be stopped. . . . One or the other : either confidence in the existing Provisional Government, in which case the agrarian "excesses" must stop; or another government.

Milyukov. "The Note is not my personal opinion, but the opinion of the entire Provisional Government. The question of foreign policy amounts to the question of whether we are prepared to fulfil our pledges to our allies. We are bound to our allies. . . . Generally, we are assessed as a force solely by whether we are fitted or unfitted for specified purposes. We have only to show ourselves weak, and the attitude towards us will change for the worse. . . . Renunciation of annexations would therefore be fraught with danger. . . . We need your confidence; let us have it, and then there will be enthusiasm in the army, we shall then have an offensive in the interests of a united front, we shall then press hard on the Germans and deflect them from the French and British. This is demanded by our commitments to our allies." "You see, then," Milyukov concluded, "that, the situation being what it is, and we not being desirous of losing the confidence of our allies, the Note could not be other than it was."

Thus the lengthy speeches of the Ministers boiled down to a few terse theses: the country was passing through a severe crisis; the cause of the crisis was the revolutionary movement; the way out of the crisis was to curb the revolution and carry on with the war.

It followed that to save the country it was necessary: 1) to curb the soldiers (Guchkov), 2) to curb the peasants (Shingaryov), 3) to curb the revolutionary workers (all the Ministers), who are unmasking the Provisional Government. Support us in this difficult job, help us to wage an offensive war (Milyukov), and all will be well. Otherwise, we resign.

That is what the Ministers said.

It is highly noteworthy that these arch-imperialist and counter-revolutionary speeches of the Ministers met with no rebuff from the representative of the Executive Committee majority, Tsereteli. Scared by the Ministers' bluntness, and dumbfounded by the prospect of their resignation, Tsereteli, in his speech, implored them to make a still possible concession by issuing an "expla-nation" 3 of the Note in a desirable spirit, at least for "home consumption." "The democracy," he said, "would support the Provisional Government with the utmost energy," if it consented to make this concession, which, essentially speaking, would be a purely verbal one.

A desire to gloss over the conflict between the Provisional Government and the Executive Committee, a readiness to make concessions so long as agreement was maintained—such was the keynote of Tsereteli's speeches.

Quite the opposite was the tenor of Kamenev's speech. If the country was on the verge of disaster, if it was in the throes of economic, food and other crises, the way out lay not in continuing the war, which would only aggravate the crisis and might devour the fruits of the revolution, but in its speediest termination. To all appearances the existing Provisional Government was not capable of assuming the task of ending the war, because it was out for a "war to a finish." The solution therefore lay in the transfer of power to another class, a class capable of leading the country out of the impasse. . . .

When Kamenev concluded, there were cries from the Ministerial seats: "Well, then, take power yourselves!"


Soldatskaya Pravda, No. 40, April 26, 1917


1. The Note of Milyukov, Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Provisional Government and leader of the Cadets, was sent to the Allied powers on April 18, 1917. It gave assurances of the fidelity of the Provisional Government to the treaties concluded by the tsarist regime and affirmed its readiness to continue the imperialist war. The Note evoked profound indignation among the workers and soldiers of Petrograd.

2. The Kshesinska mansion (Kshesinska had been a favourite of the tsar) was seized by the revolutionary soldiers at the time of the February Revolution and served as the premises of the Central and Petrograd Bolshevik Committees, the Army Organization of the C.C., R.S.D.L.P.(B.), a soldiers' club and other workers' and soldiers' organizations.

3. On April 22, 1917, after the conference in the Mariinsky Palace, the Provisional Government published an "explanation" of Milyukov's Note, asserting that by "a decisive victory over the enemy" was meant "establishment of enduring peace on the basis of the self-determination of nations." The compromising Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies accepted the government's corrections and "explanations" as satisfactory and considered "the incident closed."