J. V. Stalin

Division of Labour in the
"Socialist-Revolutionary" Party

August 23 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.

At the last meeting of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies the Socialist-Revolutionaries voted for the abolition of the death penalty and joined in protesting against the arrest of Bolsheviks.

That, of course, is very good and very commendable.

But we take the liberty in this connection of asking one modest question:

Who introduced the death penalty at the front, and who arrested the Bolsheviks?

Wasn't it the Socialist-Revolutionaries (with the gracious assistance of the Cadets and Mensheviks!)? As far as we know, citizen A. F. Kerensky, the Prime Minister, is a member of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. His name adorned the list of candidates of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party in the elections to the Petrograd City Duma.

As far as we know, citizen B. V. Savinkov, Deputy Minister of War, is also a member of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party.

Well, wasn't it these two prominent "Socialist-Revolutionaries" who were primarily responsible for the restoration of the death penalty at the front? (To them should be added General Kornilov, but he has not joined the Socialist-Revolutionary Party so far.)

Further, we know that citizen Chernov, Minister of Agriculture, is also supposed to be a member of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party.

And lastly, citizen N. D. Avksentyev, Minister of the Interior, that is to say the person who, next to Ke-rensky, occupies the most prominent post in the cabinet, is also a member of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party.

Well, wasn't it all these right honourable "Socialist-Revolutionaries" who introduced the death penalty at the front and arrested the Bolsheviks?

One may ask: What is this strange division of labour in the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, that some of its members vehemently protest against the introduction of the death penalty while others introduce it with their own hands?. . .

It is truly astonishing! It was so very recently that we overthrew the autocratic system, it was so very recently that we began to live "in the European manner," yet we have adopted at once all the objectionable features of "Europeanism." Take any bourgeois-radical party— in France, let us say. It will unfailingly call itself a socialist party—"Radical Socialist," "Independent Socialist," etc., etc. Before the electors, the masses, the "lower orders," these parties always scatter "Left" phrases, particularly on the eve of elections, and particularly when they are being hard pressed by a competitor, a genuine socialist party. But "at the top," the "Radical Socialist" and "Independent Socialist" government ministers calmly carry on with their bourgeois work, totally regardless of the socialist aspirations of their electors.

That is how the Socialist-Revolutionaries are behaving now.

A happy party! Who introduced the death penalty? The Socialist-Revolutionaries! Who protested against the death penalty? The Socialist-Revolutionaries!—You pay your money and take your choice. . . .

The Socialist-Revolutionaries hope in this way to preserve their innocence (retain their popularity with the masses) and make a fortune nevertheless (retain their Ministerial portfolios).

But, it will be said, disagreements occur in every party; some members think one way, others another.

Yes, but there are disagreements and disagreements. If some are for the hangmen and others against, to reconcile such "disagreements" within one party is rather difficult. And if, moreover, it is the most responsible leaders of the party, the government ministers, who are for the hangmen, and put their opinion into practice straightaway, every politically-minded person will judge the party's policies by the actions of these ministers, and not by this or that resolution of protest which the party rank and file may endorse.

The shame has not been wiped out. The Socialist-Revolutionary Party remains a death penalty party, a jailers' party which arrests working-class leaders. The Socialist-Revolutionaries will never rid themselves of the shameful stigma that it was prominent members of their party who re-introduced the death penalty. They will never wash off the stain that it was their government that encouraged the infamous calumniation of the leaders of the workers' party; that it was their, government that tried to stage a new Dreyfus affair 1 against Lenin. . . .


Proletary, No. 9, August 23, 1917


1.In 1894 French reactionaries brought a false charge of espionage and high treason against Dreyfus, a Jewish officer of the French General Staff. He was court-martialled and sentenced to life imprisonment. The public movement in defence of Dreyfus which developed in France disclosed the corruptness of the court and exacerbated the political struggle between the republicans and monarchists. Dreyfus was pardoned and released in 1899. The case was reviewed in 1906 and he was exonerated.