The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Lenin:
“This Government Will Not Give Peace, Nor Bread, Nor Freedom!”

Apr 3, 2017

The following two articles continue our series on the Russian Revolution, taken from the words of people who were active in those events 100 years ago.

After the Russian Revolution broke out in March, Lenin, still exiled in Switzerland, had to follow events in the bourgeois press. In five letters sent to the Bolshevik paper Pravda, he analyzed the revolutionary situation in a way that cut through the mood of conciliation that followed the fall of Czarism and the establishment of a Provisional Government in the hands of the bourgeoisie. Kamenev and Stalin, editors of the paper, only published one of these Letters from Afar:

“How could such a ‘miracle’ have happened, that in only eight days ... a monarchy collapsed that had sustained itself for centuries...? ...

“The first revolution (1905) deeply ploughed the soil, uprooted age-old prejudices, awakened millions of workers and tens of millions of peasants to political life and political struggle and revealed to each other – and to the world – all classes (and all the principal parties) of Russian society in their true character and in the true alignment of their interests, their forces, their modes of action, and their immediate and ultimate aims....

“This eight-day revolution was ‘performed,’ if we may use a metaphorical expression, as though after a dozen major and minor rehearsals; the ‘actors’ knew each other, their parts, their places and their setting in every detail, through and through, down to every more or less important shade of political trend and mode of action....

“The czarist monarchy has been smashed, but not finally destroyed.

“... If there is to lie a real struggle against the czarist monarchy, if freedom is to be guaranteed in fact and not merely in words, in glib promises ..., the workers must not support the new government; the government must ‘support’ the workers!...

“Ours is a bourgeois revolution, we Marxists say, therefore the workers must open the eyes of the people to the deception practiced by the bourgeois politicians, teach them to put no faith in words, to depend entirely on their own strength, their own organization, their own unity, and their own weapons.

“The (provisional) government cannot, even if it sincerely wanted to (only infants can think that the government is sincere), cannot give the people either peace, bread, or freedom.

“It cannot give peace because it is a war government, a government for the continuation of the imperialist slaughter, a government of plunder, out to plunder Armenia, Galicia, Turkey, annex Constantinople, reconquer Poland, Courland, Lithuania, etc....

“It cannot give bread because it is a bourgeois government.... The people will learn, and probably very soon, that there is bread and that it can be obtained, but only by methods that do not respect the sanctity of capital and land ownership.

“It cannot give freedom because it is a landlord and capitalist government which fears the people ...

“Workers, you have performed miracles of proletarian heroism, the heroism of the people, in the civil war against czarism. You must perform miracles of organization, organization of the proletariat and of the whole people, to prepare the way for your victory in the second stage of the revolution.

“... Who are the proletariat’s allies in this revolution?

“It has two allies: First, the broad mass of the semi-proletarian and partly also of the small-peasant population, who number scores of millions and constitute the overwhelming majority of the population of Russia. For this mass, peace, bread and freedom are essential.

“Second, the ally of the Russian proletariat is the proletariat of all the belligerent countries and of all countries in general. At present this ally is to a large degree repressed by the war, and all too often the European social-chauvinists speak in its name, men who ... have deserted to the bourgeoisie. But the liberation of the proletariat from their influence has progressed with every month of the imperialist war, and the Russian revolution will inevitably immensely hasten this process.”