Rumours of a Conspiracy

"To believe these rumours, to support them directly or indirectly, would mean, on the part of the Bolsheviks, betraying the cause of the revolution."

The item published under the above title in Novaya Zhizn No. 103 on August 17 deserves very serious attention. We must dwell on it (again and again), even though what it makes out to be something serious is not serious at all.

It says roughly that on August 14 the rumour was put about in Moscow that some Cossack units were moving towards Moscow from the front and that, moreover, “certain military groups enjoying the sympathy of certain circles in Moscow” were organising “decisive counter-revolutionary actions”. It also alleges that the military authorities had notified the Moscow Soviet of Soldiers’ and Workers’ Deputies, and “with the participation of Central Executive Committee members” (i.e., Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries) had taken steps to inform the soldiers of the need to guard the city, etc. “Moscow Bolsheviks,” the item says in conclusion, “were likewise invited to participate in these preparations since they are influential among many army units and were given access to these for the occasion.”

This last sentence is deliberately vague and ambiguous, for if the Bolsheviks are influential among many army units (which is indisputable and generally recognised), then who and how could give them “access” to those units? This is obviously absurd. If, however, the Bolsheviks were really “given access” “for the occasion” (By whom? Evidently by the Mensheviks and S.R.s!) to any army units, that means there was a certain bloc, alliance or agreement between the Bolsheviks and the defencists on “defence against the counter-revolution”.

It is this circumstance that makes an unserious item serious, and requires a very careful approach to what is reported on the part of all class-conscious workers.

The rumour put about by the defencists, i. e., by the Mensheviks and S.R.s., is clearly absurd, and the foul and infamous political calculations which have prompted it are quite evident. It is the Provisional Government which is really counter-revolutionary and which the defencists allegedly want to defend. Cossack troops were recalled from the front to the capitals, specifically to Petrograd on July 3, by none other than the Provisional Government and the “socialist” Ministers, as was formally confirmed by the Cossack General Kaledin at the Moscow counter-revolutionary imperialist meeting. This is a fact.

This particular fact, which exposes the Mensheviks and S.R.s, and proves their betrayal of the revolution, their alliance with the counter-revolutionaries, their alliance with the Kaledins—this fact the Mensheviks and S.R.s would like to cover up, to hush up, to make people forget, through “rumours” alleging that the Cossacks are marching on Moscow against the will of Kerensky, Tsereteli, Skobelev and Avksentyev, that the Mensheviks and the S.R.s are “defending the revolution”, and so on. The political scheme of the Menshevik and defencist traitors is as clear as can be: they want to fool the workers, to make themselves out to be revolutionaries, to learn something about the Bolsheviks (so as to pass it on to the counter-intelligence service, of course), to patch up their reputation! A scheme as vile as it is crude! At small expense, having made up a stupid little “rumour”, they hope to gain “access” to the Bolshevik army units and, in general, to strengthen confidence in the Provisional Government by assuring naive people that it is this government the Cossacks want to overthrow, that it is not in collusion with the Cossacks and is “defending the revolution”, and so on, and so forth.

The little scheme is obvious. The rumour, of course, is absurd and clearly fabricated. But confidence in the Provisional Government they hope to get in cold cash, and, further, they hope to draw the Bolsheviks into a “bloc” with them!

It is hard to believe that there can be such fools and scoundrels among the Bolsheviks willing to enter into a bloc with the defencists at present. It is hard to believe, first, because there is an explicit resolution of the Sixth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.[1] which says (see Proletary[2] No. 4) that “the Mensheviks have deserted for good to the camp of the proletariat’s enemies”. You do not conclude agreements or make blocs with people who have deserted for good to the enemy camp. “The prime task of revolutionary Social-Democrats,” the resolution goes on to say, “is to isolate them [the Menshevik defencists] completely from all the more or less revolutionary elements of the working class.” It is obviously against this isolation that the Mensheviks and S.R.s are fighting by spreading absurd rumours. And it is obvious that in Moscow as in Petrograd, the workers are turning away more and more from the Mensheviks and S.R.s, realising more and more clearly the treacherous, counter-revolutionary nature of their policies. And so, to “remedy the situation”, the defencists are compelled to resort to every trick in the book.

The Congress resolution being what it is, any Bolshevik who came to terms with the defencists for the purpose of “giving access”, or indirectly expressing confidence in the Provisional Government (which is allegedly being defended against the Cossacks), would, of course, be immediately and deservedly expelled from the Party.

There are, however, other reasons why it is hard to believe there can be Bolsheviks, in Moscow or elsewhere, capable of forming a bloc with the defencists, of forming anything like common, even temporary, bodies, of making any kind of deal, etc., with them. Let us imagine a situation most favourable to such rather unlikely Bolsheviks; let us assume that in their naïveté they actually believed in the rumours they hear from the Mensheviks and S.R.s; let us even assume that, to inspire them with confidence, they were given certain, likewise invented, “facts”. It is obvious that even in these circumstances, not a single honest Bolshevik who has not completely lost his head would agree to any bloc with the defencists, would make any deals on “giving access”, etc. Even in these circumstances, a Bolshevik would say: “Our workers and soldiers will fight the counter-revolutionary troops if they start an offensive now against the Provisional Government; they will do so not to defend this government, which called Kaledin and Co. on July 3, but to independently defend the revolution as they pursue their own aim, the aim of securing victory for the workers, for the poor, for the cause of peace, and not for the imperialists, for Kerensky, Avksentyev, Tsereteli, Skobelev and Co.” Even in the exceedingly unlikely situation we have assumed, a Bolshevik would tell the Mensheviks: “We shall fight, of course, but we refuse to enter into any political alliance whatever with you, refuse to express the least confidence in you. We shall fight in the very same way as the Social-Democrats fought tsarism in February 1917, together with the Cadets, without entering into any alliance with the Cadets or trusting them for one second. The slightest confidence in the Mensheviks would be as much of a betrayal of the revolution now as confidence in the Cadets would have been between 1905 and 1917.”

A Bolshevik would tell the workers and soldiers: “Let us fight, but not one iota of trust in the Mensheviks if you don’t want to rob yourselves of the fruits of victory.”

It is all too advantageous for the Mensheviks to put about false rumours and allegations to the effect that the government they support is saving the revolution, while in reality it has already formed a bloc with the Kaledins, is already counter-revolutionary, has already taken a great many steps, and is daily taking further steps, to meet the terms of this bloc with the Kaledins.

To believe these rumours, to support them directly or indirectly, would mean, on the part of the Bolsheviks, betraying the cause of the revolution. The chief guarantee of its success today is for the people to clearly realise the treachery of the Mensheviks and S.R.s and completely break with them, and for every revolutionary worker to boycott them as completely as they boycotted the Cadets after the experience of 1905.

(I request that several copies be made of this article, so that it may be sent to several Party papers and magazines simultaneously for publication, and at the same time be put before the Central Committee on my behalf with the following postscript:

I request that this article be considered as my report to the Central Committee, with the added proposal that the Central Committee order an official investigation, with Moscow comrades who are not members of the C. C. participating, to establish whether the Bolsheviks had any common institutions with the defencists on this basis, whether there were any blocs or agreements, what they consisted in, etc. The facts and particulars must be investigated officially, and all details ascertained. If the existence of a bloc is confirmed, members of the Central Committee or the Moscow Committee must be relieved of their duties and the question of their formal removal must be submitted, even before the next Congress meets, to the next plenary meeting of the Central Committee. For now, after the Moscow meeting, after the strike, after July 3–5, it is Moscow that is acquiring, or may acquire, the significance of a centre. It may well be that a movement similar to that of July 3–5 will develop in this vast proletarian centre, which is larger than Petrograd. At that time the task in Petrograd was to give the movement a peaceful and organised character. That was a correct slogan. The task facing us in Moscow now is entirely different; the former slogan would be absolutely incorrect. Our task now would be to take power and to proclaim ourselves the government in the name of peace, land for the peasants, and the convocation of the Constituent Assembly at the appointed time by agreement with the peasants in the various localities, etc. It is quite possible that such a movement will break out in Moscow due to unemployment, famine, a railway strike, economic dislocation, and so on. It is highly important to have people “at the helm” in Moscow who will not swerve to the right, who will not form blocs with the Mensheviks, and who in the event of a movement will understand the new tasks, the new slogan of seizing power, the new ways and means of winning it. This is why an “investigation” of the bloc case and censure of the Bolsheviks in the bloc, if any, and their removal are necessary not only for discipline, not only for remedying the blunder already made, but for the vital interests of the future movement. The Moscow strike on August 12 proved that the active workers support the Bolsheviks, even though the Duma elections yielded a majority to the S.R.s. This is very similar to the situation in Petrograd before July 3–5, 1917. But there is a vast difference between the situation then and now, for at that time Petrograd could not even have taken power physically, and had it done so, it could not have retained power politically, for Tsereteli and Co. had not yet sunk as low as to support butchery. This is why at that time, on July 3–5, 1917, in Petrograd, the slogan of taking power would have been incorrect. At that time, even the Bolsheviks were not, and could not have been, consciously determined to treat Tsereteli and Co. as counter-revolutionaries. At that time, neither the soldiers nor the workers could have had the experience brought by the month of July.

The situation now is entirely different. Should a spontaneous movement break out in Moscow today, the slogan should be precisely to seize power. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that the movement in Moscow be led by people fit for the task, who have fully grasped and considered this slogan. This is why we must insist again, and again on an investigation and the removal of the guilty.)


[1] Lenin is referring to the resolution “Unification of the Party”, passed by the Sixth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.). (See The C.P.S.U. in Resolutions and Decisions of Congresses, Conferences and Plenary Meetings of the C.C., Part I, 1954, p. 388 [in Russian].)

The Sixth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.) sat in Petrograd from July 26 to August 3 (August 8–16), 1917, in semi-legal conditions. It was attended by 157 delegates voting and 110 delegates with voice but no vote, from 240,000 Party members. Lenin guided the congress from underground. He kept in touch with Petrograd through Bolsheviks assigned by the Central Committee who visited him at Razliv. Lenin’s theses “The Political Situation”, the article “On Slogans” and other items formed the basis for congress resolutions. While at Razliv, Lenin took part in drafting the most important resolutions of the congress. The congress unanimously elected Lenin its honorary chairman.

The items on the congress agenda were: (1) Report by the Organising Bureau; (2) Report by the C.C. R.S.D.L.P.(B.); (3) Reports from Local Organisations; (4) The Current Situation: (a) The War and the International Situation; (b) The Political and Economic Situation; (5) Revision of the Programme; (6) The Organisational Question; (7) Elections to the Constituent Assembly; (8) The International; (9) Unification of the Party; (10) The Trade Union Movement; (11) Elections; (12) Miscellaneous.

The congress also discussed the question whether Lenin should appear in court.

The congress heard the political report of the Central Committee and the report on the political situation, both of which were presented by Stalin on behalf of the Central Committee. The resolution on the political situation was based on Lenin’s guiding recommendations. It appraised the political situation in the country following the July events, and set out the Party’s political line at the new stage of the revolution. The congress declared that the peaceful development of the revolution was over and that power in the country had virtually passed into the hands of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie. In keeping with Lenin’s recommendations, it temporarily withdrew the slogan “All Power to the Soviets”, because just then the Soviets, led by the Mensheviks and S.R.s, were an appendage to the counter-revolutionary Provisional Government. This withdrawal did not imply renunciation of the Soviets as the political form of proletarian dictatorship. The congress advanced the slogan of fighting for the complete abolition of the dictatorship of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie and for the proletariat winning power in alliance with the peasant poor, through an armed uprising.

The congress rejected the anti-Lenin proposals put forward by Preobrazhensky, who contended that the socialist revolution could not win in Russia and that Russia could not take the socialist road unless a proletarian revolution was accomplished in the West. The congress also rebuffed Bukharin, who opposed the Party’s course for the socialist revolution, saying that the peasants formed a bloc with the bourgeoisie and would refuse to follow the working class.

The congress decisions laid special emphasis on Lenin’s thesis of the alliance of the proletariat and the peasant poor as the paramount condition for the victory of the socialist revolution. “It is only the revolutionary proletariat,” said the resolution  “The Political Situation”, “that can accomplish this task—a task set by the new upswing—provided it is supported by the peasant poor” (The C.P.S.U. in Resolutions, etc., = Part I, 1954, p. 376 [in Russian]).

The question whether Lenin should appear in court was one of the first items discussed by the congress. Stalin, who touched on it in replying to the debate on the Central Committee’s political activity, declared in favour of Lenin appearing in court, on the understanding that Lenin’s personal safety would be guaranteed and the trial conducted on democratic lines. He moved a resolution to that effect. “It is not clear at the moment,” he said, “who is in power. There is no guarantee that if they = [Lenin and Zinoviev.—Ed.] = are arrested they will not be subjected to brute force. Things will be different if the trial is held on democratic lines and it is guaranteed that they will not be torn to pieces. When we asked the Central Executive Committee about this, they replied: ‘We don’t know what may happen.’ So long as the situation is not clear and a covert struggle is going on between the nominal and the real authority, there is no point in the comrades appearing before the authorities. If, however, power is wielded by an authority which can safeguard our comrades against violence and is fair-dealing at least to some extent ... they shall appear.” = (Minutes of the Sixth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.), August 1917, 1958, pp. 27 and 28 [in Russian].) This approach was prompted by an incorrect estimation of the political power in the country at the time, and by the idea that a bourgeois court could be “fair”.

The question whether Lenin should appear in court was dealt with in a report by G. K. Orjonikidze. He stressed that Lenin must under no circumstances be delivered into the hands of the investigators. F. E. Dzerzhinsky, N. A. Skrypnik and others spoke against Lenin appearing in court. We must say clearly and explicitly, said Dzerzhinsky, that those comrades who advised Lenin not to allow himself to be arrested did well. We must make clear to all comrades that we don’t trust the Provisional Government and the bourgeoisie and will not deliver Lenin until justice triumphs, that is, until that disgraceful trial is called off.

V. Volodarsky, I. Bezrabotny (D. Z. Manuilsky) and M.  Lashevich spoke in favour of Lenin appearing in court (provided his safety was guaranteed, the trial was public and representatives of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets attended it), and moved a resolution in that sense.

As a result of the debate, the Sixth Party Congress unanimously passed a resolution against Lenin appearing in court, expressed its “emphatic protest against the outrageous persecution of revolutionary proletarian leaders by the public prosecutor, spies and police”, = and sent Lenin a message of greeting.

Y. M. Sverdlov reported on the Central Committee’s organising activity. He pointed out that in the three months that had passed since the Seventh (April) All-Russia Conference the Party membership had trebled, increasing from 80,000 to 240,000, and the number of Party organisations had grown from 78 to 162. The congress heard nineteen reports from local organisations. The speakers stressed the vast amount of work being carried on by local organisations and the steadily growing influence of the Bolsheviks among the working people.

The congress discussed and approved the Party’s economic platform, which envisaged nationalisation and centralisation of the banks, nationalisation of large-scale industry, confiscation of the landed estates and nationalisation of all the lands in the country, establishment of workers’ control over production and distribution, organisation of proper exchange between town and country, and other revolutionary measures.

The congress adopted the new Party Rules. The first clause of the Rules, dealing with membership, was supplemented with the stipulation that Party members should submit to all Party decisions. The new provision was introduced that persons seeking admission should present recommendations from two Party members and that their admission should be subject to approval by the general meeting of the organisation concerned. The Rules stressed that all Party organisations should be based on the principles of democratic centralism. Party congresses were to be convened once a year and plenary meetings of the Central Committee, not less than once in two months.

The congress reaffirmed the decision of the Seventh Conference of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.) on the need to revise the Party Programme in the sense indicated by the conference. It found it necessary to call a congress before long for the express purpose of adopting a new Programme, and instructed the Central Committee and all Party organisations to begin discussing a revision of the Party Programme, preparatory to the congress.

The congress resolution “Youth Leagues” said it was a pressing task to contribute to the formation of socialist class organisations of young workers, and obliged Party organisations to devote the greatest attention to this task. In discussing the item “The Trade Union Movement”, the congress criticised the theory of trade union neutrality and pointed out that the trade unions had a vital interest in carrying the revolution through to a victorious end and that they could accomplish the tasks facing Russia’s working class provided they remained militant class organisations recognising the political leadership of the Bolshevik Party.

The congress made all its decisions subordinate to the chief objective, which was to train the working class and the peasant poor for an armed uprising to bring about the victory of the socialist revolution. In a manifesto addressed to all working people, all workers, soldiers and peasants of Russia, it called on them to gather strength and prepare, under the banners of the Bolshevik Party, for the decisive battle with the bourgeoisie.

Among those the congress elected to the Central Committee were V. I. Lenin, Y. A. Berzin, A. S. Bubnov, F. E. Dzerzhinsky, A. M. Kollontai, V. P. Milyutin, M. K. Muranov, V. P. Nogin, F. A. Sergeyev (Artyom), S. G. Shahumyan, J. V. Stalin, Y. M. Sverdlov and M. S. Uritsky.

[2] Proletary (The Proletarian)—Central Organ of the Bolshevik Party, was published daily from August 13 (26) to August 24 (September 6), 1917, instead of Pravda, closed down by the Provisional Government. Altogether ten issues were brought out.


Source: Marxist Internet Archive.