In Defence of October

Study the lessons of the Russian Revolution

About us 1917 Live

The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It


The Struggle Against Economic Chaos—and the War

A consideration of the measures to avert the impending catastrophe brings us to another supremely important question, namely, the connection between home and foreign policy, or, in other words, the relation between a war of conquest, an imperialist war, and a revolutionary, proletarian war, between a criminal predatory war and a just democratic war.

All the measures to avert catastrophe we have described would, as we have already stated, greatly enhance the defence potential, or, in other words, the military might of the country. That, on the one hand. On the other hand, these measures cannot be put into effect without turning the war of conquest into a just war, turning the war waged by the capitalists in the interests of the capitalists into a war waged by the proletariat in the interests of all the working and exploited people.

And, indeed, nationalisation of the banks and syndicates, taken in conjunction with the abolition of commercial secrecy and the establishment of workers’ control over the capitalists, would not only imply a tremendous saving of national labour, the possibility of economising forces and means, but would also imply an improvement in the conditions of the working masses, of the majority of the population. As everybody knows, economic organisation is of decisive importance in modern warfare. Russia has enough grain, coal, oil and iron; in this respect, we are in a better position than any of the belligerent European countries. And given a struggle against economic chaos by the measures indicated above, enlisting popular initiative in this struggle, improving the people’s conditions, and nationalising the banks and syndicates, Russia could use her revolution and her democracy to raise the whole country to an incomparably higher level of economic organisation.

If instead of the “coalition” with the bourgeoisie, which is hampering every measure of control and sabotaging production, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks had in April effected the transfer of power to the Soviets and had directed their efforts not to playing at "ministerial leapfrog", not to bureaucratically occupying, side by side with the Cadets, ministerial, deputy-ministerial and similar posts, but to guiding the workers and peasants in their control over the capitalists, in their war against the capitalists, Russia would now be a country completely transformed economically, with the land in the hands of the peasants, and with the banks nationalised, i.e., would to that extent (and these are extremely important economic bases of modern life) be superior to all other capitalist countries.

The defence potential, the military might, of a country whose banks have been nationalised is superior to that of a country whose banks remain in private hands. The military might of a peasant country whose land is in the hands of peasant committees is superior to that of a country whose land is in the hands of landowners.

Reference is constantly being made to the heroic patriotism and the miracles of military valour performed by the French in 1792-93. But the material, historical economic conditions which alone made such miracles possible are forgotten. The suppression of obsolete feudalism in a really revolutionary way, and the introduction throughout the country of a superior mode of production and free peasant land tenure, effected, moreover, with truly revolutionary democratic speed, determination, energy and devotion—such were the material, economic conditions which with “miraculous” speed saved France by regenerating and renovating her economic foundation.

The example of France shows one thing, and one thing only, namely, that to render Russia capable of self-defence, to obtain in Russia, too, “miracles” of mass heroism, all that is obsolete must be swept away with “Jacobin” ruthlessness and Russia renovated and regenerated economically. And in the twentieth century this cannot be done merely by sweeping tsarism away (France did not confine herself to this 125 years ago). It cannot be done even by the mere revolutionary abolition of the landed estates (we have not even done that, for the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks have betrayed the peasants), by the mere transfer of the land to the peasants. For we are living in the twentieth century, and mastery over the land without mastery over the banks cannot regenerate and renovate the life of the people.

The material, industrial renovation of France at the end of the eighteenth century was associated with a political and spiritual renovation, with the dictatorship of revolutionary democrats and the revolutionary proletariat (from which the democrats had not dissociated themselves and with which they were still almost fused), and with a ruthless war declared on everything reactionary. The whole people, and especially the masses, i.e., the oppressed classes, were swept up by boundless revolutionary enthusiasm; everybody considered the war a just war of defence, as it actually was. Revolutionary France was defending herself against reactionary monarchist Europe. It was not in 1792-93, but many years later, after the victory of reaction within the country, that the counter-revolutionary dictatorship of Napoleon turned France’s wars from defensive wars into wars of conquest.

And what about Russia? We continue to wage an imperialist war in the interests of the capitalists, in alliance with the imperialists and in accordance with the secret treaties the tsar concluded with the capitalists of Britain and other countries, promising the Russian capitalists in these treaties the spoliation of foreign lands, of Constantinople, Lvov, Armenia, etc.

The war will remain an unjust, reactionary and predatory war on Russia’s part as long as she does not propose a just peace and does not break with imperialism. The social character of the war, its true meaning, is not determined by the position of the enemy troops (as the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks think, stooping to the vulgarity of an ignorant yokel). What determines this character is the policy of which the war is a continuation ("war is the continuation of politics"), the class that is waging the war, and the aims for which it is waging this war.

You cannot lead the people into a predatory war in accordance with secret treaties and expect them to be enthusiastic. The foremost class in revolutionary Russia, the proletariat, is becoming increasingly aware of the criminal character of the war, and not only have the bourgeoisie been unable to shatter this popular conviction, but, on the contrary, awareness of the criminal character of the war is growing. The proletariat of both metropolitan cities of Russia has definitely become internationalist!

How, then, can you expect mass enthusiasm for the war!

One is inseparable from the other—home policy is inseparable from foreign policy. The country cannot be made capable of self-defence without the supreme heroism of the people in boldly and resolutely carrying out great economic transformations. And it is impossible to arouse popular heroism without breaking with imperialism, without proposing a democratic peace to all nations, and without thus turning the war from a criminal war of conquest and plunder into a just, revolutionary war of defence.

Only a thorough and consistent break with the capitalists in both home and foreign policy can save our revolution and our country, which is gripped in the iron vice of imperialism.


The February Revolution
Strikes and protests erupt on women's day in Petrograd and develop into a mass movement involving hundreds of thousands of workers; within 5 days the workers win over the army and bring down the hated and seemingly omnipotent Tsarist Monarchy.
Lenin Returns
Lenin returns to Russia and presents his ‘April Theses’ denouncing the Bourgeois Provisional Government and calling for “All Power to the Soviets!”
The June Days
Following the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets, the reformist leaders called a demonstration to show the strength of "democracy". 400,000 people attended, the vast majority carried banners with Bolshevik slogans.
The July Days
Spontaneous, armed demonstrations against the Provisional Government erupt in Petrograd. The workers and soldiers are suppressed by force, introducing a period of reaction and making the peaceful development of the revolution impossible.
The Kornilov Affair
Following the July days, the Bolsheviks were driven underground and the forces of reaction were emboldened. This process culminated in the reactionary forces coalescing around General Kornilov, who attempt to march on Petrograd and crush the revolutionary movement in its entirety.
The October Revolution
The Provisional Government is overthrown. State power passes to the Soviets on the morningm of 26th October, after the Bolsheviks’ Military Revolutionary Committee seize the city and the cabinet surrenders.
  • V. I. Lenin

    V. I. Lenin

    "The dominating trait of his character, the feature which constituted half his make-up, was his will..."
  • L. Trotsky

    L. Trotsky

    “Astounding speeches, fanfares of orders, the unceasing electrifier of a weakening army.”
  • G. Plekhanov

    G. Plekhanov

    "In the final analysis the brilliant aspects of Plekhanov’s character will endure forever."
  • G. O. Zinoviev

    G. O. Zinoviev

    "Zinoviev has won the reputation of being one of the most remarkable orators – a difficult feat."
  • Y. M. Sverdlov

    Y. M. Sverdlov

    “He did not die on the field of battle, but we are right to see him as a man who gave his life for the cause.”
  • V. Volodarsky

    V. Volodarsky

    “He was always to be seen in the front row, the on-the-spot leader. So, they killed him.”
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Reading Guides

  • The 1917 February Revolution

    The 1917 February Revolution

    The February Revolution saw a mass strike develop from below at a furious pace which posed the question of state power within a week of its inception. Workers in Petrograd took to the streets against intolerable bread shortages, the slaughter
  • Lenin Returns in April

    Lenin Returns in April

    This reading guide contains some of Lenin’s most important writings and speeches made in the April period, accompanied by works which provide further details of events at that stage of the Revolution.
  • The June Days 1917

    The June Days 1917

    This reading guide informs the May-June period of the Revolution with analysis, accounts of those who were involved and important speeches and writings of the time.
  • The July Days 1917

    The July Days 1917

    This selection of texts covers the background, events and consequences of the July Days. Next, we will turn our attention to one of those consequences – the Kornilov putsch in late August.
  • The Kornilov affair

    The Kornilov affair

    Kornilov’s failed coup brought the direct action of the masses into play again, and proved to them once and for all that they were the only force in society capable of transforming their own living conditions. For the first time,
  • The October Insurrection 1917

    The October Insurrection 1917

    The following series of articles provides in-depth analyses and first-hand accounts of the events immediately preceding, during and after the greatest event in human history: the October Revolution, in addition to reflections on its aftermath.
  • 1