Our Revolution

A compilation of key works by Leon Trotsky, written between 1904 and the end of April 1917, about the character and tasks of the Russian Revolution.

Preface by M.J. Olgin

The world has not known us Russian revolutionists. The world has sympathized with us; the world abroad has given aid and comfort to our refugees; the world, at times, even admired us; yet the world has not known us. Friends of freedom in Europe and America were keenly anxious to see the victory of our cause; they watched our successes and our defeats with breathless interest; yet they were concerned with material results. Our views, our party affiliations, our factional divisions, our theoretical groupings, our ideological constructions, to us the leading lights in our revolutionary struggles, were foreign to the world. All this was supposed to be an internal Russian affair.

The Revolution has now ceased to be an internal Russian affair. It has become of worldwide import. It has started to influence governments and peoples. What was not long ago a theoretical dispute between two “underground” revolutionary circles, has grown into a concrete historical power determining the fate of nations. What was the individual conception of individual revolutionary leaders is now ruling millions.

The world is now vitally interested in understanding Russia, in learning the history of our Revolution which is the history of the great Russian nation for the last fifty years. This involves, however, knowing not only events, but also the development of thoughts, of aims, of ideas that underlie and direct events; gaining an insight into the immense volume of intellectual work which recent decades have accumulated in revolutionary Russia.

We have selected Leon Trotsky’s contribution to revolutionary thought, not because he is now in the lime light of history, but because his conceptions represent a very definite, a clearcut and intrinsically consistent trend of revolutionary thought, quite at from that of other leaders. We do not agree with many of Trotsky’s ideas and policies, yet we cannot overlook the fact that these ideas have become predominant in the present phase of the Russian Revolution and that they are bound to give their stamp to Russian democracy in the years to come, whether the present government remains in power or not.

The reader will see that Trotsky’s views as applied in Bolsheviki ruled Russia are not of recent origin. They were formed in the course of the First Russian Revolution of 1905, in which Trotsky was one of the leaders. They were developed and strengthened in the following years of reaction, when many a progressive group went to seek compromises with the absolutist forces. They became particularly firm through the world war and the circumstances that led to the establishment of a republican order in Russia. Perhaps many a grievous misunderstanding and misinterpretation would have been avoided had thinking America known that those conceptions of Trotsky were not created on the spur of the moment, but were the result of a lifelong work in the service of the Revolution.

Trotsky’s writings, besides their theoretical and political value, represent a vigor of style and a clarity of expression unique in Russian revolutionary literature.

As to revolutionary writers, the very character of their work has compelled them to hide their names to escape the secret police. Ulyanov, therefore, became “Lenin,” and Bronstein became “Trotsky.” As to his “camouflaging” as a Russian, this assertion is based on sheer ignorance. Trotsky is not a genuine Russian name no more so than Ostrovski or Levine. True, there was a Russian playwright Ostrovski, and Tolstoi gave his main figure in Anna Karenin the name of Levine. Yet Ostrovski and Levine are well known in Russia as Jewish names, and so is Trotsky. I have never beard of a Gentile bearing the name Trotsky. Trotsky has never concealed his Jewish nationality. He was too proud to dissimulate. Pride is, perhaps, one of the dominant traits of his powerful personality.

Revolutionary Russia did not question the race or nationality of a writer or leader. One admired Trotsky’s power over emotion, the depth of his convictions, the vehemence of his attacks on the opponents of the Revolution. As early as 1904, one line of his revolutionary conceptions became quite conspicuous: his opposition to the liberal movement in Russia. In a series of essays in the Social-Democratic Iskra (Spark), in a collection of his essays published in Geneva under the title Before January Ninth, he unremittingly branded the Liberals for lack of revolutionary spirit, for cowardice in face of a hateful autocracy, for failure to frame and to defend a thoroughly democratic program, for readiness to compromise with the rulers on minor concessions and thus to betray the cause of the Revolution. No one else was as eloquent, as incisive in pointing out the timidity and meekness of the Zemstvo opposition (Zemstvo were the local representative bodies for the care of local affairs, and the Liberal land owners constituted the leading ty in those bodies) as the young revolutionary agitator, Trotsky. Trotsky’s fury against the wavering policy of the welltodo Liberals was only a manifestation of another trait of his character: his desire for clarity in political affairs. Trotsky could not conceive of halfway measures, of “diplomatic” silence over vital topics, of cunning moves and concealed designs in political struggles. The attitude of a Milukov, criticizing the government and yet willing to acquiesce in a monarchy of a Prussian brand, criticizing the revolutionists and yet secretly pleased with the horror they inflicted upon Romanoff and his satellites, was simply incompatible with Trotsky’s very nature and aroused his impassioned contempt. To him, black was always black, and white was white, and political conceptions ought to be so clear as to find adequate expression in a few simple phrases.

Trotsky’s own political line was the Revolution a violent uprising of the masses, headed by organized labor, forcibly to overthrow bureaucracy and establish democratic freedom. With what an outburst of blazing joy be greeted the upheaval of January 9, 1905 the first great massmovement in Russia with clear political aims:

“The Revolution has come!” he shouted in an ecstatic essay completed on January 20th. “The Revolution has come. One move of hers has lifted the people over scores of steps, up which in times of peace we would have had to drag ourselves with hardships and fatigue. The Revolution has come and destroyed the plans of so many politicians who had dared to make their little political calculations with no regard for the master, the revolutionary people. The Revolution has come and destroyed scores of superstitions, and has manifested the power of the program which is founded on the revolutionary logic of the development of the masses ... The Revolution has come and the period of our infancy has passed.”

The Revolution filled the entire year of 1905 with the battle cries of everincreasing revolutionary masses. The political strike became a powerful weapon. The village revolts spread like wildfire. The government became frightened. It was under the sign of this great conflagration that Trotsky framed his theory of immediate transition from absolutism to a Socialist order. His line of argument was very simple. The working class, he wrote, was the only real revolutionary power. The bourgeoisie was weak and incapable of adroit resistance. The intellectual groups were of no account. The peasantry was politically primitive, yet it had an overwhelming desire for land. “Once the Revolution is victorious, political power necessarily passes into the hands of the class that has played a leading role in the struggle, and that is the working class.” To secure permanent power, the working class would have to win over the millions of peasants. This would be possible by recognizing all the agrarian changes completed by the peasants in time of the revolution and by a radical agrarian legislation. “Once in power, the proletariat will appear before the peasantry as its liberator.” On the other hand, having secured its class rule over Russia, why should the proletariat help to establish liamentary rule, which is the rule of the bourgeois classes over the people? “To imagine that Social-Democracy participates in the Provisional Government, playing a leading role in the period of revolutionary democratic reconstruction, insisting on the most radical reforms and all the time enjoying the aid and support of the organized proletariat, only to step aside when the democratic program is put into operation, to leave the completed building at the disposal of the bourgeois ties and thus to open an era of liamentary politics where Social-Democracy forms only a ty of opposition, to imagine this would mean to compromise the very idea of a labor government.” Moreover, “once the representatives of the proletariat enter the government, not as powerless hostages, but as a leading force, the divide between the minimum program and the maximum program automatically disappears, collectivism becomes the order of the day,” since “political supremacy of the proletariat is incompatible with its economic slavery.” It was precisely the same program which Trotsky is at present attempting to put into operation. This program has been his guiding star for the last twelve years.

In the fall of 1905 it looked as if Trotsky’s hope was near its realization. The October strike brought autocracy to its knees. A Constitution was promised. A Soviet (Council of Workmen’s Deputies) was formed in Petersburg to conduct the Revolution. Trotsky became one of the strongest leaders of the Council. It was in those months that we became fully aware of two qualities of Trotsky’s which helped him to master men: his power as a speaker, and his ability to write short, stirring articles comprehensible to the masses. In the latter ability nobody equals him among Russian Socialists. The leaders of Russian Social-Democracy were wont to address themselves to the intellectual readers. Socialist writers of the early period of the Revolution were seldom confronted with the necessity of writing for plain people. Trotsky was the best among the few who, in the stormy months of the 1905 revolution, were able to appeal to the masses in brief, strong, yet dignified articles full of thought, vision, and emotion.

The Soviet was struggling in a desperate situation. Autocracy had promised freedom, yet military rule was becoming ever more atrocious. The sluices of popular revolutionary movement were open, yet revolutionary energy was being gradually exhausted. The Soviet acted as a true revolutionary government, ignoring the government of the Romanoffs, giving orders to the workingmen of the country, keeping a watchful eye on political events; yet the government of the old regime was regaining its self-confidence and preparing for a final blow. The air was full of bad omens.

It required an unusual degree of revolutionary faith and vigor to conduct the affairs of the Soviet. Trotsky was the man of the hour. First a member of the Executive Committee, then the chairman of the Soviet, he was practically in the very vortex of the Revolution. He addressed meetings, he ordered strikes, he provided the vanguard of the workingmen with firearms; he held conferences with representatives of labor unions throughout the country, and the irony of history he repeatedly appeared before the Ministers of the old regime as a representative of labor democracy to demand from them the release of a prisoner or the abolition of some measures obnoxious to labor. It was in this school of the Soviet that Trotsky learned to see events in a national aspect, and it was the very existence of the Soviet which confirmed his belief in the possibility of a revolutionary proletarian dictatorship. Looking backward at the activities of the Soviet, he thus characterized that prototype of the present revolutionary government in Russia. “The Soviet,” be wrote, “was the organized authority of the masses themselves over their seperate members. This was a true, unadulterated democracy, without a twochamber system, without a professional bureaucracy, with the right of the voters to recall their representative at will and to substitute another.” In short, it was the same type of democracy Trotsky and Lenin are trying to make permanent in presentday Russia.

The black storm soon broke loose. Trotsky was arrested with the other members of the “revolutionary government,” after the Soviet had existed for about a month and a half. Trotsky went to prison, not in despair, but as a leader of an invincible army which though it had suffered temporary defeat, was bound to win. Trotsky had to wait twelve years for the moment of triumph, yet the moment came.

In prison Trotsky was very active, reading, writing, trying to sum up his experience of the revolutionary year. After twelve months of solitary confinement he was tried and sentenced to life exile in Siberia: the government of the enemies of the people was wreaking vengeance on the first true representatives of the people. On January 8, 1907, Trotsky started his trip for Obdorsk, in Northern Siberia on the Arctic Ocean.

He was under unusual rigid surveillance even for Russian prisons. Each movement of his and of his comrades was carefully guarded. No communication with the outer world was permitted. The very journey was surrounded by great secrecy. Yet such was the fame of the Soviet, that crowds gathered at every station to greet the prisoners’ train, and even the soldiers showed extraordinary respect for the imprisoned “workingmen’s deputies” as they called them. “We are surrounded by friends on every side,” Trotsky wrote in his note book.

In Tiumen the prisoners had to leave the railway train for sleighs drawn by horses. The journey became very tedious and slow. The monotony was broken only by little villages, where revolutionary exiles were detained. Here and there the exiles would gather to welcome the leaders of the revolution. Red flags gave touches of color to the blinding white of the Siberian snow. “Long live the Revolution!” was printed with huge letters on the surface of the northern snow, along the road. This was beautiful, but it gave little consolation. The country became ever more desolate. “Every day we move down one step into the kingdom of cold and wilderness,” Trotsky remarked in his notes.

It was a gloomy prospect, to spend years and years in this God forsaken country. Trotsky was not the man to submit. In defiance of difficulties, he managed to escape before he reached the town of his destination. As there was only one road along which travellers could move, and as there was danger that authorities, notified by wire of his escape, could stop him at any moment, he left the road and on a sleigh drawn by reindeer he crossed an unbroken wilderness of 800 versts, over 500 miles. This required great courage and physical endurance. The picturesque journey is described by Trotsky in a beautiful little book, My Round Trip [MIA editor’s note: this book probably consisted of the two final chapters of the book 1905: There... and ...and back].

It was in this Ostiak sleigh, in the midst of a bleak desert, that he celebrated the 20th of February, the day of the opening of the Second Duma. It was a mockery at Russia: here, the representatives of the people, assembled in the quasi-parliament of Russia; there, a representative of the Revolution that created the Duma, hiding like a criminal in a bleak wilderness. Did he dream in those long hours of his journey, that some day the wave of the Revolution would bring him to the very top?

Early in spring he arrived abroad. He established his home in Vienna where be lived till the outbreak of the great war. His time and energy were devoted to the internal affairs of the Social-Democratic Party and to editing a popular revolutionary magazine which was being smuggled into Russia. He earned a meager living by contributing to Russian “legal” magazines and dailies.

I met him first in 1907, in Stuttgart. He seemed to be deeply steeped in the revolutionary factional squabbles. Again I met him in Copenhagen in 1910. He was the target of bitter criticism for his press comment on one of the Social-Democratic factions. He seemed to be dead to anything but the problem of reconciling the Bolsheviki with the Mensheviki and the other minor divisions. Yet that air of importance which distinguished him even from the famous old leaders had, in 1910, become more apparent. By this time he was already a well-known and respected figure in the ranks of International Socialism.

In the fall of 1912 be went into the Balkans as a war correspondent. There be learned to know the Balkan situation from authentic sources. His revelations of the atrocities committed on both sides attracted wide attention. When he came back to Vienna in 1913 he was a stronger internationalist and a stronger anti-militarist than ever.

His house in Vienna was a poor man’s house, poorer than that of an ordinary American workingman earning eighteen dollars a week. Trotsky has been poor all his life. His three rooms in a Vienna working-class suburb contained less furniture than was necessary for comfort. His clothes were too cheap to make him appear “decent” in the eyes of a middle-class Viennese. When I visited his house, I found Mrs. Trotsky engaged in housework, while the two light-haired lovely boys were lending not inconsiderable assistance. The only thing that cheered the house were loads of books in every corner, and, perhaps, great though hidden hopes.

On August 3, 1914, the Trotskys, as enemy aliens, had to leave Vienna for Zurich, Switzerland. Trotsky’s attitude towards the war was a very definite one from the very beginning. He accused German Social-Democracy for having voted the war credits and thus endorsed the war. He accused the Socialist ties of all the belligerent countries for having concluded a truce with their governments which in his opinion was equivalent to supporting militarism. He bitterly deplored the collapse of Internationalism as a great calamity for the emancipation of the world. Yet, even in those times of distress, he did not remain inactive. He wrote a pamphlet to the German workingmen entitled The War and Internationalism (recently translated into English and published in this country under the title The Bolsheviki and World Peace which was illegally transported into Germany and Austria by aid of Swiss Socialists. For this attempt to enlighten the workingmen, one of the German courts tried him in a state of contumacy and sentenced him to imprisonment. He also contributed to a Russian Socialist daily of Internationalist aspirations which was being published by Russian exiles in Paris. Later he moved to Paris to be in closer contact with that paper. Due to his radical views on the war, however, he was compelled to leave France. He went to Spain, but the Spanish government, though not at war, did not allow him to stay in that country. He was himself convinced that the hand of the Russian Foreign Ministry was in all his hardships.

So it happened that in the winter 1916-1917, he came to the United States. When I met him here, he looked haggard; he had grown older, and there was fatigue in his expression. His conversation hinged around the collapse of International Socialism. He thought it shameful and humiliating that the Socialist majorities of the belligerent countries had turned “Social-Patriots.” “If not for the minorities of the Socialist parties, the true Socialists, it would not be worth while living,” he said once with deep sadness. Still, he strongly believed in the internationalizing spirit of the war itself, and expected humanity to become more democratic and more sound after cessation of hostilities. His belief in an impending Russian Revolution was unshaken. Similarly unshaken was his mistrust of the Russian non-Socialist parties. On January 20, 1917, less than two months before the overthrow of the Romanoffs, he wrote in a local Russian paper:

“Whoever thinks critically over the experience of 1905, whoever draws a line from that year to the present day, must conceive how utterly lifeless and ridiculous are the hopes of our Social-Patriots for a revolutionary cooperation between the proletariat and the Liberal bourgeoisie in Russia.”

His demand for clarity in political affairs had become more pronounced during the war and through the distressing experiences of the war. “There are times,” he wrote on February 7, 1917, “when diplomatic evasiveness, casting glances with one eye to the right, with the other to the left, is considered wisdom. Such times are now vanishing before our eyes, and their heroes are losing credit. War, as revolution, puts problems in their clearest form. For war or against war? For national defense or for revolutionary struggle? The fierce times we are living now demand in equal measure both fearlessness of thought and bravery of character.”

When the Russian Revolution broke out, it was no surprise for Trotsky. He had anticipated it. He had scented it over the thousands of miles that separated him from his country. He did not allow his joy to overmaster him. The March revolution in his opinion was only a beginning. It was only an introduction to a long drawn fight which would end in the establishment of Socialism.

History seemed to him to have fulfilled what be had predicted in 1905 and 1906. The working class was the leading power in the Revolution. The Soviets became even more powerful than the Provisional Government. Trotsky preached that it was the task of the Soviets to become the government of Russia. It was his task to go to Russia and fight for a labor government, for Internationalism, for world peace, for a world revolution. “If the first Russian revolution of 1905,” he wrote on March 20th, “brought about revolutions in Asia, in Persia, Turkey, China, the second Russian revolution will be the beginning of a momentous Social-revolutionary struggle in Europe. Only this struggle will bring real peace to the blooddrenched world.”

With these hopes he went to Russia, to forge a Socialist Russia in the fire of the Revolution.

Whatever may be our opinion of the merits of his policies, the man has remained true to himself. His line has been straight.

New York, February 16th, 1918

Source: Marxist Internet Archive

The Proletariat and the Revolution


The essay The Proletariat and the Revolution was published at the close of 1904, nearly one year after the beginning of the war with Japan. This was a crucial year for the autocratic rulers of Russia. It started with patriotic demonstrations, it ended with a series of humiliating defeats on the battlefields and with an unprecedented revival of political activities on the part of the well-to-do classes. The Zemstvos (local elective bodies for the care of local affairs) headed by liberal landowners, conducted a vigorous political campaign in favor of a constitutional order. Other liberal groups, organizations of professionals (referred to in Trotsky’s essay as “democrats” and “democratic elements") joined in the movement. The Zemstvo leaders called an open convention in Petersburg (November 6th), which demanded civic freedom and a Constitution. The “democratic elements” organized public gatherings of a political character under the disguise of private banquets. The liberal press became bolder in its attack on the administration. The government tolerated the movement. Prince Svyatopolk-Mirski, who had succeeded Von Plehve, the reactionary dictator assassinated in July, 1904 by a revolutionist, had promised “cordial relations” between government and society. In the political jargon, this period of tolerance, lasting from August to the end of the year, was known as the era of “Spring.”

It was a thrilling time, full of political hopes and expectation. Yet, strange enough, the working class was silent. The working class had shown great dissatisfaction in 1902 and especially in summer, 1903, when scores of thousands in the Southwest and in the South went on a political strike. During the whole of 1904, however, there were almost no mass-manifestations on the part of the workingmen. This gave an occasion to many a liberal to scoff at the representatives of the revolutionary parties who built all their tactics on the expectation of a national revolution. To answer those sceptics and to encourage the active members of the Social-Democratic party, Trotsky wrote his essay. Its main value, which lends it historic significance, is the clear diagnosis of the political situation. Though living abroad, Trotsky keenly felt the pulse of the masses, the “pent up revolutionary energy” which was seeking for an outlet. His description of the course of a national revolution, the role he attributes to the workingmen, the non-proletarian population of the cities, the educated groups, and the army; his estimation of the influence of the war on the minds of the raw masses; finally, the slogans he puts before the revolution, – all this corresponds exactly to what happened during the stormy year of 1905. Reading The Proletariat and the Revolution, the student of Russian political life has a feeling as if the essay had been written after the Revolution, so closely it follows the course of events. Yet, it appeared before January 9th, 1905, i.e., before the first great onslaught of the Petersburg proletariat.

Trotsky’s belief in the revolutionary initiative of the working class could not be expressed in a more lucid manner.

M. Olgin

The proletariat must not only conduct a revolutionary propaganda. The proletariat itself must move towards a revolution.

To move towards a revolution does not necessarily mean to fix a date for an insurrection and to prepare for that day. You never can fix a day and an hour for a revolution. The people have never made a revolution by command.

What can be done is, in view of the fatally impending catastrophe, to choose the most appropriate positions, to arm and inspire the masses with a revolutionary slogan, to lead simultaneously all the reserves into the field of battle, to make them practice in the art of fighting, to keep them ready under arms, – and to send an alarm all over the lines when the time has arrived.

Would that mean a series of exercises. only, and not a decisive combat with the enemy forces? Would that be mere manoeuvers, and not a street revolution?

Yes, that would be mere manoeuvers. There is a difference, however, between revolutionary and military manoeuvers. Our preparations can turn, at any time and independent of our will, into a real battle which would decide the long drawn revolutionary war. Not only can it be so, it must be. This is vouched for by the acuteness of the present political situation which holds in its depths a tremendous amount of revolutionary explosives.

At what time mere manoeuvers would turn into a real battle, depends upon the volume and the revolutionary compactness of the masses, upon the atmosphere of popular sympathy which surrounds them and upon the attitude of the troops which the government moves against the people.

Those three elements of success must determine our work of preparation. Revolutionary proletarian masses are in existence. We ought to be able to call them into the streets, at a given time, all over the country; we ought to be able to unite them by a general slogan.

All classes and groups of the people are permeated with hatred towards absolutism, and that means with sympathy for the struggle for freedom. We ought to be able to concentrate this sympathy on the proletariat as a revolutionary power which alone can be the vanguard of the people in their fight to save the future of Russia. As to the mood of the army, it hardly kindles the heart of the government with great hopes. There has been many an alarming symptom for the last few years; the army is morose, the army grumbles, there are ferments of dissatisfaction in the army. We ought to do all at our command to make the army detach itself from absolutism at the time of a decisive onslaught of the masses.

Let us first survey the last two conditions, which determine the course and the outcome of the campaign.

We have just gone through the period of “political renovation” opened under the blare of trumpets and closed under the hiss of knouts [1], the era of Svyatopolk-Mirski – the result of which is hatred towards absolutism aroused among all the thinking elements of society to an unusual pitch. The coming days will reap the fruit of stirred popular hopes and unfulfilled government’s pledges. Political interest has lately taken more definite shape; dissatisfaction has grown deeper and is founded on a more outspoken theoretical basis. Popular thinking, yesterday utterly primitive, now greedily takes to the work of political analysis.

All manifestations of evil and arbitrary power are being speedily traced back to the principal cause. Revolutionary slogans no more frighten the people; on the contrary, they arouse a thousandfold echo, they pass into proverbs. The popular consciousness absorbs each word of negation, condemnation or curse addressed towards absolutism, as a sponge absorbs fluid substance. No step of the administration remains unpunished. Each of its blunders is carefully taken account of. Its advances arc met with ridicule, its threats breed hatred. The vast apparatus of the liberal press [2] circulates daily thousands of facts, stirring, exciting, inflaming popular emotion.

The pent up feelings are seeking an outlet. Thought strives to turn into action. The vociferous liberal press, however, while feeding popular unrest, tends to divert its current into a small channel; it spreads superstitious reverence for “public opinion,” helpless, unorganized “public opinion,” which does not discharge itself into action; it brands the revolutionary method of national emancipation; it upholds the illusion of legality; it centers all the attention and all the hopes of the embittered groups around the Zemstvo campaign, thus systematically preparing a great debacle for the popular movement. Acute dissatisfaction, finding no outlet, discouraged by the inevitable failure of the legal Zemstvo campaign which has no traditions of revolutionary struggle in the past and no clear prospects in the future, must necessarily manifest itself in an outbreak of desperate terrorism, leaving radical intellectuals in the role of helpless, passive, though sympathetic onlookers, leaving liberals to choke in a fit of platonic enthusiasm while lending doubtful assistance.

This ought not to take place. We ought to take hold of the current of popular excitement; we ought to turn the attention of numerous dissatisfied social groups to one colossal undertaking headed by the proletariat, – to the National Revolution.

The vanguard of the Revolution ought to wake from indolence all other elements of the people; to appear here and there and everywhere; to put the questions of political struggle in the boldest possible fashion; to call, to castigate, to unmask hypocritical democracy; to make democrats and Zemstvo liberals clash against each other; to wake again and again, to call, to castigate, to demand a clear answer to the question, “What are you going to do?” to allow no retreat; to compel the legal liberals to admit their own weakness; to alienate from them the democratic elements and help the latter along the way of the revolution. To do this work means to draw the threads of sympathy of all the democratic opposition towards the revolutionary campaign of the proletariat.

We ought to do all in our power to draw the attention and gain the sympathy of the poor non-proletarian city population. During the last mass actions of the proletariat, as in the general strikes of 1903 in the South, nothing was done in this respect, and this was the weakest point of the preparatory work. According to press correspondents, the queerest rumors often circulated among the population as to the intentions of the strikers. The city inhabitants expected attacks on their houses, the store keepers were afraid of being looted, the Jews were in a dread of pogroms. This ought to be avoided. A political strike, as a single combat of the city proletariat with the police and the army, the remaining population being hostile or even indifferent, is doomed to failure.

The indifference of the population would tell primarily on the morale of the proletariat itself, and then on the attitude of the soldiers. Under such conditions, the stand of the administration must necessarily be more determined. The generals would remind the officers, and the officers would pass to the soldiers the words of Dragomirov: “Rifles are given for sharp shooting, and nobody is permitted to squander cartridges for nothing.” [3]

A political strike of the proletariat ought to turn into a political demonstration of the population, this is the first prerequisite of success.

The second important prerequisite is the mood of the army. A dissatisfaction among the soldiers, a vague sympathy for the “revoluters,” is an established fact. Only part of this sympathy may rightly be attributed to our direct propaganda among the soldiers. The major part is done by the practical clashes between army units and protesting masses. Only hopeless idiots or avowed scoundrels dare to shoot at a living target. An overwhelming majority of the soldiers are loathe to serve as executioners; this is unanimously admitted by all correspondents describing the battles of the army with unarmed people. The average soldier aims above the heads of the crowd. It would be unnatural if the reverse were the case. When the Bessarabian regiment received orders to quell the Kiev general strike, the commander declared he could not vouch for the attitude of his soldiers. The order, then, was sent to the Cherson regiment, but there was not one half-company in the entire regiment which would live up to the expectations of their superiors.

Kiev was no exception. The conditions of the army must now be more favorable for the revolution than they were in 1903. We have gone through a year of war. It is hardly possible to measure the influence of the past year on the minds of the army. The influence, however, must be enormous. War draws not only the attention of the people, it arouses also the professional interest of the army. Our ships are slow, our guns have a short range, our soldiers are uneducated, our sergeants have neither compass nor map, our soldiers are barefooted, hungry, and freezing, our Red Cross is stealing, our commissariat is stealing, – rumors and facts of this kind leak down to the army and are being eagerly absorbed. Each rumor, as strong acid, dissolves the rust of mental drill. Years of peaceful propaganda could hardly equal in their results one day of warfare. The mere mechanism of discipline remains, the faith, however, the conviction that it is right to carry out orders, the belief that the present conditions can be continued, are rapidly dwindling. The less faith the army has in absolutism, the more faith it has in its foes.

We ought to make use of this situation. We ought to explain to the soldiers the meaning of the workingmen’s action which is being prepared by the Party. We ought to make profuse use of the slogan which is bound to unite the army with the revolutionary people, Away with the War! We ought to create a situation where the officers would not be able to trust their soldiers at the crucial moment. This would reflect on the attitude of the officers themselves.

The rest will be done by the street. It will dissolve the remnants of the barrack-hypnosis in the revolutionary enthusiasm of the people.

The main factor, however, remain the revolutionary masses. True it is that during the war the most advanced elements of the masses, the thinking proletariat, have not stepped openly to the front with that degree of determination which was required by the critical historic moment. Yet it would manifest a lack of political backbone and a deplorable superficiality, should one draw from this fact any kind of pessimistic conclusions.

The war has fallen upon our public life with all its colossal weight. The dreadful monster, breathing blood and fire, loomed up on the political horizon, shutting out everything, sinking its steel clutches into the body of the people, inflicting wound upon wound, causing mortal pain, which for a moment makes it even impossible to ask for the causes of the pain. The war, as every great disaster, accompanied by crisis, unemployment, mobilization, hunger and death, stunned the people, caused despair, but not protest. This is, however, only a beginning. Raw masses of the people, silent social strata, which yesterday had no connection with the revolutionary elements, were knocked by sheer mechanical power of facts to face the central event of present-day Russia, the war. They were horrified, they could not catch their breaths. The revolutionary elements, who prior to the war had ignored the passive masses, were affected by the atmosphere of despair and concentrated horror. This atmosphere enveloped them, it pressed with a leaden weight on their minds. The voice of determined protest could hardly be raised in the midst of elemental suffering. The revolutionary proletariat which had not yet recovered from the wounds received in July 1903 was powerless to oppose the “call of the primitive.”

The year of war, however, passed not without results. Masses, yesterday primitive, today are confronted with the most tremendous events. They must seek to understand them. The very duration of the war has produced a desire for reasoning, for questioning as to the meaning of it all. Thus the war, while hampering for a period of time the revolutionary initiative of thousands, has awakened to life the political thought of millions.

The year of war passed not without results, not a single day passed without results. In the lower strata of the people, in the very depths of the masses, a work was going on, a movement of molecules, imperceptible, yet irresistible, incessant, a work of accumulating indignation, bitterness, revolutionary energy. The atmosphere our streets are breathing now is no longer an atmosphere of blank despair, it is an atmosphere of concentrated indignation which seeks for means and ways for revolutionary action. Each expedient action of the vanguard of our working masses would now carry away with it not only all our revolutionary reserves, but also thousands and hundreds of thousands of revolutionary recruits. This mobilization, unlike the mobilization of the government, would be carried out in the presence of general sympathy and active assistance of an overwhelming majority of the population.

In the presence of strong sympathies of the masses, in the presence of active assistance on the part of the democratic elements of the people; facing a government commonly hated, unsuccessful both in big and in small undertakings, a government defeated on the seas, defeated in the fields of battle, despised, discouraged, with no faith in the coming day, a government vainly struggling, currying favor, provoking and retreating, lying and suffering exposure, insolent and frightened; facing an army whose morale has been shattered by the entire course of the war, whose valor, energy, enthusiasm and heroism have met an insurmountable wall in the form of administrative anarchy, an army which has lost faith in the unshakable security of a regime it is called to serve, a dissatisfied, grumbling army which more than once has torn itself free from the clutches of discipline during the last year and which is eagerly listening to the roar of revolutionary voices, – such will be the conditions under which the revolutionary proletariat will walk out into the streets. It seems to us that no better conditions could have been created by history for a final attack. History has done everything it was allowed by elemental wisdom. The thinking revolutionary forces of the country have to do the rest.

A tremendous amount of revolutionary energy has been accumulated. It should not vanish with no avail, it should not be dissipated in scattered engagements and clashes, with no coherence and no definite plan. All efforts ought to be made to concentrate the bitterness, the anger, the protest, the rage, the hatred of the masses, to give those emotions a common language, a common goal, to unite, to solidify all the particles of the masses, to make them feel and understand that they are not isolated, that simultaneously, with the same slogan on the banner, with the same goal in mind, innumerable particles are rising everywhere. If this understanding is achieved, half of the revolution is done.

We have got to summon all revolutionary forces to simultaneous action. How can we do it?

First of all we ought to remember that the main scene of revolutionary events is bound to be the city. Nobody is likely to deny this. It is evident, further, that street demonstrations can turn into a popular revolution only when they are a manifestation of masses, i.e., when they embrace, in the first place, the workers of factories and plants. To make the workers quit their machines and stands; to make them walk out of the factory premises into the street; to lead them to the neighboring plant; to proclaim there a cessation of work; to make new masses walk out into the street; to go thus from factory to factory, from plant to plant, incessantly growing in numbers, sweeping police barriers, absorbing new masses that happened to come across, crowding the streets, taking possession of buildings suitable for popular meetings, fortifying those buildings, holding continuous revolutionary meetings with audiences coming and going, bringing order into the movements of the masses, arousing their spirit, explaining to them the aim and the meaning of what is going on; to turn, finally, the entire city into one revolutionary camp, this is, broadly speaking, the plan of action.

The starting point ought to be the factories and plants. That means that street manifestations of a serious character, fraught with decisive events, ought to begin with political strikes of the masses.

It is easier to fix a date for a strike, than for a demonstration of the people, just as it is easier to move masses ready for action than to organize new masses.

A political strike, however, not a local, but a general political strike all over Russia, – ought to have a general political slogan. This slogan is: to stop the war and to call a National Constituent Assembly.

This demand ought to become nation-wide, and herein lies the task for our propaganda preceding the all-Russian general strike. We ought to use all possible occasions to make the idea of a National Constituent Assembly popular among the people. Without losing one moment, we ought to put into operation all the technical means and all the powers of propaganda at our disposal. Proclamations and speeches, educational circles and mass-meetings ought to carry broadcast, to propound and to explain the demand of a Constituent Assembly. There ought to be not one man in a city who should not know that his demand is: a National Constituent Assembly.

The peasants ought to be called to assemble on the day of the political strike and to pass resolutions demanding the calling of a Constituent Assembly. The suburban peasants ought to be called into the cities to participate in the street movements of the masses gathered under the banner of a Constituent Assembly. All societies and organizations, professional and learned bodies, organs of self-government and organs of the opposition press ought to be notified in advance by the workingmen that they are preparing for an all-Russian political strike, fixed for a certain date, to bring about the calling of a Constituent Assembly. The workingmen ought to demand from all societies and corporations that, on the day appointed for the mass-manifestation, they should join in the demand of a National Constituent Assembly. The workingmen ought to demand from the opposition press that it should popularize their slogan and that on the eve of the demonstration it should print an appeal to the population to join the proletarian manifestation under the banner of a National Constituent Assembly.

We ought to carry on the most intensive propaganda in the army in order that on the day of the strike each soldier, sent to curb the “rebels,  should know that he is facing the people who are demanding a National Constituent Assembly.

Explanatory Notes (By M. Olgin)

1. “The hiss of the knout” which ended the era of “cordial relations” was a statement issued by the government on December 12, 1904, declaring that “all disturbances of peace and order and all gatherings of an anti-governmental character must and will be stopped by all legal means in command of the authorities.” The Zemstvo and municipal bodies were advised to keep from political utterings. As to the Socialist parties, and to labor movement in general, they were prosecuted under Svyatopolk-Mirski as severely as under Von Plehve.

2. “The vast apparatus of the liberal press” was the only way to reach millions. The revolutionary “underground” press, which assumed towards 1905 unusual proportions, could, after all, reach only a limited number of readers. In times of political unrest, the public became used to read between the lines of the legal press all it needed to feed its hatred of oppression.

By “legal” press, “legal” liberals are meant the open public press and those liberals who were trying to comply with the legal requirements of absolutism even in their work of condemning the absolutist order. The term “legal” is opposed by the term “revolutionary” which is applied to political actions in defiance of law.

3. Dragomirov was for many years Commander of the Kiev Military region and known by his epigrammatic style.

The Events in Petersburg


This is an essay of triumph. Written on January 20, 1905, eleven days after the “bloody Sunday,” it gave vent to the enthusiastic feelings of every true revolutionist aroused by unmistakable signs of an approaching storm. The march of tens of thousands of workingmen to the Winter Palace to submit to the “Little Father” a petition asking for “bread and freedom,” was on the surface a peaceful and loyal undertaking. Yet it breathed indignation and revolt. The slaughter of peaceful marchers (of whom over 5,000 were killed or wounded) and the following wave of hatred and revolutionary determination among the masses, marked the beginning of broad revolutionary uprisings.

For Trotsky, the awakening of the masses to political activity was not only a good revolutionary omen, but also a defeat of liberal ideology and liberal tactics. Those tactics had been planned under the assumption that the Russian people were not ripe for a revolution. Trotsky, a thorough revolutionist, saw in the liberal movement a manifestation of political superstitions. To him, the only way to overthrow absolutism was the way of a violent revolution. Yet, when the liberals proudly asserted that the revolutionary masses of Russia were only a creation of the overheated phantasy of the revolutionists, while the movement of the well-to-do intelligent elements was a flagrant fact, the Social-Democrats had no material proofs to the contrary, except sporadic outbursts of unrest among the workingmen and, of course, the conviction of those revolutionists who were in touch with the masses. It is, therefore, easy to understand the triumph of a Trotsky or any other Socialist after January 9th. In Trotsky’s opinion, the 9th of January had put liberalism into the archives. “We are done with it for the entire period of the revolution,” he exclaims. The most remarkable part of this essay, as far as political vision is concerned, is Trotsky’s prediction that the left wing of the Osvoboshdenie liberals (later organized as the Constitutional Democratic Party) would attempt to become leaders of the revolutionary masses and to “tame” them. The Liberals did not fail to make the attempt in 1905 and 1906, but with no success whatever. Neither did Social-Democracy, however, completely succeed in leading the masses all through the revolution, in the manner outlined by Trotsky in this essay. True, the Social-Democrats were the party that gained the greatest influence over the workingmen in the stormy year of 1905; their slogans were universally accepted by the masses; their members were everywhere among the first ranks of revolutionary forces; yet events developed too rapidly and spontaneously to make the leadership of a political organization possible

M. Olgin

How invincibly eloquent are facts! How utterly powerless are words!

The masses have made themselves heard! They have kindled revolutionary flames on Caucasian hill-tops; they have clashed, breast against breast, with the guards’ regiments and the Cossacks on that unforgettable day of January Ninth; they have filled the streets and squares of industrial cities with the noise and clatter of their fights ...

The revolutionary masses are no more a theory, they are a fact. For the Social-Democratic Party there is nothing new in this fact. We had predicted it long ago. We had seen its coming at a time when the noisy liberal banquets seemed to form a striking contrast with the political silence of the people. The revolutionary masses are a fact, was our assertion. The clever liberals shrugged their shoulders in contempt. Those gentlemen think themselves sober realists solely because they are unable to grasp the consequences of great causes, because they make it their business to be humble servants of each ephemeral political fact. They think themselves sober statesmen in spite of the fact that history mocks at their wisdom, tearing to pieces their schoolbooks, making to naught their designs, and magnificently laughing at their pompous predictions.

“There are no revolutionary people in Russia as yet" "The Russian workingman is backward in culture, in self-respect, and (we refer primarily to the workingmen of Petersburg and Moscow) he is not yet prepared for organized social and political struggle.”

Thus Mr. Struve [1] wrote in his Osvoboshdenie. [2] He wrote it on January 7th, 1905. Two days later the proletariat of Petersburg arose.

“There are no revolutionary people in Russia as yet.” These words ought to have been engraved on the forehead of Mr. Struve were it not that Mr. Struve’s forehead already resembles a tombstone political stage and that its program and tactics would determine the future of Russia. Before this declaration had reached its readers, the wires carried into the remotest corners of the world the great message of the beginning of a National Revolution in Russia.

Yes, the Revolution has begun. We had hoped for it, we had had no doubt about it. For long years, however, it had been to us a mere deduction from our “doctrine,” which all nonentities of all political denominations had mocked at. They never believed in the revolutionary role of the proletariat, yet they believed in the power of Zemstvo petitions [3], in Witte [4], in “blocs” combining naughts with naughts, in Svyatopolk-Mirski, in a stick of dynamite ... There was no political superstition they did not believe in. Only the belief in the proletariat to them was a superstition,

History, however, does not question political oracles, and the revolutionary people do not need a passport from political eunuchs.

The Revolution has come. One move of hers has lifted the people over scores of steps, up which in times of peace we would have had to drag ourselves with hardships and fatigue. The Revolution has come and destroyed the plans of so many politicians who had dared to make their little political calculations with no regard for the master, the revolutionary people. The Revolution has come and destroyed scores of superstitions, and has manifested the power of the program which is founded on the revolutionary logic of the development of the masses.

The Revolution has come, and the period of our political infancy has passed. Down to the archives went our traditional liberalism whose only resource was the belief in a lucky change of administrative figures. Its period of bloom was the stupid reign of Svyatopolk-Mirski. Its ripest fruit was the Ukase of December 12th. [5] But now, January Ninth has come and effaced the “Spring,” and has put military dictatorship in its place, and has promoted to the rank of Governor-General of Petersburg the same Trepov [6], who just before had been pulled down from the post of Moscow Chief of Police by the same liberal opposition.

That liberalism which did not care to know about the revolution, which hatched plots behind the scenes, which ignored the masses, which counted only on its diplomatic genius, has been swept away. We are done with it for the entire period of the revolution.

The liberals of the left wing will now follow the people. They will soon attempt to take the people into their own hands. The people are a power. One must master them. But they are, too, a revolutionary power. One, therefore, must tame them. This is, evidently, the future tactics of the Osvoboshdenie group. Our fight for a revolution, our preparatory work for the revolution must also be our merciless fight against liberalism for influence over the masses, for a leading r™le in the revolution. In this fight we shall be supported by a great power, the very logic of the revolution!

The Revolution has come.

The forms taken by the uprising of January 9th could not have been foreseen. A revolutionary priest, in perplexing manner placed by history at the head of the working masses for several days, lent the events the stamp of his personality, his conceptions, his rank. This form may mislead many an observer as to the real substance of the events. The actual meaning of the events, however, is just that which Social-Democracy foresaw. The central figure is the Proletariat. The workingmen start a strike, they unite, they formulate political demands, they walk out into the streets, they win the enthusiastic sympathy of the entire population, they engage in battles with the army ... The hero, Gapon [7], has not created the revolutionary energy of the Petersburg workingmen, he only unloosed it. He found thousands of thinking workingmen and tens of thousands of others in a state of political agitation. He formed a plan which united all those masses – for the period of one day. The masses went to speak to the Tzar. They were faced by Ulans, Cossacks, guards. Gapon’s plan had not prepared the workingmen for that. What was the result? They seized arms wherever they could, they built barricades ... They fought, though, apparently, they went to beg for mercy. This shows that they went not to beg, but to demand.

The proletariat of Petersburg manifested a degree of political alertness and revolutionary energy far exceeding the limits of the plan laid out by a casual leader. Gapon’s plan contained many elements of revolutionary romanticism. On January 9th, the plan collapsed. Yet the revolutionary proletariat of Petersburg is no romanticism, it is a living reality. So is the proletariat of other cities. An enormous wave is rolling over Russia. It has not yet quieted down. One shock, and the proletarian crater will begin to erupt torrents of revolutionary lava.

The proletariat has arisen. It has chosen an incidental pretext and a casual leader – a self-sacrificing priest. That seemed enough to start with. It was not enough to win.

Victory demands not a romantic method based on an illusory plan, but revolutionary tactics. A simultaneous action of the proletariat of all Russia must be prepared. This is the first condition. No local demonstration has a serious political significance any longer. After the Petersburg uprising, only an all-Russian uprising should take place. Scattered outbursts would only consume the precious revolutionary energy with no results. Wherever spontaneous outbursts occur, as a late echo of the Petersburg uprising, they must be made use of to revolutionize and to solidify the masses, to popularize among them the idea of an all-Russian uprising as a task of the approaching months, perhaps only weeks.

This is not the place to discuss the technique of a popular uprising. The questions of revolutionary technique can be solved only in a practical way, under the live pressure of struggle and under constant communication with the active members of the Party. There is no doubt, however, that the technical problems of organizing a popular uprising assume at present tremendous importance. Those problems demand the collective attention of the Party.

Trotsky then proceeds to discuss the question of armament, arsenals, clashes with army units, barricades, etc. Then he continues:

As stated before, these questions ought to be solved by local organizations. Of course, this is only a minor task as compared with the political leadership of the masses. Yet, this task is most essential for the political leadership itself. The organization of the revolution becomes at present the axis of the political leadership of revolting masses.

What are the requirements for this leadership? A few very simple things: freedom from routine in matters of organization; freedom from miserable traditions of underground conspiracy; a broad view; courageous initiative; ability to gauge situations; courageous initiative once more.

The events of January 9th have given us a revolutionary beginning. We must never fall below this. We must make this our starting point in moving the revolution forward. We must imbue our work of propaganda and organization with the political ideas and revolutionary aspirations of the uprising of the Petersburg workers.

The Russian revolution has approached its climax – a national uprising. The organization of this uprising, which would determine the fate of the entire revolution, becomes the day’s task for our Party.

No one can accomplish it, but we. Priest Gapon could appear only once. He cherished extraordinary illusions [8], that is why he could do what he has done. Yet he could remain at the head of the masses for a brief period only. The memory of George Gapon will always be dear to the revolutionary proletariat. Yet his memory will be that of a hero who opened the sluices of the revolutionary torrent. Should a new figure step to the front now, equal to Gapon in energy, revolutionary enthusiasm and power of political illusions, his arrival would be too late. What was great in George Gapon may now look ridiculous. There is no room for a second George Gapon, as the thing now needed is not an illusion, but clear revolutionary thinking, a decisive plan of action, a flexible revolutionary organization which would be able to give the masses a slogan, to lead them into the field of battle, to launch an attack all along the line and bring the revolution to a victorious conclusion.

Such an organization can be the work of Social-Democracy only. No other party is able to create it. No other party can give the masses a revolutionary slogan, as no one outside our Party has freed himself from all considerations not pertaining to the interests of the revolution. No other party, but Social-Democracy, is able to organize the action of the masses, as no one but our Party is closely connected with the masses.

Our Party has committed many errors, blunders, almost crimes. It wavered, evaded, hesitated, it showed inertia and lack of pluck. At times it hampered the revolutionary movement.

However, there is no revolutionary party but the Social-Democratic Party!

Our organizations are imperfect. Our connections with the masses are insufficient. Our technique is primitive.

Yet, there is no party connected with the masses but the Social-Democratic Party!

At the head of the Revolution is the Proletariat! At the head of the Proletariat is social-Democracy!

Let us exert all our power, comrades! Let us put all our energy and all our passion into this. Let us not forget for a moment the great responsibility vested in our Party: a responsibility before the Russian Revolution and in the sight of International Socialism.

The proletariat of the entire world looks to us with expectation. Broad vistas are being opened for humanity by a victorious Russian revolution. Comrades, let us do our duty!

Let us close our ranks, comrades! Let us unite, and unite the masses! Let us prepare, and prepare the masses for the day of decisive actions! Let us overlook nothing. Let us leave no power unused for the Cause.

Brave, honest, harmoniously united, we shall march forward, linked by unbreakable bonds, brothers in the Revolution!

Explanatory Notes (By M. Olgin)

1. Peter Struve, first a Socialist, then a Liberal, was the editor of the Osvoboshdenie. Struve is an economist and one of the leading liberal journalists in Russia.

2. Osvoboshdenie (Emancipation) was the name of a liberal magazine published in Stuttgart, Germany, and smuggled into Russia to be distributed among the Zemstvo liberals and other progressive elements grouped about the Zemstvo organization. The Osvoboshdenie advocated a constitutional monarchy. It was, however, opposed to revolutionary methods.

3. Zemstvo petitions, accepted in form of resolutions at the meetings of the liberal Zemstvo bodies and forwarded to the central government, were one of the means the liberals used in their struggle for a Constitution. The petitions, worded in a very moderate language, demanded the abolition of “lawlessness” on the part of the administration and the introduction of a “legal order,” i.e., a Constitution.

4. Sergius Witte, Minister of Finance in the closing years of the 19th Century and up to the revolution of 1905, was known as a bureaucrat of a liberal brand.

5. The Ukase of December 12th, 1905, was an answer of the government to the persistent political demands of the "Spring" time. The Ukase promised a number of insignificant bureaucratic reforms, not even mentioning a popular representation and threatening increased punishments for “disturbances of peace and order.”

6. Trepov was one of the most hated bureaucrats, a devoted pupil of Von Plehve’s in the work of drowning revolutionary movements in blood.

7. George Gapon was the priest who organized the march of January 9th. Trotsky’s admiration for the heroism of Gapon was originally shared by many revolutionists. Later it became known that Gapon played a dubious r™le as a friend of labor, and an agent of the government.

8. The “political illusions” of George Gapon, referred to in this essay, was his assumption that the Tsar was a loving father to his people. Gapon hoped to reach the Emperor of all the Russias and to make him “receive the workingmen’s petition from hand to hand.”

Prospects of a labor dictatorship


This is, perhaps, the most remarkable piece of political writing the Revolution has produced. Written early in 1906, after the great upheavals of the fall of 1905, at a time when the Russian revolution was obviously going downhill, and autocracy, after a moment of relaxation, was increasing its deadly grip over the country, the essays under the name Sum Total and Prospectives (which we have here changed into a more comprehensible name, Prospects of Labor Dictatorship) aroused more amazement than admiration. They seemed so entirely out of place. They ignored the liberal parties as quite negligible quantities. They ignored the creation of the Duma to which the Constitutional Democrats attached so much importance as a place where democracy would fight the battles of the people and win. They ignored the very fact that the vanguard of the revolution, the industrial proletariat, was beaten, disorganized, downhearted, tired out.

The essays met with opposition on the part of leading Social-Democratic thinkers of both the Bolsheviki and Mensheviki factions. The essays seemed to be more an expression of Trotsky’s revolutionary ardor, of his unshakable faith in the future of the Russian revolution, than a reflection of political realities. It was known that he wrote them within prison walls. Should not the very fact of his imprisonment have convinced him that in drawing a picture of labor dictatorship he was only dreaming?

History has shown that it was not a dream. Whatever our attitude towards the course of events in the 1917 revolution may be, we must admit that, in the main, this course has taken the direction predicted in Trotsky’s essays. There is a labor dictatorship now in Russia. It is a labor dictatorship, not a “dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasants.” The liberal and radical parties have lost influence. The labor government has put collective ownership and collective management of industries on the order of the day. The labor government has not hesitated in declaring Russia to be ready for a Socialist revolution. It was compelled to do so under the pressure of revolutionary proletarian masses. The Russian army has been dissolved in the armed people. The Russian revolution has called the workingmen of the world to make a social revolution.

All this had been outlined by Trotsky twelve years ago. When one reads this series of essays, one has the feeling that they were written not in the course of the first Russian upheaval (the essays appeared in 1906 as part of a book by Trotsky, entitled Our Revolution, Petersburg, N. Glagoleff, publisher) but as if they were discussing problems of the present situation. This, more than anything else, shows the continuity of the revolution. The great overthrow of 1917 was completed by the same political and social forces that had met and learned to know each other in the storms of 1905 and 1906. The ideology of the various groups and parties had hardly changed. Even the leaders of the major parties were, in the main, the same persons. Of course, the international situation was different. But even the possibility of a European war and its consequences had been foreseen by Trotsky in his essays.

Twelve years ago those essays seemed to picture an imaginary world. Today they seem to tell the history of the Russian revolution. We may agree or disagree with Trotsky, the leader, nobody can deny the power and clarity of his political vision.

M. Olgin

Note by MIA editors: The chapter Prospects of a labor dictatorship contains an abridged version (a couple of chapters are missing) of the book Results and Prospects. Since the book has already been transcribed in its entirety, we see no point in transcribing the abridged version too.

The Soviet and the Revolution - Fifty Days


About two years after the arrest of the Soviet of 1905, a number of former leaders of that organization, among them Chrustalyov Nossar, the first chairman, and Trotsky, the second chairman, met abroad after having escaped from Siberian exile. They decided to sum up their Soviet experiences in a book which they called The History of the Council of Workinigmen’s Deputies. The book appeared ln 1908 In Petersburg, and was immediately suppressed. One of the essays of this book is here reprinted.

In his estimation of the role of the Soviet Trotsky undoubtedly exaggerates. Only by a flight of imagination can one see in the activities of the Soviet regarding the postal, telegraph and railroad strikers the beginnings of a Soviet control over postoffice, telegraph and railroads. It is also a serious question whether the Soviet was really a leading body, or whether it was led by the current of revolutionary events which it was unable to control. What makes this essay interesting and significant is Trotsky’s assertion that “the first new wave of the revolution will lead to the creation of Soviets all over the country.” This has actually happened. His predictions of the formation of an all-Russian Soviet, and of the program the Soviets would follow, have also been realized in the course of the present revolution.


The history of the Soviet is a history of fifty days. The Soviet was constituted on October 18th; its session was interrupted by a military detachment of the government on December 3rd. Between those two dates the Soviet lived and struggled.

What was the substance of this institution? What enabled it in this short period to take an honorable place in the history of the Russian proletariat, in the history of the Russian Revolution?

The Soviet organized the masses, conducted political strikes, led political demonstrations, tried to arm the workingmen. But other revolutionary organizations did the same things. The substance of the Soviet was its effort to become an organ of public authority. The proletariat on one hand, the reactionary press on the other, have called the Soviet “a labor government”; this only reflects the fact that the Soviet was in reality an embryo of a revolutionary government. In so far as the Soviet was in actual possession of authoritative power, it made use of it; in so far as the power was in the hands of the military and bureaucratic monarchy, the Soviet fought to obtain it.

Prior to the Soviet, there had been revolutionary organizations among the industrial workingmen, mostly of a Social-Democratic nature. But those were organizations among the proletariat; their immediate aim was to influence the masses. The Soviet is an organization of the proletariat; its aim is to fight for revolutionary power.

At the same time, the Soviet was an organized expression of the mill of the proletariat as a class. In its fight for power the Soviet applied such methods as were naturally determined by the character of the proletariat as a class: its part in production; its numerical strength; its social homogeneity. In its fight for power the Soviet has combined the direction of all the social activities of the working class, including decisions as to conflicts between individual representatives of capital and labor. This combination was by no means an artificial tactical attempt: it was a natural consequence of the situation of a class which, consciously developing and broadening its fight for its immediate interests, had been compelled by the logic of events to assume a leading position in the revolutionary struggle for power.

The main weapon of the Soviet was a political strike of the masses. The power of the strike lies in disorganizing the power of the government. The greater the “anarchy” created by a strike, the nearer its victory. This is true only where “anarchy” is not being created by anarchic actions. The class that puts into motion, day in and day out, the industrial apparatus and the governmental apparatus; the class that is able, by a sudden stoppage of work, to paralyze both industry and government, must be organized enough not to fall the first victim of the very “anarchy” it has created. The more effective the disorganization of government caused by a strike, the more the strike organization is compelled to assume governmental functions.

The Council of Workmen’s Delegates introduces a free press. It organizes street patrols to secure the safety of the citizens. It takes over, to a greater or less extent, the post office, the telegraph, and the railroads. It makes an effort to introduce the eight hour workday. Paralyzing the autocratic government by a strike, it brings its own democratic order into the life of the working city population.


After January 9th the revolution had shown its power over the minds of the working masses. On June 14th, through the revolt of the Potyom’kin Tavritchesky it had shown that it was able to become a material force. In the October strike it had shown that it could disorganize the enemy, paralyze his will and utterly humiliate him. By organizing Councils of Workmen’s Deputies all over the country, it showed that it was able to create authoritative power. Revolutionary authority can be based only on active revolutionary force. Whatever our view on the further development of the Russian revolution, it is a fact that so far no social class besides the proletariat has manifested readiness to uphold a revolutionary authoritative power. The first act of the revolution was an encounter in the streets of the proletariat with the monarchy; the first serious victory of the revolution was achieved through the class-weapon of the proletariat, the political strike; the first nucleus of a revolutionary government was a proletarian represent ation. The Soviet is the first democratic power in modern Russian history. The Soviet is the organized power of the masses themselves over their component parts. This is a true, unadulterated democracy, without a two-chamber system, without a professional bureaucracy, with the right of the voters to recall their deputy any moment and to substitute another for him. Through its members, through deputies elected by the workingmen, the Soviet directs all the social activities of the proletariat as a whole and of its various parts; it outlines the steps to be taken by the proletariat, it gives them a slogan and a banner. This art of directing the activities of the masses on the basis of organized self-government, is here applied for the first time on Russian soil. Absolutism ruled the masses, but it did not direct them. It put mechanical barriers against the living creative forces of the masses, and within those barriers it kept the restless elements of the nation in an iron bond of oppression. The only mass absolutism ever directed was the army. But that was not directing, it was merely commanding. In recent years, even the directing of this atomized and hypnotized military mass has been slipping out of the hands of absolutism. Liberalism never had power enough to command the masses, or initiative enough to direct them. Its attitude towards mass-movements, even if they helped liberalism directly, was the same as towards awe-inspiring natural phenomenan, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. The proletariat appeared on the battlefield of the revolution as a self-reliant aggregate, totally independent from bourgeois liberalism.

The Soviet was a class organization, this was the source of its fighting power. It was crushed in the first period of its existence not by lack of confidence on the part of the masses in the cities, but by the limitations of a purely urban revolution, by the relatively passive attitude of the village, by the backwardness of the peasant element of the army. The Soviet’s position among the city population was as strong as could be.

The Soviet was not an official representative of the entire half million of the working population in the capital; its organization embraced about two hundred thousand, chiefly industrial workers; and though its direct and indirect political influence was of a much wider range, there were thousands and thousands of proletarians (in the building trade, among domestic servants, day laborers, drivers) who were hardly, if at all, influenced by the Soviet. There is no doubt, however, that the Soviet represented, the interests of all these proletarian masses. There were but few adherents of the Black Hundred in the factories, and their number dwindled hour by hour. The proletarian masses of Petersburg were solidly behind the Soviet. Among the numerous intellectuals of Petersburg the Soviet had more friends than enemies. Thousands of students recognized the political leadership of the Soviet and ardently supported it in its decisions. Professional Petersburg was entirely on the side of the Soviet. The support by the Soviet of the postal and telegraph strike won it the sympathy of the lower governmental officials. All the oppressed, all the unfortunate, all honest elements of the city, all thbse who were striving towards a better life, were instinctively or consciously on the side of the Soviet. The Soviet was actually or potentially a representative of an overwhelming majority of the population. Its enemies in the capital would not have been dangerous had they not been protected by absolutism, which based its power on the most backward elements of an army recruited from peasants. The weakness of the Soviet was not its own weakness, it was the weakness of a purely urban revolution.

The fifty day period was the period of the greatest power of the revolution. The Soviet was it’s organ in the fight for public authority.

The class character of the Soviet was determined by the class differentiation of the city population and by the political antagonism between the proletariat and the capitalistic bourgeoisie. This antagonism manifested itself even in the historically limited field of a struggle against absolutism. After the October strike, the capitalistic bourgeoisie consciously blocked the progress of the revolution, the petty middle class turned out to be a nonentity, incapable of playing an independent role. The real leader of the urban revolution was the proletariat. Its class-organization was the organ of the revolution in its struggle for power.


The struggle for power, for public authority, this is the central aim of the revolution. The fifty days of the Soviet’s life and its bloody finale have shown that urban Russia is too narrow a basis for Such a struggle, and that even within the limits of the urban revolution, a local organization cannot be the central leading body. For a national task the proletariat required an organization on a national scale. The Petersburg Soviet was a local organization, yet the need of a central organization was so great that it had to assume leadership on a national scale. It did what it could, still it remained primarily the Petesrburg Council of Workmen’s Deputies. The urgency of an all-Russian labor congress which undoubtedly would have had authority to form a central leading organ, was emphasized even at the time of the first Soviet. The December collapse made its realization impossible. The idea remained, an inheritance of the Fifty Days.

The idea of a Soviet has become ingrained in the consciousness of the workingmen as the first prerequisite to revolutionary action of the masses. Experience has shown that a Soviet is not possible or desirable under all circumstances. The objective meaning of the Soviet organization is to create conditions for disorganizing the government, for “anarchy,” in other words for a revolutionary conflict. The present lull in the revolutionary movement, the mad triumph of reaction, make the existence of an open, elective, authoritative organization of the masses impossible. There is no doubt, however, that the first new Wave of the revolution Will lead to the creation of Soviets all over the country. An All-Russian Soviet, organized by an All-Russian Labor Congress, will assume leadership of the local elective organizations of the proletariat. Names, of course, are of no importance; so are details of organization; the main thing is: a centralized democratic leadership in the struggle of the proletariat for a popular government. History does not repeat itself, and the new Soviet will not have again to go through the experience of the Fifty Days. These, however, will furnish it a complete program of action.

This program is perfectly clear.

To establish revolutionary codperation with the army, the peasantry, and the plebeian lower strata of the urban bourgeoisie. To abolish absolutism. To destroy the material organization of absolutism by reconstructing and partly dismissing the army. To break up the entire bureaucratic apparatus. To introduce an eight hour workday. To arm the population, starting with the proletariat. To turn the Soviets into organs of revolutionary self-government in the cities. To create Councils of Peasants’ Delegates (Peasants’ Committees) as local organs of the agrarian revolution. To organize elections to the Constituent Assembly and to conduct a preelection campaign for a definite program on the part of the representatives of the people.

It is easier to formulate such a program than to carry it through. If, however, the revolution will ever win, the proletariat cannot choose another. The proletariat will unfold revolutionary accomplishment such as the world has never seen. The history of Fifty Days will be only a poor page in the great book of the proletariat’s struggle and ultimate triumph.



Preface to My Round Trip


Trotsky was never personal. The emotional side of life seldom appears in his writings. His is the realm of social activities, social and political struggles. His writings breathe logic, not sentiment, facts, not poetry. The following preface to his Round Trip is, perhaps, the only exception. It speaks of the man Trotsky and his beliefs. Note his confession of faith: “History is a tremendous mechanism serving our ideals.” - M. J. OLGIN

At the Stockholm Convention of the Social-Democratic Party, some curious statistical data was circulated, showing the conditions under which the party of the proletariat was working:

The Convention as a whole, in the person of its 140 members, had spent in prison one hundred and thirty-eight years and three and a half months.

The Convention had been in exile one hundred and forty-eight years and six and a half months.

Escaped from prison: Once, eighteen members of the Convention; twice, four members.

Escaped from exile: Once, twenty-three; twice, five; three times, one member.

The length of time the Convention as a whole had been active in Social-Democratic work, was 942 years. It follows that the time spent in prison and exile is about one-third of the time a Social-Democrat is active. But these figures are too optimistic. “The Convention has been active in Social-Democratic work for 942 years.” This means merely that the activities of those persons had been spread over so many years. Their actual period of work must have been much shorter. Possibly all these persons had worked, actually and directly, only one-sixth or one-tenth of the above time. Such are conditions of underground activity. On the other hand, the time spent in prison and exile is real time: the Convention had spent over fifty thousand days and nights behind iron bars, and more than that in barbarous corners of the country.

Perhaps I may give, in addition to these figures, some facts about myself. The author of these lines was arrested for the first time in January 1898, after working for ten months in the workmen’s circles of Nikolayev. He spent two and a half years in prison, and escaped from Siberia after living there two years of his four years exile. He was arrested the second time on December 3rd, 1905, as a member of the Petersburg Council of Workmen’s Deputies. The Council had existed for fifty days. The arrested members of the Soviet each spent 400 days in prison, then they were sent to Obdorsk “forever.” ... Each Russian Social-Democrat who has worked in his Party for ten years could give similar statistics about himself.

The political helter-skelter which exists in Russia since October 17th and which the Gotha Almanach has characterized with unconscious humor as “A Constitutional Monarchy under an absolute Tzar” has changed nothing in our situation. This political order cannot reconcile itself with us, not even temporarily, as it is organically incapable of admitting any free activity of the masses. The simpletons and hypocrites who urge us to “keep within legal limits” remind one of Marie Antoinette who recommended the starving peasants to eat cake! One would think we suffer from an organic aversion for cake, a kind of incurable disease! One would think our lungs infected with an irresistible desire to breathe the atmosphere of the solitary dungeons in the Fortress of Peter and Paul! One would think we have no other use for those endless hours pulled out of our lives by the jailers.

We love our underground just as little as a drowning person loves the bottom of the sea. Yet, we have as little choice, as, let us say directly, the absolutist order. Being fully aware of this we can afford to be optimists even at a time when the underground tightens its grip around our necks with unrelenting grimness. It will not choke us, we know it! We shall survive! When the bones of all the great deeds which are being performed now by the princes of the earth, their servants and the servants of their servants will have turned to dust, when nobody will know the graves of many present parties with all their exploits the Cause we are serving will rule the world, and our Party, now choking underground, will dissolve itself into humanity, for the first time its own master.

History is a tremendous mechanism serving our ideals. Its work is slow, barbarously slow, implacably cruel, yet the work goes on. We believe in it. Only at moments, when this voracious monster drinks the living blood of our hearts to serve it as food, we wish to shout with all our might:

What thou dost, do quickly!

Paris, April 8, 1907

The Lessons of the Great Year

"This essay was published in a New York Russian newspaper on January 20th, 1917, less than two months before the Second Russian Revolution. Trotsky then lived in New York. The essay shows how his contempt, even hatred, for the liberal parties in Russia had grown since 1905-6." - M. J. OLGIN

Revolutionary anniversaries are not only days for reminiscence, they are days for summing up revolutionary experiences, especially for us Russians. Our history has not been rich. Our so-called “national originality” consisted in being poor, ignorant, uncouth. It was the revolution of 1905 that first opened before us the great highway of political progress. On January 9th the workingman of Petersburg knocked at the gate of the Winter Palace. On January 9th the entire Russian people knocked at the gate of history.

The crowned janitor did not respond to the knock. Nine months later, however, on October 17th, he was compelled to open the heavy gate of absolutism. Notwithstanding all the efforts of bureaucracy, a little slit stayed open – forever.

The revolution was defeated. The same old forces and almost the same figures now rule Russia that ruled her twelve years ago. Yet the revolution has changed Russia beyond recognition. The kingdom of stagnation, servitude, vodka and humbleness has become a kingdom of fermentation, criticism, fight. Where once there was a shapeless dough – the impersonal, formless people, “Holy Russia,” – now social classes consciously oppose each other, political parties have sprung into existence, each with its program and methods of struggle. January 9th opens a new Russian history.

It is a line marked by the blood of the people. There is no way back from this line to Asiatic Russia, to the cursed practices of former generations. There is no way back. There will never be.

Not the liberal bourgeoisie, not the democratic groups of the lower bourgeoisie, not the radical intellectuals, not the millions of Russian peasants, but the Russian proletariat has by its struggle started the new era in Russian history. This is basic. On the foundation of this fact we, Social-Democrats, have built our conceptions and our tactics.

On January 9th it was the priest Gapon who happened to be at the head of the Petersburg workers, – a fantastic figure, a combination of adventurer, hysterical enthusiast and impostor. His priest’s robe was the last link that then connected the workingmen with the past, with “Holy Russia.” Nine months later, in the course of the October strike, the greatest political strike history has ever seen, there was at the head of the Petersburg workingmen their own elective self-governing organization – the Council of Workmen’s Deputies. It contained many a workingman who had been on Gapon’s staff, – nine months of revolution had made those men grow, as they made grow the entire working class which the Soviet represented.

In the first period of the revolution, the activities of the proletariat were met with sympathy, even with support from liberal society. The Milukovs hoped the proletariat would punch absolutism and make it more inclined to compromise with the bourgeoisie. Yet absolutism, for centuries the only ruler of the people, was in no haste to share its power with the liberal parties. In October, 1905, the bourgeoisie learned that it could not obtain power before the back-bone of Tzarism was broken. This blessed thing could, evidently, be accomplished only by a victorious revolution. But the revolution put the working class in the foreground, it united it and solidified it not only in its struggle against Tzarism, but also in its struggle against capital. The result was that each new revolutionary step of the proletariat in October, November and December, the time of the Soviet, moved the liberals more and more in the direction of the monarchy. The hopes for revolutionary co6peration between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat turned out a hopeless Utopia. Those who had not seen it then and had not understood it later, those who still dream of a “national” uprising against Tzarism, do not understand the revolution. For them class struggle is a sealed book.

At the end of 1905 the question became acute. The monarchy had learned by experience that the bourgeoisie would not support the proletariat in a decisive battle. The monarchy then decided to move against the proletariat with all its forces. The bloody days of December followed. The Council of Workmen’s Deputies was arrested by the Ismailovski regiment which remained loyal to Tzarism. The answer of the proletariat was momentous: the strike in Petersburg, the insurrection in Moscow, the storm of revolutionary movements in all industrial centers, the insurrection on the Caucasas and in the Lettish provinces.

The revolutionary movement was crushed. Many a poor “Socialist” readily concluded from our December defeats that a revolution in Russia was impossible without the support of the bourgeoisie. If this be true, it would only mean that a revolution in Russia is impossible.

Our upper industrial bourgeoisie, the only class possessing actual power, is separated from the proletariat by an insurmountable barrier of class hatred, and it needs the monarchy as a pillar of order. The Gutchkovs, Krestovnikovs and Ryabushinskys cannot fail to see in the proletariat their mortal foe.

Our middle and lower industrial and commercial bourgeoisie occupies a very insignificant place in the economic life of the country, and is all entangled in the net of capital. The Milukovs, the leaders of the lower middle class, are successful only in so far as they represent the interests of the upper bourgeoisie. This is why the Cadet leader called the revolutionary banner a “red rag”; this is why he declared, after the beginning of the war, that if a revolution were necessary to secure victory over Germany, he would prefer no victory at all.

Our peasantry occupies a tremendous place in Russian life. In 1905 it was shaken to its deepest foundations. The peasants were driving out their masters, setting estates on fire, seizing the land from the landlords. Yes, the curse of the peasantry is that it is scattered, disjointed, backward. Moreover, the interests of the various peasant groups do not coincide. The peasants arose and fought adroitly against their local slave-holders, yet they stopped in reverence before the all-Russian slave-holder. The sons of the peasants in the army did not understand that the workingmen were shedding their blood not only for their own sake, but also for the sake of the peasants. The army was an obedient tool in the hands of Tzarism. It crushed the labor revolution in December 1905.

Whoever thinks about the experiences of 1905, whoever draws a line from that year to the present time, must see how utterly lifeless and pitiful are the hopes of our Social-Patriots for revolutionary cobperation between the proletariat and the liberal bourgeoisie.

During the last twelve years big capital has made great conquests in Russia. The middle and lower bourgeoisie has become still more dependent upon the banks and trusts. The working class, which had grown in numbers since 1905, is now separated from the bourgeoisie by a deeper abyss than before. If a “national” revolution was a failure twelve years ago, there is still less hope for it at present.

It is true in the last years that the cultural and political level of the peasantry has become higher. However, there is less hope now for a revolutionary uprising of the peasantry as a whole than there was twelve years ago. The only ally of the urban proletariat may be the proletarian and half-proletarian strata of the village.

But, a skeptic may ask, is there then any, hope for a victorious revolution in Russia under these circumstances?

One thing is clear – if a revolution comes, it will not be a result of cooperation between capital and labor. The experiences of 1905 show that this is a miserable Utopia. To acquaint himself with those experiences, to study them is the duty of every thinking working-man who is anxious to avoid tragic mistakes. It is in this sense that we have said that revolutionary anniversaries are not only days for reimniscences, but also days for summing up revolutionary experiences.

On the Eve of a Revolution

This essay was written on March 18th, 1917, when the first news of unrest in Petrograd had reached New York.

The streets of Petrograd again speak the language of 1905. As in the time of the Russo-Japanese war, the masses demand bread, peace, and freedom. As in 1905, street cars are not running and newspapers do not appear. The workingmen let the steam out of the boilers, they quit their benches and walk out into the streets. The government mobilizes its Cossacks. And as was in 1905, only those two powers are facing each other in the streets – the revolutionary workingmen and the army of the Tzar.

The movement was provoked by lack of bread. This, of course, is not an accidental cause. In all the belligerent countries the lack of bread is the most immediate, the most acute reason for dissatisfaction and indignation among the masses. All the insanity of the war is revealed to them from this angle: it is impossible to produce necessities of life because one has to produce instruments of death.

However, the attempts of the Anglo-Russian semi-official news agencies to explain the movement by a temporary shortage in food, or to snow storms that have delayed transportation, are one of the most ludicrous applications of the policy of the ostrich. The workingmen would not stop the factories, the street cars, the print shops and walk into the streets to meet Tzarism face to face on account of snow storms which temporarily hamper the arrival of foodstuffs.

People have a short memory. Many of our own ranks have forgotten that the war found Russia in a state of potent revolutionary ferment. After the heavy stupor of 1908-1911, the proletariat gradually healed its wounds rn the following years of industrial prosperity; the slaughter of strikers on the Lena River in April, 1912, awakened the revolutionary energy of the proletarian masses. A series of strikes followed. In the year preceding the world war, the wave of economic and political strikes resembled that of 1905. When Poincaré, the President of the French Republic, came to Petersburg in the summer of 1914 (evidently to talk over with the Tzar how to free the small and weak nations) the Russian proletariat was in a stage of extraordinary revolutionary tension, and the President of the French Republic could see with his own eyes in the capital of his friend, the Tzar, how the first barricades of the Second Russian Revolution were being constructed.

The war checked the rising revolutionary tide. We have witnessed a repetition of what happened ten years before, in the Russo-Japanese war. After the stormy strikes of 1903, there had followed a year of almost unbroken political silence – 1904 – the first year of the war. It took the workingmen of Petersburg twelve months to orientate themselves in the war and to walk out into the streets with their demands and protests. January 9th, 1905, was, so to speak, the official beginning of our First Revolution.

The present war is vaster than was the Russo-Japanese war. Millions of soldiers have been mobilized by the government for the “defense of the Fatherland.” The ranks of the proletariat have thus been disorganized. On the other hand, the more advanced elements of the proletariat had to face and weigh in their minds a number of questions of unheard of magnitude. What is the cause of the war? Shall the proletariat agree with the conception of “the defense of the Fatherland”? What ought to be the tactics of the working class in war time?

In the meantime, the Tzarism and its allies, the upper groups of the nobility and the bourgeoisie, had during the war completely exposed their true nature, – the nature of criminal plunderers, blinded by limitless greed and paralyzed by want of talent. The appetites for conquest of the governing clique grew in proportion as the people began to realize its complete inability to cope with the most elementary problems of warfare, of industry and supplies in war time. Simultaneously, the misery of the people grew, deepened, became more and more acute, – a natural result of the war multiplied by the criminal anarchy of the Rasputin Tzarism.

In the depths of the great masses, among people who may have never been reached by a word of propaganda, a profound bitterness accumulated under the stress of events. Meantime the foremost ranks of the proletariat were finishing digesting the new events. The Socialist proletariat of Russia came to after the shock of the nationalist fall of the most influential part of the International, and decided that new times call us not to let up, but to increase our revolutionary struggle.

The present events in Petrograd and Moscow are a result of this internal preparatory work.

A disorganized, compromised, disjointed government on top. An utterly demoralized army. Dissatisfaction, uncertainty and fear among the propertied classes. At the hot-torn [?], among the masses, a deep bitterness. A proletariat numerically stronger than ever, hardened in the fire of events. All this warrants the statement that we are witnessing the beginning of the Second Russian Revolution. Let us hope that many of us will be its participants.



Two Faces

Nicholas has been dethroned, and according to some information, is under arrest. The most conspicuous Black Hundred leaders have been arrested. Some of the most hated have been killed. A new Ministry has been formed consisting of Octobrists, Liberals and the Radical Kerensky. A general amnesty has been proclaimed.

Let us examine more closely what is going on.

Nicholas has been dethroned, and according to some information, is under arrest. The most conspicuous Black Hundred leaders have been arrested. Some of the most hated have been killed. A new Ministry has been formed consisting of Octobrists, Liberals and the Radical Kerensky. A general amnesty has been proclaimed.

All these are facts, big facts. These are the facts that strike the outer world most. Changes in the higher government give the bourgeoisie of Europe and America an occasion to say that the revolution has won and is now completed.

The Tzar and his Black Hundred fought for their power, for this alone. The war, the imperialistic plans of the Russian bourgeoisie, the interests of the Allies, were of minor importance to the Tzar and his clique. They were ready at any moment to conclude peace with the Hohenzollerns and Hapsburgs, to free their most loyal regiment for war against their own people.

The Progressive Bloc of the Duma mistrusted the Tzar and his Ministers. This Bloc consisted of various parties of the Russian bourgeoisie. The Bloc had two aims: one, to conduct the war to a victorious end; another, to secure internal reforms: more order, control, accounting. A victory is necessary for the Russian bourgeoisie to conquer markets, to increase their territories, to get rich. Reforms are necessary primarily to enable the Russian bourgeoisie to win the war.

The progressive imperialistic Bloc wanted peaceful reforms. The liberals intended to exert a Duma pressure on the monarchy and to keep it in check with the aid of the governments of Great Britain and France. They did not want a revolution. They knew that a revolution, bringing the working masses to the front, would be a menace to their domination, and primarily a menace to their imperialistic plans. The laboring masses, in the cities and in the villages, and even in the army itself, want peace. The liberals know it. This is why they have been enemies of the revolution all these years. A few months ago Milukov declared in the Duma: “If a revolution were necessary for victory, I would prefer no victory at all.”

Yet the liberals are now in power – through the Revolution. The bourgeois newspaper men see nothing but this fact. Milukov, already in his capacity as a Minister of Foreign Affairs, has declared that the revolution has been conducted in the name of a victory over the enemy, and that the new government has taken upon itself to continue the war to a victorious end. The New York Stock Exchange interpreted the Revolution in this specific sense. There are clever people both on the Stock Exchange and among the bourgeois newspaper men. Yet they are all amazingly stupid when they come to deal with mass-movements. They think that Milukov manages the revolution, in the same sense as they manage their banks or news offices. They see only the liberal governmental reflection of the unfolding events, they notice only the foam on the surface of the historical torrent.

The long pent-up dissatisfaction of the masses has burst forth so late, in the thirty-second month of the war, not because the masses were held by police barriers-those barriers had been badly shattered during the war – but because all liberal institutions and organs, together with their Social-Patriotic shadows, were exerting an enormous influence over the least enlightened elements of the workingmen, urging them to keep order and discipline in the name of “patriotism.” Hungry women were already walking out into the streets, and the workingmen were getting ready to uphold them by a general strike, while the liberal bourgeoisie, according to news reports, still issued proclamations and delivered speeches to check the movement, – resembling that famous heroine of Dickens who tried to stem the tide of the ocean with a broom.

The movement, however, took its course, from below, from the workingmen’s quarters. After hours and days of uncertainty, of shooting, of skirmishes, the army joined in the revolution, from below, from the best of the soldier masses. The old government was powerless, paralyzed, annihilated. The Tzar fled from the capital “to the front.” The Black Hundred bureaucrats crept, like cockroaches, each into his corner.

Then, and only then, came the Duma’s turn to act. The Tzar had attempted in the last minute to dissolve it. And the Duma would have obeyed, “following the example of former years,” had it been free to adjourn. The capitals, however, were already dominated by the revolutionary people, the same people that had walked out into the streets despite the wishes of the liberal bourgeoisie. The army was with the people. Had not the bourgeoisie attempted to organize its own government, a revolutionary government would have emerged from the revolutionary working masses. The Duma of June 3rd would never have dared to seize the power from the hands of Tzarism. But it did not want to miss the chance offered by interregnum: the monarchy had disappeared, while a revolutionary government was not yet formed. Contrary to all their part, contrary to their own policies and against their will, the liberals found themselves in possession of power.

Milukov now declares Russia will continue the war “to the end.” It is not easy for him so to speak: he knows that his words are apt to arouse the indignation of the masses against the new government. Yet he had to speak them – for the sake of the London, Paris and – American Stock Exchanges. It is quite possible that he cabled his declaration for foreign consumption only, and that he concealed it from his own country.

Milukov knows very well that under given conditions he cannot continue the war, crush Germany, dismember Austria, occupy Constantinople and Poland.

The masses have revolted, demanding bread and peace. The appearance of a few liberals at the head of the government has not fed the hungry, has not healed the wounds of the people. To satisfy the most urgent, the most acute needs of the people, peace must be restored. The liberal imperialistic Bloc does not dare to speak of peace. They do not do it, first, on account of the Allies. They do not do it, further, because the liberal bourgeoisie is to a great extent responsible before the people for the present war. The Milukovs and Gutchkovs, not less than the Romanoff camarila, have thrown the country into this monstrous imperialistic adventure. To stop the war, to return to the ante-bellum misery would mean that they have to account to the people for this undertaking. The Milukovs and Gutchkovs are afraid of the liquidation of the war not less than they were afraid of the Revolution.

This is their aspect in their new capacity, as the government of Russia. They are compelled to continue the war, and they can have no hope of victory; they are afraid of the people, and people do not trust them.

This is how Karl Marx characterized similar situation:

“From the very beginning ready to betray the people and to compromise with the crowned representatives of the old regime, because the bourgeoisie itself belongs to the old world; keeping a place at the steering wheel of the revolution not because the people were back of them, but because the people pushed them forward; ... having no faith in themselves, no faith in the people; grumbling against those above, trembling before those below; selfish towards both fronts and aware of their selfishness; revolutionary in the face of conservatives, and conservative in the face of revolutionists, with no confidence in their own slogans and with phrases instead of ideas; frightened by the world’s storm and exploiting the world’s storm, – vulgar through lack of originality, and original only in vulgarity; making profitable business out of their own desires, with no initiative, with no vocation for world-wide historic work ... a cursed senile creature condemned to direct and abuse in his own senile interests the first youthful movements of a powerful people, – a creature with no eyes, with no ears, with no teeth, with nothing whatever, – this is how the Prussian bourgeoisie stood at the steering wheel of the Prussian state after the March revolution.”

These words of the great master give a perfect picture of the Russian liberal bourgeoisie, as it stands at the steering wheel of the government after our March revolution. “With no faith in themselves, with no faith in the people, with no eyes, with no teeth.” ... This is their political face.

Luckily for Russia and Europe, there is another face to the Russian Revolution, a genuine face; the cables have brought the news that the Provisional Government is opposed by a Workmen’s Committee which has already raised a voice of protest against the liberal attempt to rob the Revolution and to deliver the people to the monarchy.

Should the Russian Revolution stop to-day as the representatives of liberalism advocate, to-morrow the reaction of the Tzar, the nobility and the bureaucracy would gather power and drive Milukov and Gutchkov from their insecure ministerial trenches, as did the Prussian reaction years ago with the representatives of Prussian liberalism. But the Russian Revolution will not stop. Time will come, and the Revolution will make a clean sweep of the bourgeois liberals blocking its way, as it is now making a clean sweep of the Tzarism reaction.

March 1917



The Growing Conflict

An open conflict between the forces of the Revolutions headed by the city proletariat and the anti-revolutionary liberal bourgeoisie temporarily at the bead of the government, is more and more impending. It cannot be avoided. Of course, the liberal bourgeoisie and the quasi-Socialists of the vulgar type will find a collection of very touching slogans as to “national unity” against class divisions; yet no one has ever succeeded in removing social contrasts by conjuring with words or in checking the natural progress of revolutionary struggle.

The internal history of unfolding events is known to us only in fragments, through casual remarks in the official telegrams. But even now it is apparent that on two points the revolutionary proletariat is bound to oppose the liberal bourgeoisie with ever-growing determination.

The first conflict has already arisen around the question of the form of government. The Russian bourgeoisie needs a monarchy. In all the countries pursuing an imperialistic policy, we observe an unusual increase of personal power. The policy of world usurpations, secret treaties and open treachery requires independence from Parliamentary control and a guarantee against changes in policies caused by the change of Cabinets. Moreover, for the propertied classes the monarchy is the most secure ally in its struggle against the revolutionary onslaught of the proletariat.

In Russia both these causes are more effective than elsewhere. The Russian bourgeoisie finds it impossible to deny the people universal suffrage, well aware that this would arouse opposition against the Provisional Government among the masses, and give prevalence to the left, the more determined wing of the proletariat in the Revolution. Even that monarch of the reserve, Michael Alexandrovitch, understands that he cannot reach the throne without having promised “universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage.” It is the more essential for the bourgeoisie to create right now a monarchic counterbalance against the deepest social-revolutionary demands of the working masses. Formally, in words, the bourgeoisie has agreed to leave the question of a form of government to the discretion of the Constituent Assembly. Practically, however, the Octobrist-Cadet Provisional Government will turn all the preparatory work for the Constituent Assembly into a campaign in favor of a monarchy against a Republic. The character of the Constituent Assembly will largely depend upon the character of those who convoke it. It is evident, therefore, that right now the revolutionary proletariat will have to set up its own organs, the Councils of Workingmens’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, against the executive organs of the Provisional Government. In this struggle the proletariat ought to unite about itself the rising masses of the people, with one aim in view – to seize governmental power. Only a Revolutionary Labor Government will have the desire and ability to give the country a thorough democratic cleansing during the work preparatory to the Constituent Assembly, to reconstruct the army from top to bottom, to turn it into a revolutionary militia and to show the poorer peasants in practice that their only salvation is in a support of a revolutionary labor regime. A Constituent Assembly convoked after such preparatory work will truly reflect the revolutionary, creative forces of the country and become a powerful factor in the further development of the Revolution.

The second question that is bound to bring the internationally inclined Socialist proletariat in opposition to the imperialistic liberal bourgeoisie, is the question of war and peace.

March 1917



War or Peace?

The question of chief interest, now, to the governments and the peoples of the world is, What will be the influence of the Russian Revolution on the War? Will it bring peace nearer? Or will the revolutionary enthusiasm of the people swing towards a more vigorous prosecution of the war?

This is a great question. On its solution depends not only the outcome of the war, but the fate of the Revolution itself.

In 1905, Milukov, the present militant Minister of Foreign Affairs, called the Russo-Japanese war an adventure and demanded its immediate cessation. This was also the spirit of the liberal and radical press. The strongest industrial organizations favored immediate peace in spite of unequaled disasters. Why was it so? Because they expected internal reforms. The establishment of a Constitutional system, a parliamentary control over the budget and the state finances, a better school system and, especially, an increase in the land possessions of the peasants, would, they hoped, increase the prosperity of the population and create a vast internal market for Russian industry. It is true that even then, twelve years ago, the Russian bourgeoisie was ready to usurp land belonging to others. It hoped, however, that abolition of feudal relations in the village would create a more powerful market than the annexation of Manchuria or Korea.

The democratization of the country and liberation of the peasants, however, turned out to be a slow process. Neither the Tzar, nor the nobility, nor the bureaucracy were willing to yield any of their prerogatives. Liberal exhortations were not enough to make them give up the machinery of the state and their land possessions. A revolutionary onslaught of the masses was required. This the bourgeoisie did not want. The agrarian revolts of the peasants, the ever growing struggle of the proletariat and the spread of insurrections in the army caused the liberal bourgeoisie to fall back into the camp of the Tzarist bureaucracy and reactionary nobility. Their alliance was sealed by the coup d’ état of June 3rd, 1907. Out of this coup d’ état emerged the Third and the Fourth Dumas.

The peasants received no land. The administrative system changed only in name, not m substance. The development of an internal market consisting of prosperous farmers, after the American fashion, did not take place. The capitalist classes, reconciled with the régime of June 3rd, turned their attention to the usurpation of foreign markets. A new era of Russian imperialism ensues, an imperialism accompanied by a disorderly financial and military system and by insatiable appetites. Gutchkov, the present War Minister, was formerly a member of the Committee on National Defense, helping to make the army and the navy complete. Milukov, the present Minister of Foreign Affairs, worked out a program of world conquests which he advocated on his trips to Europe. Russian imperialism and his Octobrist and Cadet representatives bear a great part of the responsibility for the present war.

By the grace of the Revolution which they had not wanted and which they had fought, Gutchkov and Milukov are now in power. For the continuation of the war, for victory? Of course! They are the same persons who had dragged the country into the war for the sake of the interests of capital. All their opposition to Tzarism had its source in their unsatisfied imperialistic appetites. So long as the clique of Nicholas II was in power, the interests of the dynasty and of the reactionary nobility were prevailing in Russian foreign affairs. This is why Berlin and Vienna had hoped to conclude a separate peace with Russia. Now, purely imperialistic interests have superseded the Tzarism interests; pure imperialism is written on the banner of the Provisional Government. “The government of the Tzar is gone,” the Milukovs and Gutchkovs say to the people, “now you must shed your blood for the common interests of the entire nation.” Those interests the imperialists understand as the reincorporation of Poland, the conquest of Galicia, Constantinople, Armenia, Persia.

This transition from an imperialism of the dynasty and the nobility to an imperialism of a purely bourgeois character, can never reconcile the Russian proletariat to the war. An international struggle against the world slaughter and imperialism are now our task more than ever. The last despatches which tell of an anti-militaristic propaganda in the streets of Petrograd show that our comrades are bravely doing their duty. The imperialistic boasts of Miliukov to crush Germany, Austria and Turkey are the most effective and most timely aid for the Hohenzollerns and Hapsburgs ... Milukov will now serve as a scare-crow in their hands. The liberal imperialistic government of Russia has not yet started reform in its own army, yet it is already helping the Hohenzollerns to raise the patriotic spirit and to mend the shattered “national unity" of the German people. Should the German proletariat be given a right to think that all the Russian people and the main force of the Russian Revolution, the proletariat, are behind the bourgeois government of Russia, it would be a terrific blow to the men of our trend of mind, the revolutionary Socialists of Germany. To turn the Russian proletariat into patriotic cannon food in the service of the Russian liberal bourgeoisie would mean to throw the German working masses into the camp of the chauvinists and for a long time to holt the progress of a revolution in Germany. The prime duty of the revolutionary proletariat in Russia is to show that there is no power behind the evil imperialistic will of the liberal bourgeoisie. The Russian Revolution has to show the entire world its real face.

The further progress of the revolutionary struggle in Russia and the creation of a Revolutionary Labor Government supported by the people will be a mortal blow to the Hohenzollerns because it will give a powerful stimulus to the revolutionary movement of the German proletariat and of the labor masses of all the other countries. If the first Russian Revolution of 1905 brought about revolutions in Asia – in Persia, Turkey, China – the Second Russian Revolution will be the beginning of a powerful social-revolutionary struggle in Europe. Only this struggle will bring real peace to the blood-drenched world.

No, the Russian proletariat will not allow itself to be harnessed to the chariot of Miliukov imperialism. The banner of Russian Social-Democracy is now, more than ever before, glowing with bright slogans of inflexible Internationalism:

Away with imperialistic robbers!
Long live a Revolutionary Labor Government!
Long live Peace and the Brotherhood of Nations!

Trotsky On The Platform In Petrograd

(From a Russian paper, by unknown author)

Trotsky, always Trotsky.

Since I had seen him the last time, he has been advanced in rank: he has become the chairman of the Petrograd Soviet. He has succeeded Tchcheidze, the wise, sober leader who has lost the confidence of the revolutionary masses. He holds the place of Lenin, the recognized leader of the left wing of Social-Democracy, whose absence from the capital is due to external, accidental causes.

It seems to me that Trotsky has become more nervous, more gloomy, and more restrained. Something like a freezing chill emanates from his deep and restless eyes; a cool, determined, ironical smile plays around his mobile Jewish lips, and there is a chill in his well-balanced, clear-cut words which he throws into his audience with a peculiar calmness.

He seems almost lonesome on the platform. Only a small group of followers applaud. The others protest against his words or cast angry, restless glances at him. He is in a hostile gathering. He is a stranger. Is he not also a stranger to those who applaud him and in whose name he speaks from this platform?

Calm and composed he looks at Ms adversaries, and you feel it is a peculiar joy for him to see the rage, the fear, the excitement his words provoke. He is a Mephisto who throws words like bombs to create a war of brothers at the bedside of their sick mother.

He knows in advance which words will have the greatest effect, which would provoke the most bitter resentment. And the more extreme, the more painful his words are, the firmer and stronger is his voice, the slower his speech, the more challenging his tone. He speaks a sentence, then he stops to wait till the storm is over, then he repeats his assertion, with sharper intonation and with more disdain in his tone. Only his eyes become more nervous, and a peculiar disquieting fire is blazing in them.

This time he does not speak; he reads a written declaration. He reads it with pauses, sometimes accentuating the words, sometimes passing over them quickly, but all the time he is aware of the effect and waits for a response.

His voice is the voice of a prophet, a preacher:

"Petrograd is in danger! The Revolution is in danger! The people are in danger!" . . .

He is a stranger on the platform, and yet—electric currents flow from him to his surroundings, creating sincere though primitive enthusiasm on one side, on the other anger and spite. He opens vast perspectives before the naive faithful masses:

“Long live an immediate, honest, democratic peace!

“All power to the Workmen's Councils! All the land to the people!“