The Revolution, the Offensive, and Our Party

"The offensive has been declared in the name of peace. And it is also “in the name of peace” that the imperialists of the world send their troops into battle."

“The Russian revolution has reached a turning-point," said Tsereteli informing the Congress of Soviets that the offensive[1] had begun. Yes, the whole course of the world war as well as the Russian revolution has reached a turning-point. After three months of vacillation the Russian Government has actually come to the decision demanded by the “Allied” governments.

The offensive has been declared in the name of peace. And It is also “in the name of peace” that the imperialists of the world send their troops into battle. Every time there is an offensive the generals in every belligerent country try to raise their troops’ morale by holding out the real hope of that particular offensive leading to early peace.

The Russian “socialist” Ministers have garnished this common imperialist method with very high-sounding phrases in which words about socialism, democracy, and revolution sound like rattles in the hands of a clever juggler. But no high-sounding phrases can conceal the fact that the revolutionary armies of Russia have been sent into battle in the name of the imperialist designs of Britain, France, Italy, Japan, and America. No arguments from Chernov, once a Zimmerwaldist[2] and now Lloyd George’s partner, can conceal the fact that while the Russian Army and the Russian proletariat do not really pursue any annexationist aims, this does not in the least change the imperialist, predatory nature of the struggle between the two world trusts. Until the secret treaties binding Russia to the imperialists of other countries are revised, and as long as Ribot, Lloyd George and Sonnino, Russia’s allies, continue to talk about the annexationist aims of their foreign policy, the offensive of the Russian troops will continue to serve the imperialists.

Tsereteli and Chernov object, however, that they have repeatedly declared their renunciation of all annexations. So much the worse, we reply. That means your actions do not accord with your words, for your actions serve both Russian and foreign imperialism. And when you begin to co-operate actively with the imperialist “Allies” you render splendid service to the Russian counter-revolution. The joy of all the Black Hundreds and all counter-revolutionaries over the decisive turn in your policy is the best evidence of that. Yes, the Russian revolution has come to a turning-point. Through its “socialist” Ministers, the Russian Government has done something which the imperialist Ministers, Guchkov and Milyukov, could not do. It has put the Russian Army at the disposal of the general staffs and the diplomats who act in the name and on the basis of unabrogated secret treaties, in the name of designs frankly proclaimed by Ribot and Lloyd George. The government could only fulfil its task, however, because the army trusted and followed it. The army marched to death because it believed it was making sacrifices for freedom, the revolution and early peace.

But the army did so because it is only a part of the people, who at this stage of the revolution are following the Socialist-Revolutionary and the Menshevik parties. This general and basic fact, the trust of the majority in the petty-bourgeois policy of the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries which is dependent on the capitalists, determines our Party’s stand and conduct.

We shall keep up our efforts to expose government policy, resolutely warning the workers and soldiers, as in the past, against pinning their hopes on unco-ordinated and disorganised actions.

It is a question of a phase in the people’s revolution. The Tseretelis and Chernovs, having become dependent on imperialism, are putting into effect a phase of petty-bourgeois illusions and petty-bourgeois phrases, which serve to disguise the same old cynical imperialism.

This phase must be brought to an end. Let us help to end it as speedily and as painlessly as possible. This will rid the people of the last petty-bourgeois illusions and bring about the transfer of power to the revolutionary class.


[1] This refers to the offensive launched by the Provisional Government in June 1917, at the instance of the Russian and Anglo-French imperialists. Kerensky, the War Minister, ordered the offensive on June 16 (29). On June 18 (July 1) the Russian troops took the offensive on the South-Western Front. The operation was successful at first and the Russians made headway, taking several thousand prisoners. Later on fatigue, the troops’ incomprehension of the purpose of the offensive, and inadequate technical preparation resulted in the German troops effecting a break-through and forcing the Russian troops into a disorderly retreat. The Russian Army sustained a crushing defeat, losing about 60,000 men and officers in ten days.

The miscarriage of the offensive defeated the entire policy of the Provisional Government and the S.R. and Menshevik defencist bloc backing it. The defeat at the front made for an increase in Bolshevik influence on the workers and soldiers, who satisfied themselves more and more that the Bolsheviks were right. The news of the enormous casualties which the offensive had involved angered the working people and hastened a now political crisis in the country.

[2] The Zimmerwaldists were members of the group formed at the first conference of internationalists held in Zimmerwald from September 5 to 8, 1915.

During the conference a struggle developed between the revolutionary internationalists led by Lenin and the Kautskyite majority. Lenin formed of the Left internationalists the Zimmerwald Left group in which the Bolshevik Party was the only one to take a correct and consistently internationalist stand against the war.

The conference adopted a manifesto describing the world war as an imperialist war. It condemned the conduct of those “socialists” who voted for war credits and were members of bourgeois cabinets. It called on the workers of Europe to begin fighting against the war, for peace without annexations and indemnities. The conference also passed a resolution expressing sympathy with the war victims, and elected the International Socialist Committee.


Source: Marxist Internet Archive.