Where Is State Power and Where Is Counter-Revolution?

"Workers and soldiers! You must show firmness, determination and vigilance!". Written by Lenin on July 18 (5), 1917.

This question is usually answered quite simply: there is no counter-revolution at all or we do not know where it is. But we know full well where power is. It is in the hands of the Provisional Government, which is controlled by the Central Executive Committee (C.E.C.) of the All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Soldiers’ and Workers’ Deputies. This is the usual answer.

Yesterday’s political crisis,[1] like most types of crises, which tear down everything conventional and shatter all illusions, left in its wake the ruins of the illusions expressed in the usual answers—cited above—to the basic questions of any revolution.

There is a former member of the Second Duma, Alexinsky, whom the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, the ruling parties in the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peas ants’ Deputies, refused to admit on to the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies until he rehabilitated himself, i.e., until he redeemed his honour.[2]

What was the trouble? Why did the Executive Committee publicly and formally deny Alexinsky its confidence, demanding that he redeem his honour, i.e., declaring him dishonest?

It was because Alexinsky had made himself so notorious by libellous statements that he had been branded a slanderer in Paris by journalists of the most diverse parties. Alexinsky did not bother to redeem his honour before the Executive Committee. He preferred to hide himself in Plekhanov’s newspaper Yedinstvo, appearing first under initials, and then, after he had plucked up courage, under his full name.

On July 4, yesterday afternoon, a few Bolsheviks were warned by friends that Alexinsky had laid before the Petrograd journalists’ committee some new malicious libel. Most of those who received the warning ignored it completely, treating Alexinsky and his “work” with disdainful contempt. But one Bolshevik, Jugashvili (Stalin), a member of the Central Executive Committee, who as a Georgian Social-Democrat had known Comrade Chkheidze for a long time, spoke to the latter at a meeting of the C.E.C. about Alexinsky’s new infamous slander campaign.

This happened late at night, but Chkheidze declared that the C.E.C. could not be indifferent to the spreading of libel by people who are afraid of open court and an investigation by the C.E.C. In his own name, as Chairman of the C.E.C., and in the name of Tsereteli, a member of the Provisional Government, Chkheidze immediately telephoned all newspaper offices, suggesting that they retrain from publishing Alexinsky’s libel. Chkheidze told Stalin that most papers had expressed readiness to comply with his request, and that only Yedinstvo and Rech had “kept silent” for a time (we have not seen Yedinstvo, but Rech has not printed the libel). As a result, the libel appeared only on the pages of a petty, yellow, and to most intelligent people completely unknown paper, Zhivoye Slovo[3] No. 51 (404), whose editor and publisher signs himself A. M. Umansky.

The slanderers will now answer before the court. In this respect things are quite simple.

The absurdity of the libel is striking: a certain ensign of the Sixteenth Siberian Rifle Regiment by the name of Yermolenko was “dispatched” (?) “on April 25 to us behind the front lines of the Sixth Army to agitate for the speediest conclusion of a separate peace treaty with Germany”. Apparently, he is the escaped prisoner of whom the “document” published in Zhivoye Slovo says: “This commission was accepted by. Yermolenko on the insistence of the comrades”!!

From this alone you can judge how little faith can be put in an individual who is dishonourable enough to accept such a “commission”!... The witness has no sense of honour. This is a fact.

And what was the witness’s testimony?

He testified the following: “Officers of the German General Staff, Schiditzki and Lübers, had told him that propaganda of a similar kind was being carried on in Russia by A. Skoropis-Yoltukhovsky, chairman of the Ukrainian section of the Union for the Liberation of the Ukraine,[4] and an agent of the German General Staff, and by Lenin. Lenin was commissioned to do all he could to undermine the confidence of the Russian people in the Provisional Government.”

Thus the German officers, in order to induce Yermolenko to commit this dishonourable act, shamelessly lied to him about Lenin who, as everybody knows and as is officially stated by the entire Bolshevik Party, has always rejected most emphatically, consistently, and unconditionally a separate peace treaty with Germany!! The lie of the German officers is so obvious, crude and preposterous that no literate person would even for a moment take it for anything but a lie. And a politically literate person would be even more certain that to associate Lenin with an individual like Yoltukhovsky (?) and with the Union for the Liberation of the Ukraine is particularly preposterous, for both Lenin and all other internationalists have repeatedly dissociated themselves publicly from this dubious social-patriotic “Union” during the war!

The crude lie told by Yermolenko, whom the Germans had bribed, or by German officers, would not deserve the slightest attention, were it not that the “document” has added what it calls “fresh information”—it is not known by whom, from whom, how, or when received—according to which “money for propaganda is being received” (by whom? the “document” is afraid to say plainly that the accused or suspected is Lenin!! The document says nothing about who “is receiving it”) “through trusted people”: the “Bolsheviks” Fürstenberg (Hanecki) and Kozlovsky. It is alleged that there is information proving the transfer of money through banks, and that “the military censorship has discovered a continuous (!) exchange of telegrams of a political and financial nature between German agents and Bolshevik leaders”!!

Again such a crude lie that it sticks out like a sore thumb. If there were even a word of truth in that, then how could it happen (1) that Hanecki had quite recently been allowed freely to enter Russia and permitted to leave her just as freely? (2) that neither Hanecki nor Kozlovsky had been arrested before the appearance in the press of information concerning their crimes? Is it really possible that the General Staff, had it actually been in possession of even remotely trustworthy information about the sending of money, telegrams, etc., would have permitted the publication of rumours about this, through the Alexinskys and the yellow press, without arresting Hanecki and Kozlovsky? Isn’t it clear this is nothing but the cheap work of newspaper slanderers of the lowest order?

We may add that Hanecki and Kozlovsky are not Bolsheviks, but members of the Polish Social-Democratic Party; that we have known Hanecki, a member of its Central Committee, since the 1903 London Congress from which the Polish delegates withdrew, and so on. The Bolsheviks never received any money from either Hanecki or Kozlovsky. All that is a lie, a complete, vulgar lie.

What is its political significance? First, it indicates that the Bolsheviks’ political opponents are so low and contemptible that they cannot get along without lies and libel.

Secondly, it provides us with an answer to the title question of this article.

The report about the “documents” was sent to Kerensky as early as May 16. Kerensky is a member of the Provisional Government and the Soviet, i.e., of both “powers”. May16 to July 5 is a long time. The power, if it really were a power, could and should itself have investigated those “documents”, interrogated the witnesses, and arrested the suspects. The power, both “powers”—the Provisional Government and the C.E.C.—could and should have done this.

Yet both powers are inactive, while the General Staff is found to have some sort of relations with Alexinsky, who was not admitted to the Soviet’s Executive Committee owing to his libellous activities! The General Staff, at the very moment of the Cadets’ withdrawal, permits—probably by accident—the handing over of its official documents to Alexinsky for publication!

The power is inactive. Neither Kerensky, nor the Provisional Government, nor the C.E.C. so much as think of arresting Lenin, Hanecki, or Kozlovsky, if they are under suspicion. Last night, July 4, both Chkheidze and Tsereteli asked the newspapers not to print the obvious libel. But just a little later, late at night, Polovtsev sent military cadets and Cossacks to wreck Pravda’s offices, stop the paper’s publication, arrest its publishers, seize its ledgers (on the pretext of investigating whether or not suspicious funds were involved). At the same time that yellow, base, filthy little rag, Zhivoye Slovo, printed foul libel to arouse passions, revile the Bolsheviks, create an atmosphere of mob violence, and afford a plausible justification for the behaviour of Polovtsev, the military cadets and the Cossacks who had wrecked Pravda’s offices.

Whoever does not close his eyes to the truth cannot remain deluded. When it is necessary to act, both powers remain inactive—the C.E.C., because it “trusts” the Cadets and is afraid of irritating them, and the Cadets, who do not act as a power because they prefer to act behind the scenes.

Counter-revolution behind the scenes—this is it, as clear as day: the Cadets, certain quarters of the General Staff ("high-ranking officers”, as our Party’s resolution calls them), and the shady, semi-Black Hundred press. These are not inactive, these “work” together hand in glove; this is the soil in which pogroms, attempted pogroms, the shooting of demonstrators, etc., etc., are nurtured.

Whoever does not deliberately shut his eyes to the truth cannot remain deluded any longer.

There is no power, and there will be none until the transfer of power to the Soviets lays the foundation for creating power. Counter-revolution thrives on the absence of authority by uniting the Cadets with certain high-ranking officers and with the Black Hundred press. This is a sad reality, but a reality nevertheless.

Workers and soldiers! You must show firmness, determination and vigilance!


[1] Lenin is referring to the massive demonstrations that took place in Petrograd on July 3 and 4 (16 and 17), 1917. The soldiers, sailors and workers took to the streets, being angered by the Provisional Government sending troops into an offensive that ended in defeat, as might have been expected. The movement began on July 3 (16) in the Vyborg district with the action of the First Machine-Gun Regiment. It threatened to develop into an insurrection against the Provisional Government.

Just then the Bolshevik Party was against all armed action, for it considered that there was no revolutionary crisis in the country as yet. The Central Committee meeting held at 4 p.m., on July 3 (16), resolved to refrain from action. A similar resolution was adopted by the Bolsheviks’ Second Petrograd City Conference, which took place at the same time. Conference delegates went to the city’s factories and districts to restrain the masses from action. But action had already begun and there was no stopping it.

In view of the mood of the masses, the Central Committee, meeting in a joint session with the Petrograd Committee and the Military Organisation, resolved late on the evening of July 3 (16) to join in the demonstration in order to lend it a peaceful and organised character. Lenin was not in Petrograd at the time—being ill as a result of sustained overwork, he had gone to the country for a few day’s rest. Getting word of the events, he returned to Petrograd on the morning of July 4 (17) and assumed political leadership. During the day of July 4 (17) he addressed the Kronstadt sailors from the balcony of Kshesinskaya’s Palace (see this volume, p. 213). His speech played an important part; it called on the sailors to exercise restraint and be staunch and vigilant.

Over 500,000 people took part in the July 4 (17) demonstration. They carried Bolshevik slogans—“All Power to the Soviets!”, etc. They insisted that the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets take power into its hands. But the S.R. and Menshevik leaders refused to take power.

With the knowledge and consent of (lie Menshevik and S.R. Central Executive Committee, the Provisional Government sent military cadets and Cossacks against the peaceful demonstration. The troops opened fire. In addition to them the Provisional Government called in counter-revolutionary units from the front line to smash the demonstration.

A meeting of the Central and Petrograd Committees held on the night of July 4–5 under Lenin’s leadership resolved to discontinue the demonstration in an organised fashion. It was a judicious measure by the Party, which knew how to retreat in time and stave off the defeat of the main revolutionary forces. The Mensheviks and S.R.s virtually took part in and abetted the counter– revolutionary butchery. They joined the bourgeoisie in bearing down on the Bolshevik Party. Pravda, Soldatskaya Pravda and other Bolshevik papers were closed down by the Provisional Government, and the printing plant of Trud, acquired with money collected by the workers, was wrecked. The workers were disarmed, and arrests, house searches and riots took place. The revolutionary-minded units in the Petrograd garrison were sent off to the front line.

After the July events power in the country was fully taken over by the counter-revolutionary Provisional Government. The Soviets became a mere appendage to it. Dual power was at an end. So was the peaceful period of the revolution. The Bolsheviks were faced with the task of preparing for an armed uprising to overthrow the Provisional Government.

[2] Lenin is referring to the following fact: Upon his return from abroad in April 1917 G. A. Alexinsky, a slanderer and plotter, began to contribute to the bourgeois Russkaya Volya (all socialist newspapers having refused to have anything to do with him) and proffered his services to the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. The Executive Committee adopted the following decision: “In view of the facts regarding G. A. Alexinsky’s activity that have become known, the Executive Committee does not see its way to admitting him into its institutions. Should lie wish to rehabilitate! himself, the Executive Committee will not be disagreeable to taking part in an investigation.”

[3] Zhivoye Slovo (The Living Word)—a yellow daily newspaper with Black Hundred leanings published in Petrograd from 1916. In 1917 it campaigned rabidly against the Bolsheviks. The October Revolution put an end to its publication.

[4] The Union for the Liberation of the Ukraine was founded by a group of Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists in 1914, shortly after the beginning of the First World War. Expecting tsarist Russia to lose the war, the Union sought the Ukraine’s secession from Russia and the establishment of a bourgeois and landowner Ukrainian monarchy under German protectorate.


Source: Marxist Internet Archive.