Gregory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev

On the Present Situation

(Extracts)


Written: October 11/24, 1917
Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher, The Bolshevik revolution, 1917-1918: Documents and materials, Stanford University Press; London: H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1934, pp. 59-62.
Online Version: Zinoviev Internet Archive, October 2017
HTML Markup: Zdravko Saveski


In connection with the political situation, the withdrawal of the Bolsheviks from the Pre-Parliament put before our party the question: What next?

In labour circles there is developing and growing a current of thought which sees the only outcome in the immediate declaration of an armed uprising. The interaction of all the conditions at present is such that if we are to speak of such an uprising a definite date must be set for it, and that within the next few days .....

We are deeply convinced that to call at present for an armed uprising means to stake on one card not only the fate of our party, but also the fate of the Russian and international revolution.

There is no doubt that there are historical situations when an oppressed class must recognise that it is better to go forward to defeat than to give up without a battle. Does the Russian working class find itself at present in such a situation? No, and a thousand times no!!!

As a result of the immense growth of the influence of our party in the cities, and particularly in the army, there has come about at present a situation such that it is becoming more and more impossible for the bourgeoisie to obstruct the Constituent Assembly. Through the army, through the workers, we hold a revolver at the temple of the bourgeoisie: the bourgeoisie is put in such a position that if it should undertake now to attempt to obstruct the Constituent Assembly, it would again push the petty-bourgeois parties to one side, and the revolver would go off.

The chances of our party in the elections to the Constituent Assembly are excellent. The talk that the influence of Bolshevism is beginning to wane, etc., we consider to have absolutely no foundation. In the mouths of our political opponents this assertion is simply a move in the political game, having as its purpose this very thing, to provoke an uprising of the Bolsheviks under conditions favourable to our enemies. The influence of the Bolsheviks is increasing....

The Constituent Assembly, by itself, cannot of course abolish the present camouflaging of these interrelations. The Soviets, which have become rooted in life, can not be destroyed. The Constituent Assembly will be able to find support for its revolutionary work only in the Soviets. The Constituent Assembly plus the Soviets--this is that combined type of state institutions toward which we are going. It is on this political basis that our party is acquiring enormous chances for a real victory.

We have never said that the Russian working class alone, by its own forces, would be able to bring the present revolution to a victorious conclusion. We have not forgotten, must not forget even now, that between us and the bourgeoisie there stands a huge third camp: the petty bourgeoisie. This camp joined us during the days of the Kornilov affair and gave us victory. It will join us many times more. We must not permit ourselves to be hypnotised by what is the case at the present moment. Undoubtedly, at present this camp is much nearer to the bourgeoisie than to us. But the present situation is not eternal, nor even durable. And only by a careless step, by some hasty action which will make the whole fate of the revolution dependent upon an immediate uprising, will the proletarian party push the petty bourgeoisie into the arms of Milyukov .....

We are told: (1) that the majority of the people of Russia is already with us, and (2) that the majority of the international proletariat is with us. Alas!--neither the one nor the other is true, and this is the crux of the entire situation .....

In what perspective then does the immediate future present itself to us? Here is our answer.

It stands to reason that our path does not depend upon ourselves alone. The enemy may compel us to accept decisive battle before the elections to the Constituent Assembly. Attempts at a new Kornilov affair will of course not leave us even the elections. We will then, of course, be unanimous in the only possible decision. But at that time a substantial part of the petty-bourgeois camp too will surely support us again. The flight of the government to Moscow will push the masses of the petty bourgeoisie over to us .....

But in so far as the choice depends upon us, we can and we must limit ourselves to a defensive position. The Provisional Government is often powerless to carry into execution its counter-revolutionary intentions. . . . . The strength of the soldiers and workers is sufficient to prevent the realisation of such steps by Kerensky and Company. The peasant movement has only just begun. The mass suppression of the peasant movement by the Cadets cannot succeed with the sentiment of the army as it now is. The Provisional Government is powerless to fix up the elections to the Constituent Assembly. Sympathy with our party will grow. The bloc of the Cadets, the Mensheviks, and the S.-R.'s will fall apart. In the Constituent Assembly we shall be such a strong opposition party that in a country of universal suffrage our opponents will be compelled to make concessions to us at every step, or we will form, together with the Left S.-R.'s, non-party peasants, etc., a ruling bloc which will fundamentally have to carry out our programme. This is our opinion.

Before history, before the international proletariat, before the Russian Revolution and the Russian working class, we have no right to stake the whole future on the card of an armed uprising. It would be a mistake to think that such action now would, if it were unsuccessful, lead only to such consequences as did July 16-18. Now it is a question of something more. It is a question of decisive battle, and defeat in that battle would spell defeat to the revolution.

This is the general situation. But everyone who does not want merely to talk about uprising must carefully weigh its chances. And here we consider it our duty to say that at the present moment it would be most harmful to underestimate the forces of our opponent and overestimate our own forces. The forces of the opponent are greater than they appear. Petrograd is decisive, and in Petrograd the enemies of the proletarian party have accumulated substantial forces: 5,000 military cadets, excellently armed, organised, anxious, .... and able to fight, also the staff, shock troops, Cossacks, a substantial part of the garrison, and very considerable artillery, which has taken up a position in fan-like formation around Petrograd. Then our adversaries will undoubtedly attempt, with the aid of the C.E.C., to bring troops from the front. The proletarian party at the present time would have to fight under an entirely different interrelationship of forces than in the days of the Kornilov affair. At that time we fought together with the S.-R.'s, the Mensheviks, and to some extent even with the adherents of Kerensky. Now, however, the proletarian party would have to fight against the Black Hundreds, plus the Cadets, plus Kerensky and the Provisional Government, plus the C.E.C. (S.-R.'s and Mensheviks).

The forces of the proletarian party are, of course, very substantial, but the decisive question is, is the sentiment among the workers and soldiers of the capital really such that they see salvation only in street fighting, that they are impatient to go into the streets? No. There is no such sentiment. Even those in favour of the uprising state that the sentiment of the masses of workers and soldiers is not at all even like their sentiments upon the eve of July 16. If among the great masses of the poor of the capital there were a militant sentiment burning to go into the streets, it might have served as a guarantee that an uprising initiated by them would draw in the biggest organisations (railroad unions, unions of postoffice and telegraph workers, etc.), where the influence of our party is weak. But since there is no such sentiment even in the factories and barracks, it would be self-deception to build any plans on it.

We are told: but the railroad workers and the postoffice and telegraph employees are starving, are crushed by poverty, are exasperated with the Provisional Government. All this is so, of course. But all this is still no guarantee that they will support an uprising against the government, in spite of the S.-R.'s and Mensheviks. The railroad workers and employees were crushed by poverty also in 1906, even as they are now in Germany and France ..... If all these people who are crushed by poverty were always ready to support the armed uprising of the Socialists, we would have won Socialism long ago.

This emphasises our immediate task. The Congress of Soviets has been called for October 20/November 2. It must be convened, no matter what the cost. It must organisationally consolidate the growing influence of the proletarian party. It must become the centre of the consolidation around the Soviets of all proletarian and semi-proletarian organisations, such as those same railroad unions, unions of postoffice and telegraph employees, bank employees, etc. As yet there is no firm organisational connection between these organisations and the Soviets. This cannot be considered as other than a symptom of the organisational weakness of the proletarian party. But such a connection is in any case a preliminary condition for the actual carrying out of the slogan, "All power to the Soviets." For any given moment this slogan naturally signifies the most decisive resistance to the slightest encroachment on the rights of the Soviets and organisations created by them, on the part of the government.

Under these conditions it would be a serious historical untruth to formulate the question of the transfer of power into the hands of the proletarian party in the terms: either now or never. . . . . The party of the proletariat will grow. Its programme will become known to broader and broader masses. It will have the opportunity to continue on an even larger scale the merciless exposure of the policy of the Mensheviks and S.-R.'s who stand in the way of actual transfer of the power into the hands of the majority of the people. And there is only one way in which the proletarian party can interrupt its successes, and that is if under present conditions it take upon itself to initiate an uprising and thus expose the proletariat to the blows of the entire consolidated counter-revolution, supported by the petty-bourgeois democracy. Against this perilous policy we raise our voice in warning.

G. ZINOVIEV

U. KAMENEV


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