MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE |  V. I. Lenin |THE PROLETARIAN   REVOLUTION AND THE RENEGADE KAUTSKY

V. I. LENIN

THE PROLETARIAN   REVOLUTION  
AND THE
RENEGADE KAUTSKY

THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
AND THE SOVIET REPUBLIC

    The question of the Constituent Assembly and its dispersal by the Bolsheviks is the crux of Kautsky's entire pamphlet. He constantly reverts to it, and the whole of this literary production of the ideological leader of the Second International is replete with innuendoes to the effect that the Bolsheviks have "destroyed democracy" (see one of the quotations from Kautsky above). The question is really an interesting and important one, because the relation between bourgeois democracy and proletarian democracy here confronted the revolution in a practical form. Let us see how our "Marxist theoretician" has dealt with the question.

    He quotes the "Theses on the Constituent Assembly," which were written by me and published in the Pravda on December 26,1917. One would think that no better evidence of Kautsky's serious approach to the subject, quoting as he does the documents, could be desired. But observe h o w he quotes. He does not say that there were nineteen of these theses; he does not say that they dealt with the relation between the ordinary bourgeois republic, with a Constituent Assembly. and a Soviet republic, as well as with the history of the divergence in our revolution between the Constituent Assembly and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Kautsky ignores all that, and simply tells the reader that "two of them" (of the theses) "are particularly important"; one stating that a split occurred among the Socialist-Revolutionaries after the elections to the Constituent Assembly, but before it was convened (Kautsky does not mention that this was the fifth thesis), and the other, that the republic of Soviets is in general a higher democratic form than the Constituent Assembly (Kautsky does not mention that this was the third thesis).

    And only from this third thesis does Kautsky quote a part in full, namely, the following passage:

    "The republic of Soviets is not only the form of a higher type of democratic institution (as compared with the usual bourgeois republic crowned by a Constituent Assembly), but is the only form capable of securing the most painless* transition to Socialism" (Kautsky omits the word "usual" and the introductory words of the thesis: "For the transition from the bourgeois to the socialist system, for the dictatorship of the proletariat").

    After quoting these words, Kautsky, with magnificent irony, exclaims:


    * Incidentally, Kautsky, obviously trying to be ironical, repeatedly quotes the expression "most painless" transition; but as the shaft misses its mark, a few pages further on he commits a slight forgery and falsely quotes it as a "painless" transition! Of course, by such means it is easy to put any absurdity into the mouth of an opponent. The forgery also helps him to evade the substance of the argument, namely, that the most painless transition to Socialism is possible only when all the poor are organized to a man (Soviets) and when the core of the state power (the proletariat) helps to organize them.

    "It is a pity that this conclusion was arrived at only after the Bolsheviks found themselves in the minority in the Constituent Assembly. Before that no one had demanded it more clamorously than Lenin."

    This is literally what Kautsky says on page 31 of his book!

    It is positively a gem! Only a sycophant of the bourgeoisie was capable of presenting the question in such a false way as to give the reader the impression that all the Bolsheviks' talk about a higher type of state was an invention which saw the light of day after they found themselves in the minority in the Constituent Assembly!! Such an infamous lie could only have been uttered by a scoundrel who has sold himself to the bourgeoisie, or, what is absolutely the same thing, who has placed his trust in P. Axelrod and is concealing the source of his information.

    For everyone knows that on the very day of my arrival in Russia, on April 4, 1917, I publicly read my theses in which I proclaimed the superiority of the Paris Commune type of state over the bourgeois parliamentary republic. Afterwards, I repeatedly stated this in print, as, for instance, in a pamphlet on political parties, which was translated into English[22] and was published in January 1918 in The New York Evening Post.[23] More than that, the conference of the Bolshevik Party held at the end of April 1917 adopted a resolution to the effect that a proletarian and peasant republic was superior to a bourgeois parliamentary republic, that our Party would not be satisfied with the latter, and that the program of the Party should be modified accordingly.

    In face of these facts, what name can be given to Kautsky's trick of assuring his German readers that I had been clamorously demanding the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, and that I began to "belittle" the honour and dignity of the Constituent Assembly only after the Bolsheviks found themselves in the minority in it? How can one excuse such a trick?[*] By pleading that Kautsky did not know the facts? If that is the case, why did he undertake to write about them? Or why did he not honestly announce that he was writing on the strength of information supplied by the Mensheviks Stein and P. Axelrod and Co.? By pretending to be objective, Kautsky wants to conceal his role as the servant of the Mensheviks, who are disgruntled because they have been defeated.

    But this is a mere trifle compared with what is to come.

    Let us assume that Kautsky would not or could not (??) obtain from his informants a translation of the Bolshevik resolutions and declarations on the question of whether they would be satisfied with a bourgeois parliamentary democratic republic or not. Let us assume this, although it is incredible. But Kautsky directly mentions my theses of December 26, 1917, on page 30 of his book.

    Does he know these theses in full, or does he know only what was translated for him by the Steins, the Axelrods and Co.? Kautsky quotes the third thesis on the fundamental question of whether the Bolsheviks, before the elections to the Constituent Assembly, realized that a Soviet republic is superior to a bourgeois republic, and whether they told the people that. B u t h e k e e p s s i l e n t a b o u t t h e s e c o n d t h e s i s.

    The second thesis reads as follows:

    "While demanding the convocation of a Constituent Assembly, revolutionary Social-Democracy has ever since the beginning of the revolution of 1917 repeatedly emphasied that


    * Incidentally, there are many Menshevik lies of this kind in Kautsky's pamphlet! It is a lampoon written by an embittered Menshevik.

a republic of Soviets is a higher form of democracy than the usual bourgeois republic with a Constituent Assembly." (My italics.)

    In order to represent the Bolsheviks as unprincipled people, as "revolutionary opportunists" (this is a term which Kautsky employs somewhere in his book, I forget in which connection), Mr. Kautsky has concealed from his German readers the fact that the theses contain a direct reference to "r e p e a t e d " declarations!

    Such are the petty, miserable and contemptible methods Mr. Kautsky employs! That is the way he has evaded the theoretical question.

    Is it true or not that the bourgeois-democratic parliamentary republic is inferior to the republic of the Paris Commune or Soviet type? This is the crux of the question, and Kautsky has evaded it. Kautsky has "forgotten" all that Marx said in his analysis of the Paris Commune. He has also "forgotten" Engels' letter to Bebel of March 28, 1875, in which this same idea of Marx is formulated in a particularly clear and comprehensible fashion: "The Commune was no longer a state in the proper sense of the word."

    Here is the most prominent theoretician of the Second International, in a special pamphlet on The Dictatorship of the Proletariat, specially dealing with Russia, where the question of a form of state that is higher than a democratic bourgeois republic has been raised directly and repeatedly, ignoring this very question. In what way does this differ in fact from desertion to the bourgeois camp?

    (Let us observe in parenthesis that in this respect, too, Kautsky is merely trailing after the Russian Mensheviks. Among the latter there are any number of people who know "all the quotations" from Marx and Engels; but not a single Menshevik, from April to October 1917 and from October 1917 to October 1918, has ever made a single attempt to examine the question of the Paris Commune type of state. Plekhanov, too, has evaded the question. Evidently he was obliged to remain silent.)

    It goes without saying that to discuss the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly with people who call themselves Socialists and Marxists, but who in practice desert to the bourgeoisie on the main question, the question of the Paris Commune type of state, would be casting pearls before swine. It will be sufficient for me to give the complete text of my theses on the Constituent Assembly as an appendix to the present book. The reader will then see that the question was presented on December 26, 1917, in the light of theory, history and practical politics.

    If Kautsky has completely renounced Marxism as a theoretician he might at least have examined the question of the struggle of the Soviets with the Constituent Assembly as a historian. We know from many of Kautsky's works that he knew how to be a Marxian historian, and that such works of his will remain a permanent possession of the proletariat in spite of his subsequent apostasy. But on this question Kautsky, even as a historian, turns his back on the truth, ignores well-known facts and behaves like a sycophant. He wants to represent the Bolsheviks as being devoid of principles and he tells his readers that they tried to mitigate the conflict with the Constituent Assembly before dispersing it. There is absolutely nothing wrong about it, we have nothing to recant: I give the theses in full and there it is said as clear as clear can be: Gentlemen of the vacillating petty bourgeoisie entrenched in the Constituent Assembly, either reconcile yourselves to the proletarian dictatorship, or else we shall vanquish you by "revolutionary means" (theses 18 and 19).

    That is how a really revolutionary proletariat has always behaved and always will behave towards the vacillating petty bourgeoisie.

    Kautsky adopts a formal standpoint on the question of the Constituent Assembly. My theses say clearly and repeatedly that the interests of the revolution are higher than the formal rights of the Constituent Assembly (see theses 16 and 17). The formal democratic point of view is precisely the point of view of the bourgeois democrat who refuses to admit that the interests of the proletariat and of the proletarian class struggle are supreme. As a historian, Kautsky would not have been able to deny that bourgeois parliaments are the organs of this or that class; but now (for the sordid purpose of renouncing revolution) Kautsky finds it necessary to forget his Marxism, and he refrains from putting the question: the organ of what class was the Constituent Assembly of Russia? Kautsky does not examine the concrete conditions; he does not want to face the facts; he does not say a single word to his German readers about the fact that the theses contained not only a theoretical elucidation of the question of the limited character of bourgeois democracy (theses 1-3), not only a description of the concrete conditions which determined the discrepancy between the party lists of candidates in the middle of October 1917 and the real state of affairs in December 1917 (theses 4-6), but also a history of the class struggle and the civil war in October-December 1917 (theses 7-15). From this concrete history we drew the conclusion (thesis 14) that the slogan: "All Power to the Constituent Assembly!" had, in reality, become the slogan of the Cadets and the Kaledinites and their abettors.

    Kautsky the historian fails to see this. Kautsky the historian has never heard that universal suffrage sometimes produces petty-bourgeois, sometimes reactionary and counter-revolutionary parliaments. Kautsky the Marxian historian has never heard that the form of elections, the form of democracy, is one thing, and the class content of the given institution is another. This question of the class content of the Constituent Assembly is directly put and answered in my theses. Perhaps my answer is wrong. Nothing would have been more welcome to us than a Marxian criticism of our analysis by an outsider. Instead of writing utterly silly phrases (of which there are plenty in Kautsky's book) about somebody preventing criticism of Bolshevism, he ought to have set out to make such a criticism. But the point is that he offers no criticism. He does not even raise the question of a class analysis of the Soviets on the one hand, and of the Constituent Assembly on the other. Hence it is impossible to argue, to debate with Kautsky; and all we can do is to demonstrate to the reader why Kautsky cannot be called anything else than a renegade.

    The divergence between the Soviets and the Constituent Assembly has its history, which even a historian who does not share the point of view of the class struggle could not have ignored. Kautsky would not touch upon this actual history. Kautsky has concealed from his German readers the universally known fact (which only malignant Mensheviks now suppress) that the divergence between the Soviets and the "general state" (that is, bourgeois) institutions existed even under the rule of the Mensheviks, i.e., from the end of February to October 1917. Actually, Kautsky adopts the position of conciliation, compromise and collaboration between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. However much Kautsky may repudiate this, it is a fact which is borne out by his whole pamphlet. To say that the Constituent Assembly should not have been dispersed is tantamount to saying that the fight against the bourgeoisie should not have been fought to a finish, that the bourgeoisie should not have been overthrown and that the proletariat should have made peace with it.

    Why has Kautsky passed in silence the fact that the Mensheviks were engaged in this inglorious work between February and October 1917 and did not achieve anything? If it was possible to reconcile the bourgeoisie with the proletariat, why did not the Mensheviks succeed in doing so? Why did the bourgeoisie stand aloof from the Soviets? Why did the Mensheviks call the Soviets "revolutionary democracy," and the bourgeoisie the "propertied elements"?

    Kautsky has concealed from his German readers that it was precisely the Mensheviks who, in the "epoch" of their rule (February to October 1917), called the Soviets "revolutionary democracy," thereby admitting their superiority over all other institutions. It is only by concealing this fact that the historian Kautsky made it appear that the divergence between the Soviets and the bourgeoisie had no history, that it arose instantaneously, suddenly, without cause, because of the bad behaviour of the Bolsheviks. And in actual fact, it was precisely the more than six months' (an enormous period in time of revolution) experience of Menshevik compromise, of their attempts to reconcile the proletariat with the bourgeoisie, that convinced the people of the fruitlessness of these attempts and drove the proletariat away from the Mensheviks.

    Kautsky admits that the Soviets are an excellent combat organization of the proletariat, and that they have a great future before them. But, that being the case, Kautsky's position collapses like a house of cards, or like the dreams of a petty bourgeois that the acute struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie can be avoided. For revolution is one continuous and moreover desperate struggle, and the proletariat is the vanguard class of all the oppressed, the focus and centre of all the aspirations of all the oppressed for their emancipation! Naturally, therefore, the Soviets, as the organ of struggle of the oppressed masses, reflected and expressed the moods and changes of opinions of these masses ever so much more quickly, fully, and faithfully than any other institution (that, incidentally, is one of the reasons why Soviet democracy is the highest type of democracy).

    In the period between February 28 (old style) and October 25, 1917, the Soviets managed to convene two All-Russian Congresses of representatives of the overwhelming majority of the population of Russia, of all the workers and soldiers, and of 70 or 80 per cent of the peasantry, not to mention the vast number of local, uyezd, urban, gubernia, and regional congresses. During this period the bourgeoisie did not succeed in convening a single institution that represented the majority (except that obvious sham and mockery called the "Democratic Conference," which enraged the proletariat). The Constituent Assembly reflected the same mood of the masses and the same political grouping as the First (June) All-Russian Congress of Soviets. By the time the Constituent Assembly was convened (January 1918), the Second (October 1917) and Third (January 1918) Congresses of Soviets had met, both of which had demonstrated as clear as dear could be that the masses had swung to the Left, had become revolu tionized, had turned away from the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries, and had passed over to the side of the Bolsheviks; that is, had turned away from petty-bourgeois leadership, from the illusion that it was possible to reach a compromise with the bourgeoisie, and had joined the proletarian revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie.

    Hence, even the external history of the Soviets shows that the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly was inevitable and that this Assembly was a reactionary body. But Kautsky sticks firmly to his "slogan": let "pure democracy" prevail though the revolution perish and the bourgeoisie triumph over the proletariat! Fiat justitia, pereat mundus![24]

    Here are the brief figures relating to the All-Russian Congresses of Soviets in the course of the history of the Russian revolution:

All-Russian Congress
of Soviets

Number of
Delegates

Number of
Bolsheviks

Percentage of
Bolsheviks

First (June 3, 1917)

790

103

13

Second (October 25, 1917)

675

343

51

Third (January 10, 1918)

710

434

61

Fourth (March 14, 1918)

1,232  

795

64

Fifth (July 4,1918)

1,164  

773

66

    It is enough to glance at these figures to understand why the defence of the Constituent Assembly and talk (like Kautsky's) about the Bolsheviks not having a majority of the population behind them is just ridiculed in Russia.