ON THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
1. The demand for the convocation of a Constituent Assembly was a perfectly legitimate part of the program of revolutionary Social-Democracy, because in a bourgeois republic the Constituent Assembly represents the highest form of democracy and because, in setting up a parliament, the imperialist republic headed by Kerensky was preparing to fake the elections and violate democracy in a number of ways.
2. While demanding the convocation of a Constituent Assembly, revolutionary Social-Democracy has ever since the beginning of the revolution of 1917 repeatedly emphasized that a republic of Soviets is a higher form of democracy than the usual bourgeois republic with a Constituent Assembly.
3. For the transition from the bourgeois to the socialist system, for the dictatorship of the proletariat, the republic of Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies 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.
4. The convocation of the Constituent Assembly in our revolution on the basis of lists submitted in the middle of October 1917 is taking place under conditions which preclude the possibility of the elections to this Constituent Assembly faithfully expressing the will of the people in general and of the toiling masses in particular.
5. Firstly, proportional representation results in a faithful expression of the will of the people only when the party lists correspond to the real division of the people according to the party groupings reflected in those lists. In our case, however, as is well known, the party which from May to October had the largest number of followers among the people, and especially among the peasantry -- the Socialist-Revolutionary Party -- came out with united lists at the elections to the Constituent Assembly in the middle of October 1917, but split after the elections and before the assembly met.
For this reason, there is not, nor can there be, even a formal correspondence between the will of the mass of the electors and the composition of the elected Constituent Assembly.
6. Secondly, a still more important, not a formal nor legal, but a social-economic, class source of the discrepancy between the will of the people, and especially of the toiling classes, on the one hand, and the composition of the Constituent Assembly, on the other, is the fact that the election to the Constituent Assembly took place at a time when the overwhelming majority of the people could not yet know the full scope and significance of the October, Soviet, proletarian peasant revolution, which began on October 25, 1917, i.e.,
after the lists of candidates for the Constituent Assembly had been submitted.
7. The October Revolution, which conquered power for the Soviets, and which wrested the political rule from the bourgeoisie and transferred it to the proletariat and poorest peasantry, is passing under our eyes through successive stages of development.
8. It began with the victory of October 24-25 in the capital, when the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, the vanguard of the proletarians and of the most politically active section of the peasantry, gave a majority to the Bolshevik Party and put it in power.
9. Then, in the course of November and December, the revolution spread to the entire army and peasantry, being expressed first of all in the deposition of the old leading bodies (army committees, gubernia peasant committees, the Central Executive Committee of the All-Russian Soviet of Peasants' Deputies, etc.) -- which expressed the superseded, compromising phase of the revolution, its bourgeois and not proletarian, phase, and which were therefore inevitably bound to disappear under the pressure of the deeper and broader masses of the people -- and in the election of new leading bodies in their place.
10. This mighty movement of the exploited masses for the reconstruction of the leading bodies of their organizations has not ended even now, in the middle of December 1917, and the Railwaymen's Congress, which is still in session, represents one of its stages.
11. Consequently, the grouping of the class forces in Russia in the course of their class struggle is in fact assuming in November and December 1917 a form differing in principle
from the one that the party lists of candidates for the Constituent Assembly compiled in the middle of October 1917 could have reflected.
12. Recent events in the Ukraine (partly also in Finland and Byelorussia, as well as in the Caucasus) similarly point to a regrouping of class forces which is taking place in the process of the struggle between the bourgeois nationalism of the Ukrainian Rada, the Finnish Diet, etc., on the one hand, and the Soviet power, the proletarian-peasant revolution in each of these national republics, on the other.
13. Lastly, the civil war which was started by the Cadet-Kaledin counter-revolutionary revolt against the Soviet authorities, against the workers' and peasants' government, has finally brought the class struggle to a head and has destroyed every chance of settling in a formally democratic way the very acute problems with which history has confronted the peoples of Russia, and in the first place her working class and peasantry.
14. Only the complete victory of the workers and peasants over the bourgeois and landlord revolt (as expressed in the Cadet-Kaledin movement), only the ruthless military suppression of this revolt of the slave-owners can really safeguard the proletarian-peasant revolution. The course of events and the development of the class struggle in the revolution have resulted in the slogan "All Power to the Constituent Assembly!" -- which disregards the gains of the workers' and peasants' revolution, which disregards the Soviet power, which disregards the decisions of the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, of the Second All-Russian Congress of Peasants' Deputies, etc. -- becoming in fact the slogan of the Cadets and the Kaledinites and of their helpers. It is growing clear
to the entire people that this slogan means in fact a struggle for the elimination of the Soviet power, and that the Constituent Assembly, if it parted ways with the Soviet power, would inevitably be doomed to political extinction.
15. One of the particularly acute problems of national life is the problem of peace. A really revolutionary struggle for peace was commenced in Russia only after the victory of the revolution of October 25, and the first fruits of this victory were the publication of the secret treaties, the conclusion of an armistice, and the beginning of open negotiations for a general peace without annexations and indemnities.
Only now are the broad masses of the people actually receiving opportunity fully and openly to observe the policy of revolutionary struggle for peace and to study its results.
At the time of the elections to the Constituent Assembly the masses of the people had no such opportunity.
It is clear that the discrepancy between the composition of the elected Constituent Assembly and the real will of the people on the question of terminating the war is inevitable from this point of view too.
16. The result of all the above-mentioned circumstances taken in conjunction is that the Constituent Assembly, summoned on the basis of party lists compiled before the proletarian-peasant revolution, and under the rule of the bourgeoisie, must inevitably clash with the will and interests of the toiling and exploited classes which on October 25 began the socialist revolution against the bourgeoisie. Naturally, the interests of this revolution stand higher than the formal rights of the Constituent Assembly, even if those formal rights were not undermined by the absence in the law on the Constituent Assembly of a provision
recognizing the right of the people to replace their deputies by means of new elections at any moment.
17. Every attempt, direct or indirect, to consider the question of the Constituent Assembly from a formal, legal point of view, within the limits of ordinary bourgeois democracy and disregarding the class struggle and civil war, would be a betrayal of the cause of the proletariat, and the adoption of the bourgeois standpoint. It is the bounden duty of the revolutionary Social-Democrats to warn all and sundry against this error, into which a few Bolshevik leaders, who have been unable to appreciate the significance of the October uprising and the tasks of the dictatorship of the proletariat, have strayed.
18. The only chance of securing a painless solution of the crisis which has arisen owing to the divergence between the elections to the Constituent Assembly, on the one hand, and the will of the people and the interests of the toiling and exploited classes, on the other, is for the people to exercise as broadly and as rapidly as possible the right to elect the members of the Constituent Assembly anew, and for the Constituent Assembly to accept the law of the Central Executive Committee on these new elections, to proclaim that it unreservedly recognizes the Soviet power, the Soviet revolution, and its policy on the questions of peace, the land and workers' control, and resolutely to join the camp of the enemies of the Cadet-Kaledin counter-revolution.
19. Unless these conditions are fulfilled, the crisis in connection with the Constituent Assembly can be settled only in a revolutionary way, by the Soviet power adopting the most energetic, rapid, firm and determined revolutionary measures against the Cadet-Kaledin counter-revolution, no matter by what slogans and institutions (even membership of the
Constituent Assembly) this counter-revolution may screen itself. Any attempt to tie the hands of the Soviet power in this struggle would be tantamount to aiding counter-revolution.
Written on December 12 (25), 1917Published in Pravda, No. 213,
December 26 (13), 1917Reprinted in book form:
N. Lenin (VI. Ulyanov),
The Proletarian Revolution and the
Renegade Kautsky, Kommunist
Publishers, Moscow, 1918
Printed according to the original text