2. BEGINNING OF THE CRISIS OF THE PROVISIONAL
GOVERNMENT. APRIL CONFERENCE OF THE BOLSHEVIK PARTY
While the Bolsheviks were preparing for the further
development of the revolution, the Provisional Government
continued to work against the people. On April 18, Milyukov,
Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Provisional Government,
informed the Allies that "the whole people desire to continue
the World War until a decisive victory is achieved and that the
Provisional Government intends fully to observe the obligations
undertaken towards our allies."
Thus the Provisional Government pledged its loyalty to
the tsarist treaties and promised to go on shedding as much of
the people's blood as the imperialists might require for a
On April 19 this statement ("Milyukov's note") became
known to the workers and soldiers. On April 20 the Central
Committee of the Bolshevik Party called upon the masses to
protest against the imperialist policy of the Provisional
Government. On April 20-21 (May 3-4), 1917, not less than
100,000 workers and soldiers, stirred to indignation by "Milyukov's
note," took part in a demonstration. Their banners bore the
demands: "Publish the secret treaties!" "Down with the war!"
"All power to the Soviets!" The workers and soldiers marched
from the outskirts of the city to the centre, where the
Provisional Government was sitting. On the Nevsky Prospect and
other places clashes with groups of bourgeois took place.
The more outspoken counter-revolutionaries, like General
Kornilov, demanded that fire be opened on the demonstrators, and
even gave orders to that effect. But the troops refused to carry
out the orders.
During the demonstration, a small group of members of the
Petrograd Party Committee (Bagdatyev and others) issued a slogan
demanding the immediate overthrow of the Provisional Government.
The Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party sharply condemned
the conduct of these "Left" adventurers, considering this slogan
untimely and incorrect, a slogan that hampered the Party in its
efforts to win over a majority in the Soviets and ran counter to
the Party line of a peaceful development of the revolution.
The events of April 20-21 signified the beginning of the
crisis of the Provisional Government.
This was the first serious rift in the compromising
policy of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries.
On May 2, 1917, under the pressure of the masses,
Milyukov and Guchkov were dropped from the Provisional
The first coalition Provisional Government was
formed. It included, in addition to representatives of the
bourgeoisie, Mensheviks (Skobelev and Tsereteli) and
Socialist-Revolutionaries (Chernov, Kerensky and others).
Thus the Mensheviks, who in 1905 had declared it
impermissible for representatives of the Social-Democratic Party
to take part in a revolutionary Provisional Government,
now found it permissible for their representatives to take part
in a counter-revolutionary Provisional Government.
The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries had thus
deserted to the camp of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie.
On April 24, 1917, the Seventh (April) Conference of the
Bolshevik Party assembled. For the first time in the existence
of the Party a Bolshevik Conference met openly. In the history
of the Party this conference holds a place of importance equal
to that of a Party Congress.
The All-Russian April Conference showed that the Party
was growing by leaps and bounds. The conference was attended by
133 delegates with vote and by 18 with voice but no vote. They
represented 80,000 organized members of the Party.
The conference discussed and laid down the Party line on
all basic questions of the war and revolution: the current
situation, the war, the Provisional Government, the Soviets, the
agrarian question, the national question, etc.
In his report, Lenin elaborated the principles he had
already set forth in the April Theses. The task of the Party was
to effect the transition from the first stage of the revolution,
"which placed the power in the hands of the bourgeoisie . . .
to the second stage, which must place the power in the hands
of the proletariat and the poorest strata of the peasantry" (Lenin
). The course the Party should take was to prepare for the
Socialist revolution. The immediate task of the Party was set
forth by Lenin in the slogan: "All power to the Soviets!"
The slogan, "All power to the Soviets! " meant that it
was necessary to put an end to the dual power, that is, the
division of power between the Provisional Government and the
Soviets, to transfer the whole power to the Soviets, and
to drive the representatives of the landlords and capitalists
out of the organs of government.
The conference resolved that one of the most important
tasks of the Party was untiringly to explain to the masses the
truth that "the Provisional Government is by its nature an organ
of the rule of the landlords and the bourgeoisie," as well as to
show how fatal was the compromising policy of the
Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks who were deceiving the
people with false promises and subjecting them to the blows of
the imperialist war and counter-revolution.
Kamenev and Rykov opposed Lenin at the Conference.
Echoing the Mensheviks, they asserted that Russia was not ripe
for a Socialist revolution, and that only a bourgeois republic
was possible in Russia. They recommended the Party and the
working class to confine themselves to "controlling" the
Provisional Government. In reality, they, like the Mensheviks,
stood for the preservation of capitalism and of the power of the
Zinoviev, too, opposed Lenin at the conference; it was on
the question whether the Bolshevik Party should remain within
the Zimmerwald alliance, or break with it and form a new
International. As the years of war had shown, while this
alliance carried on propaganda for peace, it did not actually
break with the bourgeois partisans of the war. Lenin therefore
insisted on immediate withdrawal from this alliance and on the
formation of a new, Communist International. Zinoviev proposed
that the Party should remain within the Zimmerwald alliance.
Lenin vigorously condemned Zinoviev's proposal and called his
tactics "arch-opportunist and pernicious."
The April Conference also discussed the agrarian and
In connection with Lenin's report on the agrarian
question, the conference adopted a resolution calling for the
confiscation of the landed estates, which were to be placed at
the disposal of the peasant committees, and for the
nationalization of all the land. The Bolsheviks called upon the
peasants to fight for the land, showing them that the Bolshevik
Party was the only revolutionary party, the only party that was
really helping the peasants to overthrow the landlords.
Of great importance was Comrade Stalin's report on the
national question. Even before the revolution, on the eve of the
imperialist war, Lenin and Stalin had elaborated the fundamental
principles of the policy of the Bolshevik Party on the national
question. Lenin and Stalin declared that the proletarian party
must support the national liberation movement of the oppressed
peoples against imperialism. Consequently, the Bolshevik Party
advocated the right of nations to self-determination even to the
point of secession and formation of independent states. This was
the view defended by Comrade Stalin, in his report delivered at
the conference on behalf of the Central Committee.
Lenin and Stalin were opposed by Pyatakov, who, together
with Bukharin, had already during the war taken up a
national-chauvinist stand on the national question. Pyatakov and
Bukharin were opposed to the right of nations to
The resolute and consistent position of the Party on the
national question, its struggle for the complete equality of
nations and for the abolition of all forms of national
oppression and national inequality, secured for the Party the
sympathy and support of the oppressed nationalities.
The text of the resolution on the national question
adopted by the April Conference is as follows:
"The policy of national oppression, inherited from the
autocracy and monarchy, is supported by the landlords,
capitalists and petty bourgeoisie in order to protect their
class privileges and to cause disunity among the workers of the
various nationalities. Modern imperialism, which increases the
striving to subjugate weak nations, is a new factor intensifying
"To the extent that the elimination of national oppression
is achievable at all in capitalist society, it is possible only
under a consistently democratic republican system and state
administration that guarantee complete equality for all nations
"The right of all the nations forming part of Russia freely
to secede and form independent states must be recognized. To
deny them this right, or to fail to take measures guaranteeing
its practical realization, is equivalent to supporting a policy
of seizure and annexation. It is only the recognition by the
proletariat of the right of nations to secede that can ensure
complete solidarity among the workers of the various nations and
help to bring the nations closer together on truly democratic
lines. . . .
"The right of nations freely to secede must not be confused
with the expediency of secession of a given nation at a given
moment. The party of the proletariat must decide the latter
question quite independently in each particular case from the
standpoint of the interests of the social development as a whole
and of the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat
"The Party demands broad regional autonomy, the abolition of
supervision from above, the abolition of a compulsory state
language and the determination of the boundaries of the
self-governing and autonomous regions by the local population
itself in accordance with the economic and social conditions,
the national composition of the population, and so forth.
"The party of the proletariat resolutely rejects what is
known as 'national cultural autonomy,' under which education,
etc., is removed from the competence of the state and placed
within the competence of some kind of national Diets. National
cultural autonomy artificially divides the workers living in one
locality, and even working in the same industrial enterprise,
according to their various 'national cultures'; in other words
it strengthens the ties between the workers and the bourgeois
culture of individual nations, whereas the aim of the
Social-Democrats is to develop the international culture of the
"The Party demands that a fundamental law shall be embodied
in the constitution annulling all privileges enjoyed by any
nation whatever and all infringements of the rights of national
"The interests of the working class demand that the workers
of all the nationalities of Russia should have common
proletarian organizations: political, trade union, educational
institutions of the co-operatives and so forth. Only such common
organizations of the workers of the various nationalities will
make it possible for the proletariat to wage a successful
struggle against international capital and bourgeois
nationalism." (Lenin and Stalin, The Russian Revolution,
Thus the April Conference exposed the opportunist,
anti-Leninist stand of Kamenev, Zinoviev, Pyatakov, Bukharin,
Rykov and their small following.
The conference unanimously supported Lenin by taking up a
precise stand on all important questions and adopting a course
leading to the victory of the Socialist revolution.