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V. I. Lenin
CONFERENCE OF REGIMENTAL DELEGATES
OF THE PETROGRAD GARRISON
OCTOBER 29 (NOVEMBER 11), 1917
Pravda No. 174, November 13
(October 31), 1917
to the Pravda text
From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964
Vol. 26, pp. 269-72.
Translated from the Russian
by Yuri Sdobnikov and George Hanna
Edited by George Hanna
Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, firstname.lastname@example.org (July 2000)
CONFERENCE OF REGIMENTAL DELEGATES
OF THE PETROGRAD GARRISON
OCTOBER 29 (NOVEMBER 11), 1917 NEWSPAPER REPORT 1
REPORT ON THE CURRENT SITUATION
The political situation does not warrant long speeches. The political question is now merging with the military question. It is all too clear that Kerensky has recruited the Kornilovites, and they are his only support. In Moscow they have seized the Kremlin, but they have no control over the suburbs, where the workers and the poor in general live. There is no one to back Kerensky at the front. Even those who are of two minds, like the members of the Railwaymen's Union, are speaking in favour of the Decrees on Peace and on Land.
The vast majority of workers, soldiers and peasants want a policy of peace.
This is not a Bolshevik policy. In no sense is it a "party" policy. It is the policy of the workers, soldiers and peasants, that is, the majority of the people. Nor are we implementing a Bolshevik programme on the land question, because there, too, our programme has been taken bodily from peasant mandates.
It is not our fault that the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks have gone. They were invited to share political power, but they want to sit on the fence until the fight against Kerensky is over. <"p269">
We asked everyone to take part in the government. The Left Socialist-Revolutionaries said they wanted to support the Soviet Government's policy. They did not even dare voice disagreement with the new government's programme.
People in the provinces give credence to papers like Dyelo Naroda. Here everyone knows that the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks went because they were
left in a minority. The men of the Petrograd garrison are aware of this. They know that we wanted a coalition Soviet government. We did not exclude anyone from the Soviet. If they do not want to work with us, so much the worse for them. The mass of soldiers and peasants will not follow the Mensheviks or the Socialist-Revolutionaries. I am sure that nine-tenths of any workers' or soldiers' meeting will be on our side.
Kerensky's bid is just as pathetic a gamble as Kornilov's. But the situation is a difficult one. Vigorous efforts must be made to get some order into the food situation, and put an end to the misery at the fronts. We cannot wait, nor can we tolerate Kerensky's mutiny a single day. If the Kornilovites launch another offensive, they will get what the mutinous officer cadets got today. The cadets have only themselves to blame. We took power almost without bloodshed. If there were any losses they were on our side. The entire people wanted the policy the new government is conducting. It did not borrow this policy from the Bolsheviks, but from the soldiers at the front, the peasants in the villages, and the workers in the towns.
The Decree on Workers' Control is to be issued presently. Let me say this again: the political situation is now reduced to a military one. We cannot allow Kerensky to win: if he did there would be no peace, no land, and no freedom. I am sure that the soldiers and workers of Petrograd, who have just brought off a victorious revolution, will be able to crush the Kornilovites. We have had our defects. There is no use denying it. We have had to pay for them. But they can be eliminated. Without losing a single hour, a single minute, we must get organised, and set up a headquarters, and we must do it today. Once organised, we are sure to win out within a few days, and possibly even earlier.
The government set up by the will of the workers', soldiers' and peasants' deputies will not tolerate any nonsense from the Kornilovites.
The political and the military task is to set up a headquarters, to concentrate the material forces, and to provide the soldiers with all they need. If we are to go on from strength to strength, this must be done without wasting a single hour, nay, minute.
SPEECH ON ARMING THE TROOPS
The period of great chaos is at an end. A chief of staff has been appointed and this will be announced. The period of vacillation is over. We felt keenly the lack of military order and communications. It has now been established that there is a great deal of enthusiasm and unity among the troops. It is now up to you to take things in hand, personally verify every act, the execution of your orders and assignments, see whether the workers' organisations have been contacted, etc. The workers will help you in this matter. Let me give you some advice: you must check every report through the control commission or through the regimental delegates, without relying on others to see that orders are carried out, or to check reports on stocks. The best guarantee of success is to do all this yourself, to check everything, take account of all stocks and verify every step personally.
SPEECH ON RESTORING LAW AND ORDER IN THE CITY
I fully agree with what has been said: the workers must take a hand in guarding the city. As they do this together, the soldiers will teach the workers how to handle arms. The wholesale arming of the people and the abolition of the regular army is a task which we must not lose sight of for a single minute. If we recruit the working population the task will be much easier. The comrades' proposal that we meet every day is a practical one. It is true that the Russian revolution produces a great deal of what is novel, that has not occurred in any other revolution. For one thing, there have never been such organs as the Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies. You must merge with the workers, they will give you everything the bourgeoisie has failed to give you. Every unit, together with the workers' organisation, must see to it that there is a stock of everything necessary for this war of yours, without waiting for pointers from above. We must tackle this task on our own tonight. The units must not wait for instructions from headquarters, they must make their own proposals. You have something the bourgeoisie have never bad: their only way is to buy; you can contact the workers who produce everything.
<"en108"> The Conference was called by the Revolutionary Military Committee to decide on the defence of Petrograd against the counter-revolutionary forces. It was attended by 40 army delegates. The following items were on its agenda: (1) information; (2) formation of a H. Q.; (3) arming of detachments; (4) law and order. After a special report from the front, the meeting heard a report on the current situation by Lenin, in his capacity of Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars. Lenin also spoke on other points. Several delegates reported on the state of affairs in their areas. The Conference adopted a unanimous appeal to the soldiers of Petrograd urging them to fight for the gains of the revolution. [p. 269]
<"en109"> Left Socialist-Revolutionaries -- the party of Left Socialist-Revolutionaries (internationalists); formed at its First All-Russia Congress held from November 19 to 28 (December 2 to 11), 1917. Until then they had existed as a Left wing of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, which took shape during the First World War. They were headed by Spiridonova, Kamkov and Natanson (Bobrov). The Left wing grew rapidly after the July 1917 events (see Note 8) and this was a reflection of the shift to the Left among the peasants. In August, the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries secured control of the newspaper Znamya Truda (see Note 54), which subsequently became the Central Organ of their Party.
At the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviet, the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries constituted a majority of the Socialist-Revolutionary group, which split up on the question of participation in the Congress; the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, acting on directives of their Party's Central Committee, left the Congress, while the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries remained and voted with
the Bolsheviks on the major items of the agenda. The Bolsheviks believed that a bloc should be formed with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who at that time had a considerable following among the peasants. Accordingly, they invited them to enter the Soviet Government, but they refused and insisted on the demand to set up a so-called "uniform socialist government" with the participation of the Mensheviks, Right Socialist-Revolutionaries and other parties and groups. After considerable hesitation, the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, intent on retaining their influence among the peasants, agreed to collaborate with the Bolsheviks. As a result of the talks held in late November and early December 1917, an agreement was reached on their participation in the Government. They committed themselves to follow the common policy of the Council of People's Commissars, and were made members of several collegiums of People's Commissariats.
While collaborating with the Bolsheviks, the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries took wrong attitudes on vital aspects of socialist construction and opposed the dictatorship of the proletariat. In January and February 1918, their Central Committee launched a campaign against the conclusion of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and when it was signed and ratified by the Fourth Congress of Soviets in March, they withdrew from the Government, but continued to take part in the collegiums and local organs of power. In July, their Central Committee organised the assassination of the German Ambassador Mirbach in Moscow and an armed revolt against Soviet power in the hope of sabotaging the peace treaty and provoking war between Soviet Russia and Germany. The Fifth All-Russia Congress of Soviets, held after the suppression of the July revolt, decided to expel Left Socialist-Revolutionaries who shared the views of their leadership from the Soviets. Having lost all support among the masses, the party of Left Socialist-Revolutionaries launched an armed fight against Soviet power. Some of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries who wanted to collaborate with the Bolsheviks formed a party of Narodnik Communists and Revolutionary Communists, and a considerable number of them later joined the Communist Party. [p. 269]
<"en8"> What Lenin has in mind are the mass demonstrations which took place in Petrograd on July 3-4 (16-17), 1917. It was a movement of soldiers, sailors and workers, who were incensed at the Provisional Government for sending troops into a patently hopeless offensive which proved a fiasco. It started on July 3 (16) with a demonstration by the First Machine-Gun Regiment in the Vyborg District, and threatened to develop into an armed revolt against the Provisional Government.
The Bolshevik Party was opposed to insurrection at that time because it believed that the revolutionary crisis had not yet come to a head. The Central Committee, meeting at 4.00 p.m. on July 3
(16), decided to refrain from taking action, and a similar decision was adopted by the Second Petrograd City Conference of Bolsheviks which was just then in session. Its delegates went to the factories and the districts to stop the masses from going into action, but the movement had already got underway and nothing could be done to stop it.
Late that night, the Central Committee, together with the Petrograd Committee and the Military Organisation, took account of the mood of the masses and decided to take part in the demonstration to lend it a peaceful and organised character. Lenin was away on a short holiday after an exhausting stretch of work. Being informed of the events, he returned to Petrograd on the morning of July 4 (17) and assumed leadership.
More than 500,000 persons took part in the demonstration on July 4 (17). The demonstrators carried Bolshevik slogans, such as "All Power to the Soviets", and demanded that the All-Russia Central Executive Committee of the Soviet should take power. But the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik leaders refused to do so. The Provisional Government, with the knowledge and consent of the Central Executive Committee, which was dominated by the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, sent detachments of officer cadets and Cossacks to attack and shoot down the peaceful demonstrators. Counter-revolutionary troops were brought in from the front to disperse the demonstrations.
That night, Lenin presided at a meeting of members of the Central Committee and the Petrograd Committee, which adopted a decision to stop the demonstrations in an organised manner. This was a wise step, for it helped to save the main revolutionary force from defeat. The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries acted in a manner which helped the counter-revolutionaries: they joined the bourgeoisie in attacking the Bolshevik Party. The Bolshevik newspapers, Pravda, Soldatskaya Pravda (Soldiers' Truth ) and others were closed down by the Provisional Government, while the Trud Printing House, operated on funds donated by the workers, was destroyed. The workers were disarmed and arrested, and searches and persecution were started. The revolutionary units of the Petrograd garrison were withdrawn from the capital and sent to the front.
After the July events, power in the country passed into the hands of the counter-revolutionary Provisional Government, with the Soviet an impotent appendage. The period of dual power was at an end, and so was the revolution's peaceful stage. The Bolsheviks were faced with the task of preparing an armed insurrection to overthrow the Provisional Government.
<"en54"> Znamya Truda (The Banner of Labour ) -- a daily, the organ of the Petrograd Committee of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party published from August 23 (September 5), 1917. From November 1 (14), 1917 (No. 59), the organ of the Petrograd Committee of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party and the group of Left Socialist Revolutionaries of the Central Executive Committee of the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets. From December 28, 1917 (January 10, 1918) (No. 105), the paper became the Central Organ of the Party of Left Socialist-Revolutionaries. Closed down in July 1918 during the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries' revolt.