Letter to Bolshevik Party Members

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V. I. Lenin


Written on October 18 (31), 1917
First published in Pravda No. 250,
November 1, 1927

Published according  
to the manuscript  

From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964

Vol. 26, pp. 216-19.

Translated from the Russian
by Yuri Sdobnikov and George Hanna
Edited by George Hanna

Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, djr@marx2mao.org (May 2000)

page 216




    I have not yet been able to obtain the Petrograd papers for Wednesday, October 18. When the full text of Kamenev's and Zinoviev's statement in the non-Party paper Novaya Zhizn was transmitted to me by telephone, I refused to believe it. But, as it has turned out, there can be no doubt about it and I have to avail myself of this opportunity to get a letter to Party members by Thursday evening or Friday morning; for to remain silent in the face of such unheard-of strike-breaking would be a crime.

    The more serious the practical problem, and the more responsible and "prominent" the persons guilty of strike-breaking, the more dangerous it is, the more resolutely must the strike-breakers be kicked out, and the more unpardonable would it be to stop even to consider the past "services" of the strike-breakers.

    Just think of it! It has been known in Party circles that the Party has been discussing the question of an insurrection since September. Nobody has ever heard of a single letter or manifesto by either of the persons named! Now, on the eve, one might say, of the Congress of Soviets, two prominent Bolsheviks come out against the majority, and, obviously, against the Central Committee. It is not said plainly, but the harm done to the cause is all the greater, for to speak in hints is even more dangerous.

    It is perfectly clear from the text of Kamenev's and Zinoviev's statement that they have gone against the Central Committee, for otherwise their statement would be meaningless. But they do not say what specific decision of the Central Committee they are disputing.

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    The reason is obvious: because it has not been published by the Central Committee.

    What does this boil down to?

    On a burning question of supreme importance, on the eve of the critical day of October 20, two "prominent Bolheviks" attack an unpublished decision of the Party centre and attack it in the non-Party press and, furthermore; in a paper which on this very question is hand in glove with the bourgeoisie against the workers' party !

    This is a thousand times more despicable and a million times more harmful than all the statements Plekhanov, for example, made in the non-Party press in 1906-07, and which the Party so sharply condemned! At that time it was only a question of elections, whereas now it is a question of an insurrection for the conquest of power!

    On such a question, after a decision has been taken by the centre, to dispute this unpublished decision in front of the Rodzyankos and Kerenskys in a non-Party paper -- can you imagine an act more treacherous or blacklegging any worse?

    I should consider it disgraceful on my part if I were to hesitate to condemn these former comrades because of my earlier close relations with them. I declare outright that I no longer consider either of them comrades and that I will fight with all my might, both in the Central Committee and at the Congress, to secure the expulsion of both of them from the Party.

    A workers' party, which the course of events is confronting more and more frequently with the need for an insurrection, is unable to accomplish that difficult task if, after their adoption, unpublished decisions of the centre are disputed in the non-Party press, and vacillation and confusion are brought into the ranks of the fighters.

    Let Mr. Zinoviev and Mr. Kamenev found their own party with the dozens of perplexed people or with candidates for election to the Constituent Assembly. The workers will not join such a party, for its first slogan will be:

"Members of the Central Committee who are defeated at a meeting of the Central Committee on the question of a decisive fight are permitted to resort to the non-

page 218

Party press for the purpose of attacking the unpublished decisions of the Party."

    Let them build themselves such a party; our workers' Bolshevik Party will only gain from it.

    When all the documents are published, the strike-breaking act of Zinoviev and Kamenev will stand out even more glaringly. Meanwhile, let the workers consider the following question:

    'Let us assume that the Executive Committee of an all-Russia trade union had decided, after a month of deliberation and by a majority of over 80 per cent, that preparations must be made for a strike, but that for the time being neither the date nor any other details should be divulged. Let us assume that, after the decision had been taken, two members, under the false pretext of a "dissenting opinion", not only began to write to local groups urging a reconsideration of the decision, but also permitted their letters to be communicated to non-Party newspapers. Let us assume, finally, that they themselves attacked the decision in non-Party papers, although it had not yet been published, and began to vilify the strike in front of the capitalists.
    'We ask, would the workers hesitate to expel such blacklegs from their midst?'

*     *

    As to the situation with regard to an insurrection now, when October 20 is so close at hand, I cannot judge from afar to what exact extent the cause has been damaged by the strike breaking statement in the non-Party press. There is no doubt that very great practical damage has been done. In order to remedy the situation, it is necessary first of all to restore unity in the Bolshevik front by expelling the blacklegs.

    The weakness of the ideological arguments against an insurrection will become clearer, the more we drag them into the light of day. I recently sent an article on this subject to Rabochy Put, and if the editors do not find it possible

page 219

to print it, Party members will prohably acquaint themselves with it in the manuscript.[*]

    There are basically two so-called "ideological" arguments. First, that it is necessary to "wait" for the Constituent Assembly. Let us wait, perhaps we can hold on until then -- that is the whole argument. Perhaps, despite famine, despite economic chaos, despite the fact that the patience of the soldiers is exhausted, despite Rodzyanko's steps to surrender Petrograd to the Germans, despite the lockouts, perhaps we can hold on.

    Perhaps and maybe -- that is the whole point of the argument.

    The second is noisy pessimism. Everything is fine with the bourgeoisie and Kerensky; everything is wrong with us. The capitalists have prepared everything wonderfully; ererything is wrong with the workers. The "pessimists" are shouting at the top of their voices about the military side of the matter, but the "optimists" are silent, for to disclose certain things to Rodzyanko and Kerensky is hardly pleasant to anyhody but blacklegs.

    Difficult times. A hard task. A grave betrayal.

    Nevertheless, the task will be accomplished; the workers will consolidate their ranks, the peasant revolt and the extreme impatience of the soldiers at the front will do their work! Let us close our ranks -- the proletariat must win! <"fnp219">

    * See pp. 195-215 of this volume. --Ed.  [Transcriber's Note: See Lenin's "Letter to Comrades". -- DJR] <"NOTES">

  <"en86">[86] This and the letter on pp. 223-27 [Transcriber's Note: See Lenin's "Letter to the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.)". -- DJR] are a reflection of Lenin's struggle against Kamenev and Zinoviev, who tried to frustrate the C.C. decision on an armed uprising. They were defeated at the Central Committee meeting on October 10 (23), 1917, which discussed the question of an uprising, and on the next day sent the C.C. a statement of their views and a letter opposing the C.C. decision entitled "On the Current Situation" to the Petersburg, Moscow, Moscow Regional, and Finnish Regional Committees of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.) and the Bolshevik groups of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets and the Congress of Soviets of the Northern Region. Having failed to rally support at an enlarged meeting of the Petersburg Committee on October 15 (28), which heard their letter and the enlarged meeting of the Central Committee on October 16 (29), where they again spoke against any armed uprising Kamenev and Zinoviev stooped to downright treason. On October 18 (31), the semi-Menshevik newspaper, Novaya Zhizn, carried an item entitled: "Kamenev about the 'Uprising'", in which the author, on behalf of Zinoviev and himself argued against the armed uprising and incidentally gave away a most important secret Party decision to the enemy. That same day, Lenin wrote his first letter (p. 216) and the next day the second (p. 223), branding the move as betrayal of the revolution. He called the two men strike-breakers and demanded their expulsion from the Party.
    Lenin's letter was discussed by the Central Committee on October 20 (November 2), when Dzerzhinsky, who spoke first, motioned that "Kamenev should withdraw from political activity entirely". As for Zinoviev, he said, he was in hiding from the authorities and was not participating in any Party activity anyway. Sverdlov said Kamenev's act could have no justification whatever, but the Central Committee was not authorised to expel members from the Party. He suggested that Kamenev should resign from the Central Committee. Stalin spoke twice. He first proposed that the discussion should be transferred to a C.C. plenary meeting, and when the proposal was voted down, he declared that "expulsion from the Party was no remedy". He proposed that Zinoviev and Kamenev should be left in the C.C. and should be bound to abide by C.C. decisions.
    Kamenev was removed from the C.C., and both were forbidden to make any statement against decisions of the C.C. and its policies. It was also decided that members of the C.C. should be prohibited from making public statements against decisions passed by the C.C.
    Lenin did not agree with the decision and said it was a compromise.    [p. 216]