LENIN AND HIS WATCHWORD
LENIN made his triumphant entry into Petrograd in the clear spring night of April 16, 1917.
The Izvestia of Workmens and Soldiers Soviets, the official organ of the Soviets, gives the following description of the event : Lenin appears in the square. The sea of faces surges and sways. Searchlights cross the place from end to end, illumining the waving banners and the multitude, who welcome the newly-arrived veteran of the revolution with deafening cheers. The people demand a speech, and Lenin makes his first address to the revolutionary proletariat of Petrograd. Lenin then enters not an ordinary but an armoured motor-car and drives away.
This lengthy description is full of respect and enthusiasm. The editors of the Izvestia naturally have a perfect knowledge of Lenins views, they also know perfectly well that he has passed through Germany, but their friendly ardour is by no means cooled. He is a revolutionist and a Marxist. That is the main point, the rest does not much matter.
Vladimir Ilyich Ulianov-Lenin is, certainly, above all a revolutionist.
The son of a schoolmaster belonging to the nobility of the Simbirsk province, he became a conspirator in his university days. Towards the end of the eighties his brother took part in an unsuccessful attempt on the life of Alexander III. and was condemned to death. Vladimir Ulianov, who most frequently wrote under the pseudonym of Lenin, had also undergone persecution, had been in prison and in Siberia after the usual fate of the Russian intelligentsia. From exile he escaped abroad and was an emigré for many years. When the revolution of 19056 broke out he returned, then fled once more abroad. A man of cold and scholarly intellect, he began by writing several works upon economics, but soon became totally absorbed in party journalism and party struggles in all their polemic, tactical, and organising details.
He was a Marxist for whom the theory of the class-struggle was an irrefutable dogma, entitling its adepts to hold in contempt all scruples of conscience and all demands of logic. From his youth his revolutionary work was characterised by the spirit of cold intrigue and by the cruel arrogance of a man convinced that he was the bearer of absolute truth, and, therefore, absolved from all moral obligations.
Ambitious and domineering, utterly unscrupulous in his choice of means, Lenin acted upon the principles of Divide et impera and sowed discord among his own party. It was he who broke up the party into the two factions of Bolsheviks and Mensheviks at the beginning of the twentieth century. The difference between those factions lies chiefly in their tactics, or rather in their moral standard. The Bolsheviks, who were Maximalists, did not admit of any political compromise, and demanded the immediate realisation of Marxist doctrines. But they admitted all kinds of moral compromise and were on easy terms with conscience. Members of the Okhrana (the Imperial secret police) were more often to be found among the Bolsheviks than among the Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks, moreover, were not overscrupulous as to breaches of criminal law, only that they dignified robbery by calling it expropriation. Between the various factions at all Social-Democratic party conferences and in the party Press, dissension was the invariable rule, but, officially, the party still remained one. The general public knew little of these theoretical differences, for till the downfall of Tsarism all Socialists were persecuted. All alike were obliged to wear a mask, to plot and hide, and use underhand methods for propaganda and organisation. This developed habits of deceit, concealment, and evasion, and imparted a strange bias to the character of a multitude of Russian Socialists. They became estranged from real life ; they lost the sense of political responsibility and statesmanship. Special types were evolved in this constant shifting from prison into Siberia, from Siberia to life in exile, in an all-pervading atmosphere of persecution and conspiracy. Some were true martyrs of their idea, strong, clean-minded men of delicate conscience. But not a few were unscrupulous, devoid of all moral standards, revelling in intrigues and conspiracies.
The Jesuit mottothe aim justifies the meansexplains much in Lenins life : his attitude towards his comrades, his party intrigues, his unscrupulousness in money matters, his relations with Germany, and his entire conduct as dictator. His aim is to kindle a universal social revolution, and, knee-deep in mire and blood, he marches towards its realisation with the cold ardour of fanaticism and insatiable ambition. Yet in justice to him it must be said that no sooner did he make his appearance in Russia than he openly announced his Bolshevist programme. Ways and means remained obscure ; nor did he consider it necessary to make them clear and clean, but his theories and plans, his conception of the Socialistic problems of the hour, were made perfectly definite. If for months the rest of the Russian Socialists of various shades zealously endeavoured to draw a veil over the Bolshevist tendencies of his demands, as well as to blot out the dark stains upon his past career, he was not to blame. By so doing, they not only became responsible for his activity, but led astray millions of simple folk who were incapable of unravelling the subtleties of intelligentsia politics. Yet the people felt something was wrong. At first when Bolshevist influence was still slight, protests against certain Bolshevist watchwords or the Bolshevist actions of individuals might be heard even from crowds of soldiers.
Such a protest was the resolution carried a few days after Lenins triumphant entry into Petrograd by the sailors of the 2nd Baltic Company, who had formed the guard of honour at the railway station : Having learnt that Lenin has returned to Russia by gracious permission of His Majesty, the Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia, we deeply regret having taken part in his triumphant entry into Petrograd.
But the Soviet of Workmens and Soldiers Deputies exhibited a marvellous tolerance in regard to the Imperial German Governments peculiar courtesy towards Lenin and his friends. And this condescension was not fortuitous. It reflected the attitude of many Socialistic groups towards Germany. They regarded her not as an enemy to be fought to the death, but rather as a friend led astray, whom, perhaps, it might be possible to persuade. And why not accept the services of a friend ?
This question was persistently evaded at the Soviet meetings. Indignant protests were drowned in the speeches of more complacent comrades. In any case, Lenin, though he demanded the publication of the Russian secret treaties, never on his own part revealed the mystery of his own first agreement with the Kaiser.
In April, a month, that is, after the outbreak of the Revolution, Nedyelia, the Austrian organ for propaganda among the Russian troops, wrote concerning Lenin : The Provisional Government is willing to force the New Russia under the yoke of an Anglo-French dictatorship, but these opportunists are confronted by an honest and staunch antagonistLenin, the true friend of the Russian people. This eulogy was reprinted in Russian papers, but the Soviets attitude towards Lenin remained unchanged.
Lenins appearance upon the scene caused the extreme Socialist wing at once to raise its head. Now they possessed a leader, clever, resolute, not over scrupulous. It was far easier for them now to urge their views in the Soviet and also in the Executive Committee of the Social-Democratic party which was already strongly Bolshevist in its tendencies. All their main points had been made clear even before Lenins arrival.
A manifesto of the Central Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic party had been published in the first number of the Izvestia of the Petrograd Soviet of Workmens and Soldiers Deputies. It ran thus :
The immediate and pressing task of the Provisional Revolutionary Government consists in establishing relations with the proletariat of belligerent countries in order to organise a revolutionary struggle of all the peoples against their tyrants and oppressors, against all monarchical Governments and capitalistic gangs ; and also to put an end to the bloody slaughter forced upon the enslaved peoples.
A similar resolution was passed on March 24 by the Moscow Social-Democratic Committee : The Provisional Government, composed of representatives of the bourgeois classes, is a counter-revolutionary Government, therefore it behoves the Social-Democratic party to expose its attempts to retard the progress of the Revolution and to rebuild the entire structure of the State upon a new basis, in accordance with the interest of revolutionary democracy, and to organise its forces, isolating those of the counter-revolution in the same process. By so doing, we are paving the way to a transference of power into the hands of the revolutionary democracy at the propitious moment.
Lenin himself brought out these ideas with perfect clearness. We must give Lenin his due. From the very first he made no secret of his chief aimto kindle a revolution not only in Russia but throughout the world. All the rest was for him mere by-play. The Russian people, in whose name he spoke, were but a tool in the hand of this fanatic of the Revolution, and Russia herself but a vast area for Socialistic experiments. He often admitted as much with absolute frankness, never concealing his contempt for moral law, for which he substituted the laws of economic materialism. His numerous articles and pamphlets are full of open, deliberate contempt for right and justice. As far back as 1906, Lenin had published a pamphlet, The Victory of the Cadets, and the Problems of the Labour Party, in which he expounded the following views : The scientific meaning of a dictatorship implies nothing else than the idea of a power, unlimited, absolutely unfettered by any laws or regulations and based directly upon violence. The dictatorship of a revolutionary people closely resembles this definition. The mass of the population, formless, accidentally assembled at a given place, itself takes action, judges and condemns, assumes full power, creates new revolutionary rights.
Is it well for the people to employ such illegal, disorderly, unsystematic methods of struggle as the seizure of power and acts of violence against the peoples oppressors ? Yes, it is very well, for it is the highest expression of a peoples struggle for liberty. This is but a theoretical scheme and it is doubtful whether, in drawing it up, Lenin ever dreamed what ample opportunity would be granted him by history for making the experiment of his arm-chair Socialistic theory on the living organism of the Russian State. The scheme indeed was akin to that of the Socialists of other sects, not only of the Marxists, whose doctrines are based on the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat, but even of the Social-Revolutionaries. It was not without significance that at the very beginning of the Revolution, Chernov, the most prominent leader of the Social-Revolutionary party, when reproached by the Right because the Social-Revolutionaries incited the peasants to violence against the landowners and to the arbitrary seizure of the land, replied : That is quite as it should be, it is the revolutionary creation of right. These were the very words of Lenin. On April 17, at a Social-Democratic Conference, on the day following his triumphal entry into Petrograd, Lenin appeared with the mien of a prophet carrying the tables of the Marxist Law. He read out a series of theses, which according to him were to constitute the basis of party work in revolutionary Russia. The programme seemed at the time so impossible as to be harmless. But later, when the power fell into the hands of this cold and evil visionary, he embodied these theses in Government decrees. Transferred from newspaper columns to State documents and thence into real life, these sentences acquired a new and terrible significance.
Lenin, first of all, proclaimed that the decayed and discordant Social-Democratic party must be transformed into a new and vigorous Communistic party (this he accomplished after the coup détat) ; that a new revolutionary International was to be created in opposition to the International of the Socialistic Chauvinists (this was also accomplished with the aid of a liberal expenditure of the Russian peoples money). Lenin further said : Our immediate task lies not in the establishment of Socialism, but in establishing Soviet control over public production and distribution !
And in order to accomplish this, it was necessary to effect an immediate amalgamation of all the banks in the country into one all-national bank, controlled by the Soviet. (That was also accomplished.)
All landed property belonging to the landowners was to be confiscated. All land was to be nationalised and placed at the disposal of local Soviets composed of the poorest peasants. (The confiscation was begun before the Bolsheviks day. They only added the final touches. But the attempt to nationalise proved abortive because no one obeyed the local Soviets.) The established form of Government was not to be a parliamentary republic, but a republic of Soviets all over the country from top to bottom. This was to be the Commune-State, whose archetype had been given in the Paris Commune. This organisation was, in fact, established. Under this new order, all police, army, and officials were to be abolished. The abolition of officials must, however, be understood with qualifications, because the next point announced that officials would be elected and would be liable to removal, their salary not exceeding that of an average workman.
Naturally, Lenin in declaring these party aims demanded that no support should be granted to the Provisional Government. We must explain and make clear, he said, the absolute falsity of all its promises, especially of those concerning the refusal of annexations. Moreover, as the war under the new Government of Lvov & Co. still remained a predatory imperialistic war owing to the capitalistic character of the Government, there could be no concessions to revolutionary defencism. The enlightened proletariat can give its sanction to a revolutionary war which would really justify a revolutionary defencism only under the following conditions : (a) the transfer of power to the proletariat and the poorest peasants ; (b) the abandonment of annexations not merely in words but deeds ; (c) a complete and real breach with all capitalistic interests. (All these points appeared at the time in No. 28 of Lenins paper, The Social Democrat.) Lenin laid his views before a conference called for the purpose of uniting the Social-Democratic party, which had been broken up into several sections chiefly as a result of the action of the Bolsheviks. Lenin met with no success at the Conference. He was laughed at. Some speakers openly condemned his tactics as leading to civil war. His proposals were defeated by 115 votes to 20. But in the end he proved right in his mocking denial of the possibility of uniting all tendencies. As before, so also after the Conference, in spite of the frantic efforts of all the intellectual groups forming the Right wing, the Bolsheviks continued to rule both in the Central Committee and in other influential party organisations. Moreover, their appeals moved the masses, and when the masses moved the rest of the Socialists had perforce to follow, themselves half-intoxicated by the excitement of agitation, and never clearly realising what the Bolshevist danger would bring to Russia.
The Bolsheviks were entirely at home in that influential body the Petrograd Soviet. Within its precincts they were often hotly opposed in argument, but they were treated as true comrades. The Sovietotherwise known as the Revolutionary Democracyaimed at deepening the Revolution, and for that kind of work the Bolsheviks might obviously be very useful.
Almost simultaneously with Lenins entry into Petrograd, a Social-Democratic Conference at Moscow accepted all the Bolshevist watchwords. The task of the working class, it declared, consists in securing and spreading conditions which will guarantee the maximum development of the Revolution. Soviets of Workmens, Soldiers, and Peasants Deputies must be created all over the country. . . . Intense revolutionary work must be carried out in the army. . . . The working class will continue to struggle against the present Governments attitude towards the war, as it struggled against that of the old regime, for the war is being conducted in opposition to the interests of the people and exclusively to satisfy the predatory instincts of the governing classes. . . . The publication of the secret treaties shall be demanded and an end must be put to the war. An endeavour must be made to ensure that the democratic Russian Revolution shall immediately be continued in the West, so that the Western peoples, casting off the yoke of the guilty instigators of the present fratricidal slaughter, may without fear of external invasion devote their whole strength to the struggle for freedom from all exploitation. The Russian proletariat must immediately come into touch with the proletariat of all belligerent and neutral countries for the purpose of calling an international conference, which shall serve as a step towards the regeneration of the proletariat International. (Carried at the Moscow Social-Democratic Conference, April 16-17, 1917.)
Lenins programme together with this Moscow resolution form the basis of all Bolshevist activities in Russia. But some points (e.g. imperialistic war can be ended only by agreement between the international proletariat ; the deepening of the Revolution, etc.) found a place in the working programme of nearly all the Socialist parties.
Take the following instances. The Menshevist Labour Gazette (Rabochaya Gazeta), the mouthpiece of Tsereteli and Chheidze, wrote : Russian soldiers must take the initiative. Upon all sections of the front, they must in some way or another enter into communication with their brothers the enemy on the other side of the wire entanglements, and mark the 1st of May as the day of the first revolutionary armistice (April 25). Another number of the same paper announced : The Germans are waiting for communications concerning the frontal congress and have even sent out delegates. Communication has been received by aeroplane to the effect that the German people are demanding peace.
The same paper gives the following thrilling description : Troop trains moving along the front are decorated with red flags bearing the inscriptions : Down with the policy of grab, Long live the brotherhood of the peoples. This call unites the army more and more. It should be noted that at the Moscow Conference, where Lenins influence was not as yet directly felt, several points were included in the resolution which were absent from his programmeprobably at the instance of the Mensheviks. Such are the points concerning the creation of Zemstvo and municipal self-government based upon universal suffrage, absolute liberty of the press, of meetings, unions and strikes. Probably, even in his earlier dreams of power, Lenin realised that his scheme for the compulsory socialisation of life was incompatible with the principles of political freedom, and cautiously avoided these questions in all his speeches and articles.
Lenin established his headquarters in the palace of the ballet-dancer Kchesinska, a house which popular rumour had long since enveloped in mysterious legends of dark German intrigue. It now became the open centre of furious propaganda against the Russian State. Here the Central Committee of the Social-Democratic party sat enthroned. Here were gathered all the threads of an energetic and astute propaganda which soon stretched its snares over the whole front, over workingclass districts, and out to the principal points of naval defence. Cronstadt and Helsingfors soon became Bolshevist military bases. There they practised with impunity that system of exterminating Russian officers which later became one of the features of the Soviet Government of the country. Naval officers were thrown into prison and murdered by the dozen. The sailor mob scoffed at them, and soon the name of Cronstadt sailor became for many a synonym of cruelty and crime, though Chernov and other representatives of the Revolutionary Democracy thought fit to call them the pride and glory of the Russian Revolution.
The Bolshevist organ Pravda was published in enormous quantities and distributed gratis at the front. After Lenins arrival via Germany the Bolsheviks found themselves in funds and spent them freely. Soldiers and sailors, sent to the villages for party propaganda, boasted to the peasants of the hundred-rouble notes which filled their pockets. And long before the Ganetzky-Fürstenberg affair came to light, popular rumour decided that the Bolsheviks were working with German money, especially as their strenuous efforts to destroy the army were so openly favourable to Germany. At the street meetings, which hummed and buzzed all over Petrograd during the whole summer in 1917, Leninist catchwords were often repeated by people speaking very bad Russian. Indeed, the German shadow which covered Russia in 1918 was already clearly visible behind Bolshevist internationalism. The danger of Bolshevism was even then plainly apparent.
But the Revolutionary Democracy was leniently disposed towards its comrades, endeavoured to smooth over all divergencies, and concealed under a flaunting of red banners and a tumult of Socialistic phraseology the sinister glint of civil war that leered out in the Bolshevist propaganda. An extremely characteristic resolution was carried by the Executive Committee of the Soldiers Deputies :
Having discussed the communication of our comrades concerning the spreading of a propaganda of disorganisation under cover of revolutionary and often even of Social-Democratic flags, particularly the propaganda of the so-called Leninists, and considering such propaganda no less pernicious than any other counter-revolutionary propaganda ; at the same time considering it impossible to adopt any repressive measures against propaganda, while it remains mere propaganda, the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Soldiers Deputies recognises the utmost urgency of adopting a series of measures to counteract this propaganda with our own propaganda and agitation. (April 28.)
However strange it may sound, some of the first to raise their voices against Lenin and all the false pacifists who stupefied the soldiers brains were the discharged invalid soldiers. Their Union, organised at the very beginning of the Revolution, deserves special study. These men, who had sacrificed their youth and health to their country, who had often passed through the degrading hardships of imprisonment, now saw to their horror that all their heroism, all their sacrifices were being rendered useless by revolutionary catchwords, and that obscure and irresponsible talkers were thrusting Russia under Germanys heel. There was something infinitely touching and tragic in the sight of those cripples, without arms or legs, blinded and disfigured by war, straining every nerve to prove that the war must be carried on, that no liberty was possible without victory. Members of the Disabled Mens Union organised meetings, visited barracks, appealed to the Government and made street demonstrations. On April 29 an enormous crowd of invalids gathered in the Kazan Square and marched towards the Taurida Palace. The placards they carried bore the inscriptions : Lenin & Co. back to Germany, The Motherland is in danger, Our wounds call for victory, and so on. As they approached the palace they were met by members of the Executive Committee of the Soviet.
We have come here to expose Lenins tactics and your attitude towards him, declared one of the invalids. Skobelev, Tsereteli, and other Soviet orators said in reply that although they did not entirely agree with Lenin, they did not deem it possible to oppose him by other than intellectual methods.
Apparently the disabled men were not particularly satisfied by the explanations received from the Soviet orators. The future Minister, M. Skobelev, did use the rather risky phrase that we must beat Germany, but no one supported him, while Gvozdev, a prominent Labour leader, declared : We consider the war should be ended by an agreement with the German proletariat.
After prolonged discussions out in the square the invalids drafted a lengthy resolution, ending thus :
We greet our Allies, and ask them to believe that in unity with them the Russian army and people will bring the war to a victorious end for the consolidation of our newly acquired liberties and the self-determination of all oppressed peoples.
Meanwhile around them stood the young, strong, and healthy soldiers of the Petrograd garrison who had never yet been in the trenches, and smirked contemptuously. . . .
Unfortunately not only the Soviet but the Government itself did not for a long time realise the danger of Bolshevism. Even the Cadet leader, Milyukov, the avowed antagonist of the entire Soviet policy, speaking at a meeting a few days before his definite rupture with them on the 29th of April, said : Lenin is a harmful fanatic, but you cannot demand that we should oppose him with the methods of the old regime. It was not till later that Milyukov began to insist on the arrest of Lenin and the Leninists. But having rejected the Tsarist methods of diverting the currents that threatened to undermine the State, the new Government had failed to discover any other adequate means of dealing with them. Those were right who ironically called Prince Lvovs Government a Tolstoyan Government of non-resistance to evil. Both in Soviet and Government circles there existed a childlike certitude that evil should be combated by force of conviction, that mere persuasion, without prohibition and compulsory measures, would be sufficient to prevent anarchy from spreading at the front and in the rear. Meanwhile, not only in intellectual circles, but among the crowd in the streets, Bolshevist speeches at first excited indignation and a desire that some power, strong and just, would put a stop to such iniquity.
When the Bolsheviks summons to end the war with Germany and begin the war against the Provisional Government was first proclaimed from the balcony of Kchesinskas house, it was received by the crowd with the same disapproval as were Lenins speeches at the Conference. On the very first evening (April 25) the indignant audience arrested about twenty people at the Troitsky Square and conveyed them to the militia. This was absolutely useless, for those in authority found nothing criminal in such speeches. But the same kind of speeches were uttered not only in the neighbourhood of Kchesinskas house, they could be heard all over the city, in the army, throughout the length and breadth of the land. And they were often uttered by strange-looking men, speaking broken Russian. While a certain discipline still remained, it is curious to note how the army reacted against such propaganda. Towards the end of May (according to a Press Agency telegram) Ensign Kruser, arriving at the Rumanian front from Cronstadt, preached fraternisation and distrust of the Government, and even falsely asserted that the Odessa Congress of Frontal Delegates demanded annexations and indemnities. He was arrested and sent off to Jassy, because the workmen at Skudiany had promised to stain their hands in blood if he again dared to make an appearance. The Soviet of Soldiers and Officers Deputies at Jassy denounced his activities as harmful, but, possessing no means of counteracting them, despatched him to Odessa and decided to appeal to the press in order to devise some means of opposing such pernicious agitation. This was but one of countless cases. Yet how could effective means of counter-action be found, when every attempt to restrict the irresponsible agitation at the front met with indignant resistance from the Soviet, and when Generals who dared to point out the danger of such propaganda were branded in the Izvestia and other organs of the Revolutionary Democracy as counter-revolutionaries ? At the same time, the Germans and Austrians lent vigorous aid to this extreme Socialistic propaganda. They propagated Bolshevist ideas in proclamations sown broadcast along the front, and in newspapers printed in Germany and Vienna in Russian. These papers were distributed not only among the prisoners, but among the soldiers in the trenches. For instance, the Berlin Russian Messenger, in its issue of April 27, wrote :
Aided by the English, a clique of deputies to the Duma have seized the power and formed a Provisional Government. The new Cadet party is preventing the workmen from taking the power into their own hands, and, after ridding Russia of English aggression and the supremacy of English capital, proclaiming a social republic and making peace.
The Central Powers were therefore already engaged in active propaganda, incriminating the Provisional Government and advertising Lenin and his catchwords. This strange coincidence between the ideas of the extreme Russian Socialists and those of the official propagandists of His Majesty the Emperor of Germany has more than once been commented upon by the Russian Press, and not only in the bourgeois papers.
Plekhanovs small but lively and patriotic paper, Unity (Edinstvo), carried on a passionate campaign of accusation. One of the oldest Russian revolutionary émigrés, Leo Deutch, published in this paper information concerning Trotskys propaganda in America. Deutch justly called him a hater of Russia. Madame Kollontais activities in America were contemporary with those of Trotsky. Her tirades against us (i.e. against Defencist-Socialists) were, said Deutch, so revolting that Russian workmen in several towns expressed, both by word of mouth and in the press, the suspicion that perhaps she had been expressly sent by German Socialists for the purpose of whitewashing German Social-Democrats, by calumny directed against those who advocated the defence of the ravaged countries.
But all these warnings and facts were ignored by the Revolutionary Democracy, and indeed rather tended to enhance their friendliness towards the Bolsheviks, whom they always exalted as their comrades-in-ideas. Soviet leaders and journalists defended Lenin and his satellites at meetings and in the Socialist Press, and all attempts to disclose the poisonous substance of Bolshevism were branded as bourgeois calumny.
Lenin himself felt no scruples in attacking the Socialist Centre, and did so with great polemic astuteness.
In May he issued a pamphlet entitled Political Parties in Russia and the Task of the Proletariat, in which, in the form of questions and answers, he gave character-sketches of both the bourgeois and Socialistic parties. His estimate of the latter was ironical. To a question as to the attitude of the Social-Democrats and the Social-Revolutionaries towards Socialism he gave the following answer : They stand for Socialism, but to think of it now and to take immediate practical steps towards its realisation they have not the courage, for they think that would be premature. The Bolsheviks, on the contrary, are all for trying to bring about Socialism forthwith, beginning by the seizure of all land and the nationalisation of the banks. Lenin gives a sarcastic definition of the non-Bolshevist Socialists attitude towards the seizure of power. If the Soviets alone seize power we shall be threatened with anarchy. For the time being, leave power to the capitalists, and the Contact-Commission to the Soviet. The Contact-Commission served as a link between the Revolutionary Democracy and the Government. Lenin invariably insisted that no contact was necessary, because the Government should not be supported ; the people should be prepared for the sole and absolute power of the Soviets, and all propaganda, agitation, and organisation should be directed towards the delegation of all power to the Soviets in the immediate future.
The Cadets, Lenin declared, though enemies, were at any rate straightforward. But those whom he called Defencist-Socialists, he urged, while agreeing with the Bolsheviks in words, drew back timidly before the necessity of at last suiting the action to the word. And he exposed the ambiguity of their attitude with the ruthless familiarity of an old fellow-worker. He accorded the same treatment to the Social-Revolutionaries and to the non-Bolshevist Social-Democrats, although these latter still regarded themselves as being members of one undivided party, to which the Bolsheviks also belonged.
Lenins description of the attitude adopted by the Social-Revolutionaries and the Social-Democrats towards the war is as follows : We are generally opposed to imperialistic war, but are ready to let ourselves be duped, and will call the support we offer to the imperialistic war conducted by the Guchkov-Milyukov & Co. Government by the name of revolutionary defencism. And as to fraternisation, their attitude was : Yes, it is useful. But we are not all of us convinced that such fraternisation ought to be encouraged at once in all belligerent countries. He himself was certainly decidedly against the war and for fraternisation. It is useful and absolutely necessary. It is urgently necessary to encourage attempts at fraternisation between soldiers of both belligerent sides in all belligerent countries.
Only on the question of army organisation, more particularly of that of the election of officers, was he ready to grant that his Socialist comrades possessed a definite view. Their answer was brief. Elections must take place. The Bolshevist answer was more lengthy. Not only must officers be elected, but every step of an officer or general must be controlled by soldiers specially elected for the purpose. To the question Is the arbitrary dismissal of superiors useful ? Lenin made the Social-Democrats and Social-Revolutionaries answer : Yes, it is useful ; but it remains uncertain whether the dismissal must take place before referring to the Contact-Commission or vice versa. The Bolsheviks asserted : It is useful and necessary in every way. Soldiers obey and respect only elected superiors. Thus point by point Lenin not only expounded the views of his party, but also his attitude towards that section of the Revolutionary Democracy which, at that time, still played the leading part. His subsequent behaviour was but the logical outcome of all his actions and declarations.
It was futile after the November coup détat for the defeated Socialist centre to raise the cry that the Bolsheviks were traitors. They acted openly right through, and it was easy enough to understand what deeds would be the tragic outcome of the interminable torrent of speeches so often uttered in unison by both the Right and the Left Socialist wings. Upon one point only in the above-quoted pamphlet did Lenins words differ from his subsequent action. Must the Constituent Assembly be convoked ? he asked. According to him, the Cadets did not desire to fix a date. The Social-Democrats and the Social-Revolutionaries wished it to be called as soon as possible, but were unable to insist upon the date being fixed. The Bolsheviks were the only ones to desire a speedy convocation. There is, however, said Lenin, only one guarantee of the success of the Constituent Assembly : the increase in numbers and in strength of the Soviets, the organisation and arming of the working masses.
Curiously enough, although the pamphlet was published in May, after the formation of the Coalition Cabinet with a Socialist majority, Lenin did not modify his acrid criticism of his comrades-in-ideas. On the contrary, he added a note declaring that the pamphlet was by no means out-of-date, because the Contact-Commission has not disappeared, but has only passed into the adjacent room, that of Messrs. the Ministers. That Chernov and Tsereteli have passed into another room does not signify that their policy or that of their party has changed.
He was displeased with their policy of words without deeds, but in view of the undoubted honesty of the great mass of revolutionary defencists, he appealed to his comrades to explain to them patiently and persistently the indissoluble links uniting capital and imperialistic war, to prove that it was only by overthrowing capital that they could without violence achieve a truly democratic peace.