Vladimir Lenin, The Tasks of the Proletariat in the Present Revolution. April 17, 1917
Original Source: Pravda, 20 April 1917.
I arrived in Petrograd only on the night of April 16, and could therefore, of course, deliver a report at the meeting on April 17, on the tasks of the revolutionary proletariat only upon my own responsibility, and with the reservations as to insufficient preparation.
The only thing I could do to facilitate matters for myself and for honest opponents was to prepare written theses. I read them, and gave the text to Comrade Tseretelli. I read them very slowly, twice: first at the meeting of Bolsheviks and then at a meeting of Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.
I publish these personal theses with only the briefest explanatory comments, which were developed in far greater detail in the report.
1. In our attitude towards the war, which also under the new government of L’vov and Co. unquestionably remains on Russia’s part a predatory imperialist war owing to the capitalist nature of that government, not the slightest concession must be made to “revolutionary defensism.”
The class conscious proletariat could consent to a revolutionary war, which would really justify revolutionary defensism, only on condition: (a) that the power of government pass to the proletariat and the poor sections of the peasantry bordering on the proletariat; (b) that all annexations be renounced in deed and not only in word; (c) that a complete and real break be made with all capitalist interests.
In view of the undoubted honesty of the broad strata of the mass believers in revolutionary defensism, who accept the war as a necessity only and not as a means of conquest, in view of the fact that they are being deceived by the bourgeoisie, it is necessary very thoroughly, persistently and patiently to explain their error to them, to explain the inseparable connection between capital and the imperialist war, and to prove that it is impossible to end the war by a truly democratic, non-coercive peace without the overthrow of capital.
The widespread propaganda of this view among the army on active service must be organized…
2. The specific feature of the present situation in Russia is that it represents a transition from the first stage of the revolution – which, owing to the insufficient class consciousness and organization of the proletariat, placed power into the hands of the bourgeoisie – to the second stage, which must place power into the hands of the proletariat and the poor strata of the peasantry.
This transition is characterized, on the one hand, by a maximum of freedom (Russia is now the freest of the belligerent countries in the world); on the other, by the absence of violence in relation to the masses, and, finally, by the unreasoning confidence of the masses in the government of capitalists, the worst enemies of peace and socialism.
This specific situation demands of us the ability to adapt ourselves to the specific requirements of Party work among unprecedented large masses of proletarians who have just awakened to political life.
3. No support must be given to the Provisional Government; the utter falsity of all its promises must be explained, particularly those relating to the renunciation of annexations. Exposure, and not the unpardonable, illusion- breeding “demand” that this government, a government of capitalists, should cease to be an imperialist government.
4. The fact must be recognized that in most of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies our Party is in a minority, and so far in a small minority, as against a bloc of all the petty-bourgeois opportunist elements, who have yielded to the influence of the bourgeoisie and convey its influence to the proletariat …
It must be explained to the masses that the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies is the only possible form of revolutionary government, and that therefore our task is, as long as this government yields to the influence of the bourgeoisie, to present a patient, systematic and persistent explanation of the errors of their (the non-Bolshevik socialists) tactics, an explanation especially adapted to the practical needs of the masses.
As long as we are in the minority we carry on the work of criticizing and explaining errors and at the same time advocate the necessity of transferring the entire power of state to the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, so that the masses may by experience overcome their mistakes.
5. Not a parliamentary republic — to return to a parliamentary republic from the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies would be a retrograde step — but a republic of Soviets of Workers’, Agricultural Laborers’ and Peasants’ Deputies throughout the country, from top to bottom.
Abolition of the police, the Army and the bureaucracy.
The salaries of all officials, who are to be elected and subject to recall at any time, not to exceed the average wage of a competent worker.
6. in the agrarian program the emphasis must be laid on the Soviets of Agricultural Laborers’ Deputies.
Confiscation of all landed estates.
Nationalization of all lands in the country, the disposal of the land to be put in charge of the local Soviets of Agricultural Laborers’ and Peasants’ Deputies. The organization of separate Soviets of Deputies of Poor Peasants. The creation of model farms on each of the large estates… under the control of the Agricultural Laborers’ Deputies and for the public account.
7. The immediate amalgamation of all banks in the country into a single national bank, control over which shall be exercised by the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies.
8. Our immediate task is not to “introduce” socialism, but only to bring social production and distribution of products at once under the control of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies.
9. Party tasks:
(a) Immediate summoning of a Party congress.
(b) Alteration of the Party program, mainly:
(1) On the question of imperialism and the imperialist war;
(2) On the question of our attitude towards the state and our demand for a “commune state”.
(3) Amendment of our antiquated minimum program.
(c) A new name for the Party.
10. A new International. Instead of ” Social Democrats”, whose official leaders throughout the world have betrayed socialism … we must call ourselves a Communist Party.
Source: V. I. Lenin, Selected Works in Two Volumes (Moscow: Foreign Language Publishing House, 1952), Vol. 2, pp. 3-17.