Lenin on Dual Power

Vladimir Lenin, A Dual Power. April 22, 1917


Original Source: Pravda, April 22, 1917

 The basic question in any revolution is that of state power.

Unless this question is understood, there can be no intelligent participation in the revolution, let alone guidance of the revolution.

The highly remarkable feature of our revolution is that it has established a dual power. This fact must be grasped first and foremost; unless it is understood, we cannot advance. We must know, for instance, how to supplement and amend old “formulas”, for example those of Bolshevism, for, as it proved, they were sound in general, but their concrete realization turned out to be different. Nobody hitherto thought, or could have thought, of dual power.

In what does this dual power consist? In the fact that side by side with the Provisional Government, the government of the bourgeoisie, there has developed another government, weak and embryonic as yet, but undoubtedly an actually existing and growing government — the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.

What is the class composition of this other government? It consists of the proletariat — and the peasantry (clad in army uniform). What is the political character of this government? It is a revolutionary dictatorship, i.e., a power directly based on revolutionary seizure, on the direct initiative of the masses from below, and not on a law passed by a centralized government. It is an entirely different power from that of the general type of parliamentary bourgeois- democratic republic which has hitherto usually prevailed in the advanced countries of Europe and America. This circumstance is often forgotten, often not reflected upon, yet it is the crux of the matter. This power is of exactly the same type as the Paris Commune of 1871. The fundamental characteristics of this type are: (1) The source of power is not a law previously discussed and passed by parliament, but the direct initiative of the masses from below, in their localities — outright “seizure”, to use a current expression; (2) the direct arming of the whole people in place of the police and the army, which are institutions separated from the people and opposed to the people; order in the state under such power is maintained by the armed workers and peasants themselves, by the armed people itself; (3) officials and bureaucrats are either displaced by the direct rule of the people itself or at least placed under special control; they not only become elected officials, but are also subject to recall at the first demand of the people; they are reduced to the position of simple agents; from a privileged stratum occupying highly remunerative “posts”, remunerated on a bourgeois scale, they become workers handling a special “kind of weapon”, and remunerated at a salary not exceeding the ordinary pay of a competent worker.

This, and this alone constitutes the essence of the Paris Commune as a specific type of state. This essence was forgotten and perverted by… all those Social-Democrats, Socialist Revolutionaries, etc. etc., who are now in control.

Should the Provisional Government be overthrown immediately?

My answer is: (1) It should be overthrown, for it is an oligarchic, bourgeois, and not a people’s government, and cannot provide peace, or bread, or full freedom; (2) it cannot be overthrown now, for it is being maintained by a direct and indirect, a formal and actual agreement with the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, and particularly with the chief Soviet, the Petrograd Soviet; (3) generally, it cannot be “overthrown” by any ordinary method, for it rests on the “support” given to the bourgeoisie by the second government — the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, and this government is the only possible revolutionary government, which directly expresses the mind and the will of the majority of the workers and peasants. Humanity has not yet evolved and we do not as yet know a type of government superior to and better than the Soviets of Workers’, Agricultural Workers’, Peasants’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.

In order to become a power the class-conscious workers must win the majority to their side. As long as no violence is used against the masses there is no other road to power. We are not Blanquists, we do not favor the seizure of power by a minority. We are Marxists, we stand for a proletarian class struggle against petty-bourgeois intoxication, against chauvinist defensism, phrase-mongering and dependence on the bourgeoisie.

The bourgeoisie stands for the undivided power of the bourgeoisie.

The class-conscious workers stand for the undivided power of the Soviets of Workers’, Agricultural Workers’, Peasants’, and Soldiers’ Deputies — for undivided power made possible not by dubious ventures, but by the enlightenment of the proletarian consciousness, by its emancipation from the influence of the bourgeoisie.

The petty-bourgeoisie — “Social-Democrats”, Socialist-Revolutionaries, etc. etc., — vacillates and hinders this enlightenment and emancipation.

Such is the actual, the class alignment of forces that is determining the tasks facing us.

Source: V. I. Lenin and J. Stalin, The Russian Revolution (New York: International Publishers, 1938), pp. 20-23.

Comments are closed.